Saturday, December 12, 2015

Charlie and Olivia's 7 Year Letters

Dear Olivia,

First, Happy Birthday you big 7 year old! Second, THANK YOU. Thank you for a wonderful year. You have blossomed into this wonderful, beautiful, fun, FUNNY, creative, sensitive, helpful, caring young girl. Your Daddy and I are thrilled with the person you are and the one you continue to become. This year has brought so many magnifications of who you really are. 

You are so loving with your little siblings and you continue to develop your relationships with each of them. We have noticed how you will sacrifice some of the things you want to do in order to play with them the way they want to play. They are almost always included in your play, though the last week or so has brought a desire to do things more independently. 

It is clear that you are moving into the next phase of childhood. You want more independence and responsibility. You are delving a bit deeper into your interests. We started homeschooling in March of this year, and while you were doing wonderfully in public school, it has been such a privilege for me to watch you forging your own educational path here at home. On your own, bit by bit, you have continued to work on learning to read. We have not forced it or drilled it, but your interest and desire has spurred you on, and you are now reading things with very little assistance. If there is s sign, you'll read it. A birthday card, you'll read it. A book you are interested in, you'll pick it up and read it. You are persistent and patient, both of which are excellent qualities.

Art is also a passion of yours, and you enjoy it in all of it's forms. For a large portion of the day you can be found at your art table drawing or coloring while singing songs you make up as you go along. We went to see A Christmas Carol at the Palace Theater right after Thanksgiving and since then you have enjoyed putting on performances for us. With Charlie, you rehearse your shows and then invite us all in for the big show. Very little of your day is not centered around the arts in some way. 

Another fun little thing about you is that you are also extremely interested in people and take little "favorite" surveys all day long. To family and strangers alike you ask, "What's your favorite color?" "What's your favorite shade of a gray?" "What's your favorite holiday, animal, restaurant...?" 

But even with these fun educational achievements and interests of yours, the best thing from this past year has been to watch your character develop. You will always help when help is needed, and MOSTLY with a cheerful attitude. :) Your prayers have become so sweet, tender and thoughtful as you pray for those in need around the world. You sense the emotional weight of issues and events as they arise, and being one with a flair for the dramatic, we can read you like a book when you are bothered or distressed about something. You CARE...deeply. For your family, your friends, and those you have never met. You are an inspiration to me every day, and every day you teach ME how to be a better person. I'm told by a very wise Grammy of yours that this is how it should be. And I think she's right. We want our children to be better than we are, and my little Livy Lou, you are. I am so thankful for you.

Happy 7th Birthday!

Love you to the moon and back...and around Jupiter...and to China...and to California...and to Georgia...and to the Universe...and back. :)


Dear Charlie,

Happy Birthday, Bear!! I can't believe you are 7! Tonight, as I tucked you in and cuddled with you for a few minutes, we talked about the how tiny you were when you were born and how I wasn't able to hold you after I left the OR for awhile as you were in the NICU and I was recovering in my room. You were so tiny, and I can still see the image of you being held up by the nurse as they wheeled me through the NICU on the way to my room. You have tubes and wires everywhere. And now, here I am with a healthy 7 year old boy I can hold and cuddle...but probably not for long.

Charlie Bear, my heart is aching just a little bit tonight, as a Mommy's heart often does. Watching our children grow, and watching YOU grow, is such a beautiful experience, but it doesn't come without some heartache. We have been through a lot together over these past 7 years, and I am grateful for all of it for it has taught me much. You have taught me much, and I am still learning. And I thank you for that.

In ways that I can never hope to be, you are incredibly intelligent. Math and science just click with you, and you have really enjoyed exploring various aspects of those since we started homeschooling. Experiments are a favorite and more recently you have begun building and engineering. You love to solve problems and fix things. Math just seems to click, and while I still often have to count in order to add two figures together (laugh all you want), it just comes naturally to you.

