Sunday, September 4, 2016

Kindergarten Report!

Since it is just about time for first grade to start (!), it is now or never to get this posted, more for myself than anything.
Overall I would say our year of kindergarten was a pretty smashing success.  He was excited for school just about every day, and didn't want to stop when summer came.  Some of my main goals were to introduce many different things and to give him an excitement for learning, and I feel like both of those things happened well.
Of course I think I learned just as much as him throughout the year, both about the different things we studied together, and about myself and my style as a homeschool mom.  These are some of the biggest ones:

*I was so excited to have a dedicated "school room" when we bought this house and was sure it was going to revolutionize our school and life... Uh, I think we used that room about 4 times.  And it should be called the "what localized disaster occurred in this space" room.  "School" just naturally ends up happening snuggled on the couch or gathered around the dining room table for us.  While part of me mourns the failure of the school room, this actually reflects the why and how of homeschooling for us pretty well so we are just going to embrace it and roll with it.  And  "clean the school room" will stay on the to-do list for I don't know how long, as we attempt to turn it into more of a home office space for mom and dad.  Don't hold your breath for an update on that one.

*I have also come to accept the fact that it is physically impossible for me to leave a curriculum alone and actually teach in totally as-is. I have also come to like this about myself.  I love teaching. I love thinking about how kids learn and the challenge of the best way to convey something to them. And I love learning myself right along with them.  I have realized that somewhere along the way I had written myself off as "not creative."  I will probably never be all the skilled in "art", but I have realized how much of a lie that is and how much it was actually hurting me to give myself that label and limitation.  Homeschool and lesson planning is where my creativity soars, and I love it.  (Hope to write more about that later...)

We actually did enjoy and recommend all the curriculum that we used as a base, so here it is:

*Five In A Row.  This is a book based curriculum that covers just about every subject that you want to other than the actual "decoding" of learning to read.  You read the same book each day and then pull out different activities based on that book.  There is SO much you can do with it!  The guide itself is very well done, and Pinterest is full of ideas from other Row-ers.  We focused a lot on learning about the different places and cultures where the stories took place because that is what Noah is the most interested in.  I asked him to pick his favorite and he couldn't narrow it down, and neither could I. :)  I think our top few were learning about Venice/Italy with Papa Piccollo, Russia with Another Celebrated Dancing Bear, and Japan with A Pair of Red Clogs.  But honestly we did enjoy every book and unit that we did.  We didn't even get through the whole first volume because we "rowed" every book for 2 weeks and threw a few of our own units too.

*Ancient Egypt study.  This is the big one that wasn't in the FIAR curriculum that we spent a lot of time on.  If you have ever met Noah, that you probably know that he is very interested in Ancient Egypt.   I decided to run with it and have "school" be all about it for a while.  And I am so glad that we did.  It turned out to be one of the most beautiful and significant few weeks.  I was kind of apprehensive because of the religious aspects of it, but it led to some awesome discussions on salvation.  Just the week before we were learning what "discretion" is and this gave the perfect opportunity to apply that.  It also ended up coinciding perfectly timing wise to talk about Egypt in the Bible with the biblical festival of Succoth, which we celebrated and absolutely loved.

*All About Reading. Okay, so this was the one thing I didn't change at all and taught at is.  Because it worked great for him and I didn't feel like there was anything I could change much.  It is laid out very well, uses magnetic letter tiles for a "hands on" aspect, and includes real stories that they start reading right away.  I think this was key for Noah; the fact that he could read a "real book" after a few weeks was huge for him and kept him motivated to keep learning.  We worked through Level 1 all year and he is now reading.  Wow, it is so cool to watch someone learn how to read, especially when you realize how complicated it really is!  There is a lot more left to learn, and my little first born definitely doesn't like that letters make different sounds in different situations and all the words that "don't follow the rules", but he has the basics down.  It has been so neat to see him build confidence over the summer.  We haven't done any official "lessons" but he is getting much quicker and willing to try, even if words are hard. 

*Math.  Ah, math. I kind of love it because it this year totally proved my thoughts about teaching it: if kids are exposed to enough real life where math is used, they are going to pick it up just fine on their own without it being drilled in and boring.  We never did a single math worksheet.  And even very, very few actual "lessons."  Five In A Row goes right along with this thinking too and incorporates "living math", which is what we did.  We counted and talked about math concepts that came up in books; we cooked together and shopped together.  And eventually he started asking what "this plus that" equals and if "2, 4, 6, 8" is how you count by 2's and so on.  He probably can't sit and do math problems as well as a public schooled kindergartener, but that doesn't bother me at all.  He understands and can do the basics (as well as sees the value of knowing) adding, subtracting, skip counting, and even a little bit of multiplying and dividing.  So we are calling math a success too.  All without any tears, complaining, or worksheets.

