Experiencing generosity has a way of opening our hearts to extend generosity.

This has been true many times in my life, and probably more than ever since we moved to Atlanta. Here we are surrounded by poverty and we get to witness so many people sharing their time and resources to meet other peoples’ needs.  This week someone showed me an example of generosity and now I’m wanting to be a better giver.

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On Wednesday Ruthann drove a little over an hour to spend a day and night with us while Steve was out of town for a couple days. She helped me with housework and childcare during the day. She’s the kind of person who is not intimidated by the mess and dirt in our house and she’s quick to encourage other people. We laughed and talked together over chicken coconut wraps<< on the patio, and had a fun evening walking the Beltline with lots of other Atlantans.

<<a link to the recipe, so you can make them, too

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On the way back to our house we pulled up to a stoplight, and a woman with a cardboard sign caught my attention. We talked through the window, found out what she was needing, and I told her we would buy her some food.

(One of the boys offered the last two bites of the Larabar he was eating. So sweet of him, but we let him finish his snack.) :)

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We drove into a nearby drive thru and Ruthann  pulled her wallet out of her bag. She said she would like to pay for the food we were buying, “Because we don’t get the opportunity to do this for people as often where we live.”

Ruthann’s gesture of paying for the food, her spirit, and the way she saw serving as an honor was so beautiful to me. That word opportunity  has been circling my thoughts ever since.  I’m realizing that as these opportunities have become routine for me, they have started looking a lot less shiny and a lot more inconvenient.

When we got back with the food it took us a minute to find the lady again, but she was still there. She seemed really hungry and almost snatched the bag from my hand. I was so glad we had gotten food for her. We also left info about where to call for more resources.

It’s so good to see our life through fresh eyes. After hearing Ruthann’s perspective, I’m thinking of how much more I could give. Instead of simply handing a bag of food, I could also hop out of my car and give a hug, too. (Kind, human touch is something people living homeless do not get very often.) I could easily spend a few more minutes to really listen if someone wants to talk, and I could ask if they want me to pray with them about their needs.

I’m feeling inspired to find happiness in giving.  I hope you feel the same.  

On Gifts not Received

You would have noticed her, too, the woman leaning into the passenger side window of the car parked next to mine desperately begging from two men who were equally determined not to be disturbed.

When she didn’t leave even after they clearly showed they weren’t offering her any help, they simply drove away without a word–leaving a woman cursing the back of their car and a boy about eight years old watching tail lights.

I’m not sure why I wanted to help her because, If I’m honest, when I walk into the parking lot and see another person looking for charity headed my way I often sigh inwardly. It happens so often and after five years of many people walking away when I offer them the thing they are asking for–food, transit–I’m finding it harder to respond to their requests with patience and love.

As I unloaded my groceries I found myself hoping I’d get a chance to talk with her.  Not surprisingly, she headed my way next. She said she she needed help, that she was homeless, that her little brother was killed in a fire in a hotel a few days ago.

I asked if they needed a place to stay. Surprised at my question, she said they did, but her needs became deeper with every offer I made. There were eight of them. Her mom is in a wheelchair.  She didn’t want to go to a shelter because her sister was raped in one a few days ago.

She was shaking all over and her shoulder muscles were bulging. Her son yawned as though he was bored. A security guard was keeping an eye on us–ready to step in if needed.  I was doubting her story; but if it was true, if even part of it was true, she really did need help.

I told her I’d make some calls to see what I could do to help. She stepped aside, and I went to the back of my vehicle to get a couple bananas while I was calling Steve. I had a pretty strong sense that her story might not be true, but still wanted to help if I could.

A few minutes later I had the phone number ready. I looked up expecting to see her at another car begging the next person while waiting for me, but she hadn’t stayed  to see if I could help. Another time I might have left, but God had stirred compassion in my heart and I circled the garage over and over hoping to see her again.

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She was gone. I drove home with the phone number and a couple bananas on my lap, a little sad, praying for a stranger, hoping that she would find the help she needs even if it looks different than the help she’s looking for.

When people are desperate and we want to offer hope. We give freely because we know a God who offers second chances, who loves unconditionally, and who can completely change lives. We really want to share Him with others.

What we have to offer could change someone’s life.  It might be passed by.  It’s disappointing when our gifts (whether it’s just a couple bananas or something much more life changing) are rejected or abused, but there is peace in following God when He leads us to do good whether or not giving results in changes we want to see.

Sometimes stories don’t end the way we wish, but it’s always right to offer love.  And when you think about it, the story might not be over.

Golden.

14 Sept-0153_WEBOne night Zac and I took a walk at sunset and were treated to such a pretty show.

Sometimes only one of the boys walks with me. They feel really special to have a little outing with mama all to themselves. They chatter and tell me their deep thoughts.

These pictures were taken in October, but I loved the golden sunset so much, I still wanted to post them.

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Walking up the street from our house toward the park:14 Sept-0136_WEB

At the top of the bridge we cross, we can see the skyline to the left. To the right we watch trains coming and going. MARTA runs every fifteen minutes and the freight trains go through several times a day.

