Recently, I broke one of my cardinal rules. I took a single day off of school. But, if I counted it as a day off of school, it would throw off my entire week numbering system. Rather than be completely off for the rest of the year with weeks not ending in multiples of 5 and our math and spelling tests days switched around, rather than experience those horrors, I decided to “count” the day as a day of school.
In fact, I am aware that other schools often count such days as “school days.” We didn’t stay home and do nothing, although that would actually be a “day off.” Instead, we went to Legoland Florida. (Thank you Legoland for “homeschool day” prices! Now if only Disney would get on board…) So I don’t think I’m too far off in counting the trip as a field trip and thus a day of school, but it still seems sketchy to me.
I’ve seen schools counting a trip to the movies as educational. Or a trip to the bowling alley. I know as a homeschooler we are supposed to find education in all aspects of our lives and I am not above making my kids calculate, sitting at the breakfast table, how many Cheerio boxes we will eat in a week if each child eats two servings five days in a row. But, the movies?
I have never counted “field trips” as days of school. We go to the zoo, we go to the park, we go to the movies, but none of these are counted as “school.” So, for me to count Legoland was a big departure from the norm, (although, given the catastrophic alternative, who can blame me?) and I thought I would sit down and see just how “educational” the trip really was.
1. Telling Time. The first piece of education my kids learned was that driving two hours in the car is a long time. They had many opportunities to question just how much time had passed and how much more time was left. I admit that a few times I told them that five minutes had passed since the last time they had asked and they could figure out for themselves how much time was left in the trip. So, yes, educational.
2. Driver’s Ed. All of my children are too young to even be thinking about Driver’s Ed (And I’m talking to my 13 year old too! Dream all you want, Sweetie, it’s still years away!). But they learned no matter how many times the car you are caravanning with calls you to demand that you drive faster, a fifteen passenger van will start shaking at 75 miles an hour, which is five miles over the speed limit. So obeying the law is a must. (I’m thinking that making my children take their learner’s permit test in the Sandcrawler (our name for the van) might be a good idea.) Educational? Sure. We can chalk that one up to Social Science.
3. Measurements. All of the rides at Legoland have height requirements. The little kids had to step up to a yardstick to see if they met the mark. We’ll call that learning about inches and measuring things. Another educational check.
4. Social interaction. This is the one that people are always accusing homeschoolers of missing. “But how will they know how to get along with other people if you never let them out of the house?” Nothing says social interaction like 10 kids under the age of 13 trying to walk around Legoland together. They learned about the buddy system and getting lost and generally getting on each other’s nerves. The five adults who went also got to experience these things, but we added in yelling and scolding and pulling our hair out, so I’m not sure how educational that is.
5. I’m racking my brains here for more… Ah! More Driver’s Ed. A few of the kids survived the half hour long line (that seemed to take a million times longer) in order to drive little Lego cars around a miniature road system, complete with stop signs and crossing traffic. I’d like to say this was educational for the kids, but I think I learned more than they did. I learned that no matter how many times you are yelling “Stop!” to a six year old who is behind the wheel of a car, they are really not going to be paying attention. Which, one could argue, might be why six year olds are not allowed to drive real cars, only bumper cars, because every car that they drive is going to wind up a bumper car.
6. Peer pressure. Does this count as educational? I don’t know. I do know that peer pressure is something that other parents are always talking about. They act like only their children’s friends exert this pressure, but I’m here to tell you that my kids can peer pressure each other just fine. I don’t know how it’s done in the “real world” but in our house it’s done through mocking and nagging and lots of sarcasm and eye rolls. My eldest daughter was nervous about riding a roller coaster and through the use of all of the above we got her on one and strapped down, where she discovered that she actually enjoyed it! So, sometimes peer pressure can work for good. (I won’t tell you the looks I got from another mother who was trying to reassure my daughter about the safety of the ride just before I turned around and said, “This is a wooden one, Grace. They have the highest number of crashes.” True? I don’t know. But the look on her face was worth it.)
7. I just thought of one more! Map reading! They had to use the Legoland map to find out where they were and which path was the best to get where they wanted to go. Really practical in this day and age of Google maps? I don’t know. But it should count for something.
I could probably keep stretching things and making them sound educational, but I’m still not completely sold that Legoland should actually count as a field trip. Maybe I should have made them write a paper about it when they got home. I did make them double up on quite a bit of school that week, all of the important subjects got covered, so I don’t feel too bad about not counting it as a day off.
