4.27.2018

The Long and the Short of It - #4

It's been a very eventful month! Not even a week after our record-setting blizzard, it was time for our homeschool group's annual spring formal. Thankfully, the snow had begun to melt, but it was still surreal watching the girls and their friends maneuver around snow piles in their formals on April 20.
On another note, Rachel had taken and passed her temps test earlier that day.
And then just a few days later - on April 25 - Abbie did the same!
So while we were at Grandma's that day, the girls each made it official by taking a couple of spins through the neighborhood where Jeff grew up.
I took my first turn in the passenger seat with each of them the next day. That was a bit weird, because my "babies" were doing the driving and also because I wasn't nearly as nervous about it as I'd thought I might be. Of course, we were merely going up and down a residential street, but I was surprisingly relaxed and comfortable. I've been noticing in different ways lately that - though I do miss my little girls - I am also proud and excited about the various ways they're spreading their wings. I'm sure that's God's grace - Him giving me peace where I in my own strength would have melancholy.

4.26.2018

The Long and the Short of It - #3

Because we live in "The Frozen Tundra," April snow doesn't take us by surprise. However, it's safe to say that every living soul was taken aback by what happened here earlier this month.

It started on April 3 with a hearty eight-inch snowfall - a bother to be sure, but soon enough forgotten if that had been the extent of it. Turns out, though, that was a mere preface for the main attraction: a whopping 24.2 inches that fell, accompanied by a layer of ice and gale-force winds, between April 13 and 16. In the end, "Snowstorm Eleanor" clocked in as the second-largest blizzard ever recorded in the area, topped only by a 29-inch storm all the way back in March 1888!

Of course, everything - even church - was cancelled. In fact, this meme made the rounds all weekend on Facebook:
I didn't much mind an excuse to cozy up at home (though I could have done with a different cause!), but Jeff and the girls were going stir-crazy so they braved the one-mile-each-way walk down to our favorite deli on Saturday, and the girls took a quick trek to the neighborhood Walgreens on Sunday.
Jeff also ended up shoveling our driveway's apron and about half the length of our driveway three different times after the belt on our snow blower snapped - and he was mighty sore for days after. But he also ended up helping four of our six neighbors in one way or another, and felt really good about that.

A week later - as the thermometer inched into the 50s and 60s - the yard looked much more seasonally appropriate.
But plenty of huge snow piles remain piled up in the corners of parking lots. I hope - though I'm not at all certain - they'll all be gone by May 1.

3.18.2018

The Long and the Short of It - #2

So much for weekly updates! Yes, my first and most recent post in this series was - hard to believe - already almost a month ago. I guess my days get so full of regular day-to-day tasks that I don't realize how quickly the time goes. But I promised myself no pressure in terms of post frequency, focusing instead on simply posting "regularly" - whenever I'm able and about whatever topic suits my fancy. And since my last wrap-up post, I've written three others on various subjects - so almost one a week - and that's a vast improvement for me.

In terms of the last several weeks of family life, they've been filled with the sound of music! In addition to the girls' biweekly choir rehearsals, Abbie chose to participate in a day-long high school choir festival sponsored by one of the local colleges. Almost a dozen other homeschooled kids, including a few of Abbie's friends, joined with over 100 teens from many area schools, and Abbie had a great day of intensive rehearsals and master classes, culminating in a concert performance that night.


Then just two days later, she sang two songs at and helped to emcee for her voice teacher's annual recital.

And about two weeks after that, both girls participated in our region's annual solo and ensemble festival, with Rachel performing a piano solo and Abbie singing her two recital pieces again.

In April, both girls have recitals - Rachel for piano and Abbie for guitar - and in May they have a choir concert and the homeschool group's talent show. So, though the particular pieces they practice and perfect change over time, I get to enjoy beautiful music almost all the time.

Another highlight was a get-together - for a movie and dessert - of the girls' small group, which they've dubbed Girls4Christ (G4C). Most of the girls have increasingly busy schedules - in fact, one of them couldn't make this gathering due to a previous commitment - but we continue to arrange different opportunities whenever we can. As an added bonus, I had a blast hanging out with the girls' moms, I group I should probably refer to as M4C.










