Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Year in Review

This past Sunday was our end of the year program for CC, so I thought it appropriate to do some quick reflecting on our first official year of homeschool.  We'll call it pre-K, I suppose?

I think the year was a success.  I am very relieved that I decided to start this year.  It was such a learning year, for me, and I feel much more prepared as we begin the official kindergarten year.  I had not one clue what I was doing when we began a year ago, and I know that there is still much, much, much to learn, but I have a better understanding of the obstacles we will face, and what a day will look like in our house.  And I really didn't fully understand what CC was, even though I was a tutor--ha :)  But, I now have much more confidence (like I mentioned in my last post) as I make curriculum decisions for next year, and as I decide where we will spend most of our time.

Appropriately enough, about a week ago, Ada finally took off with sounding out three letter words.  Before now, she would voice the appropriate sounds, but she could never hear the word that she was reading.  Now, she sounds the letters out, and she quickly hears the word and makes sense of what she is reading.  I think that is the perfect place to be right now.  We will continue to practice with phonics and three letters words throughout the summer, as well as writing all of her letters correctly, and we will begin learning the other phonemes in the fall.  My goal for next year is that by the end of the school year, she will be a very confident reader.  That is definitely our main focus for next school year.  I am hoping that now that we have crossed the barrier of actually being able to phonetically sound out and make sense of words, that she will just take off as she learns the new phonemes.  We'll see, right?

It is no secret that I love to read, and I have loved it since I learned how.  First grade is when my love relationship with books began, and I still remember with fondness my favorite books from those early years.  Ramona Quimby, anyone?  So, of course I am eager for the world of books to really open up for Ada.  What parent isn't eager for that, right?  Plus, it seems like the rest of learning will be so much easier once she can read or write.  This is the big hurdle.  As a CC tutor for the 4s and 5s, I have often thought that it would be much easier to plan if the students could read and write on their own.  As it is, we are relying solely on hearing the words and remembering them through songs, motions, games, etc.  I am so very visual, so to try to memorize without seeing the words in my brain, seems impossible.  But I am not four, and my brain is not at the memorizing stage :)

The other thing we will continue to work on over the summer is counting to 100 using her number chart.  I want her to be able to count to 100 and to recognize the numbers, and we will start Saxon Math for kindergarten in the fall.  Saxon math and Writing Road to Reading will be our main curriculum for the fall.  I also plan to order a good children's History Encyclopedia and Science Encyclopedia, so that we can look things up that go along with whatever history and science sentences we are memorizing for CC.  Maybe the Kingfisher encyclopedias?  Any veteran homeschoolers out there?  Anyone, anyone?  Do you have these books, and do you like them?  I will probably start with the Story of the World curriculum when she is in second grade?  Maybe?  Whenever she begins cycle 1 for the second time.  (The CC curriculum is set up in three cycles that repeat themselves.  So all of the information that she learned this year, she will actually learn again twice before she is in highschool.  The goal is that by the time they have finished foundations--4k-8th grade, I think--the facts will be as familiar to them as their ABCs.  So, when she begins the cycles for the second time, we will begin more in depth science, history, and latin curriculums at home.  For now, our focus is, of course, reading, writing, and math).

So, here we are.  It was a good year, I more confident than ever that I want to go the classical route, and I am very thankful for the community that I have found at CC.  And a quick comparison of first day vs. last day.

 open house last year

 first day

 last day

 end of the year program.  The best pictures we got.  I had big plans to get pictures of her with her class, on stage, etc. etc.  But, as the tutor, I was on stage with her, and as a parent to our moody John, Scott was mostly out of the auditorium with an upset John, so no pictures from him either.
p.s. for the end of the year program, my class/ Ada's class sang the president's song--a song listing the last names of all 44 presidents.  So, I now know, as does Ada, the names of all of our presidents.  One of the many bits of information that Ada stored in her brain this year.  I love CC.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Facing Criticism

Note:  I just posted this, and I realized that a chunk of my post had been deleted, and it didn't even make sense.  So, I tried to remember what I had written, but who knows...I am just going for it and posting anyway.

Last week, after I blogged about our delightful trip to the dentist, Katherine asked me to talk about the best way, as moms, to respond to the myriad of criticism that is out there at every turn.  And it is certainly out there, isn't it?  Us moms, we're an opinionated bunch, aren't we?

