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The “Minimum Viable Day”

Those who have read most of my posts know that I am a fan of Pam Barnhill and her wonderful planning resources over at Homeschool Solutions. She also hops onto Facebook Live to give tips, hacks, and resources that help homeschooling moms along their journey. I cannot remember exactly when I heard her talk about a minimum viable day, but I do recall that it was a game changer for our homeschool.

We are beginning our fourth year of homeschooling and even though I still feel like a newbie at times, I do have some systems in place that allow us to keep the spirit of scholé in our homeschool day. Every homeschooling mama knows that there are days when the plan goes awry: the dishwasher leaks, the kids have orthodontist appointments, the siblings bicker, the laundry is piled into mountains and must be tackled, and so on. This is where the minimum viable day comes in handy.

Minimum Viable Day

When our homeschool day is interrupted or thrown off the rails, I rely upon my MVD list. I chose five areas of study that, when completed, give us a bonafide school day that I can check off on my calendar.  If we spend time on these five arts, we have accomplished something. In our home, our CC memory work is encountered daily, even if we have to practice our memory work in the car (which is an EXCELLENT place to practice by the way). The memory work alone covers history, geography, english grammar, science, latin, and math. By spending 30 minutes singing, chanting, tracing or drawing our maps, and reviewing all of these subjects, we have covered a great deal in a short amount of time. I have been astonished at what the brain is capable of memorizing and how these “pegs” of memory provide a firm foundation upon which my children can later build, connect, discuss, persuade, and teach within the seven liberal arts.

As you can see, we also get in the three R’s: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. Math is a no-brainer. The girls know it must be done everyday, even if only for a half an hour. You can get a solid math lesson done in that amount of time when you homeschool. Some days math is a Singapore lesson for Sunshine and a Math U See Lesson for Rosebud, or a game of Tri-Facta or Board Slam combined with a drilling of the math facts for all four operations. Some days it is wrestling through word problems or working with manipulatives to strengthen conceptual understanding of decimals and fractions. As long as the girls are working toward mastery in mathematics, I feel like we are on the right track.

As for writing, both girls will be enrolled in the Classical Conversations grammar, math, and writing program known as Essentials. Spending 30-45 minutes on their IEW papers each day keeps the girls on track to complete their assignment. If the paper is completed, they can work on their presentation topic for community day. It is important to me that my girls are daily putting pen to paper. They are using tools that will help them to avoid writer’s block (invention and arrangement) and to express their thoughts clearly and beautifully (style, memory, and delivery). These are the writing tools that have stood the test of time–thousands of years to be exact! I want them to be able to wield these tools with mastery, and so a little bit of practice everyday is essential for our homeschool.

And now a bit about reading. Yes, the girls have “read to self” time each day, but in our home, reading aloud has risen to the top ofIMG_3190 our daily “to do” list. Reading aloud increases their vocabulary, teaches them how to ask themselves questions as they read, increases comprehension, and models what fluency really looks like. Most importantly, it is a true delight and joy. We absolutely love snuggling up together and cracking open a great story, or listening to an audiobook. Inevitably, a discussion will arise that cements the story in our minds and hearts. We make connections with other stories we’ve read, we relate to characters and ask “should” questions. “Should Batty have gone over to feed Yaz and Carla all by herself?” (If you haven’t listened to the audiobooks for The Penderwicks series, you are missing out on a delightful treat). We relate the stories to “The Great Conversation” that has been going on for millennia. Now that is time well spent and the girls have NEVER said “no” to read aloud time. When my girls leave the nest, I want them to remember those moments with fondness and cherish the precious time we spent together with a great book.

Don’t let the fact that I list music at the bottom of our minimum viable day lull you into thinking that it is last in our minds or of least importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Music is an integral part of our family life. Some days I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a broadway musical or opera scene. We sing…..a lot. At various times throughout the day you will hear the melodious sounds of our grand piano wafting through the house. Rosebud has begun flute lessons and Sunshine is soon to start cello. Both girls are involved in our children and youth choirs at church. Music is not considered an “extra curricular” activity in our homeschool. No, it is essential. It is one of the seven liberal arts given to us by our Creator. Research has shown that playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir: makes numerous neurological pathways in the brain, uses both the left and right side of the brain, taps into our creative expression as human beings, awakens the heart and soul, tunes our souls to the joys of harmony, order, and rhythm, and connects us to all the other arts we study in our day. There is nothing extra curricular about that! So, even if it is only for 20-30 minutes, we endeavor to embrace the theory and practice of music. Even if the girls don’t pursue music as a career later in life as her parents have, they will have experienced one of God’s great gifts to humankind.

 

Well, there you have it–our minimum viable day. Sometimes we can go a couple of weeks without one, but it is great to know we have a plan when one does unexpectedly arise.

Many may wonder why I haven’t included a Bible lesson as a part of our MVD.  We have joined a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group, so we will be going through our daily quiet time and study before our “school” day begins. Also, as a Christian Classical Educator, I desire to encounter each subject with the priority of pointing out how God is the origin of all we study.  He is mathematical and musical. He has given us the beauty of language and expression. He has given us the capacity to remember, reason, and question.  I don’t want to leave Him at the kitchen table where we do our Bible lesson. We need Him as we tackle every moment of our day. There are many days I fall short in this, but making Him the center of everything we do is my hope and desire for our homeschool.

DESIGNING AN MVD THAT FITS YOUR OWN HOMESCHOOL

You can easily design your own MVD graphic to hang in your homeschool or keep in your planner. I created this one for free on Canva. I started with one of their free layouts, changed up the color scheme and wording, and used some of their free icons. Easy. I want to finish by admonishing the homeschool mama who reads this post to think about what your minimum viable day might be for your homeschool. It may be completely different from mine and that is a beautiful thing. What works best for our family may not be what works best for yours. We all school differently, have different kids at different ages, and have different priorities. What is important is that we take the time to list three to five things that we can fall back on when our day goes off the rails. Truthfully, I know that there may be a few days this year when we only get to three of the five on my list. That’s ok too!

 

Y’all….God’s got this. Even on days when you just want to do this…  🙂

person looking searching clean

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Any day that we pour just a little bit of truth, goodness, and beauty into the souls of our children is a day well spent.

Got an MVD in place for your homeschool? Share it in the comments!

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Homeschooling with Classical Conversations: Lessons Learned

candjmmastersThis past month marked the conclusion of our second full year of participation in a Classical Conversations Community. Although current CC members are winding up their community days, many families are at the beginning stages of their homeschool journey. They have decided to enroll in this program for the next school year because, even on the surface, they can see the benefits that CC can bring. But, there are questions. What studies do we add alongside the CC program? Is there a need for a grammar program before my child starts Essentials? Is the Foundations memory work really enough for my younger kid? How about my older kid? Will this be too rigorous for my children?

There may be some reading this who have been a part of a CC Community for a year or two, and are thinking about pulling out for one reason or another. Maybe the Essentials program seems too overwhelming and daunting at first glance. Or, maybe you feel as though the Foundations program isn’t rigorous enough. What if there are some concerns about the community you are a part of?

These are valid questions and considerations, and I have asked and contemplated many of them myself. We all want what is best for our children, and it is a good practice to step back, evaluate, PRAY, and seek God’s guidance.

So, here is a question for all of us. Are we praying and seeking God’s guidance?

Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our decisions, or are we falling prey to fear? Okay, that’s two questions. Please understand that I am not pronouncing judgement, but am speaking as a fellow sojourner who is learning so much through my own mistakes. And believe me, I’ve made them!

Here are a few further questions I have asked myself:

  • Am I relying upon what is said in social media groups to determine my course of action? How much do I allow those posts and comments to influence my decisions?
  • Am I comparing my own homeschooling with other CC families?
  • Have I spent time in God’s Word meditating and praying about what it means to educate my child at home?
  • Have I sought the counsel of those who have “stayed the course” in CC for more than 5 years?
  • What books should I read that would give me a better understanding of a Christian Classical Education?
  • Are there courses or classes I could take in order to deepen my understanding?

Lessons Learned

Here are a few lessons that I have learned over the past couple of years. I’m certain I have many more lessons to learn, but I thought I’d share what God has taught me in the hopes that it will be an encouragement to anyone reading this.

#1: We Need Christ EVERY Single Moment
#2: We Need the Council and Teaching of the Leaders of the Christian Classical Education Renewal
#3: We Need Each Other: Homeschooling in Community is an Integral Part of Classical Education
#4: The Goals of a Christian Classical Education are Not the Same Goals That Our Society and Culture Embrace

 

Let’s dive into each one of these separately…

 

#1: We Need Christ EVERY Single Moment

Homeschooling is hard. We need Jesus. He is the way.

(I hope you Essentials mamas appreciated the three short staccato sentences!)

All kidding aside, this is absolutely foundational. I’ve tried homeschooling in my own power and belief system and it doesn’t work well. The result is usually anxiety and fear due to comparison. But, when I infuse my homeschool day with prayer or praise and consistently stay in His word, the supernatural occurs. And when the going gets tough, His peace and wisdom are always there for the taking. His wisdom is not the wisdom of this world. We will have to make some adjustments on our part (see point number 4), but submission to His way is always the better choice.

I’ve learned that if a way forward seems fuzzy to me, I need to spend more time with Him. When I spend more time, it’s easier to submit to Him and depend upon Him. Consequently, I school in a different way and am reminded of my touchstone and the core reason we began this journey of home education.

You know what? If I took the time to look at my CC Memory Work Board at the beginning of each day, and meditate upon the truth that God is at the center of all that we encounter (history, math, grammar, music, art, geography, science), then I would be inspired to lay out this feast of learning before my children.

#2: We Need the Council and Teaching of the Leaders of the Christian Classical Education Renewal

Classical Insights Blog   Classical Academic PressEarlier this year, Classical Academic Press put their yearly subscription to ClassicalU on sale, and I decided to take the plunge and purchase it. ClassicalU is a site where homeschooling parents and Classical teachers can get further training in what it means to be a Christian Classical Educator. Christopher Perrin, who is the founder of CAP, gives several of the online lectures, and in one of them he makes this point: fully understanding the Christian Classical Model is a lifelong journey. He has been at the head of the Christian Classical renewal in this country and recognizes that even after fully submersing himself in this philosophy for 20 years, he has much to learn. Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute will make the same statement, as will our own Leigh Bortins.

So, if these men and women, who are considered the lead mentors in this field are making these kinds of remarks, shouldn’t we be immersing ourselves in books, lectures, podcasts, and conferences written, given or recommended by them?

Did you know CC has a podcast? Andrew Pudewa, the founder of IEW has one as well. I have fallen in love with the Circe Institute’s Podcast Network (especially FORMA, Ask Andrew, and the Mason Jar). It’s as simple as listening while you wash the dishes or fold laundry.

Are we attending CC practicums? These are FREE for the parents and can offer so much insight into the philosophy of a Christian Classical Education.  CC also offers free parent webinars.

I probably shouldn’t even mention the books! There is an abundance of books on the true, the good, and the beautiful. My own reading list is so long, it will probably take me a few years to get through them all! I will list a few favorites at the end of the post.

There are so many wonderful resources at our fingertips that will help us better understand this philosophy of education. The more we learn of it, the more we will be committed to seeing this through the Challenge years. If, for some reason, this idea is new for you, I implore you to seek out these resources. Read. Listen. Attend. Discuss with others what you are learning. I just cannot stress enough how learning from the masters has enriched my own teaching and outlook about education. I am more restful and resolved to see this through than I ever have been before. You can be too!!

#3: We Need Each Other: Homeschooling in Community is an Integral Part of Classical Education

eyspracticeeveroneLet me get right to the point on this one. We are created to be in community. We are in community with Father, Spirit, and Son.  We are also in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Point number two: communities are made up of flawed human beings. No community is perfect. Every community will have ups and downs, disagreements and tensions. Some communities meet in churches and others in gyms, but where two or more are gathered in His name, He is present. His power can be at work in us to work through the hard times and come out stronger on the other end.

