Do Not Grow Weary

do_not_grow_wearyI’m not sure why people associate being a “good” person with having an easy life. Sure, you don’t suffer the consequences of as many poor choices, but life is far from easy. In fact, doing good can often be trying, difficult, and, if we allow it, disheartening. It can be discouraging to work your fingers to the bone and yet see others succeed far beyond what you can imagine. It can be hard to watch others with more resources while you are barely making ends meet. How are we to deal with these feelings of jealousy, disappointment, sadness, and discouragement? With truth and thanksgiving…

Their Kids Are So Well Behaved

Trust me, no one’s kids are perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, misbehaves, and has trouble on occasion. We should rejoice for that family, praising the Lord for what He is doing in that home. Then, thank the Lord for the kids we have. They might not be perfect, and we still have some work to do, but they are ours. We should pray the Lord would show us ways to encourage better behavior and give us grace while they are still learning.

Their Kids Are So Accomplished/Well Educated

Just like you would not want to be compared to others, we need to be careful about comparing our own children. Each child was created by God perfectly. Some children are quicker at learning; others delve in deeper, but take more time. Some have learning delays, but they are trying their hardest.
Our goal ought to be in having our child do their best, not as good as Johnny down the street. We need to thank the Lord for the ability to educate our child, or help them with their learning, and praise Him for their progress thus far. We should ask Him to show us if we could be doing better and how. If we are doing fine, we pray the Lord would remove the doubt seeping in so we can better focus on the task before us.

Their House Is So Nice/Organized

What works for one family, might not work for another. A lady might clean her house daily because her husband prefers it this way or because she doesn’t know how to function any other way. The lovely home you see might be the culmination of years of saving and hard work. Of course, quite simply, it could be a blessing. How sad it is when we look at the blessings bestowed on someone else and all we see is our own lack.
This is a great opportunity to praise the Lord for what He is doing in that family; that He use them for His glory. While our homes might not be our dream, at the moment, we thank Him for a roof over our head and full bellies. We ask for His continued provision and for wisdom to use our resources wisely.

They Have More Money Than We Do

Another tough one… We can try our hardest, but sometimes we struggle. Why is this? Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer for you. Financial struggles stem from a myriad of roots; some we’ve brought upon ourselves and others from life circumstances.
Again, thanksgiving is key. We need to thank the Lord for the ways He is currently providing for us and ask that He continue to do so. We praise Him for meeting our needs and hearing our cries for help. We also need to remember, in times of plenty, those who are still struggling and lend a helping hand.

They Always Have So Much Going On

Home improvements, soccer games, ballet recitals, vacations, dinners with friends, and more. We all know people who seem to be constantly on the move; always busy, with lives filled. Praise the Lord for times of quiet, where you can hear His voice and be filled! They’re great. If you’re looking to have more sociable activities, pray the Lord would open those doors.

Sometimes our hearts lead us astray, preventing us from seeing the truth of the situation before us. We see ourselves as trying to do the right thing, doing good, and yet we seem to be going nowhere; struggling in vain. It is in those times, especially, that we need to be asking the Lord to show us His truth.

When our hearts are focused on what God has already done in our lives, offering up thanksgiving for our blessings, we have no room to be ungrateful for what we don’t have. When our hearts are filled with His love, our strength is restored and we are able to continue doing the good we are called to. May we all take a moment to simply offer our thanks to our Father for what He does in our lives daily. May we learn to look past the moment to see the eternal, and focus on things above.

We’d like to know… Share seven things for which you are grateful for today!

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
~Galatians 6:9

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Do I Need a Lesson Plan?

do_I_need_a_lesson_planThere it was, sitting in my shopping bag. A gift from the educational store where I had just
purchased a myriad of homeschool supplies for the coming year. It was basic, nicely offered, but, frankly, confusing. As a homeschool parent, did I need a lesson plan?

For whatever reason, I had never thought to purchase or use a lesson plan. If I had to give an explanation for this, I would be hard pressed to provide a suitable answer. I’d just never given it that much thought. I suppose it always made sense to simply follow the books I bought. Our books came – and still come – with pages already mapped out; each marked with a lesson number. We did one lesson per day, with a total of a hundred seventy lessons during the year. Considering our books were cleverly labeled, why did I need a lesson plan?

It wasn’t until we started using unit studies to cover history and science that I finally began mapping out our lessons. It made sense to schedule how long we were to be spending in a particular unit and which activities would to be covered. I was visually able to see the expanse of our year, planning more thoroughly. While I wasn’t planning out every aspect of our day, writing down each child’s lesson assignments, I learned the value of organizing certain portions of our routines.

Did I finally dig out the planner the helpful educational store had offered? Truthfully, no. I had completely forgotten about the planner by this point. I found doing things on my computer better suited my needs. I was able to copy, paste, adjust within seconds, color code easily, and sync the information within all our devices so everyone could stay on top of things.

