Birth story

My new baby’s birth story is already written. 

Psalm 139:14-16 says 

Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing. You knew me thoroughly; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.

Thus, the Lord has already written my baby’s birth plan.

I wrote up this baby’s birth plan a few days ago. But I know We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps (Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬). And the Lord’s plan is the best plan, so I lean in Him. He is the Rock of my Salvation, even in delivering my babies! 

As I come to the end of this pregnancy, I’ve been consuming lots of birth stories as my reminder of what’s to come. I started anticipating this time with some fear, but I’ve acknowledged it out loud to my husband, and to the Lord, as a sort of (cathartic) confession of sorts, and now I’m feeling ready. The fear is mostly just a remembrance of the reality of pain in childbirth. I now can acknowledge that if I have pain, it’s because God blessed my uterus to know exactly how to birth a baby – what a total blessing! Habakkuk (3:19) says The sovereign Lord is my source of strength. He gives me the agility of a deer; He enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain. Childbirth is rugged terrain… I have the ability to move however I want, but it’s mainly the kind of situation that you accept and embrace as God takes you on a ride. You can move and breathe, and you must, but you must also fix your thoughts.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

It gives me great comfort to know that whenever I remember (Jesus) on my bed, and think about (Him) during the nighttime hours… (He) is my Deliverer; under (His) wings I rejoice. My soul pursues (Him), (His) right hand upholds me. PSALM 63:6-8

My message to my baby Hope is Look, the Lord’s hand is not too weak to deliver you; his ear is not too deaf to hear you. Isaiah 59:1. I believe that babies can communicate with God and their mothers even before birth. Thus, her spirit draws strength.

I want her to be able to say I have leaned on You since birth; You pulled me from my mother’s womb. I praise You continually. Psalm 71:6

And I want this to be true for us as parents: May your father and your mother have joy; may she who bore you rejoice. Proverbs 23:25

I believe we will be full of joy in this labor! The Lord said He would help me. What a delight I have in that assurance! I need no other help than His! We are ready, Lord!

Childbirth… 10 things.

I, like many women, am part of a birth forum for pregnant women. I’m mainly involved as a silent observer, however, I have a few things to say about pregnancy and labor and afterwards.

  1. Wait till your baby signals he or she is ready to come out. Many girls are having their membranes swept, taking castor oil, or trying other methods to kick start labor, and some are just 38 weeks. Why the hurry? It’s uncomfortable at the end, but these last few weeks are critical for the baby’s healthy development. If you’re healthy and your baby is healthy, take a deep breath and relax! Enjoy these last moments when you and your baby are connected so intimately and your life is status quo (whatever that means for you). For me, I relish the times I get to snuggle by boys without juggling this bundle of joy at the same time. Soon they will have to contend with, and accommodate for baby sister too.
  2. Hormones are normal. Ups and downs and emotions are normal. If you cry excessively please get help. If you are sensitive that’s okay.
  3. Know what you need and hold to your boundaries. Relatives and even spouses of all kinds of pressure on pregnant women. Maintain a hold of what you and your baby need. You both come first right now.
  4. Take help when it’s offered. It’s humbling, but so wonderful to accept help.
  5. Try and stay home. If you have to work, take as long as you can to be with your baby before going back. If you must work but want to stay home, get creative and start working on a plan to transition home. This value is disrespected and unpopular in some circles nowadays. Motherhood is the highest calling in life. But again, if you have to work, then make sure you’re totally comfortable with the arrangements you make for your baby’s care while you’re at work. I know many families who flex time with their husbands or extended family so the baby can stay out of daycare. If you need to use daycare, research, research, research.
  6. Allow yourself a full recovery. People may want you to get up and move too quickly. Please recover. When you’ve had a baby you have two jobs, and two jobs alone. Take care of your baby and take care of yourself. Others can wait. 
  7. Breastfeeding can be difficult to establish, but is totally worth the work. Find a Le Leche League group near you for help and support.
  8. Don’t judge other moms. There’s enough people inserting unwanted opinions everywhere without you piping in. Try to be the voice of support to other moms.
  9. Our satisfaction after baby is born is tied to the expectation we build beforehand. Have grace for yourself and grow into this new aspect of your life.
  10. If you were disappointed by your labor and delivery, please wrestle with this and take it to the Lord. Don’t ignore it… birth is the most intimate thing you can ever do. Honor the place it has in your life.

4 days

It’s taken 4 days to give our home an internal makeover. If a house were a person, this means we left her skeleton (bones), flesh and hair color (walls and finishes) alone, but she’s had a serious wardrobe change. 

Though our furniture is the same, we’ve redone all the spaces. Every item in every single cabinet, shelf, storage area, pantry, medicine cabinet, closet, and drawer has met a scrupulous eye. And every area was chaos before correction. That’s the way life is, isn’t it?

