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.
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.
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.
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.
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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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you.
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.
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.
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;
the kids and I started attending a once-a-month Archeology and Plant-Use History class an hour from home;
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What does any of this have to do with homeschooling?
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?
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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”. 😉
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!).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
Hiking in 20 degree weather to see this 95 foot waterfall when it was mostly frozen. Petit Jean State Park.
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.
Field trips to animal shelters and to learn about hippotherapy (that’s with horses).
Ice and roller skating and get-togethers with our Schole Sisters group–watercolors, poetry and tea, fish feeding and nature walk.
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.
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?
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My family LOVES the Prodigies Music Program, and now through Cyber Monday you can get the Lifetime Membership for 40% off! Plus a FREE BONUS (see below!). Plus an EXTRA 5% off when you use code LMJ.
The Lifetime Membership means you get online and downloadable access for your entire family to the entire program: from Preschool Prodigies (a great place to start, even for early elementary students) to Primary Prodigies to Recorder Prodigies (and whatever they come out with next!), including their Holiday videos and sheet music, all of their music books and workbooks (in e-book format), the Prodigies Melodies videos and sheet music, a complete scope and sequence, and fantastic customer support through their website and a Facebook group.
And, just in time for Christmas, they’re throwing in a FREE BONUS: the new Holiday Songbook!
If this resonates with you (pun intended), head on over and grab the Lifetime Membership for your family! And don’t forget to use the code LMJ to take an additional 5% off! But remember, this 40% off deal is only good through Cyber Monday!
This colorful program has my kids singing solfege with hand signs, translating between solfege and the number or letter names of the notes, and applying that knowledge to playing a very accessible instrument: their desk bells! On top of that, all of what they’re learning now builds smoothly into learning to read music (eventually without the color-coding system). When my kids decide what instrument(s) they want to learn to play in the future, I know that the music theory they’re learning and the ear training they’re receiving from the Prodigies Program will give them a great foundation and a ton of confidence!
It’s a great fit in our homeschool, but it can also be a fantastic supplement to a private or public schooler’s music education!
For more information:
You can see reviews plus a great overview of all they have to offer on the Prodigies website.
Want a glimpse of this thing in action? Check out this video!
For a more detailed review of the Lifetime Membership and the specific benefits I see, both financially and in what my children are learning, check out my Growing a Love for Music post.
October 31st is usually just another day for our family. At times, when we lived in a city neighborhood, we’ve passed out candy and gospel tracts to costume-clad visitors at our door, and other times we have happily forgotten the sugar-coma-inducing festivities of the day all together.
We’ve also not necessarily done much in the past with the notable historical event that took place on this day. We’ve recognized it as Reformation Day, and perhaps shared a “Nailed it” meme for laughs, but we’ve never, you know, dressed our two boys up as Luther and Calvin.
But today, October 31, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther famously drove the nail that cracked Europe—and mainstream church history—forever.
This seems to call for more than just the usual nod. Cosplay may not be necessary, but a deeper consideration of its importance certainly is.
As a history major in college, I took particular interest in two very world-changing narratives: the World War II era and church history. Having studied the Reformation in some depth over ten years ago (ahem, yes, it’s been a while!) and consequently having forgotten many of the details, now has seemed as appropriate a time as ever to refresh myself on the subject, especially as I have considered how to teach my children about it and determine what celebrating the Reformation looks like in our family.
As I’ve dusted off a few of my college texts, done some reading online, and discussed the subject with my husband, I’ve refined my thoughts and priorities when it comes to understanding the Reformation and passing on that understanding and perspective to my children.
Guiding Principles of our Discussion of the Reformation
Most of us know that the first three rules of buying a house are “Location, Location, Location”. Similarly, the first three rules in rightly understanding history, the Scriptures, or anything we learn by written language are “Context, Context, Context”–both textual or historical. The Protestant Reformation was in no way a stand-alone event. One of my college texts is called Europe and Its Reformations, plural, because it seeks to demonstrate the continuum of social, political, and religious “reformations” surrounding the events of Luther’s life. Despite the obvious fact that Luther’s actions and teachings set off a figurative bomb that changed the landscape of Europe forever, neither church nor political history were homogeneous, unchanged, or unchallenged before 1517. And as we are probably more aware, neither did they remain so after the fact. There have been throughout history pockets of believers, often persecuted, holding to the true gospel before the posted paper at Wittenberg, just as there were other movements from within the Catholic Church seeking to reform it, as well. I believe it’s important that my children understand from the beginning that Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the Reformation they sparked didn’t take off in a vacuum. Rather, in God’s providence and by His grace, Luther was at the right place at the right time to shed light on prevalent errors and bring the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone into mainstream discussion.
