The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

One morning the kids and I discussed Festo Kivengere’s book, “I Love Idi Amin.” Festo had been persecuted and treated horribly, yet chose in the power of God’s love to forgive his evil enemy. I gave a writing assignment for each of the kids to share a time when they had been hurt by someone else’s actions. They could choose to share a time when they responded in love, or a time they didn’t respond in love and how they could learn from their response.

Jules gave me permission to share her paper with you (slightly altered to protect a sibling’s identity).

My sibling broke a gift I got from Hailey. It was a magnet sand dollar with a painting of dolphins jumping out of the water. The background of orange, yellow and red made it look like a sunset over the ocean.
I was so excited about the sand dollar. It was the first gift I had ever received from a penpal. I put the magnet on the fridge next to a friendship magnet I had gotten from another friend awhile ago.
One day, my sibling was reaching for something above the refrigerator and knocked the dolphin magnet. A large piece of the sand dollar broke off. As I watched it happen, I had a pang in me that wanted to yell out at my sibling, exclaiming how much that magnet meant to me.
Instead, I was able by the power of the Holy Spirit, to calm down inside and pleasantly say, “It’s OK. It’s just stuff. Stuff that will eventually burn. It won’t last.”
I kept that broken magnet as a reminder to me to be patient and loving, even when I feel like exploding. I kept it to remember it is just stuff that will burn.

sand dollar

How about you? Has someone broken your sand dollar? Your trust? Your heart? Are you living in the bondage and bitterness of an unforgiving spirit? I have stand out times in my life history when I’ve suffered the wounds of beloved friends. I carried onto my wounds and tended to them with great care. Over time, my bitterness hurt more than the memory of the offense. When God re-awoke my heart to His grace, I was able to pray for my enemies. I lifted them up to Jesus and He gave me the power to forgive. I became free.

So here is my encouragement to you today: be free! Don’t wait any longer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the kind of power to love with His love so that you can look at your “sand dollar” as a reminder that the only thing that lasts are the eternal souls that God has set in His people. Let’s help each other value those souls and love…even when it hurts.

First Day of School

First Day of School

There’s very little that’s authentic about our family’s First Day of School posts. It’s really not our “first day.” We have a very fluid homeschool and we are always learning. We don’t put a high emphasis on what “grade” our kids are in. Mainly, this helps us know where to categorize them in events outside of our homeschool.

But we love doing “first day” pictures when the rest of our area goes back to school. It breaks my heart whenever I see pictures of children looking downcast as their mom celebrates her children going back to school. As a homeschool mom who feels grateful for every day home with her kids, it’s very difficult to understand.

We are having a party over here at our house today… a party that celebrates our freedom and gratitude to homeschool.

Happy First Day of School everyone! We pray you have a blessed school year, with hearts turned toward God and turned toward home.

Malachi 4:6 y’all!

 

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

One question I hear all.the.time: What do you do with your little kids when you are trying to homeschool?  Homeschool moms love to plan, purchase curriculum, and dream about crossing off all our check lists.

But…babies, toddlers, preschoolers! They are a reality in many of our homes. I’ve found that pre-school aged children don’t care about our carefully laid plans.

Here are ten ideas for investing in your pre-school aged children during the homeschool day:

1. Buy a good baby carrier:

When your hands are free, you can nurse that baby, while teaching a math lesson. You can keep your little crawler out of dangerous cupboards as you listen to narrations and dictate spelling lists. With a toddler on your back, you can stay engaged and sing and talk together as you make pb&j in the kitchen.

2. Use play-dough during concentrated school time only:

Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE play dough, magic sand, and all things messy. Keep it for special occasions when you want them to stay engaged for just a few minutes longer. Let them make letters in salt or shaving cream. If messy makes you anxious when you already have so much to deal with as far as clean up, get some trays! Teach your toddler to keep materials on the tray as they play. It won’t be perfect, but I’ve found trays to help minimize the mess.

preschool

3. Give the older kids “assignments” to play with the little one for a short while:

Little siblings usually adore older brothers and sisters. Special one-on-one time where older siblings read books or play puppets or build towers with blocks is not only helpful, but so good for their relationships. When Cupcake was a small infant, Jules used to bring the baby and her science textbook to a rocking chair. She would use a British accent (for fun) and read her science assignments aloud to the baby. It made a boring subject more fun for Jules and was a blessing to everyone.

