Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shocked Delightfully

Here we are in week two of school and things are still good.  Yay team!  We are all enjoying the new approach to life and learning!  What a joy to see smiles beaming back at me when I look up from reading!

I will back up and say that Friday was trying for me however, as I had one son who just couldn't stop talking!  Despite my attempts at sweetness and patience, he continued to choose the path of not listening, so I turned him over to his ways and sent myself on a field trip to the store!

To my pure delight, all three boys continued to work while I was gone, but I think that one learned the value of zipping thou lip and tuning in to directions while mom is trying to give them and thou hast her present to help you! :)

I must say I am truly shocked (albeit in a wonderful way) to see how Alex and Trey jump into their assignments each day now!  What a nice change of pace for us.  Clearly they have both matured, but that is also testimony to the importance of how schoolwork is approached.  It's too bad learning can't be tailored to every child's natural bent in every learning environment everywhere.  I wonder what potential could be unlocked ya know?

My long-time goal has been to teach my guys how to be self-motivated, self-directed learners.  I know if I teach them that now, they can figure out anything they need to later, as well as be disciplined to meet their responsibilities as men.  It's great to be at the point of seeing fruit come from all the training because it sure hasn't been easy!

I also want to share a neat kiss from God we received!  Monday we went to the state fair and saw the Newsboys in concert.  At one point, the keyboard player took some time to speak about the wonders of creation and spoke of the make-up of DNA...of the ridiculous thought and chances that this could somehow have evolved from nothing.  It was just what the boys and I have been studying the past two weeks! 

We have been pouring through resources comparing the theory of evolution with the Biblical account of creation.  It has been incredible watching them weigh the evidence (or lack thereof in evolution's case).  I am so thankful for the opportunity to be with them as they discover why they believe what they say they believe.  They will be men who can stand in a crooked and perverse generation and give a reason for the hope that is within them!

I sure had no clue that in the middle of a concert, God would confirm once again to their hearts how what He says in Scripture is true, not because we believe it's true for us, but because it is THE TRUTH.

Enjoying these days of life.  Sure hope you are too!  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Vision

The boys and I had another fairly pleasant day.  Everyone was sleepy today and we kind-of had to make ourselves push through and not give way to naps, but they have all said they think this year will be better.  So that means they all see the difference in approaches of learning already.  (Score!)

I thought I would share a bit more on how I came to this new place.  As I have said in previous posts, God has impressed my heart over the last year to be purposeful and keep first things first.  I just couldn't shake the feeling that there was something more...a better way than what we were experiencing.

We have taken an eclectic and literary approach to our schooling for several years now, but still I found myself hurrying through Bible to check it off and move on in order to "work everything in."  I hated this struggle inside me...this knowing that true wisdom that my boys would need to weather any storm of life could only come from God, but yet "school" is supposed to be this, this, and this, etc...

I prayed a lot since the spring.  I told God that I wasn't buying one thing for this year until He showed me His plan for my children.  I was tired of "good" ideas...of the same ole way...of mimicking a system that is failing and dumbing down the children of this nation.  

I want my children to know how to think critically, but I am not interested in them being able to "argue and debate their opinions" as the Greeks pursued.  I want them to not fall for just anything, yet I also want them to not be puffed up in their own thinking...wise in their own eyes.  I want them relying on the Spirit of God to speak to them and through them as they have need.

My prayer led me to a book called The Heart of Wisdom Approach.  The author found herself in much the same place I have just described several years ago, decided to change coarse for her family, and through prayer and seeking, God led her back to the Hebrew way of learning.

This model that the Father set up for us in the Word is about relationship, modeling, using parables for practical application, and asking good questions that made people think.  This is how I naturally teach my children.  This is how most people naturally parent their children.  It is what God put into us.

In this book, the author takes the reader through the history of the Church as well as the history of education.  My eyes have been opened to where we, as God's people, separated from His ways.  I have always been drawn to the Classical model of education as it made more sense to me than traditional public school methods, however, there were still many things about the Classical way that I questioned as being beneficial to my sons.

Now I understand why and what it is I don't want out of that philosophy.  Now I see what I do want...what God desires for my sons, and I am so thankful that God met me in my seeking.  I have walked with Him long enough to know that the stirring inside me was there for a reason!  I knew there was more to see!

