Saturday, November 16, 2013

radish sprouts

In Cameron's science lessons we are learning about plants. She is learning about how they grow from seed to plant by creating a greenhouse in our kitchen. The tiny radish seed sprouts a root almost immediately and develops cotyledons soon after. The seed shell is soon discarded and the sprout looks like a tiny plant complete with root, stem and leaves. She then plants the radish in dirt and watches as the plant thrives with nutrients from the soil, water and light. I think the radish seedling is beautiful. The leaves spread open and face the sun. The leaves will move if you move their light source. The leaves need the light for photosynthesis, the process of creating energy from light. I was running on the Kelvin walkway this morning. The trail is a reprieve from city life as it lazily follows the Kelvin river while the city buzzes above. I took a moment to stop as I was crossing the bridge leading to the Botanic Gardens. Admittedly, this is not the best time of year for autumnal glory. The sky was murky and the ground is covered with slimy remains of fallen leaves. But when I took the time to look around at all the leaves that remained I knew that they were clinging to the branches, hoping for one more day to open themselves to the sun. The tree branches reach to the sky knowing that as their leaves fall to the ground there is promise for new leaves to come in the spring. We often fail to see the symbolism in our surroundings. When science says plants need light for energy there is an opportunity to make the connection that we need God in the very same way. When history points out man's inhumanity to man there is an opportunity to say sin is destructive and we need redemption. In literature we can see that there is nothing new under the sun and God's big story is the model for all others. In art we can see what hopeless world we would live in if God did not create color and creativity. This would be the perfect opportunity for a shameless home school plug. But the fact is any God-fearing parent can make these connections in conversation with their children at any time. We live in God's world. Our very breath and life are dependent on His mercy. For today, for the things that we are facing, this is the most peaceful, beautiful thought.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Finding a new normal once again...

This transition thing is not easy.  I remember a few months in to our new life in Glasgow we finally felt a bit normal walking down the streets and going about our daily lives. Of course, we were still learning every day and we didn't consider ourselves experts at anything!  At the one year mark we felt good, like we had accomplished a great feat yet we still knew there was so much more to learn.  The same feeling has caught up to me once again.  Here we are, just about one month into the school year and things feel normal although I know we will continue to learn day by day what it is to be a family in a foreign land.

Jason is doing extremely well.  Thank you all so much for your prayers and kind words.  He has made it over the difficult part and has settled nicely into school life.  He now says that lunch is too short (only an hour to play with the guys!) and classroom time drags on and on.  I've had one glimpse of his teacher and he assures me that she is a very kind woman. 

{I've decided that I am decidedly "pro-teacher".  I know that teachers are for the most part good, well-meaning people.  There is no reason for me to march into that school and demand a conference just to suit my own needs.  In fact, I envy her the safety of that big school building where she can hide away and not face parents.  Parents are scary, crazy people.  I know, I'm one of them!}

I'm very happy (let's be honest, I'm relieved) to know that Jason is just where he should be academically.  Good news-- I didn't mess him up!!!  Trust me, that's every homeschool mom's worry.  Please keep that in mind when you talk to one.  In fact, keep that in mind when you talk to ANY parent, we're all doing our best to not mess up!

I still miss Jason during the day, but right now Cameron is thriving on my attention so I don't have too much time to worry about it.  Cameron has started Brownies (which she LOVES) and is back at gymnastics.  I have created a much more difficult school schedule and she is tearing through it like a champ.  I feel like this year will not only strengthen her character but also her academic skills and prepare her for whatever lies ahead.

Hayden is exhausted.  Last week she started full days.  Remember, she is only 4, not 5 until December.  If we were back in California we may not have started her in school until next year.  She still loves school but she is begging to go to bed by 7 every night.  She loves her teacher and is pretty excited about eating in the lunchroom and having PE.  

Brownies uniform ( it's been over 20 years since I was in Brownies and they still have yet to make a cute uniform!)

Her first homework.

The guys, walking home from school on a rainy day.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What just happened?

This week was a whirlwind.  For months I had known that Hayden would start primary 1 this week but only recently did we decide to send Jason to school as well.

