He Leads

Ephesians 6:10-17

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Today, as I was writing in my prayer journal, this passage came to mind. It’s a very familiar passage to many of us. But today, I found something new in it. Look at that first sentence.

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

It is He, God, who makes the following armor characteristics possible.  Who opens our eyes to Truth? God does. Who makes us righteous? God alone. Who gives us peace that comes from the Good News of the Gospel? God again. Who draws us to have faith in a God that we cannot see? Yep, God. Who makes salvation available to us as a free, unearned gift? Absolutely God. And who gives us the very Words of God?  He does.

I’m humbled and awed every time I find this occurrence in scripture. God takes the lead, and we have only to follow in obedience.  Do I need to be proactive in my faith? Definitely. That is part of being in a relationship. But I also need to remember that God initiates everything. He doesn’t have to do it, but he chooses to because he loves us. Isn’t that a beautiful truth?

Graduation Speech

To Bethany on your high school graduation:
A little more than 18 years ago, you made me a mom and stole my heart. You were the first baby I really liked.
In your preschool years, we spent our days playing games together, doing puzzles, and reading books, except for that year that I had to work when you were two and Grandma took over that job for me.
When the time came close for you to go off to school, we had already been playing school for quite a while and I liked the idea of continuing just that. So for half a year we added workbooks and continued playing and learning.
Kindergarten time arrived, and, with a new baby in the house, we decided to try real school. It was nice, for about 2 weeks. I felt like school was separating our family, and I guess I wasn’t ready. So dad and I did our research, learned what we could about homeschooling and created our exit plan that would take place at the start of your Christmas break.
We loved going back to natural learning and hands on projects, learning through field trips and library visits, but mostly we loved having our family together again.
There was another short stint in school for most of second grade. You wanted to go experience school. It was after another baby in the house and a big hurricane, and I was at my end, so I let you go. You learned a lot and had some neat experiences, but it was a long year and my heart just knew that it was not a good fit for our family. At the end of it, I knew we needed to commit to staying home, and I am glad we did. I know we gave up some traditional school experiences, but we got to dig deeply into some others.
I loved your preschool years the most… until we got to high school. These last 3 years have been pretty great. There are three things I am especially grateful for.
First, you have taken ownership of your education. You decided what you wanted to learn, and went after it fiercely. I could not fight it because I knew it was in line with who God made you to be. So little by little, I put my premade lessons aside and came along to learn what you wanted to learn. Some you learned on your own, and others we did together. Much of it was through dancing, great books, documentaries, and sewing projects. How many pins did I stick you with?
Second, you have shown great passion for life. You find beauty in the everyday stuff like watching clouds or listening to a good rain, photographing dew drops on a flower, or swirling your coke around in our one and only wine glass while you cook a meal for us. You have a beautiful and joy filled countenance when you dance. You are amazing when you work with little kids and when you encourage your friends. You live in the moment, have big ideas, and at the same time, find joy in the simple things.
Last, you have taken ownership of your faith. I know you are not just going through the motions of your parents’ faith. I have seen a change in your life, and I have watched you work at honoring Christ in your actions. You have loved your family and your friends, not just in words, but in deeds. You have inspired me to love better as well.
Watching you grow up from that little girl who peeled all the crayons into the one I see here has been an honor. I am sad that this part of our lives is coming to an end. I am glad you have decided to stick around a bit longer instead of moving to Paris. I am proud of your accomplishments thus far. And I look forward to watching you branch out and experience the many adventures that await you in the upcoming years.

Know Your Why

Why do you do what you do? Do these activities bring life? I have been asking this question a lot lately. Life makes me tired, and I want to be sure that everything I am putting time and effort into has a why that is satisfactory. Mini mission statements if you will. Here are several of mine. 
Marriage– To Serve, support, and share life together.
Parenting– To love and train my children to love God and others and to have the skills to succeed in their adult lives
Tumbling To provide a physical and creative outlet
Dance classes– To provide social practice, Godly influence, and exercise
Scouts To provide exercise, social practice, good influence, and growth in manhood
Church To be reminded of God’s glory and salvation and to share in joys and sorrows of other believers
Field Trips– To spend time with kids away from distractions
Tutoring To reestablish a can do attitude in reading and writing, build necessary skills, and to create accountability and emotional support
Homeschooling To teach children according to their passions, in the ways they learn best
Cooking To provide for my family in a healthy and cost efficient manner
Cleaning To provide a place of peace and comfort
Podcasts To be inspired to press on
Blog Writing To remind myself and others of the hope for this life journey
Library To refresh, to learn, to inspire, and to get away from daily distractions

On Turning Forty

Forty

She wasn’t big on birthday celebrations, especially her own. Being in the limelight just wasn’t her thing. Most of the past years her birthdays were little more than dates on the December calendar that was already filled with holiday plans. And with a birthday two weeks before Christmas, the two days’ celebrations were easy to blend together.

