Tuesday, August 25, 2009


At last. John and Rebekah playing together while we do school.

I've been of the opinion that multitasking is a woman's duty. You know what I mean- talking on the phone, checking email on the laptop, putting on a bandaid, scribbling a note to tell a child to practice the piano, cooking dinner and unloading the dishwasher at the same time. I mean, it's a necessity. Right?

Now translate that into a homeschool scenario- giving a spelling quiz to the 4th grader, getting out playdough for the preschoolers, helping the 6th grader with story problems while searching the Web for that elusive multiplication game. That's just a one room school house, right?

At the end of the last school year, I felt a bit frazzled. I was not so much burnt out and ready to quit, but rather on my last nerve trying to meet everyone's needs at the same time. I had instructed my children, that's true. But had I checked for understanding? Patiently answered their questions? Engaged them? Looked them in the eye? Acknowledged their achievements? Sadly, the answer would be no.

This frazzled state was carrying over into my housework as well. I could go room to room tidying up, but never get anything truly accomplished. I was moving the same piles around the house and never actually doing anything productive with them. I just about drove myself crazy. Why couldn't I just get it together? Oh, did I mention, that I was checking Facebook, blogging and cooking dinner while doing housework?

Worse yet, this frazzled existence was seeping over to my children. I telling them, "Do this, this, this and that and come see me when your done." Meanwhile, I would interrupt them while they were trying their best in order to add to their list. Craziness.

This summer I spent considerable time taking a step back to take an honest look at my life. I read several books on homeschooling, time management, household management.... These all basically pointed to the same problem.

There is no such thing as multitasking done well.

The time and focus it takes to balance so many plates at once is counterproductive to getting anything done and done well. Life is better spent (and more glorifying to God) when lived with purpose. People become the priority in place of activity.

So that's my mantra for this school year. (Borrowing from the title of a book I read) "Say Yes To No." Saying "No" to the expectations to get more done faster and "Yes" to accomplishing the one or two tasks in front of me.

To the best of my abilities, I'm striving not to multitask. When dinner needs fixed, I invite a friend in to help me and we do it quickly together. When the phone rings during school, I let the answering machine do its job. When someone needs a bandaid, I stop where I am to find out what happened. When it's time to clean, I engage the troops and we stick to it for an hour.

Life's not perfect, but there's a balance being established that has long been missing.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart..." Colossians 3:23

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer of History Part 2

Though we'd been following Sean around, he hadn't had the chance to just relax and play with us this summer. We planned to make his last trip a vacation for the family. We got away for five nights to (of all places) Detroit. His meeting was at the end of the week so we took the first few days to explore the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

All I can say is that we were blown away. We spent about 16 hours there and only experienced a fraction of what was offered.

Henry Ford was not only a great inventor, but also a lover of history. He saw the value of not only appreciating, but understanding those who had gone before for him in order to learn and grow personally. His dream was to make the great men and women of America accessible for others to learn as well. Therefore, he physically moved buildings, vehicles, artifacts and exhibits to Dearborn, Michigan and built a living history village, as well as a museum to house these incredible items. Everything to be seen had a unique impact of Ford or his wife. He went to any length to see it preserved.

Like I said, we only skimmed the surface during our visit there. This was due in part to the children's attention spans, but more due to sheer lack of time. Since we purchased a membership, we are headed back there for Fall Break.

The Ford Museum, as expected, was host to about every make of Ford vehicle. Also displayed were many models of airplanes with histories of famous flights, the limos that JFK and Reagan were shot in, the chair that Lincoln sat in when he was assassinated, makes/models of household appliances throughout history, a one-of-a kind home of the future from 1945 (for mass production after WWII, but never produced).

Working on the assembly line

Taking flight

We designed our own airplanes and made them fly (or not)

There was an endless amount of Kinex to build cars and them test them on different surfaces

In Greenfield Village we attended several mini plays where we met some true to life characters (Slave stories and songs, Huckleberry Fin, Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Teacher in Ford's one room schoolhouse). We watched a well done musical production featuring the songs of George Gershwin. We ate at and authentic meal from the mid 1800s. We rode on a steam engine, model T, carousel and horse drawn cart. We walked through a plantation house, 1700s English cottage, George Washington Carver's log cabin, the Wright Brothers' Bicycle Shop, Edison's labs.... Possibly the highlight for me was hearing the only working phonograph left made by Edison.

I think he looks a bit like Thomas Edison, don't you?

Bike Shop

Escaping with the slaves. "Come along Pinky. John's got a map."

Heirloom tomatoes and possibly the best blueberry muffin on the planet

More 1800s food. Some even liked the pickled eggs. "They only taste pink on the outside."

There are many more pictures, but that is for another day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer of History Part 1

I did not particularly like history as a subject in school. It always seemed so dry and rote. Each day was just a walk down the time line with a lot of names and numbers to remember. I did have an American history teacher in high school, though, who loved a good conspiracy theory. My dad is an avid student of history from wars to his own genealogy.

