Wednesday, June 29, 2011

100 Days to 1000 Blessings - Day 3

Rediscovering joy!  List 10 blessings every day for 100 days.

21. Afternoon thundershowers yesterday brought some needed rain and brief relief from temps in the high 90's.

22.  We have a mechanic friend who will take a look at a car Sarah might buy and let us know if it is worth the money, since nobody in this family really knows anything about cars!  Thank you, Joe Rego!

23. Double-stuff oreo cookies.  Enough said.

24. I love having contemporary Christian radio stations to listen to, where the music is uplifting and family-friendly and the DJs are kind, encouraging and even pray over the air for their listeners.  Thank you, K-LOVE and HIS Radio, for blessing me as I drive here and there and everywhere.

25. The Public Library is such a cool place!  Thousands of books at my disposal, free for the asking,  when I need something to read besides the thousands of books in my house!

26. My family blessed me with a smartphone last Christmas, and I just found another very cool thing I can do with it!   I misplaced my library card ( again ), and when I walked by the self-checkout counter at the library today I saw a card that said that the scanners read library card barcodes stored on Smartphones!  What?!!!  So I sat down with my little mini hand-held computer aka Droid Incredible, went to the internet and found the name of the "app for that"!  I downloaded the free Cardstar app, entered my library card number ( which I do have memorized!!!  yes, I'm a homeschool mom )  and voila!  I checked my book out using my smartphone.

27. I am thankful for an almost-13-year-old son who still likes to hug me and snuggle on the couch when we watch TV or read. Don't tell him I wrote that here.

28.  Romans 8:38   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

29. I love crawling into my nice soft bed after a long day.

30. My KitchenAid mixer is a great time saver in the kitchen.  I just went over 6 months without a microwave oven, but I don't think I'd last a week without my KitchenAid!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


This is one of those things that gets passed around and around, and was sent to me by my mom.

A young wife sat on a sofa one hot, humid day, sipping iced tea and visiting with her mother. As they talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.

"Don't forget your sisters," she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass. "They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them. Remember that 'sisters' means ALL the women in your life .... your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too. You'll need other women. Women always do."

"What a funny piece of advice!" the young woman thought. "Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake! A grownup!  Surely my husband and the family we may start with be all I need to make my life worthwhile!"

But she listened to her mother. She kept contact with her sisters and made more women friends each year. As the years tumbled by, one after the other, she gradually came to undertand that her mother really knew what she was talking about. As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, sisters are the mainstay of her life.

After more than 50 years of living in this world, here is what I've learned:

Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Men don't do what they're supposed to do.
Hearts break.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Careers end.


Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach. When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end.
Sometimes they will even break the rules and walk beside you..... or come in and carry you out!  Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law,  mothers, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, cousins, extended family...all bless our life!
My world wouldn't be the same without the women in it. When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.

Every day we need each other still. Pass this on to the women who help make your life meaningful.

100 Days to 1000 Blessings - Day 2

List 10 blessings a day for 100 days!

11. Sarah, Eric, and Amanda all have summer jobs at New Life Camp. I really couldn't ask for a better work environment for my children!

12. My friends seem to like my cupcakes well enough that not only did I raise enough money for Amanda's mission trip to Uganda this summer, but I am going to be able to send Sarah a support check each month as she works as an unpaid intern for SafeWorldNexus in TN. 

13. My new cupcake decorating tips arrived yesterday - a jumbo 3/4" tip and a jumbo open star tip. And some pretty cupcake paper baking cups as well.

14. I love fresh fruit.  It is summertime, and that means fresh, juicy peaches.  Southern Peach cupcakes will be coming out of the oven this week.

15. In addition to my homeschool support group, I am also part of a Tapestry of Grace Co-op that meets every week during the school year and is made up of the coolest families in the world!  We love our Lollapalooza Co-op!

16.  John 3:16  For God so loved the world ( ME ) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

17. Jason attended basketball camp at NRBA last week and at NLC this week, both places where they stress not only doing your best and playing hard, but doing everything for God's glory and honor. Both are great programs that run by wonderful, godly men - Mr. Mark Miller and Mr. Greg Burton.  

