Friday, March 28, 2008

What's in a Name?

I'm naming the garden gnome Boisfeuillet (pronounced BO full ay)... or Sven....

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Homeschooled, Un-Socialized, Cloistered Kids Are Running Me Silly

Can I just tell you how blessed I am?


It really just hit me as I was typing a response to an “E-vite” and having to say “maybe” to a Girls Night Out party this Friday. Not only is it amazing to me that I have friends who send me E-vites because they actually want to spend time with me, AND that I want to spend time with them – but, I have to say “maybe” because I’ll be on an all-day field trip with my sons. Yes, my home schooled, “un-socialized,” “cloistered” sons!

Between the home school ice skating day, the Tuesday and Thursday night soccer practices, the insane turn-around for Thursday night youth group, the monthly “Friday Night at the Blue Light” youth events, the Monday and Friday afternoon Martial Arts classes, the field trips, the Wednesday morning classes at COMPASS Arts (guitar and drawing) and their Wednesday afternoon classes at The Master’s Academy of Fine Arts (Art, Music, Drama and History), I barely have time to gas up the mini-van (yes, I know… mini van… what can I say?) And that’s not to mention the play dates – and, whatever you call it when your kid is 16 and is having a “play date” but you can’t call it a “play date” because they’re “too old for that.”

It warms my belly (with stifled laughter) when I tell folks that we home school and their first reaction is, “Don’t you worry about their socialization?” Have they MET my kids? I’ve not seen more social people anywhere – certainly not the teens I see hanging around the neighborhood, or that I hear screaming at their moms at the store! My kids – all three of them – can easily and appropriately (mostly) have a conversation with virtually anyone: adult, child or peer.

The other day, at one of the home school events, a home schooling friend of mine was telling me that someone said that her children are not “normal” because they’re home schooled. I thought – out loud, actually – NORMAL??? If the kids I see around are normal, I’m GLAD my kids aren’t “normal!” We aim for better than “normal!” I am blessed to be able to help mold my children into people of integrity. People who see the world through eyes of compassion, who understand the relevance of the Scripture in their daily lives and aren’t ashamed to live it (not perfectly, granted). I’m blessed with the ability to be with my children as they work through issues. As they begin to mull things over in their minds and to be able to step in, if necessary. If it’s called for, I can take my son out to the coffee house in the middle of the day and help him see through a difficult situation – no shouting, no accusations – just mom and son working through something. How awesome is that?

It’s actually a family joke with us. One of the kids will do something peculiar – could be anything – and I’ll say, “You’re so weird!” The reply is always, “I got in the right family!”

When we decided to home school I had no idea the amazing resources that are available! It runs the gamut from resources to help Annie to arts classes and field trips for the boys to support from other home school moms.

When we decided to home school Annie – which was about three days before she was set to start PS – we did so because we’d stumbled upon a wealth of information and hope for her “special needs.” We have discovered that we can tailor the curriculum and the school day to meet her needs – which I am discovering are no more or less “special” than any other child’s needs! I just wish that every mom could have the awesome experience of schooling her children! To see Annie’s face light up when she reads a word, or gets a Math problem right, or learns something new. To see her face sort of “screw up” in confusion about a new topic and then hear her work it out as she begins to talk about it. To know that she’s right on target for HER – not just for some list of standards (although, we do mind the standards and keep aware of where she stands in relation to them).

Of course, it’s especially easy to write about this right now, because all three kids are at The Master’s Academy of Fine Arts for four and a half hours! And, don’t get me wrong, there are days when I don’t feel this way, at least for a few minutes. But, that’s another entry. Today I wasn’t to focus on how blessed I am to be able to home school my kids.

"The only thing that interferes with my education is my schooling" -- Albert Einstein

Monday, March 17, 2008

Garden Gnomes, Latvia, Homeschooling and ummm something else

Okay - so here I am again, starting a new blog -- mostly because I can't remember where I put my old blog. If you know, please tell me, although I don't think there's anything of real interest there.

So, three basic areas to cover today: 1. Homeschooling, 2. Latvian Missions, 3. Give a Kid a Chance, 4. Garden gnomes. So, that's four, not three, but you'll notice a pattern here...

1. Today was a GREAT schooling day! Yes, GREAT! Sometimes schooling really stinks, sometimes it's a joy. That's life. This morning when I sat down to grade my 16-year-old twin sons' work from last week (yeah, I didn't really do a great job grading last week), they had ALL A's. What a treat. I only had a few things to send back for re-working. Woo hoo!

We use Switched on Schoolhouse for their core curriculum and it's working well, although the boys have asked for something different next year. They thought it'd be cool doing all of school on the computer. I guess they really didn't think it through to the logical conclusion that it would mean READING everything. Not sure what they were thinking.

In addition to SOS, they attend the Master's Academy of Fine Arts once a week for Art, History, Music and Drama as well as COMPASS Arts -- one for guitar and one for drawing. The boys are following in their parent's and grandparent's footsteps -- budding artists with little patience for sitting still!

