I Don’t Have To Do It All, I Just Have To Love

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My husband gave me some time away this weekend before we start the new school year. The Lord gave me many verses of encouragement and affirmation, but I wanted to share something that stood out to me. As I read 1 Corinthians 13 and thinking of it in terms of homeschooling, he reminded me that no matter how much I prepare, teach, plan – if I do not keep love in my heart towards my kids, I do it all for nothing. I wanted to write something out that would encourage me, and wanted to share in case it might encourage someone else. I won’t love perfectly, and I will blow it many times, but hopefully keeping this in the forefront of my mind will help me have a more peaceful school year. In short, it’s not about how much we know or do, but it’s about how much we LOVE in all the doing. Changing the last verses 13: 4-18 of the MSG version to reflect a mother:
   “If I miss nothing, if not one speck of education is forgotten, if every fragment of         yesteryear and ancient times is unearthed and thoroughly taught, but I have not love for my children, I am but a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 
    If I speak fluently the languages of French, Spanish, and German; if I guide the wonder of   the outside – baby birds in their nest, the work of the ant; if I possessed all knowledge and had all faith to help my children achieve, but have not love, I am nothing. 
  If I give everything, all that I am, all of my time; if I relinquish all selfish desires to the duties of motherhood, but have not love, I gain nothing. 
A mother is patient, a mother is kind. She never gives up. She cares more for others than self. She is not self seeking. She doesn’t want what she doesn’t have. She is not proud. She does not demand her own way. She is not easily angered. She does not fly off the handle. She is not irritable. She does not delight in evil, but takes pleasure in the flowering of truth. She puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. 
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY. And the best of the three is love.”
Let us go and love extravagantly.
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Motherhood is a Life of Interruptions

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Have you ever been trying to get laundry done, the to-do list made, dinner cooked, the lesson taught and been interrupted by, “Mom, I’m all done in the bathroom!” or “He took my toy!” or “I can’t find my jacket.”? Of course you have! How do you respond? With a huff, an eye roll, exasperation, annoyance, anger? Motherhood is a life of interruptions.

Last week I was teaching the Bible, the BIBLE, to two of my kids about the love of GOD, when I hear from the bathroom, “Mooom, I’m all done!” I wipe, wash, and return to teaching, you know, about loving others. Then I hear from my 3 year old, “Mommy, I spilled my water.” I clean, dry, change his clothes and return. Then I hear my 5 year old say about her little brother, “He just drew on my baby with marker!” My head fell back, annoyance arose in my voice. I’m trying to TEACH! The BIBLE!!! And I started to lose my patience when I look over at my 6 and 7 year old. Their little eyes watching me. Watching my facial expressions. Watching how I will respond. Then it hit me, what exactly am I teaching them? Am I telling them to love others while I am SHOWING them something different? Teaching them the Bible is one thing, teaching them to actually walk in God’s grace and extend his love to others, especially when we are interrupted and annoyed is an altogether different thing. My flesh wants to react because this is an INTERRUPTION.

Our kids are always watching. When we think they’re not, that they won’t notice-they notice. It’s realizing that during this interruption we can truly demonstrate the love of Christ. That’s when I look to Jesus and see that he also had a life of interruptions. But it doesn’t call it that in the Bible, because Jesus didn’t see them as interruptions. He saw them as opportunities for self sacrifice and to bring glory to God. Here are 3 examples:

  1. One day Jesus was walking to heal Jairus’ dying daughter, and a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years reached out and touched his hem. He could have seen this as an interruption. “I’m on my way somewhere, why are you bothering me?” But he didn’t, he saw it as an opportunity to bring glory to God. She had a NEED. He could have just kept walking, but he didn’t. He could have said, “Someone is dying! I must get there, don’t bother me.” But he didn’t. She wasn’t a “bother” to him, nor was Jairus. Jairus received word his daughter was dead and was advised, “Don’t BOTHER the teacher any more.” Luke 8: 49 But did Jesus see him as a bother? NO. He stayed WITH Jairus. He told him not to be afraid.

I don’t know how many times I have a child with a need, and they reach out and touch me and they pull on my pants. But I am “going somewhere,” headed to do something, and I see this as an interruption. Do I stop and meet their need? Do I see them as a bother? Or do I address them, help them, be with them? Maybe it’s not a need, but it’s them trying to have a “be with me” moment. Be with me while I pull out my loose tooth. Be with me and watch me ride my bike. Be with me and color this with me. Be with me while I blow bubbles. Just slow down and be with me. What all am I missing in my “I have to get stuff done and you’re interrupting me” attitude?
2. One day Jesus was TEACHING people, the Pharisees and other teachers who had come from every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. Sounds important. There were LOTS of people there listening to his teaching. All of a sudden, a paralytic man was being lowered through the roof by four friends who wanted Jesus to heal him. They couldn’t get in the door because of all the people, so they went to the roof. He was in the middle of teaching! He didn’t stop and huff and say, “I’m in the middle of teaching! I’m just trying to do this one thing and I can’t because I’m getting interrupted.” NO. He STOPPED. He allowed the men to lower this man down and then he healed him. He  didn’t see it as an interruption. (Luke 5:17-39)
3. Lastly, in Matthew 14 Jesus withdrew by himself by boat and when he landed there were CROWDS of people waiting for him. Was he annoyed? Did he say, “I’m trying to get me time!” Nope, he had compassion on them. He healed their sick. Later in the day the disciples said he should send the people away so they could eat. He didn’t say, “Oh good idea, I need some peace and quiet.” Instead, he said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

Sometimes I get time away and selfishly, I just want more. And when I return there is a little crowd of 4 who are ready with their needs. I do not always have compassion on them, but reading this about Jesus opened my eyes to how he wants me to respond.

He showed us how to live a life of interruptions.

We can teach God’s word all day long, but it’s what we DO that matters. I can tell my kids they are supposed to love others, put others first, be slow to speak, and slow to get angry, but it’s what I’m doing that’s going to matter. It’s what is “caught not taught.” Am I doing the things I’m telling them to do? Or am I telling them one thing and doing another? That’s a hypocrite. We are the first image of who God is to our children. “ “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Our kids are made in the image of God. They are worthy of our love. They are worth the investment. They are worth seeing these “interruptions” as opportunities. These opportunities are precious! Opportunities to teach. Teach them about God, about loving others, about LIFE. Will they look back and see a mom who was angered easily, who yelled a lot, who was short on patience, who was huffing at all the interruptions? Or are we equipping them to look back and say, “I know how to respond in this way in life b/c I saw my mom do it. I saw her get interrupted, and I saw her time and again choose restraint. We will make mistakes. We will blow opportunities. But keep pressing on and wait for the next opportunity to arise to try again, because the next interruption is just around the corner.

 

 

*I am honored to get to write for Raising Godly Children where this article was first published.

Cutting Out These Five Words Changed My Parenting

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Cutting out these five words: “…for a couple of minutes.”

Child: Mommy will you play dolls with me?
Mom: For a couple of minutes.

Child: Mommy, will you lay with me?
Mom: Yeah, for a couple of minutes.

Child: Mommy, will you play hide and seek with me?
Mom: For a couple of minutes.

I found myself saying these 5 words more and more often “…for a couple of minutes.” (or similar words like “not right now, maybe later, for a minute or two”) I was busy, I was tired, I was being selfish and wanted to do what I wanted to do (browse pinterest?). I always pray that the Lord will connect my heart to my children’s heart. He was doing his part-their sweet little voices asking me to play with them was one way that would connect my heart to theirs. But then the Lord put it heavy on my heart that the way I was wording my response could potentially build up walls between us-the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I wanted.

Imagine this scenario:

Wife: Will you hold me?
Husband: Yeah, for a couple of minutes.

Wife: Could I show you something I worked on today?
Husband: Yeah, for a couple of minutes.

Wife: Want to read the Bible together?
Husband: For a couple of minutes.

I’d be thinking, “Well, never mind then!” If that was my husband’s reply every time I asked for TIME with him, I would start to feel like I’m annoying him, that he doesn’t want to spend time with me, that he’d rather be doing something else. It would build up walls between us over time.

What if when our children asked, we just said, “YES!” They don’t know the difference in time as much as they know the difference in “Well, sure, but I’d rather be doing something else” aka “for a few minutes.” I started just playing with them, laying with them, and coloring with them and if I only did it for 5 minutes, I kept that to myself. All they see is that I’m playing with them! That I said YES. Are there times we will need to let them know, “Yes, I can do that, but only for a few minutes because it’s almost bed time”? Yes, of course, but keeping that from being a standard response and the overall feeling has been such a wonderful change.

Today is a day God has ordained for you. The things that happen in it are not an interruption or an inconvenience, especially our children. It is our LIFE! We absolutely cannot do it in our own strength, but we CAN do it in the LORD’S STRENGTH. May he knit our hearts together more closely with the hearts of our children and help us remember that TIME is something we will all wish we had spent more of together in the end. Help us Lord to be present in the lives of everyone around us!

 

*I am honored to get to write for Raising Godly Children where this article was first published.

Favorite First Chapter Books

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Books are some of our most favorite things in this house, so I’m sharing a few of our favorite first read aloud chapter books. I scoured book lists when we first started doing chapter book read alouds and want to share a few of our faves because I found most of these through other mamas who had gone before me. These books are great for the 4+ age range, and wholesome for any family. I have 4 kids, current ages 2,4,5,7 and they all enjoyed these books -except the 2 year old would come and go. 🙂 My oldest is a girl, so some of these were geared towards her, but my son loved all of them too! I will add to this list as I discover new first chapter books with my other kids. There are so many more to be read! Please comment and tell me your favorite first chapter books that your kids have loved!

We started with the Little House on the Prairie books when my daughter was around 3.5. She couldn’t get enough of those, so we read through them all several times until I just couldn’t any more. Then we bought them on CD and moved on to other chapter books. 🙂 The audio books narrated by Cherry Jones are phenomenal!

Here are a few of our favorite Read Aloud Chapter Books:

Little House on the Prairie Books (9 in all) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater
B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Brisley
Betsy Tacy, Betsy Tacy & Tib, and Betsy & Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace. The ones after this series were geared for the older age range so we stopped here.
The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (this one isn’t as scary as it sounds. There were a couple of parts I skipped because of little ears, but my older ones would have been fine with it)
The Robinson Crusoe Reader by Julia Cowles, Christian Liberty Press

Thornton Burgess “The Adventures of…” Books are all great and my kids ALWAYS love these:

The Adventures of Peter Cottontail 
The Adventures of Reddy Fox
The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel
The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk
The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver

– And the list goes on-there are lots of these Adventure Books!

I would love to hear from you and your favorites!

Five Ways to Parent More Peacefully

I crave peace. Especially in parenting. God’s word is a lamp unto our feet. A light showing us how to parent, how to be good stewards of the time God has given us with our children. We will not do it perfectly, but when we look to His Word to teach us, admonish us, and encourage us, we will find everything we need. Books are fine, in their place. Friends are good for wisdom, in their place. But nothing has what God’s Word has for us. There is no formula for what we come across in parenting, but with each child we can take them to the throne of grace and ask him, as Creator God, to show us what to do in every situation. Here are a few ways where God is teaching us, through His Word, how to navigate parenting.

  1. Discipline our children. “He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23. Disciplining for wrong behavior, yes, but also remembering that discipline comes from the word disciple. We are to disciple our children using the word of God. His instruction. It’s important to teach our children self-control (sometimes over and over and over) and self-discipline, to build good habits, good habits in the Lord so they are not LED ASTRAY by their own great folly. Do not let them go without correction AND instruction. How? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you RICHLY as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16 We must have God’s word in us so that it will come out of us in these times. God’s word will light up our parenting path! “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.” Proverbs 6:23

2. Let Peace Rule Us. As we parent our children, God’s word tells us, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 The Moody Bible Commentary says, “The attitude of peace the Christ alone gives-in place of the attitude of bitterness and quarrelsomeness. This attitude is to “rule” (as an umpire) in all human relationships.” Peace is a state of tranquility; exemption from rage; peace and harmony between individuals; security and safety because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous. When we live in a state of peace that Christ gives, and we are thankful, we take on a mindset of choosing peace. We choose peace over anger and quarreling. We have a choice every time we feel anger rising, to make the call of peace. This does not take away from disciplining, but it creates an environment where we are providing harmony. An environment where our children feel emotionally safe to accept discipline and see the love of Christ flowing out of us.

3. What to Put On and what to Put Off. God’s word tells us to put OFF anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language and to put ON compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. (Colossians 3:8 & 3:12). When we feel anger, put on compassion. When we feel rage, put on kindness. When we feel the desire to say things we shouldn’t to our kids, put on patience. I keep a list of this in my kitchen window so I can run to it when I feel these fleshly desires rising up. I definitely don’t always choose what I’m supposed to, but I’m hoping to create better habits. God’s word tells us to put TO DEATH the attitudes and desires of our sinful nature. They are not helpful for teaching or discipling our children. His ways are. His ways give us and our children LIGHT and it’s done in GOODNESS.