We had always said that we would evaluate each child every year for their individual school needs.  This summer Jason expressed interest in going to secondary school (jr/sr high) after completing the coming school year.  He is interested in computers & sciences which are not my strong subjects so I thought this was a good idea.  After thinking about that transition for some time we thought it might be better if he had a re-introduction to school life ( he had previously attended kindergarten at a private school) at the primary level & get to know some of the kids that will make the transition with him to secondary next year.  

Although he has done well to transition into life here in Glasgow we have noticed that his circle of friends is small.  He lights up whenever he gets a chance to Skype with friends from California and that's great, but we really wanted him to have more connections with local kids.  

All that to say, on Monday we walked into the school office to see if there was a spot in the p7 class for Jason.  And so my mind has been blown by culture shock once again.  The school was not open over the summer.  Teachers & staff reported in on Monday and school started Wednesday.  I filled out one form and the deputy head told us to show up Wednesday.  On Wednesday Jason and I stood outside with all the other parents and kids.  When the bell rang the kids ran inside while the parents waited outside.  The school is enclosed in one giant building, no sprawling campuses here!  I took Jason over to the main door where the new head teacher was welcoming in the students.  I introduced her to Jason, who she was expecting, and she whisked him inside to his class.  So the strange thing is  that I have not met his teacher.  I only know vaguely where his classroom is because I took the school tour with Hayden on her induction day.  This all feels so unnerving to me to lose so much control in one fell swoop.

He was a bit uncertain the first day.  He likes his teacher and enjoys time in the classroom.  He finds lunch to be too long (one hour!) because he's not in on all the games & such.  By the end of the second day he could see glimpses of hope that things would get better.  By Friday afternoon he was smiling and admitted that he might have had a bit of fun.

I have been overwhelmed by how much this has affected me.  I've come to realise that Jason has grown into a friend and I miss him so much!  Our school time had matured from instruction to discussion and I have loved learning along with him.  Since he's started school though he's asked for me to sit with him & chat before bed so those sweet times have soothed my heart quite a bit.

Hayden is loving life right now.  Not only does she love school, but she also loves getting ready for school.  She is the official lunch packer & school-clothes-layer-outer of the family.  Since she had induction days we are familiar with her classroom and play area.  I hope she continues to enthusiastically enjoy school.

Cameron is at home with me this year.  I wouldn't be surprised if this is her last year.  Right now she is loving my full attention.  We start our academic work on Monday.  During these first days for the other kids she and I have been working on sewing projects & other things around the house. She is back in gymnastics again and starts up Brownies in a few weeks.  I think this year with her will be a special time to polish her skills and learn more about her heart.

So here we are, navigating the new world of school culture in Scotland.  It's already been a rough time trying to homeschool in a culture that is so unfamiliar with the idea.  I've been dealt the harshest blows of criticism from the Christian community which of course is disheartening.  I've spent hours trying to evaluate the two cultures, thinking perhaps American Christians fall victim to fear of the government or perhaps British Christians don't care enough.  I don't have any conclusions in the matter, I'm just trying to do what's best for my kids who are doing their best to live in these two worlds.  

~~ let's still be friends regardless of where you stand in the school debate, okay? ~~

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer wrap up (part 2)

In July we had visitors.  Grammy & Papa came to see us and we stayed busy with lots of touring. We split up so the boys could go to Muirfield for the Open and the girls went to Culzean Castle.

We also had a great day on Loch Lomond.  We took a cruise to one of the islands, hiked a bit & even dipped our toes in the water!

Summer wrap up (part 1)

Believe it or not, summer is nearly over.  The kids return to school in less than 2 weeks and already there is an autumnal breeze in the air.  Here's a brief recap of our summer adventures.

What better way to celebrate the end of the school year than by going to the Scotland Street School Museum? There was a kids activity on about pirates & searching for treasure & such, but the whole thing was led by a creepy couple overacting their way through the museum and making my kids jittery.  After the activity we had a bit of fun on our own.  Here the girls share a desk in the Victorian classroom.

The building was designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh.  I enjoyed the beautiful windows & tiles inside.

We also had the great opportunity to watch jousting at Linlithgow Palace.  What a great show, beautiful palace and fantastic weather!

We spent a lot of time at our local parks.  I was so afraid that the warm weather wouldn't last!

Darren spent his summer teaching at church.  