Connected to this idea of context, it’s important to remember that Catholicism isn’t the same today as it was in Luther’s day. Seeing the reformation sparked by Luther’s Theses as one of many efforts to reform the Catholic Church and/or Christianity and discussing this fact with my children will (I hope) help them to grasp that ideas, institutions, and people change over time. I want them to be able to have meaningful conversations with their Catholic friends because they have some understanding of what Catholicism is today. In the United States of America. To this end, we watched a video covering the main differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. It was mostly over my kids’ heads, since they are only 8- and 6-years-old, but we paused the video when necessary to discuss and understand along the way. I hope I can instill in them a desire to ask questions to get to know what others believe and not merely spout off what they think they understand from one video they watched and a handful of discussions they had with their parents. I have a hunch this will be a long process…
As the picture above seeks to humorously remind us, while technologies and power structures change, mankind is very much the same throughout the centuries.
Getting a bit more practical now, primary sources are a great way to look more directly into the past. And they’re not just for college history classes! Here are a few we’re using with our elementary-aged kids: the book of Romans (which the Lord used to bring Luther to the understanding of salvation by faith); quotes from Luther himself, particularly a few lines from his Ninety-Five Theses and his defense at the Diet of Worms; and Luther’s hymns “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word”. As our kids get older, it’s my aim that we’ll look more into Protestant, Catholic Church, and political documents and counsels, among many other sources and including many other key players and precursors to the Reformation.
As we engage with several kinds of source materials, I want us to remember that bias is ever-present and history is never simple. While we can see glimpses of the hand of God weaving together the events of time into the meta-narrative tapestry of His choosing, we can only ever see a few of the threads at a time. So we should be humble with our own narratives, recognizing that God’s truth doesn’t depend upon me spinning the events in a way that I think is favorable. A single group’s human narrative can be helpful, but only if it recognizes it is incomplete. (Yes, this definitely has application to the current state of upheaval in our society today.)
Confession: Luther isn’t really on our list of personal favorite Christian heroes. He did some really great things and God clearly used him mightily for His purposes. But my husband’s favorite heroes of Christian history are the faithful, quiet plodders—you know, the type of people who aren’t flamboyant or famous enough to have a day set aside to celebrate them—and who maybe don’t ever make it into the history books. This is a pretty good personal antidote to our world’s (and often the church’s) emphasis on “changing the world” and “doing big things”. So often it’s difficult to see the line between godly motivation and mere self-promotion and glory-seeking. Those of us who recognize this do well to slow down and consider the lowly servants of Jesus throughout the ages, or those who played a support role to the “main actors” on the stage of church history. I’m thankful that my husband is leading our family in valuing the faithfulness that sometimes only God can see. It’s spiritually healthy, and it’s right.
While our family certainly doesn’t care to over-emphasize Luther’s heroism, his stand for truth and for conscience is an example to be admired. We may never find ourselves in such a life-or-death test for our faith or our trust in the Word of God as when Luther stood before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and gave his most famous declaration. But we nevertheless need courage on a daily basis to do what is right, to share the gospel of grace, to serve and love the lowly, to choose faithfulness in the small things no matter the outcome, to say no to delusions of grandeur or inclinations toward comfort and safety that would bring us to self-preserving, self-exalting compromise and complacency. Luther’s legacy is not only in the truth he taught, but in the courage he had to “stand, and … do no other.”
We’ve selected a few children’s biographies to read this morning along with singing hymns and possibly watching a movie on the subject this evening as a family. But more even than the particular books we read or the media we consume are the discussions we have as a family. Discussions of what the gospel, or good news, of salvation in Jesus is—and has been from the beginning. Discussions of how the Catholic Church was in error in the past and which of those errors have been abandoned and which have been maintained to this day. Discussions of error on the other side of the line and how we each must seek to faithfully follow the Word of God, being willing to stand even amidst pressure from “our own” institutions. Discussions of how we should treat those with whom we disagree (hint: we like the example of Jesus and His disciples better than that of either the Catholic or Protestant state-churches! Eek!). Discussions of how we can see God’s hand at work throughout history—preserving His word and His people, using imperfect men and women to accomplish His purposes, and His provision for the gospel to spread to the ends of the earth—to every tribe and tongue and nation. These discussions contain far more than mere information—they include love for the Lord, for His word, for others, and for our children themselves as we help them understand their own place in the line of history and the world of people and ideas.
