Friday, September 28, 2012

Our Week In Review

We've had an interesting week, school-wise and life-wise.  In school we are learning about the push for independence among South American countries during the early 1800's.  Little Man and I have enjoyed learning fun facts about the cultures of some S.A. countries, while the older children studied more about each country's journey to independence.  Fascinating how the ideas of freedom and justice spread from the American War for Independence, to the French Revolution, to South America!

For next week's writing assignment, each of the children got to pick a specific South American country to write mini reports on.  The reports will be put onto posters for our unit celebration coming up in a few weeks.

Just had to post this cute picture of Little Man wearing my reading glasses.  He realized that my glasses are called reading glasses, so deduced that they must cause anyone wearing them to magically READ!  He has been working hard to gain fluency in his reading.... it's a work in progress. :)

In life.... most of our week was spent caring for my 94 year old father in law, while his wife (my mother in law) was hospitalized for major abdominal surgery.  My father in law has had quite an interesting and varied life.... he worked in the 3 C's upon graduation from high school, signaling fire fighter aircraft from a watch tower.  Lived through the Great Depression as a young adult.  Served in WWII.  He went to art school and dreamed of becoming a working artist, but ended up drawing auto parts on a CAD machine for most of his working career.  He became an "older" dad ~ having four children from the time he was 40 to 47.  He used to have so many interesting stories to share.  But he is beyond sharing them now.  They have merged with other pieces of information in his brain to make somewhat fantastical, somewhat scary, somewhat sad, and somewhat funny false memories.  He has dementia.

We tried to engage him in activities, such as painting with our daughter like this:

But most of his time with us has been spent like this:

He is very hard of hearing, so even the noisy activities of the children did not always keep him awake.  And sleeping so much during the day has made it difficult for him to stay asleep at night.  Then he wonders where his wife is, and where he is, and what he is supposed to be doing.  Isn't it time to get up?  No dad, it is 3:00 a.m. 

It is sad for us to see him so diminished.  At times his trademark humor still flashes.  But those times are few and far between.  He has loved his family so well for so many years..... it is our privilege to love him well now.

So, look those you love in the eye and tell them what they mean to you, while they can still understand.  Ask questions and record the answers in some way.  Have your children interact with their grandparents ~ even if through pictures long distance, or through skype (mom and dad, I'm thinking webcam?!?).  Because there is a time for everything under heaven.  My father in law's forgetting time is here.  Thankfully so is our remembering time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

William Wilberforce

We have been quite awed this past week as we have learned more about William Wilberforce's campaign to end slavery in England in the late 18th century.  If you are not familiar with his story, get thee to a library (or just go on amazon!) as soon as possible and get a book about him.  You may have heard of, or seen, the movie Amazing Grace, about his life.  It is a wonderful movie that gets many details right.  But a well researched biography has more of the details right, and gives you a lot more info than a 2 hour movie can.

Our two middle schoolers read parts of a book about Wilberforce, while our high school daughter read an entire (short) biography of him written by John Piper.

Of all the interesting, amazing, noteworthy (insert other superlatives here) aspects of Wilberforce's life, the one that stands out to me the most is his tenacity and perseverance.  He became a member of the British Parliament at the tender age of 21, and took up the cause of abolishing slavery about 7 years later.  From that point on, for 46 years, he worked tirelessly to outlaw slavery.  FORTY SIX YEARS!  That was a LOT of "no" votes, a lot of friendships lost, a lot of ridicule endured, a lot of rejection.  But he never gave up.  He never quit.  He never said, "I think I've done enough."  He persevered until slavery was finally abolished just a few months before his death in 1833.

And throughout this 46 year struggle, he lived his life with an incredible sense of joy.

Truly, his was a life filled with God's amazing grace.

Our three older children are all writing short essays about Wilberforce this week.  Here is our daughter's opening paragraph:

"William Wilberforce is best known for working tirelessly for the abolition of slavery.  Surprisingly Wilberforce did not always live his life with purpose.  In his youth he was a spoiled, selfish libertine, who was completely uninterested in God.  He had inherited a large fortune from his father, and used it, unfortunately, on gambling and dining at fancy London clubs.  Having some interest in politics, in 1780 when he was only twenty one, he got a spot in Parliament, starting his political career.  Later Wilberforce commented, "The first years I was in Parliament I did nothing - nothing to any purpose.  My own distinction was my darling object."  Then, at age 25, he was converted to Christ by Isaac Milner, who was his old schoolmaster.  Wilberforce felt God so powerfully that he went in secret to talk to John Newton because he felt confused about his calling.  He wasn't sure if he should continue his political career or serve God by becoming a minister.  Wilberforce had known Newton since he was thirteen, as Newton was his childhood pastor.  Newton encouraged Wilberforce and hinted that he could, indeed, serve God by serving in politics.  Introduced to the horrors of slavery, William Wilberforce launched himself into the campaign for its abolition in 1787."

