Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thankful Thursdays - 4/30/15 - The Gift of Eyesight

As I was spending time this morning trying to pick out new glasses, I was reminded again that I should be thankful for my eyesight. Do you ever find yourself forgetting to be thankful for all God has given you? I have, many times. I have needed to wear glasses since the third grade. That was a long time ago. Have I been thankful for my glasses? Not nearly enough. Too often I have chafed at needing to wear them instead of being thankful that my eyesight can be corrected. 

Getting accidentally hit in the head by a flyaway ball in sports is painful, getting hit in the glasses is more painful. Yet, being able to see well enough to play sports should have been what I was focusing on. There are groups like the Lions Club that collect old glasses and send them to people who cannot afford to purchase glasses to correct their eyesight. Those are wonderful programs that help many people see clearly for the first time.

Can I be thankful more often? Oh yeah. Will I be thankful more often? That is the real question. Life has been long, rough, and tiring recently. Somewhere along the way I got caught up in survival mode. Somewhere along the way I forgot that it is God's hand that is leading me, and that nothing is too difficult for Him. Today I stopped, and asked for forgiveness for my ungratefulness. God reminded me of how thankful I should be for each gift He gives.

It took me a long time to decide on a pair of glasses. Maybe longer than I should have taken. In the end, it was time well-spent as it pointed me back to the giver of my eyesight. All those choices made me pause and realize just how blessed I am. I am thankful for my eyesight. While it's not perfect, neither am I. When my new glasses arrive, I plan to use them to enjoy more of the beauty of God's creation!

I'm also really thankful that the pot-hole crew is out today and they filled in the crater sized holes in our street.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kits, Kids, and Growing Up Stubborn

This is one of those days when I'm really thankful for my blogging friends! Annette graciously wrote a guest post for me to share with you today. Life is full of challenging times, but we must learn to persevere and trust God to work out the details. Annette tells us about the challenges of raising rabbits, and how her son has been helping. Enjoy :)

One of the things I do is raise rabbits.  I love them.  They make great pets, excellent small livestock, and you can train them to do a variety of things from rabbit sports to therapy bunnies.   They are useful for meat, wool, hides, companionship, sport and competition.   They are such a multi-purpose animal and they come in so many varieties that breeding what you want and for whatever purpose is quite easy.

But with breeding animals, as with raising children, comes a great deal of responsibility.   You have this small livestock, that is a prey animal, and needs to be on a good diet in order to thrive, combine that with changing weather patterns, being an easily frightened animal, and it can at times spell disaster.

I've been breeding rabbits for more than 10 years and have run into my fair share of disasters, and now that I am raising a boy at home, I can help him to learn how to cope with disaster and think through problems.

Recently one of our disasters was the loss of a young doe. She was a first time mom, was finding the experience a stressful time, went off feed and then the weather changed. I could not get her restarted (using all my tricks) she just was one of those animals (just like you get with people) that when they get sick they just shut down. It left me with five eight day old kits to try to save.

Do note: I am NOT a vet. BUT I have lots of experience with raising animals. And since I have NO rabbit vets anywhere near me so I do my own vetting with the help of a great group of people on What they don't know, I don't think a vet would know either. :)

Almost everyone in the rabbit world will tell you that trying to save kit under 14 days old is a real bear to do and that you will lose more than you save. Baby bunnies aspirate so easily and without mom's cecals to help stabilize their gut, even if you get them to 14 days you still risk losing them. Most breeders will chose to cull rather than manage the heartbreak of trying... but...we live to give things a good go.

So we fought to save the babies. The problem with fighting to save them is get attached.  And it's a hard one. It's hard work caring for wee babies.

We use goat milk.   I've saved babies with it before.  It's better than trying to do a formulation of kitten milk or cow milk.  Goat's milk is high in fat and that's what bunnies need.

Unless an animal is suffering I'll work with them. Here we have five babies. They quickly earned names... StarBright, Blue, Little One, Tongues and Stubborn. It's a bit of an experiment (hence the homeschooling aspect) to see what the kits will take to. We tried a sponge as apparently that's the NEW method of feeding baby bunnies.. COLOSSAL FAILURE. My lad was not happy. We tried the suck a towel soaked in milk thing.. so NOT working. Blue and Tongues couldn't figure out a medicine dropper so I raided our science kit and found a pipette!  WOOT WOOT!   It gave the needed control.   My son was delighted!   He managed to feed a baby bunny!

