Saturday, October 13, 2012

Home School Schedule

   As summer came to a close, I knew that I had to come up with a working plan for how our home school day would run.  I've changed our schedule every year to meet the changes that have come with time.  I always start with a frame work in mind, knowing that it will need to be tweaked at least once (and usually more) when we actually get into the true workings of each day.  Planned time slots can often look good on paper, but not work exactly like you think they're going to when it comes to implementing the schedule for real!!
   After a few weeks, this is what we settled into.  It is very much just a plan that we work with.  Each day can bring about shifts quite often as things happen during the week, like doctors' appointments, Anna's part-time work schedule, making a trip to the library, or anything else unexpected.

At 8:00, we start out with Bible and prayer time all together in the living room.  Our theme for the year is "Grace Alone."  So, our Bible time usually has something to do with grace.... it might be a short devotional from a book, or Bible reading, or a song, or thoughts that I've had from another source during the week.

At 8:30, we break up into individual work, and from this point on, I rotate among the kids, and the older kids rotate using the computer and working on their various subjects in their rooms.


First I work with Jonathan at the table with spelling and phonics. Then, he goes upstairs to his room to do handwriting and some vocabulary.



Leslie (who has been reading while Rachel listens to her to help if needed) comes to the table to do her spelling and phonics/language. Then, either I call Jonathan downstairs to listen to math instruction together with Leslie, or I teach Leslie's math first and then Jonathan's.

By this time it is usually between 10 and 10:30. The kids head to the kitchen for a small snack. Ally Kate generally comes in around that time, too.

After snack, I do Ally Kate's math, check her homework, and get started on her English if there is time. Then, one of the older girls and I cook our noon meal. Dan comes home for lunch, and it works better if we have our main meal at noon. It takes longer that way, but the girls have all gotten to be very handy in the kitchen, so I can often get things started and head back to Ally Kate or to Jonathan to quiz him on his vocabulary while my lunch helper keeps working on the meal.

We try to eat around 12:15, then while the left-overs are being put away and the dishes washed (the older kids take turns washing dishes), I read our "read aloud" book. This has ALWAYS been the high point of every school year. We love read-aloud time!! Jonathan loves it, too, even though the words of the stories are usually over his head.... He loves it because I let him play with legos in the living room while I read!! Ally Kate (who also doesn't have enough English yet to understand the read-aloud) works on her Bible lesson. Anna usually helps her.

Afterwards, I do geography with Leslie and Jonathan (and later Ally Kate, too). We started out the year learning the 7 continents and 4 oceans, and have moved on to the book called Wild Places . We've finished units on deserts and mountains, and are currently studying jungles. Words that Jonathan and Ally Kate don't know get added to their vocabulary lists to learn.

Later, Leslie finishes up any of her work that is left, and I listen to Jonathan read. Sarah helps Ally Kate correct her homework. Jonathan studies vocabulary some more while I do Ally Kate's last English class. She has already had 2 or 3 by that time!! Her mom teaches her, as well as another tutor before she even comes to our house, and I do one more plus about 20-30 minutes of listening exercises with her. We are making a huge push with her in English, because since she didn't come to America and start learning English until she was 15, it's important that she learns quickly.

Last, I quiz Jonathan on his vocabulary and do listening exercises with him, too.

I haven't mentioned Justin at all!! He often comes downstairs for me to answer his math questions, check his homework, etc. I slip him in just whenever the time fits!! Poor guy --- he's really not neglected, though. My mom (who was a high school English teacher) does his language lesson every day which includes grammar, writing, etc. And, Anna is his "course manager" this year for science, history and reading. He has the daily schedule and a check sheet that he must check off each day so that we know he's getting his work done. Anna makes copies of his science worksheets and checks them periodically. I check his math homework and do his spelling tests each Friday. This is the first year that he's had to be more responsible for his work, and it has been good for him.

Other things fit in whenever we can grab some time, too!! The only subject for Sarah and Rachel that I am doing much active teaching in this year is their Literature. We'll periodically discuss their books that they read and then discuss their papers they're writing as needed, too. Their math is on the computer, they are doing a health class along with Anna this semester. We discuss it sometimes as we're all in the kitchen together, or after the younger kids have gone to bed. Anna is doing American Government this semester, and she and I discuss it when she reaches the end of a chapter, or at any point that she has questions.

