Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Going Home

As the light of a home I've known all my life poured out into the darkened suburb walk, familiar and foreign mixed and I couldn't measure whether I had come home or was simply displaced inside of familiar.

Two weeks ago today I touched down on the tarmac of Chicago's O'hare Field.  From a metal bird in the sky like those I watched from my bedroom window growing up, I wondered if one of the many lights below belonged to the home I knew as a child.  Had the flight patterns changed at all in 40 years? 

I was welcomed by baggage claim by a childhood friend.  We shared memories of recess races and I met the fiance, she is marrying late in life after decades of adventures both in and out of ministry.  Then my step-dad, opening wide that door as I reached the top step to the front of this all-to familiar house.  He looked the same, but weary.  No doubt wrestling with that morning's diagnoses of stage 4.

I've been torn since before my flight lifted off the ground in sunny south-central Montana.  Torn between 2 worlds.  The one which holds most my close family members, the ones I spent growing up holidays and family picnics with... the ones I left for the west when I was 18, returning for only brief visits since.  And the one my husband and I have grown in the west.  With kiddos and youth group and Bible camp plans and university graduation plans and garden plans.... Both worlds are me.

If home is where the heart is, how do I reconcile my heart for aging parents and siblings and nieces and nephews with the heart which has labored and birthed blood of my blood and teaching and growing?

This has been my wrestling match in the midst of doctor's appointments and surgeries, and a house planted 60 years ago, watching 3 generations grow old.  I'm needed here... but I am needed there.

Last weekend I had an opportunity to get away.  To make the 2 hour drive outside of the city and into the freshly plowed corn fields of north-western Illinois.  To see, one last time, the house my biological dad built right after I moved away.  The one he and I had dreamt about when I was still in middle-school.  With acres and orchards and gardens for bumper crops.  The one he just sold because my other Step passed away 2 years ago from a similar Sentence. 

Funny how life shifts.  Funny how home changes.

We talked for hours, just me and my dad.  This man whose features and mannerisms I mirror more than either of us readily admit. He took me to dinner before I headed back to the city, back to my surviving Step to care for and keep walking out this Sentence with.  As we drove through the small farm town a church marque caught my eye.  An old familiar verse which seemed to bridge miles:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord
Jeremiah 29:11a

After dinner and good-bye I drove back the 2 hours, listening to Klove and rolling that Jeremiah verse over and over.  Rolling home over and over.  The following morning I dug in deeper...

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, 
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

and this morning, deeper still....

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  
Jeremiah 29:11-13

...and suddenly I knew.  Home is where the heart is.  And when the heart is in Christ, no matter where we go we are home.  Somehow, reading Jeremiah 29 and being reminded that GOD knows the plans he has for me... even if I am confused.... that as Israel was being given this sentence of exiling, God was saying through the prophet that they would come home.  That when they call upon God, pray to him, seek him with ALL their heart... home would come.  Perhaps here it is literally, but for me this week, it became proverbial and beautiful.

Grandpa laid the floor in this 2 city block long V.A. Hospital back when it was first built.  Now my step dad is making regular trips across this piece of history as he battles for life.

Illness, separation, challenges... they are all blips on the map of time.  Tiny spots God desires to use to grow us: first closer to Him and then farther in our Walk.  I never left home, whether at 18 or my 2 weeks ago flight.  Home has always been in my heart with Christ.  I have left the presence of people to pursue the plans and direction God has, but I have never been gone.  We are blessed in this day and age with Skype and face-time and cell phones... the people are still close but no matter where I go, God is always closer.  Home is always here.

Some day I will say good-bye to the last of my parents.  I already have with mom, almost 15 years ago.  My step-mom, 2 years ago.  My step-dad has a chance and may kick around for a while to come, my biological dad is strong and healthy.  Aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and so on.... they have their own 'homes', their own plans and trajectory.  Their home is in their families and, for those who share my faith, in God as well.  We may not be close in body, but we are still family.... as for me and my house.... I'm always home with God.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Homeschool Journal: Poster Power

Our home is... what's the word?  Oh, yeah, cozy.  With a family of 5 (6 when Zach is visiting from college) I have had to learn how to be smart with my use of space.

