Monday, August 30, 2010

Be Still My Heart

I have always tucked little notes, trinkets, and memory verse cards in our children's lunchboxes.
I even once bought a box of 'lunchbox lovenotes' from the Christian Bookstore that were specifically designed to build up and encourage your children with scripture during their lunch break. My hearts desire has always been to brighten their day, encourage them, and let them know they are loved beyond measure even when they are beyond my reach.
I also hoped that it would instill in them the desire to do the same for their own children one day.

Well, my heart lept for joy when I opened Micah's lunchbox on the third day of school and found this note carefully tucked away.
Along with the thankfulness and joy at the thoughtfulness of her sweet gesture came an overwhelming feeling of responsibility. She is watching AND IMITATING everything she sees us doing! What a high calling and privilege that comes with great responsibility.
I need to re-examine other areas of my life and do some 'house cleaning' in my spirit before she starts imitating everything!
Being a parent really keeps you on your toes and can jump start a spiritual growth spurt!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Growing Roots

Well, where do I begin my attempt to explain our journey into homeschooling?

I have NEVER had any desire to homeschool our children. I have always admired those who were called to do it and able to do it, but I have also jokingly said that the Lord himself would have to literally write it on the wall for me to agree to do such with our kids.

There are several good reasons that I have come up with over the years to support the theory that homeschooling is not for the Calhouns.

One is that our kids are both quite strong willed ~ that is not a criticism, just a fact. The truth is that they really had no other option. One strong willed mommy plus one strong willed daddy will always equal strong willed kiddies. It's just simple math. There was nothing else to dip out of the gene pool! And for the record, I definitely do not think that is a bad thing. You must be strong in will to be a leader. We are desperately trying to raise disciples for Christ and we want them to lead! Lead others to the Lord, lead others in their walk, LEAD, LEAD, LEAD!

But sometimes this strong willed spirit can make for some 'spirited' moments in our home when they do not want to be LED by us. The idea of being their primary teacher frightened me as I imagined it ruining the sweet relationship we have as parent and child.

Our kids simply respond better to someone else's direction than our own. Perhaps it's the old 'you only hurt the ones you love' syndrome, but I have witnessed time and time again their sweet, obedient, compliant dispostions that they display for others mysteriously disappear when we are home and behind closed doors. A perfect example was when Savanna started Kindergarten, she was still clutching her pencil with her entire fist as if she were preparing to stab someone. It made me C.R.A.Z.Y! I had worked with her for 2 years to no avail! And it wasn't that she wasn't capable of doing it correctly, she just simply didn't WANT to!

Well, would you believe that after ONE day of Kindergarten, Miss Priss was suddenly holding her pencil correctly? She informed me that was the way her TEACHER had told her to do it! As if I hadn't been showing her that for TWO YEARS!!!

It was confirmation then and there that there was no possible way the Lord would ever ask us to attempt to homeschool.

Another reason why NOT to homeschool is that I know myself well enough to know that I am an extremist. I am an 'all or nothing' kind of gal. I wish I wasn't, but I'm comfortable enough in my own skin right now to tell you that that is who I am and probably who I always will be. If it hasn't changed by now, it probably never will. I mean, my home either looks picture perfect or it looks like burglars have been in here rummaging through all our cabinets and drawers. Seriously, right now you could literally eat off of the floor. I have vacuumed 3 out of the past 5 days, but a few weeks ago, you could have probably used a garden rake to collect all the trash and junk that had piled up! There is no rhyme or reason to it. It's just who I am and I have decided to find this quality about myself endearing and unique. Well, it scares me to think about planning a curriculum and lesson plans for our children. I am fearful that I would either force them to have 10 subjects a day from dawn to dusk, or I would throw all of it to the wayside, get in one of my flighty moods, and decide that we could probably learn plenty about God's creation by spending a day at the beach.

While it might be fun to go on the occaisional "field trip", it scares me to think that my carelessness might leave holes in their education.

I also am very appreciative of the different 'finger prints' that a variety of teachers have left on our children over the years. I have used the argument that if we had kept them in our home only exposing them to our way of doing things, they would not be the beautifully complex and fascinating creatures that they have become. I am so very thankful for the teachers that the Lord has placed in our lives over the years. Each of them have helped shape and mold our children in a unique and special way.

Well, as you can see, I could have conducted quite the debate on why it was not for us. In fact, there have been a few occassions where a friendly fire debate took place. It seems some of my homeschool friends in Jacksonville seemed to think that it was their mission to convince everyone to homeschool. There was one instance in particular that I can remember feeling like I was in 7th grade and trying to withstand intense peer pressure. Instead of hearing "all the cool kids are doing it" I felt like this group of homeschool moms were saying "all caring Christian moms are doing it!" It was intense, but never fear, I stood my ground.

So that being said, I want to preface everything else I am about to say by making it clear that I in NO WAY think that homeschool is for everyone. I also do not think you are superior in your parenting if you do it, or inferior if you do not. I DO believe with EVERYTHING in me that it is a calling from the Lord. And by golly, if I haven't learned anything else in my life, it's that if the Lord wants you to do something, you had better obey!

