Listen to Me, Revisited

Mouse on the phoneSometimes, well-meaning homeschoolers feel the need to convince other people that keeping their children at home is a must. We feel the need to cajole them into believing that homeschooling is the only answer and that if they don’t homeschool, something is wrong with them.

While, quite obviously, we prefer to homeschool and find it is the best answer for our family; I am very hesitant about what I share and how it is expressed. I would prefer that the Lord be the one working on their hearts, not me.

Over the course of several years, there are some key things I have learned about sharing my heart with other people. Things that I feel help to develop relationships and open the doors to good communication.

Earn respect. How often have we heard well-meaning advice from a complete stranger? Worse yet, someone whom you don’t respect? Before I open my mouth to speak, I ought to ask myself how well I know this person. Perhaps they are not open to receiving what I might want to communicate. I need to earn the right to be heard, not demand that I be listened to.

Learn to listen. No, seriously! How often have we spoken to someone, only to discover we didn’t really hear all that they said? Or that while they were speaking, we were already trying to form our own arguments and thoughts in response? The first step in a good conversation, is listening! Take time not to just hear the words they are speaking, but the heart of the person talking. Sometimes it is not just the statement being made, but the emotions behind them that need to be addressed.

Be humble. How much I accomplish and the efficiency in which it is done, is not to my own credit. It is the Lord who has given me my gifts and it is He who continues to sustain me. They don’t need to hear about all I have accomplished; they need to see how the Lord has directed our lives and used certain circumstances to bring us to where we are. This takes the glory out of my hands and puts it where it belongs.

Be slow to judge others. Imagine how hard it would be to bare your heart to another, only to have them turn and tear you apart. Once you have shared, they proceed to tell you all you have done wrong and how you should have gone about it. In the realm of parenting, there are many methods of schooling, training, and building of relationships. I need to understand that my way isn’t the only way and that all of us are still learning. My responsibility is to edify, encourage, and help; not to bury them under a mound of guilt.

Let the Lord lead. It is not my job to convince someone of my argument or my way of thought. If someone is genuinely interested in what I have to say, they will listen and take my thoughts into consideration. I don’t need to make them believe what I am saying or force them to confess that I am right. If the Lord leads; speak, and let Him to the rest.

Know when to keep quiet. There is a time to speak and there is time to remain silent. It is important to know what the situation calls for. It is okay to offer advice and express my views, but there comes a time when words are of no use. Know how to pick your battles and when to walk away.

When I am offering advice or answering questions about homeschooling, I want to make sure that I am not overstepping my bounds. If I have earned the right to be heard, I then need to make sure I am listening to their concerns. When I respond, my answers should be given gently and with humility. Once I have said my piece, I need to let the Lord lead them and remain quiet.

When being given advice, I need to make sure that I respectfully and humbly listen to the person speaking; whether or not their advice was asked for. Their intentions are usually well-meaning, being rude would only create distance and hinder further communication. I should pray about the advice offered and see where the Lord leads; picking my battles carefully, only defending my position when necessary.

When it comes to homeschooling, questions and advice abound. It helps to know when to speak, how to speak, and when to remain silent. I pray that I learn to speak with wisdom and patience, knowing when it is best to remain quiet.

Do you find it hard to take well-meaning advice? Do you struggle to answer confrontational questions with grace? How do you handle difficult conversations?

Redeeming the Time, Revisited

The man with the kidsThe last time my wife asked me to guest-post, I wrote a brief description of homeschooling from a father’s perspective (well, from this father’s perspective, in any case). This time I was asked to write about the importance of fathers in the homeschool process, and I’m primarily addressing men here. Because it’s such a vast subject encompassing so many aspects, I’ve chosen to begin on one particular aspect: Time         

…For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.” – James 4:14

The older you get, the more you realize how short life really is, and you realize how little time you have to do all the things you’d like to do. Let me say right now that if you spend all of your time trying to fulfill some “bucket list” you’ll probably miss out on the important relationships that really matter. No man on his death bed has regrets about never having had a chance to sky dive. What a dying man inevitably regrets is all the time wasted on useless things while neglecting his family. If there’s only one point I can get across to husbands and fathers is that you need to be attending to your relationship with your family. If that means you miss a football game or time on the golf course, so be it. Better to miss a few meaningless pursuits than to come home one day and find that your children have grown and are gone, and you missed out on the whole thing.

