Sunday, October 25, 2015

What You'll Remember

Sometimes I wonder what you'll remember about this, your childhood.

Will you remember the time we forgot to bring Laina clothes to change into after ballet, and we wanted to go to the park? So we loaded up and bought her a clearance dress at Old Navy, and then played until you were all tired?

What will you remember about your elementary school days? Doing your work in front of a wall of books, reading aloud together almost-daily, learning to recite poetry and speeches, figuring math problems, doing school outside or at the park? Or will you remember how loud it was all the time? How we all get tired around about Thursday and want to call the whole thing off? How I fuss at you way more than I should?

Will you remember the early, early mornings? When we're up before the sun? Will you remember Dad making oatmeal every morning for whoever wants it? 

I know you'll know certain things when you leave home someday: how to do the dishes, sweep the floor, fold the laundry. Also how to make chocolate chip cookies and what music is the best to clean up the house to. You might have to do more chores than some of your friends, but that's part of large family life...and you have more best friends in your siblings than many kids do.

Which hiding places will you remember? This one, behind the rocking chair? You guys sure are back there a lot. There's the two small trees in the backyard known as Cory's Tree and Iain's Tree--I often find one of you there. You all like the side yard where you've dug deep holes in the Georgia clay. And your beds--you guys make them your own, decorating the walls with pictures and drawings, adding blankets and stuffed buddies that you love. 

Soon our church will have a building of our own, which will be wonderful. But all of you cut your teeth on church-in-a-school. You know how to set up and tear down, how to not touch the school's property but to admire the students' artwork on the hallway walls. You know how it takes so many people to pull off a Sunday service, and you know how to pitch in and help. You also know the fun of running around in the gym after it ceases being the sanctuary. I love that you know those things, and I do hope some of you will remember this time in our church family's life.

 I have no doubt you'll remember the Naughty Circle, and the pouty moments you spent there. Good old Naughty Circle.

What books will be part of your childhood memories? The Little House books for sure. Narnia. Caddie Woodlawn? And farther back still, Hand Hand Fingers Thumb? All the Dr Seuss?

What of small group nights? We've had weekly small group meetings in our home since before any of you were born. Will you remember the cleaning? The hurried dinners? Or, hopefully, the yummy desserts? Will you remember hanging out with your friends?

I don't know what you five will remember. But I hope and pray that when you look back someday on the years you spent here, young, growing, learning, that you'll smile and be glad. And then you'll call one of your siblings or me and your dad we will all remember together. I'm saving these moments, these sweet, busy, chaotic moments in my heart, knowing that one day I will really miss this.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Firstborn Turns Nine

Dear Iain,

Half a month ago, you turned nine. You posed for your "last day as an eight" picture, went to bed that night, and woke up the next morning a year older. Not really, but you know what I mean.

You're getting to be so handsome. I love the new haircut you've been sporting, and when I told you so, you said, "Oh no. Now all the girls are going to love me. I better get a new haircut." Your confidence is awesome and hilarious. 

On your birthday, we made you a birthday banner. We cooked hotdogs over a fire in the backyard, and we played corn hole toss. I can still beat you, but that won't last, I'm sure.

A few days later, we met your friends at the bowling alley for bowling and laser tag. I loved watching you play! You were so excited, you had so much fun with your friends, and you delighted in the whole morning. You asked for lemon bars instead of cake, and I was happy to oblige. 

I was secretly hoping you'd win the game. And you did. You even got a strike and a couple of spares--what fun! Look at that score. :)

Nine years ago, you made me a mama. Today, and every day, you make me smile. You make me proud. You are brave, smart, funny, kind, clever, creative, and deep. You are a good brother, and you lead this little pack of kids well. I pray that you will always love and serve and follow Jesus, that you'll know Him more every day and in knowing Him, will love Him. I pray that He will make you bold, courageous, kind, and strong. Your daddy and I love you, Iain Mark. Your brothers and sisters adore you. Happy ninth birthday!

Love always,

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tallahassee Trip, 2015

In August, we had planned a trip down to south Florida to visit Jeremy's family. Since we travel at the speed of a turtle, we decided to break the trip up with an overnight and morning spent in Tallahassee. Jeremy and I both went to FSU, both lived and worked at the Wesley Foundation, and we wanted to introduce the kids to that part of our lives.

Plus, the CUR (the beloved Chapel of the Upper Room) is scheduled for demolition this fall, and we just had to smell it--that is, see it, one last time.

