Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's in your garden?

What's growing? Good question.
Right now . . . lots of weeds.

We hoped to have it tilled this week, but then it started to rain, and rain, and rain. The big lesson of gardening -- I am not in control! Not in control of the bugs, the rodents, the weather.

Less philosophically, I have learned a bit more about gardening as each year goes by. Some years we have harvested quite a few weeds and little else after hours of labor. Still such a novice, but at least not the completely ignorant novice I started out as.

This year, I tried sprouting seeds again, and am relatively pleased with the results. Also, my husband came up with this brilliant idea for getting our plants acclimated to the outdoors in preparation for garden planting time.

Rather than hauling in pot after pot (my plan), we store them in our wagon and I roll them out in the morning (his much better plan), and in at bedtime. Very easy! They have their chance to get used to the wind and the chillier than indoor temps and the rain has watered them as necessary, too. My starter cubicles are getting a little crowded, so I need to move a few more into bigger containers.

I have saved every yogurt, butter, and juice container I could find. I even use our fresh strawberry containers to give seedlings more room to stretch their roots.

Now I need to:

- Sketch out a garden layout
- Jot down a schedule since this is a group effort with a couple others
- Weed around the strawberries that have come back from last year (yeah! -- they were transplants from my mom, so this will be our first year to enjoy them from home)
- put the fence back up after tilling
- scatter marigold seeds around the edge
- plant the seeds and seedlings sometime next week (We will be past our magic frost date by then)

I love these green onions that grow and multiply without any effort on my part. They come back each year and give me bulbs to share with friends. I can run out my kitchen door and grab a couple for topping hot dogs and burgers or using in cooking. And, they started growing early even in these frigid Chicagoland spring days.

So, we already have green onions. In just a few weeks we will get to enjoy lettuce and spinach. Not long after that we will have strawberries, and then peas, raspberries, cucumbers, beans, summer squash, beets, broccoli, peppers, and maybe even a watermelon if we get lucky again. Can't wait!

Raspberry plants showing lots of new growth!
We finally have a big enough patch that we have some
left over to freeze after eating our fill.

Strawberry plants with little blossoms!
These new transplants survived the winter well
and I can't wait for garden fresh strawberries in another month or so.

I haven't had time to do it yet, but I hope to type up all my mom's garden tips this coming week. I have learned so much from her 60 plus years of gardening experience!

Now a bit of light reading to find what else I should have been doing all along:
Magazines from the late 70's passed on
from my great-uncle to my mom and now to me!

Enjoy some other gardening glories, and here, too.

Book basket

Over at The Happy Housewife you will find a newer meme that is right up my alley. I haven't had time to participate until this week (and, even this week time is in question), and I could not let another week go by without sharing some of what we have in our "book basket."

We follow Ambleside Online and currently have kids in Years 2,4,and 6 as well as a couple pre-K "students." So, while our complete reading list includes all of the books scheduled for week 29, I figured this would be a great space to highlight our favorites, and maybe some of our not-so favorites.

My books:

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God (by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald) -- I just got this on hold at the library, after thinking about it for many months. I have just barely cracked the cover and already have been both challenged and encouraged. I'll share more next week when I have gotten further into the book.

Practicing His Presence (by Brother Lawrence) -- This book really opened my eyes to how much of my day I live apart from God's moving in my life. This habit has attracted my focus and really pricked my conscience to develop more intentionality into my daily obedience to Christ. A short read, but by no means easy to apply!

I Kings and II Kings -- Elijah and Elisha led captivating lives. Yet, they struggled as any human does. Amazing to discover their humanness and revel in the depth of their relationships with God. So many amazing experiences and reflections of God's glory in their lives.

Read Alouds:

Around the World in 80 Days (by Jules Verne) -- We read this in little bits at a time and spread it out too much. The kids did all enjoy it, but it was still a little anti-climactic since we had seen the movie and despite the differences the ending have a lot of similarities. A worthwhile and intriguing story regardless! Read it online here.

Amy Carmichael: A Chance to Die (by Elizabeth Elliot) -- We always follow up Bible time with a Christian biography and Amy has already taught us much, and she hasn't even gotten to India yet! I pray that God would use me to instill so great a faith in my own children as Amy's parents helped pour into her.

Cricket in Times Square (by George Selden) -- We always have an audio book for car rides and we must have spent a lot of time in the car this week, because we finished this in less than a week. Definitely geared toward younger kids (my 5 year old says she loved it more than any others we have heard recently), but enjoyed by all. I loved the audio version also, because they had cricket noises in the background playing the appropriate songs throughout.

We are also listening to Brighty of Grand Canyon, and while it is a charming story, it has not had the great reception in the van that many stories have enjoyed. Moves a little slowly in places.

Blake (11 yo):

Never Give In (by Stephen Mansfield) -- Biography of Winston Churchill. Offers a summary of Churchill's life and reveals his fingerprints on history. Also, digs into the character of this unforgettable personality. Well written and insightful, but the format is a bit repetitive. It summarizes his life then breaks it down into topics and many of the events of his life are then categorized to show greater insight into the man.

Paige (9 yo):

The Story of Helen Keller -- We talked a little about the book before she started reading it, but Paige dove right in and couldn't wait to tell me all she had read the next day. Aside from Cam Jansen, I have not found too many books that she reads with enthusiasm, but this one grabbed her attention.

Abigail Adams (by Natalie S. Bober) -- Although a required book for school work, we are both really enjoying this book. I get disappointed when she reads ahead without me, but that's okay. Engaging and informative, this book has given us an intimate glimpse at early United States history from a personal perspective. Portraying life in both the familial and political realm, the author gives a complete picture of daily life in the Adams' household.

Faith (7 yo):

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa (by Erica Silverman) -- My cowgirl hardly ever comes away from the library without at least one of the books in this series. Written at about an early second grade level, she can read them on her own and they leave her with wonderful cowgirl dreams even after the book ends.