Work – Let’s face it, guys need to work. Given the state of the economy, a man’s got to do whatever it takes to make ends meet. This may eat up most of his time, and the family just needs to understand that dad can’t always be around. My only advice to dads is that they only work as much as necessary to properly provide for their families. I won’t define “properly” here, because everyone’s circumstances are different. Suffice it to say that you shouldn’t be working more than is necessary if it means you’re neglecting your family to make a few extra bucks for that new car you’ve been wanting. Like I mentioned earlier, no man will look back on his life and regret not getting a new car. He will, however, regret not spending more time making his kids laugh. It’s the little moments we take for granted.

Labor not to be rich: cease from your own wisdom… for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward the heaven.“-Proverbs 23:4-5

At the beach

Education – So what does all of that have to do with education? It’s constantly being repeated that homeschooling is about using every opportunity to teach some lesson. This means that, as a father, your involvement in your child’s education includes every moment you spend with them, which is why I wanted to focus on the importance of time spent with your children. If you’re not spending any time with your kids, then you’re likely imparting no knowledge to them. And take note that education isn’t all about academics. It’s about teaching your kids about truth, beauty, wisdom, justice, goodness, order, and about the God who provides a rational ground for making these things intelligible in a coherent, correspondent world view.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7

Teaching your kids to cook, ride a bike, or play an instrument are all educational experiences. It should also be noted that the classical understanding of why we receive an education is not to get a degree so that we can go out and get a high-paying job. Rather, we educate ourselves so that we might glorify God as we live a moral, intellectually robust, winsome lives, while helping others. I’m not suggesting that a job isn’t important as well, but only observing that no certificate of degree has any value if it doesn’t correspond to having actually gained some wisdom. The world isn’t short on idiots with degrees.

Training – We’ve all heard about the social ills due to fatherless homes, so I won’t touch on that except to say that most of it is due to a lack of discipline. I won’t pretend to have this down perfectly, but dads need to be teaching their children (especially if they have a headstrong son, which I do) that their behavior has consequences. It’s better to spank your child’s bottom and teach him this lesson while he’s young, rather than him learning this lesson the hard way when he’s an adult, at which point the consequences might be permanent and more severe. Fathers who fail to teach their children the harsh reality of consequences are doing their children a great disservice.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” – Galatians 6:7

Pop and Little Man

With respect to headstrong boys, let me say that a man’s nature is to be the dominant sex, and so a headstrong boy will have a difficult time taking instruction from a woman, even if it’s his mother. He’ll rebel and protest and refuse her instruction, often to the point of disrespect. If you have such a son, you’d better be ready to discipline this child and communicate very clearly to him that you will not tolerate his treating your wife this way. You wouldn’t let another man treat your wife poorly; don’t let your own little man treat your wife poorly. You’ll also be doing his future wife a favor if you teach him now to have respect for women, so love and cherish your wife and show your son how to be a loving husband.

Leadership – Some people are natural leaders. They don’t even have to try, and yet people will look to such people to lead them. My wife is such a person. She doesn’t have to ask anyone to follow her. Other women just seem to do so. Men, on the other hand, are called to be the leaders of their home, whether or not they have any natural leadership abilities. I happen not to be a natural leader, so this role of leader isn’t easy for me. Suffice it to say, men are called to provide for and protect their families. That’s not the difficult part. What is difficult is being the spiritual leader, and here’s where most of us, including myself, come up short. Rather than wasting time lamenting this situation, let’s just say that we need to step up to the plate and begin praying with our families and leading them in devotions. We need to be the one to set the godly example. We need to be the one to encourage them when it’s time to go to church. Most importantly on this point, we need to lead by example, not by force. People can only follow you if you’re out in front. If you’re pushing them from behind, you’re driving them, not leading them. Your family are not cattle. Don’t treat them as such.

