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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Me I Am Becoming

The person I am today barely recognizes the person I was at the
beginning of this year. It's rare that I get the occasion to see
myself with enough clarity, casting off the lens of self-criticism I
typical view myself through, in order to see how much I have changed.
One of my recurring prayers is that God will make me want to be
obedient, and that he'll make me better. I tell myself at least once a
day, "I want to be a better person."  My false reality--the one in
which I am composed entirely of negative characteristics and cannot
find one good thing about myself--has ruled my life for over 30 years.
 This occasionally alternates with another lie, in which I am so
awesome that I cannot comprehend why someone wouldn't love me, or take
my advice and just do what I said, or want to be like me.

In both instances, where I puff myself up, and where I beat myself
down, I am drowning in pride.  My self-centeredness scares me.

As this year has progressed, it's become evident that it's time I stop
believing lies. I'm not actually worthless, horrid, and hideous.
Neither am I the person with all the answers that everyone should be
listening to. I have spent more time this year in intense Bible study
than ever before.  For example, I've read and reread and outlined and
discussed Philippians, because I want to choose joy. I want to know
what to do and then act on it. I cannot tell you how often I've read
Proverbs 31, looking for a glimpse of myself.  I've spent the better
part of 2012 filling my head with the truth in order to recognize and
combat lies. It was no accident I ended up in a small group studying
The Truth Project.

I need to hear and believe the truth.

At one time, I thought the me of 12 months ago was crazy, weak,
pathetic, sad, and heartbroken.  That was my identity and I lived that
out.  I could not comprehend why I could not control my thoughts, be
different, be better.

Early in 2012, I prayed often for God to make things different. I
wanted him to just take away my problems. I yelled at God a lot.  I
questioned his wisdom and didn't trust him.

Finally, finally, God got me to settle down and be quiet long enough
for me to hear the truth. I was trying to change things. I would do
this or that and things would be different. Everything in my own
power. No wonder it didn't work.  Rather than cling to the truth of
God, I clung to my fear.

I still fall so short of who I am going to become.  No, I don't like
that God has placed a spotlight on my pride.  But I know it's what I
need.  I need to see that by believing I was unimportant and unloved,
it was, in essence, my way of telling God I knew more than he did.
I thought, he says all these good things about his children, but he means
everyone BUT me.  I was calling God a liar.  That's pretty arrogant.

While I don't like seeing how critical and bossy I can be, I have hope
that I won't always be this way. No longer am I crippled by my
negative thoughts.  I'm beginning to learn to be humble and obedient.
I am not always excited to change, because I know it's going to hurt.
That anxiety is something I keep giving to God.  I pray he will make
me want to obey him.

I can't change, but God can change me.

And now, I wait.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Week(s) in Review - In which we cry over our book

Overall, the past two weeks have been going smoothly.  I'm really working on choosing patience, and I can tell.  Well, mostly!  That being said, watch them try said patience to no end later today.  It's okay.  I'm bigger than they are, and I can control myself.

We wrapped up our study of Renaissance Spain.  We read I, Juan de Pareja, which made us cry.  You can read my thoughts on that book here.  We're studying primates in Science, at least for another week.  The kids hate their copywork.  I am not really sympathetic to their plight.  The more they practice, the easier it'll get.  I had someone tell me I should just let Scrappy type everything.  Maybe I should.  But I won't.  He's the biggest complainer out of all of them, as far as writing goes.  I see that he's improving though, and that he's able to write for longer periods of time.  You can tell me how writing is archaic and how in ten years everything will be computerized, but I just won't believe you.

I've been reviewing adjectives with the kids.  Why is it I have to keep teaching parts of speech over and over and over again?  Well, anyway, I found this idea on Pinterest.  Did you know Pinterest is not just for wasting time?  True story.  The one I saw on there was the Grinch.  We've described Batman and the Hulk so far.  They love doing this.  They want to describe Ang from Avatar next time.  Why not?

Don't make him angry.

We still haven't gone on a field trip yet this year, which is weird for us.  It's been three weeks already!  I'm getting twitchy to go do something out in the world.  I think I can at least work a nature walk into our week next week.

Of course, they read more than these, but I haven't gotten them to give me a list yet.  My record keeping needs some work!