This is Tongues.   He was called that because he would ONLY drink if you put ONE drop of milk on his tongue at a time.  It took forever to feed him and it became apparent fairly quickly that something was wrong with him.  He couldn't "NOT" move.   The only time he was still was if he was snuggled up his siblings.      My lad and I took to the rabbit boards to see if we could figure out why and the best answer was that sometimes when moms die early, kits develop a neurological unbalance that if they do recover always have a tilt thing going on... and I wasn't going to subject him to that.    See in the pic how his head is at an angle?   I did very carefully medicate him to see if that would help him improve (in case it was an odd parasitic case), but alas it did not.      He was such a game boy though... got him to almost three weeks before it was apparent that it really wasn't in his best interest to continue struggling.

Special needs bunny this one.   Some bunnies, like people, just have a harder go of things and it takes time and patience to see them through.   They make you laugh and smile, and sometimes just plain break your heart.

What can I tell you about StarBright?  Wow this little girlie quickly stole our hearts.  Bright, eager, happy drinker.  Took to the pipette like no one's business.   I was so determined to see this little girl through..... and she broke my heart she did.   She was doing so so well and then she scoured on me.   Scours dehydrates bunnies so fast and it just wrecks their systems.

That's the way it is sometimes in schooling.   We think all is going well and then we are sidelined by health, criticism, poorly fitting curriculum... and we just fade away.  I hear of parents putting their children into public school because they just can't do it, they can’t manage what struggles come their way.  Of homeschool graduates who struggle through life due to parental choices and it's hard.

Blue, Little One and Stubborn
My little champions.
3.5 weeks old and I tossed them outside with a foster doe.
Immediately they all looked better and well cared for. I was stoked!   
Woot woot I was going to save three of the five and beat the odds.


But I forgot something important.
Baby bunny piles.   Babies like to pile on top of each other.
Blue... my little fighter blue got caught on the bottom of a bunny pile.
and so I kicked myself hard for forgetting that aspect of things.

Circumstances in life sometimes beat us down you know?  Through no fault of your own, it's just the weight of everything hitting you and if you have the strength you push through, and if you don't, well, it's just hard and sad. 

I continued to bring them in the house for supplemental feeding.
They were doing well.  
 Stubborn (who became little gentleman) was soon seen eating hay, drinking water, fitting in well.  
Little One was eating hay, nibbling on oatmeal, but water seemed to confuse her.
She wasn't transitioning well.
She started huddling off to a corner, shying away from the other kits.
When kits do that you know things aren't going well.
I started to worry.   I gave her more feedings, more care, and more hope.

But she just continued to fail.
That's the thing with bunnies right?
They are so subject to gut issues that if one thing goes out of whack, 
it can throw their entire body out of whack.
I found her dead.
A little girl who was SO hoping she would pull through cried.
She was such a hope for us.  

My Mom-in-law likes to tell the story of how my hubby liked school, thrived in school, 
until he got a teacher who was horrid to him.  
Product of a single mom home.  
She couldn't let it pass.
And bullied my hubby something fierce and it took him years to get past that.

ONE bad thing.
It's one of the reasons we homeschool.
Turned out well though, means I can homeschool my boy.  :)

and of course we have Stubborn.
Aka Mr. Gentleman.
Aka... ????  (turns out he's a she!)
One of five.

People ask me.. why Stubborn?
Because I could not get her to drink much of anything.
I kept wondering how she survived... on a wing and a prayer I think.
Most active of all the kits, we'd find her in the oddest places.  
She quickly transferred from the nest box to "under the chair"
So we put them in the cage (see above) simply to keep her contained.

When she finally did figure out the whole drinking thing 
(which is when she became Mr. Gentleman)
She would very prim and proper sit in my hand and LICK the milk out.
No sucking, no pulling, no biting.
Just a very neat lick.

She made me hoot.

So it's funny how
against all odds.
The one who fought the hardest my help
is the one who survived in the end.

I learned so much.
Some of it hard.
Some of it fun.
It's called the nitty gritty of raising rabbits.

