Sunday, January 19, 2014

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Jan 19

This is a personal blog. None of the links are affiliate.

In my life this week:

We had a productive school week, as well as the first OCD therapy appointment for our son, Peter, age 12. Unfortunately he was assigned an intern, probably because of our inferior health insurance. I have to keep a close watch because poor therapy can make OCD worse.

We had nearly 3 days this week without an Internet connection. Fortunately it was AT&T's problem so no charge to us. My boys follow college basketball scores via the Internet, so their disappointment was the worst it got here with no Internet. I couldn't blog, of course, but that just meant a little extra sleep for a couple days.

We found out that my father-in-law wants to give each of our four children enough money to pay for three years at our local state college (current tuition and fees, living at home). College costs rise 5% a year, so it will cover less by the time they reach college age. We had to do some research on 529 college savings plans--which was difficult with the Internet down--but we did learn you have to apply through your state. You also have to watch how much money is given in gifts to your children per year, to avoid incurring tax costs.

We're still in shock because we didn't know father-in-law had amassed such a savings. (It's all for the kids, though, so ironically, we still have to suffer through a dryer that screeches loudly with each load of clothes. Oh, how we dread each load of laundry now! Tax refund coming in about 5 weeks, though, thank goodness.)

My father-in-law worked in a paper factory and made little money, but he saved every penny, being about as frugal as anyone you've ever met, and he did as many side jobs as he could for extra income (he liked to tinker with broken things). I tried to emphasize to the children how grateful they needed to be for their grandfather's sacrifice, but I don't think they have the maturity to understand completely. Their grandfather is a man who doesn't even use his oven because the microwave is cheaper to use. His wife, my husband's mother, died in a car accident 39 years ago, and he never remarried, so I suppose that made it easier for him to save. When she was alive, he didn't even let her buy tea, because it wasn't a necessity.

God works in such amazing ways, doesn't he? In some ways my father-in-law is a mean, unforgiving tyrant (though a Christian, strangely enough), but through him, God has blessed my children. The problem is, father-in-law doesn't have any desire to leave anything for his daughter or her adult son, so that leaves us in a very awkward situation. His desire is just to bless the next generation, not this one, so that leaves my sister-in-law's 30-something son out of the "inheritance" loop, which stresses me and saddens me. My sister-in-law and father-in-law are in a feud of sorts, which I pray resolves before his death (he's 91 years old now). They're both extremely stubborn, not even realizing how alike they are.

Last bit of news this week is that Peter is now the proud owner of a baby corn snake. He wanted a dog for his birthday, but thankfully, he settled on a snake. A dog would compete with our food budget for sure ( not because we're frugal--just strapped).

In our homeschool this week:

The boys, ages 10 and 12, continue in their Sonlight Eastern Hemisphere studies, this week reading Breaking Stalin's Nose, a 2012 Newbery Honor book. This is a riveting, important book about the stark contrast between a free society and a dictatorship. It's a must-read for all upper elementary students and beyond. The author, a former Russian citizen, left Russia for American when he was 27 years old, now residing in California.
Grade Level Equivalent 4, Lexile Measure 670
Publisher Synopsis: Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six:
The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism.

A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience.
A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings.

But now that it is finally time to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go awry. He breaks a classmate's glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway.  And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night.
This moving story of a ten-year-old boy's world shattering is masterful in its simplicity, powerful in its message, and heartbreaking in its plausibility.
Breaking Stalin's Nose is a short novel which an adult can read in two or three hours. The boys followed it up by starting Around the World in Eighty Days.

Grade Level Equivalent 8.5, no Lexile Measure available
Publisher SynopsisOne ill-fated evening at the Reform Club, Phileas Fogg rashly bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days - and he is determined not to lose. Breaking the well-establised routine of his daily life, the reserved Englishman immediately sets off for Dover, accompanied by his hot-blooded French manservant Passepartout. Travelling by train, steamship, sailing boat, sledge and even elephant, they must overcome storms, kidnappings, natural disasters, Sioux attacks and the dogged Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard - who believes that Fogg has robbed the Bank of England - to win the extraordinary wager. Around the World in Eighty Days gripped audiences on its publication and remains hugely popular, combining exploration, adventure and a thrilling race against time.

Other homeschooling news: We began listening to audio books right after lunch, starting with Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They're more expensive than books, but we don't plan on buying any (just using the titles from our local library). Not only is the reading voice outstanding, as one might expect, compared to my own, but listening to it is very relaxing for all of us, and allows me to fold laundry, keeping up for the first time ever! Two chapters a day is all I need to fold all the laundry and put it away. 

