Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: Weeks of April 9 - 27

Josh's anaphylactic reaction to peanuts occurred on April 9th so that week, short of some reading and a few documentaries, was shot as far as our regularly scheduled school work went.  We did enjoy a VERY delicious recipe for homemade whipped cream!  It's a keeper in our house!  We plopped that on top of some homemade hot chocolate and enjoyed some documentaries on the Westward movement while the patient convalesced on the recliner.

 Walk away from the whipped cream, Jake!

The patient, Josh, enjoyed a lick from the spoon in his make-shift bed.  You can see his lips mildly swollen 2.5 days into his reaction and on round the clock meds.

He's going to kill me for putting this picture on here.  He'll say "my hair isn't done!" and "I'm in my PJs!".  Oh the horror!! :)

The following week, we hit the books again and jumped into our next chapter in anatomy, the heart.  We literally jumped into the heart!  After learning the inflow and outflow of the blood from and away from the heart (which can get a bit overwhelming to explain), I taped up the floor with 4 "chambers".  The top two being the atriums and the bottom two, the ventricles.  The chair on the right represented the pulmonary vein (one of four) that the blood travels into the heart from the lungs, carrying oxygenated blood.  So, the boys became the blood and traveled the journey of the blood!  They were squeezed out of the left ventricle with a hearty hug from me (which represents the force in which the heart must push the blood out in order to travel all over to our body and back)!  It was great fun and helped the boys remember how the heart works!

Chris took the lead on the heart dissection (well, let me be honest... he takes the lead on ALL dissections) and did a great job showing the boys the different parts of the sheep heart.  I just wished he would have used gloves! Eew!  Such a BOY!  (or maybe I'm such a GIRL!).

After the Santa Clara CHEA conference last weekend, I came home with a renewed spirit and a commitment to do more hands-on learning in a more relaxed style and work on instilling a love of learning, for real!  Last week was a great start to that as we did our school in the living room instead of the school room to give a more comfy feel.  We started each day with our Bible curriculum and devotions and the push back from the boys, as we moved through each subject, just wasn't there!  Yay!

Here's hoping for another great week of relaxed homeschooling!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: March 26-30

This was a great week for learning!  We did some hands-on activities that we really enjoyed and (I hope) made the lesson more memorable for the boys!

Jake is working through the pioneer portion of California History which tied in perfectly with our co-op's Pioneer Day this week!  There was so much to learn about this short era in time!  In preparation for our Pioneer potluck, Jake made baking soda biscuits. He did a great job!

He used both a mason jar and an actual biscuit cutter.  He also made the followed the recipe and did each step!

Some of our co-op friends got dressed up for our Pioneer Day and that made it extra fun!  We learned about the first missionaries (as well as first recorded woman) to the West, Narcissa Whitman as well as the Donner Party.  Another mom led the group in making covered wagons as well as working as a group to estimate how many items a family could take in a wagon.  We also learned that wagons were typically painted blue or red with blue or red wheels, not the typical brown we always see (although, I'm sure there were wagons of that color too).

In science, we learned about our blood and the different components of it.  Here was our hands-on diagram of it: the clear corn syrup is our plasma, the red hots are our red blood cells, the white sprinkles are our white blood cells and the white jelly bean.. hmm.. I can't remember that one!  LOL!  Ah well!  It was a great lesson!

To wrap up this unit on blood, we each took a blood typing "test"!  That was really interesting!  The boys were crazy about being pricked in the finger, especially Jake, but they survived and enjoyed learning about their own blood type!

As we went into Easter break, we wrapped up our Grapevine study of the Resurrection.  This was our first time using one of their studies and we really enjoyed it!  In depth learning while drawing stick figures to help focus.  Great stuff!

We had a lot of rain that week and while visiting my brother and nephew, we caught this double rainbow and had to pull over to take pictures.  We weren't the only car that did so either!  It was so beautiful!

