Saturday, November 28, 2009

Another Week Done-and It Was A Doozy!

"Pumpkin Pi" by Bigfoot13

Wow, what a week…shortened to only two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday, full of all of the normal holiday hubbub, and lots of added responsibilities.

(By the way, don't you love that photograph above?  "Pumpkin Pi."  I was tickled to find such a perfect picture to illustrate blending the challenges of Thanksgiving week with homeschooling!)

Of course my 12 y/o son got into a foul mood and did NONE of his work on Tuesday.  Wednesday was too crazy for make-up work with five children (my three plus two more) zooming around.  Friday was too, for that matter.  That brought us to today, with lots going on early in the day.  I didn't even get to start with makeup work until 6pm!

And Phillip did great!  He didn't get completely caught up, but he did a Bible lesson, a short but thought-provoking science lesson, and a long English lesson!  Woo hoo!  It was a joy working with him.

I continue to be very pleased with the Switched on Schoolhouse Curriculum.  Here are some of the things that pleased me most this week:

  • My 8th grade son was taught a sobering truth that he wouldn't ever learn in public school.  It was about the "inseparability of words from the one who speaks them."  How many boys his age have ever grappled with such a concept, and the responsibility for honesty that it lays on them?  And how many know that, because of this "inseparability," Jesus said we would be judged by our words?
  • That same son, who has Asperger's Syndrome, began working on a part of his normal Language curriculum which teaches gestures and body language.  How perfect is that for someone with a form of Autism?  He got to watch the built-in videos of facial expressions, which may sound hokey to some, but for him it was a great exercise.
  • My 12 year old did a science exercise which had him not only spit back facts, but actually draw conclusions and figure things out logically.  That may have been happening in his regular school classroom, but I didn't get to see it there.  I got to see it here, and it was delightful.
  • That son also got to spend a few hours with a substitute teacher…my dear mom who is visiting from Florida!  That was a pleasure to see and a bonding experience for the two of them.  Because the SOS curriculum makes the expectations so clear, she had no difficulty stepping into that role with no prior notice.

So, though it was a trying week in many ways, it was still rewarding.  Thanks for all of your prayers, and keep 'em coming!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Fledgling Homeschool's First Full Week

jonge Koolmees - Parus major

Image by Frans Persoon via Flickr








Wow, it's been an amazing first flight!

Some days have been incredibly frustrating (with one near-total meltdown by Yours Truly), some have been so-so, and some have been pretty great!

But not one day has been unprecedented in its stresses.  I still find all of this to be easier than the stresses I faced when they were in public school.  Yes, even the meltdown day…I have had those before, though it had been a while.

No, no unprecedented stresses.  But the rewards?  I have never experienced their likeness before.

  • God has continued to give me that "whole new sense of purpose" that I mentioned on Day One.  For a long time I have wanted something that would help me drag myself away from the addictive computer screen every day, and homeschooling is the first thing compelling enough to do so.  I have not completely separated myself from blogs and feeds and so forth, but I'm doing a lot better.
  • I love putting years' worth of writing and editing practice to use on my own children's schoolwork!  I feel such a sense of tenderness when I get to share something I love so much.  Nathanael has always been too nervous and defensive to accept critiquing face-to-face, but it's easy to do it electronically.  He seems to find that totally non-threatening!  Such a joy today to hear him holler up the stairs, "I made those changes you suggested.  THANKS!!"
  • And of course, seeing Phillip spontaneously turning to prayer several times a day when he recognizes his need for help…what price tag can you put on that?

Yes, it's been hard work and sometimes very unpleasant, but no hard work I have ever done in my life has felt so rewarding, or so like a privilege

Thank You, Lord.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Growing Faith

muted Life

Image by Robb North via Flickr







We had another crisis at homeschool this morning. 

God is so good!

I wish you knew just how angry and controlling I am by nature, so you would know what a miracle of God today's events have been.  Please don't think I'm a patient person, or wise, or any of those other things.  I'm not.  (Those who know me don't need to be told that!)

I won't go into a lot of details about what instigated the crisis.  Suffice it to say that one son decided a specific assignment was unacceptable, and a total meltdown followed.  (Now that I think about it, there was no fist-flailing this time.  How refreshing!)

Miracle #1 showed itself as calmness and love on my part.  Trust me, that's a true miracle.

Phillip had buried his face in the crack between the back and seat of the couch, and was wailing and screaming at ear-piercing decibels.  But I began to pick out words of prayer in all the wailing, and I silently thanked God for it and asked Him to bless and guide his prayers.

Once Phillip quieted enough that I thought I could make myself heard, I asked him if he would like me to pray for him now or later.

His request for prayer now was so touchingly sincere!

