Friday, October 24, 2014

Getting Outdoors: New Perspectives & Togetherness

Glacier National Park, on Going-To-The-Sun Road
There was no summer vacation getaway this year.  Life is busiest for Jeremy in the summertime, and for lots of other various reasons, we stayed home.  I must explain to you that we are not heat-loving folk.  We'd prefer to wear layers and drink hot beverages.  However, we live in a land where summer lasts for half of the year.  Not just any summer, no.  The daily temperature highs like to stay in the triple digits for a solid two to three months.  There is a six-week period when the garden all but quits producing because the pollen in veggie flowers scorch and never has a chance to bear fruit.  It's that hot.  When autumn finally does grace us, it feels like nothing short of a miracle each year.  Summer finally relinquishes it's stifling grip around late October and we breathe a huge, crisp, sigh of relief.  I get ahead of myself.

Jeremy at Logan Pass, on the Continental Divide

September is the hardest month of all.  We see friends up north and Back East post pictures of turning leaves and steamy drinks clutched by hands barely peaking out of cozy sweater sleeves.  Meanwhile, the highs still frequently reach the hundreds and we lose patience.  This September, however, Jeremy agreed to officiate the marriage of some friends.  The wedding was in Montana.  Neither of us had ever been there, but were always so curious.  We decided to plan a family road trip.  Preparing for this "vacation" was almost so stressful that I wanted to call it off before it even began.  Arrangements had to be made for the animals and garden, school lessons were doubled for three weeks straight so we wouldn't have to worry about getting behind.  Then there's the packing and stress of wondering how the two-year-old would do on a 16-hour road trip (obviously broken up into 2-3 days).  As we squished the last suit case into the trunk and I snuck a couple cast iron pans, freshly-roasted coffee, and jar of ghee under my seat (three things I simply couldn't forsake), we took deep breaths and headed north.

I found myself getting overtly giddy.  I couldn't figure out why, at first.  Then I realized it was because we were about to embark on a real family adventure for the first time in what felt life five years, when we moved into the trailer.  We were all going to a place none of us had been, which is saying something.   Jeremy has ventured what seems like everywhere.  This trip involved everyone, and everyone had to be involved.  We needed help loading the luggage trolleys for our over-nighters in hotels.  We all died laughing as we watched the two-year-old experience the thrill of an elevator for the first time (yes, we live in a small town with precious few of those contraptions).  Jeremy and I almost wet ourselves watching all five kids pull an "Elf," trying to get on an escalator (something not found in our entire county to my knowledge).  Apparently, boarding one does require some skill and doesn't come naturally.  We Yelped good food places along the way and congratulated one another for some incredible finds.  The kids rolled their eyes a little while I geeked about traveling a substantial amount on the Louis and Clark route.  It was lots of little things that wove themselves into a blanket of togetherness that I hadn't felt in far too long. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was go on adventures with my family. 

Fourteen hours and one flat tire later, we made it to Montana.  Needless to say, the place is other-worldly.  My husband and I are enraptured by beautiful places.  This was the beautifulest either of us had ever been.  Visiting Glacier National Park was the crowning jewel of this treasured time.  The kids and I spend hours learning about it back at home.  It was sobering for us all to learn that the glaciers are rapidly vanishing and might be completely gone in just a couple of years, and that this rapid climate change was risking the lives of several creatures who call it "home."  Our nature child was particularly affected, and she reminded us on the trail to Avalanche Lake to pray over the land as we walked it.  We did.  She is desperate for her children to one day absorb the beauty of this land, without the absence of glaciers or grizzly bears.  We all caught our breaths watching a grizzly walk in front of the van.  What an incredible animal.  

I don't think any of us realized how impacting the trip was until we returned home.  Normally, we all basically kiss the threshold after opening our front door after trips.  We love home.  This time, we wished for just one more week back in that captivating land.  Getting away was hard.  Preparation for is was grueling.  As the hours passed in the van on the journey to Big Sky Country, all of us released the everyday stressors, focused our attention on one another, and really enjoyed each other's company.  Feeling so connected and experiencing an adventure together was just what the doctor ordered.  I find myself planning day trips to cool hiking trails every weekend possible.  Removing ourselves from the everyday, as much as I love it, brings perspective and connection with the ones you bring along.  Sure, it's a lot of work to get ready for even a day trip, but I hold these memories at the forefront of my mind and heart.  They spur me up and out of complacency and into fresh air and new places making my blood pump and awakens my mind.  It makes space for memories to be made and connection with those who come along; space that can't always be found in the home, much as I love it.  

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity...” 
― John Muir

Friday, October 17, 2014

What It Looks Like Returning To Homeschool

"Don't you have so much extra time now that your kids are in school?"
This was asked several times during that first month our kids attended the church's school two years ago.  I think most of the people asking hoped to see relief from my apparent weariness.  After all, it seemed logical that relinquishing the homeschool would free up some time, right?  But the answer was always a laugh and a "no."

First of all, we were in the middle of moving our family from one place to another almost monthly.  Our home was expanding and we had incredible opportunity to live in other people's homes, free of charge, for almost an entire year.  With a family of seven and trying to keep everything clean and unbroken, it was also quite stressful.  The baby and (for the first year before going into kindergarten) preschooler missed their siblings so much while they were in school.  Family dynamics completely changed, and I think it was roughest on the younger two who were left behind.  It might have only been two kids at home all day instead of five, but their needs didn't change.

A couple of the children thrived academically in school.  One who needed a little positive peer pressure really excelled in new areas and it was incredible to see.  One loved trying out a traditional school for the first time and did well.  Another just didn't thrive in the school setting.  The noise and atmosphere of a classroom was too much and concentrating on anything was almost impossible.  Our younger one joined the school in kindergarten last year and absolutely loved her class, but I got several calls throughout the year saying that she was crying because she missed me.  I watched our family dynamics change.  Our kids had become so used to being with only their peers all day, that they almost forgot how to get along with their siblings.  We had never encountered that problem so consistently before.  By the end of that second school year, all four children asked to go back to homeschooling.  I found my heart warming back up to the idea, too.  We were finally moved into our home and the dust settled enough to where it felt feasible.

Goofing off while reading history lessons to little sisters.

While they finished up their year at school, I spent every spare minute preparing for their return to homeschool.  I was desperate to do it well.  The last year that we homeschooled wasn't excellent.  We had outgrown our home and I was in a swirl of postpartum depression.  I wanted the return home to be beautiful.  After lots of research, we finally chose to invest in Sonlight curriculum.  I was drawn to it in years past, but didn't have the funds for it at the time.  Indulging in it this year, and signing the children up for sports and dance, was still less expensive than the school tuition we had been paying.  The lack of text books and abundance of good literature chosen for the Sonlight curriculum really caught my eye.  Their Instructor's Guides are also a massive perk.  Lesson plans are already laid out and even scripted, and all I have to do is follow them.

Being eight weeks into the school year, I'm familiar enough with the program to know how to tailor it to our family.  I have swapped out some of the older kids' readers for books on how to raise our new Anatolian Shepherd puppy.  The older two and younger two are broken up into two different "cores", (convenience and togetherness all in one!) and each child has their own individual math and handwriting/spelling lessons for their specific level.  

Learning how some seeds (green beans, in this case) hitch rides to find more space for new plants.
We also get the week's lessons done in four days to allow us a "Homestead Day" on Fridays.  This started as an idea and ended up turing into a self-made curriculum.  We all look forward to Homestead Day, and I can't wait to share more about it very soon.

Over the last eight weeks, I've watched sibling relationships naturally re-bond.  Our child who struggled in school for two years has quickly caught back up to grade level.  Those of us who hated school and struggled to retain lessons because of the boring textbooks are now reading ahead because the books are so interesting, and in turn attaining more of what's being read.  The wild card toddler is actually so much more peaceful.  I think just being around his siblings more, and watching them work on their lessons, has encouraged him to find things to engage in during school time.  There's no denying that homeschooling requires a lot.  I am definitely excited for bed at the end of the day, but seeing the fruit in just the few weeks we've returned to homeschool has made it so worthwhile.

The sun is almost up.  My morning chores need to get underway and it's almost time to start this week's edition of Homestead Day.  Happy weekend to you all, and so many blessings!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jumping Back In: Big News!


After a whopping six months of silence, where does one start?  Moving back to our home after it grew (and after being gypsies for almost a year), took more energy out of me than I thought it would.  I think when we all let down from survival mode, the settling in had a bit of a falling-apart affect on our bodies and emotions after muscling through for so long.  As soon as life felt more put into order, school began.  Homeschool.  Homeschool done well, with four students and a toddler took every bit of energy out of me for the first seven weeks.  The choice to return home felt good and right, and I don't regret it for a second, but I am happy to finally be in a routine and have more headspace for other areas of life.  I'm excited about sharing more about this pocket of life in another entry, coming very soon.

Also?  There's this puppy.  Heidi joined our family only a couple of weeks ago.  Heidi is big, and will only get so much bigger.  We all love her dearly.  Desiring to raise this very trainable puppy properly, she has become a homeschool project for our ten and twelve-year-olds.  They will be taking her to obedience school soon, and now spend their reading hour each day immersed in one of four books they agreed to consume if we were to bring Heidi home.  They are learning so much and in turn, present their knew knowledge to the rest of us.  I can't recommend these books enough, if ever you find yourselves in the market for a puppy -- particularly a Livestock Protection Dog (LPD):

  • The Art of Raising A Puppy: A must-have if getting any kind of puppy is in your future (or even thinking about getting one), written by the legendary Monks of New Skeet.
  • How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners: Also written be the aforementioned monks, this book carries you through training beyond the puppy days.
  • Livestock Protection Dogs: Selection, Care, and Training: If you have some land and livestock (or are dreaming about the day that you do), this is a very inspirationally helpful read.
  • Sheep Dogs of Anatolia: This isn't a training manual, but more of a history on our specific, rare breed that dates back thousands of years to ancient Anatolia (now Turkey).  This book gave new perspective to the world outside our western culture (it was written by a Turk and only recently translated to english) and was brought to life through interacting with our puppy and realizing her heritage.

Then there's this YouTube situation.  Why start a channel?  Well, I explain it in this video.  It's exciting.  It feels awkward.  But it also feels right.

A cook book?  Why not?  It's in the very beginning planning phase, and I have a title and release-date dream churning in my head, but need to materialize it a bit more before sharing any further for now.

So much love to you all, and I can't wait to hear from you and re-establish connection.  I'm incredibly thankful for this creative outlet and have felt a massive void while it was neglected over this past half-year.  There's lots of excitement stirring in me for things to come, and I very much look forward to sharing them with you.  Blessings!


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