Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Monday, August 31, 2009

On the eve ...

Today is the eve of our big adventure! That's right, tomorrow we begin homeschooling our four children. I'm excited ... mostly. I doubt I'll sleep a whole lot tonight though.

It's odd knowing that you are about to start a new phase of life that could last about 2 decades and that it will consume the majority of your time and energy. Put like that, I'm not sure I want to start. Rather than think of it that way, I'm trying to remember that we are doing this because of the positives:
- We'll have lots more time with our children
- Our kids will be able to learn at their own pace and to dig deeper or get help as needed and desired.
- I will know my children better by learning with them and seeing their strengths and weaknesses.
- We'll be able to place God where He belongs - at the center of EVERYTHING! And we can teach in a way that our children will come to understand that truth.
- Our family will hopefully have less stress.
- Our children will have more time together.
- Our children will have time to be kids and to play.
- I can cook with the kids and teach them life skills that you don't learn in the classroom.
- They can have time to help out here at home more by doing chores daily.
- Our kids will not be bringing home the terribly negative things from peers at school that we were getting accustomed to hearing about.
- We can take more field trips!
- We can learn on a broader spectrum: integrating more subjects and helping the kids see how all of learning can work together.
- More time to read to our kids.
- A happier, healthier home environment!

These are just a few of the benefits. When I choose to look at it this way, I'm so excited to begin homeschooling! There are so many pros, that I don't mind the con of giving up my ideals of free days once the kids are all in school. I don't mind being the main influence in my children's education. In fact, I relish the opportunity to do so!

So, pray for us if you think of it. Tomorrow is a big day, but so is every day in our future. Because every day will be a learning day and will be another day when we can impact our kids!

[As a side note: we took David and his best friend last night to the Medieval Times near Chicago. They have sites all over the U.S. If you have a child around the age of 8-15, I'd highly recommend it! Or just go for the fun of it as an adult! We loved it and hope to make it a special 9th birthday celebration for each child in our family.]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You say Tomato ...

I have 9 quarts of tomato sauce sitting on my kitchen table right now. NINE QUARTS! It may not seem like a whole lot, but since it took the whole day to fill those nine quart jars, I think it's a lot.

My mother in law makes the most wonderful tomato sauce and generously gave us a few jars for Christmas. I now see how valuable those were! In any case, her sauce is the only kind that Zack will eat. So, this year I figured I'd try making some. I have been carefully and diligently tending our six tomato plants all summer. And although they have more than a hundred tomatoes on them, only one or two ripen at a time. So, while there is enough for taco salads, there is never enough to make even one jar of sauce.

We finally broke down and bought a half bushel of tomatoes. And a Victorian Strainer - which is a blessing since you don't have to cook the tomatoes before straining them. The big issue was that after straining, you have to cook them for three hours minimum, stirring every few minutes and adding things each hour - and of course each of those items takes plenty of time to prepare! Needless to say, I was exhausted after all that!

I hit a few hiccups on the way, but I think that next time I'll know better what to do and how to handle it. Yes, I did say next time! I'm considering doing this for at least one more day before I feel finished for the year. We go through tomato sauce like crazy in our house and nine jars just seems pitiful to me. So, I venture on. One more day of tomatoes ... and then apple season will begin!

Yum ... applesauce.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Overscheduling Woes

At the recent Leadership Summit the book "Too Small to be Ignored" by Wess Stafford was given to each person in attendance. Wess Stafford is the president of Compassion International.

This book is incredible! As a parent, it is transforming the way that I look at my children. There are so many things I have gotten from this book, and I'm sure I could blog about it for several weeks, but first I'll just start with this one thing. Stafford writes in his book, "We pack our lives to the last nanosecond. We have electronic reminders to tell us what to do next. We jam appointments back to back, arriving at day's end exhausted from the intensity. Having packed their own lives full, many parents proceed to do the same with their children. The week becomes a blur of school, sports practices, music lessons, and - soon enough - part-time jobs. Kids have scarce opportunity to lean back and stare at the sky or notice a flower; they have to get to the next activity."

