Saturday, February 18, 2017

Homeschool Journal: the Doldrums

It was a bitter February morning.  The piled up snow outside our sliding door a fresh reminder of the latest pummeling.  We were studying hard and journaling diagrams of air currents when our book began to share about doldrums.  Centuries ago, before modern boat engines, sailors dreaded these deadened air currents because they could find themselves stuck, going nowhere, for up to weeks on end when caught in one.  I chuckled because, just the day before, I had talked with a homeschooling friend of small children and she lamented the latest snowstorm slamming her remote area of our state and leaving her stranded, unable to go anywhere.

I remember those days all so well.  We once lived remotely on a mountain side.  More than not being able to get out of our driveway was then trying to traverse down the steep road which wound from our street to the base of the mountain-side and highways to 'civilization'.  Only our 4x4 Truck could trustingly make the trip... and I avoided driving the truck.

With small children at the time, it was easy to be threatened by the doldrums... to go crazy with cabin fever.  And while this week, in contrast to last's, has brought a break in our weather here in south-central Montana, I know many others around the country are still feeling the full blow of Punxsutawney's predictions.

What to do with the doldrums?

Simple: adventure!

Did you know your own house and yard (if it isn't sub-zero weather) hold adventure if you look with a trained eye?  Nobody said this mom job (or this homeschool thing) was going to be easy.  YOU are your kids' trail guide to adventure, not just learning and life know-hows.  While your kiddos can help you with your household chores and duties, you can join them in finding adventure in the every-day-mundane too.  Just a few ideas for beating the doldrums with youngsters around:
  • Make paper mache`... whether it is a model of something you are studying in history or science or something just for fun.  You could even make a paper mache` mask and encourage the kids to play dress-up!  The recipes are a sinch, though they are messy, it's the doldrums, what else are you going to do?!
  • Board game marathon complete with popcorn or other favorite snack.  Everyone picks their favorite.
  • Bakery... bake some treats to share with dad when he gets home (it will warm his heart and your home!) or even go all out with a double-batch and bundle up to trek out to your neighbors and share.
  • Play store... break out the play money and some old toys and 'price tags'.  Let the kids "price" their old toys and "sell" them to each other.  Make sure they know all sales are void after 5pm (it is just a game kiddos).  Use this opportunity to talk with them about fare pricing and good business manners.
  • Learn a hand craft
  • Fashion show, if you have girls (some boys actually like this too!) use rarely warn outfits, try new combos, and even let the kids invade your closet!
  • Tea party, even with boys, it is a chance for them to learn good manners at stately events.  You can have them help with the preparations and if you don't have fancy tea cups, no worries, use what you have on hand. I also use to break out fancy hats, long gloves and even allow their best-outfits at these 'parties'... teddy bears are welcome too!
  • Play restaurant... plan lunch or dinner together, have them make menus, set up the table and help you cook  
  • Have a scavenger hunt!
  • Read a chapter book together, allowing them to draw the scenes the story elicits in their minds.
  • Help them make their own book
  • Put on a play or puppet show based on a self-written story or favorite book. 
  • Be a world traveler... pick a country (each the same or different) and look in books, encyclopedias, the internet, and travel videos to learn more.  Then, make a travel brochure highlighting main attractions... you can even try recipes and crafts from the countries you learn about.
  • Letters to loved ones and friends... write letters and draw pictures for family and friends far away. When my mom and grandfather passed away (separately) and I had the huge task of going through their belongings, I found these letters and pictures from over the years stashed in special places.  It may look like a blob with 10 eyes when your youngest scribbles a picture in marker or barely legible when he "writes" a seemingly none-sensed letter with backwards letter in that big fat pencil on extra-wide lines; but to someone far away, it is a masterpiece of love and affection telling a story of grand adventure and expression deep affection.

These are just a few ideas and things we have done over the years on those doldrum days/weeks.  For recipes and inspiration, Pinterest (and the internet in general) carry a plethora of ideas.

Our Homeschool This Week...

... was far from the doldrums.  After taking last week off for illness and then I was still sick this week, it was our directive to push through in our big lets-not-fall-behind-after-missing-a-month-and-a-half-this-fall mode!  Sadly, the illness we have all had finally caught up with Brenden on Thursday.  He was well enough to push through Science and History but I let him off the hook on his other regulars.

