Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Least of These

The Least of These...

What does it mean to help the least of these? What does Yeshua mean, when He tells us what we do or don't do for the least of these, we do or don't do, for HIM? It's a startling, humbling question. And often times, it doesn't look like what culture says it looks like. In our homeschool week last week, we focused much of our attention and love on looking at the verses that address this.

Matthew 25:35-45:

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’"

Compelled by the millions of refugees fleeing Syria for their lives, we did what we could to show the kids what tangible love looks like. We had a blessed evening packing and praying for the Syrian refugees. The kids packed individual hygiene kits with their friends (division, multiplication, fractions, addition, subtraction...) and we boxed up blankets, shoes, socks, sheets, maxi pads and more. We prayed over the supplies before dinner and read to the kids from the verses of what our Lord says about such matters, then we found on the globe where they are fleeing from as well as the countries, so far, that are letting them in. Not enough. 11 million. Eleven million refugees!! More than the entire population of the state of Michigan. So overwhelming. Lord, move us all to make a way.

The hygiene kits to MD were $15 to ship. We used International Orthodox Christian Charities. Here is a link to their website with instructions:

We got the address for Greece from author Ann Voskamp. Her touching blog, "Dear Alyan" about the little boy washing up to the shore is enough to move anyone to tears and action. Please take the time to read it here:

The shipment to Greece was the one I knew would be super expensive, because we did one huge box with shoes and blankets, etc. in it. That one was $93. We have had some people donate toward that, so that is a blessing. Praying it gets exactly where it needs to be.

I am not going to take the time to address much of the response people have as far as not helping, or the dangers that come from helping non-Christian families in need. I would just urge those in doubt to read the verses that I started this post with.

And, for those still needing some kind of thread to hold in regard to conversion---which, I agree with a recent post that points out that "to tie humanitarian needs to conversion is sick"---but alas, I will share from one outlet that exposes there are hundreds reportedly finding Christ through this process.
"CBN News SHOCKING: In Germany, hundreds of Muslim refugees are turning to Christ at a Berlin church. The Evangelical Trinity Church has swelled from 150 to 600 members in just two years, and many are Muslims fleeing Iran and Afghanistan.
Mohammed Ali Zonoobi, an Iranian asylum seeker, was recently baptized.

"I feel like I am born again", he sobbed.


Guess what? I would still love my enemy, regardless.

Are there political powers at play? Absolutely. I pray we can, as a society, push past the politics, and see the PEOPLE.

Here are the other verses we looked at throughout our home learning journey last week in connection. I pray they bless you, as they have continually blessed us.

Luke 6:27 - "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you."

Exodus 23:5 - If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

Acts 7: 60 - And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Mark 11:25 - And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sola scriptura: A series for home educating with The Bible

A day in Deuteronomy 28: Blessings Follow Obedience

This year we are letting the Bible shape our days. You can read about my decision here: The Bible as Curriculum.

"If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them."

We started our day comparing and contrasting the verses in the various translations we own. Discussing the differences, and identifying what Synonyms are. The kids picked up right away that they could understand the context of the Scripture better by reading two or more translations of the verse. We learned the root language and vocabulary of Deuteronomy. Then I had the kids handwrite and recite the blessing portions.

Next, we picked apart portions for study and comparisons. "You will be blessed in the city, you will be blessed in the country." The kids listened to the book on tape of "Town Mouse, Country Mouse" which helped us cover geography, literature, reading comprehension and listening skills. They also painted pictures of a city scene and a country scene for art.

We covered health by defining what it means to have "the fruit of your womb be blessed."

We reviewed directional practice and spacial reasoning for right and left.

For math we took a look at the number 28, backwards and forwards. This covered counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, sequencing, and concrete problem solving.

Bringing back around our directional practice, spacial reasoning, listening and observational skills into a fun game, I put a spin on "Follow the Leader" and we went outside for fresh air and gym time. I made 3 tags: one "Obedience" and two "Blessings". We pinned them on our shirts with clothespins and the blessings had to follow and copy whatever and wherever the obedience went. We all took a turn being the leader, and the kids had a blast getting mom to swing off trees, be goofy all around the yard and go down the slides. They loved playing our new game, "Blessings Follow Obedience."

It fit in nicely that our classic literature read aloud as a family is currently Black Beauty. We read our chapter after dinner and even took an impromptu field trip to the neighbor's house, where she talked with them all about their horses. It was a great hands-on animal science lesson. She has retired horses, so she was able to talk to the kids about a lot of the themes throughout Black Beauty, including animal care, respite, communication, training and grooming. She told the kids, "an untrained horse is a useless horse." It tied in beautifully with our lessons on obedience and how God can use us better when we are fully trained. What a blessing!!

