Homeschool/Sonlight so far.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chalkboards via
We're 3 months in, and we've begun to find a rhythm in homeschool. (Yay!) I still feel 100% committed and thankful that we have chosen homeschool for Liam this year. It's working beautifully and we are all thriving. As it's become a more natural part of each day, it's not even something that's always on my mind. It's just something we do: show up every morning, give our best, and (for me) try to listen to my kids' cues for when we should be done for the day.

I wanted to list a few highlights and challenges we've encountered so far. I know I'll love looking back on this at the end of this year (and in future years, if we continue homeschooling), so I thought I'd document it now.

+ Sonlight has been an enormous gift. I can open my Instructors' Guide on Monday morning with little to no prep over the weekend and dive in. We already own every book that's used, so there's no hunting around in libraries or online for them. I'm continuing to work at the hospital 20+ hours every weekend, so this is such a necessity. I love checking off boxes, and it really helps us all stay motivated knowing our lesson plans are perfectly organized and ready for us whenever we choose to do school.
+ One criticism I've heard about Sonlight from other moms is just how book-heavy it is. With the read-alongs and readers, it is a lot of reading. For us, though, this has only been positive. Liam is an advanced reader for his age, so the books are what keep him challenged and coming back for more. And we've enjoyed all of the choices, most of which I had never heard of before Sonlight.
+ I am loving the addition of Hands-On History, which is a box you can order separately to include several hands-on projects that go along with our history lessons. These kits contain everything you need to make a great project from start to finish.

- There is a lot of Bible reading. I don't mean this as a criticism - I think you know if you read this blog that I love the Word of God. But for a kindergartener, it's a lot to listen to. We're slowly but surely working our way through this book, as suggested, but have slowed it down quite a bit because I've realized that my kids' attention span doesn't last the length of two (lengthy) Bible stories. The book itself is pretty dry, but I'm thankful it tackles not just the popular Bible stories but many that are more obscure.
- The Scripture memory CD that comes with the curriculum is... umm... not my favorite musically. The songs are like listening to Barney, but even more annoying. BUT the songs include the Scripture reference and Liam has had no trouble memorizing a verse for every letter of the alphabet (we are currently on the letter Q) so I really can't complain. I know there are plenty of other Scripture memory CDs, but it's so hard to find them with the reference woven into the song, which is really important to me.
- We are still navigating how to entertain and contain two very energetic younger siblings. Brooks has a knack for pulling all the books off the shelves or finding something tiny and putting it in his mouth the second we sit down to get started. It's easy to get frustrated, and I know it will be a while before he's able to truly participate. Some days are easier than others, for sure. I have to remember that we are all being taught and discipled - even me - and it doesn't have to be confined to the morning hours. There are days that it's just too frustrating to keep persevering with Lanie and Brooks in the room, so Liam and I pick it back up during their afternoon naps. This has been an adjustment for me as I crave that downtime, but it's not an everyday thing.

I'm realizing more and more that it is God who led us down this path of homeschooling, even though it wasn't originally my first choice. For this year, I can't imagine anything sweeter. I am so thankful that Liam has the time and the space to dig deeper into what he's passionate about (currently: animals). I love that he can practice his memory verses while scaling up the doorframe. We tromp through wetlands near our hours, identifying birds and trees and tiny fish from our field guide and count it as "science." Liam looks at the moon each night and identifies its lunar phase. Learning isn't confined to 45-minute blocks. We go on deep tangents (usually involving endangered animals) that we can use to learn math, develop our vocabulary, and deepen our love for our wildly imaginative Creator.

It's a dream come true for this 6-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity, a hunger for learning, and a huge ball of pent-up energy. To be honest, it's a dream come true for me, too. A dream I never would have known or followed if the Lord hadn't led us to this place.

Happy 6th birthday, Liam!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Dear Liam Worth,

You are six years old today! You've been patiently awaiting this day for months, and we are thrilled to celebrate you and what God is doing in your life this year.

Your biggest request for your birthday was a guided nature walk at the nature preserve near our house. (You also asked for a metronome and a camouflage watch.) You are delightfully quirky and loving nothing more than to pack your field guide and magnifying glass on a nature walk in hopes of discovering wild creatures. Your current favorites to spot are five-lined skinks. You're also a homebody. If we run more than one errand, you beg to return home to your nature encyclopedias and climbing tree.

Liam, you are a gifted and passionate learner. I knew you'd be an eager student when we started homeschooling in August, but I had no idea how your mind would come alive this year. Here was a recent conversation:

You: What animal do you want me to draw?
Me: How about an antelope?
You: What kind of antelope? An ibex? An oryx? A springbok? A deer?
Me: An ibex. (Not having a clue what that looks like.)
You: Ok. I'll draw an Alpine Ibex at the base of the European Alps.

You're a walking animal encyclopedia, and that is no exaggeration. You told me at the beginning of the school year, "I can teach you about animals. You can teach me about everything else." That's 100% true. You also love talking about ancient Greece, doing science experiments, practicing piano, learning Spanish, and reading through Exodus in your ESV Bible.

Your name means "protector" and it couldn't be truer of you. I've watched as you've stood outside the bathtub dripping wet with goosebumps covering your body, holding a towel for Lanie so she wouldn't be cold. I've seen you wedge your body against the crack under Brooks' door so that he doesn't wake up from his nap when I have to use the hair dryer. You sacrifice so much for those sweet,  mischievous siblings of yours and it baffles me. Sacrifice isn't a quality I readily see in other kids your age (or even in myself).

Most importantly, your heart for Jesus and your love for his Word is what I am most thankful for. A few weeks ago, we let you participate in the community group that meets every week at our house. I had a feeling you'd want to read the Scripture passage aloud and then get bored and head back downstairs to play with the other kids. Instead, you engaged in every bit of the discussion. You'd raise your hand and ask probing questions like, "Why does Jesus say, 'Let the dead bury their dead'?" and then share insights. You've told me multiple times since that you cannot wait for Tuesday nights so you can talk about Jesus with our group again. I often catch you reading from your Bible during rest time and you interject your dozens of memory verses into conversations.

You are truly evangelistic and your heart breaks for kids around the world who have never heard the gospel. Through your homeschool program, we've been focusing on India this month and the work God is doing there among kids. We decided to sponsor 4 kids to be able to attend Bible clubs and hear about Jesus, then Sonlight matched our gift so that 8 kids could attend. When I told you the news, you very confidently said, "Well, I don't know if we'll get to meet those kids in India, but we'll meet them in Heaven!"

Liam Worth, you are of great worth to us. I could go on for days about how our family wouldn't be what it is without you. A buddy of yours recently said of you, "You know why Liam is my favorite? Because he is kind and he knows cool things." I think that sums you up perfectly.

I love you dearly, son. Happiest birthday!


The juror's seat.

Friday, October 5, 2018

For six days, I found myself in the most unexpected place: a juror's seat.

I'd known about my summons to jury duty for a few weeks. But when I reported to the Wake County Justice Center that day, I thought my chances of actually sitting in a trial were slim. Hundreds of us had reported for duty, waiting to be called and either sent to a court room or dismissed. A couple hours in, my name was called and I was led to a courtroom on the 7th floor. There, I and other potential jurors were asked hours-worth of questions. What did we do for a living? What did our spouses do? Did we have children? Would we believe or not believe a child's testimony simply because it was a child testifying? Tragically, the case involved a child victim and a litany of sexual offenses committed against her. I was convinced I'd be dismissed for having young children, for being a pastor's wife, or for working with sexual abuse victims as a nurse. To my bewilderment, I watched juror after juror be dismissed while I stayed seated. I was staying on this jury.

For the next six days, I listened to the testimony of a little girl who was violated again and again and felt powerless to tell. She'd been threatened by her abuser (who lived in her home) and believed that he would destroy her family if she spoke up. This young girl was robbed of her childhood and traumatized to the point of needing years of therapy. We also heard the testimonies of her therapist, her social worker, the pediatrician who examined her, and the detective working on the case. It felt exhaustive, emotionally draining, and agonizingly slow... nothing like the courtroom dramas you see on TV that cross-examine a witness for 30 minutes, get to the bottom line, and deliver a verdict.

After all witnesses were presented, the jury was sent to deliberate. It was immediately apparent that we agreed: if we believed the victim, then the defendant was guilty on all counts. There was no physical evidence - and often, there is not - so we based our decision fully on what we believed. This is obviously such a hot topic right now, especially in the case of Brett Kavanaugh and the FBI investigation. Do I believe that all victims who come forward must be believed? No. That isn't just. Both sides must be weighed and examined equitably. In this case, though, we had every reason to believe the victim. Not because she was a child, but because if this had all been manipulated or concocted, she should have been nominated for an Academy Award for being able to dupe an entire team of therapists and professionals into believing the trauma she had endured. And without going into details of the case, it was clear to all of us she had no motive for that.

After a few hours, the jury returned to the courtroom to deliver our verdicts. I watched the unmoving expression on the defendant's face as each of the five "guilty" verdicts were read. My heart pounded visibly through my shirt. It wasn't that I second-guessed our decision. It was that our decision had sealed a man's fate: in this case, up to 40 years in prison. The weight of that made my knees buckle.

I will undoubtedly process this experience for the rest of my life. Shawn asked me if witnessing these testimonies was more traumatic than the stories I hear in the hospital, and I'd have to say yes. Because instead of just providing a listening ear, I was expected to discern and act.

As soon as I knew I'd be kept on the jury for the duration of the trial, I can't begin to tell you just how many people - specifically Christians - told me, "Why didn't you write a letter to get out of jury duty in the first place? You care for small kids and work as a nurse. They would've let you go." While I understand that they were just trying to help, I was bothered by this response. To give a bit of background, the case was truly awful timing for us: a record-breaking hurricane was on its way, Shawn was flying to Germany for the week, and I was piecing together childcare through friends and other pastors' wives all week long. Ultimately, though, I firmly believe Christians should be on the forefront of the cause of justice. I believe - now more than ever - it should be Christians who lean in to hear a victim's testimony, praying that Christ would redeem her life from this point forward. It should be Christians asking themselves what can be done to prevent this kind of abuse from happening to others. It should be Christians who fight passionately on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves. It should be Christians in the deliberation room, praying for wisdom as weighty, life-altering decisions are made. And for those of us who aren't lawyers or law enforcement or judges, what better opportunity than to serve on a jury?

Finally, sitting in a courtroom for a week helped me to understand the concept of substitutionary atonement more clearly than I ever had. As believers, we acknowledge that Jesus stepped in and took our place and took on the full punishment for our sins. He died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. I pictured myself in the seat of the defendant, hearing "guilty" read over me over and over again, not only for my known sins but those that had never been exposed. Then, in a radical turn of events that no one could have seen coming, Jesus stepped into my place and bore the full consequence for my sin. And my punishment should have been far worse than 40 years in prison: it was a lifetime separated from God. Instead, I was given full rights as God's child and heir while Jesus hung on a cross in my place. If you're a believer, that's your story, too. If you're not, I invite you to consider that stunning picture and contemplate the true and eternal life Jesus died for you to have.
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