Monday, July 31, 2006

Still Riding Those Coasters!

It has been over a week since I've written on my blog.  Our Roller Coaster has included Vacation Bible School, my mother's house getting struck by lightening, friends moving, other friends struggling, and just life.  When I would have time to sit down and check email, I wanted to write, but my fatigued and frazzled mind wouldn't allow it.  You know how you grab the bar of the roller-coaster car when you're speeding down an incline or cresting the hill for yet another drop?  Well, my brain was holding the bar and would not allow anything to be dumped out of this roller coaster car.


But this week, I'm able to sit for a few moments and write.  A little over a week ago my family and I spent the day at Hershey Park.  My husband's company graciously invites all of their employees to spend a day at the park for their summer picnic.  With free tickets from my father who's an EMT in first aid at the park, and a picnic lunch provided by Todd's company, we have a lovely day with very little expense.  (I do have to buy a bag of kettle corn on my way out of the park!)  As we toured the park, rode the rides, and enjoyed some family time, I was reminded of the first blog I wrote, and the reason this blog is called Life on the Roller Coaster.  I came home from the park and re-read that first entry:

It seems like I wrote that ages ago, and yet, it's only been a year.  Writing on this blog has helped me to organize my thoughts toward home education.  Writing has prompted me to notice those little times in life that somehow passed by without much recognition before blogging.  Blogging has helped me to enjoy my roller coaster ride a little bit more each day.  It has helped me to see the opportunities for ministry provided to me.  It has helped me to see the education that the boys get every day, even when we aren't completing anything formal!


This blog has given me a space to sort through my thoughts.  I'm blessed to have it and even more blessed that some have chosen to read my mind-dumps.  So, thank you.  Thank you for spending time here.  Thank you for leaving comments.  They all bless me so much!  I haven't figured out how to I just respond here on my blog and hope that you return?  Or do I find you out in blog-land and thank you for your comments or answer your questions.  I don't know!  Please know that I read your comments and am very blessed by each one I receive.  Thank you.


So, as I strap in for the ride this week, I do it thankfully and peacefully.  I don't know how many hills and valleys I will have this week, but I'm safely in the car God has given me.  He has mapped out the path, I just have to faithfully ride.


Enjoy your ride this week!  And write me any time!  Maybe I'll even figure out how to answer!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pray Simply, or Simply Pray

We've been enjoying a visit from one of the boys' friends.  James spent the day with us yesterday and slept overnight.  (Praise God for bunk beds!)  James' father, Craig, is eduring a very persistant virus that has attacked his eye.  As I write this, he is preparing for another laser surgery to repair the retina which is beginning to detach.  Keep Craig in your prayers.


Actually, Craig's illness, is what has prompted me to write today.  Yesterday I took the boys to the local park.  We grilled hotdogs for lunch.  As we were preparing to say our prayer before eating, 10 year old James' asked if he could pray.  His prayer was full of thankfulness for the meal and the park and an opportunity to play with my two boys.  In the middle of all his thankfulness he simply said, "Heal my dad's eye."  Then he continued his list of things for which he was thankful and ended with Amen.


I think that we complicate prayer.  We think it has to be flowery.  We think that we have to explain to God all the details and nuances of a situation as we see them.  He's God!  He knows the details.  And He knows ALL the details.  We don't know all the details.


James' prayer was direct and to the point.  "Heal my dad's eye."  It was in the midst of a littany of thankfulness, almost as an afterthought.  I'm sure that he prays this prayer several times a day.  To James, those four words are all that need to be said.


How many times do we take our prayer and try to embellish it with more words?  When all we need to do is come before our Heavenly Father and make our simple requests known to Him.


Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  Phillipians 4:6


Surround your requests with thankgiving, just like James did, and pray simply.  Simply pray!


Hoping that you're praying your way through the ride!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I don't teach Bible anymore

You read the title correctly.  I don't teach Bible anymore.  In my Homeschool Objectives for the school district last year I had a Bible/Character subject and I listed everything we were planning to do and read under that heading.  I kept track of those things and reported them diligently at year's end.


This year, there was no Bible heading in my objectives.  Under the Language Arts section, however, I included the material that we would be studying using Kay Arthur's Inductive Bible Studies for Kids.  I also listed any memory verses they would be learning, right along with the poems they would have as memory work.  As I'm recording the boy's daily lessons, I am listing any bible study work, reading or writing, under the heading of Language Arts.


Bible is not a separate class.  You and I both know that our times of Bible study come at various  times during the day.  Some days, we need to have time in our Bible in the middle of the afternoon.  It is not a segmented part of the day that we take care of and then move on to other subjects.  Bible, prayer, devotion, or quiet times, come at varied times.  We need them ALL the time.  Remember "pray without ceasing?"