We most definitely do not homeschool just for academic reasons.  Most public school teachers rock at what they do and give a great education to their students.  We homeschool for the relationships.  Even though they will probably never admit it, it is so wonderful to see Noah and Lydia become better and better friends and have all these shared memories.  Then Noah got to be there for every step of the way as we welcomed his brother to the family.  And honestly I just really like being with my kids and want to have all those memories with them too. 

There is soooo much more I could say, but I will leave it at that for now.  We love homeschooling! On to first grade! :)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Slow Down

So there is a song that recently came out that has earned the description of "making moms everywhere cry", which is quite accurate.  If you haven't heard it yet, grab a Kleenex (maybe 2) and take a listen to "Slow Down" by Nicole Nordeman.

I actually did not cry the first few times I heard it, but then it came on the radio as the kids and I were off for a special day together while Toby was cooing and chattering in the back and Lydia was saying "I love this day!" and Noah was going on about something he is currently interested in... and Mom was blubbering in the front. :)

I do like that song, and get the whole "slow down" thing in that every age and stage is so precious and there are certain things about it that you wish would last longer, and that children grow and change so very fast when they are little.  But I am also ready for my kids to grow and go onto the next stage, because I have spent just about every minute that I can with them enjoying this one, and I am ready to grow with them.  I think one reason why that "slow down" message resonates so deeply is that as a whole our society has forgotten how to slow down, and what is worth slowing down for.

Even with homeschooling and being with them all the time, too much busy and being on the go can creep in and I feel like we are not slowing down and enjoying life together as much as we should.  There are two big ways I push the "slow down" button.  One is to take pictures.  Well, even more that usual. ;)  But not posed pictures or of a certain event, just pictures that some that capture where they are at right now.  My kids have gotten used to the fact that occasionally mom will shadow them with a camera and take lots of pictures...  (We went to an art gallery that had a photography exhibit and Noah was all confused that there wasn't paintings and drawings displayed. I explained that photography can be art too, and that is why I take so many pictures; it is my way to have art of my favorite people and things.  Since then he has been even more willing to let me be crazy camera mom.)

The other is just to literally slow down.  Have days, or hours, or maybe just a few precious minutes, where the only things on the to-do list are special things to enjoy together, or no specific to-do's at all. 
We get about one nice week of spring here, when the apple blossoms and lilacs are blooming and the bugs and too hot weather haven't come yet.  We definitely took a "slow down" week during that this year, and it was wonderful.  I lost count how many picnics in the yard we had.  Some days we didn't eat inside at all. :)
We enjoyed the swingset and hammock for many hours.

We took a day and went to the state park and played and painted.

Of course most of my house looked something like this and it took me a while to catch up...

...and not much official "school" was done that week...
But the slowing down is so worth it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tobiah ~ God is good

The meaning of my children's names and the process and prayers that go into choosing them are extremely important to me.  Tobiah means "God is good."  In Hebrew, which makes it even cooler. :)  This is a message that came up in my heart and in things I was reading over and over again during my pregnancy.  It is what we want our little family to proclaim as we welcome a new life into the world and always.  And is something we want to proclaim over our precious son and pray that he will hold onto throughout his life.

There is a lot of not-good-ness when looking around our country and our world, and I definitely had my moments of "Why are we bringing a child into this? How are we possibly going to be able to raise him well?"  I remember having these thoughts with my other pregnancies, and I would bet that mothers throughout history have as well, because that whole "not-good" thing has shifted how it looks as time advances, but has been there since the Fall.  But this time around I worked through the answers more.
Some of my favorite verses are Psalm 8:1-2: "Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger."  I think about it and share it with kid a lot regarding kids praising and worshiping.  But a book I have been reading talks about it specifically in regards to babies, how life itself is grace and mercy!  Everything could have ended when sin, and so death, first entered the world.  But it didn't.  We are allowed to have children, to create and continue life, to know what it is to live and love.
"This little baby bears the image of the Holy One.  On the cosmic stage of God's glory displayed in the universe, the infant's cries silence the insolent boasts of God's enemy.  God ordained that life would continue despite the Devil's decrepit handmaiden, death.  God granted that eternal life prevail through his Son, who rose victorious from the grave, never to see decay.  God gives this eternal life away as a gift to those who would trust in his Son.  Life is here to stay forever."  --Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
Madeline L'Engle talks about this too in her book about Genesis, And It Was Good. How the way to fight against what is scary and ugly in our world is to see creation as God meant it to be, what He has given us and invited us to be a part of.  "If I affirm that the universe was created by a power of love, and that all creation is good, I am not proclaiming safety. . . . Love is worth that risk, and so is birth, its fulfillment."  Bringing a child into the world declares a belief in life and goodness not because everything happening in the world is good, but because God and His design is. And it is even in the midst of a world tainted by sin and death.
"This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And nova lightning the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late,
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honor & truth were trampled by scorn--
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed & pride the sky is torn--
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth."

