Category Archives: Priorities

Happy 13th Day of School!

Yes, it is already Day #13 here.  We start early in order to take the month of December off…it makes for a much more enjoyable holiday season!

It is already our 6th year of homeschooling too.  Wow!  I can hardly believe we’ve been doing it for six years!

There have definately been “ups” and “downs” along the way, however some of the bumps are smoothing out as I figure out what works best for us and adapt.

We’ve tried various curriculum and even virtual schooling, but finally settled on these for this year:

Bible – “Who is God?  And Can I Really Know Him?”, Volume 1 of the “What We Believe” series written by John Hay and David Webb.  I’ve tried various short bible studies and devotional books with the boys.  We’ve also taken time to learn the books of the bible and just read bible stories, however the main goal in doing any of this is that they would grasp the concept of having a personal relationship with the Lord.  My prayer is that they would not only have “head knowledge”, but mostly “heart knowledge” of the Lord, His grace-filled ways, and the purpose for their lives.  Learning to see the world through a biblical viewpoint, rather than a worldly view, is something I was not taught at a young age.  Hopefully doing this for my boys will save them many self-inflicted trials and point them toward service to others and to God.

Lesson #1 and #2 have been very engaging so far.  The boys seem to grasp what the book is teaching very well.  It is written in plain, everyday language and includes activities and stories to which they can relate.  On top of that, they keep a notebook for recording vocabulary words, insightful opinions and expressions about different topics, and memorize scripture each week.  It was very encouraging once this past week to see my youngest have his first “A-Ha!” moment about satan and God.  I am praying that God would use the material in this book and in our schooling to reach his heart in such a way that I have not been able to explain.  So far, so good!

Art –  We’ll be doing various artsy type things.  One book I found at a thrift store is “Exploring Textures in Watercolor” by Joye Moon.  I will be painting right alongside the boys as we work our way through this book…..sort of a “perk” for me to be learning too, instead of just teaching!

Texas History – We are using “The Story of Texas” by Harcourt Brace along with “Discover Texas”, a CD based history program.  Also included in the plan are adding two smaller unit studies on Cowboys and Indians.  Each of the boys will be making a list of all the places we study in Texas.  Towards the end of the school year, they will be able to choose one place on the list to visit in person.  “Hands-on” makes the best learning!

This is a class easily combined for both grade levels.  I think public schoolers in Texas usually do it in 4th grade, so in comparison, one of mine will be a year early and the other a year later than their peers.  It saves me aLOT of time to be able to combine a few subjects.  I just adjust the assignments and activities as needed for each grade level.

Language Arts – Grammar          “Easy Grammar” by Easy Grammar Systems, Scottsdale, Arizona   We tested this last year and found it to truly be “easy”, yet still challenging.  I love the way it teaches prepositions first so that the other parts of speech are more easily recognizable.  Once you mark out the prepositional phrases first, it is easy to spot the subject and verb.  Also, although both boys are doing separate grade levels in this curriculum, the chapters are arranged similarly so I can usually teach both at the same time.

Language Arts – Writing    This subject, I understand, is a common sore spot in every homeschooler’s plan.  Even public school students and parents struggle with writing, mainly because they don’t do enough of it!  (my opinion)  Kids, especially elementary age kids, just. don’t. want. to. write!  We’ve had many struggles with it.  Although I love to write, trying to teach my boys to do it has been pretty difficult.  Til this year, what we’ve tried to do did not have organization or depth.  Now, we are trying a new curriculum shared by my friend that seems to be just what we needed.  It will teach writing concepts at a self-paced/mastery plan and the same concepts will be used to build upon all the way through high school.  Consistency in a long term plan seems the way to go in order for writing skills to be developed.  It is the “Institute of Excellence in Writing” program.

Language Arts – Spelling     Last year, we used a spelling program that had lots of activities and colorful pages.  It also seemed a bit expensive when paired with other homeschooling expenses we had.  This year, I found a year’s list of grade appropriate spelling words online and decided to use it for free 🙂  The word list came from K12Reader.com.  I simply printed the year’s lists of words, placed them in a folder, and then taped daily instructions on the front for spelling activities.  Each day, the boys grab their folder, complete that day’s exercises, and by the end of the week are prepared for the graded test.  Daily activities include reading the words to me, circling any unfamiliar words, writing the words, writing sentences with the words, using a dictionary to write definitions of words I preselect for vocabulary, and then taking a practice test.  So far, this has been a no-nonsense, no cost path to greater spelling!  Yay for free!!

Language Arts – Reading      I use LOTS of different materials to encourage reading success.  One area of concentration this year is comprehension.  Using an old Scott, Foresman reader, “Wheels and Rockets”, the boys are required to read certain stories and then answer the comprehension questions in complete sentences.  We are working on changing a question into a complete statement and then answering the question.  For example:  “Why did the chicken cross the road?”  Answer:  “The chicken crossed the road because. it needed to get to the other side.”  Rather than simply write “to get to the other side”, the boys are equating their answers to complete thoughts and proper speech.  I also frequently require them to record the page number of where they found the answer by each question.  This helps force them to look back at the story for correct information.  Sometimes they do well, other times they confuse parts of the story, but we always talk through the answers and why something else might have been a better choice.

We do lots of silent reading as well.  They are required to read silently for a certain amount of time.  Sometimes I assign the material to read.  Sometimes they get to choose. Sometimes they choose at the library.  Sometimes I let them choose from a preselected group of books I put together before the school year started.  I try to have a variety of reading levels, books and magazines for them…anything to keep their interest!

Language Arts – Handwriting    I know, I know! This is a “lost Art” for many now a days.  Call me “old school” if you want, but I still believe there is value in legible handwriting!  Chances are that neither of my boys will be doctors, so I just assume that their boss will want to be able to read what they are writing, despite the Keyboard Age.  To challenge them more, we also work on cursive writing!  Doing cursive has actually made writing more exciting for them.  They take greater pride in their assignments when forming the nicely slanted letters.  This year, I’m not using any particular curriculum…..just notebook paper, starting with the ABC’s and moving towards mastery in connecting letters and words.

Science – “Exploring Creation with Zoology 2:  Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day” by Jeannie K. Fulbright   After years of using her curriculum, I cannot imagine going to anything different!  Thankfully, she has written even High School level science curriculum that we can look forward to.  So far, we’ve completed Astronomy, Anatomy, and Zoology 1: Flying Creatures.  She also sells spiral bound notebooks that accompany the study and I highly recommend them.  They are interesting, creative, and provide the perfect place to record the course’s observations and for use in note taking.

Math – Teaching Textbooks   This is a computerized math program that we started last year.  It is a little behind the advanced curriculum we were using previously, however, it’s animated and fun for the boys to learn.  It teaches, reinforces, quizzes, and challenges.  It. even. GRADES!  (Woo hoooooo!  Oh how I loathe grading assignments, lol!)  Anyway, I told the boys they could work at their pace (at least completing one grade level per year), but also can work ahead in order to stay challenged.  We actually skipped a grade level for the youngest because the placement test he took showed he had already mastered 3rd grade concepts before this 3rd grade year had started.  They love it!  I love it!  It’s a “win-win” math program that will take them well through any high school math requirements!

Music – This year we will be participating in a co-op music class. It will be taught by a very dear friend whom we have known for many years.  (Hiiiiiiiiii Kariiiiiiiiii!)  I’m so excited and know that outside the public school setting, she will be free to encourage the boys to use their talents for the Lord!  This is going to be GREAT 🙂

Study Skills – One of the things I have learned in homeschooling is that kids do not naturally know how to study!  Discovering this has changed alot in our daily plan.  Now, we learn about strategies for memorizing information.  We engage in conversation to spark the sharing of ideas and higher level thinking.  They use “Brain Pop”, an online program for learning new things and practicing test taking as well as multiple choice answering, etc.   We do crosswords, map studies, dictionary work, and even play thought provoking games like chess and scrabble.  I just usually try to have some type of study skill building activity each week to encourage them toward self-controlled, well-prepared, study habits.

Physical Education – Although somewhat lacking in our plan right now, I know we will be active.  We do sports like soccer and basketball.  We also do Wii fit and other indoor activities.  Probably not what we SHOULD be doing, but I will continue to look for opportunities for physical activity and act upon them.  Now that we are also working on the farm, they should get lots of exercise! (and me 🙂

Other Co-op classes/activities – We will be meeting weekly with a dear group of friends who all homeschool.  At last count, there were at least 40 kids participating, probably more.  This will allow us the opportunity for more socialization as well as participating in group type classes.  Co-op subjects we will be participating in are:  Astronomy, Music, Citizenship, and US States.

We are also joining the local 4-H club this year.  Archery will be our main project but we look forward to learning more about raising animals as well as participating in other projects and community service events.

Hmmmmm…..have I covered it all?  It sounds like alot.  Ok, actually it is, but thus is the challenge in homeschooling:  attempting to expose our kids to the best education in order for them to be well-rounded, responsible individuals.  I also believe homeschooling affords the greater opportunity to share Jesus with them in every area of life as well.  If they can see Jesus in a math problem, then they are more likely to include Him in their thoughts and actions as they grow up.  They will have a biblical worldview, as our bible curriculum calls it, and know the need and blessing for serving others.

Each year, God seems to equip me with what we will need to make schooling successful, and for that, I am so thankful!  To God be the glory, from me and for my sons who will hopefully one day surrender their all to Him.

  Just out of bed on the first day of school and he writes this message on the board.

  Now, if I could just convince them that starting back to school doesn’t HAVE to be bad, lol!

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Slow and Steady Wins

The end of Week #3’s Two Carb-less Days found us smiling this morning as we stepped on the scales 🙂

We are using Wii Fit Plus to gauge our progress.  Here’s the “low” down:

Me – Lost another 1.8 lbs and now in the “Normal” range for my weight and height! Total lost so far: 3.6 lbs

Eldest Son – Gained .2 lbs but he worked out quite a bit this week so it could be muscle gain or even differences in fluids.  He has moved from “Overweight” to “At Risk of Being Overweight”!  Total loss:  4.4 lbs

Youngest Son – Lost another .9 lbs this week.  He is now under 100 lbs for the first time in probably a couple of years! Total loss:  3.12 lbs

This week, the vacancy of carbs wasn’t quite as noticeable.  We have diligently searched for varieties of foods — especially things that will satisfy our snack cravings.  Can you imagine just how excited we were to discover that pork skins are CARB FREE?!!  It’s not nacho cheese Doritos, but hey, it was GOOD!

So, we remain encouraged.  It’s getting easier.  The boys don’t complain as much, and we are all gravitating to more water, more vegetables, and less bread and sugar. 

Holding onto hopes that I’ll soon have a Barbie figure and He-man arms……

Nah!

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Losing Everything to Gain Everything

“Pretend your family has to leave your home quickly.  You may take only one suitcase.  What would you pack?”

This was the question on an assignment my boys had to complete and that I am just now grading.  I chuckled when I read their answers:

  1. Cloths (I believe this should be “clothes” 😉
  2. Toby (the family dog)
  3. Toby’s food
  4. Action figure
  5. bible
  6. toys
  7. pants
  8. underwear (yes, I agree….these are VERY important!)
  9. shirts
  10. books
  11. DS
  12. yogurt covered raisins
  13. charger for DS

LOL!  My how priorities remain different for each of us!  What was on your list? 

I was thinking about pictures, important documents, my purse, etc.  yet to young boys, action figures and video games remain as one of the most important things they own.

Recent tornadic events have swept away what alot of people would consider important.  The residents of Diamond Creek in Forney, Texas  are still picking through what is left of their material possessions.  What may have seemed so important at the beginning of the year is probably very different for most right now. 

