Not really a PhD update, but kind of…

Hitting the wall – it’s how distance runners talk about that part of the race where you feel you just can’t run any further. When the body is screaming, and every fibre of your being wants to give up. At least so I believe, but I’ve never run far enough to feel like that.
However on many levels life right now feels something like that. In terms of energy levels, in terms of sleep deprivation, in terms of work for PhD and in relation to figuring out what next. We’re coming to the end of the three year chunk of time we’ve devoted to getting PhD done, and on almost every level of life it feels like these last few months are just such hard work. With two out of three children not sleeping solidly through the night, each night is interrupted in one way or another, and when that is combined with number 2 having his tonsils out this week tiredness rockets. Job applications have been made, and we wait to hear. We try to live now, but the next steps take the energy.

So my plans to do a PhD update have never quite reached fruition. Every time I think about it, I think I could actually do some PhD work instead. Right now however my brain is not up to any actual work, but I need to process my thoughts somehow in this crazy time – so this is a kind of processing related to the process of a PhD.
The PhD is “nearly” there. All the blocks are waiting for the final assembly process, and some of the blocks need some reassembling. I’ve got an overall summary done, I know what the conclusions are I’m working towards. It does all make sense – but all the pieces need their final crafting, and some things need to be cut out. When my head is panicking it feels like I’m playing a game of Tetris with the pieces, at the point when the speed is advancing and the screen filling up fast – and that the pieces are starting to be those rather long awkward shaped ones and I don’t have the space to rotate them properly.
It seems to sum up the rest of life really. Just as we think we’ve got a space, a time to regroup, something altogether new and different falls from the sky, and we’re wondering how on earth this new piece is going to fit. In the midst of all this I’ve been reading Proverbs recently and as I reach chapter 9 I’ve been really struck by the call to search diligently for wisdom and insight. I’m also really struck by the way in which this wisdom and insight begin with the fear of the LORD, and the knowledge of the Holy One (9:10).

It is summed up in the familiar words of chapter 3:15 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart (intellect and emotions together in the Bible), and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” I do not have all the information I need to make sense of what God is doing and how he is doing it right now.

I’m in a similar place to our 3 year old. We took him to hospital yesterday morning – he was fine. Mysteriously he was then taken to a room, fell asleep with a mask on his face, woke up in a strange room and then woke up again in a bed. Now his throat feels like agony, and he’s distinctly groggy and whoozy. What has happened? We know he’s had his tonsils out and will feel better in a few days/a week or so, and that he won’t get tonsillitis again every month for the coming year. But he doesn’t know that right now. Right now it’s just a bit confusing and it hurts.

So with us. And so often in life this is how it is with God. We don’t have the information. We just have to trust – and keep moving forward. Right now it is really, really hard to do that. I was encouraged, and almost brought to tears singing these words recently in church:

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory (Aaron Keyes)

Vital words – and having been buried in Exodus 32-34 for a while reminding me of the vital realities, that above all else God is compassionate and kind. He is good. Most wonderful of all his glory is his goodness. He displays his glory to Moses by showing him his utter goodness. He displays his glory most fully to us by his body stretched out on a cross for us.

For now what we need is the wisdom to trust, and the strength to put our feet forward for another day. That is what we need this night, and that is what we need in the new day. Wisdom and strength that come from the God who holds us and loves us, even as he carries out his surgery on our lives.

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reflections on our home learning journey 33

Really, it is Friday again. Not sure where this week has gone. Lessons have happened thought it feels like a week of walking through treacle and that is not just the children. I think part of it is that I had anticipated this being recovery week for Zog as he was due to have his tonsils out but a bed shortage meant it is not till next week. Grandparents had been lined up to visit and we all decided just to keep those visits in place so that was fun.

Zog has started to insist on helping with the preparation of every meal which is lots of fun but also means one needs to allocate extra time and extra cheese and peppers to any meal as they get nibbled along the way. It is great to see his love of cooking emerging as we know Bob loves being in the kitchen. And then if Zog is in the kitchen Kanga needs to be to and no longer in a high chair off to the side but on a proper chair like her brother so cooking means a helper for both hands. It is also a telling sign of how Bob is growing as he now is basically able to stand at the counter and work without a chair to stand on.