So, along with continuing to enjoy our living books for history, we are going to incorporate them more for every subject.  I do love to study history chronologically, and as we are starting back over with ancient history this year, we are going to study through the perspective of the Hebrew people instead of the pagan cultures as in the last two rotations.  As important as I believe it is that they learn about all cultures and beliefs, I want to be very on-top of how that information is presented to them.

Garrison is beyond excited about this.  He loves to learn apologetics and reasons behind everything so a chance to explore further why he believes the Bible is true and God is who He says He is, well that is time well-spent to Garrison!  I love that about him.  

It's also exciting to see Alex's curiosity coming alive as he is getting older and maturing in understanding.  Garrison has always been ahead of himself in what he can comprehend so I have experienced this love of learning with him for years.  With Alexander though, it's a new twist and so fun to see.  It has been difficult to be used to Garrison and the way learning is so easy for him and then watch Alex struggle so much (just as I did).  Their giftings are completely different!

Trey still fades in and out of attention to the details and that is a-OK because technically the boy should only be in 4th grade this year anyway!  He just didn't wanna be left behind when Alex started Kindergarten :)  That's what I love most about homeschooling...each child can work on their own levels in each area.  There is no shame in how slow we need to go in one area, nor should their be pride in how fast one can comprehend in another.  I'm just thankful we can go about it the way that is best for each of them.

We will explore ancient cultures this year, keeping our eyes on what God's chosen people were doing and what the pagan cultures around them were doing at the same time.  We will use many various resources and see what those early cultures added to science as well.  

We are starting with a study on wisdom and how true wisdom starts with a fear (reverence) of God.  Knowledge can take you to places where you can earn money, even power and prestige, but it is only true wisdom that will keep you when all that is worldly falls around you or when all the knowing of academic facts still leaves you baffled, busted, or disgusted.

I honestly don't care what my children do for work in this life, but I care very much about who they live for and what they give their time, attention and resources to.  My goal is that they live with eyes on eternity and not on this quickly fading life or trying to impress anyone in it.

Training their hearts and character is of way more importance to me than math.  Oh, we will do those "core" subjects that they need to know to function practically in this culture, but we will not be enslaved to them ever again.  We are not going back to the familiar because of fear that we aren't doing it the same way as the American education system suggests.

My kids aren't gonna miss anything.  They are going to get exactly what they need as individuals to fulfill their destiny.  And I don't say that in some prideful way like my kids are better than someone else's kids who go to public school.  It's not a comparison to other children or families.  This is about US doing what is mandated on OUR hearts for OUR particular three children.  It isn't my place to determine what anyone else is supposed to do with their children.  I only know that "teaching God's ways and Word diligently" to my children means they stay with me at this time of their existence. 

I have been delivered from the prideful mindset of thinking I know what is God's plan for other people's children.  I need only make sure I have my eyes on Him for MY family.  That is so freeing!!!

I have also found freedom in the Language Arts area of our studies.  I have long wondered how a spelling list of 20 words unrelated to anything else my boys were doing was helpful!  Separate vocabulary assignments, grammar that they never seem to hold onto in their minds, and a writing process they found dreadful and unrelated because of, ah shoot, let's just call them what they are...ridiculous writing assignments that fueled no passion in them to use their creativity!

Now, we will follow the suggestions of an actual successful author (Brave Write-Writer's Jungle).  We will start with oral language games and freewriting to try to undo the damage of drudgery and spark some life into finding their own writing voice!  We will study grammar in more enjoyable ways and make it applicable to writing.  We won't correct and revise every single thing they write, picking them apart and criticizing them constantly.  We will let them get their thoughts out and enjoy emptying their heart onto paper for a while.  Then we will pick one thing they wrote and work on a couple of areas at a time until they have mastered them and gain confidence that they can express themselves and not be raked over the coals for it!

We will take the misspelled words of their writing and put them into a notebook and get their vocabulary words from what they are already reading.  Handwriting will be practiced through copywork of things that they will want to remember their whole life long by writing it in their character/wisdom notebook.

They will finish this year knowing how the Bible came to us, how it indeed can be the true words from God, what every book from Genesis to Acts is about, what God's plan was from before the foundations of the earth were laid, and how they fit into it.

We will throw in the music and art they WANT to explore, some Spanish that they can one day use when they go with me to Nicaragua and meet the family God has given them there, and they will continue to study the physical disciplines of martial arts.

I know our "school" doesn't look like everyone else's but that is just fine because I am training up each individual in the way HE should go.  I've been set free from comparison and it is a glorious place to be!

