The Sanity of Friendship

Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed someone to talk to? Someone who would understand and sympathize; offer great advice and pray with you? Life can often be rushed. Between cleaning house, doing laundry, fixing meals, animal care, child care, ministry, and add homeschooling on top of that… life can get downright crazy! Talking to a good friend helps to keep life in balance and sanity intact.

Talking helps me to unwind, reevaluate my standing, and gain perspective from an outside source. It helps to know someone who will tell you the truth no matter what; who will give it to you straight, but with love.

I have been blessed with a few women in my life to whom I can talk about anything. Whether or not we both homeschool, there is no subject that is taboo. We can talk about marriage, children, our walks with the Lord, our fears, our doubts, and our struggles. There is no harsh condemnation, just constructive criticism. There is no pressure, just honest advice. There are no such things as “too many details” or “getting to the point”; the point is the relationship.

It is great to have a friend who will take your side. It is even better to have someone who will tell you when you are wrong. It is lovely to have a friend agree, but equally valuable when they offer a different viewpoint. Someone who can be real with you and let you be real in return.

A friend is a friend, no matter the distance or the differences. You are friends not because you are exactly alike, but because you each bring something different to the table. You are a better person because they are in your life.

I have been blessed with a few women I can truly call friends. I pray that as my children grow, they will see how much those friendships mean and develop some of their own.

I pray that you have such a friend. If not, I pray the Lord would bring them into your life and, while you are waiting, you would be that friend to someone else. Who knows where the Lord will lead?

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”
~ Proverbs 27:9

We’d love to know… How do your friends help you remain sane?

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Do We Have Bibliophilia? Probably!

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Bibliophilia 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.
– Wikipedia

That, in short, describes the people in our house perfectly. Our home 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!

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.

We have reference materials for art, history, science, logic, apologetics, Biblical studies, and so much more. 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. And our interest lists keep growing.

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!

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

~ Philippians 4:8

 We’d love to know… Do you love books, too? Which book is your favorite?

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Why That Inexpensive Grocery List Might Not Be Working & Why That’s Okay

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I’m sure most of us have been here. We spot a blog post, Pinterest article, Instagram photo, or something along those lines, advertising one family’s ability to spend what seems a minuscule amount on their grocery bill and we immediately perk up. What’s not to appeal? But upon further inspection we quickly realize it won’t work. Not for our household. What’s wrong with us? Absolutely nothing!

Now I can hear some of you dear readers already. The questions are rolling around in your heads. That’s okay, we can be honest with one another. Am I condemning these lovely people with their amazing lists? Nope. Never. I wish could make these lists work; truly. But here’s the thing…

Their family is NOT my family. Their needs are not our needs. Their location not our location. Their children not my children. (You get the point.) So while I would love to make my grocery bill total look like theirs, it just won’t work. And the same is true in every area of life, not just groceries!

Whether it’s how we homeschool, parental choices, reading materials, or anything else; the minute I start comparing myself to others I lose sight of what God is trying to do in my own family. It’s wonderful to be inspired and encouraged to explore options to be better organized, but the minute I become discontent with what I have or start doubting the path the Lord has put before me, is the moment I need to put distractions aside and ask for wisdom.

Maybe the Lord has something to show me, a better way we could be using the resources He has blessed us with. On the other hand, maybe I am merely meant to congratulate another family on how well they are doing in their adventure of life. What I am not to do is feel condemned or belittled if I am following God’s lead.

I want to be frugal and those lists are inspiring, but my life isn’t someone else’s life. We live in different locations, with different needs, with different families. I am not to compare myself to others. Instead, I am to do my best where I am. If that’s $50 per week on groceries; great. If it’s more like $120; that’s okay, too. If it’s homeschooling in a more classical sense, beautiful. If we’re eclectic and learning hands-on, that’s just as lovely.