We topped off the day with this wonderful song I found about being blessed through obedience. It's called, "Listen, Obey and Be Blessed- Kingdom Song 120"

I can't wait to see what God has in store for us next; home learning through His Word.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Bible as Curriculum: When The Word of God shapes our day

Precisely when it was that I struck the chord of conviction amongst all the curriculum noise, I cannot say. I know I heard echoes of it, internally, throughout our many "Curriculum Discussion Days", the multiple curriculum fairs each year, and amongst the clutter of gathering curriculum catalogues collecting up in the corners.

I remember attending my first homeschool conference in February 2010, and seeing the hundred-or-so booths of distributors and feeling encouraged by it. Yes, it was overwhelming, but in an exciting way. A way that said, "look all that is out there! No matter what problem you come across, there are tools. There are resources available. It will be okay. He will make a way."

At that time, my husband and I weren't exploring home education for strictly religious purposes. In fact, my husband wasn't even particularly religious at the time. We had faith and belief in God, but we weren't raised in church. We started our home education journey through many of the secular ideas about education. We were both certainly raised in public schools, so it was hard enough getting out of that mindset, let alone into a completely distinct and different one. We thought people who took the Bible too seriously were, well, legalistic. Controlling. Oppressive?
We've all seen the type. Christian homeschoolers are framed to fit a certain mold. Obedience was an abusive term. Following what the Bible says, well, that sounds like a tricky trap. We were in two different places, my husband and I. I believed the Bible, he didn't trust it. We were out of sync in that way. He didn't read it unless pressured, and I grew tired daily of avoiding the urge to pressure. How quickly, in hindsight, the Lord pried open both of our hearts and minds, baptised us both in His Holy Name, and put us to work together without concern for anything else. It didn't matter whether or not some people perverted His message to fit their agendas. His message of mercy and astounding love remain. To many people, believing the Bible equals close-mindedness. For us, it was the complete opposite. It took the opening of our minds to accept that the Bible could be trusted and true. And I watched before my eyes as God made a new creation out of both of us. He transformed my husband, and renewed me. Praise Yahweh.


Fast forward five years from that first homeschool conference. This spring I attended one of the national homeschool conferences with a few of my close friends. It's a 3 day conference and we stay overnight out of state for it. It is a wonderful time to recharge and find inspiration, get a break and build up. During the first class, I found myself sitting on the floor in an empty hallway. I can't describe the feeling draped over me. Suffocation? Despair? Anxiety? A complexity of it all? Looking down at the massive curriculum hall that spanned an arena too big to take in through a 360-degree turn, I felt disheartened. Discouraged. Saddened.

What a racket.

What a racket we have turned this road into.

This road. The one of home education. Look how we have taken God's simple design of raising and training His children up in love, and complicated it. Conformed it. Common-cored it.

When the noise gets too loud to hear the still small voice, shut the volume to everything else off.

One of my girlfriends felt the same. We found each other through the sea of convention chaos and prayed together. "Lord, help us to see these things as a resource to do Your work, if needed, but not as a necessity. Your yolk is light, Lord. Help us to feel encouraged and strengthened in the tasks and knowledge You intend for our homes, Lord, not the world. Amen."

The conference carried on. We found encouragement. We found space to breathe and grow. We found inspiration and conviction. But some little place inside me remained in objection to the mass of products, programs and materials.

Because my family embraces eclectic learning, we have a vast array of materials of all types. We have programs we build on, because knowledge builds on knowledge; and we have a lot of delight-directed learning that takes place as well, so we have many educational resources available to the kids. It doesn't mean we buy a lot of materials. Most are given to us from teachers, other homeschool families, garage sale giveaways, etc. Our purchases are select and purpose-driven.

I cannot say for certain when it happened. But it did. Sometime this year. I become ruthlessly convicted. Perhaps it was the 17th story I had heard in a week of a Christian family based in firm faith, relationship strong belief falling away or losing their kids to the ideas and values of the world. Perhaps it was the strange lack of the True Gospel I saw portrayed through the media over national conversations and political nonsense. Perhaps it was questions I got after I gave my own speeches at a homeschool conference this summer that pried my eyes open.
And perhaps, it was nothing more than the urgency placed on my heart from the Creator of the Heavens and earth.

I have been saying for years that we have to stop asking ourselves what the world says education looks like, and instead ask what God requires of us in the teaching of our children. But, did I really believe it myself? Or was it back to the same out-of-sync pressure I used to feel with my husband and I not being on the same spiritual page? Only this time, it was fighting against the pressures of the world, even the homeschool world, pushing at every corner of what our kids supposedly need?

Did I really believe that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of all knowledge, as Proverbs 1:7 says? What does that LOOK like, if it's true?

These are the questions that we need to unravel. If we are not to conform, why are we conforming?

Here is my task for our family in the year ahead: Seek and Know God, with all our hearts and all our souls.

We read the Bible every day in our house. But are we shaping our day around what we read?

