2 Bigs + 4 Littles under 1 Midsize Roof = Life As We Know It
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A Half-Dozen …

… Homeschooling Life musings to share (answering prompts from The Homeschool Mother’s Journal):

1. In my life this week I was once again reminded that time simply won’t stand still, no matter how much I might like it to. Ever since my oldest son (Kellen, now 11) was of kindergarten age, we’ve participated in C.A.S.A. Vida, a once-a-week enrichment program for homeschoolers offered by local a public-school district. Two years later, he was joined by his younger brother (Kerrick, now 9). And this year, as the traditional school year began, I realized that we had approached some major milestones. Thursday marked not only the first day of Kellen’s last year of the program (which ends after sixth grade), but also the first day of the first year for his younger sister (Kennah, 5), who shares the same beloved kindergarten teacher that her two older brothers had. I managed to keep myself busy while they were gone all day — especially with the help of my littlest Little (Keillor, 3) — but all I could think of was how empty our house (and my life) would be if I they went away to school every day. Author Elizabeth Stone likens motherhood to having “your heart go walking around outside your body,” and that is exactly how I felt as I watched Kennah — dwarfed by her brand-new, sparkly-pink princess backpack and matching lunch box — walk into the classroom with the other kindergartners. Of course, she had a terrific time and can’t wait to go back. And of course, I know I need to let go a little. But that doesn’t make it easy. I don’t even want to envision what it will be like when Keillor heads down the same hallway two years from now — though I’m betting the backpack in that picture will look a bit different. 🙂

2. In our homeschool this week I began teaching my third child to read — something that in my pre-parenthood days I never imagined I would do. What’s interesting is that — thanks to my retired-teacher mom, who saved some of her favorite curriculum from her teaching days — I’ve been using the same program that was in vogue at my small-town public school when I was learning to read: Open Court (the 1973 version), which differs from most other reading programs in that it teaches long vowel sounds before short. It’s so fun to see the light come on in their little brains when they start to understand the ways that letters work together to express words, sentences, paragraphs, stories and ideas. Kennah’s first reading words (which form her first oh-so-simple reading sentence) are “See me.” (The accompanying illustration shows a clown looking into a mirror as he gets ready for a circus performance.) Can’t wait to hear her read the rest of the story.

3. Things I’m working on include our homeschool room, which I’ve spent much of the summer purging, cleaning, organizing and streamlining. I’m still not finished — there are a few more big piles to tackle as I decide what works, what doesn’t, what’s worth keeping and what to pass along (there’s that “letting-go” thing again!). But it’s a much neater and more welcoming space for all of us to use as we get back into a regular school routine. I’m also gearing up for another year of tutoring for a tuition-based homeschool program called Classical Conversations. This is my second year tutoring seventh-graders in six different subject areas: math, Latin, writing/literature, geography, science and rhetoric. I’m pretty sure I acquired as much knowledge as much as my students did last year, and I can’t wait to do it all again. This week, I’ve been busy reworking my personal stash of Latin flashcards to make them more user-friendly. Though it’s not a part of the curriculum, I’m throwing in a phrase supposedly uttered by Michelangelo toward the end of his life (and that I’ve adopted for my class motto): “Ancora imparo,” which means “I am still learning.”

4. I’m reading two books: Lumber Camp Library, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, and The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande. The first one I’m reading alongside my sixth-grade son, with plans to discuss its characters, setting, plot and theme using a simplified version of the Socratic method as outlined in Teaching the Classics, by Adam and Missy Andrews. The second I’m reading as part of my Classical Conversations training, with the idea that I’ll gain some wisdom for handling conflict effectively and from a Biblical viewpoint.

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

5. I’m grateful for the encouragement of a new friend, Sue (a k a The Homeschool Chick), to get back to blogging. Her prompts — shared every Friday in The Homeschool Mother’s Journal on her site, www.thehomeschoolchick.com — helped me pull this post together. I’m sharing it in today’s link-up, along with some other homeschool moms who’ve written about what’s happening right now in their lives.

6. A video link to share that pretty much sums up my thoughts at the end of this momentous week is Stephen Curtis Chapman singing Cinderella (who, incidentally, is the favorite princess of my own little growing-up-all-too-quickly princess).