preschool

4. Make sensory bins:

Grab an empty bin or tray, fill it with rice/perler beads/popcorn/rocks/water/beans and top it off with small toys. If you want, get “fancy,” make themed bins (I was able to do that this year and it was so fun! I included one of my big kids and he had a blast finding little toys to put in the bins). Little hands love to pour items from cup to cup and to make discoveries under the layers. (Notice the tray under the bin? I use those trays all the time!) *Supervise your little ones to keep them safe and your house from becoming a rice field.

preschool

5. Make a light table:

I took a white trofast storage bin, put left over lights underneath it and gave my preschooler opaque toys: letters, window clings, reusable ice cubes, neon letter templates, dollar tree plastic shot glasses. She loves to build on the light table. It has a calming effect. Bonus, you can turn the bin over and fill it with all the toys and the lights…easy clean-up.

preschool

6. Dramatic play:

Dramatic play is our FAVORITE around here. We have a closet right outside our school room. It was nearly empty, so I made it into a cute little nook where my little girls have home-base for dramatic play during school time. I hang up dress-up clothes and rotate them out. The dramatic play toys are small and fit on the top shelf of the closet. No one can reach them but mommy and they only come out when I’m doing concentrated school time with big kids. We have a camping set, specialty food items, a tiny kitchen, doctor kits, and a cash register. I set up the rug outside of the closet with a “theme” and give them different props on different days and set them free with their imagination.

preschool

7. Do school together:

My little Cupcake takes her “school” so seriously. One of her frequent prayer requests is that she can “get her school done.” My favorite “school” ideas for littles over the years have been:

~”Before Five in a Row.” The book list from this gentle curriculum is precious. Even if you don’t purchase the teacher’s guide, your preschooler will enjoy sweet time on your lap with classic books that teach many beautiful concepts.

~Chocolate Chip School: We do have Counting Bears…but, nothing made my Cupcake happier last year then when I announced it was, “Chocolate Chip School time.” We got out chocolate chips and counted them. Simple addition and subtraction is fun when you get to eat your manipulative. Siblings came running when they heard us subtracting and everyone enjoyed a little chocolate break in the day.

~Ziggy school: All About Reading has a sweet way of introducing letters to your preschooler with their pre-reader program. Make sure you purchase the activity sheets. They are darling. All of my littles have LOVED Ziggy the Zebra. He says such silly things. Sometimes he helped Cupcake listen to instructions that have nothing to do with the “AAR” program. Taking instruction from a puppet is more exciting than following mommy some days.

preschool

~Letter Search: Cupcake and I got some squishy bath-toy letters. After Ziggy introduces a letter to us, we take out the bath-toy letter and put it in our “hunting box.” Then we go around the house and try to find things in the house that start with our letter to put in the box. THIS IS SO FUN. Do it!

preschool

~Include them in the “big kids” school projects: Whenever my kids are assigned an active, hands on, messy, or fun project, we make sure the little ones are front and center. Does it sometimes lengthen the project? Yes. Have there been times when it frustrated the situation? Certainly! We just look at those as character building moments for all of us and move on.

preschool

8. Make a “can-do” list:

Sometimes it’s overwhelming for everybody to think of all the things preschoolers “can’t do.” I used to have a “Catty Can” list. I laminated little cards and hung them on an o-ring. Each card had something “Catty Can” do; sing the alphabet, roll a ball, color a picture, read books, play dolls, blow bubbles,” The list can be as long and creative as you want it to be. When Catty was a tiny little thing and she felt frustrated with being told “no,” we got out our “Catty Can” list and picked an activity.

9. Don’t forget your baby:

Homeschool moms…you have so much to do. I get it! Math, handwriting, history, read alouds, science labs, spelling, grammar, art, breakfast, lunch, clean up, dinner, Bible, memory, character issues. Being a teacher to our big kids is important. If God has blessed us with little ones who aren’t in school, they need us, just as much as our big kids did when they were pre-schoolers. Make sure you are hugging, laughing, tickling, reading to, coloring with, pushing on the swing, chasing, being goofy, dancing, singing silly songs and spending time with your little ones. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of hard play to help them feel remembered, loved, and valued.

10. Hold your plans loosely:

You know I love a well thought out plan. Please remember, that plans should not trump people. Our little ones will be fussy, sick, and overwhelmingly needy at times. It will be tempting to feel like they are getting in the way of our plans. Sometimes, God has a curriculum for us that doesn’t match our beautiful planners. Pay attention when He puts something in our path that pulls us away from what we thought was the “perfect day.” Especially if that “something” is one of our little ones. Don’t look back on the preschool years of your children with regret because you pushed them away to check off a list. Gently guide, love, embrace, and include them as much as you can!

