Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mission Impossible Or A Possible Mission?

Your mission, homeschooling mom, should you choose to accept it, is to train, equip, and teach your children all they need to know for life. It will require waking early, making lesson plans, teaching, reading many books, relearning math equations you'd hoped you'd forgotten, delving into the sciences and history of all grade levels each day, giving and grading tests. You will even have to teach your child how to hold a pencil, penmanship, and how to read.

You will need to learn all of the different philosophies to home school, and the varied curriculum so you can choose what is best for your child/children.

Your home will be filled with more books than you have room for. You will have art projects hanging from every window or cord as you choose to hang them up. Science experiments are a must! From caterpillars to butterflies, tadpoles to frogs, raising chickens, beans on wet paper towels, and generally whatever your children find the curiosity to discover.

You will need to be involved outside your home as to give your child an opportunity to learn from others and 'socialize.'

You will not have time to sit on the couch to read your own favorite novel, or eat bon-bons and watch television. Your children will be around you all day long, morning until night asking question after question. You will need to be a teacher, referee, coach, school psychologist, nurse, chef, maid, Bible scholar, and prayer warrior. Your day will not end until you have actually fallen asleep.

You will be rejected by many and oft times feel like a failure. You will be tired, confused, and generally unsure of yourself, but God will be with you and with Him you will succeed.

As always, should any member of your team be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, home-school mom.

I took the home school mission eleven years ago and have another fifteen to go. In describing the home school life to a friend, he said, "So, basically what you're saying is, "Home school means: Immediate death to self." How perfect are those words.

When I first started to home school, for example, my son, Pre-k 4, we schooled for 2 hours, three times a week. It was so easy. As child number two began her interest in school there was still no problem. We were done with school by 12 noon and we had the rest of the day to go out, go to the park, meet with friends, shop and enjoy life outside of the house. As the children have grown, so has our day. There is much more work now than in the early days and we just aren't finished as early as we used to be. No more quick stops to a local store. No more getting together on a whim with friends. Life is school and it is all day long. .

Each year I become more excited about what God has called me to do and with that I find my selfish ways dying off. Dying to self has been very real in my heart. I've held onto the old days of a three hour school day as long as I could, and other selfish desires, but had to let it go.

It may seem like I'm complaining, but I'm really not. I'm just stating the truth. The easy home school life is not that anymore and my days of easy planning, easy everything attached to home school are gone along with my own selfish wishes, like being alone, or having quiet for several hours in a row, and it's a good thing. I'm doing what I am called to do: to be at home, teaching and training my children. I have been challenged over the years and there were times it was hard because it seemed like my friends were living a very different life then me, and I wanted to fit in. Accepting my calling, and living it out has brought much growth in my heart, to my relationship with my children and our day together.

God keeps calling me higher and higher. Challenging me. And I am better for it. Scared at times, (most times), but I come out of it all the more stronger, happier, and closer to Him. What more could I ask for? So, for me, it is a possible mission, that is, with the Lord.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Yorker Meets Chickens: Week 4

Week 4 has brought more changes.
The coop is really under way.
My husband created this!
He put all the things he liked from a few different coops into one.

He wanted a coop that we could pick up and move around the yard.
(The handles on both ends allows us to pick it up and 
carry it where ever we want to put it). 

Here is the nesting box.
We are looking forward to opening that lid
one day and find our own organic eggs!

Another change we worked on this week was a new and bigger
box for their indoor living.
Each day the chicks were flying out of their box and 
hanging out on the edge of the box. 

Their new home in my house and in my bathroom.

If  you look closely not only have they grown bigger,
but they are shedding their fluff feathers and their adult feathers are growing in.
(I'm finding feathers around house!).

Fluff on her head and bottom-isn't that funny?

Every morning the children want to hold and play
 with their chickens before we start school.

