Friday, March 25, 2011

Japan studies

Our curriculum focuses on Japan this week and next. The timing has been invaluable, given the events of the last few weeks. It's given us new insight and opportunities to put the humanity into these studies. It's one thing to learn about the culture, but sometimes I don't think the kids make the connection between the land and the people. We've prayed for many people groups this school year, but I've truly heard their hearts in the prayers for the Japanese. They've seen images and heard stories that won't be erased from their minds.

In our lesson from Window on the World this week, we learned how difficult it is for the Japanese to come to Christ because their culture is so important to them. Some look at following Jesus as betraying their ancestry. We've talked about how important it is for those ministering to the people who have suffered through the earthquake and tsunami to really be the hands and feet of Jesus. That taking care of the physical needs of the people may open the door to show them how Jesus can meet all their needs.

We've worked on some traditional artwork this week, as well. The kids have been introduced to origami, writing haikus, and sushi rolling. We've looked at some great books that have shown us a lot about the similarities and differences between our cultures. It's been a really great experience. I'm looking forward to next week as well.

I had the kids take some time outside today and think about what they'd like to write their haikus about. They came in with their notes, and I showed them the 5-7-5 layout of the haiku. Here is what they came up with - I'll try to scan their drawings in later!

The stump marks the spot,
covered in moss to protect;
it's hidden and safe.

Two yellow flowers
dancing like no tomorrow -
dancing in the wind.

My bunker is safe.
It looks like a skeleton.
It's fun and roomy.

Don't you just love their little minds? I'm hoping they enjoyed this enough to give it a try again next week!
So what did your family work on this week?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let's Roll!

Boy, did we have fun last night! Some friends and I decided to "wrap up" our China studies and kick off our Japan units with a sushi rolling party! Crazy, right? But it was just one of those things that worked out. I would never have thought to do something like this as a homeschool project, but it totally fell into my lap - or should I say inbox? - at the perfect time!
We are using My Father's World: Exploring Countries and Cultures this year as our main curriculum. My girlfriend, Christy, and I had already talked about trying to make an authentic Chinese meal for the end of China, or going out to a buffet. We all love Chinese food, but some of us are not as adventurous as others. ;) As for me, I think I could eat sushi every day and not get tired of it! Anyway, we were throwing a couple of ideas around when I got a Groupon deal in my inbox:

60% off a private cooking class from Happy Chef Catering Co.

Well, I'd never heard of Happy Chef, but I started researching. They offered homemade pizza parties, French cuisine, and - hello! - sushi rolling!! I was so in. I called the owner, Phil, and asked about the Groupon deal, but I was too late! :( I told him that we were homeschool moms finishing up some studies on China. We wanted to teach our kids about the ancient art of sushi rolling, but with a hands-on lesson. He told me that he'd never done anything like that, but he'd love to give it a try. He cut us a great deal, and we started planning.

So last night was the night. I tell you, it was one of my favorite enrichment activities we've done this year. Six families - six moms, two dads, and 21 kids - met at the Watson's home to roll sushi. I had warned Phil that we had a lot of kids, but they were all well behaved. I teased him that if they acted up, we'd threaten them with his sushi slicing skills. He promised to bring his biggest knife - I knew we were going to get along just fine!

The kids learned a lot, every child got to roll some sushi, and we all ate sushi till we couldn't eat anymore. Ok, I could have eaten more, but I wasn't feeling deprived by any means. ;) Some of the kids are pretty picky eaters, but that didn't stop any of them from rolling. And it's so true that kids are more willing to eat something that they've had a hand in preparing. EVERY child tried at least one kind of sushi. Only one or two said they didn't care for it, but we were so proud of them all for trying.