Twenty-one Balloons (by William Pene du Bois ) -- Oddly similar to around the world in 80 days, but not as polished, this has become the bedtime story for Faith (I read to her). Right now we are in the diamond mines of Krakatoa and have enjoyed the bumpy balloon ride it took to get there. Others try to listen in as well, so I would say it is being enjoyed by many, but it is a longer read.

Brooke and Nathan (5 and 3):

Life Size Animal Counting Book (Dorling Kindersley Publishers) -- One of our book sale finds from last week, I have a soft spot for DK books ever since attending a book show at a friends house years ago. I love the real life pictures and the animated conversations they prompt in the midst of exploring each page together.

Where the Buffaloes Begin (by Olaff Baker) -- I sometimes shy away from Native American tales for little ones because they generally have a spiritist perspective, but this story we could enjoy as just a story. We made simple "blankets" with paper bag, cut fringes on the edges, and decorated with markers. A fun activity while the "big kids" participated in gym class.

Take a peek in some other Book Baskets.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

wfmw -- White boards

I'm not sure how I survived before we had white boards.

A buck a piece at the time, I think they run about $2.50 now at Millers, less in bulk.

And, how many ways can I think of to use these:

- Copywork -- I write it once for all to see, and they copy on their separate pages (best with older kids, but shorter passages)

- Practice work -- math facts especially! They seem way more fun on a white board than notebook paper.

- Speed drill competitions -- spelling, review/quizzes, basic facts, etc.

- Rearranging the daily schedule -- when we get a little off track (phone calls, illness, broken dryers, drop-in guests, etc.), I use the white board to post our adjusted schedule for the remainder of the day. It keeps us all focused an motivated. Keeps me from constantly replaying what I need to still accomplish and the kids from asking "what now?"

- Items for kids to add to their assignment sheets -- Each week the kids keep track of any outside activities on their assignment sheet and we store it for a permanent record. Rather than my having to write it three separate times, I write it once on the board and they copy it for themselves.

- Spelling help -- This also saves me from interrupting a reading lesson every thirty seconds to spell a word orally, again, and again, letter by letter.

- To do lists -- even chores become more fun when you can erase them. A clean board is reward enough for tasks completed.

And, of course, it saves paper. I used to use them to keep little ones busy as well, but found it ended up causing more harm than good (dry erase markers do not come off other surfaces nearly as easily as they come off the white boards).

Of course, now and then someone accidentally takes a permanent marker to the dry erase board, and Kris gave a great idea for taking care of that, too.

Not enough uses for you? Check the comments as the list continues . . .

What other uses do you have for the can't-live-without white board?

Look for more WFMW.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Verse of the week - Ezekiel 12:2

my son's eye. by sungazing

In my line of sight

Shoes that need tying
food cooking
laundry getting folded
kids playing
birds building nests
stories shared
school work studied
balls tossed
sunshine glaring

So much that I see in one day! But how much of it do I really see? And, in what I do see, what do I really process with any depth?

In reading Practicing the Presence of God, I have struggled to remain in God's presence habitually. So, I decided to work on tackling one part of my life at a time, starting with my vision. Not my vision for the future or myself, but my actual sight.

How would God see these daily occurrences? I realized how distracted my sight is. Tying a shoe while thinking about bills. Watching a child animatedly recount a story while I mentally review my pressing to-do list. I need to stop and look with intentionality.

Is this really just a mindless-mommy task, or is it a chance to serve?

My day looks very different when I filter it this way. I see opportunities to serve, relationships growing, children to love, people in need of salvation, nature proclaiming God's glory. Everything around me and every experience I walk through becomes a glimpse into Him.

I don't want to be one who sees and hears without truly seeing and hearing. As God said to Ezekiel in chapter 12 verse 2, "Son of man, you live in the A)">midst of the rebellious house, who C)">have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house." I don't want to be associated with that rebellious house.

When I see good works it should trigger my thoughts to glorify God (Matthew 5:16). That's what my sight is for. No one has actually seen God in all His glory, but I can "see" Him if I look for Him at work around me (I John 4:12,13). While I am certain of what I do not see (Hebrews 11:1), I also need to look for God in what I do see.

This is work enough for now . . . Seeing through God's eyes the people, the creation, the world around me.

Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house.

~Ezekiel 12:2~

As I stated previously, I would love to pray for you specifically each week, and I will add any requests that I have there as well. Please share in the comments any prayer requests, updates, praises, or anything else of note.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- April 24

We spent this week in warp speed, and won't slow down for another six days, at least. Then we get a breather and lots of fun, and relaxing, items on our agenda once again.

I have come to a place of resolution with my kids finishing their core school work by Wednesday. I did add a little to their scheduled work (6 days of math and English instead of 5 a week) and added some activities that we explore together (science projects, outdoor exploring, oral reading, crafts, etc.) So far so good. I look forward to tweaking next year's schedule to accommodate this format a little more comfortably.

Friday we happened upon a used book sale at a local elementary school and came away with some steals! Twenty bucks bought us a loaded box of books with lots of titles I actually needed for school next year.

Nothing much this weekend (yeah, right). . . the girls went to a play with Grandma, then a birthday party and opening day for baseball season, the dress rehearsal for our final drama performance and then off we go into another week.

Light bulb moments:

- This week it was my turn for a light bulb moment. I realized that I really love where God has me right now.

He spoke to me through David's unrealized dream to build the temple mentioned by Solomon in I Kings 8:17-19. It was good for him to have this longing, but it wasn't God's design for David to actually build it.

I have a burning passion for missions, have since I was 8 years old in Brownies. I remember having to draw a picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I drew a missionary pilot, and then hid, realizing it was probably a bit odd. While the pilot part left the vision, the missionary part never has.

As I read about David's dream, I recognized that my dream might not become reality in my lifetime, but it is still part of who I am and influences how I live my life wherever God draws me. Right now, God has me working passionately to raise my kids, and pass along that dream. Right now, God gives me incredible joy in each daily task. I excitedly look forward to a relaxing Monday night, Tuesday night board games, Wednesday night AWANA involvements, Thursday night pizza and a movie, and Friday night Bible study. Even though I am no where geographically near where I thought I would be at this point in my life, God has graciously given me joy for each of these activities with eternal outcomes, as everyday as they seem.

Favorite moments of the week:

- Visit to a nearby farm for "fertilizer." The kids loved the quick visit with the dogs, chickens, goats, and various other "friends" while I loaded up a couple garbage cans with composted chicken manure to bring back for our garden. Nothing like a beautiful spring day at the farm to shake off the last shreds of cabin fever.

A handmade basket to hold
those ever important scraps of shredded paper.

- Last week -- we enjoyed a day at a baseball game for a reading reward and a basket making class at our house with other homeschoolers. It is encouraging to watch my kids put extra effort into their school work so as to enjoy these activities without skipping any academic areas for the week.

Challenges faced (and conquered!):

- Recently I have noticed that my almost 12 year old son needs some more energy outlets. He has gotten in trouble more often recently for playing a little too aggressively and needing reminders to keep his hands to himself. I finally figured out that despite his greater level of activity lately, he still needs more, and possibly more intentional, structured active time as well. So, now when a child comes to report his "bothering" them he gets some work to do. I think he actually likes it. I had him weeding around the raspberries, and today while we were outside he voluntarily did some more weeding. A little bit of energy burned off, and he's good to go!

- Nathan (3 years old) has struggled with telling the truth when he knows he faces a consequence. Today he hurt his sister (during prayer, no less), and I pulled him over to talk. I asked what he did and he said, "I pinched." Yeah!!!! He still had his consequence for pinching, but I even had to brag to Daddy later about his blossoming honesty. The both beamed! We still need to get past the pinching, but this in itself was a great victory.

Favorite passages from our books:

- Galileo and the Magic Numbers -- we had some great conversations about the compatibility of faith and science and the security our faith enjoys when placed in the Bible and God alone, not how others interpret the Bible. This can be a difficult book to get a hold of, but we could hardly put it down.

- Snow Treasure -- This was a fun, fairly short read that we listened to on audio book. It prompted discussions on the value of freedom as hung in the balance with life itself. I know WWII is not all that long ago, but the evil of Nazi Germany seems so surreal and powerful it hardly seems it could ever have happened.

More Weekly Wrap-ups

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- grande finale?

As I think about wrapping up this series, I realize that I could never fit all I have learned, and more importantly, all I have left to learn in a handful of posts.

I pray that my thoughts and ideas have encouraged you in your mothering role, and know that while this series nears its end, God has plenty to teach me still as a mom. So, you can expect them to keep trickling in.

A while back I wrote about some of the character training we have done in our house, so I don't want to just repeat that. However, aside from a brief mention of it in that post, I haven't talked about the social skill training that we do in our home.

While pregnant with our second child we moved into a residential school for boys as houseparents to twelve students in third through fifth grade. That experience introduced us to a formal method of teaching social skills based on the Boys' Town model.

We learned that social skills do not come naturally to kids (obviously), and we need to intentionally teach our children how they should respond in various situations.

Basically, any social skill that you expect your child to exhibit should have clear steps founded with logical rationales and role played in non-emotional settings to help establish the habit. Also, while they continue to learn the proper social behaviors they need lots of reinforcement and reteaching of the expectations, as well as consequences when they blatantly violate clear boundaries.

For example . . . Accepting 'No' for an answer. This is HUGE!!! If children can control themselves and master this one, life gets a whole lot easier. Have you ever thought about it before? What do you really expect from your child when you tell them 'no' instead of giving them permission? Do they know what you expect?

The steps:

- Look at the person
- Say 'okay'
- Stay calm (or calmly ask for clarification)
- If you disagree, ask later

It always amused me when role playing this with boys of various ages. After teaching the steps and beginning to memorize them together we would prompt them to ask for anything they felt like, knowing that the answer would be 'no.'

They would mull it over for a minute and then ask for something. We said, "No." Almost without exception they showed the need for teaching in this area. They would hang their head, grumble, roll their eyes, etc. So, we would start again and after a while the habit would sink in.

And, when they got it in role playing sessions, they could often put the skill into practice when faced with the real deal. We would still encourage them throughout the process as they learned these new skills.

Although we initially came into contact with these social skills in our interactions with other people's children, we quickly saw the benefits in our own children. They learned to say "okay" quickly and respectfully. They do still go through times of poor attitudes, or "forgetfulness" about the application of the various skills. However, the social skills with their concrete steps have given us something to come back to when expectations seem hazy.

I do need to clarify that these skills help raise socially adept children, not necessarily godly ones. Sometimes we confuse the two. We have a responsibility to teach our kids moral standards and proper manners, but we can't blur those with the need to teach our children to walk in Christ's footprints. Ultimately, our kids will walk their own path out of our home, and we will see how much has filtered further than habits.

For now, we train, teach, model, and pray, and pray, and pray.

What social skills do you emphasize in your home? How do you teach them? What areas of character, manners, or social skill training do you think are essential to child rearing? What areas do you think are most lacking in our society today?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Verse of the Week -- Job 2:10

Basket Weaving in <span class=

The weaver works carefully, bent over her work. Moving swiftly she blends the colors in a pattern that draws out the simple voice of each one. The contrast accents the bright colors and beautifies the dark ones. Each one woven in just the right way to create a magnificent end result.

Color and variety capture our attention, giving us more to look at. As God weaves our lives He uses a variety of colors. Bright and dark, good and bad, exciting and boring, loud and quiet, in solitude or grouped together. All of these experiences decorate our lives and personalities, they create our unique life pattern.

We would not really want our life to be just one color -- everyday the same experience.

The differences add to the beauty. Think of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. And all that God used to decorate his life -- a doting father, a multi colored wedge in his sibling relationships, his dreams, thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, a strong work ethic, false accusations of misconduct, prison time, forgotten, rising to power. He would not be who he was without all he experienced, the dark times, the exciting moments, the bright times, the hard times. God wove them together to create a man that He could use in a powerful way. We need to praise God through it all.

As it says in Job 2:10, "But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips." We greedily accept the blessing, but scorn the difficult times.

God has a purpose for many different times that we face. Even the dusty darkness can glitter when His light hits it. I would much rather follow Job's example of quiet reverence than react like a foolish woman.

Respond with trust, honor, and even thankfulness. It will all weave me into the person that God can use all the more.

But he said unto her, Thou speakest
as one of the foolish women speaketh.
What? shall we receive good at the hand of God,
and shall we not receive evil?
In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
~Job 2:10~

As I stated last week, I would love to pray for you specifically each week, and I will add any requests that I have there as well. Please share in the comments any prayer requests, updates, praises, or anything else of note.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Just a window

Some little thoughts I just had . . .

Old Window by Madddy ~ very busy

I'm really just a window
For others to see through
Nothing in and of myself --
What matters is the view

I pray I don't drowned out,
With flecks of dirt and streaks,
The message God displays
For those He loves and seeks.

His majesty and wisdom,
His sovereignty and love,
Come shining gently through
So clearly from above.

Just as a simple pane of glass
I cannot boast a story.
The scenery that lies beyond
Contains the only glory.

I'm not much of a poet, but somehow this kept coming out in verse, so I kind of left it as is, maybe Amy Carmichael is seeping in to my thinking. In preparing a devotional for tomorrow's Keeper's club these thoughts struck me. I'll share more of the rest of the devotional when I have time this weekend, I hope.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review: WeE-books

Power packed, and reasonably priced, WeE-books provide just enough information to swallow in one sitting and get you back on your feet again.

These endearing little e-books cover a variety of topics (37 and counting) pertinent to homeschooling.

From unit studies to inspirational writing,
some geared for the student and others for the teacher,
ranging from lighthearted to meaty,
exploring both the academic and the relational,
and spanning topics that will intrigue the novice and the veteran.

In choosing three of these nuggets to review I had a tough time narrowing the list, but decided on the following:

E-Book: <span class= Fall Harvest: Where's the Fruit?

Passing along my faith remains a core value for me, and Deborah Wuehler offered some encouragement as I look, sometimes unsuccessfully, for the fruit in my children's lives. She looks at each age grouping and examines what to expect, how to tend our "plants," challenges us to not grow lazy, and gently prods to stay the course. It is a great reminder that fruit takes time and will come as the Holy Spirit interacts with our child personally. I should not give up, and neither should I become discouraged when the fruit seems long in coming. She helps us see the fruit, or, more often, the promise of the fruit to come. A good reminder that God continues to work in my own life as well.

Following The Iditarod E-Book: <span class=

As the Iditarod has become one of our annual schoolfellows, I looked eagerly to this book to consolidate information and offer a new spark for next year's study. It did not disappoint. Author Dena Wood shared websites and links as well as how to put together a great unit study while following the "Last Great Race." She offers insight into incorporating math, science, Language Arts, Bible, geography, and many other subjects along with worksheets (with answer keys) and lots of copy work pages for you to print right off and use. This book offers a great, easy to pick up and put-to-use study of the Iditarod.

E-Book: <span class= Beating the Summertime Blues

I absolutely love homeschooling my kids, but I do really look forward to summer, too. However, come July I actually find our summer schedule a little monotonous (swim, dry off, swim again), but Kim Kautzer has given me a few more tricks to pull out in those days that will arrive quicker than we can even dig out the swim suit. She encourages homeschool moms to refresh, retreat a bit, and refill their own energy levels. Then, jump in and enjoy the summer. She offers a great balance of ideas including light academics, exploration, and plain old fun. I had already decided we would spend some time on creative writing this summer and she has stimulated my thinking even further. I look forward to building more special memories at home and around the community thanks to the ideas she shared.

Just the pick-me-ups and inspirations that I expected from the WeEbook line of books. Now I need to decide which of the other 34 titles to choose next! How about you?

Sharing Footprints -- Some practical parenting tips

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are . . .

More than just a children's song, this has become our family's waiting song.

Children need to learn patience from an early age. They need to wait for their food, wait for the car ride to end, wait to be held, wait for the diaper change to end, wait in their crib when they awake.

This simple song helped them learn to wait. It started as I heated up dinner for our first little boy. I remember him just seven or eight months old and hungry for his dinner, starting to fuss. I gently told him it would come soon and began to sing, slowly, the words to Twinkle, Twinkle.

Magic! He calmed and joined in "babababa" and waved his arms around for the twinkling stars. A habit was born.

It takes us about 30 seconds to sing a verse of the song together and that often seems just about right for quelling impatience and restoring a good mood, punctuated with a smile and Eskimo kisses.

All of my children have since benefited from the patience taught them by the twinkling stars, and they soon learn other ways to occupy themselves when the wait is longer or when they have outgrown nursery songs.

In hindsight I should have chosen a simple hymn or Jesus Loves Me, but I didn't, and the habit is firmly stuck. We do occasionally now sing the Patience song from Music Machine. That has such practical lyrics:

Have patience, have patience
Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient
You only start to worry.
Remember, remember,
That God is patient, too.
And, think of all the times
When others have to wait for you.

Too late to change our habit, and I don't have any interactive motions to accompany it. Now the first songs our kids learn are generally Twinkle, Twinkle; Jesus Loves Me; and then Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Go figure. I don't think that list bears any direct correlation to the priorities in our home, but it does give me pause now and then.

