The Perfect Cemetery by Ashlyn

March 26th, 2015

I wake up to the sound of screaming. It is about five o’clock in the morning, and the sun has not yet risen above my town, Eastleigh. As I scramble out of bed, I hear the sound of a gunshot just down the corridor of my house. Hiding in the shadows, I grab my robe and inch down the hallway in the direction of the screaming. I can feel my heart throbbing in my body like the steady drums of war. When I reach the location of the screaming, my parents’ bedroom, I hear sobbing escaping from my mother. I peer into the room and see something I would have never dreamed of seeing. On the floor in the center of the dark room lies my father, wallowing in blood. My mother is clutching my three-year-old sister, Margaret, while leaning over my father. When I run to his side, I see that he is not dead, but close to death. I can see that the bullet from the pistol is still embedded in his body. I look up and see a broken window behind my mother.

Between sobs, my mother whispers, “It was one of the people who hate your father. He ran away as soon as he shot him.”

I nod in reply. Because my father is a member of the British Parliament, many people either support him or detest him. He has been threatened before, but no one has ever succeeded in harming him to this degree. Presently, my father regains consciousness. His eyelids flutter open and when he attempts to move, he almost falls back into unconsciousness.

He coughs, and as blood splatters my face, I hear him force a whisper, “Rosina – find secret message in wall.” He coughs again and, with much effort, manages a few last words, “Take ticket. Go on ship. Give message to….” I can feel his body trembling with agony and pain when he continues, “Give it to George Watson. Meet at 1:35 a.m. on April 15 on starboard side of ship.”

“I will do it, father,” I whisper in a trembling voice.

“I love you all. Watch out for…”

Breath collapses from his mouth. Those are his last words. I will never know the rest. I feel a hot tear trickle down my cheek. My mother is sobbing uncontrollably while holding Margaret, who is crying loudly. I walk over to a picture frame on the wall. Although I’ve never actually taken the picture frame off the wall, I know that the hidden message is located there because a couple of years ago I saw my father hide a document there. As I take off the frame, I wonder what I will find. I have always been a mischievous individual, always eavesdropping, always spying. As a result, I probably know more than I’m supposed to know.

Breath collapses from his mouth. Those are his last words. I will never know the rest. I feel a hot tear trickle down my cheek. My mother is sobbing uncontrollably while holding Margaret, who is crying loudly. I walk over to a picture frame on the wall. Although I’ve never actually taken the picture frame off the wall, I know that the hidden message is located there because a couple of years ago I saw my father hide a document there. As I take off the frame, I wonder what I will find. I have always been a mischievous individual, always eavesdropping, always spying. As a result, I probably know more than I’m supposed to know.

The shadows in the room seem to whisper their eerie song. I gingerly remove the frame, and as I peer inside I see a single letter, addressed to George Watson. I also find a ticket. George Watson is a family friend, but he moved to France five years ago. I hope I can remember him when I see him.

My mother scatters my clenched thoughts as she says, “Rosina, today is April 10. The ship departs today.”

Her shaking voice carries across the room. I brush my dark hair out of my tear stained face and look around. Dawn is beginning to crawl across the face of England. Birds are beginning to sing their morning song. I look down at the ticket. I will be boarding first class on the Titanic.

The next couple of hours are a blur. The grief of the loss of my father is intertwined with the anxiety of the voyage later today. I have never been to America which is the destination of the Titanic. Once I get there I am supposed to stay with my Great Aunt whom I have never met. Over and over again, my blue eyes fill with tears from memories of my father. Anger begins to simmer in my heart for the man who killed him. I try to throw it over my shoulder, but it is to no avail. It only keeps rising. Soon it will be boiling. Then it will explode. The miniscule pieces of my wrath will fly around like ashes, burning anything they can find. They might even devour my life if I cannot gain control of them.

I recall a time when I became infuriated at a group of bullies in my school a couple of years ago. My anger got control of me, and I was expelled from school for a short period of time. When I arrived home, I could barely look at my parents because of the shame I felt. Instead of scolding me, however, my father calmly comforted me and helped me understand how to control my anger. As I brush away a tear from my tired face, I try to calm myself.

My thoughts are scattered when my mother says, “It’s time for you to go, Rosina.”

About an hour later I find myself staring at the massive Titanic. The ship sets sail tonight from Southampton, England. As I draw near to the ship’s entrance, I find myself wondering how the voyage will go. At last I enter, and as I step into the ship, I see many wonderful sights. There are glowing faces around me; they, too, are just waiting to cast off. Standing in awe of my surroundings, I slowly begin to wander off to explore different parts of the ship. I find myself walking towards the third-class section on the ship. Although it is not as grand as the first or second class, it is still a sight to see. I also see many parents with their children running about, excited to begin the journey to America.

As I arrive at the first-class section of the deck, I hear the captain announce that departure to France will begin in ten minutes. He continues to announce that tomorrow we will arrive in Ireland. That is the last I hear him say because my thoughts drift to what I believe my father would say about this trip.

Suddenly, I feel a jerking sensation. Then I realize we have taken off. I look over the railing to see the town of Southampton slowly drift away. Suddenly the ship begins violently rocking! Another smaller ship is flying towards the Titanic. The captain orders the engines to be set to full-astern. We narrowly miss a head on collision. All around me people are screaming, from those as small as children to as large as grown men. By the time we reach the English Channel the ship is under control.

As I walk toward my stateroom, I remember that this is not just a vacation for me. I must fulfill my father’s dying wish, and that means finding George Watson at the appointed hour. Sitting on my bed, I pull the envelope out of my valise and look at it. Could something so small and seemingly insignificant really be that important? Is this the reason my father was murdered, and, if so, why is it important enough that he would risk his life for it? Quietly, I muse over my father’s life, thinking of anyone I know of who would have wanted to hurt him. Since there are none I can recall, I then turn my thoughts to Mr. Watson. I feel I should have noticed if he had boarded the ship with me, but I haven’t seen the man anywhere. Perhaps, given a day or two, I can track him down – or perhaps he’ll be boarding in France or Ireland instead. In any case, I might as well bide my time until the 15th, and then arrive at the port side, early on the morning of the 15th.

Looking down at the letter in my hands, I feel tempted to open it and read it for myself, but then I think about how my father always taught me that reading another’s mail was disrespectful. How disappointed he should be if I were to break that rule now, so soon after his death! The thought sobers me.

The next morning I wake up early. I eat a quick breakfast so I can explore the ship more. After checking my pocket for the letter, I wander towards the captain’s headquarters. As I near the bow of the ship, a man, wearing a long overcoat, quickly walks towards me. I also begin walking rapidly, for I do not want to be asked any questions at this time. Despite my worries, he still approaches. When he reaches me, I study his face. It is rather dark and it makes me feel uncomfortable. He looks almost like a sly fox, and I decide to run. Unfortunately he grabs my arm and pulls me back. His clutch his almost unbearable, and his eyes grip me. My heart begins beating rapidly and my mind begins analyzing him.

