Thursday, May 23, 2019

Easy, Affordable, DIY Grad-gifting

Graduation season is upon us!  Here in south-central Montana both high school and university commencements are carried out in shifts at our local fairgrounds and often wrap up by mid-late May.  However, I know many other areas of the country are still counting down the days until that last hooray!

This past weekend we were blessed with an opportunity to celebrate 2 homeschool grads and, coming up this weekend, we will shout "congrats" to a long-time family friend who walks her commencement with a local Christian school.

My go-to gifts for graduates usually include a favorite and transformational book (currently, What Every Christian Ought To Know by Adrian Rogers), a snazzy cup or mug, Smarties (cause the graduate is an official "Smarty-pants" now!) and some other little bit of celebratory paraphernalia.  This year I chose party poppers.

The tricky part came when I went to shop for gift bags, the Buck Mart (aka, Dollar Store) was sold out... so I decided to get those creative juices flowing...
 ... and viola, $9 later I had scored all the fixins I needed not just for a few gift bags but also for some pretty impressive gifts and trimmings (with leftovers)!

The gift bags...
Supplies: 
gift bags (mine came as a package of 2)
1 package grad decor (mine had 3 signs and 4 tassels strung along a ribbon line)
tissue paper
double-sided sticky tape


The Process:

 First, I cut the signs on the line with a few inches hanging down each side...

I had to re-string a few of them so the strings were hanging out the front of the "right side" of the sign.
 It was very easy.

 I evened up the strands in preparation for tying a bow...

 My bow was lopsided so I tucked the right strand (sticking straight up) under the bow so it would stick straight down.


To be sure my bow didn't end up crooked, I applied a small strip of double-sided tape under the center and pressed down to be sure it was secure...

To complete the bow....
 I folded and snipped at an angle...
 To get that nice little notch!


Then, I applied double-sided sticky tape all along the edges and a few swipes across the middle of the back of the sign.

Finally, I lined the sign up to the center of the front of the bag and pressed the taped side firmly place.

 Insert goodies and some coordinated tissue paper and there ya go!!

Other Loot
Outside of the book purchases I planned to insert in each bag, the rest of my Buck Mart loot and some of the miscellaneous leftover pieces acted as filler.

"Smarty-pants"! 
 I used a simple piece of note-pad paper and a felt pen to write our quirky message down.

 After filling each cup with a bag of Smarties, I cut the messages into strips and inserted on top.

 I used the leftover pompoms from the sign banner as a fun topper to each cup.

The pompoms were placed with the "handle" part up so they would be easy to pull out once the gift was opened.

For the coffee mug, I opted out of the note since the writing on the side says it all!

 However, I still inserted another of the left-over pompoms here as well.

 And into the bag all the goodies went!

When I was done I had plenty of tissue paper, 1 "Congrats 2019 Grad" sign and 1 pompom left.  This concept could be used for any gift-giving situation where you may want to go a little 'outside the box' in your gift wrap!  The craziest part?  The next bags I do like these will be for my youngest's high school graduation next year!!!

Don't blink!

What ideas do you have for cost-effective gift giving... or wrapping... for graduation (or other special occasions)?

Blessings,






Are you looking for something to help you organize your curriculum scouting for the next school year?  My newsletter for May contained a FREE downloadable PDF packet of printables designed to help you collect your thoughts!  When you sign up with my FREE e-newsletter I will send you May's issue containing this and other great material attached!  Information below....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

I look forward to sharing Faith and Home Times with you!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

HMJ: If I Knew Then What I Know Now part 3

The last of the book lessons for the school year were taught on Friday.  Junior year of my last young charge is just about wrapped up!  This week I will begin collecting grades and closing out curriculum.  I like to do a re-cap of the year: what worked/didn't work and what I would like to try to do/or avoid next year.  I find this process of 'recapping' helpful as we seek to become a more productive homeschool with each year that passes (even if next year is our last!)

The sage advice of veteran homeschoolers over the years has certainly helped to influence our own arrangement, but recapping has probably been the most transformational part of our homeschool over the years.  It helps me to focus on what is REAL and poignant for us and not the voices of the masses seeking to sway us to and fro.  It helps me to see what is working for my kids and our family structure as a whole rather than worrying about whether or not I am living up to someone else's idea of what our homeschool should be... which brings me to this week's theme:

If I Knew Then What I Know Now... I Wouldn't Have Worried So Much About What Others Thought and Said

Don't get me wrong.  Sometimes we are running out into rush hour traffic and we need someone to grab us out of harm's way.  However, when it comes to a decision like homeschooling and all it entails, you are not going to get far if you are busy looking at the crowd. Let me create a a bit of a visual here:

Have you ever watched those old game shows?  I have to admit, I don't take them in anymore, but as a kid growing up in the 70s and early 80s, we had some GREAT game shows I LOVED watching faithfully with my family.  One of our favorites was "The Price is Right".  Have you ever noticed: as the stress was on to guess the right price (or at least closer to the mark than the other competitors) the audience would begin shouting out their ideas.  Contestants would begin to sweat as they shot uneasy glances between a "helpful" friend out in the studio seating, then the excited crowd as a whole, and back to the host who was often casting sentiments of doubt mixed with encouragement and finally settling their nervous gaze back to the product they were trying to decide on.  Occasionally this method would win them a place in the next round but often, I felt, the more people they tried to listen to and the longer they let the host cajole, the less accurate they seemed to become.  Rather than concentrating on what they knew to be true and maybe one "helper" in the audience, they darted between too many opinions: some genuinely seeking to help and others who actually caused harm (whether intentional or un-intentional).

I bet you get my analogy by now!

Too Many Voices Just Leads to a Racket
When you share your plan to homeschool (or continue with your set course as each year passes) EVERYONE will have an opinion.  Mom, Dad, Aunt Edna, Grandma Jean, neighbor Betty and even the cashier at the supermarket!  It is amazing how invisible we moms are to the world at large until we declare our resolution to educate our little charges ourselves!

Most of Them Mean Well
Nearly all of these voices really will mean well and you have to keep that first and foremost in mind or there is bound to be a mommy-splotion!  Hear their hearts while keeping their words set apart.  Tell them, "Thank you for your concern" or "I will think about that/look into that" but you don't have to commit to their ideas.  Don't be afraid to admit when you aren't sure about something they ask you and put their minds at ease by suggesting you will "look into that".


Stand Firm In Your Decision 
Life is full of critics.  Whether it is what you are wearing or driving or the neighborhood you decided to buy your house in.  There is no end to the criticism... especially not when you decide to homeschool.  You may be blessed with a large team of supporters... or you might feel rather isolated.  Others may throw out contingency support (providing you follow THEIR idea of how you do this school-at-home thing).  For those biggest critics though, stand firm.  Don't be afraid to lovingly insist, "I'm sorry you don't agree with our decision but this is what we are going to do."

My mother-in-law, and many others, thought we were crazy when we first set to sail in the waters of homeschooling.  However, a year later, after seeing the great progress the kids made, she became one of my greatest local advocates!  Sometimes the nay-sayers will soften when they see the wonder of homeschooling in action!

The Only Two Opinions That Matter...
... are God and your spouse!  I bet you knew I was going to say that!  When God calls you to homeschool it is like anything He invites you to do: His blessings will abound and do you really want to tell God NO?!  That doesn't mean it will go perfectly from day one, but it does assure us we can go to Him for our encouragement and guidance and He will always provide what we need in it's due time!

Hubby, of course, is important to the successful running of any homeschool.  If you feel strongly that God is calling you to homeschool and hubby says "no" or is on the fence, pray for him.  Trust God to move his heart.

