Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Meaning of Peace

Here is something I posted several years ago.  I was talking to a friend tonight about the numerous "storms" going on in the families around us, and was reminded of the saying, "Sometimes God calms the the storm, and sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child." 

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of Peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest in perfect peace.

The king chose the second picture.

Do you know why?

"Because," explained the king, "Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."

Author Unknown

Isaiah 55:8-9
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Matthew 11:28-30
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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

English for the Reluctant Reader and Writer

I am teaching a class this year for my son and a few other homeschool high schoolers. I am calling it "High School English for the Reluctant Reader and Writer".   Do you know anyone like that?

Reading is a chore for J, akin to lugging heavy rocks across a field. Writing might be even worse. But I am determined to break through and impart at least a bit of my love for reading and writing to these kids.  My strategy is to engage them in compelling literature, allowing them to use audio recordings if they like, going fairly slowly through the text, involving them in bite-sized research and class presentations ( "sharing" - less imposing than"presentation", don't you think?) , using multi-media like Prezi, Slideshare, movie clips, etc.

Our first book is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I chose this book to start with for a few reasons.  It is current and popular with young people. The kids have all seen the movie and are familiar with the storyline.  It is also easy to read, engaging because it is written in 1st person, has a lot of suspense, is full of interesting connections to history and current events, and there are a good amount of resources available online! It also provides some great opportunities to discuss important values such as courage, loyalty, compassion, freedom, responsibility, etc.  We'll spend 6 weeks studying this book and watching the movie, and then we'll tackle The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, The Gift of the Magi, Great Expectations, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Hobbit.

I have created a blog where I am sharing links, resources, and ideas from the class:  Raising Literati.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A "Soft Start" to the Homeschool Year

Came across this article this morning, calling for a "soft start" to the homeschool year. I have done this for years, as have a number of other homeschool families I know. We call it "easing in".  The idea is that instead of having a "first day of school" where you jump into all your subjects, we start slowly, with just one or two subjects a week, until we are at full schedule.   It helps both student and teacher to get adjusted to new subjects, new schedules, new routines, without feeling overwhelmed.

I only have one high schooler left at home, so for my 10th/11th grader (5 year plan), it looks like this.  Two weeks ago he started Algebra 2, which involves meeting 2 mornings a week with a teacher for a small group tutorial, and also his weekly basketball training session.  That's all the "school" he did for 2 weeks. This week we add Chemistry and Spanish, for which he attends class one morning a week and works independently the rest of the week.  We also started watching some history videos. Two weeks from now,  we will add English (literature/writing/vocab), which I will be teaching 2 days a week here at our house, with 6 other students. We'll also start back with guitar that week.  We'll be working on a nutrition elective a little at a time as well, and I have a list of books for us to work through -  biographies, Christian worldview, character, etc - so I'll probably start that next week, with  me having one read-aloud going ( yes, for a 16-year-old!!) and him having another that he is working on.  I'm also determined to get him in the kitchen and teach that boy to cook this year.  Being the baby, he is much too accustomed to Mom taking care of him, and seems to know to how to get me to do it without me even realizing.... voodoo, I tell you.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Homeschool Growth is HUGE in NC

The following article was posted in The Locker Room, the John Locke Foundation's statewide issues blog.  The statistics are even more amazing when you take into account that the numbers are an estimate based on 1.5 children per family ( not true of the majority of homeschoolers I know) and also does not include children under age 7, since that is the age of compulsory education in NC.