What do you think? Do you count trips to the zoo or the grocery store as school? What makes a field trip a field trip? What makes a day outside of the classroom educational? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Two years ago we moved into a new house. It’s twice the size of our old house, but the laundry room is a bit smaller. Don’t get me started on it. The original house plan of the bigger house had the laundry machines in a closet. A closet! A six bedroom house and they thought all the laundry needs could be covered in a closet barely large enough to fit a washer and dryer. Ha. We had to wall off part of hallway and put in a door in order to at least get a little room to hold laundry baskets and the cats’ litter box.
About six months ago I started noticing that the laundry room was really dusty. There was dust on the back wall. There was a wire shelf over the machines and everything on the shelf was covered in dust as well. Now, if there is one chore in the world that I truly, deeply hate, it’s dusting. Don’t ask me why. I’d rather clean a toilet than dust a shelf. So, not wanting to deal with the problem, I just ignored it.
Oddly enough, it didn’t go away.
(I’m still waiting for the day that I ignore a problem hoping it fixes itself—and it does!)
I assumed that since the laundry room was smaller than our old one, it would naturally get more dusty. Also, we used to keep the door open to our old laundry room for the cats, but we put a cat door in our new one, so the door can stay shut and the dog can’t eat all the cat food. That had to be the reason for the excess dust.
Months went by. I’d run a load through and think, “Man, it’s dusty in here.” Since I have about 3 loads of laundry to do a day, that’s a lot of thinking about dust and not doing anything about it.
My plan of ignoring the problem was going great until my husband noticed the dust. He mentioned it to me, and I promised I would clean the laundry room. I know. I’m an amazing wife.
I took a Swiffer duster into the laundry room, prepared to do battle with the forces of entropy and noticed something right away. The lint hose to the back of the dryer was not attached to the dryer.
So, for however many months this had been going on, the dryer had been shooting lint into the laundry room. Three loads a day worth of lint.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to clean accumulated lint off the walls and tiles of a laundry room, but it’s not easy. And the whole time I was working I was thanking God that our house had not caught fire. According to Google, dryers are responsible for 34% of all house fires.
You better believe that I check the back of the dryer each time I run a load now. That little bit of dust that I didn’t want to bother with could have turned into a massive and potentially deadly problem.
The same is true for other things in our lives. The things we don’t want to deal with or face, the little issues we hope will just go away, the relationships that we ignore, hoping they magically improve on their own, all of these things can turn into huge disasters down the road. Far better to spend the time now to face and fix the problem than to spend 2 hours scrubbing a tile floor while continuously sneezing.
So go check your dryer hose. It could save your life.
And no, I still haven’t dusted the stuff on the shelf yet.
I’ll get around to it.
Growing up, writing, in my family, seemed to come as easily as breathing. My brother and sisters and I were all avid readers and had no problem putting our thoughts down into words. In college, as a music major, I had a job proofing essays for the football team. Wow. It was my first time coming face to face with the realization that everyone in the world does not love writing as much as I do.
I was thinking about this the other day as my 4th grade son worked on an essay for science class. I was trying to come up with my next blog post and the thought hit me, I could write about writing! But no, was my first thought, everyone already knows how to write. That’s when I remembered my time proofing essays. So, maybe not everyone knows how to write and maybe not everyone thinks it’s easy to teach.
Before you start thinking I’m full of myself and extremely arrogant, let me hasten to add, I also have a sneaky suspicion that everyone might not be awful at math and science like I am. There might be people out there who don’t have to look up in the answer key in order to explain a math problem to their child, or settle for watching science experiments on Youtube because theirs always fail. If there are such extraordinary genius parents in the world, they should obviously be writing blog posts about how to be better at those things for me to read!
Back to the basics. Before your child even writes his first 5 paragraph essay, he will write a paragraph or maybe even two paragraphs! This doesn’t need to be a frightening thing. I know that when I say to one of my children, “Write a paragraph,” the first response is always weeping and wailing about the impossibility and extreme time consumingness of the project. But it doesn’t have to be hard. When we broke down our paragraphs into steps it became so amazingly simple that my son actually said, “That wasn’t so bad, Mom.”
High praise indeed.