They learned the essential habit of waiting though, and that is priceless.

More Works for Me Wednesday.

More from my Sharing Footprints series on parenting.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: HomeWork

I believe that homeschooling and book-a-holism are codependent. And, thanks to the advent of ebooks we can take this obsession to a whole new level, without ever leaving our computer.

The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) has many ebooks to support our habit and encourage us on our journey. One of their recent releases helps address the challenge of balancing gainful employment in the home and homeschooling. As I have walked this road myself, I was eager to hear what these brave moms had to share.

E-Book: HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing - Click Image to Close

HomeWork offers a transparent collage of business ideas and daily challenges (with solutions) in the ever difficult balancing act of the work at home, busy-every-spare-minute-of-the-day, homeschooling mom. While others may see them as super moms, or three headed monsters as one contributor quipped, these women know the complexities of their schedules and the impossibility of the daily task ahead of them.

Some life learned lessons they share include:

- Prioritizing and flexibility

- Getting used to a little chaos and mess

- Blending school and work tasks for unconventional education opportunities for the kids

- Following your dreams and interests

Some areas in which they offer practical tips:

- Software and programs that helped them get started

- A myriad of income sources that you could pursue

- Websites and online resources

- Creative scheduling solutions

Just some of the many jobs represented by the contributors:

- Running a Bed and Breakfast

- Writing and publishing

- Recycling jeans

- Selling books

- Travel consultant

In these times of tough economic situations, many homeschool moms feel pulled into the workplace to help supplement the family income. HomeWork can help provide the ideas, practical steps, and inspiration to help you stay at home and still bring in the needed additional income.

These situations will not work for everyone or in every home, but these personal stories can help you begin to ask the questions needed to evaluate if it would fit in your home. The contributors talk plainly about learning curves, limited income, long hours, and at times little sleep. It is not an easy path, but it is possible, and can offer incredible rewards even beyond the money.

Others already squeeze work and schooling into their daily lives and feel the drain and stress. HomeWork offers wisdom others have learned from walking in those shoes as well. God will give us the strength we need to accomplish all He has for us to do, and this book can help you in that journey to find encouragement and strength to not grow weary in well doing.

HomeWork, complete with need-to-know organizational advice, resources, and inspiration, is available on the TOS website for just $12.45, in the form of an instantly downloadable ebook.

Take a minute to pick one up and in a matter of minutes you can be inspired as well.

Prayer requests

in prayer by ypoons_55.

If you have not already, please take a peak at the comments section of the Verse of the Week post for this week. I am starting a new habit of asking for prayer requests for the week ahead along with this weekly post.

If you have an area that you would like to ask prayer for (as specific or vague as you are comfortable with), please post a comment. I will pray through these throughout the week and I encourage you to pray for the other needs mentioned as well.

Thank you to those who have already posted and prayed.

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. ~Jeremiah 33:3

The Hope of Easter

The Ultimate Sacrifice by Villa Sams.

As I reflect on the cross and all Christ gave up for me, I often give in to pangs of guilt that I have so little to offer in return. Daily I fail miserably at living the Christian life. Daily I fall short of His holiness despite the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I found great encouragement in these words of Brother Lawrence:

We ought not to be discouraged on account of our sins; rather, simply pray for the Lord's grace with perfect confidence, relying upon the infinite mercies of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has never failed offering us His grace at each action. I can distinctly perceive that grace, and I am never without a sense of that grace unless it is when my thoughts have wandered from a sense of God's presence or I have forgotten to ask the Lord for His assistance.

God always gives us light in our doubt when we have no other design except to please Him.

Our sanctification does not depend upon changing our works, but in doing for God's sake all those things which we commonly do for our own.

I will fail, and so will my kids. I should not wallow in guilt or despair, and I should not encourage or provoke them to either. Christ has paid the price, and rose victorious over death and the grave. We don't need to condemn ourselves any longer, but rather permit each falling short to reveal to us more fully the grace of God.

It would be an awful thing to fall, a sinner, in the hands of an angry God, but it is even a more incredible thing to find ourselves forgiven, wrapped in the arms of His measureless mercy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Verse of the Week -- Can I pray for you? -- James 5:16

God has prompted once again through this person, and that verse, through a circumstance and thought processes. Something a little new . . .

Do you know that I pray for you? I pray over these posts, I pray over the readers, I pray for those that stumble upon my site through various searches and links. I want to pray more efficiently, if you'll let me. So I'm going to add a little tag to the end of my verse of the week entries.

James 5:16 says, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." I memorized this verse back in my Teen Missions days and it has often come to mind. Sometimes I feel I don't fall into the "righteous" category, but I remember it is His righteousness, not my own, His victory, not my feeble attempt.

The promise of this verse is endearing . . . we will find healing. As we come together with transparency and prayer, God hears us. Will you pray with me?

Confess your faults one to another,
and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
~James 5:16~

If you would like me (and other readers) to pray for you, please leave a comment. Be as specific or vague as you would like in asking prayer for yourself or a loved one. I will come back to this post each day and pray over the requests left here and would encourage you to pray for each other as well. This is an incredible privilege we have to raise up the weary hands and challenged emotions of those around us, and have others lift us up as well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- April 10

As we race off towards summer our calendar has more and more events pulling us away from home one or two days a week. The pace doesn't appear to let up until June when we set up the pool and cut down school to three days a week. For now, we seem to get an amazing amount of work done for the time we do school at home in our regular spots.

We have now added gymnastics to the routine each week and Brooke enjoys the new challenge.

We learned we didn't want to fall in -- the tanks are 22 feet deep!

On Thursday we had a double whammy of outings. First, we joined other homeschoolers for a trip to the water treatment plant. Magic School Bus at the Waterworks come to life (minus the magic bus and snorkeling gear). It gave us a greater understanding of where our water comes from and what it looks like throughout the process.

Some of the many chemicals used to purify the water
in its journey from river water to drinking water.

My only minor complaint was the guide trying to keep the information in simple terms for the younger kids in the group. He had a wealth of information to share, but seemed to skip some of the large words and more complex processes as he spoke. At one point one of the other moms said, "It's okay, they're homeschool kids, you can tell them about the infrastructure. It will give us more to talk about on the ride home." I don't know if he really believed her, but I was thankful that he left in some of the more complicated topics. It was great to have someone who really knew what they were talking about, and the kids absorbed a lot of the information.

Water in the first tank that filters out the big debris, largely through settling.

Home for lunch and a couple hours of book work in the afternoon and then off to the movies. Movies? Yep, sometimes homeschooling can be tough.

The IMax theater near us offers a free educator's screening once a month or so. Often the films are educational in scope - Lewis and Clark, marine life, etc. But, this month they featured Monsters vs. Aliens. Obviously a just for fun movie. We can bring one guest with for free, and since my husband works in a school he could also attend and bring one guest.

So, we went with two of our children and enjoyed the film. In addition to some of the distasteful humor (not too much of it, but you can read more about what would have been better left out on the Plugged In movie review), I was bothered by the portrayal of women's roles.

Initially, I was pleasantly surprised when Susan stands by her groom as he shares they must skip their honeymoon for a job interview (although later he shows his true, rather selfish, colors). However, later in the movie she "discovers" all that she let herself miss out on by not recognizing her own strength (both physical and emotional). While I agree we need to have confidence in ourselves, there is nothing weak about a woman willing to take on the role of wife and mother. A common misconception in our society that I did not expect a Hollywood production to disagree with, but one that we discussed on the car ride home.

Some things we learned this week:

- Don't overlook some of the ordinary places around you for field trips
- Enjoy opportunities to grow together and treasure those special moments even throughout the regular school day.
- Summer will be here before we know it!

All in all, a week with fun and memories, great books and some quality time with the Greatest Book of all

Enjoy celebrating our Risen Lord this weekend.

More weekly wrap ups here.

Sharing Footprints -- Formula for success?

Here is what often comes across when we talk about parenting:

Committed parent + perfect parenting technique = well behaved kids

Well, that's only partly true. More realistically:

God-fearing, loving parent + consistently implemented (as much as humanly possible) parenting technique = kids that generally will show improvement rather than regression

In writing this series I did not want to portray the thinking that we just need to find the right tricks or techniques to produce perfect children all the time. My kids will cease sinning when they cross the same threshold that I need to cross for that to happen -- the one that takes us into eternity. Until then, we have this nagging old nature that will continue to trip us up regardless of the power and perfection of God. That is the truth of the world He has allowed us to live in for the time being.

We should see improvement, and we should not ignore behaviors and attitudes that need attention, but we should not expect to eradicate sin from our home through consistent implementation of the "right" method. Our children remain human, full of their own personality, character, quirks, and pitfalls. But, we can prayerfully lead them in the right direction and help them to continue to find greater success as they surrender their wills to His.

And often, along the way, we will learn a lot as well.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are you still in His Word?

We are a quarter of a way into the year (plus a week), so I find this a good time to revisit some of my goals and see what needs tweaking, eliminating, and refocusing.

In all honesty, I got a few chapters behind in my Bible reading. As intrigued as I am by a challenge I heard to read the Bible through in 90 days, right now the 12 month plan is already a challenge enough.

So, as I sat to catch up on my reading, and write my post for 66 books, I figured I would check in with all of you as well.

How are you doing? Are you on track with your goals for spiritual growth? What goals? Well, maybe you could start with Brother Lawrence. He'll give you lots to chew on. And, if you aren't quite ready for that, then jump in with our reading through the Bible in a year plan. Fifteen minutes a day or so, and you'll hunger for more.

Whatever your objective, I invite you to prepare for the weekend ahead. Passionate Homemaking has some great links up for you to use on your own or with your family. We've been enjoying walking through Jesus' final days using this devotional guide for our Bible time in the morning. I didn't plan in advance, so we don't have candles to light, but it has prompted some meaningful conversations with my kids as we see what Jesus faced that tumultuous week leading up to his crucifixion.

We first need to come to the cross. As my pastor pointed out this past week, Good Friday is kind of like a slingshot, strained, pulled back. And then, come Easter, we let it fly. A word picture I keep coming back to this week.

I look forward to spending some time at the foot of the cross.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kid speak

three more to go...14/365 by candycanedisco

As Blake handed in his English test today he gave me this bit of advice for grading:

Just so you know, if I got any wrong it is probably really just a spelling error. Sometimes I forget how to spell 'noun' and mistakenly spell it 'v-e-r-b.'

Practicing His Presence

Most books I don't put in the realm of life changing. Maybe week altering or habit tweaking, but not life changing.

This one is . . . life changing.

The Practice of the Presence of God

Innocently, I opened the book and began to read. I always have a book by my bedside and had recently skimmed Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda, and this was the next on my list, simple as that. But, this book would be no easy reading. Not that the writing or vocabulary presents a challenge, but the challenge of its message leads where I don't even know if I can go, not without a lot of supernatural intervention.

Brother Lawrence lived nearly 400 years ago and walked closely in God's footprints. The insight that he gained through that humble, holy walk came together after his death as a book entitled The Practice of the Presence of God. Over the years people have published, and republished, arranged, and rearranged his teachings, to the benefit of countless Christians.

The particular edition that I have includes letters from a missionary to the Philippines, Frank Laubach. Laubach shares transparently the challenge of living in God's presence, how mind altering the awareness of God is, and the difference between a day lived in His presence and a day lived for himself.

I put down the book after reading just a few pages, because I realized how much my selfish self wanted control of most of my day still. Giving in to God means not letting emotions run away with me, ever. It means not wasting time on triviality. It means loving constantly, praying unceasingly, and giving endless thanks.

It took a couple days to prepare myself for this level of devotion, and I realize it will continue as a life long journey toward a walk more close to Him. I always want to follow Him, but have not made it a practice to pause throughout the day to come back to that. While I may think about Him and His Word often, this book has challenged me to make it more consistent.

He started with every fifteen minutes. Four times an hour he practiced returning mentally to the presence of God, renewing his mind. Amazing how far your mind can travel in fifteen minutes.

After a few days, I still often step further from the path than I would like to admit. I still forget to even reset my thinking every fifteen minutes. This is not a habit or practice that clicks overnight, but I must continue on.

Each step in obedience to Him, each thought, each word, each moment spent, each breath given in worship and faithfulness to Him and His call to follow.

Not for the strong, but for the sinners saved by grace; not for the quiters, but for those ready to die to self; not for the victors, but for the downtrodden ready to try a higher path. I still don't feel ready for this challenge either, but it's not mine to claim, it's His. His presence.

Ready to relinquish control? You might find this book at your library, and most likely at your Christian book store. Or, to read this life changing book you can find it free online at Project Gutenburg. If you need an even easier route to this treasure, you can listen to the audio book free online as well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- practical parenting tip: the countdown

Just a quick thought to share . . . While I expect first time obedience from my children I ran into an issue with the speed of a job done.

If they don't even move when told to take care of a task that clearly falls in the disobedience category. But, it gets a little more grey when they get up, walk to take care of it, but not quite as quickly as you might like. So, we started counting down.

This works well for situations like getting dressed, emptying garbage cans, cleaning up toys, and similar multi-step tasks that require focus, but aren't really detail oriented. This does not work for tasks like brushing teeth, cleaning windows, and folding laundry where tasks require greater care and time.

Here's how it looks:

"Nathan, it is time to get dressed. Your clothes are on your bed. I need you to put them on. Ready?"

Big grin back at me as he poises for action.

10 (And they're off! . . . his pajamas are quickly off and in the hamper)
9 - 8 (back to grab his pants and he pulls them up quickly)
7 - (Nathan faces a little hang up with his snap, so my counting temporarily slows a bit as I help him. I'm not trying to trick him or give him a challenge he can't handle. I'm trying to motivate him to work quickly without distraction)
6 - 5 (back on track, Nathan grabs his shirt and it comes over his head in record time)
4 - 3 - 2 (my counting speeds up to keep him moving as he shoots his sleeves through the arms. And, he beat me once again)

When first introduced, we sometimes give them a second chance to "beat the clock" if we can tell they are really trying. This is a case where we are disciplining their heart, not necessarily their actions. Their actions might be doing what we said, although not the way we wanted, and that is because their heart is not quite where it should be.

Once they are used to this, they know a consequence will be handed out if they do not meet the deadline. We adjust our counting (but don't ever stall at the "one and a half, one and a quarter . . . ") if something unusual comes up. And, we don't always have to start at ten. If we are telling everyone to get in their seat and they have a couple toys to clean up quickly we can start from five, or twenty if needed.

This has given us a simple way to encourage quick obedience and discourage hesitancy in obedience.

Once kids have reached the age of six or seven we don't use the counting down much any more because the standard is clear. For the young kids it helps them learn where the bar is set and encourages them in a lighthearted way to pick up the pace.

This is a great method that has worked for us.

To read more in my current blog series: Sharing footprints

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Verse of the week - Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Picture of Flowers - Free Pictures -

Our home already has that backdrop and foundation in the Bible from church, AWANA, daily Bible times, and special mentoring moments. It is important that it is a comfortable part of the rest of our life as well. I have often said that the 'when you rise up' and 'when you lie down' are the easy parts. It's the 'walk along the way' and 'sit in the house' that I have to continue to work on.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 gives us some ideas for implementation along with the command, "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."

Some ways we have worked to live this out in our home:

- Post Scripture verses around the house. Keep the Word visible.

- Memorize verses together

- Know what they are learning -- in their own reading, at church, etc. Keep talking about it and helping them see how it fits into experiences throughout the week.

- Bring the pwoerful words of Scripture into your conversations. Instead of just saying, "Be nice!" Use your words to encourage kindness. Nice is just fluffy. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. Scripture carries far more power than our thoughts and contributions to a situation. If we can continue to help our children build their lives on His Word they will learn to draw from it on their own.

I have been so struck with the strong Christian families of Corrie Ten Boom and Amy Carmichael. God's orchestrating of their life experiences comes through so clearly. What a powerful vision to carry as a mom!

And these words, which I command thee this day,
shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt
teach them diligently unto thy children,
and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house,
and when thou walkest by the way,
and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house,
and on thy gates.

~Deuteronomy 6:6-9~

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- April 3

This time of year I think I actually enjoy homeschooling even more. The weather gives us more time outside, I have some excitement as we begin to think about fresh plans for next year (and our summer plans), you can really see how far we have come this school year on so many fronts. And, the kids have been amazingly productive lately, so we have had extra time to have lots of fun!

This week my sister and her son had Spring Break, so we enjoyed visiting a local science museum with them, along with half the population of the city! They had so many fun little exhibits for the kids to get their hands into.

Brooke trying to work a wrench with massive rubber gloves on.

Of course, the obligatory bubble station, which the kids always love no matter how many times they have seen it:

A fun TV station control room allows kids to perform their own newscast in front of a blue screen while someone else runs the controls:
Nathan just liked that he found buttons to push and levers to move.

And, this exhibit has always fascinated me as it seems magical. The spinning wheel causes you to spin on the stool. Lots of fun!

They had lots of great reinforcement of what we have studied on various scientists as well including the Archimedes screw, fiberoptics, prisms, levers, etc. After four hours we had seen most of it, but they could have stayed all night!

The rest of the week trucked along through school work with various highlights.

Favorite moments of the week:

- Lots of together time. We have spent a lot of time together lately working, playing, reading, growing. I love that!

- Hide the kid. We played a new game we invented for family game night. We broke into two teams and each team hid one of the little kids for the other team to find. We split the house into two sections and rotated in each part. It was kind of like an advanced version of hide and seek. We all had a great time and it satisfied my older son's request for a more active game.

- Growing moments. We took a break from our study of the Fruits of the Spirit to talk about a growing grumbling in the house. It was amazingly productive and set the stage for lots of fruitful conversations throughout the week. It is such a treasure to see kids begin to grasp Biblical concepts and apply them.

Challenges faced:

- Another rare week of few challenges to note. They will still come, but this week went wonderfully smooth.

Favorite passages in our books :

Some or all of us are reading so much great stuff right now (Around the World in 80 Days, The Long Winter, The Little Town on the Prairie, Galileo and the Magic Numbers, Never Give In, Robin Hood, Abigail Adams, Amy Carmichael's biography, etc.) This is hard to narrow down.

- Galileo -- an amazingly inventive mind. To realize all that he accomplished, going against the flow. Before the day of reliable clocks he figured out how to use his pulse to time happenings and the created the first mechanism to take your pulse. Hard to imagine a time when some of our simple modern tools did not exist.

- Amy Carmichael -- such incredible trust in God's leading! God prepared her for her work in so many ways and through so many experiences. Makes me wonder what God is preparing my children for right now. I pray that they have a solid foundation in Him that whatever they face in life (marriage, parenthood, mission work, schooling, careers, responsibilities, etc.) they will follow Him first and foremost without wavering. Listening to His voice above all others.

More weekly wrap up here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- Mommy's time share program

Mom, can you play with me?

Mom, can you hold me?

Mom, can you read this to me?

Mom, I'm hungry.

Mom, can you play catch with me?

Some days I need a clone, maybe a few.
Much of our day is structured -- chores, school, meals, bedtime, etc. Those snippets of time here and there, and the times before and after our day clips along I find myself peppered with these questions. And, of course, I still want, or need, to find time for my Bible time, paperwork, and other essentials.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve that help me pack more into those precious minutes I have with my kids, because, as I said before, you've got to have fun with them. And, these eighteen years are going way to fast.

- Say 'yes'! If I can, I do. Even if it's just five minutes before dinner needs fixing or phone calls need making. I can usually squeeze a few minutes in for a game or book and still get done what i need to.

- Set a timer. One of Flylady's old tricks. Maybe I can't stop just then, but I know in 15 minutes I can. Or, maybe I already have something going with another child. I set the timer for ten minutes and finish up our together time, then moving on to the next heart that needs filling.

- Multitask. I rarely have my Bible time without a child in my lap at some point. I wouldn't want to miss those warm, sleepy good-morning snuggles anyway. I can play board games in between stirring dinner. I can do a puzzle with one child while pausing to read a page now and then to a second one.

-Cut things out, if needed. If I find myself running so fast that I can't stop for a few minutes something needs to change. And, God gave me these kids, so they come before outside obligations. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made. Not that kids can't benefit from learning to wait now and then, but they still need to be our priority.

These secrets help me to show special love each day to each individual child.

What are some ways you have found to cater to your children's unique interests?

How do you manage more than one clamoring for attention?

Those with one child, how do you balance what you need to get done and time with your child?

Any verses that encourage you or your children in these situations?

I would love to hear how others capture these moments and keep the balance.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Money, money, money

We talked about sharing toys, and now another practical parenting issue . . . teaching kids about money.

A few years back we got these great banks called the Giving Bank from Christian Book Distributors or Crown. Crown now sells a more contemporary version called the Learning ATM. The Giving Bank provided us with a framework and visible separation for any money the kids receive. As we divide into the categories, we talk about putting at least ten percent in the church, fifty percent in the bank, and the rest into the store for spending money.

My husband and I generally fall more into line with the saver mentality than the spender, and watching my kids, most will probably still have their college stocks in their thirties, too. Kids tend to learn best with an example to follow.

We talk a lot about money. Where it comes from, where it goes, budgets, credit, banks, investments, etc. I don't ever want it to be mysterious. The older they get, the more they know and understand. We use credit cards and pay them off each month, but we still want our kids to "see" the money. We have thoroughly brainwashed them about never carrying a balance. Some people prefer to skip the whole credit card route anyway, not a bad plan in most cases.

The kids earn interest on their savings. Sometimes this motivates them to put more into savings than they would otherwise.

We don't loan money to our kids. Now, the oldest is only eleven, but we don't make a practice of buying something that they need to pay us back for. If they want something that we would not usually buy for them, they need to have the money for it. We also recognize our role of still having some control over what they spend their money on. Just because they have money in the "store" category doesn't mean they can spend it all on candy or dollar store toys. Wisdom in saving, and wisdom in spending.

I set up a homemade checking account for our oldest. I had a bunch of carbon paper sets and wrote out a check layout on them (number, date, for______, money blanks, signature, etc.) He keeps his savings in the real bank, so when he wants to spend it, he writes me a "check" and deducts it from his account balance. This has given him great exposure to money management and banking that I wasn't quite ready for him to learn in the real world yet.

Encourage them to earn money. So far, they haven't acted on this encouragement much, but we have talked about it a bit. If they do want something that we don't have budgeted, or want to participate in an activity that we don't have extra money for, we encourage them to go for it. They can save and earn even at their young ages.

With the economic crisis that our country currently faces, we have ample opportunity to show our kids why they need to make stewardship a priority. God has entrusted us with much in the lives of our children, and money is just one of many areas that they need to learn to steward well.

Stewarding our time is another area we should model, and that I will jump into next time.

Other resources:

Financial Parenting
Bible study for kids about money
An online article about kids and money
Dave Ramsey's kids' tools
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy

. . . and more Frugal Friday!