Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

What I've learned so far this year is that a wordless, peaceful moment with an 18 year old son is priceless.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cirlcle Time and Things Quakerly?

This year, I brought back the old idea of "circle time" borrowing from the earliest days of my career that began with teaching preschool. Of course this is different at older ages, while we come together for a simple gathering time before we start into our academics. I allow a sharing time and find this is not only profitable for language skills and catching up, but with also cutting chatter that can delay the transition of our subjects. We may share a journal entry, narrate a book that one is reading, share a verse, quote or experience. Some days, artwork will come out or music and I smile to myself as it appears a bit like "show and tell". I tend to share with the girls as well so it is a even exchange and pleasant for us. Next, we survey the weeks goals, determine if we are meeting them and make necessary changes. This time is informal yet helps us realize some of our progress and our desires. So we are often problem solving and reaching for ways to keep learning cooperatively throughout our day. It has lead me to the realization that we are integrating some Quakerly ways in this sharing and by the addition of a bit of silent time/prayer prior to lunch which we began about 3 years ago. In the evening, my husband chooses to pray aloud at dinner, which had been our practice for years so the children are experiencing both.

For other Quaker home educators, a good friend alerted me to a wonderful website for children entitled KidsQuake, an outreach of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. It offers stories, history, a "Walk Gently" poster we hung in the schoolroom this month and interactive activities. Currently we are going over their Quaker Testimonies & Queries for Kids based on SPICES, which stands for simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. It’s a great resource to check out. Another site I have found helpful for resources is which is The Friend’s General Conference and through it we have been introduced to the Growing in the Light series which is really simple but outstanding an introduction for children to prepare for Meeting for Worship when not familiar. There is a large selection of children’s books for all ages and our favorite read aloud lately from that site has been Standing in the Light from the Dear America Series. Although it’s a historical novel, I think it an excellent portrayal of 18th Century life of a Quaker girl and is aimed at a reading level of age 8-13 I’d say. There are reproductions and drawings which are quite accurate in the conclusion.

The photos are from our circle time last week as the girls often like to review their art history scrapbook. I had picked up the scrapbook years ago and it is made from recycled pressed paper with real leaves which makes it more of a treasure to me. It’s a bit hard to see but we mount small reproductions from Meet the Masters or post cards from the National Art Gallery and then they write about what they see and facts on each artist, much like a simple picture study. We had not done this for 2 years, so are getting back to some activities we loved and found it to be nice glimpse back in time as we could see improvement in handwriting skills through the years. We also found evidence of my son's participation in some of his earliest years which was great fun for his sisters now that he is a senior.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Our School Update

Being that we are almost through the month of January I am reviewing changes that we have made which have worked and those which have not. I admit that I am still vacillating between Charlotte Mason’s recommendation of short lessons for concentrated attention and diving into topics for longer periods to satisfy our curiosity on topics of special interest to us. It may not be consistent, but we are doing both according to subject and I've decided this is not such a bad practice in consideration of the girl's ages now.

First of all the State History cd rom course proved to be too much on top of The Story of the World for my oldest daughter. I have to say that even I am hooked on Story of the World by Bauer and am compelled to complete the series which will bring us through volume 4 by the end of next year. We’re going with a more hands on approach, Lord willing, this spring of getting out and touring Trenton and various sites, reading some NJ history and scrap booking it. For math, Teaching Textbooks wins hands down. Out of the five various curriculum we have used to teach math here through the years, this gets my vote. Saxon is out of my life for good and it’s freeing, as while popular it just was not a good fit for my daughters as it used to be for my son. My oldest is completely independent with this teaching program and the perk is that it corrects errors visually for the student. My youngest is loving a turn at the computer on her programs, but honestly we have not reached the level of independence I had hoped for, but at least there is improvement. We have worked out a written list of independent work to be complete quietly if I have the distraction of company, a phone call or a necessary appointment. Little measures can go a long way to problem solve to keep the day moving. This is helping me keep our concentrated learning time on schedule so that I have some time to myself each afternoon.