Her parents always made sure to treat her birthdays as special days with friends and family, parties and presents. But by the time she went to college those parties had come to an end. There were finals and moving out of the dorm instead of birthday celebrations. The truth though was that she didn’t really mind. She liked being busy about her own things. She liked the college life. She wasn’t the partying kind. When she first got to college she was seventeen. Her roommates and friends wanted to take her out the clubs, and she was ever so glad to have a reason not to go – She was under age.

No, she liked the classes and the studying. It was predictable and measurable. It fed her need for being successful. A four year degree for many could take five or six years. Not for her. She’d do it in four. Nothing less would do. Yes, that is what defined her. Success and accomplishments. Those were safe areas for her introverted personality.

When she wasn’t in class or studying, she was busy with extracurricular activities. It was through these activities that she met a boy. She’d gone on a mission trip and while there he unintentionally knocked her out with a basketball. Of course he felt bad for such a dumb move, and spent lots of time over the next two days telling her so. They were complete opposites. They looked in no way compatible, but against all reason they developed a friendship that brought the best out in each of them.

It wasn’t long before they were full of young love and temptation. They were still in college, but they thought it important to not cross those lines before marriage. Eager to marry, they chose a date in December – between semesters – and right between her birthday and Christmas. They were twenty-one and twenty-two years old.

It was a beautiful Christmas wedding that she would always cherish, but it was also another date crammed into her December calendar. It made skipping over her birthday even easier.

Years passed and babies came into the picture. Four of them. And as those babies became kids and teenagers with schedules of their own, Decembers got even busier. Multiple parties, cookie making, gift shopping, family get togethers… They were all good things, and most years she was thankful for the diversions.

* * * * *

She stared at herself in the mirror and contemplated her upcoming birthday. Her fortieth birthday. And somehow, she looked forward to it. She had learned a lot about herself this year. While she still dealt with some insecurities they were nothing like the ones she’d fought in her younger years. She’d learned a thing or two about resting in God’s provisions as opposed to her own. She was more often at peace.

She wasn’t thrilled with her fading leg muscles or the idea that she needed to take more time to tend to them, but she was liking the white hairs that were slowly appearing at the edge of her hairline. She’d always loved long white hair on older ladies, and she knew she’d like it on her own head as well. She was one of the lucky ones that didn’t appear to age for a long time. But now, as she looked in the mirror, there was not doubt that her face that was beginning to show some age. It had bothered her for most of the past year, but now she could remind herself that with that age came wisdom, a deeper understanding of her God and therefore of herself. Instead of criticizing herself, she’d remember that a smile and an inner peace were more attractive than any young skin or make-up. Not that a nice coat of make up didn’t help some. And for that she was thankful. She’d never worn much make-up until recently. Spending time in the mirror didn’t fit her busy life and attempts to keep the attention off of herself.

But this year things were changing. She had grown more comfortable with herself, more at peace with who she was and how she was valued by God and that was what mattered most. She’d learned those lessons through many, many hours of tears that were the result of struggling to be strong and in control of all of the outcomes and failing. It was exhausting, really. It was also impossible. And this year she really got that. And believing that truth freed her up from the bondage of striving for perfection. It was a battle she would still have to revisit from time to time, but the difference between the occasional battle and the daily, no, hourly, battle was monumental. This was the reason she had more peace these days.

Her phone to do list reminder chimed. She had titled the list with the date as always. December third. In seven days she would be forty. And this year she not only wouldn’t try to skip over her birthday, she was actually looking forward to it. She had already decided that she wanted frozen lemon cake and chocolate ice cream and that she would make time for a family get together. She was careful to get the Christmas shopping done and not to overbook the calendar this week. She’d take time for herself this year – another thing she was learning to do. Thirty-nine had turned out to be a good year. A hard fought one, but one with many victories. Forty would be good too. She felt sure of it.

Lessons from the Hammock


For the past year, I have been learning a great deal about rest. I think it started with a book I read called Captivating. It was through that book that I began to really understand the concept of rest. You can read about that at the above link.

Even though it’s a great way to refresh, I used feel guilty about the time spent doing nothing. I am definitely a doer. Forward progress defines me, and in my mind every waking minute of every day should be devoted to getting things done.

Perform more. Do better. Never enough.