I'm also sort of obsessive concerned with the aesthetics of the main living area because my heart is in hospitality.  However, our living area is also our school area so the management of this space is often under my own scrutiny. 

When my kids were elementary age not only did we live in a house with a separate 'school room' but I deliberately managed my decor to be kid friendly. This isn't the case anymore though.  Teenagers are a different breed of youngsters.  Yet, I found out recently that certain tricks from their younger years are actually more effective in the older ones.  Or maybe just more effective in our simpler, cozy-home lifestyle!

I'm talking about educational posters.

Currently I have framed, on a cork board, a vintage colored poster of the United States to supplement our studies of U.S. History this year.  I reference it often, as do they.  It nestles next to our magnetic dry erase board, which I would love to have framed in wood so it blends better, but instead it is usually edged out with some sort of seasonal greenery, disguising the schooliness of it all!  A vintage looking globe and pretty basket of dry-erase markers are housed in one corner and an un-knowing onlooker might wonder if it is a school setting, a study setting, a missionaries meeting area, or just a retired teacher's attempt at vintage decor with a modern board in the mix.

This year, however, I found myself utilizing the blank wall space underneath in a more non-traditional way.  Our walls are plaster so I can't pop tacks in them as I use to in other homes.  But I can hang posters and print-outs on magnetic clips positioned on my dry-erase board and that is just what I did.

First, battle maps from the Revolution War took rotations every few days during class.  Then, a miniaturized constitution hung proudly for a few weeks as we moved into the establishment of our country's laws.  As that came down, we were entering our study on Chemistry in our 9th grade Earth Science book and a periodic table I scored at the Dollar Store a couple years ago made it's appearance.  More colorful and less keeping with my subtle tones decor in the main living area of my home, I was nervous about this one.  But I hoped.

My nervousness about this bright poster hanging in our otherwise homey-cozy space?  This same poster had hung in our craft studio where we once did science experiments and art class.  It had hung on our laundry room door in our last house where our school room was set up in our large basement which mostly just got used for computer games and morning get-togethers around the dry-erase for English from the Roots Up lessons... oh, and laundry when that door was opened and closed to the task.  No one seemed smarter on the Periodic Table of Elements for these attempts at subtle education.

Now? We do schoolwork at the same table we eat at and do Bible study at and sometimes have hearty discussions at.  This same intimate dining area is directly connected to our modest living room where the main couch faces the stage of our learning.  To stroll out to our back deck, one must pass through this educational alcove.

My hope was obvious: perhaps, this time, in seeing a study-related poster hanging in it's simplicity where they live and eat and breathe, my children may gaze over throughout the day and reinforce the information.

I tried this when they were younger.  I LOVED putting together billboards (it was always a nod at one of my favored jobs in High School student council).  But I never really noticed info being absorbed.  But now they are older, it was worth one more try.

So, imagine my excitement last week when, as we were having a totally separate, non-science discussion, they began talking about the elements and atomic numbers and relating it to a regular-life observation.  When I asked how they knew that, they explained knowledgeably, they had observed it on the poster I had reluctantly left hanging on the wall.


In the past I had sooooo much on my school room wall and, if I am honest, it was mostly decoration and I rarely ever pointed to it. Maybe part of the problem for them was not knowing where exactly to attend information so they chose not to attend any, other then what I directly taught them.  I just wanted a "school" room with all it's fandangles like I had grown up with and worked in as an adult.  But for my kids, simple and direct and hanging right-where-we were learning was what hit the spot.

There is power in posters.

It helped, too, that I kept drawing their attention to the hanging posters I have used lately.  For Chemistry, I gave them a personal sized one to reference for some of the smaller numbers which might not be so clear from their vantage point.

Poster Power. 

Don't underestimate it!  Don't over-do it either.  There are a lot of great posters out there.  Unless it is a map you are using regularly in your schooling.... or the alphabet or weather chart for those early learners.... (basically, something you are referencing daily throughout the year) my advice is to keep it simple:
  • Pick and hang posters which directly relate to the current lesson
  • Take them down when the unit is complete
  • Check the Dollar Store, you can often find great scores there (my chemistry posters even came with copy-able worksheets on the back which my kids ate up!
  • Reference the information on the poster throughout your teaching sessions, don't just use it as a pretty prop
Have fun!!