Farewell Little one


Do continue to thrive Mr. Gentleman.... 
We really DO need a new name for you.
A good girls name...

Who am I?

Annette @  A Net In Time.
I homeschool my boy.
Encourage my pastor Hubby
and raise my rabbits at AT Home Pets.  :)

Here is an update: Stubborn needs your help - she want s a new name
 Annette is having a name the bunny contest and a book giveaway. (The book giveaway is only for Canada, but the name the bunny contest is for everyone!) 
You can read all about it on her blog at: review-and-canadian-giveaway-tales-of-bunjitsu-bunny

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thankful Thursdays - 4/23/15 - Springtime Hikes

This week we are really thankful for Springtime hikes. This past Saturday we spent almost six hours enjoying one of our favorite State Parks with friends. The weather was beautiful, and it even got up to 78 degrees. On Tuesday evening, we went on another hike at our local State Park with a different group of friends. It was cooler, but still a wonderful evening for hiking. Bluebells, Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Dutchmen's Breeches... so many wonderful wildflowers to see on a Springtime hike!

Springtime hikes, wildflowers

This morning it felt more like winter again when we woke up to 35 degrees. Those times we've spent recently hiking have reminded us that Spring really is here, even when it doesn't feel like it. God has promised that the seasons will continue. We're looking forward to it warming up again so we can get back out and hike again!

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, April 17, 2015

ARTistic Pursuits - High School 9-12, Book 2 - A Crew Review

Arlene and I have been reviewing a gem of a book from ARTistic Pursuits this Spring for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. It is their High School 9-12, Book 2: Color and Composition, written by Brenda Ellis. I can tell Arlene has been enjoying using the book, because besides the actual lessons, I've found her doing extra watercolor paintings in her free time. This High School level book teaches about both the color wheel, and the composition of a picture through studying great art and the use of basic watercolors. Brenda Ellis is a Master Artist who has separated the knowledge gained from a lifetime of painting into manageable sized chunks of learning for your art student.

ARTistic Pursuits, art curriculum

The sixteen units in this book can be adapted to either a one-year/ twice a week or one-semester/ four times a week schedule. The four parts of each Unit include 1- Vocabulary and Creative Exercise, 2-Art Appreciation, 3- Technique, and 4- Application (project lesson.)

Begin at the beginning. Before your student jumps into the lessons, read the Getting Started pages together. They cover what the parents will want to know about content and scheduling, as well as the things students will want to learn about color. The absolutely MOST important part of these pages is page 5, where your student will learn about "The Tools of Watercolor." The first and most lasting lesson? Brush Care. Why? Because quality water color brushes are an investment that can be squandered upon the first use, or when well-treated can last for years. This page also gives instruction on taping your watercolor paper and arranging your other supplies.

ARTistic Pursuits, art curriculum

Once your student has read the intro, it is time to dive into the first unit. Unit one teaches the true basics of using watercolors. The four lessons in Unit One should not be hurried through. Repeat the assignments for lessons 2-4 as many times as are needed for the student to relax while using watercolors. If your student feels overwhelmed by this new medium of watercolors, have them cut their watercolor paper in half and work with a smaller area to paint. Getting comfortable with their tools in this first unit should help a lot towards future success in their assignments and enjoyment of the process of painting. As your student progresses through the units, they will learn a lot about hue (tinting, shading, mixing,) color and edges, line and texture, balance, rhythm, viewpoint and emphasis.

ARTistic Pursuits, art curriculum

The basic watercolor supplies needed for this course are 4 paint colors (the primary 3... plus black,) 3 brushes, watercolor paper, masking or artist tape, tracing paper, and liquid masking fluid. One of the beauties of using ARTistic Pursuits' High School books is the inclusion of Art History into every unit. Students are taught how to observe techniques used by famous artists in the second lesson of every unit.

Each of the units builds upon the previous techniques taught, and then ends with a "LOOK BACK!" section that has the student evaluating how they did on one or two key points from that lesson. By truthfully answering the LOOK BACK! questions, the students can see if they are following the instructions and techniques that should be learned by the end of each unit. If they find themselves answering "no" to any of these questions, they should probably repeat the assignments in that unit.

