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Gotcher Family Thanksgiving

30 Nov
NextGen Homeschool authors Elizabeth, Rosanna, and Renee

NextGen Homeschool authors Elizabeth, Rosanna, and Renée

By Rosanna Ward

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday. This year for Thanksgiving, the Gotcher family gathered in force at my home in Oklahoma. Mom and Dad Gotcher finished their eastern speaking tour here, and Kenny, Renée, and their girls drove in from Colorado. We had a full, crazy loud house, and we had a blast.

Thankfully the weather was nice, and the kids played outside much of the time. There were scooters, skates and bikes everywhere. The cousins enjoyed spending time together and hated being parted at the end of the weekend. There was a new baby this year for everyone to hold: Melody Rosanna Thomas. We enjoyed learning about rocks, cooking together, playing word games, and taking family pictures!

Grandpa taught the kids about rocks one day and took them to a rock museum, the Elsing Museum at ORU. Another day he took them out to a country area where they looked for interesting rocks among the thick exposed rock layers. They found some interesting fossils and brought home a few more rocks to add to their collections.

One of the great things about our family get-togethers is that everyone enjoys pitching in with the cooking, and we all help with clean up. One night Uncle Kenny and his family made delicious chicken enchiladas with all of the fixings. Thanksgiving morning, Jason and Hannah went to the donut shop to make rolls and apple and peach pies. I was supposed to make the turkey, but Kenny turned out to be the expert here, he also made the mashed potatoes and gravy. Grandma made stuffing, Renée made a roasted root vegetable dish and Gulliver’s creamed corn dish passed down in her family that everyone loves, Virginia made hors d’oeurves and decorated the table, Uncle Tony provided the ham and Elizabeth made green bean casserole.

 

Cousin Audrey made a Razzleberry pie and Grandpa made two of his famous chocolate cream pies.  I guess I didn’t really make anything but I felt like I stayed busy helping out and cleaning up.  e had a great time eating together and then everyone pitched in to help clean up. Then the guys went upstairs to watch football while the rest of us stayed downstairs and played Bananagrams.

Family bananagrams game

Family Bananagrams game

We played a lot of Bananagrams and some Scrabble as well. Our family really loves word games, and Bananagrams gives everyone a chance to play and win because it’s not as complicated as Scrabble. The kids like to play Bananagrams with us, and Leif enjoyed dumping the tiles on the floor whenever he could get a hold of the pouch. It is a great learning game for kids to use their vocabulary and spelling skills at any level and still have a chance to win. We still love to play Scrabble too, of course.

The day before Thanksgiving the whole family got together — all twenty of us — in the backyard to take pictures. The day was beautiful, a bit sunny and a bit breezy, and my daughter Ginny took the pictures. She did a great job: She had to be quick to get all the kids to be still and look at the camera at the same time. After she took a few good shots of the whole family, she took pictures of each family, of grandparents with grandkids, of all the cousins, and of the grandparents with their three children. We only get the chance to do this about once every four years.

Gotcher Family 2012

Gotcher Family 2012

NextGen Homeschool Authors Renee, Rosanna, and Elizabeth

NextGen Homeschool Authors Renee, Rosanna, and Elizabeth

During the time we were together, Renée, Elizabeth and I had some time to sit down together and discuss our NextGen Homeschool blog and where we want it to go. Elizabeth and I introduced Renée to our favorite source for used homeschooling curriculum, a wonderful local bookstore called BiblioMania, where we shopped and talked for a couple of hours. The three of us also spent Black Friday getting pedicures together instead of  shopping, and had a relaxing opportunity to chat some more before the busy weekend’s end.

We are excited for the coming year and the direction we are taking here. Let us know if you enjoy our blog, and if so, we welcome your comments!

Rosanna Ward is a devoted wife of 19 years and mother of four children, two of which are homeschool graduates. She currently homeschools her 7-year-old son Joel and her youngest son is a toddler. Rosanna is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling for seven years. Rosanna loves to study History and Genealogy: Her genealogy blog is called “Rosanna’s Genealogical Thoughts.” She and her family reside in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

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NGHS Journal: Elections night party and the morning after

8 Nov

By Renée Gotcher

Another national election has come and gone: The results are in, and today, we move forward. For me, this election was significant not just because I had strong personal convictions about the issues our country faces, but because I was able to share that passion with my daughters and see them learn so much along the way.

Just a few days ago, I shared what it was like to get “up close and personal” with this year’s election process with our daughters by our side when we attended local rallies with the candidates. They watched as we parents filled in our ballots and went with me to drop them off at an early voting site. We put signs in our yard for the first time — actually the kids led that initiative with the help of their neighborhood pals.

