Sunday, July 19, 2015

Swim Recap 2015

This weekend marked the end of the kids swim season - yay! This is our third year on our local swim team and it's a lot of work (many hours at the pool every week) but a rewarding time for our family. We like swim because, in addition to actually learning to become strong swimmers, it's a RACE where there's 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. As with all youth sports these days, everyone gets a ribbon, but there is a time to beat. You were either faster than the other swimmers or not.

Swim team bonus: having some of our best friends on the team!

Ruth and Mary with their buddies

The kids love swimming with their friends and the mamas love getting time for conversation with actual adults on a regular basis!

This year was particularly fun because Ruth has really improved since last year and was one of the fastest swimmers in her age group. Ruth lucked out with her birthday -- she misses the cut-off to move up to the next age group by just a couple weeks. So, even though she turned 9 in June she's still in the 7&8 age group. Sarah has also worked really hard and is a very strong swimmer this year. She's petite for her age - almost a foot shorter than the fastest swimmers, but she's putting up very competitive times, especially in the longer distances where she has great endurance.

Paul had a very difficult year last year. He was just 6 and although he was a strong swimmer he became very anxious at the swim meets. I think he was so afraid of doing something wrong he just refused to do his races! We tried to convince him "it's just like practice!" It didn't work. Not our proudest parenting moment :-/  Along with improved swimming this year Paul has made great progress in overcoming his performance anxiety. He never once missed a race this year, so whether he overcame his fears or was just less nervous, it was a huge improvement! Our strategy is to keep putting him in situations that are out of his comfort zone and making him to try new things.

We put Mary on the team this year too because it was cheaper than a summer's worth of swim lessons. She started the season never having a single lesson and now can make it all the way across the pool freestyle and backstroke (with a couple rest stops on the lane lines) :-)

Ben loves the water and I suspect he'll want to get in on the fun in a few years too!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

School plan 2015-2016

What do you do when it's hot, you're 7 months pregnant, and it's a whole week before another episode of Poldark airs? Order homeschool curriculum, of course!

There is much troubling news in our world today, but I know God is in control and full of justice and mercy. In order to avoid hanging out on social media any longer I decided to type up my plan for the kids school year. It'll be helpful for me to have a record of what I'm intending to accomplish and we'll see how this measures up to reality. Thought it also might be of interest to friends who are planning their curriculum too.

This is the first year I'll have four real homeschooled kids. In the past the most I've had is two, since Phillip and Sarah were at Cornerstone. Now Phillip is graduated, Sarah is home, and Mary is starting Kindergarten. It will be nice to have everyone in one place for a couple years. Before anyone thinks "how could she possibly have time for all this" I should clarify that most of the school books I choose for the kids are designed to be very independent. For the older three kids I assign them their work at the beginning of the week and, in theory, check to make sure they did it. I'm here for questions and help, but they're on their own. Mary is the only one who requires daily one-on-one time, and even that is not more than an hour or so of direct teaching.

We were planning to start Classical Conversations this fall, but once my dear husband saw the $$$ leaving his bank account he changed his mind. This is no great disappointment to me, as I'm thankful to have a free day back in my schedule. CC is a wonderful program, though, and we will miss being with our friends. However we have many other activities and classes in which we'll be participating throughout the week.

So here goes:

Mary - Kindergarten
  • Catechism: First Catechism
  • Phonics: The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and Explode the Code workbooks
  • Printing: Handwriting Without Tears, My Printing Book I recommend skipping the kindergarten level book and starting with 1st grade.
  • Math: Saxon 1 (again, skip K)
  • Science: Co-op class
  • Social Studies: a totally unnecessary subject at this age, but I'll come up with something for her to show our charter school teacher once a month ;-)
  • Extra curriculars: gymnastics, swimming, kids choir and possibly piano

