Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Coincidence, or Providence?

By L.A. Kohl
February 16, 2007
(published in the Feb. 28, 2007 edition of the Bullseye)

February…in spite of the snow and frigid temperatures, it’s a month of romance and love, isn’t it?

Often at this time of year, I find myself reflecting on the “love of my life”…not just because of Valentine’s day, but also because that life-altering, first date occurred for us on February 19.

The year was – on second thought, let’s skip that detail – and the place was the Westran Courtwarming dance. We were both juniors in high school; young, idealistic, and with no idea of the journey we were beginning to embark upon with that first date.

Have you ever stopped to ponder the circumstances that brought you and your mate together? To me personally, when I take the time to think about it, those circumstances are nothing short of miraculous.
Nate didn’t move to Huntsville, Missouri until his sophomore year of high school – he was Iowa born and bred. I didn’t get to know him until sometime after that; even then, we were just friends. And then, four short months after we started dating, his family moved again – two hours away. Thus, there are a lot of “what ifs” in our scenario that could have turned out much differently.

Perhaps the first, and biggest one was “What if his family had never moved to central Missouri?” After all, the Kohl’s had been farming in eastern Iowa for over 100 years, and still are to this day – why would one of them chose to move elsewhere?

And in that one’s desire to find more affordable farm land…why did he choose central Missouri, out of all the other states and locations he considered? The fact of the matter is, Nate’s father decided way back in the early 1950’s, when he was just a young, single man in the Marines, that someday he would like to own a large farm in central Missouri.

Perhaps it’s self-centered of me, but I like to think that it was all “providential”…with some greater plan at work than anyone realized.

And then what made Nate decide to ask me out when he did? (Actually, if the truth be told, he had asked me out previously, but I turned him down…let’s not dwell on that.) What if he hadn’t gotten up enough nerve to ask me a second time…and then a few months later his family had moved away and I never saw him again? Believe me, I’ve thanked God many times that Nate was a determined young man! And again, I believe a greater plan was in the works, and not just mere coincidence.

I say all of this to encourage you to take a moment and consider your own story. Whether you grew up next door to your spouse, or met them half a world away from home…I believe in many cases, there was some element of “providence” that brought you and your spouse together. I know not everyone has a storybook type of romance – in fact, some of you may even believe that your first encounter with your future spouse turned into more of a nightmare than a dream. I’m very sorry that life is sometimes like that – but we are all human, and humans are prone to make bad choices on occasion, especially if providential guidance is ignored.

But if you are truly grateful for your spouse, then take a few moments together to reflect upon your not-so-coincidental beginnings, and to thank the One who brought it all to be.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Final Reading Adventure

By L.A. Kohl
February 5, 2007
(published in the Feb. 7, 2007 edition of the "Bullseye")

As our homeschool year began this past fall, my husband suggested that perhaps I should try teaching kindergarten to the five-year-old and the three-year-old (our only boy) at the same time, and see how it went. I was all for it. As much as I appreciate being able to homeschool our children, I’m not relishing the idea of doing it for another fifteen years. If I could get the three year old up to speed, perhaps my job could be finished in only thirteen years.

Don’t get me wrong; we don’t want the little boy to be forced to grow up too soon. In our homeschool, kindergarten takes a sum total of maybe an hour a day tops; so it’s not like he still doesn’t have plenty of time to be a child and play to his heart’s content. In fact, on days when mom really doesn’t want to be a kindergarten teacher and would like to let him play all day, he rarely stands for it.

“Mom, what letter are we going to learn today?” or “When are we going to do some school?” he asks, making me feel guilty for wanting to slack off a little.

We spent most of our first semester trying to get the alphabet down pat. It went well…but I was putting off what came next; teaching them to read. I love it once they figure out the reading process and I relish watching their excitement as they sound out words and read their first sentences. But getting them to that point has always been something I dread, for more often than not it is an extreme test of my patience.

Thus, I let most of January slip by before I pulled out the book; the book that is supposed to help me through this difficult task. The current one I’m using is entitled “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. (I would not have chosen the word “Easy” if I were writing the title; an adjective more akin to “Hairpulling” seems more fitting.)

Lesson one teaches them two consonants sounds, how to get them to “read” those sounds, and then a word game to help them learn to listen and blend sounds together. We got past the consonants, and were starting the game part, which I thought would be simple.

“We’re going to play ‘Say-it-fast,'" I began. “I’ll say two words slowly, and then you will say them all together, quickly. Say ‘motor’ (pause) ‘boat'" I said, very long and drawn out. “Now, say it fast!”

They looked at each other and said, “Motor (pause) boat," very long and drawn out, but much louder, as if that helped.

“No, say it all together quickly!” I tried to explain. I really didn’t want to say it for them, or it would defeat the purpose of trying to get them to put sounds all together; but eventually I had to, just to show them how the game was supposed to work. Thus, we kept working on “motor boat” over and over; me saying it very slowly, and then trying to get them to say it quickly. When it looked like perhaps they were finally catching onto the game, I went on to the next two words.

“Okay, here’s a new one,” I began. “Say, ‘ice’ (pause) ‘cream’…now, say it fast!”

The boy was all full of enthusiasm now, as he was sure he knew exactly what he was supposed to do…
“MOTOR (pause) CREAM!” he articulated, as loudly and slowly as he could.

Okay, so maybe I should resign myself to the fact that I may be doing this for another fifteen years…