Wednesday, December 24, 2008

To All My Co-Conspirators

Although I'd like nothing more at this time than to bury myself beneath a mound of comforters I now sit myself down (at 12:45am) to liberate this blog post which has been clanging at the bars of my mind, begging for the freedom of electronic publishing. Perhaps even before my Thanksgiving turkey was fully digested the ideas for this post began running laps in my head. It has been at the hands of Christmas parties, cookie baking, gift shopping, family get-togethers, holiday performances, and the like that it has remained imprisoned... postponed, but not forgotten! (It may not be my best work. I'm exhausted! But it's worth writing about.)

I LOVE this Christmasy time of year! In fact, as soon as the masses (but not the retailers) politely let Thanksgiving pass and began to make their Christmas preparations and decorations, I once again began to be in awe of the Yuletide.

What amazes me most?

I am joyfully astonished at how this celebration of Christ's birth inspires so many to conspiracy. It's true! At Christmastime we largely conspire to bring happiness to others. Lay down your pessimistic jargon about commercialization, and whatnot, for a moment and I'll show you what I mean.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm the emotional, deeply romantic kind of person who yet clings to belief in fairy-tales but still... how can anyone not be moved to see dads and husbands perched precariously atop ladders hanging Christmas lights if they ask themselves, "Why would they do that?" Is it not it to coax "oohs & ahhs" from my children and yours, as we make, what would otherwise be, all-to-routine evening runs hither & thither? I love they way my children are captured by beautiful light displays, nativities, and decorations. I adore the way ordinary days are transformed by hopeful anticipation and the fact that strangers eagerly assist in my plot to delight my children!

I've heard all the arguments about how Christmas has lost its true meaning and yet I still love that so many of us try so hard to find (or make) gifts to make our loved ones smile (or scream)! We search high and low to find that one thing, for that one person, so that we may be the cause, and the beneficiaries, of their smiles, laughs, and grateful tears. Personally, I don't call that commercialism. I call it LOVE!

I love that we've come together and agreed on this one thing: Life can still be fun and beautiful and exciting! Practicality really isn't everything! We choose to make fun... of life!

Although my children have never been taught to believe in Santa, I am truly tickled by the fact that countless "grown-ups" around the world conspire together to enchant the children that do! My family has fun with the legend, too. I am warmed as I hear tell of the story said to have begotten the fantastical tales.

I love that we choose to crowd our lives with family and social get-togethers. Yes, it makes the season hectic but it speaks, so sweetly, that we've decided to inconvenience ourselves for the ones we love.

I believe that at Christmastime we reach back through the past to grasp meaning from the things of days gone by. We enjoy many of the same songs our great-grandparents sang, tell the same stories, and keep the same traditions.

Mostly, at Christmas we love in a visible way. We conspire to make love seen. And none of us, not one, could do it without the rest of us. It's a grand conspiracy!

So... "Thank you" to the family about six miles south of my home with the animated music & light display. "Thank you" to the cities workers who tie ribbons around street poles. "Thank you" to the news channels for reporting on Santa's midnight run. "Thank you" to the radio stations for the Christmas music. "Thank you" to the churches who keep us grounded in the beautiful reality that is Christmas...

...and, more personally...

"Thank you" to our mothers (Ron's & mine) for the gifts that have brought our children smiles and laughs and fun! "Thank you" to our fathers (Ron's & mine) for the gifts cards and cash! "Thank you" to my aunts who've conspired to delight our daughters! "Thank you" to our family members who've blessed us with a little quality time and hospitality! "Thank you" to our friends for your cards and hospitality!

"Thank you" to all who share in the celebration and love of this season!

And lastly, most importantly, "Thank you" God for your gift of Christ!

...and once again... that's my $0.02!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Win A Wii & a Wii Fit!

Would you like to win a Wii & a Wii fit? I certainly would! You can enter to win them at Mile High Mamas! Just follow this link!

Happy contesting!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

7 Things You Don't Know About Me

I've been tagged by my Twitter-girlfriend at Journey 2 Learn to write this post. I will do it, but I warn you, the squeamish should look away now!

No! There's nothing coarse or indelicate written here. I only mean, if you tend envision me with a luminous halo floating just slightly above my head, I'd rather keep it that way. ;-)

Just remember... people grow up, people change...

I'll list my little tidbits in the order of what (I think) you'll find least exciting to, most uhh... interesting. Tidbits #2, 3, 5, 6, & 7 are from an article I first posted here on January 20, 2007.

  1. I am currently taking Spanish 101 online at a site called Livemocha ( ). It is top-rate and it is free! I highly recommend the site for anyone (13 years old+) learning, or wanting to learn, a new language.

  2. I once attempted to water ski on a beautiful lake nestled in the mountains of Zell Am See, Austria. Let's just was the first AND last time I attempted to water ski. In the end I settled for a trip behind the boat in a big inner tube.

