Bend or Break

Bend_BreakAs I glanced at my alarm clock, I could tell this was going to be a fun day. I was already running two hours behind and the day hadn’t even started yet! In addition to our late start, the kids were already beginning to squabble at each other and I had a long list of things which needed to get done.

I’m sure we’ve all had mornings like this one. Mornings, days, weeks, or months when things just don’t seem to gel. For whatever reason, our well-planned, organized life went haywire and we are struggling to catch up; setting our world to rights.

As home schoolers, this problem can cross over into all areas of our lives. Not only do we feel challenged to keep our households together, but our children’s education also needs to remain somewhat on track. While we don’t subscribe to a rigid form of learning, our children do, in fact, need to be progressing in their studies and receiving an education.

How do we maintain sanity while trying to keep life moving, especially when chaos comes at us from all angles? We learn to bend or we just might break.

Not every morning (or week for that matter) is going to go according to plan. I can either choose to make the situation worse by becoming irritated and nit-picking everyone or I can bend with the situation and find a workable solution.

By having a bad attitude, I am preventing myself from enjoying the day and all the blessings it has to hold. I am going to tear apart my family and stress myself out along the way. My children will be less able to learn when they are in a hostile environment, being pushed to make up for lost time. Our home may be “back on track” time wise, but, in all other senses, we’ve lost sight of what’s important.

On the other hand, when I choose to simply let it go, life is much more freeing. Yes; I woke up late, but maybe I really needed that extra sleep and the kiddos needed a few more winks too! Yes; we are a little behind, but perhaps this will inspire us to move a little quicker or just to rearrange our routine for the day. There are a lot of responsibilities on my plate, but maybe I need to re-prioritize our list.

I also need to evaluate the situation and see if there is a lesson hidden among the madness. Perhaps I need to learn to go to bed earlier. Maybe I needed to organize my day better or manage my time a little more wisely. Or, and here is a big one, maybe the Lord tossed this little snag my way to see what I would do with it. Am I going to bend, or break? Will I do my best with the situation or allow the situation to control me?

By “bending” to accommodate life’s occasional craziness, my children are also learning valuable lessons. They will see mommy own up to her mistakes (e.g. staying up too late); work with difficult situations; choose not to stress out; re-prioritize in times of need; and so much more. These are all just as important for them to learn as arithmetic.

Life isn’t always going to go according to plan. When we learn to bend, instead of break, we are choosing God’s best and setting an example for our children. After all, character is just as important as book learning. And, as a friend often says, “Blessed are the flexible!”

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me….”
– Philippians 4:12-14

📢 Chime In!: Do you struggle with remaining flexible in times of stress?

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Is Christian Curriculum a Must?

Christian_Curriculum_a_MustAs we wind down one year and gear up for another, curriculum choices loom before us. Is what we’re currently using working for our family, or we do need to make a few adjustments? Should we continue with book work or make learning more hands-on? One thing is certain, we want to ensure our choices reflect our family’s worldview and encourage our children to draw near to their Creator. But, in order to do this, is Christian curriculum a must?

While we would undoubtedly recommend steering clear of companies which hinder our faith, perhaps even degrading our Lord, just how much of our curriculum needs to be specifically labeled “Christian”? Arithmetic is arithmetic is it not? How does buying from a Christian company change the adding of one plus one? Or perhaps you might view it from another perspective. You could purchase curriculum from a non-Christian company which is not anti-Christian, but you enjoy supporting conservative businesses. 

The bulk of our materials tend to come from Christian companies. Even though the study of arithmetic might not specifically deal with issues of faith, I appreciate the verses which accompany each lesson and faith-based word problems. However, I will admit, that from time-to-time we have used non-Christian materials. Some resources are too good to pass up, even if they need a little tweak to make them work.

We’d love to hear your perspective on this issue, and learn how Christian curriculum plays into the planning of your family’s learning adventure.

  • Do you use only Christian curriculum, and why?
  • Have you found yourself using non-Christian curriculum, and why?
  • Are there specific subjects which you feel are acceptable to be taught from non-Christian textbooks?
  • Are there non-Christian companies you use and recommend?
  • If using non-Christian teaching material, do you find yourself constantly battling the rewording of text to make it fit your worldview or align with your family’s values?
  • Are electives exempt from your Christian curriculum choices, or would picking a Christian art program, per say, be important to you?

