Friday, March 22, 2013

{Psalm 121}

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. ~Psalm 121

I have read this Psalm many times and I was always a little stumped as to why it used the word "keep" when talking about what God the Father does for His children... and then tonight it made sense to me (so much so that I just had to share!).

The word "keep" doesn't mean "prevent," like I originally thought, but rather it means "protect." What an incredible realization!! If God were to "prevent" us from harm, that would take away a man's free will. Evil exists because of man's ability to choose (to do good or evil).

Instead, God protects His children from the harm of the sun and the dangers of night (v6), He protects us from ALL evil (v7a), He protects us daily, even in the mundane tasks (v8), all the days of our lives!! How wonderful to know my God will do all of this for me, a sinner who deserves none of it?!?!

Thank you, Lord, for loving me, keeping me, saving me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

{Homeschooling FAQs}

This post is to answer some common questions and address the most common myths related to homeschooling. I am going to answer the questions based on my family, so they will be specific answers, but they can generally be applied to any family thinking about homeschooling.

How do I get started?
No matter which state you live in, you first need to visit the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website to find out how to legally homeschool. Every state is different, and each state has its own laws regarding homeschooling. If you are not abiding by the law, you can face fines, serve jail time, lose custody of your children, or all of the above. =(

Once you find out the specific law(s) for your state, HSLDA can also put you in contact with local organizations in your area. These organizations connect you to other homeschool families and can help answer specific questions related to homeschooling, provide support and encouragement during your homeschooling years, as well as offer guidance in making homeschool decisions.

Specifically related to our family, we homeschool under South Carolina's 3rd Option. That means that we align our home school under an "umbrella" group. This group oversees our schooling each year. The specific group that we use is Palmetto Homeschool Association (PHA). In order to legally comply with option 3, we submit the required documents to PHA each year. Just to be clear, PHA is our legal umbrella group and NOT a support group. Although PHA does support us, it's primary function is to be our authority in schooling.

What about socialization? Won't my kids "miss out" since they won't be around other children?
This was a concern of mine before I knew much about homeschooling. I grew up attending traditional, public school and truthfully, homeschool children were the children who got expelled from public school for one reason or another. It wasn't until moving to SC and attending our church did we find out how popular homeschooling was (and continues to be!).

There are many options for "socializing" your homeschool children. (I use the word "socialize" in quotations because no one lives an isolated life; we are all surrounded by people. Every day life provides countless social situations and therefore countless learning opportunities on how to behave in those various social contexts). There are support groups, co-ops, group classes or lessons, etc. that exist outside of sports, church activities, and neighborhood friends.

Our family belongs to a support group for field trips. Each semester (usually in August and January) the group meets for a planning session to discuss ideas for field trips and set dates on the calendar. There are over 100 families in this group so there are typically 2-3 field trips planned for each week. Obviously we can't participate in all of those, but we do try to do at least 1 field trip each month. Another way my children are "socialized" is through weekly piano and pottery lessons. These are both done in a group setting with other homeschool families. The pottery lessons are actually provided through the city in which we live- homeschooling has become so popular that even the City is taking advantage of the many ways to include us! Finally, my children are involved in sports leagues through the city as well as active participants in our church's youth programs. My kids are surrounded by people of all ages and abilities, and they receive the same opportunities (if not more) than a typical public school child.

We have met many families we otherwise would not have known, and friendships have been formed that would not have otherwise existed, because of homeschooling. Sometimes, we have found that we actually have to decline participating in certain activities simply because it is easy to become "too socialized" and neglect school. That is a balance each family must find on their own. The point is, there are countless opportunities to participate in social functions.

What about curriculum? How do I choose?
As you homeschool and meet other homeschool families, conversations inevitably turn to curriculum choices. The reason is not because we are "comparing" ourselves to others, but because there is SO MUCH out there that it is interesting to find out what others are doing. That is part of learning, and it is part of what makes the homeschool community so eclectic. Plus, if you homeschool more than one child, what works for one child may not work for another. Knowing families who have used a curriculum that is different from you can help you decide on what to choose without having to purchase it first. I know I am so thankful for my homeschool friends who allowed me to borrow books to see if I thought it was something that would be useful for my family. Also, if you use a curriculum that others have used, you can compare the way you do things. I have a friend who greatly enjoys spending time on the "extras": doing further research, going places, completing more experiments, etc. She has been able to tell me which ones were worth doing and which ones should just be skipped, saving me time and trouble along the way. Also, many curricula come with teacher guides, textbooks, workbooks, etc. In some cases it may not be necessary to purchase EVERYTHING, even though the publisher suggests it. With others, all of the books may be necessary. Again, this is where knowing someone who has used a particular curriculum is helpful as you can find out before purchasing which items are essential for a successful school year.

There are many books in the library on this very topic, so much so that it can be overwhelming. My suggestion as to how to decide on which curriculum to use (and I will admit, I followed my own advice) is to find a homeschool family with children you admire. You want to look for a family that has children who display the very characteristics you are hoping to instill in your children: smart, godly, well-behaved, whatever it is you are looking for and hoping to accomplish through the years (remember, schooling takes time). Once you have found your family (or families), talk to them to find out what they used. Ask to look through some of the teacher guides to get a feel for them, ask them what other curriculum they've used (chances are, they've used many) and which ones they liked and didn't like. Of the ones they didn't like, why didn't they? Why do they like the ones they are currently using?