Bob continues to walk around this life with a book in hand and is reading signs whenever we are out and about and comes out with comments that take you a minute to register that what he has asked or questioned is because he has just read something you never noticed before.

All the material I had ordered for next year has shown up which is exciting and it has been fun to browse through. Still need to get the science material though, Mark needs to steward a few more weddings and baptisms first. Having learnt the hard way this year that I am not a computer person and computers are not reliable and how little printing you get for a cartridge even if you do run it right down we have pushed the boat out and bought hard copies of the material so everything is to hand wherever we find ourselves.

It has been a very ordinary week, I have been able to tick things of my redundant list, it has been very low key. There has been lots of play in the garden and Bob has got in some good cycle rides. It has been life and I am thank for it.

reflections from our home learning week 32

Some weeks just do not go as planned – this week’s interruptions to normal schedule were me being hit hard by a cold and Zog falling and giving his knees a new look and shape (thankfully just soft tissue swelling). A day in bed to rest allowed me to get a head start on next years planning and buying books which I always enjoy. We have also jumped on Bob’s passion for being out in the garden and tidied up the flower tubs and planted sunflower seeds and today the boys planted up hanging baskets with Nana. Bob has also been enjoying watching gardening programmes this week which has been a blessing as I have kept the makers of tissues in business. He is also somewhat overtired and frustrated having tried on numerous evenings to stay up late enough to see Venus having watched a programme on it but as it is not dark till late he is falling asleep without seeing it but later than normal.

Photos have captured my reflections this week in contrast to the lack of photos the past few weeks. They include the garden and nature walk. The final one with framed photos is the result of Bob’s wildlife photography lesson a few weeks back.

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reflections on our home learning 31

This has been a week where writing has brought an unexpected joy to my soul. Thursday Bob was sitting down writing a list of words which to be honest when he said he was doing it I paid little attention. I was assuming it was his usual style of writing, lots of many wavy lines with no actual sign of any letter formation. As I passed him by on my way upstairs I noticed that he was actually writing a list of words he knew how to spell, a skill I was unaware he had. He then followed me upstairs and sat on our bed while I hung the laundry and announced ‘I am Homer, no actually I am more likely one of the many Greek scribes Homer had to write the Greek myths and I am writing my first one.’ And proceeded to write his first Greek myth involving Odysseus who was washing, Ajax who was eating a ham sandwich and Achilles who was watching TV. It may not be an epic Greek myth that will last the test of time but it has made this heart of mine soar. Only the day before I had been mentioning to my Dad that writing was just not happening at the moment and he said it will come in time, little was I expecting it to come the next day in such style. My second moment of joy with writing this week then came this evening with Zog. Zog is also left-handed and has always held his pencils incorrectly and has refused any hint of correction while he draws endless pictures. This afternoon while Bob was at Forest School he found in the school shelf a folder of traceable letters and sat down and worked his way through all of them on his own asking me to identify each letter and then name a word that starts with it. The highlight though was when I noticed that he was holding the pen correctly while doing it. In his own time and space he has worked it out for himself. I am a strong believer in not pushing learning early hence why we will not start letter of the week material till September just before he turns 4 but am happy to let them explore and learn at their pace too so do not stop projects any of them take on.
Earlier today I read an article about ‘doing nothing’ with our children and the benefits that come from actually giving them the space to be bored so that they have to be creative. For us that has been easily done with little income or car and living in a village and with three little ones. There are days when it is hard but that is usually when I have to respond to the question ‘what do I do all day? That reminder fitted in well this week for me with a meeting I was part of on Wednesday and we talked about the importance of our lives flowing from a place of being rather than doing. I hope somewhere along the line in the way we are chosing to life we are establishing that idea in our children now that will stand then in good stead in later life. That they will define their lives and choices out of a place of being and my prayer is that it will be a place of being in God rather than self-identity with what they can achieve and do.

It is easy to think I should be filling their days with more structure and external activities but two days a week is plenty and I believe that one of the benefits to flow from this space of being is Bob’s love of words and reading. This morning for an hour he and Zog had created a hut for themselves where Bob read and read and read to Zog, so I have to remember that while I may not get to read as much to Zog or Kanga as we did with Bob, Zog is not missing out because alongside our reading Bob is also reading and in mastering books he is more than happy to re read books time and again which is just what Zog loves as with any 3-year-old but can drive parents crazy.

if you were to ask the boys their highlight of this week was an outing to Birdworld with grandparents and cousins as I had to travel across to Fleet for a meeting. So Mark took the children to meet up with the rest of the family and despite the less than friendly weather the boys had a great time. They were then delighted when a package arrived from the RSPB today of lots of posters about different types of birds so they were busy spending time identifying which birds they saw at Birdworld, in the garden and at the park.

This has been an encouraging week for me as I have been reminded in reading and watching the boys that if we give them space they learn and work things out for themselves. It is often the fear of new homeschoolers will their children really learn to read and write etc and our fears are met with reassurances from veteran homeschooling parents that yes they will learn and they will be able to read and write but the doubt lingers till you see your first child do it. This is one of those weeks for me when I can start to believe that they were right and build the confidence to ensure that what I need to do is to teach them, provide them with opportunity, give them space and then trust them to be busy learning all the time in all they do and let them work skills out for themselves.

reflections on our home learning 30

This has been a week that reminded me why we are doing learning this way and how much fun it can be and how some weeks do go really well. I still have some way to go on working out how to navigate lessons with Kanga as she is now mainly only having one nap after lunch. I am trying to tie that in with the boys quiet time so that I also get some rest time in the day as that makes a big difference to the way the afternoon goes. Her lessons this week have had a numerical theme to them with counting to 60 (that is listening to me count) numerous times on the stairs for certain actions of hers, mainly toward to her younger older brother.

Maths, reading, grammar, writing, history, science, French, out-door time, crafts, nature, forest school and conquering cycling have all had a look in this week and been encouraging times. It was great to see Bob decide to get his bike out this week after a break from it and just take off by himself and also be able to control it and stop when needed. His shoes may not last long with his style of stopping but to be fair to him that has more to do with the brakes needing sorting than his lack of use of them.

It has been great fun reading Greek Myths with him, reading a page each. The book we are reading at present is http://www.hive.co.uk/book/the-orchard-book-of-first-greek-myths/9631724/ with lovely illustrations. We are also reading a chapter books to him at bedtime though I suspect that he is carrying on reading after we have left as he often seems to know what is coming once we read the book the next day.  Bob’s love of history continues and all play takes on some form of the period of history we are in. We seem to have been in the Greeks for a long time but he is loving every minute of it. He has been after a Greek soldiers outfit for ages so we finally got to making one this week following his detailed plans based on the various books we have.

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Scribing maths and his science and history reports for him based on his narration has boosted his confidence and motivation to learn now that the pressure is off him for writing at the moment. As soon as any writing comes along then the attitude changes but I just need to remind myself that last week when he was so angry about the motorcyclist in the park he came home and wrote to the police so I know he can do it when he wants to and it is about something that matters to him. The outcome of that letter was a visit from the police last weekend with a letter for him thanking him for his letter and a goodie bag which in the moment saw Bob go very quiet but afterwards he stayed up needing to make his police lego van once they went. Of course the moment the police choose to visit was 15 mintues before Sabbath dinner was ready and as is want with young boys clothes were somewhat lacking by that point in the day and Zog and Kanga had entertained themselves quietly by finding all the shallots and onions and peeling them leaving a lovely floor covering.

It is also that time of year that I along with many other families are looking out for what books we will use next year which I always enjoy. Next year I Bob will do a mix of year 1 and 2 as alot of the material we use is from the States and so we have done a mix of levels for here and there. I will also do some more ‘structured’ activities with Zog using http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/letter-of-the-week which we also used with Bob and he loved. Zog has had access to the material this year and loves them but it has all been in a free style way and so I will look to be more intentional with activities with him. All in all we are still willing to keep going along this journey and seeing what opportunites come along next year wherever we may find ourselves calling home