Friday, October 29, 2010

Bird's-eye view

Last night Grant had a homework assignment to make a map of his room. The map needed to include such things as a compass rose, a title, a legend and so forth. As he drew his bed, dresser, window and such on the map I noticed that the scale of the bookshelf was really off. I tried to communicate this to Grant.

Me: Grant, your bookshelf looks very small in comparison to the other items in your room.

Grant: But, mom it's a bird's-eye view and the bird flew really, really high on this side of my room!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Field trip

Last week I was able to go with Bryce's kindergarten class on a field trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. We enjoyed a nice fall morning at the garden with lots of hands on learning for the kids.

Bryce and his friend Neil on the bus. It had been a very long time since I'd ridden on a school bus. I'd forgotten just how fun those bumps on the road can be!

The kids in my group holding up the bookmark they made by coloring with flower petals. This was Bryce's favorite part.

Our guide showing the kids a cotton plant.

Planting a flower in the garden.

Picking radishes from the vegetable garden.

It was a tremendously fun time! I enjoyed pointing out God's awesome design in all of the plants we learned about. The more I learn about nature the more I am amazed at just how creative God is!

College weekend

A few weeks back I was able to visit two Virginia colleges in two days! My first stop was James Madison University where I was able to visit my sister, Susannah, a freshman at JMU. I had so much fun getting a tour of campus, eating at a dining hall, and seeing Susie's room. It was a beautiful fall day and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon with my sister.

Here we are posing with "Duke"

The next stop was Virginia Tech. Brian and I took the older two boys to a football game. This was Bryce's first game and Grant's first in a really long time. They enjoyed the introduction to college football and the loud atmosphere in Lane Stadium. The Hokies pulled off a victory and we couldn't have asked for a better day!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Going Public

I am immensely grateful for the freedom of school choice allowed in this country and particularly in the state of Virginia. I believe parents should be able to decide what setting is best for their child's schooling. I myself experienced various school settings throughout my education (private, public, and home education). I in no way think that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to schooling. In our many upcoming years of parenting school age children there is a high probability that we will utilize more than one means of education. But, (at least for the time being) our two school age children attend public school.

I would be misleading to say that there aren't challenges for those willing to step into the public school arena, but our experience has been that there are also many blessings as we mingle with those in our community and seek to be a light in a dark world. There seems to be a short supply of resources written specifically on the issues facing Christian families involved in the public school system. However, I have just finished re-reading Going Public (your child can thrive in public school) and I can't say enough good things about this book. The authors, David and Kelli Pritchard, write about their experiences raising eight children and sending them all to public school. They have some truly insightful things to say about involvement in public school and some inspiring stories of how the Lord has used their family through the public school system. The book actually says very little about test scores, report cards, gifted programs, or advanced placement classes but rather focuses on character development and how to use the experience of public school to stretch and strengthen your child's spiritual development and maturity.

Going Public is applicable to parents with children in any school setting. The Pritchards describe some very practical ways that they as parents have instilled Biblical values in the minds and hearts of their children and utilized the issues facing their children at school to guide and direct them in character development. One of the chapters that was particularly poignant to me was about training children in self-control. I have included some excerpts from the book in italics.

For the past few decades, our society seems to have become less concerned about cultivating self-control in kids and more interested in building their self-esteem. If we could just make kids feel good about themselves, they would perform better...right? At least that has been the theory....

Certainly there is value in upholding the worth of every human being. We certainly want our children to know that God made them in His image, and that they are intrinsically valuable to Him as well as to us. We tell them these things often. But in a very real sense, self-esteem is a by-product of self-control.

Anybody can claim their child has self-control as long as the environment is perfect and everybody's having a good day. But no one's environment is always ideal. School is not always going to run smoothly. Then what?