Our Homeschool This Week...


Dad had an episode on Sunday and we thought I was going to be flying out even earlier then early!  He is doing better though and surgery is still scheduled for next Friday (the 14th).  I leave this coming Wednesday (the 12th).  Hard to believe.  His doctor's appointments this week and last-minute preparations often interrupted the schooling routine but everyone was great sports about it.  They continued to work on their assigned reading and Brooke even found confidence to self-teach her composition which is great because I am going to be leaving her with a unit to do while I am gone!

On that note, we read through the Civil War battles this week. 

TIP:  Get excited about teaching!  It can make the driest material come to life!  Act shocked, disappointed, even excited as you read about events, actions, and even how things work... even if you already know the info, your kiddos don't and they will be more engaged with your narrations then without.  Also, don't be afraid to pause reading material to share related info in a side-note.

We only have one lesson left in our PACE History booklet on Civil War. I was going to have them work on a Civil War battle map but decided to leave that for them to do when I leave.

We will be ready to wrap up our formal schoolwork Monday so we can hang out together Tuesday and I can start packing since my flight leaves shortly after noon Wednesday.

I won't have anymore "Homeschool This Week" after this one until next school year.  But I will try to get some articles up on schooling and teenagers and how our long-distance learning is going.  So stay tuned!
 While I waited with baited breath Sunday to see if I was catching a quick flight out to help my dad, I worked on a Menu Planning notebook for the girls to use while I am gone.  I got the idea from Pinterest.  As usual, I put my own twist on it!  Included are tips for shopping, tips for cooking and recipes to go with the menu suggestions.  Most of which are family favorites, easy and my own.  I tried to pick recipes the girls have either helped me with enough to know how or ones that would be easy to figure out.  I should really do a photo-shoot and share on Menu Monday!

I attended a Facebook Usborne party recently and decided to order language books for the kids.  They may be high school but I figure it is like Rosetta Stone in book form: pictures with words to associate.  Brooke is fascinated with French and the book came with a reference in the back to help in sounding out the words.  She has enjoyed thumbing through it since it came.

 Thursday we ran some errands and then I took the kids for a rare treat:  ice-cream at a downtown specialty shop.  We had a bit to burn before getting hubby from work so we visited an antiques mall around the corner.  I love that my kids love antiques like I do!  Ashley made a great point: antique malls are like museums but better because you get to touch most of the displays!  I whole-heartedly agreed!!  Great field trip possibilities for older kiddos who are more skilled in not breaking things they touch then younger ones! 

Thursday we also finally captured that illusive haircut.  I forgot how fresh and even more handsome my man-child looks with a cut!

 Weeds were taking over my front gardening area.  A situation I desperately wanted to rectify before I left.  I don't know if my garden will get put in this year with my trip and all the unknowns when cancer is pronounced, but I at least didn't want a garden of weeds to present to the public at large!  The girls helped and between the three of us we made quick work of it after school books were closed on Friday.
 Clearing away weeds and leaves I found a patch of random green onions!  I planted seeds last spring but they never grew.  I thought our outdoor cat dug them up, yet here they are, about 2 feet over from where I put them!
Weeding helped make the flowers POP.  Bulbs planted by the previous owners are super fun to watch bloom in the spring.
Brenden finished his yard work (mowing and raking) and I sent him in to shower while the girls and I finished up.  We looked up from our task to see this in his window!  He is too funny.

 Speaking of things in the window, I planted herb seeds only a week and a half ago to get my window garden re-vamped.  A didn't expect to see them flourish before I left so I was super excited to see little plant babies peeking out. 

What have you been up to this week?


Linking up today with some of these...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In the Beginning and the Power of God's Word

I was watching a video recently in which a man was tritely asked to quantify the existence of God, time and creation.  It was only a clip so I do not know the context or parties involved but I can say; the defender spoke quite well as he confidently explained, in our finite thinking, we cannot truly comprehend an almighty God... we can not quantify something.... or rather, someone.... who is beyond measure.

As he expounded, he quoted Genesis 1:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

He went on to break this down:

beginning = here we see God created time
heavens = God created space
earth = God created, well, earth and the matter all around us

He was clear and concise and, granted, as a Christian I am biased, but I was inspired by his fervor.  I have heard this explanation before, however, it never stops being powerfully beautiful.  And every time the defense of a God-centered creation elicits one of my favorite verses in all of God's Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

John is probably my favorite gospel because of the powerful truths there.  Truths like...

