Snow Days

In theory, I love snow days.  I like the idea of no school, Andy getting snowed in with us, baking and crafting all day, sledding and hot chocolate.  However, the reality looks more like Andy  going to work no matter what the roads are like, the kids and I still doing school, and as for the baking and crafting–just making more messes to clean up.  Add that to be cooped up days on end and it ends up looking more like a psych ward than a snow globe.

And yet, there is something to be said about the way everything slows down.  When I stop to appreciate not being able to run ourselves to death, and see the messes for the fun that was had, I can be thankful.  This has been true the last 2 weeks.  God has placed some pretty monumental possibilities in our path right now, and I have used the slow, quiet, cold to prepare my heart.  I have been able to seek Him more and loosen my grip on some overwhelming fears.  I have been reminded that I am so deeply loved by my Savior.

As we have “weathered” the (snow)storm, I find myself singing the lyrics of this beautiful song over and over.  They have provided peace and joy.  What comfort to know He knows the names of my fears and sorrows!

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Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him
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He knows the names of my sorrows
He knows the names of my fears
Why should I let them bother me
For I know he is near

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Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him

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And if no other will love me
In this life I own
There’d be no love I would long for
I know I am His own

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Oh to Be Loved By Jesus- Thad Cockrell

 

Guarding Your Heart

I have been told many times since we decided to adopt to “guard my heart.”  I’ve even told myself that a few times.  Guard your heart when you look at small faces with great needs, lest you fall in love, give into hope, and have your heart shattered.  I’ve tried to be diligent in this task– this protecting my heart from pain.  The scriptures even say,

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Psalm 4:23

And yet, God is making it quite clear to me that this “guarding of my heart”–this act of protecting myself–is not the context He meant for adoption.  God is a God of love, of hope, of second chances, of families.  There are real little children, real stories and faces and names and hurts and heartbreaks, and they deserve to be loved.  They don’t need someone to say, “I’m guarding my heart against the pain of loving you.”  They need someone to say, “This could end in sorrow, but the potential for joy and love far outweigh any pain.   You are worth loving at any expense.”

Jesus didn’t come into our broken world and guard His heart against the things that could cause him pain…..the people who might hurt Him.  Rather He poured Himself into them.  He met them where they were–in all their pain and brokenness and disease–and He loved them.  This was done without the thought of whether they might love Him back in return.

In the adoption world, we sometimes become afraid of loving a child we may not have a future with.  Almost as though that love could ever be in vain.

It’s so very clear to me now that this “guarding of our heart” isn’t a call to keep our love to ourselves…this isn’t the context at all.  Rather, I believe He would want us pour all of ourselves out to those who need it the most.

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My favorite singer/ songwriter, Jill Phillips, recently came out with an album called Mortar and Stone.  On it is a song called “Broken Heart” and she expounds upon this abandoned heart so beautifully:

There are other ways that Jesus could’ve saved the world
Ones that wouldn’t end up with him dead
He could have done it with an order from the throne of God
But he did it with a broken heart instead

So I’ll take a broken heart …
Cause a broken heart is better than one that doesn’t feel

In the Wait

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Adoption is the truest roller coaster.  Some days pass with gentle joy and anticipation, a sweet longing for a child you do not yet know.

And then, there are days–like today– where the wait is excruciating.  Where the physical weight of it seems too much to bear.  Days where you cry to God, “I don’t NEED a lesson in patience, Lord.  Please answer swiftly! Move mountains!” (Clearly this rant at God proves otherwise.)  Days like today pass by with knots in stomachs and prayers for guidance.  Nights are spent sorting through thoughts and desires of a vulnerable heart, prayers that He would hold it gently in His palms.

And He hears each prayer.  He catches each tear.  In His Fatherly love, He also catches each tear of a little girl across the ocean crying for someone to hold her, or a little boy longing for a warm bed and a full belly, and a kiss goodnight.

