Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March 29, 2006: Just One Reason We Love Homeschooling…

bald river falls

Because of days like today, when we can scrap everything—math, grammar, history, spelling, phonics, violin, and even orchestra—and take a hike. Soak in a big dose of river and mountain, of hemlock and rhododendron. Get our sneakers wet in the river and pocket a couple of rocks. Books and such can wait for tomorrow. Today was a day to celebrate creation, to revel in the coloring of the woods.

Our journey today took us to Bald River Falls in the Cherokee National Forest, not far from Tellico Plains. Hardly a soul in sight except for a few fishermen. A great day to take a deep breath.

duncan-bald riverfamily-bald river3 kids-bald river

Sunday, March 26, 2006

March 27, 2006: Thirteen

Thirteen years ago I was 2.5 hours away from delivering my first born. This is right about the time I started pushing--and yes, I pushed for 2.5 hours.

Yesterday in Sunday School, someone (a man) made the comment that "women can have more children because they forget how horrible giving birth is." All the women jumped all over him because NO!! We do not forget the pain. But more powerful than the pain is the tremendous, all powerful, breathtaking love we have for our babies.

Breathtaking. My son has always taken my breath away. For thirteen years and eight months I have loved him, memorized him, enjoyed him. Sometimes I have wanted to shake the stuffings out of him, but I have loved him every single second of every single day. I love watching him grow. He is such a fun person. Funny. Smart. Handsome. Kind-hearted. Even his firstborn selfishness is disappearing as he matures.

If I had known, at 13, what my future held, I would have been the happiest teenager in the world.

March 26, 2006: Jesse's Baptism

What an amazing day. I can't believe I made it through without a box of tissues. Watching my husband baptize our son was an amazing experience. Jesse looked so perfectly at peace, so confident and poised. Graceful. And there the two of them were, in the baptistry:

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit… And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:18, 21

Jesse Small – because you believe and have confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


March 26, 2006: 17 Snippets for 17 Years

17 Snippets for 17 Years
For Randy, with love and squalor on our 17th anniversary.

You are my lighthouse. Ceaselessly
your rotations beam over the sea
and land. Birds are guided by them
and so are travelers lost in the
moors. You are my compass and light.
~James Laughlin

All that I wanted then
is forgotten now, but you.
~Gary Snyder

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep;
The more I give to thee
The more I have,
For both are infinite.
~ William Shakespeare

You and I,
We were captured. We took our souls
And we flew away.
We were right; we were giving.
That’s how we kept what we gave away.
~Neil Young

No easy thing to bear, the weight of sweetness.
Song, wisdom, sadness, joy: sweetness
Equals three of any of these gravities.
~Li-Young Lee

here’s to opening and upward,to leaf and to sap
and to you (in my arms flowering so new)
self whose eyes smell of the sound of rain
~e.e. cummings

What did you come here for today?
Did you have something you wanted to say?
Or did you just come to get a piece of paper,
And say “I do”?
Or did you come to tell everyone that
Love is forever, and ever, and ever
And a day.
~Gene Cotton

What makes your love
Choose me? Once I asked you
But you wouldn’t answer.
It was your secret. Keep it so.
~James Laughlin

To get the full value of joy
You must have someone to divide it with.
~ Mark Twain

I love you like the stars above,
I’ll love you ‘til I die.
~Dire Straits

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself
But if your love and must needs have desires,
Let these be your desires:
• To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
• To know the pain of too much tenderness.
• To be wounded by your own understanding of love and to bleed willingly and joyfully.
• To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
• To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
• To return home at eventide with gratitude and then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
~ Kahlil Gibran

And when we die, we say we’ll catch some blackbird’s wing,
And we will fly way together,
Come some sweet blue bonnet spring.
~Nanci Griffith

and now you are and I am and we’re
a mystery which will never happened again,
a miracle which has never happened before.
~e.e. cummings

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not easily broken.
~Ecclesiastes 4:12

My lover is radiant and ruddy,
Outstanding among ten thousand.
~Song of Songs 5:10

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace…
I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears of all my life! - and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You were born together, and together you shall be
You shall be together when the white wings
Of death scatter your days.
You shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
~Kahlil Gibran

Monday, March 20, 2006

March 20, 2006: Proud of My Son

I'm so proud of my son. He's such a good sport--such a laid-back guy. We found out in February that he was one of the top 100 scorers in the National Word Power Challenge for the state of Tennessee, and he got to go to Nashville to compete today. He just had such a great time. He didn't seem to care a bit that he didn't make it to the Top 10. The experience of just going and competing was enough for him. He came home all smiling and content. It was a huge added bonus that he and his Dad got to take a 3 1/2 hour road trip there and back, stay in a hotel with a heated pool, and eat at Waffle House! What a great kid. I'm glad he's mine. (And I'm thankful that they are home on this rainy night!)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

March 18, 2006: Beauty from Ashes

It is truly hard for me to believe where I am today. Oh, I don't mean where I am literally. I'm sitting in front of the same computer, in the same kitchen, as I was a year ago. I mean, where I am in my heart and in my soul.

