It’s About Time: Tips for Homeschool Schedules

IMG_20180626_100040268Schedules. Organization. For some people it comes naturally, others not so much. When it comes to scheduling your homeschool day and year I’ve found some organization is necessary to keep things running smoothly. This can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re new to homeschooling. Even those who’ve done it for years need to change things up from time to time. Today I’m going to give a few ideas to help in the area of homeschool schedules.

After eleven years of homeschooling I’ve tried several different approaches. Of course, in the last eleven years our family has gone through different seasons of life. I think that makes a big difference. Your schedule will be as individualized as your family. What’s right for your friend may not be right for you.

1. Come up with family values, goals and vision.

Before even thinking about a schedule it’s a good idea to come up with why your family is homeschooling. What do you want you and your children to get out of this? What is important to your family? What kind of values do you want your family to have? Ask yourself what kind of a family you want to be then spend your time doing that. When you lay the ground work ahead of time, by coming up with your values, goals and vision as a family, it will be easier to know what to say yes to and what to say no to. Also, remember that as your family grows your schedule will change too. Be sure to revisit your family values, goals and vision and see if that still fits your family. Every semester I look at the schedule to see what, if any, changes need to be made.

2. The yearly schedule

When I first started homeschooling I went with the schedule the public schools have. Each year, as our family grew and changed, I customized it a little more. It was so freeing to realize I didn’t have to have the same schedule as the public schools. Feel free with your homeschool to do whatever works best for your family. Japanese children start their school year in April, take off six weeks from mid-July through August then go back to school in September to begin their second semester. Their school year ends in March. Talk about out-of-the-box from the American way of thinking. My only advice is check with your state laws to see if there are boundaries already set in the law. Otherwise make it your own.

Every year I pray over our school year. I believe the Lord helps me figure out IMG_20180626_111040516_HDRwhat works best for us. Two years ago I had an idea to have a six week-one week schedule. I school for six weeks then take a week off. School for six more than take one off. At summer break we take six weeks off.

Last year I found out that some families do the six week-one week schedule because God created the world in six days and for one day He rested. By schooling this way we are following the same pattern of work six, rest one. I thought that was super cool because we are a family that observes the Sabbath. (For more on how we observe the Sabbath see my post from Dec. 2013 called A Day Off https://shiningtheloveofjesus.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/a-day-off/) This falls right in line with our values. I didn’t realize this when we started it. I totally believe the Lord was guiding me in this. How cool!

3. Summer and Winter breaks

IMG_20180626_095820050Many parents see their children forgetting what they learned in school over summer and Christmas breaks. Because of that homeschool families vary widely on how long they take for breaks, if they take one at all. I also noticed this forgetful trend in my kids, especially in summer. Then I spent several weeks reviewing everything at the beginning of the school year. That was not working for me. So I tried year-round school for awhile with only a couple of weeks for a break. That didn’t work for me either. I found I needed more of a break. So now we have a six week summer break.

If you read my last post you know two of my kids are dyslexic. I really struggled with taking six weeks off. It seemed so long and the kids have worked so hard to get where they are. I’d hate for them to go backwards in their learning. Two things put my mind at ease. First, when I did this last year I actually found that my son, who has more severe dyslexia, did awesome when we got back to school. That first week back it’s like his mind was so well rested it jumped into action. He did better on his timed drills than usual and he was ready to get back to learning. I believe all minds need to rest. Not to mention mama needs the break. We are not robots. God set up rest for a reason. He believes in it so much He made it as one of the commandments and He modeled it for us in the seventh day of creation, although He didn’t need to rest. Second, I pray about how to set up the school year and if this is the way the Lord is leading me I’m going to trust Him. He knows our needs.

I will say during the summer I have the kids read a story to me, not every day but for sure every week. They also do some math. I try to make it fun during the summer. Also we do a little review at the beginning of the school year but it’s much less with only six weeks off than it was with three months off.

When we start school again I work the kids in slowly. Whichever child needsIMG_20180626_105226051 the most attention I start with first and just with the basic subjects: Math, Reading and whatever subject he or she is weakest in or would like to spend more time on. The next week I add another child with the same idea on subjects and so on until all the children are back in the books. I do it that way for my sake just as much as for theirs. I used to have all of them start on the same day but I found I was getting very anxious about it. So much so that for at least a week before, my heart would beat weird and I’d feel dizzy. It was ridiculous. Since I’ve worked them in slowly it has also helped me relax. It helps me to remember God has equipped me to do this. We are going to be fine.

