Monday, February 16, 2015

Finding Hope in the Home School Empty Nest

I was encouraged after reading the blog post "Is There Life After Homeschooling" on the Tea Time With Annie Kate blog. She tells about a woman she met who had gone through a terrible time of depression when her homeschooling abruptly ended when her children went to high school.

I am right there when it comes to the empty nest. We graduated our youngest in 2010, but our last one at home just got married in May of last year. I thought I would be useful in caring for my aging mother who moved in with us two years ago, but then she passed away a year ago last December, only making my empty nest more grievous.

Our beautiful children (youngest to oldest):
Andrew, Lydia, Sam, and Jonathan
So, here I am alone. It's been very hard. It doesn't help that three of our four children now live a thousand miles away. Thankfully, our oldest son and his family are close and attend our church. But the absence of people who were not only my family but also some of my dearest friends, has left a gaping hole in my heart. The quiet is deafening.

However, in my loneliness and grief, I have found the time to actually think about who I am and what I am made to do. I've been studying the concept of vocation these past few months, and it has given me a hope beyond what I have already accomplished.

Vocation is not necessarily what you do for money. It is more an expression of your God-given gifts and talents -- your own personal calling -- for the blessing of others.

Therefore, just because I home educated our children it doesn't mean that is my life's calling. For some, homeschooling may only be a conviction which leads them to invest their lives in education only for that time. For instance, the woman mentioned in the blog post I gave above who was excited to be free of the obligations of homeschooling in order to begin a crafting business is most likely called to do that work. She just didn't have the time to do it until her children were grown. There's nothing wrong with that. In this way, each must discern what her next contribution will be through discovering her calling.

Then, how does one discern her calling? It has been suggested to begin by trying to recall what you enjoyed doing when you were a small child, perhaps even before you went to grade school. My earliest memories are of writing books and being The Teacher over my younger siblings playing school.

I may conclude then that my calling runs along the lines of one who informs or teaches. I have always loved reading and learning and sharing what I've read and learned. Therefore, I hope to spend at least some portion of what life is left in me to doing something along those lines. Knowing my calling gives me hope and helps me not to wallow in self-pity.

If you are in the empty nest or heading into it, let me encourage you to begin to prayerfully contemplate your calling. As long as you are living, there is some contribution you can make to the Kingdom of Christ, both in your own family and among God's people.

We must not let this rich chapter of our lives go to waste for one moment in self-pity or despair. God is able to make all grace abound as we seek His face for the guidance in every step of our life's journey for the glory of God and for the good of others.

"In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." ~ Proverbs 3:6

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How To Save Photos From Facebook

"Big Red" lighthouse, Holland, MI
Your daughter-in-law shares the most awesome pictures of the out-of-state grandchildren. You finally get to see pictures from that wedding you were unable to attend. There is a rare heirloom portrait posted on a family group page you would love to frame and hang on your wall. The only problem is these are all only available on Facebook.

Facebook, like any other online social network is as unstable as a house of cards and liable to fall with the slightest online breeze. There are no guarantees you will be able to view or access those same photos even in the next minute. Your account could be cancelled, there could be a terrorist hacker, or Facebook could go belly up. It happens all...the...time. So how can you retrieve those precious moments available only on Facebook?

Here is a method I have used numerous times:

1. Click on the photo so it appears in the viewer mode.

2. Right click and choose "Open photo in a new tab."

3. Right click on the photo which pops up in the new tab and choose "Save photo as," type in a name for it (making sure it is in a folder where you want it on your computer or can easily find it later), then click Save.

I have even had downloaded pictures developed on websites like Walgreens Photo and Snapfish to make photo calendars for great-grandparents and send prints to out-of-state relatives. This also works for saving photos of recipes people post which you want to save and pictures you've uploaded from your phone.

With the volatility of online social media you never know when all those precious memories could be lost. Download them today!

Of course, as with any online photos, be sure to get permission where it is obvious you should.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Wonder of a Four-Year-Old Who Knits

Our daughter-in-love Emily teaching our
four-year-old granddaughter Elsie how to knit.
Our daughter-in-love Emily posted a picture on Facebook recently of her teaching our four-year-old granddaughter Elsie how to knit. And she is doing it! In just a short time she already has a good portion of a scarf completed.

We are amazed. She is SO smart. She is a genius, a prodigy.

And then I read this:
By the time she was four, a girl [raised in the American colonies in the 1700's] was expected to be able to knit basic stockings and mittens; by six, spin flax. By eight, most girls were helping take care of their younger sisters and brothers.[1]
It was then it occurred to me that what makes our Elsie so amazing is that she picked it up out of natural interest and not by our expectations for her. I have to wonder how much more our children would do and learn if only we expected them to.

Of course, there is the question of natural inclination, ability, and motor skill development and all of that to take into consideration. But, how much do we rob our children of meaningful work and contributions to the family dynamic by setting them down to a movie or sending them out to play rather than bringing them along side of us in our daily work and skilled leisure activities?

That's why I love home education above institutional schooling. The daily opportunities to mentor our children in the arts and even in basic daily care of self and home are vast and innumerable. Every moment has the potential to be a teachable moment. We don't have to settle for catching them here and there. Every day becomes a teachable day.

But not much of it will happen by accident. A parent must be proactive in including the children in daily work and leisure.

I encourage you to seek opportunities to draw the children in to whatever you are doing. Perhaps families with many children will have to pull them in one at a time, but any effort will reap huge benefits.

Be patient with them and don't give up too soon. Even failed attempts deserve a try perhaps when they are older. Your loving attention and expectation of their achievement will help develop the confidence they need for future success in many areas of life.

[1] Daniel Wolff. How Lincoln Learned To Read (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009), 30.