I love this pic!
My little chick is putting her nose
up to the Wynedotte's beak.
How cute is that! 
She was telling the chick,
"I love you."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Singing to Our Children

Each night as we have put our children to bed, our nightly routine has been: baths, read books, sing and pray. The 'read books' part has been easy. I have my Master's in Elementary Education/Children's Literature so needless to say, I LOVE children's books. I've been collecting books for years and years. I enjoy doing all the voices, reading slowly or quickly depending on the mood of the book. I love asking questions throughout the book to keep them engaged. And the praying part, I've got that down too, but the singing...yikes! I cannot seem to remember all the words to any of the songs that come to my head and for the ones I do remember, my husband just smiles.. I can not sing. So, over the years I have found myself singing just about the same five songs each night...Jesus Loves Me, Tender Shepherd, Peace-Peace, Joy,Joy,Joy and Jesus Loves the Little Children.

Until I was going through my 'books on tape' basket and came across all my 'Wee Sing' song books. I have the tape, (yes, tape) that goes along with each song book and for some reason have saved the song books.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, these books are now on the top shelf of the bookcase in my little guys room. Each night they pick a book and I sing it. My singing hasn't changed, but my repertoire has! I have taught my little guys soooo many new songs! I have sung just about all the Bible songs from both books, almost all the Christmas songs, (which I love and could never remember the second verses), and then just some fun nursery songs. I am really enjoying singing songs like, "She'll be coming around the mountain" and all the verses of, "The Little Drummer Boy" all year long. I have even more of these song books! (Dinosaurs, American songs, and Car Songs). 

It has been really wonderful having time with them to teach them so many really great songs. Songs that I wouldn't think to sing during the day, but songs that I want them to know. I say all this to encourage you to sing to your kids and if you are like me and cannot remember the words to songs or even the songs from your childhood that ever kid should know, buy a song book, or Google kid songs, print them out and sing them to your children. You'll see that in a matter of days they will be walking around the house singing some pretty great songs!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Labels: Why? Just Tell Me Why?

Labels. You know what I mean, right? You're labeled, slow-poke, late-bloomer, klutz, dunce, and I'm sure you can add a plethora to the list. Why? Why do we have to be labeled? And why are the labels always so mean?

I remember as a school teacher, wrong or right, I chose not to read my students charts. The idea came from learning the hard way, of course. In my first year of teaching I made the terrible mistake of  reading the reports or charts that the previous teachers wrote on each of my new students.  All it had done was place a prejudice towards certain students based on the opinion of their former teacher. After getting to know my students I realized my failure and promised myself that I would never read the charts until the day before 'Meet the Teacher Night.' Things worked out a lot better for me and my students after that.

But speaking on a more personal note, I was labeled. Golly, was I labeled. One such label was that I had the tormenting horror of wearing the invisible dunce hat. Yes, I was labeled dumb by my family. I couldn't get away from it. No matter how many A's or A+'s I received I would forever be known for being stupid.

I'll never forget when I announced to my family, around the dinner table, that I was going to try and transfer to St. Francis Preparatory High School. (It was the top Catholic School in Queens, New York).

My father looked up and said, "Don't bother, you'll never get in."
I said, "But what if I do?"
He responded, "If you do, you won't be able to keep up and you'll find yourself kicked out."
I asked again, "Okay, but what if I do get in and I don't fail out?"
He said, "If you get in...I'll pay your tuition."

Well, the good news is- I got in! How wonderful I felt to have not only made it and kept up a 3.5 average!

I'm grown up now and have conquered the lie and torn off the 'stupid' label. (No pun intended). I'm pretty smart, as it so happens! Anyway, I have found since then, that I have all sorts of other labels that have been placed on me. Friends have labeled me many things that I just don't believe about myself, but once the label is on -it stays on.

So, the other day I found out that I'm still being labeled. I was telling a friend how I found myself in a situation where I was having to confront someone, but before I could finish explaining myself, she cut me off  and she said, "Yup, that's vintage Ellen." The words "Vintage" Ellen" played over and over in my mind. The same old Ellen. The Ellen that will never change. Do you hear the label? I was shocked. I think I have changed. I think that I'm softer now than when I was younger, but to this person, I wasn't.