I struggle with him while he says, “What do you have in your pocket, little girl?”

I say nothing and his grip tightens.

“Give it to me!” he growls through clenched teeth.

“What are you talking about? I have nothing!” I yell.

I feel like a trapped rabbit. My eyes dart from his face to my surroundings, attempting to penetrate his gaze. I thrash violently at his arms, but I know my efforts are to no avail. I think he can sense my fear. Then I spot an officer walking not too far from where I stand.

“Help! Help -” my words are muffled by the man.

The officer rushes over and forces the man away from me with a gun. The man darts to another section of the ship and another officer chases after him. I hope he catches him; I don’t want any more trouble with him.

“You need any more assistance?” the first officer inquires, helping me to my feet.

“Thank you,” I quavered as I shook my head in reply.

I briskly run away, for I do not want any questioning.

As I run, I hear the officer yell, “Wait! I need…”

I don’t stay long enough to hear the rest.

The next few days are relatively uneventful, although I do visit the ship’s swimming pool and gymnasium. The swimming pool room has a large, rectangular pool in the center of the room. The water in the pool is heated, and I have never swam in a heated swimming pool before. It is feels as though I am swimming in a bed of silk threads. When I step out of the water the threads slip off my skin like a coin slips into the ocean.

I also pay a visit to the gymnasium. Although it costs a shilling to enter, it is most definitely worth that price. Inside there is an electric camel and horse. In addition, there are cycling machines and a rowing machine. I have never experienced anything like this before. The machines almost take my breath away as I stand next to them, watching others use them.

Later that evening I visit the Turkish baths. However, it costs 4 shilling to enter, and since I don’t have an abundance of money, I decide to save it for America. As I walk back to my room I recall the events of yesterday with the mysterious man. I haven’t seen him since, and I hope the officers have captured him. Then my thoughts wander to the secret message. How I wish I could open it! The temptation grows steadily every day, and I am afraid it will become too strong for me to bear. Before I know it I find my hand inching closer and closer to the letter, located in my valise. However, my common sense slowly defeats my soul’s desire. I jerk my hand away from it, and remind myself, for what seems like the one millionth time, that I cannot open the secret message. I walk over to the edge of the ship, trying to distract myself with the tranquil ocean. As it bounces off the side of the ship I wonder how my mother and Margaret are faring. I feel a stab of regret for leaving them, so soon after my father’s death, but I still feel that I made the right choice. After all, it was my father’s dying wish.

The next day I notice the temperature has dropped rather drastically. Although everyone else aboard seems at ease, enjoying the countless luxuries, waves of restlessness surge through my body. At times I catch my body stiffening, and I attempt to brush off any of my doubts or fears. I do not know why I am not at ease, but it is as though a stream of warning trickles through my veins. I am more alert than usual, and I continue to sneak a look behind my shoulder. Perhaps I am looking for the fox-like man? Or maybe something else, something unseen?

Later that evening I decide to walk around the ship’s deck to relieve myself of my uncouth thoughts and emotions. As I near the officers headquarters I hear voices leaking out of the open window. Nonchalantly, I saunter up to the window, and try to hear the men’s conversation.

“Captain, we just received yet another ice report from the Baltic, and the waves are growing pretty tall. Shouldn’t we at least slow her down?”

“We have to stay on schedule, so we can’t slow her down. Plus, on a clear day like today, we’ll be able to spot icebergs in plenty of time. She won’t go down from a little ice. But send the lookouts to the Bridge anyway,” the captain replied.

As their voices fade away, I begin wondering if the icebergs were the cause of my unusual restlessness. I try to reassure myself that the captain has had much experience and he must be trustworthy. However, the temperature has dropped, and the waves do appear to be around eight feet tall. I can almost feel their fury, boiling deep down in the darkest depths of the ocean. The wind is also growing steadily, and I can hear its cold whispers, seemingly of warning. But I shrug it off. After all, this ship is supposed to be unsinkable.

At 10:00 pm I decide to take a walk on deck. Because I haven’t spotted Mr. Watson this whole journey, I am becoming increasingly worried. I need to give him the Ietter in just a few hours. I hope he will be in the appointed area, and I hope I can find him on this gigantic ocean liner. Is he even on the ship? Did he miss departure? Is he hiding for his well-being here? Did he decide to stay on land? And, if so, why? Walking over to the port side of the ship, I stare at the peaceful ocean. It is a major change in comparison with earlier today. The calm, rolling waves swing back and forth, from the ocean to the side of the ship. I look up and see the sky, a dark background decorated with brilliant points of light. It is as if someone scooped up thousands of stars, then scattered them to the ends of the galaxy. As I stare at them, they wink at me, sharing a miniscule part of their endless knowledge and incomprehensible secrets.

Although the scene is breathtaking, there is a heavy blanket of silence in the air. The sky is crouching, just waiting for something to arrive. The wind is holding its breath, and the moon is hiding behind her curtain of clouds. Even the stars, who seem so buoyant, are twinkling with an idea of something yet to come.

Since the time is now 11:00 pm, I decide to rest before meeting Mr. Watson at 1:35 am. I wonder why my father chose that time to meet with him. I catch myself worrying again that he may not be on the ship. Once again, I long to read the letter. Is the content so dangerous that I would be mentally paralyzed? Were my parents afraid that I might give the information to someone else? I know I would never do such a thing. Did they not trust me? This new idea gives me an even stronger desire to read it. What if the content is in code? I desperately want to find out. I must wait to open it at least until I am sure Mr. Watson is not on the ship. But the temptation still nags me…

At 11:30 I crawl out of my bed. I cannot sleep, so I will go up to the deck on the port side of the ship. I might as well wait for him there, rather than my stateroom. Once I reach the deck, I notice that a massive blanket of mist and fog has embraced the ocean. I peer over the edge of the deck and I see something dark, ominously moving closer and closer. Suddenly the ship vears to the far left, jerking me off my feet. When I regain balance, I see that the ship has hit an iceberg. Water is pouring into the opening below the deck. A chorus of screams strike my ears. People begin frantically running around, trying to find out if the hole in the ship will cause her to sink. I, too, desperately search for any news. Eventually, my ears catch someone saying that she is estimated to stay afloat for a little over an hour before sinking. I decide to wait a little before taking off in lifeboat, firstly, because I feel that I must at least try to meet Mr. Watson at the appointed time. Secondly, because of the mass of people, it is very difficult for me to get on a lifeboat.

At 12:45 the first lifeboat is launched. Chaos and confusion paralyzes almost everyone aboard. Although the sea is still calm, my surroundings make me feel like the whole world is violently spinning. Mothers clutch their children as fathers attempt to find an available lifeboat. Babies and young children are howling, while their mothers either sob as well or attempt to comfort them. Individuals scurry about, as crew members struggle to hold down some of the loose equipment. Trapped wide open, my eyes are rapidly studying any face they can find, searching in vain for Mr. Watson. My hands either clench the letter, or ring themselves out.