I am thankful for more days of patience and peace than of turmoil.  I am grateful to a God who has this–who already knows the outcome.  A gracious God who works all things for good and makes all things beautiful…..in its time. I won’t choose fear.   I will choose to rest in His embrace, and rejoice in the hope of what is to come.  A peace that He already knows what is around the corner….He already knows what is in store for me, regardless of what I think I want it to look like.  And rest assured, it will be more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed it to be.

Lent from a Former Catholic

Today is the first Sunday of the Lenten season.  It’s cold and icy here, and church was cancelled this morning.   Andy is at  work, the kids are busy building a fort, and I am having “church” in my pajamas on the couch.  I have read Matthew this week– saturating my heart with the Words of Life, and I can’t help but think about the beauty of Lent and the coming Easter season.

You see, I grew up in a wonderful home where my father is Catholic and my mother is Baptist.  After marrying, the decided not to “convert” or “go to their own churches,” but rather to interweave their denominations.  My entire life, we went to the Catholic church at 8:00 AM as a family then straight to the Baptist church at 10:30 AM–together.  Granted as a ranting teenager, I threw more than a handful of fits about having to go to two churches every Sunday, but looking back I wouldn’t have changed my upbringing for the world.  I feel like I have been able to glean the best of both worlds.  My ultimate decision was to attend a Protestant church–not so much because I held firm to the details and doctrines, but more because it was where I attended while courting my husband, and it became a family to me.  I was able to worship with other believers each week, and grow in my love and knowledge of the Word.  I haven’t ever really considered myself someone who “left the Catholic church”–although of course, I did; rather, I view it as bringing the reverence and love of liturgy and unity with me as I worship elsewhere.

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That said, I’ve often noticed that there seems to be a confusion, even a judgement, of the practices of Lent outside of the Catholic church.  A sort, “Oh, how cute, they are giving up chocolate for a few weeks.  Or, I don’t understand what the big deal is with not eating meat on Fridays.”  I believe these small sacrifices are often viewed as simply “ritual” or tradition.  But fasting, in all capacities, is biblical.  In Matthew 6:16, Jesus says,

When you fast……..

Not IF, but WHEN.  It is a calling of the believer.  I am just growing into a place in my faith where I am trying to work this out, but I find it fascinating.  I always sort of considered fasting a thing for people who were in deep grief or mourning, but I am just learning about the depth of fasting.  For instance, there are many reasons to fast.  The biblical reasons for fasting are:

  1. Mourning
  2. Inquiry of God
  3. Repentance
  4. Preparation
  5. Crisis
  6. Worship

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The idea behind fasting during Lent is mostly preparation–preparing our hearts for the death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter.  Preparing our hearts to receive Him, to worship Him.  From the outside it looks like not eating a little chocolate, or eating a little more fish, or skipping a meal, or not having a Coke, but it is so so much more.  In my own life, the times I have realized how “weak” I am or how little “control” I actually have, have been in seemingly insignificant things–like giving up my favorite drink or comfort food or media device.  It is incredibly humbling to realize that  I can’t even easily take away a few “luxuries”  or “distractions” for a few weeks.  that my flesh is indeed weak, but my Savior is strong.

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The flip side of the sacrifice, or fast, is that in taking away some of the distractions around us, we become more spiritually sensitive.   We remove the fog around us to see Christ more clearly.  We take away the things we cling too and we are drawn to cling more closely to Christ.  When this is done as a community of believers, imagine the possibilities of being used and in tune with Christ!

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Lent also isn’t just a time of giving things up, but also adding to.  Adding to the gifts you give, time in the Word, time spent in fellowship with others, time spent serving.  I’m so excited this year because my church has plunged into a 40 Days in the Word, and I long to see what God does to move the hearts of His church.

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Lent is such a beautiful time.  A time of preparation and seeking.  A time of worship and repentance.  A time to be moved and used by the One who sacrificed ALL for the ones he loves.  Lent is a time for ALL believers to seek the face of the Savior, and long for the promise of His return!

