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Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Family Update - What's Been Going on the Last Two Months

*Updated with photos (5/17/2012 10:34pm).*

It has been too long since my last post, and I am sorry for that.  I've meant to write, really.  There were many nights when I lay awake in bed wishing for sleep that wouldn't come, that I wrote some really great blog posts in my head, that never made it to the computer.  :(  So, I figure a brief (or not) update is in order.

Topics for this post include: Easter in Enoch, Luke's opera, Jacob & Rebecca's wedding, Denzel's funeral, Ohio Light Opera, Mom Anderson's colon cancer diagnosis, homeschool, and pregnancy.

We had a lovely Easter Sunday with family in Enoch UT.  Raelynn & James (Luke's sister and brother-in-law)  were blessing their fifth little baby that day.  The kids got to have an Easter egg hunt and had a ball with all their little cousins gathered together.  There was lots of good food, and great people!  Our brother-in-law, Aaron is a fantastic photographer who got some great shots of the kids and festivities over the weekend.

Luke performed a lead role (Sam) in the University of Utah's spring opera production, Susannah.  It was not a feel-good story.  I tend to get emotionally involved in what I see.  I found myself very sad and angry throughout this production.  I was crying by the end of the first act.  I was stunned at the end and found that I did *not* want to clap when it was over.  I wanted to throw stones at Reverend Blitch instead!  I hope they choose a more "feel good" production for next year.  The last two have been too weighty for me.  I prefer a nice, tidy, happy ending.  At least the stressful rehearsal schedule and tech week are over... for now.  ;)  Oh, and Luke was phenomenal!  I just didn't like the story line much.

Jacob, one of Luke's little brothers, was married in April to a wonderful girl, Rebecca.  It was a very beautiful ceremony held in the Provo Temple.  I got some great snapshots of the little people in the family while Aaron was doing the "real" pictures of the couple and festivities.  There's nothing like family!  :)  With such a special occasion as a wedding, almost the entire family was able to gather together to celebrate.  We held a small reunion for Luke's parents and all of their children who were able to come.  It was so wonderful to be all together again, even if only for the weekend.

On a less happy note, we also attended the burial service of Luke's cousin Denzel.  He was in the Army, so had a military service to honor him.  There is nothing that brings tears easier than walking through a tunnel of fully uniformed, stony-faced soldiers saluting the family as the casket was carried to the grave site.  It was quite a windy day, so the many flags surrounding the area were flapping gorgeously in the wind, creating their own rhythm of life.  I felt honored just to be there to witness the event.  It was very sacred.  Aaron captured some *phenomenal photos of the ceremony.  They are very inspiring.

We are now preparing for Luke to leave to Ohio for the summer.  He will be performing with the Ohio Light Opera in Wooster, Ohio.  It sounds like a lovely little town.  He will be gone from May 21 through August 13 (2012).  To save my sanity, the kids and I will be staying most of that time in Enoch UT with James and Raelynn and their family.  We are really excited for this opportunity, though we are both a bit nervous about being separated for so long.  The five week program in Novafeltria Italy last year was really hard, especially for Luke.  I was home with my mom and dad, so it wasn't *as* bad for me.  Other than Novafeltria, we've never been apart for more than two days at a time and those were extremely rare occurrences.  So, yeah, we're a bit nervous about three whole months.  The kids and I are looking forward to some really fun times with our family in Enoch though.

We recently learned that my beloved mother has been diagnosed with colon cancer.  She doesn't want it to be a subject of much discussion until we know more about it.  At this point we know almost nothing.  We don't know how advanced it is or what her treatment will be like.  We are all very optimistic that the outcome will be good though.  She had a CT scan today to learn more about how much/where the cancer is.  It was originally discovered last week through a series of three surgeries to remove a rather large polyp from her colon.  The first two removals tested negative for cancer.  The last/third removal was positive.  This leads us to be very hopeful that it is not very far advanced and it has been caught early enough to remove it all and for Mom to have a normal, long, healthy, happy life.  She doesn't have any answers for anyone right now, so would rather not discuss it much until she knows more about it, so please respect her wishes for privacy regarding this.  She just feels uncomfortable and awkward not having any answers and would like to know more about it before talking about it a lot.  She is just trying to learn all she can and process the information for now.  I'm sure she'll be more open to sharing more about it as she adjusts to the news.  I'll do my best to keep everyone informed (within her wishes) of her health status as we learn more.  In the meantime, I'm certain your prayers would be more beneficial than anything else - please pray for her and her health (and for my dad to be able to support her as best as he is able - I'm sure this news is quite taxing to him as well).