For Christmas break we have done different things as well. We’ve taken off just Christmas through New Years but I found I wasn’t enjoying the holiday like I wanted to with my kids. We’ve also gone to light schooling, just basic subjects and half days with the text books. Then Christmas crafts, baking or other Christmas stuff the other half of the day. That was nice because I got to enjoy the preparations for Christmas. A couple years ago we started making gifts for each other. These were nice homemade gifts. You can catch a glimpse of them from my post Homemade Christmas https://shiningtheloveofjesus.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/homemade-christmas/ After Thanksgiving we focused on the projects. I think they played some math games on the computer to keep their skills fresh and read me short stories otherwise it was just the projects. That year the kids learned to sew, use the saw, use the hot glue gun and think of others. It really surprised me how much we all liked it and how much they learned. It wasn’t text-book learning but they still learned.

4. The daily schedule

Our daily homeschool schedule varies every year. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of doing it but there are some tips I’ve found helpful. The first class we have is Bible class. This remains the same every year. All the kids do this class together. While it can be challenging to do such a wide age range at once it’s been good. (My oldest and youngest are eight years apart.) I enjoy the challenge (most of the time) and the younger ones pick up more than you think they would.

IMG_20180626_110609986Next, if I have a younger child, say preschool through 1st grade, I noticed it was best for me to start the school day with them. They kept interrupting to get my attention if I made them wait. When I start with them first they get one-on-one time with mom and the rest of the day they obeyed me better.

When I had children that napped, I would wait until that child napped to do the schooling with my older children that required more of my time or attention. You know, one of those subjects that’s more difficult for them to understand. Once my kids outgrew naps I’d take note when my patience is the strongest and tackle those difficult subjects then. I put the easy stuff at the end of the day when I’m tapped out.

A few years ago I took the summer to notice the natural patterns of the kids. Who slept in? Who was up and ready to go first? I schooled the early birds first and give the others time to wake up and get moving. Otherwise the schedule gets slowed down for everyone when they have to wait for a sibling. Is there one child who gets crabbier before lunch than the others? Wait to school them until after lunch, at least with subjects that take more time and brain power. Our kitchen is right next to our schoolroom so if the kids just have a review page in Math I have them do their Math review sheet at the same time while I make lunch. That way I can pop in on them and help them when needed. That was a time saver for me. If you can clump a few of your kids together to do school that’s a good idea too. Just make sure they are getting the individualized attention they need from you.

A few last thoughts.

My last and most important tip is to pray about your schedule. Whether it’s the daily or yearly schedule. God knows what peeks and valleys your family will go through this year. He knows what you should hunker down on and what you should not include. Remember there are seasons to all things. Maybe it will work for you to go to a co-op for a few years but there may come a time when that season is over. If the Lord’s points you in a direction be faithful to follow it.

A schedule is a tool used to help achieve your homeschool goals. It helps you stay focused and shows you your next task. It is not a chain to bind you or a law you must follow. Stay dedicated to schooling your kids but stay flexible. We all know life doesn’t always go as planned. Have realistic expectations. When I do my daily schedule I never put times. Just which student gets which subject. The clock does not rule the schedule, you do.

God bless you on your homeschool journey.

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Our Journey with Dyslexia

When I began my homeschooling journey I had no idea all that it would entail. I had no idea how hard it would be. I had no idea how beautiful it would be. There was no way to prepare me for how it would grow me, for how it would shape me. I figured it would shape my children, but me… I’m blown away by how it has formed us closer as a family. How it has revealed gifts in me I didn’t even know were there. The challenges we’ve faced have made this journey even sweeter. It’s through disappointments and set backs that you enjoy the progress even more. Life becomes more about celebrating each step forward rather than darting to the destination.

One of the challenges we’ve faced in our homeschooling journey is dyslexia. This is a topic I’ve become passionate about although I haven’t talked about it much. I want to encourage the parents who have children who are dealing with dyslexia. It doesn’t matter whether your kids are in public, private, or home school. I think all parents would agree they want the best for their kids. Watching a child struggle in school is hard. You want to help but may not always know how. Let me just encourage you that there is help out there. Don’t be afraid to use it. You don’t have to be on this journey alone. There are organizations, websites, and Facebook pages set up to help parents and children. I’m still trying to figure some of this out myself. Before I get much further let me tell you a little about my journey.