One of the courses on ClassicalU is titled : “An Introduction to Classical Education.” It is a series of twelve lectures on the definition, reason, history, and implementation of the Christian Classical Model. In one lecture on the history of the CE model, I was delighted to hear Dr. Perrin say that community was considered an integral part of a child’s education–even “way back then.” Classical Conversations has got this one right, y’all! Embrace it. Go deeper in it! Love on those families in your community. Pray for the director, tutors, and other families in your child’s class. If there is a disagreement between yourself and another person, go talk to them about it, as our Lord commands. Sure, it’s hard, and I’m not saying I’m perfect at this. I’m preaching to myself. But, it is so worth it!

Let me also suggest this. Do the program. Throw yourself completely into it. Encourage your kids to memorize the memory work like they were going for Memory Master. Make sure your kids have prepared a presentation each week. Of course we all have weeks that are tougher than others and things have to slide. We also have different kids with different learning challenges. But, if we as the teacher are fully engaged in the program, our kids will follow our example and THEY will see the benefits memorization can bring. I cannot even begin to tell you what memorization has done for my children. That is another post entirely, but trust me–the Latin maxim “repetitio mater memoriae” (Repetition is the Mother of Memory) is a truth! To watch and learn more on that listen to Christopher Perrin’s talk or Andrew Pudewa’s talk on the subject. These talks will inspire you to commit to the CC program!

#4: The Goals of a Christian Classical Education are Not the Same Goals Our Society and Culture Embrace

Oh reader, if we could get this through our heads! I would wager that over 80% of us grew up in the progressive educational system. There are remnants of the Classical model present in schools today, but even these are not employed as they were originally intended. You see, the current goal of our society is to produce workers for certain jobs. I am not saying that this is the goal of every school, and I know that I am over-generalizing a bit. But, that being said, this was not the goal of a Christian Classical Education (which developed in the Middle Ages). If we are to stay on this ancient path, then we are going to be counter-cultural in every way possible.

My absolute favorite definition of Christian Classical Education comes from Andrew Kern, who is the President of the Circe Institute. He says:

“Christian Classical Education the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty by means of the seven liberating [liberal] arts…so that, in Christ, the student is enabled to better know, glorify, and enjoy God.”

Wouldn’t you say that is pretty counter-cultural? In a recent conference, Dr. Kern added the following statement: “The goal of a Christian Classical Education is to be a good friend.” If those definitions speak to you in any way, then it is imperative that a self evaluation of thoughts and beliefs about education and how they are being implemented in your homeschool, take place. When I filtered my own beliefs and habits through this beautiful sieve, a large amount of dross was strained out. Coming out of a progressive tradition is HARD. I think that is why so many homeschooling families struggle for the first few years they homeschool, and why there is such consternation expressed in homeschooling Facebook groups. Getting to a place of rest and knowledge in how to truly educate a child is like going through the process of refining gold. We have to be stuck into that fire time and time again to burn away the impurities. Only then will we be able to see education for what it really is. And believe me, the Christian Classical Model is golden and worth the pain we might endure as we shed past beliefs that have been ingrained in us since our own childhood.

When we embrace the above definition, we encounter math as an art, not a subject to check off of our list. Not only that, but we don’t go onto another concept until that mathematical truth is mastered or understood. If my child can teach it back to me or teach someone else, she is ready to encounter the next Truth. My oldest has gone from a kid who absolutely despised math to someone who just last week said, “I’m enjoying this mom!” Furthermore, the importance of music and art within our education is of utmost importance. The fact that most public school administrations view their performing and visual arts as secondary to other “subjects” shows us that our society has rejected these ancient paths. In fact, I would argue that the classes that most reflect what school is supposed to be about are the visual and performing arts classes. I realize this argument could be a post of its own, and I probably just ruffled a few feathers, so I will stop there.

Final thoughts…

Ultimately, the point I am trying to make is that Classical Conversations may not be a perfect program, but it is a beautiful one. Through it, our children encounter truth, goodness, and beauty. From 4 years old through 18 years old, they will have experienced the seven liberal arts. They will have seen how all the arts give freedom and point to the Creator, who inspires awe, wonder, and praise. They will have done all this in community–through laughter, tears, prayer, fellowship–through conversations. They will participate in the great conversation of human history. What an extraordinary gift! Will it be easy? No. Will there be some weeks where Essentials class seems daunting and unattainable? Possibly, unless we are looking at it with a broader lens.

I’ll finish with a short list of excellent resources.

resources infographic

 BOOKS

I am not an affiliate with any of these companies. I just love their offerings.

BETTER UNDERSTAND THE CLASSICAL MODEL

Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, has written four books that will shed light on the Liberal Arts and how they are employed within the Classical model: The CoreThe QuestionThe Conversation, and Echo in Celebration. I don’t have the time and space to go into these in detail for this blog post, but I will say that if you are a CC parent and haven’t read these, you would benefit greatly from doing so.

The other book that I would HIGHLY recommend is The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain. The metaphor of the tree that was created for this book will bless you and inspire you to go deeper. These two men lead a course on ClassicalU and anyone would be richly blessed by their teaching and example. By the last session, I was in tears and forever enraptured with this thing we call Christian Classical Education.

Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents

IF IT IS HARD FOR YOU TO LET GO OF MAKING YOUR HOMESCHOOL LOOK LIKE A PUBLIC SCHOOL

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School

Teaching from Rest

Mere Motherhood

GOING EVEN DEEPER

C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man

David Hicks’ Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education

Douglas Wilsons’ Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning

Richard Gamble’s The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What it Means to be an Educated Human

Richard Turley’s Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

ONLINE LECTURES/COURSES

FREE:

The Eight Essential Principles of Classical Pedagogy given by Christopher Perrin (8 separate lectures)

Teaching from a State of Rest given by Andrew Kern (6 separate lectures)

Nurturing Competent Communicators given by Andrew Pudewa

Circe Institute’s Free Audio Library there’s a wealth of wonderful free talks/lectures here!

PAID:

ClassicalU

ClassicalU consists of Three Levels of Mastery. The Beginning Level: Apprentice has 16 different courses you can take, from an introduction to classical education, to how to teach Latin, reading Homer, teaching the great books, and SO MUCH MORE. Each course consists of about 12 lectures of differing lengths. It is totally worth the tuition. Just one course is worth the tuition in my view. You can go at your own pace and watch them over and over again.

Circe Institute Conference CDs and Audio Downloads 

Can’t afford to attend the outstanding Circe yearly conferences? You can purchase all the talks/lectures from conferences dating back several years. These are so inspiring and life changing.

PODCASTS

The Circe Institute’s Podcast Network: FORMA, Ask Andrew, The Mason Jar, Good Reads

IEW’s Podcasts

Classical Conversations Podcasts

Read Aloud Revival Podcast

Your Morning Basket Podcast

Homeschool Solutions with Pam Barnhill Podcast

 

I hope that these resources will bless you and will help answer the concerns, questions, and fears that come as you traverse this homeschooling journey. It is not an easy journey, but it is transformative. It builds within us and our children wisdom and virtue. Other than knowing Christ and making Him known, there is no higher calling.

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Vanity Fair

As I sit here at the keyboard attempting to begin this blog post, I feel a bit overwhelmed. I have so many thoughts swirling inside my brain and it is hard to know where to start. I am tempted to just go ahead and throw in the towel and not put forth the time, thought, and energy it is going to take to see this post to its completion. But today, I feel compelled to write. We will see if I finish!

For quite sometime I have taken in all of the news reports, commentary, tweets, Facebook posts, debates, and opinions that have been expressed in all of the media outlets to which we are exposed. I have considered each and every story that seems to permeate our news. I have pondered them all from different angles. My conservative friends would be unhappy to know that I follow and read headlines/commentary from CNN on Twitter, and listen to NPR when driving my car. My liberal friends would be equally unhappy to know I occasionally listen to FoxNews on my Sirius XM app. When I step back and weigh all of it on the scales, my heart is heavy. If you profess to be a Christian and are reading this post, the goings on in our world today should give you great pause. If you are watching all of these events unfold and are not doing a serious self-evaluation, I would encourage you to do so. Notice I said self evaluation. I think we do quite enough evaluation of others, don’t you? Yes, we are doing quite a lot of that.

So often, we are distracted by what we see on the surface. We focus and fixate upon the arguments: the words that people say, write on their Facebook status, or tweet. We allow what is said on the news to permeate our thought life. We react, vent, and make sure our opinions are heard. Notice I am saying “we.” Even though I refrain from writing my opinions about current events on Facebook or Twitter, I most definitely vent them to my husband or close friends. I find that it is so easy for us to get caught up in the fray–to allow the tweets, responses, and commentary to govern our belief systems and thought life.

Can we all just step back for a moment and look a little deeper?

I believe that the enemy would want for us to keep our attention focused upon the surface things. If we can stay distracted and angry at what is going on around us, then we can’t really step back and see the whole picture. He is delighted when we don’t go deeper. He is counting on it.

So, when I step back and look at the state of our country and our world, what is clearly seen can be encompassed in one statement:

We have made humankind and our lives here on earth an idol. We believe that our purpose on this earth is to gain the acceptance and acknowledgement of other people and have our own needs met, rather than to praise and glorify our God and Creator.

Allow me to type that again.

We have made humankind and our lives here on earth an idol. We believe that our purpose on this earth is to gain the acceptance and acknowledgement of other people, and have our own needs met, rather than to praise and glorify our God and Creator.

In our minds and our beliefs, we have elevated us and what we think our lives should be, above the Creator of it all. This is what lies at the root of our broken world. Allow me to list a few ways that this manifests itself:

  • Entitlement
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Violence
  • Revenge
  • The need for control

All of these things point to self consumption and elevation.

We put our rights as individuals or a group ABOVE the call to practice forgiveness, grace, love, and mercy. We place our own rights as of utmost importance. I hate to narrow this to just politics, but that seems to be the way we can most easily see it these days. This is happening all across the political spectrum. It is happening among conservatives and it is happening among liberals. It is happening among the moderates. It is happening among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and people of all races. We are ALL demanding our rights. We are all demanding justice for how we were or are being wronged. Please don’t mistake me–there are many people groups that have been terribly and horribly wronged throughout the history of mankind. I weep as I think about the atrocities that do happen and have happened just because of a person’s skin color, religion, or culture. What on earth could possess a person to think that they can look at another created human being as less than human?  In addition to that, we must advocate for the widow and the orphan, we must give to the poor, visit the prisoner, minister to the needy. This is the call of the church. But, here is the unavoidable and horrible truth: as long as sin is in this world, evil will continue. It is happening all over the world. It is everywhere and is ingrained in every culture. The question we must grapple with is, “What will be my response when someone wrongs me or when they reject my point of view?”

When forgiveness is absent, bitterness and hatred take root.

Until He makes all things new, this will not be erased. But, in the meantime, we want justice. The desire for justice in itself is not wrong.  But, I believe when this noble desire becomes an all-consuming desire, sin is crouching at our doorstep. If justice must happen at all costs, this is when it becomes dangerous.

Here is a fundamental truth: justice will not be fully met until the One True Judge disperses justice. There is only One who can rightly be trusted to judge humanity for crimes of prejudice, of jealousy, and of hatred. Our thirst for justice will not be quenched by any human system or law. Am I saying that we must do away with laws and punishments? Absolutely not. Law and order are essential for a society to thrive. Should the criminal be put in prison? Most definitely. But we have fallen to such a level that we want punishment for a person just because he/she says something we disagree with. We are ALL doing this. Every single one of us. No side is exempt. Why? Because we are human. We are fallen creatures and it is all too easy to keep our eyes focused upon ourselves. Sadly, we do not believe in the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness and reconciliation is a much greater power than demanding our rights are met. The world will begin to move in a different direction when we all begin to practice forgiveness and to show grace to others.  When we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him–amazing changes occur.

Vanity Fair

I have been reading a story aloud to my children that has been a catalyst for this blog post. This story is not a new one. It is an ancient one, really, but was retold as an allegory by John Bunyan in the 1670s.  The Pilgrim’s Progress is indubitably considered to be one of the foundational writings in all of western literature. Scholars from all walks of life have read it and written about it. Many will say that along with the Bible, the writings of Homer, Shakespeare, and the writings of St. Augustine, it is a must read for all those who pursue an education. I would argue that it is a must read for everyone. And for those who cannot read, a must listen.

