What Homeschool Is Like For Us

“Homeschool” wasn’t a term used a lot growing up in a small town in the 90’s.  Come to think of it “private school” wasn’t talked about that much either. We had one school and EVERYONE went to it.

So for the most part “homeschool” was a foreign concept to me and many of the people I grew up with. Why would you want to stay home all day and not be around your friends? Wouldn’t you miss out on sports, dances, and other important “right of passage” social customs?  How could you learn to develop relationships unless you were in school? Isn’t homeschooling just for those geeks that want to win the national spelling bee or go to college by age eight? These were my honest to goodness pre-conceived notions about homeschool.

So how in the world did we end up deciding to homeschool our girls?

It didn’t just happen over night.  In fact, I think I would describe it as a desire that evolved over time.  Quite simply, it was God working in my heart.

When Noah was born homeschooling wasn’t even on the radar.  We were living in Birmingham at the time and were located in a great school district.  People moved to Cahaba Heights just to get into the Vestavia school system.  Why not take advantage of the excellent schools that our own tax dollars were helping to fund?

By the time Noah was two we started a mini preschool curriculum at home. I did this because she wasn’t enrolled in a daycare or Mother’s Day Out program but I wanted her to be on the same level as the other kids when she got to kindergarten.

We didn’t have a strict schedule or anything but she was learning and I was enjoying watching those “light bulb” moments.  I still remember the time she grasped the concept of sorting by getting to sort an entire bowl of Fruit Loops by color.  That moment alone may have been the turning point for me.

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During this time God was working in my heart.   He introduced me to other moms that homeschooled, I found out about support systems for homeschool moms, and most importantly I saw that kids really do turn out “normal” if they are schooled at home!

I began to realize that I wanted more than five years with my girls.  Not in a selfish way but I felt that as parents we get around 18 years with our children… which isn’t very long in the grand scheme of their life, but during this time they are shaped, molded, and taught how to live the rest of their life.  I want my girls to be prepared for life.  Prepared in the sense that their decisions are biblically based.  Simply put, Michael Luke and I want to be the main influence in their lives and not some BFF that is being raised by worldly values or some public school agenda that teaches evolution is the only way to explain science.

One of my favorite things about homeschool is how different it can look and be.  With homeschool school is not bound to a desk and a certain time schedule. School is not bound to a certain subject or curriculum.

While only eight months separate them, Noah and Esther are supposed to be in different years of school. Technically Noah should still be in 4-k but it’s just easier for me to school them together for now.  They each have their own strengths and in time I plan to let them set their own pace.  This means one doesn’t have to sit around bored covering and recovering a skill they have already grasped.  I can remember feeling this way certain times during my schooling.  Of course there were those other areas (match and science) where I needed extra time and review.  Homeschool allows for this. Like I said earlier right now I am schooling both girls together for my own sanity.  Once we bring Judah home and he gets a little older he will throw his own kink into our school schedule.

So what does school look like for us?

Let me start by saying that what school looks like for us is not what homeschoool has to look like.  Homeschooling gives you the freedom to find what works for you and your children.  Some days are completely random and school happens in a coffee shop or camping.

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But most of the time for us school starts at breakfast. The girls are allowed to sleep as late as they want each morning. For Noah that usually means 6:30 (she’s my early bird and night owl).  She comes in the den and plays while I finish up my quiet time with God. Esther (she’s my sleeping beauty) sleeps until somewhere between 7:00 and 8:30 most days.  Once she wakes up I start on breakfast. Usually we have homemade biscuits and fried eggs (with coffee for me).

While they are eating, I normally pull out a calendar and we go over what day it is, the days of the week, and the months of the year. The girls love counting down the days until Michael Luke is off work again.

Next, we start our math lesson. Usually they are still eating. Most of our school time happens around, under, and hopefully not on top of the dining room table.  Noah is such a mover that there really is no telling what position she will choose to complete her school work in.

After math we move on to reading/phonics.  This usually includes a work sheet, singing, and sometimes a game.  After, that it’s free time… meaning the girls go play while I shower or do a little housework.  Normally, we finish math and reading within one to one and half hours.

i like to save our history and language arts for after lunch and right before quiet time each day. Esther may be five but she still naps around one to two hours each day and I’m not about to mess with that!

Finally, we have our Bible time and any left over history or language arts before bed. This way ML gets to join us.

So for us school time is spread throughout the day but it works for us because it happens in smaller segments.

So what curriculum do we use?

Last year I was just trying to grasp how this whole homeschool thing worked so I chose to use Horizons 4-k curriculum. I liked it because it included match, science, history, art, singing, games, language, and writing.   The entire year focused on the seven days of creation and had lots of great memory verses for the girls.  One of the pluses for me was that the teacher’s manual included a script for each day so I knew exactly what to say.

One thing I quickly learned from other homeschool moms is not to feel like you have to do everything.  This was helpful because the Horizon’s 4-k curriculum was written so that it could be used in a preschool setting.  So if you did everything they suggested each day it would take around three hours. The girls nor I was cut out for that.  I picked and chose each day what we would do.  Normally it ended up taking us around an hour or an hour and a half.