Oh…and one more tip:

Don’t do school when they nap! Really. Don’t do it. Use that time for all of you bigger people to refresh and rest. You can thank me in January for that one.

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

After planning the Big Picture of your homeschool year, it’s time to begin focusing on specific plans.

I’m using The Simple Plan, by Mardel for my planner. But any planner will have daily pages that should work for your homeschool.

Steps to a Detailed Plan:

On Sunday evening, I sit down and look at my family weekly view calendar and I fill in appointments and anything that may compete with “at home” time for our school days.

detailed plan

Every afternoon, when the kids finish their school work, I correct their work and assign the next day’s assignment. I section my planner by subjects and each kid gets a line on that subject (in birth order).

detailed plans

I go through Jule’s work first, checking off what she has done and writing down the next day’s tasks in her planner. This pattern continues for each kid until I’m done; correct assignments, check off that they are complete in my planner, add next day’s assignment. All turned in assignments are returned to the kid’s desk and I start with the next kid.
Jules and Peebs have The Simple Plan student planners, by Mardel. I make sections for each subject and give more detailed assignments than what I actually record in my own planner. It guides them through the day. I tell them what they need to do on their own and what they need to do with me.
The beauty of giving daily assignments is I can adjust what we do from day to day to keep us flexible. This way the kids don’t ever feel “behind” or “ahead” and frankly it is giving them much less stress than when they used to have an entire guide in their hands. I simply need to look at my “year-at-a-glance plan” for each subject to make sure we are making good progress through each subject area.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

Odes and Catty didn’t get fancy planners. It really wasn’t necessary as most of their work is done directly with me. I write down their plans in a plain notebook: I love adding little love notes and words of encouragement in their books. This may look slightly overwhelming, but it honestly only takes a few minutes each afternoon.

detailed plansdetailed plans

As the kids go through their school day and complete their work, they turn in completed assignments in this dish-drying rack (placed inside of an Ikea Raskog). If the book doesn’t fit the drying-rack, they place it on the next shelf down. When their day’s work is complete, they add their planners to the completed work bin and I begin my work of correcting and assigning:

detailed plans

I pull out each finished piece of work and put on a sticker or write a note. I keep stickers in the front of the dish-drying rack. If appropriate, I write directly in the book. If I don’t want my handwriting to be permanent, I add it to a sticky note. The kids LOVE getting these notes from me. It makes them feel their work is important. I’ve noticed they do their work more carefully as a result. I also take this time to look at any errors or things that need attention. Words that are consistently mis-spelled are placed on a sticky note outside the notebook they turn in. We work on those errors throughout the week.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

The method of handing in assignments for me to look at during the day has cut down on a lot of interruptions. Before implementing this method, kids were nearly constantly bombarding me with questions while I was doing lessons with siblings. That has almost completely come to a stop.

Each kid has color-coded folders where they turn in assignments done on loose leaf paper. Finished work is placed on the right side of the folder. I send it back with a note and sticker on the left side of the folder for them to see. The next time the folder comes back to me, I either throw away the paper on the left, or put it in a color-coded three ring “better binder.” Guess what this means? No crazy paper work at the end of the year! And a portfolio of work is at my finger tips to store away for posterity (or a burning party when they graduate, if so desired). detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

So right now, you are likely thinking one of two things: “That girl is CRAZY!” Or “Get me to Staples for better binders, now!” Either way, I’d love to hear if any of these ideas are a help for you. What do you do to plan the details of your days?

 

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

I recently shared our homeschool year plan for 2017-2018, and promised I would share some of my planning process. Planning a season of homeschool can seem daunting. It does take some time and thought. I’m going to break this down into different posts and show how I’ve done this step by step in my home. I hope it is helpful.

Steps for Big Picture Planning:

1. Pray:Big Picture Planning

Take time to pray alone, with your kids, with your spouse. Ask God to give you wisdom on what will be the best fit for your particular life season. Trust Him to lead you.

2. Evaluate:

What is going on in the life of your family? Are you pregnant? Will you be giving birth soon? Do you have a newborn or toddler who will require significant attention this school year? Is there a move in your future? Are you, your children, or loved ones struggling with on-going or significant illness? Will you be traveling? Do your children have any learning disabilities or challenges that need to be addressed? Be realistic about all you can accomplish within different life seasons.

3. Think about your kids:

What are their interests right now? What do you like doing together? Ask your kids for input. Is there an area of growth you would like to explore? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Is there a character quality or spiritual discipline that are important to your children’s development? What books have you been wanting to read? How old are your kids and what is reasonable to expect from them? How do you want your days to look? What is your educational philosophy? Do you want your home to look like school-at-home? Are you taking a relaxed approach? Will you use textbooks and workbooks? Do you enjoy reading aloud and lap books?

