Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- Teamwork and Learning from Nature

Well, since I obviously have not updated for quite awhile, I'll give you two for the price of one!

A few weeks ago, Jefferson started having nasty diapers. I could not pinpoint the source for awhile, but I think that I have it nailed down now! His two-year molars are coming in! Unfortunately, I think it's going to be awhile before they are completely in. We've been struggling with respiratory problems and diaper problems for about three weeks now, and I've been rather perplexed as to the cause. Now I know and knowing is half the battle! (Okay, I've just dated myself. Don't worry if you don't get it!)

Back to Thankful Thursday, we were about five minutes from leaving for Evelyn's tumbling class, and Jefferson walks out of the playroom, holding his diaper and saying, "Uck, Mama, uck." That's never what a Mom wants to hear, especially when I looked at him and saw that many brown things were dripping out as he was walking toward me! Can we say panic mode?

I grabbed him and started yelling for the kids to come to me in the kitchen without stepping through the mess that was made. I had no idea how far back the mess extended. Since the kitchen floor is easily cleaned (more easily than carpet), I decided that was the ideal place to change him.

Here's where teamwork fit in. I asked James to walk carefully out to the van and get his diaper bag and then go upstairs and get the refill bag of wipes. (I knew there were not enough wipes in the diaper bag to deal with this mess!) I asked James to hand Evelyn the wipes and asked him to go get a bag to put all of the garbage in. Then I got to work.

I cleaned up Jefferson with Evelyn handing me wipe after wipe and James dutifully holding out "the bag" as I kept taking from Evelyn and giving to James. It really was cleaned up in record time. James took "the bag" out to the trash. I then (carefully) took the kids out to the van and then I came back in and cleaned the carpet before we left. The mess did extend into the playroom. With all of that, we were only 15 minutes late to tumbling! What teamwork!

Now, for the Learning from Nature. We have been reading Bible Animals and the Lessons Taught by them for Children during our homeschool Bible time. Richard Newton was called the prince of preachers for children and, I have to say, this book has been a hit with the kids! In each lesson, we look at a particular animal and a story is told about that animal which is then applied to our own lives.

Last week, I was listening to this podcast about family worship. In it, the question was asked about what to do if you failed. The answer was given that the godly man falleth seven times and riseth again (Proverbs 24:16). James was sitting at the table, watching a beetle in a jar that we'd collected for nature study. This beetle kept trying to climb up the side of the jar and failed every time. The beetle was not to be defeated. He kept trying and trying and trying. James said, "It sounds like that man (on the podcast) is saying, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.' That's exactly what this poor beetle is doing. Could we please let it go, Mommy?"

I laughed and laughed but was pleased that James was picking up on the concept that all of God's creation brings glory to His name and that we can learn, from His creatures, principles that we are to follow.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise"
-- Proverbs 6:6

Monday, September 15, 2008

Homeschool Report Card: Week 1

This past Friday we finished up our first week of homeschooling. We had actually started the previous Thursday with the intent of covering five days worth of material in seven! We added several new adventures this past week, including James' soccer and Evelyn's tumbling class. Both are big hits -- thankfully! We were a little worried about the soccer.

I didn't accomplish everything that I wanted (do I ever?), but we accomplished quite a bit, and I've been excited to see both James' and Evelyn's enthusiasm. We are following the Charlotte Mason method, give or take, and I'm adding in other things that I feel are important to include. I would like to give an update each week on what we accomplish, and also, as time allows, give you some insight into each subject that we're covering and how we do it.

Two subjects that we've added this year are art (which I despise -- sorry for those of you artists who are reading this) and nature study (which I have a hard time being excited about). Technically, the nature study is science, but we've added in another science curriculum as well. This is really a sacrifice on my part because I don't like the outdoors very much, and I've never enjoyed science. However, James LOVED our science program last year and enjoyed doing the experiments and so I ordered the next level up. So far, it's a big hit, even with Evelyn. We finished the first science book and she reads it during her nap/rest time!

With nature study, all that we've done so far is collect insects and identify them with field guides that I purchased, and I also had James do a drawing of a dead grasshopper that we found. He did better at the drawing than I had thought, so that was a pleasant surprise.

We're studying one artist per term (3 a year), and our current artist is Botticelli. I've had to be somewhat selective in what he views since there is some nudity, but they've both enjoyed this study as well. (As you might be able to tell, Evelyn sits in on a lot of school!) So far, their favorite picture is Mars and Venus. James thinks the fauns wearing Mars' armor and sneaking up to scare him while he's sleeping is hilarious! (Do you think he's done some of that himself?) Evelyn even knew what the pesky little fauns were from our listening of The Chronicles of Narnia! I was really surprised that she knew just from looking at them what they were.

Since I despise art (I really do), I opted for a fairly easy art curriculum this year. I have some desire to read Drawing with Children (recommended by Catherine), but I'm not sure I'm ready for it. ARTistic Pursuits teaches the children to observe and then create their own art using different materials that are recommended for them. I purchased this at the homeschool convention and it came with all the materials needed (bonus for me!). His first drawing was to be of something that he observed recently in the course of a day. He's not a great artist (neither am I), but he did well, and he didn't complain. He drew a trip that we made to McAlister's Deli. My favorite part of it is Jack peeking out of my belly! Ryan looked at it and said that James would be a good storyboarder. (Don't worry. I didn't know what that was either.)
Oh, and in case you wondered what Evelyn and Jefferson do during school time, I'll show you a couple of pictures. I've put together some boxes of toys/crafts for them to do and one of them is a water box (it will probably change to a beans/rice box for winter). Thanks, Elizabeth! These pictures are when James finished and he went outside to join in the fun!

