Category Archives: family

London and Paris Trip

As I’ve stated many times before, one of the marvelous things about homeschooling is the flexibility and freedom it provides. I am a very schedule-oriented person, however, and don’t often take advantage of that flexibility. I was very thankful for it a few weeks ago though when Josh announced he would be going to London for work and that he would love to take me along with him. After initially thinking we couldn’t possibly do that, it occurred to me that there’s no reason why we couldn’t. The kids could easily go and stay with their grandparents in Houston and enjoy their time there without the burden of needing to do school because I’ve scheduled in frequent weekly breaks throughout our year that I could easily use to make up for any lost time. It’s just so great to not have our plans dictated by a school district’s calendar. The kids had a blast on their impromptu week-off and we were able to take advantage of a great opportunity to share an amazing experience together.

Josh departed for London three days before me, so I made the trip there on my own. After not sleeping much at all on the long flight (and losing 6 hours because of the time difference), I made my way to the train that would take me to where I needed to go. Exhausted, I arrived at the busy station where Josh was waiting for me. We were talking on our phones and trying to locate each other and having somewhat of a hard time communicating where we both were. I was so tired and I just wanted to find a bed and sleep! Then in the distance through the crowds of people, I saw his sweet smile and a burst of energy bolted through me and I couldn’t help giggling to myself as we approached each other. It was so wonderful to finally be with him and I was so excited about the adventure we were about to share together. We had four days in London and then took the Eurostar to Paris and spent three days there. We saw so many things, learned so much history, experienced a different culture, enjoyed wonderful food and just soaked up the time together. It was wonderful!

London

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Paris

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Hymn Study

Another thing I’m excited to add to this coming school year is a hymn study. I came across this idea online a few months ago and I knew instantly it was something I wanted to do. There is a richness and beauty in the older hymns that just isn’t there in modern worship songs and I really want my kids to know many of these hymns by heart and to understand their deep meaning. I plan to study eight each year (including a Christmas Carol for that time of year), spending about four weeks on each one, learning the history, all the words and their meaning (which I may have to consult my husband, who grew up on these hymns, about because there’s a lot of wording even I don’t quite understand). Between YouTube and Rdio, a music service we use, I have found several different versions of each hymn for us to listen to and sing along with as we learn them. I’ve got forty hymns I plan to cover over the next five years. There are SO many more that we would cover, but I chose the ones that I love most and have meant the most to me. I was surprised by just how many I knew, considering I was only vaguely familiar with maybe a few of them before about eleven years ago when I became a believer.

The ones I’ve chosen for this year are:

Great is Thy Faithfulness
The Solid Rock
Be Thou My Vision
O Holy Night
Jesus Paid it All
Nothing but the Blood
How Great Thou Art
Joyful Joyful

I took a gamble and ordered the first book of this series even though I wasn’t sure it was what I was looking for. It’s exactly what I wanted, so much so that I ordered number two as well for the last few hymns on my list that I really want to eventually study but were not in the first book.
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They contain nice, concise histories of each hymn along with the lyrics of each.
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I also made a little “hymnal” for us with just the songs that we’ll learn this year, with the words printed a little larger so we can all read along together.
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The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Knowledge

Over the last few days I’ve had some extra time and have been able to peruse through a few new homeschooling blogs that I’ve found and I keep coming across blog posts conveying the same exact idea. It’s as if God specifically picked them out for me and sent them my way. The topic I keep seeing discussed over and over is that Christ should be at the center of your homeschool. Of course, I nod to myself and agree wholeheartedly. After all, that’s the main reason we chose to homeschool. The one thing I wanted emphasized in my children’s lives would be purposely left out in the public school. Though it can be done and I know people who do it well, the task of building upon the “neutral” (There is really no such thing. If you remove God from the picture, you are against Him.) foundation of school and weeding out all of the teachings that directly contradict our beliefs seemed more daunting than homeschooling itself.