We started this school year with my kids doing 2 different programs (Biology and Earth Science since they are 11th and 9th) and it was exhausting.  We all agreed to combine on Earth Science to fill some gaps for my 11th grader and come together next year on biology for both.  It is working great.

I use Abeka because it was gifted to me many years ago when I first started homeschooling.  I love the creationist world view and the colorful and well labeled diagrams in their books.  The kids (naturally) are board with reading a text so I do the reading/skimming in a VERY animated way (so it stays interesting!!) and usually draw the diagrams on our dry-erase board, explaining as I go, and they copy.  More complex diagrams I give them the book to copy.

Don't be afraid to teach secondary science... just follow the book with your kiddos and all that you learned when you were in high school will come back to you.  Experiments aren't all that complicated either when you look at the variety of supplies you can replicate most experiments with in your own kitchen.  The internet and many books are loaded with ideas to this end as well.

Brooke pushed through on her regs.  She is my math nut and I love teaching it to her because she is so determined to figure things out.

If you are afraid to homeschool high schoolers because of Algebra, don't fear.  I was nervous at first but here is my tip:  you took algebra in high school too and the information is tucked way back in the recesses of your brain.  If you walk-through-the-book with your 'student' you will get it.  Start with lesson 1 and do EVERY lesson with them (if you miss any you may loose a building block you need to piece subsequent lessons together).  To put your mind at ease, I'm not mathematically inclined and sometimes I am stumped.  That's when I hit YouTube for a how-to video and I usually get my bearings.  Also, don't feel like you have to put on a facade for you kids and act like you know it all!  You CAN tell them you are rusty or simply not the greatest at this subject, they will understand and, if anything, be inspired by your effort.  Sometimes, when I get stuck, they help me out!!

If this method doesn't work for you (and DO sincerely try it), there are numerous online classes for secondary math, complete with tutorials.  CTCMath is one of my favorites and the owners of the site are friendly and helpful.  I used them for a year for one of my harder to teach 'students' and it helped tremendously.  Kahn Academy is another helpful one.  We used their videos for Geometry one year.  If you know of any others that are free or inexpensive, please feel free to chime in below in the comments.

Other news in our homeschool this week...

My youngest son bought these lovelies for me for Valentine's Day ❤

He bought these for his sister!  He's a sweety!

My daughter's rabbit, Sam Wise, enjoyed the break in the weather because the tarp could now be lifted off the cage for fresh air, sunshine, and a great view of the world beyond chicken-wire!

My camera... and this stylish pair of rubber boots arrived this week.  Just in time for Valentine's Day... can you tell I am in love?! ❤❤❤  My hubby chuckled as I acted like a kid with my new 'toys'!

I'm most excited for feeling better (which seemed to finally start happening FRIDAY) so we can go have some adventures!  We ordered new batteries for our old camera and got it working again, which I gave to my youngest daughter.  We will be able to log "Photography" class for her this year as her and I set out on some photo adventures.  Even while we are stuck around the house feeling less-than-stellar, we have found ways to put our cameras to work.  We took on a photography challenge we found on Pinterest.  With stylishly dry feet, I look forward to learning the ins-and-outs of my new camera while sharing those tips for varied application with my daughter and her new (our old) one.

BTW, finding this tip on DIY Flash Reflectors from Kris Bales at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers is phenomenal. I tried it out Friday morning with a short stack of index cards and it worked marvelously, though I want to get some sturdier tack board for a permanent do-hicky!
You can see where I need to follow her directions more fully, top right corner is where the flash made it through.  Otherwise, I loved the results.  I'll have to try some before-and-afters sometime.

That about sums up our week.  How has yours been?  I pray this next one is full of blessings and marvelous adventures for you!


Linking up today with some of these...

P.S..... There IS hope, my tree told me so....

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love and Mariage and 5 Excuses to Call it Quits: debunked

It's Valentine's Day and love-themed things are in the air.... but my article isn't about your typical love themes for the month of February.  Nah, I thought I would go against the grain and talk about the unlovely ideas.  Especially ones pertaining to marriage and those big misconceptions out there. The ones which often lead to strained marriages and, ultimately (too often) to divorce.
You know, the unlovely ideas like "I'm just not in love with my husband anymore/the spark is gone"  or "You don't understand what a pain he can be, it is so hard to love him, besides, he never does anything for me... even when I bend over backwards for him...." or "He has changed since we got married/he's not the man I married." or, the hardest one, "I never really loved him to begin with" implying the marriage thing was a sort of 'why not' knee-jerk reaction.... which can also spark "We weren't Christians when we got married...." and either the Christian version of the marriage is different and dis-satisfying or one spouse is saved while the other isn't... and somehow this justifies parting ways.

Ladies, my life is a testimony to of these statements.  My e-book, Testimonies, the Power of Prayer isn't currently posted because I pulled it down for editing adjustments but when I re-post, trust me, there isn't an excuse anyone can yield I haven't already lived through at some level. And while my husband is a Christian now... it doesn't mean this marriage thing is always a cake walk. So let's break these down...

#1 -  "I'm just not in love with my husband anymore/the 'spark' is gone"

This statement drives me crazy.  They all do, actually, but I think this one does the most.  First of all, you can re-spark if your heart is rightly focused (read on to see what I mean)  Secondly, this idea completely escapes the purpose and power of marriage as God designed it and turns it into a self-serving vehicle which is suppose to propel one through life.  It implies that our spouse's value in love status hinges on emotion rather then devotion.  My personal favorite quote from the Bible on this:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  
- Jeremiah 17:9

Our feelings are fickle.  We may go through a day... or even a week... or even a few years of not feeling in love with someone.  But if God didn't stop the marriage before you walked down the isle (even if you were secular, and I will address that in a minute) then he has you together for a reason.

I could write for hours on this one but the other points will add to it and, can I just say, put your feelings in your feelings wagon and pull it along as long as it takes... trust me... if you serve your husband as if you were serving the Lord and doing it with a love-because-Jesus-does kind of love... you won't regret it.  Which leads to the next point...

#2 -  "You don't understand what a pain he can be, it is so hard to love him, besides, he never does anything for me... even when I bend over backwards for him...."

I do, actually, and so does Jesus, His self-sacrifice embodies this. I prayed for my husband in his absolutely impossible attitude for 10 years (no exaggeration) and in that time God showed me my roll: to serve my husband for God's Glory: To bend over backwards day-in-and-day-out with absolutely no reward for years on end.  To this day, it is a big part of my husband's testimony: a wife who's attitude was so completely different towards him that he couldn't help but wonder what Power could love him even when he was unlovable.

Think about it like this ... what if Christ grew tiered of bending over backwards for us?  What if he yanked the whip out of the hands of his torturers, or punched and spit back at his accusers, or got down off the cross and said "You know, I don't think so, no one ever does anything for me except treat me like junk and use me...."  How DEEP was the love he showed when we (you and me) didn't deserve it?  How extraordinary is it that this very love is what exemplifies sacrifice and how we ought to be to one-another?

LOVE isn't gushy, mushy feel-good reciprocatory stuff.  No, Jesus tells us exactly what it is:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
- John 15:12-13

You may say... Jesus said for his "friends"... don't use semantics, it is as simple as it sounds and whether you think of a spouse as a friend or otherwise... it is all the same.  As a matter of fact, your spouse should be your best friend and if he is not, you might want to start working there.

#3 - "He has changed since we got married/he's not the man I married." 

And so have you.  Whether or not you see it in yourself.  For good and bad.  Life is full of change, especially the personal kind, it is also part of what keeps relationships interesting... re-learning and understanding each other.  See above two points if this is a difficult concept.

#4 - "I never really loved him to begin with"

 I'm sorry to hear that.  But walking down the isle was your choice.  Whether or not you (or your spouse) were a Christian at the time or getting married for good reasons or bad.  You are married for a reason. God honors your union (again, He could have stopped you before you walked down the isle, but he didn't) now you need to honor God in your union. 

For centuries (and even in some countries to this day) betrothal was common place.  Many of these relationships did not start in love, but God often grew love there for those who let Him work.  Point #1 and #2 can be applied here as well.  Even if you weren't Christians to begin with... even if you are the only Christ follower in the relationship... God has you together for a reason, trust Him, trust His plan, I promise, it is a good one.

#5 - "We weren't Christians when we got married...." and either the Christian version of the marriage is different and dis-satisfying or one spouse is saved while the other isn't...

Neither were me and my husband.  I can't begin to tell you the spectrum of tough things he was doing and continued to do even after I re-dedicated my life to Christ.  I begged God to let me leave and this is what God showed me:

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy....  For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? 
- 1 Corinthians 7:12-14,16

Did I mention God has a plan?  After 10 years of prayer, I really began to doubt that I was ever going to see my husband embrace salvation.  Then, one day, he did.  Not just a pue warmer kind of faith... no, a drop-down-all-in-no-turning-back kind of faith is what God rewarded us with.  He still has his quarks and areas in which he challenges my patience and my "love".  But, remember, love isn't an emotion, it is devotion.  Christ stayed devoted to me so, even on the hardest days, I stay devoted to my spouse ♥


So why does everyone ignore all these facts and still grab after the Big "D".  Honestly... their eyes are not on God.  Nope.  Eyes, at that point, are on what a person wants for themselves and feels is best for self and thinking they know better then God on the matter. You see this in statements like, "I just want to be happy" or "I can't be happy with him" or "He just doesn't make me happy anymore".  But we aren't guaranteed "happiness" in this life under any situation, even marriage.

The other porblem... too many women compare their marriage or husband to others.  They see happier wives or more doteing husbands and the longing kicks in.  Whether these 'model' marriages have more going on under the surface then we see or not is irrelevant.  That is the other person's marriage... that is not where God has called us... it is where He has called them: what we choose to do with those God gives us and if/how we allow God to shine through us to others is much more important then the model life or what we think would be better vs. what God knows is in HIS plans for us.

What's more, remember, God HATES divorce and it goes against every GOOD plan he has for us.  Not to mention, divorce goes against the very character of the unity of the God-head.  God speaks His heart simply on the matter through Paul:

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 
- 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Most people considering divorce falsely assume they would be happier and more fulfilled with someone else.  A) according to God's Word, you are commanded NOT to remarry if you divorce, it is considered adultery if you do! and B) the grass really isn't greener.  I know, I've been there, before I rededicated my life to Christ.

Like my own story with my husband, God can use YOUR attitude and perseverance to draw your husband into relationship with Him.  It isn't always easy... but God never promised that it would be.  Are you willing to lay your life down for another... especially the one who you pledged to, 'till death do you part'?

There is hope in renewal of the love that can exist in the bond of marriage.  Your marriage is your ministry... first to your spouse and second to all who may need to know what devotion looks like.  I promise, a love like this will bring such depth to your marriage once you find it, you'll wish you had discovered it much sooner!


A resource which helped me immensely as I learned how to pray for my husband and love him when he was unloveable was The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.  No matter where your marriage is, I HIGHLY recommend this read!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Keepers at Home: Menu Monday, Spring Cleaning and List Making


As promised last week, today I launch the NEW and improved Menu Monday mashed up with Keepers at Home.  I hope you enjoy the retool!

Life this week...
After 4/5 of our household being sick last week, I am looking forward to "normal" this week (as of writing this, I'm still not feeling much better... hopefully that changes!).  Our car has been fickle lately and we won't be able to get it in the shop until the end of the month so it remains to be seen whether our usual schedule of events will be in play... like Youth Group on Wednesday night.

I was blessed with a new camera, which arrives Tuesday (Happy Valentine's Day!).  After many years of use, my old one gave out on me about 3 years ago.  I've been using my cell phone camera ever since. If we can manage a happy car one day this week, I would like to go take this new ministry tool for a test-drive somewhere lovely in our town... and not too taxing on the engine.  I love to play around creatively with picture taking and have missed it since my old one died!

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park

Sketching in the park

Front Porch Garden in Storm

Cross by Big Fork

1st Time Mowing Lawn
You get the idea!  I'm also excited for the new camera because taking and uploading new pictures here on the site has been near impossible since this past fall when an update suddenly made my phone incompatible with my computer.  It is a long story and my techy hunny has looked high and low into solutions to no avail... loosing my memory card in the process.  I'm looking forward to sharing fresh pictures here on the blog... especially for the Menu Monday section!!

Keeping Home...
Spring Cleaning and List Making
Spring cleaning is in the air as I type this.  Disinfecting after the big sickness here and then crazy warm weather after absolute arctic chills... my doors and windows are open to move the air on through.

When I think of spring cleaning, I also think of lists.

Yeah, I'm a list maker.  It is sort of an obsession with me.  Like, seriously, one look into my Homemaking file on my computer would reveal a plethora of lists, half of which are revisions of revisions of revisions to accommodate seasons or given taste... or evolving need.

You may laugh at me, or agree with me, but I am here to tell ya ladies... a list and a routine (you stick with!) are phenomenal tools in managing your home... and an ability to notice needed adjustments along with the inevitable; get back on track because you got off... or got lazy... but I am sure you wouldn't get lazy, right?  Well, I have.  I think it is just the doldrums. 

