Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Excited About Writing

I didn't start this project to get my kids excited about writing. I didn't even start this project with the idea to get my kids doing a project with their cousins who live states away. But I'm so glad that's what this whole thing has turned into!

Ellie drew a picture of her cousin Creede as a cowboy for his birthday and somehow she got an idea to write a story about Sheriff Creede. I don't remember exactly how that happened, but Ellie is a natural story teller, so I'm not surprised. She comes by storytelling honestly. I was writing stories for my own entertainment for as long as I can remember knowing how to write.

Well, we sat down at the computer, because I can almost type as fast as she can tell a story. Wyatt added a some to the story and I made a suggestion when they got stuck in one spot and argued about another. The story included all the boy cousins, including Creede, his brother-Carson, and Wyatt. I suggested adding Ellie at the end. Now the kids have been brainstorming about how to add Creede and Carson's little sister, Tess, to the story. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The kids got stuck at one point and couldn't agree on what to write next, so I suggested we send what we had (because we need to get to the post office and the library pretty quickly) and make the story "to be continued". Then they could write some more later. Well, as we were packing up the card, I had the idea that Creede and Carson might like to write (figuring on a love of books and storytelling from what I know of their parents) the next "installment" and send it to us. Then the cousins could continue taking turns writing. Ellie and Wyatt loved that idea.

The kids are so excited to receive a new installment of The Adventures of Sheriff Creede. They recieved installment #2 from their cousins on Monday. Ellie and Wyatt can't wait to write the next one!

They'll all get to see each other at Thanksgiving, and we're thinking of suggesting that the four of them write an installment together at that time. Their ages are 9, almost 7, 6 and 4. The boys' little sister, Tess, is nearly a year and a half old. Anyway, you can imagine with the span of those ages that this is a great, funny, and imaginative story about the Old West.

Kids love getting mail. Mine love telling stories. I love that they have this new connection with their cousins that they so rarely get to see.

I actually wrote stories with one of my cousins years ago. We would spend Spring Break together and work on a new "novel". We wrote chapters and sometimes even mailed them back and forth, but we never managed to finish a book. We were in Junior High then.

I expect that The Adventures of Sheriff Creede will end in a finished product...or at least a couple of completed adventures. I love how a simple idea for a birthday present from one cousin to another can turn into a fabulous family project. I can see this continuing on for quite some time.

I didn't count the first installment of Sheriff Creede as credit for homeschooling, but this could certianly be a homeschool project for credit. In any case, this is a great family togetherness project for any family...homeschooler or not. Happy trails!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

ASL (American Sign Language) at the Library

We had the most fun at the library today. Homeschool or not, if you're not taking advantage of your local library's programs, you should be! We have an especially awesome children's librarian at our local library. She even puts on special programs designed for homeschoolers. This was one of them (though non-homeschoolers were welcome, too).

Today's program was a follow up to a Sign Language program last month. Signing is a bit old hat for our family. A couple years ago we did Sign Language as a foreign language. Our local public library has all the Signing Time videos and cds. We borrowed all of them that year (not at the same time). We borrowed some of them multiple times for review. I even enjoyed the Signing Time dvds! I always thought sign language was really cool to learn. I learned the alphabet and some signs from Sesame Street, and some from school (I think). (Sesame Street is where I learned my Spanish, too!) I especially loved using sign language in church, when we were training the kids not to talk during church! Well, they were allowed to talk, but only with their hands. :)

So, back to today. The lady (whose name I don't remember learning) taught the kids last month and today. She was really wonderful. She taught them a bunch of signs for Goldilocks and the Three Bears today. Then she laid out papers on the floor with the word for the sign on them and had a child stand behind each word. When she got to that word in the story, she pointed to the child, and he or she did the sign. Then she had the kids scramble and pick a new word to sign. The kids loved signing the story so much that they asked to do it again and again. She finally had to tell them there was no more time. We also reviewed things were learned last time, and a list of vocabulary words that she had given the kids to study new words. I should've had a video camera!