At 1:40 I still haven’t located Mr. Watson. I think I will wait five more minutes before I depart on a lifeboat. I hope there will still be a lifeboat. What if I never find him? What if he was never onboard? What will my mother say when she hears about this crisis? What if there are no lifeboats left for me? Countless questions swim in my head. I begin to feel dizzy with all of them.

I glance down at the crucial letter on my fingertips. After all I’ve gone through, this is the result? I just can’t wrap my mind around it all. The temptation to open the message is unbearable. Mr. Watson is not going to make an appearance. Why shouldn’t I open it? After all, my father did not specifically tell me to not open it in his dying words. Numbed with the bitter cold air, my hands begin unsealing the letter. Just as I pull it out of its envelope the wind rips it away from me and swiftly runs away with it! I race after it with a cry of dismay. As it drags me to a more isolated section of the ship, I bound past shadows, hiding in their holes. Finally, I catch it, mid-air, and my body heaves a sigh of relief. I won the race with the wind.

Although my heart is rejoicing, I notice irregular footsteps behind me. I whirl around and see a dark figure sprint up to me. I begin running, but he catches my sleeve.

When I scream for help he quickly yells over the noise, “Stop! I won’t hurt you!”

This quiets me only slightly, but then I begin to see his face. It doesn’t look sly or evil, like the fox-like man’s did, but distressed and tense. At the same time, he looks slightly familiar. Could he be George Watson?

“Are you Lawrence Blackburn’s daughter?” he inquires between my calls for help.

I stop yelling and ask, “Who are you?”

“I am George Watson,” he replies.

“Yes, I am,” I stop struggling and relief crashes upon my body.

“Praise the Lord!” he exclaims, “I must speak with your father immediately. Where is he?”

“He was murdered a couple of days ago. Is this what you are looking for?” I show him the letter.

Agonizing worry returns to his face as he replies in a soft voice, “I’m so sorry. Thank you for bringing the letter. Well done.” He glances at his watch and then exclaims, “Hurry to the lifeboat! The last one is just about to be launched!”

We both rapidly retrace our steps in just enough time to see the last lifeboat being launched.

“Wait! You still have room for two more passengers!” Mr. Watson desperately yells.

We sprint over to the boat, and I almost jump into it, when my skirt gets caught on a protruding bit of debris on the deck. Mr. Watson, already in the boat, wildly tries to rip my skirt off of it. Just as I am set free, a huge piece of the deck hurls down, almost crushing the lifeboat. Because it is balancing on a another piece of debris, about to drop onto the lifeboat, the people in it shake with fear and launch it. Mr. Watson’s arms are ripped away from mine, and I bound out of the way as the gigantic piece of debris crashes into the ocean below.

My spirits are crushed to the lowest level of life. My only door of escape has been yanked from my hands. I watch Mr. Watson, faced bathed in agony, trying to get the rowers to turn back. I know it is to no avail. This is the end of me. Several tears slip from my cheeks and bounce into the ocean below. I feel pain pierce my heart and hopelessness engulf my body. I drop to my knees with weakness.

While I watch a replay of my whole life, I think of all those back home I love. How will my mother accept this news? What would my father have said? What about my sister and my friends? I miss them immensely, and for the first time I seriously wish to be back in England.

Although I’m exceedingly sad that I’ll never see them again, I begin to see that I will be going to a better place. I find my strength returning to me, so I stand up. All around me, people hysterically try to save their lives. Multiple people have been crushed by falling parts of the ship. Many of them are jumping off the ship, hopeful that they will survive. Even if they do survive the fall, they will probably die from hypothermia very quickly afterwards.

My skin winces at the excruciatingly cold air. The ship’s bow is under water, and she’s starting to break in half. I know she will not last much longer. I glance down at the frosty blood on my fingers, while hanging on to the ship. As I dodge pieces of debris, I begin to realize that I will either have to go down in the ship, or jump off now. I stare into the maze of water. It is scattered with parts of the ship and floating bodies, like sprinkles on an iced cake. I tediously climb to a flatter section of the deck and survey my surroundings. I know that once I jump I will die very soon from the level of coldness. The mass of screams and yells have become so constant that I barely notice them anymore. After blinking once, the lights go out. Darkness hurries to encase me in her cape. Water begins licking my feet. Suddenly, the half of the ship I am on plunges down into the depths of the ocean.

The stars are the only ones to witness my death. I take a deep breath and then jump.

“Good bye, world. I’m going to a better place,” I whisper as my feet strike the freezing water. This ocean is the perfect cemetery.

This ocean is the perfect cemetery.

Course Offerings for the 2015-2016 School Year

March 26th, 2015

Writing and Composition for Young Adults:

This course offers an engaging approach to writing and encourages creativity while maintaining strong compositional excellence and critical thinking. Students explore a wide variety of writing, including several essay styles, reports, fiction, and poetry. Students practice more advanced compositional techniques, including crafting theses, organizing and developing ideas, implementing transitions, and writing with style and detail. Students learn to analyze their writing through self-assessment and critique peer writing in a supportive manner. Students write about both history and literature studies in this course. The literature selections emphasize critical analysis of literary elements including worldview issues through themes, characters, symbolism and authors’ lives. Students receive a high level of feedback on each step of the writing process.

This course is designed for 7th-10th- grade students who can write a paragraph and understand basic sentence construction. A placement test is available.

When: Tuesdays 8:45-10:45 at my home, I will give any students in this class and also in Paula Domermuth’s Tues/Thurs 11:00 Algebra 1 class a ride to her home. She lives 1 mile from me.

Resources needed: Writing Aids

Writing prompts may be altered for any history and literature curriculum.

Fee: $250/semester plus a one-time $25 copy fee. This includes weekly editing and feedback.

Click to see a sample of my editing and a sample grading rubric

Because I will provide a high level of feedback each week and this course is in my home, space is limited to twelve students. To reserve a place for your child, please email me at tina@thejobes.com

 

Literature Studies for Young Adults: The Ancient World

This course will cover young adult literature that represents in chronological order the cultures and worldviews of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, India, China, South America, Greece, and Rome. It will emphasize worldviews, exposure, and analysis from a Biblical perspective. It will also emphasize literary analysis skills. Students will receive weekly homework and discussion grades.

This course is designed for 7th to 9th- grade students. If paired with writing and/or grammar, it constitutes a full English credit for high school.

When: Thursdays, 12:30-1:30 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Thoughtful Thursdays cooperative

Resources needed: Literature Studies for Young Adults complete student workbook

Book List:

Tales of Ancient Egypt

Gilgamesh the Hero

The Bible

Sons of Encouragement

Twenty Jataka Tales

The Chi’lin Purse

The Well of Sacrifice

Black Ships Before Troy

The Wanderings of Odysseus

Hittite Warrior

God King

Victory on the Walls

The Aeneid for Boys and Girls

The Eagle on the Ninth

The Bronze Bow

Fee: $95/semester for literature class and discussions. For students who wish to add the writing component, I am happy to assign literature essays, edit, and provide weekly feedback for an additional fee of $75/semester ($5/week or assignment.) Please note that students will not receive detailed instruction on the writing process in class. However, students who have previous writing experience should be able to complete assignments at home without difficulty.