4. Take care of our sheep. The Pharisees and teachers saw Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners. “Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15: 2-4 The Lord gave me this passage when I didn’t know what to do with one of my children. This child had an attitude that needed help, and the Lord taught me to welcome my children, even when they sin, and if one is struggling to go after them. To not continue in every day things when one of my sheep were struggling. Drop everything to help them, teach them, and correct them. It may not happen immediately, but I am to trust and rest in God and that He and His word will change and transform in His timing. “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.” 1 Peter 5:2-3. The Lord is our Great Shepherd and we can look to him in how to lead our children when we don’t know what to do. He is the creator of them, of the heavens, of the sun; he named all the stars-he KNOWS what they need and he will lead us and teach us as we and our children need it.

5. Know that it is HARD WORK. When we are committed to doing God’s work it will be hard. BUT we get to call on Jesus for help. He wants us to teach our children about him. He wants them to be encouraged in heart and united in love. Paul’s words have given me purpose in parenting, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I LABOR, struggling with all HIS ENERGY which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:28-29. And later, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order the they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2 When we want our children to truly know God and live a life for him, it will be a lot of work on our parts-teaching, being examples, resting and trusting God in it all, but we get to tap into the POWER of Christ to do it. We can’t do it all, BUT HE CAN.

I sometimes want to control everything-all their behaviors and attitudes. But the Lord has been teaching me and correcting me lately. He has been teaching me that when I am trying (it never actually works out how I want it to anyway), but when I am trying to control everything my kids are doing, then I am leaving NO ROOM for Him to work on them…and me. That when I’m reacting quickly in my flesh, it leaves NO ROOM for God to guide by his Spirit. I am to die to my fleshly desires, cut them off, and allow the spirit to control my reaction instead. When we let go of that control by taking a breath and allowing the Holy Spirit to move through us and give us wisdom for each time we need it, then we will see the power demonstrated in us through Christ. There is no greater power than that.

The “What If Game” of Warnings and Wisdom

The Father in Proverbs 5 is warning his son about the sneaky/adulteress woman. He tells his son what to look for, things she will say, and what she will do that might tempt him to go with her. Proverbs 1 teaches us to not give into sinners when they ask us to come along with them. While I do not need to warn my children of the adulteress woman (yet), I copy him and warn my kids of ways others might tempt them to go along with them in sin, what they might say. I warn them of people who might try to harm them. Since mine are all little, I do this in a very gentle way, without having to go into much detail, but with an overall focus that not everyone is good with good intentions and we need to be aware of this. There are also lots of Bible verses that tell about  the blessings received by those who live to please the Lord, so we talk about ways we can live as lights to bring glory to God.

To do this, we play the “What if…” game. A friend told me she did this with her kids and I immediately loved it and started doing it too. It’s simple, I give them a “what if” question and they give the answer. When it’s a first time what if question I usually have to tell them the correct response so they don’t just keep guessing. This game has brought up so many wonderful conversations with my kids. Once we did this for a while, the questions started expanding to character training questions. I can cover every topic from how we treat people, what to do when approached by a stranger and everything in between. It can be a 5 minute game, or as long as you want it to be. We play in the car, while I’m making lunch, giving baths, etc. My kids love it and I can address things in a light hearted way. It’s not something we do every day, but it’s a great tool to have in the parenting belt.
EXAMPLE WHAT IF questions: (Keep in mind, my children are 6 and under, so these questions are geared for their age group)
  • What if you’re playing at a park and someone, a kid or an adult says, “Hey, I have some puppies in my car, want to come see them?” Answer: “I have to ask my mommy first.” If there really are puppies, of course I want to see them! But do not go with a stranger to his/her car.
  • What if you are playing outside at home and a car pulls up, rolls down their window, says they need help with something and could you help them? Answer: Run inside and tell mommy. If someone needs help I will be happy to help them. (*I read once that adults who actually need help won’t ask children for help. If you need something, or directions, are you really going to ask a child? Nah, you’ll probably ask them to get their mom or dad)
  • What if you are playing and someone hits you? Answer: (Whatever your family does for this)  We say things like, if they’re toddlers, just give grace and play nicely, if they’re big kids and are intentionally being mean, let us know and find someone else to play with.
  • What if you are playing with a friend and they ask to see your boy/girl parts? (I know this sounds crazy, but it happens!) We tell them to say, “NO, that is inappropriate” and to come and let us know asap.
  • What if you see a trail near the playground and you want to go on it? (My kids love trails and we play at a playground that has some trails off of it) Answer: Ask mommy first.
  • What if you are in Sunday school and you see someone sitting alone? Or a new person comes to class? What’s something you can do? Answer: Go and say hi, tell them your name, etc.
  • What if you are playing with other kids and someone starts being mean to another child or doesn’t want to include them? Answer: Don’t participate in being unkind to someone. Be the child that stands up for others, and if you see someone playing alone invite them to come and play with you. If it continues, find a new group to play with. Do what is right and good.
  • What if you are walking into a store and there is an elderly person coming out, what’s something nice you can do? Answer: Hold the door for them. (or a woman, or another family, etc)
  • What if you are playing and you get really frustrated and want to hit? Answer: (Whatever your family does) We say: fold your hands, walk away, take a break, talk to one of us about it, go find a bird out of the window to watch for a few minutes, etc)
We take this beyond warnings and character training to address anything one of our children may need extra help with:
  • What if you are laying in bed and can’t sleep, what can you do?
  • What if you have three trains and your brother or sister also wants to play, but they don’t have any trains? (I have one that can have a hard time sharing)
This may seem simple and obvious to you, but it seemed like an ingenious idea to me when a friend first told me about it. As the kids have gotten older, the questions change accordingly. I’m definitely not saying my answers are all the “right” answers, I’m simply giving ideas based on what we do. My kids are in training too and they need correction for some of these things as much as they need to hear the what if answers. 🙂 It’s about helping them be alert. Alert in how the enemy might tempt them, alert in how to love others well and see other’s needs. It’s helping them think through things while they are outside of the moment. It’s teaching. It’s training. For me, it helps me be intentional.
As the kids get older I have started asking them “why” with some of the answers so they can have an UNDERSTANDING. I pray discussing these things with our kids will help build a bridge that prepares them, helps them. I want them to cling to wisdom and run to her and look for her in every situation. I want them to, “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,” and call understanding their kinsman.” Proverbs 7:7 I want them to know wisdom like an old friend. I want them to know this about her: “Stay close to wisdom and she will protect you, love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme, therefore get wisdom. Though it cost ALL YOU HAVE, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a  crown of splendor.” Proverbs 4:6-8

DAILY MOMENTS IN PARENTING MAKE UP OUR LIVES

My three year old loves to help in the kitchen, like most do, so I video her from time to time so that I can remember these moments. Sometimes I watch them, and when I do I notice the way she likes to taste everything, how she splatters milk out of the blender, how she loves to feel the oats before we mix them with anything, but what I notice most is her watching me. Her little eyes watch my face. My reaction to her crying baby brother. My reaction to her two older squabbling siblings. My reaction to her accidental spilled mess. She’s always watching me. They all are.

Every single time I respond, whether my response is negative or positive, encouraging or discouraging, I am shaping who they are. And how I respond is how I am seeing them respond to their own circumstances and to others. Sure, they have their own ways of responding too, but I have an over-arching sense of how the way I act is shaping them. Shaping their character. Their love for others. Their self-control. It makes me re-evaluate. Am I responding as I should? Am I responding in ways that will show them how to be gentle, how to remain calm in the face of frustration, how to love others well? Not always. It is sobering and feels heavy with responsibility.

But then, God gently reminds me all I have to do is love HIM well and the rest will follow. If I am living to please him it will shape them well. When I am responding in ways that God has asked of me in His Word, then their little eyes will be filled with His truth and goodness. And when I fail, and where I do still leave scratchy corners, he will round them out as they enter into a relationship with him themselves. The MOST important thing I can do for my children is to put God first in my life. To love him, know him, and obey him. It is who we are, the depth of our character, and the way we love others that we will impart to our children. We cannot impart that which we do not have. So we begin with ourselves and the relationship we have with Christ.

Our lives are made of moments. Like grains of sand make up a beach, our daily moments make up our lives. And our lives are what speak to our children. It’s not one or two big things that speak to them. It is our daily moments. Our daily reactions. Our endless supply of love for them that can only come from an endless supply of love from our Father. A few grains of sand may be hard, dark, or pebbly, but if most of them are soft, white, and smooth that is what the beach will be made up of, and what you will see when you look at it. If our daily moments are made up of irritability, breaths of annoyance, and selfish desires to do what we want to do, then that very well may be what we see when we look at our children. But if our daily moments are made up of love, laughter, songs of praise, encouragement, serving them joyfully, and open arms, then that very well may be what we see when we look at them. I pray that the Lord keeps me true to him so I can see the latter.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity.” Ephesians 5:15-16

This article was originally published on Raising Godly Children website where I am thankful to be a contributor.

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Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum: What We Used

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We are wrapping up our first year of homeschool around here and I wanted to share what we ended up using. I LOVE reading what other moms use and I’ve gotten so many wonderful ideas from other moms. This is NOT a post about the “right” curriculum choices or “look what I did” or “look what my kids did.” NO ONE can tell you what to use for your children. This is merely what we used, and if you resonate with the Charlotte Mason style homeschool, or even if you don’t, you may pick up an idea or two. When I was starting out, I spent hours and hours reading and researching every homeschool curriculum, blog, and idea on the internet! I’m sharing in hopes of helping another mom. And I remember the blogs and videos that helped me so much, so I want to pay it forward! You know how Sarah Mackenzie always posts her details? Well I’m one of the ones who gobbles them all up, so I’m sharing too. 🙂

What did you use this year and love? And what are you thinking of using next year?? I will have a 1st grader, so please share any favorite resources!! I’m already planning. 🙂

Here’s the quick run down, and below I’ll go into detail:

Reading: Alphaphonics
Handwriting: The Good and The Beautiful Level 2 and copywork from her daily Bible reading
Math: Math-U-See, Primer Level.
Science: Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards, a bird-feeder, butterfly house, and Liberty Christian books
Devotion: Leading Little Ones to God.  
Art Study: Picture Study Portfolios by Simply Charlotte Mason.  (we did Monet)
Bible Memorization: Verses and Books of the Bible
Poetry Memorization: Prayers for Children, The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose
Character: Character First, Bible, and Wisdom and the Millers book: Proverbs for Children
Hymn Study: Hymns at Home
Literature: LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS-see lists below.

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Reading: Alphaphonics. This worked great for my early reader. No pictures, color, or images in the book which I liked. I plan on using this with my other kiddos and hope it works as well with them.

Handwriting: The Good and The Beautiful Level 2. Basic handwriting. We loved it. Has space for a student to draw or color a picture on each page. Each lesson only takes about 5 minutes, which is all my DD wanted to do. Christian based. Will be using Level 3 next year. My daughter also did copywork of Bible verses from her daily Bible reading.

Math: Math-U-See Primer Level. Math is one of my weakness so I need something with planned lessons in it. There is a 5 minute video to watch once a week where Steve Demme, the creator of Math-u-see, explained the concept of the week and we watched together, then the student does the workbook the rest of the week. Each lesson only takes about 5 minutes. With this program, some weeks my daughter would fly through the lessons, but other weeks we needed more than a week to do them, so we just took our time and when I felt like she got it, then we moved on. I didn’t rush her. I didn’t have an “end date” in mind this year so I was good with taking our time.

History: We didn’t do much for History for Kindergarten. My daughter liked to read through Living Long Ago from Usborne, but that’s about it. I recently picked up Story of the World and a Beautiful Feet Books History Guide to alternate for next year and am really excited about both of them.

Natural Science: We do the Charlotte Mason method of science, where you basically study your outside surroundings through the elementary levels and read living books. So, we bought the Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards and my husband built a bird feeder. We would see a bird and go find it in our cards and hang it on the wall. We have learned about so many birds this way! We also built a butterfly home where we would put caterpillars and watch them turn into butterflies or moths! And lastly, we read from the Liberty Christian books and the kids love them. So do I. It’s a book that tells facts about animals and insects in their natural environments in story form.

Devotion: read during Morning Time with all the kids: Leading Little Ones to God. This is separate from Bible. We do Bible reading every day. Devotion is extra. Like my friend says, it’s the skittle after dinner and dinner is the Bible. 🙂 We also incorporated personal prayer time for the 3 yo, 4 yo, and 6 yo. I sit with them to guide, but they do most of the praying.

