Monday, August 29, 2011

Our Nature Journals

One of the skills that I enjoy teaching the most in our home is that of keeping a Nature Journal.
"What is a Nature Journal?"
  Ours is a simple notebook that all school age students keep in which there are drawings, observations, research notes, compositions, and essays on the natural world.
  The children have always loved this time in our school day,
and it is the most favored subject for show and tell when friends and family come over. 
I think that if we give our children the availability to discover things on their own,
 and dive into learning about them,
especially in nature, 
they will become people who love to learn.  
I also believe that the powers of observation should not be overlooked as a critical skill to attain.

Charlotte Mason states, "If we give our children regular opportunities to get in touch with God's creation, a habit is formed that will be a source of delight throughout their lives."

We do it like this:
 The first day of the week, we go on a hike or walk, lasting  no longer than one hour,
in which we observe a specific theme for the week, such as insects, or butterflies. 
Last week it was pond life.
  We have several ponds very close to our home, so this was an easy one.
Other subjects for this fall will be horses, fall, trees, and birds.
  Through the winter, we will borrow some documentaries from the library 
on sea life instead of a walk. 
This week we are learning about lightning,
because we had a huge lightning storm Sunday night and the children had questions about it,
so it seemed like a good idea.

The second day, we draw what we observed.  
This will last an hour, so the drawing is to be as detailed as they can possibly make it.
  They may use colored pencils if they want and have time. 
When we studied insects, every one caught their own bug and then drew it, labeling it as so forth.

The third day, we get out the reference books and take notes.
  I lead this on the white board, the children learn to take notes.

The fourth day, each student writes either an essay or a composition about the subject matter...
age appropriate.
  Handwriting and spelling, as well as grammar are all learned, checked, and corrected.
At times it may be appropriate to write a poem about the subject, 
which is a nice change from composition.

A Nature Journal  is very simple to me, very inexpensive.
We learn a great deal, while enjoying the process. 
I believe the main point is not necessarily how you do your home learning, or your nature journal,
but that you do, in fact, do it,
and that with joyful hearts,
pointing the student to the magnificent Maker of all Creation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The First day of School

Well, thank the Lord, I survived the first day of school,
even though I was without my ergo pack for Olivia, 
(it was left in the van, which went to work with daddy)
and I forgot to take the two year old to the toilet, and, well, anyway, it wasn't all perfect,
but I survived!  
Truth be told, this was nothing short of miraculous,
because after being so sick, I still do not have anywhere near my normal energy level.

I get asked all the time how we do school, so I thought this would be a good time
to tell how we do it.  I would venture to guess that no two home school environments 
are exactly alike, but it may give someone an idea or encouragement in some way.
  During school days, I get up at 7am, I am NOT a morning person,
so this is done through much prayer, which goes like this:
  "O Lord, HELP ME PLEASE!" 
Everyone still sleeping by 7:30 is roused, followed by breakfast at 8am.
  We use a dinner bell, because our home is so big and I do not have much of a voice after all the coughing I have been through. 
When the children hear the bell, which is an old time iron triangle,
they come running, wash up and sit at the table with hands in their lap.
  We are still having simple summer breakfasts of bread or granola, 
then we read a proverb from Kevin Swanson's Family Bible Study series. 
Then we take prayer requests and pray. 

Next, the children have chores, and I mind the two littlest ones. 
I have given us some free time here, before we begin school, 
so that I do not feel rushed; which is something that really stresses me out. 
At 9:30 I ring the bell again, and the three boys begin school with a nature journal.
  Bethany and Gabe play independently during this time,
and I either hold Olivia, put her in the ergo, or have her playing at my feet.

  I think I will write in detail about a Charlotte Mason Nature Journal in another post,
so I will skip it here.
  I have an hour charted for the Nature Journal,
which is science, hand writing, drawing, and composition all in one.
  At 10:30 we go to Math. 
I use Rod and Staff for grade school, and Teaching Textbooks for 7th on up. 
We have an hour for this too.  It allows me to wander around helping the boys,
then move on with Ben, who needs some one on one time with reading.  
By the time this is over, they are all ready to move, so I send them on various errands up the stairs, outside, or just have them do some exercises for a few minutes. 
Then we are back to do spelling before we break for lunch. 

By this time, Gabe was overdue for some help in the bathroom (oops) and Olivia needs the mama.  We work together to make sandwiches and lay out some fruit for lunch, 
 which we eat on paper plates. 
Now, I have always avoided paper plates, they are very unromantic, but, being  in need of shortcuts, they have become necessity. 
By now, the preschool crowd needs my attention, so we have some free time until around 2pm, 
when the littles all have naps.  
I am working on training Olivia to nap at this time too.  She is kinda spoiled from her illness,
so we have our work cut out for us. 
Next we practice music and read, taking turns on the piano.
And then, WE'RE DONE!!!
  Sort of, Brian and I decided to read History one evening a week after dinner,
and Literature one evening as a family, giving me time during the day 
to tend the little ones without a breakneck schedule.