I even overhauled the back patio, and raked and mowed our front lawn. My lower right hip is paying for it though. I did too much the first day.

We ended up filling our trunk to the brim with giveaways, our recycling bin with recyclables, and our big outdoor trashcan with garbage.

All this work made room for our new baby, and I will finally have a prayer closet again after 3 years of missing it. I will say with confidence, one does not need a prayer closet. You need simply to pray. But DO anything that helps your prayer life, please.

We also met our goal of 50% free closet space. I have an entire rack free… about 4 feet of space once the baby is born. And the boys now share space in their closet with Hope’s hanging items too.

I’m now enjoying a hot meal in bed, covered in new soft blankets, which replaced our old broken feather comforter (which I had sewn five times and was still leaking feathers). Oh, and I had three 20% off coupons to boot. My mother would be proud. She’s the coupon queen. Can you imagine how cushy I feel right now?

When I made the bed with the new blankets my boys rolled around in it like little happy puppies, before initiating a cannon ball / pencil / jumping party on it. They are so cute. (Don’t worry, the bed is on the floor again). 

I close by saying this: appreciate your life, your people, your health, and your things. My little family tries not to exist in a consumer mentality… which means when we do make purchases we really appreciate them. 
Happy New Year! 

Be Basic

Simplicity. Minimalism. Decluttering. Tiny homes. All trendy movements right now. Why?

The Information Age drives me crazy. There’s too much commotion, too much motion, too much busy. Coming out of the holiday season I have fought my way into a season of rest. And it feels so good! But then I realized that having my phone on me, with access to the internet has not been restful. What I need right now is peace and quiet… in my soul… which requires shutting down and shutting out the clanging world around me. 

The internet is a series of cymbols bashing and banging about, especially Facebook. My “friends” post their things, but then Facebook does this annoying thing of suggesting articles and advertisements it thinks I like based on false and incorrect algorithms. I even went into my preferences and unchecked everything possible. When a “friend” posts something I don’t care for, I block that particular newsfeed. 

We spent time seeing God’s amazing sequoia trees today. Just breathtaking views were ours to behold both at the national park and on the drive to and from there. The internet didn’t work. The cell towers don’t work there. I was a captive audience to God’s creation. I was with my husband and my two sweet boys, breathing it all in. 

Part of the family heritage we will pass to our children is an appreciation of the Great Outdoors. We want them to understand stewardship in all senses of the word. In fact, my husband’s life calling has to do with leaving the Earth cleaner than when we arrived one day: he’s in solar. We make a habit to pick up roadside trash and carry it along to a can, to recycle, and to be aware of leaving no trace behind when possible. 

We are not perfect. After my kids really start eating food I switch to disposable diapers and wipes. Sometimes we use paper plates. Sometimes we use plastic. But we try to develop an overall conscientiousness in our kids that the Earth and how we treat it matters. This stewardship, we figure, starts with just being in nature, taking it all in. There’s nothing more interesting that pondering the ecology and development of a place, how various creatures came to be and survive there, and who competes for what natural resources. How are the smells and sounds different in different places? What makes one tree different from another? Why does snow glisten in the sun? What causes fog, and why do clouds look flat on bottom sometimes?

And since I’m nesting right now, I’m very aware of how cluttered my brain in, how cluttered my home is and how busy our lives are, and I want to dumb it all down. 

Part of stewardship is managing time. My husband was given forced time off this week, so I have the gift of time and extra help. To God be the glory! Therefore, I have big plans for this time.

Here are some ways I create more margin of time and space in my life:

