All posts by Lea Callahan

For My Children:
Pecan Pies

It took me too long to wonder how my mom did some of the great things – you know, those little ordinary things that make life special, but we don’t notice until they aren’t getting done.  Well, pecan pie won’t be one of those my children have to wonder about. Here it is.

The finished product! Oohhh so good!
The finished product! Oohhh so good!

And it really couldn’t be more ordinary or simple. Nevertheless, if you deviate it just won’t be the same wonderfulness!  Okay, shhhh, here’s the secret …..its two fold….

One – Its the recipe on the back of the Karo Syrup bottle (yes its that simple) and two – you must use light Karo, not dark. And three – don’t follow their directions and I added an ingredient. Wait, that’s trifold and not as simple, well anyway, here you go…

 

Ingredients for the famous (infamous?) Mama's pecan pies.
Ingredients for the famous (infamous?) Mama’s pecan pies.

Okay, maybe there are a few handed down “tricks” that the recipe doesn’t tell you.

Put the eggs in your mixing bowl first and beat them until they turn pale in color, then add the sugar. Beat it again until the eggs and sugar are blended well and are even paler. Would’t you be pale if you were beaten like that?

Beat eggs, add sugar, beat again, until a pale yellow.
Beat eggs, add sugar, beat again, until a pale yellow.

Now add the Karo LIGHT syrup and beat again!

Add Karo syrup and beat together well.
Add Karo syrup and beat together well.
Time to add the melted butter.  Sorry its blurry - I can't pour, stir, and click without blur!
Time to add the melted butter. Sorry its blurry – I can’t pour, stir, and click without blur!

I always stir while pouring in the butter just in case its still warm enough to cook the eggs. We don’t want scrambled eggs in our pie!

Yummy vanilla!
Yummy vanilla!

Stir in the vanilla extract – always use pure vanilla extract!!

Somewhere between a smidgen and a hint of sea salt!
Somewhere between a smidgen and a hint of sea salt!

Here it is!! The tidbit that you always know is different from the recipe and NEVER gets told! Add somewhere between a smidgen and a hint of salt! Eggs need salt! Look up smidgen and hint – they are actual measurements.  But…I don’t measure – just put a drop (that’s also a measurement.) There, is that clear enough?

Pecans! Chopped or whole - however you like them.
Pecans! Chopped or whole – however you like them.

Pecans can be added in chopped or whole depending on how you like to eat it. Granddaddy Brothers always liked it whole – so that’s how I made his. Its easier to cut if the pecans are in pieces – so that’s how I took these to family get togethers. Totally a matter of preference!

Stir pecans into mixture before pouring into shell.
Stir pecans into mixture before pouring into shell.

What does matter is that you mix them in here! Do not put them in the shell and pour the eggs/sugar mixer over them – NOT the same! Oh, and, I may heep the cup measure on these pecans or even just throw in a handful more.

Shells must be DEEP DISH or it will overflow!!  If you make homemade pie shells, be sure to use a deep dish pan.

Cut a circle out of a square piece of aluminum foil to cover the edges. Grandmama Helen Brothers trick.
Cut a circle out of a square piece of aluminum foil to cover the edges. Grandmama Helen Brothers trick that she got from great grandmother Lilllian Stevenson that she got from……

Final family pecan pie secret – cover the edges for the first 45 minutes of cooking! This will keep the edges from over browning while the center cooks.  After 45 minutes, removed the foil carefully and then continue to cook 15 minutes.

In the oven! Now  your house smells delicious!
In the oven! Now your house smells delicious!

Sometimes the foil will stick to the risen filling and can destroy the look of the pie. Be careful when applying the foil that it isn’t touching the filling and is actually a little above it to allow the filling to rise without sticking to the foil.

Cooling!
Cooling!

After the last 15 minutes they may not LOOK done, but they are. Get them out and let them cool and settle for at least an hour. This is difficult!! Maintain self control here!

Enjoy!
Enjoy!

All done! Now eat immediately, or let your kids decorate for a friend give away  or family get together.

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Doing the Last First

When I wrote my blog post about homeschooling our second daughter in “Take That System“, I promised to tell you about our oldest daughter in a later post. Many of you have asked….so, finally, here it is.

A Daunting Task

In the original blog post I told you how our second daughter’s academic struggles led us to take a leap of faith and homeschool. I should tell you how that leap came about too. That will have to be another blog post promised for later – again. But for now, we had different reasons for bringing our oldest daughter home. She was finishing her 9th grade year and making straight As. However, she was falling into the “wrong” crowd. Yes, they have those even in the best private Christian schools, which she was in. On top of that, her spiritual life primarily existed in Bible class. That was so to be surprising. My husband and I had only recently made God our first and only god. She was living by our example.

Now when I say she was a straight A student that does, by no means, imply that she was learning anything. But, boy, could she work the system. She would walk right up to the classroom door, pause before a test and look over the notes, go in and ace the test, and come out knowing nothing it was about!

