Two and a Half Months of Silence?!?

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Of course, that’s web silence, not real life silence, of which I’ve had none.

I was sitting in the family room getting some post-kids-bedtime relaxation while Greg’s out playing tennis, but I just got the urge to come here and share. Things are really going well around here. I dreaded this summer, although not quite as much as I dreaded last summer. But we have two weeks to go, and it’s been good.

Jake has turned a corner. For almost four years he has struggled. Our organized, predictability-loving, rule-following, introverted firstborn had it rough being a foster brother living in a world of unpredictability and chaos…can you imagine?! It seems like now that he knows how our life is going to look for the foreseeable future, he has settled back into being himself. That delightful, easy-to-be-with self that we thought maybe we’d driven away by becoming a foster family…he’s back! There have been days that I just shake my head in amazement and joy to see that following this path didn’t ruin our little boy. We always trusted that God knew what Jake needed in his life to prepare him for his future, but it’s great to see him happy again. Thank you, LORD! I’m curious to see what He has in mind for Jake’s future in teaching him so young how to handle hardship.

I feel like I should write about Tyler here, but there’s nothing new to say. He’s wonderful. He always has been wonderful. He rolls with the punches and gets along with everyone. He’s enthusiastic and easy-going and affectionate. He has been the child who kept me going during many months. Tyler is the rock…and he rocks.

The big surprise: seven year old E. I don’t want to jinx it, and we had one bad week this summer with tantrums and defiance and such, but that’s been it. Her behavior has completely changed. COMPLETELY. I am in awe just typing it, and I hope it’s not just a fluke. She is handling it when we don’t give her what she wants when she wants it. She is handling it when we don’t entertain her. She is taking no for an answer. All of this with flashes of attitude followed by…get this…controlling herself! We compliment her on it constantly. We made a point to keep her very busy this summer with morning camps and such, and we are planning to continue this strategy when school starts because it takes a village to raise this girl. She still struggles when artwork or school practice work isn’t perfect, which makes me nervous about her return to the classroom. But to think back to where we were when she first came, and even around February/March…amazing. Wow. We continue to pray for bonding times with her, but it is SO much easier to bond with someone who isn’t dissolving into an uncontrollable fit all the time! It’s hard not visualizing how I thought it would be to have a daughter this age and then comparing it with how it actually is. But I’m looking back at the progress we’ve made…one year made a huge difference…three more months even more…maybe when the adoption is finalized she’ll breathe a sigh of relief and really settle in?

Speaking of the adoption, it hasn’t happened. It was supposed to happen this summer but somehow someone didn’t remember about a certain evaluation to be done so it could be put into a report and placed in a file to go into another report to be presented to us in order to move forward. The evaluation has now been done and is working its way from desk to desk at the social services agency. Someday, somebody whose job it is to call people to set court dates will give us a ring and set one date of a set of three, I think, that we need before the adoption is finalized. But this isn’t at all frustrating. I’m sure glad that we have shared all kinds of psychological, educational, behavioral, and medical information with the county so that they can write it up into an official report to give all that information we gave to them back to us and say, “Here are these kids we want to tell you about. Do you want to adopt them?”

On to Little A. He is a piece of work. I don’t know what we’re going to do with him. He has flashes of complete anger and violence, and then minutes later is the sweetest, cutest, winningest little guy in the world. And those dimples. I love this boy. And he drives me crazy. I don’t think I’m going to solve this in two weeks so I’m not going to try. I’m going to wait until he goes back to school and deal with whomever he turns into then. No point in coming up with new discipline plans and strategies only to use them for a few weeks. We’ll hunker down and weather the flashes of rage with the discipline techniques that have been working well for us in the past (and even with him, until three weeks ago, or so), and then we’ll regroup in the fall. I guess it’s always going to be somebody having trouble when you’ve got a family of seven. Right now he’s it.

Midge is here! Sleeping upstairs for the third night in a row as I type. Not permanently. But we’ve been seeing her for a few days at a time this summer. She went camping with us and she’s going to beg her dad to let her do it again next week. Her dad is falling apart, in my opinion. Nothing that concerns us about his parenting, but about his inability to draw the line with Midge’s mother now that the courts are out of their world completely. We hate it. He’s giving mom overnights and trusting her not to drive with Midge or do anything to endanger her, despite her complete inability to show she can be trustworthy. We think he’s just overwhelmed with being a single dad, so we keep offering to take Midge whenever he wants us to, but he can’t quite seem to juggle everything. There’s nothing we can do, because if we report any suspected wrongdoing or incompetence to the county without really knowing what’s going on and without knowing whether they’d remove Midge again, we know he could easily cut us out of her life completely. So far, we haven’t been scared for her safety, thankfully. I just don’t know what’s going to happen. Again, we’re in a totally powerless situation where we just have to pray and leave her in God’s hands. And I have no idea what’s going to happen when she starts preschool again in the fall. Sigh. My baby. While I can, I’m enjoying every minute with my spoiled-rotten, can’t-take-no-for-an-answer, I-don’t-know-how-to-share, wonderful little girl.

So we made it. Two weeks left of summer and we’ve survived. Not even that, I think we’ve actually done well. I’m hoping to start substituting this fall at the kids’ schools and I’m working on a single subject Math credential to go with my multiple subject elementary teaching credential. I’m competing in a triathlon this Saturday, which should be good for a laugh at my expense! I trained very regularly from January to early May, at which point I got bronchitis and pneumonia which lasted a month, got busy coordinating our school’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and then it was summer with no time to train sans children. So I almost didn’t follow through with my triathlon goal. But as my good friend pointed out, I probably won’t regret it if I do the triathlon, but it’s very possible I’d regret it if I didn’t. So here I go. School days, substituting, credentialing, scheduling fall kids’ activities, adjusting my parenting strategies as our family schedule changes…such is life around here. And looking towards the future with hope.

 

School Choice: second & fourth grades!

Wow. Do we really have a kid who’s going to be in fourth grade next year? That’s one of the grades I taught…I have never pictured myself having a child the age of my former students. Crazy.

We are in the school choice window for our district, which means that if you want your kids to go to a different school from the assigned elementary school for your neighborhood, you have to decide now. Our lives are so up in the air right now that I have no idea where we will all be for the next school year.

