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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where to Start When You Are Thinking of and Praying About Homeschooling Your Kids


*Edited: I don't know when I'll be able to expand on this post, so I have added my pinterest boards, "Homeschool {For Beginners}" and "Homeschool {Philosophies}" to the bottom of this that you can follow and/or explore to give you more resources in the meantime. I hope you find these helpful!*

Thinking and praying about homeschooling? Excited/anxious, but also feeling completely overwhelmed without a clue of where to start? Deciding to homeschool can be a daunting and overwhelming decision, especially if you don't have much prior experience or outside support.

Here are some things you can do to get started:

1. Get plugged in to the overall homeschool community.
    • Sign up and join The Homeschool Lounge. The Homeschool Lounge is a free, online community where you can chat and interact with other homeschool families. I have only just discovered The Homeschool Lounge, so I don't have a lot of firsthand experience yet, but it has TONS of forums and lots of community help and support. Forum topics that I have seen just today include "Don't know where to begin...;" "How long does your child(ren) schoolwork take them each day?" and "A little overwhelmed." Starting or researching homeschooling can be overwhelming, and sites like The Homeschool Lounge exist to show you that you are not alone, and you don't have to figure everything out on your own. Learn from and  lean on homeschooling veterans who have been there.

2. Find out about local homeschool groups and organizations in your area.
    • Search for homeschool groups in your state at Home-school.com.
    • For more groups, you can also search by state at a similarly named site, homeschool.com.
    • If you are on facebook, search "homeschool Missouri" (or whatever state/area you are in) to see if there are any homeschool groups on facebook. The 2 most active groups I am involved in are facebook groups. The facebook groups offer field trips and other opportunities, including fun days like end-of-the-year parties, park days, and other activities.

3. Find out about homeschool laws in your state.
    • Find out about the laws in your state at HSLDA's website here.
    • Once you hook up with one of the homeschooling groups from steps 1 and 2, you should have a nice group of veteran homeschoolers from whom to ask questions and glean wisdom from regarding further insight into state laws and compliance.
    • Often, there are conventions and classes that you can attend to help you learn more about the homeschooling laws in your state. Ask your homeschooling group about upcoming conventions and classes or check your local library to see if they have any such programs available.

4. Find out what resources are available for free at your local library.
    • If you don't already have a library card, get one. Having one of these babies can open you up to a vast range of free resources beyond just going in and borrowing books. The network of library branches in my state, for example, offer homeschool groups, classes, book clubs, and "family story times" in which all ages are welcome.
    • Once you find out about what is available in the library, don't forget to check out all the online benefits of library membership. Mine offers tons of online resources, including research databases, online learning courses, educational and teaching resources, and even online homework and tutoring help. All for free!

5. Read some good beginner books on homeschooling.

6. Read a homeschooling magazine or two. 
    • Practical Homeschooling and Home Education Magazine are both good ones. I just borrowed 3 issues (total) from my library just today. Current issues of magazines are not available for checkout. However, it is (another!) little known fact that if you lift up the rack of current magazines, there are back issues resting underneath. These back issues, at least at my library, are available for checkout. If you prefer to have the latest issues mailed to your door, you can always subscribe, but I personally prefer to just borrow them from the library for free. These magazines may even have free online versions available if you prefer to do your reading electronically.

7. Decide on some homeschool "values" or "goals."
    • Create a list of reasons describing why you want to homeschool and what benefits you hope to gain from it. Unless you find yourself in a homeschooling emergency (i.e., you pulled your kids out of public school this morning and need a curriculum yesterday), this should be done before you start researching curriculum. Most curriculum out there is going to have people who love it and people who don't, and the company itself will try to convince you it's the best choice. Knowing what benefits you value most and narrowing down your homeschooling goals will help you decide if a particular curriculum lines up with those goals and values important to you. It will also help you down the line, when evaluating whether or not a particular curriculum is helping you achieve your homeschooling goals.
    • I will be posting a more detailed "how to" on this at some point, and will be sure to link to it here once it's been posted.

8. Research what kind of teaching philosophy you want to use.
    • Step 7 will help you with this, but because there are so many different philosophies, I will be doing a separate post on researching these and will link to it here once it's done.

9. Attend a homeschool convention or seminar.
  • Ask members of your homeschool community (from steps 1 and 2 above) when or how to find out about upcoming conventions in your area. 
  • Unless you are going to ignore the curriculum fair that is part of most homeschool conventions and only attend the informational class sessions, I don't recommend going to a convention until you have done steps 7 and 8. (Going to 40+ booths with different curriculum, most of which you've never heard of, can be absolutely overwhelming if you haven't established any goals or frame of reference from which to evaluate. More feelings of being overwhelmed is not what we're going for here!)

10. Once you are confident in your decision to homeschool and have a feel for your teaching philosophy, start researching what curriculum you would like to use. 
    • When researching various curriculum, ask yourself:
      • Does this line up with my values (i.e. step 7)?
      • Does this utilize the teaching philosophy that I most agree with (step 8)?
    • I will also be doing a separate post on curriculum choice, and again will link to it here once it's ready.

11. Find out the best places to get curriculum.
    • Again, I will be doing a separate post on this and linking to it.

While not all of these steps are necessary for every person, I hope that this gives you a starting point, or a "how-to" of sorts. Feel free to comment with any questions you might have, or you can even e-mail me using the "Contact me" button on the right panel of this blog. I will do my best to answer whatever questions you might have, and, who knows, I may even turn into a post!