I am not reading the original to my elementary-aged children. Instead, we are using The Little Pilgrim’s Progress, and may I just say that it is so well done. littlepilgrimsprogressI am usually not one that recommends adaptations of the classics, but in this case, you can’t go wrong. A little over halfway through the story, Christian (the protagonist) and his friend Faithful come to a city called Vanity Fair. Both Christian and Faithful have already come through various trials and sufferings, but Evangelist warns them that this city will be the most difficult challenge yet. He describes the city as being one that is full of beautiful and pleasant things. He remarks that it is also full of many pilgrims who have forgotten about their good King, and have instead been distracted by the kind of life the Wicked Prince can provide them in Vanity Fair. You see, the Wicked Prince (Satan) erected this city in a very strategic place, and all pilgrims who are on their way to the Celestial City (heaven) must pass through it.

Evangelist goes on to tell them that there are many who live there who hate pilgrims on their way to the Celestial City, and will stop at nothing to keep them from passing through the gates. He exhorts Christian and Faithful:

“You must walk quietly along the streets. Do not stop to look at the beautiful things in the shops and in the market, and do not let the children persuade you to play with them. Sometimes the pilgrims are treated very cruelly.”

After receiving this warning, Christian asks, “Would they kill us, do you think?” Evangelist replies that they well may be put in prison and that there have often been people wicked enough to kill anyone who does not serve the Wicked Prince. Then he remarks, “Do not be afraid. If you have to die there, the King will send His angels, and they will carry you at once to the Celestial City, and you will have no more trouble or pain forever.”

As the boys walk on, they talk about what Evangelist has told them. Christian asks Faithful if he is afraid. This is how Faithful responds, “Not very much. The King will take care of us…I shall keep close to you, and if the people do kill me, there will be no more enemies to fight.”

When the two pilgrims enter the city, they are immediately accosted by a group of children who mock them. They are then falsely accused of causing trouble in the city, when in fact they have made no comment or raised their voices in any manner. Because the magistrate has such a strong loathing for pilgrims, he drags them to the Governor. The boys are beaten and endure further mockery and unjust treatment. Their response? They chose to trust the goodness of their King. They do not believe the lies that are being said about them and do not demand their rights. But, Faithful asks if he might speak to the judge and jury, and he speaks eloquently. As Christian witnesses the resolve of his friend…

Christian wondered how it was that Faithful had become so brave. His face was pale, but he did not seem to be frightened, although the judge and the people in the court looked wicked and cruel. Christian afterward knew that the King had helped His pilgrim and had made the timid boy brave and strong, so that he was not afraid to speak out and own that he loved his King dearly and would obey no one else.

How is this different from what we see today? Faithful speaks of his King, not himself. He does not demand to be treated differently. He does not yell in anger at his enemies. Ultimately, Faithful knows that the hatred that is being spewed toward him comes from hearts that hate the King. It is the King they reject, and therefore the King’s followers are also despised. Furthermore, he knows that the King is with him and will never abandon him, even in death.

Faithful is then unjustly condemned to death and martyred for his beliefs.

In Bunyan’s original classic, these words follow:

Brave Faithful, bravely done in word and deed;

Judge, witnesses, and jury have instead of overcoming thee; but shown their rage:

When they are dead, thou wilt live from age to age…

Oh reader, we must remember that any argument that elevates the creation over the Creator is an argument that will not last. We were not created to live comfortable, care-free lives. We were not created to be accepted by other people or people groups. Being accepted and praised by human beings is not our reason for living on this planet.

If Christ was not spared mockery and suffering, how can we expect to avoid it? Are we spending our energies on tearing down other humans who are created in God’s image? Or, are we focusing upon making His name great with our words and arguments?

Are we so obsessed with position, recognition, revenge, and the praise and acceptance of others, that we become controlled by them? This is vanity.

“Behold Vanity Fair, the pilgrims there

Are chained and stand beside:

Even so it was our Lord passed here,

And on Mt. Calvary, died.”  John Bunyan The Pilgrim’s Progress

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How I Plan and Organize Our Homeschool

It is that time if year again: freshly sharpened pencils, subject binders with colorful covers, planning sheets filled with possibility, sheet protectors galore, and that bright shiny new curriculum. Well, most of it is new, anyway. If you enter our home, you will see our dining room table covered with the afore mentioned binders and planners. You will also find me hard at work at my computer–planning. Next to Christmas, this is my favorite time of year. Yes, I’m one of those. I love planning and organizing. It gives me great joy and pleasure.

This is our third year of homeschooling, and I have to admit, my planning process has definitely changed since our first year. You know what I have discovered? Just as there are different philosophies of education, there are different philosophies of planning. I won’t go into detail about my former methodology, but I do want to share a little bit about what I do now.  For those who have followed this blog, you know that we embrace the Classical model of education. To take it one step further, we strive for the scholé approach to Classical education. If I am to create an environment for restful, yet diligent learning, my planning should follow suit. I do not sit down with my curriculum and divide it out evenly over 35 weeks of schooling; nor do I indicate in my planning calendar that Latin for Children Chapter 10 page 35 will be completed on October 6th at 9 a.m. This type of planning led to frustration during our first year of homeschooling.

Early in 2016, I was introduced to Pam Barnhill and her ebook Plan Your Year.  This was the philosophy of planning I needed for our homeschool. Let me say up front that I am not an affiliate with Pam’s edsnapshots site and blog. I just want to highly recommend her products to my readers. If you see something here that sparks your interest, then head on over to her website and explore. She even offers several of her planning forms for free.

Vision

Before any curriculum is purchased or opened, I write out a vision statement.

Vision copy

Only when this is complete can I move forward in planning; otherwise, we are a rudderless ship. When the going gets tough long about February, I need to remind myself of our purpose. The vision statement keeps us grounded in our “why” for doing what we do.

Next, I proceed with goals. Pam makes the point that one can spend a lot of time and energy setting the wrong kinds of goals for one’s children. Goals must be specific to their strengths and weaknesses. Goals need to be “specific and measurable” and should be based upon “behaviors and not outcomes.” So, instead of writing:

“Rosebud will memorize five passages from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by November 5th.”

I write the goal:

“Rosebud will study, recite, and practice passages from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night for 20 minutes each day.”

If Rosebud is completing these behaviors on a consistent basis, she will memorize the passage. Will it be by November 5th? Maybe…maybe not. The important thing is that she is encountering Shakespeare on a daily basis.

Goals Sunshine

After the Vision and Goals are done, I move into reviewing our curriculum (this departs from Pam’s order of things a bit, so if you want to follow her process exactly, go buy the book)! Since we participate in Classical Conversations, much of the curriculum is already mapped out for us. I pick resources for individual/family Bible study, I choose a math and spelling curriculum for both girls, and I select a reading/phonics program for Sunshine. We also supplement CC memory work with other resources such as Apologia science, Story of the World, and Beautiful Feet living books for read aloud options. I use the Curriculum Resources sheet in the Plan Your Year bundle to help organize this for each child. Below are our curriculum choices for our Morning Time Symposium.

Curriculum Resources.pdf

 

After this step is done, I begin the process of scheduling. I use the “At a Glance” calendar in the Plan Your Year bundle and map out our school days.  We school six weeks on, one week off and we take breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. I aim for 34-36 weeks of instruction.  We actually begin our school year in July, when it is blistering hot outside. This way, we finish up a little earlier in the spring, when the weather is pleasant and the girls can be outside a good bit.  Here is the Fall Semester layout of the calendar. The light blue weeks are our Sabbath weeks.  Other weeks are color coded by term.

2017 Page Calendar partial

Once the school year is mapped out, I take a look at our curriculum to see if I will need to organize it according to our six terms. Sometimes we will use one science curriculum for one term, and a different one for another term.  Likewise, I have planned different Bible studies for the girls to complete as a part of their morning devotions. Our memory work changes a bit each term also. I like to see all of this put together in one sheet, and the Block Schedule Form fits the bill! This does not list all of the curriculum we are doing; only the resources that change for different semesters. For example, Sunshine is using the same math program all year, so there is no need to put it on this form. It does not change from term to term.

Block Schedule Planner Six Term

 

In our homeschool, history, as God’s unfolding story, is the backbone of our day. Several other “subjects” stem from this study. For instance, our music history and art history are coordinated with our Story of the World readings. Likewise, many of my read aloud books coincide with the time period we are encountering. Because of this, I chose to create a History Loop Schedule. What is a loop schedule, you ask? Well, instead of scheduling specific subjects for specific days, I simply put them on a loop. Once we finish the required activities of one subject, we move into the next. I set aside about an hour per day for our History Loop. If we do not completely finish a particular activity, then we begin our next day by concluding that activity and then moving on to the next item in the loop. Pam Barnhill created a wonderful form for this, too! You simply list the activities you want to loop, and how frequently you want them to appear in the loop. For instance, our CC Geography only takes about 10 minutes, so we try and hit it four times during our loop so that it is thoroughly practiced.  The beauty of loop scheduling is that we don’t miss out on music and art just because something unexpected interrupts our day.  If we miss history time on Wednesday, we just pick up right where we left off the following day.  When all goes well, with no interruptions, we should be able to get through the loop in one week’s time frame.

History Loop 2017-2018

 

Once I have finished all of my loop and term block scheduling, I begin thinking about a general order to our day. I start with a “Weekly Plan” for our entire family.

Weekly Plan

After this, I get more detailed. I schedule our school days in sections.  This Daily Plan changes for Terms 2-5, as we have Classical Conversations Community Day for those terms. I’ve included our Daily Plan for terms one and two below.

We do not school on Friday afternoons. My husband is usually off of work, so we go on field trips, and have our traditional Friday Family Fun Night activities.

 

Daily Plan

Daily Plan 2

Once this step is done, I finalize our booklists, purchase any remaining curriculum, organize our homeschool materials, and finally get down to the nitty gritty of lesson planning.

We use a workbox system in our home. The drawers are organized according to the order of things to be done during the day. Within each drawer are the materials needed for each subject.  Our middle set of drawers contains our art supplies and Classical Conversations materials. To the left of the drawers is our Morning Time Symposium Basket: with our read aloud books, morning time binder with memory work, and various games/activities. In addition to our workboxes, the girls have a bookcase with a variety of books to read and I have my own bookcase with teacher editions and education books for my own perusal. We also have a stack of cubbies for our math manipulatives, craft supplies, and games.

 

The girls complete their independent work at their desks, and sometimes I will use the whiteboard to teach a lesson.  However, the fact of the matter is that a great deal of our schooling happens at our dining room table and on the living room couch.

indoor1 (1 of 1)-6I’m keepin’ it real folks….this is what our dining room table looks like after a day of homeschooling! It is a team effort to clear it off.

Easing In…

We do not start all of our subjects all at once the first week. We ease into it. We have begun our school year this week with a “soft” start. My youngest has art camp at a local art museum every morning this week. So, Rosebud and I are having school in the mornings–just the two of us. Then, in the afternoons, I am schooling Sunshine. It is a wonderful way to ease into the school year. This way, they get a thorough introduction to several of their subjects with me. We also have time to talk about their goals for the year. Then, next week we will add our Morning Symposium to the mix. In a few weeks, we will be going full schedule with our CC memory work and Essentials assignments in place.

 

Having a plan in place is so very important. It has saved our homeschool on many occasions. Last year, in the middle of two moves and a diagnosis of Lyme disease, we were still able to have a productive school year. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that ultimately it was by the grace of God. “Many are the plans of man, but the Lord determines his steps.” We lived out this truth last year, and I know that there will be times this year when His purposes will overrule my plans.

How do you plan your homeschool?

 

UPDATE:  I actually typed up this blog post a few weeks back, and neglected to post it. Hopefully it will still be helpful to those who are still planning and organizing. We are into our second term and so far, the plan is holding up very well! 

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When Disease Comes Home

FullSizeRender-1This has been a homeschool year infused with challenges–both expected and unexpected. Life’s complications forced us to be flexible, to homeschool in ways we hadn’t planned, and to allow space for various interruptions both large and small. One such trial was receiving the news that I had Lyme disease and three of its co-infections: mycoplasma pneumonia, chlamydia pneumonia, and ehrlichiosis.

