A New Step

January 8, 2018

A New Step

Saturday afternoon we got Christina back from her week-long Civil Air Patrol encampment.

Today, Kimberly, Jaquline, Jillian, and Lucas are doing school at a stone table on the beautiful grounds of our state college waiting for Christina and Rebeccah to finish with their first class.

My younglings are growing up too quickly for me!

The sweet lady in the college bookstore was very helpful and encouraging.  She handed the girls a copy of the eleventh edition of their Biology… I have the seventh at home (from when I went here only a few years ago).  Honestly, I’m so excited for the girls in this next step.  (But I won’t say that to them; I try to make this as normal as possible.  We’ve treated every step in their educational journey as simply another textbook to study.)  I’m very thankful for the awesome opportunities available to students in our county.  (This is a big difference from growing up when home schooling was illegal!)

I’m remembering them at the preschool level (Lucas: counting pinecones and creating stickmen from oak leaves and pine sticks), kindergarten level (Jillian: reading and doing her math problems), and working through book steps like Jaquline and Kimberly. (I “stair-step” arithmetic and language arts in a progression they move through and they get to pick one, two, or three “study books” from history, science, and other subjects.) Then they get through independent learning in preparation for college or vocation. (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, various social studies, upper level literature studies, etc.)  Now, Christina and Rebeccah are at the next step: dual enrollment (college credit classes!).

The nostalgic part of me wants time to slow down.

The logical part of me is thoroughly enjoying each new step each one of my children take.  I love the baby stage, but I get excited when the baby steps up to dress and feed themselves.  I love the learning-independence toddler stage, but I love it when they discover reading!  I love the everything-is-new discovery stage, (I try to keep that going as long as I can) but that is too quickly followed by the totally-independent-learning stage.  Yes, I get a little sad when they complete their lesson goals without my help, but I am proud and excited as they jump ahead of my goals by making and achieving their own personal goals.

I see the goal of my “teaching” job as helping my students learn how to teach themselves.  This means inspiring a lifelong love of learning, challenging them to reach higher and higher personal goals, and instilling core principles like academic integrity and determination.

I’m sure they will do well.  They love to learn and are thriving in their “adult” environment where their fellow students are all serious about their work.  I have to smile because I feel like I’ve accomplished my teaching goal – at least for these students – they are fully independent learners with their eyes on future careers and their lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

Of course, I will never truly stop teaching.  I’ll be asking, “so, how was school?” even when they call me from their university in years to come.  That thought makes me smile again.

“Jaquline,” says Kimberly, “why aren’t you writing?”

Jaquline is sitting at the stone picnic table, her paperwork on a clipboard, smiling and staring at the sky.  She sighs and says dreamily, “I’m doing my school at college!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Saying No to Nagging

November 29, 2017

Saying No to Nagging

As the oldest of seven children, an analytical puzzle-solver who is rarely wrong (sarcasm), and a perfectionist, I also have a rather uncanny knack of nagging to get people to do stuff (I heard a sermon on the persistent woman before the judge and thought nagging was the same as her persistence.)   Since I was about ten or twelve, I started to learn (mostly from watching my Daddy while he was driving) that I don’t have to say what I’m thinking to that person’s face.  Because of this, I learned how to keep my nagging thoughts to myself around my siblings.  The younger ones who didn’t remember the nagging dictator began to enjoy my company and actually listen to me when I suggested they do something!  (This was an amazing and empowering discovery!)

Fast forward to when I’m a young woman considering long-term relationships with a fearful heart.  (I actually have to talk to a person I know nothing about? GOD!  How I am going to do this?)  I think I could actually hear God laughing, and the wind blew my Bible open to Proverbs 31.  (Anyone else remember singing that catchy song a guy sang about a “P31”?  Airplane-crazy younger me thought he was talking about a plane.  At least, teenage me realized he meant a woman.)

Have you ever read Proverbs 31?  The whole thing??  I freaked out and thought, “no way can I be all that.”

God said, “one verse at a time.”

So I started studying about the ideal woman.  (Most of the time, I laughed and journaled stuff like “I am NEVER going to be that!” and “This is IMPOSSIBLE!”)  Slowly I realized that this perfect woman just loved God first, loved her husband second, and allowed love and wisdom to rule her.  (Her business savvy totally intrigued me.)  Then came the part that is still my hardest challenge… I study by flipping to suggested parallel verses and almost everywhere in Proverbs this poor guy was saying stuff that I interpreted as “it is better to be buried in the deepest, darkest, scorpion-infested, cave that belongs to lions named “Ghost” and “Darkness” than to live in a palace with a nagging woman.”  (I thought, “CRUD!  Okay, God, this one you will really have to do for me.”)

