Thursday, September 29, 2011

Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St. John

Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St. John
  This is one of my favorite books, for both adults and children.  The author addresses the powerful message of forgiveness and salvation, through the story of a little girl whose brother is accidentally injured by a neighbor.  The spiritual content is deep, yet will be understood by children.  There is a lot of opportunity for family discussion, if done as a read aloud, which I would highly recommend.  Reviews can't do this book justice.  Just be sure and have your tissues handy during reading time.  (There is a DVD of the same title, but I have not seen it.  We are planning to watch it this weekend.)

Waiting For Superman

Someone asked me if I had seen the movie, "Waiting For Superman", which is a documentary on how bad our public schools are doing in educating our children.  Of course, I don't have to be convinced of the failure of our public schools... whether it is academic or political, or spiritual... I would give them an F across the board.  But I do like to be informed, and since I had only heard of the movie, and could not give an informed opinion, I decided to order it from Netflix (which is another post).  Also our local library now carries it.  You can also watch it on YouTube in parts (first two are posted below), or just the trailer (posted above).
  We watched it this past week, and it is a well done documentary, following the lives of 5 children and their families, as they deal with the shortcomings of the public school, and then attempt to attend a public charter school, where admission is done by lottery.   I would offer a different solution to public education (homeschooling), but considering that this movie maker is not even considering homeschooling as an option, it is a revealing and very sad look at the corruption in our schools. 
   There is a lot of information, and I would probably need to watch it again to catch some of the bias and be able to give a better "review", but it is a film that captures your attention.  My husband and son watched it as well, and also were intrigued.   I was glad we saw it, and feel better equipped for a discussion regarding public education. 
  It breaks my heart to see so many families and sweet children, who are trapped in our school system, and are victims of the corruption and greed.   Of course, this film maker and the others who are trying so hard to fix things, don't connect the dots between what we see in our schools and families and the rejection of God in the public square.  They don't realize that without Him, all is really in vain. 
  Once again, I am so incredibly grateful for the blessing and calling of homeschooling. 
You can watch the first part here:



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reluctant to Launch?

I was asked about any suggestions regarding our "grown" homeschooled kids, who are reluctant to launch, and take the next step, whatever that might be.  My friend is feeling discouraged, and questioning the homeschool path they have been on as a family.  So, I thought I would share some of my thoughts (sorry it is so long),   but remember, I am no expert and I don’t think there is a formula to offer.  And I don’t think there is only one  right answer, and if there is, I certainly don’t think I have it!   Navigating these years is just not easy.  That is my opinion on it.  : )  Would love to hear what others think. 
 ~ First… friend, you are NOT  a failure!  You are a diligent, committed, Christian mother, who has hung in there through all the storms life has sent your way.  You have been faithful.   It is a misconception to think that the rest of us don’t question our success or decisions at times, and don’t struggle with our  relationships with our teen/young adult kids.  This is a tricky season to navigate, no matter how you educate, and it takes real love and patience and endurance.  But it is just a season, and I think it is part of the journey of Biblical parenting… not the most fun part in some ways.   : )
~  We all have these moments of insecurity, no matter which route we take, and because nothing ever turns out just as we thought it would, we second guess our decisions.  So, you are not alone in this.   ;)
~  Failure or reluctance to launch is not just a home schooling issue, but is more common that you might think.  I have friends and family, right now,  who are dealing with the same thing in their public school and Alt. Ed. Students, who have recently graduated.   I think it is more of a personality thing.   I don’t have the perfect answer, but I am happy to brainstorm a little here. 
 ~   I don’t know the specifics of what each family's expectations are vs. what the kids are willing to pursue, but a few areas that I have seen families deal with are:
    * Reluctance to get a driver’s license -  Contrary to the stereotypes of the 16 year old nagging mom and dad for their license, I have known several families whose 18-19-20 year olds are intimidated and afraid to start driving alone.  For those families, they have done the driver’s permit thing for an extended time, but then finally sort of “forced” that young adult to drive to whatever it is they are interested in doing or wherever they need to be.  Over time, they gain some confidence, and then it is not a big deal. 
   *  Reluctance to go to college or further their education -  This is also quite common, and is a little trickier, since this costs us money.   Perhaps there are one of the “programs”, like photography, or pastry chef, or graphic design, or CAD, or hydraulics that would be a good fit for your student. 
     Check into online college/vocational programs… there are oodles, I’m sure.  Liberty University Online is quite affordable, and is a Christian Liberal Arts college.  Again, if you can help your student identify some interest or gift, maybe you can pursue a degree from there online if a local college is not an option, and you don't want to send this barely grown child off to a campus somewhere (that is another post!). 
~  If we are talking about our daughters, I think it gets even more difficult to navigate.  We want them to be Keepers of the home, right?  Yet, we may want them to develop their skills and interests as well. Or they may want to do that.  There are beginning to be books written by home school graduate daughters, about spending this season serving in their homes, preparing to be a wife and mother…. Serving their parents, and siblings, along side mom.  I love that idea, although I am not saying it is the perfect fit for everyone.  But, I would be hesitant to steer our daughters into “careers” that we pray they will not work at once they are married and have children.  It is hard to trust the Lord with their future, and pursue the Biblical role of womanhood, and I too am trying to wrap my head around this, as my girls are getting big. 
   If we decide that we do want them to spend this season in school, I think it is a good thing to think about what talents or interests they have, and how those skills can be further developed with the potential of working from home as a wife and mother someday, or offering classes to the home school and church community…  like music lessons, sign language, sewing business, pastry business, web design, etc.  
~  If we are talking sons, we might be more career minded, as we know what that looks like for our husbands.   But in addition to the typical college degree, there are vocational programs as well, and some of those are online.  Some are at the local community college.  The nice thing about the programs is that they don’t have to take all the liberal arts/general requirements, except for only a few, I think.
~  Maybe our kids could use a gap year…  Here are a few links I found:
     - - From HSLDA
     -  - From Susan Wise Bauer at Well Trained Mind.  Notice you can link to part 2 and 3 as well, to finish reading her thoughts on this.