The jaw-dropping growth of homeschooling in N.C. 
Posted on July 29, 2014 at 12:29 pm, by Terry Stoops 

Earlier this month, I reported that the estimated number of homeschoolers hit an all-time high of 98,172 students during the 2013-14 school year. The N.C. Division of Non-Public Education published the disaggregated data this week, so I examined estimated homeschool enrollment, by county, over the last five years. We know that the total number of homeschool students more than doubled between the 2008-09 and 2013-14 school years. But consider the following: 1. Overall, 92 of North Carolina’s 100 counties had triple digit percentage growth in enrollment over the last five years. Wowza! 2. Last year, 28 of the state’s 100 counties had over 1,000 homeschool students. Five years ago, only seven counties reached that enrollment level. 3. The median number of homeschool students per county was 570 last year. Five years ago, it was 249. 4. Homeschool enrollment in two counties – Harnett and Onslow – grew by over 200 percent. Moore County’s 193 percent growth rate fell a little short. Better luck next time. 5. Last year, there were an estimated 9,559 homeschool students in Wake County. Wake had the largest five-year enrollment increase in North Carolina, adding 5,788 students, and is poised to become the first county in the state to enroll over 10,000 homeschoolers. Interestingly, Wake’s homeschool enrollment beat Mecklenburg County by well over 2,000 students.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Distracted Year

I've had a distracted year.  Mmmm, maybe more than one, to be honest.

As my children have grown up and moved away and the number of children still at home has dwindled from five to one, the time I spend thinking about and planning for our homeschooling has decreased.  Since I've been doing this for 20 years and am pretty much a  "relaxed homeschooler" ,  you'd think I'd have this school thing totally covered, right?

Actually, I have struggled a great deal these past 2 years, mainly with balancing time spent preparing and monitoring school lessons and activities for my ONE child with the many other projects and responsibilities on my plate.  Since I have all this TIME, I have taken on more and more. I serve in leadership of our homeschool group, serve as a mentor to new homeschoolers, chair the homeschool prom committee, help with graduation, moderate the email loop and facebook group, and assist my husband with the sports program. I bake cupcakes for friends. I have started going to the Y and to Zumba class several times a week.  I think about cleaning and organizing and decorating our home.  Don't really ever get to it, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about it....

It was while attending the annual NCHE Homeschool Conference in May and soaking in some great wisdom from the speakers there that I realized.... I have become distracted and am not giving adequate attention to one of the BIG PRIORITIES in my life, and that is the nurture and education of my children.  J may be nearly 16, but we're not done with him yet!  He isn't a carbon copy of any of my other children, so I can't just duplicate something that was done before, plop it in front of him, and expect him to succeed. He has unique needs, challenges, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and talents.  So I am trying to pull my focus back in to my family.  I am looking at my other projects and responsibilities and trying to see where I can pull back ( a hard thing for a Do-er like me ) and spending more time this summer praying, planning and preparing for his classes and activities. And thinking and praying about what I need to do during the school year to follow through, maintain my focus, and not get distracted.. again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summertime, and the Living is Easy....

Ha!  Love that song, love that idea....ah!

Summer is quite different now that my children are mostly grown and NOT HERE for most of the summer.  My 2 youngest are working at an overnight summer camp, so they come home late Friday and go back on Sunday.  So I am kidless for most of the summer.  This is the 3rd summer like this - a new season of life for this mama of five used to the bustle and chaos of a house full.

So why is it that I still have a hard time getting my TO DO list done?  Probably because my list hasn't gotten shorter, it is just different!  In addition to the normal summer activities of "find the floor in my bedroom", "organize the piles", and "make plans for the coming school year that we may or may not follow",  I have added "Camp Cook" to my schedule one day a week.  In the 16 years that my kids have been going to New Life Camp, this is the first summer that I have set foot in the dining hall!  My friend, Sharon, convinced me that getting up at 5:00am to drive down to camp and make 400-600 chocolate chip pancakes would be fun!  You know, she was a psychology major in college, and I think they might teach some kind of mind-bending hypnosis techniques.  Ha!  So, it is a little earlier than I would normally get up, but not too bad.  And my hubby has jumped on board as well, much to my surprise!  He normally avoids kitchens unless it is to pick up a plate of already prepared food. He has been a trooper - last week he flipped pancakes and this week he was on sausage link duty!