I have four children. I started homeschooling my oldest daughter when she was in kindergarten. By second grade I could tell she was struggling some with her reading. Skipping the small sight words was one of the biggest clues for me. Yet somehow she managed to work it out. Grammar was an awful subject for us. She REALLY didn’t like grammar. I tried many approaches of teaching it to her. Still she struggled with this subject. Spelling was also not a strong subject. It wasn’t horrible mind you. Like I said, she managed, but I knew in that mama part of me that something was a little off. I suspected dyslexia but had no idea what to do about it. So I did nothing. After all, she did okay.

Then came time to start schooling my second child. We were still in abc tileskindergarten when I noticed the struggle with him. Letter recognition and knowing the sound for each letter was much more difficult for him. I tried a couple reading programs. Again I suspected dyslexia. So here I was facing the same obstacle I faced with my daughter but with a more aggressive presence with him. This time I had to do something.

By this time I was feeling like a horrible teacher and mom. Talk about your double dose of guilt. Thankfully I’m also a praying woman. I pray for my kids but I especially douse them in prayer around the time we begin a new school year. I lean in closely to listen to the Holy Spirit as He teaches me about each of my children and how I can parent them and teach them better. There is no one better than the Holy Spirit to have on your parenting and educational team. He designed each one of these children and knows their future, as well as their past and present. I believe it was the Lord’s guidance that lead me to an event I found on Facebook.

It was October, which is Dyslexia awareness month. A woman named Susan Barton came to my area to talk about Dyslexia. My husband and I were very interested. We couldn’t find a babysitter but we were still determined to get there. So all six of us slipped into the back row of this filled room, armed with busy bags. The woman began sharing about how she got involved in helping people with dyslexia. She shared symptoms and showed what reading was like for dyslexics. As I listened I had a wide range of emotions. Relief, I was so glad I was not alone. Inspiration, I felt like we would be okay. Aha moments as I realized I’ve struggled with a mild case of dyslexia myself, especially as a child, but as an adult I’ve learned how to deal with it. It was also interesting to hear dyslexia runs in families. My husband also realized he has had dyslexia but never knew it. His has been on the more severe side. It was all making sense.

But now what…Now I had the information but what do I do with it. I really, really hoped this talk wasn’t just a gimmick to get us to buy her curriculum. At the same time I was desperate for a reading and spelling program that worked. I was pleased to see she gave several curriculum options, not just hers. She didn’t even talk much about her curriculum at all. After praying and researching we decided to buy the Barton Reading and Spelling and I’m so glad I did. It has made a world of difference in both my kids with dyslexia. I love their approach so much I decided to teach my other kids with it too. (I know my third child doesn’t have dyslexia but the verdict is still out on the fourth.) The way they teach spelling just makes sense. She explains why Noah Webster made the rules to spell American words the way he did. It’s been great. If there’s one gripe I have about it it’s that some of the content is to wordy and adult like. I prefer more family oriented (and Christ centered) content in my curriculum but I just ended up writing many of my own sentences and stories that follow the rules my kids have learned.

I am so, SO glad now that I decided to homeschool my children. God knew the way my kids are wired. He knew this learning challenge would come up. Yet, He has helped us (and is still helping us) work through it. I have to admit that teaching dyslexic children has been time consuming and at times draining. I make accommodations for them like doing much of their schoolwork orally. While this has taken a lot of time and energy it has also created a tight bond with my kids. They know I’m on their side. I’m here for them and cheering them on. It has been well worth the time and energy to see my kids progressing.

I know not everyone has the option to homeschool, but if it can work for your family it could be a great plan. Most of the time moms and dads know their kids better than anyone. I’ve heard All About Reading is a good program too. Be sure whatever curriculum you use is Orton-Gillingham based. If homeschooling isn’t an option for you I would suggest getting an Orton-Gillingham curriculum and working with your child on weekends, evening and school breaks. There are also tutors that could help. I believe each state has some sort of Dyslexia Association that could point you to the tutors in your area. Susan Barton has a lot of resources on her website at https://bartonreading.com and at http://www.dys-add.com/. I highly recommend checking it out.

Whatever you do please, please do NOT tell your child they are lazy, stupid, or not working hard enough. People with dyslexia have to work five times harder than their peers to get the same grade. Please take the time to understand how their brains are functioning. Also know that things are not as bad as they may seem. I remember when I realized we were facing dyslexia I wanted to cry for my kids. Now I realize the gifts that come with this as well. As often as I can I show my kids successful people that have dyslexia. There are A LOT of them. Henry Winkler (who has a great series of books made just for kids with dyslexia called Here’s Hank) and Steven Spielberg have videos on line were they talk about their dyslexia. Many comedians and sports players as well. Also several of the cast of Shark Tank. Look it up, you may be amazed what you find.