{Full Disclosure: This post DOES contain Amazon affiliate links.}

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Prayer for Revival

God, You are good and all Your promises are true! I will praise You all of my days. You wrap me with Your goodness and Your grace. Your faithfulness overwhelms me! Your Presence is better than life. Yes, better than riches and gold is Your Spirit to me! In Your Presence is freedom and love. You fill my life with peace and joy. You are mighty to save, and nothing is too difficult for You! Power and strength go before You. You hold the universe in the palm of one hand, and walk hand-in-hand with me with the other. You order my days. You call me Yours. You have good plans for me. You are for me. You delight in me. You rejoice over me with singing. You appoint leaders and officials; You cause nations to rise and fall. You placed the sun and moon in the sky to give us light. You breathed the stars into their perfect places. Who is God but You? You create and You destroy, both give life and cause it to cease. I will trust in Your goodness, and in the strength of Your arm will I place my confidence. Your faithfulness follows me all of my days. You will never fail me or forsake me. You uphold me with the right hand of Your righteousness. Your words to me are life! Your Spirit uplifts me. Consume me, God! Consume me with Your consuming fire. Fill me up so that there is more of You, and less of me. May my heart beat as one with Yours! Give me a heart to see, that I may see with Your eyes and with Your heart. I pray that I may have a heart for Your people as You do. I pray for revival, God! Send Your Shekinah Glory! Take up residence within us as a people. We long to feel Your Presence continually. We long to see Your miracles again. We long for people who have never experienced You to suddenly feel Your Presence in a real, tangible way. For You to knock their socks off! That we would all fall on our faces before You, hungry for a fresh outpouring of Your Spirit. In the streets, in our homes, in the schools. In Your Spirit is power! We long to see Your power again, God. Come transform us, God. Transform our hearts before You. Heal us, save us, sanctify us, redeem us, fill us, consume us. We need You, God! We fall on our faces in admission of our absolute need of You. Without You we are as nothing! What else can satisfy? Who else can fill our emptiness? Only You. Who else can heal every part of us? Who else can give hope when it seems there is none? Who else can give peace and joy when circumstances should warrant otherwise? You and You alone can do all these things. We wait for Your touch, God, and we ask You to come! Come in our churches, our families, our cities, our state, our nation. Pour out Your Shekinah Presence upon us! We long to be filled, for our families, churches, cities, nations to be transformed in You. YOU are God of this city, church, family, nation, and we want what YOU have for us. There is more to this life than what so many have been living. You have MORE for us than what is happening around us today. Come transform us, God. We ask You to come and work among us. We want more, God! More of You in our lives. We can't get enough of Your Presence, Your Power, Your Glory. We ask for more, God!

This post is linked with these great linky parties:

Missional Women  Faith Filled Friday

  Titus 2sdays Link-Up Party

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fear Versus Faith: How Will You Choose to React to the Outcome of This Year's Election?



In the days following President Obama's re-election (and over the next 4 years), we as Christians have a choice to make in our attitudes and how we respond. Will we respond in anger? In despair? Do we allow ourselves to be overcome with worry? Do we give up?


Although there are many emotions we could choose to (re)act with, when it comes down to it, there are really only two: fear or faith. Which one will you choose?

There are two things I would like to share with you. The first is a "31 Day Prayer Challenge" (although a more appropriate title might be a "4 Year Prayer Challenge", or even an "Every Day, Every Year Prayer Challenge", because the biblical truths behind it will be truths for President Obama's entire re-election term and for any President elected after him). This challenge came to me via the facebook update of a friend of mine, Mindy Gleghorn (who also happens to be a fellow homeschooling mom). The following was her status update:


Okay, here is what has come to me in my uninterrupted morning shower, (those are rare and appreciated around here:)....this goes out to everyone who's president is still Obama....like it or not! First, take any negative emotions your have about it all, and give it to God; be done with it. Clear your heart and mind of resentment, disappointment, etc... Ask God to remind you of how He loves the worst of the worst (I'm not saying Obama is the worst guy either!) as much as the next guy, and that He commands you to do the same!  
Second, begin praying for our President, and all leaders in our government. Pray sincerely, (like you would if you liked them:)...we as Christians are commanded to love, and in order to love someone, we must pray for them! We are told to pray for our leaders, and I believe that the only way we are going to get the President that this country needs/deserves, is to pray for the one in office...not vote one in!! Friends, we have a man in office, and he is not an evil man, he is just a man and he needs our prayers! He needs all the help he can get!! 
The Bible says "where 2 or 3 agree....it shall be" (more or less).... Well I don't have an official count but there are a lot more than 2-3 of us!! What we see with Obama, or any candidate for that matter, is NOT what God sees. God can change anything/anyone, but if we are spending all of our time being bitter, mad, angry, and putting him down then how is that going to help? If you truly believe in the power of prayer then you won't question that this will work. 
I am going to use my "31 days of Praying for your husband" challenge as a template (which by the way is proven effective, with personal experience:), and I am going to pray for Obama, and other leaders. I'm going to pray for his heart, and that he begins to feel this crazy hunger for the Word, and for The Lord! I am going to pray that he begins to seek after Godly wisdom with gazelle intensity...so much that he does not even understand what is happening! I am going to pray that he will truly seek after God's Word, wisdom, and guidance on all matters of his own life and the lives of the people in this country! Friends, God did not say pray for someone until we are tired of it, but to pray until IT IS DONE! Put aside all the negative, and pray for this man!I recently read, "It is easy to act like a Christian, but not to RE-ACT LIKE ONE!" How will you react to this election? I choose love, which is what I believe God commands of me. So here goes.... 
DAY 1: Father, I pray that Barack Obama and all the men/women in government will grow spiritually and consider their accountability before YOU! I pray that they will guard their heart by developing spiritual discipline, by reading Your Word, praying, and meditating. I pray their hearts will be filled with a crazy fire to seek Your Truth and make decisions, based on what You command! Thank you, Father!.....so, to all of you Americans (Christians and those of you who don't believe in prayer or God, ect...) anyone who want great things for yourselves, your families, and your country....DARE YA TO PRAY!

