Homeschooling Thoughts (&Questions)

We started our homeschooling year early because of how busy we knew fall was going to be, so we are already a few months in. We’ve been using the Bob Jones curriculum that’s on DVD, and there are a lot of things I really like about it. The videos (for the most part) are really interesting and the kids like them. Here are a couple of the downsides and then I’m going to ask for your advice/experience.

The DVD’s were really expensive. Like, way more than we have ever spent before on homeschooling stuff, so I feel a need to salvage it. The way it was in our heads, in case there were days that we were traveling there would still be consistency as far as their lessons and we could bring it on the road with us. I imagined them being able to do it in the hotel, on the bus, car, or whatever. That sounded good but it isn’t really working out the way we pictured it (that’s never happened to you, has it?)  It’s also hard because they are in the third (A&E) and first (K) grades and with the baby I thought it would be easier to have them in two rooms doing their own thing and I could go back and forth and check in, but if I wasn’t available they wouldn’t get behind.

Here’s the thing, though. They aren’t really able to do it as independently as I was hoping, and what I think was supposed to be a 4 hour school day actually turns out to be much (MUCH) longer, because Todd and I are having to stay with them the whole time and really process things. We take turns on who we are with but neither side is able to get very far without us present. It’s gotten frustrating for all of us and I’m trying to figure out a new game plan for the rest of the year.

We bought the stuff and I don’t want it to go to waste, but I think the bottom line is that it isn’t as literature based as I would like for it to be and my kids just aren’t at a point where they can do it without quite a bit of help. And that’s fine. But if we are going to be putting in that kind of time I would much rather do a curriculum that I feel like is more “us.” For the record, there isn’t a thing wrong with the actual curriculum-I think in a few years mine would absolutely love it. Like any other, I think it just depends on the way you teach and the way your kids learn and I’m not 100% sure this is a fit with our lifestyle.

I’m not really sure what I’m asking, but I would love some thoughts from you home-schoolers out there. I have never “piecemealed” curriculum because I’m so stinking paranoid that I might be missing something they need to be learning, but I really feel like this isn’t working. Right now I’m tempted to let them keep watching some of the videos and then supplement. Has anyone out there done anything like that?

I know there are lots of other home-schoolers who have these same questions because I get them all the time in my email, so please share any thoughts here from what you have learned about curriculum. What has worked for your family? Do you switch it up every year? Do you have “non-negotiables” that you always go back to? Does it depend completely on the kid? HOW DO YOU KEEP A 16 MONTH OLD BUSY FOR THAT LONG?!?!?!

Today we spent the day on blankets outside and I feel like we got a lot done, but most of it was off the cuff and not really driven by any book or text. I know lots of people do this but I want to feel freedom and also know I’m keeping them on track. So just jump in and tell us what has worked/not worked for your family throughout the years.

PLEASE feel free to link to your blog if this is something you have addressed so that we can just click over and you won’t have to re-write anything here. I promise I’m not going to sit by the computer and await your comments.

That last part was a lie.



Learning On A Quilt

Well the Smith family is about to go on another school-year adventure. I’m so excited to dig in to the new stuff we got this year and also to invite you all to share your classrooms with us! I have gotten so many emails through the past few years asking about my homeschooling and I haven’t done a great job of sharing on here, so I’ll just tell you a little about where we are now.

I started Kindergarten with Abby and Ellie and used Sonlight. I liked it a lot but was still on the hunt. As a first time teacher I was so nervous I was going to leave something out that would completely ruin my child’s future. I needed to order the whole kit and kaboodle. And an extra couple kaboodles just in case. Everything had to be in neat folders, perfectly arranged, classroom poised and ready for the learning to happen.

I’ve swayed away from that a little bit, although I am still a complete sucker for back to school supplies. And don’t get me started on Curriculum Fairs. I am a dangerous woman at one of those. And despite the fact that they are better for the environment, I must say I miss the white Crayola markers. Have you seen the new ones? Anyway. I love the gear.

Last year we did Calvert, which I also liked. At this point I was starting to find my style of teaching and their style of learning and I don’t think that was the best curriculum for us. I think it would have helped if I could have let it go when we didn’t finish everything we were supposed to for each day.

