Happy Thanksgiving!

ThanksgivingNo matter where you live, no matter where life finds you, there is always something to be thankful for.

May the Lord bless you and yours during the coming holiday. May He richly fill you with His presence, peace, joy, hope, and love. May He speak to you in the quiet and chaos of the day. For all His gifts, may we be truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!

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Buying a Memory

Buying_MemoryIt’s the little things you remember. The twinkling of lights, the smell of wood burning, the taste of hot chocolate and donuts. You remember tradition deeply rooted in family. Such a simple thing which takes on enormous meaning. It all started with an ornament…

The first Christmas our children were born they received a beautiful ornament commemorating the occasion. Each child received a different ornament: a rocking horse, a baby shoe, and a nutcracker; all sterling silver and engraved with their names. While most parents stop after the first Christmas, we kept going.

At the beginning of each Christmas season, our family begins the search for this year’s ornaments. Each of our children pick an ornament that is completely their own and unique to their personalities. No two ornaments are ever the same and no pressure is permitted; they are free to choose whichever ornament suits them.

Besides having a personalized and unique Christmas Tree, this helps our children feel included in all the decorating fun. My reasons are meaningful and steeped in family.

The goal is for each of our children to have a large collection of ornaments that have sentimental value. Each year we will keep adding to the collection until they are married. Their wedding present from us will be their large box of Christmas ornaments. (I can’t imagine a better way to start your first Christmas off right, than to open a large box of ornaments and to share with your new spouse all the wonderful memories that surround each one.)

Each ornament has a different story, prompts a new memory for them. Each decoration a reminder of family, tradition, and love. This is more than a collection of shiny balls, it is a remembrance of Christmas past and of blessings brought into our lives.

This has become a much-anticipated holiday tradition, one we celebrate fully. This year will be no different. Our family will excitedly pack into the car and head to some of our favorite shops. We will hem and haw, think and then think some more. (It takes us quite some time; this is no simple project to tackle.) Finally, all of our children will find ornaments that embody their own style and personality. We will rush home to put them on the tree and, once again, admire how each of our children are so different and yet complement each other beautifully.

With Christmas right around the corner, the kids are anxiously awaiting this year’s ornament expedition. It’s time to head out into the cold and buy yet another memory. One, prayerfully, our children will remember forever.

🔔Time to Chime In: Is there a special ornament you remember from your childhood?

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Learning Lines

“I have never understood the importance of having children memorize battle dates. It seems like such a waste of mental energy. Instead, we could teach them important subjects such as How the Mind Works, How to Handle Finances, How to Invest Money for Financial Security, How to be a Parent, How to Create Good Relationships, and How to Create and Maintain Self-Esteem and Self-Worth. Can you imagine what a whole generation of adults would be like if they had been taught these subjects in school along with their regular curriculum?”
― Louise L. HayYou Can Heal Your Life

Learning LinesOne of our battles in homeschooling is determining how much of a traditional education our children should receive and how much education should be focused on thinking outside the box. Do we teach memorization because it’s always been done this way or because it’s necessary?

Honestly, I feel torn on this topic. On the one hand, there are certain
things which I highly encourage my children to memorize. The multiplication facts are extremely important, wouldn’t you agree? As a Christian, I cheer for my children when they memorize Scripture.

On the other hand, do they need to remember the date of every single battle during WWII or just the important dates? Will they honestly need to recall the capital of every state?

Perhaps this is where wisdom comes into play.

Each of our children has certain gifts unique to them. Within the realm of homeschooling, I have the privilege of watching their gifts develop and helping my children determine if they will carry over into adult life. Knowing what those gifts are and wanting to build learning around those possibilities, I then have the ability to determine which aspects of their education need more focus than others.

History in particular seems to be the thorn in everyone’s side. All those dates!! History is important, we cannot move forward if we have not learned from the past. However, unless our child plans to become an historian or an archeologist, are all those dates really necessary?

(My husband points out that dates are there to help us remember the order in which things occur and the general proximity of the event. True, true. I will not argue that the sequence of events shouldn’t be taught, I am merely questioning how many of those dates need be memorized.)

“But how do you know your child won’t become interested in that field in the future?”, you ask? I don’t and, frankly, I don’t know that it matters. Hear me out….