A friend of Mindy's made this comment to Mindy's status: 

So glad you brought this to mind. As I begin to learn the Word, the one that comes to mind is Paul...he is my fav so far since there aren't too many yet to compare to...Paul had such faith. But he sure didn't have it in the beginning! There is HOPE!

 Mindy also said the following in response to friends' comments:


And [God] does change people!  We are ALL proof of that! If we think that praying truly and sincerely for Obama or anyone is a waste of time, then we don't have the faith we claim to have! God's power does not stop at a point of being too difficult!

Regarding why she wrote the status update:


I was up early as usual with it all on my mind, and I was praying for what HE really wanted us to do with it all. When HE gave me this, it also came with instructions to share [it with other people]...I knew from experience to just do what HE was telling me because I knew if I thought about it too much I would talk myself out of it, so I grabbed my IPad, sat at my table, towel still on my head, and began typing. HE knew what He was doing; I'm just really grateful that HE used me to share it.

When asked to explain more about the "31 Day Prayer Challenge:"


[The 31 Day Prayer Challenge] is a prayer challenge that I did with my husband...after completing month one, and then starting a second one with different prayers and scriptures he began (after 10+ years) attending church with us and seeking after God's heart! God is moving in his life and doing amazing things! That's how I know it works! There were so many days that praying was the last thing I wanted to do or thought I could do for him. That's how I felt about [President] Obama this morning:) They can google "31 days of praying for your husband" and a number of ones will show up. There is a good one on iMom also. Ya know, the first one I did was the best ever, and I can't find it! Crazy thing is, I found it folded up in a homeschool curriculum book that I bought used online...I had that book in a box for 2+ years, and one day about 6 months ago I found it while flipping through the book...It changed my heart towards my husband, and helped change my husband's heart towards the Lord. What I am going to do, is take the challenge I have right now...and I am going to write up "presidential/government leader" version for each day...some will work, some won't. But there are even tons of prayer challenges already out there for leaders...I am going to really listen to God each morning as to what I need to pray for them about, and combine that with the challenge Scripture I am on.


I will be writing another blog post soon with more information about the Presidential "31 Day Prayer Challenge," but in the meantime, I encourage you to pray for our re-elected President in your own way! You can also do an internet search as Mindy suggests to get some ideas for now. 


The other thing that I would like to share with you is an article by Russell D. Moore from Christian Post entitled How Should Christians Respond to Obama's Re-Election? It is excellent. 



As I said earlier, I will be posting more on the 31 Day Challenge, but in the meantime if you feel God is calling you to join Mindy and me in praying for  our President and other elected officials, please leave me a comment and let us know. There is power and encouragement in knowing that others stand with you, especially when they are standing in prayer!


James 5:16 b --The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

1 Peter 3:12a --For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer...

John 14:14 -- If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Be an Informed Voter - Links to Make the Democratic Process Easier

{Note: edited to add 11/03/2012}

Sometimes voting can be confusing and frustrating. There is nothing like confidently walking into your polling station and marking your choice of candidates, only to turn the page and find out that you are not in the district you thought and aren't really sure which representative you should vote for now. Turn the page again, and you are confronted with a list of 8-12 judges that you've never heard of. Followed by "Proposition A" that you had no clue about, written in a language that is about as clear as mud. Perfect. Now what? You make your choices as best you can and slip it in the ballot box. As you put on your "I voted" sticker, you can't help but wonder if there is a better way.

This is why I'm writing this post. To make being an informed voter easier. Voting is important. Especially informed voting. I have put together a list of links and resources so you can be just that: informed, and not feel like you have to guess the truth based on each candidate's affiliated political party or ads you've seen on tv.

1. Find out exactly what (and who) is on the ballot and what districts you are in. 




Any state: http://vote-usa.org/ Enter your address and it will show you a sample ballot, along with links for each candidate so you can compare. It will also tell you what districts you will be voting for, which is extremely helpful. (Note: The sample ballot does not show which judges will be on the ballot, but it does show federal and state candidates and other measures you will be voting on. Also, using the sites "Compare Candidates" feature is not always helpful, because the site does not have any information on many of the candidates. The site does at least let you know the candidates and measures on the ballot so you know who to research.)

Missouri specifically: http://jcebmo.org/on-the-ballot. The sample ballot shows all districts, not just your own, but this includes judges. I printed this off and, using the district information I got from http://vote-usa.org/, I crossed off the districts that were not going to be on my ballot. When you print this off, you only need to print off the pages that include the sample ballot. For this year's election, that includes pages 1-11. Pages 12-19 contain information on voting locations only and do not include ballot information. As you do your research, you can make notes on these pages on where the candidates stand on the issues most important to you.

