If You Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail; A Series Review!

Fail-to-plan

I am huge on planning. Without a “vision” for my day, or my year for that matter, I can quickly lose balance of what needs to be accomplished and get overwhelmed by the surmounting tasks of the day-to-day. In order to help me make sense of life and to prioritize the multitude of tasks that fill my routine, I decided to write down a “master plan”. A guideline to help me better manage both my household and my homeschooling.

Let me be the first to remind you, this is not a hard-line 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.

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

What works for me, might not work for you. Please feel free to read with discretion; pray about what you are hearing and then decide for yourself where the Lord is leading.

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

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I Can’t Homeschool: A Series Review!

I_Can't_Homeschoo

Homeschooling can seem like a daunting journey, especially for those who are new to the concept. We are unsure of where to start, overwhelmed by the notion of taking on our children’s education, and feel as if we are not enough.

Join us in this series of encouragement, as we share reasons families think they can’t homeschool and offer support for those unsure of the adventure called homeschooling.

…..

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

I’m Unorganized
I Need ME Time
I Have Too Many KidsMy Kids Are Too Big
My Family Will DisapproveI’m A Dad!My Kids Have Special Needs

God didn’t call us to homeschool because we had it all together or because we were such incredible people. He called us to homeschooling because He wanted this for our children and He asked us to be faithful. He isn’t asking us to be perfect, He’s asking us to be obedient to His call.

Each of us is still a work in progress, being molded by our Creator into something better. Allow God to use your imperfect self to bring Him glory. Step out in faith, knowing He will see you through. You can do all things in Christ!

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus”
Philippians 3:12

We’d love to know… Do you already homeschool? Help motivate other families by sharing previous doubts you may have had about taking on the adventure of homeschooling, and how the Lord helped you overcome for His glory and your family’s benefit!

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A Toast To All the Girls: Homeschooling the Ladies

A_Toast_To_All_The_Girls

I think most of us agree, there is a significant difference between bringing up boys and bringing up young ladies. While each child is unique and has their own personality, we firmly believe in raising our children to fulfill the roles the Lord has prepared for them. Through the blessing of homeschooling, we have the unique opportunity to train up our children to fulfill their God-given roles.

“…urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
Titus 2:4-5

Let’s Hit the Books

While I gravitate towards purchasing curriculum for all three girls from the same company – I really like the format/layout of the overall learning – I also tend to vary the routine and requirements for each one. One child’s strength is language arts, so more is expected of her in this area and we push her to strengthen her arithmetic skills. Another is the complete opposite. Then there’s our third, who prefers hands-on assistance in all things. I do my best to meet each where they are.

Clean Machines

Cleaning isn’t a job for only our girls, but it is more stressed in their daily routines than in our son’s. Considering our girls need to be trained in the keeping of their homes, we spend a portion of each day focusing on these skills.
Our girls have regular chore rotations each day of the week, so they become accustomed to maintaining household responsibilities on a regular basis.

It’s Your Night!

Again, cooking is not relegated to women alone, but we wish to train our girls in providing tasty meals for their families (should they marry). Thus, we spend a portion of each day in the kitchen. Some days we focus on meals themselves, other times we choose to have fun with desserts and tasty drinks.
On occasion, we also enjoy having the girls take turns being responsible for dinner. They plan, prepare and cook. Then we all enjoy. It can be tons of fun!

The Big Debate

In our home, we have never stressed college or careers, especially not with our girls. Does this mean we are against girls going to college? Not at all. Our focus has always been that our children be open to the leading of the Spirit; that they be faithful in following whichever path He lays before them. If it’s college and a career, so be it. We have just never stressed that college is a must.
That being said… What we have stressed is that, should our daughters be led to attend college and later get married and have families, they need to remember their first calling: to be keepers of their homes. How they choose to do this is between them and their husbands, through the guidance of the Lord, but keepers they are called to be. While they might like working and be good at it, the Lord has called them to a specific role and they should be faithful in fulfilling it.

