Lincoln’s Bio

One of the funnest things I get to do as a homeschool mom is plan my kid’s graduation.  I get to write a bio for the program, create a slideshow of his life, and present his diploma to him.  And since I’m his mom, I get a special dispensation to be proud and mushy.  It is like a Law.  Or something.

So!

I present Lincoln’s bio that will appear in the graduation program in a few weeks.

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“Dad taught me to control my anger, but Mom taught me that it is okay to be angry.”

—Lincoln James Gaskins

 

Lincoln is book-smart and talented, for which his parents are thankful, but they are most proud of the attributes for which he had to work hard.

He honors the vulnerable, whether that is a little sister, a grandmother, or a lonely person he meets in his day-to-day.  He challenges authority to behave better.

He takes risks, putting on a pink, sequined jacket and walking onto a stage to belt out a song in a huge theater when he feels like vomiting.

He has endured a storm that ripped through his life, stole his security, challenged everything he thought he knew to be true, and he turned to provide a safe haven for his younger sisters.

Lincoln is a man who puts aside his own comfort for the sake of others.

He dares to ask the big questions about God, life, and what it means to love and do good.  He is wise enough to know that he does not have all the answers, and that it is the questions that are important anyway.

At 17 years old, he has learned enough wisdom to recognize his many weaknesses.  He knows that his anger can consume him, that he has biases he knows about and those he doesn’t, that he avoids making decisions.

He is funny, kind, still kisses his mama and has a strong sense of justice.

In August, Lincoln will attend UNC Charlotte where he will play his cello, nerd out on music theory and play as many instruments as his fingers can touch.  Eventually, he will complete a degree in Music Education.

He plans to share a 12’ x 15’ dorm room with his older brother, Sidney, so he would appreciate prayers.

Our Favorite Bible Study

The longer I teach, the more I learn.  And forget.  And learn all over again.

The thing I have relearned lately:  learning is a simple thing.

If I remember that and don’t complicate, learning is also effortless and fun – for me and for my kids.

Lately, we’ve been starting our school day with Bible study.  All of us sitting around the kitchen table, quietly reading and writing for 30 minutes, 5 mornings a week.

I wonder if and hope that our morning times will be a fond memory and impact the faith of my children.  Corrie Ten Boom recalled her family’s regular Bible study around their kitchen table with great affection and her faith certainly withstood horrors most of us will never face.I.

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We generally start our day with family school, all together, before all four children disperse to their individual assignments.  Though I sense that my 2 eldest are beginning to silently chafe at this imposition on their time, I keep at it.  I understand their desire to be about their day and get their work out of the way.  But I am determined to push back demands and intrusions and create a quiet spot in our mornings, thirty minutes of silence and a slow pace of reading, writing, thinking.

I set the timer and we all sit at the table with our Bibles and moleskine notebooks, pens and colored pencils.  We are copying the book of Mark.  The only rules — copy scripture as carefully and neatly as possible on the right side.  The left side is for drawings, notes, questions about the section of scripture copied that day.

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When our timer rings, we close our Bibles and share observations, questions or artwork.

That is it.

No lectures from me.  The kids do as much or more talking than I do.

And I learn what is on their hearts when I shut up and listen.  It is too, too easy for me to stay in constant teacher/parent mode – talking, instructing, rebuking, making a teaching moment out of every blasted thing.  My kids are quite capable of making their own teaching moments, when I back off and let them.

I know this well, so it is particularly embarrassing when I catch myself over-teaching.  It is easily recognizable by the glazed look in the kids’ eyes.

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Through their Bible journals, I see their struggles.

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I see their unique interpretations.

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I see what captures their attention.  My eldest is not prone to illustrations nor writing his thoughts as much as his siblings.   In fact, almost every left page of his journal is blank.  He spends his 30 minutes copying a section and then studying footnotes or reading ahead.

However, the story of the demon-possessed man whom Jesus freed by sending the evil spirits into thousands of pigs —- well, that story intrigued him enough to  draw little stick piggies.  And we wondered . . . why did the demons prefer to be sent into pigs rather than be cast out?  Did they know know the pigs would dive over the cliff?  Did the demons purposely send the pigs over the cliff themselves in an attempt to draw negative attention to Jesus?

The text is ambiguous, leaving us free to speculate on the motives of both the demons and Jesus.  And speculate we did after we got over laughing at his stick piggies and sharks in the Sea of Galilee.  Learning is always best when accompanied by laughter.

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I also see applications.  My youngest made a heart chart of the world.  According to her chart, there are more black-hearted people in the world (12 to be exact) than red- or Jesus-hearted people (only 10).  We got to chat about how people are not all black-hearted or Jesus-hearted.  We all have a bit of black in our hearts.

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I am learning so much.  After all these years of teaching and studying the Bible different ways with my kids, this is definitely my favorite way of doing Bible Study with them.