No. Stop. Just stop striving to be perfect. Perfect isn’t really attainable.

Do what you can do, and that is enough.

It is. God’s the One in control.  Rest in that truth.

Am I saying that I should not put forth effort or do my very best? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that I need to stop moving, both physically and mentally, every day. And that is what sitting in the hammock does for me. This is where I let go of life’s pressures and remember who I really am. This is feeding into every part of my life one step at a time, and it is changing my life.hammock

I will leave you with a few things I’ve learned from my daily hammock time.

  1. I’ve really come to love trees. I love to listen to the leaves blow in the breeze or fall through the branches to the ground. I love to watch new sprouts burst through the trunk and into the sunlight. I love to see the leaf colors change even though we really only have green and brown here.
  2. I am finding peace in listening to the birds singing. I seldom see them since they are such good hiders, but their sounds are so captivating.
  3. Yellow butterflies are now my favorites. Their rounded wings are so small and delicate looking.
  4. We really do have a lot of beautiful days.
  5. Rest is good for me, and outside time is not the same as screen time. I need this time to be with my Creator. To remember. To rest in every way.

A Few Thoughts on Reading Difficulties

Reading is so important to learning. Once a person can read, a whole world of information becomes available to him. For this reason, we strive to teach our kids to read when they are five or six years old. And most of the time this works. But sometimes, sometimes, the child is just not ready or has a hard time learning how to read.

I have a late reader. A couple actually. One of them started reading around her eighth birthday, and reads fairly proficiently now. She is a hands on learner and does not love reading. None the less, she reads. She reads story books, comics, and non-fiction books. Her favorite ones are craft books.

My second late reader is ten now and is a beginning reader still. Some days I get discouraged. I mean, reading at eight is one thing. But ten? Yikes, I’m feeling it! Alas, there is hope.

Don’t give up. Learning to read takes time. Be patient.

Take a break. Sometimes the child is just not ready.

Try different approaches. Different learning styles may require other ways to get to the end goal. My first two kids read books of any kind after only minimal and very informal phonics instruction. My third child required rereading a short text many times to memorize those words and then started reading chapter books of movies she liked so that she would already know what she was reading about. And my last child needs phonics readers that are organized and slowly growing in difficulty.

Make it fun. Make reading a time to look forward to. Sometimes this means I read to her more than she reads to me. It also means letting her choose the books. She needs the phonics readers, but they are not interesting. We use those for instruction, but we make sure to read more books of interest. It is important that she has a good opinion of the act of reading.

Look for progress. The skill of reading is not just A and Z. There are lots of little steps in between. Celebrate those little victories. They add up. I still see her as a beginning reader. But when I look at the little books we started with a year ago (with a new approach) compared to the books she is reading now, there has been great progress. She isn’t reading where the “average” ten year old reads, but she has made a year of progress.

Notice other successes. Reading is important, but it is not everything. Find out what the child is good at. Is she a good builder? Athletic? A story teller? A cook? Knowledgeable about science? A good friend? Make sure that you value those things about her. Build her up. Encourage her in what she is naturally good at. I guarantee she already knows where she stands in reading when it is difficult for her. She knows other kids are ahead of her. Work on those reading skills, but don’t forget to focus on all of the good things too!

On Finishing

For twelve years now, we have homeschooled. Most of it has been delight directed because I believe with all that I am that God created each of us with certain aptitudes and passions to be used for His glory. My oldest girl is one year away from graduating from this journey and moving onto the next phase. Of course it is not one day this and the next day that. It’s really a gradual process that has been happening for a while now. Several years ago, it was on my heart that I wanted her senior year to be a year of independent study. A year when she could dig deeply into her passions. That dream of mine slowly led me to more and more relaxed schooling with her and essentially allowing much of her junior and senior years to be independent study. It has been scary on one hand, but thrilling on the other.

We have talked regularly about what she wants to do with this next part of her life and then catered to what is necessary for those dreams. She could have spent the past year vegging out on Netflix or the internet, but she hasn’t. She knows she is working for her own goals. They matter to her a lot.

She spends countless hours researching types of fabric, methods for making various types of clothing, creating her own patterns, and making several dresses and costumes. She works jobs that she had to learn how to do in order to make the money she needs for her materials for those projects. She has even been able to make a few party appearances in one of her costumes.

She is taking several dance classes and works at home on her own to improve her skills. She is interning at her studio for some younger student classes and learning much about relating to the kids, keeping a balance between business and fun times, being consistently responsible in a job setting. Life skills.

