Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hating What Is, To Love What Should Be

I've put off writing this for a long time. It hurts. It hurts to admit what no parent should ever feel. It reveals a part of me I don't want to exist. It is something I know many won't understand. It is something I don't understand because it isn't supposed to be this way. Yet, on this Holy Week, it is more true, more appropriate, and more necessary than my desire to hide it.

It isn't all the time and often it catches me unaware. It may be a tilt of the head or a profile view. It happens most in the early morning and evenings at bedtime - those first moments of shaking off the sleepy night and the droopy eyes after a busy day. When he is upset and crying it becomes so clear even though in the moment to moment of life I forget. My heart breaks. Anger rises up as I struggle not to turn away from seeing it - the almond shaped eyes with heavy bags, the lax jaw allowing a too large tongue to peek between his sweet lips, the ears that are just a little too small and slightly too low. These are physical reminders that all is not "right" within the very things that make this child I love who he is.

I hate it.

Not every parent of a special needs child feels this way. We all grieve and process, love and accept in different ways. This is the story of my struggle. In fact, those differences is what makes this harder. From the moment of his diagnosis I've been told: "It doesn't matter. He is perfect."  "He is exactly how God created him." "He is no different from any other child." I hear it from other special needs Moms. I've heard it from other Christians.

Yet as I watch my 6 month old lay his head face down in the floor, crying in exhaustion and frustration, struggling to lift his head for more than 2 minutes, then giving up because it is too hard, I know it isn't true. This is not the way it was intended to be.  He was created to be so much more than this. At the very beginning of his existence, something went terribly wrong. How can I as I loving parent reconcile loving this child so much and yet hating the very thing that defines so much of who he is?

As we head into this Holy Weekend, I have to wonder if this is how God looks at me.  When God created the first man and woman He looked on them with love and said, "It is very good." We were perfectly created in His image, to be His caretakers of the rest of creation, to spend our lives in glorifying Him and loving each other.  But, something went terribly, horrifically wrong. From the moment of that first bite of the Forbidden Fruit, we were no longer what we were created to be. That image of God written into our DNA was corrupted. Our loving, care-taking nature was transformed into pride and self-idolatry that has redefined who we are and what we do.

From the 3rd chapter of Genesis until now, we read in the Scriptures and observe through history the story of God, the struggle of God, loving this human race He perfectly created, yet hating the very thing that drives us. The entire Old Testament is God calling to humanity to return to what He created it to be - and us failing at every attempt. It is the story of mankind lifting its head to look up to the heavens for a brief time, then face planting, eyes to the ground, in pain, frustration, and exhaustion. We cannot do what we were created to do. It takes a strength we do not possess and all the therapy, exercise, and encouragement in the world is not going to change that.

God looks on his creation with love, and hatred.  But, He was able to do for me what I can never do for my son:

God came down, suffered every pain and misery, to change the very core of who I am back to what He created me to be.

You see, we believe a lie. It is a lie preached from too many pulpits in our churches. It is a lie we tell ourselves over and over again, because it is easier to believe the lie than to face the reality. We face-plant in the ground, unable to look up and tell ourselves "God loves me just as I am. I am exactly who He created me to be."  We tell others they must accept us for "who we are" because "God made me this way". Meanwhile, God is sitting next to us saying, "No! I intended so much more for you than this. Pick up your head and look at me." And just as my son does, we keep our heads in the ground because we have reached the end of our own strength and cannot look up.

God looks on us and says, "I hate who you are. But I love you enough to change you into who you are supposed to be."  He looks at our pride, our selfishness, our desire for ease, our physical drives, our striving for happiness, our need for success - and He hates it. It takes the purpose for which we were created and corrupts it into what He never desired for us. He sees us relaxing, face-planted on the ground, ignorant of all He has for us, and knows we are not strong enough to look up.

So He came down, got on the floor, placed His holy perfect unblemished hands on our muddy, dirty faces, and lifted up our head.

