Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Bridge to No-Nap Land

We have officially crossed that bridge. The one that was a bit wobbly at times, a bit uncertain, and one that I was more than happy to stay on the other side of for the time being. As our youngest passed the 2 1/2 mark, night time became even more of a challenge. Okay, who am I kidding? His bedtimes have pushed the proverbial envelope since we moved him into a 'big boy' bed after he climbed out of his crib. A whole story in itself -- At 16 months he tried to climb out of his crib. Most likely, he twisted his leg in between the slats and then fell to the floor. Unlike most children who accomplish the climb largely unharmed, Nathan ended up with a broken leg. He took some of his first steps with that blue cast on (late walker, made later by the injury). Bedtime was never the same.

Finally, we have gotten to that point where naps seemed to cut into his ability to fall asleep at bedtime and became somewhat optional. For a while we wavered in the middle of the bridge, struggling with his evening crabbiness with bedtime still an hour or more away. We made it though, and here we are. After almost 11 years of afternoon naps, that time is ended. Occasionally someone falls asleep in the car, or in the middle of afternoon read aloud time, or some other quiet activity. It feels so grown up, though. No more nappers. We all just go to bed at night and awake in the morning (hopefully with no events in between).

So . . . what does it mean? I still like to keep our afternoons quiet. I love to read aloud, and we are currently working our way through a few books during that time: Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels, Hillyer's A Child's History of the World, and Howard Pyle's Men of Iron. We still do school, of course, with the older ones, so I just have a bigger audience now. We spend time on geography each afternoon, some days we dabble in Spanish or have our PE and then Science time. The days are never long enough for all there is to learn in God's amazing world, and now all my kids are involved the whole day! I do miss sneaking into my own bed for a few minutes of shut eye, or curling up with my little one for a little snooze as he dozes off. Precious memories.

Sometimes I do like to disengage myself from their learning for a few minutes, encouraging their independence and discovery. I have found some great ways to keep the kids engaged (all of them, 2-10 years old) Educational videos are a great 30 minutes now and then. I usually try to keep one eye on it so we can discuss as well at the end. Independent art projects are something they all sink their hands into: playdough, drawing, pipe cleaner creations. Audio books are available at the library, or even online. I love the illustration that teaching different ages is like a bus ride -- we all get on together and then each child gets off at their appropriate stop. They absorb and contribute at their level, while still being challenged to reach for the next one.

Our mornings are more individualized, but the afternoon we all work together, so No-Nap Land isn't all that bad. Just one more to join us on the journey of learning all day long. Sweet memories of those baby and toddler days that pass more quickly than ever imaginable, and now adventuring ahead into more learning and growing together.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Where in the world?

From about 8:00 each morning until dinner time each night my time is filled with teaching my children. I love this part of my day. (I guess I enjoy most of most of my days, but I have so enjoyed the homeschool journey on which God has led us.) Right now one part of that day centers around Geography. It started as a weekly topic, and as interest has grown we have added it into our daily schedule. Thanks to the flexibility of homeschooling, we can do that kind of thing!

It started slowly. About a year ago, a friend of ours made it to the state level for the National Geography Bee. My oldest still had a year before he could participate, but the idea of a competition piqued his interest. We faced a bit of a challenge because in order for him to participate I had to find other homeschoolers in our area also interested in participating, and someone willing to moderate, because I couldn't moderate with a child in the competition. When I began to lose hope, I got an email from a teacher at a homeschool co-op that had coordinated a bee. Blake, my son, only had a few weeks to 'cram' all of the info in the world (pretty much literally) into his brain.

We got books from the library, studied the globe, filled in blank United States and world maps, and enjoyed many geography websites. Homeschooling before the internet and without a public library would be quite a different world. National Geographic has a website with a daily quiz that we enjoy. Out of the ten daily questions I have never gotten them all right, and they are a great spring board for study of areas of the world that we may have overlooked. These questions also resemble real bee questions as well.

A couple other sites that others have told us about include a fun site to see how well you know your geographical locations around the world, to the nearest kilometer. Blake nailed Vatican City within just 24 km! I got Brussels, Belgium within 4 km (luck, somewhat, I know). It gets pretty tough, asking about islands in Micronesia and other places not familiar to most North Americans. If you want to test your geography knowledge in a fast paced, interesting format, and stretch your kids also, check out this geography quiz.

Another geography study site we have gotten a lot of use out of takes you from a tutorial level through to 'cartographer.' This helps you place countries into their correct locations, identify capitals, and learn various regions around the world. They have both world wide and United States geography. The toughest levels show you a blank continent and give you a country outline that may or may not be the right size and position to fit on the map. You have to figure out which country it is and where it goes on the map. These activities really help you learn your stuff.