She watches classical ballets. She draws using online tutorials. She takes photographs of nature all the time. She goes online to learn about color and shape and other art concepts. She reads a couple of large books a week. She writes fiction when she gets good ideas. She keeps a little blog. She watches documentaries about life in different parts of the world. She tinkers with foreign languages on the DuoLingo app. She studies math on Khan Academy in preparation for the ACT. She sings and plays guitar. She listens to lots of music. She looks up anatomy pictures and descriptions to understand her sore muscles and other ailments. She watches movies and analyzes every little part of them. She shops for groceries and babysits her sisters for me. She reads her Bible and thinks about the big questions in life. She helps her friends.

What will next year look like? A lot of the same with more independence. She will start driving herself places and will get a part time job. She has a few subjects of school work to finish. Most are of her own choosing. She doesn’t quite know what she will do with her life. Not many of us do at 17. But she is following her passions, gradually learning to be a young woman with good character and life skills.

There are two ways to measure high school success in this world in which we live. One is with a neatly organized transcript recording all of the courses she has taken, and the other is with a student who loves life, lives fully, and has worked me out of a job. As we approach our final year and the finish line is in sight, this is where I stand. Her transcript is partly normal and partly unique. It is full, but more full with her aptitudes than with extra math and science courses. She has scored well on her practice ACT, and we believe she will do the same on the real one next month. She has learned life skills that will bring her into the next stage of her life. She has passion and drive for good things.

And still, it is really scary. It has been a step of faith from the beginning to step off of the traditional route. This is where my faith has to stand strong. I’ve prayed over our methods and for God’s direction often. This has always been the heart that God has given to me, and I trust that in being obedient to His call, He will bring success. I can see the light. I am so glad I have followed my heart and my girl’s passions. She is so much more than another student. I cannot wait to see what this last year brings and where she goes from there.

The Good News Gospel

Hi. My Name is Debbie, and I am an overachiever.

This story, I’m sure, started when I was a child of about 8 years old. I have the certificate to prove it. It was then that I decided to follow Jesus and was baptized. But I don’t have any memory of it at all.

This is what I do remember. When I was in my high school years, I was an overachiever. My end goal in school was to finish in the top ten of my graduating class. I missed it by one. Overacheiver that I was, that wasn’t enough. I wanted to go to college on a gymnastics scholarship, too. That one was more of a dream, but I still put countless hours of work into this goal. I was competitive and fairly accomplished (though not enough for college gymnastics), and I thought I was happy, but it was completely conditional. In hindsight, my entire worth was wrapped up in whether or not I met my goals and pleased my parents, teachers, and coaches.

In my senior year of high school, God used a few things that were going on simultaneously to draw me back to Him.

My gymnastics life began to unravel. I was all of a sudden afraid to do even basic skills that I had been doing for several years. I walked in the gym one day and would not throw a skill, and the next day, it was another skill, and so on. I was more and more afraid and lost the courage to do nearly everything over just three weeks. This was huge. Gymnastics was my life, really. I loved it more than anything, and overachievers do not like failing. It was a huge knock to my worth, and I ended up quitting the sport because of it. God really used it to change where my eyes were set. (I believe now that God took gymnastics from me so that I could open my eyes again to Him.)

During a fall visitation night for the church that we were associated with but didn’t really attend, my family was invited to come and see a Billy Graham movie. I am not a new people and groups kind of person at all, but I just knew we needed to go to this movie, so I did what any kid who really wants something did. I begged my mom to take me. I don’t remember the movie, but I do remember the feeling of love and peace that was there in that church. I wanted to go back. I wanted some of what they had.

Lastly, my uncle was going through a divorce but had this peace, humility and kindness to him that I just knew had to be from God. It wasn’t natural to go through such hardships and be like this. He’d walk the neighborhood with me, drive me to school, bring me to church and more over the next year, and while he did, I saw that he wasn’t putting on a face. These character traits that I was seeing (the fruits of the spirit I now understand them to be) were the real thing, and I wanted them.

A few months after I started going back to church, at the age of 17, in my bedroom at my dad’s house, I was convicted that I needed to recommit my life to Jesus, to be intentional in following Him, and I did just that. I knew I was saved, in the club, if you will, but I had a lot to learn. Overachieving runs deep in my blood, and honestly, I will always battle my flesh on this issue. God never intended for me to gain my worth from the things I accomplished. The truth is, try as I may, I can’t earn it. I can’t be enough. But it doesn’t matter. My identity isn’t in what I accomplish. It is in a God who loved me, paid for me, claimed me as His own. I knew early on that it was by grace alone that I could be saved, and not by my own works, but it took many more years for me to grasp the depth of grace and love he has for me. Jesus didn’t save me because he felt sorry for me or because he had to do so, but because He really loves me, delights in me, cherishes me. God created people for fellowship with Himself, and when he saved me, he did it in order to restore that union with one of His people. That’s the Good News Gospel. God loves His people so much that He gave His son to wash away our sins, to bridge the gap, to make whole again everlasting fellowship between Himself and his people — one by one — and we can rest in that truth.

