Sunday, August 31, 2008

Decisions, Decisions!

Life is full of them, and often I hate making them, but they must be made. After much prayer and pleading with God to give us the right answer about our decision, we have made one. We will continue to homeschool Matt as we have the past seven years. Andy and I have had many discussions and have talked with others about what options for education were out there. We feel, at this time, God still wants us to keep Matt home and continue to work with him. The main clincher to the decision was we feel we are the best influence on his character. God calls us to raise him (Deut. 6:6-7) and to teach him His ways. God also calls us to pray for him and his heart. A verse that has really spoken to me the past few days is Ezekiel 11:19-20 "And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes, and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God." God can take my son's heart and turn it toward Him. That is our prayer.

So, tomorrow is day one. We start fresh. We will take it one day at a time. He is on a sort of probation period. The local middle school has to finalize their rosters by October 1st. We will watch the next 17 school days (we are on vacation next week) and see if he is trying to cooperate and get his work done. He has been doing well in the trying department this past week, but their has been no school. We will continue to pray he will grow in maturity and wisdom with his Heavenly Father.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

God is Good - ALL THE TIME!!!

There are times in our lives when we wonder if the above statement is true. This week has been one that has tested us as parents (see post below) as well as homeowners! Late last week Andy noticed a nice size hole developing on the street along our curb. When he looked down the hole he noticed NOTHING under the street! The dirt had washed away and there was a potential for it becoming a very large sink hole! On Saturday, the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee stopped by to praise our clean street. There was a woman from the streets department who said they would be by on Monday to investigate the hole. They came and said the water department would be along in three days to scope the sewer pipes and determine if it was our pipe causing the problem or our neighbors pipe.

They came today. (Photos courtesy of Matt!)As it turns out it is BOTH of the pipes, ours and our neighbors. They have to be replaced.
The poor fellow who had to check out the pipes!
Andy had a plumber come out and give us an estimate - $3000! The good thing is that we are able to get an interest free loan that will be attached to our water bill each month. That's good since we don't have an extra $3000 lying around! We are going to get another estimate, but since the city is handing out $3000 interest free loans, I think that is probably the quote we are going to be receiving.

The other trying thing we are dealing with is our car. Back in July (the 29th) our car went into the shop because on occasion it just wouldn't start. Last November we had the Computer Control Module (are you impressed I know what that is??? I am!) replaced. Since it is the brain of the car it is expensive, but not as expensive as a new car! Well, this behavior (not turning on) is connected to that CCM. The dealer reprogrammed it and declared it fine. We got it back from the shop July 8th. July 13th when we were all packed up to attend Milford Park it wouldn't start. The same thing we sent it in for! It has since been in the shop. Today we found out the dealer says it's fine and that there is nothing wrong with it. Our mechanic is stumped. There is something wrong, but nobody knows what that is. So, we basically need to find another car if we wish to travel any farther than our grocery store.

Surprisingly, I am not concerned about all the money that will need to be saved. Some of you who know me know that this can be a worry of mine. God is good and will provide. It's His money anyway! We have never been in need or want. So, we are praying.

We are continuing to pray about the homeschool situation. Andy and I had a long (and good) discussion tonight. We have formed a list of pros and cons of each option. We have one that we are leaning towards and are feeling a peace towards, but will discuss it with Matt next week. Please pray with us that we would make the right decision, not based on what we want or emotion, but on what it is God wants for us and our son.

I Never Thought....

I would go where I went today. Today, Andy, Matt and I walked over to Jones Middle School, the public middle school of our neighborhood. We inquired about enrollment and took a tour of the school. What brought us to this point? Last night Andy and I decided that we had done more than enough to try to get Matt into the routine of school. We have done 13 days and instead of getting cooperation, we got arguing. It breaks both our hearts. We so desperately want homeschooling to work, but in order for it to work he has to cooperate. He has made it clear that he does not wish to do school....period. We have let him know that no school is not an option, he has to do school. Andy and I came up with a list of our options and are checking them out.

Today was step one in visiting Jones. He would go to school from 8:00-4:00pm and have at least one hour of homework four nights a week. He would have to get up at 6:30 am and walk to and from school (one of us would walk with him). That means he would see Andy about 30 minutes in the evening for three nights. This upset Andy more than anything. He would also start school Sept. 4th, which means no beach vacation for him. This is more upsetting as we really enjoy spending time together as a family at the beach. It would also mean no Disney vacation for him as we are planning to go in May (my mom is taking us) and we have decided that if he goes to school we will not be pulling him out. In talking with the teacher who toured the school with us she made it very clear it would be a huge adjustment for him. It would be tough. She was almost discouraging us from considering the possibility. I really felt she wanted to say - STAY HOME! But wasn't allowed. We are praying.

