Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Pride and Joy

“Mommy, are you proud of me?” That’s what my oldest daughter asked me yesterday. Of course my answer was a resounding, “Yes!” Not that I need a reason to be proud of her, but she is so very amazing. She is smart, beautiful, and sweet. Right now she’s reading, learning Spanish, learning Sign Language, and helping out at home. She has an unswerving faith, as she prays every night for my arm and doesn’t question why it’s not completely better yet. She’s making this transition to homeschool really well so far. She asked me almost everyday since school let out, “When are we going to do my homeschool?” I gave her about a week and a half before starting the language sampler we’re doing this summer, thinking it would be good to give her some time off. She would have been just fine if I’d started the day after school let out. She was so excited when we started yesterday that she did three lessons! She’s been reading everything she sees with words on it and it’s not uncommon that I have to tell her to stop reading so she can finish whatever task she’s meant to be about at that particular moment. School has only been out two weeks, yet already I can see some amazing changes in her.

My girl is very cautious and timid, especially with unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. One of those situations is being in the water. She is very afraid, and though we’ve worked with her as much as we could, we could get her to relax only a little. Going to a pool was usually not the most enjoyable activity for us. We’ve wanted to get swim lessons for her in the past, but just have not been able to afford it. This year our city is giving free swim lessons! You’d better believe I had every intention of taking advantage of that deal! I went to the sign up at one pool (early, I thought), and couldn’t get her in. I was so desperate to get her into the free lessons that I rushed home and started calling other pools to find an opening. Despite the massive line at the first pool I went to, no one had signed up at the second pool, but they were closing the sign ups in 15 minutes. You had to be present to sign up, so I rushed back out the door to get her name on the list. When I got to the second pool I realized why no one had signed up there. Let’s just say it’s not the greatest of neighborhoods, though it’s adjacent to one of the city’s major tourist attractions. It’s not the worst neighborhood either, but when I saw the depressed surroundings I definitely had second thoughts about signing her up there. But I knew she needed it, and God was using the city to provide it for us, and we can be a light in that dark place. As much as possible, my husband takes her to the pool (which is called Happy Hill, ironically enough). I do believe it’s pretty safe, despite the surroundings. I’ve worked in some really bad places in the past and this neighborhood is like a quiet, peaceful meadow in comparison.

So though we’ve had to contend with some obstacles (like her having pink-eye the second day of lessons), she is getting the instruction she needs to help her begin getting comfortable with the water. She was a bit apprehensive about the lessons at first, and that first day she was not the most cooperative student. But in the days that have followed she has become excited and looks forward to the class. She wants to practice as much as she can, either by going to the pool, setting up our little backyard inflatable pool, or even trying to float in the bathtub. Each time she gets in the water she becomes more comfortable and relaxed. Last night I was watching her “practice” in the bathtub and I could see a confidence in her that I haven’t seen before. She was talking to her daddy and me, and suddenly she seemed a bit grown up and sophisticated (as possible as that is since she was in the bathtub and was wearing swim goggles). She was presenting herself well, her voice took on a tone I’ve never heard from her before, and despite her vulnerability in that instance, I knew she would accomplish everything she was talking about at that moment. She is doing something that is uncomfortable for her and is finding her comfort zone in the water. She is trying something new and difficult. She is overcoming her fear. And that is the confidence that I saw coming out of her last night, the confidence of someone who is facing her fear and defeating it. And for that I am immensely proud of her.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Convention (Part Three)

This is the final installment of this particular series of posts. For this final installment, I want to leave you with some of my favorite notes, often things I heard over and over again from several different speakers. I feel that this information is so valuable I just have to share it!

(Regarding references: the lack of quotation marks does not mean that what I have written is not a direct quote. I may simply have failed to mark it as such in my notes. Other items are paraphrased. Since I have no way of knowing at this point what is a direct quote and what is a paraphrase, I am just referencing the speaker(s) for each item. I will reference full names and websites, when applicable, only once and put their initials by subsequent items.)

- “You are a life changer, a legacy leaver, a memory maker! What are you going to do about it today?” (Jennifer Schmidt)
- God has given your children to you to exalt you, not burden you. (Hal & Melanie Young)
- Prayerfully get insight from God that gives purpose to what you are doing. (Bonita Lillie)
- Begin with the end in mind. (B. L. and M. Y.)
- Get your husband's input. (Ronda Marshall, and B. L.)
- The end goal is to train them to make the best choices that are pleasing to God...and to train them to follow Him, not you. (Ned Ryun)
- Instill in them a desire to be like Christ. Show them all sides of Christ. (H. & M. Y.)
- Disciples become like the teacher. Who will you allow to disciple your children? (M. Y., J. S., and Brian Ray, PhD)
- What makes homeschooling better? We've gone back to the Word & we promote character above all else in education. (Kevin Swanson)
- Focus on discipleship & character development rather than academic achievement. (R. M., J. S., B. L., H. & M. Y., and K. S.)
- Proverbs is God's theory on the education of a child. Pr 1:7 – The beginning of knowledge is the fear of God. All education should be brought back to the fear of God. God should be recognized in every aspect of education. (K.S.)
- Provoke a love of learning in your kids. (M. Y.)
- Home education is life-integrated education. (K. S. and M. Y.)
- The heart of home education is relationships. (K. S., H. & M. Y., J. S., and R. M.)
- Relax and have fun learning with your children! Cherish the time you have with them. (R. M. and M. Y.)
- Start living intentionally. Teach as you live. (M. Y., J. S., and R. M.)
- Eat together as a family and use meal times to talk about what they're learning. (J. S. and M. Y.)
- Instill the value that our worth comes from Him. (J. S.)
- Don't compare yourself (your family) to others. It's the death of contentment. (B. L.)
- Do what works for your family. (M. Y., B. L., and R. M.)
- Get your husband's input. (Vicki Bentley)
- “Blessed are the flexible because they shall not be broken.” (B. L.)
- Flow with the seasons. (B. L. and R. M.)
- Homeschooling means individualized education that fits each child. (R. M., B. L., and M. Y.)
- It's impossible to standardize your children. (K. S. and M. Y.)
- Get the perfect day out of your head & do what is doable. (B. L.)
- Take the time to celebrate what you've accomplished rather than focusing on what didn't get done. (R. M.)
- Get your husband's input. (N. R. and M. Y.)
- Don't set goals about things you can't change. (M. Y.)
- Organization is a means of functioning effectively. It doesn't mean an immaculate house. (V. B.)
- Break things down into components. Make measurable, obtainable goals. (V. B. and H. & M. Y.)
- Cover the basics first – Reading, Writing, & Math. (B. L., J. S., and M. Y.)
- Train them to be autonomous, independent learners. (M . Y. and B. L.)
- It's not what you expect. It's what you inspect. (R. M., M. Y., and V. B.)
- Explain the vision to them & show them how their education fits into the vision. When they complain, give them purpose for what they have to do. (H. & M. Y.)
- Give them an opportunity to fail while they're still at home, while it's still recoverable, and we can still help them understand what happened and how to adjust. (H. & M. Y., and J. S.)
- Get your husband's input. (J. S.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Convention (Part Two)

The time has come to end your suspense. I know you were all sitting the edges of your seats, biting your nails in anticipation of this post. Well, agonize no longer, because as this post unfolds I will give you the answers that you seek.

So, how did I find my footing that crazy Thursday afternoon? Once I got into the right session and began to listen to Kevin Swanson, God immediately started confirming that my husband and I are making the right choice for our family. The speaker talked about the statistical differences, in terms of testing and grade level, between home educated kids and those who attend school in a typical classroom setting. Prior to the conference I had heard that homeschooled kids typically perform better on standardized tests than their peers, but I found out that this statement is supported by the research, even for kids whose parents have only a high school education. After revealing the statistical justification for homeschooling, Mr. Swanson began to cast vision for home education. I began to see homeschooling not only as a way to protect my children from the many negative influences in the public school setting, but as a way to emphasize and instill godly character in them. Prior to the conference I knew that educating my children at home could foster a close bond with them that would be more difficult to maintain if they were away from me six or more hours a day, but during that session I began to see homeschooling as relational in nature. I began to see it not as a clandestine dispersal of academic information, but as a way of teaching children about life through the everyday struggles and experiences of life. Mr. Swanson also reminded us that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).

