Sunday, January 26, 2014

A New Week, A New Beginning

This post doesn't want to be written.  I've tried to sit down no less than three times this past week, and for some reason, words just aren't coming.  My mind is wrestling with a lot these days, things that are unrelated and disconnected, and that is probably the reason why it is not gelling to write much...things needs to be sorted out for me to experience threads that can be talked about.  So this is a disconnected, informal, journal-like post tonight.

1)  My journey to find a hobby continues.  Silly though it might be, I am trying coloring in a coloring book with colored pencils.  It is mindless, and actually a little fun with music playing in the background.  I love mandalas, and bought a pattern book with a few mandala like patterns along with others:

Yea, I know it is lame.  That's OK.  I also know it won't last but for maybe a page or two.  Definitely not long term hobby material, as I realized I actually feel stressed doing something like this. I grip my pencil extremely tight, and that is not relaxing.  I always have done that, which is why I used to hate writing because it was not physically pleasing.  That may sound weird, but someone out there might understand.  So, I'll play around with it a little, then move on to something else.

2)  We are under some pretty deep stress over Dominick's work situation, which is looking like it is going to change.  Not sure what direction God is leading us, though we are trying to be intentionally discerning and thoughtful about it.  It is not going to be an easy year for the LaJoy's, but then, I guess it never really has been "easy".  Good?  Yes.  Easy?  Never.

3)  For all the challenges with academics, we have had some successes as well.  I assigned the kids a research project and written report on a Founding Father of their choice.  While everyone did pretty well, Kenny completely blew me away.  BLEW ME AWAY!  I offered no help whatsoever, wanting them to apply skills I have taught them with me stepping back to see what was retained and could be applied.  We've been seeing some backsliding with Kenny in terms of some of his memory and attention issues, so it was even more surprising to see the end result was a paper of considerable length (probably would have been 6 pages or so if he had not double spaced and used a different font).  He used note cards to create a chart that was broken down into categories to organize his gathered information, then took those notes on the chart to use as an outline for his paper.  His paper was well written, informative, and accurate with relatively few edits throughout.  We always allow him to use spell check, as he will likely need it as an adaptive tool his entire life (This is the kid who read "Illinois" as "Louisiana" the other day, clearly, we have issues...hahaha!). Have you ever cried over a silly four column chart before?  It was a thing of beauty, a research masterpiece...or so it felt.  That he could organize information in such a way was a huge leap for him.  That he was able to apply skills taught in a way that worked for him is not something we have often achieved.  This was awesome, and I needed it desperately for encouragement, and as a reminder that we may still have a long way to go, but we have come a very long way, too.  Sometimes, that is easy to forget.

4)  Angela is totally loving her Graphic Arts class!  I just knew she would, and am so pleased that I thought to enroll her. It is a wonderful fit for her, and her teacher told me after this last class, "Oh, this girl has big talent, and I am not just saying that.  She really ought to think about this for a career, she's a natural."  Thus far they are only working on basics about fonts and typography, and software will be brought in sometime during the next couple of weeks.  On one of her assignments she was tasked with writing her name graphically and  in a font she created herself:

5)  All the other kids were enrolled in a one day ServSafe course for restaurant workers.  It is put on by our local health inspector each month, and is designed to train food service workers in food safety.  It covers things like holding temperatures, storage of food, sanitation, etc. and there was a test at the end. They were, of course, the only kids in the class, and Josh may have been the youngest ever to take the course.  They all passed and earned their Safety Card:

6)  For electives this semester, we are loosely doing a variety of things.  Angela is doing a country study on India, a place that has long fascinated her.  Olesya is studying Japan, and with the help of her sushi making kit will be treating us to a Japanese meal!  Joshua has decided to follow in Matt's footsteps and wants to explore learning German, which we are doing through our local library's access to Mango Languages online software, as for some reason our Rosetta Stone program doesn't want to reload.  Kenny and Matt are going to learn basic electronics together using a book I found on the Make Magazine web site.  This book is awesome, and has rave reviews on Amazon, so we'll see what they can blow up around here with it.