Wait… What?

She was not happy with our decision to homeschool her.

Okay, that’s an understatement! She was one extremely displeased camper with a whole host of negative emotions! Anger, resentment, confusion, fear, hurt, sadness…. She didn’t want to leave her friends and the system she was used to. She knew how to exist there and probably more than angry, she was afraid of the unknown and it came out as anger. I completely understood – I was frightened too!

Cassidy and her sister with all her friends from private school. She's still friends with them all.
Cassidy and her sister with all her friends from private school. Even though they’ve all moved on to different places in this world, they are still friends.

We prayed for direction and guidance. How do we accomplish positive changes in only three years? We prayed. We researched. We prayed. We talked to others.

We prayed.

It seems, even today, everyone dreads homeschooling high school. Even those that have been homeschooling from the beginning are scared of it and often quit when they get there. People said to me then, “We’re terrified by high school. You’re just going to jump in and start there?”

“Yes. Yes I am.”

Maybe I was just naïve or just plain stupid, but high school seemed way less scary to me than teaching someone to read. I figured if they could read, they could learn anything. Wasn’t really much for me to do but point her in the right directions and let her go. And that’s pretty much what we did.

I confess – I was a bit terrified. It was daunting. I had thought that even though I was doing things differently for my younger daughter, this 10th grader would pretty much be getting the prescribed curriculum to check off the “required” boxes and do it. It didn’t take long to discover that even in high school learning and schooling are different.

Some Silver Lining

We finished up the 9th grade year at the private school and then spent the summer putting God at the top of our priorities and re-bonding our family. We made church and family devotions a regular part of our lives. We made the Bible our go to point for family decisions. The girls and I did a lot of lying on the trampoline and making shapes out of clouds that summer.

Our beautiful view from laying on the trampoline.
Our beautiful view from laying on the trampoline.

We took walks in the woods. We canned fruit. Nothing taste better than warm, fresh, muscadine jelly from berries you picked, washed, and cooked together. Did I mention we had a vineyard? Very fun! We had a good summer.

Cassidy and our dog, Vanilla, picking muscadines in our backyard.
Cassidy and our dog, Vanilla, picking muscadines in our backyard.

But…she was 16. She needed friends. New friends. Homeschool friends. She needed people that she could have commonality with. We helped her stay in touch with her private school friends, and some of those she is still friends with today – 15 years later. But right then, she needed friends in her new world circle.

King of the pasture and vineyard - Jumper - Cassidy's beloved dog.
King of the pasture and vineyard – Jumper – Cassidy’s beloved dog. Because – I just really love this photo.

To help her transition, we hoped to find ways to make homeschooling appealing by tapping her interest. She had interests that because of the confines of her school schedules and our work situations she couldn’t pursue. We looked for ways to change that now that the work and school obstacles were removed.

Cassidy's grandmother, her best friend since 2nd grade,  her little sister, and the cat. We had fun restoring close family relations those first few months.
Cassidy’s grandmother, her best friend since 2nd grade, her little sister, and our cat. We had fun bonding closer as a family those first few months. Its amazing how fast you can mend that gap when you go from seeing each other maybe 4 rushed waking hours a day to every leisurely fun hour of the day!

Choices and Actions!

That first year we learned to be okay starting things and then tossing them out and starting again. We began a chemistry course that blew our minds. We sold it! We started a math course (same one the school had used) – it was awful! We tossed it! By Thanksgiving we were wondering if we would have to do the entire 10th grade over. But once we settled on something, she moved fast. Not having to wait on a class allows your own pace and she moved through it with no troubles after we found the right fit. That was one of my great lessons learned as a homeschool mom! Even here, in the 10th grade, there is plenty of time for tossing out and starting again. If its not working, don’t continue to force it!! We learned quickly that the curriculum is our tool and to switch if that tool isn’t doing the job.

Cassidy with her homeschool classmates.  They are all also spread about in their adult lives and maintain their friendship.
Cassidy with her homeschool classmates. They are all also spread across the globe. Sweet friendships endure.

She didn’t realize it, but while all that bouncing around was happening, her dad and I were finding ways to help her experience the freedom and open opportunities homeschooling enjoyed. Looking for opportunities, we talked with other parents in our cover school.

These two, with a few others, stuck together through all the hard high school courses - Physics, Calculus, Marine Biology! Fun years.
These three, with a few others, stuck together through all the hard high school courses – Physics, Calculus, Marine Biology! Fun years.

There were a variety of skills and abilities there. We were engineers and brought math and science to the table. As providence would have it, one of the other families’ dads was a local law school professor. He needed help with math for his son. We needed help with government for our daughter. And a small group of life friendships were born.

We offered to teach math and he offered to teach government. Several other families wanted in and soon we had a little group of about 8-10 students taking these classes together.

CassCatDanielLindens2005
We made friends that weren’t in specific classes with us as well. This group had many fun activities and outings throughout the years.  A few missing in this photo –  you know who you are! I couldn’t find a photo with all of you, though I’m sure it exist!