No matter what choice we make, there is bound to be criticism, because there are loud voices coming from every camp.  And it begins as soon at that test says positive, doesn't it?  I was so unsure as a first time mom.  I think I'm making the right decision????  So it was so easy to be swayed by the criticism, and I could be swayed from one end of the spectrum to another.  When pregnant with John I was much more confident in the decisions that I was making.  For example, I am a girl who loves an epidural.  I totally get that there are women who hate them.  I was very unsure about my epidural choice when I was pregnant with Ada because I had never given birth.  Now, I have given birth twice, with an epidural at the hospital, and I loved it ;) (p.s. it didn't slow down my labor, and I was able to push--wink, wink)  I am epidural all the way, but that doesn't mean that I don't understand the decision to not get an epidural or even birth at home.  Well, I understand it, a little.  I don't think God has wired me that way, but I do get that he has created people with that desire and ability.

But now I am a first time homeschooling mom, and once again, I can be swayed from one end to the other.  I guess this will always be the case with Ada--everything will always be unknown, and I will always lack confidence in my decisions, so what do I do with the inevitable criticism?

First, I think it starts with the heart.  I imagine I will go to my grave fighting the desire for man's approval.  And when we make a decision about something--and in my case, what I was writing about last week, the decision to homeschool--someone is going to disagree.  Someone is going to, most likely, think I am making a mistake.    And if I chose public school, or private school, or some combination of the above, someone would disagree.  Wouldn't they?  Because everyone is choosing something for their children because they believe it is the right choice, and I am sure that choice is based on a million different beliefs.  It's a decision consisting of many layers.  As is a decision to stay at home or work, or to breast feed or bottle feed, or eat organic or not, or cloth diaper or disposable, co-sleep or schedule, and the list goes on and on and on and on.  So, beyond the decision itself, whether it's right or wrong or whatever, is my heart and whether I am seeking to please man or the Lord.  Or even, more than that, do I hope that I live a life that glorifies myself or glorifies the Lord?  And, I confess, that most often, I am probably hoping that myself is glorified.  Because Ada screaming in the dentist chair really didn't affect how the Lord looked.  It did, however, affect how I looked, and I wanted to protect my name, and what kind of mother that I appear to be.

Right now I am reading a book by Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, and it is a tough book to read because it convicts and convicts and convicts some more.  It is impossible to read this book and not find sin that needs to be dealt with, which is never fun.  Well, I was reading the chapter on pride, and I think what he writes hits the nail on the head...

...we should learn that all recognition, regardless of its immediate source, ultimately comes from God.  It is God who puts down one and lifts up another (see Psalm 75:6-7).  Putting these two principles together causes us to say, "All is of grace."  I deserve nothing, and all I do receive, including recognition, is only of His grace.  Therefore, if I don't receive it, I will not fret.

So, if heaven forbid ;), someone doesn't notice what a great job I am doing as a mom (tongue in cheek), or, even worse, actually thinks I am doing a really bad or weird :) job as a mom, then I "will not fret."  Because all is grace.  If I am getting it right (whatever that means), then thank you, Lord, for grace, and if I am not getting it right, thank you, Lord for grace.  Bottom line, the only voice that matters is the Lords.  So, if I have searched His word, sought wisdom from those whom I trust, and I believe that this is a decision that will honor the Lord, then I rest in that confidence, and I ask God to always open my eyes if I am headed in the wrong direction.  So, that's the heart.  Resting in the grace of God, and taking the necessary steps to make wise decisions as a mom.

Practically speaking, how do I deal with the criticism?  Which is what I think you may have been asking, Katherine.  And I have two answers to that...first, I think answering with confidence is good because then the critical person is less likely to voice their criticism.  I can always tell by the look on someone's face if they think it's crazy that I am choosing to homeschool, but if I respond in confidence, that person is less likely to actually voice the criticism.  But, I also want to always respond in humility.  Because, there is always the chance that I am wrong.  Obviously.  And that God will show a different "path" for our family.  The older I get, the more I realize how much of life is left to be lived and how little I truly know.  I look back on my college days, and there were so many things that I said I was going to do when I was a wife and a mom, and I just cringe, because I had no clue what I was talking about.  And even if I'm not wrong (because I do believe there are right or wrong choices, or more specifically biblical and unbiblical choices, and I am not necessarily talking about school choices here), even if I have made what I believe is the biblical choice, that too is only by God's grace.  I just as easily could have made the wrong choice.  So, I think humility is key.  And finally, in a conversation where I feel like my decision might be criticized, I give my confident answer, and then I move on in the conversation, asking the other person something about themselves.  For example, at the dentist, I found out that the hygienist who was so interested in my school choice, also had a five year old, so homeschool or not, she and I had much in common, and I was eager to hear about her five year old, and, of course, she was eager to talk about him.