See how other people are homeschooling this week on Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book review - I, Juan de Pareja

I had heard of I, Juan de Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, but had no idea what it was about.  When I was younger, I went through a phase where I wanted to read all of the Newbery winners, so surely I had held that book in my hands time and time again.  We decided to read it because it was recommended by our History book, Story of the World.  My own knowledge of the Renaissance is sketchy at best, so I thought it would be helpful to spend a little more time studying it.  Already, I know more than I ever learned in school.  I love that about homeschooling.

Juan is a slave in 17th C Spain.  He is owned by the court painter, Diego Velazquez, who painted Pope Innocent X, as well as many portraits of King Phillip IV.  This is historical fiction, so there is a thread of truth to it, and embellishments as well.  There is a fine afterword about which elements are factual, and why the author wrote the story as she did.  The language is beautiful, and challenging.  I recognized many words from my SATs!  It's rare now, I think, to find a children's book with language like this.  The kids were challenged to determine word meanings based on context, but it wasn't so difficult that they couldn't follow the story.  This book is rich with material for language/vocab study.

The themes of this story are racism, slavery, friendship, loyalty, family, truth, and art.  That's just what I can think of offhand!  Catholicism underlies the entire book.  Juan is a faithful man, who understands that his sin separates him from God.  He faces his own moral dilemma--he wants to paint, but as a slave, is not allowed to create art.  I cannot fathom a culture that would prohibit free expression (yes, that's so American).  I find it heartbreaking.  I'm not sure if he couldn't paint because if he sold his works, he would take profits from free men, or if people generally believed that he, as a slave, had nothing to express.  Or worse...that he DID have something to express, and that thing would cause a disturbance in the status quo.  Was a law like that just a means of keeping control?

I, Juan de Pareja is rich with topics that you can study and discuss with your children.  In a book world full of fluff, it's gratifying to read something that encourages children to think.

You can find a free study guide here.

There are a number of books on Velazquez.  I like this one.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Week in Review--In which we get started

I am pleased to announce that not only have we all survived yet another first week of school, I daresay that this year, we are thriving.  No one has been complaining, or whiny, or even too hard to find when I announce, "It's time to start school."  I do not want to curl up in a ball and pray for gypsies.  Hooray!  I am going to chalk it all up to God (props!) as He's really been at work in my heart the last couple weeks.  I mean, He always is, but I guess I'm not in the way.  For once.  I'm sure I'll return to my role as a temper tantrum-throwing toddler (in His eyes) again soon enough, but I'm just going to enjoy where I am.  Tomorrow....well, it'll be there when I get there.

We have finally finished Story of the World book 2.  It took 2 years.  Two years, people.  In my defense, it's no fault of the book or accompanying materials workbook that we got a little obsessive over knights, castles, Vikings, Aztecs, and more.  This means that next week, we are starting book 3, and we're entering into colonization.  In college, I majored in History, with a concentration in Colonial/Early American History.  You can say I am slightly geeked out to finally get to talk about it with a captive audience!

We picked back up with marsupials in our Apologia book, and finished that.  We all love the Notgrass Art book!  I have posted a few samples below.  The kids have been continuing in their math books, and so far we like Queen's Language Arts book.  We started spelling, and next week we'll add Easy Grammar Plus and *gulp* IEW.  I tried IEW last year and found it so time-consuming that it made me batty.  It'll go better this time.  I'm not the same girl, and these are not the same kids.  See?  I have hope.

One of the best things about homeschooling is how I get to relearn, or learn for the first time, all sorts of things.  I was very excited to learn more about Queen Elizabeth I.  This week at the library, I checked out two books about her.

Books read:  Leonardo and the Flying Boy, Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World, Katie and the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Francis the Poor Man of Assissi, Good Queen Bess

Little dudes that Funny made out of modeling beeswax.

8yo Goofy's drawing of the earth from space.

36yo Hub's drawing of the earth from space.

9yo Funny's drawing of the angel appearing to Michael.
The assignment was to draw Mary with a look of wonder on her face.

Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see how other people are homeschooling this week.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Music is my friend

I like music.  Okay, I lied.  I actually love music.  It's more of a violent passion, really.