In my study I realized that by “nagging” the Bible meant a woman asking, telling, or pleading with a man to get him to do something.  (I substantiated this by interviews with older married men I knew and they agreed.  One guy even said, “ask me once, I heard ya; say it twice and I turn my ears off.”)  I decided that once I was married, I would practice not nagging by only voicing my opinion once.  (At this point, I still “know” I’m right 99.9999% of the time, so I made an asterisk in my journal that added, “but in important matters I will remain firm.”)  I think God laughed at that too because who is to say what is important?

God’s timing is always perfect.

I finished writing my five-pages-in-my-journal decision after almost a year of study – writing everything I thought a Biblical woman in today’s world should be and listing the qualities I wanted to cultivate in preparation for being a wife and mother.  I ended it with a prayer (as I usually do when I journal) that read: “God, I think I’m ready to start my forever relationship.  If you think I am ready, please let the guy ask me out if I have met him…”

And God laughed again.  (That was written Monday, July 1st.  Louis told me we were going out on Wednesday, July 3rd.  We were engaged on July 20th & married life began on November 22nd.)

Have I conquered that nagging thing?  (NNOO!!)  My brain still talks back, but I have learned to keep my sarcastic thoughts inside, take a breath, form a perfect suggestion, SPEAK IT ONCE (ONLY ONCE, remember?  You promised God that!  – I had to argue that with my brain for the first 12 or 13 years of marriage every time.), and leave the rest to God.

This was also a HUGE trust issue for me.  (See, I like to be in control so giving that to another human even if I trust God to lead him is just bonkers to my analytical brain.)

I learned that to respect my husband meant to trust him to trust God with his decisions (our decisions) and over time, God has taught Louis that most of the time; it’s a good thing to listen to my suggestion.  (He said that, not me.  I never even mentioned this challenge until about a year ago when it was mentioned to me that “you never nag” and I had to answer the question, “why?”  It had always been something between me and God.)

Well, I guess the good thing is that Louis hasn’t lamented for people 3,000 years later to read “I wish to be in Daniel’s lion cave instead of with this nagging woman!” (At least, he hasn’t said that yet.)

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Level Up!

October 2, 2017

Leveling Up

On this nice warm day Jillian, Lucas, and I sat playing a video game on the couch.

We like to play this game together because Lucas can push the buttons (he thinks this is super) and Jillian narrates (this is Mommy getting creative about reading practice).   Some monkey bandits approach and Lucas tosses the controller to my lap. (I get to fight the battles.)

Afterward, Jillian reads “Alena has increased!”  She adds, “I like it when they level up.”

“Why?” I ask.  Lucas is walking the character around again.

“Because they learn new stuff.”

“I’m about to level up,” laughs Christina from the kitchen table.  (How is she following our conversation when she’s nose deep in chemistry?)

“In your game?” Jillian asks.  (Everyone has a saved game for this game; it’s a family competition.)

“No,” Christina laughs, “in real life.  I’m about to enter level 14.”

“Oh,” Jillian says thoughtfully.  She grins like Davy Crockett and starts bouncing (she does this when she figures something out), “you mean your birthday!  I love birthdays!  So I really love leveling up in real life.”

This made me smile.

It also made me think:

Our lives are quite like a game.  We go through “stages” in life that change as we grow.  Sometimes entering a new “level” is challenging, and we need help to get through this trying time (aka handing the controller off to mom).  Sometimes we are perfectly happy with the level we are at and don’t want it to change (Why can’t we stay in this land?).  Just like our goal in games is to “level up” by moving into new territory with new challenges, our goal in life is to “level up” by continuously learning, growing, and moving beyond complacency.

This also means we enjoy the journey as we go.  (Who would play a video game they didn’t enjoy?)  We find something fun in any situation and depend on God for direction, strength, and the wisdom to meet all challenges.  There’s even a guidebook!

The goal of our game is to make good choices and collect enough skills to win at the end.  In life, since being with Jesus in heaven forever is our end (we already know we will win!), our life choices should be made with this goal in mind.   (Being careful that what we do and say reflects Jesus is a good start!)

I never thought video games could be such good parodies of real life!  Oops, I’ve got to go get a “level up” cake ready for tomorrow!

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Imagination Playtime

August 8, 2017

Imagination Playtime

This morning was a surprise of miniature proportion.

First off, when I stumbled into the kitchen to start my coffee at 5:20am, my preteen was awake!

Secondly, the playroom was spotless (toyacts was creating a few new videos in the playroom the previous night).

This sparked an idea.

