Saturday, March 30, 2013

What Godspell taught me about Jesus

Whenever I see a movie or in this case, a play, I think about it for a few days, that is, if it is any good.

We saw Godspell last night at a small venue in Putnam, CT called Complex Performing Arts Center.  The worship leaders at our church, Living Hope Christian Church, acted in and directed the play.  I am humbled to say, I have been brought near to tears just thinking about the play today.   

The content itself was very familiar to me, the Gospel of Matthew.  I knew the stories and the major plot, of course. There were characters in the play who were regular people/Jesus’ disciples, and even at times acting as Christ’s persecutors, betrayers and killers.  Jesus, of course, was the main character.  

Godspell really showed me Jesus’ humanity and friendship.  He is every believer’s close and intimate friend.   

As the play went on, the same people were following Jesus consistently.  He told His parables and they acted them out.  He was very kind, loving, and understanding to all, no matter what their behavior.  He was welcoming to sinners and kindly corrective.  He was accusatory towards the religious elite. There was also plenty of humor. 

The level of intimacy between Him and these disciples/followers increased throughout the play. I felt uncomfortable on occasion with the intimacy of some of the women with Jesus.  I realized this was my own fleshly mind getting in the way.  This was Jesus!  Jesus’ relationships were all pure, although He was a man, he was also God.  Jesus really did let a prostitute touch him.  Jesus probably would have sang songs with Martha or Mary or other women as well.  He did touch people often, and they touched him.  Jesus was more than their friend.  They followed Him; they worshiped Him; there was nothing inappropriate about it.  He was God in the flesh. In the play when Jesus was crucified, the people were weeping at the foot of the cross but they were literally on his legs, touching him.  I wonder now if the people at the foot of the cross were actually, in fact, touching Jesus’ feet.   

I realized that up to this point, I have had a very cordial, distant way of thinking about Jesus.  As I started thinking through the play, I found myself teary-eyed thinking about Jesus as my close friend.  I have been thinking about Him and what it would be like to “hang out” with Him.  How I would I have felt if He were killed before my very eyes, especially after witnessing His perfect goodness and innocence? What will it be like to be with Him in Heaven?

Normally, I would have major issues with a play that leaves Jesus dead, but since we saw it on Good Friday, I was perfectly fine with it.  I realize now, if He had risen in the play, I probably would have continued along with my cold/cordial thoughts of Jesus as a risen unapproachable radiant being, instead of on His life, His humanity and His relationships with His followers.....and with me. 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. - John 15:13

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Not-To-Do List?

I commented recently on a friend’s business Facebook page regarding a video about, prioritizing; making a “not to do” list.  The speaker made the point that sometimes children approach with things that are clearly, not something you are going to interrupt your time to do.  My comment was that sometimes the unimportant things your child approaches you with, are really important to them!  I really do agree with this man, because with all that I have to do, I do routinely say, “no, we are not doing that right now, to my child.”  But sometimes I look at the activity and find it unworthy of my time.....then I look at the CHILD and I say, “okay, let’s do that.”

Children are important.  I think that many parents are at a disadvantage because their children are away from them 8 - 10 - 12 hours a day. How can anything in the remaining 2-4 hours be unimportant if it means spending time with your child?  

I feel like I have the advantage.  I homeschool.  I am with my children for most hours in a day. Please don’t think that homeschool kids and moms are home 24/7. My kids do go out to activities, visit friends, and on field trips with me and on their own, but I don’t have the limited time with my kids that many parents have.

I do a lot of things.  I own 4 dairy goats that must be milked each morning and evening along with other care that they need periodically.  I make my own soap and cheese. I have chickens and ducks.  A garden in season. I run a non-profit homeschool organization of 250 families.  And, I homeschool my children.  People ask me, how do you do it all?  I would say the answers are:  routine, delegation, flexibility, and multi-tasking. 

I do have an every day routine.  Goats are milked morning and evening at the same time (roughly) every day.  Chickens and ducks are fed and watered as well.  I eat breakfast.  Check email.  Make my bed.  I shower and get dressed every morning. The dishes are washed and put away. I have homeschool time with 10 year old.  Dinner is prepared (or reheated.) These things happen every day.  

I have trained my kids to do basic chores.  I have not succeeded in making them do them on their own, but they will do anything I ask them to do with a relatively good attitude.  I delegated putting the dishes away to my daughter this morning while I showered.

