And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Monday, February 20, 2017

Along the Path

This week I'm going to step away from the homeschool theme. Last week I got to enjoy a lovely night of women's ministry. This was my second month to attend. I got my mom to join me, and we sat with some friends (Thanks for making that reservation for us J!). No kids. No husbands. Food. A wonderful message from a well known Christian speaker. It was a wonderful evening.

While we were there a discussion began about people from our past. It was all in a humorous manner discussing how we probably wouldn't see many people from our "old" days in a place like that. You know how it is. Later as I reflected on the night, I had to laugh. I saw lots of ladies from my past! I spoke with a mom friend who I hadn't see in several years. We got to catch up on our kids, homeschool, and life in the few minutes we were able to speak. I also saw one of my "youth" who is now married and has a sweet little baby of her own. Her mom was there too. I saw an acquaintance from an old Zumba class. I even saw a new friend who ended up at the table next to me.

I began to think about the people God puts in our path. Each of those people came from a different time or circumstance in my life. As I pondered further, I realized even at our table there were ladies that God had on my path. One of my best friends. Her mother-in-law who hired me for a job almost 20 years ago. A younger family member who was a toddler when I met her and is now a lovely young woman.

I have an old friend who sometimes refers to her "dark days". I think most of us had a season like that along our path. Most of mine happened very early on and about 3 hours from where I live now. I don't have to confront those particular days or memories very often. In times of trouble though, I can beat myself up remembering the silly mistakes I made, the sin that I partook in, and my poor behavior. I shudder to think of what some of my current friends would think of that person I was. However, I know God has forgiven me and thus there is no reason I should not forgive myself.

God didn't just place some of my past in my path that night. Once I began to really think about it, the last few weeks have been full of chance encounters. All of them have been people who have been a part of my "Christian" path. People from various churches and ministries who've played a part along the way. At first I thought God was just reminding me of all the wonderful help I've received along the way. Maybe He was just helping me remember all those who have encouraged me, prayed for me, or studied the Bible with me. What if He was also reminding me of the people I've encouraged along the way? What if He was showing me how well those were doing that I've prayed for in the past? What if He's reminding me that I studied His Word with them too?

The message at that women's ministry meeting was about believing in the miracles God can still perform. It was about being bold with our prayers. It was also about remembering all the truths God has shared with us in the Bible. A big part of all those areas is faith. Along my path, I've needed the faith of all those people I've come across in the last few weeks. Their faith helped me in my journey. Maybe my faith helped them too.

One of my brightest, happiest, funniest, faithfulest (I declare that a word...) friends has started her own blog. She is amazing, and I know her words will bless you. Her newest post is on waiting which requires an ENORMOUS amount of faith. I hope you'll pop over and check out The Butterfly Chair!

2 Samuel 22 contains the familiar words of David,

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
\3 God of my strength, in whom I will trust"

Further down in verse 37 David says,

"You enlarged my path under me;
So my feet did not slip."

Who or what is God placing along your path for you to notice? Sometimes He has us look back in order to prepare for going forward.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How We Homeschool

This week I'd like to chat about grading. Grading is another one of those highly personal topics. Some homeschoolers grade and some don't. Just like school teachers and college professors, everyone has their own grading system. This is a topic that I seem to see very little information about online. I have researched grading several times as I've sought to find the best system for us.

In the beginning, I didn't grade anything. Early elementary grading when I was in school was an S or U (satisfactory or unsatisfactory). I submitted grades to our umbrella school each semester, but as long as the kids were progressing well in an area, grades didn't even really come to mind.

As the kids got older, I began to consider using real grades as a motivator. The first year I gave them grades on most papers so they could get an idea of what grading was really about. The next year I got a little tougher and graded all their papers. I talked with them at the end of each semester about what kind of averages they had based on their "paperwork" only. Again last year they were graded on everything and at the end of each semester we discussed their grades. This year I've been a little tougher with grading so that Apple can get a feel for real grading. She's taking outside classes and is also assigned grades by those teachers.

