Teaching the masses

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Homeschooling has not completely lost it’s sparkle these days, but I am feeling the all encapsulating job that it is. Every. Single. Day.
I have my kids in classes, they have work and teachers and time that I am not “in charge” so to speak. But if I do not check all of that like a hawk, the productivity of those classes and work falls short. As a homeschool parent, you take on guilt for that that didn’t exist when they were in school. And then, you take a deep breath, and realize your decision to homeschool has a lot of good things that you never expected.

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I get to sit on the couch with Tessa and practice reading. Not just for fun, but because I am the one teaching her, more rewarding than I thought.
I get to hang out with my kids and talk about all sorts of things. Some high points 1) conversations about how turkey vultures projectile vomit rotten meat 2) illustrating the captivity of the Israelites by the Chaldeans and drawing Zedekiah’s eyes gouged out 3) watching my kids paint their art projects. They stop, pause, and make calculated decisions that are so cool to witness.

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It is also very lonely. I have made a choice, that choice is to be with my children and to make their education my top priority for my everyday. That means, no going and having coffee with friends the way I used to. Grocery shopping has to happen when the day has wound down. I have to plan special events and know that we might have to play catch up to keep up, sometimes. I know I have some time left to figure it all out. I these are all choices I have made. For myself. If I get upset about these choices: I have a pity party. I take a step back . Sometimes, I’m mad all day. I go outside and gaze off into nowhere and wonder when I will feel freedom, will my choices really ever help me feel freer. I don’t know. It is my full-time job. I sometimes feel I am no fun to talk to because it is my full-time job, and it’s a “crazy” one that I could easily let someone else do. I could go back to shopping in the middle of the day, having coffee with friends, making art, offering myself to the outside world in forms of service, a listening ear, helping hands. Maybe I could even get a job! (gasp) I feel like I am belittling the time that those who send their children to school have. For that, I apologize. The school day is really not very long. I used to accomplish squat with a three year old at home with me and both big kids at school. Squat. I also used to be able to watch TV. My TV shows, by myself.

Ah, yes. I’ll stop . These days are not for me. I have seen and felt troubling things these past year and a half of homeschooling. These things show my true colors. I have been full of anxiety, fear and finger-pointing. I have raised my voice more that I ever wanted to. And when my voice is that loud, 85% of the time, I make no sense. I can’t believe that I am scolding children for behavior that I exhibit myself. These days are not mine! I will have days when my children are independent,  when my nest is empty. I will have coffee, I will be a listening ear, I will delight in other peoples younger children and be thankful that that season has past, just a little bit thankful. I will make art, and have a job. God has made me a very productive person. I have to learn the art of relaxation and sitting down. I won’t ever stop working. Those opportunities will come again, just like each season comes and goes. I look forward to new forms of busy! Right now, that busy, is for my kids. I get to be with them, the good-bad-and ugly (and there’s a lot of ugly). I get to be “in charge”, which terrifies a little bit every day. I pull myself out of that pit, because God is good, and I put one foot in front of the other.

And then, there’s another part of the fun season of homeschooling. I get to teach other people’s kids! I have the unique part-time job of being an art teacher for homeschooled students. I have been teaching at Hilger Higher learning for 7 years. On one of the only days I leave my house and am part of the outside world, I take two of my three kids with me, and I am surrounded by a few dozen other children and talk about and make art. I love doing that part. There are some kiddos that have one-of-a-kind personalities that make me bug eyed with amazement at how entertaining or challenging they might be, but most of the time these kids are just like everyone else. I have the unique opportunity of having children come to me because they want to take art classes. They are there to learn what I know. It is awesome, and exhausting. The preparation and the cleaning up wrecks me pretty often. I am squeezing out time between teaching my own kids and helping them work, and preparing the lesson and all the trappings for the next class, as well as trying to have a relaxing weekend with my family. I procrastinate, and there’s the rub. I have decided that I will no longer be an art teacher that says “no” all the time. You want more blue paint? You want to get glue and paint out? You want a 5th piece of paper? You want 6 paint brushes? Yes, do it. I want each little artist to know how to use what they have and also learn how to take care of it all, so I like saying yes, but I also like showing how to take care of all things. This means I have to be prepared to go all the way. I must have enough of everything, I must be willing to run out. I must be willing to be on hands and knees picking up the creativity off the floor. This is what their parents pay for, and this is what I want to say yes to. Make, do, create. I’ll sleep it all off tomorrow. And yet, I actually used the phrase “I ain’t yer mama” to some 9th grade girls for not cleaning up there space this week. Tee-hee!