I first felt called to homeschool even before my oldest started kindergarten but my husband said "NO".  His reason? "Homeschoolers are weird"!!!  HA!  As time passed, I prayed.  He wasn't even a believer back then!!  But 8 years later God answered those prayers and my husband was all in and actively encouraging me as we set plans in motion.  Yes, my oldest 3 had to spend time in public school in the process, but this time was what opened my husband's eyes to the real value of home education. God also used it to build my confidence that He had equipped me to educate my kids even when I didn't have a degree to do so.  That 8 years was not wasted!

Don't Listen To the Crowd
Remember my opening visual?  Most of those contestants had a friend or family member in the audience.  Some of the more successful game-goers were ONLY listening to this counterpart, NOT the crowd as a whole or the host's sly speech.  As you plan your homeschool and roll through each year, there needs to be a hierarchy you hold firmly to:
  • Pray through choices and listen to God's reply
  • Talk with your spouse as to his expectations and make sure you are both on the same page
You will find great information and encouragement at Conventions, on the Internet and inside of Local Support Groups.  You may even have a family member or friend who is your biggest cheerleader.  Research and collective thoughts ARE helpful, but, no matter how well-intentioned, there is such a thing as TOO much input and we do have to be mindful of those who would steer us away from what is truly best for our homeschool.  Simply put: I have learned that the people who are safe to listen to are those who honor yours and your husband's directives.  It doesn't mean they won't speak other-wisely into decisions, it simply means you don't let their ideas and input usurp the authority of God and pre-ordained decisions between you and hubby... and that they appreciate and respect that.


It Really Doesn't Matter What Others Think
As we have established, there will always be critics.  Yet, I believe it is human nature to worry about how things "look".
  • If we aren't doing workbooks Uncle Joe will notice and think we are neglecting the kids' education.
  • If we go out to the store during the day the judging glances of patrons and workers will assume my children are truant or trouble
  • If the kids don't pass Aunt Sally's pop quiz on the original 13 colonies she will issue an hour-long lecture on the invalidity of my children's education.

I could go on. But it is the hardest simplest thing to do: IGNORE IT.  Believe me, I am the queen of messing this one up. As my kids were growing I felt like I needed to impress my dear retired teacher friend.  If we weren't using her lovingly donated workbooks then I believed she would assume I was not a valid teacher.  I looked over my shoulder every time we went out and those first few years I often kept the kids strictly inside during public school hours for fear a neighbor might call the truancy officer (if there really was one anymore).  Every few months we would try to hold elaborate gatherings and plays to showcase their work just to prove to the masses we really were doing valid work.  Then....

Let Go and Just DO 
... once we began to just DO what each week and month and year had for us without worrying about the crowd, life and education just began to roll forward.  When I started worrying less about whether others would approve of my teaching method or curriculum and instead invested more in what my husband and I knew God was calling us to teach our children and how to teach it... our homeschool truly became a more content place.  We all had fun and learned and grew in confidence.  Before long we became the dear friends in the audience of our favorite game show as we watched others step onto the stage and WIN in choosing to homeschool after just seeing what the experience was doing for us.

It Won't All Be Perfect 
In all of this I am not saying your homeschool will be perfect if you focus on one or two people and ignore the crowd... goodness no!  But confidence will be more frequent and your walk more consistent.

The Racket WILL Die Down
You will never get away from the nay-sayers, remember... there are always critics! However, as time passes and the people around you notice your perseverance and consistency, they will say less (if anything at all).  Like my mother-in-law, they may see the 'proof in the pudding' and become your biggest advocates!


YOU GOT THIS! 
Seriously, you do.  Some days you will feel like a miserable failure!  Sorry, it is true!!  You will think, 'Gee, I should have listened to the others.' You may fear hearing "I told you so".  Squash all of that though.  You know the ole adage: Rome wasn't built in a day!!  There were successes and failures but in the end we can still go and visit millennia old ruins telling an amazing story.  Your children will be blessed by your focus and persistence.  One day you will be handing them their diploma and marveling at the brainy wonder before you, grateful you didn't listen to the crowd!