I am writing this post with the hope that people will read it and share it with anyone who might fit the Lyme profile. Thousands of American’s have lyme borrelia and don’t even know it. They are suffering a debilitating disease, taking a large amount of prescription drugs for MS, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, depression, and so many other illnesses, when the true culprits are boring further into their muscle tissues and body systems, wreaking havoc wherever they go.

Borrelia

I want to share with you my own journey–our family’s journey–along this unexpected bend in the road.

Beginnings…

To be honest, I am not 100% certain when I contracted Lyme and the co-infections I listed above. I do know that late last spring, I awoke to something crawling in my hair, and discovered it was a tick. Was this my first encounter with the eight legged insect? Probably not. Even though I am not an avid hiker and woods-woman, we have lived in areas with deer ticks for approximately 16 years. Bambi and his family would often appear in our front lawn or back yard in Decorah.

After a myriad of blood tests in March/April of this year, what is certain is that I’ve had it for quite a while. This is known as chronic Lyme.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let me begin with the symptoms and stages of Lyme disease.

EARLY LYME

  • Flu-like symptoms: sore muscles, headache, neck pain, fatigue, sweats
  • Some people develop the characteristic “bulls-eye rash”. (Please be aware that MANY people with lyme never had a rash. I am one of those cases.)

I do not distinctly remember the onset of symptoms from this early phase. If I did have them, I didn’t associate them with anything other than a cold.

CHRONIC LYME

The first abnormal symptoms I actually remember having were stiff and sore joints. I remember sitting on the floor playing a game with my girls, and when I got up, my joints in my back and neck locked up. I felt like a 90 year old person in a 40 year old body. I knew that this wasn’t normal. Something was wrong. I also experienced pain in the joints of my legs and arms. Was I already experiencing severe arthritis?

The next symptoms that developed were gastrointestinal in nature. This was odd to me, because I really tried to “eat clean” as the saying goes. Every time I would eat, I would have a burning sensation in my stomach area.  The pain would grow so strong that I wondered if I was having gall bladder or pancreatic problems. I went through several tests, but everything looked fine. I even ended up being scoped, but the results didn’t really reveal a problem that would raise concern. The doctor felt that if I took Nexium for a short time, it would clear up. I went with natural remedies instead and began taking digestive enzymes and drinking apple cider vinegar each day.  This helped a great deal, but didn’t totally eliminate the problem.

Along with these other symptoms, I began developing a kind of insomnia. I could generally go to sleep, but would wake in the middle of the night and have a difficult time getting back to sleep.

Then, I began to notice changes in my menstrual cycle, and by January of this year, I wasn’t having one at all. (Nope, I wasn’t pregnant! I checked!)

The symptom that got me researching and eventually to the doctor was an irregularity in my heart beat. I was experiencing palpitations on a regular basis.

With my connections in Shaklee, I was able to conduct in-depth research into my symptoms. I watched webinars, read articles, and read the blog posts of others who had used Shaklee to help with their symptoms. It was in this research that I discovered the truth about Lyme Disease. All of a sudden, everything began to fall into place.

We had just moved to a new city, so I located a physician and made an appointment. I requested a lyme test. The test she offered to conduct was the ELISA test–which can miss over 35% of Lyme cases. I figured that the bacteria had been in my system a long time, and hoped that something would show up. She also wanted to run all sorts of auto-immune tests, and even though I was fairly certain of what was wrong with me, I agreed. A few days later, the nurse called and confirmed my suspicions. I tested positive for Lyme.

I was relieved to know that I had the correct diagnosis, but at the same time I was overwhelmed at the thought of what lie ahead. This was not going to be an easy road.

I had been reading enough to know that if I truly wanted to be healed, finding a Lyme Literate MD was of vital importance. The problem is, these doctors operate off the radar because there is so much controversy and debate in the medical community about this disease. I knew, though, that an MD who is not Lyme literate would likely not test me for co-infections. You see, when you are bitten by a tick, it will not only pass on the lyme borrelia bacteria. It can pass on dozens (some believe even hundreds) of other bacteria strains, too. If your doctor doesn’t run a panel for all the common co-infections, you can remain sick for the rest of your life. Different bacteria require different treatments. One or two rounds of doxycycline (the antibiotic often prescribed for lyme) can leave you worse off than you were when you discovered your disease.  These spirochetes are smart little pathogens that know how to hide and create biofilms. The longer they are in your body, the longer the treatment will be. I needed to be in the hands of someone whose speciality was lyme and its co-infections.

Even if you do find an LLMD (Lyme Literate Medical Doctor), you may have to travel long distances to get the treatment you need. Fortunately, there is an LLMD fairly close to us, so I am not having to fork over an airfare for each appointment. I am so grateful to God for this!

Before I go any further in my story, allow me to stop and share some of the most common symptoms of chronic lyme:

LATE/CHRONIC LYME DISEASE

If the spirochetes are not killed off within the first couple of weeks, they begin to travel to other areas of the body, hiding out in tissue. They invade heart tissue, joint tissue, and neurological systems. Patients can develop:

Fatigue

Heart palpitations

Cognitive issues: brain fog, memory loss

Neurological: tremors, shaking, ringing in the ears, dizziness

Reproductive problems: Loss or irregularity of period, low semen production, etc.

Severe joint or muscle pain

Stiffness in back, neck, and other joints

Gastro-intestinal issues: heartburn, stomach pain

Depression, anxiety, mood swings

Disruption of sleep, insomnia, waking during the night

Because many patients have co-infections, it is possible to experience other symptoms, from unexplained fevers and night sweats to sore feet when you get out of bed in the morning.

If you have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, or other such auto-immune disease, read these symptoms carefully and identify the bacteria that correlates. Tick borne mycoplasmas and chlamydias can often be the culprits.

START HERE WITH THE COMPREHENSIVE…

Co-infection symptoms chart

OTHER LINKS:

SYMPTOMS IN CHILDREN:

  • Mood swings and outbursts
  • Difficulty focusing:  children can present with some ADD/ADHD or Autistic tendencies–and it is actually lyme or a co-infection
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Sleep disruptions, difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Joint pain
  • Noise and light sensitivity

For more symptoms and links in children visit:

Lyme Disease in Children

You can begin to see how all of this can be very overwhelming, right? But imagine you are someone who is experiencing these symptoms and the medications aren’t working. Your quality of life is completely gone. There are patients who literally can not get out of bed in the morning. Their long term pain and discomfort leads to depression and hopelessness. This disease can completely debilitate someone for decades of their life.

In clockwise order: 1) Lyme borrelia spirochete, 2) ehrlichia 3) chlamydia pneumonia  4) babesia 5) mycoplasma bacteria 6) bartonella

It is amazing how these small pathogens can cause such major damage. Blood tests back in April revealed that I had some form of  #1, 2, 3, & 5 in my system.  These and many others like them can be transferred through one single tick bite.  This does not include the viruses that can be transmitted too—Epstein Barr being one of the most common. This was found in my system as well.

I hope that those who are reading this information for the first time can begin to see how complex this disease can be. There is not a “one treatment kills all” solution. Yes, there are antibiotics that can kill several different strains at once, but often other treatments are needed to eradicate them from the body. I have purchased three different books on naturally healing the co-infections I have. The herbal protocol for killing Lyme borrelia is different from the protocol for the chlamydia pneumonia, and yet again different for the mycoplasmas.  This is why it is imperative that a person who tested positive for Lyme must also be tested for co-infections.

Gratitude in the midst of a storm

Okay, let me shift gears now.  I want to express some gratitude. I strongly feel that I must share this, because if I don’t, I am not revealing the whole story.  I know for certain that if I had not already had the amazing scientific and medical resources provided me through my connections in Shaklee, I would be sitting here without the correct diagnosis for my symptoms. Over the past two years, I have researched articles, viewed webinars, and learned volumes about how God created our bodies to heal naturally. Because I was already on this path, I believe I had the tools necessary to find the right doctors and pursue the best path to healing.

When my LLMD was running some initial tests on our first visit, he was pleasantly surprised to see that I wasn’t manifesting many of the neurological symptoms seen in many lyme patients. As it turns out, I have been taking a very pure and concentrated form of resveratrol for a few years now, which happens to be the number one natural treatment for lyme. I wasn’t taking a high enough dose to eliminate the bacteria (I am now!), but I whole-heartedly believe that this and the other supplements I have taken on a daily basis for almost three years have kept the bacteria from damaging my body as severely as most people out there. For this, I am truly grateful.  I am grateful to God, grateful to my friend who introduced me to these life-saving nutrients, grateful for the support of my family, and so much more. When I have moments of fear, doubt, and sadness for my condition, I remember my blessings and am grateful. When I think about the fact that my own children may have this disease, too (we are running further tests), I must remember these things to stay hopeful and strong. If it were not for God and the family, friends, and Shaklee community He has provided, where would I be? I know exactly what I would be experiencing, because I have seen it first hand in family and friends who have been suffering for years with lyme and didn’t know it.

This is why I am writing this blog post. Knowledge is power.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the symptoms listed in the links above, please take action and find a lyme literate doctor. The following links will get you on the right track to finding the right MD.

ILADS Physician Referral

Lymenet.org

While I am giving out links, here are a few more….

THESE SITES LED ME TO THE PROTOCOLS I AM TAKING DAILY UNTIL I AM HEALED:

A Mom’s Testimonial & Natural Protocol for Lyme (She is actually a biologist and is very knowledgable about how these bacteria operate).  She lists the symptoms and a specific protocol of supplements. I am following this myself. I take these supplements daily, and am gluten free. If you would like links to this protocol, and these supplements, please comment below and I will send them your way. Or, send me a private message on my Facebook page.

Stephen Buhner’s Site

  • I am following Stephen Buhner’s herbal protocols for my lyme and co-infections, along with my Shaklee protocols, and treatments my LLMD is suggesting/prescribing.

Dr. Rawls

  • Dr Rawls is an OBGYN turned LLMD. He suffered from fibromyalgia for years before discovering that he had lyme and its mycoplasma co-infection. There is a wealth of information on his site.
  • I am using some of Dr. Rawls’ products to follow Buhner’s protocol, along with Shaklee products that contain these herbs.

Lyme Disease.org

  • This is a great site for finding out general information about the disease, its symptoms, and treatments.

John Drulle MD: There are links to the best lyme disease sites here for you, so you don’t have to do a lot of searching.

WEBINAR:

Webinar on Lyme Disease and Treatments

After I viewed this webinar, I called and made an appointment to see a doctor.

BOOKS:

These are the books I have in my own library and would highly recommend:

If you have any questions, or want more information, please leave a message for me and I will respond ASAP.  I’m here to help and to share the life-giving information I have been given.

And for all of you out there suffering, you are not alone and there is hope for healing!

To be completely honest, when I initially began treatment, I felt worse. I had a pretty severe Herxheimer reaction that was rather frightening. But today, after following these protocols for about a month and a half, I can testify to the fact that:

  • I am sleeping through the night without waking
  • I have the energy to clean my house, do the laundry, cook meals, and run errands
  • I started yoga classes and can make it through them
  • Have less stiffness in my joints
  • Had my first monthly cycle in several months

I know I still have months of treatment to go, and may have some setbacks along the way, but I have hope! You or someone you love can too!

I pray that this post will reach thousands, and give people the knowledge they need to take the next steps…

Lyme Awareness Month

Love,

Kristin

P. S. For prevention of Lyme, doctors and herbalists suggest:

  • applying a DEET free insect repellent to your clothes and skin
  • eat lots of garlic
  • take a quality astragalus root product daily. Check with your physician about children’s dosing
  • after working in the yard, do a thorough check for ticks or bites
  • check your kids–even when they have played in your back yard!
  • check your pets regularly

If you know you have been bitten by a tick, DO NOT WAIT. Get treatment immediately. Scientists are predicting that 2017 will be a year where Lyme disease will be on the rise. Be in the know and be prepared!

Here are a couple of maps:

These two maps show how the number of lyme infected ticks has grown significantly.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/lyme-disease-carrying-ticks-are-now-half-all-us-counties

Projected Map for 2017 (Projected number of dogs infected)

https://www.lymedisease.org/clemson-tick-map/

FOR TESTING

If your ELISA test comes back negative, demand a Western Blot AND CD57 panel. LabCorp is one of the companies that will run better and more conclusive tests. Even though no test is perfect, Lyme will usually show up in this combo of tests. Again, if an LLMD runs tests and finds tick borne co-infections, that is a sign the Lyme is there too.