Tyler is currently attending a Title I (at-risk, low income) school which has a Spanish Immersion Charter School program. I LOVE it. So much. The kids are diverse in every way. The families value different cultures and languages. I love hearing music and conversation in different languages at school events and in the hallways. Right now the whole day is in Spanish, with the kids changing teachers (so their own students don’t ever hear them speak English!) and teaching English for 30 minutes a day. Next year, it will increase to 60 minutes of English with the rest being Spanish. We are lucky that the program can even extend into Jr. High and High School if we’re interested. At that level, the kids take Science in Spanish instead of English, and they take a Spanish elective class for immersion kids. I have several really good mom friends now at Tyler’s school and I love the teachers, staff, and program.

Tyler, on the other hand, has complained to me about once a week that he wants to go to an “English” school. He’s not that convincing, really. He only says it before school when I think he’d just rather stay home and continue playing legos. After school, it’s all smiles and chatter about his great day. Still, I wonder if the idea of an “English” school will always interest him. At his teacher conference, his wonderful teacher told me he is soaking up the program so well. I wasn’t sure what he was really capable of producing in Spanish until she showed me a recent writing assignment he did. Oh my. His Spanish vocabulary is WAY beyond what he admits to at home! His sentences were perfectly composed with reflexive verbs and proper tenses and even correct adjective endings. Seriously? I don’t know that I could have done that in High School Spanish class. I was so thrilled and relieved to see that, and to know that his teacher feels he is thriving in the immersion program. When I told Tyler that his teacher hopes he’ll continue on in the program next year, he said, “Okay. I’ll do it,” and ran off to play. See, I told you his complaints about “Spanish school” weren’t all that serious!

So we’re all set for Tyler for next year. But Jake is totally up in the air. Luckily, we don’t have to decide for him until the last minute because of the program he is in. We decided last year to move him from our wonderful assigned school to a nearby school with a special challenge program for 3rd-6th grades. The idea of the program is that they group the kids who need extra challenges into one class for each grade, so that the whole class is aimed at a higher level. Greg was in this type of program as an elementary schooler, and I taught this type of program and LOVED the cool stuff I could do with those kids that I couldn’t do in my regular classes.

The problem is, there just aren’t enough kids who have tested into this program at his grade level. Jake’s teacher thinks that the decline in the number of kids who test into this program is related to the rising class sizes in the lower grades over the past few years. So for third grade, his class has been a regular class with just a cluster of kids from the program, like any school would have. We knew this ahead of time and moved him anyway so that it would be an easier transition than moving him after third or fourth grade. I’m glad we did…he’s had a great teacher and made the school move so easily without any complaints about missing his friends or his old school. But NOW they’re telling us there might not be enough kids to have a full class again next year for fourth grade!

I’m frustrated because I’m not sure I would have moved him if we had known this last year. But what’s done is done. I can’t complain about this year’s experience and am happy with our choice with the information we had. But I AM wondering about next year. If they don’t have a full class for the program, I’m not really interested in messing with carpools and the longer drive and all that taking him to that school entails.

So then I’m left with three options. I could homeschool him for fourth grade and see if they get enough kids to have the full class challenge program in fifth grade and send him back that year. I could send him back to his previous school, although in my mind, I would probably want him to stay there for 4th-6th rather than moving him back to the new school YET AGAIN even if they have a full class program in 5th and 6th grades. Or I could send him back to the tiny little canyon school where he started in kindergarten before I pulled him out to homeschool him. I loved that little school and he has only positive memories about it.

What I choose to do with Jake next year fully depends on the new little people who will be joining our family hopefully before the next school year starts. If they are school aged and native Spanish speakers, I can send them to Tyler’s program so I’ll be able to make Jake’s school decisions based only on what’s best for him. If they are school aged and English speakers, I will want to factor in what might be best for the new kids as well as Jake (I have already vowed not to have kids in THREE different elementary schools!) If they aren’t school aged, I will have only Jake’s school needs to think about, but I have to admit I’m intimidated about trying to homeschool a fourth grader with needy little ones underfoot!

We won’t find out until April or May about next year’s program for Jake’s school, and even then, if we don’t have our new kids yet, I don’t plan on making a decision about Jake until we know who’s in our family, or until August when I’d have to start homeschooling if that’s my choice!

Phew. I’m thankful for so many options, and intimidated by them all at the same time. Once again, I’m grateful that we have the LORD guiding us through these decisions each year. Even when we don’t feel sure about the future, He knows what the future holds!

Nothing.

There’s nothing to say here. Day after the election, beloved foster daughter being taken away, watching her transform from happy and secure into clingy and tantruming and spoiled right in front of my eyes, good friends with big problems, other good friends with a kid who might have cancer, neighbors divorcing and probably moving the kids’ best friends away, throw in a week of exhausting vertigo… When it feels as if everything in the whole world is going wrong, I need to remind myself that not everything is terrible. I think it would hurt God’s feelings if I kept saying life stinks. Not to mention that it sounds pretty spoiled and petty just writing that out. God places me in the wealthiest country at the least labor intensive time in history and with the most sheltered life He can think of, and I have the nerve to complain. Sometimes I feel like a rotten toddler who freaks out when my parent makes me give back the toy which a friend has shared with me. These kids, all three of them, really aren’t mine, are they? Even as God lets me keep my biological sons more than the two years he’s let me keep my sweet daughter, even then, the boys still belong to Him, and are only on loan to me. Sigh. I guess God is the most patient of parents, listening to my tantrums. But I’m sure even He gets tired of it.

List of One Thousand Things We Love…continued…

53. listening to the boys playing together in the other room

54. good books that last a long time and where everything turns out just right

55. lemon chicken soup at Daphne’s Greek Cafe

56. listening to books on tape in the car with the boys

57. warm baths

58. the way Midge cocks her head to the side, lifts one hand in a teenage-like gesture and says, “Oh yeah,” to everything, like she already knows and has known for quite some time.

59. the boys are both finally readers…real readers! pick-up-the-book-in-your-spare-moment-readers. Motherly, Teacherly Happiness.

San Diego Getaway: Comic-Con!

For the past few years, my sister Amy and her husband Rob have told us all the tales of craziness they see in San Diego during Comic-Con (the world’s biggest deal for comic book/t.v. show/sci-fi movie geeks!) So last year, we called dibs on their guest bedroom for this year’s Comic-Con.

The boys and I went down for two days of people watching and hang out time with Amy and family. Kate was especially happy to have the boys there, whom she collectively called “Ty-ty.” I hear she was looking for them when we left. Midge missed them while they were gone, too, asking Greg one day after naptime, “Brudders here? Mishyou.” You miss them? Greg asked her. “Love ’em,” she told him. Awwww.