One of the moms told us about a local co-op where you could sign up for individual subjects. This was great for me as I was terrified of high school English and literature!! Our daughter, on the other hand, loved Shakespeare and wasn’t allowed to read it at the private school as early or as much as she had wanted to. Here was a chance at that freedom we were watching for. We signed her up for the English lit course. (I was so relieved!) They read lots of Shakespeare. They even went to live Shakespeare plays. She started to open up to the new venture.

The Power of Learning for Your Own Benefit

So far we’ve got her in the Shakespeare she desired, and what could make government more fun for a high schooler than to take it from an actual law professor? They had the opportunity to go to the law school and see mock trials. Being a small group they did a lot of learning activities together and became closely associated. This group of kids are still friends.

One thing we did continue doing were her private art lessons. Here she's pictured with her ribbons she earned in photography and painting. The wooden box she found in the old barn and painted for her little brother. The photo is, of course, of her dog.
One thing we did continue doing were her private art lessons. Here she’s pictured with her ribbons she earned in photography and painting. The wooden box she found in the old barn and painted for her little brother. The photo is, of course, of her dog.

We had two more major things that swung her over to homeschooling. One was a precious lady that came to the coop and taught Marine Biology. Our daughter loved marine life and wanted to be a marine biologist or veterinarian one day. She could not believe this class. They got to canoe down the Cahaba River and study river life. They even went for a few days to Dauphin Island Sea Lab and studied marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. This was such a great blessing!! This teacher only taught this course this one time in our city before she moved away. I’m convinced God brought her here just for our daughter.

Cassidy with her precious, horse, Ted. She earned the money herself to buy him.
Cassidy with her precious, horse, Ted. She earned the money herself to buy him.

Lastly – horses! Both our daughters had always wanted horses. We had never had the money for boarding or room for a barn/pasture. Well, when we moved to homeschool we made a point to find property where we could have horses. We signed her up for riding lessons and soon she had a horse of her own right in her own back yard.2014-11-15 15.20.32

Again, providentially, our neighbor raised show horses. Both the girls got jobs with her mucking stalls and caring for her horses. She also started working in vet offices. Since we were homeschooling she could work hours most kids couldn’t. Therefore, she was able to help with surgeries, not just cleaning cages, and everything in between.

Capitalizing on her own interests and learning and growing in them taught her the best thing there is about homeschooling. Learning is fun! Next great realization: Being productive is fulfilling.

All of this is actually how AskDrCallahan got started. After she (and her group of friends) finished high school, people kept asking us to teach high school math to their children. There were so many, we didn’t have time to teach them all. We decided to record my husband teaching math so they could have his help without it taking all of his time.

Our daughter worked with us to make these recordings and thereby helped pay for her college degree. You may have seen her on our DVDs, especially Algebra I.

Bottom line, we found opportunities for her to explore her interests that only homeschooling would allow. It made it fun and worthwhile and something she not only looked forward to, but also was grateful for.

What a Gift!CassidyFamily

We thank God that she had fun those 3 years, but mostly that she regained a love for real learning.  The way He redeemed all those years I spent working away from them and they spent marching mindlessly to another’s drumbeat, in those three short years, only He understands. It was the absolute best three years!

Our wonderful son-in-law. What an amazing godly man, husband, and father he has grown into. We are so thankful for him.
Our wonderful son-in-law, Tim.

 

She graduated from college with honors and is married, has two sons, (grandson #2 will be here in another month! I’m a little excited!)  and is homeschooling.  She married her college sweetheart, Tim.

I don’t know how the time has gone by so fast, but I do know that it has turned out well. God is so good to redeem the lost years.

We are so proud of our godly daughter and the wife and mother she has become.

She is also a social media specialist, literature expert, amazing artist, math scholar, and extremely creative. She is so gifted in making learning fun for others now. Often tutoring kids struggling in math, English, literature, science, or French and turning the learning into something fun they look forward to. Parent’s marvel that’s she’s able to help their children turn around from Ds to As.

Cassidy at the time of this writing with her sweet son.
Cassidy at the time of this writing with her sweet son.

 

 

Its beyond words for me to express the joy when she gives me a smile and big hug and says “Thank you, Mom, for homeschooling me.”

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Meal Planning –
Mundane Marvels

Start Basic!

Meal2014Be sure to not overwhelm yourself. Start simple. Work with what you already know how to cook or prepare. Don’t try to learn new recipes now. You’re just trying to learn the process of meal planning and limited grocery procurement.

Here’s what I did.

First – Brainstorm

I wrote down all the meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) I could think of that I knew how to make. I put all the groceries needed for that dinner. Sadly, this was not a very long list, but it was something.  You can click here to see my list.

Second – Lay out one week plan

MealPlanExampleI made myself a form for one week. Click here to download my blank form. Its just a quick and easy excel file.

