Sunday, August 26, 2012

Waiting Out the Storm

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The unfamiliar hum was one I couldn’t place as was the gentle rocking motion that followed. I did not rock back and forth as if a grandmom was rocking a treasured grandchild to sleep. The too and fro, left and right and back again, left me puzzled but not disconcerted. I was a small child. This much I knew. Unafraid but uneasy. Waiting. Watching. For what?

I squinted trying to catch a glimpse through the darkness of time and space. A yellow bulb swayed above my head. Its narrow arc illuminated the quiet faces staring back across the space. Wide eyes. Taught faces. Watching. Waiting. For what?

Was it real? Was it a dream? Was it me? Where was I heading, and who was with me? The curtain of time would shift and with it my ability to grasp the sounds and sights I could not chase. They were gone almost before they began. Oh, the agony.

- - - - - - - - - - – - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Before my foot hit the top step as I headed out into the yard this morning, I could feel the world holding its collective breath. The quiet, so calm it was eerie, startled me. There was no hum of air conditioners. No dogs barked. The silence was disorienting.

I paused a minute trying to get my bearings. Was it as quiet as I thought? Even the breeze, strong enough to lift a strand of hair from my face, failed to trigger the sound of rustling leaves. I looked up and noted the absence of birds calling or darting from one tree to another.

Humidity's grasp was not so much a grasping claw as it was a limp and worn out handshake. An industrial shop vacuum was at work sucking all the available moisture from the air to deposit it in another place. The sky was blue. Clear and cloudless blue. With each breath I took, the air became lighter and drier.

I stood and looked around me savoring the silence and stillness. Closing my eyes, I waited for the silent slip of a breeze to carry me away. The curtain of time lifted taking me back where I had been. The storm had passed, and my mom, brother, sister and I were being evacuated. The yellow bulb began to sway. The hum became insistent until it was a roar that vibrated my soul.

My brother told me. The images were not some wild dream or mirage conjured up by a wanna-be writer's overly active imagination. They were long lost friends from a time gone by. My memories were true.

Little Girl Me
I am no longer puzzled by their fleeting return. I only wish to hold them longer. For to me, they are little girl magic. The big people realities of all that was transpiring was lost on me then. When the curtain of times lifts, it is still magic.

I opened the door this morning to find the little girl me waiting. Even without the weather forecasters, I would have known there was a storm a-brew. She scratches at my memories and reminds me of the calm before the storm.

The day moves me along, but I resist. I savor the feel of the air and the sense of light raining down around me from the cloudless sky. I am hours and hours and hundreds of miles away from where Isaac will make landfall. And yet, I feel him coming even from here.

I wait. I watch. I check in with friends knowing that for them, the storm will not be little girl magic. It will be anything from a happy and unexpected day off suitable for a party to a life altering event. I watch and wait knowing I have friends whose faces are taught with tension as they ride it out wondering what the morning will bring.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The little girl in me gives way to the adult who now understands the reality of the bare yellow bulb and the faces staring back at me. I breathe a prayer knowing the waiting, watching, and uncertainty is bone crunching. God speed to all who are waiting. May you have peace, rest, and safety as the storm passes by.

Love you long and strong. See you after the storm.

Courtesy B. Creasy 2010
Amos 4: 13 (Amplified Bible) For behold, He Who forms the mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what is his thought, Who makes the morning darkness and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is His name! 


Friday, August 17, 2012

20/20 Vision From the Rear View Mirror (pt. 2)

Courtesy A. Hughes
When I began this homeschooling journey almost 16 years ago, the choice was a stop-gap solution. Every year after, I looked for a sign indicating we could return to normal. Normal being a traditional school setting. When Son #1 was a 2nd grader, it was a foregone conclusion that all would be 'normal' again by the time he reached middle school.

A funny thing happened on the way. By funny, I mean God was up there slapping his knee and doubled over as he laughed at my wisdom. He was laughing as my definition of 'normal' changed.

Life is but a Vapor
On the cusp of middle school, I realized what we were doing was not broken. Our approach did not need repair! I still hyperventilated over what his adulthood would look like and how it would unfold. I feared hearing him ask, “Why did you do this to me?” more than I feared hearing the naysayers harrumph and whisper, “See! I tried to tell her!”

Now that I am perched on the edge of a soon to be empty nest, I appreciate how much faith has been required to continue this journey. Altho' I have not chosen to homeschool because of religious convictions, my faith has been a pivotal and foundational marker of our journey.