Teaching what I don’t know

or what I don’t care to know.  (Shhh!  Don’t tell my children.  Even I, learning-lover that I am, have my limits, and chemistry is one of them.  Or so I thought.)

Sometimes, I get someone else to teach.  A violin teacher teachrs violin.  A cello teacher teaches cello.  Sometimes, I take a breath, jump in and learn what I don’t know along with the kids.

Other times, I get lucky.  Very lucky.

Teaching my eldest child chemistry was one of those very lucky times.  I just taught him to read.  Then his curiosity and natural preferences led him to science books, absorbing facts like a sponge.  He has loved chemistry, in particular, since he was 4 yo and still goes to bed with chemistry books as leisure reading.  I can confidently say that the boy is engaged and knows far more than the average college graduate about chemistry.

One of the most exciting things about being a parent is watching the kids take off on their own, in ways that have little to do with me, seeing them develop interests and skills vastly different from my own.

Sidney teaches chemistry.

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I was also feeling quite lucky that Sidney was my eldest.  I had grand plans of him teaching his younger siblings chemistry, so I could schlepp out of it.

Teaching his younger siblings would cement his chemistry knowledge, I reasoned.  I didn’t count on having fun myself and learning chemistry too.  Life is funny like that, working out differently than our Plans.

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Since my younger children tend more toward the humanities than sciences, I asked Sidney to help me teach them now to ease their way into high school chemistry later.  My Plan was to whet their appetites and create a chemistry-learning drive inside them such that I could stand aside and . . .well, basically do ANYTHING ELSE during their high school chemistry studies.

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But from reading over their notes of big brother’s teaching,

coloring and labeling Period Tables with them,

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looking at the huge Period Table of Elements taking over my wall, I am getting sucked into learning Chemistry too.  Against my Plan.

It turns out that some things I thought would be dreadful, like teaching chemistry, are actually cool and exciting.

Our Wall of Elements

Their Longest Day

**Note:  This account is mostly true with a bit of fictionalized tweaks where my memory blurred.  But even the fictions are true on many days and might have been true this day.  I like for my kids to see that I value writing, to encourage them to write fearless.  It is a safe place to be “reckless” as consequences are minimal.  So, it is only fair that I should do what I ask my kids to do — write fearless even when uncomfortable.  What is the worst that could happen?  That you won’t like it, that I won’t like it, I suppose.  Nothing to fear there.

Summer solstice invited them out-of-doors.

It was evening, supper time actually, but for once nobody asked the question — “What’s for supper?”  The day’s heat had lifted, clouds swept the sky, and breezy fingers strummed gentle music among the trees and teased her skin.

She heard the giggles of a son and two daughters and the squeaky springs of a rusty trampoline.  A door thumped shut when her teenage son stepped onto the porch, and the whir of her husband’s saw sounded from the backyard.

With the flow of family edging her awareness, the woman dug another hole and plunked a cinnamon-leaved coral bell into place 18 inches from the hosta.  Thunder rolled, the breeze kicked, blood danced in her veins, and something called to her. She looked up, wondering if she would finish planting before it rained.  The air was electric, molecules buzzed against her skin, filled her lungs — movement and stillness, an expectancy, a held breath.  A certainty was coming — her arms, legs, bones, and skin reached toward it.

Exhilaration bubbled through heart valves, pumped into her fingers, toes and marrow.  Wanting to laugh, she dug another hole, half expecting and hoping the sky to rain absolution and praise on her.  She settled a coral bell with burgundy leaves close to another hosta.  Her sister had given her the hostas, had dug them from her own yard.  This coral bell came from her mom, who gave her a plant every week, claiming she couldn’t care for plants anymore, too much trouble for an old woman.

She laid a thick layer of pine needles around her new plants.  Seven years since they had moved into their house on the hill in the woods.  All those 7 years held her longing to plant a flower bed along the front porch, to grow grass in the front yard for bare feet.  The woman didn’t miss much from childhood, but she missed the brush of grass on bare feet, especially dew-kissed grass on a cool spring morning.  The grass, too, waited almost 7 years, due to finances, poor health and because it took time to learn how to grow tender living things in hard red clay.  It had been harder than she had imagined, and year after year, her yard had remained dry, hard, rough and painful to exposed soles.

Her patch of earth still didn’t grow the lush grass of her original dream, but it was mostly covered with soft, green growth — clover, plaintain, unidentified weeds and grass — and she was content.  This year, honeybees gathered nectar in her yard.

Her daughters flitted across the soft green in bare feet, wearing their older brothers’ play cloaks, cloaks too small even for their 9- and 11-year-old frames.  But the girls  didn’t care, their imaginations making the cloaks what they wanted them to be.

The woman exhaled.  The certainty broke over her, and she grasped it, pulling it inside her  — my dream, I am living my dream.  She heard her husband’s hammer, building her bench.  She saw her older son tinkering under the hood of the car, while her daughters and middle son carried sticks and imaginary worlds.

They were all here, her family, together, home.

With the gift of a few extra minutes added to their day.