The Love Chapter … For Homeschool Mamas

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We know our well-laid plans will inevitably meet up with real life sooner rather than later. But sometimes real life hits while you’re in the middle of laying those plans. And you end up not dealing well with either.

homeschool planning back to school

Last Monday I was slated to read 1 Corinthians 13-16 in my Bible reading plan. But I went to the gym that morning, and when I got home I jumped right into what I knew would be a crazy-busy first day of a crazy-busy week, in which I hoped to “do all the things”.

I was most excited to get a good start on planning for school since our start date was just one week away. So there I was, reviewing where we’d been and making wonderful plans for where we were headed.

Idealism was running high.

But I had been running on less sleep, so I was a bit irritable. Maybe the gym wasn’t what I needed that morning.

The boys were super hyper. They need school in their lives, I kept telling myself. Stop fighting! Calm down! I kept telling them.

The library couldn’t recheck my books over the phone–I’d be adding a trip to town today.

Our dinner guests for that night had to cancel, but only after much deliberation trying to make it work. It was somewhat of a relief, except for the amount of time it took.

I had to make a complicated decision about another social event that day, too.

The interruptions drew me away from my planning. The boys bickered and bugged and bombarded. And I lost my temper more times than I care to report.

Our “break week” was off to a very stressful start.

Before heading into town (library books, remember?) I took a peak at my Bible plan.

*Insert deep sigh.*

1 Corinthians 13? Yes, I definitely should have started the day there.

love 1 corinthians 13

My husband gave the ok for me to spend a little extra time in town to process away from all the hubbub at home. I ran straight to 1 Corinthians. I was not disappointed.

Well, except that I was disappointed that I hadn’t run there much, much earlier.

God’s word is good and true. It brings conviction, but it also brings comfort. Reading it in the morning isn’t some magic pill that zaps us into holiness, but it is a tool in God’s hand to soften and mold our hearts–whenever we humbly approach it.

The Lord just happened to use all of last Monday to humble me before I got there.

Tuesday morning I made a point of writing out 1 Corinthians 13 in terms that were immediately applicable to my circumstances.

1 corinthians 13 love chapter homeschool mom

It’s tempting to put confidence in our accomplishments, knowledge, or sacrifices. The Corinthians thought they were spiritual for such things.

But love is greater than all of these.

And my confidence is in the accomplishments, knowledge, and sacrifice of Another. And He leads with love.

Fast forward to today. The boys’ alarm clock will blare its rousing tones in precisely nine minutes. And our first day back to school will officially begin.

My plans are (mostly) laid now. Most everything is in place. Best of all, as I now move into putting my plans into practice, I have this reminder of what is most important.

The two greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Including the little “neighbors” that are about to come tumbling down the stairs asking for breakfasst.

Lord willing, I’ll greet them with a smile, pray over them earnestly, and readily give a back rub or a tickle instead of a lecture when stress begins to mount in our days.

The Lord knows I need His word and His grace to follow through. But that’s my prayer for our homeschool this year.

What’s yours?

1 corinthians 13 love chapter homeschool mama

The Afternoon Checklist — A Homeschool (or After School!) Life Hack

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Do your kids have a favorite activity they default to in their free time? Do you wish they would spend at least some of their time on other enriching activities? Music practice? Other games or toys? Homework? Playing outside?

Do you also want to teach your children to be a bit more self-directed? And maybe give yourself some space to tackle a project with minimal (or at least less than constant) interruptions?

As an INTJ homeschool mom who highly values focused work time, I sure do.

Maybe you can relate to what I used to face every day after lunch (just replace “Legos” with your child’s current obsession):

“Mama, can we play with Legos?”

lego bricks toys after school play

 

“Is your room clean?”

“Mama, can we play with Legos now?”

“Hmm…have you even finished your school work?”

“Can we NOW??”

“Just a minute, I’m [cleaning something, on the phone, solving a problem in our budget, in the middle of cooking or writing, etc] … Uh…sure?”

Then shouts of jubilation trail behind the eager engineers as they scurry off to their Lego corner.

And about thirty minutes later I realize there were at least two other things I would have liked for them to do first.

Sigh.

Now, my kids are not ruined because I didn’t have a nice, neat list for them ready at hand (and neither are yours, to be honest), but my own sanity and ideals sure do take a beating when I allow this scenario to become our default routine.

While I might buy myself some uninterrupted time by just giving in to the kids’ repeated pleas, regret inevitably sinks in later when I realize the house is a mess, school supplies are still out, or they haven’t been outside at all on a beautiful day.

I began to realize a little forethought could make a big difference.

My kids love their Legos, and I do, too! But I know they need more than just Legos in their lives. So at the beginning of the summer I created an Afternoon Checklist for each of my boys.

afternoon checklist homeschool after school

I thought through the daily responsibilities I wanted them to fulfill and put those at the top. These must all be completed.

Then, I added two more sections, one focusing on creative or mind-building activities that could be done inside, and one listing some productive or nature-study related activities to be done outside (weather permitting). They are required to choose one from each section.

homeschool afternoon checklist kids

We value things like handicrafts, nature study, life skills, art, and science in the education we’re trying to give our children, but I’m a bit of a low-energy mom and I have found it difficult to always be the one to make these things happen. Now, I know we’re getting to them consistently without a lot of effort from me.

It’s a win for everyone.

The particular activities listed usually don’t require my help to initiate, but sometimes they do. Whether or not an activity is approved may depend upon my project workload that afternoon, but I try to say “yes” most of the time.