  3. During my senior year of high school I was the JROTC Battalion Commander of three cross-enrolled schools. As a freshman, JROTC Private I set a goal of becoming Battalion Commander by my senior year and, although I went to four different high schools (I was a military brat), I succeeded! I had so much fun. During my Junior year I was the Drill Team Commander and I LOVED that, too. I loved to compete. I learned so much about myself through those experiences. I wouldn't trade them at all.

  4. I accepted Ron's proposal of marriage after knowing of his existence a mere 3 months. I married him 5 months after that!

    (Here's where things take a turn for the worse... You can still turn away and leave my reputation untarnished!)

  5. My fifth, and more embarrassing, previously unknown bit of information.... In Junior High School I was madly, head-over-heals, out of my mind in love with Michael Jackson.

    Stop laughing!

  6. During my Freshman year at the University of Tulsa I was invited by the Student Association president (a senior) to be his date for the university's formal Centennial Celebration. It was taking place at the Adam's Mark hotel in downtown Tulsa and would be attended by distinguished alumni, faculty, and guests. We were the only two students invited. I decided to have a martini from the open bar and, because I was only eighteen, my date instructed me to say I was a senior if anyone inquired.

    As it turned out, my place card had me seated directly next to (then) Oklahoma Congressman Steve Largent, who had attended TU, with my date on my opposite side. It wasn't long into the meal before the pleasant Congressman was striking up a conversation with of the first questions being, "So, Tonya, what year are you in?" I fibbed, as instructed, only to find out that the dear Congressman had majored in the same subject as me. He launched into talk of courses and professors of which I'd barely heard mention.

    I was sooo very stuck.

    With the help of friendly interruptions by my, very nervous, date we stumbled through until, at last, the subject was changed. To this day I wonder if we really pulled that off or if our Congressman was just gracious enough to let us slide on by.

    Phew...was I glad when that was over!

  7. ...and lastly... I am a fugitive from justice. Really... but let me explain.

    It was my junior year at Frankfurt American High School in Frankfurt, Germany. My friend Anna and I had stayed after school and somehow missed the ASA (after-school-activity) bus. This was a problem because we lived in Darmstadt which was about 45 minutes to an hour from Frankfurt. It was already dark and we had to get home.

    Anna had a plan. I followed it...and it was downhill from there.

    She said we should take the Bahnhof (the major train system in Germany) and, since we had no money for fair, we should hide in the bathroom when the ticket taker came around. She said she had done it before, though she probably hadn't really, and I saw no alternative so I agreed.

    It didn't work.

    The ticket taker waited patiently for, what he must have assumed was, one passenger to come out of the bathroom. When his waiting failed to work he began banging on the door and demanding it be opened. Just before entering the restroom Anna had handed me a wrench (I DO NOT know why she had a wrench, but she did), and she had grabbed one of those devices intended for breaking a window in case of emergency for herself. She said that if we were caught we would stay in the bathroom until the train stopped, open the door, threaten the ticket taker with our weapons, and make a break for it.Well, we were caught.

    Since I hadn't had the good sense to do it earlier, this was definitely the point where I should have said, "Anna, you are crazy!", laid down my weapon, and accepted defeat.

    But I didn't.

    I followed through with the lunatic scheme. The shocked ticket taker backed out of the way of our upheld weapons and called for the Polezie (police) as we made our break. Luckily for him (unluckily for us) there were two patrolling the Bahnhof station very near our chosen exit and we were quickly apprehended, unarmed, cuffed, and nearly dragged to the polezie station. A couple more polezie showed up to lend a hand. The two uh...gentlemen escorting me were not gentle at all. I could barely walk for the way they held my arms.

    Long story, short: My Mother was called, I was fined by the Bahnhof, scheduled to appear in court for my actions, and released into my Mother's somewhat hostile custody.

    I had no money for my fine, but my good friend Vanessa cashed in a savings bond and loaned me the money, which I later paid back. Thanks again, Vanessa.

    It wasn't long before I left Germany to stay with an Aunt and Uncle in Oklahoma because I was having too much trouble at home with my Mother. I can't imagine why...seeing how good I was, and all.

    My departure came before my court date and I never looked back. Let's just say I'm glad I was a minor! (But still...Don't get married in Germany 'cause I'm not coming if you do.)

So there you have it. Seven things you would've probably never guessed about me in a million, trillion years. If you are still courageous enough to admit to knowing, or being related to, me...please comment and include seven things I'd never guess about you. Since you now know me so well I'd like to get better acquainted with you too. Come on! It'll be fun!

Tag! You're it:

  1. Natalie at Geekgirl611's

  2. Jill at Live Laugh Blog

  3. Karen at Simply... A
    Musing Blog

  4. Trish at A Joyful

  5. Lindylou at Lindylou

  6. daddyclaxton at The Dads

  7. Jesse at Good Girl Gone Bad
    (She already posted something similar on the 6th of this month!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Somebody's Mother

I did not write this poem but it moves me and I want to share it with you... It is in my son's 7th-grade A Beka reader. He read it to me aloud and my eyes watered from emotion. The author is unknown. Enjoy...

