Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Tonight my 8 year old daughter rode a school bus for the first time in her life. We commented on how few children her age could say that. We took the bus with the kids at the school that we work at to a nearby church for a fun time in their youth group 'hangout' for our last night of AWANA. Fun night with too much candy and entertainment!

We planted our garden today, now we will see how our garden grows. Every year brings a new experience there. This year we placed landscaping fabric down on the walk ways, to hopefully save us some weeding time (wishful thinking?) I have gotten my workout through garden and yard work this week. Two hours of mowing and fertilizing and then two hours of raking, prepping, and planting. I look forward to a couple rainy days of staying inside and just 'doing school.' And, hopefully starting in 6 weeks or so we will begin picking some lettuce, beans, peppers, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, onions, beets, carrots, etc., etc.

Yesterday my older three went to a minor league baseball game with tickets they earned through a reading program (Blake brought home a foul ball for each kid in our family!) With just the younger two at home we took full advantage of our reduced responsibilities. We cranked up the classical music and had an hour ballet and gymnastics time. I pulled up a couple ballet lesson Youtube videos and we practiced the steps they showed us. Then we walked in circles around the great room pointing our toes, skipping daintily (well, Nathan wasn't quite so dainty), and listening for the subtle beat of the graceful music. We talked about the various songs that played as well and what they reminded us of. Sometimes we became waves crashing up on the shore, or soldiers marching in unison, or a prowling lion. Brooke and Nathan had such a great time and woke up begging to do more ballet again today. Great stress relief and music lesson all rolled into one, not to mention a great relationship building time with the littles.

May is traditionally one of our busiest months. A birthday, baseball season, end of school year activities at work, garden planting, used book sales, and a plethura of other activities clutter our calendar. But, then comes June. A break from work, swimming weather, less scheduled days, more down time with family, I can't wait. Today we enjoyed a delicious, sweet watermelon that reminded me of the promise of those days to come. It won't be long! 19 school days left . . .

Monday, April 28, 2008

Real life vs. Academics

Break down of a typical day's tasks and experiences (and accompanying skills, character traits, habits required):

- Get out of bed (self discipline)

- Get ready for the day (hygiene)

- Get kids up and supervise getting ready and chores (responsibility, leadership)

- Housework (self discipline, work ethic, organization, perseverance, home economics)

- Bible time (Biblical knowledge, reading, observation, drawing application, leadership)

- Desk work (spelling, organization, math, prioritizing, following instructions)

- Homeschool/teaching/homework help (teaching skills, creativity, math, reading, observation, patience -- okay homeschooling calls out almost all of my knowledge, character traits, and skills on a daily basis)

- Cooking (organization/planning, math, home economics)

- Raising kids (compassion, mediating, leadership, consistency, self-discipline, home economics, diligence, modeling, conflict management, honesty, respect, serving, etc -- another area that requires much of what I have learned and am)

- Being a wife (love, respect, obedience, selflessness, organization, responsibility, humility)

This list does not cover every activity, or every skill required, but it does encapsulate the main things in my day, and the main knowledge required to accomplish them.

You know, as I look at most of my responsibilities that I face on any given day, I realize that much of my life requires life skills. However, not much requires simple academic skills. Yet, in my homeschooling and child-raising I often place more focus on and stress more about how my kids are developing academically, rather than how they are faring spiritually, emotionally, and socially.

I teach character, we study the Bible together, we desire to model Christ in our home, we learn and practice social skills, the children acquire responsibility, but what is my main focus? If my child struggles with a math concept or a letter sound I worry that this will set them back academically. I stress over long term ramifications, college scholarships, others' opinions (I know I get carried away). If my child disobeys I just find it frustrating and discouraging for the moment. I don't find myself worrying about their walk with the Lord 20 years from now, or if they will always have this tendency to buck the system.

A little more balance in both areas might be called for. Academics is only part of what we are doing. If they struggle through an area, they struggle, and maybe learn more through the struggle than they would have otherwise! Any challenge or obstacle is a lesson in reliance on Christ, discipline, patience, hard work, and compassion. The topic is no longer decimals or phonics or handwriting, but character and Christ-likeness (which hopefully was the focus all along). If they struggle with their character and walk with Christ, maybe I should worry a bit more, casting those anxieties on Him and praying all the more for their growth and my own wisdom.

So much of the adult life is simply about life. Working out our faith each and every day with fallen, human individuals, in unusual situations, with full schedules, with responsibilities, and with others watching our every move. The academics need to be there, held to a high standard to glorify our God and King in every area, but our focus needs to remain on Him and our internal obedience. Walking faithfully, building relationships, making the most of each opportunity.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Verse of the week -- I Samuel 15:22

Obedience has become a hot topic in our household recently. What does obedience look like? Why should we obey? What happens after disobedience? What type of attitude does obedience require? In the process of discussing these many questions I have often turned them back on myself and challenged the level of my own obedience to the Lord. True obedience shows a respect, trust, submission to, and a relationship with the one we obey.

As He often does, God has continued to give me a workout on this topic and brings it up in a variety of settings and situations throughout my day. He constantly pricks my thinking in this regard. Bible time with the kids, my own quiet times, radio, preachers, random conversations. He just keeps talking. And I continue to listen, and realize just how much I still have to learn about what I had classified as a childish topic.

The people of Israel followed Moses out of Egypt with little knowledge or expectation of what the road ahead looked like. Of course, "the grass is always greener" fit their thinking quite well. Many times while following God's leading they complained. "Remember Egypt? The land of milk and honey, cucumbers and onions, the land of plenty. We had it so good! And, now we have nothing!" Umm, slavery. Remember? You were slaves, held there against your will, pursued when you did leave, forced into hard labor,your babies put to death. Oh yeah, how could anything compare to the bounty of those days?!? It is so easy to look at that and scoff, and yet I realize that I do the same thing.