It Takes All Kinds

As silly as it might seem, some people are under the impression that all women are the same. We all like wearing skirts, heels, makeup, and doing our hair. While a vast majority of us like these things, there are also some who prefer to live in jeans, wear pony tails, and go natural.
You’d think, having three girls come from the same parents, all our girls would be alike. They aren’t. And, that’s okay. Our girls are learning they each have different preferences and are learning to respect this.

Using the ’S’ Word

Here is a tough one! That dirty word most women can’t stand: Submission! Oh, yes.
Our girls are being taught the fine art of submission. They are being taught that submitting to their pop and to their future husbands doesn’t mean they are a doormat or weak (thank you, very much). It takes strength to have faith in another person, trusting they will make the best decisions on your behalf. It takes strength to let someone make decisions for your family; strength to move forward when someone asks it of you. Being submissive isn’t weakness, but a gracious act of love and respect. When we learn to see submission in the proper light, submission is a beautiful thing.

Raising girls is fun. Our home is full of tutus, dress up clothes, odd assortments of hairbows, and a growing number of shoes. With Biblical wisdom, a gentle hand, and the grace of God, we are raising our daughters to submit to the will of God and serve Him in all they do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to know… Do your daughters like pink? Not all girls do!

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Let’s Hear It For the Boys: Homeschooling the Fellas

Lets_Hear_It_For_The_Boys

After having three girls, finding out we were having a boy came as quite a shock to the system. My boy is a completely different creature from his sisters. And, that is how it should be!

I think most of us agree, there is a significant difference between bringing up boys and bringing up young ladies. While each child is unique and has their own personality, we firmly believe in raising our children to fulfill the roles the Lord has prepared for them. Through the blessing of homeschooling, we have the unique opportunity to train up our children to fulfill their God-given roles.

“Likewise urge the young men to be sensible;” – Titus 2:6

Let’s Hit the Books

All four of our children are homeschooled, but helping my son with his studies is significantly different from helping my girls. Boys, in general, require a bit more activity. My son is frequently known to take learning breaks to simply run around. He is also fond of staring out windows, allowing his mind to wander towards more adventurous endeavors. My son does best when I work with him on a one-one-one bases; walking him through his lessons and urging him to keep up the good work. We’ve also learned to keep lessons as short as possible, and as hands-on as possible.

Do Boys Clean?

Not only can boys clean, but they should! As Christians, we believe in gender roles; however, there is nothing which states a man cannot be clean and organized. After all, God is a God of order, is He not?
As a member of the family, our son helps out with chores and household responsibilities. Being the youngest, his helping might seem small at the moment, but he is learning to be faithful in the little until his contribution may increase. He takes out trash, cleans his room, helps out around the house, and helps Pop with the yard work (when he can).
Incidentally, it’s interesting to note, my son is one of the cleanest people in our home. I’m not sure why boys are typically portrayed as being continually dirty and having messy rooms because this little man is not!

 A Man in the Kitchen! 

Again, we would generally expect working in the kitchen to be more closely associated with women, considering we’re the homemakers and the men are generally out working all day. However, some men really enjoy working in the kitchen and are equally good at it! Besides, it never hurts to add another skill to the tool belt; you never know when it’s going to come in handy.
Our son is not only welcome to work in the kitchen, but encouraged to participate. He is learning to use tools, cook meals, and prepare food for others. He loves it and takes pride in what he makes.

The Art of Being a Gentleman

Let’s be clear here! Allowing a man to be a gentleman does not mean women are weak or unable to do things for themselves. On the contrary, allowing a man to be a gentleman speaks of his gentleness and the lady’s graciousness.
Part of our son’s training is in learning how to be a gentleman. He is encouraged to open doors for us girls, and carry items when able. He is being trained to be honorable, chivalrous, and courteous.

 Who’s the Boss? 