If I am teaching the fundamental principles behind major events (e.g. What brought about WWII, the course of events, the results of choices made, and the effects of the war) then the proper groundwork has already been laid. If, later in life, my child decides she no longer wants to be a rocket scientist and instead becomes an historian, the only thing left for my child to learn is the dates!

Do you see my point? If we are teaching the fundamentals (teaching them to see the situation, break it down to the bare roots, discuss the condition, and follow its path to the end), going back to memorize dates and other details should be a walk in the park.

I only have my children for a limited time. I can either spend hours on end drilling them to memorize things that will not carry over into their adult lives, or I can use that time to hone their skills in the areas which will most benefit their futures and encourage a love of learning.

Is memorization important? Definitely. Knowing exactly what they should memorize is a whole ‘nother ball game. Each family must determine that for themselves, through the wisdom and leading of God.

A note to my own kids… you still have to learn your times table. Sorry!

🔔Time to Chime In: How do you feel about memorization?

“Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.”

– Proverbs 6:21-22

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Wake Up & Smell the Warfare

The following article was written for our monthly PSP newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!


WakeUp_SmellWarfareHave you ever had one of those days where everything seems to go ballistic? You know the kind… the kids are constantly fighting, everything you say is taken in the worst possible way, getting the basics done, even those things they normally like doing, is like pulling teeth, and then the other stuff starts: the car won’t start, family and friends alike seem to be deliberately seeking to annoy you, dinner burns, the dishwasher overflows all over the kitchen… you know the day – the day from Hell! We all have had them, and for the record, there are more to come.

It is actually very easy on a day like that, provided you take even a moment to step back and look at it altogether, to realize that the battle is on. For some reason, there are the general trials and struggles of daily living, and then there are those days when, for whatever reason, you have been ambushed by a nefarious enemy who knows how to push your buttons, and seemingly has pushed every last one of them. It’s called spiritual warfare. The Bible is not silent on this issue (thankfully), and gives us great encouragement as we receive our marching orders.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

~ Ephesian 6:11-13

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”

~ II Corinthians 10:4-5

These passages remind us that our weaponry and armor is from God, that our adversary is spiritual in nature, that our enemy is cunning, and that we can be victorious. While we are able to recognize the warfare that we engage in as such, our children, at least initially, are not. It is our duty, as good soldiers, to train the next generation of soldiers for war.

“There is no neutrality in spiritual warfare. Either one is an active combatant or an unwitting pawn.”

In Matthew 12:30 Jesus told His disciples, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” He quite clearly stated that everyone is either in one camp or the other. While outright combat is pretty easy to recognize (most people recognize getting punched in the face as an attack), there are a few things that fall into the warfare category that we would do well to consider, and prayerfully train our children properly regarding such tactics: not only how to recognize them, but also how to avoid using them on others.

Assassins: These are people that come into our lives, either long-term (family, coworkers, etc.) or for short period of time. They differ from those obvious fires that approach with guns blazing to storm our fortress in that their attacks are subtle. Their weapon of choice is usually poison, either coming with false doctrine and robbing us of the joy that our relationship with God should bring, or poisoning our hearts with discontent, gossip, slander of others, or the introduction of compromise. We should realize that this type of agent is not necessarily a deliberate assassin. It is quite possible that they can be a friend, who genuinely loves us, and does not realize that the enemy is using them to drive a dagger straight to our hearts. Teaching our children to analyze the influence that others have on them is difficult because it requires a great deal of self-evaluation along the way. Nevertheless, assassins abound, both intentional and clueless varieties.

Friendly Fire: These are the wounds we receive from our own side. In this category would be sibling rivalry (when all parties involved are believers), comments said without thinking that wound our hearts, and the myriad actions prompted by our own carnality and not-yet-dead sinful natures. Even on our worst days, we don’t wake up devising ways to hurt our family and friends (that would make us an assassin), but a believer can still accidentally discharge a loaded spiritual gun. In those times when we do so, we are usually aghast when we realize what has happened.

It is not always comfortable to ask ourselves the question, “Whose tool am I being used as right now?” but that is exactly how we must teach ourselves (and then our children) to think if we are going to avoid injuring our own backup in the fight. If we are not actively trying to promote peace and unity, it becomes very easy to become an agent of division.

Another point to consider is that this type of attack is rendered completely ineffective if we practice what we are taught in Scripture regarding forgiveness, praying for one another, and loving confrontation when necessary. Parental discipline may still be required for little Johnny when he gives in to the flesh, but siblings can choose to forgive rather than hold a grudge and seek an opportune moment to return the favor with a well-placed volley of return fire.

