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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Leadership

That word has been all over my heart this week. Leadership. What does it mean? How do we lead in a Godly manner? Why are we called to lead? As my husband and I dive into a local ministry, I find us already in positions of leadership. My husband is a natural leader. He amazes me with his ability to take charge in a firm but reasonable way. We shied away from this particular church because we knew we would be called to lead in some form or fashion very quickly.

I wanted to take a break (and we did for a few months). I was hesitant to jump in and take on responsibilities. Couldn't we just chill out in a church for awhile? As I felt my heart being drawn to our friend's church, I thought back over our church experiences over the years. Each place we've been trained us in some way. We never got much training by sitting back and absorbing what was being given in the church.

In our first church we joined together, Hubby was an integral part of a missions team. I ended up on a prayer team. I was so nervous! I had not spend much time praying aloud in front of other people. As that season stretched on, I learned so much about prayer and praying from the heart without worrying about who was listening. We also both had opportunities within that church to work with kids and youth. It felt so awkward and unnatural at the time. I wasn't ever sure I was doing it "right". We still have relationships with some of our "kids" from that church. They are all grown up now and married with children. It is a joy to see their lives unfold even if we only get a peek on social media now and then.

Our next church experience involved a "home church", and there we learned what it really took to have a church. We learned more about God's Word. We learned more about the Holy Spirit. We learned about church organization and leadership. Our time there was short but I look back on it with fondness. It was an experience that gave us lots of worship time with family and friends.

When we moved on, it was to find a place for our kids. They were getting out of the baby stage, and we understood they needed a basis for their own relationship with the Lord. We went to a wonderful church. It was one of the sweetest seasons of our lives. I get emotional just recalling all the amazing things that happened in that church setting. Godly men and women poured into our children's lives and our lives there. Hubby took his first missions trip with a team there. We made the decision to homeschool during that time. It was also a time of great sadness as we suffered the loss of several loved ones during that season. In that time of sadness, God had provided a spiritual support team like none other we've ever had. We learned so much there. Again we were involved with youth and children's ministry. I took on a leadership role in that church that provided me with experience in working with children. That experience helped me teach my own kids as well as making a foundation for the future ministry work we would do. Those friendships we made in that setting linger. Those memories give me strength on some of the lonely days (and when you are homeschooling there can be many lonely days!).

At our last place of worship, we again found a group of friends that we would grow to cherish. We found ourselves teaching adult Sunday School. I learned all about VBS and how to execute one each year. Hubby preached a few times there and at other congregations. He learned about committees and leading committees. Again we learned more about church leadership, organization, and people.

Now we find ourselves at this new congregation. It is a small ministry that has built up slowly over the last few years. They are in a time of growth, and our friend had been praying for us to join them. He put us right to work. It isn't easy. It won't be easy. There are challenges that I haven't faced before. I feel confident though that the Lord has walked with me and planned my steps to prepare me for this time and place.

I listened to a great 5 minute video on RightNow Media of Cheryl Bachelder titled "Leader First vs. Servant First". It's one of those videos I just happened to come across while searching for something totally different. She's speaking on leadership in a business, but she did a great job of explaining how the most effective leaders are those coming from the standpoint of serving. If you search "servant leadership", you can find many speakers and posts on the idea. I've never thought of it in those specific terms but the truth is as Christians in any sort of leadership, we should follow the example of Christ in serving those around us.

Then I began to think about serving as a leader in our homes and homeschool settings. Am I leading to get my goals met or am I leading to serve my family? Am I leading to meet my quota for the day or am I leading to serve my children by teaching them more about Christ and His Words?

I've been grappling with a few issues recently. It's almost summer, and our plans are slim. As other parents plan big vacations and kids prepare for long summer camps, I'm looking for a frugal camping option for my family. As other families host lavish birthday parties, I'm working to treat my children to a special day with a low budget. When I really start to examine my motivations though, I wasn't worried about my kids and serving them. They are happy with whatever we provide them because they are secure. They don't dwell on earthly things nearly as much as I did at their ages (and still do!). They won't fuss or complain because they don't get the big lavish parties and trips. I'm the one with envy. I'm the one worrying about what other people are doing. I've been trying to lead with me in mind. Just like I was doing when I shied away from our new church.