I have callouses on my heart and knees from the time spent praying for wisdom and discernment. In some situations, answers came quickly. One year, I came home from the local homeschool resource store with a lighter pocketbook and heavy heart. Our academic testing results had not arrived before the time had come to purchase curriculum. It was during our season of homelessness, so every penny really counted.
As I perused the aisles and leafed through books, I cried out in prayer for guidance in choosing. The next week, test results arrived. I realized I had chosen the resources needed to foster my son's strengths and reinforce his weaknesses. It was a sweet day indeed knowing God had heard and answered my prayers.

Courtesy M. Horrocks
Other answers have been harder to see and longer in coming. Many times the prayer has been, “Lord, just don't let me screw this up! This is an entire future for two men in the making we are talking about! What if I get to the end of the journey and either of them fails to launch successfully? What if the naysayers who question socialization are right and one or both of them can't find their stride out in the 'real' world? Who's gonna be sorry then?”

Today, Son #1 is taking a non-traditional route to his Bachelors degree. He will receive an Associates degree next spring after three years of college. Along the way, he has traveled to China and Australia for work-related experiences that have strengthened his academic vision. He is now working as an intern web designer and taking part-time classes.

Sometimes, he frets about taking a different path than his high school peers. I remind him that his dad and two uncles, all traditionally schooled and professional engineers, took longer than four years to graduate. If he's asking, “Am I normal yet?” The answer is, “Yes. You've always been normal.”

A Metal Head and His Peeps
Son #2 is considering his options - including making the jump to a local charter school that will allow him to graduate from high school with his Associates degree. Despite his Asperger's diagnosis, he never meets a stranger and has a heart full of empathy. He is developing a ministry for disaffected youth that gravitate to the heavy metal music scene. Some days I'm so proud of him. Other days . . . I'm scared to death for him in an 'Oh my goodness! What is he getting into now' kinda way!

Am I still uneasy for the future? You betcha. I wonder every day if and how they will attain the American Dream. In that regard, I am no different from friends who are university faculty with four traditionally schooled graduates. As I poured out my angst to my longtime friend, she smiled. She told me her husband, a man with two Ph.D's and four very successful children, sat in my very chair and cried literal tears, “Am I enough? Have I done enough? Are they ready for the world out there? Have I given them what they need to make it?”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
As I gaze out through the rear view mirror of life with the 20/20 vision it affords, I see the answer. It is so simple. No. We are never enough. We will never parent and/or school perfectly enough. All God asks is that we, as parents, do our best in consecrating our efforts to him. He did not give us the task of being 'enough'. Because if we were 'enough', our children would never need him.

Oh, fraidy cat, do you fear never being enough? Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Relax. We don't have to be enough because he is. Love you long and strong. See you soon?
Courtesy B. Creasy 2010

2 Corinthians 12:9 (Amplified Bible)But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 


Friday, August 10, 2012

My New Love Affair and A Giveaway for You

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Technology and I are not on easy terms. If Testosterone Unit #1 so much as rearranges the icons on my desktop, I require oxygen. Imagine my surprise when the courageous folks at Home Educating Family magazine asked if I'd test drive one of their new products, My Well Planned Day digital planner.

Since I once reduced my loving BIL's super-sized flat screen to the blue screen of death, I can just imagine everyone in Cyberlandia screaming with hysterical laughter at the idea of my being a software tester. What were they thinking, right? Crazy like a fox if you ask me. If I can use it, anyone can. Anyone. 

The last time I attempted to use a software planner, the results were scary. Before the computer finished shutting down, I was at the office supply store with a five subject, college-ruled notebook in my grubby little, fist-clenched hands sniffing those paper pages like a deranged addict.

Thus ended my foray into planning life before it happened. Just ask my three testosterone units! I went back to my comfortable, old school modus of putting what happened down on paper after the fact. Till Home Educating Family entered my life.

The producers of My Well Planned Day have created a monster. Me! In fact, I have been up till two a.m. (or later but you don't need to know) four nights in a row wandering around the Well Planned Day halls of organization and planning muttering to no one in particular:

Why didn't anyone tell me life could be like this? Oh, my mercy! Look what that tab will do! Forget about doing lesson plans and tracking grades. I can manage my 'to do' list, assign chores, create menus and grocery lists, track projects in progress as well as plan new ones, track the budget, and more! If there's any time left over, I can torment my 10th grader with the most well laid out, well thought out lesson plans on the planet.”