Finally, I'd be remiss to not mention a special birthday in our home today. Our two older cats, Sparkle and Sweater - with whom we surprised the girls when they were only five and six - turn 10 years old today...or thereabouts. They were born on a farm near here so I'm not exactly sure of their birthdate, but we brought them home when they were about six weeks old, so I chose today as a logical guess.

Despite not looking at all alike, they're biological siblings - at least from a maternal perspective - and we're so happy to have them in our lives, quirks and all.

And that's the long and the short of it for today.

3.16.2018

GBACH Curriculum Fair

I'm hosting a table at my local homeschool association's annual curriculum fair on March 17, so I spent this morning deciding which resources - from among my six stuffed storage totes and three very full bookshelves (not counting the other shelves, which hold actual literature) - would make it into one of the two carry-on suitcases I'm using for the day. I also spent time creating a simple "brochure" listing the resources I'll be displaying, as well as some I like to recommend but am not bringing.

I hope I've printed enough flyers, but I decided to reproduce that list here, too, in case I run out. And so, if you've come here from the curriculum fair in order to access the list, welcome! However, even if you're not local to me or were not at the fair, you might be interested in what are - in my opinion - some of the most useful resources I've used over the years. This list is not exhaustive - I posted (and regularly update) a much more extensive listing a couple of years ago - but it highlights what I feel is the best of the best.

Note that resources without links are simply individual titles (not "curricula" with dedicated webpages), and are available on Amazon or similar sites.

RESOURCES DISPLAYED AT THE FAIR
 
Parent Helps
Answers for Homeschooling (Wayne, Israel)
Homeschool Made Simple (Seid, Carole Joy)
Math Myth, The (Hacker, Andrew)
Passion-Driven Education (Boyack, Connor)
Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La (Shelton, Barbara)

Reading
Honey for a Child’s Heart (Hunt, Gladys)
Honey for a Teen’s Heart (Hunt, Gladys)
Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Reinke, Tony)

Language Arts

Math
All the Math You’ll Ever Need (Slavin, Steve)

Science

“Social Studies” (History, Geography, Civics)

Art
Artistic Pursuits

Bible
66 Books One Story (Reynolds,Paul)
Child’s Story Bible, The (Vos, Catherine)
Egermeier’s Bible Story Book (Egermeier, Elsie)
Training Hearts, Teaching Minds (Meade, Starr)


OTHER RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Parent Helps
8 Great Smarts (Koch, Kathy)
Better Late Than Early (Moore, Raymond S.)
Education: Does God Have an Opinion? (Wayne, Israel)
For the Children’s Sake (Macaulay, Susan Schaeffer)
Joy of Relationship Homeschooling, The (Campbell, Karen)
When You Rise Up (Sproul Jr., R.C.)

Reading

Language Arts
Language Lessons (Queen Homeschool)
Winning with Writing (Jack Kris Publishing)

Math
Improve Your Math Fluency series (McMullin, Chris)
Miquon Math (Rainbow Resource Center)
Key to… series
Teaching Textbooks

“Social Studies” (History, Geography, Civics)
All American History (Bright Ideas Press) 
America’s Story (MasterBooks)

Science
Discovering Nature (Queen Homeschool)

Foreign Language

Miscellaneous
Professor Noggin

******

I hope this list serves as a helpful introduction to some useful resources. And, as I mentioned in my flyer, if you are interested in personalized consulting on curriculum- or general homeschool-related matters, feel free to get in touch with me HERE.

3.08.2018

Five Years Ago...



















Five years ago this week I was minding my own business as a busy homeschool mommy blogger and babysitter, oblivious to the fact that I was about to receive an email that would set me on a course I'd never imagined (Proverbs 16.9). But then less than two weeks after getting the email, I'd added "activist" to my job description, formed a group that gained over 1,500 members in a week's time, launched a website, and found myself in the spotlight of the homeschool world, as an object of both praise and disdain.