An unexpected benefit of our move to homeschooling this year has been for you. You were doing just great in academics in Kindergarten, but you were struggling when you finally came home at the end of your day.  You did all you could to keep it together while you were there so when you came home you had just had enough, and it made it difficult to get along with people and to feel happy and good about yourself. While we have continued to work on some things here at home, I am SO grateful that the stresses of your school day have been lifted. Here at home we can work on things at a pace that is comfortable and exciting to you. We go where your interests lead us, and more importantly, we are spending our time focusing on building a solid foundation in YOU as a person upon which you can build all of your academic knowledge and capabilities as you feel ready to do so. We have the opportunity to love together, work together, and learn together. And when we need more of any of those, we go for it.

You are an amazing person, Charlie Bear. You are determined, intelligent, logical, focused, and caring. When something is wrong, you know it. When someone is WRONGED, you know that too, and it affects you in a very real way. Daddy and I are seeing the makings of an incredible man in you, but for now, I am very glad to keep you as my little boy, and I will cherish every precious hug, cuddle, and "I love you Mommy." Because I love you too, Charlie Bear. More than you will ever know.

Happy 7th Birthday!!

All my love,

To both of you:
There is a reason you came to this earth together. You are the yin and yang of our family. Of each other. You love and you fight, but you balance each other out in every way. You are the best of friends, and sometimes the very worst of enemies. But MOSTLY, you are the best of friends. What a gift you have been given in each other. Do not ever take it for granted. The two of you have something special, and it is a blessing to us all to be able to witness it. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

4 Year Letters to Jack, Luke, and Wendy

Dear, Jackie,

You are still my snuggly little guy, and my very favorite thing to do with you is tuck you in at nap time. For some reason, that is your cuddliest, sweetest time of day. We say a little prayer and sing a little song, and you use your little baby voice, and tell me you love me. I know that these days are coming to a close, but for now I am relishing every moment.

Your keen mind is always at work. Every little detail of whatever you are engaged in gets your undivided attention, and you occupy a large portion of your time in quiet play by yourself. This does not mean, however, that you do not have the necessary social skills. You are so much fun! This past year has brought you into the spotlight with all of your brothers and sisters. It has become clear that you are the life of the party when you want to be. Your laugh is loud and infectious, and your goofy humor is well received by all. There isn't a sibling with whom you do not get along, and everyone loves playing with you. The love you have for others is palpable.

There is something very methodical about your play. You still love your cars, and spend a large portion of your day arranging and rearranging them. Lining them up according to color, and finding how best to fit them into certain spaces. Besides cars, you love building forts, coloring, and reading. Your favorite book right now is Ocean by the Smithsonian Institute. You love the pictures of volcanoes. But whatever you do, you are constantly thinking and problem-solving.

This year has brought out a little bit of fight in you. Up until now, you have been extremely easy going, but you realized this year that you don't always have to like...or take...circumstances as they are. So you are currently working on exploring appropriate boundaries and learning when it's OK to challenge and when you really just ought to follow the rules. ;) There is also a tendency to put off doing something to the very last second. If we are cleaning, you will suddenly have to go to the bathroom. If you need to come to the dinner table, you just need to do "one more thing." When you aren't happy with things, you let us know! Your tantrums are loud, and intense, but once you have calmed down you are quickly back to your good natured self.

One of the little traits that I just adore about you is that you sing everything. You sing yourself to sleep, you sing the songs you are learning in Primary at church over and over, and you make up little songs as you play by yourself. It is so precious to sit and listen to you serenade us, quite unaware of the show you are putting on.

You have blessed our lives, Jack, and we are so grateful for your presence in our family. Your personality adds such a wonderful balance to the mix. You are extremely smart, creative, funny, thoughtful, careful, and loving. Every day I learn from you and am amazed at all you know and all you are. I love you immensely. Happy Birthday, Jackie Boy!