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Six Simple Things That Made Our Homeschool Day Better

6-simple-things

Through much trial and error, prayer, webinar watching, book reading, podcast listening, and more trial and error—here are six simple things we have implemented into our homeschool that have made all the difference.

  1. Setting a Vision & Writing Goals that Reflect That Vision
  2. Spiral Notebook Planning
  3. Six Weeks On, One Week Off
  4. Starting Our Day with Bible & Morning Time Symposium–Instead of Math, Grammar, and Writing
  5. More Reading Aloud by All Family Members
  6. More Games

Setting a Vision & Writing Goals Which Reflect That Vision

HoneycombYes, I am one of those homeschooling moms. I am already dreaming about the wonderful new books we will encounter the next school year. However, I am doing one thing differently this year. I am reviewing the Vision statement I made for our homeschool last fall, before looking at all the shiny new curriculum choices out there. I am looking at our Rule of Six to make sure these options fit the bill and reflect our goals. I have learned that this is MUCH more important than planning out an entire year’s worth of lessons, or trying to fit the curriculum into six six-week terms.

This year, I did not open our math curriculum and try to figure out how I was going to spread it out over 36 weeks. I’m not saying that is a bad thing to do, I just found that for myself, I was becoming a slave to the curriculum. Instead, I set specific math goals for each child. As long as the curriculum met those goals, we progressed forward with it. If more time was needed for mastery, we took it. My vision for our homeschool shifted from “We must finish the book at all costs!” to “We will master each concept and then move on to the next concept.” If I had gone the former route, Rosebud might be finished with Latin for Children Primer A by the end of term, but she would not know her Latin. In fact, she would probably despise her Latin lessons. Instead, we are taking two weeks per lesson this semester so that she has time to really learn the vocabulary, conjugations, and translations. Once all of that clicks, I know she will begin to move at a quicker pace again. What has this given her? It has not only given her mastery, but a love for the subject. She enjoys Latin! It is okay if we finish the first level in the middle of next year. At the same time, my youngest is plowing through Song School Latin: Book One and will probably start Book Two before the school year finishes. As long as she is mastering her vocabulary and delighting in the content, we will keep the pace going.

This mindset has breathed life into our homeschool, and has made me a better guide for my girls. I am no longer anxious that we might be “behind.”

If this resonates with you and you want to learn more, I highly recommend the following:

  • Pam Barnhill’s Plan Your Year, which can be found on her website, Ed SnapshotsThere are also free podcasts and videos on vision casting and goal setting that Pam hosts which are very helpful. They are a great place to start, and will help change your mindset about planning.
  • Sarah MacKenzie’s Focus and Align, which is a video master class that can be viewed by Read Aloud Revival Members at any time, is a wonderful resource. This is where our Rule of Six came from.
  • Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie
  • Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Sarah Clarkson

Spiral Notebook Planning

_1kh7589Oh y’all, this one is SO simple! Again, I’m not saying that Homeschooling Tracker is the wrong thing to do. That may fit your homeschool perfectly! But for me, it wasn’t working and it was causing more stress. This year, I let each girl pick out a spiral notebook that she was excited about. This would be the notebook we would use for assignments for the entire year.

Ideally, on Sunday evening, I will sit down and write Monday’s independent work into their notebooks. Sometimes, I actually do this on Fridays right after school has ended. This is my practice for the remaining days of the week. I find that if I take 10 minutes at the end of the school day to write down the next day’s assignments, it is fresh and in tune with their needs. As the girls complete their assigned tasks, they put a check to the left. I then go in, check their work, and if it is satisfactory–put a check on the right side of the assignment.

It only takes 10 minutes of planning the previous day. That is it. It has fostered independence and a sense of responsibility in my girls. If one child finishes a task, but I am working with the other child on something, that child knows to go on to another task on her own. And, they love checking off the lists!

_1kh7591As the day progresses, I can make notes on their pages for myself. For instance, I might write down, “Make sure __________ reviews her Latin chants from Chapters 11, 12, &14.” Or I might write, “Review Rosebud’s spelling for conceive.” So, its a great way for me to “brain dump” as well so that I don’t forget what I want to review the next day.

In short, spiral notebook planning is a win/win. It is working well for our homeschool and has really streamlined my planning process.

Six Weeks On, One Week Off

The concept of a Sabbath week has completely transformed our homeschool. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this schedule. There is great blessing that awaits your family during break week. I get the chance to just read for fun or catch up on all those podcasts I was missing. I also get to evaluate the last term and adjust as needed. It is a great time to review my Rule of Six, and to see if we are sticking with our goals. I don’t know about you, but I need lots of reminding and reviewing. I often forget and go astray. This Sabbath week helps me to focus upon what is really important.

As a family, we play more board games, go on field trips, sleep in, read aloud big chunks of Harry Potter, and just enjoy a more relaxed schedule. And yes, the girls get to play more Minecraft. I’m not gonna lie. I also get a chance to do some serious meal planning for the next term.

I find that when I come back from a week-long break every six weeks, I start the next term with greater energy and focus. If you are on the fence about implementing this kind of structure, just go on and dive in. You’ll love it and so will your kids.

 

Starting Our Day with Morning Time (Instead of the “Hard-core” Subjects)

If you are new to this blog, I will take a brief moment to outline our Morning Time Symposium. This is a two hour block when we learn together as a family. The goal is to encounter truth, goodness, and beauty while we talk about ideas and share insights. We start with Bible study and then from there incorporate these elements: memory work, poetry time, fine arts loop, and content area study (history or science). My girls love morning time symposium. It is, without a doubt, their favorite part of our homeschool day. For a year and a half, I had this time placed mid-to-late morning. Recently, during one of our Sabbath weeks, I came to the realization that starting with the harder subjects like math, grammar, and writing was causing stress and consternation. We were all taking that baggage into our precious symposium time, and more often that not, our days were going off the rails. I knew I needed to let go of the idea that the “important” subjects must be covered first. Oh my goodness, listen to me. Yes, math and writing are extremely important, but they do not trump great discussions about poetry, books, the wonder of God’s creation, and the events that have shaped our History. They are not more important than experiencing the great masterpieces of music and art and studying about the men and women who created those masterpieces. Most importantly, they do not take a higher priority than Scripture.

If nothing else, moving math, writing, and latin to our mid-morning has freed up our Bible study time. I don’t feel the “pressure” to stop a biblical discussion in order to start our math lessons. In fact, most of our symposium subjects are on a loop. So, if we don’t get to something in that two hour block, we can just pick it up the next day.

Switching these two “blocks” of time has completely transformed the atmosphere in our home. I get very little attitude during math and writing now. In fact, my girls are discovering the beauty in these subjects, and are more likely to diligently complete their assignments. Our homeschool days are filled with much more delight than drudgery.

More Reading Aloud

Read Aloud Revival  get motivated to read aloudThis year in January, we participated in the Read Aloud Revival 31 Day Challenge. Wow! What a transformation it made in our lives. Before this challenge Sunshine loved to write and illustrate stories, but she didn’t love reading. Rosebud has always loved reading, but Sunshine found it to be a chore. We were trying all of the recommended series books, but nothing really appealed to her. She just wasn’t falling in love with reading. But all of that changed with the read aloud challenge. In this challenge, the girls were to read aloud for 15 minutes a day. They could read to their dad, to me, to each other, to their favorite stuffed animal, to our dog–to anyone! They just had to do it aloud and not “to self.” Many days I’d stand by Sunshine’s door and listen to her as she read to her dolls. Such exuberant, fluent reading was flowing from her lips! By the end of the month, I would find her sitting on the couch, with a book in hand, reading. “Mom, I want to read this book to you!” “Mom, I’m going to read this book today–and it’s Saturday!”

This challenge made all of us aware of how important it is to read out loud together as a family. If you do nothing else, read aloud together everyday. The questions will come pouring in and the discussion of great ideas will flow freely. Your kids will learn. Truly. Reading aloud really is a part of our family culture now.

I should add that we are now checking out more picture books from the library. There are dozens of delightful stories just waiting to be discovered by your children. Each month, Sarah puts forth a reading list that is chock full of wonderful, short picture books. I take the list with me to the library and we check out as many of them as possible. Then, when we get home, we fill our library bins. Rosebud will read during meal times, when she first wakes in the morning, in the afternoon after school, and before bedtime. Just yesterday she proclaimed, “I’ve read them all–time to go back to the library!” These books also make wonderful read aloud options. I try and implement Andrew and Missy Adams’ Teaching the Classics socratic method with these books. I have my list of questions to ask about the characters, setting, plot, conflict, climax, and resolution. We also talk about themes and author intent. Going through this process with shorter children’s books gives your kiddos many wonderful tools for a lifetime of reading and meaningful discussion. By the way, the second edition is due to be released later this month. It is well worth the cost and will unlock the door to true education for your child. You don’t have to be homeschooling in order to utilize this book in your home. It is a vital resource for every family.

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More Games

 

We are a part of a Classical Conversations Community. Each week on community day, tutors introduce different games for reviewing memory work or math concepts. I have loved including these in our school day.  But, I was curious to see if there were more options out there that would be easy to implement. I am all about easy implementation. So, back in January I went online to the IEW website, and found that the Teaching with Games DVD was reduced to $15. I bought it, and I am so glad I did. I watched it one weekend, took notes, and immediately began implementing some of these simple games into our homeschool day. If you are still reeling from your February slump, just plug in some simple learning games. These games are never a waste of time, because the students are experiencing the information in a very tangible way–so they remember the concepts you are trying to teach. Why not smile while learning?  For a great list of family games that teach, check out the My Little Poppies blog.

Well, there you have it! Six simple steps for a better homeschool day. I hope that they will be helpful as you strive for true scholé in your home.

 

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Love,

Kristin

 

 

 

 

 

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Lessons Learned During the Wait: Our Nine Month Journey

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. For the past few months, life has been a little crazy for our family. We have had some challenges and big life changes, and I would like to share with my readers about our journey and God’s faithfulness. This isn’t a short story, but if you hang in there, I promise you it will be worth the read. In fact, you may leave this page with a few goose bumps!

Last March, my husband was appointed to a new position at a new University in Texas. We both grew up in Texas, so the prospect of being near our extended families again was very exciting. We had experienced six wonderful years in Iowa, but it was time to come back home.

At the beginning of April, we put our historic home on the market and made plans to move to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. We were confident that our home would sell fairly quickly.

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We flew to Dallas, met with a real estate agent, and began scoping out neighborhoods looking for a home to purchase. I began to investigate ballet studios for Rosebud, art studios for Sunshine, and homeschooling co-ops that we might join. My husband and I researched different church options, and began to narrow down the first two or three we would visit as a family.

April passed by and there were no nibbles on our house. May passed by and still no offers. June began and still nothing. The housing market in our town was full of homes to buy, but there weren’t many buyers on the horizon. The market was very slow. My husband’s start date at his new position was quickly approaching, and we needed a plan.

We prayed and wracked our brains, trying to figure out the best possible scenario. Needless to say, we were a bit worried about how it would shake out. We have always used Dave Ramsey’s percentages for home cost and it has served us well. We haven’t ever bought or rented a home outside our means. My husband’s new salary was not one that would support both a mortgage and a rental cost, and we did not want our savings to deplete over time.

What should we do than? Do we rent out our home? Drop the price a crazy amount? Move everything and store it in Texas and live with family? Should the girls and I stay in Iowa and live several states apart for who knows how long?

We were about to talk with our realtor about offering our home for lease when I felt a strong urge to spend an evening praying and reading the Bible. We had already been praying and searching the scriptures, but this was one of those gut wrenching, compelling moments when I needed to go deeper.

I searched God’s Word for guidance, and that night as I cried out in prayer for direction, I believe the Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 27. Take a moment and read it.  The verses that captured my attention were:

1The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strongholda of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquirec in his temple.

5For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8You have said, “Seekd my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”e
9Hide not your face from me.

Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path

I believe that I shall lookf upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

There it was as clear as a bell….WAIT. “Don’t list your house for rent and DON’T drastically drop the price of the house.”

