Forcing Religion on Your Children

“Are you faced with the accusation that you ‘force your religion on your children’? The first thing to do is ask the critic to clearly explain what he means by ‘forcing or imposing a belief or religion’ on others…”
~Frank Grau

Forcing_ReligionThe assertion of forcing religion on our children is continually brought to our attention. We are often accused of pushing our beliefs and ‘brainwashing’ them with our faith. Today, the Lord put upon my heart the need to share this thoughtful article my husband wrote several years ago addressing just this issue:

Forcing Religion on Your Children

As you prepare to wade into the coming learning year, may his words offer comfort and encouragement. May the Lord show us what He wants of our learning year, our families, and our parenting. And, may we be faithful to follow His call. No matter the opposition.

“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!: Does your learning curriculum include Bible, or do you teach directly from the Word?

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No Diving

No DivingHave you noticed those signs alarmingly placed around public pools? “No Diving!” Why do they do this? Jumping headlong into particular environments can be hazardous to your health. You might be surprised to realize that diving head first into your learning year might be just as problematic.

A new year is upon us. We have so many exciting things we can’t wait to teach, and there is so much potential waiting to be uncovered. So what do we do? We start off with a bang! The first day of our school year we unpack all the books and tackle every subject with eagerness.

What usually results? Grumpy children, frustrated parents, and a loss of motivation. What happened? Instead of testing the waters, allowing our minds an opportunity to adjust to the surroundings, we got in a little over our heads and hit a wall!

Why does this happen? There are probably several reasons this issue comes up:

Too Much, Too Fast  Instead of testing out a few core subjects and renegotiating areas of concern, we attempted to take in the whole ‘pool’ at once. We choose to dive right in, possibly neglecting a few areas of concern.

Shocking Degrees – Our children have been enjoying a lovely, relaxing summer. Now, we want to plunge them into an entire week full of sitting down and book work. It is fairly understandable our children are ready to balk at that tall stack of books we want them to work through. To them, it seems like torture!

Weak Muscles – After a long break, our minds need a little time to build themselves back up. If we attempt to tackle everything at once, we risk overworking our minds and frustrating ourselves unnecessarily.

Inexperienced Swimmers – If new subjects are being introduced, a child is just starting their learning adventure, or we are new to homeschooling in general; this could be a leading factor. We are not giving ourselves, or our children, an opportunity to become stronger learners.

Burn Out – Just as sitting in the sun too long after a long winter can easily cause you to get sunburn, sitting at a table all day after being on a break can cause burn out in your learning day. Keep in mind that children often need several breaks amidst all that book work, especially when returning to a routine after a long break.

So how do we avoid these problems? By easing into our learning year. Practically speaking, what does this look like?

For us, it means not all subjects are taught this first week back to school. In our home, only core subjects are introduced: Language Arts, Arithmetic, and Bible. The work is mostly review and easy to complete. As we move through the material, we adjust our routine to accommodate necessary changes and preferences. The following week we add in Science, History, and electives. Again, making necessary adjustments to our routine and our day if needed.

From experience, families who choose to ‘wade’ into their learning year, tend to have more longevity. They are content to test the waters, improve their stroke, adjust as needed, and then make a few exciting jumps into the deep end. They also understand when they’ve been at it too long and should take a break; no need to burn out.

Now, am I saying it can’t be done. No; I know families who can and do jump right on in. Am I saying you shouldn’t do it? Again, no; each family needs to make the best decision for themselves. What I am saying; is that you might want to consider not diving in.

Through prayer and experience, we’ve learned to take one day at a time in our learning. We start off each year nice and easy; testing out our well-organized plan for faults and adjustments. Once things are coming along swimmingly, it’s time for the real fun to begin!

📣 Chime In!: Does your family dive into homeschooling or wade into the learning year?

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Bibliophilia

BibliophiliaBibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of books. Accordingly a bibliophile is an individual who loves books. A bookworm is someone who loves books for their content, or who otherwise loves reading. That, in short, describes the people in our house perfectly. Our house consists of several thousand books, not including the thousands more we borrow from the library each year.

Even if we weren’t homeschooling, books would have been an important part of our lives. My husband had a collection consisting of several hundred before we got married. When we got together, the set was increased by my addition of several hundred. Before kids, we added another hundred or so. Since having kids… Oh, my!

Since we homeschool, we have discovered books aren’t just an important part of our lives, they are essential. Not a day goes by that we don’t use several books to help us get through our studies and keep us entertained.