Today is the five-year anniversary of both the original version of my site, The Homeschool Resource Roadmap, and the original advocacy group, now called The Christian Homeschool Oasis. And, as I've mentioned far more often than not in my far-too-limited posts here over that span of time, both have kept me exceedingly busy ever since.

As I noted about six weeks ago, I was finally able to launch an incredibly significant upgrade to The Roadmap - that work was undoubtedly the biggest single project I've ever tackled (aside from parenting, which is, of course, a long series of lifelong "projects!") - and I expected to be able to get back to a more balanced lifestyle going forward. And, even though The Roadmap requires some regular "maintenance" and I need to learn what I can about marketing in order to spread the word about it, I've definitely begun that process.

But I'd be remiss if I failed to mention "my twins'" fifth birthday today. Prior to March 2013, I never dreamed I'd be talking five years later about owning a 3,700+-page website and moderating a 6,800+ member group. I never considered that I'd have spoken to large groups at two national homeschool conventions or been interviewed on radio and podcasts. I never guessed that thousands of homeschooling parents would know my name and appreciate my OCD-like penchant for research or that a handful of business owners and homeschoolers would periodically try dragging my name through the mud. Nonetheless, that - and more - has all happened because of how God used that one email to light a fire in me...five years ago today.

2.26.2018

The N.E.W. Scoop


A couple of years ago, I began compiling a list of resources for home educators in my local area. It started small, but I kept adding to it as new ideas came to mind and before I knew it, the document was over 30 pages long! I turned it into a pdf, loaded it onto my Google drive, and started sharing the URL. I kept adding and editing, and every time I made a change I reloaded the file into the drive so those with the link could access the latest version.

Sometime last week, though, I decided that process was getting far too cumbersome. And, because the document was so long, it had actually become quite "user unfriendly." So...I decided to turn the list into a website in order to make the information easier to both update and access.

I've spent most of the last several days on data-entry, uploading and re-organizing the lists - I even added some new topics! - and now I'm ready to share the results with my local home-educating friends.  So, if you're in my area, check it out here:


Feel free to share the URL with any other area homeschoolers; it's totally free. And if you know of resources in any of the relevant counties and communities, comment on The Scoop here. I would like to make the site as comprehensive as possible for the whole region.

If you're not local to me, may I challenge you to begin compiling something similar for homeschoolers in your area? If you've been homeschooling for even a little while, you already know of a number of local resources, so why not share your knowledge with others? And if you're at all like me, once you get the ball rolling, you'll realize you know of even more than you originally thought. Feel free to use The Scoop as a template to further spur your thought process, too; there's no need to reinvent the wheel on this!

Most of us who've made a commitment to homeschool for the long haul also want to encourage those around us to take the wonderful leap into home learning. And more and more are actually curious. But the thought of starting scares a lot of them. After all, choosing home education goes very much against the current cultural grain and overcoming inertia to get started can feel overwhelming. Yet, if prospective and "newbie" homeschoolers could have a rather comprehensive listing of local resources and other helps, that could be just the nudge a lot of them need to get going and stick with it.

Can you be the person to make that happen in your area?

2.20.2018

The Long and the Short of It - #1

I often tell my daughters, fellow homeschooling parents wanting to encourage their kids to write, and wannabe writers of all ages that the best way to get better at writing is to...write. Similarly, of course, the best way to get back to regular writing is to...write regularly!

With that in mind, I'm launching this new series for myself, with an eye toward making it a regular feature, similar to "weekly wrap-up" series a lot of us "mommy bloggers" like to do but without the self-imposed pressure to produce something every week on the same day. I've done this sort of thing several times over the years - calling it by different names along the way - and it works well for encouraging consistency in between "more important" posts inspired by particular events or specific topics.

I could take (a lot of) time to agonize over a complete summary of all of 2017 - or all of the last two or three years, really - since I've been so hit-and-miss with posts. But I've learned to give myself grace and so I'm just going to start where I am right now by mentioning a few fairly recent highlights.