I know that as time goes on my reaction to my son's physical characteristics of his extra chromosome will fade. In time I will probably learn to expect them instead of being surprised by them.  But for now, when the grief rises up, when I feel the anger begin to bubble, I am reminded of the Cross. I am reminded that my Creator so hated what I am, and so loved who He created me to be, that He took on himself what he most hated to transform me into what He most loves. One day, the transformation begun on the Cross will be completed and I will stand before my Heavenly Father exactly as He created me to be...... and, by His grace, my perfected son will be next to me.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Choosing Life

"I need to know by Monday if you change your mind about termination."
"Okay. Well, thank you for calling and letting me know."
"Again, I'm sorry and expect to hear from a case manager next week. Have a good weekend."

I hung up the phone and turned around to face the man behind me, standing there with a concerned look. He had rushed our children to the dinner table when I stepped outside to take the call. I knew the call was coming. My doctor had left a voice mail earlier in the day saying she needed to talk to me about test results. I wasn't worried. I was 41, pregnant with baby #7. I figured my glucose or vitamin D levels were out of normal range. Been there. Done that. I was just going to need to work a trip to the pharmacy into a busy Friday then we could take a family trip to go buy our new little girl or boy his/her first outfit!

Now, looking at him I took a breath, struggling to hold back tears, I wondered how we had gotten to this place. Years of misplaced priorities, difficult ministry positions, deployments, children, and homeschooling had taken its toll. We were struggling to keep this 20 year marriage together.  This new baby was the result of marriage counseling. The irony was not lost on me!  Just a few weeks before our counselor had been trying to convince me that while this is not the way he would have suggested working on a marriage, God had given us this new baby partly to help us have a new beginning, and He was going to use him/her to help us -  to breathe new life into something that was dead. I wasn't so sure.

I looked at my husband, not too sure how he was going to respond. "That was my OB with the NIPT results. The baby tested positive for Down Syndrome - they are 98% certain.  I turned down termination and an amnio, but we have until Monday to decide. I will be going to Hawaii for a fetal echo-cardiogram. I will be scheduled to see maternal fetal medicine in the next week to start monitoring growth, heart, and intestines. I will probably have to deliver back in the states. The baby probably won't be able to go to your next duty station because more than likely he will need more interventions than what they have there."

He put an arm around me; pulled me in for a hug. "Its going to be okay. We can do this."

After a few minutes, and more than a few more tears, we walked into the dining room and our son asked, "Is it a boy?!"
I had forgotten to ask.

The following week we got our next blow. Our request for a change in orders was met with, "Your family does not have to go. You go with them, or without them."

It is National Right to Life Sunday. It hits very close to home this year. Pictures of marchers on the Mall in DC bring tears to my eyes as I rock my little boy and text my distant husband. They are marching for my son - for unborn children like him who deserve a chance to live despite their circumstances. For me - for women like me who are facing the darkest moments of their lives and feeling completely alone. For my husband - for men who need to know they are necessary, they are needed, they are important. They march for those who are not blessed with the support system we have - to create a culture that supports, that loves, that tells them they "can", and that there is beauty in the ashes. They march to create a society and government that assumes life, not death.

We chose life for a marriage that was dead. We chose life for our son whose future is unpredictable. Our choice for life put us right into the place we wanted to avoid - separated.  Our choice for life put an end to the life I wanted for myself.

I sit here writing this not knowing how this story is going to end. It has been a very long, dark, and difficult year. I don't know what the future holds for my baby boy. I don't even know what life holds for our marriage. I don't know if I will ever see my personal dreams realized. There are many struggles ahead. It isn't going to be easy. But I do know:

  • After the flurry of doctors and nurses left my hospital room with a fetal heart-rate stablized for the moment, where I was settling back into bed, alone and on oxygen, when my OB asked what I needed I said, "My husband."  As she directed a nurse to call the Red Cross to bring him home, the tears I cried were not just ones of anxiety for my unstable baby, but because I knew how much that one request really meant. 
  • 2 days later when he walked into my post-partum room, directly from the airport after 24 hours of travel, I fell into his arms in tears and never wanted to leave. As he pushed me down to the NICU, unable to walk the distance myself after the c-section, to meet our son, I struggled to not  think about having to say good-bye again in a few days and to enjoy the time we did have.
  • That baby boy asleep upstairs has already in his 11 months of life (3 outside the womb) touched our lives, our family, and others in ways I could have never imagined.  We cannot imagine life without him. 