 When Anna is around, she helps out with the little ones while I am working with the boys,
which is a tremendous help. 
Today, she did "school" with them, much to their delight.
In afternoon play, Bethany was teaching school to Gabe...
we found it very amusing...notice her letters are all perfectly backwards.  

Then Gabe got his turn with the white board and drew this dinosaur "all by myself."
I just love preschoolers.

It has been a wonderful, but completely exhausting week.
  I am hoping to sleep all weekend,
in hopes of regaining more of my usual get up and go. 

What ever happens, sleep or not, the Lord will be my strength. 
I am so thankful He is a great God, otherwise, I never would have managed this week at all.
His grace has been sufficient.  
His strength has lifted me when I am weak.
I could not possibly home school without  Him.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Prayers and Promises

"Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.
  Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children." Lamentations 2:19

The last few days, as I have felt myself once again, I have been spent getting the household straightened up in the deep recesses, re-organized, and begun planning the new school year.
  It is such a joy to be able keep house again. 
Then yesterday, my husband and I made a trip to town to get groceries.  
One of the things I love to do when in town, is stop at the thrift store and hunt.
First, though, we went to The Homeschool Book Shop and scored on the few things I need for this season.  With my books in hand I approached the counter...the sales clerk said,
"You have credit here, do you want to use it?" 
I felt like I had won the lottery. 
I had enough credit to pay for all the things I had in hand!!  It was so exciting. 

I just love stories of God providing for the people who love him and trust him 
with even the little things.
  I was swapping stories with a friend who was praying about furniture on Craigslist. 
Have you ever prayed about a nightstand? 
Life with God is amazing. 
Who knows what abundant blessings He has in store for you when you put Him first, like my friend, who met a special person after praying about a nightstand...
or like finding you have a balance of credit to pay for your purchases. 
I always pray about our needs on the trip to town.
  I have a written list of what is needed, and sometimes, a few items 
that I am hoping to find that would just be nice to have. 
Time and time again, I find the things on my list at phenomenal deals via a thrift store. 
The reality is that God loves his children, and He loves to gives His children Gifts,
I think to reveal that He delights in them and that He cares about the smallest details of our lives. 

Going to town is an all day trek, so we most often leave all the children home.
  By dinner time, I am missing them, wondering how their day has gone. 

We were sitting in Taco Bell when a family came in with a two year old boy 
with the cutest little glasses. 
He had that adorable 2 year old chub; dimples in his elbows and on his hands - round cheeks,
but he looked so grown up with his little glasses. 
I enjoyed watching him with his family.
  When we were ready to leave, I just had to let his parents know
what a precious little man they had there, and how much I enjoyed watching him during dinner. 
I was missing my own 2 year old boy.

  At the same time, I was praying for my oldest son,
who was called out  to fight a wildland fire in our area. 
I pray fervently for all our boys, young and old.
  Stormie Omartan has a book of prayers for boys that is beautifully full of promises and prayers.  Here is one that remains in my heart:

"Lord, thank you for my boy.  He is such a wonderful gift to me.  Help me to raise him well.  May the beauty of your spirit be so evident in me that I will be a godly role model for him.  Give me the communication, teaching, and nurturing skills that I must have.  Grow me into being the kind of parent You want me to be and teach me how to pray and truly intercede for his life.  I'm grateful that I don't have to rely on the world's unreliable and ever changing methods of child rearing, but hat I can have clear directions from your word and wisdom as I pray to you for guidance.  I rely on you for everything, and this day I trust my child to you and release him into your hands.  In Jesus name I ask that you will increase my faith for all things you have put on my heart to pray concerning my son." 

Something I learned during my illness is 
how important it is to communicate that you are praying for someone. 
I have a friend who, I think, does not have a clue how much I care for her and her children,
how many sleepness nights I have interceded for her wayward boys,
how many times I lifted them up to the Lord begging Him to tug their heartstrings. 
Why?  Because I have not been active in communicating to her that I am praying,
 I have not written or told her boys how I am praying. 
I found, when I was sick how very much those words mean,
how encouraging it is to know that someone cares and is praying.  
It is a very small thing indeed to drop someone a line these days, 
facebook and email make it the simplest of tasks, yet taking few minutes to do so may be a huge encouragement to the person you are praying for.