August 13, 2011   6 Comments

So Long, Summer

While the heat is still with us—and will be for several more months—the dog days of summer are drawing to a close. We started our full homeschooling schedule last week, and this morning, Kellen and Kerrick bid their best canine friend (our puppy, Sweetie) farewell before heading out to the first day back to their once-a-week, school-away-from-home program. As you can see, Kerrick was a little more broken up about it than Kellen was. 🙂 Regardless of seasons and schedules, we plan to continue the dog days around our house—spending plenty of time taking Sweetie on walks and teaching her tricks, as well as digging deeper into the stack of dog books on our read-aloud list. We just wrapped up Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls (look for a future post on that experience), and next on the list is a little-bit-lighter title: The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog, by John R. Erickson. I’m pretty sure our dog days will last well into winter. 🙂

August 12, 2010   2 Comments

Words Worth Repeating: The Mission of Motherhood

Here’s another installment of Words Worth Repeating, a series of posts that allow me to share some meaningful thoughts, ideas and quotations from whatever I happen to be reading at the time. The words repeated here speak into my life, and I hope to convey their personal significance in such a way that they’ll be every bit as poignant to those who see them here.

Last year, my friend Kelly was kind enough to lend me her copies of two books by Sally Clarkson: The Mission of Motherhood and The Ministry of Motherhood. I found much encouragement and inspiration in the pages of these books, authored by a fellow homeschooling mom of four who so eloquently captures the struggles and challenges of the life I am striving to live—and who also offers incredible encouragement and inspiration for rising to the occasion. In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share one of my favorite quotations from The Mission of Motherhood:

“Children do not accidentally become mature adults of strong character, great faith, gracious relational skills, effective leadership qualities, and sharp intellects. God’s design includes the presence of a hands-on gardener, a mother, to tend and cultivate their hearts, souls, minds, and relationships. As a garden cannot flourish without a gardener, neither can a child reach his or her potential without someone committed to careful cultivation. Just as a garden without a gardener will eventually go to seed and be covered over with weeds and debris, a child whose growth is unsupervised or left to chance will likely grow wild and undisciplined or stunted and unfruitful. Seeing myself as a gardener is helpful to me as I think of my mission as a mother. After all, I want more for my children than just getting them to adulthood. I want them to thrive. I want them to grow up confident and civilized. I want them prepared to live as abundantly as possible.”

Some days—especially those that are overflowing with the details and duties that seem to consume so much of our time as mothers—this bigger picture is hard to see. (As I write this, I am simultaneously chasing down a toddler with a fever and a runny nose, preparing to cuddle him on my lap for some stories.) But for me, this bigger picture is exactly what makes the endless list of little things worth tackling. Happy Mother’s Day—and happy “gardening.”

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the book cover above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase it—and if you do buy it after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendations inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it (as I did) from a friend.

May 9, 2010   No Comments

Words Worth Repeating

For awhile now, I’ve wanted to come up with a regular post that allows me to share some meaningful thoughts, ideas and quotations from whatever I happen to be reading at the time—whether it’s a novel, a memoir, a cookbook, a magazine article or anything else that catches my eye. These words will, of necessity, need to speak into my life—or, at least, a particular moment of my life—to be deemed worthy of repeating. And it’s my hope that in addition to the actual words, I’ll be able to effectively convey their personal significance in such a way that they’ll be every bit as poignant to those who see them here.

This first Words Worth Repeating post was inspired by an unlikely source—at least one that came as a surprise to me. On the recommendation of a fellow reader I met at a children’s birthday party last weekend, I picked up a novel at the library titled The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. The book—about an aspiring race-car driver and his young family, and entirely narrated from the perspective of his dog—is probably not something I’d have chosen on my own. I’ve learned from experience, though, that sometimes such books make the best reads. Besides, I was intrigued by the idea of a story told from a dog’s perspective—especially because our family recently adopted our first canine member, a blue heeler named Sweetie. The framework constructed by the book’s personal story helped ease me into the world of car-racing and its history and heroes. (Outside of my youngest son’s obsession with the Disney movie Cars—which I’ve almost memorized, thanks to his daily viewing of it—I knew next to nothing about this world.) Without giving too much of the story away, I’ll say that Enzo—the dog who tells the story and who is named, of course, for Italian race-car driver and designer Enzo Ferrari—holds out hope that one day that he’ll be reincarnated as a human so that he can speak about all that he sees and knows with the words that are beyond the limitations of his canine abilities to communicate. He is a witness to tragic circumstances that threaten the family he loves, including the affliction of his master’s wife, Eve, with brain cancer. When Eve orchestrates a celebration to mark the fact that she lives beyond the “six to eight months” the doctors give her, Enzo thinks,

“To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to. When I am a person, that is how I will live my life.”

