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 created 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!
Greetings everyone! Here is the second installment as promised back before Christmas! In this post, I will focus upon the curriculum we have incorporated and share the nuts and bolts of our homeschooling day. I will present it in the same order as our daily school schedule.
I will warn you, this post is full of pictures, videos, personal anecdotes, and some nitty gritty stuff that might wear some readers plum out (oops…the Texan is slipping in). For that, I apologize. But as I have spent many hours refining this post, I count it as a detailed journal entry that I can look back on for years to come. It has been a labor of love for certain!
For those of you reading this that are currently homeschooling, or considering it, I am including direct links to company websites, students samples, and pdf’s. Hopefully this will aid you in your search for curriculum!
Okay, without further ado we start with…
We begin our day with Bible Road Trip. This study is very comprehensive and thorough. We have found that it takes at least 30 minutes to complete a lesson, and we actually leave out several of the activities. That being said, however, it is possible to tailor the lessons to fit your family’s schedule. There is something here for everyone. Sunshine completes the Lower Grammar activities and Rosebud the Upper Grammar curriculum. The Upper Grammar program contains more notebooking activities, scripture readings, and memorization. If you are on the lookout for an in-depth study of the Bible for your family, this is an excellent choice. We have loved all of the resources and suggestions that enhance this study, especially the What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver DVD series and Window on the World prayer guide. Each girl has her own notebook, that is completed as we talk about the scripture or text. Here are a few examples from their note-booking pages:
Rosebud will actually complete some of her Bible readings during her read-to-self time. She actually asks to read from the Bible and is excited to learn more. This, of course, makes me smile! At first, I felt a little stressed as we tried to complete all of the activities and notebook pages. For our family, this was an unrealistic goal. As the weeks progressed, we would sometimes take two weeks on a group of lessons rather than one, or we would just leave out some of the suggested activities. To me, the most important thing is that we read the Bible together and discuss what we have read. If the girls don’t get all the pages filled in, it is not the end of the world. I am still working through this to find the right balance for our family. Hopefully this will come about during our second semester. We do love Bible Road Trip! And, to be completely honest, there are some mornings we just don’t get it in (usually because we sleep in), and we move it to later in the day (around supper time).
After our Bible time we complete the warm up exercises in our Family Time Fitness core lesson. This takes about 15 minutes and the girls love starting our school day with movement. The smiles abound. We always put on some of their favorite tunes as we move. I have been so pleased with our physical education program. The lessons are excellent and include 10-15 minutes of warm up exercises, 15-20 minutes of cardiovascular and strengthening exercises, and 5-10 minutes of cool-down exercises. When we began the semester, we tried to do the entire lesson at one time. But we realized that this really didn’t work the best for our schedule, so, we divide the lesson up throughout the day. This also gives the girls an opportunity to move more often during our school day. They always look forward to our PE time! This curriculum is varied, thorough, and extremely enjoyable. Lessons can be completed in your home or out in your yard and it only requires a few pieces of equipment. I highly recommend it. I would say that this program has been the “pleasant surprise” of our schooling. On the Family Time Fitness website, you can download a variety of extra resources and assessments. It is even possible to view videos of the different activities so that you know how to demonstrate for your kids. We also complete a monthly assessment for sit ups and push ups. The girls love setting their monthly goals and striving to achieve them. This curriculum gets a hearty two thumbs up from our family!
After a time of movement, the girls go to their workboxes and start in on their handwriting. We are using the “A Reason For…”
series which utilizes the Zaner-Bloser style of manuscript and cursive. Sunshine is working through Handwriting A and Rosebud is completing the Handwriting C book. I have been pleased with the structure and pacing of the worksheets. Each week, they complete one Lesson that is broken up into 5 days of work. Day One is spent reviewing a specific letter and a word that contains that letter. Days Two and Three are spent working on writing words pulled from the scripture verse that they will write out at the end of the week. On Day Four, they trace the entire verse and on Day Five they write it on their own on a separate decorative sheet provided at the end of the text. The verses that are included are very practical and can be applied to their daily lives. We will definitely continue with this curriculum for the rest of the year and next year.
Here is a sample from one of Sunshine’s lessons. The workbook offers plenty of repetition and sequence. Many times I will have the girls circle their best handwriting for that particular lesson. This has helped them to take more responsibility for their work. Handwriting generally lasts 10-15 minutes each day.
After handwriting we move on to math. Both girls are working from Math-U-See texts. Sunshine is working in Alpha (level 1), and Rosebud in Delta (level 4). This curriculum is mastery oriented and
incorporates manipulative blocks in order to help the student “see” math in action. Here is an Alpha sample lesson and a Delta sample lesson. Students are guided to build with the blocks, write the answers, and say or teach the concept back to the teacher. What I like about the curriculum is that it offers plenty of review. This is exactly what we were looking for in a math curriculum for Rosebud. The spiral method of learning in the Core Curriculum in public schools just wasn’t working for her. The mastery based learning is much better for her brain and confidence. So far, both girls have been able to work through a lesson each week. There are 30 lessons in all. We begin each lesson on Monday by watching a short DVD teaching, and then I spend time reinforcing the concept. We then practice the “build, write, and say” method together and then the girls complete 1 worksheet. Tuesday – Thursday is spent reviewing concepts, and completing 1-2 worksheets per day (each lesson has a total of 7 worksheets and a test). Friday they take their test. I keep this very low key and treat it as another worksheet. If they get to the point where they need more time, though, I will stretch it out over a couple of weeks instead of just one. That is the beauty if this program. A student can take as much time has he/she needs to master a concept before moving onto the next. I have read, though, that some homeschoolers have felt that Math-U-See isn’t as comprehensive as Saxon Math or BJU/Abeka Math. I can see where this would be a concern and I have also felt a need to supplement a bit. Rosebud, is going through a great program called Teaching Textbooks. When she finishes her Math-U-See work, she proceeds to my computer to complete a Math 4 lesson. We really love this curriculum. It provides thorough teaching and a great review…all tied together with fun rewards. It also includes a grade book so that you can keep track of your child’s progress. Another benefit to this program is that it builds independence and self correction skills into the student. With these two programs, I feel like she is getting a complete and well-rounded approach to learning math. It has been so satisfying to watch her grow and become more and more confident in her math skills. The Teaching Textbooks curriculum begins with Math 3, so Sunshine isn’t using it yet. But after looking at the sequence, I think I am going to start it with her in 2nd grade. I think she will be ready for it. Both Math-U-See and Teaching Textbooks start out really simple and then move to more complex problems. In addition to Teaching Textbooks, I usually finish off their math time by having them complete a quick “Math Minute”. These short pages are varied, straight forward, and don’t take much time to complete. I highly recommend this little workbook if you are looking for a quick, easy review for your kids.
Sunshine spent her preschool years in our local Montessori school. I love it that this philosophy of education continues to permeate our school day at times. Sometimes, she will just grab a box of math manipulatives and start working with them.
Sunshine usually completes her math first, so she and I move into her spelling time. Spelling lessons are about 15-20 minutes. Of all the subjects we are using, I am the most impressed with the All About Spelling and All About Reading curriculum. I can see tangible evidence that these programs are improving both spelling and reading skills. The spelling program is sequential and has a specific methodology. Because of this, Rosebud and I started on Level 1 last spring. She has worked through levels 1, 2, & 3 and is now on Level 4. I am so glad we took the time to start this from the beginning. The rules that she has learned and the multi-sensory activities provided have helped to fill in the gaps. Sunshine has already finished level 1 and is about 1/3 of the way through level 2. There has been more than one occasion when my husband has overheard the different rules for spelling that they are learning and he announces, “Wow! I wish I had learned that in school! I’d be a much better speller.” Each lesson is clearly spelled out (pun intended) for the teacher so it does not require much preparation. That being said, though, you can’t just send your child off to complete it on their own. The teacher is directly involved in every aspect. I really enjoy teaching these lessons, though. They really are fun! Rosebud has declared that spelling is now one of her favorite subjects–and that is saying something! To the left is a picture of just one of the many activities included in the program. Featured here are 4 ways to spell the sound of long “e”. I would call out a word, and Rosebud would either build the word with tiles or write out the word under the correct heading. The tiles have been especially helpful! Here are a few close up shots of the different tiles.
Another reason I love this curriculum is its method of review. The students memorize and apply various rules and each day these are reviewed through drilling flashcards and by building words. Here are a couple of pictures of the cards and card box:
There are about 26 steps in each level. Each step contains a list of 10 spelling words and a few phrases and/or sentences to dictate. The phrases and sentences often contain words that are similar to their spelling list words, so they get a chance to apply the rules they are learning. Sometimes we write these in their notebooks, and other times we spell on our white board. In level 4, the student is given a few random words with which to create her own sentence. This gives Rosebud practical application for combining writing and spelling skills. Did I say that I LOVE this curriculum??
Here is a very short snippet of how Rosebud used the tiles to spell words with the sound of [ch]. I would dictate words, and she would have to know the rules for using either “tch” or “ch” at the end of a one-syllable word.
PDF samples from the All About Spelling Website:
After spelling we move on to reading time. Both girls are using the All About Reading texts. Sunshine is working through level 2 and Rosebud level 4. The readers for level 4 are a bit easy for Rosebud, but along the way she has been introduced to some excellent strategies for decoding long and difficult words. As an aside, the level 4 stories are quite funny and entertaining. She has laughed out loud on several occasions! She has also learned syllabification rules, decoding various prefixes and suffixes, and how to recognize various literary devices such as alliteration. In the spring she will be taught how to recognize Greek and Latin roots!
The practice sheets have been especially helpful for both girls. They have helped Sunshine gain fluency and have given Rosebud more difficult words to decode. The student books contain many varied activities that are multi-sensory and enjoyable. Just like All About Spelling, a card file is included with sight words and sound cards to review daily. Another great plus is that you can use the same letter tiles, syllable tags, and prefix and suffix tiles for both programs. If you are looking to fill in gaps in your child’s spelling or reading capabilities, these programs are well worth the investment.
PDF Samples from All About Reading Levels 2 & 4
In addition to the All About Reading program, Rosebud is using some of the products from the Abeka Reading 4 curriculum. We are using the readers as additional “read aloud” time. With the All About Reading program, she reads the practice sheet aloud to me two days per week, and the story one day per week. I like to have my girls reading aloud to me everyday, so the other two days, Rosebud and I use the Abeka readers. What I like about these readers is the stories are full of characters and people who face difficult decisions and struggles, but employ honesty, integrity, and perseverance in the end. To me, these stories are planting seeds in the heart of Rosebud. They teach her to hang in there when the going gets tough, to be honest when it is easy to lie, to do everything with integrity. In addition to the readers, Rosebud completes two Read and Think Skill Sheets per week. These are short, timed readings that are followed with comprehension questions. They only take about 5 minutes and are a perfect way for me to check that she is understanding passages that she reads silently.
For Rosebud’s “read to self” time, she has been able to choose books from an assigned reading list. This fall, she read Number the Stars, Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, the Kaya series from American Girl, and The Horse and His Boy from the Chronicles of Narnia.
Our homeschool is a part of a local Homeschool Assistance Program. Because of this, we have access to thousands of resources. Rosebud has been able to read several different books on Greek mythology, whales, sea turtles, our solar system, and much more. We are so blessed to have this much access to wonderful literature!
For Sunshine, we have primarily been working through books that correlate to the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels J-M. She loves series books like Henry and Mudge, Nate the Great, Frog and Toad and many more. We are also working through some of the Magic Treehouse books. She will spend time reading silently and often I will have her read a few pages aloud to me. Since she loves to draw during any moment of free time, I have placed some audiobooks on our ipad and she listens to great literature while she draws. It’s a win/win!
Finally, when the girls have completed their reading assignments, they have the option to go online to readingeggs.com and complete a Reading Express lesson there. (This program was provided as a part of a grant for our school district). These lessons aren’t perfect, but they really focus upon strengthening comprehension skills. The lessons are challenging, and I appreciate that!
I have also been reading aloud to the girls. For the fall semester we read through Charlotte’s Web and The Hobbit and in the spring semester we will work through Aesop’s Fables, D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, Prince Caspian and other books from the Chronicles of Narnia series. We love to snuggle on the couch for read aloud time. Sometimes we even take the books into our lunchroom. I take a few bites and keep reading! I have learned so much about the importance of reading aloud to your kids–even your teenagers!! Twenty minutes a day is an excellent start. Honestly, I think it could count as their vocabulary lessons too because they hear so many new words and contexts. I had hoped to work through the Charlotte’s Web Literature Unit and Lapbook by Erica Arndt. We made our lapbooks and read the novel, but we just didn’t have time to complete the lapbook activities. Oh well, we can’t do it all! Summer activity, anyone?
Grammar and Vocabulary
After reading we move into our grammar and vocabulary time. For Sunshine, this doesn’t take very long. We are working through the First Language Lessons and she really enjoys these grammar sessions. Thus far, she has learned working definitions for parts of speech such as nouns, verbs and pronouns. She knows how to write all of the days of the week and months of the year. She knows the rules for capitalization and she has memorized 5-6 poems. These lessons also incorporate narration exercises. I will read a short passage from a classic work of literature. I will then ask her a series of questions from the passage and she answers in complete sentences. She is then asked to summarize the story or poem in one sentence.
At the end of the semester, I recorded Sunshine as she recited all of the poems she had learned thus far. She loved this process!
Rosebud is also working through the First Language Lessons program, but she is completing the Level Three workbook. I had thought about starting her with Level Four, but after perusing the text, I felt that Level Three would suit her better. This text covers all of the major parts of speech and introduces sentence diagramming. We try to complete three lessons per week (T, W, F). Rosebud is memorizing poetry too! She has been reciting poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, and William Wordsworth.