“Let’s play legos, want to build something together?”  My suggestion was met with rocketing jumps where my five foot tall eleven-year-old banged her head on our roof.   “Yippee!  Ouch.”

We discussed all things building; like which pieces came from which sets, which sets were missing pieces (thanks to the vacuum, Sheba’s mouth, or teething younger siblings; Rebeccah is the lego master and knows where everything went – much like me with my childhood bricks), and whose head and hair I had mismatched on my mini-figs.  (Once, I had Elron’s hair with Commissioner Gordon’s head, the result looked like a sweet old lady to me.)

Our building progressed to a tree fort with crazy entrances and exits, three towers, complete with the tallest one having a princess locked inside where her puppy is trying to save her while the Barbarian ax man is considering Chinese food. (See picture, if you can find it!)

The blue magician conjures up a storm and an adventurer seeking the everlasting flame (in the bowl, middle, second tower) will accidentally be shot by a kid bowman’s awry trick shot from the top of the bridge.  We goofed off until it was almost lunchtime.  The girl elf hair ended up paired with a repaired face that looks like it has feathery bangs to make a crossbowman.  (She was going to be an archer – my favorite – but the hair wouldn’t fit with the quiver and I couldn’t have her without ammo!)

I love delving into imagination (last night it was duplos to build tunnels for Lucas’ train and car tracks) and discovering how my kids’ brains see problems.  Building blocks bring that out.  They help teach children to think around their problems (yes, that they created, like “Mommy, I want two cars to go under it!” Jillian, last night.  Or “How are we going to camouflage this huge tree fort effectively?” Rebeccah, today.)

Oh, and don’t forget the sharks patrolling the island fort (notice the blue water on the plates?) as Rebeccah claims the most important part of any lego set are the critters included.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Investigating

July 25, 2017

Investigating

One of the things I love about writing anything factual, like the Home Edge Readers, is the research and investigation I get to do.  I love to learn about something new.  I enjoy compressing it into a compact form yet still managing to include most of the important facts and unique terminology.  (Like “rift” or “Plinian explosion” in volcanology.)

As a Mom, passing on the love of learning is my passion.  Children are normally curious.  I don’t want to squash that.  I want to build on it.  I want them to always look at the world with wonder and ask questions about whatever they want to know.  If they want to know about something, I want them to investigate: read, touch, listen, explore, and learn.  By definition, this is true science: the observation of the world around us.

Early scientists from all cultures (even if they were still called by some title other than “Scientist”) observed and wrote or drew about the world around them.

When I watch children learn, they observe, draw, write about, build models of, manipulate, and ask questions.  Our natural curiosity needs to be fed so we always want to learn!

Consider this beach day:

The water was cold so only the older girls were in the water deeper than their ankles.  Lucas seemed to smell the November cold.  (That’s Florida cold, though, as you can see they were in bathing suits!)  He didn’t even try the water.  He started off by chasing gulls.  Seagulls in Florida have learned the art of evasion.  I think they laugh at these funny miniature humans racing toward them making odd animal-like shrieks.  They watch until just the last moment, and hop-fly about 50 yards away.  Their bright black eyes challenge said little human as if they are saying “you can’t catch me!”  Of course, without adult intervention, Lucas would chase a single seagull until he dropped from exhaustion. (Maybe this is a seagull’s crab hunting technique?)

But as Lucas starts chasing, he steps in a squishy, odd thing he hasn’t touched before.  Two crabs race out of the seaweed and waddle into the water.  Lucas jumps off of it and dances around it, laughing.  Jillian joins him and pokes it with a small piece of driftwood she’s picked up from somewhere.

“What is this, Mom?” Jillian asks.  So I explain its seaweed washed ashore after the storm.  They spend about ten minutes poking, prodding, lifting, and observing that one clump until Lucas is sure it isn’t dangerous.  Now he uses his new knowledge and seaweed clumps become toys!

Jillian and Lucas built a seaweed mountain that stood as tall as Lucas, but they weren’t faster than the tide.  They also watched the ocean “eat” the seaweed a few strings at a time and carry them off.

At home, for many days later, Jillian drew her impressions of seaweed.  Whenever we watched ocean documentaries, she would spy seaweed and yelp, “that’s seaweed, I know that!”

She “knows” seaweed because she explored it and played with it.  I want my children to know anything they want to learn about that completely.  To have touched, tasted, researched, and immersed themselves in it.  It doesn’t matter if the subject is baking, gardening, crocheting, fractions, nouns, writing letters, raising chickens, equations, times tables, letter sounds, zoology, biology, or whatever they want to learn.  I want them to dive into it and “know” it.  I figure the best way to teach this is to show them that I learn this way too.  I let them see me looking things up, studying various recipes before I attempt a dish, reading their algebra books ahead of them to “relearn” it, searching with them when they have a question I can’t answer, and researching for my books.