I'm so thankful that God has given me a natural gift to organize and bring order from chaos.  I can easily put a plan's the walking it out day by day that I have to discipline myself to do!  

We will also be going to a co-op this year.  It's been a few years since we have been part of one, but our past experience was good.  We are excited to make some new friends and enjoy fun classes like Lego Mind Engineering, launching rockets and studying the physics of flight, art (which I get to use my gifts to teach...yay!!!), Junior Achievement leadership and problem solving, and Garrison will obtain his government credit there so that's helpful.

So that's our vision for this year.  I always love to hear where God has led others.  We must spur one another on!

Monday, August 13, 2012

9th Year

It is hard to believe, but we kicked off our 9th year of homeschooling today!  High school has "officially" begun for Garrison, and Alex and Trey entered middle school level I guess.  You know, we homeschoolers never know for sure what grades we are "in."  We learn all over the place, and we like it that way :)  It keeps students and teachers interested!

I thought I would take some pics of my "school room" while it was straightened up.  It is really just the place the supplies are stored because the boys almost always end up on a bed, couch, or floor no matter what cool space I set up for them.  I don't care!  Go wherever makes you able to think and makes you wanna learn boys...that's my motto!

So, I also have my scrapbook stuff in this room and it's the only girlie place I have in the house.  I try hard to keep everything else pretty neutral and male friendly (though I bet my males wouldn't agree).  Not gonna lie though...I LOVE THE COLORS IN THIS ROOM!!!

I am very excited about my new chair by the window!  We get such amazing lighting there, so it makes a perfect little reading spot.  Alex enjoyed it today with a snack.
Trey was on my bed...
He got a black eye playing around at church yesterday...turned around smack into the wall!
I don't remember this one ever having a shiner before. Who knows!  It's okay though.  He said it didn't hurt too bad since his headache yesterday!!!  (uh okay)  And, he is still way cute so no harm :)

Garrison was at the table having a smoothie.  He never stops eating so this is a good place for him to learn!
We had a super day!  We have switched things up in our approach this year.  I think it will bring a breath of fresh air...they will have room to explore what interests them more-what they find delight in.  We are leaving Egypt, no longer enslaved to the "state standards" or worksheets or boring textbooks!  We are gonna be about living books and interesting topics that have a lasting impact on our lives!
I strongly believe that all people are individuals, gifted to do different things.  It makes no sense to teach each person exactly the same things, the same way!  I am going to thoroughly enjoy watching for the signs of uniqueness in each of my sons and allowing them to explore their natural draws.  I know they have greatness inside of them to be cultivated.  
It was fabulous just to read and explore enjoy one another and talk about important life-changing things and even silly, crazy, whacky things that mean nothing much but bring laughs!
I was painfully aware of the absence of my Adalee today.  She has started preschool and is loving it!  I cleaned out her little bin and gave her all her books to take home.  I will miss her so much, but I know she will have a ball of fun with friends her age.  I still have the flowers up that she made me.
I enjoy little girls and their creativity in crafting!  Don't get much of that with boys!  I also have things from my nieces Joleen and Lydia that they made me...even Hannah Beth and Gracie when they lived with us!  My dear friend Amy's daughter, Lilly, made me a whole book of love that I keep on my desk!
And I can't forget Miss Tori Bell's drawing of me in a princess dress!  C'mon now...sweet!
Oh, I love my bulletin board of all things that remind me of people who have left an impression in my heart!
People who have passed on who I never want to forget...
Those who have shared some of my deepest heart hurts and my most joyful memories...
Some who are miles away, but who I think about daily...

I love the little things that remind me of God's creation and His love for me...

I'm so thankful for a good day...a day of feeling well and connecting hearts.  I sure hope we have lots more of these!  I hate when I deal with the dumb migraines or when anxiety rears its ugly head.  I want more peaceful days like today...when the surroundings are picked up and everybody is learn, to love, to live together.

I am making it my goal to let God lead us.  I can make my plans, but it is God who directs my steps.
I am learning more and more about how to just rest in Him and His great love and provision for me.  Time seems to be passing by so much faster as I get older.  I know in a blink, Garrison will be headed off to college.  I'm not ready for that!  But, until then, I am going to enjoy each day for what it is...not worrying over the future and not regretting the past.
I'm gonna enjoy these treasures the Lord has loaned to me.  We are gonna get through the blah days together as a team.  We are are gonna be busy with the things that really matter.  I know it won't all be perfect, but at least our relationships are real.  We yell sometimes.  We bicker a little.  We have grumpy days and days that bring tears of frustration.  But, we have a lot of good days...a lot!  And today, our first day of school for 2012-2013 was one of those :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bad...Yucky...Blah Day!