I put meals in each slot of my plan and tried to make them fit other activities going on in my week. Such as, ballet lessons at 3:30 on Tuesday meant that Tuesday’s dinner needed to be easy and quick to fix. Click here to see a sample of one of my weeks filled in with meals.  I also tried to tie lunch to the previous day’s dinner. Chicken for dinner? Put in a couple extra pieces and then have chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, or chicken on salad for lunch the next day.

Third – Grocery List

Making a grocery list from the menu is crucial for two reasons. First, it guarantees you will have what you need to actually make that meal you planned. Starting dinner and then realizing you don’t have all the ingredients can completely upset dinner, the rest of the evening, and spoil your mood! Second, it a budget lifesaver! While the list will look large when you make it for a week’s worth of meals, its amazing how much it will save you not going to the store more than once a week.

Growing Beyond Basic.

When you’ve gotten this basic system going using meals you already know how to cook, you can then start to grow and expand the whole process. Add meals you don’t know how to cook, but I recommend at the most only one new recipe a week.

The Pioneer Woman 16 Minute Meals
The Pioneer Woman – 16 Minute Meals

New recipes are overwhelming until they are mastered and more than one can throw the whole week off. Not just your groove, but your budget.

Get new recipes from friends and relatives, but another great place is the web.

I love getting 16 minutes meals from The Pioneer Woman. Now 16 minutes meals will take you more than 16 minutes until you master them. Plan for that and remember to only add one per week. Its enough!  You’ll be surprised how fast you’ve grown that original “meals I know how to make” list.

I have long tried to improve our eating habits and following healthy eating habits. One great source is “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats” by Sally Fallon.

Something new I’m trying. Recently I found a blog called Nourished Kitchen who is putting into practice those methods and has a great database of meals, recipes, and food preparation techniques, as well as a cookbook, “The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle Featuring Bone Broths, Fermented Vegetables, Grass-Fed Meats, Wholesome Fats, Raw Dairy, and Kombuchas


I just subscribed to a year of her meal plans mainly to add to my list of healthy meals I could make. To teach myself!

The planning up front seems time consuming, but it will actually save you time all week when you don’t have to think about what your family will it or whether you have the ingredients you need to fix it.

We talked “Meals” at our monthly homeschool mom’s group yesterday and there were some GREAT ideas and recipes from a bunch of moms.  There are two resources from our afternoon chat that  I just have to share here.

Jill mentioned emeals and it’s awesome! It’s also recommended by Dave Ramsey.  It has meal plans, recipes,  and shopping helps. More helps than I can list so please, check it out. The great thing about meal planning is that it saves you time, money, and frustration. Plus you eat well. Seriously, taking the time to plan really does save time later and you spend less money!

Another great idea from Jill was to include your meals in your homeschooling!  Here’s a book she recommended for tying your meals to history and geography studies – Eat Your Way Through the USA.  While you’re having fun cooking, eating and learning history/geography, remember cooking and grocery money management are great ways to experience real math! Three school topics covered right there!

Start now and make meals for your family not only yummy for everyone, but less stressful for mom!

After you get going, please get back to me here and let me know how its working for you.

Resources:

My original meal list. 

My weekly meal blank form.

My example weekly meal plan.

The Pioneer Woman 16 minute Meals 

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

The Nourished Kitchen blog.

The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle Featuring Bone Broths, Fermented Vegetables, Grass-Fed Meats, Wholesome Fats, Raw Dairy, and Kombuchas

Jill’s Dave Ramsey recommendationed – emeals

Jill’s recommendation: Eat Your Way Through the USA

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How Do I Start? Homeschooling.

How do I start? I wonder how many times I’ve been asked that question? I wonder if my answer ever makes sense? I’ve decided to write it down to at least be more consistent! Rarely does anyone discuss with me the pros and cons of homeschooling. They come to me after the decision in a panic! Its personal I think, a bit like getting married. You never hear anyone discussing that they’re thinking of getting married. You just hear “We’re getting married!” Then the fluster of wedding planning and marriage staying power begins. So it is with deciding to homeschool.  Here’s my answer for beginning.

Start by stopping. Take some time for you and your child to absorb the reality of a new way of doing things. You have opened a new door to learning. Stand there a minute and let your eyes get used to the light.

Make baby steps toward active learning. Here’s a roadmap that will serve you well even as you grow more complicated in your home learning! But for now, stay simple.

Road Map: Restful decompression -> excited exploration -> intentional follow-up -> directed discovery -> presentation of discovery.

Getting Behind.

When starting homeschooling, the number one concern is getting behind. Either we think our children are already behind or they will get behind under our tutelage.

It can be an overwhelming fear I know! But let me assure you, they are not anDaniel Exploringd will not get behind!  “Behind” implies some measure you are comparing your child against. You are no longer controlled by this arbitrary standard. You are setting your own standard. You absolutely have time to absorb your new reality without harming the education of your child. The result, in fact, will be quite the opposite!