Arlene was able to work on her assignments without any assistance from me other than the trip to go purchase watercolor paper. We already had all of the other supplies she needed, thanks to my Mom letting me raid the drawers where my Dad kept his painting supplies when he was still alive. These lessons are thorough, but not overwhelming, in what is presented each day. I knew Arlene had been doing her work because I kept finding small watercolor paintings around the house!

Reading through the book, I found myself reminded over and over of my own art classes and the many outstanding instructors I was blessed to learn from. If you choose this art book for your High School student, know that they will be blessed to learn from a quality instructor in Brenda Ellis. My own Dad was an accomplished artist, and many of the techniques Mrs. Ellis teaches sounded just like the lessons I received from my Dad.

ARTistic Pursuits, art curriculum

From Arlene (almost 15): I liked that there was something to do for each lesson. Sometimes it was mixing colors, sometimes sketching, but mostly painting. Make sure you learn to tape your paper evenly, or it will look lopsided when the paint dries and you remove the tape. 

We give this book an A+! It not only includes quality, detailed instruction on using watercolors, it also includes what many books do not - encouragement to try something on your own. Unit 16 is  Developing Original Art. This unit can instill confidence to strike out on your own and try something new. Maybe your student really wants to paint cars or animals, not just trees and flowers. This final unit prepares them for painting after this art course is over. High School 9-12, Book 2: Color and Composition is a Non-consumable, comb-bound, full-color book that currently retails for $47.95. What a great price for such a quality resource!

Throughout the book are quotes from artists both past and present. My favorite one is in Unit 5. "I would advise young artists to paint as they can, as long as they can, without being afraid of painting badly." -Claude Monet

To read more about the various levels offered by ARTistic Pursuits, click the banner below.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thankful Thursdays - 4/16/15 - Grace

There are so many things to be thankful for this week. God has met our needs abundantly, showing Himself faithful in so many ways. The biggest thing is still the main thing - God's grace. Without grace I would be lost, helpless, alone and confused. Because of grace I have been found, I have a helper in the Holy Spirit, I am never alone, and not often confused.

We sing about grace a lot. Just the thought of grace can overwhelm us. How would God see us and want to forgive us of our grievous sins? Only through grace. How could Christ come and live a sinless life, yet die on the cross? Only through grace. How could a wretch like me be saved? Only through grace.

I see grace surrounding me and I know that without Christ I would still be lost in my sins. I see grace surrounding me and it makes my heart sing! 

I am thankful for grace!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Real Life Homeschool - The High School Years - Part 2

The curious thing about having High Schoolers is that they have their own goals. While Kurt and I as parents still want to be a large influence in their lives, and we want them to graduate High School with a quality education, there are other things to consider each day, week, and month of this journey.

The biggest consideration is what God wants then to do with their lives. Where is He leading them? Besides that, each girl has their own likes and dislikes, their own strengths and weaknesses to learn with and through. This makes each day a little different from the one before it and behind it on our path. In the nitty-gritty of life, each girl has a sheet with their assignments for the semester. Book titles, not chapter breakdowns. I am always trying to be available to help them work out how much needs done in each subject, yet things so often overlap that its not always easy to say where one ends and another begins. Both Emily & Arlene tend to work things in a block schedule, doing subjects like history and science only two or three times a week, but in larger chunks than in a traditional schedule. Math is probably the one subject where they need to keep working daily.

I know I could push them really hard to achieve some huge world-inspired educational goals, but that would not serve God's purpose. I believe He wants them to first and foremost learn to trust Him with the everyday details. Reading your Bible is a daily thing here. No, we don't all sit down together and have a family devotional each morning... if you're having a difficult time with this concept, because it doesn't look like your home, look back at our post about working while home educating. The girls do read their Bibles, and we talk about what they've read. We also do a lot of talking these days about all the bad examples in the Bible... people we don't want to be like. Emily has been reading Judges recently... if she thinks that's bad behavior, wait until she gets to Kings! Arlene and I more often talk about the sermon from Sunday, and how thankful we are for Christ's finished work on the cross.

How did we get to this time with High Schoolers? One day at a time. As I've gone through old photos for the posts this week, memories surfaced of so many fun, crazy, or weird things we've done. There was that one exhibit at the State Museum about hair art...