Finally, much of this may not seem related to homeschooling, but again, every aspect of your relationship with your family is a lesson taught to your children. Your wife already carries most of the academic teaching, so use what little time off you have from work to spend with your families and be the man God calls you to be, one of those roles being that of teacher to your children.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” – Deuteronomy 6:5-7

The Craft Table: Light Up My World

Welcome to the Homeschool Mom’s Craft Table. Enjoy a quick foray into the world of art; join us as we delve into projects, offer helpful tips, explore new tools, and encourage all things creative. Come along and share a world of fun!

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Craft-Table_LogoI am surrounded by a world of creativity. My husband is a professional illustrator and my children are aspiring artists. There are a multitude of mediums available for our kiddos to use and many tools at their disposal. One tool we use on a regular basis is our light board!

The first time our children used a light board was at a local museum. Their children’s area had an entire section dedicated to art and helping children to understand the concept of using a light board. Our children were so fascinated by this concept we spent a great deal of time in this room alone and found it a challenge to lure them into exploring other areas.

Thankfully, we were able to find a small light board at our local craft shop. My husband gave the kiddos a quick lecture and off they went! Getty Light Board

Our children use their light board for calligraphy and drawing. They make an initial outline and then use their light board to clean up their work and refine their projects. I’ve used the light board myself!

Having a light board was a small investment financially, but a large investment educationally.

Time to Chime In: Do you allow your children to trace? Share your thoughts with us!

iPhone Only Photography

“The best camera in the world is the one that’s always in your pocket.”

                                     – David Molnar

Book-Review_logoBetween having an incredibly good-looking husband, four adorable kids, being involved in way too many activities, and blogging, it’s safe to say I take a lot of pictures! I average about five hundred pictures per week, depending on the events we’ve got planned. If I can find a faster, easier way to not only take those pictures, but also clean them up for personal use, I want to know about it.

It seems I’m not the only person looking to streamline their photography. A few months back, a friend sent over a post heralding an upcoming book by David Molnar. What struck me right off was Mr. Molnar’s advice, “The best camera in the world is the one that’s always in your pocket.” Most photographers want to sell you on their favorite camera, which can be discouraging if you cannot afford to run out and buy the latest Canon or Nikon. Mr. Molnar encourages us to forget the fancy stuff and use what you have right at your fingertips… your iPhone! iPhone Only

To be honest, I hadn’t been too impressed with the standard Camera app which came with my iPod Touch (same apps apply as those on the iPhone). It didn’t capture images with the same clarity as my Canon PowerShot and I quickly gave up the notion of being able to use it. Intrigued by the notion of being able to dwindle down the amount of stuff currently congregating in my purse, I immediately signed up for the free intro to Mr. Molnar’s book, anxious to see what I was missing.

Oh, my! All I can say, is that I wish this book came with my iPod from the get-go. In fact, if you love photography as much as I do or at least use it as much as I do, immediately stop reading this post and head over to his website. HERE you can purchase the full e-book and get started on your iPhone photographic journey right away.

iPhone Only Photography is so simple even a child could read it; so engaging every iPhone holder will want to read it. This book will make you want to dig out your iPhone and play. Mr. Molnar gives us eight chapters full of tips, hints, and advice on how to take pictures like a pro and edit them to achieve maximum affect. Each chapter leaves us with a challenge, a helpful recap, and further inspiration taken from other iPhone photographers.

iPhone Only Shrimp

Personally, I can already see a marked difference in the pictures I am taking and using. Through reading iPhone Only Photography I have learned so much, making my job as a memory keeper and a blogger all the more fun.

Don’t take my word for it! Type in the hashtag #iPhoneOnlyPhoto while using the Instagram app and see what the buzz is all about! If you haven’t downloaded iPhone Only yet, what are you waiting for? This is one book you won’t want to go without.