I started thinking, what are my 'Egypts'? What prior season in my life do I recall with irrational blessings? What future season do I glorify? The negatives that may surround me at the moment seem so glaring, surely nothing could be or has been this bad, right? The magical memories of the past and the distant dreams of the future glimmer with a golden hue.
Remember those days, when I had time for . . .?
Or, think about when I will be able to . . .

So easy to fill in those blanks with things that may never happen, or may have looked very different in the reality of the present. On the outside, Israel looked obedient. The followed. They packed up at a moments notice and went wherever the fire or cloud led them. And still, they grumbled. God gave them food every day, God revealed His law to them and began to teach them what following Him really looked like. What an exciting time to be a part of the nation of Israel. Yet, God had to judge them time and again for their grumbling and lack of true obedience.

How often in my own life do I look like I am obedient, but God sees a different attitude in my heart? It is comparatively easy to go to church, read my Bible, pray, teach my children about Him, even give my money for His glory, rather than to humbly obey His way and respond to His constant teaching and convicting in my life. I Samuel 15:22 says, "
Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."

Whether my current season in life offers more blessings or more challenges than other times in my life is irrelevant. Regardless of circumstance, I must obey. With a heart of gratitude and joy for His salvation, appreciation and recognition of His current blessings, a quickness to hear and respond to Him. Obedience isn't always easy, but it is required.

"Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."

~I Samuel 15:22~

Healthy patience

I started on this journey toward healthier eating after the birth of our fifth child. Unfortunately a little late in the game, but we have made significant changes in the time since then. One of the first changes was to our Sunday morning traditional breakfast. I always popped open a can of cinnamon rolls for a special, and very easy, breakfast. Well, one look at the ingredient list through my new 'glasses' and I realized that needed to go. So, baby steps, I decided to make my own cinnamon rolls. Whole wheat, ground flax seed, hormone free butter, organic sweetener, etc. Well, I think they are delicious, but my kids were less convinced.

We have finally had a breakthrough! My daughter who dislikes these changes the most just said, "I'm starting to like the homemade ones better than the other ones." After every Sunday for nearly three years now, her taste buds finally decided to adjust.

I had counted on the "try it 10 times and you'll get used to it" guideline. So, if you may be facing discouragement after those ten tries at introducing healthier options to your family's diet, don't despair, just give it another 130 rounds and you may see some flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Faith and Literature

George MacDonald (1824-1905)

George MacDonald has written some incredible books. Right now we are thoroughly enjoying our journey through The Princess and the Goblin, and especially some of the Biblical truths that it pictures. I have to admit that I loved this book from page one, when it encouraged all the little princesses listening that a princess isn't so much a princess because of her family, but rather because of who she is on the inside. This calls out to all the little Princesses, not just those born of royal blood, and he returns often to what a true princess looks like (honest, kind, gracious, etc.)

The Princess and the Goblin (Puffin Classics - the Essential Collection)

Throughout the book he brings in a character, the princess's Great Grandmother, who helps the young reader gain a fresh perspective on God. Obviously, the Bible builds our firm foundation of doctrine, but through well written books such as The Princess and the Goblin, God uses other people, authors, to draw us deeper into His character and persona. The Great Grandmother shows love and tenderness, complete peace to those who know her and come to her, protection and guidance, and appears foolish to those that do not see her. I enjoyed discussing with my children this well written piece of literature and how MacDonald has woven biblical truths into his story. It was exciting to see even my 6 year old jump out with another observation about how the Grandmother portrayed some of God's qualities.

We will finish the book next week, and probably move right into the sequel, but the phrase that jumped out at me today came from the Great Grandmother's lips. She said, "Seeing is not believing -- it is only seeing." Poor Princess Irene was terribly upset that her friend Curdie could not see the Great Grandmother, which we had all anticipated even as he followed Irene to meet her, and I thought again of the real life application of this simple story. How often we too speak of our Savior, and people just don't see. It seems so clear to me, yet they see my knowledge as foolishness and turn away. Irene's sorrow (although that of a fictional character) was a challenge to me not to be insensitive to their blindness. I too often write it off as another lost sinner, forgetting that I was once there myself. Unfortunately, in their seeing, they only see, they don't believe.

How many scientists look at the creation all around us and only see, but don't believe. So many others have followed their teaching, relying on only what they see. (I guess I also have this new movie on my brain that I hope to see -- Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed). How often each day, do I place more emphasis on what I see? A simple book of literature, and God speaks loud and clear.

I love homeschooling.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Frugal Friday -- Weed killer

Nine years ago we moved into our wonderful home on the campus of the school where we work.

Off of the great room, where the boys spend most of their non-school waking hours, we have a beautiful brick patio. The boys play basketball out there most afternoons, the little ones like to ride their bikes around on it (when a b-ball game is not in progress, hopefully), and it provides a great place for our fire pit when we roast marshmallows on summer evenings.

As wonderful as this patio may be, it also brings plenty of frustration during the summer months. In between each crack of each brick weeds, moss, and ground cover plants defame the beautiful brick patio. So, I weeded, and weeded, and the kids weeded, and weeded. One year we bought Round Up. After spending a small fortune and three hours of work we were weedless for a few months.

Last year I figured there had to be a better way. I started thinking about natural options, safer for my kids and dog, and better for the environment. For some reason I thought of salt. I thought about how the ocean water kills land plants, and how in long ago history they would salt the fields of their agrarian enemies to cripple their crop production.

So, I tried it. I pulled out the canister of table salt and sprinkled it liberally around the patio shortly before a rain, used most of the canister. A couple days later the weeds were brown and brittle. I swept my patio, and didn’t see another weed for a month and a half! This time, in the midst of a dry spell, I filled a spray bottle with strong salt water and sprayed the porch down. Same effect – dead weeds and no new ones for the remainder of the growing season. So, lots of salt, with a little moisture in some form or another (even a heavy morning dew has been enough) to move the salt into the cracks, and those weeds are history!