They have always had pancakes on the menu once a week at camp, but since my kids have always enjoyed the chocolate chip version, I suggested that addition this summer, and it has been a definite hit!  So much so, that last week's campers voted Chocolate Chip Pancakes their favorite meal of the week! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Carolin Capital Homeschool Prom Countdown

I am heading up our local homeschool prom committee for the 5th year now.   Carolina Capital Homeschool Prom 2014,. "Old Hollywood", is only 4 weeks away.  That is close enough that I'm waking up in the middle of the night with knots in my stomach and a to-do list zinging around in my brain.

It is a fact that much of the Prom planning has gotten easier with time and experience, but parts will never get easier.  The nature of the beast is that our budget consists of the money from ticket sales as well as a few sponsorships.  Tickets sales end 2 weeks before the Prom, so we never know exactly how much money we have until then. We plan and commit and make decisions based on expectations.  It has worked the 4 previous years, sometimes down to just a few dollars being left in the bank account.  But it seriously has produced a lot of my gray hairs.  Last year we had 85 students registered 5 weeks before Prom, and ended up with 195.  It floors me how many people wait until the last minute, especially because the ticket price is the highest then. This year we publicized that we are capping registrations at 200, and are at 180 with 2 weeks of registration left.  It will be interesting to see if we get that last minute avalanche like before, or if  knowing that space was limited actually got people to send their registrations in early.  

One very talented mom heads up our decoration committee, and she comes up with some incredibly creative ideas for table decorations and theme enhancement on a pretty tight budget.   She also creates an amazing candy and dessert display that the kids flock to. 

 Prom 2012 "Moonlight in Paris"

Prom 2013 "Carousel"

Our "Old Hollywood" theme will  have an elegant, classic feel and might include things like pearls, lace, ostrich feathers, a red carpet, an illusionist, paparazzi and a vintage car.  We are currently scrounging up props for our photo station -  boas, beads, fans, top hat, spectacles, frames, etc...

Every year, we choose a Benefit Project for the Prom, to raise awareness and funds for a worthy cause. This year our Benefit is TEN EIGHTEEN, INC., a ministry started by a local homeschool mom. Ten Eighteen is a registered 501(c)3 organization working in Uganda and Andros, Bahamas, providing grants for micro-businesses to women in the slums, building a school, doing youth camps, paying school fees, aiding widows, establishing hospice care, and much more.
Deuteronomy 10:18 - He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

On Prom night, students will hear a short presentation about Ten Eighteen. They will also be able to make a donation and be entered in a drawing for some fantastic prizes!   Last year we gave away a Dell Laptop and a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet! What will it be this year?

If you are a praying person, please join us in praying for good weather on May 2nd!  We are under a shelter and Prom goes on rain or shine, but shine is always SO much nicer for an outdoor event!  

Here are some pics from past years.  I will post an update after it is all over.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thoughts on Teens and Dating

I have read a couple of articles recently about why teens should not date, or at least wait until they are out of high school.
Underage Dating: The Elephant in the Social Conservative Living-Room
7 Steps to Raising a Teen Who Won't Date Too Young

Any parent of teens has to deal with the topic of dating at some point, and parents of younger children need to be considering it as well, because our culture puts teen romance and teen relationships  in our face. Everywhere! Allthetime! TV.  Movies. Schools. The mall. Church.

I don't think there is one right way to approach this topic, just as there is no one "right" way to approach education or worship or healthy living.   Each family has to do what they feel is best for them.
Our family rule is no dating  until after high school.  They do have lots of friends, both boys and girls. Their social life wasn't/isn't lacking.  They have all been active in sports, music, church, Scouts, and various other activities.   But our reasons for putting the nix on young love has to do with preserving and protecting a time of life and leaving room for other experiences that romantic relationships can get in the way of.    We want our kids to enjoy spending time with our family and with siblings, and not resent family for taking them away from "that special person". We want our kids to develop strong friendships and understand the give and take that goes into maintaining a strong relationship - minus the tangle of romance.  We want our kids to enjoy their participation in sports, jobs, clubs, volunteer work, and not give up on those things because of the demands that dating places on their time and energy.  We want our kids to develop a bit more maturity and wisdom and self-control before diving into the complexities of a romantic relationship, because even those of us who have been married for 30 years still haven't figured it all out yet.  We want our kids to avoid the heartbreak of broken relationships during a time of their life when they are especially prone to extreme emotion and even melodrama, and lack the life experiences to handle those emotions rationally.