I do hesitate to post this, Katherine, because mostly in my response, I get it so wrong.  I don't respond confidently, instead I respond in whatever way will make me look the best or the least weird or whatever.  For example, at the dentist, I totally made it sound like our homeschooling decision is still up in the air, we'll see, we're just doing kindergarten this way, etc. etc.  Which is not true at all.  Or, I don't at all respond in humility, instead my defenses go up, and I respond in anger.  I rarely, rarely get it right.  But, I do think there is a right way to respond.  And, in fact, I am guessing most moms out there have dealt with criticism about decisions.  Again, it's inevitable, so, any other thoughts from other moms?  How do you deal with the criticism that comes with motherhood?

Friday, April 13, 2012


Because I have told a few friends that I would show them some of her work, I thought I would link to Sarah's blog today because she is having a sale.  Fun, fun.  (She doesn't even know that I am going to blog about this).  I just know that I have some book-loving friends, so go take a look at her stuff.  Everything is 20% off at her etsy site, but you should also check out some of her paintings...

If you don't know me, Sarah is my younger sister.  She is an artist currently living in New Orleans, but she will be moving to Nashville soon.

Here is an example of her work, but she has lots more to choose from, so check out her etsy shops.  She will also do custom stuff, so just tell her what you want if you don't find what you're looking for.

her paintings  (not 20% off)

and her other shop--from my bookshelf (everything 20% off today)

And her blog, where you can read more about her life as an artist

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Dentist

So, today Ada went to the dentist for the first time.  Yes, I know that 4 1/2 is a little late to be going to the dentist for the first time, but it is what it is, and we went.

The good news is that the doctor said her teeth are "flawless," which I just say thank you, Lord, because I confess that Ada drinks too many sugary drinks and never enough water, so I was prepared for the worst.  But, no problems at all.

As far as Ada's behavior at the dentist--humiliating.  And the thing is, I can relate to how she was feeling.  I hate the dentist, but sometimes, in life, we just have to do things that we hate to do ;)  It was the pictures of her teeth that set the whole thing into motion.  She got through the first pictures of her front teeth, though from my mom perspective, I could tell she was barely holding on to her composure, and I was just waiting.  Sure enough, when the nurse told her she needed to take pictures of her back teeth, the tears started flowing.  So, the nurse said we could wait until after the cleaning.  The cleaning was fine--I knew that Ada was nervous because the masks over the nurse's face scare her, but she was a trooper and got through the cleaning without a sound.  Keep in mind that at 4, I see that fear has a stronghold on Ada's life.  It is a struggle for her.  She has described some of the nightmares that she has, and they are scary, indeed, so I sympathize, but I also want to teach her that we have to do things that we are scared of.  That is life.  

Oh, I should also add that we had already gotten the dreaded question, "where will she be going to kindergarten next year?"  I hate that question, so I eeked out that we are homeschooling for now, and the nurse nodded awkwardly, which to me made what happened next even worse.

Ada's teeth are really close together, so the only way for them to know if she had cavities in her back teeth was to take the pictures.  So, the cleaning was done, we broke the news to Ada that we had to take the pictures, and she went into full blown panic mode.  And when she gets like this, there is no controlling her behavior.  She was screaming, kicking, swatting--doing everything in her power to make sure that she did not have to take the pictures.  Finally, I sat in the chair with her, holding her arms down, a nurse got behind us to hold her head still, and the other nurse forced the film into her mouth.  It was AWFUL.  I mean, other patients, were starting to move toward us to see what the ordeal was about.  I was fighting back tears myself, for so many reasons, but I had enough sense to know that if I cried, we really would be labeled as weirdos.  I kept saying, "I promise she doesn't normally act like this," because she really doesn't, and the nurse just said, "she's just strong willed; she knows what she wants, and that can be a good thing," and I guess she is strong willed, but really it's fear.  If Ada is afraid of something (like shots, or using the potty--remember that ordeal?) she is beyond strong willed, but in general, I don't think of her as particularly strong-willed, but maybe she is.  So, in my head, the nurses were thinking, "if this child wasn't homeschooled and so sheltered this wouldn't be happening,"  which is just wrong on my part to assume that I know what people are thinking, and it's pointless.  So, I moved on from that thought, apologized for Ada's behavior and thanked the nurses for their help, and we got out of there!