In addition to this text, I wanted a curriculum that would give her practical application of what she was learning in First Language Lessons. We found the PERFECT program for this: Fix It! Grammar, which is published by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I highly recommend this curriculum! Over the course of 32 weeks, Rosebud corrects and re-writes a fairy tale (The Nose Tree). There are four days per week and each day, she “fixes” a short sentence from the tale. The program builds upon itself each week. For instance, during week one, Rosebud simply labeled all of the nouns, circled the correct homophone to use in a sentence, and placed the proper punctuation at the end of the sentence. For week two, she completed those tasks and added a new task: labelling the articles a, an, and the. We are now up to week seventeen and she is labelling nouns, articles, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs; adding punctuation marks, correcting capitalization, and identifying who-which clauses. She completes each day’s sentence in under 10 minutes and then I check her work. Each day’s sentence also contains a vocabulary word that she looks up in the dictionary, writes the definition in the back of her notebook, and later completes a quiz that I give her. Ninety-five percent of this program is self-directed, whereas the First Language Lessons is teacher intensive. Fix It Grammar is completed Monday-Thursday.
If you would like to see a student sample up close here is a pdf from the IEW website.
Rosebud has vocabulary built into her grammar text, but she also completed a few weeks from the VocabuLit D workbook. If you are looking for a vocabulary curriculum that is pulled from great literature and can be completed by the student alone, then this is for you! I really enjoyed seeing how Rosebud independently completed all of the various exercises each week. VocabuLit has the student look up words in a dictionary, use the assigned words in a sentence, use context clues to infer meaning, and identify synonyms and antonyms for each word. Each week, 10 words were pulled from great novels or encyclopedia entries so that both fiction and non-fiction texts were employed. Each week, I would write the words and definitions on index cards and file them in a card box. After a few weeks, I would drill her on several of the words. When a definition was mastered, I would file it behind a different file. Other words would be filed behind a “review” divider.
Sunshine and I go through a simple little workbook entitled A Word a Day. She is completing the grade 1 text. These lessons take 5 minutes maximum. There are four words per week and the fifth day is spent completing different activities to review the words. It is simple, straight-forward, effective, and requires no preparation on my part, which a nice change of pace!
After lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays we dive into our history lessons. For history, we are using The Story of the World Volume I: Ancient Times. We are going about our history lessons according to the Classical model. This year, we cover ancient times. Next year, medieval history. The following year, we study early modern times and the final year we tackle the modern era. For the Classical model, you start this sequence in first grade and then cycle back through the sequence again beginning in fifth grade and for a final time in ninth grade. Since Rosebud is starting in on this cycle in fourth grade instead of first, I am probably going to be working in some U. S. History during her 5th-6th grade years. Right now I am formulating a list of books that she can read about famous Americans, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and more. I plan to intersperse this, along with memorizing the state names/capitals throughout the next two years.
But, I digress….back to The Story of the World! We all have really loved this curriculum. The text is written on such a level that a 1st-4th grader can understand it perfectly. It is
written in a narrative style, which is very appealing to a child in the grammar stage of learning. Along with the main text, there is an activity book. This book contains maps, coloring pages, narration questions, suggested additional resources such as books and websites, and a plethora of activities for each chapter. There are SO many options for activities that any family is sure to find one or two that suits their tastes. We typically read, explore the Usborne Encyclopedia of Ancient History, narrate, and fill in the map on Monday. On Wednesday we read and narrate more if needed, and work on our History Timeline (provided by Homeschool in the Woods). On Friday, we complete various activities.
Over the course of the semester, we made our own cave paintings:
built a ziggurat:
dressed up like Cleopatra:
took an “Art of the Ancients” class at our local ArtHaus:
wrote our names in cuneiform, and much more!
As mentioned earlier, we are putting together a long-term project–our History Timeline.
This project will take four years to complete, but it will be well worth the time and energy! Homeschool in the Woods provides this beautiful timeline notebook and a CD-ROM with images that you can download, print, cut out, glue on the timeline pages, and color. We color the characters and empires as we study them. After we finish a few chapters in our history study, we go back and start at the beginning of the timeline and talk through all of the people, dynasties, and wars we’ve covered thus far. My goal is to have the girls give a little “report” using the timeline at the end of the school year. I hope that they will be able to point to each figure we have colored and give a little synopsis of all that we have covered this year in ancient history. This will also be a great way to review before starting volume 2 next fall!
On Tuesdays and Thursdays after lunch we work on our science lesson. I have been SO impressed with the Apologia science curriculum. Never in my life have I looked forward to or been excited about a science lesson. But I have absolutely loved teaching this curriculum and my little budding scientist, Rosebud, has eaten it up! I decided to bite the bullet and purchase four years worth of textbooks so that we could have four 9-week units through out the next three years. Have I confused you? Sorry! With each unit, we are covering 5-6 chapters in a given textbook. We will cycle back through subsequent chapters next year. If we feel like we want even more time with these texts then we will take all or part of a third year.
For our first nine weeks, we studied the first five chapters of Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, which is a part of the Young Explorers Series. These science texts are geared toward 1st-6th grade students. With each textbook, you have the option of purchasing notebooking journals for your students. Sunshine completes the pages in the Junior Notebooking Journal and Rosebud completes the Notebooking Journal for older elementary students. The main textbook is on a reading level that Rosebud could tackle on her own if she so wished. Fulbright’s writing style is very enjoyable and accessible, but also chock full of excellent science (Apologia provides a free sample chapter: Zoology 2 Lesson 2)! The notebooking journals are also full of a variety of activities and experiments. In fact, there are so many that we have not been able to get through all of them. We just pick the ones that appeal to us. After I read the day’s lesson, the girls write/summarize what they have learned. There is also space for drawing pictures and diagrams. We studied whales, seals, aquatic herps, sea turtles, and fish. We created a “sea box” with a large cardboard box and blue construction paper. When we studied a particular creature, we made it out of clay and put it in our box.
We drew a life-size replica of a leather back sea turtle. Wow they are huge! And we tried to get around the house with some sea turtle moves. Needless to say we didn’t need P. E. that day!
As a part of this study, it was suggested that we raise tadpoles. We did just that and named them Miracle and Lucky. Can you tell we weren’t confident in our tadpole raising abilities? But, much to our surprise, they both grew into healthy frogs! We released them into a nearby spring before the temperature dropped outside.
For our second nine weeks we studied Exploring Creation with Astronomy. This has been a favorite of ours. If you are looking to start an Apologia science book, this is the one with which to begin. It has been truly inspiring and fascinating to learn about our solar system, stars, and other galaxies. The experiments in this textbook are wonderful as well, and the apologia website has a page of “extras” where you can explore various websites with amazing pictures of the galaxy. We’ve made our own telescope, constructed our own version of the phases of the sun and moon, charted the moon’s phases, chalked our own nebulas on black poster board, and are in the process of creating our own solar system model. I also highly recommend downloading the “Night Sky” app onto your ipad or tablet. The girls have loved putting it up above them and seeing exactly what constellations are there. I actually coordinated our study of the stars with our study of Greek and Roman mythology. This way, they hear about the stories of the various mythological gods and goddesses and find the constellations that bear their names in the sky.
In the Spring we finish up our astronomy study for now, and move to a nine week unit on Exploring Creation Through Human Anatomy and Physiology. We will cover the first 6 chapters of this book and finish off the year with the first 5 chapters of Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.
In the fall semester, we completed writing lessons in the afternoons, but in the spring we are moving them to our mornings. So far, we like this better!
Sunshine is going through the Writing with Ease curriculum put out by Susan Wise Bauer (also the author of our history and language lessons). She completes her lessons in about 15 minutes each day for four days. Day one consists of copywork. Day two incorporates a dictated story and narration. In day three, she returns to copywork and then day four finishes out with another story segment with narration exercises. What I like about this curriculum is that it is giving her excellent examples of how to write (copywork), it is teaching her how to answer and write in complete sentences and it is developing her summarizing skills. On some occasions, she will dictate her summaries to me and I will write them down for her (which the program supports). For a sample from PeaceHill Press click here.
Since her writing time is rather short, Sunshine will also have short journal entries that she completes. I will give her a fun, simple writing prompt that she finishes. For example: “Last night I dreamed I went to Paris and this is what happened:” Sunshine also has a strong, driving passion to write and illustrate books. Over the course of the fall semester, she composed at least a dozen “books.” She is our little artist and creative writer so when she would finish other work she would just pull out her blank paper and create a story. I never hindered this in any way because it was her true love and I wanted her to explore it as often as she liked. It was fun to watch how her penmanship, spelling, and word usage improved over the course of the semester. Who needs tests? Just let them create and you can see what they are learning! Sometimes, she would ask me to type up her stories for her to illustrate. Here is one such example:
Finding the right writing curriculum for Rosebud took some diligent researching on my part. I poured over several different options and finally decided upon The Institute for Excellence in Writing. IEW is not cheap. Fortunately, I was able to find used items at a reduced cost, otherwise I don’t think this program would have fit into our budget. In order to teach IEW writing, the instructor must go through the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style seminar. The course is divided into nine units and correlate to the nine units through which your students progress. I have learned an amazing amount of practical information by viewing this seminar. I have also learned that many times I would incorrectly major on penmanship (Rosebud has struggled with having neat/legible handwriting) and spelling when I should have been majoring on content.
Did you know that the skills for spelling and penmanship take place in a different part of the brain than the skills for composition? If a child is focusing too much on her spelling, then the brilliant sentence that she created in her mind will be lost. Work on spelling during your spelling lessons. Work on penmanship during handwriting lessons. Work on composition during your writing lessons.
Following this approach has made all the difference in Rosebud’s confidence and has freed her up to really WRITE! When I let go of my idea of handwriting and spelling perfection, there was much less anxiety during our writing time.
Andrew Peduwa, the instructor, happens to be a musician, and his process in teaching writing just makes sense to me. After viewing the seminar, I was sold on the methodology and philosophy and purchased the Student Writing Intensive A program for Rosebud. This, too, includes a series of DVDs and a binder with several examples and writing exercises for each unit. Because we are studying ancient history this year, I purchased the Ancient History Based Writing Lessons. You can actually complete the student writing intensive as a stand alone course for the year, but I wanted Rosebud to have material that connected to another subject we were studying. Our process has been to view the DVD for a certain unit, and then complete the exercises and writing in the Ancient History text.
This program is challenging. But, it is challenging in a good way and has provided a structured framework from which Rosebud can build her writing skills. For the first four units, our lessons were very teacher intensive. I had to do most of the brainstorming when we first began (except for the unit on writing narrative stories).
Rosebud is a fairly strong narrative writer, but not a natural “report”writer. Summarizing a resource and getting thoughts down on paper can be a challenge for her. It has been very rewarding to see her grow leaps and bounds in this area. When she finishes her final draft of a multi-paragraph report, I can tell that she is proud of her hard work. As we have started the spring semester, I have been able to step back and let her take over most of the responsibility for her assignments. With writing, it has been small and consistent steps forward that have made the difference and we are sticking with this program! Next year, we will incorporate the Middle Ages Writing Lessons. Here are a few examples from her Ancient History Based Writing Lessons: 1) an example of a key word outline 2) source text on Expressions from Greek Myths 3) paragraph checklist (this is what we use to make sure her final draft has all of the required elements of structure and style) 4) a sample brainstorming page, where she can write sentences that incorporate the needed style dress ups. 5) final draft of her multi-paragraph report on Greek expressions. I should say that she hand writes the outline, first draft, and revisions; and then dictates the final draft to me and I type it up.
If you would like to read the final draft of her multi-paragraph report, click below. Hopefully these examples will help give a clearer picture of how the program works. The highlighted and/or underlined portions indicated topic/clincher sentence rules and required style dress ups.
For cleaner examples from the IEW website, click here.
When Rosebud has needed a little extra work on usage (such as commas, quotation marks, capitalization, etc), I have given her a little Abeka Language A worksheet to complete. These are great for reinforcing rules of punctuation in writing.
During the month of November, I put together some simple little notebooking pages to form a “Thankfulness Journal.” To the left is a little sample of Sunshine’s journal. Each day during writing time, the girls would write a simple statement about what they were thankful for that day. For the journal, I used Thanksgiving themed pages found at notebookingpages.com. Just as an aside, this website has many free pages that you can easily download, but I think the lifetime subscription is well worth the money. The notebooking possibilities are endless! I use their spelling pages, storybook pages, history and science pages, and Bible themed pages. It is an outstanding resource for homeschoolers!
In December, we scrapped our normal writing routine and combined history, geography, and writing as we studied Christmas Around the World. We watched Rick Steve’s European Christmas and wrote about the different Christmas traditions celebrated around Europe. We wrote about their Christmas cuisine, studied their flag, found each location on our world map, and compared/contrasted their traditions to our own.We also went through the Everyday Emmanuel writing activities, which included many fun writing prompts. It was a fun project with plenty of opportunities to write!
The Fine Arts
Now for the important stuff! I firmly believe that music, art, and dance are just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Yes, I am little biased as my husband and I are both classically trained musicians. It is very important to us that our daughters are immersed in the arts each day.
Both girls are studying piano and theory for at least 30 minutes each day. In the future, Rosebud plans to take up the flute and Sunshine the violin. We also work on music history and literature lessons from time to time. While the girls work on their handwriting, math, spelling, and reading, I have classical music playing softly in the background. We discuss what instruments they are hearing and I talk briefly about the composer and the era in which he/she composed.
We also completed a “mini” unit on G. F. Handel and his Messiah during the advent season.
Our local Homeschooling Assistance Program provided around eight weeks of group music lessons. These were taught by one of the music education professors and a music education major at our local college. The lessons were outstanding! Our kids were exposed to master music educators!
Furthermore our community is blessed to have two community youth choirs. Rosebud sings in one and Sunshine in the other. Both groups are conducted by excellent musicians and teachers. Again, we feel so blessed to have so many top-notch opportunities for our kids!
Another fun music/drama experience came our way when Sunshine was cast as Gretl in the local high school’s production of The Sound of Music. I could go on and on about this production and the amazing things Sunshine learned but I am already quite long winded in this blog post! I will simply post a few pictures.
Sunshine wasn’t the only one gaining acting skills–Rosebud had her own acting class through our local arts studio and thoroughly enjoyed it. So both girls were able to experience a taste of stage life this semester and it was a joy to watch them grow in this field of art.