~  Or maybe they need an extended senior year, which I have seen several families do, and they have no regrets.  It was exactly what that child needed to mature a little more before making big college or life decisions.  And it bought some time for the parents too, to assess what was important to them, what their expectations really are. 
 ~  Moody Bible or an online Bible college… a good way to spend a year growing up, and maturing.  Again, I know many families that take this time to spend a year or two wisely in a college learning setting, but since they lack some direction career wise, they focus on some Bible teaching.   Can't go wrong there!  : )

~  One caution is to be careful about stopping school altogether, unless there is a very specific plan ( travel, etc.).  It just seems difficult to get back into the academic swing of things, after a lot of time off. 

~  We didn’t allow our ds a lot of working during the high school years.  I know others feel differently, but among other reasons, we felt that to earn a min. wage paycheck would feel like a big deal to a broke high school student, and we were concerned that he would want to continue working at something that was leading nowhere, rather than continue to be a starving student for a few more years, and work towards a career.   So, we made it clear that school was his “job”.  We would continue to fund most of his life, as long as he continued to pursue his education ( or whatever else we agreed he should be spending his time doing.  The point is that sleeping until 2 in the afternoon and playing video games until 3am every day wasn‘t an option that we would be happy with!).

~   I’m not sure that this season should look a whole lot different than the previous one.  What I mean is that even though our kids were sometimes reluctant to do their school work, or complete a course, we just told them “this is what we are doing”.  I realize there are some differences with them as they get older.  But for us, especially right around the time of graduation… we were still in a pattern of coaching and counseling and navigating  together.   We had a situation where even though ds was not opposed to taking the next step, he was truly lost… didn’t know what to pursue.  That was sooo hard, and occasionally, we will have our doubts, even a few years into it.  I ended up sitting with him, and I made a list of all the “areas” of study or careers that I could think of:  Education, medical, business, computers, science, law enforcement, engineering,  etc.   We went through them, and through a process of elimination, he made a choice.  Basically, he knew what he DIDN’T want to do, and that helped us get to an area that he could explore and feel good about.  Even a few years into it, and after a few changes along the way, he is glad with his choice, and we feel the Lord has guided him in this direction, but it has never been something he is passionate about or absolutely driven towards. So, you might want to brainstorm as a family, and see where God leads.
  I guess my main thought here, is not to make it an option to just drift.  Instead, approach it more from… “ Okay Johnny, let’s talk about the next step in life… either continuing your education ( on campus or online, etc.), a gap year ( what will we do with that time… a year of Bible college?, travel?,  extended 12th grade?”…    But drifting is not an option.  Talk about it in a way that makes that clear.  Sort of like choosing next year’s math curriculum… “ Johnny, we need to decide if you will continue in Algebra 2 next year, or maybe we should look at a Consumer Math program?”  Notice, that not doing math at all, is not an option.   So, lay out some options that you are comfortable with, and help them choose.   

~  Every family is so different, and you will have to evaluate what is important to you, what goals do you have for your children, how can you support them in this season, what agreements will you make to assure expectations are met, etc.   One thing I reminded myself and occasionally my ds of, is that “He who funds the life, mostly runs the life”.  What I mean is that since we are funding most of this season, we have some input on how  the time is spent.  It has been our prayer, and so far ds has been very open and compliant, but it has been our prayer that he would seek counsel from us, and would allow us to be the primary influence in his decisions, besides his own sense of what the Lord is showing him.  As a young adult, we want to encourage him in his independence and growth adn responsibility.  But we also want to help him avoid some common pitfalls that young "adults" often find themselves dealing with.   A wise man, seeks wise counsel.  That is not a childish thing to do, and not indicative of immaturity.  In fact, I see it as just the opposite.