So you're probably wondering when and how my heart changed on the matter.

Well, about a year and a half ago, I was watching a reality show about a homeschool family. They were being questioned about why they schooled their children this way and then came the inevitable question "Don't you ever worry that you are not preparing your children for 'real life' by homeschooling them?"

The precious mom gently spoke about how she would tend to a new seedling. She explained that if she had a new, baby plant she would never consider planting it outside in the flower bed. She would never put it out there and 'wish it luck' against the storms that would come. No. She would keep that seedling in the window sill of her kitchen so that she could tend to it daily and make sure it was getting the proper amount of water and sunlight until it had a STRONG ROOT SYSTEM. Then and only then would she transplant it outside knowing with full confidence that it's roots would be strong enough to withstand any storm that came it's way.


I can not put into words what happened in my heart when she shared this analogy.

I suddenly felt the first little twinge of interest or perhaps curiosity about homeschooling our children.
We began praying, praying, praying for the Lord to reveal His sweet and perfect will for our family. I prayed that I would be sensitive enough to His Spirit that I would hear that gentle whisper so He wouldn't have to knock me in the head to get my attention. I did not want to ignore His leading and not realize it until something negative had occured in our children's lives because of our disobedience. We felt the Lord was telling us that this was the thing to pursue for Savanna. Her spirit has matured so much over the past few years and she is no longer that Kindergartener with the defiant heart towards mother's instruction. She is also entering Middle School. Nuff said on that! I am not convinced that there is a whole lotta POSITIVE socialization that takes place in that environment. She has always been an excellent student excelling academically and obedient to her authorities. I know there are a lot of people that are jerking their kids out of school because they have had a negative experience, but that simple is NOT what is happening here. In fact, it is the opposite! We have had a WONDERFUL walk through the Elementary years. But just like we have changed the way we discipline our children over the years, we felt the need to change the way we educate as well.

The Lord is so sweet to know me better than I know myself and go before me and prepare the road for me. I am not much of pioneer. I do not like to explore unchartered territories. The idea of homeschool terrified me and I honestly had no idea where to begin! In all his great wisdom and mercy, the Lord sent 5 other families into our lives and church that are all homeschooling with the Virtual School program through our county public school system. I really had no idea what all that involved but was curious. Basically, the children are assigned teachers through the school choice office. Real, certified teachers. And all of their instruction and schoolwork takes place on the computer in a virtual classroom. The curriculum falls right in line with all of the public school curriculum. In fact, thanks to the Tim Teebow law, the homeschool kids are entitled to participate in all public school activities of their choosing like sports, music, clubs, etc...
Do you see where this is going already? That meant that the possible strain on my relationship with the children while trying to be both mom and teacher would no longer be a concern. It also meant that I didn't need to worry that I would leave an empty hole in their education by forgetting to teach them critically important information. My responsiblity is really just to do what most parents do with homework assignments. Make sure they do what they are assigned and be available if they have any struggles or questions. Could this be too good to be true?

I met with this group of moms and picked their brains.

I went to two different orientations and probably annoyed the instructors as I asked countless questions in an attempt to get them to 'prove' to me that all instruction could be done via the computer.

All my fears and concerns were put to rest.

I had finally accepted the fact that this was an excellent means of education.

I knew that this was what the Lord was leading us to do.

We even let Savanna weigh in on the issue. Just for the record, our home is not a democracy. The children really do not get to 'vote', but they do get a voice.

Her voice was a resounding, enthusiastic "YES!" She was over the top excited about starting this new chapter of our lives.

We made the official decision about a month ago and finished our first week of homeschool with Savanna this week. I know there are going to be ups and downs on this path like there are in all areas of life, but this has been a sweet, sweet week. I have already had a few dear friends that have questioned me about the 'socialization'. This totally cracks me up because both of our kids are probably OVER SOCIALIZED! We are always with other people. In fact, every night of the week, she is either at cheerleading, church, dance, youth group, praise and drama team, etc... We are NEVER home!

I am trying to recieve people's questions as curiosity and not criticism. But even if it is criticism, guess what....I DON'T CARE! I say that with love in my heart, because quite frankly, I care a whole lot more about what the Lord thinks. I know in my heart that I am being obedient to what He has called me to do for this season. I have no idea how long we will do this. It may only be a year, or it may be for her entire education. I do not know if we will do it with Micah in the future. What I do know, is that we will approach it in the same way we do the other decisions in our life. WITH PRAYER! Give us just enough light for the step we are on! Help us not to walk in the darkness, but remain in Your light!

Everyday, I pray that the Lord would help us 'grow roots'.

I wish I could paint the picture for you that we have always gotten up every morning and spent time as a family in the word of God over breakfast. I WISH that we took the time to fully equip our children with the armor of God everyday before sending them out the door. But the truth is that our mornings are fast and furious! It usually goes something like:

Did you eat?

Did you brush your teeth?

Where is your lunchbox?

Where are your shoes?

Wash your face, there is peanut butter all over it!

Don't forget your homework folder!