  1. Plan for homeschool for the upcoming 12 weeks. I will take a whole day to do this while my husband whisks the boys away on an adventure. To prepare, I’ve ordered supplies (as part of our Christmas gifts already) and previewed and even begun some of them as a sort of gentle introduction to them. I’ve also reorganized our homeschool shelf, and enlisted my kids to help with a “toy cleanse” before Christmas even began. I’ve replaced old storage bins with clear ones which I’ve labeled. What a breath of fresh air!
  2. I’ve also taken an honest break from all schooling except reading since Dec 23. We just needed a breather. All of my own work activity stopped then as well, and continues to halt until after the New Year. I’m on vacation. We all just needed Sabbath. I’m a go-go-go gal, a “recovering type-A”, and I like to smile and say. Allowing a break is SO revitalizing!
  3. I’ve said “no” and “probably not” a lot. Sometimes it’s the godly and right thing to do.
  4. I’ve identified what’s been bothering me like (1) things in my backyard that we don’t use or we can’t store (2) boxes of clothes without a home (3) old photos that need to be scanned (4) underutilized closet space (5) baby clothes that need washing (6) things that need to be donated (7) under sink items that aren’t valuable to save or use (8) what I call restless head syndrome… which happens when you allow your mind to jump about, not really focusing on one thing for long enough to amount to anything productive. There’s more. Too much to list. I need to stop and bring it all to God, who has been gracious to answer some of my big “boulder” questions. I need to bring my “stones and pebbles” to Him too, and even the water that fills the space between these rocks in my container called life. Really, I’m asking God to catapult all that doesn’t belong right out, and bring in the tiller with His design alone.
  5. I’ve been pondering what physical things I can depart from in each room and closet. What don’t I use often enough? How do I feel about it’s permanent removal? What precious items could use a makeover? Would other types of furniture suit us better? I’ve been radical in these thought experiments, like what would change if we had no more dining room table and replaced it with a pop-up coffee table? I’ve asked my husband his thoughts and respected his answers. In small space living, this economy of space is critical!
  6. I’ve set space goals in certain areas. In my closets I want 50% of the space clear. I’m happy with my dressers right now. I want to cut down on binders and old paper work by half – this impacts old homeschool supplies, but also old work items and old business-of-life documents. I want our backyard toys cleaned and stored or given away.
  7. I need to recreate our utility binder – it is a central place I list information for baby-sitters, holds vendor information, etc.
  8. My computer has been cleared of 6 gigs of memory since we cleared out old applications no longer used.
  9. Memberships will be evaluated and on the chopping block. I belong to too much. Likewise, email lists will be blocked and removed. Spare me your coupons, retail. I don’t want to consume.
  10. I’ve thought about how I might prioritize the order of attack. Clothes, hope chest and closets first. Kitchen cabinets and pantry next. Medicine cabinet and under sinks. Shed and backyard. One by one. Step by step.
  11. Less Facebook, more communion with God. Use empty closet space for a prayer closet. I had a prayer closet in the first home we owned. I want it back again. I need it. Already discussed it with the husband. He’s on board.
  12. Create stronger time boundaries for various time commitments and reinforce those most important critical habits. 

This is what I’m doing to better honor God, discipline my mind and cultivate better relationships. What’s been on your mind, heart and spirit?

Our children need us to model a good life. We can’t do that when we’re too busy stirring the pot. My goal is to have less to take care of in the physical, so I can take better care of us: our spiritual well-being, our emotional selves, the way we eat, the way we spend our precious daytime hours, the way we should be “present” in each moment, how we spend and save money… what we read, watch, hear and eat… all of it.

I feel better already. Ha! I hope this has helped you too. 

Christmas, kids, and the Holy Spirit

We may give gifts, but nothing compares to the gift Christ Jesus gave us. 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We limit our gift-giving to four gifts for our children: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I want them to experience a conservative Christmas, because it’s not about the presents. Jesus, Lord of all, received three gifts, not fifty. I know several families who give one gift. I want my kids to be happy with no gifts, even. I want my kids to be happier giving than receiving. 

For each other, we (husband and wife) may buy one thing, or we may skip it altogether – gift-giving is not either of our love languages, and in many years we were so skinny in money that it just made more sense to “skip” us, and I never felt a shortage.

This year, I did get Ian (my husband) something. He guessed his gift! And then come to find out, he found another one which had come in the mail, and already put it away, thinking he had bought it for himself (great minds think alike, right?). That stinker.

Our extended family makes Christmas a total extravaganza. Even baby Hope has a gift under there – she is still in the womb! We are so blessed!

But all this decadence is for one reason alone: we celebrate the coming of Christ with elaborate joy and excessive jubilee! And we look forward to His return. 

I had a day of purging, sorting, clearing and cleaning today, Christmas Eve. As I was cleaning, Ian came in and found me crying. He said “uh-oh”. I assured him saying, “don’t worry, God’s just having a moment with me”. And it is true. The Holy Spirit was so sweet at the most ironic time today – the shrek version of hallelujah was playing, and I was a blubbery mess of a very pregnant woman :). I’m delighted by how God takes care of us right now, and really how He has cared for me my whole life. And I’m stunned at how much we have. We really are so very, very blessed.

I live in the land of excess. California is not “normal” America. Single family homes here start at a million dollars and increase from there. An equivalent home in Rochester or Atlanta would run you 20% to 40% of the cost of homes here. Sometimes I need God’s reminders to keep me in check, as I become tempted to be ungrateful. Because that’s really what it is: ingratitude. When I’m dissatisfied with the flooring of this duplex… Ingratitude. When I’m bothered by the cement backyard… Ingratitude. When I’m flustered by less counter space… Ingratitude. Because what I really have is so much. 

I have the most awesome God, full of splendor and truth. He gave me the best family ever starting with my parents and siblings and their children, bringing my husband to me, and blessing us with healthy children, and surrounding us with friends. 

