Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend has been much anticipated in the Campbell house. Abby and Lizzy have been counting down the days until New Life Camp and finally, yesterday, the big day came. Last night we delivered them to camp with bug spray, sunscreen, and all the other essentials necessary for a week of fun. They were both excited and nervous. I can't wait to hear all about it.

Here is Abby with a good friend from our co-op. She was excited that Sarah was in the same cabin as she was!
Lizzy had her co-op friends in her cabin too! I feel sorry for that poor counselor! I feel confident that they'll keep her on her toes.
These two sister were happy to be at camp together! Their cabins are within shouting distance of one another, so I imagine they'll have some good stories to tell.

Today, we decided to take the three little guys and go to the state capitol for a Memorial Day Ceremony. It was a neat experience for them and we followed it up with a picnic on the capitol lawn and a couple of hours in the North Carolina Science Museum that is just across the street from the capitol. I spent the whole time looking over my shoulder to find my missing children, only to realize they weren't with me.

We met up with some friends at the Capitol and the kids had fun hanging out together for a bit. Here is Lily with her friends!
Our view of the wreath laying ceremony.

Isaac and Lily in front of the wreath.
The girls enjoyed "firing" the cannon at the boys and watching them fall down dead. In this shot, Lily is running to the rescue.
Lily, enjoying lunch on the lawn.
Abe, being a Daddy's boy.
Isaac and I, finishing up our picnic.
Abe enjoyed the fish at the science museum.

One last picture before heading home.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unexpected benefits

Homeschooling. That's a word that can conjure up a variety of stereotypes, visual images, and preconceived notions in just about everyone. I understand. I once thought all homeschool moms wore denim jumpers, raised chickens, ground their own wheat, and had more kids than they could count. We've been homeschooling for 7 years now, and I still buy my bread and chicken at the local grocery, I donated the last of my denim jumpers to the Goodwill a few years ago, and so far my kid count still fits on one hand... barely.
When we started homeschooling, I had no idea how long it would last. I just knew that I wasn't ready to send my sweet little Abby off to kindergarten just yet. The local school system didn't have the best reputation and I desperately missed teaching. I was committed to being at home for a while as I had 3 young children, and so it just made sense to homeschool. I expected that there would be a few benefits that we could expect. This is what I expected: a flexible schedule for our family, the ability to "protect" Abby from the influence of public school, and the opportunity for her to excel in everything, since she was going to have such a good student teacher ratio.
One of the many things I've discovered on this homeschooling journey is that our expectations and our reality don't always match up. We have enjoyed some of the benefits we expected to see. Our family has had the opportunity to adjust our schedule to meet the needs of our life and ministry. We vacation in the off-season, take occasional weekdays off, and take our school breaks at times that work best for us. Also, for the most part, we have been able to guard the influences our children have been exposed to. However, all of my children have performed at an average grade level when it comes to academic skills. You won't see the Campbell kiddos in any spelling or geography bees anytime soon. I have had to accept that academics is only one part of a solid education.
What has been such a delight though, is seeing the benefits that I never anticipated. These are the things that keep me going when I really want to quit. They aren't what I signed up for, but rather a bonus that I'm so happy to have. Here are a few of my favorite "unexpected benefits" of homeschooling:
  • My children love each other and are truly best friends. They enjoy their non-family friends and they look forward to their outside activities, but at the end of the day, they are ready to be together again. They can play together for hours and truly care for one another.
  • My children relate well to people of all ages. From little bitty babies, to any grandmother they meet, most of my kiddos are comfortable with people. I think this comes from the fact that they are constantly living life through the context of families rather than peers. They haven't figured out that they are supposed to be too cool to watch Sesame Street with their 2 year old brother.
  • Learning together. What fun we have had learning as a family. We have structured our studies so that all of us are studying the Civil War or birds or plant parts at the same time. That means we are able to make observations and discuss those things everywhere we go. When we were studying Ancient Greece, we couldn't go anywhere without the kiddos naming the types of columns they saw on various building. We just finished a Botany study, so today at piano lessons, they were discussing the flowers on the magnolia tree in front of the Music House.
  • Each child has time to develop their unique interests. Because we're not doing homework until 8:00, they have time to pursue sewing, exercising, drawing, or whatever their current interest is.
  • Time to invest in our children. So, I wanted to "protect" them. But, what I found as time went by is that I was less concerned about protecting them and more concerned with equipping them to deal with the temptations and tragedies that will eventually confront them. Because we are together so much, I have been able to learn what character issues each of my children struggle with and what comes easily to them. I have been able to identify areas where they're struggling and challenge them to apply God's word in those areas. We've established a habit of praying for others and they have experienced the power of answered prayers. I guess that finding the time to disciple them has been easier as we're together all the time.
Here is what I am not saying: I am not saying that my children are perfect. Nor am I saying that Ryan and I are perfect. In fact, homeschooling has been one of the things God has used to show us how very wicked and messed up we are. I am also not suggesting that public schools are wrong and homeschooling is right, I know many families who are living out their faith beautifully in the public school setting.
What I am saying is this: There is often fruit that one can harvest through obedience. In my life, I have been able to see that as I have surrendered to God's call for our family to homeschool. It has come with a measure of sacrifice, but it is so worth it!