Doesn't this make you want to read the rest?!?

Last week we read about this incredible man and saw the movie Amazing Grace.  This week we are writing about him.  I am thankful for the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the life of such an obedient and faithful Christian!

(and as an aside to this: for the first time in several years we are not using a packaged IEW product for our writing, but I am creating all our writing assignments myself based on IEW methods.  I am LOVING this opportunity to more closely tie our writing with our history!  Finally following the wise adage of Marcia Somerville (author of Tapestry of Grace) to "read, think/discuss, write." Whoo-hoo!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Our Week In Review

This week we learned about the presidency of James Madison, and the War of 1812.  We also learned about the end of Napoleon's Empire.  The younger two boys and I had a good discussion about how the War of 1812 got started, and whether or not it was worth it since there were no changes of land ownership after the peace treaty was signed.  Son C described the war this way:

while Little Man dictated to me and I wrote this for him: "Britain and France were at war and they both captured American ships so that the other country couldn't have goods to help them fight.  So America declared war against Britain, and they fought for two years.  Neither side won.  It was a tie."

Our older three children all discussed this in depth during their virtual co-op classes.  Here is son G, discussing the book Frankenstein during his online literature class:

At our real life co-op, here is Son C with his amazing two story house he created for lego club!  It has a washer and a dryer, and an actual little tiny lego SOCK in the dryer.  I kid you not.  There is small lego food in the fridge too!

Daughter G (on the right) performing an experiment in chemistry.

And son G performing an experiment in physical science:

Here is a pic of son L, just because he and the dog are so cute. ;)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Routine Going Well

Overall, our new school "schedule" is going well.  Still working with one boy on how to add in his work for a co-op class to his weekly schedule, and another son and I forgot about his online literature class yesterday.  Oops!  But overall, I think it's working.

God was so good to impress upon me my need to resign from MOPS.  Even without that responsibility, and with working hard to maintain reasonable boundaries in other areas of life, teaching and managing the learning is going to be more than a full time job for me this year.  I have a feeling these next three years are going to be very intense.  Right now we have a sophomore, two in middle school, one in upper elementary, and one in lower elementary who is still solidifying his reading (and needs daily lessons with mom).  Next year we will have two in high school.  The year our daughter graduates we will have three in high school, one in middle school, and the youngest in fifth grade.  There's just no doubt about it, getting your children ready for college, and for LIFE! a big and busy job.  One I wouldn't trade for anything, but it can seem kind of overwhelming at times. 

I now understand so much better how to pray for my fellow homeschoolers who are homeschooling through high school.  And if you are not a homeschooler yourself but have friends who are (hence you are reading this blog!), they could really use your prayers and support now more than ever!  When you are schooling high schoolers, you feel that others are more "critical" (for lack of a better word) of what you are doing.  They don't think you can mess up your kindergartener too much, but think you are more likely to screw up your high schooler at home.  Even when this attitude is not expressed in words, homeschool moms have a tendency to "hear" it anyway.  As a lot, we are pretty critical of ourselves.  And the stakes seem much higher.

So it is doubly reassuring to be reminded that God is in control!  Not me.  Not my husband.  Not the color-coded schedule.  Not the curriculum we use.  GOD.  He has started a good work in each of our children, and He will be faithful to complete it.  Faithfulness is His nature.  He cannot be unfaithful.  And, He loves my children even more than I do!  And He has a plan and purpose for their lives far beyond what I can conceive and try to prepare them for.


It's not up to me after all.

(but I'd still appreciate your prayers!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nervous: Starting full school schedule tomorrow!

Before our vacation I did a good job of planning out the content of our first 9 weeks of school, but did not have a chance to wrap my brain around how to fit it all in.  When to do what, so that everyone was getting their work for me done in a timely manner, and their work for outside teachers/classes done as well.  So during this past week I pondered and prayed about the overall schedule and spent some time trying to map it all out on paper.  We are not a super tightly scheduled family, but I am a very visual person, so it really helps me if I can literally see how it all fits together. 

This is a picture of my first attempt at our fall schedule.  I usually have to tweak it after we try to live it for a few days.  And as I said before, we don't necessarily follow it to the letter.  It just really helps to keep us on track.  I purposely kept it small here, but if any of my fellow homeschoolers would like your own copy to see up close, or to edit for your use, please email me and I'd be happy to send it to you.  I originally got this template from someone else, so I'm happy to return the favor and pass it along!

In addition to the overall schedule, I made paper assignment charts for my three middle boys for each week of our school year.  The charts are not new, but what is new this year is binding them all together in a little book at the very beginning of the year!  ($5 per book at Fed Ex Kinkos) This does two things:  it prevents lost papers (unless the entire book of charts gets lost.... heaven forbid!), and it saves me the trouble of binding them at the end of the year as a record of what we did that whole year. 