Although I'd warned Phil that there would be a lot of kids, I didn't give him a definite small head count because I didn't know two of the families coming - they were friends of the Watson's. I don't think that he had any idea we would have SO many kids! :) But he handled it like the pro he is and did an amazing job. We had to do a little organizing like choosing who would go first. They flipped a coin to choose, and the girls won. The boys waited patiently for their turn, and it worked out really well. Phil started getting worried at the end that he may run out of supplies. But like the oil in the jar, there was some left over! :)
All my kids love to cook and eat Asian cuisine. But before last night, Connor was the only one who loved sushi. We now have four children who are fans, thanks to Phil! And Connor has a new passion - rolling sushi! :)

I told Phil before he left that I knew this wasn't his normal clientele, but he had done so very well. He told me he enjoyed it, and I promised to get the word out about his company. So, here goes: Happy Chef Catering Co. is Springfield's Premier Catering Company with over 10 years of experience. Whether it's formal or casual, big or small, check Phil and his skills out for your next event. You will surely be impressed!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So It's a Good Thing to Teach Them Scripture, Right?

How ironic that my two oldest have put me in my place this week. I should have known I was just asking for it when I started having these kiddos memorizing God's word. He's always good at humbling me and chastizing me when I'm in a sinful attitude, but now He's using my kids - while I'M the one teaching them?! Is there no justice??? Oh, wait there is...His justice. :)

Friday we had one of those mornings. You know, the ones we homeschooling mothers most likely refuse to admit we have more often than not. The schedule was not followed, the chores and schoolwork were not finished, we were running late for an activity, and I was not in the best of tempers. And when I'm not in the best of tempers, you know it's not gonna be pretty retaliation from 4 little mini-me's! It seemed the faster the clock ticked, the more they dragged their feet.

Anyway, we got in the van to head to our activity. I was still a little steamed, but trying to calm myself - and thinking I needed to teach them a lesson (Big mistake!). So I handed a bible back to Chloe. I told her to start looking up some verses. She couldn't find the first one. I told her to sing her song to find the book. Still couldn't find it. Mommy had to take deep breaths. This took quite a bit of time. I encouraged her to keep looking, all the while trying to think of a verse on persevering instead of whining and giving up (I know there's some in there, but for the life of me, can't think of them when I need them). She's in tears at this point, and I'm getting more irritable. Then to realize I gave her the verse number that literally couldn't be found - I said something like verse 19 when the chapter only had 17 verses! Nice, huh?

So we moved on to another one that they already know, but that THEY needed a reminder of... or so I thought. I told her to look up Colossions 3:20. My sweet little girl tearfully began to read in a small voice.

"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this greatly pleases the Lord (sniff!)" There was a short pause. Then her voice got a little stronger.
"'PARENTS, do not provoke your children to anger, lest they become discouraged!' Mommy, what's provoke and discouraged mean?"

I couldn't breathe. God had totally put me in my place. He had reminded me of my position as their teacher and parent, and how fallible I am. I was humbled for a moment. I was starting to tear up when a huge guffaw came from the back seat. I caught my oldest practically rolling in the rearview mirror, and I had to smile.

"It means Mommy shouldn't yell at us so much, Chloe! Hahaha!!!" Connor couldn't stop laughing, and I started joining in. So did Chloe and Canon. I teased her that I told her to read 20, not 21, and that got them all giggling. It felt good. Tears and laughter both have their place, and one can cleanse the soul as well as the other.

We'd arrived at our destination. Several of our friends were getting out of their vehicles and waving and smiling to us. But I couldn't get out. Not just yet.

I turned the van off, and I turned in my seat. I told her they were right, and I asked them if I had provoked them today. Chloe, trying to be sweet, said no. Connor answered with a resounding yes! (Ever the diplomat, might I add!) I apologized to them, and I asked them if they wanted to pray. They unbuckled, came up to the front, and we held each other and prayed. It didn't take long, but we asked for the Father's forgiveness for ALL our actions, and for His guidance in helping us love each other and be more kind to one another. It was enough. We were reunited. We were washed clean. Together. We met up with some of our friends and walked inside with lighter hearts and brighter smiles.