Our second option is Cedar Grove Christian School. They give a pastor's discount that would help and if I got a part-time job we could swing the cost. I called this afternoon and the sixth grade class is full. God has closed that door. It has been my prayer that things would be abundantly clear as to what we are to do for our son's education. This was pretty clear!

Our third option is PA Charter Cyber School. They have virtual classes that he would have to sign in and listen to/ watch on the computer and then do the course work. He would be completely responsible to the teachers teaching the classes, I would only be a go to person if he has questions. We are researching where and when there is an informational meeting we can attend. Again, we are praying.

We are also still considering our "normal" homeschool. On the way home from Jones we talked with Matthew about how he was feeling. He obviously does not wish to attend Jones - that's a lot of time away from home. We expressed to him our reasons for homeschooling, one of which is that we realize the short amount of time God gifts us with these children. We desired to spend as much time raising and growing them as we could. God had blessed us with the opportunity and affordability to homeschool. At this point Andy shared how much he enjoys going to his parents house, because he misses them - even at 39 years old! This was also the point at which Andy started to tear up. I have seen Andy cry only a handful of times, it takes a great burden to cause tears to fall. This affected Matt tremendously as he realized how much we would miss him. I believe he is getting a glimpse at how we are all hurting and the effects of a disobedient attitude. I do not know how all this is going to turn out. I do know there needs to be change. Please pray with us and for us that we would do what is right for our family and what God desires for our son.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tot School

Daniel is really enjoying his "school" time! I am constantly amazed at what he knows! I guess he is learning by osmosis while I teach the other kids. Maybe he'll learn to read on his own, too!!!

Today, I pulled out the Tall-Stacker Pegs and Pegboard by Lauri. I have managed to save these for this year. He was so excited to have something new to use and play with. He had a blast! First he built a tower with all 25 pegs! He had to have a little help from his big sister to put the top pegs into place. We then went over colors and categorizing them into groups.

The last thing we did was to find the peg that was "different" from the others. This was something new to him and he now loves saying the word "different"!

The next thing we took out was the Fit-a-Space puzzles by Lauri. Today was the first day he had seen these as well. He isn't too much into puzzles, so I wondered how this activity would go. He LOVED these small "cookies", as he called them.

What shocked me when we were putting them together was his statement and question "I need an oval. Where is an oval?" and then proceeded to find the oval and put it into place! I knew he knew the basic shapes, square, circle, triangle, but I had no idea he knew an oval! I wonder what else he's hiding in that little brain of his!

We also read a few books: Guess Who's Coming, Jesse Bear by Nancy White Carlstrom, Summer Is Summer by Phillis and David Gershator, Flora's Blanket by Debi Gliori. I love the bunny books! He enjoyed it because it's about a blanket and he LOVES his blankee!

It was a good day with Daniel. The other two are another story. I feel it's going to be rough year of homeschooling. I know God has a plan, but as of right now I cannot see the big picture and it frustrates me. The constant circle of arguments we get from Matt are already tiring us out. To think we have 163 days more is daunting to say the least. We are praying and hanging onto God for his wisdom and strength.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

George Muller...what an example!

This year I have chosen to use "Drawn Into the Heart of Reading" for Matt's literature. I had never heard of the program, but read some reviews and really felt this was the program God was directing me to use. At the CHAP Conference I prayed the entire time to find the right program for him. It was literally a last hour find....and I have to say that I am pleased beyond measure!

The program allows you to use any book of your choosing from one of the nine genres. I decided to start off with Biography as that seemed to be the one he would probably dislike the most! I also chose the book, a biography of George Muller. Matt has enjoyed stories about George Muller since he was in preschool - a long time! I thought it would be good to get to know this man a little better. Today I was shown a glimpse as to why God lead me to this program. On first glance of the title, I believed that the program was to get kids to enjoy different types of reading and draw them into the enjoyment of literature. Now I realize it is also to be used to work on the child's heart. Today's lesson was to go over four character traits: responsibility, diligence, initiative, and cautiousness. We had to come up with examples of our own lives for each area. I have to say he had a difficult time coming up with something for a couple of them. It opened his eyes and heart a crack as to what kind of character he is developing. We had a good discussion about how we can work on this aspect of his life. The other lesson we did (he was a couple of days behind), focused on coming up with questions to ask of George Muller. I could tell the past few days that something about this book has been bothering Matt. Today, after much discussion, I discovered what it was. One of the questions Matt came up with was "Why did you have to sell all your stuff?". 'Things' are important to Matt, it is an issue we have been working on for a while. I feel God is working on this issue as well. Matt was almost to the point of tears as he struggled with the fact that God sometimes calls us to do difficult things - like give up our stuff. It was good to see the struggle going on within his heart. I was beginning to get a bit concerned as the past few days have been difficult with Matt. His heart has seemed to be hardening instead of softening towards God. But God is faithful and I need to keep praying and keep listening. Please pray for Matt, that he would allow this work to take place in his heart and allow it to soften towards the things of God instead of focusing on himself.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tot School!

