This thought has been on my mind for a long while and I haven’t yet put it to any good use.

We talk about tithing, we talk about treasure, we talk about money, storing, investing, saving, spending….  It seems to me that money takes up a good portion of our energy.  And not that is not needfully so sometimes.

But, there are those of us who believe that money is not our only treasure.  I believe this is especially true of Christian mothers.  If treasure is defined as something of great value, great worth, that isn’t easily come by, then I know of a treasure more precious than money in our household.  Money might be hard to come by, difficult to budget, and quickly gone, but I can think of one thing of greater value, more difficult to come by, incredibly hard to budget, and even more quickly gone than money.

Time.

Oh, Christian mothers.  Could I beg that we tithe our time?  Or more importantly, let’s look at Matthew 6:21.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So I want you to evaluate – how do you spend your time?  Because how you spend your time will tell you where your heart TRULY lies.

Homeschooling mothers, do you spend over 95% of your schooling on academics and give a mere 5% to teaching your children about God?  Christian wives, are you spending your precious time on things that do not support your God given role of wife and mother?

How we spend our time is one of our best reflections of our hearts.   If truly we love and honor God should we not give Him the first fruits?  The best of the best?  Shouldn’t He get our best and not what is left over?  Should we not devote our “riches” to furthering His good, His will, His intentions?

Today, the Lord has granted you twenty four hours.

How will you “spend” it?  How will you honor Him with it?  Will you use your time in a grateful and obedient manner, fulfilling your God given purposes through Him and for Him?   Will you tithe your 10%?  Will you go even further with a joyous and obedient heart?

Nothing terribly poignant today…  I’m just tickled to announce we had a one POUND weight gain.  That’s right!  One pound and two ounces to be exact.  This officially brings Baby Ella, ten weeks old, up to eight pounds and six ounces.  I can’t tell you the relief.  It was a very PHYSICAL feeling of a weight being lifted.

She’s lying in my bed right now, grunting and hiccuping, lifting her little head.  We’ve gotten a few smiles in the previous days… Our darling seems to be hitting her  milestones as well?!  Time will tell.  She goes to the pediatric clinic next Wednesday and then to meet the pediatrician we’ve been referred to in April.   Her muscle tone seems good.

So blessed.  Yes, that’s me.  Just incredibly, incredibly blessed.

Healthy babies are an amazing miracle of God.  When you think of everything that could go wrong, genetically or just in the course of day to day adventure, a healthy child is a miracle.   If you have one (or six) give each of them an extra kiss.

I know that there are things we struggle with day to day.  I don’t want to downplay the emotions we feel when we’re frustrated with a messy house, or a child that isn’t quite “up to par” with where we feel they should be in school.  I know it’s hard to keep up and keep going.   But please try hard to put things into a context.

We know how excerpts from books can be taken out of context and warped.  Goodness! People do it all the time to the Bible… They take scripture out of context to twist and thwart for their own purpose.

Today… Today try to put life into the “bigger picture.”  There are those in life to whom every thing is a one or a ten.  Either the sky is falling or they fail to feel enthusiasm for the little things.    I have noticed two women have particularly encouraged this lately.  I noticed Marcia Somerville (Tapestry of Grace author) specifically writes encouragement into the curriculum.  I also remember reading about the need to encourage our children in a couple of Teri Maxwell’s books.   I remember something Teri wrote about that often encouragement, to those who aren’t used to it, feels false or odd.   It’s a worthy habit to practice.  So often when we are learning a new skill or beginning a new habit, things often feel strange.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.  It only means we must keep at it until it feels normal.

Too often I think we fail to encourage or to recognize that little things are worth celebrating!  I am not speaking of praising our children very every little thing.  I think that can become false.  But I do think that sometimes we have a tendency to get so caught up un the “gottagetitalldone” insanity, we fail to:

STOP!

SLOW DOWN!

BREATHE!

RECOGNIZE!

APPRECIATE!

I’d love to give you a handy little acronym to remember…  Um. Hm.  Not really my thing though and ssbra doesn’t have a nice ring to it. 😛

Recently a dear friend of mine started a gratitude journal, a very worthy practice.   And just yesterday the kids and I were digging into Hebrews and there is a lovely verse in Chapter 10.
Hebrews 10:
“And let us consider how we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ”  When you spur a horse you give it a nice kick in the right direction.   So, this morning, while I’m not advocating giving your children a good kick in the right direction, lol, I think you can certainly “strongly encourage” them onto love and good deeds.

So often as Christian parents I think we are walking in a trap that Satan loves to use.  We use verses, we talk about love, we discuss encouragement, we utilize scripture.   But it’s  hard to live and breathe it.    Without gratefulness, you’ll NEVER appreciate what God has given you.  And without that appreciation you will fail to treat those gifts as gifts.  This isn’t a one woman guilt trip.  What once was, was.   Two points for you to consider this morning that I found personally useful.   We are in the process of finding a local church.   Last week the pastor made an interesting observation.  Each of us can be one of two things – a thermometer or a thermostat.  They are two very different tools.  As applied to mothering, the temperature can tell us the temp. in our children.  Yes, yes, they’re a little too hot or a little too cold.  But that is all it can do… It’s very limited in it’s application.   But the thermostat has the ability to gauge the temperature and then ALTER that temperature.   If the thermostat recognizes the room is a little too hot, it has the ability to lower the heat a degree or two.  So, today, decide what you’ll be in your home.  Will you simply gauge the temperature but make no effort at changing what’s going on in the room or in the attitudes of your children or yourself?