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The sunset cast a golden glow on the city–absolutely beautiful!   14 Sept-0171_WEB

 

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We crossed the bridge and walked to the park. It was warm, but cool, so we just sat and looked at the sky. 14 Sept-0185_WEB  A few bats came out for the night (look closely and you can see tiny black dots close to the lights). Bats are Ian’s favorite animal, so now we’re excited whenever we spot them. 14 Sept-0192_WEB

Recommendations: Homeschool Edition

After so many, many words (Homeschooling Methods Part I and Part II) I need a minute to catch my breath.

Today I’ll share inspiration from others.

1) In the get-it-right-frenzy that homeschooling posts can be, this is an invitation to take a seat: Homeschooling from a Place of Peace and Rest

 

2) A cute craft.  (Mrs. Tiggy Winkle?) It would be nice if there were instructions, but the website is unresponsive. Making this hedgehog looks simple, though–like a paper plate folded in half and shaped just a little for the face. Great scissors practice for little ones.

(Edit: We just made a hedgehog with a coffee filter. It was fun, but Ian had a hard time cutting the filter.  Our scissors were pretty dull,  but maybe a paper might be a better material to cut.)

paper hedgehog for scissor practice -- too cute

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3) Listening to stories is a great diversion for winter days. The boys like listening to audio books while we’re traveling and while they’re building or drawing. Books Should be Free is a  website that offers free audio books. I linked to a classic that we’ve listened to several times.

4) The Biggest Bear is a delightful read–both because of the story and the illustrations. Enjoyed by ages two to adult.  If you haven’t read it, add it to your library list.

5) It’s Christmas vacation, so you might need extra activities to keep everyone busy. Here’s a chart to help children create their own fun if they run out of ideas on their own.

Free printable - no more, "Mom, I'm bored!"... This is going up on our wall ASAP!

[Get the free printable copy here]

Girlfriend’s Guide to Homeschooling Methods, Part II

This series of posts on homeschooling is a conversation about homeschooling methods. When I started homeschooling three years ago, my former teacher skills and thoughts heavily influenced our choices. Some of them have been helpful, but I'm learning that homeschooling takes it's own form.
Three Factors That Influence Your Method:

1. Your student(s): The first thing to consider in making decisions about homeschooling is your child–his personality, interests, strengths and learning style. Sometimes we look at the material in front of us and think about needing to teach multiplication and third grade language and this whole book of reading. The bigger picture is that, as we school our children, we’re nurturing them as they are on their way to adulthood. We’re helping them grow into mature, responsible, self-motivated learners. When you think of schooling a person instead of simply teaching material you’ll be more intentional, but the teaching process also becomes more natural because it’s simply an extension of parenting.

Parenting has already taught you how uniquely each of your children has been designed. Each child is a whole new discovery, it’s so much fun to learn to know each person and help them grow and develop their abilities and character.

Just like in parenting, in homeschooling you learn to understand your children individually which helps you find unique ways to help them grow to their potential.  All of our children love verbal affirmation, but I’ve noticed lately that Ian really wants to grow when he gets affirmation. Like one day he spilled a drink and cleaned it up without me reminding him. I always try to encourage this kind of habit, so I said, “Hey, Ian, I’ve noticed that you’re growing up. Just now when you spilled that drink you cleaned it up without me even telling you to do it. That shows me you’re becoming more responsible.”

He was really happy with the praise and since then has been trying even harder to clean up after himself. Today I heard a bowl clatter on the floor and soon he was telling Steve, “Mama said I’m becoming more responsible. Did you hear something falling down? But do you see it on the floor? Do you know why? Because I picked it up!”

I’m sure you notice the same kind of patterns in your children.  You see when you explain something,  and it just clicks with your child. You notice how interested he is in patterns or night skies. You might see that his brain seems to freeze if he has to sit still for too long, that he likes for life to be extremely predictable and orderly, he remembers his chores better when he has a visual reminder of what he still needs to do, or if he memorizes words put to music super quickly.  These are clues to your child’s makeup, and you simply use them as a guide in teaching your children in a method that makes learning natural for them. You can use what you already know about your child to help you understand how he might learn best. So far I’ve mostly been working with Zachary, so we could customize everything for him. As we add more students to the mix then we’ll need to adjust a little, I’m sure.

Each person’s personality will influence how they study best, and most people generally have a preferred learning style (auditory, visual, or kinesthetic–just do a google search if you’re unfamiliar.)

Some students can’t concentrate when there is other noise in the room. Some students might not understand a math concept until they can see a drawing or graph(visual) or they might not be able to think of the answer to the math fact on a flash card until they hear you verbalize the fact (auditory). Some students might need to form letters with clay or draw it in the sad to help them remember the how to write it (kinesthetic). They won’t know to tell you this, though. You get to uncover the mystery. :) A kinesthetic learner (not as common as the other two) would learn much better with a homeschool method that is hands on and explorative such as Montessori. Incorporating all the learning styles into school is helpful no matter which method you choose. Some methods incorporate a variety of learning styles more easily than others.