Planning An Adventure

So there’s not been much to report lately.  It’s been cold, life has progressed as normal.  I don’t know if it’s just this time of year that makes me long for a getaway or the fact that I’ve been snowed in with the kids almost 4 days straight…..either way, Andy and I have got the itch to plan our next big adventure.  We are pretty sure it is going to be epic.

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We stripped and cleaned the exterior for that Airstream shine!

We bought our 1972 Airstream Land Yacht 2 years ago.  It was the fulfillment of a dream of sorts–before we were ever married we saw one, and vowed to have one someday.  I forgot the “vow” a few minutes after we made it, but Andy didn’t.  When the opportunity arose to buy an Airstream, we saw decades of unforgettable memories on the horizon.  Ironically, our “silver bullet” is the same one my mother-in-law’s father owned.  She spent most of the summers of her childhood in our (her family’s) camper.  I love being able to ask her about all the places it has been!

Some vintage Airstreams you come across are a nightmare (or a “project” depending on your artistic outlook), but ours was in great condition…..out-dated to be sure, but everything worked great.  We have spent the last few springs and summers slowly working on little updates as time allows.

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A little “mustard-y,” but oh-so-much potential!

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Thus far, we’ve yet to embark on any major updates on the interior…..mostly just some cheap accessories from the Dollar Store!

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The project I couldn’t wait to do—re-cover the stinky tweed cushion!

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We gave all the logos a fresh paint of the classic “royal blue” paint.

We will have some major projects before this so-called adventure.  Andy is going to custom design and build bunk beds, we are considering ripping out the carpet and laying laminate wood floors, we’ve been wanting to paint the interior, we’ll need to buy a spare tire, and we’ll need to work on maximizing storage space.  Overall, not an incredible amount of money, just a lot of time and work before we can go very far in it….then we’ll hope for the best!

Thus far in our camping life with kids, this has been the scenario:

Endless fun all day long. No naps.  An exhausted Addy, Abe, Andy and Bethany at the end of the day…..and a Cora who cries non-stop for 4 hours and won’t go to sleep in the camper.  Everyone up at 5:30 AM.

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So we have made beautiful family memories….and lost a lot of sleep!   It’s been worth it, and we have always known that eventually Cora would be big enough to feel comfortable in the camper.  Well, we think this is the spring.  We are in a window of time right now where Cora is getting easier (did I just say that?!?) and we don’t yet have another “little one” with us.   We have decided this is the perfect opportunity for our first major Airstream Roadtrip!!

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Because every good vacation needs a binder!

Much more to come on all this fun!

Happy Anniversary, Adoption

Today marks our 1 year anniversary of the “official” wait for our child (2 years of waiting overall).  February 2, 2014 we received word that all our hard work with paperwork and appointments had paid off and our file was registered in Bulgaria.  I thought then that we would be starting the most excruciating wait of our lives……but God proved otherwise.  We have been so tremendously blessed this past year that I wouldn’t have sped it along or wished it away for anything.

  • The adoption friends that I have made will remain a part of my family forever.

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  •  I have learned to love without abandon in a very hard adoption situation, risking it all, and feeling the pain of rejection, but the peace that comes when you’ve left it all on the table.

 

  • I’ve seen my community rally together to help put a roof on an orphanage in Bulgaria–halfway around the world from our little town, and never felt more supported in anything.

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  • I’ve watched my daughter feel called to advocate for the orphan and help meet their needs.

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  • I’ve laid in my son’s room, and listened to him lovingly voice his concern that his brother or sister wasn’t being read a bedtime story like him.

 

  • I’ve experienced my church rallying together on Orphan Sunday to present all the many ways to care for the orphan.

