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2007 January » Philoxenos

Philoxenos

So it looks like we’re going to homeschool

23rd January 2007

So it looks like we’re going to homeschool

Before I begin, be warned: this is a very long post.

I have never been opposed to homeschooling. Growing up in California, where apparently it is rather easy legally to homeschool, I was familiar with the concept of homeschooling, although I didn’t know a lot of homeschoolers myself until I got to high school. As I grew older and got into university and beyond, whenever I thought about it I was kind of like - yeah, whatever, but I don’t think it’s for me. After all, Christians need to be in the public school system too.

When I got married and my husband and I discussed education we talked about homeschooling and at that point both of us said that we would reserve a decision closer to the time it was necessary. At that point we didn’t have children.

When our first child was born I didn’t really think about what we’d do five years down the track, not realising that a decision would be made much sooner than that. When she was nearly one we needed me to go back to work for a short season, so we put her into a homebased day care. This just about killed me. It was a great environment, run by a woman in our church, but there were many times that I would cry on the way to work because I left part of my heart with her.

Fortunately we serve a God much bigger than we can comprehend and he had other plans. We found out I was pregnant just a few months after I started my new job and in some ways I was relieved because I pretty much hated my job and this way I would be able to stop working earlier as we both knew that I didn’t make enough money to warrant putting two children in daycare and we had both agreed from the outset that my returning to work was only a temporary thing.

We were able to pay off our debt before I finished work to have the baby (I believe Dave Ramsey calls it ‘gazelle intense’.) and I went on maternity leave, knowing full well that I never intended to return to work. Here in New Zealand we have a generous maternity leave allowance. If a woman has worked in a full time job for at least 12 months, she gets 12 months maternity leave, unpaid. I had only worked for ten months before having my baby, so I was only eligible for six months leave. But the government also pays $350 a week for 13 weeks (it’s now up to 14 weeks I believe), which I was eligible to receive. Although not as much as I received in salary, it certainly wasn’t anything to sneeze at!

But I digress…

During the beginning of my maternity leave, before the baby was born, I had the opportunity to develop a good relationship (which is now a fantastic relationship) with a woman from my church who was seriously considering homeschooling her oldest when he turned 5. As a result I started to learn more about homeschooling through her. The more I heard about it and thought about it on my own, I started to develop my own ideas about why I would or wouldn’t homeschool. It certainly wouldn’t be because the schools in our area aren’t good. They’re fantastic. But as I thought about it I realised that there are so many things that we want to teach our kids, particularly about God and the world and our place in it, and why should we be limited to just the few hours each day that they’re not in school?

At this point I started talking to my husband about it more seriously and he was definitely not opposed to the idea of homeschooling. In some ways he is incredibly enthusiastic and he said that he wants to be as involved as he possibly can. He’s such an avid learner himself that I know he will be a great teacher to our kids, even if we do send them to school.

About six months ago I realised that the decision to homeschool or not would need to be made sooner rather than later. Here in New Zealand we have a government funded preschool system, called kindergarten. It’s available from three years old, a few days a week. When a child turns four it is increased to every day, in most areas. Back in March 2006 I had put our oldest on the waiting list for the kindergarten closest to our house, knowing that she wouldn’t be starting until 2007. As the end of 2006 approached I started thinking more about it. I realised that some of the reasons for choosing to homeschool during elementary years still apply to the preschool years. Don’t I know my child the best? Would she really thrive among a group of 45 other kids, with only three teachers? What about nap time???

My husband and I discussed it extensively and I talked it over with my friend who is homeschooling (2006 was her first year) as well as other mums that send their kids to kindergarten. The new year rolled around and we still hadn’t made a decision.

Last Sunday we went for a walk as a family and I told my husband that we needed to make a decision about kindy. So, being the analytical, thoughtful person that he is, he said okay, what are the pros:

  • interaction with lots of other kids,
  • opportunity for us to meet new people that aren’t Christians,
  • a variety of activities.

Cons:

  • the schedule really doesn’t fit our family. This is a big one. She would need to be there at 12:45 and get picked up at 3:15. This means I would have to keep the toddler awake until after we got home, which is passed her nap time. Then I’d have to wake her up again to go pick up the 3yo. And of course the baby will probably have his sleep interrupted each time. And the 3yo still has a sleep/quiet time every afternoon during this time.