But we were busy trying to wander the streets of downtown San Diego. It was a little bit crowded.

But we pushed our way through to get all our freebies (aluminum water bottles! hats! sunglasses! movie passes!) and to see the displays from all the different shows and movies. The boys walked through the Grimm forest, worried that something would jump out at them.

We were dressed for the occasion. I mean, if you have a great excuse to wear costumes, why wouldn’t you? I just don’t understand the un-costumed people at all.

There were plenty of freaks we recognized…

…and plenty that we didn’t. Including many women who took this as a chance to dress themselves in questionable attire. I did not take their pictures.

The batmobiles were out in force…

…and we spent much of our time walking around, trying to get poor Kate to be happy. It was one of those days.

I thought one of the coolest things was how San Diego was transformed, with posters on every building, pedi-cab, and street corner.

The History Channel took up a block of parking lot with free sausages and games for the kids with prizes. I think it was my boys’ favorite spot. Jake was thrilled about the sunglasses he kept winning; I had to cut him off at three. Tyler won some, too, as well as a scoop necked women’s shirt from the history channel that drooped on him and showed his whole chest, but he insisted on wearing anyway.

I guess it’s no wonder that the boys were too excited to sleep that night.

Hanging around Amy, Rob & Kate’s place is a bit more relaxing than braving the crowds. Kate has some great bed-head. And the boys don’t mind their Wii at all.

The boys and I walked outside seeking a place they could be loud at 6:45 in the morning. Found it.

Later we tried out Aunt Krissy’s Comic-Con hats, which would have been easier to wear if there were no breeze.

We encountered more creatures…

…and did more people watching…

…which includes a lot of, “what’s that guy supposed to be?”

And where else can you find a free giveaway of zombie feet (that look disgustingly real) made of bread?

What a great getaway! Thanks, Amy, Rob & Kate!

Summer on the Brain.

SO ready for summer. The boys and I are counting down the school days (11 including today) and I’m fine tuning the summer calendar to make sure we get it all in. The weather around here is helping, too. Perfect days in the eighties. And who wouldn’t be ready for summer when you get to look at these freckles on these beautiful faces every day…

Good Day! (and ramblings about school choice)

Jake on his first day of first grade in 2010.

I’m just popping in to tell you that I’m having a great day! Isn’t it nice when you don’t know quite what to expect and you are pleasantly surprised?

I’m spending the evening with my parents, which I do off and on when my in-laws watch the kids on Wednesday nights. Tonight we’re going to be hanging out in their quiet house and sewing something I’ll show you later. But what I’m really excited about is this morning. I’ve been in the throes of school-choice decision making for our boys for next year. I am thrilled with Tyler’s dual language immersion school. I like the people and the school and the program fits his personality and will be such an asset to him in life. So he will stay there until I feel differently. But I’ve been agonizing about Jake.

Choosing schools is such a hard thing for me. There are just so many wonderful ways to educate a child and I want to do all of them. In fact, if you ever hear of a school that is an immersion Spanish school that meets three days a week and homeschools the other two days and is on a year-round schedule and teaches using the theories of multiple intelligences and has a gifted magnet class and encorages interaction with nature and self-guided learning and is free and is not just for Christians and is near my house would you please let me know? In the meantime, I’ll keep working on making a real life decision.

Don’t we as parents have so many things to worry about? It seems like every choice we make for our kids can have lifelong effects! I know it’s not always true, but it seems like it. I’ve been pondering three options for Jake.

  • Our Neighborhood School where Jake currently attends. We are lucky to have what I describe as a private-like school as our neighborhood school. You know, the ones where the PTA is so involved and the community so into fundraising that you still have music and art and dance and olympic day and field trips and assemblies and all that? In a public school. With nice people. Close by.
  • A New Charter School Nearby which emphasizes teaching with the Multiple Intelligences. Which means nothing unless you’re a geeky ex-teacher like me who gets thrills from things like this. Innovative, different, successful, and perfect for kids who want to explore information more than just learning it. They employ different teaching techniques to bring the curriculum to life in artistic, physical, musical, and other ways in addition to the standard teaching ways. So cool. And it also has a part time homeschooling program. Intriguing.
  • The GATE Magnet School for our district, where kids identified as gifted can go to a class of just GATE kids and high achievers for accelerated learning with more depth. This one is close to my heart, as I’m a former GATE magnet class teacher and (in spite of the crazy parents) count those years as some of my favorites as a teacher. So much learning can happen in that format. So much fun can be had with those kids! So much deeper can you teach, with a whole class of GATE kids.
I was leaning towards the charter school until our neighbor went to their information meeting (I’m planning to go to one in a week or two) and I wasn’t thrilled with her report about what happened and what was said there. Not that it’s not great for a lot of kids, but maybe not a good fit for our family and our goals? Not sure. Still pondering and I’ll probably still go to their meeting just to hear for myself.
But this morning I had a chance to tour the GATE magnet school, and oh, my, was I in heaven. I was worried that I’d be disappointed and overly critical of any other GATE program because I’d be comparing them to the one I taught. But I was so impressed! Actually, the third grade teacher I heard from made me feel like I was a slouch when I was teaching GATE. The level and kind of work they are doing in there is amazing, and I left the morning walking on air. They have an impressive set of teachers and a lot of special curriculum aimed at helping gifted kids go wider and deeper into any topic. They also have most of the great programs I’ve come to enjoy at his current school! The best of both worlds, it seems. Biggest downfall: it’s farther away. Sigh. 12 minutes as opposed to 3 minutes. But in the grand scheme of things, what’s an extra 9 minutes, when it looks like the kind of program that would suit Jake perfectly, and the kind of school I would love to get involved in. Although there’s still time to change my mind, I’m so excited to have a choice that I’m so excited about! (Yes, I know I’m being repetitive…that’s what happens when I’m happy!)

What a day…schools, sewing, family, and leftover roasted vegetables for lunch. Score.

I SPY an eight year old.

Last week was the great eight SPY TRAINING party.

The planning for this party has been such family fun. The boys and I scouring the internet for party favors. The whole family exclaiming over Pinterest ideas. The headlamps and glow sticks and see-behind-you spy glasses arriving in the mail. Planning the “spy training stations” and deciding how many spy points would be awarded for each mission.

Jake was more excited for this party than I’ve ever seen him in his life.

I remember.

I remember the hours before Christmas Eve dragging out…the excitement so strong I could barely handle it. I remember anticipating trips for so many months that the excitement before the vacation and the remembering afterwards were almost more fun than the trip itself. I remember.