In addition to music and drama, we also take part in art lessons. As you have seen, Sunshine absolutely loves drawing, so I try to incorporate many opportunities for her to grow in this area. We are going through an excellent series of DVDs entitled Art Class. I have been impressed with these lessons and have learned drawing skills that have really improved my own drawing (yes, I grab my sketch paper and drawing pencils too)! Rosebud has been able to draw things she hasn’t attempted before. She actually smiled after completing one of the lessons. Pat Knepley, who teaches the lessons, is thorough, positive, and a great communicator. Like our P. E. instruction, these lessons have been a pleasant surprise! The only problem on my part is that I haven’t scheduled in enough practice time between lessons (students view 1 lesson per week). I am hoping to remedy that this spring.
As mentioned earlier, the girls were able to take part in a local, multi-week art class which focused upon the art of the ancient world. This tied in perfectly with our history lessons! They came home with an enormous amount of art after the sessions concluded!
We have also incorporated a bit of art history study here and there. One week, we focused upon the works of Norman Rockwell. This semester we will look at Degas, Renoir, and Rembrandt. We are hoping to use Confessions of a Homeschooler’s The World’s Greatest Artists curriculum. We didn’t really get around to the lapbooks in the fall. Instead we read the books and looked at different art work examples on the internet. We also had discussions about the artist’s use of color and the style in which he/she painted.
Like the group music classes, our homeschooling group was also offered two art classes at our local college. Art education students gave our kids wonderful experiences with different art media.
Sunshine also designs dresses in her spare time. In fact, she and a close friend announced recently that they were going to start their own fashion design business.I love their entrepreneurial spirit! And Anna and Elsa seem to like their new couture.
Other fun stuff…
During the fall semester we had the opportunity to:
- Watch and participate in the extracting of honey from a bee hive (thanks to some wonderful friends who gave us an impromptu telephone call).
- Explore a cave
- Aquire a first pair of glasses
- Attend a concert of The Five Browns and sit on the front row!
5. Make lots and lots of messes…
6. And eat quite a few breakfasts or lunches out on the town as a family. It is amusing to watch passers-by give us a double take. We know they are thinking, “Why aren’t those girls in school?”
All in all…it was a GREAT semester and we are grateful to God for this opportunity! I hope you enjoyed getting an in-depth look at our homeschool. I feel like you deserve a special reward for making it all the way to the end!
If you have any further questions about curriculum or our school day I am more than happy to share information. We are not perfect, but we are loving this journey!
The Seed Sower Clan!
Happy New Year everyone!
For those of you who have read my most recent post, I am still working on Part II of what we have learned in our homeschool so far this year, but something else came up that I wanted to share. As a family, we try to make memorizing scripture a priority. In the past, we have either memorized verses that are a part of a curriculum or have picked out scripture that we felt would be important for our kids to hide in their heart.
This year, we are going to do something a little different. The little seed for this idea was planted last fall, as both of the girls were memorizing poetry as a part of their “First Language Lessons” curriculum. I was amazed that they were memorizing several stanzas of poetry with relative ease and they both loved reciting them. I tucked the thought away in the recesses of my mind until January 1st, when I started my own resolution to read a Psalm and a Proverb each day. I was reading through Psalm 1 and the thought occurred to me again…our family should be memorizing larger passages like this! My husband and I talked it over and decided that this year, we would embark on a new endeavor in our scripture memory. We have picked a handful of longer passages that we will learn throughout this year as a family. We are also going to divide the 66 books of the Bible up over the 12 months so that by the time we reach December 2016, the girls can quote the books in order quickly. Rosebud already learned them as a part of her AWANA classes a couple of years ago, but with this plan she will get it down faster and I may actually have her look up books as a drill every once in a while.
We will also have these passages in audio form to listen to while in the car or around the dinner table. Bible Gateway has an audio option for each passage. If you are content to listen online without downloading, it is free. I have included a link to the ESV version of Bible Gateway for each passage. Once there, you can click on the sound icon to hear the verses spoken.
I share this plan, because I would LOVE it if several families would join us on this adventure! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hold one another accountable, pray for one another, and share our joys and challenges as we collectively memorize these passages? If, after you finish reading this post, you feel led to join us, please let us know by replying below or by posting on our Seed Sower Facebook page here.
Okay, so here is the plan! I am also going to include this in a downloadable pdf for your convenience. Print it out and tack it to your refrigerator!
We will be memorizing out of the ESV translation.
Scripture Passage Memorization
Books of the Bible: (The Penteteuch) Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Books of the Bible: (Review previous books) + (History Books Part I) Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles
Romans 8:31-34 (We will memorize the other half of this passage later this year)
Books of the Bible:(Review all previous) + (History Books Part II) Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Books of the Bible:(Review all previous) + (Books of Poetry) Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Songs of Solomon
Deuteronomy 6:4-9: The Shema
Books of the Bible: (Review all previous) + (Major Prophets) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
Psalm 119: 9-16: Beth portion of Psalm 119
Books of the Bible: (Review all previous) + (Minor Prophets Part I) Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum
Galatians 5: 22-26: The Fruit of the Spirit
Books of the Bible: (Review all previous) + (Minor Prophets Part II) Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zecheriah, Malachi
Books of the Bible: Practice all the OT each day.
Romans 8: 35-39 (Combine this with the earlier passage in Romans 8)
Books of the Bible: (Review all previous) + Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans
Philippians 4:4-7 (challenge 4:4-9)
Books of the Bible: (Review all previous) + 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
Books of the Bible: (Review all previous) + 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James
Books of the Bible: (Review all previous) + 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Revelation
There are some of these passages that contain verses we have already memorized, but I believe this will be a wonderful journey for our family. I hope that you will join us! Remember, you can comment below, or “like” us on Facebook to join us in our journey!
In many ways it is hard to believe that we are finishing our fall semester in just a few days. It has flown by. I wanted to give a little synopsis of our semester: the victories, the challenges, the growth and the mistakes. I also would like to re-visit our curriculum and share our experiences with the different subjects we have tackled in hopes that I might help those who are on the lookout for certain curricula.
Before jumping into all of that though, I want to start by sharing…
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING
“So….are you enjoying homeschooling?”
After 15 weeks I can honestly and confidently say that each member of our family would answer with a resounding, “YES!”
We love it. We all love it.
Does that mean that everyday has been idyllic and productive? Absolutely not. Tears? Frustration? Challenges? Absolutely! Have there been days when I buried my head in my hands during a math lesson? Oh, yes! Are my children perfectly well-behaved and self motivated? Well…not all the time. Have I lost my cool? Um…yes. Is my house a wreck? More often than it used to be, yes.
“So why do you love it?”
- We love our school mascot.
- I love seeing the light bulb of understanding come on, and the excited look in their eyes.
- I love seeing that spark light up and the love of learning take root.
- I love seeing triumphs after several hours of struggle and challenge.
- I love it that we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a family most days of the week, even though at any point in the day, my kitchen most likely looks like this…
- I love being with my family–through thick and thin, whining and gratitude, tears and laughter, frustration and victories, dancing and sleepiness.
- I love our curriculum.
- I love it that we can really spend time throughout the day talking about and reading God’s Word.
- I love it that we can have lessons in character, perseverance and integrity right alongside our spelling lessons.
- I love snuggling on the couch as we read books or complete our History lessons.
- I love dancing to music and the freedom to have fun together as a part of our school day. We even have fun with our science experiments!
- I love having lessons at the park or in our front yard.
- I love decorating our schoolroom for the different holidays and seasons.
- I love not feeling rushed in the afternoon and evening.
- I love our homeschooling community and friends.
Have we learned? Oh, yes! In fact, we’ve learned so much that I am going to have to break this post up into two parts. Part I will focus upon what I have learned. Part II will focus upon what the girls have learned (and will include lots of photos and a few videos).
I think the person who has learned the most is the TEACHER!
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:
- I must not compare myself to other homeschooling moms. We all seem to have in our heads that the mom whose children are perfectly behaved and seem to know all of their stuff have the perfect homeschooling plan. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t learn from one another. We all need to grow and change. But all too often, I can make myself miserable by constantly comparing our schedule, approach, methods and children to other families. This way of thinking has never made my homeschooling life better. If you are homeschooling and reading this blog, please do not be discouraged if you are doing things differently, didn’t cover as many activities, or don’t take pictures/videos of your kids. Live into how God created you to teach and guide your children. I am preaching to myself as I write these words, I promise!
- Learning and mastery take time. Take the time your child needs and don’t rush to the next concept. Interestingly enough, I feel like I am only now noticing the depth of what my children have learned this semester. I have learned that I must not become discouraged if it takes three months (or nine months) for my child to master a certain concept. It will come. With consistency, variety and review it will come. I must not add extra anxiety and stress to my kids’ learning environment because I feel they aren’t getting it quickly enough. I fell prey to this way of thinking and am trying to break the habit.
- It is necessary to set aside a day or two every few weeks for reviewing. I learned that I needed to do this even if the curriculum had plenty of review built in. So, when I get the feeling that Rosebud or Sunshine needs more time with a concept, I stick in a review day.
- Kids need more time to move during the day. By the end of the semester, I was breaking up our Family Time Fitness lessons into two or three 10-15 minute chunks throughout the day. The girls loved this! No matter what, there were smiles on every face when we would put on some fun music and dive into our physical education lessons.
- My homeschool classroom is not a public school classroom. Yes, there are certain activities that my girls complete at their desks, but there are many that they complete on the floor, the couch, the kitchen table, the dining room table, or even outdoors in the yard. Also, I learned that if I’m giving a spelling lesson and Rosebud is rocking and moving around while I teach, she is still grasping the information. She doesn’t have to sit perfectly still in order to listen effectively.
- Teach your child according to their learning style: auditory, kinesthetic, visual–or any combination thereof. Going into this endeavor, I generally knew both Rosebud’s and Sunshine’s strengths, but I underestimated just how much I need to incorporate them into our lessons. Rosebud has always seemed to have difficulty memorizing math facts. Over the years we have tried many different approaches but the fact families just don’t seem to stick. She is a dancer, so I asked her to create certain ballet moves to each fact family. Amazingly, she learned and retained the information in one session. She made more improvement in that 20 minute time period than she had the entire semester. So, here at semester’s end, I have her clapping, making up gestures, and moving in various ways to help her memorize her division facts, grammar or spelling rules, and vocabulary. She is a kinesthetic learner and needs this stimulation. Actually, many of the curricula I chose include these types of learning strategies, along with other multi-sensory ideas.
- If the schedule isn’t working, change it! It took a little experimentation to find the rhythm that works best for us as a family. I noticed that on the days when we were lax about starting school, we had more struggles throughout the day. It appears that my girls function best on a pretty consistent schedule that begins early in the day. If they know what is coming next, they seem to move forward with more independence and energy. Believe it or not, we’ve found that Bible time at 7:40 a.m. and an 8:00 a.m. start time in our school room works the best. My girls are early risers and early starters. Some days I’d rather stay in bed, but when I do, things don’t go as well and our rhythm seems out of sync.
- I really need a quiet time with Jesus every morning. Since my girls are early risers, this means that I am up in my quiet place between 6 & 6:30 a.m. This also means that I can’t stay up until 11:30 the night before. Well, I can, but if I do this too many days in a row I wake up cranky. There was a portion of our semester when I did not get up for this quiet time and I paid the price. Consequently, my husband and children paid the price, too. There is nothing like Holy Spirit wisdom rushing into your soul and mind in the peaceful hours before your children stir. When I discipline myself to put God first in this way, He blesses the entire family!
- I need connection, accountability, and fellowship with other moms and homeschoolers. If I didn’t have the small group of Christian moms that I meet with each Friday morning, I would be missing out on so much richness that God offers me as a woman in this life. These are the moments each week when I rest and refuel. We are an imperfect group of gals who share in one another’s joys, sorrows, worries, hopes and dreams. I cannot begin to convey the depth of gratitude I feel for these women. If you are reading this blog and are isolating yourself from this kind of companionship, I passionately urge you to step out of your comfort zone, be vulnerable and authentic and find a group in which to pour yourself! Sure, it takes time to build friendships, but it is always time well spent.
- Guess What? My CHILDREN need connection, accountability and fellowship with others too! At the beginning of our semester, I found myself kind of worrying about so many homeschooling activities and classes with our local homeschooling group. I wanted to make sure the girls were getting all their assignments and “learning” done. I’ll admit there were some mornings that I was tempted to just keep them at home so we wouldn’t get “behind.” Okay, I did do that a couple of times. But as the semester progressed, I let it go and took them to nearly every scheduled class. And you know what? We never fell behind in our school work. What’s more—they learned SO MUCH! They have also built and deepened their friendships along the way. We are relational people! Connect!
- Take an entire week off at Thanksgiving even though Christmas is right around the corner. We decided at the last minute to take the entire week off, instead of three days. This was one of the best decisions we made all semester. Remember, you can teach math while you bake breads and pies together!
And with that deliciousness, I will conclude this post. If you want to see more pictures and videos about what THE GIRLS HAVE LEARNED, stay tuned for the second installment…
Have you ever come to a crossroad in your life journey and wondered which way to turn? I’m sure many of us have come to such a place and heard someone utter the words, “Just go with your gut!” When we hear that statement, we interpret it to mean, “Rely upon your instinct and intuition. Your instincts are usually right.”
Alas, the purpose of this particular blog post is not to delve into the psychological and/or philosophical implications of this euphemism; nor to explore our emotional responses and resulting choices. Actually, I am going to go at this with a different approach–a very practical approach. I am going to implore us to literally put the health of our gut at the top of our physical “to do” list. Please don’t check out here. No, this isn’t a “seeds of faith” post, it is a “seeds of health” one, but I implore you to keep reading. The information you read could literally transform your health as you know it. Or, it could transform the health of your child–which is exactly what happened in our family. I strongly and passionately believe that every parent, grandparent, teacher and caregiver should be equipped with the knowledge that I am about to share. It isn’t my own knowledge…it doesn’t originate with me. It has come from months of research and personal experience. (Oh how I wish someone had shared this knowledge with me two years ago).