Although there is only one con, that I can remember, it was a huge one. As we discussed it more, talking about homeschooling and philosophy, etc, we realised that keeping her at home for now is the best decision. With our intention to move to the States this year we have the opportunity to offer her a bit of continuity in what could be a very stressful time for her. We had both prayed about it and believed that this is what we needed to do for our family at this time.

So… I told my husband that if we’re going to keep her at home, I needed some serious help to get myself sorted out and organised enough to be able to spend time with our oldest doing ‘preschool’ things, as well as time with the other kids, and get some housework done. I’m not a housework Nazi or anything, so I don’t spend heaps of time on this anyway. And of course she and I already do things like colour together, read a bazillion books out loud, bake together, go to the park, etc. We sat down that night and worked out a routine for our family that we’ve followed for two days now :) It works! Knowing that I’ve got a space in the day to do things like dinner prep, vacuuming, etc, means that I feel the freedom to sit down and cut and glue or whatever.
As I’ve done research and reading about homeschooling the last year, the overwhelming theme is that there are a million and one ways to do homeschool. And that, fortunately, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Although I do love to buy school supplies, it’s not necessary to be a good teacher.

So… we’re going to start homeschooling. Some would say that we’ve been homeschooling from birth and I would tend to agree. In some ways I think she’s schooling herself, as evidenced by her shouting earlier from her bed “What does DOOR start with?”

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22nd January 2007

Best lemonade ever

The last two times that we’ve moved house, we have made a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘want to haves’. Our last house had everything on our list, as well as quite a few things on the ‘want to have’ list. Included on that second list was a lemon tree. I find that I use lemons on a somewhat regular basis in cooking and having my own tree just makes it that much more convenient.

The house that we’re currently living in we signed the rental agreement sight unseen, except for a few pictures and a drive-by look. It was in the process of being sold and the current owners didn’t want potential tenants of the new owners traipsing through, which I can understand. Because of the scarcity of rental properties in our town we had to make a decision and quick! We decided to go for it. And lo and behold, it had not only a generous lemon tree, but a plum, apple, grapefruit, feijoa, and some yet to be identified citrus tree.

What do you do when life gives you lemons? MAKE LEMONADE! To follow is a recipe for the best lemonade ever and it’s so easy you’ll think I’m joking. I’m not. I believe I got this recipe from topsecretrecipes.com several years ago. It is fool proof.

LEMONADE

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup sugar

6 cups water

Stir well. Voila!

Try it. I know you’ll like it.

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18th January 2007

Stuff

Clever post title, huh?

Things I did today (I’m not sure if I’m capable of writing complete sentences, so I feel a list is the best method of blogging today):

1. Made pink playdough with girls and then played with it, making endless snowmen.

2. Made menu for the next ten days, including breakfasts.

3. Dropped off a computer thing-a-ma-jig to a Trade Me buyer, for a deliver fee of $5.

4. Went to the supermarket with both kids, which was surprisingly pleasant.

5. Bought petrol with the 10 cent off per litre coupon that I got from the supermarket. That means I paid only 83 cents per litre!!

6. Made and ate lunch.

7. Put kids to bed (16month old had fallen asleep in the car on the way home, but I went ahead and gave her some lunch. She’s still sleeping over three hours later)

8. Fell asleep on the couch and woke up an hour later VERY groggy and hot.

9. Fleshed out my menu a bit more and did some random surfing.

10. Read three books to 3yo when she woke up.

11. Made a honey cake with 3yo after reading about it in one of her books.

12. Cleaned up the kitchen after cake-making, including throwing out science experiments from the fridge.
13. Brought in the bone-dry laundry from outside.

And now I understand why I’m tired!! It’s good sometimes to make a list and realise that I’ve actually accomplished quite a bit.

I hope your day has been good.

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15th January 2007

Floods and other things that happen when mothering preschoolers

**I actually already typed this once and lost it completely because of some freak computer problem, so upon the brilliant suggestion of my husband, I’m going to type this offline and then just cut and paste**

Today two things happened that were the result of my forgetting the environment in which I’m working, that being one with two little people. First thing – it was amazingly, horribly hot and humid today. I can’t tell you what the actual temperature was but in my advanced state of pregnancy it felt like a hundred degrees (Celcius or Fahrenheit, you choose) and that was the only thermometer I was paying attention to. About 4 pm when I felt like I was going to melt into the ground like the wicked witch in Wizard of Oz I decided we should play in the bathtub. I got the 16 month old down to her birthday suit and brought her into the tub with me (I was in my swimsuit, if that question happened to cross your mind). She didn’t think this was my most brilliant plan and protested very loudly. She finally acclimated and then farted on my leg, which made her giggle quite a bit. Considering that her farts normally come directly prior to other activities, I quickly finished up our little cooling-down session and got her out.

