Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day. A time where dads everywhere get honored for being the best dads they can be. I love Father's Day because I was blessed to have an excellent father, I'm married to an excellent father, and both of my grandpas were excellent fathers. I love honoring them because they deserve it.

However, this holiday also brings feelings of sadness at our house. Yesterday we went to my brother's house to celebrate my nephew's birthday and on the way home, Simon very innocently asked when I was going to turn brown like them. That brought on a conversation of how God made people different colors and we can't change the color of our skin, etc. During this conversation Jeremiah was silent, and I had a feeling he was thinking about his first mom and dad and how they were brown like him.

After prayers last night, Jeremiah was still being pensive so I asked him what was wrong. He buried his head in my lap and said, "I'm sad." Even though I pretty much knew what he was sad about, I asked him why he was sad. He said, "I miss Jembula."

Jembula...the boys' birth dad
Jembula....the name that I haven't shared with very many people. Jembula....the name that brings so many raw emotions. Jembula....the name that almost makes me cry every time I say it...because we love him with all our hearts.

I love that Jeremiah still has memories of him (Simon doesn't seem to have any) but it is HARD. Tears were shed by both of us. How do I explain to a child that I LOVE that he is my son but HATE the reason it happened. How do I reassure him that it won't happen again? How do I explain that MY dreams came true because he was ripped away from everyone and everything he knew, from the land where he was meant to live, and brought halfway around the world to live with strangers who don't look like him, to a country that is completely different, and where they hear everyone say how "lucky" they are to be in our family.

The fact is we live in a fallen world. I wish that sin hadn't happened in the Garden of Eden so everyone who wanted to have babies COULD have babies and those families would be able to stay together forever in their original place of birth. Nobody would have to make the decision to watch their children starve or give them up for adoption. Everyone would have plenty of food and a way to provide for their family so they could stay together forever. Sadly, we don't live in that world and families won't always be able to stay together and couples that would love to have biological children won't always be able to, and until our good Lord comes back, adoption will still be necessary. Adoption is beautiful, but it in a perfect world, it wouldn't be necessary.

So, on this Father's Day, we rejoice in the fathers that we get to see, who are there for the day to day events, who give their all to be the best dad they can be. But we also grieve for fathers like Jembula who don't get to watch his kids grow up except in pictures. Fathers like Jembula who don't get to see Simon's personality shine through and Jeremiah's brilliant mind figuring things out. Fathers like Jembula who loved his kids so much that he let 2 strangers care for them when he couldn't. We love you Jembula and honor you on this Father's Day as well. Thank you for entrusting your boys to us. I hope we can meet the expectations you have for us.

Daddy and boys playing with an erector set

Boys' new bikes

Sweet boys

Balancing bandaid boxes on their heads


Shooting Star

Our little family

Cheesy grins...LOVE THEM!

Father's Day morning

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Croghan Language Academy

OK, I know that I said I would be blogging about the 3rd seminar that I went to at the TTD conference, and I WILL, but I'm so excited that I couldn't wait to blog about this!

I told you a couple days ago that I was probably going to enroll the boys in some kind of Spanish class in the near future. Well, that "near future" turned out to be TODAY! I have been communicating with Krista, who created the Croghan Language Academy and I met at the TTD conference on Friday, the last couple days and tonight I enrolled the boys in the Little Amigos program at the Croghan Language Academy! I'm very excited because I'll be able to learn Spanish along side the boys. It is also nice to actually know the professor. Krista has classes for Kindergarten all through high school so no matter what level you are at now, then she has a class for you! 

We will begin our class on July 15 and the boys are already asking when that will get here. In fact, we had a choice of taking the class in July or September and they both shouted "JULY!" I LOVE that they love learning right now. Hopefully that will continue on through the years.

So, who else would like to take this class with us this summer? Click here to go to the website and please let me know if you enroll! This is going to be so great!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

TTD Session #2: Ballistic Homeschooling: Teaching Boys

I have to say that this was one of my favorite sessions of the weekend. Hal and Melanie Young have 8 children and 6 of them are boys, so they have certainly had experience with teaching boys. I loved the way they taught the class together and played off each other. The session was over far too quickly! I will tell you now that some of the comments I will be making below are generalizations and NOT true for every child.