I hate these kinds of days.  They have thankfully gotten fewer and further between for me, especially in the last two months, but I still hate them.

These days I am talking about are the "migraine days."  I hate them because they rob me of life.  They knock me down into my bed...causing me to want to be alone, not move, not see light, not hear sound.  They make me so irritable.

They make me a very bad excuse for a mother...teacher...wife...friend.

It's not just the pain of the headache either.  It's the cycle that causes the cursed headache.  It goes back to the stupid brain chemical levels that were thrown off when I was a child.

I don't talk about this much...mainly because it's feels could bring hurt or embarrassment to others...and because people don't know what to do with it~they don't know how to respond, how to talk about it, how to understand it, how to help.  It's "easier" for me and the people who thankfully don't suffer from anything like it if I just deal with it privately.

Truth is, no one can help really so it doesn't matter.  It just is what it is.  No one "meant" to cause it.  No one meant to do anything in my environment growing up that would alter my chemical levels in my brain, but it happened.

I'm not mad at anyone.  I don't hate.  God and my relationship with His Son, Jesus, got me through the forgiveness issues a long time ago.  But the effects still linger for me physically...and therefore mess with my sons and husband too.

Evidently, when a person is subjected to chaos for extended periods of time or a major traumatic event, it can affect and alter their brain and how it operates.  People readily accept that a pancreas can be thrown out of whack and would be appalled if someone were to have insulin withheld from them to function, but when it comes to brain disorders, people don't see it the same: an organ malfunctioning.

I am doing WAAAAY better than I used to, but it only takes something happening to "jolt" me to throw me off again.

This time it has been our security alarm malfunctioning in the early morning.  Husband was gone and the level of panic is indescribable.

We had the alarm put in because last year our neighbor's home was broken into in the middle of the night while the husband worked third shift.  Since this also happened to us when I was 10, my husband thought having the alarm would bring me peace of mind. It has...until it malfunctioned.

Since then, I lay down at night or wake up in the night with flashbacks of the panic I felt.  I have went months until now with no panic attacks or anxiety attacks.  I haven't had to take any medicine.  I have been doing so well.  Now this.

Then, on top of that, our dog is dealing with fleas.  I guess it's a problem for a lot of dogs right now since our winter did not get cold enough to freeze and kill things off.  For most people this would be an annoying inconvenience, but I already deal with some OCD tendencies and some microorganism phobia...another manifestation of my altered brain chemical imbalance, so trying to keep the dog checked (and can I mention that I don't like animals and my husband usually takes care of the dog!) and keep the fleas at bay so we don't have an all-out infestation in our home, well, it all has me a tad mentally exhausted.  

I know, sounds so ridiculous, doesn't it?

When I hit stress like this, I tense up terribly...especially my upper back and neck.  When my muscles are tight, it then affects the rotation of my neck and the top vertebra (the atlas bone) in my neck tends to "get stuck" the doctor says.  It pinches nerves that cause me to be dizzy, have pounding pain behind my eye, get migraines, and even messes up my sinuses.

I have gained ground in understanding the process of this cycle, but because I don't have a flip to switch off stress, I can't always prevent it.  I can feel it coming...literally the tension creeping up my neck, but no medicine stops it.  Sometimes chiropractic adjustments help, but not this time apparently.

UGH...I hate it...hate the whole stinking knot of circumstances.  I hate that my intellect can KNOW everything is okay, but my flesh just responds how it will.  How I wish I could turn it off.

So...that's it.  That's what I deal with.  That's how it rolls for me.  A stupid malfunctioning alarm that most people could hear, deal with, and move on...paralyzed my "systems" and caused a chain reaction of events because my brain can't process stressful situations like a "normal" person's brain can (normal-that's funny huh?).

I hate being robbed of days.  I have things to do and sons to be with.  I long for this to no longer be a part of "me."  

My motivation for writing about it while I am "in" it is twofold:  to document for my boys what was happening on this day of our family and hopefully lend understanding later and to maybe encourage some other woman out there who might deal with "blah" days she has little control over to know she is not alone :)  Hang in there for the great days!

