Monday, September 30, 2013

Discovering Your Child's Potential

It's always an exciting moment when you get a glimpse of your child's gifts and start to realize what they may be like, or things they may do, when they grow up.

For example, the day my 15yo son discovered he loved, Loved, LOVED accounting, a few days into his new high school accounting course. Or discovering my 3yo doing a press handstand, with pointed toes, on the side of the clawfoot tub (gymnastics lessons, here we come!)

Oh, what precious bundles they are when they are babes... ooey, gooey bundles of mushy, kissable, deliciousness. To me, they are still like a gift waiting to be unwrapped, bit by bit.

Nothing was more exciting to me than when my oldest hit his teen years and the last bits of the wrapping paper came off and finally, before my eyes, he began turning into a man, his strengths, gifts, talents, quirks--all if it at last revealed.  I thought there was nothing more exciting than a newborn babe. But I was wrong. There is nothing more exciting than watching your child turn into the adult he was destined to be, by God's perfect plan and design!

My oldest son is organized, completely detail-oriented (a perfect accountant type), a super-strong leader, a take-charge person (no patience for nonsense and indecision), and fearless. I got the glimpse of the "fearless" when he was 12.  We were all asleep in bed upstairs in our farmhouse, and there was a "crash" downstairs. My husband hadn't come to bed yet. I got out of bed to see what hat happened, but met my son already going down the stairs with a golf club (or maybe it was a baseball bat) in his hand, ready to "do business" with anyone daring to threaten our family. His leadership/take-charge personality got him a quick promotion to manager at work, past all his senior colleagues AND past the managers in training.  He's a good golfer, for no real reason. He never played much. But now he plays with friends, and just has a "knack" for it and enjoys it. (He didn't get it from me!)

My daughter started writing her letters when she was 18 months old. Is it any surprise that new textbooks and workbooks make her giddy?  She started singing before age two, and has never stopped. She has never once had stage fright.  You could ask her to sing for anyone anywhere, and she will open up and sing. No reservations or hesitations. It's not too surprising she is starting to be pretty settled on the decision to pursue a degree in music.  And now, at age 14, it is just as exciting to watch all these things developing along with her long-dormant adult persona, that every day is showing a bit more. Most apparent: her need to see the "whole picture." Such a global thinker! She is also turning into an amazing artist--all on her own. Her sketching and drawing skills are blossoming. I've only ever provided her basic lessons. She is not a natural leader, which was a surprising twist, given she has four little brothers. She has "skills," there, but not natural ones! She's not a natural "mother" type either, although she loves her brothers and is a wonderful sister. I'm starting to see glimpses of a girl who lives happily ever after with a piano and cats, going on missions trips (she was really attracted to the book "Kisses from Katie"). But I don't know! I'm just starting to get a peek, and we're just entering into the final stage of her journey to adulthood. I'm so excited to see where this road leads, and pray every day for guidance and help in shepherding this girl to get here where God has always planned for her to be.

The littles... I get tiny glimpses, like my 5yo, "the gymnast," who as a baby, could jump before he could walk, and walk before he could sit. When he was two, he could leap off the coffee table, doing a complete 360 in the air, and hit the ground running with perfect grace. This summer, he "threatened" to do a back flip. I put him in gymnastics class.

My 4yo, after asking repeatedly and incessantly for "panyo" lessons,  is soaking up piano lessons like a sponge--far more than his oldest brother and sister ever did (they didn't start piano until MUCH older)--and his sister is a wonderful pianist. Oli is probably going to have her beat, hands down. His love and passion for piano is already apparent.

And there's Aram, my 8yo, who has never let a fallacy or inconsistency slip by him. All his textbooks and workbooks are full of his "corrections."  We've recently started read-aloud, and it's hilarious to hear his running commentary on the consistency of or the fallibility of the story. What will that mean for him as he grows? I don't know yet.  He's always analyzing things to see if he can figure out how they work. For example, he said to me, after sitting in deep thought while I made a smoothie one day, "Oh, I think I figured out how the Vitamix works," and he launched into a description of its probable interior mechanics and electronics, which was shockingly accurate. He's done that for the vacuum, the stove, and many other things. Thankfully, it hasn't yet occurred to him to disassemble things to see for himself how they work. I've heard of these kids, though!

What about you? Have you seen any amazing "glimpses" of your child's God-given potential? I'd love to hear about it! It never ceases to amaze me how He designs each of us to be so unique!

I don't know if the similarity between my 4yo and "Jughead" is significant.  Should I be worried?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

At Any Given Moment...