Older children are responsible for their own school work.  Much of this depends on them.  Not all of them are the best time-managers.  Some things are undone, some things are behind, and some things they are ahead on.  I am trying to re-instill routine in them to get them on track with everything, but they are old enough now to do school on their own and they do.  One of them is in college and doing well; she is completely on her own.  Two of them are taking a CCRI class and they complete their assignments without my intervention. This shows me that much of their schooling can be delegated to them confidently.

Many of the events, tasks, and planning for the homeschool organization I run, are delegated away.  I merely need to make sure that the events are delegated to trustworthy volunteers.  I said recently to a speaker at our Conference that I was nervous about it and she said in jest, “oh, is that tomorrow?”  That was not something I was concerned about.  I find people I can trust and I give them a task and then trust that they will do it.  No one has failed me yet (that I can recall!)  Church events are the same, if I ask someone to cook for a Fellowship lunch, I just trust them to do so.  If I trust someone to cover games for VBS, I am confident they will. Again, no one has failed me yet.

Today was a flexible day.  Homeschool routine with 10 year old was postponed so that I could do some things that become urgent at this time each month, namely, the homeschool organization newsletter and paying my bills.  I was awaiting a few items for the newsletter and kept putting my daughter off.  Fortunately, she is very good at self-entertainment, and in an educational way. 

And Multi-tasking:
I managed to do 1/3 of my daughter’s schoolwork with her while I was waiting for someone to call me back about the newsletter (they forgot about me!) and I paid my bills while I was waiting for another call. Once the newsletter was taken care of and bills were paid, my 10 year old and I went to run errands and to the library.  Now school is done.  It is later than usual, but today had to be a flexible day and I am happy to have completed some of it in what I originally thought was going to be wasted waiting time. 

So, in re-reading this, I am thinking that I sound really unorganized.  There is truly a balance between structure and flexibility, especially when things are ever-changing. I often wonder how women and men who work outside of the home do it.  How do YOU do it?  I want to ask.  How do you spend quality time with your children?  When do you go to the dentist?  When do you do your errands?  When do you make your dinner?  The structure of having a job outside the home leaves little flexibility for those things that you just can’t put off in life.....some things just can’t go on the “not to do” list.

(Now, to be fair, I should have my next post be a not-to-do-list!)


Monday, March 25, 2013

Spelling and Vocabulary and Writing

It seems like there has been a lot of advice and comfort coming from stories, stories of success or unexpected outcomes.  I have been encouraged by stories myself a lot lately, and been telling my own.  I think I will blog some of my stories to see if maybe someone may benefit from them as well.

I will apologize at the outset that this is not smooth story.
Having a homeschool graduate, a senior, and a junior, I feel like I can say with some authority, “don’t worry about it.”  That’s not to say that I am not doing my own worrying about what lies ahead. But today I am talking about spelling, vocabulary, and writing.  There have been a plethora of questions, conversations, and concern regarding spelling and vocabulary, most specifically, and that naturally ties into writing as well.   

What did I use for spelling and vocabulary curriculum?  The answer is many things but nothing consistently.  This is mainly a story about my boys education through spelling, vocabulary and writing, a potentially worrisome route with a surprise ending. 

For Daughter 1, my oldest, we did Spelling Workout, these were workbooks and I liked the incremental way that they focused on similarly spelled words.  She probably did the first 4 -5 books. She also read at age 4 and taught herself cursive in first grade. Classic first child. 

Then came Son 2, although he was reading at age 6, he cried about any writing until he was about 9 years old, almost like it hurt to write. I finally asked a friend with a degree in early childhood development about handwriting and some possible solutions. Her  short answer was, “don’t worry about it.”  She asked me, “Amy, how often does your husband write?  How is his handwriting?  How does he generally communicate with others?”  The answer was, of course, he types emails and IMs, and on rare occasions, will hand write a note.  His handwriting isn’t that great.  Come to think of it, most doctors have notoriously bad handwriting.

So, I didn’t worry about it.  He still read and did math and wrote short answers for other subjects, but most of our learning was through reading and listening, so writing didn’t come up much.

Then Son 3 did not read until he was almost 10. So there was no writing, except some phonics, until then.  Fortunately, when he did start reading, it was right at grade-level, so we could dive right into writing.  His handwriting was (and still is) horrible, but legible.  I don’t worry about it.  

We joined a co-op, when the boys were probably 11 and 12.  There was a writing class.  For the first in-class assignment, Son 3 wrote, “I can’t spell” on his paper  The teacher showed me the assignment, and I just sighed.  I was worried!  

