A Scroll of Remembrance.

After the birth of our now 14-year old Larsen, I experienced several years of secondary infertility.  Losing our first babe and then the miracle of our oldest son, we wondered if perhaps we would have only one biological child.  I remember those years.  Lars would lay his little hands on my tummy and pray, with that breath-taking faith of a child, that a brother would come forth.  It got to be so the sight of a pregnant women would cause a pain in me that would start in my chest and radiate out to my fingertips.  I wanted to hold a baby of mine again; I wanted our family to grow.  My husband and I both had the feeling, when we sat at our tiny supper table, that someone was missing.

Every month became a let-down with our desire on the tip of our minds.  It is strange to feel a loss for something you have never had, but the grief was real.

I poured myself into nurturing Lars and to finishing my BA degree.  We believed (and still do) orphans are very near the heart of God, the idea of adopting out of US foster care appealing to us both.  We decided we wanted a Latino boy, not much younger than our son.  Through the mom of one of my husband’s music student’s at the time who worked for an agency, we began to fill out paperwork for our home study.  A little boy we saw online, through the foster care system in Texas, caught our hearts.  The two of us began to pray for Joseph every evening after we tucked in Larsen.  We prayed around the world for this little boy, into his past, his present and future as we laid hands on the computer screen.

One weekend, in the early spring, we visited Wheaton College, past Chicago where we had met back in 1995.  I gathered up information and spoke with professors about attending the next year and earning my masters.  We had it all figured out:  Lars and hopefully Joseph would attend a little school together, Ben would work for the college and I would take classes.  We had a plan!  Our family would move forward!

Ten years later, I chuckle.  Sometimes it is a good thing we cannot hear the chuckles of God.  I’d rather hear His patience and see Him in the circumstances He weaves together.

We came home from the weekend (our old car broke down twice on the road and we hobbled home to Michigan) and that week found out Benjamin had lost his job.  And our medical insurance.  Our home study was scheduled for the next week.

A few days later it was April Fool’s Day.  I went to a dollar store and bought five pregnancy tests.  Driving to the house that some friends had just purchased where Ben was helping with the trim work, I handed him the bag. He grinned, the ever-optimistic man now without a job.  I took them all and, as has been our custom for I cannot stand to look myself at such things, he did.  All five of them were positive.  I looked at them all lined up and did not know whether to laugh or cry.

We had made a plan.  Now, this was not a part of that plan.  I had relinquished pregnancy.  And it was April Fool’s Day of all days!  Now what?

We canceled our home study.  We prayed another month or so for Joseph, but now felt we were to pray  for his future, apart from us.  Prayers are never in vain and sometimes God has an unusual way of calling us into an intercessory assignment and just as quickly bringing us out.

That May I walked the isle in Chicago to receive my diploma.  A 4 1/2 year old boy raised his arms up in victory when he saw me look up at him in the balcony.  Six-week old Anders was nestled and growing, like a wonderful secret in my womb, as I walked with tears in my eyes (this had been a ten-year journey, but that is another story).   I remember having a vision of the long arms of the Lord, rolling up His sleeves and hearing the words, “Oh my child, I have just begun!”

Indeed.

The end of that summer found us riding our 1973 classic tandem bicycle we had purchased on our honeymoon (we had to sell it to move here to Mexico), pulling 5-year old Larsen in our bike trailer.  He held in his hand a sealed enveloped containing a card which the ultrasound technician had indicated if our baby was a boy or a girl.  We stopped at our favorite little Mexican restaurant and sat down to order.  None of us could wait much longer.

Ben opened the enveloped, read it and announced with pride, “Our baby is a boy!”.  Larsen instinctively stood up on his chair, held out his arms wide and exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!” It was a celebration I have never forgotten.  Dear reader, that is how God feels about your life, about your birth.

I would hold a baby boy again.  My son would have a brother.  My husband would get to yell “C’mon boys” when it was time to go.

Larsen started school in the fall.  My baby went off to kindergarten while a new one continued to grow within me.  I had heard the Spirit instruct me, shortly after I graduated, to start writing a book.  So every morning while Larsen was in school, I drove to a little coffee shop and wrote.  It seemed crazy to write a book when I had no idea what I was doing, only that I was to obey.  So I prayed more than I wrote, listening in to the Father’s direction.

Most of my life I had not known what I am doing, only to listen, to trust and to obey.

