Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow

I am currently leading a small group at my church through the study, Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman. In this morning's session, he told us to imagine Jesus going before us as we transitioned into different activities during the day, picturing him showing us what to do and how he wants us to do it.

I did this all day today through every transition of my day. What a difference! I have always dedicated my day to God or asked him for his protection, guidance, etc. However, I have never pictured Jesus in that capacity, training me as a disciple as I go through my daily routine.

I'm telling you, it changed my day! This was the most peaceful and disciplined day I have ever had. Consciously asking Jesus to show me the ropes before I transitioned into each phase of my day kept me open to his instruction and "whispers" and it was awesome.

The sugar battle (HUGE battle ) was even easy to conquer. I was leaving the store and my usual route home takes me past two Starbucks (mocha frapps, baby!). I was going to give in, but when I got to the parking lot exit, because I asked him to show me what to do and how before I left to go to the store, I was open to his prompting to turn right instead of my usual left. That way still took me home, but without passing a Starbucks.

He also worked with me on consistently and lovingly disciplining my children. He showed me how and where to stop and train them, or even to love on them a little longer. I saw my children respond differently to each other and to me. My house was peaceful, which is not the norm for this boy house.

He even showed me where I needed to make adjustments in my day and homeschooling curriculum. These were decisions I had been struggling with in my own strength, but were easily settled when I allowed him to lead. He also led me to spur of the moment acts of service to others.  It was amazing.

I will definitely do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next! I'm ready to follow where and how Jesus leads me. Where He leads me I will follow.

I'll go with Him.

With Him.

All the way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Home-made Valentine Boxes

My boys just made three very cute valentine boxes for our homeschool support group's annual Valentine's Day ice skating party's valentine's box competition.  I thought I would share their projects here.

Here is Caden's bag.

I know it's not a box, but I thought it would be easier for his little one year old hands if he carried a bag.  I adapted the idea from a 3-D lion valentine box craft idea. Caden did help with most of the gluing...until he lost interest and walked away!

Next, is Stephen's box.

Stephen adores horses and just had to have a horse box.  I am very proud to say that this is an original design from the mind of my very own little boy.  My contribution was actually minimal.  I wrapped the cereal box, cut out the horse after he colored it, and cut out the sun because we were running out of time.  Stephen did everything else.  Not bad for a three year old. 

Finally, here is Andrew's box.

Andrew read and followed the directions to make this fire truck valentine box.  The original instructions were for a fire truck toy box, but he adapted it by adding a top so it could be used as a valentine box.  I was one proud mama while watching my little boy, who has struggled so much to become a reader, read the directions and put his box together.  I only had to help with the big words and to show him how to use the paper cutter.  He did the rest.  I still smile every time I think of his look of accomplishment. 

I would love to hear about some of your Valentine's Day projects.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Remedies for Homeschool Burnout: Shake It Up, Mom!

Step two for overcoming homeschool burnout in our house is probably the easiest and most interesting step.  It's time to shake it up!  Sometimes, as moms, we know what needs to be done to bring the fire back into our homeschool, but we feel like slackers for even thinking about stopping (gasp!) to do something more interesting. 

Well, blame it on me!  I am giving all of us permission to do what we know is best to help us and our learners get over this mid-year slump and come out on the other side with renewed excitement about learning.  Here are some of the ways we are stirring the pot in our homeschool to help us overcome this year's month of homeschooling woe.

How Our Family Shakes Things Up

1.  We changed the daily schedule.
I finally gave in and gave up my quiet time.  You may be wondering how giving up the highlight of my day, my blessedly peaceful hour and a half of quiet time, makes for a happier mama.  Well, I've discovered that homeschooling Andrew, who is easily distracted, is far more productive when his younger brothers are down for a nap.  What takes three hours, due to interruptions and needing to spend time with the little ones, only takes about forty-five to fifty minutes during quiet time.  This includes all subjects including Bible, history, and science experiments. 

With this change,  we all win.  Stephen and Caden get to spend lots of time with Mommy while Andrew works on independent assignments and self-led learning activities.  Andrew gets uninterrupted intensive instruction and one-on-one time with me.  Best of all, I still get about thirty to forty-five minutes of blissful solitude when the lessons are over.  Why didn't I do this sooner?

2.  We have become more involved with our local homeschool support groups. 
I can't say enough about active participation in a local homeschool support group.  As a family, we belong to two support groups and I belong to one mom's discussion group. 

In the winter, we attend almost every function hosted by our support groups.  We attend weekly park days, parties, field trips, and help with service projects.  I also get some "grown woman" time, by attending the monthly Mom's Night Outs and Charlotte Mason discussion group.  There is nothing better than sitting with a bunch of Christian women who have been called to do the same job you are doing and understand your need to just be yourself for one night. Not mama, wife, or resident cook.  Just you.  That, in itself, is so energizing.

Although it is not a necessity to be so actively involved, it works well for our family.  I live in a boy house, and cooping little boys up in the house all winter long would be the number one way to tip this mama over the edge!

3.  We participate in competitions.
Of course, in a boy house, mentioning the word, "competition," instantly changes the mood.  This month, the boys are attending their first homeschool Valentine's Day ice skating party.  The highlight of the event is the intense Valentine box competition. I showed the boys pictures from last year's party, and they have been chomping at the bit to get started on their entries.

After the party, Andrew will start preparing for the Texas Regional Science Fair, hosted by one of our support groups.  Science fair is a huge deal in our house.  School pares down to the basics: reading, writing, and 'rithmetic.  Everything else gets rolled into a large self-directed research project as Andrew prepares for competition.  He is reading, comprehending, researching, computing, planning, and analyzing data.  Then he pulls all of the information together to present on his tri-fold board and in his presentation and Q&A session with three judges.  Did I tell you he's only eight years old? This child loves science fair!

Stephen and Caden join in on the fun and learn about Andrew's topic on their level.  This year, I am considering encouraging Stephen to pursue his own 'research project' on his favorite topic, horses.  Of course, when science fair ends in March, we will return to our regularly scheduled program, but it definitely helps to cure the doldrums.

It varies from year to year depending on our family situation at the time, but this combination of interventions is what is working for the Wicks family this year.  In the past, we have also completed thematic units, held game days, and spent whole days watching educational videos on a topic of choice.  I am not ashamed to admit that I have resorted to using the television as a temporary diversion!

I hope this two-part series on Remedies for Homeschool Burnout has been helpful.  At the end of the day, it really is about figuring out what works for your family. 

The end goal in all of this effort we put into homeschooling is to raise intelligent, responsible citizens who love the Lord, love his people, and love life.  We can't lose sight of that goal by dragging our babies along through the trenches when there is an amazing world out there that we have more time, flexibility, and freedom than most to stop and explore. 

Take advantage of the opportunities that are available to your family and beat those mid-winter blues.  Happy planning!