18.  Our 3 cars are all running and all have AC this summer!

19. I'm very thankful for the "sistas" in my life!  My girlfriends laugh with me, cry with me, pray with me, encourage me, challenge me, debate with me, compliment me, stretch me, support me, love me.  I get to spend a couple of hours with my sista Eve this afternoon.  So glad. :-)

20. Not withstanding summer colds and allergies and normal bumps, scrapes, and bruises, my family is blessed with good health.

Monday, June 27, 2011

100 Days to 1000 Blessings

I've been in a bit of a funk lately, feeling a wee bit sorry for myself, not liking the changes that come with this season of my life.

Soooo.... I came up with the idea of listing 10 blessings a day for 100 days. That makes 1000 blessings!  I know that God is good, all the time.  I know that my cup overflows with his blessings.  I just need to lift my eyes and refocus.  As my camp counselor kids would say - "ATTITUDE CHECK!".

Day 1

1. My oldest son is home for a 10 day visit!  All 7 of us went bowling together on Saturday, and went to church and out to eat on Sunday. :-)

2. I have an air conditioned house, which makes summers in the South oh so much more comfortable.

3. The bank immediately noticed suspicious activity on my debit card yesterday and denied the transaction, so no money was stolen from our account.  Kind of eery that the bank "knows" we wouldn't be withdrawing money from an ATM in Hollywood, CA, but I'm glad they do..

4. Got an email from a far-away friend this morning, which made me smile.

5. My dad is doing well after emergency gallbladder surgery this weekend. Thank you, Lord, for my Dad.

6. During a time when so many people are losing their jobs, my husband's employment has been steady.

7. God's Word is true today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

8. There is a pot of fresh, fragrant herbs growing on my deck - an accomplishment for a decidedly black-thumbed gardener ( is that the opposite of green-thumb?)

9. I am part of an awesome homeschool support group, with a group of amazing ladies at the helm.

10. My husband loves me and tells me so quite often. :-)

There, I feel better already.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When Cleaning the Closet is Traumatic

I really, really don't like this stage I am in right now. 

My youngest two children are turning 18 and 13 years old this summer - both "milestones" on the growing-up scale. 

About 2 months ago, my youngest asked me if we were going to put the 3rd bed back in the boys' bedroom when Alex gets out of the Army next year.  I had to gently inform him that his big brother, at age 26, will not be moving back home again.  That was an "ahhhhh" moment of realization for him.

Sarah leaves in 2 weeks. Since she graduated from college last year, she moved to CT to work for a few months, and then back to Boone to work at the college for a few months, but both those times we knew it was temporary and she was coming back home.  This time, she's hoping this move will be somewhat permanent.

Eric graduates from college in the spring. 

So on to the closet.   I am terrible about holding on to things, and know that I NEED to declutter the house this summer.  I have to get myself psyched up, and then for a few days I can be ruthless. But it never lasts very long.  Well, I was thinking today that I might tackle the pantry/craft closet tomorrow.  Along with serving platters, extra glassware, candlesticks, canned goods, and cookbooks, I have about 6 years of FamilyFun magazines in there, plus craft books, bins of craft supplies and a huge stack of construction paper.  Chances are, Jason isn't going to use most of that stuff anymore.  The real art supplies, yes.  But the pony beads, feathers, styrofoam shapes, and crayons? 

I am such a mess! That stuff is a big part of my motherhood. I'm not sure I can get rid of it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Regrets, I Have a Few - Investing in Family

The kids are growing up. They don't all live here any more.  It gets harder and harder to get the whole family together, and when they are all home, what do we do?

Looking back, I have some regrets. We invested lots of time and energy in raising our children, in homeschooling them, in building strong relationships and family memories. I wish we had invested more in making our home a welcoming gathering spot for our kids and their friends.  Friends have always been welcome in our home, and I love preparing food and having people here. We have had some great games of UNO and Spoons at our kitchen table.  But we have not made the investments in our house and yard that would provide space and entertainment for young people and adults to congregate and enjoy hanging out.  Our yard is full of weeds and holes , with only a lone basketball goal that has branches hanging in front of it.  Our deck is small and wobbly, with a single lounge chair.  We have a nice TV and video game systems. We have board games and cards. That's about it.