Hope what we have learned and enjoyed can help some other budding cartographers out there, or at least given some interesting resources for your homeschool geography studies.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Verse of the week - Hebrews 11:16

As I jump into this new blog, one straight from my heart, I want to share what God is teaching me that it may encourage and motivate others in their walk with Christ. As a homeschool mother of 5 also with a full time job, I know how our spiritual walk can get lost in the shuffle of a busy day. I desire to walk through my busyness hand in hand with my heavenly Father. He hears all my fears and confidences, weaknesses and strengths, sorrows and joys, losses and triumphs, and loves me through it all.

Each week I would like to share a verses that has ‘jumped out’ at me. This verse I will carry through my week, and pray that it will be a help and challenge to others as well. For this upcoming week I am highlighting a verse that I and my children are memorizing right now as we work through Hebrews chapter eleven. This is from verse 16: Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

I love that verse. God has worked so diligently in recent months and years to instill an eternal perspective in my daily living. I pray that my actions and choices this week will show that I long for a better country, a heavenly one. I pray that God will not be ashamed to be called my God. Wow! That’s quite a high calling. The hope of an eternal city built for us by a loving God should help remind us how temporal this life is.

“Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Hebrews 11:16

Monday, January 21, 2008

No time like the present

In the midst of all the demands on our time, and our own frustration at day’s end over the lack of accomplishing our daily ‘to-do’ list, I’d like to offer a little encouragement. Over the past 10 ¾ years since we had our first child I have learned a thing or two about time management, multi-tasking, flexibility, oneness with my husband, and reliance on God. I don’t know that there is a quick-fix or a one-size-fits-all answer, but some principles can bring greater peace and joy to most situations.

As far as time management I learned from Flylady. The power in establishing a morning and evening routine carries me through busy days with young children underfoot. Although the routine and scheduling are important to maintain daily sanity, the biggest lesson I carried from her was the efficacy of baby steps. We all have areas that need improvement, and, in this life, we always will. If we can step back and avoid the overwhelming weight of all that needs improvement, and start somewhere, anywhere, we will begin to see change. We conquer one area, and move on, retaining what we have learned. Keep the big picture in mind. Look back in a year and see all that you have accomplished (how many loads of laundry have you sorted, pre-treated, washed, folded, put away? Maybe five more still call your name, but that doesn’t begin to compare to the hundreds you have done.) Take things a day at a time and keep goals achievable.

Multi-tasking, another must-have quality in motherhood, becomes second nature as we type one handed to ‘get something done’ while nursing (as if nourishing our hungry baby was nothing), file paperwork while on hold on the phone, prepare lunch while giving spelling tests, etc., etc. I try to often call one of my kids along side me as I work. Another set of hands often actually lengthens the task, but this time passes too quickly not to take advantage of each moment with them, the ultimate in multi-tasking. No great tips for multi-tasking, but it gets easier with time and use.

No matter how solid a routine, and how proficient our multi-tasking ability, without flexibility our days will still be fraught with frustration. Babies don’t always stay on ‘schedule,’ sickness crops up, something breaks, the power goes out, storms blow through, life happens. Before we know it, our children will marry and move out. I try to remind myself daily to joyfully drop everything to hold that child. Ten years from now I may have more ‘spare time,’ but he won’t be asking then. Praise God in the sunshine and praise Him in the rain.

As I seek to keep my home, my goals there need to honor my husband, follow his lead, please him, and create a sanctuary he runs to get home to. If he gets frustrated by dirty counters, they should be my priority. If he wants the living room clear of toys when he arrives home, I should excite the children in preparing this for Daddy. His priorities, need to cultivate my priorities. Some areas we may not know what we should do, but if he expresses it, there is no longer a question. I pray for joy to help my husband and always greater love to energize me throughout the day.

It all comes back to God. He gave us these children, this place in our life, our husband. He holds the key to limitless grace, love, patience, and joy to thrive where He placed us. Even when we don’t have an hour for quiet time to start the day, we can be in His word, seeking His wisdom, praying continually, turning our children’s hearts to Him, following Him step by step. Without God at the core of our lives, the filter we see and process through, the knowledge we teach through, and the guide we walk through, no amount of planning, schedules, or flexibility will put our lives peacefully in order.

We will face many imperfect days. While I wanted to offer some encouragement and practical tips, I also have learned the importance of keeping an eternal perspective. What really matters? My husband and children’s souls are eternal. Everything else that I have to schedule in everyday is only temporary. This life is a vapor in the eternal span of time. We must be good stewards of all God has entrusted us with, weighing the eternal value of our actions and choices throughout each day. These busy, young-children filled days will pass so quickly. Their success will be judged differently than we often judge them now. What will last are those things of eternal value. I love the saying, "Don't sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the temporal."