So, when we see that article announcing, ‘My Grocery Bill is only $50, and You Can Do It Too!’ Go for it. Give it a shot. If it works, awesome. If not. Don’t sweat it. Send that writer a “Hallelujah” and then ask God what His plan is for your family. Because – let’s face it – whether you spend a little or whether you spend a lot, just knowing we’re even having a meal is a blessing. No matter the cost.

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

We’d love to know… What is one grocery item you tend to splurge on?

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Including the Littles in Our Learning

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Our children are not as little as they used to be, and learning has progressed to a point where we can all sit together and focus on the day’s activities. But this was not always so. I fondly remember sitting at the kitchen table with all three of my girls; mommy bouncing between them, trying to breathe and exhibit patience while attempting to simultaneously help them. Just when I thought I had things under control I would spot my son out of the corner of my eye. Not quite old enough to school along with his sisters, it quickly became apparent that he too needed attention and an opportunity to learn. It was time to get creative!

Balancing four kiddos during homeschooling can be challenging enough, but when one is not quite school age, it can get a little tricky. Along the way we have learned some fun tips and ideas on how to include our little learners and make them feel welcome at the table.

Set up a play area just for them. While my daughters were doing school, my son had a section of our living room set up just for him. There he could play, read, and create without worrying about anyone else invading his space. He also learned how to keep himself occupied without needing anyone to entertain him.

Rotate daily play toys. Each day of the week, I tried to give him something different to keep him occupied. I would also try to make sure there were several options for that day. For example: On Monday we might have Legos, his pirate ship, or his talking Mickey Mouse. On Tuesday we might have his train sets, his board games, or his books. I tried to not make all his toys accessible at once, as this would cause boredom and make it harder to keep him occupied. If he asked for one specifically I will make the trade, but I only left it out for that day.

Include them, as much as possible, in what you are doing. While my son enjoyed play time, at some point he become interested in what was going on at the table and wanted to be included. To help him feel welcome, we provided coloring pages or tracing papers he could use. When possible, we made sure he participated in our unit activities. (i.e. When we learned about magnetism, he played with magnets. When we learned about the Civil War, he got to be dressed up as a soldier and play a drum.)

Start them on their own learning day as soon as possible. Children as young as three and four can begin their own learning day. This will encourage them in their love of learning and start the “schooling” process off nice and easy. All of our kids started their learning day at three years old. Nothing too complex or too time consuming; just enough to get them used to sitting at the table and putting their mind to the task.

Get the big kids to help out. Being able to keep yourself occupied is an important skill. However, it is nice to have someone to play with after a time. When one of my girls was finished with her studies or needed a break, she would hop on over to little brother and help out. She would play with him, read to him, and help keep him entertained. This allowed me to help out the others or to just get things done around the house.

Having younger learners and babies in the house can be a challenge, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Learning to include our littles can be an exercise in joy and set the stage for their future schooling adventures. With a bit of patience, organization, and creativity they too can join us at the table. Then the real fun begins!

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

~ Matthew 19:14

We’d love to know… How do you – did you – include your littlest of learners into your schooling routine?

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When Our Audience Doesn’t Applaud

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The blank looks on their faces aren’t exactly encouraging. Nor are the complaints which are starting to rain down as my instructions are beginning to sink in. For all my planning, prepping, and organization, my audience is not enjoying this lesson. Where was the applause I was hoping for?

I wish I could tell you every homeschool day was a great one. I’d love to say my kids enjoy each and every lesson planned. I’d even settle for informing you that my children appreciate all my hard work. But, the truth is they don’t. When we have grand expectations of how our audience (children) will respond and we fall short of that expectation, life can become discouraging. What are we to do when our kids doesn’t applaud our efforts?

Pray – Prayer is key. Before we get upset, discouraged, or make a move, we need to pray; asking the Lord to show us truth.