A couple of nights later, my husband came in from a church rehearsal that he had been leading and said:  “I think I know what we are supposed to do! We leave our furniture here, take my office and our homeschooling supplies in a small U-Haul and go on down to Texas. You and the girls will live with your parents and I will commute back and forth to my job. We will be apart during the week but see one another most weekends.”

The moment this plan was uttered, I felt an immediate sense of peace that I had not felt in weeks. Yes!  This was it!

But wait…”Where are you going to live during the week while you are working?” I asked. We didn’t have the answer to that question yet. That was going to require prayer.

It wasn’t a week after that that my husband heard from a woman who was a former real estate agent and a huge supporter of the school of music where he would be teaching. She had a garage apartment that was coming available in August. Not only that, she and her husband wanted to offer the apartment to him for free. No rent.

Wait, what???

Our God is faithful. This was the confirmation we were looking for.

So, at the end of June we left our house staged with the majority our belongings and drove to Texas. My parents graciously offered to open their home to us until our house in Iowa sold. My parents live in a town that is about 5 hours away from the Dallas area, so we knew that our little family would be living “apart” once school began for my husband.

Even though this was not our “A” plan for our family, we still had the hope that our house would sell before September.

Then, in August, Decorah was hit with a catastrophic flood. We had dear friends that were affected by the devastation. Our hearts were heavy with the stories, pictures, and videos that were emerging. And another by product of this…the housing market came to a standstill.

So, my husband’s semester began up in North Texas and the girls and I began our homeschool year out in West Texas.

If you have ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, you know that an ENTP (Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Prospecting) needs his/her people. Being alone in a new environment can be detrimental. Well, my amazing hubby is about as ENTP as you can get. Sure, he had interaction with his new colleagues during the day, but when he went home to that one bedroom apartment…the people he loved most weren’t there. For almost 4 months this was his reality. It was extremely hard for him.

I, on the other hand am an ISFJ (Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging). I need some true alone time to refuel and renew. Our circumstances made that hard, and as the semester wore on, I felt the affect of burnout and anxiety. I went into survival mode–only doing what was absolutely necessary to get through each day. I put my Shaklee business on hold, stopped growing as a teacher and parent, and didn’t get any exercise or physical activity.

We both felt like our lives were on hold, and the very people and circumstances that were dearest to us were being challenged or removed. Living in the WAIT was extremely hard.  Psalm 27 kept flooding my memory. “Wait upon the LORD.” I will confess, we did not wait in one way. Over the months, we lowered the price of our home a significant amount: so much so, that we were going to lose our down payment, lose the money we had put into the house, and barely squeak out of our mortgage.

I won’t go into much detail about those four months. But I will say that there were tears, anxious conversations, and stressful moments as husband and wife. But we were seeking God like we hadn’t done in years. I often think about C. S. Lewis during trials and tribulations. He said, “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is through our suffering that we grow closer to Christ. My husband and I can both attest to the truth of that statement! Through all of it, I didn’t lose my faith. I knew God had called my husband to this new position and I knew that there was a reason why our house had not yet sold. But, that didn’t make the loneliness, pain, and frustration any easier to endure.

November rolled around, and yet again, in our frustration and strong desire to be together as a family we started trying to make plans. Waiting?  Um, no. We again wracked our brains, trying to find a way that we could all be together in the new year, but still make wise financial choices that wouldn’t lead us into debt. There was a possibility of renting a small furnished house for a much lower cost than most rentals.  It would make things VERY tight, but we were readying ourselves to take the plunge. Being together as a family was priority. We didn’t care about how nice the house was. We didn’t care much about the location. We just needed to be together.

In the meantime, my ISFJ self was in desperate need of some time and renewal alone. I don’t know that I really was praying for it, but the desire was in my heart. Since the end of October, my thoughts had been turning back toward Decorah, Iowa as well.  I missed my friends–my sweet sisters in the faith. I missed my house and had that “nesting” desire to make sure it was okay and clean and cared for.

HERE’S WHERE THINGS GET VERY INTERESTING…

Out of the blue, one of my close friends sent me an email. In it, she mentioned what a great idea it would be for me to fly up there one week so that I could be a part of one of our Friday morning accountability times. A spark lit. I had been casually looking online for flights to Minneapolis for several weeks, but everything was too expensive. I thought, “Well, what the heck, I’ll look again.” The flights were on sale for that week so I checked with my husband and then booked a roundtrip flight for a fraction of the cost. This was extremely impulsive of me, but I had a peace.

I was so thrilled to be getting the chance for some extended alone time in my house, along with a few hours of social time with some of the dearest people on the planet.

As my friend drove me from the airport to Decorah, God was impressing upon me to do a personal study on the concept of REST in the Bible.

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It had already been rolling around in my mind, but seemed to come together beautifully as my friend and I talked and shared. So, after arriving at our house, shedding a few tears and cleaning a bit (remember, I’m an ISFJ who likes a clean environment in which to think) I grabbed my Bible, pen, and journal and headed up to the master bedroom to meet with my Savior.

That hour alone with him was the most invigorating and renewing spiritual experience I had had in months–maybe even a year. It was like He was guiding my hand as I took notes.  He was speaking to my heart and soul in ways that only He can do. At the end of my time, I felt led to walk around our beloved house and pray in each room. So, I went from room to room, recounting aloud God’s goodness in what went on in each space.

I thanked Him out loud for the laughter and playtime my girls had experienced in their bedrooms.

I thanked Him for the precious moments my husband and I had rocking them before they went to bed. I thanked Him that we had witnessed both girls’ prayers to receive Christ in that house. I praised Him for songs sung and Scriptures read in those rooms.

I thanked Him for friends we hosted, meals shared in our kitchen and dining room.

With tears flowing and hands raised I praised Him for the amazing home that He had given to us to live in for six years. Gratitude exploded from my mouth in loud utterances of praise. (Not really an ISFJ quality, right?)

Then, I prayed with boldness and confidence that He would bring someone else to that home to have those same kinds of experiences. “Lord would you bring a family that will love this home just as we have loved it?”

Just moments after praying that prayer, my cell phone rang. It was our realtor. We had an offer on our home.

My mouth fell open and I began to laugh with a joyful laugh. What in the world just happened? An offer on our home? Really? Really!!! My friend had the same reaction when she picked me up for a get-together.

Many people might say that this was just a coincidence.  My coming to Decorah, and spending time alone with God was just something I wanted to do.

No. This was God’s plan.

I could’ve just stayed in Texas and received this call on a regular ol’ Thursday afternoon. But no, that was not God’s plan.

I was supposed to be IN MY HOUSE.  I was supposed to have prayed THOSE SPECIFIC PRAYERS, because God was ready to answer in a way that I COULD HAVE NEVER PLANNED!

I had to see that He was at work.  I needed the reminder that He IS FAITHFUL.  He is the great I AM who is present in every moment and is ready to meet me in any moment!

Oh, He is SO good that he orchestrated that I receive this phone call in this exact way. No other way would do.

That day, may faith grew exponentially. “Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!” He answered that prayer in spades!

I will admit though, I still had a gnawing fear at the back of my mind.  The house inspection. What if they see the drawbacks of a 150 year home and pull out?  With this cloud still hanging over the horizon of my mind I was unwilling to fully leap for joy. It was not a sure thing.

The days passed and no inspection occurred. We were a little worried about this. Then, we received a message from our realtor stating that the buyers were going to forgo the inspection, since we would essentially be breaking-even financially on the sale. No inspection?? Really?? What mercy! What kindness–from this family that we didn’t even know. I will say it again. God knows our need and He is faithful.

So, on December 16th, we flew up as a family and moved out of our home. It was a great time of closure for my husband, and a sweet time of reunion with friends for Rosebud and Sunshine. The movers loaded the truck in snow and a wind chill of -15 degrees.  Yes negative 15! But the cold couldn’t touch the warmth of joy we felt in our hearts. December 20th, we moved into our new home in the Dallas area. December 28th, we closed on the house in Iowa. This nine month chapter of waiting had finally come to a close.

It is such a joy to type this blog post from the living room of our new home. Our family is together again. I hope and pray that these walls will be filled with the same laughter, beauty, and truth that filled our Decorah home. I cannot wait to make wonderful memories here. I look forward with anticipation to see how God is going to work in our midst.

So why even write about this? Why should I share this story?

First of all, let me recount how God provided for our needs during this time of waiting:

  1. He provided a rent free apartment for my husband. Not only that, but He provided a sweet friendship to develop between my husband and the couple who owned the house. They are such amazing people and we are so grateful for their generosity.
  2. He provided the girls and me with an amazing time with my parents. We did not have one argument the entire 6 months we lived with them. We were able to make up for all the time we lost in those 6 years in Iowa. We shared many laughter-filled meals, watched old movies, listened to old songs–in short, we shared life together, and it was beautiful.
  3. He gave us the opportunity to spend time with my brother, sister-in-law and their kids. The cousins had great play time together.  He gave us time with grand parents, who are now in their 90s.
  4. He provided a dining room that became our homeschooling room for a semester.
  5. He provided a Classical Conversations community for us to join and we met some really wonderful people there.
  6. He provided people to take my hubby to lunch, and cook him dinner on several occasions.
  7. He provided a church home where the girls could get involved in church choir, G. A.’s and Sunday school.  He provided my husband with a church home as well, where he could begin to build relationships and experience amazing music and teaching.
  8. Most importantly, He provided us Himself. He provided strength for each day. He taught us to put Him first above all else.
  9. If our house had sold back in April, we would not have experienced all of these provisions.

I write this post to testify to you that this world did not come to be by accident. This world was created by a God who didn’t just create and then step back to let things happen as they would happen. It was created by a God who loves you with an everlasting love. A God who knows you, who knit you together, who desires a relationship with you. He is not in the business of providing what we want. Yes, he does do that from time to time out of his mercy and grace. But, really, He is in the business of providing what you need.  I’m not just talking about physical and emotional needs. There is a bigger need that He has met. He provided a way to free us from our sin, to give us eternal life, and to walk in freedom here on this earth. This way is Jesus. He is real and He loves you. He does not promise a care-free life. In fact, our lives are full of suffering. But you know what? He suffered too and to a greater degree than we will ever suffer. He is good. He is faithful. He is truth. He is your stronghold during the wait.

Because of these last nine months, I trust Him now more than ever before. I pray that this story of our journey will inspire and encourage. I pray that it will plant a seed of faith in the hearts of those that read it.

Until next time,

Kristin

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Seeds of Rest

I have a dear friend who will often say, “When I hear or read the same theme or message from three different sources, I know that God is trying to get my attention.” I, too, have known this to be true in my life. If God is at work to refine me, I will often come across the same scripture passage in a variety of ways. Sometimes it comes in the form of a sermon, another time through my devotional reading, and yet again by encouraging words from a blog post or book.

As of late, the word that keeps popping up in multiple arenas is this: rest.

I have recently begun listening to a podcast entitled Glorious in the Mundane, hosted by Christy Nockels. During one of the episodes, Christy’s guest made the point that when you see a great deal of Christian books being written about the same subject, yet penned by different authors, take notice! God is breathing a Word into the hearts of His people.

I am beginning to believe that the doctrine of sabbath and rest is starting to permeate the books on the shelves of our libraries and bookstores. I first noticed it in the homeschooling books I’ve been reading. Then, I began hearing sermons about it. A few days ago, I spent a couple of hours in a local Christian bookstore, scouring the titles of the devotional books. As I expected, there were several volumes dedicated to the idea of setting aside a restful time to be refreshed and renewed.

Before I fully launch into this post, let me give a bit of clarification. By “rest” I don’t mean laying around on the couch eating chocolates and watching Pride and Prejudice. Nor do I mean zoning out and playing Candy Crush for two hours straight right after school is over. Ahem. Yes, I have done those things–and they aren’t bad–it’s just that they aren’t the true definition of rest. As I think about those kinds of activities, I would define them as, “doing what I want to do because I deserve some me time.” Interestingly, when I’ve finished that two hour Candy Crush bonanza, I don’t feel refreshed, energized, or rested.