This was a great week for us!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Peanuts, anaphylaxis and the horrible, no good, very bad week...

This post should have been about all the school we accomplished this week and some of the interesting things that we learned. Alas, it is not. Best laid plans...

Anyway, we made it through lunch and  were all poking around for something sweet to eat when I came across a Bumble Bar Chocolate Crisp bar I had purchased awhile back at the bottom of our "sweet tooth" basket. As always with a new food, I inspected the label, front and back, looking for any warning signs and ingredients. The first thing that struck me odd was how small the ingredient font size was on the back of the wrapper. I could barely read it at all. So, I flipped it over and inspected the front again and then looked for the bold-type warning signs. Nothing. No mention of peanuts or nuts at all. It was a chocolate crisp bar which is what they called the bar, and different from the company's "peanut" bar. I opened it and took a small bite of it and told the boys, if Josh could eat it, they could split it in half.

Josh picked up the wrapper and investigated it, as we've taught him to do, and found nothing mentioning peanuts either. As always, I gave him a very small bite as a taste test to make sure he didn't react to it, something we've always done since a toddler because of all of Josh's food allergies, not to mention my experience growing up with an anaphylactic reaction to eggs and fish.

He tasted it and wasn't impressed with it nor did he seem to have a reaction, so he moved on to looking for another treat he could have to calm his sweet tooth. We all settled in to watch our documentary when Josh mentioned his throat felt funny. This was probably 10-15 minutes after ingesting that small piece of the bar to taste test.

He made his way to the bathroom and began reporting what he was feeling inside his body, another thing we've taught him to do. He was having trouble swallowing. His lip was swelling. His eyes became very bloodshot. He said he had a lump in his throat which was growing. I remained calm as I got the benadryl out and his epi-pen. As I was asking him questions, he began to tell me that his symptoms were subsiding. And they were. His lips were not as pronounced and the splotchiness that had crept onto his face was disappearing.

This was not his usual response in a reaction. Typically, his throat itches, his lips swell, and he usually throws up. We then administer benadryl and monitor him and all signs of a reaction go away. This was not happening, though.

For the next 20-30 minutes, his symptoms of reaction would come and go. Literally. Come and go. He would be in a terrorized panic over his closing esophagus with awful wheezing and then 5 minutes later, he'd be calm, cleared up, and wanting to resume the documentary. I was baffled and in limbo for each time it "flared" up, I had the epi-pen out and ready to use it and just when I'd be ready to un-cap it, his symptoms would begin to subside.  So, I'd wait and watch.

Now, there are two camps of opinion when it comes to epi-pens. Because epi-pens carry their own set of problems and side effects there are those in the medical community that adovcate not to use the pen unless it is absolutely, postively, beyond a doubt necessary. Defining "necessary" becomes the blurry part. Treat first with antihistamines, watch and see and then decide before using. Then, there are those that advocate at the first sign of a reaction, use it! Worry about any possible side effects of the pen later (some which include heart problems). Now learning that are three types of anaphylactic reactions, both opinions hold true, depending on which type of reaction is unfolding before your eyes. Up to this point, all of Josh's reactions have been able to be contained with benadryl (as have mine, minus one incident as a toddler involving touching a cracked egg at an Easter egg hunt).

I gave him 1 capsule of Benadryl, as we've done before to stop a reaction, and his body wasn't responding. 5 minutes went by.  10. His body still wasn't responding.  At this point, I began to inwardly panic and told him that I was going to use the epi-pen on him.  By the time I had it ready, all symptoms improved greatly.  So, I watched and waited again.
Within another 10 minutes, he was back to square one and unable to breathe, swallow his own saliva.  At this point, I should have used the pen but was so stunned and baffled by the whip-lash like responses.  I gave him a second dose of Benadryl and knew we'd be going to the hospital one way or the other.  This was too severe of a reaction to NOT go.
I told him that, if he could, he should try to throw up to get it out of his body and prevent his system from having to process this allergen.  He did throw up several times and instantly his eyes cleared up and his swelling reduced.  His breathing returned to normal (no more wheezing) and he seemed perfectly fine. We got dressed (it was PJ day, a rare thing in our house since I make everyone get dressed for school).