Teaching teaching teaching. It is a mission field. I have to remind myself that the more I am prepared and the more I am willing to shift, change, reboot, whatever, the more these young ones will learn. I am strict. I have rules and respect that I expect from my children and my art students. I have seen my ugly in both places and I want to give the respect back too. I have made choices and I choose everyday to keep making them. And I keep my heart open for the time that the Lord asks me to let it go, shift and change again.

Christmas Review: for the record

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An eight and a half foot tree set my heart a-whirl. We paraded and partied. Food and drink flowed freely. We hosted lots of family and the days were full of cozy conversations and laughter. We had Joel’s 87 year old Oma up for a visit, and memories were made. I realize our family’s not as big as some, that’s why our house was easy, everyone could play and hang out.
We got to meet our newest nephew, Canaan, and we got to spend more time with Little D, who has joined my brother’s family. It was a unique Christmas with all family here, with the exception of my in-laws who are in Cambodia. I would love for this to be a tradition. I love having our mountain home to share. God gives us such good gifts.

The Tessa

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Our Tessa turned 5, 4 days after Christmas. We enjoyed a family celebration on her birthday with a chicken noodle soup lunch and a chocolate pound cake with “white vanilla icing the drips inside the hole” per request of the birthday girl. The cake was delish, even if it came out in a couple pieces, and the icing looked like spaghetti noodles. It’s still kinda pretty.

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Sweet, sweet girl. Happy 5 years.
We had a party for her with all her friends a week later. Everyone is so tired of partying, sweets and gifting. I find one week (or more) just makes people happier. The request for the party was chocolate cupcakes. I couldn’t get a good “theme” out of Tess, which was fine, we made it about animals and everyone was happy! I made pandas (!!) with the buttercream icing left over from cake #1. It was seriously yummy. Kept it cute and simple. Mini Oreo ears, easy. Melted chocolate chips in a ziploc bag with the tiniest corner snipped for piping eyes,nose and mouth. I was done decorating 24 of them in no time. All kids were pleased, and icing was so so yummy. Butter and sugar, can’t beat it.

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Piggies in blankets, juices, fruits and nuts. All you need. And I guess your favorite plastic animals in little party hats (thanks Martha, or Pinterest).

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Love my sweet baby. It was so great making life happy for her 5th birthday. Her big brother and sister helped make it bright too. She is a light for everyone she touches. We can’t imagine life without her. It’s so great to be a Tessa.

Halloween, I forgot. Viking, Flamingo, Puma, and Katie Luther.

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I’m a bit behind, so let me catch up. Here are our Halloween 2013 costumes. We’ve got Josiah the gigantic Viking, I was very pleased with his choice this year. Very little to buy or make. We picked up the felt beard at a local craft show a couple years back. The hat was from Warrior Dash that Joel and his buddies ran a year or so ago. Josiah wore my fuzzy vest and my boots ( we are now the same shoe size and T-shirt size) I bought a $5 flat black sheet for his cape. Oh, and his main request was a battle axe. I bought a dowel, painted it black, formed an axe shape form cardboard and covered it with duct tape. Since my duct tape was blue (what the) I had to spray paint it silver. Note to self: Always have SILVER duct tape.IMG_8520

IMG_8525Tessa was a puma (black cat). Again, an easy thing to quickly do. I did make ears and tail. I whip stitched poly felt to a headband and made separate ears that are stuffed. I wanted her ears to have some longevity because the girls play “kitties” pretty often. I added bling, because I had it. Tacky glue is my friend. I bought some feather boa for a the tail. Wrapped it around some floral wire, and sewed a felt nubby to one end so it could be pinned to Tess without scratching. Not as much longevity with this tail. Feathery bits everywhere, bleah. I dislike feathers, but not as much as glitter.IMG_8526IMG_8531
I gave Eden the choice of being a peacock (like she was a few years back) or a flamingo. Pink clothes are easy to put together. I had a blast making the mask. Those flamingo beaks are an unusual shape though! I bought a plain plastic mask and then used a paper plate to create a hook-like tube beak. I attached the beak with duct tape. Creating the curve of the flamingo beak was tough as I had to clip the end of the beak tube, and retape the tip. Once the right shape was achieved, I painted over the duct tape with white paint. I couldn’t think of a better way to make the tip of the flamingo beak black, other than to paint the tip so it could fade perfectly. I glued some coffee filters to the beak to cover up all the plasticky surfaces, kinda paper mâché style. I could not find pink feathers I liked, so I bought pink poly felt and cut feather shapes out. I layered them around the eye area. I did find white feathers I liked, so I glued those to frame out the mask and give it drama. The mask got bling too, of course! My client was happy (Eden B) and I told her I would be glad to make a bird mask each year. They’re fun! I also, made Eden a tail out of another pink feather boa with wire wrapped through it so I could loop it around like a flamingo tail. Again, I put felt at the end where Eden would wear it so nothing poked her.IMG_8517IMG_8519
My mom put on her historical best on to answer the door for trick or treaters. She dressed as Katie Luther. She researches her favorite parts of history down to the tiny bits. She made her bonnet and stuffed it with a grey wig to fill it out and make it look more accurate. Mom says she has made several bonnets for her other dress up occasions, and the adult bonnets are huge, while the children’s bonnet pattern is a little small. My precious peanut-head of a mom. She dresses up as a Puritan for the ESL Thanksgiving feast. Super cute, and her students love it. She’s gotten my dad to dress up too. He loves her a lot.

