Homeschool Informational Seminar

School LogoDuring the coming month of March, our church, homeschool group, and family have the unique opportunity of reaching out to the surrounding area and assisting them in a newfound adventure called homeschooling. That’s right, we’re hosting CHEA of California’s Homeschool Informational Seminar, and we’re please as punch!

What is a homeschool informational seminar? Pretty much how it sounds. A gathering of homeschool veterans along with homeschool newbies and homeschool wish to be’s. Together, we’ll discuss the adventure and calling of homeschooling, encouraging one another to seek the heart of Christ in our parenting and children’s educations.

How can you help? I’m so glad you asked!

Pray – Please, please, please pray for this event. (And all events like this one hosted around the world!) Pray the Lord would bring families who need to hear and be encouraged. Pray we meet them where they are and are edified before our Father. Pray new families would be blessed and have questions answered. Please pray for those who will be speaking at this event, both the guest speaker and panelists (us included), that the Lord would give us His words to speak and His heart to reach these families.

Encourage – If you know someone who might benefit from this event, and lives in Southern California, please encourage them to attend. Our desire is to help families overcome questions and doubts they may be facing regarding homeschooling. The entire event is free, including a continental breakfast and special treats. We’re praying the Lord would bring all who have need.

If you’re living in Southern California, or just here on a visit, stop in and say hello! We’d love to give you a hug, welcome you to the adventure of homeschooling, and buy you a cup of coffee. Most importantly, we want to pray with you and help you understand you’re not in this alone. In Christ, we walk this path together.

“For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”
~ Ecclesiastes 4:10

Your Turn!: How are you showing support for local homeschool families?

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Our February Reads

February Reads (2017)

This was the month of love, and we’re loving us some books. In February, we explored a world of literature and did some learning along the way. Join us as we share our favorite picks of the month.

  1. Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon (Torben Kuhlmann) – A long time ago a mouse learned to fly . . . and crossed the Atlantic. But what happened next?…
    I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But when the cover is this cute, you just have to pick it up! The pages inside? They only get better. Cute beyond words; this is on my growing ‘wish list’ of books to buy.
  2. Pen Pals (Alexandra Pichard) – An octopus and an ant are paired up to write letters for a school project in this charming picture book.
    Absolutely adorable! My son thought this was the sweetest book and read it multiple times. In honor of our own pen pals, this book was added to our stack and thoroughly enjoyed.
  3. Design Wise (Vern Yip) – Have you ever wondered exactly how high to hang your artwork? How about the light fixture over your dining table? Trusted designer Vern Yip answers these questions, and more, by revealing the right formulas and measurements that can make any room feel just “right.”
    Interior design is a hobby of mine. Perhaps it has to do with my organizational nature; who knows. This book intrigued me, what with all the formulas for amazing rooms, and it didn’t disappoint. Design Wise is a perfect handbook.
  4. See America, A Celebration of Our National Parks & Treasured Sites – Just in time for the 2016 centennial anniversary of the National Parks Service, the Creative Action Network has partnered with the National Parks Conservation Association to revive and re-imagine the historical legacy of WPA travel posters.
    This was another book cover which caught my eye. We enjoyed exploring the pages within and seeing the creativity each poster offered. The artistry and imagination of each illustrator is incredible. Pages include details on the national park listed, which was fun to learn. This is another book added to my ‘wish list’. 
  5. You Will Not Have My Hate (Antoine Leiris) – One night last winter, Antoine Leiris was at home looking after his son while his wife, Hélène, was at a concert with friends… That night Hélène was killed, along with 88 other people, at the Bataclan Theatre.
    A touching read. You Will Not Have My Hate is an honest retelling of one man’s struggle with the murder of his wife, and the aftermath of raising his son in a world which offered him pity. Told in journal form, this was a quick read, but one worth the undertaking.
  6. The Wild Robot (Peter Brown) – When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings?
    I’ll be honest, this book was nothing like I expected. I was anticipating adventure and mystery. Instead, we received a shipwrecked robot’s perspective of nature on the island she is marooned. The story is slow-moving, if you’re looking for action, yet there is so much to gain from this book. For the homeschooler, each chapter offers mini-lessons one could easily adapt to nature studies. 
  7. Pax (Sara Pennypacker) – This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.
    This book came highly recommended. The story is about Peter, a boy, and his pet fox, Pax, who are separated by the boy’s stern father and desperate to find one another again. Parents might wish to read this story before handing it to younger children; death, the violence of war, and other issues are discussed within. Despite the heaviness of several passages, this is a lovely book and one worth reading. 