I would much rather pay a buck or two for a canister of salt than $35 for strong chemicals that barely do twice as good a job.

You do have to be careful to not allow too much run off onto plants that you want to keep (we haven’t had a problem with this, but it could potentially be an issue), but anywhere that you don’t want anything to grow, salt is an inexpensive, all-natural weed killer.

For more Frugal Friday tips, head over to Crystal’s blog!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Preschool Pause

As I mentioned before, I love to spend time each day with my two littler ones. The days pass so quickly, and they can easily be consumed with housework and necessary tasks. I love that we have this little jewel in the midst of our day to slow down and see the world from a knee-high perspective.

My youngest woke up with an awful, croupy cough last night, so I did not know what to anticipate from him today. We took a quick visit outside in the middle of the night and then I rubbed some oil with peppermint and tea tree in it. Amazing stuff. Between the two, he slept fairly soundly the rest of the night. So, he woke up ready to go this morning.

For our preschool pause today we wrote our names in bead letters. Taken from another great book(Games for Learning -- designed for K-3, with a few activities suitable for this younger crowd) that I love to pull off my shelf thanks to the many rich ideas contained in it. As with much homeschooling, the multi-age approach comes to play, as everyone up to my 10 year old ended up joining us for this one, voluntarily.

First, the activity:

I started each child off with a paper that had their word(s) for the project already written on them. We looked at the words (their names), made sure they recognized them, and read each of them, while tracing the letters with our fingers.

Then, they drew circles along the lines to make it look like they were written with a string of beads. Of course, I offered varying degrees of help with this step as well. Brooke, my independent four year old did quite well on hers (she hasn't completely finished and doesn't want her masterpiece exposed before completion . . .)

Lastly, they fill in the circles with colors of their choosing and have a cool looking sign to hang in their room or give to Grandma.

My goals varied for each child. Obviously, although the project is largely similar for both the 2 year old and the 10 year old, the finished project and the lessons learned for each child are tailor made. With Nathan, my main goal is name recognition, so when he lost interest half way through the circles and went to play with the dog, he had accomplished his task. Brooke is working on writing her name with lower case letters (aside from the 'B'), so I wrote hers accordingly. Faith should have mastery of her first and last name, and since she joined us today, I wrote both for her to work with. A simple, fun, educational project, that they will finish up tomorrow.

For geography I let Nathan pick a word from our Geography A to Z book. He chose 'fjord.' That was great. Not a common word. We set up the dining room chairs in two rows and swam through as boats in the middle tooting our horns. Nathan loved both the activity and the new word. He kept saying, "Fjord, fjord."

Another activity, not from today, that I wanted to mention is especially fitting for this time of year as we enjoy getting outside more and more each day. I love simple, inexpensive fun. All you need for this is water and paintbrushes. My kids thoroughly enjoyed 'painting' the sidewalks with all kinds of designs, letters, shapes, and pictures.

Faith drew her ever present butterfly.

Nathan did some doodling also.
Anything with water has his attention for an extended period of time.

I did feel the need to warn them that the drawings would not last (spontaneous conversation on the water cycle and evaporation), so they would not experience too much disappointment when they could not find their drawing a couple hours later. They got creative and combined chalk and water in some great pictures and doodles and had a fun time working together to decorate the world.

Then, back to my world, refreshed in the joy of exploration and learning.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Verse of the week -- pray Ephesians 6:18

It seems at least once each winter a nasty cold makes its way through our household. Not just the run of the mill, seven days of sniffles variety. I mean the up five times a night, rocking, congestion, fevers, and the coughing. Oh the cough! That barking, croupy cough the lasts for a month and interrupts each hour of the day and night with its persistence. Maybe not a pleasant image, but that same persistence should permeate and guide our prayer life. In I Thessalonians 5:17 Paul says simply, “Pray without ceasing.” The Greek word for ‘without ceasing’ is the same word used for the hacking, persistence of that cough. Our prayers should constantly permeate our thoughts, interrupting our day, filling our concern and overflowing from our hearts. I know too often my prayers are just the ‘morning cough,’ or maybe the 'night time' cough. This verse challenges our prayers to come without ceasing, non-stop.

How do we accomplish that? By God’s grace and power, of course. What should that constant prayer life look like? I turned to Ephesians 6:18 for a wonderful description of our potential prayer life. Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

Sometimes my heart cries out to pray, but I don’t even know where to begin. Right now, a situation we are dealing with in a family of one of ‘our’ boys often comes to mind for prayer, but I don’t even know what to pray for. Gratefully, the Spirit comes alongside sometimes with groans that words could not express (Romans 8:26). Our prayers show that our lives, and even our prayers themselves require constant reliance on Him.

Of course, we won’t feel drawn to pray if we do not remain on the alert, looking for opportunity, people, and situations requiring prayer. Sometimes I desire to pray, but instead find myself distracted, annoyed, judgmental, bitter, depressed, overwhelmed, or self focused. Especially then, I should pray. Prayer needs to become both a habit and a mindset, a pulling away from our thinking and a refocusing in His way of thinking.

I have much of the habit established. I pray each morning using my calendar which includes prayers for my children, husband, myself, extended family, current needs, and other ministries and missionaries. Each night I pray again for my husband and other needs that come to mind. However, I need to continue to work on growing that attitude of prayer throughout each day.

Some things that have worked for me in this area:

- Keep missionaries’ prayer cards visible, and pray when you come across them

- Pray with kids during family Bible time

- Pray right away when you say you will (when I send off a quick email or post a comment saying I will pray, I do it right then, as well as when it comes to mind in the future.)

Some other ideas I desire to continue to input into my prayer life:

- Pray outloud (I have done this in the past and it really helps me stay on track)

- Use prayer triggers (pray for our nation when you pass a post office, pray for teachers when you pass a school, pray for missionaries when you get to a red light, pray for your husband when the phone rings, etc.)