"I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mother's Day- 2 weeks later

The last several years, we have been traveling on Mother's Day. This year, we were home and we weren't sure what we should do to make the day special. I didn't want to go to a restaurant after church with 5 hungry children, only to wait 60 minutes for a table. On the flip side of that, I didn't want to spend my afternoon in the kitchen. I just wanted to do something fun and simple.
So, we decided we would eat an easy fast food lunch and then spend the afternoon at the Sarah P. Duke gardens in Durham. One of our friends from the Botany co-op we did this spring recommended it, and it seemed like the makings for a perfect afternoon.
How I have lived in the Triangle this long and not been to this beautiful place, I don't know. It was so pretty and though we stayed at least 2 hours, we didn't begin to see all of it. The kids had a great time exploring paths, watching baby ducks, and jumping various streams and rocks. The weather cooperated and we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon enjoying God's creation.

My favorite flowers from the day. I think they may be a type of onion?

Lily in the bamboo


The whole crew
Wall walking, notice Abe is keeping up with the big kids.

Another mama and her babies
I think they would have been content to watch those baby ducks all afternoon.

Grammy resisted the urge to dip her toes in. Notice all the other toes are bare.
Ready to head out of the gardens and on to the ice cream shop.
What kid doesn't love water features?
One tired toddler!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our final day in the city

Day three in the city ended up being pretty low key. We were all tired and I wasn't feeling so great, so we didn't do all that we had originally planned. But, we enjoyed what we did do and I saw some things I hadn't seen before. My favorite was Grand Central Station. That place was absolutely beautiful and I could just imagine it filled with soldiers coming home from a distant war. It really is like a piece of modern history. These pictures don't do it justice, but here they are:

I mentioned in one of my other posts that my cousin, Nadia, lives in the city. She works in midtown Manhattan and she has managed to get us addicted to this yummy bakery there. She loves the cupcakes, but Ryan and I are crazy over their Magic Cookie Bars. She has made a tradition of bringing them to us when she comes to visit each year at Easter. We knew we couldn't leave the city without a taste of that yummy coconut goodness. These pictures make me laugh because I think Lily has such a before and after set of expressions...

Here we are just before entering our beloved Magnolia Bakery. Obviously, Lily is not aware of the heavenly goodness on the other side of the glass.

Here we are mere moments later, armed with countless calories and a couple of milk boxes thrown in for good measure. Notice Lily's expression now?

These are the pigeons who wanted to share our picnic. Lily called them the "city birds" the whole time we were there.

Filled with plenty of carbs, we strolled along Fifth Avenue and stopped wherever we saw something interesting. It was fun just taking in the city atmosphere without really being headed anywhere.

Rockefeller Plaza

A random photo shoot that caught my eye. I noticed this lady as we were walking by and I thought, "she looks like something you'd see in a magazine advertisement," and about that time I noticed a photographer with a really big camera. All of you Parents Magazine subscribers out there need to be on the lookout for her in your next edition!

Of course, the girls had one thing on their mind!

Here's the deal. We gave the kids no money for souvenirs. We told them from the start that we weren't buying any toys, gadgets, etc. We did give them their normal monthly chore money a few days early. Then, one of the grandparents surprised them with some pocket change too, so they had that. By day 3, poor Isaac was anxious to spend his. He was not happy to wander around the girly store with money in his pocket that I wouldn't let him spend. I knew that if he bought something at American Girl, he'd regret it. I assured him that if he would just wait a few more blocks, I would show him a place that would have something he would enjoy much more. He wasn't convinced, but he held on.

Our final retail stop paid off for the little guy. As soon as we walked inside, he looked at me and said, "I am so glad that I saved all my money for this place!"

Isaac and the famous FAO Schwartz soldier

Isaac is eager to see what's on the 2nd floor.
Lizzy and Lily were out of money, so they happily spent time on the big piano while Isaac searched for the perfect treat

Isaac found something he really wanted, but since the "make your own Muppets" started at $130. He went for this really cool dragon puppet instead. He's carried that thing all over creation since he purchased it.

Isaac also found something he thought I would really want too.
What can I say, he is a boy after my own heart!

Finally, the sun decided to come out for the first time since we'd arrived in the city. So, we left the toy store and headed across the street to stroll through Central Park. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the park and soaking in the green that we were beginning to miss. It really is a beautiful place.

Of course, they couldn't resist climbing on the rocks
Isaac and Balto (which was really cool, but what in the world does Balto have to do with NYC?)

The kiddos really wanted to rent a rowboat, but it was windy and cool. That's on our "next time we go we're gonna" list now.

After finishing our walk, we headed back to the apartment where we ordered pizza and hung out until the rush hour traffic had thinned. Then, we hit the road and headed south. . We had a great time, but felt like we didn't get to see a fraction of what the city has to offer. Someday, we'll go back. But, then again, there's a Grand Canyon, some Rocky Mountains, a Pacific Coast, and some Niagra Falls calling our name too. Oh, if I could just have a wealthy benefactor who would pay me large amounts of money to travel the world with my family. Oh well, I'd be rotten and so would my children, right?