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  • I’ve giggled as my “baby,” when asked to count, has chosen to do so in Bulgarian, “edno, dve, tri…”

 

  • We hosted a sweet orphan-girl from India in our home for 2 days, an opportunity we may have somehow passed up before God opened our eyes and put a passion in our heart for the least of these.

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  • I’ve been blessed to share life with the McArthy family, also waiting to bring home their Bulgarian baby.  Our children have become such good friends, and we have already begun our own Bulgarian traditions that we can’t wait to carry over in life post-adoption.

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  • I’ve experience exciting, jaw-dropping phone calls of friends who just received their call, and been able to rejoice with them.

 

  • I’ve spent hours dreaming with Andy about planning trips to Bulgaria, and what our life might look like when the dust settles.

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I certainly do not want our child to have to wait any longer than necessary.  I would love to have them home with us tomorrow if it was possible, but typical adoption isn’t like that.  However, that doesn’t mean the wait is in vain.  There is great purpose in the wait– a preparation we don’t yet understand.  I hope to not have to “celebrate” many anniversaries before we come home with our child, but today I am grateful to be one year closer to growing our family and our hearts.

Our 2014-2015 Curriculum

For 5 years I sought out every homeschooling family I knew and drilled them with questions.  My questions have slowly dwindled as I’ve started figuring out what works best for my family, and trusted myself to make those decisions.  Yet, the funniest thing has happened.  I’ve stopped asking as many questions, but have started receiving them.  I’m certainly no expert (for heaven’s sake, we’ve only been doing it for 2 years), but in response to my last homeschool post, I wanted to answer a few more questions I’ve been asked lately.

1) What does your day typically look like?

Our average day “should” look like this.  The kids get up around 7:30 and eat breakfast.  Then they know to get dressed, make beds, and brush their teeth.  We typically start school around 8:30, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it could be 9:00 or even 9:30 depending on the morning.  Addy usually plays through her piano lessons once, and then we gather at the table for calendar, “Bulgarian Word of the Week,” and a prayer by one of the kids. On Mondays, we do “world prayer day,” in which we either play a game with our world map area rug , or I will choose a country, tell the kids a few facts about it, and we’ll pray for the people who live there.  At this point, I usually give Abe a worksheet/ coloring page/ puzzle about what letter he is studying (I use K4 curriculum from www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com), Cora gets Playdough, coloring books, her “homework” (old workbook sheets that she scribbles on), or my Kindle for games (ahem).  This gives me time to work with Addy.  

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For Addy, I have been using the My Father’s World curriculum the last two years.  We love it, and it is less expensive than some of the more popular curriculums.  She starts with a Bible/ History lesson, Language Arts & Reading, and she practices writing.  I check over Abe’s work and let he and Cora go play while I start Math with Addy.  She does a lesson about the # of the day, practices some addition flashcards, and works in her Math book.  We have recently started doing some addition timed tests–mostly because she likes it, but also because I’m wanting her to keep practicing them without counting fingers. Abe, Cora and I occasionally play “restaurant” or  “grocery store” with her to apply her addition/subtraction skills.  We wrap up school in the morning by alternating a music/ art appreciation/ craft each day, and then they all join me on the couch, and I read them a chapter from a book like the Magic Tree House series, The Boxcar Children, Robin Hood, Pippi Longstockings, ect.  (This is my favorite part of school!)

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At this point they come upstairs and either start on their chore for the day or play while I get lunch.  After lunch they finish their chore (in a perfect world) and play until Cora’s nap time at 1:00.  After Cora goes down, Addy will usually do a lesson on ABCya.com, abcmouse.com, take her timed tests or do a lesson from her Explode the Code book.  We love this curriculum and it has helped Addy with her reading tremendously!  When Cora wakes up, they watch a show, then go play for a few hours.  Around 4:30 they’ll sit and watch Wild Kratts or Odd Squad (ugh.) while I fix supper.

