Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When Do You Know Your Boys are Becoming Men?

When do you know your boys are becoming men?
  • When they spontaneously clear your plate from the dinner table.
  • When they head to the pantry and offer you something as well.
  • When they offer to pay for their own Jamba Juice.
  • When they offer to pay for your Jamba Juice.
  • When they clean something that is not theirs...without being asked or expected to do so.
  • When they know more about tools and how to use them than you do.
  • When they offer to carry the load of heavy packages, and do it so much more easily than you.
On their own, these are all small things. In the scope of training up our young men, they are gigantic. My heart is full as I glimpse the men that my boys are becoming. Not just men. Good men. What would you add to the list?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up: How Long is This School Year?

Had a moment mid-week where I took my eye off the baby-step in front of me and instead considered the mountain that is 8th grade. I faltered and wondered for a moment if I am certifiably insane for taking this on. It was only a moment. I don't really have a choice and it wasn't lost on me that the thought came moments after I gave glory to God for the strength to make this journey. We have a very real enemy who wants nothing more than to destroy all things good.

Our highlight this week came early as SJ attended his first guitar lesson on Monday. We opted for the group lesson, my prayer being that he could meet up with some like-minded kids. Prayer answered. My first clue that this pursuit would hold SJ's interest was the faux-hawk--the guitar teacher's faux-hawk, that is. The guy emits cool, a hugely important trait to earn my son's respect. Two other boys showed up, all the same age, all homeschooled, and all seemed like great kids. Exhale deeply. I am so glad.

After a few weeks discussing what history is, we delved into our first lesson. I'm giving the People, Places and Principles curriculum a shot. Each unit is in its own magazine-type format and topics are looked at through lenses such as: foods, recreation, government, agriculture, family. After reading, there are workbook questions to answer. I am not a huge workbook fan but I think SJ needs some regurgitation to aid him with comprehension. I haven't yet figured out the pace this curriculum requires but the presentation is understandable. We are supplementing our American Indian unit with literature, reading "The Light in the Forest" by Conrad Richter.

We also started Easy Grammar Plus. It wasn't the curriculum I ordered but after so many blog recommendations, I figured it was worth a shot. It starts simply enough and I saw a little light go on. The program suggests memorizing 50 prepositions which may prove to be a little challenging. SJ isn't big on memorizing and I come up short in devising methods to help him. So far, he has written words in chalk on the driveway and we also bounced a basketball back and forth while rhythmically reciting some of the words. The jury is still out on whether any of this will actually work.

My greatest encouragement this week came as we read through SJ's science text. In the past, he has read aloud with no stops or inflection--a sign to me that nothing is sticking to his brain matter. This week, I heard progress. For those with reading comprehension difficulties, the road is long and laborious. We, as teachers, can't just hand over a text and assume it will be read and understood. We spend a lot of time previewing headings, stopping to consider a sentence, and resaying what we just read. The glimpse of progress this week was especially heartening because it is for this issue that we are homeschooling.

We have much ground to cover this year and I do wonder how we will touch all of it. Our handler dropped off the Art curriculum and I am a little baffled as to how to fit that into our already full days. I fear it may be the thing we just "get to" sometimes when it really needs to balance SJ's harder academic endeavors. Any suggestions?

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How I Do It

A common thread among homeschoolers is how to answer the inevitable question, "Why are you homeschooling?" For many, it elicits a defensive posture, perhaps because they have been challenged enough times or had someone close in their orbit express disapproval over the decision.

I have enough good reasons for homeschooling that I've never paused when asked this question. It doesn't occur to me that others might approve or disapprove. It's not really their business anyway so I don't worry about it. I've done school every which way with my kids and I am confident we have landed on what works best.

The comment that stops me is this: "How do you do it?"

Translated: "I could never..."

The spirit of awe, doubt, trepidation, or sheer disbelief frankly makes me a mite uncomfortable and maybe even a little sad. I get that the comment is often a compliment. But the truth is, you could  do this...if you had to. Which is what I have done.

When your child is suffering in public school, when you can't afford private school, when private school wouldn't solve the problem anyway, when no one "gets" your child like you do, you have to make a choice. I chose to homeschool. Not because I am so smart. Not because I am so capable. Not because I love spending 24/7 with my youngest. Not because I am a martyr. Not because I want to protect him from the outside world.