We are really excited for our upcoming school year this year.  Emma is turning five in a few weeks and will be an "official" student this year, though she's already been "doing school" for two years with her big brother and sister.  She technically doesn't even have to start this year; Utah's minimum compulsory age of attendance is six, but she is so ready.  We use an online charter partner, Harmony Educational Services, to "enroll" our children in an independent study course through a "local" charter school.  My kids are "enrolled" in the DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts based in Ogden UT, which is really funny because the actual school is only for High School (9th-12th grades) and my oldest is only in third grade!  Gotta love virtual attendance.  :)

Registering with a public charter school allows us to receive state funding that assists me with the cost of educational materials and books.  We have full freedom to choose whatever curriculum suits our family best and either "check it out" from the teacher textbook lending library through Harmony or buy it ourselves and receive reimbursement of up to $300 per student per school year.  Third grade and up participates in the annual state testing.  Our only requirements are the annual state test and we are required to keep track of our attendance on Harmony's website.  I love this blend of public/charter/home school.  It's a perfect blend.  I am in control of what we use for curriculum, we receive help to obtain these chosen materials (and help with teaching if it's needed), and we are able to participate in state testing to gauge our progress and asses any weak areas.  It's such a perfect blend.  I love it.  Not to mention, I don't have to file an Intent to Homeschool Affidavit (UT law) every year this way, because my kids are still technically enrolled in a public charter school.

Since this will be Emma's first year, we are still waiting to hear if she "gets in" this year or not.  There is a wait-list every year for Harmony.  We had to wait for one year to get Lukey and Kayli in.  They will be on their second year this fall.  Harmony gives priority to siblings of current students over first-time students, so our fingers are crossed.  We should find out within the week.  I'm excited to get them registered and have it done so we can purchase our curriculum materials and get familiar with them over the summer.  I want to be completely prepared well-before the school year this time - especially with a baby on the way shortly after school begins.

This year we are making some changes to how we do our schooling.  I've tried to follow closely to the recommendations in The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.  I love that book and the suggested style of a Classical Education.  I've been drawn to a classical approach ever since I read A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille.  There are many ways to obtain a classical education, the most important being that the focus be more on classical literature than on textbooks.  Living books for living people is how I remember that rule.  :)

Anyway, the changes...  Before, I had a difficult time scheduling everything out and actually sticking to our schedules.  I found I put way too much time into our actual textbooks/workbooks than in the literature.  (I'm not fond of going places, so the library trips didn't happen often enough.)  We'd spend so long on our workbooks and things, that I just didn't want to ready out loud after we were done with "all the other stuff."  My personality requires lots of structure and even more detail.  Some classical models have very, very little of that.

I *need* more structure to our schedule this year.  So we've been looking into Sonlight curriculum.  It is a Christian literature based curriculum.  It is extremely structured (yet, you can change it up however you'd like if structure and following someone else's plans are not your cup of tea) and organized.  It is literature-based, so there is a whole lot of storybook reading happening, both on the child's own and as family read-alouds.  The best part is, you can buy absolutely everything you will need for the school year in one simple kit - no trips to the library (except for the ones that are just for fun).  No more titles being unavailable when you need them, or the inability to renew a book you've not finished because someone else has it on hold.  It is pricy, but it is complete!!!  And it is detailed.  I don't have to figure out which books go with what time period/lesson/science/etc.  All the work has been done.  There's a large reading library already assembled with the lessons all lined up to work together to incorporate all subjects (particularly in the older grades; not all of the younger few grades reading books match up with history, or science, etc.)  Three passes are made through history throughout the course of study (1-12) in a semi-chronological order.  There is a one year 100% satisfaction money back guarantee too.  If we don't love using Sonlight, me as the teacher, the kids as the students, we return everything - used (up to 18 weeks worth or half a school year)/unused and get a complete refund.  If we don't love it, I think I would be done with trying any form of classical learning and it would be K12 for us ever after.  I hear K12 is really great, but it's not a classical education.  Sonlight seems to me to be the best of both worlds, a complete detailed set of lesson plans with all your resources chosen and set out for you, yet full of literature and language arts and learning fun. 

My pregnancy has been going fantastic.  I've been feeling flutters and flips for a few weeks now.  It is always exciting to feel "proof" of being pregnant and not to just feel like you're getting huge for no reason!  :)  Due to a variety of circumstances I haven't been able to see my midwife, Reta Starseed, just yet.  Hopefully, we'll be able to meet sometime before I leave for Enoch!  She is scheduled for surgery next week and hopefully her recovery will be a smooth road.  She is fantastic and I love her though we've only communicated through electronic messages and telephone so far.  I'm not at all concerned that I haven't had an "actual" appointment.  I opt out of pretty much all prenatal testing and that only leaves weighing, measuring, listening to heartbeats, and peeing in a cup.  I don't put a lot of stock into numbers on the scale or the measuring tape (though they may be useful), so I'm not concerned with that.  I feel the baby move regularly.  I have no signs of preeclampsia or GD or any other possible protein in the urine problems.  I got over the phase of feeling narcoleptic all the time (first trimester exhaustion) and feel great now.

So, that's what's going on around here lately - the good, the bad and the ugly.  :)  I think it's safe to say that your prayers would be most welcomed and appreciated for our family right now - especially for Luke and my mom.

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