Did you feed the dogs?

Hurry! It's time to go! Get in the van!


I am disgusted with it myself when I look at it in transcript form.

But I am trying to keep it real here people, and that is a sample of a typical morning in our home. In desperation, I have even purchased several of the Drive Time Devotion CD's that we listened to in the car on the way to school.

Can I just tell you how precious it has been to have a serious heart to heart devotion time with my girl each day this week over lunch? I mean, quality time in the Word, working on growing and developing her character.

She told me last night that she has been a Christian and known the Lord for a long time, but she thinks she is really falling in love with Jesus!

And that, right there, is what it is all about!

Growing Roots.

Strengthening her walk.

Falling in love with Jesus!

Spending some much needed quality time together.

I guess the real lesson for me is NEVER SAY NEVER.

Twenty years ago, I said I would N.E.V.E.R. marry a preacher!

For some reason, as a teenager, random people would tell me that I would probably marry a preacher one day. I had no idea WHY they were thinking such crazy thoughts and decided that I would never even date someone going into the ministry. The Lord has a wonderful sense of humor and insured that Brian was getting his Masters in Christian Counseling while we were dating. It wasn't until 6 weeks before our wedding that he surrendered to the call into full time preaching ministry. DRATS! I had already fallen in love with the 'preacher man!'

The truth is...I wouldn't change it for anything. I realize now that it is a high calling and privilege to be his partner in ministry. I am so thankful that the Lord looked past my strong, defiant will and chose to use me in this way.

I am equally thankful that the Lord looked past my "I will NEVER homeschool attitude" and continued to shape and mold my heart to be in line with His perfect will and plan.

But I also can't help but wonder....

what else have I said I will NEVER do?


Friday, August 27, 2010

First Day of School 2010

What else screams the first day of school better than a batch of school bus sugar cookies fresh out of the oven?

Savanna started her first day of 'Virtual School' at our very own dining room table.

This seems to truly be the best of both worlds for our family.

Why homeschool?

Well, check back tomorrow... Ihave enough to say about that topic that it probably needs a blog all to itself.

Organization is her 'thing' ~ so she is thrilled to print off her pacing charts (syllabus) and get them all punched and put away in their own little binders.

Even though we are at home, I still wanted her to have all the fun perks of school. So we still set out to buy new school supplies and even did some shopping for some new school clothes too.

In addition to her core subjects, she has elective classes of Art, Problem Solving, P.E. and Keyboarding.

I am most excited that she will be learning the proper strokes for typing since she will be spending the majority of her time on the computer.

Micah is thrilled beyond measure to have the same teacher that Savanna had when we first moved here her 3rd grade year.

Initially, I was foolish enough to think that his excitement was because Ms. F. was Savanna's teacher or possibly because she has become my friend and I do a good bit of subbing for her and he is quite familiar with her room.

Oh how foolish of me!

I should've figured the real root of his enthusiam was their mutual love of

Florida Gators Football!

Oh yeah, she is a Gator's Girl through and through!

That won her BIG points in Micah's book!

She also knows how to start the year off right

with a bag full of encouraging goodies for each student.

You know... I taught third grade for several years.

It's funny that those kids back then seemed so much bigger or grown up than MY BABY who is now a great big, grown up third grader himself!


Where has the time gone?

Here's to looking forward to a wonderful year of growing and learning!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Day of Summer

For the last official day of summer, the youth had planned on spending the afternoon after church tubing down the river. The unpredictable weather made us change our plans a bit and we spent the afternoon letting them splash and swim in a friend's pond. It is much easier to get 50 teenagers out of a pond if the weather doesn't cooperate. If you are halfway down a river, there's really no good alternative. We had a fantastic time enjoying our last carefree day before the dreaded start of school.

Check out the beautiful view from the pond of the cows and horses!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back To School Bash

Our Back To School Bash at Sam's Surf City has become a bit of a tradition that we look forward to at the end of each summer. In fact, each year we have so much fun that a group of us always talks about getting season passes for the next year and making it a weekly event instead of just annual. Maybe this year we will actually follow through. It has been a great summer and we are looking forward to a great school year to come!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Youth Invasion

Every Sunday evening during the summer, the youth invade someone's home for a post-worship time of fellowship and fun. Last year, our pool was OVRFLOWING ~ literally ~ with the 40plus teenagers, so this year we decided to add a supersize slip n slide! What an awesome and inexpensive way to have some laughs! Turns out a little bit of baby soap, a whole lotta water, and a few borrowed billboard signs can turn a summer night into a great memory! We had a few 'wipe outs'...
...and it became abundantly clear that I definitely need a better camera to catch these high speed racers.

Micah was most entertained with the meatball subs.
At eight years old, he already has the appettite of a teenage boy!
Heaven help us, and our grocery bill, in a few more years!

Even the preacher got in on the fun!
I think this stunt might have won him some 'cool points' with the youth.
We had a bucket of water for the kids to dip their feet in before getting in the pool.
Little Hannah turned it into her own personal tub!

Love the clean up after a youth party~
There wasn't even one crumb of food to clean up!