Students enrolled in my Tuesday writing course may add literature studies for a reduced fee of $75/semester.

Click to view a sample of my editing and a grading rubric.

To register for this class, please email me at tina@thejobes.com

 

Analytical Grammar:

In this course, students will complete the study of grammar in one school year. Students will learn the parts of speech, parts of the sentence and the basics of sentence diagramming during the first 10 weeks. They then will learn all phrases and clauses and lastly, all the rules of punctuation and usage. The curriculum contains 36 weeks of instruction. In order to complete the course, we will meet at my house two Thursdays in August, December and May.

Students must be willing to spend about 30 minutes a day on grammar homework and tests. Students will receive weekly homework checks and graded tests.

This class is perfect for students in 8th grade and up or for advanced 7th graders.

When: Thursdays, 1:30-2:30 at Mount Vernon Thoughtful Thursday Cooperative

Fee: $95/semester plus a one-time $20 fee for incentives and additional handouts, transparencies, etc

Students taking both Literature Studies and Analytical Grammar may deduct $15 from fees for a total of $175/semester for both classes or $250/semester for both classes with the writing component.

Resources needed: Analytical Grammar student and teacher book:

To register for this class, please email me at tina@thejobes.com

 

Editing, Tutoring, and Grading Services:

If your child needs one-on-one instruction to learn grammar, structure composition, or improve sentence structure, I am available for private tutoring for $25/hour.

I also edit and communicate via email for $2.50/ double-spaced page with a minimum price of $5.00.

I will edit and provide rubrics for any writing assignment. This is ideal for students following a writing curriculum at home but in need of encouragement and feedback.

Click to see a sample of my editing or a grading rubric

To read some completed short stories, please see Tapestry historical fiction 20th century short stories. More will be added shortly.

 

About me:

I graduated summa cum laude with a degree in elementary education from Asbury University in 1993 and taught for several years in the public school system before receiving my real education – becoming a mother! For fourteen years, it has been a joy to educate my children at home. My oldest daughter, Anna, graduated in May ’14 and is pursuing a nursing degree at Belhaven University. My second daughter, Christina, graduated in December ’14 and is pursuing a degree in elementary education at Appalachian State University. Bethany and Nathan, sophomores, are dual-enrolled in our homeschool and Caldwell Community College. I continue to homeschool Sarah (12) and Esther (7). While I enjoy teaching most subjects, language arts are my favorites. I am a certified teacher with the Institute for Excellence in Writing and a curriculum advisor for Tapestry of Grace. For the past six years, I have enjoyed teaching middle and high school grammar and composition privately and through the Tapestry of Grace and Thoughtful Thursday cooperatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Guerre by Nathan Jobe

March 7th, 2015

 

Life is monotonous. Since Georges enlisted in this petty war, I’ve been forced to do twice the chores at home. “You’re the man of the house, Frédéric,” my mother, Brigitte, tells me. “It’s your responsibility.”

“It’s not a man’s job to do the dishes! Why must you bother me?” I bitterly reply. I know she hears me, but she doesn’t care to respond. I wouldn’t either. No one wants to put up with a whiny person in a time like this. With the war raging on just miles to the east, everyone feels like buckling under the stress.

I’ve felt the pressure myself. What if the Germans invade? What if our trenches can’t hold them off? What if they treat us as they treated Belgium? Why hasn’t the United States come to help us? There are so many questions and so few answers.

The year is 1915. Our family lives in the little town of Calais, France, a mere twenty miles from the Belgian border. From my home, I can see the white cliffs of England in the distance across the English Strait. This proximity may be convenient, but in times like these, it’s a curse.

A year ago, a Serbian man assassinated the Archduke of Austria. Because of this, Austria-Hungary and Germany declared war on Serbia. Unfortunately, we joined this ridiculous, avoidable war because of our obligations to the Triple Entente. Now, the entire European continent is at war, and it appears that even the isolationist United States may be forced to join.

Germany has become the main opposing power. We dug trenches to hold them off in the west, and the Russians did the same in the east. There are constant battles taking place on each front, and no progress is ever made. My brother, Georges, is stationed on the Western Front in Belgium, merely thirty miles east. However, he might as well be on a different continent for all the contact we have. He is just one of millions of soldiers at risk of dying every day over this pointless war.

We all constantly fear for his safety. Last year, the Germans completely annihilated Belgium. They committed all kinds of war crimes against the people. Now, the entire country has become nothing more than a colossal battleground; a network of trenches and tunnels.

“I finished the dishes, maman.” I reply, this time more cheerfully. “What else is there to do?”

“I don’t know. It’s just so stressful not having Georges at home.” My mother sits in her fauteuil.

In search of something to do, I go for a walk outside. “How will this war end? Who will win? CAN this war end?” Questions flood my mind. “Where is Georges? Is he hurt?”

NO.

My brother cannot be injured. He is my role model. No power on the German side can ever hurt someone as strong as Georges. “If this war lasts until I’m eighteen” I think, “I will fight the Germans myself.”

Years pass, and we hear nothing of Georges. We begin to fear he is dead. It is now 1917, and I am old enough to join the war. The United States has joined, and the course of the war is drastically changing for our favor. Some reports suggest this blasted war may end within a year.

My enthusiasm is at an all-time high. I’m joining this war, and no one can stop me! Immediately I enlist with French Army, and I am sent to northern Belgium, not far from where my brother is fighting. I am alone, but at least I have a hope of maybe seeing my brother.

Several months pass in the trenches. My sociopathic sergeant gives us no break in the night or in the day. How on earth could my brother survive this for four grueling years? Surely something must snap at a certain point, and I’m pushing this point after only two months in the armed forces.

I must be ready for work by six in the morning. For our meals, we receive nothing but unflavored oatmeal and water every day. We alternate being on the lookout for our squadron, and I get the worst times. Some go insane from the monotony and others from the bombs. We don’t know what to call this condition, but it’s driven many previously sane soldiers mad. Most call it “shell shock.”

I wake up on the morning of November third, 1917, and I find my brother! He is clearly weathered from the war. Overjoyed, I thank God for his health. I have heard many stories not quite as happy as mine, and I could not be more grateful.

Georges tells me that he was shot in 1916, in the Battle of the Somme. Listening to his gruesome descriptions makes me shudder. He tells me stories of unimaginable pain, and I begin to fear for my own safety.

It is now the autumn of 1918, and the war has finally ended. Due to the involvement of the United States’ Armed Forces, albeit delayed, we finally managed to force through the German trenches. The Germans have declared unconditional surrender. I’m going home!

I find my home in Calais destroyed by the German forces. Apparently, my hometown was overrun in my absence. However, my family is alive and well in the nearby town of Rouen.