Dear Lukie,

I love having you around. This last year has revealed so much more of your personality, and I am so thankful for that! For the first couple of years, I struggled a little, feeling like I couldn't quite get a grasp on who you are. As a mom, that can be a difficult place to be. But as you have come into yourself a bit more this past year, I feel like we are bonding more than ever, and I know and understand you now. :)

While the other people in our family tend to be combinations of personality types, you are all choleric (from Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer.) Basically that means that you are a go-getter who thinks that you can get anything done all by yourself. If a have a REAL purpose and task to complete, you are happy and if not, watch out! It is highly likely that something from the refrigerator will end up on the carpet, or that bottle of soda you hadn't finished will suddenly be...well...finished, or you may possibly find something broken.

You don't care for toys, and if you are found playing with them it will either be with cars (as long as you have other siblings playing too), or dressing up as a fireman. Building forts are a top pick right about now as it involves constructing and...DEconstructing! You will listen to picture books when we read aloud as a family at night, but otherwise sitting and listening to me read is not nearly purposeful enough for you. I am still trying to figure out how to incorporate reading into your day so that you can be active and productive while listening without being disruptive to others. We'll get there! So because I can't simply hand you a toy or a marker when you start to get fidgety, I have to keep you occupied with jobs around the house. You are the only one to whom I can say, "Do you want a job?" and my question is met with an enthusiastic, "Can I clean the potty?!?!" Indeed, scrubbing the toilet is your favorite thing to do. I will be totally honest here and say that you are the main reason Daddy and I are considering a move to the country. We just don't have enough jobs to keep you occupied around our tiny suburban home. You need a farm animal to care for and some wood to chop! Haha!

I see so many wonderful qualities in you, Luke. You are independent, driven, purposeful, and not afraid of hard work. You are also tender and sweet, and you have a wonderful little sense of humor. I look forward to being able to work side by side with you around the house as I teach you how to do those things that fulfill your little spirit. I have no doubt that one day you will be teaching ME the things you have learned how to do all by yourself. Thank you for your love and example. Happy Birthday, Lukie Boy!!


Dear Wendy Jane,

What a little lady you are turning out to be. There is no doubt about it, you are the nurturer of the family. And you are also all the things I never was as a little girl! You love animals and babies, and you want to take care of everything. You love soft, tender, beautiful things. I love that about you. :) There are a few neighbors who walk their dogs by our court every day and seeing their pets is the highlight of your day. It is only a matter of time before we will have to give in and get a pet of our own. But I admit, we are waiting until the last possible second!

Your relationship with "Wivia" (Olivia) has continued to grow and strengthen over this past year. You just love your big sister so much...sometimes a little more than she would like. ;) For instance, if you had your choice, you would fall asleep laying beside her every night. Liv, however, has different ideas and isn't incredibly fond of sharing her bed. This has been a point of contention, but the past couple of months have been a little better. Other than that, the two of you get along superbly. Both of you enjoy drawing, dancing, and singing and one will often find you both engaged in those activities together.

Despite all that is feminine about you, there is a stubborn, hard streak that comes out every now and then. Generally when you are playing with your brothers. Let it be can hold your own with your wild and physical brothers! They don't dare touch a toy you might even be considering picking up without knowing that you will bring the wrath. To say that you can go from zero to sixty in 2 seconds would be an understatement. You are the queen of all out tantrums. We are working on learning how to calm down, but more importantly, we are learning how to stay calm in the first place. It's a tough thing to do in a large family, and you are very protective of your time and your things.

I believe that you have naturally come up with a way to combat these negative confrontations by pulling away from the group play periodically throughout the day. You have developed a LOVE of books, and can often be found sitting with a pile of them just perusing the pages. In fact, your love of books has brought about a complete lack of naps. That's right. In the last month, you've probably fallen asleep once during nap time. The upside is that you can read quietly by yourself for a good hour in your room. So I'm gonna ride that until you tell me otherwise.

You are such a beautiful little girl outside and in. I enjoy spending time with you, and watching you turn into a wonderful little person. You have blessed our lives,and we are so thankful for you. Happy Birthday, Janie!!