What made this particular quotation—and the story behind it—stand out to me is that I have lately seen my share of friends handling health crises (including a brain tumor) with such amazing grace and a determination to “feel the joy of life” despite their pain and fear. They inspire me to repeat alongside them especially that last sentence—only without the dog Enzo’s qualifying “When”: “I am a person, [and] that is how I will live my life.”

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the book cover above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase it—and if you do buy it after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendations inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend.

May 5, 2010   5 Comments

A Half Dozen. . .

. . .things that changed my life in 2009:

1. Preparing and eating real food. Although my interest in the real-food movement actually began in 2008—when I first encountered such books as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma—my personal journey began in earnest this year. I read more books, including Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Nina Planck’s Real Food. I looked for and found local sources for grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured chickens and eggs, raw dairy, and in-season fruits and vegetables. I learned how to sprout grains and beans, as well as soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds; I tried my hand at making butter and cheese; and I converted the recipes for many of my family’s favorite dishes to meet real-food ideals. My husband and children went along—warily but willingly—on the journey with me, as we cut back on the refined flour and sugar in our diet and incorporated such new and strange (at first) staples as fermented cod liver oil and kombucha tea.

2. Reading some great books. Clearly, I’m a believer in the statement “You are what you eat.” And by now, you’re probably getting the idea that “You are what you read” would be another suitable credo for me. Simply put, books are—and always have been—a big deal in my life. I can recall at least one engaging novel I read in 2009—The Girls, by Lori Lansens (a diary-style portrayal of the life of conjoined twins)—but for the most part it was a nonfiction year for me. Aside from the above-mentioned food titles, the rest of what I read mostly revolved around marriage and parenting. Favorites here include The Mission of Motherhood and The Ministry of Motherhood, both written by homeschooling mom of four Sally Clarkson. I can so relate to the personal challenges she recounts—from the physical and emotional strength required to be a 24/7 caregiver, nurturer and teacher, to the doubts and feelings of inadequacy that often creep in from a culture that places almost no value on those roles. What I so appreciate about Clarkson’s writing is her ability to transcend all of that—and to help me do it, too!—by putting those roles into an eternal perspective. Her books gave me a renewed sense of purpose that I continue to cling to on those difficult days when I desperately need a good answer to the question, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” Another author who struck a similar chord with me this year is Gary Thomas, whose book Sacred Marriage has garnered him speaking engagements at churches worldwide. Shawn and I were able to attend one here in Arizona in September, and since then I’ve added a few of his books (including Sacred Influence and Sacred Parenting) to my list. Sacred Marriage (subtitled What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?) intelligently and thoughtfully exposes the ruse of romantic love as a means to (elusive) fulfillment and instead challenges those of us who choose marriage to see the difficulties it inevitably brings as a way for God to shape our character and for us to demonstrate our commitment to Him. I haven’t delved into Sacred Parenting yet, but from all indications, the theme continues on its pages. In a particularly powerful essay Thomas uses to open a book of devotions based on Sacred Parenting, he writes: “I’d like to suggest a motto for Christian family life: ‘God is in the room.’ While God is always there, so often we act and think and behave and speak as if he were not. . . .Think of how differently we might treat our children in those frustrating moments if we responded to them with the knowledge that God is in the room. If we truly believed that the God who designed them and who is passionate about their welfare was literally looking over our shoulders, might we be a little more patient, a little more understanding?. . .Tell it to yourself, every morning, every noontime, every evening: God is in the room. Tell it to each other, every time you’re tempted to yell, or to criticize, or ridicule, or even ignore each other: God is in the room. Tell it to your children, throughout the day: God is in the room. Let’s keep telling it to ourselves and to each other until we practice it and live it, until we live and breathe with the blessed remembrance: God is in the room.”