Rest — Matthew 11:28-30

Back in college, Jeff and I enjoyed doing skits together. One of our favorites was called the Broad Jump (originally by Paul and Nicole Johnson). In it, the athlete was always striving to meet new goals in the long jump. She was working to be good enough, to be accomplished enough, to be pleasing enough.   With every new accomplishment, her coach acknowledged her good work but greatly minimized her achievement and then pushed more. The athlete exhausted herself.

The skit ended with Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In The Message translation it reads like this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Of course this skit is an analogy for our lives. We tend to exhaust ourselves with trying to be a good enough wife or mom or homeschooler or friend or coach or Christian or … Okay that’s just my list. But you probably have one too.

I have found myself tired and weary. I’ve been picking myself up by my bootstraps over and over again struggling to do what I’m supposed to be doing and not acknowledging (at least not fully applying) the grace and love that my Jesus offers.

This morning I woke up thinking about the rest found in Jesus. I thought about Mary and Martha. I thought about this scripture and this skit. God used it to remind me of his promise.

Grades

As a general rule in our homeschool, I don’t issue grades. I do keep a record of what we are learning, and I write progress reports when I see big jumps in skill. I just don’t see the need to keep formal grades. The truth is that grades do two things for students.  They define whether a student is learning the information at a passing level, and they develop a ranking system among the students in a school. Neither of these apply to my kids.

Pass or fail? Well, in homeschooling, we can stay on a lesson until they get it. Or we can move on and come back if it is fitting. The point is, there is never a “fail”. There is a “not yet”. Since we are not learning with a class of students all doing the same lessons, we don’t need to keep moving forward if we are not ready.

What about rank? There is no rank when you are the only student in that grade level. Sure, rank could be used in college admissions, but where we live, only an ACT or SAT score counts when applying for college. Anyway, when I graduated from a public high school with a 3.9 GPA and ranked 11th in my class, what did that mean? Did it mean that I was super duper smart or learned a whole lot? Nope. It meant I’d learned how to work the system and do well on tests.  I’m still amazed at the stuff I am reading with my kids in middle school that I’m sure I never really learned or understood when I was in high school. So what exactly did that GPA mean long term? Right. Nothing.

So I don’t usually give grades. But I do occasionally have the kids grade themselves. On effort. I ask them how much effort the have been putting into growing in specific subject areas, and they chose a grade. We do negotiate. Sometimes I can point out where I think they are doing more than they realize, and sometimes I have to remind them of how they often don’t get around to a task or don’t really pay attention. For the most part though, they are incredibly honest. They of course give great big As in the subject areas where they are passionate and naturally work harder. They also give themselves C’s in the subjects that they know they are not giving their best. Why give these grades? The are mostly a form of self evaluation. They really enjoy talking about what the are doing well, and they don’t mind admitting areas that need work. The benefit here is that once we talk constructively, they are more motivated and focused on what they ought to be doing. Self checks are good for all of us, and even young students benefit.

These grades are not for skill level. They are not for rank. The are not for pass or fail. They are for effort, because the big picture question is Am I putting forth my very best effort each day?  If the answer to this question is yes the rest will take care of itself.  We are life learners. We have our whole lives to learn, and we each will learn at a pace that works for us.

Short Spurts

There are  few lessons that must use some traditional methods. Some would argue that none do, and for some kids, that may be entirely true. In my house we study math and grammar traditionally except that we don’t do them every day all year. I teach these in short spurts. They both require great attention to detail and intense mental effort for my kids. They really despise them. I see it as my job to make the learning a bit more pleasant, and the way we do this is by focusing on those lessons in concentrated chunks of time while somewhat neglecting other subjects.

We do math once a week for hours. The first part of that time is basically the kids mentally falling apart, and then we get down to learning. Once they are in the groove, I like to stay there as long as possible.  I’d like to do math in seasons (like I do for grammar) but there is just so much math to cover. Thus we do once a week math lessons.

Grammar is a finite subject. There is only so much to learn, and honestly it does not take 12 years to learn it! Unless you count MadLibs, Schoolhouse Rock, and writing letters to friends, I don’t teach grammar at all until about 6th grade. At this point, I teach grammar intensely for a few weeks. 6 weeks max.  We cover word usage, some spelling rules, all of the parts of speech and punctuation rules in this time. My experience has been that by waiting until 6th grade, my kids start grammar already knowing a good bit just by using words up to this point. Will they know it all perfectly in 6 weeks? Not likely. Will they be better off than before? Yes. And the more they use the new knowledge in their everyday writing, the more it will be perfected.