Over a year ago, I began focusing on "beauty from ashes" as described in Isaiah 61:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim freedom for the captives,
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called
oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

I began praying diligently that the Lord would make beauty out of ashes. I could feel the ashes. I was immersed in ashes, the bitter residue left from years and years of turmoil, fighting for our minister and his wife--our friends. We were the charred remains left at the bottom of the fire pit when they finally resigned from the ministry.

One year ago was one of the saddest days of my life. I wept until I had nothing left inside of me on Casey and Teri's last Sunday. I despised almost everyone at our church. I couldn't even look most people in the eyes. My anger was a living, burning thing. And my sadness weighed as heavy as an anchor. Angry and sad that these lovely, wise people were so beaten down that they just couldn't take it anymore.

Beauty from ashes was hard to imagine, but His promises are mighty--that I never doubted. But I'm not sure I imagined the beauty to come as it has. We stayed at our church. At first we were only staying until spring. But then our women's Bible study began Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, which spends 20 weeks going through Isaiah 61....beauty from ashes. Coincidence? Of course not.

In six months, the Lord turned me from a prickly, bristling hedge to something soft and growing. Still very, very tender...but growing stronger--and growing toward the light. Here we are a year later, and my focus is now on the latter part of that promise: that I will grow into an "oak of righteousness--a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

Our new minister starts tomorrow. In this year of healing, the Lord has made our hearts receptive to this new family. I love them already. The people at church who caused so much trouble have lost their power. Bad power zapped; God's power victorious. Beauty from ashes.

Everything has fallen in place for Casey and Teri. Their house is sold and their debts paid-off. They are moving in a week for a new life, as they make final preparations to become missionaries in Mexico. Beauty from ashes. My heart is joyful as they prepare to leave, when a year ago my heart was broken and despairing.

What a year! When I think of the amazing things the Lord has done in me this year, I just want to kneel before Him in awe. His promises are unfailing. His power overrides oppression, sadness, mourning and replaces it with hope. Beauty from ashes.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

March 9, 2006: Behind What? Behind Whom?

Great post below by my friend TIA echoes a conversation I was having recently with several moms. What's all this about "I'm so behind!"?

(Begin Tia's entry) "Foremost on my mind yesterday were the current waves and ripples in the world of homeschooling. I’m always a bit discouraged when I hear of mom’s who throw in the towel. Sometimes using a school system, whether it’s public or private, is a valuable tool. Regardless of how we do it, parents are the ones responsible for how thier kids are taught and no one lives in a vacuum. I get that. But often, in sharing thier change of decision or method, they will share the why that came behind it, and that’s where my heart strains.

"Homeschooling and the very different education it can offer is part of a big picture. When all is said and done I hope my children are better equiped to think, to reason, to learn for life, than I was. It’s a comparison of the end product. I understand why governement systems want to evaluate along the way for “progress” but apples and oranges couldn’t be plainer. Why would my children test well on a scale formulated for children using not only different materials, but a different basic philosophy in general? Except in the case of co-incidence and overlap, they wouldn’t. But the process creates a monster of comparison nonetheless.

"The big picture, the end result, the out-of-the-box product is getting lost. Pressure to conform, to fit into someone else’s dress, eats moms up. “We didn’t get to everything today so we’ll have to make it up tomorrow.” Tomorrow comes and the work load is burdensome. Everyone is crabby, everyone miserable. Mom shouts and yells. Kids take a passive aggressive stance. She starts to realize she can’t remember when she was “just thier mom”, reading to them, baking cookies, and smiling. Things start to feel claustrophic.

"But wait. Where did that “we didn’t get to everything” come from? Who imposed the everything? Who’s system was it? Who set the calendar we live by and what the reason behind that date system? I don’t see even the weather cooperating with our little calendar system. Take it away for a moment and imagine….

"Children are eternal. There is a lifetime to learn what needs to be learned. It doesn’t have to happen by next May. What is May? Well, it’s the month they released farm kids to go help with the busy time of year with thier families. Is there really any reason I need to stress myself out to fit into a time schedule that has zip to do with my life, my philosophy, my end goal?

"Who said “x and y” had to be part of the everything I’m breaking myself to accomplish? Does that person know my kid? Does that curriculum creator or government overseer care about my intentions and motivations? Did they consider that when they dictated what a school day should look like?

"Who said homeschooling had to mean we were together 24/7? If mom needs a break (and dad needs to get more involved) should it wreck the time line and impose more pressure on her to finish if she takes some time off? I hear it all the time. “I really need a break but that will just make us more behind”. BEHIND WHAT?!? BEHIND WHO??! Really, I”m ready to get my sword out and get swacking at these little voices that discourage and drive us into the ground, making us doubt our real convictions.

