Tag Archives: Pathway

Graduation Day!

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As I joined my classmates for our final Thursday night gathering I found it hard to believe that this stretch of road has come to a close. For the last year my Thursday nights have been spent with this group of people as we have navigated our way through three semesters of schooling. I joined Pathway for the purpose of beginning my journey toward earning my Bachelor’s degree. I knew it was a smart decision and that by choosing this path I would be able to earn a degree in an affordable way that works for my family. I had no idea that this journey would end up being so much more than that.

This past year has been life changing for me as I have experienced exponential growth in a myriad of areas. Much of that growth I attribute to my Pathway experience. It wasn’t an easy journey, especially in the midst of an especially challenging year. Trying to consistently carve out the hours necessary each week to complete the readings and assignments required for the classes I was taking could be challenging, but I was always able to get the work done and I know that it was thanks to Heavenly Father’s hand in this experience. He is the one that called me to it and He is the one who walked me through it.

The prompting to sign up with the Pathway program through Brigham Young University-Idaho began early last summer. At the time we were on a path that seemed to be leading us to add another child to our home…and a 17-year-old boy at that. Anticipating and bracing myself for the challenges that would come with that life change, I was surprised when God started whispering that after 21 years of being a full time wife and momma, it was time to go back to school and get my degree in preparation for the future plans He has for my life. On paper it made no sense to begin this now, when life was so complicated and so full, but the more I questioned the timing the more the Spirit testified of its accuracy. I took a leap of faith and signed up for my first semester of school in two decades. My hope was that my years of homeschooling helped prepare me for this next big challenge and that teaching my children helped keep those concepts fresh that I would need for my own academic success.

In September of last year I showed up at my first Pathway Connect gathering with 15 other students from the Pittsburgh area. At that first gathering we were told that while strangers now, by the end of the year we would be more like family. I had no idea how true that would be. We gathered every Thursday evening for a year, learning together, sharing our lives, teaching one another, learning from each other’s example, laughing and sometimes crying our way through the challenges of the Pathway experience. And as a result of those Thursday nights I gained a second family  whom I’ve came to love dearly.

For this reason I found myself struggling  with a wide mix of emotions on Thursday night. It was our final Pathway Gathering and graduation night, and as much as I’m looking forward to a break from daily schoolwork, studying and assignments, I will miss seeing my Pathway family every Thursday night and the special spirit that accompanied this experience.

This Thursday’s gathering deviated from “typical,” as it was our graduation night. Because of this, we were encouraged to invite our families to come out and celebrate as we crossed the finish line of Pathway. I was blessed to have Toby, Tyler, Molly, Grace, and my soon-to-be son in law, Zach join me. (Rusty and Braden had to work)

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The turn out by all those who came out to celebrate this special occasion was touching.

The agenda for the night began with a shortened version of our usual classes. I was the lead teacher this week for our religion class and kicked off the night with a discussion about our final project for class.

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Then we had a 15 minute discussion to fulfill our Pathway Gathering requirement for English class, before moving on to our graduation ceremony.

We were each presented with our Pathway Connect certificate,

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And had the opportunity at the end to share some thoughts about our experience with Pathway.

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It was with tears in our eyes and conviction in our words that my classmates and I shared our testimonies of the divinely inspired and divinely developed Pathway program through Brigham Young University-Idaho.

The night ended with treats and a celebratory party with our friends and family.

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It was an amazing ride with amazing people. I am forever grateful God called me to walk this road at this time. It was life-changing and testimony building. I said “yes” to this path expecting to grow, expecting to learn, expecting to work towards my degree…

But never expected that the greatest change in my life would be the conversion that would occur within.

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This fall my educational journey will continue as I begin taking degree-specific classes online through BYU-Idaho (the same school Molly will be attending in person this fall). Onto the next phase of this exciting adventure!

How are you Spending your Time?

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One of the classes I am taking as part of the Pathway program through BYU-Idaho, as I work toward my goal of obtaining my college degree, is a General Studies class. I have really enjoyed this class that focuses on strengthening study skills but also life skills. Some of the topics we have covered weekly have included goal setting, money management and time management. As part of our commitment to attend a weekly gathering with students participating in the same program, we are required to sign up to teach a class during the semester as the lead student. A few weeks ago it was my week to teach and my topic was “time management,” something I am personally passionate about.

After teaching the lesson I prepared to my Pathway peers, I decided I might as well take advantage of the time I had invested in preparing the lesson and get a “round 2” out of the lesson. On Sunday night we had  our weekly family home evening lesson on the topic of being good stewards of our time.

I began my lesson with an object lesson.

I had a large bowl of jelly beans.

