Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Giving our children Whole Truth... and nothing less

If Truth Is Truth... should it be separated from everything else? If you are putting together a puzzle, especially one as vast as discovering and understanding the world and universe at large... isn't it helpful to have all the pieces you need, together?
I grew up putting the puzzle together section by section. I didn't have a clear understanding of how they related to each other. It was disconnected. Subject by subject. Art was art. Religion was religion. Math was, well, a pain in the posterior.
Sure, I was capable of connecting the sections as time went on, and my mom certainly trained me to think outside those boxes, but, given the choice, I would have much rather had all the pieces together. It would have made all the sections and subjects much more exciting to know they were part of the bigger picture---it would fuel motivation to piece it together. It would give PURPOSE.

Are our kids given a purpose-driven education?

When we first began our homeschool journey, 5 years ago, I was still very much of the mindset that being able to integrate subjects together was just a great "bonus" to our choice. It wasn't the driving force. Now I clearly see it is the success of it all. If it all weaves together, let them weave it!
Too often, I fear, we are asking kids to piece together the puzzle of life, but saving their access to the most crucial pieces only on Sunday mornings, or, if they're lucky, during an after-school snack.
Sometimes, I know, parents can't help but simply try their best to take the misshapen pieces their kids are given during the day and replace them with the ones that actually fit.

But if you can, consider giving them full access to the puzzle.

Don't just try to sneak Truth in, when you can.. like a multivitamin in a jar of jelly beans. If Truth Is True, why waste your time with anything other? LIFE is one big Unit Study. Math is Art. Art is English. English is Music. Music is Math.

Home education has beautifully gifted our family that over the years. It's not separate courses... it's one big melting pot. This is NOT to say homeschooling is the key to puzzle performance... it is to say, don't ration the pieces. Don't separate the sections and dumb down the big stuff. Let them tackle the world. And, if you believe the foundational bricks come from a Holy Truth.... don't give those as an afterthought. Like trying to re-insert JENGA blocks after they've been taken out. It just makes everything more difficult.
Our origins are not a garnish. They are a main ingredient. Our morals are not a pizza topping. They are the yeast to rise the dough.
Can a main ingredient go in unspoken? Sure. But it's a heck of a lot easier to bake when the recipe includes all the facts. Oh, wait, you were supposed to add God to that. Too late- its been cooking for 8 hours. That's okay, put Him in on Wednesday night, it'll be fine. :(

Children deserve more. They're capable of more. And, just like an adult can be weary of trusting a kid to cook in the kitchen... we can sometimes grow weary of trusting kids with Whole Truth. As John Holt wisely put it: “All I am saying ... can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”

“This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God-we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from Above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the Supreme Educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.” -Charlotte M. Mason

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When your Homeschooler is Shy

When you homeschool, and your kids have a shy moment on the spot, or don't handle direct attention from a strange adult instantly.... it's so easy to feel judgment from people that your kids are the stereotypical "unsocialized" homeschooler. That your child is socially awkward. Here's the thing though: as long as you continue to guide them through social graces in those circumstances and are patient with them, they will learn and find their security and confidence. The more you push or pressure them, to kind of -- on demand "perform" -- you are using them as a reflection of you, instead of respecting your child's pace and growth. Should we work with kids who are shy to come out of their shells? Absolutely. But there are shy public school kids, too. And a child who may be shy or quiet in one environment can be perfectly comfortable and outspoken in another. Quiet observation is not a flaw. Careful, sensitive temperaments can be strengths. They look before they leap. They put thought into what they say and what they share.

Our children are not monkeys who should perform on cue the way we expect them to, because our hearts are prideful. Somehow, as a society, with children, we synchronize "outgoing" with "well-adjusted." Do we treat shy or introverted adults this way? I can’t remember the last time I heard someone think it appropriate to tease an adult if a cat had gotten their tongue if they paused before responding.

I have to remind myself what is MOST important. If I am teaching my children compassion, mercy, service.... and then they fail in a passing moment to speak up when spoken to? Whew.
Sometimes, depending on the person in front of us, I can almost “feel” their unspoken thoughts of, “see? This is why homeschooling is…”
It can be hard to swallow. Luckily, I am not doing a work for the approval of men, but striving to live in obedience to what pleases God.

So, I try to concentrate on how to help them practice better next time, rather than if my pride is dented. My response to my kids in those instances had better be with mercy and compassion, otherwise I am not responding to the child God has given me, but rather to the pressures from the world on what I want my child to be. I am not homeschooling for the esteem of others. Let us not project such burdens on our children. Let us not label or humiliate them. Instead, continue to cultivate authentic relationships with them in various settings. And, be thankful that you have opportunity to help them work through their shyness in securing, nurturing ways. Be intentional, and help them grow.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” –Matthew 5:5

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homemade Plantain Salve

Goodbye, Neosporin.

It's nothing personal.

I just found something I like better. And I can make it myself, with 3 simple ingredients.

You can, too! Here is the recipe I use for simple, homemade Plantain Salve.

Use it to soothe bee stings, bug bites, minor cuts and scraps... it even helps my mama with her eczema, which has plagued her elbows and ankles for years.

It's a common backyard weed. If you're outside and you get stung, you can use it straight up from the plant- simply pick a plantain leaf, chew it for a second, and rub it on your sting. Instant relief. It will reduce inflammation and help promote healing.

If you would like to harvest some to make an easy ointment, it's super easy.
All you need:

1-2 cups of Fresh Plantain leaves
1-2 cups of Olive Oil
2 ounces shredded Beeswax

Pick your plantain when it is DRY. Brush off the dirt, with a dry paper towel. You don't want any extra moisture, it will shorten the shelf-life of your salve. You want them as clean and dry as possible. Sort out and discard any leaves with noticeable decay or bug debris. Fresh, clean, dry leaves.

Chop up the plantain in a food processor or blender. Remember, don't add water, we want to get rid of moisture, not add it. The plant itself is going to naturally have moisture in it.

Infuse olive oil with the chopped up plantain. You can do this in a few different ways. I just low-low heat, (NOT BOIL) carefully stirring the oil with the leaves in it for about an hour. Some people let the oil sit in the sun with the leaves for several days.

Next, you'll want to use a cheesecloth, or jelly bag with fine-mesh strainer and strain all the plant pieces out of the oil.

Now, shave off a couple ounces of beeswax. A good rule of thumb is to measure 1 ounce of beeswax per cup of infused oil. Finely shred it and slowly, slowly melt it in a saucepan. Do not let this cool, keep it in melted state on low, low heat.

Gently add the plantain oil to the wax.

Next, you'll want to pour this mixture directly into whatever containers you are using, because it solidifies as it cools. It will be really dark when you first pour it, then it lightens as it cools.
Small mason jars work well, and I like to use small plastic bead containers, because they make perfect to-go ointment cases for carrying in your purse or day bag on summer hikes, camping and picnics. And they fit nicely in small first-aid kits. Let it cool completely before lidding it.

This salve will easily last a full year.

Happy healing!

"Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them,
and reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth." -Jeremiah 33:6

Friday, June 20, 2014

What is Family? Our GEN3 Pledge, and the Healing Power of God

What is Family?

It was a reflective day at the start of May for me, down the coast of Lake Michigan. I went to pay respect to my childhood stepsister, who had just died of cancer. I had a lot to think about on the trip.
I stopped at the place my mother and father met. It was abandoned, condemned... a mess of rubble. Bulldozers. Caution tape. Shattered glass. A powerful metaphor for our broken family. The continued sinful choices of my dad piled on each other, quaking us apart, leaving a wake of devastation. The bulk of the brokenness, the majority of rubble, didn't come until years and years after the divorce. This place that once held so much love... now an empty shell. And certainly not a safe place to allow children to play and grow. The spiritual symbolism was overwhelming me. I took two pieces of the broken concrete home with me.

Two days later, we saw Focus on the Family's movie, "Irreplaceable." It tackled this issue full-on and took us right to the heart of redemption. It was extremely powerful. I needed it.

We need it, as a society.