This does two things for us: it gives my boys boundaries within which they (usually) have freedom to choose whatever they like, and it still gives me some veto or redirection power with a list of options right there in front of me (no more decision fatigue!).

I also put one activity on their lists that DOES require me. I can’t just check-out all afternoon, only interacting with my kids on a utilitarian basis (a mode which I find all-too-easy to fall into). So I built a little bit of accountability for ME into these cards as well. Both my boys appreciate this, but I know my particularly sociable one (likely an ESFJ) absolutely needs it.

While both of my boys enjoy the predictability of their afternoon checklists (hey, it’s nice to know what’s required of you!), my six-year-old particularly loves his, calling it his “Ticket to ride the fun train!”

And no, I did not feed him that line! That’s all him!

afternoon checklist laminated homeschool

I used regular index cards and these nifty laminating pouches. 🙂

It may not be Legos in your home. Maybe it’s soccer. Or screen time. Or playing dress-up. Or even something so wonderful as reading! Whatever it is, it’s good in it’s proper place, but a “good” part can crowd out the “better” whole of a well-rounded childhood.

Of course, my oldest has a birthday this week and his one request (with the day off from school and his Papa home from work) is to spend the entire day playing Legos.

We’ll indulge him on his special day.  Because a well-rounded childhood can include that sort of thing, too.  😉

 

As you may have noticed, part of the motivation for these afternoon checklist cards has been to carve out a bit more peace of mind for me while simultaneously meeting the needs of my children. One thing that has helped me to see those needs—and especially how my children’s budding personalities differ from my own!—is Mystie Winckler’s Practical Personality Portfolio. In fact, she’s got a live chat on Educating All Types scheduled for Thursday, August 2 for anyone who has purchased the Personality Portfolio. I’ll be tuning in! Will you?

 

Materialism, Faith, and the Heart of the Matter

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I tend to be swayed, not by the arguements of atheists, but by their habits of mind. Just going on autopilot I end up living out my “Christian routine” with a heart set on this world, as though this were all there is.

Materialism in the existential sense gets hold of me by way of materialism in the pragmatic sense.

I slip into a callousness to spiritual things quite easily when distracted by my own work, relationships, etc–and by the many voices to which I daily choose to expose myself.

But they aren’t voices making logical arguments. They’re voices saying, “You want this” or “You need that” or “This is urgent” or “important” or “valuable”.

These voices slip in by emotional or physical appeal and sheer force of influence. And I let them in without thinking because they come at me so fast and so many that my defenses are worn down. Viewing and deleting an email advertizing more make-up from the brand I prefer seems harmless, but when I deal with ten such emails a day, plus ads and other people’s posts on Facebook and Instagram, every image and urging builds in me more and more of a materialistic worldview. Circumventing my reason in a sheer battle of attrition, they go straight for the heart.

It’s hard not to be a default materialist in a world of constant consumerism.

But when I examine my hands–real, tangible, sensory things–and consider that these real, non-digital hands can bend and move and twist and point and snap and anything else I might think of the moment I think of it, I can’t hlep but marvel at the ingenuity.

Not mine, of course, but God’s.

faith doubt materialism hand

Ah, but it takes a very intentional pause from my daily routine and my daily news and email feeds to be able to remind myself that I am not a materialist.

Every time I stop long enough to examine that perspective, to try it on, if you will, I find it utterly untenable. I don’t beleive that what I see is all there is. I don’t believe my hand, with all its precision and dexterity, could have come about by mere chance. It’s too beautifully and brilliantly crafted. Like a machine, only so much more than a machine. Like a work of art, only so much more than a work of art.

So why this disconnect between what I know to be true (not just in my heart of hearts, as the expression goes, but in my most clear-headed moments of the mind) and the flying on agnostic-at-best autopilot? Why this practical atheism?

While I could again mention the nature of our modern world, it seems this is a human problem afflicting the ancient world as well. Why else would the Apostle Paul find it necessary to exhort his readers to “keep seeking the things above” if not for the fact that it is so darn easy to fall for lesser things?

Worldliness, idolatry, and the patterns of thinking and behaving characteristic of each are not a new enemy of faith and reason.

Col 3 Materialism Faith Heart of the Matter

It’s hard to set your mind on these things when you’ve sated your senses on the world, leaving no room–and no taste–left for the things above. Even this time of meditation and writing has not been entered into without a struggle.

But it started with prayer. Or rather with fighting for it. And praise–though I have to admit I’ve been out of that practice as well, outside of the usual routine.

Trying to pray and praise when your heart is cold–and because you know that your heart is cold–is an uncomfortable and difficult place to be. But, praise God, He met me in that place and is answering my cries for help to pray and to praise Him.

I started off praying, “God is good,” etc, while wondering inside whether I actually cared.

If He is real and He is good, then I ought to care. The dullness I felt on the matter led me to examine my hands and question my base assumptions, and finally come out aright again.

He is real. He is there. He is good. He is personal. He is a magnificent, intelligent Creator.

Yes, I care about those things. Yes, I want to know Him. Yes, He is worthy of praise.

That may not amount to a deep theology, but it is the foundation for everything else, at least in my experience. All the details of salvation are moot points if I’m not sure about spiritual reality to begin with.

But once I am, all the rest of it matters.

 

 

 

The Homeschool Review: Summer 2018

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It’s time for another homeschool review post in which I give you a peak into what homeschooling looks like in our very real day-to-day life.

Springing into Summer

Summer is officially here now, though we’ve been relishing summertime activities for a good month-and-a-half already.  You might as well when you live in the south, right?