Step One: Choose a topic. In our case we had the assignment of picking a celestial being to write about. My son chose Pluto. I’d love to tell you that we went to the library and checked out a selection of books about Pluto in order to prepare for our two paragraphs. That would be my recommendation to other people. In my case, with a medically fragile, oxygen dependent child, and 7 others hooligans who are well aware that Mom can’t yell at them in a library, I went a different path. Back to our old buddy Youtube. (No judgment here if you have an only child and still can’t find time to make it to the library. I just feel like if I have a good sounding excuse I should use it.)
We watched several children’s science programs on Pluto and took notes. Every time they mentioned a fact I had my son write it down. He started to do this in complete sentence form, which, while it made my writing heart happy to see, was way too time consuming. I showed him how to jot down just enough to remind himself of what he wanted to write.
It looked like this:
Step two: I had him decide what his two paragraphs were going to be about. He decided that paragraph one was going to be about What Pluto was, and paragraph two was going to be about Where Pluto was. We then divided up all the facts into those two columns. What and Where.
Step three: he wrote a topic sentence to begin each of the paragraphs. I explained, for the umpteenth time, that a topic sentence begins a paragraph and covers what the paragraph is about. Every sentence in the paragraph should go along with the topic.
At that point, we were running a bit short on time. It was almost lunch time, I had to feed the baby, make lunch for everyone else, get the house cleaned up, and fold at least a couple baskets of laundry before the physical therapist arrived to work with the baby. (See? All good excuses) So, I suggested that my son dictate to me and I would write down the paper. This might seem a bit like cheating, but for kids who have a harder time forming the letters on the page then forming the words in their mind, this can be a good teaching tool. Penmanship and spelling are great, but if you can’t get past worrying about them it will be difficult to make your words flow together.
My son used the topic sentence we had written and then looked at the facts we had written under each paragraph heading. He linked the facts together in ways that made sense and told me what to write. We then moved on to paragraph two and repeated the process.
Voila! A two paragraph report on Pluto that didn’t require tears, threats, or an insane amount of time:
Hopefully, writing comes easily for your children and you hand out 10 page essay assignments to your 2nd graders without a qualm, but if not, maybe this has given you a few hints and get you started to writing fun!
Well, the holidays are over and it’s back to school. I confess, we started back a whole week earlier than I intended because we needed order back in our lives. It’s amazing how children, who complain about doing school and not having time to play, suddenly are bored (bored = causing trouble) when they have weeks of free time. It’s the old “If you don’t find something to do I will find you something to do!” (All those things your mother said to you that you never thought you would catch yourself saying!)
Over the break, Pureflix reached out to me with a blog post on different learning styles. Pureflix is a Christian film studio that produces and streams family friendly movies and other content. Like Netflix, but without all the titles and cover images that you quickly try to shield your child from as you’re scrolling through the list.
Knowing your child’s learning style can be an invaluable asset as you endeavor to teach. I’ll let you go over to their blog to get the full explanation, but it has been broken down into 4 styles. Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic. The idea is that each of us have a way that we best process information and by teaching in that style your child will learn faster and more efficiently.
Visual learners need graphics and images to help them understand a concept. Some of my kids learn this way. When we’re doing math especially I find it very helpful to draw out the idea in picture form. When you’re trying to understand which fraction is bigger it’s great to use a picture of a pizza and talk about how many slices you want to get versus how many slices your brother is getting.
Auditory learners like to hear things out loud. Oddly enough, out of 8 kids, I don’t really have any auditory learners. Sure, they all like to talk out loud and make noises while they are working, but generally these all have nothing to do with learning and everything to do with annoying the person sitting across the table from them. It is very hard to do your math when your sister is belting out some song from Newsies while doing her own math.
Reading/Writing learners like to make lists and notes about what they are reading. Who doesn’t like a list? A beautiful, clearly laid out list with all the information neatly grouped, where you can see how everything relates and…ok, so I might be a reading/writing learner. Or maybe I just love lists. Does anyone else like to make a list and cross things out? Do you break things down into smaller items on the list so you have more things to cross off? Do you enjoy the feeling of drawing a line through each item? Or is it just me?
Kinesthetic learners like to move and act things out. To touch what they are doing. These types of learners can really enjoy manipulatives and lapbooks. I am not a kinesthetic learner. In fact, I hate lapbooks. I know. That’s a horrible thing for a homeschool mom to say. Coloring, cutting things out, gluing tiny pieces of paper <shudder>.