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:16-17

John the Baptist's humble proclamations that:
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:30

The grace-upon-grace filled story of the Woman of Samaria and Jesus speaks a truth which tears down all barriers, prompting her to run and tell the Good News (chapter 4).

In this gospel, Jesus calls out not just the religious elite, but also the self-righteous commoner.  We hear his heart when he declares,
"...I say these things so that you may be saved..." (5:34b)

And as he bares witness, there are all the Truly, Trulies calling attention to the GREAT TRUTHs he came to share.

He speaks to people on judgment and protects the adulteress woman from being stoned.

In John he uses the famous title "I AM" as Moses once heard God self-describe. (8:58)

So much power, precision, symbolism (the correlation between the feasts and Jesus' claims in conjunction to them), and even peace.  Where else is Jesus recorded for FOUR whole chapters in a row giving his last big speech in private with his closest disciples and then praying a powerful prayer which encourages us as Christians to this day.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the word you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Easter (Resurrection Sunday) is in a short week and a half.  I've been so consumed by the Timothy study the kids and are doing and the Hebrews study our pastor is doing, and the craziness of being 'on-call' for cancer (my dad's) and prepping for a 1200 mile journey, and hubby switching jobs...... it is scary-easy to glaze over this momentous day.  I found out yesterday I will be leaving for back east to help my dad a week earlier then planned and will ultimately be spending Easter in a Chicago-land hospital talking with doctors about cancer and recovery and making sure my dad is well cared for.

It almost seemed wrong.  But in the end.... it is absolutely right.  Jesus didn't come for celebrations and traditions... he came to remind the world he was bigger then all that.  He came to serve and save and deliver.... what better place to be on Easter then where all that can be applied?

So this morning I flipped open my worn Bible to the pages of John.  I read, "In the beginning..." and I journaled John 14:27 and I made a commitment within myself to keep on reading John between now and Easter because no matter how worn those pages get... they never get old. 

The epistles may testify to the Glory and teachings of Christ... all of the Bible embodies the Deity and promise of God, but the gospels breathe out his life in clear, crisp, technicolor... something we need to regularly remember in the detail God so brilliantly provided through their authors.  The celebration of Jesus' Resurrection and fulfillment of the greatest promise to man isn't on a Sunday in the spring... it is every day for all eternity.  Yet, I will admit, springtime is a great time to be reminded of the renewal and new Life Jesus came to give.

I pray, wherever you are in God's Word this season, that you are seeing the awesome Power of God's Words, spoken to create life in the beginning, and continuously given through time to renew life even now.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27


Monday, April 3, 2017

Keepers & Menus: The Value of Housewifery and Tips on Cakes

What do you think of the new/re-tooled graphic? I took this picture about 2 years ago while visiting a local founding family's house-turned-museum.  It reminds me of an era-gone-by where women knew their responsibilities in the home were equivalent to managing a business and they took this position seriously and with confidence.  The community at large respected housewives, if nothing else, but because it was the way of life for many women but I also believe they understood a woman's value... especially at the helm of a home.  Even if they had a side job washing laundry for others or teaching piano; housewives, up until the last handful of decades, were respected for their roles of Keepers at Home.

I know I often talk here about the importance of writing up menus, keeping lists, and tracking chores.  But it wasn't until I read this article, Are Organized Records Just Too Overwhelming? at, that I realized the deep roots of my passion for organization:  It isn't just about being organized... it is realizing, like our predecessors did, that if we take our 'job'/calling as housewife seriously, then we ought to set out to work at it as we would a main-stream job.

I imagine I am not alone when I say I struggle with feeling justified for my passion in my 'position' as Domestic Engineer.  We live in a culture which takes the art of Housewifery as a joke... a cop-out from 'real life'.  The "Your just a housewife" mindset has severely damaged the confidence of women everywhere in being (or even thinking of being) a housewife.  Whether we have kids or not is irrelevant.  Taking care of our husbands, our home and, if one is blessed to have them, our kiddos is HUGE.