Our collection of books is vast and eclectic. We have a little bit of just about everything: comics, graphic novels, classics, fables, poetry, art, architecture, design, mystery, adventure, fantasy, and logic. We have Stephen King, Norman Geisler, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, C.S. Lewis, and the list goes on.

One of our favorite activities is perusing the public library; nabbing the latest and greatest, along with the old and well-loved. We now have five library cards between the six of us and, even then, often max them out. We have been known to check out a hundred books a week.

I find it interesting that when people see our cart full of library books – Yes, we have a cart. A bag just wouldn’t hold them all. –  they immediately assume we homeschool. It’s as if the books are an arrow pointing to our methods of education. We’ve also found it interesting that some parents hinder their children from selecting a larger number of reads from their local library. One parent was overheard to have told their children, “Two books. No more.” My children were horrified. However, it was a great catalyst for conversation. I’m sure the mama had a justifiable reason for her statement.

Should we ever find ourselves in a predicament and not know what to read, there are several resources available. Honey For a Child’s HeartThe Book Tree, and Books Children Love are just a few. Fortunately, we don’t have to use these resources very often. There are always great reads waiting in the wings!

Books are a huge part of our lives; they bring us together, entertain, and instruct. We’re extremely grateful to the Lord for the multitude of resources He’s made available to us, and the many books we’ve been blessed with over the years. May He bless us with many more!

📣 Chime In!: Do you love books, too? Which book is your favorite?

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Revisiting Homeschooling 101

Homeschooling101On occasion, I have the pleasure of advising families who are new to homeschooling. We  talk about how to begin setting up a homeschool routine and the basics of a good education. Rather than frustrate them with long notes to take, it has been suggested I write these ideas down and make them available to everyone who might be interested.

Below, you will find a list of links to a few posts which help remove the stress, confusion, and misdirection that often comes with new territory.

As you read, please be in continual prayer about where the Lord is leading your family. Our goal is not to dictate your coming school year, but merely to come alongside you on your journey. May you find this information helpful and edifying:

“In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
~Philippians 4:6

📣 Chime In!: Have you been homeschooling awhile? What is the best piece of advice that was given as you launched into your learning adventure?

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The Care and Keeping of Nature Collections

care_keeping_nature_collectionsJust one more shell. One more stick. A special collection of leaves and acorns which must come home with us. I readily agree. Then we get home and reality sets in. What are we supposed to do with all these items? While I love and appreciate my children’s desire to begin a nature study collection, I tend to hesitate.

We’ve tried collecting sea shells, but without proper storage they chip and break. Bug collecting hasn’t been pretty. Should we really save leaves? As in every other area of learning, if we’re going to make a success of this, it might be time to put a plan into practice. It’s time to organize the care and keeping of our nature collection.

Cleaning Specimen – Not every item we bring home needs a good scrub down. However, certain specimen require care before being put into storage or on display. Thankfully, the National Park Service offers helpful information on care of both herbarium and mammal specimen.

Labeling Specimen – If we can, snapshots are taken of our nature find’s name placards while we’re out and about. At home, Audubon and other guides are pulled to fill in missing information. Small tags are attached, or placed under, each item with pertinent information.

Studying Specimen – Outside of labeling our specimen, nature journaling is of benefit. We might take time to water-color an item or two, taking a moment to describe with our senses the specimen before us. What does it smell like, feel like, and look like? Are there memories attached to this item we wish to document?

Storing Specimen – This is the hard part, especially when limited on space. We’re still struggling to find ways of making a home for our finds. The ideal would be a mid-sized, wooden cabinet with multiple drawers for storage. Until that comes along… For proper storage of delicate items, again the National Park Service offers helpful ideas and tips.

Reducing Specimen – Because we are so limited on space, we can only reasonably store so many of our items. This means some things will need to be placed in the green bin of our trash, with as many items as possible being given to interested friends. (Nature Pal Exchange is a great resource for this.) We’ve even found nature exchange locations which allow our children to turn in their finds for ‘points’ which can be accumulated and exchanged for purchasing other nature items.

For now, we’re having fun going wild, and adding pages to our field trip field guides. With the additional excitement of creating a nature study collection, science is delightful. With a plan in place, caring and storing our specimen has never been better.

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the  earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?”
~Job 12:7-10

📢 Chime In!: Does your family have a permanent display for nature study finds?

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A Little Old Fashioned: The 8mm App

8mmI don’t know about you, but I’m always bugging my kids to smile for just one more photo. Standard equipment for field trips, my device is always in hand. In fact, it’s pretty much always by my side. You never know when you’ll want to document some awesome activity or moment with the kids. Every once in a while, the kids snag my camera and the real fun begins…

Nexvio’s 8mm Vintage Camera app is a fun addition to our homeschool resource list. 8mm Vintage Camera captures the beauty and magic of old school vintage movies right through your viewfinder. Dust and scratches, retro colors, flickering, light leaks, even frame shakes. All can be instantly added with a single tap of the finger. Shoot directly with 8mm Vintage Camera, or import existing videos for added fun.

With all the technology put out to improve film quality why would we want to take a step back? (I mean, have you seen those horrid orange-tinged photos sitting in old albums.) Don’t let new-fangled film fool you. There are plenty of lessons to be had from gazing into the past:

  • History Lessons – There are a variety of time periods and genres represented in the 8mm app. Explore each time period, noting famous films created during that era. Who were the famous directors? What was happening around the world to affect film making and movies itself?
  • Science Lessons – How are cameras made, and what advances have been developed over the years to increase film quality? Is digital better than film? Explore the science behind this fantastic artistic field.
  • Film Classes – Do our children notice the difference in film quality between centuries?  What might have been the original cause for these issues, and what was done to fix them? Film is nothing without sound! This would be a perfect opportunity to explore the importance of the soundtrack.
  • Exploring Memories – This is the perfect time to dig out our own photos from the past. Can our children see the similarities between our photos and the simulations in the app?

We love when new resources can be pulled into our learning routine, adding spice to life and livening up our lessons. 8mm Vintage Camera is tons of fun to explore. Better yet, it’s a lovely way to launch a world of exploration.

📢 Chime In!: What is your favorite photography app, both for yourself and the kids?

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Purposeful Affections

Purposeful_AffectionsWhen I was a very little girl, it seems I had an extremely close relationship with my father. He would snatch me up, tickle me with his mustache, and try to give me kisses. In response, I would giggle endlessly and scream out, “No kiss me, no kiss me!” Little did I know my father would walk out of my life when I was only four years old, never to kiss me again.

Through junior high and high school, I began to look for an outlet; a place where my desire for affection would be gratified. While I can say I remained pure during all of my schooling, that doesn’t mean I was completely innocent. I liked being around guys who were willing to pay attention to me. I looked for excuses to give hugs and be close to someone. I wanted to know I truly mattered to someone, that I was worthy of their time and effort.

Jump to now… I am still a very affectionate person (much to my husband’s delight). I love to be held and hugged. I have found a guy who loves to show me how much he cares and in turns loves for me to show him.

Now, how does this at all relate to my kids? Simply this… I have known a great deal of women (and men) who have lacked affection in their lives; either from their parents or their spouses. The interesting factor is that, generally, the lack of affection stems from one place; CHILDHOOD!

It caused my husband and I to think. Would our children go looking for affection, if our home was filled with it? Would they feel the need to date at such a young age, if they were constantly being hugged and kissed? Why is it we often forget teenagers need hugs too?Why do we allow them to pull away from us, instead of pursuing our children’s hearts?

I want to be purposeful about gaining the affection of my children. So, while they are young, I snatch them up and cuddle them. I find ways to tickle them, kiss them, rub their arms, pat their heads, gently tug their braids, sit cheek to cheek, and other lovely things of that nature.

Now that our children are older, there may be boundaries they decide to set in place (“No kissing me in front of my friends, mom!”), but that will not prevent me from purposefully seeking them out. Whether they deny it or not, I think they love being held and hugged. I think they enjoy being cuddled, tickled, and kissed.

I pray my children would not just know we love them, but feel our love. I pray my children would not feel the desire (as I did) for outside affection, but they would gain all they need from our home.

Yes, one day my children will desire a Godly husband or wife (and they should!), but prayerfully it will be because that is the direction the Lord is leading them. It won’t be for lack of love and affection. It won’t be because their lives were missing something. It won’t be the need for attention. It will be for all the right reasons.

📢 Chime In!: Are you purposeful in your affections towards your children? How so?

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The Power of “No!”

No DiceAs homeschoolers, we often have numerous opportunities offered to us; field trips, co-ops, park days, and more. It can be tempting to join every activity available, but much discretion is advised. When you say yes to everything, you are bound to get overwhelmed. There are times it is more beneficial to just say “no”.

How do we determine which events are to our advantage and worth the effort? How do we know when it is okay to help out a friend and when it’s not? I doubt there is a fool-proof way to finding the answer, but I have found there are some guidelines which seem to help.

When to say “no” to an event:

  • It doesn’t fit into my calendar. If my week is already overbooked or if I have to rearrange too many things to make it work… it doesn’t.
  • I am getting stressed out. If just planning out the event is too much for me, perhaps I need to rethink whether or not to be involved.
  • My husband thinks it is a bad idea. When he says no, that is the end of it.
  • The Lord says no. Just because I can make it work and my husband says it is okay, doesn’t mean it is the Lord’s will for our family. I should always pray before making a commitment.

When to say “no” to people: 

  • When they could be doing it themselves. Sometimes people just need the encouragement to do things for themselves. Don’t enable someone else; teach them to work hard and “make do”.
  • When we are putting them before our family’s needs. Being helpful is a good virtue and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but we must also remember our families are our first ministry. If we are so busy helping other people we can’t take care of our own responsibilities, than we need to step back and allow someone else to help.
  • When the Lord says no. Again, just because the opportunity arises, doesn’t mean  we are the answer. Perhaps He is simply using us to alert other people to the problem or to pray for that person.

How to say “no”: 

  • With gentleness. Just because we cannot participate, doesn’t mean the event or opportunity is bad. We need to make sure we say “no” in a loving manner.
  • With humility. It should not be out of pride and arrogance that we are turning down an opportunity.
  • With an explanation, when possible. Even something as simple as, “The Lord is leading me in another direction right now.”, helps others to know I am aware of the event/need, even if I cannot participate.

Life is full of opportunities; experiences we will want to take part in and people we will want to invest in. It is important, though, to know when to step up and when to back down. Saying “no” can be a hard task. It can seem harsh, criticizing, or even “Un-Christian” to those who don’t wish to hear it. Knowing I have given it great thought and I am making the best decisions I can, helps me to put to rest any anxiety I may have over telling someone “no”.

While I love to say “yes” to a great many things, I feel the Lord compelling me to learn the word “no”. I cannot possibly be everywhere, do everything, and help everyone. It is hard and makes me uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, I know it was the right choice to make.

May we keep this in mind: When we say no to one thing, we are saying yes to something else. May we always choose the best use of our time, energies, and resources.

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”
~ Galatians 1:10

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Show Me a Story

“As America’s industrial might grew, so did the conviction that the time had come for American illustrators to rise to the challenge of matching, or even surpassing, the high standard set by artists from across the Atlantic.”
~ Show Me a Story

Show_Me_Book_ReviewBeing married to an illustrator, I have the unique privilege of seeing behind the scenes. The difficult clients, the multitude of changes a project can go through, and the reward of a job well done never cease to amaze. I am very proud of my man and love sharing in his world. So when I spotted this book at our local library, into my basket it went.

Show Me a Story is a set of compelling interviews by the acclaimed Leonard S. Marcus. Twenty-one top authors and illustrators reveal their inside stories on the art of creating picture books. Max and Mickey; Miss Nelson; Pack, Quack, and Mrs. Mallard; Pigeon; Sylvester; John Henry; and a very hungry caterpillar – these are just a few of the beloved picture book characters discussed. We read about each artist’s childhood, their inspiration, their determination, their mentors, their creative choices, and more.

While this entire book is well worth reading, I especially enjoyed reading about each author/illustrator’s childhood. I wanted to learn about the creative and learning environment each artist experienced as a child. I also appreciated reading what inspired each artist. As a parent, perhaps there was something I could learn.

Many of the artists I had heard of previously and read many of their books. However, there were a few which were new to me. It was a pleasure to discover new works of literature to share with my children.

I will say I would like to see a sequel to this book; perhaps a series. There were many illustrators I was surprised were not included in this volume; artists such as William Joyce, Scott Gustafson, Tony DiTerlizzi, Brian Lies, and more. It would be great to hear from them as well.

This was a great book. I look forward to reading more works by Leonard Marcus in the near future. Learning and exploring the world of illustrators is a joy.

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Don’t Think You Can Homeschool? Think Again!

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 as we review this fun series, sharing reasons families believe they can’t homeschool and offering encouragement for those unsure of the adventure called homeschooling.

I Can’t Homeschool!…

I Lack Self Control
They Won’t Listen
I’m Uneducated

I’m Unorganized
I Need ME Time
I Have Too Many Kids
My Kids Are Too Big

My Family Will Disapprove
I’m A Dad!
My Kids Have Special Needs