Along with all those kinds of thoughts swirling around inside my head, this conversation with Noah also kind of sealed the deal in the name choosing.  (I told him this and his response was, "well, I don't know if that is the name I would pick."  But someday he is going to think it is super cool, right? Right.)

With all of this, the song "God Is So Good" has been very special and one Tobiah has heard many times already.
It is extra special because of memories attached to it of my wonderful mentor Wendell who recently passed away.  I picture him in the downstairs dining hall at camp leading everyone in this song each time I hear it.  I do not have words to express how dear those times are to me and how much they have affected who I am today. 
To add to that, the Sunday before Tobiah was born I thought on the way to church, "we are going to sing 'God Is So Good' today, I just know it."  (And I had not peeked at my pastor husband's order of worship to know this, either... ;)  And guess what, we did.
The note in the picture is one that Wendell wrote.  It says, "Jesus creates life.  Jesus offers life.  Jesus fulfills life."
"In a world where fewer and fewer people believe in God at all, where life is for so many an unimportant accident with no meaning, where we are born only to slip back into annihilation, we need to stop arguing and affirm the goodness of creation, and the power of love which holds us all." ~Madeline L'Engle
A baby's hair swirl, that distinct "baby smell" of a newborn that is gone all too soon, tiny wrinkly fingers and toes, the fierce love of a parent for their child, to me these things affirm the goodness of creation and of my God as loudly as possible. 

I am so thankful for the life and goodness that has come into our home through our precious son.
Tobiah!  God is good!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

God is good. I am loved.

We have been talking a lot lately about being made in the image of God--what that means and what comes along with it.  We are working on memorizing Ephesians 2:10 and even added some cool new artwork in their room to go with it:

And a bonus panoramic view of their room because I was playing with my phone.  I love their room and so do they and that makes me happy. :)

Ephesians 2:10 (which is what is on the painting in the middle) says: "For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  I love the phrase "God's masterpiece" and what it speaks into us self-image wise.  It is perfect for my little artists!  And for Lydia apparently meant many jewels were needed for our "masterpiece" picture frame project. :)
One of the biggest reasons we homeschool is so that we as parents can have the loudest voice speaking into them as their self-image develops, which is a responsibility and privilege that I don't take lightly and one that I want to continue to be more intentional about.
The more we get into homeschool and the more research I do (which is quite a bit, because I just love it), the more I like the Charlotte Mason method.  There is a lot of her ideas that I just do naturally, and some that I am working on implementing more into our days. Her motto for students of "I am; I can; I ought; I will" really strikes a chord with me.
I wanted to see what Noah would say with the statement "I am...", so we did a little finish-the-sentence/word association thing where I told him to finish the sentence I started.  I began with really concrete things that I know he likes, "Minecraft is..."  "Legos are..." and then moved on to more concepts, "Learning is..."  "Family is..." etc.

When I got to "God is..."  he finished it with "good".
When I asked him to finish "I am..."  he said "loved".

Well, my mama heart felt pretty amazing after that.  If he goes through life with the foundation of "God is good.  I am loved.",  I think I have done my job well.

So to anyone reading this, let's all yet again learn from a child and go back to those truths that no matter what is going on around or inside us, God IS good and you ARE loved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Prematurity Awareness

November is Prematurity Awareness Month and today in particular is World Prematurity Day.  (Have you seen any pictures of buildings lit up purple today?  That is why.)  Although we are pretty aware of prematurity every day over here, it is especially meaningful to make Noah pose for pictures like this today. :)

Can you believe he will be 6 in just a month?!  In some ways the NICU seems worlds away, and in some ways I can still picture every detail. 
I must admit I'm not entirely clear on the goals of the whole "awareness day" thing. . .  The numbers being shared today are that 1 in 10 babies are born too soon, and that complications related to preterm birth are the largest cause of infant mortality worldwide.  So there is that.