I've been known to say ridiculous things like, "I'd like to curl up inside that song."  I am positive that someone else out there can relate to this.  Music helps me feel feelings that I ordinarily would lock away and ignore. I can feel sadness, anger, frustration, joy, happiness, and hope.  "On the Surface" by Rosanne Cash fills me with grief, "Monster" by Skillet tells me I'm not the only one struggling with anger and sin, "Eagle When She Flies" by Dolly Parton reminds me that I'm strong, "When Mercy Found Me" by Rhett Walker Band makes me feel loved.  Music is my friend, holding my hand, singing to me, "Let it out, baby.  Let it out."

I struggle with what people think about me.  (Everyone does, right?  RIGHT!?)  I want to be liked.  I'm not sure I'm quite likable, but I'm charming.  Once I love you, I develop a great concern about your opinion about me.  So much so, that when it looks like I might be making a genuine friendship, I throw up a wall and start to panic.  I start to push away, because while I love Florence + the Machine's "Breaking Down," I imagine that people do not want to hear that I relate to it.

Clearly, this is my issue, and I admit it.  Trust is not my forte.  I like my friends to think they know me, and then they just stay there where I put them.  At the same time, someone who will take the time to nudge me into a real relationship is priceless.  I do know that.  It's just so scary to me.  In the end, I just don't want my heart broken.

I have been blessed with some true friendships in my life.  Believe me, whether they realize it or not, I tried to run away from every single one of them.  My head is full of whispers that they don't really like me, they will betray my trust, they feel sorry for me, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  But I think that a friend is much like a song, if I would let it be.  Sometimes I just want someone to wrap their arms around me and tell me I'm loved, and maybe whisper, "Let it out, baby.  Let it out."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Letting go of dreams

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a rock star, a teacher, and a writer.

Let's face it.  I had no chance of ever becoming a rock star.  I can't sing.  I quit the clarinet, and really, what rock band is looking for a woodwind player anyway?  Plus, I really don't want the rock star life.  I can sing in my car at the top of my lungs, and that makes me happy enough.  I let go of the rock star dream a long, long time ago.

I did end up becoming a teacher, though not at all in the way I had envisioned.  I was going to be a Social Studies teacher, and then I was going to be a school librarian, and then, well, it seems I became a homeschooler.  Trust me, that was not really on my radar until a few months before we decided to take the plunge.  So here we have a dream come true.

The third one, however, is a tough one.  I have an abundance of thoughts swirling in my head at all times.  Sometimes they are stories about made up lands and made up people, and sometimes I am really afraid that I am supposed to tell my own story.  I cannot even begin to tell you how terrifying that is to me.

I've always expressed myself best through writing.  I have a hard time being really open and real face-to-face.  Some of you are going to psychoanalyze that.  Anyway, it's so much easier for me to make sense out of all the noise in my head when I can take the time to write.  I'm not quick enough for most arguments.  I say the wrong thing ALL THE TIME.  Not just something that offends someone, or hurts someone's feelings, but I literally say things I don't mean, and then chastise myself for doing so.  I have to think out loud, and if someone isn't willing to listen to me go through that process, then there's a communication breakdown.  And believe me, it's not a trait that I am especially pleased to possess, but it's how I am wired.  My point is, writing helps me think out loud, but I can backspace and erase half of it and start over.  Verbal communication doesn't work like that.  I prefer writing.

When I was younger, I wrote constantly.  I wrote short stories.  I wrote (terrible) poetry.  I started writing a novel in junior high.  I journaled, a lot.  Really, this blog is my journal every now and then (like today), but I rarely journal anymore.  I did NaNoWriMo last year, and felt like a massive failure.  I wrote.  And wrote.  And it was just garbage.  Horrid.  I never let anyone read it, and I deleted it.

I have been thinking about becoming a writer, and maybe it's time for me to just let it go.  I mean, I got the teacher thing.  I feel like a rock star when I play Rock Band.  I don't need to hang on to being a writer.  I tell myself it's okay; I don't really have anything to say.  No one would want to hear it anyway.

On the one hand, I think I should just give up, and grow up, and let go of childish dreams.  On the other hand, I think dreams are one of the best things about life.  Writing has been that thing that I'll do one day.  I think this dream is part of who I am.

The other day I saw one of those cheesy quote things on Pinterest:

I realized something when I read this.  I am afraid of letting go and putting myself out there for critique and criticism.  I do not take criticism well at all.  I'm hard enough on myself that I can barely stand anything extra.  Fear is a terrible reason for me to stop dreaming about becoming a writer.  Quite honestly, I realized that I am already a writer.  No, I'm not a great writer, and that's okay.  But I do have something to say.  I have worlds to create, people to tell you about, and stories to share.  Maybe even my own.