3. Having a homeschool room (where I especially need to practice the above-mentioned motto!). When we added two bedrooms and a bathroom onto our small home last year, we decided to convert one of the existing bedrooms into a homeschool room. It meant that our four children would have to double up and share the remaining bedrooms, but we were all OK with that. Shawn outfitted the room’s closet with plenty of shelves to store books and supplies, and he built new cases to replace the broken ones on three cast-off desks from the charter school where one of my sisters works. A bulletin board, dry-erase board and world map later, we were in business! And we haven’t looked back to the days when books, papers and manipulatives almost always covered the living-room floor and the dining-room table. Sure, we sometimes still “do school” in those other rooms, but having a place to put everything away when we’re finished—and a door to close when we haven’t had time to tidy up the mess—has gone a long way toward keeping me sane (see No. 2) and all of us organized and on track.

4. Finding financial peace. No, we didn’t win the lottery, receive an unexpected inheritance or invent the Next Big Thing and suddenly become fabulously wealthy. (I’m sure I would have remembered if any of those things had occurred this year!) 🙂 What we did do was solidify our financial philosophy as a single-income family with a tight budget and a desire to live relatively simply and to be completely debt-free. Toward both of those ends, we’ve begun a serious campaign to get rid of things that we don’t really need or especially love, and to pay off everything we owe (which is really just the mortgage, a car loan and a credit-card balance). Our champion of sorts in the process has been Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover, host of radio broadcast The Dave Ramsey Show, and creator of such catchphrases as “Sell so much stuff the kids think they’re next,” and “Live like no one else, so that later, you can live (and give) like no one else.” Shawn and I completed his 13-week Financial Peace University course at our church this fall and discovered that we were actually in decent shape with regard to some areas of our money, but that we needed to make a few changes and do a better job in other areas. Above all, the class helped us talk things through and agree on some goals to keep us focused. We’ve even gotten the kids on board, switching their “allowance” (which implies entitlement to free money) to “commission” (which solidifies the concept that money is earned).


5. Receiving an iPod Touch. As a lover of all things Apple, I’d had my eye on an iPhone for awhile, but because the only cell-phone carrier to offer it doesn’t provide good coverage in the areas I travel most frequently, I’d pretty much ruled it out. As a second choice, I liked the iPod Touch, but without the phone functionality I couldn’t really justify buying one. “Sure, it’s cool, but would I really use it?” I wondered. Shawn surprised me with one on Mother’s Day, and that question was quickly answered in the affirmative. The marketing lingo “There’s an app for that” became a reality for me as I started to use the iPod Touch for all things usual (checking e-mail and Facebook, surfing the Web, and keeping the kids entertained with movies, music and games) and unusual (recording Kellen’s first piano recital and watching TV—mostly late-night online streaming of current episodes of The Office and Parks and Recreation). And sometimes it’s an absolute sanity saver: It makes multitasking a cinch, as I can use it while I’m cooking (see No. 1) or folding laundry. And at the risk of sounding like a really bad homeschooling mom, I occasionally use it to tune out the constant din created when 2 Bigs + 4 Littles almost always occupy the house under 1 Midsize Roof (see No. 2). Whenever I need a little break, I simply pop in the ear buds and download a podcast of The Dave Ramsey Show (see No. 4) or listen to my current playlist faves (the cast recording from the Broadway musical Wicked, or the new Sidewalk Prophets album, These Simple Truths. To hear the Sidewalk Prophets song Just Might Change Your Life—which is, after all, the theme of this post, click the play button of the audio player below.)

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6. Starting this blog. I’ve only been a blogger for half of the year, but the impact of finally finding my voice—I’ve never been much of a first-person writer—as well as the guts to share it here—I worried whether I had anything relevant to say—has been huge. I’ve “met” so many other bloggers who are living inspired—and inspiring!—lives, and I’m writing more frequently than I have in a long time. And I can’t leave out the incredible learning curve I had to conquer just to set up the blog and publish a post! When I first started, I didn’t know a tag from a category or a plugin from a pingback—and HTML code? Forget about it! (Click here to find out about the Beginner to Blogger course that helped me get up and running.) Not that I’m all super tech-savvy now. I have much more to learn, for sure, but I’ve come a long way since I began, well, at The Beginning (my first post).

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on any of the book or CD covers above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase the items—and if you do buy them after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendations inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend.

December 31, 2009   5 Comments