Chris came home from work and rushed him to the hospital since his outer throat was swollen at this point.  My biggest regret is not sticking him with the pen and calling 911 immediately.  However, I assumed that this reaction would be like all the others and would respond to Benadryl alone.  I was wrong.

Jake was terrified that Josh was going to die; so, we cried and prayed together.  Both Jake and my emotions  had been riding the wave of this intense reaction - the ups and downs - over the course of 45 minutes.  Jake has seen Josh have reactions before but none have ever been this intense and drastic.  I hope we never have another like this again.

Josh was given an IV of steroids and two different anti-histamines and monitored for 4 hours at the hospital. During that time, rashes, swollen lips and mild reactions would come and go WHILE BEING TREATED WITH MEDS.  Crazy, scary stuff.  The doctors said the adult dosage of Benadryl is what kept him breathing.  What a confusing, humbling, terrifying thought to have a doctor say to you.

He couldn't be left alone until his reactions had subsided because his lungs, despite the medicine, could decides to close up and cut off breathing, so Chris and I began a vigil of watching him.  The first night, we didn't let him fall asleep until 4a.m. and the second night Josh fell asleep around 2.  The remaining nights we let him fall asleep earlier (we were all so exhausted), in the living room, but we still watched him all night.

Josh did not stop reacting to the peanuts that he ingested (on Monday) until Friday morning.  Thursday morning he had a strong reaction again where he began to struggle breathing, his lips swelled up and he began having difficulty swallowing.  We all got dressed knowing another hospital visit was around the corner, and I called the advise nurse.  I increased his dosage of Benadryl but kept his steroid and other anti-histamine dosages the same and that got rid of this secondary reaction.

I shutter to think what Josh's next reaction could look like if he ever gets hold of peanuts again.  We both have agreed that we never want to go through this again.

I learned that there are 3 different types of anaphylactic reactions (Josh hit the most severe) and his pediatrician reviewed them with me. I also learned that to truly treat a reaction (as best as you can), both Benadryl and Pepcid AC needs to be given because Benadryl doesn't address both kinds of histamines our bodies produce.  Dr. Cohen was helpful and caring through all of this.  He says Josh was lucky.  I say God was protecting as I don't believe in luck.  Chris and I couldn't be more grateful for God's protection over that entire day.  May Josh never come in contact with  peanuts again. Amen.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Do you know the way to San Jose? Or the Tattoo shop?

Do you know the way to San Jose? (oh, come on! You know you want to sing along...)

My family and I attended the CHEA homeschool conference in Santa Clara over the weekend. We headed down early to explore the missions of Santa Clara and San Jose and enjoyed a picnic and park before the conference began at 3p.m. The whole morning I was humming this classic song since we decided to toodle around San Jose before the conference started.  It was a great weekend filled with LOTS of information - some we agreed with, some we didn't entirely, but that's ok. When do Christians ever agree 100% on every aspect of EVERY thing?? I went really to be able to touch, flip through and get a good feel for different curriculum but I walked away with lots of great information I hope to implement into our school days as well.
 Here's what stuck with me:
  * 90% of learning is attitude. If that isn't right then academics needs to stop in order to fix the heart issue creeping in. (Hannah Ploegstra -
* Writing isn't a subject it is something that people do. It should be woven into our daily lives in such a way that grammar/spelling, etc. is only a 10 minute lesson, not taking up a chunk of time each day. 
* It is better for your kids to write every day - short snippets - than to have two or three longer assignments each month.
  * Public school teachers don't do every lesson in their books nor do they finish the curriculum by the end of the year. Why should I beat myself up to accomplish these things? Lighten up! 
 * THERE. WILL. BE. GAPS! Accept it. Embrace it. I don't have knowledge on every subject and in every detail nor was I taught about everything. I have gaps in my education and my kids will too. We all do. It's impossible for someone to be taught every single thing - and to the point of mastery. Let it go!
 * High School planning isn't nearly as confusing to me as it was before I entered the conference! * Homeschool provides the excellent flexibility and time to make disciples - of ourselves and our children. Take advantage of this time by steeping the kids into God's word. 
 * Simplicity is the key to homeschool. It's so easy to get bogged down with scheduling every minute and packing in every subject but that doesn't accomplish much.
 Those are some of the biggies that stuck out to me from this conference. There were many, many more thoughts but these are the reminders I needed because they stuck with me!