Two weeks ago we visited a large church and it was very nice.  More importantly I’m wondering if the teaching wasn’t just for me that morning. 🙂  I know that we all have our own little personal struggles.   Some have a tendency/weakness towards one particular sin or another.  You may not struggle in the same area I do.  My personal struggle is my tongue.  There are days that I know I’d be better off if I just cut it out now.   And on particularly good days when I’ve prayed for assistance and managed to choose my words well, I’m encouraged.  But, on those days when I’ve lost my temper and lost my encouragement, I can use my tongue to inflict evil. 😦  And on those days I think I am NEVER going to get to where God is pointing me.  Ever.  It’s on those particularly hard days I feel like giving up.  I wonder how in the world God can use me in my childrens’ lives when constantly I learn a lesson and then do something stupid.  And, generally, it DOES follow that pattern… Learn something wonderful, screw up.

This pastor must struggle with the same… Wondering how God can use such an imperfect person.  Because he pointed us in the general direction of Peter that Sunday morning.  Look at Peter.  He walked and talked with Christ Himself.  Promised to stand by His side.  And Christ loved him deeply.  And yet Peter denied him, not once, not twice, but THREE separate times.   Peter must have felt like an utter failure.  Christ had even told him he’d do it and he denied that he would.  And here he was, just a short while later, doing exactly that which he professed he would not.  And surely he must have thought, “What good am I to God?  How will He ever be able to use me in the lives of others?”

And yet the good Lord, in His mercy and wisdom, used Peter mightily.

And so I say to you, you’ve screwed up.  Most likely you’ll do it again. (Nice, hm?)  And yet God CAN use you.  You must be willing.  I pray that each of you would go out this morning and love your children, encourage your children.  I pray that you’d be SPURRED on to encourage and love.  And that you’d also teach your children and spur them on to do the same.  No kicking please. 😛

Oh my goodness what a great break!!  We took a vacation (literally) from the internet and our television.  I initially intended for the vacay to be 21 days.  BUT, then I loved it and decided I’d make it ’til December 1st.  Alas cabin fever set in and I caved after TWENTY THREE days.  But, with a twist.  I went ahead and installed a child guard software on the computer that only allows me a certain amount of time on the computer and only during very specific hours.  It’s one half hour in the AM (6:00-6:30) so that it falls after dressing/devotions and before the little ones are awake.  In the afternoon it’s an hour between 2:00 and 3:00 – so after phonics (little kids) and history/science with the big kids.   So far so good!

Although it took a LOT of work!  I had to transfer all my files into shared folders and set up separate windows accounts for each family member.  DH was sweet enough to password protect his account and promises not to tell me the password, lol.  Truth is, I have NO self control, so I have to build it in for myself.  And it’s working beautifully so far.

So, did I accomplish anything during those 23 days?  Sure did!  I switched out all of the summer/spring clothes for winter/fall and packed up the warm stuff.  Separated everything into Trash, Give Away, and Keep piles and got them packed back up, with the exception of the shoes.  I made the girls dresses and skirts for Unschool Day and we have really thrown ourselves into Tapestry of Grace and we’re loving it!

Unschool Day Picnic

Unschool Day Picnic

Pic1 Unschool Morning

I had time to make Abigail a new bag and an apron, complete with an EGG pocket for her birthday.

An apron like mama's!

An apron like mama's!

A mama from RGT made milk crate covers and they were so cute we made some as well!

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

I did INDEED learn to knit while we were on our break and I can now honestly say I can cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, bind off, and a couple other hand things.  With the help of online friends I discovered RAVELRY.com and I’m loving that!   Now, there are knitting sites and there are KNITTING sites.  This is the latter.  Oh my!  You can look up yarn reviews, patterns that are most popular, HUNDREDS of free patterns, you can sort through them, see the completed projects… It’s absolutely incredible.

My next project is LegWarmies.

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

I just know they’re perfect for us because the little girls will go through tights like crazy but Iowa in the winter is too cold for just socks.  I’m going to forego the stripes for the first pair and give it a shot on some pretty peony colored wool.  I’m using this pattern and I’m pretty excited to get started!   Ana suggested I size them for Sarah so that IF they’re too small they can be for baby Daniella and if they’re too big then Abigail can wear them.  Good idea!

So, it was a pretty fruitful three weeks.  We spent a few weekends at the timber and on the trail.  We gathered wild berries, wild elderberries, wild plums.  We harvested most of the garden.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

And some taters

And some taters

Did a little baking…

Pic9 Making bread on the weekend

We’re preparing to hatch our last round of laying hens for the year.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am that we got out of the house and enjoyed the bounty of the season.  It’s hard to truly appreciate how beautiful fall is unless you’re outdoors.  Here in Iowa  it is absolutely the BEST time of year.  It isn’t too hot, it’s not too cold, and there is a harvest to be seen all around you.

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Our Bounty of Plums!

Our Bounty of Plums!

Trail5

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

And, naturally we had time to read a few good books.

Pic11 Reading more

Legend has grown this year into a big beautiful brute.   Tira, our beloved good mama, has had a new litter of baby bunnies.

Pic12 Leg and Abby

On the homeschooling front we’re also seeing our hard work come to fruition.  Little Rebecca has memorized almost all of her phonics… She’s in SUCH a big hurry to be able to read.  But her enthusiasm is lovely.  Elizabeth Grace is reading quite well now.  She memorizes with ease and we made her some flashcards yesterday, lol.  She was so excited.   She’s reading four and five letter words now with ease and some that are larger as long as they are phonetically correct.  We ordered new math books for her yesterday as she is a WORKBOOK lover.  Gasp!  Yes, I suppose every family has to have one.   Ana and Christian are enjoying TOG.  Although I’ll readily admit that Christian is the one who loves it most.  This surprised me VERY much as he was originally a hesitant book lover.  I’m thrilled!

Tapestry is working out just as I had hoped.  At this point I can safely say we WILL be using Tapestry next year as we enter our first year of high school.