With that said, we started a focus session in grammar this week. We are using a free online program called MobyMax.com. Two of my kids are currently working through this program, and they both tested at about the mid-fourth grade level. I have them working through 10 sections of questions a day. That equals about 80 questions a day. Monday was meltdown day. Tuesday was mildly better. Wednesday we started making real progress. They were flying through lessons on Thursday and Friday. They have already each made a month’s worth of progress according to the traditional order and year long model the program uses.  We will keep working on these lessons for the upcoming weeks, and I expect to see a difference in their writing as we go. I know it worked for my first girl. I believe it will work again.

A Delightful Week

What is the ultimate goal of an education? That can vary greatly, but generally the goal is to guide children into adulthood with the skills they need to be successful there.

This is my mission statement:

Life Academy exists to promote a life long love for learning, a complete education in the basics, and an atmosphere in which deeper passions may be explored in the ways each child learns best.

I approach this mission with a delight directed approach, and the older my kids get, the more delight directed their education becomes.  This is a typical week’s activities:

High School:

For my high schooler, I always enter the week knowing about what we want to do, but not exactly. I know I want to cover a chapter of math, see some writing practice and steady reading of new ideas, and facilitate opportunities for her delights to be pursued. As an eleventh grader, I see these delights leading to her future adult life, and that means they are very important.

Last week, she worked on a unit test in her math curriculum, visited the library for books of her choice, and wrote a post for her new blog. Math, Writing, Reading? Check!

She went grocery shopping on her own, learned how to write a check, and baked a pie. That’s life skills!

She went to dance practice for 6 hours over the course of the week and student taught for 6 more hours. On Sunday, she danced in the local Christmas parade with her studio, she danced an interpretive dance in a homeschool drama club talent show Wednesday, and today she danced in a recital. I don’t know if dancing will be in her future in the long run, but the life skills she is gaining certainly will be.

She finished making a sewing mannequin that she had been working on and sewed the top half of her Christmas dress. She also made alterations to the Elsa costume that she previously designed and sewed so that she can wear it for the little kids’ dance class party this week.  Delights don’t require my pushing. Every day she asks me for help or shows me what progress she has made just because she loves it. She has made 4 dresses and altered a couple others this year. Her skill in this area is becoming marketable.

Middle School:

I have two in middle school age right now.

My eighth grade son is a sponge and a deep thinker, but he is not thrilled with traditional lessons. Are any of us really? I still require the basics, but I try to go about his lessons with as much play as possible.

Last week, he completed a chapter of math with me the traditional way and visited the library for books. We read  stories together from Tommy de Paola’s Christmas Remembered. He practiced oral narration, a skill necessary in preparing for written narrations, by telling us about a movie preview he found interesting.

He did some grocery shopping with minimal assistance from me, and on the way home we talked about service related businesses and wise money saving.

We played games that involved strategy, critical thinking, and more. They included Words with Friends, Scrabble, Manhattan, King of Tokyo, Chess, and Phase 10.

He played the cajon, a box drum, for the drama club talent show. He really enjoyed having an audience, and I suspect he will want to practice more and  play again when he gets the chance.

Today he carved his name in a branch and explained to me how he made each part. Hands on skills and communication skills are important.

Tomorrow he will attend a full day of Boy Scout requirement work. He will work on orienteering, first aid, cooking meals, and more. Boy Scouts is a great delight directed resource for him to learn and prepare for adulthood.

My sixth grade daughter is a classic delight directed learner.  She usually has several things she is working on and is very self motivated to learn the next thing. She is a hands on learner and very right brained.  Her week looked like this:

She played the saxophone for the talent show. She’s taught herself to play. We only made the sax available and offered help when she asked.

She visited the library where she chose books on drawing and crafts. She loves to draw enough that I often have to pull her away when I need her to do her chores. She spent time drawing Olaf, peacocks, and Christmas cards.

She spent a great deal of time outside in nature, where she says we were created to live.

She worked on her tumbling on the trampoline probably for hours. She is always teaching herself the next big skill.

She went to dance class, where tap is her favorite, and tumbling class, where aerials are her favorite.

I managed to squeeze in a chapter of math.