I prayed aloud for a while, and when I was done, Phillip sat up.  I asked him if he wanted a hug, and he wasn't sure at first.  "I'm thinking."  Then after a minute or so he said, "Sure."  So I drew him over close and gave him a hug, and he just melted.  "Oh, I love you so much!" he said.  I replied in kind, and then told him that God loved him too.  "I love Him too," Phillip replied. 

We cuddled for a while and talked about God, and Phillip just got more and more joyful.  When I got up to make him lunch, Phillip spent his waiting time and subsequent eating time just bouncing around and rejoicing over how much God did for him, and talking about how grateful he was.

Then, after lunch, on his own initiative, he completed the once-rejected assignment. 

Wow.  Miracle #2.  If you knew Phillip, you wouldn't think "miracle" was too strong a word.

I feel a caution in my soul.  There will be people reading this who don't experience the same sorts of wondrous things when they start homeschooling, and I don't want anyone to start making comparisons.  God's path for everyone is different, and there is no "arrival" in this life.

There are some very important things to keep in mind:

  • God decided before the foundation of the world that now would be our time to receive these blessings.  We did not trigger or earn these blessings.  We merely received them at the proper time.  When the next trials and hardships come (and they surely will), they will come because it is God's ordained time for them.  Trust in God's schedule for you!
  • God decided to use homeschooling as the conduit of today's blessing in our case.  He may decide to use different conduits for others, as well as different timing. 
  • We position ourselves to receive God's blessings when we walk in obedience…but sometimes those blessings come in very clever disguises!   I've struggled through almost a decade of hopelessness, rage, depression, and unrelenting trials…and I may find my trials doubled before this day is through.  If God removes all my joyous circumstances, He will still be blessing me.  All the agonies He has ever put you and me through have been blessings.  They just didn't feel like it at the time.  And the same will be true of whatever sufferings still await us (and I'm sure there are many).
  • The goal is not to find our way to Easy Street.  The goal is to depend on the Lord and walk in obedience to Him, regardless of what "street" we're on.   We must depend on God in the good times as well as the bad, because we need Him desperately all the time.  We may be able to "succeed" (however you define that) on good days, but if we've done it without God, we've failed.  On the other hand, our most miserable failure of a day is actually a success if we spent it constantly coming back to the Throne of Grace. 

Faithful dependence is success.  If you're doing that, you can rest assured that whatever He has brought into your life, you are positioned to receive the maximum possible benefit from it in His time

So let's rejoice with one another in happy-feeling blessings, weep with each other in sad-feeling blessings, and trust God's timing for all of them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Busy Homeschool Day Two

"School Bell" by linder6580

Well, Day Two of homeschooling has come and gone.

There's no question that this is a huge success with Nathanael.  His schooling has been absolutely stress-free for both of us, and that's saying a lot.

Phillip is much more challenging, of course, but even so, I don't think it's any more stressful homeschooling him than it has been just trying to get him to do his homework at night. 

I wasn't home for much of the homeschooling today, unfortunately.  John was able to work from home, which freed me up to go to a doctor's appointment, and then to the hospital for an X-ray.  (I may have a stress fracture in my right foot, but I might not know for sure until Monday.  Can you believe that?  It's been hurting for a week, and it's getting swollen, and I hate to think of walking around on it for another few days waiting to find out if it's broken!  And the weird thing is, I have no idea what could have happened to cause it!)  Then tonight I went to Small Group.  John and I trade off weeks, since one of us has to stay home with the kids, and tonight it was my turn to go.  He said it was rough with Phillip tonight.  But like I said, it was often rough with homework from public school, too.

Anyway, I am still quite pleased with the homeschooling, and I think the children are settling in nicely.  I'm so pleased at being able to provide the kind of instant feedback the children need on their work, and to be so intimately involved in their schooling.

Oh, and there was a really neat time with Phillip today.  He was in goof-off mode, and I was starting to get mad and raise my voice as I told him to get to work.  But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He's been trying to teach me lately, and I called Phillip over.  I told him that he was wrong because he wasn't trying to be obedient, and that I was wrong because I was trying to use anger to control him.  Then I said I thought we should pray.  So he sat in my lap and I prayed for us both.

*(A similar event happened before, and I wrote about it here.)

Then he went to his work desk, sat down, stuck his fingers in his ears, screamed, and put his head down.

That's generally not a good sign.

I started praying for him where I was seated, and then the Lord nudged me to go sit next to him and pray for him.  I'm glad He did, because when I was next to Phillip, I realized that he wasn't just sitting in a withdrawn huddle, but he was actually praying silently!  I could see his lips moving and occasionally hear a whispered word.  And when he was finished praying, he went right to work.