Even though a curriculum or teaching style is excellent, it may not work for your child.  That’s okay. Even if other moms are raving about this amazing program, it doesn’t mean it is the right fit for your student. This makes homeschooling confusing at first (because you can’t expect the exact formula to work for you as works for another mom), but it’s freeing once you learn to know your student(it takes time–sometimes more than a school year, so give yourselves lots of grace), put together your own collection of ideas and teach in ways that work for your students.  One of the advantages of homeschooling is that it is extremely customizable.

If school is a daily struggle or frustration, it is less likely to be a behavior problem and much, much more likely to be a disconnect between the teaching style and the student.  If school is frustrating or difficult most of the time, maybe you could find someone to help you understand what you could change.  The hardest, best choice I’ve made so far was scrapping curriculum I’d spent $$$ on less than halfway through the school year because it was not working.

"If a Child Can't Learn the Way We Teach..."

2. Your Personality and Abilities: Some of the teaching styles appeal to my ideals and some to my reality. I’m learning that I need to be realistic about the strengths and limitations I’ve been given. One of my strengths is that I’m flexible and don’t need things clearly defined to feel successful. One of my limitations is that I do not have much physical stamina and sometimes need to teach from the couch. Also, I am a terrible record keeper.  

Although I love the structure and discipline a school style or classical education style of teaching would give, I am finally realizing that while I could teach in that way, it would always be a struggle. It would always feel hard for me to put that much organization into school while also running a house and being a mom to children who aren’t in school, yet.  For a person who loves order and schedules, having that much structure might be the key to keeping her sanity, er, thriving. Looking at your parenting style might give you a clue about what kind of homeschool style would work best for you. 

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Your level of comfort with teaching will be a factor in whether you use a method that is super-teacher involved where you put together your own materials or if you choose a method with a curriculum that spells out some to all the instructions the teacher should give, or even virtual schooling where you mostly monitor your students. Even if you don’t feel confident in your ability to homeschool, if you want to teach and are willing to learn you definitely can teach your children.

A  factor we needed to consider, of course, was my health. I still have days where I am teaching from the couch. I needed to look at a method of teaching that gave me the flexibility for those days–where it didn’t matter if we couldn’t get through five pages of a lesson every single day. Leaning more toward a Charlotte Mason style means that we spend more time with all three of the boys and I cuddled on the couch reading together which is perfect for us.

Sometimes I still feel so lost in how best to teach and sometimes I worry a lot that we’re missing something important either educationally or with  character development. Homeschooling really  stretches you and shows up your inadequacy. It takes more patience than you have stored, more wisdom, more love, more studying and hard work  than you feel you have strength to give. You sweat, you cry, you rant–sometimes. But it comes back to this–God chose you to be your children’s parent and He’s equipped and prepared you for this step. Just like in parenting He can use our inadequacies to help us realize how much we need Him and to make us more like Him. He is also so gentle and will lead us through each stage and each question and guide us to find the answers we need.

3. Your Circumstances:  So you’re considering your child’s needs and your own abilities then there are a few other things to throw into the mix–your location, your family size and stage, your state requirements, and whether you’re homeschooling for a year or two then integrating back into a school or if you’re likely homeschooling long term.

A few things that have weighed into our decisions–we live in a city,  we have not yet developed a local homeschool support network, Steve and I both have teaching experience, we have long term health issues, Steve works Tuesday-Saturday, our state laws require we have 180 days of school lasting at least 4 1/2 hrs. per day (not a problem! I’m not sure how people finish by noon).

Having access to a great library system is significant in making living books an affordable option.  Some homeschool methods rely heavily on whole books vs. textbooks, and we can more easily use that kind of method than if we didn’t have access to good books. Living in the city also makes it more difficult to do extensive nature studies, but we have access to great museums of historical locations. 

When I taught Zachary kindergarten, I had a fussy newborn, I wasn’t feeling great, and I was potty training. hahahahha.  Yeah, I would not do that again. If I knew then what I know now, I’d know that there is no rush to get through the books. (And, I’d do my best to be okay with lots of people suggesting that I should have started officially schooling even earlier) I’d do a lot more learning through play, keep reading books, and wait until things settled down to start doing workbooks. If I had another baby, even if it was in the middle of the school year, I’d take off a whole month at least, and school later into the summer.


This advice from a friend was perfect for me when I was trying so hard to make school-at-home work:

It took me a few years to find what works for us. Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to explore and get out of your comfort zone.

The teacher in me had a really tough time being okay with some methods not testing each subject every 1-4 weeks.  I gulped hearing that textbooks might not educate as sufficiently as well-written biographies and non-fiction books. These were the kinds of things that took me out of my comfort zone, but now I’m so glad for the nudge to probe options beyond the obvious.

The next post will begin exploring the methods.  Stay tuned.

An Atlanta family's story: learning to love God and others

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