Perhaps this is how I became fascinated with the fact that history involves the lives of countless people each with their own unique stories to tell. Realizing that God is the One who is working in it all gives profound meaning to the story of mankind.

That being said, I love showing my kids history upfront and personal. I teach them history from a textbook, but trust me, it is much more exciting when we get to interact with the information first hand! Here are some history highlights from our travels this summer. I think it reinforced what some had already learned while opening the eyes of those who are yet to study these parts of history.

Our first stop was Springfield, IL where Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, established his family and served as a state representative.

The Lincoln home. The entire block has been preserved with houses to be toured. We even got to see where the Lincoln's favorite babysitter lived:)

Lincoln's desk where he wrote many of his famous speeches and wrote correspondence during the Civil War.

Campaigning in Lincoln's day.

The Lincoln boys' marbles. Makes me want to reconsider how quickly I throw out
toys sometimes.

The actual museum did not allow photography except for in two areas. The atrium and the kid's hands on area.

Us with the wax Lincolns. John is not quite sure what to make of his friend there.

Betsy, the butter churner

It was an amazing experience to walk through the exhibit of Lincoln's life. It began in
a replica of the log cabin and ended at his funeral. Everything was replicated to a tee. It made us feel like we were really there.

In addition there were several special effect movies and a play that explained clearly the history of the civil war and some of the artifacts in the Lincoln Presidential Library. Presidential Libraries house books, of course, but they are also a private museums for any artifact related to that President's life. Incredible.

My favorites: Seeing Abe's hat (behind glass, of course), looking into his shaving mirror and being able to touch the casts made of his face at the beginning of his Presidency and at the end. There was a clear change in his countenance.

I was also struck by the personal tragedy that Lincoln faced in the midst of our country's greatest trial. I have always been fascinated by Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd, as she has often been depicted as a crazy woman. The exhibit was an honor to them both and their sacrifice for our country.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Catching up

This has been an amazing summer for our family. Sean has been traveling across the Midwest with us on his tail. While he has been teaching teachers about technology, we've been seeing having some wonderful times of learning and visiting with friends. Thankfully, his work has usually ended around 4 so we've been able to have some quality family time all together.

That life has now come to a screeching halt. Sean is back to school. We have opened up the books again. After the initial dust settles, I think we're in for a fruitful change of pace.

I have so much to share on this blog about summer 2009. This blog is for my childrens' sake and I'd hate to skip over some of the highlights that they someday may want to remember more clearly. So bear with me for a while while I saturate you with pictures and stories.

On a side note: I'm wanting to get some of my blog published in book form as a keepsake. Have any of you ever done this and if so what was your experience? I'd appreciate anything you might be able to share. Thanks!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Love Languages

Fast forward one year.

School will begin in a week. We'll be shopping for school supplies, making sure there are shoes that fit, sucking the last life out of summer's freedom.

We'll be hitting a milestone as a family, too. Our first little bird will be leaving the nest to attend school outside of our home. The next year it will be another. And so it will go on.

I've been thinking a lot about what that day will be like. What is it that we need to accomplish this year to prepare for the next stage? What ground have we not covered academically, spiritually, emotionally, socially?

I'm no fool to think that there is a magic formula or a simple checklist. God has directed and equipped us. We've applied ourselves to the task- sometimes with great failure and other times with success. She belongs to the Lord. He will take her through her own roads of this life. We are trusting Him for the results.

The one thing has been on my heart recently is the need to focus on our relationship in this coming year. It is so hard at times to span the gap of ages. A three year old has drastically different needs than a preteen. It is very difficult to take off my micromanaging toddler hat and relax enough to actually listen and exchange ideas with the older kids. It would be much easier to treat them as one unit. I am guilty of this at times, yet they are growing into young ladies with their own opinions and dreams. The days of constant care are gone. Now is the time to build them up and send them out.

For this reason The Five Love Languages Of Teenagers caught my eye at the library. I was thinking that I'd just skim it through. I know my kids already, right? And certainly they know they are love.

Wow, has it been not only convicting, but instructive. It has made me much more aware of body language and responses that I am given. More than that, though, this book has brought to light my own assumption that each one of them interprets my love the same way. This simply is not true. Moreover, the things that I do not do (or do poorly- like tone of voice) actually has a negative effect on their perceptions of my love.

I've spent some time this week just asking them randomly about some of the content of this book. I've asked them two questions: "When do you feel most loved- the kind of love that makes you smile later when you think about it?" and "When/ or what has happened when you are not sure of my love for you?" They were honest with me and I am excited about the conversations that resulted.

Yes, we still have 180 of school to work through this year. There are still some loose ends that need to be tied up. But in the short time that I've been trying to love them a bit more intentionally, the response has been joyful for both of us.