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Stalled

I’ve avoided the subject of our application process to become foster parents. Frankly, we have stalled in the process. After completing the classes and the background check (complete with finger prints) and taking the CPR classes, we stalled on completing the paper work. I’ve mentioned before, I think, that G is completely consumed with his First Sargent duties. I have not pushed to complete the process because, really, I don’t want to do this by myself. I want him to be involved; I want him to take the lead.

This week I did inquire about it and he said he wanted to continue the process. The news of the Eldorado case had him thinking about it again. The next day the agency called to check if we were still interested. Funny how that worked. I told them that we had been discussing it and committed to having our paperwork completed by the end of the week. Yikes – that might be a little ambitious. So, will we get it done? Will G be able to shift some of his focus and energy back towards home? I want to be obedient to God’s calling and follow my husband’s leadership. I can’t see the next stepping stone, should I put my foot out and take the step? Deep breath.

It is almost upon us again! Time to turn off that TV for a whole week and see what happens. Yes, National TV Turn-Off week is less than a month away: April 21-27. I just picked up a great book: 365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child from Paper Back Swap. There are all kinds of books like that if folks need help with ideas for filling all that time you’re not watching TV. But I have faith that you can come up with your own ideas – each family has their own unique personality. Here’s another great resource: Unplug Your Kids. Come on! You can do it! And you’ll be glad you did.

I once made a comment while chatting with a fellow homeschool mom that, in thinking about how we would homeschool, I was somewhere between the classical model and unschooling. I remember her eyebrows going up and stating something about those being on opposite ends of the spectrum. I realized she was right and felt a little foolish at my comment. But, as I’ve been reading further, I am finding some overlap in the different methods. I recently read a wonderful book: Homeschooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles. I would highly recommend this book. I gained a better understanding of some of the different methods, and why people choose them.

In this book, Mary Hood and  the Moores writings are in the chapter on unschooling. However, I’m attending a conference by Mary Hood next month which states in the description that Relaxed Home Schooling is NOT Unschooling. The Clarksons have their own chapter, called Whole-Heart Learning, separate from the Charlotte Mason chapter. Yet their books are recommended by others for learning how to implement the Charlotte Mason method. So, now I’m thinking I wasn’t too far off in seeing some good things in classical as well as more relaxed models, and so much in between.

Although I have been inspired and learned a great deal from John Holt, I know pure unschooling is definitely not a good fit for me and B. On the other hand, classical is too school-like for my tastes with all the rote memorization in the earlier years. I have mentioned the Beechick methods before. I really like the emphasis on readiness, and approaching language and math in a more natural manner – much of learning happening during normal everyday living. I love the emphasis Charlotte Mason places on developing habits – I would call it building character. I also love the preference for “real” books over text books. We have already been enjoying some wonderful literature together, thanks to Five in a Row. So that seems a natural fit for us.

I have been circling for a while, taking in all the methods and appreciating what is good in each one. But, now I am coming in for a landing around Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason. Although they are not exactly alike in their methodology and thinking, it seems they are very similar. So now my focus has narrowed to learning more about these specific methods and what it will look like to implement some of their ideas in our family’s education. I found a local CM group that actually meets once each month to discuss just that – women after my own heart! 🙂 I knew it was the right group for me when, as I approached, I noticed a crate full of books sitting in the middle of the table.

I guess you could say I’ve been living and breathing homeschool lately. I think that will subside as I begin to gather my thoughts and feel like I have some direction as we look toward the more “official” school age with B. That hasn’t been my sole focus, although it’s all I’ve posted about here in a while. I am also reading a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss for my personal spiritual life (A Place of Quiet Rest) and making fits and starts at a prayer journal. Life is becoming more busy as new friendships are growing and I’m becoming more active in various groups in the community. I guess you could say we’re getting settled here – and that feels pretty good.

John Holt

John Holt’s book Learning All the Time was a major influence in my ultimate decision to homeschool, and the way I go about it. I haven’t quite landed in the “unschooling” camp, but still look to the father of unschooling as a major influence. I highly recommend anyone considering home educating their kids to read John Holt. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read any of his books, allow me to introduce you. Mother Earth News (NOT one of my regular reads) has apparently posted past articles on their website – from way back. This Plowboy Interview with John Holt was published in their July/August 1980 issue. Grab a cuppa, sit back, and enjoy meeting this interesting fellow who helped pave the way for parents to freely take charge of their children’s education. I can’t express how thankful I am to all the pioneer parents who helped pave that rugged road in the 70’s and 80’s, when it was a tough trail to blaze.

Early Academics?

I mentioned in the last post resisting the urge to launch B into a full-on academic program. I find myself slipping into this comparison habit, looking at what other kids B’s age are doing. And then I start to worry (there’s that gene again) that I should be doing more. Then I start looking up preschool and kindergarten curriculum. In that process I’ll run across an article or two reminding me that I wasn’t going to do that. Here are a couple of my favorite:

These are right along the lines of books I have read by John Holt and Raymond & Dorothy Moore. But even though that is one of the reasons I’m homeschooling to begin with, I still find myself succumbing to that peer pressure. I got really gung ho with B’s FIAR notebook during the first half of this school session, trying to come up with something to go in the notebook every day. Now some of that B enjoyed, and he’ll even proudly show off the notebook to visitors. But it was getting harder and harder to acquire his cooperation in those endeavors. It took a few weeks for that to sink in. But I finally realized I was draining the fun out of our school time. Now we do good to have one or two items to add to the notebook each week.

You see, the spirit of FIAR is enjoying the books together. The lessons are primarily conversational. Oftentimes the subject of a story will lead to more books on a particular topic. Sometimes our discussion naturally leads to writing a story, making a list, or drawing a picture. It’s a wonderful way to introduce so many things at this age, and then see what captures his imagination – what does he want to know more about.

This week we read Storm in the Nightby Mary Stolz. We talked about relationships with grandparents, the difference between the way the author described the beginning and ending of the storm, and onomatopoeia (remembered from another story). We noted the facial expressions in the artwork and B tried his hand at making faces looking different directions. We noticed the quilt in one of the pictures after having read The Rag Coat just last week, and pointed out the different shapes. Today we finished off by reading about thunderstorms and talking about thunder and lightning.

Since I was investigating accredited homeschool correspondence programs, I looked specifically at kindergarten. I had the idea that since any foster kids that come along will likely be in that type of program, I might as well have B do that, too. Of course, reality hit when I saw how expensive that will be. But I also realized that’s not necessarily what’s best for the kiddos. Oh, I’ll do it because I have to for the foster kids. But I don’t have to go that route for B.

So, here’s what I’m thinking, so far, for kindergarten. Of course I have a whole summer to think and plan more specifically, and probably flip flop some more. 🙂

  • Continue Five in a Row (what’s left of volume 2 after this year, and volume 3)
  • Follow Ruth Beechick’s guidelines for K-3: A Home Start in Reading, A Strong Start in Language, and An Easy Start in Arithmetic, AKA The Three R’s
  • B does enjoy the occasional workbook, so I’m considering some pre-writing workbooks: Getting Ready to Write, A Reason for Writing K, or Ruff’s Prewriting Flip and Draw Book – any recommendations?
  • I’d like to do Spanish and found a great Charlotte Mason style curriculum. But that may be more than I had in mind. Perhaps I’ll just check out Spanish books from the kid’s section of the library and work from there.
  • Friday co-op classes – depending on our budget and whether B would be interested in the classes offered.
  • Music – The Pace preschool piano books didn’t work so well with just one kid. I discovered after receiving them they are designed for group classes. In addition I have not been able to acquire one of the teacher manuals. So, I’ll be looking in to what we can do for music. Perhaps one of the co-op classes will cover that base. If not, any recommendations?

I’m sure I’ll ponder this some more over the next several months. For anyone thinking about homeschooling, or if you’re feeling a bit burned out using the “school at home” model, I highly recommend reading these two books: Learning All the Time by John Holt, and The Successful Homeschool Family Handbookby Raymond & Dorothy Moore (anything by the Moores).

Revisiting Foster Care

I did a post a while back wondering how foster care would work with our homeschool convictions. It seems many folks are wondering about that, so here’s a bit of an update on what I have learned so far. Now I don’t have any facts or figures at this point as I haven’t done that kind of research. But following is what I have heard from other foster families and what I’ve been told by our agency.

If you’re working directly with TX CPS, it seems to be determined on a case by case basis whether any particular families are allowed to homeschool any particular children. I’ve heard from a couple of folks that they had been told they could, but never made it through the maze of red tape and hoops to jump through. One friend of mine was allowed to homeschool one of their foster kids in a particular program while another family was denied homeschooling another child they wanted to enroll in the same program. My friend was not ever allowed to homeschool any of the other children they fostered at the time. This was just over a year ago.

In December we attended classes through a private agency that we intend to apply through. From them we have learned that homeschooling foster kids is allowed as long as an accredited program is used. Unfortunately, such programs can be quite expensive. So far I have looked at three programs that were very similar. Two of them are over $2,000/school year. The third is roughly $900/school year. I will continue searching for options in that department.

So, I guess you’d say the jury is still out. I will continue to investigate and learn what I can as we inch along in the application process. BTW, the inching is our doing, not the agency. They would love for us to move a little more quickly as they have kids needing someplace to go. But my husband just doesn’t make big decisions or big changes quickly. 🙂

It stands to reason that any program that is accredited will be highly academic. My homeschooling style/philosophy is rather relaxed. Not quite unschooling, but I definitely believe academics are better delayed until upper elementary age. But I also believe a more academic homeschool program is better than public school – especially for kids that are already having a hard time with life in general. So I’ll take it. But for B, I’m resisting the urge to launch him into a full-on academic program. But that’s a subject for another post.

Regardless if we’ll actually be allowed to homeschool foster kids, we feel pretty strongly this is where God is calling us. I am trusting Him to provide for this calling. I have this tendency – I think it’s genetic 🙂 – to fret and worry about stuff. I worry about G getting deployed after we have a placement. I worry about discovering dangerous behaviors after placement, thus putting B at risk. I worry about making some mistake or other. I could go on, I’m sure. But this is where faith comes in. As I said before, I’m trusting Jehovah Jireh, our Provider.

Happy New Year!

Wow, 2008 is already flying by as we’re halfway through January. Time just keeps slipping, slipping slipping, into the future . . .

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 🙂

Well, this year should be interesting. Here we are in a new place, getting to know new people, and looking towards new events to occur for our family this year. I guess the biggest news for us as we head into 2008 is that we are in the licensing process to become foster parents. So, in light of that, we have no idea what God has in store for us this year. It’s somewhat exciting, yet I have my moments of anxiety when I think about it too much. I will have more to say about that in future posts as we inch closer to taking the plunge.

I haven’t been browsing blogland much lately. But I’m sure there have been many posts regarding resolutions for the new year. I don’t have any of those. You see, those require the strength, motivation, and fortitude of the individual making the resolution. If I had all that, then the stuff I want to resolve to change probably wouldn’t be an issue in the first place. Ah, but I was inspired by the elders of our church this past Sunday to set big goals to pray over for the year. Yes, that is relying on the will and strength of God to make the changes, not myself. So, here are my prayer goals for the year:

  • In the Word: I have daily devotions with B and and work on his AWANA memory verses. But I’m not having my own personal quiet time. It’s like I only spend time with God in a group context, but rarely one one one. I really need that one on one.
  • Become a prayer warrior: Not that I don’t pray, but, there’s always room for improvement. I want to be a person who thinks of prayer first, not as a last resort. I want to actually remember to pray for my friends and loved ones when I say I will pray for them. I want B to see that God is real and a part of our daily, minute by minute, life.
  • To be a kind and gentle mom: I don’t always respond to B’s antics in a gentle manner. He knows my buttons and I raise my voice in response to this more than I like to admit. As I look toward becoming a foster mom, it is so important that I grow in the ability to maintain that patient gentleness in my correction.
  • To grow in my abilities to manage my time, my household duties and my resources, so that I may be a better support to my husband and reduce my own stress as I find myself frequently behind or even embarrassed at the condition of my home when I have unexpected guests.
  • In light of the above, I am praying fervently this year for the blue carpet to be gone from my house! Have I mentioned the blue carpet before? Sometime in the past I posted a picture of our dog – a white & tan Basset Hound. Imagine that white dog hair on royal blue carpet . . .
  • To make a difference in my community: This may be through foster care, but I think there are other things for me outside of the house. I want to get more involved, but also want to choose wisely. Remember the time management thing above. 🙂

I could probably go on and on, but those are my biggies.  I have also updated my reading list. Although I have already checked off several books this month, there are some books carried over that I didn’t get to last year. I mentioned that I joined Paperback Swap. I already have a couple of books on the way from there, and I’m sending one off for someone else to enjoy. I want to be a good steward in all areas of my life, so no more book hoarding. 🙂

I would love to hear from others about your goals and plans for the year. And I wish everyone a year full of the power and love of our Creator. Happy New Year!