Friday, August 27, 2010

The Truth From the Beginning

Sophie and I began reading the Children's Message version of the Bible for bedtime. I have read Genesis 3:14-19 many times in the past, the passage where God disciplines Adam and Eve for disobeying and distrusting Him. However, I had never read it like this before!

"God told the Woman, 'Now you'll give birth to your babies in pain. And pleasing your husband will be painful too.' He told the Man: 'Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from, saying 'Don't eat from this tree,' the very ground is cursed because of you; getting food from the ground will be as painful as having babies is for your wife; you'll be working in pain all your life long. The ground will sprout thorns and weeds, you'll get your food the hard way, sweating in the fields, until you return to that ground you started from, dead and buried."

Wow! Ain't that the truth!

For the woman, childbirth is painful, but it's equally painful to please my husband. I had to laugh when I read it. The NIV version says, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." It's a loaded concept, the idea that as wives we have a tendency to obsess about our husbands, not in the sense that I'm infatuated, but in the sense that I want to have control over his time, the way he treats me, the way he views me. That stems from wanting to please him. I think most of my insecurities over my body image also stem from wanting to be pleasing to my husband, and wondering if I am really the one he still wants to be with year after year. And how many times have I started a sentence with, "If you loved me, then. . ." I don't like being this way- it's painful!

The flip side is that our husbands are cursed by their job, which takes up a good 8 hours or more of their day. They work and toil, sweat and plow, and do it all over again the next day. According to the Message, a man's work is as painful as childbirth! Again, I had to laugh. Over the years my husband has shared many difficult "birthing stories," and if I were really aware that to him, work is as incredibly painful as childbirth, I would be a little more merciful in my reactions to another story from work. However, I still don't think ANYTHING is as hard as childbirth- can I get an Amen, sisters? :)

As my husband and I are coming up on our 13th wedding anniversary this weekend, reading this passage brought a smile to my face. We have had some wonderful times, but we have also had very difficult times, and many of them are related to these same issues that Adam and Eve were cursed with from the beginning of time. I find a strange comfort in that. It's okay to have these tensions in life. We have to learn to manage them, not expect to get rid of them; that's just not going to happen on this side of heaven! Pain is to be expected in marriage and daily life; sounds strange, but it's Biblical! We are all broken- men and women, husbands and wives- but as long as we fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith, we will at least end up in the same place, in His presence, together.

Who knew that God would speak to me in a kid-version of the Bible tonight? I love when He surprises me like that!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Delight

As we were working through our material today and my girls were taking turns talking with me, I honestly wasn't really paying attention to what they were saying. I was just admiring them, each one so beautiful, so interesting, so unique. How did my little babies turn into these little women with thoughts and personalities and perspectives? I delight in them so much. And then it struck me; this is how God thinks of me! He allows me to go on and on about my thoughts and He delights in having me spend time with Him. The Bible says I am the apple of His eye! He loves me, He watches over me, and He delights in me, His daughter, whom He knew while I was being knit in my mother's womb. What a marvelous thing to be known and loved so deeply, and to partake in that kind of love with my own kids. I thank God for a glimpse of His heart for me today.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nature Walk at the Dallas Arboretum

I really can't explain what a beautiful day it was. Maybe it's because out here in TX we have been in stifling heat for weeks, and today was literally 85 degrees. It was a shock to our systems; we were actually a little chilled this morning! But the weather couldn't have been better for our first nature walk of the year, especially going to the arboretum.

The girls brought all their gear: their colored pencils, sketchbooks, binoculars. I asked them to observe and sketch their favorite flowers. The girls enjoyed that exercise, but they spent the rest of the day in full story re-enactment mode! The arboretum had created a Beatrix Potter exhibit with different mini-homes for Peter Rabbit and all the other characters. Each home had a story written next to it, and the girls were fascinated as they read the chapter and walked through their little huts. Mr. McGregor's home was their favorite; his garden was full of real vegetables and there was a sign to try to keep Peter Rabbit away!

After a picnic lunch, we visited the Pioneer exhibit which has many different log cabin homes, churches, etc. for kids to explore and free play. The girls spent the rest of the afternoon pretending to be Laura, Carrie, and Mary from the Little House in the Prarie books and creating movies. They rode in a covered wagon, worked on their garden, went to school and the general store, climbed up into a treehouse to keep watch for wild animals, and did the chores for Ma and Pa. We are currently reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books at bedtime, so this was a wonderful way for them to make more connections with the story.

The girls were completely wiped out on our car ride home, but it was worth all the time. I would say it was worth the money too, but it only cost us $4 for all 4 of us to get in! The Arboretum offers admission for $1 in August because of the heat. Thankfully, we got to take advantage of the price without experiencing the heat today, so it was worth much more than the money!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 2 Highlights

Today Chloe asked if I was going to give any homework and how I would grade her work. (She knows that 2nd grade is when public schools give official grades.) I said, "Well, since your teacher is living here with you, she will make sure you understand everything until you get a 100% A+ on everything! And since she also only has 3 students, she doesn't need to give you extra homework to see what you need help in when she can keep track of that every day."

