Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blog Stalkers

It's been seven weeks since my friend Elisha "flew up to Heaven on the wings of angels".

They played Sissy's Song, by Alan Jackson, at her graveside.

I don't know if she picked that song or not.  

She and I had talked about our funerals one time when we were walking.  It was kind of a depressing topic, but we talked about everything, so somehow the discussion of our funerals came up.  I had told her I want this song played at my funeral.  

When we got to the cemetery, as we stood at the top of the hill, just feet away from her coffin, and the music to "Sissy's Song" started, I sucked in my breath, remembering that conversation and trying to keep from sobbing.

I miss her.  

I think about her a lot.  Even still.  

It's just so sad.  

But I think I'm healing.  Slowly.

I no longer obsess about how awful her last days, weeks, and months were.  Now I picture her in heaven.  

I imagine her up there with a healthy spiritual body, a head full of hair, and pain-free smile on her face.  I picture her at the top of the mountain, looking back at the valley she came through to get there, with her hands in the air, feeling victorious.  I see her comforted.  I see her strong.  I see her happy.


I think about our walks, and our talks.  

And what amazes me is how I never feel truly inspired to write until I'm thinking about Elisha.  It's hard to write about anything else.

My husband has encouraged me to write about other things.  While he knows my writing about her is therapeutic to me, it may be painful for the those of you who love Elisha.  I apologize if that is the case.  I'm not trying to dredge up memories to hurt you.  

I'm just writing because I feel inspired.  I write so much better when I feel inspired.  And right now, nothing inspires me more than Elisha.


I remember one time when she and I were walking, we had both recently posted separately on our individual blogs.  She asked me, "So do you stalk your blog?"

That may seem a very strange question, but if you knew Elisha, you would totally understand.  She had a way of saying things that just made you laugh.

So, through giggles, I asked, "Stalk my blog?"

She went on to explain, "Yeah.  Like check it every five seconds to see how many people have read it."

When you create and design your own blog, you can go to your design page and look at your blog numbers.  Each post is listed, along with the number of times that post has been viewed.  So after you publish what you've written, you can continually refresh your design page to see how many people have read it.

Oh yes, I do that.  And I was so thankful to know that Elisha did that too.

Then she asked me how many had read my most recent blog post, about reconnecting with my childhood best friend  (B.B.F.F.E. - Part One).  At that time, about 55 people had read it.

Elisha was shocked, as this was her all-time favorite thing I had ever written.  She thought my number should be much higher.

I was shocked because I thought that number was pretty good.

So I asked her how many had read her recent blog post discussing her anxiety about an upcoming scan she was having to determine if her body was clear of cancer (Scanxiety).  She had well over 200 views.

My mouth dropped.

She laughed.

I said, "You are so popular."

I went on to tell her that my highest number was 81 page views.  I had never even gotten to 100.

Elisha said, "We're going to get you to 100 on this one."

Later that night, she encouraged her Facebook friends to read my blog post, sharing a link to it on her wall.  By the next day, I had 101 views.  I texted her immediately, "Now I'm popular too!  Thank you!"


Elisha and I continued to stalk our blog posts after that, sharing our numbers.  The last blog post she wrote told the world that her cancer had returned (Round Two).  She texted me numerous times over the next 48 hours, to tell me her numbers.  We were both shocked.  Within days of her typing those words, over 2,000 people had read them.  I just kept telling her, "You are so popular."

Elisha was popular.  She still is.

I check her Facebook page often, and lots of people are still talking about her.  So I hope it's okay that I am too.


Seeds of Faith - inspired by Elisha Skeen

Since my declaration to be more inspirational in my writing, as Elisha was, I've closed each of my blog posts with "Seeds of Faith", hoping to point everything back to God, as Elisha did.

I've lost loved ones in my past.  But loss of life has never been more "in my face" as it has been since Elisha passed.  I see her not here everyday.  When I walk up the road, she's not here.  When I invite her husband over for a meal, she's not here.  When I play with her son, she's not here.  When I write a blog, she's not here.

How do I point that back to God?

I don't know exactly, except to say, that in losing her, and having this hole in my life where she used to be, I am continually seeking His comfort, His strength, and His peace to fill that void.

And every time I am sad over losing her, I remember her husband and her son, right next door, whose grief and pain are so much bigger than mine.  So I pray for His comfort, His strength, and His peace upon them.

Sometimes words fail me.  And even in prayers, I don't know exactly what to say.  So I pray the 23rd Psalm.

Lord - You are my shepherd; I shall not want.

You maketh me to lie down in green pastures:  You leadeth me beside the still waters.
You restoreth my soul: You leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for Your name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.

You preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: You anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in YOUR house for ever.

When Elisha was sick, and I knew she needed peace, but I couldn't come up with the words to pray, I prayed the 23rd Psalm for her.  Lord - You are Elisha's shepherd;  she shall not want...

When her husband and her son leave my house, I pray the 23rd Psalm for them.

I encourage you to memorize the 23rd Psalm. When you are in need of God's comfort, God's strength, and God's peace, but your heart and mind are at a loss for words, this passage of scripture can be your guide.


If you are reading this blog, Elisha has touched your life in some way, even if it is only through my words.  I hope you are inspired.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Test Week

One of my favorite week's of homeschooling is our TEST WEEK.  Does that make me weird?

It does.  I know it does.  

Even when I was little, I LOVED test week.  I got excited about my number two pencils.  I got excited about filling in the circles.  I got excited about seeing the teacher mark the start and finish times on the board. I got excited about all of it.  Mostly I got excited about showing myself how much I had learned.

I was such a nerd...

I still am.  I still love test week.  I love getting pencils sharpened for my two boys.  I love filling out their student information pages.  I love writing the start and finish times on the board.  I love all of it.  Mostly I love seeing how much my boys have learned.

See.  I'm still a nerd.  

And the funny thing is...  I've passed it onto my boys.  They love test week too.

I guess they're nerds too.


So...  I was bit perplexed when a friend of mine texted me yesterday morning.  This week is test week at her  homeschool.  Her text said, and I quote...

"Let me tell you, I HATE testing.  My daughter has already cried this morning and I felt completely helpless. Arg."

We texted back and forth for a little while.  She was venting.  I was attempting to cheer her up.  

I later received another text from her...

"I need some words of encouragement.  I'm about to cry."

My poor friend.  This is her first year testing.  I tried to cheer her up using Abilene's famous words...

"You is good.  You is smart.  You is important."

(That's a quote from The Help.  If you haven't read that book, you should.  Or at least watch the movie.  It's awesome.)


My kids have never cried during test week.  And I have never wanted to cry during test week.

Yes, it could be because we are total nerds.  

But, just in case that's not it, and I'm actually doing something that might be helpful for others to know, here is what I do to insure Test Week is a positive experience at Chapel Hill Academy.

1.  I always test in April.
I test right after Easter break.  That way we are refreshed.  We are nowhere close to being burned out.  It makes for a good week.

2.  I tell my boys the test is not for them, but for me.  
I tell my boys, ages 8 & 10, this test is not about them.  It's about me.  I explain that their test scores will show me what I have taught well, and what I haven't taught well.  I tell them if they do not know the answers, not to worry about it.  It will show me what subject matter we still need to focus on.   These tests show my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher.  This is good for me to know.

3.  I don't make a big deal about the tests.
I don't act like the fact that we are testing is all that important.  I don't spend weeks ahead of time preparing for the test.  This way it seems as though we are simply taking a break from our normal homeschool days to "see how Mommy is doing as a teacher".

4.  I don't do any other homeschooling during test week.
I'm sure the reason my boys like test week is because our homeschool days end up being much shorter.  Testing only takes two to three hours each day.  That leaves a lot of time for play.

5.  I always do a pre-test on day one of testing.
We use the Terra Nova standardized test.  (I get them from Bayside School Services -  This test comes with a pre-test.  We always start with this on Monday.  It's quick and easy.  I find that is a good way to start off the week.  They complete day one of testing on a positive note with a good feeling, and then they get to play.

6.  On the last day of testing, we always do something extra fun.
My first year of homeschooling, my oldest son was the only one testing.  When we finished our last test section, I let him pick a special place for lunch - just the two of us.  He picked Waffle House.  He is sooo my child.  And I let him pick songs on the jukebox.  He played all Rascal Flatts.  My child, for sure!   Last year, we stayed overnight in a hotel.  This year, I scheduled a field trip at the Lazy 5 Ranch.  


Don't get me wrong.  I don't breeze through Test Week without any stress.  There are many aspects of testing that stir up nervousness in my mind, and in my stomach.  Here are some thoughts that run through my head as I try to look over their shoulders while they're taking their tests...
  • I know he knows the right answer.  BUT he marked the wrong answer.  
  • We haven't studied that yet!
  • Is he supposed to know that?
  • I don't even know the answer to that.
  • I'm gonna have to google that one.
  • I want to help you.
  • I wish I could help you.
  • I'm sorry I can't help you.

I think the hardest part of test week is not being able to help your child get to the right answer.  This is when I have to remind myself... (and this is exactly what I told my friend yesterday)

" doesn't matter if they do good or bad.  All they have to do is take the test.  So everyone take a deep breath.  Smile.  Pray.  And know that this will all be over soon."