Horizons is a great program and is a little advanced in math.  The girls didn’t have trouble with it last year though so we stuck with Horizons for math again this year.

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It is a fast paced program but Horizon’s is a spiral based learning program so they have plenty of opportunity to review new concepts.

Noah started reading near the end of 4k.  Esther was still having trouble with phonics. Her memory is amazing though so I’ve been told she will pick up sight words easily.  I wanted her to build confidence in her ability to read and understand phonics so we chose a slower paced reading program that was recommended to me by a friend, Sing, Spell, Read, and Write.

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Much of the learning is done through singing and games… which is right up Esther’s alley.  Both the girls are loving it and feel confident in the areas we have already covered this year.

We don’t have a formal science curriculum this year.  Children learn so much just by exploring the environment around them that I decided to let them keep exploring and pick science back up next year for first grade.

History, Bible and Literature are my favorites.  It saddens me to think that I almost didn’t include this in our kindergarten curriculum.  For these subjects we are using Sonlight Core A.

img_20160727_170328I would recommend this to parents that don’t homeschool.  Everything is learned by listening to an adult read to you from various books. Several of them are some of the Usborne books that are all the craze right now.  The instructor’s guide includes question to ask as you read.  Of everything we do in school this is what my girls beg for more of each day.  They (and I) love the exciting stories and interesting facts that we get to read about.  At first I was turned off to Sonlight because of the price tag but then I realized this is a one time purchase.  There are no workbooks I have to buy for each kid… only books that we can read over and over again no matter how many children we choose to homechool.  So in the long run it could really save some money.

There are so many options for homeschool curriculum that at first it can seem over whelming. If you are wanting to get started homeschooling I suggest doing a little research on what’s out there, discover how your child learns best, and talk to other homeschool families.

It really is fun to homeschool my girls. People ask us if we are gong to keep doing it and I reply, “we are taking it one year at a time”.  Right now our answer is yes.  Once again we find ourselves in the most amazing school district around.  A district that people are paying big bucks to move into… and we are homeschooling!  Just the other day as I was taking the girls to Mother’s Day Out (that’s a post for another day) Esther was telling me how glad she was that she only had to go to a school building one day a week.  I’m not saying its for everyone and I promise I’m not going to judge you if your kids “go to school”.  This is just what works for us… right now.

 

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Immigration Approval

This is completely random and has absolutely nothing to do with my post but today in Collierville I can feel fall in the air!  Welcome, September! We’ve been waiting for you in all your pumpkin and football glory.

Thanks for letting me get that out. I’ve been so excited about the change in weather and just had to tell someone. Right now as I type my window is open and I can hear the rustling of the leaves. The rustling of leaves that will soon turn beautiful shades of yellow and oranges and then fall to the ground.

Last Monday we got a special little letter in the mail.

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It was a letter from the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services granting us approval to adopt a child from China!  We went down this road once late last fall when we were on the path to adopt from the Dominican Republic but each time you do a country change you have to request approval from the U.S again.  So for the past few months we and our social workers have been working to update our homestudy so that it could be submitted to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services again.

The whole immigration approval process was supposed to take somewhere between one to two months for approval.  The day we sent our homestudy off I spent a lot of time in prayer and reading scripture.  That night I told Michael Luke that for some reason I felt like  God was telling me would receive our approval in one week.  Our homestudy was received and logged in on August 8th.
IMG_20160814_205308It was then sent to another office to be reviewed and approved.  After approval, a letter was sent to Lifeline and us.  Michael Luke and I had so much faith that God was going to do what he said that everyday we checked our mailbox.  We anticipated God to show out.  We received our approval letter on the 21.  That’s 13 days!  One day shy of two weeks… which still counts as one week in my book. ML says that if you count the actual time the approval office had our papers to the time they approved us and mailed the letter it’s incredibly close to seven days.

Our social worker shared with us that she had never seen a family be approved so quickly. I have no doubt in my mind we were approved in the time frame we were because God said he was going to do it.

Right now we have a bunch more papers being authenticated by various organizations (it’s so confusing I don’t even try to keep up with it all) and then within two weeks we hope to send our Dossier (big pack of papers related to each other) to China.  After China gives us the thumbs up we submit one more time to U.S.C.I.S for specific approval of Judah and then we can go and get him.  If everything moves smoothly we hope to travel sometime in January before the Chinese New Year.

I’ve been learning a lot about experiencing God, learning to recognize his voice and how he speaks to us lately. Hearing him has been so exciting for me. Right now I am going through Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study.  I’ve learned that when God speaks he speaks to tell us what He is about to do. He speaks through scripture, prayer, other believers, and the Holy Spirit.  It is so much fun to experience God in my life!

Thank you so much to everyone that is following along on this adoption journey with us.   You can look back at any of our adoption posts using the Adoption tab at the top.