Reading Saw Publishing's article spoke more then just organizing records... it encouraged me as a housewife to embrace my JOB and to welcome every single idea of domestic managing as not just another tid-bit, but rather, an imperative bread trail leading to complete home management!

Needless to say, I couldn't miss a chance to share this awesome information with YOU so be sure to check out Saw Publishing's article today for some inspiration!  It looks like she has a lot of other great articles and resources as well!

Food from last week...

Thin-sliced steak.  A rare treat in our home because #1, steak is NOT my specialty and #2, it is usually expensive.  I got mine on sale and, strangely, my family LOVES it when I cook steak.  My trick?  1 part Worcestershire sauce + 1 part olive oil + splash of apple cider vinegar + salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Mix around in Ziploc bag or Tupperware container, plop in steak and seal out as much air as you can.  Stick in fridge for an hour, all day, or (best yet) over night.  I use the marinading juices to saute onions and sliced garlic and, when I have them, mushrooms.  I topped my steak with feta and served with boiled potatoes (I boil them in onion soup mix) a salad and some thick-cut fresh bread, toasted with butter.

A word on cake mixes...

It was my birthday last week and Ashley made me a cake.  Her younger, more kitchen confident sister, was going to help but ended up caught in some Algebra.  Ashley didn't want to wait so she steamed ahead.  First of all, the cake was DELICIOUS, I keep dreaming about it, it was sooooo good (triple-chocolate-fudge -- total diet wrecker and worth every calorie!!)  However, upon encouragement from her dad and naivety on both their parts, I felt I would help the world-at-large with some tips I've picked up over the years, should others need it:
  • ONE cake mix box makes 2 square or circle cakes OR it can make one 13x9 cake.  This cake can easily feed 10+ people depending on how big you cut the pieces and if you want left overs.
  • Follow box directions and tips, they are always helpful.  When it tells you to grease your pan, I recommend cooking spray or shortening/lard.  I, personally, find butter as a pan greaser to scorch to bottom of the cake.
  • Unless your box tells you otherwise, only fill pans about half full.  Anymore then that and your cake batter will bubble over and end up caked to the bottom of your oven!
  • ONE container of frosting is enough for a cake if you do a thin layer but TWO containers will allow you to really lather it on. (They did totally got this part right!!!!!  yumbo)
  • Let your cake cool down quite a bit before turning it out of the pan (unless your directions tell you otherwise).  It helps if you use a rubber spatula or butter knife and loosen the cake a long the edges before you take it out.  (13x9's can be a bit trickier, but not impossible, to get out of their pan).
  • To turn a cake out of a pan, place the serving plate upside down on the cake in pan (you should be looking at the bottom of the plate and the top of the plate should be kissing the cake!), holding both the pan and plate, do a quick flip and set the plate down with the pan inverted now on top.  You may need to tap the bottom of your pan to get the cake to loosen some more. Gently lift the cake pan off.  If you are dealing with a REALLY moist cake, don't be discouraged if it falls apart some.  Best thing to do: practice, watch how-to You Tube videos and don't give up!
  • To soften frosting for more spread-ability, use a sturdy butter knife to stir it a bit in the container before spreading onto cake.
  • DON'T ice a cake while it is warm.  The frosting will melt as you go and you will have a hard time getting it to do what you want.  I like to bake a cake the day before I need to use it.  I will turn it out onto a cooling rack or serving tray and cover lightly with a flour-sack cloth overnight.  The cake is then firm and ready to be frosted the next day.
Just because it comes in an 'easy to make' cake mix, doesn't mean it is easy if you aren't use to baking!  Don't give up.  Buy them on sale and keep on trying!!
  By the way, is anyone else playing this game?  Brenden works at Albertsons so we have to get the employee tickets.  As usual, I only have one left to get in most squares!!  But that's not why I am playing.  Brenden wanted me to play and then he tipped me off to one of the cashiers who is REALLY generous with handing them out!!  So, amidst menu planning last week I was opening tickets and managed to score some FREE donuts for the kids and GREAT coupons for food I actually buy!  I'm not laughing at this game anymore, I'm enjoying saving more then I expected!


Menu for this week...