And Cameron and I made a quilt.  Well, mostly Cameron ;)

End of the school year... finally

Today was Hayden's graduation from nursery.  The children had a little party and then the parents came into the hall where the children performed their special songs.  The children leaving nursery for primary school were given certificates.  It was lovely as you would expect.  Hayden and her sweet friend Sophie happily posed for pictures with their teacher Ms. Muir.

I am more than ready for this school year to be over.  I think the burn out hit its peak last night at midnight as I sat sobbing on the edge of my bed, filled with regrets over the things we didn't accomplish in our school with the big kids.  Looking back on it in the light of day I see how ridiculous it was, but in the moment I was overcome with panic.  Yes, I panic.  I worry just as much as the mom who works and juggles her children between daycare & school.  I need to remind myself that we are all in this "doing-the-best-we-can-with-what-we-have" place.  It's parenthood.  I also need to remind myself that we are raising our children in a different culture and their education will look different than their peers in the US.  Deep breath.  They're going to be OK.

So today I packed away all the school books.  I'm hiding everything school related until August.  In July I just want to enjoy my kids.  Here in the UK the summer holiday is only 6 weeks, and I intend to relax as best I can.  I replaced the school boxes with my scrapbook & craft boxes and hope to get a bit creative over the next few weeks.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

16 again

For the past 2 months, Darren and I have been working on obtaining our UK drivers' licenses.  This process has not been easy, in fact, we're still in the midst of it and feel crushed by the whole thing.

When I was 15 I took my written test at the DMV and failed.  I cried.  I cried because up to that point I hadn't really failed at anything.  I don't mean to be obnoxious, but that's just the way things had been going for me.  I did well in school, I was ok at sports, I won awards and generally was well-liked.  I hadn't experienced failure and didn't know what it was like.  I felt rejected by the DMV-- didn't they like me?  I picked myself up, read through the little booklet and took the test again.  Pass.

When I was 16 I took the driving test.  It was a short 15 minute drive around a quiet neighborhood in Paso Robles.  Easy stuff, but it felt like the most important test of my life.  I passed.  Now, 20 years later, with a clean driving record, no tickets or major accidents I am in that place again.

Here in the UK driving seems to be a BIG DEAL.  Drivers here seem to be very safe, considerate and consistent.  While driving here for the first time I realized how aggressive I was and it took some time to calm down.  I have come to appreciate the UK system and want to be a part of it.  But now, as we go through the process, the whole thing feels like a very exclusive club and it's hard getting in.

The theory and practical tests here are rigorous.  I studied for hours and took several practice tests in preparation for my theory test.  After much stress and study, I passed.  Now I'm on to the next step, the practical test, 45 minutes in the car.  I'm going to schedule a few lessons so I can get some help in understanding what they are looking for in the test.

It all looks so simple when I type it out and re-read what I've written.  But the real problem lies in the culture stress that we are experiencing.  For a year we've been learning about life here and easing our way into it.  At the one year mark, we expected to feel like we accomplished something and year two would be easier.  But here we are, faced with a driving test and the big message we are hearing is "you don't belong here, you're not one of us!"  Culture stress is when your core beliefs rise to the surface and you see them in the light of your new culture.  As an American, I have a deep sense of my rights.  I believe that I am a good driver and I should have the right to drive anywhere I want all over the world.  But in reality, my license says that I only have the right to drive in the US.  I earned that right there, not here.

The other problem with culture stress is that affects your calling.  It is very hard to serve and love the people that God has called you to when you are mad at their culture.

All these feelings remind me of being 16 again.  A 16 year old is desperately trying to prove that they are ready for adulthood and all the responsibilities included.  Its so frustrating because when I hit my thirties I finally felt like I had made it to adulthood and the struggle was over.  But now, here I am in a foreign country, trying to earn my driver's license and feeling 16 again.

The good news is that this is just a speed bump on our journey through life in the UK (bad pun intended).  We will get through this, we will pass our tests, we will drive again.  Until then we struggle with stress.  Its really no bother not driving, everything we need is within walking distance and public transportation is great.  The struggle lies in dealing with the stress gracefully and to that end we pray and ask that God would use this to refine our character into something that pleases Him.

I look forward to writing again and letting you all know when we pass!