Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking to the New Year always makes me pause and reflect.

We have a beautiful park in our town and this past year they did a major overhaul on the parking areas & roads, put in a memorial garden... I can't get used to it. I drove through the winding roads one night this fall, and came again to the sign that says the exit is the opposite direction from where we used to go, even though the exit is exactly where it was before. I always think, how can this sign be correct? How can I turn right here, and finally end up left? How can this road possibly take me out of the park?

I drove that long, dark, counter-intuitive, winding road and thought, this is our life. Long, dark, going the wrong way and yet God says it will be the right way...and I don't understand it. I want the whole map--but God gives me the headlights on my path in Jesus, who is the Way. And He says that is enough.

Hosea 6:3 "So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth."(NAS)

There are few certainties in life. This coming year let us press on to know the Lord!

In Christ, Merry :-)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Get it in Writing!

The kids and I have started interactive journalling. I tried a few years ago, but they really didn't have the writing skills or the interest yet to keep it up. This fall when my mom offered to buy a couple of books for us, I remembered this idea, and decided to pick up a journal for each of the kids. We're having so much fun!

A lot of the notes are "I love you, Mom!" but we also draw pictures to each other or say something funny, and I'm able to share things they do that bless me or make me proud of them. They love to read what I've written to them and respond back. Kids need lots of encouragement, and this is a great way to give them some.

Another benefit is that they are much more willing to write. Today when I was working on our Language Arts (changing passive verb sentences into ones with active verbs), I noticed Zac wasn't responding to my question--and he told me he was going to write it first and then tell me! This is my child who has been allergic to writing!

Now, I am a little sneaky, I admit, because we're secretly working on spelling too. I don't correct their spelling, but I notice words they misspell, and I try to use the words in my response, with the correct spelling of course. I've seen them start to spell several common words correctly through this. Gotta love those side benefits!

A great resource for encouraging all kinds of journalling is The Gift of Family Writing. Another favorite resource for encouraging writing in general, whether you homeschool or want to help your kids afterschool, is The Writer's Jungle.

Dave likes to write notes for the kids & hide them in their pants pockets for them to find, and they love this too. What things do you do to encourage your kids through writing?

Merry :-)

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Children Decorated the Tree...

One of them literally! (See the one-of-a-kind Anna-ornament, just above the Christmas bears). And there's a glimpse of Zac to the side, who finds the tree so bright he has to wear shades :).

Please also note the joint-effort creation of the now infamous star, which they decided should NOT be shiny, but white. They split up the work quite equitably--Zac finessed his way into "designing" the star by telling Anna she should do the decorating, since she's "so good at that." He'll make a fine delegator one day!

As for the rejected angel...when she was unpacked, Anna said maybe they should put her up next year--kids! Ah well, it's a tree with character...especially since I think the 2nd row and 3rd row of branches from the top got reversed, giving the tree that "trimmer" (pun intended!) waist many of us have on our Christmas wishlists!

This year the baby Jesus in swaddling clothing will also grace our tree--he rests inside the jeweled halo now surrounding Anna, when he's not being called "Katie" and riding on Anna's hip.

All was done while playing vintage 1960's Christmas carols on an actual record-player. (They sounded better once I changed the button from 45 to 33!).

Happy Holiday Preparations to you! Merry :-)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Why Are You Making Us Do This?

Last night we finished reading Johnny Tremain (don't worry, no spoilers!). The ending was appropriate...but not satisfying to my kids. "It can't end there!" "Is there a Johnny Tremain Two?" I often hear this at the end of books. Ending a book is like saying goodbye to your friends.

So today I decided to depart from our usual language arts, and told the kids to get paper and pencil. "Did we do something wrong? Why are you making us do this?" Hm, not the response I want for a writing assignment! True, I did recently make them copy I Corinthians 13:4-7 (the Love is patient...verses--very worthwhile!). Suddenly that translates into torture?

"No. You're going to write for 20 minutes, What happened next in Johnny Tremain?" After a few, "I can't do that!" and, "We'll die!" type responses (that's right, homeschool mom's sinister plan...death by writing!), they got excited about the idea and started writing.

Zac, the resident statistician, set his watch timer for the promised 20 minute maximum. The alarm went off to wails of, "I'm not done yet!" and "I think I need another piece of paper." Say WHAT? Ah, music to this mother's ears after years of wondering if they would ever enjoy writing! We focused more on copywork and dictation this year, and it has really increased their confidence.

