Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Time to be thinking about college?

As if I don't have enough to worry about with homeschooling, housekeeping, and life in general, late last fall I woke up one morning practically hyperventilating because I realized Anna is just four and a half years away from college.  How did this happen?!  

Anna has been talking about college since 6th grade, but to me it just seemed like a far off milestone that was fun to think about.  Now I realize it's going to be here before we know it, and I have no idea how to help her prepare.  Well, obviously starting and finishing high school would be a good start, but you know what I mean.  When do we need to start preparing for standardized tests?  When do we start visiting schools?  What should she be thinking about as she selects courses for high school?  I don't want to get to her junior year in high school and realize we should have already done a hundred things. 

At the same time, I don't want to panic about it either.  I recently read The Overachievers and am just amazed at the stress some teenagers are under these days.  The book focuses on a group of kids from a super competitive public high school in Maryland where it seems everyone is expected to go to Ivy League schools.  Many of the kids are under so much pressure (from parents, peers, themselves) that they sacrifice sleep, health, relationships, and morals to keep up with their busy schedule. 

We won't be going the Ivy League route and I think the Midwest is more laid-back than the East Coast, but I still found value in much of what the book had to say.  Being prepared is one thing; being obsessed is quite another.  As a parent, I need to make sure I don't put too much pressure on her over the next four years.

With that in mind, I want to cautiously start thinking about and planning for college.  I discussed the above thoughts with my friend, who also happens to be the mom of Anna's long-time best friend (the girls also go to school together), and we decided the best thing to do was to seek advice from someone who has been through the whole college prep process -- and survived.  Next week we'll be having breakfast with the girls' 6th grade teacher from a couple of years ago.  She has two children who were very successful at Anna's school and are attending great colleges, plus she's very intelligent and a strong Christian.

I'm preparing a list of questions to ask her and thought I'd seek your input.  Although Anna goes to an "away" school, in many ways she's in the same boat as homeschool students -- limited course offerings, no AP classes, no class rank, no weighted grades, no guidance counselor (Oh, I guess that's me!).  What questions should I ask?  Is there anything you'd like to know about preparing for college?  You can either leave your questions in the comments or email me (link is in the sidebar).  Regardless of what schooling path your children are taking, we can all learn from each other.  I'm happy to share what I learn from our meeting, so maybe this can benefit you if those college years are creeping up on you too.

In the meantime, pray for me that I will remember this verse often as we look toward the college years:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~ Matthew 6:34

May I be a mother who encourages, not pushes; one who remembers there is still time to train her in godliness and not waste the opportunity by focusing too much on things that have little eternal value.

P.S.  The above picture is of Marc's and my alma mater, which is NOT the school she's dreaming of -- Boo!  She does say it's a possibility though. : )

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sick Days and Snow Days (1000 Gifts)


Saturday afternoon we walked out of the aquatic center from an all-day swim meet, and I was spent.  My head was pounding and my legs were stiff because it was so warm in the bleachers and I'd pretty much sat on my bum all day.  But as we made the forty minute drive home, I realized my headache wasn't just from the swim meet -- I'd finally caught the cold that's been passed through our family one by one for the past couple of weeks.  It started with Marc, and he had the worst of it.  The kids mostly just got sick for a day or two and that was it.

After we got home and I had a short nap, I ran out for pizza carry-out.  I didn't even make the kids eat at the table.  They carried the food up to the school room (the only room where we have a television) and had a little party.  I took my pizza to bed and watched a movie and played some online sudoko.  The kids got themselves to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday morning I still felt yucky.  I forgot to mention that during all of this, Marc was in Florida.  He was able to combine a business training trip with a visit to his mom, who spends the winter months down there.  My dilemma then was that I didn't feel up to going to church and didn't want to share my germs with anyone else, but there was no one else to take the kids to church.  So I printed off the bulletin from the church website and gave the instructions: No electronics until after 12:30 and spend time in the Word and in prayer.  Oh, and feed yourself.  And then I went back to bed.  For the entire day.

My kids were golden.  Grace took the church bulletin to her room and had a full service with her dolls and animals, complete with an offering and a sermon on Ephesians 4:11-16.  She even dressed in church clothes.  Anna and Ryne did an hour-plus devotion on Psalms, using some material from Anna's Old Testament class she took at school last year.  She said they did break the no electronics rule for a minute to look up the tune for a hymn they wanted to sing.

They fed themselves all three meals for the day and stayed out of trouble.  I'm giving them some grace by ignoring the state of the kitchen.  Actually some of that mess is still from Saturday morning when I was packing lunches for the swim meet.  They all went to bed at a reasonable time, even though excitement was brewing due to the weather forecast for Monday morning.

We've had very little winter-like weather at the Blue House.  The most snow we've had is a few dustings.  The sleds haven't left the garage.  So the prospect of a snow day was very exciting indeed.  

While I want the kids to have fun in the snow, I'm looking forward to a day with no activity.  No school for Anna (and probably very little homeschooling for the other two).  No carpools.  Our field trip was rescheduled.  We're not even supposed to get that much snow, 3 inches at the most, but I think the entire metro area was ready for an excuse to shut down for a day.


So today we'll put away the normal routine.  The kids will play.  I'll get rid of the last of this cold.  We'll sip hot cocoa and count our blessings.


160.  My heart melting as the kids recounted their morning of worship.

161.  Leftovers in the fridge so they could easily feed themselves.

162.  Sleeping off my cold.

163.  That our family hasn't had to suffer the flu going around -- we'll gladly take stuffy noses and sore throats any day.

164.  Being forced to slow down and rest.


165.  The first snow day of the year.  Perhaps it will be the only one we get this year, so we will enjoy every minute.

166.  The many large windows in our house, so I can see the beauty surrounding us and so I can take  these pictures from the warmth of my house still wearing pajamas. ; )

167.  Quiet.  No busses rolling down the street.  Even the birds are still snug in their nests.


168.  That Marc was able to do his training in Florida and sneak in some time with his Mom.  Yes, I'm thankful -- jealous, but still thankful. : )

169.  Finishing this wonderful book for our history studies.

170.  Starting this wonderful book for my personal reading time.

171.  Endless supply of drawing paper from the recycling bin at DH's office (because my three artists use a lot of paper).

172.  Grace finishing her math book and asking to start the next book that very day.

173.  Taking the dog for a car ride.  It takes so little to please him!

174.  Crossing off a big to-do-list-item last week:  tax returns.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

1000 Gifts

Sometimes it's so easy to focus our gratitude on the bigger things.  An amazing answer to prayer.  An ambitious goal met.  A relationship mended.  Often when one of those big things happen, I think about how I will have to mention it on my gratitude list.  But lately I'm trying to focus on the little things.  The things I wouldn't have missed if they hadn't happened.  Or would I?


143.  The finch feeder my sister gave me for Christmas, and the new friends it has brought to our back deck.

144.  Three children who've all taken to writing poems in recent months.

145.  Like this one.


146.  Resisting the urge to scold her for writing that poem in church when she should have been paying attention.  Maybe her attention is better focused than mine.

147.  Getting to the point in a book where you can't put it down, so you spend the next couple of hours reading.

148.  Shocking everyone by sitting in a different pew in church.

149.  Big sister fixing little sister's hair.

150.  Simple meals that bring big smiles.

151.  These pens.  Is it goofy to be so attached to a particular brand of pen?  Nothing else feels right to me. : )

152.  That no one else in my family seems to like my pens, so they don't get stolen like my pencils do. : )

153.  Muddy boots left by the back door, because at least they had fun outside.

154.  Younger brother passing up older sister in weight.  Give him another couple of months, and it will be height too.

155.  The joy my husband gets from competing in his office's annual chili cook-off.

156.  That his chili is so hot I am forced to drink my 8 glasses of water for the day just to finish the bowl.

157.  The distant sound of trains humming through the night.

158.  A late night snack of chips and guacamole.

159.  Washed down with a cold pop.  Can you tell it was the last night before my diet started? ; )

Oh, yes, my life is definitely richer because of these smaller gifts.  And the more I reflect on His smaller gifts, the more content I am, and I'm less likely to be wondering (worrying) about the bigger things in life.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Smile as Big as the Moon

Last Sunday night, while working on the week's homeschool planning, I turned on the television and started watching the newest Hallmark movie, A Smile as Big as the Moon.  It's about a teacher who takes the first class of special education students to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.  The program was designed for gifted students, but the teacher was convinced his students, with just some imagination, could participate too.

Now, I'm a sucker for Hallmark movies anyway, but this one hit home and I ended up getting very little homeschool planning done.  The kids in the movie, many of whom have autism, Down syndrome, and learning disabilities in real life, reminded me of Ryne in so many ways -- amazing kids who just need a chance and a little understanding from the world around them.  I thought the movie was wonderfully done, and I cried through the whole thing.  

The night I saw the movie it was on ABC, but it will be making it's premiere on the Hallmark Channel Saturday night.  So if you get that channel (I don't, sniff, sniff), I highly recommend watching this movie, hopefully with your kids.  My kids were already in bed, so they didn't get to see it, but I went out and bought a copy, so we'll be watching it as a family soon.  

Have a wonderful weekend!