One of the most important things I’ve learned, being the mama of a little man, is to understand that is just what he is… a little man! Most men prefer not to take instruction from women. They prefer to be the leaders; forging their own paths and striking out on their own.
Training my son is a fine balance. I am learning to guide him in his decisions and not push him in the direction I think he needs to go. I am also learning to be gracious in my instruction, not demanding. I am also learning to simply leave the bulk of my son’s training to my husband, who understands him better and gives him firmer guidelines.
My son, on the other hand, is learning to accept my instruction graciously and obey even when his father is not present. He is learning to be respectful when wisdom is imparted. He is also learning what it means to be a true leader, one who guides based on Biblical wisdom and Godly instruction. Raising children is not an easy job.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Can women work? Sure! However, by God’s design, it is a man’s job to provide for his family. Whether he be self-employed, works at home, or drives into an office, our men are responsible for taking care of their family financially.
Part of our son’s discipleship is in helping him understand his God given role as provider. He is being encouraged to find his strengths, discover ways to put those strengths to good use, and provide for those under his care. He is learning to be productive, helpful, and take pride in taking care of his family.

Raising boys is definitely a riot. But, amidst all the chaos and torn jeans, is a world of fun and adventure. With Biblical wisdom, a strong hand, and the grace of God, we are raising our son to be a man after His own heart. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to hear from you… Share with us your son’s funniest antics!

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Raising Motivated Learners: A Series Review!

Raising Motivated Learners Series

Our goal as parents and educators is to work ourselves out of a job; to raise our children to become responsible adults.

Join us as we share tips on how to raise motivated learners and equip them with the skills to pursue the path the Lord lays before them.

Twenty Questions
Tools, Not Products
Encouraging Contribution
Space Exploration
Take Initiative

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6

Your Turn!: Share with us how you are creating an atmosphere of motivated learning!

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Taking on the World, One Argument at a Time

taking_on_the_world

So often when I read anti-homeschooling posts or articles, my first inclination is to write back and share “my side” of the story. However, I’ve come to realize, were I to attempt to respond to every argument I come in contact with, I would quickly become a ball of frustration and more than likely be wasting my time. While some arguments are worth the having, others are simply pointless. Are there guidelines one could follow, to know whether or not a debate is profitable?

Talking with my husband and homeschooling dad extraordinaire, here are a few things he suggests I keep in mind…

Debate when you have the opportunity to make an impact. Do not argue simply to hear your own voice, but to change the way another might view the situation. While your words might not have an immediate effect, it might be the seed to bring about a future change. If there is no chance they will listen, keep still.

Debate when you have the opportunity to influence a third-party. While you might not sway the person whom you are debating, perhaps there is another listener who might benefit from the exchange. For their sake, the argument is worth the having.

There are times in which it is beneficial to state our case, perhaps enlightening another with information of which they are unaware. However, there are times in which it is best to simply remain silent. While it might be fun “taking on the world”, it simply isn’t feasible. Not only do we lack the time to argue with everyone, but very often, it isn’t worth the effort.

Our time here is limited. We need to focus our attentions on the areas in which we can bring about a change and leave the nay-sayers to themselves. When the Lord opens the doors of communication, we should walk through them with courage and willingness. However, when someone wishes to argue for the sake of arguing, it’s time to shake the dust from our feet and move along.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
~ I Peter 3:15-16

We’d love to know… How do you know when to debate and when to walk away?

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A Comprehensive Curriculum Review!

A Comprehensive Curriculum Review!

The end of the year is here. Who’s breathing a sigh of relief? Who, maybe, just maybe, is a tad sorry to see yet another year flown by and are excited to launch a new adventure? Truthfully, I’m experiencing a little of both. But before I catch myself shedding a tear over a senior graduating or start stressing over the finishing touches on next year’s learning, I think it might be beneficial to take an honest look over this year’s curriculum and ask myself… Did this really work for us?

