Series Review: Getting the Most Out of Field Trips

Field-Trips

Who doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery,  and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they will quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly. Join us as we share tips on how to make the most of any field trip and explore ideas for a smoother day.

What if we could make the day more simple? Wouldn’t the trip be much more enjoyable if we had a plan of attack and were better prepared? I think so. After planning field trips, both for myself and for larger groups, here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:

Go out and explore! Have a lot of fun and enjoy your children while they are young; this won’t last forever. ~ Cristina

“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”
~ Proverbs 24:27

Your Turn!: Do you enjoy being spontaneous with outings or planning in advance?

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Changes Already?

Changes Already?As I’m sure many of us have experienced, the beginning of the school year is barely behind us and we’re already making changes to our routine and curriculum. One would think with all the planning and organizing which goes into putting the year together we would have this down by now. Especially after this many years of learning. I wish I knew why this happens, but here we go again.

In my head I run through the multitude of possibilities which brought us here. Perhaps we had grand visions which now need to be tailored down. Maybe a new area of study came highly recommended but upon use was found to be a poor fit for our family. Areas of focus might have been overlooked and added last-minute. The list could go on.

We’re two sessions into our learning year and thus far several changes have already made an appearance:

Exchanging Textbooks for Living Books – Our science course this year is chemistry. Apologia came highly recommended and a friend was kind enough to lend us their textbook. Unfortunately, while the curriculum seems well laid out, it wasn’t a good fit for us. It did have experiments, quite a few of them in fact, but they were low on the interest scale and long on text. After a little research, we opted to try something new. Living books. Several came highly recommended. We checked as many as we could from the library and narrowed down our choices. We’ve settled on two and are really enjoying the change.

More Nature Study – In the past we were randomly choosing areas of focus. Most of our selections were prompted by a hike or outing. There was no consistency or overall plan. Being inspired by the multitude of other families also studying nature, we now have a definite system. No more scrambling for last-minute ideas or wondering what to study next.

Logic – I’ll be honest, I fought this. I had no opposition to teaching logic, mind you, and definitely wished for my kids to learn it. I was afraid. I had never formally taken a course in logic and wasn’t sure I could teach it. After my husband calmed my fears and walked me through his choice of book, we began. I’m so glad my guy persisted. It’s slow going but worth the effort.

These might not seem like major changes, but they are making a huge difference in our day. I’m not sure what the rest of the year holds, but it’s sure to be an adventure.

I still wish we could avoid making changes during the midst of our learning year. It would bring peace of mind and mean less scrambling. But I trust the Lord has a plan at work. I might not see the bigger picture, but He does. All He asks is that I be faithful.

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” ~Proverbs 18:15

Your Turn!: What changes have you already made in this learning year?

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Review: Imagine…The Great Flood

Imagine_ReviewWe’re constantly on the lookout for clean stories which edify our children and build their faith. While reading Imagine…The Great Flood by Matt Koceic from Barbour Publishing, we were reminded to trust upon the Lord no matter our circumstances and that God is always in control.

Barbour Publishing might have its roots in being a small remainder seller of books, but recent years have proven them a reliable source for some of the best Christian books on the market. Amongst their vast collection of Christian kids’ book titles, Imagine…The Great Flood by Matt Koceic, part of the I Survived series, encourages children to explore the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

Imagine. . .The Great Flood tells the story of ten-year-old Corey Max and his struggle with trusting God when facing new circumstances. Corey’s family is looking to make a big move, and Corey fears what the future will bring. While playing at the park with his dog and discussing the coming changes with his mother, Corey experiences an accident which causes him to black out. Upon waking, he discovers he is no longer in the park. Instead, he is in Mesopotamia, and the year is 2400BC. There Corey meets Shem and hears about Noah’s mission to build an ark. Together with Shem, Ham, and Japheth Corey helps gather animals into the ark while trying to avoid the giant Nephilim and Elizar, an unusual man who claims to have powers, who wish to thwart Noah at all costs. During the midst of his adventures, Corey learns what it means to trust God no matter the circumstances and that God always knows what’s best.

Imagine. . .The Great Flood is a short, easy read. As the main character, Corey, is the same age as my son, I thought this would be a lovely story to enjoy together. I read the book myself, then shared it with my little boy. We found the story to be a quick read, finishing the entire book in a little less than an hour. The book is suggested for ages 8-12 and we believe this fits perfectly. While a retelling of the Noah’s Ark story, it was a fast paced read which kept us entertained and engaged.

