The Right Fit: Choosing the “Perfect” Curriculum

I wish I could be one of those parents who is blessed in picking the perfect curriculum right from the get-go and using it all through their children’s learning. Those people do exist, right? While we’ve been pretty lucky and only had a few changes over the years, it still irks me to know I’ve wasted a precious dollars.

How does one pick the right curriculum? Does such a thing even exist? If it works for one student, does it have to work for all our learners, and does it last for their entire learning experience? All great questions! I’m not an expert, but here’s what I’ve learned:

When Not to Buy – Knowing when to buy is good, knowing when not to buy is just as important. Don’t buy on impulse, out of stress or because someone else says you ‘have to’ have it. Learn what works best for your kids, pray, and buy when you’re ready.

Is it For Them or You? – Sometimes we have a tendency to pick curriculum which gets us excited, but we don’t stop to think if it fits our kids’ needs. We need to look at this curriculum from their perspective and determine if it’s the right fit.

All or Nothing – Are we buying one type of curriculum and then forcing all our children to learn the same way? If we can, we try to meet each child where they are. We’ve been blessed that most of our curriculum works for everyone, but there have been times when I’ve needed to adjust to fit a particular need. This is just one of the joys of homeschooling.

Can it Wait? – Being a planner, I like buying things in advance. One mistake I’ve made is in buying items way too early and then realizing I didn’t need them after all. While I’m all for a good deal and planning ahead, I’ve learned to bookmark or ‘pin’ items I might want, instead of buying immediately. As time progresses, I will come back to those and reevaluate as needed.

Pray Always! – As always, pray about this issue. When the Lord is at the center of your life, you can trust He will be faithful to direct you to the curriculum that best fits your family’s needs. Be open to what He is going to do. You’d be surprised at how often He will take you down a path you would never have dared on your own!

Be In Agreement – I don’t recommend tackling this obstacle all by yourself. Make sure your spouse is included in curriculum and course choices. Sometimes we stress over areas our other halves could work through in moments. We were created to work together, so plan a date night and hash it out. Figure out what you both are looking for and make it happen.

Bend a Little – So, you prayed over the curriculum, talked to your spouse, bought it, and somehow it just isn’t quite working out. That’s alright! Sometimes we have great materials at our disposal, we just need to tweak them a little. Other times, the particular curriculum is only good for a period of our learning experience before we move on.

The Curriculum Graveyard – This one is the hardest for me, I admit. However, sometimes curriculum just isn’t the right fit. What happened? Who knows! It might be that I’m not using it properly. It might be I wasn’t following God’s instructions and was using my own wisdom in making the choice. It might be God was using this experience to teach us a lesson which had nothing to do with the curriculum what-so-ever; the curriculum was merely a catalyst for a greater lesson. No matter; if it isn’t working, drop it! Donate it, give it to a friend, set it on fire (just kidding), or whatever else you can think of. Life is too short to waste on lessons which aren’t being learned. Don’t be afraid to admit what you’ve got isn’t doing the trick, then readjust.

I don’t know that we’ve ever come across the ‘perfect’ fit, when it comes to curriculum.  Honestly, I don’t know if one exists. What I have learned is to pray about the choices we make, be one with my spouse on this matter, and to be flexible with whatever we finally go with. No matter which curriculum we’ve chosen, we’ve always learned valuable lessons through using it. Just not always in the way it was intended.

We’d love to know… What is the shortest amount of time you’ve spent using a particular curriculum? What made you relegate it to the curriculum graveyard?

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Review: Library and Educational Services LLC

Despite recently given, well-meaning advice, one can never have too many books. And thanks to Library and Educational Services LLC our investment in our children’s love of literature and learning just became easier!

“Library and Educational Services is a wholesaler of books, CDs, and DVDs. We have been selling primarily to Christian schools, churches, specialty stores and resellers for over 40 years. We specialize in materials for children. All of our prices are 30% to 70% (or even more) off publishers’ list prices every day. We give homeschools the same discount other schools receive.
 
We carefully review all items we carry so that they are not contrary to Biblical standards and values.”

