Friday, August 25, 2017

What are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?


It has been a crazy coupla weeks here... I know all of you out there can relate.  Part of that crazy took me away from writing for a brief spell.  It was overwhelming, I kept wondering what to do about all the hopes I have laid out (especially in the newsletter) for this site.  I've been excited to ramp up blog-posts and content.  At the end of it all, though, I had some revelations culminating in a hefty journal entry/prayer.  I love those moments!  Afterwords, I popped on here and poured out the following message which I felt I ought to hold for editing but now feel completely ready to share with the world!  I hope it inspires your heart too....

***

I am a writer.

I never said those words of myself until a few years ago.  It took a good friend saying it of me to someone else before my eyes could be opened to the truth of one of the things God created me to do.  I would love to say i am a good many things I am simply not....

I am not a pumpkin or apple orchard farmer... my own apple tree and garden are in desperate need of help beyond my expertise.

I do not specialize in animal husbandry, I have too much empathy for that.

I am not a field missionary to a foreign land cuddling babies in orphanages, though I still dream of one day coming close to that.

No.
I am a writer.

I am also a teacher and a mom and a wife. I hold my own in crafting as well as planning and hospitality, I am passionate in learning about and understanding scripture, and I am an idealist along side being an optimistic realist.  Seriously.

But the one thing every thread of my life has in common is writing.  I love to write about it all.

I think an important part of "Success" in life is realizing who you are... what your strengths and weaknesses are.  Isn't that why those 'strength and weakness" questions are asked when you pursue a career?  When you try to act outside of your natural abilities, or outside the areas God is super-naturally equipping you to perform in, you will flounder and, often, fail.  If you don't fail... at the very least, you will feel dis-satisfied and perhaps even empty.

Even within our given Call, we are not immune to the need to know where we've been, where we are going, and all the ways that do and do not work to being part of the Greater Plan.  We need to understand these points on self, whether it is to garner prayer points for strength and focus or to be conscientious of growth and transformation needs.

Recently I launched my newsletter.  As I pieced it together I was reminded of how much I missed doing newsletters.  Back in the paste and print days I had a monthly crafting newsletter averaging 8-10 pages and a serious subscriber base just within our small-town community.  I love to blog and I love to write.... yet I think the newsletter is my favorite mode of communicating my writings and the things God is impassioning me on.

Yet, in that newsletter launch came the high-hope promises of certain content on the blog.  Ideas and dreams which, in another person's lifestyle, might work.... but in mine.... sadly, I can never seem to maintain that kind of blogging regularity.

Fact: I have an at-times demanding husband (he wants crazy things like time with me and clean laundry.... I know, strange, right?) with a weird work schedule

Fact:  Even after 3 months, we are still trying to get use to hubby's long weekend hours alongside our homeschool schedule (let alone that laundry and time spending thing!).

Fact: I homeschool and our mode of learning is an eclectic sort of school-at-home hybrid with high demands on teacher mom.

Fact: I have made the mistake in my past of choosing work over my kids and regretted it deeply... I only have 3 more years before they are all graduated and I don't want to say, "Sorry, I can't spend time with you today because I am writing to make a weekly blog deadline I self-imposed," and miss it.

Honestly, I don't know how some of you moms do it and I envy your ability to have those weekly blog parties activated on cue while popping out well written (and illustrated) articles throughout the week as well.  Keep up the great work!!  As for me... I can't do it, no matter how much I want to or try to.  It doesn't work for me.  (Yes, I have tried to create a back-log, but I can never seem to get enough regular time to keep enough regular content in the cue.)

My weakness is that I let life distract me.  Sometimes that is a good thing.  The whole Carpi Diem mindset because I don't want to get to the other side of life and say "I wish I had......"

My other weakness is that I try to keep up with everyone else (irony... I am a Jones trying to keep up with others!!  haha)  I want to be part of the hub... but I can't always.  I need to learn how to be ok with that.

My strength is in my passion (which can also be a weakness at times) and knowing I was created, in part, to write.  After 8 years of blogging and watching many others come and go, I still keep plugging ahead.  It is my niche, even with all my flaws in doing it!

I'm Ok with that.

So what is the point of all this?  Well, first of all, to admit to you, my dear reader and virtual friend, that try as I might to keep regular weekly content on this blog, I am hopelessly flawed in my ability to do so.

Second of all is to share, openly, that I will do all I can to keep content on the blog regularly, but my platform is moving more heavily to the newsletter.  It is the context I function best in.  All those years ago doing monthly newsletters as long as I did... I never missed a deadline once.  I had all month to string together content, do research, and plug in great graphics.  I still went for hikes with my kids, spent afternoons at the beach and cuddled up for movie time with hubby while he wore his freshly cleaned clothes! It fits me and knowing that about myself instead of denying it and trying to do something I am not equipped for.... is liberating.

I'm still unpacking all of the intricacies of this new admission within myself.  I just finished scrawling out SIXTEEN PAGES of revelation in my journal (no joke!  I told you I liked to write!)  But I do want to apologize for making promises I can't keep.  I will be working harder to be mindful of what I really am capable of - what exactly God is calling me to do - and not get over-zealous in taking on more than I can handle!



Thank you for reading, for visiting me.  I do consider all who wander across these pages to be friends ♥  I pray, in whatever God has called you to, you are always honest with yourself... real about your strengths and weaknesses, not trying to walk on ground God hasn't called you to, but rather, to walk and stand, within all your abilities and inabilities, right where God wants to work best through you!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, 
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, 
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Blessings,









Be sure to go to the sidebar and sign up for my Monthly Newsletter (I promise, I won’t spam you!)  It looks like this:
 
Why am I doing this give-a-way?  #1- I'm super excited to share this book with YOU!  #2- I'm just as excited to share my new newsletter as well!  The bulk of my site's content will be shifting to the newsletter format and, there will be some exclusive content you won’t find on the website!   Even though the first issue has already e-mailed, I want to be sure word gets out on subsequent issues.  You can click here to read more about it.

 So, to be entered for a chance to win a FREE copy of "What Every Christian Ought to Know" by Adrian Rogers simply sign-up for my monthly newsletter*.  That's it!  Easy-peasy.
(If you already signed up prior to this announcement, don't worry, your name will automatically be entered!)   UPDATE*** There will be TWO blessed winners each month, not just one!!

*Give-a-way rules: Must be a U.S. residentcontact me to discuss alternatives. The drawing will occur on August 1, 2017 with a winner being randomly chosen. The winner will be contacted that day and will be announced on Facebook and this blog.  If the winner does not wish to have name announced, this must be stated when contacted for mailing address.  A copy of the book (up to $10 value) will be mailed directly to the winner from Amazon, shipping times may vary. I will contact the winner for address information using the e-mail submitted to my newsletter database.  If you do not want to receive your package directly from Amazon, the winner needs to let me know when I contact them for their address and we can discuss alternative source methods.  No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited by law. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Creative Inspirations {Link-up Party} #1



Did you catch last week's article about this new great thread here on Faith and Home?  I shared about it in my monthly newsletter as well (if you aren't signed up yet, see info at bottom of this post).  Despite my crazy busy week and completely skipping on my other regular threads because I was painting decks (to fulfill insurance claims after hail damage) and re-arranging work spaces, and prepping back-to-school.... I did promise to get this thread LIVE and so here I am!

Because of the whole deck painting, space arranging, and school prepping, I don't have MY creative outlet examples pictured to post.  I know, I'm setting a bad example, and I am sorry for that!  I did take a video of our new studio, but sadly, I think my camera dumped it - or there was user error involved - but I like the camera dumping excuse better!  You can follow me on Pinterest to see the pictures I did manage to upload there!

I do have this for you:
http://www.littlegirldesigns.com/writing-in-a-journal/

It's a website (click on image to be whisked away!)  I think I found Jennie at Litter Girl Designs through Pinterest.  I was attracted to her doodle style drawings and her inspiring articles on journaling and, most particularly, art.  The article above inspired me to start an art journal and to be more artistic with my daily journal as well.  There are other great resources on her website for both the budding and experienced creative pursuits of anyone out there.

I also have this one which I am going to start linking up with weekly (especially as I start sharing my own creative pursuits)

HOVER TEXT
There are some AMAZING blogs linked up here with some delicious and crafty ideas.  I'm looking forward to jumping around a few (or more) posts this week.  Especially the one about Homemade Cheese-its since my kids are fiends about this snack!!

This week's creative inspiration:
Just do it!  That's right... don't try to justify or quantify creativity... just do it.  Even if you feel like you aren't good at it!  Want to sew?  Sew.  Can't make a straight stitch?  Practice.  Want to paint?  Don't know how?  Pinterest and You Tube are great free resources for a multitude of hobbies and crafts.  Afraid it isn't the 'grown up' thing to do, a waste of time, to set time aside for random acts of crafty pursuits?  If you take time to watch t.v., surf Facebook, read this blog, or try the latest exercise fad... why can't you take time to be creative?  IT's OK!  I say: give yourself permission.  Who knows where the path will lead you.  Maybe it will always just be a quiet little hobby.... maybe you will become the next Joanna Gaines!!  Maybe your creative pursuit will lead to relationship building and Christ sharing and Kingdom growing.... but you don't know until you just.do.it!

If you would like to jump in on the creative inspirations I shared in July's newsletter as well as in last week's article, you can still print the PDF below (click on image). This print out highlights each week's (done whatever week you want to) theme.  There is also a page 2 with more in-depth instructions, hashtag keywords and Facebook reference-ology.

http://faithandhome.com/images//FaithandCreativity/fandhCreativityAugust.pdf

Remember, you can share any creative pursuit... photography, painting, drawing, sewing, gardening, building, etc. etc. etc....!  The print out above even gives ideas on how to share your faith through your creativity.

I hope you'll join me in linking up below and I pray you experience the presence of God and share his Glory through your creative pursuits this coming week! .... and BE CREATIVE because He is Creative♥

Blessings








I will share a Creativity challenge print-out on the first Saturday of each month.  Do you NOT want to have to wait until the first Saturday of the month to see the new challenges?  You can get the latest monthly challenge before the new month starts by signing up for my monthly newsletter.  The newsletter issues on the last Thursday of each month and, among other great content, the latest installment for the coming month's Creative Challenge will be available for early download through the newsletter.  Hop over to the right side bar to sign up!  (it looks like image below)


And now for our link-up party!



Saturday, August 5, 2017

What's in a plan, zooming in (Lesson Planning part 2)

Summer is wrapping up, isn't it?  My daughter just confided to me yesterday how facing the last week of summer break coming up here, she feels supremely challenged to squeeze every last ounce of fun out of it that she can.  Me, on the other hand, having FINALLY finished lesson plans this past week AND copying/prepping for our launch day and first day of school... I am looking at all the items on my bucket list I didn't get to.
  • Cleaning the Garage out randomly kicked this one out in 3 hours yesterday when we managed to sell a few big items taking up space in there!!  Scored school supply money AND a tidied up garage (though hubby STILL needs to unpack his work area from when we moved in 2 years ago!!)
  • Organizing attic storage 
  • Paint my 'study'/office work space
  • Help hubby finish house repairs from hail damage we got last year
  • Go on localish adventures
  • Tend yard and garden
  • Back-log blog articles
  • Read more
  • Breathe more
Bum ankle from a messed up ligament, crazy hot days, and hubby's new weird work schedule all seem to cramp plans.

However, we are moving along.  I, too, am bit by the 'gotta cram it all in this coming week' mode.  While I know it won't ALL get done, I'm gonna do what I can!

As for now, I promised some Lesson planning details last week and I am aim to deliver before I shut down my computer and grab scrubbers and paint brushes to liven up my work space today!


Why I write out my lessons...
I'm a crazy list lady.  I will list everything and anything... mostly from pen to paper, but sometimes on the computer with fancy bullets to-boot! I love sitting down and writing out what the kids will be doing for the year.  It's my 'thing'.  Maybe writing out lesson plans is daunting to you.  Maybe you are good at winging it or you have a great pre-made lesson plan.  I'm mostly none of that.  Instead, I have a bad memory and a bucket-full of good intentions that, if I don't write them out, I will loose them to the abyss of yesterdays.

Because I am a list maker and, admittedly, a recovering control-freak, I also don't typically just follow the dotted lines of provided lesson plans (on the rare instances I get curriculum which has them).  Nope, I am the take-the-fat-crayon-in-my-fist-and-scribble-outside-the-lines kind of person.  Or, grab a felt-tip marker and doodle in the margins!

I also have often hodge-podged our curriculum or, as alluded to above, bought textbooks without getting the pre-made lesson plans.  I had to corral all the great ideas and good intentions somewhere...

Hence, lesson planning season.


How I lesson plan...
I actually start by determining our school year.  The picture above is a photocopy from my bullet journal I tried to keep this summer!  I drew out the school year so I could begin fielding our schedule.  Normally I I print a computerized one but this worked good too. I kept it on a clipboard with some paper for quick notes and scribbles.
 