While much more could be said (and probably has been said elsewhere in this vast space called the internet), I hope these limited thoughts of mine have been coherent enough to be a thought-provoking blessing to you today as you contemplate the Reformation and remember it with your family, friends, or church.
And as for costumes, I think my kids might currently be more interested in dressing up as Calvin and Hobbes than Luther and Calvin. And I think I’m ok with that.
In closing, I’ll leave you with the Five Solas of the Reformation, because I didn’t manage to fit them in anywhere else and it seemed wrong to leave them out:
Sola scriptura – Absolute authority for Christian faith and practice comes from God’s word alone.
Sola fide – Salvation is through faith alone.
Sola gratia – Salvation is by grace alone.
Solus Christus – Salvation is in Christ alone.
Soli Deo gloria – All of this is for the glory of God alone.
How are you remembering or celebrating? What’s your favorite take-away from your contemplation of the Reformation? Do you have an angle on it that I didn’t cover in this article? I’d love to hear it!
In this review I’ll give a bit of history as to how we decided on the Prodigies Music Program for our kid’s education, a discount code for my readers, and then some examples of how our kids have benefited from the program over the past nine months! This post contains affiliate links, but I’ve been promoting Prodigies to friends long before signing up as an Ambassador–you’ll see some of the reasons why I believe in it so much in this post.
My husband and I both love music. And we love sharing it with out kids. But it’s hard to find the time to introduce them to the basics of music theory with my husband’s busy work schedule and the fact that I’m already teaching them every other subject in our homeschool.
We looked at local general music classes, and probably would have gone that route if we hadn’t found Prodigies. We sampled the videos they made available for free on YouTube, and I was impressed. So impressed that after crunching numbers and comparing our options, we bought the Lifetime Membership for our family.
Here’s why the Prodigies Lifetime Membership beat the local class option hands-down:
Finally, here’s some of the benefits I’ve seen in my children over the past year that we’ve been using Prodigies.
I hope this review has been helpful! Check out the Lifetime Membership at the Prodigies site, and don’t forget you can use the code LMJ to get an extra 5% off your Lifetime Membership PLUS 5% off anything in your cart–like the bells, or hard copies of workbooks or songbooks.
Many of the public schools in our area started back yesterday, and so did we.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might be a little confused since I posted about our “First Day” back in July.
That would be the first of my confessions.
I thought that in the middle of all of our remodeling craziness it would be a good idea to re-institute some order by starting back to school. We made it a whopping four days before a trip and life in general took over again.
So yesterday was technically something like day five (or six if we’re counting the immersive day of water color painting last week–hey, I’m counting it!).
I’m just thankful that my husband encouraged me not to worry about it. Now that the living room is, well, livable again, we can start to throw some school into the mix.
His support has been invaluable since we would, in theory, like to have our kids keep going with at least math and reading through the summer months. I planned to just take June off, and keep a bit of review going even on break, but it stretched into an extra month-and-a-half and our review became non-existent.
And it’s ok. Really, Lauren, it’s ok.
But those scheduled intentions are just surface-level. I’ve got some deeper issues to confess, as well.
This is our fourth year of officially homeschooling and yet I have felt less prepared than ever. I gave up on a traditional homeschool planner this year, opting to build my own system for planning and record keeping (a combination of Plan Your Year, a bullet journal, and clipboards for the kids). I hope to share some reviews, articles, and videos about it sometime soon once the dust clears and the wires are all rigged up in our remodeled office/studio. But the process has been like stepping out on an invisible floor, hoping there is something to stand on when you land.
Unlike Indiana Jones, however, on our first day of school yesterday, instead of finding a firm footing, I literally slipped on the slick, wet front steps, finding that gravity still works and that landing your rear on the corner of the step an entire foot lower than your feet began makes for a very purple derriere and quite a stiff and sore neck.
This didn’t exactly quell my fear of more figurative slips. Again I’m reminded of the only truly firm footing I have in the first place–and that gives me strength to press on.
I know that the end result will be a good one–having a completely customized system that meets our needs better than any pre-fab planner ever could. But with a new arrangement on paper comes a new arrangement of habits–both mental and physical–and building those habits takes time. I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.
All of that said, our first day went wonderfully well! My well-laid plans did pay off!
At least, before lunch.
Our first day of school started well but ended woefully.
In my planning I took into consideration the longer-than-ever-time-off from which we would be recovering, and I tweaked our curriculum accordingly–especially math. My big boy would do only half of the worksheet. My youngest would copy numbers, do some basic math facts, and then we’d play a math game. The almost-six-year old finished his work in no time, blazing through math, reading, and copy work so he could go to town with his beloved watercolors the rest of the morning.
I was thrilled. This was easy.
The just-turned-eight-year-old, however, struggled to focus. His work certainly should have taken longer than his little brother’s, but it drug on and on and on needlessly. I told him time didn’t matter, that he didn’t need to set a timer, just work diligently. But he set the timer anyway and then stressed himself out with it. Long story short, he was anything but diligent, even when I gave him breaks to go outside or read and then come back to it with a fresh mind. His score in the end was near perfect, but it was well into the afternoon before he finished and then there was language arts to do.
I was patient for the morning. But eventually my patience ran out.
I had planned fun activities for our afternoon. A game, read-alouds over Afternoon Tea. Things my children LOVE.
But a dawdler was messing up my plans to do him good.
I escaped into my own projects and spent some time online to boot.
“I’ve tried to help you. You won’t be helped. I’m done.”
Signing off. Checking out. On day one.
Over dinner my husband asked us each how our day had gone and how we felt about it. There was good, there was bad, and there was ugly. But it was good to get it out in front of us as a family.
He sweetly encouraged me not to base the success of my day on other people’s performance–especially little people. Control what I can control–my own responses.
That’s hard, isn’t it? But it’s exactly what I needed.
After further consideration and prayer last night, I realized that I had judged my children worthy of my time and patience during the morning hours–I had even decided this long in advance. It’s my job, after all, as their mom and teacher. But with one child dragging his half-sheet of math work beyond any reasonable time frame, and with the other testing my patience at lunch time, I came to judge my children as unworthy of my time and patience for the rest of the day.
Forget my God-given role as their mother and teacher, I measured them against my plans and expectations, found them wanting even after patient instruction and care, and since I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, I decided they didn’t deserve my effort–I decided I needed a break.
There is wisdom, at times, in walking away from a situation so that both parties can get fresh air, deal with what’s in their hearts, and come back in much better spirits. But I can’t say that was what was going on this time. I was resentful. And it took ME “beyond a reasonable time frame” to get my heart right.
Math work or heart work, my son and I were both taking too long to learn our lessons.
I suppose I could steal a quote from my reflections on planning above since it seems to fit this character-growing, relationship-building process, as well:
“…building those habits takes time. I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.”
The goal of education isn’t ultimately results or getting things done anyway.
As I wrestled with my own bad response–with my sin–the Lord kindly reminded me of His love and patience toward me as His child. I cowered at the thought of His great love and my great lack.
Father, You chose to love me while I was yet a sinner when You sent Jesus to die for me. And You choose to love me still even when it takes me years to learn a lesson, even when my attitude and actions are quite like a distracted and unruly child.
Because You have chosen to love me, because You have made me Your child, Your patience and Your love never wane…like mine so often do for my own children.
Forgive me, Father. I repent.
Thank You for being a GOOD Father. My need for Your love and patient correction is ongoing. And the work You’ve called me to do for my children is ongoing. Oh, please produce in me the same patient, diligent love with which You parent me.
I saw yesterday morning that I could choose to be patient with my children. But O how I need Your Spirit, Lord, to choose to be patient even beyond my good intentions! When my planned patience wears out, show me Your patient love, and please help me to then pass it on to them.
For those of you who also started school recently, I hope your first day fared better than mine (and you should read that as “I hope that your patience lasted more than four hours”).
But it’s just the first day. And it’s now behind us. Sins repented of, mercies new this morning …and every morning hereafter. We’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we? Let’s do it with patient love, remembering the One who continues to lavish us with it.
Happy New School Year.
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Our family doesn’t completely follow the Ambleside Online (AO) free curriculum, but we pull heavily from it for our book list, among many other things.
One of those other things is their Nature Study schedule. If I want to pick a particular topic of nature study for us to focus on for a while, why not start with their suggested schedule and tweak it along the way, if need be? This way there is less choice-fatigue for me and I can find some community around what we are studying, whether with other AO families I know in real life, on the AO forums, or on the Facebook group.