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What’s In A Name

Does anyone else get overwhelmed when it comes to selecting names for your children?  I mean talk about a high honor. God bestows on us the responsibility of selecting a name for our child.  The name that your child will be called by his entire life and one that your child will hopefully not wish was anyone else’s but his.  I mean no pressure, right?

Every parent sets different criteria for how they choose a name. Some want traditional names with a common spelling. Other’s prefer to stand out with names like Apple or North (West).  I fall in the camp of different but not one of a kind names.  For example Krystle is a fairly common name but the spelling of mine is different… unless you are a girl born in the 1980’s and your parents watched Dynasty and fell in love with the spelling of Krystle Carrington’s name.

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In that case your name is probably spelled like mine. Michael Luke comes from a family of Biblical names so we chose to integrate that into my desire for different names.

So for us what that means is that we don’t look at names that are in the top 200 of the popular names for that gender.  While Noah is extremely popular for a boy’s name it doesn’t rank as high on the girl’s list thus making the cut for us.  I shared all about our selection of the names Noah and Esther here .

So how did we decide on the name Judah?

To begin with we didn’t begin to really think about names until we were matched because to me it’s just easier if you can cut down the names you need to look at by half just by knowing the sex.   Once we were matched I realized it was time to start thinking.

Boaz was a personal favorite name of mine that I had kept in mind ever since doing a study of Ruth earlier this year.  I still love Boaz but we decided that living in the south and with a little of my country drawl still remaining his name might have ended up sounding a little too country.  You can really draw out the name Boaz if you want to. Plus, there was the concern that his name could always be shortened to Bo… and I really wasn’t too keen on that. I still love the name though.

Boaz means “swiftness” which isn’t a bad trait to possess as boy. The meaning of the name is really important to us because Noah and Esther have certainly lived up to the meanings of “movement’ and “star” Don’t think it didn’t cross mine to try and figure out which name meant quiet or obedient. Hah!

I couldn’t help but think with a name like Boaz he might have also been destined to be a romantic.  To me there isn’t another more romantic love story in the Bible than the one between Ruth and Boaz.

Michael Luke shortlisted the name Malachi.  It quickly became one of my favorites.   The Malachi of the Bible was a prophet and his name meant “my messenger”. To me it sounds very manly. Maybe it’s because it rhymes with Jedi.  With a name like that you almost expect them to be good at martial arts.

Another name we both fell in love with was Jude.  Jude is a Hebrew name meaning “praise”  The name sounded very gentle to me and when I looked at the picture of our little one I could see a Jude… or Malachi in him.

Once we narrowed it down to either Jude or Malachi how did we end up with Judah?

Well, once we had our name choices narrowed down to two we decided to read both of the books Malachi and Jude in the Bible to learn more about them.  Malachi addresses the acts of the people of Judah and after reading those verses in chapter two I noticed that I liked that name and wondered why we had not thought about Judah as a name. I really didn’t think anything else of it though. Until, I started reading Jude! I did a little background search on the book of Jude and through that I discovered that Jude was an alternate spelling for the name Judah.

Ok, so there it was. Judah had popped out at me two times that morning and I could no longer ignore it. I began to pray asking God if this was the name He had selected or us.  Next, I messaged Michael Luke and asked him what he thought about the name Judah.  He responded that he too had noticed that name.

That’s all I needed to add Judah to the shortlist and to continue praying about God’s direction on this!

Judah means “praise”.  Like many characters of the Bible his low parts and high parts were both highlighted.  Many of us know Judah as one of the twelve sons of Jacob who later came to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.  Remember God renamed Jacob Israel.

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Jew was a shortened term used to describe the people of Judah and later all the children of God. Judah was the one who came up with the “brilliant” idea to sell Joseph in to slavery. God worked in his heart though and later Judah placed his own life on the line as a promise to take care of Benjamin who Joseph was requesting to see in Egypt.

Judah married a Canaanite woman and had three sons. They grow up the oldest gets married, dies and then his wife Tamar is married to the next eldest.  God takes his life and then Judah was supposed to allow his youngest son to marry Tamar.  Judah choose not to so Tamar took matters into her own hands and deceived Judah and became pregnant with his child.

God had plans for this baby though because through the line of Judah would come David, Solomon, and finally Jesus!

Before Jacob died he blessed each of his sons.  Judah’s blessing was a foreshadowing of the Davidic kingdom that was to come through him.

Judah is a lion’s cub;
    from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
    and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;[a]
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 Binding his foal to the vine
    and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
    and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
    and his teeth whiter than milk. – Genesis 49:9-12

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The lion became the symbol for the tribe of Judah and was referenced again in Revelation 5:5:

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

So while Judah like all of us made many mistakes in his life and fell short of the glory of God he was chosen to be one of the great-grandfathers of Jesus.  Through his family we were given the one who deserves all our praise.  I can’t wait to see how God uses our Judah to praise Him.

That’s what is in a name… and why I will probably be getting our little guy a stuffed lion!

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