This Week...

Over the weekend my parents were here. I love spending time with them, but I think I enjoy watching my children love spending time with them even more!

We went to the creek, roasted marshmallows, had a picnic at the park, and walked through the Ephrata Cloister. It was fun and relaxed. We were, as always, sad to see them leave. Their time with us is always too short!

This week has been busy with getting ready for school to start in earnest. Eliana and Annika have started their basic subjects, but next week everyone starts with their full curriculum load.

We also got to babysit these cuties and their two big brothers one evening.

Donations have started arriving for my upcoming trip to China. It always amazes me how many people give so willingly! I pulled out my big suitcase this morning and started packing donations! With just over two weeks to departure it is time to start packing!

I finally sent my visa application off yesterday. I'm cutting it a little close this time! I'm applying for a 10 year visa, so hopefully I won't need to worry about this process again until 2025! :)


Not to Sound Like a Broken Record...


I'm going to China! And to Taiwan!

And I'm just a little excited, because the more often I go the more I love to go back!

The plan is to fly to Shanghai on September 12th. Yes, I am aware of the fact that this is less than a month from now. We will spend about two weeks traveling in China then some of the team will fly home and a few of us will travel to Taiwan. I plan to return home on the 30th of September.

As always, will you pray with me for the children we will be seeing? I love going to China. I love the experience, the smells, the food... But at the heart of it all are the children. They are the reason I go. They are the reason my family sacrifices so that I can go. In Casper's words, "We can do without a mom for 2 1/2 weeks so that other children have a chance to have a mom!" I think he understands what it is all about.

So. Let's do this! China and Taiwan here I come!


Under the Denim Banner

The following was written by my brother-in-law, Ben Embry. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Texas and homeschool their 6 children (using the CC method). He and I were both homeschooled back when homeschooling was not cool or common. This article really resonated with me when I read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I’ll take my stand. Jumpers have fallen into disrepute these days, especially in the homeschool world. The Old World, back when homeschoolers drove vans, sported bangs above their over-sized glasses, and made their jumpers from scratch, that Old World is my heritage. It’s my very own Lost Cause, and in *that* Dixieland I’ll take my stand.

Mothers gather onto social media and ask their questions. Their quest is for bangs-free, jumperless homeschooling, an experience that keeps the mom put together and capable of play-dates, the homeschooled child still dressing hipper-than-thou as compared to his PS peers, and the vehicle loaded with so many Bluetooth enabled devices, the manifestation of learning reveals itself in a blue haze. PS? Public School. Moms have to learn a new language besides just Latin these days. DD, MOH, CC, ISO, and MFW all mean things, and using the terms with the proper nonchalance effects a measure of cool that is heartbreakingly enviable.

Mothers ask questions like, "Have any of you used the Lexia app? What about Epic?", "Where do you hang your timeline cards?" and "DD can’t do math, even though she’s really bright. Maybe switch from Saxon to SM or Math U See? Thoughts?" The questions rage and portend to blow up the very internet. "Who uploaded this flawless worksheet?" "Link here for great cut-and-pastes." "Where can I get a wall pocket thing that looks chic?” “Do I need to etch Beethoven’s bust into the oak tree or is that just an option?" “Are Buddhist mantra skills helpful in repeating lists of prepositions? Looking for Buddhist tutor.” Ultimately, the questions are of two types: 1) I’m so afraid that I’ll miss something. Ladies, will you tell me that I won’t; and 2) I am omni-competent, but almost no one cares. Ladies, will you validate my drive by liking and sharing? Somewhere in all of this, a kid is being tortured. (One wonders what symbol he will mock when he begins to teach his own children.)

But it wasn’t always thus. Imagine a time when removing your child from school was something of a legal gray area: you might go to jail, you might just become a neighborhood pariah. Imagine going to a homeschool convention and, instead of taking notes, buying downloads of lectures and then later next week researching online the different curriculum, both at the curriculum website and on social media (see above), you were denied these luxuries. Instead, you had to focus on specific vendors, read through the workbooks or the reigning philosophy of the program, discuss prices, worry about the legality of it all, and finally plunk down your hard-won $800 for a year’s worth of work with your children. Imagine returning home, starting up without any online cheerleaders, earning the worried brow of the pastor who isn’t quite on board with this kind of thing, and, in your spare time, ripping out the hem of a poorly sewn jumper, all of it punctuated with bathroom flights of morning sickness. And there was still time to read ‘Little Britches’ and ‘Detectives in Togas’. And to ride bikes with other homeschool friends. And to engage in the culture wars in other legal gray zones.