So, I decided to stop segregating it to its own subject.  Bible is part of all of our lessons.  We are learning about Astronomy for science this year.  We will learn and copy lots of verses about stars, the moon, and the skies from the bible.  Is that Bible class?  Nope, it's Science.  We are learning about the Middle Ages for History this year.  Part of this will include studying Tyndale and reading his biography.  Bible?  Nope, it's History.  Singing and learning Hymns?  Music, not Bible.


One of my favorite authors is Grace Livingston Hill.  She wrote nearly 100 romances of which Christ was most often the center.  Her books take me to another time and inspire and warm my heart.  Several years ago, I read one of her books in which a family's children were headed down a wrong path.  The father returned to the church and moved his family to the country in an effort to save his children.  Further into this family transformation, he brought the children home to school and utilized the skills of his pastor to educate the children.  The pastor sat with the children the first day and handed them each a bible.  He said, "This will be our textbook for all subjects."


I may not use the bible as my textbook for each subject, but God is teaching me to to incorporate bible into all subjects, not as its own separate subject.  As my homeschooling adventure continues, God continues to shape and correct me.  I love when He speaks!  I just pray I'm quiet enough to hear Him.  That's not always the case.  But this time, when He lead me to make bible a part of every subject, I listened.


I hope you're listening to the ride!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Lesson in Geography: Room Zones

My boys are slobs.  There is no other way to put it.  Their room is so bad that my oldest son, McLane, bought a sign for their door while we were on vacation.  The sign says, "Disaster Area."  This sign, unfortunately, is total truth.


When I tell the boys to go and clean their room, they are overwhelmed with the task.  Their room is small.  Although there is a place for everything, when one thing is out of place, it creates a dominoe effect.  One thing is out of place and then another thing is placed in the wrong place and before you know it..."Disaster Area."


As we were having the battle of the room yet again, an idea dawned on me.  Divide their room into quadrants.  Instead of saying "Clean your room" and having the boys stand in the middle of the mess with their eyes glazed over, I could say, "Check quadrant D"  Todd, my husband, and pulled out a large sheet of newsprint and made a simple map of their room.  Then he drew dotted lines dividing the room into several quadrants and labelling each quadrant with a letter.


We hung the new map on the basement door in the hall near their room.  Now, we say, "Hey guys, check quadrant B, I think it needs a little attention."  When the entire room needs to be cleaned, we assign one quadrant at a time and the boys report back to us when they've completed that task.  They make it like an army game and salute with a snappy, "Yes Sir!" after completing a task.


Another added benefit to this way of organizing their room is that it is teaching them map reading skills.  The boys must read the map when they get an assignment to know where quadrant K is located in their room.  Isn't it fun to learn when you don't even know it's happening?


By dividing the boys room into quadrants, the cleaning job is much less overwhelming for the boys.  It also makes a very dreary activity fun.  And the boys get to hone their mapping skills.  There's no down-side!


Find creative ways to enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Now Playing...our Music Appreciation Program

In my kitchen there is a neon orange card labelled "NOW PLAYING" taped to the front of one cupboard.  The card is actually a 3x5 index card folded lengthwise and taped at the short sides.  This card is critical to our study of music appreciation.


Here's how it works:  I put a CD into the kitchen CD player.  The boys listen to it for a few minutes and then they try to guess who composed the piece being played.  After they've guessed a few times, or if they guess correctly, I put an index card  with the composer's name written on it into the "NOW PLAYING" holder.  As we listen to the balance of the CD, the boys have a reminder of who composed the pieces being played.


Sometimes we don't play our guessing game.  But I try to put the composer's name in the "NOW PLAYING" sign whenever I play a classic instrumental CD.  By seeing the composer's name on our sign as they listen to that composer's CD the boys are beginning to identify composers from their pieces.


It is so much fun to hear a piece of music and have one of the boys say, "Mommy, listen.  It's Mozart!"  Lately that has happened in public places (not just in our kitchen), and I get so tickled.  I love music and there are many classic pieces that can almost bring me to tears.  I enjoy having various composers playing while we are about our daily duties.  Having the boys learn to recognize these pieces and composers is a great way to round out their education.


This is an easy and painless way for us to have music appreciation on a regular basis.  It is normal for the boys to have music playing in the background at all times of the day.  By making a game out of identification the boys are learning and they don't even know it!


Enjoy the music on the ride!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Happy New Year! Our first day back at lessons...

Today was our first day of lessons for the 2006-2007 school year.  It was awesome!  I've been excited about a new school year for a few weeks.  Today it was finally here!


For curriculum this year we are switching from McGraw Hill math workbooks to Saxon Math.  Our first lesson was a huge success.  I loved the way the text is worded.  It is not dumbed-down for the student.  Walker T.'s 54 book already began with some beginning pre-algebra type problems.  It was terrific!


For history, we are studying the Middle Ages.  At the curriculum fair we picked up a game called Medieval Alliance.  McLane wanted to play the night we returned from the fair, but we've kept it for our new year.  We couldn't wait another day!  We played our game late this morning.  It was very fun and very educational.  I'll be blogging more about this game at another time.


But before all this, we began our day and our new school year with our first inductive bible study.  We are using a Kay Arthur study for children on the book of John.  The boys and I are all studying the same material.  I'm very excited to see how God will use this bible study to draw us closer to Him and each other.  We are definitely going to get to know Jesus better this year.


Our other plans for the year include Spelling Power, which we began with the first assessment test this morning, and English from the Roots Up.  We have not begun "roots" but I'm excited to do so.  For science the boys selected astronomy.  We will be completing lots of projects and notebook pages on this subject this year.


This was our first structured day in almost a month.  Although the boys said that they enjoyed our summer break, they didn't have the same level of animation over break that they normally have.  But today, I could see a difference in our sons.  They have always been children who love a schedule.  That's one of the reasons we have lessons all year without a lengthy summer break.  Today, the boys had a better general attitude.  They didn't bicker or complain.  They were more animated during our family talks over the dinner hour.  They didn't admit it, but I knew they were happy to be back at the kitchen table with the routine of lessons to which they were accustomed.  I could see a change in their countenance from the past month which had no agenda.


Charlotte Mason recommends giving a child three things each day, "Something to love.  Something to do.  And Something to think about."  Today, I clearly saw how the boys blossom when given these things.  Lessons give them something to think about.  Our bible study is giving them something to love.  Projects surrounding our study, such as our game today, give them something to do.  As lessons drew to a close, their creativity had been primed.  McLane spent his afternoon creating and painting a little wooden figure that he made from found items.  And both boys enjoyed telling Daddy all about our day over supper and playing a game of Liar's Dice after our family meal.  God so clearly showed me how home education in our little home in the country is integral to the growth of these two young men.  I'm so grateful for His spark in our home school.


Have a very happy new year!

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Vacation Ideas

It's Sunday morning and we have just spent the first night in our very own beds in over seven days.  We returned from our trip to the beach in southern North Carolina yesterday.  All week I thought about blogging, but when there was "down time" I didn't have the gumption to get out my husbands laptop and add to my blog.  So my blog got a vacation as well as I!


We took our trip with my sister and her family.  I am very close to my neices and nephew, so I loved having them all to myself for an entire week.  The oldest two are away at college, with Hunter (my nephew) studying abroad this fall.  So time with them is precious.  We had lots of fun on the beach, in the water, playing mini-golf and just hanging out.  Time goes by so quickly and it's hard to believe that these two were just children yesterday!


BUT I digress, I wanted to pass along some tips I discovered while travelling this week.  Here they are:


1.  When you pack, remember you have to UN-pack too.  Now that we're home, I feel as though it will take DAYS to get my house back in order!


2.  Found treasures are the best souvenir's.  I'm in the posession of a lovely box of shells, a fallen bird's nest, a cat tail (the plant, not the animal), a pinecone, and some great rocks.


3.  Use a boredom box.  When things were winding down around our beach house in the late afternoon and evening my boys needed something to do.  The first two days it was frustrating because those of us over 18 just wanted to relax.  The three under 12, my sons and my neice, wanted something to DO.  I took a quick trip to the local Wal*Mart and spent about $10 on some little things to play or create.  VOILA a Boredom Box!  I put these little items into an old shoe box and put it on the coffe table.  The children were entertained during the down times for the rest of the week.  Our box contained: grooved popsicle sticks used to build boxes and other items, pipe cleaners, markers, sketch paper, two little handheld games ($1 each), playing cards, and dice.


4.  Get creative.  Another thing we did to keep the children entertained was make some games.  I put 12-15 white seashells into a box with one black seashell.  In this two-player game each player is allowed to take 1, 2 or 3 pieces on his turn.  The person who ends up with the black seashell is the looser.  This idea was taken from a game played on PBS's Cyber Chase.  I had also read in an old Family Fun Magazine about taking playing cards and cutting slits into the cards so that they could be used to make a house of cards by sliding cards into the slits.  We did this with a cheap box of cards purchased at the grocery store.  The boys and my husband made a couple ring toss games with the popsicle sticks and the pipe cleaners.


5.  Keep learning.  My neices and I loved collecting shells on the beach.  We were curious about what we were gathering, so I picked up a little book at the grocery store about the shells in the area.  We had a lot of fun sorting and identifying these shells, Baby's Ears are my favorites.  Try to find a picture of these.  They're adorable.


6.  Egg cartons make great sorting boxes.  I came home with a loaded egg carton full of shells, my neices had three between the two of them.  Later I'll write about the other items I've sorted and stored in egg cartons.


I think those are the best tips from the trip.  It was a wonderful time.  Although I'm glad to be home, I miss waking to the sound of the waves hitting the shore.  There is nothing like the sound of the ocean for me.  God's awesome power and His organization are so evident to me just by watching the ocean!  My roller coaster ride this week was on the back of those terrific waves.  I love to be out past the breakers jumping over the waves and having them place me soundly on the ground after lifting me high in the air.  There's no man-made ride quite so thrilling.


Enjoy the ride!