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Fridays are a bit different as we don’t do as much “structured work.”  It consists of a Science lesson/ experiment, a Kiwi craft or project, puzzles.  Then we typically run errands or visit grandparents.

Again, this is an “ideal” day.  We also throw in Piano lessons, Homeschool events, visits to grandparents, ect.  Cora and Abe very rarely sit and play and entertain themselves like perfect little “students”, and it is much noisier than you are probably imagining.  Sometimes there are tantrums and gnashing of teeth….and the kids act out too.

2) How do you do school when you have babies/ toddlers that need your constant attention?

If I could have a dollar for every time I have asked someone else that question, I could have matched by beginning teacher’s salary by now.  My best answer is, “I have no idea.”  Okay, not really, it is possible to have school and give attention to other littles.  I don’t have this figured out yet (if you do, please let me know your secrets!), but I do know what has helped for me.  

Cora was 16 months old when Addy started Kindergarten.  She was a climber of all things, an eater of inedible things…..the kind of kid that would stick her fingers in an electrical outlet while playing with matches and eating a ladybug as she headed for the steep staircase leading away from the rest of the family. (Not much has changed!)  She was not a baby I could turn my back on.  Some days were easier than others, but I learned flexibility would be crucial.  Some days I taught Addy with Cora on my lap/ hip/ back;  some days we waited until her nap time to do the things that required the most concentration, some days we did school on the floor so we could be at her level while she played and therefore didn’t feel like she was being left out.  Things are slightly easier this year, and I expect they will continue to get easier….until we bring home our next child at which point we will start all over again!

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The most important thing I discovered was to take breaks often to spend with each younger child so they don’t feel left out.  As soon as I would get Addy started on something that would take a few minutes, I would immediately do a puzzle with Abe or read a book with Cora.  I let them join in on Addy’s lessons anytime I think they can enjoy what she’s doing–music, art, games.  It’s no magic trick.  Truth be told, there have been mornings where it just ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN.  In which case, I throw my hands up and say, “We’ll try again after lunch….or tomorrow.”  And I’ve decided that’s okay.  

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I’ve still got a lot to work out, but hopefully this gives you a glimpse into what we do each day.

Sweet Dreams

Last night we watched Despicable Me.  Yes, the first one.  Yes, we are a few years behind.

As I finished reading and singing to Abe before bed, he said, “Mom, remember the part of the movie where Mr. Gru wouldn’t read the girls a bedtime story?  I bet my brother or sister doesn’t get a bedtime story right now either.”

I responded, “You’re right buddy.  We will have to read them a lot of stories when they get home.  Lots of singing and snuggling and reading.”

“Yeah.  Mom, I think we will bring home a 3 year old sister with long hair, and a 2 year old brother.  (Thinking)  He will be probably be too little for me to play a lot of things with him.  I think he would probably like to sit on the ground and roll a ball back and forth though.  I’ll do that.”

As I rocked Abe, we talked about the hard stories his brother(s)/sister(s) are living right now.  We dreamed about bringing them home.

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Weighing the Odds

I recently had a friend ask me if I could share with her all the pros and cons I have found so far in our homeschool journey.  She’s not the first person to ask about this “strange lifestyle” decision we have made.  As I always say, it isn’t a path we ever planned to be on, but I’m so glad we are.  I told her if I tried to respond with a Facebook message, it would fill up her inbox, so I decided to post it here instead.

About the time Addy turned one or two, I met a handful of homeschooling families.  (Up to this point, I only had stereotypes to look to for my idea of homeschooling.)  From the moment I became a momma, I understood the privilege and responsibility to raising my children, and I wanted to pour my heart into doing it well.  At some point this  led me to mention the h=word to Andy.  He probably said something like, “What about it?”–though, even in the beginning, never brushed it off.  God continued to fill my thoughts of homeschooling, and I continued to casually bring it up when the time seemed right.  Andy’s a logical thinker, and he simply said, “Let’s weigh the pros and cons.  Make a list, and we’ll go from there.”  Well, I’m a list-maker, friends, so I went right to work.