Some things you might see in this house:

Photo: Oli: "Whoa! I look GOOD!"
Elon: "Yeah. Me, too! We look awesome!"

Photo: Mama's-eye view of Mikko.Photo: Baaaad picture of Mikko, but  great picture of Breton! Took this tonight--Mikko was being cool wearing shades and racing his hot wheels on the track.Photo: Was sitting here crocheting in my rocking chair (yes, I'm THAT old) and THIS ran into the room! I love all my little boys! They keep me young and smiling! In case you can't tell, it's Aram in a Ninjago shirt, with a cowboy hat, red mask, and cap gun.Photo

Vows about Stuff (Look what I made!)

Those of you who have read my blog for a while know not to get me started about "stuff."  As in:  having too much, letting your kids have to much, building an appetite for too much...

Oh, don't get me started.

Years ago I weeded down my sewing and crocheting projects to just a handful and vowed to not buy any more stuff until I had completed what I had. And then vowed to use whatever I brought home. Right away. Due to lack of space, time, and finances, this was something I needed to do.

I vowed, when out shopping in stores, at thrift stores, or at yard sales (not often), to not ever bring anything home unless I knew EXACTLY how I was going to use it, and use it immediately.

I've gotten pretty good at living by this rule.

The past few weeks, I did a collaborative yard sale with some friends.  I brought home two pieces of flannel fabric and one skein of hand-dyed handspun wool yarn (cost: $0.00 because I waited until the sale was over and raided from what was going to Goodwill).

I used it. Look what I made--for my 14yo daughter, if the mismatched socks weren't enough of a clue that these photos are of HER, not me: Two pairs of super-cool flannel PJ pants for winter, and one felted wool hat!

OKAY... YOU may not think Daffy Duck is cool. But she does!

Those are penguins, in top hats, I explained to my husband as he was squinting at the finished product.

I also brought home a ball of plain yellow yarn, because my daughter and I are making these to sell at a craft fair to raise money for her choir's trip to Spain next June:

Then, I also had my eye on this adorable little tin piece:

How to use it? How to use it?  Oh... just ten cents!  I KNOW! I had been wanting a pencil cup for our school room!

And then there was this adorable little handmade pottery bowl. Ten cents.  So cute! See how the blue in the bowl matches some of the paint in my house?

Well, I had made a mental note that I needed a nice soap dish for our newly remodeled bathroom (which we had to re-do because the shower floor caved in--part of the unexpected surprises you get when living in a 100+year-old farmhouse).  This was perfect for our old farmhouse. 

What about you? Do you need everything you buy? Do you use it?

The only reason I encourage women to think about it is because:


I'm glad I learned to simplify, cut back, and pay attention. Not for the sake of money, or things. But for the sake of simplicity, and sanity, and teaching my children how to build appetites for good things, and make wise decisions.  For the  sake of the current budget God has chosen for us to live on.

And I really do appreciate when I find exactly  what I need, and know it is just what I needed. There's nothing ambiguous about it. Just satisfying and simple.

Don't think I apply this "judgment" across the board--we all use and need different amounts of different types of stuff! I know several ladies, including my mother, who have the luxury of being able to have a fully furnished sewing room, with the financial freedom to stock it fully, and the time and skill to use the room wonderfully with all sorts of creative talent (my kids have been very blessed by her delighting in sewing for them, and passing on fabric freely to me for a desired project!).  I have a friend who has a beautiful, fully-stocked scrapbooking room for her scrapbooking business. They have the room, and that is their life.  Me, on the other hand, had tubs and bags lurking and stuffed in closet corners, untouched for years.  Not the same! I needed to think differently about my sewing and crocheting!

And I don't know about you, but there's something about sewing or crocheting that leaves me satisfied, too. I don't know why, but that "Look what I made" feeling is nice for us girls somehow.  With my oldest poised to leave the nest... I COULD have a sewing room! :-)  What have YOU made lately? You can share it here, like I did:

needle and thREAD

Happy stuff-management!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Teaching Kids about the Attributes of God

I somehow stumbled upon this helpful link yesterday, through a site called "Proverbial Homemaker". It is a lesson for young ones going over the attributes of God, and I like some of the ways the author explains things for young minds.

I had just decided to take a break in our OT History Bible lessons to focus perhaps on Proverbs a bit, but I like this idea better for my littles.  One of the most helpful books I have ever read is "The Knowledge of the Holy" by A.W. Tozer, which expounds on the attributes of God. I know learning some of these things will help my children in their faith! How good is it for our children to understand what it means that God is Holy, He is LOVE, He is all knowing, eternal, all-powerful, sovereign, unchanging, truth, everywhere, merciful, faithful, and just.

