Monday, October 31, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays #361-380

 October has been a whirl-wind month.  Full of firsts and lasts and special moments indescribable.  While not all have been wonderful, many have been transforming and I am thankful for each and every part...

 ... like the 17 year old, marching for mom for the last time (the serious one on the far end!).  I could have cried, knowing graduation is so close and the once 9 year old learning how to hold those drum sticks can now wield them with acute efficiency... I will miss those drumming hands and handsome face when next fall comes and he starts life anew, likely two states away.

 ... yes, I will even miss that goofy chili eating face and the annual band chili feed with the whole family!  God has blessed us that, having one public schooler, we have an amazing music department and devoted band teacher who makes all his students feel important and their parents grateful for such a great leader (and fun activities the entire family can attend!)

... These faces are here to stay... for a while anyway.  I am reminded, over and over, how grateful I am to God for blessing my scared womb with four more children then doctors said I should have had.

 ... for a school year still on track (and I pray continuing on track) to do fun projects like edible solar systems with children still imaginative enough to think of a happy sun shining down on them and their Son filled hearts.

 ... for time out of our tiny room and in the vastness of our local library.  Librarians who smile sweet smiles and listen to 8 year old girls share the latest book they are reading, as if a little girl's synopsis was what she came to work for that day!

 ... October, for me, brings another sweetness.  Each time I bake my heart warms with the oven and I often think of women, century-after-century, with skilled hands and determined hearts to give their families more than required and all because Faith calls them to love and work and live like Proverbs 31

 ... the second greats blessing this month was my hearts prayer for local apple trees and bushels of the round red beauties for pies and cakes, reserved in my freezer for such a time.  Then God answered the groanings of my spirit with pre-picked boxes full and at no charge.  My freezer is slowly filling and, while I would have gladly stood on ladders, my body does not ache from a long picking day.

... but the first greatest, dearest, sweetest blessing (tied with the celebrated memory of my wedding day at month's beginning) was the 5 day/4 night retreat God divinely provided for me and family.  Hours filled with family games, long private talks for me and dear sweet hubby and equally long private talks between me and the Father.  For lessons taught to an eager heart and beauty glimpsed both here and eternally.

I am but a humble servant.  Month-by-month I seek to glorify him with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind... and all my fingers can tap on this simple little keyboard.

I pray your October has been blessed... both in the memorial and the pivotal.... the good and the bad... God can use it all.

Bless you sweet friends,

*I am counting my blessings, you can too....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Silence Found, Peace Restored

It is in the quiet that we often hear the most.  Where God's sweet, soft voice fills our hearts and our ears.  It was the quiet I sought over the last two weeks as Faithful Homeschool lay silent.  Not quiet from you, my dear readers, but from myself as I worked at His leading instead of allowing myself to be led by Him.

On retreat with my dear family, away from phones, to-dos, school books and big screens... we walked, we played, we shared, we prayed.  Sweet peace descended and God's voice grew louder.  The view without became reflected within and in a little cabin, shored in by lake and framed in by mountain I saw the path again.

A retreat like that may not be possible again for a long time.  But the lessons and speakings of the Spirit to my heart will be carried as long as I choose to follow and remember.  My greatest prayer is to do His Words justice as I share here each week.  Allowing His Truths to unfold here with you, I pray that you may feel the sweet serenity of His great Peace there where you are.  In front of computer screens in living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens. 

As I sat in the quiet and prayed mid-week, the Spirit put this song on my heart.  I share it with you now, that you may close your eyes and be enveloped in His blessed peace.

God bless you dear friends.  May you have a lovely and Spirit filled weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why is Eternal

It has been a rough few weeks season.  It is funny how our ideas of something and how it should go, how it should be, are often the farthest from what God intends.  I stand asking myself, 'am I doing the right things, in the right place, at the right time'?

The pastor, on Sunday, reminded us that what we do may change but why we do it should be eternal.

Somehow that statement brought me peace.  A continuing message in my life lately as elements of what I do keep changing even thought why I do it doesn't.

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.  
- Galatians 6:9-10

I blog because I feel God has a message he wants me to share.  I want to be a vessel.  

Yet, lately, interruptions of varying kinds stifle my ability to share.  My virtual attendance is irregular.  To-dos seem to pile in front of my keyboard and my heart cries out to share, to type, to breathe the words that stir inside each day.  

I wait for time, I pray for all of you.  Quality time with my children and understanding more clearly what I need to be doing are at the core of my prayers as well.  I feel as though God has me changing focus, but I don't understand clearly yet to what.  

If my 'attendance' online is sporadic, I hope you will know, this time off-and-on is spent loving on kids, planting seeds and investing in hope.  This time is spent clearing that to-do pile in front of the keyboard and asking God why it is there and what he desires I do.  This time in-between is for His Glory so when I am here, His Glory may be known.