Other states/territories: If you live in another state and would like to look up the ballot, including judges or anything else that may not be included in vote-usa.org, do an internet search for "sample ballot alabama" or "what is on the ballot in alabama" (or whatever state you're in) and you should be able to find it. If you get too many results, you may need to narrow your search by including "Nov 6, 2012."


2. Research where each candidate stands on the issues most important to you. For me, the most important issues are protecting and upholding life in all it's forms, including unborn life. There are several ways that you can look up where candidates stand on life and other issues important to the family.


National Right to Life You can see all the National Right to Life endorsed candidates for each state here


Missouri Right to Life You can see all the candidates endorsed by Missouri Right to Life here. (Endorsed candidates are in caps. Read the key to find out what other symbols mean.) This is a perfect example of why you cannot assume where candidates stand based on political affiliation. For Missouri Lieutenant Governor, for example, neither the democrat nor the republican candidates are endorsed, but Cynthia Davis is (running on Constitution platform). Also, in District 31, Shelia Solon, a republican, is not endorsed by MO right to life, while her opponent, Dale Walkup (a democrat), is. 





Citizen Link Voter is a website by Focus on the Family designed to help voters know where candidates stand on life and other family issues.  This site is a fairly recent development, and for my state (Missouri), it says "No candidate information has been provided." Hopefully this site will be more helpful in the future.
http://www.citizenlinkvoter.com/




{Added 11/03/12} AFA Action {AFA = American Family Association}. Use AFA Action's voter guide to see their ratings for different candidates. Each candidate is graded based on how confident the AFA panel is that he or she will vote conservatively if elected. You can also click "Show Details" to see how different organizations within the panel individually rated each candidate. Very helpful resource.



{Added 11/03/12} Christian Coalition of America The CC surveys candidates on important issues and examines their records. The voter guide includes various issues and indicates whether each candidate supports or opposes each position. {Heads up: You have to sign up for the site before you can get your voter guide.}


3. Research the Amendments and Other Measures Also on the Ballot. Now that you know what and who is going to be on your ballot and where the candidates stand on issues important to you, research the amendments and other measures (i.e. Propositions, etc.) so you can make an informed vote. I obviously do not have links for every measure for every state, so the best way is to do an internet search on each one and do your own research. Since you are already know what the measures are from step 1, this shouldn't be difficult.

4. Make a list of your choices to take with you when you vote. You can simply print off the sample ballot and circle the candidates you choose or write them down on your own. This ensures that you do not forget all the work you've done!

With regards to judges: Unfortunately, I have not found a way to effectively research judges and where they stand on important issues. Legally, judges are supposed to be impartial, and their beliefs are not supposed to inform their judgments. They are there to interpret the laws that already exist, not conform the laws to their belief systems. Unfortunately, we all know that sadly this is not the case. Because they are said to be impartial, researching their beliefs and affiliations is difficult.

Note regarding comments: If you have more useful links or if these links helped, please leave me a comment and let me know! However, the comments are not to be used as a place to make a case for anti-life or anti-family positions. I realize that step 2 takes a very strong pro-life stance, which is something I have no intention of apologizing for. Any disrespectful or otherwise unhelpful comments will be deleted. Thanks for your cooperation. :)

{Disclaimer: This blog post does NOT contain any affiliate or paid links.}

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Easiest Meal Ever - Tortilla Crusted Tilapia with Quinoa & Brown Rice

{Edited to add 4/8/2013 - For those of you who got to this post by searching: Can I microwave High Liner Tortilla Crusted Tilapia?: The box says that microwave cooking is not recommended.}

Like seafood? Want an easy meal but still want to eat healthy? This is me in a nutshell! Cooking is not something that I do for fun. I do not sit around and watch the Food Network during my free time or spend hours sifting through cookbooks as a hobby. Some women do love to cook. They do watch the Food Network on purpose. And that's ok. That's just not me. 

This meal is not the cheapest meal to make, but it is cheaper than eating out or even fast food, which is probably what we would do if I didn't have this easy, healthy meal to fall back on. I personally make this meal about once a week!

I get everything I need for this meal at Costco, but the products may be available other places also.

First, start with a box of High Liner tilapia. My personal favorite is Tortilla Crusted Tilapia, but Roasted Lemon Pepper is very good, too. One box from Costco will last us several dinners.




Next, follow the cooking directions on the box for whatever style tilapia you chose. (For Tortilla Crusted Tilapia, it's 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes; for the Roasted Lemon Pepper Tilapia, it's 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.)

Next, when the fish is almost done, take a package of Seeds of Change certified organic Quinoa & Brown Rice with garlic. 




Use your hands to massage the package a bit to separate the rice before opening. Then, tear off the top section and put in the microwave (standing up), for 90 seconds. Yup, that's it. Rice is done. (One package feeds my family of 4.)

Serve with a salad or other vegetable. This meal is sooooo good, and extremely healthy. The rice has zero added ingredients or preservatives, which is great. 

