Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Obvious Choice

            Sometimes the answer is just that obvious.
            I love “aha” moments—the intersection of time when something murky becomes clear. It happens in an instant. One minute I’m grappling with nuances and details, struggling with the disconnect and the next, it all comes together.
            When I make a sudden change, an observer could say that I made a snap decision. I would say that I can see how they might think that.  But no one else is in my brain. No one else (but God) has heard my prayers. No one else is living my life. When something makes sense, it makes sense. Why wait?
            I’ve tested this theory more than a few times in my life, the first time twenty-five years ago when I said “I do.” My husband and I were married on the one-year anniversary of our first date. We didn’t have a long, protracted dating and engagement period. Common wisdom said, Wait, Give it time, Make sure.
            The second time was when we decided to start a family. Within three months, I was pregnant. Common wisdom said, Wait, Establish your career, Buy a house first.
            We have started businesses and purchased homes with what those prone to judgment might consider little forethought. We’ve made mistakes, sure. But we’ve also watched friends who agonize over decisions make mistakes, too. There is no sure thing.
            Sometimes God tells us to wait and we have done that, too.
            But when opportunity presents itself, when change presents itself in completed form, when a spontaneous possibility drops into my head, I have learned to listen and act.
            God is not a god of confusion. If I’ve been praying about something and He gives me an answer, he expects me to believe him. In the common analogy of the stranded man on the rooftop, God didn’t send a lifeboat and expect the guy to question the deliverance. We chuckle at the story because he does and misses God’s obvious hand. Yet, we do the same thing. We are spooked by stories of foolishness and impulsive behavior. So we confuse ourselves by creating laundry lists of all the things that can be wrong with a decision. And we miss the boat.
            The truth is that there will be pros and cons in every decision. It matters not how many hours I’ve devoted to premeditation. The best-laid plans can go terribly wrong. Sometimes we just have to jump and trust in the God we say we trust.
            This is beginning to sound so sinister. It’s really not. But I wanted my heart known as I announce that SJ is returning to traditional school on Monday.
            It doesn’t really matter what you think, but I live my life transparently and I really dislike being misunderstood, or labeled, and especially judged. What matters is that I am confident with my decision and I am. He is ready. He is excited. And I believe he will be successful.
            Until this week, I hadn’t even considered the option until I awoke fully one night with the possibility firmly planted. It resonated. It felt right. I said, “Aha.”
            Homeschooling was always stop-gap measure for us. I’ve never been morally married to the philosophy but I have the utmost appreciation for the opportunity to intervene in my son’s education. It will not have been wasted.
            Through the process, SJ has learned skills that will move him through his remaining required education. I have been disciplined to devote my mornings to real work and will transfer that time to my writing. I have a book to finish and a gift to share. I am thankful that God has used the homeschooling process, as well as some other pruning, to send me back to Ninevah.
            So, while this may appear to be a snap decision, please withhold your opinion and let me point you to a God who is clear in his communication. I would prefer your prayers toward a productive year for my entire family.
            It’s been a pleasure to chronicle my journey and travel alongside some amazing (and brilliant) moms. I have the utmost respect for those who homeschool year after year. It is not for the faint of heart.
            If you have enjoyed this blog, stay tuned. I just might start A Writing Regel: One Woman’s Journey into Professional Writing.
            For now,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tough Stuff this Homeschooling

Just five months to go.

If it sounds like I am counting down, I am. This homeschooling is tough and I am finding it especially difficult to find a rhythm (and a passion) after the Christmas break. I guess you could say I've got "short timers" disease. Kind of ready to get SJ into high school and move on with some of my own goals.

It will take all of God's measure of grace for me to finish well. Distractions call me. I want to finish my book. I want to increase my writing income. I want to ride my bike more. I want to... finish the sentence. No different than anyone else. But frustrated nonetheless.

I've never been one for goals. They tend to demotivate me. But this year I felt compelled to jot a few down. (See my 'I want to' list.) I'm just not sure how to make it all happen.

The world was built in small increments. Buildings built brick by brick. Books written word by word. It occurred to me that even if I only get 800 words written on my manuscript, that is 800 more words than I had yesterday.

Same goes for our homeschool. Day by day. Assignment by assignment. We will make it. I will make it.

Lord, help me see this time for the precious time it is. Once gone, it will never return. Help me enjoy my time with SJ and empower me to equip him as a student of life. Thank you for your faithfulness in all things.