Meanwhile, the 3yo decided that instead of a soothing, cool bath she wanted to bathe all of her Little People in the baby bath, which we’ve had stored away for months and I can’t even believe she remembers it was there. But I figured this was a rather innocuous request, so why not? Why not indeed. We got it out, filled it up and she baptised all the people and animals while her sister and I splashed in the bath. At some point she decided she had enough and left the bathroom, with the baby bath still full of water. And then enters little miss 16 month old back into the bathroom. Which is now unattended. DO YOU SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING? The next thing I hear from the bedroom where I’m getting dressed is CRASH – WHOOSH! At this point part of my brain has already figured out what happened and the other part is desperately trying to talk the first part out of such a stupid idea, figuring that denial is definitely the best option. I walk into the bathroom, which is now flooded completely with water and Little People, and the 16mo looks at me like – huh? What’s the matter? The 3yo rushes in and says “Look at all this mess!” and promptly starts to splash around in the massive puddle which is our bathroom floor. I, on the other hand, desperately wish I could just lay down in the water on the floor because at least I would be cooler. I didn’t get my wish, by the way.

Second thing – bear with me, this is much shorter. I have been selling quite a few things on Trade Me, NZ’s answer to Ebay. Tonight I got an email from a buyer to say that instead of receiving the two Father of the Bride DVDs that she bought, she received a Ted Dekker book, but she would still really like those DVDs. That can only mean that someone in Ohope will be opening up their letter box to discover that instead of the thrilling Ted Dekker book she had hoped for, she got two DVDs. I quickly sent off an email to both buyers to try to orchestrate a solution and I just pray it works. And of course I’ll be out $14, the cost of shipping both items back to me and then on to the appropriate people. Fortunately the book didn’t cost me anything and I got a very good price for the DVDs. But this all happened because yesterday I had five items to ship and I was addressing them while trying to remove the leech which masquerades as a 16 month old little girl. A constant theme in my head today – does anyone want to adopt a 30 year old expectant mother? I remember the summer days when I was a kid when my only responsibility was to get my chores done by noon and I would spend hours and hours just laying on the couch, reading library books. But the most important part – IT WAS IN THE AIRCONDITIONING!!

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14th January 2007

Here We Are To Worship

I was originally intending to drop off the two kids at their aunt and uncle’s house for the morning so that I could go to church and actually listen and participate. J was leading worship this morning and needed to be there by 8am and then wouldn’t be available during the actual service to baby wrangle. I find it incredibly difficult to keep a reverent spirit about the place when the youngest is running off down the aisles while I waddle after her. She’s mobile enough to want to go places but hasn’t reached the point where she’s obedient to instructions like “Sit down and keep your voice quiet!” We generally place a high importance on the kids being with us in church but also recognise our limitations and this morning was one of those times.

As we were getting ready for church, the 3yo says “I don’t want to go to _____’s house.” Why not, I ask? “‘Cause I want to go to church with you.” Hm. Well. If the kid wants to go to church, then she needs to go to church. So I dropped off the 16 month old and the oldest and I went to church. I ilike going to the 9am service because it’s not as full and I feel a lot more freedom to let the little ones take up some space. We sat up near the front so Daddy could sit with us when he wasn’t needed on stage.

After asking if she could have her snacks, and of course the answer was no (they are needed for the long sermon time when 30 min can seem like a lifetime to a preschooler and chocolate bears really pass the time), T decided to start singing. We held hands and she sang nonsense words because she didn’t know them. But we came to “Here We Come To Worship” (is that the right title?) and I heard her singing the words, the correct words. I looked down at her and she was looking up at her daddy on the stage, singing her little heart out, with such a look of concentration on her face. I just about lost it. I was already feeling such a strong presence of the Holy Spirit and seeing my little girl worshipping in her own little girl way I could hear the Holy Spirit saying to me “It’s all worth it - the orneriness, the endless questions, the defiance. Because in the end you are being faithful with what you’ve been given and this little girl is learning about her Heavenly Father. It’s all worth it.”

Amen.

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14th January 2007

Update on the late night

I had a comment from Holly, asking if the kids slept any later this morning after such a late night. Of course not! They made it to 7am, which is about 30 minutes later than usual. We had church this morning at 9am so I wouldn’t have been able to let them sleep much later (and let me tell you, I was seriously considering skipping church this morning to let them sleep if they had slept later).