The children draw, or just sit and relax while we listen, though I don't allow them to talk or play games. I've read Farmer Boy a couple times, but somehow I missed how much this boy loves food! Much time is spent on describing in detail all the wonderful, homemade food Almanzo's mother and sisters prepared. I find the book such a treasure in so many ways, as do the children. Peter read it a couple years ago, but Paul never has. 

Another thing that struck me is how obedient children were in these bygone days. They didn't speak at the table at all, for one thing (not that this is a necessary discipline, but it demonstrates respect for elders). In church, they weren't to speak or move at all. Again, even if one doesn't think these particular disciplines are important, it's a excellent thing for children to hear or read books in which children honored God and parents, in ways one rarely sees today. 

I read some endearing picture books this week, including The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman, which has become a favorite of us all (we read it at least once daily now). Ms. Hoberman is a master of rhyme--delicious, delightful rhyme that will put anyone, adult or young'un, in a swell mood.

The Seven Silly Eaters
Publisher OverviewPeter wants only milk, Lucy won't settle for anything but homemade lemonade, and Jack is stuck on applesauce. Each new addition to the Peters household brings a new demand for a special meal.
What's a mother to do? Even though Mrs. Peters picks, peels, strains, scrapes, poaches, fries, and kneads, the requests for special foods keep coming. It isn't until her birthday arrives that a present from her children solves the problem with a hilarious surprise that pleases everyone.
Seven fussy eaters find a way to surprise their mother.
Another gem from Mary Ann Hoberman is Whose Garden Is It?

Whose Garden Is It?
Publisher Overview: The gardener says the garden belongs to him. But the woodchuck insists that it's his. And so do the rabbit, the butterfly, the squash bug, and the bumblebee. Even the tiny seeds and whistling weeds think the garden just couldn't grow without them. As they stroll through the exquisite plants and flowers, Mrs. McGee and her child listen and wonder: Whose garden is it?
Children's book luminaries Mary Ann Hoberman and Jane Dyer reveal the secrets of a glorious garden in this beautiful and poetic rhyming read-aloud.
When Mrs. McGee walks through a garden wondering whose it is, all of the plants and animals as well as the sun and the gardener claim it as their own.
For a little taste of history, we read The Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate, a social studies title I recommend for your younger elementary students.
The Buffalo Storm
Publisher Overview: Hallie isn't afraid of anything—that is, anything but storms, which she braves along with her grandmother, huddled beneath a special quilt. When her family decides to join a wagon train and go west, leaving her grandmother—and everything Hallie has ever known—behind, Hallie knows she will have to be braver than she's ever been before. Then one day on the trail she witnesses the wildest, most glorious storm imaginable. How can she be afraid of anything after that?
Lyrical text from an exceptional writer is paired with gorgeous, jewel-like paintings in this evocative story of westward expansion.

Mom's Favorite Thing This Week:

I thoroughly enjoyed every time "Shake" came on the Christian radio station, courtesy of the band Mercy Me. My lively children turn the volume way up, dancing and shaking themselves into a frenzy every time, and they're even memorizing the lyrics a little more each time. Makes my heart smile (and sometimes I even shake with them!).

I am still in shock about the education fund news from my father-in-law, but I'm also praising God and marveling at His mysterious ways. Husband was not treated well all these years by his father, but somehow, that mistreatment is being redeemed some in this blessing for our children. Life is so very short, and in so many ways it can be wasted. Makes me realize all the more that so many of our daily decisions become part of our legacy. If we want our legacy to leave behind a pleasing aroma, if you will, we have to live intentionally, clinging to the Lord for wisdom, grace, and the will and strength to choose love, always.

Children's Favorite Thing This Week:

~ They enjoyed meeting the new corn snake and preparing his (or her?) habitat.
~ They enjoyed each time their favorite song came on.
~ They enjoyed big, fluffy snowflakes.
~ They enjoyed each time the dryer finished a cycle. :)
~ They enjoyed all the books we read together (and alone) this week.

Things I'm Working On:

For three weeks now we've had an obedience chart on the fridge, with a column for each child's check marks, which they earn every time they obey immediately, without arguing or getting distracted. I don't have time to go to the chart each time, but when I see them obey right away, I tell them to give themselves a check, which thrills them. Seeing someone else get a check makes the slow-to-obey ones more motivated to turn over a new leaf and respond to commands promptly. 

