Happy Anniversary to Us!

Happy_Anniversary

Forgive me for keeping it especially short and sweet, but I’m too busy enjoying this special day. Today, my husband and I are celebrating our eighteenth wedding anniversary!

Wow; I don’t know where all the years have gone. It seems like just yesterday we were getting married and then having our first baby. Eighteen years later, we have four kids and have been homeschooling for over fifteen. While the journey hasn’t always been a breeze, it has been rewarding and memorable.

For all the years we have been blessed, may we be truly thankful. For all the Lord continues to do in our marriage and through our family, may we be appreciative. The Lord has been good.

Your Turn!: How many years have you been married?

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Do You Feel Like Goldilocks?

GoldilocksSo, you’ve finally figured out your method of homeschooling. But what comes next can be even more challenging; finding the right curriculum. It leaves one feeling a little like poor Goldilocks; one curriculum is just a little too cold and others just a little too hot to handle. How does one find the right fit?

I wish I could give you a simple, straightforward, fool-proof method of finding the perfect curriculum for each child in your home. But, honestly, anyone trying to sell you that should not be believed. The truth is, there is no easy answer! Like poor Goldilocks, you just need to give it a try.

Through careful study of our children we can make the job a little easier on ourselves, to be sure. Knowing how my children learn will help eliminate numerous options; narrowing down the choices. Attending curriculum fairs, perusing material displays at conventions, and reading online forums also benefit us. A few companies are generous in offering samples and trials of their curriculum. Asking friends and homeschooling acquaintances about their experience is a good option. It’s always a good idea to see something in person and read through some of the material.

Try as we might, at the end of the day, our only option is to make that purchase and give it a go. We pray the curriculum choices we’ve made work and we do our best to not squander our funds. It’s a gamble, but we pray it pays off. Generally we do okay, but sometimes it takes a little finagling. Then we are left wondering what to do with the curriculum we now have no use for. Should we sell it off or perhaps give it away?

Even if we can find what’s ‘just right’ for this moment, give it a year or two. Just when you think you’ve got it down, your kids grow up a little and you’re making changes to accommodate their needs. Here we go again!

Does this all sound a little disheartening and discouraging? It shouldn’t! Think of it this way. We all go through this; you aren’t alone! (Well, okay, most of us. I suppose some might be getting their curriculum through a charter or buy the entire boxed set from a company, but you get my drift.) For those of you who are in the midst of this Goldilocks Syndrome, know that we’ve all been there; some of us are there once again with growing kids’ needs. We’ve all had to make those tough curriculum choices. We’ve purchased items we haven’t figured out what to do with, we have resources still in the boxes, and on occasion seek the advice of others who’ve gone before. Take heart; you aren’t alone.

Once again I find myself suffering from Goldilocks Syndrome. I have a two daughters in high school, a junior higher, and a son in the last years of elementary. Finding the perfect science and history curriculums can be a genuine challenge. This year’s course in Chemistry is proving especially difficult! I want to find a fit that’s ‘just right’ for their needs. Time to dig out the spoon and test the porridge!

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,”
~ Deuteronomy 7:9

Your Turn!: Share with us your most expensive homeschooling failure, and why it didn’t work!

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Review: Paul the Apostle from Beartruth Collective

Paul_the_ApostleBeing obsessive compulsive I am seriously bothered by not walking up and down each and every aisle at any given event. From garage sales to street markets, I want to see all
possible booths before I decide I am officially done for the day. Sometimes I go home having only gained much-needed exercise, and other times I find a gem tucked amidst the crowd. At one such recent conference I had the pleasure of discovering Paul the Apostle from Beartruth Collective, and it made my day!

Beartruth Collective believes in the power of the Gospel and teaching children the true Word of God. Using the medium of comic books, their mission is to share Jesus Christ with the world. The Beginning, Noah, Moses, and, my recent find, Paul the Apostle are only a few of the titles currently available.

“…Our intention has always been one of ministry and education. We’re using a science fiction visual language to illuminate the story of Paul the Apostle and ultimately, the life-transforming message of Christ Jesus…”
~ Beartruth Collective

Paul the Apostle is a science fiction adaptation of the Biblical, historical story of Paul from the book of Acts. Its beautifully illustrated pages take us through Paul’s conversion, his ministry for God’s kingdom, and ultimately his arrest. Throughout Paul the Apostle, helpful Scriptural references are found as footnotes leading readers to the Bible, encouraging them to read God’s truth for themselves. Suggested for children ages 7-15, Paul the Apostle is a hardcover graphic novel with full-color illustrations. Told using cleverly imagined creature characters and set in a futuristic world, Paul the Apostle will draw in children while teaching about this amazing Bible hero.

In addition to fulfilling my quota of steps for the day, this summer’s homeschool conference provided us the opportunity to meet Mr. Mario DeMatteo, publisher of Paul the Apostle, and our first glimpse of this fantastic graphic novel. Several weeks later Mr. DeMatteo kindly offered us a copy of Paul the Apostle, and we haven’t put it down since. Paul the Apostle arrived fairly quickly, and while I had intentions of sitting down with my new read later that same day, my adventurer tackled the graphic novel before I had the opportunity. I finally found a quite moment to read it myself; after which I began reading through it once more with my son.

I’ll be honest and admit it was the imaginative, colorful illustrations which initially caught my eye when seeing Paul the Apostle. However, after taking just a few moments to look within its pages, I was drawn into the story. It is Beartruth Collective’s heart for the gospel which has us sharing this incredible graphic novel with all our friends. Never have we seen the story of Paul told in such a unique manner.

Paul the Apostle is set in a futuristic world, and we found this to be incredibly fun; as were the creature characters! As both parent and educator, my favorite aspect of the graphic novel was the multitude of Scriptural references found as footnotes throughout. Practically every page leads readers to the Word of God and His truth. What a fantastic tool in teaching our children to search the Scriptures for themselves!

My obsessive desire to look at everything has once again paid off, and in a big way. We are so excited about Paul the Apostle and the ministry happening at Beartruth Collective. We know God is going to do amazing things using this ministry, and we’re looking forward to following their journey; reading the many other valuable comics they continue to create.

If you’d like to learn more about Paul the Apostle or Beartruth Collective please visit them at their website, and on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

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Your Turn!: Did you have a favorite graphic novel growing up?

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Do I Have a Home School Method?

Do_I_Have_A_Home_School_MethodA large portion of home school blog posts discuss which method of homeschooling is used. Should I be Classical, Unschooled, a little Charlotte Mason, or perhaps Montessori? It all makes me pause and think. Do I have a homeschooling method?

I confess, I have never given it much thought. When we went into homeschooling, all I knew was that I wanted to be with my children and follow the calling of the Lord. It wasn’t until I had already picked my curriculum and started schooling my little ones, that the thought even occurred to me. Do I have a method? If I do, which one do I subscribe to? Does it benefit me to stick to a method?

Reading about the different methods, I can see the benefit of each one and the purpose behind their philosophy. Each one brings something different to the table of learning. On the other hand, I can see the weaknesses in each one; the areas that just don’t meet our family’s needs. Like the Cinderella story, I need the perfect fit.

Looking through our curriculum choices, I went with what worked for my kids. I didn’t worry if that fit a particular method. I prayed and went with the company that best met my standards.

After reading the different methods, I think I have finally found where we “fit in”. We are eclectic home schoolers. There is no one method that completely fulfills all we need. So, we take a little of everything, add a huge dose of prayer, mix in real life, and run with it.

I have come to realize, it doesn’t necessarily matter which method we use. If the Lord is the center of our home and growing in His wisdom is the backbone of our learning, we are sure to succeed.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
~ Romans 12:3

Your Turn!: How do you feel about the different methods of learning? Do you have one your family prefers?

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Can I Skip School for a Last-Minute Field Trip?

Can_I_Skip_School?Good news! A fellow homeschool parent just rang up with an awesome field trip opportunity. You are so excited you can’t wait to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. The problem? Well, you didn’t really plan this into your year. Do you skip the regularly scheduled program, reduce it, or double up another day? Decisions, decisions…

I like field trips, don’t you? They are fun, exciting, and get us out of the house. The one downside to last-minute field trips is that they tend to throw my routine off-balance. What do I do with the material I had already planned for that day? Put it off or just skip it altogether? Well, it depends.

Honestly, if I can avoid it, I try to not have my kids ‘double up’ on work just to enjoy a field trip. This isn’t fun for them and doesn’t seem necessary. However, on occasion, there are subjects which I really want to cover and activities the kids would enjoy; these I try to simply move to another day.

Field trips, in-and-of themselves, are generally educational. We aren’t really skipping school, merely replacing a day of book learning (home learning) with being out in the field. It’s all in how we choose to view the situation. Field trips can be incredible learning experiences and there is much to be gained by them. Let’s enjoy and get the most out of our day!

(For those looking to organize field trips, but are struggling to put one together. HERE are some tips on getting the most out of your field trips!)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
~ James 1:5

Your Turn!: What do you do when an unscheduled field trip opportunity pops up; skip, double up, or reduce?

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Review: Thin Stix Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Thin_Stix_Creativity_PackI confess, amongst all the art supplies tucked away in our home, tempura paint has not made a strong play. So when we were given an opportunity to review Thin Stix Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc. we were beyond excited.

The Pencil Grip, Inc. has been creating quality products since 1992. Amongst their lines you will find pencil grips, therapeutic products and toys, school and office supplies, and fidgets. Thin Stix Creativity Pack is a twenty-four piece collection of tempura paint sticks. No water needed, you simply remove the cap, twist to expose the paint, create to your heart’s content using this vibrant set of colors, and watch it dry in seconds. Thin Stix Creativity Pack comes with primary, neon, and metallic colors. Thin Stix Creativity Pack is washable, and is egg, nut, and gluten-free.

Our family was given a Thin Stix Creativity Pack which we immediately began to use. Our daughters, aged twelve and fourteen, initially tested out colors without a project in mind. Having a better feel for the medium, both set about creating their own piece of work. Each Art_Project_1chose to work with paper, painting a picture with the Kwik Stix. Thin Stix Creativity Pack has since been used when working on nature journal entries, homeschool projects, and personal creations.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack is a unique product. We had not previously worked with tempura paints in stick form, and were excited to see how they faired compared to paint and brush. Our initial reaction to the Kwik Stix was one of surprise. Considering the name, we anticipated a fine tip to the colors. Instead we found the tips to be as wide as my middle finger. While this did not initially complicate matters, we learned Kwik Stix were better suited for larger projects not involving detail.

Working with the Kwik Stix was easy and clean. The tempura paint went on smoothly leaving texture similar to a crayon. While Kwik Stix are advertised as drying in ninety-seconds, we found ours dried much sooner. Kwik Stix are indeed vibrant in color. What impressed us most was the ability to overlay a light color paint over a dark color without Art_Project_2any issues. No color rubbed off onto our paint sticks and the top color retained its bright hue. We did note neon colors tended to be lighter in opacity, working similarly to a highlighter. Metallic paints did have a glittery undertone to them, but were not as strong as our kids would have hoped.

Overall, we were pleased with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack. We would recommend their use in large projects which do not require detail and for use with little hands. Our kids enjoyed this experiment with color and creativity. Having added Thin Stix Creativity Pack to our supply closet, we’ll definitely continue to use these for larger projects and with friends who come to visit.

If you’d like to learn more about Thin Stix Creativity Pack or The Pencil Grip, Inc. please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest! To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Thin Stix Creativity Pack has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Do you have a favorite color?

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When Silence is Golden

When_Silence_is_GoldenA friend once commented that my house is frequently a “quiet zone”, meaning I don’t have constant noise running in the background. I don’t know that I had ever thought of this before, but she’s absolutely correct!

It’s not that we don’t listen to music or never have the television on while doing something else, it just isn’t a regular in our world. I doubt there was a lot of thought put into the decision, it just seemed like the natural course of events. The more I think on the topic, I confess there are some valid reasons for having our home be a “quiet zone”.

My children are easily distracted by outside noise (and so am I). One of the few downsides to being OCD, is that my brain functions on all cylinders all the time. Having additional noise entering my ears is overkill. My kids tend to function the same way. While we are homeschooling, we tend to keep the external noises to a minimum. Having a “quiet zone” during formal learning helps my kids’ brains to function better and focus on the task at hand.

My children use their own creativity. My children are very creative. They invent stories, write plays, internalize their lessons through play, and create their own games. If media was constantly being put in front of them or pumped into their heads, I wonder how much time they would spend being imaginative.

My children make their own noise! With four children running around my house (and frequently more), I don’t know that additional commotion is necessary. Even when they aren’t running around just being loud, they are often singing on their own or playing some type of instrument. Again, if music or television were constantly available, I wonder how much of their own noise I would be missing. I enjoy hearing them!