These days it seems that I don’t have a chance to get excited about our big life events until they are right upon me. I want to become like a little child again. Make space for anticipation.

But sometimes you can find the best fun amidst chaos, busy-ness, noise. And at the big Spy party, we certainly did. Here’s a recap:

The invitations above set the mood. They were easy to make by cutting apart file folders and distressing with brown ink. I love the spy picture of Jake that we paperclipped into the “file!” All the boys wore black or spy related gear, and we had mustaches on hand for disguises!

We started by choosing spy alias names by drawing adjectives and nouns out of two jars, creating code names like Agent Mozarella, and Camoflauge Pickle and Sneaky Knife and such. I put the names on nametags I had printed out from photoshop, along with the labels I printed for their individual secret agent tubs here.

Then we did the game where you see things on a tray and try to remember them after they are taken away. The boys all thought this was going to be a breeze, but most boys could only remember 4 or 5. Jake tied for first place by remembering 12 items! (Angie, I must tell you that Noah was the other top “rememberer!) What smart boys we have.

Then we started our spy training stations. At one station they took the worksheets out of their boxes and tried to crack codes, solve sudoku puzzles, do mazes, etc. Another station was the laser beam training. Take one hallway, add a piece of red tape at a time, and watch boys crawl and roll their way past the “laserbeams.”

Another station was the midnight mayhem darkness scavenger hunt. They each had headlamps and had to use them to look at all the toys on the floor of the theater to find eight toys with letters taped to them. Find all eight and unscramble the words, getting “spy points” for each letter you find individually, and more points as a group for solving it. It was pitch black, so obviously this was taken with the flash to see what they were up to!

The other rotating station was a daylight scavenger with rhyming clues that took them all over the house and backyard. I love writing clues for scavenger hunts at Christmas, so this was a lot of fun!

While all the rest of the stations were rotated with three or four spies at each station, we all met up upstairs for the bomb squad game, involving throwing balls from one side of the room to the other, trying to catch the other team with more balls on their side than you had on yours. We had a few minor injuries, but lots of fun.

After all of the stations, we came down for cake and ice cream and the boys ate while I tallied up the spy points. The cake was not my favorite homemade cake yet, but Jake said it was the best ever, with the bomb landing right on the words, “Happy Birthday Jake!” which he thought was great.

After the cake, we announced the top three spy point winners who got cool prizes. Planning ahead for disappointed boys, that was the moment I told them all that they’d be getting their own headlamps to take home, along with some “see behind you” spy glasses. It was nice that because the party was at home, we could use the extra money to give out cool party favors instead of paying for a venue to provide the fun.

And like I said, creating the party was as much fun as actually having it. The spy stations were such fun, and the end of the party, although total chaos, was a boys’ dream.

Happy Birthday Jakey!

Love & Logic in Practice.

Sorry, buddy. I guess you're going to have to save a little bit longer for that next Bionicle.

Greg and I are currently cramming all of our recertification training hours into our eleventh month of fostering. Of the whole list of training items that need to be done yearly, we have completed exactly three hours (in one incredibly useless “Positive Parenting” class, I might add.) So we’re spending our Thursday nights learning about Love & Logic at our fostering agency.

Actually, out of all the classes we could take, Love & Logic is the most aligned with my own parenting, so I shouldn’t complain. I was lucky enough to have been brought up with the ideas of Love & Logic, so it comes pretty natural to me. Life is full of choices…some choices work out better for us, and some don’t. But the key is, the problems belong to the child, not the parent. Learning the relationship between my actions and their consequences on me at an early age was a great gift. But it isn’t always easy for a parent to do.

Picture this: The grocery store. I can tell as we’re walking in that the boys are feeling rambunctious. We’re only running in for a couple of items, and within seconds of entering, I hear the clank of a bottle being jostled by one of my darling sons. I look over and see that we’ve had a near miss at having to pay for a gigantic bottle of vodka that was this close to falling over. So I throw it out there: the choice. “Boys, if you’re being crazy and you break anything in the store, you’re going to have to pay for it out of your allowance.” You know where this is headed.

A few minutes later, I mention that I’m going to grab some buttermilk biscuits. Jake is goofing around and upon hearing the word butter, he says, “Like this butter!” and picks up a two pack of margarine tubs and whips around to show his brother. One of the tubs of margarine flies out the side of the (albeit flimsily packaged) two pack and lands on the floor, the lid flying off in the process. Jake’s eyes widen and he leans right down to pick it up, but his finger goes on the inside of the tub as he picks it up, so I have to say it. “Uh-oh. You’re going to have to buy that butter.”

You know what happened. Pleading. Bargaining. Trying to explain how he didn’t even touch the butter. (True. But do you want a seven year old’s germs inside your newly purchased tub of margarine? And why are you buying margarine instead of butter anyway? But that’s a little off topic.) I lock in the empathy, just like a good Love & Logic student. “Oh, Jake. What a bummer! I can’t believe you’re going to have to spend your allowance money on this butter. I hope it’s not too expensive.” It is. It is more than three dollars, in fact, which is more than two weeks’ allowance. I almost buckle. I mean, he wasn’t being naughty, he was just being a silly, gleeful kid, and actually I’m shocked that it was he and not Tyler who is flinging around hydrogenated oils that are masquerading as dairy products.

We quickly head to the exit, and he hasn’t started really crying yet. But it comes mightily in the car. As it turns out, Jake hates the people who make margarine. In fact, he wishes that the people who package the margarine were never even born.

I’m feeling pretty bad about the whole thing, not to mention the fact that I now have to buy two tubs of margarine, which is not something we’ll eat, nor is it something we can donate. But I guess three dollars is a small price to pay to teach both of my boys a little self control.

As a last ditch effort, and because I’m really bummed for him, I say, “I don’t even like this kind of butter. I’m not going to eat it, and I’m definitely not going to buy it for you. But maybe when we get home you can ask Daddy if he likes this kind of butter, and maybe he’ll split the cost with you.” I know, I know, it’s a cop out. Of course Daddy likes that kind of butter…it is nutritionally bereft. So Jake ends up learning a lesson for about $1.85. Tyler soaks it all in (although knowing Tyler, he’ll have to do it himself three or four times before he learns the lesson.) I feel incredibly bad for making my son, who is normally very careful and well behaved in the store, pay for butter instead of saving up for a toy.

