24 July 2015

Agent Homeschooling 2015-2016: Week 4

I’m having some trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that we are done with week 4 of this school year already, but, alas, here we are. We’re also gearing up to take our first break. (Yeah for year-round schooling.) I use the term “break” loosely, though, because in reality we will end up taking one or two travel days off but actually “do” school for at least part of our adventure. 

Last weekend we won a life-size Yoda
Math: Both Agent E (4th) and Agent J (2nd) continue to work on their respective math practice workbooks daily. We now have 7 of the 10 Life of Fred elementary series books out of the library. And yes, we plan on keeping them and renewing them as many times as the library will allow until someone else puts in a request for them and we’re forced to return them. While both Senior Agents have perused all them, we decided to go back and actually read them together and do all of the activities starting next week.

Language Arts: This week was adverbs. I’m kind of enjoying taking one teeny tiny topic at a time and exploring it for a whole week. Of course, in our discussion of adverbs we also cover spelling and vocabulary, as well as a review of other parts of speech we’ve already covered (e.g., find the verb first—last week’s lesson—and then what adverb modifies it). Current independent reading for Agent E is a Kingdom Keepers book and for Agent J is a Magic Tree House, which is unusual for her, as she doesn’t particularly care for the series. She made an exception because this particular title involves a unicorn.

Geography: We are getting started with our spine book, Geography: A Visual Encyclopedia. The first few pages discuss the formation of the solar system and then each of the planets in more detail. We’ll probably continue looking at the planets (including dwarf planets, asteroid belt, etc.) before we move on to the next section, which deals more specifically with earth’s formation.

History: We read the next few pages of History Year by Year but decided to put it on hold for next week because we’re going to be executing an abbreviated school schedule while traveling. We are just getting into the section covering Really Ancient History, and looking forward to more in-depth studies of pyramids, mummies, Egyptian gods, and Mesopotamia when we return. We continued our look at human evolution, and re-read a favorite book, Our Family Tree.
This is what happens to Ivory soap when you microwave it for 90 seconds
Science: Because our chosen primary topics for geography and history overlap into science, we don’t have a lot of specific things to list here. We did try the soap experiment illustrating Charles’ law. We also watched another Science of Disney Imagineering episode (Fluids) as well as another Animal World (Kangaroos and Tortoises/Turtles/Terrapins). Science, geography, and history blend together a lot lately. I expect that trend to continue.

Health: Our plan for this week was to start our study of the human body by looking at cells as the basic building blocks, including use of microscopes and a brief introduction to DNA. We didn’t really get very far on this, so we may either pack some of our intended reading materials or come back to it next week. We also finished watching all the available Netflix episodes of Brain Games. (We’ll probably revisit some of the concepts when we get further into our studies of each of the body systems.)

{Side note: Most of you probably don’t know this (why would you?) but I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and spent a year in graduate school working on a master’s degree I never finished. (The reasons why would be a whole series of posts.) I also worked for two different social psychologists while in college, and at one point wanted to basically become a professional student until I scored a PhD in social or educational psychology. Anyhoo, because of this background I can’t decide if I find Brain Games fascinating or if it just irritates me. Either way, it’s planted the seed that maybe someday I’d like to pursue this again, formally or not.}
Lightsaber battle . . . I mean, back yard PE
Art/Music: We added both of these to our agenda this week, so we now technically have at least touched on every subject. However, we just read the first few introductory pages of our spine books (this one for art and this one for music) and the the Senior Agents skimmed both books together to see what is coming up. My goal is to have dedicated art/music “lessons” at least once a week going forward. Agent E continues her interest in learning the recorder (having mostly taught herself) and we are probably going to break down and buy a keyboard sometime soon. Still wanting this music book, which I mentioned last week but haven’t ordered yet. (Of course it’s gone up $3.00 since I put it on my wish list. Sigh.)

PE: Our running program is pretty much an epic fail at this point. We do continue to aim for at least two hours of outside activity each day (weather permitting) and the Agents get plenty of unstructured play time and exercise. We will likely revisit the idea when we return from our travels.

Kindergarten: We don’t really do anything formal for Agent A, although sometimes he requests to “do” school with his sisters. We’re continuing to read a lot of level one easy reader books together. He’s also been enjoying practice letters on a dry erase board I found at Target for a dollar. Sometimes we write letters or numbers in chalk on the driveway or sidewalk. Mostly, it’s just typical four-year-old insanity at any given moment around here.

Enjoy your weekend!

