Archive for ‘Family’

November 27, 2011

How long, Oh Lord?

I bet from the title you thought this would be an adoption post, but it’s not. Ha.

Actually, I’ve just been thinking about how long to school each year. Many states require 180 days minimum.

Bookstores pop up just about everywhere these days. Awesome.

This year my 5 year old boy & his 3 year old distract-inator brother and I began schooling at home. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks as we round the stretch into our first big holiday break. We’re doing it pretty much every day and I am loving that.

I think we’ll emphasize reading now, and probably always, and keep that on our plate daily. Because we’re still at the letter recognition/BOB books level, it’s pretty work intensive for me at this point: he can’t work independently yet, unless he’s just tracing or doing copywork. Even then he does better with me sitting nearby. I have a somewhat unpredictable schedule, a mashed-up SAHM-WAHM teaching music and playing gigs. So my philosophy has become “do reading & some math every day we can”. That has worked out well, and I think my son actually appreciates the predictability of what will be in the first couple of workboxes each day.

I still labor under a bit of a shadow of the school curriculums. I want to be sure we are at least on-level with the public schoolers and I don’t want my son to suffer academically just because I’m so new at this. For that reason, I think schooling every day is helping me relax a bit and let us take our time. I find myself much less snappy with him when he gets tired or distracted, too. Maybe I should have listed that as the best reason to school 365!

We aim to be chill. It's a lofty goal.

November 27, 2011

Why do you homeschool?

A friend whose wife is a school teacher has been poking some fun at homeschoolers on facebook, and I had replied to a couple of his threads. He then asked me directly why we decided to do it, and I thought I might post my response here. This blog exists in part to organize my thoughts and in part to keep my memories of our lives. As I wrote that answer to my friend, I realized my memory of how we came to homeschool was already becoming fuzzy and it spurred me to get it out here before I forget entirely. So here, in short, is why we have become homeschoolers.
Oh, I just realized I didn’t answer the “why”. In retrospect it feels like a complicated thing to answer.

Our five year old is really excited about/distracted by action around him. He’s bright and when he’s interested in something he’s borderline happily obsessive. The combination can be frustrating when a teacher has a big group of kids to work with. We learned this about him in preschool and at church.

Also, as we approached fall and had a decision to make about school (his birthday being in January meant it was optional to start this year), I started researching the neighborhood schools. They aren’t horrible, not great, they have large classes and aren’t strong in reading. I had a couple of friends who homeschool and started looking into that, too. At first I thought I’d just make sure he got a good reading start.

Mixing "gamillas"- vanilla banana cookies.

I also read a book called “How to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child”, and “The Well Trained Mind”. Those began to really tip me toward sincerely considering it. That was a shock even to me.

We went to an info meeting about a virtual public school but much of their system really is just like public, including grades from teachers and needing to complete subjects in grade level lock-step. Also, they wanted us to log 6 to 8 hours a day, which with one-on-one attention is just dumb in kindergarten. My impression was that it is mainly for people having trouble in public school.

Then I went to a huge homeschool conference here in portland. I could not believe the diversity of families there. Everything from head-covering mennonites to freaky tattoed people (that’s us). There were so many transracial families, too. I remember being struck by that. Last month when we had our social worker interviews for the adoption she also mentioned how huge adoption is in the homeschool community. I think that’s awesome. It was a beautiful thing to see.
The other kind of diversity I saw at the conference was the wide wide range of curriculae. There are some excellent statistics on homeschooler achievement, but I know it’s not the academics that are generally criticized. The socialization factor has also been debunked, but I’m thinking it’s more the insular nature of families with crazy ideas/ideals that you’re thinking of…

PJ's are the best.

Anyway, sorry to ramble but it was a curvy road. I love it now that we’re doing it. We’re in a “Classical Conversations” group and that is incredible. Very broad.

This is Toby's group, memorizing the history sentence: The war of 1812 gave confidence to the US to write the Monroe Doctrine, warning Europeans not to attempt to colonize the Americas.

After writing this response to my friend, I looked around for some good statistics on homeschool graduates. The statistics are overwhelmingly positive.

November 26, 2011

The waiiiiting is the hardest part.

We have finally completed all of our adoption homework, jumped through every hoop and are now just… waiting.

Our agency has all our info, our approved report from the social worker, and our family profile book. We used Blurb to make it and it turned out just the way we wanted. I can’t imagine making it without a program like that, it was super helpful. The other thing that lead to me completing the profile book without huddling in the fetal position under my bed was a class we took online through Adoption Learning Partners. Extremely practical, if you are going to be making one of these or writing a “Dear Birthmother” letter any time soon I would sit yourself down with a nice latte, run on over to their site and take the class.

Yup, now we wait. It’s not that bad, really. I’m not a patient person but even I can see that we have privileges and graces that other families long for. We already have two monkeys, and they are awesome little humans. We have a stable and supportive extended family. We have the luxury of believing in a Creator and in the existence of absolutes. All these things put us in a great position to wait gracefully for the process to work itself out.

A friend said something so smart about it, though, “To hold an adoption loosely requires the heart of a robot. I am convinced.” She and her husband are waiting, too, and have had many more jarring ups and downs so pray for them if they happen to come to mind. Can’t wait for our kids to meet theirs a few years down the road.


May 30, 2011

So my friend says, “Why DOES it cost so much?”

Yeah, because dude, it is a LOT of money, isn’t it?!

Disclaimer: We are adoption neophytes, and we know it. Here is the extent of our experience, and then my answer about the money side of this equation.