Yes, my family does listen to music. Yes, we do watch movies. It just isn’t round-the-clock. Our “quiet zone” of a house is the perfect place for us; where we can let our imaginations do the talking and our creativity soar.

Trust me, there are days (especially since my guy has recently rediscovered his love for his awesome electric guitar) that the sounds never seem to stop. There are times when my children purposefully pull out their favorite CD’s and spend the afternoon lying on their backs, staring at the ceiling. Even more frequently are the moments when we all get up and groove to a family favorite which happens to be playing on some device. Over all though, our house is pretty quiet. Which, to this mom, is golden!

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.”
~ Psalm 62:1

Your Turn!: What is your family’s favorite rendition of a film based off a book?

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Reading Books Before Watching Movies

Reading_Books_Before_Watching_MoviesWith the coming release of Murder on the Orient Express, a household policy is being resurrected. Before we can watch the movie, we need to read the book. Thus, as a family, we will be hunting down a copy from the local library and indulging in this ageless story.

While the kids will occasionally groan and complain about our movie/book policy, I believe they understand its importance. If they were to watch the movie first, it is highly doubtful the book would ever be read. Now that they “know the story”, why should they bother with spending hours reading it? If they read the books first, they will have a better understanding of the story and often appreciate the movie even more. There are no details that have been cut or unnecessary additions, it is enjoyed as the author intended.

While on occasion our children have liked the movie just as much as the book, I have yet to hear that they enjoy a movie more. They have always appreciated the books much more than the films.

In the past, one fun way we have helped encourage our children to read through their books is to reward them with a “special viewing” of the corresponding film. Once the book has been finished, the movie is rented and they are allowed to stay up later than the other kids and watch the film with mom and dad. Each child, in turn, is allowed the same privilege once a book has been completed. We have done this with the Narnia series, Bridge to Tarabithia, City of Ember, The Hunger Games, and several others!

Our children not only breeze through these books, but we then have the opportunity to critically think about each selection. How did the movie compare to the book? Which similarities or differences were noticed? Was there a lesson to be learned? While reading the books has been an essential part of our lives, watching the movies has definitely added something to our learning.

While I am sure we have neglected a few books along the way, we have been very faithful to our book policy. When we come across a new movie for our amusement, the question always arises, “Do we read the book before watching the film?” But, yes, of course!

“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes”
~Psalm 101:3

Your Turn!: What is your family’s favorite rendition of a film based off a book?

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Why “Hanging Out” Isn’t an Option

Why_Hanging_Out_Isn't_an_OptionI find great pleasure in watching my children interact with their friends. It is a beautiful thing to see their relationships bloom. We enjoy having others over to play, bake, or do some learning. We also enjoy special outings together. If there is one thing we don’t allow our children to do, it is to simply “hang out”.

When our children were very little we read a parenting book which helped shape the guidelines in our home. One of the many things discussed was the dangers of allowing young adults to “hang out”. Children were highly encouraged to have friends and to be involved in activities, but hanging out wasn’t an option.

What is the purpose in this seemingly ridiculous rule? Idleness leads to trouble. When children have no activity upon which to focus their attention, they are more apt to get into mischief.

Now, I don’t mean to imply I manage all my children’s time or force them into planned activities. What I do mean is that I keep a careful eye on them, helpfully suggesting ideas when things come to a lull.

My children usually know how to keep themselves, and guests, well entertained. However, should there be moments of indecision, that is where we come in. We try to make sure several fun options are available and accessible for just such times. Even when our children have no desire to play, there are plenty of wholesome topics upon which they can focus their attention. Our children very much enjoy getting together with others who share their affection for books and writing. It’s a blessing to occasionally find our kids deep in prayer over one another, encouraging friends and ministering.

The primary goal isn’t for them to always be “busy”, but rather to have a purpose in their activity and discussions. Where there is purposeful fellowship, edification is sure to abound and problems are less likely to arise.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,”
~ Hebrews 10:24

Your Turn!: What is your children’s favorite activity when friends come to call?

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No Regrets

The following article was written for our monthly PSP newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!

….. 

No_RegretsI recently had a conversation with a couple that was new to home schooling.  To say that they were discouraged would be an understatement. They started out excited about what they believed to be God’s call on their lives regarding the raising and educating of their children, but were now ready to throw in the towel. What had changed in the short time since the school year began?

