Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Launching 2016-2017

We have never had summer homework.  I have never assigned it and they certainly have never requested it.  We never had a need for it before.  Most of our nature studies occur in the summer and this year was no exception with our super fantastic whale watch, seal viewing, shark tracking, insect photographing, drought calculating, aquarium visiting, weather watching, etc.  Lilah took a writing class and Grace went away on a student leadership retreat.  Lilah read all the Harry Potters and the entire Selection series and Grace decided officially she wants to be a photographer and took a class and had her work hung in a local exhibition.  They babysat, dog sat, and bird sat.  They earned a lot of money.   Grace began teaching piano lessons and Lilah continued her cello lessons.  They took two art appreciation classes at Yale.  They volunteered for a week at Vacation Bible School and Lilah was a teacher's assistant in Student Ministry.  She acted for the first time and loved it.  

Their summer was very full.  

But their "official" summer homework was pushed to the side, overlooked and out of mind.  Their coop teachers have assigned homework due on the first day of class (September 12).  Lilah has French to memorize.  They both have a unit to read in history and questions to answer.  There was an essay to submit.  Tale of Despereaux needs to be read and a chart needs to be completed.  Two movies need to be watched and charts completed for both.  Grace also has her driver's permit exam after her birthday so the manual needs to be studied and practice tests taken.  It is not a tremendous amount of work, but enough to that it cannot be left until the last few days before class begins.  

So we began.  This year I have made a big change.  We are no longer homeschooling at home.  Every free day we have we are packing up and heading to the library.  This gives them until ten o'clock to sleep in late, eat breakfast, dress, read, watch The Weather Channel, edit photos, etc.  It gives me permission to let them have this time knowing that at 9:55 I am leaving and the next few hours will be dedicated to school work.  It is week one of this new routine but it is working.  Daphne's incessant barking does not bother us.  Crosby's demands to be taken to the park do not interrupt us.  There is no phone ringing, no computer luring us away.  There are no neighborhood sounds to irritate us.  I love it.  Love it.  I know they would prefer to be at the table in their pajamas but I really think at this stage of our homeschooling we need to be up and dressed, fully caffeinated and ready to tackle the day before we dig into our studies.  So bring it on.  I'm bringing my A Game to this year and I refuse to dwell any longer in the quagmire that was our 2015-2016 year.  We are giving all glory to God and with the strength he gives to us, we will do great things!


14 things about my 14 year old girl

1) She is a storyteller.  If she continues to work on the craft and mechanics of writing, one day her books could line the shelves at Barnes & Nobel.  The characters and images she creates through words live on in the reader's memory long after the story is over.  

2) She is patient.  To see her with children warms my heart.  She has the patience to build fairy house after fairy house, read book after book, and play Minecraft for hours just because that's what her little friend wants to do.  She will be an excellent mother someday if that is what she chooses.

3) Her art....oh her art.  Given the chance, she would create all day long.  

4) Books are her best friends.  Her blog www.lilahsbookshelf.wordpress.com is her baby and her TBR pile is growing and growing.  Her goal this summer was to complete the Harry Potter series and she will achieve that goal with just a few more hours to go on the final book.

5) She is a leader.  She may not think of herself as one just yet but she shines in Kid's Ministry.  She leads the skits on stage every week and she works as a teacher's assistant in the 4th grade classroom.  The kids adore her and if she stays in this ministry, I have no doubt she will continue to learn and grow and her spirit will touch the lives on many children she meets every week.

6) She's a musician.  Piano and now cello have captured her interest over the years and she has an amazing voice.  This year she has the opportunity to join worship band at coop and share these talents with others while glorifying God.  Chills.  This gives me chills.  I cannot wait to see what she does in this group of talented kids.

7) Photography interested both my girls, but Lilah loved it first.  She is not as interested in the technical aspects of the art of photography but she has a very creative eye and sees the beauty in "ordinary" things.  

8) She loves Jesus.  As a baby Lilah used to tell me she could hear the angels singing and I believe her.  Her light was dimmed a bit by the weight of religion but it is now glowing again, brightly, and she is eager to join the youth group at church and have new friends, new opportunities and new adventures.  

9) Let Lilah loose in the kitchen and you will delight in sweet treats all week.  

10) Keeping her room clean is a serious challenge, but ask her to clean the house and BAM! It looks like a team of professionals came through.  

11) She loves handbags and has a slew of them. Of course it helps that her Dad and Grandmother work at a hand bag retailer now and worked at Coach in the past.

12) She would love a hedgehog someday.

13) She watches Elf every Halloween night and can recite the whole movie by heart.  There is virtually no occasion that she cannot find the perfect Elf quote for.  

14) Like Elf, her favorite food group is foods containing sugar!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Faith is a Verb: Lead Week Day 4

This summer I have been savor ink Unshaken by Crawford W. Loritts, Jr.  Chapter 4: Faith is Obedience really speaks to me this week.  To paraphrase "To live by faith is more than a suggestion in the Bible; it is a command.  Therefore, living by faith is an act of obedience....it is a willful choice to turn to God as our source and sufficiency to meet every need and challenge we have (insert challenge you are facing).  In all of these circumstances, when we choose faith over doubt, we are choosing obedience over disobedience." (pg. 51)

I prayed and prayed that the time would come when Grace, and eventually Lilah would be ready to leave home.  When they were younger I wanted to them to experience a retreat, a mission trip, or simply an overnight at a friend's house.  Our church at the time did not offer opportunities like these, but now these choices and more are available to them.  I did not always want to be a chaperone.  I believe that other adults need to serve as role models and let parents be parents, especially when we are homeschooling parents. We need a break from the many roles we shoulder.

I know that Grace choosing to go to Lead Week was answered prayer.  I cannot sit at home and wonder and worry.  If I do then clearly I am not putting my trust in God.  I must live by my faith and know that God's got this.  This is not to say that something could not happen, this is Grace after all, but even if something went wrong and illness or injury fell upon her, worrying about the possibility is not walking in obedience.  Fretting, texting, becoming agitated at bedtime when I have not received a good night call or text is not walking in obedience.   Carrying my phone around and obsessively checking Instagram for an update is not walking in obedience.  So I have put down my phone, prayed myself to sleep at night, and put my trust in God that Grace is happy and healthy and being loved on by those I have entrusted with her care.  


As Pastor Loritts also mentioned in Chapter 4, faith is a noun but it is also a verb. "In order for faith to be faith, there must be action." (pg 50.). On page 56 he gave me a very powerful piece of wisdom, "You can't go with God and stay where you are."  I think this is both a figurative AND a literal statement of faith.

Each in her own Way: Lead Week Day 3

Lilah has never had the opportunity to be an "only" child.  Grace has never left, and while I try to catch some alone time with the girls when I can, the truth is, we are together a lot.  A lot.  Lately it has become an issue and arguing and general irritation has been on the rise, which is understandable with two teens having polar opposite personalities and little living space.  This is one reason why we joined the educational coop, to give them room to breathe,  away from one another, to break up our week and expand our living/learning space.  

During this time is has become so evident to me why we have been having so many conflicts lately. Grace is ready to venture off and Lilah is not.  Grace loves being outdoors and Lilah does not.  Grace prefers busy and Lilah prefers slow.  Grace is get up and go and Lilah is get up and read.  Grace is a signer-upper and Lilah prefers to stay home.  Unlike Grace who gets bored easily when faced with a no-plans kind of day, Lilah relishes it.  

This week has given her some down time before the hectic pace of fall begins in two weeks.  She has read until the wee hours of the morning (she's currently reading Cinder) and shockingly has shown her face to me before the 8:00 hour!  She has crafted, slime created, birthday planned, painted, shopped, and had her most beloved kind of day, a pajama day.   While Grace was away from home filling her spirit and soul with adventure and adrenaline and conversation and friendship and Jesus, Lilah was filling hers with words and documentaries and art and experimentation.  They both will be ready to kick off the fall term, each in her own way.  

New Heights: Lead Week Day 2

Maybe this week was not only about giving Grace wings to fly, but also about learning what kind of mother I will be as I enter into the phase of parenting more independent teens.  I have complete peace about Grace being at Lead Week. 
     Her leaders are Godly men and women I like and trust.
     The focus of the week is to learn how to lead peers in a Christian life.
     Her friends are there to give her support.
     The activities are awesome.
     The facilities are clean and safe.
Still, a Mama's heart worries and while I am at peace, I also wonder what she is going, how she is feeling, if her allergies are acting up, if she is taking her supplements, if she is making wise food choices, if she is feeling included, if she is homesick, if she is sleeping well, if she is warm at night.....the list goes on and on and my phone has been silent.  

It is so tempting to reach out and text "How are you?"  or "What are you doing?" whenever I feel the worry, but that is not the Mom I want to be.  I want to not only give her wings, but to let her fly.  She cannot fly if I keep her tethered on a rope that leads to home.  She knows I am here 24/7 for her, just a phone call away if she needs to hear my voice.  If my phone is quiet, I know she does not need me and that can be hard to accept because not only is this her first time away from home, it is my first time sending a child away from home.  

Last night as 11:00 approached with no goodnight or text, I did reach out to her and asked her to call just so I can be reassured she is truly fine and not just texting it but feeling otherwise.  And you know what?  She is fine.  She is happy.  Her allergies are acting up and she did fall tubing and smack her face, and she is having a bit of a hard time with food, but none of these things are holding her back from experiencing this week.  Her friends have helped her with lozenges to soothe her allergic flares, they have whispered into the phone that she is fine, and they have walked beside her throughout these new adventures she is having.  Armed with this knowledge, I can rest in the assurance that my girl is doing fine.  Better than fine.  She is surrounded by God's Glory, enveloped in the Word, and consumed by the Sprit.  That makes this Mama's heart soar to new heights.

Wings -- Lead Week 2016 Day One

We are supposed to give our children roots and also give them wings to fly, but knowing exactly how to do this is not always clear.  A cohesive family unit grounded in love and respect and infused with traditions and the opportunity to make memories will grow roots.  Giving them wings to fly....well how do you know what kind of bird they will be? Will they be an eagle and soar gracefully through life, respected by peers, seemingly able to reach incredible heights with little effort, or will they be a peacock, graceful and elegant, proud and capable, able to lift off the ground always finding a safe place to perch.  Or, will they be a sparrow,  the little bird that Matthew refers to, reminding us that God cares for even the smallest creature.  

I think that it is up to the child to determine what bird they will be.  We give them the opportunity and what they make of it is how far they will spread their wings.  Grace has had opportunities to leave home.  She has been asked to do sleepovers which she always declined.   She has had the opportunity to attend a winter retreat and part of her really wanted to go, but most of her did not and she declined.  She was like the little bird approaching the edge of her nest, never having flown, not sure if her wings would support her or if she would fall to the ground separated from the safety and comfort of her parents.  She would teeter close, peering over the edge, and open her wings in preparation for flight, but then back away preferring the comfort of home over the uncertainty of the what lies outside the nest.

Finally she was presented with an opportunity in which the desire to leap was greater than the desire to retreat.  Lead week is yearly retreat offered to high school students interested in student leadership.  It is held at the same Christian retreat center I attended in June and it is filled with prayer, and education but also fabulous physical activities like rope courses, laser tag, tubing and mud wars.  We sent her off surrounded by her friends who know of her trepidation and support her as well as leaders who are dedicated and committed to furthering the spiritual life of teens.  My mama heart is happy not to have to worry about her comfort and safety.  Her heart is filled with conflicting emotions and she will not know she can do this until she sees the ground below her and the clouds above her and feels carried by the wind safe in the understanding that she will not fall.

Day one is going to be a challenge for her and I alike.  We will realize that the roots we have grown will always anchor us and the wings that we are growing will carry us forward in the knowledge and understanding that we are never, ever alone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Writing Workshop with author Gail Carson Levine

In the spring, Lilah came to me giddy with the news that Gail Carson Levine was going to teach a free writer’s workshop to teens this summer.  This news had been posted on her Goodreads account for a week before Lilah discovered this.  Immediately I called the library in Brewster, NY to see if it was possible to add Lilah to the class list.  It was late Saturday night, but I wanted, no, I needed, to get Lilah into this class.  How amazing would it be to kick off your high school experience with a class led by Gail Carson Levine??!!  I called and left a somewhat frantic message on the library voice mail, begging and pleading for Lilah to be added to the list.  

The library called me back Monday morning to assure me that Lilah was first on the list.  They did not know that Ms. Levine posted this class and while I was panicking we would be on a wait list, they were chuckling over the urgency of my voice mail.  We waited and eventually July came and Lilah never lost her eager anticipation over taking this class.  

Here’s the thing.  In the past I would have thought that this was good luck, a serendipitous event, a fortunate coincidence.  I know understand that through God all things are possible and his plans are not always our plans and he has plans for us to prosper.  This was there for Lilah to discover not because she randomly clicked a website, but because she had something to learn, about her craft of writing and about herself as a writer and God placed this opportunity before her and gave her the free will to accept or decline.

There is no doubt in my mind that armed with an idea and a laptop Lilah could be an author.  Her OYAN novel clocked in at just over 20,000 words with a complex plot and a unique use of first person/third person.  Until now, Lilah has never wanted to hone her craft through outside lessons.  She has been content to write on her own in my writer’s workshop.  Well, my writer’s workshop is NOTHING compared to Gail Carson Levine’s writer’s workshop.  As I dropped her off for class #1, I stood in awe of these girls who were giving up a hot summer afternoon to sit in a hotter museum with notebooks on their laps and wonder in their eyes.  Each week they tackled something different: dialogue, conflict, poetry including personification and iambic pentameter.  They had to write from prompts, usually three typed pages sometimes beginning a story, sometimes ending a story.  

Lilah now has a binder with six weeks worth of work, edited and commented on by a renowned children’s author.  She is now armed with a bit more confidence, skill, and awareness of all there is to learn in order to write well.  The hours she gave to this class were hours of self discovery, education, and challenge.  

Should Ms. Carson Levine offer this class again, I’m sure I will be leaving a frantic message once again on the library’s answering machine and driving the hour+ drive to Brewster, New York, waiting on my girl, and wishing I were able to have had this experience at her age, heck, at any age!  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Crosby Beach, Brewster, Massachusetts

"Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there's something good about feeling both."
Amy Grant

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...