Wesley is such a special place to us. We spent so many hours there in worship, prayer, Bible study, family groups. We cooked meals in the kitchen to serve on Wednesday afternoons and Thursday nights. We played four square in the fellowship hall. I remember on September 11 going into the TV room at Wesley to find it already full of people watching the news and praying for the country. 

When we were courting, I lived in Apartment A, and Jeremy would come see me after classes. We'd sit on the front porch steps and talk. Later, that's where he proposed. He played drums on the worship team and I ran the projector. We participated in Rez Week where we took early morning prayer shifts. There was the amazingly beautiful Maundy Thursday service that the CUR was designed for specifically. I could go on and on about the memories wrapped up in this special place.

(The Wesely Foundation of FSU)

(Cory on the back deck behind the fellowship hall)

(our beloved CUR)

(the kids in the CUR. It smells comfortingly the same.)

(this one was when Iain was a baby)

(Times sure have changed!)

(Jeremy explaining the Maundy Thursday service)

After we saw the fellowship hall, the CUR, and the small chapel, we headed to "our" steps. We had told the kids the story of Jeremy proposing here, and they referred to them from then on as the Steps of Romance. 

We have a pretty cool timeline of pictures on these steps!

(a few days after we got engaged)

(one of our engagement pictures)

(with Baby Iain. Somewhere there's one of us with the two boys, but I can't find it.)

(And present day. The boys' reaction cracks me up. This may be one of my favorite pictures ever!)

After our tour around Wesley, we walked around the campus for a while. We took the kids past my old dorm, to Landis Green, past Strozier, to the music building, to Williams and Diffenbaugh, and then to watch the demolition of an old dorm. They liked that part best.

Then we headed to Chick-Fil-A to meet up with some dear friends. Christina (who took us around Wesley and took the awesome picture above), Julie May (who also lives in Tallahassee and was due to have her baby--and has had him since), and Sidonie (who lives in Germany but was in Tallahassee when we passed through). It was so, so good to see them. What a fun day!

We left Tallahassee and headed south and--glory be!--we made excellent time. More on that part of the trip next time. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Nuts and Bolts of Our 2015-2016 School Year

Warning: a very long, detailed post follows, more for my records than for human consumption. If you read it, I hope you can find something helpful in it!

So, the school time nitty-gritty. We have a very full house this year, with a fourth grader, a second grader, a kindergartener, a toddler, and a baby. It's loud and busy here all the time. Take a look at our school pictures this year (and go back to past ones -- 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 --my word, they get big fast!), and then I'll share our schedule and booklists.

The best way to make this pig fly this year is by breaking the day down into hours and assigning each one a task, AND (very important!) planning tons of margin in the day. So I schedule about 30-45 minutes of work into each hour. This leaves us with time to regroup at the end, time to change a blow-out diaper or feed a hungry baby (hello read-alouds!), or get everyone a snack, or send them outside to run off some energy, or do a quick clean-up of the house because I can no longer see the floor, or help a kid who is stuck on a difficult problem, or whatever. And it's usually many of those per hour. So here's how it goes:

8-9: eat breakfast, get dressed, do poetry reading using A Child's Introduction to Poetry. When we finish that one, we'll move on to another poetry book. I just read two or three pages and we talk briefly about the poem. I like starting the day with something fun, lovely, and inspiring, before we hit the harder stuff.

The other day, Cory was talking about Iain's "death" in minecraft and he said, "Iain went gentle into that good night." It made my day. Week, even. :)

9-10: math. Iain is in Singapore 3, Cory is in Singapore 2, and Laina is in Singapore K. We're also using this time to drill the multiplication table and work on skip-counting. Iain has to do 30 minutes of focused math, Cory and Laina do 15. Plus the drills. Usually, Cory ends up doing more than 15 minutes, and he's making steady progress.

10-11: Language Arts. This one is tricky because it requires lots of help from me. Iain has two loops to work on, each for 15 minutes. A loop is basically a list of a few subjects he needs to work on, but rather than them being assigned a day (spelling on Monday, handwriting on Tuesday), he works on the next one on the list, regardless of the day. So if he misses a Tuesday, say, he will just pick up again on Wednesday. Loop one is spelling, handwriting, and Wordly Wise, and loop two is typing/spanish, spelling, and Explode the Code. He's using Spelling Workout C, CC's cursive handwriting book, Spanish at our local program where he does extracurriculars (he's also doing gym), and we don't yet have typing set up. I wrote the loops out in the back of his assignment notebook (more on that in a second), and he moves a paperclip down the subjects every day to remind him which one he's on.