But here are some much more personal things when I think "awareness" and prematurity.  Some I am very glad for, and some not so much.
I am aware of:
-What things like surfactant and TPN and EPO and PICC lines and so on are and what they actually do.
-What it is like to hear your phone ring and it be instantly connected to wondering if your baby is okay.
-The horrible feeling of not being able to hold or care for your own baby.
-The awesome awesomeness of NICU doctors and nurses.
-What it is like to thank someone for saving your child's life.
-What it is like to receive gift after gift and be able to do nothing except say thank you.
-What it is like to be part of a special little community that you can only be a part of by going through the same thing as the others in it.
-What it is like to be able to say "I understand" in a very difficult circumstance and actually mean it.
-What it means to be "emotionally exhausted".
-That the phrase "the power of a mother's touch" is more than just a cliche.
-What it is like to literally just sit and listen to your child breath and be thankful for each and every one he takes.
-A new level to what it means to be part of the body of Christ and to be "lifted up in prayer".
-That you can be really, really excited about words like "normal" and "ordinary".
-That the combination of snuggling, breast milk, and countless prayers can have a result that looks like this:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Third trimester, baby!

 28 weeks!!!  Third trimester!!!  We officially made it!
Based on my appetite and bump and Baby Sidekick's internal organ kicking skills, he has been doing some good growing!  An ultrasound today confirmed that he is around 2 1/2 pounds, right where he should be, and still very healthy and very active.  My doctor said they put in the numbers and if he continues to growing at the rate he has been, he will be right around 7 pounds at delivery (Lydia was 6 lb 15 oz).  We'll take it. :)
My blood pressure continues to look good and overall I have been feeling pretty good.  I also did the nice sugary beverage glucose test today and passed that fine, so that is another little piece of good news.  Also, shout out to my OB nurse who did immunizations today.  (Last time I got the flu shot it was not so good and I could barely move my arm for a few days...)  I am very thankful for my skilled doctor and nurses!  Oh, and I don't have to have another ultrasound and such for another month, just like a "normal" pregnancy.  I believe that word was even used today!

Well, I am off to celebrate by looking at baby things online and buying the crib set I have been looking at for months.
Also, I came home from my long appointment today to this:
Life is good.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Baby Sidekick

Well, I figure there's no better reason to bring back the ol' blog than for more baby updates!  Hooray for Baby #3!  The first name Noah suggested for the baby was "Sidekick" because of course, this baby will get to be his sidekick, so that is the fun nickname so far. :)

I am 25 weeks now and feeling great!  And already feeling big.  It is crazy to think that this baby is already right around the size Noah was when he was born.  We have had one ultrasound already where the description "very healthy and very active" was used.  We will still be closely watched come the 28 week mark, but the chances of something happening again are extremely low since Lydia's pregnancy was fine.  If everything continues to go well, Baby Sidekick will make his arrival on January 27.

I am so happy to get to experience pregnancy again.  (Um, I don't know if I would have said that during the first trimester, but that is all behind us now...)  The first pregnancy was what is was; the next time I was comparing every little detail to that first time around; this time I almost feel like a "normal" pregnant lady. :)  I feel like I know my body and what to expect so much better and am not stressing and over-analyzing each little thing.
We also found out from that first ultrasound that it's a BOY!  Noah says he knew all along that it was a boy, just how he knew Lydia was a girl.  Or maybe the fact that he reaaaally wants a brother has something to do with it. :)  He is such a sensitive and loving kid; yes, he wants a boy to play with and like the same things as him, but he did phrase it one time that "if the baby is a girl then Lydia will like her more and no one will like to play with me."  I am excited to see him get to have a brother. :)

If her feelings right now stick, Lydia is going to be the best big sister ever.  She asks at least once a day if our baby is here yet.  Usually at some point during the day she will say, "I am excited!" and when you ask why she will say "for the baby!"  And one of her favorite things to do is list all the ways she is going to help with the baby when he is here.  My mom said I did that same thing before my brother was born. :)

Once in a while Noah will say things about how I won't have as much time to play with him if I am taking care of the baby, but overall they are both genuinely excited and happy that we are going to have another person in our family.  They love telling other people that we are going to have a new baby.  It just warms my heart, and reminds me what the reaction to a new life should be.
I won't go into a giant rabbit trail about the sad, sad state of how our society views children, but passing from that magic "1 girl and 1 boy American dream" territory makes me even more aware of it.  We have gotten a few comments that imply along those lines of "why would you have another one if you already have a boy AND a girl."  Oh, the silliness.  Look to the reaction of the 3 and 5 year olds here; a new baby is something to be happy about.  Don't get me wrong, there is certainly part of me that is terrified of being outnumbered. :)  And I don't think there is anything wrong with stopping at 1 or 2 and we would have been perfectly happy with 2.  And thinking of the diapers and sleepless nights isn't something that I am bubbling with excitement about.  But I am VERY excited to welcome Baby Sidekick to our family and for all the adventures we will have together.