Choosing curriculum is always a fun adventure, and no matter which materials our family chooses, we want to ensure Christ is the center of all we do. May He guide each of our families into making the wisest decisions for all our little learners, and help us to train up our children in the way they should go.

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

📢 Chime In!: Share your thoughts with us on this interesting topic. We’d love to hear how the Lord is leading in your home.

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Fill In All the Available Space

Fill_In_SpaceIf you were to stroll through my house, you’d notice everything has a place. Prayerfully you would feel comfortable, welcome, and rested. What you hopefully might not notice is the multitude of items carefully hidden beneath the surface. In this busy household, we fill in all available space.

One might think we have an overabundance of household items; it might be time to downsize a little. While this is occasionally true – everyone needs to reassess the amount of possessions they own from time-to-time – it is the nature of our family lifestyle which dictates the amount of items filling our home.

One cannot run a business without the essentials of the trade. An illustrator who does not own paint, or computer, might need to rethink his chosen career. We have purposed not to homeschool via computer, thus many materials are provided to encourage learning and exploration. We have six people living in a four bedroom house, one of which is used as an office. Essentially, we’re all home; all day; every day. So, you see… space is quite limited.

Finding the right spot for everything can be a challenge. When you’re this full up, and every available surface is already taken, it’s time to start thinking creatively. Where do we put everything? We fill in all the available space we can find!

Recently, the kiddos and I decided to work on a puzzle. We knew the puzzle would take several days, and securing a table for that amount of time was out of the question. So, the puzzle was started on a large piece of foam board. The board was tucked under a couch, out of sight; waiting to be finished another day.

The entry closet of our home originally had one bar and a shelf on top. We’ve since removed both and added many shelves to maximize space. Even then, each shelf is carefully arranged with plastic bins, to use every inch of real-estate available.

Atop our fridge is displayed the family picnic basket and old-fashioned tins, which happened to be filled with snacks and treats which don’t fit into the tiny pantry of our home.

Large, wicker baskets decorate our living room. Inside you will find blankets, magazines, books, and more. In each room, one or more baskets beautifully add to the look of our home, yet allow us to keep on hand items needed on a regular basis.

I could go on. As much as possible, we’ve taken to finding clever, creative ways to store the multitude of items we use and need on a daily basis. Our goal is to keep our home looking as uncluttered and welcoming as possible, while maintaining accessibility for our children. We don’t want guests sitting atop piles of unfinished schoolwork when coming to visit. Nor should our children be hindered from creativity because everything is locked away. We’re trying to find balance.

This is not always easy. As our children grow we reassess and reorganize. We are constantly shifting items in our home to accommodate our needs. But the results are worth it.

Does this mean our home is never cluttered or unorganized? I wish! No, House Beautiful will not be holding a photo shoot any time soon. This does lend to peace of mind for Mom, and a creative environment for our family to explore. As much as we can, every available space is being put to good use, especially if that space says, “Welcome”.

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

📢 Chime In!: What is the most unusual place you’ve found yourself storing learning materials in your home?

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The Kingdom of Mixedupalot

MixedupalotEvery once in a while we come across resources which are too sweet not to share, and this week we’re busting at the seems to clue you in to a website we wish we’d found years ago. Welcome to the fantastic “Kingdom of Mixedupalot“!

Written and illustrated by creator Jennifer Klein, the Kingdom of Mixedupalot is a weekly coloring page available on Mommy & Me Mondays. What makes each week’s coloring page special is the corresponding Bible verse, and devotion, which ties into the illustration.

Mrs. Klein is an incredibly talented artist who uses her gift for the glory of God and the blessing of the church. We’re sure you’ll find the characters of Mixedupalot to be adorable and charming. Each week provides not only a basic color page for younger children but also a more detailed illustration for adults and older children.

The accompanying devotions are brief and to the point, yet allow room for further discussion with older children. Each verse covered brings us into a better understanding of our relationship with God; His goodness and desire to be near to us.