You would think after homeschooling over thirteen years we would have this gig down. No changes, no issues. But that is the way of life. No guarantees, and just when you think you’ve got things down, something alters your plans. Thus, we find it beneficial to continually assure ourselves we’re on the right track and using resources which most benefit our students. Here’s what we’ve found, based on this year’s learning routine:

Bible

This year we chose to expand our topical study of logic, using Keeping Faith in An Age of Reason by Master Books. This proved to be a good decision; helping our children gain a better understanding of Scripture, assisting them in knowing where to find things in their Bibles, and gaining a knowledge of arguments against Biblical topics. Overall, I am happy with our decision.
However, with that said. I believe we might need to spend this coming year focusing on a few Bible basics. While a study of logic and apologetics is important, and we would argue a necessity, we have also noted our children seem to have lost a knowledge of basic Bible stories. There are a few parables my two youngest seem to have forgotten, events which are covered in the Old Testament which they do not recall. With that in mind, we are going to use next year to travel through a study of Scripture from beginning to end with the intent on regaining what has been lost. It should be a blessing!

Language Arts/Artimetic

Up to this point we have used aBeka for all our language arts and arithmetic, and this has proven to be a wise decision. We appreciate their focus, their continual reinforcement, and their instruction in Latin and Greek roots for language arts. But this coming year will see a few changes.
Our middle daughter expressed a desire for video lessons, and while we could use aBeka to continue her learning, we have chosen an alternative and gone with Khan Academy for this coming year. The curriculum is free, online, and very thorough. (Our oldest daughter used Khan when practicing for college SAT’s and benefitted from it greatly.) We are excited to see how she does.
Language will remain primarily with aBeka, with the exception of choices in Literature which will stem from our study of history. More on that in a moment…

History

American History from Master Books was our choice of curriculum for this year, and it was a dream come true! We have been through a slew of history curriculum over the course of our years learning and this one finally met all our needs. Biblically based, to the point, easy to follow, hands-on, and engaging. We couldn’t have asked for a better choice.
Next year we will continue on with Master Books using World’s Story Volume 1, focusing in on ancient history to the fall of the Roman Empire. I am most excited to experience the purposeful Biblical study of this curriculum, as opposed to a previous choice in curriculum which covered the same time period but with less detail and Christian worldview.

Science

Our focus this year was Botany. Our children specifically requested this study, as Biology had already been covered and neither Anatomy nor Physics appealed to them. It was fun. We included quite a bit of hands-on activities, and the kids learned a great deal. I would recommend Botany for other students who might have similar concerns.
With that said, I will note our choice in curriculum – which can be found HERE – was not as developed as I would have liked.
Our main resource, Botany Adventure, did lay out a year’s schedule and included helpful ideas on activities, labs, hands-on application, and more. However, the author did not do a thorough job of indicating where information could be found. We discovered we needed to do a great deal of leg work. Not an issue, as we are experienced learners, but for anyone new to homeschooling I could see this being an issue. In addition, some instruction given was vague and unhelpful. (e.g. “Using slide —, sketch what you see.” With no indication of where we were to obtain the slide, create the slide, or otherwise.)
Our supplemental resource, Sassafras Science Adventures Botany, proved to be a fun read, with a great deal of additional, history information included, but proved to be a distraction from our main lessons, instead of a help, and thus we chose to refrain from finishing it. It would have been a perfect guide for younger students, with the addition of their study guide, but for our purposes it didn’t work.
The one resource I will rave about is the Botany Coloring Book. If you have yet to explore this resource, do so. It is amazing!
Next year we’ll be doing a study on Geology using Master Books. I am incredibly excited to launch this new adventure. It looks incredible and has so much to offer. It is going to be amazing.

Electives

These are always fun, and never disappoint. With everything from foreign language, art, physical exercise, and more; electives are the easy part of our learning routine and always a blast. I would like to see more hiking next year though and perhaps some classes on self-defense, which has been specifically asked for by our daughters.

Overall, it hasn’t been a bad year. In fact, it’s been pretty amazing. We’ve had a lot of new adventures, one of our favorites being Generation Joshua. We’ve learned a lot and taken on a lot of challenges. The kids have done wonderfully and we are very proud of them.

Now, it’s time for a short break. Maybe. For them. Perhaps for me, if I can manage to stop moving, planning, and organizing for five minutes. Then we’re on to another grand adventure. We’ll see what new lessons the Lord has in store for us and enjoy the journey.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colosians 3:17

Share with us… What was your favorite area of study this year and which was your least? What would you do over?