Voila! Dinner is served.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Real Worship



I recently read a story by Robert Brunell called "The Journey" posted by The Redeemed Gardener. It is quite long, for a blog post, but I knew that I was supposed to read it, so I did. (Although I still haven't made it through the whole thing yet--I plan to finish it over the next couple of days). One quote has stuck with me since reading it yesterday: [I]t is possible to go through all the surface motions of faith in God while one's real worship, the thing which obsesses the mind day and night, is idolatry." Powerful statement. Because I know it's true.

Have I been worshiping God with real worship?? Is He the main object of my affections?? Because so often, especially lately, the answer is no.

Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
--Isaiah 55:2

I have known real worship. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. I have spent time in His Presence. He has filled my cup many times. And yet still, lately I have chosen to seek that which is not bread, and to spend my time on things that do not satisfy. I have not carved out that special time to be with Jesus, My Savior, My Redeemer, My Friend. I have neglected to stay connected to the vine.


"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." --John 15:5 (emphasis added)

Apart. From. Him. I. Can. Do. Nothing. Nothing! No wonder my life falls apart when I don't stay connected. When I don't come to Christ on a regular basis, falling on my knees in surrender before Him, there are a few things that generally happen. First, I start to think I'm somebody. Pride starts creeping in, and I think I just may have a handle on things. 

If I continue to stay disconnected, after a time I look around and realize that my cup is empty. My "handle" I think I have on life starts to unravel, and pride swiftly abandons me only to be followed by some serious insecurity and doubt. The Enemy sees an opening and begins to whisper in my ear:
"Is God sure you're the best person to be in charge of children's ministries?? Surely so and so could do a much better job..." 
"Can you really handle this whole blog thing? Look at Kat from Inspired to Action or Ruth from The Better Mom. Don't you think that they are much better at giving God the glory and much better equipped to help others than you are?"
"Do you really think that you can minister to people, that they need you to? Your friends, neighbors, and church family? They are doing fine. Look at you. You can't handle anything right now, let alone other people's problems."

After the insecurities, comes the feeling of emptiness and the beginnings of mild depression. Because I know that when my cup is empty, those statements of insecurity are partly true. Because when I am empty, I have nothing to give, and if I'm not abiding in Christ, I really can't do those things. Because I was never meant to give out of an empty cup. I was meant to give out of the overflow. (At times when I have let myself get empty enough that I start to show signs of depression, I usually ask my husband to help pray me out of it, which really helps me get back on track, after which I immediately spend time in the Presence of God. If you are experiencing some of what I'm describing, ask someone close to you to pray for you. You can also leave me a comment or send me a private message -- via the "Contact Me" button on the top right hand side of this blog -- and I would love to pray for you myself. In addition to having someone pray for you, spend time on your knees. ASK Him to fill you! He is the only thing that satisfies, and He will not leave you empty if you ASK for a full, overflowing cup.)


Another quote from the story that has impacted me: "[I]n the Wilderness of Prayer," (part of the man's journey), "prayer becomes one's way of life--the source of one's whole existence. The time has come for YOU to be lost in a life of prayer." Again, powerful. 

1 Thessalonians says to "pray without ceasing." Do I pray without ceasing? No. Not lately. How does one even do that? How do we stay connected to the vine? By abiding in Him. 

God doesn't want just part of us. He wants all of us. He wants us to live our lives through Him, and vice versa. 

I remember one time when God was trying to teach me something, and I got frustrated. I don't remember what it was that He was trying to teach me, or what I was going through exactly at the time, but I just remember that whatever it was, I was really struggling with it. In a moment of exasperation, I threw up my hands and cried, "What do You want from me??" The question, on my part, wasn't meant to be answered, really. Surely He could see, through my "question," that whatever it was He was requiring, it was too much! Right?

But He did reply. Softly, but powerfully: "Everything."

He isn't looking for my mornings, or my evenings, or a general sense or declaration of belief in Him. He wants ME. He wants me to ABIDE in Him. Every day, every night. All day, all night. That is so easy to forget in this culture! TV, internet, facebook, pinterest, ipods, cell phones. Clean water. Food in abundance. Not just food in abundance, but fast food. Electricity, vehicles, microwaves, refrigerators, the list goes on and on. We have it all. And yet, without Christ, we have nothing.

Father, forgive us for our complacency! For seeking that which does not satisfy, for searching for water that won't fill us! God, only YOU satisfy! Everything else in life will abandon us and leave us empty and dry. Fill us up, LORD! Fill us up, like only You can. Forgive us for allowing ourselves to be disconnected from you and for not intentionally seeking Your face every day. Break us down, God! Remove from us all of our "surface motions" of worship, and replace them with true worship! Forgive us for our mindless obsessions! We thank You, God, for your faithfulness. That even when we are not faithful, YOU are faithful. Forgive us for forsaking You, and lead us back to Your arms. We give You Your rightful place in our lives: the center, the top, the bottom, the right side, the left, and everywhere in between. May we live, move, and have our being in You! 



I pray for everyone reading this right now, that they would experience Your Presence in a real way, maybe in a way that they have never experienced before. I ask that You fill them up, LORD! I ask that they would know You for who You are, and not just who they've imagined or believe You to be. I ask that they would know who they are, as You've made them, and not as the world sees them or the Enemy has led them to believe. Touch them, God, that they might know Your heart, and that theirs might beat as one with Yours. Thank You, God!