To All of You:

Happy 4th Birthday!! I can not believe that 4 years have passed since you entered the world and our family. You have gone from little bitty babies that were small enough for me to carry all three of you at once, to strong, enthusiastic, smart, loving, and energetic children.  You have undoubtedly brought joy and love to our family in abundance, and for all the chaos of these first few years, we are so very thankful for each of you. The dust is beginning to settle, and our family is forming a culture and routine that will provide us with wonderful memories over the years.

We started homeschooling this year, and I am filled with gratitude that the Lord prepared all of us with the right philosophy and method for our family. And I am grateful for the perfect timing. While I think it was important to our journey as a family for Charlie and Liv to have a (however brief) experience in public school, I am at peace with the fact that you will not have the public school experience. For our family it is the right path, and I think we have all enjoyed these past 6 months as we have made adjustments and worked together to find a rhythm that works for us. I have personally been filled with so much joy as I watch you being able to work and learn side by side your siblings.

Our family is full of special, wonderful people, and it is a true blessing to Daddy and I to be able to watch you grow into the beautiful spirits that you are. We love you are dearly and look forward to this next year with you!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

At It's Core...

I have had several opportunities to talk with people about our decision to homeschool over the past couple weeks. And everyone has been intrigued, curious, and kind, but they have all expressed sentiments along the lines of, "I could NEVER do that! I need a break from my kids, and they need a break from me!" or "It's a good thing you have a background in early childhood education because not just anybody can homeschool their kids effectively," or "What about the social aspect?" or "We tried homeschooling and it was horrible. My child just ended up eeking out a GED," or "Aren't youworried about them falling behind? What about testing?" or "What exactly do you do with your day?"

And all of these are great questions that I was asking or thoughts I had  as I pondered the possibility of homeschooling our children. The problem is, it's more difficult to answer those questions or respond to those ideas that I had previously thought. The reason it's difficult is because we aren't doing "school." But if you've heard of "unschooling," we aren't exactly doing that either. We are getting off the "converyor-belt" style of learning...or the one size fits all learning. So it's almost as if we are speaking another educational language that most of our society doesn't speak fluently, though it tends to ring true for people once they understand it. 

What we are doing is weaving education into the fabric of our family life. We aren't doing online courses, though we could. We aren't doing worksheets, though we could. We don't have set times when we study history, science, math, reading, etc, instead we have time set aside for learning and we choose each day what we will spend that time studying/reading. What we have is a "life of learning." And it isn't just the kids. In fact, it's VERY MUCH the parents. 

The whole goal of A Thomas Jefferson Eduation (TJed) is to develop leaders...of our children and ourselves. To develop critical thinkers who have a VAST liberal arts education that gives us the ability to encounter problems and solve them...or know how to find the necessary information if we have not yet learned it. To be life long learners and readers.

To do this, the parents MUST lead out. As we delve into the classics (books, art, music, science, math, etc.), not text books, and as we begin to study ourselves, our children will naturally follow. I have seen it already in these first couple of weeks. It is vitally important that, as parents, we are engrossed in our own education, let our children see us learning and reading, and then share with them what we are excited about. 

As our children are very young, we are in what TJed calls Core Phase. And for the first (approximately) 8 years of life, children are in this phase. The lessons they learn here are not academic, they are moral. They learn right vs. wrong, true vs. false, bad vs. good. Instead of spending their time focused on learning addition and subtraction, or even being TAUGHT how to read (they often come to this ability on their own if not pushed), this is a time when they must gain a sound understanding of these moral underpinnings of life. If they do not, life and learning will be a struggle. So while we read, read, read, read, read with them (we are currently doing a family read aloud of Charlotte's Web, we read scriptures at breakfast and a picture book at lunch, and have additional one-on-one book time throughout the day), and we do fun science and cooking activities, or a fun Letter Musical Chairs game, our MAIN focus is on the  principles mentioned above. If this phase is not completed well, it will hinder their futures. They will struggle with key leadership characteristics like honesty, integrity, hard work, and responsibility. 

So how, then, do we accomplish teaching our children these things? Most of you may not even ask the question because it seems so obvious, but it is worth mentioning a few things. 

1. We are an example, just as we are with academic pursuits. We model the desired values, and use teaching opportunities as they arise. They often come through classic books like fairy tales. *Sidebar here...Disney pretty much stripped the fairy tales of any redeeming educational or moral value. I had no idea until I started reading the originals. That said...I love me some Disney. So we'll do both. :)

2. We work on better parenting techniques. We set firm limits and rules in our home, but we administer consequences with firmness and love. 

3. We do chores WITH them. Doing meaningful work around the home is key to helping them gain an understanding of hard work, team work, responsibility, etc. All of which they will need as they move farther into their own studies. This is not an easy thing to do and I struggle with the logistics of this, but Charlie and Liv have both showed more voluntary interest in helping out around the house since we began homeschooling. 

4. We took back control of electronics. Minecraft (Charlie's obsession) and video games are gone indefinitely. This alone has changed our family culture DRASTICALLY, and he has begun to engage in age appropriate play again. The TV is off most days, and when it's on we are watching a documentary (yes, all the kids actually like watching these!), movie versions of classics, or classic movies themselves. *A necessary point to make here is that a "Classic" does not mean "old." It refers to a work that you can come back to repeatedly and continue learning something new from it.* We also limit tablet time and educational computer games. They do not happen every day. Maybe once or twice a week. We do use the internet and YouTube a lot as the kids have questions or interests, but always with an adult.

5. We give them as much freedom and unstructured time to play, explore, read, and delve into their own interests as possible. Because along with those important values, we also want them to fall in LOVE with learning. And as they do, they will naturally move into the next phase, aptly called Love of Learning, and they will begin studying more on their own.

But for now, we are firmly in Core Phase, and my role is to be the Guardian of Core Phase. I'm not perfect, but I feel this responsibility keenly so I am working hard to improve. I want my children to emerge from Core feeling valued, capable, excited about learning, curious, moral, and LOVED. And it's working. We have our struggles, but now that all of my kids are home, I can tailor their learning and education to what THEY THEIR strengths, interests, genius, and ultimately their missions. Because everyone has one. Some major contribution to make. And they will find it at home, surrounded by family who value the things they value, who dedicate life to learning, growing, and achieving...and making a difference. 

As I put Wendy down for nap today, she snuggled under her covers and said, "It's so COZY, Mommy." And it is. It IS cozy. And cozy is just what we need right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jack Has a Hole in His Head

Jack has a hole in his head. No, really. There is a hole in the back of his head now. Last night, the kids were playing and Jack got pushed...into the garage door. And he hit the back of his head on one of the metal parts of the door. He screamed. I came running.

When I saw the back of his head, I'm not gonna lie, I almost passed out. Blood was already streaming from the wound into his platinum blonde hair. I could already see it. There was a hole in my baby's head!! I called Eli immediately and asked him to come right home. I put pressure on the wound and it stopped bleeding fairly quickly. Jack calmed down equally as quickly, which helped me calm down...or not.

Upon Eli's return home and his inspection of the wound, we both decided a visit to the ER was in order. I loaded Jackie into the van, firetruck footie PJs and all, and headed to Children's Hospital. We were there from about 8:00pm to 12:40am. It was a long wait, but I was so incredibly impressed with Jack. We read some books, made a couple trips to the vending machine for PopTarts and potato chips, colored with some new friends, and took about 50 laps around the giant fish tank counting all the blue fish.

After an hour (1 hour past bedtime, 9:00pm), Jack started to ask if we could go home yet. He asked calmly and politely, a simple inquiry to let me know that he was feeling done with our wait. He asked a couple times, but never complained when I told him we had to wait for the Doctor to see us. An hour and a half after THAT (10:00pm), he started to tell me he was feeling tired. Again, he never complained, even when we had several unsuccessful attempts at helping him fall asleep. So I relented and turned on Dragon Tales on my phone. 30 minutes later (10:30pm), we had a room to ourselves...where we continued to watch Dragon Tales for the next 45 minutes. At this point (11:15 pm), a kind nurse came in to tell us that they were going to put some numbing gel on his head that had to sit on the wound for 30 minutes before they could stitch it up. But, she did promise a purple, red, purple, red popsicle when it was all said and done.

