Sabbath Preparation Thoughts

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“Order and cleanliness is the law of heaven; and in order to come into harmony with the divine arrangement, it is our duty to be neat and tidy,” AH 254 (4T, pp143).

Many people are blessed with the gift of being organized and/or being able to keep things clean. I was not one of them. I believe that the ability to organize efficiently is a gift, and some people have it and some don’t, but it is something that can be learned — remembering that the way you may clean or organize may be different from someone else.

I have struggled with statements like this because I know how far I am from it. As a young mother, I would try, but nothing helped. I read many books, but somehow, I couldn’t make their ideas work either. I got tired of not being ready for the Sabbath when it came. I started praying about it. I should have done this to start with, but did not realize the problem it was. I started trying to do more on Thursday, except it seemed that when I’d mop the floor, that’s when everybody would spill on it, so it would have to be done over. Looking at what needed to be done and what could be done in advance without getting messy again, some things — like washing Sabbath clothes and cooking lunch — have worked well for us. Now, I always cook on Thursday. I put hot dishes in the crockpot/slow cooker, and they are fine on Sabbath. You just have to plug it in and the work is done.

When my girls were young, Sabbath preparation was the school work for Fridays. We stayed home and cleaned the house. We didn’t do any school books. Their school for the day was cleaning. To help them clean their room(s) faster, I’d put on a record or tape (yes, it was that long ago), and they’d have one side or, if the room was extra messy, both sides of the record/tape, to get it cleaned. They enjoyed the music while they worked, better than a timer. (A record was about 15-20 minutes on a side). This made the job more fun. Now, you would have to figure out how to play however many songs you wanted for the time limit. I also gave them more time than it would take me to get the job done. When they were able to do the jobs on their own, I wrote out the Friday jobs and put them in a basket, and we would draw for the chores. Adding things like choosing music gave something fun as a “chore.” They would also fold and put away their own clothes from as soon as they could do it, about two to three years old. No, it didn’t look as neat as when I did it, but they were able to be responsible for their things. They learned to sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, and other chores.

For those with little ones, they need to have things to do as well. They like to “help” vacuum, sweep, and mop. Let them do what they can in their strength. You can get them small brooms or mops, but let them use the big ones as well, maybe even as you’re using it. You are teaching them that their help is important also.

My suggestions for Sabbath preparations:

  1. Recognize if you have a need.
  2. Pray about it. I have prayed about it for many years and continue to do so. I start early in the week to be ready. Even without little ones at home, I still struggled with it.
  3. Try something for a while, and if it doesn’t work for you, pray some more and try a different way.
  4. None of us has the answer for someone else, but sharing ideas of what worked for you may help someone else. If something works well for you, leave it in the comments.
  5. Be encouraged with even little steps. We all start somewhere.
  6. Organize and clean the way you want it. Don’t try to meet someone else’s standards.

Just What Does She Need to Know, Anyway? — Life Skills for Homeschoolers , Pt 2

 

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One of the questions new homeschoolers worry about is whether their child is learning what they need to know. It’s relatively easy when a parent considers the “neuro-typical” child who learns easily using the standard left-brain methods of teaching. When a child has some special challenges, then the question becomes more important.

I always remind parents that one of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can teach subjects when our child is ready, not when the public schools dictate that it should be taught. One thing about public school is that they cover only a tiny bit of information a year. Then they repeat it with a little more added the next year. With homeschooling, a parent may elect to wait until their child shows signs of being ready for the information, and then cover it completely. No need of repeating it year after year, adding just a tiny bit more information.

What happens when your child has some real challenges and just isn’t learning everything they need to learn? Maybe they are not able to diagram sentences or do long division. Maybe their skills are in other areas rather than math or grammar. Do we continue pushing the information, causing frustration and maybe anger/resentment? Just what do they need to know?

I will give you an example. My son has dysgraphia and dyscalculia. I would try and try to teach some of the higher math concepts, but it just wasn’t sticking in his brain. Instead, he would feel frustrated and stupid. He wasn’t stupid. He just had trouble with math. When he reached his teen years, I sat down and asked myself, “What skills do I want him to know when he is ready to move out on his own?”