Time to Chime In: Name one challenge you’ve come across when trying to shoot memorable pictures.

Represent!

Picture DayI care about my image. I want people to see the best side of me and, consequently, my children. This seems vain; it’s really not though. Hear me out. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with who I represent.

In the world of business, employers look for people with demeanor which would properly represent their companies. Big business understands that each person within a company represents the company as a whole; a poorly dressed lawyer might misrepresent the firm and a bad mannered clerk will be a turnoff for business.

While homeschooling families are not subject to these same rules and regulations by any means, I can see where the same principle might apply. In our outings, conversations, and behaviors, we need to be careful of what we represent. As Christians this is especially true as who we represent is synonymous with what we represent.

There is no dress code in our family, our children to do not have to wear a uniform. There is no ‘code of conduct’ our children are made to memorize. We do, however, have one family policy: remember who you represent! When we leave the house for any reason (and often while we are still in it) our children are gently reminded of who and what they represent to the world.

As much as we hate to have anyone judge us, the fact is people do. For a brief moment in time people have the opportunity to view our behavior and make an assessment of our life. While their evaluation might not hold value to us, it might have a bearing on their futures. Our actions and attitudes might influence their thinking and decisions.

I have met families so turned off to homeschooling they would never consider the possibility. Was this because they had done the research and found valid arguments against it? No, it was because they had seen poor homeschooling in action and they were turned off. I have experienced people’s exasperation towards Christianity for this same reason.

Are we ultimately responsible for their possible turning away, either from homeschooling or Christianity, simply because we had an off day? Of course not. The decision to homeschool or not homeschool is completely their own personal choice. A person’s belief in Christ rests solely on their own shoulders. However, if I have an opportunity to represent either, I want to do so in the best possible light. I want people to see homeschooling at its best; I want people to be encouraged by what they see and enlightened as to what this opportunity presents. More importantly, I want people to see Christ in our family. I want them to see love, grace, kindness, respect and righteousness in action.

While there will be moments when we are less than ideal, both in our learning and in our daily living, the ultimate goal is to represent our worldview in the best possible light. Before we ever reach people with our words, we reach them with our actions. What do our actions say about us?

Time to Chime In: What do you represent?

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” -
II Corinthians 5:20

Call Me June!

Pump_Day_2Welcome to “Pump Day”; your weekly encouragement to remember that, once upon a time, before you were your kids’ mommy, you were your husband’s lady.

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It can be all too easy to slip into a pattern, can’t it? One day I decide I’m going to be comfortable and wear sweats all day, the next thing I know this has become an everyday occurrence and wearing dresses is a foreign concept. After all, I’m not going anywhere special; what does it matter? A long time ago, I decided I was not going to let this happen.   Call me funny, but I’m a little like June Clever.

Before images of me in heels, tea length dresses, and pearls fills your imagination, you can scratch that notion. When I say I’m like June Clever, I do not mean to imply that I always look ready to step out a fifties magazine ad. What I am suggesting is the notion of making an effort with how I look and not being overly relaxed in my bodily presentation. Each morning, I shower, get dressed in nice clothing, put on a little makeup, and a tad bit of jewelry.

To some, this might seem odd. Why dress nicely for just sitting around the house? Well, for several reasons…

It Sets a Mood – When I see myself looking a little nicer, it helps my mental mood. If I look frumpy, I feel frumpy, and who likes that? Not this gal!

Follow the Leader – I have three girls we are trying to raise. I am the only lady they see on a daily basis and a lot of their habits come from me. I want my girls to take care of their bodies and be careful of how they present themselves, even to their own families. If I only dress when I go out, what does that tell them? It suggests that family is less important than others and that I dress this way for the approval of other people, and I don’t! I do this because I want to and it blesses my husband; not for the approval of onlookers.

My Man Works at Home – To be honest, my husband would be perfectly okay with me wearing sweats on a daily basis. I think he even shakes his head that I don’t. However, I like dressing nicely for him. I like looking pretty and smelling nicely. Deep down, I think he likes catching glimpses of me in a pretty dress or in slacks and a blouse; basically, just looking ladylike. Considering he works from home, occasionally we have in-home clients; dressing nicely helps in that arena as well.