...Or the Tattoo Shop?
 Tattoos are always a conversation starter in any crowd but having my tattoo-riddled, ear-pierced, awesome husband with me this weekend, was interesting. He received many a stare on the first afternoon especially but it doesn't bother him. He doesn't even notice most of the time. He is comfortable in his own skin - tattooed and all - and his choices and genuinely doesn't care what others feel about his physical appearance. I love that about him, actually, and after 15 years of marriage, it is beginning to rub on me - thankfully! I want to care less about what others think or feel and not live my life according to the input of others but to live my life with confident abandon, only listening to the voice of God. That is what my husband does. Well, he does listen to my and the boys' input as well but he just doesn't give others the power to affect his feelings as so many are apt to do (I'm sheepishly raising my hand over here). I believe that is how God intended all of us to live - not by the voice of the majority or the one complaining the most or loudest or even listening to the ones who spur you on and telling you all is great - but to Him alone. I think what makes me so irritated with those that gawk at Chris, particularly in a Christian setting, is that 1) I want to protect him (although he doesn't need it due to his healthy self-image) and 2) these people, Christ followers, have no idea if my husband is a believer or not. How you react to him could very well turn him off of the path to follow Christ because of the down -the-nose- judgement peering through disapproving eyes. Praise God my husband IS a believer and a faithful follower but I shudder to think that if this is how Christians treat other Christians, how would a non-believer feel?? God is right when he says "man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart". My hope is that, as believers, we, too, will look at the heart of those around us and move past the outward appearance.

Saturday, April 21, 2012 review

This past Monday marked our end of our preview of Time4Learning and I have several thoughts I want to share with you.

Time4Learning broke through several pre-conceived ideas that I had about online curriculum. For starters, I just didn't think it could be as thorough as curriculum that you touch and handle. I didn't think it would cover a topic the way a textbook or living book would.. and I was wrong.

They do an excellent job of covering the presented topics for every age group. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth in which they presented, explained and reviewed a topic.

I also didn't think an online curriculum would allow for a child who may just not "get it". You know, a concept is presented, a couple of practice problems are thrown at them and then they are cut loose to complete the quiz or text on their own. No amount of investigating of whether a skill has been understood and acquired occurs with this type of presentation, yet, Time4Learning did not do that. In fact, my oldest was working through a Language Art skill ( I was watching to see how it all played out) and he was just not getting it OR was just skimming the information. Guess what?? Time4Learning called him out on it! Yep, a pre-made online curriculum called him out on the fact that he had just gone over the lesson, did several practice problems, and then completely bombed the test. We both got a kick out of the fact that they caught him and then had him go back and do the lesson again to have a better knowledge of it. It was GREAT! I chuckled at him for thinking he could skirt around this computer program and again found myself pleasantly surprised that this curriculum CAUGHT his inconsistent display of knowledge. I have run across very few curriculums, online or tangible, that molds and flexes with the student as they attempt the material.

Further, I was convinced my kids would grow tired of the computer based lessons once a couple of weeks had passed. Again, Time4Learning proved me wrong. Both my 13 and 10 year old actually ASKED to do lessons each day. They were thrilled to attempt math, language art skills and science on Time4Learning's website. I do not receive such happy responses when they are asked to bring out their math book, let me tell you!