I don’t know yet if I made a difference. I suppose I probably did, or at least the cumulative effect of this and several other incidents like it over the next few years might make a difference. It was very hard to do. But I felt good about it the next day. We’re trying to let our kids deal with their own consequences instead of rescuing them. If $1.85 now and then at age seven will teach him to pay attention to what he’s doing, maybe he’ll pay attention to what he’s doing when he learns to drive. A mother can only hope.

Summer is Winding Down.

When beach nights are ending, we know that summer is slowly winding down. We usually get our hottest weather in September and October around here, but it’s been mild and foggy and refreshingly fallish. We had our very last beach night last night, but I’ll post those pictures in a little while, when I really feel like saying goodbye to summer for the year. These pictures are from the week before, when Tyler and Midge were at soccer practice with Greg, and I had some time to watch Jake savoring the sand.


 

 

 

 

The Annual {half} Birthday Bash.

 

 

This might be the last year that we can get away with a half birthday party. But it’s just so wonderful thinking about a sunny beach party in February when the boys are begging for a party and I’m recovering from Christmas and working on the Super Bowl party. There’s nothing better than lots of family friends gathered together at the beach in the summer.

This year, we went with a lego theme.

I tried cake pops and failed. Everyone makes them sound so easy, but they are not. My cake to frosting ratio was off and they were too mushy, then the yellow candy melts were too thick.

I salvaged the idea by using marshmallows instead, but the candy melt problem was still there. Then we tried drawing the faces and the yellow was too waxy and wouldn’t accept the ink. Oh dear. But we brought them along to the party anyway because the boys were so excited about them, and I didn’t hear anyone complain as they gobbled marshmallow lego heads before cake. We just had to be careful to catch the kids who were trying to roast them over the fire before we had a liability suit on our hands!

Luckily, although the cake pops were a bust, the cake itself was a success! My original frosting was too pastel colored, but Greg had the great suggestion of spraying the cakes. He didn’t even know that they sell cake spray in bright colors, which is how we got the real lego colors. And the boys insisted on placing lego men on the cake, which ended up looking really cute. Especially the man bursting out of the back left lego to ambush another guy.

The best part of the party is always enjoying the sunshine and the waves and the people coming together to celebrate.

 

A big thank you to Uncle Rob, whose job was to keep this sweet girl from drowning herself as she ran straight for the huge surf repeatedly, and without fear.

I found a free lego font online to label the party favors. I’m not a fan of lots of little junky things for party favors, so I usually plan ahead and buy dollar spot stuff on clearance throughout the year. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead this time. But I found nice buckets with shovels and beach balls for each kid, then ordered lego candy online for the table and for each bucket. We also bought a few bulk lego packages and divided them up so that each kid had a small ziplock baggie with about 50 legos to play with.

The boys were most excited about being the judges for the lego contest. We had each kid use their legos to create something and the boys chose their top three to win a prize.

 

At a beach party, you must sing and blow out the candles while you are still lighting them, or they’ll blow themselves out.

The weather was beautiful, the waves were huge, the company was great. Happy half birthday, Jake and Tyler!

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Week.

My three boys turn another year older and another year wiser. Lots of candle blowing. Pizookies. Fudge. Legos. Much joy. Much asking if there are any more presents for me. Throw in a little baseball practice. Add a day of solar panel installation on our roof.

Did I mention Lego playing? Don’t forget foster visitations and a meltdown after a serious phone call from Midge’s social worker. Talk to her case manager about it and recover from emotional breakdown. Two days home from school with fever. Enjoying those extra hours together. Seeing my boys and realizing how quickly they grow.

I love this week. Now bring on the Super Bowl Party. We can take it.

 

Public School Update: Homeschooling vs. Public Schooling

one of our first days of homeschooling: oct 2009

scrapbook page about the first day of public schooling: sep 2010

It’s been a full four weeks since Jake started first grade at our local public school. I know I put up a brave face here, but I was really nervous about him starting school. Which is ironic considering how excited I was when he went off to kindergarten last year! That’s just more proof that our emotions aren’t exactly the best guides in life. It’s funny that even thought we felt like this was the right thing for Jake this year, and we prayed and trusted God in picking his teacher, and we showed great excitement when talking to Jake about it, it still wasn’t easy to trust that everything would be okay. Because my only public school parenting experience was one of tears, tantrums, complaints, and one depressed boy, I was scared that this year would be more of the same. I almost cried the night before first grade.

Jake knows none of this. To him, that traumatic kindergarten experience was ages ago. He never for a moment wondered if he wouldn’t like first grade (and I was definitely not going to plant that seed in his mind, although it was growing like a weed in mine!) From the very first day he has come home happy and talkative and excited about what they did at school. What a difference from a year ago! Whether it is the larger atmosphere with a bigger pool of friends to choose from, the first grade curriculum, or whether he just matured in important ways in the past year, now was definitely the time for him to re-enter school. His teacher is wonderful…no nonsense and nurturing at the same time…which, to me, is the perfect blend for a lower grade teacher.

A year ago, I wished that I could find a blog or website that talked in a balanced way about homeschooling vs. public schooling, and I just couldn’t find it. So I’m taking notes here, at a time when I’m equally enamored with both types of schooling. They are so different and I really believe that each has its own advantages which come out in different ways for different kids. So here is my own personal summary of the pros and cons of each type of schooling for those who are searching as I was last spring.

Public Schooling Pros: play time, work time, independence/training in moral decision-making, a regular schedule, practice dealing with annoying people.