Still wondering if you should keep reading? Do you or does someone you know suffer from:
- Auto Immune Diseases
- Chronic ear, nose, and throat infections
- Digestive Issues
If so, please read on.
When I stop and think about the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about how important digestive health is to our overall health and well being…it makes me all the more urgent to share it with everyone I know. So I will say it again, please keep reading. You will not regret it!
Why? Because scientists and physicians are now seeing that about 80% of our immune system lies within our gut. Yes, that’s right…80%. Did you know that our immune system plays a crucial role in controlling inflammation? In his book, Brain Power: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect your Brain–for Life, Dr. Permutter states that “all manner of disease is rooted in inflammation run amok, and your immune system controls inflammation.” He also remarks that, “90 percent of all known human illness can be traced back to an unhealthy gut. And we can say for sure that just as disease begins in the gut, so too does health and vitality.”
These statements are being proved correct as more and more scientific studies are revealing a strong connection between inflammatory diseases and an unhealthy gut: this includes Alzheimers, dementia, autism, ADHD, cancer, auto-immune disorders, depression and allergies.
I have both read about and listened to many people who can testify to the dramatic change in their health when they began to heal their gut by consuming the right foods, incorporating pre and probiotics, taking quality nutritional supplements, and eliminating the toxic chemicals in their homes.
I mentioned earlier that we walked through this journey with one of our own family members. Actually, I think each member of our family has been impacted by the healing of our digestive system, but the most tangible change has occurred in our youngest daughter. On this blog, she goes by the name Sunshine. About a year-and-a-half ago, she began having chronic abdominal pain and nausea. We tried so many different things to help relieve her discomfort but nothing seemed to work. We put her on a lactose free diet, tried to remove other foods that could trigger an allergic response, began a protocol for acid-reflux (which included an acid reducing medication), and even started looking at gluten free options. We saw several different physicians, and ended up at Mayo Clinic to have a barrage of tests run. She was quite a trooper that day; what with all of the poking, prodding, scanning and testing she had to endure. After all of that, no conclusive diagnosis was given yet she was still having discomfort and nausea. It was beginning to interrupt her school day, as the nurse would call saying she felt sick to her stomach. She would sit out of different activities that she usually enjoyed. This was upsetting her quality of life–and mine too! I felt helpless. About 5 months into this health issue, we as a family had been experiencing some positive health changes from our Shaklee vitamin regiment. I was also beginning to listen to webinars, lectures and presentations about how nutrition can heal the body. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? God has given us vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega 3s, probiotics, good fats, protein, water, and so much more in the foods He has created. These are meant to give us optimal nutrition and health.
A former student of mine directed me to a two-part lecture, given by an holistic M. D. in Texas. I now think of this presentation as “the hour that changed our lives” because he presented in a clear and articulate way the truths about how our digestive system functions (links will be provided below). When I think about the timing of watching this lecture for the first time, and where I was in my journey with Shaklee, I see no coincidence. This was the answer for which I’d been praying. I immediately began a protocol with Sunshine that would later prove to be the turning point in her suffering. She had already been taking a quality multivitamin which had eliminated her ear infections. We added to that regimen a probiotic (to replenish the good bacteria in her gut) and an omega 3 (fish oil). We also began to greatly reduce the kinds of foods that kill good bacteria and/or feed the bad bacteria (namely sugar). Slowly but surely, we were able to take her off of the prescribed medications completely and she has been free of them now for almost 10 months. And how is she doing? Well…she no longer misses any activity due to stomach pain or nausea. Her bowel movements are regular and normal. Her complaints are essentially non-existent. She is happy, healthy, and virtually free of any discomfort. On the rare occasion that she does complain, I give her an extra probiotic and feed her foods that help the probiotics do their work.
I feel as though I’ve gotten ahead of myself here with our own story, so let me back up a bit and share with you what I have learned about digestive health.
- Good bacteria must outnumber the bad in order to have a healthy gut and subsequently a healthy immune system.
- Antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria, they kill the good. Too many antibiotics will deplete the gut of good bacteria and problems will begin to happen. (I believe that this is what caused Sunshine’s problems. She had chronic ear infections–thus a large amount of antibiotics were given during the first 5 years of her life. Even though I put her on probiotics during her antibiotic treatments, I should have kept giving the probiotics to her as a daily regimen–even when she wasn’t sick with ear infections.)
- Bad bacteria feed on sugars and yeasts, so if our diet is full of these, our bad bacteria will outnumber the good. When this keeps happening, we begin to have a “leaky” gut.
- Leaky guts result in an over-reactive immune system which causes the inflammatory response to go awol. This can cause a variety of issues, from allergies to ADHD to Alzheimers. Did you know that depression can also be linked to an unhealthy digestive system? Scientists are discovering that the system in the body that is most sensitive to changes in gut bacteria is the central nervous system–namely the brain.
- There are many cases where people who have suffered with these and other diseases have noticed dramatic changes when their gut was healed and working properly.
- Change will not happen over night. Healing takes time and persistence.
Foods that will aid in good bacteria production are:
- Yogurt (watch out for high amounts of sugar!) You can actually purchase a yogurt starter and make your own–minus all the extra sugar. You can also buy it plain and add your own fruit.
- Pickles (make sure to buy organic–with all natural ingredients. Some pickles have high fructose corn syrup hiding in the ingredients list)
- Dark Chocolate (the darker the better. I eat from 60-80% cacao)
- Not all probiotics are created equal.
- Research the company to make sure the ingredients have been tested for purity.
- Make sure the capsule is coated in such a way that it will release in the intestines and not get eaten up by stomach acid. Many probiotic supplements out there won’t make it to where they are needed most.
- I get my probiotics through some of the foods above, and I take Optiflora and drink a Life Shake each day.
Prebiotics and Foods that Will Feed the Good Bacteria
Onion (both raw and cooked)
Raw Jerusalem Artichoke
Raw dandelion greens
You can also purchase a prebiotic powder to help feed the good bacteria.
“It’s now undeniable that our intestinal organisms participate in a wide variety of physiologic actions, including immune system functioning, detoxification, inflammation, vitamin production, nutrient absorption, signaling being hungry or full, and utilizing carbohydrates and fat. All of these processes factor mightily into whether or not we experience allergies, asthma, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, or dementia. The microbiome affects our mood, libido, metabolism, immunity, and even our perception of the world and the clarity of our thoughts. It helps determine whether we are fat or thin, energetic or lethargic. Put simply, everything about our health–how we feel both emotionally and physically–hinges on the state of our microbiome. Is it healthy and dominated by so-called friendly, beneficial bacteria? Or is it sick and overrun by bad, unfriendly bacteria?” Dr. Permutter
Studies are showing that the food we consume has the largest impact on our gut microbiome. Okay, I am going to be extremely blunt. The processed foods and sodas we are buying, eating and giving to our kids is wrecking their digestive systems. Many parents are getting rid these types of foods these days. However, many of the foods that are labelled as “healthy” in our grocery stores can be making things worse because they are loaded with sugar–and I mean LOADED. Granola, yogurt, juices and other cereals are packed with sugar. What I didn’t know for the longest time was that the good bacteria found in yogurt was essentially being rendered null and void by the accompanying 24 grams of sugar per serving! Plus, the bacteria wasn’t making it past my kids’ stomach acid to the place in the gut where it was actually needed the most! One of the most important changes we can make is to start reading the labels on the boxes, bags and cans of food we purchase. Read the labels!!
Here are a few ingredients to avoid:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose, aspartime)
- Added sugars
- MSG (many Campbell’s soups contain MSG)
- BHT (Rice Krispies has it)
- Anything listed as “Hydrogenated”
- Artificial dyes (Red, Yellow, Blue, etc)
- GMOs (Genetically Modified)
- Make sure your corn and soy sources have Non GMO on the label. Most corn and soy that is included on labels is genetically modified.
- Meats and Dairy Products from cows treated with antibiotics and growth hormones
- Do not give your kids sodas & pop, especially diet drinks. These are wreckers of their digestive system and will affect their brain function.
The more that we know about the foods we are consuming, the more power we have to change the nutritional state of our bodies.
Please understand that I am not coming at this as though I know more than you do. I was ignorant of so much of this information, even though I was conscientious about what our family consumed. I am not a medical doctor. I am an avid researcher and am passionate about the health of my family and friends. I hope that this information has started you thinking about the health issues you or a loved one may be experiencing. I encourage you to read the books listed below and watch the video links. If you would like more information about the supplement regiment we have been on for the past year, please see the links provided below or contact me personally. I would love to help in any way I can.
So…GO WITH YOUR GUT and watch the difference it can make in your health.
Video Resources Recommended by Veritas Medical
Better Health in 31 Days Webinars: Here you can find webinars and testimonials relating to all manner of health concerns.
Brain Maker by Dr. Perlmutter
Beyond Organic by Jordan Rubin
Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis
What we take daily:
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 utero. But it was not going to be a typical day of teaching. In fact, I only taught one voice lesson that day. The rest of the day was spent consoling students, listening to the news, and talking with colleagues and friends about what was happening to our country. I remember thinking, “What kind of world is my son being born into?” Ross only had 8 more weeks before his due date. His arrival was highly anticipated. The nursery was ready and all the essentials ready for use. Later that evening, after watching the news a bit more, my husband and I decided to go to bed and get some rest. As we sat in bed talking about the days events, I anticipated that Ross would do his usual evening routine and start kicking and rolling around—totally oblivious to the horrors going on in the world outside his warm and comfortable home. I gently rubbed my rather large belly. After several minutes I noticed that he wasn’t kicking. This didn’t concern me too much, as there were a few evenings here and there when he slept and decided to wake up at 2 a.m. instead. So, I went to sleep expecting to be awakened in the middle of the night with the uncomfortable, yet reassuring movements of my baby.
I did awake in the middle of the night, but it was not due to any movement on Ross’ part. Concern began to creep into my mind, but I was not even entertaining the thought that he might not be alive. I drank some orange juice and was certain that he would start moving within a half an hour. Thirty minutes came and went and still no movement. I woke my husband and told him what was going on and we agreed we should call my physician. After doing that we got dressed and headed to the emergency room. Even as we walked into the ER, I was thinking that Ross was just asleep. This was just a precaution to set my mind at ease. An hour passed and we were still at the hospital, and I had been admitted into the neonatal unit on the second floor. A sonogram had been conducted and our worst nightmare had become a reality. There was no heartbeat. Our child had died. The next few hours were a blur. I remember signing all sorts of papers and half heartedly listening to nurses and doctors. I was thrust out of my fog of disbelief when my doctor informed me that I was going to have to go through labor and give birth. All of a sudden I became acutely aware of what was going to happen during the next twenty four hours, and I knew that I couldn’t possibly handle it. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty strong person, but there was no way I was going to make it through this. I couldn’t even utter the words, “God help me.”
When I think back on that early moment of grief, I know that it was one of those times when the Holy Spirit uttered groans to the Father that I could not even fathom. I know with certainty that those groans were uttered because I can testify that the peace of God descended upon that hospital room and I had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t praying in faith…I wasn’t praying at all and yet His peace filled the room and filled my heart. All of a sudden, “and My peace, which passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” became a startling reality. This was a touchstone of faith, thrown right into the chaotic mess that was my life at this tragic moment. If anyone ever asks me how I can know for certain there is a God who loves me, I will recount this experience to them. It was one of those times when Jesus literally picked me up and carried me because I could not do it myself. I could not move one step forward. I remember the nurse telling me that we could hold Ross after he was born. She gave us this news right after we found out I was going to have to go through hours of labor. I remember shaking my head and saying “No, I don’t think I can do that.” Jesus was going to have to carry me through, and He did just that. He carried me through all the pain, both physical and emotional. And, in the early morning hours of September 13, 2001, He gave me strength to give birth and to endure the silence that followed. And, when it was all over, He gave me the strength and desire to hold my son.
We did hold Ross. We held him and wept. We wept for dreams that would not come to fruition. We wouldn’t see him grow and know his personality. We wouldn’t experience all the milestones that parents go through with their children. In those moments we grieved his loss with a grief we had never known before. Our family and friends mourned with us. We felt surrounded and uplifted by those around us. God used his church to bring comfort and support during those dark days. Going home empty handed and to an empty nursery was just as painful as the hours of labor in the hospital. But, God was faithful. God was true to His promises.
Little did we know that a few months later, in June of 2012, we would experience another miscarriage, another awful trip to the hospital and a trip home empty handed and broken hearted. God would carry us through that loss as well. He brought me through anger, disbelief, grief and sadness. But this story does not end here.
These were seeds of faith sown in tears. A harvest was to be reaped.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6
Three years later, I remember sitting in front of a group of college women in my home recounting these events and the tears that were falling were not tears of grief but of JOY! My husband and I still did not have a child of our own at that point, but joy overflowed. God had shown me that I could be a mother to these college women and I could give them guidance, encouragement, and a listening ear. I didn’t have to have a child in my arms to be a mother. These daughters of the King brought such joy and purpose to our home. I still keep in touch with several of them. They are a huge part of the bountiful harvest that had begun in tears all those years earlier. Here are just a few pictures that depict the bountiful harvest that has come from the LORD.
And of course, these two are a part of that harvest too.
Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
My Savior worked in my heart and the result was good. He changed me, shaped me, and refined me. I would not want to go back and be the person I was before we lost Ross. One of the things I told those young college women was this, “If God had given me the chance to go back and change that event in my life, I would not have changed it.” Why? Because the joy and the good that He has brought far surpasses the grief we knew then.
Do we still grieve? Of course! September 11-13th is easier some years than other years. This year, I’ve cried a good bit because I miss him. When we gather with our good friends in Texas, who both have boys Ross’ age, I am a little sad that he can’t be there interacting with them. I miss him when our girls are arguing because I know that big brother would step in and speak some wisdom into their hearts. I miss him today because we want to celebrate a birthday with him.