The woman was old and ragged and gray
And bent with the chill of the winter's day.

She stood at the crossing, and waited long,
Alone, uncared for, amid the throng

Of human beings who passed her by
Nor heeded the glance of her anxious eye.

Down the street with laughter and shout,
Glad in the freedom of school let out,

Came the boys like a flock of sheep,
Hailing the snow piled white and deep.

Past the woman so old and gray,
Hastened the children on their way,

Nor offered a helping hand to her,
So meek, so timid, afraid to stir,

Lest the carriage wheels or the horses' feet
Should crowd her down in the slippery street.

At last came one of the merry troop-
The finest laddie of all the group.

He paused beside her, and whispered low,
"I'll help you across, if you wish to go."

He guided the trembling feet along;
Proud that his own were firm and strong.

Then back again to his friends he went,
His young heart happy and well content.

"She's somebody's mother, boys, you know,
For all she's aged and poor and slow;

"And I hope some fellow will lend a hand
To help my mother, you understand,

"If ever she's poor and old and gray,
When her own dear boy is far away."

And "somebody's mother" bowed low her head
In her home that night, and the prayer she said

Was, "God be kind to the noble boy
Who is somebody's son and pride and joy!"

My $0.02?


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long." Leonard Bernstein

Thursday, September 4, 2008

In Defense of "Hands Off" Learning

I do not love science projects. In most instances I do not even particularly like science projects.

I realize this is both shocking and offensive to the majority of homeschooling, and for that matter, non-homeschooling parents. That's exactly why I want to get it into the open from the outset. This has been my invisible "elephant in the room" that the rest of you can't see and don't notice, but that follows me around to every homeschool gathering trumpeting obnoxiously in my ear.

Maybe it's the rebellious teenager in me insisting on having a say, or perhaps it's the overworked, overtired mom who just wants to read in peace for whole minutes on end, but, either way, I am about to commit homeschool blasphemy.

I do not like this idea of "hands-on" learning.

Okay, okay... before you click your browser window shut and label me an ignorant fool let me at least explain my position.

I am not necessarily proud of my stance and neither is it based on sound research nor deep conviction... so you can relax. This little article does not seek to sway you from your allegiance to beaker, abacus, and modeling clay.

I seek only to unburden my humble bookworm of a soul.

Please notice that I did not write, "I do not believe in the benefits of 'hands-on' learning," but only that I, personally, don't care for the practice.

Before beginning to write this article I ran a Google search on the phrase "hands on l..." No sooner had I typed the "l" than a list of suggested searches appeared before me. Allow me to recreate it for you here:

hands on learning.....7,980,000 search results
hands on learner.....2,370,000
hands on learners.....2,880,000
hands on learning style.....698,000
hands on learning activities.....920,000
hands on learning program.....498,000
hands on learning games.....541,000

All this before I even hit the "Enter" key to begin my search.

"Very interesting," I thought to myself, "but not everyone is a hands-on learner." So I ran another Google search, this time using the phrase "hands off l..." The list of suggested searches was quite different:

There were 1,290 results for lyrics to a song entitled "Hands Off," and 356,000 results for "hands of love affair," whatever that is! And when I fully typed out the phrase "hands off learning," nothing jumped onto my screen to guide my search.

Needless to say I feel both unrepresented and overlooked and that the need for this article is paramount. The un-kinesthetic teachers/learners of the world must be given voice!

I do not dispute that many valuable lessons are learned by "doing" in school and, especially, in real life. I just don't see the point in "reinventing the wheel," by artificially recreating experiments that have already been performed, from which information has already been obtained, and about which many interesting and helpful things have already been written. Why should we do these experiments when we can just read about them? After going over these kinds of science lessons in our science readers I never feel the urge to gather the supplies, perform the experiment and then clean the mess, all for the sake of finding out the science text writers were right. What they said would happen, happened.

Please don't misunderstand me. When I hear of the exploits of all of you kinesthetic teachers/learners I am always inspired. It's true! I am inspired to hunt down my children's safety goggles, pack them a nutritious lunch and send them straight over to your house for science class! I would so much rather curl up with them in front of the fireplace on a gray, wintry day and read about God's wonders in the earth, the sea, the universe.

Do I ever perform science experiments with my children? Yes, I do. With all those search results eagerly waiting to proclaim the superiority of hands on learning I have to err on the side of caution. Maybe you "doers" are onto something and, if so, I want my kids in on it. So, from time to time, for the purpose of modeling the scientific method, we dig out supplies and perform an experiment about the laws of motion, the water cycle, photosynthesis, etc.