What you’ll find is that there isn’t one magical curriculum you can order and have it all be perfect for every child. So, you have to do the hard thing (gulp) and start to piecemeal. I don’t really do piecemeal well. I would like it in a box, with my instructions inside, perfectly arranged so that nothing can be left up to me because I will certainly fail them…

With that said, I have grown stronger in my teaching and am trusting my instincts a little more. We are going to be altering this next year to fit the season we’ll be in. I chose *after much obsessing* “My Father’s World” as our main curriculum because it will allow me to easily include Kate in Abby and Ellie’s work, and also because they send a person to your house to care for your baby while you teach. No? That one would get my vote.

If you aren’t familiar with Charlotte Mason, you should be. She was an incredible woman with some amazing ideas about children and the way they learn. I just adore her, and honestly, it’s probably why the name Charlotte was one of my favorites. To me, it brings me to a time in life where children did their lessons outside while they explored. I love this idea, and we are going to be incorporating it more this year than we have in the past. One of her strongest beliefs is that children should not be read “twaddle.” In other words, read original, unabridged, masterpieces of literature and you will be brought up to that level. During the past few years I have seen that happen with my kids, and I love the natural way they ask about words they don’t understand and concepts they aren’t familiar with as we read.

A lot of people asked about curriculum and scheduling so I wanted to touch on them. In addition to My Father’s World, we are using Math-U-See for math and Apologia science (we are doing astronomy this year). I like this program because it does a great job of blending science and Christian beliefs. And, they threw in a denim jumper. That’s a lie. I bought it. I just wanted to see if you were still reading.

For spelling, MFW recommends a Rod and Staff program called “Spelling By Sound and Structure,” and also “Primary Language Lessons“by Emma Serl.  I love Rod and Staff…we have used their preschool stuff in the past as well and really liked it.

I tend to gravitate towards learning which is simple, classic, and inspiring. It may go back to my love of Little House, but I just think that we tend to complicate things sometimes. Literature saturated days, clean basics, and room for some outside time is the plan for this year.

The way we will structure our days is to start in the morning and finish up with formal lessons before lunch. We’ll take a short break to milk the cows and grind some wheat, and then we’ll pick up with nature study and art. Charlotte Mason also put a heavy emphasis on the role of nature study and I haven’t done a great job of this in the past. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the mosquitos and the heat, but let’s just say it hasn’t always gone according to plan. I have tried to plan these elaborate things and it just ends up being stressful, so we’re throwing down the big quilt and going with it. I guess that’s the theme this year :)

A friend of mine (and newbie homeschooler this year!) Kelly (Faithful Provisions) is meeting with a wonderful homeschool mom and author we heard speak a few weeks ago and we are going to try and have her set up a workshop for our readers. Once I get the scoop I’ll pass it along and if you’re interested we would love to have you come!

This is a really basic sketch of a couple things we are planning, but this is my favorite part. I’m going to put a Linky on here and I would love for you to put your site on here if you homeschool and want to share the way you do things. It’s so great to be inspired by other people’s creativity :) Feel free to leave comments too…I’m not really familiar with the Linky but I think you can do either one.

Talk to you all soon…


P.S. Please leave any homeschool advice, tips, pictures, or anything else you want to share. I am seriously so excited to read them all! Does this make me a dufus? Don’t answer that.

One of Wonderful Reasons I Blog infrequently…

I have loved homeschooling my girls. We’re praying about what to do next year with Kate starting and having a new baby around, but my heart hasn’t given it up yet. It is such a special time for us to be creative, think outside the box, get our hands dirty, and laugh until we’re crying. These girls, I tell you what. They bless me every day with their sweet spirits and genuine love and appreciation for all the Lord has given. I realize I still haven’t done a formal post about homeschooling yet but I wanted to share a few pictures with you so you could see some of our typical school day. We do a lot of prayer time, art time, math, reading, science, spelling, a bit of history, music etc. We kind of let their interests dictate exactly how we do it, so if Abby is playing with something she likes, we try to make a game out of it, like, “Oh Abby I see you like those little piggies. Why don’t you bring them over here and we can count them and give them names! After that, we will write a story and you can illustrate it however you want.” It’s a great way to use things they are already drawn to in order to pull them into activities they aren’t as inclined to pursue. We talk about everything, it seems. And we aren’t afraid of chasing a little bunny trail here and there…we’ve found they lead to some of the best conversations and quality time we have had.