Dyslexia is not a disease or an excuse to give up. It’s helpful to understand your child. You just need to learn how to work with how your child learns. Once you do you will find some amazing and beautiful gifts that are part of the package. Don’t give up on them and don’t give up on yourself.

My last tip is the most important. Pray for your kids and their education. Pray for doors to open and for the Lord to guide you on this journey. He will be faithful. Remember, He loves your kids more than you do. He wants them to succeed too. If you’re not a praying person you could still give it a try. It couldn’t hurt.

I know many of you have your own story about learning challenges. I see you on social media and my heart goes out to you. I hope my story has made you feel a little less alone and that you find some encouragement. I hope you’ve found some of my tips helpful. This is really only the tip of the iceberg for me on this subject but we’ll save that for another day. Until then, thanks for reading.

The Graduation Speech You’ve Never Heard – But Should

All the graduations I’ve been to are highlighting the same group of people. Those on honorable mention, those who’ve received a scholarship, those who’ve been given some other type of award. While those people I’m sure are deserving of their recognition that’s not what this speech is for.

No, I want to put the spotlight on a few other groups of people because walking across this stage to receive your diploma is no small feat. The journey it took to get here is different for everybody. Ideally you had support of a parent or family member, a teacher and friends too. Some have not had the support they needed yet pushed through.

You may have had a difficult family situation that seemed to push against your goals, dreams and future plans. Going through life with little to no support is tough but you did it. Kudos to you. Along with your diploma you have gained the ability to persevere in difficult circumstances.

Perhaps somewhere along this journey you’ve had some health obstacle that stood in your way of being here today. But you’re here and the strength you’ve gained is far more than any gym can offer. Not to mention the appreciation you now have for your health.

You may have had a learning disability that has made learning more of a challenge. As a mother of dyslexic children, I have seen the struggles daily. I have seen how much harder my children with dyslexia have had to work than those who learning comes much easier for. I’ve also seen amazing things come out of those same children who have struggled. They earned every inch of the IMG_20180601_210541842milestones they’ve made. They persevered in the face of struggles. Instead of backing down because things didn’t come easy, they dug their feet in and continued to gain ground. No matter what grade they received on that lesson they learned that tackling your obstacle face on is of great value. If you are in that category, hats off to you. You’ve earned your right to be here.

Some simply hate school. Just showing up to school was victory in itself. You didn’t give into the temptation to stay home. You fought the battle over and over. You showed up and you won. Nicely done!

The unseen rewards of unmentioned accomplishments are often greater than the awards we do mention. I want to recognize those of you who had struggles and tough challenges to get here. In some way that’s all of us. There are some that have had to fight harder than others. It’s to those I’d like to honor by mentioning you by name…but you probably wouldn’t want me to, so I won’t. But you know who you are. So as you walk across this stage to receive your diploma, do so with pride. The treasure of jewels in you has only begun. Keep digging. Keep pushing past the struggles. You can do greater things than you ever knew.

Unanswered Questions

Kids ask a lot of questions. “Can I have a drink of water?” “Can I have that toy?” “Can we play outside?” “Why?” There’s the ever popular “What’s for dinner.” and the ever dreaded, “Where do babies come from?” Then they enter school and there’s questions about homework and about the world around us. As they get older the questions get harder.

Some days I get very annoyed with all the questions. A mom just needs a little peace and quiet from time to time. But when it comes down to it, I want my kids to ask questions. I want them to wonder about things and learn. I want them to be thinking. I want them to continue communicating with me. I want them to ask other people questions to learn how to get to know and interact with others. I want them to ask God questions believing He will answer.

For Bible class we are going through the Gospel of Luke. My kids are at different levels in reading and I want them to hear the Word straight from the Bible. Not a children’s storybook version but straight from the Word of God. We stop at each section and talk about it before reading more. Recently we came across some questions I didn’t have answers for. I tried different versions of the Bible and we even asked our “school principal”, a.k.a. my husband, if he had any further knowledge but we were stumped. This happened two days in a row.

I began to feel incapable of teaching them the Bible. I was afraid I’d run into more questions I couldn’t answer. Truth is it was good for my kids to see that I don’t know everything and that I struggle with some of the same things they do.