Elementary:

My third/fourth grader is still young, and she has a lot of play in her. At the same time, she still needs a lot of practice in the basics.  I prefer to wait until each child is seven before asking for formal lessons, and because of that they get a lot more play time when they are younger, but are a bit behind for a few years. In our experience, every kid so far has gotten back to “normal” grade level by the sixth grade. We are still in that process with this child, but I have faith in how we are doing this because of the success of the others.

Her typical week includes an hour or so on a website called Mobymax.com where she works on her math skills. I am in love with this site right now.

We visit the library weekly for her to choose books, we read bedtime stories together, and we practice reading skills with a program called Phonics Plus Five. She has been a slow reader, but just in the past couple of weeks, I am feeling very encouraged by her successes.

In her “free time” she likes to play outside. She often finds neat insects, trees, and birds. She is on a bird kick lately.  She also watches  *a lot* of Wild Kratts on Netflix. Of course all of this is science.  She also likes to make stores. Bookstores. Pet stores. Craft stores. It doesn’t matter. She just loves stores. And I love that I can teach money skills while she plays.  Her weekly free time activities vary, of course, but this is a good sample.

For some kids it is a bit harder to find their delights. In the meanwhile, play is learning especially while kids are young. I trust the process because, again, I see it’s success in the older ones.

The first 18 years of life are not just dull years for preparing for adulthood. Kids should be living lives of delights as well.  Help them learn the basics. Guide them to become life learners. Follow the delights God has given them. I encourage you to try it. It works.

 

 

You Make a Difference

We have a high school across the street that uses our local library pretty regularly. Mostly the students just hang out in the foyer or read books in the young adult section. I’m not sure what they are supposed to be doing. We see them around noon. Maybe it’s their lunch break? Maybe it’s study hall?

Anyway, just today, we visited the library. We go often, and my kids are very comfortable there. They all spread out to different sections and look for their books and videos to check out. Once they are finished, they can play on one of the kids’ computers or go outside on a balcony while they wait for the rest of us.  My twelve year old son is really, really, really innocent when it comes to other people. I mean, he doesn’t realize that sometimes some kids are just being mean. And that was the case today.

Some high schoolers came in, laughed and flopped loudly into the chairs near the balcony, ridiculed him through the glass doors. He never heard them, but I did. And as he walked back inside, they not only laughed, but pulled out a camera to video him.

As my boy walked back inside, I called him to me, asked him to stand there until they left, and then explained to him that they were making fun of him. Amazingly, he didn’t see any of this. He was completely untouched by it, and he confidently walked straight to the front of the library and check out his books.

How could he be unscathed by those boys? Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the sweet spirit that he has. Whatever the case, I was grateful for his ability to ignore it.

***

On the way home my son and I got talking about how his little sister, the one he’s been rather coarse with lately, was speaking with such big science words. Where did she learn that from? Of course from her science crazy brother! It was a light bulb moment for him to realize that the things he said, the way he acted really made an impression on his younger sisters.

I chewed on these two events all week, and then I wrote a short letter to address what I needed to say.

Dear Teenager,

I know you mean it all in fun when you laugh at and ridicule other kids, but I want you to know that you make a difference. You can choose to make a positive or negative difference in someone’s life, but rest assured, you will make a difference. Likewise, others make a difference in your life. Do you choose to ridicule someone because you were ridiculed? It’s a terrible feeling, isn’t it? It is unfortunate and inappropriate for someone to have done so to you. But here’s the thing. You can stop the cycle. See, that quirky kid just wants to smile and say hello to brighten your day. I know your friends are watching, and you want to look cool and be accepted by them, but you don’t have to find your worth in what others think of you. You are worthy, young person, because you were created by a God that cares about you. Regardless of what this world full of broken people says about it, you need to know that you were created to bring joy to God by showing that you care. And there are so many people that just need a smile, a hello, a handshake, a “How are you today?”  The way you act will impact those around you. Please consider making that impact a positive one. It’s not all in play, and you do make a difference.

Sincerely,

A Mom

Parenting as a Refining Tool

I’m scrolling through my Facebook a few weeks ago, and, as usual, one of the kids is spying on what I’m reading. Yes. this does mean that I have to make sure my feed is clean. No problem there. I’m pretty careful about what I let into my mind anyway. Mostly the kids like to see the pictures.

“Who is that?” they ask about each and every one that they don’t recognize.

“Nobody that you know… I know their parents,” seems to be the usual answer.

Now Facebook has started posting suggested posts, and these beg the same questions.

“Who’s that?” And of course I don’t know. It’s an advertisement.

“What are they doing?” I look at the picture and give a quick answer as to what I assume they are doing. I really just want to move on and finish scrolling through the posts.