  • I love that Jake has many kids his age to interact with. They are in first grade so they are not yet crude and corrupted as I know they will be as they get older. There is a misconception out there in homeschooling circles that public school kids are somehow morally bereft. Yes, as kids get older they do take on the qualities of the fallen world around us. It is true. But it seems like at least the K-2 kids are just like the ones you’d let your kid play with around the neighborhood. No, we’re not looking to them as moral compasses for Jake, but he can play on the playground with pretty much anyone and not be bullied or teased or asked to make huge moral decisions. When he was homeschooling, he missed having kids his age to play with during the day.
  • Working without complaint. I can’t believe what a fuss Jake would make last year when I required him to write out anything…his name, handwriting practice, a short writing project. Oh, the horrors. The histrionics. You’d think I’d asked him to scrub the floors for three days straight or something. And yesterday he sat at our kitchen island and carefully copied his spelling words three times each without complaint or delay. Not for me, but for his teacher and to keep his precious “Friday Fun Day” privileges. Ahhhh…what a relief. There’s something about working for your mom that brings out the complaining. I don’t miss it.
  • Speaking of Friday Fun Day, I love the fact that he’s participating in fun group activities and bonding with a group outside our home. School carnivals, special activities, a classroom identity…these are all great for Jake right now. Homeschoolers sometimes worry about little ones bonding with unknown people like teachers and other kids. But let me just say, we are a close family and I am not afraid that these others will somehow replace us. On the contrary, it’s good for him to connect to a separate group while still weighing in with us about that group’s values. He can slowly learn to make good choices independently. We can casually discuss whether the values embraced by his class are the values we hold true. We notice the differences between a non-christian group view of morality and our christian worldview for young kids. It’s a great training ground for him to learn the differences between our world and the outside world, and a great way for him to begin making little everyday decisions on his own.
  • It sounds odd, but I like the regular schedule that our public school offers us. When I sat down to calendar our weeks and what they would look like if we homeschooled again this year, it was crazy! Drive to this class where Jake has one set of classmates. Drive to another class here and a different playgroup there, everywhere trying to connect with different sets of people. Squeeze our schoolwork in between all of our driving and the sports that we’d have to do just to have someplace to connect with non-Christians. Different people, different environments and different schedules every day. It was actually simpler to do public school…the same hours every day. The same place every day. The same people every day. A real opportunity to develop deeper relationships (for me and for Jake) rather than bopping around town from one homeschool commitment to the next. It actually is giving us more stability than homeschooling did.
  • When I was a teacher, I realized that one of the most valuable lessons learned at school is how to deal with annoying people. How should you react to the kid in the next desk who constantly sticks their elbow in your space or throws trash on your floor and then you have to pick it up? How do you work with a group that doesn’t want to do their best? These are life skills that are taught more easily in public school than in homeschool. I think they’re valuable lessons about life and dealing with future difficult people, whether it’s your boss, your teacher, your annoying co-worker…if you learn to cope when you’re six, the lesson will stick when you’re twenty-six.

Public Schooling Cons: wasted time, anonymity, time away from home.

  • For Jake, there is a lot of wasted time at school. There’s time waiting for everyone else to follow directions, working through assignments and projects that are too easy for him, and generally dealing with the fact that others need to practice things that he’s already mastered. I know he is not the only one. And I know that the teacher has twenty-eight other kids to think about and to teach to. I’m not judging her for that. But it does mean there’s some time there that could be spent doing something else, if he were at home.
  • Twenty-nine kids in a first grade classroom. Yes. I used to laugh when I heard parents complain about their kid being “just a number” in the classroom. From a teacher’s perspective I know that that is so not true. So then why did I cringe when I saw that Jake was writing “Jake W. #29” at the tops of his papers? I don’t know why. But I guess it just shows that there are thirty different personalities in that room and my darling son is only one of them. It doesn’t make him seem very special. That’s what I mean by anonymity. It’s not bad, I guess, just strange to me.
  • The thing I like least about school is the time that Jake is away from home. This school thing is seriously cutting in on our art lesson time and our baking and our hiking and our beach trips and our disneyland days and so much more. If only school were about three days a week. I miss Jake when he’s gone and I’m happy when he’s home.

Homeschooling Pros: tailored education, self-initiated projects, family activities, opportunities for teaching morals, loose schedule.

  • I do miss the fact that Jake’s educational goals and assignments (if there were any) were catered directly to him. They were exactly at his level and we didn’t spend any time on math chapters that he’d mastered or science concepts that he already understood. We were always moving forward with subjects that interested him in ways that were appropriate for his level. Then again, read the first of the homeschooling cons below and see the opposite side of this coin.
  • As you know, though, I didn’t do many “assignments” with Jake last year. Embracing the idea of unschooling, Jake mostly did self-initiated projects. He had the freedom to spend the whole day designing elaborate cities of legos or lincoln logs if he wanted to. He could use his time creating plans for a machine that made hot chocolate and drawing a diagram. Whatever he was interested in, he could do. It was truly child-guided. Many teachers like this approach and attempt to work it in with reports on topics the kids choose, but that is nowhere near what you can do when you’re homeschooling. I miss those projects lying everywhere around the house. Of course, right now the boys are drawing elaborate signs to hang up for Halloween, and last week on a sick day they hammered nails into a board to create a marble game with wood, nails, and string. It is possible to do these self-initiated things outside of school hours, but there’s a lot less time for it.
  • I loved that homeschooling involved the whole family. Siblings and parents were welcomed on field trips, making those fun experiences a family bonding time. It was so fun to share those moments together. If I don’t get picked to chaperone field trips, I am going to be bummed.
  • It was nice when I was homeschooling that I could overhear most if not all of Jake’s interactions with his friends. Sometimes I would intervene right when I heard him being unkind or doing the wrong thing, and other times I could talk about it with him later and use that as an opportunity for training him up in the way he should go. Now I’m not there to overhear his daily interactions and instruct him in them. At the same time, when you think of the third point under public schooling pros, there is a different side to this issue as well.
  • And of course, the schedule. I do not like having to leave the house at 7:30 every morning with both boys dressed and lunches made. We are not relaxed and peaceful anymore, when it comes to our schedule. We are rushed every morning. I don’t know if there’s a way around this. The homeschooling schedule is also great for disney days and beach trips…little daylong outings that are tougher now. As for vacations, I’ve come to realize that we only really do one big week-long vacation a year, plus long weekends. We can still do this with our school schedule, we just take days off here and there and you can even get a work contract if your family vacation falls during the school year. It’s those little daily outings that I miss. I’m trying to plan them in on Thursdays when he gets out early. But I prefer spontaneous outings. I’m adapting.

Homeschooling Cons: feelings of superiority, lack of connection with our community, fewer opportunities for growth & mistakes

  • One of the comments that God used to steer us towards public schooling this year was from a retiring first grade teacher my mom invited to a family camping trip last spring. I told her a little bit about my struggles with deciding what to do with Jake for first grade and she commented, “Well,  you don’t want him to be an elitist.” For some reason that really struck me. When you’re in a class of one and you have an encouraging mom as your teacher, it’s sometimes easy to think that you’re superior to those who struggle to acheive. I think it’s good for Jake to sit in a class with 28 other kids and realize that everything doesn’t come easily to everyone. Not only that, but we need to learn patience with people who are slower than us. We need to learn to value people who aren’t exactly like us. We can even learn the pleasure of helping those who struggle.
  • The biggest reason we returned to public school was our faith. It is difficult to connect with non-Christians while in the homeschooling community. Our family really values being involved in the everyday lives of our neighbors and others in the community. Although it is possible with lots of hard work and scheduling to meet non-Christian homeschoolers, for us the best place to connect with neighborhood families is at school. When you see moms every day at drop-offs and pickups, you can begin real friendships that are harder to develop with the homeschooling community where so many moms are rushing from class to activity to commitment.
  • When you’re at home and in very carefully chosen environments, as homeschoolers are, there are fewer opportunities for mistakes, and therefore fewer opportunities for growth. I know it sounds strange, but I want Jake to have the chance to make mistakes and learn from them, especially now when he’s still really looking to us to help him process how the world works. Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster and Cline agrees with this idea. When kids have the chance to make their own choices at a young age, they’ll also make lots of mistakes. That offers them lots of little ways to learn and to see that they are supported by parents who love them, no matter what.