Recently, our family was given the opportunity to review Library and Educational Services LLC and learn just how easy it was to find literature for our family’s learning adventure. We were offered a first-hand look at their vast selection of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction book series. With over two hundred titles to choose from, in a wide range of age categories, we were excited to explore. In addition to an assortment of reinforced hardcover books, our family was offered a book from the best-selling paperback series Who Was…, Who Was Jim Henson, and a CD, Trapped in Aesop’s Fables!, from the Lifehouse Theater series.

Given a link to Library and Educational Services, our family was able to immediately access their website and begin exploring the multitude of titles available for purchase. Browsing was effortless. Resources could be found by topic, grade, medium, or simply by searching for specific reads. Having been offered a book from the Who Was… series, our family began by choosing a title from this category first; selecting Who Was Jim Henson. Afterward, we took a moment to choose our CD from Lifehouse Theater and selected Trapped in Aesop’s Fables! Finally, we moved on to exploring their range of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction books. With so many titles to choose from it was hard to narrow down our choices. We decided to order World War II: Essential Histories (a set of six books covering the war) and Awfully Ancient (a set of three books which comically explore various aspects of ancient history).
Our order totaled eleven items with an invoice of approximately seventy dollars, listing a savings of over a hundred and fifteen dollars on the resources themselves. We completed the process of checking out and awaited the arrival of our books. Within a week and a half, our box arrived and we were ready to explore our chosen resources.

Our books arrived in a single box, packed carefully. After taking a moment to unbox them and share a few photos our new finds on Instagram – Yes, I am that kind of mom. – I determined to not force the books on our children, but instead strategically place them in a prominent location and see how the kids responded. My efforts were well rewarded. Our second oldest daughter quickly discovered our books had arrived and promptly began reading aloud portions of the Awfully Ancient series to her siblings. Thus far, all of the resources have been a hit.

This was our family’s first experience using Library and Educational Services and it was lovely. We were impressed with the wide variety of materials offered at great prices and the ease of the ordering process; in addition to being pleased with the quality of the materials we received.
Who Was Jim Henson is of the same quality as other books we’ve previously viewed in the series and an enjoyable read. Trapped in Aesop’s Fables! is beautifully recorded. All of our selections of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction books lived up to their description. The binding is sturdy, offering longevity to families who might have young hands holding books, without the frustrating habit some reads have of binding which is too tight to properly read the marginal text. World War II: Essential Histories proves to be a handy resource for deeper studies on this topic, while Awfully Ancient has by far been our favorite choice. Our students found the series engaging, funny, and educational. They were an instant hit.

With so many resources available through Library and Educational Services it will be a challenge to determine which books to explore next! We were quite pleased to find a large selection of MasterBooks homeschool curriculum available, and you KNOW how much we love MasterBooks. In addition, Adams’ Chart of History, Writing Strands, and the Blast Back series – just to name a few – are all certainly worth a closer look. Library and Educational Services even lists coloring books amongst their catalog, as well as games and crafts. There is so much to enjoy!

I am so glad we had an opportunity to review Library and Educational Services LLC. I would highly recommend this resource to anyone looking to build their home libraries and supply their children with good, clean materials. The selection available is remarkable and the prices just can’t be beat. Now, if only I had the budget to buy everything I want…

If you’d like to learn more about Library and Educational Services LLC please visit them at their website and on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this fantastic read, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

Review Crew Disclaimer

We’d love to know… What was the last book you purchased?

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A Kids’ Eye View of Homeschooling

A_Kids_Eye_View

We often hear adults sharing their views on homeschooling. Most of us weigh in with our thoughts, opinions, and experiences. But how often do our children get a voice? When are they allowed to share their thoughts on the whole homeschooling thing? Well… how about now!

My four kiddos: They’re silly, creative, adventurous, mostly obedient, and the sweetest bunch you’ll meet. When they aren’t talking your ears off, they’re usually sitting in a corner with their noses in a book or creating something which baffles this mama’s mind. Today, they’re sharing their thoughts on all things homeschool. (Take it with a grain of salt!)

