Monday, July 20, 2015

Painful Joy

                I’ve wanted to write about my miscarriages for a while. We had three last year. At first it was too soon. The emotions were still too raw.  Then I kept waiting for a resolution.  I wanted to say how difficult it was but that we’d come through it.  I wanted to be able to share that we had a healthy baby or a new adoption story or had finally accepted that our family was done growing.  I’ve gone to grief support groups, read books about grief and learning to lament, and have seen a counselor.  I’ve tried to allow myself to process all the feelings of pain and frustration, knowing that’s part of the healing process.  

                Then I began searching the Bible for verses on joy.  I was hoping it would be like flipping a switch. I could be done with grief and start feeling joy again.  And there have been those moments.  Honestly, there have been moments of joy through the whole process.  And I know that one day there will be more moments of joy than of sorrow, but I’m realizing that there is this really slow, really long in-between time.  Even as I search for verses on joy, there is a mixture of joy and pain. Some of them are declarations of joy and some of them are laments, people and nations crying out because all joy is gone.  Then there are the verses that I most relate to, the ones that are spoken to broken people in the process of healing.

                One of my favorite verses is from Ezra 3.  The Israelites were laying the foundation for a new temple. Many people were shouting for joy and singing praises and many people were crying remembering the glory of the previous temple. It was this incredibly bittersweet mess of emotions.  In fact, “no one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise” (verse 13).  That’s exactly how my heart feels most days.  The joy is tinged with sorrow.  The sorrow is so close to the joy.  It’s loud. It’s messy.  It’s unresolved.

                My greatest comfort has been that I know I have a God who suffers alongside me. As John Stott says in The Cross of Christ:

I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness.
That is the God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.
Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering.

                I am also holding to the promise that God is good (Ps. 107:1), that he has compassion on the afflicted (Is. 49:13, Ps. 145:9), and that he is healing me.  He won’t leave me broken forever.  “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning… And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours” (Is. 61: 1, 2, 7). 

                There will be more to my story, but I wanted to share where I am now for those who are also grieving or in the messy not-quite-healed-yet stage.  Perhaps we can encourage each other to embrace the painful joy in this place.         

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lesson Planning

One of my favorite summer activities is lesson planning. I know, nerd alert.  I love looking at the big picture and knowing there are limitless possibilities from which to choose. I’m a kid in a candy store of ideas.  I also love asking questions that help me focus my vision.  As much fun as I have dreaming, I need to eventually narrow my focus and get specific lessons on paper. Here are some of the questions that have helped me move from big-picture dreaming to detail planning. Perhaps they will inspire you.

What do I want my kids to learn by the time they graduate? I want them to develop a love for God, a love of learning, and a strong work ethic. 

How can I help them reach those goals in the next year? I will make sure that Bible lessons do not get lost in the shuffle or deprioritized. I will try to have more hands-on, exploratory lessons than worksheets.  I will use topics that my kids are already interested in.  I will help them develop good study habits at an age-appropriate rate. I will model good-habit formation (for example, washing the counters every day after breakfast).  

What philosophy will we use? I like to use a Charlotte Mason and Unit Study hybrid.  Unit studies are so easy to organize. This year, we will pick a different book each week as our topic.  All of the lessons will be organized around “Paddington,” “Peter Rabbit,” or whichever book we are on that week.  Philosophically, I’ve found myself relating to Charlotte Mason with her emphasis on narration quality works of literature, art, and music.  So, I will have my kids start narrating short portions of stories to me.  I will also let them view famous works of art and listen to classical music.  We will also spend more time outside. I hope that at the end of the year they will have developed a taste for quality art, music, and literature and an appreciation for nature.  If that doesn’t work for us, I’ll let you know how Plan B goes (maybe we’ll switch back to picture books and finger painting).

How will I manage teaching children at two different levels? Most of my lessons are written at the kindergarten level, but I made one day more active and designed with my preschool child in mind.  I also plan to modify many of the lessons for her.  For example, I might write in my plans that we will add and subtract carrots with my kindergartner, but I’ll also use that time to help my preschooler identify numbers and/or count the carrots.  While my kindergartner is learning about animal behaviors and habitats, I will try to remember that my preschooler still needs to practice identifying animals, animal sounds, colors, textures, etc. I’ll also have Montessori bins and creative play stations available when I need to work exclusively with one child.

What specific skill do I want my kids to learn next year? I won’t bore you with my entire syllabus, but once I’ve identified our big goals, chosen a philosophy, and listed the specific skills (addition, learning phonetic blends, etc.), individual lessons come together much more quickly.

Tell me about your process. What do you look for in a curriculum? What modifications do you make?  Do you like to write your own? What questions do you ask yourself? What is your homeschool philosophy?