Homeschooling is not for everyone, and I don’t even have a soapbox I would stand on in the event that I was trying to persuade you to do it :) Every family is different and as with many other decisions, here’s my motto: “Love your God. Love your children intentionally and well.”Pray about the situation and ask God to give you wisdom with any choice you are facing. When you feel confident about what He has revealed, take a couple brave steps in the direction of His voice and just keep listening :)

Here are a couple pictures of us on a school day…welcome to the class!!! :)


Kate did not approve of the food-colored spaghetti.
If you want to, ask some homeschooling questions in your responses and I will do my best to answer all of them. I am working on a little series chronicling my live and loves so that you all will get to see what takes me away from the computer all day :) I think it will be fun!
So, this is the first one. I homeschool my kids. It takes a lot of time and hard work, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Next up…SEWING! See y’all soon :)
Happy, happy New Year to you and yours…


Updated to say that you all are listing AMAZING ideas, books, etc…I can’t wait to visit these cool blogs and track down these songs!!!! Seriously, if you have a couple minutes, scroll through and make some notes! Blessings…
(original post follows)

This is kind of a weird post because I don’t usually write when I don’t have something specific to say, but I want to today.  We have had a hard few days, and I would love to write more about it later, when the kiddos are in bed. I am going to teach and head to the park in a bit…they are really in need of a “full-time mommy” after being at yet another funeral this week.  For those of you who don’t follow me on twitter, my dear aunt Fran passed away early Sunday morning and we have been in Georgia since Tuesday.  I have so many thoughts that I am trying to process about the heaviness of life right now…