Be Humble – No matter how much effort we put into these activities, lessons, or projects, we aren’t perfect. Even if we spent all day ‘perfecting’ our ideas, we need to understand our children are human, too. The concept might be great, but we’ve chosen a bad time or our children aren’t ready for this quite yet. Allowing pride to take hold would only cause further damage and prevent future lessons from being successful.

Be Realistic – Wouldn’t it be great if all our efforts were always recognized and everyone loved everything we do? Yeah. I’d like that, too. But, we live in reality. The truth is, not everything we do is going to be applauded. If we stand around waiting for people to notice us or are unhappy when we aren’t given the appreciation we feel we deserve, we remove ourselves from being of service to others and to God. God isn’t looking for someone who has wonderful audiences and receives thunderous applause. He’s looking for someone willing to serve, even when no one appreciates them.

Remember Our Real Audience – Who is our audience? God! While I’d love for my kids to think everything I do is simply wonderful and get pats on the back for even mopping my dirty floors, I need to remember I don’t serve my kids. I serve God. What matters is He sees and He knows. Even if no one else in the world ever realizes all I do, God sees and He cares. My efforts are not in vain, if all I do is done unto Him and for His glory.

Let’s face it. We all like being recognized for our hard work. I am no different. But, when my focus becomes appreciation instead of righteousness, I am in danger of losing my audience altogether. Instead of worrying about praise, I need to be focusing on pointing my children toward Christ.

It will never matter how much I have done, but it will always matter how much Christ has done in me, through me and for me. If I am not pointing people to Him, the praise is in vain.

“Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart:…”
I Samuel 12:24

We’re curious… Now that you’re an adult, and better appreciate the hard work which comes with parenting, do you ever go back and thank your parents for all they did?

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What If I Could Do It All Over Again?

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As a few of my children near the end of their learning adventure, I can’t help but reflect on the years we’ve spent together. The fun, the adventures, the friends, and, yes, the struggles. I suppose it’s natural to wonder what life – homeschooling life – might have looked like if we’d done things a little differently. But if I could go back and do it all over again, would I change anything?

Perhaps maybe one or two things. Perhaps…

I would have liked to be more purposeful in nature journaling; take more hikes and stress less over tests; there are resources I would have loved to own; books I wish I’d read; and places we could have visited. I would take back my moments of weakness, unkindness, and impatience; replacing them with a more Christ-like representation of myself.

But then the Lord reminds me this is not possible. Not only because time-machines have yet to be invented, but because each step of our journey has been just that. Ours. That cannot be replaced. And I don’t want to take back a moment. Not the spills, the mistakes, or the heartache.

As I reflect on each memory I might like to redo, the Lord speaks to my heart and reminds me of the beauty which followed. The life lessons, the spiritual gifts we gained, and the compassion instilled in us. For every resource we made-do without, we learned ingenuity and resourcefulness. While we might not have gone on many vacations, we’ve visited every haunt in our area and could probably write our own field trip guide. No, we didn’t hike or nature journal when the kids were younger. (I can hear the collective gasp.) But we are making up for lost time and my children have a great appreciation for God’s creation.

Our learning adventure has not been perfect. But the Lord calms my heart and reminds me no one’s journey is and yet everyone’s journey is. It is perfect for them. All those wonderful things were meant for just us. All of the hard, the challenging, were specifically designed to help our family grow.

As we launch into another calendar year, I am encouraged. One of our children will be graduating, and we will no longer have elementary students in our home. My heart grieves just a little knowing this part of our journey is almost over. Yet I take joy in knowing it has been a blessed adventure, and it’s not over quite yet!

How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the LORD.
~ Psalm 119:1

We’re curious… If you could start your learning adventure over again, what would you like to do differently?

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Are We Using These “Bad Words” In Our Home?

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Back in the day, when my husband and I were in pre-marital councelling, there were a few words we were advised to avoid in order to keep harmony in our relationship. 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 bring harm. “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 phrases 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

 We’re curious… What are some “bad words” that your family tries to avoid?