We kept our baby’s name a secret, promising Larsen he would be the first one to learn his brother’s name.  And he was, though it took him weeks to remember it.  We had to pin it to his shirt so every time people at school would ask him, he could point to the note and smile.

Anders was due the week of Thanksgiving, the week of my father’s birthday, but he was a week late. We had some help putting up a wall upstairs to make him a little room and to pass the time of the waiting, I had painted bluish-colored fish around the top border of the wall and carefully folded and re-folded every tiny article of clothing that had been given to us.   I remember sitting quietly in that room, in that little house on the edge of the highway that Saturday morning, praying for our new son.  I had not felt him move in a few days.  I sensed the Spirit whispering, “It is time to go to the hospital, go now.”

Strange.  I was not in labor.  I called Ben who was working a job and told him what I believed I had heard from the Lord.  He came home and we drove immediately to the hospital, which was 45 minutes away.  As soon as I stepped through the doors, labor began.  An hour later and a snowstorm hit the area, so bad that no car could have safely driven the distance we had come.

Anders Ezekiel Blycker was born after midnight.  The lights were dimmed in the darkness and snow fell outside the window next to my bed like bits of white confetti celebrating something wonderful.  My amniotic fluid was quite low and the cord was wrapped around Anders’ neck three times.  His heart rate was irregular and falling, so they monitored it with three wires in his little head.  He will never grow hair in those spots.  Benjamin cut the cord and handed me our son.  I remember holding him up and we looked at each other eye to eye.

Love at first sight is more than possible.

When he was cleaned and we were left to ourselves, Benjamin took out his guitar and sat on the bed and quietly sang worship songs over us.  He then took out a small vial of oil, made a sign of the cross on Anders’ forehead and anointed him, telling him what his name means, “Courageous disciple of Christ, strengthened by God” and then bestowed on him his life verse:

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not their measure.

 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.             -Psalm 71: 14-18 

The doctor that delivered him came in shortly after, she also a follower of Jesus.  “I came to pray over this little guy, may I?  I believe the Lord has a special calling on his life.”  I wish I could remember her words, for the blessing moved me and confirmed in me what I had felt I already knew about our son.

So, our Zeker, the only one of us born in the winter, in a snowstorm.  He moved to Florida when he was just one and to Mexico when he was seven; he does not have any memories of snow that falls from the sky and piles up in great cold mounds.  One of his longest and dearest hopes is that he can go back to the place of his birth, where his grandparents and aunt still live, in the winter to make snowballs, taste snow and go sledding.

He told me just today when we were studying the story of Joseph in school together, “Yes Mom, God does work all things for His glory and our good.  Could it be for His glory and my good that someday when I am still a boy I can go to Michigan in the winter, even maybe have a white Christmas?”

Yes, my son.  You just might have to wait a bit.

But it’s all for His glory and our good.

Anders turned nine years old last Thursday.  Meet my Master’s Degree:

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Awakenings.

Once again, this year has gotten off to a bumpy start; Lars had the H1N1, my book was wrapping up for publication, my parents and sister were in town, Kiersta is well, a baby with Anders well, a three-year old and Ben’s sporadic work hours make things rather difficult.  In spite of all of this, I am gaining more insight into how my boys learn, Larsen especially.

What I have often interpreted as slowness and just not getting simple things is showing itself to be more of the hallmarks of a global-thinker.  He has no patience for simply focusing on one task; his mind is always making connections to broaden the picture and already synthesize information.  I have been trying to train him with the right time to let this loose and the time to reign it in and stick to the task at hand.  One thing I am grateful for that has been a success in this home-education experiment: he possesses a true love for learning, always without question or complaint. 

Another awakening has been found in the need to stick to the basics of the grammar stage.  Redoing the schedule, we are doing language arts and math for the bulk of our time, with the frosting of history and such added when I am confident the cake can hold them up.  Because of this, I am seeing progress.   And that means Latin is on hold for a bit. We are also not moving on until he has showed mastery for each lesson, with the concepts review with each new lesson.  That means we are only on lesson six in his spelling book as I have slowed down to teach him phonic rules for spelling, not relying on sight learning as I have always personally done.  This method seems more his style.

In the last week he is taking off with personal writing, today actually filling up the page in his journal with details from his day yesterday.  I am thrilled!  Of course the boy still cannot remember to capitalize and write b’s and d’s correctly, but that will come.  I hope.

I also tossed aside (hope to sell) the Shurley Grammar curriculum and went back to Jessie Wise’s Language Lessons. whew.  Shurley was tying me up in knots–not my style nor his.  I really did it because I thought any good classical educations hould use it and be able to fly with it. Not! Far to complicated. The actual sentences to diagram had no meaning, which causes Lars to really tune out as he pays attention to content and not busy work.  And math is improving as I am using more hands-on activities and taking my time to be sure he gains mastery. 

It is good.  I am tired.

Looking Back and Moving Forward.

We’re Back!

It seems last year was survival and amazingly enough at times we even thrived.  It was the first year of our adventure. We moved (#11). I finished my first book. Anders got potty-trained and overcame speech difficulties.  Larsen took off with reading and learned how this whole home-school thing works. We had unsteady employment.  I was pregnant and gave birth to our beautiful girl three weeks ago.  Looking back, I suppose it was a lot but endurance is addicting when it is all you know and when you are simply being faithful to what God has given you to do.  I find this exhilarating!

We are about to venture on another year.  Larsen (9) will start third grade and Anders (3 1/2) will start Pre-K.  Our newest edition, Kiersta (3 wks.) will be going the journey too.  I spent the last couple of months reviewing books, reading up on classical philosophy and planning the first 12 weeks of school, down to daily lesson plans. I learned last year big-time that without detailed planning, the house will be built on the sand and sink.

We are going to rock and roll this Monday (9/14) and step up the quality of the blog this year, if for nothing else than my own records!

Here’s a brief look back at the start of LAST year before we move forward.Wow–my boys really grew! What a year…

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What I’ve Learned About the First Year of Home Education…

I am still learning and this has been a heck of a year.  More than I ever anticipated for sure.    Here is a short list of what I have learned and heard and seen to be true. And hope to finally implement….

1.  Discipline, structure and consistency starts with the mother.  Every day. Inside of that truth is more than enough room for grace. Still trying to find the dance moves to those two truths.

2.  Academics are second place to instilling within your children the love and knowledge of God, the walking with him. Especially in these early, foundational years.  Study, in Jesus’ day, was considered the highest form of worship.  Post this.  And a day started without prayer and joy and even a walk or bike ride will be a total ruin.

3.  Getting through the books is not as important as making sure the knowledge is understood and transformational. Release some academic expectations.  You are not living abnormally and you are not anti-world as a lot of people will make you feel both indirectly and not. Blow it off .  As a friend just told me, “If you get math and language arts done strong every day and can get them to love reading, count the elementary years as a sucess!  In ninth grade you start keeping detailed records for transcripts, before that loosen up just a bit.”

4.  A designated “schoolroom” is crucial.  At least for us. Away from the never-ending slew of laundry and dishes.

5.  Curriculum is important, but not as important as attitude and relationship and having sheer delight in learning. You don’t have to spend a lot and be tempted and overwhelmed by the vast array of options and supplies out there. Use the library and the Internet more.  Homeschooling can be a rather odd sub-culture. You usually cannot afford to do it. We can’t, but it works out.  We’ll take it a year at a time.

6.  Pencils will disappear by multitudes.  And boys do need to move often.  A lot.

7.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue.  Take a time-out when you need it.  Every teacher needs this.

8.  Stick to a routine as far as what you study each day and in what order. Start the school year on time and lay out how many pages of what need to be done daily.  Plan when breaks will be and stick to it.

9.  Honor your investment and see it as “I am at work”. Don’t make the school hours so long you are exhausted by Friday.   And have the children work together in the same room so you can keep both on task.

10.  Read to them, an hour a day.  Talk about what you are reading. Dream, imagine, wonder, meditate,  investigate. Focus and shut out all other voices.

11.  Do the chores, except the breakfast dishes and a quick sweep, after school hours.  Have it be the end of your school day for everyone to do their chores and then be free. Okay so I write this pre-baby!

12.  Besides sports club and co-op, pick one extra-curricular activity  to be involved in that Dad takes them to.  Don’t wear yourself out with running around! I can’t stand running around.

13.  Read about educational philisophy and theories and come up with what you align yourself with so you know what your goals and approach are for the year.  Don’t start haphazard and merely see it as getting through the books and taking tests. I like the word intentional, if you have not gathered thus far.

14.  Have a good friend for your child over 1x a week and vice-versa.  Have it in the schedule. Anders doesn’t care about this yet, but this is huge to Lars.