We made elections lapbooks using a free election lapbook template, and we regularly discussed the significance of issues, amendments, and the local and national officials on the ballot. We even had our “color in” 2012 electoral map ready so we could fill in the projected results first, and then fill in actual results in real time for comparison. We weren’t going to miss a beat!

Fueling our family’s excitement this year was the fact that many of the neighboring families were equally engaged and passionate about the elections — kids included. We even decided to have an Election Night party together so that all of the kids could share in the fun, while we parents could count on each other for moral support if needed (and unfortunately, it was needed). The party included a blown-up version of our real-time electoral college map and electoral votes tally chart, patriotic hats, balloons and streamers, and of course, lots of snacks to hunker down for a long evening if necessary.

I have to admit that involving the girls so closely in the election process was as equally risky as it was educational and fun. The kids had to learn what it means to “respectfully disagree” when discussing politics with others, and, of course, how to handle disappointment with unwanted results. As election night progressed and we adults realized we were going to have to turn those “what if” conversations into “what happened is” explanations, I started to second-guess myself for getting the girls so involved. That feeling turned into absolute nausea as the girls prepared to fill in just a few more states, heard the news that they were not going to be coloring them in red, dropped their markers and left the room. Yikes!

Then I remembered that true growth, the real education of life, is never easy. It’s messy, complicated, and unpredictable. In fact, it’s impossible to fully comprehend with our darkened human understanding. However, that reality doesn’t have to consume us or destroy us, praise God! As an adult, I know this all too well. But would my young daughters be able to trust me on this one?

After we returned home, the house was quiet for a while as the girls prepared for bedtime. I resisted the temptation to turn news coverage back on to satisfy my own analytical inclinations so that the girls could go to sleep in peace. My 11-year-old daughter Audrey came into the room with her Kindle in hand and a smile on her face.

“So this is what I’ve decided, Mom,” she began. “I have decided that even though Obama won, we have a president who is a human being created by God, loved by God, who I can pray for, and that overall, God will always be King.”

WOW!

My big girl — the intellectual perfectionist and the girl who shared my lot in life as the first-born child — was wiser than I could be in that moment.

Lesson learned after all! My heart was deeply blessed. What a gift to be the mother of this precious child of God!

So we did pray: All three girls and I gathered in my room and prayed for the hearts of individuals in our country and our leaders. We prayed for God to equip us for His service, to purify us so we can shine more brightly with His light, and to lead us in sharing His love with others.

This morning, we opened our elections lapbooks and pulled up the latest news online so we could fill in the rest of those uncolored states according to the morning’s tally. Other than a few murmurs like “Florida’s still gray, really?” and “Colorado? Ugh!” the girls were generally in a good mood about it. They completed the fill-in-the-blanks on an electoral votes chart and elected officials list, folded the books back up and filed them away.


Without skipping a beat, my 10-year-old Claire wanted to talk about “next time,” of course — because she’s the talker.

“Mom, once you’ve run for president, are you not able to run again, like on American Idol when you make the Top 20 and you can’t come back the next year even if you don’t win?” I explained the details.

Next question: “Who do YOU think should run for president next time?” Hmm…

Statement of fact: “Ugh, I can’t believe I will only be 17 two elections from now and Audrey will be 18, so she can vote but I can’t!”

Big sister gloats a bit. Little sister makes a sour face because she’s realized big sister will once again be able to do something she can’t do that she really wants to do — even though it’s eight years away. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I remind them. “Why don’t we just enjoy the beautiful, sunny 70-degree November day that we’ve been given today, OK?”

And let’s eat that leftover Red Velvet election party cake after lunch!

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” — 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She and her family currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado.

NGHS Journal: Up close and personal with the elections

5 Nov

By Renée Gotcher

This weekend I came to a better appreciation of living in a swing state: It can be pretty exciting and fun the week before a national election if you stop answering your phone and watching live TV, and take advantage of all the live appearances instead. Swing states get lots of “love” from the candidates in the form of additional visits, some in more intimate venues. This provides a unique opportunity to get your children up close and personal with the election process.

This weekend, my two older daughters were able to attend Romney-Ryan events here in Colorado. Saturday my 10-year-old Claire attended a huge rally at the Comfort Dental amphitheater (formerly known as Fiddler’s Green) with some close family friends. She got a chance to sit in a special VIP section close to the stage and hear presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann address the crowd of approximately 17,000 people.