I've rambled around a bit here (and I'm posting a day later than I intended!). Maybe one of you needs to consider servant leadership. Perhaps one of you needs to consider the ministry journey that you've taken. Perhaps you just need motivation to jump in where God is leading you. Most likely I just needed to get my own journey in writing to see where I've been so I have a clear path for where I'm headed. Whichever it is, thanks for taking the time to read.

Monday, March 13, 2017

How We Homeschool

So I shared with you what I'd go back and change about our homeschool journey. Now I'd like to share the things that have worked really well for us. They may not work well for anyone else but these are the things that have been a consistent plus for our family.




*Routine- I've shared with you recently about our scheduling and our schoolroom so I won't repeat those things here. However, a routine makes all the difference for us. Knowing that we will focus on school early in the day on certain days makes our lives calmer. Some families we know thrive on spontaneity and change. We aren't one of those families. Our lives have plenty of chaos so a school routine keeps us balanced. The kids wake up, have breakfast, and get ready for the day before our homeschool time begins. Then we work steadily until the work is completed each day. We know which days we will be doing school ahead of time. We only adjust if it's really necessary. Working hard on scheduled days means we have more freedom on our "off" days.

*Christian Education- We have included the Bible and devotionals and studies each year. We've focused on science and history from a Christian perspective. We use Christian resources for many of our educational choices. I LOVE that we have the freedom to teach from our hearts and beliefs. As a family our faith is a huge part of our lives and homeschool time is not an exception.

*Goals- While I don't always sit and make a list of specific goals for each child each school year, I do have some ideas floating around in my head. Typically, their academic goals go along with their curriculum for the year (Algebra I curriculum= learn Algebra). I also set goals based on their weaker areas (ie handwriting or spelling or whatever). I like to set life goals lessons for them as well. For example, I have some specific ideas for each of them about cooking lessons this summer. Kids live up to our expectations so we should set them high not low. These goals give us direction and aim our focus.

*Friends- It is SO important to have a homeschool support group. Whether it's a formal group that meets monthly or just 1 friend you can call or text in a crisis, you NEED friends that specifically homeschool. It's great to have older friends that can mentor you along the way because they've already done that season of life. It's imperative that you have friends who are in the trenches with you because they will get it. They will get you. They will understand when you are LOSING YOUR MIND BECAUSE THAT ONE KID WON'T EVER FINISH XYZ or when you are crying because you ran out of coffee. God has blessed me with a couple of those friends, and they are worth more than gold y'all. I need them. I am so thankful for them. Once you've been a homeschool mom for awhile, make it a point to reach out to a newbie so you can share your experience with them. Your kids also need other friends that homeschool. It helps them too. Otherwise they don't have anyone to text until after 3:00! HA!

*Laughter- I'd love to put "fun" here but fun isn't my specialty. Now laughter....I LOVE to laugh. My kids love to laugh. Even on the worst days one of us can usually get a giggle out of the others. Laugh y'all. Even if you aren't the fun mom (I totally get ya!). Crack a joke. Have an impromptu dance party. Play with Snapchat filters for a few minutes. Help make homeschool memories that prompt a smile in the future. Every day isn't awesome. Every day can include some laughter.

I could add other things to this list of things that have worked for us. These are just the first 5 things that stick out to me right now. They're the 5 things I'd probably recommend first to someone considering or starting to homeschool their children. What would be your #1 thing that has worked for your family?

Monday, March 6, 2017

How We Homeschool

Today, I thought I'd share what I would change if I could go back in homeschool time. Maybe I should have named this post "How I Wish We Had Homeschooled". HA! While we know we can't change the past, maybe sharing the things I wish I had done differently will help some of you in your homeschool  journeys.



