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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.

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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.

NGHS Journal: Unexpected gifts on an atypical schooling day

10 Oct

Gotcher Family Homeschool — Day 28 — October 9, 2012

Today was a great homeschooling day. Not because it was “ideal” in terms of schedule, flow, and checking off a lot of boxes on the “to do” list. But God was in charge, and I believe a lot was accomplished today for His greater glory!

We didn’t get off to a great start. The girls decided to have a “slumber party” last night and sleep together in the full-size bottom bunk. Despite many “go to bed” calls from our bedroom, I heard their giggles and voices well past 1:30am. I found out tonight that they were actually up past 3am… Needless to say, everyone was sleepy and we didn’t get going with our day until about 10am.

Because my two youngest girls had Worship Dance class at noon, that didn’t give us much time to accomplish anything before we had to be out the door for the 20-minute drive to class. With this in mind, I told my eldest two that they could independently work on their presentations for tomorrow’s Elementary Presentation Day with our local homeschool group. Breakfast was eaten at the school table today, and somehow I also managed to squeeze in a shower before we were out the door.

But not before I spent at least 15 minutes doing my personal devotion time and bible reading. This has become a non-negotiable for me. No matter how off schedule I am going to be due to sleep issues, missed alarms, or simply not being disciplined enough to wake up early, I spend the first 15-20 minutes of my day filling my mind with God’s truth and talking to Him. I read from a daily devotional downloaded to my iPhone, highlight key scriptures, tap in some personal notes, recite some key verses several times to get memorization started, pray and wait on the Lord.

It might not seem like a very big deal for those who are disciplined in a daily morning devotional hour, but for someone like me who used to jump (literally) out of bed after hitting snooze several times and immediately hit the ground running — and not stop until I hit the sheets exhausted at night — this shift in gears was a huge change that took a lot of retraining.

No longer am I hitting the to-do list with a pit in my stomach that is further exacerbated by the two-plus cups of coffee that I would call “breakfast” and send my day into hyperdrive. Instead, I receive my energy for the day from God’s presence and words of truth, and I rise with a sense of peace and purpose received from time spent in prayer and praise.

I’ve also substituted those two cups of breakfast coffee for an energy-boosting smoothie: Greek yogurt, a banana, and a few ounces of “Blue Goodness” juice quickly whipped together with an immersion hand blender. There’s still some coffee involved after that, but it’s no longer all that sustains me until noon.

Back to today: We made it to the first of two back-t0-back dance classes, but we were about 10 minutes late. I had sacrificed my post-breakfast coffee to get there on time, so after dropping my 5-year-old Elise off in her class, I swung right back out of the parking lot to the nearest drive-through Starbucks. When I returned to the church where the worship dance classes are held, I settled down in the lobby couches with the other homeschooling moms passing time during the first session of classes while my two eldest got some school reading done.

This week, I was also suited up to participate in a fitness walk that one of the moms offered to lead during the second session of dance classes starting at 1pm. Last week, I had waved off the opportunity so I could get some lesson planning done on my laptop, but when the moms returned sweaty and panting, I realized this wasn’t just a leisurely walk — those mamas got a workout! Today, I couldn’t wait to join in and get some much-needed exercise.

The fitness walk was fabulous! The mother who led it has some experience with leading this style of interval training, so our walk was infused with interval stops of sit-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges, and more — even the infamous fat-burning “burpee” move! Sharing this invigorating workout with other time-crunched homeschooling moms added another layer of support and fun to the experience. I found myself wishing we had dance class twice a week just so I could get another workout in with these inspiring ladies!

Those squeezed-in conversations with other moms in my shoes are such a blessing and a gift. This time, it was sharing ideas on how to get out more with our kids and encourage some family fitness along with all the extracurricular “PE” the kids do through all the wonderful programs out there like CMA’s Worship Dance. It was discussing how we deal with the Halloween “dilemma” in our families and what God has revealed to us personally on this topic. It was laughing about who was sweating more, panting louder and cheating on her push-ups. It was nourishing in all the ways we need to be fed as a community of homeschooling mamas.

After both Elise and my 10-year-old Claire were done with their dance classes, we headed back home for lunch, after-lunch chores, and one more hour of schoolwork before the girls would be “excused” to play outside with the neighbor friends who would be home from school by about that time. Once the girls were outside, I turned to getting all of my “computer” work done: Checking email, updating Facebook for the NextGen Homeschool blog, handling updates for the local homeschool group Web site (which is my board member responsibility), updating our family’s online homeschooling planner/tracker, etc. My awesome chef of a hubby was making chili tonight, so I had extra time to get all my to-do’s accomplished before dinner.

Tonight I was really motivated to clear my plate because it was time for our local homeschool group’s twice-a-month mom’s prayer meeting. This is something new to our group’s calendar, and it has quickly become one of the things I look forward to most every month. It’s informal, open to all, and it’s been awesome to see how God has drawn certain moms consistently to participate in a couple of hours of honest sharing and focused prayer for our families, our group, our community, and more. In just two months, we’ve already seen a lot of answered prayers and God working in miraculous ways through our prayer time.

Although there were just four of us there tonight, I believe God knew exactly who needed to be there and why. We discovered that there were more than a few common themes challenging all four of our families — and that by bringing us together, God revealed His wisdom and solutions throughout our prayer time. God also spoke to me directly through a scriptural truth He had placed on another mom’s heart to share with me. It was so undeniably for me in this very moment in time that I am still in awe of how clearly God chose to speak to me, and it was a message I desperately needed to hear.

Today was a great homeschooling day. Not because of what we did, but because of what HE did. Tonight I am thankful for God’s many, many gracious gifts today. Thankful that He was ever-present with me and my family today. For providing fellowship. Even time for fitness. Lots of fun! Friends. Fruitfulness. Family. Forgiveness. Faith-building. Fear-banishing. Filled hearts. Freedom! Freshness.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” — 2 Cor. 3:18

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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