2015 Word of the Year: Invested

2015 Word of the Year: Invested

For my fourth year now, I’ve chosen a word of the year. It seems to be quite the trend now, although I didn’t realize the trend when I began. But perhaps it’s trending because of it’s effectiveness. I’ve loved choosing one word, one theme, one verse to meditate and focus on all year.

All of my goals and “resolutions” stem from this one perspective. In my personal Bible study, I often find the Lord revealing things to me about the specific area I’ve prayerfully chosen. And looking back, I’m humbled and inspired to see the year truly characterized by that word.

Which in one way, puts a lot of pressure on you to select the right word. I had a long list of possibilities this year. It was tough to choose. So what I ended up doing was looking through my list for words that were, in essence, the same idea. I found a single word that incorporated as many of these words as possible. And that word…drum roll…was Invested.

Word of the Year: Invested

My goal, hope, prayer for 2015 is to be less distracted and more invested in each moment. To focus, to connect, to be present in the SINGLE most important thing for that moment.

The busyness of life often forces us to multi-task, but what I’ve found is that a lot of my multi-tasking comes from anxiety over the next moment, and truly distracts from the moment I’m in.

Instead of half-mindedly listening to my children while I do something else, I’ve begun either stopping my task, or asking them to wait until I can give them my full attention. I’ll say something like, “I really want to hear what you are telling me, but I can’t give you the attention I want to give you right now. If you will wait just a moment, I will be able to listen to you better.”

Instead of running over plans and lists and to-dos and what I will say next, I focus on the one thing most needful. And TRUST that God will help me with the problems of the next moment when it’s time.

Life is so short. Moments so quickly vanish. I want to be invested in each one.

What’s your word for 2015? Comment and tell me all about it!

Ending the Year with Longing

Ending the Year with Longing

My word for 2014 was “satisfied.” But as the end of the year approached, ironically the idea God was laying heavy on my mind and heart was that of longing.

Longing is, in many ways, the opposite of satisfied; but it’s also the beginning of satisfied. I can’t feel satisfied if I’ve never felt longing.

But longing is a feeling we try to escape. It’s a feeling we never want to feel for long. And so we stuff ourselves with cheap substitutes to make the feeling go away. For instance, if I’m hungry, I don’t voluntarily allow myself to feel that way for long. I want that knawing to go away, even if I satisfy it with a snickers instead of a real meal. I have to give in to that longing.

Sometimes that longing is loneliness, sorrow, anxiety, or a feeling of being overwhelmed with life. Maybe it’s a longing for hope, for justice, for the way things should have been before the Fall. Maybe a painful tragedy, broken relationship, or a hurtful remark triggers that longing.

Do I despise that longing and seek to eradicate it, or do I see my longing as a gift drawing me closer to God?

I’ve been reading Hosea in my personal Bible study, and one truth that has stood out to me is that the Lord talks of stripping Israel of everything—naked, hungry, destitute—a state of absolute longing, so that Israel will long for God once again.

Longing is uncomfortable, even painful. But blessed are those who hunger and thirst, who are longing, for righteousness. They will be satisfied.

Tailoring Tapestry to a Custom-Fit

Tailoring Tapestry to a Custom-Fit

I re-evaluated everything last spring, even Tapestry, and asked myself some hard questions. I was disillusioned with it, to be quite honest. I had expected the first year fog, but the second year I ought to have found my stride. Unfortunately, I still had some growing pains. The kids were fine; they’re fine with just about anything I do. (Bless them!) But my expectations weren’t being met, or at least, I was feeling insecure.

So I asked myself why I loved Tapestry to begin with. My #1 reason? It wasn’t the book lists or activities, it wasn’t necessarily the whole family learning or the integration of subjects. I love many of those aspects, but at the top of my list was customization. Of course, you CAN customize just about any curriculum, but what I love is that Tapestry was designed to be customized.

I “customize” and find substitutes for a lot of the books a lot of the time. The activity suggestions I’ve almost entirely replaced; they just didn’t our family and my time-limits. I loved the Bible suggestions and world-view, but even those were merely a jumping off point.

Bottom-line, I’m not a curriculum-follower; I’m a curriculum-creator with not enough time to create from scratch. Tapestry allows me to customize, and I love that.

After learning that about myself and about Tapestry, I’m maximizing that possibility. I am customizing the curriculum to the point where some of you might not even recognize it. But I’m loving it so far.

Divisions by Topics, not Weeks

Toward the end of last year, I found myself totally overwhelmed with keeping up with the week plans. Trying to accomplish the reading deadlines was throttling our joy of reading and learning together. I hated it. To survive, I tossed the week plans and studied by topic instead. We studied the explorers, the colonies, and the American War for Independence. We moved on when we were ready, when our books were read—and we took the time to enjoy our books.