None-the-less, lately I have gotten lazy!  (Tell me ladies, how often do you fall into that rut?!)  We do the basics... whatever is the least we need to do to get by and make the house look good.  No cares for the cobwebs or the appliance wipe-downs or the mopping (seriously, I know, that is bad)... there are a handful of incidentals that are easy to look the other way on... until hubby notices and cringes or company drops in and my mind scatters, wondering if the corners of the bathroom floor got wiped out.... this month!

I have a nifty check-list I ignore I mean use... Ok I need to get back to using.  It works GREAT when I do. I designed it shortly after moving into our new house.  I used a printed out blank sheet like the one below:
Click me to Download PDF

For the first few weeks I collected a list of the different areas and things I needed to keep up on.  I started with a sheet for each room (both bathrooms shared a sheet) so the collection of to-dos was more concise.  After I felt I had exhausted the needs of each room for a week, I sat down and typed up a final draft with all the rooms collected on one sheet. 

I print and keep a copy in my planner.  I print a fresh one for each week, but you could print a master copy and place it in a glossy sheet protector to hang where it won't easily rub off and re-use with a dry-erase marker.

Why set-up a static cleaning list?
  • Seeing the details of cleaning in each room or area helps you remember how big (or small) a job is so you can be sure to allot the appropriate amount of time for each task.
  • It makes relegating chores more streamlined.  You can place each family member's initials next to a given chore and then they are responsible for making sure to complete the task and check it off the list.
I believe getting a hold of my weekly chores will be critical as we approach spring cleaning.
  #1 - less crumbs now = less ants later
  #2 - making regular cleaning needs a habit before introducing BIG cleaning projects
         in the spring will make life much easier
  #3 - a clean house is a healthier house!
  #4 - if cleaning laziness has set in through the winter doldrums, getting back into routine
         will build stamina for the spring clean up ahead

Something special to share...
In honor of Valentine's Day I thought I would revive a recipe I shared 2 Aprils ago. It is crazy simple and deliciously sweet...

You can click on the link within the title to be whisked away to the recipe and directions.  This picture is from when I made it for my birthday and tacked some periwinkle silk blossoms on top.  You could easily place a  cherry or rose or some other lovely thing as a garnish... or leave it simply glazed.  No matter how you serve it from the outside, you will make mouths water and tummies thankful with the inside...

Menu for this week...
I usually try to schedule our dinners around my son's work schedule.  Teenage boys tend to eat a bit more than the rest of us!  He works about 4 nights a week.  Hubby and I probably will not go out for Valentine's Day this year, but I will plan a fun dinner for everyone... and maybe even a special dessert!

- cereal/oatmeal
- eggs
- fresh bread with butter and jam

hubby: sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, grilled sandwiches, grilled tuna sandwiches, mac-n-cheese


Chicken and Broccoli Bake
A new recipe I developed.  I fry up chicken pieces (usually cut about 1-2" x 1/2") in butter/margarine with garlic and onion powder.  I mix it in a buttered backing dish with frozen broccoli (when I remember, I will thaw it in some hot water so it is a bit soft before it cooks), I toss in a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and then spread some cheddar cheese sprinkles in a thin layer over the top.  I bake at 375 for about 20-30 minutes and serve with some fresh bread, french bread or rolls.  It is a new family favorite!


Beef Stroganoff, Mashed Potato, Green Beans and still TBD Dessert
Super easy and cost-effective meal.  I've shared the recipe before but just in case you missed it then:
1.5 - 2 lbs ground beef (or turkey), fry with some chopped onion, drain off grease about when meat is about half-done, sprinkle on garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.  Spritz in some Worcestershire sauce.  Add 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup, 1/2 can beef stock (I use water and half a teaspoon beef bullion and the mushroom soup can filled half way with water) and 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Stir and warm well over medium heat and serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.  (You can add parsley and/or fresh garlic when cooking for additional flavor)

Spaghetti and Cheesy Bread Sticks

Chicken Pot Pie
I use a basic pie crust recipe, rolled out into a casserole dish.  I make chicken gravy using Wondera (you can also use cream of chicken soup), mix in cubed cooked chicken and a bag of mixed frozen veggies.  Bake @ 350-375 for 30-45 minutes or until crust begins to brown on edges.


Burger and Veggie Stix Chips

What are you doing and cooking this week?