We have taken trips as a family that have created some wonderful memories - to Disney World, Williamsburg, Mammoth Caves, Washington, DC, annual trips to Massachusetts to visit family, and a 6-week cross-country camping trip to see the scenic wonders of the western U.S.   But now that my kids are older, I wish we had taken some of that money and put in a swimming pool, a volleyball court, horseshoes, a game room, a bocce court.   I wish there was something HERE that would attract my grown children to want to invite their friends to hang out, or would be a fun way to spend a day with their siblings, rather than wracking our brains to think of someplace we can GO  that everyone enjoys and that fits in everyone's schedule.

This was my dream when our kids were small. I always wanted to have a big house that would be the hub for my children  and all their friends.  I wanted OUR house to be the place where everyone wanted to be.   But the "dream" never turned into a "plan".  It never became a priority.

And now here we are.  My 26-year-old is here from TX to visit for a week, and then he is going overseas and we won't see him for at least a year.  My 12-yr-old is at basketball day camp during the week, and the 23 yr old, 21yr old, and 17 yr old are all working at an overnight summercamp,, and will only be home for the weekend.  So that gives us one day, Saturday, to spend together as a family.  My kids LIKE to spend time together as a family.  Our years of homeschooling have at least built that strong foundation. But what do we do?  We thought of going to a water park or beach or amusement park for the day, but he also wants to be able to visit old college friends in the evening. All those things are a couple of hours away and need a whole day , so that doesn't work.  

It would have been nice if we could have had a cook-out and invited people over to swim or play volleyball or bocce or whatever.  That would have made an earlier investment of time and money well worth it.

My husband wants  the two of us to splurge and go to Hawaii for our 30th wedding anniversary next year. While that sounds like fun and I'd love to visit Hawaii, once that money is spent and that trip is over, we have nothing but the memories.    I would rather put that money toward something that we can enjoy over and over again and that our family could enjoy too.  Maybe a hot tub.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer S's

It is officially SUMMER!
We've been on school break for several weeks now, and enjoying the change of routine!

Jason is playing Little League baseball and his team, the Mets, is undefeated so far this season. They won their 1st tournament game last night and play in the semi-finals tonight.  He is also in basketball camp this week, where they work him and the other 40 kids hard on skills, drills, and scrimmages, so he is one tired 12-year-old when we get home at night!

My niece came down from CT for a visit last week, to go to Teen Week at New Life Camp. She came a few days early so we had some time to hang out, and she and J went ice skating and played several games of Monopoly. 

The day before Teen Week began,  we drove down to the NC coast for a day at the beach!  I love spending the day with my family, but the beach isn't my favorite place, mostly because I don't enjoy sitting out in the sun!  But this time, we stopped at a "beach store" on the way and bought a BEACH UMBRELLA for me!  Perfect! 

the umbrella could be bigger... but it works for me

Wildfires 2+ hours east and southeast of here produced very smoky, hazy conditions here in the Triangle early this week, enough that a Code Orange Air Quality alert caused youth baseball games to be cancelled on Tuesday night, and camp to move all their activities inside for the afternoon AND all campers to sleep inside the gymnasiums on Tuesday night!  That was a first.  The winds have shifted and the smoke has cleared away now.  But that was weird. 

Alex is home for 10 days of leave!  YAY!  He is heading to Iraq again in a few weeks, so we won't see or hear much from him for the next year.  So I'm trying to get my fill now. :-)   His 4 year commitment to the Army comes to an end in the middle of this deployment, but  he'll finish the tour and then get out when he comes back to the states.   I am proud of him for serving his country, but I have to say I'll breathe easier when he is out.  Hopefully the experience he has gotten as an officer will help him land a civilian job later on. 