4. Research:

Ask your friends and more experienced moms things that have and haven’t worked for them. Look at various box curriculum to see suggestions for areas of study for different age groups. (I get ideas for history and book lists based on suggestions from box curriculum such as Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, etc. Go to a homeschool conference and look at material. Contact different publishers to discuss what might be best for your situation. Go to a seminar. In our area, there is a homeschool bookstore that services homeschoolers and offers feedback to fit your situation.

Big Picture Planning Carol Joy Seid offers seminars all over the country or you can buy her DVDs. Diana Waring gives incredible suggestions. Books such as, “Teaching from Rest,” by Sarah MacKenzie, “Educating the WholeHearted Child,” by Clay and Sally Clarkson, “The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling,” by Karen Allen Campbell, offer encouragement and ideas (there are LOTS of good, encouraging homeschool books). Visit co-ops and see if that is a fit for your family.

 

(Note: It’s OK not to do a Co-op, but could be a great thing for your family.)

Consider how you can get a full education from the library. Will you combine all or some of your children on some subjects? Which subjects will need to be one-on-one? What can they do independently? (Note: Most children are not ready for independence until around age 10, though even then, it’s not automatic. Realize that if you are going to do heavy school work with young children, you are responsible to sit with them and give instruction.)

As I go through the research step, I make notes in an empty Word document for each child. I keep websites I want to re-visit in those notes. As I go along, I delete items and ideas that aren’t a fit and by the end I have a good working list of what I’ll be using.

5. Research a planner:

This could keep you busy for several long nights of youtubing. I can’t give any advice about online planners. My expertise lies in pen-to-paper planners. I will link a few here, starting with the one I’m using this year:

Big Picture Planning

A Simple Plan (the planner I used last school year and am using again. I like it because it is dated, gives space for long term planning, monthly goals, a place to record purchases, two pockets (where I keep receipts) and individual planning spaces for up to six kids. The guts are all gray and white, which I don’t care for, but I can fix with a little bit of washi. I’m in love with colorful fun planners. However, keeping this design simpler does cut down the cost.)

Well Planned Day

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Erin Condren Teacher Planner: (this is not a homeschool planner, but I’ve adapted it to use it as such in the past. It is over-the-top expensive…but, Oh.So.Beautiful.)

Limelife Homeschool Planner: (this is also spendy, beautiful, and it is a homeschool planner to boot!)

Happy Planner Teacher Planner: (Not specific to homeschool, but…Happy Planner! I LOVE this line. They are SO adorbs! You can adapt them beautifully to your needs. Plus, Michael’s regularly has 50 and even 60% off coupons!)
If you don’t like any of these suggestions there are billions of planners on Etsy. Start with Plum Paper and after that you will get plenty of suggestions.

*You will spend a good amount of your days/years as a homeschool mom researching. You will make changes and often. Try not to get stuck in the research mode for too long. At some point you will have to make decisions.

6. Decide:

I advise discussing your decisions with your spouse. Once you have decided the route you want to take, entrust those decisions to Jesus and move forward. If you need to make some purchases, now is the time. This is fun! It’s mom’s Christmas when those packages get dropped off:

7. Sort and plan an overview of your year:

I divide my kid’s books onto their own personal shelves. I have a mom shelf where I keep all of the teacher manuals I will use during the year.
Next, I open my planner and plan the Big Picture: I look at each subject and divide it into a year’s worth of general lessons. Then I plot out an ideal “routine” day for each day of the week. This took me about six hours to pull together. It’s a lot of time up-front, however having the big picture mapped out, makes weekly and daily lesson planning extremely easy. It’s worth the up-front effort.

Here are some picture examples of Big Picture planning I did for one of my older kids:

Big Picture Planning
This is NOT a schedule, but a rough idea of how we can structure our days to fit things in. I don’t give this plan to my kids. It’s simply an idea of flow and routine for my own planning.

I left space at the end of the year as I’m not sure how we will space out these subjects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an example of plans for my preschooler. (I didn’t make plans for the rest of the kids when they were three years old. It certainly isn’t necessary! I simply recorded ideas so little Cupcake will not feel cast aside when everyone else hits the books. If I keep her engaged, we will ALL have better days.)

Big Picture Planning

Big Picture Planning

Stay tuned for Part 2 and how I turn the Big Picture into a daily plan!