Does everyone need a lesson plan? I would never argue a particular curriculum or plan works for everyone. I will say having a general plan for your day and an overall plan for your year is not only beneficial, but wise. When we have direction we are less likely to stress over subjects possibly forgotten or enough time in our year to cover everything desired. Whether we choose to use a pre-printed planner from a store or use a computer based application to do our organizing, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to systematize life. Make up your own routine and put your plan into action.

We’re curious… Did you use a lesson planner? How much of your day and/or week do you put down in print? Share with us your method of organizing life and help new homeschooling families learn the art of planning!

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
~ Proverbs 16:3

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Curriculum 101: A Series Review!

Curriculum101

One 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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Planning the Homeschool Year: A Series Review!

planning_the_homeschool_yearWhether you’re still in the stages of planning your school year, just starting, or you’ve been at it for weeks but still need to make some adjustments… Enjoy this fun series designed to help take the stress out of homeschooling planning!

While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our year of homeschooling. Just where do we start? When do we start?! How many school days am I required to complete? Should I stick to a routine or plan out a detailed schedule? All these questions and more fill the head when planning out our homeschooling year. Let’s take a look at each mind-boggling area of planning and break it down!

Planning Your Year
Planning Your Day
Building a Family Plan
What Do I Need?
Counting the Cost
Portfolios
Field Trip Fun, Part I
Field Trip Fun, Part II
Finding Friends
Finding Sanity

Planning the homeschooling year doesn’t have to be a stressful event. Pray about how the Lord would lead your learning, and proceed as He guides. Allow Him to be the center of your home and focus all your attention on what He wants of your family.

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

Your Turn!: Which part of homeschooling is your least favorite to plan and/or organize?

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Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
– John 14:27

Let_Not_Your_HeartI am a worrier. Lord forgive me, but this is true. If our routine’s off by just a smidgen, I start to sweat. Mass amounts of responsibility sit on my shoulders and I start to wonder if I can handle it all. The kids are getting out of hand, acting out, and I start wondering if I’m failing as a parent. My choices in curriculum and social activities begin to weigh on my mind. And these are just the small worries.

If work is slow, paying bills is going to be tight because we are self-employed. My kids need glasses, clothes, food, and so much more. New laws in our state might force regulations upon us that usurp our parental authority. The list could go on.

It is in my nature to worry about everything and anything. I worry about having dinner finished at a good hour; using too much laundry soap; stretching our budget; whether or not I should have said those words to that person; and if I am ‘enough’ for the people who depend on me. I worry. I worry. I worry. This is who I am… on my own.

Ah! But that changes everything doesn’t it? What I am on my own cannot compare to what I am in Christ. In Christ, I am a new creation. (II Cor. 5:17) My old nature is constantly battling with who Christ is trying to help me become. I can easily slip back into a pattern of old habits, allowing myself to be overwhelmed by life; forgetting Who is in control. My emotions war with the Holy Spirit who is trying to comfort me, offering me peace during times of trial.

Overwhelmed by Emotion

If gone unchecked, emotions can sometimes overwhelm; clouding our minds and paralyzing us. We cannot see the truth for the feelings standing in the way. We have allowed reason to fall by the wayside and allowed our hearts to dictate our current state of mind.

And yet, we are reminded in Jeremiah 17:9 that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We are not to be ruled by our emotions or the turning of our hearts. What we feel is not to be our focus, but, rather, what is true.

What Is True?

The truth, as we are reminded in John 14, is that we have been given a spirit of peace. Not just any peace, peace given by God Himself! We have the God-given ability to accept this peace and move forward, but we have to choose to do so. God will not force His peace upon us. He will not shove this peace down our throats. He will not beg us to take it. We must choose to accept His gift willingly.

Let Not Your Heart…

Our emotions are not going to gain control of themselves. We need to be proactive about not letting our emotions control us. We need to rely on the Lord and ask Him to remove this stress and fill us with His peace. We need to trust He is going to see us through.

This does not mean He will always meet our needs in the way we expect; sometimes He doesn’t! Christians die, go hungry, and are persecuted – we are told to expect this (John 15:20) – instead we ask that He see us through the trial and come out of this stronger. We accept that God is in control.

On my own, I am a worrier. In Christ, I am learning to have peace; peace which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). My friends, let not your heart be troubled. Instead, accept the gift our Lord has freely given. Peace which fills our empty hearts, calms our sea of emotions, and confounds the unbeliever. May we choose to accept the gifts Christ so willingly died to give us and enter into a life well lived.

Your Turn!: When worried, I find it helps to pray and reorient my focus. What helps you when emotions seem to hold sway?

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Homeschooling 101: A Series Review!

Homeschooling101

On 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

Your Turn!: Perhaps you’ve been homeschooling awhile. What is the best piece of advice that was given as you launched into your learning adventure?