I'm still baking cupcakes, and this week the flavor is "Elvis" - banana chocolate chip cake topped with peanut butter frosting, chopped peanuts and a banana chip.   Last week it was "S'mores" , which was chocolate cake sitting on a graham cracker crust, topped with toasted marshmallow frosting! Money is going to Amanda's mission trip to Uganda with Ten Eighteen and to help support Sarah during her internship with Safe World Nexus!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Reading List for Homeschool Parents

Summer is a great time to get in some reading, either while the kids are at camp or visiting grandma or while the family is on vacation.   Instead of grabbing a romance novel or the latest political thriller, why not consider some titles that will challenge you to be a better parent or spouse, or help shape and define your homeschooling philosophy or Biblical worldview?

Here are some great books that I have enjoyed reading and that have impacted me in those areas! Feel free to add your favorites in the comment section. 

The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity  by Sally Clarkson

I love all of Sally Clarkson's writing, and this one really speak's to a mother's heart and to building a loving relationship with our children. 

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

This book speaks to getting to the heart of your child when it comes to discipline, not just dealing with a certain behavior. You might not agree with everything he has to say, but you will  definitely find lots of good, sensible advice on raising children who obey out of love and conviction rather than out of fear or manipulation.

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens  by Paul David Tripp

Raising teens doesn't have to be scary! Rather than another buddy or an unbending drill sargeant, teens need a mentor, guide, and loving authority figure to help them navigate the challenges of growing up.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye:  A New Attitude Towards Romance and Relationships  by Joshua Harris

If your kids are still little, read this book now and start thinking about how you will talk about romance with your children. Even elementary children get asked, "Do you have a boyfriend?" If you have middle school or high school ages kids, read this book and then have your kids read it too.  Whether or not you follow Mr. Harris's recommendations, he will give you a lot to think about!

Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys  by Hal and Melanie Young

If you have boys, this is a must-read!  Our society is very confused about raising boys, and it is refreshing to read the Young's solid, biblical, and common-sense approach!

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto

Former NY city and state teacher of the year holds no punches in his critique of the public education system and its agenda to stamp out passion, creativity and individuality in favor of group-think. This is a book everyone should read!

How Now Shall We Live?  by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey

A worldview is the set of underlying beliefs and assumptions through which we view every aspect of life. Being a Christian doesn't automatically mean you hold a biblical or Christian worldview. This important book addresses the building of a biblical worldview and how to engage a post-modern culture that has rejected most everything associated with that way of thinking.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Dr. Chapman, who has worked as a marriage counselor for 30 years, identifies 5 "love languages" which fill our "love tank" - Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.   I found his writing to be humorous and his examples spot-on!  Reading this helped me to understand my husband better.  It would be most helpful for both husband and wife to read it. :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Crazy, Complicated. Intimidating... or Not

When my kids were all little, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of having teenagers.  I had always loved babies and toddlers and little children, but middle schoolers and high schoolers seemed .... complicated. As my children got older, I preferred helping in the church nursery to helping with youth group.  I just couldn't relate to the angst and rebellion and hormones that I saw in other people's kids... but mine seemed to be doing okay.  I still liked my kids when they became teenagers, and found they could be witty, charming, helpful, and insightful, as well as confusing, frustrating, and occasionally irritating.  I came to enjoy having a houseful of teenagers being loud, eating me out of house and home, and staying up late into the night. Their best friends were mostly great kids who I came to think of as "my kids".  As they finished their homeschooling years and went on to college, I looked forward to their phone calls and visits home, and nothing made me happier than a house full of teens and young adults!

Now two of my children are college graduates.  One is still a college student and my 4th child and baby girl just graduated from high school last weekend but is taking a "gap year" to figure out what direction she wants to head in next. I only have one child left to homeschool, and that one, my BABY BOY, is turning 13 this summer.  He still tries to fold himself up to fit on my lap.... but it doesn't work too well anymore. He is gloating over the fact that he now seems to have passed me in height, making me the shortest person in the family. 