Boys, I can only pray that when you are grown and look back on your life at home, the amazing, wonderful days far outweigh the ones where I was lying down with an ice pack on my head!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Garrison's 14th Birthday~Overdue!

My firstborn son turned 14 in May, but I was still in recovery mode from surgery.  It is now August and how pathetic that I am just getting this post written!

Surprising? frustrating? I don't know.  I can't believe the time we let slip by as humans sometimes.  On the other hand, I can say I have been busy about the right priorities this summer.  That's gotta be some progress, huh?

So what can I say about my Garrison Thomas at this stage of our journey together?  

He absolutely intrigues me!

I know no one else like Garrison.  He is, in many ways, like his dad, with little glimmers of myself shining through, but there are by and large, more characteristics that are all him and completely foreign to either my husband or myself.

Since he was three, we have heard him say he might be this or that when he grows ice hockey playing pastor who is in the Navy to a scientist, then a doctor-but not a "gross kind," a rock star, a football player, an engineer, a lawyer, a statesman, and talk the other day of a geneticist.

Who knows what vocation this young man will end up in, but one thing for sure...the thing that has been constant is his undeniable faith in Jesus from as early as I can remember.

When he was three, I pulled him unconscious from my parent's pool and later, in the ER room as I sat guilt-ridden more than I have ever felt at any other time in life, my precious little boy looked up at me, smiled and whispered, "Mommy, I saw Jesus under there."  Is that why he has always seemed convinced...always had this secure "knowing" that Jesus IS and that's all there is to it?
All I know is that he has never wavered and we don't have to do anything to "get him" to seek God.  He reads the Bible daily and he walks his talk.  He has always fought against injustice and compassion exudes from him.  He is the first to apologize...the first to give.
When he was four, he came to me in the kitchen before preschool and asked what it meant to pray to be baptized by fire and when I explained that to him, he prayed right then and there and asked God to fill him up with the power of the Holy Spirit.  He immediately began to speak in another language.  If I had any doubt left that this could really occur it was taken care of that day.  That would be one of the many times God taught me through this child He gave me.

I will never forget the day we met with Garrison's endocrinologist before we moved from Washington.  He was 28 months old and they had just finished testing his IQ.  The doctor said, "I didn't want to tell you this when your son was a newborn, but from the clinical data that showed his thyroid produced virtually no hormone on its own and our experience, it would look like he would be profoundly learning disabled.  I never like to limit a child by lowering the parent's expectations.  I like to wait and see parents treat their children has normal as possible and see what that child can do.  We are astounded that Garrison shows the intelligence he does.  We expect no delays whatsoever in his future."

Garrison defied the odds.  Garrison stood out.  That's what Garrison does.  That is who Garrison is.

I have little doubt that is a huge part of why God has put it on our hearts to homeschool our sons.  They are no more "special" than any human child born on this planet, but whatever he has been set apart to do is going to require that he stand up, stand out, and do it with all diligence, not half-heartedly!

Will he find the cure for cancer?  Will he argue cases for children who have had unfathomable injustices done to them?  Will he become the economist who has the plan to turn his nation around?  I have no clue.  But I know my boy, and I know that wherever his gifts and talents take him, his character will keep him there.

I have definitely not been the perfect parent to this child.  I have absolutely not had all the right answers.  I have at times, laid too much on him, expected far too much, been way too impatient, yelled too many times...yet still...he loves me.  He takes care of me, protects me, honors me.

So many times, he leaves me speechless, astounds me with his love, and challenges me with his faith.  I can't count the times I have thought, "How did I end up with him?"  I feel so unqualified to raise a child like him.  I fear failing him...but then I fear failing all of them to be honest.  

I am thankful that Garrison isn't a teenager who talks back and bucks against us.  We try to explain things...such as why we don't think it is a good idea to have a Facebook account at his age.  We know we can't legally stop him from making one.  He knows that as well.  But, he chooses to listen to our wisdom and submit his heart, believing we have his best interests at heart.

I don't take a relationship of love and trust like this for granted.  I tread purposefully and carefully, doing my best to keep communication open and honest about all things.

I'm so excited for Garrison's future.  I'm so glad he doesn't just fall for anything, but makes sure he knows why he believes what he believes and stands by those convictions but walks them out in love and respect for others.  He is only 14, but in so many ways, I see a man already looking back at me.   

We love you so much son...not for what you do, but for who you are