Monday, April 30, 2012

Journey vs. Destination


I am often asked "how", most moms are.  "How do you do this?" or "How do you complete that?"  It is a good question we should all ask each other at times... one which inspires us to grow and learn and help one-another.

One of these "how" questions I get periodically requires a deeper answer than the question would indicate:  "How do you delegate screen time?  How do you inspire your kids to read?"

I am of the mindset that children should do because they are intrinsically motivated to.  But one factor in intrinsic motivation that is often overlooked is the push that is required to set a thing in motion.

I struggled with rewarding my children for their work.  We can not afford allowance (a missionary's budget requires lessons in 'making due' not 'do we make it').  I have tried to set goals like outings but the weather would fall through or the outing would require finances we didn't acquire... it was all so frustrating.  I needed consistency and I needed my children to learn the value of dedication without only seeking a reward as a result.

Then God reminded me that HE rewards those who are faithful... those, who (as Paul would say) run the race:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 
- James 1:12

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.  
-2 Timothy 4:8

Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life
- Revelation 2:10b

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory
-1 Peter 5:4

You get the idea.  There are many more crowns that God promises us as the result of our devotion and steadfastness to His glory, His kingdom here.  But it is a balance.  It isn't "working" for work's sake because we expect something.  It is working for the Kingdom come only expecting HIS glory and HIS honor, not our own.  Knowing, as a result, that we grow in faith, knowledge and understanding of our Lord through our obedience and doing what is right.  Knowing that He does reward us here with blessings of all kinds, but striving regardless because we seek the blessing of peace and hope and renewal.

I could teach my children this same concept.  To encourage them to renew their minds through reading good books.  To show them that a goal sought after and reached comes with reward and good tidings not just physically but also spiritually.  Yet, more than anything, to hope and pray as I set our goals that through the process they might find it isn't the goal that rewards them most but the journey they make to get there.

God has been faithful.


It started like this:

We use to track minute-for-minute the time my children read and rewarded it with "screen time"; gaming system or computer as well as movies that were not shared as a family.

But we quickly exhausted of this and had greater headaches then rewards.  The children would read just enough to get by in order to do just what they wanted to do and no more.

Failed.

We tried a similar concept daily.

Failed

Finally, after much deliberation and prayer we went with a weekly system.


From Monday morning through Friday around 3:30 pm the children each have a reading goal based on their abilities.  There is NO screen time during the week which is non-school related.  This rule provides ample time for reading, playing and generally using their minds and bodies for things other than vegging.


What counts?
  • Reading assignments in their school work
  • All extra, self-initiated reading (i.e. books and magazines)
  • Bible reading (though my youngest son opts not to count this and we accommodated him on that)

Again, you get the idea!



They get a slip of paper or cheep bookmark each week to keep track of their time on. (I get a package of them at the dollar store and it will lat us a year).  On Friday we take everyone's minutes and tally up.  To keep it fair, since they each have different requirements, we subtract out their personal goals to see how much they have gone over (rarely do they not go over!)


The "winner" gets first dibs on the computer or other opted screen.  And play proceeds from there.  They get 1-2 hours per day from Friday-Sunday depending on weather and schedule of other events.

We have used this system all year long and the only adjustment has been to the time required for each of my children in their daily reading.


The biggest rewards?

  • My youngest daughter opts out of her computer time in order to spend more time reading because...
  • they all have discovered the sheer joy of a good book and search after it more than ever before...
  • they are growing in knowledge and understanding of all things, creating that intrinsic aspect I so desired from the beginning.

Proof that God rewards us here.  And I am eternally grateful of this display.


To reward or not to reward, that is up to you.  As for me and my household.... we aren't working for crowns but we certainly feel blessed by His presence... enjoying the journey while looking forward to the destination... and I pray you may know the same.

Deepest blessings,

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Working Schedule

It starts with this statement:  What is... and what isn't working.

This is a necessary question to ask if we are to stay off the path of "overwhelmed" and on the path of "progressing to a goal" in the world of learning at home.