Paul - 2nd Grade
  • Catechism: First Catechism
  • Writing/Grammar: Winning with Writing, Growing with Grammar
  • Penmanship: Memoria Press Copybook II, and III
  • Literature: Total Language Plus Study Guides Shiloh and The Whipping Boy. These are really neat all-inclusive language arts study guides with lessons in grammar, spelling, writing, etc. all drawn form a literature book. They recommend 3-5 books/year to make up a full program, but as I'm using them as a supplement I just chose one per semester. Paul is an excellent reader, but I need to get him reading more real literature, not just "fun" books ;-) 
  • Spelling: All About Spelling
  • Math: Saxon 3
  • Science: Co-op class and LIFEPAC 3rd grade. I used some LIFEPACs last year and really liked them. They are very engaging and my kids can work through them totally independently. 3rd grade science looks to be better aligned with our charter school's learning units and Paul is able to work above grade level.
  • History: Our Nation Under God For younger grades I really like these sweet little history texts from Christian Liberty Press. I love history but don't think it's a particularly important subject at this age. So a text book I can give to Paul and have him read a few pages each week on his own is a good fit. I've used the Story of the World books for younger grades too and I love them, but I like the more traditional (rather than classical) approach of teaching American history first (more concrete and relevant to littles), then going back to ancient history later (3rd or 4th grade and up).
  • Supplements: typing, Kahn Academy, Xtra Math - this is an excellent online math facts practice site
  • Extra curriculars: soccer (fall), basketball (winter), baseball (spring), swimming, possibly golf and tennis (this boy loves sports), choir and piano

Ruth - 4th Grade
  • Catechism: A Puritan Catechism Spurgeon's adaptation of the Westminster Shorter Catechism
  • Writing: IEW Level A class at A Brighter Child (wonderful homeschool store with on-site classes)
  • Grammar: Easy Grammar
  • Penmanship: Cursive practice books
  • Literature: Shiloh and The Whipping Boy with TLP Study Guides (will do these together with Paul)
  • Spelling: All About Spelling
  • Math: Ruth is finishing Saxon 5/4 and will start 6/5 later this fall
  • Science: Co-op class and LIFEPAC 4th grade.
  • History: Our Golden California
  • Supplements: typing, Kahn Academy, Xtra Math
  • Extra curriculars: gymnastics, swimming, choir and piano

Sarah - 7th Grade

Phew, I think that covers it! I'd like to add in some scripture memory too, but haven't planned that out yet... I'd love to hear feedback on any of the curriculum choices, things you think we may be missing, or other programs you just love. Thanks friends!

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Addition

It's been a while since I've posted and it's been awhile since I've been pregnant. Thought it was time to update both accounts!

We've shared with our families that Lowery kid #7 is due to make his or her arrival in October. While this isn't a total surprise (we do know how this happens{wink}), we didn't presume God would bless us with another baby since I am SO OLD! Not Sarah from Genesis old, but...

My overwhelming assessment of this turn of events is, "How fun!" Being pregnant in summer in Sacramento is NOT fun! The prospect of tests and treatments for NAIT is NOT fun! A probable c-section delivery and recovery is NOT fun! But another baby in the family will be so fun! Feeling baby kick and grow, newborn diapers, nursing another tiny person, and seeing Ben as a big brother will be SO FUN!

Having and raising babies is such a special blessing from the hand of our good God. God's blessing looks different in many families. I don't believe more babies = more blessing. Many desire children they don't receive. Some have children who cause them pain or sorrow. Some exercise Godly wisdom when they limit their family size. But I take great encouragement from God's word which says:

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.  
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. Psalm 128:1-4

This may sound very 1760 and not very 2015. I'm o.k. with that. I'm o.k. with my domestic occupation and count it a great privilege that I get to raise and teach my children. I've been at this mothering/homemaking gig for almost 13 years. I think I may be approaching the limit of what's acceptable for the modern woman. But another baby buys me more time before I have to give up my yoga pants in favor of a "real" job, right? Other women may do important work, but for me, there is nothing more important that I could be doing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to school 2014

I've seen a few blog posts and such lately in which a mom is reveling in the joy of dropping off all her kids back at school. The house is now quiet. Her time is her own. A full day without the interruptions of children. Let the celebrating commence!

These moms love their children and acknowledge the joy of motherhood. No doubt many of them miss their children during these blissfully quiet days. But I found myself not liking these posts. Jealous? Probably.

I want to be happy for them. I assume they've thought through all the options and decided homeschooling is not right for their family. I don't think homeschooling is right for every family. I'm a semi-reluctant homeschooler myself. It's the best choice for us out of the available options. But I have lots of things I'd rather do with my time. I want to train for a 10k or at least to go to the gym when I'm awake and not exhausted. I want to get lunch with a friend or coffee by myself and read a book or just go to the grocery store without having to keep track of my brood. I want to go to the dentist/dr/hairdresser without having to line up babysitting. Older moms will say "it's just a season of life." Well, that may be, but this is a really long season.

So I'm writing this post just to remind myself that it's worth it. I don't want to change the decisions I've made to have more than 2.14 children and homeschool most of them. I want to encourage my fellow mamas in the trenches. This is a good work we've chosen to do. We are well-equipped to educate our children because we're their mothers.

So many wonderful resources for homeschooling!

Christian mothers, we need to make sure we're listening to God's wisdom, not the world's. I'm not saying every mom who sends her four-year-old off to preschool is worldly, but every mom should examine her motives. The Bible tells mothers:

  • to love their children and husbands (Titus 2:4)
  • to teach their children diligently (Deut. 6:7)
  • to bring children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) 
  • to not neglect discipline (Prov. 13:24)

These things are best accomplished in our family if my children are with me.

Mary "needed" a backpack this year too.

Again, I say NOT EVERYONE HAS TO HOMESCHOOL! In fact, we've had two kids attending a local Christian school for several years.

I AM saying (most of all too myself) DON'T LET THE WORLD'S VALUES DISCOURAGE YOU! The moms doing the happy dance as they drive away from the elementary school with an empty mini-van are not to be envied. Consider carefully the decision to let your children be taught by someone else for most of their waking hours. I hope this doesn't sound judgmental. I'd love to talk more about this with any interested friends, but I've already spent way too much time on this blog and we've got to get back to the books!

Ruth at her desk.

Paul's lucky he's not in "real" school b/c they'd never allow him to sit like this.

So here's my pep talk to all the mamas of littles, many, and tiny ones still on their way:

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Prov. 31-27-31

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Camp Shasta

We took a little family trip this week to a PG&E camp up north near Lake Britton. PG&E has several of these camps scattered throughout northern California. They are very rustic cabins (I like to call it "camping") but they do have electricity and indoor plumbing. It's actually quite humorous, the cabins look to have been build in the 1940's? and are not extremely well maintained, but they are decked out with crazy amounts of electric wiring.

We did a great hike on Mt. Shasta

We checked out Burney Falls (someone put a nice smudge on the camera lens)

We watched blue jays eat peanuts off the deck

We tried to stay cool but it was crazy hot. I knew it'd be warm when we scheduled this trip for late July, but I stuck it out as long as I could then talked the family into coming home a day early. I'm a wimp, I know. I missed my a/c. This would be a good "camping" spot for late spring or early fall when the temps are cooler!

A fun trip, though, and I'm super blessed to get to do life with all these souls.

Now we gear up for school and soccer season! Bring it on!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Child Was Bored in the Service

I was going to post this on Facebook because it's SO GOOD! But then I thought "most of my friends on Facebook just want to see cute pictures of my kids." But I feel compelled to share this with the web because it's almost word-for-word a conversation we've had numerous times in our home. We believe this concept is so important to raising godly children in our culture. We'd welcome discussion about this with anyone -- here in the comments or, preferably, in our living room while we allow our children to be "bored" in the back yard for hours.

H/t Phil Johnson who tweeted this post from Banner of Truth with this caption: "If more churches had confetti canons, tragedies like this wouldn't be so widespread:" Amen and amen :-)

A Child Was Bored in the Service 

An elder preceded the minister into the pulpit and then came to the front and addressed the congregation. “Last week…a child was bored in the service.” A gasp went through the congregation. Men looked at their feet, women cried quietly, and children went white. “The church officers are meeting with the minister during the week and will announce our conclusions next Sunday. In the meantime we want to apologise to that child and his parents and all the other children,” the elder concluded before leaving the pulpit. The ashen-faced preacher came to the pulpit, and in a trembling voice began the service…
This imaginary scenario is not very far from the prevailing ecclesiastical situation today in which many consider the worst sin a church can commit is to bore children. Yet is not the routine and dull pattern of much of our toil the very life which all mankind must face, especially in the Third World. We shall be ill-equipped for living if we do not come armed and trained to be bored much of the time. Many of the hours fathers spend at work are boringly repetitive, while the work mothers do is a regimen of tedious chores.
The background to the churches’ determination to make their worship boredom-free zones is a era of rampant materialism which the western world has never experienced before. For example, at parties today each child who comes expects to go home with a party bag full of goodies. Entertainers are booked, magicians, and performers – one, for example, will bring half a dozen exotic animals, – a snake, a huge owl, a spider, a lizard. That entertainer charges £500 for a visit.
Parents spend ridiculous sums of money on clothes, toys and other fripperies for their children. Almost every boy and girl has more than they can possibly enjoy. Nobody can imagine that they are happier for this glut. Impoverished parents often feel under great pressure to work insanely long hours or to contract unsustainable debts – or both – to buy superfluous luxuries for their children. We have lost any idea that austerity – not unremitting poverty, but a decent restraint – might actually be of benefit to children. It is not easy for the body of Christ to preach self-denial and cross-bearing in the midst of a frenzied spending spree. It has become a disaster for many congregations, especially in the USA.
We no longer expect children to endure boredom for a second. In our infancy we bounced balls, fed the rabbits, made a model with Mechano and watched the ascent and descent of a yo-yo. We also read books. Our meals were pretty predictable, and a visit to the local park was an event. Today visits to the zoo, bouncy castles, jumping on a trampoline are routine necessities. Daily playgroups and day-nurseries fill every vacant minute with watching videos, learning how to play with computers and bouncing on the soft-play. Everything is wound up to a pitch of noisy razzmatazz. The toys children play with are made of garish plastic of primary colours. The child who would cheerfully have eaten mashed potatoes and vegetables every day is now encouraged to stimulate its palate and develop a taste for chillies, aubergines, vindaloo curry or garlic.
A.N. Wilson has written, “Pascal said that all human trouble stemmed from our inability to sit quietly in one room. If he was right, then we have serious trouble ahead, with an extraordinarily restless, vacuous generation of human individuals waiting to take over the world. The lesson of how to be bored must be learnt if the child is to grow up sane, and this is for two reasons.
First, boredom is what most human lives consist of. Few jobs are interesting all of the time; and when retirement age has been reached, the long days of emptiness cannot possibly be entirely devoid of tedium. Learning how to cope with these periods of vacancy can actually reduce, or eliminate their boringness. A human being who has only grown up with the notion that he or she must be stimulated all the time will never be able to assuage ennui in the way that we grown-ups do – by walks, gardening, crosswords, or the inner life.
And this is the second and greater reason for hoping that a child will learn how to cope with an eventless afternoon. Out of what feels like boredom comes the capacity to be inward. Unless you have been bored, an essential part of your imagination will never have been allowed to grow. Stories, poetry, prayer and mathematics, all activities which have stretched the human race…have developed out of its capacity to live with boredom.”
But into the morning services all over the land come children carrying bags, and in their bags they have colouring books, pencil boxes, toys, small computers, reading books etc. This is because there is no Sunday School going on at the same time as the sermon, and it would be an unthinkable disaster if children were to be bored. These families never bring their children to the evening service for the same reason. I know a church in Africa which has a white pastor. Several other white Christian missionaries and their families worship there, but the other white mothers and their children do not attend the morning service, leaving the building and going home after the pre-service Sunday School. Only the men remain and worship, but every other family in the church, who are all African, and whose second language is English, are there for the entire service. Is it the western world’s hatred of boredom that is affecting us?
We are speaking of churches where there is the power of God in the ministry. There is relevance, application, affection for the congregation, illustration and the presence of the Spirit upon the Word. Men and women are being converted and sanctified. The children are always spoken to, and the whole service is over in 75 minutes. Yet still during those services the children are encouraged to be stimulated by anything other than the message being preached to them. Imagine you could take your children to listen to Spurgeon preaching. Would you go with a bag full of distractions to occupy them during the sermon, or would you pray that they would be touched and converted by his pleading message?
Where there are enough bored families a great change takes place. Sunday mornings are designated on notice boards, “Family Worship,” and everything is done in a lively manner with the children in mind. The focus is no longer on what pleases Almighty God. The tunes are lively, accompanied by a band. There are all kinds of visual stimuli, overhead projectors, choreography and drama spots. Laughter registers the successfulness of the service. Many people take part, and the role of the minister is to be master of ceremonies. Every item is brief, and before the short sermon the children are taken out – even up to 16 years of age – to have their own classes of Sunday School elsewhere. They are taken away from the man whom God has called, given authority and teaching gifts to, and they are taken to people who base what they say on books written by other people. There is no likelihood of a man of the Word being called to the pastorate in such congregations. They are doomed to a future of superficial religion.
But children are unregenerate. They do not know God. There is a natural enmity in their hearts against him. Their boredom is not principally caused by their immaturity but because of their hearts of stone. This is to be combated by the loving lives of their parents, regular family devotions in which they become familiar with the teaching of the Bible, the language of prayer and they are confronted with their need to be born again. Their parents’ love, respect and enthusiasm for the church services, the pastor and his preaching will be contagious. They will admire and hear the one to whom their parents pay such attention. But where the parents themselves are bored – or just one parent – then there is little hope for the children becoming gripped with the most exciting message in the world – the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When children have been taught to sit still at home, and hear the word of God read each day, and listen to parents coming with thanksgiving and petition to a heavenly Father who cares and provides every good thing the children experience, then they sweetly learn to be still during a sermon on Sunday morning, and to cry from their childish hearts to the Lord for help to worship and serve him, the living God.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