Mommy & Me Monday

Don’t stop at the coloring pages! Mrs. Klein has also written two books, Sir Bumble and Princess Pristina. In these clever stories we learn the true meaning of bravery, God’s love, and caring for those who are afraid. We’re also reminded of God’s unfailing love and tremendous grace for His children.

Currently, we’re using Mommy & Me Mondays as part of Our Morning Basket. Every Monday morning, these beautiful coloring pages find their way into our homeschool morning time, preparing us for the day and the week to come. My children love these color pages, even my teens. Mommy only wishes she had stumbled upon this incredible resource sooner.

If you have yet to discover this wonderful resource awaiting you, don’t wait a moment longer. Stop in, wish Mrs. Klein a lovely day, and partake in the blessing of her color pages. But, don’t forget to check out her books. They’re too good to pass up.

📢 Chime In!: As an adult, do you still enjoy coloring?

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Letters of Love

Letters_of_LoveAs I ready my children for school, I stand at my kitchen counter packing wholesome lunches all set to be tucked away into their boxes and carted off to school. Along with their balanced meal, I lovingly slip in a note of love which promises of homemade cookies and cold milk upon their return.

WAIT!… Scratch that… How could I forget? I don’t send my kids off to school. I don’t pack them lunches in cute little boxes. I don’t give them milk and cookies when they come back because they never leave. I don’t send them little love notes in their lunch pails; there are no lunch pails.

When shopping for back-to-school supplies, I happened upon a set of adorable lunch note cards for parents. What a cute idea, I thought! In reality, I have no use for them. We homeschool, so I don’t pack meals for our kids. I don’t box a lunch for my guy; he works at home. I make our lunch at the stove and then we sit down to eat as a family.

The idea behind the love notes was touching; surely there must be a way for me to use them. Then an idea struck me! Part of dating someone is writing love letters, right? So if I was “dating my children“, surely I would need to write them “love letters”. These little notes would indeed come in handy.

Now I needed to find creative ways to deliver my letters of love. Perhaps when we are on a field trip, I could attach them to their juice boxes or water bottles. I could tuck it into the front cover of their current book read. I could stick them to the chairs at the kitchen table between breakfast and the beginning of our day. There are so many possibilities, I could go on forever.

Whether it is a stack of silly little notes or a handmade card, I need to remember my family appreciates these little demonstrations of love. I constantly am trying to find ways to show my heart and express my feelings.

As homeschoolers, I have to be a little more creative. I am learning to take advantage of an opportunity when I see it. I can’t use a lunchbox, but I can use other things. The key is remembering and doing, no matter how little or how silly.

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

📢 Chime In!: Do you write your children letters of love? What creative ways to do you find to deliver them?

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Bad Words

Bad WordsWhen my husband and I were in pre-marital counselling, there were a few words we were advised to avoid. Now as a parent, I have not only found myself trying to follow those words of advice, but adding a few of my own to the list. Not words that are wrong in and of themselves, but words that can harm our relationships; “bad words”.

When we get into arguments, we tend to react emotionally. If we set up parameters of what is acceptable to say and what isn’t, we can reduce the amount of damage done. Here are some of the words our family tries to avoid:

  • Never – Using this word will make the other person defensive. Odd are, it’s not even a true statement. Try using words like “hardly” or “often”.
  • Always – Same principle, no one always does anything.
  • That Makes No Sense – A better choice of words would be, “I don’t understand” or “this does not make sense to me.”
  • I Told You So – It would be best to remain quite when being right. The other person knows they were wrong, there is no need to throw it in their face.
  • It Doesn’t Matter – It may not matter to you, but it matters to them. Trying to see things from their perspective doesn’t mean you agree, but that you are trying to understand.
  • You’re Not Listening  This can come across as casting blame on the other person, which can lead to further arguments. Instead try saying, “Let me try this another way,” or “Let me make sure you are understanding”.
  • Whatever – This may come across as not caring about the other person. This is another one that should be avoided when having an important discussion.
  • It’s Your Fault – Blame is a horrible way to keep the lines of communication open. Instead, focus on how the problem can be resolved.
  • Everybody Else – It doesn’t matter what everybody else says or does. All your decisions should be made based on Biblical principles and with the other person in mind.
  • Yeah, Right – This little sarcastic comment can end an open discussion immediately. Sarcasm, period, is a bad idea when trying to resolve issues. It only makes the other person defensive and closed off. Sarcasm should be avoided at all costs when trying to work through difficulties.
  • I Hate You – This is a huge one for us. If any of our children use this in an argument with their siblings, correction immediately takes place.
  • You’re Mean – As this is an emotional statement, meant to hurt someone, and not an objective observation, this one also gets vetoed. Instead, we try to have our children pinpoint the specific action that was disliked and make sure that it isn’t repeated.
  • Name Calling – The list is endless so I won’t go into all of them, but words like stupid, dumb, and the like are not allowed in our home. Instead, they are encouraged to focus on the action done and how to address it, not on putting the other person down.
  • Shut-Up – This is another one we avoid at all costs; it is rude and unnecessary. Simply asking someone to please stop is enough. If they don’t listen, then consequences are set in place.