We have warm shelter, and two full bathrooms. In California, two full bathrooms is a big deal on our budget. We have a cement yard – we could have no yard. We have a kitchen. We can give our children gifts, and give away toys without concern – in fact, this is what we did today, we purged toys and made them ready for donating. We can welcome others into our home and share food with them. We can pay for gas for our car. My husband can bike to and from work. My husband helps me in all things.

Our new baby will be born sometime in January. This means from now on, October through the end of January is now going to stretch into busytown. Right now, it ends with Christmas. I’m so happy to see the celebrations extend further, but this means I will have to add birthday party planning into the month of December, which is already so full.

Your philosophy may be different than mine. If so, ignore the following list. 

Tips for Christmas for you and your kids:

Read a great advent book all through December so your kids understand why we celebrate Christmas – we read a Jesse tree advent book.

Schedule traditions into your month, like: 

  • seeing the Nutcracker, 
  • reading certain books together or watching certain movies (we love It’s A Wonderful Life), 
  • seeing Christmas lights around town, 
  • having certain foods around the house only during holiday time, 
  • going or hosting Christmas parties,
  • having a kid’s Christmas party to decorate gingerbread houses and sing, 
  • making ornaments, 
  • making cards, 
  • wearing something special, 
  • going to a Christmas Eve service, 
  • caroling,
  • seeing a live nativity,
  • baking a cake for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday,
  • opening a gift on Christmas Eve,  
  • setting out a nativity the kids can touch right after Thanksgiving and 
  • decorating the house and tree.

Do the flow of Christmas Day the same every year. For us, we open stockings before breakfast, but we always read the story of Jesus’ birth and pray first. There’s cooking and playing and celebrating and a birthday cake for Jesus. This year is our first year without extended family. It makes me sad, but we spent dinner with the best Cali friends one could ever want.

We don’t do Santa Claus. But on Jan 6, I put chocolate coins in my sons’ shoes for fun, and remind him who people are talking about when they fuss over Santa. We reiterate again and again, the story of Christ, and what various Christmas symbols represent in Christ’s birth story.

Try to find people in need and help them. This may be a lonely lady on your block. It may be a homeless person picking trash or sitting under a bridge. It may be a displaced twenty year old who you see at the market, or a widow at your church. It could be a foster child whose foster family needs some respite. It could be you – and if it’s you then set down your pride and express your need.

    Try to say yes as much as possible, while respecting your need for Sabbath rest – this goes for your children too! We all need downtime, and if you have a child who is different than you, respect the needs of the person who needs the most quiet reflection time.

    This is all for now. I started this post yesterday on Christmas Eve, and then didn’t have time to finish it until tonight. I hope it helps someone!

    If anyone wants my flight plan for Christmas, I’d be happy to write about it. But my dinner was an hour and a half late today, so don’t ask me about timing dinner well, because with one oven, I struggle!

    Seasons

    We know the physical mimics the spiritual. God set us up this way so we could better understand Him.

    I appreciate the seasons. As I’m getting used to California, I am experiencing two seasons: dry and wet. I have missed the beautiful red-orange-yellow-purple horizons-on-fire that Atlanta boasts, and I’ll probably miss the Atlanta springtime too, even though everything is yellow-green with pollen.

    There are obviously seasons in life too. The Lord has been SO generously good to me, but not all my seasons have been easy. 

    It does “a body good” to ask the Lord to speak to what season you are in right now and then ask Him for some perspective on it.

    I am in a season of rain. The Lord is raining His favor on me in so many ways. My family is healthy. My extended family is becoming healthier. My children are young and vibrant. My marriage is beautiful. The Lord still blesses my body to carry new life into the world, and I love Him for it. And get this: He told me she’d be “radiant like the sun”. How’s that for feedback?! I praise the Lord! (Now, what does that mean, exactly? Haha! I can’t wait to find out!)

    My heart seeks to know my Creator. I want to serve others. This is a time of great productivity for the Kingdom. I’m doing the most important, and most difficult, and potentially the most rewarding, job of my life: training future ones to carry the torch. And it’s a long calling. All you mothers know how long of a calling motherhood is – once you start it never ends. You are and will always be just that: mother.

    I appreciate this season of wellness, possibly more, because I’ve seen the other side. The Lord gives and takes as He pleases, and in His sovereignty, I choose to trust Him. But since I know this seasonality in life, my heart sings a song of gratitude that’s multiplied with the spiritual fruit of joy. 

    As we move closer to much-anticipated Christmas, I am feeling such wonder, in the depth of my being, at the gift He gave us in His Son, who chose to humble Himself because of the depth of His love for us. There’s a mighty heavenly orchestra that must play on the remembrance and celebration of the sacrifice He made for us, the day He became human, even fully knowing beforehand, the smite of mankind would be on Him. And He chose us anyway. In this way, He made it possible for me to be adopted twice in my lifetime.

    I am limited in my understanding and comprehension of His gift, but the seeds of His faithfulness and dedication to us burst open in my heart into flames of fire that burn passionately without containment. 

    The Lord is coming towards us. He told me this a year ago, but He’s still drawing closer. He told me springtime is near. 

    In what season are you? How does your season fit into His overall plan? Are you a good steward of His goodness towards you? How has He provisioned you for such a time as this one? How is your season impacting how you treat others, including the young ones entrusted to your care? Do you deal generously with them in mercy, humility and forgiveness? Do you embrace the small moments? Are you storing these memories in your heart? 

    I believe we can live forever into eternity with our Lord. I believe our memories will stay with us. What will you remember about this season in your life? Did you give Elohim the room He deserves, and the room you need, to make this season a growing, stretching, edifying one for you? 

    I have some friends in very hard places right now. I implore you to seek Him in prayer, and allow Him to do the most transformational permanent things in your hearts for which your soul cries out. You know more than anyone that life is not bonnets and roses. Trust there is still a plan for you, a plan for good and not for ruin. There is a plan for wellness and healing and honest joy through this pain. 

    We see the rainbow as a physical symbol of one covenant God made with mankind. There are always rainbows God has for us in times of fallow hardship, but the fruit and productivity is probably happening deep below the soil. It requires you resting in Him for a time, laying your whole being in His hands for a time of rest because. You. Just. Can’t.

    I am praying for you. 

    Homeschool Mid-Year Review

    We’re almost to Christmas, and I haven’t done a formal review since October 12th. There are some questions I like to address as I do a review, so I thought I’d write them in this blog (a) for accountability, (b) so you have an example you can use too, (c) to get me ready before my big planning push in early January.

    Here’s a copy you can print of the pages I use.

    This is the first year I’ve invited other ladies to join me for a planning day. Since I need peace and quiet, and supplies at home, I’ll do the actual planning at home. However, I hope they’ll meet me for breakfast and lunch that day for chatting and camaraderie while my husband whisks the kids off to some fabulous adventure.

    Before I start this review, let me say some prefacing statements. I’ve enjoyed getting more and more pregnant this year, which is now making me tired as I run into the last leg of welcoming the baby. I am going to approach this assessment with grace for myself – I am not full of pride, nor do I have an inflated view of what we’ve done. I do my best to not compare myself to other moms who are homeschooling, and I hope you aren’t either.

    We’re almost 40% of the way into our school year! Woohoo! This is Micah’s “Transitional Kindergarten” year, because he started the year at 4, and will end when he’s 5.5. We’ve completed 69 homeschool days so far, and have 121 days left to go, if I’m trying to reach 180 days. Truth be told, I teach all summer too, so I don’t know why I’m counting. Probably just because I’m analytical about this, so I can quantify it for my own accountability.

    Let’s go with the assessment now.

    How well are we doing overall in our home? In homeschool itself, we are doing well. There are so many things I can do better but we are progressing in the main areas, so for that I’m grateful to God to have given us the persistence and discipline to keep moving forward. Some improvements I’ve made have been due to linking certain parts of our day. Other improvements I’ve made have been due to me following the rhythm of my children.

    1. Making beds before breakfast.
    2. Morning Bible, Devotion, Reading and Math before vitamins.
    3. Breaking when the kids get crazy for outside play time.
    4. Allowing myself the mercy of at-home days when I’m just plain tired, or when we’ve had an especially packed time the day before.

    How well am I meeting daily goals? We’ve taken 3 days off of homeschooling in the past 40 school days, and 3 of them were field trip days; however I’ve only written down notes for 20 of those days. How can you track what you can’t measure? I’d say the first 8 days of this assessment period I recorded our progress just fine, recording an average of about 90% of what I’d want to track. But after day 8, the majority of the days I just tracked the bare minimum, only writing about 10-25% of what we did that day. This is ridiculous because I have the tools already in place – but I’m a little tired right now – here’s what I do when I’m tired of schooling. Also, you could see this post about resetting and regrouping your homeschool year about this time last year.

    1. We’ve only done our memory verses 7 / 40 times – given how important this is, I’m most concerned about this. And I’d say we’re not praying consistently enough. We have been faithful however with our Morning Symposium, which is just daily Bible reading and devotion time.
    2. We need to do a better job in the areas of daily toy-pick-up-before-dad-gets-home, and helping with chores. The problem is I don’t consistently hold to a reward system.

    What progress am I seeing in the following areas?

    Bible. We were able to start The Children’s Bible on October 3rd (before this review period begins), and we are 51 stories into it, in a 50 day period. This is because Micah begs me for more each day. In 3 more stories we will be done with Genesis and get do start Exodus. My 2 year old doesn’t enjoy this older Bible as much. Ian and I decided we need to really get Kade’s Bible time in during his nap time every afternoon, since it’s much more on his level.