As further testimony of how healing it is, it helped motivate me to invite my only brother up to visit. A week later, he was at our door. I had not seen my brother in 8-1/2 years. He had never met our kids. And he came, for dinner. I prayed that if I heard the Holy Spirit, my heart would not be hardened. Just 10 days after seeing Irreplaceable, my older brother met our kids for the first time and shared the day and a meal with us, and our mom, at our table. It was beautiful. That.Is.How.Powerful.God.Is. He hears, He heals. He can take our rubble, and make all things new. It's never too late to let Jesus turn your mess into a message. Praise be to God.

But wait, there's more...
At the end of May, my husband and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary by renewing our wedding vows. We renewed our commitment to each other, and to Christ, and chose to take the GEN3 Pledge at our vow renewal, to stand up and break the cycle of rubble for our kids. We both came from broken families. We’ve had our set of struggles, like any couple, but we’re making the choice to embrace Hesed, rather than society’s commonplace of divorce. To give our children a new inheritance through the grace and strength of Jesus. Hallelujah!

What is Family?
Family is foundation. If your foundation is cracked, or broken... God can repair. He can start you new. Sometimes things break in order to be made new. He knows.
We signed the GEN3 Promise on May 24, 2014, with our close friends, family and Pastor. To do everything we can to provide a thriving family for at least three generations.
I love the truth behind the Irreplaceable lesson: It is better to have a redeemed family, than a perfect one. Amen! And the first step, starts with us. #GEN3Promise

"...As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" -Joshua 24:15

www.focusonthefamily.com Helping Families Thrive

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A week's worth of homeschool lunches

I recently had someone ask me to write a short series on how to make home education affordable. As I work on composing that, it has been a while since I've shared our weekly glance at some simple, at-home lunch combinations. One aspect of our homeschool journey that is a huge benefit is food. Since we're at home, our lunch menus are much more affordable and nutritious than if we had to brown-paper bag it every day--not to mention, some schools trying to ban homemade lunches in lieu of non-whole-food government lunch programs. We feel blessed to enjoy simple meals at home during the day. Yes, some weeks we fall back on left-over mac and cheese, or pb&j, but those days thankfully aren't the norm. For more of our weekly lunch recaps and ideas, click the lunch link at the bottom of this post.

Apples, carrots, cucumbers, with Brown Rice and Quinoa.

Whole-grain Oatmeal with apples, bananas and cinnamon.

Spinach, strawberries, and fresh free-range fried eggs from our backyard chickens. <3
Salad with chopped zucchini, carrots, raw pecans.

Dino Nuggets, Alexia all natural tater tots, Kale greens with sliced almonds, pineapple, grapes and snap peas.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Seven Simple Ways to Mix-up your Math Routine

Every subject deserves some creativity from time to time, and that includes math! We use Christian Light Education for math, but we like to mix-it-up to keep things interesting. Here are 7 simple ways to change up your math routine at any level.

1. Play-Doh isn't just for preschoolers. Whether your kiddos are just learning numbers or memorizing multiplication, you can use modeling dough to your advantage. Have the kids form their equations out of Play-doh. From 1-2-3's, to long division, you'd be surprised how changing up the practice from paper to dough can bring a smile to their face.

2. Grocery Cart Math. This slim volume from Jayne Hansen at Christianbook.com is affordable and a fantastic resource to supplement your child's math curriculum. Your child will learn how to compare brand prices, weight measurements and more. A cereal box is a rectangular prism, an orange is a sphere, a can of corn is a cylinder and more. Find it here: Grocery Cart Math

3. Change up your math manipulatives. The same old math facts, while important, can get monotonous. Change up what you're using for hands-on manipulatives. Old keys, beans, toothpicks, colored paperclips, poker chips, pennies, buttons, beads.... we have small boxes stacked up with all of these things on a shelf for days when we just need to change up the same old problems to perk interest. Unlocking Math Moments.

4. Math Games. Monopoly, Pizza Fractions, Dominoes, Multiplication Bingo, etc. etc. There are endless board games and online math games you can choose from. Find a favorite, and use it as a reward to motivate their lessons or as an icebreaker for the morning math lessons.

5. Don't be afraid to make visuals. Do whatever it takes to bring the concept off the page! Here are two popular posts of mine, with the Crocodile Rule, and Popsicle Place Values.

6. Borrow ideas! Check Pinterest and homeschool blogs every so often for more creative ways to bring math to life. The ideas that are out there are amazing! Here is the flower clock we built in my daughter's room to help her learn time, thanks to the sharing of great minds on Pinterest.

7. Math in everyday life. Since we have backyard chickens, we use eggs in our math often. The kids love collecting, counting and adding up our eggs. They work with how many makes 1 dozen, 2 dozen, 3 dozen, etc. They get great practice in how many left are needed, as well as counting in sets of 3's, 6's and so forth. Chickens sure do come in handy with homeschooling!

What are your favorite ways to mix-up the math routine? Add them up in the comments!

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." -Psalm 90:12

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

20 Simple Things you can do to Enjoy Another Snow Day with your Kids

Here in Michigan, we’re experiencing our third day in a row of closed schools and events due to extreme winter weather. Along with cabin fever, some parents, especially those who aren’t accustomed to having their kids at home with them during typical public school weeks, are struggling with staying sane and finding ways to occupy kids who aren’t used to being home all day. But the truth is, you don’t need to have shelves full of classroom supplies and curriculum on hand in order to have fun and enjoy these extra days with your kids at home. Here are 20 simple things you can do to enjoy yet another snow day with your children.

1. Make Sock Puppets. http://toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/01/simple-sock-puppets-for-less.html

2. The library is open! And free! Get out of the house for a bit, find new books to explore, and some craft & project books.

3. Bake a cake (WITH the kids).

4. Feed the birds. Make peanut butter feeders, or homemade suet cakes. February is National Bird Feeding month, gear up for the Great Backyard Bird Count by getting seed out there and practice identifying backyard birds.

5. ABC Hopscotch. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/01/alphatrain-floor-puzzle-homemade-abc.html For older kids, make it fun facts in science or geography that they have to answer to make it to the next square.

6. PLAY IN THE SNOW! Sledding, snowmen, forts, snowshoeing, coloring the snow… Some moms even bring the snow inside to the bathroom in tubs if it’s too cold outside for their littles.

7. Paint. For all skill-levels and abilities, using paper or other surfaces. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/04/painting-projects.html

8. Make a homemade movie. Let the kids create their own script or show. If you have a video camera they can play with, use it. If not, they can create a set to perform a play, ballet, or, hey, even a puppet show (see number 1).

9. Hot Glue Art. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/01/hot-glue-art.html

10. Color your clothes! http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/02/color-your-clothes-tie-dye-and-other.html

11. How Things Work? Declare an At-home Discovery Day. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/02/how-things-work-learn-and-discover-day.html

12. Field trip to museum or area nature center. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/07/museums-and-nature-centers-importance.html

13. Make Stone Soup! http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/10/stone-soup-making-memories-along-way.html

14. Try a new Board Game. Or invent something new with what you have on hand, like this fun memory tray game. Or this consonant acorn game.

15. Have your kids learn a new hobby, and learn along with them if needed. Sewing, jewelry making, woodworking, scrapbooking…

16. Read or listen to the audiobook of Narnia, then go outside and pretend your backyard is a fantasy winter world.

17. Grab a globe, spin it. Pick a spot, wherever it lands, learn all about that country and culture for the day. Plan dinner around a new recipe of that cuisine. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/10/egypt-excitation-our-educational.html

18. Turn your living room into a giant blanket fort, and camp out. Blanket forts never get old.

19. Make a care-giving kit for a family in need. An elderly relative, a shut-in neighbor, or small toys and activities to send to third-world country orphans. You’d be surprised how occupying your day helping others transforms everyone’s attitudes in your house!

20. Create an indoor scavenger or treasure hunt. Hide clues around the house, or pick up a store-bought kit for the kids to unearth together. You can use it as a gateway to exploring adventures in archaeology. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/09/archaeology-adventures.html

Above all, enjoy the time you get to spend together! What are your favorite family activities or ideas to enjoy days at home with kids? Share adventures from your journey below! God Bless!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Homemade Elderberry Syrup, A Recipe for Wellness

It is super easy to make Elderberry Syrup. It is a wonder of wellness against cold and flu symptoms!

All you need:
Filtered water

Boil down the elderberries (rapid boil) with a ratio of approximately 1 cup of berries to 4 cups water. Mash them up, strain them, and FINELY strain it, either through a jelly bag or very fine mesh. (I use a tightly knit spice ball and funnel), because the stems are actually poisonous. Once you have all the stems and pulp removed, add in about 1 cup (or more) of honey and bring it back to a gentle boil. Pour it into canning jars and can it. Keep refrigerated. One batch is good for 3 months.

If they are sick, give 2-3 teaspoons twice a day, at the FIRST onset of symptoms for best results. If just for daily immunity building, then 1-2 teaspoons once daily is fine.

It works wonders! My kids absolutely LOVE it. They ask for it continuously. I love that we can make our own medicine and remedy their colds from the comfort of home. I have my friend Melissa to thank for knowing and trying Elderberry Syrup---she makes it and gifted us some when we were sick a couple of years ago, and I couldn't believe what a difference it made in their symptoms after 24 hours. Now I pick them fresh and freeze them, for when I need to make another batch. You can also order dried elderberries in bulk. With their natural antioxidants, they truly are a wonder of wellness. May you be blessed by this simple recipe, and may God bring you healing and peace.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Week in the Life of our Homeschool

Highlights from our Homeschool week:

We hosted an impromptu "God Created Earth Day" with some of our homeschool friends. It was such a beautiful day for it!! We did activities around the 3-R's, read from our Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany Science book, and the kids planted trees, sunflower seeds and took home strawberry plants. It was wonderful.

After some morning school, we baked cookies (math measurements!) to take to our friends' house to play.

Cookies baked and ready, off and out the door to our friends' we go!

Hmmm, we may not always stop to smell the roses, but we DO stop to watch the magnificent hawk stop to grab his road kill lunch. God's amazing circle of turning tragedy into useful, not-wasted blessings.

Fun with friends

Wednesday was an awesome day. We had quality learning and chores, then the kids and I enjoyed some fun board game time. They get great math practice with counting the money in various combinations in Junior Monopoly, and good strategy-logic-sequence use with checkers.

Wednesday night, we noticed how awesome the moon was, and did some activities based on that, including the new Moon Journal we just started in our Nature book. Our Apologia Astronomy science also has some great lessons on the moon that we'll be touching back/following up on this week.

The kids read and did some math in the morning, then we headed over to our friend's house for coffee and a playdate. They each spent the night at different friends' houses Thursday night, and both had a fantastic time sleeping over with their friends! What a blessing we have with friends we hold so dear!

We had a blessed day at our homeschool co-op on Friday. One of the families brought their pony and horse for show and tell- the kids loved it!!!

I'm teaching a class on the book, The Secret Garden. This week we did some fun Robin crafts and activities while listening to the story and robin songs on my friend's phone. Additionally, we were to the part of the story where Mary found the key to the garden, so I brought in a dozen old, random keys for the kids to pick out their own from, and we made necklaces with yarn. We used some simple brown felt to make "earth" pockets for them to keep the keys in when they weren't wearing them. What a fun day!

Saturday was the perfect family day at home. We spent the entire day outside. My husband thawed and boiled down sap for maple syrup, and the kids initiated a Rock Hunt. They brought out all the materials we have on rocks and geology to the picnic table. We explored in the woods and they each picked two rocks from their day's collection to paint (their idea).

Can you find the chickens in this picture?? (Hint: at least 8, no more than 13) :)

In the afternoon, we planted more trees and all had a picnic in the yard on a blanket, reading books. My daughter had a tiny, tiny baby ladybug crawl on her hand and rest there for 10 minutes before flying off. It was so cute. Afterward, she ran inside to get her life-cycle of a lady bug model-set, and the kids played the different stages of a lady bug's life in the dirt into the evening. What a blessing this journey is! Hope you have a blessed week, too!