Night Stand

I don’t live in dresses. In fact, I don’t think to wear them as often as I could. However, I do like having fun with my wardrobe. Dressing nicely is fun, uplifting, and adds spice to life! Each day is a new opportunity to be creative with what I already own. I just need to embrace the day and delve into my closet.

Time to Chime In: If you had to name one area of your wardrobe you would be loath to give up, which would it be? (Mine would be my high heels! Or, possibly, my jewelry…)

As always… While fashion is fun, we should remember:

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – I Peter 3:3-4

But I Don’t Want To!

Ugh! My alarm clock is ringing in my ear and the multitude of responsibilities which need to get done today are screeching my name. Do you think anyone will notice if I just pull the covers over my head and never emerge? I know I need to get out of bed, but I don’t want to!

While, to some, it might seem our family has it all together, let me assure you we still have off days. There are times when I don’t want to do dishes ten times a day. The kids don’t want to do their arithmetic and the man does not want to mow the lawn. However, life is very rarely about what we want to do.

I’m sure this conundrum existed when our family consisted of just my husband and I, but now that we have four not so little kiddos in the house we seem to address this issue a lot more than before. Generally, our children are amiable and willing to please, but, on occasion, we are forced to listen to not so subtle whining and the inevitable, “But I don’t want to!”

After hearing this complaint used far too often, I thought I would give my children a taste of their own medicine. The next time they complained about ‘not wanting’ to do something, I replied, “You’re absolutely correct! Let’s spend the day only doing what we want to do, okay? You do what you want and I’ll do what I want” When it came to wanting a drink… sorry, mommy doesn’t want to. When it came to lunch time… sorry, mommy doesn’t want to. When it came to working on a project they were excited about… sorry, I’m busy reading right now. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for them to realize this was not going to work! They happily agreed that life wasn’t about what we wanted to do, but what needed to get done.

Are there times in life when we can make the choice to not do something? Absolutely! We weigh these decisions constantly. However, there also comes a time when we need to put on our big girl/boy shoes and just get moving!

Our children need to see us model this behavior. They need to understand we are human, too. We don’t always want to get out of bed. We don’t always want to do the dishes, clean the house, run the errands, or the myriad of other things which need to be handled on a daily basis. Through seeing us pursue to the end, our children learn character.

The fact is, we all have to do things we don’t “want” to do. We do them anyway because they need to get done. The question is whether we’ll handle them with grace…

Time to Chime In: If there was one responsibility you could cross off your list forever, which would it be?

The Comfort Zone

The Comfort ZoneI like my well-ordered life. I like to think I know my limits and just how far I can push them. There are certain activities I know I am capable of and willingly engage in. Then, there are others which I find myself thrust into; activities which are completely out of my comfort zone.

For some of us, being outside of our comfort zone is being in large crowds. For others it is public speaking. Recently, I was asked to abandon my comfort zone and speak at a local women’s conference. Talk about making a girl nervous!

How many of us went out of our comfort zone to homeschool? We dealt with personal fears and doubts, deviated from the normal path, and stepped out into unfamiliar territory. The first few steps were nerve-racking ones, but eventually we discovered we found our footing.

No matter where you comfort zone lies, let me encourage you to be willing to occasionally escape your comforts and stretch yourself.

Sometimes we are fearful of venturing into the unknown because we believe we lack the ability, talent, or knowledge to achieve in a new arena. What I’ve discovered over the years is that, for me, this is true! I do lack what it takes to achieve. What’s amazing is that while I am lacking, the Lord is always faithful. It is He who helps me to move past my discomfort and branch into new territory. When I do this, He is magnified and given glory; not because I am wonderful, but because He does wonderful things through the simplicity which is me.