He needs to be able to manage a checkbook, figure out basic percentages (sales and tithes), create a menu, cook basic meals, keep house (laundry, repairs, outside care, car care, etc), communicate effectively, get along with people, know what he believes and why, have an attitude of helping others, and read/understand written information. These are the basics. It really breaks down into the “three R’s.” Everything else is gravy. This same son who has trouble with math can discuss current world events and connect them to past history as to cause and effect. He can discuss animals of all kinds and what their breeding patterns are. Just because a child has trouble in one area doesn’t mean s/he is not intelligent. What I decided to do was to teach a business math course. It covered the basic life skills an adult needs to run a household. I also taught him where to find the information he needs when he has a question.

Yes, it would be nice if all children could learn the same body of information with no problems at all. Yet, an increasing number of children have learning challenges. When it comes to what’s the most important, a parent may need to adapt their learning plan.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we know that time is getting short. Some of the old standards of what is needed to know to be successful as an adult are changing. Instead of being able to do calculus or chemistry, it might be more important to know how to grow a garden and preserve the food. It might be extremely important to learn what wild edibles are around us and how to use them as food and medicine. What about skills like sewing clothes or small engine repair?

These are old skills that have been mainly forgotten by the general society. Books like Readers’ Digest Back to Basics acts as a great textbook on old-fashioned skills. Curriculum like Prepare & Pray emphasize skills like this. Another book that offers sources of information is the Boy Scout Manual/Field Manual. The Pathfinder Honor manuals also provide a wealth of information. Grandparents will be a great resource in teaching the younger ones how to live simply.

We are to occupy until He comes. Yet, when there are challenges, instead of becoming overwhelmed and filled with despair about what your child cannot do, focus instead on what’s most important as we enter into the last days of earth’s history — character development and living simply while depending daily on God.

Early Language and Literacy

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When I started homeschooling years ago, I was so excited! I had all of these plans and ideas for my enthusiastic preschoolers! I was going to teach them to read, and was sure they were going to be proficient by four years of age! Why? Because that was what was supposed to happen, right? If my children weren’t recognizing their letters and numbers and reading early, then I was failing, right? But, in my urgent quest to teach my littles to “read,” I found frustration instead. Rather than my sweet children finding excitement in books, they began to want nothing to do with them. So, I learned from my mistake and completely revamped my early literacy approach.

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Literacy doesn’t have to start with formal instruction in reading and writing. Children can experience early literacy in many different ways. They can be initiated by other people or the child, in a work-like or playful manner. These early literacy experiences can include a child pretending to read and write stories, learning how to sound out and write their name, or listening to a story being read aloud. The diversity of these experiences suggests that there are many ways a child can make connections with reading and writing.

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One of the best things you can do to help your children grow in language and literacy is to read books to them. Choose books and activities that connect with what your child is interested in. This might include seasonal themes, family, community, animals, and other things that they show interest in. By reading different genres of books, you can introduce children to many styles and types of writing. As you read them stories, ask questions, include story props, and have them retell or act out part of the story. This helps improve comprehension skills.

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How can we make stories even more exciting and meaningful? You can simply read a story to children, and they will probably enjoy it. Our goal is to not just read a story, but to weave an adventure, to stir emotions and create conversation. A story presented in a manner as to invite inquiry and excitement will be so much more meaningful for the children.

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In reading a story aloud, it is much more fun to include a tangible prop along with the story. If done correctly it really opens up the door for a more creative experience that a child will remember! It also provides an avenue for an in-depth learning experience because it makes you think about how to apply the story to other areas in academics and life.  When providing a prop, you can use it to enhance a topic that you’re are already interested in, to guide a topic into varying avenues, or to simply retain focus and attention. And guess what? Adding provocations to a story enhances the meaningfulness and fun. Children need tangible hands-on experiences in order to connect what they are hearing, seeing, and doing. By making these connections children are able to then apply their knowledge to new learning opportunities and to their life as they grow.

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One of my favorite memories is sitting cuddled on the couch while I read aloud a story to them. This is still something I do daily with my children, even though my older two are in middle school. Don’t worry if your child is not reading early, and don’t rush them. It will come with time, and in the meantime you will be building memories that will stay with them for a lifetime.

 

 

Two Sparrows, Two Dogs

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care,” Matthew 10:29.

This verse has been on my mind much lately. As a family, we suffered a great loss on August 27 when our 12-year-old Belgian Malinois mix, Nikki, died.

To understand this loss and the beauty of processes that God takes us through, I have to back up more than 30 years and start with the loss of another pet. That loss was of a much younger dog that died under much different circumstances.