I hope that this post has blessed you today. The last thing I will leave you with is a quote from a Lifehouse worship song, "Everything:"



(you can hear the full song on youtube here)

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Twin Homeschooling Kindergarten Graduation


Just because you are homeschooling doesn't mean your kids have to miss out on special celebrations and milestones. When the twins finished kindergarten in late September, we had a special kindergarten graduation to celebrate. (Wait, did I say late September?!! *GASP* Do I mean to say that I do NOT follow grade levels like the school system does?? Why, yes, that is exactly what I mean. :)

Anyway, we had a little graduation celebration, and I must say, homeschooling multiples sure does make things like this double (or triple!) the fun. :)


Attire


I made homemade graduation hats for them to wear, which were really fun. You can find a complete step-by-step tutorial over at dabbled.org.. If I had it to do over, I would have made better sure that they fit them properly before stapling. Stapling the bottoms was very awkward, but the end result was well worth it!

Besides the hat, I let them wear clothes they liked that were still "nice" and didn't want to make it too formal. It is just kindergarten, after all! (We don't wear shoes in our house, hence, the bare feet.)


Guests

We didn't have a huge crowd of people or anything, but we did invite their great grandparents to come, and they really enjoyed the whole thing. Depending on how much preparation you want to do and how much room you have, you can invite as many or as few guests as you like. My husband ended up getting the day off by accident, so it was nice that Dad got to be there, too.


                                 My entire family is clearly enthused about having their picture taken. :)


Activities


  • Before the graduation, I had each of the twins pick 18 papers (6 sets of 3) from each subject: 3 to keep for themselves for the memory box (and also for state records), and 3 to give to each grandparent (or aunt/neighbor) to show what they did for the year. I then stacked each complete set (3 from each subject) and stapled them together. They gave 1 set to each of the grandparents that came to the graduation. Their great grandparents really liked having these keepsakes. (We kept the other sets to give to the other grandparents/relatives that weren't able to come so they could have a set also.) I also printed off their creative writing stories that they had dictated to me. All the rest of their work went into the recycle bin.


  • As part of the ceremony, I had the kids "show off" some of what they had learned. They both counted by 10's and 5's to 100. Sonlight recommends that they recite their learned Bible verses to give them experience at public speaking, so we attempted that, too. I say "attempted" because this didn't exactly go according to plan. They forgot quite a few of them in the heat of the moment, but with a little prodding they did remember several, too. I had intended to do a review of them the day before, but we were out getting supplies for the graduation and I completely forgot. Oops!
  • If I had it to do over, I would have had them recite the "30 Days Hath September" poem that they had learned, but didn't think of it until later, well after it was all over.

  •  After they did their reciting, I had them stand on one side of the room and wait for me to call their name. I then called them up one by one, using their full name. When they each came up, I handed them each of the Certificates of Completion that come with the Sonlight Instructor Guides. (One for Language Arts K, one for Core A, and one for Science A. If you do not use Sonlight or just want a different certificate, scroll down to the end to see a couple of links for ones you can print off yourself.) After handing them the certificates and telling them what they were for, I told each one how proud I was of them and gave them a little kiss.

  • After getting their certificates, I had them move their tassels to the other side of their hats and we all clapped. (And took pictures, of course!)

  • After the "ceremony," the twins got to make a Graduation Day keepsake. You can print off your own and get a full tutorial over at snackpicks.com. The keepsake asks questions on one half like what grade they are in, what is their favorite food/color/book, etc. and they stamped their handprint on the other half. They told me their answers and I wrote them down for them to copy so it could be in their own handwriting. Ideally, we will make these keepsakes every year to see how they change from year to year. It also makes a good cover for their kindergarten schoolwork we stapled earlier to help us organize what work came from what year. (Remember all those sets of 3?)

                

Food

Because the only guests were us and one set of great grandparents, we took the lazy way out and took the kids and the grandparents out to eat afterwards. Depending on what time of day you have your graduation and how long it lasts, you may want to serve finger foods or just cake or other desserts. (Scroll down for a couple of cute food ideas!)


Other Kindergarten Graduation Party Ideas:


                      



                                         
Free Smartie Pants Printable/Goody Bag Idea                            Smartie Pants Gift




                                 



                      



                                       



                             


For even more ideas, check out my Kindergarten Graduation Board on Pinterest:




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why and When We Decided to Homeschool


Different families homeschool for different reasons. Some may start out in public school, then decide to homeschool later because of problems with bullying, education, or the school's administration (or a combination thereof). Some may live in a particularly bad school district and choose homeschooling as a way to give their children a better education. 

Many choose to homeschool to give their children a strong, biblical foundation that otherwise would be lacking in their education. Some feel "called" to homeschool and simply feel that this is something that God is leading them to do. 

While there is no one "right" reason to homeschool, I do think that there are some wrong ones. The first "wrong" reason is fear. Afraid of what might happen in public school. Afraid of what kinds of friends and influences your child might choose to hang around. Afraid of your child being bullied. Fear, fear, fear. If fear is your main motivation, you will miss out on many of the richer moments and joys of homeschooling. (On the flip side, fear is also a bad reason to not homeschool, and is a main reason many people have given me for why they don't homeschool: "I could never do that! I just don't think I'd make a good teacher/have the patience/be able to handle it.") In relation to fear as a reason to homeschool, I highly recommend a blog post by simplehomeschool.net called The Worst Reason to Homeschool

Another bad reason to homeschool is to "save money." Parents who homeschool to save money are unhappy with the public school system but cannot afford private school. These parents see homeschooling as the cheaper choice. When "saving money" is the main motivation, the quality of the child's education usually suffers, and they too tend to miss out on the major benefits that homeschooling has to offer.