Having faith in Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll always understand. It’s in the unanswered questions that our faith will grow. After all, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Even though I don’t understand why some people are healed and some are not, I still have faith that God heals. Even though I don’t understand why certain things happen in this world, I still believe God is in control. Even though I can’t answer all my kids’ questions I still know God has called me to be their mom and teach them of His ways. I will do this imperfectly but the Lord knew that and He’s not shaken. It’s through our imperfections that we can teach volumes more than we can when we have a tidy answer for everything. Answering with “I don’t know” takes humility and honesty. Being at peace with all your I don’t know’s takes faith in a loving God who has everything in His hands.

So my kids can bring on their questions. Together we’ll learn and grow. And if my answer is “I don’t know” I’m at peace with that.

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The Word

Ps 119.105

I love His Word. It’s something I’m passionate about.

 

His Word is truth. It brings life and light.

Hope where there is none.

Faith and strength.

 

It drives out the darkness and brings things to light.

It makes things pure.

 

At His Word angels sing and demons shutter,

blind men see and the mute speak.

 

At His Word mountains shake.

What was nothing becomes something,

what was dead comes back to life.

 

In His Word we find our heritage.

We find our hope and our destiny.

 

In His Word we find who we were created to be.

We find our reason for living.

We find strength and joy and peace.

 

In His Word we find the beauty of the One who gave us life.

We find the sacrifices He made for us.

 

In His Word we find an amazing love that never dies,

death only makes it stronger.

 

In His Word we find power to set the captives free

and break the chains of lies that have held us all.

 

In His Word we find examples of how to live.

We find a freedom that no government or prison can take away.

 

His Word is more beautiful than any jewel

more valuable than any treasure.

 

His Word has authority and power.

His Word is life.

I know that by reading the Word of God I can know my Lord even more. I learn about His character, His love, His will for my life. He speaks through His Word. So I will not only read His Word but study it, memorize it and keep it in my heart.

I want my children to also know the Lord, hear His voice and discover all the wonderful treasures found in His Word. So each week I have a memory verse for my kids. It will usually have something to do with what we are studying in Bible class. On Monday we read the verse together and talk about what it means. I want to know they have a clear understanding of the verse. I want it to be more than just words to them. Actually, them getting the meaning is the most important thing to me. Come Friday I don’t care if they stumble over the exact wording or forget where it’s found. (I hope they have an idea where it’s found because that shows they have an idea of what the verse is about.) The point is not to be legalistic but to get the Word of God in their hearts so it can grow, take root and at just the right time in their life I believe the Holy Spirit will be faithful to reveal to them verses they learned as a child to help them with situations they face as an adult. I know it’s worked this way for me many times.

I would like to challenge us all in this new year to take time to memorize verses. Pray about it and the Lord will have certain verses stand out to you. Take time to memorize those. It’s worth the time you take to do it.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Your teachings are worth more to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. Psalm 119:72

Good Example

Recently I went to a meeting for church with my three elementary age kids. They had childcare but it was for children five and under. With a busy bag by our side we came prepared. Not long into the meeting my kids were asked if they wanted to be helpers in the child room. I was glad they were able to escape the meeting. It would’ve been pretty boring for them.

When I picked up my kids one of the ladies told me my daughter said she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do to help. The lady told her that sometimes just being a good example is enough. At that moment those words profoundly reasonated in my heart.

I often feel like my daughter did. I say, “Lord, what am I supposed to do to help. To help spread your Word, to help other people, etc…? I feel like I’m doing nothing. I’m just living life.” But right there is the key, I’m living life. I’m doing my best to live my life for the Lord. To be a good wife, mother and daughter of the King of Kings. I need to not underestimate how valuable setting a good example is. I just need to relax and know that setting a good example – to my children, to my friends, to the world around me – is enough.

Jesus showed us a good example and we are reminded in I Peter 2:21 to follow his example. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” And in Titus 2:7 it says, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”

Many times setting a good example is enough and those times when it’s not I’m sure the Lord will be faithful to tell me.

Homemade Christmas

People who know my husband and I well know we don’t have much money. It’s been that way all our married life. My husband’s jobs have been lowing paying, so we are doing well to make ends meet. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord takes care of us. We have our basic needs met but we have very little, if anything, for extras. So when Christmas rolls around each year all we have to say is, “Okay kids, you know the drill about Christmas.” They all nod as we continue, “We’ll do the best we can to get you gifts but we might not be able to get much at all.” Then we go in our spiel about how it’s not about the gifts anyway. Our kids are so used to it by now they roll pretty well with it. Of course I’d love to buy so much for our kids and my husband but that’s not always possible, not if we want to stay in our budget.

Yet through the years God has come through in some pretty amazing ways. People have bought us gifts anonymously, we’ve been given money – sometimes we knew who gave to us but sometimes we didn’t. We’ve had unexpected bonuses given to my husband. Then we-by we I mean my husband- would make a mad dash to the store with a ton of other last minute shoppers to buy presents. I’d love to tell all the stories of how the Lord has provided throughout the years but I don’t have time for that now. Those blessings have certainly increased my faith though and shown to me how faithful and loving our God is.

Since the kids don’t have access to much money we encourage them to make something for each other. Last year we stepped the presents up a notch. By stepping it up I mean the creativity and time put into the gift. Even my husband and I made gifts for each of the kids and each other. We bought one store bought gift for each child and the rest was homemade. I wasn’t sure how the gifts were going to turn out but I wanted to make the best of it. We took the month of December off from homeschooling with text books and planned and worked on projects instead. All projects had to be approved by either dad or I and I didn’t want to have to spend much, if anything, on materials. That would kind of defeat our purpose. I like doing crafts so I have a lot of supplies on hand, we just needed to add our imagination. Of course we had some inspiration from Pinterest.

We used three basic materials; fabric, canvas, and cardboard. I was in charge of the fabric projects because they had to do with sewing. We don’t have a sewing machine so all our sewing projects were done by hand. I’m sure it would be easier if you have a machine. The girls both received a flower pillow. I thought the butterfly was a nice touch from my older daughter.

My son got a Lego head pillow from his sister and a puppy stuffed animal from his other sister. She included a small container with a label that says “Spot’s food” on it. It’s actually a small spice container.

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My youngest son got a pteranodon jacket from his sister. We bought a green jacket that was on sale (I’m sure you could find one at Goodwill) and we sewed fabric pieces to make it look like wings. She had done something similar for him a couple years ago with a red jacket and sewed blue half circles filled with pillow fluff along the back to look like a dinosaur. He loved it but has outgrown that one.2016_12_29_12_12

On my next projects I got to do some painting. That was fun. I rarely have time to do things like this so I really enjoyed it. For my boys I made these canvases. I used tape to get the stripe effect. Then I hot glued buttons on to form the letter.

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For my oldest daughter I gave her a mirror with her name at the top and words along the sides that remind her of how the Lord sees here. I typed out verses that go along with the words. She hung those above her mirror. This way she’ll remember the truth God’s Word speaks over her and not the lies the mirror tries to tell us all, especially women. I wrote more about this in a post called “Do you see what I see” last December. https://shiningtheloveofjesus.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/do-you-see-what-i-see/

Mirror Edit

For this project my son and I painted some glass rocks you use for flower vases and hot glued them on a canvas. P1050243

Here’s a fun picture of the gift I made for my husband. He loves candy so much he says he has sweet teeth. So I made him this candy jar. 2016_12_24_11_49

Next are the cardboard projects. My husband was in charge of these. It’s amazing what that man can make with cardboard. Our son is a big Snoppy and Charlie Brown fan so my husband made him an airplane that Snoppy can fit in. It’s really large but really cool.

It’s 3 feet long with a wing span of about 29 inches. When he isn’t using it we hang it on the wall using shelf brackets. P1050244

For our daughter he made her a doll house out of cardboard big enough for Barbie dolls or Strawberry Shortcake dolls. The beds were made for her by her brother using leftover pieces of insulation foam. We painted them and dressed them up with scrapbook embellishments. The mattress is cushion padding covered with fabric.

 

A similar gift was a Hot Wheels parking garage for our youngest son.

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A super cool gift was this cardboard bird my husband made for my oldest daughter. When you lightly pull the chain below the bird, it moves up and down as if it were flying. It fit in well with their tropical room.

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The projects turned out well. It was fun to see what everyone made each other. An added bonus was my kids learned to sew and some learned to use a small saw, with the supervision of dad of course. We may not have been textbook learning but they were definitely learning and also learning to think of others. I’m sure we’ll remember our homemade Christmas for a long time to come.

Stories through Genesis (part one)

p1040420I mentioned to my kids one day that many of the great Old Testament stories of the Bible are in Genesis. They looked at me like this was an amazing fact they’ve never heard. “Really?” They said. All they remember about Genesis is the story of Creation and Adam and Eve. The Lord had already been stirring my heart to go through the stories of Genesis with my kids and in this moment I KNEW I needed to.