Okay, so back to the GREAT schooling day. The boys both finished their work without too much fuss and even did their chores without me asking. Of course, that might have something to do with my utter meltdown at 9 a.m. when breakfast wasn't going so well and the devil got a hold of my tongue -- but I'd like to think it was out of the sheer love for school and cleaning -- I'm allowed a fantasy every once in a while!

Our dear little Annie has struggled so much with school. Just every aspect of it has caused her grief! She's confused. You see, at one point, because of her attention issues (she's been diagnosed with AD/HD -- don't EVEN write me about this if you are going to say it doesn't exist or is a cop out -- walk a mile in her shoes and THEN tell me what you think!), we really believed that we HAD to send her to public school so she could get the help she "needed." So, we began to prepare her for that. Thank the Lord (literally) we discovered that we could homeschool her and that what she "needed" was what we could offer! YAY!

So, lately she asks when she will get to go to the school with lockers. Poor little Annie, she had it in her mind that she's not getting to go to Kindergarten at the school because she doesn't know how to read. No matter how many times I tried to explain homeschooling to her, she just didn't get it. SO -- today we had a breakthrough. I think she finally gets it. She now realizes that she's learning everything she'd learn at the place with lockers PLUS a lot more. She's thrilled that she gets to go to Master's Academy and she understands that she couldn't do that if she went to PS. Also, she finally gets that MOST kindergarteners can't read -- not just her. AND that she's working on a second grade level in Math -- which she wouldn't be allowed to do in PS. So, all is good.

That sparked a renewed interest in school! She actually read a "story" today. BIG triumph. She worked diligently in her new workbook and did new spelling words for this week and new letters of the week and we even found Portugal and Latvia on the Globe -- one of her digressions in her schoolwork. It suddenly became critical that she see where Granddad's parents came from and where her brothers used to live. Then straight back to the workbook.

And that, my friends, is a GREAT Homeschooling Day!

2. Latvian Missions -- Okay, so my calling in life, in addition to being a wife and mom, is ministering to orphans in Latvia and the people who care for the orphans (Social Workers, Orphanage Directors, Foster Parents, etc.). Along with my Husband and sons, I am part of a ministry called Latvian Angels. We match each child in a children's home with a Christian sponsor who agrees to pray daily for the child, write a letter of introduction (including photos) and provides Christmas Presents for the child along with occasional correspondence. It's a cool ministry. So, we recently figured out our budget for the year (we've really been running by the seat of our pants for the first three years of the ministry). I was STUNNED, can I tell you I was floored that our budget exceeds $16,000 -- and that isn't including the Christmas gifts that the sponsors will provide. Ummmm... God's got a LOT of work to do here just to pick my jaw up off the floor -- not to mention providing the funds!

So, we're planning some fundraisers and we're confident that, like He has in the past, He will provide! First up is a traditional Latvian pankuka dinner set for April 19 at my friend Merle's house. If you're in North Metro Atlanta you're welcome to come. Adults $10, kids $5.

The picture on this post is of the Staff of Hope for Children, a great ministry in Latvia that works with orphans and kids at risk. We took them out for a dinner and brought them a gift of matching scarves... they're as goofy as we are... I'd love to show you some of the precious pictures of us with the kids, but it's not permitted by the Latvian government -- which I guess is understandable. So, you'll have to settle for HFC staffers!

3. Give a Kid a Chance -- So, a former pastor of mine always said that you should do missions abroad to learn things that you then bring back home and use. So, I guess that's what's happening now with me. I've been doing missions in Latvia and really just sort of wrote that notion off as untrue for me. BUT, it seems that for the third year in a row, I'm working as the volunteer coordinator for our HUGE outreach, Give a Kid a Chance. This is a cool thing. We provide every child in need that lives in our county with what they need to start school -- backpack, school supplies, a haircut, dental, medical and chiropractic screenings, clothing, etc. Way cool. So, we're ramping up and meeting each week and really, instead of typing this hideously long Blog entry, I SHOULD be e-mailing volunteers....

4. Garden Gnomes. Don't know why, but I have a thing for garden gnomes. I'm not really into kitschy things in general. I usually like abstract and folks art -- not things like... garden gnomes... but there's just something about those little buggers that makes me smile. So, I finally broke down and bought one!

It all started with my daughter letting the neighbor's giant black lab into our yard. You see, she does this and she's not supposed to. She KNOWS she's not supposed to. She does it any way. So, I'd finally had it -- the LAST straw -- I sent her to her room, notified my son that he was on "Annie Duty" and headed to Home Depot to fix this issue.

After buying chicken wire (to bury in the ground around the fence where the dog and Annie both dig, creating a hole for him to climb through), Prickly bushes (to deter both girl and dog from coming near the fence), Top Soil (to fill in all of the holes the two of them have dug), and a hasp and lock (so the "gate" between our yards can't be opened by anyone without the combination) I was pooped! And, none too happy that my time and money was going into fixing such an inane problem. As I stomped out of the garden section, there he was -- smiling at me -- this little garden gnome holding a wooden sign that said "Hi." Well... now he's at home and for some crazy reason that small amount of retail therapy allowed me come home with a good attitude and be excited about the improvements we're going to make to the yard!

I suppose he needs a name....

So, hideously long blog entry one -- over and out.

"The only thing that interferes with my education is my schooling" -- Albert Einstein