I just want my son to learn.

There are so many resources available now to help those of us who are new on this journey. I've spent hours combing homeschool help websites and read a daily queue of blogs written by the most amazing moms, telling of their successes and their near misses. I couldn't do this alone. Fortunately, I am not alone.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not give the glory where it really belongs. I do not have the strength, the desire, the discipline, the smarts, or the patience to homeschool. But because it is what needs to be done, I've been given the gifts to make it happen. God alone strengthens this weak vessel. He provides all we need, when we need it, to do the thing we need to do.

Please, do not think more highly of me because I homeschool. Do not think less of yourself because you don't. If anything, be impressed by the power that fuels me. Because that is how I do it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Bless and Be Blessed

The cornerstone of our week centered on the theme of blessings, for both SJ and I.

I've dedicated Fridays as Community Outreach Day so I actively listen for or seek opportunities where SJ and I can serve. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for us, a friend needed a boost this week as she faced a mountain of crises all at once. She had mentioned that her yard was making her mental in the midst of everything else. I get that because if my home and yard are not in order, as in mostly neat and orderly, my whole world seems off-kilter. It makes everything else even worse. Overwhelming for her. Simple for us.

My son went with a great attitude and just a little coaching. Repeat after me, "Trimming your bushes was no big deal." Sometimes we go into the blessing knowing that it is the right thing to do, but not really thrilled with the doing.

It turned out that my friend had an electric trimmer. Need I say more?

His turn at offering himself reaped a surprisingly enjoyable afternoon in the midst of his work, not to mention a healthy tip. A perfect end to the week.

Our biggest challenge this week came as we lost our Monday to Labor Day (I tried to convince SJ that Labor meant work. He didn't buy it.) and added both my bible study (Tuesday mornings) and his writing lesson (Thursday mornings). I am still learning how to accommodate our together work around our commitments.

Besides the blessing part, my favorite part of the week was starting Chemistry. I'm not sure who was more excited. I think I have mentioned before that I managed to avoid Chemistry and Physics all the way through to my B.S. It petrified me. After being married to my Man-Husband and mothering Man-Son #1, who both dig and understand the sciences, I've come to appreciate that science has much to offer. Today we started making a Lithmus liquid.

Gotta love the safety glasses!
For the weekend, it's off to Folsom, CA where Man-Son #1 gets to test his meddle (see previous post) against his peers. It'll be a nice change of scenery and rhythm.

For now, many blessings. CS

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Competition & Sportsmanship: Mutually Exclusive or Not?

Can she cook AND blog at the same time? Gee whiz. Ever have one of those days? All I wanted was to share a little anecdote and every time I attempted, something interrupted. I could interpret that in a few ways, I guess. Either I have had a bona fide busy day OR God has been trying to protect me from embarrassing myself, writing something I ought not. I will let you decide. Either way, here I am, simultaneously cooking beef stroganoff and blogging.

This true story gave me a good laugh:

My family is into biking, as in cycling, as in bicycling, as in Tour de France road riding and Leadville-style mountain biking. The fact that we own a bike shop might make this obvious. Truly, the bike shop is an effect of the cause.

Anyhow, my boys (meaning my Dear Man-Husband and Man-Son #1) are both pretty good riders. It's genetic as the uncles are also local legends in their respective areas. Until he started riding, Man-Son #1 wasn't competitive in anything. He tried wrestling and got dumped on his head. He played football but paced the sidelines. He just didn't have the eye of the tiger. Contact sports, where he had to be the aggressor and actually attempt to hurt someone, just didn't fit into his psyche.

Apparently, bike riding is different.

He and the Man-Husband set out to ride last night with a group of middle-aged ex-pro racers. Four or five of them have been meeting a few nights a week and having a ball riding hard, but having fun. They have had their day. They aren't out to prove their meddle. Son-Man #1 is competitively ranked in his age group and holds his own with these ex-racers.