The choice for Life is hard. It can be dark. It can push us past our limits and make us jump into a seemingly bottomless abyss.  It can require more from us than we ever thought possible. It can force us to rely on others and to trust what has failed us before. It changes our hopes, our dreams, our priorities.





It is Beautiful. It is Good. It is Love. 



"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
 I came that they may have life
   and have it abundantly." 
John 10:10



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Open Letter as You Leave the Nest

My Dear Girl,

Can you believe the day has finally arrived?! Your Dad and I are excited for all you have ahead of you as you venture out into adulthood.  You've worked hard for this and we could not be more proud. We have taught you many things in the last 17 years, but there are a few things I hope you will carry with you no matter what life brings your way. As important as history, science, math and Latin are, if you remember nothing else, remember this:

1) You are more loved than you will ever know, which means you are called to love more deeply than you think possible. While there is nothing that could make us love you any more or any less than we do, the love God has for you far surpasses anything we can offer. Remember that no matter what: the successes, the failures, the joys, the sorrows - He loved you enough to die for you and will never leave you. There is nothing you can do, or not do, that will separate you from God's love. But, His love for you calls you to love others the same way. That love will bring you joy you can't imagine, and heartache you won't think you will be able to bear. As God chose to love you, we choose to love others. That will mean there are time you will have to choose to love people you would rather not, and walk away from people you want to love. Love is never a feeling. It isn't about what makes you happy, who you feel attracted to (romantic or Platonic), what you are drawn to - it is a choice to honor God above all else. That extends to not just how you treat others, but to how others treat you. Look beyond the words, the feelings, and even the actions, to the heart and soul. Remember: For I am sure that neither death nor lifenor angels nor rulers
nor things present nor things to comenor powers, nor height nor depth
nor anything else in all creationwill be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39 ESV

2) Look for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful - This next step in your educational and life journey is not about career training, making money, or gaining experience. It is the next step in learning about the nature and character of God. As the creator, designer, and author of all creation, history, cultures, and creativity, His fingerprint is in all you see and study. Stay rooted in His Scripture so you can find and discover His revealing of Himself in all you will study and experience. Whether you are reading Plato, deriving formulas, playing Bach Concertos, sledding down snowy slopes, diving the depths of the sea, or simply walking to the grocery store, His fingerprint is there, calling you closer to Him.  There are times He will brilliantly reveal Himself through the "music of the spheres" and other times He will be a pinprick of light within the darkness, but He is there.
"
Finallybrotherswhatever is truewhatever is honorablewhatever is just
whatever is purewhatever is lovelywhatever is commendable
if there is any excellenceif there is anything worthy of praise
think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and 
seen in me practice these thingsand the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4: 8-9 ESV

3) For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. I Corinthians 13: 12 ESV - There is no philosophy, theology, theory, professor, teacher, theologian, scientist, or teaching that is completely and fully True. That is only found in God, and we are not capable of fully understanding Him. This is a life-long journey of sanctification that requires humility, wisdom, discernment, and study. Don't be afraid to question - and to question everything presented to you. There are very few things we can be completely sure of with our limited human understanding. And those things we can be sure of must be taken in faith because we cannot fully understand them: The Lord is God and He is One; Christ is the only means of Salvation, by grace, through Faith; All Scripture is breathed out from God and is reliable for teaching and rebuke.  Be Reformed and always Reforming. Have the humility to question and be corrected; have the strength to stand up for what is True, and Good, and Beautiful; have the Love needed to walk alongside your fellow life-travelers, all of whom are simply on this journey with you. Some may be ahead of you, and some may be behind, but all are just as reliant on the Grace and Faith granted them by God as you are. One day all will be fully revealed, but in the mean-time, be part of the process of God's revelation to the world. 

As you prepare to board that plane, and literally fly off into the world, I want to leave you with the benediction I heard your Grandfather recite almost weekly. This isn't an end as much as it is a beginning - and we will always be here watching, waiting, and loving you. 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than 
all that we ask or think, 
according to the power at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church 
[and in you] 
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations
forever and everAmen
Ephesians 3: 20-21

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Road Less Taken

Each year I try to choose a "theme" verse for our school year - a focal point to guide our studies and direct our paths, to keep us on the right path, and moving toward our school's goal "Educating the Future for Eternity".  I've had a very hard time choosing one for this coming school year. Nothing has seemed to fit where we are, where we need encouragement, and where we are on this journey....until I read my devotion a few days ago. It fits. It is exactly what we all need to hear and know, but it is a very unusual choice.