When I feel like I am getting discouraged, I seek beauty and peace through scripture and prayer, and it may sound silly to some of you (and that’s okay! please keep reading :) ), but it really does help.  I may be quiet for a few days because I sense that the Lord is asking me to pull back from the blog and really be focused on the kids. I don’t really spend that much time on here, but I can just sense that they are a little off and I need to be more deliberate with my time.  We have been having some intense discussions about death and hurt and I feel like they are in a place of seeking.  It is really hard to watch them go through the process.
A precious friend of mine (thank you, Hollie!) made dresses for the girls, and as I dressed them for the funeral, I told them that my friend Hollie had made them for them, and I showed them the way the piping went along the collars and the seams, and told them how hard it was to sew like that and how grateful we should be to have these dresses. They are, by far, the most exquisite dresses they have ever had, and her talent is incredible. Ellie looked at me and said, “Is she alive, still, mommy?”  I told her yes, Ms. Hollie is alive and she said, “Oh good. I am so glad.”
The fact that they think to ask questions like that has really affected me and challenged me to make sure that I am responding fully to what they are walking through. Please pray for that, and that they will be able to see the Lord in all of this, and that death will not permeate their thinking. We try, and I think we are successful for the most part, but if you are a mommy who has walked through this, will you email me any suggestions you have on the subject? I would love to hear from you…I know there are a community of us who are trying to raise our children to face difficult situations with the Lord as our strength.
When I have a bit more time, I am going to post a bit about Aunt Fran and I am going to post a picture of the beautiful quilt she made for Audrey. Several of you tweeted me and suggested that, and I think it is a great idea.
For now (and I know this is random), I was wondering if you all would play along with me.
I realized last night as I skimmed through some of my favorite blogs that I am drawn to things that are beautiful in their simplicity, and just through images and words, I find great peace. One of those blogs is Lisa Leonard’s, a woman who has a beautiful heart, story, and incredible gift. She was kind enough to send me a necklace with my daughter’s initials on them after Audrey passed away. I didn’t know about her then, but I just love reading her blog because it is so pure and beautiful…if you need something inspiring, please click on over. It is so beautiful…to see her store of jewelry, just click on Lisa’s Store in the top right corner.
Another blog I love to read is the NieNie Dialogues, which tells the story of a sweet woman and her husband-they were involved in a private plane crash last year that took the life of the pilot, and while her husband Christian escaped with about 30% of his body burned, she had much more serious burns (85% I think?) and is still walking a very, very difficult road in her recovery. She has the most amazing outlook, and I am so drawn to her irrepressible hope. She is also insanely creative and infectious in her approach to love and life. Our theological backgrounds and beliefs are very different, but she is a true inspiration and I love the way she loves her family and her role as a mommy. Please join me in praying for her…she has never posted images of herself after her plane crash, and recently put the first one up.  You can see her eyes and the marks that this horrific crash has had on her, but the beauty is the same…
Another one I love is Amanda Soule’s. She inspires me in creativity and I could spend hours looking at her creative projects and ideas. I have her book, and if you are a mommy (or daddy!) who is looking for a great book of projects to do with your kids, I would highly recommend it. Mine is tattered and covered in post-it notes. I wish I had HALF of her creativity!!!! Love it. She has another book coming out soon, and you can be sure I will be talking about it :)
I could list many, many more, but today these come to mind and I wanted to share them with you in the event that you don’t know them…in the event that you need a happy place to drift off to for a bit, here are some tidbits :)
Random, right. I know. I warned you.
But I do hope you enjoy :) And as a sidebar, none of these people know that I am linking to them, and I don’t think Stephanie knows I exist :)
So, there’s a bit of beauty for the day.
(Switching gears)
I am going to write a post on homeschooling because a bunch of people have asked me questions about it. Keep in mind that I have only done it for one year so I am a total novice, but I would love to share my experiences with you all.  If you have any specific questions for me, could you put them in the comments section of this post or email me so I can try to address them? I also have some online and IRL friends that are way ahead of me in the process and I would love to have them chime in with their knowledge as well if you have questions about being “further down the road.”
So, in summary, today I am in processing mode and looking for inspiration and beauty in life. It comes in the form of music, art, books, nature, all of that. SO, this isn’t a contest, but I would love for you all to tell me where you go to seek solace from this crazy world. A song? A favorite place you go? A fun movie? A book you read and reread? A blog that inspires you? (And don’t any of you turkeys list mine! I am bored with myself :) ) Anything!!!
Make sure and read through the comments, because people say the coolest things. That’s my FAVORITE part of having a blog. I absolutely love what you all wrote when I asked about being “Her, here.”  I am printing them out for myself and have already used several!!! I have the coolest readers on the planet.
I love our friendship…
OK, off to teach. It may be an “on-the-lawn” day…the weather is gorgeous. I’ll stop back later tonight to read your thoughts.
Love to all of you, friends.

Seven Prayers A Day

*** In answer to some of your questions, I wanted to let you know that I do pray these out loud.  This morning, I kept my hand on Kate’s head while I read, and she smiled the whole time…and sat still!!!!!!! Praise God for small miracles….:) OH, and also thank you to the sweet reader who noticed I had written Ephesians instead of Philippians on the last one!!! I was tired last night:) It’s corrected now!!!! Thanks!!!***

I don’t really care that much about whether or not my kids are book smart.