WHY: Because of these 2.

Simon and Jeremiah in their new t-ball t-shirts
WHAT: I learned a LOT. Are you ready? Here we go:

It is true that girls develop sooner than boys...IN SOME AREAS. Girls develop fine motor skills such as writing sooner but boys develop better spatial development sooner than girls. For example, if you put a pile of blocks down in front of a girl, she might build a simple house, but put a pile in front of a boy and you will probably end up with a skyscraper or some other elaborate tower.

Teach what you are teaching: For a lot of boys, writing can take a while to learn and will sometimes cause frustration if they don't feel they are doing it fast enough or correctly. So, if you aren't teaching writing, then don't make them write. For example, if you have them read a chapter and you want them to answer some questions to test understanding, then writing the answers isn't necessary. The answers can be given verbally and you will still know whether they understood what they read or not.

Gender differences in learning: Research has shown that boys and girls learn differently. Girls like quiet, warm, safe, nurturing environments to learn in. Boys, however, like animated, cool, where you can argue your point, have discussion, and be active. They gave the example of the scene in the movie "The Incredibles" where they are sitting around the table and the kids are going bonkers and Mr. Incredible is completely in his own little world. Eventually ElastiGirl yells at him and says "It's time to ENGAGE!"  Boys like you to be animated, loud, and energetic. Also, we need to turn off ALL screens or they will be focused on that.

Using their "big muscles" will help them engage. When I say "big muscles," I mean their legs, arms, etc. Thomas Jefferson wrote at a standing desk because when he was standing he could focus better than if he was sitting. If your boy has been sitting for a long period of time, have them give you 10 on the stairs and they will engage with you better. If you force a boy to sit for hours at a time, towards the end of that time they are more focused on sitting still than they are on studying. Instead let them run around outside or do some exercises, etc. to let them wear off that energy.

Boys and men can think better when there is a little pain involved: One thing I noticed this past year was that if the boys were trying hard to figure out something, they would start chewing on their hands. I would ask them to take their fingers out of their mouth but pretty soon they would be there again. The thinking is that men NEED to be able to think with pain because in the past it was only men who would go to war and if they ever got hurt, they still needed to be able to function and think clearly on what to do next. That made sense to me because they needed to have the presence of mind to get out of harm's way if at all possible. I don't know about you but if I get hurt, I just want to curl up until it goes away.

Boys need to have a purpose or goal: We have all had times where we questioned the necessity to learn something. You can bet that your child will someday ask you that same question. First, make them think about what they are learning. Let's say it's poetry that they are asking about. Well what are they learning through poetry? For one thing, it can help you learn to be concise. You can take a big idea and put it into 2 or 3 lines. It teaches you to use the right words at the right time. So how will that help them in the future? If you want to ask your boss for a raise, do you want to meander all over the place while trying to ask or be concise and get the words out? Concise, of course. If you can give your son a purpose, then their whole attitude will change. Boys need to have a goal.

Boys also like competition: My boys are pretty close in age so I could have them compete against each other sometimes, but if you don't have someone like that, then have them compete against themselves. Time them at a task and then tell them if they beat it tomorrow they can have a treat. The treat doesn't have to be anything big, maybe a piece of candy from the candy dish, but if they are competing, they will generally try harder.

The biggest goal for us as home educators is this: Teach them to LOVE learning. If they love learning, then they will do it of their own free will and you won't have to force them to do it. 

ACTION: This past year I did fall into the habit of having the boys sit for 3-4 hours while we had school and then go let them play when we were done and I will definitely not do that next year. I am planning on working on 1 topic for about an hour and then let them have 15 minutes outside to run off their energy. I am also going to try giving them a goal to shoot for each day.

What are some things that you do with your boys to keep their attention?

Tomorrow I'll be sharing about some writing games that were fun and educational. See you then!

TTD session #1: Why Learning Spanish Should be Towards the Top of the Curriculum List for Homeschoolers

Before I begin my review of this session, I wanted to tell you what you can expect to read in my reviews. There were SO MANY sessions that we had to choose from and some were hard to decide, so the first thing I'm going to share is WHY I chose that particular session. I will then share what I learned and finally what, if any, action I will be taking because of that session. So basically, you will get WHY, WHAT, and the ACTION.