Schotsi and I running wild!

The day after Thanksgiving, 1983, I had just turned 15 years old. I’d had Schotsi, a German shepherd mix, for not quite two years old and she was my baby. She was my dog, not a family dog. We were cohorts in crime and general makers of mischief.

That morning in 1983 a woman named Sandy, a good friend of my mom’s, called the house asking if it was okay if Schotsi went with her and her dog to a nearby reservoir to blow off steam. Her dog, Schweigert, was Schotsi’s age, and what with their names and all, they were destined to be besties.

I eagerly agreed since I’d largely ignored her for the week leading up to Thanksgiving; I knew that she’d have a blast and get some much needed exercise.

My favorite picture of her!

Several hours later, there was a knock on the door that I was completely unaware of. My mom must have answered. It must have been Sandy. Shattered.

The first clue I had that something was wrong was when Mom came back in the house quietly and told me that Schotsti had been hit by a car. Oddly, although they knew it immediately, Mom didn’t share the truth of the situation. All I was told was that she’d been hit. It left me with hope that she’d be okay.

What Mom and Dad were learning while I got on the phone to call a friend for emotional support was that Sandy had finished letting the dogs run outside town, and then loaded them up into her truck. Heading back into town, they were still brimming with energy so she made the fateful decision to stop at another park to let them run some more.

To get to this park, she had to make a left turn onto a side street, and as she stopped to let traffic go by, Schotsi jumped out of the truck and ran in front of a car. She’d died instantly.

The next several minutes of my ignorance are blurry. I have vague memories of walking out of a room, still on the phone, and seeing Mom’s face downcast, her shaking her head slightly. I remember losing it, sobbing hysterically. And then I remember my mom saying, “Nicolle, Sandy is about to come in and she’s a mess. She can’t see you crying like this. She feels awful already and I’m afraid of how she’ll feel.”

And so I took a deep breath, wiped my eyes, and stopped crying. I comforted Sandy when she finally came in the house; she and Dad had been taking care of Schotsi’s body.

I never got to see my puppy, never got to say goodbye. My well-intentioned parents recommended that I remember her as she was and not go out to see her. I don’t know how badly she was banged up. I just know that my parents loved me and I had to trust that she was in bad shape.

Thus began a pathological reaction in me surrounding death and dogs. Injured dogs. Hurting dogs. I couldn’t deal with it.

I remember driving with my mom a couple of years later; she worked next to the school I attended, so I rode to school with her. Suddenly a coyote ran out of a field and into oncoming traffic. I threw my hands in front of my face and screamed! I sobbed hysterically the rest of the half-hour drive, and it took almost that much more time for my utterly bewildered mother to calm me down enough for me to get out of the car.

That’s how it stood for almost three decades. We had two other dogs for a short time, but I had no emotional attachment to them. As it turned out, they weren’t ours to stay. They went on to other homes to live out their lives.

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The newest member of the Walters family!

…Until 2009 when Nikki came to our family. She was a dog we were fostering for some friends, and after several months they told us that we could have her, if we wanted her. As a family, the decision was made to adopt her. She was six years old.

Around the time she turned nine or ten, I began to panic quietly inside my head. I never said anything to anyone, but I realized that she was going to stay with us and that she was going to die. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t handle it.

I started having weird, irrational thoughts like, “I’ve got to find someone who will take her!”

But, it was more like, “IVEGOTTOFINDSOMEONEWHOWILLTAKEHER!!!”

And, “Who will take such an old dog?” “What if I offer to pay all end-of-life expenses!”

Finally, “We never should have fostered her, let alone adopted her, in the first place.”

Enjoying a camping trip

Enjoying a camping trip

If you noticed that Schotsi and Nikki resemble each other somewhat, you aren’t wrong. They had very similar size and builds, similar coloring, same sweet faces. The ears were totally different, but then Schotsi was still a puppy at just around two years old. It’s possible her ears would have perked up more like Nikki’s.

Needless to say, I was a mess. There was no getting out of this. Every time I looked at Nikki I felt this sick feeling.

And then one Friday night, I got a call that no one wants to get. A friend was sobbing incoherently on the other end of the line babbling something about “Rocky” and “dead” and “Dany and Lori” and “Florida.”

She was watching our pastor’s animals while he and his family were on a two-week vacation to Florida. Somehow Rocky, their dog, had gotten out of the house and run into the street, getting hit and killed by a car.

