Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Patience

Do you ever have days where you have to stop and pray that God would not give you quite so many opportunities to exercise patience? Today has been one of those days. We've had sibling spats, fits over chores, disrespectful attitudes, and to top it all off my two-year-old tracked Georgia red clay from the front door to the kitchen before I even realized what was happening. Ugh! So I've taken lots of deep breaths, done lots of praying and this is the answer I received: I need to do as I say and not as I tend to do. I need to do what I am constantly telling the kids to do and find something to be grateful for.

Sooo....
I am grateful that my children are healthy and able to run, even if it is with muddy shoes.
I am grateful that God has blessed me with three loving little boys.
I am grateful that He has allowed me to stay home and disciple my children, that I might deal biblically with their heart issues and guide them back to the ways of the Lord.
I am grateful that my children are generally quick to repent when I reprove them.
I am especially thankful that I am never alone in my struggles. My Heavenly Father is always with me, providing a way out, training my heart just like I'm training the hearts of my children.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Day

Yes, I'm quite prolific today. I guess I'm going through blog withdrawals. I just thought I'd share a bit of what I have accomplished today. Aside from the normal school and housework routine, I have also completed some notebooking pages to use with hymn study as well as copywork pages for our hymn of the month. Our church prints a family worship guide in the bulletin each week which includes a hymn of the month. (If you are interested in using it in your own home, you can find it here.) We sing the hymn each morning during worship and use it for copywork and sometimes memorization. Both documents can be found at my Homeschool Launch page.

Also, I thought I'd share another recipe. We've been working on getting healthier and slimming down a bit (a cruise looming on the horizon is great motivation!). I found a great recipe for Harvest Muffins which are very healthy and practically fat-free. Honestly, I was expecting them to be dry and disgusting, but they are surprisingly moist and delicious. Each muffin contains 171 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 5 grams protein, 1 gram fiber.

Harvest Muffins
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
2 1/3 cups oats processed in blender until finely ground
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 jar (4 oz) carrot baby food puree
1 cup grated peeled carrots
1/3 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup water (use a bit less if using agave nectar)
1/2 cup raisins
3 egg whites, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, combine rolled oats with ground oats, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix well and set aside.
In medium bowl, mix together honey, vanilla, applesauce, carrot puree, grated carrots, juice concentrate and water; pour into oat mixture. Stir to blend. Stir in raisins. Gently mix in egg whites. Do not over mix.
Using nonstick muffin pan, fill each muffin cup with batter
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes and remove muffins from pan.

Catechism Bookmarks

The newest catechism bookmarks are up at my homeschool launch site. If you are working through this book in a different spot and would like bookmarks, please let me know and I will create them for you. Enjoy learning!

A Much-Needed Vacation


If you ask me, one of the best ways to relax is on a beach with your family, and we were long overdue! The last few years we have spent our vacation time in Naples, FL visiting with Andrew's mom as she battled breast cancer. Our vacation this year coincided with the one-year anniversary of her passing, so it was a bittersweet time. We spent five days in Myrtle Beach at the Dunes Village Resort. I highly recommend this hotel! We loved everything about it: the room, the staff, the facilities, the beach, everything. O.K., except for the fire alarm and evacuation at 12:30 in the morning. It was stormy one night and the wind blew so hard that it set off one of the fire alarms. We were very thankful that there was no fire but it was a bit scary nonetheless. Other than that, we had a fantastic time.

We spent most of our time on the beach and at the on-site water park just relaxing and having fun. We did venture out to do some shopping, play some miniature golf at Broadway at the Beach, and attend the local Greek Festival. I love Greek food and pigged out on spanikopita, Greek roasted potatoes, loukoumades, and chocolate baklava. Yum!! I was so in love with the roasted potatoes that I came home and tried to find one just like it. This one is extremely close:

Greek Style Potatoes
3T olive oil
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
3/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp chicken boullion
ground black pepper and salt to taste
1/2 tsp oregano
6 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, water, garlic, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, oregano, boullion, salt and pepper.
Arrange potatoes evenly in the bottom of a medium baking dish. Pour the olive oil mixture over the potates and stir to coat. Cover and bake 1 hour, turning occasionally. Remove cover and continue to bake until potatoes are tender and most of liquid has evaporated. Yum!!


I am so thankful for the time to get away together and enjoy being a family. It was really a blessing and did us all a world of good!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Nathan's Baptism



What a wonderful and precious day! Our dear friends came all the way out from Monroe to be with us as we took our membership vows and had Nathan baptized. The service was beautiful and Nathan was so sweet snuggling with Pastor Jon!
Here we are with Pastor Jon and Stephen, our elder, listening as Pastor Jon speaks of our responsibilty to teach and train our children in the things of the Lord. I love that not only do Andrew and I vow to fulfill our responsibility to disciple our children, but the entire congregation stands and vows to provide that guidance and discipleship to my children as well. It's a beautiful picture of covenant community.

After service, we took our two families to Chuck E Cheese's so that the kids could play and the grown ups could talk. Although with two two-year-olds, I think we spent more time checking on them than talking! When it was about time to go, we gave the kids a "heads up" and told them to use up the rest of their tokens. Alek and Levie had a whole bunch left and when asked why, they responded that they had been going up in the big climbing tubes to rescue small children that had got lost or stuck! Our little missionary couple!
By the time we got home, we had just enough time to take a nap before heading back to church to end a glorious Lord's Day with evening worship. Sundays are always the highlight of the week, but this one was extra special and full of wonderful memories.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I've Done it Again

I hate when I get so caught up in "life stuff" that I don't take the time to post, because now that I am taking the time, I don't know where to begin!I suppose I'll start with school since that is primarly what this blog is about. We had a great week off, despite our colds, and are just finishing up our second week of the next three-week block. I'm realizing that our current schedule is not allowing for enough time with Nathan and it's expecting too much from Noah. I've been working on tweaking things a bit, giving Alek more of an opportunity to work independently, allowing me to spend more time reading to Noah and Nathan, and giving more one-on-one time to Noah. I'm still working out the kinks, but I'm sure we'll come up with a workable routine that benefits everyone.

