Our April Reads!

April Reads (2016)April was an exciting, albeit fast, month on the book front. Between being on break for an entire week and going on a multitude of field trips, we didn’t get finished with half the books I had planned. A few of these books were included in Our Morning Basket, another was a parenting pick. Here’s a rundown of the books we enjoyed during the month of April:

  1. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) – Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
    My kids loved this story! We read the entire book in only a few days, with my children wishing the book were longer. I enjoyed the Biblical references throughout the story, as well as the creative mind which went into the story telling. A must read! (We’ll be reading the subsequent books during the month of May.)
  2. Rasco and the Rats of NIMH (Jane Leslie Conley) – Racso, a brash and boastful little rodent, is making his way to Thorn Valley, determined to learn how to read and write and become a hero. His bragging and lies get him off to a bad start, but a crisis gives him the opportunity to prove his mettle.
    This story was a bit of a disappointment for us. The first book, Mrs. Frisby & The Rats of NIMH, was a treasure. While this book is marked a sequel to Mrs. Frisby, it is written by a different author and it shows. The story was much slower going, and lacked the charm of the original tale.
  3. Pitchin’ A Fit! (Israel & Brook Wayne) – Parenting comes with stresses that can make the most laid-back among us feel irritable, frustrated, and angry. Even parents who sincerely love their children sometimes use the wrong methods of anger and frustration in an attempt to control their children. But angry parenting doesn’t just weaken relationships between parents and their children; it can, over time, destroy them.
    Yet another spectacular book on the parenting front, and my personal pick of the month. Mr. Wayne, and his lovely wife, lay out a solid foundation for Biblical parenting, addressing the issue of anger in our homes. I appreciated the continual use of Scripture throughout the book. From what causes us to become angry and God’s instruction on the matter, to nurturing the heart of our children; this book is encouragement from cover to cover.  

May’s stack of books is already piled high and we’re ready to get moving. Prayerfully we’ll make it through, especially given the amount of field trips on the books! Here’s to sunshine, picnic blankets, and a comfy spot to read.

📢 Chime In!: Fiction or nonfiction, do you have a book suggestion for us? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this month’s reads, and ideas for our 2016 book list.

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What Parenting Has Taught Me About My Relationship With Christ

What_Parenting_Taught_MeBefore having kids, I knew raising children would be a life lesson. The Lord would need to work in me, teaching me to parent as He would. What I didn’t expect, was how much parenting would teach me about my relationship with Christ.

There’s nothing like parenting to show our weaknesses and strengths, to humble and encourage us; helping us understand the goodness of God. Parenting has taught me so much about myself and all God wants to do in my life:

I Complain About What I Asked For – My children will fuss about getting up in the morning for a trip or responsibilities related to their pets; yet this is what they asked for! They wanted the pet; they wanted to go on the field trip. However, don’t I do the same thing? I complain about the job I asked for; the spouse I asked for; the kids I asked for; and more. When will I learn to stop grumbling over things I diligently prayed for and requested?

I Want Things In My Own Time – My kids want things done right now; they hate to wait. It doesn’t matter that I’m in the middle of something which cannot be interrupted. How often do I expect God to do something for me… right now. It doesn’t matter that He might have a plan which I am interrupting with my tantrum. I don’t see the bigger picture. I just want instant gratification.

I Don’t Always Like What’s Good For Me – Brushing teeth, showering, combing hair; you name it and they complain about it. It might be good for them, but they don’t like it. Yeah… I’m the same. Learning patience, testing to increase wisdom, and low finances which teach me to budget even better. They might be good for me, but oh how I wish I could skip these lessons.

I Like to Push – An answer has been given; I have been very clear. But the kids won’t let it go, they keep asking and pushing for an answer they like. I do the same thing. God has clearly spoken and still I try to persuade Him to move me in another direction or give me the answer I want.