All things...for good

Today I watched this sweet video about a precious baby who lived for 10 days. The parents found out at 20wks that their baby had trisomy 18 and, although the doctors told them his condition was "incompatable with life" they chose to continue the pregnancy and celebrate his short life. (warning: do not watch without a full box of tissues)

It made me thankful our Ben has trisomy 21 and not a different trisomy. When we first found out Ben would have Down syndrome our doctors gave us a copy of his karyotype, a picture of his chromosomes. They explained that Down syndrome occurs when a baby has three copies (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome. It looked similar to this image (although these chromosomes are from a girl - hence the two "x's." A boy would have an "x" and a "y.")

What's so amazing about Down syndrome is the 21st chromosome is the smallest DNA pair. That means that, although Ben has an extra chromosome in every cell of his body, it's the smallest possible amount of "extra." Babies with more significant trisomies are often miscarried or face significant birth defects. Only 8% of babies with trisomy 18 will see their first birthday.

Because of my experience with Ben I just want to encourage parents, or those hoping to be parents, to be prepared with your answer before you're halfway through your pregnancy sitting across the desk from your doctor hearing him tell you your baby has Down syndrome, another trisomy, or other serious birth defect. They will offer you options. They may tell you things about your child's potential quality of life or physical suffering. If you are a Christian, then you must be prepared with a solid confidence in the sanctity of life: that God creates all life for His glory, and that life begins at conception, and there are no stray molecules in the universe. God is sovereign.

What your doctors can't tell you (unless you have a really cool doctor), is that "for those who love God, all things work together for good." (Romans 8:28) I often hear Christians disparage this oft quoted verse as not really being comforting to those who are hurting. I guess I can't expect a single verse to turn someone's true sorrow to joy. But I know if you truly believe this promise it will help: if you truly believe "all things" means "all things" and if you allow the whole counsel of God to shape your definition of "good."

Yet, not every providence of God is as obviously "good" as this one: