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Morning Time Magic – Worship

When I began planning our morning time I did not expect our worship time to take on the importance it has. Not that I thought worship unimportant. I did however think of it more as an “add on” during this portion of our day. But as God often does, He wrapped my heart around a ritual I didn’t even know I was missing.
Our worship time began with us simply picking a couple of our favorite songs, pulling them up on youtube and going for it. And that was awesome. Then I remembered I bought Then Sings My Soul. 
I did not grow up in the church and do not have hymn lyrics rattling around in my head from days past. As I looked over some of the songs and found the richness they displayed I couldn’t wait to share them with my children.  There is a sense of privilege in singing a song that has been sung by christians for hundreds of years. A connection to those who came before.  
This book is great because it gives the back ground story for each hymn. To hear the stories of tragedy and faith these songs were penned from is something special. Learning with my children that Abide with Me was first heard at the funeral of the man who wrote it, Henry Francis Lyte, in 1847.  Reading about St. Patrick and how his fearless spreading of the gospel allowed the church in Ireland to endure and centuries after his work a poet wrote Be Though My Vision. This book is full of treasures.
I plan a little ahead and hunt down versions of the hymn I want us to learn. I download those so we have them going forward and I make copies of the song sheets for each of the kids. We take out time. We stuck with Be Thou my Vision for no less than a month before we moved on. I truly want this music to seep into their hearts. I want these words to be with them like a loyal friend in years to come when a dark or glorious hour requires worship.
Of course your worship time doesn’t need to look like ours. Pull up a Seeds Family Worship song and sing that with your little ones. Those are a great way to get scripture memorized. 
Here are a couple of our other favorites for worship time…

Setting some time aside each day specifically to worship Jesus with your children is time well spent. I believe with all my heart the Lord will bless it. And for me, nothing compares to the sound of those small (and not so small) voices singing,
“I fear no foe,
With Thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight,
And tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting?
Where grave thy victory?
I triumph still,
If Thou abide with me.”
-Henry Francis Lyte

If I’d Only Known Then: Some Thoughts on Flexibility

You’ve heard this before right?
“If only I’d known then what I know now. I would do so many things differently.”
And if you are anything like me you may have smiled politely while thinking to yourself, “I know, I know. But that doesn’t really apply to me.”
I’ve been homeschooling for three short years, but there is one thing I know for sure. If I could go back in time three years? I would relax. A lot.  I couldn’t imagine how swiftly time would move with my children.  How quickly my then five year old would be done with counting bears and phonics and moving on to borrowing(I will continue to call it borrowing even if Saxon insists it’s called trading) and reading chapter books.  I couldn’t imagine my fifth grader would ever reach  Challenge A. For some reason I did not anticipate him learning to draw and label the world from memory, or work out petrifying algebraic equations that force me to break out in a cold sweat. All while physically beginning to tower over me and speak to me in the voice of a grown man. It’s quite astonishing. I could go on if only my agenda today included a nervous breakdown.
So this is my plea to all you beautiful and tired moms of little ones. And by little, I’m talking birth to sixth grade. I adore this definition of “little” because it allows me to remain in this category.
Be flexible. 

I can hear some of you now screaming at the screen. “What does that mean?!”


Allow me to make a feeble attempt at adding some concreteness.
If you arise one morning with the desire to visit a museum, ride bikes at the park, or work on watercolor art until the sun sets? Do it.

Create memories and experiences for and with your children. I find it strangely amusing this piece of advice is the most difficult for homeschooling moms to wrap our minds around. I’m still wrapping MY mind around it. I have yet to be in conversation with a mom and felt the urge to remind her of the importance of math, reading, or language arts. We’ve got that down. It’s never perfect, but it is getting done. It may often be stressful, but it is always scheduled, and placed as the pinnacle of our homeschool days. I’m beginning to think no one would bat an eyelash if I said, “You really should do more math every day.” or “Only one hour of reading a day? That’s not nearly enough.”  I say this in jest but what I’m getting at, truly, is that any responsible mom knows these skills are important. We are all working on these subjects are we not? I think what we forget is we will never teach them everything, nor is it our job to do so. What gets lost is the ability to enjoy each other, enjoy the world our Creator gave us, and the time to fill our children’s hearts with beautiful moments.  I’m convinced when my time with them is up there will be laughter and fond memories over our camping trips and baking days, not math lessons and sentence diagramming.
I have been forced to face the urgency of this because I have now entered the world of Jr. High. And while I am convinced the program my son does is 100% fantastic, it definitely hinders our ability to be as flexible as we can be with our children in grammar school.  I’m determined however, that his every waking moment will not be filled with a school checklist.
For those who do have older students, here are a couple of ways I’m trying to keep the beauty of homeschool flexibility.