After another 15 minutes (11;30pm), she came back in, applied the gel, and wrapped Jack's head in such a way that he reminded me of Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol. He leaned against me and moved on to a few episodes of Peppa Pig, while I prayed that my phone wouldn't die. Let me tell you, Nickolodeon is NOT kid friendly at midnight. Friends may sound innocent enough, but it just isn't. W needed that phone to work. So we continued to wait.

Once they came in for the stitches (12:00am), it took all of 15 minutes to do...maybe. Not even. But again, Jack rose to the occasion. He laid perfectly still, let us know it hurt to push on that tender spot, but never cried, yelled, or lost control. He was so matter-of-fact.

He came away with a cool bracelet, a red popscicle, new friends, and a lot of quality time with Mom. We were both so hungry after we left that we made a late night stop at McDonalds for a cheeseburger and got home just before 1:00am. We had FUN together. Even at the hospital. And I learned a lot from my little guy. Don't sweat the small stuff, even if it's a small hole in your head. Most importantly, I have a greater understanding for what our Heavenly Father feels for us when we are hurting (physically or emotionally). I know that sometimes he doesn't want to look when the stitches are being put in, but he does...because he knows that the Savior has already applied the healing balm of Gilead. And if He looks, He can see his children heal and grow...and see the wonderful men and women they are becoming. All the while, He will be holding their hands.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Poem

Originally a Facebook post that I wanted to include on our blog as well...

Today (January 30) we went for lunch as a family. We arrived and were seated near an elderly gentleman. We got our food, and as we typically do, we said a small prayer (it was Jack's turn to say it), and we blessed our meal and began to eat. During our meal, the man next to us made some small talk here and there, and asked me where we attended church. When we were done, I took Wendy to the bathroom, and as we walked away, Jack was by the man asking him about the small notepad he was writing on.
I found out later what was on that paper, as Eli asked if he could take a picture of it and then deciphered what turned out to be a poem, written by a gentleman who had watched as our family prayed over our lunch. This is what he wrote:
Tis a joy in the heart of those that believe,
To see children bowing their heads;
Thanking God for the food they eat,
Knowing by the Spirit, they will be fed!
It's to the Glory of God, these children are taught
To follow the way of The Lord;
They will be blessed throughout their lives,
And at the end, they will reap everlasting reward!
~Author known...even if we do not have his name

Monday, March 9, 2015

Already...TJed Victories!

We've been homeschooling for a little less than a week, but today was an EXTREMELY rewarding day! It began this morning as I was finishing up getting myself ready. I turned off the blow dryer and called out to my "breakfast helpers" to get bowls and cereal ready, as I walked down the hall. It's a short hall, so it only took me a couple steps to get to the kitchen, but when I got there, all 5 of my kids were sitting at the table with bowls filled with cereal and milk. Liv and Charlie were steps ahead of me and had prepared breakfast without me having to ask. This is something we have been working on the past few days. Success!!

After that, we all cleaned up the kitchen and tidied up the living areas a bit so we could have our first "kidschool." (The kids did great, but I only tried it because Charlie and Liv have been asking to do some more school-like things. We are still detoxing - getting out of public school mode- so I wasn't quite ready to jump into that yet, but they were persistent, so I thought I'd give it a shot.) We said an opening prayer, sang a song, and said the Pledge of Allegiance to a picture of a flag on the internet. I worry that it's disrespectful, but we don't have a functioning flag! LOL! It's on my list of "To Buy" items now. ;) Then I simply introduced them to the Bean-Counter Game. Eli and I award beans whenever someone does something worth noting. It could be a good dead, a completion of an assignment, an extra effort, an achievement of some kind, etc. We don't do it every time, and they never know what we might give beans for. They are not allowed to tell us they've done something bean worthy, but they can share bean-worthy endeavors of others.

After spending the next 15 minutes making all of the beds, kissing all of the siblings, helping me do ALL of the things, they finally got the idea that all they really had to do was live their normal lives and we really WOULD notice the good things. But this seemed to spur on a quest for "good" that was really refreshing.