Coincidentally, the latest Homeschoolers Notebook e-newsletter answered questions about sign language and using sign language as a homeschool class. The answers including Signing Time and a couple other websites that were also on the list our library teacher gave the families today. The two new websites I checked out were: Signing Savvy and ASL Dictionary Portal. The Dictionary is a search engine where you can put in a word and they will find a site that has a video of the sign for you to click on. Signing Savvy has a sign of the day, with video. It also includes a beautiful human hand alphabet, numbers, colors, animals, and other signs. The site is very nice to look at. Signing Time explains some benefits (according to scientific studies) of teaching hearing children to sign like: higher IQ scores, better adjusted, and read at an earlier age. I love that we might be able to communicate with a deaf person if we needed or wanted to. I also think signing is pretty fun. Signing is also a good thing when you'd like, or need, (like in church, the library, or if someone is sick) everyone to be quiet.

The sign language teacher said she's be back to the library to teach again this summer. I'll bet for the Summer Reading Program. You can bet we'll be there, too!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grown Up Growing

God has really been growing me lately...in so many ways. My hubby got the job of Bookkeeper at our church a few months back, and while he was at the church working, the church secretary came in to get ready for the Bible Study she leads. Well, Thomas called me up and passed her the phone, and she invited me to Bible Study. Thomas encouraged me to go and so did my kids. There are not too many things I do on my own...especially not outside the house. I questioned whether, if I started, I would be able to continue. Thomas likes to play tennis, and often plays when there is nothing else planned. So, first I made sure that I would be able to keep going. He assured me that I would be able to. I've really enjoyed the Bible Study and the fellowship with the other ladies, a group of ladies that has changed each week (with a couple of them remaining the same).

Right now, I'm listening to Back to the Basics of Life Seminar 2. Which continues for the next three weeks. You can still sign up; and it's FREE. Wow, I've seen the lady's website who is speaking, and she is a more incredible speaker than I would have imagined. She just said you are eleven times more likely to remember something you copy. It's interesting that my maternal grandma typed the entire Bible. She just made me think of that. She's talking about having quiet time and equipping our children to have their own quiet time. Oh, there's so much more to what she's talking about; like training our children (Proverbs 22:6) and being an example to them. Those are things that are among the top reasons why I wanted to homeschool our children. They are also issues that have been brought to surface lately in our homeschool. I've realized that we need to refocus. We need to make ourselves a mission statement.

When the kids joined the Civil War Kids Club, the adult who helped this young man start the club ran out and gave us a book called The Ghosts of Lone Jack, and told us the club was reading the book. At both meetings that the kids have attended, there has been no mention of the book. We had started reading the book and there was some language in it that I did not like...nothing severe, but things I didn't want my children repeating. I had seen when the author of this book was visiting the library and doing a book signing, but we didn't go because it was a ghost book. The description of the ghosts were very vivid. They did not bother me (although twenty years ago that would have been a very different story), and Ellie said they didn't bother her. Wyatt began to have nightmares though. We quit reading the book (the nightmares quit) and I am going to give the book back to the club. I just let things slide and I know I shouldn't have. I apologized to the kids (and God). Between that and many other things that have come across my path lately, I have a renewed commitment to let God lead our homeschool path. Homeschool to me is not just between school hours, but a way of life. If what we are doing is not pleasing to God, then we don't want to continue on in that. I asked the kids to call me on anything they thought God would not approve of. I do want those who don't know me well, or would question this, to know that does not mean my children are schooled in a bubble and do not know about things like evolution (or fill in the blank with what you don't think evangelical Christians allow their children to know). My children study the theories, but know them for what they are: theories, not proven fact, as they are taught in the public school these days. My biology teacher was Christian, and except for that fact, I doubt creation would even have been mentioned in my classroom. Actually, mentioning that creation was his personal belief was the only mention of creation in that classroom. I am not raising narrow minded children, but children who walk the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14).

The kids and I studied the history of Halloween on Friday. Some friends of ours were discussing whether they would celebrate Halloween or not, and I felt compelled to look further into the subject. My family really didn't celebrate Halloween when I was growing up. I did dress up for school a few years, and we did go to the Fall Fun Festival at school, but we never went door to door "trick or treating". My kids had went trick or treating with friends for a few years, but those friends moved away. I had a friend who encouraged me not to worry about participating in the innocent parts of Halloween, but I could never really get excited about celebrating. Well, after studying the history of Halloween, the kids and I decided that we didn't feel comfortable participating in the traditions of Halloween. I think that maybe in the future, we might do something evangelical...to spread the good news (Mark 16:5), but unless we could feel that participating in the traditions of Halloween was pleasing to God, we didn't want to be a part of that. I won't condemn anyone for participating in Halloween, I will not judge anyone for participating in tradition they feel comfortable with (Matthew 7:1). This was continued growth for me though, not to bend to the social norms, but to be alien in this world, not of this world. My home is Heaven, and I don't want to question whether my Father in Heaven would be pleased looking down on my actions. If I have to question something, I would rather ere on the side of caution. I love to play dress up with my kids, but I never saw the purpose in going door to door asking for candy and coming home with a bucket full of future cavities. The scary stuff is yet another story (which includes a special assembly of ghost stories when I was in elementary school).

God is growing me in change. Thomas and I are going through Financial Peace University, the Dave Ramsey study. We are changing the way we deal with money, insurance, investments, our children's chores commission, and consequently each other. The changes are frustrating, exciting, and a bit scary. I'm really not good at change, but I'm leaning on my hubby in new ways of trust. I know these are good things for our marriage and our family.

So, back to the Bible Study. Our leader has this awesome visual. I need to make my own and take pictures, but I'll describe and you can probably imagine. Well, we start with when God created mankind we had a large circle body that was pure white and a smaller circle spirit that was all white. Mankind had no sin and was in full communion with God (Genesis 1:31). Then sin entered the world through disobedience to God (Genesis 3), and we have a large circle body that is black and dead, also a smaller circle spirit that is black and dead. Well, dead things can only produce nasty dead things...sins (Romans 3:23). So, when Jesus, God's only son (and the only perfect, no-sinning human), came to earth and took all the sins of mankind (past, present, and future) on him, he died and paid the price for every man's sins (that means wo-man's, too!) (John 3:16-17). When we accept Christs free gift of life, we get a white spirit circle that replaces the black one (Romans 6:23). Until we die and go to heaven, that white circle still sits in black flesh. When we go to heaven, we get a white body circle to go with the our white spirit circle.

Tonight we were talking about how when we ask Jesus into our heart that we all get a full white spirit; no one gets more or less than someone else. That spirit has many promises from God: He will take away the old and make us new (2 Corinthians 5:17), He will give us a heart to know Him (Deuteronomy 5:29), and our new spirit has wonderful fruit (Galatians 5:22): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. When we have that new, clean spirit, Jesus in our hearts, God smiles down on us because we are His! We may not always see the fruit, but we are capable of producing all of those wonderful things.

If you don't have a Bible handy, but would like to check out these scripture references, you can plug them in to Bible Gateway (just click on the highlighted words). You can even change the version of the Bible, if one or another is easier for you to understand the wording.

I've thought a lot over the past few months about the seasons in my life, as many people call them. I asked Jesus into my heart at age 7. I see spurts of growth over time when I spent more time in God's word, having quiet time, reading devotionals and the Bible, my summers at Super Summer Evangelism School, my time in reading good Christian works of literature. I could, and can, always trace back in times of choas that I have neglected my time in communion with God. I still see the sins of my flesh more often than I like, but I know that if my focus is on the only treasure that I can take out of this world (my relationship with God and those people in my life that having accepted the gift of salvation), that I will produce the wonderful fruits of the spirit (Hebrews 12:2, Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34).