I think we'll run through these Attributes of God with the 4, 5, and 8 year old boys, and just do an extra little session with the 8yo so he can plot all the past year's OT history lessons on his history timeline (From Noah to Ruth).  It's a good place to "break."  When we pick back up again with OT History, it will be time for "Kings and Prophets." 

Friday, September 20, 2013


I have just experienced my mostest ever EVER proudest mama moment:

My son just finished his bachelor's degree. My firstborn.

Not that "college" was the goal for him. Wisdom has always been.

And following the path of wisdom, we did decide for him to pursue his Bachelor's Degree. You can read about our "Homeschooling Through College" experience here.

But wow... it was like the first day of kindergarten... times 1,000,000.

Way to go, Gabe! I'm so proud of you!

NOW you can mow the grass! And shave! :-) (Read HERE for that story!)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Motivating My Children: The 19-Year-Old

I have found that homeschooling is a mixture of me finding ways to motivate my children as well as teaching them to self-motivate.  And as each child is different, they each require different types of motivation!

My son, 19, has always been very wise, which is why he chooses to do his school work well. His desire to be wise and pleasing to God helps him self-motivate, set goals, complete his tasks on time and well. But underneath that wisdom lies a reluctant scholar, who, for some of the tougher or more unpleasant assignments, has needed extra motivation from me.

For example, when it came time to bite the bullet in high school, when he was 16, and learn how to write a 5-paragraph essay, he needed LOTS of motivation.  His assignment? Write 40 practice essays, then take the College Composition CLEP, which was a 2-part test consisting of 90 English "Usage" and writing multiple choice questions (he didn't need to practice for this part), and then two timed essays, "persuasive" style, where he needed to be able to use, to support his position, relevant examples and quotes from anything he could think of (such as literature, history, current news, etc.)  It took him at least eight months to write these 40 essays... something his sister could have done in a week.  Eight. Months. I was able to tell him he could not play with Legos each night until his homework was done (one essay, about 40 minutes), and that helped a little. But it was not enough. Really. It was just a 1-2 page essay that didn't even require any research!  I told him that if he didn't have one essay done each night, then the next day he was "grounded" and could not drive his truck, which meant he could not go to work or to class at the local college, which means he would suffer the consequences of not showing up to work or class.  He got those annoying essays done. And passed his CLEP. And in the three years since, he has developed into an excellent writer.

Right now he is struggling to finish his VERY LAST course that will earn him his Bachelor's Degree. It is an online statistics course and it is beyond frustrating.  Every problem is very long, and if you type one space wrong, or reverse the numbers in multiplication section (as in, type 3x4 instead of 4x3), the computer marks you "wrong" and gives you two additional problems as punishment.  He has had to learn, more than learning "statistics," how to keep careful notes of how to type in his answers, space by space, jot by tittle, and refer to his own notes. And just when he learns what the computer wants, the computer changes its mind--uses different terms and formats! He is more learning to crack some programmer's "code" than learning statistics.  But, he has persevered, and now he has 5 topics left (3 problems per topic, unless he gets an answer wrong, then it snowballs from there).

He has needed help with motivation. He is burnt out on this dumb course, but he decided it wasn't worth bailing on it to replace it with a different course or class, which we did talk about several times. He decided to stick it out, and he's almost there. It has to be done by September 30 to receive his degree in the December graduating class.

Since he is now 19 and considered an adult, I have to think of different ways to help him. I can't  ground him or take away his truck.  He is a manager at his company, and it just wouldn't work to not show up and have to explain he was "grounded."  So... what to do.  My husband and I tried to think of several things... including the promise of a new Kindle Fire if the course was completed by a certain date. That didn't work. He has his own money and could have bought himself 10 of them if he had wanted.  He ordered a giant new Lego Technic set and decided not to let himself open it until his class was done. It's still sitting there. It didn't really make him work any faster. I considered telling him he couldn't touch the piano until his class was done, but knew that wasn't right. He plays to unwind when he needs a break. Could I tell him not to buy pizza?  No. He would just buy Hot Pockets, or calzones, or... .  How to help?

But you are going to laugh when you hear how, after praying about this for a few days, I realized what I needed to do.  I forbid him to mow the grass.

It's my grass. I can tell him not to touch it!  I wasn't trying to upset him, really. I was trying to help him see that his class was more important than mowing right now. And he likes mowing, and he likes the grass to be nice and neat and short--he likes everything neat. And he hates Statistics. It was too easy for him to bail on working on the class because he "HAD to mow."

