August 20, 2013

A Late Joyful Mom Monday - Trust God

We have been busy hanging out with family, and it has been a wonderfully nice change!  There is something special about having family close by to laugh with and do things with and even lend you a helping  hand.  Being a mom hasn't seemed so easy in a LONG time! ;)  If you have family close by, don't take them for granted!

Ok...that was the side note.  I have been thinking lately about how much God loves my much more He loves them than I myself love them.  I've also been reminded that my children are not really...well, my children,.  They are God's, and He has only given them to me for a short time so that I can have a small part in giving Him glory through the way I nurture and teach them.  

As moms, it is hard for us to go through the many "firsts' that our children experience with so much anticipation.  It is hard to put them in the nursery for the first time, to drop them off for the first sleep over.  The first day of school, the first time away at camp, the first solo drive...all of these and so many more can be so taxing on our mommy hearts!  I have always wanted my kiddos to remember me being joyful and excited for them as they experience their many firsts even though deep inside my mommy heart may be breaking just a little.  One of the best ways I have found to be joyful in these times is to remember to trust my God who loves my children far more than I do and who is able to watch and protect them far better than I am able to.  Remembering this is such a help as I let my children go a little farther on their own.  Lots of kleenex close by is helpful too because after all, God did give us this mommy heart that still breaks a little each time.  But I am so thankful for this special heart that enables me to love so much  more completely.  Praying for you mommies who are experiencing firsts this week.  Make some beautiful memories of these times and don't forget to trust that God is taking extra special care of His treasures that He loaned to you.  

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

August 12, 2013

Joyful Mom Monday - Pray for Your Kids

Happy Monday!  I am taking a short break from packing and cleaning to write a few thoughts here.  I am looking forward to coming back in September and getting into a good routine again.  Even though we have schooled through the summer, the only routine thing about our days has been school work from 1-4 in the afternoons.  Everything else has been out the window...including my morning quiet time.  I still manage to work it in somehow, somewhere, but it usually is not as long or as in depth, and my spirit is beginning to show the lack of it!  

One thing that I enjoyed during the last school year was using this free printable calendar to pray specifically for my kiddos.  This calendar allowed my prayers for my children to be focused and consistent and very very specific.  It also made me more aware throughout the day of my children's strengths and weaknesses.  I also began to realize what a powerful tool I possessed in the act of praying daily for my children.  My heart attitude towards them changed, and I began to see their struggles through the eyes of the Holy Spirit instead of through my own impatience. It was also wonderful to see how many times a situation would come up that I had prayed about that morning, and what a blessing it was to be able to look my child in the eye and say, "You know, sweetheart, I was just praying about this, and I asked God to help us work this out together."  I've missed that consistency of specific prayer for my kiddos and am looking forward to working that back into my early morning quiet times.  

I would encourage you to take a quick minute to print this calendar out and then to take just a few minutes each day to use it!  I think you will be amazed at how much more joyful the task of mothering will become as you begin to place your children in the hands of God each morning.  What a privilege God gives us to be able to bring all things to Him in prayer!   What a privilege we moms have to be able to take our most precious treasures to our most loving Heavenly Father!
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. ~I John 5:14-15
 Wishing you a day full of blessings,


August 9, 2013

Our Homeschool Curriculum Choice

As you've noticed from the previous posts, we're in back to school mode here!  Today, I am linking up with other homeschoolers at the Not Back to School Blog Hop where we are sharing our curriuculum choices for this school year.  I have already shared with you our journey to homeschool.  During that summer of great research, I discovered a "method" of homeschooling that I had never heard of - the Charlotte Mason method.  The more I read about Charlotte Mason and her ideas of educating children, the more I fell in love with the idea of homeschooling this way.  And so last year, I began piecing together my own curricula using her ideas.  I found this difficult to do.  I had never been taught this way.  I knew of not one person who had ever used this method of teaching, and I was going against the flow of anyone I did know who was homeschooling.  Worst of all, I couldn't really even explain what I was doing because I was still trying to figure it out myself!  All I knew was that I wanted my children to fall in love with learning, and this sounded like a great way to make that happen!  Last year, my fall semester was a hodge podge year.  I kept some of the traditional subjects with traditional curriculum and began slowly (as I understood more) incorporating Charlotte Mason's ideas.  Then, in January of this year, I discovered and the curriculum provided there called Higher Up and Further In (HUFI).

HUFI has been an answer to prayer for our family!  It provides book lists and suggested schedules for each grade level and also has many practical tips and much advice from the websites organizer who has homeschooled her four children using this curriculum layout.  It made Charlotte Mason's methods more clear, gave me a long term plan for teaching and has given so many practical tools that have saved me time and allowed me to spend more time with my kiddos.  This will be our first year going from start to finish through the year with this curriculum, but as we have incorporated much of this into our last semester, I have watched my kiddos' attitudes towards learning change 180 degrees!  They enjoy most of school now and look forward especially to the reading we do together as well as the nature walks and artist and composer studies.  

Rather than write it all out here, I will encourage you to connect to the link and see for yourself what this is all about.  For now, she only has grades 1-6 posted, but up until the last month she also had grades 7-12.  I printed each grade out and have it kept in binders, and I am fully confident that this will be our choice of curriculum for the rest of our children's schooling.  We are following her schedules and book suggestions exactly. (I am homeschooling using level 4 for Evvie, 2 for Andrew and 1 for Garrett and Madelyn.)

Our choice of math curriculum is Right Start.  It is a little more time consuming in that it requires me to teach one on one and includes many games to reinforce the teaching, but my kids all LOVE it and have picked up many of the methods of math much faster than they were using our previous more traditional curriculum.  Although Charlotte Mason discouraged busy work and lots of work sheets, I am planning to incorporate a few more worksheets each week for math.  I love the Right Start methods and teaching, but I do feel more review on paper would be helpful in giving my children better speed and confidence in their math skills.  

If you are at all interested in finding out more about Charlotte Mason and her ideas and methods of teaching, I would encourage you to check out the HUFI website.  It has been an encouragement to me, and I am excited about the complete transition our family will be making this September!  Until then, we are preparing for a three week vacation.  There are several posts I would like to squeeze in before school begins, but posts may be a little irregular for the next few weeks as we focus on relaxing and enjoying time together as a family!  Happy Homeschool Planning!
Wishing you a day full of blessings,

August 8, 2013

Why We Homeschool - Part 2

To find out the beginning of our homeschool journey, you can read Why We Homeschool - Part 1.

Last spring, I began a thorough search into homeschooling.  I knew something was missing in what we were doing in our home, but I couldn't figure it out.  I had all the books, curriculums, charts, even the flags to say the pledges with, and yet, I felt like our days were full of nothing but disunity, disarray and distance!  It was not my idea of homeschooling, and I began to daydream about dropping my kids off at school and having an entire day all to myself!  Not a good thing to do when you're supposed to be homeschooling!

I read so many books that spring and summer and did a TON of research online, and after many months, I was finally able to sort through all the different thoughts and write down why I (along with the Mr.) wanted to homeschool.  Once we defined our priorities, we were then able to add things to our day that would help us obtain our goals, and we also weeded out the unnecessary things.  Your whys may be (and probably will be) somewhat different from ours.  Every family is unique and must pursue their own whys.  I am sharing our whys to give other homeschooling moms (and future homeschooling moms) some food for thought.  I also want to say that I do not believe you are a "lesser" parent if you have not chosen to homeschool.  All of our reasons for homeschooling can be applied families whose children attend school.  We recognize that these things take time and focus on relationships, though, and our family feels that we can best develop these priorities by spending the majority of our time our own home.

Why We Homeschool...

1. We want to disciple and nurture our children in the way that we believe God designed and created us as parents to do.  God designed the family and was very purposeful in the way he designed it.  It is the parents' responsibility to train their children in God's Word and to show them God's love.  Seeing our children establish a personal and intimate relationship with God while they are young is the desire of our heart, and we feel that God has given us the responsibility and the best capabilities to guide our children toward that goal. 

2.  We want to  teach our children to have character and  inspire them to make their entire life count for Christ no matter what they may end up doing.  This goes along with the first but is slightly different.  We use much of our homeschooling time to read about great men and women in the past - people who have changed history by choosing to stand for what was right even if they had to stand alone.  We want our children to not only have knowledge of the Bible but to live out the Bible.  I spend a great amount of time searching for books and biographies that will inspire our children to live out what they believe, to be courageous and to make a difference by being different.

3.  We want to teach our children to have a passion for loving and serving others, and we feel that is best done by learning to do that at home.  We want our kiddos to be each others best friends.  We want them to learn that family is designed by God to be the place where we grow and learn, the place we can make mistakes and still be loved unconditionally, the place where we can be encouraged to reach for a goal and to take risks knowing that we are supporting each other.  By creating this home of safety and love, it is our hope that it will encourage our children to reach out to others and help them feel the same love and encouragement that they have received.

4.  We want our children's biggest influences to be other adults not other little people. :)  No offense, we love little people.  We're working on our 6th one.  But it is our observation that when little people are around other little people for too long, they begin to make unwise and foolish decisions.  Don't get me wrong...I'm all for playing with other kids and being a part of youth groups and such, but the Mr. and I feel that the majority of our children's influence should come from other adults who will be an example to them of wisdom and self-discipline.

5. Now, we get to academics...we do not want our children placed in a box and made to stay there.  We, the parents, best know our children's capabilities and interests.  We want to be able to help them pursue their interests, challenge their weaknesses and go beyond what they think they are capable of.  Because we homeschool, we don't need to wait a year before we move them up in math if they are ready to move on.  Because we homeschool, we don't need to rush them through a book to keep up with a class.  We can review and review and review some more until the concept is thoroughly learned without fear of falling behind the class.  We can also choose extra subjects or home activities to include in our learning time that will appeal to each individual child's interests.  We want our children to be creative and imaginative.

6.  We want to teach our children to be thinkers and leaders.  We do not want all the thinking done for them.  We do not want them to only learn steps to solve a problem.  We want them to learn how to figure out the steps for themselves.  We want them to think Biblically and intelligently - to not blindly follow but to compare with God's Word and make wise choices.  

7.   We also want to encourage our children to fall in love with (living, whole) books, music, art and the outdoors.  By homeschooling, we can give our children amazing opportunities to be able to experience all of these.

8.  We want God to change our hearts (the parents) and make us more like Him.  Parenting requires an amazing amount of sacrifice, and the choice to homeschool deepens that commitment to sacrifice.  We recognize that in order to teach our children these things, we must first have them in our own lives.  We recognize that God is using this time to not only prepare our children for their future but to deepen our relationship with Him and with each other.

These are our biggest reasons for homeschooling, but there are so many more.  Do all of these happen every day?  Only in my very distant and far away dream land!  BUT...these are our goals, and as we pursue them, we can see where God is carrying us along and bringing us closer to those a family.  Will our children be perfect?  Unfortunately, no, and one day, we will have to let them make their own choices, and they may choose to go against what they have been taught and shown.  BUT we will know that we have done our best to show them a full and abundant life that only God can give.  There is also the extraordinary grace of God that shows us daily how God can work and change hearts and reminds us that there is no limit to the possibilities of what our children can do and become with God working in them!  And why we homeschool!

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

August 7, 2013

Why We Homeschool - Part 1

Well, August has arrived, and so, for those of us with school-aged children, you know what that means!  It's time to begin thinking about SCHOOL again!  Even though we have home-schooled all summer, August is still bringing the anticipation of a new school year.  Our family is about to leave for a three week (can I add much needed) vaca!!!  It's the perfect way to close out this last school year, and we will begin fresh after Labor Day week.  Because we are beginning so soon after a long vacation, I have been up to my eyeballs in school prep these last two weeks, and, just like every other year, there have been several nights I have gone to bed close to tears.  As a matter of fact, my eldest (I refer to her as the eldest when she's being a smarty-pants!) informed everyone at supper last night that I was in a bad mood because I had "obviously been working on school too long today."  :)    I LOVE homeschooling my kiddos, but I will also admit that it is (in this season of my life right now) the most overwhelming part of parenting.  And so, these last two weeks, I have had to remind myself of why I am doing this.  

(A disclaimer:  As I tell this story I use the word I quite often, but please know that the Mr. and I have both discussed and come to these conclusions as a couple.  Without his complete support, I would never be able to do this!)

Believe me, when I first began this journey of homeschooling, I never dreamed I would be doing it long-term.  I began homeschooling Evvie in K-5 for the very spiritual reason that I had no other practical choice.  Our church has a wonderful Christian school, but it is an hour drive one way, and we just could not justify driving that distance for half a day of school.  So, I began teaching her so that she wouldn't look like a dunce when we put her in 1st grade there!  That...was my reason!