15.  Get a family computer with a filter on it.  Use Brain Pop and other educational CDS and games and typing tutors and research  We are working on this. My little laptop, faithful through a degree and a book is all we have at this point.  Never was important before, but is it becoming as Lars gets older.

16.  Find a homeschool community and find your own style to home education.  What you emphasize will be different than what another family does.  Your reason for doing it will be different. Your philosophy will. Your learning environment will.  Boys will be wilder than girls.  Every child learns differently.

17.  Think global, act local.  I am passionate about this for my children, though at times limited in the acting part at this stage in the game.

I am sure there is more, the year is not done…I want to delight in my boys. They will be old enough, soon enough…

Second Semester…

I have lost track of weeks.  All I know is we were going strong with school then I broke my toes, we moved, we traveled, I had lots of work to wrap up, the holiday season came and I have been exhausted and puking for weeks (now much better) with the reality of another baby coming.  It seems we have never really gotten up and running!

In my darkest days I was ready to throw the idea of home education out the window feeling like a dismal failure.  But, brighter days are coming. They must be.  Lars is still pleased as pie to learn at home at his desk next to the window with his pencils and books and animal posters.  Not to mention his growing collection of the Magic Tree House books.  He abilities to self-learn have really grown in the last two months; they had to!  The result has been much less daydreaming and poking around with his work.

I am a stickler for being where we should be academically and we ain’t up to snuff in some areas. We will begin writing hard core this next week and will probably switch math curriculum as Right Start is too complicated and involved for Ben to do every night after a day of work and there is no way I can figure out how to teach it!   Being a lay-academic myself, homeschooling as a “lifestyle” and not a firm six hours of work is hard for me to swallow. I am finding a balance, gradually.

For now, we will stick to the task at hand and finish as strong as we can.  Lars started his Friday sports program again and also co-op where he will be studying American history. While at a family day at an art center, he won a scholarship for an art class that will study the elements of architecture and create art pieces based on such.  He is excited to start that as it is right up his alley.  Anders has much to learn.  He has no patience with workbooks, preferring books, games and art projects.

My biggest struggle with home-school has been finding a routine and sticking with it and keeping my mind focused on the boys learning.  I can be teaching shapes and my mind is really thinking about some social issue…  I am learning to train my brain when to think on what…

I was thinking on our culture’s need to quantify everything.  We care about grades and awards and an abundance of activities by which we measure success.  And we all stress out trying to measure up to some invisible mark and compare ourselves and our children with peers.  I look at Lars so far and all he has walked through being on our family team and I see firm character emerging.  The kind you only acquire through experience and under the supervision of the Spirit.  More than ever he is tender, kind, quick to forgive, patient, helpful, generous, compassionate, joyful and as responsible as he knows how to be at eight.  There is a gracious strength emerging in him, something that no state test can measure.  I must remind myself of this, even as we pursue academic excellence–he is a whole person and education is for the whole person.

Week Eight: Marching On…

Until the first of December when I turn in my book manuscript to my publisher, home education is taking a different slant. Mainly, reading and more reading.  I simply cannot keep up with anything else. I am tired. A lesson for me again that I cannot do it all and yet the world keeps spinning and my boys keep learning.  I tell them they are sowing into this book with their support and patience.  Larsen has learned quite a bit about the subject of my book, the publishing industry and working together in community!  This week for school he has read books on astronomy, earthquakes, hamsters and inventions as well as written in his journal and drawn animals from around the world.   He is at astronomy and election class this morning and his phys. ed all afternoon. I am home with Anders, sick with a cold/flu of some sorts which I have been fighting off all week. The heat and humidity have returned and we are all hoping it goes back where it belongs. That’s about all to report this week.

Epiphany: I Have Two BOYS!

I have two boys. Duh. They don’t organize and put things away in properly.  They don’t remember to take their shoes off in the house, even if they are covered with mud. They put rocks in their pockets and wads of leaves that end up in my washing machine. They hang from trees and yell, loud. They hate to brush their teeth for longer than 20 seconds. They wrestle every Saturday morning on my bed, even though they all know that every stinkin’ time someone will get hurt and end up bawling. When Lars spends the night at a friends house, Benjamin informed me it is dumb to ask him “so what did you guys talk about until the wee hours of the morning?” Boys don’t talk, at least about anything beyond flashlights and spying and bionicles and such.  There is a reason they cannot maintain peace and calm: testosterone. This would also be the reason their bathroom always smells like pee and the lid is always up and the floor is usually soaked after any shower or bath. It is disgusting.  Any stick is an automatic sword, any glass ofmilk and straw a bubble bomb. Any stupid riddle howled over many times like it was the first time.  How the epiphany had to crash upon me yet again like I had forgotten is beyond me!Or perhaps not, after all I was praying for insight. And it was not all that complex. I have two boys. I must teach two boys. I am not a boy. I confess I have always reacted adversely to the whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus thing. I tend to focus on the Human Beings Live on Earth thing. I was a tomboy after all, I never was a girly girl… So, I’ll be refreshing my Bringing Up Boys text this week which I never liked that much in the first reading. In the meantime we did most of school today in a tree and on a blanket and threw balls on the roof for recess and skipped the dishwasher and sweeping until dinner. You cannot imagine how much we accomplished academically. Off to writing now while Lars puts together two clothes racks for me and fixes a cupboard. Work he actually likes to do. I always wanted boys, lots of boys. But oh, how out-numbered I am feeling…

Week Four: Pushing Through

Home education is linked to the familial life as a whole in a way that typical schooling is not. I knew this, but this week it became more of a reality. The work of faith, hope and love is more demanding in this type of setting. Endurance, perserverance and focus in the midst of many pressing needs and concerns is challenging.  And yet, a reminder to lean heavy into the power of the Spirit.

Also, marriage can become second-place to education.  Pehaps this is the temptation and struggle of every family in such a complex world–keeping all things in their proper position and elevating those which are of utmost importance. 

It was a good week, but more pensive on my end as I am observing how the boys learned and how closely supervised they must be to maintain focus.  They both enjoy structure and order, yet still some loose fun and freedom.  Again, bringing balance to these things must be the struggle of most teachers.

I do realize we need to get out more than just Fridays; one other day is necessary. This week we’ll head to the conservancy to ride the boat through the everglades and study vascular and non-vascular plants and such. When this horrid heat and rain departs we’ll enjoy some more outdoor times.

I’ve got many more thoughts on each subject matter I’ll work on recording.  This week, it was simply pushing through. I have six loads of unfolded laundry to attack and floors sit un-mopped and sinks to clean.  The Mary in me is always taken care of, that darn Martha she’ll get tended to in due time.  Regardless, as the week closes, I still am firm and grateful in our decision to home school. It is deeply gratifying to teach my own boys and see them flourish, relax and be excited to learn.  It’s a journey, right? And no journey worth anything is ever without the pebbles and potholes in the road here and there. 

An Un-Defense of the Choice to Home Educate

I believe we all have prejudices to some degree regarding the educational choices of others and even the overall lifestyle of other families.  Perhaps these prejudices and sensitivities to such are the greatest among those of us who would call ourselves followers and learners of the person and ways of Jesus.  We who have come face to face with grace often take it as if it is a personal present from God, instead of a communal gift we are to both receive and dispense. I have been guilty of such.  And have been proven wrong, again and again. 

In light of this, some of us are afraid to reveal ourselves as “home-education moms” because of the the varying degrees of connotations this definition elicits.  We do not want to be pegged, rather we want to be affirmed in our intentional decision made in partnership with the good King who formed both us and our children!  We cannot seek this seal of approval from man, only from our audience of One.  The accusations of our choice and our beliefs within that choice are quite audacious, really.  We have little time to justify our actions; there are bigger fish to fry. Namely the education in body and spirit of our children.  Myths abound regarding home-educated children such as ‘what about their socialization?’ and ‘is it healthy for children to be around their parents so much?’ and ‘how are you teaching them to be a part of the greater society and function within its norms?’ and ‘don’t you feel guilty about the religious abuse of indoctrination you are forcing upon your innocent children?’  I could spend time countering these and believe I could make strong cases, and I will if you dear readers really feel you need it, but at the end of the day, anything that comes between my mind and the goal set before me, is nothing but a stumbling block, a distraction.

“Get behind me Satan!” said Jesus when Peter suggested He bring His kingdom forth in another way but His atoning death.  And silence, there was silence when all of his accusers demand that He prove himself.  His actions did and He’ll be sure to prove our calling firm and its results solid.

So, get on with it! You will stumble and fall on your way, but keep going further up and further in.