Homeschooling, Round 2

As I settle into the first week of June, I am already excited about round 2 of homeschooling.  We had such a great year using a mostly “classical” approach, that now we are ready to add-to and take-away and make it even greater.

I absolutely loved using ancient history as our guiding light throughout the past year.  We started with Story of the World volume 1 and even though my daughters were in grades 4 and 5, it worked beautifully.  Being an avid reader and writer myself, I enjoyed creating my own worksheets, reading comprehension pages, and tests for my girls.  I have recently made some of these page available for download through the Teachers pay Teachers site!  (Please email me if interested!)

We started with the dawn of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, and we didn’t rest until we had memorized the first 15 emperors of the Roman Empire.  Yes, our history spanned 5,000 years and a massive amount of geography, but through it all we stayed focused and streamlined, creating artwork, writing assignments, watching films, and reading books that fit in with our time period and culture.

Our science followed suit: we studied biology with an emphasis on animal life the first semester, anatomy the 3rd quarter, and plant life the final stretch of the year.  We memorized early scientists who made great contributions to biology; we constructed lap books and foldables; we created powerpoint and poster presentations; we read lots of encyclopedia entries and library books.  And above all, we enjoyed learning!

Of course, grammar work, writing, math, Bible, piano lessons, keyboarding and playtime permeated every single day. But the true highlight was our afternoon time spent diving into ancient history and science.  We decided we didn’t really agree with most of Hammurabi’s law code, and we loved Carl Linnaeus for giving us such an organized system for learning animals.  We thought many of the ancient rulers were unusually cruel, but we admired Hatshepsut for her graceful, productive reign.  We discovered frogs that were no bigger than our pencil eraser, witnessed the anger of the kiwi bird, and were frightened by the angler fish’s smile.  We greatly admired Alexander, and we fully respected Julius Caesar.  My girls were particularly sad to hear how his life ended and that Rome wound up ruled by a tyrant after all.

And we’re ready to move on!  We will take a short break this summer, with plans to read Little Women and Bridge to Terabithia together.  The girls will attend a few summer camps and work on crafts to enter in the fall fair. And I, hopefully, will reflect and refuel.  I will nourish my soul so that in just a few short months I will be fully ecstatic to start it all again!

Lammers Farms Academy

So, turns out homeschooling my 2 daughters is a great source of joy and wonderment.  AND, I am learning so much… ancient Pharaohs, components of blood, Hebrew words, converting the metric system, and how to figure elapsed time.  Who knew 4th and 5th grade content is so AMAZING? and useful.

While the big boys are away at high school every day, my home becomes a haven of learning… a den of activities and experiments and inquiries.  There are laughs over failed experiments and tears over Old Yeller.  There are frantic moments of brushing hair just so we can take a picture late in the day and not look like homeschool kids.  There are lunches of hot dogs or last night’s leftovers. There are recesses on the trampoline that might last 20 minutes or 2 hours, depending on the weather.  We’ve spilled paint on the hardwood.  We’ve struggled over origami projects. We’ve started videos that were too boring to finish.  We sketch and read outside.  And we take fields trips…. lots and lots of field trips. We’ve been to the zoo, to an art museum, to a pumpkin patch, and to Disney World. So yeah, our homeschool takes us far away, while keeping us close at home.

And our Principal oversees it all.  Like any good principal, he keeps his distance and doesn’t interfere because when something is working why mess it up?  But he pops in unexpectedly and takes us to lunch or to visit a cotton gin or the bank.  And every once is awhile, he helps with a project or teaches a lesson.  But mostly he is here in spirit.. the one we can’t wait to impress late in the day with our masterpieces, our written stories, and our powerpoint presentations that need to be seen one more time.

As autumn has turned to winter and is now looking forward to spring, our school year is solid.  The routine is familiar and comfortable but the schedule is just flexible enough to allow for spontaneity and surprises.  This homeschooling stint is definitely here to stay.

Starts and Stops

Am I the only one who starts things and doesn’t finish them?

It’s actually embarrassing that I began a blog in 2010 and wrote heartily for a few months and then forgot that I have a blog page.  This week, as I took inventory of my life, I thought, “I’d like to have a blog page.” So I googled how to start a blog, and the first hit was wordpress.com.  Then I thought, “Hmm, that website sounds eerily familiar.”  When I found myself at the log in page, I entered my email address and my stand-by log-in from five years ago.  Bam! I found that I not only had blog but I also had written a few articles for it.  Is anyone else THAT spacey?