Art Study: (during Morning Time with all the kids) Picture Study Portfolios by Simply Charlotte MasonThis was one of my favorite things we did all year! You pick an artist and you get eight pictures and an artist biography. Basically, you look at one picture a week until the student can close their eyes and see the picture in their mind. I love looking at one artist’s works for an entire term, because we become familiar with the artist that way. We chose the Monet and Van Gogh portfolios, but only did Monet this year b/c we kept each picture up for longer than a week. I can’t believe they learned 8 Monet works! And I did too-I’m learning art, birds, all kinds of history right along with them. 🙂 My 4 year old son saw a Monet picture at a friend’s house, and said, “Look, it’s Monet! Woman with a Parasol!” I was SO excited and thought if we did nothing else in the year I would be happy with that. I also checked out these picture books about Monet for free reads:
Claude Monet: Getting to know the World’s Greatest Artists 
Claude Monet: Sunshine and Waterlilies 
Katie and Waterlily Pond
Claude Monet: The Painter Who Stopped the Trains

Bible Memorization: I keep all that we’ve memorized in a binder with 8 tabs. The tabs are Daily, Odd, Even, and then Mon-Fri. Our daily work is what we are currently memorizing. The last thing we’ve memorized goes under the Even or Odd day tabs so we can review it more frequently. Behind the other tabs are what we’ve already memorized but we review them once a week. Once we learn our daily work, then it gets moved to the odd tab. Eventually it will get moved to a day of the week tab. I got this system from a Charlotte Mason site and it has worked well for us. We also worked on memorizing the books of the Bible.

Poetry Memorization: We picked a couple poems out of the book Prayers for Children, a Little Golden Book that I found for .50 cents at a used bookstore and it’s one of our favorite books for poetry memorization. We also read and read and read The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose and the kids just naturally memorized lots of the shorter nursery rhymes.

Character Study: We used Character First, the Bible, home-made character study, and Wisdom and the Millers book: Proverbs for Children

Hymn Study: Holy, Holy, Holy. The site Hymns at Home is a wonderful resource.

Literature/BOOKS: This is my very favorite part of homeschooling. 🙂 We read a bazillion picture books, but these are our favorites.

Here are the chapter books we read aloud as a family and loved this year: (These are GREAT FIRST ALOUDS! Click here to see a complete list of our favorite first read alouds!

B is for Betsy
Back to School with Betsy
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Milly Molly Mandy
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Betsy-Tacy
The Courage of Sarah Noble
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Charlotte’s Web
Little House books on audio (b/c we’ve already read them through a few times, so my daughter likes to listen to these during quiet time) The audio books performed by Cherry Jones are PHENOMENAL!!

We also purchased the audio Zondervan Dramatized Bible for quiet times. We all love these.

That’s it!

In case you’re interested in the Charlotte Mason method, here’s my rundown on it: The Charlotte Mason style of homeschool resonated with me as soon as I heard about it. I started reading lots of books and posts about it and am still learning, but find the ideas of education as an atmosphere, a discipline and a life, using living books, outdoor play, art and composer study, natural sciences, treating children as born persons, and creating good habits in life and learning to be what speaks to my heart. It’s about spreading a wonderful feast in front of your children of truth, beauty, and goodness. I do not use only Charlotte Mason, but go there first when I’m planning.

Remember! There is NO ONE who can tell you what to use with your family! You are the one God gave them to; you know them best. But let us be encouraged by one another in sharing ideas! Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:4-5

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Broken Mirror

Mirror 2

Last week I was reflecting on all God had done for me over the last 15 years. I found myself crying out to him, giving thanks as, story after story, I saw how he mended, repaired, loved, showed up, and was just there with me, loving me.

When Jeremy and I first started dating again after college (8 years after college), I was living in the only thing I could afford at the time, a small, run-down apartment attached to a water factory. It was yucky with yucky memories of a previous life and was a place where I had to call the cops twice a month because there was always suspicious behavior going on around the back of the water factory. One time a guy was arrested because he had picked up a woman from Dollar General, and drove her behind my apartment. It was about midnight so I called the cops and they found an illegal sized knife in his bag, duct tape, and rope. Another time, my car was broken into and everything stolen. Where I lived just looked like a part of the factory, not an apartment so people always thought it was just an empty lot. Meanwhile I’m peeking out of my window every time I hear a car outside and making sure my door security bar was tight.

One room was where I would get ready and there was a broken mirror that sat on a basket on the floor. I would sit on the floor and get ready every morning. I had done it for years. It just kind of became a way of life. Jeremy says when he saw me sitting on the floor in front of my broken mirror his heart broke. Not just because it was a broken mirror, or even all the other physical brokenness of where I lived, but because for several years prior I had lived in so much brokenness this was a kind of representation of it all.