Did I organize my photos or scrapbooks this week? Nope, sorry Michele, I don't think I'll get to week 13 of organizing my photos anytime soon... unless I title it "How I didn't do any cleaning this week"-LOL! Did I enjoy looking at the pictures of the girls when they were little? Definitely! Will I continue to take photos of our girls and randomly use them for blog posts? Probably. More important is the fact that this journey of Home Education is far from over. Even after they graduate from High School, Kurt and I will keep leading this lifestyle of experiences over things. It was who we were before kids, and I'm sure it will continue once they've moved out. So yes, I DO see a small light at the end of our tunnel, it looks a little bit like Arlene's graduation, but it's still along ways off. What will God have planned for Kurt and I then? I have no idea, but I know that God will reveal it in His time. 

Wherever you are along this journey, I hope you've enjoyed this peek into the real life of our homeschool. If you're still thinking about whether or not to educate your children at home, I have one word of advice - PRAY! God has His answer for your family ready and waiting for you to ask.

Now go hug your children again!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

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Indy Homeschool 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thankful Thursdays - Real Life Homeschool - The High School Years

Today we're taking a pause during this Real Life Homeschool week and reminding you to be thankful!

High School is crazy and amazing all at the same time. I'm thankful we have two wonderful daughters who are on this journey with us. High School brings a new set of challenges, and triumphs. The girls have had a lot of cool experiences, from being on the Conner Prairie spinning teams, to competing in the State Fair 4-H fashion revue. They've had two friends achieve their Eagle Scout rank, and had older friends graduate from High School. They've taken up playing Euchre, and Ultimate Frisbee with their friends. We've learned how to play tennis...well, sort of anyway.

Life goes on every single day that your children are in High School. Sometimes it can be a challenge to get the book work finished. That's why I love that our girls have become independent learners. It would be physically and mentally impossible for me to lecture them through all of  their High School classes. I wouldn't even want to try, and we have two girls, some my friends have three High School aged kids! I don't have to teach my kids for High School. Now don't get me wrong, they still do a LOT of work on their education. It's just that the role Kurt and I have changed from teacher to one of mostly encourager and financier. The girls are responsible for their education. They might need a push in the right direction for school sometimes, but they also need some guidance on how to manage their time. These are real life skills they are learning!

As they continue to mature, each girl's personality and gifting has become more apparent. They still love to do things together, but they're ok going out on their own as well. A year and a half ago they went on a weekend trip all about historic preservation - without us. Crazy scary for parents, and amazing for the girls all at the same time! Kurt took Emily canoeing, and Arlene and I went on photography hike. Sometimes, Kurt and I even go places without either girl... that's something I really couldn't fathom when they were little. Now that they're mature enough to go babysit for other people, there is a joy to be found in a little snatch here and there of alone time for this Mom. 

I'm thankful for this new stage in life, even if I am now the shortest person in our family. If you want to know more about the day-to-day of our High School journey, come back tomorrow for our last installment in Real Life Homeschool. Until then be thankful - and go hug your kids!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

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Life at Rossmont 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Real Life Homeschool - Middle sized students

When they were not so young... or, how the girls got their education around the highs and lows of real life. 

When our girls were in the upper elementary and Middle School years, life came with a lot of highs and lows. When Emily got to the end of third grade, I switched jobs. It was the right choice to make at the time, but it was difficult for me to give up the all-day time with the girls. Kurt and I went to a new home educating schedule where I would work whatever shift he wasn't working. Whoever was home would work with the girls. Emily would help Arlene read the instructions if she needed them, and we did a lot of their schoolwork in the afternoons after I woke up from working overnights. Was it an ideal situation? From the standpoint of the world - no, but from God's standpoint it must have been the right choice because He blessed it tremendously.

At this point I will stop to say, not every Mom can stay home with their children, I wish we were in a position financially where I could stay home, but that is not where God has us. Please do not look down on Moms who work and home educate. I know some of the homeschooling world does look down on us, although I'm not sure why. I just know I've been there, done that for the past twelve years. It hasn't been easy, but I wouldn't give up educating our girls just because something else would be easier. My friend Liz keeps reminding me that God has me there for a purpose!  Go read Mark 8:36 again!