I have enjoyed, over the last couple weeks, discussing with my dad our views on how salvation comes about. It is always a good thing to dig into God's word under the direction of the Holy Spirit and to challenge and sharpen one another to a greater understanding of Christ. We don't agree on everything, but it is a blessing to have open lines of communication and to study the Word of God together.

We are getting very excited for our trip to Myrtle Beach during our "off" week. We've been doing a study on oceans using Oceans for Every Kid by Janice Van Cleave and the Oceans Project Pack from Hands of a Child. It will be great to have time doing some "hands on" stuff while we are at the beach.

The other exciting news is that, on Sunday, our family will be joining the church that we have been visiting for the last several months and Nathan will be baptized. We love this church and the people that will be our new church family. I am so thankful that God has led us to this particular body of believers. Our small group is starting next Friday, so we're hoping that it will provide the opportunity to really get to know some families that we haven't had a chance to meet yet.Whew, I guess that about does it. I would say that I won't leave another huge gap like that, but I know myself well enough to know better. :) Just stay tuned!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Catechism

Our family is working through Training Hearts, Teaching Minds this year during our family worship time. We have thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I've wanted a way to help my boys stay focused on what they are learning and allow them to be prepared for discussion. I decided to create weekly bookmarks for them to keep in their Bibles. Each bookmark has the weekly question and answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a checklist of daily Scripture readings from the book and a question to meditate on that relates to the week's theme. Hopefully these will enhance our family worship and help us retain what we are learning. If you'd like to use them in your own family, you can find them here at my Homeschool Launch page. I'll be adding more as I have time. I hope they'll be a blessing to others as we teach and train our children in the Lord.

We Made It...

through our first three weeks of school! I've got our schedule set up to do three weeks on and one week off. I'm so glad I decided to go this route. It makes it easier to stay motivated and on track because we know there's a break coming if we just persevere. Plus, the house is generally in need of a deep clean by that time and I just can't seem to get much detailing done while I'm teaching. I'm especially glad for the break this week because we all have awful colds and none of us feel like doing school. What a blessing to be able to relax a bit and let our bodies heal!

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Curriculum Reviews

We have been using some new curriculum this year and I thought I would share my favorites. As you can see from the picture, we purchased the All-In-One Curriculum for Pilgrims Progress by Ken Ham. I am currently reading through it and trying to figure out how to work it into our schedule; I will work it into our schedule because it's that good. I may talk to Andrew about using it during our family worship time. It contains the complete text of Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan (broken up into manageable lessons), relevant scripture references, sidebars that help explain the allegorical elements, memory verse, vocabulary w/definitions, Truths to Ponder for younger students and Digging Deeper for older students. The book comes with a CD-ROM that contains all of the worsheets for easy printing. For those who want to expand their studies, they have included a 13-week unit study that includes history, science and language arts activities. You can also buy an audio CD of the text, if you prefer to listen to someone else read. It is also found (for free) at Librivox.org. This book is very well done. I have thoroughly enjoyed going through it and can't wait to dig into it with the boys.


My other favorite resource this year is The Mystery of History III by Linda Lacour Hobar. It is a complete classical world history curriculum covering the Renaissance and Reformation years. It is beautiful and very well written. The Companion Guide that goes with it contains lots of hands-on activities, quizzes, reviews, map work, timeline ideas, living book suggestions, etc. I've also created some mini-books to go with our studies, so with all of that put together my boys are really enjoying and remembering what they learn!





Friday, August 8, 2008

First Week of School



I am pleased to announce that our first week of school went wonderfully! I can't say enough about how much I love my Homeschool Tracker Plus. It has helped tremendously in keeping us on track. Not only do I have our assignments all planned out and ready to go, I also have meals, chores, grocery list, etc. all planned out for the week. It has made our days run so much smoother.

We did tweak the scheduled assignments a bit. I'm realizing that History may be a little over-done. Also, we decided to hold off on starting astronomy in favor of completing a lapbook on oceans because my incredibly generous parents are taking us on a cruise in December! Plus we're going to Myrtle Beach in September so we'll have plenty of opportunities to study oceans first-hand. I love the flexibility that we have to change things up and study what is relevant to us right now!

I am also happy to report that Noah is finally making some noticeable progress in his reading ability. He has definitely grown over the summer. I am concerned about his lack of focus and short-term memory. I can't tell if it is simply immaturity or something else. I had him sit on the bouncy ball during Bible this morning to see if the kinesthetic activity would help him retain what he heard. It seemed to help a bit, but the novelty of the ball tended to be a distraction. I'm going to keep praying through this issue.

I'm noticing more spiritual growth and maturity with Alek this year. Academically, he's still a bit ahead of his peers, but his maturity in several areas is what I've noticed the most. He's becoming more patient and less prideful, more quick to repent and apologize.

I just love the start of the new school year! I'm encouraged that we have developed some better habits over the summer and I can't wait to see how much we can grow this year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

You Might Be a Homeschooler...

if you have a frog as a centerpiece on your kitchen table. And if your trifle bowl spends more time holding wildlife than trifle.




