Tuesday, August 30, 2011

LEGO School: Working Together

This year of schooling is so different for me for several reasons. For any of you who know me personally, you know I am NOT a planner - AT ALL!! I don't keep a schedule, I never EVER keep records of ANYTHING, and I have no idea what we are doing from one day to the next. I know some of you are picking your jaw up off the ground at this point, but to be perfectly honest, it has worked beautifully for me for years!! We are prime examples of unschooling and I LOVE it!! But this year, I have decided to actually lay down a plan (GASP!) and attempt to accomplish more than we have in the past. Hey, even I can admit when something isn't working anymore and when I need to go at it from a different angle - even if it does make me start to hyperventilate just thinking about it. And so far (surprise, surprise!!), my days have gone a bit smoother and a little less stressed because of all the work I put into planning over the summer. (Of course, I am still a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl, and that daily schedule could still be scrapped at any given moment if something else came up!)

The other thing different in this year is that I attempted to set an overall theme for each of my kids' schooling. That way, I can look at every activity we are doing and see if it lines up with our theme or if it can be related back to that theme. And if it doesn't, I can seriously look at whatever it is and decide if I want to include it this year or wait for another year. There are so many great ideas out there, there is no way I can do them all! So this was a way, at least in my mind, to narrow down my list of things that I would take on my plate for each of my kids.

Britches' theme this year is "Books Can Take You Anywhere." This girl is definitely my reader, and if I don't watch her, she will curl up on the couch and sit quietly reading ALL DAY! She prefers a book to TV or video games, which I think is fantastic! So I told her that, this year, I want her to start focusing her book choices on topics that tell about a famous person, a historical fiction, maybe a famous scientist, or some geographic location. Oh I'm not completely choosing all of her books for her, but I wanted her to start including some of the "better" choices of books out there. I am ready for her to start picking something besides the "How to Make Crafts" books she usually gets. Besides, she already knows them all by heart. Time to move on!

Little Man is NOT a lover of books AT ALL, and I am hard pressed to get him to read anything more than his comic books or the instructions for his newest Wii game or other video game. To find him picking a book to read just for pleasure, well, that just doesn't happen. He is my hands-on learner, and as long as his hands are moving, his brain is working. So his theme for this year is "LEGO's". When I told him that, he was THRILLED! Especially since that is one of his most favorite things in the whole world! And when I went online to see what things could be taught using LEGO's, I was THRILLED to see that you can teach basically ANYTHING!!

Today's LEGO assignment was all about cooperation. Their challenge was to work together to build a library. But the rules were that each one had to place one brick on the base plate at a time, alternating turns. And the big thing was, they couldn't talk to each other! So they were to build a library one brick at a time, not knowing where the other person would put the next brick, not being able to communicate to decide on how it was to be built, and simply work together to get it finished. I told them that it must have a desk for the lady to check out the books, a children's room, a room for videos, and an adult section. This is what they came up with.

Here are my 2 architects with their finished library.

Front view of the library.

And the rear view of the library.

The checkout desk.

Two guys researching and finding books on the computers.

This kid is sitting in the children's room watching a DVD on the television, and the books and DVD's are all shelved under the T.V.

This man is taking a book from the shelf.

This lady is sitting in the adult section on a couch with a lamp and the bookshelves to the side of her. Little Man was telling me about her, and I said, "She's a knight." "Actually, mama, she's a space police, but whatever." ~Oh excuse me. My mistake!

When they showed me their finished project, I was very impressed. I told them, "See, I told you it wouldn't be as hard as you thought with not being able to talk to each other." They both smiled and told me, "Well, we were using our hands to talk." Little stinkers! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Social Networking

I have been on Facebook for about two years now, and I have to say, it has been a life saver where mommy social interaction is concerned. Everyone always says they think homeschoolers aren't socialized, but I would offer to you that MOMMY'S don't have enough socialization!! I joined Facebook at a time in my life when I needed to hear during the day from other mom's who were in the same stage of life and situations as I. I needed a support group to call on when I was having "one of those days" with my kids. And boy did I get it! I have loved every minute of connecting with my friends and getting more deeply in touch with them, their kids, and their lives. Only problem is, Facebook is very addicting.

Nearly two years ago, I gave up drinking coffee, because it had become an addiction in my life. I prayed for a long time over that one, and I finally realized that I didn't want anything controlling my life in that way except God Almighty. (Yes, coffee addictions CAN and DO control your life! But that's for another day and another story...) But the more I have thought and prayed over this, I realize that I have let another addiction creep into my life. Social networking has become such an idol in my life that I can't seem to get anything done in my day with out thinking about and wondering about what everyone is doing in THEIR homes! It has become such an addiction that I am not only checking it to see what help, support, and advice other mom's can give me, but I am now just sitting starting at a screen waiting to see what everyone is going to post that they are up to in their day. It has taken first place in my life where GOD should have been!