    Ian also continues to read a chapter from the Bible during dinnertime. We finished Revelation and moved onto Psalms, but for December, we’re taking a hiatus to work through the devotions in our advent book, “The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas“. I love this devotion book for Christmas, and Ian and I will read it long after the children are out of the nest – there’s a child’s portion and an adult’s portion of the book.

    We also started “Young Peacemakers” lessons on October 24th, and finally finished Lesson 1 twenty-eight lessons later. Remember, this is not about speed.

    Timeline. Micah continues to love his CC history timeline. We’re moving into week 13, so that means we’ve learned 91 “pegs”, or events on the timeline so far, starting with Creation. For this review period, in Cycle 2 of Classical Conversations, we’ve moved from weeks 7 to 12, which means we went from when Jesus was born to The Spanish Inquisition, so we’re into the Age of Exploration at this point. Last week, we did a big timeline review where Micah “competed” with Ian, and Micah was able to put all but about 4 cards in order for each week – we have a card for each peg. He can’t sing the Timeline song without help from start to finish (he loops back sometimes), but because we played the game I know he can recall the song if you put cards in front of him and use the song to get those cards in order.

    History. We’ve learned about the Reformation and the 95 theses, the French Revolution, the Magna Carta and the 100 years war, European explorers, Napoleon Bonaparte and General Wellington, and the Industrial Revolution. Since I do book hauls (here’s how, including what books I pulled for these weeks), Micah is not just learning random facts, but he’s reading a little bit about each topic – this goes for all topics, not just history. We’re also working our way through a social studies book called “My World”. I’ve only done 2 lessons in 40 days. Ideally, I would have liked to have done 8.

    English. English I’ve found to be a little more challenging this time, because in addition to some possessive adjectives (ok, not so hard), he’s working through a long list of pronouns that go from reflexive, interrogative, demonstrative, and indefinite – it’s the indefinite list that is indefinitely gruesome, even we have a cute song to help us remember them. I obviously haven’t found the right pneumonic for this.

    Science. Science has been awesome. We love all things space, so Micah’s been able to learn quickly the kinds of stars, phases of the moon, parts of the sun, other bodies of the solar system, planets (we’ve known these for a long time) and U.S. space missions. The projects for science have been great and have ranged from making constellations, to launching rockets, to making a giant parking-lot sized proportionate model of our solar system. We also took a trip to a solar program this year, and that was amazingly fun. We also read Act One of “The Human Body Theater” which was all about the Skeletal System. This was fascinating for Micah since he likes bones. We will learn about muscles next, and some physics. We like physics in this house, so I don’t anticipate any issues here.

    Geography. In geography we’ve studied the European peninsulas and seas, Eastern Europe, the Mid-Atlantic World, the Caribbean, Southwest Asia. Next we’re going back to Northern Europe. I haven’t had Micah do much mapping by hand, though he watches me trace the map for the next week’s work each week – I put these traced map up on a learning board that we both use throughout the week. He’s mainly learned this through the CC cycle 2 App, which I have on our devices, and sometimes play it through Apple TV on our one and only television.

     

    Latin. Latin seems easy because we’re only doing 1st conjugation endings, and I have him listen to some Sing Song Latin Songs (but I never drill him on Sing Song Latin). He could use some work on remembering the tense and the first word for each tense. There are only 6 sets of these we have to learn this year, and we’re looping back through to the first set already.

    Math. Micah LOVES math. He sometimes opts to do more math than I have him set to do. We finished Kindergarten Book A in Singapore Math and he was elated. We started book B, and while this version is black and white, he doesn’t seem to care. He breezes through the pages. What’s tough for him is the writing part of it. As of now, we don’t do any formal handwriting, except for what appears in his math book. We will start handwriting this January, however. In Kindergarten Book A we covered matching, sorting, numbers up to 10, ordering numbers, shapes and patterns, comparing sets, and measurements. To be honest, this book was far too easy for him. I think that’s why he likes math though, and I like that he’s practicing his handwriting in such a low-demand way. Book B takes him from comparing numbers, to numbers up to 100, number bonds, addition and subtraction, more ordering, time, even and odd and fractions. Micah can count well past 100 by now, and can mostly do his skip counting from 1 to 15, and then by 100’s up to 1,000. He’s just starting to connect the dots that skip counting means multiplying. Micah can also add and subtract decently, but especially with manipulatives. His weakness is working too quickly, so I like the review in Singapore, and there’s not hurt in going over math until it’s second-hand nature, since it’s cumulative. We only did Abacus 1 day. However, Micah is thoroughly enjoying dot-to-dots and he loves mazes. And I love these because he’s also working his fine motor skills, or pre-writing skills.