But we survived it, Ada's teeth are clean and healthy, and we have already talked about, um, more appropriate ways to face our fears in the future.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Quickly, a cleaning update

Okay, really quickly, for my own accountability, more than anything, I want to give a housecleaning update.

Things are moving along.  The "daily chores" are habit enough that I never skip them.  It's great especially for days when my energy is very low (which happens) or when the house is drowning in clutter because it gives me a place to start when I feel overwhelmed.

I always, always start with the kitchen.  In the morning, I start there, usually to unload the dishwasher and just wipe counters after preparing breakfast for Ada and John.  And in the afternoon before dinner prep, I make sure  that I am starting with a clean kitchen.  It's working, because these days you would rarely walk into my house and see a messy kitchen.  It is my "constant" in the sea of clutter ;)  Granted, I am still a messy person, which means, after dinner it's a disaster, because I am a "messy cooker."  Some things just may never change.

The rest of the routine in the morning, is after I have checked the kitchen and cleaned it if needed, I start a load of laundry and make the beds.  Then, I keep the laundry going all day.  When a load is dry, I put the clean clothes on Ada's bed, and I fold them.  I wait until the end of the day to put them all away.  These are the three things that are sticking--kitchen, beds, and laundry.

I still don't have a great solution for toy clutter. The big picture is that I need to get rid of lots of toys.  The thing there is making the time to sit down and do that after the kids are in bed so that they can't fuss about it.  I am trying different things right now--having certain points in the day when we all clean up, cleaning up any time we leave the house, etc. etc.  Reality is, we are usually rushing out the door, though, and it doesn't always work out.  I hate the 5:00 hour when there are toys everywhere, and I am exhausted, and I need to cook dinner.  I get very overwhelmed at that point in the day, and I usually lose my temper--to be really honest ;)  Especially when I get the phone call that Scott will be working late.

So, the toy clutter is an ongoing battle.  I pray about it a lot, trying to figure out how much is just part of this season of life and how much is, in fact, in my control.  Lately though, I would rather be okay with the clutter than yell at my children.  So, at 5:00, I pray and remind myself that toys everywhere is not damaging to my children--yelling at them is.

The thing that I have been trying to implement for a couple of weeks and that I think is going to stick, is "daily jobs."  I am hoping these will become as automatic as the everyday chores.  On Mondays I clean the bathroom, on Tuesdays change all the sheets, on Wednesdays mop kitchen and laundry room floor, on Thursdays clean the front porch, and on Fridays grocery store so no extra jobs.  Saturday is vacuum house and clean out cars, and of course, Sunday is rest.  I just want some automatic things happening so that I don't waste energy trying to decide if I should do a certain job on a certain day.  I just want to do it, and it be done.  If that makes sense?

So there is where we are.  I can definitely see a huge improvement over six months ago, and I don't feel nearly as buried under the burden of getting my house clean.  I just continue to pray that the Lord will help me to do this job well and maintain my sanity in the process ;)

Happy Easter!

Upon the cross of Jesus, mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O Cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory, all the cross

Happy Easter!!!

 side note:  you can't tell b/c of my phone's camera, but John's shorts are seer sucker, not checked ;)

He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day,
Behold, this is our God; we have waited
for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Isaiah 25:8-9

Monday, April 2, 2012


I am writing this right now because I feel a bit ungrateful.  There are toys everywhere, and it is high times I come to terms with it because it puts me in a bad mood every. single. night.  Sin is the word I am looking for ;)  And, I already promised Ada mashed potatoes for dinner and biscuits, and I don't feel like putting that together.  I defrosted some ham that I stashed in the freezer a while back, and now I am wishing that I hadn't promised mashed potatoes and biscuits, so that I could just quickly make some ham and cheese omelets.  However, around here, once mashed potatoes is out of my mouth, there is no taking it back.  I am also, as usual, wishing that Scott was getting home earlier than he is.  So there are the ungrateful thoughts.

And here is the perspective.

Our church is a part of a ministry called H3.  Henry Helping Henry, I think?  (We live in Henry County).  And basically, every Friday night, our church partners with several other churches in the county to feed the hungry of Henry County.  Three Friday nights a month, a free, hot, meal is offered at the local Methodist Church, and once a month is "road crew" night, where no one is served at the church and instead teams are sent out to find people who need meals.  I have served once at the church and twice with the road crew.  Ada was with me when I served at the church, and she kept doing things like taking sips of people's drinks as she was carrying them to tables, so I was more focused on watching her than really ministering to people, so I'll be honest, I didn't gain a lot of perspective on the "in-house" night, but I think it was good for Ada.  (I confiscated the drink, by the way.  No one was served a "used" drink).