I still love babies and little children, and am looking forward to the day when I will have grandchildren to dote on, read to, play with, and teach new things!  A baby in my arms is one of the sweetest things in the world.  But those teens and twenty-somethings?  They aren't so intimidating anymore! They're pretty cool people - at least the one's I know!  And they still appreciate mom's cooking, mom's companionship, and sometime's even mom's advice.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Homeschooler's 23rd Psalm

Top 5 Benefits of Homeschool Groups!
 The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

He maketh me to live on less sleep:
He leadeth me through the noise of many voices.

He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me to teach
The right lessons each day, for His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of undone
Laundry and kitchen messes, I will fear no evil:
For thou art with me, my teacher's guides and
Answer keys, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence
Of threatening school officials and critical family members:
Thou anointest my head with heavenly wisdom, my cup runneth over.

Surely educated and godly children shall follow after me
All the days of my life: and I will dwell again one day
In a clean house with the Lord forevermore.

( from Alpha Omega's "Daily Focus" )

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


If you are going to dream, dream BIG, right?

For a large, active homeschool association that is not the ministry of a particular church, finding facilities for our various activities is our biggest challenge.  When Lighthouse first started out with 20 families, we were blessed to be able to meet at a local church free of charge. We had a monthly parent meeting, a weekly enrichment co-op, a homeschool band, and a few special events in addition to field trips and park days.

A couple of years later, another church welcomed us to meet in their new building which was much bigger, and the group added a number of new activities, including volleyball and basketball,  but as both the church and the support group grew in numbers, the strain on the church's resources grew.  Although the support group always gave the church a sizeable love offering at the end of the year ( which was often returned), the church decided that it had to limit the amount of use by an outside organization such as ours.

Fortunately, a local family opened a homeschool bookstore at that time, and welcomed us to meet in their classrooms. This worked fine for our parent meetings, workshops, and some activities like our used book sale, Christmas craft day, and science fair, but other activities became too large for the space there, and we started going from church to church, renting space as needed. Our sports program rented gym space at a local charter school and a sports business for practices and games. .

After 5 years and an economic downturn, the bookstore had to close its doors, once again leaving us to look for meeting space.  By this time, our support group was well over 200 families.  No churches in the area were willing to host ALL of our activities and events, no matter what we paid, but we found several willing to rent us space for a couple of things. So now, Lighthouse has 260 families and utilizes facilites at about 8 different churches, as well as parks and people's homes.

So what about the DREAM?  The Lighthouse leadership has a dream of someday having OUR OWN BUILDING!   I really have no idea how this will work, but we believe that God works miracles and that He can bring the right people and resources together.  There is a precedent for such a thing.  Check out The Homeschool Building in Michigan. There is another in operated by FEAST in San Antonio, Texas .  We dream of a large gym with 2 full basketball/volleyball courts, locker rooms, bleachers, and concession area. We dream of a large multi-purpose auditorium with a stage and AV equipment  of classrooms for enrichment classes and co-ops, of a bookstore/rental center / cafe , of a teacher resource room with laminator, copy machine, book binder, paper cutter, etc. , of a playground and outdoor playing fields.  We envision that this building could be supported through revenue from user fees, rental fees, bookstore and rental center fees, tournament fees, corporate sponsorships, grants, etc.

I know that some people read this and think, "Why not just send your kids to school then, where they have all those things?"   The main reason is that home education is HOME CENTERED, with the decisions about curriculum, course of study,  teaching methodology, discipline, etc  made by the PARENTS who know and love their children.  It allows for tremendous flexibility and personalization just not possible in any institutionalized setting.  It allows for the inclusion of religious faith and values in every lesson.  The variety of activities possible through participation in a support group like Lighthouse ENRICHES that home education experience, and provides an outlet for the many unique talents and needs of our children. Unlike a school, home education allows the PARENT to make the decisions about what, where, when, how much, so that the family unit is strengthened and benefited, not undermined.

So, we start with a dream.

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook

I have great ideas for blog posts when I am lying in bed right when I wake up in the morning, but by the time I actually sit down at my computer..... poof, gone. 