They each took another 20 minutes to finish, and then we sat at the table and drank hot cocoa while they read their stories out loud. Zac even used a metaphor! Very cool. Persevere, my friends!

Merry :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whose plan was this, anyway?

You know, I just wanted to get up and get school done today. We have an appointment at 2, and then AWANA tonight--we can't start late today. Can't things run like clockwork just because I want it?! (Ironically, when we DID finally get to school, we read Can't You Make Them Behave, King George, about George the Third and his trouble with America. He couldn't make the Americans fit into his neat and orderly plan either!)

So what was it that landed my daughter in tears (leading to lesson # 47 on women for my son--"was it something I said?" "No dear, sometimes girls are going to cry and you can't do anything about it, just make sure your words and actions are kind." This wasn't in MY curriculum today! But an important life lesson, I suppose, worth the digression).

The issue at hand? The top of our Christmas Tree. The one waiting in the closet to be put up. (The kids want it up yesterday, I want the leaves raked & some things done around the house first...) Since about September, Anna has been drawing stars in the margins of her math papers. Nighttime stars, Christmas trees with stars... "Stars, yay! Angels boo." It's not that she doesn't like angels--she just wants a star on the top of the Christmas tree.

I can relate. I grew up with a star on top of the tree. Something about a star on top seems right to me. Zac likes our angel. I made that angel before he was born. It's lovingly wrapped in tissue and placed in its own box each year to keep it fresh-looking. Zac likes to think that Mom made that angel. He likes tradition (hm...things to run like clockwork?). He likes angels and thinking about them protecting us. He likes the angel on top of our tree, and doesn't want a star.

This morning, instead of eating breakfast, the kids cut up a cardboard box. Zac was drawing a nativity scene. With a very large angel. Anna was perfecting her star. Scientifically mapping out how to make the sides exactly even, the lines straight. Planning how to cover it to make it shiny. Wondering how to attach it to the tree. And the tension was building.

Where's the wisdom of Solomon when you need it? Somehow I didn't think half a star & half an angel on top of the tree was going to solve this one. Put the angel on top & mount the star from the ceiling? Maybe. Put my foot down, say enough, we'll just keep the angel? No, that would seem like I'm choosing sides I could hear them arguing as I put laundry in the dryer. I said a quick prayer and returned to the craft-works kitchen.

Slowly, and quietly I said, "I have to talk to you children. I don't know what we're going to do about this Christmas tree topper. But we can't have this fighting. I'd rather not put up the tree than turn our Christmas season, which is supposed to be about peace and remembering why Jesus came to us, and love, and joy--into a season of fighting. Someone is going to have to give in, and not just outwardly, begrudgingly, but truly in their heart, give in and be happy about it."

That's when Anna's eyes filled with tears and she left the room. Oh yeah, we'll be getting to school REAL soon today! Were these heartbroken tears? Manipulative tears? I wasn't sure. After my little talk about women with Zac, he paused and asked, "Can I make a star for the tree too?"

ARGH! Is that what this was about?! "If you are feeling left out because Anna isn't including you in her plans to make a star, then you need to talk to her about that." Lightbulb. "I guess that IS what's bothering me about this." "Ok, well...go talk to her. You have 10 minutes and then we REALLY need to start school!"

They worked it out, the kids got breakfast, school got done, and they all lived happily ever after ...until Mom's next mental breakdown...

Merry :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I know what the problem is, Mom!

I guess I'll start with a story...about story problems. Yeah, math. Specifically Anna's (age 8). They were all wrong yesterday--she added instead of subtracting. So I called her to me and had her read the problems to me. She stumbled a bit on the names & on one other word, but she understood the meaning of the problem. I could tell by the big, "OOOOOOOhhhhh" as she read them.

I encouraged her (after helping her with the names and the word cabbage--why do they do word problems on cabbage? If the word had been chocolate, I'm sure she could have read it!) that she could always come ask me what a word means if she doesn't know it. Then she said, "I know what the problem is mom. I don't ever read the words, I just assume it's adding!" Oh my goodness, I think we laughed for 5 minutes!

Zach was in the room, and he had to chime in, "Yeah, Anna, the words aren't there just to fill up the page and make it look pretty." Hmmm, I wonder who could have put an idea like that in his head?

I think little moments like these are gifts from God--an opportunity to make a connection with our kids. It could just as easily have been a moment of frustration or impatience on my part, and driven a wedge between my daughter and I. But in laughter we can find healing and family-bonding.

What can you do to make a connection with your kids today?

Merry :-)