The answer is a couple of things had changed. First of all, as we all have come to understand, “free time” is a luxury that the home school mom is often lacking. For those used to dropping kids off at school, doing as they need, wish, and please until it is time to pick the kids up can be a difficult thing to let go of. “Where do I find the time to…?” is a frequent question amongst newer home school moms. Balancing family, taking care of the home, looking after kids, a husband, three dogs, a cat, the turtle, and 5 goldfish can be quite demanding. Coming to terms with the fact that home schooling is not just “something we do,” but in fact really is a totally different life style can take some adjusting to. Some people never accept the change and, sadly, stop home schooling before they start to see the real blessings begin to come in.

Another thing that had changed was the perspective of their kids. The delusion that home schooling meant no more work, lots of extra play time, and running around in pajamas (sometimes that does happen, but shouldn’t be counted on) all day was quickly dispelled by devotions, about 5 extra subjects (the creative home school mom can easily give credit for many things taken for granted), and added responsibilities to look after younger siblings while Mom helps another with their lesson.

I was reminded of the account in Exodus 11 of the children of Israel and their situation… “…so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic: but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:4-6.

The Lord disciplined the children of Israel for their grumbling and complaining, not because meat is evil itself, but because the dissatisfaction with what He had provided was an offense. They were looking back with longing to the way things used to be; which, if we remember correctly, included slavery, cruel treatment, and misery (so easily overlooked in their moment of hunger).

Discontentment will always poison our joy in that which we do have, what God is doing, and the fruits of our current labor later on. In Philippians 3 Paul describes in verses 7-11 the idea that the things he had to “give up” for Christ were actually rubbish by comparison to what he had gained in knowing Christ. In context, he was specifically dealing with his Hebrew heritage, zeal for the law, and assumed righteousness; but the concept applies to us as well: the things which God calls us away from are not to be desired over the blessings He wants to bring into our lives when we are obedient to His will, His calling, and His Spirit as He leads us.

The other question I had to ask this couple was, “What has not changed since the Lord called them to home school?” The answer was basically that God had not told them to stop. Many times, we look at our circumstances, which can certainly be trying at times, and assume that because there is opposition, this must not be God’s will for us.

While this can, in fact, be true, it isn’t necessarily the rule that should be applied to every choice we make. In Acts 9:15-16 we read the following: “But the Lord said to him (Ananias), ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’“  In this passage, it is clear that Paul’s sufferings were not a result of him nothearing God correctly, but rather the result of his actual obedience to the calling God had placed on his life.

When we walk in obedience to God’s call upon our lives, we not only can expect difficulty, but should. The enemy is not going to go down without a fight, and throughout history, whenever God has sent His own to deliver, preach, and disciple, there was always opposition. Should we expect any less when we have taken our children out of a public school system wherein he has free reign?

So where does that leave us? With the family I had the opportunity to speak to, it left them needing to be obedient to God’s call for their family, even though it was difficult, thankless, and filled with opposition. Oftentimes that is, in fact, the situation we find ourselves in. What we know we should do is the hardest choice. It would be so much easier to give up, say, “It’s too hard,” turn around, and head back to Egypt; but to do so would go against what we know God has said to us.

Thankfully, we are reminded that our help comes from the Lord. In Philippians 4:10-12  Paul writes regarding contentment, regardless of circumstances, and concludes his statements with the following: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Php 4:13). In Hebrews 4 we are reminded that Jesus Himself intercedes with the Father on our behalf, and that as our great High Priest, He is able to understand our situations, thus making His intercession perfect in every way.

“But how,” one may ask, “can He understand this…?” Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? God is no stranger to a difficult task for people that don’t appreciate what is being done for them, and who attempt to make the difficult even more unendurable.  Since our trials are eclipsed by the enormity of redemption at the cross, we seek grace and mercy from the One who understands better than we think. The resources of Heaven were enough to see Jesus through Calvary. How much more can He help us as we strive each day to walk with Him? If we really stop to analyze things, even when the going gets rough, He still includes little joys along the way to keep our hearts encouraged.

May He strengthen you when you are weary, comfort you when you are hurting, fill you when you are empty, and settle you when you are anything but at peace. He really is sufficient.

Your Turn!: What has changed in your home since you began homeschooling?

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