We are accepting help of our math tutor more frequently and the girls and also have begun sewing lessons by machine for the first time. So, I am delegating and welcoming more help than ever and intend on continuing that each year as possibilities arise. I have always encouraged the bulk of academics in the mornings and long afternoons for art, reading, hobbies and outdoors whenever possible. This is some times hard due to the ferocious competition of tv and electronics, but I'm trying to limit that, which makes for some unhappy looks at times. Evenings are for reading once again both a loud and independently as well as music practice time. My youngest is loving the harp and making great progress with her lessons, but my older daughter feels certain at this point that she wants to move on from the piano to guitar still but I’ve not yet located the right arrangement for our needs.

We began home schooling for purely academic and health reasons but through the years have stuck with it for the freedom and along with that we gradually have added small lessons of faith and character usually without formal planning. I tend not to use religious curriculum any more especially in the areas of science and history as I want a well rounded approach and questions and discussions naturally arrive. In fact the entire day is ripe for incidental learning. I have always preferred to encourage prayer, Bible reading and the reading of additional spiritual books through own example rather than telling the children what to do. Also through the years, I’ve provided verses and quotes for the kids to use weekly if they so choose to. It’s funny how when one does not push or make requirements, a child willingly places forth the effort on their own terms when they are ready and watching that unfold is lovely. Both daughters typically pull one card from the basket each week and utilize it for penmanship, placing it alongside various quotes and poems in their practice books which they seem to cherish and personalize. It’s good to watch them grow spiritually at their own pace and they seem to "get it" more all the time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday Photos

I planned on participating in "Wordless Wednesdays" with photos every once in a while, but it seems that I have difficulty with the "wordless" part! It is breeding time here for some of our rabbits and the deed has been done. These are some photos from this past summer so you can see why I love my bunnies and am quite particular about our Jersey Wooly breed. They are a gentle and sweet rabbit almost like having cats. I'm hoping we are successful this time and if so, will post more photos to show the kits after they are born as well as their development.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kids, Pets and Perservering with Hope

Hope is risky as it involves coming out of my own cocoon of fear and trying again. This transformation is a wild, unrestrained act. It takes all of my strength to hope, to make choices that may alter life again, even small decisions are laborious for me. Last weekend, we had to put our miniature horse down. It left me unspeakable at first as Shannon was a loved horse but also was a mark of deliberate transformation which took courage for our family after a series of loss. Shannon was our visual reminder of hope and of persevering together; she was a loved pet but also a symbol of living and loving together again.

Honestly, my first reaction to her acute illness was not only shock and pain, but anger. I was angry my children could not be protected from hurt once again. Down on my knees, in the barn with my daughter I wept, and not only for our horse but for the insecurity that this life keeps blasting them with. I will never forget the look on my youngest daughter’s face as she bravely stroked and kissed as the injection worked it’s way. Then moments later she finally gave up and limply laid her head and arms spanning the horses belly and sobbed. Afterwards I staggered my way back to the house, knowing full well I had round two of consoling to do with my other daughter. She had done the majority of the work with the horse so willingly as it was her joy, not to mention all my husband put into it—countless hours and work.

This sting of life cannot be avoided and I know that as an adult. I knew that well as a child, but as a mother pain reaches an entirely different level. It feels as if pain multiplies when seeing the ones you love hurt and having no way to protect them. For the most part, I’m grateful as I know so full well that others have it worse and this is just an animal and a lengthy string of events. So I pray for those traversing more profound loss now and relinquish them to the Comfortor. But I keep thinking of this series of events the past three years have brought us–failed adoptions, two stolen cats, the death of a rabbit, further diagnosis’, relationship loss and it all seems preposterous to me, really sort of surreal. I’m thinking about this new year and how I will live it, what choices I will make. Will we float, sink or even try again? I know we are all steadying ourselves this week and regaining our course and there are already signs of strength in my children to not give up. Most of all I know that this shook my world as I saw yet another glimpse of my children’s grieving process again and that’s unsettling.

Consequently, we have talked and cried for days reliving the bad pictures we cannot get out of our minds, but I want us to be a family that communicates rather than avoiding feelings like the plague. I know this is yet another opportunity to teach what is natural in this life and the weight of that responsibility entrusted at times is a heavy load. However, they have to know there will be tough decisions, sorrow and death mixed in with happiness as it all co-exists. We've also realized the good and the joy we have been able to feel again.