This has become such a problem that I can't even seem to sit down to a meal with my kids and focus on THEM without just itching to go see what everyone has posted. Every time I walk past my computer, I click on the "refresh" button to see if there is anything new. I find school related "reasons" to head to my computer all throughout the day so I can check if anything new is happening. And at night, when I SHOULD be spending some quality time with my hubby, I find myself distracted and heading often to my computer to see everyone's day coming to an end. I am spending more time with my FRIENDS than I am with my FAMILY! It is RIDICULOUS!

I continue to wonder why it is that I can't seem to accomplish all the things that I want to do because of lack of time. When I sit down and really look at it, though, it isn't a lack of time but a misuse of time. I haven't taken time to blog or write any articles to send in for magazines. My house is NEVER clean! My kids don't get the benefit of my time undivided and given to them. I am always telling them, "Just a minute. I have to finish reading this." Meals are rarely together on time, because I'm usually in a mad rush at the end of the day just to decide what we will have. I have just been a bad steward of the time that God has given me, plain and simple.

The Bible says not to make any idol for yourselves. Idols come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. They can be in the form of TV, food, exercise, or even in the shape of Facebook. How many idols are in your life? How many things are you giving your time to? What things in your life and family are suffering because of your idol worship? And a bigger question: Are you going to keep those idols?

As for me, I am taking a weekend break from social networking. I need some time to refocus my priorities, putting God at the very top of my list and my husband and children right after Him. I seriously need to find balance in my life right now, and getting rid of idols and addictions is at the top of my "to-do" list to make that happen! I don't want to ever let any THING in this life control me, what I do, what I think, and how I act, except for my God and Savior! He is the ONLY ONE I want to have in control of me. How about you??

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Science with the Little Ones

Well, school is officially underway at our house. We started on Monday, and have had two very successful first days! It feels kind of odd, really, because I'm doing things a bit differently this year, and I'm still trying to get used to it. But so far, I think I like it.

For starters, we NEVER start school this early. Mostly my reasoning for this is just to prove the point that we don't have to follow the same schedule as the public school system. Generally, I don't start back until the first part of September. But this year, we will be heading to the beach for a few days right after Labor Day, so that was going to cut into some of my start up time. I decided to just get a jump on things and get in a few weeks of work before we go. Then I won't feel guilty about skipping town for a few days. I have wanted to take my kids to the beach for a few years now, and it looks like this is FINALLY the year it will happen. I envision spending some lazy time on the beach picking up seashells, building sand castles, playing in the salty ocean water, and reading Night of the Moonjellies to my kids on the beach one night as the tide comes in. We shall see if that all plays out as well in real life as it does in my head.

The other thing that is different is the fact that I actually planned quite a bit of our school ahead of time for this year. I have NEVER done this in the past. I always just plan as we go, and for years, this way has worked beautifully. But I am finding out that, the more kids you have, the more organized and planned out you need to be. So I spent TONS of time over the last month planning out different things, so that our year would go much more smoothly. And so far, even though it feels different and a little weird, I think I like it. I can see in just these last two days how all that hard work planning has saved me time and frustration in our school work.

I just had to share with you some of the school that Little Sister and I did today.

At the end of last year's co-op, she came home with a little Styrofoam cup filled with dirt and two sunflower seeds planted in it. Honestly, I didn't really expect it to grow. I was really shocked when both plants came up and actually lived! So when they got big enough, we took them outside to our garden and planted them. One died pretty quickly, but the other kept growing and growing, and eventually had a beautiful sunflower on display! Little Sister was THRILLED to see her flower in full bloom. However, in the Deep South this year we have had scorching temperatures, so her beautiful flower didn't last nearly as long as we would have liked. It was just too hot. So for the last month or two, I have had a dead sunflower out in my garden, right next to all the other dead things that the heat had killed.

Today, while I was outside cleaning out a small portion of the mess of a garden I have, I came across her dead flower. I was about to just yank it up to throw it out, but I realized that, even though it didn't last long as a flower, it had still made seeds! Britches snipped the head off and took it inside for me. I told Little Sister that she and I were going to examine it later after she woke up from her nap. (That was partly just a ploy to talk her into laying down for awhile, since she now thinks that, since she's five, she's too old for a nap!)

This afternoon when she woke up, Little Sister came and asked me if it was time to examine her flower. So we sat down at the table, and I showed her how, even though it was dead, God had made so many more seeds in it that we could plant and grow more flowers! She was so excited as she picked all the seeds out of the head. We looked at them and talked about how many there were. And I showed her which ones were developed enough to actually grow a new plant and which ones weren't. And then I gave her a bag to put her seeds in, so we could put them with all my other seeds for when it got time to plant again next spring. And then I was done. I headed off to fix supper.

She finally asked me, "Mama, I thought we were going to examine my flower." I looked at her and said, "Ummm, we did examine your flower. That's what we just did at the table." "No, we're supposed to use that thing to look at it really close." "You mean the microscope?" "YEAH!! That's it! We need to look at it under the microscope!"