I went home and read Ruth Beechick’s “The Three R’s” book, the writing section, and Susan Wise Bauer’s book, “Writing with Ease”.   Both recommended dictation.  I sat the boys down at the kitchen table and told them.  “I am going to read something to you and you are going to write it down.  You may correct your work from the original when I am done and you can ask me to spell any word you don’t know.”   I read to them a Shel Silverstein poem (can’t remember which one),needless to say, they were chuckling as they wrote.  

It was like a miracle.  All it took was 2-3 dictation lessons for them to realize, “Yes, I can spell reasonably well, and I can always correct it if it is wrong.” , “I can easily put what is in my head onto paper.” and “Hey, writing can be creative and fun.”  Shortly afterward, Son 3 wrote a novel about my husband.  The title was, “Stephen in Fantasy World”.  Friends, relatives, and acquaintances were main characters.  It was quite humorous. The handwriting was horrible, but he brought it to me regularly to check the spelling and make corrections before showing it to his co-op teacher.  

I should mention that Boy 2, handwriter-with-tears, was still not great at getting much on paper, but his handwriting ended up being BEAUTIFUL!  He may not have had much to say, but he  could be a calligrapher.  

I should also mention Daughter 4 here (currently age 10).  She is another struggling reader, auditory learner.  If she hears it, she remembers it. Dictation was also crucial to her learning.  She seemed to turn a corner when I started spelling by dictating words to her.  I say it, she says it back, and spells it.  The combo of hearing and writing has, been the key to her finally jumping from sounding-out to some whole-word reading.  Whew.  I was worried for a while there. (Just a note, that I got this phonics dictation idea from the blog at

Back to the boys’ story.  

I bought Sequential Spelling.  My boys grew quickly bored with it.  

I bought Vocabulary from the Classical Roots.  It was okay. I think they may have each completed a book.....maybe.  

I bought some Sadlier-Oxford vocabulary workbooks.  We had those in school and I loved them.  But my boys did not get the subtle differences in meanings for words that seemed obvious to me and Daughter 1. 

Meanwhile, Daughter 1 was (is) an avid reader and was working through Wordly Wise vocab books for some grades and Vocabulary from Classical roots for others. She was constantly reading.  Every free moment.....reading, reading, reading.  And I think that IS the key to spelling AND vocabulary AND writing.  

We were also reading a lot as a family.  As part of school each day, I read new and classic literature, history, historical fiction, science, etc. aloud to the kids.  My husband read to the kids at night.  Eventually, the boys started reading for pleasure and for school assignments as well.

When the boys were about 13 and 14, I decided to start a boys‘ writing class with them and a few of their friends.  I used the curriculum Write Shop. The accountability and competition of writing with friends really spurred them on.  I had read the book “Boy Writers” by Ralph Fletcher and it gave me different goals and expectations for the class.  We were not going to be discussing feelings here.  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the material that was eventually produced.  All of the boys really improved over the course of the class and gained confidence in writing.  

In the following years, they had writing assignments for history and language arts, but honestly, they did not produce much. 

At ages 15 and 16, I did do a short SAT essay prep class with them and two other homeschool students.  This was a new level of difficulty, timed essays.  They did fine.  Their reasoning was clear, their spelling mostly correct, and their vocabulary commendable.

Since then, they have not done much formal spelling, vocabulary or writing, aside from the “you must use correct spelling and grammar on Facebook” ultimatum.  Did you ever think of spell-check as a good spelling teacher?  A red line warning you each time you spell something wrong, seems to be a good teacher to me.

So, how are they doing now? 

I have caught them reading the dictionary, vocab flip books, and cartoon vocab books on their own.

They scored “okay” on their PSAT and SATs. Boy 3 may improve his scores, he still has a few more tries at it.

They scored very well on the Accuplacer, placement test for CCRI.

They are both taking a CCRI Intro to Lit course, heavy on the reading and the writing.  They have both said how much they really love it and have completed all their assignments without (many) reminders from me.  I will have to update with a grade, but they are holding their own in a college class at the ages of 16 and 17.  

Perhaps they could have gotten better scores on their SAT (one still may), If they did “all the workbooks”.  Despite or Because of the ad-hoc spelling, vocabulary and writing education they have received, they like reading, they like writing, and they like words, which I think is key to them continuing to pursue these subjects as they continue their education out from under my guidance.  

Not sure what we learn from my story, but I guess it is: if your child is a language lover let them go with it.  If they are not, try something else.  Read, read, read, either them to you or you to them.  And......don't worry about it.