Thursday, August 28, 2008

Officially Two Teens

Today there are officially two teenagers living in the Cortright house now that Alex is thirteen. Of course with all the prepubescent hormones raging, it has felt like two teens for quite some time, but today it is official. Thus, a holiday at our house. That's right, no school and no chores (I must give him credit for feeding the dog this morning though). He gets to choose what we are eating and what kind of dessert we're having. King for a day, but he is required to shower before we leave the house.

It really seems like it wasn't that long ago that he was just a baby, but I won't be all sentimental today. I won't go on and on about how cute he was with his yellow blankey and passy, how busy he was during his toddler and preschool years, how I wondered if he would ever be able to pay attention long enough to handle more that one instruction at a time, and how proud I am of the young man he is becoming. Toady we will celebrate becoming a teenager - pizza for lunch, a stop by the game store, and rock band all afternoon.

Yep, life is good even with teenagers in the house.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Times Flies

I just dropped Lindsay off to drive with an instructor for the first time. Seems like it wasn't that long ago that we were teaching her to ride her bike with no training wheels. Fortunately she has always been our cautious child. Right now I am feeling thankful for that.

And yes, I am feeling a bit sentimental. I mean my baby is quickly becoming an adult and I'm not sure where all the time has gone. Today she is learning to navigate through the streets of town. Six hours of driving instruction and she will be able to have a learner's permit (I sense lots of blogging material when that day arrives). That doesn't seem like very much time to learn to handle a vehicle on a busy street.

Too soon she will be navigating through life on her own as well and these few years don't feel like enough time to teach her all she needs to know about making decisions. She is already forming her own opinions about the world, beginning to branch out where I can't always be there, trying her hand at new things with out me. Naturally I wonder if I have given her enough, taught her enough, loved on her enough.

When our kids are first born it is hard to imagine that those sleepless nights will ever cease. People tell you how quickly the time will fly, but it's hard to imagine life moving that fast. Today I know just how fast life moves. In the blink of an eye they are picking out their own clothes, studying on their own, making their own money, and learning to drive.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Balancing Act

Some days being a parent is just plain hard. Every child is different. Every parent is different. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. What motivates one child doesn't necessarily motivate another. And apparently, there is not a parenting handbook. I keep waiting for mine to arrive, but after 15 years, it doesn't appear to be coming. No one else I know received one either.

Of course, there are a few things I have figured out -

As a parent you want to give your kids all of their heart's desires, yet do what is best for them.

As a parent you want to protect your kids from any hint of harm, yet give them some freedom to explore the world.

As a parent you want to pass on your faith to your kids, yet give them the opportunity to find their own.

As a parent you want to teach your kids manners and kindness, love and loyalty, compassion and unselfishness,and also passion for what is right and just.

As a parent you want to say no to all the influences of the world for your kids, yet give them room to grow into their own person.

As a parent you want to do everything right for your kids and not cause them too much harm along the way.

It seems parenting is just a huge balancing act - balancing what we want for our kids with what is best for them. It is also a huge lesson in trust - trust that the God of the universe is big enough to look out for us as we look out for them.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Looking for Inspiration

Summer is slowing fading and a new school year is just getting underway. After all these years of homeschooling, I find myself looking for something new and fresh to give me a kick start. I have been looking for articles, books, just some inspiring something to jolt me like lightening and cause me to jump out of bed bright and early every morning with great anticipation and teach these little people again how to read and do math, how to live like little people instead of savages. So in my search for some great inspiration, I find myself at the beginning again. Let me explain.

In the beginning, I was looking for a name for our school. I wanted it to really mean something to us, to capture the heart of what we wanted to accomplish on this journey. One day I was reading Psalm 1:2-3, "But his delight is in the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." So the plan is to know God, to delight in Him and become a tree, yielding fruit. It's just like the tree in my yard - it is wired to produce fruit even in the face of strong storms as long as it stays full of sun, soil, and water.

We named our school The Learning Tree (thanks to our friends who helped come up with name based on Psalm 1). So in looking for something inspiring, I realized that the inspiration for each new year, and really, each new day is in the name. We are learning to know God, meditate on His word, listen for His voice and follow His lead. The end result? Bearing fruit (hopefully) - becoming what we were wired to become - writer, musician, drama queen, ball player, storyteller.