I want learning to be a passion for them.  Because once you discover a love of learning, you will always be investigating new things!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Double Break

July 12, 2017

Double Break

Once there was a princess.  She was seven years old and she loved climbing in trees.

She had a pretty purse her aunt had given her for her birthday.  For four months, it had never left her arm.

She also had a favorite pair of shoes.  Not active, sturdy, outside shoes, but dressy magic boots so worn out that the bottoms were falling off (mom had tossed them into the trash can multiple times, but magically they appeared back on Jaquline’s feet).

It was the end of a long, fun day.  Mom called everyone in for dinner.  It was almost 7pm.  Jaquline, Jillian, and Kimberly decided to play one more game of tag.  Jaquline raced to climb up base (the tree) and got about 5 feet up before her shoes slid, purse got caught, and she fell.

Echoing through the neighborhood was the type of pain scream that Moms dread.

Within 5 minutes, Christina had gathered the other 4 kids into the SUV, while Rebeccah (with her awesome bedside calming manner) soothed Jaquline and Mom carried her into the vehicle.  We could see one of the breaks easily – it looked like a crumpled, tiny T-Rex arm had grown just above Jaquline’s right wrist.

Mom sped to the hospital.

Christina called Daddy so he could meet them there (he was at work).  Jaquline had her call Grandma so she could pray with her.  Rebeccah sang funny songs and told jokes while she held Jaquline’s body and arms still.

Jaquline had broken her right distal ulna and radius (within 2 inches of the wrist joint is “distal”) in a “closed break” (it didn’t break skin, but was “compound” because the break was completely through the bone – in 3 places on both bones) and her left distal ulna was broken, distal radius cracked, and scaphoid (a wrist bone) dislocated.  She told every doctor, nurse, and CNA who came in that as she fell she didn’t want to hit her head or neck, back, tummy, legs, so caught herself with her arms.  When they gave her some “funny juice” to make her not feel the pain while they snapped the bones back in place, she told us about unicorns, a palace in the clouds, and flying.  She told the doctor that “God is sewing my bones back together.”

She was limited (barely! she was still only for the first few hours) for a few weeks in two casts.  We had to keep telling her she was a princess and couldn’t get up off the couch (this was the first time she didn’t want to be a princess).  She had the right cast on for an additional three weeks.

There were many miracles during this time.  First, God put strong, capable medical staff in our path.  Several even prayed with Jaquline.  Jaquline’s bones started knitting back together quickly.  At her 6 week appointment (removal of second cast), her x-rays showed complete healing.  The doctor said “normal” regrowth would have been 1.5mm, Jaquline’s was over 5mm.  There was a bone “spur” (part angled out that wasn’t straight, it looked like a bump on the bone) but by the 3 month appointment, it was completely gone.  They were concerned about range of motion in her wrists, especially the right one because of being in the casts so long, but that was fine too – she did hand and finger exercises every day.  (She did all kinds of stuff every day!  We moved while she was in her casts!)

We learned a lot about our bones, how our bodies heal and grow, and about the various medical professionals who were part of helping Jaquline.  She is considering orthopedic medicine because “I want to help people like my doctors and nurses helped me.”

The picture is from the one week when she had matching purple and pink camo casts (the nurse even put glitter on one).

Although she hasn’t been climbing many trees lately, she’s back to 100% and has learned a lot through this adventure.  She taught us about her faith in God.  She never even considered that her bones wouldn’t grow back straight or that she wouldn’t be able to “work” her thumbs and wrists.  She always trusted God and never quit trying.

I learned about the faith and determination of my Princess Jaquline.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Eggs of Giants

June 13, 2017

Eggs of Giants

One cool thing about keeping a flock of chickens (aside from the 5am alarms) is that they pop eggs out!

Before we had chickens, I thought all eggs were white and exactly the same size and shape.  With the first time our Buff Orpington hen announced to the world that she plopped a smooth, clean, egg in the nest box, my preconceived notions about eggs were shattered.

It was BROWN!

It was TINY!

This giant, beautiful 6 pound hen had laid an egg that may have weighed 3 grams (okay, maybe a little bigger than that).  It didn’t have a yolk!  Maybe our chickens were broken.  Of course, they weren’t broken.  Most heavy breeds lay brown eggs.  Buff Orpingtons are heavy breeds.  Most first eggs are small and even the most proficient layers occasionally have an egg without a yolk.  They never did lay what I previously thought of as “normal” eggs, instead they were huge eggs (extra-large) with the occasional super-giant egg containing two yolks.

Currently, we have a rainbow of large chickens in our flock.  Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, and Plymouth Barred Rocks lay various shades of brown eggs (actually, pale apricot to medium walnut brown) and some have speckles!  Our Easter Eggers lay green, pale pink, and occasionally spotted eggs.  We also ended up with some White Leghorns, who are smaller than the others, but lay extra-large white eggs.  Our Golden Phoenix (who is a mottled English walnut color with a ring of golden feathers around her neck and scattered about her dark head) lays a torpedo-shaped almost pink egg 6 of the 7 days in a week.  Just like each of us are unique, each hen lays an egg with her own distinct size, shape, and color!

Young pullets (a female chicken is a pullet until she starts steadily laying eggs) will sometimes start out producing small eggs for the first week or so.  In the picture, we had a new layer’s tiny, a “regular” sized, and a double-yolker from our White Leghorn.

Another fun thing about having chickens is observing the variety of egg colors and shades when packing our eggs in their cartons.  We have at least one white and one green in each dozen but most of our hens lay an assortment of pink-brown shades called “brown” eggs.  They say you can tell what color a chicken will lay by the bottoms of their feet! (In our experience, not exactly, but pretty close)  In our last batch of biddies, we had three with blackish green “soles” of their feet. The girls are hoping to find a dark olive egg or maybe even a purple egg!

Yes, the girls name our chickens.  These names (usually for attributes or specific colors) usually find themselves playing hens or pullets in the Adventures of Long Tail.  Sometimes their creative names end up inspiring an actual story character (like Jasmine Rose in The Devonians).

The girls’ favorite part of chickens is the raising challenge.  They enjoy plotting color mixes as they separate them for breeding, watching the incubator for 21 days and squealing “babies are coming soon,” tending new hatchlings, encouraging them to explore, helping them grow, and seeing their breeding experiment results as they become pullets and cockerels.  Then they usually say goodbye to newly laying pullets about 18 – 26 weeks or promising-looking cockerels about 10 – 14 weeks as they prefer to sell them when they are “past the danger stage.” (aka too big for most hawks and no longer needing brooder care)

I love their learning adventure (as Rebeccah says, breeding in chickens is more colorful than Mendel’s peas) and we all enjoy the rainbow of eggs in various sizes the happy hens provide.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

Building Katy Bear

May 30, 2017

Building Katy Bear

“Tell me a story about creation!” Pipes Christina.

“Animals!” bubbles Rebeccah.

So began a little story about a bear named Katy who wants to see God create something.  This story was told for about three years before I wrote it down because Rebeccah wanted to read it to her younger sisters.  We added Ralph Bear and the raven changed to a wise old owl. Ralph was added because the girls wanted Katy to have a brother.  Rebeccah said we had to change the raven to something that lived longer so it would be more believable.  (Animals talking and praying is believable, but an old raven isn’t)

They had lots of discussion about different birds but the owl won.  He could be very old.  Birds were made before mammals so he could remember God creating.  The Bible calls owls wise. Kimberly was the toddler when we wrote it down on paper (okay, typed it on the computer and printed it out) so Christina wanted another bear.  Rebeccah said bears have singles and twins, so a third bear wouldn’t really work.  Christina reasoned it was a fairy tale and anything could really happen.  We looked up lives of bears.  Because they usually do just have twins, Christina pointed out that this story takes place before the flood – maybe pre-flood bears had triplets and quadruplets!  Rebeccah wanted to know why bears would have more babies before the flood.   Christina’s reply was that they were obeying God’s command.

“Which one?”

“Being fruitful and multiplying and filling the Earth.”  Christina said, “that would easily explain why animals in olden days had more babies.”

“Mice live today and they have tons of babies.”

“That’s because they have lots of things that eat them.  Who eats bears?”

Well, that prompted some more investigation into the lives of bears.  We learned a great deal about bears in the few days while we wrote “Katy Bear’s Request.”  Christina and Rebeccah even bought a National Geographic DVD special on bears from the resale store because now they love bears.  (Kimberly LOVED watching this movie, along with the VHS tape about African lions – zoologist in the making)

I learned a lot about bears.  What I really like about researching for a book is that I can drag the girls into it too!  We all take a few days and launch into learning about whatever subject.  For Daydreamer, most of our knowledge was already there (farming, food without processed flour, community) but for Pirate Child, we dove into learning about “the deep” ocean; building challenges, what kinds of creatures Ethan would see, basic physics of underwater travel.

For Katy Bear’s Request, we learned about bears.  I always wonder what subject we’ll become “little experts” (as Rebeccah calls it) on next time!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later,

~Nancy Tart