But you know what? This life is but a breath and when this life is over I will see him. He will have already been rejoicing in heaven and knowing Jesus. He’ll probably teach us a thing or two. And I will see him for eternity and we will all experience joys we cannot comprehend this side of heaven. Heaven is his home and its all he’ll ever know.
I share this story not for sympathy or attention for our family. I share this story to tell of God’s goodness. He is real. His peace passes all understanding. He is full of grace and mercy. He loves you and He died for you. But, He calls us to a life that is different from the world around us and He will give you the power to live that life.
If you have sown seeds of faith in tears hold on to this truth: When seeds are sown in tears, God will bring forth a bountiful harvest and you will go out in joy!
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the cGod of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. Hab. 3:17-18
He has turned our sorrow into joy and our weeping to dancing. Blessed be the name of the LORD.
Well, we made it through our first week-and-a-half and the verdict is…we all LOVE it!
After all of the prayer, preparation, blog reading, book reading, advice seeking and lesson planning we finally launched our homeschool last week. I must admit that the night before we started, the fear crept in a bit. Was I really doing the right and best thing for our family? Would my scheduling be off and my lesson planning way off point? Will it really fit where the girls are in their learning process? Despite all of my planning and detailed preparation, there were so many unknowns. I dislike unknowns.
But, once the ball began rolling Monday morning, everything just seemed to fall into place. Sure, we will have some tweaking to do here and there but all in all it was a satisfying and rewarding week-and-a-half for all involved.
Here are some highlights to share that delight my soul:
Every morning after we eat breakfast, the whole family gathers around the table for 20-30 minutes of Bible study and family devotional time. We are using The Bible Road Trip curriculum and loving it. Starting our day in this way lays a beautiful and solid framework for what is to come during our school time.
After our Bible time, we move into the school room for calendar time activities. For 15-20 minutes we engage in movement with music, daily learning notebook activities, oral language exercises, scripture memory review, a little skip counting practice and other fun fast-paced objectives. There have been a great deal of smiles during this segment of our day (mainly due to our dog Elsa trying to join in on the fun) and I love starting this way.
One of my favorite moments this past week occurred when Rosebud (that’s our blog name for our oldest daughter) finished writing her very first composition using the Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum. I watched with tears as she experienced the satisfaction that can only come by creating something yourself. You just can’t buy or bottle that kind of intrinsic motivation. I was not counting on having a moment like this the first week of school, so I consider it a blessing and confirmation of our choice to homeschool. It was a touchstone for both of us.
Sunshine (our youngest), is going through the Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind series. It was true joy listening to her recite her very first poem today. I asked her what her favorite subjects are and she listed Grammar first! Who knew? It has also been fun watching her use the math manipulatives during her free/choice time (thank you Northeast Iowa Montessori School for planting those seeds back in preschool).
I also absolutely love it that we can all cuddle up on the couch to read through our science and history lessons. I so enjoy watching the lightbulbs excitedly turn on in their minds as they learn about and study pictures of cave paintings that date back 6000 years or more. We made our own with acrylic paints, paper bags, and chalk; mimicking the designs used by these ancient people.
Rosebud loves everything science, so it was fun to see her awe and amazement at how the moon’s gravitational pull effects our ocean tides, and she loved learning about the difference between nektonic and benthic creatures. (I never learned that in first and fourth grade!) We also put together our ocean box. It is ready to be filled with all kinds of aquatic creatures!
We are also having a lot of fun with our physical education curriculum, Family Time Fitness. The varied activities in each of the lessons keep us on our toes (especially mom)! It is also extremely amusing to watch the expression on the faces of those passing by our yard as we are outside performing the different exercises. I can clearly see that some of them are wondering why these girls are not in school and instead are out running, skipping, and jumping in the front yard. 🙂
Have there been some tough moments? Yes, of course! But I am choosing to view these moments as challenges that grow us. I actually want my children to experience some obstacles and hurdles that, with perseverance and consistency, can be overcome. At the beginning of this week, Rosebud and I were working on some double digit multiplication problems that were giving her a little trouble. We worked on them consistently throughout the week and by the middle of the week, she had it down and could complete the problems successfully all on her own. I looked her in the eyes and put my hands on her shoulders and told her, “This homeschool is not going to be driven by your performance on a state test score. Your worth is not determined by scores and grades. We are going to have the space here for you to grow at your own pace. All I ask is for you to bring your best and to give yourself grace and room for mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, not measurements of your abilities.” A huge smile of relief began to form itself on her lips. She understood. Because she, like her mother, is a perfectionist, and I am certain this will not be the only time I give this speech. There will be days I need to give this speech to myself!
So no, it isn’t all rosebuds and sunshine (pun intended).
But, it is a growing experience and if we are growing we are on the right track.
I want to begin this post with a question. When you are given a life-changing gift that you know could also change the lives of those around you, do you keep it to your self or do you share it? When I ask this question, I can’t help but think about the gift of the gospel. To me, it is the greatest gift. Yet, there were times in my life when I chose not to share it. I was too worried about rejection and what others would think of me. As I look back on those moments I ask myself, “How could I do such a thing? How could I remain silent?” I have a feeling I am not the only one. I see this blog as just one avenue for sharing the gift of God’s grace with the world. I know, the world isn’t reading my blog. In fact, right now it is a handful of people, but I feel passionate about getting the truth out there. That is why I have a “seeds of faith” section.
But there are other two other areas of this blog that also require a “sharing” mentality. So, today, I sow seeds of health. This post may be rather controversial to some people. I am okay with that, because it would have been controversial to me a few years ago. The bottom line is, I have been given a gift. In fact, I am now aware that thousands of people in our country have been given this gift and are talking about it and sharing it. How can I keep it to myself?
I can’t. I must share it too.
A New Mindset
This past weekend, I listened intently as a man of about 65-70 years of age stood up and shared his story. Although I can’t remember it word for word, something he said struck me. I am fairly certain that I wasn’t the only one in the audience impacted because soon after he made the statement, there was a collective moan of acknowledgement from those gathered. We all understood where he was coming from, because most of us had been there at one time or another. Or, we knew of someone who had been there.
By “there” I don’t mean a place, but a mindset.
This is, in my own paraphrase, what he said. “I had always been someone who was concerned about eating nutritious food. I ate in a “healthy”way. But, I was still getting sick and seeing doctors often and on different prescriptions. I was believing that this was as good as it would get. This was the way it was supposed to be”
Is anyone else there? You are eating well, exercising, and doing everything you know to do to stay healthy yet still getting sick often? If something isn’t right with your health, a prescription or over the counter drug will fix it. You believe it is your only solution.
I have been there. Not so much with my own health but the health of my children. For my youngest, it was chronic ear infections. For my oldest, throat infections and even mononucleosis. Mono? Really? Age 8? I know she wasn’t kissing any boys. 🙂 All joking aside, I was beginning to worry about all of the antibiotics going into my girls’ bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I know that antibiotics are life savers. Many people would have died of strep throat/scarlet fever and more if we didn’t have them. And, physicians are now trying not to prescribe them unless absolutely necessary because they too know that much worse illnesses can result when a bacteria builds a resistance to a certain medication.
In our home, we really did strive toward good nutrition for our bodies. Real food instead of processed food was important to us. Organically grown produce and fresh produce during the summers was also our focus. I gave the girls vitamins everyday. But they kept getting these same illnesses, having the same doctor visits, and missing school. I had resigned myself to the fact that this was the way it was going to be. This was the norm.
Until we found Shaklee. Shaklee was a total game changer.
Let me say that I had absolutely no expectation that Shaklee supplements would change our lives. In fact, just before I started them on the vitamin regiment for children, both girls had been to the doctor: one for strep and the other with an ear infection. If you had told me, “Kristin, about a year from now you will be able to say that your daughters have not had one ear infection nor one throat infection”, I would have chuckled and said, “Yeah, right.” Well guess what? We have had zero doctor visits for ear or throat infections since last October. In fact, they went from October to January without even as much as a virus. Then, we ran out of product and I forgot to re-order and they acquired a flu-like bug. About two days into it, my new order arrived and we started right back on them. They still possessed the energy to run around the house and play. It just took a few days for the fever to disappear. What? This wasn’t what we were used to experiencing. Since starting back up in January we again have had no ear, nose, and throat infections and when the girls get the sniffles or beginning of a cold we just supplement with a few more immune boosting items and go about our normal day. The cold symptoms don’t escalate. A couple of months ago I was walking through a local drugstore to pick up some toy items for a birthday. I suddenly realized, “I haven’t been in here in months!” I couldn’t help but grin.
And now a whole new mindset began to take shape.
What if we started looking for ways to prevent illness rather than treat it. Did you know that diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are in most cases preventable? What if that could be our norm? Is it possible? And, why isn’t eating right enough? Shouldn’t it be? If you follow this line of thinking long enough you start spouting ideas and philosophies that are rather revolutionary and even controversial in our current society.
The Shaklee Difference
And, why is it this particular company as opposed to another one? How is it really different than the vitamins and supplements you find on the shelf at Walmart? Incidentally, the New York Times recently released an article exposing the truth about the supplements found at Walmart, Target, and GNC.
I wanted to know the answers to these questions and why the vitamins I had been using previously were making absolutely no difference in the health of my kids. So I’ve researched and I’ve listened to several online webinars and lectures. I was pretty well convinced by all these, but what really pushed me over the edge was hearing all of the live testimonials this past weekend. These were real people of all ages and backgrounds who were now completely off of their prescribed medications and thriving! Unbelievable right?
Well, I’m a believer. I found out that the typical American above a certain age takes over 10 different prescription drugs per day, while those on Shaklee average <1. I was reminded that in a landmark study, users of Shaklee supplements were compared with those who either take supplements other than Shaklee’s or don’t supplement at all. The Shaklee users won by a clear margin with 11% lower cholesterol ratios, 33% lower levels of triglycerides, 36% lower levels of homocysteine, and a whopping 59% lower c-reactive protein levels (c-reactive protein is a biomarker for long term biological stress). When this protein is high, inflammatory conditions are usually present (read here for more information). And there’s more—over 100,000 quality tests conducted on their products every year, and 35 patents pending on their new “Life Plan” alone! This is huge and unprecedented in the world of health and wellness (for more on Shaklee clinical testing look here).
Allow me now to relay another personal story. Last year, our youngest had developed acid reflux. She had all the symptoms. I remember taking her to the doctor and actually asking that he prescribe an acid reducer. I didn’t want her to suffer anymore. What I didn’t think about was the fact that this drug can deplete the calcium stores in your body. We all know that most prescription drugs have a side effect. At the time we had just started our Shaklee vitamins and I was seeing results from them in other ways, but my mindset had not really changed at this point. So, she began the medication. Her symptoms did improve but the reflux was still present and the stomach upset a daily problem. Fortunately, I was learning more and more about the nutrients our bodies need to thrive and that God has enabled our bodies to heal themselves when we have the right tools. With this knowledge, I began to expand her vitamin regiment to include probiotics, omega 3 fatty acids, and calcium/magnesium supplements. I did not take her off of the antacid medication right away. As we began to see results we slowly reduced the drug until she was totally taken off of it. Six months later, she has no reflux symptoms and does not need any medication. Why? Because, I believe that her body now has all the nutrients it requires to function and heal itself. And the effect doesn’t stop there. I am hearing from my friends and family: lower cholesterol levels, significant weight loss, more mental focus, fewer arthritis symptoms, more energy…and that is just the beginning.
So, I now think of our Shaklee products as our health insurance. Is Shaklee a cure-all? Nope. Will my Life Plan regiment prevent any and all diseases? I can’t know that with 100% certainty, nor does Shaklee promote that notion. Do I need to discuss supplementation with my health care provider? Certainly! Will changes happen overnight? No. Will your results be the same as my results? That is no guarantee. Nutrition takes time and we must be willing to try it over several months to see the benefit. It took 30 + years for my husband and me to get in the state we were in health-wise. So, there is no overnight fix. I know that there will be doctor visits in our future, and the occasional antibiotic. But, I truly trust my health and the health of my family to Shaklee. I am investing in preventative health now in hopes that we won’t be out the big bucks for other diseases when we are older (actually our Shaklee products are now free–but that is another blog post). I fully realize that I have been on this earth for 40 years, and 39 of them without Shaklee. I know my body has been exposed to a lot of toxins and other chemicals that have been detrimental to my cells. So, a disease like cancer could still be in my future and my husband’s future. But for now, we feel absolutely amazing. And, when I look at my girls now as compared to a little over a year ago–I can see the difference in them. It is tangible.
You know the saying, “true beauty is on the inside?” There is a whole lot of truth to that. In fact, we teach our girls “People will look at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) It is our character that matters so much more than our appearance. I would go on to add that our health starts from the inside too. Our cells need real, God-given nutrients and when those nutrient needs are met, it is visible on the outside. I feel so blessed to have found a company that takes what God has created in its purest form and harnesses it to create innovative and revolutionary solutions for everyone who will try it.
Since I use the gardening metaphor quite a bit on this blog, why not here too? For those of you who have gardens, have you noticed that your plants look quite a bit more perky after a rain as compared to when you water with a hose? City water cannot compare to God water. Are you catching my analogy? Food and supplements treated with man-made substances will not do the trick at the cellular level. Food and supplements that are completely free of these man-made substances, and harvested in season and fresh will make a difference to the health of our cells. Which would you choose for those you love? It is a no-brainer for me.
So, this is the gift I have been given, and I am passing it on. I feel very strongly about sharing what I have found with everyone I know! To not share it would be unthinkably wrong. How could I keep such knowledge to myself? So instead, I choose to sow.
These are our seeds of health…and we will share them with you. If you want to learn more, watch this video and reply below or follow this link.