Which brings me to my own personal learning style tip. Knowing your child’s learning style is very important, but it is equally important to know your teaching style. With my first child I tried to be a kinesthetic teacher. We did lapbooks. We colored pictures. We spent hours cutting out tiny intricate things and creating paper projects that instantly tore and were thrown away. (Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it felt that way.) Basically, I made myself miserable because I thought that this was what homeschooling was all about. If I didn’t lapbook, I wasn’t teaching, and I quickly reached the point where I would rather stick a pencil in my eye than look at another lapbook.
It seems like common sense now, but lapbooks were not my teaching style and that was ok. We no longer lapbook. My kids color on their own time. And if we’re short on time, I have no problem stepping in with the scissors and quickly cutting out whatever it is and moving on. I’ve learned my own teaching style and while I try to accommodate each of my kids learning styles, I remember that if I’m going crazy trying to teach it in a certain way, they’re probably not really learning anything either.
Bonus tip: As I finished writing this post, I remembered something that my vocal professor taught me in college. He said that if you really want to remember something, try to use at least 3 ways to learn it. That way, under pressure, your brain has more than one built in pathway to follow to the answer. For example, instead of just memorizing a song by just listening to it over and over, use two other styles in addition. Play the song out on the piano as you read it. That’s the kinesthetic part. Write out the notes on staff paper. That’s the reading/writing. Then, under pressure, you are less likely to drawn a blank.
I found this useful in my other classes as well. Just going over my notes from a class was not as effective as copying them out again, while reading them out loud. Using all four learning styles to study would help cement the information in my head and if I forgot something I’d read I could try to remember what it sounded like, what it looked like on the page, what it felt like to write it.
Check out additional homeschool resources that Pureflix has to offer here.
Confess, at least once this Christmas season you’ve thought about asking Santa for a bark collar for your kids. Just imagine, they’re all the way across the house, you’re yelling at them to stop beating up on their sibling, they don’t listen, and “Zzap!” you hit the button on a remote and they get buzzed. Instant obedience.
Now, we all know that, as good an idea as it sounds, it would probably land us in hot water with Child Services. So, enjoy the daydream, but please don’t attempt to use it.
For dogs though, it works great. I’ve read the shocking kind is best reserved for professional dog trainers, but the ones with vibration that are activated by remote are a wonderful training tool. (I researched the kind that goes off with loud noises and decided that in our house it would just be going off constantly, whether or not Po was barking.)
Our Goldendoodle can get loud sometimes. He’s a “small” which means that he weighs 35 pounds, thinks he’s 60 lbs and sounds like it when he barks. He is also a bit clingy. His two “mommies” take him everywhere they can, and when he has to be left behind it upsets him.
They had been attempting to train him to lie quietly at their feet at the table while we eat. Mostly it was working, except for the once or twice a day when someone would dangle food a bit too near the edge of the table and, like Moby Dick, Po would breach and snap the food before anything could be done to stop him. After the time when the last Hawaiian sweet roll had been fought over and divided between the winning children, only to disappear down Po’s throat, I decided that we needed a little space between us and the dog while we were eating.
We looped his leash on the newel post at the foot of the stairs so he could watch us and not get too lonely. And bark. Loudly. In between chewing on the foyer rug and trying to eat the Christmas garland I have wrapped around the stair railing.
I was frustrated, but my eldest calmly went and got his bark collar. We hadn’t used it for a while so I didn’t think it would work. She put it on him and he instantly settled down. She was right. He knew what it was. I sat there through the meal with the remote in my hand and didn’t have to push it once.
The next day, Po was getting too wild in the backyard, barking and chasing my five year old, who didn’t like it, and I put the collar on him again. Like flipping a switch, he calmed down and sat in the middle of the yard, no longer interested in causing mayhem.
The downside though, is that Po knows when he is wearing the collar. He’s not learning to not bark or not chew. He’s learning to not bark or chew when a black device is strapped around his neck. Take it off, and all bets are off as well. He’s only good while he knows that he can be disciplined.
My kids are like this as well. As long as I’m in the school room, standing over them and watching what they are doing, they diligently finish their work. But if I have to walk out? Poof! It’s like magic. Half of them disappear, and the other half get into a fight over who gets the green pencil. The younger ones at least. The older two are almost completely self-taught. They have reached the stage where they manage their own time and learning and finish their work without outside pressure.