Each Sunday if they've done reasonably well, we give them $1 to save, or they can choose a small pack of candy at the dollar store on the way home from church. So far, they have all chosen the candy, but eventually they'll start saving, I pray. 

It's just your average bribery technique, abhorred by some parents, but it's making them more aware of their duty to obey, and it helps me see at a glance who has the most trouble obeying, allowing me to follow up with prayer for them. Mary obeys most commands quickly, as does Paul, but Peter and Beth need more work in this area. Some weeks, those two have only been allowed to eat half a package of candy.

I don't allow them to eat their reward all in one day, of course. It's gone by the third day, usually, and they then start counting how many days there are until Sunday.

Gratitude List

~ God's provision

~ For the living, Holy Word of God, guaranteed to comfort and grow us.

~ My cousin kindly coming over to take out our broken dishwasher, which began to fill with water, probably due to our need for a new garbage disposal. It was a stinky problem--one I'm grateful to have resolved. The disposal itself is working well enough for us to wait until tax refund time for replacement. 

~ For heartwarming, precious books to cuddle and read together.

~ For finding a delightful way to keep up with the laundry and keep the couch clear of its clutter.

~ For a kind lady at church to whom we gave cookies at Christmastime. She gave the container back to me this morning, filled with Valentine chocolates and heart candy. Is that not the sweetest gesture? The kids and I decided to call it the "love tin", to be passed back and forth, filled with goodies, between two families. This older woman lives alone and I think such an exchange would tickle her, as well.

~ I finally get to go to the thrift store tomorrow night, between 7 PM and 9PM, to find some needed clothes for myself and for the girls. And jeans for Peter, who suddenly began putting holes in them again, at age 12. The girls have grown so much taller! Usually I can keep up by monthly trips to thrift stores, but we've been busy lately and I've neglected this. My hours at the thrift store are really my only break, and I do so enjoy it!

What is blessing you this week, friends?

Quotes to share:

Deuteronomy 4:10 How on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” (Charles Swindoll)

“We all leave footprints in the sand, the question is, will we be a big heal, or a great soul.” (Anonymous)

So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler?


Terri H said...

I am blessed right now by homeschool curriculum that is working, and especially by a Bible reading plan that is working! Thanks for sharing your week. :)

Amber said...

I wish you all the best with the OCD therapy, I know therapy can either improve or worsen a child's struggles. Hopefully, your therapist will follow God's lead and help your son.
What an awesome gift! To have a head start on college savings is a wonderful thing. Every penny will help! Especially with 4 kiddos! I wish them all the best in their future!
I can't imagine being in your shoes with your children being given such a gift and yet, the other grandchild and daughter not. Just pray they will see it a good gift for your children and not have any ill feeling towards you.

My 9 year old son would be over visiting the baby snake each day if you lived near by! He wants snakes, rats, ferrets, and lizards! All things, we promised him were not the best to have when you already have a small dog and two cats! Enjoy the snake!

The obedience chart is a great idea. Awhile back we had a similar chart for chores and behaviors. They would earn, a dollar or two, extra time to stay up a bed time, a special treat (ice cream or a movie at home) and they could also earn 10-20 minutes of tech time (computer). It worked quite well. We have not used for a few months and are in the process of working up another one.

Oh my, I didn't mean to write a book!
Great post!
Have a wonderful week!

Tesha Papik said...

Wow awesome news about your father-in-law!!! What a blessing for your children! We love books on cd our favorite is Jonathan park:) they are pricy but you can sometimes find then in eBay! I also love to listen to sermons and teaching as I clean and do house work it makes it so much more enjoyable!
I hope all gose we'll for Peter saying a prayer the therpey is productive! Also saying a prayer you are miraculously blessed with a new dryer!

Christine said...

Terri, yeah on the Bible reading plan!

Amber, I wish your son could come and visit the snake! My Peter can use some friends who love nature.

Tesha, Thank you for the prayers for Peter and for a new dryer!

Becca said...

Thanks for sharing all those books. I just requested one from our library. I love book recommendations from other homeschool moms.

Beth said...

I am so excited for you and the provision of college funds for the children. What a blessing. I always get some good book suggestions from your review. I love the idea of the gift tin going back and forth.

Amy S said...

I am praying and wishing the best for your sons OCD therapy.
Looks like a very fun week of books! :D Loved all the little excerpts about each one! :)
THe obedience chart is great! You do what is best and works for your kids! :D

LOVED the quotes at the end!

Christine said...

Amy, thank you for your prayers and for stopping by!