So there's my update for this past week. Hopefully, I'll be able to post a little more frequently this week, but no promises!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- child-like faith

This week, I am thankful for my children because of what they teach me. Two nights ago, I was reminded of the sweet things that children have to teach us. Evelyn woke up crying and petrified at 1:40 in the morning. As I went running into her room, I was scared myself. We've been dealing with sickness in our household. I had placed a vaporizer in her room that evening hoping to help with her coughing and congestion. With Evelyn, there's no telling what had happened.

As I entered, she was sitting in bed, still covered with her blanket but with tears streaming down her face. She told me that she was scared of the dark. She's never mentioned this before, so I thought it was odd. Then I pointed out that she had not only a nightlight but also the light from the vaporizer. I told her that she knew what was in her room during the day and that that had not changed because the sun had gone down. Then we reviewed Psalm 56:3 -- When I am afraid, I will trust in thee. The children have really enjoyed the dvd's Hide 'Em in Your Heart and one of the videos is about a girl and her brother in the midst of a thunderstorm. They read their Bible and pray and then drop back off to sleep. The song is Psalm 56:3, and the kids enjoy singing it. So, Evelyn and I sang it and then we prayed. She went immediately back to sleep, almost before I had left the room. The next morning, I asked if she remembered waking up and what we talked about. She did, and she gave me a big hug and rewarded me with a winning smile!

I have been listening to an apologetic for reading the Chronicles of Narnia by R.C. Sproul, Jr. He points out in Prince Caspian how Lucy is the only one who can see Aslan. He also refers back to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the fact of Lucy's trust in Aslan. He also mentions the professor's faith in Narnia. One aspect that he brought out in his analysis is that there are not two kinds of faith -- child-like and mature. Many people act as if child-like faith is fine for children, but then we mature and we need a more logical, carefully-thought-out faith. Matthew 18:3 -- Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Do I see things as simply as Evelyn did? When I struggle with trouble or problems or worry, do I cast all my cares upon Him because He cares for me? (I Peter 5:7) Is it enough to read the Bible and trust God for His will because His Word is truth? (John 17:17) I pray that God would help me to have a child-like trust in His sovereignty and His goodness to His people, knowing that "all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- Working Together

Well, I'm sorry that I skipped my Thankful Thursday post last week. We were on vacation in beautiful Ludington, MI. The weather was perfect and a great time was had by all. Hopefully, I'll get a few pictures posted on my blog soon. If you're a facebook friend, just check out my album! Since we vacationed with my parents, sister and two nieces, time wasn't available for blogging or doing much else than the beach, ice cream parlor, eating and managing children! Poor us, huh?

On to Thankful Thursday.

One thing that has been wonderful to watch in my children is that they are learning to work together. I think this is a blessing that homeschooling affords in a very special way. Just this morning, as I came downstairs from helping Evelyn get ready, James called to me, "Look, Mommy! Jefferson's helping me with the dishwasher!" I was so thrilled that James took the time to include Jefferson in his chores. Jefferson loves to help, and James would point to a cupboard/drawer and ask Jefferson to open it/close it. Jefferson was so happy to help his big brother! In fact, one time, James asked him to close a cupboard and Jefferson shook his head and pointed to another item in the dishwasher that belonged in the cupboard. James said, "Oh, wow! Good job, Jefferson! You're right!" Jefferson just beams when his brother praises him like that.

Almost every day, James asks if he can get the mail for me. It's a favorite job of his. About a year ago, he began to hold Evelyn's hand as they crossed the street together to the mailbox. Just this past summer, Jefferson joined the crew and now all three of my children get my mail for me! James distributes the mail and they each hold something as they come back across the street. (Don't worry. I'm always watching from my front door for safety's sake.) My neighbor who has a two-month old watched this one day and commented that he looked forward to the day when his son could do that. It is a joy to watch.

The week before vacation, Ryan trimmed the hedges. He was unable to clean up the debris that fell as we were in a hurry. So he asked me to have the children clean it up. While this task did not go without bumps ("Mommy, he's not holding the bag wide enough!", "Mommy, she's playing and not working!", Mommy, he just spilled it all!"), training was being done and, in the end, the job was accomplished. Through it all, they're all learning that working and working together as a family is non-negotiable.

I was reminded, sadly, of those who do not have this blessing. That's right. Even all the whining and complaining is a blessing because they're learning. Who's to say that James did not learn to encourage Jefferson this morning from cleaning up the hedges two weeks before? I was instructing them to encourage one another instead of tearing each other down. The hand-holding that is expected crossing the street also comes in handy when we're running errands and traversing large parking lots. I fully plan to put James in charge of little Jack in the umbrella stroller once Jack can sit up and hold up his head. James is looking forward to the responsibility.

But, as I was saying, I was reminded of those who do not have this blessing. This week, I had to finish calling all of my students to inform them that I am no longer teaching for an indefinite period of time. One of the parents is a single mom of an early teenager (almost 13). This mom has gone through a lot in the past year, and we've tried to help wherever possible. She was telling me that she got a new puppy this past summer, in addition to the one they got the summer before. She told me that she was crazy, but was looking forward to the puppies growing up together and watching their interaction. She told me that she was never able to enjoy watching interaction with her human children (as they're all so spread apart and other circumstances), but she was looking forward to watching her puppies grow close together.

I was so saddened by that. Here's a woman who's been through a lot in life, but was trying to recreate something in her animals that many of us get frustrated with on a daily basis -- teaching our children to interact together in a kind, loving and fun way. I want to encourage any young moms who are reading this to keep on persevering in your training efforts. It will pay off. I'm already reaping the benefits!