So, a few weeks before our wedding day Jeremy said he had a surprise for me. I went over to his house, soon to be “our” house, and he took me to one of the spare bedrooms and opened the door. I just stood there, soaking it all in. My eyes moved around the room. It was an entire room for me to “get ready in.” He, himself, built custom made closets and shelves that spanned the room wall to wall on two different walls. He painted it one of my favorite colors of pink. He put down a beautiful rug. And the last thing he wanted to show me was a sitting area with a beautiful little seat, a desk to keep all my girly stuff, and the biggest WHOLE mirror I had ever seen. He said there would be no more broken mirrors.

It was seriously like the time Patrick Swayze said, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”! I had someone fighting FOR me! I had someone come along and start to love me out of brokenness. I cried and was beyond thankful. For the room yes, but more for him. After everything I had been through in the few years before that moment he was like my knight in shining armor times ten. That previous life made me KNOW, deep down in my heart how much he loved me. It made me never want to take him for granted. I knew what life was like without this kind of love and I would never be there again.

It’s the most beautiful image of how Christ comes in when we let him, and he covers us with love and protection and he picks up all our broken pieces and makes us whole. Whole in him. His love for us is the most wonderful love story in history. A short time before my husband and I would see each other again for the first time in 8 or 9 years, in that run-down apartment, with all my hurts and weakness and pain I found myself laying on my face on the bathroom floor. I was weeping unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was in so much pain and had so much brokenness in my heart that I KNEW I needed God. I knew that I had gotten myself in this place because I didn’t have a relationship with him. Because I had walked away from what I did know of him. I turned my back on him because I thought I could do a better job of making life decisions. And then the day came when I realized how far OFF course I had gone. How deep I was in pain and yuckiness, and all I could do was cry out for him to help me. If he would still have me. I remember saying, “Could you possibly still love me? I am SO FAR from you. I am desperate. Desperate for you to save me.” I was moved more than I could ever write about with the overwhelming love and comfort I felt deep down inside. I felt him saying I love you. I have been waiting for you. And I cried out, “But I have NOTHING TO GIVE YOU.” And I heard, All I need is your heart. Broken and all.

So that day I gave him my broken heart. I wanted him so badly in my life I didn’t care what I had to give him or what he wanted to do with my life. From that point on, I started running everything in my life like a conveyor belt that had to pass by God before it came/stayed in my life. I started growing in the Lord. I was walking WITH him in life, in relationship. And he mended, loved, and nourished me back to wholeness in Him. He loved me out of my brokenness. I am still growing, still working out my salvation, but now I KNOW that he is my refuge, my hope. My husband is an earthly picture of Christ’s love for me. A love I never thought I would have on this earth. The Lord has a purpose for me in this life. And for you too. If you do not have a relationship with him, enter into one with him. Ask him to save you from your sins and give your life to him. You will never, ever, ever, ever regret it. After all the darkness, I had LIGHT. And you can too. You do not have to stay “used to” your brokenness. That is not what God has intended for you. He wants to make you whole.

And now that room has two little boys living in it. And beside that room is another room with two little girls living in it. The broken girl in the broken apartment looking in the broken mirror thought she would never have children of her own. But the whole girl made whole in Christ looking in the whole mirror saw four sweet little faces looking back at her. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; A NEW LIFE HAS BEGUN!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Psalm 73: 28

Please feel free to reach out to me any time for prayer, encouragement, or questions.

Drawing Pictures When Memorizing Scripture

I had to share something SO simple that worked super fast and helped us memorize scripture faster!

We had been memorizing Psalm 23 for a couple of weeks. My oldest memorizes in just a couple of days, but for the rest of it takes us longer. Because this was a longer passage we were having a harder time, so I drew SIMPLE pictures/symbols beside each verse and my son had the whole Psalm memorized in just 2 days! And I did too!

All it took was seeing these pictures as we read the verses then recalling them in our minds when it came time to say the verse. And this is something that has stuck-we can still recall the pictures in our minds well after we have moved on from that passage and onto another. I don’t know that we’ll use it every time we memorize, but if any of us are struggling with memorizing a particular passage, I will definitely do it! And now I’ll be watching to see if my son may be a visual learner since this worked so well for him. A few times the kids picked a verse to “draw” and I think that helped them too, so I think we may add in drawing our verses from time to time during Morning Time. It sure helped me to draw it out! Doesn’t have to be on a white board. A piece of paper does the same job.

Here’s a pic so you can take in all my beautiful artistic ability, 🙂 but mostly so you can see how simple it is. DSC_0318