The fears which Corey expressed about moving were heartfelt. One of my son’s close friends recently moved quite a distance and this story mirrored a few of their own worries. A favorite scene from the book takes place upon Corey’s first arrival in Mesopotamia and a meeting with lions. Instead of pouncing to attack Corey, the lions express a desire to be close to him and be affectionate. We found this charming and wondered what that might be like, having a large vicious animal act as a typical house cat might. We also found it interesting Corey tells Shem he is from the future and there is no surprised reaction. Shem receives this knowledge with great calmness and expresses no desire to know anything, entirely trusting God to see them through. Would we have responded in the same manner? The addition of the character Elizar was interesting. He seemed to be a physical representation of Satan’s evil doing and control during this period of history. The presence of this character did require a review of the actual story, with brief reminders of what the Bible teaches and the difference between the two. However, this did not detract from our enjoyment of the story as a whole.

Imagine. . .The Great Flood was a fun story. We’re constantly on the lookout for clean reading for kids and this was a perfect fit. We appreciated the gentle reminders to trust the Lord no matter our circumstance and that God always knows best. An altogether enjoyable book!

If you’d like to learn more about Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich or Barbour Publishing please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter or YouTube! To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Which Biblical, historical, event would you have liked to experience?

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My Child Isn’t Talking to Me

My_Child_Isn't_Talking_to_MeBeing a teenager can’t be easy. I vaguely remember being there and it wasn’t always a walk in the park. However being the parent of a teen isn’t a breeze either, and this is completely new territory for me. There are days when we’re all laughing and having a blast. Then there are other days when nothing I say can bring a smile to their face and all I get are grumbles. Today is one of the hard ones. For whatever reason, my child isn’t talking to me.

I know what you’re probably thinking. In theory, this seems a simple problem to solve. We sit down, talk with our kid, they answer our questions, and we move forward together after a quick pep talk and a hug. In reality, this can be quite a challenge. Often, our child doesn’t wish to talk. Talking is out of the question. This makes figuring out the issue significantly more difficult. In fact, sometimes trying to force our children to talk can create even bigger issues. Our children become more grumpy, mean, and feel pressured. They just want space and we’re invading. What then? How do we deal with their lack of desire to communicate or even be pleasant?

Prayer – You’ve heard it before. You’ll hear it again. From now till kingdom come. Prayer first. I can do nothing. I cannot change this little person’s heart. But God can. I need prayer. Prayer for me; prayer for my child; prayer for the situation. I pray and keep on praying until the Lord resolves the issue. And then pray He help us continue on in peace.

Set Aside Emotion – This hurts, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t done anything wrong. We’ve even made a point of reaching out to our child. Their harsh words and actions slice us to the core, bringing pain. As much as this cuts, we need to push our feelings to the side and handle the situation maturely. This isn’t about how our child makes us feel; this is about our children being separated from us and probably God. This is about much-needed restoration.

Evaluate – So let’s be honest with ourselves. I might not think I’ve done something wrong, but perhaps I’ve done something which unknowingly bothered my child. This doesn’t justify their actions, but might contribute to the current situation. On the other hand, maybe this has nothing to do with me and my child has a physical need. This might be a spiritual battle. Here’s a tough one… It might be that my child’s personal choices during free time are affecting them. What are they watching, listening to, and reading? To the best of my ability, I need to evaluate what’s been going on and try to get to the bottom of it.

Reach Out – Even if my child responds unfavorably, I need to make an attempt at showing love and letting them know I’m here for them. It might be a hug, a kind word, a smile, or a note to say I care. I will continue to act gently towards them so the doors of communication are left open. I’m here, ready when they are.

Keep Trying – It would be grand if my child immediately apologized and everything was restored after a smile from me and a few well-placed words. How I wish this happened more often. Instead, we try. We try again. And we keep trying. We ask the Lord to show us when to speak and when to remain silent; allowing Him to reach their hearts. No matter what, we don’t give up.

Allow for Space – As just mentioned, sometimes the Lord needs us to remain silent. We let our child know we’re here for them. We smile often and ask them to join in. Then, we step back and let the Lord work. God wants this relationship restored even more than I do. I need to trust He is doing the work and be open to His leading.

Be Chill – When our child finally does wish to talk, or of their own accord involves themselves in an activity, we need to not make a big deal of it. For my kids, this tends to draw attention to the child who simply wishes to fly under the radar. Instead we act calmly and, afterwards, gently – privately – thank them for joining in or let them know how much we had fun with them. Inwardly, I’m soaring and feel like dancing. But on the outside I’m chill.

By nature I’m a people-pleaser. So when my child isn’t happy I take it personally. I evaluate and re-evaluate what I did wrong. Then I get angry when I come to the conclusion I haven’t done anything wrong and my child is just unhappy with me. These are natural reactions, but neither are helpful or healing. Through the leading of Christ, I am reminded to pray, set aside my personal feelings, and focus on the needs of my child. In Him will this relationship be restored and my kiddo once again made whole.

Being a teen isn’t easy. They have a lot going on both mentally and physically. Being the parent of a teen can feel like a struggle. It helps to remember this is just one day of many. By the grace of God we will see this through and come out to the other side.

“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
~ Isaiah 54:13

Your Turn!: Sometimes I feel alone in this struggle. How do you handle difficult parenting days?

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How Are We Measuring Success?

How_Are_We_Measuring_Success?In this vast world, filled with goals and achievements, how do we measure ultimate success? Is it measured by how much money we make, how much of an education we received, or by the amount of toys that surround us? Are we successful because we get what we want or perhaps because we are happy? Is it something other people can see in us or is it something only we can know? As my children grow and continue increasing in wisdom, I hope they come to a full understanding of what success truly means.

Success is the accomplishment of a purpose. As Christians, the ultimate purpose for our lives is to reflect Christ and to share Him with the world.

“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,…”
~ Acts 26:16

It will not matter if my children make tons of money, that they attained a college degree – not that I am against college, mind you – nor that they have all that they want. True success as a Christian isn’t about any of those things. Ultimately, the most successful life they can live is one sold out completely to God. A life in which all things are done, first and foremost, for Him.

For some, this might include making quite a bit of money. That would be a blessing. For others it might be obtaining that higher degree. Excellent! These are each small measures of accomplishment or success, but they are not the final goal.

The measure of my children’s success will be seen in the lives they lead. Are they achieving all they can for the kingdom of Christ or are they seeking their own purpose? Are they good husbands and wives; good parents; and good friends?

I pray as we move through the fullness of this homeschooling year I will help them to further understand the purpose for their lives and help them to achieve success. Our desire is for each area of focus to be solely founded upon God. May this help me remember that our children’s education needs to be founded on Christ and Him alone. Anything else is simply foolishness…

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
~ Psalm 1:1-3

Your Turn!: What is your measure of ultimate success?

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Review: Unauthorized by Chara Games

Unauthorized_ReviewWhat better way to learn than through hands-on experiences and games? Whenever possible, we pull out these fantastic learning tools and have fun. This month, we had the privilege of reviewing Unauthorized by Chara Games and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Chara Games firmly believes in creating games which encourage believers in their Christian faith and spread joy to all those who play. They have created such games as Commissioned, 3 Seeds, and Unauthorized. Unauthorized, offered to us for this review, is a strategy game wherein players either help grow the underground church or stamp it out by using influence and deduction.

Unauthorized is a card game packaged in a small, sleek box with a fantastic graphic on the lid. The game includes 12 role-playing cards which include both pastor, police, and neutral roles. Besides the role-playing cards, two decks of experience cards are included for play. The game is played in a series of four rounds, with the overall goal being to have either won over a majority of players to the church or have the underground church stamped out and/or imprisoned by “the state”. Intended for 6-12 players, Unauthorized may be adapted for slightly smaller groups if needed. While the card game did come with instructions, our family found it helpful to watch the video link to better comprehend set-up and play. Once we were established, game play began. Unauthorized_Play

Afternoons in our home are generally reserved for electives and fun family time. This was the perfect opportunity to review Unauthorized and test out our skills at deduction. The six of us camped out and the playing began. One game was agreed upon initially. This would allow us time to learn the game and smooth out any wrinkles. The game took approximately forty-five minutes from start to finish. We were pleased to find we enjoyed the game tremendously. Our first game was immediately followed by a second, per the kids’ request, finishing in about thirty minutes. We cleaned up and went about our evening, only to find the kids asking to play the game several more times later that same night. The game seems to be a hit!