Andrew found a frog in one of the buckets that we use to collect rain water. We observed it for a while, looked up frogs in the Handbook of Nature Study and discovered that he (or she) was a Southern Leopard Frog. The boys made some very good observations and drew them in their nature notebooks. I was very impressed. Their observation skills as well as their drawing skills have improved quite a bit over the last year.
We kept the frog inside for an hour or so while we enjoyed watching him and then took him outside and let him hop away. It was a nice, impromptu nature study.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Newest Librivox Recording

Hurlbuts Story of the Bible Part Six is now complete! I read story 31 and this has been my favorite recording so far. Probably because I read it without errors on my first try! This is a wonderful story Bible. I'm working on burning it to a CD so the kids can listen to it as they fall asleep at night. I hope you enjoy it too

Friday, July 25, 2008

S.E. Homeschool Expo

Whew! I'm exhausted. Today was the Southeast Homeschool Expo which I attended with my wonderful (and very patient) husband and all three children. I was a bit apprehensive about bringing Nathan as he is very independent and doesn't take kindly to being forced to hold my hand. I'm happy to report that he did very well and we had a great day. I am so thankful that Andrew agreed to come with me. He notices and investigates things that I would probably pass right by. He sees the boys with a different pair of eyes and his insight has been invaluable to me. We found several things that were new to us, and we were also able to get a clearer picture of some other products that we had just glanced at previously. We've got quite a list of "wants" going, the hard part is prioritizing. There's only so much we can afford to do right now. Our top picks (I would welcome feedback from anyone who has used these):
Rosetta Stone Spanish
Ebaru violin package
Lego Robotics
Membership to Atlanta History Center
Championship Chess Home Study Package

It was also nice to have the boys there and to get their opinion on different products. I think they really enjoyed themselves. It did make for a long day though, so I think it will be an early bedtime for me tonight!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Have A Dress!

O.K., maybe it's silly to be so giddy over a dress (two actually!) but I can't remember the last time I owned one. Let me explain. First of all, as the mom of three boys, sometimes my femininity seems to get lost among all of the super heroes, car noises and various (loud) bodily functions. I have a new appreciation for all that my dad put up with living with my mom, my sister and me. Secondly, although we went to the store to pick up a couple pairs of pants for Alek, my precious husband encouraged me to try on a dress. The first one didn't work (it never does) so he and the boys proceeded to bring me dress after dress until we found the right one. (Try not to be too jealous, ladies!) Turns out we actually found two. And I get to buy new shoes to match! Now although I have several skirts, there's just something special about a dress. And there's something extra special about having your husband and three boys help you remember you're a girl. So maybe it's silly, but it's nights like this that remind me just how blessed I am.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Being Controlled

Andrew just informed me that he was out talking to a neighbor today and Andrew jokingly told him that he should talk to a mutual acquaintance and ask him to keep his woman under control. Our neighbor said something to the effect of, "Man, you're the only husband in our part of the neighborhood that can say he has his woman under control." Now, I have to admit, my first reaction was to be a bit offended. I don't really like to be thought of as being "under control". It's that rebellious spirit in me rearing its ugly head. But as I thought about it a bit, I realized that it is actually a compliment. I am obviously doing an O.K. job of being a Christian wife if my neighbors notice that Andrew and I work together and that I submit to his authority. My neighbor's understanding of control is flawed, however. It is not really Andrew who controls me, it is my love for my Bridegroom, Jesus. He has placed my husband in authority over me for my good and the good of my family. And for the good of others around me who see our example and may gain a better understanding of the triune God. Though Andrew and I are equal in worth and value and have an equal voice in our marriage, I choose to defer to him as God has called me to. And although Jesus and the Holy Spirit are equally God, they happily defer to God the Father in all things. I wish that I could say that I always submit to Andrew's authority and never try to usurp his position. But, alas, Eve's curse is still in effect and I do have an independent and rebellious streak. But God has begun a good work in me and He is faithfully carrying it on to completion. I've grown in this area considerably since I've known Him. And today I'm glad to be known as a "controlled" woman.

Goings On

Honestly, there hasn't been much in the way of "goings on" this week. And sometimes that's a good thing. This week, however, it was kind of depressing. We found out that our prospective buyer couldn't get approved for enough to buy our house. Andrew had a rough week at work. Our open house on Saturday brought in a whole 0 (yes, that's zero) visitors. I did create a lapbook on plants for Noah, but ever since I have been plagued by insecurity and the feeling that my work isn't "good enough".

But in the end, I know that none of it matters. My God is sovereign. Not only is He perfectly holy, majestic and almighty, He is also my Abba, and He loves me with a fierceness and a tenderness that defies understanding. Nothing is more important, or more precious, than that.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Future in Publishing

I have, at last, heard from "the publisher" regarding the production of several lapbooks to go with the history curricula that they publish. I did not receive a definitive offer because they are meeting next week to discuss several big projects, of which the lapbooks are one. They did share with me their "vision", so to speak, and it sounds quite a bit different from what I had intended to produce. They are thinking about something very simple with minimal graphics. Those of you that have seen my Gratitude lapbook will know that that is not my style. I really envisioned doing something with a wide variety of mini-books and fun, colorful graphics. There are a few reasons why I want to go this route. Most importantly, this is the style that my children enjoy. We've done lapbooks that we've purchased from other companies, but the simple, black and white mini-books do not inspire my children. Getting them to complete the mini-books is like pulling teeth and when they are done with the lapbook, they don't ever want to pull it out and look at it again or show it to anyone. One of the things I love about a good lapbook is that my kids love to show it to friends and family or look at it themselves and they get a good dose of review. The simple, black and white ones just don't look as impressive and my kids don't feel as much a sense of accomplishment when they complete one. Secondly, there are other companies that market the black and white lapbooks. I can think of only one company that puts together a fun, colorful lapbook and I think there is more of a market for a product that is in color. The last reason is just my silly preference, but I really prefer to buy one package of white cardstock and print everything on that, rather than have several colors of paper to print on in an effort to liven up a lapbook with black and white graphics. I realize that colored ink can be more expensive, but with colored graphics a person still has the option of printing in grayscale and foregoing the colored ink.