Inside the bound book are 36 pages that look like this:

The pages for each of my three middle boys are slightly different, but in all three cases we write their work for each week in daily columns.  I am teaching the boys to do this themselves ~ that is going in stages and is a work in progress.  Some of my friends use online scheduling programs, and some have their children use handheld devices (such as ipads or itouches) to track their schedule.  I was paralyzed with indecision about what to do this year until I just decided to stick with the old fashioned paper method for now!  Again, if any of my fellow homeschoolers would like to see this template up close, feel free to email me and ask.  I have made and tried lots of different paper schedules, and this one works best for our family.  It was designed specifically with Tapestry of Grace in mind, and I love the section at the top where they can track their history reading progress through the week.

Our daughter G has her own planner and is 100% responsible for her own schedule now, so I do not make pages like this for her, and Little Man has his daily work written in list form on our school whiteboard.

Tomorrow is our inaugural day with the new schedule.  I'm hopeful!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why You Should Take a Road Trip

Not all families like to do road trips.  I get that.  Road trips are hard to plan for and even harder to execute.  They force people who may not always get along well into close proximity with one another.  They are tiring, potentially expensive, and often tedious.  But they are also a great way to take advantage of family togetherness, and to learn things that cannot be learned from taking an airplane to your destination.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider a road trip with your family:

  1. Time together.  Lots of time!  Time to talk, to sing, to read together, to listen to audio books, to notice the landscape, to draw, to do sticker books, to talk some more, to look for license plates from other states (we found 45!  including Hawaii and Alaska! and to my friend Emma, the children want you to know that we found Rhode Island!), to share what we appreciate about each other, to resolve conflict.  The car shrinks your world down to a manageable size, taking you away from the routine, the responsibility, and the “clutter” of home, so that what is left are the people most important to you.  What an incredible gift!

  1. Time away.  As already mentioned, road trips take much more time than flying.  So you have a great opportunity to decompress from the stress of everyday life and just breathe.  I was particularly thankful for that this time.  I didn’t even realize how tired my brain and ears were from the responsibility and noise of extra children this year, until I had been away from that responsibility for about ten days.  It took that long for me to feel somewhat normal, and not like I was constantly supposed to be doing something.  Again, such a gift!

  1. Time to see the country.  Up close and personal.  We learned that each state defies a one word description.  Arizona is not just “hot.”  It has mountains!  And rain!  And temps in the 40’s!  Colorado is not all “rocky mountains.”  It is also flat and brown and kindof boring.  Kansas is not just “flat.”  It is also hilly, green, and has rocky ridges.  Just as people are not all one thing, states are not all one thing either.  And each state has a unique flavor that can be noticed along their highways.  Billboards, rest stops, grocery stores, and the people in them all display the subtle (or not so subtle) differences among states.

  1. The opportunity to understand commerce better.  The goods we buy have to be produced or grown somewhere.  We spent time in the rich fruit growing San Joaquin Valley of California.  Chances are high that if you buy fruit grown in the U.S., it was grown there.  We drove through Kansas, the Sunflower State, and bought sunflower seeds to munch on in the car.  We saw mineral mining equipment in the Mojave Desert.  We also saw how goods are transported from where they are grown/produced to where they are sold.  Long, long trains clacking along beside the highway.  Semi truck after semi truck.  It takes time, fuel, and money to move goods.  Our country is really big!  Seeing this gave us a fresh appreciation for all that goes on behind the scenes in our daily life.

Musical 50th Birthday card.  This was not staged!

New friends

Dear friends

  1. The opportunity to interact with lots of different people, and to reflect on how big God is.  Each person has their own story, and their own circle of influence, and their own loved ones.  And God is big enough to know and love each one intimately, to understand the depths of their pain and the heights of their joy.  He is enough.

One of my aunts ~ I love this lady!

My sweet "cousin in law" with her beautiful. daughters!

Second cousins

Me with my two CA cousins!

 Uncle C, showing his homemade bullets and gun powder

Campfire time

Cousin time ~ playing hearts

Cousin time ~ playing Blokus

My dad with his three sons in law!

My mom with her three daughters!

  1. The chance to see new and unfamiliar sights.  My first glimpse of Grand Canyon actually scared my family a little bit.  They thought I was hyperventilating!  It is just that vast and spectacular.  Almost overwhelmed my senses.  Pictures cannot adequately represent it, so I was just not prepared for how incredible it was in person.  We also visited the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest while in Arizona.  Actually went through those on the way to Grand Canyon.  The beauty there was like a warm up!  We don’t have anything remotely similar where we live, so it was all new and amazing terrain for us.  Grand Canyon made us all reflect on the awesome power of God ~ that the geologic forces capable of creating such a canyon obey and answer to HIM…Wow!  What a God!

Obviously there are occasions when time is of the essence, and a plane trip is the way to go.  But there are other occasions when a road trip is exactly what is needed.  And I am thankful this summer was one such occasion for us!