🍃What We Like About Homeschooling🍃

  • We don’t have to go to ‘school’.
  • We don’t have to wake up early.
  • We don’t have to have vaccines.
  • No homework.
  • We can skip stuff.
  • No school uniform.
  • We don’t have to worry about getting in trouble with the teacher.
  • We don’t have eight hours of work.
  • We don’t have to wait for our classmates to catch up; we go as fast as we are able.
  • We work at our own pace.
  • We’re with our family.
  • We know everyone in class.
  • The teacher helps you more.
  • We can get up whenever we want need to.
  • Lots of field trips.

🍃What We DON’T Like About Homeschooling🍃

  • Um… (crickets)
  • You have to actually learn.
  • When you don’t want to do school, your parents tell you it builds character.
  • You still have to do chores.

🍃What We’d Do Differently🍃

  • Rewards for doing perfect work.
  • No school at all. (As if!!!)
  • Doing school work in a different order than I do now (of my own choosing).
  • More hands-on activities.
  • More field trips.
  • Learn more elective activities, which aren’t necessarily academic but are definitely useful (e.g. archery, horseback riding, swimming).

🍃What We’d Tell Families Who Are Considering Homeschooling🍃

  • We learn more than we would have in public school.
  • We have more flexibility.
  • We pick our own routines.
  • We have more field trips.
  • We spend more time focusing on the academic studies we are interested in.
  • We can school huddled under mounds of blankets.
  • We can homeschool with our dog.
  • We grow closer as a family.
  • We read books all day long (even between subjects).
  • We can catch up on subjects we’re behind in much faster.
  • Our parents know exactly what we’re learning.

While I don’t believe in giving kids everything they want – The multiple requests for more candy are definitely falling on deaf ears – I do believe in allowing our children to voice their opinions. Some of their suggestions were helpful; we could definitely be enjoying a few more field trips, and hands-on activities are always fun. Others; well… let’s just say they will be shelved for now.
Either way, it’s fun hearing what the kiddos think about our adventures in homeschooling.

We’d love to hear what your kids have to say on this topic!… Go ask your kiddos these same questions!

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When Our Big Summer Plans Amount to Something Small

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My children long to know what we’re doing each summer. A grand adventure seems to be called for. All of their friends will be announcing their fantastic escapades: vacations to exotic locations, camping with other friends, road trips, and more. These all sound wonderful. But with a work schedule which doesn’t let up and a budget which cannot afford such luxuries, our big summer plans usually amount to something small.

Truthfully, this breaks my heart. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want these things for our children or myself. Like most parents, I would love to give these experiences to my family and explore the world with them. Unfortunately, that’s just not where we’re at. So what can I do? Begin with prayer, and ask the Lord to lead.

Start with a Heart of Gratitude Unfulfilled desire can easily lead to a heart filled with bitterness and anger over what we don’t have. Instead, we need to choose look around us and be thankful for all we’ve been given. We have a lovely home, good food to eat, too much clothing, and plenty to keep us occupied right where we are. It’s good to have goals, but we must remember to be content with what God has given us already and be thankful for all He continually provides.

Plan for the Future If there is something important we wish to aim for, then we should also be willing to do the work needed to make it happen. Vacation trips don’t just fall in our laps. So, we’re researching, planning, and minimizing to make these happen in the future. Some of our goals are more easily attained while others might take years to accomplish. With a visual guide and plan in place, everyone becomes excited to see progress and help with cutting back.

Turn Off and Tune Out the Buzz If Instagram squares start causing discontent and Facebook posts bring us down, it might be time to remove ourselves from the action for a little while. These feeds can be lovely sources for ideas, but when inspiration becomes frustration we need a break.

Make the Most of Right Now Traveling to Europe isn’t in the cards right now, but there is plenty of opportunity for adventure all around us. Even when budgets are on a budget, there are still many ways to take advantage of the season. With a little creativity, planning, and a Google search or two, we could be having all kinds of fun.

Remember, Sometimes Small Amounts to Something Big While we’d all love grand adventures, it also helps to remember the little things in life which add up to big memories. Roasting marshmallows over a fire pit we built ourselves, sleeping in tents in the living room, homemade ice cream, free concerts, library events, kitten cuddles, and so much more. These aren’t far away adventures, to be sure, but grand none-the-less. I can’t provide exotic locations every summer – okay, not even every third summer – but I can take each day and make it memorable in its own way.

The desire for adventure remains. Through prayer, planning, and the Lord’s leading, we’re making it happen. In the mean time, I’ll continue to keep my eyes focused on what the Lord has already provided and be grateful for each new day. Because the truth is, a grand adventure awaits the moment I open my eyes. I just have to be open to the possibilities and live each day with thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ I Thessalonians 5:18

We’d love to know… If you could plan one grand adventure before the summer ends, what would it be?

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If You Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail; A Series Review!

Fail-to-plan

I am huge on planning. Without a “vision” for my day, or my year for that matter, I can quickly lose balance of what needs to be accomplished and get overwhelmed by the surmounting tasks of the day-to-day. In order to help me make sense of life and to prioritize the multitude of tasks that fill my routine, I decided to write down a “master plan”. A guideline to help me better manage both my household and my homeschooling.

Let me be the first to remind you, this is not a hard-line which cannot be crossed. Rather, consider these as they were intended, guidelines. They are a starting point which can be changed and manipulated at any given point.

Prioritizing Life
Managing the Budget
Adding Events
Planning the Homeschool Year
Putting it all Together

What works for me, might not work for you. Please feel free to read with discretion; pray about what you are hearing and then decide for yourself where the Lord is leading.

May these ideas help you as much as they help me!
Cristina

I Can’t Homeschool: A Series Review!

I_Can't_Homeschoo

Homeschooling can seem like a daunting journey, especially for those who are new to the concept. We are unsure of where to start, overwhelmed by the notion of taking on our children’s education, and feel as if we are not enough.

Join us in this series of encouragement, as we share reasons families think they can’t homeschool and offer support for those unsure of the adventure called homeschooling.

…..

I Lack Self Control
They Won’t Listen
I’m Uneducated

I’m Unorganized
I Need ME Time
I Have Too Many KidsMy Kids Are Too Big
My Family Will DisapproveI’m A Dad!My Kids Have Special Needs

God didn’t call us to homeschool because we had it all together or because we were such incredible people. He called us to homeschooling because He wanted this for our children and He asked us to be faithful. He isn’t asking us to be perfect, He’s asking us to be obedient to His call.

Each of us is still a work in progress, being molded by our Creator into something better. Allow God to use your imperfect self to bring Him glory. Step out in faith, knowing He will see you through. You can do all things in Christ!

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus”
Philippians 3:12

We’d love to know… Do you already homeschool? Help motivate other families by sharing previous doubts you may have had about taking on the adventure of homeschooling, and how the Lord helped you overcome for His glory and your family’s benefit!

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A Toast To All the Girls: Homeschooling the Ladies

A_Toast_To_All_The_Girls

I think most of us agree, there is a significant difference between bringing up boys and bringing up young ladies. While each child is unique and has their own personality, we firmly believe in raising our children to fulfill the roles the Lord has prepared for them. Through the blessing of homeschooling, we have the unique opportunity to train up our children to fulfill their God-given roles.

“…urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
Titus 2:4-5

Let’s Hit the Books

While I gravitate towards purchasing curriculum for all three girls from the same company – I really like the format/layout of the overall learning – I also tend to vary the routine and requirements for each one. One child’s strength is language arts, so more is expected of her in this area and we push her to strengthen her arithmetic skills. Another is the complete opposite. Then there’s our third, who prefers hands-on assistance in all things. I do my best to meet each where they are.

Clean Machines

Cleaning isn’t a job for only our girls, but it is more stressed in their daily routines than in our son’s. Considering our girls need to be trained in the keeping of their homes, we spend a portion of each day focusing on these skills.
Our girls have regular chore rotations each day of the week, so they become accustomed to maintaining household responsibilities on a regular basis.

It’s Your Night!

Again, cooking is not relegated to women alone, but we wish to train our girls in providing tasty meals for their families (should they marry). Thus, we spend a portion of each day in the kitchen. Some days we focus on meals themselves, other times we choose to have fun with desserts and tasty drinks.
On occasion, we also enjoy having the girls take turns being responsible for dinner. They plan, prepare and cook. Then we all enjoy. It can be tons of fun!

The Big Debate

In our home, we have never stressed college or careers, especially not with our girls. Does this mean we are against girls going to college? Not at all. Our focus has always been that our children be open to the leading of the Spirit; that they be faithful in following whichever path He lays before them. If it’s college and a career, so be it. We have just never stressed that college is a must.
That being said… What we have stressed is that, should our daughters be led to attend college and later get married and have families, they need to remember their first calling: to be keepers of their homes. How they choose to do this is between them and their husbands, through the guidance of the Lord, but keepers they are called to be. While they might like working and be good at it, the Lord has called them to a specific role and they should be faithful in fulfilling it.

It Takes All Kinds

As silly as it might seem, some people are under the impression that all women are the same. We all like wearing skirts, heels, makeup, and doing our hair. While a vast majority of us like these things, there are also some who prefer to live in jeans, wear pony tails, and go natural.
You’d think, having three girls come from the same parents, all our girls would be alike. They aren’t. And, that’s okay. Our girls are learning they each have different preferences and are learning to respect this.

Using the ’S’ Word

Here is a tough one! That dirty word most women can’t stand: Submission! Oh, yes.
Our girls are being taught the fine art of submission. They are being taught that submitting to their pop and to their future husbands doesn’t mean they are a doormat or weak (thank you, very much). It takes strength to have faith in another person, trusting they will make the best decisions on your behalf. It takes strength to let someone make decisions for your family; strength to move forward when someone asks it of you. Being submissive isn’t weakness, but a gracious act of love and respect. When we learn to see submission in the proper light, submission is a beautiful thing.

Raising girls is fun. Our home is full of tutus, dress up clothes, odd assortments of hairbows, and a growing number of shoes. With Biblical wisdom, a gentle hand, and the grace of God, we are raising our daughters to submit to the will of God and serve Him in all they do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to know… Do your daughters like pink? Not all girls do!

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Let’s Hear It For the Boys: Homeschooling the Fellas

Lets_Hear_It_For_The_Boys

After having three girls, finding out we were having a boy came as quite a shock to the system. My boy is a completely different creature from his sisters. And, that is how it should be!

I think most of us agree, there is a significant difference between bringing up boys and bringing up young ladies. While each child is unique and has their own personality, we firmly believe in raising our children to fulfill the roles the Lord has prepared for them. Through the blessing of homeschooling, we have the unique opportunity to train up our children to fulfill their God-given roles.

“Likewise urge the young men to be sensible;” – Titus 2:6

Let’s Hit the Books

All four of our children are homeschooled, but helping my son with his studies is significantly different from helping my girls. Boys, in general, require a bit more activity. My son is frequently known to take learning breaks to simply run around. He is also fond of staring out windows, allowing his mind to wander towards more adventurous endeavors. My son does best when I work with him on a one-one-one bases; walking him through his lessons and urging him to keep up the good work. We’ve also learned to keep lessons as short as possible, and as hands-on as possible.

Do Boys Clean?

Not only can boys clean, but they should! As Christians, we believe in gender roles; however, there is nothing which states a man cannot be clean and organized. After all, God is a God of order, is He not?
As a member of the family, our son helps out with chores and household responsibilities. Being the youngest, his helping might seem small at the moment, but he is learning to be faithful in the little until his contribution may increase. He takes out trash, cleans his room, helps out around the house, and helps Pop with the yard work (when he can).
Incidentally, it’s interesting to note, my son is one of the cleanest people in our home. I’m not sure why boys are typically portrayed as being continually dirty and having messy rooms because this little man is not!

 A Man in the Kitchen! 