I have never been happier to be home! My parents welcome my brother and me as heroes, and we have an enormous dinner. I can’t help but notice that Georges behaves somewhat differently, however. He was shot in The Battle of the Somme, and the experience was very traumatic. According to him, the emergency nurses in the trenches were absolutely inept in their training, and he developed an infection. They told him they would have to amputate his leg, but his infection healed in time, so they changed their minds. However, he has had to use a crutch ever since. Also, during a small skirmish in 1917, he lost his only friend in no man’s land. This changed him for the worse, making him bitter and unemotional.

When I speak to him, it’s like he is not the same person I knew as a child. He is constantly terrified of threats that do not exist. Whenever he senses something that resembles anything he experienced in the war, he must hide from it to avoid extreme stress. Besides that, he shows little emotion, not even caring about things that used to be his greatest pleasures. I ask him if something is wrong, but he only gives vague, depressed answers. I worry about him.

I only spent six months in the trenches, but Georges spent four years. He suffered through the same things as me, but for four years? I can’t believe he survived!

At this point, I can only hope to God that Georges may become the brother I knew and loved as a child, always positive and nice. However, I know that no matter how wicked men can become, God is still good, just as he always has been and always will be. And so I pray.

About the author: Nathan is a 15-year-old sophomore with a strong interest in math, science, and French. He enjoys languages and culture. He also is an avid boy scout working on his Eagle rank. While he does not particularly enjoy creative writing, he found this assignment tolerable once told he could incorporate some French history into the plot details.

Year 4, Unit 2 Celebration

December 28th, 2014

We love unit celebrations.

They are a fabulous way to bring closure to a period of history. Tapestry of Grace is a very comprehensive curriculum, but there is always more that can be done. Weeks may go by with no crafts accomplished. Perhaps we didn’t get to all of the discussions. We may have omitted an excellent read-aloud,  one we’d like to eventually enjoy. Maybe we skipped geography a few weeks or didn’t have that enrichment movie night. Several reports are still on the to-do list. We moms are so good at focusing on what we don’t do. “Analysis paralysis” may strike; an ailment causing us to get stuck, and we fail to move ahead in the curriculum.

Unit celebrations are fun for our children, but they are profitable for moms because they give us opportunity to focus on what we have accomplished. Our children will not remember every book they read or project they make or report they write. However, they will remember dressing up like their favorite character, spending a day in the kitchen with mom or playing a fun game with families. They’ll remember the field trips. They’ll remember the parties. Unit celebrations are a time when we moms, with our children, can smile and say, “Hey! We did a lot and we learned a lot… and we will celebrate our accomplishments and move on.” And the great thing about Tapestry is we will visit the time period again. There is time for the read-aloud that sat unopened or the map transparency project. At unit celebrations, however, we can be thankful for what we accomplished, celebrate, and make memories with our children.

Our local co-op does not meet for classes in December. We finish up unit 2 the week before Thanksgiving so that our families can have a long break between semesters. The holiday season is busy, but we’ve found a covered dish dinner and group game lends itself well to a celebratory December event. Families have little to prepare – just some food to contribute to the dinner. This December celebration consisted of an Axis dinner and Jeopardy game. I’ll highlight some fun tips for any who’d like to recreate our time of celebrating Year 4, Unit 2.

DSC01885

My cake decorators... they spent several hours creating the perfect battle scene

My cake decorators… they spent several hours creating the perfect battle scene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cake:

I have five daughters and we have made many cakes, but this one is probably the most boy-friendly one we have ever attempted. We used a very large round pan (14 X 3) for the base of the cake as well as a jumbo muffin pan. We simply made a one-layer cake (huge!) and then placed the 12 jumbo cake muffins around the large circle and on top to vary the “landscape.”

I had army men, but I purchased these pullback tanks from Amazon. The grammar students spent the last half hour of our celebration racing their little tanks, and they later happily took them home for their souvenirs. The flags were downloaded and printed from Enchanted Learning and taped onto toothpicks.

A cake this large took three cake mixes, but making my homemade chocolate- mocha icing made it seem “from scratch” through and through.

Chocolate-Mocha Icing:

1 stick Butter (minus 1 tablespoon) 
1 tablespoon Oil 
4 tablespoons Cocoa 
1/2 cup Decaf. coffee or 1 t. instant coffee mixed in 1/2 c. water
4 cups Powdered sugar (maybe a little more or less… till desired consistency)
2 tablespoons Flour 
pinch Salt 
1 teaspoon Vanilla 

Combine sugar, salt, cocoa and flour. Cream butter with oil. Alternate adding the sugar mixture with the coffee. Add vanilla.

When icing this cake, keep in mind that the goal is to create texture. This is one cake that does not need to be smooth, and yes, my girls enjoyed creating “mud” out of icing with their fingers. They cut off some of the tops of the muffins so that the hills had flat surfaces. Some they left rounded. There were no pictures to meticulously follow; this cake evolved creatively!

You can make dirt/mud using crushed Oreos or crumbled chocolate cake. We also used crumbled Vanilla Wafers for light colored rock and sand. This cake was very fun to make, de-militarize, and eat!

The Food:

Families brought in food from Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. We discussed having US, French and British food as well. However, we felt we were more familiar with these foods and our kids like to try new things. So, we enjoyed lasagna (Italy), sushi (Japan), stroganoff (Russia) and potatoes and sauerkraut (Germany). We had a variety of breads as well as Russian tea cookies. The food was delicious!

 The Fellowship:

For most of the evening, our only agenda was enjoying one another’s company. We are blessed with a wonderful group of homeschooling families!

DSC01935DSC01928DSC01924DSC01922DSC01930

 And finally, The Game:

We played a very fun game of Jeopardy. So that all students, no matter their age, could play, we prepared questions for each level: lower grammar, upper grammar, dialectic, rhetoric and parent. Questions were written on index cards and placed inside colorful library pockets mounted on the game board. We divided into two teams, the Axis and Allies, of course! Points were determined by rolling a dice. The team that rolled decided what level question and what category they wanted, and only students of the level selected could answer. If the team could not answer, the other team received a chance to do so and win the points. If that team couldn’t answer, the turn returned to the original team and at that point, they could ask another level of students to help them. We asked that the children of each level take turns being the spokesperson for their team because all of the children wanted a chance to answer the questions. Some questions received double points. We did not allow a team to keep answering questions if they got the correct answer. This was a game of luck (rolling dice and double point questions ensured the “luck” part), but it was fun because it moved fairly quickly, and both teams and all levels experienced success in getting correct answers and stealing points.

Here is a picture of the game board –

DSC01961

The library pockets were purchased here and attached to a tri-fold styrofoam board with rubber cement. As you can see, each level (parent, rhetoric, dialectic, upper grammar and lower grammar) is color-coded. The questions came from the homework thinking questions and evaluations.

DSC01956

Hubby kept score. He also timed each team once the question was asked. They only had 30 seconds to consult with their team mates and answer the question. I think the Axis powers won, but to the Allies defense, they received no “double-score” bonus points. Speaking of the double points, if we play this game again, I will make the double-point cards a different color. I marked them with a little star, but I’m afraid that as I led the game, I may have missed a few.