THE HUBS
A little over a year ago, he actually got a new job - as a corporate trainer within the company where he's worked for a long time, and it's been a wonderful change for him. He's had to travel a bit more for work than in the past, but not too much. When he's not teaching locally at the corporate office or elsewhere for the company, he spends his days researching and studying and comes home to us in a "happy tired" (but not too tired) mood.

THE GIRLS
Our weekly schedule changed a bit early last fall when Rachel got her first official job - as a lifeguard with our local YMCA. She works two or three shifts a week, usually in the late afternoon/early evening, right over the dinner hour. That's not ideal, but the job itself is a really good fit for her. We joke that it's because she likes to tell people what to do, but in reality it's her strong sense of responsibility and keen observational skills that make her a great guard. To date, she's not had to do a rescue, but she has been puked on and had more than one occasion to "shock" the pool for one reason or another. And she's been able to bless others! Last fall, she regularly came home describing how she was able to calm a young autistic boy each week during his swim lesson, which also helped the instructor as she wrangled all the other kids and brought relief to the boy's anxious mom.


As for Abbie, she is chomping at the bit to get a job herself. However, she wants to work in the childcare room at the Y, a job for which she must be 16. We suggested she consider a job open to 15-year olds for a few months, but she didn't want to leave a business in a bind by quitting after a short time, so she's biding her time and practicing patience. In the meantime, she's been babysitting for various families and Bible studies as often as she can. And I've been practicing the principles of "life learning" - and making way for career development since she wants to become a certified nanny after high school - by permitting her to accept morning jobs as an occasional substitute for her regular bookwork.


ME
As I mentioned last month, I feel "human again" now that my major upgrade of The Homeschool Resource Roadmap is complete. I've gotten back into working out - an activity I quite enjoy - and spent this past weekend catching up on the girls' 2017 homeschool records. Next up is tackling the two years' worth of scrapbooking that fell by the wayside during the Roadmap upgrade - I'm all set up to get going! - and finally getting started with the chemistry activities through which I want to lead the girls. It's also a relief to feel that I can put my feet up and read a book or simply "do nothing" at times; I lost that sense of intentional resting during the upgrade because I felt a responsibility to get it launched as quickly as possible. I'm grateful for the return of balance!


THE CATS
Our four kitties remain "fat and happy." Two of them actually are physically fat, which is probably not ideal. But...well, they're cats. They know they're safe and loved - and their "cat style" reciprocation of that love makes us happy in return.


So that's the long and short of it for now. We'll see going forward where this series takes me. I'll aim for a weekly update, but sometimes it'll be more frequently, sometimes less. I'm thinking about other types of regular posts too. It feels good to be planning how to actually be back!

2.11.2018

The Homeschool Resource Roadmap: Why Subscribe?


As you know, I own The Homeschool Resource Roadmap, a database of information about homeschool-oriented resources. The Roadmap's Common Core Project has always been free - and remains so - but the site now offers extensive subscription-based content as well.

Since the Common Core Project lists and links to each one of the site's 3,200+ researched providers, some wonder why paying for a subscription would be beneficial. I've answered that question on The Roadmap's new blog feature HERE

1.23.2018

"Human Again!"

I've posted so sporadically the last couple of years, I wouldn't be surprised if I don't actually have any followers anymore. And, truly, who could blame them? So I realize I could be writing to no one today...but I'm writing nonetheless!

The fact is that, though I've not been able to write regularly for a long while, Being Made New has remained close to my heart, and I've been anxious to return. Now I can...finally.

Thankfully, my absence was not due to illness or another traumatic event. In fact, I was "gone" for a very good reason: the huge upgrade to my database, The Homeschool Resource Roadmap.

Any of my remaining followers may remember that I began the research which eventually birthed The Roadmap in March 2013. And then I launched "Phase 2," the original version of the site's Subject Area Project, in early 2015. But I knew all along I wanted to do more - that homeschoolers should have a "one-stop shop" for getting a detailed, thorough overview of every resource available to them.

So, even as I continued to send out hundreds of queries to new companies of interest, I devoted a lot of mental energy in 2015 to developing a vision for how to accomplish that goal. In 2016, I devised a system for implementing the vision and re-organized the files I'd already developed. As 2017 dawned, I began the process of revisiting the websites for the companies I'd previously contacted - over 3,100 to date! - in order to document all the additional information I intended to gather.