This year, praise be to God, we have had much less 'overwhelmedness' than in previous years.  Perhaps, as I have heard, each school year we grow into a rhythm that only needs smaller adjustments with the advancing ages and stages of children.

Our school year is going to wrap up in the end of May and some unexpected bumps have entered the path.  However, we are determined to take the blessings of this year and finish strong... even if adjustments are needed again and "strong" doesn't look quite like the schedule hanging on our bulletin board.

How did we get here, to this place of actually feeling nearly "complete" without completely feeling overwhelmed?  It started with the opening question... and then traveled down a winding path (I don't want you to mistakenly believe we are getting it ALL right - we are FAR FROM a "perfect" homeschool!)

To articulate direction, I make a list:
Being honest.  I consider attitudes, curriculum, days of the week, times of the day, etc...

Then I add these two thoughts:
It is amazing, when we stop to consider, how often our 'bad days' are the result of what day it is.  Such as....

- Monday, just coming off the weekend, are the kids poky and not wanting to get their 'move' on?
- Friday, the weekend is practically here, are the kids antsy and unfocused anxious to be done?
- Are there certain days with evening activities that cause the kids to be tired the  next day or dreading a loooong day ahead?

I write it ALL out:

It has been in asking all of these types of questions that I found my way to our schedule this year.  And this is what has [mostly] worked:

Mondays, fresh out of Sunday, we ALL have a hard time getting our brain in the game.  They enjoy no alarm (and I get extra Bible study time!) though they usually rise by 9 a.m.  Breakfast, chores and devotionals are always at the foremost of each day. Then they look over the week's spelling words, write them three times, read for 20+ minutes, play a math game and practice typing.  Total "school" time: 1-1.5 hours.  Then the day is theirs (and I have time for working on ministry projects!).

Tuesday is a regular school day.  After easing into our week we are all ready to hit the ground running.  Devotions and the 3R's begin by 9 am (on a good day!!) and last till 11:30 with one midway 10 minute break.  Back to work between 12:30/1:00 we tackle history in various forms and plug away till between 3:30/4:00 with one 10 minute break halfway through.  Tuesdays are late nights for all of us (10pm bedtime) because of ministry.  The kids are rewarded by breaking up the long day with a movie after dinner while my husband and I attend to ministry.

Wednesday after Tuesday's late night, the kids enjoy an eclectic day. No alarm for kids and after breakfast/chores/devotion they have a small amount of schoolwork and extension projects left from Tuesday or prep for Thursday (such as science videos on topics we will be doing projects or worksheets for on)  I often have them do map work on Wednesdays too because they don't usually need me for that, I am then able to spend Wednesday "working" with our ministry projects and merely checking in periodically on their progress.  Spelling practice, math games (rarely workbooks on Wednesdays) and reading are some quick basics they are expected to tackle.  Total "school" time: 2-3 hours

Wednesday the younger two have AWANA (Bible club) and Ashley has Youth Group.  We typically don't get home until 8:30/9:00 so I try to go easy on them so they don't feel overwhelmed or burnt out at the midway point.

Thursday is our upside down day.  A 'typical' school day only they get to sleep in a half hour later on account of the night before and we do science in the morning, holding off the 3R's until the afternoon where we dig into our textbooks while hanging out at the library... a fun way to get out and about. "School" starts at 9:30ish with the typical breaks and lunch, we finish by 3:30/4:00.  On our way home we run errands.  After  dinner we typically review spelling words to prep for our test.  (I will have to write a separate article on why/how we spelling test... it isn't entirely typical)

Friday is hyper day... kids are READY for the weekend (and so is their mom!!)  To accommodate we have a sort of half-day.  Typical morning; eat/chores/devotions/math... and then.... spelling test, learning log and time enough to read.  After lunch we try to work on science projects, do some art or pop in some concentrated home-ec... like bake cookies!  We even use this time for field trips.  By 3:00 we tally up reading time for the week, which earns them screen time on the weekend (computer, video games, movies, etc) and they are FREE of those restrictions until Monday.