"I supose it helps a bit that I’ve always been an “outside the box” thinker. I won’t let the government put me in a box and I won’t let a curriculum seller or home educatation writer do so either. But I do fall prey to the same traps. Check lists of things to do are convenient. No one wants thier kids to be “behind” in anything and our world is rather unaccustomed to watching people learn and live on different continuums. We are fond of uniformity; it helps validate our own actions and desires.

"All these pressures feed into a “grass is greener on the other side” kind of desperation. It’s not really. I sometimes say, “I know the other side has problems but at least they are different ones than these I have now, which I am so tired of!” That’s true. I just hope that in changes and choices in different tools, we don’t loose sight of the big picture. That we let our kids really learn and not rely on a “fake it till you make it” abilty to blend in. It might take longer than the charts and standarized tests say. Or, the topic may not really be worthwhile in the first place. At the least, it may not be worth sacrificing human hearts and relationships over. God lets us start fresh every day, homeschoolers included."
(End of Tia's entry)

This is so reassuring for me today, on a day that I know our schooling will be untraditional. I'm about to head off to Walmart, taking Laurel, leaving sick Duncan with my parents, and giving Jesse has math and creative writing to do at home. Laurel's school today will consist of art class and American Heritage Girls. Jesse's will be the above plus his self-directed game design, reading, and maybe some Teach Yourself Ukranian. My throat hurts. I don't want to read to them today. And isn't that the beauty of homeschooling? We're not going to be "behind" because we "missed" a day of lessons. We simply are what we are.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

March 5, 2006: The Lost One

The Lost One

comes back to her
in the month of his thirty-eighth
birthday, sometime in April
when the tiny white crosses
of the dogwoods glowed
ghost-like at dusk
and she felt him coming
too early
for more than a minute's worth
of breath and a sprinkling
of holy water, his name. Gasp
of the nun, sign of the cross. Empty
handed she had returned

to her kitchen, rubbed
the windows clean of streaks
to better watch her three boys outside
who never thought to ask
where or why
or even to notice the swell
of her belly
gone back to ribs

and now he would be years older
than she was then, a sweet balding man
who, whistling, comes
through the front door with a kiss
on the cheek and a single daffodil.

--Sarah Cummins Small. For my mother.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

March 2, 2006: Homeschooling 101, Blount County, TN

BHEA's annual Homeschool 101 program is this Saturday - March 4, 2006. Anyone interested in homeschooling or currently homeschooling is invited to attend. We have information for those in all stages of homeschooling!! It is FREE and you do not need to pre-register. You are also welcome to come to all or just part of the day's programs.

Homeschool 101 will be at First Christian Church in Maryville (corner of Lamar Alexander Parkway and Court St - across from the old courthouse). Program starts at 9:30 and runs until 2:30. The final schedule is as follows:

9:30 - 10:30 - Main Program - An overview of Homeschooling
The morning session covers a lot of the basics of homeschooling - registering with umbrella schools, an overview of BHEA and what we do, etc.

10:30 - 12:30 - Curriculum Share, Information, and Activity Tables
BHEA members will host tables showing a wide variety of different curriculum. They will be available to talk with you about how they use things and answer any questions that you might have. This is a great chance to look at different books without the pressure to buy and to find out what moms who are using them like and don't like about them. We will also have representatives to talk about a lot of homeschool activities like rugby, the Knoxville Zoo programs for homeschoolers, gymnastics, Scouts, and lots more. You can even stop by and visit with the publishers of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and pick up a free issue!

12:30 - 2:30 Homeschool Workshops - choose whatever interests you!

1st concurrent session--12:30 - 1:30
• Homeschooling on a Budget by Linda McCausland - some great ideas for giving your child an excellent education on a tight budget. Linda's program was extremely popular last year so she is going to present it both hours this year - don't miss it!

• Homeschooling High School - this is a question and answer session for parents planning to homeschool their children through high school. It will be hosted by Mary Reed, Lori Wade, and Brennan LeQuire - who have all survived homeschooling their children through graduation and getting them into college!

• Setting Goals for your Homeschooling Experience with Amy Brown. Amy has some great ideas to help you have a successful homeschooling experience.

2nd concurrent session: 1:30 - 2:30
• Homeschooling on a Budget by Linda McCausland - description above (Linda is offering this popular program both hours so that everyone who wants to can attend)
• From Public School to Homeschool with Amy Brown. Amy has some great ideas for making this sometimes difficult transition.
• Homeschooling Nuts & Bolts: Learning Styles, Organization, & Scheduling with Sarah Small & Tammy Freeny - great practical advice on some of the more difficult aspects of homeschooling.