I passed around the bowl of jelly beans with a stack of cups and asked each person to fill their cup with as many jelly beans as they wanted. There were only two rules…

  1. They had to take at least 1 jelly bean.
  2.  They couldn’t eat any of their jelly beans until the end of the lesson.

And then I showed this video:

As everyone shared their feeling about the video, I used a “How many days have I been alive?” calculator online to let everyone know how many of their jelly beans they have used so far.

I then asked everyone to count the jelly beans in the cup and consider what they would do if the number of jelly beans in their cups actually represented the number of days they had left on the earth…

Would that have an effect on how they spent their time?

As they pondered that question, I shared the following quote by Neal A. Maxwell:

“The time we have been given here on earth is only a very small part of our existence. We must understand our time here in the eternal context of the Plan of Salvation. The way we use our time will only change when the way we feel about our time changes. As children of God we are stewards of time and we will be held accountable for how we use it. The way we use our time will determine what we become in this life and in eternity. We can choose to spend our time or invest our time. By keeping the commandments and our covenants we invest our time in the promises God has given us. This investment will bring eternal rewards.

“Time is, for all of us, a gift from God. It is given to us as a part of our mortal stewardship”

With this quote serving as the foundation for the next part of the lesson, we had a mini financial lesson of the effects of spending vs investing. The kids reached the conclusion that money spent was money lost. It couldn’t be retrieved again. While money invested was money that kept paying dividends well into the future.

I then gave each family member an index card and asked them to count the jelly beans in their cup and write that number at the top of their index card, representing the number of days they have left here in earth. I then asked them, if that were true, how would they use the days they have left? Each family member was asked to thoughtfully create a list of how they would use their remaining days on earth.

The room fell silent as everyone began writing their thoughts on paper. It was a thought-provoking and powerful activity.

When everyone was done writing we went around the room and shared our thoughts.

Some of the items included on various lists were:

Spend time with family, travel, be easier on myself, serve others, face my fears, help people, apologize, give away my things to the needy, leave letters for loved ones, and pray.

We then analyzed our lists and weighed their value, pondering whether each item on our list was a way to “spend time” or an “investment” of our time. As we looked at the things we each wrote down, all were investments of time…activities that produced long term/ eternal dividends.

We ended our family night lesson with a game. Each player used the jellybeans in their cup, along with a stack of toothpicks, to build a tower. The rule was they had a set amount of time to build their tower, but didn’t know when their time would end. The goal was to build the tallest tower that could stand up independently…

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Then the race began.

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It was interesting to see each kid’s strategies, with some focused of making sure they had a firm foundation before trying to move upward, while others, in a panic of not knowing when the timer might “bing,” began building upward without having established a secure base…

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A decision they soon regretted.

As they built their jelly bean towers we discussed the spiritual lessons to be found within the object lesson.

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Rusty ended up the winner of the jelly bean race, but all  enjoyed the fruits of their labors. (There was a chocolate treat for those who weren’t allowed jelly beans due to braces.)

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The lesson was a powerful reminder that our time on earth is finite.

We have no idea when we will reach the last jelly bean in our cup, so it is important that we invest the gift of time that the Lord has given us into those activities that have eternal value, rather than simply spending the minutes of our day on things that have no value…

For one day we will all stand before our Maker, and we will account for the way we used the time He blessed us with. Let us all take inventory of the way we are spending our time, and as we enter this holiday season may we prioritize the “important” over what some may consider “the urgent” tasks of the holiday season,

And invest in the things that matter most.

 

Happy First Day of School!

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With the start of a new school year comes our annual Back-to-School family night.

This is an eagerly anticipated event as it creates a buzz of excitement and positive anticipation for the start of school. The table is decorated, a fun, celebratory dinner is planned, and new school supplies are distributed.

Our back to school night began with a lesson.

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As an object lesson I paired physical school supplies needed for a successful school year with character traits we all need to “pack” in our “backpack” for a successful school year. One by one the physical items were pulled from the backpack and we read and discussed the pun that was taped to each item and talked about that character trait/choice and why it is needed for a successful school year.

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Then each of the kids were given a copy of our theme for the new school year. Each year we pick a scripture or quote to focus on in the upcoming year. The new quote is framed and put on display in each of the kids bedrooms so that they can refer to it throughout the school year. It is with much thoughtful consideration that we choose our yearly theme. This year I felt compelled to reinforce the truth that the deciding force that drives the direction of our lives is not the big decisions but rather the small choices we make each day to try a little harder and do a little better than the day before. I found this quote while searching for our school theme and knew it was exactly the message my family needed most:

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I love the artwork that accompanied this printout of the quote by David A. Bednar. The visual of the ladder spoke to the message of the quote. Rather than give each of the kids their quote already framed, I opted to frame them after they personalized their papers. Each of the kids considered what they wanted to work on doing a little better. Each came up with a handful of goals and wrote them in the white edging around the quote.