The bottom line is, I don't have any desire to produce a product that my own children won't use. So if the "minimalist" approach is the one that this publisher intends to take then I may rework the books that I have done so that they will be the perfect supplement to any history curriculum and go out on my own.

I would love to hear the opinions of those who have used different types of lapbooks. What are your preferences and what would you like to see? What kind of a product would work best in your situation?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Selling the House

Good grief! Just when I thought things were going to slow down a bit, they have actually up and gone crazy. We have finally decided to put our house on the market, so all of my time seems to be spent cleaning and tackling all of those little projects that we've put off over the years. Rather than pay massive realtor's fees, we have chosen to go For Sale By Owner. That way we can price the house a little more aggressively than our neighbors and hopefully have an edge. The reason for the big push to sell is that we have found the house of our dreams. (O.K., it's a realistic "house of our dreams". I'd rather be buying a 20 acre piece of property in southern Oregon and building my own house, but that's a whole 'nother dream.) This house is a foreclosure in a great neighborhood with a big yard and a bunch of trees. You can take the girl out of Oregon but you can't take the Oregon out of the girl; I gotta have my trees. There is at least one other family who is interested in the house but they haven't put an offer on it yet. We're hoping to get the house sold and beat them to it, but we realize it is in God's hands and that is just where we want it. He knows whether or not it will be good for us and He is sovereignly in control of all of it. What a wonderful feeling it is to rest in that truth!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where Has the Time Gone?

I don't know about you, but sometimes I tend to lose track of what day it is. Not so much whether it is Monday or Tuesday, but what day of the month it is. For instance, it just hit me that today is June 25th. The 25th! What in the world happened to June? It seems that the older I get, the faster time flies. But the real problem is that if today is June 25th, then I only have about six weeks of summer left. That may sound like a lot, but I know from experience that it will be gone in a blink of an eye. I'm sitting here with a "to-do before school" list staring me in the face and it does not have enough items crossed off. So, my current projects are: finish entering all of my lesson plans into Homeschool Tracker Plus (I cannot recommend this product highly enough!) and start putting together some activity boxes for Mr. Busy Toddler. Currently, his favorite thing to do during school or any read-aloud time is to grab his own book and read it at the same time, out loud. No, he's not a child prodigy who learned to read at the age of two. He's just making up a story to go with the pictures. But how to you explain to a two-year-old how to read in their head? It's very cute but very distracting, so I've decided to put together his own "school box" just like his brothers have that will contain special activities that will only be used during school time. I have found some wonderful ideas on Paula's Archive and Linda Coyle's page. I love the idea of having a small plastic pool for them to sit in and keep all of the water or rice or other messy activities contained. I may try to find one on clearance at the end of summer. I would love to hear how others have handled teaching with toddlers present. Please share your wisdom! I'm off to make activity bags!

Monday, June 23, 2008

What's up

This weekend was a blur. Friday I suffered through a long, slow death garage sale. I think we had about six people come by all day. But, you see, God had different plans for all of our stuff. Under normal circumstances, we would just donate all of our unused items to Goodwill. This time, however, we had a ton of furniture that we brought up from my mother-in-law's apartment when she passed away. There was too much to take to Goodwill in one truckload, so we figured we'd try the garage sale route. That was obviously not happenin'. But just before it was time to shut it down, my best friend called. She had a friend of a friend whose house had just burned to the ground and wanted to know if I had anything that I could donate. Hallelujah! As usual, God was working to orchestrate everything to turn out perfectly for everyone involved.

Saturday was spent repairing the damage inside the house that occured while I was outside all day Friday. It pretty much looked like a tornado hit it. We had a bunch of other little projects that needed to be done around the house as well, so Saturday was a busy work day.

Ah, then the Lord's Day. What a relief to just relax and focus on worship. We just ordered some new books from Reformation Heritage that were delivered on Saturday, so Sunday afternoon was spent reading and napping before returning to church for evening worship. It doesn't get much better than that!

Now the weekend is over and it's time to get "back to business". I'm still waiting to hear from "the publisher" about an offer to do their lapbooks, but in the meantime I've started writing the next "habits training" lapbook. This one is going to be on obedience. Hopefully it will go together quickly so I can get it done before I've got to continue with the history books. Whew, the fun never ends!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ta-Da!

The Attitude of Gratitude is complete and ready for download! I think I got all of the errors corrected (thank you to all of my proof readers!), but I'm still human and may have missed something. Please let me know if you find anything that needs to be corrected.

You can find the lapbook here. I hope that it will be a blessing and I would love to hear how you have used it in your family.

Happy lapbooking!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's Finished!

My first "real" lapbook is finally finished and has been sent out for proofreading. I'm very excited and relieved that it is finally finished. This is the first lapbook that I have put together to share with others. It is called The Attitude of Gratitude and is the first in a series that I have planned to create to go along with our efforts in habits training. (If you are unfamiliar with the Charlotte Mason method and her teaching on habits training, there are some excellent articles by Catherine Levison on her website. Also, you can check out Sonya Shaffer's book, Laying Down the Rails. She has a sample to download here.) I have created other lapbooks for my children, but they have just been simple mini-books pieced together as we've studied a subject. This lapbook is an entire project pack with lesson plans and study suggestions and is more cohesive than anything that I have previously done. I can't wait for everyone to see it! I plan to have it available for download sometime next week.

Also, if you feel so moved, please be in prayer for Andrew and me as we are expecting an offer from "the publisher" to do the American History lapbook. This is all new to us and we really have no idea what to expect. I don't know if they will have a deadline in mind or how much control they will have over content, etc. We're just praying for wisdom and discernment, that we will clearly hear God's voice in the matter and that Andrew and I will be of one accord in our decision.