Claire’s play-by-play of the event goes something like this: “It was really loud and then his country singer sang for a long time, and then a few different people talked, and THEN Mitt Romney and his wife finally came on stage!” She did remember a few key points, though, like “something about how Romney helped Staples do better in business,” and “Mitt really loves his wife!” But the real highlight of her evening was stopping at Jimmy John’s for sandwiches on the way home and getting a “Vote Jimmy” button. Love that girl!

Last night, my husband and I took our eldest daughter, Audrey (11 1/2), to hear Romney’s VP running mate Paul Ryan speak at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where we were pulled out of the crowd and asked if we would like to sit right behind the stage! This was a much more intimate venue than Fiddler’s Green, and the crowds of people that didn’t even make it in the arena faithfully stood outside to listen from speakers in near-freezing temperatures.

It was nice to be out of the cold (somewhat – it was an open air arena!) and be able to sit in the bleachers while waiting for the big event. We were so close that we actually made it on the NBC affiliate news coverage in the background while Ryan was entering the arena! We’re on the top left corner of this video freeze frame: Audrey is the smiling girl in striped shirt with thunder sticks waving, while I’m the one standing next to her holding my iPhone, of course…

It was exciting to have such great seats for the occasion, but I was especially grateful because it gave Audrey — who was attending her first political event — a chance to feel like she was part of history in the making, no matter what the outcome. She had educated conversations with adults sitting around us, and she really paid attention to the speakers. She was engaged, excited and thankful to witness a part of the election process firsthand. As a “tween” she already has very strong personal convictions, and it’s a privilege to give her as much opportunity as possible to gain more perspective on what it means to be an American.

Maximizing the weekend’s election excitement, we decided to make facts about the election process the subject of today’s lapbook. Earlier this month, another mom in our homeschool support group shared a free election lapbook template from Homeschool Share, as well as a “color in” 2012 electoral map that the girls could use to first fill in the projected results, then flip over and fill in the actual results for comparison.

We spent most of the afternoon cutting, coloring, and researching answers (and yes, that’s Claire using her iPod Touch to browse the Web). I am really glad I saved this project for today, because after their experiences this weekend, the girls were so much more connected to their work. It was fun to overhear them comparing the two events they attended, as well as chime in with their opinions and projections as they filled out each section. They were very pleased with the finished product, especially the electoral map we’ll be coloring in tomorrow night as the results start coming in.

I want to be clear that I’m not writing this post to advocate any political party or voting decision. On the contrary, I believe what’s important is that parents not only be responsibly engaged in the election process and do your due diligence in sifting through the political “marketing” to make educated voting decisions, but that you also invite you children to join you in this journey.

My earliest childhood remembrance of anything political was when my second grade public school class wrote letters to President Carter. I can’t remember what I wrote, why we did it or if the letters were actually mailed or just an assignment. We didn’t talk about what the president stood for, just what he did. But I do remember recognizing the significance of a president and thinking that it seemed like a pretty important job, and I wondered why I would really have anything to say to him.

Oh yes, and I do remember learning a thing or two since that time from Schoolhouse Rock

Our household wasn’t very engaged in politics when I was growing up. My mom was born in Mexico, had a Green Card, and didn’t become an American citizen until after I was in college. My stepfather was a citizen but never shared any political feelings with us kids. My birth father (a longshoreman and longtime union man) was a Democrat and I knew that, but I didn’t know why. In fact, my dad and I didn’t really talk about politics until I left home for college at age 17 and registered to vote Republican two years later, when the 1992 election loomed on the horizon. As you can imagine, he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s another story for another day…

My point is this: The limited time we have with our children, even when homeschooling them, is a vital preparation time to equip them for the future. I want them to learn now what it means to be a U.S. citizen, how our government works, how we are different from other countries and why, and how they can be engaged in the democratic process. And I’ll be happy if that means simply voting in every election they are eligible to vote in.

I have to admit that although I registered to vote in college, I didn’t take my vote seriously until years later. I took AP government classes in middle school and high school, and I understood quite clearly the logistics of our government and the basics of the party system. However, I didn’t appreciate how politics actually did apply to me and had always applied to me: From my mom’s citizenship status and my dad’s union-provided benefits that put braces on my teeth, to buying our first home as a couple and navigating the ups and downs of our economy (including a layoff) and being able to choose what we believe is the best option for educating our three daughters.

So I am especially grateful to be able to include my girls in this year’s election journey, especially now that they are old enough to think critically and understand that elections are about more than just campaign slogans.

I’m also making sure that they know I believe no matter who becomes president, God is still King. That means we can trust Him with any outcome, believing that “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). So I place my hope in Him, and this is the hope that keeps me from becoming jaded and cynical during these divided times.

Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She and her family currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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