Plenty of book love going on over here. This month’s list proves you’re never to old to appreciate a great picture book and nature books are making a strong come back.

p.s. If your interested in learning more about the See America Project, give them a look!

Your Turn!: What is your favorite picture book of all time?

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Don’t Talk About Me! (Discussing Our Children With Others)

Don't Talk About Me!It’s amazing how our children cannot hear us when we’re standing right next to them, talking in their ear. But, somehow, through a noisy room, their ears perk up when mom mentions their name. They give us that look, and we know what it means. “Is this good or bad?” Perhaps, it might even be, “Please, don’t talk about me.”

Truth be told, we all have hard days. Whether it be a struggle with parenting or a homeschooling concern we’re dealing with, some days are just plain difficult. Maybe it isn’t just days. It might be weeks or months. When we finally have an opportunity to fellowship with friends, we let it all out. It felt so good to get that off our chest. It felt good to us. But what about those little ears listening across the room?

Understanding the Boundaries of Family – Are there things we’d prefer not be discussed outside the family? Maybe my husband only wants certain issues shared with him, and we can tackle these concerns together. Before I go to the “village”, I need to understand what is permissible to share and what is best left at home.

Understanding My Children’s Boundaries – If we enjoy our privacy, shouldn’t we afford our children a little of their own? I don’t wish to damage the relationship I have with my kids by over-sharing struggles they are currently working through. Openly discussing a learning disability with anyone and everyone might put a damper on that or cause them shame. I want to be selective about when and with whom I share.

Being in Prayer – Am I looking for help or an outlet for my frustration? Before I open my mouth, I need to pray about what’s going to come out of it.

Being Selective – There is such a thing as TMI. I can get help with a learning disability or character development without explaining every detail of my child’s issues. I want to leave them with some dignity. It might be enough to simply explain we’re dealing with lying, and ask for prayer.

On this note… Being a blogger, and having a minor presence on social media, I should also point out our need for being selective online. My kids read my blog – crazy, I know – they see what I post and how I address each issue. Generally, I don’t discuss matters which are personal to them and never that which would cause them shame. This goes for ALL medium.

Being Gentle & Kind – How I speak will determine how people see my children, and my parenting. Will I leave them with the understanding we’re not perfect, but genuinely seeking the Lord’s will, or an angry mama who can’t stand her kids? I might be frustrated now, but ten minutes from now regret the words I spoke. Gentleness will prevent harsh words.

Being Positive – This isn’t an opportunity to trash talk the kids. (Even if you’re positive they’re being ridiculous.) If we need help, I definitely should speak with a councilor or close friend. However, this isn’t time to complain. It’s time to get answers and be honest with where we might need improvement.

May the mediations of my heart be pleasing to the Lord, and the words of my mouth be edifying to the hearer. May I speak from a humble heart and listen with the intent to grow. And may my children learn God’s love towards others by how I love them.

I need to remember little eyes are watching. If I’m not careful, our children will pick up bad habits and begin to repeat my mistakes. And, really, what parent wants to hear their child trash talk them?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
~ Ephesians 4:29

Your Turn!: Here’s a question… Do you feel comfortable sharing photos of your children online?

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Review: HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study, The Middle Ages

Review: Home School in the WoodsCan you believe we’ve never tried lap booking before? Amazing! Which is why we were incredibly excited to review HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages by Home School in the Woods and see what all the buzz is about.

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study makes learning fun and hands-on. Each project passport comes with just about everything you need to get started on your adventure.

We downloaded a digital copy of The Middle Ages which consists of itineraries for our passport, images to complete all portions of the project, and MP3’s for audio sections of our study. Our Middle Ages adventure began with a digital unboxing of all our goodies. The Middle Ages contains multitudes of activities such as “Scrapbook of Sights”, Lap Booking, Snapshot Moments, Postcards, Timelines, Audio Tours, Music, Hands-On and 3D activities, a newspaper, games, and edible projects.

We usually study history as a family, using Middle Ages was no exception. We decided to complete five of the twenty-five lessons per week, which would finish the project passport in five weeks; coinciding with our established routine. Each day we progressed through Middle Ages PostcardsMiddle Ages itineraries, excitedly completing the fun hands-on activities such as making our own rosewater and sugar-cube castles. We read postcards from famous historical people. Every day we added more sections to our lap books.