It has certainly been an exciting couple of months and I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Weekend Warriors

I just have to brag a bit about all that Andrew and I accomplished on Saturday. We got up early and got outside to finish some projects around the house. Here's our list of accomplishments:

Finished installing edgers in front flower bed
Weeded under trees in front yard
Edged front lawn
Mowed lawn
Swept walkway
Stained back deck

I have to admit that I found myself mentally cursing the Georgia heat on more than one occasion. It was well over 80 degrees at 9:00 in the morning. However, I then reminded myself that it could be worse. I could be in Oregon where I would be inside huddled under a blanket trying to stay warm and dry. (Sorry guys). I'll take sweat running down my back any day!

It was hard, sweaty work but it was worth it all to be able to sit out on our porch, sipping our drinks and enjoying the fruit of our labor!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Humbled Again

Today was yet another humbling day of parenting. I think my children have taught me far more than I have taught them. Andrew was working at home this morning and we had a bit of a "disagreement". Neither one of us handled it in a very godly way and we ended up having to beg each other's forgiveness. During the course of the discussion I got very frustrated and started to yell and cry. (Gasp! Things are not always sweetness and light?! Most of the time, but not always.) The boys came in shortly afterward and gave me hugs and tried to make me feel better. I was so blessed and yet so convicted by that simple gesture. I thought of all the times that they have acted just as I was acting; frustrated, angry, crying, yelling, pouting, out of control. Do I come alongside and hug and comfort them? I wish I could say that was my normal response. More often than not it just sparks anger and frustration in my own heart and I sternly tell them to remove themselves from the room until they change their attitudes. Granted, they have just as much responsibility as I do to guard their hearts and to weed out any sinful attitudes and actions. I'm not suggesting that I should just pat them on their heads and send them on their way. But I should be much more sympathetic to their struggles and point them to the One that will settle their hearts and set them on the path to righteousness. So as I end my day, my prayer is that, by the grace of God, He will grow me into His likeness and help me share His grace and mercy with my children.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My First Librivox Recording

The boys and I have been dowloading and enjoying books from Librivox.org for a while now. It is a wonderful project and I highly recommend that you check it out. Their goal is to record every book that is in the public domain and offer them as free mp3 downloads. Their catalog is extensive and we have found many books to keep us entertained. I have wanted to help them record and today I uploaded my first reading. I have signed up to read two chapters in The Fairy Ring by Kate Douglas Wiggin. I just finished Chapter One-East O'the Sun and West O'the Moon last night and uploaded it this morning. If you want to listen, click here. As soon as the MC gets it, he'll put a "Listen" link in the Magic Window (halfway down the screen).

Recording is so much fun! If you like to read, you should consider volunteering to read a chapter or twenty. If you aren't comfortable having your voice broadcast all over the world, you can volunteer to be a proof listener. Each chapter has to be proof-listened before it can be posted as complete.

Go check out Librivox.org today!

Monday, June 2, 2008

School...To Go

I've put a couple of things together in the last few weeks that I am really excited about. The first is our "Homeschool to Go" bag. We occasionally have days where we are forced to be out and about for one reason or another. Those days have always tended to derail our learning. So I decided to get organized and prepare in advance for those days. Thus, the "Homeschool to Go" bag was born. I took a canvas bag that I had on hand and filled it with learning activities that could be done in the car, doctor's office, whatever. Here's what my bag contains:

  • Write on/wipe off math cards (1 addition, 1 multiplication, purchased at WalMart)
  • Kleen-slate Kwik-check paddle
  • Ziplock bag with baby wipes
  • Homemade game in a tin (explanation to follow in future post)
  • Game cards in a 3x5 card binder
  • CD's downloaded from Librivox.org (Some of our favorites: Wildlife in Woods & Fields, Burgess Bird Book, Just David, Our Island Story, Awakening of Europe, This Country of Ours)
  • Workbooks (Explode the Code, math, etc.)
  • Rush Hour Jr.

We've already had opportunities to use our new bag and it has been a hit with me and the boys. Not to mention the positive response we have received from the places we have visited, whose employees have commented on how nice it is to see children who will sit quietly and work or play a game together.

I carried the same concept over to our nature study days. We have been terribly inconsistent lately and I realized that it is simply due to lack of organization on my part. So I found an old backpack and filled it with everything we would need for an impromptu nature study. I was also inspired by Karen Andreola's chapter on picnics in A Charlotte Mason Companion, so I prepared a picnic basket that would be ready to go when we are. All it needs is some food and drink! Here's our list of items in our backpack:

  • Our field journals (see here for downloads and instructions to make your own)
  • Pocket field guides
  • Binoculars
  • Pencils (colored & regular) and sharpener
  • Plastic tweezers (for picking up bugs and other creepies)
  • Collection jar
  • Bug spray
  • Sunblock
  • Band-aids & antiseptic wipes
  • Baby wipes for cleaning dirty hands

Our picnic basket contains:

  • Paper plates
  • Fabric napkins
  • Plastic utensils
  • Plastic tumblers
  • Blanket (or table cloth)

I usually put the plastic utensils in a napkin, roll it up and tie with a ribbon. After the picnic, I bring them home, wash them and retie them for the next outing. We tested out our new "system" last Friday with smashing success! I just put together a few turkey sandwiches, a quick Italian pasta salad and cut up pieces of banana snack cake that I had made the day before. Water and tea was poured into mason jars and we were ready to roll.

