School's completed for another year, the state paperwork has been filed, and our curriculum for 2011-2012 is on its way. Summer is fun, busy, and all-too-brief here, so this will be my last letter for a while. I've got mondo work to do in the flower and vegetable gardens and we're doing a major overhaul of the house, too, so we can get ALL of the walls and attic fully insulated before winter.
I want to give you a few reminders about summertime before I head out to plant my beans and cukes.
Schedules don't go on vacationBy all means adjust your schedule, but remember that just because your kids are on vacation from school doesn't mean you get to throw schedules to the wind. I choose a "mornings are for Mom" mentality and require all housework/projects to be completed by lunchtime. We can take off just before or after lunch and enjoy the outdoors clear through until supper time. If you live in the South, you may need to plan your outings for very early in the day and have an "afternoons are for Mom" policy so you can escape to the air conditioning.
Modesty doesn't go on vacationSit down and discuss with your husband what modesty entails for your family, especially in regards to swimming. I will no longer bring your brothers to a busy public beach or pool: there is simply too much temptation to let their minds wallow in sin. We generally choose to swim at Grammy's house or a secluded swimming hole we found last year. If we have another family with daughters joining us I have no qualms about ensuring that the girls will be appropriately dressed. Your brothers' purity is too important to leave to chance.
We both have knee length swim trunks we wear with high cut tankinis or sunblock swimming t's. I choose tankini tops that have a bold print and a shirred design so that they aren't skin tight or see through, especially when wet. Your tankini top is generally printed and lined. I absolutely don't buy the tops that give the illusion of breasts on a little girl...yucko!!!! The logistics of going to the bathroom in a one piece make them extremely impractical. I tend to stay away from swim dresses and other attempts to make swimming as modest as church. Those styles definitely draw attention just because they're so weird, which is just another form of immodesty.
For summer I buy you a couple of mid-calf length sundresses and capris and t's. You often choose to wear last year's sundresses that are too short with a pair of capris.
We want to have "covered knees" as our modesty standard as you head into your teens, so we've insisted on that standard since you were two. If a garment doesn't cover your knees sitting, standing, and walking, it "doesn't fit". When you are an adult, you will understand that modesty is a principle, not a rule, and be able to choose accordingly. While you are in our home, "covered knees" is easily measurable and enforceable. We also have a "pinch an inch" policy on skirts and pants: If you can't pinch an inch of fabric (4 inches total) on each side of the skirt at your hip line, it's too tight. Your thumbs are just about an inch long right now from knuckle to tip, so we tease about the "rule of thumb" on that one.
The soccer and church camps your brothers attend require knee length shorts for guys, so I don't bother buying anything else.
For tops, we require that you wear a tank style tee under strappy styles or with shirts that don't meet your waistband. Sleeveless styles are ok as long as they are cut close to your underarms and cover your whole shoulder.
Our biggest challenge with our modesty guidelines is teaching you that those are our family's policy only. If you're with a friend (or cousin) who wears mini skirts or a bikini, or shorts, that's not your problem. If we join our friends that have a "skirts only"conviction, we wear skirts only. We've hiked with them in skirts, gardened in skirts, and even rode bikes in our skirts. I will not offend a family I love just so I can wear capris, even if the capris are a thousand times more comfortable on a hot day.
Discipline doesn't go on vacationEvery rule we have enforced since your oldest brother was born is for one of two areas: loving God or preferring others above ourselves. Now that you have gobs of time at your disposal, it's easy to become selfish or bicker over games and housework. I can't let down my vigilance for a moment. If anything, the more relaxed schedule creates more opportunities for heart work. Summer is often a time our family is able to reach out and minister the most as moms who have chosen to work need a place for their kids to stay when a caretaker is ill or unavailable.
God doesn't go on vacationWhere you are when your church is having a service demonstrates to your children who your God really is. Lingering too long at the beach, skipping church for town sports, or taking a vacation from church while your family is on vacation is one of the very best ways to insure that your children will want nothing to do with the church when they are grown up. (Training Your Children to Turn Out Right!, Sorenson) Those are hard but true words. Unfortunately, the opposite isn't true. Just because I'm passionate and enthusiastic about being a part of the church doesn't mean that you or your brothers will be. Each generation has to make their own commitment to Christ. If the parents have repeatedly shown a lack of faithfulness in this area, however, they rarely see all (or any) of their kids passionately commit when they are grown.
It's amazing how many moms admit to a spotty devotional life for themselves and their kids during the summer, too. Who is your God? God doesn't measure input, but your output is going to suffer considerably if you neglect faithful input. Have a scripture passage sent to your e-mail inbox if you must, but don't neglect God.