We found the lap book involved a large quantity of printing, cutting, and assembly. This was not an issue with our three older children (ages 12 and up). However, younger children might need assistance with cutting and completing certain portions of the lap book. The lessons included are fitting for students of any age.

Progressing through Middle Ages was simple, straightforward, and fun. The children looked forward to our daily lessons, and enjoyed the many activities included in the project passport. Mom appreciated the variety of options to choose from, understanding not all were expected to be completed or necessary to appreciate the passport. The daily itineraries were excellent and we discovered how fun lap books can be!

After completing our Middle Ages project, we did a little research of our own. Suffice it to say, you will not find another company who does as excellent a job as Home School in the Woods when it comes to project passports and lap books. Their resources are top of the ProjectPassportline, and incredibly affordable. We very much enjoyed reviewing Middle Ages, and look forward to exploring further passports available through Home School in the Woods.

Okay, so now we have done lap booking. This is definitely something new. For all of you who do lap booking on a regular basis, you have our utmost respect. It was lots of fun and we enjoyed trying something new.

If you’d like to learn more about HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study (including their current release, Ancient Greece, and their upcoming passport, Ancient Rome, coming 2018), please visit them at their website Home School in the Woods and on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Google+. To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Home School in the Woods has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

Review Crew Disclaimer

Your Turn!: How many lap books have your family completed?

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Book Review: Beyond the Tiger Mom

“This book’s thesis is that Western and Eastern parenting philosophies have vastly different strengths and weaknesses; therefore, parents on either side of the world can learn from each other…”
(Maya Thiagarajan, Beyond the Tiger Mom)

Beyond the Tiger MomBook Review: Beyond the Tiger Mom by Maya Thiagarajan is an intriguing, thoughtful book. Ms. Thiagarajan invites us into her world, giving us glimpses of her global experiences in education and parenting. She shares with us lessons learned both academically and experientially, sharing tips for putting the best of both worlds into practice.

Beyond the Tiger Mom consists of three sections: Academics, Achieving Balance, and Myth, Media & Metaphor. Chapters cover topics such as “Why Are All the Asian Kids on the Math Team?”, “Raising Readers”, “Memorization, Practice, Exams, and Other Things Asians Love”, and more. Each chapter closes with a handy “Tips for Parents” section, to help families apply concepts covered in the previous pages.

We found Beyond the Tiger Mom interesting and informative. We appreciated reading of Ms. Thiagarajan’s personal experiences and her interviews with Asian parents. Each chapter covered key concepts of learning, giving insight into methods both Western and Eastern parents use regarding this area of development. Ms. Thiagarajan does a wonderful job of clearly identifying strengths and weakness in both cultures while continually encouraging parents to seek the good of the student.

A thoughtful point Ms. Thiagarajan brings forth is the notion of finding balance. As parents/educators, we do not wish to over-stress our students with study so intense our children never have play time, but neither should we take our children’s education so lightly they do not take study seriously.

While learning disabilities were briefly mentioned, and confirmed, in her book, we would enjoy reading more on this topic. It would be nice to have a better understanding of how other cultures acknowledge and work through these challenges in education.

We were encouraged by reading Beyond the Tiger Mom! Whenever we take on a book specifically relating to education, it’s possible to find areas of study we’ve glossed over. Instead, we found much to confirm we’re not only on the right track, but already implementing the ideals put forth.

This was an enjoyable read with much to ponder. We appreciated learning about Eastern culture and their parental perspective on child rearing, and discovering their viewpoint on Westerners. The “Tips for Parents” portion of each chapter are a great check for those looking to fill in any gaps in their child’s development.

As Ms. Thiagarajan pointed out, childhood should have balance. May we be inspired and encouraged to seek the Lord to find the right fit for our children. Only in Him will balance be found, enabling us to not only reach our littles academically, but in leading them to Christ.

FTC Disclaimer

Your Turn!: Consider this statistic… “The well-publicized study titled ‘Early Warning Confirmed‘ by the Annie E. Casey Foundation,… third grade as a particularly important year. If a child is strong in reading and math in third grade, then he will do well throughout school.” We’d love to hear your thoughts on training up children early!

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When Pop Comes Home

When Pop Comes HomeI frequently read lovely posts about preparing for Daddy’s arrival back home at the end of each day. The ladies might perhaps put on a pretty blouse, touch up their makeup, and spritz themselves with perfume. Moms are wonderful about making sure the house is straightened up, the kids are in decent order, and dinner is just about finished. I wonder though, what do those women do whose husbands are home all day?!

