Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Learning to Enjoy

I genuinely enjoy my children. I remember when it was not always so. I don't know if that was due to their "littleness" or my selfishness, maybe both. All I know is that I enjoy them now.

I remember when their noise and demands grated on my nerves. I took it all personally. I felt slighted and taken advantage of. I feel ashamed of that now, but I must admit the truth. I longed for "me" time. I looked forward to bedtime. In hindsight, I can see the dilemma through which I struggled. Little kids are hard. They whine and demand and epitomize the word persistence. Many a day finished with me almost in tears. I was just so tired.

I know there were days that I enjoyed them. I know I tried to enjoy them. But trying and doing are distinctly different. If you have to try to enjoy your children, you end up plagued with floating guilt. I remember enjoying snuggles in the morning and the delicious scent of syrup in their hair after breakfast. I remember teaching them to read and stretching out in the floor next to them playing with counting bears.

I've always liked them. I've always attempted to enjoy them. Now, it is so much easier.

I enjoy waking them in the mornings and kissing their cheeks as they stumble to the kitchen for breakfast. I can't help but smile as I see them each working at their own task, learning and concentrating. I relax into their teasing and hugs and easy affection for me and each other. I just like them.

I like Maggie's profound statements and Ty's wit. I like Gracie's observations and Brody's giggles. I like explaining a math concept and watching their eyes light up with understanding. I revel in their ability to tidy the house in thirty minutes flat.

As they grow older, I feel the days shorten. I see the platform ahead where they will disembark this train that we've traveled on for so long and it fills me with a bittersweet dread.

At the end of the day, I want them to know they are loved. By me and by an omnipotent God. I want them to remember their childhood with fondness and extend grace to me in all of my failures. I want them to trust God with all their heart, soul and mind. I want to spend eternity in heaven getting to know the reality of the potential I see in them. I want to look at them then and say, "There you are. There is the person I always knew was in there."

But for now, I will finish this blog, go command them to bed and kiss their cheeks when teeth are brushed and lights are out. I will enjoy this moment; they feel so fleeting now...

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

The first official day of school is in the books.

There was one slight meltdown, not by me. I was impatient with the meltdown-er and Chris stepped in to take care of things. I always forget how beautiful that looks, to see their father love on them. I was and am grateful.

It was also an abbreviated schedule since neither of our co-ops have started yet. We finished by lunch. Co-op will add another hour or two to the day.

Changes made that have had an immediate impact:
1. No texting - AT ALL during school. I don't know why I was so lenient last year.

2. No videos, movies, Netflix, etc during the week. I feel punished too, but they can't use these things as a crutch anymore. I see imagination at work already.

3. Chores begin first thing after breakfast. By the end of the school day, they don't want to work; they want to veg.

4. A written schedule was handed out to each child first thing. It cut down on the number of times I was asked, "Now what do I do?" My sanity told me 'Thank you'.

5. Teaching Textbooks Math. There are no words for how lovely it was today. No words. I hope it continues to be as great as I think it will be.

So, first day done. Today we all did math, reading, writing/grammar, Bible. Maggie and Ty had their first Anatomy class and loved it! When the youngers' co-op starts we will add science, history, geography, missions and current events. The olders' class will be college prep writing and should be very challenging. They also have their electives.

I felt a bit like holding my breath before jumping in this morning. This year is so different from previous years. As I get accustomed to the idea of everything though, I'm getting excited. This year will stretch all of us, but it will also grow us the most. That's something I definitely look forward to with excitement.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Advice About Your Homeschool Budget

Money, oh how I loathe it. I hate having extra because then I have to figure out how to use it. I hate not having it because then I panic a little bit. Money is a necessary evil and when it comes to homeschooling, things can get pricey.

When your kids are little, you don't have to spend a ton. Buy used books. Print free worksheets off the internet. Check out books from the library. Borrow from your friends. Write your own. (seriously, it's not that hard). But when they get older, you have to start making tougher choices. You can't make up a science curriculum... well, unless you're crazy smart, which I am not! You have to do your research, ask around, think of your kids interests and above all, pray. Pray, pray, pray. God will provide. It may not be laid out in your lap easy peasy, but you can work it out.

I posted on here a couple of posts back that my friend volunteered to teach my olders A&P. That is still happening and I'm still excited about that. There is a hitch though.

Upon further examination, the anatomy books Trish and I had in common are not the same. (Hitch #1) Different editions. That makes a difference too. They have different page numbers, different chapter questions, etc. But that could be overcome.

Hitch #2 -  the books are so old buying another copy is expensive ($300!) because there are not that many copies out there for sale.

My dear friend, Heather, gave me her A&P book plus the unused lab manual (she just completed nursing school). Awesome! We'll just use that plus our other books.

Hitch #3- They are too different. Trish would have to go page by page with Mags and Ty to make sure they know what to do. So... We'll just buy more copies of Heather's book and manual.

Hitch #4- The book is 7th edition, the lab manual is 9th edition. Grrr. This is getting ridiculous. I go to my amazon app. I scan the barcodes on the books. Boom. I find the textbook. $6 each. Not bad!

Hitch #5- The 9th edition lab manual is $30 each! So, I ask, can we buy the 7th edition manual to go with the book? Sure! Let's just do that. Even though the 9th has the fetal pig dissection in it. At this point, who cares? We'll deal with that later. And these manuals actually GO with these books.