You also need to have a realistic idea of how your school day will go. I have young children who attend preschool several times each week. I have to drop them off and pick them up. I also have to take into consideration various appointments for each of us, running errands, grocery shopping, extra-curricular commitments, etc. It is a rare day for us to be home all day. Because of that, it is important to me that the curriculum I use be flexible so my kids can take their work with them. On the other hand, some families choose to do all of their schoolwork on DVDs. That obviously won't work for our family since I can't leave my kids home alone yet. Perhaps one day we might switch to that method of schooling, but for now, I need to be able to car school, waiting room school, parking lot school, along with home school. =)

Homeschooling in the elementary years sounds easy enough, but what about when my child begins high school and the classes become more difficult? I was not a strong student myself in math/science/english, how am I supposed to teach my child in that area?That is another comment I often hear from people when they find out we homeschool. My answer is simple: either use the teacher resource book that accompanies whatever curriculum you are using (each lesson is written out in explicit detail) and seek help if/when you need it OR don't teach your child in that particular subject.

The wonderful thing about homeschooling (well, one of the many wonderful things) is that there are so many options to choose when teaching your child/ren. There are classes available for any subject or grade level. Of course, there are fees associated with the class, but it may be worth the price if it is beneficial to you and your family. For instance, there are many homeschool families in my church who participate in a science class. There are several classes as they are broken down into groups (such as biology, chemistry, general science) and by grade level. There is an instructor who teaches the course, assigns homework, administers tests, etc. It is very similar to a traditional classroom, except only one subject is being taught. I plan to use this option when my children reach high school. I enjoy science, but I have a weak stomach and there is no way I could supervise (let alone lead!) a dissection. I also plan to do this with high school literature; I think that type of class warrants participating in a discussion with one's peers. I enjoyed my literature class so much and gained perspective from my peers during those class discussions; it helped make learning engaging.

There are so many more options, this is just one. Again, talk to others who have graduated children (if you are concerned about high school courses) to find out what they did or are currently doing. Most homeschool families are happy to share with others about something we feel so passionately about.

Do your children really graduate with a high school diploma? How is that possible?
Yes, my children will graduate with a diploma since that is the option we are choosing. Again, go back to the first question about getting started to learn more about the various options of homeschooling, especially in SC.

****************************************************************

I realize the topic of homeschooling is very broad, and I have only addressed a few of the questions I am often asked. If you have a specific question that I did not answer, or would like a more complete answer to a question already posted, feel free to leave it in the comments. I will do my best to answer you in a timely fashion.

Monday, March 18, 2013

{Updated Blog List}

I updated my blog list to include some blogs that I have been following for a while but weren't linked. I also removed some of the links to blogs that were no longer being updated. I may add some more to my list, time permitting. This clean-up/update has been long overdue! :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

{#1 Bon Jovi Fan}

My grandmother was the biggest Bon Jovi fan. She had full-length posters of him in her laundry room, bought every newspaper or magazine that wrote an article about him, and recorded every interview with him. She attended several concerts (including traveling out of town), even going back stage to see him personally. Can you guess why?

Jon Bon Jovi was my grandmother's great-nephew. His grandfather was the brother to my grandmother. I don't remember when he passed away (it could have easily been before I was born, I honestly have no idea), but my grandmother and Jon's grandmother were very close. My grandmother would visit her in New Jersey, and Aunt Lizzie even came to Akron to visit my grandmother (which is when I got to meet her). My grandmother was very proud of Jon and his accomplishments. Many family members helped Jon to attain the success he enjoys today (but that is another story far too complicated to share), and my grandma was proud of all who were involved in Jon's career.

At her funeral, there were family photos displayed around the funeral home. Some I had never seen before, many I remembered from years past, and I snapped pictures of some of the photographs because they were still-shots of a time in my grandmother's life when she was truly happy and vibrant...exactly how I remember her.

Do I think it couldn't have been more fitting that Jon was in concert in Cleveland the day of her funeral- no way!!

Below is a picture of her and Jon backstage at one of his concerts in 1989 I think (sorry about the glare)....


My grandmother's wedding day in 1936 (she is the last on the right, with my grandfather behind her)....

Sunday, March 3, 2013

{Anna Bongiovi Micale}

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in in the house of the LORD Forever."  Psalm 23
 
The tears are flowing as I write this, and sleep just wouldn't come to me last night. Just before bed, I received a phone call informing me my grandmother had passed away. I knew this day was coming, had been expecting it for years, but death's blow was shocking nonetheless. I thought I was prepared mentally, but obviously I wasn't. The above Psalm kept coming to my mind, so I thought about it all night long. I am thankful the Lord is my shepherd.
 
My grandmother was an amazing person. She was spunky and determined and loved her family. She was the glue that held us together, especially when I was a teenager. I would go visit her on my own and those are times I will always cherish. We enjoyed many talks about life, some good, some bad, some ugly, but always truthful. She shared her wisdom like grandmothers do, and I pondered it like a good grand-daughter should. Lately I have been thinking about her, wishing I could call and talk to her about my dad as a child. Of course I've heard the stories, but now that I am a mother to a child with a personality similar to my dad's, I would love to know how she kept from losing her hair. =)
 
She overcame many odds in her lifetime, experiencing things that would have killed most people her age. Her love of family and determination to go on contributed to her longevity. In August, she celebrated her 98th birthday- amazing! I pray I live a life as long and full as hers.
 
She battled severe dementia the last few years, so March 2007 was our last "real" visit with her. Tristin-Grace was only a baby, and probably won't ever remember her, but I am thankful my grandmother got to see, hold, and spend time with us. Her memory became worse very quickly, and the following summer, in July 2008, she didn't know who I was. That was the last time I saw her- it was too painful to see a woman I loved dearly have no idea who I was. As time passed, it got to the point where she didn't know anyone, not even her children. I refused to remember her in that way, so I stopped visiting her. I inquired of her through my dad and aunt, but I want our time together those 6 years ago, and all the times before, to be what I remember about my grandmother.
 
By the way, Annie is named after her and shares a similar personality. Although tiring at times, it's refreshing to me to know the potential she has as a woman.