I find myself in this predicament and often wonder how many other women are in the same boat. My husband, generally speaking, works at home. There is no touching up makeup before he gets in the door, there is no sprucing up the house, or cleaning up of kids; he sees it all.

While we are together the bulk of every day, I would like to think there are a few things I can still do to bless him. They might not be astounding, but every little bit helps!

I make sure we are groomed. This might seem silly to some ladies; I mean sweats are clothes, right? While my husband doesn’t mind what I wear, I still prefer to get up before everyone else and get dressed. I put on “street clothes”, no sweats or pajamas. I put on just a little makeup and do my hair. I want my husband to know that I look nice for him, not just when I leave my house. Periodically I will touch up my makeup, as needed, to ensure I keep looking fresh. My kids are also trained to get up, get dressed, and be presentable.

I make sure the house is fairly decent. While messes can’t be avoided, we do try to keep things more livable. We have trained our children to keep their toys to one room or area at a time. This ensures that the mess can be cleaned up fairly quickly and if my husband walks out of his office, he is not overwhelmed by disorder.

I make sure to touch bases. While we might both occupy the same house, that doesn’t mean we are actually communicating. At various times throughout the day, I make sure to pop my head into his office and see if he needs anything. Perhaps he might like some fresh coffee, a snack, or a hug? Near the end of the day, we talk about when he would like dinner and I get busy.

When my husband does leave the house, I try to walk him out and greet him on his return. I want to be the last thing on his mind when he leaves and the first one to welcome him home.

While I don’t have the benefit of preparing our home before Pop’s return at night, I believe we are doing our best to make him feel welcomed and appreciated whenever he steps out of his office.

Your Turn!: How do you prepare for Dad at the end of each work day?

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The Dilemma of Sleeping Children in Parents’ Beds

The Dilemma of Sleeping Children in Parents' BedsFor years, no matter how hard we tried, my son would not sleep through the night in his own bed. Oh, he would start the night out in his own room, but somehow in the middle of the night he always managed to sneak into the room and tuck himself in with his Pop. We tried having him sleep in his sisters’ room, we tried keeping a nightlight on, we tried any number of things. There was no substitution for Pop.

When he was little, it had been suggested that we train (read = paddle) him to stay in his own bed. Helpful friends mentioned we should lock our door. Others were adamant we let him cry it out. My guy and I didn’t care for any of those solutions, however. Sure, any number of them would have worked, but why?

While we weren’t getting as much sleep as we could and there were some nights we were wrestling with our son to stop moving around so much, it was nice to have him close. We only have our children for a short time and we appreciate the closeness they have with us. It would seem a shame to prevent them this brief moment in their lives. It won’t last forever.

While our son no longer sneaks into our room every night, on occasion I will wake to find him sleeping on the floor alongside the bed. It seems something bothered him during the night or he felt lonely and needed our company. He needed comfort and security.

I’m not sure where you’re at right now. Perhaps your littles are still in need of constant attention, and you’re about ready for them to grow out of this stage. Maybe you’re where we are with kiddos who still sneak into the room in the middle of the night. You might even be ‘done’ with these foundational years of parenting, with children grown and ready to move out. No matter where we are, may we learn to embrace each moment and rejoice in its gift. For a gift it is, indeed.

And, hey, we can sleep when they’re older, right?

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
~ Malachi 4:6

Your Turn!: Do your children sneak into bed with you?

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Altering Learning Mid-Year Is Not the End of the World

Altering Learning Mid-Year Is Not the End of the WorldOver the years, we’ve had need to alter several of our courses. Especially in high school. What once flowed is no longer working. What made sense, now seems muddled and hard to follow. It’s taken me some time to realize altering learning mid-year is not the end of the world. Not even my little world.

This past semester, I dropped the geometry course my oldest was taking and went for something different. Yup, you read that right. Mid-year. We’re starting from scratch – just to be sure she fully understands the concepts taught – and using an online geometry curriculum I wish I’d found six months ago. Scratch that. I wish I’d found it last year. It might have made Algebra more bearable. Both of us are appreciating the change.

Geometry isn’t the only course we’ve switched up mid-year. Music appreciation, morning basket, and more have been known to change throughout the year. There were reasons why we switched each course over. I won’t bore you with the details. Well, maybe another day. But not today. Suffice it to say, each served a purpose when they were used and each new change brought about a purpose in our lives. God knew what was best.