When we started homeschooling, our 11-year-old daughter hated learning and couldn’t read. We took off a full year from “school” related activities, and she went on to teach herself three additional languages before graduating high school. Read her more detailed story on my post “Take That System.”

 Goals.

Your goal in “schooling” your children is for them to learn. If your goal is to have them learn everything they can ever know by the age of 18, not only is that unrealistic for both of you, but also leaves them a pretty boring life after age 18. Don’t strive to teach ALL that you can. It will drive you both crazy trying to do the impossible. You want them to be learning for their entire life! Therefore, your goal is to teach your child two things: 1) To love learning and 2) to discipline themselves. With these two skills, they can go on to learn and conquer anything they tackle throughout their entire lives.

Step 1. Decompression.

If you are pulling your kids out of school, then obviously school wasn’t working for them. They need an extra step from those starting from the beginning. They will need time to decompress from the school regiment, in other words, time off. I highly recommend you give them this time to regain a love for learning, rather than just the ability to complete a given task successfully. Allow them time to play, rest, and essentially, goof off! Let them waste their time and get bored. Kids need time to get bored to spark their imaginations and inquisitive spirits. When every moment is scheduled for them, their own minds never have to engage.

Step 2. Exploration.

When their boredom transitions to investigating things around them, you might casually suggest some particular, more narrowed exploration if they have not already narrowed it on their own. One fun and full of mystery suggestion is the outdoors.

I highly recommend the “Handbook of Nature Study

Give this book to your child to flip through. When they’ve tired of flipping, ask them to go see if any of the plants can be identified in your yard. If they can’t read, just look for matches to the photos. I was stunned at how much my children learned in this exploration time. You may find other exploring instigators work better for your child, such as disassembling the bike or radio, experimenting with cooking, or drawing dress designs for dolls. Let them make a mess. Sanity tip: Helping clean up is part of the exploration! The better cleaners they are, the more open to messes mom is!

Step 3. Intentional Follow-up

When you see learning for fun happening (excitement over a discovery) you can start to employ controlled follow-up questions. Questions that direct the interest and investigation in a desired direction.  Steady now – Use stealth!!  For example: “Are you sure that’s the same tree as in the yard? I want to see.  Can you show me?  What’s it called again?” Let them teach you what they just discovered, even if you already know. Let them show and teach you. Teaching is such a great reinforcement and its fun!

Step 4. Directed Discovery

We’ve followed up, but maybe there’s more to know than what we have at our fingertips. Now take your questions further. Press for knowledge not readily accessible. “Is that tree native to our state? If not, who brought it here? When and Why?” etc.  Ask these questions one at a time. Careful not to overwhelm, but sound like a conversation and certainly interested yourself. Gauge your questions according to the age and ability of your child. When they don’t know the answer, suggest places to find the answers. The Internet, library, Dad, anywhere the discovery can be continued.

Step 5. Presentation

This step technically takes place all along the way. From the point where the child first points out the interest to you, they are presenting their discovery. Reciting acquired knowledge is a poweDavid Explores!rful skill which benefits from this practice. However, some things will be so interesting to the child that your directed questions lead them all the way through step 4 and beyond. Encourage them to communicate what they’ve discovered. This could vary from just telling about it, to drawing a picture of it, to building a replica. The key here is to let them discover the way to make their presentation. Hint: Don’t call it a presentation or they’ll probably balk! Same method applies with the presentation. Ask questions. Leading questions. “Let’s tell Daddy when he gets home. What’s the best way to help Daddy understands what you discovered?”

Questions lead to more and more discovery! Learning.

Repeat – for a Lifestyle of Learning

These steps may take place over days or weeks so don’t rush it. When you see the interest has died down don’t force it. Ask again about it later or they may bring it up again. They are not only learning about things, they are learning the process of asking questions to learn more. Possibly, the item of interest may change and you’ll have to go back to step one with the new focus. This will get fun, so be prepared; it will blossom into many interests to chase!

Whatever you do, don’t bring school home! Homeschooling is NOT school at home. Homeschooling is not school at all, its learning, learning everywhere with a home base. See “Schooling at Home or Homeschooling

One last thought, like a blanket over all these steps, is reading. Read, read, read with, but mostly to, your children. Use audio books too. Hearing words read is very powerful.

Do it daily!

Congratulations! You are now having fun learning  Socratic style!

 

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Take that SYSTEM!

Philippians 1:6  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Twenty  Years to Completion.

The difference between belief and trust is experience. An experience takes time, often lots of time. But the trust that comes at the end of that experience is worth every minute of it. It’s a trust that equates with rest. Resting, peacefully.

Let me explain.  Hang in there, it’s a 20 year ride!

 In the Beginning

WAY back when our daughter was ready for four year old kindergarten, she was busting with excitement that she was accepted to and would soon begin learning at the private school where her older sister was already attending.  CatrinaOh, it was a beautiful time.  They were both at a good school with a promising future ahead. I had just landed a dream job and all was smooth – for two years.