We made some playdough together, and the kids thought it was really "cool" to watch the ingredients interact as we added each new thing. Then we mushed it around and enjoyed the sensory activity of it.

Then we all snuggled together on the couch and read from our Treasury of Virtues for Children book. We read story after story while Jack and Luke raced their cars on the floor. The Tortoise and the Hare, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Honest Woodcutter, and the list went on. Charlie has REALLY taken to these quiet times of reading together. He gets an extra special reading session before bed that has helped the bedtime routine go much smoother for him. And this time throughout the day has helped him be much calmer and in a much better has also helped that we have cut out Minecraft entirely for the past month or so. He still asks for it daily, but has only thrown a couple fits about it. But I digress.

We then had lunch, and I put the triplets down for nap. During that time,  Charlie and Liv have to choose quiet activities. Today they really wanted to work on their tablets, and because we have  drastically limited TV and video games, I agreed...after I got rid of most of the "fluff" games. I left a few. I'm not a meany. :) But what impressed me was that even with those favorite "fluff" games still available, they CHOSE the educational ones. So they worked on their tablets while I folded the laundry and listened to the scriptures.(yes, simultaneously), and then read a little of Sense and Sensibility.

As the triplets began to wake up, Charlie decided that he wanted to take it upon himself to make everyone a toast sandwich with either jelly or peanut butter spread, depending on everyone's preference. He did an excellent job, and I sat and snuggled my babies while he worked away in the kitchen! Trust me when I say that this is something I have NEVER experienced up to this point in my parenting life. I was so proud of him.

We took a trip to Target then, and it was an epic fail. Hey, you gotta have at least one in a day, right? But once we got home, the kids enjoyed playing outside in the relatively hot 48 degree weather. Luke taught himself to pump, and can now swing unassisted...BEANS!

When they were done, they came in and the triplets played while Liv colored. Charlie, had asked a question as we were leaving for Target that sparked some interest for him. He asked me what a chemical was. So we looked up the definition online. Then he wanted to SEE a picture of a chemical, so we found some illustrations of compounds. Which then lead us to individual elements, and then I remembered that someone had shared an interactive Periodic Table of the Elements on one of my homeschool sites. So I brought it up for Charlie and he spent a good portion of the evening learning about nickle and other elements. He LOVES the videos of different experiments that they do with each element. THAT is what our philosophy of Leadership Education (or TJed) is all about. The child has a question or an interest, and we provide the materials. At least at this point in the game.

The girls went on a little trip with Dad to Home Depot for some light bulbs, and I stayed with the boys, got them ready for bed, and read with them some more per Charlie's request. When the girls and Dad arrived home, we said family prayer and started our tuck ins. But Liv realized that she had missed out on candy for dessert and went into a melt down. She wanted candy BAD, and so I gave her a choice. I told her she could choose whether she ate some candy before bed or not. But I also told her how it would affect her body and her teeth if she chose to eat it now. And you know what that girl did? She puzzled over it for a while, and then she chose to save her candy for tomorrow. At 6 years old, that was an incredibly mature decision to make. So...I gave her some beans. :)

It has already been so rewarding to have my kids home, and having a set goal and purpose for our family has helped ME to be a better mom. And to see all the good in my kids, instead of being aggravated most of the time...which I will admit...I often was. But this has changed all of that. There are still frustrations, but even in these few days, it has done wonders for us.

Here are a few pictures of what we have been up to...

We let an egg sit in vinegar for 2 days and the shell dissolved!!

We played in our sensory bin.

We made pizza.

We baked a cake!

This one technically happened before our first day of official homeschooling, but I was already implementing some TJed principles, and Jack and Luke are still building railroads all around the house. This day, they figured out how to turn the pieces they had been using to make a hill into a valley. Genuis!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Beginning our Homeschooling Journey

Some of you who are reading this are probably thinking, "What?! Where in the world did THIS come from?!" I have purposefully not shared this with many people so that I could come to a conclusion on my own about what to do, how to do it, and WHY to do it. But surprising as it may be, our journey to homeschooling has been a long one. As a teacher myself, I have struggled for a long time with our school system. All the testing, standards, and mandates have, in my opinion, tied the hands of even the most excellent teachers. And it is watering down the education our children are receiving while at the same time adding stress to their young lives.