Children not only grow in maturity from school year to school year, they develop throughout the learning process. If I am afraid to change, update, or alter my children’s education to reflect this maturity simply because I hate to waste curriculum or renegotiate  a well-planned year, my heart needs to change.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate giving up on something; it feels like I’m… giving up. What the Lord has been trying to teach me is that this isn’t giving up. This is a lesson in giving in, to His leading. An opportunity for me to understand I don’t hold this little world in my hands; He holds it in His and He knows exactly what’s best.

May the Lord continue to encourage each of us, reminding us He is in control. If God is leading to alter learning, even mid-year, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a new adventure.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God

and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”
~ Psalm 95:1-7

Your Turn!: Have you made any mid-year changes to your learning routine?

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Why the Daily Checking of Our Children’s Work Is Key

Why the Daily Checking of Our Children's Work is KeyFrustration etched on her face and anger in her voice, a friend realized her children needed to review an entire level of their school work. For weeks they had been plodding along without any help from her, insisting they were just fine. The truth sang a different tune once ‘grading’ day arrived. Several of the kids hadn’t understood a bulk of their studies, while others had gone straight to the answer key and copied. She quickly understood why the daily checking of our children’s work is key.

Please understand, I tell the above story not to ridicule the mother who was doing her best with the daily struggle to get everything done, but as a personal homeschool check and a warning. Waiting too long to check our children’s work could lead to trouble and unnecessary frustration.

Quickly, and without much effort, our days become overly filled with activity and responsibility. It seems easier to put off the multitude of worksheets until the end of the day and check them then. If I’m really in a rush, Friday might work? What’s a few days, more or less.

We’ve come to realize a few days can make a great deal of difference. If I miss one day of checking in on my kids, the next day might be a complete loss. And the day after. And so forth. Each lesson is a block upon which another will be built. If one is crooked or out of alignment, the entire structure is faulty; needing to be rebuilt. Once I finally discover the issue, I then have the frustration of calling in my hard workers and apologizing for having to undo everything they’ve already done and have them start over. You can imagine how popular this makes me.

To save myself a world of hurt and days of deflecting angry muttering, I’ve chosen to check in with lessons on a daily basis. It doesn’t take long; just a moment really. All the children sit together to study, so looking over shoulders to make sure everyone is on track is more easily managed. If they are struggling, we work on it then and there. As we’ve chosen to focus on a mastery approach, this works for us. There is no point in moving forward tomorrow if lessons today are not understood.

How often do you find yourself checking work? We know this works differently for every family. Some find it best to review at the end of each day; others the end of the week. For those whose children are working independently via computer, checking work might not be a concern at all. (Although one might expect a brief overview of children’s progress?)

We know one thing to be true, no matter when we grade, being involved in our children’s learning is key. Having Christ as our center and asking what He wants of our learning and leadership helps us stay on track, no matter what that looks like.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
~ Ephesians 6:4

Your Turn!: Share with us how the Lord has directed the fun task of checking all those stacks of paperwork!

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The Case of the Missing Pens!

The_Case_of_the_Missing_PensI didn’t want to do it. It goes against every Mom grain in my body. But, they’ve pushed me to a limit and I need to take a stand. What happened, you say? Well, you see, it all started with the case of the missing pens…

Rrrrr… Am I the only one who’s tired of things going missing? I buy a box of pens, place them in a location where everyone can access them; then, magically, before I reenter the room, they’ve all disappeared. Yeah. How can four kids possible need twenty pens all to themselves?

If it were just the pens, I might – might – be able to move on. (OCD and all that.) But, it’s not just the pens. Paper disappears, rulers vanish, glue runners seem to run off in the night. Where are they hiding it all?

All joking aside, this is a dilemma. I don’t want to go on a treasure hunt just to write a note. I need a supply closet which remains intact. Resources which stay in place, allowing me to get jobs done. Thus, I’ve come up with a solution. The kids have their own supplies, and mommy has hers.

The kids’ supplies get restocked every quarter, but until then, they are inspired to make the best use of their resources. If pens go missing, they know to start hunting them down amongst themselves. Mommy doesn’t have them, and she is not going to buy more until next quarter.

I don’t like having separate supplies. It makes me feel selfish. But, it’s become necessary in order to function without losing patience. If the kids truly have a need, it’s filled. If they borrow something, I let them. As long as things are returned. I’m reasonable like that.

It’s amazing! Suddenly, pens no longer go missing. Pencils are where they’re supposed to be. Rulers are returned. Order has been restored! Thank goodness.

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
~ I Cor. 14:40

Your Turn!: What is one resource you can’t seem to keep in stock for homeschool days?

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