If someone had approached me two years ago and prophetically told me, “Kristin, in the fall of 2015 you will be homeschooling your children,” I would have laughed. In fact, I would have said, “There is absolutely no way I am homeschooling. I am NOT cut out for that.” I have always admired and esteemed families who chose to educate their children and home. But, at the same time, I have always been a public school advocate, and didn’t feel the need to explore the option for my own family. So, the fact that we are embarking on this new journey just proves that God has been at work in my heart. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the LORD determines his steps.” There is no doubt that this mommy had plans. A year ago, I had been wrestling with a decision to either continue teaching voice at a local college, or stepping away and being a stay-at-home mom again. While I love college students and the energy on a university campus, I was not passionate about my career. I love singing and performing. I also love teaching. But, for some reason when the two were put together, my passion just fizzled. I prayed and prayed for direction, but no clear answer was given. So, I did what I had done for the past 4 years…I turned in my teaching contract. The next morning, I woke up with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had made the wrong decision. Thankfully, I contacted a few people and they graciously released me from my contract. Immediately, a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. I breathed fresh, free air and a peace ensued. The first step had been taken.
Let’s back up a bit to the previous spring. It was in April-May of 2014 that the seeds of homeschooling began to be planted in my mind. But, even then, in the midst of some difficult struggles that our oldest daughter had encountered, I didn’t seriously consider it. Sure, the helicopter parent instinct had kicked in for a couple of weeks, but any decision made due to fear is usually not a good solution to the problem. But, a few months later when I made the decision to step away from voice teaching, more space seemed to be created in my life and I really pondered everything that had happened. There are many times I asked God, “Why? She’s only in second grade!” He was so patient with me even though I doubted His goodness. What I did know for certain was that I needed more time with my children–especially my oldest. She needed healing, peace, and a restoration of her joy and confidence. It was very clear to my husband and I that she continue in school that fall. It was almost as if God was saying. “Trust my heart. Trust me. Don’t interfere, just abide.” As I look back over this past school year, I see His hand in so many things. She was placed in a classroom with a teacher who is very perceptive, kind, and nurturing. She was just what our daughter needed. Not only that, our daughter’s best friend was placed in the same class, along with another sweet group of girls. God had orchestrated the perfect environment in which she could find peace, healing and encouragement.
I look back on our first parent-teacher conference as a moment of truth. This was the next step along the path. I am so grateful for this teacher who looked deeper and who sought to find solutions for our child. It was a hard meeting, but a wonderful one at the same time. We talked about many things and as we left, my mind was filled with questions and thoughts. I realized that I had to do more focused educating at home–supporting and reinforcing the concepts being taught in her classroom. It was like a lightbulb turned on inside my heart and brought to light the little seeds that had been growing into seedlings. All of a sudden, the door to homeschooling seemed to open wide, and I began to actively consider the prospect. Each day after school, I worked with our daughter. Some days were a struggle, but we made it through. My husband and I began praying about the possibility of transitioning into full time homeschooling. It was becoming abundantly clear that educating our daughters at home would be the right step for our family. But now the question loomed: “When to start? Now? Next year?” Right before Christmas I had another excellent meeting with the teacher, and she was so encouraging and agreed that we were making the right choice. But her advice was to wait until the next school year. Yes! That again was what was best. This gave me plenty of time to research curriculum and pray. I was also able to continue watching what God was doing in our daughter’s life through our extra work with her at home, and through her teacher and classmates.
Sometimes we don’t experience God’s healing and restoration until years after a hurt has occurred. We can suffer for a very long time, and God works good out of it in His timing. This can be years for some and days for others. For us, this moment of realization came the day we received the state test scores. I opened the envelope with some trepidation and began reading her results. She has always been a great reader and so we knew those scores would be very high. But over the previous year she had really lost confidence in math and her scores had reflected that. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that some people are natural at math and some aren’t. I had always felt that she did have strong math abilities and kept encouraging and helping her to master certain concepts. So, when I saw that her math scores were even higher than her reading, I squealed out loud and called her downstairs. As I read her scores to her the floodgates began to burst open and she cried like I’ve never seen her cry before. It was a huge release and for the first time I really saw what she had been holding inside for all those months.
It was another step.
That night, I fully stepped through the open door and trusted where God was leading us. I began to water, prune and let the sun shine on this new garden that had been planted in my heart. From the get-go, I have had clarity about the curriculum and philosophy that we would follow in our homeschool. Ask any new homeschooling mom, and she will talk about the overwhelming amount of information she has to wade through to figure out those two components. As I was seeking advice from friends who homeschool in our town, I was handed a copy of “The Well-Trained Mind.” I devoured that book and every sentence seemed to ring true to me. So, homeschooling in the Classical Style it is–at least for this year. We are taking it one step at a time and not getting ahead of ourselves.
Another step, then another–one day at a time. If we get to the end of this year and God changes our path, then we will follow. But, for now, we move ahead with confidence in knowing that this new unexpected adventure is His design.
I hope you will join us as we plant seeds of knowledge in this coming school year!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law.”
When I think about self control, I think about the many areas where I lack it. I also think about the fact that many of the other fruit of the Spirit exercise some amount of self control. When we show patience with others–that is an act of self control. Choosing to show gentleness rather than anger is an act of self control. As families, I am sure we can point to several instances each day where self control is missing from each family member. I am finding that it is a very hard choice to teach to children. In the moment of heated emotions, to choose godly actions rather than fleshly actions is extremely hard for a 5 year old. Can it be done? Yes. It may take a lot of prayer, quoting scripture, repetition and training, but it is possible. Let us not forget that “all things are possible with God.”
My hope is that this week of lessons will give families some tools to use for teaching and modeling self control.
DAY ONE: What is self control?
DAY TWO: Did Jesus show self control?
DAY THREE: The new “self” vs the old “self”
- The activity for this day is quite involved and requires role play on the part of every family member. Parents, read through the entire activity and decide how you want to act it out. Also, make sure the kids have the appropriate clothing, and props. Also, if you have older kids or teens have them take part and give input.
DAY FOUR: In Your Anger Do Not Sin
DAY FIVE: Wrapping it all Up!
FRUIT OF THE WEEK: Have each family member pick their favorite and enjoy them throughout the week in different ways. Another tool would be to eat the fruit instead of the sweets in the house–to exercise self control and eat the fruit instead!
DAY ONE: What is Self Control?
Verse of the Day: 2 Peter 1:5-6: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.”
Begin your session with prayer.
Ask your children:
- “What does it mean to have self control?”
- “Why is it an important part of showing Christ in us?”
- “How can our self control point others to Christ?”
ACTIVITY: Go around and have each family talk about the areas of life where he/she lacks self control. It is so good to have these kinds of conversations as families. Children need to see that their parents aren’t perfect, and are sinners in need of grace. So, moms and dads you start and share yours first. Here are some ideas to get it started:
- Watching TV shows, movies that don’t honor God
- Spending too much time on Facebook and not in the Word
- Eating habits
- Not choosing your words carefully when upset
Here are some ideas for kids:
- Putting yourself first
- Whining or complaining
- Bickering with siblings
- Getting upset quickly or becoming easily angered
Talk about the consequences that have resulted in those times you and your children didn’t demonstrate self control. What does a lack of self control usually lead to? Next, talk about times when you or your children did demonstrate self control. What were the results of that choice?
This activity will probably take some time–don’t rush it and have an authentic heart-to-heart with your family. Conclude with prayer.
Some other verses on self control:
2 Timothy 3:3
1 Timothy 3:4 and 4:7
2 Timothy 1:7
DAY TWO: Did Jesus Show Self Control?
Verse for the Day: Is. 53:7 “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
- Begin with prayer and praise Christ for being our ultimate example in demonstrating self control
- Read Isaiah 53: 1-10 AND/OR John 18:1-10; Matthew 26:57-67 (verse 53 is also good!)
- Ask your kids, “How is Jesus demonstrating self control in these passages?”
- “When some one falsely accuses you of something, do you remain silent and calm?”
- “How was Jesus able to maintain gentleness?” Remember, He was fully God and fully man. He was tempted in every way we are yet did not sin.
- A question for your teens: “Do you think that if we truly believed who we are in Christ that we would have less self control issues?” Jesus knew who He was and He submitted Himself fully to God the Father. If we did the same how would our lives look different?”
- When we demonstrate self control with the people who challenge us or get on our nerves, we are reflecting our Savior.
- Go back and talk about your family discussion from the previous day. Talk about how those situations could be changed when we submit to our Heavenly Father.
- “What if Jesus had called down the legions of angels as he mentioned in Matt. 26:53? What if He had come down off the cross and given into what he was feeling emotionally? What would have been the consequence of that choice?” Take a moment and let your kids think and answer. We would be lost in our sin. We would be condemned to spend eternity separated from God.
- “Is it worth it for us to show self control?” “What is at stake if we do not change our sinful habits?”
DAY THREE: The New “Self” vs. The Old “Self”
Verse for the Day: 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and goodness.”
I think sometimes as Christians, we forget that we are new creations. Paul speaks of this in his epistles. (2 Corinthians 5:17) It is very important that we instill this truth in the hearts of our children. Once you have been regenerated (made new) by the Holy Spirit and He resides in you, you now have the power to make godly choices. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that we have the power to live our lives free from sin. Do we do this 24/7/365? No. Why? Because we give into our own desires and temptations instead of trusting God and walking in His power (James writes about this in the first chapter of his letter). I strongly believe that 2 Peter 1:3 should be memorized by every believer. In this world, we too easily toss off our sins and say things like, “I just couldn’t help it.” This kind of thinking is just what the enemy wants! Jesus Christ came and died to set us free from the power of sin and death. He paid a very high price and we shouldn’t take it lightly–and neither should our kids.
- Ask your kids, “So does this verse say that God’s power gives us only some things we need?” No! God’s power gives us EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness!
- Also make the point that it is “through our knowledge of Him.” It isn’t about behavioral Christianity–it is about knowing Him and experiencing God.
- Before we go into that, read the following scriptures with your kids. Make sure your older kids actually open their Bibles and look up these verses to read out loud to the family
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Galatians 2:20
- Romans 6:6
- Ephesians 4:22
- Colossians 3:9
- For older kids and teens, read through Galatians chapter 5. Talk about the “acts of the flesh” vs. the “acts of the Spirit”.
- Read Galatians 5:22 again and note that self control is a part of being a new creature!
ACTIVITY: Using God’s Power
- Today’s activity is going to require some role play–so have fun!
- Your kids are going to have two sets of clothing: Set # 1 is a set of nice clean clothes. Have them put on their Sunday best. Set #2 is dirty old clothes. All kids have them right?? Have them put those clothes on over the first set.
- Talk about how this represents the “old self” with all its sinful acts. Have the kids lay down–pretending to be dead.
- Have either a parent or the oldest sibling represent Jesus. Dress him in white, yellow, or gold to make the point. As Jesus goes around to each family member, he removes the old dirty clothes from them and takes them onto himself in some way.
- What remains are the nice clean clothes.
- As each child is transformed, have them stand up. (If you want to, have “Jesus” give each child a cross, or a play sword, or a Bible–this represents one of God’s divine weapons).
- Now, have another parent or sibling pretend to be Satan–the tempter. Dress in black or another dark color that would represent evil or sin. Have this person go to each child and hold up one of the following words:
- bickering, discord
- If it is a parent doing the role-playing you might present each child with the sin that he/she really struggles.
- When “Satan” approaches and temps the child, have the child take their “weapon” and say no! It is like they are using God’s power to exercise self control.
- You can totally organize this activity to work best for your own family dynamic–this is just a guideline. But this kind of activity will REALLY stick with your kids. They will remember it and you can refer back to it when you are guiding them to use self control.
DAY FOUR: In Your Anger Do Not Sin
Verse of the Day: Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
In our family, showing self control when we are angry is the biggest challenge. Angry words (rather than gentle answers) are so quick to pour out of our mouths. Remember that anger is a heart issue. As parents, are we standing in judgement over our children? Do we think we are less of a sinner than they?Are we embarrassed and angry when our child misbehaves in public because we don’t want to be perceived as bad parents? Ouch. Are your kids constantly bickering, or responding to one another in a snippy, sarcastic way? We all need God to come in and clean up that area of our hearts–parents included (me included)!
Read through each of these verses and talk about them as a family. What do these verses say about anger and its effect? Is it really worth it?
- *Proverbs 15:1
- Proverbs 27:4
- Proverbs 29:8
- *Proverbs 29:11
- Proverbs 30:33
- *Ecclesiastes 7:9
- *Ephesians 4:26 & 31
- Colossians 3:8
- *James 1:19-20
Before you finish with prayer, have each family member talk about what “triggers” his/her anger and how this shows a heart condition. For example a dad might say: “When you guys misbehave in public and directly disobey me, I am angered because of what people might think of me as a parent. I am relying upon the opinions of other people more than my identity in Christ.”
After each family member has confessed their sin, pray together and confess this to God. Ask for his help in having self control in this area.
Optional Activity: I read on another blog recently about an activity that one family used to help curb snippy, sarcastic words spoken in anger. Each family member wore a rubber band. When that person responded in an angry way, they would have to snap the rubber band. It was just a simple reminder that helped that family to realize how many times they resorted to harsh words rather than gentle ones. They were able to readily confess their sin and to eventually turn from it.
DAY FIVE: All for YOUR Splendor, LORD!
Verse of the Day: Galatians 5:22
Can you believe it! We have completed our 9 week study on the Fruit of the Spirit!
- Begin with prayer
- Read Galatians 5:22 together as a family
- Now go through each “fruit” and have family members talk about what they remembered the most from each week.
- Favorite verse
- Favorite activities
- Favorite songs
- Favorite recipes
- Let each child share about what really stuck with them the most.
- Parents you share too!
- Make sure everyone talks about “why” that particular verse, song, or activity meant something to them.
- Ask your kids: “How do we want to move forward as a family? What do you want to take with us into everyday life?”
- Ask each child to share which “fruit” they struggle with the most. Have them write it on a piece of paper that is cut out to look like a fruit. Parents, do this too! Then, attach the pieces of paper to the fridge (or if you are really creative attach them to a tree cutout or something of that nature).
- Help each other, encourage, gently correct, and pray for one another in these areas of need.
A great song to finish with is one by Christy Nockles entitled: “For Your Splendor”
Talk about this song after you listen. What does it mean? What does it mean to have roots that dig deep? Why do we have to have strong roots before the fruit will bloom? How can we have strong roots?