Again, we would generally expect working in the kitchen to be more closely associated with women, considering we’re the homemakers and the men are generally out working all day. However, some men really enjoy working in the kitchen and are equally good at it! Besides, it never hurts to add another skill to the tool belt; you never know when it’s going to come in handy.
Our son is not only welcome to work in the kitchen, but encouraged to participate. He is learning to use tools, cook meals, and prepare food for others. He loves it and takes pride in what he makes.

The Art of Being a Gentleman

Let’s be clear here! Allowing a man to be a gentleman does not mean women are weak or unable to do things for themselves. On the contrary, allowing a man to be a gentleman speaks of his gentleness and the lady’s graciousness.
Part of our son’s training is in learning how to be a gentleman. He is encouraged to open doors for us girls, and carry items when able. He is being trained to be honorable, chivalrous, and courteous.

 Who’s the Boss? 

One of the most important things I’ve learned, being the mama of a little man, is to understand that is just what he is… a little man! Most men prefer not to take instruction from women. They prefer to be the leaders; forging their own paths and striking out on their own.
Training my son is a fine balance. I am learning to guide him in his decisions and not push him in the direction I think he needs to go. I am also learning to be gracious in my instruction, not demanding. I am also learning to simply leave the bulk of my son’s training to my husband, who understands him better and gives him firmer guidelines.
My son, on the other hand, is learning to accept my instruction graciously and obey even when his father is not present. He is learning to be respectful when wisdom is imparted. He is also learning what it means to be a true leader, one who guides based on Biblical wisdom and Godly instruction. Raising children is not an easy job.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Can women work? Sure! However, by God’s design, it is a man’s job to provide for his family. Whether he be self-employed, works at home, or drives into an office, our men are responsible for taking care of their family financially.
Part of our son’s discipleship is in helping him understand his God given role as provider. He is being encouraged to find his strengths, discover ways to put those strengths to good use, and provide for those under his care. He is learning to be productive, helpful, and take pride in taking care of his family.

Raising boys is definitely a riot. But, amidst all the chaos and torn jeans, is a world of fun and adventure. With Biblical wisdom, a strong hand, and the grace of God, we are raising our son to be a man after His own heart. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to hear from you… Share with us your son’s funniest antics!

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Raising Motivated Learners: A Series Review!

Raising Motivated Learners Series

Our goal as parents and educators is to work ourselves out of a job; to raise our children to become responsible adults.

Join us as we share tips on how to raise motivated learners and equip them with the skills to pursue the path the Lord lays before them.

Twenty Questions
Tools, Not Products
Encouraging Contribution
Space Exploration
Take Initiative

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6

Your Turn!: Share with us how you are creating an atmosphere of motivated learning!

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Taking on the World, One Argument at a Time

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So often when I read anti-homeschooling posts or articles, my first inclination is to write back and share “my side” of the story. However, I’ve come to realize, were I to attempt to respond to every argument I come in contact with, I would quickly become a ball of frustration and more than likely be wasting my time. While some arguments are worth the having, others are simply pointless. Are there guidelines one could follow, to know whether or not a debate is profitable?

Talking with my husband and homeschooling dad extraordinaire, here are a few things he suggests I keep in mind…

Debate when you have the opportunity to make an impact. Do not argue simply to hear your own voice, but to change the way another might view the situation. While your words might not have an immediate effect, it might be the seed to bring about a future change. If there is no chance they will listen, keep still.

Debate when you have the opportunity to influence a third-party. While you might not sway the person whom you are debating, perhaps there is another listener who might benefit from the exchange. For their sake, the argument is worth the having.

There are times in which it is beneficial to state our case, perhaps enlightening another with information of which they are unaware. However, there are times in which it is best to simply remain silent. While it might be fun “taking on the world”, it simply isn’t feasible. Not only do we lack the time to argue with everyone, but very often, it isn’t worth the effort.

Our time here is limited. We need to focus our attentions on the areas in which we can bring about a change and leave the nay-sayers to themselves. When the Lord opens the doors of communication, we should walk through them with courage and willingness. However, when someone wishes to argue for the sake of arguing, it’s time to shake the dust from our feet and move along.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
~ I Peter 3:15-16

We’d love to know… How do you know when to debate and when to walk away?

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