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Our July Reads

our_july_reads_2018

Our family has officially classified July as the busiest month of the year. With three birthdays, a comic convention, the end of our summer reading program, and a holiday thrown in it is amazing we’ve managed to get much reading done. Did we forget to mention we also returned to formal learning? But where there is a will, there is a way. And reading time was most definitely found!

We’ve broken down this month’s list into categories and included our personal rating from zero to five stars. To read more about a particular book, simply click the title!

Picture Books:

  • The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read (Irma Simonton Black & Seymourlittle_old_man_who_could_not_read Fleishman) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – An old toy maker never wanted to learn to read until his wife went away on a visit and he had to do the grocery shopping by himself.
  • Science Verse (Jon Scieszka) ⭐⭐ – What if a boring lesson about the food chain becomes a sing-along about predators and prey? A twinkle-twinkle little star transforms into a twinkle-less, sunshine-eating-and rhyming Black Hole? What if amoebas, combustion, metamorphosis, viruses, the creation of the universe are all irresistible, laugh-out-loud poetry?

Learning Resources:

  • A Ticket Around the World (Natalia Diaz & Melissa Owens) ⭐⭐⭐ – Join a young boy as he hops around the globe, visiting friends in 13 different countries spanning all six populated continents. Along the way, he introduces us to each friend’s environment and customs, and shares interesting facts about each country’s culture, language, food, geography, wildlife, landmarks and more.
  • When on Earth? (DK Publishing) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – In more than 60 specially commissioned maps, this one-of-a-kind history book shows where, when, and how history happened.

General Reading:

  • Shelf Life: Stories by the Book (Gary Paulsen) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Newbery Honor author Gary Paulsen has long been an ardent supporter of books, reading, and literacy programs. To further the cause of ProLiteracy Worldwide, he asked prominent authors to write an original story; the only restriction was that each story was to include mention of a book.

How are we rating these reads? Good question! If the book has a five, whether learning or for fun, it’s clean and we want it on our bookshelf permanently. Four stars are sorely tempting us, but as our local library carries them we’re in luck. Three stars are worth a look, but we don’t see ourselves reading them too often. Two stars were entertaining, but once was enough. One star was acceptable. And zero. Well, it’s zero.

What to be on the lookout for… 

  • The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read is a classic for a reason. This book is everything charming and lovely; with a special message for kids who might be struggling with a desire to read.
  • Science Verse is funny, but please note this is not written from a Biblical worldview.
  • Shelf Life was a neat read, and a lesson in the telling of short stories.

Our local summer reading program has officially wrapped up for the year, and we’re a little sorry to see it go. With a return to formal book studies, however, we’ll see an increase in classical literature and more fun on the way. Join us again during the month of August as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading. What will we read next?

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”
~ Psalm 101:3

Your Turn!: When does your family plan to return to formal studies and book work?

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Fail to Plan; Plan to Fail: A Series Review!

Fail-to-planRecently a friend who is fairly new to homeschooling gave me a call. She had a lot of questions regarding homeschooling, but her main concern seemed to be, “How do I do it all? How do I clean my house, do my laundry, school my kids, do a million other things, and still remain sane?” My one resounding answer was organization! As the old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Now, let me be very clear. I am not perfect, nor do I always plan perfectly. There are many times I have needed to restructure my plan. Things change and so do my family’s needs, but the saying still stands true. I will not accomplish anything if I don’t at least have the building blocks set in place.

That being said, how do we go about setting up our schedules? I’m so glad you asked!

Prioritizing Life
Managing the Budget
Adding Events
Planning the Homeschool Year
Putting it all Together

Please keep in mind, these are not hard-lines which cannot be crossed. Rather, consider these as they were intended, guidelines. They are a starting point which can be changed and manipulated at any given point. What works for me, might not work for you. We should feel free to pray about what we are learning and then decide for ourselves where the Lord is leading.

May these ideas help you as much as they help me!
Cristina

“And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”
~ Habakkuk 2:2

Your Turn!: What is the best household management tip you’ve ever received?

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Help for the Reluctant Homeschool Writer

help_for_the_reluctant_homeschool_writerI can already hear it coming. First, it will start with a shocked expression taking over her face. This will be followed up by a glare; then a deep breath; and then she will attempt to talk me out of the assignment… My oldest daughter loves to write; really, she does! Furthermore, she’s good at it. She has a way with words; is able to paint a vivid picture using just a few short sentences and lots of heart. Give her free time to write and she’s a happy camper. Ask her to write a report and… well, just see the sentences above.

While I would love to toss those pesky reports into the circulatory file (trash bin), she’s really at an age where it cannot be avoided. High school is ever-present and reports seem to be the thing. Sure, I could let her off, but would that really benefit her? If she plans to continue her writing career, she might want to expand her horizons beyond story telling. If she plans to attend college (which she does), she needs to be able to write a research paper.

