reflections on our first week of learning

My hope is to take time each weekend to reflect and write about the week of learning; to stop and consider moments that might otherwise get missed. To provide myself with a map of where we have walked, climbed, sat and rest, splashed in streams of unfettered joy or much needed grace and mercy. To remind myself of the wonder of all that God has placed within our family, to see our children anew. And I write publicly because I believe it takes a village to raise a child and many of the villagers in our family’s life are scattered across the four corners of the world and I seek their wisdom and insight and voice in this journey, so please speak up our children need your voices too.

I love order, I love lists, I love new folders and pencils and sheets of paper waiting for all that creative potential. I crave plans, established consistent routines. Grace is unatural to me, set ways is the air I breathe. This might be one reason we are on this path; yes I can give a number of reasons why we have chosen to home educate our children; but they are not the only ones on the path and so along with them I am learning, being stretched, having my eyes opened and at the end of the week I think I am willing to say that is a good thing.

We have not reached the place my timetable had us by Friday, the laundry pile had become not just a mountain but an entire moutnain range. Though to be fair I suspect a small person who loves ‘hanging up clothes’ thanks to a Maisy mouse episode may have something to do with the number of clothes that keep finding themselves in the laundry basket. My menu plan has not run smoothly from one night to the next due to the fact that some days seemed to miss out entire nights of sleep and so freezer meals were essential. We have navigated the tail end of the two younger ones with colds and teething only for the eldest to go down with a cold and unless you have seen Bob with a cold this is no small matter. For Bob a cold means major sinus issues (too young for any medication), eyes that will only half open and the heaviest congestion I have come across. As he put it himself this morning when asked how he was doing his response was ‘I feel like a melting iceberg’.

But saying all of that we have covered maths, history, writing, spelling, grammar, reading. And we had a fantastic day with our home ed families together day on Tuesday, enjoying cave painting, music with lots of animal songs and a great time in the park. Taking Kanga in the sling and leaving the stroller at home and also wearing my new welIMAG0281homeschool pitville park sept 2014lingtons freed me up to wander off the beaten path and paddle in the stream. I was free to enjoy myself and have fun with our boys. It was a moment of grace that I was not anticpating but it meant I enjoyed an afternoon of pure small boy delight and see the park through their eyes. And Kanga was far happier too. I have learnt to teach subjects standing up, curled up on the sofa, to do jigsaws with my hands while teaching another subject in order to keep two boys going. I have learnt to let Bob take his worksheets to his new (to him) old fashioned school desk to do independent work and learn how to use his time. I am learning to get my head around all sorts of Egyptian names as we study Ancient Egypt. That in particular has been humbling to me as I long to see the light come on for Bob and his reading and there I am with all my dyslexic ways of seeing the world of print wrestle with names that make no sense to my understanding of sounds and want to just skip over them but cannot as I am reading aloud.

Humility has been my word for this week as I see Bob’s wrestle with flexibility when I suggest doing something differently or trying something new because i can see that that might help him, knowing full well that such a suggestion made to me would be met with absolute resilance with all of my inner most being. I have been reminded that the blessing of home education means you can adapt and tailor lessons to the individual child even when it means letting go of the plan I had made for DSCN1705how the lesson would be best learnt. I have rejoiced when Bob embraced the cave painting project for normally he is a boy who is hesitant with colour and paper and tends to do monotone minute pictures in one corner of the page but with this he filled the entire sheet.

I have been humbled by the deep sense of justice and injustice Bob sees in the world and how quick he is to spot it and that God has called us to parent him in that path. He keenly feels injustices beyond him, as well as his own, and that challenges me because while I can see injustices I only feel my own. He reacts deeply and intensely and I need to take a deep breath and consider when he is frustrated where the injustice he feels lies, and sadly too many times it is my own short fuse or ability to change the boundaries on them over often small inconsequential things but things that matter all the same.

It has not been the week my timetable and planner had but it has been a good week for which I am very thankful for and one day that timetable and planner will take their rightful place in my life as a means of grace rather than a rule to live by.

 

(group photo taken by Bethan)

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Thanks to a link to The Imagination Tree http://www.theimaginationtree.com/ and some other ideas we adapted to what we had we have been discovering some fun actitvities to keep small hands busy and distract ourselves from colds and waiting. I had the photos in order but the computer seems to have rearranged them so in no particular order:

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Sleeping soundly

The past two nights have been a whole new experience for us. Our eldest has slept soundly, peacefully and deeply for the time properly since he got his first cold aged 9 months. Each year tonsilitis has taken a greater toil on our boy and his life. This year has been the hardest with constant trips to the family doctor to be told he has congestion or a virus. To be honest sometimes I have not taken him because I could not face being told its just the virus, there is something going round.  Along with the tonsilitis has been the sleep apnea which has steadily worsened leading to night terrors and to a delay in him being able to stay dry at night. Many have offered all sorts of sleep advice to get a full nights sleep. While thankful that folk have cared enough for us to want to see us get sleep, our eldest has never intentionally sought to disturb our sleep. He did not need to be disciplined to go to sleep. Lying down was simply uncomfortable and he was aware even if he could not express it that lying down made breathing harder and therefore swtiching off to sleep was not pleasant. The truth often is that he does not wake during the episodes of sleep apnea or night terrors but we cannot help but be aware of them. They leave us tired, they also leave him tired as he is not properly rested. This impacts his days greatly as he does not have the energy to cope with a full day. Preschool was too much stimulation for a boy who was exhausted. And this tiredness during the day is one of a number of reasons we are choosing to homeschool right now as we were disuaded from letting him go part time. We were told to let him try full time because all children find the full day tired and if he really could not cope to go back to part time till he was 5. We knew his exhaustion was more than normal and it felt like a step back to start full time and then go part time rather than begin with part time and allow him to build it up as and when he was ready.

Eventually having done our own research and discovered the link with large tonsils causing sleep apnea and that in turn leading to night terrors, which I would wish on no parent, which caused adrenaline rushes impacting his ability to stay dry at night, which he hated, and the encouragement of our midwife and a friend who is an anesthetist, I went back to the surgery to ask politely/demand an appointment with an ENT specialist. At last consent was given, this was not the first time I had questioned whether he should be referred, and two weeks ago we saw the specialist who having taken one look at the boy’s tonsils turned to me and said that they would be coming out. Two weeks later, just this past Wednesday eldest and I went to the our local Children’s Centre for him to have them out. We stayed over night as they wanted to ensure all was well with his breathing levels. Surgery went smoothly and for the first time I could not hear my son breathing, for which I must confess gave me a few heart stopping moments as he was so still and peaceful, it was almost like having a new born and constantly checking they are still breathing. Last night at home Mark and I just sat in our room soaking up the silence in our house while both boys slept silently. A novel experience.

I appreciate that GP surgeries are filled with little children with colds all winter but my plea is for them to ask three questions re their sleeping pattern and to look at their history. Our doctor in Vancouver always got a throat swab and always ended up needing to give him antibiotics due to the results. Neither he or I liked giving them but the boy needed them and he had periods in between when he got better. Here more often than not his throat was rarely looked at even if that was what we raised with them, never was he given a swab. More often than not were we told it was a virus and but if I came back within a fortnight I might get antibiotics depending on which doctor I saw. The surgeon’s words to me were that they were ‘massive’ and that there was only one place suitable for tonsils that size and that was out. He also commented on how scarred they were with the likely impact being that they could not do their job anyhow of stopping infection.

So now we are journeying through the so called two weeks of rest and recuperation. The boy is bouncing off the walls, adjusting to having had a night’s proper sleep, anaesthetic come down, pain killers and erratic eating. We are adjusting to quiet nights, a boy whose speech is so clear and somewhat higher than before and working out how to get him to rest. Thankful for the lend of a Tractor Ted DVD one of his homeschool buddies lent him. And thankful today for Grandparents here to feed us and play with the boys giving me time to catch up on rest, sleeping on an armchair on a busy ward is not really sleeping, and letting Mark and I have some time to ourselves to touch base and debrief all that has happened this week.

Looking forward to his check up in 4 weeks to know that we can put this season of life behind us and move forward with energy and sleep filled nights.

A new adventure

A couple of weeks ago we decided to make the jump and start homeschooling. We know lots of families from our Regent days that are on this journey and are thriving in the midst of all that it brings as a family. And we know a few families here that have also taken that step.

Mention the word homeschooling and you usually get the raised eyebrows of suspicion, the questioning and the doubts, from are your crazy to is it even legal. To the question of legality yes it is legal to homeschool. And to the question of being crazy well I suspect the answer to that is yes too, but not just because we are choosing to homeschool. There is a cost in time, resources, effort but there are also great rewards. It is not an opt out option. It is very much an opt in with hands, feet, brain, energy, time and resources. It requires a level of discipline to ensure that everyone shows up and that work happens. But it gives freedom for the class to be at the dining room table, the kitchen or the sofa. It gives freedom to work through bumps because there is no bell about to ring for break or hometime. it allows for nap times in the middle of the day, it allows for outdoor play because the sun has finally shown up 10 minutes into counting and you know its due to rain again later so you get ouside quickly, the numbers will still be there. It means that when some aspect of behaviour needs some intentional focused time that can be given as you know you can make up time for ABCs etc later on. You can go places when they are quieter, you can go on holiday as a family when it suits you as a family. Learning happens together.

And for us it has reduced lots of stress. It has allowed for trust to start being rebuilt after little people’s worlds were turned upside down. It has fostered happier, more responsive interactive relationships. And at the end of the day like tonight it is a joy when a concept that has been floating just out of reach is suddenly grasped and correctly applied beyond what you had been teaching.

For our family this jump has been the right one for the time being and for now we are loving it even if I will never want to see contact paper again.

Thanks to http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/ for the resources.

Sir Learnalot and Sir Tagalong go to school

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Moving from Ordinary Time to Advent

Its been a while since I have written a family update. I have sat down a few times to start writing but each time I sit down at the computer the blank screen wins the battle and I walk away again. Ordinary time very much felt like ordinary time with little to write about and even less to read about. Time and energy is absorbed by two little boys, meals, laundry, duplo, sleepless nights, drs appointments, hoovering, reading, changing nappies, preschool, meals, laundry….. Even now in the season of Advent words seem to be on strike. Its been hard to see God at work, even harder to make the effort to look and see what He is doing. Being thankful for the little things has taken any final energy and is quickly run over by worn out selfishness, self doubt and the reality that my heart is no different to that of my three year old. Though I have learnt how to white wash and make accpetable my reactions at least to the outside world if not to my immediate family. Ordinary time has felt empty and insignificant, no sign of the gospel joy I am supposed to have. Its been like wading through mud, one step at a time going nowhere fast, if anywhere at all.

This week saw the start of Advent. We have laid ordinary time aside and the house is being decorated. The old old story of good news is told and retold and retold. Glitter and glue are found in all sorts of places giving the whole house a shimmery glow. Time and energy is still absorbed by two little boys, meals, laundry, duplo, drs appointments, hoovering, reading, changing nappies, preschool, meals, laundry…..but there is something else. Each time I hoover the floor and it sparkles back at me gold, silver, red and green I am reminded of the joy of a small boy sitting at the table making decorations to celebrate Jesus, ‘the one who is taking His time to take us all to God’s house because He only has two hands and so can only take us 2 at a time and who is the only true light of the world as He is the only light with legs and candles cannot walk around and fill the world with light.’ This Advent I am reading God’s word but I am also soaking in my 3 year old’s understanding and excitement of Jesus and letting him teach me about Advent and waiting for the Kingdom come.

And for anyone west of us who celebrates St Nicholas’ Day he may be late, as he has been invited to join us for a pancake breakfast in the morning.

Heroic servanthood…

Tomorrow is Jonathan’s first birthday.  We’ve just had a fun weekend of birthday celebrations with family.  When we were thinking of names we were both keen on Jonathan.  It is has a good meaning (Yahweh gave) and also a good biblical association.

As a child I grew up enjoying reading the stories of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel, and admired in particular the selflessness of Jonathan being prepared to go against his father and make way for David.  At a slightly older stage I remember hearing a talk on 1 Samuel 14. This is the chapter in which we are introduced to Jonathan.

It’s worth reading the chapter and seeing the faith of Jonathan and his armour bearer as they single handedly take on the Philistines. 14:6 is the key verse:

Jonathan said to his young armor–bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

The most striking word in the entire sentence is “perhaps” – there is no guarantee that Yahweh will act, but Jonathan is going to be ready if he does choose to because nothing can hinder Yahweh from saving.  The results are spectacular as a massive defeat for the Philistines ensues.  It makes me wonder if the moment that cemented David and Jonathan’s friendship was this one as David approaches Goliath:

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

It does also make me wonder what Jonathan was doing when Goliath was challenging the Israelites. Perhaps he was ordered not to fight but Saul.  Perhaps he knew it was no longer his task. Either way it seems pretty likely that he recognised someone with the same heart for Yahweh.

It seems odd to us that such a man should die and not do the task to which he seemed so suited.  Dale Ralph Davis in his exposition of 1 Samuel (anyone reading or teaching the historical books of the OT should read his books to help) writes these words.  The final line is fitting prayer for our Jonathan, and for all of us in our lives:

“Any reader who really gets dirty in the ink of the text instinctively senses that Jonathan is royal material. What a splendid king he would make! But that is where the tragedy comes in: Jonathan will never get such an opportunity (1 Sam. 13:13-14)…

Jonathan is eminently suited for a kingship he can never have. Our questions fly thick and fast, all our “whys?” and “what ifs?”. Why could not Jonathan have been king instead of Saul? … Why did Jonathan have to be eliminated? Why must Jonathan’s opportunities be squelched by Saul’s choices? It is as if the text asks us: What do you suppose God is doing? Why does he work this way? Why are we meeting Yahweh’s “unsuccessful ways” again? Why this waste?

Such questions are normal. They are also revealing. They reveal us 20th-21st century citizens of the western culture we have imbibed. In our minds self fulfillment is a right. If we’ve ingenuity and discipline our efforts should be crowned with success. Should we be of a religious bent we happily acknowledge that “God and/or Jesus” assists us in our quest. One can always use such help.

But Jonathan seems to know better. The kingdom was not Saul’s or Jonathan’s; it was Yahweh’s kingdom.
For Jonathan, then, the kingdom was not his to seize, not his to rule, but his to serve. …
Maybe a tragic life isn’t tragic if it’s lived in fidelity to what Christ asks of us in the circumstances he gives us.