Now, are my kids going to learn the fear of God in a typical classroom setting? Definitely not in public school! Because of “separation of Church and State” (which is not even in the Constitution) it's not allowed. Perhaps in a private school they may be directed to the fear of God, but there are no guarantees. Even in Christian private schools academics has often become the emphasis above all else. What about church? While not a typical classroom setting, it is a place where kids learn about God. And it is very true that my kids will learn about God at church. The problem is they are at church, at most, six out of 168 hours per week. Fearing God happens moment to moment in the daily activities of life. It's not a practice that's isolated to a small segment of life. So the best setting for them to learn the fear of God is in the day to day activities at home, seeing it modeled by me and their father. Wow! What a responsibility! But it is a challenge I want to take on.

What I learned and the vision I received during that session was the foundation for the rest of the conference. What a foundation to build on! I certainly felt informed, confirmed, encouraged, and enlightened after I left that first session. Each session that followed continued to clarify what home education is and what it is not. For example, it is a chance to give children a rich education through real-life experiences as opposed to simply relying on what one is told in a book that may or may not contain truthful information. Of course, books are greatly utilized in home education, but a book cannot give you the same type of tangible information that a life experience can. Through homeschooling we have the opportunity to go as often as we can where history was made, where science is practiced, where art is seen, heard, and touched, and where occupations are exercised. Real life experiences are very limited in a typical classroom setting because of financial restrictions. My daughter's class was only allowed four field trips this year, and they only went to places within the county because of cost. Where better to learn about the Battle of Gettysburg, than at Gettysburg?

Through the course of the weekend, my excitement continued to build as I continued to learn. Not only was the information philosophical. There was also lots of great practical information. And the camaraderie I felt with other members of the body of Christ was amazing. I've never had an experience quite like that before, even in church. I think the reason was that even though we were from various parts of the state and country, and hold to various types of Christian ideology, we had a unified goal: to raise children in the nourishment and admonition of the Lord. And for me, that is what homeschooling is all about.

So where did the confusion come in? That was in the curriculum arena. In the book fair there were so many curriculum vendors. In fact, the vast majority of vendors sold curriculum. The sheer number of choices was very overwhelming. So, I pretty much avoided those booths. I was pretty sure that I already knew that I would be using the online-based curriculum from However, in talking to people before the conference, I learned about Charlotte Mason methods (this is only one of several websites about her methods), so I went to a session about it. I must say that I was really intrigued. I even talked with the speaker after the session. That meant that now I had a decision to make. Was I going to stick with the original plan, or would I try something different? For the fall, at least, we have decided to stick with the original plan, at least to help me get started. I am certainly not opposed to incorporating additional books or methods when I feel it is appropriate, however. This type of flexibility is part of the beauty of homeschooling.

Last year I was so scared to homeschool. But, God has brought me from fear to faith. I am so excited, I can't wait to get started! We're going to do a language sampler this summer and I, Miss Unorganized herself, have even laid out a basic schedule already! I am usually the person that can't think clearly about an event until it is right on top of me, and I was able to sit down and hash out a schedule a full month ahead of time! God has taken my fear, confusion, and feelings of being overwhelmed and has endowed me with faith, confidence, excitement, grace, ability, peace and strength. Of course, I am fully aware that everything will not go perfectly – that there will be good and bad days. But a course has been laid out before us, and, as a family with God's help, we will follow it through to the end!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Convention (Not Yet)'

I knew I had a busy day in store yesterday, full of appointments and meetings, and might not have time to work on a post for today. So yesterday when I said, "Tomorrow I will..." what I meant was "In the next post I will...." I'm aiming for tomorrow, but this time I won't promise you tomorrow. The truth is I just wanted to increase the suspense. ;) So, till tomorrow (hopfully)!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Conference (Part One)

I wasn't originally planning on writing this post, but my dear friend, Flo, told me via facebook that she couldn't wait to hear about what I learned last weekend. So, you can thank her for this post! ;) Actually, it's a very good thing for me to write this, because I know it will really solidify in my mind what God showed me this past weekend. I must say that it was an amazing time! It was overwhelming, encouraging, enlightening, confirming, confusing, and clarifying! I don't think I can fit it all in one post, so I'll make this another series. (I do so like writing serial posts!)