I am still here... even if not as much as I was.  I hope and pray for you and I will pop in as often as I can to share about our homeschool and the things God is putting in my heart.  In-between I welcome contacts and comments and my hope is that your heart hears clearly why God calls you and that you know each day what He wants you to do with your calling... even if what is ever-changing!

God Bless you!

I will actually be taking the next two weeks to contemplate and pray, seeking God in some major and minor changes in our lives right now.  Our family is being blessed with a retreat the week of the 24th.  When we return, I pray that special revelation will have come, that I might be able to share more here again! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays: Wedding Anniversary Addition!

It was a crisp autumn day in October, 13 years ago.  I carried a 4 month old girl on my hip, dorned in creamy lace, a 4 year old 'young man' walking at my side, clenching a gray velvet box that held the circles that would weave our lives together 'Till death do us part'.  We looked more like a christening party then a wedding party on that day, the boutonnieres and bouquet were our only give-away.

The arbor we had hoped for was dead and drab with sleeping rose stems.  But the old wood gazebo by the rickety bridge shrouded by trees was lovely in the autumn veil.

A justice of the peace administered the vows.  The years of turning my back on God were slowly coming around, but not enough to bare witness under a steeple with a real Minister of vows.

As rocky years tumbled by, the old gazebo torn down and replaced, it became a symbol of our life together....

... our love took blows, our lives traveled hardships of many kinds, but our faithfulness to each other did not fail.  Like the foundation under the gazebo, it had not failed, only the structure needed to be re-worked.  So, to, our ways of old were tore down and new ways were built on the foundation where we once said, "I Do".

Our faith in God grew, first me, years later came him.  More children piled up in between, all raised in the Word of God as my years of running away faded and my time of running towards became enriched.

I trusted God with my marriage, with my then wayward husband.  And God did not fail.  HE never fails, even when we do.
When I thought the night would never end, God shined a light and the years of anniversary happenings grew and my heart-felt celebration in them grew too.

Two months ago my husband and I witnessed a union of a dear old friend and a dear new one.  Destitute but desperately in love and desiring to do right by God, they went to the justice of the peace; their turn to take old lives with kids already made, battles being fought, and transform into a hope in something new.
My husband and I looked down at our ringed fingers, 13 years coming close, our rings even baring the scars of our tumultuous beginning.  We felt God's peace and we knew the whisper of our hearts, 'these two must have a symbol of their beginning, an outward sign of their vows exchanged today.'

With that, we removed the worn gold from our fingers and, as witnesses, prayerfully placed them in hands in time to vow.

Yes, this is right, this is good.

Yet as the months have passed since our heartfelt sacrifice, I have wondered at how my previous life; before marriage, son from another husband, daughter created before vows exchanged, if it would haunt me as people saw me with a passel now and no ring.  Will God be judged through me and my lack of outward proclamation to claiming a Christian life if I did not look a Christian wife?

I do not judge others this way.  But, as a missionary and representative of God, I wondered if I should be sure my outward showed my inward.

At storage yesterday, retrieving the winter clothes, I dipped into my mother's amour, bequeathed to me when she passed.  A gold circle, only ornamental, lay in the felt lined drawer.  I will take it, I will wear it, it will show I am right with God.

This morning, as hubby and I talked, he reminded me that I was covering up an opportunity to witness.  To share how lives were changed and a sacrifice was made because we no longer trusted a ring to symbolize our love... we only trusted God and the hearts he gave us for each other.  I guiltily removed the gold.

Two hours later, the once 4 month old, now 13, drew us back to where she hid a secret gift...

... she knows love is not a thing, but she knows she loves her mom and dad.  She does not know where we have been and how far we have come, but she does know what the symbol means... and it means something to her too.
So she made these.  My wire crafting, artsy, dear.  With her two hands, some tools and strips of gold.  She wove in love the symbols of love that all couples hold dear.

I placed it on my finger and I instantly felt ashamed.  For thinking I had to prove something.  For assuming I had to show.  For thinking I had to do something God was already working on himself.  I realized in that moment that no peace of metal could mean near as much as that one she had made with her own two hands.

My finger is not bare, as I wake and celebrate 13 years.  It would have been OK if it was... but God knew my heart and he put it on the heart of my daughter's to make that reflection complete.

My gratitude today, and not so miscellany, is nothing less than...

... God, who cares about what matters... even when it shouldn't!
... My husband who, even through the hard times, never took the weaker route of running away.
... My darling daughter who no longer likes lacy things but certainly loves us and makes us proud.
... My life, for each breathe as a gift to be a mother, a wife, and His child.

May God's love shine inside and out in your life this week... in a multitude of miscellany ways!


*I am counting my blessings, you can too....

My testimony of how prayer transformed my life and renewed my hope for a true Happily Ever After.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Time To Organize: Curriculum Edition

It is that time of week again.  After thinking and praying on this one, I was reminded that I had promised back in August to share how I assemble my lesson plans! 

I do not know if my manner of planning is unique... I do know, by observation, I tend to do things a bit differently then most.