I'm keeping this dream.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

2012-2013 School Year

We have had a fantastic summer.  I have felt a calling for a few years now to be less busy, and focus more on home.  You might be wondering how this can be possible when I'm home with these kids almost all the time.  For me, it's been about attitude.  I am trying to judge the impact of activities or even events on our family life.  I ask myself, "Is [insert name of activity here] good for all of us?"  Yes, I can sign my kids up for many different things.  Scrappy could play fall baseball, but it would mean traveling, and that would mean less meals at home, and rarely seeing Hub as he gets home from work a little late.  And so, fall ball is definitely out.  It's like that.  The alleged benefit isn't that great.

I purposed this summer to say no to most things, and make the most out of the few outings we did have.  No, we didn't go on a vacation this year.  We went camping a few times, we've gone to the pool, and we've read and been lazy.  I can't remember the last time I actually felt refreshed by our summer break.  I admit that saying no has been harder than I thought.  I'm continuing to say no into the fall, and we'll see how the burnout goes.

We spent a day at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Jumping into Deep Creek Lake.

We're starting school on August 27 this year.  Here's the break down, for those of you who like to know these things:

Scrappy, age 10

Math: Math-U-See Gamma (for a couple weeks to finish up) and Delta
Health:  Queen book on puberty for boys

Funny, age 9

Math:  MUS Beta/Gamma
Health:  Queen book on puberty for girls

Goofy, age 8

Math:  MUS Beta/Gamma

Silly, age 6

Math:  MUS Alpha/Beta
LA:  Explode the Code

Everything else is the same for everyone, except Silly who has her own LA:

LA:  Queen Language Lessons for the Elementary Child
Cursive/Copywork (That's from Queen also)
Queen spelling
a random workbook of vocab word of the day fun
Easy Grammar Plus

Bible:  Humility study (more Queen)
Okay, so really, I need to do this study more than anyone.  We're going to be doing it as a family--even Hub is going to participate.

Science: Apologia Land Animals (hoping to finish in December) and Astronomy

SS:  Story of the World vol 3 (finally we're done with vol 2!)
assorted readers about American history
Maps & Geography workbook (just parts of it)
some yet-to-be-determined project on PA inventors or history (I'm organizing something with other homeschoolers.  I probably need to think about that.)

Health:  Abeka

Music:  orchestra unit study

Art:  Notgrass Draw to Learn--The Life of Jesus (has anyone used this?)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2011-2012 Year in Review

I knew I hadn't blogged for a while, but I had no idea it was so long.  I can't say I'm surprised, as it was a rough winter around here, and I was absolutely not in the mood for, well, anything.  On a positive note, things are much better, spring has sprung, and we're winding up the school year.

I'm not very good at giving myself a break, especially where my children are concerned, and I fully admit that this was not our best homeschooling year.  I'm having a hard time forgiving myself (because, of course, being me, I'm to blame).  I started to put together portfolios for Scrappy and Funny and then burst into tears.  This is what real homeschooling is like, people!  There are lots of tears, and regret, and fear.  At the same time, I am making a real effort to find the good things.  I adore these kids, and they get along so well (mostly).  Today we were discussing the word "drip" and how one of the meanings is "a person who doesn't like to have any fun."  Funny immediately announced that I was not a drip.  That really warmed my heart.  It's the simple things, really.

And with that in mind, here are some of the good things from this year.  Please know that there were lots of not-so-good things, and I don't want anyone to think that I have it together and that things are always rosy at my house.  Homeschooling is hard, but I know that God has called us to it, and that He will continue to equip me, if I would just get out of His way and let Him.

Flour Children petting a ray.  Always fun!

Monopoly.  For about 2 months here, this is what my table looked like.  Every.  Day.

Goofy and Scrappy played basketball.

Making Valentines for friends.

We learned how they make the doughnuts at Dunkin' Donuts. 

Silly and Funny are BFFs, and always breaking into dance.

The kids are really interested in photography.  Scrappy took this.

Funny learned to use chopsticks.

We went to the museum to check out some dinosaurs.

Scrappy likes fossils.

These kids love to draw!

Goofy's work.

The Flour Children played soccer for the first time.

Running out of the Steelers tunnel at Heinz Field.