I Whine, Complain, and Fuss – When I DON’T get the answer I want, I fuss; just like my kids. Perhaps I don’t sit in a corner or throw my arms across my chest, but I grumble and complain all the same. It’s a matter of the heart.

I Over Exaggerate – My kids tend to make little problems seem like big ones. There is a humongous spider in the house trying to eat them alive. Their schoolwork is enough to send even a college student into anxiety attacks. They are starving from lack of food. You name it, I’ve heard it. We make mountains out of mole hills. I’m just as guilty. My day isn’t going as well as I wanted. Someone has hurt my sensitive heart. While I might be having a momentary setback, are things really as bad as I’m making them out to be?

I Have My Reasons – Kids question WHY we have them do things. I don’t always have explanations, other than the Lord’s leading, but I have my reasons. I, too, need to understand the Lord has His reasons for why He does things; even if I never get an explanation. (Jeremiah 29:11)

God Has a Great Capacity to Forgive – No matter how forgiving I believe I am, I know God out-gives me any day of the week. He forgives immediately, graciously, and continually; without ever holding a grudge. (I John 1:9)

God’s Love Knows No Bounds – I have a tremendous love for my kids. God’s love for His children has no limits. He hears all our concerns, heals all our hurts, and answers all our requests; perfectly. He loved us even when we were ugly, sinful, and unworthy. (Romans 5:8)

God Loves Mercy & Grace – It hurts to watch my children suffer the consequences of their own poor choices. I can’t help but think the Lord must feel the same way. God loves to give grace and mercy to those who seek Him diligently. (Hebrews 4:16)

I believe God created the family unit to do more than just replenish the earth. Perhaps our relationships were meant to teach us about Himself. Through parenting, we are faced with our own sinful natures and drawn closer to the Lord. Through parenting, we are given a glimpse into the heart of God and all He desires for our lives.

God is not done with us yet, nor is He done working in the hearts of our children. May we be open to the Lord using our children to teach us more about Himself, increasing us in wisdom.

📢 Chime In!: What has parenting taught you about Christ?

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I Don’t Want You to Be Happy…

… I want you to be holy!

I_Don't_Want_HappyTHIS link seems to be making its way around the homeschooling world. While I find his lecture to be quite interesting, I had a few thoughts I wanted to share. 

I see his point, really I do. This young man is excitedly explaining how his parents “hacked” his education and learning to meet his needs. I will even go so far as to say I agree, up to a point. We ought to adjust our children’s learning to meet needs and learning styles! However, there is one factor with which I disagree…. I do not want my children to grow up and be happy; I want my children to grow up and be holy.

What is the basis our children’s education? That is the foundation upon which all other learning will take place. The young man is absolutely correct in one respect. It isn’t about what you will do with your life, career wise. It isn’t about how “successful” you become nor how much money you make. However, I would also argue, it isn’t about just being happy either.

If my children live for just their own happiness, they are being selfish. They will have lives which become self-centered and self-glorified. They will seek temporary, transient pleasure, rather than things of eternal value.

Instead, I want my children’s education to be based on the foundation that all they do is for the glory of God. He is to be the center of all they do and He is to be their purpose. When He reveals the path our children should take, then our learning begins to form around where He is leading; not where our own desires might divert us.

For example, one of my daughters is gifted with the ability to write. Seeing her talents, we pray about how the Lord is going to use this and ask Him to guide us in her learning. We supplement her studies with plenty of writing opportunities and venues which encourage this. Throughout all of her learning, our goal is not to make her famous or “successful”, it is to find out where the Lord is going to use this talent and how He will direct this gift.

Now, here is the interesting part. When we base our lives on what He wants, we get the desires of our heart. Why? Because now our desires align with what is best and He loves to bless us beyond all we could imagine. Those talents, gifts, and heartfelt desires become a reality because He is using those for His own purpose and glory.