This worked so well that I’ve implemented it from the very beginning of this year. I’ve selected the events we will cover (and we won’t cover them all; no history curriculum does) and arranged our Terms by topic instead of by week.

I do have a rough idea of how long we will spend on each topic, but I’m keeping it rough.

Divisions by Terms, not Units

Tapestry is divided into four 9-week units. But I overhauled this, too. It became difficult last year to work our vacations around our units. Also, some units were very busy while others seemed pretty empty. By arranging our year by topics, I could smooth these busy times out. But then my units were all messed up.

Instead of units, I’ve arranged our year into three Terms of about 12 weeks. Tapestry, for the most part, will fit into the first two terms. (That’s right, 24 weeks instead of 36.) And the last term will be for science. Why?

To counter-act burnout. When spring hits, I’m ready for a change and so are the kids. Tapestry felt like it dragged on forever both years we’ve done it. When the sun comes out, I want to study outside and explore. Science seems like such a natural subject that time of year.

I’ve even rearranged Tapestry topics to tailor this. For instance, at different points in Year 3 we are supposed to study inventors and inventions. I’ve pulled these weeks out of place and arranged that topic for part of our science study in Term 3.

I told you, I gave Tapestry a massive overhaul. But it’s custom, and it fits.

 

Q/A:

What about maps?

I’m only using the maps as a reference point for our reading and discussion. We will be using the Classical Conversations dry-erase “Trivium Table” maps instead. And an old GeoSafari, for those who remember what that is.

What about chronology?

I’ve kept the topics in order for the most part. The only rearranged item were the inventors. I’m really wanting to free us up to form relationships with the people we are studying, something I felt too rushed to do in the past.

What about books?

I use Tapestry as a starting point and search my library by topic. I also do a lot of comparing on the SimplyCharlotteMason.com website. I’m pickier about book choices. We only have time for the best, living books. No dry fact summaries. And I’m not opposed to searching Netflix or my library’s videos. Liberty Kids was a life-saver toward the end of last year, and very effective.

What about activities?

There’s nothing wrong with Tapestry activities. In fact, when I first looked at Tapestry, this was a huge selling point for me—making bricks like the Israelites did, making armor like the medieval knights wore, etc. But, life happened. And I realize that I’m just not up for that most of the time. I don’t happen to have rebar or cement or wire or washers on hand. Not to mention that I’m tired of feeling guilty for not fitting it in. It’s just not us. (Not that my kids wouldn’t love it. You are more than welcome to come over and stomp bricks with them in the wading pool. But I’m lucky to have supper cooked and laundry caught up.)

Oldest likes to draw and caption, while Middlest likes to imagine and execute her own craft ideas. We like paper-crafts with glue and scissors. That’s more our speed.

Why do Tapestry at all if you are going to maul it like that?

This is my own question asked to myself. And my answer is, I looked at all the other curriculums very closely once more. Tapestry still had the core of what I wanted, more so than all the others. I like the literature woven into the history, I like the discussions and world view highlights, I like the 4 year rotation and the classical learning divisions (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric). I like that Tapestry was designed to be customized.

So there you have it.

A face-lift, an overhaul, a demolition, or—

a perfectly tailor-fit Tapestry.

Facing Our Challenges

Facing Our Challenges

All of life is a journey, with a thousand twists and turns and detours and unscheduled maintenance stops. And while some families may have a journey that looks like a road trip across Texas or Ohio (think miles of nothingness), ours feels more like a roller coaster. And just when I feel like it’s time to unbuckle and get off, it lurches forward again.

In our latest hair-raising episodes, we’ve encountered the full impact of an ADHD diagnosis. Without names, just think multiple family members, and you’ll start to get an idea of how life-altering this has been. It’s been a nightmare and a relief at the same time. A nightmare to realize what lies ahead, and a relief to understand that there are solutions to our difficulties.

I know this is a highly charged and controversial diagnosis, and I’m not about to debate any of that here. For a fantastic overview of what it is and how it can affect a family, visit BenandMe.com’s blog series on ADHD. It’s amazing, and has been a tremendous (not to mention, timely) encouragement.

Needless to say, this has meant some huge changes in our family-life, parenting style, and homeschool. And it’s meant that I’ve lightened up on some of my extremely idealistic expectations to provide a little relief for us all. Here’s a sneak-peak at what has worked so far.

A New Homeschool Routine

Homeschooling ADHDIf you know anything about ADHD, then you’ll understand how crucial structure and routine are. But I needed a routine that was on one hand structured, but on the other hand capable of flexing with our high demands. The solution…drum roll…

Mornings are reserved for exploration and activity; discipline subjects (think phonics, spelling, math) come after lunch.

So after our chores, our mornings include things like a nature walk, a read-aloud and art project, music lessons, or Latin videos (Song School Latin). I don’t “schedule” these activities (other than our Tapestry of Grace history lessons). Instead, I suggest the next thing on the list during the next opportunity we have. If chores take too long, we miss the extras. But if the kids have been diligent and we have time, I look at what’s next to offer up. If it’s a pretty day, I suggest a nature walk. If I’m having trouble with my Littlest, then I suggest a Kinderbach lesson or the Latin video.

After lunch, we have a rigid system that pretty much never changes. It’s time for discipline. Oldest does his Reflex Math, copywork, mapwork, and some reading while Middlest does math and reading with me. (Littlest is fed and happy and pretty content to explore on his own during this time of day.) Then, we switch it up. Middlest does Reflex and plays with Littlest while Oldest does language and math with me.

It takes us roughly two hours. And I’m done by 3. Which means all the kids go to quiet time and leave me in as close to absolute silence as we can possibly acquire. I’ve insisted: mommy needs quiet time or mommy becomes a momster. And after proving that out a few times, they’ve pretty much gotten the idea. Lol!

A New Evening Routine

Evenings are our “witching hour” in every sense that the parent books warn about. My children never outgrew this. It’s absolute chaos. Plus, it’s time to make dinner. Which means that inevitably, my husband walks into a storm.

Here’s where I’ve relaxed my ideal. I have allowed a daily cartoon time while I make supper (horror of horrors!) They watch cartoons until I have supper prepared, and my husband can sneak into the house and transition himself to “family time.” My rules are as follows: if you come out of quiet time, you will lose your cartoon time. If you whine or pout when I say time is up, you will lose your next day’s cartoon time. So far, there have been NO infractions. Amazing!

Tot school

A New Chore System

Chores have been a nightmare. And I’m not Cinderella’s step-mother: most of my children’s “chores” are brushing their teeth, making their bed, cleaning their room type of tasks. But between HIGH-distractibility and extreme emotional melt-downs, chores have been a Twilight Zone.

Until I went searching for a chore app with a reward system. What I needed was a chore system that ran itself and offered rewards for tasks done. If it depended on my husband or myself to resupply the rewards or come up with the cash or whatever, I knew it would fail. I knew our limits.

ChoreMonster has been a dream come true. First, it’s free! (Hallelujah!) Second, the chores, point system, and rewards are all customizable. I enter the chores and equivalent points earned for each child. I enter the rewards and points for purchase. I customize whether or not the chore needs to be approved by me (getting dressed does not but cleaning a room does). And the app literally runs itself.

My kids have their own login to check off the chores they finish. For each chore finished, they get a spin on the monster wheel that will either win them a new cleaning monster to add to their collection or something monster-ish like dirty underwear, a banana peel, an empty soda can, or a jar of farts. They love it!

For rewards, they can earn video game time, a movie night, a bubble bath with no time limit, a candy bar on my next trip to the store, a new lego set, and other items of varying value.

I’ve included good character as “chores,” if they show responsibility, a servant-spirit, a great effort during a difficult situation, or excellence in school (attitude and focus), they earn points as well.

It’s been a huge success! And a huge relief.

Logic of English FoundationsWe still have a lot of changes to make. But just to catch my breath from the chaos has been such a blessing. And knowing what it is I’m up against has been the greatest blessing of all.

Ready, Set, Go…2014 school year

Ready, Set, Go…2014 school year

First Day Pictures 2014-2015

It’s been a great start, though not an easy one. We’ve buckled down and pulled out the books and are knee-deep in Napoleon and Revolutions and an upcoming Louisiana Purchase.

Homeschool Open House

We kicked off the year with an “open house/orientation” of sorts, previewing all the coming attractions and attempting to get all my little minds salivating over the opportunities. It was simple but very effective. I pulled out some books, set the table display, popped some popcorn, and in 30 min. we’d done the thing from start to finish. It’s definitely something I’d like to see remain a tradition. Just what we needed to get us going.

Karate start

Reflex Math

The highlights this year are karate for the older two, Reflex Math for Middlest (she has waited a loooooong time for this), and some adventures with our local homeschool co-op. Littlest has also found plenty to be excited about.

Tot School activities

It’s been a fun start, not without the bumps in the road. But there’s definitely been plenty of blessings over the last couple of weeks to remind me of why I love homeschooling my kiddos.

Learning my “Best Yes”

Learning my “Best Yes”

My mom sent me a book. Even thousands of miles away, my mom knows me so well. She knows that “no” is foreign to my everyday vocabulary and that I say “yes” to more than I ought most of the time.

So I’ve been reading The Best Yes by Lisa Terkeurst, and I can’t tell you how timely it has been.

Here are a few thoughts that have been inspiring me lately.

Passages from The Best Yes

 

Decisions and Demands

 

My Best Yes

What are you reading?