This is our third year of gardening, and it’s our best yet. We decided not to start seedlings indoors this year, since we neither have room for this nor success in hardening plants. That’s made for a much easier time just planting cucumber, lettuce, spinach, carrot, and green bean seeds directly in the soil.

lettuce garden homeschool review summer

We’ve also put in tomato plants and sweet potato slips. The boys helped with the process and we’ve all enjoyed harvesting the lettuce and spinach before it died off or got eaten by deer.

 

We now have cucumbers and tomatoes aplenty and anticipate we’ll be learning to can this summer!

 

Along with regular work outside and chores inside we kept at schooling consistently through all of April and half of May. Activities always tend to pick up in the late spring, and this year has been no exception. We attended the Red Fern Festival in Tahlequah, OK;

homeschool review summer spring red fern festival

the kids and I started attending a once-a-month Archeology and Plant-Use History class an hour from home;

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our Schole Sisters group continued meeting once a month—twice at a park and once for swimming this quarter; there was our homeschool group’s curriculum share, where I got to take a peak at other people’s favorite curriculum and win a few items to use next year; I helped coach a group of little girls at a local running clinic, which culminated with a 5K in mid-May; and Nathaniel and I were once again in charge of our homeschool group’s Field Day event, which also took place in mid-May, meaning the time leading up to it (basically this whole period I’m reflecting on) had its fair share of planning and delegating going on.

After Field Day, I needed a break!

I tried crunching numbers to see what kind of break I could justify while at the same time wondering about scheduling and planning for the coming year. After working over several ideas I’d seen on interval planning, my husband suggested we start counting out weeks from January (to keep things simple), and then I can take off a certain amount of time every eight-week period. Doing the math that way, I could see that we’d been pretty faithful through the beginning of 2018, despite quite a bit of sickness. Based on the paradigm we came up with I had 14 days to play around with!

I immediately took ten days off at the end of May. 😊

We kicked off schooling again in June with a morning of blueberry picking and an afternoon of easing back into our regular lessons. The next day we decided to throw Vacation Bible School in the mix! It is summer, after all. 😉

Along with the paradigm shift my husband and I came to, we also firmly decided that we would now school year-round. The schedule we’re working from will give ample time off on a regular basis, and the eight-week terms are fixed on the calendar, so that I can plan material for us to cover in that definite chunk of time. Having had a very unpredictable schedule in the past, this is such a relief to me! I’ll share more about how we’ve got this set up in another post…soon!

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For now we’re continuing on in Right Start Math Levels B and C, First Language Lessons 1 and 2, McGuffey readers, Story of the World volume 2, and lots of good books. I have also introduced a new way to narrate—the boys have been retelling what they’ve read with their Lego minifigures. Suffice it to say, this is a big hit.

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Christopher Robin (the astronaut) is up in a tree looking down at Pooh and saying, “Silly old bear!”

We recently finished reading Pilgrim’s Progress in Morning Time and have now moved on to Archimedes and the Door of Science.  Admittedly, this is a bit beyond my kids, but they were interested, so we’re giving it a go. We’ve also started going through a Health text book that I snagged for free at a curriculum sale. It’s been a good springboard for discussing a topic that we haven’t directly addressed at all yet—and it’s been a good, simple refresher for me on the basics of healthy food and exercise habits.

Over the past few months of family bedtime read-alouds we finished both Swiss Family Robinson and The Phantom Tollbooth. The latter was definitely our favorite of the two. We just began reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, thus arriving at a major childhood milestone: entering into Narnia for the first time.

Our Preschool Prodigies Music lessons are back in the afternoon again, especially since this season we’re needing more time outside in the mornings given the heat we encounter later in the day. In addition to the progression of music lessons with singing and bells, we’re now also starting Recorder Prodigies!

Where we’ve sometimes struggled to get to these wonderful lessons (among other lovely things like art and nature study) after lunch, I recently set up afternoon activity checklists for my kids so that they don’t ask me 4 billion times a day if they can play with Legos yet. Now they have to make sure they’ve done several other activities first.

homeschool afternoon checklist kids

This has been a win on so many levels.

They still love their Legos, but they’re also enjoying a broader variety of fun things now that I don’t let them just automatically default to their favorite interlocking brick system when I can’t think of what else to tell them to do. I’ll post more on this little sanity-saving tweak again soon!

Some of the other activities we’ve enjoyed this quarter have been watching a variety of flowers come up in our wildflower patch, dog sitting, building swings, watching a string quartet concert and a magic show, canoeing and kayaking, keeping track of the different birds we see each season, attending several other live music events in our community, and most recently swimming lessons.

We also caught a luna moth caterpillar last week and it promptly hid itself away in a lettuce leaf and began spinning its silken sleeping bag. We’re eagerly awaiting the change.

Shadows in the Sun

While we’ve had many bright, fun outings and adventures in the past few months, there’s also been a shadow cast upon our days: a shadow of grief.

I wrote last time about how we gave our dog away to friends in February and dealt with sickness and an impending job change in March. Those were trying times in their own right, but things have gotten a bit heavier since.  In April, my in-laws’ dog Freckles, regarded by all in the family as the best dog in the world, died. As we told the boys and all shared tears, they remarked that this was worse than giving Luther away.  At least they knew there was a possibility of seeing Luther again. They understood that Freckles was gone.

Fast forward to the end of May, and we received news that my grandfather, my PopPop, died at home in his recliner. He was 95 years old and his heart just stopped. It was his time. The boys were precious as they tried to take this in, each in their own way. One burst into tears immediately, the other sat quietly as his lip began to quiver. They loved playing games with their Great PopPop. And they knew this was a bigger deal than a dog dying. They knew it would hurt for longer.