In contrast, here are some activities that promote restfulness:

  • sitting alone in a somewhat quiet place to read scripture and meditate upon it
  • going for a prayer walk
  • finding a scenic spot in town and reading scripture
  • listening to peaceful arrangements of songs, hymns and spiritual songs while I repose and think on Him, or whilst coloring
  • gathering with my small group of sisters in Christ and delving into prayer, scripture reading, and discussion
  • listening to an uplifting podcast and then taking time to think about the themes and admonitions presented

For me, restfulness is a mindset. It is peace in the midst of troubled waters. It results when anxiety is morphed by trust.

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I can only describe this process in my life as a slow awakening that began several months ago. Over the passing days, it has grown from a still small voice to a booming and all- encompassing desire in my soul. It culminated with a blog post and video that Dr. Christopher Perrin released via Classical Academic Press a couple of weeks ago. It is entitled, “Scholé for Classical Christian Educators.” In it, he speaks of the importance of incorporating sabbath into our hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. It was as though an enormous light bulb illuminated my mind and heart. This was Truth. This is was the touchstone that I was to move toward. It is to what God is calling all of us.

As I ponder all of the scripture, books, sermons, lectures, podcasts, and articles that I have come across on this subject, I firmly believe that rest is something we are altogether missing in our daily lives. And, as we are neglecting these times of rest, we are missing out on the abundant life God has purposed for us.

It was my culminated lack of quiet, contemplative time with the Lord that left me cold, calloused, and even snippy with my loved ones. It was my neglect of times of refreshing that left me worried and anxious about the difficulties in my life. I went about my daily ritual with the wrong focus and the wrong priorities. What’s even worse, my lack of restful trust spilt over into my children.

 

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.”  Isaiah 30:15

At this juncture, I want to confess that I did like the idea of quietness and trust. I even dabbled in it, if you will. But, if the truth were to be told, my actions proclaimed: “I want nothing of this!”

Oh, if it were not for His grace.  Where would I be?

Repentance was the first step I had to take. I had to turn from the habits and priorities that had captured my thoughts, and acknowledge that yet again I was striving to do things in my own power. Earlier this week, as I drove several hours in the car by myself (a rarity for me), I knew that I must not squander the time that had been given to me. So, I spent a great deal of time praying. I sang a few songs of praise. I listened to another episode of Glorious in the Mundane, and was inspired to live a life that looks for the hand of God in the small, often mundane details of life. This was the key to growth that I had been missing. I found myself pausing the podcast and crying out to the Lord, “Oh, that you would do that work in me!  Do that work in my husband and in our girls! Let us approach each moment of every day with this perspective!”

To me, true repentance, rest, quietness, and trust come from living out the following verse.  I learned it when I was a mere child. As an adult I have concluded that it is one of the HARDEST truths to put into practice:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding.  In ALL your ways, acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Many times, I can’t even get past the first phrase! It is even more difficult to acknowledge Him in EVERYTHING I do, each and every day.

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Here is where the discipline of restfulness comes into play.  Wait what?  Discipline of restfulness?  Yep. This is where Dr. Perrin’s article and video are extremely helpful. Following the pattern that God instigated in “resting on the seventh day,” Perrin exhorts us to implement this ratio of 6:1. One way we are trying it is by working hard in school for six weeks and then taking an entire week off. For the girls, this means a completely free schedule during the week of rest.  For me, it is a week where I can sleep in a little, read a lot, plan the next term, contemplate what went well during the previous term and what needs improvement in the next, and so on. Can I step aside a moment here and tell you that it works? It is amazing what one week of refreshment can do for a homeschooling family. Without a doubt, I have been a better teacher for my girls. I have less anxiety about their learning because I can re-evaluate as we go.

Just this week, we began to enforce the 6:1 ratio in our daily schedule too. During the seventh hour that we are awake, we are taking time to get quiet and have a personal devotional time with God. We are placing it at the beginning of our reading hour, so it falls at 2 p.m. To be honest, this is the time if day when I am usually fizzing out and ready to be done. It comes at the most opportune time for me! We all find a separate corner of the living area, I put on some peaceful music, and we have time to read, pray, contemplate, and renew.

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Here are the resources we are using during this time of rest and refreshment:

Music

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Hidden in My Heart:  Scripture Lullabies

Devotions

For Me:

 Growing in Grace

In the Beginning: Adult Coloring Book

For the Girls:

God and Me Devotionals for Girls.  Rosebud is going through the one for ages 10-12 and Sunshine uses the book for ages 6-9.

Power Prayers for Girls

These are simple, straightforward resources that lead us to a time of resting in God’s presence.

My hope is that by carving out a time when we can each “Be still and know that He is God,” we can come away with renewed energy, deepened faith, and refreshed spirits. I pray that my girls will grow to cherish our sabbath time during the school day, and that they fall in love with their quiet time, so that it becomes a habit and priority. My desire is that they crave a time of refreshment with their Savior each day, and that they experience God’s grace, truth, goodness, and beauty. Maybe as they grow older they will choose not to sacrifice their time of rest for shallow distractions and mindless activities. But instead, they will practice the discipline of sabbath rest.

Wouldn’t that be an extraordinary blessing?

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How might you incorporate sabbath rest into your day, week, or month? How might your family practice the discipline of restfulness?

 

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Seeds sown in tears…

I initially posted this one year ago. I’m reposting to bring encouragement to all those who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

Fourteen years ago, on September 12, 2001, I remember sitting in a hospital bed watching the small television and witnessing the horrible aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  But even at that time, those events seemed like an impossible dream, like a distant blur of tragic images flashing in front of my eyes.  I think back on that day and ponder the fact that the unthinkable tragedy that profoundly changed our nation was yet another layer–adding to the sadness already permeating my heart.  For you see, we were experiencing our own tragedy.  My husband and I were dealing with the shock and disbelief that our son Ross was no longer with us.

Just twenty four hours earlier, we were getting ready for a normal teaching day at Sam Houston State University.  As I walked into the building, I felt the reassuring kicks of my son, who was 23 weeks in…

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A Peek Into the Most Cherished Time of Our School Day

Morning Time Symposium.

That is the name we chose for the time of day when we all gather to

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Taken from The Liberal Arts Tradition by Clark & Jain 

encounter many of the ideals you see in this picture–all within a one-and-a-half to two hour setting. If studying this image lights a fire in your soul, then you can understand why we love our Morning Symposium so much. Now, don’t get delusions of grandeur here, and don’t imagine that this gathering is perfectly pleasant every time we sit down together. Also, don’t imagine a grand and intricate series of lesson plans. No, our symposium time is really rather simple. As we set out to do this, my goal was that we would encounter each portion of this tree at least once per a six week term. Some of these elements we discover every time we meet, while others are visited on a rotation (a.k.a. a loop schedule).

When we began our homeschooling journey last fall, we had a different name for our morning time, and I hadn’t really taken the time to ponder just what a powerful impact this gathering could have on our souls…and brains….and spirits. Then, beginning in January of 2016, I discovered Cindy Rollins, Sarah MacKenzie, Pam Barnhill, Christopher Perrin, and Andrew Kern. I devoured books, listened to dozens of podcasts, watched seminars, and was enthralled with the idea that education can embody all of the qualities in this image.

Have we obtained it all? By no means. It is a journey. A mindset. It is a filter through which our studies pour. In fact, I don’t believe we will fully attain the fruit of this philosophy until we see our Creator face to face. But, we can “taste and see that the Lord is good” while we walk on this earth. And, He permeates every part of that beautiful tree image. All of those qualities have their origins in Him.

Shared Learning

During this time of day, our learning is a shared experience. There really isn’t much independent work that happens during symposium. Instead, we ask and answer questions together, complete projects together, and so on.

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We sing songs of the faith, study about our Covenantal God,  and pray.

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We memorize a history timeline, practice our skip counting with songs and ditties, memorize and recite poetry…

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…chant our Latin verb conjugations, sing about the eight parts of speech, trace and label maps, and act out our history statement memory work. Yes, we act it out! Right now, Rosebud is working with the statement about the Norman Conquest:

“After the church split into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, William the Conqueror defeated King Harold of England in 1066 and started feudalism.” (Classical Conversations, Cycle 2 Memory Work: History Statement for Week 2)

She wouldn’t let me post the video of her re-enactment.  So, you’ll just have to use your own imagination!

 

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William of Normandy (seated) negotiates with Harold Godwinson in 1064. Bayeux Tapestry c. 1090

 

But, through all of this, my favorite aspect of our morning time is the dialectic and socratic discussion that all of these activities bring to the forefront.  Believe me, we do not lack for conversation. I love watching Sunshine’s eyes widen before she makes an observation and I thrill at the meaningful (and sometimes challenging) questions Rosebud poses. This is why we decided upon the title “symposium.” We believe it describes our morning time perfectly. Symposium originates in the Greek, and can be defined as the following:

  • a meeting or conference for the discussion of some subject, especially a meeting at which several speakers talk on or discuss a topic before an audience.
  • a collection of opinions expressed or articles contributed by several persons on a given subject or topic.
  • an account of a discussion meeting or of the conversation at it.
  • (in ancient Greece and Rome) a convivial meeting, usually following dinner, for drinking and intellectual conversation.
  • a philosophical dialogue (4th century b.c.) by Plato, dealing with ideal love and the vision of absolute beauty.

Okay, so we don’t eat dinner, drink and then converse; but we do have a snack and milk before our symposium time! Does that count?

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In Greek and Roman times, the symposium was also characterized as a “convivial meeting.” Convivial?  School? Really? Yes! I would definitely describe our memory work time as “convivial.”  Cheerful smiles and giggles abound as we sing our way through history. It can also get loud. Very loud. In fact, I sometimes have to reign in the jovial atmosphere a bit–especially when singing is involved.  We are a singing family, after all.

Memory work isn’t the only subject that brings out our playful side…

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We didn’t have an extra pair of safety goggles for one of our science experiments, so Rosebud wanted to use scuba gear instead. 🙂

 

Absolute Beauty

During this special time of day, it is my desire that the girls experience (on a regular basis) the masters: masters of music, art, and writing. We listen to classical music from the time period we are studying in history. We also explore the different art forms and artists of that era. We read the great books and talk about their plot, characters, setting, and conflicts. We relate them to our own lives.

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But again, this doesn’t require long, drawn out lesson plans. (In a future post, I will lay out clearly the simple planning I do before each term).

By the simple act of laying out this feast before my children, they naturally know what to do with the truth and beauty that has been set before them. I really don’t have to do much. I am the guide, the facilitator, the nurturer.

Here is where an iPad and learning go hand in hand. Yes, we use an iPad during morning time. Do I hear a collective gasp?!

This way, we can listen to Gregorian chant on You Tube while painting our own illuminated letters.

We can scour the entire opus of a great master.

 

And yes, we can practice our memory work!

 

The Purpose

To sum it up, our morning time is all about being exposed to truth, goodness, beauty, piety, grace, wisdom, virtue, mathematics, music, and art. Why? Because if my children fall in love with this at a young age, they will love it for their entire lives. If they see me gasping with delight as we study an illuminated manuscript–they will gasp with delight too and want to see more.

 

We are just normal, everyday people encountering extraordinary ideas and truths.

But before you go on thinking these times are perfect with well-behaved children, and beautifully cut out crafts–think again! We are just normal, everyday people encountering extraordinary ideas and truths. I like to think of it as a beautiful mess. A somewhat organized–mostly chaotic–beautiful mess.

 

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And, we love it…

 

In the pursuit of truth, goodness, and absolute beauty,

Kristin

 

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P. S. This month on Instagram, the families of the  “Your Morning Basket Moms” Facebook group are flooding the gram-o-sphere with pictures of their Morning Time activities. Simply search #yourmorningbasket to see their posts and glean ideas. I know that is what I will be doing!  🙂

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Hey There, Decorah…

As I sit here on this beautiful evening gazing out our large front window, I see my children fervently playing with their very best friends here in Decorah. I realize that I am seeing before me the epitome of childhood innocence and imagination. I am not certain what world they are creating right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Star Wars fits in somewhere. The leaves are on the branches. The flowers are in full bloom in the garden down the street. The fireflies have begun to flicker about as the sun sets. We are entering my absolute favorite time of year in this town we call home. But, as I revel in the glories of this night I realize that we will soon be leaving all of this behind.

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For those who have followed this blog since its inception, you know that I have stretched the whole gardening metaphor to its limits. Please allow me yet another comparison.