What about my own children?  Do they know that I pray for them each daily?
  Do they know how I pray for them? 
Sometimes, I find, that it is hardest to tell those that are closest to you how much you care.
  My heart is so full of concern for my family and friends, church people. 
But, Unless I actively, deliberately communicate it, 
they will never know.
Just like those folks in Taco Bell, I hope it was an encouragement to them to tell them my thoughts.  What parent does not like to hear that someone else sees value in their child?  
It only took 1 minute. 
I am resolved to share how I care with others.  What do I have to lose?
After all, I appreciate the little things God Himself does to show His care in my life.
I am learning to love more deeply.
It may be slow going, and it is probably something that I should have struck on long ago.
  I am humbled at the thought.
May the Lord have mercy and grant me time....
to amend the old ways as I seek to become more like Him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Whooping Cough and the Big Learning Curve

Thankfully, I am back in the land of the living.
  A complication of my pneumonia was coming down with Whopping Cough,
which made my illness much worse.
  Olivia also has it, and we are continuing care for her. 
There is no treatment for Pertussis. 
Studies have shown that complete rest will shorten the illness, but there is nothing to comfort the terrible racking cough that takes your breathe away. 
There is nothing to help lessen the coughing. 
A mother of 9 getting complete rest meant that I had to go to bed and stay there. 
By the time I was diagnosed, I was more than willing. 
My dear mother came to help hold down the fort, 
our daughter Anna was a huge help, and continues to be,
and my wonderful husband has put in more than his fair share of household help and child care.

  Hopefully you will never have to deal with Pertussis, but if you do, 
there maybe a few things that will help. 
Laying down seams to make the coughing more abundant. 
Therefore, with Olivia, I am sleeping sitting up, with her on my chest. 
This way she sleeps less fitfully and I can support her when she has a fit of coughing,
as well as make sure she can draw breath after the coughing fit, be there if she vomits (common with the coughing spells)or begins to seizure, and just be of comfort. 
Since I had it too, I was glad to sit up to sleep. 
At times, it has been extremely difficult to draw breath, in which case a dose of Epinephrin helped.  You can purchase it in Primatene Mist at Rite Aid or some such store, 
but only until December of this year, when it will become outlawed to sell over the counter.  
With a baby, dehydration is a key factor, so making sure Olivia stays hydrated can keep her from having to go to the hospital.  The other reason to hospitalize an infant is to be able to sedate them, 
in hopes of lessening the coughing fits. 
Although there is a vaccine for Pertussis, it wears off over time,
and may not be effective at all in some people.  Small babies are especially prone to catching pertussis if they are too young to have gotten the vaccine and all the boosters. 

If you have wondered what Whooping cough is,
you can go to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and listen to it. 
I thought that the cough made a specific sound, hence the name,
but now understand that the whoop is after the coughing fit, 
when you are trying to force air back into your lungs. 
It is rather terrifying, not being able to breath, or listening to someone trying desperately to draw breath without much success.

That, however, was not the big learning curve. 
The big lessons were on a spiritual  level. 
  With a long illness, it is pretty easy to become discouraged. 
I think this is probably totally normal. 
I was not content either.
Looking at it now, the two actually go together, first discontent with my circumstances, 
and then discouragement of the situation that I could not change.
-The house was not the way I keep it, 
-the children were not cared for the way I would do it, and so on...
and I had no choice but to relinquish control. 
OK, so I probably have a little control idol in my closet. 
And I probably did not think it was much of an issue, 
but God, I think with a bit of a smirk, let me know otherwise. 
Because He loves me, He saw this as the perfect opportunity for me to think about control...
what it looked like in my life....and since I had nothing better to do, 
I could have all the time in the world to deal with it.

So what I am learning on my convalesces is to be content with the day at hand. 
  I still am not totally well or functioning at my normal level,
and therefore I must fight against frustration and live in gentleness. 
My daily battle is to live quietly while I am still awaiting the ability to manage my household,
being grateful for all things, embracing the difficult and responding with grace.
This is tough stuff for me.  
I haven't done as well as I would have liked.
  Thankfully, God hasn't given up on me...He is still molding and shaping.
He still loves me even though I may resemble the tomatoes in our garden.  
They have gotten frosted three times this summer. 
They look bedraggled, wilted, and compeletly pathetic. 
I was so ashamed of them, that I was ready to toss them out,
when my husband pointed out that they do actually have tiny little tomatoes set on.
  Fruit, despite the trying conditions. 
Late for the season, yes, but we can nurture them along, hopefully as the fruit ripens.
That is me, late for the season, bedraggled, wilty.  Hopefully there will be fruit set on from this long ordeal that will grow and ripen one day to glorify my Heavenly Father.
Trials and difficulty are often for our good, for our growth and maturity.   
Where would we be if everything always came easily and pleasantly? 
We would be like a milk fed baby, not an enduring and fruit producing plant.

Whooping Cough was not the way I had envisioned my summer going.
But God has bigger and better things in mind than I do, 
and His ways are perfect.
These things I am trying to keep in focus as I wait until I am well, till the household is well.

I do want to thank each of you who sent notes and emails, who prayed for our means so very much to me, each word an encouragement to my soul in a needy time.

Today Olivia seems a bit better than yesterday,
so I hope and pray this is the beginning of her healing.
I will keep ya all posted.

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