Realizing that no one died or was seriously injured surely has caused our community to come back to the importance of life.  Having our families, friends, and neighbors well and healthy brings about a new appreciation for the protection, love, and intervention of God.

Now that the clean up is mostly done and the rebuild is going on, what will we do with this memory?  Will we do what we can to go back to life as it was before the tornado?  Will we build our houses, both physically and spiritually, in such a way that we duplicate what was the “norm”?  Just how long will it take for us to forget the blessings of the past weeks, and start to replace all the “stuff” God allowed to vanish?

I’m not just talking about houses, cars, clothes, and video games.  The “stuff” I’m referring to is our need to gather all those things  — the American dream, the desire toward pridefulness and power and position, and our insistence to keep up with “The Joneses”. 

Stuff like the comfortableness in which we live, or perhaps the wastefulness of our time…the hoarding of treasures and memories.  The stuff we take for granted.  Stuff that pales in comparison to life and relationships.  Stuff comes in lots of forms:  money, position, technology, business, paper, plastic, convenience, procrastination, beautiful colors, memoriable events, books, and ideals.  It can permeate our lives before we even stop to realize that most of it is just “stuff”.

A pastor of the local church we have recently visited took time to speak of such stuff and the effects it can have on our lives.  His thought provoking question was “Is it eternal?” 

The absolute answer to most of our “stuff” is “No, it’s not.”

We often, even unknowingly, use our stuff to set an image to others of what our life is like.  These images are usually false and not at all a real representation.

Years ago, I realized that good friends in my life actually thought I was much more than I am.  They were surprised to hear that my house is not always clean, my children do not always behave, and I, even I, made mistakes.  {gasp!}  I guess because of my quest for perfection at work, they believed my personal life was also that way. 

(And now I just feel the need to break here and laugh out loud!!!  Bwa hahahahaha!)

What my friends had no clue about was that I frequently mess up.  I have baggage.  My house is pretty much always a wreck  (at least until I know someone is coming over, lol).  Try as I may, I cannot clean enough around here.  Try as I might, stuff creeps into my time and thoughts and many times prevents me from being what I know I should be.

Right now in my living room there are mounds of toys, video games,  and a tent set up and encompassing the small amount of space still visible on the floor.  There’s dust on the ceiling fan and furniture, something stuck on the floor under the rocking chair, and toe prints from where the boys and grandchild have endlessly walked on the wooden floor.  I have two sinks full of dirty dishes, things scattered across the kitchen counter, and a whole stack of papers to grade on the table.  Outside, within my current view, is a bag of lawn clippings that need to be thrown out.  There is also bits of fuzz scattered all over the back lawn from where the puppy decided to shred our grill cover…..again. 

This is everyday life around here.  If you called and said you were on the way to our house, I would most assuredly rush to put away all this stuff! 

Still, even though rushing to clean up the house for you, I would hope that our lives represent a real-ness from the Lord.  Even if you came unannounced, I would invite you in, longing to make you feel welcome and be attentive to the purpose for your visit.  I would hope that even surrounded in my stuff, you would enjoy being here and look past my failures as a Domestic Engineer.

I wasn’t always this way.  I used to put only my best foot forward trying to impress and amaze.  During that time, only the best of my stuff was on display.  Nice dishes, perfectly folded towels, trophies, perfectly dressed children pre-scolded about their behavior lined up at the door to greet all who enter… these were part of the stuff I wanted people to see.

What hides behind a perfectly displayed life?  How many times do we greet others masking the events of our personal life with a smile and a nod?  Do we really expect our stuff to effectively shield true lives? 

Our life is messy.  I am definately not perfect.  We have too much non-eternal stuff around here, and what I have figured out is that I don’t have time to lead a non-eternal, stuff-filled life anymore.

Learning to look past stuff, taking moments to address stuff, and talking about how less important alot of stuff is in our lives has led us to alot of decisions.  We have purposefully tried to let go of stuff and look toward only what God would set before us.  These past few years have led us to leave alot behind.  Whether purposefully removed by us or by God, we have found that our lives are becoming more of what they should be. 

