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

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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

taking_on_the_world

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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A Simplified Life, Series Review!

Simplified_Life

Before summer gets away from me and life once again becomes crowded with too many homeschooling resources, parent-taxi responsibilities, and an overburdened calendar, it’s time to take a moment to breathe and simplify life. Perhaps you’re feeling like me and could use a little encouragement. Join us in reviewing this fun, simple to follow series!

With these basic, easy steps, we hope to help simplify life. Join us as we share our thoughts on how to simplify all areas of our lives, homes, and learning.

A Simplified Life: Menu Planning
A Simplified Life: Chores
A Simplified Life: Homeschooling
A Simplified Life: Educational Resources
A Simplified Life: Extra Curricular Activities
A Simplified Life: Free Printables

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

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
~ Ephesians 5:15-17

Your Turn!: What is one area of your life you’d like to simplify?

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A Comprehensive Curriculum Review!

A Comprehensive Curriculum Review!

The end of the year is here. Who’s breathing a sigh of relief? Who, maybe, just maybe, is a tad sorry to see yet another year flown by and are excited to launch a new adventure? Truthfully, I’m experiencing a little of both. But before I catch myself shedding a tear over a senior graduating or start stressing over the finishing touches on next year’s learning, I think it might be beneficial to take an honest look over this year’s curriculum and ask myself… Did this really work for us?

You would think after homeschooling over thirteen years we would have this gig down. No changes, no issues. But that is the way of life. No guarantees, and just when you think you’ve got things down, something alters your plans. Thus, we find it beneficial to continually assure ourselves we’re on the right track and using resources which most benefit our students. Here’s what we’ve found, based on this year’s learning routine:

Bible

This year we chose to expand our topical study of logic, using Keeping Faith in An Age of Reason by Master Books. This proved to be a good decision; helping our children gain a better understanding of Scripture, assisting them in knowing where to find things in their Bibles, and gaining a knowledge of arguments against Biblical topics. Overall, I am happy with our decision.
However, with that said. I believe we might need to spend this coming year focusing on a few Bible basics. While a study of logic and apologetics is important, and we would argue a necessity, we have also noted our children seem to have lost a knowledge of basic Bible stories. There are a few parables my two youngest seem to have forgotten, events which are covered in the Old Testament which they do not recall. With that in mind, we are going to use next year to travel through a study of Scripture from beginning to end with the intent on regaining what has been lost. It should be a blessing!

Language Arts/Artimetic

Up to this point we have used aBeka for all our language arts and arithmetic, and this has proven to be a wise decision. We appreciate their focus, their continual reinforcement, and their instruction in Latin and Greek roots for language arts. But this coming year will see a few changes.
Our middle daughter expressed a desire for video lessons, and while we could use aBeka to continue her learning, we have chosen an alternative and gone with Khan Academy for this coming year. The curriculum is free, online, and very thorough. (Our oldest daughter used Khan when practicing for college SAT’s and benefitted from it greatly.) We are excited to see how she does.
Language will remain primarily with aBeka, with the exception of choices in Literature which will stem from our study of history. More on that in a moment…

History

American History from Master Books was our choice of curriculum for this year, and it was a dream come true! We have been through a slew of history curriculum over the course of our years learning and this one finally met all our needs. Biblically based, to the point, easy to follow, hands-on, and engaging. We couldn’t have asked for a better choice.
Next year we will continue on with Master Books using World’s Story Volume 1, focusing in on ancient history to the fall of the Roman Empire. I am most excited to experience the purposeful Biblical study of this curriculum, as opposed to a previous choice in curriculum which covered the same time period but with less detail and Christian worldview.

Science

Our focus this year was Botany. Our children specifically requested this study, as Biology had already been covered and neither Anatomy nor Physics appealed to them. It was fun. We included quite a bit of hands-on activities, and the kids learned a great deal. I would recommend Botany for other students who might have similar concerns.
With that said, I will note our choice in curriculum – which can be found HERE – was not as developed as I would have liked.
Our main resource, Botany Adventure, did lay out a year’s schedule and included helpful ideas on activities, labs, hands-on application, and more. However, the author did not do a thorough job of indicating where information could be found. We discovered we needed to do a great deal of leg work. Not an issue, as we are experienced learners, but for anyone new to homeschooling I could see this being an issue. In addition, some instruction given was vague and unhelpful. (e.g. “Using slide —, sketch what you see.” With no indication of where we were to obtain the slide, create the slide, or otherwise.)
Our supplemental resource, Sassafras Science Adventures Botany, proved to be a fun read, with a great deal of additional, history information included, but proved to be a distraction from our main lessons, instead of a help, and thus we chose to refrain from finishing it. It would have been a perfect guide for younger students, with the addition of their study guide, but for our purposes it didn’t work.
The one resource I will rave about is the Botany Coloring Book. If you have yet to explore this resource, do so. It is amazing!
Next year we’ll be doing a study on Geology using Master Books. I am incredibly excited to launch this new adventure. It looks incredible and has so much to offer. It is going to be amazing.

Electives

These are always fun, and never disappoint. With everything from foreign language, art, physical exercise, and more; electives are the easy part of our learning routine and always a blast. I would like to see more hiking next year though and perhaps some classes on self-defense, which has been specifically asked for by our daughters.