So, that motivated him.  And removed a major distraction. I wanted to help him see that he needed to do school, then worry about mowing later.

I told him flat-out:  "Nope. You don't touch it until your Statistics class is done."  I knew it would help when he froze on the spot, processing this information. 

A kitten playing "tiger" in our long grass!

He still found a way to get out of school work, though. He spent a day cleaning and organizing the garage.

He found another way to motivate himself, too. He made a pact with the guys at work (who are all cheering him on in his degree pursuit) that he would not shave until his class is done.  Oh boy... his beard is driving him crazy! But he's enjoying the little challenge at the same time. It's always interesting for a young man to grow out his beard for the first time!

Mountain man, Gabe!

He's probably in 3-day range, now, of finishing the class. He's been able to get two or three topics done per day. Then he has to pass an assessment and send the email to apply for the credit towards his degree.

Then he will shave, show up to work in triumph amongst the cheers of his colleagues, and then he will come home and mow whenever he likes. With a Bachelor's Degree to hang on his wall, smiling at him, reminding him of his diligence and wisdom and perseverance.

Boy, am I proud of this kid!  Thank you, Lord, for being with us every step of the way as he has grown!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quotable Quotes (from the kids)

I love remembering the funny things my little (and sometimes the big ones) say.  Here are some I recorded from the past few weeks... had to get them down for the record:

By Aram (8) while doing his science lesson:
Textbook: An octopus is one type of invertebrate. Do you think you would like to be an octopus?

Aram:   You know what would be the worst thing about being an octopus?

Me:  What?

Aram:  Washing your hands before dinner.


Elon (5): I didn't do it! I DIDN'T. When we die and go to heaven, God will show you the replay!

--I don't know if he has strong faith, or if he was calling a bluff that I wouldn't make it to heaven.


By my good friend's son, 10, who had spent the night. This was his breakfast chatter:

I fed a snake to my pet turtle once. The snake did NOT like it. I figured since they were both reptiles, they would work it out."

What?  Did he think the turtle was going to tell the snake,  "Hey, didn't you study science? I'm supposed to eat you!" and then the snake would say, "Well, then, alright mate."


By my good friend (watch out, I do quote adults):

Sure, Mikko (my 23 month old) can come over! He can be a good test for where my house might need baby proofed!

What are friends for?  Sure, my baby can be your crash test dummy! "Oops! Mikko's dead! We better fix that before one of our friends with a baby comes over!"


By Mikko (23 months), the day we started to wean him from his 'binky."

Mikko: Bee! (Binky!)

Me:  No, you be a big boy.

Mikko:  SHUT UP!

Yikes. Do they have 12-step programs for toddlers? Binkies Anonymous, anyone?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Our 2013-2014 Curriculum Line-Up

Mikko (23 Months)
  • Kumon My Book of Easy Mazes
  • Kumon My Book of Coloring 2-3
  • A Spiral Notebook to practice connecting dots, counting, coloring in, drawing shapes, etc.
  • DK My First Numbers and Counting Touch and Feel Number Flash Cards
  • Counting/sorting manipulatives and pattern blocks
  • Homemade Alphabet Flash Cards
  • Lots of books!
  • World World on DVD
  • Preschool workbooks from the dollar store (these are GREAT once they're ready to start tracing letters!  Who cares what it looks like... and they feel so grown up!)
Oli (4)

Elon (5)

Aram (8)
Read Aloud List for the Littles (ages 8 and under)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Little House in the Big Woods
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Ramona the Pest
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends

Breton (14)

Gabe (19)
ALEKS Intro to Statistics (final course for Bachelor's Degree!)
Federal Income Taxation (Thomas Edison State College), credit towards CPA requirements
Ancient Hebrew

Now... my notes:

I do NOT recommend ALEKS for high school or collegemath courses. Gabe, unfortunately, was our trailblazer, and  we learned the hard way (CollegePlus chose this for his degree plan).  In the future, we will do the college math courses through the local college, as a CLEP, or through a different resource. ALEKS is a royal pain.

I am also doing the Ancient Hebrew course with my two older kids and LOVING it.  It turns out I have quite a bit to say about our experience learning Hebrew, so I'll put that in another post later.

To some, on "paper," our curriculum list looks like a LOT, but somehow it is a perfect amount of school work and we're almost always done with school by lunch time!   The 2yo takes, most days, just 10 to 15 minutes to go through flash cards once, practice colors and coloring, etc.. The three boys (4, 5, 8) always do their Bible together, and do their penmanship and art journals independently.  Aram (8) can do his math and phonics, and a lot of his other lessons mostly independently, but he is at that fun age where I like to be involved with him as he learns.  Elon and Oli do their classes together, and they don't take long at all (math 10 min, science 10 min, A Beka and Phonics 10 min).  Breton teaches herself. I check her work/papers and help her if she has a question on math. I spend an extra hour or so with Aram each day, one day science, one day geography, one day social studies, one day health. I also work with him a bit more on his writing, grammar, and other English. 