The first session I went to on Friday was by Krista Croghan. Krista has been a Spanish teacher for many years and has created an online Spanish class called Croghan Language Academy. The session was very informational and fun and we even spoke a little Spanish during the class.

WHY: I never did take a foreign language and there are times that I wish I had. I also know that it is easier for kids to learn another language so why not start teaching the boys now instead of in high school (or college) when most people do it. So when I saw this was an option, I was intrigued.

WHAT: I learned that bilingual children concentrate better, they will have a competitive edge when it comes to education, they can sort out what is important better, they have improved standardized test scores over monolinguals, and knowing a 2nd language provides better understanding of the 1st language. Now obviously English is NOT the first language for our boys, but they no longer remember any Amharic or Sidamigna so they won't be comparing it to that. Also, Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn along with Italian, French, and Dutch.

I don't know if our boys will go to college or not, but many universities require at least 2 years of a foreign language but most recommend 4 years. If they do go to college, then I don't want them to have to try to catch up in the fast pace of college when they could have been learning it all these years. Besides, it will allow them to communicate with the growing Hispanic population. Did you know that the Hispanic population is the fastest growing population? It is projected that by 2050 there will be around 133 million Spanish-speaking people in the United States.

ACTION: I had already kind of decided that I wanted to teach the boys some Spanish anyway, so it is no surprise that I am interested in this program. I still have to work out a few details yet, but I am planning on having them in some kind of Spanish program in the near future. Also, with this program I would be able to learn along with the boys which I would enjoy.

I'm many of you have taken a foreign language class? What language? Do you still speak it? Leave a comment below. Thanks!

Tomorrow I will be blogging about one of my favorite sessions...Ballistic Homeschooling: Teaching Boys. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention

This past weekend Garth and I (and the boys) attended the Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention in Omaha. We had a fantastic time and got to hear some wonderful speakers. Over the next few days I'll be blogging about the individual sessions I went to which included why Spanish (or another language) should be at the top of the list for homeschooling families, Ballistic Homeschooling (teaching boys), Dinosaurs for kids and parents, and more.

While we were at the sessions, the boys were able to go to the kids conference where they learned about the Armor of God. Each boy got a belt of truth that they got to color as well as a shield of faith. They had a GREAT time as well both days.  So come back tomorrow to hear  about one of the sessions I attended.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Videos from the past

I found a couple videos this morning of the boys when we were still in Ethiopia. They are so cute that I had to share with all 2 of you who continue to read this blog. ;-) Where does the time go? You may need to turn the music off at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Home educating

I know I haven't blogged much about my first year of home educating, so I thought I'd share a few things I learned this year:
1. You can't force someone to learn if they aren't ready. For the first 2 weeks of school, I had this idea in my head of what I would do for both Jeremiah and Simon. I had a curriculum I had chosen, I was excited to get going and they were excited as well. However, it became very apparent early on that Simon was not ready to just sit and learn like Jeremiah was. After 2 weeks of both of us being VERY frustrated because he wasn't learning as quickly as I thought he should, it occurred to me that he doesn't HAVE to be in preschool this year and there was no reason for me to force it. I changed tactics and even though I wasn't actively working with Simon, he was still learning quite a bit by just listening to what Jeremiah was learning AND he could come and go as he pleased. When he was sitting at the table with us, I would have activities for him to work on if he wanted. He actually was around quite a bit anyway because he doesn't really like to play by himself. :-) Also, by around March of this year, he was actively wanting me to work with him by himself so I knew that he was ready to start "formal" preschool.