Some of you do year-round or just work until it fizzles out.  I think those are great ideas.  For us, we have 3 June birthdays with the kick-off one coming early, on the 6th.  No one likes to do school on their birthday (in our house, it is a 'holiday' everyone takes school off for!).  So instead of juggling the multiple time off at a time of year when (they were younger) the laughter of neighborhood kids is drifting in our windows because these sprightly public schoolers heard the last bell ring for their school year... we decided to always be done by that first birthday date. 


With that in mind, I plan out how many weeks and days with floating breaks at various points in the year.  I have also learned to plan for sick days!  This year I am trying to cram 36 weeks of curriculum into 33 weeks (especially since I may still need to travel back to Chicago to help my dad through chemo and such).  I scheduled our fall time off (Thanksgiving week, Christmas, etc) but I am leaving the spring open with floating weeks off this year so we can take them as we need them.  I'm hoping this works better than how I have done it before (scheduled spring and it often didn't jive with our life!)

Then I field the subject.  History was my heaviest this year because we are Hodge-podging it with a base in Abeka's World History for high schoolers and picking up over halfway through the book, weaving in living books (can you see my Charlotte Mason influence?) and other outside resources and research opportunities.

With younger kids I was always advised: With math, plan 2-3 workbook pages (I always did 2) and with all else, 20-30 minutes of sit-down time with breaks in-between.

For new homeschoolers this may be a trial-and-error situation with a lot of grace for yourself and your kiddos.  Figuring out how long it may take you to read out a lesson or text and approximately how long it will take them to do their end of the deal.  I will admit to some trial runs on my own to gauge out timing!

With older kiddos: I plan 45-60 minutes for the main classes (history, science, math, Language arts) but I have also learned to work one section at a time for better retention.  This means they may finish sooner.  When I want to add in special research projects and such, I usually try to schedule an extra day on top of any text learning so they have plenty of time to complete.


Now, and this is where you who are leary of this whole process may really get weak in the knees (sorry!).... I look through their text and calculate how many sections it has.  For history, I skimmed through and observed where each end-of-section question area was.  On particularly long and meaty sections (especially with maps I know I will want them to copy) I make tally marks of how many extra days I think we should plan for. 

Once the tally is taken, I compare it to how many projected school days we have.  If there are more sections then days I begin to observe where shorter units can be combined or others can be skimmed or skipped altogether.  (I hate having to skip, but even public schools do this)

rough overview of history (left page has more on back)
I draw this out as I go on a notebook paper... a sort of rough outline, and I reference it as I zoom in for the details..

I use a lesson plan sheet I designed.  Once-upon a time I use to coordinate all my subjects to intertwine and draw them out in a legitimate lesson planner.  Then something would come up and we would only get a half-day in or someone would be sick and we would go NO day and next thing I knew, my lesson planner was all off kilt and not even on schedule.  So, I split the subjects.  There is still some intertwining with some of them.  But for us, the split works well.  And instead of blocking out my lesson plans, I list them out.  I tend to hope they are being done by certain days and I will even notate that in the margin, but I hold even these plans loosely because life can and often does get in the way of my best intentions!

This year I typed of History as well as Brenden's Speech and Devotion Writing class.  The texts were meatier and I wanted the ability to quick-adjust and re-write as I combed through the details.  Then I printed them out.


With the list planning, I just start down the line with each lesson in order.  I begin with their text book, skimming each section, noting headings and where extra material might fit in (like maps in history).  On my lesson plan page I label "1" for chapter 1 and ".1" or ".2" and so on to indicate each section of the chapter.  If I split up a section I say "1.2a" etc. Some texts, like their Algebra, already label their sections like this, in which case, I simply follow the text's labeling. 

I add a title, usually the section title, to help me when I reference back to the material later in the year.  I can tell, without opening the book , what topic we will be studying when. 

Under the Materials section I add descriptions of what we will be doing in that lesson and any quizzes or worksheets, etc, I may need.  I often notate in the margin as well with "Ⓒ map p 213" so I can even more quickly scan and have supplies ready before hand.  I also put the page numbers to make it more clear as to where we are in the book!

In the history lesson plan above you see "READ-14" etc, this is a reminder to them and to me (sadly, we are THAT forgetful) to read their literature section of this unit.  The number is what day they should be on in their reading- they are responsible for calculating out what pages to have read by when in order to complete the materiel by the due-date. I have carefully selected 'living books' to go with units in this subject this year.  We will be starting with Oliver Twist.  Consequently, I usually plan about 4 weeks for each literature unit if the book isn't too meaty.  Less if it is shorter. 