So, here we are a year and a half later. Am I succeeding at what we set out to do or am I letting the pressure to succeed academically steal the precious opportunities to lead my children to Jesus? The other night Elliot was reading in his bed for nearly an hour, as he typically does these days. I peeked into his room and my heart soared. I said to myself, “YES! We are succeeding! He loves reading!” A few moments later my heart dropped and I immediately realized my error. The reading is wonderful, of course, but am I pursuing teaching him God’s word as strongly as I am chasing after these academic achievements? I cannot honestly say that I do each day. Do I often rush through our morning Bible time because we need to get our school work done? Do I allow the kids to pray quick thoughtless prayers as we begin our day and not challenge them to speak to God from their hearts because we’ve got to finish a book for school? Do I criticize and complain at them instead of using conflict as an opportunity to teach them by example with God’s word? Guilty. I’m so thankful that God is showing me these things now during the early years. If I can’t keep my priorities straight while we’re doing first grade, how am I going to do it down the road when pressure to “keep up” is much higher. These are things I personally plan to work on, because in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter if my kids are reading three grade levels ahead. It will be of no value to them that they can name all the presidents in order or name the capitals of all fifty states. Being book-smart may benefit them to a degree until the end of this life, but it will have no eternal value.

In closing, I want to use my husband as a great example. He has an amazing ability to impart truth to our kids. I’m convinced he’d do a much better job at this if he were the one staying at home with the kids! He came home last night after a long day at work and was still able to begin a meaningful discussion with the kids at the dinner table. He talked with the kids about how they have the choice to either be a tool that God uses for His glory or to be an example of what God is not pleased with. He reminded them to ask themselves in certain situations if they were being a David or a Goliath. I found this simple question to be quite brilliant and will now be asking my kids on a daily basis during conflict if they are being a David or a Goliath. I pray that God can sharpen me in the way He has sharpened my husband so that together we can be effective teachers to these kids God has given us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. -Deuteronomy 6:5-9

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Morning Routine Rundown

With just two weeks until we start our school year, I decided it would be a good time to start practicing our routine so we’re all clear on what is to be expected once we start. We’ve relaxed a lot during the summer but I know we’ll need to get back to having more structure as we begin our busy school days to make sure we get off to a good start.

One thing I’ve been planning on doing for a while is a chore pack system. Quite a while ago a friend of mine shared with me a link to a video done by Courtney over at Women Living Well (such a great blog!) where she explained how she did her chore packs with her children. I loved it and wanted to adopt the system in our own home, but at the time I didn’t think my youngest was quite ready. She’s three now and I’ve definitely been seeing signs that she’s ready for a little responsibility around here. I made our chore packs and explained to the kids how they work. This morning we had our first try at with the system and things worked flawlessly. Even Caroline was capable of doing all her chores independently and could flip the chore cards to the pocket in the back of her pack when she was done. (I wasn’t sure if she would be able to because it’s a pretty tight squeeze.)

We also plan on having quiet Bible/prayer time several mornings a week after we finish our chores. This morning the kids and I had a nice talk about the importance of being in communication with God and the only way we can do that is if we spend time in his word and in prayer. I emphasized to the kids how important it was for me to be able to get that uninterrupted time and how I wanted to teach them this habit as well. While I am in my room having my quiet time, the kids start out together in Elliot’s room where he reads a few Bible stories aloud. Then Caroline goes to her room for the remainder of the time to look through her Bible, listen to audio Bible stories and pray. This morning we practiced this habit and I succeeded in getting twenty minutes of quiet time in my room without anyone coming in to talk to me. That is a major accomplishment! I know this will really help us to start our day off on the right foot and specifically refocus my mind on the reason why we are homeschooling to begin with.

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Elliot’s chore cards include putting all the laundry in the washer, wiping down the kitchen table, emptying the bathroom wastebaskets, and a few other things. Caroline is responsible for taking the kitchen laundry upstairs, wiping down the bathroom sink, putting the pillows back on the couch, putting shoes away, and tidying her room and the playroom.

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After they are dressed, beds are made, and teeth are brushed, they come get their chore packs and get to work!