A trip taking us away from home for a substantial amount of time would require some re-working. While my younger kids can simply bring whatever book they are currently reading and their Classical Conversations memory work(honestly, I’d be ok with them bringing nothing but why waste hours in the car?), my oldest son will require a bit more.  We decided on any memory work he needs to keep up on during our absence. So he will be working on latin, geography, catechisms, and current literature. I won’t require him to write the science research and literature papers usually expected. He can do all of this during down time while we travel. 
If we know we have a day of hiking or a movie making date with friends coming? We plan ahead. What work does he feel comfortable doubling up on in order to allow an off day? As his mom, is there an an assignment I can postpone or eliminate so he can fully enjoy a day with friends and family? The truth of homeschooling older kids is that they CAN fall behind. They don’t have the luxury of skipping too many days or putting one subject on hold for too long. There is a pace to things. A pace my son doesn’t feel comfortable falling too far out of. 
So I am determined in this stage to give him days. To give him days and moments he can tuck into his heart and draw upon when he is weary. I pray when the drudgery comes, as it does at times, he will have these small treasures from the past and some future treasures to anticipate.

It is all a gift. These days with our children. I implore you. Take full advantage of the years when the pace is yours to set.

Let it snow

Ahh..Christmas time.  We are a family full of singers. Not that we always sing in perfect harmony with each other or even sound decent…but we all LOVE to sing! Loud and long. In the car ,(specially) in the house, in the yard,with friends, even alone. You get the picture. Not a lot of silence going on. Christmas time is even more fun. My kids love singing all the Christmas carols and even plan on dragging friends out to go caroling with them. (Watch out).  Some of the more wintery  songs mention snow.  Snow? What’s that? We live in Southern California and don’t get to see it that often. Chances are, when we do, we gather it up, pack it down, and chuck it at someone we love.  As we were wondering about this white phenomenon, I happened upon this. Snowflakes close up.
Wow! This made up wonder about nature…beauty… And our Creator- the Artist himself.  says “A snowflake begins when a tiny dust or pollen particle comes into contact with water vapor high in Earth’s atmosphere. The water vapor coats the tiny particle and freezes into a tiny crystal of ice. This tiny crystal will be the “seed” from which a snowflake will grow.” It goes onto explain that as it falls closer to the earth, it picks up more and more frozen water vapor increasing its size while adding to its hexagonal shape. What?!? 
I have never dropped something from any distance and had it turn into something as beautifuland intricate as a snowflake. Mind blown.
Ok, so every snowflake is different? Our Creator knows the number of hairs on my head…
Luke 12:7 “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
…and the number and names of all the stars?  Wow.
Psalm 147:4He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”
 Our God is bigger than we can comprehend, but sees it fit to be a personal God…to love us and know us intimately. And, we are as individual as the snowflakes.

We have found that many times, admiring nature and further research into the how’s and why’s lead us to a better understanding of our God and creator. What an artist. 

Advent rings

Well- in my signature way, I am again behind.  Better late than never? Maybe

I was looking for a way to fuse our family tradition of doing the Jesse Tree Family Devotions a friend had shared with me years ago, and an Advent countdown.  I found a couple things, but ultimately decided to make my own…and everything I do takes quadruple the time I estimate.  That is my life in a nutshell.
Anyways, if you want to participate-I have included the pdf for you to print.
Have fun.
Make memories.
Remember the REASON.

Taking the “OW” out of hallOWeen

I refuse to give up.  Halloween doesn’t have to hurt…Lets take it back!
This year, we were carving pumpkins and as we were all pulling and scraping all the strings, seeds, and slop out of the insides, a life lesson came to mind. (it happens a lot)
Aren’t we all like pumpkins?
Don’t we all need our inner yuckyness scraped out by our Savior?

 Doesn’t He make us something beautiful and pleasing to HIM?

Rainbow dash cutie mark 🙂

 For a more in-depth talk through to do with your kiddos- go here.

Now…What about the candy?
Yummy- Oh, and there is a math lesson in there somewhere…

This is what we did.
1. Have fun.

2. Do math
make charts

If you want to get a little fancy..make one of these.

*made using Numbers on a Mac

Dry ice? Of course…cuz theres a science lesson in there too…

 Dry ice is frozen Carbon Dioxide.  Cool thing about dry ice- it goes directly from a solid to a gas (sublimation).  Not-so-cool thing- it will burn (freeze) your skin if you touch it.  Use heavy leather gloves when handling and keep the kids hands AWAY.  For more info, go here

plastic wrap makes a bubble.
Try adding a little bit of dish soap to the hot water…

 The bubbles made by the soap are filled with dry ice “smoke”…when they pop, smoke comes out!
Sowing seeds…candy might make math fun…dry ice might make science interesting…
try it.
maybe next year 🙂

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Wow.  Ever been inspired by just observing nature?  If you are anything like me, chances are YES…all the time!

My newest plant obsession is succulents.  Besides being beautiful, they are hardy, take barely any watering (good for someone who can’t seem to remember to do anything besides brush my teeth everyday), and with some time and patience, will give you a beautiful flower display.  My Mother-in-law got me started with these amazing plants by telling me “YOU CAN’T KILL THEM.”  Turns out, yes…yes I could.  Ever heard of “too much of a good thing?” I literally watered them to death.
Here is my life lesson from this week’s observation…
Sometimes you feel just beaten down by life.  Sometimes circumstances are not what you would choose. Your “leaves” are being torn off.  Life is hard…and then you take another blow.
You are busy. Life is full.  You add to “enrich” because to little is definitely wrong, and is there really such a thing as “too much?” All at once you begin to feel crazy- overstretched and drained.  Time to prune.
In either situation, you may feel beaten down or discouraged. Fret not.  Our God brings life from death.  It is when we fully die to ourselves that we can freely live (in HIM).  Here is the bible verse that comes to mind-
  John 12:24 
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

My sweet succulents in my window remind me of this.  Don’t be discouraged when you have to cut back.  It is for your good and probably the good of your entire family.  It is quite possibly during this time that you will see things you are already doing start to really flourish and bloom.
For those going through trying times- take heart.  It is through the fire that gold really shines.
 Be encouraged.  Good things come by pruning back-Whether the pruning comes by our choice or not.  Press on. GROW.

Object Lesson err… Activity for kids:
Watch one form of succulent propagation.

1. Pull off a couple leaves from a succulent plant.  Let the leaves air dry for a few days. This is essential because ff you put them in soil right away, they’ll absorb too much moisture and rot. They are ready when the pulled off tip feels hardened or “calloused over.”
2. Fill a container with soil that drains easily. Put the leaves on top of the soil. Place the cut or pulled leaves on top of the soil. Water sparingly until baby plants appear. (You can also just pick the leaves and forget about them on a plate on the counter like I did.  The baby plants and roots will appear in a couple weeks all by themselves 🙂
3. Now relax for a few weeks. Soon little roots will sprout from the ends of the leaves. Water sparingly until you see baby plants forming. Succulents store water in their tissues, so they don’t need too much.
4. Let the plantlets grow until the mother leaf starts to wither.  Move the leaves with the babies still attached into new pot-or leave where they are if you want it right where it is. The mother leaves will eventually fall off.

Are You a Life Long Learner?

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” -Albert Einstein

While I have always been a voracious reader, I have not always considered myself a life long learner. This is one of many reasons I will forever be grateful to the Lord for calling me into homeschooling. Somewhere in the prayer for guidance and the frenzy to find the topics and resources to ignite wonder in my children, my own curiosities were awakened. I’ve always had one foot (ok, more like every fiber of my being) in the realm of politics, government and American history. I never dreamt I’d find an interest in botany, latin, ancient history and much more. It is crystal clear. God created us with a desire to learn. But lets face it, I have a husband, four children, two dogs, and four chickens. I’m tired. When am I going to carve out time to “learn” anything? After much thought I think the answer is, I won’t. Oh maybe, when my kids are grown and gone and my husband retires I’ll be able to carve out hours a day to read and ponder all the ideas and information I could ever imagine. But right now? Life long learning simply has to be a way of life. A ritual I participate in daily. A habit my children see woven into each experience in our day.

It doesn’t need to look a certain way. Any parent who engages in discovering the world with their children is a life long learner. Every time I read a history or science book to my kids, I discover something new. So maybe it just looks like a normal school day. But maybe it also looks like a late night study session in latin because I want to keep up with my Jr. Higher. Sadly, I am not keeping up. And that’s ok. I know more today about latin then I did last week and next week I’ll know more that I do today. Isn’t that the point? Progress? We will never know everything but we can purpose to use the time we have graciously been given to explore, to inspect, and to wonder.

Maybe it looks like getting together with some of your favorite people to dissect a cray fish. Because if you are going to lead 8 students in a dissection, you want to know what you are doing. And possibly work out some of the heebie jeebies before the big day.

I can promise you I never in my wildest dreams thought I would know the parts of a cray fish. But I do now. I know about the cepholathorax,  abdomen, chyloped, and the swimmerets. I can even tell you whether the cray fish is male or female.  Impressive, I know. I had a blast learning about it. So in the spirit of challenging ourselves I have a few questions to ask you…
Can you find the time to read good literature? I believe beautiful language is good for the soul. To feel a small part of painful and redeeming stories. I need it just as much as my children.
Can you watch a documentary on a subject you may have previously had no interest in? After seeing the movie Everest my husband and I obsessively watched documentaries on mountain climbing. It’s never been an interest of mine, but I found it fascinating. There are documentaries on everything from clean eating to tiny houses. From mountain biking to independent farming. I may or may not be working my way through each of them. Thank you Netflix.
Can you view a lecture on line? My favorite right now are the free classes offered by Hillsdale College. You guys, these classes are free. My oldest and I are about to start the class on Winston Churchill.  Ted talks has fascinating topics. You can listen to podcasts, watch youtube, and utilize literally hundreds of other resources.
Can you do a simple science experiment with your kids or just sketch what you see in nature?
How about learning a new recipe, or reading up on one piece of art or artist? Do you have time to sit, listen to a concerto, and read a short biography on the composer?
I know we are all busy. Our days can be consumed with making snacks, completing reading and math lessons, and folding laundry. All important things that are worthy of our time. But what additional richness could we add to our lives and our children’s if we made sure we didn’t lose our wonder? Wouldn’t it be amazing to show our families there is always more to discover and observe? My goal is to ponder the things of this life while keeping my eyes and heart fixed on the next.
What are some of the ways you keep the spark lit in your learning?

Motivational speech 101

Ok, so I am by no means a motivational speaker of any kind, but today I had an epiphany.  Epiphany…well, maybe just a realization, but an eye opening one at that.  I think many of you homeschooling moms feel the same way I feel-DRAINED.  Completely drained.  Our many duties and hat changes during the day seemingly never cease. Beyond that, we have our checklists- whether in tangible form or just in our heads-so many things to do during each day and, if you are like me- most of which get pushed to the next day due to the craziness of life.


Today, as I was in the thick of creating key word outlines with twin 9 year olds, and attempting to keep my 6 year old on task with his handwriting, my 4 year old comes to me with a tea cup perilously balanced on a book.  “Mommy, want some tea?”
I normally would have feigned a sip and sent her on her way- but why? Just so I could attempt to check off my list of things to do?  Who are we kidding?  Judging by my past record, those weren’t going to all get checked off anyway.
I know that I think, as a homeschooler, all extra things have to be school related.  They have to have some intrinsic lesson to be learned, or a demonstration of some concept. Sometimes even thinking about thinking about how to add these to our daily lives gives me a headache…and I quit.  Yes, those are nice (and guess what, its even nicer when  a homeschooling friend who happens not to feel so fried that particular day, invites you and your crew to join in on their planned out extracurricular lesson), but I am talking about simply taking your child up on and invitation to play.  No plans.  No supplies.  Nothing extra.
Just You.

I have no idea what the lasting influence these few minutes might make on the kids- what wonder might it inspire?…but I am willing to try it.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed by being the teacher, I want to revel being the mom.