Similarly, in math, if my children are not grasping a concept after reading about it and having it explained, I will pull out a visual of some sort and demonstrate the concept physically. For instance, I have found it necessary to demonstrate the "why" of borrowing in subtraction with groups of 10 cotton swabs bundled with bread ties for all of my children in the 1st or 2nd grade. As you can now see, I do make use of hands on learning techniques, but generally, as a last resort.

I love to read. I love to write. I love to talk. I love words. I absolutely love how they come together to teach, to inspire, to encourage, to express. It's not that I think other methods of teaching/learning are inferior, it's just that I find I have a bent toward my passion... and it comes out in my teaching.

So judge me now. And, if you find that I have committed a heinous heresy in my diatribe against hands on learning, sentence me as well. Only allow me a good book to read, a note pad and a pencil. Else I will beautify your prison floors with scratches of words to reveal my thoughts and romanticize my imprisonment!

...and, as usual, that's my $0.02!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

School Year's Resolutions

New Year Resolution - Self Deception

Yesterday, while perusing the blog of a newly-found Twitter acquaintance, I discovered her clever idea of setting School Year's Resolutions instead of those all-too-common New Year's Resolutions. How fitting that I should stumble upon her idea exactly one week before the start our own homeschool year! The new school year serves as a more accurate "reset" mark in my life than the calendar year ever could. I'm sure this will be true for as long as my homeschooling journey continues.

I've always made it a priority to dedicate each new school year to God and ask His blessing and guidance in our academic endeavors, but I have not ever written out specific goals in specific areas of my life, on which to focus throughout our school year. It's a wonderful idea and as soon as I read it I knew I would follow suit. You can check out my inspiration here on Kelly's blog, "Pass The Torch."

My list of School Year's Resolutions will be intentionally short, specific and attainable. There are countless goals I could list here but, having been around the block a few times, I realize that long lists of foggy objectives breed much more discouragement than accomplishment. I would rather my resolutions empower me as I gradually work toward measurable outcomes than harass me as I struggle not to buckle under the weight of my responsibilities.

Also of note is the idea of "failing forward." It's a concept to which I was introduced at a training seminar conducted by a former employer of mine. It basically means that, even if we fail to fully attain the goals we set forth, we will have achieved more and gone farther than we would have had we not even made the attempt. I find that comforting. This one, simple idea gives me permission to pat myself on the back and to "lay off" with the harsh self-criticism. My husband has learned it, and relayed it to me, differently. He would say it's the difference between trying to achieve happiness and happily achieving.

All prefacing statements aside, I am ready to share my 08/09 School Year's Resolutions! There are only twelve: two goals in each of six important areas.

I, Tonya_H, on this day, August Twenty-seventh, in the Year of Our Lord, Two-thousand Eight, in the presence of my beloved "Tonya's Two Cents" readers do hereby resolve...

To nurture my spiritual self

  • by entering each new day through the door of prayer.
  • by meditating daily on a Bible scripture or passage.

To nurture my relational self

  • by arranging for at least one date-night per month with Ron.
  • by continuing to attend my monthly GAP-ladies fun & fellowship meetings.

To nurture my children

  • by carving out at least 15-30 minutes, during the daytime, every week to spend enjoying one-on-one quality time with each of the four of them.
  • by calmly responding to high-stress parenting situations or else postponing my response until I can do so. (This goal is less measurable but nonetheless, very important.)

To be an effective homeschool teacher

  • by having all school work checked and recorded by each week's end.
  • by limiting my computer/phone time to no more than four 15-minute blocks of time during the school day.
To nurture my creative self

  • by posting at least one article per week at Tonya's Two Cents.
  • by keeping my journal readily accessible for recording thoughts and ideas.

To nurture my physical self

  • by continuing to work out at least three times per week.
  • by taking the nutritional "high road" more often than not by choosing healthful snack alternatives.

And there you have it! My School Year's Resolutions!

Want to join the fun? List your School Year's Resolutions in my "comments" section or write about them in your own blog and link it back to mine and Kelly's!

Writing this out has definitely been worth my $0.02!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Angels Unaware

"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Heb 13:1-2 NIV

Last week, while reading a blog post of a new friend, I was escorted, by way of memory, to a past event in my life. As the bittersweet memory formed itself on the horizon of my mind I was filled with awe and reminded of the goodness of our God; the absolute goodness that can encompass and indwell our lives even in the midst of terrible pain.

It was mid-to-late March of 2004 and I stood at my closet door, tears streaming down my cheeks, eyes searching, heart breaking. I had to find something I could squeeze into. I would find something, somehow and I would gather my three children and I would get out of our house. I had to. I needed to feel the sunshine on my face. I desperately needed to know that the world was still revolving, that people were still smiling... and living.

I would not wear anything maternity. I wasn't pregnant... not anymore. I'd seen it myself on the ultrasound a few days earlier.

I'd hurried in to my doctor's office clinging wildly to the hope that the bleeding was just another inexplicable pregnancy nuisance and that I was, indeed, entering into my second trimester.