I think this is every parent’s goal. We want our kids to be self-motivated to learn. The threat of us hanging over them will only get them so far. If they only learn to work hard when someone is watching them, holding that bark collar remote, then they’re not really learning anything.
It takes time. I can get discouraged when I waste ten minutes searching the house for a missing 6 year old who managed to disappear in the five minutes it took me to answer the phone, but then I remember that her older sisters used to be just the same, and look at them now! I’m always tempted to increase the level of pressure or supervision, but if I remember my goal, that I want them to be self-sufficient, then I can give them the space to make mistakes and hopefully move closer to the day when I can go the bathroom and not come back to World War III.
So, this Christmas, when your kids are going crazy, remember that this too shall pass. They will soon grow out of this phase, and if we’re patient and consistent and give them opportunities to control themselves, one year, we’ll all have a peaceful, quiet Christmas.
Ok, I can dream, right?
It started with a simple question. Write a synonym for each word. The words were incredibly difficult for a 2nd grader. Words like Big and Cold. But that wasn’t what was throwing my daughter into a fit of despair. She couldn’t remember what a synonym was to begin with and was feeling frustrated.
“I don’t know!” she wailed.
“Here,” I said. “Let me hel--”
“But I don’t know!”
“Let’s think ab--”
“I don’t know!”
“A synonym is--”
“I don’t know!” she screamed louder, clearly not interested in gaining any enlightenment.
“Fine,” I snapped. “Just sit there until you figure it out.”
“But I don’t know!”
I ignored her and continued school with her siblings. Five minutes of wailing and crying later, she looked ready to be taught.
“Do you need hel--?” I tried
“I don’t know!” She was back to interrupting me before I could even finish my sentence.
“If you look back on pag--”
“I don’t know!”
“Have it your way,” I rolled my eyes. “You are not getting up until you complete that page.”
“But I don’t know!”
I sighed and pointed to the page. “This one. Here. Finished.” I said.
She pouted, flounced about, fell out of her chair several times, dropped her pencil a few times more, yelled “I don’t know” once, and generally tried to get a reaction out of me without looking once at her book. I studiously ignored her, which was hard given that we were sitting right next to each other at the table.
Fifteen minutes later, I looked up from a math lesson with her brother and realized that it had been quiet for a while.
“Done!” she smiled.
I checked her work. Yup. She’d managed to not only remember what a synonym was, all on her own, but she’d also correctly filled in each blank.
Does this sound familiar to any of you? Do you have those days when your student is anything but ready to learn? I know I get frustrated with my kids sometimes because the answer is so obvious! “I’ve explained it to you ten different ways! Anything more and I’ll just be giving you the answer!”
Well, I had a little wake up check today. We took the week off of school to catch up on all the many things that there just isn’t time for during a typical week. It always starts with decluttering bedrooms. The two little girls actually hadn’t let their room reach “Let’s burn it all down and start over” proportions, but their little brother’s room? Yikes!
He’s really good at “picking up,” in that, you can send him to his room and he can get everything off the floor and onto a shelf. But organizing? He’s three and still not potty-trained, so putting things in their proper place is beyond him.
Ten minutes in and I was feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. I had pulled everything off the shelves that didn’t belong and could no longer see the floor. I had a 13 gallon trash bag stuffed to the gills. I had a billion little pieces of a hundred different toys that needed to find each other.
Basically, I wanted to sit in the middle of the floor and scream, “I don’t know!” I don’t know how to bring order to this chaos. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to clean this up.
And as I took a few deep breaths and focused on one item at a time, it hit me. I’m an adult and I get overwhelmed by a project. The magnitude of the finished task becomes so threatening that I can’t see the little steps needed to reach completion. And I want to shut down and give up. Me. An adult.
Of course our kids are going to flip out about simple (to us) word problems and three sentence essays. It’s overwhelming and threatening. But if we give them a chance to work through their “I don’t knows” and figure out what the next step is, they’ll be able to accomplish anything they set their minds to.
Including cleaning their own rooms.
My two eldest daughters are taking responsibility for the raising and training of our puppy. Most of the time they love it. He’s sweet and cuddly and fun to be with. But he is also a puppy. Which means that he chews everything and seems to interact with the world with his teeth, or by jumping on people.