Whether or not our children plan to be writers or attend college – we understand not all children are called to this path – teaching our children to write is an important life skill. Why? Our children need to learn the fine art of language. They need to learn how to construct a great sentence, put thoughts together into paragraphs, and connect those paragraphs to form an argument.

Perhaps you have a reluctant writer, as we do, or are unsure of where to start in the writing process? Here are a few tips and hints we’ve learned to inspire our little writers:

Start Early – Don’t wait until high school to have your children begin the writing process. make creative writing and reports a fun part of learning as soon they are ready.

Start Small – Don’t start the writing process off with a five-page research paper. Start off with little assignments. Ask your student to construct just a few great sentences and build from there.

Keep it Simple – Once your student has the concept of great sentences down, consider having them write small papers. Teach them how to construct an opening statement, the body of their paper, and then a closing statement. It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to have all the essential components and focus on one main point.

Shake Things Up – Don’t have your student write the same type of report each time; this can quickly become boring. What kind of reports might we look for?

  • Cause and Effect
  • Descriptive
  • Argumentative
  • Definition
  • Narrative
  • Critical
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Process

Topsy Turvy – Doesn’t that sound fun? If your child balks at the notion of writing a two page report or even a 1,000 word report, consider making it a challenge. Turn your child’s perspective around and have them look at the assignment from an entirely new angle. Inform you student they cannot use more than 1,000 words to make their point. One word over and they start losing points. It changes things, doesn’t it?

Make a Point – While all papers should have a main point, not all papers mean something to your student. However, they should! Pick the type of paper your child should write for this assignment, but let them choose the topic. They might want to argue for why Legos are better than MegaBlocks. They might wish to explain what Minecraft is. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the paper is, only that they learn to write well. As they mature, so will the topics and assignments.

Join the Fun – One year, my daughter was having a particularly hard time gaining inspiration for a paper. To help her out, my husband and I joined the fun. Each of us turned in a paper on the same topic! It was fun and a great learning experience. We didn’t do this each time she had an assignment, but it helped.

For whatever reason, speech and writing seem to be the two least favorite assignments of most students. Perhaps, with a little effort and enthusiasm on our behalf, our children will learn to not only appreciate the art of writing, but enjoy it. Writing can be lots of fun!

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”
~ Galatians 6:11

Your Turn!: Are you a writer? Share your tips with our homeschooling families on how to encourage a love of writing!

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“I’m Bored!”

im_boredThere used to be an old saying, “If you’re bored, it’s because you are boring!” I find myself constantly quoting this to my children whenever I hear complaints of this nature. Personally, I find it very hard to validate any claims of boredom. There are far too many things in life to do, see, experience, and accomplish for me to be bored. So when my children show signs of this malady beginning to take hold, it’s time to jump into action.

Often “boredom” is merely another way for children to express an inner restlessness. Thus, we have devised a whole list of “boredom busters” which we frequently employ when the bug decides to bite.

Boredom Busters

  • Bubbles- Believe it or not, we don’t keep these out all the time. They are kept just for such occasions and for special events.
  • Play Dough- Same concept, we keep these for those times when the kids just need something different to do.
  • Art Attack- I have special boxes of art supplies just for moments of boredom. They are filled with foam shapes, stickers, self-inking stamps, and other fun items they don’t use when doing their normal art projects.
  • Paper Dolls- We have various sets of paper dolls (and some magnetic ones) which we pull out, helping to entertain us all.
  • Glow In the Dark Sticks- You might think these only work at night, but not so! We have been known to pull them out in the middle of the day, lock ourselves in a bathroom, and spend an hour having some fun.
  • Board Games- Hey, they aren’t called that for nothin’! We have been known to dump all the pieces out and mix them up, creating completely new games.
  • Flip Side- This is a fun activity my kids like, where they lay on their backs and imagine the world upside down. What would it be like to walk on the ceiling?
  • Balloons- I keep a bag (or two) of balloons on hand at all times. It takes only a few moments and the kids have a room full of balloons to play with. This never fails to keep them entertained.
  • Face Paint- After Halloween, I make sure to pick up several face painting kids for very inexpensive. We pull these out every so often and practice painting each other’s faces.
  • Camping- We have a child’s size camping tent we pop out, this offers hours of fun with very little work involved.

It seems quite a few others experience the same dilemma. There are entire websites, articles, and blogs dedicated to eradicating the boredom bug. Wow! Thankfully, our kiddos are very good at keeping themselves entertained. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan of action, in case the boredom bug hits.

My last resort, if none of the above seems to entice? “Hey, there’s always chores!” For some reason, this always seems to work….

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ I Thessalonians 5:18

Your Turn!: What is your favorite way to battle boredom?

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