Living an Interruptible Life

100_1681.JPGThe first time I ever thought about the idea of an interruptible life was when a woman I barely knew, a dentist from our Sunday school class in a new state, gave up her free evening to come to my house and rock my sick babies. My triplet daughters were just five months old, sick for the first time, and my husband was in the middle of major exams in pharmacy school. I had three infants crying and vomiting and staining their clothes with diarrhea, desperate to be comforted, but I couldn’t comfort them all, care for them all, and continue cleaning up the frequent messes alone. I’d already tried to do that for more than two days and I was exhausted. The acquaintance from church had once told me to feel free to call her if I ever needed anything, and my poor babies’ tears finally convinced me to do so. I threw out my pride and asked if she would please come over to just sit in the rocking chair and cuddle my sick little ones. She immediately said yes, and before long my miserable girls were all being held and comforted. Two soon fell asleep and were laid down, and she continued to rock the third baby (whose misery was compounded by colic) while I scrubbed carpet and threw a load of laundry in the washer and prepared bottles for the next round.

I sat on the step leading into our living room then and just breathed deeply as I watched her, this woman who was giving up precious free time with her own daughter so she could bless me. Suddenly Leviticus 23:22 came to mind: “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.'” This kind woman, mostly a stranger to me, had chosen to leave the edges of her time available to give away freely, and I was gleaning great blessings because of it.

I have never forgotten that night. For several years, in pharmacy school out of state with three, then four babies to provide for, there was little left at the corners of our family’s “fields.” Little time, money, energy. And yet I longed to offer what I could, and what I had to offer was my home. A new acquaintance, married to an alcoholic and mother of four small children, could come to our house for a slight reprieve to drink tea while her children played with mine. A friend going through great personal hardships could come over to cuddle babies (sweet smelling babies are good for the soul, and we had plenty to go around). A stay-at-home mother who needed to go to a doctor’s appointment knew she could bring her children to my house to be cared for while she was gone. All of these were small bits of offerings, but they were all I had to give, so I gave them freely and cheerfully.

Our children grew and we began to homeschool, and I discovered, to my great delight, that this flexible lifestyle allows us to continue to live an interruptible life, open to the many opportunities God sends us to bless others. We can adjust our plans easily to allow us to focus on the people around us. When we aren’t tied down to a strict schedule, we are free to open our home to those who need a place to rest, free to pack up and visit those who are sick or struggling, free to be available mentally, emotionally, and physically when God clearly sets people in front of us who need Him.

Educating our children at home may offer us the gift of freedom, but it’s all too easy to enslave ourselves to other pursuits, losing those precious “edges” so that once again we’re left with nothing to give. Sports, music, dance, theater, co-ops and tutorials- there are so many good things that we can be tempted to pursue, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll find ourselves reaping all the way to the very “corners of our fields,” viewing anyone who intrudes upon those pursuits as an interruption to our lives. I find myself evaluating and prioritizing the extras in my family’s life often, trying to make sure that they are not robbing us of being able to give to others.

No doubt you’ve heard it said that “Children are not an interruption to our work; they are our most important work.” I’m thrilled to also teach my children that people in need are not an interruption to our lives; they are the reason that God blesses us with His spiritual gifts.

Our days include reading and writing and math and art and music and field trips and loads of other fun things, but I hope that none of it ever overshadows the pouring out of love onto the people God brings to us who so desperately need Him. Our life is His, and so whoever He chooses to bring into it could never truly be an interruption. Some days can be hard, but I’m grateful that homeschooling allows us this great freedom to love others with not only the edges, but the entirety of our days.

– Katie

Finding My Tribe – Perspectives of a First Generation Homeschooler

15941230_10103909128861605_3809756327423390882_nI was traditionally educated my whole life. I went through public school, to college, and on to law school with success. Homeschooling was not something I was even aware of until 5th grade, when the local homeschooled kids came in to do state testing with us. Homeschooling was not originally a consideration for my family for many reasons.