Real Life Homeschool

During these years, both girls got involved with 4-H. This interaction along with the fired trips organized by our local homeschool group added a whole new dimension to our lives. I only worked three days a week, so we worked around whatever we needed to in a quest to keep some normalcy in their lives, even when life was far from normal. We struggled financially. God was faithful to meet our needs, but no more. He called us to a life of giving up our own selfish desires in a quest to spend more time with the girls. It was not easy, but I'd do it all over again! 

Kurt was in a car wreck and broke his leg in August one of these years. That is something I hope we never have to do again. Our friends and families rallied around us, they supported us, they fed us, and they kept the girls for us for two weeks. Every day became an adventure for the girls as someone new would love on them and feed them. Every evening after work became another time for me to call on bills or Doctor appointments. It was not fun, I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, and Kurt was the one with the broken leg. 

I learned a lot about grace in these middle years. I learned about love covering a multitude of ugly words, bad attitudes, and other sins. I learned once again that the body of Christ in action is a beautiful thing to behold, and a wonderful comfort in the storm. I learned that I had to trust God for EVERYTHING. No one else could meet my needs, no one else could hold our family together. I think I cried more in these years than any time since the postpartum blues. 

What I learned about education is that kids are resilient. I learned that if I taught the girls one skill really well, they could continue it on their own. I learned just how much God orders our steps, and how much He protects us. Arlene was inside that car wreck with Kurt. There was a space just big enough for her between the crumpled metal and the center of the car. I knew God's angels had wrapped around her and protected her in that crash. Her injuries were minor. 

These middle years brought highs and lows to our lives. The challenges of puberty, the joys of friendship. The struggles of coming up with something to make for dinner - again, and the joy of being invited over for dinner. Life happens in all the big and small parts of our days. This was when Kurt first called me a 'sleep camel.' He said it because I would often have three or four days in a row where I'd only get four or five hours of sleep, then I'd make up for it on the weekends. 

One of the most important lessons learned in our family's education during this time had nothing to do with a book. It was a lesson about trusting God. The debate has raged for years over whether or not God will give you more than you can bear. The answer is yes. God will give you more than you can bear by yourself, in order to teach you that there is nothing that is more than He can bear you through. Whatever situation God allows in your life, He can and will equip you to go through it with Him. Don't try to do it on your own, trust His hand to guide you. 

Your children's education is not a one-shot deal. They have their whole lives to learn. Take each year, each month, each week, and each day and ask God what He wants them to learn that day. Our plans are often so small, yet His plans are so grand. Emily and Arlene not only survived these years of struggle, they learned how to thrive through difficulties. They learned how to study independently. They learned how to keep their own education moving forward, even when Mom and Dad were struggling to keep the family moving forward. They grew up from little kids into young ladies. Now when life throws a curve, they either swing or duck. They are confident that God is guiding them, even when the path is murky. I am confident that God is leading us all down each step of this journey. 

Recently I have learned that High School is crazy and amazing all at the same time... but more on that tomorrow!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

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Treasuring Life's Blessings
Double O Farms
Simple Living Mama
Fried Clams and Sweet Tea
This Sweet Life
A Net In Time
Counting Pinecones
Some Call It Natural
Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Debbie's Homeschool Corner

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Real Life Homeschool - When They Were Little

This week I'm joining in with my fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew Moms to tackle what Real Life looks like in our Homeschool. Let me start today's post by telling you that Kurt and I have never wanted to recreate "School" at home. My own overall school experience wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. I spent twelve years, plus a lot of Kindergarten, being bored. I had a lot of wonderful teachers, but the structure of the school day, and having to wait for everyone in the class to grasp a concept before we moved on was sometimes tortuous to my young mind and body. I wanted to be outside, I wanted to do art more than twice a month...I wanted to get up and go to the bathroom when I need to, I wanted to read books that were interesting. SO, when it was time to start our oldest in Kindergarten, we chose to use our freedom to do something else. Today is a little look into that something else.

Educating your children at home is easy and difficult all  at the same time. It takes a lot of prayer. It does take some planning (even when I don't want to,) and it takes a lot of love and sacrifice. What kind of sacrifice? - the sacrifice of your own selfishness... not such a bad thing to sacrifice after all.