I thought we were. I realize now, how much we were not.

We were still preoccupied, with countless other quests. Distracted, with nameless other names. Too much time wasted, on wasteful things.

When the Bereans "... received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so," as the book of Acts tells us in chapter 17, they believed because they verified through the Tanakh. Everything Jesus came to fulfil, He did so perfectly from the Law, which was written upon their minds and hearts. It was there because they knew the Scriptures. They knew Torah. The Gospel rests on the Torah, and do most of us know the Bible that way? No. Even those who have read the Bible cover to cover don't know it with the earnest that those walking with our Lord learned it. Our traditions, our celebrations, our times and rhythms... are they God appointed? Have we embraced rhythms the world has set in our way or the ones God designed for us?

I will be offering a series this season, sharing how we can use the Bible to shape our days. Is the Bible really the only main curriculum we need? Is that a radical idea? What happens when we live what we believe? What happens when we learn what we believe?

What does it really mean to "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." -Joshua 1:8

What does it really look like to apply Deuteronomy 11:18-20? "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…"

Do our modern times allow for such a devotion? Who has time for all of that?? Ah, perhaps a better question would be, what are His purposes for time?

Is there time, especially in this day and age, for anything other?

What about 1 John 2:4? "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

Matthew 7:23: "And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"

Romans 3:31: "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law."

Do we uphold the law? Of course as Christians we know we cannot uphold the law perfectly because that is why Christ had to die in our place. It is faith through the blood of the lamb that we are saved.

But here's an uncomfortable question for you; do we KNOW the law? Do our kids understand the law that Christ came not to abolish but to fulfil? And, what are we saved FOR? Culture certainly doesn't wish to afford us the time to teach it. But, if we slow down to the pace God ordains for us, and shut out everything else the world pushes on us to chase... then. Maybe then, we will find what He intends for us. And friends, I promise, it is Good.

Watch for my weekly posts starting this September, "Sola scriptura: A series for home educating with The Bible" where I will be sharing ideas and encouragement for using God's Word to shape our days.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan: Road Adventures in home education

We packed up and hit the road this spring, on a 10 day vacation west to the Dakotas with the kids and grandma. It was an amazing trip!! We took our small car, so it was a tight fit, but with some smart packing and planning, we were able to fit the 5 of us, our clothes, food, crockpot, and the books & curriculum we needed to make the journey. I have to say, it was one of the best trips of our lives, filled with educational exploration around every bend.

We started at the Mackinaw Bridge, visiting Fort Michilimackinac. It was completely awesome. We loved all the re-enactments (including the cannon firing!) and that all the colonial dressed people were simply carrying about their period-appropriate tasks in the fort all day. We learned about their gardening as they gardened, tasted their stone cooked bread and learned from a French trader and a female blacksmith. It was a really exciting step back through time. On the way up to the bridge, we listened to a cd I had made about the history of the making of the bridge, as well as some of the upper and lower peninsula facts.

After the fort, we headed up to the Upper Peninsula, where we picked up some PASTY! Yum! Our family is Finnish, so pasty is kind of a big deal for us. (The Finn in me)
We were so blessed to be able to stay the night at the home of one of my childhood friends, who I hadn't seen since High School. She lives in the northern part of the U.P., and it was so much fun to reconnect with her for the night. We talked of the callings God has given us, both in education and for walking with Him! We had to start out bright and early the next morning. Julie was a wonderful and gracious hostess. The world is blessed to have her in it.

We made good use of our stops. We saw some Wisconsin waterfalls when we stopped to eat a cereal breakfast off the roadside. It gave us a chance to stretch our legs and use the restroom. During the road travel, we had biographies and songs to listen to. The kids each had a small container filled with activities like Mad Libs, (which give fantastic fun practice of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and more). We also had one large basket at the kids' feet that had the bigger books and coloring pads in it. The only electronic we had along was one kindle we borrowed from a friend, which we used sparingly and had downloaded various books to and a few educational games. It conserved a lot of space since we didn't have the room in the cobalt to pack all the books and scrabble games I would have liked. But we had used a free-time program that allowed for hour timed usage so the kids wouldn't inadvertently waste their brains on too much screen time during the long travel hours. (We don't have a dvd player in our car for solid, good reason). Too much screen time equals irritable, crabby overstimulated kids, and we thankfully avoided that. My mom made a point to tell us quite a few times she had never seen kids who travel so well. We were blessed to have agreeable, cheerful attitudes despite some of our long 6-10 hour days ahead.