I am a curriculum junky.  I am trying to recover!  Last year I spread the table full of books and worksheets in order to assemble a complete curriculum for the year.  It was borderline overwhelming and, while it worked (mostly), it was a lot to cart around and keep track of.  Especially when we moved. 

This year, as I spread my addiction out across the table, (much of it I have been blessed with for FREE) I began to see a need for change.

I bet you thought I was exaggerating until you saw the pictures!  And this was just Language Arts!

There are so many good books and programs out there, picking one was hard.  But picking one brought me peace.  Praying over, realizing, and seeking that which would grow my children not only in knowledge of man but in knowledge of God was what helped me narrow down the choices.

Organization was so much easier once I committed to that course and selected what I would stick with.

The "Our Homeschool" page on this website explains our curriculum for this year.  Much simpler than last year!  No more 5 books per kid, per subject!  But what I picked is not my focus here... it is how I organized it...

I keep notes each year.  At the beginning of the year I take a notebook page, I pray over the year and I journal what we hope to achieve based on what God puts on my heart as most important for focus.  This helps give us a bulls-eye to pick and shoot our arrows of education at!

I also journal any thoughts at the end of the school year as to what did/didn't work and possible ideas for the following year.  My notes usually only take up 1-2 pages and I keep them in the back of my lesson planning binder.

 It is amazing how the little bit of time I take for those few notes really blesses and reminds me and grows our homeschool from year to year.

Next I take my year in overview.  This helps me to see, like a road map, where our year will take turns.  Weeks off, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas break, and other events that will require planned time off.  I don't like to start new units the week before a break.  This helps me to avoid doing that.  I simply shade weeks or days off and draw small images to indicate other areas we might want to center some lesson plans around like seasons, holidays, etc.

And finally, I start planning!  I use what I call a 'list method' for writing lesson plans.  I have tried to plan them according to days, like a traditional public school teacher might.  However, I have found those types of plans more difficult to keep in a homeschool environment and all of our plans, like a house of cards, quickly come tumbling down.

If kids are sick (or  mom is sick!) or we have to go somewhere; a week planned in a weekly planner keeps all the subjects so intertwined you can't untangle them without upsetting the balance.  (Not referring to holistic Notebooking or Unit plans, which I completely love!  I have a system for those too!)  With all subjects on one page, missing an afternoon or entire day or even week, would cause me to have to re-write the missed lessons into the next week and my entire planner began looking like a muddled mess.

List planning allows us to plan chronologically.  Unlike the traditional planning, if we miss a beat the whole rhythm is not off.  We just pick up where we left off... no re-writing or scribbling out in the lesson planner!  I simply put a check-mark in the far right column when the lesson is done.

These were last year's plans.  I do color code the units/lesson numbers in the left column to see where one begins and ends.  I also notate where we hope to be in conjunction with holidays and breaks but this is not inked or set-in-stone.  I try to remember to stay flexible and even plan some down-time in case we are a bit off.

A homeschooling mom once said, "If you can't fit that science in every day, give it a couple of hours one day a week and forgo other subjects."  I do this if we start falling behind in an area.  We simply take a day off to pace ourselves towards catching up in that one subject.

The other thing I do on my lesson plans is write in a KEY at the bottom of the page to abbreviate other materials we may be referencing or using through out the year.

For example, this year all of the kids are using Learning Language Arts through Literature but we are also using Write Source for reference and lesson enhancement.  We have a workbook as well for skill practice.  The lesson plans on a day with all these materials might say something like:

L.A. p 35 #1a, WS p.91,wb p.5

It is much quicker to write into my lesson plans this way and if I forget because we haven't used a particular book in a while it is easily found at the bottom of the page. 

Any lessons that required worksheets are also referenced and housed in a file ear-marked with the lesson number.

A month into the school year and I can honestly say this system has blessed us and saved this mom A LOT of time.  Last year I would spend almost all of Saturday collecting worksheets, filling out incomplete lesson plans and preparing for the following week.  It took up a lot of space and time. Not always fun when other things might be going on.

Yes, I would love all this done for me.  However, buying lesson plans AND teacher manuals AND student texts and workbooks is much too far outside my budget.  I LOVE to organize (I bet you didn't know that!) and feel God has gifted me with that desire so I can take what I can afford or find and make it something more.

It took me 2 weeks to organize 5 subjects for 3 kids for an entire year.  I feel it was time well invested.  I do believe next year will take even less time since a few days of those 2 weeks were spent coming to terms with the fact that ALL those materials did NOT need to be used and then figuring out what to PURGE!  Next year I will gladly and readily submit to the simplicity it took me so long to come to terms with this year!

My kids, if they knew, would thank me for this.  They are really enjoying school this year, even more than previous years.  And so is this teaching mom!

To download and use any of these forms just click on the links below:
Year at-a-glance
Lesson Plans (Front Page)
Lesson Plans (xtra pages)

I pray all your school days are simply and prayerfully organized.  Remember, God cares about your organized homeschool too!  Let Him help you, it is never too late to start!