I had fun being Vanna White

I had fun being Vanna White

This was a fun evening! It was encouraging for the students to realize that they could answer questions designated for the parents. Nothing was more precious than seeing the little lower grammars jumping up and down in anticipation of answering their special questions.

Again, there is always more to learn and always more to do, but at the end of the night, we walked away feeling pretty smart! What a fun way to end the second unit of Year 4!

Esther helps me prepare Russian stroganoff

Esther helps me prepare Russian stroganoff, and yes, this was a homeschool pajama day.

De-militarizing the cake!

De-militarizing the cake!

 

Finally, Year 4!

August 18th, 2014

It is so hard to believe that this year our  Tapestry of Grace co-op that began three years ago will complete Year 4, the final year of the curriculum. When we began our co-op, my friends and I were on different years of the four year cycle. We collectively decided that Year 1 was a very good place for a co-op to start. Thus, our family, after finishing Year 3, skipped Year 4 and went back to the Ancients. All that to say that in my eight years of homeschooling with Tapestry, I have never completed Year 4. Yes, I spent two years in Years 1 and 2 the fist time around and then did Years  3, 1, 2, and 3 again. Finally, the Jobe family will study the 20th century! Thankfully, my oldest daughter completed Year 4 through the Lampstand Learning Center her senior year. I would not have wanted her to graduate from high school without completing all four years of Tapestry. However, as she studied Year 4, the rest of us continued learning alongside our co-op with Year 3.

I AM SO EXCITED!!! Our co-op is such a blessing. We have record attendance this year – a preschool, lower grammar, upper grammar, two dialectic and a rhetoric class. Our classes are full and students and teachers alike are ready for this new year!

Here are some pictures of our first day –

Upper boys work on lapbooks

Upper boys work on lapbooks

Lapbooks!

Lapbooks!

The boys' gliders had a super-hero theme.

The boys’ gliders had a super-hero theme.

Liz talks about the Wright brothers before instructing the art project.

Liz talks about the Wright brothers before instructing the art project.

LUNCH!

LUNCH!

Lower grammars are writing this year

Lower grammars are writing this year

The first memory sentence

The first memory sentence

Rhetoric history

Rhetoric history

Preschool!

Preschool!

Letter of the week

Letter of the week

Learning about the Wright brothers

Learning about the Wright brothers

Upper grammar literature

Dialectic literature

This is impressive.

The Call of the Wild – literature class

Upper grammar girls work on lapbooks

Upper grammar girls work on lapbooks

Upper grammar literature

All the dialectics combined for church history

DSC00813

Dialectic history class

DSC00807

Upper grammars work on lapbooks

The girls made preppy gliders.

The girls made preppy gliders.

Inventors, Inventions and Missionaries

November 18th, 2013

Inventors, inventions and missionaries… an eclectic mix of information but a perfect way to celebrate the end of Year 3 Unit 2. Yes, before Thanksgiving our co-op has completed half a year of Tapestry of Grace!

We began our celebration with brunch.

P1230068P1230071P1230066

We then moved to the gym where all the student display boards and grammar-level art projects were set up.

P1230074

Next on the agenda.. a scavenger hunt! Our youngest co-op members colored sheets of various missionaries and inventors. After coloring, they were instructed to find a board that featured their character.

P1230099P1230159P1230080

All the “readers” of the group were given a scavenger hunt sheet that featured one question per board. Before our celebration, students sent in three questions of varying levels of difficulty that could be answered by reading their boards. Thus the 3rd-4th graders had a fairly simple question sheet, the 5th-6th graders had a “medium-difficulty” sheet, and the 7th-12th graders had a challenging one. Students had about 30 minutes to complete the scavenger hunt.

P1230134P1230156P1230137

I love this project-based format for end-of-units because all students learn from one another. In the past we’ve done more teacher-directed end-of-units such as skits, songs, recitations, etc. These are fun and meaningful as well, but the organization falls on the adults. Students are truly proud of their display-board projects and enjoy mingling and answering and asking questions of one another. I like that the unit focuses on their projects and accomplishments!

P1230142

P1230146

It’s also just plain impressive to see 30+ boards – all missionaries and inventors of the 19th century – displayed at once! What a century this was!

I love the art the grammar students displayed. Shown here are pinatas, boomerangs, yarn art, spinning tops and log cabins.

P1230084P1230082P1230097

 

P1230151P1230086P1230140

Some particularly fun displays included some “radium” punch served by two Marie Curie models –

P1230155P1230154P1230139

Tea cookies that Lottie Moon served to earn the trust of the Chinese chilren –

P1230130P1230129P1230128

And cotton –

P1230110

This end-of-unit began as an “invention fair” only. However, Year 3 church history is full of inspiring missionary stories. Unfortunately, we are unable to devote a whole class period this year at co-op to the discussion of these heroes of our faith. Thus we decided to incorporate their stories at our end-of-unit gatherings. Many of our students chose to focus their research on missionaries. This was perhaps one of my favorites –

P1230126

I’ll tell you why… Billy Graham does not enter the “Tapestry scene” until Year 4. However, the young student who made this board wanted to study Billy Graham because his daddy works for Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham’s ministry. This Daddy is currently traveling the United States visiting churches and telling others about Operation Christmas Child, the shoe-box ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. We are not legalistic at the Boone ToG Co-op. If a student wants to study the missionary who has reached more people with the gospel than any other, he may!

I enjoyed all the boards, but particularly loved reading about two female missionaries. One of the questions on the scavenger hunt was, “What missionary had a physical attribute that helped her relate to the people she ministered to? What was that attribute?” The answer – both Lottie Moon and Amy Carmichael. I found it quite interesting that Lottie Moon, who grew to only be 4’3″, was called to minister to the petite Chinese people. Darked-eyed Amy Carmichael ministered to the brown-eyed people of India. As a young girl, Amy longed for blue eyes, but God had plans for her, and those plans included her brown eyes. They helped the Indian people trust her!

P1230145

P1230102

I love how His Story is told in his-tory! Just like God had a plan for Amy and Lottie, he has a plan for all of us. Will I allow Him to use me even in my weaknesses or areas I’d like to change? These are things I ponder as we wrap up our history studies and change our focus to the holidays ahead. And with Thanksgiving approaching next week, I can’t help but thank the Lord for our curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, and all the students and parents in our co-op. Our first half-year of studies has been rich and I am grateful.

P1230070

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esther Is 6!

November 12th, 2013

I can’t believe my #6 is 6!

P1220909

Since the age of two, Esther has loved frogs. This was one of her favorite toddler toys.

P1000710

 And these were her favorite pajamas.

P1040390

 Her favorite place to get a treat is Sweet Frog (Frozen Yogurt.)

So, when Esther requested a frog cake for her birthday, the sisters and I were not surprised. We got on Pinterest and planned away. The cake … precious – and easy! (And one of the few things I prepared with the birthday girl’s help.)