My secret:  Choose the best curriculum, keep it simple, and ad lib some things as we go. We integrate a lot of art, and use the internet to find relevant coloring pages, photos, diagrams, facts, and activity pages. How do I keep it simple?  For example, I use A Beka to teach phonics and reading. But I don't buy the whole progam with all the different workbooks, readers, the teacher's guide, or any of the accessories.  I use the Letters and Sounds book only for K4-Grade 1, then add the Language Book for Grade 2. I don't use the teacher's guide. The only accessory I have is the "Handbook for Reading" so we can practice the phonics as they are taught. We simply do one page in the workbook per day. Many days, they enjoy it so much, or have looked ahead to a page they are excited to get to, so they will do even 2-3 pages extra.  But most days it takes no more than 10 minutes.  If I get to a page that  says "Write the Blend your teacher says," I don't need the teacher's guide. I just choose what to dictate. This way, the kids aren't bored, overwhelmed, or get that feeling that school is "tedious."  I use wisdom to discern what is enough, and what is simply too much. What I have whittled down to using is completely effective. My children's standardized test scores are evidence enough--always in the high 80s or 90s for their composite scores.
I think a lot of workbooks or programs are too "heavy." Don't be afraid to cut back to just enough to be effective and to not frustrate and bore your children with tedious busy work! Don't be afraid to assign every other math problem... if they get them all correct, move on.  Don't hesitate to skip a page of problems if you know your child already has the skill mastered! Take a big red marker, draw a big slash across the page, and write "SKIP!" in large letters!

Spectrum Phonics is an excellent little book that we use Grade K-6. One page per day. Just takes minutes. Very effective lesson.

I don't teach spelling as a separate subject.  Silly waste of time to me. We pay attention to spelling as we do everything else.Aram's current Language Arts program has spelling lists. We're not using them.

I don't teach history before high school, other than Bible history (the most important), and then we just READ history stories for reading time.  Why teach U.S. history more than once?  Why? WHY? Teach it once. Teach it well and simply with good curriculum. Get high school credit AND college credit. And be done. At grade 4, though, we do start a beautiful scrapbook-style timeline notebook for all our Bible History, and add in anything else we come across in our daily reading. For that I use this unbelievably awesome timeline as well as Ussher's Annals of the World . These two, plus a few other resources, help us put what I believe are fairly accurate dates on our Bible history. In Jr. High, I do a one-year "framework" of history to give a foundation for the high school history.  My daughter, for junior high, simply plotted in her timeline all the important wars, world leaders, inventions, writers, scientists, artists, musicians, important men, women, U.S. Presidents, and 100 most important events.  Just plotted--reading a short summary of each event as she plotted it (and filling out a one-page summary worksheet of major wars).  There. Fun project and groundwork laid for high school history.

 Enough history, unless, of course, your child lives and dies by history... then of course, you should be rolling in it. I've heard there are some of you like that!

Years ago, after realizing Saxon math was just too tedious for us all, I went to a homeschool convention and researched all the new math programs I could find.  I discovered the amazing and brilliant VideoText Interactive program, and the author of that curriculum recommended that I try "Making Math Meaningful" for our elementary math.  I switched. I have never looked back. I will never look for anything else. It is beyond effective, easy to teach, NOT tedious, and just brilliant! In my opinion, of course.

It All Begins with Genesis is a great prerequisite to high school science (Creation Science to help give solid footing in the Biblical worldview before having to answer questions "appropriately" to pass HS college science that is evolutionary based), so with that 1-year course, and my chosen 2-year science program, my child does get three full years of high school science, and learns every bit as much as those kids struggling through 30-pound textbooks and $2,000 lab kits. The Rainbow is brilliantly written and effective, and has the same learning objectives/results as any other high school science I looked at.

Starting in 4th grade, my children put together a HUGE World Geography binder, with dividers for each continent, and we fill it with the My Father's World geography worksheets and such.  My kids take about 3 years to work through it, using two awesome wall maps,a globe,  two giant World Atlases, and the internet as their reference materials, diving in deeper here and there whenever they get interested (cooking, doing art projects, taking field trips--like to a German restaurant or something, or even a trip to Mexico!), and then when they're done studying all seven continents, I give them the A Beka 9th Grade World Map Studies workbook to complete. Then Geography is done forever. Amen.

