Posted in Friends, Homeschooling

Reaching And Extending… Socially

It’s no secret to people who really know me that I’m an introvert. I recharge my batteries after church or school events with solitude.

While it’s very easy for me to stay inside my happy little shell, I finished the school year with a Spirit-led prompting to make myself available. To branch out from my usual friends and family and be a supporting hand to someone else, somehow.

I know it was Spirit-led because all my plans revolved around rest and me-time. But I found myself in situations that made me realize, “This is a need… and I think I can fill it.”

I’m a pretty active member (when I have the time) with my kid’s school’s Parent Advisory Committee. Even though I homeschool, I partner with a state-wide charter school. This has made me a liason of sorts between the school administration and the new parents wanting to homeschool their children, and I realized quite gravely that there are moms who know my name and face when I don’t know theirs.

It put a little bit of pressure to make sure I actually represent homeschooling well to both fronts, yet I welcomed it because it gave me a ministry of sorts that I was unique to fulfill. See moms trying to homeschool don’t get ministered to by my pastor or his wife; it’s not their job. But God placed me in these unique intersections (not the pastoral staff at my church) so if not me, then who?

So I worked with new moms to get kids together for Dungeons and Dragons group since it was an interest that a few of our kids had, even though this isn’t my strong point and I don’t do much. And I’m working with my school to start a 4H Club since that was also their desire and I knew the Regional UAF Extension Coordinator, so why not? I’m helping them get the ball rolling.

My husband and I will also be facilitating a Love and Logic 6-week workshop for couples over the summer, because these classes are mind blowingly revolutionary and we want to help, at least at this time, with getting the word out.

We can’t do all things at all times. And there comes times when I can’t do anything, where life or health has me otherwise occupied and I have no effort to give anyone else. But that time is not today, so why not?

But I think the funnest and most meaningful stretching point for me is starting a book club. We are reading Julie Bogart’s “The Brave Learner”, and I even hosted my first tea party! This is new. This is out of my comfort zone. This does not come naturally for me, it’s not in my skills set. But it’s going great and it’s helping me reach other moms where I wouldn’t have been able to before.

The Brave Learner’s Book Club, in the kitchen of our homeschooling charter school.
Posted in Family

Bite the Bullet…

I signed my kids up (and attended) a free event put on by Friends of the NRA and other local shooting organizations at one of our largest outdoor gun range. I’m always up for an opportunity to get my kids around guns and handling them under the safety and supervision of professionals such as law enforcement, our local SWAT team, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It’s very common in Alaska; most of our high schools have indoor ranges and offer competitive shooting as a PE elective. There are more guns than people in this state, most homes own more than one! (And by the grace of God, every school shooting attempt or threat has been thwarted by our hard working law enforcement who assigns police officers to each school and does not delay in addressing social media comments as serious.)

However we moved to Alaska in 2009, so we weren’t raised that way. My husband and I grew up in families that consider guns to be evil and would never own one. The first time I went to the range, I was 30 years old. So this isn’t something that brings warm childhood memories for us.

In fact, If I google search my brain so to speak on the words “gun” and “school”, the first thing that comes to mind was the incident at Columbine – and the avalanche of copy cat threats and evacuations at the schools I attended. I also recall a lot of tragedies where a child found a gun and killed himself or a sibling – sometimes these children who pulled the trigger were barely 4 years old, not even old enough to be safe in Kindergarten during the school day.

Aside from all the personal reasons my husband and I have changed our minds and choose to conceal carry ourselves, I want my kids to fire a gun (safely, at the gun range, with adult supervision) as often as possible because:

  • Video game and TV violence has snuck in gun usage to younger and younger ages. My kids have seen people shoot at Captain America and he lived to defeat the bad guys with nothing more than his shield. But hearing the gun go off on the TV or playing a game where a gun is fired doesn’t have the child register just how powerful these weapons are. The moment my children felt the recoil of the gun in their hands, and heard the deafening noise of it discharging (which reminded them to put on their ear protection and leave it on all day!), their perspective on them changed. They can easily separate fact from fiction now.
  • Curiosity has killed the child tragically ONE too many times. Kids are naturally drawn to risk and adventure; a gun is not one of those things I’m letting my children have ANY curiosity about. There’s no mystery in it. They’ve taken law enforcement led classes where they disassembled and reassembled guns to clean them, they’ve been able to look down the empty (unattached) barrel of a gun and hold bullets in their hand.
  • All of our homeschooling or parenting purpose boils down to building a relationship with our children where they feel comfortable coming to us FIRST as a reliable and honest source of information. One day, when they’re older, we’ll have to bite the bullet and have honest discussions about sex and dating that we aren’t exactly having right now. But it would be very dangerous for me to assume that they’re too young to encounter a gun in this day and age, so we are going to beat everyone else to it.

Conclusively, there’s something taught with gun usage that is drilled into their minds and I believe it’s life-saving: Because you have to assume every gun is loaded and lethal, NEVER point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy. Target practice is appropriate. Waving a gun while recording yourself in selfie mode to try to look cool is NOT.

If nothing else, regardless of your stance on gun control rights or the second ammendment, I’m going to recommend you teach your child something about guns – no, I’m going to beg you to do so. I’m going to step on your parenting toes and implore you to drill this into your child the way you know “Stop, Drop, and …” (Roll, that’s right.)

If you see a gun anywhere at any time: STOP, Don't Touch, Run Away, Tell a Grown Up.  Never, ever try to transport the gun to an adult.  And don't try to argue with a friend who is holding one or convince them to put it down.  The moment you see a gun, run out of that building or area to another place immediately and ask a grown up for help calling the police.  This response saves lives!
Posted in Faith, Family

A Long-Awaited Open Door

I don’t think this blog post will have any context without knowing all that we’ve been through since I started this blog. So for a point of reference, I’ll summarize and link to previous blog posts before I start.