I know lots of homeschoolers like to stay away from traditional grading because they know the students abilities. I agree with this to an extent. We also practice mastery by having the kids correct their own mistakes until they are right. I also consider participation and any self-directed study they are doing. However, I think students that are preparing to go to college at some point need to understand grading methods. I also think it is important to keep grades as a scale of effort.

This is just another one of those areas that is super personal for each homeschool mom (or dad!) and their students. There is no right way or wrong way to grade. I will say after several years of grading, an online program is the way to go! The first few years I was keeping up with grades on a spreadsheet. It was messy, confusing, and difficult to calculate. Now I use (from a review I did earlier) and it makes grading so much easier. While the kids aren't always happy about their grades, they do enjoy the report cards that I print for them now.

Do you give grades in your homeschool?

Monday, February 6, 2017

How We Homeschool

For the second post in this series, I want to talk about our scheduling. I've written many posts about homeschool planning over the years (including this one last year) that fill you in on how I divide up our subjects and daily work. Today, I want to give you a little more insight into how our typical week looks.

Our state requires 180 days with 4 hours of instruction per day. Homeschooling parents divide this out many different ways. One of the best pieces of advice I received when we began our homeschool journey was to remember school time doesn't have to mean desk time. Honestly, I still struggle with that a little, but I think we have a good balance.

Our basic weekly outline looks like 4 hours of desk time or schoolroom time Monday- Thursday. We get started between 7:30 and 8 (7:30 is the goal) and the plan is to finish around or before 12. Typically we squeeze about "5 days of work" (based on lesson plans) into those 4 days. This year Apple has had a different set schedule on Wednesdays because she is taking outside classes. Those occur on Wednesdays and stand alone so she gets her other work finished on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (except math which she does before classes on Wednesdays). Speedy typically has a car school day on Wednesdays since we stay in town while she's in class. Some days they finish early. More often they finish sometime well past lunch.

Anyhow that covers 4 days per week of schooltime. Fridays are used for work that wasn't completed (rare), additional work assigned due to issues during the week (occasional), and extra outside time or "free" time. Now typically my kids use Fridays to play outside and read. They also use extra afternoon time to do those same things. They also get a fair share of home ec each day by doing chores and helping in the kitchen. They are at the grocery store with me each week learning about meal planning, pricing, and waiting patiently in line. They receive $5 each to budget every week for snacks or special foods or drinks they'd like from the grocery store. I feel like Fridays represent our "unschooling" or interest based learning days. That's as close as I can get.

The kids earn their screen time by completing their school work on time so screen time doesn't happen every day. When it does they typically use it to watch shows or communicate with friends. Many times they choose educational shows to watch. I've mentioned before that we typically have an audiobook going in the car. Basically, I don't stress over our 180 hours too much because we get much more than that every school year.

Afternoon co-ops, volunteer opportunities, field trips, free reading time, and many other activities keep homeschoolers living a learning lifestyle. So while I'm strict about our 4 days of seatwork, I try not to be too legalistic about our school scheduling. Some years we take off typical holidays and summer, some years we work through the summer, and some years we do a 5-6 weeks on and 1 week off type schedule. One of the biggest perks of homeschooling is that we can be flexible and adjust to what works for our family.

Monday, January 30, 2017

How We Homeschool

I haven't blogged as much about our homeschooling journey lately so I thought I'd give you a little insight into our methods. I'm not a huge fan of labels but if forced to label our homeschool style I'd say traditional/ eclectic. We are traditional because our school time looks similar to a classroom school time. We are eclectic because I don't buy our curriculum as a boxed set each year (although it's always tempting because it looks so easy!). I started this as an all in one post but I'm wordy so this will be a theme for the next few weeks. Today I'll start with where we homeschool.