- Pray while doing housework (vacuuming, dishes, and laundry can be mindless, or prayer filled!)

- Pray at certain times of the day (10:00 for your husband, 1:00 you and a friend pray for each other, 3:00 for the children of our nation, etc.)

I’m sure there are many more ideas you can come up with to make prayer a habit and a heart condition, a constant persistent state of mind.

I look forward to keeping alert this week, persevering in prayer for my family and those around us. That cough never lets up, and neither should my prayers.

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:18

It's a God thing

Just a quick "God thing" I had to share. . .

This past week at AWANA I was teaching on the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. At first when I saw the topic I felt rather intimidated. This had the smackings of a complex doctrine that I did not know if I truly grasped the depth of, let alone the ability to put it into terms comprehensible to young people with limited Bible knowledge.

As I read through Hebrews 3-10 I realized how uncomplicated the writer made this doctrine. We have spent the year walking through key stories of the Bible, tracing God's plan of salvation from the fall in the garden to Jesus' ascension and now wrapping up with His role as our high priest. The writer clearly shows Christ's qualifications and superiority to everything else in creation, the need to believe in Him, and his fulfillment of both the sacrificial system and the Melchizedekian priesthood. It all made perfect sense. Only He could be all of this, bring all this to fruition and fulfill the hope of generations of the nation of Israel.

After preparing I realized how simple Bible study techniques can make even intimidating doctrines come into clear view. So, I tied that into my talk as well. I spoke about the importance of studying the Bible for yourself, in context. I found a great website (which I couldn't find again to link to, sorry) that talked about the importance of every Christian reading the Bible through for themselves. Start by reading John three times through. At 5 chapters a day it won't take long. Then read the whole New Testament (should take less than three months). Then, of course go for the whole Bible. Having read the whole Bible through a few times over my lifetime, I know the benefit to having that overall framework in mind when understanding and interpreting Scripture.

While considering this, I came up with the following illustration to prove the point. I opened a book I had on hand and read a paragraph from it. Then I began asking questions. . . Who are these people? Why are they drinking coffee? What kind of coffee? Are they all drinking it? Of course, the kids had a great time speculating, but we all knew that their answers had no basis and were actually completely ridiculous to those that had read the book and knew the context. I related that to Scripture and some people's tendency to pull out verses and try to put in meaning that does not belong there.

It sure clicked for some. I saw one of 'my' boys reading to chapter 6 of John the next day (yeah!) Then I got an email that got me really excited. Another AWANA leader took that illustration and shared it at her prison ministry Bible study this weekend, challenging these inmates to read the context not just random verses. They got it, the response was amazing, she said. Even some of the people on her team commented on how that really made them think. So, in some small way I got to be a part of God working in the prison.

It's all about Him, shining through His creation. Praise God!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Frugal Friday -- Why live Frugally?

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This is somewhat a continuation of my verse of the week for this week, and the blessing I received in church this past week . . .

Recently after all the advertisement floating around the blog world, I got Dave Ramsey’s book from the library and read through it. It did offer quite a bit of motivation and information to digest. My husband and I live fairly simply and have an easier time saving money than spending it, so much of what I read was more a confirmation of the road we are on than a challenge to change much. However, books and talks along those lines always offer encouragement to stay focused and continue to look for areas that can use improvement or refinement.

Since his praises are sung elsewhere, I won’t go into why this is a great book, although I do agree with those who think so, instead I keep pondering something that I don’t know if I agree with. Ramsey often uses the phrase, “Live like no one else now, so later you can live like no one else.” It took a while for me to truly grasp what he meant by the second part of that. I do appreciate that he said in his intro that some say he is too spiritual and others say he is not enough. I think I would fall in the latter camp. I definitely agree that we should live like no one else. However, I think our goals for doing so should have eternal ramifications and foci, not earthly ones.

Why I choose to live like no one else now:

- To give as much of myself as possible to my family. I want to live frugally so that I can be with my family. A simpler life (less shopping, activities, stuff) frees up time and resources to enjoy each other now, build eternal relationships, and invest daily in eternal rewards in each other’s lives. We have to make simplified material choices and sacrifices to build up priceless treasure of immeasurable quantity in the lives around us.

- To obey is better than sacrifice (an oft repeated phrase through Scripture). Obedience is a daily diligence and surrender of your will to another. Sacrifice can be a one time act, and the Pharisees showed that this could easily be done for the wrong motivations. Sacrifice is giving something up, obedience is giving up yourself. Obedience is a quiet heart of faith. Sacrifice often becomes a shout it from the rooftops, notice-me event. I think often our giving in this day and age has become sacrificial (in the legalistic sense) rather than obedient.

- Because 10 % isn’t all God wants. We quickly talk of giving our 10 % with a mental pat on the back for our following the law of God. In looking at the law, many have suggested that God required much more than 10%. Every third year another 10% came up as a benevolence offering for the needy. Now add to that the countless sacrifices required for various transgressions. I am not saying that 10% is wrong; I’m saying often our heart is wrong. If we give 75% with a wrong heart it is as a meaningless sacrifice. God loves a cheerful giver, not a bragging, dutiful or obligatory one. If we fill out our check or drop our money in the offering plate or fill out that online donation and mentally check giving off our to-do list, we have missed the point, and more often than not the blessing as well.

- I don’t see a scriptural basis for a cushy retirement. Again, we each need to determine where the line falls in our own plans between living wisely, and acting on greed. Savings should be surrendered to God’s direction, not our whims or material satisfaction.

- God wants to work through us and bless us in the process. While this should not be our motivation for giving, blessing often accompanies giving. We have an opportunity to play a part in God at work.

I know many people just live with barely enough money to pay all the bills, but many of us can find ways to live below our income level to varying degrees. Then, it’s just a matter of what we do with the extra that comes in.

So how about it?