And it has. Partly due to the nature of losing a loved one, and partly due to the fact that the Celebration of Life and military burial were scheduled to occur three weeks later, in mid-June. 20180619_144041

Grief is compounded when it is shared. Not in a bad way, it just is. Especially when you finally get to mourn with those who are most deeply affected by the loss. And so we grieved in our own way for three weeks as we waited for our trip down to Texas.

When we finally arrived it was a joy to be with so much of my family—it truly was a good time. But we also grieved together, and that was good, too, but hard. The boys got to pass out programs at the Celebration of Life, looking simultaneously like little gentlemen and silly boys. I know they prompted a lot of smiles as guests arrived.

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What does any of this have to do with homeschooling?

Well, everything.

And no, I’m not referring to the “learning experience” of getting to see a National Cemetery and witnessing the giving of military honors, as though I’d try to reduce something so momentous to the level of a field trip.

If the goal of education is character formation and ordering the affections–learning to care about what is worthy of our care–these times of growing and grieving together are at the core of the curriculum. A curriculum we didn’t choose, mind you, but one we follow nonetheless.

I can see God’s hand in our lives preparing my boys for the new and difficult experiences they have faced so far in 2018. And I can see how He has been building us up as parents so that we can gently lead our children through hard times.

I marveled that the boys were wrestling with the loss of dogs in Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows prior to experiencing those same emotions in real life. And the loss of beloved animals paved the way for grasping and bearing the loss of a dearly-loved great-grandfather. All the while, Nathaniel and I have gotten lots of practice not only at grieving ourselves, but of walking with others through grief—and especially with our children. It’s new territory for us, as well.

This has everything to do with homeschooling because our schooling has everything to do with living out this life together with our children until we launch them into whatever may come when they are grown. The literature they read isn’t just for practicing literacy. It’s helping their little hearts and minds prepare for real-world challenges. The time at home with us isn’t just so that we can shield them from harm or bad influences. It’s an opportunity for us to walk with them in these formative years, guiding them and encouraging them as they learn to navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of life.

It’s easy to get lost in the seemingly endless number of lessons we have scheduled. A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. We get to spend our days in God’s classroom with the children He has given us and with the freedom to respond to the lessons He chooses.

What’s He teaching in your homeschool lately?

Dear PopPop

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My grandfather passed away on Sunday evening, May 27th.  I have been processing the grief, gratitude, and flood of other emotions this week in many different ways; this is one of them.  

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At Christmas, 2017

Dear PopPop,

There are many in the wider world outside our family who I expect can offer grand and wonderful stories and accolades for your life’s accomplishments, and I intend to soak up every single one of them.

But while some have called you “Captain”, “friend”, and “hero”, there are very few people–three to be exact–who know the distinct honor of calling you “PopPop”. My most treasured thoughts of you will always be through a child’s eyes.

20180531_140545.jpgYou have been a constant in my life from the day I was born, a rock in our family. A year has not gone by that I haven’t seen you at least once, if not many more times.

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My first Christmas, 1984

 

You were always faithful to make a child smile–with magic tricks, golf-cart rides, jokes, story-telling, homemade rootbeer, pretending–and sometimes NOT pretending–to steal the food off our plates, playing pool and card games, the “shlabashka”, references to the “huntin’ lodge” and scrapple, homemade cookies and peanut brittle, and making sure each grandchild had a few quarters to take home every time they left your house.

Your Navy uniforms and plaques haven’t lost their glow in my imagination, and I still look on your many beautiful paintings with big, 5-year-old eyes, inlcuding the one that hangs in my kitchen today.

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“How does he do that?”

Grandfathers have a way of being larger-than-life to their grandkids, and PopPop, you are no exception.

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You and Grandma attended every one of my softball games that you possibly could. And graduation. And my wedding.

And I’m so thankful that in recent years my two boys have had the privelege to know you, though some of the old antics have been replaced by games of “hide and seek”:  you clanking your way around the house with your cane or walker while the boys picked out terribly obvious hiding places. You always found them. They always found you. Their boyish giggles and unhindered smiles rivaled only by your own.

2016 Christmas in November (5)Just as you did when I was a kid, you always tried to make sure your great-grandkids went home with quarters in their pockets–only this time there was the chance of getting a double helping since you might forget you’d passed them out already.

Watching you with my own children has helped to keep my child-eyes open. I still see you in awe and wonder with a heaping dose of playfulness and fun.

And while we commit you to the Lord’s keeping, honestly not quite ready to let you go, we hold tight to every precious memory and give thanks for the 95 years of life you were given on this earth. I’m especially thankful for the last 33 of them.

I love you, PopPop. And I miss you.

Love,
The Pumpkin

An Honest Blog Post

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Well, friends, I seem to be at an impasse.

I have so many ideas spinning around in my head that I can’t seem to get any of them out on paper (or in pixels) in any way that makes sense or can be tied up with a pretty bow fit for a blog post.

starbucks writing blank page blog

Some things I have the writing for but no pictures, and some things I have pictures for but nothing written. Other things are half-written or half-baked.

Despite the fact that I’ve been working hard to catch up on many of my real-life responsibilities–and have been quite successful, praise the Lord–I still can’t seem to get my writing out-put to match my intentions.

What does this mean for the blog? Well, not a whole lot, really. I have no intentions of quitting. On the contrary, I have felt a lot of upward momentum in terms of the ideas I have that would be fun, encouraging, and hopefully helpful.

But having more ideas has only lead so far to further decision fatigue and my writing productivity has fizzled out.

My goal has been to post to the blog twice a month. It’s not a lofty goal, but it’s been difficult to crank out even as my own ideas and expectations are eager for even more.