Iain is also doing a writing class taught by me. A friend of his is in the class too. We're meeting once a week, and I'm using the curriculum I developed when I taught at Circle Christian School the year I got married. It's a hybrid IEW and other stuff program. I'd love to have a few more kids in the class, so if you're local, have a fourth- or fifth-grader, and want a free writing class, let me know!

I chose a bunch of readers for Iain this year--mostly from Sonlight's Core B read-alouds (thank you Alison for the core!), but he's such an avid reader, he's pretty much going to read for an hour or more every day whether or not I ask him to.

Cory is doing reading with my friend Sarah this year. She's been tutoring him once a week, and my word, has she been a God-send. Literally. He's doing great with her. He's doing some spelling with her, too, and some Spelling Workout A, and he's also doing Explode the Code, which he hates but is good for him. He's doing Handwriting Without Tears at the program I mentioned above (he also does art).

Laina is doing Handwriting Without Tears also at the program above (a different class than Cory; also she does ballet. Hello cuteness!), and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She rocks it and loves it. 

So the way this hour works is that I start Cory on spelling and Iain on his loops, and read with Laina. Then she plays or does handwriting while I read with Cory, and Iain continues his loops. Then Cory does handwriting or plays while I do writing with Iain. Phew.

11-12: Morning Time. This is my favorite part of the day. We do Scripture memory using Desiring God's Foundation Verses (we are currently learning the Ten Commandments, so we also sing the campy Ten Commandment song, "number one, we've just begun, God should be first in your life..."). We practice the poem we're learning, and talk about it (currently "The Tyger" by William Blake. And Mason quoted part of it to some friends at CFA last week and landed us squarely in the homeschool nerd camp.). We read some geography from Peoples of the World and eventually I plan to rotate geography with music (hymns and appreciation) and art (picture study and art projects). Then we do what we do best: read-alouds. To be fair, we actually schedule it here, but usually do it earlier, and often later too. We do it when I'm feeding Ivy, and if we're somewhere we have to wait. I have always practiced the very good tradition of always, always having a book with me. Now I have two. One for me, and our read-aloud.

We're reading The Green Ember right now. I have heard so very many good things about this book, and my opinion is that it's...okay. It's a fun story. Not the best thing we've ever read. I'm also reading The Far Side of the Mountain with just the big boys at night after Laina is in bed. Jeremy just finished reading The Princess and the Goblin with the boys, and as a family, we're working through The Chronicles of Narnia (we're on The Magician's Nephew, reading them in the order they were written). I have so many fun books waiting in the wings. Many are historical fiction taken from the time period we're studying this year: the Middle Ages.

12-12:30: Lunch. If we've made it this far without eating, which doesn't usually happen. We try to learn one Latin or Greek root word at lunch.

1-2: Quiet time. Mason naps. 

2-3: Afternoon Loop. Mason still naps. (Sometimes we switch this and quiet time.) This is another favorite. Our loop here is History, Worldview, History, Science. (When you loop, you can put one subject more times than the others if you want to do it more often. It's all about ratios. I hope I'm explaining this well!) For History, we're using Story of the World book two. Worldview is Apologia's Who is God? And Can I Know Him? and Science is Science in the Beginning. This is a fun loop, but to be honest, it is hard to get it done. Once we dismiss for the morning, it's hard to get traction again. That's why we eat the frogs first with math and language arts, and save the fun stuff for later--it's more likely to get done that way!

One more thing: for Iain and Cory, I started last year writing their assignments out each day in spiral notebooks. We love this system and we're doing it again this year. Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things does an excellent job explaining the system.

Okay, one more thing, really: during school, where are the little two? Mason is playing, coloring, eating a snack, running the water in the bathroom, jumping on the trampoline, coloring on the walls, or throwing things. Ivy is in the pack n play (and if she is, she's crying), in the ergo, on my hip, napping, or trying to eat cheerios under the table. It's loud, chaotic, and crazy. It's all part of my plan to teach my kids to concentrate under extreme circumstances so if they ever have to do math or underline the nouns or remember who Beowulf is during a fire drill, they'll be fine.

If you've read this far, I'm impressed. 

Also, if we can fly this pig, I will be impressed.

Homeschooling five kids eight and under: it's not for wimps.