Not everyone rides with the fun factor in mind. It must be a testosterone thing, but, my goodness, the posturing. Unbelievable. Rumor had it a new guy would show up to ride with the group, one who made the unfortunate comment that he would probably be lowering his training standards a bit to ride with the "old guys." Poor guy.

So the Man-Husband made a comment to me earlier in the day that he would be packing his can of Woop-A*&. Seems this newcomer needed to be schooled...in fun, of course.

The ride went as expected with Straggler Man changing his triathletic tune a tad as he limped to the finish. I am told Man-Son #1 felt strong on the climbs and was awarded the evening's Polka Dot jersey (figuratively...the best climber award).

So here is the funny part. When they came home, I asked Son-Man #1, "How was your can of Woop-A*&?" to which my quiet and subdued child replied, "Open."

I about fell on the floor laughing. It's hard not to appreciate a quick wit.

But maybe I shouldn't be so proud? There may be those who argue that winning is mean. I certainly don't like coming in last place. But whose fault is it if I am not conditioned to hang with the big boys?

In this, I checked the attitude with which the victory was won. These guys are all about fun and they really bristle at prima donnas who come in with something to prove.

In teaching our kids about competition, shouldn't we be about sportsmanship and character? But is that concept mutually exclusive to winning?  Should we back off to spare someone's feelings or do what we do well and savor some of the victory? What do you think?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: The One Where I Got All Our Books

This was our first "official" week of school although we began two weeks ago when my older son went back to high school. We've hit a groove and I think it was a good week overall. A few highlights:

  • Art: Infographics. What is it? The New York Times offers this great weeklong lesson plan that explains what it is, offers a great video documentary (short), and gives links to cool examples. There is also a lesson activity for the student to complete. This was a hit for SJ as he is so visual. It was a nice exposure to another "artist" career. 
  • A box of books. Yay. The order we placed at the beginning of summer finally arrived. Well, most of it anyway. Now I have homework as I learn how to teach and plan with all the different curriculum. So far, most of it looks good. My biggest challenge will be chemistry and physics as I somehow managed to avoid both all the way through my Bachelor's Degree. Don't ask me how but the thought of chemistry always petrified me. Have to admit, I'm a little excited and slightly nervous about going through the 8th grade version. The triple balance scale served as a beacon for my older son and husband who both thought it hilarious that I had no idea how to use the thing. You should have seen how giddy they were weighing oranges and water bottles. It could be said we are closet nerds.
  • A new friend. Our homeschool group spent Wednesday afternoon at the local water park for a little back-to-school fun. In public school, SJ had hooked up with some lower common denominator friends and hasn't had many opportunities to cultivate new ones. At the water park, he met a fellow 8th grader and, within 30 seconds, the two had ditched the other mom and I. We didn't see them again til the end of the day. They exchanged phone numbers and will hopefully pursue some time together.
  • A new baby. Thank goodness for the flexibility of homeschool. Our sole employee's wife went into labor on Thursday so SJ and I had to make some quick adjustments to help my husband man our store. Job skills, right?
The not-so-great: 
Mama Bear. Is it just me or is anyone else challenged when confronted by another parent about something your child has or hasn't done? Long story sort-of short: Parent calls to tell me about a deal our boys made back in July. His son told my son he would buy an Airsoft gun and gave SJ money as a downpayment. Since then, the other boy decided he did not want the gun and has been asking for his money back. At first, SJ didn't have it. Now he does but, as the dad says, whenever his boy calls, my boy seems to be gone and so they are frustrated at trying to collect. SJ told me that every time he tries to connect to give the money back, the other boy is at play auditions. What I heard from the exchange was "Your son is not living up to his promise and giving my boy's money back."

Was it wrong to bristle? What do you think? I probably shouldn't have pointed this out but...didn't his son renege on a deal? Not that SJ shouldn't return the money, but to question my son's honor? I guess my approach as a parent (to his child) would have been to say, "Tough luck. You made a bad deal and you lost your $8," so it surprised me that we were playing the heavy collector card.

In the end, SJ rode his bike down to their house at 8:30 p.m. in the dark to settle the debt. I felt bad because, though I agreed neither boy should have been making ANY deal, I probably let my annoyance at the accusation show in my tone of voice. It's hard not to be offended for our kids. Sigh.