When we arrived in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, it was a few hours prior to check-in. We went to go find the dam that was supposedly in that town, but instead we happened across the Forest History Center. What a gem!!! This place was amazing. Tucked off the main roads, following only a simple "historic site" sign, we discovered a treasure trove of living history. In a small hands-on museum room we learned the past, present and future of forestry. We walked beautiful wooded trails along the Mississippi River, leading up to a 1900s era logging camp with period-ready characters. As we approached the camp, we were greeted with a theatrical demonstration of the logging camp in action, complete with Clydesdale Horses loading up logs onto a rig. It was so much fun! The camp's cook was very spirited and taught us lots of good logging era terms, like sweatpads (pancakes) and wind timbers (beans). Lots of learning fun!

We started the next morning with prayer and studies from our America the Beautiful textbook from Notgrass. We absolutely love this program. Since I didn't have space to bring all the materials, we packed the books and printed out copies of just the worksheets we would need, including "God created the Great Lakes," "God created the Mississippi River" and "God created the Black Hills". That morning we were heading to the amazing headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park in Minnesota. The text covered it beautifully, and while my husband packed up the car from our short overnight at the motel, the kids had our pre-packed breakfast (and I quickly made sandwiches and salad for that day's lunch) and I went over the lessons with the kids as they colored the maps of the river running down the United States.

The headwaters were beautiful. I remember going when I was a child with my grandparents, and my mother was in the same place as a child too. There is even a picture of my mother with her brother and parents crossing the headwaters in a 60's encyclopedia! What a special family tradition.
In the weeks leading up to our trip, we read "Tom Sawyer," and a short biography of Mark Twain. If we hadn't read it, I would have brought it along on read aloud book on cd, simply because it is a wonderful piece of literature and made the experience really come alive for the kids. We also read and brought along with us "Minn of the Mississippi" by Holling C. Holling, which is another classic; following the life journey of an injured snapping turtle as she travels downstream.

We ate our packed lunches at the headwaters. From there we drove an hour south, to pay our respects at the cemetery in which our family rests. My mother's parents and brother, along with nearly all of my grandfather's relatives, is laid in a quiet little small town cemetery. A unique aspect of this day was, it was literally pouring rain all day. Pouring. In the moment we pulled up to the headwaters, it cleared beautifully for 2 hours. It poured rain on our drive south, and again, it cleared as we arrived at the grave sites. It was a quiet afternoon. Peaceful. Emotional. Healing.
We went to see my great Aunt Beatrice after, my grandma's last living sister, where she greeted us with Finnish hugs and dinner. They own a huge industrial dairy farm, so after visiting and eating for a couple of hours, we took the kids across the road to see the cows. The baby calves sucked on their fingers and gave them laughter, and the machines milking the cows were loud and strange---altogether, a wonderful learning experience!!

We were headed to the Dakotas next, and that night we started our next read aloud in the Little House series.
Half way between the family farm in Minnesota and Custer, South Dakota was DeSmet. This is where we stopped to stretch our legs for lunch on Monday, while visiting and exploring the LAURA INGALLS WILDER historical homes!! We saw the Surveyors' House, from "By the Shores of Silver Lake," the school building from "Little Town on the Prairie," the Brewster School house from "These Golden Years" and the last home that Pa built, in 1887, which still stands today. Visit for more information. We also listened to a short biography on Laura's life in the car that I had downloaded prior to our trip.

Next stop: THE BADLANDS. We went through the Badlands twice; at the beginning of the week and end of the week. I am so glad we did. We needed twice to take it all in. Spectacular doesn't describe it. I had been there in my youth, but it was a first for my husband and kids, who had never been this far west before. Words can't really describe the Badlands, so I will let the pictures try to do it justice.
"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" -Isaiah 40:12

During the travel time to Custer, we listened to biographies about all four of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore. They were all homeschooled, which was fun. We had a bio about Custer and Crazy Horse, too.
The week we stayed in Custer was amazing. We visited Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Independence Hall (where we found ancestory on my husband's side of the family in the signers of the Declaration & the Constitution), the free Geology Museum, rode an 1880s train through the Black Hills, explored gorgeous Custer State Park with wild buffalo, prairie dog towns and curious burro, and toured 220 feet underground through Wind Cave. We spent 4 days exploring and because everything was all within 15-20 minutes of the hotel we stayed at, we were able to pace the days in a quality, unrushed way. I brought our crockpot, so we always had dinner ready and waiting for us when we returned back for the evening. It was a blessing!

On our way home, we visited one of my husband's friends in Sioux Falls, where we saw their breathtaking waterfalls. We stopped along some of the Lewis & Clark historical sites along our way home through Iowa, and also visited the American Pickers store of Antique Archaeology which was right on a larger portion of the Mississippi River, giving the kids a fuller scale context of this mighty river we were learning about. It was a blessed adventure. Because we ended our trip on Memorial Day back in Michigan, we enjoyed pre-season rates and admissions on lodging and tickets with next-to-zero crowds. Another wonderful perk of the homeschool lifestyle. :)
We were so grateful God got us home safely from this experience-rich adventure.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." -Mark Twain