". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Little Pitchers

You try to protect them. You think you have done so. And then you discover that no matter how hard you try, you can't completely shield them from the difficult truths of life.

A few days ago my 10-year-old and I watched an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. In it, Spongebob gets fired from his job at the Krusty Krab because his boss, Mr. Krabs, is trying to cut costs. Spongebob is fired rather than his coworker Squidward because Squidward has seniority. The rest of the episode depicts Spongebob trying various other restaurant jobs (with such success that the other owners end up fighting over and kidnapping him from one another) but ultimately getting hired back at the Krusty Krab because his presence there is so missed.

Some hours after we had watched this episode, Evan asked me, "Mom, what is seniority?" I told him, and after a pause he asked, "Does Dad have seniority?"

There was a world of meaning in that sentence. After my husband was let go from his job a few years ago, we tried our best to shield Evan from the specifics of the situation. It wasn't just a matter of his dad getting fired; it was a matter of it being done by people Evan knew and trusted. We didn't want him to be hurt by that knowledge so were careful not to speak of it around him and to explain the changes in his life in the vaguest terms possible. But ultimately, kids know when something isn't right. They know when their parents are sad. They know when their family is struggling.

I couldn't bear to tell him that no, actually, right now Dad doesn't have seniority. He's only been in his current position, and we have only been in our current church, for a year. So I fumbled for an answer, doing my best to reassure him that things are good here and that his Dad is not in any danger of getting fired the way Spongebob was. But on the other hand I can't really know that for sure, can I? We can't ever be sure what tomorrow will bring. As I write this I think it would have been better for me to tell him the truth: that even though his dad doesn't have seniority in the world, in the person and work of Jesus he has all the seniority he needs, because Jesus invites him (as He invites all of us) to sit at the head of the table, partaking of the finest food and drink even though we have not earned nor deserved it. In Jesus we need not worry about finding our place in the world, because that place has already been determined and set for us, and it is one from which there is no threat of demotion.

Job security? No, Evan, we don't really have that. Not any more than the next guy. But what we do have is the certainty of an eternal place in the Lord's kingdom, a place He created for us two thousand years ago on the cross and one from which He promises we will never be dismissed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


On Friday I took my daughter to college. On Sunday I left her there.

If you've ever seen the movie Big you'll remember the last scene. In it, the female lead, Susan, takes Josh, the little-boy-turned-big, back home to his real life. As Adult Josh trudges through the autumn leaves towards his house, Susan looks briefly away. When she turns back for a last look, Adult Josh has become Young Josh. He smiles and waves, then turns and runs home, calling for his family.

This weekend I experienced something like that, only in reverse. On Sunday after we went to church I took my daughter back to her dorm. We had to rush our goodbye, as it was already 11:30 and she had a required event to go to at noon. We had gotten some fast food, and she had hurriedly eaten in the car, but I had not eaten yet, so after we hugged goodbye I sat in the car a while longer, trying to stem the tears to the point I could take a few bites of my bean burrito. I watched my daughter half-walk, half-run down the sidewalk toward her dorm, but instead of seeing a college student I saw a kindergartener. Panic quickly ensued. What in the world was I doing, leaving a 5-year-old to fend for herself in college? This was all wrong! But a few minutes later it wasn't a 5-year-old who re-emerged from the dorm. It was a young woman. She briefly stopped to study her map, and I resisted the urge to jump out of the car, run down the sidewalk, and help her figure out where to go. I knew she needed to do this on her own, and more important, I knew she would be able to do this on her own.

This is the last look I had at my daughter on Sunday: my little-girl-turned-big, on her way to the rest of her life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Homeschool Outlook

Looks like it's time for the annual homeschool planning post. Today I ordered materials for the coming year. Since I only have one student now and we are carrying several of last year's books into this year, the order was not large. Still, I obsessed over it for several weeks. This publisher or that one? That book or the other one? Even after all these years, it is hard to know what's going to work and what's not.

Here, for those who are interested in such things, is a rundown of what we plan to do for fifth grade.

We started Saxon 54 last year. We didn't get as far in it as I would have liked. The goal will be to finish it this year.

Language Arts
We also used Saxon for grammar last year. We still have plenty we can do in that book, too, but for fifth grade I am going to return to a curriculum we tried for the first time a few years ago. It is from Queen Homeschool Supplies and uses an integrated, literature-based Charlotte Mason approach. You can view the book here.

We have some work to do in this area. Evan has learned the basics of cursive but we have not emphasized it heavily. This year we will work on fluency. To do so I found a new product, also from Queen Homeschool, that combines the study of art with practice in handwriting. The books utilize Zaner-Bloser style, which as luck would have it is what we teach in our homeschool. Take a peek here.

We will continue with Story of the World, Volume 4 (The Modern Age) as soon as we finish with Volume 3! (I think we're about 3/4 done.)

This is the area I struggled with most. Evan likes science, and I want him to keep liking it. Last year we did Exploring Creation with Astronomy from the Apologia Elementary series. I love these books for the conversational approach and the beautiful illustrations, and there are at least six more books on various topics, including several branches of zoology, botany, human anatomy, and chemistry/physics. But it seems to me that when we stick too long to one topic Evan tends to get bored. So I have opted to use this A Beka book as our main science text because of the variety of topics that it covers. I have used it before and it is attractive and accessible. Plus, it comes with a useful activity book. It is possible to spend a lot of money ordering supplementary materials from A Beka (such as the lesson plans and the quiz and test booklets), but I have learned that I don't need any of that. The main text has chapter checkups that cover the same thing as the tests. And the lesson plans just lay out a day-by-day plan for getting through the book, something I think I am capable of figuring out on my own. I don't think it will take us a year to get through this book. Once we're finished, I may follow up with several volumes of the Apologia series on the topics Evan seems to enjoy most before we gear up for Jay Wile's secondary science curriculum.

Yes, we're going to do Latin this year. I don't think I've broken the news to Evan yet. We'll use Prima Latina, but here again, I didn't buy the teacher's edition or the pronunciation CD's. Unless they've been updated, those pronunciation CD's leave a bit to be desired. I took a little Latin in college and think I can manage the pronunciation as well as do without the answer book. Why do we teach Latin at this age when we probably won't stick with it through high school? I think it is beneficial for teaching an understanding of the building blocks of language that doesn't automatically come from studying only English. The learning of Latin roots is helpful in vocabulary development. Studying another language now is good preparation for learning one in greater depth later. And besides, it's fun! (Evan doesn't know that yet, but he will.)

Evan will be in Confirmation class at church this year and will receive his First Communion at the Easter Vigil (yay!). In family devotions for the last few years we have been using the Treasury of Daily Prayer. That will probably continue, but I am hoping our home devotions will become a little Evan-friendlier this year. He has often had to sit and listen to the big people talk over his head. It will be nice to tailor the teaching to his level for a change. We will, of course, incorporate the catechism songs. :-)

Reading aloud has always been the core of our home school. Our readalouds bounce between something that fits the period of history we are studying and something chosen for its literary value. Right now we are working our way through the Narnia series. We will probably pick something historical after that. To encourage independent reading (something Evan doesn't automatically do) I am planning to institute a daily silent reading time where both of us will sit and read. I need the discipline, too. I am getting my reading chops back, but I still need to work harder to carve out interruption-free time for it.

Let's see, what am I leaving out? In addition to these main areas of study, Evan will continue with piano lessons as well as sing in two choirs (one at church, the other a community children's chorus). I am also looking for a PE option for him, probably swimming or tennis (or both). Another possibility is Tae Kwon Do, which his sister enjoyed and which I think he would enjoy, too, since he is pretty keen on Power Rangers. Finally, we are working on setting up a regular, weekly time to get together with several other homeschoolers from church. We'll let the kids play while the moms chat. Maybe we'll even do something educational every now and then. :-)

Fifth grade, here we come!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My 10-Year-Old Life Coach

Yesterday we went to the home of friends who have a swimming pool. It was a wonderful afternoon. At one point, while I was floating around the pool on an inflatable chair, I remarked that it was very comfortable but rather hard to steer. Evan replied, "You're missing the point, Mom. You're just supposed to relax."

Oh, right. That. What would I do without this kid to around to keep me properly centered? :-)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This One's for the Girls

I invite you to read this.

And then, if you have a fourteen-year-old girl in your life (or a 10, 12, or 40-year-old one, for that matter), share it with her.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bible Class Today

Today in Bible class we studied Luke 19:28-40, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Pastor pointed out how this point in Jesus' earthly life is in a literary sense like the turning point in a story where suddenly everything pivots and the final chapter of the narrative starts to play out. Jesus, of course, knew what was to come and in his humanity certainly felt all the overwhelming emotions one might expect. One of the men in the class asked if, since Jesus also knew the ultimate outcome (his resurrection from the dead and redemption of all creation), that knowledge might have made it easier for him to face the events of the week. Pastor responded by pointing out that we as God's people have that same knowledge. We know how the story ends, yet we still struggle every day with the crosses we are called to bear. Knowing the outcome, such that we can keep our eyes firmly fixed upon it, strengthens us in our resolve and in our faith. But it doesn't make the pain and sadness of the present any less real.