Let me explain.
I do care, I just don’t care as much as I care about other things.  I don’t sit around and pray that my girls will learn to read today, or that they will understand a foreign language by the time they are 6, or that they will know their times table by next week.  I do spend a lot of time asking God to give them “undivided hearts (Psalm 86:11), ” and praying “that they will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel when they open their mouths (Ephesians 6:19).” I pray that God will help them to be good stewards of their time, their money, their words.  I pray for their character, their faith, their decisions, their husbands.  I want them to be wise, Godly women who chase after the Lord.  
I’m thinking that instead of getting a “My kid is on the honor roll” bumper sticker, I may create a “My kid has an undivided heart” one.  And then people will make ones that say “My kid kicked your ‘undivided heart’ kid’s butt” stickers.
Maybe not.
But, the point is that one of the most important things I am privileged to do as a mother is to pray for my children every day.  
The other day I came across a verse that God used to prompt me to write this post.  If you are a mom (or have someone else you want to pray for specifically), I hope you will join me as I do this for the next 7 days.  It struck me that I need reminders during the day to be praying over my girls, and I decided to choose 7 events in a day that would remind me to do so.  Then, I chose verses that had to do with that time of the day (for example: as my kids are getting dressed in the morning) and then I put them on notecards.
Here are the events and verses I chose:
1.  When they wake up: “Let the morning bring (child’s name) word of your unfailing love, for she has put her trust in You.  Show (her/him) the way (she/he) should go, for to you (he/she) lifts up her soul.” (Adapted from Psalm 143:8)
2. When they are getting dressed: “Therefore, as God’s chosen child, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Lord, help (him/her) bear with others and forgive whatever grievances (he/she) has against others.  Help (him/her) forgive as the Lord forgave (him/her).  And over all these virtues, help (him/her) put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Adapted from Colossians 3:12-14)
3. While they are eating: “Teach (child’s name) the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Teach (him/her) that (he/she) can do everything through him who gives (him/her) strength.” (Adapted from Philippians 4:12-13)

4.  When they go out of the house: “(Name of child), do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Adapted from Romans 12:2)

5.  While they are taking a bath: Lord, give (name of child)  clean hands and a pure heart, and let (him/her) not lift (his/her) soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Let (him/her) receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God (his/her) Savior.  Let (him/her) be part of the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. (Adapted from Psalm 24:4-6)

6.  When they are going to bed:  “The Lord Your God is with you; he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, be will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

7.  While they are sleeping:  “I pray that (name of child) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which he/she shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life-in order that he/she may boast on the day of Christ that he/she did not run or labor for nothing.” (Adapted from Philippians 2:14-16)

I feel like God has been reminding me more and more lately that I need to live my life in prayer. For my children, husband, family, friends, country, those in need, etc., etc.  As a mother, it has been so pivotal for my children to hear me praying out loud over them, and I want to commit to do this every day (seven times a day!) for the next week.  If you care to join me, just copy these verses onto index cards (or, if you came here from Jessica’s blog, feel free to print them on pretty  scrapbook paper and embellish your little heart out….:))
Let me know if you decide to join me, and please keep me posted (either by comments or emails) if  God reveals anything to you/your children this week. 
Have a great (and prayer-filled!) week. And may God bless you and your babies richly.
P.S. I keep trying to come up with fun acronyms for this little challenge, but they all stink.  Anyone have any ideas what we could call it? Something to do with seven prayers a day? (But S.P.A.D. isn’t a cute name…I know).  Let me know if you think of something…

Pictures and CD’s…

Okay, as promised, here are a couple photos.
First up, the x-ray. You can see the new teeth pushing out the old teeth. It is wrinkly-looking because it has been wadded up in my purse, in the event that Abby wants to show it to the check-out lady at Target. Or Sawyer. Or anyone who will listen. Those top teeth are not going to be as giant as they appear, right???? Anyone a dentist out there??? They look LARGE. 
And next, the chicken.  Need I say more?
She goes in for the cut…
And, here he is. Notice she is now too disgruntled to look at the camera.
So as I was posting these pictures, I came across a couple others that I thought you might enjoy. If you have read my entire blog, a) you are very patient, and b) you will recognize these from stories I have told…..
Remember when I told you (I Thee Wed…) that Abby pretended she was pregnant with a care bear?
Or that after we put the band-aids on the bunny, the girls had a little custody battle….

Or how about the time I told you Ellie cut her own hair? Yep, she really did.

And one time I mentioned that Kate was wearing an outfit that involved a life-jacket swimsuit?
                                                                         work. it. girl.
So fun.  And speaking of fun, how about a giveaway?!?!?! I love giving away great stuff, so here’s what we’re gonna do.  I am going to give away 5  SELAH BOX SETS!!!! If you want to enter to win one, just leave a comment on this post.  I will have a random number thingy choose 5 people from the list to receive a box set.  It is such great music…I had to share some!!!!! So, leave a comment and I will check back in tomorrow night to see who our winners are!!!! Please leave your comment before 6pm tomorrow night (9-9).  
Blessings to you all~

The Chicken

***update*** I will be posting the chicken picture and the X-ray picture when I get home next week:) Of course you need the visuals to go with the story…:)
I went in tonight to kiss my girls while they slept.  One of my favorite things in the world is to kiss their sweet, damp hair as they fall asleep after a warm bath. To breathe the sweet floral scent as their chests rise up and down slowly, and their faces glow with peace. In these moments, I remember the days right after they were born. Crazy, beautiful, glorious days.
Anna Elisabeth Smith was born on December 2nd, exactly 2 minutes before her sister Abigail Grace (this is pointed out frequently).  From the moment she was in the world, she has lived up to the typical “older sister” role. A few days after Abby was released from the NICU, we brought her home and she was having a really hard time adjusting.  One night, we put them in their crib (they shared one when they were teeny-tiny), and Abby was absolutely hysterical. We rocked. We fed. We bounced. We cried. We rocked again.  We gave up. We put her in her crib next to Ellie and walked out of the room to the sound of her screeching.  Todd and I looked at each other, trying to decide what we should do.  Should we give her a binky? Should we give her some Mylicon? Should we give her food? Should we give her away?
We were debating the plan from the family room when we heard the most glorious silence known to man.  It is the sound that makes hormonal, weepy, exhausted mothers fall to their knees in gratitude.  That sweet, sweet sound of nothing.
We tiptoed into the room where they were sleeping and we both melted when we saw what had happened.  Ellie had one of her thumbs in her mouth, and the other stretched out into her sister’s mouth.  She was two minutes older, and was already taking her role as big sister seriously. 
A few days ago, Abby (our daydreamer) decided to jump off a couch in a poorly-planned attempt to fly, and she landed on her two front teeth. Ellie insisted on coming to the dentist with us to sit with Abby while she had her X-rays done. We were all happy to know that her grown-up teeth were about to push out her baby teeth anyway, so there wasn’t any permanent damage. They let us have a picture of her X-ray, and if you have been within a 10 mile radius of us in the last several days, chances are you have seen it.  I have to carry it in my purse at all times in the event that Abby meets a stranger she wants to introduce to her “teeth-picture.”
Never a lack of adventure at the Smith house.
The other day, we had a really funny conversation while I was teaching.  We are doing Sing, Spell, Read and Write (which I LOVE!), and they doing great with their letters.  We were working on the letter “B,” and for one of the exercises, they have to cut, color, and glue the pictures that begin with that letter.  There are a bunch of pictures, but only a few that match the letter for that day.  As we looked through the pictures, I was saying things like, “What is this one? Ba-ba-ba-ball! Right! So that starts with B!”  Ellie starts cutting, but she is being more quiet than usual, and I tell her to start saying them out loud so I can make sure she knows what she is doing.  She does two in a row correctly and then holds up a picture of a chicken.
“Ba-ba-ba…..chicken.”  She starts to color it.
“Ellie, that is a ch-ch-ch-chicken.  Not ba-ba-ba. Ch-ch-ch.”  She has a look of disgust. She repeats, this time with a little more intensity.
I decide to take a different teaching route and start to point at another “B” picture.  ”What about this one, Ellie? It’s a ba-ba-ba-bus. See the difference?”
She is still coloring the chicken.  She pauses and looks me dead in the eye, crayon frozen in midair.
“Mommy, why do you hate chickens?”  Okay.  She’s serious. And I’m about to spit out my Diet Coke.
“Ellie, I don’t hate chickens.  It just doesn’t go with today’s letter.  Why don’t we hold onto it and we can talk about it when we do “C.” 
I can tell by the look on her face that this is probably not going to fly. Abby chimes in.
“Mommy, Ellie is right.  You shouldn’t hate a chicken.” Four eyes. Staring at me.  Accusing me of poultry-hatred.
“Girls.  I do not hate chickens.  I like chickens.  It’s just that chickens do not start with the letter B.”  They look at each other, and as a show of solidarity, Abby starts to cut out her chicken.  I bury my head in the lesson book so they don’t see me laughing. I did take a picture of Ellie holding the picture with a look of disdain.    
Later that night, a neighbor-girl was over and they are playing dress up.  And by “dress up,” I mean “destroying every closet in the house.”
I am in the kitchen making dinner when Ellie saunters in with a feather boa, tutu, and oversized purse.  
“Hi mama.” 
“Hi Ellie.  What are you doing?”
“We’re playing ballet dancers.  What about you?”
“Making dinner.” 
“What are you making?” 
“Chicken.”  Clearly I have not thought this through.
She stops in mid-prance and looks at her friend, who, apparently, is in the know about her chicken theory. 
“Told you,” she whispers under her breath.
Her friend nods in wide-eyed unison as they march into the playroom while I trail off…”I do not hate ch-ch-ch-chickens!” 
Two days later, Ellie announces that she is a becoming a vegetarian.  
I serve her vegetables, in order to prove that I am an equal-opportunity food server.
She smells them and pushes her plate away.
“I think I want chicken, mommy.” She smiles. We eat chicken (some of us with loose teeth), and of course during our nightly prayers, Ellie talks about her beloved picture, and the day early next week when he will rightly claim his throne as the “C” word.
Have I mentioned I love homeschooling? 
On another note, I want to thank you for all of your kind words for Todd. They meant a lot to both of us, and I hope that now he is over his “grammatical stage-fright,” he will be back to post again soon.  
Blessings to you all tonight…

