Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Adventures in schooling: why we are doing Blended this year.

This year we started the Blended model at our school.  The boys go to school on Monday and Wednesday each week, then are home on Tuesday and Thursday for school.  The model is designed not to have scheduled work on Fridays! This makes for a nice long weekend most weeks.  Only a few of those Friday's have included leftover or take-a-break-until-tomorrow work.  The curriculum is already chosen to be in line with the traditional five-day-model, so we order what we are told and work with the teacher who assigns the weeks work.

I never thought I would be a homeschool mom.  I like my time and I like being spontaneous and as schedule free as I can, usually. Although, being a mom in general makes me live on a more structured schedule. But over the last three years, God has been softening my heart and leading me to ask questions. Patrick had a lot of questions and concerns, so it wasn't something we pursued much until last year.

Benjamin had struggled so much in First grade with keeping up in class and bringing home so much homework. In FIRST grade. That school year brought so many discouraging questions and a steady flow of tears -- from him and me each afternoon. Two things to note, in hindsight: That was also the year that Caleb was born and had skull surgery {and everyone in our family felt the weight of that!} and we now know that Kindergarten was somewhat of a disadvantage to him as he was quiet and obedient and didn't require much pushing. So while we thought he was doing 100%, it was probably more so his compliance and less of his comprehension. AND we didn't do anything during the summer before First grade, except reading.

Maybe we should have held him back at some point, maybe we were right in not.  I suppose it doesn't matter now, but it was something we considered a few times and never took action. But he's doing fine and I think that we did what seemed best at the time and the Lord has been gracious in this journey for us.  We want our children to love learning and growing.  That doesn't always look like being in a classroom, but it can and proves effective! We want our children to be pushed and see their potential, but also have the freedom to figure out things in their own ways and in their own time.

Fast forward to August 2016.  We were driving to visit some friends and had hours to talk.  After a few casual mentions of doing blended or homeschooling, I threw it at Patrick with great conviction and a desire to share the depths of my heart. I truly wanted to be more involved with our children's school days, I felt saddened and convicted that over the course of 13 years there would be 13 other people {at least} teaching my children and seeing them more than me or Patrick, and I didn't want any of our children to grow to hate school or be apathetic toward learning and working hard. The Lord was moving in my heart and it felt a little overwhelming to be saying such bold statements about schooling our children and changing the path our family seemed to be on.  Looking back, that was just the beginning of paths shifting and hearts changing.

Patrick was truly against homeschooling. He had some legit concerns and had heard of some unfortunate cases of homeschooling gone bad. He was worried about me doing something like school at home, when I can barely keep up with the house some days! Add having four kids to that and I'm inconsistent at best in doing all that needs to be done. {A weak area that the Lord continually works in, through and around me in! PS, with all of that said: I'm a great meal planner. haha}

So right then and there, I committed to learning as much as I could about the Blended model and homeschooling in general. I bought an hour-by-hour planner and spent the Fall semester keeping track of myself and setting pseudo-schedules for our home. I met with, called and asked a thousand questions to friends who did Blended or homeschooled. I prayed constantly for direction and unity and for my conviction to be from the Lord, and not from a selfish or proud motive.  The more I talked with other moms, the more I felt ready to do this! We met with the principal and teachers at the school to talk with them. I felt so prepared and educated on something that seemed so out of character for me to pursue.

And then three months later when we had to consider the next school year, Patrick and I talked again. I came to our conversation prepared and ready to defend my conviction.  But I didn't need to because the Lord had softened Patrick's heart and gave him a desire to see what Blended would look like for our family. My heart flipped and praised Jesus for answering this prayer. Within days of making this decision together, I felt so free and light from this burden.  I felt like we were walking in obedience and stepping out in faith toward something that seemed equally terrifying and perfect for our family.

We talked with the boys over and over about this decision and their biggest concern was missing their friends. We prayed for them and encouraged them.  And since school has began, they are seeing their old friends and making new ones. More so, though, it's brought up some incredible life lessons that we've been able to teach them about friendships!

Doing Blended has been a hard adjustment.  It's meant taking four kids a lot of places, rescheduling, rearranging and being home a lot.  It's meant looking for the best way for the boys to learn and where they are struggling.  It looks like walking through things that don't make sense and talking through why we need to learn math and grammar.  It looks like learning Latin with my Third grader so we can not fail Latin! It looks like "off campus lunch" when we need to get out of the house or when we've worked really hard to be done by 11:30am.  It looks like taking a break to go to the Science Museum or the Zoo because we can.  It looks like Free Funday Friday's and making the most of this beautiful schooling option.

There have been tears and threats and words spoken harshly.  There have been sibling fights and disagreements. BUT there are such sweet moments and goodness swirled up with the hard -- isn't that just life, though? There have been days, especially as we find our rhythm and figure some things out, that I wish we were exclusively homeschooling. When maybe we don't need to rush through somethings on Tuesday to make sure they are ready for Wednesday. Those "crunch days" can feel overwhelming. Or when I would want to consider doing a different book for literature or having a say in the curriculum choices. But for now, this is working and it feels like the Lord has us here for such a time as this. Maybe I was created for this purpose all along? I'm so glad the Lord lead us and pushed us to see what He had for us in this chapter.

Even more, when Patrick and I are talking about what's next for our family or what adventures we want to take, places we want to explore, potential moves we may make, homeschooling frees us up to do them and it's become a desired part of what our family looks like right now. It may be a pretty hard 180 degree shift, full of constant sanctification and change, but I couldn't be more delighted in what the Lord has done and how He is moving and growing us and allowing us this opportunity.

I don't know what's next or how long we will homeschool, but I pray often that we would be better for it and I already see the Lord meeting us there.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Learning to lament

A very wise friend told me a few weeks ago that learning to lament is a biblical and a natural response to suffering and grief. Lament means to express deep grief. In fact, one meaning says that it's a "passionate expression of grief or sorrow." I don't think we allow ourselves this emotion.  I believe society has grown to tell us that we need to be cheerful and we need to get over things and we need to move on quickly.

And I couldn't disagree more.

While death isn't a sting for the one who leaves this earth, the ripple effect of pain they leave behind cannot be denied. Death hurts and pinches and pulls your heart in ways that you aren't sure are real. The prick of death comes about even in the happiest of days. A trigger tears and emotional can happen without any warning or sense. Grief is such a mystery, but it's also one of the most real things we deal with on this earth.

Life begins, with cries of joy and tears of fresh breaths and baby snuggles. Life goes on and each day is, quite simply, a beautiful gift. Each breath is a work of God moving around each of us without thought. Then, as the circle closes, death approaches and it is finished. Life ends with cries of goodbye and pain, tears run warm down cheeks of loneliness and loss. The curse of sin left us with this pain, yet we have the hope of Christ to renew our hearts.

Losing my mom has been quite painful. Her death has marked me in ways that I am not sure I can articulate. Even now, two months after her death, I still feel like I'm in an awful dream and that I'll be able to call her whenever I want. But this isn't the case. It's been two months and one week since I've been able to talk to her on the phone and ask her how she's feeling, how her pain is, how her heart is. It's been longer than that since I've asked her how to make cookies, what I was like as a three year old or tell her all about what the kids are doing. I didn't just lose my mom as she took her last breath, I lost my last parent, my biggest life-long cheerleader, my children's Gramma, my dear friend, and the loss of my childhood questions that I'll never know the answers to.

While death steals from us things we never want taken away, God restores and renews.  Even though it may take months or years, we slowly become what He has planned for us to be -- more like Him. We gain more of His comfort because we know loss.  We gain more of His sight because what is seen is temporal and what is unseen is eternal.  We gain new perspectives as we are changed people with each passing trial and each lonely trench. We gain life experiences and words of wisdom to care for those walking a similar path that we have already endured.  We gain great humility as we see that we are finite and sinful and truly wretched people without the beauty of Christ in us. There is great gain in suffering, if only we can lift ours eyes even for a second to see the One who is holding us and pursuing us and pouring into us.

The same friend I mentioned earlier reminded me that on the other side of pain there is a great testimony and a beautiful joy that comes from suffering, if we learn to lament and sit at the feet of Christ while we mourn and heal. When we cry out to the Lord with great pain, with heart aches that overwhelm; when we are able to sit silently before the Lord, with questions and confusion and sadness that only death can bring; when we are able to accept His presence as the safest place, acknowledge His position as the Most High and Sovereign, and appreciate His love, grace and healing that comes from suffering. This is lamenting.

And then, you rise. Lamenting ceases, although the pain never really goes away. And from this season of quiet and rest and tears, come joy.  You reap a deeper understanding of the Almighty God. You walk in confidence with the One who knows all things. And you praise Him, you give and pour out and tell all about Who He is and what He has done. Because at the end of it all, you'll have Him more and more.  What a beautiful reward for such a wretched season.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Andrew's birthday interview

How old are you? 6
How tall are you? 100
How much do you weigh? 40
What is your favorite toy? Power Ranger toys
Favorite book? The Book with No Pictures
Favorite movie? The Lego Batman
Favorite TV show? Power Rangers
Favorite food? Ska-betty aka spaghetti
Favorite fruit? strawberries
Favorite vegetable? none of them 
Favorite snack? chocolate bars/chewy bars
Favorite drink? powerades
Favorite activity? doing nothing
Favorite color? very, very, very, very dark red
Favorite sport? Soccer?
Favorite song? The Blood of Jesus
Favorite animal? sabertooth tiger
Favorite game? lego star wars on Wii
Favorite outfit? soccer outfit
Favorite holiday? Christmas
What do you need in bed when it's time to go to sleep? jammies, blankie and toys
Best Friend? Mayer. Rex. 
When I grow up I want to be? air force with Rex.
Nicknames? Ju-ju is what Elise starting calling him and it has stuck.  We mainly call him Andrew or Boo.
Thing I am really good at? tug-o-war.

By Andrew Reid McBride, age 6

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Benjamin plays Baseball!

Benjamin is playing baseball this Spring! He's on an 8 year old, coach pitch team. He enjoys the game and is pretty good for never playing! He has got a hit at every game but one. I must add that he looks incredible handsome and adorable in his uniform!!! He chose the number "38" because that is how old Patrick is :) Hopefully he won't feel the  need to change his number each year to keep up with the aging process. 

This is the first sport that Benjamin has asked to play and he does a great job of making practices and games. This week we had a game Monday night and Tuesday night, which made it a little exhausting for everyone. The little kids love being at the ball field and playing with friends/playing in dirt/running around. 






Outfield.

Hit!

Run to first base. 

Benjamin with his friend and our neighbor Ben!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A lot of pictures to catch up.

These days get away from me so quickly. They are good days and long days and hard days and faster than fast days. 

As of right this minute, Benjamin is 8 and growing so much. Not just in size, but he is literally growing up and it's so bittersweet! He is such a good helper. He started playing baseball. He's in second grade and ready for summer! He loves science and reading things about science. He wants to work for NASA when he grows up. Benjamin wanted to make some money to save up for something, so he started cleaning out storm shelters for $10 on the weekends! He made $45 and was able to buy his long awaited technology device!

Andrew is 5, going on 15. But he will really be 6 in just a few weeks! It's been harder for me to watch Andrew get older than B.  I suppose you anticipate your older to always be older.  But Andrew growing is just a humble reminder that they don't stay babies. Andrew loves to play and play hard. He likes ninjas and legos and dressing up in whatever he thinks looks cool that day. He is in preK, but thinks he is in high school. ;) He usually styles his hair just so. 

Elise is 3 and we will survive it, I just know it! Somedays she seems so little and other days she must be closer to 23 that we realize. She loves helping and taking care of/bossing Caleb around. Although, she is also terrified of Caleb because he hits and bites her. Elise has a mind of her own and knows her opinions well. She loves babies and clothes and her blankie. She is a great sleeper and still sucks her thumb. She is a lover and so very compassionate and sweet. Her favorite color is pink, her favorite animal is an elephant and her favorite movie is Sing. Also, she misses nothing ever. 

Caleb is 20 months and quite a character.  He loves hard and plays hard and throws tantrums hard. He loves to be held and trying to keep up with the big kids. He sleeps pretty good and eats pretty poorly.  If he has no snacks whatsoever, he will eat great -- but he's always hungry and gets snacks. Caleb is the reason our pantry door is rigged closed :) Caleb is funny and has great rhythm. He loves monkeys and his blankie and his paci. Caleb gets so angry and also gives the sweetest hugs and kisses. 

Below is a random assortment of pictures from the last 3-4 months! :) 




I went to Chicago with KM and it rained. 

BUT we saw Hamilton, so best weekend no matter what. 

Caleb is destructive. 

Elise and Caleb love bathrooms. Bleh and ugh.






Elise loves to paint my nails and loves when I do hers!

Tea time with my girl.

They have a super sweet and super stressful relationship. I'm really glad they have each other!



See note about pantry above in Caleb's section. 

Making the most of daily chaos.


I literally think Elise is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. 

Benjamin enjoys helping in the kitchen and creating. 



Taking the baby thing to a new level.



First job, first pay!



Learning that saying "I'm bored" over and over will lead you to work. 








Monday, January 30, 2017

A snow day! January 2017

Snow days are not common around here these days, it seems. But when we get snow -- you better believe we find what we can, layer up and get outside! You can see in the pictures that Benjamin chose to leave the house unprepared and didn't wear socks while playing in the snow... while wearing his sneakers. Boys. 

This was Caleb's first time to actually play in the snow.  He loved the idea of snow and didn't mind being in it, but the second he touched it he was done. Haha! Elise was only a fan after she let me put the right clothes on her to play. We obviously don't spend the money to buy our children appropriate snow clothing! Maybe some day....

Neighbors/friends. These boys found a pond and then I kindly gave them cookies and hot chocolate and lectured them about never, ever going near or on a pond when it's cold in Oklahoma. 





Smart girls ate snacks inside and watched the boys from the warmth of the kitchen!


Best Friends Forever.

Getting ready to walk back home after spending some time at the Moss home! We all took turns having the kids in our houses so they wouldn't go crazy!