Finish with prayer. Have each family member utter a sentence prayer of praise to God.
As I type this I am grinning from ear to ear. I am praying that many families will grow closer to Christ through this 9 week unit. It has been so much fun to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and to see how He imparts wisdom and knowledge. He is love. He is joy. He is patient. He is kind. He is good. He is faithful. He is gentle. He is self control. Oh how I love Him. My prayer is that you love Him more deeply too.
James 3:13 “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior, his deeds done in the gentleness of wisdom.”
As I have pondered the fruit of gentleness, the first question that comes to mind is, “Does our society value it?” Gentleness is defined as humility, meekness, and consideration. Other descriptions of gentleness: tender, soft, and delicate. I was recently discussing gentleness with a group of college women. We all agreed that there are a few occasions when our culture would advocate gentleness, but as a general rule, it is not hailed as a virtue to pursue and demonstrate. Some of the gals made the comment that the world sees gentleness as a kind of meekness that allows someone to “walk all over you (i.e. the doormat syndrome).” When you look at gentleness as demonstrated by Jesus Christ, however, I believe you see quite a different picture. Biblical gentleness actually takes great strength of character. Biblical gentleness requires wisdom, grace, and restraint.
As a family unit, I truly believe we could all use some training in gentleness. Just think about how a little dose of humility could change how our children interact with one another. Think about how it could change our marriages! A well-known pastor once said, “Pride is at the heart of every argument I have with my wife.” When I sit back and think about the quibbles I have with my husband, humility is definitely absent and pride is the driving force. The same is true with my kids.
This week’s lessons are going to be hard to swallow at times. The gentleness that Jesus Christ demonstrated while walking this earth is very radical indeed. It is counter-cultural. He was counter-cultural, and we will be too when we allow the Holy Spirit to show forth this fruit in our lives.
FRUIT OF THE WEEK: Pineapple. I don’t really know why, but it just seems to fit. 🙂 I put pineapple in my banana nut bread recipe (it’s my Granny’s recipe actually). It makes it extra moist and sweet.
SONGS FOR THE WEEK: “Above all”, “Gentle like Jesus”
DAY ONE: What is Gentleness?
Verse of the Day: Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.”
- Begin your time together with prayer. Pray that God shows your family the true meaning of gentleness.
- ACTIVITY: Ferdinand the Bull
- Just for fun: watch the 1938 classic cartoon Ferdinand the Bull.
- Believe it or not, this cartoon offers great talking points regarding gentleness:
- Would you describe Ferdinand as a gentle bull? Why or why not?
- Was Ferdinand a weak, timid bull or did he have great strength? When did you see that he was capable of being very scary and strong?
- Was the matador gentle when he discovered Ferdinand wouldn’t fight? What did the matador’s actions reveal about his heart? Do you see pride in him? (he was mad that he couldn’t show off with his sword and skill).
- Do you relate to Ferdinand? Why or why not?
- Do you relate to the matador? Why or why not?
- “This week we are going to learn about gentleness.”
- What does it mean? Can you define it?
- Spend a little time talking about these words: humility, tenderness, to be considerate
- Ask your kids: What do you think are times we need to show more gentleness to one another?
- Do you think of God as gentle? Did you know that the Bible talks about God’s gentle voice and the humility of Jesus? This week we are going to look at some scriptures that reveal His gentleness.
- Do you think of God as strong and powerful? How is He mighty? Should we fear the LORD?
- Can God be both all powerful and gentle at the same time?
- We are going to discover the answer to these questions starting tomorrow!
- Finish by reading the verse of the day. Have your children say it with you a few times.
- Based upon this verse, does God think gentleness is pretty important?
- Close with prayer.
DAY TWO: Our Gentle Creator
Verse of the Day: 1Kings 19:12 “After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
MATERIALS NEEDED FOR OPTIONAL ACTIVITY:
- 4 pieces of 8.5×11 paper or poster board.
- Crayons, markers, pencils
Today, you will be telling your children one of the stories in the life of the prophet Elijah. Before you open your Bibles to 1 Kings 19, recount the following events that precede this story:
- Elijah was a prophet for the Kingdom of Israel
- The current King was named Ahab, and his wife was Jezebel
- They were both very evil people who worshiped idols and were extremely violent
- Before this story, God had just demonstrated His great power by sending fire down from heaven to prove to all the people that He was the One true God. God used Elijah in a very powerful way to call down that fire.
- After this, Jezebel sent word that she was going to kill Elijah. Elijah flees because he is afraid.
- NOW READ 1 Kings 19:3-16.
- After you read the passage have your kids draw the following:
- On one piece of paper your kids will draw a picture of a mighty wind that breaks the rocks and mountains
- On another piece of paper your kids will draw a depiction of an earthquake
- On the third piece of paper, they will draw a great fire
- On the fourth, have them draw what they think God’s gentle voice would look like
- Ask these questions:
- Did God show both His mighty power and His gentleness in this passage?
- How would the wind, the earthquake, and the fire have been big and frightening?
- When God spoke to Elijah in a gentle voice, did he make an angry statement or ask a question?
- What do we learn about God’s character in this passage?
- After all God had done through Elijah and for Elijah don’t you think He would be upset that Elijah was giving up hope? But how did He choose to correct Elijah?
- What can we learn from this passage about gentleness?
- God had the power to destroy Elijah in the wind, earthquake, and fire–but He didn’t. Instead he spoke to Elijah in a still, quiet voice and He asked questions of Elijah before making a command to him.
- Do we make these kinds of choices as a family?
- Have some time to talk and share
- Finish with prayer
DAY THREE: Our Gentle King
Verse of the Day: Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.”
Matthew 21:5 “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey…”
BEFORE YOU MEET: Today we are going to take a look at the gentleness and humility of Jesus. We are going to read and talk about different occasions when He demonstrated these. You don’t have to go through every passage, but if you have older children it is highly recommended. Just let the Spirit lead you to what is best for your family and the ages of your children.
Before you begin to read through the following scriptures, read the verse of the day and note that Jesus describes Himself as “gentle and humble in heart.”
Here is a list of possible passages to read and discuss:
- Philippians 2: This passage talks about how Christ gave up His place of authority in heaven and humbled Himself to become a man. The Creator of the Universe who has all power and rights as King gave it up to serve and die for mankind. (This passage should be coupled with the two passages in Matthew to get a full picture). If you want to talk further about all the authority Jesus gave up, look at Colossians 1. This is a great section of scripture on the authority and rights of Christ.
- John 10:14-39. How does Jesus respond to the Pharisees and Jewish leaders? What could He have done instead?
- Matthew 26:35-56 & 59-67: In this passage, Jesus makes clear that He has the power to call on a legion of angels to do His bidding, but he refrains from it because He knows He must go to the cross. This is a perfect example of showing gentleness when He had the power to destroy and take revenge.
- Matthew 27:27-54: The crucifixion. Point out how many times people mocked Jesus and tortured Him. Did He take revenge? Why not? Make the point to your kids that He could have come down off of the cross but He chose to die a cursed death for them. After Christ dies, how does God demonstrate His power? Again we see great power combined with humility in our God. What happens to the centurion who witnesses the meekness of Christ and the power of God the Father?
- The point upon which we will focus our attention is found in Philippians 2: 1-5. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
- At what times do we act in selfishness and pride rather than humility?
- How would our reactions be different if we followed Christ in this way? How would this kind of attitude impact our:
- arguments between brothers and sisters?
- honoring your father and mother?
- submitting to your teachers and coaches at school?
- friendships–when we have disagreements?
- dealings with people we don’t like or who mistreat us for no reason?
- use of authority over our children and co-workers?
DAY FOUR: Gentleness in Our Speech
Verse of the Day: Prov. 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”
- Begin with prayer. Pray a prayer that incorporates what you learned yesterday.
- Read the verse of the day
- What does this verse really mean?
- Have each child give an example of when they followed this proverb and when they didn’t. What happens when you use a harsh word toward your brother/sister?
- “One way we can begin to show gentleness and humility is through the words we say to one another.”
ACTIVITY: If your younger kids like science experiments they will love this. If you have older kids, let them lead out in the experiment.
- 2 Glass jars or Pyrex containers
- Towel to put underneath (or you can set the jar in your sink)
- baking soda
- STEP ONE: Put a few tablespoons of baking soda in the glass jar. Tell your kids, “This represents your emotions or heart.”
- STEP TWO: Take out your vinegar. “This represents harsh words.” (If your really trying to get the point across, have your kids taste the vinegar!) Next pour a few drops of vinegar over the baking soda. As it wells up say, “This is what harsh words can do to someone else. It erupts.”
- STEP THREE: Put in a few more drops. “More harsh words just stir up more anger.”
- STEP FOUR: In the other jar, place more baking soda.
- STEP FIVE: This time, take some water and say, “This represents gentle words.” Have your kids taste it before pouring in.
- STEP SIX. Pour the water over the baking soda. Does it erupt? “This is the effect gentle words have on our hearts and emotions.”
FINISH by reading these scriptures together and by turning them into prayers:
- Gal. 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
- “Lord, please help me to see that when I think my brother/sister is sinning, that I could and do commit that same sin. Help me to speak to __________ with gentleness. Help me to realize that you show grace to me each day and I should show grace to others.”
- 1Pet. 3:15 “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
- “Lord, when I truly make you Lord of my heart, I know that my speech will reflect your gentleness. When someone asks me about my faith, help me to answer them with humility. Help me not to crave debates to prove I am right, but to gently lead them to the Truth.”
- 2 Timothy 2:23-26 “But refuse foolish and ignorant arguments, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
- “Lord Jesus, your gentleness led others to repentance. Please help me not to engage in foolish arguments and fights. When I fight with my sister/brother or friends, I am not proving that I am your child. Help me to be kind to all people. Even those who irritate me. Help me to be patient when someone accuses me of something I didn’t do. Help me to use gentle words and show restraint.”
DAY FIVE: Walking in Humility and Gentleness
Verses of the Day: Phil. 4:5 “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.”
Eph. 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Col. 3:12 “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”
- Begin with prayer and by reading the above verses together.
ACTIVITY: Today we are going to clothe ourselves in gentleness–just as God commands us to do in Colossians!
- Find 4 articles of clothing for each member of your family
- Find four sheets of paper for each article of clothing
- Have each family member label their four sheets with : kindness, humility, gentleness, patience
- Using a safety pin, pin the paper to the articles of clothing. For example if you chose a hat, sweater, skirt, and socks you could label the socks with “kindness, label the skirt with “humility”, label the sweater with “gentleness” and the hat with “patience.”
- Once each family member has their pile of clothes ready, have them place them at their feet.
- Read through the verse out loud together and as you say “Kindness” everyone puts on the appropriate article of clothing. (It would go on top of their current clothing, or they could go into a private room to put on the clothes.)
- Repeat for the remaining 3 pieces of clothing.
- OKAY! We are now dressed in gentleness!
- CHALLENGE: Keep the clothes on for the rest of the day or for a couple of hours. Encourage one another when one of these characteristics is demonstrated. Gently correct when someone is not demonstrating what they are wearing.
- This activity will really stick with your kids! Make sure you do it and have fun with it!
OPTIONAL DAY 6 FOR THOSE WITH DAUGHTERS:
Verse of the Day: 1 Peter 3: 3-4: “Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
In today’s world, beauty is defined by appearance. Sure, certain companies will try and advertise “inner beauty,” but while doing so they use people who are visually pleasing. Our girls are inundated with the lie that if they aren’t physically beautiful, then they aren’t good enough. Women and girls become consumed with fashion–the right brands, the right style, the right colors to wear, the right make up and hair, etc. I’m not saying that moms and daughters need to throw it all in the tank and give up on hygiene, or to abandon shopping at the local mall for a cool outfit. Notice the verse says that our adornment must not merely be external. Yes, I have spa days with my girls. We paint our nails, curl our hair, find fun bracelets and outfits to put on. But, we do need to do a heart check and make sure the desire to look right is not an idol. Humans will ALWAYS look on the outside, but God looks at the heart. Our daughters must hear this truth over and over again. If they look great on the outside, but they are full of bitterness, anger, pride, and selfishness on the inside–they are sinning and missing the mark. Also, they are missing out on God’s best!
- Begin with prayer
- Read the verse of the day
- Ask your daughter(s)
- Can you think of friends or women you know who have a gentle spirit?
- How do they affect you?
- What do you think a gentle and quiet spirit really looks like in your own life?
- What are some character traits that demonstrate a gentle, quiet spirit?
- If your outward appearance truly showed what you were like on the inside, would it be beautiful?
- Have you read books or seen movies where a female character shows the ugliness in her heart but she is beautiful on the outside? Did her outer beauty really matter to you since her heart was wrong?
- ACTIVITY: You could take some time to literally make this point by having your girls totally mess up their hair, get their hands and face dirty, put on an angry facial expression. Is this what your heart really looks like?
- Bring in Jesus’ teaching on cleaning the cup on the outside but leaving the inside dirty. (Luke 11:39)
- Also, read Proverbs 31:30. How does this verse support the verses in 1 Peter?
CHARACTER TRAITS TO TEACH AND REINFORCE GENTLENESS IN YOUR DAUGHTERS:
- Be respectful.
- Let others go first.
- Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
- Think before you speak. People tend to listen and respond better when we are cautious with the words we use and how many we use!
- Don’t be outspoken or brazen.
- Don’t treat other people as though you are better than they are. If you are organized and they are not, don’t treat them harshly. A prideful heart is much worse than a dirty and unorganized room!
- If you have a problem with someone, go to him/her directly.
- DON’T GOSSIP!
LOOK AT 1 Peter 3:3-4 one more time. Notice that this quality is IMPERISHABLE. What does that mean?
- Outward beauty will fade. If you make it to 90, you will have wrinkles, you will probably be hunched over, you won’t be able to move very quickly and easily, your hair will be thin.
- Inner beauty will NEVER perish. Some of the most beautiful women I know are in their 80s and 90s. Though their outward beauty may have faded, they still look beautiful because of the radiance from within. When you look in their eyes you see that sparkle and cannot be quenched. It’s contagious, and it inspires me to grow and work on my godly character.