 ~  I guess the best advice I can give is continue to take it to the Lord, and give the kids some time without huge expectations.  Even if they are taking baby steps towards adulthood, that is a good thing.   Look for places for them to serve, and you will be surprised at how other doors open up.   And enjoy this final season with them in your home, and embrace this last part of the journey and the fleeting opportunity to disciple them and build your relationship with them.  That is more important than any career, or vocation, or college, or job, etc.  The years are really so short…  Enjoy your family.  : )    And give yourself a little pat on the back… you faithful servant!

Curriculum Fair... woo-hoo!

 This past June, I organized and hosted the largest curriculum sale in my area.  If you knew how disorganized I am, you would think it is funny that I am in charge of this event.  It got handed down to me by accident (long story), and now this is my 5th year hosting it.  For the past 4 years, my friend and her son have faithfully helped me in the planning, set up and tear down, and what a blessing that has been.  But she is "retiring" from homeschooling, and was out of town this year, so it was just me and my 3 children.  And with my bad back, I am mainly a supervisor, pointing out what needs to be done.  My ds is 20 something, and was the main muscle of the day, along with his friend, who I can't thank enough for helping us as well.  My oldest dd is young, but strong and very capable and was also a lot of help with the physical side of the event.  My youngest dd is still a little slight of stature, but she was still busy doing what she could and kept busy helping me with less strenuous set up tasks. 
    The one bummer is that because my administrative mind is in full gear during the entire event, I can't seem to make any sensible purchases myself.  I know it sounds crazy, but I walk around from table to table, and can't really "see" anything.   So, in the end, I miss out on some great deals and items I might have needed.  Oh well... it is still worth it.
    Each year, as I plan, I wonder if anyone will come?  I am from the old school of homeschooling, and I love a curriculum sale.  But as more and more families join the public school at home programs, it seems the pool of "new" homeschoolers searching for wonderful, discounted materials is dwindling.  And with online resources so easily available, it also might cut down on the need for a local sale.  Still, I figure, as long as folks sign up to sell, and as long as folks come to shop, I will organize the event.  
   This year, I was not disappointed at all.  We had a good steady stream of shoppers and the large room was buzzing with conversations... old friends catching up, newer homeschoolers gleaning all they can from veterans, acquaintances getting to know each other better... it all blessed my heart to watch.
    I had almost 40 vendors, and probably over 200 shoppers throughout the day.  We set up a Kids Corner, where I put out a table with a small TV/VHS player, playing Winnie The Pooh or Donut Man videos, along with coloring books w/ crayons, and a few puzzles.  This seems to be a great blessing to moms as they can relax a little, still keep their eye on their kiddos, and shop with a little less stress.
   Once the day is over, and just before the vendors start to pack up, I draw names for a few door prizes for the vendors.  It is my way of showing my appreciation for their participation.  This year I did 3 baskets.   I made a "Kitchen Basket" that contained some really nice dish towels, a very cute homemade apron, and several kitchen goodies, like sponges, toothpicks, zipper type baggies, etc., and a few treats, like a candy bar, specialty tea bags, and a small, pretty plaque with a scripture verse on it.  Secondly, I made an "Office Basket" that contained computer paper, sticky notes, paper clips, Ticonderoga pencils (of course!), highlighters, etc., as well as the other goodies, like a candy bar and Christian plaque.  Finally, I made a "Coffee/Tea basket" with a pretty mug, a Starbucks gift card,  several specialty teas, chocolate covered candy stir sticks, honey sticks, etc., and again a candy bar and Christian plaque.   I just drew names, and handed them out that way.  It seemed to finish the day on a happy note.
   The feedback I received was all very positive, so I hope others thought it was as successful as I did.   For now, I will pack up my few remaining items in boxes, label them BOOK SALE, and tuck them away in the basement until next year, when I will do it all again. : )

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Start of a New School Year

 Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps.    This is just so true.  I had such big plans for starting off the school year... more scheduled, amp up the academics a little, expect a little more (from all of us).   And then August happened.  We were hit with waves of medical challenges, and they are still continuing  as of the second week in September.    We began school anyway, in the midst of minor chaos.  And while it hasn't ended up looking anything like I planned, I am glad we started, and we are plugging away and dealing each day with whatever the Lord allows in our path.  And we are learning.  In addition to the new books we are working through, we are learning to trust God, to sacrifice our time and dreams, to pray for others, to let go, to serve, and not to give up.   Those are lessons worth learning.