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“Another job done! Time to flip the card!”

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They did great with their first quiet Bible time.

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The only flaw I found in the plan was that I did not consider when Caroline’s hair would get done, as you can tell from the photos! We’ll have to work that in somewhere.

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Home Church

We attend a wonderful church which we love and we feel it’s especially important for the kids to be involved as much as possible, but on those mornings when, for whatever reason, we are unable to go, we try to do what we call “home church”. My husband is an excellent leader in this area and he comes up with the Bible story or lesson to do with the kids. As usual, he did not disappoint yesterday morning (after we overslept and I woke up with a headache).

Black stands for our sin.

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Red stands for the blood of Jesus (She meant to draw a sad face under “sin” but accidentally made a smile.)

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White stands being washed white as snow and green is for the way we grow.

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Yellow stands for the streets of gold in heaven!

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Josh also made up game where the kids tossed bean bags at three different targets, and according to which one they hit, they would get asked a question to answer and then were rewarded points for answering correctly.

The three categories were “Jesus”, “Family” and “Serving Others”.

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Geek Dad

Josh got a great book with activities for Dads and kids for his birthday. They tried out their first one today…a treasure hunt complete with a “real” map.

The name says it all. We’re totally geeky, so it’s perfect for us.

Over the river…

through the castle…

And up the mountain to go find the treasure!

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Building Family Traditions

One of our goals in parenting these kids is to build strong relationships with them so that we will be close as a family, even after they are grown and gone from our home. We hope they have fond memories of their family life growing up and that they desire to follow in our footsteps. One of the ways we are seeking to do this is by building new special traditions into our life that are meaningful and make an impact on the kids.

Our family Bible time is one that we’ve done for a while. Another one that we started several months ago is “Encouragement Night”. My wonderful husband came up with the idea one evening and we’ve enjoyed it so much that we’ve continued the trend as a part of our weekly routine. Each Saturday night, we sit down together before bedtime and we all take turns encouraging each member of the family with things we’ve appreciated about them from the previous week. We love that it teaches our kids to find ways to come up with things to compliment each other on. Josh and I have also been blessed to hear some of the sweetest things come out of our kids’ mouths as a result of this. Sometimes they say things we had no idea they even noticed or thought about. Elliot has told me on more than one occasion that he thinks I’m the best wife in the whole world. (And Josh always jokes that he stole what he was going to say!) It’s also such a joy to let our kids know what they have impressed us with during the week. They really get excited to hear what we’re going to say.

We’ve most recently added what we like to call “Focus Time”. I’ve gone through and marked on my calendar at least one Saturday a month where we will set aside an hour in the morning to do nothing but play with the kids and give them our undivided attention (no phones allowed!) First I spend time alone with one of the kids while Josh gets the other one, and we each play whatever the child wants to play (the only exception being no T.V.,Wii, iPad or iPhone games) for a half hour. Then we switch kids, that way each of them gets special alone time with both Mommy and Daddy. When we first explained this idea to the kids, their faces lit up and they were so anxious for our first “Focus Time”. They asked about it over and over again, and when the day was finally here, they couldn’t wait to get started. It just goes to show how special one-on-one time is to a child, especially when they are so used to having to share your attention with a sibling almost all the time. We hope to create lots of special memories this way and to continue adding more things that make our kids excited about being a part of this family.

Caroline’s encouragement for Elliot was, “I love you because you play with me and because you have beautiful eyes.”


Caroline and I played puzzles during our “Focus Time”.

We also played cars. (There’s no doubt about it…this girl has a brother!)

Elliot cooked me a meal in his kitchen.

He also decided he wanted to build Mount Vernon out of legos.