Live like no one else now, so you can give like no one else – period.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Character - focus on obedience

Last week we suffered through a particularly challenging trip to the store, courtesy of my two younger children. Sometimes I need to remind myself that they are human. But, after trips like that I also get a strong reminder that my discipline needs to remain consistent. No matter how consistent, we will all still have ‘those’ days now and then, our children will never be perfect. So, with a healthy dose of reality coursing through my veins, when we returned home from an abbreviated trip to the store, we spent some time training.

Incidentally, or Providentially I suppose, we had just jumped back into a focus on character, obedience in particular. We have done quite a bit of role playing and had numerous practical conversations to help us all get back on track and clarify expectations.

Some of what we have done this week . . .

Talked about obedience through the Bible:

- Ephesians 6:1, of course. God commands obedience to parents

- Romans 13, obeying authorities

- Abraham’s obedience. This easily built on our memorization of Hebrews 11, “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” What a great example to follow!

We talked about what obedience is using the Character First materials:

- Cheerfully carrying out the directions and wishes of those who are responsible for me.

- I will obey my authorities immediately

- I will have a cheerful attitude

- I will complete all that I am expected to do

- I will not complain

- I will go the extra mile

We used the steps for Following Instructions from the Boys’ Town material:

- Look at the person

- Say, “okay” (respectfully)

- Do the task right away

- Check back

We role played obedience:

- We practiced shopping with the kids following me around the house while we talked about not touching anything, staying together, and being quiet

- We showed off our cheerful faces

- We used the vocabulary (during practice and later in disciplinary situations as well. They know what I expect when I remind them to be cheerful during obedience.)

- I would give the kids an instruction (turn off the light) and they would have to obey quickly, say ‘okay’ and cheerfully complete the task, checking back to make sure they did what I asked to my expectation.

Can you tell I'm an eclectic homeschooler? Anyway, practicing in a non-emotionally charged setting ( a trick I first learned from the Pearls) helps us all keep level heads while establishing clear expectations. The kids have fun and learn the joy of obedience even if it is in a staged environment. This focus on obedience with fun, down-home practice has quickly helped to restore peace to our shopping trips and our day to day life.

It seems my parenting cycles a bit. I work and reinforce consistently --- maintain that momentum --- enjoy the results --- ease up a little --- overlook small ‘grievances’ --- become content with second or third time obedience --- get exasperated that the kids aren’t listening like I know they should --- and then the cycle begins again. My desire is to remain in that consistently maintaining stage, but my own humanness steps in as well (unfortunately). God is gracious, as we continue to grow to be all He has for us, consistently, obediently. This is a lesson I definitely speak to myself right along with my children.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Multi age teaching and my Preschool Pause

One component of my homeschool day schedule that I have added this year with great success, is a special ‘preschool’ time with my two little ones. Brooke (4) and Nathan (2) join us for all of our group activities and love to attempt anything right along with the school age kids, but I wanted a special time just for them in my daily routine as well.

Multi-age teaching has many rewards and challenges. I have heard it compared to a bus trip. We all get on in the same place, but have different end points. I great example of this came when we read a book on ancient Egypt last year. All the kids enjoyed the reading from an Usborne World History and Hillyer's A Child's History of the World. After the reading we discussed what we read. The older two made various applications that showed their complete understanding and also the memory of our trip to the Field Museum. Faith, 5 at the time, said, "Mummy's? They're full of bones." Brooke (3) said, "Bones? like a dog chews!" And Nathan (1) finished off with, "Doggies? Ruff, ruff!"

While the topic changes, the conversations each day follow a similar flow (sometimes more on topic than others). The older ones take the knowledge and make it their own applying it to their broader base of knowledge, the younger school age kids soak it up like a sponge building their base, and the little ones just enjoy the ride and look for words they are familiar with.

This year, I have decided to take more time to intentionally work with my younger kids. I tend to be a "better late than early" homeschooler, and I don't really worry about this time making or breaking their future success as a student. However, I do think my little kids need mommy time. They need a time in the day when everything else gets put aside and they get some concentrated nurturing, love, training, and attention. These two little ones are probably closer by my side than the others most of the rest of the day as well, but the three of us thoroughly enjoy this fun time of learning and exploring together.

For a half hour each day we have our Preschool Pause. At the beginning of the week I come up with a list of activities that we will enjoy together throughout the week to come. I draw from the many books I have accumulated over the years, and also from the internet and try to pick at least one activity from each academic subject that I hope to cover (pre-reading, math, geography, science, music, character, art, PE, etc.) Over the course of the week we use most of the activities. What we don't get to, I carry over for the next week or replace with new ideas.

Here is a glimpse into our preschool time this past week:
- Character: obedience role playing, reading and discussion (I will post more about this later this week. We have had a great week of growth in this area.)

- Writing/pre-reading: we work with salt sprinkled on a pie tin. They write or doodle in the pie tin and shake gently to 'erase' and start again. We worked on shapes, letters, sounds of the letters they drew, etc. Very simple, hands on, fun for the kids, and educational!

- Fun with water (I wrote a bit about this already in a previous post, this activity was great for all my kids to participate in, but during preschool time my focus remains on my little ones.)

- Music: loud and soft, high and low sounds while we sang "Twinkle, Twinkle" and a couple songs of their choice.

- Math: made patterns with blocks, counted by tens with a great song from Discovery toys (they don't sell the tape anymore, but this CD appears to have most of the songs we love) that I have enjoyed since child #1.

- Geography term: lagoon. Another book from my shelves, Geography A to Z (like a simple geography dictionary) .We pretended our living room was a lagoon, with the surrounding Couch Islands and swam around in the calm, protected lagoon.

- P.E. beanbag fun! Tossing, sliding, catching, and balancing. I built off what I found in Jump for Joy, a great book (garage sale find) of loads of preschool activities. This book has ideas, applications, variations, tips on finding and making the supplies needed, and all around lots of great information for planning the active part of our days. I love this book!

- Art (turned science) we made bird feeders quite successfully.