I grade tests on weekends, and work on the following week's schedule. Most of my lessons, though, just require my picking up the book where we left off and going from there. At the end of this school year, Anna will graduate with 13 home school years completed!! I can remember the month before we started her Kindergarten year..... and, never in my mind did I ever think that I would have taught her all the way to graduation. That wasn't why I chose the theme of "Grace Alone" for this year, but it certainly has been God's grace alone that has brought us this far.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How did your garden grow?

   I was going through our pictures from the summer and realized that we had some great shots of the garden this year.  Dan has always loved to have a garden.  He and I have been gardeners together since that was our "real" job in Mongolia.  Our team did agricultural work and had the OK from the local officials to teach spiritual truth on the side as long as we kept up our gov't contract of aid in the form of teaching and working in agriculture.  Obviously it was not the main priority in our hearts to grow great gardens.....  we were there to be planting other types of seed!!  But, we had to do a really good job at our "job," or we would lose the opportunity to be heard by anyone wanting to hear.
   So, I think we've had a garden every year since 1997 no matter which side of the ocean we were living on, with the exception of maybe one when we were not living in the country.  For Dan, the garden is his favorite hobby and best form of relaxation.  Even though it's lots of work, he never gets tired of it. 



And, through the whole month of June and most of July, I never got tired of seeing this view out of our kitchen window every morning.  You can see the sunflowers peeking up behind the corn.  They were Justin's surprise for the girls....  he planted them without the girls knowing, and as they came up and started to grow, he got the biggest kick out of making them guess what kind of plant it was!!

Of course, if I wanted to see them WELL, I had to go to the bottom of the garden and look up.....  way up, actually!!  They kept growing and growing and growing!!

To put it into perspective, Dan is almost 6'2" tall.  He is standing slightly below them here, but still, they were REALLY tall!!


The produce helps to make all the work worthwhile.... but I honestly think Dan would plant a lot even if it didn't produce much at all!  As it is, we get to share a lot on the weeks that I'm too busy to can or freeze much!!



Saturday, August 18, 2012



When we were signing up for the summer hosting program, we needed to have 10 people who would agree to be our prayer partners.  Those people/families prayed for us during the summer and got updates from the program as a whole.  The hosting agency continued to send out emails regarding the program in order to keep people informed and to recruit families for future hosting sessions.

   One of our prayer partners was a sweet friend who has always been my main mentor in home schooling ventures!!  I have been rejuvenated countless times by the home school moms' prayer group that meets at her home monthly.  Their family prayed us through last summer and the entire adoption process for Jonathan. 

   Late this past spring, I got a note from her, saying that God was moving in their hearts in a surprising way.  They were planning to host a 15 year old girl, and would continue on toward adoption if God continued to open the doors before them. 

   Their summer was busy and blessed.  They are moving forward with adoption paperwork.  It's SO incredible to see God at work!!!

    When we were planning for our summer of 2011, we "threw our rock in the pond," so to speak.  I prayed that God would allow us to advocate for Ally Kate, and that He would provide a family for her.  That's honestly as far as my vision went.  However, He did that and more....  He let it be a family close by that allows us to continue to have a big part of her life!!!  It was a double blessing for us!!!

   Then, He went even further -- the ripples caused by the rock started to spread across the pond to places I didn't dream of.  He is most certainly ABLE to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or imagine.  He used an email that was sent to our friends highlighting children in the ophanages that were longing for a family.  He chose to use those connections to bring about ONE MORE child who will be loved, treasured, and taught about Him!!

     Never for a second do we take credit for any of it.  It's all God's amazing plan that HE is simply unfolding before our eyes....  His love for the fatherless.  We just get to watch it in action..... and be blessed when we see the ripples spreading out and more coming behind them.