I’ve sat here at Starbucks for an hour attempting to work on one particular writing project to no avail, so instead of trying to force something beautiful when it isn’t happening, I’m writing this post from precisely where I’m at.

Ending sentences with prepositions and all.

I’ve heard this is life as a writer sometimes. It doesn’t come easily. It takes work. And sometimes the most necessary work is simply to start writing, whatever comes.

Well, here you have it.

Nothing crafted, nothing planned. Except perhaps a slice of humble pie which the Lord is serving as a side to all of my grand ideas.

Honestly, as I take a bite, I think it tastes better than I would have thought. It’s refreshing, at the least, to know that even when the page I wanted to write is either empty or jumbled beyond sorting out, the Lord is at work in me to accomplish something better than my own plans.

Perhaps in being honest with myself and with you, my readers–in this post that is neither planned nor pollished–I’ll be free to begin to really write.

I hope you’ll stick around to see what comes of it. Somehow I don’t think the wait will be long.

God bless.

 

 

40 Things I Love More than the Internet

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This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through this link, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you.

The interenet is a blessed tool of information-hounding and long-distance connecting. But if we’re honest, we know it can literally suck the life and love out of our day-to-day existance.

Whether it’s bouncing from one interesting article to another, scrolling through a newsfeed, browsing a slew of pins and pictures, or succombing to the seemingly endless litany of emails, private messages, and texts that come at us, we have to be intentional to pull away from it all in order to enjoy moments of fully present, unplugged living.

That’s what prompted me to list all the things I love more than the internet. As though I have to be reminded, right? But I’m finding that I do. And it helps.

40 things love more than internet list unplugged

If the way I choose to spend my time doesn’t reflect the things I love most, something’s amiss. This list will look different from person to person, but I hope what I’ve come up with will be relatable and at least get the juices flowing for exploring what you think is worth unplugging for.

The top ten are people–my people–because while the internet does often help to connect us with others, it can also distract us from those with whom we ought to be most concerned (read: who should receive our greatest love and attention).

  1. My husband

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    Credit: Capturette Photos

  2. My kids

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    Credit:  Capturette Photos

  3. My parents
  4. My brother
  5. My grandparents
  6. My other extended family
  7. My in-laws
  8. My church family
  9. My friends
  10. My neighbors
  11. Reading a book with real pages

    A person reading a book under a blanket

    Credit:  Alice Hampson

  12. Writing, especially with a pen
  13. Running
  14. Walking
  15. Biking
  16. Hiking
  17. Creating something tastyIMG_0002.JPG
  18. Sharing something tasty
  19. Journaling (Bullet or otherwise)
  20. Drawing
  21. Singing
  22. Teaching
  23. PhotographyDSC_0142.JPG
  24. Live Music
  25. Shared Meals
  26. Deep Conversations
  27. Organizing
  28. Storm Watching
  29. Playing Games
  30. Camping/Backpacking20170916_102750.jpg
  31. Taking a hot bath or shower
  32. Literally stopping to smell the roses (or any other lovely flower)DSC_0029.JPG
  33. Thinking my own thoughts
  34. Quiet moments on the front porch
  35. Book Store Browsing
  36. Hand-written letters
  37. Deep Breathing
  38. People Watching
  39. Planning and Problem Solving
  40. Not being behind on financial record keeping (or other area of life management)

    Credit: Oleksii Hlembotskyi

The internet may at times be a means to some of these ends, but it is not one of the ends itself. That distinction is an important one to keep in view.

What I’ve listed above are wonderful but temporal things. Let’s not forget the transcendent, the eternal. As a Christian, the greatest privelege I have is knowing God through the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the good gifts of this life (many of which are listed above) come from Him and are vehicles through which I can appreciate and adore Him.

Beyond (or should I say above?) these things, seeking the Lord in prayer, worship, meditation, and Bible study are to the spiritual life what eating and breathing are to the physical. And while the internet does indeed provide tools that can enhance these activities, it is at best no replacement and at worst can rob these pursuits of the quiet that is necessary for discerning God’s voice above any and all others.

So what about you?  What do you love more than the internet?

If you would like to dive deeper into this subject, I highly recommend 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke.  It’s a fantastic read.

Wisdom in the Book of James

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I’ve recently begun a Bible study in the book of James. Unlike other guided studies which lean heavily on leading questions, this one focuses primarily on prayerfully engaging with the Word of God itself–allowing the Holy Spirit to be the only intermediary. It’s been a blessing to shut out other voices and tune into God’s voice alone speaking through the pen of James the brother of Jesus.

letter book of james proverbs wisdom bible study

One of the earliest themes to arrise in this epistle is that of wisdom. Muddy-headed from an exhausting week and not-quite-enough sleep, when I came to my bible time this morning I wasn’t sure where to jump in. I read the first few vereses on wisdom, and it hit me–that is just what I need!

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.

Well, that seemed a great place to start.

As I pleaded with the Lord to give me wisdom, I remembered that James deals with it twice in his short letter–in chapters one and three. I thought perhaps I should take a closer look.

Here’s the passage in chapter one:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

And again in chapter three:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Words of Wisdom

I have the book of James printed out so that I can highlight, circle, and underline to my heart’s content. My pages were already marked up before today’s time of study, so I began taking notes in my bullet journal based on patterns and connections I had observed previously.

wisdom book of james bible study

Jotting down all the words associated with wisdom in the book of James proved to be very helpful.  Some are prerequisites, like recognizing our lack of it, having faith in God’s goodness and unchanging nature, and asking Him for the wisdom we so desperately need. We can also see very clearly wisdom’s source: “from above”.