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5 Ways to Avoid Mid-Year Burnout

Five Ways to Avoid Mid-Year Burnout

Whether it be the lack of sun due to cloudy skies, the snow-covered world begging us to hibernate, or rainy weather forbidding us to explore outside, the fact is mid-year for most homeschooling families is hard. If we aren’t careful, our excitement for learning can quickly turn into mid-year burnout.

The year is half over, the review portion of our materials has long passed and we are now into the nitty-gritty of our lessons; the harder sections which stretch our kids minds and add those wrinkles to the brain. Add to this the cooler weather, practically forcing us indoors, and you soon have the makings of an unhappy family.

What’s a parent to do? How do we turn our routine around so mom doesn’t go crazy and the kids don’t start climbing the walls? Over the years, we’ve learned a couple of changes in our routine help us avoid mid-year burnout and help us finish strong:

Get Fresh Air – Even if you’re just going for a brisk walk or stepping onto your front porch, take a moment to enjoy some fresh air. Being indoors constantly can leave you feeling claustrophobic and tired. Our bodies need sunshine and clean air in order to function well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt the soul to enjoy God’s creation.

Change Your Routine – Tired of doing the same ol’ thing? Try changing it up! Switch your routine of subjects around. Change which days you do your chores. Find some creative way to mix things up, without making your life madness. Just a little altering might help you view life a little differently.

Exercise – You’ve been inside too much, possibly sitting down a bulk of the day. Consider getting a little exercise and stretching out those muscles. Running, jogging, and hiking are all great ways to get some exercise. If you can’t get outdoors, consider aerobic routines which the kids could do with you.

Take a Moment For Yourself – Let’s face it, when the family is forced to stay indoors all day, the kids tend to want more attention. They’ve played with all their toys, watched all their movies, read all their books, and are, frankly, just as stir crazy as you are right now. Consider trading play days with friends, giving each other an afternoon ‘off’ to just relax and enjoy peace and quiet. Ask Dad to watch the kids for the night and go enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend. Have Grandma watch the kids and you both go enjoy a movie! No matter how you manage it, take a moment or two for yourself; breathe and refresh your soul in order to finish your year well.

Spend Some Time With Friends or Fellow Homeschoolers – It helps to commiserate fellowship with other homeschooling parents who completely understand what you are going through. Set up a play date, park day, baking day, any day, just to visit with friends. Spend the day encouraging one another and exploring ways to break the lethargy which seems to be taking hold.

The year is about half over. (At least for those following a traditional learning routine.) Don’t allow a short season of restlessness to overshadow the amazing year you’ve been having so far. Take charge of life and get out of the winter rut.

Find what works for you, make it happen, and finish your year strong. Enjoy your adventure!
Cristina

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

~ Matthew 11:28-30

We’re Curious… As a mom, one of the hardest (and silliest) things I used to let bug me was allowing my kids to play in the rain. I was always taught this could make kids sick and, frankly, what was I going to do with all those wet clothes? To my kids’ delight, we got over this and have awesome pictures to show for it. What was one of the hardest (and silliest) things that used to bother you about rainy/snowy days?

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Happy New Year!

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To all of our friends, Happy New Year’s! May this new beginning be one of anticipation, joy, and peace. May the Lord bless you and keep you; may His hand always be upon you, guiding you in all your paths. 

Thank you for your continued support and friendship; we’ve enjoyed getting to know you better over the course of this past year and very much look forward to what this new year will bring.

We aren’t big on New Year’s resolutions over here, but we do hope to use this year growing with our kids, increasing them in wisdom, and making more memories. We pray you do the same.

With Blessings,
Cristina

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

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If you’re reading, may we wish you a Merry Christmas. May the true reason for today’s celebration be evident in your home and meaningful to your heart.

We’ll be back in one short week. Until then, we pray blessings over your day and all the days to come.
Merry Christmas!

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

~ I Timothy 3:16

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