What a challenge! After reading this together, Brian and I have been more purposeful in training the boys in self-control. At this point it may be just waiting patiently in line at the water fountain after recess, not retaliating when the bully on the bus antagonizes them, dealing kindly with a brother who is being annoying, or doing homework before dinner when they'd rather have some free time. All of these things and a myriad of other everyday experiences are training opportunities in self-control. With four other siblings, there is always a healthy amount of patience needed in our home, but the classroom setting requires an even greater amount of restraint and self-discipline. We (and our children) have a lot to learn! But as we strive to grow in our knowledge and love of God our hope is that our lives will be abundant in all of the fruits of the Spirit, including self-control.

Another section of the book deals with parent/teacher conferences. I look forward to these meetings with my son's teachers. I appreciate hearing an objective assessment of how they are doing academically and socially in their class. Taking some tips from the book, I went in (last night, actually) to meet with one of my son's teachers with a list of questions. After she relayed to me how Bryce is doing academically I was able to move the conversation in a new direction. I asked her questions such as: How is he doing with you? How does he respond to correction? How is his tone of voice when answering you? Is Bryce patient with his classmates? Is he encouraging to the other children? Is Bryce a leader in the class? These questions seemed to surprise her a little, but she was helpful in pointing out specific ways that Bryce excels and areas that he needs some coaching in. The areas of character, attitude, response to authority, compassion, leadership are the real agenda. It's always easier to discover shortcomings sooner rather than later.

The Pritchards had many, many insightful things to say in this book. These are just a couple of things that resonated with me. God directs parents in different ways and there are many, many wonderful methods of education. I applaud all those that are obedient to God's leading to a different path for the education of their child[ren]. Going Public is an excellent resource for Christian parents who chose to send their kids to public school (actually, it's great for all parents!). Sometimes it seems that, especially in Christian circles, the negative things about public school get aired the loudest. But don't lose heart, there are neat things happening in public schools and God is at work through Christians willing to participate in this sector of the community. Public education can be a positive experience for your child and for your family and provide opportunities to impact your community that otherwise would not be possible.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life's Little Lessons

The "hands on" learning that's gone on in our house this week:

1. Do not jump off the top bunk with your hands handcuffed behind your back.

2. Definitely do not try to swing as high as you can with your hands handcuffed behind your back.

Apple picking

This past weekend we were able to make our third annual trip to Carter Mountain Orchard to go apple picking. The boys had been looking forward with great anticipation to our trip and this year my brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Mandie, were able to join us. It was a beautiful fall day and we enjoyed picnicking at the top of the mountain and taking in the scenic views before harvesting apples. There was a huge turnout at the orchard, but thankfully there were plenty of apples to go around!

Mommy and Claire.

In the above photo you may notice that Woody (from Toy Story) came with us to the orchard. What's funny is that this toy originally belonged to Uncle Eric when the first Toy Story movie came out. It's now been passed down four times and is still a much-loved toy.

Eric climbing to reach the apples at the top.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Eric and Mandie (we couldn't find one of the tools to reach the apples up high).

Apple picking 2010

Besides munching on fresh-picked apples, we have enjoyed homemade apple pie and spicy apple cake. Yum!

It is so neat to witness God working even in the little things. As the apple pie baked I did my Bible reading for the day (I am reading through a plan set out as follow-up to the Radical study--prearranged, mind you), I came across this verse: "Make a tree good and it's fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and it's fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by it's fruit." Matthew 12:33 Wow! I was so excited at this "coincidence" and shared it with the boys later that evening. We were able to discuss as a family what it means to bear good fruit as we ate our apple pie.

That's not all! The next day I literally grabbed a handful of books from our church library in between services. I was just trying to pick up some easy reading material for the older two boys. Later that afternoon I was astounded when I realized that one of the books I grabbed, titled 3 in 1 (a picture of God), describes the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit) as being similar to the three parts of an apple (peel, flesh, core). Grant was able to read the book to me that afternoon!

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Thank you God for beautiful mountains, delicious apples, family to enjoy good times with, and for being REAL in my life! May the "fruit" of my life be glorifying to you...