Many of the rest of the positive statements about wisdom help us to understand what it produces. Good conduct. Meekness. Purity. Peaceableness. Gentleness. Reasonableness. Mercy. Good fruits. Impartiality. Sincerity. Righteousness. These aren’t too far afield of the fruit of the spirit, now are they? It struck me just how relational most of these words are. Some uses of the word wisdom in the Old Testament imply doing things with skill. It seems a big part of what wisdom is in the book of James involves skillfully (and righteously) relating to other people.

There are also a few things we can discover about wisdom that aren’t directly stated. Since doubt and a lack of wisdom produce instability (James 1:5-6), we can infer that faith and wisdom produce stability, so that we aren’t tossed about by every wave. This has immediate relevance to how we hold up in times of trial and testing (that’s the context of these verses!).

Later in chapter three, we learn that two of the characteristics that are opposed to wisdom, jealousy and selfish ambition, lead to disorder, allowing us to infer that true wisdom will lead to order. I can’t help but relate this to the classical concept of ordering the affections, meaning this has much more to do with how our hearts are alligned (read: what we love most) than with the amount of clutter in our homes (though it’s wise to stay on top of that, too). Godly wisdom will help us to prioritize, and as we can see from the words James uses in this letter, people are higher on the list than things.

Many of the words James uses in chapter three illustrate what wisdom is not. These are every bit as instructive as the positive list–perhaps even more so considering how easy it is for us to assume we have wisdom by simply agreeing with its propositions. This intellectual assent can blind us to the ways in which our lives demonstrate the very opposite of godly wisdom. Spend some time with this list of what wisdom isn’t and ask yourself the question James posed to his readers: “Who among you is wise and understanding?”

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Wisdom Hits Home

This little letter is humbling. But that’s a good thing. It reminds us to throw ourselves on the grace of God offered to us through Jesus Chirst, seeking Him as we plead for wisdom to live in a way that’s worthy of the gospel.

As this exhortation meets my daily life, I know I need to be grounded in the foundational truth that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Also, consistent with James chapter three’s focus on taming the tongue, it’s good to remember the example laid down in Proverbs 31:26: “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” My husband and children have a front-row seat to my application of godly wisdom. When it’s lacking, they feel the effects of it.

book of james wisdom proverbs

Ultimately, what I see in the book of James is this: To be wise and understanding is to be like Christ. Jesus is the answer to James’ question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?”

Seeking wisdom merely for our own benefit or as an intellectual exercise misses the point.

The heart of wisdom outlined in James chapters one and three speaks to every other issue in the epistle: trials, temptation, relating to others in either anger or peace, doing rather than just hearing the word of God, keeping ourselves unstained by the world, not showing partiality, putting hands and feet to our profession of faith by loving others in deed and truth, using words appropriately, loving the eternal God rather than the temporal world, using our money to bless others rather than take advantage of them, being humble before God and others, submitting plans to the Lord’s will, waiting for the day of the Lord, and praying for and lifting up the lowly.

Whew!  You bet I need God’s wisdom and grace for these things!

Seems to me that at the end of the letter of James, we ought to circle back around to the beginning:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach.”

Our good, gracious, dependable God will answer this prayer. He’s the one who has invited us to pray it, after all.

 

What have you been learning from the Word lately?

The Homeschool Review: Spring 2018

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Ever wondered what homeschooling looks like in our family? Here’s a peak into what we’ve been up to since ringing in the New Year.  Since this is the first post of its kind, I’ll include a bit more detail about our usual daily routine.  Just make sure you scroll to the end to find out about some of our more exciting learning adventures since they don’t quite fit into a “usual day”.  😉

A Graceful Start

This semester began much like fall of 2017–with me landing on my rear.  Literally.  There’s just something about that first day back to school that makes me miss my step, aparently.  Or maybe it has something to do with fuzzy socks on a carpeted staircase at dark-thirty in the morning.  At least I wear shoes to go down my stairs now.

At any rate, once I’ve picked myself up off of the floor at the bottom of the staircase and limped into the kitchen to make coffee, our day moves along fairly smoothly:  from quiet time for the parents, to breakfast and Proverbs as a family, then to chores and personal Bible time for the kiddos (while Mama gets her homeschool game face on).

My boys have enjoyed listening to The Jesus Storybook Bible and the free dramatized audio bible available from Faith Comes by Hearing.  In the past few months, C-age-8 has begun to read about a chapter a day from the New Testament in his own bible, so the transition from bible listening to bible reading is going pretty smoothly so far!

Then there’s this lovely thing called Morning Time.  A dear local mommy friend who’s a little further down the road of motherhood than I am turned me onto this idea several years ago.

Do things together as a family first!  Then split up to do independent work.  That way you’re not having to corral everyone back together multiple times throughout the day and you can start with things you value and enjoy most.  Like prayer, music, poetry, a fun read-aloud…

 

I latched on to this idea and went searching the interwebs, eventually finding further inspiration from Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket podcast and resources (and she has a new book available on the topic if you’re interested!).

homeschool morning time books

That groundwork having been laid and tested over the past couple of years, we usually start out our school day with lighting a candle, going over our calendar and plans for the day, prayer, singing a hymn, reciting from our memory work binder, poetry reading, and currently reading aloud from Story of the World Volume 2 and a children’s adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress.

