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.
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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

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.

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.

Faith Like a Child

This has been an incredible year for my family spiritually. It started out very rough as my oldest girl struggled with friends, teenage decisions, and walking away from a faith that she had barely held onto. She just didn’t know that she could believe it anymore. Until she went to an event at our local BCM. She heard from God that day. He was real, and it was for her sin that He died. She grieved over what she was doing. She had friends that she lost, but God put new ones in her life. She had messy issues to deal with, but God put just the right people in her life to walk her through those and more. She is a different person now, one that has felt Gods grace and truths played out in her own life.

At the same time, my ten year old daughter was coming to me with a lot of big questions. “Why does God allow sin? Why are we not just made perfect? Why do we have to die?…” Then one day this summer, she came inside after sitting in the van alone and crying. She had been convicted of her sinfulness and her need for God’s grace. Over the next few days we answered some more questions and watched as she began her Christian life.

A couple weeks later, their youngest sister came to me at bedtime and proclaimed that she had been listening to all that we’d talked about with her sister, and she wanted to be a Christian too. I didn’t take her too seriously. She’s pretty rash in making decisions. But over the following months she was adamant. She was really challenging me in my faith as well.

My son has not yet come to this place, but he’s asking questions, and I have faith that he will soon.

My two little girls were water baptized this November and continue to amaze me in their child like faith. The reminders are such blessings. In my next post I’ll write about one of them that I’m loving right now. But for now, look to children. Ask yourself what they can teach you about trusting God in your everyday life. Ask what they can show you about compassion. Ask what they can show you that you have forgotten. You will be blessed by listening.

Christmas Isn’t Found in a Store

Last week we were watching the old Grinch cartoon when  my 8 year old said to me, “Mom, Christmas isn’t found in a store. Some adults don’t get that.” I was kind of surprised that she picked that up, but she was right. It’s not found in a store, and it’s often the adults who don’t get it.

I thought surely that that idea of Christmas not being about the gifts would be lost on the kids once they were flooded with gifts from grandparents, parents, and others. But it wasn’t. Yes, the gifts were fun, and a couple of the kids are completely enamored with them at this point. But the things we talked about  yesterday, the glimpses into their hearts, they were so beautiful. One  reminded me that gifts are not what it’s about. Neither is tradition.  One realized that gifts, no matter how many or what kind, don’t really satisfy that longing in her heart. She’d rather have time with people. Relationships. Sharing life together. Where do they get such wisdom?

We had the flu this week, so not much of the traditional festivities of Christmas day happened. I was disappointed as I love routine and tradition. I grew up in a family where ceremony surrounded so much of our lives, and this doing little for Christmas was hard for me. But what else was there to do when the kids were all running fevers and finding the days away? We still opened gifts and had short visits with some family, but it was not the same.

Not the same. But I learned some new lessons this year. I learned how to embrace the imperfections of life. Not only to tolerate them, but to take them in and love them. They are part of life whether I like it or not, and they require me to trust that God’s in charge instead of me. Oh, that trusting. It’s hard, but I’m slowly finding comfort in it.  I remembered the humble day of Jesus’ birth. I’m sure everything didn’t go just as planned for Mary that day, and yet it was a beautiful time because it was just what God had planned. I learned this year to slow down, stop worrying about school and parties and shopping, and start spending my efforts or the people in my life.  This morning, the day after Christmas, I’m not feeling let down. I’m feeling refreshed actually, and it didn’t come from a store.

What about the younger kids? Well, they are 13, 11, and 9. They get to choose some, but much less. They have a basic daily screen time allowance. They have to do the assignments I give. My 13 and 11 year olds are beginning to get some freedom. When I make the week’s plans, I schedule math, science, and social studies. Then I ask them what they want to do for writing this week and, within reason, that becomes their assignments. They like to write scripts and short stories, secret code letters, and Harry Potter books right now. I think that is a fine way to practice writing. I ask them which delights they want to pursue this week. Saxophone, drums, tumbling, dance, scouts, puppet shows, wood whittling, fort building and the like make the list. I add that to their schooling. I ask them which books they are currently reading and add those to the list. The end product is a plan that they contributed to and they are excited to pursue. It is a delight directed education with the guidance appropriate for their ages.

Delight Directed Resources

I did not become a delight directed “teacher” over night. I am a trained school teacher. But after teaching my first daughter informally through puzzles, games, library trips, and the like and then sending her to public kindergarten, the difference in learning methods became hugely apparent to me. When I brought her home mid year from kindergarten, we still did some standard workbook stuff mixed in with a lot more play. It took a few years to work through my fears and move our family from traditional schooling to delight directed learning. Here are a few resources I have used over those years and still today.

https://simplycharlottemason.com/ is the site that I used for direction and basic curriculum when we first dropped textbooks.  It introduced me to the natural learning styles that Charlotte Mason so strongly believed in. Back then, SCM didn’t have a book store and its own curriculum like it does now. It was mostly a list of books that I took with me to my library. I learned to trust living books and gentle ways as I followed their suggestions. I am ever so thankful that I found this site.

http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/delight-directed-learning/  is a direct link to a 10 part series geared toward younger (less than high school) kids about delight directed learning. Ami has written great articles and posted great resources that she has used for her kids for years, but I especially like her definition of learning in this series.

http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/ is all about Christians and unschooling. It was an encouragement to me in learning what each of my kids was made to be. There is some really good food for thought here.

http://www.ignitethefire.com/ is the site that introduced me to delight directed schooling. Terri Camp calls it unschooling, but I would call what she describes more of a delight directed learning. She advocates whole child education and notebooking. I actually love this site. A lot.

There you have it. I hope some of these resources encourage you!

Plans for Bethany in 2014-2015

Here we are again at the beginning of a school year. We are all the time learning through so many different experiences. For the sake of making a formal list, here is a peek into what we expect to be doing this year.

Bethany, 16, is officially in 11th grade. She has quite a busy year planned.  She has three major goals:

1. Take the ACT and score well enough to be able to get into college if she so chooses. 

To accomplish this, she will study extra math from Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 and practice her essay writing skills. From taking the practice ACT test, we know she is already prepared to score well on the reading comprehension, language skills, and science reasoning parts. While she will still pursue greater proficiency in those areas, we will focus primarily on math and essay writing. She will use various texts including Math U See, Apologia Science, Weaver Unit Studies Volume 4, and many self chosen books from the library.

2.  Continue progressing in dance and also work as an intern / student helper at her dance studio. 

She will participate in tap, ballet, jazz, pre-point, tumbling, contemporary dance, and dance company. She will also assist and learn to teach steps in classes for younger dancers.  By then end of the year, she should have a much better idea as to all that is involved in working in the dance studio area and whether it is something that she would like to pursue long term.

She will also pursue more sewing projects, practice her music and art, cook more meals, and learn to handle more money and responsibility.

 

Working Together

If you asked me what I considered myself able to teach my kids, sewing would not have ever been on that list. I know how to thread a needle and hand sew a bit. I own a sewing machine and have enough of an understanding of its workings to be able to make a simple set of curtains. That is the extent of my sewing knowledge.
When my high school girl came to me and asked if “she” could make a dress like the one Elsa wears in Frozen, I was definitely not on board with helping. I even hoped she’d forget the whole project. But she didn’t. She designed and mapped out her plans. I took her to the store to buy supplies, looked over her measurements to check for any errors, and helped her pin hard to reach areas for alterations. She has continued to lead the project in every way, but I am glad she allowed me to be a part of it. We have both learned so much, and shockingly, I have enjoyed “teaching” her how to sew. This has been one of the experiences of high school that I think we will both remember.