Time4Learning has some wonderful features that, honestly, I'm still exploring. It allows you to create lesson plans, easily track your child's progress, see where they need extra help, as well as assign them further work in areas of weakness in their database.

While I will not replace my tangible curriculum with Time4Learning, I have chosen to keep Time4Learning and use it to not only reinforce skills they have already learned but need review in but also to supplement what we are currently working on. I have loved introducing a concept from our current curriculum and then sending them to Time4Learning to reinforce and give extra practice to this new skill.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't convinced that I would walk away enjoying Time4Learning as part of our curriculum plan (for reasons listed above), however, I have been impressed with Time4Learning's organization, presentation and the enjoyment my kids have expressed in using this site! I would recommend you check out Time4Learning. It's not just for homeschooling families either! This is an excellent resource for any school kid needing support and extra in one or multiple subject areas! Go try it for yourself at Time4Learning!

***Disclaimer:*** I received a 30 day trial from in exchange for an unbiased, honest review of my experience with their program.

UPDATE 8/11/12: We no longer are using Time4Learning.  Since using it as a supplemental resource and in an effort to simplify our school routine/resources, I opted to no longer continue with this supplement.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jesus, Friend of Sinners...

Father God, On this Easter day, may you open my eyes and heart to others, Lord, and not judge the wounded and not react when others judge me when I'm wounded. Thank you for your gift of new life. May I not take it for granted and cast aside others or swing the sword at them in Your name. Help me to keep my eyes on You and not looking around me at what others do. Do not let another trip over me as they come to You. May I always remember that I am a sinner just like everyone else. Let me heart be lead by mercy, Lord. Amen.

"Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours


Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

'Cause You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours

And I was the lost cause and I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter conviction, part two...

In the words of Jen Hatmaker, "Jesus is really messing with me". I mean, first I begin a purge in my life (that still continues) to rid my life of all things that distract and detract from my focus on God, then, we burst the bubble of the whole Santa thing (yes, my 10 year old got misty-eyed over it). Then, we ditch our broadcast t.v. Oh my, what's next??

As a follow up to yesterday's post about bunnies and baskets for Easter, I want to share with you a few links you might find rattles your brains a bit. Did you ever stop and think WHY we even have bunnies and eggs for Easter? Where the name Easter came from? Have you ever googled Easter traditions? None of them - the rabbit, the eggs, the basket - have anything to do with Jesus.

Alpha and Omega have done a nice compilation of each tradition here - Alpha and Omega publications (and lest you think they have a slant because it's a Christian company, I say google away and you'll find the same info. They've just taken the time to consolidate it into one place).

But here, this link will make your eyes go buggy and even though your brain will hurt, your heart will ache even more. As Jen Hatmaker says in the book, "7", "church SHOULD BE a hospital for the sick not a showcase for the healthy". Both of these links are direct excerpts from the book. Giggle and be convicted here and here. Seriously, go read them. Jesus will grab hold of your heart and will mess it all up. I promise. :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why we don't homeschool...

I know you may be thinking one of two things - "uh, Sheri, yes you DO homeschool" or "For the love of ice cream, get off this topic!". Perhaps you are thinking both.

Yet, so many thoughts keep ruminating in my heart and mind over homeschooling. We've only been at it for 4.5 years and the more we home educate, the more qualified I become to say that I am so, SO imperfect. Homeschooling brings out the imperfections, the sin, the messiness of relationships but thankfully, with God's grace, training of our hearts (theirs and mine) occur. I almost feel that if the ugly side of our hearts don't bubble up after spending every single day together with our children, then perhaps you're doing homeschooling wrong?! Ha! Homeschooling, at its best, provides fertile ground for God's grace to shower us and for character to be shaped by Him, in the day to day.