I have been wanting to get into a better blog routine again. There have been some long gaps lately.   And I struggle sometimes with the purpose of this blog.  Is it just a way to share family activities with extended family? Am I writing to be an encouragement to other homeschooling families? Is it a brain dump for my thoughts on everything under the sun?  Perhaps I should split into 2 blogs - one for the family activities stuff, and one for the homeschooling, parenting, health politics, fix-the-world stuff.  ( you know, the things us moms talk about in the parking lot after meetings, sometimes late into the night, as we fix all the world's problems! )

For now, I'll start with something I haven't done in quite a while, and that is an entry for the Simple Woman's Daybook.  ( my life might not be simple, but this is a great reminder to enjoy the simple things in life!)

FOR TODAY : June 6, 2011

Outside my window... the sun is shining through the leaves in the backyard; there are still some logs left next to the fire pit that didn't get burned, but the remnants of Saturday night's Graduation Party are pretty much all cleaned up! 

I am thinking... that I can't believe how fast my children are growing up!  My 4th child graduated from our homeschool on Saturday, and I only have 1 left to go!

I am thankful for...  a healthy family, and know that it is a gift not to take for granted! I am praying for a dear friend whose little boy was just diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this weekend.

From the learning rooms.
..  we are on summer vacation right now , but last week I went to the North Carolinians for Home Education annual homeschool conference and heard Dianne Craft speak.  This week I plan to read the book I bought from her, Brain Integration Therapy Manual, 2010 ed. 

From the kitchen... I baked 4 kinds of cupcakes for Amanda's Graduation party -  Lime-Coconut (coconut cake w/ lime buttercream) , Mocha Cappucinno ( chocolate mocha cake w/ espresso buttercream) , Neopolitan ( vanilla cake filled w/ strawberry jam, topped with dark chocolate buttercream) , and Elvis ( banana cake, filled w/ chocolate ganache, with peanut butter frosting topped w/ candied bacon )

I am creating... I do not have a project going on at the moment, but I have a huge stack of photos we developed for Amanda's graduation board, so I'm thinking of breaking out the scrapbooking stuff ...

I am going... to bring some fruit and yogurt to my 3 kids who are working at New Life Camp this summer (thankfully only 10 minutes away) , but get tired of "camp food"

I am reading...  Brain Integration Therapy Manual  by Dianne Craft, and also Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis with my 12-year-old

I am hoping./ praying ... for my friends, the Craigs, who are in China right now to pick up their 3rd adopted child, a little 2-yr-old daughter, that everything goes smoothly with their trip and for their other children waiting at home for their return!

I am hearing...  ESPN Sports Center on TV, which is the first thing my 12-year-old does when he gets up in the morning!

Around the house... yesterday I was a slug (wiped out from a week of furious cleaning and cooking) so today I have to finish cleaning up from the Graduation Party

One of my favorite things... fresh strawberry shortcake... maybe for dinner tonight?

A few plans for the rest of the week:... Lighthouse meeting ( homeschool group ) tomorrow night with a panel of homeschool graduates talking about "life after homeschool";  my 16-yr-old niece is flying down from CT to go to camp next week, so we'll have her here for the weekend!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing..
Happy Graduation, Amanda! We love you and are so proud of the young lady you have grown to be!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Happy Graduation!

Yesterday was Graduation Day for Amanda, the 4th graduate of our homeschool, Cornerstone Academy!

She and 28 other seniors from Lighthouse, our support group, marched into the church auditorium to "Pomp & Circumstance" and were presented diplomas by their parents, who also offered words of congratulations, advice, and blessing to their children.

Mark, following his tradition of presenting our children with a strange yet symbolic gift at graduation, gave Amanda an African Violet plant.  He explained that this represented her upcoming trip to Africa, and also was a reminder that just as plants need care and attention in order to bloom and thrive, so does she, and he encouraged her to make wise choices regarding diet, sleep, relationships, etc.   Also, there are many varieties of African violet, and he proceeded to read a list of the "Ten Varieties of Amanda" -  the whiny Amanda, the athletic Amanda, the prankster Amanda, the creative Amanda, etc.

A video slide show of "growing up" pictures played as each group of seniors and parents walked onto the stage. After that, the new graduates turned their tassels and exited to the Hallelujah Chorus!