When my boys came along, I initially didn’t even think about school, but with my oldest having special needs, my focus was quickly shifted that direction. By age two, I was in discussions with our local school system about what I planned to do with him and his education, because in our state, kids with special needs are allowed to enter the school system at age three to get the extra help and services they might need.

Homeschooling had crossed my mind, but wasn’t something I had fully taken hold of, and in fact, I didn’t fully accept that I was going to homeschool my kids until just months before I actually started to do so. Homeschooling scared me. I knew nothing to very little about it. I wasn’t sure I could do enough or be enough for my kids. I struggled so much with self-doubt that I talked myself out of homeschooling at least a dozen times. I thought of a million reasons why I shouldn’t homeschool.

Then came a voice of reason, a God-send, if you will. I met a lady at my church whose kids befriended mine, and low and behold, she homeschooled. She herself was also homeschooled. I looked up to her as a homeschool guru (and she is!) and took the opportunity of our newfound friendship to inundate her with my questions. For probably a year I would throw my questions at her, my self-doubts, and my lack of experience, and for a year, she had an answer for every question I asked.

When I finally bit the bullet so to speak and made the decision to homeschool, there was an instant feeling of relief… and panic. All my self-doubt was still there, yet maybe quieter. Just making the decision itself was a huge step, but figuring out what my next move would be was just as intimidating.

Enter Honeybee Christian Co-op. My homeschool guru friend had invited to me check out her co-op, and by all the bragging she did, I figured I had to at least take a look. The fact that it was special needs inclusive made me a bit giddy, to be honest.

I came to some initial interest meetings, met some of the moms, and realized that I had stumbled upon something special.  Really though, I think it was less stumbling and more a directed path. Our school year began and within weeks I began to see my children growing socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. I could also see myself growing. That voice of self-doubt began to shrink more and more. On days that I was down or stressed, I would reach out to other co-op mamas and they threw encouragement and support at me like confetti.

Within the first few months, I knew I had found my tribe. The kids were all so sweet and kind to my special needs oldest son. Early in the school year, I witnessed them trying to figure out who was going to help him to class one day. They all wanted to help! The moms were all amazing teachers, as well. My boys were getting amazing, quality lessons on top of time to socialize and make friends. Not only were the moms all amazing teachers, they are all amazing friends. I can’t even remember how many times in the last year that they have reminded me that I am enough for my kids. Our monthly “Mom’s Night Out” is always something I look forward to because, while the guacamole is great, the people I share it with are even better! Finding our tribe really was the best possible thing that happened to our family this school year.

We recently wrapped up our very first year of homeschooling and I must say, it was a huge success. Even more so than I expected. Homeschooling a child with significant disabilities and challenges seemed daunting, but knowing that I had the moms at Honeybee Christian Co-op standing behind me was the key that unlocked our door to success.  We could not have done it without the support and love that was showered on us through our co-op. Feeling encouraged, supported, and uplifted gave us momentum on the good days. Having someone to fall back on made the hard days bearable.

Coming from a public school experience and bringing my kids into a homeschool experience has been a huge shift for me. It has pushed me past my comfort zone in all the best ways. So, to any moms out there who are ready to begin homeschooling, my biggest piece of advice for you is this: Find your tribe. It will make all the difference!

– Lacey

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Spring Recap 2018

As an adult you take warm weather for granted… until it’s January or February and you have four small children trapped inside. You can’t play outside because it’s so frigidly cold. Parks are out. Indoor play places are nice, but usually crawling with some type of crazy flu germs, so you tend to stay away. Well for the McNeal crew, we have co-op to break the monotony of staring at our walls at home. Once a week we get to go enjoy time with friends and learn!

This spring semester was months of fun and new things for our co-op. We enjoyed new members, new classes, and new ways of doing things. We would like to think that we as a co-op are always open to suggestion and change, and that we will benefit from everyone’s ideas.

Our pre-k and nursery class stayed very similar to the fall for subject matter, but our older classes changed it up and got some new learning material.