Homeschooling has come a long way, thanks to religiously motivated pioneers who risked civil penalties and social censure, thanks to be-jumpered moms whose wan faces hid reservoirs of grit. And their 21st century counterparts want advice on where to get Napoleon-shaped erasers or what the best time of day is to read Susan Wise Bauer to K4? While smirking at jumpers? Classy.

I humbly suggest a different approach. No, don’t search a This Old Schoolhouse forum for used jumpers that might fit. But still, use the jumper. Embrace the jumper. I suggest that the jumper be converted to the flag of the homeschool tribe. Do you feel the call to educate your own children and reclaim the education you received? Follow in their train. Hoist the Jumper! You believe that you have grit, that you can pull off a year or 12 of home education? Unfurl the Jumper! You want a model to follow, a saint to revere whose accomplishments measure not only getting many kids through college (on academic scholarship) but also resisting the disapproval of their own put-together mothers and friends and denying themselves what luxuries a meager budget might have afforded?  Do battle under the waving Jumper.

The Jumper is a sign of conquest, a cloth of triumph, a sheet of conviction. The Jumper stands for feminine confidence, for impossible harmony made possible, for a beautiful civilization, for philosophy, for freedom. The Jumper stands for disciplined originality and for creative frugality. From such spare contours, a tapestry of grace extends, and extends to you and me. Take comfort, take pride, homeschool mom, for a cloud of witnesses surrounds you, and their skirts are made of denim.

-Ben Embry


First Grade

It is official. This girl is a first grader.

We have two days behind us and so far, so good! She is just adorable as she seriously writes numbers and letters and chants her math facts. Watching her makes me so happy! She is so ready for this and it makes it fun for everyone!

Today her sight word was do. We went over it several times then I held up the card and asked her what the word was. She immediately replied, "Dude!" We will keep working on that one!

As I'm writing Keith is having singing class with all of the children. With the three youngest singing the melody, Freeland singing alto, Keith singing tenor, and Douglas bass they have four part harmony. It is pretty sweet to listen in.

We aren't in the full swing of things yet, but I think we can say school is off to a good start!


Classical Conversations Practicum and Camps

So the crew and I did something new this week. We attended a Classical Conversations Practicum (me) and camps (the crew). Now I tend to read quite a bit about things I'm interested in and research pretty extensively. I've been reading about Classical Conversations for a couple of years. So, to be quite honest, I was bored stiff pretty familiar with the material that was shared.

Not that the subject material wasn't good. It was just a little too familiar to actually engage my mind for three whole days.

But the children? Now that was a different story! They had so much fun. They did science experiments, they drew maps, they learned about continents and oceans. They made friends and colored pictures and learned fun songs in English and an African dialect. Eliana's teacher comment about her was that "she has the purest little heart." That sums my baby girl up perfectly.

Today each camp gave a little demo for the parents. Eliana was front and center in her group. At the end of each song or recitation she (and she alone) gave a deep, dramatic bow. It was hysterical! She is so full of joy. It amazes me over and over.

Science camp is over now. Shortly after we got home this afternoon the curriculum I had ordered arrived. Annika can't decide if she would rather sleep all day tomorrow or get up early and start school. Thankfully it isn't up to her!


1,276 Days and Counting

We have reached a huge landmark here in the Martin household. This little cutie lived in an orphanage for about 1,275 days. She has now been a Martin for 1,276 days. That, my friends, is something worth celebrating!

When she came to us she was 3 1/2 and the size of a 1 year old. She weighed 21 pounds and was 31 inches tall. She still toddled when she walked, she did not know how to take a step down off of a curb, she was not accustomed to activity so, while she loved to play, she got tired very quickly.

She captured our hearts before we ever met her. Then she walked into the room. We were gonners. She walked in, held her arms up and said, "Mama".

Just after meeting her.

We needed her thumb print on the paperwork the day she became a Martin.

Has it all been easy? No. There is nothing easy about healing from neglect and trauma. And it is an ongoing process. I'm not sure she really believes that she is ours forever even now. She still self-soothes when she is going to sleep. She still flinches if you move too quickly close to her face. She takes nothing for granted. Nothing. The marks of those institutionalized years are still there.

In Guangzhou, China

At 7 she now weighs 39 pounds and is 47 inches tall. She is amazing in her ability to keep up with her siblings! She goes on 3 mile bike rides. She bounces from morning to night and is normally either talking or singing as she bounces. She celebrates with abandon. There is nothing quiet or subdued about her excitement!

How I love that smile!
I can't stop adding pictures! Oh the cuteness! 
She never ceases to amaze us. She has experienced more pain and loss in her little life than most of us will ever experience. But her brave, resilient little spirit remains unbroken and beautiful.
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