When Emily was four, my dear friend Ginger suggested I read a book, A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. She said I should think about both WHY we were going to homeschool, as well as the HOW. Kurt and I already knew our why - God had told us we were going to educate our children at home, because God wanted us to be the biggest influence in their young lives, so we could show them Jesus. (They also got to learn a lot about fallible man, and how to say you're sorry.) The HOW part was still up in the air, but we knew we didn't want to just 'do school' at home. The methods of Charlotte Mason spoke to my heart. It was going to be gentle learning, it was going to include a LOT of good books, it was going to include a lot of art, and a lot of time outdoors.

Fast Forward to Emily being four-and-a-half and starting Kindergarten at home. I read books to the girls (Arlene was two-and-a-half,) we went to the library, we went to the park, we planted flowers and vegetables. Then came the first wrench in my grand plans... Arlene despised finger paints! The girl who I frequently found sampling the offerings of dirt in the garden or flower pots would scream, cry, and throw things if finger paint touched her skin. (Thankfully at 14 she is over this now - I think - LOL!)

Real Life Homeschool

So we stopped finger painting. Emily got to use crayons instead. There was no real schedule for education in our home, even though a lot of Charlotte Mason fans use one, we didn't spend a lot of sit-down time on it, because we were turning it into a lifestyle. As the girls got older, educating at home gave us great freedom to explore. I began to think "Life is a Field Trip," and it was for us. When the girls were still little, I worked part-time at the daycare in a health club. We would work Emily's phonics lessons around my shifts. The girls were able to come with me, so they got a lot of exercise in the kids' gym, and a lot of craft time. We put weekly trips to the library on our to-do list, and we spent as much time as we could outside.

By the time Arlene was old enough for Kindergarten, she was already taller than the other kids in her class at Sunday School, so even though I wasn't sure if she would be ready for phonics, we went ahead and started trying. Arlene has always been the gross-motor-skills kind of girl. She climbed the apple tree every time I let her, and she wanted to always be doing something. She was a totally different type of learner form her big sister. That didn't bother me much though, because we had the freedom to fit her needs. Arlene was slow to be a proficient reader (see yesterday's post if you missed it,) but she loved to listen to stories while she did something else. Emily could read to her, or I would read to her, or she would convince me to check out an audio book from the library.

When the girls were little, we started then helping with chores. It does take longer to be their employer than their servant at first, but it was worth it! Now at 16 & 14, the girls can do just about anything around the house that they set their minds to.  I also taught the girls how to bake...and a little cooking. They have also mastered how to be independent learners. Each girl has areas where they have exceeded my skill. None of these things happened overnight. There were times when I lost my temper, and times when I was stumped on how to help them learn a skill. That's where prayer comes in again and again. God has been so faithful to help us along this journey. He has brought many people alongside our family to help teach and mentor the girls. God has provided wonderful opportunities for them to learn and see things we could have never imagined back at the beginning of this journey.

When the girls were little, I never really imagined it ending someday. Now that they're both in High School, I can see that the journey is changing. You'll need to come back later in the week for that post!

Be encouraged, God does have plan for your family. Expect your journey to be filled with twists and turns. Most importantly, make sure it is filled with love. That love will guide your choices, and grant you peace in the midst of struggles. Remember your Why!

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Real Life Homeschool - a Week of Recounting the Struggles and the Victories

Real life homeschool huh? Is this where we all break down and cry for the hard days, or where we all do the happy dance because one of our children FINALLY learned to read or do long division,  or (insert your own struggle here)???

I think what real life homeschool means is being real. Sharing the highs and the lows. Blogging can sometimes seem to be all rainbows and happy thoughts - thinking of the character from the Lego Movie yet? 

Yeah, that’s not a realistic representation of homeschooling, or life. Some days are REALLY HARD, while other days are awesome... just like in the rest of parenting. There are as many ways to educate your children at home as there are families doing it. 

This week I’m planning to share some thoughts and real life instances from our homeschooling journey. Yes, I’ll be digging through my photos and adding in some crazy memories. I hope you’ll join us all week! I'm joining in with over 50 members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew to share what real life homeschool means to each of us. When you're finished here, click the banner at the bottom to read about the journeys my friends are on. I will admit right here that I am not an obsessive planner. We have always chosen broad goals for the upcoming year, and just done the 'next thing' each day. My 'planner' is more of a 'recorder.' That style might drive you crazy, but that's how we do things. Part of the joy of a blog hop is your ability to see how a lot of different families interpret the same topic. Many of the Crew members will be sharing 'a day in the life' posts so you can get ideas of things you might want to try. Be encouraged, your time spent educating your children at home will reap rewards ... even if it takes a while... don't give up!

Today I would like to share a story from our past. One of those struggles that God has turned into a victory. It is the story of a struggling reader.

Real Life Homeschool

In our own family, we had a struggling reader. Her name is Arlene. While I thought Arlene was doing just fine in her travel along the road to reading, she though otherwise. One day while we were at the library, I overheard Arlene talking to one of her favorite librarians, “Miss Toni.” Toni was talking about some new books they had just received that she thought Arlene would enjoy and Arlene replied “but I can’t read.” Now, that was not exactly true, but in her mind, Arlene thought that because reading didn’t come easily, she wasn’t any good at it. Thus the word “can’t.” Like all librarians worth their salt, Toni proceeded to encourage Arlene that she could read. Toni remembered some of the books Arlene had checked out in the previous weeks, read, and then told Toni about on our last visit, and she reminded Arlene about them. Arlene was about 9 at the time.
A little warning light went off in my head. “Why does Arlene think she can’t read? What have I done wrong?” I decided that the best option was to put a pause on our reading for school, pray, and ask God to intervene. I am quite happy to report that He did- in a big way!
We had used Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for phonics. While it had worked extremely well with Arlene’s older sister, it had obviously not worked as well for Arlene. There is nothing wrong with the book, and given the chance I would use it with her again, but with more thought, and probably with some phonics games thrown in as well. Arlene has always been what I term a “gross-motor-skills-junkie.” Let me explain. Arlene learned how to walk the week she turned one. Then about a week later she was running. With each gross motor skill she had tackled, she learned it and learned quickly. She gets all of this coordination from her Daddy, not from me! The second time I ever took the girls roller skating, Arlene (only a 5-year-old at the time) let go of the wall and started skating little circles in the middle of the rink. (You know, the middle where no one ever goes until it’s time for the limbo? That was her territory.) 
So, when it came to moving, she had it down pat, but fine-motor skills were not her thing. That was the area where her older sister excelled. I believe this difference in their giftings stood out in Arlene’s mind in a way that was not beneficial. So even though I had not seen any warning signs for dyslexia or processing disorders, I started to doubt how well Arlene was reading simply because she didn’t think it was going well. 
Arlene was feeling rather down, and frustrated. I wasn’t doing much better myself. 

In steps God. 

Because the girls had been bugging me to take them back to the library, I loaded them into the mini-van and away we went. I told them we weren’t getting any books for school, but that they could pick out a few books just for fun. They discovered the area in the adult section where all the Garfield books are kept. (741.5 D in case you’re interested!)
Now to the fun part. The girls knew that Garfield is funny because of the punch line. Maybe they didn’t understand the term, but they knew it was the last box in the comic strip that made you laugh. So my little girls, ages 11 and 9, spent as much time as possible in their bedroom reading Garfield books. There are over 100 titles now, but I think they started with three books. After a while, Arlene’s older sister Emily got tired of reading them all out loud, or maybe she just got tired of sharing . . . either way, Arlene was left on her own with the Garfield books, and a desire to know why each strip was funny.

In steps self-motivation. (You know that input from God that assures us we can do it? That is what self-motivation really is.) Arlene put that same determination she used when learning how to roller-skate years earlier into learning how to read the punch line. She wanted to be able to laugh (they are called funnies)! As Arlene did her own struggling with Garfield, an amazing thing happened, she gained confidence and fluency in her reading. Facing the struggle and working through it turned it from a mountain into a molehill. Then she couldn’t wait to read the comic strips to me. What a change, from struggle, drudgery, and sometimes heartache, to joy!

Real Life Homeschooling

*Update* Today Arlene is almost 15, and she reads with the best of them. This year's literature selections have included Pride And Prejudice, Frankenstein, Strange Case of Dr Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Tale of Two Cities. Those are not titles a struggling reader would tackle. Those are books Arlene can read because God showed up and turned what used to be a struggle into a joy!

See you tomorrow for another peek at Real Life Homeschool @ Home Sweet Life!

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