As always, when we learn, our children learn right along with us! When we stepped out of our comfort zone to start homeschooling, our children experienced our faithfulness and were blessed. As we continue to follow the leading of the Lord, our children see the fruitfulness of our choices. As our babies grow into adults they will experience first hand a life well lived for the Lord and His ability to see us through anything, even those which are outside our natural boundaries.

Funny thing… As the Lord begins to stretch us, we are learning, growing, and increasing in wisdom. What we thought we could not do, we now find ourselves succeeding in and achieving for His honor. He is helping us become more.

The Lord doesn’t need the most intelligent, the strongest, or the greatest; He only needs the willing. Are you willing to step outside your comfort zone and be used?

Time To Chime In: Have you ever stepped outside your comfort zone and been incredibly blessed with the results? Share your story with us!

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

In the Kitchen: It Dices, It Slices…

In the KitchenWelcome to our kitchen. Here we’ll share our favorite recipes, lament over food failures, test out new gadgets, and discover tips to making kitchen life easier. Join us on this new adventure and share your life experience with the rest of us!

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Okay, so it doesn’t actually dice. It does peel, core, and slice though! If I had to pick one favorite tool from my kitchen, it would have to be the Apple Peeler from Pampered Chef.

It never fails, whenever we have little people over for a visit, they get hungry. When they get hungry we have a myriad of snacks ready for them to eat. One of the staples in our house is apples. Any color, any flavor; apples are good no matter the weather. For little mouths, having apples cut into smaller bites is always a plus. If I can make those little bites fun, that’s a bonus. Using our handy-dandy apple peeler, I can do both!

Pampered Chef has created an apple peeler like no other (and I have tested out quite a few). Their nifty device peels, cores, and cuts apples into a thin spiral. By slicing the apple in half, once peeled, the littles now have perfectly cut slices of apple which are easy to eat. For fun, we generally leave the apple in one long curly-cue of a slice; apple slinky anyone?

While eating spiraled apple is fun, mommy uses the apple peeler for more practical uses. Making apple pies, apple sauce, apple butter, and apple tarts is incredible fast and easy! Within minutes I can prepare an entire quart of apples.

Apple Peeler

Please click the picture above to be taken directly to the Pampered Chef website.

The peeler can be used for more than apples, however. Potatoes are another great way to use your peeler! This tool is incredibly diverse and useful. By simply adjusting a few of the blades, you are easily able to perfect the depth of your slice; decide whether or not to peel your produce; and leaving the core is always an option.

Whenever we pull out the apple peeler, we are met with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. Many people have asked where to get one and ask for ideas on how to use it. It never fails to amaze!

During the upcoming apple season, I imagine this tool will be getting even more use than normal. I can’t wait to start baking fresh apple pie and explore a few new recipes.

Time to Chime In: Do you have a favorite type of apple? Share it with us!

More Than You Can Chew

More Than You Can ChewIt’s coming; I can feel it. Once the learning year gets underway, things start moving along at a faster pace. We go from just a few activities a month to activities several times a week. We jump from one event to the next, trying to fill our days with fun and fond memories for our kiddos. In all the planning, sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew.

One of the dangers in being a parent is over-planning. Now, add homeschooling to the mix and you have one crazy household! Not only are we planning our learning routines, but we are adding in sports events, field trips, visits with friends, play dates, swim days, crafting opportunities, and more. Before you know it our calendar can be overbooked.

Perhaps I’m not the only one to notice this strange phenomena and all the challenges which come with it? Our intentions are well-meaning and our hearts are in the right place, but, next thing you know, the kids are getting cranky and you are all tired of running in high gear. Slowly, but surely, you become overwhelmed.

Might I make a humble suggestion, to myself as well as everyone else? Instead of over-booking our lives with event after event, let’s save time for things which really matter and events which benefit our families the most. Not every opportunity needs to be taken, not every event needs to be attended; we need to learn the fine art of saying, “No!”

Just looking at our current calendar, I can already tell we are starting to hit our limit. Before bite off more than I can chew, it’s time to start saying, “No!”

Time to Chime In: How is your currently calendar looking? Are the coming months starting to look overbooked?