Step one: gather pine cones.

The ones that were still closed on the bottom, but open on the top worked best for this project.

Step two: spread the peanut butter, coating the whole pine cone

Step three: toss the peanut butter covered pine cone in a ziploc baggie filled with birdseed.

Step four: Tie a string on the top

Step five: Hang the finished product on the tree outside.

We hung these outside on Friday and have had bushes full of birds to watch the past few days (hence the science part). This turned out much easier than I had anticipated and we got a great response from the birds! (Thanks to Brooke, my lovely assistant for the photos!)

In a nutshell (kind of a big nutshell), that was our preschool time this past week. Everyday we also sing a phonics song, read a book (listen and then discuss), wiggle and snuggle together, and then choose from the activities. None of these things took long to prepare or execute. I probably spent more time typing this blog post than I spent coming up with the ideas to start with. Making the most of these precious moments with my little ones is priceless.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Becoming Rich in God

Somehow I still find myself amazed at how amazing God is. I don’t know why I don’t get it already that He has complete control, that He has orchestrated this wonderful thing called life.

After posting my verse for the week, I go to church and they announce that the food bank has little to offer those in need right now and next week they want people to bring food and household items to replenish it. My list of ways to live out ‘leaving the corners for others’ just got a bit longer. Then, the Pastor opens up to Luke 12:13-34, and begins teaching on becoming rich toward God. The passage begins with someone in the crowd asking Jesus to officiate a dispute over inheritance. Jesus declines and then uses the opportunity to teach the crowd about holding loosely to the things of this world and clinging only to God.

Some highlights, that I will carry into this week:

- Money clogs our spiritual arteries! (reminded me of the rich man and the eye of a needle)

- Pursue Christ as the ultimate source of satisfaction and fulfillment (we tend to surround ourselves with stuff, and think we don’t even need Christ)

- The answer to covetousness and greed is contentment and generosity (The Bible says great gain comes through Godliness and contentment, not that with Godliness and great gain we will find contentment).

- Draw the line at enough, and give the rest away (I have a whole other post that I had almost finished on this idea, but I have more thoughts to add now.) Part of the trick for me and my house is figuring out what is really ‘enough.’ How much do we need for future savings – retirement, college funds, emergency funds, etc.? God will provide, so how much do we trust, and how much do we save the abundance he has sent our way? These are questions we address on almost an annual basis in our home. The answer changes, too.

- Seek first His kingdom. Not my own security, comfort, or contentment, but rather His glory and honor.

I know God has more to say about this topic. He has already given me pause to think. I will be on the lookout in the week to come for what else He has to teach me.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Verse of the week – Leviticus 19:9, 10

This year I am working on reading through the Bible once again, and have not gotten off to the most rapid pace, so it may take me more like 18 months instead of 12, we’ll see. I just wrapped up Leviticus this week, and one unusual passage keeps coming to mind. I want to continue to focus on these verses this coming week and think of ways to apply them to my life and lifestyle.

In the midst of the law, God says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 19:9-10

The Matthew Henry commentary says the following about this passage: Works of piety must be always attended with works of charity, according to our ability. We must not be covetous, griping, and greedy of every thing we can lay claim to, nor insist upon our right in all things.

Clearly, if something grows in a farmer’s field it belongs to him, just as every penny of our paycheck belongs to us (well, after Uncle Sam has his say in this day and age.) We could, justly so, insist upon our rights, lay claim to each of those pennies to spend as we see fit. However, God challenges us on this point. And, in this context His challenge is not about our tithes and offerings, but rather the poor among us.

Deuteronomy 24:20-22 gives another explanation on this topic, “When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.” Remember those days you were worse off than you are today? For that reason (because others are seeing their worst days right now), leave some behind. Don’t pinch every penny out of your paycheck for your own gain. I love the visual imagery of rechecking the olive boughs to make sure you got every last one. Work hard, take what you need (not the same as what you may deserve, or think you deserve), and leave a bit behind for someone else.

What does that look like today? That gets a little trickier. I don’t farm. Even if I did, I don’t know that people would assume they could go gleaning through my field after I finished harvesting. In today’s culture we need to practice more intentionality about ‘leaving some behind’ for those who may have need of it.

Here are some ideas I have come up with so far (please feel free to add to this list, hopefully I will as well later this week):

Freecycle items rather than garage sale them.

Send clothing to the crisis pregnancy center while they still have life (and style) in them

Skip a dinner out and give that money to someone in need (rather than your housing project or your child’s college fund . . .)

"Glean" through your dressers and closets. Get rid of what you don’t like and maybe something that you do like. Pass them on to a mission or clothing closet that helps those without.

That which grew in the corners and remained on the plants after once through the fields still equaled income to those living off the land. I am sure they could have thought of uses for that money (build an addition, a more comfortable sleeping mat, new pots, more land, children’s inheritance, etc.) God didn’t tell them to give just what they didn’t need, He challenges us to give even from what can be useful to us.

How could I give more this week?

"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God"

Leviticus 19:9, 10

Friday, April 11, 2008

A little encouragement

I know this is my off day for posting, but I had a quick word of encouragement in my Bible time this morning that I wanted to share:

O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee,

I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things;

thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.

Isaiah 25:1

God is worthy of my praise today and everyday. He has done wonderful, amazing, incredible, awesome things in my life and throughout time. His perfect wisdom and sovereignty has consistently proven true and ever faithful. What a hope to enter the day with!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Practical obedience

Yesterday we had a day full to the brim of unpredictability and last minute changes, on top of all the normal activity. Starting when the alarm went off at 6:00 and ending with an email at 10:45 the day was so full of twists and turns I could hardly keep my seat belt on. Somehow, through it all we managed to have a very productive school day with only one small activity left undone.