This week, I’ve also re-attached our Preschool Prodigies Music lessons as well as 5-10 minutes of Spanish to our Morning Time routine.  I tried to shorten Morning Time by moving these things to the afternoon, but found that they simply didn’t get done!

music lessons homeschool

Confession: there have been many days in the past quarter that I have skipped Morning Time to dive right into math because we were just short on time, but I have been finding lately that when life has gotten heavy and my energy reserves are running thin, starting the day with Morning Time ministers to my soul, helping me to take a deep breath, enjoy the time with my kids, and humbly move forward with my heart more focused on the Lord.

Turns out biblical truth and delightful learning are a great way to start the day.

The Three R’s

Moving on to math, D-age-6 finished Right Start Math Level B in February and has moved on to Level C after a well-earned week of playing math games.

homeschool math games right start

My older son, C-age-8, is half way through Level D, currently working on mastering multiplication facts and applying them to solving area problems.

homeschool right start math area

As for me, I’m learning to read ahead in our math books and plan our lessons accordingly.  This subject has been the hardest for me to keep to short lessons.  Partly because my kids just take longer than expected, and partly because the lessons sometimes require two days rather than the one day suggested by the book (or more realistically speaking, the one day expected by their mother).

I started out last semester working with a timer, keeping our math lessons to 20-30 minutes.  That worked well until I stopped using the timer (oops).  This quarter, I still haven’t been using the timer so much, but I am learning to repent of the pride that drives me to want to push my kids further and faster.

I’m teaching my kids, not a lesson.  This is not a race.  Our math curriculum itself is built upon understanding and enjoying math, not racing through to the next thing.  Embrace the time it takes to grow.

When I keep things in perspective, it’s a lot easier to see how much work is reasonable for a given day (it’s a lot less than what I used to think!).

For language arts, we’re continuing to work through First Language Lessons levels 1 and 2. My oldest could have been into level 3 by now, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after level 1, so we stalled out for a year.  That means his brother is only one book behind him.  Oh, well!  They’re both learning and enjoying their lessons on basic grammar, poetry, story and art narration, copywork, and dictation for my oldest now in level 2.  I love that this curriculum has been a gentle introduction for me to these classical methods of teaching.

homeschool language arts mcguffey first language lessons

We also have enjoyed these free copywork resources from Simply Charlotte Mason this quarter.  They include scripture, poems, and hymns.

Overlapping a bit of reading and language arts, C-age-8 reads aloud to me from McGuffey’s second reader about once a week, narrates the story to me, and then says and spells the words listed at the end of the lesson.  D-age-6 is reading aloud to me almost daily from McGuffey’s pictorial primer in order to continue progressively practicing his budding reading skills (we used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to start the process).  I use these readers because they’re progressive, they use older English so that we’re starting out in the direction of classic literature, and because they were hand-me-downs (read: free).

Living Books

Any further discussion of reading blends into everything else we’re learning:  history, literature, nature/science.  C-age-8 has recently finished The Tale of Desperaux, The Secret Garden (with some guided discussion on the ideologies presented), Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Great Brain, Julie of the Wolves, The Little Prince, Because of Winn Dixie, and The Burgess Animal Book, among most of the books in the Boxcar Children series (these are free reads).  I can hardly keep up for record-keeping purposes!  Nathaniel decided to give him a more challenging read to slow things down a bit:  G. A. Henty’s For the Temple, historical fiction covering the Roman sacking of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD.  We just covered this event and the diaspora in Story of the World, so he’s got some points of connection with it already.  He’s also reading a chapter a day in Seabird by Holling C. Holling for geography and natural history.  I ask for him to narrate, or tell back in his own words, what he has read on days when I’m paying attention.  Admittedly, there have been several days (weeks perhaps?) in the past quarter that I have been too busy to ask for a narration for every bit of school reading!

D-age-6 has recently enjoyed moving from Frog and Toad readers to The Boxcar Children and Amelia Bedelia books.  He’s enjoying reading more fluently for himself, but soon I think he’ll be ready for more assigned books.  I think Whinnie the Pooh is in order next.  We’ve read it aloud many times over, so I think he’ll be delighted to read it for himself!

Learning from Life

This section could be a post all its own, so I’ll try to let pictures do most of the talking with a few extra words here and there for things not pictured.

We enjoyed a Little House book club party with a local Charlotte Mason group.

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Exploring historic Ft. Smith after mama read True Grit.

 

 

New strategy games: Risk, Battleship, Ticket to Ride

We took in a stray German Shepherd dog that followed me home last fall–right after the 500th anniversary of Luther posting of his 95 theses, so naturally we named him Luther.  C-age-8 had almost full responsibility for feeding him each day.  There was plenty of character development in caring for a dog, and even more when we decided he needed a family who could care for him even better.  It was hard to let go of Luther since he had been a part of our family for three months and had in that time doubled in size and made it through the coldest winter we’ve had in years.  It was hard to let go, but we all learned a lot and are thankful for the part we had to play as a doggy foster family.

german shepherd dog boys

Hiking in 20 degree weather to see this 95 foot waterfall when it was mostly frozen.  Petit Jean State Park.

petit jean cedar creek falls frozen

Bird poster and Calendar of Firsts helping us to learn to pay attention and take note!

 

Gardening, listening to classical music, watching the ants in our ant farm.

Our four-day backpacking trip on a 24-mile section of the Ouachita Trail in the Winding Stair Mountains of eastern Oklahoma.

 

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Field trips to animal shelters and to learn about hippotherapy (that’s with horses).

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Ice and roller skating and get-togethers with our Schole Sisters group–watercolors, poetry and tea, fish feeding and nature walk.