*Behavior Rewards- I tried several different behavior reward tactics when the kids were small. It seemed like we were never had success with any of them. I would abandon one and try something different. When that didn't seem to work, I'd talk with friends and find a new system to try. Eventually I gave up. They didn't seem to motivate my kids at all. Occasionally I'd have a child ask about the treasure box or sticker rewards, but it was rare. Now that they are both older, sometimes I feel like I run out of punishments when they won't work diligently on their schoolwork or try hard to do their best. I really wish I had done a simple behavior reward sytem through the years. For consistency purposes, I should have implemented a simple sticker chart with a reward after so many stickers. Sometimes a visual reward can go much further than regular punishment. These days my kids earn their daily screentime by finishing school on time so we have a routine, but things would be a little different if I had started something earlier on.

*Handwriting- Both children have worked on handwriting every year. I do wish I had made them write more and more often. Apple's handwriting is readable but isn't always neat. I dismissed Speedy's early handwriting difficulty because everyone says boys have a harder time. I do think that's generally true, but I wish I had worked more with him early on. This year he has been doing LOTS of extra writing practice because it felt imperative to see improvement this year. I also would have pushed coloring more with him. He's never enjoyed coloring very much, but I know more of it would have improved his fine motor skills earlier on. My handwriting isn't gorgeous so I guess I didn't focus as much on neat, tidy, regular handwriting as much as I wish I had.

*Drilled Math Facts- I hesitate to put this one. I KNOW we should have done it more. We did do it some. I am not a fan of drilling facts. My kids are not a fan of drilling facts. I shudder to think of going back and doing it more often. However I do think there are benefits to knowing those addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts backwards and forwards. I think it would have saved us some time in the long run to have spent more time on those facts as we were learning them. Like handwriting, I assumed the kids would get better and better as time went on. They have but the progress has been slower than it would have been if we would have spent more time on it in the beginning. Drill. Yuck. You should do it anyway.

Now don't worry. I'm not focusing only on the negative. I just wanted to share some things I wish I had considered more early on. Soon I will do a post about the things I'm glad we did/ are doing in our homeschool time.

Do you have anything you wish you'd done differently in your homeschool?

Monday, February 27, 2017

How We Homeschool

This is curriculum buying time of year for me. Starting right after the beginning of this semester (last month), I began making my lists for each of the kids for fall. I have a little planning page for each one of them where I list the curriculum they will use for each subject as well as make notes on what I need to purchase. I began in January because I knew I'd need to purchase several items this year.



When I was on the Crew, I was able to make those lists with almost no purchases. Since I'm not on the 2017 Crew, I knew I'd need to use some of our tax refund money to make purchases for the 2017-2018 school year. I started by taking a look at what we already had on our shelf and in downloads. I've found several things over the years that I forgot we owned and had been planning to purchase. Our budget is tight so that's never a good thing! I filled in their lists with what we could use from our stash.

Once that was finished, I made a list of any workbooks I would need to go with items we already had. Then I started looking at choices for the subjects I needed to fill. Honestly we have so much curricula that I still didn't need as much as I thought! I needed most of the books I selected for Apple to read for literature next year. I also needed a writing curriculum for Speedy.

The kids also had some requests like CTCMath. For those items on my shopping list, I started pricing them and checking to see if they typically have sales. I purchased several of our must haves this week using current discounts or specials. I only have 2 things left to purchase, and I know those will be on sale sometime in the coming months so I will wait for a special.

Some folks buy a boxed curriculum set and skip all those steps I mentioned above. We love variety and enjoy picking and choosing our own books for each subject. We also like to incorporate a mixture of worksheets, literature, textbooks, online, and DVDs. As much fun as all that is, there is extra work involved. I do however keep our total purchases well below those boxed set prices. I also buy used when possible. My favorite place to shop used is homeschoolclassifieds.com.

How do you select your homeschool choices each year? Do you do all free, online curriculum? Borrow it all from friends or a library? Purchase the boxed set?

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 MySchoolYear.com (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.