Needless to say, it was a daunting task. And, though I didn't track my hours, I know - as I explained earlier today on my joint-venture blog, Ditto, She Wrote - that in 2017 I basically "sat behind my laptop nearly every waking hour I was home and not needed by my kids for their educational endeavors. Blessedly," my husband is very gracious and patient, and "my daughters both like to cook, and...volunteered to make a good many dinners while I toiled away. But we ate a whole lot of take-out, my preferred housekeeping routine became a joke, the front desk people at my gym probably thought I had died...and blogging disappeared from my radar screen."

Yet now - as of January 21, when I "pulled the trigger" on all the newly expanded and improved features - The Homeschool Resource Roadmap upgrade is finished! Of course, I'll have to add information for new resources going forward, and now I have to learn all about marketing. But the heavy lifting is done, and I'm really proud of the results. In fact, if you're a homeschooler - or an otherwise interested party - and choose to subscribe, I know you'll agree that it's a very good investment.


But - as I arranged the last few images and descriptions and then made the official announcement about "the new Roadmap" - I couldn't help but think of the "Human Again" song from Beauty and the Beast. And the fact is that, though I actually did enjoy the project - I said on many occasions that my commitment to finishing is a sign that God uses even OCD-like personalities for good! - that's kind of how I feel. I'm like Lumiere, who made the best of his life as a candlestick but still longed to be human again. And so I truly love what I've been able to do with The Roadmap - I don't regret the time and I feel sure the Lord will redeem it for me now - but I have admittedly been longing recently for a return to a more normal, well-rounded daily life, including time to return to Being Made New.

So here I am, planning to start once again sharing reflections as I used to do...

4.29.2017

Spring Formal Time

The girls attended their first-ever spring formal last night.

Our homeschool association has been sponsoring this dance for about 15 years, and the girls have been looking forward to it since they first heard about it. We splurged a bit on fancy hairstyles and wrist corsages, though we'd been able to get beautiful, modest dresses from a friend who was selling her older daughters' gowns for a very modest price. It was fun to revisit the girls' childhood love of playing dress-up in a new way.
2007
2017
About 50 teens attended, including several of the girls' friends and acquaintances. In fact, we went down to our city's river deck to take pre-dance pictures with a couple of their best friends.
And then they enjoyed dancing and talking with everyone else in a wholesome, safe environment late into the night.
I still find it hard to believe that "my babies" are old enough for formal dances; as mindful as I aimed to be throughout their childhoods, the time really has raced by. But I continue to try enjoying each day and season of life with them as it comes, and I'm so incredibly thankful for the privilege God has given my husband and me in raising them for Him.

4.03.2017

May It Ever Be So

My husband and daughters had a "date" at the local waterfowl preserve on Saturday. I could have gone along, but I like to facilitate daddy-daughter time...and I've been rather feverishly working on the super-deluxe upgrade to my resource website so staying back with a few windows open and my cats for companionship was a good call.

Among the photos he snapped was this one - which just melts my heart and instantly became my brand new (current) favorite.


This picture honestly does speak to the girls' relationship with each other. They have different interests, talents, and opinions - in fact, they delight in debating each other (sometimes all.day.long!) while mutually assuring me that their discussions really are good-natured banter and not argument - and they have other good friends. But throughout their lives and to this day, each instantly names the other when asked to identify her best friend.


That is not by accident...and it's not really of my doing so I'm not bragging. Their friendship is honestly and truly a big, fat "yes" from God to my earnest, daily prayers from before either was ever born. Yes, I prayed. And I've done what I can to facilitate their bond. But the work is ultimately His. So my expression of joy over their relationship is simply that...and a nod to 1 Corinthians 1.31:

Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

And to that end, I will continue to pray as David did - so that these precious girls of mine will always and forever have in each other a very best friend their whole lives long:

"...[W]ith Your blessing may the house of Your servant be blessed forever."
(2 Samuel 7.29b)
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