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I like sharing the run down of how I made costumes. I have gotten really elaborate in years past, but my theory is, buy things you will use again, and the things you don’t use again, don’t spend too much time on them so throwing them away won’t hurt so much. Glue, simple stitches, staples (if you must) and plain bits of clothing, that should do it!

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Fall

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Living in the woods has had some amazing effects me. I can’t begin to reflect on them all. Watching the organic shapes out my bedroom window every morning. Seeing the light dance between swaying branches. The colors, they are intoxicating. The smells of fireplaces being used, the crunch of leaves under my feet, the signs that life is still active when I turn over our rotting pumpkins. It’s poetry, every day. My heart feels still as I observe the bigness of what is around me. I have a tinge of fear as a rainstorm blows the tree tops a little farther, left to right. But the colors. My yard is blanketed with red maple leaves. I stare out into the National Forest and I see yellow. I long desperately for the time and emotional energy to paint the amazing autumn that surrounds me. I sigh when another week goes by where I haven’t had anyone over to sit and marvel at the beauty with me and feel that satisfying crunch of leaves. The year will be over and the winter will be dark. I will cure my cabin fever by setting many pieces of wood on fire. Smelling the smoke in my clothes and watching the glow die out right before bed. I have a pioneer bubbling inside of me, I’m not quite so brave. But there will be more moments and things to accomplish. The first thing I want is an axe. Then some bookshelves. Joel will go away on business and I will paint walls. The season is rich. I’m watching the changes and mourning the end of the colors. Winter will usher in other delights, and I am excited to see what our mountain home has in store.

The Zoo

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It has been several years since we have been to the Atlanta Zoo. This time we had a couple of great reasons to go. First, our kiddos are bigger. We had no strollers or gadgets, we just walked and enjoyed the place, for three hours! I never thought I’d see the day. It was very rewarding. The kids sat through explanations, shows and took turns when they needed to. They were all thrilled to see and read all sorts of info, and Joel and I were free to walk leisurely, enjoying the sights for ourselves. I loved it. The other awesome reason to go was that the Zoo has Giant Pandas, and Tessa LOVES pandas.

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Animals are so beautiful. I think I am more overwhelmed by their beauty than the children, I’m sure. It’s amazing to see the small and large, the exotic and seemingly ordinary. And watching them be themselves, makes me think of how creative our God is. It’s like watching things I’ve never dreamed of move around and take breaths and move gracefully. The folks who handled the animals, taught us bits of information, and asked and answered questions seemed to be so passionate about the same things I am completely in awe of. They truly love the wonder of these animals. Think or say what you will about zoos, I am happy i got to see an amazing tiger. I wouldn’t get to see that “in the wild”.

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A wonderful day that is chalked up to a homeschool field trip and a great pause before Joel started his new job. We finished it off with the bells and whistles of Dave and Busters and milkshakes.

Beach freedom

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We got back from Hilton Head last week. Our bookend to the summer. This year had a sense of finality to it as our kids showed more freedom and we felt more restlessness in our space. It seems so bratty to say that we are “tired” of the timeshare, but after sitting through a sales pitch for timeshares other places we did get to thinking. Joels sense of adventure is greater than mine, but as we exit babyhood of our kids we look forward to new places and challenges.

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So we talked about exchanging the week, taking advantage of other weeks that Joel’s parents have other places. Now that we homeschool it’s not too far out of the realm of possibility.
But oh, the week was good. Relaxing and refreshing. I soaked up every smell,  weather pattern, moment to sleep, and ocean breeze. I wanted to swim longer, bike longer, stay up later, eat more…

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But home, it is cooler. Better for all these freckled faces. See you next year, Mr. Ocean.