Third time’s the charm

We officially kicked off our third year of homeschooling this past week, and amazingly, we are all handling it with a healthy dose of maturity and aplomb. In fact, that’s what all the veteran homeschoolers told me when I was a newbie: that it takes about three years to get into the groove. And that seems to be true with us!

The 3 Amigos @ Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, during our CC camping adventure in western North Carolina.

I seem to have a handle on all the worries that have stressed me out during school kick-off the last two years, like Are we ready? Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much? Have I chosen the right curriculum? How will we get it all done and be everywhere we have to be, and still retain our sanity and joy? Etc.

I know my kids are smart, willing, and able, which is half the battle. But I finally have the confidence and experience to know that I work best tackling things one day at a time. Too detailed a lesson plan or regimented a schedule can throw this mama into a major tailspin for sure.

I’ve also learned to temper my thoughts about the future (always a fruitless endeavor), as well as to avoid those super-mom homeschool blogs that just tend to make me feel both overwhelmed and inadequate. Seriously, when do you people sleep … or poop?

Daddy & Gabriel are the first of Clan Dillingham to take on the thrill & chill of Sliding Rock!

It helped tremendously that we kept “lightly” schooling all late spring after CC concluded (mostly playing catch-up and tying up any miscellaneous loose ends), and then pushed on through the summer (practicing math, reviewing old material, and even starting a spelling curriculum).

We also spent much of our summer reading, reading, reading. This constant emphasis on  gobbling up books (plus, continued phonics lessons) helped the twins transition from emergent to beginner readers, so now they can start off their new school year as a confident book worm, just like big bro!

We sent in our letter of intent to the NC Department of Non-Public Instruction and are now an approved homeschool, according to the state. Legally, this has to occur some time during the school year when your oldest child is age 7, but I figured why not go ahead and do it, since I had the time, and we had already chosen a name.

The boys carefully make their way across the slippery rocks for some Arctic-like swimming @ Hooker Falls.

We named our homeschool Called to Freedom Academy. This comes from Galatians 5, when Paul is explaining to the people of Galatia that true freedom can only be attained through Christ. We no longer have to be burdened by the yoke of slavery, if Jesus is in our hearts.

Paul continues that man’s law has no real value, but that being led by the Holy Spirit and expressing your faith through love is the only thing that counts. Self-control, joy, kindness, and peace lead to liberty, not worshipping the “conceited, provoking, and envying” edicts of man and their destructive consequences.

I suppose the name could also be my little jibe against having to register with a state in the first place. Am I complying with a man-made law, which I consider extremely unnecessary, ineffective, and onerous on its face? Yep. But I’m being prudential in my relationship to government, just as Paul called Christians to be in Romans 13.

Gabriel & Zeke get silly during an evening stroll alongside Cascade Lake.

However, do I consider this mandated information being housed in some bureaucracy’s database in Raleigh a significant factor in my calling to homeschool my children? Nope.

Besides being a statue (with penalties for those who don’t abide), there are some perks of of registration. Perhaps tuition tax credits for those who opt out of public schooling their kids? Nah, but boy, do I wish. What we do get is a 20% discount at Barnes & Noble and free admission into the NC Zoo. I’ll take what saving I can get.

Houston is doing all second-grade curriculum this year, but the twins “grade” is not so well defined. Many of their studies — like math, reading, spelling, history, and science — are definitely first-grade level. But I’m holding off on language arts till their 6th birthday in October.

The boys take a rest on the state seal — in which Virtus (the goddess of virtue) has slain the oppressive king — before heading into the Virginia Capitol.

Having used this grammar-and-writing curriculum with Houston last year, I know it takes a more mature mind to handle the material. Plus, I want to wrap up their phonics book before I tackle this next big step.

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we don’t have to go by a traditional calendar. Or catch the school bus at 7 in the morning … gasp!

Therefore, I’m referring to the Gabe and Zeke as “K1.” This satisfies people’s needs to label them according to what NC public schools say they should be (kindergarten), but also meets my kids’ needs of not being pigeonholed below their abilities and skills.

Despite Houston’s grumpy face (and the fact that we all had low blood sugar by the end of the tour), we enjoyed our time visiting the Virginia Capitol: home to the oldest legislature continuously operating in the Western Hemisphere.

Even with part-time schooling, we had plenty of time for summertime outings, and last month was no exception. We went camping in Western Carolina from 8/1-8/3 for our first CC camping trip, which is organized by a few other cool families who love the outdoors.

We camped at Cascade Lake, and enjoyed its beautiful scenery, fishing lake, and swimming pond. The campground is nestled near the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest, so we went off-site for some additional adventures, most notably Sliding Rock.

This 60-foot natural water slide is simply breathtaking, but not due to the descent, but rather, because of the extremely cold water in to which you plunge. Stephen said he felt like he was having a heart-attack his first time down.

One of Virginia’s most notable sons, Thomas Jefferson, designed the Capitol, which was the first public building in the New World constructed in the Monumental Classical style.

Gabe was the first amigo to accept the challenge. Not too shocking considering that he’s our dare devil. But the the water was so shockingly bitter that it prevented Houston from ever riding down, even though he painstakingly waded through the bone-chilling shallow waters and climbed the stairs.

Surprisingly, once Zeke (our typically cautious child) saw the thrill and excitement on his family and friends’ faces, he decided to take on that slippery rock, and did so with style and grace. Way to go, twins! Better luck next time, HL.

Transylvania County is known as the Land of Waterfalls, so we also stopped off for a photo opp at nearby Looking Glass Falls. After that, we head back toward the campground, and hiked to Hooker Falls, where the water was indeed frigid, but a lot more swimmer-friendly.

Houston leans on another Houston … Sam Houston, who is best known for his time in Texas, yet is another famous Virginia native.

On 8/11, we went to see Big Bang Boom with a couple CC/Mercy Hill families, whose moms (Holly and Erin) I consider to be new and fast friends. Making good friends is always a nice thing, but it is especially appreciated at present, since my best local pal is moving in a few months.

Yep, Miss Christie and the J-Crew are hitting the road in November. I was devastated when I first heard the news, since Christie is just an incredibly authentic and kind person, with whom I’m constantly learning and laughing. I simply haven’t had as genuinely true and loyal friend as her in years.

So, I’m in the market for a new best bud! But in the meantime, I’m already planning to visit often my old pal, who will soon be calling one of the South’s coolest cities home. God bless you in this new chapter of your lives, J-Crew!

Here I am w/ Robert E. Lee, who on April 23, 1862, stood on this very spot in Old Hall when he accepted command of the military forces of his beloved Virginia during the War Between the States.

Our church, Mercy Hill, also started a homeschool group, which meets monthly for play dates, field trips, etc. The aforementioned moms, Holly and Erin, are part of this crew, as are some other really cool ladies. So, I look forward getting to know them all better, and hopefully forging some strong, lasting friendships.

The boys began taking a Spanish class on 8/13. It’s taught by a former homeschool mom, who also reaches at the local Spanish-immersion magnet school, and meets at her home. Señora Flores’ goal is to have the kids master a small amount of vocabulary through repetition.

Stephen, who taught the kids Spanish intermittently last school year, is hoping this will lay a good foundation for them, so that he take it to the next level. I’m optimistic that this will eventually unfold, since Señora Flores is as capable in her teaching as Stephen is motivated in the boys learning Español.

Stephen & I enjoy my birthday afternoon being kid-free, but certainly not gun-free!

It was after dropping off the kids for their first Spanish lesson that the infamous “diesel incident” occurred. For those of you who haven’t already heard, I filled my van with … yes, diesel. Needless to say, I was mortified when I realized my mistake, but I was together enough to realize the huge error before starting my van.

Interestingly, it had been a good day, and I was all alone, so their was no one distracting me with screams or fights or shenanigans or zany questions or squeals or games (like the gargling contest we recently played while driving up to Virginia). So, there was no one I could blame but myself.

I’m always encouraging the boys to focus on the task at hand and not to get off track so easily, so it seems I need to take my own advice. After the wasted diesel, the tow, the labor for my mechanic to drain the tank, and then a fresh fill-up of unleaded, this is one expensive lesson I will not forget.

After more than two weeks, we just finished our first 500-piece puzzle … it’s amazing to what lengths boys will go to earn back their Minecraft privileges! By the way, Gabe did the majority of the work … thanks, Puzzle Man!

The boys and I visited Richmond 8/21-8/23. Our big adventure was going to the Virginia Capitol. What an incredibly beautiful, interesting, and historic structure. Being that it’s in my hometown, and I’ve driven past it a gazillion times en route downtown during my youthful partying days, I’m so glad I finally stopped to check it out.

Before heading inside the Thomas Jefferson-designed capitol, the kids, Gramsey, Lisa, and I were also treated to a tour of the Capitol Police Headquarters. My Aunt Nancy has worked there for many years, and was nice enough to give us a tour around the building, introduce us to some bigwigs, and show us some high-tech stuff.

I celebrated my 43rd birthday, and it was one of simple pleasures. It began by dropping off the boys early afternoon for a sleepover at Miss Christie’s, who owed me some freebie childcare, since Stephen and I watched her brood earlier in the month.

On 9/1, Zeke finally decided that he wanted to try biking sans training wheels (which he did in the yard that evening). And here is an ultra-focused Zeke the next day during his first on-road ride. Way to go, dude!

Next, Stephen took me to the new Sheetz in our neck of the woods (woo hoo!) for a Mexican-made Coke. You know, the kind in the green-glass bottle and made with real sugar, not corn syrup; it’s a rare treat and way better than b-day cake!

Next, we enjoyed an afternoon at the gun club, where I was a surprisingly good shot. After that, we feasted at a Mexican joint, and then rounded out our fun-filled day with the awesome Mark Wahlberg flick, The Shooter.

Granny came to visit the next day, extending my birthday fun well in to Labor Day. She even took the boys swimming with the J-Crew, so that I could get the house in order for our upcoming school kick-off. Thanks for making my long b-day weekend so nice, everyone!