As many of you know, we have had a very difficult year, and from what we can see now, that isn't going to change anytime soon. To be perfectly honest, I have been struggling with anxiety and depression in a way I never have. I have been struggling to trust and hope in anything during a time when very little is within my power to influence or control. For the first time, I am struggling to see positives in anything - and when I look at what needs to be done and decisions that need to be made, my first thought is "what is going to go wrong this time" and "who is going to fail us now".

Within our family, we have been struggling with failing attitudes - the bickering, selfishness, laziness, and unkindness has risen to new heights. To be fair, being pregnant weakens my tolerance, so much of this could be hormonal mis-perception, and add on the other stresses and that level is even lower. But, I find little joy in being with my family because it feels like a constant battle -- and I'm tired. It is easier to just let it all happen, to turn on the TVs, ignore the chores not being completed, and hide in my room with Netflix. Yet doing that heaps on more guilt and stress as it increases, children's hearts are hurt by their siblings' mean words, and we get farther and farther behind. 

So when I opened up Matthew 7 this week, and read verses 12-14, it stopped me in my tracks.



This passage in Matthew comes after reassurances of "Ask, and it will be given to you: seek and you will find" (v7). "Blessed are the...., for they shall....". "You are the salt of the world....You are the light of the world.", "Your father who sees in secret will reward you". We love these parts of the Sermon on the Mount. They are uplifting, hopeful, and make life seem easy. But most of this teaching is filled with:
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you..."
"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out..."
"If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...."
"Love your enemies...."
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth..."
"..first take the log out of your own eye...."

The Sermon on the Mount ends with the parable of the house on the rocks. The usual Sunday School focus is on how the house stands firm. We don't spend much time talking about the storm, the wind, the floods, and the rain.

It is verses 13-14, and the closing parable, that encapsulate the Sermon on the Mount. "..the way to life is hard, and those who find it are few". "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock".

The promises of life, blessings, and reward come because of  and through the persecution, the constant fight against sin, and the self-denial of revenge, comfort, ease, and wealth. Those blessings are never promised in this life, but are promised as "treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (v20b-21)

Our theme verse for this year is not the most encouraging. It isn't one that is going to inspire a K-Love top 10 song. It isn't going to pack pews on a Sunday morning. But, it is necessary, and it is good, and it is real. The way to true life does not come through blessings, or rewards. It comes through weathering the storm, "work[ing] out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12),  being "poured out as a drink offering" (Philippians 2:17), and "lay aside every weightand sin which clings so closelyand let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesusthe founder and perfecter of our faith," (Hebrews 12: 1b-2a). 

We are choosing this year to take, in Robert Frost's words, "the road less taken". We are focusing on choosing the hard good things, instead of the easy popular things.  We want to study Latin conjugations, multiplication tables, logic and rhetoric, ancient mythology, biological systems, and systematic theology not for the jobs they may lead to, or personal interests, or college acceptances, but because they build a solid foundation in Christ, in right clear thinking, and wise decision making. We will choose kind words in humility, confession before accusation, and love over personal justice. We will choose to pursue the life of Life through the death of self.

Friday, June 8, 2018

A "Perfect" Baby

Blogging has made its way to the bottom of my priority list in the last few months. Since Christmas, I've had one area of life after another thrown into upheaval. In March, in 48 hours everything we thought life was going to be this year changed when we discovered baby #7 is on the way, 7 years after #6, then received back-to-back overseas orders. As we began to re-adjust our thinking and expectations, we received the phone call every expecting parent dreads.



"Your test results came back, and they are not what we were hoping. Your baby has Down Syndrome."

After that the rest of the conversation seems to be a blurr.  In a split second we were thrown into a world we never imagined would be ours. I've turned down offers to kill our little boy. God provided us with doctors who were very accepting of our refusal, but I do miss my pro-life OB office - no mother should ever be asked if she wants to kill her baby. When the phone rings, I now hope it is specialists and medical care teams ready to help with the next steps in testing and care. Every appointment comes with the chance we will be sent back to the US and uncertainty of what will be found.

So far, at 16 1/2 weeks, our little boy looks "perfect". But, we know he is still so very tiny, and so very much can be hidden inside organs and an extra chromosome. It is the word "perfect" that has struck me. I've heard it from doctors, friends, family, other families with Downs children - no matter what, he is your son, and he is perfect.

But he isn't. It has really bothered me hearing that he is "perfect". At first I thought it was just part of the process of coming to terms with his diagnosis and shifting my expectations - part of the process of thinking about him as a Downs baby to thinking of him as our son, who happens to have Down Syndrome.  It was my youngest daughter who brought me to the realization of why it bothers me. She caught me at a low moment. Giving me a hug she asked why I was sad. When I explained I was sad because I don't know what life is going to bring her baby brother. I was sad because of the things he may not be able to do. She looked straight at me and replied, "Mommy. It's just Down Syndrome. He is still my brother."

What struck me was not the truth of her statement about his diagnosis, but the truth about him, as another new human life. He is just like us - which is exactly why he isn't perfect. There has only been one perfect human, and he was also fully God.  Every single person, since Adam and Eve, except for Christ, has been conceived and born with a genetic defect. It expresses itself in different ways - selfishness, pride, lust. In some people it is more obvious - alcoholism, compulsive behavior. Sin infiltrates every aspect of our lives, our bodies, and ultimately leads to our death.

We've had a major cultural shift in the last 60 years from rejecting and marginalizing those who are different, to expecting everyone will be accepted and integrated. That has been a positive shift - understanding we are each created differently, and those differences add to our lives and communities more than harming them. We need to help each other in our weaknesses. and through helping each other, we are individually and collectively stronger. That shift means our expectations for our son's life are much brighter now than they would have been 60 years ago.

Are we taking that too far? As Christians, who believe there is "no one righteous", do we normalize the effects of Sin, the symptoms of Sin, by blindly telling ourselves we are all this way? It is the way God created us - ignoring that our natural state is deeply, deeply flawed. Not a single one of us is born the way God originally intended His creation to exist. While God has intentionally designed each and every one of us, the very existence of Sin means none of us are "perfect", and our imperfections are intended to turn our eyes toward God, to seek His redemption, and to push us toward complete reliance on Him. When we accept the effects of Sin as normal, as simply human and normal, are we marginalizing and even rejecting our need for God?

Has our cultural shift mirrored a spiritual shift from a lack of grace, to a rejection of a need for Salvation? Instead of hiding those who are obviously imperfect, we now glamorize and idolize what was never intended.

My daughter's comment led me to realize, maybe, at the deepest part of my heart, my grief, my sorrow is not about my son's diagnosis - it is about my own. His imperfect genes are written on his face; mine may not be as obvious, but are just as powerful and real.

My hope is all this comes from knowing: my grief over my son's condition is only an imperfect reflection of my Heavenly Father's grief over my condition. Just as my love for my unborn son pushes me to do everything I can to help him, my Heavenly Father was driven to the point of death on the cross to not just help, but to cure my condition. Every tear of sorrow and joy, every setback and triumph, every time we cry out for help for our son and rejoice in the achievements is a reflection of how God rejoices over me and mourns over my failures. I have no need to kill my son, because God killed His - for me, for my other children, for you, for my unborn son.

We don't have a "perfect" baby, but the "flaws" in his design are no different than the flaws in my own design - and they are there to point us toward the perfect baby in a manger, the sacrifice and pain of the cross, the joy of resurrection, and the hope of completed redemption when all things will be made new - and perfect.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 - 2019 Curriculum Plan

I've been putting off doing this yearly blog because life has thrown us a couple curve balls in the last couple weeks. While all our material for next school year has either been delivered or is expected in the next few days, exactly how I am going to use it may be changing. While there are going to be some significant changes in our school, I'm pretty certain the materials we will be using will be staying the same. They are bought and paid for! Our biggest change is moving from Tapestry of Grace, to single-spine History and a Great Books approach to literature.

10th Grade:
     Monarch (Alpha Omega Publisher) - this has been a success this year so she will be continuing with it. She will be taking:
  • 10 Grade English
  • World History
  • Algebra I
  • British Literature (we discovered Monarch's english courses are grossly deficient in literature. They focus on grammar and writing, so we are adding in a literature elective to fill out the curriculum.)
  • Spanish 2 - this is still up in the air, depending on where we are living. She needs a live class, but with our school location not certain, we do not yet know what will be available to us.
  • Biology
   Culinary Arts - we are looking into some on-line options, but hoping our new location will provide opportunities for either an apprenticeship or in-class instruction.

9th Grade

  • Ancient History - History of the Ancient World by Dr Susan Wise Bauer with the student study guide. This will be combined with Literature for cross-subject integration. 
  • Biology - Biology for the Rhetoric Stage (Elemental Science)  
  • Great Books: Ancient Literature - this is a course I've designed based on Great Books lists from "The Well Trained Mind", Mortimer Adler, Tapestry of Grace, and "Timeline of the Classics". This self-paced course will take her through researching the history surrounding each piece, a biography of the author, placing each work into its historical and literary context, and simply learning to enjoy great pieces of literature. She will be covering many ancient authors and works from Gilgamesh, to Homer, to the Bible, Plutarch, Josephus, and Aristotle. We are including some Philosophy, some of which will begin to count toward a Philosophy credit she will earn through her 4 years of high school.
  • Rhetoric I - This will include both IEW's Advanced Communication and completing Analytical Grammar
  • Algebra I - Math U See: Algebra I
  • Reformed Theology - Pilgrim Theology
  • Koine Greek - her choice for her high school foreign language! I am thankful Dad is heading to shore duty, so he will be around to oversee this one. 
  • Trumpet Performance I - continuing trumpet lessons, either private or with a band depending on our location and available resources. 
  • Fine Arts - we are waiting to see where our school will be located, hoping to use local resources for drawing and painting instruction. 
7th Grade

  • Ancient History - Kingfisher History Encyclopedia; library resources; primary sources  I have gathered. I will explain in a separate blog how this is going to work. 
  • Ancient Literature - This is also a list of literature I have put together from the resources above, but on a middle school reading level. It includes not just Greek and Roman mythology, but Japanese, African, Chinese, and Indian mythology and a first introduction to Plato. (Yes, middle schoolers can read and understand Plato!) 
  • Analytical Grammar (see above for the link) - 2nd season
  • Spelling You See
  • Writing with Skill Level 1
  • Biology - Biology for the Logic Stage (Elemental Science)
  • Math  - as Math U See is self paced, exactly what course he will be taking will depend on how skills come. I anticipate he will complete Zeta, setting him up for pre-algebra in 8th grade. We are also adding in Beast Academy for enrichment and higher order thinking. 
  • Latin for Children C - this will complete his elementary Latin, preparing him to begin High School Latin in 8th grade. 
  • Bible - their Dad and I have put together a plan to read through the Bible along with our history studies. The goal is not just basic Biblical literacy, but learning to read Scripture within its historical and literary context and learning to see how each chapter and verse fit into Redemptive history, especially in its relation to the person and work of Christ. We are also going to work through the Westminster Shorter Catechism using Training Hearts, Teaching Minds
  • Clarinet 
  • Fine Arts - Artistic Pursuits: Middle School 
  • Logic - The Art of Argument
  • Vocabulary - Wordly Wise on-line
5th Grade -  based on age, not on content (as you will see) She is becoming my Classical Academic Press poster child. Their material teaches the way her brain works!

