Educating for Real Life

A few months ago, we were asked to write an article for CHEC’s homeschooling magazine about how we were homeschooled. We have, of course, talked a lot about how we were raised, the ways we want to imitate our parents, the things things we would like to do differently, and the many differences that we see between our two families. However, when we sat down to condense all those conversations into this short article, we were a little surprised by how many identical conclusions our respective parents came to, and how many of them we want to stick to.

When Heidi and I were born, our respective parents began to pray about how we should be educated. When they choose to teach us at home, it wasn’t for lack of options; Isaac’s parents lived in Washington D.C. suburbs completely surrounded by private schools, and Heidi’s father was actually teaching at a well-respected Christian school in Ohio.

And even in those early days of home education, there were various co-ops and pre-packaged curricula that they could have used, ways of moving a “regular” education from classroom to home without any other major changes. These would have been easier, faster, and in many ways cheaper than how our parents ended up teaching us. But they wanted to give us educations that were completely different in their focus, not just their location.

To do so was hard, time-consuming, and expensive in many ways. We’ve watched our parents change careers, take massive pay cuts, and move across the country (or around the world) just so they could teach us diligently and according to their understanding of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:7). Today, they would say that it was all worth it, and so would we. Their efforts have perfectly prepared us for where we are today, and what we are doing.

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And a Happy New Year!

2016familyphoto

2016 was full of the many blessings, much laughter and joy, numerous lessons learned and trials endured, many friendships and relationships deepened, and through it all we have seen the loving, kind, and gracious hand of the our Lord guiding and sustaining us day by day. We look forward to 2017 with great joy and expectation of the work and sanctification that the Lord has in store for us.

That they should put their confidence in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep His commandments.
Psalm 78:7

James is Thankful Too!

mommyandjames

Although James has been a large part of our last two thankfulness posts, we thought we’d let him get in on the action and record all the things that James is thankful for. He’s one of the most enthusiastically cheerful and happy babies I’ve ever known, and his zeal for life is evident in a lot of these shots. He’s a very social baby and loves to be with people, especially his two favorite people in the world: Mommy and Daddy.

This very beloved sheepskin from Uncle Chad and Aunt Becky is indispensable. As soon as he catches a glimpse of it, he immediately lets out a long “oooohhh”, and a huge grin spreads across his face while he pops his thumb into his mouth.

sheepskin

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Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

jamesstep

Last week Isaac walked through a typical day in our lives, and recounted the many things we have to be grateful for in our every day life. In keeping with this theme, I decided to show you a somewhat less typical day that shows a different part of our lives: Sundays.

horseplay

Sunday mornings usually start with Isaac and James wrestling on the bed while I make breakfast. I love hearing James shrieking in delight from the other room, and getting to watch Isaac as a daddy fills my heart with joy. I’m really not sure who enjoys these morning romps the most – Isaac or James!

I’m also very grateful to the Lord for giving me such a kind, caring, and gentle man to be my husband, and the father of my child. His care for our little family, and his diligence to provide both physical and spiritual sustenance is another great blessing for which I am very thankful!

coffeegrinder

Speaking of physical sustenance, Isaac has taken on the job of grinding our coffee beans fresh every morning, and of course James has to get in on the action too. I’m so thankful for how much James wants to be with us, and do everything we are doing. It’s also a very sober reminder of how much he watches and imitates everything we do. And while it may be a bit cliche, coffee is certainly on my list of things to thank the Lord for this year!

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Baby James turns 1 Year Old

oneyearjames

This week our darling little boy turned one year old. For the past month I’ve been reminiscing about all the things I was doing and feeling a year ago leading up to James’ birth. Part of me misses that anticipation and excitement, and I definitely teared up a bit looking at pictures of 1 day old little James, but every new milestone and age has so much joy (and I definitely don’t miss all the pregnancy aches and pains)!

Watching him learn new skills and develop into his own little person has been even more fun than I imagined. James has to be one of the most outgoing, cheerful, smiley, and social babies I have ever met. He exudes enthusiasm and a zest for life and exploring, and nearly always has a smile on his lips and a bounce in his little steps, whether he’s playing on toy cars with me, or climbing on armored cars with Daddy.

armoredcarjames

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Todoist: the To-Do List Program that does (almost) Everything

todoistphone

Recently my sister-in-law Nadia, told me about a new program she was trying out to help her manage her projects, to-do lists, shopping lists, and other lists. We often “talk shop”, as Nadia’s husband calls it, and swap ideas on household management, everything from organizational tips, menu ideas, and helpful computer programs or apps, to laundry solutions or child training ideas. It’s often very helpful to bounce ideas off of someone else who’s in a similar stage of life, and get ideas on how to do what we’re doing faster or better. This program is called Todoist, and it has been a game changer for me.