IMG_2747P1220896

I was blessed not only with help from Sarah and Bethany, but also several other sweet girls. One of my dear friends is out of the country and her children came early this morning. By 9 am, they had prepared lunch, decorated the house, hung the banner (painted by Sarah), organized games, and even baked several mini cakes! I am spoiled when it comes to birthday party helpers, no doubt!

P1220968P1220897

Some of my favorite decorations are these adorable “apple frogs.” The girls got a little carried away making them.

P1220901P1220899

P1220905P1220904

Esther wanted to decorate cakes for her craft. The girls did a fantastic job. I could not believe that cake- decorating held the attention of these 5-7 year olds for an entire hour!

The finished cakes were as unique as the beautiful girls who made them.

Ava enjoyed helping me gather all the cakes in their decorated boxes.

IMG_2757IMG_2758

We played “Kiss the Frog” which is like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” except the “tails” are “lip prints” aimed at the frog’s mouth. I think the girls enjoyed an opportunity to wear Anna’s stage lipstick!

The children also threw flies into frog buckets.

Esther thoroughly enjoyed her day and is thankful for all who came to celebrate. I am thankful for Sarah, Bethany, Ashlyn, Kayla, Hannah and Emma for making her day so special. I am beyond grateful to God for giving us six years with Esther. She is a gift from him, and we are blessed!

P1220950

 

Purple Crayon Catastrophe

November 9th, 2013

About ten years ago I had a conversation with Bethany that went something like this:

Bethany at 5. She has always liked to accessorize.

Bethany: “Mommy, do people need clothes in Heaven?”

Me: “I don’t think so, Sweetie. Why do you ask?”

Bethany: “Well, I really like my clothes and I want to take them with me when I go to Heaven.”

Bethany’s love for pretty clothing and accessories has only increased over the years, and I must say, she gets it honestly. I “get” this child of mine, truly. So today when I heard a scream coming from the laundry room just three hours before she was to leave on a weekend youth retreat, my heart sank. “Did I do something?” I wondered. It’s not easy being the mom of three teenage girls with varying laundry schedules, rituals, and demands. I wondered if our 18-year old machine “greased” her favorites. Did a sister throw in a black hoodie with her favorite white tee? While I had no idea what awaited me as I entered the laundry room, one thing was certain … Bethany was not happy.

The culprit was, and I mean “was” in the most past tense possible… a purple crayon. The only thing left of the crayon was the wrapper. The rest of it was distributed in spots of varying sizes all over Bethany’s very favorite shirts. Yes, the shirts that she’d carefully selected and planned to wear on her weekend away – ruined.

P1220895

The culprit… the crayon that is no more.

Esther, seeing and seizing an opportunity to make a bad situation worse stated, “Bethany, just be glad you didn’t break the washing machine. Your clothes actually don’t matter too much, ya know.” (Did I mention our washing machine is old??)

P1220878

Sarah’s spotty camp shirt. Hoping it can be replaced this weekend

Sarah entered the scene and realized her camp T-shirt, a souvenir from one of her favorite weeks of her life, suffered the worst purple-spottiness of the whole load.

Anna and Christina were frantically trying to finish homework so they could enjoy their weekend away and needed quiet. There were some un-quiet requests for me to “Make it all stop!”

I will spare you all the details, but suffice it to say that the Jobe house experienced a wee bit of drama this morning. I know I should expect such tension right before a spiritual retreat. Doesn’t Satan like to attack on Sunday mornings as well?

I may or may not have added to the emotion. Haven’t I instructed these girls of mine to check pockets? Ugh. This was the day I was *supposed* to catch up on school work. We had stuff to do! The kitchen needed attention. I like rooms left clean. And there is always math. Besides, the girls do have other things they can wear, and I’m a believer in natural consequences. They’d just have to deal with it and get back to packing and leave me alone.

I instructed them to separate to cool down because there became a bit of blame-casting. Who *really* threw the clothes in the dryer where the setting-in-of-purple occurred? “Who really cares?” I thought. I told Bethany to google “wax-removal.” I went to my room to pray. And the Lord reminded me of an incident that happened on my wedding day.

A young child had thrown birdseed from a punch cup on me as my groom and I left our reception site. After leaving, we escaped to our new apartment to gather our suitcases before heading off to our honeymoon. I panicked and fought back tears as I noticed little spots all over my dress. Because I borrowed my wedding dress, I spent quite a bit of time selecting the “perfect” going-away dress. Money was scarce, and I got it at a good price, but I could not afford to replace it. I knew in my heart after seeing those spots that my “going-away dress”, after only a 20-minute debut, was truly “gone.” However, I spot-treated it, threw it in the wash, and hoped for the best. Of course, having only been married a few hours, I had not mastered the art of communication with my new husband. I failed to tell him it needed to drip dry. He, being quite eager to leave to make our dinner reservation, put the dress in the dryer once it completed the “gentle” wash cycle.

The dress, which was punch stained and, after drying, small enough to fit a doll, was certainly ruined. I tossed it in the pile of wedding-gift-wrap garbage before leaving for the first dinner of our new marriage.

Today, after I left the laundry-room fiasco and escaped to my room, the Lord reminded me of a precious gift and the ending to my wedding-day story. When Daniel and I returned from our honeymoon, a $100 check awaited me. My mother-in-law heard what happened and wanted to replace my dress. This gift spoke love to me. She cared about something that I felt silly admitting even mattered.

So, today, after a few minutes with the Lord, I left the house and headed to Old Navy, praying as I drove that I could find a blessing for Bethany… and quickly!

I love Jesus. I love how he cares about little things. Bethany lost a tan striped shirt, a true favorite of hers. I found one, slightly different, but very similar for only $7.50. Other casualties of the purple-crayon wash were two flannel button-downs. I found prettier ones that, with my coupons, cost only $10 each. I quickly glanced at the clearance section and spotted a coral cardigan that looked beautiful with the tan-striped shirt. On one of those manequins, a lovely tan scarf that would “tie it all together”caught my eye. It was 35% off.  So, I de-scarfed the dummy, and, in only ten minutes of total shopping time, left Old Navy with all these items for an extremely reasonable price. I have shopped multiple stores on all-day trips with much less success!

P1220874

After arriving home, I walked in the front door, glanced upstairs, and saw Bethany working on her soiled items. I eagerly walked up to the laundry room, handed her the bag and received one of those hugs that a mom does not quickly forget. The new clothes… a perfect fit. Another small miracle.

I document this event so that I will remember that the Lord doesn’t always care about those “natural consequences.” He wants me to love and show compassion. He wants for me to always be willing to alter my to-do list – a list I hold onto pretty tightly sometimes. He wants me to leave the drama that is so rampant in this highly hormonal home and ask him for direction. His ways are good.

It’s true that Bethany can’t take her clothes with her to Heaven. She has matured quite a bit since our conversation years ago and knows her stuff has no eternal value. However, a pretty new sweater for this weekend is a symbol.. her mama loves her and her father in Heaven loves her even more.

