29 September 2008

Life, Education & Work: You never had so much fun!

Education, like so many aspects of life, takes on many forms.  Like other great American mothers out there I refuse to shove my child into a hostile environment (aka public school) and instead I choose to home school my three boys.  Home schooling takes on many different forms; basically anything from overly structured to completely laid back. The hard part in light of this information is to find a medium that works for our family and individual children.  Unlike many institutions our child's differences, strengths, and weaknesses all come into play when we lay out the method of teaching that we use.  For example, I have met mothers of preschoolers who have a complete curriculum selected, purchased, and followed in their own homes. I have also met mothers of teenagers who have never purchased a core curriculum and wouldn't use one if you paid them. Is one method better than another? Is one woman's children turning out smarter than the other? Actually, no. I have never met as many boys trained in classical literature, and yet still trained in good work ethic as those taught by an overly dedicated mother (is there such a thing? probably).  In fact, the curriculum has little to do with it. 

The art of serving snack on a piece of cedar wood

Where is my family in this great spectrum of organized textbooks and flashcards? Somewhere in the middle. Given, Elijah is only 4, so our style is not as evident now as it will be when all four of our children are of school age. There is one thing I do know though: Our style and path in home schooling is different because we have boys. What do I mean by this? Boys are different from girls (for all you feminists out there: it's true, get over it).  A parent can see the basic differences in gender by pure observation. When you tell a girl that something is hot she instinctively backs away, while if you tell a boy that it is hot he replies "how hot" and goes to touch it to see just how hot it is.  What a wonderful truth! Isn't there a small part of you that would be sad to discover that men really are just the same as women? I am so very glad that men are different.  What would we women do if we didn't have a strong man to chop down our firewood, a competitive man to push his way up a corporate ladder, or a problem solving man to fix the car?

 Snappy: the baby snapping turtle

How does this realization make educating the next generation of men different?  For us I know that work ethic has become just as important a part of the boys education as learning US history.  What would I do if I raised a boy who couldn't, wouldn't or didn't want to work? What a sad little loser he would be; knowledge is useless if you are not willing to use it, or if you don't know how to use it. Does this mean that we start our school year out with no plan? Of course not!  Goal setting is a part of life and many goals need a good plan, however, we are not slaves to our plans.  For example, I would never spend thousands of dollars on a college education if I didn't know what I wanted to major in, how my major and experience will help me after graduation, and if it was God's plan for me; however, that doesn't mean that I cannot change my plan once I have started.  It is not someone else's job to lay out a plan for me, especially once I have graduated from high school, and this is why I need to teach my boys how to be the masters of their own education. I can throw all of the books in the world at them, but if I don't help them develop a love of learning, work, God, and life, then I have failed.  

So what does our school year look like anyway? A little bit of reading lessons, some number recognition, a lot of arts and crafts, some experimenting with the world around us (everything from nature to people), and a lot of good hard work.  Learning is quickly becoming a part of our life in every conversation, walk, and chore. What greater way to teach the boys to love learning than to make it a part of something they have come to love: life.  

What have the boys learned? Well come on over and ask them...

22 September 2008

My "Accident Prone" Son

Most people who know our family know that we are fairly laid back when it comes to seemingly dangerous adventures. We love to go exploring in the woods where we might see a wild animal; hiking up a mountain that may contain a cliff is just part of the experience; and boys that climb up ladders are normal. These same people that know these things about us also know that Josiah is my accident prone child; he is always bumping his legs, falling while running, and just getting hurt in some way.  I am not going to relay the things that seem to happen to this boy, but I will tell you that other than a bump and a bruise nothing serious seems to befall him.  

In light of that you can imagine the surprise that I had when Andrew, not Josiah, was the first of our lot to break a bone. Everyone has told me that it is the first of many, and I can easily believe that, but I honestly didn't think that it would start this early. Andrew is only 18 months old and yet he is one tough little guy. Of my three he is actually the most tolerant of pain. A hit from a sibling is shaken off or maybe fussed over for a second, but not long. So a few weeks ago when he fell and cried for more than 15 minutes I knew that something was wrong with him.  As it turned out he cracked the growth plate in his right elbow. Nothing too major for a child so small, and not uncommon, but it has still required a splint for the past few weeks. Actually, the splint should come off today, and overall through this whole process he has been a real trooper. Once again showing me that even though he isn't the accident prone child he can take a hit and get up again to give one back.  

When Andrew and I returned from the doctors, Tyler and Elijah stole Andrew bear and went and put a wrap on his arm as well. For the next two days Andrew kept pointing to his bear's arm and saying "uh oh".

Despite his recently large wrapped arm, Andrew is still one of the happiest and cutest boys I have ever seen. Just look at that smile!

12 September 2008

Finally... A Hot Beach Day!

The Lord has been so good to us.  Not only does He provide everything that we need, but He provides it at the best time.  Every Spring I try to narrow my long list of desired trips down to two or three manageable destinations. This year, I chose one family camping trip, one hot day at the ocean, one good hike up Big Spencer Mountain, and one camping trip to camp Wesley. 

Needless to say that in Spring I do not know what the Summer will bring and, as you may know, our car died at the end of June.  During the month of July it seemed that we would not be able to do any of these trips. But alas, God is good: Not only did he provide us with a vehicle, but He also gave it to us in time to enjoy a couple of the things on my list. We have been able to do the family camping trip; we made it to the base of Big Spencer Mountain; Tyler and Eli did a camp Wesley trip with Randy; and last week Tyler, Elijah and I fit in a hot morning at the ocean.  Even though we didn't get to do these four things according to my plans, we were able to do them according to God's plans and for that, I am thankful.

Tyler and Elijah setting off for a kayak ride around the rocks of Reid State Park. 

Like every other boy, young and old, on the beach, Elijah had to build something when he found these large pieces of driftwood just laying around.

Just look at how proud he is of his creation!

03 September 2008

A Day at Home with Miss Amanda

There are few people in this world that my boys love more than their Auntie Ali and Miss Amanda. These ladies have this incredible gift with children, and the Smith boys are no exception. When either of these ladies walks into the house my boys tend to look at me as dull (which I am) and go right to their visitor as if to say "okay mom you can go now".  I have always thought that it might have had something to do with what they did with the kids for fun, but now I know that it is just because these ladies have such an imagination that a normal morning for the boys is transformed into an adventure.  Let me show you what I mean: Last Thursday Amanda watched the boys, and she was kind enough to document it for us. 

Sneaking  up on our cat is not only discouraged around here (normally), but it can also be dangerous. With Miss Amanda though, it is a fun adventure and no one gets hurt. I don't know how she can pull that one off. 

Now she's got them creating their own dance props and dancing to who knows what type of music. Oh I sure hope it isn't any of that Petra stuff. 

Playing with lunch is something that happens everyday when you have three young boys.  Amanda is so kind as to help mold their creative techniques that PBJ's almost become a form of art in themselves. 

Obviously, Ethan is not quite used to a typical morning at the Smith house, or all of these click happy picture taking people.  Who is that camera guy anyway?

The moral of the story is this... If you want a really great babysitter who not only feeds your kids, but plays with them, dances with them and documents it all, then pick Amanda Chick. But if you are going to go getting all strict on her and try to get her to follow your rules then forget it: She could never give up her music.