 

It’s OK Not to Do a Co-Op Moms, I Promise

It’s OK Not to Do a Co-Op Moms, I Promise

I’ve been a stay at home mom since my oldest was born nearly 14 years ago, when I consider our “homeschool” began. Homeschooling wasn’t as popular or accepted as it is today. It was sometimes scary to have your six year old at the store with you during school hours, or let your kids play outside before the buses got home.

Most of the more experienced mamas I knew would say, “all you need is a Bible, math curriculum, a library card, a ton of love, and your child will get a great education.”

We were encouraged to keep things simple. Desks and formal schooling areas weren’t necessary. The all so often socialization fear was met with “your kids are socialized when interacting with the plumber, they’ll be fine.” These hippie homeschool moms assured me that my kids didn’t need to be with 30 other kids their own age all day to become well rounded individuals.

Most of us moms loved Carole Joy Seid, and Charlotte Mason; nature walks and read alouds; interest led schooling on the couch in the morning and Little House On the Prairie in the afternoon. Ah, the good old days of homeschool.

 

co-op

Over the past several years, the culture among us has changed. Influential dominionist homeschool leaders have been called to task and taken out of the arena (hurrah!). New curricula publishers pop up every day. Mommy blogs (like this one) are everywhere. The choices for a homeschool family are overwhelmingly abundant. In our area we have an endless pick of co-ops. Families can choose co-ops for select classes; all required classes; field trips; groups where moms teach kids and encourage one another; groups where moms drop kids for entire days and kids are taught material and assigned homework the rest of the week. On-line schools exist. Special groups for fine arts abound. Phy-Ed classes are provided. Some co-ops provide year books, proms, student council, study hall. A family could easily spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on various classes, groups, and activities.

co-op

I’m not here to judge any family for making choices to participate in any of these groups. Sometimes, it is absolutely the right thing to do for your family. It may be the right thing for my family down the road as well. I’m not picking on you if you’re called to a co-op.

I do want to say however, the hippie homeschooler’s advice is still legitimate. While homeschooling is becoming more and more accepted, we are still constantly asked, “How can you teach every subject?” or “How will your children be properly socialized?” and now the popular, “But, you’re in a co-op, right?” The pressure to give in to other people’s views of schooling can be strong. When I’m asked these questions, I confidently say, “There are plenty of lovely co-ops available. We choose not to participate. We are thriving.”

You CAN homeschool WITHOUT all of the available options today.

It’s still true that your children don’t NEED be socialized by same aged peers. Rich, living books, God’s word, and a math curriculum is still a legitimate education. Starting late, rather than early, is still a legitimate theory in educating. Working hard at keeping your home from becoming “school at home” is still an acceptable value. If you want to stay at home with your kids, and teach them all by yourself, it is OK!

I know you all don’t need my permission. But, maybe you need to hear that other moms are still trying to hang on to the legacy of the families who went before us? I recently walked with a friend through her process of feeling that she SHOULD do a co-op, even though she didn’t want to. God wasn’t calling her and her kids to one in this season of life and it was a relief for her to know she wasn’t alone. No matter how much the culture of homeschool changes, the simple values which started the homeschool movement do remain the same.

Dear Weary Homeschool Mama,

Dear Weary Homeschool Mama,

I spoke with a friend the other day. She was drowning in teens and toddlers.

Just like you.

Another friend and I have been trying to connect, but she’s been running ragged to soccer games, track meets, piano lessons, and kid’s events.

Just like you.

For the past month, the world has felt heavy in my soul.
~The sorrow of a friend who held her baby for only 12 days.
~Another dear sister is battling the wounds left on her children by the people who gave birth to them.
~I’m exhausted from my own middle aged hormones.
~I’ve felt the loneliness of a world who has given up human interaction for screen time.

Just like you.

It’s spring time. Birds are humming. The sun is starting to show it’s face again. The world is waking up. But I’m tired.

Just like you.

Sisters, we are under spiritual attack

The homeschool life can be a lonely one. Little people surround us, all day, every day. While this reality is a tremendous gift and joy, it can also feel isolating. Loneliness makes us feel vulnerable.

Homeschool moms do all the things every mom does. The one difference is our children’s education is almost completely our sole responsibility. Mixing our own insecurities, the doubts we feel at times from family and friends, the day to day decision making and the stakes feel very high. Pressure and anxiety make us crack.

It feels as if our job holds little esteem in society. We make little jokes like, “I have a four year degree and I walk around saying things like, ‘Will you please stop licking your sister’s elbow?'” We do have degrees, but we let our own skills and interests take the back burner to our children’s education. Being forgotten makes us depressed.

The enemy of our soul wants us to stay stuck in loneliness, pressure, anxiety, and depression. He wants to lure us into sin.

