Friday, August 31, 2007

Field Trip to Historic Oakview Park

Yesterday morning we joined about 75 others from our homeschool group for a field trip to Historic Oak View County Park in Raleigh. It is a 19th century farmstead with a farmhouse, pecan grove, barn, cotton history museum, and farm history museum, as well as gardens and picnic area. The temps were in the 80's and it was overcast, making it a very comfortable day for being outdoors ~ especially compared to the terribly high temps of 1 and 2 weeks ago!

Our group was divided into thirds, and each went to a different part of the farm with a guide for about 30 minutes, and then rotated. Our guides did a great job, and the kids learned about picking cotton, the changes in NC farm life over the past 300 years, and about identifying historical artifacts. I had done this same field trip a number of years ago with my older kids, but the younger two had not been. It was a fun morning, especially because we got to share it with some homeschool friends!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Birthday/ Anniversary

Yesterday was my birthday and also our 25th wedding anniversary! Mark sent me a dozen roses ( aw!) and we went out to dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant in N.Raleigh called Casa Linga. Amanda baked my birthday cake from scratch - my favorite, Boston Cream Pie. Alex and Sarah each called from college and sang the birthday song AND anniversary song ( remember the Flintstones?) [thank you!] Thank you to my wonderful friends, too, who surprised me with cards and even a little box filled with 2 wine glasses, a bottle of sparkling grape juice, and chocolate kisses! I also got roses and a phone call from my baby brother in CA. Mark and I both sat at dinner last night saying, "how can it have been 25 years?" Granted, there has been a LOT of living between then and now ~ 5 kids, 4 moves & 3 houses, 6 pets ( not counting fish) 13 years of homeschooling, many trips back and forth to MA to visit relatives, lots of family camping trips all over the country, countless ball games, good and bad, rich and poor, sickness and heath.....
We passed a couple of years ago the mark of having been married longer than we were single! Wouldn't trade a day of it for anything. Nope, not one.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

God's Provision

Our 2nd week of school went well ~ we are still not up to full throttle, but are easing in. This week we added Tapestry of Grace ~ history, geography, bible, and literature ~ to the math and chores we started the week before. Next week we add writing and science. Yesterday was the first meeting of our TOG Yr. 1 Co-op, and it went really well! We have 13 families in the group, and we meet every Friday from 9:30 AM - 1:30 PM. The kids are divided into 5 age groups ~ Babies/ PreK , K-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-7th, and 8th -9th. Each group works separately with 2-3 moms, doing crafts, discussing the week's history & literature assignments, playing games, etc. We have a 1 hour lunch and recreation break from 11:30-12:30 so everyone gets to play and talk together during that time. My group ( 8th-9th ) played Jeopardy, using a game board and question cards I had prepared. They played in partners, with each one earning the points for their question. My teaching partner kept track of the score while I read the questions. We used this as a review of the facts from the week's reading in history, geography, and Bible. I think the girls ( there are 6 girls in the group, and 1 boy who was on vacation this week) realized that they need to pay closer attention to the details when they read, because they stumbled on coming up the answers to questions that they knew were fairly easy. So hopefully next week we'll see an improvement in their readiness!
I really view this group as one of God's provisions for our homeschool. It gives me some needed accountability and the kids something to look forward to and prepare for each week.

I have been without a car all week, since Mark's Honda had to go in the shop to have the transmission replaced. ugh I don't know if there is ever a "good" time for a big financial hit like that, but this comes on top of still paying for our family trip this spring, as well as school books and supplies, clothes & shoes ( these things just keep wearing out!), college tuition bills, a son needing wisdom teeth pulled..... Last night Mark compared our financial crunch to the story of Gideon found in the Bible in Judges 6 & 7. Gideon raised an army of 32,000 Israelites to fight the Midianites. But God said that there were too many, and told Gideon to send home all but 300 men. God wanted them to know that their own strength wouldn't bring them victory, but trust in Him alone. So maybe God is showing us that we cannot trust in our own resources, but in His provision?

I love the story of George Mueller, the 19th century English evangelist and orphanage director. He cared for over 100,000 orphans in 5 different homes, but never solicited financial support. Rather, he relied on God to provide through His people, as the Holy Spirit prompted them. One morning, the story goes, there was no food left in the home to feed the orphans. George led morning prayers as usual, thanking the Lord for his wonderful provision for them. A knock on the door came shortly afterwards, from a local baker who told them that he had felt compelled to bake bread for the orphans that morning. Then a milkman came to the door, saying that his cart had broken down in the street in front of the orphanage, and would they take the milk he had, since it would have to be spilled in the street otherwise.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Birthday Boy

Yesterday was Jason's birthday ~ my baby is 9 years old! So we ditched school for the day in order for him to enjoy his new gifts and go bowling with his friends in the afternoon. (I did sneak in a couple of read-alouds while he was building with Legos) One of our family traditions is finding your birthday gifts on the kitchen table when you wake up in the morning. (we are an impatient bunch). J found a new scooter, Star Wars Lego set, and 2 Creation Adventures DVDs. He was quite pleased!

