Good morning everyone!
We've reached another Saturday, which also means that it's time for my weekly blog.... I try to make a point of getting a new blog posted sometime on the weekend, but this morning there is nothing out of the ordinary that I really need to tell you about. I guess after my mountain adventure last Sunday, everything else that has happened over the week fades in comparison!
Looking back over my blogs from the past few months, I realize that I haven't shared too much about school life or about my 3 'kids', so I thought that I would take the opportunity this weekend to brag about them, and give you a glimpse into my weekday school schedule! :)
At 8am every morning school begins in the spare bedroom of the van der Mark house. Usually when I arrive around 7:30 to get myself organized, the kids are on the porch playing with their dog, Trigger, or eating breakfast in the kitchen. It isn't too rare though that they are even still sleeping, so on a few occasions they make it to school with sleepy eyes. :) Our morning routine begins with devotions, where we are currently working through a one-year devotional guide for children. The story and verse that we read each day kind of sets the stage for a discussion time and memory verses. Over the past months, the kids have mastered a bunch of 'promise verses', as well as all of the books of the New Testament! It's pretty impressive!
At the beginning of the year, our devotional time took about an average of 15 minutes, but lately I've noticed our discussions lengthening and our time extending over half an hour, which is really exciting for me. Devotions is definitely my favorite part of the mornings with my kids because I love talking to them about the bible and hearing their responses about what it means to them. It's exciting for me when they ask questions or remember a story in the bible that connects with something else we are discussing. I surely don't have all of the answers, and I feel like many times I'm learning right along with the kids, but it's a rich time together and I'm thankful for it.
Following our prayer time, we move into our 'language subjects' (which also integrates science and social studies units), where I usually get Teagan and Grayden set up first with whatever their task of the day is. Currently, they are both working through novel studies, and although it is different books that they are reading, a lot of the reporting activities I am giving them are the same. The picture shows them working on gathering research about the book authors.
During this time, Bridgely usually reads quietly and then I call him forward to go through our calendar together. We sing a month song and a week song to remember the names of everything, and then Bridgely updates our classroom calendar. It's amazing to see how he can do it all independently now, while a few months ago he was still reliant on me to lead him. Along with our calendar we've also been tracking the number of days we've been at school, and keeping Canadian coins in progression with each day that is added. On Friday we had reached day 98, so we are all looking forward to having a 100th day celebration this coming Tuesday!
After our calendar is updated, I do some more one-on-one time with Bridgely as we learn the different sound and letter combinations of the alphabet and work through his easy readers. I must say that one of the most rewarding parts of teaching this year has been watching Bridgely's growth in reading and writing. He is at such an awesome age where he soaks everything up like a sponge and it's been a thrill for me to see how far he's come! The picture below shows him switching our calendar over from February to March.
After I've got Bridgely set up in his work, I continue to circulate and make sure Teagan and Grayden are on the right track with everything. Each of the kids overall have adjusted very well to this style of teaching, and are great independent workers so that helps me out a lot!
At 10am we take a 30 minute recess break, but first we do another one of my favorite things. I've always loved reading stories to kids, so ever since our first day in September I've been reading them books before break time. It has definitely been a bit of a struggle to find books that capture the attention of Bridgely in grade 1 all the way up to Teagan in grade 7, but we've managed! Starting in about November we began the Ralph S. Mouse series by Beverly Cleary, 3 novels that surround the story of a little mouse who rides a motorcycle. These books have not only entertained the kids, but me as well, and I admit it's also helped me to be a little more tolerable of mice when I see them around the mission! haha!
So after reading an excerpt from the book we take a half-hour break. The kids get a snack and Teagan usually reads, while the boys use up some energy by running around outside or playing a game on their new Wii. It's also a nice break for me, and I don't usually stay in the classroom doing school work, but go back to my apartment to wash dishes or start a load of laundry... I must say it's pretty convenient living next door to my work! :)
So after break we dive into math! Teagan is amazing and almost always completes a whole math chapter in her textbook each day without any assistance. All I do is prepare the questions and activities ahead of time and she does the rest. What a blessing that is to me! Bridgely also works well independently with his math workbook, so I usually get the two of them set up with their work for the day and then I work through a math lesson with Grayden. Once I'm finished teaching him, I go back to Bridgely and start a new lesson with him. Currently we are working on geometry with 2D and 3D shapes. It's been more of a hands-on unit as you can see in the picture below... And the marshmallows definitely played a part in keeping us focused! Or not... haha!
So that pretty much sums up a morning of school.... When school ends on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we take a break from 12-1pm and then re-group for an afternoon of art, music, gym or learning games. This block of 2 and 1/2 hours always flies by and is much more casual, so more than anything, it's really been essential for me getting to know the kids at a deeper level. We joke and laugh together and especially over the past few weeks, I've really felt like I have become more than just a teacher but a friend.
I want to thank all of your for your prayers since September, because even leading up to Christmas, I still felt like there was a distance between the kids and I. It took a long time to find a routine and to reach this point of feeling unified, but I've really sensed it over these past few weeks. I feel a genuine love and understanding for each of the kids, and I care not just about their coverage of the curriculum expectations, but for their overall well being and growth here in Haiti. It hasn't been easy, and I still see areas where they struggle to find their fit, but they have come so far, and I am so thankful that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of their lives. These kids are going to go far. They have been exposed to things in Haiti that many people would never experience in a lifetime, and they are becoming sensitive to the needs of others. They are learning that the world is so much bigger than their little hometown community, and that they are developing influence to change. I'm so proud of them and am excited for who each of them is becoming and the gifts they possess. I guess it's the pride of any teacher, but I know it's not about what I've done, but what the Lord is doing in me, and for the way that these kids are taking hold of the life they are living.
Thank you for your continual prayers for Teagan, Grayden and Bridgely, that they would continue to grow and blossom into all that the Lord has made them to be, and also for me as their teacher that I would have a growing love for each of them and be the spark that they use to shine.