Oh my goodness, I hadn't even given a thought to pulling down the microscope for my five year old! Never crossed my mind. But to her, she knew that examining something was way more than just looking at and counting some seeds. You had to use the microscope! So I pulled it down, and we started examining. We looked at the dirt and the dead leaves and the dead whatever the other stuff was, and she was having a blast. And while we were looking, Baby Girl came in and asked if she could "help, too". So the three of us did some really cool science today, and that wasn't even on my "schedule."

Sometimes the most fun and most educational things come when you aren't really "planning" for them. I am so thankful that our homeschool is so flexible, and that my kids are allowed to have that natural curiosity that wants to know about things.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fear or Faith? You decide...

How many times do we live in fear? Fear of what may happen? Fear of what has happened? Fear of things you can just imagine happening? So often, we let fear creep in an overtake us. We live in a constant state of dread with a black cloud hanging right over our heads and enveloping us to the point we cannot see straight.

The problem with this is that, when we live wrapped up in our fears, we are of no use to God Almighty. We are so busy fearing things, we can't be effective in the work He has for us. The bible says, "For God did NOT give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)


The thing about fear and faith is this. Fear says there are too many bad things going on or that could go on that you just can't deal with. Faith doesn't eliminate fear. There are still REAL fears out there! My husband has a legitimate fear of always having a job that pays well and offers good insurance. With a son who has diabetes and requires insulin to LIVE, insurance is a must. We simply couldn't afford it without insurance. But faith says that, no matter how big the fear, my God is BIGGER than that fear and He's got this! And faith says that, even if the worst happens in any situation, God is STILL IN CONTROL and has a PLAN for whatever comes our way! It's OK to have fear. The problem comes when we try to hang on to that fear and we let it overtake us. It takes faith to hand it over to an Almighty, Able, Capable God and allow Him to work in whatever way He chooses, believing He is still God and still knows best. It's hard to have faith when we know we might get hurt. But God will ALWAYS catch you! He will let you crawl right up into His lap and cry on His shoulder. And He will NEVER let you fall.

What fears are you holding onto today? What things do you need to give to God in faith, believing He can handle anything that we give Him? When you give your fears over to God and allow Him to work out those fears in His way, He will begin to open doors for you to join Him in His work, and He will show you things you can't even begin to imagine!

"Now all glory to God, who is ABLE, through His MIGHTY POWER at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


So it's been nearly two months since I last posted something on my blog. I know some of you are thinking I have gone AWOL, when, in fact... OK, yeah, I guess maybe I have gone AWOL. But I have good reasons! There have been kids to play with, camps to attend, vacations to plan, children's church to teach, and a plethora of other "things" going on, too numerous to mention.

During the month of July, Brient and I went to 4th and 5th grade camp where I taught Bible lessons three times each day and then led praise and worship each night. It was an AMAZING week of sharing God's love with some great kids! And then at the end of July, we went back to camp meeting to teach the children's program at night for all the kids who were there. It was so much FUN!! But by the time all the planning and all the doing was done, I was POOPED!! Stick-a-fork-in-me kinda done!

Also during the summer, I have been working on a game plan for our beach vacation!! We are going in September, and I couldn't be more excited! My mom is going with us, and we are THRILLED! The kids have wanted to see the REAL beach, because they tell me that the man-made beach at the lake is not the real thing. Agreed. So I want to take them to see the real waves and smell the real salty air and swim in the real ocean! OK, well, we're really going to the Gulf, but who's keeping track anyway, really?

And I have spent many, MANY hours working on my plan for our homeschooling this year. Usually, I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl, but last year, that just didn't work so well for me. I felt like I was always frazzled and in a panic and rush. So this year, I am going out of my norm and actually - GASP - planning. YIKES! Can't believe I even said the word! Usually, the mere thought of planning our school year makes my heart start racing and my blood pressure go up. But I have been praying over this and reminding myself that God is a God of order and I am created in His image. Still praying over all of it. It's a work in progress.

We are also participating in our homeschool co-op again this year. I offered to teach the same 2 American Girl classes I taught last year, which means I have been spending a fair amount of time planning what we will do in each of those classes. Those are still coming together. In truth, those classes have been at the BOTTOM of my list of things to plan. But I am determined to have at least the first entire semester planned before we start. By the end of last year, I was pulling things together for my class the night before co-op, and THAT was stressful! I REALLY want to avoid that again this year, so I am still working on our lessons.

So my entire summer has been spent planning - planning for church, planning for 2 camps, planning vacation, planning for co-op, and planning our next school year. Quite frankly, I am SICK of planning, and I'm just ready to be DONE! I am ready to just get on with everything already!! But because of how wrapped up my brain has been, I have been totally UNinspired to write ANYTHING for my blog this summer. UGH! Hopefully more great things to come soon... (when I finish all this planning!)

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess