Will you homeschool through graduation?

Many people really believe that homeschooling is fine for elementary school, but that homeschooling in high school is absolutely insane.  Many incorrectly believe that the parent must know the topics that their student is learning better than their student.  Please let me be clear: when my son has a question in algebra, he does not expect me to know the answer.  However, there are resources for help in every single subject that you can find.  I am not going to list these for you, but I do want you to know that it is most definitely possible to homeschool your student through high school even if you don’t understand everything they’re learning.

I took chemistry in high school and I can tell you right now that when it comes to Hayden taking chemistry, he will not look to me as his source of information.  This does not scare me away from homeschooling, though.

The following resources are just a few I’ve found that have encouraged me in my homeschooling high school journey.

Sep 2015

  • Should You Homeschool High School? When the Fun and Games End. Lee Binz –“”Can we do this?” “What about college?” “Will they be able to earn scholarships?” And the ever popular, “How on earth will we teach Calculus??”I wish I could give you a well-reasoned answer to why we continued homeschooling through graduation. The truth has likely more to do with inertia than conviction. We loved homeschooling. We felt it was exactly what God wanted us to do, and it had worked well so far, so… we continued.”  ~Lee Binz
    (Jennifer here, I love this excerpt!)
  • Homeschooling High School for the Freaked Out Parent – Lee Binz
  • The Total Transcript Solution – Since I’m recommending The HomeScholar here, I thought I might at least tell you which of her products I purchased.  I currently have a student in 9th grade  and I found myself worrying about transcripts.  Thankfully I was introduced to The HomeScholar’s  website and there I watched a free video on transcripts.  Based on what I heard, I decided that it would be worth purchasing the entire package for transcripts, especially since she had a money back guarantee.  I was very pleased with what I purchased and loved that it came with a 20 minute phone consultation with Mrs. Binz.  Before the call I prepared Hayden’s transcript for his upcoming four years and she gave me her tips and suggestions.  I was encouraged beyond explanation after this call.
  • Homeschool Through High School –  “Don’t be intimidated by secondary education. You can homeschool through high school if you have a plan!” – Sarah from the SmallWorldatHome  ~  I love her thoughts on several topics regarding high school!  Please check her out!
    These are just a few but I’d love to add more.  If you find some that I need to know about, please mention them in the comment section.

One blessing of homeschooling a high schooler is that he or she does most of the work independently.  I do spend about the same amount of time grading/correcting/reading his work than I did working with him when he was in the younger grades, so I haven’t found myself with a ton of free time on my hands now that I have a high schooler, but I am enjoying this stage in an entirely new way.  It has been so much fun watching this transition… now that we’re in it, homeschooling high school isn’t nearly as scary.

Disclaimer:
Lee Binz has no idea I’m sharing this with you and I get no kick-backs from doing so.  I just like sharing what I have found that works!  Let me know if you have any questions!
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My Philosophies

phi·los·o·phy /fəˈläsəfē/ – a theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior

My philosophies of homeschooling, education, and reading greatly impact the decisions I make in our homeschool.

I’ve shared these ideas in several blog posts but have never pulled them out to stand on their own.

Here are the six main areas I have very specific thoughts on: 

  1. Education
  2. Reading
  3. Preschool Education
  4. Early Elementary Education
  5. Middle School Education
  6. High School Education

Education

  • I do not place my childrens’ education at the top of my priority list.  In raising my children to adulthood, my main concern is that they become Godly men of character.  I firmly believe that if they have a Godly character they will be good husbands, good fathers, good employees or employers, they will be honest, fair, just, and they will have a love of learning.  People with great character tend to be willing to learn new things because they can honestly admit that they don’t know it all.  SO… if I raise Godly men of character, they will reach adulthood with a willingness to improve their own minds, hearts, and in turn, their eduction and finances will fall into place.
  • I do not purport that what or how I am teaching my children is the best way or the only way, that children should be taught.  I am, however, confident that I am teaching them the best way I know how to and in a way that I sleep soundly at night knowing that they are getting a well rounded education.   This is not to say that other forms of education are not well rounded… what I am saying here, on my own blog, is that I am comfortable with what I have taught my children and that any kind of education they could receive would come with holes.  The holes in my kids’ education might be different than the holes in the educations of children who receive other forms of schooling, and I am perfectly comfortable with that.  P.J. Jonas of Goat Milk Stuff explains it so well and said it in a way that I can agree with:  “Teaching our children to think is much more important than getting them to memorize tons of facts.”  If you want to see what Henry Ford or Albert Einstein thought about this exact topic, please read the blog post of P.J.’s that I linked to.
  • Our homeschool is not “school at home.”  If you were to enter my house on a weekend you might not be able to tell we homeschool.  We don’t have a school room and we don’t expect our days to have the flow of a school day.  While this is okay for some families, it wouldn’t work for ours.  In Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, Sonya Haskins explains this so well.  I urge you to read her book.

Reading

  • I love to read.  I love to see my children reading.  I believe kids can learn anything by reading so one of my main goals as a teacher is to get my students to a level of reading that will enable them to pick up a book on a topic that they are interested in and glean what they want to from it.  I think my Gardner-Webb University Professors will sing for joy at my next statement:  I am trying to develop life-long learners.  I want my children to choose to read throughout their adulthood.  If I can get them from non-readers, to readers, to lovers-of-reading, I’ll count my job well done.  So far, my three bigs have developed a love of reading and they frequently choose to do so on their own.
  • The age at which a child becomes an avid reader is less important than THAT he becomes an avid reader.  I fully believe that it is better to delay reading instruction if a student is showing clear signs that he or she is not ready than to push through and create in the child a dread of reading.  With Bailey, I tested this philosophy (and my own patience in the process) and I found that I was right.   I learned how to read at a young age and my first two readers learned easily and loved it from the start.  This made it difficult for me to go at Bailey’s pace.  I wanted him to pick it up as early and as easily as his brothers did, but my overall goal, to have him LOVE reading, seemed immeasurably more important to me than when he mastered the skill.  SO…  I waited.  I slowed down.  When I was frustrated with how slowly he was progressing, I forced myself to remember that making him feel like he was bad at reading, or that he was disappointing me, was not going to help me achieve my end-goal.  Over the course of several years Bailey has not only grown in his mastery of the skill but has become a lover-of-reading.  I am now confident that my way works, and I will have even more patience with Parker than I did with Bailey because I know this:  protecting a child’s love of reading is far more important than getting him or her to master the skill by certain age.  This may be one of the most foundational philosophies in my entire bouquet of philosophies because it impacts every single subject we cover.  I know that it’s not a philosophy I would really be able to put into practice were I still in the classroom because of the nature of classrooms… everyone needs to meet certain goals on a certain time-frame.  This is one reason I love homeschooling for our family: because the time-frames match the student; the student doesn’t have to match the time-frames.

