Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Earning Their Spurs

Ever since the kids were born David and I have dreamed of the day when the kids would be old enough to trail ride with us. I thought that it would happen much sooner than this, but I am an overprotective Momma and have been very careful about them learning to ride. First of all, we haven't really had that right horse for them to learn on. It takes a really special horse for me to trust my babies on their back. The kids have been riding with us in the saddle with them for years, and even by themselves being led around with a lead rope. But until this past summer we never had that right horse that I felt was trustworthy enough to just turn them loose on.

This summer we were blessed to find not just one, but two wonderful and safe horses for the kids. One was just a horse we took a chance on, a 23 year old mare David drove all the way to Summerville to pick up. She was so underweight I was amazed she was even able to stand up on her own. The people we got her from assured us she was "kid broke", but judging by the shape she was in we had serious doubts. Kelsie decided to name her Krystal, and Dustin immediately fell in love with her. It was 4 months before she had gained enough weight for us to even think about climbing on her back. After the first ride I knew she was going to work out great, and she just kept getting better.

Our second blessing was a horse that we have known since before Kelsie was born. He has been around and in our lives off and on for at least 11 years, but we have never owned him. He is a son of my big red roan mare Lucy, who died almost 4 years ago. Our good friend Gerry Don has owned him for the last 9 years or so. He has been trained in cutting and actually won a little bit of money in the show ring at one time. Gerry Don did alot of Team Penning on him, and he is a really good broke horse. I have always loved riding him, even all those years ago before he had any fancy training. He is just a joy to ride and be around. His name is Little Boy, although there is nothing little about him. He is a wonderful addition to our little horse family, and Kelsie loves him to death. It is so cute to see that petite little girl riding that big ole' horse. And of course she loves to rub it in that her horse is "the biggest and the prettiest".

Sometime last summer the kids started riding their horses on their own. At first they rode in the barn, then we moved them out to the pasture but left the halter and lead rope on their horses and ponied them around behind us on our horse. After a few times they had enough confidence to take off the lead rope and ride on their own, with us riding along side them of course. Each time they rode I could see improvement in their abilities and their confidence, especially Dustin. He may have a little too much confidence....I'm afraid that may work against him one day, but for now it is helping him. Kelsie had a couple of incidents that shook her up a bit, but she learned from her mistakes and was able to move past them. She has turned into a really good little rider.

So with the sunshine and warm weather on Saturday we decided it was time to let them have their first real trail ride. There is something about riding within the fenced in areas of home that makes the experience a little bit safer. It's just like riding in a corral, only bigger. The horse is still in a confined area, and they are close to all their friends and the places they are most familiar with. You can't "earn your spurs" until you have ridden your horse in the great outdoors, without any fences to rely on. When the kids figured out we were going out of the pasture they were so excited! We left the pasture with David in the lead, followed by Kelsie, then Dustin and I was bringing up the rear. Right away we hit the lot across the road from us which hasn't seen a bushhog in years. We were in thick grass and those big canes with the feathery stuff on top of them were up over our heads. The further back we went the wetter the ground was getting until we wound up about ankle deep in what would have been soupy mud if it hadn't been for the thick layer of swamp grass under our feet. The horses were pushing through the foliage and being slapped under the belly and in the face time after time with one thing or another. I yelled up to David several times to get back up on the road because I was afraid the kids would be nervous about riding through such rough terrain for the first time. But they were fine, in fact they were having a blast. Even Wyatt who was riding in the saddle with David up at the front of our little caravan. We came out on the road and after riding the road a little ways we turned off onto the trail we used during our nature walk the other day.

The trail was really nice on horseback, we followed it all the way back and came across several spots where deer had bedded down. We came upon a deer plot the owner of the land had fixed up and not too far from that we found his deer stand. The picture below was taken while we were standing in the deer plot by the creek.