After all, our hearts are bent toward sin. Our nature is set on default to choose what is self-centered. Self-soothing. Self. From our hearts come all thoughts and actions and despite the moment of acceptance of Christ, we don't become perfect, we become forgiven. Redeemed. Yet, our inclination is to self. To sin. To be messy and irresponsible with our life, our resources, our actions.

Because our hearts are prone to wander and gravitate toward the opposite of God, we don't homeschool to shelter our children. We don't homeschool thinking we will raise perfect beings. We don't homeschool to avoid the world's sin. For it exists within the four walls of our home. It exists within us. We can't hide from it. We can't segregate ourselves from it. For where we go, it goes. Our heart is attached.

Oh sure, it's easy to think "well, I'm not a murderer or I've never (insert some sin we think is REALLY bad here). But God draws no difference between sin. He sees no difference between murder and say, a lie. Sin is sin. It's ugly. It's harmful. It's messy. It opposes God. And it resides in us. The propensity to sin always follows us.

To think that homeschooling will prevent our children from encountering "Them" - those who are REALLY sinful, is a lie. We weren't called to raise our kids in a nice, tidy Christian bubble where all of their friends are pure and sinless (and hand chosen by me), where they never encounter a bad word or a disagreeable temperament, or someone hostile to our faith. Or, teaching that CONFLICTS with our faith. We were called to engage with the world, just like Jesus did. He didn't ignore the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the beggars and the poor. He didn't shy away from sin and neither should we. How best will our kids be able to defend their faith if they never come up against something (or someone) that opposes it??

Homeschooling has some definite advantages and disadvantages. And in my 4.5 short years doing it, it also divides. Not just "Us. vs. Them". Them being that sinful world that we must hide from. But it also divides within the homeschooling community. It is a tool that is used to divide the body of Christ. It is wielded to segregate out the "real" homeschoolers from the "fake" ones. You know, the ones who use a charter or "government" money. The ones who homeschool NOT because God called them to it and they are obeying a Biblical mandate but because they didn't like the school their kids were in or they just enjoyed the company of their children. THOSE fake ones. OR THOSE families who don't behave or believe the same way I do. Us vs. Them. OR THOSE families that don't think like I do. Us vs. Them. Division is Satan's best used tool amongst Christians.

For us, homeschooling doesn't give us an edge over other Christian families in that we'll produce holier, more pure children. It is not my family's salvation or even recipe to a perfect family. We don't homeschool thinking we have life or the Christian faith all figured out. We don't believe we can "DO" family better than others. We don't feel homeschooling gives us any advantage on how our children will turn out. Except.

Grace. By God's grace, we get more hours in our day together to practice forgiveness, extending grace and receiving His when we yell or get frustrated or hurt feelings or have a grumpy attitude. We get more hours in our day together to pray over our broken hearts - the ones that won't work well until Jesus returns. We get more hours in our day to humbly walk together with God and learn together - both on matters of the heart and academia. We get more hours in our day together to extend grace to the family that doesn't agree with our family choices or we don't agree with theirs. We get more hours in our day together to practice God's grace. For when they were in school for 6-7 hours each day, I just didn't have the same amount of time to work on these things as I do now.

We don't homeschool because I have it all together. Pfft. Hardly. We don't homeschool because we believe God demands this of every believer either. We homeschool, out of personal choice, to maximize our time together - in learning, forgiving, and loving.

There are many good educational choices out there and the one you choose needs to best suit your children and family. Homeschooling isn't the best choice out there. It isn't the perfect choice or the one that will guarantee results. It just works for us in the now.

A bunny, a basket, and an overwhelming conviction...

A couple of weeks ago, Chris and I sat the boys down one family night and told them the truth about Santa. Our oldest, who just turned 13, was already suspicious of this jolly 'ol man but Chris and I were convincing and held out to the very end that he was real, indeed. So, he was unsure based on conflicting murmurings from his friends and his parents. Our youngest, who just turned 10, believed wholeheartedly in St. Nick. Now, keep in mind, I purposely never had any decor of Santa in our home. Ever. Santa never gave big presents - only stocking presents that helped the boys' relationship with God such as devotionals, fiction books, etc. To sum it up, Santa was heavily downplayed in our home. Yet, the boys still believed because we told them to.

With our decision to purge anything that detracts from the truth, our relationship with Christ, AND/OR that takes our resources away from doing God's will (be it time, money, energy), we knew we had to come clean to our kids about some long held traditions. We were convicted to speak the truth in love. To proclaim which message - the one of the world or the one of God's word - was truth. Within that truth should be the celebration.

So, we told them the truth about Santa, with the caveat not to tell other kids because other families still choose to believe in Santa. The Easter bunny wasn't a big deal because we told them from the very beginning that he wasn't real. The baskets and toys they received came from us and they knew that.

Here's the thing we couldn't wrap our head around, once the light came on and Chris and I were convicted about this practice. How can we, in good conscience as Christians and as parents, wrap the truth of Jesus' amazing birth and even more amazing, life-giving death and resurrection, with a bunch of...meaningless stuff?? Isn't the message of his death and resurrection and the meaning and holy joy that it brings... enough?? Must that GREAT NEWS be dressed up to make more appealing? No, He is enough.

I don't want my boys to wake up on Easter Sunday excited about a basket, a bunny and some cheap toys that will be tossed to the corner in a few days! NO! I want them to wake up excited about the truth! That because of His sacrifice, we have assurance of life everlasting with God, if we believe and accept it! There is excitement in His resurrection - not just because of what we stand to gain from it (although that is a biggie) but because of the miracle that it is! How can we try to get them excited about this when we are mudding up the message with toys, sugar and another message entirely?? Chris and I realized that what we thought had been a harmless tradition actually had been drawing them away from the real meaning and importance of this holiday or holy day.

This tradition that we'd been celebrating detracts, and actually DISTRACTS, my kids from God's truth and that was a sad realization for us. Chris and I had to apologize to God and then we apologized to our kids. This was such a healing moment for our family!

With renewed spirits, fresh from eyes being opened wide, we put the money that would have gone to basket fillings to focus on the needs of another. To give the words that breathe life to someone that is dead. We made a pledge to Bibles Unbound. This organization delivers Bibles, even at the risk of their own life, to people desperate to receive a Bible of their own but live in countries hostile to the gospel.

So, no peeps. No jelly beans. No stuffed bunnies. No basket grass (to which Chris is thrilled; he's always hated that stuff). I'll admit, I've had a couple of moments in Target or another store where I impulsively, automatically went toward the Easter stuff. That visual reminder sets a momentary panic in me thinking I am not prepared! Then I remember... it's not about the bunny, it's about Jesus... and I can't buy that.

Disclaimer: I know this isn't a popular thought and I used to be the first to say "what's the harm?" but through our "7" purge and laying everything out before our eyes and before the Lord, we now know. I didn't blog about this as a way to boast or pat ourselves on the back. We grieved over the reality of the conflicting messages we were sending to our children. Nor did I write about this to stir division among believers. This is our own personal conviction, not an edict for others to follow. I do hope it gives you something to think about but I write, if for nothing else, to remind myself of this journey God is leading us on as a family; To have no sacred cows in our life and to have nothing that detracts or distracts from God. That is my reminder through these words.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why we (still) homeschool...

Homeschooling entered into our life 4.5 years ago. It wasn't on our radar and, in fact, both boys were in public school. After a frustrating year, with lots of IEP battles and having enough of "teaching to the test", we though we'd try homeschooling for a year. Just a year.

While that first year was difficult, we LOVED homeschool so much that we embraced it fully. We still love homeschooling and, although our reasons that we continue on now are very different from when we began to homeschool, I'm so glad we stuck with it! We've grown and evolved over these past 4.5 years to learn why we continue to choose this form of education.

So here are our reasons we continue to homeschool...