  • History, Literature, Science, Logic, Fine Arts, Spelling, Bible, and Vocabulary will be the same as 7th grade. Spelling and vocabulary will be at her level. 
  • Grammar - Well Ordered Language Level 3 (to be released this summer) We have been working through Level 2 this semester, and I am thrilled with this grammar program! It has been perfect for my logic loving child who needs to be challenged. (Classical Academic Press)
  • Writing - Writing and Rhetoric (Classical Academic Press)  I am starting her in Book 4, knowing we may make it through 5 and possibly 6 depending on her pace. 
  • Ancient Languages - our very highly motivated girl wants to tackle Koine Greek. Mom and Dad want her still taking Latin (for the english, grammar, and logic skills it teaches). So we are going to work through both at her pace. Latin for Children B and Greek for Children A (Classical Academic Press) It may take 2 years to get through each book, but we are very proud of her for wanting to take on this challenge! 
  • Math - Math U See Epsilon - fractions. She will also supplement with Beast Academy for enrichment. 
  • Piano (maybe violin depending on available resources)
2nd Grade - also based on her age, not skills or content.  Her curriculum levels vary from typical 2nd grade up through 4th.

  • Ancient History - Story of the World Vol 1, Story of the World Activity Book, library resources. 
  • Ancient History based Literature - the goal is to introduce her to ancient mythology and Homer. While I have a rough list based on the resources listed for my 9th grader, exactly what she will read will depend on her growing reading capabilities and interest. 
  • Completing the Explode the Code series (if she hasn't by the end of the current school year)
  • Spelling You See (see link above) 
  • Writing Through Ancient History Level 1 Manuscript - Charlotte Mason based writing
  • New American Cursive
  • First Language Lessons Level 2 (we have the older edition) Depending on her development and skill acquisition she may transition to Well-Ordered Language mid year. 
  • Life Sciences - she and I will be working through human anatomy, animals, and plants. DK First Human Body Encyclopedia and Usborne Animal Encyclopedia are her main spines. Exactly where it will go will depend on her interests. I've re-arranged a few things so we are working in conjunction with 7th and 5th grade. Plants is up in the air until I know where we will be living. Ideally, we will plant a garden and take a lot of nature walks. 
  • Math - She began Beta mid-way this school year (multiple digit addition and subtraction) so I anticipate she will move into Gamma (multiplication) sometime during the school year. She also will supplement with Beast Academy. 
  • Bible - she and I will work through a similar reading plan to the 5th and 7th graders, taking it a little slower and focusing on the character of God. She will also supplement with the What's in the Bible with Buck Denver series. Absolutely the best children's resource for biblical literacy (historical, literary and redemptive history) She will also work through the Westminster Shorter Catechism with us. 
  • Latin - Prima Latina
  • Piano
  • Fine Art - Artistic Pursuits Elementary School book 1 and The Story of the Orchestra
It looks like a lot written out like this, but it isn't as bad as it looks when you consider many subjects work together across grade levels, history, literature, and Bible are integrated, and most of my children can now work independently. Most of these programs can either be self-taught or come with dvd instruction. My primary job now is overseeing it all, evaluation, and helping as needed. I hope to soon explain how we will use many of these resources, especially history, literature, and Bible, since we are no longer following a pre-planned curriculum. I also hope to get into how I plan on recording and documenting all the work they are doing, progress they make, and transcripting high school.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Art of Education and Worship

Have you ever taken children to an art museum? It can be an incredible experience or a disaster - or both. Art museums are one of my favorite field trips. Watching the look on a child's face the first time a great piece of art jumps out at them is beautiful. The look of wonder and amazement of a heart and soul touched in a way only art can makes the trip worth every ounce of effort.

You can take children to an art museum with little or no preparation, and they can enjoy it. But more often than not it takes some training. They need to know how to quietly look and observe - skills that are sorely lacking in many modern children accustomed to constantly moving images and sounds. Having a basic understanding of history, mythology, and Biblical narrative is helpful as they recognize stories in paint and sculpture.

Visits are also more enjoyable when children can participate in the art. One of my favorite homeschool memories is 8 children sitting in a Medieval ceramics exhibit enthralled in sketching a favorite piece or quietly telling me the "story" they imagine going on in a Renaissance painting. Some of my favorite photographs are of children imitating sculptures.

Repeated trips to the same exhibits deepens their appreciation and wonder, if between visits they have learned more about technique, color, perspective, artist, and style.  Monet's "Waterlilies" is incredible the first time you see it. Come back to it again and again after learning about painting techniques, Monet's home and life, and the use of light and color, and the depth of appreciation for the piece grows!