Rumblings of Thunder

During the second grade she began to act out and get in trouble at school. Minor infractions, but they seemed out of character. She was no longer bubbly with the expectation of learning, but instead dreaded certain subjects.  By the third grade she was failing subjects and the school worked with us to retake test and we stumbled along with many calls and conferences.

Strangely, that same year, 3rd grade, my husband found out a man he worked with homeschooled his children.  We didn’t even know what that was. As we learned more about his lifestyle, we found it completely absurd!  His poor children! And what makes them think they can teach their children ALL those subjects? And…well, you know all the questions and comments.

More and more people seemed to get blown like sand into our lives that homeschool. Many of them at our OWN church! How did we not know these people were doing this? We decided to check them out. WOW, their kids were so polite, interactive, intelligent, well spoken, and the list just goes on.  We went on checking out family after family and they were all this way. Educated and seriously making “regular” schooled children look like the ones that weren’t socialized. Our older daughter’s friends would barely even speak to us, much less look us in the eye and carry on a reasonable conversation. These kids could do that!

As a last ditch effort to shake off this homeschool idea, which was starting to feel like pressure from within, we decided to talk to the superintendent of the private school about it. He would definitely tell us why we should keep her in his school.

He didn’t.

Terrifying Winds of Change

The superintendent of the private school told us homeschooling was the best option for any child, and this private school was there for those that couldn’t homeschool for whatever reason. He was second choice. SERIOUSLY! NO, this is not what I wanted to hear.

Leaving there, I started to panic – big time! I know what this means, I’m going to have to resign from my job and stay home. I’m going to be the teacher. I don’t want to stay home and I’m NO teacher! Our income is going to be cut in half. Yes, half! We need to sell our two-income home and move to a one-income home. LOTS of changes for this one change!

We put the house on the market, hinging every thing on that. If it sells, I’ll quit and we’ll homeschool. The sale of the house is our fleece.

But it doesn’t sell, and doesn’t and doesn’t!

Meanwhile, our daughter continued to struggle. By 5th grade, she was calling me several times a week with stomachaches and headaches and anything to get out of schoolwork. The physical issues weren’t made up; they were real, brought on by the stress of the situation.  The school was strongly recommending we have her tested for learning disabilities, insisting she needed medication, and declaring she could not stay in the classroom if we didn’t. She was too disruptive.

We talked to our pastor. He called us out on the carpet or I should say, water. He said our house sell was not our fleece, but our excuse to not step out of the boat onto the water.  “Take a leap of faith,” he says! “Obviously, God is telling you to homeschool. Dive in.”

And so, we did.

I was terrified. The house had been on the market 2 years! I put in my resignation at my 10-year job. The house sold immediately and they wanted to move-in in 3 weeks. We frantically started looking for a house and found one that had been standing empty for almost 2 years; move in ready, like it was waiting for us.

We closed. I quit. We moved.

The girls had just finished the 5th and 9th grades. I’ve got the summer to get ready to go from engineer to teacher of 6th and 10th grade girls.  The older girl is a story all her own, I’ll save for another day.

 What do I do?

What do I do with this beautiful, 10 year old girl that used to love learning, but now hates learning with a passion. Not only is she convinced she hates learning, she is convinced she CAN’T learn. All will and interest in learning seemed dead.

I decided since the system had turned her world up on end, it needed turning back over.

What’s critical? That was my question. Well, she had to regain a love for learning or we’d never get anywhere.  We had to re-instill wonder in her life. She didn’t wonder anymore.  I decided it all came down to two things: desiring learning and reading. Those two things are critical to a lifetime of learning.

Since I’d never been home with our girls before, we had the best summer ever! We spent time having fun together and getting to know each other, laughing, jumping, spraying water, preparing for horses, and planting gardens.  I remember us lying together on the trampoline after jumping and laughing. Laying there resting, we watched the white, puffy, clouds drift across the sky.  We saw shapes and we began to wonder what shape they would drift into next. There on the trampoline, I saw a spark and realized the wonder was not dead, but only mostly dead.

Effort and Patience

By all normal standards, we took the 6th grade year off. We threw out all the workbooks, textbooks, test and anything else that looked like school.

Little did she know that the summer wasn’t all play for me.

I spent time researching with the homeschooling moms I’d met and the resources they’d directed me to, looking for the best philosophies, methods, curriculum, etc. Several resources were helpful to me, but the one I found most encouraging and understandable during this early stage was “The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling.” This book really spoke to my I-have-no-clue-what-I’m-doing mentality!

Narrowing it back down to my two critical things – loving learning and reading, I decided I needed a really good book to read with her so she could discover the enjoyment of a story.  I chose a G.A. Henty novel a little above her grade level. I was told it was a wonderful story, but probably too difficult for her. It was about Egypt, which is something she had once been interested in. Perfect, a good story and a little challenging. When I picked it, I thought she could read, she just didn’t like to.