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Teaching Curriculum vs. Teaching Our Children

teaching_curriuculum_vs_teaching_children

“Why isn’t she moving faster? Doesn’t this child understand I want her to get through the material in the next half hour! I really want to get through with this part of our day so we can move on to other things. It really, really, shouldn’t take this long.” As I anxiously watch my daughter from across the room, the Lord uses this as the perfect opportunity to speak to my heart and teach me something vitally important. Am I teaching the curriculum or teaching my child? Oops; guilty as charged!

I think, sometimes, we homeschool parents can get caught up in the wonderful resources we have available to us. We ooh and aah over new-found books, get excited about special projects, and store up on awesome resources. In all our enthusiasm, I wonder if we have completely forgotten why we do what we do.

Are we getting caught up in buying resources which seem wonderful, and pushing our children through the motions, without bothering to ask ourselves if this is helping our children actually learn or – though learning is taking place – they are enjoying the learning process? Heaven forbid I force my children through hours of lessons every single day just so I can say I finished a book we purchased. Lord help me if I am pushing my kids to finish material in a certain amount of time simply because I have other plans for the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In our learning, we most certainly have a wide arrangement of resources available to us and I highly recommend using them to the fullest. However, I need to be careful the resources are being used as a help and not as the driving force behind my children’s education.

Ultimately, I don’t want my children to simply learn how to finish a book. (Although that is a good skill to be learned.) I want my children to love learning! I need my children to fully understand the world in which they live and the impact the Lord wants them to make in their own sphere of His creation.

The books, games, projects, and field trips we have before us can be used wonderfully in each of our learning endeavors. However, I want to be careful of how I am putting them to use. At the end of the day, if the only thing my kids did was push through a stack of paperwork so I can say we were productive, I have failed in my job. Getting through the books isn’t the goal. The goal is to teach my children, to reach their hearts, to minister to their souls, and to encourage a love of learning.

I need to make sure I am teaching my children and not merely the curriculum!

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

~ Isaiah 54:13

We’d love to know… Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a lesson and suddenly realized this is not working? How did you redirect your learning to be more productive for your children?

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Are You in the ‘Dead Zone’?

I could feel it coming on; a total shut down. I had, once again, overloaded the organ currently called a brain and put it into meltdown mode. Too much information was being entered, a mass amount of work was being done, and my body was calling it quits.

How often do we do this to ourselves? Personally, I do it far too often. From the minute I wake up ’til the minute I get the kiddos down – and sometimes beyond – I am rushing at the speed of light, trying to accomplish more than is humanly possible. The result of all my busy-ness? The dead zone. A temporary state of mind where I have to literally stop everything and just breathe. A point in time when, if I don’t stop, I’ll careen myself right into shortness of breath and a massive headache.

What causes the dead zone? An overload of activity or activity which I had not planned for. On occasion, it can also be caused by my own foolishness; namely, me choosing to do far too much on any given day. Unfortunately, that’s usually the one that gets me.

Last week is a prime example… We needed to get learning done in the morning. I got the kiddos started. While they were wrapping up work, I did a list of chores and cooked some food. We rushed through lunch and headed out the door. We handled a special event and ran two errands before I dropped the kiddos at home with their pop. I headed back out to do a few more errands, only to come home and start another list of things I wanted to get done before the day was over. Did I mention all of this took place before dinner time?

Now, mind you, every day is not like this! (Thank the Lord!) But I have noticed a trend. More and more days are becoming like this. It needs to stop. Having a busy day once in a while is alright and understandable, but doing this several times a week is just too much.

The sad part is, the main culprit is me. No one is putting pressure on me to get this much accomplished. There is no manager standing behind me, ordering me to finish this list of “to do’s”. This is all me. I need to learn how to say, “no”; even to myself. I need to realistically look at my day and understand I am not Superwoman. Yes; I could rush around like a mad woman and get all this accomplished – and some days I do – but those days should be few and far between. If I am managing my time well, the days will be full, but not overwhelming.