- cereal and blueberries
- waffles
- eggs
- fresh bread with butter and jam

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


BBQ Chicken over Slaw Salad with Baked Potato
Crazy easy:  Grease 13x9 baking dish with olive oil, coat bottom of pan with BBQ sauce of choice, lay in chicken breast, pour more over top to completely coat chicken and pop in oven on 375 for about an hour.  I threw baked potatoes in a dish next to them and hubby and I went for a walk!

My slaw salad is green salad cut to thin strips like slaw with red cabbage and green onions.  I put a bit of ranch and cheese and feta (when I have it) on top and it really makes the flavor in the BBQ chicken POP!


Stroganoff over Mashed Potatoes with Green Beans

Chicken and Cheese Chimichangas with Salad
Roast Chicken with Broccoli Parmesan and Fresh Salad

Burgers with Sun Chips


What are you doing and cooking this week?


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book Review: With Love, Wherever You Are

I have procrastinated this review because it was a tough one.  I received the book, "With Love, Wherever You Are" by Dandi Daley Mackall, at the beginning of March and had all 473 pages read within a few days (even in the midst of a busy schedule)!  It was a page-turner and I want to do this book justice, so let me break-down my reluctance:

"With Love, Wherever You Are" is a mostly true story based on the lives and letters of Mackall's parents during World War II.  Mother, Helen, was a nurse and Father, Frank, a doctor.  They met during basic training, had a whirl-wind romance, and were married after their short courtship.  Soon after, they are sent, separately, to battlefield hospitals in the European theater.  The book chronicles their experiences as well as their attempts to rendezvous amidst the war-time struggles in post-Normandy landing Europe.

What I liked:
Frank and Helen's experiences were palpable.  Feeling their struggles contributed to why I couldn't put it down.  I had to know what would happen next and I couldn't bare to leave them or their patients hanging while I did remedial tasks!! 

It was hard to determine where fact and fiction collided.  Mackall explains in a post-note why she felt the need to embellish certain areas and, I have to admit, while I love a good spot-on historical story, she had a valid point in doing so.  I simply had to resolve that any elaboration only drove the story forward.

I felt the content was well researched as far as the areas where historically significant facts were integrated.  She draws out the dynamics in responses various characters might have had to the issues facing them during the war.

What I didn't like:
I know this was loosely a true story, however, I do wish she had expounded on the transition her parents made in their faith from a religious understanding to a more relational one.  She hints at it in areas but I do wish she would have elaborated that point more as a testimony to others reading the story.

I understand a key point in the plot of this story are the rendezvous her parents are struggling to find.  I also know the intimate issues which would have fed the desire for such rendezvous, even in 1940s relationships... however, I felt a fine line was tip-toed over in some of the details shared in a few of these encounters. 

As a Christian story, I feel it is imperative we don't cause people to stumble in thinking about certain things.  If a single woman is reading this story and the intimate scenes described, even in brevity, it may cause a longing which ought not be awakened or fed outside of marriage.  In the same regard, even a married woman reading of such proximity of the marriage bed can cause her to lust after another character's relations in an unhealthy way.  It is as if to be a peeping tom into someone else's personal life - an act, as Christians, we are admonished against in scripture.

It is for this very reason I sadly have to give this review a lower rating then I wanted to.  I wanted to rave about this book because, outside of the few intimate scenes, I absolutely LOVED it!  But as a Christian woman and mentor, I cannot recommend it to anyone I know for reading and that saddens me most. 

It is also for this reason I didn't even want to share about it on my website.  I don't want to give a negative opinion of someone else's hard and passionate work, especially in a story that is very near and dear to the author... but I do have an obligation, per my contract with Tyndale, to share my honest thoughts of this book on my blog.

I take my blog seriously.  FAITH and Home and the mentoring God gives me to do.  In that light, I do NOT recommend "With Love, Wherever You Are" for reading by the pure-minded Christian woman.


Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review and my honest opinion of the content.

Homeschool Journal: Helping Kids Love Learning

Homeschool is on crunch time since my dad announced he has cancer, prompting me to start plotting and planning my trip 1200 miles east to help out after surgery in late April.  Phone is always on the ready, waiting to hear of the latest test results as each pre-op appointment is completed.

Yet, despite our defunct fall schedule which fizzled and flopped for almost a month and a half, we may actually manage an early out this year on most subjects (Contrary to a previous announcement, I'm hoping to just leave the kids with some history reading and writing as well as some science research).