Genesis holds the foundational stories for our Christian faith. It’s a good book to use to introduce kids (and anyone really) to the Bible and Christianity. I love going through this with my kids. It’s helped me look deeper into these stories instead of just reading them with little thought because I’m so familiar with them. It builds up my faith as I see the constant theme of the Lord’s faithfulness.

My kids have been in church pretty much since they were born. They’ve heard the Bible stories from church as well as me reading to them. I noticed that I mainly read to them out of children’s devotionals or children’s Bible story books. That’s a great start but I wanted them to hear it straight from the Bible. There are pieces most children’s books leave out. Some for good reason. Prayerfully I went to the Lord to find out which sections to leave in and which to skip over. Also, how do I keep the attention of four kids with an age range of 6 – 14? Of course the Lord was again faithful as He guided me.

So here’s a snapshot of how this looks for us. I give each of my children a pencil, eraser and their own notebook. We pray. I tell them the section I will be reading from and write it on the board. I encourage them to take notes which can either be what I write on the board, pictures they draw p1040384(only pertaining to the story that day), or what they were inspired to write down. I read to them the section for the day. If it’s a larger section I will take breaks and talk about it as I go. If it’s a shorter story, I read the whole thing at once then discuss. Beforehand the kids know we are looking to answer three questions so they can be thinking about them as I read. The three questions are:

#1 What is the story about? Here we are discussing the facts of the story. I then write the facts on the board in an easily worded form so they can writep1040377 it down and read what they wrote later.

#2 What can we learn from this story? Here we discuss how we can use what we learn in our life. I also write this on the board.

#3 Is God speaking something to me personally through this story? This gives them a chance to listen to the Lord and learn to hear His voice. They have the option of sharing that with everyone or keeping it to themselves.

Because it’s such a large age range I try to keep things interesting. Every day we do notes but some days we will act it out like a skit and I take turns with who gets to help me. I also have A Beka Bible flash-a-cards I use to help illustrate if I have the ones for the story that day. At other times I turn to Pinterest to find some coloring pages and have them color a picture that p1040424goes with our story that day. Using this combination helps keep the kids engaged. Let’s be real, they’re kids, so it doesn’t always work but it helps to have a few different approaches up my sleeve. Always, ALWAYS I have to remember to lean into the Holy Spirit to give me ideas to help them understand and keep their wheels turning. Of course that’s true for parenting, not just Bible class.

I encourage you to take your time. Don’t rush through. Answer all their questions or help them find the answers. Take time to explore the Word with them. If you sense it’s getting lengthy for them, save the rest for another day.

Here’s how I’ve broken down the stories in Genesis. This is may or may not work for your family (or class). Use what you can. There are some stories that are more difficult for kids. Like explaining a covenant or circumcision or Sarai giving Abram her maidservant. Always ask for the Lord’s direction. He’ll guide you how to present it in the way your child (or class) will understand.

I skipped creation and the fall of man with my kids because I went through it with them a few years ago and am planning on going through it with them again in the fall. We have only done half of Genesis so far. I plan on doing a part two to this to show how the other half was broken down.

Stories:

Cain & Abel                                  4:1-16p1040425

The Flood                                      5-9

Tower of Babel                             11

The Call of Abram                       12:1-9

Abram & Lot part                        13

God’s covenant with Abram     15:1-7

Hagar & Ishmael                         16

Reinstatement of Covenant      17:1-18:15

Sodom & Gomorrah                    18:20-21, 19:1-7, 9-29

Birth of Isaac                                21:1-20

Abraham Tested                           22:1-19

Isaac & Rebekah                          (23:1), 24:1-34, 50-66

Hopefully this has given you some ideas to teach your kids about the Bible.

Do you see what I see?

p1030900For Christmas this year I made each of my children a gift. For my teenage daughter I made a gift inspired by something I saw at my church’s fall women’s retreat.

At retreat there was a room you could go into with different tables set up. Each station had a way for you to go deeper with the Lord. At one of these stations you were to think of a lie you’ve been believing about yourself. Then you would write it on a small piece of paper and nail it to a cross. The other end of the table had a full length mirror. You were to take a marker and write on the mirror a truth of how God sees you – which would be the opposite of the lie you just nailed to the cross. In this way we were nailing lies we’ve come to believe to the cross and renewing our minds with God’s truth about us.

