Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It feels Providential

Another intersection of life and learning happened at Bible Study.  Truth be told, I missed my weekly meeting at Community Bible Study last year.  I walked away from it for the right reasons, but I am still astonished at how much I learned, and how quickly I learned it.  

This year my girls are taking ASL offered at my church as part of our Diocesan’s Deaf Apostolate.  I know the teacher, who is Deaf, and I am thrilled at how the girls are moving towards becoming fluent in this beautiful language.  It just so happens that Bible Study is offered at the same time.

Unlike my previous experience where there was significant reading, answering question,s and participation was expected, this study is much more relaxed.  Father copies the readings and the Psalm for the upcoming mass and we dissect them for deeper understanding.  We read the Bible, put the readings into a larger context, and connect them to our lives.  It is a wonderful way to spend an hour.  

It seems as if I am meant to be in this group of people for a reason, I just don’t know why yet.

My first visit was two weeks ago.  The Priest at our church is new, not new to the clergy, just new to us.  He is full of energy and it is contagious.  He is not a very linear thinker and speaker.  He jumps around.  He is a vibrant storyteller.  He was telling a story and midway through he stopped and said, “this reminds me of the book by C.S. Lewis when the little girls is asking if the lion, Aslan will bite and she is told that after all he is a lion.”  This story was told as a metaphor for God in the Old Testament.  I got chills.  Actual real goosebumps.  We had just finished the book the day before my first Bible study class.  

My second class was last week.   Father was explaining that that the vertical part of the cross represents the relationship between the individual and God.  The horizontal beam represents “we” or “us” the community of worshipers.  He then referenced the Gospel according to Luke and how he is all about “social justice”.  I have not read the Gospel of Luke but you can be sure we will this week!  Father also went on to show the relationship of how we think leads to how we pray which leads to how we act which leads to how our society operates.  Are we divine in the name of the world or in the name of the Lord?   Then he displayed a half full water bottle.  He used it as a metaphor for a person who is only half full because certain relationships in their lives have been destroyed.  To fill the bottle (or the body) back up some people turn to drugs, bad relationships, etc, when they should be filling themselves up with the Lord.  No chills today.  No goosebumps.  I was close to tears though.  How does this happen?

After this class I waited to speak to our Priest.  I explained these two connections to our homeschool and our family.  I told him I saw it as a sign that this is exactly where I need to be.  He said it was not he who was responsible for this, but the Holy Spirit coming to me.  


Whenever I doubt or whenever something happens in our home that frustrates me or makes me question if we should be homeschooling or if school would/should be on the table, I have to reflect on this.  This is not coincidental.  It feels Providential.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Horse Show


Years ago Grace used to skate at the International Skating Center in Simsbury, Connecticut.  She was a good little skater.  Determined.  Fearless.  Strong.  Her happy place was on the ice.  Simsbury is about 80 minutes from my house and we during shows or during competition preparation we were commuting up to 4 days a week.  It was hard, especially on her sister.  It was also hard on Grace.  She missed Greg desperately.  She missed her Dad enough to give up a sport she loved with her whole being.  It was then that Greg and I decided that no sport will take the place of family togetherness.  To us, no sport is worth dividing up a family, taking up weekends, negatively affecting the family budget, and giving one child a seemingly disproportionate amount of time and attention.  This is why we passed on soccer, even though Grace really wanted to play.  This is why Grace passed on trying out for travel basketball and swim team, even though she would make a team.  These sports are seasonal, unlike skating that was year-round but still, weekend time is family time.  It is sacred in our family.



Horseback riding is perfect for us.  It takes up one afternoon, possibly two here and there.  Already we have made the choice that we will not lease a horse and we will not do competition after competition.  She is riding for the pure pleasure of being on a horse.  Like when she was stepping onto the ice, there is something about her that comes alive when Grace steps into the barn.  






Lilah does not share the same passion for athletics as Grace and sometimes struggles with putting aside her projects for the trip to the farm, but once she is there, she lights up sitting on her horse Logan.

When the girls were asked if they wanted to participate in a local horse show, Lilah passed and Grace accepted.  We gave her an extra lesson to prepare, bought her jacket and her Gram loaned her a white button down shirt.  The farm lets the girls ride the horse they ride in lessons, which is wonderful, since otherwise she could not compete.  



Grace rode in three beginner class events; all pleasure class.  The field of riders was around 10 in each class.  She took third and fourth in two of the three classes, an accomplishment for her first show. 



Riding reminds me of skating in many ways.  Because it is an individual sport, you are competing against girls who have invested more time and more money into perfecting their skills and their horse's showmanship.  Many of the girls she was riding with own horses.  The live in the country, we live in the city.  They can ride before and after school, we can ride once or twice a week.  They have invested thousands into their animal and their sport, we choose not to.  That said, this is such a wonderful sport/activity for my girls and worth every penny we have spent.  The confidence the girls demonstrate while in control of a huge animal amazes me.  The physical and emotional energy expended in a lesson can be exhausting.  The multi-step directions and the multitudes of things to remember while riding is a great mental workout for the girls.  Their trainer does not rush them to do things they are not ready to do, and puts the best interest of her horses first.  She chooses horses that fit with riders, even if it means that girls can be disappointed at times.  

I look forward to Tuesdays as much as the girls.  Barn time is good for the soul.  





Monday, September 29, 2014

Social Justice

One of our electives this fall is Social Justice.  We are using the 6 part series titled Seeking Social Justice produced by the Heritage Foundation and offered free by Compass Classroom.  
Social justice is "justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society".
Social justice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justiceWikipedia

Last time I checked The United States of America is NOT a socialist country, even though we are moving steadily in that direction.  Social justice is NOT the distribution of resources in the hopes of achieving equality and therefore a “just” society.  This is NOT the definition I want my girls to internalize when they go out into the world.  Seeking Social Justice has helped us to create our own family definition of social Justice:

Social Justice is identifying a need in the community and devoting one’s available time, money and resources to affect a lasting change in the identified community.  It is not forced, but offered of free will.  It is not a mandate, but rather a commitment to walking in the path of Jesus Christ. 
                                                     ~our family definition 
The first part of Seeking Social Justice identifies that most people in need are in need because of a breakdown in relationships in their lives and the resulting attempt to fill their need with people/substances that cannot produce a positive outcome.  

The remaining episodes address each one of the relationships:
  • Rethinking Social Justice | Trevecca Nazarene University (Intro)
  • Cultivating Justice from the Ground Up | HIS Bridgebuilders (Marriage)
  • Serving the Whole Person | Leesburg Baptist Church (Church)
  • Restoring Dignity and Purpose | Men of Valor Prison Ministry (Work)
  • Maintaining the Social Conditions for Justice | Shyima's Story (Government)
  • Breaking Ground | Summary (Individuals)


We have watched the first three episodes.  They can take us anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on how much discussion and explanation is necessary for the girls to  ask their questions and come to their own understanding.  A half credit is 60 hours so this alone will not fulfill a credit or half credit.  When I think of subjects I like to look at what the girls are already doing, interested in and think of how we can expand on it, explode it really, and dig deep into the understanding behind it.  

Our family has participated in monthly dinners at a local homeless shelter for a few years.  We serve once or twice a year but have never been responsible for coordinating a dinner.  Through our church, a need was identified: serving the homeless a warm, homemade meal.   That sounds a lot like our definition of social justice.  But how could our family affect lasting change?

Serving one dinner, once a month may not make a life changing impact on the residents.  However, serving a dinner once a month in conjunction with several other churches and civic organization who are also serving one dinner a month, allows the agency that runs the shelter to operate.  It allows them to continue to make an impact in the lives of the residents by connecting them with resources to help overcome the damaged relationships in their lives and begin to replace the things they have sought out, specifically drugs and alcohol with new beginnings, new relationships and new opportunities.  



Here is where we can take our at home learning and connect it to life.  What we learn on these episodes plays out before us when we are at the shelter.  We spoke to a young man, younger than us, who have had a marriage collapse and because he used money as a vehicle for happiness, he lost everything.    There is no more powerful experience than to take your knowledge and understanding and apply it to life and see if what you thought you knew is really in fact true.  It is for this reason that these videos are one of my favorite curriculum elements this year.





When I offered our family to host this month’s dinner, I had hoped it would be another experience that stayed with us.  This was the first time I was responsible for the meal planning, the cooking, the serving and the coordinating with the shelter staff.  Up until now we had always accompanied other families who had more experience with this ministry.  My sister in law joined us and together we cooked sloppy joes, macaroni & cheese which was served with watermelon and lots of desserts.  We estimate about 25 people were served.  



Prior to this dinner Lilah and her friends gathered at our house to create bookmarks made from card stock paper they painted, cut, decorated and wrote on.  Since all the girls are Catholic, they were all very comfortable writing scripture on the cards.  I sealed the bookmarks with Mod Podge and they were given freely.  To see a resident accept a meal and choose a bookmark and exclaim “I am worthy!” is a powerful experience.  Hopefully we have a small part in filling a person’s spirit with the positive affirmation of God’s love for us.


This dinner took 6 credit hours.  3 for the actual dinner, 2 for baking and 1 for bookmark creation.  So far we have 7.5 hours towards 60 required for a half credit.  But more importantly, far more important than the “credit” is the understanding that they will carry with them for a lifetime.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Week of September 22nd

When I read Blake Bowle’s Better Than College and the book Do Hard Things, I realized that high school at home should be more than randomly picking subjects and working through textbooks.  If we are going to opt out the benefits of schooling, then we need to make sure we are taking time to appreciate the amazing things that homeschooling teens has to offer.
Up until now there has not been much that my girls could attribute solely to homeschooling.  The could still ride horses after school, could participate in craft shows,  have music lessons, book clubs and writing groups.  They just could not do these things on the same day.  Homeschooling allows for 90 minutes of music lessons on the same day as 90 minutes of horseback riding, whereas these would have to be spread out to two days for a typically schooled student.
One thing Grace certainly could not do if in public school is work the morning shift at the kennel.  She works from 7:30 or 8:00am until 11:00am then comes home and fits in her lessons then scoots off to book club or the farmer’s market or she may choose to watch a dog documentary or work on her kennel photo album.  I truly hope she is enjoying the start to her “freshman” year.
As for Lilah, that child can craft for hours.  She is a self taught crocheter and is reading book after book.  So many books, in fact, that I stopped trying to record them all.  I don’t worry about listing her pleasure reads, just her book club books and the classics we are reading.  I know she could not read as much as she does if she was bogged down with homework after school and on the weekends.


Subject
Accomplished
Math
Mon/Tues/lecture on Wednesday
Lilah got on 92 on her first Teaching Textbooks Chapter 1 quiz!  Way to go Lilah!!
Social Justice
Completed video #3 (Church)  Lilah connected this video to our work at Prospect House which is perfect since our family prepared and served dinner for approx. 25 people at local homeless residential shelter. Lilah baked cake pops and cupcakes for dessert. Distributed hand painted, hand written scripture bookmarks to residents.

I will write more about this but in my last Bible study our Priest referenced social justice in the Bible and basically summarized everything in the first video we watched.  This is the second strong connection between Bible study and our homeschool and I spoke to him privately about this after the class.  This is the second week I got goosebumps when life and learning have overlapped spiritually.
Language Arts
Watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Saturday night with Aunt Kris.  Kris has partnered with the girls and is reading the classics alongside them so that she can discuss the characters and plot with them.   

We began Alice in Wonderland this week.  Each girl did an art journal page in their notebook of many of the famous quotations from this book.  They are each very unique and very beautiful.

Lilah finished up her personal reading, the classic Rabbit Hill. She also finished book club book, Marley: A Dog Like No Other and she completed her lapbook for TLTW&TW.  It feels good to complete projects!  

BOOK CLUB began after a month hiatus.  One girl left the group and three girls joined.  Our new selection is: Summer of the Gypsy Moths (Thanks Jamie!).  I began it already and just love it.  So much here to discuss with young girls.

Physical Education
I count their hunt seat riding lessons as their official Physical Education.  Lee Binz stated in her webinar that a high school sport is equivalent to one credit and the time and effort Grace (and Lilah) put into their lessons are equivalent since riding is year-round, not seasonal.  Grace competed in her first show, entered in three events and won a third and fourth place ribbon in two events (out of a field of between 10-12 riders)!  We also had our weekly lessons.
Life
Both girls had dentist appointments.  Watched the American Girl episode of Project Runway. Biked to the local farmer’s market for fresh honey and apple cider. Met friends at Starbucks for a latte before Pottery Class.  PICKED UP CROSBY!!!!
Music
In addition to weekly piano lessons, Grace began working again with the Music Director from our church, who has been teaching her chords and the parts of the mass.
History
Completed notebook pages for chapter 2. Copied maps of the early cities of Sumer and where the resources were imported to build the cities.



Clockwise:  Map of Sumer, Lilah's duct tape bag contest entry, Writer's Workshop, CROSBY!, practicing ASL with a friend, book club, dinner at homeless shelter, Alice in Wonderland, horse show.
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