I was wrong! We sat down together with the book and she agreed it looked interesting. I told her I’d read some and she could read some. When it came to her part, she said she didn’t know the first word, second word, third word, and so forth.

Astounded, I said, you don’t know “The?”

“No. See I told you I’m stupid.”

We did that with several words. Finally, I asked her why she was so convinced she was stupid and it was because the teachers had told her she was.

“Did they use that word? Stupid,”  I asked.

“No. They said I couldn’t read or do math or anything. That’s stupid,” she replied.

She was so convinced. It was like a big brick wall. My heart broke for her and I silently prayed for guidance on how to attack that wall. Finally, I tried to explain to her that there is more than one way to do things and maybe the methods at the school didn’t fit the way God made her. One size fits all rarely fits all.  I tried to take the huge weight of learning everything off her, explaining that knowing how to read is really all she needed. If she wanted to know about something, she only needed to get a book and read about it. From travel, to medicine, to animals, to art books could take you a long way. She agreed to give it some effort. I agreed to be very patient.

We both didn’t realize the commitment we’d just made!
We got a dictionary and the book. She held “The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt,” and I held “Webster’s Dictionary” in our respective laps sitting on the den sofa. We looked up EVERY SINGLE WORD! The, a, there, with, – EVERYTHING! Oh my goodness! We looked up each word in the sentence and then we went back and read it again to try to put the whole sentence in context.  By the time you’ve looked up every word, you have no idea what the sentence was about. We got through one page a day. It’s all we could both take! That was a LONG week.

But just like Easter Sunday is a shining beacon on Good Friday, Monday was coming! We took the weekend off from reading together, this being our only school activity, and weekends off from school being the only lifestyle we knew. Monday reading time came, and I gathered the book and dictionary and sat down to the page we left off on. She tells me I’m in the wrong place and we are at the next chapter.

“I don’t think so,” I say.

“Oh, I read to the next chapter by myself over the weekend,” she says casually. “I had to know what happened. Is that bad? Should I have not done that?”

After that past week and looking up ALL those words, I’m having a hard time believing she actually read it. Thinking more along the lines she doesn’t want to sit there through another full page of looking up every word.

“No, no that’s fine. It’s your story to read. But I’ve been doing it with you and I didn’t read it over the weekend. So could you catch me up?”

She proceeded to tell me in great detail what happened in the remainder of the chapter. I’m stunned. Happily stunned.

I often tell people I taught her to read in one week, but its probably more accurate that I taught her that she could read in a week.   From then on, she preferred reading it to herself and then telling me all about it in big flamboyant style while I cooked dinner or whatever! Sometimes, she would have to go get the book and read it verbatim so she got quotes correct. You should hear her read. She makes books come alive right in front of you.

 A Whole New Beginning

Our only other book that 6th grade year was “The Handbook of Nature Study.“
I would tell her to go outside and see if any of the nature pictures in the book could be found in our yard.  Before long she could identify different types of trees on the interstate as we drove past them at 70mph! She could tell you their names and all the information from the book, obviously having read every single word.

That was a great year of regaining a love for learning. She went on to read Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare, finish calculus and physics, as well as, teach herself Japanese, Greek and Hebrew.  One year, 7th grade, her science was volunteering for a local archeologist on a dig near our home where they found Native American artifacts while upgrading a bridge.  At the end, she wrote a paper for the professor in charge for credit.

Summa Cum Laude – What a Finish!

We never had her tested or medicated. By the grace of God she learned anyway.

This week she graduated Summa Cum Laude from University with a Bachelor of Arts in Archeology and a minor in Japanese.  CatrinaGraduation

A twenty-year journey in finishing the work started with a four year old excited about learning all she could! This truth is now self-evident – She can learn!

A twenty-year journey to finishing molding an engineer into a homeschool mom.   I can do all things through Christ….

Knowing that she will now spend her life learning, and I’ll always identify as a homeschool mom, neither of those journeys is actually finished, but this huge milestone of college graduation leaves me resting in the knowledge that God will finish what He starts in us.

 

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Putting Your Baby in the River is the Easy Part!

We are always being prepared to “let” our children go into the mission field. It seems like a big sacrifice, “Yes, Lord, please use our children for your kingdom!”

Looking back its pretty self-righteous! How presumptuous! There is no knowing how God intends to use the children he places in our care, and there is no “let” involved with grown children.

Claiming promises
Claiming promises

I’ve recently come to know Jochebed. Her mother story is truly epic! What a long-suffering, patient story. If you know the name at all, it’s probably more to do with her faith than patience. But for me, it’s the patience that’s striking. Who is she?

She’s the mother of Moses.

She was strong in faith for sure. She most likely could have been killed for putting that baby boy in the basket to try to save him. She had to be concerned she’d sent him to his death herself. But its pretty clear she knew God had a plan for him and she acted on that promise. Immediately, she was rewarded. You know the story – the princess saves the baby, Jochebed even gets hired to nurse him, and instead of being killed, he’s raised in the palace. Indications are both she and Moses knew he would someday save the Hebrews from bondage. They knew that he was a covenant child. They knew God had formed him with a future and a hope.