Double Agents: “Whose side are you on anyway?” This category is for those so given in to their own carnality that it is not easy to tell where they stand. They say they love God and want to serve Him, but their behavior swings back and forth to such a degree that it becomes easy to question their motives and feelings. They differ from those engaged in friendly fire in that there is less remorse, or even none, when confronted with their own deeds. Are they saved but really carnal, or worldly and presenting a facade (perhaps they have even deceived themselves)?

In any event, we don’t want to leave that question in the minds of others regarding our own conduct, nor do we wish for our children to be used as tools in the hand of our adversary. Teaching them the importance of self-evaluation, through the lens of God’s Word, is an important part of their own combat training as we bring them through boot camp in preparation for deployment wherever their Commanding Officer may send them.

It is our hope as parents, teachers, and solders in the army of the Lord Jesus Christ to raise up a generation of champions for the Kingdom of God. To effectively do so, we need to teach our children to not only recognize the tactic, tools, and wiles of the enemy, but also to avoid becoming his unwitting pawn against their own fellow soldiers. “Who am I a tool in the hand of right now?” is a question we all need to learn to ask ourselves more often.

Forward! Charge!

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Creative Writing: Exploring Fun!

Creative_Writing“First, I would disarm my opponent by sending in a herd of kittens. The distraction of abundant cuteness would allow me to slip into their city, filling their bread bowls with Nerds. After receiving my lovely gifts, the people would gladly lay down their weapons and surrender to me; their supreme ruler.”

Who says creative writing has to be serious? Who says it has to correspond to reality? Creative writing should be exactly that. Creative.

Creative writing has been a journey in our home. Af first, I would simply pick a topic out of thin air and have our children write a short essay. Needless to say, that didn’t work well. The kids were unmotivated by my choice of topics and, frankly, I had a hard time coming up with topics of interest.

This year, everything changed and we’re loving it!

What are we doing differently this year? We added creative writing as part of our history lesson! And, Mommy set a few guidelines. We each have a creative writing journal, mommy included. Instead of our writing assignments being open-ended, we are given five minutes to write; no more, no less.

By tying in our creative writing to our history lesson, mom no longer has to go searching for fun topics to explore; we are practically tripping over them. By mommy being involved, this becomes a fun, family activity (even a competition at times). By limiting our time, our children see this as a challenge and not a chore.

Here are some of the exciting assignments we’ve given:

  • Pretend you are a Persian stained glass window, describe yourself.
  • You are king of Upper Egypt, with plans to conquer your pesky neighbors to the North. Give me your battle plan.
  • You’re a nomad child, experiencing her first bath in the Nile River. Tell me how this feels.

Creative writing usually takes place after our history reading and map work, but before activities and projects. Our routine calls for writing assignments at least once a week, but often we do more. (This stuff is downright fun!) There are no limits. We’ve had everything from flying unicorns, Nerds, and Jedi knights make an appearance.

I should also point out: These are exercises in creative writing, not grammar lessons. I do not check their work for punctuation, grammar, spelling, or anything else. Our creative writing sessions are to encourage imagination and a love of writing.

This year, creative writing has taken on a whole new face. Our children love these exercises and can’t wait to hear what fun topic they’ll be exploring next. And, you know what? I’m having fun, too.

But, let me warn you. Look out for those flying unicorns. They definitely cause a lot of trouble!

🔔Time to Chime In: What part of your routine is dedicated to creative writing?

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The Christmas Countdown Has Begun!

Book-Review_logoIt’s almost Christmas time! You’ve starting planning right? Wait… you haven’t? You mean you don’t have your presents purchased, ready to be wrapped? No meal plans set for your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s get-together? But, you have thought about it, right?

If you’re like most of us, planning for the holidays can be just a tad stressful. That is, unless you have a workable plan of attack! Don’t have one in action yet? Then I have just the resource you need.

Back with her second edition of Christine’s Christmas Countdown, Christine Ida Harrington is offering help and encouragement for making the most of your holiday season! Inside, you will find a detailed breakdown to help you get a head start on the holiday madness.

Starting early, Christine helps us get a jump-start onChristine's Christmas Countdown our goals and vision. Do we need to make any home repairs before hoards of company arrive on our doorstep? Are there bulbs we need to start buying for the coming festivities? Perhaps you’re looking to set a few personal goals in order to better enjoy the season? It’s never too early to start planning!

What follows are breakdowns for the months leading up to December; giving us tips on organizing our outfits (hooray!) and special events. Helpful lists have been included for us to better plan our gift giving and menu choices. Each month has something new for us to consider and learn.

I’ve found this book to be a valuable resource for keeping the Christmas season fun and organized. I loved how far in advance Christine starts preparing. I appreciated how thorough and detailed she was in her ideas, planning all the way down to flowers being planted in our gardens and outfits being worn to particular events. This is a woman after my own heart. The included lists were very helpful and well thought out.

This book is a perfect fit for your handbag while running all your Christmas errands. Be prepared and don’t leave home without it!

🔔Time to Chime In: Is there one particular aspect of holiday planning which always seems to cause stress? Share how you’re going about solving this holiday dilemma!

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The Well-Rounded Child

“Education helps you to be a well-rounded person, period. It teaches you how to take in information and data, process it, and use it for life building…”

~ Yolanda Adams

Well-Rounded_StudentI remember the days when being ‘well-rounded’ meant you were given an education which covered a wide base of learning, allowing you to be well-informed and well read. Now, it seems being ‘well-rounded’ has taken on an entirely new meaning. To be truly ‘well-rounded’ your child must excel. Not in merely one area of study, but all.

Have we stopped to consider how much pressure we are putting on our students by expecting them to excel in every area of study? It’s not enough that our children love writing and read voraciously. They must also take higher sciences and maths. Your child is an incredible student, but their education would not be complete without a rigorous sports program and several years of piano under their belt as well.

The problem is not in the exposure to such programs, activities, or courses. The issue lies in expecting our children to ace each and every one of them. We push our students to take these classes – foisting tests upon them at regular intervals – making sure they understand graduating from high school is quite impossible without them. We heap stress upon our children, all in the name of higher learning.

Why is this?

What if our children were able to tailor their learning toward personal goals? What if, instead of stressing over AP courses and unwanted sports programs, our students spent the bulk of their learning focusing on gifts, talents, and career plans?  I wonder what that would look like.

Now, before I start having stones thrown at my head or advertisements regarding my children’s lack of education start making the rounds over the internet, allow me to explain.

It’s not that these courses are bad or wrong. I took AP courses in high school and loved every minute of them. Some kids love sports. While others enjoy music. Neither am I saying our children should not be exposed to such areas of study. In fact, I would highly encourage all students be immersed in all programs of study.

Therein lies the difference.

I want to give our children the blessing of a well-rounded learning environment. We encourage them to pursue many areas of knowledge. We provide them the tools to continue their exploration. Then… we step back and see where the Lord leads.

Through the blessing of homeschooling, we start to see their gifts take shape and where the Lord might be directing their steps. We come alongside them, helping strengthen their weaknessesBut, we don’t heap unrealistic expectations on their shoulders.

Being well-rounded isn’t about being perfect in every area of study and being a major sports star. Being well-rounded means our children have been given thorough exposure in all areas of study and encouraged to continue learning always.

Do I expect my children to do their best? Absolutely! However, sometimes their best isn’t what other people think it ought to be, or even what a college thinks it ought to be. Their best is exactly that, their best.

Don’t settle for someone else’s definition of what a well-rounded child should look like. Ask the Lord what He wants of your children’s education and make their learning God centered. When Christ leads, you can’t go wrong!

🔔Time to Chime In: Give us your definition of a well-rounded student! Practically speaking, what would that look like?

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Family First

Family_FirstOn Monday, there is an event my little kids could participate in. Tuesday the high schoolers have an event. Friday is club day, but the kids each have their own activities. And, to top it off, Saturday is a Mom’s event. Wow… If I’m not careful, I’m going to get pulled in twenty different directions and our family is going to spend more time apart than we are together.

Over the past several years – especially as our children have gotten older and more spread out in grade – I’ve noticed a growing trend. Instead of homeschooling activities being family focused, we are being separated. But, wait. I thought homeschooling was supposed to remove such boundaries, allowing us to spend time together as a family; establishing family bonds?

I want to be very careful. I only have so much time in a day. I want to choose activities which bring our family closer together and meet our family’s needs. If there are activities which allow all of us to spend time with friends, then I am going to choose those activities over ones which only allow one child to socialize. If I can choose events which permit the family to be present, this will win out over ‘single-serve’ events.