Without a second thought, I told Jamie to text me the address; I’d be right there.

After I plugged in the address on the GPS and headed the car in that direction, I started freaking out. WHAT?!?! Was I DOING?!?! I don’t DO dead dogs!!

And yet, I couldn’t let Jamie deal with this all by herself!

So I drove there as quickly as I could, with my 14-year-old son in the van with me. We’d been at the church for band practice, and there was no time for me to drive the 30 minutes north to home, then head back an hour south. Having him there made it even worse!

And yet!! And yet…better. Because I couldn’t freak out. I couldn’t sob or scream or talk myself into a lather.

I won’t go into detail about the hour spent with Jamie dealing with what there was to do. But, I will tell you this. Once again, I couldn’t break down or do anything about my feelings, because Jamie was overwrought. She needed me to be strong. She needed me to hug her and tell her that Lori still loved her. She needed me not to fall apart ugly crying.

At one point, I felt compelled to go over to Rocky’s body to address something. Hesitating, I reached out and touched him. And then I stroked his head. I sat there next to him on the ground and had absolutely no idea that a miracle was taking place.

It wasn’t until I was telling someone about the incident in the days following that it hit me like a thunderclap: in that moment, I had closure with the puppy that I’d never seen or touched in death by touching and petting a dog I didn’t really even know. Because I couldn’t allow my out-of-control emotions to run wild, I just simply stood in the face of it — God, orchestrating everything, standing there with me saying, “Just be. Just heal.”

And in the week after, I looked deep inside myself and realized that the panic about Nikki was gone. I knew that her death would be sad — would be awful for my kids who adored her — because I loved her too. But, I knew that I was okay.

It was gone.

When I left home the afternoon of August 27, Nikki was her usual self — walking stiffly because of her replaced hips, but otherwise her dignified self.

By 8:45 p.m. she was unable to walk or even sit. Being out of town, I didn’t get home until after 10 p.m., but my husband texted, then called me, around 9 p.m. I had the task of calling my good friend, Nikki’s other mom, to let her know what was going on.

In that moment — again a beautiful gift straight from the hands of God to my heart — I understood my mom who counseled her grieving daughter to stop so as not to hurt a friend.

That had always completely mystified me! My mom is an amazing mom! Not always in touch with her softer emotions, but still a very loving woman! WHYYYYYY…did she handle things that way?

As I dialed the phone, having to think about my friend’s feelings, pondering the timing of letting her know…what if this was a false alarm? I hadn’t seen Nikki’s condition yet and only had the observation of my husband. Might he not be overreacting? Even worse…what if he was right and I didn’t let her know in time?

It’s like God whispered in my ear, “Your mom didn’t know what to do about her friend either. She thought you would have plenty of time to be sad and grieve. It never occurred to her that you just wouldn’t — and would pay for it for such a large portion of your life.”

Process number two had gently produced healing in another wounded part of me.

The last hours of Nikki’s life were uneventful in that she wasn’t in pain. And yet, it was profoundly sad. She spent a restless night with my husband sleeping next to her on the floor, Jeannie — her other mom — on the couch, and me upstairs in bed.

Early the next morning, I woke hearing Jeannie and Whitney’s voices. I went rushing downstairs to find Nikki still alive but even weaker.

We had another hour to wait until the vet’s office opened, and so Jeannie, Whitney, and I just sat around Nikki, petting and loving on her. My heart battled with my head as to when to wake the kids up. I wanted them to be involved, but not to watch her struggle to breathe, helpless, as we were doing as the seconds ticked slowly by.

Suddenly, I recognized a very subtle change. I got up quickly to wake up the kids.

It was too late.

I hadn’t even gotten to the first child’s bedside when I heard Whitney say my name. I came out of the room and looked back down the stairs to see Whitney looking up at me, telling me Nikki was gone.

I immediately went into the different rooms, gently telling the kids that Nikki had just died, but that they could go say goodbye if they wanted. They all went quietly down the stairs to gather around our precious pet.

We sat together, a miserable little group, and cried. And told Nikki stories. And laughed.

At the appointed time, we wrapped Nikki’s body in a sheet to take to her to the vet, and caravanned the 30-minute drive to the office. The office staff directed us to an exam room, told us to put her in it, and then take ALL the time we needed to say goodbye.