I love knowing that he learned from my example and turned to the Lord for help!  That never would have happened at the public school!  Who would have provided that example for him?  Even if someone had wanted to, they wouldn't have been allowed to!

I love it!

But it's late now, and I'm tired.  It's 11:00 at night, and there's a load of laundry in the washer, and one in the dryer.  The kids and husband are in bed, and the sink is stacked full of dishes.  And I haven't done any of my BSF homework yet this week…

Thanks for dropping by, and for caring about our little family.  May God bless you and yours!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Homeschooling, Day 1

Fireside Education

I let this blog lie fallow for a long time, but it's time to give it a new life.  Why?  Because Nathanael and Phillip have started homeschooling!

(For more information on why we decided to start homeschooling, please click here to go to my other blog.  Then come back here when you're done.)

As I mentioned in my other blog, we purchased the 6th and 8th grade versions of Switched On Schoolhouse (SOS) and here are my first-day impressions.

I'm thrilled!

No, it's not perfect.  We've found some glitches already (though they may be cured when we download some updates), and there are some things I find a tad confusing.  But overall, this first-day experience was overwhelmingly good.

Nathanael says that homeschooling is like a dream come true.  He is bubbling over with joy at this new way of life, and he seems much more relaxed than I've seen him in a long time.  He did 5 days' worth of work in about a day and a half, all on his own initiative.  He says he can't wait for tomorrow so he can do more schoolwork.  That's something I never expected to hear!

Phillip also did well, though it took him until about 8:30 at night to finish his work.  He didn't start until around lunchtime, because he slept late.  Even so, that's a long day, but he usually works on his homework until that late anyway.  Much of that is due to dawdling.  He does find it hard to focus.  And of course today he had breaks when needed throughout the day.

He did have one major meltdown during the day, but that's nothing unusual.  What was unusual was how quickly he recovered and got back to work!  I believe he finds the computerized format much more engaging than books and papers.  For the most part, he seemed to enjoy it.

I loved seeing the boys studying the Bible as part of their curriculum!  Nathanael had been in Christian school from Kindergarten through the first half of fourth grade, but Phillip never had been because of his need for special intervention from the beginning.  It was so wonderful seeing them studying Bible now!

Nathanael wrote something I thought was absolutely stunningly wonderful.  He was asked to write down why we should hallow God's name, and part of his answer was:

God's holy name reflects on his holy self, and we don't want to be looking at God through a broken mirror.

I think that's pretty profound, especially coming from a 13 year old!

But back to talking about SOS.  I am so pleased with how easy it makes my job as teacher, and how good the curriculum seems to be, and also the immediacy of interaction that it allows.  Nathanael can be working at his computer in the basement, and I can check from my computer upstairs and see exactly what he has done, how well he has done on it, and if there are any items that I need to grade myself (SOS does 95% of the grading automatically, leaving only 5% for me to do).  And I also can instantly communicate with him via a messaging system.  If I'm not satisfied with the work I've graded, I can attach a note to it (all on the computer, no actual paper), and send it back to him for reworking at the click of a button.  If he needs to consult with me about something, I can be there in a matter of seconds.  It feels absolutely wonderful. 

Oh, and I love the fact that I'm not dealing with stacks of paper.  Paper always piles up and needs to be filed, and it's extremely stressful and messy for a disorganized person like me.  But despite having completed a very good day's work for Phillip, and 5 days' worth for Nathanael, not a single piece of paper was generated.  Gotta love it.

I apologize for over-using superlatives, but it's hard to even express how I feel about all of this.  God clearly led us, and He is blessing. 

Now, I'm going to be realistic here.  With big new ventures like this, there is always a honeymoon period, and then there's usually a real low time, and then finally things level out to some sort of norm.  I know it won't always be peachy.  But then again, today wasn't "peachy."  Phillip came closer to my nose with his fist than he ever has before. 

But this is such a good thing.  I'm sure of it.  I feel energized with a whole new sense of purpose, unlike anything I've felt in I don't know how long.

I should mention dear Andrew, our 4th grader who does not have "special needs."  He is being such a good sport about this, even though he clearly feels left out.  He has made it clear he would like very much to be homeschooled as well, but he understands that right now we can't afford a third curriculum.  I'm proud of him for being as classy about it as he's being.

Enough for now.  It's after 10pm, and I'm tired.  I haven't slept well for days, mostly because of excitement and some nervousness about homeschooling.  Life is busy right now in several ways.  There is a stack of dishes waiting for me, and tons of laundry, and grocery shopping that I haven't gotten to.  All of these things will be made more complicated by having the boys with me.

It is so worth it.  I have no doubts.