Chloe thought for a minute and then said, "So my grade doesn't matter?" And I replied, "Nope! I want you to get everything right all the time. If you don't understand something, we won't call it a "B" or "C"; we'll just stop and figure out what we need to do so you can understand what you missed!" Her eyes widened, and you could almost hear the wheels turning in her little mind as the concept of mastery vs. grades sunk in.

That conversation alone gave me more confirmation that we are doing the right thing for my family this year. Learning to learn, not to get grades, was a lesson I didn't fully understand till college!

Then we got into more funny aspects of the mommy/teacher scenarios; I told them that we will still celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day this year, and I am so excited about the parent-teacher conferences and I really hope that I like their teacher, and did you get her wish list for her classroom or her list of favorites for her birthday in a few weeks? :)

In general, the day went very similarly to yesterday, except we added in a little science lab: observing a gummy bear in water and making observations and predictions for what will happen overnight. I got a cute little book at Target for some quick Physics labs that I know all 3 will enjoy doing together.

Also, we're going to take a day off of our regular schedule tomorrow. After checking the weather forecast, we decided to take a trip to the Dallas Arboretum for a Nature Walk and picnic. It is supposed to be only 88 degrees! Coming off of weeks of triple-digit heat, this is a welcome break for everyone! I'll let you know how it turns out. . .

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of Home School!

Today was a blast! I remember the first week or so when I was a 7/8 grade teacher, I had so much fun that I couldn't believe I was actually being paid to teach and help develop thinkers. That's how I felt today, except of course I'm not being paid!

Here was our schedule today:

8:00 Breakfast

8:30 Prayer and Bible Verse

Ellie read a Bible verse from a little packet of memory verses and we talked about the fact that God will keep us from all harm and that He watches over us day and night. (Psalm 121:7-8) We then prayed for God to help guide us for the day.

8:40 Aesop's Fables

Chloe read a short fable and talked about the moral of the story, as well as the character quality we want or don't want.

8:50 Sophie's Letter of the Week and Poem

I'm using a Poem/Finger Play book that has 5-6 entries for each letter of the alphabet. Today's poem was an animal poem, since our letter of the week is "A".

9:00 Math

We are using Math-U-See for Ellie and Chloe, and it is awesome. It was developed by a college professor who realized that his students had huge gaps in their learning, so he decided to develop a program teaching the basics on how to think about numbers, place value, and the purpose of math from simple counting to exponents. We are starting at the very beginning with both girls, since I know math has been a challenge for Ellie. I hope to get through the first 2 levels quickly and then slow down as we get into multiplication and division. Today the girls went through the lesson on DVD together. I gave Sophie some coloring to do in the same room so she didn't feel left out.

9:30 Art

Today's art project was a self-portrait. I thought it would be appropriate to capture where we are in this slice of time as we home school. We all made one, including me!

10:00 Snack/Reading

Although it may sound silly, my girls actually really enjoy reading A.A. Milne's original Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It is very cleverly written and the kids laugh every few sentences. I read some of it today, but I hope to read many different books to them during this period of time through the year. Since I am reading to all 3 at the same time, the book needs to be able to reach all 3 for interest.

10:30 Instrument practice

The big girls practiced one of their instruments: Ellie on cello, Chloe on piano. I let Sophie watch a short PBS program during this time so I can help with practicing.

11:00 Exercise

We will be doing different things for exercising, but today Chloe and I did 1/2 of a DVD (Core Synergistics from P90X) and Ellie/Sophie ran track on Wii Fit.

11:30 Independent Writing

The girls worked independently in their rooms for this.

I have a writing book for Ellie that I used when I taught 7/8 English called Writing Traits; it goes through the writing process and she is definitely ready to tackle all the different areas of writing. This is the part that I'm most excited about since I loved teaching how to write and streamline thinking. Today she worked on focus in a paragraph; did every sentence in the paragraph relate to a main topic? Which ones were out of place? Then she created her own paragraph on a topic and we worked on recognizing whether or not it had true focus or not. She will write a new paragraph each day this week.

Chloe is working through a Grade 2 Workbook that I bought at Costco. Yes, I know workbooks are really not very Charlotte Mason, but I know Chloe's style; she likes to get a sticker on her page and get a sense of completion and satisfaction of a job well done. Since this is her weaker area, I want her to build up some confidence and also work on her handwriting through the book.

Sophie has a little tracing book that she worked on for her letter "A."

12:00 Lunch

We all ate lunch together and the girls mentioned how they couldn't believe this was really school. It reminded me of the reason why I am doing this: I want to spend more time with my kids. We also talked about our school motto: "I am, I can, I ought, I will." I want my kids to know who they are, that they are capable, that their decisions should be governed foremost by the Bible, and that they should discipline themselves to use their will by doing what they know they should do. Home school is not just about the academics; I want to train their character through all of our experiences together.