    Reading. Reading is a big deal for us this review period. We did well here, and it’s the hardest part of Micah’s day because it takes the most focus on his part, and the most patience on my part. We started the Book It! Program and that has been very motivating to Micah, and a useful accountability tool for me. He’s earned his reward for 2 months in a row now, so he’s 2 for 2. We need to go get his Pizza from November and celebrate. We are two lessons from finishing “How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” This means on Tuesday we get to have a big celebratory ice-cream party! And believe me, I will be celebrating just as much as he will be! I ordered this book in October of 2014 when Micah was almost 3, but we started it at the tail end of Micah’s 3rd year. Before that we did lots of phonics games, and it was perfect. Now I’ve been met with the challenge of ‘what next???’. I got great recommendations from trusty, more experienced homeschool moms. I was generously given the “Spell to Write and Read” core books, and have done some digging myself. I decided that next we will (a) move onto easy readers at level 1 and 2 from the library, (b) start hand-writing very slowly, (c) review phonics, and (d) start spelling using the Spell to Write and Read. Funnix was a good program, but I spoke to a rep on the phone from Funnix, and it’s only computer-based. Micah’s just too young for required screen time in my opinion, and I sometimes see behavior whip-lash from screen time. I’d rather go with something that still allows us to cuddle up somewhere if we want. “Spell to Write and Read” is a complicated program to pick up. It requires a lot of pre-reading on my part. I purchased the amazing, wonderful, tremendously helpful “Uncovering the Logic of English” book and am reading that before starting back in “Spell to Write and Read”. There are 11 steps to complete before getting to “The Wise Guide for Spelling” which contains the actual lesson plans for this curriculum. I anticipate we will spend at least a solid 40 days practicing phonograms, playing phonogram games, reading easy readers, and learning correct cursive penmanship for the 26 letters and 0-9.

    What were our favorite field trips? We had three chances to feed the animals at Emma Prusch Farm Park – that’s a major draw! Each time we go, Ms. Lisa explains something different to us, and we observe new behavior about the animals. The last time we went we learned about some of the digestive needs of the goats, we helped her find a growth on one of the bunny’s eyes that needs attention, learned about how much care these animals need and how farm hands sanitize their dishes, and we watched how aggressive turkeys are around their food – yikes!

    We also loved Yosemite National Park in the snow – we built snowmen and had snowball fights! We adored the Fremont solar program, the Portola Redwood Forest, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

    We tried camping at Uvas Canyon County Park and failed. Due to Rain. The first time it rained since we moved here. Noah was finishing his Arc next to our tent. That’s how much it was raining, so it seemed.
    But… we hiked and explored Rodeo Cove in the Marin Headlands, Coyote Point Recreation Area, Fort Funston, and Sanborn County Park. We played at many, many playgrounds around town.
    This time of year brings some seasonal fun too, like a visit to Spina Farms, the fall festival at church, birthday celebrations, and Christmas in the Park and a Walk Through Bethlehem.
    We did some focused outreach. Some of this outreach happened before this review period, but some leaked over into this review period.
    What was our favorite art or music lesson or topic? Someone should sound a fail alarm for music, because we only did one formal piano lesson in the last 40 days. We are still learning music theory, however, and he knows a relative amount of theory for someone so young. Micah’s picked up learning tin whistle, and can play Mary Had a Little Lamb, but I lament his lack of piano here. And I haven’t taught him more than the one song on tin whistle. We haven’t found a piano teacher, and I need the accountability of someone else to teach him. Oh yea, grace for the season, right? At least he started learning a new instrument and likes it! In fact, the last six weeks have been all about tin whistle, music dynamics, rhythm, scale, and music symbols.
    I also made playlists for all 24 weeks of lessons, so he listens to rounds of various scripture to song, classical music, seasonal / holiday music, folk music, and classic kindergarten songs in addition to memory work.
    He’s moving into the age where he’s really beginning to enjoy drawing, so I purchased the Draw Write Now Book 1 and he’s enjoyed the lesson we tried. We are starting to move back into visual arts again in CC, so we’ve been looking at fine art together. I’m excited about the next 6 weeks of CC!
    We enjoyed some math art, and of course, holiday crafts and cooking too.
    Oh, and he tried a hip hop dance program at the YMCA and loved it! We need to go back!
    What were some of our favorite learning games? Micah’s favorite learning games, by far, include War, building a tower with Solo Cups, solo cup bowling, and solo cup CC-Pong. I’ve gotten lazy in offering him quality review time. Kade has not been napping! It’s exasperating. And I’m tired and need the down time being this pregnant. Grace for the season, right? Micah LOVES legos and spends a long time building new creations almost every day.
    What trends have we noticed in behavior for each child? Kade is fully in his two-year old stride. He’s ready to potty train, but I’m not ready to potty train him! And he requires consistent follow through, that I do what I say I’m going to do. Micah needs more patience with Kade and to learn to let me help Kade share, comply, or whatever the case may be. There is the normal brother teasing that happens every. single. day. So tiring. Micah does better in correction if I pull him in for a hug and a smile while I correct him. Sometimes this is not possible.