And finally our most important update.  You all know we had our cerclage surgery in Iowa City.  The placenta had moved 100% out of the way and is not even considered low lying.  I’m now past 22 weeks…. A point we greatly feared we’d never even make it to.  God is good…  ALL the time.   Our Baby Girl is growing beautifully and is right on track.  We had a beautiful ultrasound of her last week and we are SO incredibly grateful for this little one.  I get comments like this must be old hat.  She’s our ninth baby, our eleventh pregnancy.  No, no it never is.  Each time is special, each time is unique.  Each pregnancy is a completely and totally different resulting in a completely unique and beautiful blessing especially meant for our family.  Old hat?  Um, no.

Sooooooooo… What’s next for the family?

Well, we have play-doh and some bread to make today.  Afterall it’s difficult to make the earth without play-doh.   It’s time to gather nuts and I’m wrangling for a trip to the timber again this weekend.  My great uncle went through and labeled various types of trees in the timber… It will make for an incredible leaf collection for the children.  They’ve learned to identify many trees but there are SO many we don’t know yet.  I’m dreadful… I can tell a maple from an oak, but the only tree I REALLY know is a shagbark hickory.  And that one is REALLY obvious.    We have a pioneer festival coming up in October that will be fun and exciting.  We go every year and drink real rootbeer, see blacksmithing and spinning, and enjoy talking to the soap lady.  They always have lefse and Ana enjoys the lady who does geneaology.  It inspired the trip to the Norwegian festival this year.    The boys are going on their annual camping trip to Wisconsin in the next few weeks. I’m only a tiny bit jealous, kwim?  Ana and I have a llama and alpaca festival planned for October as well.  We’re going to buy some natural yarn and try our hands at some simple dying…. tutorial here if you want to peek.  I’m terribly excited about this… And a little fearful that I’ll destroy some really beautiful Alpaca wool.  And, of course, we’re expecting the wee one to debut in December.

We’re also planning a move.  To where?  Oh sigh.  DH got transferred in his job.  The REALLY big decision is whether to have him drive there 2-3 days per week or to move there full time and he’ll work there 4 days a week with one day at home.  He’s been doing the drive for weeks now while all of this medical mess was up in the air.   But, we’re thinking we’d like to be moved by Spring.   We like this house well enough, but I’m not going to lie… If we could find a house with an acreage with a BIG barn or with a little pasture, we’d love it!  A four bedroom farm house with a horse barn and pasture came up last week, but it would only increase his drive at this point.

We’re still very much up in the air about this and it is on my prayer list…  Not to necessarily find the “perfect” house but to be where God wants me when He wants me there…  After all, that’s the best place to be, blossoming wherever God plants us.

I have to admit there are an awful lot of good ideas in Tapestry.  Day 2 (and about 4 weeks of setting up) and I can see why so many people love it!  Marcia must have one of those amazing creative minds I hear about. 🙂

We made these cards today for geography and she also has games planned for them.  She made templates to fill out on the back.  We made them in PrintShop (just a cheapy version bought many eons ago from Ebay) and used the U.S. map found on each state page in Wikipedia.  For the state outline we used this site:  State Outlines and just blocked out the name of the state on the index card.  On the back he’ll fill in all of the state’s information.  They can be used in games or as flashcards, but what a great way to learn all the states and capitals! I especially liked the site listed above because there is a red star where the capital is on each blank map.

Example: South Carolina

Example: South Carolina

Have I mentioned to you that I’m loving Tapestry of Grace?  For the person who is deadset against textbooks and wants their children “on the same page” I would almost think it was written JUST for me.  The problem is that by the time I’d write my own curriculum I was too worn out to do all the creative things I could find ideas for on the internet.

I feel like the walking spokesperson for Tapestry of Grace at this point, but I promise I’m using a paid for version, lol.  And the OLD version to boot.  You can do Tapestry on a dime… Well, er, maybe a quarter.  And, yes, we’ve had to tweak it.  But I’m using a curriculum I’m thrilled with to no end.

By the way, we took her suggestion and we’re also making President cards this year.  Christian truly enjoyed filling out the card and reading the information yesterday.  Gasp! It almost didn’t feel like school work.  And to have something really tangible to show for the effort is really neat.  Plus it’s easy to store… And we all know I’m a little beserk about that.

We were talking on another board about the sheer MASS of comments we get from people.  It’s true.  You can’t take seven children and a pregnant Mama out in public and not get comments.  Sometimes they’re sweet & encouraging.  More often they reflect a worldly point of view.  Other times they are less subtle and sometimes downright rude.   We’ve gotten used to it.

It’s not a thing that is easy to get used to if you don’t have thick skin or laugh things off easily.  Being told you’re certifiable at least three times a week can be a bit overwhelming.   But you know?  I’ve come to agree with them.  We MUST be crazy!  I found flair on Facebook that I LOVE.  It fits me so well and I’m thinking I need a bumper sticker, lol.

Not CrazyPerfect, right?  I love it.  Honestly, I’ve been admitting it lately.  I’ve heard I’m either SuperMom or crazy.  I’ll ‘fess up to crazy.  For the first time in fourteen years we’re looking at not having children after this pregnancy, for medical reasons obviously.  And I tell you, flat out, gracefulness of tongue gone?  It sucks.

As absolutely overwhelming as it may be to be bombarded by comments about your family EVERY time you go to the grocery store, Wal-Mart, post office, library, doctor’s office, it’s STILL better than the alternative of not having a large family.  We have family members that have struggled with fertility.  I’m sure they’d gladly put up with the comments for a baby.  People just know not what they do.

Remember, please, young mamas of many, the world sees things from a wordly point of view.  They cannot be expected to acknowledge God’s goodness… They don’t understand.  They can’t see children for what they really are… Blessings.