7)  I am taking two one month courses on grant writing, beginning in February.  Why?  Because it sounded like something I might enjoy, and is a different sort of skill that I might be able to put to good use for projects with our church, or perhaps for Sharing Ministries Food Bank where we volunteer.  I think it will be very interesting, and I can hear the eyeballs rolling even as I type this...but hey, remember, I am the gal with no hobby, what did you expect I might enjoy?  Crafts?  Oh Goodness, no way.  This will be way better!

8)  We found a new curriculum to use for Olesya with Math, it is a high school level Math Fundamentals textbook which goes back to whole numbers with addition, and quickly runs through it, while also teaching calculator skills.  It may or may not work, but it is a start, and we will be using other materials as well to supplement.  We'll see where we are in another year or so.  Our goal is to have her 100% solid on everything through about 7th grade math by the time she graduates high school.  If so, she can function quite well with every day life, as most of us never use Algebra or anything much beyond unless we pursue certain careers.

9)  I am putting together a study on poverty and income inequality for church, and am researching myself for a wide variety of materials to use to develop that.  Normally, I totally love this sort of thing...digging for just the right engaging materials for a topic, etc.  I am finding, however, that despite volunteering to do this, I am growing intimidated as I think more about it, mainly because everyone around me at church is far more educated than I am.  To say I am completely unqualified to teach these adults anything is a pretty big understatement, for this is a highly educated, very articulate bunch of folks.  I am concerned about making a fool of myself, and hope I didn't make a big mistake with this.  At least I know they'll be kind, even if I blow it.

So things are happening, maybe not things that are of any interest to anyone other than us, but they are indeed happening.  I am a pretty boring person to be around these days.  Though I am doing things, they are things that are generally of little interest to others.  I have no one in general to share some things debating the merits of one curriculum over another, or one learning style or method over another.  I have no one to share the sweet joy that comes from singing with others, even when I screw it up.  I have no one who digs theology to talk to.  Everything I am interested in is a complete bore to the average person, and it makes me feel like a total freak sometimes.  Well, if I am being totally honest, I have felt like an outsider freak type my entire life.  I had hoped that might dissipate as I grew into maturity, but that feeling seldom leaves me.  I guess that's OK, it just is what it is, and I wouldn't change my life to mirror anyone else's, so maybe this is just the way God intended it to be for me.  

A new week begins in 15 minutes, a new beginning filled with promise.  I am grateful for new beginnings, and will wait to see what God puts in our path as we walk from Monday through Friday.  The most important thing is that we try, never giving up, always trusting that All is Well.  I will give thanks each morning, and thanks at the end of each day, knowing that no matter how difficult it is, life is good, and all we need, we will have.


Anonymous said...

Income inequality . . . there is a fantastic TED talk that provides hard data on the impacts of this. You can find it here:

And as for worrying about being a "teacher" for highly educated people, well maybe you need to think more in terms of being a discussion leader, and I am sure you will be a super star!

Diane in Chicago said...

Well, I don't share a lot of your interests personally, but I find that you have such an interesting way of writing about EVERYTHING! I'm a faithful reader and quiet cheerleader for you and your family. Go Cindy! Wish I had a suggestion for a hobby... :)

Kez said...

For learning German have you had a look at Duolingo? It is a free online language education program. I use it for Spanish and love it, though I need to use other resources as well. They also have an iPad app.

schnitzelbank said...

I'm a German/ESL teacher and wouldn't recommend DuoLingo. It teaches vocab in isolation, not anything syntactic and nothing in context.
Deutsche Welle, Goethe Institut and UT Austin all have free resources for language learning courses.

schnitzelbank said...

PS: Rosetta Stone is awful for a number of reasons. It just sorta trains you to click correctly, there is no communication or reinforcement, or scaffolding of skills. You are missing nothing. I have two degrees in language/linguistics and have been a teacher for 15 years and have never heard of Mango, so take that for what it's worth.