Another fascinating aspect to this, is that the bi-product of a holy life is joy! Joy is so much better than happiness. Happiness is circumstantial and comes from the happenings, fleeting moments, in your life. Joy, however, is deep-rooted in a life well-lived and an inner peace which can only come from God. It’s not that happiness is wrong, but why stop at happy, when you could have joy?

Our children are overwhelmed by joy. This stems not from circumstances, which might change, but from a natural gift which we openly acknowledge comes from God. When they are following His leading, joy simply emanates. More importantly, they are walking righteously.

So, I guess you could say, “I don’t want you to just be happy; I want you to experience joy!”

‘As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’
– 
I Peter 1:14-16

📢 Chime In!: Sometimes the Lord brings delight in the smallest of things. What wonderful spark of joy has God shared with you today?

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Triggers

“It’s my belief that there’s a literal epidemic of angry moms in and outside of the church today. Moms are struggling, they know they’re struggling, and they want help. But they have no idea where to start.”
~ Brooke McGlothlin, Co-Founder/President of MOB

TriggersIf you had asked me whether or not I was – am – an angry parent, I would have said, “NO!” I don’t yell at my kids. I don’t make judgements out of anger or cause them physical harm. But anger comes in many forms. No, I don’t yell at my kids. I take the high road, I use silence and distance. And that, my friends, is no better.

If we are to parent graciously, as God commands, we need to better understand what is causing our anger. Why are we becoming angry, lashing out at our children (no matter the form it takes) and causing damage in our homes? And what does God want us to do about it?

Triggers, written by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake, is a lovely book written to help all mammas Biblically overcome their anger, seeking God’s help in restoring their homes and relationships with their children.

Triggers is broken down into two detailed sections: External Triggers and Internal Triggers. We are being shown two essential truths. What our kids are doing that makes us go bonkers. And, what is going on within our own hearts which is causing us to sin.

Among the most poignant for me were the chapters on Backtalk, Disrespect, and the Ignoring of Instruction. Amber Lia and Wendy Speake gently reminded me that my anger stemmed from my feeling of being powerless. I was angry due to heartache. How dare my family take my heart and abuse it!

“My intentions were good, my words were joy-filled, my plan was love, and my offering generous. But when I realized, in no uncertain terms, that no one was listening to me… I broke down.”
~ Wendy Speake, Triggers

Other chapters which strike a chord among most moms include Exhaustion, Running Late, Lack of Personal Space, and Generational Habits/Patterns of Sin.  Here, yet again, we are graciously reminded we cannot change the hearts of children; this is God’s work. What we can do, is draw closer to God; allowing Him to do a mighty work in us!

There is a difference between anger for the sake of pride and righteous indignation. Even God became angry when He saw the sin of His people. (Romans 1:18) No, the sin is not in being angry. The mistake is in what we allow to anger us; the sin lies in how we respond to the emotion within. (Ephesians 4:26)

No, I don’t yell at my children. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to withdraw. While this might initially reduce stress levels, and allow time for the Lord to do a work in each of our hearts, this can also be a danger zone. I need to remember God wants our family to be united; as one. We cannot do this if mommy does not wish to even be in the same room as her children! If there is a need, pulling myself out of the situation – for a time – might be of benefit. However, I need to be using this time to pray; asking the Lord to do a work in my own heart, seeking assistance to guard my tongue, and planning ways to restore the broken bond. I need to put pride aside and remember that just as I do, my children need grace and mercy.

Triggers is an excellent book! If you have yet to nab a copy for yourself, may I highly recommend you do so today. You will be blessed to know you aren’t alone and encouraged to seek Christ above all. Triggers is well thought out, full of Biblical wisdom, and uplifting to the end. You won’t want to skip this read!

“… this book is not just for moms of little ones. It’s for all moms who are ready for a change, ready to replace angry reactions with gentle biblical responses…”
~ Brooke McGlothlin

📢 Chime In!: Is anger an issue you’re working on overcoming in Christ? Share with us Bible verses the Lord has given you in your mission to becoming a graceful parent.