Garfield'sTyping Pal was the first and last typing software I bought. My kids love it. Both my older kids type at least 45 wpm now, and the program is just so darn FUN! I even went through the course (twice, ahem).  My kids learned to type 45 wpm by age 12 or 13... and yes, I did put a semester each of Typing 1 and Typing 2 on their high school transcript! They learned it and earned it! I don't think it is sold anymore except for used!

And last but not least, I made a "pact" with my boys that we always do Bible first. Always. How can I tell them God is most important, but not put that lesson first each day.  STUDYING GOD'S WORD GOES FIRST EVERY DAY.

As usual, I gave too much information and made my post way too long for any normal human to read.  I think everything else is self-explanatory, but please comment or email me if you have any questions!

But before I sign off, some show and tell photos:

The  shelf of Gabe's College Textbooks used to study for CLEP and DANTES exams for college credit:  This shelf is two layers deep... you're only seeing the outside--there's another row of books behind this. Notice the two "Dummies" series books (there are several more). These worked well for him, obviously.  Breton was 10 or 11 when his "U.S. Government for Dummies" book arrived in the mail.  With a worried look on her face, she asked me, "Is Gabe a dummy?"  Priceless!  Breton won't need his Business books, of course... the other Gen Ed credit books are buried behind this lot, and the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature study books are on her desk now!

Breton's completed World Geography binder, stuffed full!

A page of notes in Bret's geography binder... love her flag drawing and her pink ink!

One of the art projects stuck in a sleeve protector in her geography binder.

Aram's brand new Geography binder... here are the workbooks all ready to disassemble, punch, and place inside!

The beautiful timeline notebook we use for Bible history and recording our history "framework."

Some of Breton's pages in her timeline notebook... on this page, note the Bible history as well as important inventions.

Love her drawing of the ark, here.

The plagues, some important pharaohs, the invention of glass...

The judges of Israel... love the drawing of Samson and her add-in of "The Trogen Horse."

The pretty way she plotted wars.

Inventions got a yellow frame.

U.S. Presidents got a blue frame.

Aram's (8) art journal from yesterday... I love it!

Aram's art journal

Aram's "The Real Mother Goose" reading book with the matching Dover coloring book... see how he tried to copy the colors, blending with his colored pencils? 

Elon's (5) Penmanship from this week... just had to show you the beautiful penmanship pages from LightHome Publications. My favorite penmanship resources by FAR.

Oli's (4) Art journal:  Peacock.

Oli's art journal:  From a "how to draw" book. Great job, huh?

More of Oli's art journal using the "how-to-draw" books. See... even a 4yo can be encouraged to use these!

A sketch we added to Aram's science notebook, practicing with his oil pastels. This is an "Etruscan Shrew" FYI.

Aram's awesome colored pencil sketch of a jellyfish done for his science notebook.

God bless your school year, all!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Grace: Sacred Music

I've been dwelling a lot lately on discovering God's grace when He provides it.

I must share a testimony of how God has provided grace to me through my children's music.

My daughter is part of an elite children's choir:  they have sung at The White House by invitation, they won a bronze medal at the World Choir Games, they perform with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra every year for Holiday Pops and other special performances (like Carmina Burana, and this year, Carmen), and so much more.

Hearing these kids sing their beautiful music, and knowing that my daughter's voice is one of them, has been grace. Their beautiful voices have the ability to transport me straight to heaven.

Last July, her choir traveled to the World Choir Games with an exclusive invitation to compete in the Champions Competition.  I booked the hotel room and was planning to go, too, to be there to cheer her on.

I ended up in the hospital instead, fighting for my life against deadly spinal meningitis.

My daughter went off to her competition without me, but God gave me such grace!

While lying in my hospital bed, trying to cope with so much pain sometimes that the minutes took HOURS, I played videos of her choir.

Over and over:  The Lord's Prayer, Psalm 23,  Rutter's "Mass of the Children," (warning--clicking on that link will take you straight to heaven, in my opinion), "Cantate Domino", anything I had on video. And those sweet heavenly voices lifted me above my pain and helped me get from one moment to the next. I couldn't have done it any other way.

At the World Choir Games there were nearly 400 choirs from 67 different countries. It was a huge, amazing event with a lot of media.  Our local paper, that week, printed my daughter's photo TWICE while covering the games.  What are the odds? Thousands and thousands of singers from all over the world... but there she was, smiling at me from the newspaper in my hospital room!  That was grace!What a special gift from God to lift my heart in that difficult time!