This really shouldn’t surprise me… Several years ago I took guitar lessons, for 3 months.  I grew tired of trimming my long nails and gave that up! One summer I began writing an adolescent mystery novel and gave it to my 12 year old son to read in increments. Just as he got to the climax, I lost interest in the characters and couldn’t write an ending.  (He still hasn’t fully forgiven me.)  When a friend gave me an expensive juicer, I bought weird vegetables and worked hard to produce a few ounces of juice per day, for about a week.  I was actually a vegetarian for about 10 months during a pre-mid-life crisis. And who can count how many New Year’s Resolutions have fallen to the wayside?

But unfinished projects are NOT what define me. Instead I look to the goals I have set and accomplished.  I worked hard in my thirties to become a runner, and to compete in local 5K races.  I have written Bible studies for my children and articles for magazines.  I have actually turned many of my photographs into family scrapbooks. And I have a current workout routine to prepare me of an obstacle course race this summer. I do set goals, grit my teeth, tighten my jaw, and finish what’s important.

So I’ve taken up blogging again!  Here I am with a son in college, two in high school, and two elementary daughters… I work as a school counselor, I coach elementary basketball, I direct an awesome youth group in a great country church… I wrestle with 2 dogs daily, I play piano, I read, I laugh, I dance, I cry.  And I’m fully devoted to my strong husband and best friend.  Maybe you’re like me.. there’s much more to you than what the surface implies, and there’s so much more than your starts and stops.

Hold your head up, dear sister! Seek the ancient path, where the good way lies, and walk in it, and find rest for your soul!

Mountaintop

If you haven’t gone to church camp yet this summer, go! Seriously. I just returned from carting 6 teenagers on a four hour journey across the state so that they could spend 5 days on a timeless college campus with 1500 other young vibrant Seekers in order to fill them with enough Jesus to last until next summer. Or at least until I can find the time to write a captivating Wednesday night lesson. The result? PUMPED UP youth for Christ. What a time rubbing shoulders with amazing college students who have given up 2 weeks of their summer to volunteer to invest in the lives of high schoolers simply to send the message: “You’re not alone!” And boy was the message received.
Our students were literally boo-hooing on the last night of camp at the realization that they’d be leaving the mountaintop experience the next morning and heading back to the drudgery of ordinary life And for some of them: a difficult life.
But glory be to God that He directs our paths that we may interact with others who change us for good. Glory be to Him that He provides the means that we can go when extra money is hard to find. And glory be to Him for His Word that in eternal and does not return void.
Needless to say, if you haven’t gone to church camp lately, maybe it’s time to go!

Cheerio

Three weeks ago, on a crystal clear snow-cover morning, a beautiful white dog came bounding across our yard and into our hearts.  She had long mane-like hair, a shiny black nose, and lively blue eyes that seemed to beg, “Be my friend.”  She looked like something crafted straight from the snow herself.  Our five children donned their winter boots and jumped into the snow banks with her forming an immediate bond.

This dog rolled straight to her back when approached by the kids. She kicked her legs up and let them rub her belly while she closed her eyese in seeming bliss.  As the day wore on, we fed her the only food fit for an animal in our house: a large bowl of cheerios with milk.  As she lapped up her meal, Charlotte, our 3 year old, rubbed her head with her stubby mittened hands.  The boys said, “Let’s call her Cheerio.”  And the name stuck.

Surprisingly, this sweet natured dog stayed with us all day and nestled on our door stoop that night.  However, the next morning, just like most of the snow, she had disappeared.  Oh well, I thought, at least we didn’t get attached.  But I was wrong. We had.

Two days later as the children were watching Spongebob and eating their poptarts, Jeff announced, “Cheerio’s back.”  We all dropped everything, ran outside, and re-united with the dog we call ours.  We rubbed her, we fed her, we begged her to stay, but at the end of the day she gave us one sad look and began walking south across a barren rice field.  We literally watched until this dog became a tiny dot dragging its way into the setting sun.

But, much to our pleasure, the next day, Cheerio came bounding back.  Head held high, paws prancing up, she seemed to smile as she waltzed back into our lives.  This time, we were prepared. We were determined to woo this animal into our home forever.  Jaden, our 12 year old, mixed Gravy Train with warm water and filled a large basin with the meaty grub.  “It smells real good, Mom,” he told me as he watched her gobble it up through the kitchen window.  “I bet she’ll stay.”

Louis John, our 9 year old began handing out the dog treats made with real chicken, periodically that day. Even Josh, our 13 year old made great effort to rub her, play with her, and convince her we were family.  The girls danced with her until the sun began to fade.  We held our breath and silently came in for dinner.  As we washed up and made our plates, our family dog left again.

This routine has been replaying for over three weeks now. Cheerio comes to our home and loves us dearly. But then she leaves and goes Elsewhere for a day or two on her own  She always returns with matted hair and a thin middle. She is exhausted after her journey and she revels in our adoration.  But then she still leaves again.  She can’t commit to our love. She doesn’t understand how we want to be her only home.