Yes, I will admit that I am a confrontational person. I want the truth all the time and if I don't understand something I ask and ask questions until I feel I have all the information I need. I have always apologized for it. It has never been meant to make someone feel like they are being  interrogated, but if they have I am quick to say I am sorry. So, the words from my friend really hurt. I felt boxed in. Misunderstood. Labeled.

The truth I have found is this: God doesn't label us. God doesn't put us in a box. He hopes for us. He champions for us to change. He is always hoping for change in us. He is always looking to draw us closer to Him. He always sees the best in us. In 2 Corinthians it says: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!"  I believe and claim that Scripture for each new day. Each day I wake up I am a new creature in Christ. Why? Because in Christ, my sins are forgiven, I am washed clean, I have the hope of being more like Him today than yesterday. For me, a label will only last a day because God sets me free each day. I love the Scripture from Philippians 3:13, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead." I am not the "Same old Ellen" or  "Vintage Ellen" I'm a new creation each and every day.

It's hard knowing that someone is looking at you through a lens that is ten or so years old. It's hard not being able to take off family members or friends 'glasses' of how they see you, but I know who I am, I know the truth, and their view of me doesn't change that.

                                                So, before another label gets stuck on me, 
I'll tell you a secret. 
I'll admit it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Yorker Meets Chickens: Week 3


The chicks are bigger, still living in a box with a heat lamp,
eating, drinking and appear happy.
The question I have each day is 
"Are the four chicks that we have been caring for

It's crazy to think that one of our sweet chicks (or more)
could be a rooster(s)!
It is against the law to own a rooster where we live.
So, time will tell us if we have four girls or not. 
For now we sit, enjoy, and wait...

"Look Mama! No GLOVES!!!"

They are getting bigger.
 Less fluff and more feathers this week.

They have begun to fly!
 Every once and a while we find a chick or pullet 
(I have learned some fowl words)
sitting on the edge of the box.

A friend of ours came over and enjoyed our chicks too!

No more gloves or tea towels!

They love my children.

And I love how much our children have come to love the chicks!

New Yorker meets Chickens!

When my husband first mentioned raising chickens I was very glad to know, that where we happen to live, raising chickens in our backyard was actually against the law! But then one fateful day my husband came home beaming from ear to ear and holding a piece of paper that stated that the law had changed! 

As he began collecting wood for the coop and drawing out plans I realized that he was not only serious, but very serious about getting us some chicks. I knew that I had to jump on board. I took the children to the library and checked out the only three books they had on raising chickens. Each day the kids and I read one chapter, took notes and filled their daddy's ears with all they were learning. (Secretly I thought it was never really going to happen...shhhh, don't tell anyone). Well, I'm glad I kept the secret to myself because I'd look like a fool now. One Thursday afternoon my honey announced, "Tomorrow's the day! We're getting our chicks!"  

Here we are on a Friday afternoon choosing our chicks!

 The kids were quite excited, I think I was still in a state of shock.

Here they children looking at their four, new baby chicks.
In researching all the different kinds of chickens we allowed
our children to choose which type they wanted to raise.

We now have: Two Ameraucanas, one Wine Dot, and one Buff Orpington.

We traveled home marveling at the adventure we have just plunged into.
(I think I was still in a state of shock, smiling, but in shock nonetheless).

Three day old chicks resting in their new little box, with water, food and heat lap.
The room was at 90 degrees!

The next day we covered the kitchen floor with newspaper,
sat in a circle, Indian style (knee to knee) and allowed the chicks
to walk around and get to know us.

They really are just too cute!

No, my children did not take to the little chicks right away. 
Two of them were actually crying because of their fear of these little things. 
They were afraid of being pecked!

Grandma had to come over and see our chicks.
 Here they are in their circle playing with our chicks. 
(If you look closely, some of my kids are wearing gloves.
 The philosophy being: if they do get pecked it won't hurt!)

My little guy was nervous about being 'pooped' on,
thus the tea towel on his lap!

Our first week was a success! The chicks didn't peck us and 
we are getting more brave in handling them!

And as for me, the shock has worn off, they are our pets, 
I love my husband and I have a little more work added to my day =)