If you for some reason haven’t read 1000 REASONS TO PROCRASTINATE…please do. 🙂

Hope For Those of Us Who DO NOT Enjoy the Library

I suppose its obvious from the title I am not a huge fan of the library.  I have always had visions of my little ducklings following behind me with their personalized tote bags full of wonderful literature. Yet somehow my reality couldn’t have been more different.  Our journeys to the local library mostly consisted of the kids pleading to play the computer games which now take up a good portion of the children’s section, and finding any book displaying Barbie or a monster truck. Not my idea of life changing stories.  This lead to me trying desperately to convince them we should find better stories with better illustrations, which lead to frustration for everyone. Sounds fun, am I right?
After a long period of avoiding the library all together and relying on Amazon for all my book needs, which I assure you are many, my homeschool forced a change. We participate in Classical Conversations and my oldest was entering Challenge A. This meant he would be writing a science paper every week on a new topic and of course would need resources. Even Amazon wasn’t going to be able to keep up with this. And truthfully, I don’t want to buy books about algae and clouds. So back to the library I go.

One huge change solved my dilemma. I began going to the library alone. ALONE. I began making my library trips in the evening or on weekends when my husband was home. I had two missions on these solo trips. One, to find (or try to find) great books for read aloud time. Two, find resources for my son’s reports.

The first mission was significantly easier to accomplish on my own. I could browse a few sections and pretty quickly pull out a collection of great read alouds. My children needed to see what a great story looked like, what it sounded like, and how it made them feel. It’s my job to show them. Without needing to steer them away from the brightest colored book cover, I am able to find stories I know will speak to their souls.

The second mission forced me to investigate my library’s online capabilities. It was a bit painful in the beginning due to my lack of patience. I’m working on it. It did, however,  quickly make my library phobia almost disappear. 
Here’s my routine…
I pull up my city library website and do a book search for the keywords I’m looking for. Once the search list pops up I look at the availability of the books  and request only those that are available at my local branch. This allows me to get the book within two days because I’m not waiting for it to be shipped from some far off location.  A critical timeframe when there is a paper due every friday. Within a couple of days the library texts me that I can pick up my books and I can get them when I have time. 
On those occasions when I don’t see a book available locally that I’m happy with? I jot down the call  numbers for some of the other choices. This way when I get to the library I just head to that section and there are always several choices which were not listed on line.
My last step was teaching my 12 year how to do all of this. Because, he’s 12. He should be getting his own library books. We’re almost there. 
 I do get to carry my own cute tote bag to the library and enjoy my time. I’m sure someday I will take my kids to the library again but for now I’ll be doing what works for me. And I’ll be feeling pretty good about it. 

Focusing on the Why

Why are you homeschooling your children?

What is it at the end of this adventure with them that you wish to accomplish?

When I first set out on this homeschooling journey it was because of one simple thing obedience. I knew the Lord was asking me to bring my kids home but I had no idea what it would look like. The thing about obedience is, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. I was sure homeschooling was going to be a disaster and my family would somehow end up on the evening news with a headline something like “Mother Bores Her Children to Death.”  Truthfully, there may be days where this headline would be accurate. What keeps me going on those days is my answer to those two questions.

Why am I doing this? What do I want to accomplish?

I want my children to leave our home loving Jesus.  I want that love to overflow to their communities and beyond. I want them to hear His voice and follow it.

And if these are my goals, how does my homeschool reflect that?
What am I doing every day to point them to the one who suffered and died for their salvation?

Cultivating our family relationships, discipling our children, and living sacrificial lives is the most difficult and most important endeavor we can undertake. And it is worth it.

No amount of time I’ve laid in bed worrying about their education and future can stand against the times I’ve prayed over them, studied scripture with them, or worked on their character.
No amount of time I spend scouring through curriculum can replace the moments we’ve lounged on the couch reading aloud from The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.
No penmanship worksheet will do for their hearts what packing bags of food for hungry people around the world will do.

I write this as a mom who has cried over a reading lesson.
Yelled over a math assignment.
A mom who has lost her temper with her husband for wanting to have a conversation with her while she is prepping for tomorrow’s school day.
Of course, my kids must learn to read, write, and work out math equations. What they don’t need is to learn those things from a mother consumed more by those lessons than capturing their hearts. A mother exhausted by her fear of not being enough or not doing enough. I am not enough. But He is.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

Oh that this would be true in all our homes. I’m praying for it to be so in mine.