  I know that some of you that read this blog do not plan to adopt.  But, please realize that when we hosted Ally Kate, we did not intend to adopt her, either..... and we didn't!  But, the Lord used it in ways that continue to affect more lives.  Please don't say, "I could never do that!!"  He might not be asking you to adopt.... He might just be wanting you to step toward the pond and toss in a rock.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Vacation

     Before summer rolled around, Jonathan had been learning about seasons.  He knew that summer meant "hot!" -- Especially in AL!  He was thrilled to learn that it meant we'd take a break from our school schedule.  At first, though, I had been leaving that fact out of the definition of "summer" when he and I had talked about it.  Because both of our "ESL" students were behind in academics, I'd considered continuing on in "summer school" with them.  In fact, I did  keep on going with Ally Kate to give her an extra push with learning English as well as math.  But, when the rest of us finished our year and I was so worn out with the anemia issues, I just didn't have it in me to keep up with lesson plans for Jonathan.  I also had hopes that taking a break might help with the struggles he was having with me as a mom.  For the summer, I could stop being the teacher (which he really did not like), and hope for a better attitude toward me when I could just be MOM.

    So, we took our summer break, and even started planning for a real vacation as well.  Jonathan had never gone farther than an hour away from our house...  mainly due to his getting car sick so badly.  Last year, Dan had used all his vacation time on our 2 trips to Bulgaria, so we had not had any type of family vacation in 2 years.  We ended up going to Missouri where Dan had spent 14 of his growing up years.

    Before we left, we started telling Jonathan about "vacations."  When it was all said and done, he decided that vacations were a GREAT invention!!  The biggest miracle was that he didn't even get car sick on the entire twelve hour trip of our first day.  Amazing!  And, great memories!!

    The place we stayed was a wonderful, family environment.  We joined Dan's brother and family who had gone up a couple of days in advance, and Dan's parents came the same day we arrived.  In addition to being right on the lake, there was a place by a creek that had been made into an incredibly fun play area.  The rope swing was the greatest!!

First, you climbed up into this tree:

Then, you grabbed the rope, hung on, ......

...and jumped, swinging across the little creek!!

Even I got into it!!

Or, if you weren't feeling quite daring enough for the tree,
 you could just get someone to help you on a different rope from the ground level.
Here, Rachel is helping her cousin:

And, she, in turn, helps Leslie!

The kids had LOTS of fun with their cousins!!

In the same play area, there were these huge swings....

..... and this really cool rope "web" to climb on, or --
as Dan is doing here -- relax in!!

One day, we went to a nearby state park, which had ruins from a castle.  The castle wasn't ancient, or anything -- maybe just 100 years old or so, but the area was beautiful and the hiking was fun.

Here's a picture of our family at the top -- BEFORE we got really hot and sweaty hiking to the bottom of the ravine and back!!

Justin and Jonathan with their cousins:

This next shot is from half-way down the ravine looking back across at the castle ruins.

Here we are at the bottom before starting the hike back up.

Another day, we went to a small, local water park.
  Jonathan had a blast on the water slide.

We never got a good shot of his face coming off the slide, but he was full of smiles!!

Another highlight of the trip was fishing in the lake. 
This is one of Dan's favorite memories of growing up, as well. 
Here he is with Justin and our nephew heading out into deeper water:

Dan's brother, Grandma, and the 2 youngest girls:

Justin, Dan, Sarah and Jonathan:

That day, while the others were fishing on the lake,
 Rachel, Anna and I took a canoe across the cove to another area that had a trail to explore:

Of course, lots of swimming was going on at the lake, too.
There was a rope swing, there, as well, so the best part for the kids
was getting to swing over the lake and jump in.

By the end of the time, we all agreed
that vacations are a wonderful invention!! :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So, Now you know....

the REST of the story!!

Now you know why my blogging dropped into never-never land!! :) Compounding the busy life that we were living was that I was also struggling with iron deficiency that had me feeling exhausted even if I hadn't been trying to manage the schooling of kids at 7 different levels, including 2 ESL students!! We survived though, and it was good for everyone.... good for me to see God's reminder that, yes, His timing is always perfect, good for me to learn to depend on Him in ways I hadn't before, good for Anna, Sarah, and Rachel who all 3 took up the slack with lots of meal preparation, and also took on a little bit of school supervision of some of the younger ones!! We survived... and I do have a few pictures to show it!

Can you tell from these photos that the kids take great pleasure in doing home school work
 anywhere and everywhere?!?