I'd left her office cloaked in an ominous, dark cloud of pain tinged with disbelief. That dream, the one I thought I'd carried safely and warmly inside of me, had died.

And then, after days of phone calls and tears, prayers and more tears, I had to step back into the daylight... but not in maternity clothes. Although I'd not lost a single ounce of the new pregnancy weight I'd acquired I had to walk out of my door in my regular jeans. Better to appear to be poured into them than to be reduced to tears at an innocent inquiry about my baby; my baby who'd flown home even while I stood as the Matron of Honor at my sister's wedding the weekend before; my baby who'd had to leave without saying goodbye while I stood smiling, laughing, happy.

All the cards, all the condolences, all the shared tears with friends and family fell short of comforting me. Nothing made it alright. I understood and appreciated all the well-meant, although sometimes trivializing, comments and I accepted them eagerly hoping they would serve as a kind of heart-balm. But my grief went untouched by them, defiantly standing its ground.

My determination drove me as I readied myself and my children for a trip to the shoe store. It was such a major undertaking. It was so much more than a short drive to buy the children the shoes they needed. It was an attempt to stand again in spite of the weight of my loss. I couldn't shake the burden off... not yet. I still needed time to wade through it, to make sense of it, to sort the hay from the stubble. But I could stuff it into a duffel bag, load it onto my back, and, like an encumbered soldier of war, wearily, yet courageously, put one foot in front of the other.

And so I did.

I arrived at the store with my three children aged eight, three and a half, and two years old. It was difficult. My mind wanted to be singular in its focus. It wanted to measure little feet, find shoes to fit them, and block out everything else. It wanted to ignore the noise of my little ones playing and straying from me. It hardly cared how many shoes they pulled off shelves and left in isles. It craved only full and simplistic absorption in the task at hand.

Nevertheless, I had to take hold of myself every few minutes and rein in my thoughts and my children. Even if I didn't feel strong enough I had to be the responsible adult. I had to be the Mom. I'd been given no leave of absence from my post, and my youngsters, the precious ones that still surrounded me, needed me fully present. I was not off duty. I would have to be among those who were healed as they went (Luke 17:14).

As I once again roused myself from my introspection I looked up to see my two-year-old round a corner and disappear from my sight followed by her sister and brother. So playful. A slight smile touched my lips as I set down a shoe box and started after them. For a moment the part of me that still recognized the blessings in my life had gotten a welcome upper-hand and longed to be as carefree as they were.

I followed them to an isle where a middle-aged woman shopped with a two-year-old little girl. The woman smiled down at my three for a moment and then looked up at me. She was asking if they were all mine. I was nodding yes and was having the impulse to happily inform her that I was expecting my fourth... but I wasn't, was I? Not anymore.

I felt the heat in my cheeks. I felt the tears coming. Just that fast the pain was fresh again. My thoughts began to shout at me. "Breathe deeply, don't cry. Not here, not now." And conversely, "Tell her everything. Let it out. Why should things go on as normal?"

Whether my conflicting thoughts and emotions played out on my face in that moment I do not know. This stranger smiled sweetly at me and began to say how blessed I'd been to have three such lovely children. That was a sentiment I'd heard repeatedly since my miscarriage from people who wanted me to focus on the "bright side" of things. They were comments that I'd known were true but that hadn't relieved my suffering.

But this was different. She didn't know. She wasn't attempting to redirect my thinking. There was real conviction behind her words. She meant what she was saying so strongly that I could feel it and I had to pay attention to it.

She had a gaze that was strangely warm and penetrating and I was drawn in. It was quite unusual. I actually felt hungry for whatever she might say next. She looked down at the child who'd come with her and explained that this little one was her daughter. She told me she and her husband had one other daughter who was an adult. They'd tried for years to have a second child but had not been able. They thought they'd never have another baby. But, amazingly, two years prior to our conversation, when their first child was grown, she'd given birth to this beautiful little girl.

She spoke about her children, and mine, with a depth that moved me. She spoke from the perspective of one who'd ventured across a painful wilderness and had, at last, arrived at a long awaited oasis. You might imagine that I'm referring to her second child as this "oasis." Not exactly, but close. Of course each child is a wondrous gift but the "oasis" she helped me find that afternoon was the recognition of each child as God's gift of love to a parent... His gift of love to me.

Though my love for my children is so great I can scarcely put it into words, in that moment God's love for me became so clear I could sense it towering above any emotion I could ever hope to experience. I suddenly understood that each of my three children was an expression of that love.

I was unable to receive comfort from the people in my life who suggested, in varying ways, that I forget about the child I lost and instead focus on the three I got to keep. In my heart it just didn't add up right. But I received tremendous comfort from a stranger who just saw my three children for the gifts of Love they are, apart from all else.

I'm sure I will never see that woman from the store again and she may never know how her kind words touched my life that day.

I never did tell her that I'd just lost a baby. I don't know why she opened up and shared with me like she did. I only know that I heard God's voice through her story, and His was the voice I needed to hear.