While I joke about them zinging me with scripture, I'm so very thankful that they are able to do so. I want them to see me as a sinner saved by grace. I want them to know that Mommy and Daddy need forgiveness from their Heavenly Father, just like they do. I hope that they see that we are willing to humble ourselves in front of them and ask for their forgiveness as well as God's. I wish I didn't have to so often, but I will never regret the times I've done it...
But, I may be more careful about which verses I pick out next time! ;)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Dreaded Chore Chart

For those of you who know me, you know housework is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, it's not even on the top 40 list. I truly dislike it, and I'm just not very good at it. I can't think of one single, solitary domestic duty besides cooking - and it only makes the top 15 list on a rare occasion - that I enjoy. And yet God called me to be a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mom?!? You've GOT to know He has a sense of humor! ;)

As I've mentioned before, we are working on godly attitudes with the kids. We've been memorizing Matthew 5 this school year, and they all 3 successfully quoted the entire chapter this week! I'm really proud of them, and I'm hoping we start moving from memorizing the words to putting them into action in our daily lives. Yes, I say WE. I'm working on being meek, merciful, righteous, and doing all for His glory. Those qualities go along with that other ever-dreaded word, housework, and I'm just not good at them, either! Obviously, I'm a work in progress.

Anyway, back on track. Me and housework, not friends. Me and the Beattitudes, only slightly more amicable. Got it? Good. Moving on.

While I am not a lover of all things domestic, I am trying to do better. A turning point just occurred that's spurred me into action. Kelly and I had a long conversation Valentine's night about how I try to do too much on my own and the kids have learned to expect me to do everything. Romantic conversation, right? But I know it was words I needed to hear, and I put them into action the next day.

I woke up with a conviction that I was NOT supermom. I did NOT have to do it all alone. I had 4 perfectly able servants - er, I mean children - that could start bearing the load a bit. So to the keyboard I went. I typed like a madwoman, I tell ya! I thought about all the chores that they were possibly old enough to handle. Then I started revising. Then I started retracting. Then I started to give it up and just face the fact that I was a bondservant to my family with no chance of reprisal. Then I prayed and started again.

The kids thought I was on Facebook or something frivolous. Little did they know how drastic their little lives were about to change. (Insert evil laugh here.)

When I finally had it all arranged and set up on a chart, I hit print. I also decided to laminate it. I got it finished, and I hung it up on the kitchen wall, right underneath the school schedule. The kids wandered in after me to see what I was doing. Connor was the first to reach it.

"What's this?"
"It's a chore chart, honey."
"For who?"
"The mice, dear. I don't think I can do all the chores by myself anymore, so I decided to enlist help from them."
Blank stare, open mouth.
"It's for you guys. Daddy and I talked last night, and we agreed that you all are perfectly capable of having more responsibility than just taking care of your rooms." I barely bit off the comment that I usually end up taking care of that, as well.
"...sooo...we have to do ALL of this? Now? What are you going to do?"

I admit, I had to take a deep breath here. And three more before I answered him.

"There's a lot on the list, but there's a lot that isn't. I'll show you all how to do these things, and you'll be pros in no time!" (insert forced smile and positive voice here)
Blank stare, open mouth - which quickly turned to scowls and whines. Followed up by fussing, stomping, arguing, growling and all the other reactions a mature, responsible, loving mother would have! ;)

Fast forward. Here we are, nearly a month later. I'm not saying it's been easy as pie. And, no, Good Housekeeping is NEVER going to ask to take photos of my household - unless it's for an article on how NOT to do your cleaning. But there is a sense of accomplishment with the kids. They still grumble a bit, and they don't always get everything done. But we're working on it. They ask me to come and see what they did, and they ask me if they did a good job. Just another time for me to learn not to nitpick and to praise their efforts. They rotate jobs on Sundays, and some weeks are smoother than others. I guess we're all works in progress. But I'm so glad we're now working together.

Thursday, March 10, 2011



A New Adventure (Hopefully!)

So my girlfriend Nikki has had the coolest job for a homeschool mom for the last two years. She told me about it last year, and I wanted in! But I didn't get myself together in time and missed out. This year, I got an early heads up and put in my application today. I want to be a homeschool product reviewer for TOS Homeschool magazine! :)

It is a great way to find out about new products and curriculum that can enhance your family's life and the way you approach your homeschool. I'm so excited, I just can't wait to hear from them.