With Mrs. Valerie, the boys and girls enjoyed a handicrafts class where they were able to learn about and practice skills like embroidery, clay molding, jewelry making, rock painting, soap carving, floral arranging, and many more!

The elementary aged kiddos also participated in a South America study with Mrs. Charity. They studied a new South American country each week, and every child prepared a presentation on a country of their choice. It was such a great opportunity for the kids to take some ownership of what they wanted to talk about and to start building their public speaking skills! On the last day of co-op the two elementary classes combined and cooked an entire Latin meal for all of co-op to enjoy! Here are some pictures of the fun they had!

The third class that was offered was an intro to science class. I came home hearing about chicken life cycles, how our digestive system works, and what vinegar and baking soda do when combined! Mrs. Sarah, their teacher, did a fantastic job even while being very pregnant! We’re thankful to have had willing moms to jump in when Sarah was gone on maternity leave.

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Pre-k had so much fun with Mrs. Lauren and Mrs. Katie. They learned about servanthood and washed each other’s feet. They learned about stars and made constellations with tooth picks and marshmallows, and they topped their great year off with some pretty popular visitors. Two of the MTSU Blue Raider basketball players were able to come read, play, and help out with an end of the year field day! I think the kids loved having these special visitors and especially enjoyed having extra adults to play with them! Below are some highlights from the preschool class this semester.

Mrs. Jessica and her helpers in the nursery class are amazing, to say the least. Teaching a class of students whose ages span three years, especially infants to 3.5 year olds, can be extremely challenging, but they took it in stride! With fun activities like acting like different types of animals each week, singing songs, adding in some arts and crafts when possible and lots of outside time in the warmer weather, the nursery kiddos were sure to have fun!

To watch children who started out as strangers at the beginning of the year leave co-op nine months later as the best of friends is more fulfilling than I could have imagined. We had a great spring semester this year and I can’t wait to see what next year holds!

-Melissa

 

Finding Community in Co-op

     One year ago, I was desperately searching for a community of people where my family could find friendship and fellowship. In spite of living in the area for nearly two years and attending every library story time we could, playing at the local parks, and meeting our neighbors, we had few friends in our new city. We were in a church but finding it very difficult to build relationships, and although we’re blessed to live in a homeschool-friendly county, we knew almost no one else who homeschooled. I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever find a place where we belonged when I stumbled across the open house flyer for a group called Honeybee Christian Co-op. It advertised fun enrichment classes, monthly moms’ nights, and even a nursery that would keep my young son a part of our homeschool experience. By all appearances, it was exactly the kind of place I’d been longing for. My husband and I talked about it and decided that we should definitely attend open house and just try it out.

      So almost exactly one year ago, I dropped my husband off at work and took my three daughters and son to test the waters of this seemingly too-good-to-be-true group of families. My outgoing daughters were eager to meet new friends, my son willingly toddled off toward the nursery, and I was a nervous wreck. It was almost like going on a first date. Would they like us? Would we like them? Could this be… the one? They turned out to be exactly what I had hoped to find: friendly, kind, and just crazy enough to handle our own family’s eccentricities. I’m not going to lie; that open house was a bit chaotic. But only a few minutes into the morning, I knew that we could belong here. Here were other moms who wanted to raise men and women that love Jesus and love one another above all. Here was a group of people eager to pour into each other’s lives and offer up their individual talents and interests for the sake of creating a unique experience for their children. And I wanted my family to be a part of that.

     We’re now getting close to the end of our first year at Honeybee, and I am so incredibly grateful for this community of friends.  My daughters have been in first grade this year, and thanks to co-op, have learned about the 50 states and their geography, creative writing, and Latin America. They had a great class that used Legos to solve problems and another filled with engaging science experiments. They’ve been introduced to a wide variety of handicrafts, enjoyed weekly P.E., and had the opportunity to research and present two projects each. My children have enjoyed fun playdates and gone on exciting field trips. I honestly can’t imagine a better first grade than what they’ve had between their co-op classes and what we’ve done at home. But the fun classes and great exposure to a variety of ideas and studies are not the best part of Honeybee.