I will always think back on her as an angel sent by God to deliver His message to me.

...and that's my $0.02!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Unexpected Outcome

Never once had it traipsed across the landscape of my consciousness, this outlandish idea that I could educate my children at home... myself.

Why would I do that? How could I do that? Where would I start? What would it require? And, again, why would I do that?

Assuredly, those would have been the questions I would have hurled at you had you asked me, only eight short years ago, if I'd considered homeschooling.

After accepting the gift of a Christian life and lifestyle around the time of my first child's birth the only sensible option, in my mind, was private, Christian schooling. The fact that my church of the time had (and still has) a very well respected and well established Christian school only helped cement this notion in my mind.

I didn't actually disagree with homeschooling. I had just never ventured that far away from mainstream thinking regarding childhood education. I grew up in public school and had never in my youth even considered that, under different circumstances, I might have been educated differently. That's just the way things were. That being the case, I felt my aspirations to give my children private, Christian educations were lofty, indeed!

Never mind giving them private, Christian educations MYSELF! And,
truly, it never came to mind.

That was, until three-quarters of the way through T-Rex's Kindergarten year, when Ron was unexpectedly let out of an agreement by the small, struggling company for which he worked at the time... two-weeks before the birth of Butterfly. We were paying for that pricey, kindergarten-sized, private, Christian education month-to-month as it was. And, though the school offered to defer our payments temporarily, until we were once again employed, we opted to take T-Rex out of the school. Being in debt to our church was not a prospect that appealed to either one of us!

It was a difficult decision.

T-Rex would finish out the month of February, which we'd already paid for, and then, with my 22-month-old and two-week-old daughters in my arms, I would begin to... homeschool???

Neither Ron or I was sure this was a good idea but we'd already ruled out public school after our experience with T-Rex's public K4 "education," and had no other options (aside from renting T-Rex to a circus).

So... with a Boppy pillow, a potty chair, a box of kleenex (for wiping away my cascade of tears), and my three "oh-so-dependant" children always within arms-reach I began to homeschool.

I could detail here for you some of the ins and outs of teaching beginning reading, writing, and arithmetic with one baby at my breast and another wrapped around my ankle, but that will have to be another blog post for another day.

The objective of this article is to tell you about the miracle that somehow weaved itself into the fabric of our lives despite the mounting diapers, the un-synchronized nap schedules, the potty accidents, the repeatedly interrupted homeschool lessons, and the constant company of all my young ones.

Somehow, unbelievably I discovered I still liked my oldest child... a lot!

You're shocked, I'm sure, that I would make such a candid statement but it's, nonetheless, the truth. At some point along the time-line of T-Rex's young life I'd unknowingly bought into the idea that I was supposed to eagerly await the onset of his daily departure; that sending a child off to school would mark the beginning of a lighter, easier SAHM-life for me.

But what I'd failed to notice was that between the rigid schedule, the washing and re-washing of school uniforms, the drop-offs and pick-ups, the push to sell the fund-raisers, the field-trip chaperoning, monthly snack obligation, the difficulty getting him moving in the morning, the grumpy-sleepy, fussy boy that came home to me, and the money it cost us for these privileges, my life had become more complicated... so much less enjoyable. And, worse than all else, the emotional connection I held with my sweet, darling boy had waned.

I never knew it until I got it back.

Once again he could sleep until his precious, growing body awakened naturally, pleasantly. Once again he was my lovely, eager, bright-eyed boy. Once again I was happy to spend my days snuggling, reading, learning, (and, okay... nursing, potty-training, and cooking) with all of my children "at my heels."

And he thrived!

I thrived!

Our family thrived!

If I had ever thought I was the involved parent during those first three-quarters of his kindergarten year (and I did) then I was mistaken. I had, very briefly and very unknowingly, taken a huge step towards uninvolvement. It was revealed by, among other things, the depth of search required in every K5 subject to find exactly what he'd learned, what he'd completely not understood, and where to start teaching him.

So... as I reflect on what have I gained as this same child of mine prepares to begin his eighth year of homeschooling and the 7th grade... I'd have to say I gained him... and Seashell... and Butterfly... and L'il Bear!

My husband and I, for this all-too-short stretch of time, hold our children's hearts and minds,

and as for them... they hold ours!

...and that's just my $0.02!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Back Talk!

Back talk. Talking back. Getting smart. Smart mouthing. Contradicting. Mouthing off. Answering back. Giving lip.

It really doesn't matter what you call it. All moms know what it is... and all moms (I suspect)have a distaste for it. But I, being but one mom of sound mind and body (mostly), believe I have had a brain hurricane (really big brainstorm) this afternoon regarding this problem!

Let me start by explaining. With my oldest child quickly approaching the milestone of his thirteenth birthday I have run head-first into this brick wall repeatedly. Whether it should be attributed to newly awakened hormones, temporary childhood insanity, or the idea that my son believes I have done an excellent job with his home education, I cannot say. What I can say is that the dear boy has happened upon a tendency to think he knows just a wee bit more than I do in several areas and sometimes unwisely chooses to vocalize this belief.