So. I have 4 items in my Amazon cart. Two 7th edition A&P books, two 7th edition lab manuals. Grand total with shipping is about $50. I haven't bought them yet because, frankly, my head is spinning. I'm going to give myself a day to let the dust settle and make sure I haven't forgotten anything.

I know some of you may ask, "Why not just make copies of the books you have?" That is a good question. It sounds great in theory. It really does. But I discovered many moons ago that it just never works that way. I don't know why, but it doesn't. I'm all about being thrifty and saving money. We usually have zero extra money to spare. But in the case of school, if you need the book, buy the book. Sure look at used book sales, but if you cannot find it there, buy it.

ADVICE: Just bite the bullet and spend the money. Buy your kids their own workbook/lab manual/book. Things will go much smoother. No one will feel slighted and you will not regret it.

This is especially important if you have multiple children and you're buying for the oldest. Spend the money on the older ones and re-use with the youngers. Buy the Biology book and extra lab manuals. Buy the good math and use it over and over again. Buy the non-consumable and then just buy the consumables for the youngers.

I homeschooled my kids through elementary school on practically no money. Seriously. High school is a bit different though. But even then, it's not out-of-reach expensive. For both of my high schoolers this year I have bought: math (books/cd/automatic grading), Rosetta Stone foreign language (new), the A&P books, their required reading books (all used or borrowed), an elective (architectural design), and Writer's inc (used). Grand total: less than $700. That's much, much cheaper than a private school. It's worth the investment to me.

I can re-use everything I bought except the lab manuals and the grammar and comp workbooks I already had.

These are some of the books we'll be using. Some are from the thrift store, some I already had, some I bought at a used curriculum sale. My new ones that I purchased on Amazon should be here in the next day or two.

I need to clean out the small bookshelf off to the right of this pic in order to put these in place.

So there ya go. Those are some of my thoughts on money. If you have a comment or a thought, please post it in the comments!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Accountability. That's a nice, unoffensive word if you've got everything under control. However, if you've got a gaping hole in your curriculum, it can be either your saving grace or the thing you fear most.

I've talked to a lot of homeschool moms and without fail, they always express the fear of screwing up. We tend to be plagued with fears and worries about college preparedness, life preparedness and basic skills. On a bad day, or night, the "what if" questions stalk us like a dementor in a dark alley. We can feel their cold reality pressing in on us.

I delayed my children's standardized testing for two years when they were young out of fear of what the test would say. I agonized over them. Turned out the tests showed my kids were either on grade level or ahead. There were no surprises. I knew they struggled in spelling and the test showed it. I thought their science was okay and they tested at least two grade levels ahead. The test gave me concrete proof of our strengths and weaknesses. It also showed me where we needed to focus more.

As my kids grew, I realized we were passing were I was comfortable in science. By seventh grade, I was burned out and not interested. I'm sorry to say that we passed the entire school year only touching on science briefly and shallowly. The following year, God sent help.

My sister is a science buff. She loves dissecting, identifying and learning about all things science related. I, on the other hand, am a huge history buff. It fascinates and captures me. My sister, Kim, loves to hear me talk about history but cares nothing for researching it and teaching it. We decided to combine our Wonder Twin powers and formed a co-op along with our great friend, Missy. Now all our bases are covered. My kids are scoring higher in science; my nephew is loving history. I don't slack off during the year because other people are depending on me too.
*(the pic to the right is of our little co-op)

My two olders are weak in writing. My fear was that, somehow, I was the only one in my circle who was deficient in this area. Imagine my surprise when a friend of mine approached me about forming a grammar/writing co-op for our high school students! Perfect. This year we will meet once a week and co-operate in teaching our kids college level writing skills.

It is so easy to allow my fear and shame to paralyze me into inactivity. I don't want all those other, really amazingly smart homeschool moms to know how bad I suck at teaching English. I want to be self-sufficient and autonomous. I want to do it myself. ... hmmm. That sounds familiar. Like, maybe, in the Garden?

My heart is deceitful and wicked. To ask others for help is humbling and my flesh protests. No, protest is too soft a word. My flesh screams and kicks and makes excuses. I ignore, justify and worst of all, try harder to do better. That's the one that kills me. I seek to find my worth and identity in how smart/educated/knowledgeable my children are. I forget who saves me.

I am not the hero of this story; Christ is. I do not determine my children's paths; he does. Psalm 37:23 says that a man's steps are ordered by the Lord. Not their mother, no matter how well intentioned. When I don't ask for help, I have to ask myself why. Is it to protect my reputation? Am I finding my worth in my ability? I have to fight to remember who I am. I am no longer the orphan fighting for my next meal; I am a daughter of the King. He has clothed me in His son's righteousness. He cannot love me any more than he already does. I am chosen, loved, forgiven and made right.

If I am completely righteous, I can admit my weakness. It no longer identifies me. Therefore, accountability is an invitation for the gospel to work in my heart and in the hearts of my children. 

I am blessed to be held accountable by a God who delights in me and by friends who aren't surprised by my failures. If you don't have friends like that, begin praying now for God to send you some. And when they come, be ready. Accountability will shake your life up... in a wonderful way!