Having kids ranging from ages 10-16, we thought the game would be more easily played by our oldest three children. Perhaps our ten-year-old son might not have the deductive skills needed to fully appreciate this game. However, after a game or two he caught on quickly. Game play itself was quick, easy, and fun. Unauthorized_ExperienceCardsWhile initially the kids were at odds with playing the role of “the state”, they quickly came around and delved into each of their roles. It is fun trying to guess each person’s alliance and convert each role’s loyalty. (I secretly suspect a few of my children attempted to change their own character’s alliance, but you didn’t hear that from me.) The experience cards themselves were wonderful learning tools, allowing us to share real life scenarios where these issues might be valid. Overall, the game was a success. Our family likes the game and we’re learning quite a bit from playing.

Unauthorized is a perfect way to help teach strategy and influence, as well as launch great conversations on church history. We enjoy the game tremendously. Games are lovely learning tools. Unauthorized is going to be another fantastic resource we’ll be pulling out frequently.

If you’d like to learn more about Chara Games or Unauthorized please visit them at their website and on Facebook and Twitter! To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Chara Games has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Do you have a favorite Bible game? Share it with us!

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Series Review: Curriculum 101

Curriculum101One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend time launching discussions on all things curriculum.

What you’ll find in this series: Encouragement, help, tips, hints, and open discussion on what’s worked for our families and what hasn’t.

What you won’t find in this series: A push toward any curriculum in particular.

Our desire is to spend time in open conversation with you readers! We would love to share how we’ve taught each subject; what’s worked for us; and ways we’re still attempting to improve in each subject. What we don’t want to do is fit your child into our homeschooling box.

We’re praying you’ll join us in this adventure. Consider this an open invitation to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you readers on each topic; letting us know your thoughts, tips, and links to related articles.

Reading
Writing
Arts/Crafts
Bible
Grammar & Composition
Arithmetic
History & Geography
Science
PreK Helps
Music
Computer Sciences
Coding
P.E.
Foreign Language

May this series enrich each of us. And, may the Lord use this time to encourage us all in our homeschooling adventures. ~Cristina

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Can Siblings Become Best Friends?

Can_Siblings_Become_Best_Friends?There are some people who will only be in our lives for a brief moment, friends who will be there for a short while, and yet others who will last for the long haul. Amidst the vast – or very few – friends we have, usually one or two rise to the top and are termed the “best”. In our own home, we have encouraged our daughters to find “best friends” in each other.

Having three girls in the house and all close in age, that isn’t unexpected, is it? Now I understand not all of us like our sisters, much less are each other’s best friends. But perhaps growing up in a Christian home where this is encouraged and nurtured will move their hearts where ours was not.

While our girls are encouraged to have friends outside of our family and to nourish those friendships, we highly stress the importance of sisters being their “best friends”. Others might be “close friends”, but none should be more important than their own sisters. Spending our homeschooling day together, playing, and being creative all helps them to further their relationships and strengthen the bond between them. They share secrets, surprises, and sorrows; all of which help to cement their friendship.

This does present a slight problem for my son though, being the only boy in the house. He, on the other hand, has needed to find a buddy. Generally, my husband is his best pal and he probably will be for some time. But my boy has several close friends he enjoys as well. It is a blessing to see them playing, reading, and relaxing together.

While my brilliant plan might not work… I intend to fully continue encouraging my girls’ friendship, lending a helping hand from time to time and watching it bloom.

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
~ Psalm 17:17

Your Turn!: Do you encourage siblings to be “best friends”?

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Who Has Time For a Sick Day?

Who_Has_Time_for_a_Sick_Day?It got me. I’ve been skillfully avoiding it for the last few weeks, and lacking all subtlety the dreaded virus finally caught up with me. I am now under the weather. Strictly speaking, sick. Doesn’t this ill-timed disease understand I don’t have time for this? I’m a mom. I’m a homeschooling mom. I’m a mom with way too much on my plate to become even the slightest bit tired much less down for the count. I can’t take a sick day. Who has time for a sick day?

Dramatics aside, how does being sick affect our learning routine? It’s one thing for one of my children to be sick. Mom can attend to their needs while keeping the remainder of our household intact. But when I get sick almost everything stops. As we can’t afford to keep this up for too long, I need a plan of attack:

Just How Sick Am I? I might not be feeling at top shape, however this doesn’t mean I’m necessarily bedridden for the day either. The minute I start feeling sick, I try to take an assessment of how bad this might get and act accordingly. The worst thing I can do is push myself too hard when I really need rest. Neither do I wish to take a day off when all I really needed was a little peppermint oil and a cup of tea.

Prayer First The Lord knows what I need and how to tackle this issue. Before I allow my mind to wander into unhealthy thinking or worry, I ask the Lord to comfort my heart and give me peace about how this day is going to go. Of course, asking for the Lord to heal me instantly isn’t unfathomable. It doesn’t usually happen, but why not ask?

Slow & Steady Because I have issues with not going through with my day as planned, I generally try to get as much done as I can while avoiding the fact that I am truly sick. (Ridiculous, I know.) My brilliant strategy? Do things slowly and with care, then I won’t over-tire myself and I will still feel accomplished. This usually works until my body rebels and I’m flat on my back resting.

Eating Myself to Wellness When I’m sick the last thing I want to do is eat. However, to maintain strength and fight off illness, I make an attempt at eating that which will bolster my system. My husband’s cure for just about everything is chicken noodle soup. Before you laugh, that stuff rocks. (The homemade kind. Avoid the cans if at all possible.) I also make sure to increase the amount of dark greens I’m eating, avoid caffeine, and intake as many liquids as possible.

Rest & Relaxation The hardest thing of all to do, yet the most needed. Everywhere I look I see things which need to get done. Things I had planned to do. But if I plan to get up and do those things tomorrow – without falling on my face – I need to get some rest. It’s time to make this a fun “sick day” event by pulling out the couch, letting the kids pick their favorite flicks, and allowing the teenagers to play doctor. Hard, right? Yeah, I know.

I don’t often get sick. When I do I usually am back to normal within twenty-four hours. I seem to have a remarkably strong immune system. I am truly blessed. Perhaps this is why it always surprises me on those odd occasions when I manage to contract something or other. By the time you read this post, I’m sure I’ll be back to full speed and laughing over my silliness. Until then… I really dislike being sick.

While I overstate my case for the sake of humor, I truly feel for those moms who are dealing with illnesses infinitely more difficult than mine. Feeling sluggish and slightly light-headed is nothing in comparison to parents who are truly ill. My heart goes out to you. May the Lord be your strength, comfort, and Healer.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases”
~ Psalm 103:2-3

Your Turn!: What is your plan of attack for sick days?

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Teens and Bible Basics

Teens_&_BibleBasicsSometimes it seems as though in our rush to advance our children’s learning we’ve lost sight of the simple things. We put aside the basics and move forward without periodically checking in to ensure our kids have a firm grasp on their foundation. Recently, the Lord has prompted our family to take a moment to review Bible basics with our kids. Key concepts we don’t want to take for granted are understood.

Setting logic and apologetics aside for a brief moment, we want to take this opportunity to review a few Biblical topics we might not have discussed in a while. We’ll brush up on these areas of focus and then resume our scheduled studies with better clarity.

What are Bible basics? When we think of Bible basics, a few things come to mind. Do our children remember the days of creation. From memory. How about the ten commandments? This is a great time to review the books of the Bible and have them memorized as well. We’ll review the “greatest” commandment; a few key passages in Psalms; The Great Commission; The Lord’s Prayer; John 3:16 and more!

This isn’t a step backward! It’s important our children understand that reviewing these basics is not a step backward. While they might think they “Know this stuff already!” these concepts are not just for children. Even we adults need to remind ourselves of these truths and ensure they are committed to memory. Then, we build upon the basics and dig deeper.

A firm foundation is key. Logic and apologetics are important. So are these basic foundational studies. All contribute to a strong Biblical foundation upon which our children’s lives should be established. From time to time it’s beneficial to take a look back, checking for areas which need a little strengthening. This ensures we’re moving forward in confidence and fully understanding what God is teaching.

Our kids aren’t as little as they used to be. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t periodically take a moment to check in with our not so little children and review these Bible basics. It’s good for them and us. Through prayer and fun family challenges, we’re brushing up and asking the Lord to grow us through these simple truths. We know God is going to do something wonderful!

“He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.”
~ Luke 6:48

Your Turn!: How often do you review Bible basics with your kids?

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