Wow, that sounds so simple, but each day is an adventure in trying to live it out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Peaceful Morning

Even though we officially started back to school a week ago, the plan this morning was to get going a little earlier and add math (no one was excited about adding math). However, my house is so quiet and as I just walked past their rooms and watched everyone still sleeping, I just couldn't bring myself to wake them. There is no law that says we have to start and end at a certain time - the beauty of homeschooling. And if I am serious about learning occurring all the time, regardless of the hour, then I shouldn't be too concerned about what time we start today, right?

So I think I will enjoy these last few peaceful moments of the morning because once we begin math, the peace will be over.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More than Surviving

When you spend all day everyday with four little people trying to teach them how to be compassionate, have manners, think of others first, and you throw in a fair amount of academics along the way, the days can be very full. There is barely enough time to simply live life. Well, that is changing at our house. This year, we are living life and learning along the way. Yes, there will be plenty of time for math and science too. The plan is to do more than just survive another year of school, but to make learning part of our life.

So with surviving in mind, I read this on Marybeth's blog this morning and just had to pass it along. Enjoy!

I Will Survive (the first year of homeschooling)
Originally written and produced by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Originally performed by Gloria Gaynor
Mercilessly altered with apologies by Natalie Criss

First I was afraid,
I was petrified.
Kept thinking I could never teach
'Cause I'm not certified.
But we spent so many nights
Reteaching homework that was wrong.
I grew strong,
so now I teach my kids at home!
We study mathand outer space.
I just kept on despite the fear
with a big smile across my face.
I bought a set of Base Ten blocks.
I bought books with answer keys.
My parents think we're nuts,
but they don't even bother me

Come on, let's go walk out the door.
We're on the road now,
'cause we're not home much anymore
My friends would laugh and say we'd be unsocialized.
I heard one mumblethat I'd give up
by July.
Oh no, not I!
I will survive!
As long as I know how to read
I know we'll be alright.
I've got all my life to learn.
I've got energy to burn and I'll survive.
I will survive.

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart.
Decided to attend
a play date at the local park,
and I met oh so many moms
who offered eagerly to help.
They used to cry.
Now they hold their heads up high,
and so do we!
My kids are cool!
They're not those chained up little people
stuck inside at school.
So if you feel like dropping by
and just expect us to be free
you'd better call ahead first
'cause we're probably busy

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back to the Beginning, Again

When I began this blog, I said I wanted school to be more than something we check off our list everyday, to find the adventure in learning again. So with this idea in mind (remember, I am quite the idealist), we officially began a new year today with a new attitude towards learning. Of course all six of us learn differently and for now, we are going with it.

Lindsay wants freedom to explore her own interests - this is why we homeschool, right? So we have given her the wheel this year. We have had conversations with her about realistic goals for her age and ability and we are letting her choose what and how to accomplish these goals. She has made her own list of books to read this semester and dove right into Latin II this morning.
Alex just wants a list of things to do (contrary to our new attitude) so he can check them off and be free to pursue other learning opportunities (in the form of baseball and video games). He's a little tricky. I think it will take a little more work for him to acquire this new attitude and not see school work as a chore.

Jonathan is a little easier. he's content to read or be read to, he memorizes things easily and still loves to pretend. We did have a little snag today with him. In an effort to emphasize learning as a lifestyle and not a check list or something we begin and end, I did not make a huge deal out of our first day. Unfortunately, Jonathan was a little disappointed that we didn't have the usual fanfare. I think going to the pool today will more than make up for that snag. Seven-year-olds are easy that way.

Overall, it was a good day and at the end when we asked the kids what they had learned, we didn't hear lots of facts. Lindsay talked about life lessons in taking care of family, Alex was intrigued about why Paul said deacons have to be so upright, and Jonathan (in the fact gathering stage) did tell us the state and capitals he learned from a book he is reading.

For me, the lesson came at the very end of the day from a comment by Lindsay about a book she is reading by Donald Miller. In his book, he comments about a friend's work ethic and how our work, no matter what we do, is simply a form of worship.

cooking dinner, cleaning toilets
teaching algebra, reading biology again
correcting children, wiping noses
checking in on family members,
looking after nieces and nephews, being a friend
a form of worship to the Creator of the universe
Who gave me this incredible opportunity.