We rode for over an hour, and every one of the horses were sweating and showing how out of shape they are by the time we got back home. Every one of them except Little Boy. We all had a good laugh that he was the only one who looked like he hadn't been ridden, Kelsie doesn't weigh enough to give him any kind of a work out.

I can't remember a time that I have had more fun. I knew it was going to be great when the kids were finally able to ride with us, but I had no idea just how great. I was really happy that I was the one in the back, I had a great view of everything going on in front of me. I got to see exactly how both of them handled their horses through each obstacle we came to. I watched the looks on their faces when something excited them. I was able to see how comfortable they were and how relaxed they seemed to be as we were riding, that made me so proud of them! It was like they had been doing it their whole lives. If they had half as much fun as I had it was a good day for all of us!

So Kelsie and Dustin are now official equestrians. I have to say that they have earned their spurs, and very soon they will be rewarded with a trip to trail ride at Big Hill Pond to celebrate.

I must say though, there is one down side to Saturday's ride. Both kids now have full blown horse fever and will not stop asking me if we can go ride horses. This awful rainy weather is not cooperating with me and it is making things even worse. Oh well, the rain can't last forever, at least it's not snow....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What About Nature Study?

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1

Since the very beginning of our homeschool journey I have loved the idea of Nature Study. Charlotte Mason was a firm believer in a lifestyle of learning which included ALOT of time out of doors learning from God's creation. I have tried to implement this in our learning many times over the past few years, with varying degrees of success. Mostly, I just didn't stick to it. :) It is much easier to open up our science book and read about what I want them to learn. But the thought is always with me, how much more would they learn if they were instilled with a love of learning about the world around them. How better to cultivate a love for what God has created than to be amongst his creation on a regular basis? So, with the purpose of actually applying some of the knowledge I have gained from reading about this method, I have decided to challenge myself to spending one hour every week doing some type of nature study with the kids.

As I mentioned above, I have read alot about this idea of nature study. Three years ago I read "A Pocketfull of Pinecones" by Karen Andreola. If you are at all interested in nature study or learning about what it looks like on a daily basis being used in a family this is a GREAT book to read. It is a fictional story that follows the day to day life of a period homeschool family who uses the Charlotte Mason philosophy to teach their children. It is an easy, fun read and really helpful in letting you see what nature study is all about. Anyway, after I read this book I purchased the book recommended to help with nature studies by Miss. Charlotte Mason herself and subsequently recommended by Karen Andreola in her books. It is Anna Botsford Comstock's "Handbook of Nature Study". Sounds harmless enough right? Imagine my surprise when I opened the curiously heavy packaging and found this.

Yes, it is as thick as it looks. Almost 2 1/2" thick. After catching my breath and picking my jaw up off the floor I began to look through the book and found that it isn't quite as intimidating as it looks. I still don't know exactly how to use it. It really does have alot of information in it that I will more than likely never need. But it is a helpful tool and I plan on making the most out of it.

So yesterday was the perfect day to get started. It was Dustin's birthday and the weather was beautiful! After all the snow and bitter cold I was ready to get out of the house and enjoy it. We walked down the road to the creek that wreaks such havoc on our pasture and road when it floods. I figure if we are going to have to suffer through it when it is overflowing it's banks we might as well enjoy it while it is behaving itself.

We found a nice little spot where we had a clear view of the opposite bank and the water below. We noticed right away that there was a deer path down the bank directly in front of us going down to the water's edge. They noticed that where the water had been probably days before had left a neat pattern in the mud, and you could see a few deer tracks leading up the creek. The roots on the trees of the opposite bank were exposed by years of water rushing around them and provided something really interesting to look at and talk about.