We personally have many reasons for homeschooling. We are one of those families who feel "called" to homeschool our kids. My husband and I made the decision when the twins (now 6), were very young. I can't remember how it happened exactly, but somehow the topic of their education came up. I had always leaned toward homeschooling, but my husband and I had never talked about it before, and he didn't know my feelings on the issue. When the issue of their education was brought up, my husband mentioned homeschooling, and from that point on it just became understood that that was what we were doing. Decision making with my husband and I, especially at that point in our marriage, could sometimes take an extremely long time. Where to go for dinner? What movie to watch? You would think those were life-changing decisions as much time as they took. Those decisions took forever. Yet when deciding to homeschool I don't think the entire conversation was more than a few sentences long. It's just something we both felt called to do. I love it when God guides us in unity!

So, other than being called, here are 10 other reasons and benefits of choosing to homeschool:




  1. Homeschooling gives you more family time. Homeschooling gives your entire family more time together, and, as a result, your entire family grows closer. This is a great and important benefit for all homeschooling families. Some families, though, especially appreciate this homeschooling perk. In families where one parent (usually Dad) works nights or another irregular schedule, the entire family would rarely be together in the house at the same time if the kids spent their days in school, and homeschooling affords them some valuable shared quality time. 
  2. Homeschooling provides more free time for your children to pursue hobbies or other interests. Homeschooling takes less time than public (or private) school. When you homeschool, no time is wasted standing in line for the water fountain, the bathroom, or the lunch line. There is no walking or hall time in between "classes." You do not have to teach the same concept to 28 different students, all with different capabilities, backgrounds, and learning styles. There is no traveling or bus time getting to and from school. In the evenings, there is no homework, because all homework has been completed during the schooling day. (Unless the "schooling day" is in the evenings, in which case the day is homework free!) All of this adds up to more free time in the life of the homeschooling family. Kids who homeschool have more time to pursue those passions that most interest them, whether it be reading, writing, woodworking, drawing, playing board games (aka more family time!), building with Legos/K'nex/Lincoln Logs, the list goes on and on. You can see examples of what happens during what one family calls "creative boredom" @ Holy Spirit Led Homeschooling. (Examples are in the post "Methods of our Holy Spirit-Led Homeschool" under "Creative Boredom.") 
  3. Homeschooling provides great flexibility. Want to take a vacation to Florida during the off-season? Go ahead. Save money and have family time while all the other neighborhood kids are in school. Because you can. Want to homeschool 2 months in the summer and take off 1 in spring and 1 in fall when the weather is gorgeous? You can do that, too. Does Dad travel a lot? You can all go, and take homeschooling with you. Homeschooling is not bound by the public school's schedule. Some families homeschool Monday through Friday keeping roughly the same hours as public school. Others run errands during the day (and avoid the crowds!) or spend time out of doors when the weather is nice and do schoolwork in the evenings. Still others may take off Wednesdays and homeschool on Saturday instead. There are several who do extra school Monday through Thursday so they can take off Fridays and have 3 day weekends every week! Any of these approaches are fine, because homeschoolers have the freedom to school on a schedule that works for them. 
  4. Homeschooling helps slow life down. Wake up, get the kids ready and off to school and then don't see them again 'til they get off the bus that afternooon (let's say, 4:15 if you're lucky). Then snack, homework, dinner, bath, bed. Add in parent/teacher meetings, sports practices/games and extracurricular activities and you have a very busy week. Every week. Filling up every minute of time makes time go by more quickly. Too quickly. Homeschooling helps with that, and this benefit relates to numbers 1 and 2 above. Because homeschooling gives you more family time and more free time, it gives you time to not only educate your children, but to enjoy them. Life goes by fast enough on its own, especially in our culture. As one blog writer puts it, "Stop the glorification of busy. Do less, be more." Homeschooling allows time for you and your children to just be, to live, and not always be moving toward the next item on the day's agenda. (Disclaimer on the mentioned blog: I haven't actually read any posts from this particular blog outside of the one post I saw on pinterest, so I can't personally recommend it or not. However, these quotes of hers work quite nicely for the point I'm trying to make. :)
  5. Homeschooling allows your children to learn within the context of real life. Life is the best teacher, and when you homeschool, learning and schooling isn't something you do, it's something you live. Public schools and other educational institutions do not have that luxury. This has benefits beyond just traditional education. Many students in this country sadly do not know basic life skills when they graduate high school, including creating and maintaining a budget, balancing a checkbook, cooking and planning meals for a household, mending clothing, and maintaining a house. Because homeschooled children are taught within the context of real life, most life skills they learn just because they are at home living life alongside you! 
  6. Homeschooling allows you to make Christ the center of every part of your child's life. When you homeschool, Christ and a biblical worldview are wrapped up in every aspect of the day, as the entire family lives and schools together daily in community. Because you are in charge of their education, everything your children learn about can be in the context of a biblical worldview, regardless of what curriculum you choose. During the course of a school day, things come up all the time that raise questions regarding our faith, and schooling at home provides a safe environment to discuss such questions. "Living" school and spending so much time together also creates lots of opportunities for what Focus on the Family calls "teachable moments." "Teachable moments" are times when situations or questions arise that allow you to speak the Word of God into your child's life and help him or her know how to not just know God's Word, but to apply it to daily living. Homeschooling allows more time for family devotions and the pursuit of God's Presence.  And these school years, especially the elementary and younger years, truly are foundational in forming your child's belief system. (According to The Barna Group, your child's moral and spiritual beliefs will be pretty much fully established by age 9.) 