Long story short, in the end our list showed us that for OUR family homeschooling seemed to be the best fit.  We are in our 2nd “official” year, and I’ve had many more moments of confirmation than doubt.  I’ve had more time to add things to our pros and cons list.  For us the pros outweigh the cons, though I’m certain this isn’t the case for all families, and I certainly wouldn’t judge that it is for everyone.  So, if you are interested or wondering if it might be for you, I hope our list can be helpful to you:

CONS

1- Going Against the Grain-  It was a hard decision to do something different than all our friends and families.  We wanted to be able to have “school things” in common.  We wanted to lament together over too much homework and cheer together for our kids at sporting events.  I wanted to be able to call my best friend and ask her how her daughter was doing on such-and-such project.  It’s a fact that this path leads in different directions sometimes, and some conversations just won’t be able to happen as naturally.  Friendships might weaken, and (more importantly) those friendships for my kids have become harder.

2- Criticism of Others:  It just isn’t “the norm” to homeschool.  While we have been blessed beyond belief to have the support of our families, there will always be people who don’t understand and constantly question the motives and all important “socialization” of my children.  I’ve been asked, “Don’t you worry about them?” implying that I should worry that I’m screwing them up.

3- Lack of Socialization:  There.  Yep, it’s true.  My kiddos aren’t going to be around kids their own age as much as if they were in public school.  I don’t deny that I sometimes wonder if they would be “more outgoing, more social, more willing to talk to strangers” if they were with more kids all day.  And, yet, I also don’t place so much value on interacting with kids their own age that I think it will make or break them, or change their personalities.  And, I realize now that not every kid has to be the life of the party.  My kids come from a HUGE family with loads of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  We have a great church family, and the kids have a blast in Sunday School and youth group.  Addy has taken gymnastics with complete strangers every week.  And, when they are old enough we plan to get involved in clubs like 4-H and others that will provide plenty of “socialization.”  I have made the comment to Andy that our children are equally excited to invite their friends over to play as they are when we invite people in their 30s, 50s, even 80s!

4-My Kids Feeling “Different”:  This has been the hardest for me as a mom.  I don’t ever want my kids to feel like they don’t belong.  Addy’s very best friend in the world is her neighbor and cousin Kate.  They are exactly the same age and would be in the same class together.  If anything has been the most difficult, it has been seeing Kate interact with new school friends and watching the look in Addy’s eyes when she feels like an odd man out.  I imagine this will get harder as they get older and we do slumber parties and birthday parties.  Addy (and my other kids) will always be a little on the “outside” of all the inside jokes and stories.  She just won’t have the exact same things in common with them.  But, I also know that it provides opportunities for Addy to get to meet new friends through her cousin as well, and undoubtedly, much fun will be had in spite of the fact that we homeschool.

5- The Fear of Not Doing A Good Job Teaching Them:  I think it is only natural for fear to jump right past the idea of teaching a child 1+1=2 or how to write their name, and go straight to “How will I teach them calculus?” or “I know NOTHING about the anatomy of the eye!”  Sure, I find myself wondering if I’m teaching them everything they need to know right now, or if they’d be better off at public school, but my motto is “One Year at a Time.”  I started out thinking, “I can do Preschool.  I can do Kindergarten.  I am doing 1st Grade.”  Each year I’ll re-evaluate, do MY homework, and go from there.  I use a pre-made curriculum that I love and trust, so I can be confident that I am teaching age-appropriate lessons, and my kids aren’t falling behind, and ideally, excelling.

6- They Won’t Be Able to Survive College:  I have a cousin who was homeschooled well– raised with a love to learn– and he is flourishing in medical school.  He told me he felt that his homeschooling actually gave him an advantage because he “learned HOW to learn.”  He enjoyed learning and was taught how to problem solve.  This isn’t one I worry about much.