In the midst of the Big Push to wrap up all other areas of study in a punctuated time frame I have been blessed by GREAT attitudes from my kids'.  If anything, I have caught them moaning over missing out on some of those non-essentials!  True story.  Upon reflecting I recognized it wasn't a fluke... they are genuinely excited about their homeschool high school experience.

Please, don't think I am trying to paint a rosy picture of every day spinning through beautiful mountain-top fields singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music...."  If only every moment of every day were that spectacular!  HA! No. What I am talking about is overall contentment.  Maybe it stems from that deep-down knowing that school is necessary and, like it or not, it will get done and we might as well like it!  Maybe it is something else.  Whatever the source of this good attitude, what I do know is; I have always tried to foster an attitude of love for learning.

How do you help your kiddos like, or even love, learning?

First off, there is no magic formula... sorry!  Every kid is different.  Some will tackle schoolwork with exuberance while others will drag and whine.  Another hard fact of life!  However, I believe there is hope:

Younger years
One thing I have observed over the years with four very different learners under my roof is, while the younger years may be easier by way of simple materiel and loaded with more hands-on "fun" projects, children in this stage tend to make less of an association with the value of education: whether homeschool or public school.  All they know is that their favorite toy is beckoning them in one direction while you are calling them in another.

I know, that is not helpful... but perhaps it can be hopeful.  I seem to remember battling more whining and complaining in elementary school then I have in middle and high school.  I may not have been able to impress upon them, in those early years, how important their education was... but I could regularly remind them that it was with a plea of 'trust me, mom knows' and then; I could make it fun!

Ultimately, I have learned, while some text learning is imperative like spelling and math and the mechanics of writing, much learning can be done solely or supplementally through hands-on activities.  Engaging children in the process of learning and giving them choices in some of their activities, will plant the seeds to empower them as self-learners. It will also water them with the possibility of at least tolerating (if not loving) the learning process.

Another aspect during this stage is helping children feel successful.  It can be discouraging when you just can't get something... or worse, when you think you have got it only to find out you failed.  I'm not saying sugar coat the truth, that won't solve anything.  However, encouragement, taking a break when a child is overwhelmed, slipping in easier problems here and there, or tackling the work from another angle are all options to help them taste some success.

It also helps to know what kind of learner your child is
  • Visual Learners: Prefer to see info and to visualize the relationships between ideas
  • Auditory Learners: Prefer to heat info rather than reading or seeing it displayed visually
  • Reading/Writing Learners: Learn best when reading and writing!  Interacting with text is more powerful for them than hearing or seeing images
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Hands-on, experiential learners, they learn best by doing
If you are trying to teach a visual learner by only giving them books to read and worksheets to do, you are fighting an uphill battle.  You may have a great idea of how you want to teach something but if it doesn't fit with your child's learning style, both of you will be miserable with your homeschooling experience. 

The web is full of resources for determining your child's learning type and tips for how to teach to it.... it is also good to know YOUR learning style because it directly affects your teaching style.  Don't feel like you and your child HAVE TO have compatible learning styles in order for you to teach them.  Again, resources are available to help you understand how to help your child best. 

Later years
As children hit around 7th grade and on, I feel it is important to bring them on board with choosing curriculum and listening to them express interests in how they would like to pursue the material.  As homeschoolers we have a great deal of luxury here and I do recognize public school really only allows a student to select class subjects but not content.  However, let's be realistic... our students aren't going to public school and the potential next step for them is college, where you do actually have a great deal of choice.  You not only choose your courses, but you can also choose instructors based on their teaching style and many college homework projects leave a great deal of room for personal pursuit in the topics.  So why wouldn't we prepare our kids for that?

Yes, some testing and subject lay-out has to come from us, as their instructor.  However, the more opportunities your budding pupil has to be a part of his or her learning experience plans, the more excited they will be about their education.

Not only should we encourage them to voice ideas on curriculum, but we should also have good discussions about routine and schedule.  Agreeing on a 4-day school week verses a 5-day school week.  Planning lessons year round or with summers off.  How often to take breaks (days or weeks off).  Even what time to start school work for the day and if subjects should go in specific order.