The experience really left us reviewing so many of our decisions in the past few years and if they have been blunders or divine appointments, what God is trying to teach us and how to listen for his leadings. Really pretty deep ideas for a 9 and 12 year old to have need to ponder. We’ve discussed how it feels when God wants us to yield to his higher purpose even when we do not understand it clearly. In the end we have confessed that we all wish we could be physically picked up by God, placed in the right position and told to walk straight ahead. How great that would be to know exactly what God would desire of us! I am such a tactile learner, I’d like to actually touch the openings and closings God has in store for me as I touch nature’s gifts along a wooded path and find my way. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts, no secret passage ways, but more a calling to listen, remain faithful and to keep moving forward.

This faithfullness is seemingly the part that matters the most. The part I want our children to keep aiming for in order to avoid the trap of fear from life’s many hurts. I want them to keep living, risking and enjoying to the fullest. Like most parents, I want them to be more accomplished at this than I have been. Most of all, I wish for them to be transformed by the living Light with a passion to guide them along their own way in this journey. I want them to remember what is most important, that which is Eternal.

As for Shannon Joy, she was a beautiful tri-colored Paint who gave us many memories in a short period of time and will be remembered by the 3 colored braids of her mane kept as a reminder of her. She will be another memory that has taught us all to trade our weakness for God’s strength in order to carry on. I know we will float and launch again real soon.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The 14 Days of Homeschool

This is a little late being that we have all survived the holidays! However, when my family saw this today and enjoyed it so much I thought I would post it for any homeschoolers out there who may have missed it. We actually have had the lyrics on our refridgerator for an entire year now amongst all the photos, kid's artwork and writing. Being that our refridgerator is one of the first items one runs into when coming in our kitchen door, it is a focal point for anyone visiting and most stop and linger there a while. We also read the lyrics ourselves whenever we get any negative comments on our life style, as it just relieves the stress and makes us laugh. Fortunately, comments are infrequent these days as it has become quite popular to home educate in our area regardless of many good school districts surrounding us. We do tend to get a few "well intended words" from some extended family members now and then. Funny thing is, not one person in an entire year has commented after reading our lyrics at the old refridgerator and that gets our giggles going even more. It's all in good fun.....

For the Birds

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Few Things I've Learned in 18 Years of Parenting

Well seems it is New Years and my son has turned 18 today. I’m feeling a bit like 18 inside myself still, only about 101 in body. At any rate, I thought it rather fun to think of a few tidbits I’ve learned along the way in parenting. It’s been a rather wild ride. These are just a few off the top of my head:

1. As soon as a baby leaves the birth canal, people will begin giving advice
2. This is OK, as the baby is really not yours to keep, more like a loan and will grow up and be thrilled to talk about leaving you
3. Children are messy but fun, so play with them and immerse yourself in home-made play dough and finger paint because it feels so great
4. Little people deserve respect too
5. Generally children forgive easier than adults
6. Their honesty is delightful and a good example if channeled well
7. Children really teach us to share and that God provides
8. These little beings are another one of God’s powerful tools used to refine us so go with it and let your faith grow
9. Kids make one appreciate their spouse more as parenting is a hard job with no pay and hired help is expensive
10. At times, I have needed the story and lullaby just as much as my child
11. Parenting can get gruesome and is not for cowards
12. I will always have yellow rubber duckies in my tub no matter how old I get and I don’t care who knows as it is lovely pass time
13. People will tell you that your spouse and you must always have a united front on discipline and issues with the children-this is impossible 100% of the time and your children will know this
14. Kids are exceedingly smarter than people give them credit for
15. You cannot control what your children say and at times you will be mortified-do not be alarmed as this feeling will lessen over time
16. We may think we are teaching them, but they teach us just as much
17. Don’t get too upset about the stage they are in as they will soon change that
18. Take one moment at a time if you have to and don’t forget to *breathe*
19. Fingerprints on windows and doors can be dirty or cute, it depends on how you choose to look at it
20. My father was right in saying the older one gets the faster the time seems to go