Few people think to take children to art museums because they think it will be boring. The problem isn't the nature of the museum, or the children, but a lack of preparation and skills needed to participate in the experience. To take a group of children raised on fast paced movies and video games to the quiet, sedentary art gallery is often a disaster waiting to happen. On the other hand, to spend hours studying technique, style, biographies, and facts without ever taking the time to simply enjoy is a sure fire way to undermine developing any love for art.

We tend to approach education, and worship, the same way we approach art.  As education is part of our worship, the two are intertwined. We all err toward one of two extremes. Either we have a check list of skills and knowledge that need to be covered, so we push through covering material and rarely stopping to enjoy the process, or we lead them to emotional experiences with little to no knowledge and understanding of what they are experiencing.

In a classroom, or home school room, we have our lists of topics to be covered, skills to be learned, and books to be read and stress when work isn't covered each week, or age/grade based benchmarks aren't reached "on time". We give our grammar stage students pages of math facts, time-line dates, Latin declensions, scientific terms, and Bible verses to memorize, rarely stopping to let them explore and experience the joy and beauty of it all. Or, we give a lot of experiences, living books, free-open-ended play, and don't require mastery of the skills and facts that equip them to fully understand and develop. Both leave students lacking, preventing them from fully delighting in and participating in what it means to be human.

Our churches do the same thing. We have Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights) filled with emotional experiences, bright lights, talented musicians, and inspirational speakers - but it is all emotional experience with no real hard understanding. Years of "1000 Reasons" and "5 Ways to a Happy Marriage" develop egocentric lethargic souls that have replaced the justice and majesty of God with a Being who is there to serve individual desires. Sunday puts us in the right mood for facing the world the rest of the week. In many other churches Sundays revolve around completing a check-list of skills and knowledge - statements of faith, creeds, catechisms, Old Testament readings, New Testament readings, confessions, sacraments. An hour (or 2) of great doctrine and theology, but lacking in Spirit, awe, and glorying in the Creator. God becomes something impersonal and a Being that needs to be satisfied through Sunday morning ritual. Neither bring us to a place of daily worship and deepening understanding of God.

This is not an attempt to advocate for a specific educational or worship style. They all have their benefits and weaknesses. None is perfect and all can be beneficial. My point is that we tend to forget we are physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive creations. We have been created to know, to understand, and to experience God and creation. We have been commanded to worship in Spirit and in Truth. We are not complete learners or worshippers, until we have participated as cognitive, emotional, and spiritual beings.

As a teacher, don't read about Newton and memorize his laws of motion without taking the time to go bowling - watching how force, mass, and acceleration work and rejoicing in the pins falling down. Don't go bowling and fail to study how the weight of the ball, the force of the throw interact. Struggle with how to figure out what mass and acceleration is needed to get the desired force. Read about Newton, memorize F=MA, go bowling, learn about angles and trajectory, and go back to the bowling alley.

As a christian parent, teacher or pastor, prepare for corporate worship as both a teaching experience and an encounter with God Almighty. Adults and children need to be prepared for corporate worship, and that takes work during the week. Training children in sitting, listening, reading, singing, and doctrine. It means memorizing scripture, learning the catechism, singing hymns and worship choruses, memorizing creeds, and understanding sacraments during the week so they can actively and knowledgeably participate Sunday morning. Corporate worship is "practice" and preparation for heaven - the great marriage feast of Christ and the Church. It is exciting, emotional, and a celebration of who God is and what He has done.  Sunday worship that is an emotional high without theological training leaves us without deepening understanding of God, limiting our capability of celebrating and knowing Him. Sunday worship that is all theology and liturgy without emotional, artistic, heartfelt response leaves us admiring the Kingdom of God without participating in the joy of the Wedding.  Sunday worship should lead us (individually and corporately) to desiring week-day worship and increasing knowledge, which in turn  adds to our Sunday morning worship - a cycle that ultimately prepares us for Heaven.  True worship develops the heart, soul, and mind by using both our cognitive understanding and our affective sensory, bodily experiences.

How are you growing in Spirit and in Truth? How are you leading your children in understanding, participating in, and experiencing the Creator and creation? Are you going to the museum? Are you primarily understanding the Art? Are you primarily experiencing the Art? or Are you striving for both, for being a complete human - heart, soul, and mind?