I feel such a sense of satisfaction and peace knowing that two of our biggest school challenges have been dealt with. I hope that these ideas can be a blessing to someone and afford that same sense of peace. I would love to hear how others have implemented this type of system and what you might put in your bag!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Our Wild and Crazy Month

As promised, I'm going to try and catch everyone up as to what has been going on in our family over the last several weeks. I'm not really sure where to begin. I suppose the first thing that set things in a tizzy was my meeting with a particular publisher at the GHEA conference. They are interested in having me create lapnotes to go along with some of their curriculum that they publish. It was something that I was putting together for my own children, so I decided to show it to them and they liked it! None of the details have been finalized, but it lit a fire under me so I've been working on mini-books practically non-stop.

We have also gone through a job change for Andrew in the last month. What an amazing blessing from God that has been! His previous employer has been trying to get him to come back to work at United. Andrew was really very happy where he was, but he had enjoyed working at United as well. He kept putting the guy off but he was persistent and finally Andrew agreed to meet with him and hear his proposal. We really didn't think it was the right career choice, but we were joking around and said "What if he comes back with such-and-such ridiculous amount of money, bonus on my accounts, a truck and gas paid for, and medical for our whole family?" We figured we would have to give it some serious thought if this unlikely offer came to the table. Well, the offer was exactly what we had been joking about. Plus, the position was not strictly sales as it had been when he worked there previously. Ron now wanted him to manage the sales staff and the whole construction side of the business. Management is what Andrew is really good at and loves to do. Still, he was hesistant to leave his Project Mangager position. When faced with Andrew's hesitation, Ron upped the weekly salary. After much prayer and consideration, Andrew decided to take the new job and he just started this last Tuesday. He's already got orders rolling in and has signed one new account. We have been so humbled by God's hand in our life this past month!


We have also been looking into putting our house on the market and moving. Although we've decided that now is not the time, we're still working on preparing our house to be ready for sale when the time comes, which has taken up quite a bit of our time as well.


I think that about brings us up to date. I'm currently working on a Gratitude lapbook to emphasise our habits training, so stay tuned...

(P.S. Any suggestions would be warmly welcomed!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Our New Pet

Wow, has it been a month since I last posted? Things have been a bit busy around here. I'll share why in a later post. Right now I'd like to introduce you to our newest member of the family...Charlie the baby Painted Turtle. At least, I think he's a painted turtle (and I really have no idea if "he" is actually a "he"). Andrew saw him walking across the road just before we pulled into our driveway, so of course we had to go check him out. He almost got run over twice before we could get to him.

The boys were completely enamoured with him from the moment we picked him up. I'll admit, he is awfully cute. We've just got him in a plastic bucket right now but we're going to get him a real tank with a heater and a filter. I'm tired of cleaning out his habitat every day!

If anyone knows for sure what kind of turtle he is, or how to tell if it is male or female, please let us know!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Habit of Gratefulness

We have been working on "habits training" for over a year now. Those of you that are familiar with Charlotte Mason's methods of education will, I'm sure, be well-acquainted with the concept. For those of you that are new to the CM method, habits training involves deliberately cultivating qualities that make us a better reflection of our Lord. Not to mention that they make life more pleasant for ourselves and everyone around us. We participate as a family in building these habits. We strive to have an atmosphere of "come along side and work together with me" rather than, "do as I say and not as I do". It can be very humbling and motivating when your children make greater strides in building proper habits than you do.

The habit we are currently working on is an attitude of gratefulness. Frankly, I decided to work on this one because I was tired of hearing my children grumbling and complaining about this or that. I figured they really needed this training! As is so often the case, God made it abundantly clear that I needed this training at least as much, if not more so, than they do. Instead of dragging my feet when it comes time to make a meal, I should be praising God that I have food to cook. I should be giving thanks that I have such a wonderful home to clean and am blessed with three amazing young boys.

I often wish that we were farther along in our mastery of these habits. I have in my head this wonderful picture of where I'd like us to be, but unfortunately, we fall quite short most of the time. But I am truly grateful for the progress we've made, by God's grace. And I know that He who has begun a good work in me will carry it on to completion.

"Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." 1Thessalonians 5:16-18

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Video

I was experimenting this morning with the video feature on my digital camera. Let's see if I can post it here.


video

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Do I Have To?

Do you ever hear this from your children? Come on, I can't be the only one that occasionally gets this reaction when the kids are called for school. It seems like I've heard it more and more as the weather has been warmer and sunnier. I understand their reluctance. I've had a bit of Spring Fever lately myself. But there is still work to be done before we take our summer break and so we need to keep plugging away. I sat down with the boys the other day and tried to get them to think about why we do school. I had them imagine what kind of people they would be if they never learned anything. Would they be the type of person that they would want to have as a friend? Would they be able to support a wife and children someday? And then I explained that "doing school" teaches us more than just necessary subjects. It teaches us about the very nature of our God. For example, our God is a God of order. This is reflected in math that we do each day. There are hard and fast, unchanging rules that govern the use of math. It is unchanging, the same yesterday, today and forever, just like our Father.

We study Language Arts so that we can read the love letter that our Lord has given us. How can we know God well if we cannot read His Word? Language Arts also helps us to fulfill the Great Commission. We become much better communicators of God's Word and of His grace when we learn how to write and to speak in front of others.

Geography helps us to understand our place in God's creation and brings an appreciation of the diversity in that creation. The Bible tells us that God has chosen people from every nation, tribe and tongue to be His own. Our brothers and sisters will come from every walk of life, every culture in the world. What a joy to learn about their countries and their culture.

Studying the fine arts gives us an appreciation for the creativity and beauty of our God. We know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him and that sometimes He even gives amazing talent to those that don't believe in Him, for the praise of His glory.

Science reflects both His perfect order and His boundless complexity and creativity. Anyone who has spent any time out of doors really looking at His creation cannot help but be amazed at all that He has given us.

When we look at education in this light, we realize that learning is an act of worship. It is sitting at the Master's feet and drinking in all that He is and all that He has given us. We then do our best, by His grace, to take what we've learned and reflect it to the world around us so that they too might have the boundless pleasure of knowing Him as we do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Weekly Report



It's been a pretty laid-back week around here. The public school kids were on Spring Break this week and the weather was gorgeous, so we took a couple days off and the boys were able to spend their days outside with the neighbor kids.

Here's what we did accomplish:

Bible: Greenleaf Guide lesson 15, Tell Me the Truth Chapter 1, God's Devotional Book for Boys, daily

Math: Math-U-See lesson 17 (not finished yet)

Science: Nature Study at park 2x, Burgess Bird Book-3 chapters, Wildlife in Woods and Fields-6 chapters

History: Read 3 articles in Learning Through History-Medieval Japan. Alek wrote and illustrated haiku.

Grammar: English for the Thoughtful Child Lessons 26-27, Explode the Code pages 28-29

Spelling: Spell to Write and Read-Started A list, started numbers page, made spelling word flashcards, continued to review 31 phonograms learned thus far.

Other Read Aloud: The King Without a Shadow by R.C. Sproul, Who Lives Here by Dot & Sy Barlowe

Outings: Park day with the Chi Alpha homeschool group

I think that's about it. Doing this weekly report has really made me realize how far I have to go in my organizational skills. While the kids were out playing this week, I used the time to start organizing for next year. I'm pretty confident that next year will be much smoother and easier.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nature Pictures

Nature Walk

We had another wonderful hour out of doors today. The weather is so beautiful we couldn't resist taking a walk up to our new park. On the way, we stopped to talk to Preacher and visit with the animals. We noticed the turkey hen was missing and that the tom had no feathers on his chest. It turns out that the hen was laying so many eggs that Preacher had to separate the two of them. Evidently the tom is so distraught that he plucked his chest feathers out. The poor, unhappy couple!

At the park, we threw some rocks in the creek (which is mandatory when you have three boys) and picked up some "nature finds" to take home and study. Alek picked up a rock with some interesting red markings on one side and a bud of some kind (covered with pollen, of course). I found some Star of Bethlehem in the grass. Noah picked a Dandelion and a Dogwood blossom and gave them to me. Alek and I both did some sketching and journalling when we got home. I love our new field journals. The size is perfect and for the back I used the cardboard from the back of a sketch pad, so it is very strong and easy to write on.

I am so thankful for all of the wonderful things that God has created for us to enjoy!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Weekly Report


I found this wonderful idea on my new favorite blog, Trivium Academy. She does a weekly report of what they have accomplished each week. Sort of like a virtual open house. Since we have so many family members spread out over the U.S., I thought it might be nice to do this each week so you all can keep up with what's going on here.

We're wrapping up the school year so things have been a bit lighter than normal. Here's what we've been working on:

Bible: We sing a song or hymn each morning. This week it's been "This is the Day". Daddy started singing it the other day and the boys love it. We will usually recite the Nicene Creed two or three times a week, pray, read the Scripture that goes with our Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History, then the boys will narrate. If they miss anything, I'll ask the questions from the Guide and we'll discuss. Then we usually look at the corresponding page in Victor Journey Through the Bible. Then we pray again and move on to...

Spelling: We are using Spell to Write and Read. We usually do about 5 minutes of phonogram review each day. The rest of the week we will learn new words (usually 10 at a time), do spelling enrichments, create sentences, quiz, etc. This week we started our Multi-letter Phonogram page and began spelling list A. Noah is doing much better with his reading and is starting to read some of the Bob books on his own.

History: We've finished up Famous Men of the Middle Ages and I have been using The Mystery of History Volume II to fill in the gaps. I like Famous Men but it only covers Europe during the Middle Ages. MOH covers other areas of the world. We are currently studying Japan and the samurai. This week we did the MOH lesson and have been reading through Learning Through History Magazine: Medieval Japan. Alek did a very nice notebook page with a written narration and a picture from the magazine which he colored. We also discussed the difference between Bushido and Christianity.

Math: Alek usually works on his math during quiet time. He's currently working through lesson 16 in Math-U-See Gamma.

Grammar: We are working through English for the Thoughtful Child. This week we did lessons 23-26

Read-Aloud: We finished up Little Pilgrim's Progress and should be starting King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table next week.

Alek's Reading: Alek finished up book 7 in the Redwall series: The Bellmaker. He also read War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, The Adventures of Buster Bear by Thornton W. Burgess, Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Poetry: Nathan brought me Poems and Prayer for the Very Young and he and Noah listened to me read several poems. I would call out something to find and Nathan would point to it in the picture. Then Noah brought me A Child's Garden of Verses and we read a few from there.

That about sums it up. I love homeschooling!

Whoo Hoo!

Next year's curriculum plans are really coming together. I feel very organized and I'm so excited about what we're going to be doing. This weekend I've been working on putting together poetry notebooks (Thanks Jessica at Trivium Academy!) and field journals for each of the boys. I even made a field journal for myself! We have 3-ring binders that we use for our nature notebooks but they are difficult to take on a nature walk. We needed something a bit smaller. So I figured I'd make some. I took good quality drawing paper (you could use watercolor paper if you prefer) and cut it to 8.5" by 5.5". Then I created a file with about 60 half-sheets of lined paper and then added a different nature picture to each page with clipart from Clipart ETC. I printed them and cut them to the proper size and then alternated drawing paper with the lined sheets. The back cover will be heavyweight display board (from Office Max) and the front will be cardstock covered with clear contact paper. I will then punch and bind everything with my new Proclick binding system. (I love that thing!) If you are interested in doing something similar, the link to the field journal pages is on the top right side bar. I'll try to post some pictures in the next few days. Happy nature journaling!

Check out my Slide Show!



I've been meaning to post these pictures for a while but because they are so random they don't really fit with one particular post. I saw this slideshow on someone else's blog and figured I'd try it here. What do you think?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spring Fever

I'm sure I'm not the only one that gets spring fever this time of year. By this time each year I am getting tired of school and looking forward to getting new curriculum and taking a break. The weather has been so amazing and I just want to be outside having fun. I think that next week we will plan some extra nature study and perhaps even pack up our books and try doing school at the new park up the street. There are some beautiful pavillions built out over the water. Maybe we'll even get a chance to see a Belted Kingfisher or a Great Blue Heron up close and personal. Stay tuned, and perhaps I'll have some new pictures to share.

Does anyone have any stories they would like to share about how they deal with spring fever? Please leave me a comment and share your suggestions. I need all the encouragement I can get!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Some Nature Pictures

I have been meaning to post some pictures from various nature adventures, so here they are. The one below was taken at Preacher's mini-farm. The boys love to climb the tree next to the turkey pen. We need to get back up there and see if the baby turkeys have hatched yet.

This was the view from the cabin we rented in the Smokies when my parents were here last. It was so gorgeous!
And here's the baby Pygmy goat that was born last year. He's got his head stuck up through the feeding bin. I guess he thought we might have brought him lunch!


The picture below is of a cricket that we caught in our yard. We learned that they like to eat fruit so we gave him a peeled grape for a snack. Although, seeing as how the grape is about twice the size of the cricket, it would probably be more than a snack!

Well, there's a little taste of some of the nature experiences we've enjoyed during our homeschool days. Hopefully we'll have more to post soon!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Days Outdoors

We have had some wonderfully warm weather lately and have taken the opportunity to get outside and look for signs of spring. The signs are certainly there. We've noticed the daffodils and forsythia are beginning to bloom. Pastor's goats have just had babies and the hens and turkeys are laying eggs again. We've noticed more birds around lately and have heard some twitters and warbles that have been missing through the winter months. And, unfortunately, my nose is beginning to run. (Thank goodness for non-prescription Zyrtec!)

Last week we were on the way home from a nature walk and we met some neighbors that we hadn't talked to before. They live on one of the farm properties just up the street. They are a homeschooling family just like us, only they have four girls instead of three boys. We stayed and talked with them for a while and made plans to have a nature day together soon. Their property is over 30 acres which includes a pond and several horses that they board. No end to nature exploration!

The best part is, the park across from the church is just about ready to open. We'll have miles of hiking trails, two ponds, picnic shelters and the amphitheater just up the street from our house. We are truly blessed!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Little Pilgrim's Progress

The boys and I have been having a wonderful time reading Little Pilgrim's Progress. It is a retelling of John Bunyan's classic allegory about the Christian journey through life. It has been simplified for younger readers but contains wonderful literary language that completely captivates my children's attention. They ask me at least three or four times a day if we can read a few chapters of "Little Christian". I highly recommend this book!

If you look at the homeschooling links to the right, you will see a link to some coloring pages to go along with the reading of Pilgrim's Progress. They are beautifully done and are a great supplement. They are especially helpful for keeping little hands busy during the reading.

It always brings me joy to hear my boys begging to snuggle up on the couch to read together. I wonder what we will read next....?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sowing Seeds of Character

I ran across a wonderful resource today that is so good I just had to share. Debra Fogelbach at Notebooking Pages.com has created a wonderful system for implementing the ideas found in Laying Down the Rails by Sonya Schaffer. (You don't have to own the book to use the system.) It is sort of an accountability system designed to help us instill godly character in our children. Best of all, it's entirely free! She has printable habit cards, calendars, and goal sheets. Check out her site and read her description of how it works. It seems a little overwhelming when you first read it, but it's really not. While you're there, check out the other notebook pages she has available for purchase. I highly recommend the nature notebooking pages. They are fantastic!


Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of this system or how it's working in your home.

Mom's Meeting

Last night I hosted our homeschool support group's monthly Mom's Meeting. What a wonderful time! Sometimes I get so focused on the minutae of our daily life and I focus too much on my ideals and all the ways we fall short. Getting together with other moms is a reassuring reminder that none of us completely live up to our ideals. There is always room for improvement and that is actually a reassuring thought. How boring life would be if we had "arrived" and there was no more left to learn or no growth to be had. I was also blessed to hear from many of the moms who are homeschooling middle- and high-schoolers. The stories they shared of how their children are maturing spiritually really encouraged me and reminded me that we are a work in progress and my children are on a path that, God willing, will lead them to a life that is deeply fulfilling and committed to the Lord. It is also good to know that I am part of a group of godly women who are so willing to come alongside and mentor those of us who are in the stages of life that they have already survived. They've "been there and done that" and they are willing to share their experience. I praise God for leading us to this group and I'm looking forward to getting even more involved.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm Back!

Wow, I can't believe it has been so long since I've posted. I seem to have lost the last several months. Actually, they weren't really lost so much as spent in a haze. To be honest, I spent several months trying to avoid admitting that I was depressed. I have dealt with it before so, deep down, I knew what was going on; but I had been fine for almost six years and I just didn't want to admit that I needed medication again. So after making my family crazy for several weeks, I finally went to the doctor and have been taking anti-depressants for the last couple months. Whew, now we can get back to normal!

Things are going quite well. We're just finishing up our study of the Middle Ages. Putting the lapbook together is our final project and we should have pictures of it up here soon. I have really enjoyed studying this time period. As usual, I've learned so much more than I ever did in school. The boys have enjoyed it too, of course. What boy could resist studying knights and castles, battles and crusades? We'll be moving into the Renaissance and Reformation which is another exciting time in history. I'm looking forward to studying all of the beautiful works of art that go along with this period.

I'll be posting about some of our recent nature studies very soon, so check back with us!