  7. Homeschooled kids have an easier time relating to people of all ages. Because traditionally schooled kids are put into classes of kids the same age as them every year for 12 years, they typically tend to have a harder time relating to people of a different age. Kids who homeschool do not seem to have this same relational problem, because again, they learn within the context of real life. In life, we come into contact with people of many different ages, some young, some elderly, some middle-aged, and all ages in between. Kids who homeschool may have best friends several years older or younger than them, and they don't see it as a problem or concern. They also are more able to hold real, respectful conversations with adults and tend to see everyone as valuable and worth knowing, not just those in their age group.
  8. Homeschooled kids tend to have a strong sense of self, a good work ethic, and less sense of entitlement. This benefit is related to several of the ones before it. When families live together, play together, school together, and work (i.e. clean, cook, garden, etc.) together, all day every day, they learn what it means to live in community. Because mom (or dad) spends much of her day schooling, everyone pitches in when it comes to maintaining the household. This in itself has several benefits. When children have purpose and feel they are contributing to the family in a real way, it increases their sense of worth and allows them to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Understanding the value of contributing to the family and having an expectation of "working" at home helps to build a good work ethic. Also, kids who spend such large amounts of time living, playing, schooling, and working with their families tend to highly value family time, and they see people as more important than things, which in turn leads them to have less sense of entitlement than other kids in the neighborhood may have. (Also, for homeschooling families that give their kids a biblical foundation, knowing their true worth as a child of God is indispensable. But all of these are definitely possible for kids who are not homeschooled, too, and either way it takes deliberate effort. Homeschooling just affords more time together, making these kid qualities easier to accomplish. :)
  9. Homeschooling puts you in complete charge of your children's education. The Bible calls children a gift from God, a blessing (Psalm 127:3). A blessing that you have been entrusted with. Regardless of whether you choose to homeschool or put your children in school, you are in charge of educating them, and either way you should try to be very involved in your child's education. When you homeschool, you decide what is most important to impart to your children. Not the government, the city council, or the local school administration. You. And when (yes, when) topics come up that are tricky and against your worldview, you can talk with them about it within the context of your values and belief system, in the midst of your family and your home where it is safe to have such discussions. You can educate your kids, and no one, not even the most caring and talented teacher, has a more vested interest in your kids' success than you do.
  10. Homeschooling allows for a much lower student to teacher ratio, which provides more individual instruction, which in turn helps your kids to learn more (and better!). Before my husband and I had kids, I was a substitute teacher at a public school for a while. I remember one day I was substitute teaching for a 1st grade class (I think? around that age, anyway), and I taught them how to do a math assignment. After showing them how to do it, one of the students needed individual help, and he was asking me to please help him. I helped him as best I could in the little time we had left, but the problem was, I couldn't really help him like he needed, because the time that had been allotted for math was over. It was time to move on to art or reading or whatever else was next on the day's agenda. I know that teachers try to individualize education for their students as best they can, but with so many kids and such a scheduled day, it just isn't possible. Another problem I noticed is that throughout the day, several of the kids would be taken out of the classroom to go to special services, whether it was for reading help, speech therapy, or something else. I am glad those students receive services in the areas they need help in. The problem that I saw was that whatever was going on in the regular classroom while those students were away just kept going on, and the students needing services just missed out on whatever learning it was! If it was while I was explaining math, they would just miss math and have to figure it out (presumably with their parents) and make up the homework later. Homeschooling, on the other hand, doesn't have these roadblocks to education. You can go at their pace. Is your 6-year-old getting extremely frustrated when trying to learn to read and making no progress? Put it away for while. Shelf the whole thing. Read to him instead. Do your other subjects. In a few/six months, try again. You'd be amazed at how much easier it will be for him when he's developmentally ready to try again! Homeschooling doesn't require you to follow a state-mandated cookie-cutter formula. Your child is a unique creation, endowed by God with specific gifts and abilities, gifts that you can help cultivate and watch grow, in God's timing, not man's. When you homeschool, if your children need more time on a certain subject, you can give it to them. Alternatively, if they are way ahead and bored out their minds, you can throw the curriculum out and move up a level. You can do this for an individual subject or an entire grade. When you homeschool, you do not need to try and figure out how to maximize learning for 28 different kids, you can just focus on your kids. (By the way, in regards to special services: my kids don't need special services, so I don't have direct experience with it, but it is my understanding that kids who are homeschooled can still get special services from the public school system if that's something you need and want to pursue. If using those services would enable you to homeschool when otherwise you feel you couldn't, I encourage you to explore that option available to you.)
There are many other benefits to homeschooling that I haven't listed here, but I can only make this post so long. :)

Is there another benefit that you have seen in your homeschool? I would love to hear about it! You are welcome to leave a comment and let me know what your homeschooling "treasures" are!

If you liked this post you may also like:

                       
    Where to Start When You Are Thinking of and Praying About Homeschooling