We were there probably another hour or so … standing this time. Crying. Telling stories. Laughing. Grieving. Healing. Saying goodbye.

I knew that I wouldn’t be the one to tell the kids it was time to leave. I knew they’d make the decision. I just waited.

It was Ethan, sobbing like his heart would break, who finally wrapped the sheet back over her and started the leaving-her-there moment. I wrapped my arms around my oldest daughter, also weeping, and told her that it would never feel okay to leave Nikki here. And yet, we had to.

What a desperately sad day. And yet, I tell you this story to praise my Jesus for so many things! I just want to tell you that I don’t know what you’re dealing with in your life. I don’t know the holes or the phobias. What I know is that He has you in a process all your own. It won’t always be comfortable. Or pretty. But He will heal your wounded, even hidden, places.

And so in closing I just want to say what I am thankful for:

I am thankful that my children have come through this with a healthy understanding of death and grieving.

I’m thankful that I didn’t have to make the decision to put Nikki to sleep (another dread thought of mine even after God gave me peace).

I’m thankful that Nikki didn’t die in a vet’s office — even our vet whom I adore! She just simply hated veterinarians. With a passion. Instead she died at home with those she loved gathered around her with gentle touches.

I’m glad that she failed quickly and didn’t go downhill slowly, losing her ability to walk well before her heart gave out! As I mentioned she’d had both hips replaced before we got her, and she was getting slower and slower going up the stairs.

We’d even discussed blocking the stairs and not letting her go up to our bedroom to sleep. I think that would have broken that big ole’ heart of hers.

And, most of all I am so thankful that she shared our lives for the last six years of her life. I feel so honored and blessed that we were given the opportunity to adopt her, and I’m thankful that her first Mom was still part of her life … and that she was able to be there at the end.

As a bonus gift, it had worked out that she’d watched Nikki for us during my son’s recent wedding. She’d had a family reunion that weekend (I hadn’t known or else wouldn’t have even dared ask, let alone ask at the very last minute like I did), and so Nikki got to go and see everyone in her first family for the last time!

I know deep in my heart of hearts that this was no accident. No coincidence. The timing and all the details surrounding that last weekend were divinely aligned.

Rest in peace, Nikki dog. We’ll see you again under the chocolate tree.

Siblings as Teachers

I’ve been asked how I teach multiple grade levels to our family. The short answer is, “It just happens.”  In reality, I have had to get creative at times, but most of the time, it has just seemed to work out.

J & B study 1It was a bit more difficult when our older children were schooling and I had a baby or two that needed attention. Some of those days, educational videos or reading circles substituted well. Sometimes the children just worked on their own. And sometimes, to be honest, we just muddled through.

The best part about those times was the talent that emerged from our children themselves, that of working together, helping each other, and even teaching each other.

J & B study 2Josh is taking a few minutes at this time to help Bethany with algebra. Watching my son work through an algebra concept with his sister is reminiscent of the many times that our children have helped each other with school work, home skills, and life skills.

I could have given her the direct instruction myself, but allowing them to interact with one another and learn to teach one another is a skill that will help them throughout life. Our firstborn has had plenty of opportunities to teach his younger siblings, and continues to teach them. But, each child needs that chance. I often step back and allow that learning to happen, watching with awe as each willingly participates.

When one of our older sons needed to discuss college algebra and calculus, he found help from his younger brother who loved mathematics and has taught himself several years ahead of his actual grade. The interaction of the two boys, one seven years older than the other, was more akin to two of similar ages studying together as they discussed the formulas and means of completing the problems.

At other times, the interactions might include our teen daughters learning together, the slightly older one guiding the younger ones in learning skills she has mastered. She helps them with school work, homemaking skills, and the occasional art lesson.

History is often a hearty discussion led by our oldest son, a history buff with a gift of teaching. He makes history fun and engaging, more of a story than the “names, dates, places” that so many texts contain. By combining history and geography with many social ideologies, he has taught our younger children a full scope well beyond their years, without them being aware it was school time!

When one son needed a little help with college chemistry and physics, he called upon his older brother. He knew that no one could provide a better tutoring session in those subjects than his older brother.

While I am still the teacher and guide the daily school and home, I find it quite fascinating and helpful, to both the children and myself, that they are so able and willing to help one another. They enjoy being together, helping one another, and sharing what they have learned with one another. That interaction and love of family togetherness is one of my favorite aspects of the homeschool lifestyle!