Yesterday was our third day of school.
Our third day of school.
Wait a minute!
Didn’t we just…just yesterday…finish our last school year?
What about summer?!
What about letting rest seep into the marrow of our bones…
[Next photo taken by a friend. Thank you, Tami!]
[I’ve been collecting news about this wee childie. Her annual evaluation by her therapists, her one-year well-child check-up, what we’ve noticed and what they found out–both good and bad–and what we are doing about it. All coming up soon…Lord willing…]
Yes! We are purposefully letting some things go for the time being, for the sake of doing some serious unwinding. Did we ever need it this year! What a gift it has been! As the weeks have gone by, we’ve begun to suspect that God is not just resting us up from the past, but also charging us up for the future.
In some ways, we’ve been fitting two summers’ worth of break into two months.
We didn’t finish our last academic year until the end of May–a whole month later than usual.
We plan to get back to our usual August-to-April thing this year. This means we had two months of break instead of three. And right now, we have two weeks left of that two-month break.
So if we have two weeks left before school starts, how is it that we’ve started school?
In Pennsylvania, for official record-keeping purposes, the academic year runs from July first to June thirty-first.
Just as we have done for years, we start counting official school days in July, because every Friday is designated as Reading Day!!
We also count any field trips, and we do have one planned for this month. So with five July Fridays, plus one more July day for a field trip, when we start up full time on August first, we will already have six days of school under our belts.
Years ago, a friend who was a veteran at home educating introduced us to the weekly Reading Day concept. We implemented it immediately, and haven’t looked back.
What does Reading Day look like at our house?
The oldest ones take turns reading aloud to the little ones throughout the morning. Each turn is at least half an hour long, and the little ones have an opportunity to stretch their legs and run in between reading times.
[This picture is from April.]
When they are not reading to the little ones, the older children read here and there and anywhere.
[The next three pictures are from yesterday.]
They read what I assign to them, both in content and amount, which may or may not be what they would have chosen. Hundreds of good books are read this way at our house each year.
Once our academic year is underway in earnest, Reading Day is also a nice motivator for the students in our little home school. Friday serves as School Catch-up Day when necessary. Does that sound as appealing to you as Reading Day? No, it doesn’t to our children, either.
During the afternoon, those who need the practice also read aloud to me. This happens while the youngest ones are napping, in preparation for what’s coming after Dad gets home…which is…
When the weather is right, family night can be a cookout, a long family walk, a game of croquet, or other outdoor activities.
During the cold months, or when it is rainy, we are more likely to play indoor games or watch movies.
I will pause here to say that last year, someone encouraged me to blog about what we watch on Family Night, and this post has simmered on the back burner ever since. I think it needs to be said that I am continually hesitant to go into great detail about our family’s logistics. Quite frankly, I think that it is far too easy to come across in an arrogant way, as if we have arrived, our way is the only way, and others would do well to follow in our footsteps. And that is not true. We have a strong belief in the responsibility of each set of parents before God to follow the vision they believe He has for their own family. When I do receive specific questions about how we apply universal truths in the here and now, I always answer them, but I nearly always answer privately rather than here on the blog. And ever present in my mind is the fact that it is the general principles that are universal, and not the specific applications, which can vary greatly according to each family’s circumstances.
You may have guessed by now that we do not watch television. Joe grew up with television; I grew up without television. When we got married, Joe said he’d go six months without television and then make his decision, either yay or nay. Life quickly grew very full, with a baby on the way, Joe graduating from seminary and being ordained, then moving and starting a new associate pastor position in a very active church. Neither of us gave thought to the television question again for a couple of years, and by that time there was no question left in Joe’s mind, anyway.
So with few exceptions, if there is something that we want to watch together on a screen, we will save it for Family Night. If Joe and I need to preview something before deciding whether we want some or all of the children to see it, we fit that into a Tuesday–Date Night!
Sometimes we will show the children video clips showing the things that people with Down syndrome have accomplished, like this one about a preschool music teacher. (Did you hear her mention that she was educated at home?)
We are not all serious all the time! We love to laugh and sometimes we come across tidbits that tickle our funny bone, whether political, theological, or general humor. We’re always open for more recommendations in this category, if they are cleanly and cleverly done, and genuinely funny!
A ClearPlay filter has enabled us to remove objectionable content from otherwise excellent movies.
Last year we bought the entire set of Signing Time DVDs for a very cut-rate price from some overseas company or other. Rachel Coleman, who does the bulk of the singing and signing for each DVD, has two children with special needs, and has embraced that calling to the full. The little ones look forward to movie night primarily because of Signing Time, and are picking up some signs along the way. We’re still working our way through that collection, much to the dismay of our eldest, who is mercifully exempted from attending that half hour!
We have been intrigued by the series called “What Would You Do?” We got started with an episode dealing with the verbal abuse of a grocery bagger with Down syndrome, which was passed on to us by other T21 families. The episodes we have chosen to watch have all been extremely eye-opening and sparked valuable conversations among us. Warning: These are real-life scenes set up to find out what ordinary by-standers will do when they witness challenging situations that occur publicly, such as attempted child abduction, racial harrassment, suspected domestic violence, shoplifting, and many, many others. We would definitely recommend that you screen them for language and appropriateness before deciding whether your children should see them. The series clearly shows courageous, sometimes heroic choices as well as cowardly, potentially dangerous choices in vivid life color. I don’t think we will soon forget the lessons we have learned from them. If you watch the one I linked to above, I would dearly love to hear about your emotional reaction to both the abuse and the reactions from those who witnessed it.
Some of the best videos we’ve watched have been borrowed from other families. Last night, we were absolutely mesmerized by The Sermon on the Mount, by Dr. Lew Sterrett, master horse trainer. We thought it would be boring! We were wrong! If you ever have a chance to see this, don’t turn it down! It was the single most fascinating, powerful, and insightful presentation we have ever heard from a modern evangelical. Just a taste of how deep he goes…one of my favorite quotes from last night…
“Most of us are afraid of failing. We should be afraid of succeeding at what is unimportant.”
One of the habits we’ve developed that has had a powerful impact on our family has been to watch our way through the Joni and Friends television series, which can be accessed free of charge on their website. We started last fall, and have gotten all the way to Episode 30, Season 2, so we’ve nearly caught up with the producers. Not all the episodes are equally absorbing, but they have nonetheless opened up excellent conversations.
So far, our favorite episodes, in no particular order~
When Disability Hits Home We were touched to have a glimpse into two relationships–Chuck Colson with his grandson who has autism, and R. C. Sproul with his granddaughter who is mentally and physically disabled.
A Family for the Fatherless An adoptive family.
A Full House A home-schooling family of six, two of whom were born with special needs.
I’ve Got Questions About a man named Nick Vujicic, who was born with no arms and legs, and who inspired our oldest son to say that he wished something like that would happen to him, if it would have the same result in his life.
We would recommend the Joni and Friends series to any family who wants their children to be prepared to respond in godly ways to the painful challenges that God will bring into their lives.