On the day of their big competition, I knew that no video-taping was allowed. But I scanned YouTube continually for updates.  And... grace.  One of the parents disregarded the rules and snuck an iPhone video of their championship performance--just a 1-minute clip.  When I heard it... I just started crying.  I knew what the judging criteria were, and I knew they were going to place! I didn't know if they were going to win Gold, Silver, or Bronze, but I knew they had done well enough!  What joy! I completely forgot my pain and illness for a moment!

Here's that wonderful, blessed, "contraband" footage that was such grace to me:

They won a bronze medal!

Breton started singing in the local children's choir when she was seven years old. I cried at her very first concert--such sweet voices.  Heck, I've cried at every performance since, and most of her rehearsals. She sang in that choir for four years.  Her last year in that choir, she starred as "Marian Paroo" in the musical "The Music Man," (when she was 11).

Oh, these melt me, and get me out of ANY slump I'm in at any time:

"Goodnight, My Someone"

"If You Don't Mind My Saying..." 

Lida Rose

Till There Was You

And, not to mention that my two older kids both play piano, and they both have a taste for beautiful sacred and classical music.  At any given moment, God sends grace into this home because one of them starts playing. (Okay, confession. At the moment Breton is rocking me out with the Pirates of the Carribean theme song and some Trans Siberian Orchestra... but still adding joy here!)

I remember this morning very specifically. I hadn't been home from the hospital very long. In those days, I was either in bed or on the couch, praying, struggling....

This morning last August, this was the grace God sent me there from my "couch perch," where, recently home from the hospital with a long road of recovery ahead of me, I often sat helpless, watching my children caper about me.  This was a sweet, funny moment. My littles were all in there playing, the 7yo mindlessly popping toys back onto the baby's saucer, and I think the 3yo coloring at the coffee table. My oldest son came in to bang out a few songs before he left for work. He wasn't paying any attention to me, and had no idea I had the camera.  When he turned around and saw me... well, his face was priceless! I had grace for the whole day after this.

Today, the grace continued as I discovered my daughter's Spring 2013 concert video had arrived.  The voices of these children are pure bliss.

Ah Si Mon Moire

Here's To Song: Combined Choirs (200 voices!)
Melt! Melt! Melt!

I'll Stand By You

And another crying moment of grace, just recently on August 17, broadcast live on ESPN.  We don't have TV, but I went to a local diner in our small town, and the mother/daughter owners tuned in their TV for me and I bought my boys grilled cheese sandwiches and we watched my daughter sing for this NASCAR race. (My husband and oldest son were at the race with her, of course! Enjoying their VIP passes IMMENSELY). Everyone in the restaurant was crying with me... it was awesome.

Dad's Footage:  The Choir Sounds Better

ESPN Footage: At the race, they had only directional mics designed to pic up just the voice in front of it, like announcers, to eliminate the noise of the race and the crowd.  This doesn't work for the choir... you could only hear about 4 of the children singing.  BUT, the close-ups of the kids were fantastic! Their professional camera-men gave you a much better feel for the fun of the moment!

My littles (ages 4, 5, and 8) seem to think that inherently they have their sister's same ability to perform. They do "shows" for me all the time.

They felt super-important doing an official performance at French camp this summer.  Notice Oli (4), the dark-haired cutie in the front row singing his heart out, and Super-Cool Elon (5, recognizable by his bowl haircut and "Joe Cool" posing) in the back row, who just knows he's too "good" and gives his 2-thumbs up at the end!

After French Camp, since they all three had matching Eiffel Tower t-shirts, they formed "The Iteful Tower Group," wrote their own songs, and did shows for us here at home. If this is not GRACE, then I don't know what it! :-)

When they do shows, they design posters and tickets, and set up special reserved seating, especially for mom.  We never know if we're getting a play (usually a Scooby-Doo type mystery or some sort of super-hero action play), or music of some sort. Here is a recent "show" when they recruited our friend's 5yo daughter to star in the act!

And even when there's not beautiful music there is beautiful music. Always. You can even find it here, the the anytime/everyday moments.

Thank you Lord, for this abundance of grace and joy you pour into my life!

Checklists and Chore Charts: A Show & Tell

This is my tenth year of homeschooling. I have used "checklists" to help my children learn to self-motivate and work independently, and by the time my oldest reach their teen years, they are able to create their own lists and plan their own work.

This year I found a new "checklist system," completely accidentally and on a whim, that is more effective than anything I have ever done. Really, you've got to see it. Not only is it effective, but it's adorable. And that's a lot, coming from me.

I'm going to show you the old way first.