So, I’m told I’m crazy.  I nod.  Yup, probably.  My reality is pretty different from the world’s.   It takes a special kind of crazy to have a big family and we’re okay with it. I’ll take crazy, I don’t mind. I’ll take the chaos and the hard work too. Someday our houses will be quiet and everything will be clean and there won’t be babies leaving smudgy prints on everything. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to that day.

And honestly? They just don’t understand what they’re missing out on. Pity them.

On an entirely different note, and altogether more pleasant, today was our first official day of school.  It felt good!  We had a great first day!

1st Day Group Photo

1st Day Group Photo

We had a great time.  I admit I took a nap today!  I had to stay up ’til one finishing the jumpers and the skirts to make it a REAL, top-notch, official first day, lol.   You’ve never seen girls so grateful for a uniform, lol.  But SO much fun.  It’s going well, the fileboxes were a hit and we had no problem keeping busy.  I’m off to make supper so we can call it a success and put up our feet.

Drat.   I have Heart of Dakota.  It should be said I LIKE it!

But, for whatever reason, and I can’t even put my finger on it, I’m not using it this year………..  We’ll see how this goes.

Follow along if you’d like.  If you have a child’s bible (and my favorite is by Catherine Vos) we’ll be using what I have on hand and links from the internet for right now.

Week 1 – Creation

Monday

Reading:
Leading Little Ones to God Ch. 15
Memorization:
Introduce Verse – Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.”
We are memorizing the books of the Old Testament right now.  We use Wee Sing’s version of memorizing the books and I freely admit I sing it to myself everytime I need to find something.

Coloring:
This site has cute coloring pages for Creation.

Alphabet:
Sing the ABC’s
And, finally introduce the letter A.  We used the templates from DLTK, printed on cardstock, cut out, and laminated for our corkboard.   And matching coloring page for the letter A.

Tuesday

Reading:
Review yesterday
Chapter 16 – and page 14 from The New Bible in Pictures

Memorization:
Same verse

Coloring:
More creation coloring pages.
Alphabet:
Sing the ABC’s
Play-Doh for an activity today…. Allow free play but also making the letter “A” out of play-doh.

Wednesday

Reading
Ch. 17 & T.N.B – p. 18

Memorization:
Same

Activity:
Nature Study followed by drawing.  Label the drawing for little ones.

Alphabet:
Coloring Page

Sing the ABC’s
Play Eric Carle’s The ABC Game – this is a new game for us (Target) so I’ll see how I like it.  It’s specifically for ages 3 and up.  Review to follow.

Thursday

Reading
pp. 24-26 in  Bible for Little Eyes

Memorization:
Same as above

Activity:
Noah coloring page

OR
Noah’s Ark Sequencing Cards
Noah’s Ark game

Alphabet:

Sing the ABC’s
Cut and Paste Activity
to follow the A is for Alligator.

Friday

Read:
pp. 28-30 in Little Eyes

Memorization:
Same as above.

Activity:
Netflix – Noah movie   (Yes, I know.  GASP!  You can’t believe I’m using the t.v., Fridays are my light days and I’m abusing the privilege of Netflix.)

Alphabet:
Sing the ABC’s
Refrigerator letters – find the “A” uppercase and lowercase.

Finally, I’m not a fan of a huge BLOCK of preschool activity.  Essentially this is set up to do this:
Introduce the Bible concept, sing a song, read the reading.  Move to the table, do the associated activity with the Bible reading.  After naptime, during snack is a good time to sing the ABC’s and then give them the alphabet activity before their outside time.  It’s a nice transition.

That’s it! Week 1 done.  And thankfully?  Ana did her lesson plans this weekend as well.  Christian and I will do his as he learns to write his own daily lesson plans.  And I’ll do Lizzie’s later today.

I’ve given the recommendation MANY times that preschool (and kindergarten for that matter) is utterly unnecessary.

And I believe it.  I think the average child in the average home is going to pick up the skills he or she needs to successfully begin formal schooling somewhere between the ages of 6-8.  I’ve seen it work well.

That said?  If I don’t keep our little ones busy, they’ll keep themselves busy, and they are FAR, FAR more creative than I am.  For example, I know I would NEVER think of fingerpainting in toothpaste on the  walls.  I know I would NEVER think of making an animal “trap” out of all of Daddy’s zip strips from his garage.  I know I would NEVER think of making a fishing pole from PVC & fishing bobbers and for that extra special, can’t resist, secret fishing tip, stuff part of a jar of very nasty catfish bait into the PVC.  These are things I simply wouldn’t think of.  And yet, somehow, these are only RECENT examples of what my bright & beautiful preschoolers have done.  We are never bored.  And I am often sidetracked.

And honestly?  I just want to spend time with my littles.  It’s imperative I sit down with my almost 6yo and my almost 8yo and work on phonics.  We sit together as they practice handwriting.  They need help with math manipulatives.  I simply must sit down with my 10yo and 13yo each day and teach their math, discuss their writing, or read them their dictation.  There’s just no way around it.  The baby will fuss for me and just wants Mama, so she will be held and loved and snuggled.  But an almost 3yo and a 4yo?  The creative genius in them will keep them busy for HOURS.  They are both fairly content children and as long as they’ve been fed, semi-clothed, and given free reign, they’ll run amuck, playing, singing, jumping from things, amusing themselves all day long.  I’d prefer it be a wee bit more structured and a tiny bit less chaotic. 😉

Preschool gives me the excuse I need to sit down with them for a bit, put my feet up, and ENJOY them.  Preschoolers are easy to enjoy.  Happy children are fun to spend time with…  And children are happiest with something productive to do, lots of exercise, healthy food, and a routine.  There’s a reason routine works so well with these little ones… They know what “comes next.”  They can’t tell time yet, but it’s comforting for them to know we do chores, then breakfast, then Mama will sit down with you and read for a bit, then we’ll go outside.  They learn that everything has a place, that they are useful, needed little people in this family.