But, lest you forget, we just came through 6 years of intense early childhood that (I will admit) threatened to break me at every turn! So homeschooling was an idea I liked in THEORY, but not one I felt ready to implement. But as with the most important things in life, the Lord tends to lead us where we should go, even when we are too  distracted to see where we are going!

My mother has been a proponent of homeschooling for years, as her job has taken her into schools where she has seen first hand the effects of these governmental changes and, even more sadly, some of the homes many children are coming from...and the "lessons" they bring with them and share with their peers. But...I was still not ready.

Little by little, I warmed up to the idea, as I spoke with other mothers who were homeschooling or considering it. Thinking that perhaps I could take on this big project if my kids first learned how to read. Maybe when the twins were going into third grade, they could all come home. Or maybe I would bring them home little by little. Twins first, and then the triplets. All sorts of possibilities floated around my head. After all, I was really looking forward to having my days to myself. I needed a break! (Side note: I was 6 months away from having all 5 kids gone during the day.)

And then some  things occurred that changed our trajectory. First, through a series of very strange events, I found an educational philosophy that piqued my interest. A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille (TJed for short.) I did a little research, and then my mother-in-law told me there was a TJed Facebook group. I checked it out right away and what I found there only intrigued me more. So I bought the book and devoured it. There, within its pages, I found my OWN educational philosophy explained in a way that made it even more clear to me what I had really believed all these years. But, it added a few new things that made PERFECT sense. And suddenly, I could see clearly where we are going as a family. And I knew what I wanted for my children.

TJed is definitely not the traditional schooling we are all familiar with. It is child lead, but parent/mentor guided. It relies heavily on reading the classics (or watching them, looking at them, orlistening to them, as classics come in all genres) and then having discussions about them, writing about them, and learning from them. It emphasizes the extreme importance of SELF-education by both child and parent, with the end goal being two-fold...a genuine LOVE of learning (and desire to seek out knowledge),and the creation of critical thinkers who will become LEADERS in various aspects of our communities and country.

This is what I want for my children. I do not want them to hate math the way I did simply because they had to memorize their times tables and couldn't do it fast enough. I want them to hear the stories of mathematicians and scientists and understand first WHY their discoveries were important and what lead them to researching them, and THEN have a desire to learn HOW to apply them. I want their education to include life skills, along with reading, and an education that intertwines our faith with all of the standard subjects. I want my children to be life long learners who can go out into the world and make a difference, however small or large. To care about their country and our freedom in all aspects. And TJed will help us accomplish this.

For now, our homeschooling will consist  of "detoxing" for a time, until the children show interest in learning about different things. There is a transition from public school to homeschool, and even today I am being asked if we can implement recess and centers. But this is not how our day will look. Instead, we will focus on daily family scripture study, learning how to complete household chores together, continuing to read and write as Charlie and Liv have already started down that path and are enjoying it, and taking advantage of educational opportunities as they appear in our lives. We will PLAY together, and be together, and go places together. I will spend this time arranging our home environment to both facilitate learning and be a source of inspiration for learning, and I will focus on my OWN education. Both in the ways I have already been learning, and by incorporating some new topics.

I am excited to begin this journey as a family...and I'm a little nervous too. It's a big undertaking. But I am not doing it alone. I have 5 amazing children, and an incredibly loving, supportive, and involved husband to do this with. There will surely be challenges, but I can't wait to see what lies in store for us! Day 1 of homeschooling begins today. 

They cut desire into short lengths
And fed it to the hungry fires of courage. 
Long after - when the flames had died -
Molten Gold gleamed in the ashes.
They gathered it into bruised palms
And handed it to their children
And their children's children.

Vilate Raile


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