"It is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us." Hebrews 6:18 NLT

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Most Sobering Writing Project…Ever

As we closed out our semester, I found it nearly impossible to focus. I think I was more excited for the break than SJ. While I love many aspects of homeschooling and know this is the right thing for this season, it makes me almost giddy to think of next year when he will go to high school. It became even more of a reality as he took the school entrance exam during our last week. It was a placement test, of sorts, and I will be curious to see if test results reflect anything of our year at home.
            To complicate our final week, I learned that a family friend’s 19-year-old daughter had passed away on Saturday night. This doe-eyed beauty, who had married her sweetheart just this summer, is with the Lord but that makes the loss no less acute to those left behind.
            In my world, that makes three deaths in one month. A 39-year-old worship drummer friend. My cousin’s two-year-old son. And now Laura.
            Mercifully I have been spared this kind of grief for most of my life. The downside is that I am so ill equipped to respond. In most cases, I have probably done less than I should or could for the family, mostly from my lack of confidence in knowing what to do.
            When I heard about Laura, I prayed that God would show me something I could offer. In what tangible way could I redeem my inaction and be a blessing to this family? He answered. I don’t have much, but I can write. I couldn’t help but feel like the little drummer boy. I have no gifts to bring. Shall I play for you? Pa rum pum pum pum.
            Calling the family was the hardest part. Though we were once neighbors and walking buddies, our circles have since followed separate orbits so it has been a few years since we have sat together and talked. What a tragic way to reconnect. Inadequate doesn’t begin to describe the degree of my thoughts toward myself and what I had to offer as Laura’s mom said hello. I stuttered my condolences and offered my humble gift. Mary nodded. Pa rum pum pum pum.
            Over the next days, I met with Laura’s parents, collected messages from her friends, and took notes about her short life. It occurred to me then the gravity of this job. In my hands was a lifetime of memories, told to me by grief-stricken loved ones who would never again have Laura but who will have the words that I write. How does one make sense of such sadness with honor and grace? I held a legacy and I could only pray God would give me the words. I played my drum for Him. Pa rum pum pum pum.
            I wrote. And I cried. I sifted through photos. And I got to gaze upon this lovely girl. Her time seemed so short but in God’s timing, it was perfection. I played my best for Him. Pa rum pum pum pum.
            I can’t tell you what an honor it was to do this for the family, for Laura. Though sobering and difficult, there is something about working in the gifts God has given us. I pray that tonight, at her memorial, the words I wrote will touch those who loved her, not because I wrote them but because she lives in them. I pray that I captured the Laura who lived. I pray that she smiles at me just as Jesus, the baby, smiled at the little drummer boy. Then He smiled at me. Pa rum pum pum pum.

Rest in peace dear Laura.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who Knew? Editing = Courage

Here is the truth about editing.
It stinks.
At least, editing one’s own work stinks.
Give me your paper and I will happily chop and alter.
Give me my own work and I am paralyzed.

Up until now I thought of editing as simple fixes: checking spelling, cleaning grammar, and adjusting for rhythms. It’s a quick one-two. And really, it’s what I do with my son in his Daily Grams. How could I have known it should be different?

It’s one thing to edit a sentence. Or a paragraph. It’s quite another to edit 100,000 words, the equivalent of about 60 pages.

And it isn’t just sentence structure. It’s structure-structure. As in, change the way the whole thing is presented.

The truth is I have a book proposal “out there.” A well-respected editor even took the time to tell me she is interested. But, she said, I needed to change the way the topic is presented to my readers. 

That was two years ago. (See what I mean about paralysis?)

This summer, the urge to approach the book returned and I wrote madly for a week or so. A complete rewrite. I didn’t even look at the first submission.

A few weeks ago, I read both the original and the rewrite. I have decided that I have lots of material. The first submission is well written but boring. The second writing is c**p but has good bones. It isn’t at all how I wanted to say what I tried to say and certainly wasn’t fit for anyone to read. (In fact, I had a friend review it to provide scripture references and I am pretty sure she thinks less of me as a result.) Cringe.

Thank God for writers who have gone before me and have had the helpful urge to write about their own terror in the process. I’ve been reading Barbara Abercrombie’s Courage & Craft and Anne Lamott’s writing classic, Bird by Bird. Both are encouraging in their advice to write, write, and write. And both are equally as adamant that they are pretty sure what you write first will be awful.

Anne Lamott goes so far as to have an entire chapter devoted to “Sh***y First Drafts.” Thank you Anne. She also tells of the looping “KFKD” (Sound it out.) that plays in her head. Check. I can relate.

Barbara Abercrombie says to be ruthless in chopping your work. But, she warns, be kind. Don’t delete. Save. Says she, “Nothing you write is ever wasted.” Thank you Barbara. I think I needed to hear that.

So. Here I ponder the best way to approach this editing project. These authors helped me realize that I have some good stuff in these “down drafts” (as in, get it down on paper). They also helped me realize that my work has just begun but that I am not alone in the daunting task of it. Every good writer makes MAJOR changes to plot, structure, character, and tone. 

What I lack is courage. Who knew that editing and courage should coexist?