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Shaping the Next Generation of Men and Women

I’m currently reading “Bringing Up Girls” by Dr. James Dobson (given to me by my wonderful Mom on Mother’s Day). I’ve been wanting to read it for quite some time, seeing as how I’ve had a beautiful daughter for three years now and she’s growing up before my eyes. We own “Bringing Up Boys” and have read through it a couple times and found it to be extremely helpful in understanding boys and what makes them who they are. What I’ve found really interesting is the fact that boys and girls are so very different when it comes to how their brains work and how their bodies are made up chemically. I personally don’t really understand how people could argue that they are the same and that it’s only the way we nurture them that makes them behave differently when there is scientific evidence that there are so many physical differences that have a direct effect on behavior.

I really love both of these books and find them to be extremely valuable, but I will say that while reading each of them, I was initially hit with a feeling of discouragement and frustration. Dr. Dobson is very straight forward about the unique struggles that young boys and girls face and the lies that this world will feed them from very early on (such as the idea that marriage is an outdated institution that should be discarded, that life should be all about pursuing your own pleasure and success, that men are fools and a woman’s value is wrapped up in what her body looks like, just to name a few.). Being made aware of that reality can really get me down, but it’s definitely important to know what we’re up against if we are going to protect them and shape them into strong and secure people of faith.

One thing he emphasizes in the importance of strong relationships with both parents. I’m encouraged by the fact that, because we homeschool, we are going to be spending so much time together building those family relationships that are so essential. I know that does not make us immune to the problems, considering this world is full of influences that are going to contradict and challenge what we teach them, but I feel like it at least give us a little bit of an advantage. We are also going to have more of an ability to protect their minds and hearts a little more than if they were outside of our home five days a week. I know people claim that homeschooling overprotects and shelters kids, but I would argue, “What’s so wrong with that?” I have a strong desire protect their innocence as long as possible. My two young kids are not even close to being able to distinguish lies from truth, so I do want to avoid exposure to things that would cause confusion and discouragement for them. So despite being reminded of the hard reality of growing up in the world today, I still feel really hopeful that we’re going in the right direction and that our efforts will, by God’s grace, ultimately produce good fruit.

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So Far So Good

Our little chart is working wonderfully for us. My kids jump at the chance to do jobs for me so they can say things like “My pleasure, Mommy!” In just two days they’ve filled up an entire row, so it looks like this may not take us that long. We’ve decided on getting a Jamba Juice for our reward (Not something we do often at all since we can make smoothies at home in our Blendtec, but Elliot has really been wanting to go.) The bonus prize for the one who has the most stars at the end will probably be a few dollars. Both of the kids have been given money lately so they’ve been learning about what it means to use and save money. Elliot been saving up some money from lost teeth so that he can buy something more significant than a matchbox car.

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Summertime Idea

I got this great idea today. Actually, I should say Elliot did something that inspired me today. And what he did was triggered by something I casually said yesterday. So I guess you could say we make a great team. Anyway, yesterday the kids and I went by Chick-Fil-A to get a milkshake for Josh who was sick with a sore throat. I had noticed how polite all the workers were. When we got home I was telling Josh about how it’s obvious that they trained them well because they were all saying things like “My pleasure!” You don’t hear that kind of thing much these days, especially from young people! I guess Elliot overheard me say that and it gave him the bright idea to work it into his vocabulary. Today I asked him to do me a favor and he said, “I’d be glad to, Mom.” Then he flashed me another huge smile and said, “Actually….my pleasure!” I was doubly impressed. It got me thinking about how I’d love to encourage our kids to get into the habit of saying these kinds of things, so I came up with the idea of making this into a fun little project for summer. I chose a few things I’d like to hear more often (“My pleasure”, “I’d be glad to”, Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am”) and made a reward chart. Each time I hear one of them used (followed by immediate action of whatever they were asked to do…it doesn’t count if you say it but then don’t act on it!), I will mark a box on the chart. There is just one chart and both kids will get the reward when it gets filled up, so hopefully that will motivate them to not only get into the habit of doing it themselves, but to encourage the other to as well. I will mark them in two different colors though, to add just a bit of competition. Whoever has the most marks at the end may also get a little something extra on top of our reward.

I plan to laminate it so I can mark it with dry-erase markers if we want to use it again.

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