Aren’t we all a little like this dog?  Don’t we, too, roam from the One who can provide all we need?  Don’t we leave Him after He’s blessed us, as we think we can do just fine on our own. And when we’re tired, hungry, and completely beaten by the world, don’t we come back, in hopes for a little more love?

I want to be committed to Christ through all of life’s journey.  I want to stay with Him and forsake myself and the pleasures of this world.  I don’t want to come to him tired and disappointed in what I’ve done on my own.  He is waiting for us, day in and day out, looking for His children who have strayed in their pride.  His mercies are new each day for those who have wandered, but how long will we in our ignorance roam?  Real joy is with Him.  Apart from Him there is only pain.

My children, each day, still scan the horizon for their dog.  Will she return?  Maybe.  Will I return?  Each and every day.

My Valentine Poem..

I have to confess.  I haven’t bought Jeff a card in probably 12 years.  I know, it sounds bad, but please, hear me out.  One day, over a decade ago, I was perusing the card store for the perfect anniversary card, but I just couldn’t find the right one.  Frustrated, I left the card aisle and began meandering through the store.  A small hardback book caught my eye because of its colorful, yet manly cover.  I thought it might be a book of poems that I could give Jeff, but to my disappointment, the book was empy.  Blank.  It was a journal.  Too bad, I thought.  It would make a pretty gift book.

Suddenly, I realized that since I do love writing, why in the world should I pay money for a card that can’t begin to say what I am feeling in my heart for the man of my dreams.  I snatched up that journal, and for our anniversary, I wrote an entry.  Now, almost every holiday, I pull the same journal out and add more to it.  Jeff has a collection of my writing, just for him, that I hope he will treasure all his life. 

Not too long ago, I began actually writing poems for Jeff’s journal.  I have NEVER been a poet.  Writing lines of verse really is an excruciating process for me… but the results have been awesome.  I have been able to come really close to giving Jeff a true picture of my love for him.  I haven’t yet found all the right words, but I sometimes think the right words haven’t yet been invented, and maybe one day, I’ll coin them.  But for now, each holiday, I write Jeff a poem from my heart.  I think I would like to share my Valentine poem with you.  This one isn’t all that serious, but I think it’s cute.  We can’t be serious all the time. 

A Year of Love for You

I love you in March like a loud untamed lion:

          A heart racing wild like the wind our kites fly in.

In April I love you with showers of green:

          With blossoms of kisses, a love garden unseen.

In May I love you like long rays of sun,

          My arms warm and ready for your early return.

I love you in June like the moon on the sand:

          Gentle yet striking, following earth’s command.

My love in July is hot, fire-cracking:

          With barbeque kisses that are oh so lip-smacking!

In August my love is like long afternoon shade

          It’s refreshing and lingering, like sweet lemonade.

My love in September sings out like a school bell:

          It’s time to learn more and on you only to dwell.

My love in October shines bright white like the cotton:

          The hard work you do is never forgotten.

In November I love you with a full-harvest heart:

          I’m stuffed with emotion, full of the joy you impart.

My love in December is soft and mild

          as our hearts are reminded of the love brought by a Child.

In January I love you like everything’s new

          Pure as snow, clear as ice, I am frozen with you.

But in February I love you with a red heart and  big kiss:

          My Valentine Sweetheart, you’ve brought me a full life of bliss.

Happy Valentine’s Day

K.A.  2010

Basketball

Who doesn’t love a great game of basketball?  Ten solid athletes working as one well-oiled machine intent on sending a  leather sphere swishing through a harsh rim suspended 10 feet upinto the air.  The players have spent many more hours practicing their movements and designing difficult plays than they will ever spend in a game.  Yet they work like horses: stretching beyond their limits both horizontally and vertically.  The falls they’ll take, the bodies they’ll bump, the floor they will eagerly bite, all to get their hands on the leather, to save it, steal it, toss it, alley oop it, slam it, tip it, tie it up, or flip it out… they’ll fly through the air and land on wood to keep it alive. Basketball is about discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, and victory.  Hmmm, sounds little like something else I love.  My church.

My church is a place where people work as a team.  Many solid Christians working as one well-tuned body intent on sending the word of God out into a thirsty world in need of drink.  We spend many hours in our disciplines: reading the Word, memorizing the Word, translating the Word, praying the Word, outlining the Word, studying the Word, meditiating on the Word, all to keep the Word alive.   We work like a colony of ants stretching beyond our limtis both outward and heavenward.  We may stumble, even fall, but we do this as a team.  We grieve as a team, we rejoice as team.  When one is in pain, we all feel stunned. When one meets adversary, we all fight the spiritual battle.  Churchwork is about discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, and victory.  About present pain and future trophies.   Hmmm, sounds even better than a heated game of roundball.  And you gotta love the head coach!