I love lists; I love making lists, and I love checking things off my lists even more. I’m constantly trying out new methods of list-making for various projects and seasons of life. I’ve used Excel Spreadsheets, Word documents, Apple Reminders, Google Keep, Evernote, random mobile apps, post-it notes, notebooks, scratch paper, and more. At various times in my life, all of these have been helpful, but this new system tops anything else I’ve used thus far. I don’t use this as a substitute for Google calendar (where I put actual appointments like dental appointments or dinner at someone’s house), but it’s perfect for all those daily things I can’t forget to do or the house would fall apart, but there’s no exact time for them.

Here are some of the most helpful features:

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Choosing the Best Cold Brew Coffee System

ColdCoffeeGrounds

Last week Isaac showed you our own homemade contraption using the Toddy felt filters, mason jars, plastic mason jar caps. Now that I’ve been testing it for a couple of week, I’ve decided what I like best. Here are all the things that I have tested so far:

Toddy Cold Brewer

The system that inspired our experiment was a gadget my sister owns, called the Toddy system. A simple plastic brewing container rests over the top of a carafe or mason jar. You layer coffee and water in the top portion, and let it sit 12-24 hours. Then you remove the cork plug at the base of the plastic container, and it slowly drips through a small felt filter into the mason jar below. Some aficionados claim it produces a clearer, less cloudy brew, since you aren’t stirring or disturbing the grounds as you prepare to filter it. You end up with approximately 5-6 cups of cold coffee at the end, so it doesn’t have a huge capacity. It’s one more gadget that I don’t have room for in my kitchen right now, but I love the simplicity. Also, at $35 for the initial investment, and then $2.50 for felt replacement filters, it’s not cheap.

Isaac’s Hourglass Invention

While this thing was fun to experiment with, it’s a bit of trouble to assemble. Which way does that straw go in? Which side do I screw to which jar? Every time I put it together I felt like it was an IQ puzzle meant to test my spacial awareness. And since it uses the Toddy filters, you still have the downside of needing to occasionally buy new ones. The upside is that I can use the mason jars I already own, the half-gallon jars make enough for almost a whole week for the two of us, and the only cost is teo wide mouth plastic caps, one narrow mouth plastic cap, a little caulk, glue, and a long straw. It works perfectly, but it’s more parts to disassemble, wash, and reassemble.

CoffeeGrounds

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Two Years of Marriage in the Tennessee Jungle

TNforest

For a girl who lived in Colorado for 23 years of her life, Tennessee landscape and scenery is breathtaking. Where Colorado is strong, open, rugged, and dry bordering on barren, Tennessee is lush, humid, dense, teeming with growth and greenery, and spring comes sooner than I ever thought possible.

Last week we celebrated our second wedding anniversary. How we can have been married forever, and yet 2 whole years have flown by so quickly is a mystery I may never solve. But to celebrate this special day, I found a beautiful park about an hour away from us, near Nashville. In Colorado we would call this an “open space,” but here in Tennessee such a thing is simply unheard of. It’s only where a tree has recently fallen that there’s briefly any open space. Every square inch of ground seems to be teeming with growth; some of it wild, some of cultivated, but life pops out of every corner. Now, back to the park.

BrokenTree]

There were biking, hiking and equestrian trails, a bull frog pond where I spotted no less than twenty healthy specimens (each croaking out its unique sound that Isaac says is like a loose banjo string), little creeks and streams bubbling merrily, beautiful stone walls covered in soft moss, May apples bobbing in the small breeze (I’m sure one of these days a little fairy is going to peek out from under one of these cute little umbrella-looking plants), squirrels darting from branch to branch, cardinals chirping… with a sleeping baby in my arms, and my dear husband by my side, this idyllic afternoon in May couldn’t have gotten any better. Keep reading to see more pictures.

FrogPond

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Real Legislators and Mock Legislature

TNHouseFloor

Last week a bunch of families from our church organized a tour of the Tennessee Capitol. While many state homeschooling organizations have annual rallies at their respective Capitols, it can also be helpful to show up more regularly, and to spend time with elected officials in smaller groups. Developing real relationships with legislators takes one-on-one time, but provides good opportunities to offer input and hold our representatives accountable.

We were able to do the usual field-trip stuff around Legislative Plaza, but we also got to talk to Senators and Congressmen, folks from the Comptroller’s office who tried to explain what our tax money was doing, and the Director of Non-Public and Home Schools. The highlight of the day was hearing from Rep. Mark Pody, who proposed the Natural Marriage Defense Act, but I think everyone had the most fun during our mock legislative session.

Our group was able to fill almost every desk on the House floor, and thanks to the assistance of the helpful clerks, we were able to use the mics for procedure and the buttons and board for voting. Since we didn’t have much time, we jumped straight into consideration of two fake bills, presented by a couple of sneaky devil’s advocates planted in the unsuspecting crowd…

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Like Father, Like Son

ThreeFirstBorn

Three generations of first-born sons! The first picture was taken in January of 1981, shortly after my husband Isaac was born, and he is being held by his father, Geoffrey Botkin. In the second picture, Isaac is holding our first-born son, James Arthur Geoffrey Botkin. Isaac is wearing the same leather jacket that his dad wore, and it’s only a little worse for the wear almost 35 years later. All three of these men hold a very special place in my heart and life, and I’m thankful to be related to them!