I married my husband “For Richer or For Poor“. And we’ve had our fair share of “poor”. As I mentioned before, “… we’ve been homeless more than once, tried to make ends meet in Oklahoma, Florida, and now Alaska. We’ve changed careers and jobs at least four times; from military, to Subway (making sandwiches), to the FAA, to selling cell phones, to now working in the medical field where he’s finally growing and doing great.” But I would not trade any of it for all the money in the world, because our marriage has been reinforced like gold by a blacksmith.

There was a whole year where we were technically “homeless”, living with our friends (9 people in a three bedroom condo) while we did some major credit repair (no thanks to a military leak) and tried to buy a home. It was a trying time that would have been disastrous for our friendship had God not intervened. But, as I shared in “Unanswered Prayers“, He didn’t answer by getting us into a new home. He answered by saying a hard NO and we moved into a small rental to nurse our wounds like dogs in a corner. My heart and my faith had nearly been destroyed through these “Hard Times” and it took some isolation to heal. Really heal. But as we healed, our friendships and our church relationships were like… lavender essential oil to a burn wound. Or an IV to a dehydrated patient. It brought our family back to life.

Through this experience over the span of 18 months I learned to dance with God in this “Cha-cha of Life“, and I saw God work in miraculous provision, and miraculous healing. Not because we got the house but because of everything He did after the “no”. I saw my mom beat breast cancer, and a lawsuit dropped. I saw the will of a church family in an envelope with $5,000 cash to go take care of my mom and reunite with my family.

And then the dust settled. And we all sang joyfully, “It is well with my soul.” And we took on new adventures, more manageable ones. We paid off our vehicle AND flew to Hawaii. We were making it work.

So this is where I give the glory to God and to God only: We have been pre-approved for a home loan and are in negotiations for our dream house. To be even at this step makes me terrified to share for fear that something goes wrong! But I can’t say it was our great budgeting skills (because mistakes were made) or our amazing credit score (which actually went down after paying off debt) or a real impressive mortgage application. It was God and He alone. It was a night where I was praying instead of sleeping and I asked God, “What am I supposed to teach my children from that rejection? God I want them to have faith in You. I want them to build their lives on prayer and yet we prayed really hard and our prayers were not answered. How do I make sense of that for the sake of THEIR faith?” And then meeting a new friend at a wedding who became our realtor… and who had a good friend at a mortgage company who took all of our stuff… and here we are. Hoping to buy a house.

We are a family of 5 in a 1,000 sq ft, 2 bedroom apartment and a beautiful, blue, sun lit open door has been placed in our path and all I can think is “Thank God for His mercy and grace” because I don’t know how we got here, I’m just thankful we are here now.

Even if this home doesn’t work out, our hope has been revived. And there’s no price I can put on that. Hope that God has always heard and kept in mind every tear we shed. Hope that His “no” at that time wasn’t because of His inability or our unworthiness. Hope because we don’t know and may never know why He said “no” then and seems to be saying “yes” now. But I worship a God who is so far greater than my understanding, I can’t calculate and manipulate His responses or bribe Him to give me my way.

Posted in In The Classroom

Making This Thing Work

I’m taking the time this summer to work on professional self-growth before starting to teach again in the fall. If I’m honest, I feel like there were some major victories but I also feel like my failures in the classroom out-weighed them all. With my confidence brought low, I feel it’s wiser to work with just one group of younger students until I learn exactly what kind of classroom I want to have.

Now, there are a lot of things for ME to do. Classroom management, curriculum choices… I could drown in all the thinking I need to do to prepare for next fall.

But the truth is, to make this thing work… The parent has some work to do as well.

My biggest struggle was dealing with unmotivated, disruptive learners. If I taught at a public school setting I think I would be more prepared to handle this but it caught me off guard – specially coming not only from homeschoolers (who, because of my bias, I hold to higher standards) but also from older teens that I expected more maturity out of. This was my lesson to learn.

I can’t help but wonder, though, what parents are expecting out of this system. Why are parents homeschooling in the first place? I had some who did so because their children had learning disabilities. I had some who did so because their children were very gifted. Some did so to protect the innocence of their children and others did so because it was a little too late and their child was on the “high way to hell” after their public school experience.

I’m not invalidating any of these reasons at all. I just want to take a moment to empower the parents for a bit – YOU are in charge of homeschooling your family. I know that feels like I’m dumping a burden on you (sorry to bust your bubble but that burden is already there) but I’m saying this to give you the courage and strength to make this work! Part-time classroom learning is meant to be the best of both worlds; distributing the weight of the education evenly between you and educational support, both you and me in partnership with your contact teacher from your charter school program (if any), so that the student gets a great school experience and a great HOME experience.

The HOME experience falls entirely on you. At a minimum, I need parents to state the expectations for homework and enforce them. At most, our children would thrive if you captured our classroom experience and built on it.

We only meet two days a week for one hour and fifteen minutes (per subject). It is not a sufficient year-round school program without homework. Beyond the homework there is so much you can do that only you can do: Read alouds. Field trips. Movies or documentaries. Cooking projects. Interviews. Once your child is home, how well this takes off is up to you!

You are also empowered to request changes to better suit your kids. I will work with a 504 plan or IEP, but I will also work with a parent without one. I’m willing to work with anyone through anything except a bad attitude! So don’t be afraid to take charge. If there’s too much writing, use “talk to text” and type up the homework assignments. Ask if the child can do half the problems if it’s taking them longer than expected to complete at home. Draw instead of write if inspiration hits that way. And if you want your child to do extra credit, assign it yourself! At home, you’re the teacher. That’s what you agreed to do when you decided to homeschool, and that’s what we want to empower you to do!