He and Alex worked on the Lego model for a while together - who would guess there was 13 years difference between them?

We took 5 of Jason's friends to the bowling alley for a bowling birthday party ~ I brought cupcakes, brownies, chips, and drink pouches, and they bowled 2 games and then played in the arcade for a few minutes. Amanda also came with her friend Ellie. Yesterday was Ellie's birthday also ~ 9 years ago Amanda was at Ellie's 5th birthday party when I went to the hospital to have J. How time flies!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dual Enrollment and more

Eric and I spent the morning at Durham Technical Community College, registering for dual enrollment classes. Dual Enrollment is a program which allows high school students who are at least age 16 to take college classes for free, earning both high school and college credit. The classes are free, but the textbooks are astronomical ~ we paid almost $300 for 2 books today! Anyway, Eric got into all three classes he wanted ~ PreCalculus Algebra, Conceptual Physics, and Principles of Microeconomics. Well, saying these were classes he "wanted" might not be entirely accurate ~ these were classes WE decided would be good for him to take in his senior year. :-) Since dual enrollment students have to wait until the final day of late registration to sign up, desired classes / sections are often full. He got the last available seat in the economics class. After we finished at Durham Tech, we picked up Mark at work and went out to a Chinese buffet for lunch. Then we drove back to WF and picked up Alex at work, and then came home where Mark sat with his laptop for several more hours, finishing his day of work. This was necessary because Mark's Honda is in the repair shop for work on the transmission.... boo hoo.
Bekah moved back to NC State today, after spending her non-camp days with us this summer. She is one of Sarah's best friends, and our "adopted daughter".
We have definitely enjoyed having her around ~ she fit right in with our zany crew!

Alex will be moving his stuff down to campus this weekend, but he has a consultation with an oral surgeon on Monday about removing his wisdom teeth, so he has to stick around home until after that. His classes start on Wednesday. Only one more semester and he'll be a college grad!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anniversary Quilt

It's here! My mother, an extremely creative and talented lady, made a quilt for my 25th wedding anniversary, which Mark and I will be celebrating on the 28th of this month. The quilt was actually created by several members of mom's quilt guild. This is a very special gift, as the fabrics and patterns were carefully chosen to represent parts of our life together, and I have discovered all kinds of little surprises that were skillfully and lovingly incorporated into the design. Now I'm going to repaint my bedroom and do some redecorating, in order to adequately showcase this treasure. Mom, I can never thank you enough.

The center is a Ohio Star, which is the pattern I used on the first ( and only) quilt I ever made, back in my college days. It is surrounded by blocks of Log Cabin, which represent our home.

The corners are appliqued with dogwood blossoms, which are the state flower of North Carolina. I don't know if you can see it here, but the there is a cross quilted in the middle of the dark green area. The strip of colored triangles above and below the center block is called Flying Geese, and represents the state of Minnesota, where we lived for four years before moving to NC. The strip of rectangles on the side is called Piano Keys.

I learned to play the piano as a child and have always loved music, and my children also have learned to play the piano as well as other instruments.

This arrangement of Log Cabin blocks, with the dark colors meeting on the sides to form a triangle, is called Mountain Peaks ( or something like that ) and represents are love for camping and our trips to the Smokey Mountains and Rocky Mountains.

As we admired the new quilt on the bed, we started noticing some things that weren't obvious at first. There are words quilted in some of the borders! If you look below, you might be able to make out the word "literature"! There is a strip of quilting near the bottom that says "A B C, Biology, History, 1 2 3, Literature, E=mc 2 ". That represents our Homeschooling! How cool is that?!!

There is also a pink strip going around the quilt with the words "Faith, Hope, Love, Charity" quilted into it. This echoes one of the fabrics used in the quilt, and reflects our Christian faith.

Even the back of the quilt is meaningful, because mom found fabrics of the state flowers from the states we have lived in ~ Mountain laurel from CT where I was born; Mayflower from MA where we both grew up, went to school, met and got married; Cherokee rose from GA where we lived for one year while Mark was in grad school; orange blossom from FL where we lived for 6 years; pink & while ladyslipper from MN where we lived for 4 years; and American dogwood from NC, where we have lived now for 14 years!