I vow to change this. I vow to approach my work with love and kindness, red pen and open files in tow.  But I will keep quiet about this to my 8th grader who still lives under the happy illusion that editing takes five minutes. This is one life lesson we each must learn on our own.

Writing is such a lonely pursuit. Very few understand just how far we go into the recesses of our minds as we work. In the meantime, I will make a shameless plug to solicit encouragement in the process. Thank you in advance to all of you who will hold my hand and gently walk with me. I will personally sign a copy of this book for you someday!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Not to Have Missed This

“Mom, I think I would like a bass guitar for Christmas.”

“Sure Honey. Just add that to your list after a new skateboard and Legos and an iPod dock and …”

“Mom, I think I am going to take the Legos off my list.”

We don’t often get warned when the world shifts. Can you remember the last time your son snuggled into your lap or held your hand without reservation? On what day did your daughter cease needing your help with her pigtails? I can’t remember either but I know these shifts happened. And I grieve for moments in time that elude me.

It is why I feel so fortunate to have had open ears for this most recent shift. I glanced over at my 13 year old, sitting calmly in the front passenger seat. “Are you sure about the Legos, Hon?” I asked.

“Yea. I realize I just don’t play with them much anymore. I think I want to play with them but then I get them out and I play for, like, five minutes. I think I might have outgrown them.”

How sad is that? Right before my eyes and within my hearing, my youngest child ushered me gently, and insightfully, to an understanding of his growth and maturity.

I suspect I will forget this moment as time passes forward but for now, I am thankful for the gracious prompt that life will not always be as it is, that I need to cherish the here and now. All too soon it will slip away.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Well, Gosh...

It's an honor to be nominated as one of the Best NEW Homeschool Blog sites by The Homeschool Post.
I am in stellar company, thrilled to note that so many dedicated moms and fantastic writers are sharing their journeys as well. If you would like to vote for my blog, visit the voting page, find The Homeschool Regel, and click. Thanks!
If you are a first time visitor, welcome and thank you for joining me on my journey.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Science Frustration; Econ Surprise

Physical science continues to elude us.

We have been using the Prentice Hall California Physical Science text. I chose to use this classroom text for a few reasons. First, since SJ plans to attend high school, I wanted him to stay close to at least one traditional textbook so he can learn how to maximize his learning through it. Second, I know squat about science and pretty much need to be walked through myself. Thought I could manage an 8th grade text.

As we work through a chapter, we read together. We front load the reading by reviewing headings and subheadings. We look at the illustrations and photos. We review section questions. SJ completes either the supplemental workbook questions or writes two-column notes.

Apparently, that's not enough. After a dismal showing on a (open-book) chapter assessment, I would be lying if I didn't admit to discouragement. That pesky reading comprehension issue reared its ugly head. Or did it? Could it be that I'm just a lousy science teacher? I will admit it is difficult to get excited about Changes in Matter when I really don't care nor understand what that means.

That along with the disappointing Chem1000 experimental kit I blogged about previously have left me feeling frustrated with science in particular and with learning difficulties in specific. It helped to speak with my Handler who has 1) had a similar experience with the Chem500 kit, and 2) offered a few new front loading suggestions to help with word recognition and, hopefully, comprehension. Our school's director also told me that others have struggled with the text we are using and is sending another to try.

Still. I had hoped that all the one-on-one time, the discussions, the heart I've poured out would solve all the learning issues. I thought I could fix it. It seems there is this delicate balance between denial and reality when it comes to LDs. I have absolutely no doubt my son will succeed in life. He will find his place. BUT...he does have to pass tests to get his high school diploma.

We ended the week with what turned out to be a fun economic assignment. His workbook asked him to compare a few particular food items' prices from 1970 to today's prices. We started at Winco where he surveyed the items. He then calculated the percentage change and was surprised to note that the cost for a pound of coffee has increased by 667% in 40 years. Yikes. It got me thinking how else we could use this assigment.

I asked him how much he thought things might cost in another 40 years given the same rate of increase. That lead to a discussion of how we would set up an equation to figure that out, a hunt for a mark-up formula (on Google), and a depressing realization that coffee will cost $53.54 per pound when he is 53 years old. With milk expected to be over $20 per gallon (can you imagine?), SJ mused that he would probably have to go hungry as an adult and felt a little defeated about his future.

To be fair, I suggested we compare salaries from 1970 and 2010, apply the same change formulas and then figure out how much he might make in 2050 to afford said coffee. Would you believe that average salaries have outpaced costs? He cheered up when he noted he might bring in $619,237 per year to afford his golden milk.

We topped off the assignment by graphing the results for a visual. I stumbled upon this CreateAGraph site that allowed us to choose a type of graph and plot our values. It made for a nice ending visual and a positive end to our week.