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23 July 2015

Evolving Faith

Almost two years ago I wrote a post about my failed attempts to fit in with various Christian churches. You can click on the link to check it out if you want, but here’s the thumbnail version: lots of churches, lots of uncomfortable feelings, lots of disappointment, few answers. It took me a long while to figure out why. Then it started to come together.


We’re studying world religions in our homeschooling this year, and although we’ve only touched on it briefly so far, it’s a topic we look forward to pursuing. The Senior Agents (ages 9 and 7) and I were discussing the concept of God, an afterlife, how different people believe different things about the world, why we’re here, what happens when we die. We also have a whole book of creation stories from around the world, which I’m sure they will love, coming up soon.

They were floored when they learned that many folks truly, honestly believe that their way, their religion, their view is the only right one. That if you don’t follow the one, perfect, exclusive way, you’re out of the club. Considering the number of people on the planet, and the number of diverse world views, it made no sense to them that anyone could claim to know the single, correct way to interpret God.

After a bit more chatting they somewhat timidly asked me what religion they were. I told them they’d have to decide for themselves. Then the asked me what religion I am. I had to tell them I don’t know. Because I don’t.

I used to automatically respond Christian. I must be a Christian. I had to be a Christian. I was baptized, confirmed, and took communion regularly for years. I went to Catholic church until college. As an adult, I went to (non-Catholic but Christian) churches regularly, attended Bible studies, joined prayer circles. I said marriage vows in a church and baptized three children in the same church. I didn’t know anything else. It was my default programming.

I was Super Duper Jesus-y. Or so I thought.  At one point I was one of those people crediting Jesus for every little occurrence and telling people to have a blessed day and saying things like God’s timing is perfect and tossing out biblical references. I participated in Christian women's groups, where my introvert self mostly sat quietly hoping no one expected me to contribute. I made it a goal to read The Book every day. I bought daily devotionals. I nodded along to my Christian friends’ prayer requests and touching God-stories. I listened to Christian rock music for crying out loud.

The truth is, however, it never felt authentic. It pretty much always felt like a theater performance I didn’t quite want to be in. I’ve blamed the ambivalent feelings I’ve had over the years on a number of things: I’m too young, I’m too old, my Catholic upbringing, college rebellion, bad past relationships, not finding the right church, not finding the right Bible study, not finding the right friends, not having sufficient roots, being upset over my father’s death, not being grateful enough, not being strong enough, not wanting it badly enough.

It didn’t help that every day I would see my “Christian” friends doing and saying cringeworthy and utterly not compassionate things. (Hat tip, Facebook feed.) Rest assured, though, this isn’t a case of I don’t like how you guys are playing so I’m taking my ball and going home.

This is about what I want to teach my children. I am not a Christian. I can’t give them faith I don’t have. More importantly, I want to give them the opportunity to figure it out on their own. I don’t want them to be exposed to one faith because I decided when they were infants that we should go to this place, read this book, and practice these rituals. I don’t want them to simply follow along with me (not that I’d be a great tour guide). I don’t want to push any version of God or religion on them at an age when they still believe everything I say. Because if I told them, hey from now on were going to go to only this type of church and pray only this way and read only these stories because they are right and nothing else is, they would say, okay. And that’s not what I want for them.

I’m not anti-Jesus by any stretch of the imagination. I absolutely love and admire the teachings of Jesus. And by this I mean the historical Jesus who imparted people to be respectful and to play nice, not the contrived character modern Christians have distorted him into. While not my BFF, as a role model, he is pretty awesome.

Yet I can’t get on board with much past the very basic tenets of Christianity (if that). I can’t accept that this is the only way to know God. I can’t say this path is right and all the other paths are wrong. 

I believe there is a God. Not in a magical, superhero, wish-granter God, but more of an omnipresent spiritual life force. I think there is a Divine element out there whose understanding is likely beyond our limited humanness. I just don’t know who or what it is exactly. And I’m done pretending that I do.

Honestly, as far as “labels” go this probably makes me an Agnostic Theist, or perhaps a Christian Agnostic.

{I trust you can put your Wikipedia skills to good use here if you need a definition or two.}

I know if my Christian friends are still reading at this point, they are waiting for the part where I say something like and then Jesus reached down and touched my heart and opened my eyes. . . or some other teary, happy-ending dribble we’ve been accustomed to reading at the end of posts like these.

But I’m not going to. I don’t need healing.

I’m not a broken Christian. I’m something else altogether.

Faith doesn’t look anything like what I thought it would.

{Note: I fully expect there to be a part two to this post.}

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Also sharing as part of the Small Victories Sunday link up co-hosted by Echo at The Mad Mommy.