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A Homeschool Mom & Curriculum Displays

AHM_&_Curriculum_DisplaysThis past week, I was able to scratch another item off of my “to do” list. Having already outlined which books needed to be purchased for next year’s round of education, it was time to finally get to some buying.

The kids and I trekked to our local aBeka materials display center and made a small investment into their future. Knowing this experience can be a little trying for their patience, we did our best to make this event go as smoothly as possible.

Before attending the display, I try to make sure I have all my items listed (with item number, including price) and printed. This not only helps me fill out my order form very quickly, it also saves me from making unnecessary impulse purchases. I know exactly what I need and how much I plan to spend. If there are items I am unsure about, those go at the bottom of my list and I peruse them online or at the event quickly.

At the materials display, I find the few items which I am unsure of and make my final decisions. Knowing all my other items are organized, I am able to complete my order form and be out the door in about twenty minutes.

Why attend a materials display? Easy… I save money. I could place my order online, but by attending a display I save 5% on my order and pay no shipping. It might not be much, but every bit helps.

Attending a display also allows me to actually look through any items which I still don’t have peace about. For example, this year there were two items which needed a closer look. One I actually purchased; the other I decided to skip. It wasn’t that the material was poor, it just wasn’t a necessity.

In addition to attending the aBeka display, I also made a few purchases online. I don’t buy the “boxed” deal from aBeka; I am very eclectic in my children’s education. A few items were still needed. Thankfully, I found those items either on Amazon and/or Rainbow Resource for very little cost.

As I mentioned, it is nice to have that little item off my list. School ends in a few short weeks, so my shelves will be cleaned off and ready for the next set of materials to arrive. Now, let’s see how long it takes for them to get here….

📢 Chime In!: Do you order your homeschool curriculum through materials displays?

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Hands-On Fun for Our Morning Basket

Skill_SticksI try to keep Morning Basket fresh. While we might be continuing a read over the course of several weeks, I make an attempt to alternate the hands-on activities which accompany our readings. Some days might be copy work of a quote from our read, including an illustration from the story. Other days nature studies or art are involved. The newest addition to the rotation is the inclusion of Forster Skill Sticks!

If you haven’t heard of skill sticks, you aren’t alone. Until this past month I had never heard of them myself! As an Easter gift, my mother blessed our children with a decent sized set and we’re so glad she did.

What are skill sticks? Take your average popsicle stick; cut some grooves into the each length of the stick; add perforations in the wood – to include the added option of breaking the stick into smaller portions – and there you go!

How do you use skill sticks? Break, build, and repeat! Use the various sized sections of skill sticks to build whatever your heart desires! We’ve built a cabin, a wagon, an airplane, a tank engine, a snowflake, and more! Whatever you can imagine, you can create. Skills sticks are extremely easy to use.

If you’re like me, and concerned about all included sticks being broken into tiny bits – leaving nothing left for larger projects – consider buying several sets, allowing for plenty of each length of wood.

Please note, Forster is not the only brand available when it comes to skill sticks. (This just happens to be the brand we were blessed with.) You can find skill sticks at your local crafting store, both in natural wood and colored. They are very well priced. Also, because the skill sticks are able to be broken down – creating smaller components – expect to find little bits of wood surrounding your work station if cleanup is not taken seriously. The littler pieces can get everywhere.

If you’re looking for a fun, hands-on activity to promote creativity in your learning day, skill sticks might be just what you need. They are now a regular part of our Morning Basket and a highlight in our homeschooling adventure.

📢 Chime In!: Do you own skill sticks? We’d love to see pictures of your fun projects and creative endeavors!

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Kiddle: A Visual Search Engine for Kids!

KiddlePerhaps, like us, your children are constantly researching one thing or another. If we aren’t learning a new recipe, we’re discovering fresh ways to make play dough, or exploring crafting techniques. At times we sift through books. However, by far, the easiest way to look into new ideas is online.