We are on the front lines in our homes as homeschool moms. Our enemy, the devil is roaring and prowling looking to devour us and our children and our marriages.

Take heart my sisters, Jesus is the answer.

I’ve been praying for God to give me fresh vision in my walk with Him, in my home, in my life. Thankfully, my God has been quick to answer with encouragement for my soul.

Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

When I feel forgotten by the world, overlooked, under appreciated, weary and worn out, God has reminded me that my citizenship lies in another realm, heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back. Do you hear me friends? He is COMING BACK. He has the power to bring all things under his control.

Satan wants us to stay stuck, discouraged, and wallowing in sin and self pity. We can not stay stuck. We have work to do. There is nothing glamorous about our role as homeschool mom. Today, I listened to narrations, checked copy work, read aloud, corrected spelling errors, and taught Math and History. I emptied my cupboards, wiped down shelves and re-organized my kitchen for the warmer months. I played house, and watched The Waltons, made meals, and did dishes, participated in devotions and played gin rummy. In the back of my mind, I Corinthians 3:12-15 played over and over.

“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

One day, I will stand before Christ and He will look at what I have done with my life, and test the quality of my work. If it survives, I will receive a reward. The task He has set before us is eternal. What we do from day to day is enormously important. And ultimately, it will either survive or burn.

We may not feel like Corrie and Betsy ten Boom loving others in a concentration camp. Bruchko’s persistence in bringing the gospel to South American indigenous tribes who wanted to murder him, may seem a more noble or worthwhile life. If we feel this way, we are totally wrong! Every day, we are called to love and sacrifice when it’s hard. We bring the gospel to children who don’t always want to hear it. Our children don’t always appreciate us and at times treat us poorly.

As  I wipe down cupboards, I can wipe them with joy in my heart, and work as if unto the Lord. When a child comes to me for the thousandth time for a drink or a problem or for help, I can love them with the patience and kindness of Christ in me. If I feel lonely and forgotten, I can remember, this world isn’t my home and He will never forget or forsake me. On those desperate and weary days, I MUST remember to cast my anxieties on Him, for He cares for me.

Jesus has already done His job. He never moves away. I need to do my part to respond and submit to His ways. He may or may not change my circumstances. He does however, refresh, empower, fill, and strengthen me to do His will.

When I’m lonely, I remember His love for me.
When I’m weary, I rest in Him.
When I’m depressed, I renew my mind with His precious word.

Press on my friends. Put on God’s armor and fight your enemy. He can not have me! You are not his for the taking! This role we’ve been given is huge. Don’t give up and let your works turn into flames. Lean into Jesus. Let Him love and live through you. You are precious to our Savior, and to me.

~Michelle

Six Ways to Be Intentional In Sibling Bonding

Intentional Siblings

“Dear God, I thank you that we get to be home and do school together. Thank you that we are in a musical and can spend that time together as well…”

…This was an excerpt of a prayer one brother was praying for another. It took my breath away. We all want our kids to love one another, because, let’s be honest, it makes us feel pretty warm and fuzzy. There are however, other reasons we want our children to get along with their siblings.

It’s practical:

Rob Reinow shared at a retreat how he was always hoping for a prayer partner from his youth group, never thinking he had a built-in prayer partner right down the hall: his own brother. So often, we find ourselves discontent, even into adult-hood, looking for new experiences and new people. When our children form tight bonds in childhood, they can live their entire lives with their best friends. Siblings can given amazing spiritual support when it’s a natural part of life growing up.

Mom and Dad won’t always be around:

If things go the right way, our kids will out live us. When parents are gone (so I’ve heard), you can feel a little alone in the Universe. When our children have grown deep bonds, they can be there for one another. We share many of our first life moments with our siblings. Who understands us better than those who we spend day in and day out in our childhood?

Sibling relationships are training ground for all future relationships:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…amazing life-lessons can spring up from sibling relationships. Our children will some day be someone’s roommate, employee, employer, spouse, or friend. What better way to hone relational skills than with the people we see the most (and have the hardest time getting along with)?

How do we intentionally help our children form bonds of friendship?

1. We’ve taken Jim & Lynne Jackson’s advice and we “send our kids on dates.” We have encouraged our kids to pair up, pack a favorite shared activity, and give them money to split a treat in a restaurant. We sit nearby to make sure they are safe, but far enough that the entire activity needs to be directed between the two of them. What an amazing bonding experience this has provided! (We especially like to pair up kids who may have been having trouble getting along in recent days or weeks.)