One of the topics that we covered was obedience. I found a book on character training on my shelves last week that I had forgotten about. It offers excellent, concrete tools for helping kids understand and live with character. The first one we discussed was obedience. It has a simple definition and then some "I Will . . ." statements. Some of them --
I will have a cheerful attitude.
I will complete all that I am expected to do.
I will go the "extra mile."
(among a couple others)

Then we read a couple stories about obedience in nature and history and talked about what true obedience looks like. We had some great conversation and I was excited to give my kids more practical tools to live obediently.

Then, on with the crazy day. During study hall my younger kids were in our quarters watching a Bibleman video, and a little bird told me that they had helped themselves to a Cheerio snack by dumping the box on the floor and grazing like animals. Lovely. However, Charles was gone at the other campus and I could not spend the time cleaning it up just then as I needed to get all 17 kids out the door for a picture in front of the school.

After the picture (smooth, thankfully!) and dinner we returned to our cottage. Faith had hurried and gotten back shortly before most of us. She walked up to me as I came in the door and said, “Mom, you know that mess that Brooke and Nathan made?” (big smile on her face)

“Yes, did you clean it up?”

“Mom, I got to use that obedience stuff.”

“You did, didn’t you! Did you work cheerfully? (she continues smiling, basking in the praise) Did you go the extra mile? I’m so proud of you.”

I so treasure these moments when training comes to life.

Then she says, “Mom, no, I used the Obedience story papers to clean up the mess!”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Treasures on the Bookshelves

Over the years I have accumulated a fairly good stash of books in the homeschooling category, among others. Before having kids I taught other kids, so I have always had an eye out for books with great teaching tips and creative ideas. I do clear out my shelves at least once a year but still have so many books that I cannot let go of because they have such great content and years of usefulness within their pages.

Recently I decided I needed to make better use of the great treasures that languish on my shelves year after year. So, this past week I pulled out a few books and we have thoroughly enjoyed the results. Much of our school day is already full, but I am always looking for fresh ideas for preschool time, science, and art projects.

Here is the book we had a great time with today. Something I bought about 8 years ago at one of those book 'parties' (like a Tupperware party, but for DK books). I have already enjoyed almost every page of the book with my older children and now we are enjoying it again with my younger ones (my older ones linger nearby, too, and like getting their hands dirty right along with us).

This book covers topics such as water, light, air, magnets, seasons, colors, and living things. For each topic it offers multiples pages of ideas and activities using mostly readily available materials. Of course, I love the real life pictures that DK books use as well. I also enjoy incorporating some of the more challenging vocabulary so I can stretch my older kids with the activities.

We all had a great time with the water activities. We talked about surface tension, upthrust, sinks vs. floats, cohesion, dissolving, and the three states of water. All the kids got into the activities with their own observations and adaptations. I am always impressed at what even young children can figure out on their own when given the right materials.

The bad news, I couldn't find this book for sale very easily to recommend to you, other than on Amazon (used). You may be able to find it at your library, I know ours keeps quite a few DK books on their shelves.

This did further encouraged me, and hopefully you as well, to take a second look at those great books that have gone too long forgotten. They often hold a treasure of stories and experiences to share with the kids, for free!

Monday, April 7, 2008


A web friend of mine, Lisa, posted earlier this week about the famous quandary posed to homeschooling parents:

What about socialization?!?!

When I first started homeschooling I cringed at this question – oh no, they got me, the fatal flaw of the path a tread!

A couple years into it I answered with greater confidence in our choice -- I would rattle off our various involvements and talk about training in social skills and character and if that failed to impress then I would say that we also live with 12 other boys most of the time, so they get plenty of interaction with other kids since we have 17 of them living in the same house. Good enough?

I do like how one mom chose to answer the question about how she would socialize her children, she simply said, “Properly.” To read some other responses to this infamous question, check out this page.

As for myself, after many years of fielding this question, I now have a different response. I often snicker a bit under my breath reliving the many conversations I have had with people on this topic. And, I don’t say much of anything. I do often ask them to clarify what they mean by "socialization," because it means vastly different things to different people. And our conversation carries on from there.

In my journey to accepting homeschooling in all its glory, so to speak, I had to realize that my children don’t always need everything that ‘society’ tells me they need. They don’t need to spend their days with 27 other children all within a year of their age, studying the same topics at roughly the same pace, for a state prescribed amount of time by someone they never met before September who won’t even recognize them 10 years from now.

Socialization is one of those many ‘things’ that society tells me my kids need. Well what is socialization anyway? A few interesting definitions that I dug up around various web dictionaries:

- The process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitation as well as group pressure

-The process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status

-Socialization is the process by which humans or animals learn the values, norms and culture of their particular society. They learn to conform to the way of life in their society.

That makes you think, doesn’t it? Where better than home, surrounding by two loving parents, and an accepting environment to learn (which always involves stumbles and mistakes before mastery) how to prepare for adult status, to acquire values, norms and culture. I don’t think I would want my child ‘socialized’ in a school setting anyway. Behave similarly to others? Group pressure? Popular culture? Conformed to society?

Romans 12:2 is coming to mind here . . .

Then there are others that are really asking how my child will be able to socialize, which means something else entirely, that is to take part in social activities. That I really don’t see a need for. I suppose we do our fair share of it: sports, homeschool activities with other families, and various clubs, aside from the 12 boys we live with Sunday through Friday. However, were kids raised long ago largely removed from social contact somehow worse off? You know, that Laura Ingalls. If she had just had more human contact earlier on maybe she would have amounted to something. Poor Abraham Lincoln, just think what he could have been if he had access to today’s public school system!

Okay, I digress a little. God created something amazing when He designed the family. I know there is an incredible breakdown in families today, and this post doesn’t address that. I do know that God created me to mother and teach my children. He created my husband to father and teach our children. We enjoy our roles and take them seriously. I don’t think I could accomplish all that I feel I need to in mentoring these incredible lives He entrusted with us without 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 18 years, give or take.