Our teens have respected this position, even if they haven't always been happy about it.  For the most part, they have seen that young dating among their friends/peers hasn't been a great experience for them, and they appreciate that our family rules take off some of the pressure to "have a girlfriend" or "have a boyfriend".

This is just what our family does, and is by no means a "formula for success".  I know wonderful families who have allowed their children to date at a young age. I know wonderful families who follow a strict courtship model. I do think it is a topic that all parents should discuss and consider before their children hit the teen years.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Not-So-Secret Secrets of Homeschool Support Group Success

I have been homeschooling for nearly 20 years.  Seventeen years ago,  two friends and I decided to start a new homeschool support group.  We had been part of a small group that didn't quite fit the needs of our families at the time.  We wanted to be part of a group that would be a source of encouragement for homeschool moms,  provide activities for our children, and provide a source for friendships for both!

We had 20 moms at our very first meeting, and the idea became a reality. Today this support group is made of just over 300 families, and is one of the strongest and most active groups in our area.  Here are a few things that I think have been instrumental to its success. 

Structure :  It would have been easy at the beginning, when it was just the 3 of us, to think that we didn't need any formal structure to the group. Why have By-laws and a leadership council for a small support group?  But we were given good advice  and so set up a structure for our group from the beginning which allowed us to distribute responsibilities, utilize the gifts and talents of our members, and grow without overburdening any one person.  Our group has a 7-member Leadership board consisting of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, membership coordinator, calendar/event coordinator, and hospitality coordinator. There are also "non-board leaders" who take on important roles in the support group such as librarian, yearbook editor, Iowa testing coordinator, webmaster, sports program director, etc.  When our group passed 200 families a couple of years ago, we added Advisors to help the Calendar/Events coordinator, and those Advisors helped in specific areas -  Academic Activities, Social Activities, Family Activities,  Field Trips, Teen Activities, Parent Support. Their job is to  help find activity coordinators, secure a facility if needed, offer advice in planning and carrying out the group activities, and also communicate monthly with the Leadership Board.  Structure is just one of the things that has led to longevity and growth for our support group.

August Parent Meeting

Focus on Encouragement and Relationships:   Why do people join support groups?  While field trips, park days, and spelling bees are all fun, encouragement is the most fundamental need that homeschool parents have. And although encouragement can be found in a book or magazine or website or blog, the best kind of encouragement comes from real people with whom we have real relationships - i.e. from friends!   Relationships are the glue that holds a support group together. With people all around us telling us we are crazy and probably ruining our kids, we NEED the moral support of others who have chosen the same path for their families. When we  have those days when we reach the end of our rope and declare the the kids are getting on that school bus TOMORROW, we need someone to call who can not only sympathize (because we've all been there), but can also offer guidance and suggestions to get us through the crisis, help us see the forest for the trees, and remind us of the reasons we are homeschooling in the first place.  Is your support group a place of support and encouragement?  Are there leaders or experienced homeschoolers available to answer questions or talk with a member who is struggling? Are there regular  meetings or gatherings where moms can talk, ask questions, share struggles, and celebrate victories? Some of the ways our support group offers encouragement is through monthly parent meetings, mentor groups, Facebook page, Yahoogroups email loop, Dads' breakfasts, informal rendezvous in the parking lot or at McDonalds after the monthly meeting, parent workshops, and park days. The format of our monthly meetings varies, and while sometimes we have a speaker or panel talking about a topic, other times we spend some or all of the time broken up into small circles with a leader/seasoned homeschooler in each circle to help facilitate discussions. In addition to encouragement, members are able to share experiences and glean from the wisdom of the older homeschool moms.