I know it's different in public school.  EOG scores matter.  But in homeschool, the only one affected by your final score is you - the teacher.  If your child doesn't score well, you just teach it again.  It's simple as that.


I got our test scores back last Friday.  As I scanned the pages, I was full of relief and and overcome with joy.  

My boys are nerds.  And it turns out they have a very good teacher.  :)


Seeds of Faith (inspired by Elisha Skeen)

Just hearing the word "test" sparks anxiety and fear in the minds of many teachers and students.  Here are some Bible verses to help you get through Test Week.

James 1:5
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Psalm 56:3
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

Proverbs 19:8
He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.

And my personal favorite...

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's May.

It's May.

Do you know how I know it's May?  No.  Not because I looked at my calendar.

I know it's May because I've got that feeling.  You homeschool moms, and probably public school teachers, know exactly what I'm talking about.  That feeling I like to call ~ "I'm done".

For those of you who don't have the luxury of lesson-planning, grading papers, conducting tests, and pretty much being fully responsible for the education of your children, let me explain it to you...

My two boys and I have spent the last nine months doing organized learning in our classroom.  We start with Science, then move on to Handwriting and Social Studies.  I give them their Reading assignments.  While I fix lunch, my boys take turns working on their typing skills on our computer.  After lunch, we resume our studies with an afternoon activity such as art, poetry, or critical thinking.  Then they do some Language Arts, followed by Writing.  And our school day is done after Spelling and Math are completed.

At least that's how I plan for each day to be...

As you can imagine, it doesn't always work out that way.  In fact, the closer we get to the end of our school year, the less likely it is that our school day looked anything like the schedule I described above.

In fact, today...


I'm almost too embarrassed to share this with you...

But I guess if it makes you feel better about your school day, it will be worth my embarrassment...

This morning we had breakfast with friends at Cracker Barrel.  Then we went to Lowe's and Wal-mart.  Then we gathered with friends for story time at the library.  Afterwards, we met for lunch at the Sub Shop.  Now I am in my office writing this blog, while my boys are watching television.

That's what we've done today.

And I'm totally counting it as a day of school.

I know it sounds like a completely unproductive, all-fun, no-education day.  And at the beginning of our school year, I would totally agree.

But today, I would argue that point...

They played Checkers at Cracker Barrel.  That's educational, right?  Math (circles, squares), Science (ummm...  surely there's something scientific about Checkers), Critical Thinking (Oh come on.  You can't argue that one.  Checkers is definitely critical thinking).  So Math, Science, Critical Thinking.  Check, check, check.

They had story time at the library.  Reading (Mrs. Robin read to them), Art (They painted strawberry pictures).  Check, check.

They ate lunch with their friends.  Now isn't everyone always saying homeschool kids need social interaction?  Social Studies.  Check.

Right now they are watching Disney's Kickin' It.  Hmmm...  how can I make that educational?  Afternoon Activity?  Yes!  Afternoon Activity.  Check.

So all we've missed is Spelling and Writing.  Wait a minute...  

...   ...   ...

Okay.  I just made them spell "writing".  So we've covered both items there.  Spelling.  Writing.  Check.  Check.

And you thought they didn't learn anything today.  Don't you feel silly?


You see, I've reached that point in the school year where I am so burnt-out on our learning routine.  I am just trying to survive.  And I am just desperate enough to justify my educational choices for today.   Don't judge me!

I'm tired of talking about plants, and communities, and writing, and multiplication.  I just want to take a nap.


So...  in my own defense...

I can tell you that we've finished our Science and Social Studies curriculums for the year.  Those are the most fun. 

Handwriting.  Bryson is good with his handwriting.  Camden...  I don't want to talk about it.

Math is pretty much done.  It's just review stuff from here on.

Writing.  Ah Writing.  Writing is my arch-nemesis.  I know that is ironic, considering I love to write more than anything else.  What can I say?  It's much easier to do it than to teach it.  So I've pretty much given up on writing for this year.  Don't worry.  I'll try again next year.  Eventually I'll get it right.  I hope...

That leaves us with Language Arts and Spelling.  We're on Unit 8 out of 10.  Ugh...


On paper, we've still got five weeks of school.  Mentally, I am so done.

That's how I know it's May.


Seeds of Faith - inspired by Elisha Skeen

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

As moms - and in this case, as homeschool moms, - I think we try so hard to be perfect.  And when things don't go perfectly, we feel ashamed.  

Take comfort in knowing that God does not condemn you for skipping Spelling.  Or for counting Checkers as your Math activity.  

Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day.  I hope you told yourself you are doing a great job.  :)