My kids both have a desk in our "schoolroom" that doubles as my office. I have a desk because it's my office too. When we bought our home one of the big draws was this rather large room with a huge built in shelving system. I knew this would be a great schoolroom for us, and it has been. We've tried doing school without a dedicated schoolroom, and it just doesn't work for us. It's distracting to be in other rooms. It's messy to have our materials spread out through the house and things get lost and misplaced too easily. Even with our organized schoolroom, we have days when books or important papers can't be located. Personally, I'd go crazy if we had to search the whole house in those instances. I've found for my kids that having a place set aside for school keeps them on track. They know when we are down here for school that there's no electronics or toys. It's a place to focus and study and learn. It works the same way for me as my office. When I come down to work, I can focus and I have everything I need at my fingertips. I think have a dedicated school space will help prepare my kids for the future. In college, they will be expected to be in a classroom for classes. In most jobs they will have a dedicated office or workspace they use each day. They are getting in some extra practice now.

Right after Christmas, we gifted the kids new desks. Every time we've bought them desks (or a special table) I expect them to last forever. Ha. So a couple of years ago my parents gave them very nice school type desks. Small adjustable desks with a storage area in them. I thought they'd last for the rest of our homeschooling days. Recently the kids had began to complain they weren't large enough to hold their laptops and a paper or book on the surface. We have the above small table in the room and they'd began to fight over sitting at the table. I had enough of the bickering so I started looking for new desks for them. I found the ones I wanted just after Christmas. They were easy to put together and fairly inexpensive. They have a little desk in the front for pens, pencils, and other small supplies. I am HOPING these last us for a long time. We kept the smaller desks too. I had the kids put those in their rooms. Some days they do need a forced break from the schoolroom so now they have a place in their room where they can take their work when needed.

Our schoolroom is a bit dark so they each have a floor type lamp near their desks. They were also given brand new desk lamps from an aunt and uncle at Christmas so they have those as well. They are very happy with their new desks and areas.

While I love our schoolroom, I am still decluttering it. It seems like a permanent process. We have drawers and bins and shelves everywhere, and they are all full! With all the school books and games and craft supplies, our room is always to the point of overflowing. Every time I get it in order, it seems to overflow again. I am hoping to finish cleaning it up (again) soon.

Where do you homeschool? Do you have a dedicated space or are your kids all over the house? Since Hubby sometimes needs to sleep during the day due to shift changes, having a schoolroom away from his sleeping area is an extra blessing for our family.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Top Posts of 2016

I'm still playing a bit of catch up after a short vacation from the blog. Here are my top 8 posts of 2016! I always think it is funny to see what garnered the most attention from our Chaos.

1. Obviously giveaways are always a hit. In April, I had a Purex Insiders giveaway that had the more traffic than any other post in 2016.

2. I love planners and planning so it is fitting that my #2 post was my review of the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse 2016-2017.

3. One of my favorite new curriculum items I reviewed last year was Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting. Speedy is still working on his Italic writing.

4. Every homeschooler needs a GREAT pencil sharpener. Apparently many of you were interested in the Hey Yellow sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.

5. I wrote a post on my personal FB page that got a lot of attention so I turned it into a blog post. The post got a good amount of attention as well. I'm still working to be sure I don't look at life in snippets.

6. I was so excited to review a new NKJV Bible. I've carried it every Sunday since then and do most of my Bible reading at home in it. I love the cover that I got to carry it in. I enjoyed reading through the Bible using my NIV, but reading the NKJV has a whole different feel.

7. We don't do many unit studies, but my kids both love them. I always vow to do more and then...well I don't. Most, like this Thanksgiving one, are easy to plan but somehow a curriculum for a whole year feels easier. However, my kids REALLY enjoyed this Micro Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy that we reviewed.

8. I guess some of  you like to plan and prep too because my second post on planning for the holidays was #8 for 2016.

2016 was a great year with a LOT of reviews and blog posts! Stick around for 2017 because it will be a lot of fun and chaos.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Is That True?

I took a couple of weeks off from posting. With the New Year, it felt like a good time to catch up on other things and reflect quietly. We've settled into our routines a bit more now. We've been visiting the same church the last few weeks. They are doing a wonderful series on Identity. There has been a different speaker each week pointing to God's Word and giving us new things to think about in our Christian walk.