Amanda and Emily sang the National Anthem.
(Amanda is singing the harmony)

We celebrated with a Graduation Party back at our house!  This was the culmination of about 2 weeks of serious housework and yardwork! ahh.  It was worth it.
We love you and are proud of you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Never Too Old to Learn Something New

Last weekend was the annual NCHE Homeschool Conference and Book Fair in Winston-Salem. I have attended every year since the year before I started homeschooling! Seeing all those homeschoolers in one place (and there were not nearly as many 18 years ago!) and hearing the speakers was one of the things that convinced Mark we should go ahead and "try it for a year". We no longer operate under that "one year at a time" mindset, but that's a different post.

Some years I have focused on listening to the speakers and soaking in their words and wisdom, even buying tapes/CDs of the workshops I missed. Other years I have needed to spend time studying curriculum at the Book Fair - like the year I stalked the Tapestry of Grace table for 3 days! There have been years that were all about relationships and spending time encouraging other homeschool moms, and others that were about gleaning info and support from the Leaders Track of speakers, so that I could be a more effective support group leader. This year was something different again.

Even after 17 years of homeschooling, there are still new things to learn, and I feel like this year zeroed in on the needs of one particular child. I had heard of Dianne Craft from friends with special needs kids, and had visited her website a few times. But I don't have a "special needs" kid - at least I didn't think I did. What I do have are 5 very bright and very unique kids, with individual strengths and weaknesses - which by the way is one of the reasons home education is both challenging and essential!

The title of one of Dianne's sessions jumped right out at me - "Smart Kids Who Hate to Write". That describes both my oldest son and youngest son! They don't just hate to write, but writing is hard - too hard. There seems to be a disconnect between brain and hand. They are smart, they have learned the mechanics, they have great ideas, but getting them on paper is a torturous ordeal! The oldest has learned to plow his way through and has graduated college and is now an Army officer. But we are still in the throes of middle school with the youngest, and producing a decent paragraph takes about all the energy he can muster.

Dianne's other workshops at Conference were titled "Identifying and Correcting Blocked Learning Gates", "Teaching the Right Brain Child", and "Biology of Behavior and Learning". Let me just say that the information shared at these workshops was lifechanging.

Dianne not only has a masters degree in Special Ed., but is also a certified Natural Health Professional, and she talked about the effects of diet and allergies on learning, and gave suggestions for changes and supplements that could help.
She has studied the brain and how it works, and talked about something called mixed dominance, where the brain has not established a right or left dominance.  Most of us are right-handed/right-eye-dominant, or left-handed/ left-eye-dominant, and do EVERYTHING with that side.  Well, J has always used both hands, but for different things. He writes with this left, cuts with his right, plays baseball (throws & bats) with his left but plays basketball ( dribbles & shoots ) with his right. I did the eye dominance test with him and he is right-eye-dominant.  You might think this is a benefit and that he uses both sides of his brain equally well, but it actually creates a barrier and makes some aspects of learning very hard.  Fortunately, there are exercises to help establish that midline in the brain and create those information pathways from short-term to long-term memory.

Her wealth of knowledge and experience was amazing, and she also has a heart for HELPING people, evident by the amount of time she spent talking to people individually at her booth in between her sessions!   She wasn't giving a sales pitch just to make money. Yes, she had some materials for sale. But she made a point that much of the information she shares is available for FREE on her website. 

I am a laid back homeschooler, and my philosophy for learning to read and write has included not pushing too hard and giving things time, especially for the boys. But there comes a point when time doesn't seem to be doing the trick.  The sheer effort involved seems disproportionate to the task.  Dianne talked about tasks like reading and writing taking way too much "battery power" for these kids - the effort drains them so much they have little energy left for other school work.  And I thought "THAT'S IT!!!"   It isn't laziness or stubbornness - there is something about the activity that is draining the battery way too much!

I actually cried when I thought about the possibility of removing that obstacle from my child's learning.  According to Dianne Craft, that is entirely possible, if I am willing to commit and put in the effort to learning what she has learned and executing it with my son.

I am game.  Let's go.