God used this exercise as a powerful tool for me. By the time I had got to the stations most of the women at retreat had already gone through. The mirror was full of revelations of how God sees these beautiful ladies. Soimg_20160910_134600 much more than the messages we hear about ourselves from T.V., magazines, and a gamut of other places. These women were beginning to see themselves as their Heavenly Father sees them.

I also noticed the things they wrote are things I struggle with too. All to often I feel alone in my challenges of life but we really are very alike. Each with her own story and perspective but our struggles are often the same. No wonder the enemy wants to keeps us isolated on our own island. When we do that we can’t encourage or sharpen each other.

The mirror made such an impact on me. I couldn’t get it off my mind. “Wouldn’t that be great,” I thought to myself, “if we would see these revelations of how the Lord sees us on a daily basis and have scripture to back them up.” That way when the enemy comes at us trying to chain us down with labels that aren’t true or with the past, that we’ve been redeemed from, the words of God will flow from our lips and our hearts would stay secure in our identity in Christ.

I began to think about my daughters and how my prayer for them is to have these truths in their foundation at a young age. What a shame that so many women wait so many years before discovering these truths. I was one of them. I want more for my girls. Though I know they will still have struggles to face my prayer is they can do so with a more solid foundation.

That’s when I saw it in my mind. I saw a mirror with my daughter’s name at the top. Around the rest of the frame were words of how God sees her. Along with it I would give a piece of paper with verses that match the words on the mirror. For example, one of the words is loved with Jeremiah 31:3 for a matching scripture. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

In this way every time my daughter sees herself in the mirror, instead of hearing some ugly lie about herself she will see these truths framing her. Speaking words of life over her. Speaking truth to her. She can recall the verses and know these are much more than words on a mirror. They are the very truths of God.

Begin your own journey of discovery of who God says you are. Ask Him how He sees you. Listen for His voice and write down what He says. Memorize the verses He shows you and hold them close to your heart. I pray you see what God sees in you. May any lies you’ve believed melt away as God’s words fill your heart.

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Homeschooling through the stress

nov-treeI don’t know about you other homeschooling mamas but this mama is getting tired, and quite frankly, a bit stressed. I’m realizing our halfway point for school is drawing ever closer and I’m looking at the books to see if the bookmarks are at the halfway point…Nope! Yikes!! STRESS!!! …Breathe mama, breathe. It’s going to be okay. Really! It is.

I’m a check-it-off my list type of person. Stay on schedule. Stay on target. I hate feeling behind. Homeschooling has certainly taught me to go with the flow much better because, let’s face it, things don’t always go the way we plan. I’ve learned to be flexible but I’ve also learned that in order to get done what needs to get done we have to say no to many things. I have to stay disciplined and committed to what is truly important. Discipline can be exhausting though. I feel as if I have to hold it all together because I am holding everyone else together. Being a mom and homeschooling my kids is an important job. One that is an honor to be doing but let’s be honest, sometimes, I just need to let go.

Just relax.

Just breathe…

Stop. Remain quiet and breathe.

About a year ago I had a dream I was pilot of a large luxury spacecraft taking people on a long journey. I could feel the weight of the task I had to carry on my shoulders. The people aboard were family and friends I loved. This was a big responsibility but an honorable one.

There was a war going on in space. The battle was taxing. There was space debris to maneuver through. It was a hard journey and it was my job to make sure everyone made it to their destination safely.

That’s exactly how my life feels. Being a wife and mother is an important and honorable job. One I’m so thankful I get the privilege of doing. The Lord has entrusted my husband and I with the lives of our children and we will do our best to guide and direct them in the ways of the Lord. To instill in them a solid foundation. We are truly in a battle, a spiritual war.

There’s so much to teach the kids that I just get overwhelmed at times. That’s when I need check and see if I’ve been relying on God’s strength or trying to do it on my own. I start out on God’s strength but somewhere a shift happens and I start using my own strength instead. That’s a sure recipe for getting tired fast. I must rely on God’s strength. I must rely on Him to be the air under my wings that carries me through. When I lean on Him I can soar to new heights.

There also needs to be times of rest. Times of refreshing. Times where I do nothing but soak in His unfailing love and rest in the confidence that God’s got this. He is faithful and He is kind and I can trust Him.

I’ve heard that November and February are the months that are the toughest for homeschoolers. I can certainly see truth in that. So if you’re like me and have been feeling overwhelmed, relax. Take a day off if you need to. Take a week off if you need to. It’s not about how much we can cram into our kids. We need to be sure to preserve the parent child relationship and our sanity. Do your best and let God do the rest.

Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 4:6