Our AM schedule looks something like this:

Breakfast
Chores  (sometimes we reverse breakfast and chores)
Family Bible Time
Preschool – Reading, Singing, Talking
Arts & Crafts at the table
Snack
Outdoors for an hour
Indoors – Potty & Wash Hands
Free or Structured Indoor Play
Lunch
Clean-up
Read-Aloud
Nap

And I’m sure you’re wondering what in the world the big kids are doing in all this.  Well, they’re busy.  If you can teach them in the AM before the littles get up this generally works out best.  They also know they should probably wait ’til I’m available to them for questions.  I’m available during Arts & Crafts, Outdoor play,  Clean-Up time,  and Snack.  Obviously they are with us for Family Bible Time.  And just as you’d tell a child on a standardized test, if you don’t know something, go to the next thing and then come back to it.  Essentially that’s how this works.  My oldest two children are quite independent learners and good readers and so it simplifies much of what I have to do.  The most difficult one to balance is, of course, Elizabeth, because she’s not quite on the level of a completely independent learner or reader!  And that isn’t terribly surprising at age 7.   But you’ll find you have time…   We work in concentrated blocks, much of it during naptimes when littles are down.

I can say that most of my day pivots on something important.  The first is tomato – staking.  If a child is tomato staked, they never get the opportunity to draw on the walls, get the catfish bait, OR grab Daddy’s zip strips.  I’ve become very lazy at this lately as I prepare for our new school year, and honestly?  Most of the summer.  I feel like *I* took the whole summer off as well, and that’s just NOT a good thing.  You can learn about this vital & biblical concept here, at Raising Godly Tomatoes.  The concept is very simple.  Keep your children WITH you.  If your children are out of earshot, you can’t correct their attitude or what comes out of their mouth.  If they are out of eyesight, you can’t correct their atttitudes or their actions.

Let’s pretend a child misspells the word CAT.  He spells it KAT.  When he writes it, he writes it K-A-T.  When he hears it, he visualizes K-A-T.  Nothing has led him to believe that KAT isn’t correct and without you to make the correction and to further train him in the correct spelling by reinforcement, this child will continue in his wrong belief and behaviour.

Let me add some caveats here.  Have you ever watched the Dog Whisperer?  An amazing man.  He excels at what he does because he understands pack behaviour and he knows what he can expect in behaviour and he trains to the EXPECTATION.   The problem with parenting is very few people know what type of standards to expect from their children these days.  OR they are unreasonable.  An oddity I’ve noticed is over 1/2 of his cases, the problem behaviour is fixed by the owner’s giving appropriate affection, a routine,  and lots of exercise.  I can’t emphasize enough the impact exercise has on these dogs.

Now, don’t get huffy, I’m not calling your toddler a dog.  But I’m saying we have higher expectations of an 8 week old puppy than we do of our 3 year olds.  And I certainly know MY Abigail is smarter than Legend, and he’s a German Shepherd, lol.   Children need GOOD food.  This will get rid of most of your convenient foods, Mom.  They need REAL food.  They do not need food additives, preservatives, food coloring, or most things that come out of a box.  They don’t need refined flour, refined sugar, or no-calorie sweeteners.  They need REAL food.  I’d suggest you I.L.L the book by Dr. Sears, The Family Nutrition Book.  Look, Dr. Sears, I like some of his books.  Others, not so much.  But when you start learning about whole foods, the books people recommend are OVERWHELMING.  You’re going to start reading books where you need to milk your cow, grind your wheat, grow your own food organically, make your own yogurt, and ferment kombucha.  And WHAT is kombucha?  And, are you kidding?  It’s just too much.  This is a GREAT introduction to real food.  You THINK what you’ve been buying at the grocery store is real food, but you’d be surprised.  Most of the nutrition in the checkout line is synthetic and our body just doesn’t know what to do with it.  Don’t look at the label – buy the stuff without a label…. Produce.  And don’t even get me started on bread!

Next thing – EXERCISE.   I am not saying introduce your 4yo to pilates.  I’m not advocating a treadmill for the 5yo.  I’m saying GET OUTSIDE!  Get them plenty of fresh air, let them yell, let them climb, let them jump and run.  If you do NOT do this things, you are asking for what you get….  I am a FIRM believer that children can and should be taught to sit and sit quietly, but just as every year has a season, every child should have a healthy time to play and run and get out physical energy.  THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE IF YOU HAVE BOYS!  Oh, I’ve had people argue that point, but I’ve got 2 boys and they are entirely (ENTIRELY) different.  They were made to work.  They were created for physical exertion.  And they desperately NEED to get out the physical energy.  Also, it is an important sidenote that this will also destroy the Mom Guilt factor when you require them to sit still and be quiet and you’ll be a better trainer and more consistent.

Now, let’s get to the bottom line.

I know what you’re thinking.  I BARELY get done the minimum.  How in the world do I work all this in?

I can almost guarantee if you have untrained preschoolers and toddlers, a huge percentage of your time, more than realize is, in the words of FlyLady, spent “putting out fires.”  In other words, you’re inefficient.

Oh I’m NOT saying you’re not busy!!  Quite the opposite.  I’m saying you’re busy with busy-work and not with what needs to be done.