2. Our kids share bedrooms. We have plenty of bedrooms in our house, but it is entirely normal for kids to pile up in one or two rooms each night. They giggle, debrief their days, and bond in this way. Sharing bedrooms always challenges different personality types to work together in stressful settings. This is a good thing!

3. We encourage our kids to give each other hugs. This actually occurred recently, when I found out one of my sons told the director of his play that he didn’t want to hug a female cast mate and that he doesn’t hug his sisters! I made a fun game out of them all hugging each other until everyone broke out laughing. Since then, I occasionally nudge one to hug another. I don’t like to make a big thing out of this or do it all the time. I’ve noticed however, there has been a new warmth among the crew since implementing this idea. I’ve even seen them initiate a few hugs to one another without my prompting.

4. Strategically placing kids in the car or at the table has been amazing. Two of our feistiest kids struggle often with loving one another. We decided to place those two in the very back of our van for a very long road trip. Just the two of them. With no one else to talk to or rely on for entertainment for hours on end. This devious little plan was brilliant beyond words! They had a couple doozy fights back there. But in those fights, they gloriously worked things out…and they enjoyed each other immensely. Parenting win!

5. Our children pray together. We shared about our prayer day in a previous post. On the day when that child is singled out for more significant prayer, if brothers and sisters are around, they pray too. This plan has done two things for our kids: the one who prays has grown in love for the one for whom is prayed; the prayer day kid has grown vulnerable by sharing requests in front of siblings. As time goes on, I hope to encourage more independent prayer between our kids. It is my hope that into adulthood praying together (without mom and dad) will feel natural.

6. Our kids school together. This is a unique benefit for homeschool families. Over the years, I have enjoyed watching kids say their scripture memory passages to one another during the day. My oldest daughter has often included younger siblings in school projects that have been fun such as baking, olympic games, science experiments, etc. Our oldest son has followed her lead and is exhibiting the same kind of inclusion with the younger kids. Nature hikes, sledding, basketball, read alouds, three meals a day, devotions, prayer time, we are together a lot. There is definitely a lot of distinction in their learning as we have almost a decade spread between the five of them. However, we joyfully bump into each other all day as we circle around our to-do lists. I can’t help but think this is knitting their hearts together in a special way.

I really did feel warm and fuzzy when my son prayed that prayer of thanks for his brother. But more than that, I am deeply grateful for the relationships they are forging with one another. I hope and pray that as we are intentional about our children bonding with one another, that their love for each other will grow and reflect the love of Christ.

Intentional Siblings

 

 

 

The Weird Way Homeschoolers Socialize

The Weird Way Homeschoolers Socialize

homeschool socialization

Over the years we’ve had a lot of questions as to how our homeschooled kids will be properly socialized. There are plenty of articles arguing the benefits for and against being in a room full of kids your own age and the effects that has on a child’s socialization. Homeschool kids are not around their peers all day. However, the socialization they receive can be priceless.

I took my kids out for breakfast. We sat eating our pancakes and drinking our coffee, when an exuberant man, in his sixties, walked in to the restaurant with a huge birthday cake hat. We saw him smiling at us and we wished him a happy birthday. I kept waiting to see his buddies that must be meeting him to celebrate his big day. The man was smiling at all of the children in the restaurant, sweetly holding the hands of waitresses as they passed by and I soon realized that there would be no one joining him at his table.

A woman and her three small children walked past the man. Stopping them, he did a couple of hand tricks for the kids, bringing joyful squeals. He blessed the mom with, “You have lovely children” as she walked away.

The man approached our table and congratulated me on having such a beautiful family and homeschooling them. He knelt down and asked if he could tell us his story. Removing the attention grabbing hat, he told us he wore it (or other hats like it) to disguise the scars on his head where he had surgery on three brain aneurysms which had popped 31 year ago.

He told his miraculous story of courage, and hope and healing

He was a young man when he suffered the aneurysms and he had just quit his job to move across country and start a new life. With no life insurance, a wife and two young children, they accrued almost one million dollars in medical bills. Half of his body was paralyzed and his mental capacity was that of a 7 year old. The doctors who helped bring restoration to this man told him that it wasn’t their hands, but a miracle from God.

As this sweet brother shared his story, tears were flowing out of my eyes and he said, “Don’t do it! Don’t cry, now I’m going to cry! And I can’t cry. My life has been spared and now I need to fulfill my destiny of bringing joy into the lives of others.” It was difficult not to cry. Thirty-one years had passed and he was still grateful for his second chance at life. Back at his table now, he blessed everyone who walked by with a smile, greeting, joke, or little trick.