Back to that particular day. It was a Saturday, and I was sitting down to relax for a few minutes. The picture is of the backs of a group of people with their hands raised toward a stage with colorful lights and a musical group.. I answer the “What are they doing?” question asked by my eight year old girl.

“They are worshiping at church.”

“No, they are not. They’re at a party,” she responds.

“Why do you think they are at a party?”

“Easy. Look at them with their arms up. People don’t do that at church. They are at a party.”

I definitely stopped scrolling and talked with her a bit about how worship can look different in different setting and with different people. She noted that the people probably raised their hands toward God to feel closer to Him.

That was pretty much the end of the conversation for her, but for me it has continued on in my mind for weeks.  While I know that it is perfectly fine for each of us to worship in ways that  fit us, I also had to consider whether my worship was genuine. It’s been a conversation of legalism and true worship, of falling into routine and out of relationship, of what it means to worship my ever worthy Savior, and whether I am indeed passing on that message to my kids.

Tough questions. Am I going through the motions without really meaning it? Am I trying to earn approval instead of accepting the FREE gift of GRACE? I’m afraid that is my tendency when I am not being intentional.

All of this has lead me to ask another question. If I am not under the bondage of earning approval or being perfect, then what should be dominating my life. One word I have been dwelling on: Freedom. Freedom in the gospel of Christ.

What does this have to do with a picture of people in worship? For me, this: I am very introverted. I don’t like to express myself publicly. I am comfortable with quiet worship. I like routine. I like feeling safe. A lot. But I need to not be comfortable with those alone. Genuine worship  needs to be intimate and intentional. That is what the picture on Facebook was portraying. It’s not that people can’t worship intimately without a band and lights and raised hands. It’s that it’s become too easy for me to go through the motions. And when I am really honest with myself, I long for that intimacy with God more than I allow myself to act upon it.

This is not over. I am praying through some struggles with my flesh. My testimony in short is “Judged by the world; Loved unconditionally by God”. It’s up to me to continue believing this latter reality.  And, like I learned in Max Lucado’s You Are Special, that takes going every day for intimate time with my Maker. And it takes being humble, vulnerable, and trusting while I am there.

I’m so thankful that my children ask questions that help to refine me, tochallenge me to be more like Christ.

Expectations

 Lest you believe that our home, school, children, or parents are perfect, let me reassure you that we are not. There are days and weeks when I wonder why I chose to homeschool because I have gotten so worked up about all the things that are going wrong. There are times when I cannot figure out where to go and how to fix anything. There are definitely moments when I think I have made a huge mistake in homeschooling my kids. I’ve been doing this for ten years, but I still have this picture (along with all of the statistics that support it) of kids that are academically above average in every area, and sometimes my selfish being wants that trophy.

Last Friday was a bad day. A really bad day. The kids drew for an art contest for their dad’s work calendar. Their writing had backward letters, and it was messy. They didn’t really want to do anything that I had planned, and after the art experience, neither did I. I know, it’s art. Chill out. But I was in a bad mood that day. I didn’t have a single nice thing to say to anyone. Nothing they could do was good enough for me. I tried praying about it. I tried rearranging my thinking. I couldn’t do it.  I was just totally fried. I cannot remember the last time that I actually contacted my husband at work and asked him to arrange for a sitter and a night out so that I could get away.  But I needed it.

While it wasn’t the best dinner date conversation, he was kind enough to let me talk through all of my failures that were plaguing me. He’s no stranger to our situation, and it was good to again feel like I wasn’t alone in this effort. Ultimately, though, I was able to really dig in and understand what I was feeling below the surface.

At first I thought it was this: I felt like I had a job to do but didn’t have the tools to do it.

But then I realized it was deeper than that. God didn’t give me kids that are natural easy learners.  He gave me kids that struggle to read and write and do multi-step math problems.  He gave me really neat kids that see such wonderful things in life, but I was not seeing that. I was fighting against it. My “trophy” was at risk.

All of my life, I have struggled to measure up to my and other people’s expectations. It’s bondage, really.  Now I have been taking baby steps to get out of this bondage, but I unfortunately have been known to impose the same requirements on my kids. It’s not my intention, but I fall into it sometimes. And it never ends well.

God gave me four amazing blessings to teach and mentor. My challenge is to look at them each day as God made them to be, and guide them accordingly… NOT to try to make them fit the mold of the “model student”  That is one of the realities behind my delight directed learning decision. My kids need to learn in their own ways, and I need to allow it. Instead of feeling like failures for not fitting a mold, my kids need to know that they are smart and talented just the way that God made them. And I need to remember that too.

And that will lead to better days.