7- Sports.:  True statement—If you played sports in school, there is a good chance you want your kids to play too.  Andy and I were both involved in sports growing up.  We both have GREAT memories of competition, teamwork, big wins, and memorable losses.  This was one of the hardest ones for us.  We, in some ways, were taking away the opportunity for our children to make those memories.  And yet, when we really talked it through, we realized that while working as a team is an important skill, high school sports in general aren’t going to help you much in adult life. (Except the .03% that go on to play professionally.)  There are plenty of opportunities for our kids to play sports outside of public school if that is something they want to do.

PROS

1-  Seeing Things through the Lens of Christ: Faith was not our only reason to homeschool.  Not by a long shot.  However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t play a huge part.  It isn’t as though we do nothing but study the Bible all day, but I love the ability to study things with God at the center.  For instance, we can study how a plant grows or how a scab heals or an ugly caterpillar can transform into a butterfly, and we can be thankful that God designed the world and His people with such care.

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2- A Closer Bond as a Family:  This was so important to us.  We wanted to create lasting memories and bonds as a family, and part of that was by learning together.  We wanted our children to love each other, and not brush each other off for friends who come and go throughout childhood.  We wanted to be able to spend extra time together if Andy had a crazy work week, and we wanted to stay up late to see him.  This has been one of the biggest blessings so far.  My kids are BEST FRIENDS.  They play together so well (most of the time).  They go on grand adventures, and stick close together.  We feel like as adults it will be more important that they have good memories and relationship with each other than with their best friend from 5th grade.

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3-  They Have More Time to Be Kids: I seldom talk about the time it takes to do school with people because I fear judgement.  But, for now, we do school in about 3-4 hours.  In Kindergarten, it took us even less than that, 1-2 hours a day.  This gives them extra time to run and play outside (which in itself can be learning), or do things like piano lessons, visiting with Grandparents, or being creative.  As we speak, lunch just ended and they have an hour of free time before Cora’s nap.  Abe is a policeman, Addy is running a salon, and Cora is playing with bath toys in the sink (just keeping it real!), and while it can be viewed as “just playing,” they are practicing life skills.  Just don’t tell them that.

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4- Extra Opportunites:  One of the things we were excited about when we decided to homeschool was the opportunity for extra learning.  For instance, we can stop what we are doing to study something happening in the moment.  We can spend time learning about what each child is really interested in at the time.  We can plan family vacations any time of the year, and plan them to enhance what we are studying.  (History and geography are going to SO much fun!!!)  We can load up in the Airstream and learn about the Battle of Gettysburg IN Gettysburg.  We can study mammals at the zoo, we can learn about hydroelectric power while at Niagara Falls!  In addition to trips, our kids can decide what they are passionate about and pursue it.  For example, Addy LOVES art, and we are in the process of finding art lessons for her.  The possibilities for enhancing learning are endless.

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5- Teaching to Each Child’s Learning Style and Pace: I love being able to teach my kids in a way they best understand, at a pace they are capable of.  One thing that frustrated me when I taught in public school is that the kids who caught on quickly got bored and the kids who struggled got left behind.  A plus to homeschooling is that we can work on something until they master it, and then we move on–however long that may take.

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6- No Homework in the Evenings:  We get all schoolwork done before Andy gets home, so that we can protect “family time.”  The kids might talk to him about what they learned or show him something they did, but they aren’t stuck at the table doing busywork while the rest of us spend time together.

7- A Vast Number of Resources:  We are blessed.  In our family alone, we have a retired Ag teacher/ principle/ superintendent, a biology teacher, a history teacher, a math teacher, a science teacher, a nurse, a farmer, an engineer, and I am a former Language Arts teacher.  If we ever need extra help mastering something, we’ll know just where to go!

8- Homeschool Group:  We are part of a group that meets a few times each month  for field trips, holiday parties, educational events, and PE/ Rec days.  It provides my children with opportunities to meet new friends, and I am able to form a support group too!  My kids aren’t missing out on making Valentine’s day boxes or learning how to play kick ball or doing science fair!

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There are so many more, but if you have made it to this point of the post, then you already deserve a gold medal for sticking with me.  This was just a glimpse of our pros and cons.  Someone else may have completely different things on their list–but this (and much prayer) helped us make the decision that was best for us.  I would love to know what helped you make your decision to homeschool or not!  This is a judgement-free discussion!

Adoption Updates

Adoption updates have been few and far between lately (remember, I warned you!).  There just isn’t much to update until there IS something to update.  But for those of you wondering what’s been going on, here is a short summary.

We are approaching our 1-year anniversary of being registered with Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice….in common terms: 1 year on the list.  This could be a source of grief to think that we have waited one year and still aren’t much closer to coming home with our child (most likely).  However, I actually celebrate this one year anniversary because it means we are one year closer.  We survived it.  I didn’t lose my mind, or cry every day in despair, and I (don’t think) I drove Andy nuts talking about nothing else….. this isn’t confirmed though.  These may sound like a small feats, but I assure you Andy and I were both concerned with how I would deal with “the wait.”  I feel confident that I actually flourished this past year.  God urged me not to sit idly by during the wait, but to advocate, and that has proven to be an enormous blessing.

So 21 months ago, we began this journey with paperwork and more paperwork, and now it is time to redo most of that paperwork.  Basically we will have to update our homestudy every year and our NBC approval every 18 months.  We redid our homestudy in October.  This consisted of writing new autobiographies, updating paperwork and special needs lists,  and a home visit.  We changed a few things this time around–the age of the child we hope to adopt is now written as “0-36 months at time of referral, not to exceed 48 months at  time of pick-up, and at least 10 months younger than our youngest child.” Wordy, huh?  We also re-evaluated what special needs we felt capable of handling, and added 5 or 6 more moderate needs.

We received our approval letter from the state of IL, and AGCI sent their approval letter, and I thought we were all ready to move to the next stage of paperwork.  We were just missing one thing from our homestudy agency.  I called our caseworker to ask her to mail it, and she informed me that our adoption agency had requested one small change which required her to resubmit the paperwork to the state, and that, in fact, our approval letter was now invalid.  This was cause for panic because, you see, everything has to be submitted at very specific times in the adoption world or it could all come crumbling down.  We only have a 90 day window to submit our paperwork to NBC Immigration, and we were already at day 27…..only leaving 63 days to get everything in.  This reminded me that sometimes things are happening with your paperwork that you are completely oblivious too…..which makes me crazy.

So now we are waiting, again.  We are waiting for IL DCFS to send us a new approval letter (4-6 weeks), then our homestudy agency will send us the final copy of our updated homestudy (which we will get notarized).  Then we will submit an application to Immigration, and they will schedule us a time and day to come get fingerprinted at St. Louis again (4-6 weeks).  We will wait (and pray) that we get our approval letter from them QUICKLY (up to 90 days).  Then we’ll get that notarized and apostilled (in Springfield, IL), send everything to our adoption agency, who will send it to Bulgaria.  This is all supposed to happen by March 2nd.  God Help Us.  “Worst case” is that Bulgaria kicks us off the list for not having things submitted at the right time. So, you understand my momentary panic.

And yet, our adoption agency has promised that we need not panic–that there is always plan B, and that it will all be okay.  Bless them–they are such encouragers!

There is the “short” adoption update…..just a few of the small hoops to jump through to grow our family.  These are small battles compared to the ones our child is fighting right now, and I will gladly “suffer” a little panic, and a rewrite a few documents to have them home.  For those of you whom have asked, the “normal” wait for a traditional (non-severe special needs) referral right now in Bulgaria is 3-4 years.  So, by that standard…..we have a “few more” years of these updates.

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