    What improvements in character have we seen in each child? I’m enjoying Kade’s “my turn” phase. He’s really wanting and trying to do everything himself! While this doesn’t have to do with character, it’s more developmental progress I want to recall. Micah is so sweet and compassionate about his baby sister and my pregnancy it’s just darling. And many times I find him helping his little brother, or talking sweetly, or recruiting to persuade him instead of force him to do something. It blesses me to see Micah have patience and discipline to finish hard things. We are benefiting from Peacemaker lessons!

    What needs more attention?

    • Scripture Memory work!
    • Chores and cleanliness, including ‘the daily 15 minute round-up’
    • Indefinite list of pronouns and grammar games
    • Abacus and manipulatives, math games, mazes and dot-to-dots.
    • My World lessons. There are 6 units, and I’m on Unit 3 Lesson 4.
    • Piano and music appreciation. Perhaps we should pay Ian what we used to pay his favorite teacher and make it a formal weekly lesson again so he structures his lessons. I did purchase music flashcards for Christmas so he will have fun using those.

    How well have we followed through in new ideas, investigations, and integrations? I’ve done a better job honoring God first with morning symposium than last review period – this is important to our family. We didn’t do as well with being consistent with scripture memory work, but we have done better in reading and math consistency. I noted last review period he needs more time with geography, the timeline, english review and manipulatives. I think I’ve done the best with the timeline, but the rest lag behind a bit.

    What answered prayers have we noted? There are so many answered prayers to list! God answered me about taking in the Support Representative position with CC. He’s been so clear to some specific questions I have for Him. He’s given me peace and wisdom for homeschooling and parenting, and I notice a change in behavior when we pray throughout the day, but especially when we set the tone in the morning.

    What were some of the most memorable moments and victories this month? The biggest victories or memorable moments are probably finishing out his math book A, and seeing how excited he was to move up a level! I’m so glad he’s happy about this accomplishment.

    Kade’s language is really exploding into 3 and 4 word sentences. He can almost count to ten. He understands letters represent sounds on a page, and asks me to write his name all the time. He loves to tuck his animals into bed and says “here go” to them, and “aw” as he admires them. He loves to pray. He can do summersaults really well now, and is very brave climbing challenging structures on the playground.

    What were some biggest evidences in grace, mercy, faithfulness, protection and provision we noted? God is helping us budget better, or have more discipline. I’m understanding some hard lessons learned about stewardship and waiting on Him before I make decisions. I’ve learned about the topics of Grace and Righteousness, doing some deep dives myself. I’ve been really blessed by some women friends from church and CC! Surprise baby showers. Who would have thought? With regard to the SR position in CC, He’s rolling that right along too… and the biggest fruit from this is my listening, prayer, and new friendships forming.

    What insights, revelations and feedback have been impacting this month? 

    Hmmm… probably how much more we should focus on our ‘frogs’: Worship time, prayer, Bible, and scripture memorization. Then everything else can come. I need to do a better job setting time-slots for work and honoring margin with the new SR position. I need to do a better job getting the boys to do chores. Less TV time even if I need to lay down. Be more creative with other quiet activities for the boys.

    Some things I’d like to keep in mind for next semester:

    • Math – There are 151 more pages to cover the Kindergarten B book, so I expect this will take another 75 school days or so.
    • Start Young Peacemakers Lesson 6.
    • Start hand-writing and spelling, and phonics. I anticipate we will spend at least a solid 40 days practicing phonograms, playing phonogram games, reading easy readers, and learning correct cursive penmanship for the 26 letters and 0-9.
    • Start The Properties of Ecosystems. There are 35 lessons. I’d like to do one a week.
    • Start the Lives of the Scientists – there are 18 of them. I’d like to do one a week.
    • Read the Human Body Theater – start at Act 2 muscles
    • Try the idea of loop schedules for more items
    • Try presentations for Dad each weekend

    Loop schedule samples

    • social studies
    • science – ecology
    • spelling deep dive
    • science sundays
    • history
    • geography game
    • math game
    • review time
    • daddy presentations
    • art project
    • music appreciation
    • bake 

    Outdoor afternoon loop schedule

    • nature journal
    • bike ride
    • park play date
    • YMCA dance
    • chalk drawing in back
    • dog bathing
    • sidewalk sweeping 
    • hike
    • gardening
    • entrepreneurship 
    • farmers market
    • tour/museum/extracurricular 

    Chore Loop schedule

    • declutter
    • wipe walls
    • wipe cabinets and baseboards
    • sweep floors/ mop
    • dust surfaces
    • sort toys
    • clean hamster cage

    Quiet time loop study

    • Lego’s
    • Jenga
    • poetry 
    • Aesop’s fables