For at least six years, with what I thought was quite great success (until surpassed by my new method), we used a weekly checklist system that looked like this (PLEASE forgive that they are photographs... I am literally too lazy to go into my husband's office and use the scanner.) This is a weekly checklist. I printed fresh ones for each child every Monday morning, and they filled them in with markers or stickers. I made little changes as we went along as books or chores changed. We did this system for six years in a row.

Aram's checklist last year, when he was 7.

Breton's 2 years ago, when she was 12.

Breton's last year, age 13, transitioning into planning her work independently.

Elon at age 4

Oli's at Age 2-3

The kids kept their checklist under their desk protector, taped to the wall, or in the front of a binder. We always knew we had a good week when, by Friday, the checklist was dog-eared, doodled, covered with math computations and spelling words, and full of stickers and checkmarks! I had a photo of one of these completed, well-worn checklists once... but I was unsuccessful locating it! Sorry.

Now... out with the old, in with the new.  I saw this idea in the September Issue of Family Fun magazine. I tried to find an online link, but was unsuccessful. But it was on page 68 of the September 2013 Issue.  I'll include simple instructions as photo captions, but all you need for supplies are file folders and a roll of magnetic tape ($4.79 at Walmart), and I even found the 6-packs of fancy file folders for $1.00 each:

First, I cut the file folders down so the backs were 5 inches tall and the fronts were four inches tall.

I divided the front into six equal sections, and cut them into "flaps" up to the fold line of the folder.

Print & glue or write the chore or schoolwork on the inside of the flap. Cut a piece of magnetic tape and place so as to close the flaps--they will "snap" shut with quite a satisfying little sound! For Aram's, you can seea I put Science, Health, Geography, Social Studies on one flap. That is because we do a different one each day. For example, we only do Science one day a week, but we do the whole chapter that day, or at least half a chapter (10 chapters in his textbook).

You can see I made two for each boy: One for schoolwork, one for chores.  Notice Oli's first chore:  "Weapons." Ha! That means he's responsible putting away the bin of light sabers, swords, laser guns, cap guns, toy handcuffs, etc.

On the outside of each flap, put "done" or a check mark.

As each task is completed, just snap the flap shut!

My daughter only has one for chores, but I LOVE the pictures she found! I'm posting below her HS checklist system.

Halfway done!

Why is this system working better? Because it's not labled "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday."  They just reset it each day... and they don't think about what day it is. They just "go."  So, for example, instead of four full days of school last week, they did six, because they just got into the groove of using their flaps each day.  And in general, they're in the habit of doing at least one or two pages extra of SOMETHING each day.  My goodness... we could be done with school by Christmas!  Not.  But still... this has just been fantastic!

I have a couple of modifications I'm going to make to make these a bit more accurate now that we're getting into our school "groove," but no hurry. It's a fun project to do...and if you know me at all, that's saying a lot.  I am NOT a crafty person... don't even think about asking me to scrapbook!

My 4yo and 8yo started piano lessons this week, and my 5yo started gymnastics. Today, I'm going to make one more checklist for their daily piano and gymnastics practice--just 3 flaps.

I'm going to mail a care package to a friend (haha--I first typed "fiend") so she can make some, too.

My daughter, 14, as you saw above, has one of these flap-lists for chores.  But now that she is a "Freshman" in high school (somebody smack me!), we came up with this system that motivates her.

At the beginning of last year, since I knew she would be finishing some of her 8th grade subjects and starting her HS work, I came up with this long-range plan for her HS subjects (for us, that means lots of college credits, too, at the same time), to give her a "vision" and some motivation.

Then I came up with this "Full Year" checklist system for her... because she is a global thinker and LOVES seeing the big picture.  This one (above and just below), is what she is currently working on. As she completes a subject, we will remove it from the list and replace it with the next. Depending on the curriculm, we make checkboxes per chapter, page, topic, or assignment.  Love her rainbow checks! My creative, girly-girl. My ONLY girl.

She has a beautiful daily planner on which, after prayer and meditation, she plans each day's schoolwork, and writes her list for that day.  I provide my older kids with these nice "blank" format planners that allow them to let God lead their daily planning. Each day should or could look different!
Sometimes, if she is nearly done with a subject, she will do all one subject for one day.  Sometimes, like you see this week, she works fairly evenly on several subjects. Notice how right now she's doing a 30-day drawing challenge of animals?  She came up with that one on her own... but I'm loving her sketches in her art journal!

I hope to have passed on a little inspiration!  I love homeschool show and tell.  You may have noticed I have not yet posted our 2013-2014 curriculum list. Don't think you have been spared. I won't be able to resist, as always.