I wanted to pay his bill, but another guest from across the restaurant had already offered. Instead of leaving the restaurant we asked the birthday man if we could sit with him while he ate. He was so excited and asked if our little Cupcake could sit on his lap. She did and he goofed with the kids for several minutes. I shared with him my own story of miraculous healing 20 years ago and this time he began to cry as he said, “Ah! You know! You know first hand the power of the healing of the Lord! You must know Jesus!” We joyfully told him we did and he shared how God has given him tools to help with the effects of his injuries.

Wrapping up our conversation, he tearfully told me that because of short-term memory loss he would not remember us when we left. He wanted us to know how much joy we brought to his life and how he hoped he had brought blessing to us. He stood up to kiss me on the cheek after telling me his injuries at times make him socially unaware. We talked a bit about the power and love of God and how we don’t always understand his ways. He confessed it wasn’t really his birthday, but that EVERY day was his birthday, as each day for the past 31 years has been an incredible gift.

My children and I circled this amazing man and we spoke a blessing over him and he hugged us and he spoke his own special blessings over each of my children. We got home more than an hour later than I had hoped. It didn’t matter. My kids were socialized in the weird way homeschoolers socialize. And it was beautiful.

Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

When we began homeschooling eight years ago, I came across the idea of “calendar time.” We are not trying to create “school at home.” However, there are certain skills that take lots of repetition and having a daily time to practice those skills seemed like a good idea.

We think of our entire home as our schooling area. We do have a formal school room (I will give you a tour at some point) where we used to do our morning calendar time. That room has now become our “quiet study room” so our calendar time has been moved to a different spot. The older kids don’t join us for calendar time anymore (tear), so it has been nice for them not to be disturbed by this portion of the day which can get quite loud. I don’t love the idea of my home looking like an elementary school, so I picked an unfinished area to pin up our morning board activities.

morning calendar time

I got these cubes about 9 years ago. When I call out, “Five minutes until calendar time,” the three kids that participate in it finish up what they are doing, run to their stools, open the tops to get out their pencils and notebooks and sit down. We start our time together by singing a silly song and them coming up to me and holding my hands and jumping as high as they can.

morning calendar time

Then we move over to our calendar which I bought at a local teacher supply store. We sing songs about the date and then we write the date. We talk about the weather and write one sentence about the weather and sing a song about weather. I teach abbreviations, and different ways to write the date. They record them in their notebook.

I got this little plastic box to store the weather and calendar pieces when note in use.

morning calendar time

After this we move to our cork-board and pick different activities. Sometimes we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We sing silly songs so we know how to spell everyone’s name in the family.(Although, I am not currently doing this as everyone knows how but the three year old. I will start it up again sometime after she turns four.)  There are specific prayer requests for various people written with wet erase markers. Cupcake gets to pick a shape and color of the day each morning. We pray for our pastor and missionaries and ourselves. We practice phone numbers and our address. Each week we work on a scripture passage to memorize.

morning calendar time

After covering the calendar and cork boards we move to reviewmorning calendar time

I’ve found it’s easiest to do things like flash cards and review for the day all in one setting.

morning calendar time morning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar time

We practice multiplication, addition, and subtraction facts, reading music, state facts, the books of the Bible, and the last picture are flash cards I made of Clay and Sally Clarkson’s “24 Family Ways.” I am just going to be honest and say that my kids did not love the devotional, but I like the concept of reviewing how we idealistically want to relate as a family to God, parents, one another, ourselves and our possessions. We review math facts daily, but we rotate with the other flash cards.

morning calendar time The last thing we do is read from a devotional and sing a hymn. Right now we are finishing up “Leading Little Ones to God.” This devotional is so, so, SO good for young children. I’ve read it several times. I anticipate reading it one or two more times with my little girls in the future. I like doing a devotional that is geared toward younger kids, as the rest of our family devotion times are usually more catered to the older kids in the family. We are not hymn only kinds of people, but the rich doctrine in the hymns is priceless. We learn a new verse each week, which means we end up learning approximately one hymn a month.

These morning times have been precious for me with my children. It’s a great way to begin our day and it only takes 10-15 minutes of our time.

I have the best memories of my kids fighting, saying funny things, and being goofy together during morning calendar time. Now that even my little kids are on the older side, there aren’t really any interruptions or too many goofy antics but it is still fun, in a different way. I was thinking how Odes will probably only do this for one more year and then it will just be the little girls and me. The years really are so short!

I’d love to know if you do a morning calendar time with your kids and what it looks like!

I thought I would leave you with a precious video from when the big four were little. It’s one of our favorites: