Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer school

We had our first day back at the books today, and had a lot of fun in the process. Our whole atmosphere is a bit more relaxed since we don't have anything we "have" to get done. No tests, no writing (at least not today, that's coming), just fun time reading and talking together.

I had gotten a book at a garage sale for a whole quarter a while back that I thought I would pull out to use this summer, and did not know what to expect from the kids in response. When I showed them the topic they all oohed and ahhed, and got more animated than I had expected.

The topic? Law. Yep, apparently my kids look forward to getting permission to argue with each other. I hadn't thought about it in depth before, but I have two kids that love to "reason" with anyone and I have another who loves mysteries. We are in for a fun couple weeks.

Today we discussed the far reaching impact of the legal system, types of cases (criminal and civil), and acted out a "scuffle" so we could learn terminology and understand "assault" and "battery." I could not believe how involved they all got in the whole scenario and discussion afterwards.

Summer school is going to be a lot easier than I had anticipated.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Verse of the week - Psalm 42:1

In the midst of a very busy, activity-filled week, I found comfort and challenge in the words of Psalm 42:1, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God."

Regardless of what transpires around me I want my primary passion, my insatiable hunger to crave God. Nothing else should attract my attention the way He does. No other book should consume my thoughts the way His Word does.

I want my longing to follow after Him continually, but I know in truth, I often stray. Many things draw me away from Him and His thoughts and intents for my life. I need Him to draw me nearer, ever nearer to Himself.

This prayer from the close of the first chapter of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God really resonated with me:

O God,
I have tasted Thy goodness,
and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire.
O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee;
I long to be filled with longing;
I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee,
that so I may know Thee indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.
Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away."
Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee
up from this misty lowland where I have wondered so long.

In Jesus' name.

"As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God."

~Psalm 42:1~

Friday, June 26, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- VBS

We survived.

At times, I wasn't sure I would make it through to type those words, but we have officially made it through a very full week of VBS.

But, more on that in a minute. First off, we have a new four year old in our house! As exhausted as we all found ourselves Monday evening we still enjoyed celebrating with cake, cupcakes, and ice cream as Nathan turned four.

My little guy, can't believe four years have already passed!

As I mentioned on an earlier post about our summer plans, they will largely center around fun, reading, and gardening. So, in keeping with those themes:


- This week we wrapped up Amos Fortune Freeman. An interesting story, but not one I would give my kids to read on their own. There were quite a few times we stopped the CD and talked about various racial issues, family dynamics, and other moral issues that I wanted to hear my children's impressions on as a result of what they heard. It still had a number of enlightening circumstances, and in general we enjoyed it, but I am glad we did this as a read aloud for the conversations we had throughout.

- Our new story, and one we almost finished with all the time we spent in the car, is Justin Morgan had a Horse. I'll be honest, I almost didn't check it out because I thought the title left a bit to be desired. And, the author also wrote Brighty of Grand Canyon which we didn't like so much. However, this story was an easy one to get into. A four hour audio book, and an engaging story about a likable colt that you can't help cheering on throughout the story. Also, it is about the beginning of the horse breed known as "morgan's" which jogged our memory back to the Little House series when Laura fell in love with Almanzo's pair of Morgan's, or Almanzo, or both.


These pictures are almost a week old, as I did not have time to spend in the garden during these past few days. I just swung by there tonight and saw lots of encouragement, and lots of work. We'll get caught up. We always do, but right now it looks like a lot to be done.

My favorite hand tool. I will need to buy a new one soon,
and now my kids always want to borrow it when I make them serve their time.

Squash plants starting to look like what they are.
The foil is supposed to keep beetles from taking up residence in the plants.

Beans! I saw flowers on them tonight.
love garden fresh green beans.

Broccoli. Still little, but lookin' good.

Beets. These are my favorite to pick young and stir fry the whole plant. YUM!

Jerusalem Artichoke. These have taken over anywhere we have let them,
and some places we have not let them.
Not sure what I think about having them in the garden, but they LOOK productive.

And, the FUN . . .

In the mornings this week I helped lead a group of preschoolers through various stations that taught about a different country and Bible story each day. They had an exciting time and left exhausted at the end of each day. On the last day we had four moon jumps to play in and it topped the week perfectly.

Nathan, being a bit dramatic since the camera is on him.

I pray that through all the fun, singing, prayers, teaching, and projects that the truth of the Scriptures came shining through. I love hearing 150 preschoolers screaming out in praise to God. Amazing.

In the afternoon I headed up a little bit older group of 8 boys to help a larger group of 150 kids build a world record Lego creation of Noah's Ark.

It is built on a one to thirty-seven scale, and was incredible to be a part of this project. Two of my girls and my youngest boy helped in the effort and the whole group built this creation with almost 35,000 Lego pieces in just four days. Together we were building and building just like Noah.

Tonight I enjoyed a walk with my husband, lots of talking and our first warm summer night that I wasn't too exhausted to enjoy. Looking forward to the weeks ahead and lots more of those.

Enjoy more Weekly Wrap-ups.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Recipe for elated exhaustion


  • 600 + children (must be at least 25 percent preschool aged)
  • 100 + volunteers
  • Planned activities including Dress up, military games, Legos, Baseball, etc.
  • Dynamic times of worship and Bible teaching

Mix together the above ingredients six hours a day for five days in a row with outdoor temperatures in the 90s.

Then, throw in a birthday for our now four year old, baseball season playoffs for our oldest, obedience training for our dog, and a large strawberry patch that needs picking.

Exhausted, and still two days to go, but having a blast in the process!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Verse of the week - Psalm 77:13, 30, 31, 49

The thunder and the mist.

The crashing waves and the babbling brook.

The tornado and the cool breeze.

The mountain and the valley.

The grizzly bear and the playful kitten.

The desert and the rain forest.

Creation offers many extremes. Yet, all from the hands of the same Creator. As we marvel at the diversity in nature, each of these shows a glimpse of the complexity of His nature as well.

God is powerful and gentle, over all and personal, leader and servant, complex and simple, justice and love.

All of Psalm 77 speaks to the greatness of God as well as His tender protection in the life of those that love Him.

These verses especially stood out to me:

13The LORD also thundered in the heavens, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire.
30As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. 31For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God,
49Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O LORD, And I will sing praises to Your name.

I would encourage you to take some time and read the whole chapter of Psalm 77 and seek out your own glimpses of God in His created world.

We serve a God who is everything. Omnipotent with unfathomable love. His character becomes more clear as I sit at the ocean with the waves crashing at my feet and reflect
on His great power.

His personality comes into view in a glimpse of a flower with the beauty He placed there at the beginning of time.

God is more than I can comprehend in this lifetime even with all the evidence He built into this world. He left hints everywhere for us to come to know Him through (Romans 1:20).

Lord, help me to see you this week. See You in a way that only Your creation can reveal. You are the powerful God of the wind and waves as well as the still small voice. Keep me vigilant to seek You and follow You wherever You will be found. You are my rock and refuge, I praise You alone! ~Amen

13The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
30As for God, His way is blameless;
The word of the LORD is tried;

He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.

For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God,

49Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations,
And I will sing praises to Your name.
~Psalm 77:13, 30, 31, 49~

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Parenting quotes

In honor of Father's Day, a couple parenting quotes (for moms and dads) that have challenged and encouraged me this week . . .

"You take care of the possible, and leave the impossible to God."
~Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Memorial Church

- He spoke specifically of single moms, but I think the application can find a broader audience. Too often I try to tackle the impossible, or blame myself when something humanly impossible falls through. I just need to do the possible, and trust God with the rest.

"No one loves any child more than the God who created that child. Yes, you would die for that child, but God already has."
Gary Thomas, Sacred Parenting

- These words challenged me to reevaluate how much I really trust God with my kids. He loves them more than I ever could. That brings great reassurance as I surrender them to God. The maker of the universe, the sovereign God of eternity, loves my kids.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- "staycation" edition

We had a wonderful, action packed week this week. My husband had vacation time he was about to lose, so had to take a week off. With no plans to go anywhere, and our vacation fund still on the low side, we opted for a "staycation."

The Chicago area has lots to do and see, so we easily filled our days with lots of great memories. Many of these days deserve whole blog posts in and of themselves, but for now they will all get lumped together here . . .


Finally a warm, not too rainy day! We set up our pool and "water slide" and the kids had a great time enjoying almost summer-like weather. We also did some yard work -- mulching and weeding. Unfortunately, for some reason I passed out near the end of this task and we spent the evening at the doctor learning that it was "nothing." However, we changed our Tuesday plans since I still felt a little woozy the next day.


Hung around home, started cleaning the school room. This task got much bigger than I
had anticipated . . .

Before I started, this closet shows its collection of "stash and dash" items

Nearing the finish line, most things back where they belong, and the excess moved elsewhere. Some of the "elsewhere" is still the middle of the floor, so I need to get back to work!


In the morning we enjoyed the $1 summer movie, The Tale of Desperaux. We swung by the library and logged our books for the summer reading program (love that program!)

After a quick lunch at home we packed up and headed to a state park. Everyone enjoyed hiking the trails, wading in the water, or walking across the stepping stones, playing at the should-be-outlawed metal slide, and just having a wonderful time together.


Another recovery day . . . couldn't believe how wiped out we all felt from the busy day on Wednesday. So, we enjoyed a lazy day at home. Did a bit of gardening during the day and a baseball game in the evening.

My tomato plants that I successfully grew from seed this year. yeah!

My not so proud moment, can you find the lettuce?
Yeah, I need to do a little more weeding in this part of the garden.

Found this GIANT weed growing across the sidewalk from our garden.


We headed out for another action packed day at Legoland. A bit overpriced for what they have to offer, but we have some big Lego fans in our family, so even after 6 1/2 hours they were barely ready to go home. We did return home, to a rained out ball game, and all packed up for a great time of fellowship at our small group that night.

Now, a weekend full of three baseball games (two are makeups because we keep getting rained out), and preparation for VBS this coming week. We will be wiped out by next weekend, but I know we will have lots of fun in the process. Cant wait!!

More Weekly Wrap Ups!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

HSLDA giveaway

Here is a giveaway just for you homeschoolers . . .

If you are not already a member of HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association, you should look into it. They are a fantastic organization and a great support to homeschoolers on the local and national level.

At my other website, Chicagoland Homeschool Network, I am excited to give away a one year membership to the HSLDA. Head over to check it out!


A while back I read a WeE-book on looking for the fruit in our children and it keeps coming back to me. The author offers some insightful thoughts on spying the fruit at the various stages of childhood, and identifying our own hindrances to finding and cultivating the fruit.

In recent weeks I have been drawn back to this analogy as my novice's garden comes to life.

As I looked at the blossoms I found joy in them. As a mom, I sometimes get frustrated with the blossoms because I want to jump to the fruit!

Now, as I see the green fruit I anticipate the color coming in to the berries and the sweetness of the ripe fruit. I don't get upset with the berry for taking it's appropriate time to ripen, and yet at times I get impatient with my children for not showing maturity. I am reminded that is as silly as getting upset with a blueberry for staying green so long.

If I bit into a green blueberry I would expect it to taste unripe, and yet, when my children are squeezed I am disappointed that they respond with greater emotion than appropriate. I need to remember . . . they are not ripe yet. I still have a lot of work to do.

In the process, I need to enjoy the blossoms, appreciate the green fruit as it plumps up. They are showing signs of maturing, but it doesn't mean they are done yet.

This, on the other hand, does provide a reason for frustration:

Ripe for the picking, but pecked away before it could be enjoyed. All the more reason to pray over the growing harvest in our homes. Prayers of protection and diligence.

A green fruit is not a sign of failure, simply a reminder to be diligent.

Enjoying the blossoms and watching the fruit ripen in our children's lives is definitely one of the Finer Things! And, you can enjoy more Family Friday posts as well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Field trip - Costco tour

A couple weeks ago we enjoyed our last Keepers Club meeting for the year in a bit of an unconventional environment.

We took a tour of Costco.

Wow! I would definitely recommend this for a field trip idea for your homeschool group, or even just a few families. I'm already a Costco fan, but their field trips are great, if a bit infomercially.

To start, they brought out name tags for each of the kids. They are regular employee tags and had each of the kids' names printed on them. They took a picture of our group which they dropped off at the photo department and made enough prints for each child to take one home at the end of the tour.


The tour really got started in the pizza making area. We had a large group, so they gave us four pizza crusts with sauce to which we added cheese, sausage and pepperoni. The kids all got their hands into that project.


I know, love the hairnets . . .

While the pizza cooked we toured the store -- the tire shop, the photo department, the vision center, the freezer, the bakery, the meat department, etc. Of course, part of the point of the tour is to tell you how amazing their store is, but they threw in lots of interesting trivia. How many employees (175), how many members at the typical Costco (50,000), how many chickens sold (Hawaii holds the record - 700 a day!), how they recycle their tires, and lots more.

At the end, we enjoyed the pizza and each child received a goodie bag with a few snacks and a bottle of water, and of course, lots of printed info on Costco. It lasted about an hour and a half and then we sat in the deli area and passed out our end of the year awards and visited for a bit. The kids all had a great time and really listened to all the information shared.

ETA 7/30/11 -- My kids loved it so much they request this more than any other as a repeat field trip. My son even toyed with the idea of having his birthday there. :)

We went on a similar tour when my oldest was still in preschool at a smaller grocery store. These free tours are great publicity for the businesses, as well as educational and lots of fun for the kids and families involved. Even if you don't have a Costco nearby, check out your local grocery store, fire department, police station, or bakery. Most businesses would be happy to host your group for a field trip and they make for memorable, and usually free, fun for your group.

More Thirsty Thursday

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Works for me Wednesday - Keeping weeds off the patio

Ten years ago we moved into our wonderful home on the campus of the school where we worked for nine years.

Off of the great room we have a beautiful brick patio. The kids play basketball out there, 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.

A couple years ago 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.

This has definitely worked for us!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Verse of the week - Joshua 1:8

Name it and claim it, or as my college professor called it, "blab it and grab it." A less than careful reading of Scripture might uncover this interpretation.

It came to mind as I considered Joshua 1:8, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."

A lot of people like to focus on the end, "you will make your way prosperous" and "you will have success." God's methods for success, and in fact His very definition of success would probably surprise those who heedlessly extrapolate these phrases from their context.

I realized that I need to study God more. Really enroll as a student of His Word. When I take a class I pour over the material. I listen, take notes, read supplemental material, discuss what I am learning, and prepare tirelessly for the exams. I compromise my sleep, set other non-essentials aside. I make that class a priority!

God calls us to study His Word. Meditate on it day and night. Know it inside and out. Dig into the passages that trouble us. Ask questions, seek answers. Without that disciplined study of the Bible we cannot follow it.

After we learn it, we should carefully walk according to all we have learned. Promises follow such focused obedience. Success. Not according to the world's measure. Prosperity and success according to God's eyes.

Lately I have found myself measuring my success from an earthly perspective. Not according to wealth or possessions, but according to this earthly time. I keenly feel my age and realize that my "youth" is behind me. Although I am not "old" I still feel as though I have so much of my life behind me, and so much that I still wished to do with this earthly life. And, there, I realized my error. It's not about this earthly life. Even if I am mulling eternally significant tasks, it needs to revolve entirely around His agenda.

God has given me enough minutes in each day, enough years in my life to accomplish what He has designed for me to complete. When I live according to His schedule I will always have enough time, enough energy, enough success, enough accomplished, enough gained, enough saved, enough fulfilled.

Lord, help me to live by Your agenda this week, this year. Help me to be a student of You and Your Word that I may carefully walk according to Your design. Thank you that You are always enough. ~Amen

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth,
but you shall meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful to do according to
all that is written in it;
for then you will make your way prosperous,
and then you will have success.

~Joshua 1:8~

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Product Review -- The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner

Summer tends to be planning season in homeschooling households, and just in time for the formulating frenzy, The Old Schoolhouse has released its brand new 2009 Schoolhouse Planner.

E-Book: The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner

This planner offers far more than stability and structure for your homeschool days. As we all know, the role of mother, home manager, teacher, negotiator, etc. overlap throughout each day. And, likewise, the parameters of the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner stretch into these roles as well.

A sampling of what you will enjoy with this tool:

Calendars -- including ideas appropriate for each month from July (starting in just a couple weeks!) through June 2010; yearly calendars up to 2012; along with recipes and resources appropriate for each month

Inspiration -- from well known homeschool authors (including Jay Wile and Amanda Bennett), addressing topics pertinent to homeschool families.

Must-know lists and compiled charts -- from presidents to cloud types to geographical terms, the periodical table as well as miracles and parables.

Record Keeping -- fill in schedules (for two, three, four, and five children), grade tracking, field trip planning, activity managers, inventory sheets, goals, etc. This book offers 120 pages of homeschool related forms and schedules!

Household help -- they don't send a person, but all of these resources can help everything run more smoothly. This also gives you a place and format to compile essential information. They help you organize chores, medical information, schedules, menus, gardening, pets, parties, and budgets. Over 60 pages of these useful tools.

Each of the forms is made to either print and write on, or type right onto and print out filled in, whatever you prefer. You can save your changes for further modification, or to build on, or print and save the hard copy.

The only downside I have found is that if you want to keep more than one computer based copy of one of the forms, you would need to save the whole planner more than once on your computer. Since I plan on storing hard copies of the record sheets, this did not diminish its usefulness for me, but it was something I had to consider when printing out the various copies for each of my kids. However, if you own a copy of Adobe Acrobat (not the free download, Acrobat Reader, but a rather expensive software), it has the capability of saving individual pages in modified format.

I have big plans for organizing this summer and pulling together all the information and strategies that I need for the year ahead. This wonderful planner has given me the framework and tools to make it all a reality. I had already started before receiving the planner, but the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner has done a lot of the work for me, and now I don't need to go searching all over the internet to get it done, making my precious planning time even more efficient.

And, since it is all in an ebook format you can print and reprint the various pages as you need to keep them visible around your home and keep your family all on the same page.

All of these resources, 375 overflowing pages, are packed into this one e-book for $39.00. You would want to purchase it soon to take full advantage of the planning and ideas available even to enrich your celebration and study of the Fourth of July, and to have all the information in place for the new school year.

Purchase the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner.

Read more reviews of the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner.

Friday, June 12, 2009

weekly wrap up - June 12

Still not sure if summer has really arrived or not. We have flirted with 80, but not much more than that. I'm starting to think that 75 is hot . . .

Summer themes you will probably see repeated here: reading, gardening, fun

Gardening ~ sorry, no pictures. I'm quite proud though. In the midst of all the weeds, and despite my herniated disc, we have promising growth. Tomato plants are flourishing, bean and pea plants continue to grow, and we hope to get a strawberry or two before the birds one of these days.

The kids are a great help this year. I require work for 15 minutes, then they play for 15, then back to work for 15, and then they play until we head in. So far, it works well. And, we get way more done than if I just worked on my own for the hour or so.

Reading ~ I have really enjoyed checking out other's book baskets at Toni's blog. We enjoyed The Block Mess Monster and Sophie's Masterpiece with the little ones today. We are also listening to Amos Fortune, Freeman on audio and have enjoyed more as we have gotten in to the story. More on our readings this week here.

In other reading news, we scored an amazing garage sale today with lots of award winning books for fifty cents. Let me say, it was pretty easy to spend that $20!

And the FUN~ While grocery shopping (not so fun . . .) my daughter asked if we could get a pomegranate. Well, they didn't have any, so we got this instead:

Not familiar with that? I wasn't either. It's a kiwano, and tastes kind of like kiwi. That was our grocery shopping and food adventure for the week.

We also enjoyed a day at a petting zoo with some friends.

Nathan loved the cutouts. :-)

Brooke loved making friends with the sheep.

I thought for sure the goats were pregnant, but the employee said they always look like that because they have four stomachs and they are VERY well fed.

We also did some serious cleaning this week, revamped our chore routine, and enjoyed the great outdoors. Must be summer, I guess.

Check out more weekly wrap ups.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Booking it

With summer has come time for some deep cleaning (yeah!) -- I have stressed to the kids what a privilege they have to clean. Yes, they have a lot of chores, because they have a lot to take responsibility for, and a lot to give thanks for. Brainwashing. It's working, kinda.

And, we have lots of time to read, with lots of motivation (library, Barnes & Noble, Chuck E Cheese, etc.) Everyone and their boss seems to want to reward my kids for reading. I won't complain.

So, just what are we reading this week . . .

I am continuing to enjoy Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas, a book filled with such sweet encouragement.

My kids have been plowing through books, and I figured I would mention the groups of books they have read:

Blake (12 yo) has been rolling through a number of Matt Christopher books. These are kind of easy reading for him, but after a hefty school year I cut him a little slack. My husband asked if he found any new books to read and he said he thinks he has read them all. Somehow ignoring the thousands of other books at the library. If it is not related to baseball, apparently it doesn't really qualify for reading.

Paige (9yo) LOVES Cam Jansen. This is her third time through the series. No other books have captured her this way. We tried Nancy Drew Notebooks and they just didn't measure up. She likes listening to weightier stuff, but when I leave the choice to her, it is always Cam Jansen.

Faith (7yo) is finally reading independently and will devour stacks of easy readers in a sitting. Anything with horses draws her attention, and some of her favorites are the Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa books.

Other read alouds:

We just wrapped up God's Smuggler, about Brother Andrew. Riveting! We loved this story, and had to finish it quickly because it was on loan from another library. My kids didn't complain in the least when we spent almost four hours on the last day finishing it up. They were just disappointed to hear it end. A story to stretch your faith, broaden your world vision, and inspire you. As Faith said, "He has miracles happen to him almost everyday!" Living by faith, an incredible testimony.

Our car rides recently took us through Sign of the Beaver. A story we read a few years ago, but most of the kids didn't really remember it. They enjoyed the adventures with the Indian boy and the description of pioneer life as told through the eyes of an older boy living on his own. Another great book, which appealed to all of the kids. I love books that drop you in a new setting and make everything come alive.

Now, we have just started Amos Fortune, Freeman. I think it was partly the narrator and partly the story, but the beginning took a little bit to get into, unfortunately. Which seems odd, because not long into the story a raid on an African village begins the terrifying trip into slavery for this young prince. Vivid without being vulgar (which is difficult in describing slavery), this story promises to keep our attention now through the dramatic life of this prince turned slave turned freeman.

Check out other summer reading ideas at the Happy Housewife.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Give away

Check out my other website , the Chicagoland Homeschool Network, for a giveaway and review of SpellQuizzer!

We really enjoyed reviewing this program, and now one reader can also share the fun for free.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Verse of the week - Colossians 3:1,2

For God to be my everything . . .

My Awareness

My Beauty

My Compassion

My Devotion


My Faith

My Gentleness

My Head

My Immovable rock

My Justice

My King

My Love

My Morning

My Night

My Overall

My Prayer

My Quiet

My Redemption

My Salvation

My Truth

My Under-girding

My Vision

My Waking

My Yes

My Zenith

My everything . . .

Praying that God would be my everything this week, nothing done in my own strength, but in Him alone.

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

~Colossians 1:26-29~

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Convention opportunity

On Thursday I enjoyed a day of shopping and encouragement at the Illinois homeschool convention. Great speakers, vital topics, and almost limitless shopping venues.

A couple years ago I took advantage of the option to buy all of the workshops in MP3 format and I am so glad that I did. I have enjoyed listening to various speakers again and again -- when I needed to hear it (not in June, when life seems a bit sun-shinier and smooth anyway). This was a purchase definitely worth the investment and I did the same this year.

Even at the regular price of $88 I would consider this s worthwhile purchase, but during the convention it is available for $57. Now I received an email from ICHE that you can order the set at convention prices for this whole weekend, whether you attended or not. If you are looking for some encouragement, or want some weapons to tuck away for "those" days you know we will all face in September, this might be something you would want to consider as well.

Some of the highlights: Tedd Tripp's workshops on child rearing, Jeannie Fulbright on science, Stacey McDonald on motherhood and passionate housewives, and Vicki Bentley on home organization. Check out the full list here.

Here is the email from ICHE:
Thank you to all those who attended the convention this weekend!
For those of you who weren't able to attend, we wanted to make sure you were aware of the opportunity to purchase the Entire Convention on MP3.
Buy the entire ICHE Convention on MP3 at a special price of $57 including Tedd Tripp's workshops - this weekend only!
Order before midnight on Sunday June 7th!

( after this weekend the price will be $88 and Tedd Tripp's workshops will no longer be available)

Order on line at:
Your Convention Committee
(847) 603-1259

weekly wrap up - June 5

School's out!

We excitedly completed the last lessons in our English books, finished almost all of the reading (with the battle scarred May we had, these will get finished in June), and came to a good stopping place in math. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh.

Such a sense of accomplishment. So great to look back on a year and see all that we learned and experienced, and grew through. And, know that we get to do it all again. I love homeschooling.

This week included two trips to the chiropractor (wow! I am a fan now), lots of productive school time, the last gymnastics class before summer, a beautiful play date with friends, and a day at the homeschool convention(more on that another time).

The highlight of our week came on Wednesday night when we joined our church to pack meals for hungry kids in Africa in partnership with an organization called Feed My Starving Children. I mentioned earlier that serving is one of our summer boredom buster plans, and this project definitely fit the bill.

This organization, based in Minnesota, has put together a system and ministry to bring food to places of desperate need in an efficient, engaging, and compassionate manner.

We met with over 200 other people for a time of prayer, orientation, awareness building, and instruction and then got to work. At stations manned by 6-10 people you work together in an assembly line to package chicken flavored powder, dehydrated vegetables, soy protein, and rice into labeled bags. Weigh, seal, stack, and pack into boxes. Kids as young as five years old can be an active participant in the process.

Great music, friendly competition, and lots of cooperation. At the end of an hour, this large group had packed more than 50,000 meals, enough to feed almost 137 people for a year! And, at just 17 cents each meal it gets the job done in a fiscally respectable way as well. It was so great to be a part of.

The most amazing aspect, came from watching our kids working together for a need completely outside of themselves. Even our five year old worked with such focus and purpose. She didn't grow tired or complain, just kept sealing and stacking. She expressed the most enthusiasm about participating another time, mentioning the desire to help feed kids that need food.

I know none of my kids can physically relate to the hunger pain experienced by so many world wide (no matter what they tell you at 11:00 each morning), but they can still make a difference in this admittedly overwhelming need.

While their locations are in Minnesota and Illinois (you can walk in or sign up to work at a variety of times at their facilities), they will come anywhere in the country with their project if you can commit the volunteers and raise the money to pack at least 10,000 meals. Our church set 500,000 meals as their goal with 2,500 volunteers (between the four local campuses and five different time slots.) This is a great ministry project for a large church to put together and really make a tangible difference in the hunger crisis effecting various countries in the world today.

Even if you don't live in Minnesota or Illinois, they post their different off site-events on a calendar and maybe one will come close enough for you to participate. Texas, California, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Colorado, and Florida are all on their calendar in the weeks ahead.

Our only complaint, is that it was too short a time. We would have loved to get to work quicker, and work longer. My husband ended up taking our older four kids back to another session on Friday night (our youngest is not old enough to participate, so I had to stay home with him). What a great way to start our summer!

Check out more Weekly Wrap Ups.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Keeping boredom at bay with balanced routines

Everyone has a unique level of need for routine and in our household finding that balance has often provided the key to avoiding boredom.

We need just the right amount of structure and habits to keep the house clean, my sanity intact, and the kids secure. We also need that "seasoned to taste" dash of surprise and freshness to keep life interesting.

In general, we have a rough schedule we follow through the summer months. Morning chores, breakfast, light school a few days a week, and swimming whenever the weather cooperates. Dinner and evening family activities (games, campfire, movies, etc.) all take on a new flavor when the temperatures rise outside.

While each week brings unique experiences, we generally see some common themes, including the following:

Work -- Chores have to get done, laundry still needs washing, food still needs cooking, and yard work definitely needs lots of attention. While work isn't always necessarily fun, it keeps boredom at bay. When kids comment about not knowing what to do, I have plenty of ideas up my sleeve, and they often have lots of great ideas of their own of which they just thought.

New skills -- We love to use summer time to learn new recipes, improve our sewing, start a new hobby, write letters, paint, etc. So many activities get shoved into the corners in the regular business of life. Summer months can give us some great times to dust these off and put them to use.

Serve others -- Bake something for a neighbor, draw pictures to send to a relative, babysit for a young couple, serve at a food bank, etc. This is something we have just dabbled in, but we already have a few plans for our summer calendar in this regard. Turning our focus outward always helps alleviate boredom. (read about our first service project here)

Make a list -- My kids have often given us great ideas for local fun in the summer months. Zoos, arcades, malls, parks, play dates, etc. They all have at least one or two things they really want to do each summer, and usually we can make them happen.

Read -- Even in busy summers where we have done little to no school, we always read. There are so many great reading incentives around and the benefit to the reading in and of itself is priceless.

Those are some ways we fight boredom in our house. Any ideas to add? Need more inspiration? Head over to We Are THAT Family for WFMW, the Mom, I'm Bored edition.

Another carnival

Another homeschool carnival today! I know everyone has a unique schedule, and many school year round.

Carnival of Homeschooling

And, even if you take a break, I know the wheels are always spinning for planning what's around the corner. So, head on over for to Why Homeschool for some inspiration and encouragement on the latest Carnival of Homeschooling!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sacred Parenting

Happy Mother's Day flickr land! by Ann&Ming

After a couple recommendations, I have started reading the book Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas.

Lots of great thoughts to mull over, but this paragraph especially stood out to me:

I'm saying that our own spiritual quest must drive our parenting. Unfinished or neglected spiritual business inevitably works its way out through our relationships in a negative fashion: we become more demanding, more controlling, more intolerant, more resentful. Our spouses and our children cannot quench the God-given spiritual hunger in our souls. When we neglect God, we ask our marriage and our parenting to become stand-ins for God -- something they were never designed to do.

It is so tempting to fall into relying on what we can see. To seek our worth or approval in the physical relationships that God has blessed us with. But, these should only be a greater catalyst to push us closer to Him. They don't take His place, they magnify His place in our lives. They should spur on spiritual growth, not become a substitute for it. Parenting and marriage are such spiritual experiences, but we need to make sure that we keep them in their place as channels, not ends in themselves.

One of those things ya' know, but need to constantly remember and keep at the forefront of your thinking.

I am definitely looking forward to getting further into this book and topic.

homeschooling -- Where to begin

A good friend of mine is enjoying the sunrise of her homeschooling journey and wisely wants to make the most of it from the beginning. Many of her questions are voiced by others each year as they seek out wisdom from veteran homeschoolers at the start of their quest.

Q - Where do I begin?

If you can avoid getting overwhelmed, it is great to talk to as many people as possible to begin learning about resources, relationships, programs, curriculums, methods, and hear a variety of personal experiences to learn what appeals to you personally. There are a lot of used book sales and conventions this time of year that you might want to try to go to and get a feel for what is out there. The nice thing there is you can see lots of different materials, and often hear from the people that used them why they liked (or didn't) the books they are selling.

Just don't get overwhelmed. You don't need to buy every book, try every method or attend every meeting for your homeschool to be a success. Listen and learn, and then create and enjoy your own unique homeschool.

Q - How do I pick a style?

Have fun (!) and work on figuring out your style for the first year or two. Preschool and kindergarten are great years for exploring education and yourself. Read about the different methods of homeschooling (Charlotte Mason, Classical, etc. - Here is a great summary with some links to understand some of the options) and see what appeals to you. I don't think there's a right or wrong, but each family settles into its own favorites. When Blake was four I started doing a regular school time about 2-3 days a week and planning one day to go out somewhere on a field trip type outing. I learned a lot about my teaching style and his learning style during those fun filled early years.

Establish your priorities. I like to start my day with Bible time, because if nothing else gets done (even though plenty always does), I got the most important thing covered. I have specific academic goals each year in addition to a long term vision of where I pray my kids will arrive before adulthood.

You don't need a preschool curriculum, for now, but if you want something to give you some direction there are a number of options. Amazon and Ebay do have a lot of used curriculum, but without knowing what you are looking for, it might be difficult to wade through the thousands of choices there.

Some sites to start looking into:

Ambleside Online - Preschool would fall into year 0, but their years don't necessarily correspond with grade levels.

Carole Seid seminars - I've never been, but have heard a number of people rave about her -- books, books, and more great books.

Teaching the Trivium - classical learning (I like their 10 things to do before age 10, but I don't agree with completely delaying formal math and I don't stress memory as much as they do)

Five in a Row - unit studies based on wonderful children's books. Before Five in a Row is designed from the preschool set.

Sonlight - Many people love Sonlight, and I plan to use it again in the fall for my little ones since I have Core 1. In my opinion it is one of the better "boxed" curriculums out there, and with a little help from your library and used book sales it is pretty affordable, too. They have lots of great books for reading and are a great company with which to work.

Q - Where do I plug in?

There is endless information and community surrounding homeschooling on the internet and elsewhere. I wish I had studied a bit more before starting homeschooling. I really like Charlotte Mason's approach, but I don't have time to really study it in depth anymore, so I just keep tweaking a bit at a time as I go. It works, but that is one thing I would change if I could go back and start over.

Support groups can be helpful. They often meet only once a month, and can offer a welcoming place to connect with other homeschooling moms.

In your spare time (I know, I know, you don't really know what that is. But, you just might find yourself with some over the summer months). These sites have some other helpful information, articles and links to peruse as you have time:

Eclectic Homeschool Online
Homeschool Oasis
Homeschool Legal Defense Association (loads of articles for encouragement and knowledge!)

And, if you are in the Chicago area, don't miss the Chicagoland Homeschool Network.

What are some of your favorite homeschooling sites?
What advice do you offer to those new homeschoolers?
Maybe you are the new homeschooler -- what questions do you find yourself wanting answers to?
What was the best advice you received from fellow homeschoolers?

Enjoy more information and tips for helping our kids in their quest for knowledge at Five J's Thirsty Thursday.

Homeschool Showcase Carnival

The homeschool showcase carnival is up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

This carnival always has good finds, but I find this month to be especially so. Posts on an early reading game, a site with book reviews, and lots more great ideas.

Head on over there yourself and find your own inspiration.