You’ll notice that there are so many overlapping issues…things that can be seen either as a positive or as a negative, depending on your family’s feelings about how kids should be raised to become strong and competent adults. I personally think that different things can be positives or negatives depending on the child and his or her needs, as well. And there are so many pros and cons that I didn’t even mention. (homeschooling=lots of field trips and nature exploration opportunites! public schooling=doing activities that mom might not have thought of or been interested in! homeschooling=classes where the kids aren’t used to raising their hand and waiting their turn to talk! public schooling=fundraisers…I hate them!) There are so many pros and cons that I can’t possibly list them all.

I know this post comes at a strange time of year, but I needed to write it out while it was fresh in my mind and while both types of school are a recent experience. I hope it helps any of you struggling with your schooling decisions.I think the key is to research both options as best you can and know your child and the areas in which s/he needs growth. Inform yourself on the options and then pray like you’ve never prayed before. If you don’t come out of your prayer time confident with your decision, you’ll second guess yourself no matter what you choose. Because let’s face it, there’s going to be bumps in whichever road you take. Life is like that. And if you’ve come to a prayerful decision that you feel sure about, you’ll know when those bumps come, that they are bumps that God had planned for you to learn from. He knows what’s best for each child and for your family. Thankfully, we’re not meant to be in charge. What a relief. It’s nice to have a heavenly father who is smarter than we are!

First Day, First Grade.

It was traumatic for me. Actually, I spent the entire week before school worrying about whether Jake would hate it, whether he’d have someone to play with, whether he’d know anyone. I was a mess.

Jake, on the other hand, was fine. He wasn’t nervous or sad or worried about any of the things I was worried about. And of course, he was right. There was nothing to worry about. His first three days have been great…playing P.E. games, doing Math worksheets (his favorite thing about the first day) and “Monster Words” (his teacher’s sneaky way of measuring their writing ability) and meeting new friends. Three days down, with one hundred seventy-seven to go. In a few weeks we’ll see if the honeymoon period wears off like it did last year, but from day one he’s been telling me more about school than he did last year, and he’s definitely more sure of himself. Maybe he just wasn’t quite ready for school last time. Who knows. We make fun of our preschool who is known for recommending that parents hold their kids one more year before kindergarten to give them “the gift of time”, but maybe that’s just what Jake needed…another year home. Of course, on Wednesday morning we did have the “I hate school!” cryfest already. Bummer. But it was more about him being annoyed that daddy wouldn’t play slot cars with him at 6:45 in the morning than about anything else. It was actually good for me to see that he tried that one after two great days. I’m learning not to connect the “I hate school!” with school, but more with the fact that life is hard when you’re six.

For the last several weeks as the school year has approached and it’s all become more real to me that I won’t see my boy for six hours every day, I’ve been resting the fact that God knows Jake even better than I do. In fact, he knows the teachers in the school, the students in the class, and everything that’s going to happen this year. He has Jake in His hands and He will put Jake where he is for a reason. Thank goodness I don’t have to be in control of this situation.

Here’s a scrapbook page I created to remember his first day of first grade.

Credits for digital supplies can be found here. Click on the picture to see it at full size.

Tyler begins school on Friday. Boy is that child ready to go! I, on the other hand, am lamenting the quiet that is coming. We’ll see how I adjust.

The Big Shebang.

Half Birthday Party #3. Because two years ago I decided that summer beach parties were better than early February just-after-Christmas we-can’t-party-outside parties. Celebrating 6 1/2 years of life for Jake and 4 1/2 years for Tyler. Wow.

The much requested Hot Wheels cake. I think it was probably the worst of my birthday cakes, but it was still fine. Better than these beauties, decorated by the birthday boys.

Then again, there’s not much cuter than the artwork of kids, edible or otherwise.

Goodie bags and birthday banner made from this digital kit that I was highlighting for the JessicaSprague.com creative team this week. Goodie bags held a squishy water ball for everyone, a new hot wheel car for the boys, a big bouncy ball for the girls, and some little toys and shovels and such for the babies. I wish that was all they held. But they were stuffed by the time everyone went home…more on that in a moment.

This is always the best part of beach birthday parties. Bashing around the beach with all of your best buddies.

Birthday boy #1. When did you get so old and tall? How are you almost seven?

This photo of her beautiful garden grown tomatoes is for the benefit of my cousin Michele, who needs validation. Just kidding Michele. Kind of.

Birthday Boy #2. You are the dirtiest, funniest, happiest, sweetest boy we know.

Now I remember why I have never before had a pinata at a party. Well, I have to admit, it was really a lot of fun. We got a great sturdy pinata that could last several beatings from each kid without breaking. The problem for me was this…

…too much candy! Here I am, the mother who really eschews candy for her kids, and I sent each kid home with a lunch bag bursting with junk. I’m sorry, friends. I didn’t mean to do it. I really should be better at estimating how much candy a given number of kids need. But when you’re faced with a rocket/car (anyone’s guess) pinata the size of a small european car, you sometimes get confused. In my defense, there were non-candy items in there, too. I blame all of this on my dear husband who made me go out and buy more, until the pinata was so full that the wire hanger broke.

But the most important thing…everybody had fun. Running in the waves, chasing each other, playing on the playground, pretending the lockers they were climbing on were safety boats in a sandy sea, bashing the lights out of a huge red car-like pinata, and yes, picking up pounds of candy. It was a good time. And so we are thankful for our dirty, tired, happy little family and for another celebration of life.

From Homeschooling to Public Schooling…

There are only six weeks left of summer before the new school year starts. I love the month of September. There’s such an excitement for the upcoming year and a feeling of fresh starts. This September will be another fresh start for us, with Jake starting first grade in our larger neighborhood school. We’re all excited to see what the fall brings us, and at the same time sad to say goodbye to homeschooling.