However, on the two different nights that I served on the road crew, I gained so much perspective.  It's hard to put into words really.  The first night, I'll be honest, I was doing it mainly because I felt like I needed to, and I was a bit reluctant to actually walk up to people and ask if they were hungry.  I was afraid I would offend someone.  But, there I went anyway.  Both nights we stopped at local hotels, the kind that advertise weekly prices, and we just started knocking on doors.  Well, the first visit we just knocked on doors.  Again, I felt really weird at first.  But, it was crazy how grateful people were.  They were very hungry, and they were thrilled and relieved to get a hot meal. It felt like such a small thing.  I wanted to go home and empty my pantry and come back with much more food.  On that first night, we met a young guy who told us that just a few minutes ago, his children were fighting over one small bag of chips because that was all the food that they had. He was not sure what he was going to feed his children, and he just prayed for some direction.  Then we showed up with a meal for each member of his family, or each person staying in his room.  He talked to us for a long time, and we prayed with him.  He went on and on about how grateful he was.  It was heartbreaking, and it made me desperate to do more.  I thought about Ada and John, and how I would feel if their stomachs were truly empty.  Again, on the second visit, at the same hotel, we met a woman who was so hungry.  Again, she told us that she had been in her room praying because that night she could either buy food or pay for the room--not both.  It was an older woman and her grown daughter.  She was so relieved for the hot meals, and we also left some bags of packaged food like granola bars and peanut butter and crackers.  She hugged us tightly before we left, and, again, I wanted to do more.

It was this past Friday that I met that woman, so the conversation is fresh on my mind.  Just now I was dreading cooking dinner.  Dreading the preparation and then the clean up.  And then I thought, think of all the food you have to prepare.  Think about the fact that you and your children have never known hunger.  Think about why Scott is coming home late--because he has a good job.  A job that puts the food on the table, that pays the rent and the utilites, that allows us to be here and not in a hotel room, or even the woods behind the hotel, where many people go when they can't pay for the room at night.

I am not saying that this daily stuff isn't hard and tiresome and overwhelming at times, but it does help to get outside of myself for just a second and see that the daily stuff is such a gift.  An absolute gift.

A Few Things...

1.  John wore his first belt yesterday.  I am, of course, biased.  I thought he looked so very handsome and like such a big boy.  Where did my baby go?  The shirt, however, did not stay tucked in (surprise, surprise), so no one saw the belt.  Oh well.  He's turning into such a little boy.

2.  John also ate all of the broccoli on his plate at dinner last night.  I don't know how to describe what a big deal this is.  But it's big.  That boy is a very picky eater, and he is stubborn about it.  I have put the broccoli on his plate night after night, and he refuses to eat it.  And then last night, who knows why, he ate every bite.  We cheered and cheered.

3.  I bought the Hunger Games yesterday, after finding it at Marshall's, and I promptly finished reading it today.  Just like everyone said, I couldn't put it down.  I think I went into it expecting it to be up there with Harry Potter, and it's just not in the same category of good.  But I definitely couldn't put it down, and I definitely want to read the next one, and I definitely want to see the movie.  I also did not go into it realizing there would be so many social implications/commentary, am I even using the correct words?  I some how missed that part of the Hunger Games discussions.

4.  I wrote about this on facebook, but, on Saturday I found the first book in the Boxcar Children series at a kid's consignment shop, and I got it to read out loud to Ada.  I loved that book when I was little, as did lots of children, I assume, so I was very excited to introduce Ada to the story.  She also loves it, and she stayed up way too late on Saturday night, as she convinced me to read four chapters before I told her it was time for bed.  We are quickly making our way through the book.  I have to say, I am thrilled to finally be at the chapter book stage.  I am almost as excited as Ada is to read the Boxcar Children everyday, and I just don't get that same feeling when reading Corduroy or the Bernstein Bears for the ten millionth time, you know?  Another series Ada is loving is a book I bought while I was at the Homeschool Conference, called B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood.  My mom actually first told me about them because she read them when she was little.  It is a very easy first chapter book and perfect for Ada's age, because Betsy is just in kindergarten in the first book.  Ada really loves Betsy, so I need to get on amazon and ebay to try and find the others in the series.  So, for you moms with pre-schoolers/ kindergartners, those are two suggestions for read-aloud chapter books that seem to hold Ada's attention well.

And, I want to come back later to give a housecleaning update as well as discuss a few other things I have thinking through lately...until then