Here in the West, we have made such a huge deal of not giving children any responsibility so as to not steal away their childhood. In fact, we are doing just that by overcommiting them to sports, school activities and other pursuits. We steal their childhood by rushing them from event to event, practice to practice hoping that this will create well-rounded adults someday in the future. Instead what we are doing by this is snatching the time for play and imagination and substituting it with stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for sports and music. But, I can definitely see how this could easily happen in our own family. Our kids play soccer in the fall and our daughter also takes ballet. This fall, we'll have three different soccer leagues because of how their ages are - which means two nights a week of practice, some weeknight games and at least all morning Saturday filled with soccer. Then you add ballet for an hour on Monday evenings and our schedules are going to be hectic! When we had the kids in public school, this was a huge issue. The kids would get home from school, rush to do their homework (which was at least an hour's worth all together) and scarf down dinner before rushing out to whatever event was going on in the evening. By the time we got home, there was barely time for showers or baths before bedtime. Oy.

One thing I certanly hope this homeschooling venture will provide is a less hectic schedule. Yes, we'll still have the activities in the evening, but the kids will be knocking out homework from the schedule. We'll also be able to accomplish our schooling more quickly in the day. Mind you, we don't plan to skimp, but so much more can be accomplished one on one than one on sixteen or twenty!

I guess when I look at our kids, I don't really see them as overscheduled. They each do a sport or two. They each are learning musical instruments - although this is included in the schooling time. But, one thing we are careful to ensure is that our children have plenty of playtime. I certainly hope that people will keep us accountable to this. I think most parents don't intend to fritter away their children's childhoods, but are rather trying to provide every possible opportunity for their kids to try new things and to excel in areas where they have strengths. I think that's great, but it's important to remember that often this just stresses kids out more than it helps them. So, as we enter our first year of homeschooling, I hope to continually ask myself, "Is this working?", "Do the activities our kids are involved in take away from their childhood or add to it?", "Am I providing enough time for my kids to just be kids?". If the answer to any of these is no, I pray that I will have the strength to pull my kids out and let them just be kids!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fish and Shells

Last night we took the kids to a Go Fish concert at a church in Milwaukee. What fun!! We all had a great time and since it was a much smaller concert than many, we had great seats.

I was most struck though by Abby. I remember when we moved here three years ago, she was so very shy. If someone came near, she would hide behind Mom or Dad refusing even to peek out. When the need arose for her to say "Hi" or "Thank you" she would, after many proddings, finally pop out from her hiding place and barely whisper the word. As soon as that was done, she was back in her hiding spot highly embarrassed by having to make an appearance.

Last night was different though. Last night I saw a little girl who was dancing around in the aisle, chatting with the kids and adults around us (all strangers!), and even leaving her seat to join the crowd giving high fives to the singers! What a huge change!

As we drove home I was trying to put my finger on what has made the difference. As parents, we try to expose our kids to many environments and to give them skills to get along with a wide variety of people. But I think in Abby's case, the credit must go to her ballet teacher. Abby has had two years of ballet. The first was with only three other little girls in the class. Abby loved it! But she was still very shy. However, when year two started, she was the veteran of the group. The girls from the previous class had moved up a level and Abby had not. Her teacher intentionally pulled Abby out of her shell by making a big deal about her "knowing" all the stuff already. She had Abby demonstrate how to skip, sashay and pose in first position. At the end of each class, an ecstatic and bold girl would come bounding out of class eager to tell me how she had been the teacher's helper.

I doubt that this particular dance teacher realized what a huge impact she was having on a shy little girl. Regardless, I am appreciative of how she took the time to cater to the strengths of our daughter. It does make me wonder if I am having that kind of impact on the kids I meet. Do I give my own children and others the chance to shine? Either way, my actions can have a huge impact - either in letting a child stagnate or in helping them realize their great potential.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Global Leadership: Lessons Learned

This past week Josh and I attended the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek in Chicago. I honestly didn't have any expectations going in - except that parts may bore me to death. Thankfully that wasn't the case in any of the sessions!! On the contrary, I learned so very much!