As often happens, I seem to be seeing a lot of the opposite on social media from friends. Many people call themselves Christians but seem to be lost about what God's Word really has to say. To borrow from the sermon we heard two weeks ago, we love to cling to and repeat "Christian" sayings even if they aren't Biblical! How many incorrect things do we believe just because we've heard other people say them over and over?

From yesterday to today, I've seen several people say "all sins are equal". This has always made me cringe a little. I really like what Billy Graham has to say about it:

How about "if God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it"? Every time I see that printed on something or hear someone say it I think, "but maybe God didn't bring you to it". We want to take out the human element in all consequences. We don't want to acknowledge that our actions or sins or bad decisions put us in some positions. God is always there for us, even when we put ourselves in bad places but let's not blame Him for getting us there.

As divorce continues to rampage through our culture, I often hear that "God wouldn't want me to be unhappy". That one just isn't true. It may sound harsh but God doesn't seek our happiness just like a good parent doesn't seek their child's happiness alone. Many times we need to be unhappy to grow, to help someone else, or to see the truth in a situation. Most marriages don't fail because of one person. These days so many marriages begin in a sinful place then never quite come completely out of the mire. Want a Biblical example of God's lack of concern for our "happiness"? Moses. Moses did NOT want to go to Pharaoh. He told God repeatedly that he didn't want to go. He was concerned about his speaking issues. He didn't want to die for his past sins. Following God's direction caused him unhappiness. Again and again. He had to listen to the Israelites complain and blame him in the wilderness. Yet he did it. He followed God's direction and stuck with it even through great unhappiness. If our child is disobeying and it makes them happy, won't we still discipline them? We should! Being unhappy does not Biblically justify divorce. It just doesn't.

So what should we do? We should know God's Word. I just keep stressing it over and over because nothing is more true. We should teach it to our children. The kids and I have started in the New Testament reading one chapter of the Bible together each morning. As we read, they have 2 posters they are writing on. One says "Wanted" and the other says "Negative". When we come across a behavior that God wants from us, they write it on the "Wanted" board. When we come across a sinful behavior, they write it on the "Negative" board. This is in addition to their regular Bible studies. I wanted a way for them to see and remember what God is really asking of us in the Bible.

How do you test Christian catch phrases?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Word of the Year 2017

I have had a Word of the Year each year since 2010! That's a pretty good run if you ask me. :) Some years have been filled with success and others were not. I've decided I won't have a Word of the Year for 2017. I thought I would. I prayed and pondered.

I tried to force a word just so I'd have one. The best word I could come up with is "Better". Hmph. Not too exciting. Didn't really fulfill what I want and expect for 2017. I think it's just not meant to be for this New Year.

I still have plans and goals in mind. I have lots of things that I hope will improve in the New Year. I'm always setting goals and stretching and reaching for new things (otherwise I get bored!). Honestly though I feel expectant about 2017. There are changes already happening and changes coming. I don't want to get so stuck on my own goals that I miss out on what the Lord has planned for us. I don't want to be so busy sticking to my plans that His plans go unnoticed.

I don't disparage any of you with Words and goals for 2017! In fact...I wish I was one of you! That's my comfort zone. A plan of action. A specific goal to meet. Then it feels a little like I'm in charge. This just isn't the season for that for me though I guess.

So I can't make you any broad promises. I don't know what the blog will look like in 2017. I already shared that I wasn't joining The Schoolhouse Review Crew this year (sob...still sad). I hope to keep writing and sharing with you some.

For now, for this last week of 2016 (feeling a little sense of relief that we've almost made it to the end!), I'm rearranging our school room and praying over our school days for this new semester. We need some renewal. Some fresh perspective. A change of pace.

Where are you at this week? Do you have your Word of the Year or goals locked down? Are you prepping for the New Year and new semester? Do you feel dread or expectation about 2017?