I had brought along with us their scetchpads and coloring pencils so the kids sat down to draw what they were looking at. As I tried to explain to the kids yesterday, the point of drawing what you are looking at is not really about the finished product. Although I have seen some amazing drawings in other children's nature journals that I have really enjoyed looking at. I do want their drawings to be as accurate as possible and I want them to give their best effort, as with anything. But it is really about training them to notice things. As we sat there studying the scene in front of us, things that were not obvious to us at first began to come into view. Dustin noticed that the water below the trees was darker than the rest of the water and asked why. Kelsie noticed that behind the trees there was another small stream of water that flowed into the creek we were looking at. Using the handbook I looked up the chapter about brooks and it provided us with more things to talk about like where this particular creek originated from and the fact that the contents from even these small bodies of water will eventually wind up at the ocean. We decided we wanted to come back to the creek after the next rain and see how the water levels change after varying amounts of rainfall.

So today we learned a little bit of science, a little bit of art, and laid some groundwork for the habit of really seeing the world around us, but more than anything we had fun and made memories. I hope there will be many more of these days to follow. Stay tuned for our next adventure!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Since I wrote yesterday about the letter of the week preschool curriculum I thought I would post a couple pictures of Wyatt with his "school work".

Here he is holding his Learning Poster and his first craft project. Each week we will change out the theme, shape, number letter, and nursery rhyme. This week's nursery rhyme was Hey Diddle Diddle. We had a good laugh because Wyatt thought it was so funny. His laugh is contagious.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Breaking The Silence

It has been a long five months since I have written any new posts on my humble little blog. I guess I just haven't been "inspired". Or maybe I was just lazy, whatever the reason, I have decided to break the silence.

Since my last post we have entered into a new year. I can honestly say that I have never been so happy to see a year gone as I was when 2010 was over. It was a year filled with struggles for me, not only in the physical world but in the spiritual as well. But as He always does, God has taught me to be patient and trust in Him to provide for me. It's a shame that we have to go through such struggles to learn things like this. Wouldn't it be easier if our stubborn minds could just read what God's word says about his faithfulness and just believe it? I don't mean believe it in the sense that you believe it to be true. I mean to really believe it...to have it effect the way you live and the decisions you make. To really believe would be to not worry, about anything. Isaiah 41:10 says "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

I praise God that He has shown me once again how faithful He is. My prayer is that I will be more faithful to trust in Him when it really counts. As I am writing this I am reminded of a song that a good friend and Sister in Christ sings sometimes. "He's always been faithful to me" is the chorus, I'm not sure who the original artist is but it is a beautiful song and I am always encouraged when she sings it.

Despite the struggles I have had personally, our school year has been going really well. I think this is the best year we have had yet. The kids have adjusted to the increased work load. We still have some issues, usually centered around writing assignments, but for the most part they are doing extremely well. The only thing I wish I would have been more consistent with is teaching Wyatt. I have spent very little time really trying to teach him. I just wasn't sure what to do with him. Everything I tried seemed like it was too much or not enough, I felt like I was just wasting my time. I don't do well trying to come up with lesson plans on my own and we lacked the money to buy one of those nice preschool curriculum kits. But this week I found a really good preschool program online. And the best thing about it is it's FREE! You can find it at www.letteroftheweek.com. As the name suggests, it teaches one letter per week but it also teaches number recognition, shapes and colors, and a weekly theme with a vocabulary word and nursery rhyme based on the theme for the week. So far Wyatt has really enjoyed it, and so have I. It only takes about 30 minutes a day and not much prep work beforehand for the teacher.

So all in all the new year has started off pretty great. As everyone in the south knows, we even had an uncommon 5" of snowfall a couple of weeks ago, and as I am writing this it is snowing again. They are expecting another 1 to 3 inches throughout the day today. I know for some areas of the country that doesn't sound like alot, but for us West Tennessee residents it was like Snowmagedon. The kids had a blast building snowmen and forts for snowball fights. We all had snowcream for the first time, and I was surprised how good it was and how easy it was to make.

That reminds me, I should go set a bowl outside now so we can make some more! I will post some pictures of the great snow event soon. Until then I pray that you will all be blessed with the perfect peace that comes only from knowing Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 26:3, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."