Preschool Education

  • I regularly receive requests for my opinion about what curriculum I recommend for preschool.  I want to be very careful here, because I know a lot of people value formal preschool and the benefits of early education.  What I will say is that I HONESTLY believe preschoolers can learn everything they need in the two simple actions of playing and being read to.  (In case you missed it, that was my philosophy on preschool homeschool.)  Play with your preschooler and they’ll learn. Read to and with your preschooler and they’ll learn.  I do not think a curriculum is necessary for you to teach your preschooler so I don’t recommend a single one.  That is not to say that there are not great ones out there.  In fact, I’m positive that there are great ones out there.  But I believe that the preschool years are designed for play and exploration and I do not spend a dime on preschool homeschool curriculum. I also believe that children have 13+ years of school ahead of them and only 5 designated for just being a kid.  I say let them be a KID!
  • Now, in the interest of full transparency here, all four of my children have gone to a public preschool for one or two years of their lives.  That sounds so very contradictory to the previous paragraph, and for that I do apologize.  The reasons for each child varied: When my oldest when to preschool at age 4 it was to prepare him for “real school” which we were going to be utilizing.  We had no intention of homeschooling, and Hayden was so timid that I wanted him to have a year of “practice” to get him ready for the real thing. For Carson and Bailey, they went to preschool four days a week, just in the mornings.  Matt was deployed and this gave me a small break, and a chance to teach Hayden all by himself.  Parker went to preschool three days a week for three hours, giving me the time to focus on a few subjects that required the older boys to really concentrate.  During that season I found that I was letting Parker watch TV while we needed to focus on school and I decided would preschool was better than watching TV.  Sure, I could have come up with something for him to do, but honestly, that was right for us at the time.  (Begin shooting flaming arrows now…)

Early Elementary Education

My philosophy of early elementary education is to cover the basics:

  • Teach them to read (but the age at which a child learns to read is less important than developing his or her love of reading);
  • Teach them math in concrete ways so that later they can understand the abstract mathematical concepts;
  • Teach them that history is the story of people and make it interesting.
  • Science is great, but I admit I’m not a great science teacher… Co-ops would be a great idea for supplementing what I haven’t covered, and replying on occasional unit studies and investigating nature is easier than it might sound at first.
  • Handwriting is more important than I first thought, but it’s not the main thing.

Middle School Education

  • My thoughts on middle school education are slim.  I was trained in Elementary Education and so I really never studied the specifics about middle school grades.
  • We pretty much continue what we’re doing in their subjects from 1st grade through 7th.
  • In the 8th grade we give them a year of “practice high school” work.  This gives the student a year to stretch those muscles; to learn how to manage time; to figure out just how much more work a year of high school is than what they’ve been doing; to begin thinking about grades.*
  • *We don’t do a lot of grading until high school level.  Really, we only do grades in Math in the elementary years.

High School Education

  • I’m pretty new to this high school thing so please bear with me if this changes over the next few years but basically, I see these years as the years to prepare for college.  We are assuming all of our children are going to go to college and will require them to work in our homeschool as if they are.
  • Grades are kept for transcript purposes and we grade for mastery.  (That means we do the work over and over until they learn it.)
  • I believe (as Lee Binz, the HomeScholar says) that we can create a transcript to reflect our school and that we don’t need to change our school to fit onto a transcript.
  • Work ethic is huge: they need to turn work in well and on time (the latter is something we struggle with in our homeschool).
  • Using the HomeScholar’s The Total Transcript Solution and a college preparation high school plan we are going to work through what is required to enter college over these high school years.
  • I’ll add more as I learn more, but for now, this is it.

There you have it!  These are the foundational beliefs in our homeschool, educationally speaking.  Overall, I think it’s pretty simple and, while I am not discrediting any other philosophies that exist regarding education, we are pleased with the results we’ve seen homeschool so far, basing what we do around these particular ideas.  Time will tell…

_JEN6470

We read, and we read a lot. I read to them and they read independently.

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Homeschooling My Way #1

You’ve stumbled upon my very first “how I homeschool” note.  I first shared this as a note on Facebook in September of 2009.  At that time I had been homeschooling for three and a half years.  In this note I share in detail what I was using at the time and my philosophy of homeschooling.

I now have a fourth son and some of what I used with the first three will find its way into his education while other things will not.

I still stand by my caveats.

(Note: Update added 12-13-10 at bottom.)


September 2009 – I’m finally sitting down to do this. I’ve had good intentions the past six months to sit down and write this out, but life keeps happening and the time never arose. Well, thanks to an absolutely wonderful Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino enjoyed with my dinner, I am wide awake while the rest of my house sleeps peacefully.

Please let me state a few things for the record before I even begin writing this note:

1. I do not claim to be the best homeschooling mom. In fact, I admit that part of the reason I put this off for so long is that I dread the criticism I will bring upon myself. I just know for a fact that I am the ABSOLUTE BEST teacher for my children and I don’t make any apologies for that. I am well aware that there are other homeschool moms who do MUCH more for and with their children and I bet those kids are beyond blessed to have that kind of mom. For me, however, I do not believe that education is the #1 aspect of our lives and so I live that way. We are to live to glorify God and that is done in all arenas of life, including education.

2. I do not claim to have the most Christian of homeschools. I feel that many people expect me (and all homeschoolers) to focus all our studies around the Bible and to use only Christian texts. Nope. I do have a curriculum that is Christian (KONOS) and I really love it, but I also use secular curricula (Saxon Math, Shurley English, and (insert gasp) library books!!

3. I do not claim to have the smartest kids out there, nor do I intend to line mine up side-by-side with other kids (homeschooled, or other-schooled) to determine just where they fall in relation to others. That’s entirely up to God and how HE created each one. I also do not compare them to each other. (Okay, I admit that I do compare them to each other, but they do not know that Bailey is taking longer to learn to read than the others did or that he uses extra flash cards to help him learn his sounds. He thinks that is normal, and the other two think I added an extra game for him!) I pray they all grow up with a love of learning that stems from genuine enjoyment rather than a need to compete or excel beyond others.

4. Finally, I do not expect anyone to copy what I do because they think I’m sharing my plan as a way to “lead others to the correct way to homeschool” No, not at all. The main reason I’m writing this is because I am asked at least on a weekly basis, “What curriculum do you use? I’d like to come over and see what you use so I can get an idea what I’m supposed to be doing.” (Most of the time this comes from potential homeschool moms.) Because of the way I homeschool, I don’t have a quick answer. (Meaning, I don’t just use “Bob Jones” or “A Beka” but rather, I use an eclectic mix of stuff.) Because so many people are on Facebook, I thought it would be SO convenient if I could just shoot them this note and give them my long answer in way that they could read it and take what they want, and leave the rest.

5. Last thing: I’m not asking for critiques to my program, nor am I in any way looking for compliments. If there were a way to turn off the “comments” section, I would. I have seen other homeschool articles torn to shreds and I feel so badly for that mother. We all parent differently, therefore all homeschooling moms will teach differently.

So, those caveats are quite extensive, but you’re reading the midnight ramblings of a mother who loves her kids and relishes each moment spent in teaching them… What did you expect?!?

Now that I’ve done that I’ll dive right in:

———————————-Kindergarten—————————

READING – Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Dr. Phyllis Haddox and Elaine Bruner) – As I mentioned in Caveat #3, I am making flash cards of the sounds as new ones are introduced because Bailey was having trouble remembering the former sounds once new ones were added. As soon as I started reviewing the flash cards with him before we did the day’s lesson, he began to feel more successful and was actually remembering the old and new sounds. This is very common with all students, but Bailey was the first of mine to need the extra help. As I mentioned above, he has no idea that he was having trouble or that the flash cards were not used with his brothers. He loves the success of flipping through the cards so much that he usually wants to go through them “one more time” before starting the lesson because he sees it as sort of a game. One rule I follow without exception with him is that we only do ONE lesson a day. If we miss one for whatever reason, we do NOT double up to catch up. It’s better to take it slow and let this sink in the right way than try to cram it and frustrate him.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION – Yes, I schedule this for every single day. (As a former el. ed. teacher I am pretty rigid in my lesson plan making and attendance taking. Some things stick with you…) At the beginning of the school year we were still going to the pool 2-3 days a week, so I made sure that I made my lesson plans to include swimming. Now that the pools around here are closed, I schedule in one “skate park” day and the rest of the days are, “Playground, bikes, scooters, and skateboards.” Not a day goes by that my kids aren’t doing one of those activities. And I can PROMISE YOU, if it’s raining, they are plenty creative and get their energy out in other ways. (Current favorite…piling pillows at the bottom of the stairs and seeing how high up they can jump from. Not MOM’s Favorite, by any means.)

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – I schedule in that they go to Chapel and Royal Rangers each week. KONOS also includes Bible stories, scripture, character studies, etc. (You should really do some research on KONOS. Amazing curriculum.) I also include that they listen to Adventures in Odyssey every single day. They have learned so much from those radio dramas that it is worthy of inclusion.

MATH – Saxon K – I taught Saxon while I was in the public school system so it was natural for me to use something I was familiar with. Hayden completed Kindergarten Math in 3 months, Carson in 6, and it’ll take Bailey most of the year. This has very little to do with how well they understand the information. In reality, I had SO much time I had to spend with Hayden doing his Kindergarten school work because he was the only “student” I had. I had time to do as many lessons as he was up for in a given day. Even if it was 6-7…if he wanted to, we kept on. When Carson was going through that book, I had less time as I was teaching him and a 2nd grader. Now that Bailey is going through it, I have a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and him. So, by the time Bailey and I have done Reading and Math, his brothers are done with their independent work and are in need of direct instruction. I don’t have the luxury of spending as much time with him as I did with Carson, much less than I had with Hayden. I just mention this to give you an idea of how quickly one might finish the K book…it’s based on how much time YOU have to give as well as the understanding of the student.

LIBRARY – We go to the library about every 2 weeks. (I use the website to put books on hold and then when I get to the library they have a huge stack waiting for me to pick up. Usually 50-80 books. These books range in levels from K – 8th grade. While we’re there we get to sit and play. Computers, books, magazines, etc. When we leave, I just have to grab my basket and check out the books I previously reserved. SUCH a blessing to have a great library system.) I find it important to give the boys access to the library for many reasons, including wanting them to know how to behave in that setting. They do great: they’re quiet, take turns on the computer, and are figuring out how to find the books they’re interested in.

PEER INTERACTION AND OUTSIDE AUTHORITY – Laugh if you want, but one of the main critiques of homeschooling is that “the children need social skills.” Okay, so fine. I give my kids opportunities to be “social” and to learn how to behave in public settings. Not just public, but (gasp again) NON CHRISTIAN settings. Every week I go to a Bible Study at a Chapel on post. The child care is paid for by PWOC and is provided at the (secular) hourly child care center. In this setting my kids must obey and respect authority other than their parents; they must learn how to walk in line, share, and take turns. They have had to learn how to deal with bullies and kids who use AWFUL language. The have even had to deal with one child who told them he loved the devil more than anyone else. (Yeah, that was a strange month of trying to explain that to the boys, but they learned that their only requirement was to be nice and pray for the kid. They didn’t have to be his best friend, and they weren’t but they learned how to co-exist pleasantly.)

FAMILY & HOME MANAGEMENT – I don’t include this on a regular basis, but I should. They each have activities they are required to do on a daily basis. Most of these “chores” are paid but some are just part of being a family. There will be a time when we are about to move and I’ll schedule a day where they will help us by sorting out their toys into categories: GIVE AWAY, KEEP, and CHUNK and this is a skill they are going to need for their future. Hayden can cook Mac and Cheese on his own (with supervision, but he’s got it down pat) and Hayden and Carson both wash their own clothes. They are a great help around the house and I think their lesson plans should reflect that. (Now, I do admit that if they were in school 8 hours a day the house wouldn’t BE as messy and I’d have more time to work on it, BUT, at least they do their part.)

SCIENCE – Part of what the kids do for Science is Jonathan Park. (Another radio drama, similar to Adventures in Odyssey.) It focuses on teaching children what the Bible says about creation and how they can defend what they believe. They listen to the same episode every day for 5 days and then (in theory) we talk about it and review it. I’ve not been so good at that part, but they are really learning and interested in it. In fact, they have heard a lot about the Aucilla RIver in Florida. While talking about our Disney World trip coming up in November Hayden (8) asked me if we could go to the Aucilla River. This science is real and my kids are learning! LOVE THAT! As for other science, some activities we do are straight out of KONOS and are based around the topic we are studying. Others (like our Plant Notebook) come from the NCSCOS. (That stands for North Carolina Standard Course of Study, which is the scope and sequence that NC uses to teach all its students. As an el. ed. college student I had to be sure that my lessons were DIRECTLY tied to the NCSCOS. As a homeschooling mother, I get to do what I want! But, I do want my kids to be at or above their peers (and I consider NC home) which is why I chose the NCSCOS to use as a LOOSE guide.

SOCIAL STUDIES – Library books and ideas from KONOS, as well as information directly from the NCSCOS. (I do recommend that homeschoolers pick a state* and look at their “scope and sequence.” It is helpful to get ideas and to know what kids in the public schools are learning. I don’t feel one should feel forced to follow it exactly, but knowing what other kids are doing or are expected to know will give you a good feel for where your own child is. (* About the phrase, “pick a state…” I’m mainly referring to military families. If you’re not military, you’d naturally pick the state you reside in. But because military families move all over, I think it’s better to pick one and stick with it the entire time you’re schooling. As you know, what is covered in 2nd grade in one state might be covered in 3rd in another. If you’re following your ORDERS to pick a state, you might end up frustrated that you’re repeating information or missing crucial info. Best to pick a state and stick with it. Continuity is helpful!!)

HANDWRITING – Oh, one of my biggest homeschooling mistakes thus far is in the area of handwriting. I was using the “100 Easy Lessons” to teach writing for Hayden. He does not have good handwriting and it has been SO difficult to un-teach what he learned. It wasn’t that the 100 Easy lessons taught him incorrectly, it just wasn’t sufficient! So, while Bailey was in OT for SID (that’s another note for another day) his therapist suggested that I use Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) for him. I did a very brief research and ended up buying the entire thing, K-2 for all three boys. (Mat Man, Chalk board, Flip Crayons, Wood Pieces, etc.) I started Hayden at K and moved him up as he got better. Carson started K with it and he has incredible handwriting! I won’t have to UN-TEACH incorrect habits. One note, from Carson on, I will not use the 100 Easy Lessons writing section at all. The “font” of the letters they teach is very different from what HWT uses, so I choose not to confuse them. We do HWT and that’s IT for handwriting (for grades K-2…looking at something different for 3rd grade and up.).

ELECTIVES AND FIELD TRIPS – When something neat is coming up, like when we spent the night in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I plugged it into our lesson plans as a Field Trip. When they do Soccer or something extra curricular, I might stick it in as Electives.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES – Last year I did Rosetta Stone Spanish with Carson (in K – above his head… not really worth it) and Hayden (2nd Grade – he was doing great). I really like the homeschool version, but my fault in this was that I did not keep up with it. If I had put forth the effort that I should have then he and I could be holding conversations in Spanish. Now that we’re heading to Germany I wish we had the German version and I really don’t want to overload them with two new languages. Not sure what to do about this so right now they’re not doing any foreign language. I might have just convinced myself to at least stick Hayden back on it…

———————————-1st Grade——————————

Many of the things above I continue to do in all the grades, so I’ll copy and paste just a quick summary of those things.

READING – I use library books exclusively for Carson’s reading. Our library has books that have color coded stickers and he knows what level he’s supposed to be reading. (They are color coded but also lettered, A, B and C, with C being the more difficult of the “easy readers.”) I allow him to read any of them, but at least one a day must be C. We have discovered a great website that is a great substitute for “AR” or Accelerated Reader, a program found in many public schools. www.bookadventure.com The boys can read a book and then take an online test. They earn points and then can use those points to buy books, book marks, or other prizes. Their favorite so far has been a candy bar for 900 points from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION – “Playground, bikes, scooters, and skateboards.”

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – Chapel, Royal Rangers, KONOS, and Adventures in Odyssey

MATH – Saxon 1 –

LIBRARY – We go to the library about every 2 weeks.

PEER INTERACTION AND OUTSIDE AUTHORITY – opportunities to be “social” and to learn how to behave in public settings. They must learn how to walk in line, share, and take turns.

FAMILY & HOME MANAGEMENT – They each have activities they are required to do on a daily basis.

SCIENCE – Jonathan Park. As for other science, some activites we do are straight out of KONOS and others come from the NCSCOS.

SOCIAL STUDIES – Library books and ideas from KONOS, as well as information directly from the NCSCOS.

HANDWRITING – Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) (for grades K-2…looking at something different for 3rd grade and up.).

ELECTIVES AND FIELD TRIPS – When something neat is coming up, like when we spent the night in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I plugged it into our lesson plans as a Field Trip. When they do Soccer or something extra curricular, I might stick it in as Electives.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES – Last year I did Rosetta Stone Spanish with Carson (in K – above his head… not really worth it) and Hayden (2nd Grade – he was doing great). (Currently not doing any foreign language for my 1st grader)

SPELLING – I use the McGuffey Readers for spelling. On Monday I go through the list and ask him to verbally spell the next word on the “reader. ” If he gets it correct, I move on to the next. If he spells the word wrong it goes on the spelling list for the week. Once he has 10 words we have a spelling list. He has to write the words each 4 times and practice saying them. Now that he’s getting to words that are actually challenging to him, I am going to need to incorporate flash cards for him so that I, his dad, or big brother, can quiz them on these words. This particular week week we’ve stopped the “reader” and are doing numbers: ONE, TWO, etc. For whatever reason, these are not sticking with him the way they should be.

———————————2nd Grade——————————

Since I don’t have a 2nd grader this year, I’ll just tell you that what I did with Hayden is almost identical to what he’s doing this year. He did Saxon Math 2, “Shurley English Level 1 (you’ll read about it below) and Handwriting Without Tears K-2, all three books. We did not have Jonathan Park last year. The rest is quite similar to the 3rd grade year, with the level of reading material increasing appropriately.

———————————3rd Grade——————————

Many of the things above I continue to do in all the grades, so I’ll copy and paste just a quick summary of those things.

READING – I use library books exclusively for Hayden’s reading. He loves the Magic Tree House but has also read the Chronicles of Narnia book, “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.” He does the tests on Bookadventure.com when they are available and loves the chocolate he earns!

PHYSICAL EDUCATION – “Playground, bikes, scooters, and skateboards.”

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – Chapel, Royal Rangers, KONOS, and Adventures in Odyssey

MATH – Saxon 3 – HOWEVER, PLEASE NOTE THIS; I am expecting a new baby in March and am homeschooling 3 kids. We are moving to Germany and I really need to find something that he can work on independently. I have done a lot of research and have decided to use “Teaching Textbooks” for his 4th grade Math once he’s finished with Saxon 3, which will be sometime this semester, I believe. I can’t vouch for it yet, but I pray it is as good as the reviews and personal testimonies have claimed it to be!

LIBRARY – We go to the library about every 2 weeks.

PEER INTERACTION AND OUTSIDE AUTHORITY – opportunities to be “social” and to learn how to behave in public settings. They must learn how to walk in line, share, and take turns.

FAMILY & HOME MANAGEMENT – They each have activities they are required to do on a daily basis.

SCIENCE – Part of what the kids do is Jonathan Park. As for other science, some activites we do are straight out of KONOS and others come from the NCSCOS.

SOCIAL STUDIES – Library books and ideas from KONOS, as well as information directly from the NCSCOS.

HANDWRITING – NOTE: The OT who recommended HWT also told me that she does not like the way HWT teaches cursive. She said she prefers Loops and Other Groups, so once I have saved enough money (around $60) I will be purchasing that for Hayden to use. I can’t vouch for this personally, but am excited for it! And it’s amazing how kids in 3rd grade, even if they’re not around many public school kids, just start wanting to try cursive. He’s been making up his own “cursive” letters lately! Adorable!

ELECTIVES AND FIELD TRIPS – When something neat is coming up, like when we spent the night in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I plugged it into our lesson plans as a Field Trip. When they do Soccer or something extra curricular, I might stick it in as Electives.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES – (Currently not doing any foreign language for my 3rd grader but might start him back up on is soon.)

SPELLING – I use the McGuffey Readers for spelling. On Monday I go through the list and ask him to verbally spell the word. If he gets it correct, I move on to the next. If he spells the word wrong it goes on the spelling list for the week. Once he has 10 words we have a spelling list.

The following is different from Carson’s spelling work: I select 5 of the 10 words for Hayden to define. If he does them neatly (handwriting practice as well as learning to use a dictionary) then he’s done with definitions. If they’re messy, he must define all 10. He also must write each word 4 times each and then he’s tested on the words on Friday. Words he spells incorrectly on the test automatically go on the next week’s list of 10 words.

GRAMMAR – Shurley English, Level 2 – Do some research on this! I am really pleased with it. It can be repetitive in the beginning but it works. Hayden is able to tell me all the parts of a sentence and diagram it in a VERY short time. Usually 1 minute or less. (He did Level 1 last year. Since I don’t currently have a 2nd grader, I skipped that grade in my summary. I think this is the only thing different for him…this and that he did HWT for 2nd grade and will use Loops this year.)

So, that is what I do. There are many things my kids learn that I don’t write down, and many advantages to homeschooling that I absolutely love. But my reasons for homeschooling were not the purpose of this “note.” I just wanted to share what I do with my kids. If you really want to know the many reasons I homeschool that’ll have to wait for the next time I splurge and drink a coffee way too late in the day. I’ll give you the number one reason, and it’s probably not what you’d expect… I feel like kids waste their time in a classroom and it makes me sad to see how much time is eaten away with frivolous activities. I taught. I know what it’s like. No, I don’t think it’s torture or cruel and unusual punishment, but I get done in a few short hours what it takes a school all day (and apparently all night, with the amount of homework given these days) to accomplish. My kids are kids. They do their work, then they eat and rest (yes, they rest each day for about 3 hours… sleep or not, I don’t care. Rest, they must.) Then they’re free! They play, color, sometimes watch TV. But for MOST of the day they’re just KIDS. They have the rest of their lives to work and be grown up. I want them to have as fulfilling a childhood as possible.

NOW, one last caveat, one I did not mention above. As I was writing that last paragraph I got to thinking… one might start to think that I look down on other parents who choose not to homeschool. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I truly don’t have a preference as to whether or not you homeschool. I absolutely respect each parent’s right to make the decision that is best for their family. I do not believe that all kids should be homeschooled. That is why Matt and I have chosen to take this homeschooling thing, “Year by year and kid by kid.” While I can see the value in homeschooling through high school, I can also listen to the Lord and if He ever says, “Put ’em in school,” I want to be obedient.

So there it is. My “program” and my caveats. Take it or leave it. I apologize if I sound overly defensive. It sort of comes with the territory, I guess. When you write something that is so tender and close to your heart as your kids and the choices you make in raising them, you know there are bound to be people who disagree. I guess that’s a risk I’m willing to take at this moment.

I am so thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to homeschool. I feel so sad for the German families near whom I’m going to be living. They don’t even have the OPTION. The are jailed on a consistent basis for homeschooling. (I guess that’s a note for yet another coffee-driven late night.)

~Jennifer

12-13-10

So much has changed in my homeschool that I had to add this link a new post I’ve titled “Homeschooling My Way #2.

The main difference is that I look back at how pleased I was with Shurley English.  I guess it wasn’t the curriculum itself that I wasn’t happy with but rather, my priorities changed.  I no longer care whether or not my son can tell me all the parts of speech perfectly.  I’ve found something that has helped him become a good writer and I am VERY excited about that.  So, what is this magic curriculum? See this link for more info: http://www.advanced-writing-resources.com/

Posted in About my faith, family, homeschooling | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Active rest.

After two blog posts on rest and three months of practicing it, I want to share one little insight.

~ Rest is not passive.

In fact, I have had less time to blog during this season of rest but it’s because I’ve selectively chosen what to do with my time.  In brief:

I said no to these things:

  • teaching outside of our home;
  • soccer;
  • blogging regularly;
  • PWOC;

I said yes to these things:

  • HelloMornings (I really need to tell you about that!)
  • running every weekday morning;
  • 10,000 steps or more per day (I’m going on 10 weeks without missing a day);
  • homeschooling (we’re just starting week 14 of the 2015-2016 school year!)
  • Spanish (I have a 104 day streak on DuoLingo)
  • deliberately spending time with friends;
  • dating my husband;
  • one-on-one time with each son;
  • reading about how to teach my sons about purity and to be gentlemen (I’m reading “The Talks” by Barrett and Jenifer Johnson)
  • listening to dozens of podcasts a week, filling my mind and my soul;

I have had less “free” time during this season of rest than I had during our previous seasons of work and yet, somehow, I feel rested, rejuvenated, and very excited about starting our new season of work!

PWOC starts next week, as does Community Connections.  I simply can’t wait to dig back into those ministries.

Soccer has already started and I am seeing the passion for the sport grow in my kids’ eyes.  They have missed it so much this summer

Matt has been called to a new level of leadership at our chapel and we are both excited (and humbled) by the responsibility, and my prayers for him have increased as a result.

Our season of rest is coming to a close and I can honestly say that I am energized and excited for this season.

rest (verb)

: to stop using (something) so that it can become strong again

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 8.40.53 PM

Posted in About my faith, personal development | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The cost of saying no.

Have you ever wondered what it would look like to actually tell someone no when they asked you to do something you knew wasn’t right for you?

It certainly did not look like the time I taught fifth-grade Sunday School because a precious mom of an upcoming fifth grader came to me literally in tears, asking me to take the position.  She was concerned about who was going to teach her child that year, her daughter’s last year in elementary school.  She was convinced that if I taught fifth-grade Sunday School the transition from elementary to middle school would be smooth for her child, since I was the youth pastor’s wife.

She was crying, so it MUST have been God’s will for me to teach that class, I thought.

I can assure you it was not God’s will.  That was a miserable year for me.  Not because I didn’t love those fifth graders.  I did!  But I was not supposed to be there and yet I had to stick it out, pregnant, working my tail off as a fourth-grade public school teacher.  I was flat-out exhausted!  {And I will not take this opportunity to mention that those fifth graders have now graduated from college and some are married now because that would make me feel old and I am certainly not old.  Right?}

I mentioned in my last post that we made some serious sacrifices as a result of our season of rest. Each of us had to sacrifice something in order to rest.  Here are some examples:

  • I really wanted to teach a summer session of FPU.  I had plenty of weeks to fit it in and I even contemplated doubling up and doing two lessons a week to get it in a shorter time frame.
  • The boys really (really) wanted to play soccer.  Their best soccer-friend was playing and two of mine found out they would have been able to be on his team…. an all-stars reunion type thing.  It hurt my heart to have to deny them this.
  • PWOC held a summer session and I actually prepared our family to participate, to the point that the day before the first session the boys worked feverishly on school so that they’d be free for PWOC.  And then I felt that clear nudge in my spirit that I was doing the opposite of rest..
  • Most of these have been fairly simple decisions but there was one that took a lot of time, prayer, and discussion.  At the end of last soccer season Hayden was approached by some men after a game, right on the field, and after a minute or two he pointed to me.  I figured that was my queue so I joined them.  They proceeded to go on and on about technical soccer stuff that was over my head and when they finally got to the point they asked if Hayden could join their competitive team.  I told them we had actually been considering that, as we were interested in improving his skills so that he’d be ready for college-level soccer.  And then one asked the question:  How old is he?  When I told them that he was 13 (at that time) their faces fell.  They were coaches for a team of 17 year olds!  I knew I was not about to put my 13 year old on a team of 17 year olds to travel around Texas… NOPE!  Of course I didn’t say that, and they couldn’t have let him on anyway, I don’t think, but they then started conferring right there in front of me regarding which coach he could play for.  My mama-heart swelled with pride for my son who has natural talent but has also practiced for hours on end to hone his skill.  For a while we saved money and were 90% sure this was going to be a part of our life for the next year.  Hayden did make the team and was contacted by the coach.  And then a piece of wisdom from a friend floated back to me and, when combined with the Lord’s nudge, I was the first to really feel like this wasn’t going to be a good fit.  The advice from that friend was that some high school travel/competition sports careers can end up costing about the same as tuition for an in-state 4-year-college.  I could see this being true, especially with the size of Texas and the distances the teams travel.  Finances were a part of our discussion, but they were not the deciding factor.  Ultimately, we didn’t feel that this activity fit into our vision for our family.  While we are happy to spend hours on upon hours at local ball fields watching our sons play soccer, we knew we didn’t want to sacrifice as much time as would be required to travel around Texas.  And just a couple of years later, Carson and then Bailey would be at that level, and we’d have two or three travel teams’ schedules to keep up with, all in the name of chasing a few college scholarships.  The questions started coming at me like gnats on a muggy summer night:
    1. What if Hayden decides he doesn’t want to play soccer in two years and wants to try tennis, but we’ve already invested so much time/money/effort into soccer that he feels he can’t change sports?
    2. What if he decides to major in something that requires so much time that he can’t play soccer for his college and we had spent four years chasing a soccer scholarship?
    3. What if playing on this kind of team takes the joy out of soccer?
    4. What if he worked his tail off for four years only to injure himself the last year was and not even be able to play?
    5. What if he didn’t want to play anymore but felt he couldn’t tell us for fear of letting us down?  He’s very conscientious like that and I could see him trying to suck-it-up so that our time/resources weren’t wasted.
    6. What would our lives look like down the road as we had to travel to different cities on the same weekend, Matt with some kids, me with other kids?
    7. What would it look like if Matt deployed and I couldn’t physically be in two cities at the same time?  Which kid would have to miss his game?  Would there be a family I could trust to take care of my child for a weekend?
    8. What would Parker do for the thousands of hours by the sidelines?  I’m all for little brother tagging along wherever the family goes, but this seemed to be a lot to ask of him.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 5.18.39 PMI know that these questions have answers, and that we could have resolved them one at a time.  I know that there are other families out there that make this work.  I know that for other families, sports are worth the sacrifices, but I know for ours, the questions hitting me in the face were the Lord’s ways of making me look realistically at what our family would have to endure in order to make this work.

One morning before the kids woke up Matt and I talked about this.  He and I agreed that for now, and for the foreseeable future, competitive soccer was not going to be a part of our family.  We were both sort of disappointed because honestly, we want to see just how good Hayden is.  We know that there would be a learning curve the first year, transitioning from the recreational level but we really think he could handle that level of soccer.  At this point, we had to agree that this particular team/league wasn’t going to work for us.

I decided to spend a few days praying that Hayden would receive the news well.  I prayed that even while I was praying his heart was softening to the idea.  That he wouldn’t be too disappointed; that he would see the reasons why and know they were valid; I prayed that the peace I felt over this decision would translate during our conversation; that our chat would go well and that I’d know how to break the news to him; that he would feel a peace about this decision.

A few days later I put the rest of the kids to bed and made milkshakes for Matt, Hayden, and myself.  We sat on the back porch and for the first few minutes just sat there and chatted.  We specifically encouraged him in what we are so proud of him for.  And when it was finally time to break the news, his response was a simple tilt of the head and an, “ok.”

That was IT?!?  Yep.  We talked for a few more minutes and we could see clearly that Hayden had completely understood our reasons.  While he hated he wasn’t going to get to play with his best-soccer-friend, he knew this was the right thing for our family.

I was so proud of him!  It was hard telling the coach but he understood, and we have not felt one moment’s hesitation since.

In order to keep white space in our lives, and in order to really take in this season of rest that we know we are called to, major sacrifices were made.  And some of those decisions weren’t just for a few months of rest, but long-term.

What is it in your life that is making you feel too busy?  What can you remove from the schedule to give you white space?  Are there activities your family is participating in, GOOD things, even, that might need to be reconsidered in order to maintain a more healthy pace of life?  Military families are fortunate in that every few years we are given a clean slate.  We move from one location to another and literally clear the calendars.  If you are in a PCS season, be very deliberate about what goes back on your schedules.  Just because your family participated in an activity at the last duty station doesn’t mean it should automatically be put back on your schedule at the new one.  Take this benefit of the nomadic lifestyle we live to make positive changes in your life’s pace.

Without a doubt, it costs us something to say no, but the peace gained is very much worth the price.

Posted in About my faith, brothers/boys, family, military | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Season of No

I am in the middle of summer in Texas and I’m not hating life.  That does not mean I’m loving the heat, but I believe I can finally say that I don’t hate being here.  It has a bit to do with the fact that this is our third summer here and I’ve learned what to expect but I believe it has more to do with the fact that we’re feeling really established with our lives here.  We’ve gone to the same chapel for two years and have met amazing people there.  The season of rest I’ve been in the past couple of months, which will extend until August, at least, is doing its job.  I’m feeling refreshed and really starting to feel eager to start the fall session(s) of Financial Peace University.

I can assure you that this season of rest has come at the expense of really good things.  We have had to say no to some really great opportunities.  Our family is resting right now and it cost each of us something but the benefits have been well worth it.

I have been able to read more in the past few months and one of those books was, “The Best Yes,” by Lysa TerKeurst.

I am a huge fan of the book, “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend and I’ve recommended it to literally hundreds of people.  I will continue to do so… it’s a must-read.  (Or a must listen-to.  I listened to the audiobook while I ran.)

“The Best Yes” is, in a round-about way, about setting boundaries.  It reminded me that I am right to say yes when I know I should do something I’m asked to do, but I’m just as right to say no when I know I’m not supposed to do it. thebestyes

I love to hear Dave Ramsey say, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”  I find that is very true… when I am asked to do something, I’ve found it’s best to immediately answer with a no if I know right off the bat that my response is ultimately going to be a no.  That is one way I can be kind to the person asking.  I am giving them the truth immediately rather than lying so that I can delay the discomfort of saying no.  This also gives them more time to find someone else to do whatever it was they were asking me to do.

In addition to being kind to the person asking, I’m being kind to myself.  Having the question hanging out there just waiting for me to answer is stressful.  Wanting to dodge that person because I know they’re waiting for my response is not fun.  I prefer to say no immediately if I know what they’re asking is not going to be a good fit for my life.  Saying no is being kind to someone… that’s a concept that is difficult for some of us to grasp.

Taking my no even farther:  when I say yes to something I’m not supposed to do I’m taking the opportunity away from someone who is supposed to.  I don’t know how many times I’ve almost signed up to (fill in the blank) just because I was asked but I listened to that little voice inside that said was telling me not to, only to see someone else step up to do that task, and with joy.  I can do a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean I’m supposed to.

And here’s the one I am really passionate about: when I say yes to something I’m automatically saying no to something else.  I have a fun story about this, though it wasn’t fun when I was on the phone giving my kind-but-firm no.

Very soon after we moved to Texas I was asked by someone I really respect to lead the AWANA program here.  I think the program is great, but it isn’t really my thing, and I knew immediately that it wasn’t the job for me.  There are times we are called to do jobs that we don’t necessarily want to do, and we should do them, but in this case it wasn’t just a matter of “I don’t want to.”  I really felt in my spirit that there was something else for me even though it wasn’t even close to coming to fruition.

I said no.  The person respected my answer and we remain friends to this day.

Fast forward five months.  Matt and I were running a four-mile route on Fort Hood passing one chapel after another, wondering if we could possible hold Financial Peace University classes in one of them.  Some huge obstacles to overcome included gaining regular access to the building, setting up/tearing down, cleaning, media equipment, and the big one: child care.

On December 31st while visiting family in San Antonio I received a phone call from someone I didn’t know and he asked me if I had ever considered teaching Financial Peace University at Community Connections.*

I remember sitting on the hotel bed wondering if this conversation could possibly be real… what this person was suggesting was too easy, too simple.  I was in awe of my God who had given me the clear no to AWANA five months prior  Now He was giving me the answer to EVERY concern I had been contemplating regarding FPU:  the building was already reserved for classes, DVDs and televisions were provided, there was a free dinner offered beforehand, and child care was already set up.  It was LITERALLY a plug-and-play sort of situation!  Community Connections had been going on all along, I just hadn’t heard of it!

I began teaching the class that my heart longed to teach a couple of weeks later and as of right now, between Matt and myself, we have led nine classes here at Fort Hood (one of those was in Afghanistan for deployed Fort Hood soldiers) and the total financial turnaround that was reported during just our Spring 2015 classes was over $695,000!!

fpuclass

If I had said yes to AWANA, even for good reasons, I would have had to say no to Financial Peace University.

I’m not encouraging you to run around saying no all the time.  Please don’t hear that.  Yes needs to come out of your mouth sometimes.  Read the book, “The Best Yes,” to help you determine when to say yes, and when you’d be better off saying no.

While I am in a season of no right now, I am getting more and more eager for my season of yes to start!  I enjoy doing and I love being around people, so a season of no isn’t necessarily something I would naturally sign up for but I believe fully that God had a very specific reason for my season of rest.  He’s starting to let me in a little on what He has in store for the Hamricks, and I simply couldn’t be more excited for the fall.  And when it gets here, I will finally be able to say yes, and to the very best God has for me!


*Community Connections – Fort Hood

Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel, Thursday evenings.  Multiple classes to choose from.

Child Care provided – CYS Registration not necessary

Dinner before – donations accepted.

For more information, just contact me!

Posted in family | 3 Comments

Simplify…

When life gets too busy, I keep this word in mind:  simplifySimplify:

1. make (something) simpler or easier to do or understand

Synonym : make simple/simpler, make easy/easier to understand, make plainer, clarify, make more comprehensible/intelligible,

Yesterday I shared a bit about what’s been going on around the Hamrick home and even with all that we’ve had going on, we haven’t been busy.  I’ve had to strategically organize my life in such a way that we have some white space, which explains why my blog has gathered dust lately. (And why I had to literally brush dust off the little laptop-pillow-desk I use when I write.)

What do you do when you are faced with an overwhelmed calendar? How do you recharge? Have you learned to say no when you need to? Have you ever noticed you aren’t at your best when you’re too busy?

Join me over at Planting Roots as I share the story of the sign I might just put up on my front door based on lessons I learned during one particularly busy season.

Thank you Yahoo, for the definition of and the synonyms for Simplify!
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Shake off the dust…

The past three months have been productive for the Hamricks.

NTC for Matt, a month-long training in the California desert.

ntc

The boys started mowing yards all over post in order to save for Camp Eagle.

We concluded three classes of Financial Peace University.

Hayden turned 14.

We finished our 2014-2015 school year.

We took a week off of school and then started our 2015-2016 school year.

I started using PlanToEat. (LOVE IT!)

Won an award for volunteering on post.

A military ball.

Welcomed two friends home from deployments.

fullerreunion westreunion

Gave away a very special piece of furniture.  (Yes, it was special enough to make this list.)recliner

A week at Camp Eagle.

campeagle1

Grammy visited for a week.

Met new friends and had birthday parties for others.

Independence Day Celebrations.

And if I failed to mention this, I’d be neglecting to share one of the most important things I’ve had on my heart in the past year.  While listening to a podcast I learned about HelloMornings.  Life. Changing.  I can’t wait to tell you more about it but for now, I’m only shaking the dust of my blog because tomorrow is an exciting day for me.

The very first article I’ve ever submitted to a ministry is being published!  Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you more information!

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Until You…

My sweet love took me on a date last Friday night to Austin.  Not just any date, though.  This was a date Matt had been looking forward to for quite some time.

See, my love is a musician.  He is a great guitarist and can lead worship in chapel very well.  The sound of guitars tuning, amps being tested out (to the max… sorry neighbors), and the comical noise the strings make when he replaces the strings are part of my perception of normal noise.  (Do any other guitarists pluck the strings while turning the tuning pegs just to make that fun noise?)

Austin is the live-music capital of the universe and as you may have guessed by now, our date was to a concert.  I prefer to listen to my music in my car or on my iPhone where I have complete control of the volume, the location, and who is around me.  Concerts offer me none of those luxuries.

That day was “Box Day” around our house which means we finally opened our SonLight boxes (98 lbs of school stuff) and I knew I’d be engrossed in that material all day – by choice, not necessity.  I spent most of the day on my feet.  If I could go back and start over I’d wear my tennis shoes all day!

By the time Matt got home from work and we were getting ready for our date, my feet were hurting, and I was thankful he said to wear comfy clothes.  His actual words were: “because we’ll be standing.”  That didn’t sound strange because I’ve been to concerts before and we did stand a lot.  Keep this fact in mind as you read…

Our drive to Austin was awesome.  We were alone and had a chance to talk without teen/tween ears listening in.  Matt got an earful on the new fun stuff I had spent the day swimming through and I got caught up on his work-related news.  At some point he made a comment about there not being seats at the venue we were heading toward.  Insert sound of a record needle scratch.  Say whaaaat?!?  He seemed surprised that I was surprised and multiple times throughout the night reminded me that he had told me that we would be standing.  I remembered that vividly, but I also remembered the absence of the fact that we couldn’t sit even if we wanted to.  I decided to take this opportunity, which was handed to me on a silver platter, to whine.

I teased him off-and-on all night about this and he teased that he should have left me at home.  Our dinner was great (we’ve found a place with good guacamole; Chuy’s) and surprisingly fast.  We made it to the venue with plenty of time to stand spare.  We got there and found that we were the first people over the age of 18 to arrive – standing by the door were four giddy-groupie girls who had been there for hours, perhaps.  We walked to a nearby Starbucks for caffeine, and when we got back, we were still the only people there who can remember even a single day in the 1990s.IMG_1501

I took this 90-minute long wait at the door to remind Matt a few times that my feet hurt.  By this point it was just fun to mess with him.  He told me that after that night I would be paid-up for the coffee mug I stole from him several years ago.  (He won a stainless steel coffee thermos at work once that keeps coffee hot for hours, no joke.  I used it when we held a yard-sale in Germany and I never gave it back.  He often accuses me of stealing it from him, and I don’t deny the charges.  I’m glad that I’ve paid my debt in full, now.)

For you concert-lovers, I bet you’re dying to know who we were seeing… I’ll be nice and tell you that we were there to see Dave Barnes and Matt Wertz, with Jon McLaughlin opening.  Moving along with my story…

Matt had purchased the VIP tickets so that we could get in early, get our seat space, meet the artists, and generally, be very-important-people. I thought one of the groupie-girls was going to pass out as she waited anxiously to enter the gate and I wanted to take her Sonic cup of ice and gently throw it in the trash for her.  (Think rain-maker/shaker/mini-drum… let’s say it was on the verge of being annoying.  And let’s just say that if you detect some sarcasm then your sarcasm-meter is working properly.)   Once the VIPs were allowed in we were directed to the front of the open-air room near the stage where the musicians were to come out for a meet-and-greet session.  Groupie-girl was visibly shaking by the time we were in place to meet the stars.  I felt oddly out of place – knowing I probably couldn’t pick the singers out of a lineup.  Sure enough, one came out to meet a VVIP (very VERY important person) and groupie-girl almost lost it.  Matt kindly let me know that THAT was Dave Barnes which gave me a heads-up to prepare myself for the possibility that I may need to catch groupie-girl were she to faint.

Before we knew it it was time for the official shake-and-howdy: groupie-girl first, Matt second.  I shook hands but stood back to take pictures, rather than get in them.  Dave Barnes had sent Matt something while Matt was in Iraq, so Matt brought him a few patches and cool Army stuff.

We sat on the railing (oh so comfortable) for the next 45 minutes watching the ever-so-awkward gushing of star-struck individuals as they met the musicians.  Once all the VIPs were through, Dave Barnes and Matt Wertz performed two songs right on the spot.  I was immediately impressed.  They were really good, although it didn’t surprise me, as (my) Matt is a pretty good judge about these things.  If he thinks they’re good, they must be.

IMG_1510After the two special songs Dave and (the other) Matt went backstage to do whatever musicians do backstage while the rest of us milled around (staked our ground) and watched all the NON-VIPs enter.  The front of the stage was packed full of people, but when a few wandered away we made our way to the stage, which turned out to be the absolute perfect spot.  We had something to lean against to help take the pressure off our feet (okay, MY FEET) and we had a very convenient place to set our drinks.

When 9:00 finally arrived, Jon McLaughlin began his set and I have to say, I was very impressed.  I videoed several clips for Carson, who is our resident pianist.  At the bottom of this post I have included a video compilation of those clips for anyone interested in them.

After the opening act finished, he went back to join the other musicians backstage.  I found myself hoping the pianist would join the other two singers for a song or two.  Not only did he join them for a few, he was there for almost every song the rest of the night.  Incredible music!

This picture shows the pianist, Jon McLaughlin, off to the right, with Dave Barnes in the distance and Matt Wertz in the foreground.  IMG_1519

While listening to the music so many thoughts crossed my mind.  Some were quite comical, like the odd fact that I couldn’t see groupie-girl anywhere, that the girl behind me has a “Janice” laugh, and that her friend, (or maybe it’s her, bless) can’t sing at all, but enjoyed doing so… and loudly.  The pianist has a great guitar-face, only, I guess it’d be a piano-face, since he doesn’t play guitar.  (Music fans, think John Mayer’s guitar face.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, but are curious and might need to smile, google “John Mayer guitar face.”)  Matt Wertz has a Michael Jackson + Elvis Presley stage presence, while Dave Barnes is calm, cool, and collected.  One thought I had, repeatedly, actually, was that I didn’t deserve to be on the front row.  I knew in total one song: everyone else in the room knew all of them, and probably knew what each of the musician’s favorite foods are.  In fact, the lady beside me had been to their Houston concert the night before, was (obviously) at the concert in Austin, and had tickets to their concert in Dallas the next night.  That’s dedication.  And I felt my inadequacy each time I got the stank eye from the girl to my right and back a row.  I believe she was genuinely jealous that I was in the spray zone and she was a whole three feet behind me.  I was not about to give up my treasured wall that I needed to lean on.

IMG_1521Some of my thoughts were practical, like the fact that the smells in the place varied greatly from hamburgers on the grill (nearby restaurant, perhaps?) to freshly cut wood, to the inside of a guitar case.

And all of a sudden, the song started.  The one song I knew.  It was a song Matt had put on a special playlist for me when I was pregnant with Parker.  I listened to that playlist on repeat while I was in the hospital after Parker was born, and for the next year while I rocked our sweet little one.  Those songs are special to me even though I had no idea who most of the artists are.

And within a few measures of the song I was crying.  And singing.  I deserved my spot after all!  I could sing along and cry with the best of ’em.

Until You:

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On the left is a list of my Playlists: The fourth down is the one Matt made for me. On the right is a screenshot of a few of the songs on the playlist, with Until You being the fourth one down. Dave Barnes made the playlist a second time with “Crazyboutya.” Unfortunately they didn’t play that at the concert.

I didn’t know this until just now as I was going to through my music looking for the title of that song, but he is also the artist who sings “Crazyboutya” which is a song I used in Parker’s birth story video.  That song is also super special to me.IMG_1530IMG_1528I’m pretty crazy about my guy.  Crazy enough to stand on my feet for hours to get into a venue hours before a concert began in order to meet someone I wouldn’t recognize, only to stand for several more hours to hear one song I recognized.  Yes, all of the songs were great, but ultimately, I was not there to see someone famous, or even to hear incredibly talented musicians.  I was there to stand by my guy; to be with my man; to hold hands and to be held by him while I hid the fact that I was crying like a sap, transported back in time to a place and time I hold most dear.  And the one song was a song my love had selected just for me as a reminder of how much he loves me.

I am a very blessed woman.  And today happens to be his birthday, so Happy Birthday Matt!  I love you and KNOW just how blessed I am to be yours!

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Box Day 2015

We’re fairly new SonLighters yet we have already learned the joy of “Box Day.”  (It’s a thing.  Check it out.)

After a lot of research and several conversations with my friend, Kari, who has been beyond helpful in planning our upcoming school year, I finally decided what to order.  Once the order was placed I literally stalked the tracking websites and my front door, just in case the website was delayed and they delivered before the website could catch up.

And when the packages did finally arrive, I had to wait a few days to actually dig in.  I had Aimee and Kayla in from out of state, and while I wanted nothing more than to share the fun of Box Day with her, we were too near the end of her visit for us to even bother.  We were busy talking and soaking in being together.

I had to take her back to the airport on Wednesday, and it was an agonizing 48 hours before I could open those boxes!  Below are some pictures of the fun!  Our bigs are going to be entering the 9th, 7th, 6th grades and Parker will officially start Kindergarten (though we’ve been “doing Kindergarten” for a few months).

We took a “before shot” and then I let them dig in while I took pictures.  After the paper war had run its course, I sent them all to rest time and I took a few pictures of the aftermath, and then a few of the books stacked up.  Box Day is so exciting and I am already having to work hard to keep Carson from reading these.  He’s already read all of the Core W books and that is the core we plan to use for him in two years!  He said he’s cool with reading them again… and I just happen to believe him!

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