This, coupled with the fact that he occasionally feels he should point out areas where I have been "unfair" (code-word for not allowing his will to prevail), has created quite the dilemma for me.

I wish it were as easy as saying, "Never back-talk me. Never! End of discussion." But, truly, it isn't so simple.

I hold to the idea that children need to learn to properly and respectfully articulate dissenting opinions. I believe it is an invaluable skill that must be first nurtured at home. But, for the love of sanity, NOT every time I issue any sort of directive!

I also hold strongly to my commitment to listen to what my children want or need to say to me. I want them completely settled in the knowledge that I (and their father) will hear them out. But again, appropriate lines MUST be drawn!

As a result of my mindset on these issues I have had the unfortunate experience of being sucked into long and exhausting debates over issues that should have been settled with a simple "No, you may not," or "Yes, I still want you to do that."

So... how do you handle these situations? How do you respect your child's need to further explain a situation you may not fully understand and allow him or her to point out factors you may not have considered? And how do you teach when to, and when not to, employ these techniques of respectful rebuttal? Those have been my ongoing questions.

And, alas, I have stumbled upon at least one answer to these problems quite accidentally. No doubt it was Our Father who placed this little rock of revelation directly in my path where I'd be sure to trip over it. :-)

This morning I took a half-hour to myself to read the second chapter of a little gem of a book called "Any Child Can Write," by Harvey S. Wiener. I had had this book on my wish list for quite some time as it was highly recommended by someone whose opinion I value. Finally I purchased it. So far it has lived up to my expectations.

In the second chapter the author explains many practical, easy, and fun ideas for getting young children writing and reading painlessly. After reading it I left a message on the chalkboard for my six-year-old to decipher. On Fridays she is my "dinner helper" and she is always excited about it. I wrote, "Today Butterfly is my dinner helper! Yay! for Butterfly! Yay! for me!" (For those of you who don't already know, I use fictitious names for my children in this blog.)

She sounded out the words with enthusiasm because she recognized her name and knew it was a mystical message just for her! But I digress...

As I showered later, I thought about all of the author's suggestions and my mind began churning fueled by thoughts of writing practice that wouldn't even seem like "school work" to my children. Then I thought about my oldest. How could I tailor this to fit him? What could he write? About what does he have plenty to say?

And then it hit me! As memories of journaling about my own mother's "unfairness" came rushing out of the shower head, I had an epiphany. T-Rex (my oldest's blogname) could write about all of my unfairness! In those moments when I feel any further discussion on his part is bordering on disrespectful, redundant, or unnecessary I will instruct him to write down every point that he feels warrants my attention and to say no more about it verbally. He will be motivated to write (most likely quite a bit) because of his desire to be heard out.

The next day I will instruct him to read what he has written and decide to 1) throw the whole thing away, or keep it for his own private journal, because he no longer feels he should press the issue, 2) cross out all the points he feels are disrespectful or no longer of concern and present a revised version or 3) give it to me "as is" with the understanding that any perceived disrespect will be dealt with.

This kills so many birds with one stone it should be illegal! He will have to organize his thoughts into sensible sentences and (dare I say) whole paragraphs. He will have an appropriate outlet for his angry feelings. And, he will have time to calm down and reflect. Lastly, he can re-read his own view point and take back anything he may have regretted saying, had he said it.


I'm in Homeschool Mom heaven!

Well... now I've got to go re-wet my hair so I can blow dry it. I put it off to type this little article.

Bye for now...

Oh, yeah... and that's my $0.02!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

School Days, School Days... Good Old Golden Rule Days...

It's almost that time of year again for my family and, though I am still dragging my proverbial feet about a start date, I have to admit I am beginning to get excited about the coming school year.

I am amazed at the early school start dates in my part of the world! There are public and private school kiddos marching off to school on August 11th, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! That's gotta be like heresy or blasphemy or some equally heinous insult to reason. Everyone knows that school starts in the Fall! (Now I know there are year-rounders out there who would have a thing or two to say to me about that, but remember... I get to decide whether or not to publish your comments, so be nice).

I won't go so far as to say we should wait until the calendar literally marks the beginning of Autumn. I just hold strongly to the belief that August was made for bathing suits, watermelon, ice cream, and my birthday! This is no time for suiting up our young ones in jeans and backpacks and trotting them off to the bus stop.

Not to mention that, at least in my part of the country, August is known for its tiresome parade of 100-degree, sultry, summer days. I cannot imagine the money the schools would save in cooling costs by waiting until a more humane month to begin school!

That being said... I rest my case. We will most likely begin here at Cherith Christian (yes, our homeschool actually has a name!) after Labor Day. And if any of you are prone to believe that the biggest reason for this decision is because we did not finish last school year until the very end of June... I sheepishly say to you, "you are correct." I shall not tell a lie.

And now, lest you look down upon my late finish and subsequent late start, let me bedazzle you with a little-known fact: Cherith is a term from the Bible which means "a place of seperation in God's provision." ...and that is exactly how I see our homeschool!

and that's my $0.02!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

He Drove Me To This...

Ron made fun of my toenails on Twitter... That makes this your lucky day! Check out this little gem!




Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Three Guys

Who says folding laundry cannot be fun. I've found something that puts a smile on my face! My three guys are husband (??), son (12), and other son (2).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Time Flies...

At first I hesitated about using such a common cliche as the title for this post. After all, just about everyone says, "Time flies when you're having fun!" But I've noticed something slightly different. Time flies no matter what.

It's truly amazing, actually, the times that time flies. Time flies when you're raising kids. Time flies when you're on the phone. Time flies when you're watching TV. Time flies when your in your husband's embrace. It flies when you're eating, cutting the grass, working, sleeping, and exercising. It even flies when you're crying, hurting, recovering, or laughing. Time has flown while I've neglected this blog of mine. Time has the brazen audacity to fly when you're aging!

This past week has given me several opportunities to reflect on this topic. Little things keep popping up that make me stop and think about how much time has gone by and how very quickly it has done so.

Just two days ago I was going through some pictures my Mother-In-Law recently dropped off. Included were photos of my girls dressed for their ballet recital, wearing make-up. My girls are only 6 & 8 years old so the regular use of make-up is still a long way off... or so I thought.

As I looked longer at their pretty, made-up faces I realized I was seeing a glimpse of the future. I was seeing the more mature faces of lovely, young ladies who will turn the heads of young men in the not-so-distant future. I was seeing the forms of girls from which the rolls of baby fat have melted away, which have paused only briefly at this pre-teenage silhouette of childhood, and will soon continue their journey on toward womanhood.

To add to the wonder of seeing my daughters in this light, yesterday I was re-introduced to the daughters of a close friend whom I haven't seen in six years. Her daughters are now 10 & 7 years old instead of the 4 & 1 year(s) they had lived when last I saw them. I was amazed the very second I saw her oldest as my memory of her 4-year-old self collided with the sight of her now.

It's only logical that she would be so much older, so much bigger, but for some reason that lies below my consciousness I had pulled into the driveway expecting to see the little girls I remembered. As soon as I recovered from my shock it occurred to me that seeing my children would undoubtedly cause my friend the same surprise. And that, like me, she would probably marvel for a moment at the flight of time that had taken place.

Somehow during our visit we moved to the topic of supervising our children's outside play. We both lamented the fact that we find it necessary to physically be with our children whenever they play in the front yard. Because we are busy mothers this necessity greatly limits our children's play options. Gone, it seems, are the days in which we were reared; the days of walking a mile to a gas station for an ice cream sandwich, or riding our bikes far beyond our own streets, of just making sure we were home by the time the streetlights came on.

But it wasn't even very long ago... was it? Apparently the last 25 years of my life have also been loaded onto that stealthy jet-plane called TIME.

Even our visit was sped away in the jet stream as our 6 hours together was crammed into an experience that felt like 90 minutes-tops!

While my 3 younger children and I were whisked through time yesterday my oldest child attended a teen-pool-party given by the president of the home school group to which we belong. He's actually still twelve but will be 13 this Fall and the invitation was for members 12 & older.

The moment I saw the email invitation I was taken aback. Teen? Surely not! Am I old enough to be the mother of a teen? I have only recently recovered from his graduation from the children's ministry at church to the youth ministry. In fact, I still grapple with the realizations brought on by the sight of the pretty, young girls who also attend this youth ministry. The pretty girls that will soon catch his eye. The pretty girls whose eyes he will catch. So far I've not noticed any particular spark of interest on his part. But I'm grounded enough in reality to know that it's only a matter of quickly moving time... (after all, he's about as good-looking as they come;-)

I could go on & on with examples but I'm convinced that you already get my point. I have no doubt that you have your own examples on which to reflect.

As I'm writing this post my husband makes the valid point that time doesn't seem to fly during the tough times. He's right. If anything, it feels as though time is not just walking, but dragging its feet during times of suffering or hardship. It's true. We've all experienced it. While we are uncomfortable time seems dreadfully slow, but only until things change.

What do I mean? I'll explain.

I can't say this is true for everyone (although I suspect it may be). After things get easier, after we've had time to recuperate, and after we've been able to put some distance between ourselves and our troubles... it seems that even those tough times moved quickly. I can think back to the most difficult times in my life and, though I recall how long it seemed to take, I can now more accurately place them in proper perspective in the timeline of my life.

My conclusion... time ALWAYS flies.

May we be wise enough and resourceful enough to make the most of it.

...and that's my $0.02...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Note to Self...

Start blogging again! Be witty. Be creative. Be fun. Use spell check.