We often hear the phrase, “Grow where you are planted.” In other words, when God has led you to a new place–or a new “garden” if you will–let your roots grow deep.  Make sure you welcome both the sunshine and the rain….and flourish. As I contemplate and reminisce about our time in this small town in the upper east corner of Iowa, I believe we have done just that. Every member of our little family has grown in one way or another. Our girls have…well…grown taller.  Rosebud was 4 when we moved here, and Sunshine was barely 1.

 

My oh my, how they have grown.

 

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God has used so many people and circumstances to grow and change us.  I want to take a few moments to share a few specifics of how this quaint little town and more importantly, the people in it have transformed us.

1) I have a whole new appreciation for the beauty of God’s creation

If I was given a dollar every time I uttered the sentence, “It is SO beautiful here,” I’d be a pretty wealthy gal. Every season here pours forth exquisite beauty. It is a feast for the senses.

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In winter, the snow sparkles like a billion glittering diamonds. Christmas really feels like Christmas! In spring, the crocuses and daffodils bring true joy with them as they break forth from the earth. In summer, the weather isn’t too hot (by Texas standards anyway), the bluffs are a stunning green, and the fireflies fill the fragrant air with a glow like fireworks. The autumn months reveal all of God’s beauty in reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. Halloween is like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Friends gather together (thank you for some outstanding Halloween parties Carlson family), thousands of pumpkins are carved, and children of all ages are donned in every kind of costume you can imagine.

 

I leave this place having had many encounters with my Creator. This alone has been such a wonderful blessing.  I am going to miss the breathtaking views, the peaceful walks by the river…and so much more.

 

2) We now grow our own food AND preserve it!

We transitioned from a city where everyone had a pool in their back yard to a place where everyone has a garden! I never would have dreamed that I would become a passionate canner of homegrown produce. For this, I thank my dear friends Shirley and Claire, whose passion for gardening and preserving just spilled over into my life.  In fact, just this evening I finished canning enough strawberry preserves to last through the next year. I already plan to come for a June visit in 2017 to pick and can again.

I have also determined that we will have a garden (and maybe a pool too) in our backyard in Texas.

 

3) We walk just about everywhere. 

There is a vibrant walking, hiking, and biking culture in this town and we have thoroughly enjoyed our walks to and from school (Grouws family, you are the ones who inspired us to join the walking school bus–thank you!), the Co-op, farmer’s market, coffee houses, parks, Luther…the list goes on and on.

I knew I was in a unique place when it was January, 10 degrees BELOW zero and dog owners were walking by our home, briskly following behind their canine companions.

Speaking of 10 degrees below…

4) Weather, shmeather.  

Our southern grandmas would shudder at the thought of my daughters playing outside in 15 degree weather.  When it reaches 35-40 degrees in March, all of Decorah emerges in short sleeves and capri pants (for a few days anyway).  The Luther students take it even further and throw on a pair of flip flops.  In 50 degree weather, my girls play outside with no shoes!  We have learned to get outside and enjoy God’s creation…no matter what the season. We have frolicked in snow over a foot deep, rolled in the crisp brown leaves from the maple trees in our front yard, and taken a dip in the community pool when its 70 degrees outside.  Thank you to our neighbors who have taught us that being outside is always a better option. I guess I should also warn our future neighbors that my children will be playing at the neighborhood park in the middle of January.  We will however, wear our shoes.

(True Confession: The picture below was taken our first Halloween night in 2010, when it was a mere 40 degrees.  Little did I know that I was going to experience below zero temperatures for the first time in my life that winter!)winter??

5) Vikings are cool, Norwegian bunads are beautiful, and owning a Nisse is a must.

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Before Anna and Elsa, there was The Vesterheim. Take a short walk from our house and you find the national Norwegian-American Museum, which boasts wonderful Norwegian art, artifacts, and hands-on demonstrations.  We have had so much fun learning about the Norse, celebrating their festivals, and proudly displaying our very own Nisse out our front window.  He will be coming with us to Texas and will cause all sorts of mischief, I’m sure.  Uff-da!  In our homeschool history for this year, we will be studying the middle ages.   We are already excited to be able to re-visit viking stories and traditions while we remember with fondness how we have experienced a taste of that culture first hand.

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Release your inner viking at Nordic Fest!

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Rosebud sporting a Norwegian bunad

6) Just because you live in a small town doesn’t mean you can’t experience a thriving art culture

This little town of about 8,000 people would give a city ten times its size a run for its money when it comes to opportunities for encountering the fine and performing arts. We have had the privilege of experiencing music making at its best (thanks to the amazing music faculty at Luther College). It has been such a treat to take the girls to live theater performances given by the New Minowa Players, and for Sunshine to participate in the DHS musical theater production this last fall.  Our kids have been able to partake in music, painting, print making, pottery, mixed media, theatre and dancing classes. Thank you Art Haus, Clay StudioCrave Dance Decorah Youth Choirs, and SODA Club for proving that participation in the arts is an integral facet of the human experience. You contribute so much to the lives of Decorah families.

7) Your church is your family

Okay.  I’m going to start tearing up now as I type this. Our little clan has been a part of some amazing congregations throughout the years.  There are so many people that we hold near and dear to our hearts.  But when you are a two day drive from the state where your biological family dwells, you need a midwest family.  Your family loves you no matter what.  They see the good and the bad.  Your family walks with you through the laughter and the tears. They show up when you need help, and in turn you help them. We pray for one another, share meals together, and hold one another accountable. We watch one another’s kids, dive into God’s Word, and share life over a cup of coffee at Java John’s. The gracious people of our Covenant Church have become our family–and I almost can’t face the fact that we are going to have to say goodbye very soon.  I think I have cried during every Sunday service the past few weeks.  How can you keep a straight face when one of your best friends is leading worship, and another best friend is singing beautiful harmonies right behind you?  And, the children of your other best friends are lifting their sweet voices in praise all around you!  Oh how I wish you could all experience what I experience on a typical Sunday morning.  It is a piece of heaven.

The beauty of it all is that as believers, we know our goodbye isn’t for good. I can recount several church events where I grinned from ear to ear as I was reminded that these are some of the people I get to spend eternity with. Ours is a forever friendship:  an eternal brotherhood, and sisterhood.

Decorah Covenant Church, thank you for your authenticity and vulnerability. Thank you for your grace and unconditional love. Thank you for holding to Truth, and for growing us. Thank you for giving us opportunities to learn about true servanthood. Thank you. We will miss you terribly.

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Halloween 2013 with church friends

8) Everyone needs accountability

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to be a part of a small group of women that meets weekly for Bible study, prayer, and accountability. Let me just say that I am already fervently praying that God will lead me to another group such as this in our new church. These women help keep me on the right track, with the right focus. There are times when we have gathered and the tears have flowed freely. Other times the laughter fills the room. We can look one another in the eye and offer a challenge, a word of encouragement, a gentle rebuke, a scripture–all of the things one might hope for in a group such as this. We have prayed the scary, leap of faith kind of prayers together. We have had moments where we don’t know what to say or pray. Sometimes we have more questions than answers. We have walked through life’s lowest valleys and soared over the highest mountain tops.

My gratitude to God for this unexpected blessing runs very deep. It is one of the touchstones of my life and I am forever changed by these sisters in Christ. My prayer is that these kinds of groups will only multiply in our neighborhoods and churches.

“Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called “today”so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,” Hebrews 3:13.

 

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 9) You take the seeds you’ve been given and plant them in a new garden

I am certain that God has not given our family these gifts to treasure up in our hearts and keep for ourselves only. They are seeds that are meant to be planted anew. Maybe a better metaphor would be that we have been given “runners” (i.e. part of a strawberry plant that is removed) to re-plant in a new planter box. Yes, we are moving far away from this little corner in Iowa. Not only that but we are moving to a big, sprawling area of Texas. More people. More traffic. More…everything! The thought of this can feel a little overwhelming at times, even though we have lived in large cities before. But I am confident that God will lead us to just the right people. People who will impact our lives and people for whom we will pour out our own lives. We will again grow roots. We will share the sunshine and the rain and grow.  But those we have left behind will still be with us in many ways. What we have learned we will take with us. The experiences we have shared will be both fond memories and present realities.

Right before we moved here, we were scoping out the Luther website and found this song entitled “Hey there Decorah” (after Hey There Delilah).  A Luther student parodied the original as a tribute to this special place.  It intrigued us and throughout our time here, we have watched it again and again. It just gives us that nostalgic feeling about the town we’ve called home for six years. If you want to take a listen, go here.

So, to all our Decorah friends, neighbors, teachers, fellow sojourners…we love you. We will never forget you.

And….as a Texan would say….we’ll see y’all later!

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Rule of Six

Well, we are just a few weeks away from finishing our first year of homeschooling.  We are also a couple of months away from a big move to another state (there is another post in the works that will expound on that journey).  At this time of conclusions, my mind begins to turn toward new beginnings. For many homeschooling parents, this is the time of year when planning for the next school year begins. The same is true for me. It is also a time of evaluation, self-assessment, and reflection.

As I began this process last month, I realized several things:

  • We just might be in this for the long haul.  When we first made the decision to homeschool, my husband and I said, “We are just going to give it a year, and see how it goes.” But now, as we have grown, deepened, and blossomed the thought of homeschooling through high school seems to be developing into a priority—even an excitement!
  • Adjustments in my goals, vision, and mindset needed to take place. In February (yes, the dreaded homeschooling month of February), I was noticing more stress and anxiety in my heart and mind. I wasn’t being the gentle, nurturing guide to my girls. Instead, I was frantically trying to make sure all of our subjects were being covered. I was projecting out a plan for those areas in which we were falling behind. I was upset that Bible, art and poetry memorization were falling by the wayside each week. I knew something was awry.
  • “What if we recognized that the quality of study matters far more than the mere quantity of learning? And what if we realized that curriculum actually isn’t something we buy?”  Enter Sarah MacKenzie and her book Teaching from Rest. God knew exactly what I needed and He provided the perfect resource. I was measuring my success as a homeschooling teacher by checking off lists and completing the curriculum we purchased.  “We must get through the book,” was my motto.  If we are behind, I am failing.  If my girls aren’t catching on to something quickly, I am failing. I was focusing on outcomes rather than the daily joy of learning.  I found myself highlighting and underlining nearly every sentence in Sarah’s book. I quickly shared my inspiration with a couple of dear friends who are homeschooling moms. They were also invigorated and we began a little book club to meet and discuss this new philosophy. One friend said, “I wanted to dip the entire book in highlighter ink!” Exactly. Sarah Mackenzie had hit a nerve and I wanted to know more.
  • The Rule of 6: I became a member of Sarah’s Read Aloud Revival and immediately began my continuing education (we need that by the way–we are teachers!) with one of her master classes/webinars entitled Focus & Align.  It focused upon filtering your homeschooling day through 6 main goals. With this inspiration, I went onto Canva.com and createdHoneycomb this infographic.  I was inspired, renewed, and ready to make some changes in our homeschool!  With the help of Sarah, and Pam Barnhill  (her Your Morning Basket is excellent) we re-vamped our morning time symposium, worked in a loop for our content area subjects, and filtered our day through our Rule of 6.  If it didn’t fall into one of those 6 categories, we didn’t do it. So what was the outcome? The girls LOVED it! It was very satisfying to watch them connect with and respond positively to our pursuit of truth and beauty each day. All of a sudden, we not only had time to dig into our Bible Road Trip curriculum, but each time we read a passage, Rosebud came alive with questions and discussion points. The spark was lit again!
  • “The work is ours.  The result is not.” Pam Barnhill made this statement in a recent Facebook webinar on planning your school year. Truly believing and acting upon this statement is revolutionary.  Interestingly enough, I found that much of what she says aligns with our goal setting philosophy in Shaklee.  I should have been applying my Shaklee methods to my homeschool!  Duh!
    • “Goals should be specific and measurable.”
    • “Goals should focus upon behaviors, not outcomes.”
    • “Goals focus on learning and not completing.”

I am so grateful to have found this information before I seriously began to plan our curriculum for next year. It has made all the difference in finishing THIS school year the best way possible.

Now we will just see if I can maintain REST while showing our house and packing boxes!

“One day at a time..”

That’s all for now.  More on our move from Iowa to Texas coming very soon!