I found out about this event about three weeks before it happened, and I've never been to one before. Let's just say I had no expectations for this event because I had no idea what to expect! So I arrive downtown last Thursday afternoon, and of course it's at a convention center that has no parking of its own. I'm running late because of picking up my daughter from school, and I was prepared to drive around the city (a part of the city I've rarely been to) on the hunt for a parking space. I had emptied our trusty coin jar for just this situation. But, glory be to God, I found a space in a free public lot one block behind the convention center!

So I'm praising God under my breath while I'm walking to the door while still feeling a bit on the nervous side, not knowing what I'd find in that big, ominous building that filled an entire block. I approach the first door I see with my heart lightly palpitating, reach out for the handle, pull, and... NOTHING! The door was locked! Of course that didn't make me feel like a dork, especially since there were about five people who saw my pointless effort! So I kept going about ten more feet and saw an open door! Oh, the joy! I quickly ducked inside the door, acting like it was perfectly normal to try to open a locked door when there's another one standing wide open. Then I tried to find the Registration table. So I circled the entire lower hallway, ducking people, kids, rolling carts, strollers, tables, chairs... looking for a booth, sign, or anything that would show me where Registration was located. Again, nothing. Finally, I saw a volunteer who was eying me suspiciously, and asked him where I needed to go. He politely pointed me in the right direction. So I had to turn around, go in the opposite direction from whence I came, dodge the people and things again, go up the escalator, dodge more people and things, and then I saw a table that looked like it might be Registration. So I inquired of the people who were sitting there, and was somewhat patronizingly informed that it was actually the Volunteer table, and that I needed to keep going. So I continued my trek, hiking around the many obstacles in my path, when, finally, in the distance, I saw it! I spied a giant "REGISTRATION" sign with several booths and people, and I heard angels singing! I went from joy to ecstasy! I knew I was right where I was supposed to be! I did the dance of joy in my heart! (Okay, maybe the reaction wasn't quite that exuberant, but I was relieved, at least, to find Registration.)

So I found Registration, and you know what I did next? I registered! I know! Smart, huh? Then I had to figure out what to do next. I looked in the program, and during each session, there were eight different speakers covering eight different topics in eight different workshops with no repeats! I had to fight to keep my eyes from crossing when I looked at the agenda. With some effort I figured out which session I would go to at the appropriate time (I had already missed the first session) and then decided to go check out the book fair. Now, apparently this book fair is a big deal. They charge 30 smackers just to get into the thing. But, even armed with that knowledge I was still completely unprepared for the behemoth I was about to face (not that the book fair is monstrous – it's just really, really huge! And when I say really huge, I mean REALLY HUGE!). I walked into the exhibit hall, as innocent as Eve before she met the serpent, took one look around, and was completely dazzled by the vast quantities knowledge tempting me to take a taste. That room (which is bigger than a football field) was so completely filled with vendor booths that I didn't know which way to turn. So I just picked a direction and went with it. Well, there were well over 100 vendors, so I certainly didn't see them all before my first session started. I left the exhibit hall, knowing I was destined to return, and went to my session.

Well, I thought I did. I got in there, and the person talking was a woman, and I had picked a session with a male speaker. I realized something was amiss. I had to sneak out and find the right room, and then sneak into the my chosen session. At least I didn't make that mistake again!

So I think you get a picture of why I was overwhelmed. And all this happened just within my first 60 minutes at the conference! Tomorrow I'll talk about the wonderful things God showed me. It's amazing how He can move you from a place of being overwhelmed to a place of confidence!