A Thursday Morning

I’m just going to come out and say it.
I was really nervous about the whole “homeschooling” thing.  I put it on the blog, and then immediately, I kind of panicked.  ”Why?” you ask.  Why would a woman feel fear when she says the word “homeschool?”  A little background…
Last year, Todd and I decided to go to a homeschool convention.  About $100 later I decided this was going to be fun.  Curriculum, planning, fresh pencils….ooohhh this is Type A heaven.  I told my neighbor I was thinking about it and she suggested I start braiding my hair and invest in a denim jumper STAT.  I did neither.  
Recently, one of my friends at church (Hello Heidi!) invited me to a homeschool get-together. It’s kind of a play-and-pray thing where the kids play and the moms pray.  What a cool idea, right? Yeah, cool up until the night before at about 11:00 p.m. when I start to wonder how this is going to go down.
“Todd.  They aren’t going to like me.  I’m not going to fit in.” I pause, waiting for him to play the role my dad did when I was in 6th grade and tell me I was sure to be everyone’s favorite friend (I wasn’t. I’ll save that story for another day…).
“Why do you think that, Ang?”  Oh no.  A reflective question.  He’s dodging it, I can tell.
“Because their kids are really smart, and Todd…..and I’m…..” I pause, and then with great conviction, spit out these words….
“I’m a subscriber…” I start hyperventilating.  This is not going well.
(If you haven’t read my entire blog, you have no clue what I am referring to. Don’t worry about it.  Just know I love Jesus, but I also want to know what Keith and Nicole named their new baby…Sunday Rose, in case you are curious. But you didn’t hear it from me.  I am a homeschooler.)
I am suddenly imagining kids who make the Sound of Music crew look like hooligans. And they are playing their violins.  I have recently discovered that all home-schooled kids play the violin, and you will do well to just say the word “Suzuki.”  That’ll get you in the door.
And then I am picturing Kate.  Who will probably try to eat the violin, and may use the bow as a weapon, while the well-mannered children lay hands on her.
This is going to be a train wreck.
And to top it off, my mom-jeans are in the wash.
I decide to go, and to make the best of it.  I adore the 2 moms who I know from this group so I thought I would survive.  On the way over, I told the kids to practice their new Bible verses, interspersed with the word “Suzuki.”  You know, just in case. 
I debated about leaving Coco in the car, but it was hot, and I didn’t want her to get all sweaty. She’s not heat-tolerant.  She likes it right at about 71 degrees.
I get the kids out.  Oh wait, I forgot the best part.  They wanted to color on the way over, and in my mind I was thinking, Perfect.  I will have them color maps of Russia, and then they can sort of just fall out of the car when we get there, and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, a map of Russia, you are so smart, Ellie!’ Maybe not Russia, maybe Africa….now we’re getting somewhere…