      The best part of Honeybee Christian Co-op is the community it provides to its members. Relationships take time to build, but I count the moms in our co-op as my friends. I know they’ll pray for my family if I ask them to. I know they’ll kindly share their own experiences and ideas if I’m not sure how to handle a homeschooling/parenting difficulty. I know I can bounce my own ideas off of them. At this co-op, moms work together each week and play together on our monthly moms’ night out. Not only are my children making wonderful friends, but I am too.

     Another amazing benefit to being part of Honeybee is the fact that it’s special needs inclusive. You may wonder how that would benefit my family, since my own children don’t have special needs. But I have watched my children learn firsthand this year that people may look different and act differently and have different abilities, but that all people are created in the image of God and are therefore just like them in every way that matters. They have learned to simply accept others for who they are without question. Those kinds of lessons can be taught but never fully learned without experience. Trust me when I say that we have a great group of kids in our co-op. They learn from their teachers, but they also learn from each other.

     I can’t imagine not continuing as part of our co-op. We could homeschool without it, of course. But doing so would remove an incredibly valuable aspect of my  family’s life. I hope you consider coming to our open house on March 20. Our group may not end up being the right fit for your family, but who knows? You just might find the place where you belong.

Looking forward to meeting you,

Katie

Writing a Class for Co-Op

     I’m often talking about my co-op with other homeschoolers because besides being the
place you will find us every Tuesday morning of the school year, it’s also our “group.”;-)

     Our co-op means a lot to us:

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– It includes some of our closest local friends.
– It’s our immediate answer to “having a social life” to those random strangers that complain when your kids aren’t in school. 😉
– It gives my children a chance to learn about topics I’m not familiar or excited about from other teachers that are familiar AND excited about them! Win, win!!
– My kids have learned so many fun things in so many different ways because of our co-op.
– I have learned so many different teaching styles and ideas from watching other moms teach in our co-op!

     It’s not hard to sell our co-op until you get to the part where they have to teach a class to kids… that aren’t theirs. Then all of the sudden it’s “Impossible,” “I wouldn’t know
where to start,” or “I can’t speak in front of a classroom!”

     I truly can understand those sentiments, but as a homeschooler that gets to pick your own subject – and who already teaches kids (at home), it’s probably a lot simpler than you think.

     Let’s take this semester for example:
There are many different ways to make your class plan but I’ve found that this way works the best for me.

     I start by just brainstorming through my topic. This year my topic is United States
Geography, so I searched through my homeschool books for ones relating to that topic
(found 3), pulled out some American history books for famous figures from different
states, and went by the local homeschool consignment store to find a great book on the
states for just $10. So I sat down with all my books sprawled out around me, fingered
through them, and then just hashed out a ton of ideas on paper – how to approach the
states, what kind of games and crafts I want to do, how to incorporate learning the
states/capitals, and basically how I want each day of class to look like. I’m a planner so I like having an over all plan of what we do each day. Once I knew what my goal was for the kindergarteners to learn this year – a basic idea of states and where they are – I could come up with my plan of making it fun and interesting every Tuesday. Then once I came up with my overall “day-plan,” I could go through state by state and decide what I wanted to cover.

     Here’s the schedule I ended up with for my kindergarten class for the first week:
Week 1: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont

15 minutes- Begin the lesson with states puzzle: Have children put together states puzzle while playing the “Eastern Border” song. Then go through the song together while pointing to the map.

     I have learned through the past 2 years of teaching at our co-op that I always should have a couple of extra things to do in case we get through the class too fast, and also that I should always be ready to skip a few things to stop to focus on something that the class ends up getting really interested in. In other words, plan for your plan to fail some days. 😉

     Having such small classes of under ten students lets me take advantage of the fact that I am not teaching them their core subjects, so we can use these classes to just stop and have fun learning for the sake of learning.

     Then again, isn’t that why we home school anyway?

– Charity