The main theme of the summit this year was on leading globally. So, instead of just leading in our church or business, we were encouraged to expand that to our community and eventually across the world. There was a big focus on Africa too. Honestly it felt a bit like God was hitting me upside the head with a shovel! Josh and I have been talking about taking a trip to Kenya for a few months now. He's been invited by a pastor there to come and speak. While we've gone back and forth about the idea, it was obvious to us both that God brought us to this particular conference in order to open our eyes to how we could be of service to believers in Kenya.

Of course, God also challenged me on finding ways to reach out to the community of Evansville. I think with homeschooling this fall, the kids and I will have more opportunity to reach out to others. What does this look like practically? Well, I'm not sure yet. But I am praying that God will show me what he wants me to do - what needs to change in the way that I arrange my priorities and how I can better love those who I see so often around town.

I'm so thankful to have a husband who knew I needed this and who suggested again and again that I attend. Beyond the benefit of the conference, it was great for us to have some time away. We needed that time of uninterrupted conversation to catch up on the many things that get shoved to the back burner here at home. And I love that he even planned an extra bit in the budget for me to buy books that will be helpful to me both at home and in the ministry. Thanks, Josh!! I love you.

{Are you looking for a practical way to help Africa? Here are two: 1.Go to kiva.org and provide a loan for an entrepeneur somewhere in the world and help them get on their own two feet. 2. If you are a coffee drinker, try drinking some Good African Coffee. This coffee is made in Africa and the profits benefit those growing and processing the coffee. For more info look at goodafrican.com }

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I said I'd never do it

I said I would never ever do it! I'm not cut out for it. I'm not strong enough for it. I don't have the drive to do it well. But, regardless of all my doubts, I have been called to begin homeschooling my children this fall.

It was quite a long process that brought us to this point. Unlike you may suspect, our kids were learning quite a bit in the public schools, we liked most of the teachers, we enjoyed getting to know other families, and I certainly liked the idea of someday having all four kids busy during the day! So, why homeschool? Well, the answer isn't simple. In fact, there are many things that led to our final decision.

First, we took into consideration our children's education. David is extremely smart and is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of his class. He longs for more work (and currently loves learning), but his teachers can only give him so much extra work and can only allow him to get so far ahead of his classmates. Zack is in the opposite boat. He is not as interested in learning and really wasn't being pushed to learn much. Teachers seemed satisfied for him to stay at "grade level" instead of pushing him to realize his potential. In both cases, we think we can do better. In homeschool, David will be allowed to move at his own pace. To really push to learn more and to go in depth on all subjects. For Zack, we can spend the time necessary for him to go beyond grade level and to realize that learning is fun! Abby will be starting kindergarten this fall and we've decided to homeschool her as well.

Many people bring up the issue of socialization - which I think is rather funny, especially if you know our family. Our children will continue to play community sports, will participate in music, will be part of a homeschool group in a nearby town, will attend church activities, will have more time for having friends over and will even have more opportunities to socialize with senior adults at the nursing home. Another argument often raised against homeschooling is the ability of the parents to teach their children well. First, let me say that this was my biggest argument against homeschooling. Can I do it well? I think I can. First of all, my children are young and the material really isn't all that advanced. Secondly, I have been trained as a teacher and have my bachelor's in education. Thirdly, and most importantly, I firmly believe that if God calls us to this, he will give us the tools needed to do it well. Josh is already a whiz at math and science and loves history. All of my weak points. But, we also have many friends with expertise in various areas who we are willing to call on to help us with various units.

Honestly, I'm quite excited about this new venture. We have purchased our curriculum, I have been planning and organizing for months and the kids are actually looking forward to it. I think it will take so much stress out of education for our kids. They'll have more time to play, more time to pursue interests, more time to learn the things that we feel were being jipped because of time issues. What more could I ask for?! So although I said I never would: I will, I am, I can!