2.  Sometimes the curriculum you thought was going to be the best, turns out NOT to be the best. OK, I admit it. I was VERY sure that the curriculum I purchased last spring would be perfect. It had bright colors and good activities and it was a "curriculum in a box" so I didn't think I'd have to do much in the way of lesson planning. And, for the most part, that was true. In the beginning of school Jeremiah was very excited to have school and was very interested in learning. However, when he began getting bored with the projects and didn't really like the material, I knew it was time for a change. Financially speaking, I couldn't just go out and buy another curriculum. I also didn't want to choose the wrong one again and spend all that money on something else that we wouldn't really end up using. So, I had to get creative. I started focusing mainly on reading, writing, and arithmetic and found activities online that would help me with those 3 subjects. Since we were outside a lot, we also would learn about the bugs, trees, grass, etc. that we encountered and things the boys asked me about. Friday was also our science day and we would have experiments and talk about them. I then scoured the internet and found various websites that gave free or discounted homeschool products, which I have listed below.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op
Nebraska Christian Home Educator's Association
Homeschool Central
TLS Books
Hubbard's Cupboard
In the Hands of a Child
Homeschool Freebie
ABC Mouse
I Can Teach My Child
Among others.....

3.  Teachable moments happen everywhere, all the time. The simple question of, "Mommy, why can you put a bunch of yucky stuff together and then put it in the oven you come out with delicious cookies?" can start a science lesson (how the "yucky" ingredients join together to taste yummy), reading (a recipe), math (measuring ingredients), and even spelling the ingredients.You can start teaching fractions when you are eating a pizza. You can work on counting when cleaning up toys by counting them as you put them away, etc.

4.  When a child loves a subject, doing that can be a reward...and they are still learning! Jeremiah LOVES, LOVES, LOVES math. Seriously. He definitely did NOT get that trait from me.  :-) So when I realized that he loved it and was really GOOD at it, doing math because the fun thing to do as a reward after doing things that he doesn't like as well. He has done addition, subtraction, and even multiplication up through 7. You can even turn spelling into math! The other day Jeremiah learned how to spell "Druckenmiller" so he wanted to call his grandparents to share it with them. When he was talking with Grandma Kelley, she asked him how many letters were in Druckenmiller (13). Then she asked how many letters were in Jeremiah (8) and then asked how many letters there were total. He started to count on his fingers and then stopped and said "Oh, it's 21 because 14 + 7 is 21 so 8 + 13 is also 21." We were both VERY impressed.

5.  Home educating doesn't HAVE to be at home. When I have errands to run, I like to do them during the day when it isn't as busy so we are driving in the car typically 2-3 times a week to various places. When I know that we are going to be gone at appointments or things like that for a period of time, I'll bring our work with us and we'll have school wherever we are at! We have had school at doctor's offices, Burger King Play Place (yes, it is possible), at the auto body repair shop during oil changes, at your grandparent's house, and even in the car! While driving, we will often do both spelling and math and sometimes reading (no, I'M not reading). We will also include activities like finding things outside that start with certain letters or going through the alphabet and naming things that start with each letter, etc. We will also sing songs and tell stories. One thing that we have greatly enjoyed in the last month is a Boogie Board from C R Toys. No, it isn't something to wipe your nose on or go surfing with. It is a very thin LCD board that you can write on with a stylus (that attaches to the top of the board so you *hopefully* don't lose it), draw on, whatever and when you are finished you push a button at the top and it is all erased. It is so small that it will fit almost anywhere and the boys LOVE it. Now we can take it places and we can have our spelling tests on it, math lessons, or the boys can draw on it to pass the time. We couldn't be happier with it. 

Overall, we had a really great year and we will continue home educating the boys until either they are finished with high school or until we feel that another option would be better for them. The best part of home educating is seeing that light bulb in their heads turn on when they figure something out. It makes those hard days all worth it to know that you are teaching your kids the skills they will need as they grow up.

If you are thinking about home educating or would like to talk to someone about it, I'd be happy to talk to you. I will be brutally honest with you and promise not to "sugar coat" it. Home educating is NOT for everyone and not everyone SHOULD do it but if you feel like you are supposed to homeschool, then I would love to talk to you. Also, since I try to have a picture with my posts, here is a recent picture of the boys. Aren't they the most handsome boys ever?

The injera and tibs at the Interntional Cafe in Omaha are finger-licking good. 

Today I Kissed an Angel

Today I kissed an angel. I knew it from the start. The first time my angel smiled at me; I gave away my heart.

Today I kissed an angel; This angel child of mine. Though not of my creation, My child by God's design.

Today I kissed an angel. My heart is dancing wild; Our family, by a miracle; Blessed by our angel child.

All I Really Want by Steven Curtis Chapman