This is still transforming even now as we seek our next residence and ministry, but all I can say is “Wow, God really is better than our stuff!”  His stuff is lasting.  His provision is real.  He really does know what it is we should be doing and how we should be doing it.  We just have to lose our stuff to gain His.

There’s still alot of unanswered questions about our immediate future but I honestly believe that wherever He takes us, it will be the right place.  His allowing us to lose stuff in our lives is leading us to a better place.  Although a bit painful at times, the journey is proving more eye-opening every day. 

Sometimes we have to lose everything as we know it, or aspire it to be in order to gain just what He wants, and it is then that the eternal stuff starts to matter a great deal more.

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What Was My Day Off

Today was supposed to be my day off.  Yes, I actually had plans to get out of this house, head to town and do a little shopping….for myself. {gasp!}

How often do I shop for myself?  Oh, probably about once in every 4 or 5 years, it seems.

My closet is at its’ lowest point ever in my life.  Not that that’s such a bad thing, I’ve never really been a “fashionista”, but right now, I’m afraid, my family may nominate me for “What Not to Wear” at any given moment.

So…I actually got up today thinking I will take a shower and get ready then head into town to do something about it.

Then, I start to wonder what I can buy that won’t make me feel guilty.  This is part of my closet problem.  When I do shop, I have no problem finding what my kids need, however when it comes to things for me, well, I end up talking myself out of spending the money.  I’m such a penny pincher!  This is good AND bad.

So….back to my day….

I paid the bills, carefully planning my little shopping trip today and looking forward to guilt-free purchases.  Then we woke up this morning.

What was supposed to be our school-free day was already not.  The boys did not complete their assignments yesterday, so they were expected to do so today.  I had some hope that they would simply sit down at the table, check the list, and independently work while I prepared to leave.

That hope soon vanished as they snuck out to the trampoline, played with the grandbaby, turned on the Wii, and pretty much found any excuse they could to keep from doing their work.

So, “to the table”, I demanded, and now my shopping time must be spent watching them, pencils in hand, staying on task.

This is what happens in homeschooling.  It is a blessing and a curse, lol.  I love the lights in their eyes as they learn something new and interesting, but also I realize that it is a commitment by the whole family to stay on task.

We can either excuse the day and head to town, or we can be disciplined and obedient to the call.

This is the way it is.  Homeschooling is a job.  It takes work…and time.

There have been days where we have set the schedule aside for fun.  This day, however, is not one of them.

So I sit here, at the table, conversing and talking with my students as they complete their work.  Hopefully someday they will do it faster and I will be able to do something about my closet.

For now, however, my day off is still a day on.

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This Unusual Place

We find ourselves in an unusual place.

It’s a bit of a long story, but basically we sold our house with the long term hope of buying land in the country.  That’s something we’ve always wanted to do, and now especially with boys, we see the benefit of getting them somewhere they can shoot their BB guns without taking out a neighbor’s window!

Divinely timed, selling our house allowed us to spend the next year and a half helping our daughter and son-in-law who are in the Army and stationed in another state.  They needed someone to rent their house while serving our country, and rather than take a chance on a stranger destroying it, we decided to fill that role.  Now, we sit at their house and as time nears for their return, we wonder where we should go next.

Our first intuition is land!  We pour over Realtor.com like it’s a new book everyday.  We’ve already spent countless hours and days driving to listings that proved only to present their one good side for the internet picture.  We’ve emailed realtors and let friends know we are looking and hope that our “forever place” will present itself soon.

We’ve also considered staying where we are.  The neighborhood here is very nice and we would be near both of our grandbabies.  That in itself is sooooooo inviting!  I sure do love my grandbabies!

There is a practical draw to live near my husband’s office.  Gas is so expensive!   We are spending at least $500-600 per month for gas right now.  Commuting long term just doesn’t seem like a realistic financial possibility.