Um, no.
What happened was that the door opened, and Abby decided that she was going to boycott the whole shindig, so for three straight minutes, I had to say things (loudly and with dripping sweetness), “Oh Abby, honey, let’s go see your friends! It will be SOOOOOO fun!!!!!” and then under my breath, “Abigail Grace if you do not get out of this car and say something in Spanish, you are NOT going to Chick-fil-a. Remember Dora? You can count to ten, right? Uno, dos…..”
“NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!”  Abby throws a crayon into the driveway and I, unwilling to give up the charade, decide to make lemonade with my precious lemons.
“That is MAGENTA, Abby! You LOVE ma-gen-ta, right?” She looks at me like I am speaking French and coloring Russia.  Kate starts saying “ma-gen-ta” louder and louder while staring at me. Then she starts rocking back and forth and slapping her legs to the beat in her head. It’s loud.  REALLY loud.  ”MA-GEN-TA  MA-GEN-TA  MA-GEN-TA.”  She is now tossing crayons left and right, fully immersed in her new anthem.

Abort mission, abort mission…..
So I did what any self-respecting mother would do in that situation. I made a deal with them, and I’m not going to lie.
It involved the dollar spot.  
Bonus item for using the word “ubiquitous” appropriately in a sentence.
Dresses smoothed, hair spit-fingered down.  We walked into our homeschooling destiny like thoroughbreds.  I think two of them held hands.  What can I say? Overachieving is in their blood.
As we walked around to the back of the house, I saw some kids playing on the trampoline, and they looked, by all means, very normal.  Actually, downright adorable and laughing their heads off.  Feeling a little better…the kids are not ready to be integrated yet, so they come with me into the house.  Which is just as well, because at this point I need accessories. 
We walked through the back door and greeted everyone, and it absolutely turned out to be a blast.  The moms were all great, and the older kids took care of the younger kids while we all chatted.  Abby and Ellie loved looking at the birds and Kate didn’t hurt anyone, so by all means, it was a success.  
It really made me think about the way I compartmentalize people…this group intimidates me….this group will think I am too this…..this group thinks I’m out of my mind to do this….etc.I realized I had been worried about nothing, and I felt really welcomed and normal, and a little sheepish about my freak-out.
All it took was a Thursday morning.  If any of you GCC moms read this, know that I am grateful for you, and so glad to have such a great group of women to share life and teaching with.  And I am sorry if my kid kicked your kid in the shins.  She really is a dainty flower most of the time…
Yesterday, I was teaching the girls and we absolutely had a ball.  I decided it would be fun to let you all see our little classroom, and share some of our favorite time of day.  I have starting implementing some of the creative ideas that people sent to me, and I am really feeling good about the whole thing.  The room itself is what we in the South affectionately refer to as “The bonus room.” We don’t really have basements, so this is kind of the trade off.  I hope you enjoy these! And I will tell you ahead of time that if you like any of the decorations, they probably came from Ikea, and were less than $20.  I love that place….

                                                                 Ellie hard at work.
                             Kate’s very own pencil-bag to learn and to create and to…..
                                             …destroy my plan for a “no-bath” night.
                                 Um, yeah, that’s a glue stick. Say it with me, SU-ZU-KI.

                                                   All three girls…aren’t they sweet?
   I’m so proud of my girls (all 4 of them:)) …and so grateful to be their mommy.
                                                   I am a blessed, blessed woman.
As a sidebar, thank you so much for your support regarding my speaking engagement…I am so excited I will get to meet several of you.  I don’t have any more info about it right now, but I will post it when I do.  I’m also going to be sending you an invitation to come and meet the WHOLE Smith clan (and hear Selah sing:)…do you live in Michigan?), so stay tuned….
And the Bible study…still waiting for final confirmation from the church, but I am thinking we will start in the next 2-3 weeks, and I think it will be on Monday evenings at 6:30…this is subject to change, but that’s where we are now.
Love to you all on the eve of, well, another Thursday morning.
I hope it’s a good one for you.