FINISH with prayer and give your daughter a great big hug. Tell her she is beautiful inside and out!
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
Deut. 7:9 “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments”
When you hear or read the word “faithfulness” what comes to mind? Or, better yet, who comes to mind? I may be the only one here, but I tend to more tangibly grasp the idea of being more loving, showing more patience, and demonstrating acts of kindness than I do faithfulness. I would describe myself as a faithful and loyal person, but what does it really look like in the life of a Christian? What are the aspects of faithfulness as a fruit of the Spirit? If I am doubting God or His character, will I struggle with faithfulness?
We begin this week as we have all the others by defining faithfulness and by examining the faithfulness of God. We will then turn to our own faithfulness and examine the role of faith in our lives. We will borrow a great example of the shield of faith from Beth Moore’s study, Believing God. Finally, we will look at ways we can show faithfulness to those around us.
FRUIT OF THE WEEK: Kiwi, Granny Smith Apples, pears with green skin. I always correlate green with evergreen–always green. This can represent God’s faithfulness.
SONGS FOR THE WEEK: “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, “Trust and Obey”, “Holiness” (includes a verse on Faithfulness)
DAY ONE: What is Faithfulness?
Verse of the Day: Heb. 11:1
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” NASB
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” NLT
- Begin your time together with prayer
- In order to understand faithfulness, we need to study the root word: faith.
- What is faith? Read or have your child read Hebrews 11:1
- Talk about this verse and discuss/define faith based on this verse.
- Faith is defined as: to believe, to confirm, to have assurance; reliable, trustworthy, steadfast
- Ask your kids: What are you confident will happen today? What are the things you are sure of? (If any of their answers relate to God and His creation, bring that out. i.e. Your child says, ” The sun will rise in the morning.” You say, “Yes because God established that pattern and is faithful to keep the sun rising each morning.”
- Who do you trust and why?
- Talk about what it means to be confident in God. (These are moments when your younger kids can truly demonstrate their child-like faith. Cherish these moments and re-enforce them throughout this week).
- What is faith in action?
- This week, you will be reinforcing the truth that actions always accompany faith. What we truly believe is shown by our choices, behaviors, and attitudes.
- Ask your kids: What are some things you do each day that require faith or confidence?
- (For little ones, you could demonstrate the old favorite of sitting in a chair and talking about how you trust that it will hold you up and keep you from falling). “I believe that this chair is going to hold me up.”
- For older kids, you could talk about the fact that everyone believes something. Our actions and emotions usually stem from what we believe. Later in the week, you can explore this more with your older kids by talking about lies they might be believing, or truths about God that they are doubting.
- What does it mean to be faithful?
- ACTIVITY: An Exercise in Trust: Believe it or not (pun intended), your kids will love the classic trust test of falling backward into your arms. Do they trust you to catch them? Emphasize the fact that you will be faithful to catch them.
- Have each of your kids talk about their fear of falling to the ground. At some point they had to trust your ability to catch them MORE than their fear of falling.
- Draw a correlation to how God is faithful, and how He has proven faithful in your life journey. Talk about the moments that you chose not to give into fear, but stepped out in faith instead. If you have teenagers, ask them to talk to younger siblings about how God has shown His faithfulness.
- Ask each child how he/she can show faithfulness to others.
(We will really explore this on day five)
- Finish with prayer.
DAY TWO: His name is Faithful and True
Verse of the Day: Psa. 100:5
For the LORD is good;
His loving-kindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
- Begin your time together with prayer. Use the verse of the day and have each of your children praise God for his goodness, loving-kindness, and faithfulness.
- Look up Revelation 19:11: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True.” This passage is referring to Jesus. One of His names is “Faithful and True.”
- Talk about how names are used to define a person’s character. Give examples from scripture about how God has many different names that describe who He is.
- GOD IS FAITHFUL! God can’t be anything but faithful. Faithfulness is a part of who He is. He will never leave you, and will love you unconditionally. The problem comes with our lack of faithfulness–not God’s.
- ACTIVITY #1: Introducing the “Shield of Faith”.
- Say to your kids: “God is who He says He is.” and “God can do what He says He can do.” (These statements are taken from Beth Moore’s wonderful Bible study entitled Believing God. They are 2 of 5 statements you and your kids will memorize this week to demonstrate the shield of faith.)
- Now say them again and when you make the first statement hold up your forefinger as you say it. Have your kids repeat after you.
- Then, say the second statement and put up your forefinger with your middle finger–forming the sign for 2. (By the time you talk through all 5 statements of faith, you will be holding up your hand like a shield).
- ACTIVITY # 2: Who does God say that He is? He says that He is faithful. (Look up the following verses about God’s faithfulness and talk about/discuss each one, or focus on 2-3 of them to discuss)
- Psa. 33:4 “For the word of the LORD is upright,
And all His work is done in faithfulness.” (Note that it says ALL of His work, not just some of it!)
- Psa. 36:5 “Your loving-kindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Help your kids get a visual picture of this. If you’ve flown in an airplane, comment on how high up you were. The Psalmist is saying that God’s faithfulness reaches way up there. That is BIG!)
- Lamentations 3:22-23 The LORD’S loving-kindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.”
- 2Tim. 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (What a wonderful truth! Make sure your kids really understand this!)
- 1John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (What does this verse say God is faithful to do? When we confess our sin, we are agreeing with God about the sin in our life. God is faithful to forgive the humble of heart.)
- 2Th. 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (If God is for us, who can be against us? He is faithful to His children).
- Psa. 33:4 “For the word of the LORD is upright,
DAY THREE: The shield of faith: You believe in God, but do you believe God?
Verse of the Day: Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
I am always struck when I read the passage in James 2:19 “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. ” Satan and his forces believe in God. God has complete sovereignty over Satan. But Satan’s heart does not submit to God’s plan. He doesn’t believe that God’s way is best. Instead, he wanted his own way and rebelled. Our children need to understand that faith is a heart issue. It isn’t just believing that there is a God. It is “to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with your God.” Saving faith always translates into action. It is living a daily life of trust and obedience–motivated and changed by His love.
- Today we will continue learning the five statements that form our shield of faith.
- Begin with prayer
- Read Ephesians 6: 10-17 (Remember the picture of the soldier that we used to portray the armor of God? You can pull that out again. This time, however, we are going to focus on the shield of faith.)
- Read verse 16 again. What does the shield of faith do? How does it help us in the battle against Satan?
- LET’S LEARN OUR SHIELD OF FAITH STATEMENTS: (Taken from Believing God by Beth Moore)
- GOD IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS
- GOD CAN DO WHAT HE SAYS HE CAN DO
- I AM WHO GOD SAYS I AM
- I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST
- GOD’S WORD IS ALIVE AND ACTIVE IN ME
- Repeat these statements several times with your kids. With each statement hold up a finger until your entire hand is raised in a shield formation.
- Want to see an example? Watch: (When we taped this the girls were home on a snow day. We had a spa day for fun–hence the nails and lip gloss.) 🙂
- In the Bible, God says of Himself that He is:
- good, faithful, loving, peace, the Mighty One, our banner, our shield, our defender, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Alpha and Omega… (add more to this list if you wish!)
- In the Bible, God says that He is able and can do anything:
- all things are possible with God, He saves, He delivers, He gives faith, He gives power, He is all powerful, He created the heavens and the earth, He can raise the dead to life
- In the Bible, God says that I am:
- chosen, adopted, a royal priesthood, loved unconditionally, blessed in the heavenly realms, free from the power of sin, justified
- In the Bible, God says that:
- Through Christ, I can do all things
- His divine power is in me and has given me all I need for this life (2 Peter 1:3)
- When I pray according to His Will, it will be accomplished (1John 5:15)
- In the Bible God says that:
- His Word is alive and active, sharper than any double edged sword (Heb. 4:12)
- His word is useful for correcting, teaching, rebuking, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
- His word is breathed by Him
- His word is Truth (John 17:17)
- I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, so He is alive and active in me!
- Finish the lesson by giving examples of when you haven’t believed God in one of these areas. You can keep it simple with younger kids and go into detail with older kids. For instance, I might share about the fact that when I fear the future, I am not trusting that God is good and in control. When I feel like I’m not good enough to do what God has called me to do, I am not believing that I can do all things through Christ.
- When you finish, have your kids share. You’d be surprised at what a 5 yr old might say! Don’t skip over this. You can use prompts like: fear, worry, and anger. “When you are afraid, what aspect of God’s character are you doubting?”
- Repeat the shield of faith one more time and then close in prayer. Thank God for His faithfulness and ask Him to help you and your family overcome areas of unbelief.
DAY FOUR: It All Boils Down to Faith
Verse of the Day Heb. 10:23
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
FOR TODDLERS AND YOUNGER CHILDREN
- Begin today with prayer and practice your shield of faith statements several times together. Ask and see if one of your kids would like to try it by themselves. (Make sure you practice it several times throughout the remainder of the week).
- Read the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den found in Daniel Chapter 6. Talk about Daniel’s strong faith in God. What actions of Daniel proved that he truly believed? How did God demonstrate His power?
- Read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo in Daniel Chapter 3. Talk about their strong faith in God and the actions that demonstrated that faith. Talk about how God demonstrated His power and proved His faithfulness.
- What did these men believe about God? What actions proved their belief?
- Are there times at school or with your friends that you have had to stand up for what you believe?
If you want to, watch one of the Veggie Tale versions of these stories.
Rom. 1:17 says: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
- Make the point to your kids that the choices they make, the things they say, and their attitudes show what they believe in their heart. As followers of Christ, we live our lives by trusting God.
- Finish with prayer. Ask God to help you overcome any area of unbelief.
FOR OLDER KIDS AND TEENS
- Today’s verse encourages us to hold fast to what we confess about God and Christ. It encourages us not to waver but stand firm in our faith. Why? Because HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL!
- On Day One we talked about the truth that all of our choices, emotions, and actions are proofs of what we truly believe.
- Here are some questions to consider and discuss:
- Are those around us seeing the fruit of faithfulness in our lives? Do our lives show that we truly believe the 5 statements of faith?
- When times are tough, do we truly believe that God is faithful and good?
- What are the circumstances that test our faith? Ask any willing children to share with the family the circumstances that test them. If they can’t think of one, you might have them talk about their worst fear and relate that to doubting who God is.
- Rom. 1:17 says: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
- What conclusions about the Christian life can be drawn from this verse?
- 1Pet. 4:19 says: “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
- What is this verse saying about suffering? What does it mean to entrust your soul? What kind of Creator do we have? When we trust God and rely upon His faithfulness, what is the result?
- A Biblical portrait of steadfast faith put into action: Read the story of Joseph beginning in Genesis 37. (Use your own discretion when talking through the section with Potiphar’s wife). If it is best for your family, you could take two days for this lesson and save the reading and discussion of Joseph for another day (or you could do it over the weekend after you have finished all five days).
- Talk about Joseph’s suffering and injustice
- Was he treated as he deserved by his brothers? How about his treatment by Potiphar?
- What does this passage show about God’s character and purposes?
- What actions prove Joseph’s steadfast faith in God?
- What truths about faith and action can you glean from this passage and apply to your own life?
- Read Acts 7:8b-16. Notice that Stephen mentions that despite the evil circumstances in which Joseph found himself: “God was with him.”
- Finish with prayer. Pray that God would help you overcome any area of unbelief in your life and the lives of your children. Ask God to show you what you truly believe about Him. Pray that He will shine His light of truth into the hearts of your kids too.
Psa. 119:75 I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
DAY FIVE: Being a Faithful Friend
Verse of the Day: Psa. 37:3
“Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” NASB
- Begin today with prayer
- Have your children identify the verbs or action words in today’s verse.
- Cultivate (keep company with, associate with)
- Talk about each word and define it. Use “trust” and “do” to remind your family that true faith results in action.
- Take a moment to review the 5 statements of your shield of faith.
- Now, take some time to discuss what it means to dwell in the land and keep company with faithfulness.
How can we show others our faithfulness to God?
- ACKNOWLEDGE HIM AND TELL OF HIS FAITHFULNESS
- Psalm 40:10: I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your loving-kindness and Your truth from the great congregation.
- Psalm 89:1: I will sing of the loving-kindness of the LORD forever;
To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.
How can we show faithfulness to each other?
- What does it mean to be loyal and faithful to your family?
- Moms and dads can talk about your marriage vows and how you pledged to be faithful.
- How can brothers and sisters show faithfulness?
- What are ways we betray our siblings rather than show that we are trustworthy?
- What about tattle-telling? This would be great to address with younger siblings.
- When is it hard to show faithfulness to one another?
- Faithfulness means persevering, forgiving, not giving up, correcting, teaching, encouraging, standing up for your family, etc.
How can we show faithfulness to our friends?
- What are ways you show faithfulness to your friends?
- Prove yourself trustworthy
- No gossiping
- When to keep a secret and when to get help for a friend
- Have you ever stood up for a friend when he/she was being mistreated?
- Has anyone shown faithfulness to you in hard times?
- If your friend is caught in a sin, what would be the action that shows your faithfulness to them?
- Prov. 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But 1deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
- Sometimes faithfulness means speaking the truth that might hurt.
- Doing what is right may make your friend mad, but you are showing that you are a faithful friend who truly cares about his/her welfare.
- Remember, God is faithful in this way. He is faithful to show us our sin and sometimes discipline us for our sin so that we can break free from it.
- Prov. 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
- Finish by asking your children what they have learned about faithfulness. Lead them in a prayer that follows the pattern of ACTS:
- ADORATION: Praise God for His faithfulness
- CONFESSION: Confess areas of unbelief, or times when you/they haven’t proven faithful to family members or friends
- THANKSGIVING: Thank God for His faithful mercies, grace, and discipline. Thank Him for faithful family and friends
- SUPPLICATION: Pray and ask God to help you overcome areas of unbelief. Pray for relationships that need faithfulness. Pray that your children stand up for what is right and don’t give into peer pressure. Pray for steadfastness and trustworthiness.