I am sure the list could go on and on, but these are the main areas we try to avoid. Through choosing our words wisely and trying to put the other person first, we will build our relationships and unify our family.

“Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought… therefore let your words be few.”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:2

📢 Chime In!: What are some “bad words” that your family tries to avoid?

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Dating Our Children

Dating_Our_ChildrenHaving four children, homeschooling, running a home-based business, and serving in ministry, it can be difficult to find quality time with each child. A few years ago, the Lord showed me the perfect way to build up our relationships: dating my children!

Every Saturday, the children and I head over to my mother-in-law’s house for a visit. I drop off three of my children (who excitedly run into the house and announce they are ready for fun and food), then the fourth child and I head on out for a date.

When on our dates, I usually allow my children to decide what they would like to do. Sometimes we go for a walk or visit antique stores. At other times, we have gone for fancy tea parties or ice cream. It doesn’t matter where we go, what matters is that we are spending time together.

I think one of the greatest joys of our “dates” is getting to know who my children are. I am often surprised by their observations and questions about life. I have learned so much
about their dreams, their fears, and their struggles. We often share how we’re each doing in life, how we could be praying for one another, and what the Lord has been teaching us through His Word. Here I can focus on just one child for that limited space of time, assuring them they matter and are remembered.

I pray that the Lord would use these days to strengthen our relationships and unify our family. That He would use these times to teach me about my children and how I can better minister to their needs. I pray my children will look back on these days fondly, remembering all the little things that really meant nothing and yet everything.

“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”
~ Ephesians 5:19

📢 Chime In!: How do you “date” your children?

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Rethinking High School Maths

Rethinking_MathsHigh school arithmetic has changed since I was a student. The average student will now take Algebra I, immediately followed by Algebra II, and then he will take Geometry. While this seems beneficial, Algebra II is a continuation of the previous course, some of our high school students are bemoaning the new arrangement.

It seems college SAT testing relies heavily upon knowledge of Algebra. Since most of our high school students are taking these tests in their junior year of high school, it’s been over a year since they’ve touched an Algebra textbook and their skills in this area are rusty.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with some of our high school students in our PSP. They noted this struggle due to Algebra having been taken a year prior, instead of the year they are testing. They expressed a wish to have taken it when needed. I wonder how many of our children feel the same?

When I was in high school, a standard arithmetic course for those college bound was arranged differently. First you took Algebra, then you took Geometry, and this was followed by Algebra II. If you wished to further pursue your studies in maths, you would then take Calculus and Trig. This better prepared us for SAT testing, and allowed our minds an opportunity to mature before tackling the more advanced lessons of Algebra II.

As my oldest daughter is just finishing the first of her high school years, this caught my attention. I had planned on the schedule laid out in our course of study guide, which most high school students seem to be adopting today. However, struggles in Algebra and a greater appreciation for Geometry are leading us in a different direction.

While I see both sides of the debate, I believe the Lord has confirmed our decision to move forward with next year’s choice of arithmetic. We look forward to exploring this new area of maths, and seeing what the Lord will teach us next.

📢 Chime In!: Where do you stand on this issue? Should students be taking Algebra courses together or with Geometry between, and why?