I try to be as thorough as I can because I have found, if I am not, we will take the lazy route!

I keep referencing my rough overview as I go, to be sure I am not going too far over my calculated plans.  With math, we have about 22 more lessons than school days so I have a post-it stuck with those plans for keeping tally of days I am able to shave off as I go by combining short units or skipping altogether.  If I get to a pre-determined section of the text and I haven't shaved enough, I will skip certain sections which are either repetitious or I know to be repeating in subsequent curriculum. (like the Geometry and Calculus unit in our Algebra 2 text)


Above is an example of what I do when I DO have lesson plans with the curriculum. Biology only took about a day to organize since I did decide to loosely follow the book's prescribed plans.  You can see the post-it notes I added in margins to indicate extra activities I hope to filter in.  The notebook page above this page shows how I fielded the schedule, using the approximate amount of lessons the book had I could then loosely factor how long I needed to complete the course and where I may need to trim up a bit.

Because numbers don't stick in my brain well, I tend to recount the lessons every so often, compare to my calendar dates, and verify I am not projected to go over. 

math is handwritten because it is more concise
Yes, it is tedious, it is a process and I have learned to do it with many distractions (after all, I am a mom of 4!).  Yet I do enjoy it and the few weeks it takes me (with breaks and excursions) to do the planning in this kind of detail is well worth it when we can sail into our school year and have time to relax and have fun in the off-school hours because I don't have to plan as I go.  Kind of like those cook once and eat all month menus!!


When I am done I file the lessons in my 3 ring binder under subject tabs for reference.  In the past I have photo-copied my lessons for the kids to have in their own binders but, honestly, Ashley only used them some (and she is graduated now) and Brooke used them for her self-paced classes but this year, we have a lot of combo classes and her self-paced ones have the guide right in the book.  Brenden didn't use them at all because I usually sat with him to work out introductions.  So this year, they all go in my binder!

I plan to write important due-dates on the board and have them practice recording them in their planner.  I want to prepare them for slotting out time and being prepared for tests and such in college.

The most important ingredient to my lesson planning is prayer.  I pray before I start for God to guide the plans.  He knows better than I do, the days we need off and the time we will have.  Anytime I started to get frustrated or overwhelmed, I pause and pray.  Sometimes I am trying to schedule too much in one time frame or I am relying on my own sense of time or directive and not allowing God to work.  I become like Jacob, wrestling with the angel.  So I will pause and pray and try to walk more like Abraham and, while sometimes things don't make sense, the way I see the peace of God directing my plans, I trust God and that He knows what my kids need most (and how and when they need it!)

I pray this helps you... either as information and inspiration or as a guide to try your own!  However this article finds you today, I pray God would guide your lesson plans, in whatever form they take, so you might enjoyed a blessed school year ahead!

Blessings,











Be sure to go to the sidebar and sign up for my Monthly Newsletter (I promise, I won’t spam you!)  It looks like this:
 
Why am I doing this give-a-way?  #1- I'm super excited to share this book with YOU!  #2- I'm just as excited to share my new newsletter as well!  There will be some exclusive content you won’t find on the website!   Even though the first issue has already e-mailed, I want to be sure word gets out on subsequent issues.  You can click here to read more about it.

 So, to be entered for a chance to win a FREE copy of "What Every Christian Ought to Know" by Adrian Rogers simply sign-up for my monthly newsletter by July 31, 2017*.  That's it!  Easy-peasy.
(If you already signed up prior to this announcement, don't worry, your name will automatically be entered!)   UPDATE*** There will be TWO blessed winners each month, not just one!!

*Give-a-way rules: Must be a U.S. residentcontact me to discuss alternatives. The drawing will occur on August 1, 2017 with a winner being randomly chosen. The winner will be contacted that day and will be announced on Facebook and this blog.  If the winner does not wish to have name announced, this must be stated when contacted for mailing address.  A copy of the book (up to $10 value) will be mailed directly to the winner from Amazon, shipping times may vary. I will contact the winner for address information using the e-mail submitted to my newsletter database.  If you do not want to receive your package directly from Amazon, the winner needs to let me know when I contact them for their address and we can discuss alternative source methods.  No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited by law.