My friend, Carisa, is a blogger to the hilt and has developed a homeschool blog that features "Tot School". It is full of things that she does with her two year-old son. I am often amazed at all the things she does with him. This year, Daniel realizes what school is and is demanding that he be a part of the classroom. I am excited, but at the same time nervous about how to pull the schedule together. So far things seem to be working out as we tweek the timing of things and thankfully, he still takes a good nap. He is also different than the other two because he desires to be involved, whereas the older two would rather be doing anything but school! He is also different because I am a different teacher with him. Being the third child, I realize he will learn and I guess I have been more relaxed than I was with the older two.

This week he has wanted to sit at the table with us. The Hinson's gave him this wonderful toy for his birthday, Automoblox. It is exactly what it sounds like, cars made up of blocks. They can be taken apart and put back together into many configurations. He LOVES this toy! He will sit at the table for about 30 minutes and just take it apart, put it together, play with it and then build something else!
The other thing he has enjoyed doing this week is coloring with his new anti-roll Crayola crayons. He has his own "workbook", Kumon: My Book of Coloring, that he begs to do.
He would do the entire thing in one sitting if I would let him! We are working on controlling the crayon and coloring inside the circle. His favorite part is the maze on the backside of each coloring page. I am so amazed at how well he does it! He goes straight from the cirlce to the star without touching any of the shapes in the way. After he does the maze going down, being the mischievous little guy he is, he pretends he is going to run into the shapes on his way back up to the circle! He is a funny kid!

Well, that's what we have done so far, except for reading lots of books. He does enjoy sitting and listening to stories. It will be fun to see where we go this year with his learning and exploring of life!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reading Rocks, Part II

WOW! It's done! It was a fantastic party! All but 6 of the 51 kids invited showed up! The place was hopping! The party started at 6:30 pm with dinner. Andy was great and made up all the food alongside of his Teen Club duties! He's such a great hubby! While the kids sat and ate their dinner they watched a slide show of pictures taken throughout the month of Reading Rocks. The kids always get a kick out of seeing themselves up on the screen.

After dinner we went into another room to hand out their achievement certificates with the number of points they earned. Meet the top points earner for Reading Rocks with 625 points!
I am so proud of her! She worked so hard. The child I thought would never read is now reading and winning awards for doing so! She was thrilled beyond belief!

Matthew also received a Fruit of the Spirit Award, Great Focus! I am proud of him, too, as focusing can be a difficult thing for him, especially when it comes to reading! He also did well, earning 351 points.

After the awards were handed out the kids went out to the playground and were called in order of points earned to choose their backpacks and receive their school supplies and socks and underwear! They get three pairs of each to start off their new school year - it sounds silly, but we all need them, right?!?! It was a lot of fun handing the kids their bags and seeing the smiles as they looked at all the goodies. It certainly made all the running around worth it!
After everyone received their things, we took a group picture and they were out the door. Carisa took pictures of parents picking up their kids. Do you see the smiles on the parents faces? Not only do the kids have the joy of new school supplies, but the parents receive a financial blessing as getting ready for school can be a stressful time for them. It's really a win-win situation for everyone. We get the joy of helping kids keep up important reading skills while reading quality Christian books, the kids get the benefit of starting off school with reading still intact and new supplies, and parents are helped financially as well as helping to keep their kids off the streets.

It was a great party and a wonderful program this summer. Thanks again to all who helped! We really couldn't have done it without you!

Reading Rocks, Part 1

Tonight is the big Reading Rocks Party! I will be glad when it is done! So much work has gone into getting ready and I will be relieved to not have to run around and gather things to make the party happen. Not say I haven't enjoyed the preparations, but now it is time to move onto something else - like totally focussing on school and home! I am so ready to fall into our autumn routine.

I packed up the school supplies on Sunday afternoon. Here is a picture of all the supplies prior to being packed.

Thanks to so many wonderful people, Pat, Rachel, Aunt Louise, Mom Schultz, Mom Lewis, Mom Hunter, Bethany E.C. Church, Bethal Chapel, Laurie, and I am sure many others who have slipped my mind right now, we were plenty well stocked to fill 65 backpacks! Here is a picture of what each kid is receiveing along with their backpacks.