Positioning for a takeover?
Positioning for a takeover?

So…things were looking good. They were doing everything right. The boy was safe; the future was bright for him to do great things for his people. Taking over from within maybe?

Time passes. A lot of time passes. Forty years pass. What’s he doing? Where’s the rescue. What’s the plan? One day (still living like a prince) he’s tired of seeing the injustice to his people and decides it’s time to act. No consultation with God. No consultation with wise counselors. No consultation with anyone. He seems at this point to be pretty sure of himself and really…he’s a prince of Egypt…he’s got this!

He jumps out there and takes action, killing an Egyptian to save a Hebrew, he hides the body. When he’s found out, he gets scared of both sides and flees town.

Taking Control!
Taking Control?

Forty more years!! Yes, he flees and is gone forty more years. Here is where I’m thinking of his mother’s patience. This is when she thought “Putting him in the river was the easy part!”  She had to have been so sure on that day she was hired to nurse him that God was going to do mighty things with her son for the Hebrews. I’m sure those childhood years were full of relief and hope at his salvation. His twenties must have gone by with wonder at when he would act. Then in his thirties she might have started questioning if she understood God all those years ago. But with her great faith, she’s hopefully hanging in there – waiting. But then, instead of mighty works, he’s a murderer on the run! He’s in hiding and she is still in slavery. She doesn’t hear from him for forty years! He’s abandoned them.

I had to use Charlton Heston at least once!
I had to use Charlton Heston at least once!

Yes, he’s 80 years old when he gets about the task she had so hoped for when she placed him in that basket! How many times did she question? How many times did she wonder if she misunderstood God’s promise? Did she wonder if God would keep his promise? Did she even live to see the day the promise was realized? How many times did she pray?

God used Moses His way – Not Jochebed’s way or Moses’ way. When we are blessed to raise children for God’s kingdom, we have to trust God with them even when He uses them in ways we didn’t expect. We must not loose hope or faith when they wander past our patience or outside our expectations. We must pray for our children and recall to God His promises. God’s promises are true and He is faithful!

Isaiah 49:25 For thus says the Lord:

“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.”

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Fossils Rock!

Daniel is doing Apologia’s Exploring Creation with General Science 2nd Edition. Here is his stab at Experiment 7.1 (page 160) “Making a Fossil Cast.”

First he read the instructions – that may seem obvious, but he is twelve. Little brother, David age 7, has decided he wants to join in and participate.  We gathered up all the supplies.  Oh, and just ignore that stuff on the left side of the table. That’s our other project – history – Charlemagne’s Crown in the making. The paint is drying. More on that in an upcoming post.

Reading directions and gathering supplies.
Reading directions and gathering supplies.

Making the mold! We used Sculpey clay, but I don’t recommend this if you are buying supplies. Its on the pricey side. The book says Play-Doh will work. We had Sculpey left over from another project, so that’s what we used. Notice – little brother looking a little less enthusiastic. This attention span is typical for him – don’t be alarmed!

Making the mold!
Making the mold!

Here’s the mold of his sea shell – which we actually got from the Gulf Coast last winter. Two different science adventures coming together!  He covered the mold with petroleum jelly.

Sea Shell Mold
Sea Shell Mold

Measuring, weighing, and mixing the plaster! Here’s the MATH part! They (science & math) go together – just get used to it.  We halved the plaster recipe on the container because we didn’t need a whole POUND worth! But we should have cut it to one forth. We would have still had plenty and the math would have been even more fun!

Not pictured – little brother, who has apparently moved on.

MATH Alert!! Weighing the plaster and measuring the water.
MATH Alert!! Weighing the plaster and measuring the water.

WARNING!! HAZARDS!! At least that’s what we read on the plaster container. Hence, the goggles, mask, and gloves were required. He’s very serious about warnings! It might be overkill, but its his experiment – just go with it.

Mixing - DON'T breath in the plaster or get it in your eyes!
Mixing – DON’T breath in the plaster or get it in your eyes!

Once it is mixed well, pour it into your mold. We have the mold in a plastic or maybe its Styrofoam plate. The books says paper, which we didn’t have. This plate worked. I think it just has to be throw away.

Plaster in mold.
Plaster in mold.

Let it sit and sit and sit. Okay, it really didn’t take that long unless you are 12 and 7. They went out to play and when they came back…

Hard plaster!
Hard plaster!

He broke off the excess, and pulled them apart. Cast made!

Fossil cast!
Fossil cast!

He’s one proud scientist!!

Daniel the scientist!
Daniel the scientist!

Now step 9: Clean up your mess!! Whatever you do, don’t skip this step!!

They spent the next several hours making more molds. Yes, “they” – little brother did come back for the big reveal!  Perhaps tomorrow we’ll pour a cast of the nose mold he’s made. But for today – we’re done!!

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