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Coincidence? I Think Not!

CoincidenceHere I sit, our astronomy textbook in hand, organizing the year to come, and God meets me where I am, reminding me He is in control. For the –nth year in a row (because I don’t know how many years He has been doing this now), God has completely taken our homeschooling year and fit it according to His purposes.

Every term I bow my head in prayer, asking the Lord’s will in our homeschooling year. I don’t want to drudge through curriculum He has not given, nor forcefully push through lessons for my own sake. I want the Lord to be the center of all we do, and that starts with planning our year to come.

God never ceases to amaze me. No matter how I proceed with our planning, the Lord always orchestrates so everything comes together.

For the past several years, I have sat down and created lesson plans for science. I lay out which lessons will be covered each week, and bookmark coordinating activities. Once this is complete and finished (this is key!), I then sit down to tackle history. No sooner do I begin laying out our history lessons, in the same fashion, when I begin to see a parallel with our science. Lessons align, topics come together; blending perfectly and harmonizing with one another.

While this might seem probable for those using a boxed curriculum or purchasing all materials from the same company, what makes our situation unique is that we’re eclectic homeschoolers. Very few of our textbooks come from the same company. Yet, year after year, the Lord continues to show His hand in our planning.

I have even gone so far as to re-organize our textbooks, switching chapters; yet God still aligns. I have used curriculum from different grade levels. God perfectly fits them together. Field trips have been known to come together, which I could not have foreseen. Books will be given to us by people who have no idea what we’re studying. Literature I did not plan at the beginning of our year corresponds to our lessons. Language arts, and even spelling, have been known to supply details – not mere general subject headings – uniting our learning.

Let me be clear, these are all things I do not plan into our year. Yet, year after year, God does this. This is not a coincidence. This is not a one-time happening. God is constantly showing Himself to us, even in these little details. And it blows my mind.

I love how God chooses to show Himself to us in the tiny details. I do not plan for our history and science to harmonize, but God does! I could not have foreseen a spelling lesson to perfectly align with our reading selection, but God knew. Things I do not think of, details I do not plan… Yet God is in control.

When it comes to our homeschooling, nothing is a coincidence. When we allow God to take charge of our children’s learning, everything comes together perfectly. And the best part is that we don’t even need to try. He does it all in His own power, and often without our help. Coincidence? I think not. This is ALL God!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
~ Proverbs 19:21

📢 Chime In!: Share how God has brought plans together, showing evidence of His hand in your learning!

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Cooking With The Kids – An Easier Way to Decorate a Cookie

Easier_WayI’ve long admired the fancy cookies seen in shop windows and sprinkled all over the internet. They’re almost too pretty to eat. I imagined it would take a great deal of time, talent, and effort to create such wonderful masterpieces. And often it does. However, one incredible lady took the time to show me and my girls that learning such a talent is well within our reach and much easier than expected.

At a recent event, a cookie decorating booth was on display. We seemed the only people interested in learning what the woman had to teach. Thus, we received a thorough demonstration on the art of cookie decorating, and were allowed to test our skills. We were sold!

The secret to easier cookie decorating? Bottles! Instead of using pastry bags to decorate our cookies, we needed to be using frosting bottles. Frosting Bottles

Bottles create less mess, are easier to work with for children, and dry out slower than frosting in bags. The trick is to keep your bottle tips constantly moist by pointing them tip down, in a fluted container, into a damp cotton ball or napkin. We were also advised to always give a quick squeeze of our bottle onto a rag before resuming decorating, if switching between colors or after taking a long break. This prevents our colors running and gives better frosting flow.

I was pleasantly surprised to find these bottle may be obtained for a nominal fee at our local crafting store. For just a small investment we were able to purchase several bottles to start our new learning adventure. Combined with the multitude of frosting tips we already own, this should prove to be a fun experiment.

We don’t plan to abandon cake making altogether; Mom still loves eating chocolate cake. But, this does allow us to venture into new territory and explore a fun new kitchen tool. This should prove to be delicious!

“O taste and see that the LORD is good…”
~ Psalm 34:8

📢 Chime In!: What tricks, and tips, have you learned in baking or decorating which has made life easier? We’d love to learn something new!

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