Po was the top of his puppy class which was a great source of pride for my daughters. He’s a Goldendoodle, so he’s pretty smart. He catches on quickly and wants to please. Sometimes. They graduated to Beginner Obedience and Po is now in the “teenage” years.
One night after dog training they came home looking very dejected. “Po was awful,” they said. “It was so embarrassing.”
My mind instantly jumped to images of our dog snarling and attacking other dogs. Did he bite someone? Are we going to get sued?
Oh, no. “He wasn’t paying attention in class.”
I start to laugh, take one look at their sad faces, try to get serious, and then just lose it. Yes, I realize that having your dog jumping everywhere in class and not listening or following directions is very annoying, but it is also so comically ironic!
“Welcome to my world!” I chortle.
They don’t get it.
I take the opportunity to sit down with them and teach them an important parenting life lesson: Your self-worth as a parent does not come from your children’s behavior.
Let me say that again. Your self-worth as a parent does not come from your children’s behavior.
I didn’t know this with my first child, or even my second or third. My first three kids were pretty compliant and obedient children. They didn’t bite people, or throw toys, or get kicked out of church nursery. I thought it was all me.
I would look at other parents, the ones whose children were melting down in the grocery checkout line and just shake my head. Oh, that poor mother. If only she was a better parent and more consistent with her discipline.
Then along came my fourth. My sweet, snuggly, loving little boy who can drive anyone up the wall in two minutes. I’d done all the same things with him, but I was getting different results. I even went through a period of time during his terrible twos where I wondered if I could ever really love this kid. I’d pick him up from nursery inwardly cringing and waiting to hear what horrible thing he’d done that week.
I was embarrassed. I felt like people were judging me and thinking I was a bad mom. And that’s when it hit me. Children are people too. They are individuals. They are unique. And they are responsible for their own actions.
My responsibility as a parent is to train them, correct them, and point them to Jesus. My responsibility is NOT to make them perfect. Letting go of that was such a relief. Sure my kid might be screaming in the checkout aisle, but that’s no reason for me to be embarrassed! I’m going to correct him, tell him to stop, give him consequences for his actions, remove him as quickly from the situation as possible, but I’m not going to feel like a failure as a parent. I’m doing my job. He’s the one who is choosing how to respond.
And that’s what I tried to tell my girls. Their job is to remain calm and assertive and correct their puppy. But Po is a puppy and he’s going to act like a puppy. He’s going to be distracted, and disobey, and try to see exactly where that boundary is. That doesn’t mean that they are bad puppy parents, it just means that they have a puppy. And they need to stay calm and not allow their self-worth to be tied up with how their “child” is behaving.
I can’t make my kids be anything. I can only be faithful to do what God has called me to do. My self-worth comes from Him alone, not from any behavior—good or bad—that my children exhibit.
(ps. You know our family likes making music videos. Here is one that my girls made about Po. We really love him!)
I had a rough morning.
We’re having some family issues going on and I’m stressed. I’m not sleeping well and I’m waking up at 5:30 in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. And, for those of you who are early risers by choice, I do not typically wake up at 5:30. That’s the middle of the night. People should be asleep at 5:30.
My youngest caught a bad cold a month ago and needed to go back on oxygen. We’re slowly weaning him off, but he needs it for now. Anyone who has never had the joy of lugging around an O2 tank, or using a concentrator, might not know that oxygen is measured in “liters per minute,” LPM. My son typically needs from .5 to 1 lmps to stay saturated. Not this morning though.
This morning I wake him up and he’s at 99% oxygen saturation which is great. I go to change his diaper, heat his food, and start to feed him, and I notice that he’s desatting, dropping down to 94%. Not good. So I turn up his concentrator from 1lpm to 2lpm. He’s still hovering and begins to drop lower. When he hits 89% and the alarm starts to go off, I’ve bumped him up to 3lpms, which is very high flow.
I reposition him, he bumps back up to 94% before starting to slowly drop. I pull out the suction machine, squirt salt water up his nose and suction him. He briefly goes up to 95% but is soon back down at 90%. I’m literally freaking out. I’m going to have to call 911. He’s going to wind up in the hospital.
And then I look, really look, at the oxygen concentrator. The tube had become disconnected. He’s been on room air for the last hour. No amount of repositioning, or suctioning, or getting him to cough was going to help. He needed to be connected to the source.
The same is true for all of us. There are so many good things that we need to be doing. Going to church. Being part of Christian fellowship. Spending time with our kids. Mentoring others. But if we’re not connected to the Source, then everything else is going to be in our own power and we all know how that ends.