It is what I shall call the broccoli or green bean theory: you need to cook a vegetable with dinner and they have to eat it so let them pick which one.... the same goes for homeschooling.  Know what YOU are able to do both curriculum and schedule wise.  Jot down some notes of options you are prepared to bring to the table, then, open up the discussion.  Be flexible for good ideas they may think of as well.  Discuss pros and cons to the various options and finally, make your decisions as a family, compromising if necessary.  Teens benefit long-term from learning this kind of diplomacy and logic behind planning.

No Matter the Age or Grade
Above all:  pray and make God and His Word the center of your homeschool. 

Pray for their love of learning... pray for wisdom as you teach and wisdom for them as they learn... pray for peace in the rough patches.  Pray together over each school day.  Pray together over decisions.  Prayer is the power which fuels a blessed homeschool!

As Charles Spurgen wisely said:
"When the home is ruled according to God's Word, Angels might be asked to stay with us, and they would not find themselves out of their element."

Our Homeschool This Week...

It is hard to believe, as we wrap up this week, but I only have 2 weeks of school left with them before I start packing leave.  I bought my ticket this past weekend and I leave in THREE Wednesdays.  It will be here FAST.

I'm excited we were able to hit the Civil War right-on-schedule and will wrap-up our PACE text in plenty of time.  We are all reading Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.  It is a page-turner if you haven't already read it.  Turns out the stories are based on ones the author's grandfather shared with her from growing up!  Makes it even more exciting.  Both the kids are LOVING it.  We plan to have a book discussion on it at the end of our Civil War studies.

Our Chemistry unit is just about complete.  I was nervous about teaching it because I always remember Chemistry being a dry subject in high school... however, we have all pleasantly enjoyed it.  I plan to share next week how POSTERS pay off in homeschooling, because of this unit!
Last week we did an experiment on diffusion, I love these beakers I found at the annual homeschool used book sale last year!

Algebra is coming along great as well. I was stuck on a particular topic in Linear Equations because it has been quite a while since I last taught/used it - if I have one complaint about ABeka, it is the lack of clear instruction in some areas.  However, a quick search on YouTube kicked out an extraordinary video and we were working problems like pros! We are set to start roots and get more done in that unit then I originally anticipated.  I do wish we could have taken more time with the text so far, and so do the kids, but I know a lot of the topics we are skimming through will come back in Geometry and Trigonometry.

 My birthday was Tuesday.  Yes, I'm 43... that may either seem like a big number to you or a small one, but to me... it's just a number!  Every day I get to walk with Christ and glorify Him here is a blessing.... someday I will worship him and stand in his presence there.  Oh, Glory Day♥ The above is from Brooke.
 This picture came out of Brenden's brain, through his pencil and onto a piece of paper just for me.  He amazes me.
 The girls put together this ditty!  Ashley baked, Brooke decorated.  Hubby said they couldn't put 43 candles on the cake because it was a fire hazard!  Where is his sense of adventure?!  Ha!
He also encouraged some left-over cake to be done-up a bit differently.  To his chagrin, Brenden labeled it "Dad's Cake"... as if my per-diabetic husband needed it!  It was all good fun though.  More on these two beauties in my upcoming Menu Monday post.

Speaking of wild and crazy ideas... what about this hair?!  The man-child needs a haircut and things keep coming up before I can get him in!  Brooke and I couldn't stop giggling on Tuesday during "class" discussion and he couldn't understand why, so I snapped a shot and showed him the results of his nonchalant fingers-through-the-hair stretch mid-discussion!

On a classier note, Brooke was dressed for youth group and wanted to do a mini-photo-shoot.  I still hope she starts that teens fashion blog someday!

And finally, super excited about these.  Every year a church down the road from us does a HUGE book sale - no exaggeration - 50,000+ books.  I thought I heard all the funds go towards missions.  I stashed some cash for the kick-off, on my birthday no-less.  Got 3 complete literature sets and a bunch of other awesome finds including a book with prints on Norman Rockwell.  And all of these goodies totaled out at (drum roll please.....) $19 flat.  Seriously.  I was super excited, especially considering some of these volumes were going to be needed for Brooke's Junior year literature class and a good number of them are sturdy antiques!

What have you been up to this week?