For years, searching online was not an option for our children. If they needed anything, we parents did the looking. Once the site was deemed safe, our children were allowed to read. Even then, we were careful to sit close by; always on the lookout for inappropriate material.

With Google’s recent release of Kiddle, online research has become a possibility. Where previous search engines restricted all websites not previously approved by parents – with the possibility of further restriction of popup adds – Kiddle does the background work for us; assuring all sites, images, and videos shown are kid friendly.

We let the kids know we were running a test of the new search engine and let them do the legwork. (Keeping myself within lunge distance, just to be safe.) This is what we’ve found thus far: Kiddle is fun!

Kiddle helps you to search kid-friendly topics with ease. Once your query has been entered, Kiddle allows you to search via web, images, videos, and news to fully explore your subject. We even did a quick buzz test for words of questionable nature. Kiddle was more than up to the task!

Oops!

We ought to point out that Kiddle does not remove links found on listed websites. Thus, if you’re concerned about ads, you might consider changing your web browser to one which allows you to block these annoyances; such as Firefox.  And, while we appreciate Kiddle restricting questionable searches, some of the topics forbidden were an annoyance. Why can’t we look at guns?

No search engine is perfect, and each family ought to determine for themselves the limit of their children’s viewing abilities. However, Kiddle does do an incredible job of removing a large portion of the junk currently displayed over the internet.

For now, we’ll continue testing Kiddle, and using it for online research. We’re excited to have this additional resource available for our homeschooling and personal use. With the added safety blocks found on Firefox, we believe Kiddle will be a fun addition to our homeschool routine.

“The eye is the light of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. . . .”
Matthew 6:22-23

📢 Chime In!: Have you tried Kiddle? Share with us your thoughts and experience!

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Planning Another Year

School-PlanningIt’s that time again. The year is ending in just a few short weeks, and another is quickly coming round the bend. Before the days get away from me, I need to start planning another homeschool year!

While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our year of homeschooling.

Just where do we start? When do we start?! How many school days am I required to complete? Should I stick to a routine or plan out a detailed schedule? All these questions and more fill the mind when planning out our homeschooling year.

Enjoy this fun series designed to help take the stress out of homeschooling planning! Let’s get moving!

Planning Your Year
Planning Your Day
Building a Family Plan
What Do I Need?
Counting the Cost
Portfolios
Field Trip Fun, Part I
Field Trip Fun, Part II
Finding Friends
Finding Sanity

📢 Chime In!: When do you plan the upcoming school year?

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A Time to Pray

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
~ Martin Luther

A_Time_To_PrayMore and more, I feel the Lord is prompting me to spend time in prayer. Not only praying in general, but to make my prayer time specific and dedicated. Through His leading the Lord is showing me specific ways He wants to me pray.

I need to be praying for each child individually. I pray for my children; all the time. At times, I will even pray for a specific child. What I don’t normally do is pray for a specific child all day long. The Lord is prompting me to do just that. Become a prayer warrior for each child individually.

I need to be praying for them on a specific day. If I don’t establish a routine for myself, I easily will forget my goal. I need to pick a day and dedicate it to a specific child’s prayer needs. For example: Trinity is going to be Mondays, Noel will be Tuesdays, and so forth.

I need to be praying for specific things. Each of our children has specific needs the Lord is revealing. I want to be lifting these before the Lord. Here are some of the areas of my children’s lives about which the Lord is prompting me to pray:

  • Their walk with Him. (I never want to assume our children are saved or walking right with God.)
  • Their relationships with us
  • Their relationships with their siblings
  • Their current struggles
  • Their maturity
  • Their future
  • Their future spouses. (May the Lord would be working in that other person’s life. Directing them and protecting them.)

I need to be praying for my marriage. One of the best things we can ever do for our children is have a loving marriage which is Christ centered. Our children will learn more about life, love, and forgiveness from us, than from anywhere else. Praying for my marriage is essential.