Why is this so hard? I don’t know about ya’ll, but the first thing I drop when I’m short on time is my quiet time. Someone, I think it was Martin Luther, said something like this, “I’m too busy to not have a three hour quiet time.” Of course, he said it (if it was him) in German, and he probably said it better, but you get the point. Without being connected to the Source, we’re going to fail. And if we want to make it through the day, we’d better take time to check our connection.
It’s been a tough month in the Evans’ household. The baby, Benjamin, has started a new type of seizure activity that is proving very hard to control. He also caught a horrible head cold that has severely impacted his breathing and increased his oxygen needs. I fell and bruised my ribs bad enough that the doctor said I might as well have fractured them. And, oh yeah, a little thing called Hurricane Irma came through and shut off our power for 5 days.
Lots of stuff to complain about and feel sorry for myself about. Quite a bit of despair and wondering if life is really worth it. Much time spent peering into a gloomy crystal ball that predicts a bleak and miserable future. A few pity parties and tears and “woe is me” phone calls to my sister (who is dealing with her own personal crisis with much more maturity and faith than I am).
I heard a pastor preach a whole sermon on those two words once and how awesome they are. If you think about it, those are the best two words in the world.
When Irma knocked out our electricity we were ready with the huge generator (only one left to purchase in the entire city) we’d snatched up right before Matthew last year. Since we never lost power, it was still brand new, but we kept it because Baby Benji is on constant oxygen and, when he’s sick and on high flow, he runs through more tanks than we can stock. He needs an electric concentrator to survive for longer than a few hours. Bonus to the generator, we also got to plug in our 2 fridges and 1 deep freeze, not to mention the vitally important homeschooling essential, the pencil sharpener. We thought we were golden and, really, we were. Family in town had their power restored fairly quickly and we lived like nomads, coming home to do school during the day with flashlights (shutters are still up) and fans and cold showers, and sleeping at night at various air conditioned places around town. (Let me tell you, 1 pillow, 1 blanket, and 1 sleeping mat/air mattress for 9 people is a TON of bedding!)
By day 3 things were getting a little old and I sent Benji and my husband to stay permanently at the in-laws so that the heat during the day wouldn’t be affecting Benji’s breathing. Also, so that I could get through 5 minutes of school without having to take care of a baby who was desatting (that’s medical jargon for “not getting enough oxygen and setting off his pulse oximeter alarms”).
Why were we doing school? Well, we’d taken the week before off, and I was sure the power was going to come back on at any moment, and I only like to take an entire week off at a time instead of just a day because it throws off my planner and things like math tests and spelling tests get moved to different days. Yes, I realize how silly that sounds as I type this, but the struggle is real. I number each day of school and I couldn’t face having a 5 day week plan that didn’t end on a multiple of 5. (Think about it).
So, cue the crescendo-ing self-pity and then God steps in.
Our life group at church has been going through a series by Paul Tripp on Jonah. I highly recommend it! I never before realized how applicable Jonah is to my life. This last week we were finishing the series and the lesson was on how God appointed a storm, a plant, and a worm. All of them were completely under His control. Ironic, right? The question was asked, “How sovereign do you really believe God to be?” And he said something that really struck my heart. I’ll paraphrase: Often our despair is a result of not getting our own way.
I realized that I place an almost idolatrous (and maybe I should delete the “almost”) value on having my ideal of a perfect family. And when that is taken away from me, when we’re all screaming at each other, and the baby is turning two and still hasn’t developed past age 2 months, and he can’t breathe, and it’s hot, and I haven’t had coffee for 3 days, I get really depressed. And it’s not that those things aren’t worthy of being upset about, it’s that the reason I’m feeling despair is because I believe these things are outside of God’s control. I’m not getting my own way so I’m going to throw a little (or big) pity party temper tantrum.
So, instead of lying on the ground and kicking my feet (which I can’t do right now with my bruised ribs anyway!) I have another choice. I can trust that God is in control of every little detail, from the worms that crawl in the dirt, to the big storms that sometimes take aim at our state and turn everyone here into rabid water bottle hoarders and abysmal drivers. Instead of focusing on the sweat dripping down my face, I can be grateful that my home is still standing with zero damage. Instead of worrying about my baby’s lack of development, I can continue to work his therapy and trust that God has got this. It’s not going to look the way I want it to look. I’m not going to get my own way in this. And that is a very, very good thing.