The If I Knew Then What I Know Now has been a 3-part series with Part 1 explaining its inception as well as what I have learned about curriculum over the years and  Part 2 explores homeschooling styles.  You can follow the links in text to learn more!

What have you learned in the amount of time you have been homeschooling?

Blessings,





Are you looking for something to help you organize your curriculum scouting for the next school year?  My newsletter for May contained a FREE downloadable PDF packet of printables designed to help you collect your thoughts!  When you sign up with my FREE e-newsletter I will send you May's issue containing this and other great material attached!  Information below....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

I look forward to sharing Faith and Home Times with you!!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Finding Hope and a Book Review


My daughter shared this marvelous quote on Instagram today.

I needed it.

Badly.

I have been in a drought.  Wondering where all the blessings have gone and if, perhaps, I haven't been obedient, causing God to leave me to my own devices.

Yet, I know in my spirit that is just not true.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He leaves the 99 to go after the 1.

So, while I haven't run from God or thumbed my nose at His requests, I have doubted myself, tremendously, lately.  Wondered at my Call.  Questioned if I have purpose.  Realizing, maybe, this is what "mid-life crisis" looks like!

Then He sends whispers.

Oh how I love His whispers in the silence.

He opens my eyes to see the battle... then he points me to the places He IS working, though small, it provides a pin-prick of light.  I remember Hebrews 11 and the hall of faith and the fact that,

...faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

and suddenly, I can't help but keep walking forward!

Perhaps, like me, you are staring at the whole MID-LIFE and changing dynamics phase too... or maybe you are a young mom, trying to figure out how on earth you are going to get the floor mopped today when you can't even stay on top of the dishes... it is all a season, I promise!  

I think, if I am learning anything through all of the struggles this year, it is that, Faith walks forward with hope in spite of what the eyes can't see!

Recently, I had the awesome opportunity to review Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday by Valerie Woerner. I believe it to be the mom's guide to more peaceful Christ-centered living!  
 
Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday: Say Goodbye to Stressed, Tired, and Anxious, and Say Hello to Renewed Joy in Motherhood

I may not be corralling littles anymore, but the dower spirit in this transition of my life reminds me of those early days of parenting when Grumpy Mom made regular appearances and this book reminded me of the importance of sending her out the door!  Mrs. Woerner talks to her readers as friends; sharing her strategies, firmly rooted in scripture, for keeping one's head, finding peace, and being a more joy-filled mama in the moment.  She is REAL, not Pinterest Perfect, the exact dose of what we moms really need!

The entire book feels like a coffee shop hang-out meets women's Bible study as she doesn't just suggest what a mom should be doing in hopes of compliance, but rather, she unpacks what Scripture says about our attitudes and inner-drive to become more like Christ.  Her self-sacrifice of her own shortcomings and challenges as she shares how Scripture and personal revelation have driven her to send 'Grumpy Mom' packing reveals a greater Source for growth and a new and better attitude as Moms.

Her use of The Message translation would be my biggest complaint.  I believe The Message may be refrenced as a secondary source for occasional clarity, however, I argue it's validity as "the Bible" and would prefer other translations and commentaries which do more to promote proper Scriptural understanding.

Grumpy Mom does do well to remind us that it isn't the stream of blessings we are to focus on, but rather, the blesser Himself who can transform our hearts and lives.  HE equips us to send Grumpy, stressed, tired, anxious Mom packing and find joy enough for each day in life and motherhood.  

Are you in a drought or relaxing by a bubbling brook right now?  What has God been ministering to your heart lately?

Blessings,
 






I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House for my review. This review is my opinion alone.


*Are you subscribed to my FREE monthly newsletter?  
You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

I look forward to sharing Faith and Home Times with you!!