Does this mean my teens never have an opportunity to socialize with others? Of course not! It does mean we are very careful about how many activities they participate in and which venues are available to them.

As we spend a great deal of time together as a family, with other families, this helps our children become more social. They learn to be friends with children younger and older than themselves. When we spend time together as a group, this does not prevent our teens from socializing with one another – they are free to have their own bowling lane and visit together – it helps them understand true fellowship and socialization.

Since becoming an adult, I’ve found my friends are rarely my own age. Most of my friends are either several years younger, or older, than myself. Why would I expect different for my kids? By keeping our activities family friendly and family oriented I am not preventing my children from developing deeper friendships, but widening their pool of socialization.

Family activities allows us to get to know families as a whole. I want to know my children’s friends and their parents. I want our families to become closer, making for lifelong relationships.

Why settle for parceling out our family time when we could be enjoying the benefit of family centered activities?

🔔Time to Chime In: Do you find your family being pulled in too many directions? How do you limit those events, keeping the focus on family?

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Cardboard Warfare

Craft-Table_LogoThe brand new toy stripped from its box, one would think my child would be set to play for hours on end with their brand-new trinket. Instead, I was sitting there holding the device and my child was playing with the box.

Have you, too, noticed this trend? Oh, sure; they’re interested in the toy or game for a little while. But, in all reality, the large cardboard box the object arrived in has much more potential. Why did we waste money on the toy at all, when we could have simply purchased a large supply of cardboard for significantly less and gotten just as much fun out of it?

If you’re looking for something fun and adventurous to do with your stacks of cardboard boxes, look no further! Welcome to cardboard warfare…

(Please be advised: Due to the context of the film, some language and violence might be present.) 

Even if you have little girls, the cardboard possibilities are endless! Create your own arcade like Caine did; build a cardboard castle; or create a suit of armor. All you neCardboard_Warfareed is a stack of cardboard and packing tape. The rest is up to your imagination!

Don’t limit yourself to cardboard boxes, however. Find other items around the house you can reuse and repurpose, adding them to the fun. Hours of fun, with hardly any cost!

🔔Time to Chime In: Imagine you’ve been given a refrigerator-sized cardboard box. What are you going to create?

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What YOUR Bible Lessons Might Be Missing!

bible_missingThey were sitting at the table, just as I asked. Our Bibles were open to the passage of the day. But, if you looked closely, you could tell something was a little off. The morning had been a rough start and hearts were hurt. We were making an attempt to put things to rights, but I could tell my children weren’t ready to receive. Then, the Lord spoke to my heart and showed me what our Bible lessons were missing…

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

~ Psalm 95:6

Worship is the expression of reverence and adoration of God; an act (rite) that makes up the formal expression of respect. One act of worship is the lifting of voices before the Lord in song.

While we had been in the habit of going before the Lord each morning in prayer and reading through our daily passage, it occurred to me we weren’t always reading with a heart of worship, but reading out of habit. At times, reading quickly because we were running late. On hard days, reading even though the kids weren’t really receiving or ready to hear from the Lord at all.

The Lord reminded me of how often worshipping in song was a comfort to my own soul, softening my heart and opening my ears to hear His Word. If worshipping in song was a blessing to me, why wouldn’t my children also be blessed in this practice. It was time to make a change!

Now, worship is a daily part of our Bible lessons. At times we play our own instruments and sing songs commonly heard at church. Other days we listen to hymns on my device. When I’m feeling adventurous, we launch Pandora and see what the Lord blesses us with. No two days are the same; each day is a new blessing.

Through the addition of worship in song to our routine my children’s hearts more readily turn toward the Lord. The Lord uses this time to fill our home with peace, quiet, and rest. Our struggles seem less important and we are readied for hearing from the Word. Our Bible time has been magnified a hundred fold.

Isn’t it amazing how after many years of homeschooling you can still learn something new; the Lord shares new wisdom we had yet to receive? After ten years of homeschooling, it finally came to my attention that what our Bible time was missing was worship! Lifting our voices before the Lord, opening our hearts to receive from His Spirit and allowing the burdens of the morning to wash away.

Even in our homeschooling – especially in our homeschooling – may we constantly kneel before the Lord our God and worship.

🔔Time to Chime In: Does worship play a part in your homeschool day?

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