New and old friends make the choice hard as well!  Why can’t all of our friends just move next door to us wherever we end up?!

All these possibilities and thoughts also bring up more ideas:

  1. We could serve a year at a Christian camp.  A recent visit to a nearby camp made this an idea that would be both ministerial and serving.  I can think of lots of reasons why this would be a good idea, and might teach our whole family the importance of serving others.
  2. Instead of buying a house, we could buy an RV and travel.  Since we already homeschool, this would not change the boys’ education.  It might, in fact, actually enhance their studies!  There’s no better way to learn than “hands on”.  We did a smaller version of this in the past couple of years where we studied Daniel Boone and Pioneer explorations and then spent our vacation walking where he walked in the Cumberland Mountains.  There are a few situations that would need to be addressed for this option, mainly the need for my husband to stay employed!  I dream of the possibilities that his employer would allow him to work from the road, via internet capabilites and we could do this for a year?!  Hmmm…..
  3. We could go abroad……naaaah!  I’m not much on world travel, although I’m sure there are many beautiful places to see.  Still, with so much violence and problems going on worldwide and having to be responsible for the safety of my children, this does not seem like a good choice.  Besides…….it would definately be too far from my grandbabies!
  4. We could try and buy the smallest, cleanest house we could find and then finally, maybe, have extra each month to use for short travel excursions and fun times.  Our kids grow up so fast.  We’ve already seen the missed opportunities we had with our now grown daughters all because of debt and our insistence to chase the “American dream”.  Two incomes, loads of credit card debt, a nice big new house, but no time to spend as a family contributed to the realization that this is not how life is supposed to be!  Over the years, we have paid our debts (almost all of them), and have begun to learn how to live on little.  This has enabled me to stay home with the two boys and be available to spend time with and help our daughters and grandchildren.  We have learned it is much more fun to love on our families than just giving them “stuff”.  I’ve even thought of doing the tiny house thing, but then I remember how much I love to cook and all the appliances, dishes, and pans I’ll need 😉

So….here we sit, months away from a move to “Somewhere, USA” doing “something” that would make the rest of our days fulfilled.  Are there any other ideas for us out there in Blogdom?

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As for Me and My House

Book, Chapter & Verse

Some of the last words from Joshua: “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt.  Serve the Lord!  And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:14-15

If you are reading the Chronological plan, these are the words you will see today.  As I thought about them, it reminded me of how many “things” we let into our house.  Good and bad, these things affect our lives in ways we don’t often stop to…

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Book Chapter and Verse

This is our read through the bible blog page:  http://www.bookchapterandverse.wordpress.com . Several of us have been attempting to do this since the beginning of the year. We started with 13 and are down to only a few, just as all New Year’s resolutions seem to go. Did you know that statistics show all New Year’s Resolutions are broken by week #4?  Well, the good news is that reading the bible is always a good idea.  Whether it be started on January 1st, June 1st or December 1st, we can all benefit from learning more of God’s word!

Today, we are playing a little memory game. Feel free to join in and participate! Answers will be posted later this evening.

P.S. We’d love to have any of you join the group. Begin on any reading plan at any time! Just read the “Welcome” tab, then “Shake Hands” and join in. We’d love to have you 🙂

Book, Chapter & Verse

Don’t you remember your high school teacher saying those words just as you entered the room?! 

“Take everything off your desk.  You will only need this paper and a pen because today is QUIZ DAY!!” 

(At that point is when we all started to panic, lol!)  You then turn over the paper and begin to read the questions: 

During which book did Moses build the ark? 

On what day did the serpent eat the apple? 

Why did Abram’s wife turn to salt?

Hmmmm……something’s a little wrong here, don’t you think?!

We’ve been reading for 8 weeks now and though lately we’ve endured long descriptive details about the tabernacle and sacrifices, there have been many other details that may be getting lost!  I thought it would be fun to do a little review and see what we could remember.

The following statements have been scrambled.  If you choose to accept this…

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