The 3yo had her normal 2 hour nap and the 16 month old slept nearly 4 hours!! So that was good.

I have more to tell you about church today but I’ll leave for after the kids go to bed.

Oh, and by the way, thanks heaps for your encouraging words and comments. I really appreciate you coming by and reading the bits I have to share. I realise they’re rather random most of the time, but as my real life friends can tell you, I can be the Queen of Random at times.

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13th January 2007

Late nights with little ones

We generally stick to a pretty strict bedtime: 6:30 - 7 for the youngest and 7-7:30 for the oldest. We find that by having a good evening routine it makes life a bit easier to deal with and more predictable. But occasionally we find that something comes up that requires us to keep the children awake past their bedtime. Normally we try to combat this by having a later naptime, or perhaps even an extra nap in the case of the youngest. Today we had a party in the evening for my husband’s youngest brother and his wife, who are home for a month from England, where they’ve been living for two years.

I’ve known about this party for weeks and in preparation I kept the kids home yesterday, keeping them as close to their routine as possible. Unfortunately the oldest decided that yesterday she wouldn’t actually sleep during her naptime. She’s slowly growing out of her afternoon nap and this occasionaly happens. No problem, I thought, as long as she sleeps tomorrow. She had a good sleep last night but again today she didn’t actually sleep during naptime. I was prepared for the worst tonight.

Dinner wasn’t actually served until after 7. Fortunately I made sure they had a hearty afternoon tea, about 4pm and there were nibbles available that they ate. Both of the girls ate a good dinner and were remarkably well behaved. It helped that there were lots of adults that were keeping an eye on them and several that were happy to read books and play.

Believe it or not, we just put the kids to bed at 9:45 pm. And remarkably they hadn’t fallen to pieces. I have no idea what tomorrow will be like, but for the time being things are okay. So as much as I subscribe to a routine kind of life with children, I think the occasional late night out is not going to scar them for life. And hopefully it also shows them that mom and dad know how to have a bit of fun, too.

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13th January 2007

Don’t play with that!

In my linen closet, which is at the end of the hallway, I keep a variety of non-linen things. My daughter just came down the hall, waving a cellophane-wrapped maternity pad, thinking it was the latest in musical instruments. I must have got it in some sample pack and being the frugal person that I am I’ve been storing it in the closet until such time that it becomes needed. With little fingers around hopefully it lasts that long!

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12th January 2007

Does it hurt when I do this?

This post is mostly for the benefit of my mom, whom I recently learned reads my blog. I had an appointment at the hospital with the physiotherapist who works in women’s health. As a result of having three pregnancies and also breastfeeding the first two for a length of time, my body is starting to wear out. That, and my youngest daughter didn’t start to walk until she was nearly 16 months and she weighs 25 lbs. I think it’s actually more the result of the latter. Anyway, I’ve got some thing going on in my pelvis where the bones are rubbing when they shouldn’t be, so my midwife referred me to the physiotherapist. This is how the socialised medicine system works - you have to have a referral or you pay for it. So, of course, I went for the referral :)

I met with a lovely woman named Lynley who asked me lots of questions and then had me lay on the bed and she moved my legs different ways and asked me “Does it hurt when I do this?” I’m sure the grimace on my face indicated the level of pain I was experiencing.

Before I left she gave me some exercises to do along with a very sexy belt to wear around my hips to keep everything together. She also assured me that the pain would go away after the birth of the baby. Here’s praying she’s right!

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12th January 2007

The perfect snack

I realise that a lot of my posts recently have been about food. I think it’s because I’m eating a lot more frequently because of my reduced stomach size. And my kids like to eat at very regular intervals, approximately every three hours from the minute they wake up. Because of their desire to eat so often I find myself struggling with what to feed them when morning and afternoon snack times come around. It’s currently the height of summer and things like peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots are in season and the cheapest fruit to buy. They LOVE stone fruit but I can’t feed them too many in one day or my youngest will use more nappies than is cost effective. Same with raisins; a huge favourite but not good in large quantities. And how many pretzels can one person eat? Of course, considering that my 3yo asks for a peanut butter and honey sandwich EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. she probably wouldn’t care if she had the same snack every day. But I get bored. So today I splashed out - apples and peanut butter which I believe, next to graham crackers and peanut butter, is the perfect snack. Just thought you’d like to know.

Edited to add: What is your favourite snack for the kids? I’m always looking for ideas!

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