Monday, March 16, 2009

And the winner is . . .

The Spelling Bee this last Saturday was so much fun!  We’ve never been to one in person before, so this was a new experience for all of us.

Our homeschool support group, Home Schoolers Loving God, hosted the Bible Spelling Bee. We had three age groups: 5-8, 8-12, and 12-18. The U8 group only had two young guys, and because there was only one U18 speller, the judges opened up the competition to anyone who wanted to compete at that level. All available chairs were quickly filled with eager children trying to win the coveted gift certificate to a local ice creamery. In the end, the speller who had actually studied the list won that level, but he was surprisingly challenged by a younger girl from the U12 group who held on for quite some time. My 10-year-old daughter Shannon was in the U12 group along with twelve other spellers.

Each word for the Bee was found in the Scriptures, and if the children needed context for the words they could ask for the verse to be read. The tough rules for this competition did not allow the children to self-correct if they realized they had made an error, and they would also be disqualified if they correctly spelled the wrong word. This is one reason the verses were so important as they gave the much-needed context for the words, some of which were homophones. Each child spelled one word per round. The children were not allowed to request definitions or information about word origins. Previous study and strength in spelling would determine the winner!

I had the unique honor of being the reader for the Spelling Bee, thus relieving our two judges to be able to focus on listening carefully to the spellers. I had to work hard on pronouncing the words as in normal speech, not carefully with syllable breaks or any other emphasis as I am so accustomed to doing in SWR dictation. I had to remember I was testing, not teaching.

By the eighth round of the U12 event, the field had been narrowed to only five spellers. These kids had studied hard, and the competition was strong. Entering the nineteenth round Shannon was still in the game with only two other students. The three of them spelled words correctly for another eleven rounds, each listening carefully to the words being read, each slowly spelling one letter at a time, each walking away from the microphone victorious. We wondered if they would exhaust our list!

At round thirty, little Abigail listed the wrong vowel in the word palace, an easy mistake to make. She had been a tenacious and talented opponent! We were down to just two, Solomon and Shannon.

Finally, in round thirty-three Shannon received the word justify. How many times had we practiced this word? As commonly happens in a competition like this, she slipped a cog. She proceeded to correctly spell: 

j - u - s - t - i - f - i - e - d. 

Wow! The Y’s Exchanging and ED rules had properly been applied . . . to the wrong word.  When Solomon correctly spelled the next word qualify, he was announced the winner of this year’s U12 Bible Spelling Bee. Congratulations, Solomon!!!

Shannon was a very gracious runner up, and several of the parents commented on what a great encourager she had been for the other children during the competition. We were so proud of her!!!

One of the words Shannon studied was abundance. A technique we use to remember how to spell is called think to spell, in which we “think” the word in syllables as they are written, not necessarily how we speak them. While working on this spelling word, I promised my daughter that if she could place in the top four at the Bee, we would take her to get a Cinnabon cinnamon bun where she could do A Bun Dance.

We all enjoyed the sweet fruits of her success later that evening!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

San Francisco

In three weeks the Spell to Write and Read Trainers will be in town for a Trainer's Meeting, and we'll be spending an afternoon and evening in the city. As part of my preparations, the kids and I drove into San Francisco yesterday afternoon to scope out the wharf area for activities and restaurants.    We were given a respite from the rain for the adventure, and the crisp air was invigorating as we walked from place to place collecting sample menus. Our dog Sugar came along with us and was thrilled beyond doggie-belief to be able to sniff all those city scents.  With great satisfaction, we snacked on sourdough bread while heading for home.

Clay Class

The kids have started a Clay Class. Every Friday for six weeks they will be joining a group of homeschoolers and creating various masterpieces as well as learning about clay, various ways to work with it, how to fire it, painting and glazing, and how clay has been used in various cultures throughout time. Last week Joshua and Shannon got to use the potter's wheel, and John is looking forward to trying his hand at it tomorrow.

The Lehans Visit

A couple weeks ago David's twin sister and her daughter were in town to visit and to check on a local college for Emma. Wow! Our niece was born just a few weeks after we were married, and now she's looking at colleges. Where has the time gone??? We had a fun evening together at Chevy's and were greeted upon our departure by the local wildlife. A racoon was hovering by the door and paused briefly so we could snap a picture.

Perspective and Grace

We are all faced with situations in life where we need to choose how we will respond. When another person does something that either offends us or inconveniences us, we have a choice. Will we respond with annoyance, criticism, even anger? Or will we choose to offer grace?

Last week I was returning to my car from having picked up a couple last-minute items at the grocery store. A man was pulling out of his parking space and came a bit too close to a man who was also walking in the lot. The pedestrian yelled and swore at the driver who seemed unaware of the close miss. When the near-victim realized that I was right there and had witnessed it all, he asked if I didn't agree that the other man had been a jerk.

What? Someone was actually asking my opinion about the situation? What would you say? I replied that I did not agree because people make mistakes all the time and that we need to offer them grace. All too often while driving I've not seen someone or I've waited to the last minute to change lanes which ended up inconveniencing someone else. Never were my actions meant to intentionally offend or trouble another; they were just something I did that happened to momentarily inconvenience someone else. When I am on the receiving end of another's miscalculations, I too can get irritated and upset. However, when I remember my own imperfections as a driver sharing the road with the millions of other Bay Area residents, I realize I have absolutely no room to complain. I can only offer grace, relax, thank Jesus there was no contact, and just move on.

The man standing there in the parking lot did not agree, and my attempt to explain my perspective in a brief, one-sentence reply only seemed to anger him more. Perhaps he did not understand what grace is all about. There was a time in my life when I did not understand it either. There was a time when I did not comprehend how I had offended a holy and righteous God nor how much of a right He had to condemn me. Instead of just shaking His fist at me and writing me off, He came down and died for me. He offered me grace, forgiveness, and eternal fellowship. Now, as a follower of Jesus, I am urged to offer the same grace to others. Jesus told a parable about an unmerciful servant who expected more of others than he wanted for himself. When the master discovered his hard heart, he told the wicked man, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Matthew 18:33)

Sadly I walked away from the indignant man. I could have been irritated with him, but instead I offered a silent prayer for him to my loving Savior. I decided to choose grace.  Oh, Lord, help me to always choose grace when others irritate or offend.