Monday, April 23, 2012

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

     As the school year comes to an end, I hear from a lot of homeschool moms who are beginning to feel the stress. This is the time of evaluations, testing and portfolio review. It is the time when so many rush to “get it all in” and not fall behind. I hate this time of year for that very reason. Women who were enjoying time with their children, learning together, and reaping the rewards of working at their child’s pace and interests suddenly begin to doubt themselves and their methods as they see the year closing and they realize that their children have not accomplished what the Jones kids did.

     I love this time of year, too, because this is when I am often able to remind these women of the things they already know about their God. The Scriptures are full of wonderful verses reminding us of His omniscience (He knows just what we and our children need) “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him”, and His omnipotence (He has the power to provide for all our needs: physical, spiritual and educational) “Great is the Lord and mighty in power”. Some of the great old hymns are filled with reminders to us that God cares about even the smallest and seemingly inconsequential things. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” I am sure the Bible and the hymns are full of these reminders because we are a forgetful people. So let me add my reminder here.

      God is a good father who loves perfectly. He wants our children to succeed, but His plan for their success may look different than that of this world. He has called you to be the teacher, to lead your children in His way. It is your primary job to focus them on reflecting the glory of the One who created them. If they need to learn Latin in third grade or advanced biology in fourth, God will provide an incredibly obvious open door to that path. I know. I have been there. I have had acquaintances offer to share knowledge with my children out of the blue. I wasn’t looking for teachers. I hadn’t even considered that the kids might want or need the information, but God knows and He provides. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the end of the school year. There is no need to worry. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Redemption by Bryan Clay

With my schedule it isn't often that I manage to read through a book in two days, but I did this time. Sadly, I had never heard the name Bryan Clay until I saw this book available from Booksneeze. I didn't know he had won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympic decathlon. That alone is an incredible achievement. He has also won many more competitions in his lifetime. What is really impressive is his life story. Bryan is not someone we would have expected to see in the Olympics. A rough childhood involving suspension from schools, illegal drug use, and a late start in running don't often lead to Olympic glory. Fortunately, God's plan for Bryan led in an unusual direction. I really appreciated hearing the truth from Bryan. He didn't sugar coat his story or soften the rough edges. He doesn't give the impression that following God made his life
a fairy tale. Bryan is still a sinner and struggles with the same temptations that all of us deal with. His story was an encouragement and a great reminder that we serve a big God who has a plan and the power to make His plan happen. I look forward to this year's Olympic games and seeing what God has in store for Bryan.
I received a free copy of this book from booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Convention Workshops: What Should I Choose?

The FPEA homeschool convention is coming soon, and I am so excited. I received my convention catalog earlier this week and have been pouring over the workshop descriptions. These workshops can be invaluable whether you are a brand new homeschooler or have been doing this for decades. I have been talking with several families that are planning to start homeschooling this fall. As you look over the workshops offered, you may wonder how in the world you go about choosing which to listen to each hour. Here are my general recommendations. Some of you don't have preschoolers, so skip those. Most hours I was able to limit it to one, but sometimes there were two that I would recommend. If you are able to attend with your husband, you can split up and attend both. If not, you are going to have a tough decision.
Session 1
Attend #10 FPEA Orientation to Homeschooling - What you need to know to get started.
Get on CD #1 Bible as Foundation for Every Subject
#4 Homeschooling Methods that Win and that Wipe Out
Session 2
Attend #17 Improve Your Skills As An Educator
Get on CD #13 Practical Guide to Making Scripture Central
#23 Proverbs: God's Character Curriculum
#24 Twenty Five Books You Can't Homeschool Without!
Session 3
Attend #28 Seven E's for Choosing Curriculum
Get on CD #35 The Creation Interpretation
Session 4
Attend #45 How to Teach Elementary Science at Home
Get on CD #37 Keys to a Strong Homeschool Curriculum
Session 5
Attend #54 Couponing Made Simple
Get on CD #50 Ministering to the Heart of a Child
#51 Attention.....CHILL OUT
Session 6
Attend #68 Cutting Your Budget Without Cutting Costs
#70 The Well Planned Day
Get on CD #64 Fun, Easy Ways to Increase Your Child's Attention
#66 Blending the Many Facets of Homeschooling
#71 Defining Your Journey= Hitting Your Target
Session 1
Attend #77 The Fun Factor: How Active Enjoyment Impacts Learning
#79 Curriculum for Hands-on, Creative and Gifted Learners
#80 Understanding Your Child's Learning Style
Session 2
Attend #90 Occupying Preschoolers While Teaching Older Children
Get on CD #87 Notebooking: Creativity With a Purpose
#88 Getting It All Done
Session 3
Attend #102 Handwriting Without Tears
Get on CD #97 Finishing Well: Life After Homeschooling
#106 Where is the Joy
#108 Why I'm Glad I Homeschooled Through High School
Session 4
Attend #114 Teaching Biblical Worldview to Ages 6-14
Get on CD #109 Cultivating a Love for Learning
#110 Teaching Precious Preschoolers and Little Learners
#120 A Homeschool Vision of Victory
Session 5
Attend #127 Making Science Fundamental
Get on CD #122 Time Management Priorities for Home Educators
#128 Joining the Generations
#129 What is Critical Thinking

As you can see, it is a busy two days, but so very worth your time investment. If you are going to be homeschooling next year, you need to consider spending this weekend in Orlando. You won't regret it, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Dinner Bell

“It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Words that strike fear in the hearts of moms across the country. “for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee “(the dinner bell that is). Yes, it is time to get dinner on the table and once again there is no plan, nothing is defrosted and everything sounds like too much work. Add to that, children who are whining because they refused an afternoon nap, a mom who is overwhelmed by the job God has given her to do, and we begin to see why husbands are not greeted at the front door by smiles and hugs from his loving family. How can we solve these problems? It has been awhile since I have had four kids 6 and under, but I still use some of the skills I learned then, and I’d love to help you out.
1. Start small. Next time you make spaghetti sauce, double the batch and freeze half. You can do the same with chili, soups, and many casseroles. It doesn’t really take much extra time and effort, and it will save you stress in the future.
2. Make a plan. Try planning for the week or two weeks. Know what ingredients you are going to need and make sure you have them on hand. I plan our dinners for a month at a time. It sounds harder than it is. Once a week is soup night. I have 8-10 soup recipes my family enjoys. This means we only get the same soup every couple of months. Once a week we have a meat free meal. There is Italian night and Mexican night in our house because those are popular cuisines here. We usually have a “clean the fridge” night and my hubby does Sunday’s (usually on
the grill) because that is my day off. All of that means I only have one night a week left that I have to plan. It might take a while for you to get a rotation you like, but once you do, meal planning for a month is a snap.
3. Pick up a copy of “Dinner’s in the Freezer” by Jill Bond. It is full of practical advice on freezing ahead. The best advice is to use heavy duty foil and top quality freezer bags so your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
4. Use your crock-pot. It doesn’t take long to assemble the ingredients needed for several crock-pot meals. Place all of the ingredients for each meal in a freezer bag. When you want to use it, dump into the pot in the morning, turn it on low and don’t worry about a thing until you are ready to eat.
I am sure that many of you have other ways to make dinner planning, shopping and preparation go smoothly. Please pass them along. I can still use some help. Think how happy our husbands
are going to be when we can greet them at the door with a smile and some yummy smells coming from the kitchen. Maybe they won’t notice the plastic toys all over the family room floor.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lessons From a War Horse

Last night our family sat down and watched a movie together. This is no small feat. It is hard enough to find an acceptable movie. It must meet parental standards and it has to appeal to both male and female teens. That leaves slim pickings these days. Then, we must find an evening when
no one is working or has practice or games for softball, baseball, soccer, or track. Last night was a minor miracle. Not only did we all watch a movie together. We enjoyed the movie. And I learned some things.

1. Even though I may be a thoroughbred, I need to be willing to move out of my comfort zone when God is trying to teach me something. He alone knows what is coming in my life and what skills I am going to need to meet future challenges.
2. Working hard builds endurance and strength. It is the best, if not only way to build
these characteristics.
3. Faithfulness has its rewards. Good friends are one of them. You never know when you are
going to need a good friend who will step in when you can’t pull the load.
4. I need to learn to listen to my master’s voice. When He calls, I need to come running. It has and will continue to save my life.

I am not sure that the makers of “War Horse” intended it to be a movie about the Christian walk, but that is the neat thing about God. He can use anything (even a donkey) to get His message across. See the movie and listen to what God might be telling you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Farm Fresh Southern Cooking

Fresh fruit and vegetables and southern cooking. What could be a better combination? That was my thought when I saw this book available for free through the booksneeze program if I would just give my honest review. Honestly? I like it. I like it a lot. I was born in the south and appreciate good southern food. I love home grown fruits and veggies and it kind of irks me when people talk about southern food as being fried foods and gravy. It is really SO much better than that. Now, thanks in part to Tammy Algood, all of you can experience some fresh, tasty goods from the south.
I really appreciated Tammy's focus on locally owned farms throughout her book. What fun to read about small farms that specialize in some great food. It made me want to load up the kids and take a road trip, pigging out on yummy berries, veggies, and dairy products available along the way.
The recipes were simple enough for the average cook to prepare without any hassle, yet unique enough to impress the guest. Ingredients were everyday staples which always makes life easier. The directions were very clear. I wish, just as I do in most cookbooks, that the author had commented on whether or not the recipe was suitable for doubling and/or freezing. This might not be a need for most folks, but with a large family and a desire to cook ahead sometimes, it would be a big help to me.