I have always been drawn to the idea of adopting. We’ll chat soon about how that idea became reality for our family.

On the practical side, three years ago we nearly adopted a distant relative through the state but as our second son arrived before we could get all the ducks in a row, we did not end up adopting that child. She was placed with a distant member on the other side of her family. I’m still surprised how painful that whole thing was, and how much it brought me to the cross in the sense that I had to deal with deeper anger and frustration with God for the first time as a believer. (I became a Christian as an adult, about 12 years ago.)

We’re at the infancy stages of adopting now through a private agency. We went to the meetings about state adoption, and realized that there were several things that made it clear it was not for us.

      First: why we don’t just go through the state.
They simply don’t have nearly the need in our state now for adoptive parents of children under 2, and will just about not process the paperwork for a family with that age restriction. The child’s distant, remote and never-even-met-you relations are first approached about placement (remember, that was US a few years back). When a blue moon rises and they do have one arrive with need of a family, there are literally 60 to 80 dossiers waiting and ready. Three are selected and considered by a committee that may include the child’s birth family. So it takes years. It can take years just to get processed if you restrict it to a young child. One other point of concern with us is that they absolutely will not work with families who are not comfortable with a fully open adoption. Keeping in mind the circumstances that bring children to need for families, I find that to be potentially disconcerting. The workers didn’t tell us “do not go with us” but they made it pretty clear we would be unlikely to have a child placed with us through them. They even gave us names of agencies to check out!

I can’t say that “losing” the state option wasn’t a bit of a disappointment. On the bright side, at least on paper, social services must be doing a bang-up job in the Northwest! And the kids are rarely waiting like they used to, so that’s a huge big awesome deal. I hope things continue to be streamlined and reformed in ways that truly benefit those children.

     So, today, off the cuff, here is my answer to “Why DOES it cost so much?”

I assume you’re talking domestic. International costs fund the orphanages, agencies, sometimes social services in the community, and indeed in some cases the bribery involved for the greasing of bureaucratic wheels.

So, domestic, best case scenario: You are funding the highly trained counseling pre- and post- placement for the birthmother and potentially the birthfather as well. This includes (as it should) funding that same counseling for families who in the end choose to parent, thereby garnering no fees for the agency outside of state funding. You are funding the advertising and outreach an agency does, and probably some of their political outreach as well (re: abortions, adoption law, etc). Social workers must have a masters, minimum, and most agencies have their own on retainer. A home study is required to adopt from anywhere in/to the US, and the licensing for the people who visit families to approve them, grilling them and their children, is necessarily extensive as well.

That said, it’s still free to adopt through the state and I’ve heard that some states have more need than ours.

The agency we found finally (through the super-chick who played piano at our wedding), is incredible at first blush and we hope they’ll continue to impress us. They charge $15,000, pretty much one of the lowest fees we’ve seen.

This agency requires adoptive families to sign a Christian statement of faith, which we are all over and glad to see. In the swirl of adoption information, intensity of issues and opinions, it is really a source of comfort that we share that belief. Most of their adoptions are semi-open, meaning the birthmother often meets the family before placing with them, updates are sent from the adoptive family on a regular basis, and the families communicate through the proxy of the agency, but there is not usually direct contact between the birth family and the child. While I understand the affront that is felt by some birth mother advocates at this form of “open” (which they would called closed), I was impressed by the consideration and respect this agency showed to potential birth mothers in answers to several of my questions.

There are agencies whose fees start at twice or more what ours will be. Perhaps they are affected by the region in which they operate. The cynical side of me has other comments, but for now I’m going to focus on where we are in this marathon process and on the things I’ve found to be beautiful therein. Later maybe I’ll dig a bit deeper with sharper claws, and I do pray for the whole system and the kids in need at this point in history. Adoption always begins with loss. You should pray, too, or dig, as needed.

I hope the movement gaining momentum in the Christian church that calls people to support adoption and adoptive families will continue to grow. Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life is a good place to start if you’re interested. The short of it is: it would be great if the church were to be known for supporting its members in adoption. There are programs that start short term loan or small grant programs for church communities to fund, and I heart that concept. The IRS gives us certain tax credits which also helps a LOT, but tax help only comes after you’ve shelled out your clams. So it’s hard and sometimes seems unfair. Bleh.

So, there’s the long of it from our viewpoint. More is likely to come!

May 9, 2011

Mother’s Day Rocketh

*To see the video below without it being cut in half, click on the title of this post before viewing. Pity me and my WordPress noviceness.*

I have decided to make my first post here a tribute to my evah lovin muthuh. My mom is awesome on so many levels. Having pretty much taught herself to weld with her friends, she makes art out of reclaimed pieces of junk metal. Another group of friends creates huge cement leaves that everyone wants to buy but mom rarely sells hers because it “takes something out of it”. A master gardener, she and Dad meticulously resodded their lawn 4 years ago and yet left a large pile of dirt bare simply because our boys love to play in it.

She mispronounces words in fantastic ways, ruthlessly mixing metaphors and ordering fajitas in such a way it becomes practically scandalous.  Despite having thoroughly proven she can still chase me down and spank me as an adult, she’s even cool when we tease her about these things.

Here’s a video that pretty much explains how great she is. This video was for a contest J entered, was shot in her backyard, and Mom enthusiastically participated as you can see. After we shot the video I believe we roasted hot dogs and drank her favorite Black Butte Porter while hanging out watching the sun go down. Yay, Mom!