Mom always told us growing up that homemade was the best kind of gift, and gifts should be from the heart. This quilt truly reflects mom's heart. I love you, Mom.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back to School

Today it was "back to school" here at Cornerstone Academy. I'm not as prepared as I'd like....but we got up early ( for us!), did chores, broke out the math and grammar books, read about Ancient Egypt, and reviewed some basic world geography and geographic terms. Then it was off to volleyball practice. We are "easing in" to school this week, doing just math, grammar, geography, and a little history. Next week we add full Ancient History / Bible / Philosophy / Literature ( Tapestry of Grace Yr. 1 ) and writing. On Friday, Eric will be registering for community college classes which start next week, so hopefully he'll be starting PreCalc, Physics, and Economics ( if there are still spots available in those classes ~ high schoolers have to wait until the last day to register ) . Biology class for Amanda and American Lit. class for Eric start after Labor Day. Jason will be doing science with a friend twice a week. We'll be continuing the Latin program we started last year. And I'm thinking of getting a couple of kids together here for an Art class once a week.
Later tonight we are heading outside to look for meteors. The annual Perseids meteor shower hit its peak last night, and we intended to get up in the middle of the night to go drive to an open spot to see them, but no one wanted to get up when the alarm went off ... so we are going to try it a little bit earlier tonight. It is a bit cloudy right now, but it is supposed to clear out in the next few hours...


Friday, August 10, 2007

EXCITEMENT at the Mestas house!

Our good friends, Jerry & Eileen, got some very exciting news today! Visit their blog HERE! Then see what Ellie, their daughter, wrote on her BLOG.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

HOT days and Homeschool Meeting

We are sweltering here in NC, like most of you around the country. Temps are in the high 90's, and the heat index today and tomorrow is supposed to be well over 100. I pray that the power grid holds ~ we had a few fluttering power outages yesterday, I'm sure from the high demand.
Yesterday morning Jason and I met friends at the Wakefield Marquee Theater for the free kids movie ~ "Are We Done Yet?" It was an amusing story of a family that moves from the city to a big old "fixer-upper" in the country, which needs much more fixing than they initially realize. The theater shows 2 free movies every Tue. and Wed. at 10 AM in the summer; there were 3 theaters showing each movie, and they were pretty full! I think everyone decided it was a good day to do something INSIDE in the air-conditioning. Last night was the August Lighthouse meeting, the first of the new school year. There were over 100 people there, which is why we moved from our regular meeting spot at the book store to a church fellowship hall next door. Cindy B. did a wonderful devotion comparing homeschoolers to Noah as he built the ark. The Bible doesn't tell us what Noah's profession was before he started building the ark, but even if he was a builder, he had never built anything like the Ark before!! But he trusted the one with the blueprint, and God told him what he needed to know, WHEN he needed to know it. No matter what our academic or career background is, none of us feels "prepared" for the task educating our children. Even experienced teachers are entering an entirely new realm, nothing like the classroom they are used to. But God has the blueprint, since he knows each of our children better than we do and will guide us if we seek Him. Noah probably had a lot of unanswered questions as he went along ~ when will the rain start? how long will it last? how deep will the water get? how will I find all these animals? will they be dangerous? how will I ever get them aboard? etc. etc. However, he focused on the task he was given, and was faithful to complete it. Likewise, we do not know all the answers and are not guaranteed a certain outcome, but we are called to be faithful in the task we are given as parents. We are not to look around us at what everyone else is doing, to say that what we or what they are doing is "not enough". God tells us "OUR STORY", not anyone elses. This is even true for our children. Ultimately, what they do with their lives is between them and God - God will tell them "their story" and they can either embrace it or reject it. Noah certainly had detractors ~ those who thought he was weird or a fanatic or totally off his rocker. But he kept working on the Ark and also warning the people around him of God's disapproval and impending judgement! Homeschoolers often face outspoken criticism or quiet disapproval from family, friends, neighbors, even churches. Our decision not to participate in the public school or even private schools is seen as a judgement on those institutions ~ and in fact it is. We educate our children at home because we believe it is the best thing for them, for a variety of reasons! Noah followed God's instructions and pulled his "kids" ( grown and married) out of the world and put them on the Ark, and GOD shut the door and saved them. Interesting fact - Cindy said that the word translated as "pitch" in the passage about waterproofing the Ark was the same word later translated in the Bible as "atonement". The Ark was covered with pitch, to fill in the gaps between the boards so water wouldn't leak into the boat and it would stay seaworthy. Our relationship with God ( atone = at one ) fills the gaps that we worry about in our children's education! We can never teach them every little thing there is to know in the world. Every program has "gaps"! But we as Christians serve a great and awesome God who tells us to "seek first His kingdom, and then all these things will be added to you". We need to remember that spelling and math and geography and biology and economics and literature are important, but the main thing to focus on is our relationship with God, and discipling our children so they will know and love and serve the Lord with all their hearts and all their minds and all their strength.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Friends Around the World