This summer and fall is for the birds, so I’ve been doing a bit of research and collecting materials that will prepare me to assist and inform my children in their own observation and enjoyment of our feathered friends over the next several months.
I’ve seen a lot of materials for purchase on the interwebs, and many of them were quite tempting, but I wanted to see what was available to me for free before punching in credit card numbers.
First, I searched my own shelves.
We already own the Handbook of Nature Study, which will serve us for many years and topics to come, making the purchase price slim over the long haul.
Birds are covered on pages 27-143. The pictures are not the most impressive, but this book is chock full of information so that you, the parent, can be a literally walking resource for you children on the trail. Types of birds, parts of birds, migration of birds, lessons with suggested questions, pictures, diagrams, and even related poetry are included. I plan to read this section for my own knowledge and make a few notes on particular questions or topics to raise while I’m out with the kids.
Remember, the purpose of Nature Study is to get the child in touch with the world and creatures God has made and to enjoy it. The Handbook of Nature Study is NOT a textbook of information you have to cram into your precious children’s little heads. It’s a tool to aid the work of observation that the kids ought to be doing and delighting in on their own.
I found another volume that I may reference over the next few months: Living with Wildlife: How to Enjoy, Cope with, and Protect North America’s Wild Creatures Around Your Home and Theirs. I don’t think there’s much to say about this book now since the title is so descriptive! We found this gem at a library cast-off sale for probably about 50 cents.
The point here isn’t so much that any of you need THIS book, but that if you keep your eyes open, you may find something similar. If I didn’t have the Handbook of Nature Study, this book (or some other like it) would suffice quite nicely. Birds are covered on pages 180-252, if any of you by chance come across this guide or find it at your library. There aren’t so many pictures or diagrams, and it’s not aimed at teachers or parents to instruct their children, but the information is valuable and would do the trick of providing a parent with both a general and some specific knowledge of birds.
My oldest has read many chapters in The Burgess Bird Book for Children, one of the great selections found on the AO booklist.
It’s a narrative introduction to all kinds of birds, with animals talking and acting consistent with their particular habits and personalities. Each chapter covers a different bird, and we may just read one here and there for fun if we’re interested.
My mom gave us a laminated Pocket Naturalist Guide of Arkansas Birds for Christmas several years ago. This guide isn’t particularly detailed, but it does provide color pictures of a variety of birds, including their Latin names, size, and an occasional special note. Listed on the back are bird viewing areas and sanctuaries, as well as a state regional map.
For very young children, a laminated field guide is almost a necessity! Even when they can’t read, they love feeling like real explorers with a guide in their pack that they can pull out at will. And you as the parent love feeling like it won’t be destroyed on the first expedition! If you don’t live in Arkansas, you can look up the Pocket Naturalist field guide for birds in your state.
Even just one or two of the above resources is more than enough to get started with nature study. Actually, all you really need to do to get started is step outside and pay attention, and maybe take along a notebook and a pencil! But we’ve been at this for several years now and I wanted to add to our resource collection (and convince myself that I didn’t need to buy anything new or shiny in order to do so).
So…where did I go for new FREE resources?
I went online.
Many of the paid resources I’ve seen lately were all ebooks and video courses anyway, so I thought I’d search in the same format–starting with websites specific to my home state of Arkansas.
The Audubon Society of Arkansas and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have a wealth of free resources for studying birds, among many other kinds of wildlife! There’s a searchable database where you can find pictures, details, and songs of birds when you search by color, size, habitat, and more. The Game and Fish Commission provides free printable brochures on birds and so much more, but they will also send you a hard copy for free if you send them your mailing address!
If you’re outside of Arkansas, check out the corresponding organizations for your state.
There are two more ways I’d like to complement our focus on birds, and both can be achieved without spending a dime.
I’d like us to improve our artistic abilities in the area of drawing birds, so that our nature journal entries can better represent what we see out in the field. Enter YouTube. There are TONS of FREE video tutorials to help us hone our skills. I think we’ll get a start with watercolor painting a saucy little wren like the ones we see every day around our house.
Finally, one of the greatest gifts I can imagine giving my children when it comes to nature study is to tie God’s truth to what they see. The heavens are declaring the glory of God, and I want them to see it. I just read the Sermon on the Mount this morning, and I think we’ll incorporate Matthew 6:26 into our memory work as we observe the winged creatures around us:
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
I hope this has been helpful to you, my friends.
Do you have any other super awesome free resources for bird nature study? If you’ve studied birds already with your kids, what did your family enjoy most?