Paul Tripp also made a comment about how God used a giant storm to reach the heart of one man. I’m not saying that Hurricane Irma was sent solely to teach me a lesson, and yes, I realize that I am typing this as I sit in my newly air conditioned home while the overhead light is shining bright and my baby’s breathing is starting to improve, but I hope that I can hold on to this new feeling of gratitude for the many, many blessings that are in my life and trust God for the rest.
I’ve always maintained that the best way for a child to learn to spell is to read, read, read. The more you read, the more words you are introduced to, the more words you see repeatedly, and the better a speller you will become.
That’s great. Really, it is. And I still believe that. But what do you do in the meantime? Reading, reading, reading, is not something that happens overnight. Becoming introduced to words multiple, hundreds, thousands, of times does not happen in a day. It takes time. And while you are encouraging your child to read, they are still taking spelling tests…and possibly failing.
Once again I come up against the fact that each one of my children is different. The two oldest girls are perfect spellers. And I say “perfect” because they regularly score 100% on their end of the year, Iowa State tests. (In Spelling. Let’s not talk about Math) How did I achieve such fabulous success? Not through any great spelling drills or techniques. No. They just love to read and their spelling improved by itself without any assistance from me. (However I will still happily take credit for it.)
Child number 3 was a little harder. It took him longer to discover how much he loves reading, but in the year that his love grew, he went from a kid who couldn’t spell “the” to being able to take 25 new spelling words a week and get at least 23 of them correct on the Friday test. My method here was simple. Take the 25 words and write them out on a sheet of paper each day. Repetition. So, it’s not the best method, but it really worked for him. Plus, it’s what his sisters had been doing and look at what great spellers they are! (Let’s ignore the fact that if they were to take a test on Monday over the new words they would probably score the same grade as on Friday after 4 days of rewriting them.)
Yay! I think. Evans children are just genetically good spellers. Let’s not mess with the technique. It’s worked (relatively pain free for me) for three children.
Along comes child number 4. He’s two grades behind his brother and therefore has not quite hit that point where he loves to read. He also cannot spell to save his life. Forget words like “the.” He can’t spell “cat.” He also has a slight speech impediment so he consistently mixes up “th” and “sh” because they sound the same to him. Also “f” and “v.”
No fear! Our trusty method of write out the 25 words will have him spelling like his siblings in no time!
What actually happens is that he misspells 24 of the 25 words. I pull out a new technique and have him say the word out loud, spell the word out loud as he writes it, and then say the word again.
That week he only misspells 23 of the words on the test. He’s also taking almost 45 minutes to do his spelling each day.
Back to the drawing board, which is a euphemism for “call Mom.” She gives me a copy of Teach Any Child to Spell. It comes with a workbook. Great! I think. I’ll follow the daily lesson plans and spelling lists and he’ll be spelling like a champ in no time.
Except there are no daily lesson plans. There are no spelling lists. There’s a lot of information on spelling rules and how to incorporate spelling into every day writing and the workbook has blank spaces for creating your own lists of words that follow different spelling rules.
It’s not a cookie-cutter program like some homeschooling curriculum (I won’t say who I’m thinking of right now with their mountains of busy work and neatly segmented daily lessons…), it’s holistic.
I hate it.
I want results fast. I want the book called Teach Your Child to Spell Perfectly in Ten Minutes a Year. (I bet that book would be a best seller!)
Given that my mother is usually right (I live for the day when my own children learn this about me as well!) I give it a try. Instead of a long list of random spelling words. I sit down with my son and his younger sister (one grade level behind him, but probably the same grade level for reading) and we pick a spelling rule. Then we create our own list of words using that rule. Then I dictate sentences to them using the words that we picked.
There’s no fancy list to take a test from. No feeling of accomplishment when I grade a 100% for spelling words like “superfluous” correctly (Honestly, why does a 3rd grader need to know how to spell “superfluous?”). But there are also no tears. No child wailing that they’re stupid and can’t do anything right. No mom pulling out her hair and assigning said child to rewrite ten times the words they just spent the whole week rewriting.
Will it work? Will I have another batch of great spellers on my hands? I don’t know. Because it’s going to take time. Lots, and lots of time.
But that’s kind of the whole point of teaching, isn’t it?
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!