I need to be praying for my husband. Praying for my husband is not the same as praying for my marriage. Praying for my marriage is important, but so is specifically praying for my man. He has his own struggles, dreams, and needs. Those too need to be lifted before the Lord.

I need to be praying for outside ministries. We serve in a lot of different areas. In order to best serve those ministries, it’s extremely important to be in constant communication with God. If I am not in prayer, I risk overburdening myself and disobedience to the Lord. I need to constantly remember He is the one leading those ministries. I am only there to help, which I cannot do if I am not listening to Him speak.

I need to find creative ways and times to pray. Through the experience of others, the Lord is also showing me creative ways to pray throughout my day. I tend to be very busy, so it helps if I can pray while I attend to the responsibilities He has put before me. Here are some ways the Lord has opened up time for prayer.

  • I pray while washing dishes. (Lord clean the heart of —–. Make them pure before you.)
  • I pray when I cook. (Lord feed —–‘s mind and spirit. May they would hunger for you.)
  • I pray when I clean. (Lord remove anything from —‘s life which doesn’t need to be there. Help them to be organized and have a clean heart.)
  • I pray while I fold laundry. (Socks: Lord keep their feet on your path. Shirt: Lord touch their hearts. Etc…)
See, this could go on forever. There are many ways we can find in which to be creative about our prayer times; we just need to look for the opportunities.

I have begun to notice as my children grow older and life seems to get more complex, I have a tendency to take on the struggles of life instead of leaving them where they belong; at the feet of Christ. My family belongs to the Lord. When I humble myself and give them over to God, I can have peace knowing He is in control. Will you join me in spending dedicated time in prayer for our families? Trust me, you won’t regret it.

📢 Chime In!: How has the Lord directed you to pray for your children?

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10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom

“Imagine never having to worry about your children again. That would be the life, wouldn’t it? No more sleepless nights, stressful days, or a stomach tied up in knots because of what your children are going through that you can’t control, or what might happen to them that you constantly fear.”
~10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom

10_Secrets_BookReviewIs it just me, or do we ladies worry a lot? We worry about pleasing people, we worry about doing enough, we worry about doing too much. We worry, worry, worry about everything and everyone. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, refocus our thinking, and learn a few secrets to becoming worry-free.

In her book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, Cindi McMenamin helps us gain a better understanding from whence our worries derive and what a Biblical response to those worries ought to be. Gently reminding us of the Only One who can calm our fears and care for what we love far better than we can, Cindi does a lovely job addressing all areas of parenting and directing us to the Perfect Parent, Jesus Christ.

Covering such topics as “What If I’m Not Doing This Right?”, “Will They Ever Get Through This Phase?”, “You Did What?”, and more, Cindi McMenamin offers encouragement and Biblical wisdom.

“I’m sure you and I would never worry at all if we could be assured that our children would be happy, healthy, and safe all their days. But life comes with no such assurances. And while I personally can’t promise the well-being of your children, I can offer you ten ‘secrets’…”
~ Cindi McMenamin

While the entire book is a gem, filled with Scripture, my favorite portions of the book come at the end of each chapter. Here, Cindi includes “Putting Into Practice”; practical tips for putting each new worry-free plan into place, complete with an “In Community” section making this book a small group study! I would also be remiss if I did not mention both Appendix A & B; you’ll want to make a point of gleaning from those pages as well.

Although this book is mainly written for the benefit of mammas, I believe the Biblical wisdom found in these pages applies to all areas of life, not just parenting. God wants us to rely on Him, leaving our anxiety at His feet; fully trusting Him to meet our needs and the needs of our family.

I pray God would do a mighty work in each of us, giving us wisdom to train and disciple our children in such a way as would bring glory to His kingdom. May the Lord work in each of us as parents, helping us to live worry-free lives dedicated to His work.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
~ Philippians 4:6-7

📢 Chime In!: Are you a worrier, too? Share with us your favorite Bible verses for overcoming moments of anxiety and stress!

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