It allows us to develop stronger relationships within our family. My boys have grown in this area greatly. There is still room for improvement but their relationship is neat to see. Having them together throughout most of the day allows them to work on and work out the often messy points of relationships. You know, hurt feelings. Harboring resentment. Forgiveness. Overlooking an offense. Those kinds of things that were getting squeezed in and, in actuality, glossed over in the small window of time after school and on weekends. Homeschooling allows us to deal with the here and now, well, in the here and now.

Different learning styles and attention spans are addressed. I love this! The reality is I have two VERY different learners on my hands - one is a "conventional" learner in that plop him down in a classroom or any setting (for the most part) and he'll retain information. The other.. not so much. He needs to touch, pick up and turn over, take it apart and ask 40,329 question before really grasping a concept. Let me emphasize - BOTH styles (heck, all styles) are TOTALLY FINE! However, one of these styles is addressed in a classroom setting. So, at home, we try to have lots of hands-on activities, for both of them, to help solidify learning.

A Biblical worldview can be incorporated into their learning. I know this isn't a priority for everyone but it IS for my family. Chris and I love to analyze culture, media, trends, behaviors and topics and look at them through a Biblical lense. We are teaching our boys to do the same. Homeschooling allows us the time and space to do this.

Character is a daily subject. And not just any character building. We work on a virtue each week with We Choose Virtues (see sidebar for more info.) as well as work through Proverbs and scripture memory work - all, usually, addressing character qualities God would like to see in us. Yes, I said us because I learn with these lessons too! Our nature is to sin. It's our default setting but we are to put off our sinful nature each day and choose God's character. It's not easy and sometimes we fail. Sometimes it gets messy but that is our calling and goal. Homeschooling allows us to focus in on this in a way that was difficult in our public school days.

It allows us to step off the well beaten path and journey at our own pace. Instead of trying to cram a bunch of facts into my sons' brains for the standardized test, we are learning, more organically, in a slower pace. A pace prompted by their interests at times. A pace that doesn't make them feel like failures or be flustered as though they are rushed. Our educational choice has allowed us to make lifestyle choices that have helped slow our pace of life down. And we love it!

We get to do lots of field trips. I know this isn't the deep-thought reason you'd think it might be but this is important to me. My son did not get his learning style (you know, the one who has to touch, feel, explore) out of the blue. I, in part, enjoy learning in this way and I think it does wonders for our creativity.

It's fun. Well, some days, not so much but for the most part, it's FUN! I mean, I get to spend lots of time with my kids, we get to learn all kinds of neat things together, we play games, we watch neat documentaries, we go on fascinating field trips... we love it! They love it!

Stress levels diminish. One of my children has Asperger's Syndrome and in the 4 years we've homeschooled, his stress levels have diminished significantly. His Pediatric Neurologist is so impressed. This was a child who, each year of public school, struggled with the rushed pace of the school work, hated school with a passion, had difficulty with focusing, and felt like a failure that his stress level was too high for someone his age (a 3rd grader) and had ulcers and nervous tics from it. He was dismissed from therapy 3 different times - not because he didn't need it, he very much did - but the therapists said he was failing to thrive in the therapy due to his attention span and his anxiety. Now, you'd never know he has Aspergers (well, occasionally, you can) and this year, we removed him from all therapies because he no longer needs them at this point. This is a child who has been in multiple therapies since he was 2 years old. Occupational. Speech. Social Skills training. His neurologist is THRILLED with his progress and so are we! I attribute it to our homeschooling life and a calmer pace of learning. He's still being challenged and stretched but in a totally different environment now.

These are some of the reasons that we still continue to educate at home. We don't homeschool because we believe that God requires it of every Christian. No, we don't believe that to be true at all. We don't do so because we want to insulate our boys from the world. Nor do we do it out of fear. We do it because it just makes sense for our family. Chris and I felt that we could offer our boys a better learning environment than the local school could.. and we still feel that way.