 New Homeschool Moms Brunch

Building up  New Leaders:  An integral part of support group leadership is identifying and building up new leaders.  Our Board positions are 2-year terms, with 3 or 4  Board members being replaced every year.   One benefit of this is that it is easier to ask someone to serve for 2 years, than to ask them to serve indefinitely! We also have numerous other leadership positions, which a person may hold for longer or shorter.  Keeping an eye out for active members who show a committment to homeschooling and a willingness to serve others is the beginning of building up new leaders.  First we ask these people to take on small jobs, and then larger ones with more responsibility, helping them along as needed.  We also look for those members with particular talents or abilities, such as accounting or graphic design or website design, and encourage them to contribute that talent to the group.  Leaders set the tone and promote unity in your group by focusing on what you all have in common, rather than on your differences.  They should be expected to set an example of wisdom, mercy, and humility.  All leaders are invited to a monthly leaders meeting, where support group business is discussed and relationships with the other leaders are built.  A day long "leaders retreat" is scheduled each June, for the purpose of making plans for the upcoming year but also for training new leaders and discussing the support group's mission, vision, and bylaws.

Vison:  Why do we homeschool?  Why do we have a support group?  What does our support group do?  What does it not do?  These are some of the questions that go into defining the vision of your support group.  Are you a co-op that provides academic enrichment classes? Are you a play group?  Are you focused on teens? On parent support and field trips?   Leaders should know the group's vision, mission, and purpose, and use those things to evaluate the direction of the group from time to time. Print it and hand it out to your members.  Put it on your website.  Add it to the bottom of your emails. 
Share the vision with your members often.

We believe God has given parents the authority and responsibility to direct the education of their children. Education includes the whole child - not only the mind, but also the heart, soul, and body. True education begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We are an association of homeschooling families and our purpose is to provide support and encouragement to one another in our homeschooling endeavor; to provide opportunities for our children to participate in large and small group activities for academic, social, and character-building purposes; to share information about local, state, and national happenings of interest to homeschool families.

HSPN East Coast Homeschool Basketball Championship Tournament 2014 = a.k.a "LIBERTY!!!"

Just returned from our 8th year at the HSPN East Coast Homeschool Basketball Tournament with the Lighthouse Eagles! This post-season tournament is the highlight of the year for our varsity and JV players, and win or lose, we always have a great time! This year did not disappoint, with over 80 homeschool basketball teams from NC, SC, GA, VA, TN, KY, MD, NJ, and NY in attendance!

Chris Davis, the tournament director, and his staff does a phenomenal job! And Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA is a fanstastic, family-friendly location with their wonderful sports facilites ( LaHaye Center, Vines Center, and LCA ), pretty campus, and friendly community.

This season, Jason was the starting point guard for our JV Boys team, but also played up on Varsity for non-league games. So at Liberty, he played both! Ten games in 4 days - 1 on Wednesday night, 4 on Thursday, 4 on Friday, and 1 on Saturday. The 3-point contest was held on Thursday night after games ended, and Jason's turn didn't come until about 10:30pm! But apparently he shoots well after playing 5 games in 24 hours, and shot 18 3's in 60 seconds to come in 2nd for the JV Boys!

To help him stay strong and energized, I packed a cooler of protein shakes, protein bars, string cheese and crackers, trail mix, water bottles and powdered Gatorade. Cracker Barrel has a great breakfast menu - pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, a banana, and milk is a great start to a long day of basketball! I brought Epsom salts and had him soak in a hot bath before bed. We got home from the gym pretty late, but part of the fun of tournament is hanging out with teammates at the hotel - at least for a little while; and a late night Cook-Out run is apparently a tradition!

There is a lot of team bonding that occurs during a tournament. The JV portion of the tournament ended on Friday, and our Eagles won the 1A Divison championship. Varsity championships were held on Saturday. Our Varsity boys won the 3A Division championship and our Varsity girls finished 4th in the 2A Division.

 I am proud to be part of the Lighthouse organization and proud of our kids, for competing with heart, courage, conviction, and honor. These are the intangibles that high school athletics should impart.