I had so much fun homeschooling Jake last year for kindergarten. He had so much fun being homeschooled, too. We embraced the idea of unschooling and made it our goal to thoroughly experience life. We read and we read and we read and we read, and suddenly, Jake could read, too! I love how homeschooling gave Jake the organic reading learning experience that I believe in so strongly. It turned out that way for math, too. I started with a workbook and we haphazardly skipped through the pages, finding the ones that looked challenging and fun. Then, when we felt like it, we took a break for a few months and when we resumed, what had seemed hard a few months ago was suddenly easy. Without weeks and weeks of drill and workbooking, he understood concepts he’ll be learning in the upcoming grades.

We did science experiments inside on our windowsills and made observations outside on our hikes. We joined up with a nature minded group that spent hours upon hours holding chickens, sliding down rocks, climbing trees, and chasing waves. It was the most valuable thing we spent our money on this year. To enjoy and explore nature with an experienced naturalist leading the way and ten children following eagerly…what could be better? Life was the teacher this year. That is what I love about unschooling.

And the waking up late. I liked that, too. What a gift it was to have just one more year of leisurely letting the boys play in their pajamas before having to leave the house (if we left the house at all). I loved Jake’s kindergarten class that met three times a month with two wonderful teachers and the most amazing fieldtrips to the planetarium and the apple orchards and the indian grounds.

I loved Jake having his Grandaunt Krissy all to himself on Fridays so she could homeschool him with whatever struck her interest and I could get a little break. I also loved December. It was a month of celebrating the coming of the Saviour and getting into the festive mood…time to be home together doing crafty and bake-y things without having to rush out of the house every day.  I think Decembers off would be my favorite thing about homeschooling if we were to continue. But we’re not. At least not as far as we know. (Do you see how I’m learning from my past?! Never say never about pretty much anything!)

Homeschooling for kindergarten was perfect. But first grade is a little more academic and a little less play-oriented. It’s easy for me to envision years and years of open-ended unschooling like we did this year, but that’s just not reality for us or for Jake’s personality. We never planned on homeschooling him all the way through high school, which is what you’d have to do if you wanted to fully embrace unschooling. And if you go with standard by-the-books homeschooling, your day looks much like those in the classroom, just a little bit shorter and without some of the fun group activities of a classroom. I’m not that interested in sitting down and forcing Jake to write what I want him to write and learn what the book says he needs to learn…in fact, that was my least favorite part of the homeschooling experience. I figure that if that’s what needs to be done, he may as well be in school doing that. At least that way he’d also be doing it with friends and not missing out on the fun activities that take place in the elementary classroom.

I guess that’s my problem. I really do like the public school classroom. Having spent six years of teaching there, I know what Jake’s missing out on. I’m totally aware of the limitations and drawbacks to school, but there’s also a lot of cool stuff going on there. We’re blessed that in our area, the teachers and schools are loaded with dedicated teachers who try to make school a fun place to learn. If only I were like the homeschoolers who think that public schools are all about brainwashing and handing out condoms, maybe I’d have an easier decision. But no, I’m aware of the pros and cons of both schooling choices for our family. I love the atmosphere and bustle of the elementary school campus.  And just as Jake is getting older and craving more time with friends, most of the friends we’ve hung out with this year as we homeschooled are heading off to school for part or all day programs. Even if we stayed home next year, our weeks would look quite different from how they did last year.

And you know, homeschooling does have its drawbacks. The miniature battles between Jake and I when he had to get a certain assignment done to turn in to our homeschool overseers, the complaining to the ‘teacher’ (he doesn’t have that problem when the teacher isn’t mommy!), taking the kids on all of our errands, and the whining and wishing that there was someone else around on the street to play with…those were some of the drawbacks this year. More importantly, as he gets older, I’d like him to confront situations that are stretching for him…opportunities to grow and to fail and to learn as he deals with kids who aren’t necessarily model citizens…he needs to learn to meet these challenges without mom or dad close by to coach him through (solve?) every problem. Of course, I plan to be very involved at school so I’ll know the major players and the classroom dynamics, but the everyday decisions about how to act and what to do will rest on Jake’s shoulders and he’ll begin to learn to listen to the voice of God in his own heart. Boy, is it hard to let go and watch your child take on a little responsibility for himself and his decisions. Thank you God, for watching over my little boy as he begins to interact with the world on a daily basis.

And the biggest reason we’re returning to public school is our faith. Unlike many christian homeschoolers, we weren’t homeschooling because of our faith, but in spite of it. A main goal this year was to find out if we could be interacting with the world in a way that satisfies our own family’s call to be the light of the world. Each family is different in how they interpret our call to love the world and in how they believe children should be trained up towards godliness. Because we believe it’s best for our boys to learn from their mistakes in the world when they’re young and under our guidance, a key component to continued homeschooling would be connecting with non-christian families and spending a substantial amount of time with them. I learned this year that connecting with other families without being in the public school system is a slow road. I think we could make non-Christian homeschool connections with a few more years and a lot of proactivity and perserverance, but at that point, we’d be ready to transition Jake into school anyway. So on that front, we’d be better off getting into school now and beginning to build relationships with the families we meet there.

I think my decision became clear when I sat down to draft a calendar of what our weeks would look like with each of the different schooling options (part time public and private hybrid homeschools, homeschooling through two different groups, public schooling…so many choices!) And with all the driving around to provide Jake with the social opportunities and natural learning opportunities he would need as a homeschooler, we were looking at quite a busy year! It was when I looked down at my hand-drawn visual representation of the time we’d be spending here and there for each schooling choice that the decision I’d been praying about became clear. And by God’s perfect timing, He’s leading us into a ministry that will be pretty intense this fall, so it makes sense that He’d also be leading us away from homeschooling at the same time.

So for Jake, first grade seems to be the right time to head off to school. I’m already missing homeschooling, and the school year hasn’t even started. It’s so hard to do what you think is best for your kids when it’s not really the thing you might want. But we move forward in faith. Although I love our little country school and hope Tyler can go there in kindergarten, Jake’s going to try the larger school that most of our neighbors go to. All of his little league and boy scout friends go there and he’s excited to play at recess with them. Before we had even decided he’d go there, his homeschool kindergarten teacher asked him if he’d be back next year for her first grade class and he told her he wouldn’t. I guess he had his mind made up before we did.

Six more weeks until the adventure begins all over again. I wonder what God has in store for us this year?