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Homeschooling through Chaos

The past two months have been a bit crazy.  There were many times I said to my husband, “I just don’t think we can do school next week with all we have going on.”  He gently encouraged me to try.  And we did.  We kept going through sickness (though we did take a week off when it was really bad), a job change and consequent change of insurance and all other such things, two grandmothers in the hospital, a car wreck, among other things.  I think I would have given up somewhere along the way, so I’m thankful for my husband’s gentle encouragement to just keep going.  Like I said above, our scripture and praise-filled Morning Times were a balm to my soul during a such a hectic season.

Up Next

I suppose in terms of the average school year, we should be wrapping things up in about two months.  We plan to keep going with our current routine, and we’ve got some fun activities planned with our homeschool group, including Field Day which my husband and I coordinate.  Should be a fun spring!

How about you?  What’s up in your homeschool world?

Self-Doubt, God-Doubt

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We humans are funny creatures, we can look at our own performance and find it wanting and then look up to the heavens and ask, “God, are you even there?”

self doubt god doubt woman sad

I originally wanted to wax eloquent on this topic, but I’ve recently found myself smack in the middle of it.

Life has been a bit heavy lately.  February brought with it several weeks with a houseguest, an impending but yet-unsettled job change, my grandma in the hospital, and a whooping cough scare in our family and close friends.  Just when things seemed to ease up, there’s more emotional heaviness, my husband’s grandma in the hospital, a running injury, a minor car accident, and my house is a wreck as we prepare for my husband to start working from home.

I can count my blessings, to be sure—the Lord has been good to us.  But the past few days as I’ve been trying to keep up with schooling the boys, supporting others, reorganizing all the things, and nursing my physical injuries, I’ve just come up short.

This out-of-control season, with its full load of stress—good and bad—has gotten to me.

I’m not strong enough to bear it.  I’m not together enough to catch up on the cleaning, the cooking, the financial planning, the interrupted school days, you name it.  It seems there are so many plates spinning and people needing and I’m failing them all.

Yesterday I couldn’t really enjoy anything.  I was dull to any feeling but sadness.  Emotionally needy.  Physically hurting.  Spiritually exhausted.

And my pride doesn’t like the feel of it all.

At times like these it’s easy to get discouraged.  My glaring limitations stare me down, and I allow my personal gloominess to cloud my view of the Sovereign God who loves me.

The truth is, I’m finite.  Limited.  Small.  That’s part of what it means to be a creature in contrast to the Creator.  And while it might shock me at times when I’m faced with my limits, God isn’t surprised.  “He is conscious of [my] frame, He is mindful that [I am] but dust.

But all too often instead of looking up to see the One who is strong for me, I continue to look within and mourn my lack of God-like power over my circumstances.

When my self-confidence wanes, I find my wayward heart can project that same lack of confidence onto the Lord.  Have you ever done the same?

“Things aren’t going my way!  I can’t get control of this!  I can’t seem to get control of myself!  God, are You even there?

That’s not exactly a rational train of thought, is it?

On our good days we might think of ourselves as “independent”, “self-sufficient”, “got-it-together”, “responsible”, “emotionally stable”, and, let’s be honest, just plain “awesome”.

And then when things fall apart, “I’m failing at everything.” “I’m a burden to others.” “I’m a hot mess.”  “I just can’t even.”

Been there?

Sometimes our confidence fails because it was misplaced to begin with.  Sometimes our faith falters because we took our eyes off the Lord long before things went sour.

I’m not necessarily saying the hard times and our failings are caused by this misplaced confidence (though sometimes that might be the case).  What I’m saying is that when our confidence is shaken, it may be that we’re upset with God not because He has failed us, but because we aren’t as awesome as we thought we were.

When we’re brought to the end of ourselves, the world’s counsel is often to dig deeper within. “Believe in yourself!”  “You’re stronger than you think!”  “You’ve got this!”  And while it’s healthy to silence the voices that accuse and condemn with the promises of forgiveness and life in Christ (see Romans 8!), we can’t ultimately combat our short-comings by looking within.  God doesn’t intend for our struggles to lead us to despair of ourselves and then stay there.

Check out the exhortation in Isaiah 40:26-31:

Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

When you feel out of control, don’t project that uncertainty on the Lord by thinking that you’re the only one who can fix your situation.  Look up!  Your God is the sovereign Lord over all the universe!  He made and sustains the stars and He made and sustains you!

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

When self-doubt strikes, don’t project that doubt onto the Lord by continuing to wallow in your own weaknesses and failures.  Look up!  Your God is strong and gives strength to the weary!

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

When you’re afraid and think no one notices, don’t project human ignorance onto the Lord by assuming He’s forgotten you, too.  Look up!  Your God knows the hairs on your head, and He who watches over the sparrows cares even more for you!

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

When help is hard to come by and your situation and yourself seem helpless, don’t project that hopelessness onto the Lord by forgetting to run to him with your need.  Look up!  Your God is your “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)

While this season has been hard and humbling for me, bringing with it more than a fair share of tears, I’m riding the waves more smoothly than I have in the past because these truths have been much more at the ready and I’m quicker now to cast my cares on the Lord.

I’ve heard it said recently, “Trials can make you bitter or better.”  For the Christian, the “better” God intends for us is to be strengthened in our confidence in Him.

Our human resources may fail us, and while it humbles us to realize that we can’t ascribe greatness to ourselves, let’s not forget to ascribe to the Lord the greatness due to His name (see Psalm 29).  We’ll find our confidence will return when it is grounded in the right Person.  And we’ll find the next storm of self-doubt and disappointment, while still painful, will have less impact on our faith when it is firmly rooted in a God who doesn’t disappoint those who hope in Him.

Here’s to growing in grace.