In honor of the special application process, I'm going to be posting some of our past homeschool projects. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Life Lessons For Us All

A situation was brought to my attention tonight that I foolishly and naively thought our family would be able to avoid in our safe little homeschool bubble. It's something that has been brewing for some months now, but I thought had been dealt with. However, I was wrong. The situation? Bullies.

Now, I know you may not see this as a major issue. Kids get bullied. Kids may go through a stage where they are the bully. It's typical kid stuff, you might say, and it's no big deal. Well, I'm sorry, but I disagree. Bullying is a serious thing that should not be taken lightly. Children are being harrassed and mentally abused (even physically, in some cases) by peers daily all over this country. Precious lives are torn apart every day by thoughtless and insensitive words or actions. It truly breaks my heart.

I believe mainly bullying comes from children who have self esteem issues and want to feel in control of something or somebody. This kind of bully tends to pick on someone smaller or less outgoing to make them feel more powerful or, at the least, to take pressure off themselves. Sometimes the bully is so insecure of his own position in a group of peers that he has to make someone else feel worse than he does. Again, it breaks my heart.

Most of the families we've chosen to have in our lives and have our children associate with have the same Christian values that we have. We are all teaching our children biblical principles that we are encouraging them to live out in their daily lives. Now, when we know these families intimately, and know we are of the same mind - that the Golden Rule should lead us - the question arises: How do we resolve this issue? We are approaching a huge life lesson. It's going beyond knowing what the Bible says - head knowledge. It's applying that information and living it out - heart knowledge. Now it's time for them to really learn to act on what they've been taught. It's time for them to ask themselves the famous question, "What Would Jesus Do?"

Now to be clear, my child is not directly involved. He is not the bully or the one being bullied. He has been a witness to some of the hurtful actions, and he has stood up for those being picked on. (Two different cases this school year.) I couldn't be prouder of him. When some have buckled and joined in the teasing, my little man has hearkened to the Holy Spirit and has even quoted Scripture to his friend who has been the bully. This Mama's heart is bursting tonight. I am seeing glimpses of the man God is molding him to be.

While I am proud of him, I'm also a little sad as to how I found out about it. My girlfriend called me tonight to tell me what had been occurring. I was clueless. I hadn't really talked to my son about his day, but he hadn't brought it up at all. I asked him about why he hadn't told me, and he said, "You didn't ask." What???!!!?! It made me wonder how often things happen in his little world that he doesn't share with me just because I haven't asked. It worried me. Because even though he wasn't the one being bullied this time, I questioned whether he would tell me if he was.

So the question I pose to myself tonight is this. My son passed the test today, but did I? Have I just assumed that my kids are doing fine, so I haven't bothered to ask them? Has God given me a wake up call?

I can't imagine the heartbreak of losing a child under any condition. But I think about those parents who have had a child commit suicide and are left with so many questions as to why. I never want to have those questions. I pray with all my heart that I use this opportunity God has given me in homeschooling to build tight and open relationships with all four of my children. That they will not only be comfortable in sharing everything with me and Kelly, but they will desire to do so.

I believe communication is so important. It began with my kids asking how and why things work when they were just toddlers; it leads to the deeper questions they have about life and all its craziness, and with me anwering those hard questions honestly. From there, it goes on with them sharing their little insights and opinions, and me listening. I mean really listening, valuing what they have to say and sharing in their revelations. Give and take, little by little. I confess, I get so caught up in the schedules and activities and THINGS that I find myself tuning them out or brushing them off. So God has brought it to my mind tonight. If I'm not willing to listen to them when it doesn't seem very important, will they be talking when it is?

Oh, Lord, that you have given me this great responsibility is humbling and terrifying. Help me in every step of this journey. Remind me to listen, to ask questions, and to truly take part in my children's little lives, so that when the hard times come, they turn to You first and Kelly and me second. Help us in the bullying situation, and soften the little boy's heart who is acting out right now. Be with the one whose heart was so hurt today. Help my little man continue to be friends with all involved while standing firm in the convictions You've given him. Use him, Lord, for Your glory. Amen.