Learning doesn't go on vacation
There is absolutely nothing I would like better than to pack away every semblance of school until August, but that ain't happenin'!
You need consistent review in skill subjects so your abilities don't regress.
We save enough grammar and Math lessons so that you can do about 2 pages a week during our 13 week vacation to refresh your memory.
I also insist that you read at least one book per week that is on your current grade level. During the summer I will require at least 2 biographies, and 1 work of historical fiction for our previous year's study.
I need to have the year outlined and the auxiliary subjects fully planned and printed.
Oh, but I have wild ambitions for art, and music, and creative writing! Once we're mired in full school days, those dreams fly out the window unless I have folders pre-made that I can simply pull out and hand to you. Hopefully my friend Rachel will be writing you a letter over the summer about how her children have achieved state recognition in the arts. She is marvelously organized and diligent in every area of her children's education.
Books and video courses are a huge expense. I spend a great deal of time looking for deals on both. Video courses through the state at the middle school and high school level fill up quickly, so registrations and books for those courses are also a top priority during the summer.
It's easy to hammer away at Math and Grammar which come neatly divided into 170 school days; but the History/Language Arts/Bible program we use, Tapestry of Grace, requires hours of planning, ninja shopping to get the lowest prices on books, and hundreds of pages of copying and/or printing to have it all prepared. If I try to accomplish that during the rush of the school year, we end up with "holes". TOG also has recommended summer reading for the educator and high school level students.
I need to write a year plan for each subject and have at least a month of work ready to go when we begin again in August. I choose to use 2 pocket prong folders which sell for about a nickel during the back to school sales to organize all of our work. Because I believe in students becoming progressively more independent, I have a rough outline of how I set these up below.
K-2nd grade: I make up a separate pocket folder for each day with unfinished work in the left hand pocket and an assignment sheet in the prongs. Tedious, but it saves hours of school time and "holes" and keeps everything tidy. I typically remove only the items I want for a permanent portfolio and then discard the rest.
3rd - 5th grade: I make up a separate pocket folder with the entire week's work in the left hand pocket and the assignment sheet and reference material in the center prongs. Finished work goes in the right hand pocket so I can check it each day, and then into a three ring binder.
6th - 8th grade: I make up a separate pocket folder with only Tapestry of Grace materials in the left hand pocket. The student is responsible for their own Math, Science, and grammar sheets. Assignment sheets start out as daily assignments, and then slowly grow to weekly assignments. Usually Math & grammar transition first: "Lessons 121-125 completed by Friday", for example. Science (Apologia) is next with "Module 3.1 - 3.7 completed by Friday". Tapestry of Grace is the last to go since it's quite involved. Weekly notebook checks insure that I won't have a box of loose papers to contend with at the end of the year when I assemble portfolios.
9th -12th grade: I write only the dated course syllabus, and give the student a quarter at a time. For example, I might right TOG, Week 3 or Apologia, Module 5a. I no longer write weekly assignment sheets or gather materials. Your brother is responsible to write out his assignments and gather materials for me to check BEFORE Monday morning at 9 a.m. In order for me to check, though, I have to have a list of what he needs. That means I still have a substantial amount of work to prepare. I also have periodic notebook checks to insure that the work for the transcript can be substantiated if necessary. This step prepares him for independent work at the college level.
One of the biggest challenges is re-organizing the classroom/desk spaces each year to reflect the student's growth and independence.
In K-2, you work at the kitchen table on a piano bench that lifts you up to the proper height. I am able to keep a close eye on you and still get most of my work done.
In 3-5th, you work at a standard school desk or art table that is the proper size in the classroom or your bedroom, depending on who else is working. Any computer work is done on my laptop in the living room or kitchen. I need to be able to walk by frequently to insure that you are working quietly and diligently.
In 6th - 8th grade, much more of your work requires a computer, so you move out to the classroom desk, a giant L shaped office desk with a computer station in the center. I will check on you periodically, but by 8th grade, I will only be checking for completion or grading unless you need tutoring.
By high school, you have a laptop computer and require prolonged periods of solitude to accomplish your assignments. Finding a table or desk that will give a quiet place to work for extended periods of time is a must.
All of you need ready access to the school supplies, pencil sharpener, etc., so that has to be accommodated as well.
Summer vacation is a wonderful time that I look forward to all year. I have a lot more down time, and time for projects that get put off during the school year. We get to swim, hike, work in the yard, and revel in the few brief months of good weather. It isn't a time to abandon the discipline that leads to godliness, however, nor is it a time to let 9 months of hard work fly out the window. Enjoy your summer vacations to the fullest, but don't compromise your relationship with the Lord or your family!
Love and Sunshine,