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Then everyone was given their new school supplies and we concluded our evening with back to school blessings and root beer floats.

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We are now ready for the school year to commence!

Grace began school 2 weeks ago, the day after returning home from Texas. She is now a sophomore (and a half) having completed 3 semesters of school so far. She is halfway through her sign language interpreting program.  At the completion of that program she plans to transfer to a 4 year college to get a bachelor’s degree in special education as an enhancement to her sign language interpreting certification.

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She is still loving school. She is a gal on the run, stopping at home to sleep and eat but gone a good portion of the day between school classes, clubs, church activities and two jobs.

The Monday following Gracie’s first week of the fall semester was the official start date for my kids that are 21st Century Cyber Charter School students. This includes:

Molly, who is a senior this year. EEK, how did that happen?!

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Rusty, who is a junior.

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Ozzie, who is an 8th grader this year.

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All three are excited to see what this year will hold and are glad to be entering another year of cyber education with 21st Century.

The Tuesday following Labor Day was our 3rd “first day of school” for the year for:

Tyler, who is entering his 6th grade year.

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Tyler is embarking on a new path this year. Like the older kids he will still be cyber schooled but the impending start of middle school pushed us to explore other cyber school options. What was a good fit for us a few years ago is no longer an ideal fit. Tyler is ready for a more challenging curriculum and more independence in his school work. After spending a good amount of the summer speaking to different cyber schools and praying for wisdom in choosing the right school, we have landed on PA Cyber.

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We feel this will be a good fit for Tyler for his 6th grade year. The long term goal is for him to end up at 21st Century Cyber Charter School with the other kids but this is the best fit for him this year as we focus on further closing the gap between the functioning school level and actual grade level.

Brandon rounds out our motley crew of 6, as junior #2!

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Like Rusty, he is entering his 11th year of school, but unlike Rusty, Brandon will be leaving the house each day for school. He will be attending our local high school (Beaver Falls) each day.

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Last week was spent touring his new school, getting acquainted with teachers and school policies, and getting him settled into football. He is so excited to have the opportunity to play sports again…something he’s greatly missed. Like Tyler, sports are in his blood. He has a natural gift for athletics and loves the thrill of competition.

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This past week was filled to the brim with appointments for Brandon as we attempted to get him settled before the start of school. He was in desperate need of clothes, having arrived at our home with just a few ripped outfits. Our week was spent school shopping, buying gear needed for football, setting up appointments, getting him a photo id and opening up a savings account for him, etc.

Sometimes feel as though I’m racing the clock with Brandon, trying to get all the support in place to give him a chance at a happy future. He was dealt a crappy set of cards in this game of life, and we are doing everything we can to turn his hand around and give him the best chance we can at a happy, healthy, successful future.

Our life is “fuller” than it has ever been, both with tasks and commitments but also with blessings…great, great blessings.

The sheer number of activities, weekly appointments, therapies, school lessons, and tutoring has led to the need for a color-coded master schedule to keep it all straight.

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Hopefully this larger than life visual aid hanging on the wall will assist us all in making sure none of our commitments fall through the cracks and no child accidently gets left at a ball field waiting for a ride home.

And in final news…

September 17th marks the fourth “First Day of School” for our family, as yours truly experiences her first “first day of school” (as student, not teacher) IN 20 YEARS!

This summer…prior to us having any idea we would be adding a 16-year-old boy to the family…I felt God’s nudge. Despite having a solid 6 more years of home schooling ahead of me, I have felt God starting the preparation process for the next chapter of the journey, and God’s plan for the next chapter of my life requires a degree.

Over the last few years God has slowly revealed the purpose behind the unique challenges we have navigated as parents of adopted children who have endured unspeakable trauma. The mission of advocating and helping hurt children heal has become the center of our life as a family and I now see that God has a plan to use those struggles to be a blessing to other children and other families on a professional level.

All of this leads to this momma of 6 going back to school. The goal is to take a couple classes each semester with the hopes that by the time Tyler graduates high school those years of schooling will add up to a degree that will open the door to the chapter that follows this one.

It was to this end that God led me to BYU Idaho’s Pathway program which will allow me to work toward that degree in a manageable and affordable way.

I am still not sure how I am going to fit college studies into an already packed schedule but, like the addition of Brandon to the family, I know this is the Lord’s plan for me so I’m trusting Him to bless and multiple the minutes of my day as He did in the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

This year promises to be the fullest of our lives.

Hang on…

It is sure to be an exciting ride!

God is good