1:00 Recess/Free Play

We had some other unconventional friends come over to play for a few hours and the girls had fun together. It's great for them to have other friends who are also trying something new and going against the grain. We will be seeing them again tomorrow; they are moving to Costa Rica for an immersion experience!

3:00 Snack

3:30 Instrument Practice

Ellie practiced piano and Chloe practiced violin. I let Sophie watch another show.

4:00 Spelling

I like to use spelling words from books, and since we have been listening to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia on CD whenever we are driving in the car, I used words from "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." The girls enjoyed talking about the context of the words such as "Turkish Delight", or "stone", or "magnificent mane."

As a side note, we are actually going to create our own lapbooks for each of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia as a long-term project. I am actually really excited about this project because not only will it allow them to creatively put to paper their thoughts about the book and allow for written narration, it will also be something tangible that they can have to mark this year's work. The first lapbook will essentially be a wardrobe (from construction paper) that you open, and inside will be pictures and narration of the story. Chloe is already thinking about making a large ring for the cover of the Magician's Nephew. I love when they bubble over with ideas and excitement!

Today ended as busily as it started; we took Chloe to her first modern dance class, ate dinner, then took Ellie to cheerleading practice. I am so glad we decided to let her do cheer this year since she gets to see her friends; apparently her 3rd grade teacher came by to say hello too! During cheer practice, the other 2 girls and I went grocery shopping. We got home around 7:45 and were all exhausted from a full day.

Every day's schedule will look a little different depending on our activities, and I expect to add in more subjects, like history, science, geography, French, and Shakespeare. But I need to remember to take things slowly and savor each topic as we go along. Our first field trip is this Friday to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and Industry where we will revisit the Da Vinci exhibit and explore some new exhibits. I'm assuming it's going to be empty since everyone will be in school!

I will most likely blog more often now that we are really getting started. I know we are in the honeymoon stage of homeschooling, and I'm sure we will have some tough days ahead. But I'll take the honeymoon for as long as I can!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Mother's Prayer for Homeschooling

We are embarking on a year of homeschooling in a few weeks and I am getting all my ducks in a row with curriculum. I have found new friends in the homeschooling world and am gleaning wisdom from great blogs and sites from veteran teachers. I am so looking forward to this year with the kids and being involved in their learning, but I still feel a sense of fear in the back of my mind asking, "Will I be good enough? Will I be able to teach them what they need to know? Will my kids fall behind or become lazy because they are home? Will I truly make the most of all the time I have with them, or will I fall into the trap of doing too much housework and not enough school?"

Well, God knew exactly what I needed to help calm my fears. By "chance", I found a book called "Prayers for Homeschool Moms" in the stash of preschool books I had purchased from another homeschool mom. As I read through it, I realized that it was not coincidence this book was given to me. It has excerpts of different stories from moms and then a prayer dealing with that topic, and each mom articulated so many of my own thoughts and feelings. I've put together a prayer based on the moms' prayers in the book to help me through this transition and this new year of homeschooling. I thought I'd share it with you too.

"Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the courage to educate our children at home this year. Any confidence I might possess stems directly from you. Still, there are moments when I am paralyzed by a sudden fear that leaves me frozen. I'm not certain I'm up to this challenge of educating my children. Yet there is another part of me that recognizes that you equipped me to parent my family even in this new way. Lord, meet me at my weakest point and renew my frail heart. I'm standing in your presence awaiting your grace and strength to give me what I require for today's needs. Give me all the wisdom and insight I require to teach my children in your ways. Thank you for allowing me to understand that my weakness invites your strength; show yourself strong in my life.

Father, I confess my compulsion to work until I drop. I find too much of my identity in what I do; give me the eternal perspective to discern between what is good and what is best in the choices I make for myself and my family. Help me not to be lost in busyness, but to take time each day for your Word and prayer. Let every decision I make be tempered by thoughts of eternity.

Please take away any fears, insecurities, or burdens that I bear. Help me to learn from my mistakes and to sift through the myriad of voices I hear. Guard my heart against the temptation of seeing my children's successes or failures as reflecting my competence as a mother or teacher. Restrain in me attitudes of pride and self-sufficiency that may hinder my abilities to best influence my family. Let me be humble enough to seek out assistance when I need it. Let not my expectations, reasonable or not, rule my thoughts and emotions.

Thank you Lord that You are the head of this family. I'm grateful that I don't need to have all the answers. Lord, calm my heart and mind. Enable me to rest in the knowledge that you are always close by when I call to you. Let my words bring encouragement, and let my face reveal the love I feel for my children. Let them see in me a mother who has the stamina and fortitude to press ahead despite setbacks and discouragement. Make me into a woman of faith, a mother with vision, and as a child who trusts in you unreservedly.

Lord, I ask that you make this year a fruitful one. Help each of us take full advantage of these new opportunities to learn all we can. May my children grow not only academically but also spiritually this year. May we become closer to you and each other. Help me to have joy as I serve these precious souls that you have entrusted to me. Transform me Lord, into a woman whose sole source of hope and strength comes directly from you. I commit my wonderful children into your faithful hands. Amen."