1 plastic binder, 6 2-pocket folders, 2 spiral bound notebooks, 1 pack notebook paper, 1 compostition book, 1 Crayola Broad markers, 1 Crayola Fine Line markers, 1 Crayola Colored pencils, 1 8ct. pencils, 1 pencil box, 1 pack index cards, 1 24 ct. Crayola crayons, 1 2ct. pink eraser, 1 scissors, 1 2ct. glue stick, 1 ruler, 1 pencil sharpener, 10 pencil top erasers!!!

It is a ton of stuff! All the plastic binders were donated! All the loose leaf paper was donated! All of the pencil boxes were donated! And we received a good majority of other supplies! The only thing I really had to buy were scissors, white glue, and Crayola Fine Line Markers. We were blessed beyond my wildest dreams with folks donating supplies and their time to run around and gather them. Thank you so much! I will post about the party later tonight. I bought a new camera card so my camera will be able to hold more than 20 pictures!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Time Flies When You Are In School!

I realized today that I have not blogged in a week! When I do school, everything else gets put on the back burner. I have been really trying to keep up with everything, laundry, school work, ministry, and as a result blogging has been put aside. I am sorry for those of you who keep checking and are finding nothing! I will try to do better. It doesn't help that Andy's computer is basically DEAD!!! It won't connect to the Internet or anything, which means I have to find myself in the schoolroom to blog and that is difficult in the evenings when the laundry is in the basement. Hopefully he will be able to figure something out when things settle down in the next couple of weeks. Yes, we started school August 1st. Since it was a Friday I decided to start our year off with a field trip! I also decided that since Sarah is studying PA History this year our field trip was going to be to Pennsbury Manor, the home of William Penn. It was such a great day! I enjoyed it so much! As a bonus for the month of August Pennsylvania is promoting PA landmarks as vacation spots. As part of this promotion kids get in for free!!!! We also have AAA (thanks Mom and Dad!) so Andy and I were also able to get in for a discount! So our entire trip cost us $9! Compared to $16. The cost included a tour of the different buildings including the house! What a house! It is such a shame that he only lived in it for 2 years, and even then during the spring, summer, and fall as it was too difficult to travel by river during the winter. The grounds are beautiful and we had fun looking around and seeing the Delaware River where Penn would travel the 26 miles to Philadelphia by boat.
View from the house - gorgeous! I would so love to sit in a chair and read here all day!
The Delaware River looking towards Philadelphia

A replica of the boat Penn would use to travel to Philadelphia - kinda tiny!

The above picture is of the barn. We were allowed to roam around after the tour and go into building that were open. We walked into the barn and were greeted by a honking goose! It was quite irritated that we were entering into its domain! There were also peacocks (considered a living lawn ornament back in Penn's days!) with their little peacocks and a HUGE turkey! It was the turkey that caused us concern. He jumped down from the wall and circled around us rather closely. Sarah had escaped back into the barn - terrified it would attack! Daniel, however, had picked up a stick and was unfazed by the turkey every bit as big as he! We walked out of the barn and the turkey followed us! It kept circling us and was getting a little too close for comfort when Daniel, with his stick, decided to chase it back to the barn for us! Our little turkey wrangler saved us and received the undying love of his sister who was crying at the thought of this turkey attacking! Andy and I were laughing so hard! Daniel was a riot! He is such a fearless boy!

We ate a packed lunch at the picnic tables provided. It was such a great way to start our school year! We really just had a fun day together.

Our first day in the schoolroom was Monday, August 4th. We are only doing our morning schedule this week as Andy has a group in from Clover Hill Baptist Church in Richmond, VA doing a VBS from 1:30-4:00 pm. The actual classwork hasn't gone as well as the field trip, but we are learning to deal with the drama that comes each day. Andy and are being firm and requiring the kids to adhere to the schedule and do their work properly, not something they are enjoying, but will get used to. Andy and I were listening to Kevin Leman on Focus on the Family the other morning and he made us realize that we have been too lenient with the scheduling of our kids and allowing them to pick and choose different things - such as what subjects to do when they feel like it, etc. We also realized we were not making them follow through with proper behavior, how they speak to us and each other, keeping rooms picked up, etc. So we put our heads together and have initiated Kid Clean-up! Along with that goes Parent Clean-Up - keeping in check how we respond to them on different behaviors and keeping up with them, not slacking when we need to be parenting - even when we are tired (which is often!). Please pray with us that we would be what we need to be when we need to be it!