DSC_1079

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORY FAIR!

March 4th, 2013

Today our Tapestry of Grace co-op celebrated the end of Year 2 Unit 3 with a History Fair. By far, this was my favorite end-of-unit we’ve done. Our students worked incredibly hard for nine weeks on display boards of their choosing. From K/1 lower grammars to rhetoric students, the diligence of these students showed!

We began by setting up the boards.

P1200881 P1200882

 

Then the children stood by their boards while parents walked around and asked questions. Please click on each picture. While I couldn’t capture each board and participant, I captured many and they are all worth seeing in full size! (You have to click and then once the slightly larger image appears, click again.)

Next, our students participated in a scavenger hunt. They had to visit one another’s boards to answer questions. I was so proud of the youngest students for trying. Esther knew that William Penn was on her sister’s board, and she was determined to fill in that blank all by herself!

The scavenger hunt was fun for all and a great way to make sure students read their friends’ boards. Again, click on the thumbnail pictures. They are worth seeing in full view!

The crafts in front added so much the displays. Here are a few:

Check out some of our indians and colonial folks. Are they darling or what??

Our K/1’s demonstrated a waltz and one of our dialectics played a violin piece by Handel:

As I walked around and looked at the boards, I heard much excitement and chatter. Several times I was asked, “Are we going to get to do this again?!!”

YES! I think so.

We ended the day with Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I didn’t capture this with pictures, but I think they also are a definite “do-over!”

Developing a Vision for Homeschooling: My story

February 28th, 2013

I began homeschooling twelve years ago. How did my first-born little gap-toothed guinea pig turn into a beautiful 17-year old rising senior?

100_0017 copy P1190773

As the saying goes, “Some days have been long, but the years have been short!” Throughout the years the Lord has blessed me with mentors and a vision that has carried me through many less-than-ideal homeschooling days. As I am planning and preparing for my oldest’s last year of homeschooling, I’ve been reflecting on God’s goodness over the years and thanking Him for calling us to homeschool.

Years ago, at the beginning of my homeschooling journey, a veteran homeschooling mom and friend, Muriel, graciously accepted an invitation to speak in my home. This dear lady prayed for us and then passed around pictures of her four grown children who all happen to be within ten years of my age. Muriel began homeschooling when it was still illegal in her state. As she shared her story, I was inspired. Back in those days, curriculum offerings were practically non-existant. Most companies refused to sell to homeschoolers. It’s easy to think, “They had so little support. How did they do it?” I’m convinced that while Muriel may not have had many homeschool-specific texts, co-ops or conventions to assist her, she, and so many other pioneer homeschooling parents had something much more valuable. They had something that carried them through the hard days and the stares and the questions and the difficulties of participating in a new counter-cultural educational movement.

Muriel had vision.

And as I listened to her speak more than a decade ago, I wanted vision. I wanted it desperately but the whole concept intimidated me. How was I to answer, “What is your homeschooling vision for your family?” Really, back in those days, with five children under seven years old, I could hardly think past “When is nap time?” Nonetheless, I began to pray for something that would get me through the hard days; something bigger than the curriculum I chose or the conflict-resolution strategy of the day.

While I was an elementary education major, I had never read extensively about home education. Terms like “Classical,” “unit study,” “Charlotte Mason,” and “un-schooling” seemed odd. Don’t all children learn in a desk and with a teacher using a textbook? I began to read every homeschool philosophy book I could get my hands on. I read The Well Trained Mind, and books by Raymond and Dorothy Moore who are credited with being the founders of the modern homeschooling movement. I read The Christian Home School by Gregg Harris and For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley. Teaching the Wholehearted Child by Sally Clarkson definitely inspired me. The Underground History of American Education and Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, a New York Teacher of the Year recipient, opened my eyes to the state of public education. Books by Ruth Beechick gave me an overall plan for language and math development in the early years while books by Douglas Wilson and Dorothy Sayers provided an understanding of classical education and teaching to developmental stages.

In addition to reading, I attended my state’s homeschool convention for many years in a row. Unlike many attendees, I didn’t really go to shop for books. I love curriculum and could spend hours pouring over grammar texts, but in those early years of homeschooling, I attended conferences to learn from veteran home educators. I attended sessions by speakers such as Michael and Vicky Farris, Gregg Harris, Sally Clarkson, Scott and Marcia Somerville, Hal and Melanie Young as well as many local teachers.

These authors and speakers certainly influenced me as did many dear friends ahead of me in their homeschooling journeys. I’ll never forget approaching a dear mom at church one day after a service and basically pleading with her to be my friend. She had six beautiful children who listened attentively to the sermon and exhibited the finest of manners while I stole their mommy’s attention for an unreasonable amount of time between services. This sweet mom invited me to her home. Years later, she is still a dear friend I know I can call. In the early years of my homeschooling, I just wanted her to share her wisdom with me. I’m so grateful for her as well as several other dear friends who were willing to encourage me.

So, did all this study help me to develop a plan? Could I map the course of our homeschooling for the next several years? Did I pinpoint my homeschool philosophy? Did I “get it all together?”

No. However, as my husband and I prayed and daily sought to disciple and educate our children, our desire to home-educate became a passion. It became a calling. It became a commitment. We decided that our precious children God gave us, who only would live with us a short while, deserved our whole-hearted efforts. Deuteronomy 6:7 states:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Homeschooling became a tool to help us “teach them diligently.” Our desire became and continues to be to raise our children to love Jesus and follow hard after Christ. We want them to articulate well and think critically through a Biblical worldview. We pray that our children will teach their children and one day, when we are old, we will be blessed by great-grandchildren who love Jesus. This desire, over time, became our passion and our vision.

This fall, as oldest daughter enters her senior year, my youngest will begin kindergarten. Thus, I’m nearly at the half-way point of my homeschooling. As I reflect over the past twelve years of this journey, I’m reminded of another bit of advice from my friend Muriel. As she met with me and the new homeschooling mothers in my home, she encouraged us to give each homeschooling day to God. “Have a plan, but trust Him,” she said. “Sometimes your plans will be hijacked, but at the end of the day, assure yourself that while you many not have completed your list, you did exactly what God had for you.”

It’s easy to become discouraged when our plans fall through. No doubt, we will have good homeschooling days and difficult ones. There will even be some years that are more academic than others. As with life, there will be valleys and mountaintops; laughter and pain. We will make mistakes. We will likely find that as we strive to educate our children, God educates us. Our job is to put one foot in front of the other and look upward.

Are you new to homeschooling? Do you desire vision? What are your goals for your family 5 years, 10 years or 40 years from now?    Have you been at homeschooling awhile and wonder if it’s worth the effort? Dear sister, may I encourage you to pray, read, seek mentors and look to Jesus? If God has called you to homeschool, he will equip you in every way.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Our children in 2003, our 3rd year of homeschooling.

Our children, Christmas 2003, our third year of homeschooling.

bsl360

Our family, fall of 2012. By God’s grace, we continue to put one foot in front of the other and look upward.