For example, let’s say you have to make lunch, and in the meantime, Little Junior dumps out the legos, and the play-doh, and tosses the pillows and blankets on the floor in a mini-fort.  After lunch, you have to clean all that up.  If you had had Junior WITH you helping make lunch, none of it would have happened and after lunch you could have read aloud or gotten something else done.   Let’s say your Little Monster, er… Junior doesn’t take “rest” times or naps.  Instead he goes upstairs and you spend the next hour yelling at him to lie down or cleaning up whatever mess he made.  Please, close your eyes and dream with me for a moment….  At 12:30 you tell Junior it’s naptime.  You read to him, kiss him, tuck him in.  In ten minutes, Junior is sleeping and will continue to do so for about 1-2 hours.  And you can concentrate on what you need to do.   Let’s even say Junior isn’t a sleeper…. That’s fine.  My 5yo isn’t a sleeper either.  She has a choice.  She may either quietly look at books or she can sleep.  What she can’t do is get out of her bed, fuss, wake up her little sister in the same room, or in general move for 1.5 hours.  She’s been given a choice – books or sleep.  She may make either choice.

So you’re thinking, “Must be nice…”  And I’m telling you YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!  I deeply appreciate what I’ve got.  But please don’t kid yourselves that it came easy.  Ah, no!  The reason why I appreciate it so much is because I had the little terror that wouldn’t nap and would destroy her room and I’d yell upstairs, and occasionally flip out. 😛  And her name was Ana.  And she was awful.  And I only had TWO children and I got less done at naptime than I do now with all of them.

So, how do you train for something like that?  First you exhaust them.  You feed them well.  You create a routine.  And you be CONSISTENT.  You tuck Junior in and you wait, like a cat… Because you know he’s going to do something.  And then you pounce.  🙂  Okay, it’s slightly LESS dramatic than that, but the truth is, correcting behaviour isn’t about waiting until you can’t ignore it.  It’s about catching it right away and correcting it immediately.   It’s setting clear expectations in YOUR head and then training them to it.   It is REASONABLE to expect a five year old to rest or read.  We stop with naptimes when they have graduated to learning phonics.  Then they are expected to do Phonics with me and then quietly look at books.  If I find they are not old enough to do this, they revert back to naptime.  This includes whispering.  I LOVE my naptimes and I will not give them up.  I refuse.  It’s a hard and fast and necessary rule to making our house work smoothly… Or at least as smoothly as it does, lol.

After nap?  Snack, activity, lots of outdoor time.  Our afternoons are FAR less structured than our mornings.  But they cannot have lower expectations for behaviour.

Our chore charts turned out beautifully by the way.  I think I gave the inspiration link on these a couple posts ago.  The “check-off” pictures attach via velcro.  A hint?  Buy the velcro dots at somewhere OTHER than the fabric store… They were expensive!

The chore charts were made from Googled images and Excel, very simple.  We also made Activity cards to go into each child’s folder.  The activity cards – again Googled images and Excel.  We cut them out, laminated them, and all was well.

I’ll add pictures in the next post as I can’t get the camera to work right now.

My sincerest apologies, I’ve not been posting very often lately.  I’m making a feeble attempt at lesson plans and I’m doing EVERYTHING I can think of to actually avoid them.  Today, I ran out of things to do, so I decided to post… It will put it off for a couple more hours at least. 😉

I’m not sure what the hang-up is… I’m excited about starting school this year.  I feel more organized than I have been in a couple years.  The girls are excited, the boys are excited, we’re all aflutter for the new school year.

Off topic, I went shopping yesterday for uniforms for the little folk.  Yes, yes I did.  I know it’s evil, but I’ve done it before and I loved it.  One, it is a joy to look at dressed and lovely children.  Two, I can take them in public and we look SO incredibly put together.  But, honestly?  Do you want to know the REAL reason why I LOVE uniforms so much?  You can’t kill them.  It’s true.  I think I owned the same skirts all through my four years of high school.

There are so many perks to uniforms.  I know that all of you who were public schooled felt desperately sorry for those of us who attended parochial school.  (BTW, yes, I’ve been asked, and I am a born again Christian but I was born and raised a Catholic.)   You wasted your sympathies.  WE didn’t mind.  As a matter of fact it was painless to get dressed in the morning.  My hardest question was pink, blue, or white?  Because those were the only color of polo tops we were allowed to wear… with navy pants or a navy pleated skirt.  Personally I like the red, white, and blue colors myself, but I honestly don’t care so long as they have a color, a couple buttons, and they seem utterly impossible to stain.  The little girls are getting jumpers.  Again, stain factor.  If I could justify it, I’d attach a jumper top to Tim’s shorts, just to save his shirts.  🙂  Okay, maybe not.   But, in high school, you can appreciate that when you got to do things, you didn’t wear your school clothes, your regular clothes had stayed nice and weren’t worn out or you didn’t just wear them the day before.  I know all of us girls liked it.

Bunny trail over, I’ve got work to do…

So this morning I just wanted to find some nice, easy, painless lessons for Copywork for the little girls.  I don’t know if Rebecca will be able to do much of this this year or not, we’ll see.  She has remarkable hand control and likes to do everything Elizabeth does, so perhaps.  Copywork need not only be for those who can read.

I found this site, which has EASY copywork for little girls, nice short sentences.   She has listed both Bible verses and English proverbs.  I think you’ll also appreciate the Ambleside link about copywork.  It supplies suggestions and much needed help if you just don’t know where to begin. It also links to a Yahoo group.

Aside, I need to write out my goals for this year.  For each child my goals are entirely different.

My goals for Ana is character building and biblical awareness.  I could honestly not care one whit if she did NOT advance at all in history, science, math, reading, literature, or spelling.  Truth be told, she’d be capable of graduating from practically any public high school this year in all subjects with the notable exception of math. 😀  But, I do not feel as though we’ve raised this child with a sound biblical basis.  Perhaps it is because her mama has been a baby Christian for so many of these years and I was only just learning myself.  But I do know that we spent a long time instilling in her a strong academic base which is useful in the world, but all that truly means very little if she isn’t standing on the firm foundation of Christ.   I would suggest for those of you with children in middle school and pre-middle school ages to truly examine what foundation you’re building upon.

Our ONLY goal last year was to interest Christian deeply in books.  Though he isn’t aware of it, he truly grasped reading quite late.  We started him on phonics at 5, but his speech was awful and it was just one more thing he couldn’t do.  He really had speech issues until about age 7-8 and given time, you’d never know now that he had any speech issues at all.  He needed time.  And when his speech wasn’t so great, it’s a little hard to teach phonics and then be able to pronounce each sound correctly when you can’t make all the sounds.  We would approach reading a bit at a time, hit a wall, and back down a bit.   We came into his fourth grade year with him about a good two years behind in reading and having had ZERO spelling practice.  Our only goal?  Get the kid reading, reading well, and liking it.  We instituted the family rule – read or sleep at naptime and gave him great books to read with boys as the main character.  We got him a reading lamp and allowed him to stay up an extra hour later than the little kids if he was reading.  We severely limited screen time.   We read aloud (as we always had) and we encouraged him to talk about books while discouraging discussion about computer games and television characters.  It worked.  I can say the child read the Hobbit this summer with ease, he’s just finished Eragon, and he’s now reading Redwall.  He has been consuming books as of late at the rate of 2-4 books per week and loves biographies and non-fiction.   We’re thrilled.  We honestly didn’t know if all of our efforts would ever get us to this place, and now that we’re here, I wonder why was I ever worried?  LOL.  Isn’t that always the way?  Now that he’s reading easily, I think we’ll find he’ll fly through his spelling rules.  He’s very good at memorization.  I will say that his handwriting isn’t great and that’s a focus for this year.  He is an absolute perfectionist when it comes to neatness and instead of just writing neatly, he’ll write, erase, and then re-write everything he does.  He examines everything letter by letter and it hasn’t been conducive to cursive, kwim?  With cursive, you have to keep continuing and cursive just about drives him through the roof nuts.  So, we’ll need to get him over this little perfectionistic tendency this year.  Christian, on the faith front, got saved when he was 8 years old.  He’s shown fruit since then and has an amazing sincere heart (and WORRY) for those who are not saved…  My goal for him this year?  Help him commit to memory verses and help him to get into the habit of reading his Bible on a regular basis.  In other words, instill habits.

Elizabeth is 7.  She’s reading 3 & 4 letter words and can spell  fairly well phonetically.  We’ll be bringing her up to par in reading this year.  She seems to have a mind for things academic, but her handwriting frustrates her – hence all the copywork planned for this year.  School comes easily to Lizzie, but she has never been challenged.  I think her weakest point is that if she were challenged, she’d fold.  Although I have noticed that she is becoming more and more diligent and is beginning to develop a certain strength.  It is an incredible blessing to see a child you thought would be perhaps less strong than others, begin to come into her own.  I think it GREAT part, I owe this blessing to her not being the youngest child.  My pregnancy with her was extremely difficult to say the least.  She was the child to follow Hannah and we found out we were expecting Elizabeth only a short month after Hannah’s death.  Emotionally it was difficult and physically it was VERY difficult.  After having been told that Hannah was essentially “a freak incident” and that we wouldn’t have a repeat of preterm labor, the doctors discovered they were very wrong.  At twenty weeks they decided to place the cerclage to stitch shut the cerclage because in their words, “the baby would die anyway…..”  So they wanted to give her the best shot they could, but none believed it would work.  They weren’t entirely sure they could place the stitch with the funneling we had and I had an extremely short (under 2cm) cervix at that point.  They weren’t sure it wouldn’t put me into labor or that it wouldn’t rupture the membrane.  And, at 36 weeks, my little footling breech, with the cord in the neck of the cervix, was born via C-section.  She was our very own little miracle and it would have been MIGHTY tempting to risk no more babies right then and there.  To see her grow and become a little girl with her own personality (and WHAT a personality) is a gift.  And honestly?  Where we’re at right now? It’s a reminder of God’s grace  (her name is Elizabeth Grace) on this family and that He gives good gifts, very good gifts indeed.

Rebecca is our next child.  She’s a very strange child.  I say that with all the love of a mother’s heart, but she is an oddball.  The child could spend her entire day alone, just picking flowers.  She’ll talk to us willingly enough, but she is very much a loner and you can see it when the other children play.  They don’t exclude her and she’ll play if they ask her, but you can tell she is very much content to live in her own world.  She can focus for amounts of time and learns readily enough…  Strangely, she grasps concepts so quickly and can memorize anything, and yet you can tell her mind isn’t with you.  She memorizes the names of flowers, what they look like, where we’ve found them.  We call her our little Hippie Peace Child.  She can sit and pet her favorite rabbit, Peanut, absent mindedly for hours and then comes back to earth and connects with us again.  She’s a peaceful little thing for the most part and rarely, if ever, argues or fights.  I can’t imagine ever having to discipline her and I think she’d fall apart entirely if we yelled at her.   Getting upset with her, because she often acts as you’d expect from a two year old, with accidents or whatnot, is useless.  She absolutely doesn’t MEAN to, she just lives in her own little world.  DH & I have consigned ourselves to the facts that she will live with us the rest of her life.  I say it with a sweet smile of contemplation and know that she has many years ahead of her to grow and develop.  At times we wonder if there isn’t something amiss in that head of hers, but academically I wonder if she won’t far outpace ALL of her siblings in the next 3 years.  There is something strange in the way that she simply absorbs information…..  What gifts God has instilled in her are just a whisper right now but I wonder that we won’t be amazed at the way she blossoms over the next years…..

Timothy.  Sigh.  Our only goal for Tim is to teach him to sit still for SOME undetermined length of time.  We’d also like to teach him that not all work is physical.  In one ear, out the other, Tim’s mind is always on work.  The boy wakes up in the morning, puts on work jeans, and says, “Mom, gotta go work…” And he heads out the door for the day.  Did I mention Tim is FOUR?  He moves straw, does chores, “chops” wood, stacks wood, moves the wood, cleans up the yard, moves the wheelbarrow, examines the garden, and so on goes his day.  He’s something else all right….. 😀

And finally Abigail.  We have no goals for Abigail.  She’s two and my only goal is to take as many pictures as I can.  She’s growing up SO much faster.  Why is it that each successive baby only gets older faster than her siblings and HOW is that possible?  How?  And it seems remarkably unfair.  If I could just freeze her at this age I would forever.  I LOVE the age of two.  Sigh.  How will I ever give up having babies and toddlers?  She loves doing school and sitting next to her mama. My goal for Abigail is really a goal for me.  I don’t want to just “get it done” I want to do everything WITH her.  She loves to help me cook, help me sew, help me with the baby, help Mama, help Mama, help Mama.  My goal for ME is to let her do it even more, and she is going to do a short preschool with Tim.  Do I believe in preschool?  Not really.  But I do like a good excuse to sit with my littles for concentrated times each day and just really be WITH them, mind and body.

And baby Sarah?  Well, she’ll be tagging along with everything.  We love her as much as she loves us.

And now, sigh, back to lesson plans.  I suppose this little diversion this morning was long enough.  I’ll be adding links as I run across useful ones.  Hopefully I’ll be able to report tomorrow morning that I’ve got them all done.  We have a wedding shower this afternoon for a cousin and so just Mama and all the girls get to go.  I’m trimming everyone’s hair this morning and we’re going to “do” our hair all fancy and with curls and do our nails.  Why not?  I hear the boys are cleaning the garage.  Hurrah, glad it’s not me.  It isn’t often we have an excuse to just be girls…  I also hear Daddy is taking the boys fishing while we’re gone.  I’m a bit jealous, but cake can soothe a multitude of hurts.  Have a good Sunday.

Yes, well, they aren’t fancy, but the kids designed the covers and I feel organized. They LOOK organized.
This one isn’t rocket science. I saved all those little tabs I made for my fileboxes and reprinted them, cut them out, and slapped them into page separators in the binders. Therefore, at night, after I’ve checked work, or at the end of the week, TA DA! File under proper heading. Truth be told, I MUST think as little as possible. If we were going to go spreading secrets then I’d be forced to admit that there are days (or weeks) that I don’t think a whole lot. Therefore it’s always good when as much of it as possible is done for me. I’d run back into the “I’m NOT naturally organized therefore this is a life saving process” but you’ve heard that before. 😉

We’re not completely done.  Elizabeth, the princess, is taking such an incredibly time picking out her pictures I was done for the day.

The binder covers… Each picture was chosen by said child and has something to do with the 1800’s – our time period of choice.

Binder Covers

Binder Covers

Each binder end is properly labeled for easy grabbing.

Binder Ends

Binder Ends

Each binder has file dividers:

Binder Tabs

Binder Tabs

These match the dividers in the fileboxes:

Filebox Tabs

Filebox Tabs

It should also be mentioned that we are going to be experiencing some health complications to deal with in the up and coming months and it has become VITAL to me that we keep records showing that we ARE doing school as I’m foreseeing issues. And it is always preferable to be prepared than sorry. More on that later…..

I hear the slogan, “We will not forget” an awful lot.  And mostly, I think of 9/11 and think, “But we have.”

And when I ran across these articles today, they same slogan and knee jerk reaction came to mind.

Why do you homeschool?  Do you remember why?  Do you remember how you ended up on this journey and where your original destination was?

For my husband and I we each had different destination points.  While we’ve managed to maintain a grip on one (the easier), I feel we’ve allowed ourselves to forget the greater purpose.

As I’ve spent the last few weeks, researching and comparing curriculums, cores, books, guides, and articles, I’ve been searching for the answer to our families need for all things academic.  It is not that these things are not important, it is that they are not the most important thing.  Why do we homeschool?  To raise up strong and capable children for God and to further His kingdom.  Obviously for this we need children that are well educated, well spoken, and capable of presenting themselves and His word.  That said, we tend to lose sight of our real goal in all this.  We end up with children that are well educated and are well spoken, but they don’t understand they were created and made for HIM.  They were never educated for the goal of education, but educated only to further His purpose.

And so I ask you, what good is all that education if you’ve fed your children a steady diet of the world and raised them for the world?  All is lost at that point.  They will serve the master they’ve been taught to serve.  You must choose Mother.  You must choose Father.  Whom shall you train your child to serve?  You can only have one master.

It is acceptable to utilize a curriculum to acheive your end goals.   It is NOT okay to allow that curriculum to take the place of active, living faith… Your children are a witness to your day to day priorities.  If math or reading or history should take place above the daily Bible reading and teaching they will KNOW what is more important to you.  They’ve seen how you prioritize.  If the computer or the blogging, or your research or your email takes the place of your morning time alone with Him and His Word, they will KNOW what your priorities are… Even if you have fooled yourself.  I am very guilty of this.  Sometimes I think through our failings, we are able to bless others.  Is that not why we’re allowed hardships?  I struggle with this on a daily basis as the world competes with God for my attention, my focus, my teachings…..

That’s all I’ll say on it for today, but I ask that you please read the two links today.  And when you are planning for this fall, I ask that as you write down your priorities, you place Him at the very top of the list.  And much further down, list your priorities and make sure each is accountable to the first.

Homeschooling is Not About Education by Chris Davis

Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling: Exposing the 7 Major Blindspots by Reb Bradley

Thank you so much to Paula’s Archives for the links to these two vital articles.