Family members can log in and see my diabolical, I mean helpful, plans for them. A coming update will allow the software to sync with Google calender. Between those two features, my digital wishes will be their commands. They are gonna love me for it; I just know they are!

The HEF/MWPD folks are offering webinar Q&A's and other tutorials as new updates are released. (Releases/updates are included in the subscription price.) You can visit a Facebook page to stay abreast of breaking news. True to their promise, if you report an issue, they get back to you within forty-eight hours. In my case, they were kind enough not to point out that I created the issue. Either that or my secret is safe with me. <innocent lady-like grin>

Shut up! This thing is the bomb! In my professional, non-nerdy, sedate and scholarly writer's opine, of course. Here's the deal, if I - the antithesis of what it means to be a technophile - can not only embrace but drool over this software till I'm in danger of short circuiting my lap-top, you know you have to have it! Your non-homeschooling friends are gonna beg you for one, I promise! What is not to love, people? 

Because fraidy cats don't go anywhere alone, the producers of MWPD have given me a secret code which you, dear visitor, can use to get a $15.00 discount off the purchase price of $65.00. You didn't think I was going into the brave new techno-future alone, did you? Nope. I'm dragging you with me. Here's the secret code which you can only read with a secret decoder ring: 11wpdblog12The code expires on October 1, 2012, is case sensitive, and has no spaces! 

The even better news is that one of my readers will WIN a one year subscription to the Well Planned Day digital planner. Just think, in a few weeks, you might have short circuited your laptop too! My other new techno-buddy, Rafflecopter, is at the bottom of the page waiting to walk you thru the entry process.

Sorry: because of international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is applicable to
US entries only. The contest ends on October 25th with the winner announced on the 26th! (FYI: This giveaway is not connected to any social media site.)
Courtesy D. Ahola

While I receive no affiliate income from HEF's sales of My Well Planned Day, they have graciously allowed me use of the software for a year, so I can keep feeding my addiction. Isn't that sweet?

PS..if you are like my darling friend, Tammy, and are the queen of contests/sweepstakes,HEF is hosting MWPD giveaways every day for the rest of August.  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 6, 2012

My 20/20 Vision for Your Road Ahead (Pt 1)

Courtesy T. Parker
I remember the days from the trenches when the future yawned farther than I could see. I still have moments of wonder and uncertainty. As of today, five hundred forty-six days and counting till our last graduation. (But, who's counting?) There ought to be a hearty, “Yee-haw!” in there somewhere, but the rejoicing kinda sticks in my throat.

With the 20/20 precision of hindsight, I find myself perusing the past. I'm thinking about what worked and what didn't. Wondering about the newer bells and whistles homeschool publishers are producing and wishing there had been more time. Mostly, I am looking for God's handiwork as he wove it in and out of our days.

Lots of things have changed over the course of my homeschooling career. Our community has grown up. We toddled and stumbled as we worked to get our schooling-at-home legs under us. Back in the day, we clung to each other and moved as a group. Local Yahoo loops facilitated our connections. Mom's meetings were all the rage.

Courtesy T. Parker
As time moved on, we started to feel less interdependent and struck out on our own. We left behind pre-packaged curricula and abandoned Yahoo loops for co-ops, blogs, Facebook groups, and online classes. Look at us go! And grow. We can do it all by ourselves now. On the good days. When we are in the trenches, not so much.

With the beginning and end of each academic year, we reassess where we've been and where we're going. We wait for God to show us the end result when we aren't even sure of the next step. Faith calls us on despite our hindered vision.

In that regard, we are like every other mom out there whether a stay- at-home, homeschooler or a mom working full-time outside the home. Whatever our schooling choice, we all wonder the same things in different ways. What will the end look like, and how can I get there from here?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Before homeschooling was the cool new trend detailed in the Washington Post or Wall Street Journal, I felt conspicuous and odd. I told myself I was ahead of my time, but I felt like the gawky, awkward teen destined to be a misfit and always prone to public ridicule.

I kept waiting for God to give me a sign that we could march in step with all the ones lined up to go to 'regular' school. I wanted so much to be one of the bigger, more popular gang. In his wisdom, he never opened those doors. And now, as I look back on where we've been, I understand the journey and appreciate the gift.

I think tonight of what I wish someone had told me when I was in the trenches with no end in sight. I want you to know now what I wish I had known then.