That year of "homeschooling" ( I put it in quotes because it was really more just teaching her how to read than actual homeschooling)  was an eye-opening experience for me.  What I had never wanted to do, I began to enjoy!  The more I taught Evvie, the closer we grew.  The more time I spent reading with her, the more time she spent snuggling with me!  I had had 4 children in 4 1/2 years and was busy keeping up with them all!  I think this was the first time that I began to realize how much my little girl needed my personal attention!  As we began to grow closer, I began to realize that this homeschooling thing wasn't so bad.  Maybe I could do it for a couple of years until Andrew was in first grade.  Then, having two to place in the Christian school together would make it worth the drive. :)

Fast forward two years...I am now teaching Evvie 2nd grade, and my little Andrew has begun "kindergarten."  I have fallen more and more in love with the idea of teaching my kids at home.  My life had settled down - a little - now that my kiddos were a little older, and I began to feel like this was something I could do and do well!  I began reading home schooling books and magazines so that I could learn how to be a more effective teacher and mom.   By the time Andrew and Evvie finished that school year, I was completely sold on homeschooling them through their elementary years because I enjoyed it so much.

The next year became a year of nitty-gritty work.  Evvie hit third grade and began to want to "go to a real school."  Andrew began first grade but was struggling to keep up with the curriculum I was using.  It was a LONG year, and we fought many obstacles and attitudes (mine and the kids!).  That was the year that I began to wonder WHY I was doing what I was doing.  I asked myself over and over, "Is this best for my kids, or am I causing them to miss out on life?"  By spring break of that year, I was DESPERATE to find some answers.  I wanted my kids to remember homeschooling as a wonderful part of our lives...especially since that was what consumed a great part of our day!  I knew there had to be something that I was missing.   That year sent me on a search like no other.  I was determined to figure out why I was making this choice, and I was determined to either find complete confidence in this choice or quit!  That was the summer that I finally figured out WHY I wanted to homeschool...
Wishing you a day full of blessings,

August 5, 2013

Joyful Mom Monday - Teaching Our Children About True Beauty

Counting God's Little Blessings
Today, I want to pass a link along to you for a post by Girl Talk.  They are beginning a series on how to raise children in a world of beauty gone bad.  In other words, the topic is teaching our children how to be modest and how to recognize true beauty in themselves and in others.  This is a topic that is close to my heart, and to be honest, it's one of the topics that scares me the most when it comes to raising my children.  The reason - because I can teach my children about modesty and have them dress modestly and teach them the proper view of the opposite sex, but I cannot prevent them from being bombarded and tempted by the things they see everywhere they go.  Sadly, even churches and youth groups are not a place of modest dress anymore.  It hurts my heart to put my children in places where they may be tempted to fall, and unfortunately, the lust of the flesh is one of the most addictive temptations faced by every Christian - man or woman.  It bothers me that more Christians do not understand the reality and the seriousness of sexual temptation and how even the smallest amount of immodesty can begin a young person on a path that they will wrestle with the rest of their lives. 
And so, I encourage you, no matter how young or old your children are, to check out the link below and follow this Girl Talk series.  It is a serious responsibility that we as Christian parents have to teach our children what true beauty is, and we need to begin this at a very young age.  One of the phrases I use most while we are in public is "Guard your eyes, please. Protect your heart from evil."   I have already explained many times to all my children that a person who dresses immodestly is sad because it shows they do not truly know Jesus.  They are bringing glory to their bodies instead of to Jesus.  I also remind them that their glory will only last a few years.  Jesus' glory lasts forever and ever.  In these small ways, I pray that we are beginning to fill their hearts with a desire for true beauty and a life that honors God and not themselves.  I know this is a controversial subject, but it is one that needs to be addressed. A question I ask myself is, "Would what I am wearing distract someone from seeing what God is doing in my life today?"  If so, I need to put it away.  If you have the least bit of hesitancy about an outfit, put it away! Let's stand up for what is right, Mommas!  Let's teach our children that modesty is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is a God-given protection from unnecessary temptations and sad consequences that will scar our children and us for the rest of our lives.  I pray that this link will encourage you to take a stand or to continue your stand in modesty. - Post 1 - Post 2

Wishing you a day full of blessings,