September's Schedule

January's Schedule!
Sometimes change is good!

It is an intense schedule.  One which needed some change because certain aspects just weren't working by the year's halfway point.  I have guarded our schedule, in its various forms, from outside intrusion quite diligently this year.  However, it is, at times, interrupted by sick kids, appointments and needs... and on some days it is interrupted by snow storms with snowman building and sledding trips or sunshine with t-shirts on and bicycle rides.

We also try to take a week off once a month because the other tid-bit on one of my "NOT working" lists was too many days of school with no break = burnout.  The 3 1/2 day "school" week is a result as well.

We enhance all the in-between time by not allowing screen time during the school week and certain toys are relegated to "after school" hours so they are not a distraction.  It may seem a bit extreme but has resulted in more quality reading time, art (they all love to draw), playing games and so on. 

The thing is; we are always dedicated to learning... but we are not always dedicated to learning the same way.  If all we get in is our Bible lesson and a lot of quality family time; it has been chalked up as a successful day.

Does feeling the need to get a lot of academic stuff done stress me out?  Sometimes, yes.  I'm sure you notice it here on my Friday articles at times!  But do I let it really get to me and stick?  Absolutely not.  There are more important things to invest my time in than worry... I pray that nasty stuff away as soon as it starts!

So don't worry on your schedule or daily ta-dones... even as this school year rounds out for many.  Focus on each true success, no matter how big or small, how few or how many... Focus on Jesus and His vested interested in your homeschool and know; if His Kingdom is finding glory in your house, every minute of every day is a success.

Be blessed not stressed as this school week wraps up!





Minor details and side-notes of this schedule in action, see Check Points, Where's The Paycheck, Leaning Into the Oars, and Leaving Margins.


Linking up with Sue today:


as well as Kris:


Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Kingdom Come

Yesterday I wrote on KOG about a controversial topic in today's age of compromise and political correctness within the church:  Compromise or Common Ground.  It is a passionate subject of mine which God has burdened my heart to speak on.  To be the true church and not a shadow of, standing behind secular society afraid to be spotted.

Too much of our faith is in danger in the current world political climate.  It sneaks into the small things said and the big things left unsaid in the Christian Community.  But we were created and put in this time to affect change and bring a Kingdom not of this world.

As I wrote the article, this song came to mind and I wanted to share it here today.  Whether or not you like this type of music, it is the words which are most profound and give cause for thought:


May God's Kingdom come into your heart today and issue forth through all you do.  For then, where you are, His Kingdom will be.... something to think about.








Linking up with a different Michelle at Intentional.Me :

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time in the Closet


But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 
- Matthew 6:6

The "room" Jesus spoke about here was most likely a reference to the prayer shawl and to the needed time of private prayer.  It caused me to ponder the value of the time we set aside to devote in private prayer... whether sitting at our bedside, the dinning room table, or alone on the couch.  We don't need to go into a "closet" or necessarily under a shawl (though that is always an option!).  The point is to take time alone and focus on the Lord.


Why?


Relationship.


What if you determined you were too busy to spend time alone with your husband?  More-so, you did this for an extended period of time... a day, 3 days, a week... more.  How would your relationship be?




It is much the same with God.  When we determine to not set aside that quiet, alone, prayer time, we are detaching from our source of all hope and help and comfort and celebration in our life.  Over time, his messages to our hearts, our reception, and ultimately our relationship deteriorates.  


We should never be too busy not to pray.  

Can't seem to get alone with the Lord?  Worst-case-scenario there is the bathroom, the car on the way to the store, or even literally a closet (I have done that a few times in desperation!)


Let us be desperate for His presence by being desperately in prayer.  Don't miss a day!!  He is faithful, let us be faithful too.


Be blessed in prayer,





God used prayer to transform my life in some most profound ways.  You can read about it in "Testimonies; The Power of Prayer" by clicking below: 

Linking up today with






Shawl image from stock.xchng
Praying hands image created by my sweet husband :)