  1. Courtesy A. Squi
    It is ok to be different. God created your children with a unique purpose in mind. Ephesians 2:10 is a great reminder when the sense of being on display nags at you. 
  2. He will equip you to foster their gifts and equip them to fulfill his purpose. (Hebrews 13:21)
  1. As you trust him, he will confirm your path and bring along helpers to bolster you in the journey. (Psalm 32:8)
  1. It is ok to be transparent and ask for help when you are struggling. (Proverbs 15:22)
  1. You do not have to have all the answers - not even for today much less for next year. (Hebrews 11:1)

Courtesy B. Creasy 2010
As I look back over the last fifteen years, I can see how each of these truths was real even when I was at the mercy of many internal fraidy cats. You know, the ones that keep you up at night wondering if you can get up and do this one. more. day.
Come back tomorrow, fellow fraidy cat. Whether you've homeschooled for a decade or are wrestling with the decisions over when and how to begin the journey, I'll have a story to tell just for you. Take a peek at our homeschooling journey. See where we've been and where we are poised to go because of it. I'm amazed, and I think you will be too! 


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Swimming Upstream While Blindfolded

Courtesy A. Hughes

It's that time of year again. Store aisles are crammed with back to school supplies. Retailers sell those at a frenzied pace so Christmas stock can prematurely fill the shelves again. In homes throughout the land, the air crackles with anticipation.

No matter what schooling option you embrace, this time of year lends itself to apprehension and re-evaluation. Will my child get 'the right' teacher? Has he or she lost gains made last year during summer downtime? How in the world am I going to navigate three carpool lines at the same time!

For the homeschooler, the questions have a different slant, but the categories of worry are universal. Will I be the teacher my child needs? Are we on track with what the rest of the world is doing, or should I be doing more faster? How in the world will I teach three children in three different grades and tend to a roaming toddler on the loose?

In our home, we've begun the count down to graduation. As of today, five hundred thirty-seven to go. O.K. I've started the countdown. My 10th grader is mostly oblivious and only cares about the number of hours left in today's school day.

I began to feel the future coming last year this time and panic rose. All I've been, maybe all I know how to be, is a homeschooling mom. When I am done, it will be who I've been for eighteen years.

This past week, I visited our local homeschooling supply store. Many years, it's been my home away from home. I count the former owners as my extended 'family'. The matriarch and I reminisced and commiserated. She has said goodbyes to so many as one family after another graduated their last. I will join those numbers. It is sad - that future I see coming.

I laughed about all the 'new stuff' I wouldn't get to explore and how my visits are few and far between now. I wondered aloud how it will feel when I don't have the answers to questions posed by those coming along behind me. Time moves on, and we move with it. I tell myself that's a good thing, but I am already in a race with time. I'm trying to redefine me before the inevitable gets here.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I think of you. For now, I am still in the trenches with you. Some days the trench is deeper than others, but I see the end of the ditch up ahead. I see you wrestling with an unknown future like blindfolded fish swimming upstream. I hear the questions echoing in your soul.

Am I smart enough? What if we've made the wrong decision, and everyone else is right? Maybe we should just throw in the towel and swim with the rest of the fish who know where they are going. When the future gets here, will my children thank me? Will I take a deep sigh of relief as I watch them fly, or will I drown in despair if they flounder to find their footing in an ever more fraidy cat world? Oh, the questions that haunt us are many as the voice of doubt courts our souls.

Some of us will, for compelling and appropriate reasons, alter the course of our schooling choices. Homeschoolers will join the ranks of the traditional schoolers. The naysayers who gasped in horror at the very thought of schooling at home will realize the choice is not so foreign after all. As parents, we will do the best we can as seasons of life change from one to another.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I think of all the years I wondered what you are wondering now. I think of all the days I fretted and worried. In my blindfolded state while floundering through uncharted waters, I held the hand of the one who knew the future before I knew my children. I reminded him I was schooling the gift he had given me to steward for only a season and cried out for him to perfect my feeble efforts. And now, I have a glimpse of what I could not see in my seasons of doubt and fear. The journey was worth it.

He is there in the midst of your indecision and fear. As this new school year begins, no matter what your schooling choice, remember: he will hold your hand. All you have to do is ask.
Psalm 32:8 (NIV) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Courtesy B. Creasy 2010

Isaiah 30:21 (NIV) Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”