Being members of a missions-minded church and living in the same town as a Southern Baptist seminary means that we know a number of people working abroad as Christian relief workers and missionaries. One such young lady, a 2003 homeschool grad and the daughter of one of our pastors, recently left for Africa, where she is working as a physician's assistant. Please keep Jena in your prayers as she experiences a very different life and culture than what she is used to. And pray for her mom and dad, whose two children are both living half a world away for the next 2 years ~ Jena in Africa and Cory serving with the Marines in Japan.
You can read her blog HERE.

A new look

Notice anything different?

(hint..... hair color )

Back to Boone

We drove Sarah back to Appalachian State University yesterday ~ a 12-hour undertaking; we left home at 10 AM and got back just before 10 PM! Mark, Sarah's friend Bekah, and I went to help move her into her dorm and get her settled. She is an RA this year, so was assigned to a different dorm than last year ~ MUCH smaller rooms! We ended up bringing a couple of things back home that just wouldn't fit, but managed to squeeze in most of her belongings! Her roommate will arrive in about 10 days ~ hope Sarah leaves some room for her! For the next week and a half she will have RA training, which is a lot of information about campus services and how to deal with conflicts and crises in the dorm and teambuilding and all that fun stuff.

August Wedding

The wedding on Saturday afternoon was small, simple, and lovely! The ceremony was outdoors at the WF College Birthplace. Temps were in the mid-90's and it was a bit warm....the ushers handed out paper fans with the programs. At least we were sitting in the shade beneath some big trees. We didn't bring a cooler, but we did bring a couple of water bottles. That was a good thing, because Alex and the rest of the guys in the wedding party desperately needed something to drink, and they sucked down 2 or 3 of those as soon as we got there. The reception was indoors at the Ledford Center, which was air-conditioned! Yay!

Alex looked very dapper in his tuxedo. He's still a little dazed over the fact that Brian is married ~ sort of a "how did this happen to the old gang?" kind of thing. Hmmm, maybe in a couple of years....

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Stampin' Up! and weekend activities

Amanda and I went to a Stampin'Up party last night at a friend's house, and decided to host one ourselves in September! We have done this a few times in the past. Stampin'Up is company that sells rubber stamps, papers, and all the accessories needed to make creative homemade greeting cards and scrapbook pages. We got our creative juices flowing last night ~ these parties are very hands-on, with the demonstrator guiding the guests in the creation of 2 different cards that you get to take home and also demonstrating additional techniques.

Our No TV month is going fine so far ~ with the exception of the 22 yr old who sneaks in some video game playing when he comes home from work in the afternoon.

Summer Camp season officially ended yesterday for my camp workers! They were out with their camp friends last night for dinner and the movies, and I'm sure there were tearful goodbyes as the summer staff separated to head back to college or high school or work for another year....

We bring Sarah back to college tomorrow. She heads back early because she has RA ( Resident Advisor ) training before the rest of the students arrive. Wow ~ this summer went by entirely too fast.

This afternoon we are attending the wedding of one of Alex's best friends. Alex is in the wedding party, so we are pretty excited to see him decked out in a tuxedo! Pictures will be coming! It is an outdoor wedding and reception, and temps are supposed to be in the mid-90's today. whew~ could be tough... is it proper wedding etiquette to bring a cooler of ice water to a wedding ceremony?

The Raleigh News & Observer reported this week that there was a record increase of homeschools opened in NC last year. It was really a short blurb in the paper, without commentary on the whys or hows or impact, etc. It did generate some interesting comments to the website, to which I added my 2 cents worth. There is still some deep-seated prejudice against homeschoolers, mostly based on ignorance of the subject. Some consider all homeschoolers to be backwoods hillbillies or religious kooks. And there is quite about of misinformation about the legal requirements, testing, college admissions procedures, etc., even among homeschoolers themselves. Homeschoolers, please take the time to educate yourselves about the law and about the issues that affect you, especially before you share "information" with others.
"N.C. Reports Record Number of Home Schools" 8/1/07