Most importantly, I need to stop telling myself that the more I do the more I am worth. This is not a competition, even one against myself. Just because an activity could get done today, doesn’t mean it should. If something comes up at the last-minute, I need to take stock and realistically decide if this can get done; without me ending up in the ‘dead zone’.

I truly hate to admit it, but I do not need to get this much done in one day. If all of my days are filled to the brim with busyness, even for a ‘good cause’, I might be missing out on something just as important; those quiet moments with my kids and the ability to just relax. Before I run myself into the ground, it’s time to slow down. It might just be a short season of our life, but I am tired of being stuck in ‘the dead zone’.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
~ Mark 6:31

We’re curious… Do you ever find yourself overworked to the point that your brain decides to call it quits?

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Senior Trip! What Senior Trip?

Hooray! We have somehow managed to survive thirteen years of home education and this amazing child is about to graduate. In these final months a multitude of activity fills our calendar. Senior photos, yearbooks, caps & gown, honors, and so much more. Then a passing acquaintance asks a question which sends us into a tailspin, “Where is your daughter going on her senior trip?” Wait… what? What senior trip? You mean that’s a thing!

Apparently so. One acquaintance was sharing the joy her oldest daughter had on her trip to France. Her second daughter was thinking London might be more her style. We’ve had friends who’ve gone to Mexico and others to Hawaii. Sometimes it becomes a family trip, other times one parent adventures with the graduate. On occasion the senior globe-trots with friends.

I’ll confess. These all sound amazing. I would love to be able to do this with and for my children. I would also argue there is nothing wrong with these parents choosing to do so and applaud their desire to bless their children. If they can afford it, why not go for it?

But what about those of us who just… can’t? For whatever reason – finances, work situations, life – prevent us from giving that “Instagram worthy” vacation our children have always dreamed about. Our friends are sharing their fantastic plans. Our children’s friends are sharing their fantastic plans. Social media is presenting the image that everyone else has fantastic plans. And we’re… Well, we were planning on heading to the local ice cream shop, getting two scoops of ice cream and perhaps going to the beach. That comparison game is tough, isn’t it?

Just thinking about it is enough to stress some parents out. Or worse. Start a bout of parental guilt. We bemoan all we cannot do for our children but would like to. We stress that our children will be unhappy or harbor feelings of resentment for not having a life which allows us such pleasures. In short. What started out as a simple question, “What are your plans for a senior trip?” becomes the start of a spiritual battle.

Friends, we’re right there with you. But the enemy doesn’t have to win! It’s all a matter of perspective and thanksgiving. If we choose to focus on the celebration of all God is doing in our child and the plans He has for their future, the momentary event holds less weight in our lives. Graduation is not about the party, but the next step in a grand adventure. How we approach the celebration is entirely up to us! Those two scoops of ice cream and a beach trip can be a wonderful senior trip. As could a picnic in the park, having a family party, or any other way we choose to commemorate the occasion. (Plane tickets need not be involved.) It’s all a matter of perspective and a heart of thanksgiving cultivated in ourselves and our children.

What is truly important is that our child know they are special to us. What matters is that they understand we are proud of their accomplishments and celebrate them, not the event. The ceremony, the certificate, is one tiny step in a bigger adventure. We rejoice together over a job well done and go forth in prayer for the steps to come. Graduation honors God’s faithfulness in bringing us this far and anticipating all He will do in their future. It is thanksgiving, grace, mercy, and love. And that cannot be outshined by exotic locations.

In one short month our oldest girl will be graduated. Honestly, I’m not sure where the time has flown. It seems like we just got started. But here we are. God has indeed been good to us. In so many ways. Our family will celebrate, in our own way. A small trip might be involved. We’ll see. And while I would hope she fondly remembers this small adventure, I hope it is merely one of the many which has brought her to this point. For, in my eyes, this isn’t the cherry on top, but one of the many sprinkles which already decorate the large scoop of life the Lord has put before us.

“And we pray… that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God…”

Colossians 1:10

We’re curious… When you graduated, did you have a senior trip?

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