Overall, it hasn’t been a bad year. In fact, it’s been pretty amazing. We’ve had a lot of new adventures, one of our favorites being Generation Joshua. We’ve learned a lot and taken on a lot of challenges. The kids have done wonderfully and we are very proud of them.

Now, it’s time for a short break. Maybe. For them. Perhaps for me, if I can manage to stop moving, planning, and organizing for five minutes. Then we’re on to another grand adventure. We’ll see what new lessons the Lord has in store for us and enjoy the journey.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colosians 3:17

Share with us… What was your favorite area of study this year and which was your least? What would you do over?

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Am I Really THAT Important?

Am_I_Really_That_Important

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

Clarence, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

I don’t know of anyone whose had the pleasure of having a ‘George Bailey’ moment. Do you? You know the one I mean. A fateful night when an angel comes down to earth and shows you exactly what life would be like if you had never been born. Like George, maybe every once in a while, we could all use a reminder of just how important a role we play.

am important. You are important. What lofty positions do we hold which allow me to write these words; senator, president, prime minister, or king? Nope; we are even more important than all these.

First, assuming you are a Christian, you are a child of the One True God; a child of the King. How could you not be important, especially to Him? He created you; you were not an accident. He came to earth for you, lived as an example for you, died for you, rose again for you, and is coming again for you. Yeah… you are definitely something special.

Second, He has a plan for you. If you are following His path for your life, you are fulfilling a purpose. No matter where God called you to serve and minister, you are doing God’s work. Take joy and comfort in that.

Not everyone is going to be a super star, much less hold a government office. That doesn’t mean the role you fulfill has any less meaning or importance! Being a Christian holds so much for those who follow God’s call in their lives. Being married gives a living example of Christ’s love for the church. Parents are imparting wisdom to the next generation. Those working outside the home have the ability to minister in an even wider arena. While you might not see the benefits of your hard work now, take heart. If you are walking according to God’s purposes, you are making an impact for His kingdom.

Now that I think about it, maybe you are an ambassador after all… an ambassador for Christ, reaching out to the lost and sharing hope to those who are willing to hear. A pretty important job; don’t you think?

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

We’d love to know… For those of you who are Christian, share a Bible verse which encourages you in your calling. For those who aren’t Christian, and might have some questions for us, we’d love to hear from you, too!

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Review: Nothing by Natalee Creech

It has been said a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps this is why picture books continue to draw people in, no matter our age. When we find a book which perfectly blends the magic of illustration with the gift of words, we know we’ve found a keeper. A recent family find, Nothing by Natalee Creech, published through WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, not only fits the bill but is using the medium of picture books to share the Love of God. It doesn’t get much better!

Worthy Publishing Group is an established book company whose mission is, “To help people experience the heart of God.” Of their vast selection of titles, WorthyKids creates vibrant children’s literature including Nothing by Natalee Creech. Together, former teacher turned librarian, Ms. Creech, and talented illustrator, Joseph Cowman, bring to life this beautiful picture book expressing the heart of Romans 8:38-39.

“NOTHING can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: note death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.”

review_nothing2

Nothing is a hardbound, full-color picture book with over thirty pages of beautifully created illustrations. Readers will find this to be a book of highest quality. From the dust jacket to the pages within, Nothing is a well-crafted read. Suggested for children aged four to seven, Ms. Creech’s rhymes are sure to delight and teach the depth of this passage, while Mr. Cowman’s art will draw them in.

I no longer have littles in our home. (There are days I am still coming to terms with this sad fact.) However, a good picture book should always be appreciated, no matter our age! I specifically wished to review Nothing as my husband is an illustrator and the cover of the book immediately caught my attention. I also have the privilege of having little people visit me on a regular basis and having new picture books to share with them is a treat. Nothing was no exception.

Upon receiving our read, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the book. The illustrations were everything I previewed online and more. The cover and dust jacket are simply magnificent. A mix of mat and high gloss layers, with a rich color palette, this book pulls you in and begs to be read. The pages within are well bound, easy to turn, and equally charming to behold. And while the illustrations are worthy of many moments of admiration, the text itself is no less lovely. Through her gift of rhyme, Ms. Creech reminds readers there is nowhere we can go where we are separated from the love of our God. Her ability as a writer, her heart for children, and her love of the Lord shine through wonderfully. Readers could visit this book regularly and never tire.

We mentioned Nothing is suggest for children aged four to seven, but we would slightly disagree. While we find the reading level to be accurate; frankly, we would recommend this read to anyone who has an interest in beautiful picture books and a heart for poetry. Nothing might be intended for the young, but will bless those of any age. Myself and my children, ages ranging from seventeen to twelve, all agree; this is a beautiful book.

From time to time, everyone should be reminded that nothing separates us from the love of Christ. Even us adults. Especially when we are deceived into thinking we are unlovable or our mistakes too big to be forgiven. Nothing is a heartfelt, touching reminder for all of us, from the young to the old, that we are loved beyond anything we could imagine.

If you’d like to learn more about Nothing by Natalee Creech or WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter, 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 like to know… What was the last picture book you read and with whom?

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