I do give standardized tests for my own peace of mind, although they mean far less to me as the years go by, despite the ever rising scores. If I followed the school’s pattern my 10 year old wouldn’t be finishing up pre-algebra. If I followed the state’s mold we wouldn’t have gotten in that 3 on 3 soccer game after lunch today. If I worried about society’s list I wouldn’t appreciate the depth of their individuality. I guess the call to socialization is a strong one. I want to be the best example and encouragement possible for my children to learn biblical values and worldviews. That won’t come casually, I definitely plan on socializing my children, daily.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Verse of the week -- Strength in weakness

God is so good. He dropped this little pearl in my lap during church today:

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

"Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." ~II Corinthians 12:9, 10

It brought to mind the rough morning I wrote about earlier this week, and reminded me of what He taught me then as well. In my weakness, He is strong. We will all face those days, those times when we come face to face with our own insufficiencies and can also find through them that God is sufficient.

Rather than boasting about some apparent strengths, I would rather boast in my glaring weaknesses, knowing that through those Christ dwelling in me becomes most apparent. As He teaches and remakes me, He continues to shine through me all the more. I am reminded of the passage earlier in chapter four of II Corinthians. Paul talks about the treasure of Jesus Christ that we keep in our simple “earthen vessels.” Showing that the power must be of God and not of us.

At the cross, Christ’s physical weakness reached an incomprehensible nadir, yet there His strength as God overpowered the moment. At that moment he accomplished something despite the weakness of the flesh. His mercy, love, faithfulness, and compassion conquered for eternity.

I pray that this week Christ’s strength would continue to shine through my fleshly weaknesses, that each day I would find my grounding in His sufficient grace. I seek to boast in my weakness, difficulty, and insults that His strength may forever shine through my ‘cracks.’

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

~II Corinthians 12:9, 10~

Friday, April 4, 2008

What do you do?

A few people have asked for more particulars about what I actually do, so I figured I would commit a blog post to answering that question in a little more detail.

The short answer: My husband and I are dorm parents at a residential school.

My typical day that I posted a while back explains a little, but not everything.

The long answer:

Each week we have 12 boys between the ages of 10 and 13 that live with us from Sunday night to Friday night. They go home on the weekends, and during the week they attend school on campus where we live. We do not cook for them, buy their supplies, do their laundry, or teach them (other than the couple hours we spend on homework every night). They do have homes and parents that care deeply for them where they go every weekend. We come alongside their parents as a support.

We do spend a lot of time nurturing them. We work on social skills, building off of the Boys Town model, and character, using the Character Counts program. We also spend quite a bit of time on academics, homework, and study skills. The school is not a Christian school, but espouses a lot of Christian values. My husband and I are born again believers in Jesus Christ and view this as both a job and a ministry to these kids and their families. We have had many opportunities to share our faith with the boys and parents that we have worked with.

The kids come to our school through a variety of avenues. Almost all of them are from single-parent homes, and all of them come from low-income homes. Sometimes they were struggling in school, falling as much as a grade level behind their peers, and a social worker referred them to our program. Others heard about our program from a relative and the parents liked the idea of a safe, structured environment for their child(ren) to spend the school year. They do not have diagnosed behavior disorders, but some do have mild learning disabilities. The kids we work with are the ones that would often slip through the cracks in a typical, 25-30 child public school classroom. Also, because most of their parents are trying to be both mom and dad it is difficult for them to work with their children consistently on homework and teach social skills.

The program receives private funding and the parents pay a small tuition payment each month to have their child here.

We started in this role nine years ago and have enjoyed it immensely. It is rewarding to see them grow and progress academically and socially, but we have also enjoyed many spiritual conversations with them. Only God knows their hearts, but we pray that His word will be printed there and called to mind and that each one would make a personal decision for Him. They see how we really live as individuals and as a family each and every day. We pray daily that we would honor Christ in our home and that they would see that as well and that God would receive the glory.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Whose strength?

Sometimes I need a little stumble to remind me whose strength I live in. Sometimes things quickly pile up and my ‘old nature’ quickly rises to the surface and takes charge. Sometimes I forget that my greatest strength is His until I hear His still, small voice that opens my eyes and reminds me how much I need to rely on Him.

This morning my patience started out in a bear market. Every little rumor or whisper of a rumor continued to drive it down. Nathan making messes, Brooke needing help in the bathroom, some of our boys acting like they forgot some of the rules and expectations, emails from teachers about homework confusion, Daisy (our dog) messing with the garbage. Just ‘one of those’ mornings. I was getting snippy.

We were piling into the car for a little visit with another family and the stress of getting everyone out of the house jumped on me. I snapped at my younger kids. As I sat there starting the car I evaluated my attitude. Way off mark. This was the real me. This was me running on my own energy, my own emotions, my own agenda.

God continued to prod, “How should you be running?” In His power, in His Spirit. Memorizing Scriptures is priceless. Mornings like this when my quiet time from last night has faded to the background, these verses I have memorized throughout the years come to mind.

If we walk in the light as He is in the light . . . Be filled with the Spirit . . . The fruit of the spirit is:

Love . . .

Joy . . .

Peace . . .

Patience . . .

Kindness . . .

(I started getting choked up on these as I realized how many of them were absent from my attitude this morning)

Goodness . . . Faithfulness . . . Gentleness

And, self-control.

Of course, I couldn’t ignore my verse for this week, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Definitely not what I was seeking just then.

Wow, that was enough to mentally digest for the remainder of the car ride. Fortunately, my kids were now quiet as God worked on my heart. He gently brought these verses deep into my being and reworked my attitude and perspective. I remembered what a blessing these children are, what a joy and opportunity my job is, what a loving and protective God I have. How patient and kind He is toward me when I least deserve it.

And, how He continually forgives my wayward heart. The remainder of the day I have still hit speed bumps, but God had realigned my wheels and I didn’t falter when I hit. He stayed in control.

Now, we’ll see about tomorrow.