Monday, December 09, 2013

Homeschooling: How We Added Birdwatching to Science

This past week, I tried to be a little flexible with branching off to do some side projects that weren't within our regular schedule of curriculum.  Once I have a plan, it is sometimes hard for me to break from it, but I also realize that taking advantage of current situations can also be beneficial for my 5th grader.

We have a bird feeder outside our dining room window, and this year, we have had quite the crowd of visitors.  My hubby and I love to watch the birds, and my teen is always teasing us that we are showing our age!  However, last week we had a new and fascinating visitor:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Homeschooling: Do You Ask Your Kids What They Want to Learn?

When it was decided that we were going to homeschool our 16 and 10 year old boys, I already had a plan in my head of what I thought we should do.  However, I know that having your kids "buy in" to what you are doing is, of course, a big plus. Before we officially started our homeschool year, I asked both boys to take some time to compose a list of all the things that they wanted to learn.  To be truthful, I wasn't sure that this would work, because I was convinced that my ten year old would write a list of Star Wars activities and my 16 year old would write, well -- nothing.

Be careful what you wish for.

My youngest son's list was called, "6 Things I want to Learn" and was heavily illustrated with pencil drawing:

1.  How to play the cello
2.  How to make Lego movies
3.  The Revolutionary and Civil Wars
4.  How to be a Lego Artist
5.  How to be a soldier
6.  The Old Times (where he added drawings of figures representing medival characters)

Joshua is thrilled to be studying the Civil War right now, and he is developing his Lego Artist skills in a free class at called: Lego Club for Homeschoolers with a different theme each month, taught by moderator and teacher Roni Bergerson of Eastern Wind Academy and Outside the Brick.  In October, Josh will be doing a build about Ancient Rome, using LEGOS he already has in his stash.

We are also doing research about purchasing a cello and doing lessons, but in the meantime, he has been learning about classical music and composers on websites such as Classics for Kids and Making Music Fun.

Next on the list will be downloading the LEGO Movie Maker app for my iPad. This should be fun and creative way for Josh to incorporate story writing and development along with his desire to make movies and use LEGOS.

My teenager also spent spent time making a list, which had many interesting topics:
  • 20th century America
  • American government / economics
  • 20th century China
  • Japanese government / economics
  • Geography of Asia
  • Zoology
  • Botany
  • Astronomy
  • Properties of elements
  • Marine Biology
  • Anatomy
  • cooking
  • Psychology of teenage children 
  • Teaching strategies
  • Japanese language / handwriting
  • Music Appreciation
  • Art Appreciation
  • Read several classics
Yes, he really had "psychology of teenage children" on his list! 

My son is technically a Junior, so he has his work cut out for him if he wants to accomplish this list!  His desire is to be a teacher and eventually teach in Japan.  He has already taught himself a lot of the Japanese language and writing, and trips to the used book store always include a purchase of some book on Asian culture.  Thankfully, he is a voracious reader, so many of these topics can be covered by furnishing him with books to study.

For his homeschooling, I will be spending a lot of time reading the ebooks by Lee Binz, and visiting her website, The Homescholar!  She has so many good ideas to implement.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

#musesofamom: Two Important Steps for Embracing Challenges

Last Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to share with the moms at Shoreline MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) in Austin, TX.  Such a sweet group of gals!

My talk was about "Embracing Challenges", and while my talk was about 20 minutes or so, I thought I would share a portion of it here for you, as we all have to embrace challenges of different kids and different sizes, in all times of our mothering.

Because we are all going to face challenges, I gave some suggestions as to how we can take a look at what we are doing right now in order to make changes so that it is easier to embrace the challenges as they come:

Check your schedule for busyness.  Do you have a “full life” or are you just too busy?  Author Sue Augustine writes in her book, 5 Minute Retreats for Moms:  “When you say you are too busy, it implies that something or someone outside of yourself is influencing how you spend your time.”  So ask yourself – do I really need to do this? And why am I doing this?  As a mom of a preschooler, you already have enough on your plate just being the mom.  "A full schedule of parenting is definitely a challenge, but 'too busy' is completely draining." 

Challenge is different than busy.  Challenge is actually manageable, and that can be healthy.  Sue Augustine says: “Days that are filled, but with a balance of activity, rest and play are days filled with joy and meaning.  Temporary busyness – a deadline, a trip to the ER, is just that.  Temporary.”   

Busyness is purposeful over-scheduling.  Don’t feel pressured to accomplish so much in this season of your parenting.  You will only become depressed, irritable and even more tired than you are now.  You must keep the emotional, physical and spiritual as balanced as possible to ward off burn out and exhaustion. 

Renowned parenting expert Dr. James Dobson says in his book, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards:  “… use your physical resources carefully and wisely in the years ahead.  Raising children is not unlike a long-distance race in which the contestants must learn to pace themselves.  If you blast out of the blocks as though you were running a sprint, you will inevitably tire out.  You’ll gasp and stumble as the road winds endlessly before you --- a balanced life makes that possible! 

Rethink your family schedule to see if you have a challenging schedule, or a busy one.  Does your three year old really need to start soccer now?   Is it necessary to sign up one of your children for a tumbling class every week?  Should you be in charge of the Thanksgiving dinner this year for your entire family?

You can say NO.   As a mother of a preschooler, you are in the time of your life.  Really.  This time is so important, so challenging and yet so joyful and rewarding.  Can I make a suggestion?  Don’t take on so much and become so busy that you cannot enjoy your kids. Too busy with outside things will make them seem a burden instead of a blessing.  I can testify - the time will soon come in your life when you will be something more than a preschool mom.  You can be a room mom for your oldest child at school,  volunteer for the PTO or organize a charity drive.  Use your time now to concentrate on your family as a whole . . . . and take care of yourself.

Also be sure to take regular time with God and his word.  The one thing we will always want to do is go forward without asking God how we are to tackle the problem.  Psalms 37:7 reminds us:  “Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act.”   He is waiting for you to come to Him with the challenges that you are facing!  Isaiah 58:11 encourages us by saying that “He will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry, and restoring your strength!”  He is already making provisions for you for the challenges ahead!

Throughout the Bible are words of encouragement and accounts of others who went through difficult challenges!  Read the stories of Ruth, Esther and Mary, the mother of Jesus.  They are just a few of the women who had difficult challenges to overcome and how they were victorious!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Beverly Lewis

UPDATE:  Want to read this wonderful series from the very beginning?  See the entire list of books below!

Since I have already devoured two other books in the recent series, "Home to Hickory Hollow" by Beverly Lewis, it was a pleasure to read and review her latest book, "The Secret Keeper."

This series is quite appealing to me because it goes a little outside previous "perfect" Amish story lines and considers other possibilities of what could happen in the Amish community.  In this book, an Englisher, Jenny Burns, is dedicated to becoming a part of the Amish community that she has dreamed about most of her life. As a result of making an Amish friend Marnie several summers ago, she finally has the opportunity to stay with some of Marnie's relatives and begin the life she has always dreamed.

However, there are still secrets that Jenny discovers that makes her doubt that this dream can become a true reality, and she realizes that no community is perfect. As she struggles to make it through her "Proving" period, her resolve is shaken when she finds out that the one person who has helped her to make this dream come true is now thinking about leaving the community. Yet through her own challenges, plus the fact that she is still an Englisher until a confirmed member of the church, she is still able to help her mentor and new friends face their own struggles as well.

It is another happy ending, but I believe it is also an ending that you may not have truly expected.  Another great read by Beverly Lewis!

The entire "Home to Hickory Hollow" Series:

#1 - The Fiddler  (April 2012)
#2 - The Bridesmaid  (September 2012)
#3 - The Guardian  (March 2013)
#4 - The Secret Keeper  (September 2013)
#5 - The Last Bride  (April 2014)

Want more good books to read? Click on the "Book Reviews" tab and see the list of all my reviews by subject.  

This book was complimentary from Bethany House Publishers for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

#musesofamom: The Things Moms Know To Be True

1.  The later you stay up at night, the earlier your child will wake up
the next morning.

2.   For a child to become clean, something else must become dirty.

3.   Toys will multiply to fill any space available.  Including the toilet.

4.   Your child always seems to be the one who doesn’t behave.

5.   If the shoe fits . . . it’s expensive.

6.   The surest way to get something done is to tell a child not to do it.

7.   The gooier the food, the more likely it is to end up on the carpet. 
And on the walls.  And probably in places you would rather not think about.

8.   Backing the car out of the driveway causes your child to have to go to the bathroom.  Or a toddler to make a poopy diaper.

9.   Even when there is an opportunity to sneak a snack without anyone hearing, it is imminent that you will step on a renegade Lego that will give yourself up.

10. The more challenging the child, the more chocolate and/or coffee that is necessary to cope.

Adapted from the National Center for Biblical Parenting website.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Book Review: The Imagination Station - Hunt for the Devil's Dragon

The Imagination Station books are delightful!  My son owns several from the series and finishes each one more quickly then the previous. I allowed him to read this book we received for review, and the following thoughts on the book are his: 

"I like these books a lot. They are a lot like the 'Magic Tree House" series, but these books have stories much different. In this story, Beth and Patrick go into the Imagination Station and then magically arrive in Libya, a long time ago. They meet Hazi and Sabra and find out a dragon is killing sheep in the town. There are those who want to kill it but Beth and Sabra discover that it isn't the dragon that is killing the sheep, but something else. It has a good ending!"  

The Imagination Station books can be found at and Amazon.  

Affiliate links included in this post. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale
book review program. I was not required to write a positive review; the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Homeschooling: What is Notebooking, Lapbooks and Copywork?

Do you research the internet for ideas for homeschooling? If so, it is imminent that you will find many, many blogs where moms write about their homeschooling efforts. As I read through some of these informative blogs, (I will have a post soon where I will link to those that in my humble opinion, are some of the best!) terms that I heard (read) the most were: notebooking, lapbooks and copywork.  

If you are starting or thinking about homeschooling, and you want to learn what methods are working for other homeschools, here is your first vocabulary homework:  learn these terms so you know what fits with your education goals!

This is a form of educational journaling or scrapbooking with visual and written components that show what your child has learned.  A fantastic blog post that chronicles all that you need to know about notebooking is here:  There are several tutorials with detailed information to help you understand what notebooking is all ab0ut and if it fits for your child.  

A lapbook begins with making mini-books that cover details of what your child has studied.  When the child has made several mini books about a larger topic, all the books are put together in a large folder.  The finished lapbook is large and can covers your lap. Here's just one place for lapbook info:


A technique from the Charlotte Mason educational philosphy, a simple definition at The Homeschool Magazine states: "Copywork is simply the practice of copying a piece of well-written work from any of a variety of sources onto paper or into a notebook ... It is a method that, when used consistently in your homeschooling studies, will improve your child’s penmanship, grammar, and punctuation skills."  

Another good explanation of copywork from The Well-Trained Mind says: "The purpose of copywork [in the early grades] is to get into the child’s visual (and motor) memory the look and feel of a sentence that is corrrectly composed, and properly spelled, spaced, and punctuated. "

A benefit I have noticed with my 5th grader is that doing some standard "copywork" of terms and sections in a book helps him to retain subject facts much more easily.

Another "term" you may want to know:

Unit Studies
This type of learning works along with the lapbook process.  Here are two websites that give a great explanation of what unit studies are, and aren't.

Hopefully this information will help you as it did for me (and save you from hours on the internet!).  In regards to our family, we are going to do "eclectic" homeschooling (using different curriculum and methods for learning different subjects).  For instance, we will do notebooking for History and Science, sprinkle in some copywork, and keep other subjects fairly traditional for now.  That's the great thing about homeschooling -- YOU fit the education to the way your child learns best!

If you have a suggestion about notebooking, lapbooks and copywriting, write it below in the comments so that we can all learn together!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Homeschooling: Building a Homeschool Library

You don't even have to be a homeschooling mom to know the importance of having a great home library! There is such pleasure watching your kids reach for a book off the shelf and just spend time perusing it, soaking up images and words to further their knowledge.

As an avid reader myself, I have always created large libraries for my boys since they were babies. As they grew, I would find out what authors and/or subjects intrigued them, and I would add books whenever I could. Outgrown books were always donated to libraries so that they could get longer shelf life.

Even now, my boys have full bookcases in their rooms with books that follow their interests. Our home library is filled to the brim with leadership resources, American History, biographies, classics and books to enrich our Christian life. (There is also one shelf dedicated to my fiction favorites!) 

When we decided to homeschool, I first shopped our own bookshelves to find resources that could be included in what we have decided to learn this year.  It was such a blessing (especially to our budget!) to find that we already had a great selection of books that we could reread and reference as we worked!  

Don't misunderstand, we LOVE the library!  Where we live, we have two libraries that we can utilize. One of these is very family friendly, (and my high school son has been volunteering there for over 2 years now) but it is a newer public library and does not yet have an extensive non-fiction section.  The other library has been around longer, but is still too small for good research. While we will continue to visit our local libraries and the much larger libraries in Austin, there is still much to be said about owning books on favorite topics of interest and study.  Here are my tips for growing your library on a bargain budget.  

Where I Find Bargain Books

Goodwill Stores
The best place for finding book bargains for me has been Goodwill drop-off locations. Here in Texas, (and maybe where you are too), Goodwill has several small "drop-off only" locations that have now evolved into mini book stores.  These locations take all their book donations and move them directly to shelves in the store for resale.  They do a great job of catagorizing too, so you can easily search for treasures. My favorite finds: piano music books, Classics in like-new condition, elementary age chapter books and education workbooks. 

Half-Price Books
This retailer has stores in various parts of the country, but are very prevalent here in Texas. The great thing about Half-Price Books is that you can sell any books, movies and music you don't want anymore and get a credit toward in-store purchases. The store works like their name: find a book and pay half-price the original retail price. They have books in any genre you can think of -- including DVDs, CDs, computer software, LPs and more.  There are even new books sold at discount.  Find out more about Half-Price Books and their online search at their website:  My favorite finds:  used homeschool textbooks and curriculum, Classics, Christian Fiction.  

Library Sales 
Libraries get more donations than they can use and book duplications they do not need. Many will have an annual sale to get these books into the hands of patrons and make money for the library in the process. Some libraries have a separate room where their book sale is always available during library hours.  Ask your local library what they do with unneeded books.  For an Austin library resale location, check out     

Free E-books
I have written a popular post on where to find free e-books HERE.  Our family does have a Kindle and iPad, but I am finding that even my kids prefer the actual book in their hands.  If you are an e-book family, definitely look out for free downloads of books that you may not need now, but can use in the future.  Favorite finds:  Classics! There are always several that are free (or cheap!) to download on websites like  

Don't underestimate the importance of a home library!  I truly believe that having books accessible in areas of interests for your kids will grow them into avid readers and continual learners! 

Monday, July 01, 2013

#musesofamom: Homeschooling Has Become Our Future!

Monday, June 17, 2013 marked a special occasion for our family.  We began homeschooling!

The decision to home school my teenager started this past January, when my husband and I concluded that even after two years in a exemplary rated high school, our 16 year old son just wasn't reaching his potential.  It appeared as though he was just going through the motions with nothing to inspire him to learn or to help him toward the career path he wanted to take after high school.

By April, we all agreed that Matt would be finishing the year and then staying home for the rest of high school.  With only two years left until graduation, taking him out was in no was a simple decision!  However, knowing Matt as we do, we are confident that he will make bigger strides in these next two years at home.

It was one of the last days of school that I had the opportunity to talk privately with my youngest son's fourth grade teacher.  The conversation was enlightening and frank and helped confirm some other hesitations that I had about homeschooling Joshua.  It was only a week later that my husband and I agreed that we would home school Joshua as well.

What was I getting myself into?

From a mom who went from "No way!" to homeschooling to "I'm all in!" -- Let me share a couple tips that I have learned that could be helpful to you if this is a consideration for your family.

1.  PRAY.  As parents of the possible home schooled child, this is imperative.  We knew our family dynamics would change. The "Go" from God is necessary. With His direction, we are at peace about what we are doing, no matter what may come.

2.  Get advice from other homeschooling moms.  I have friends who have been homeschooling for some time, and it was highly beneficial to sit for coffee and get their opinions, suggestions and recommendations.  While choosing curriculum and the method for schooling is solely your husband's and your decision, encouragement from others is certainly appreciated! I haven't yet met a homeschooling mom (or past homeschooling mom) who regretted her decision.  The best comment I heard was from a friend who said: "Of course you can do this! You'll be great!"  Sometimes that's all you need.

3.  Refrain from sharing your decision right away with moms (or family) who don't home school.  When I started mentioning our intentions of homeschooling both boys, I received a lot of  "Wow. I could never, ever home school my kids!" and even "That's too much for you to handle."  Hearing this from friends and family, I began to wonder if I should rethink my decision. (Thank goodness I followed Lesson #1!)

4.  Once you decide, start. We started June 17th.  Why?  Because one to two days a week for a couple hours is perfect for all of us to get our feet wet, and I can observe with intent the best ways that my kids learn.  My teen is a great independent learner with not as much hands-on needed; my youngest works better when I am sitting right beside him.

5.  Start simple.  We chose two summer subjects for each of our boys.  They will be completing Music Appreciation  (the curriculum was free online), our teen is doing English Literature, and the youngest, Science. Because we are not on anyone else's schedule, we can take as little or as much time as we need this summer. And since they are already reading, I make sure they are getting books on the subjects they enjoy!  

6.  Start looking for lessons in the day to day. Things to begin teaching are right in front of us. My husband gave the boys a horticultural mini lesson as they helped him with landscaping last week. The reason that Josh is learning weather science this summer is because he has been completely enamored with watching the series "Stormchasers" on Netflix.  We are also incorporating American History by planning a couple stops on our summer vacation road trip that will give both boys a learning experience about the Civil War. (How I put together curriculum for free will be shared in a subsequent post.)

Since the goal of Muses of a Mom is to minister to women of all stages of life, sharing my homeschooling adventures seems like a natural progression.  Hopefully my muses here will be helpful and insightful if you are thinking about homeschooling, preparing for homeschooling or you are already in the thick of homeschooling!  Nothing is better than knowing that someone else out there is going through the same experiences!  More to come.

Are you currently a homeschooling parent?  What is a lesson you learned as you started on this adventure with your family?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

#musesofamom: When Hugged by a Total Stranger

As I was entering my favorite department store the other day, I observed two gals, a store associate and a customer, hug each other fiercely as long lost friends, truly thrilled to see one another.  The scene made me smile.  The associate, seeing me, called a cheery welcome to the store.  Not resisting I replied with a chuckle, "Wow I didn't know customers got THAT kind of welcome when visiting the store. Does everyone get a hug like that?"
The customer laughed with me and said, "Well sure!" then reached out to grab me into a big, warm hug.  
The hug was fun and spontaneous, but it was genuine.  I hugged her back like she was my long lost friend too. That hug was the bright spot to what had been a cloudy day for me.

This sweet gal was someone that I never met before, nor did I know anything about other than she appeared to be close to my age; yet I could feel her genuineness from that exchange. She blessed my heart that day by her impulsive and kindly response.  

Later this scripture came to me:

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10 NKJV)

I have no idea of this person was a Christ follower, but her actions were representative of what this verse tells us:

"Be kindly affectionate"  - The Apostle Paul is charging us to be friendly, tender, warm to others, whether they are fellow believers or not.  Some of you may be terrified with this thought of hugging a total stranger in order to "be kindly affectionate", but we can certainly give a smile of appreciation and a sincere "thank you" to an employee who processed our purchase at the store, can't we?  

"in honor"  -  We are also to honor other people in addition to being kind.  This is by appreciating, considering and valuing them.  When at a restaurant, do you give your server the chance to shine by asking their opinion or maybe what they would suggest from the menu?  Instead of giving that minimum tip for their capable service, do you give more? Do you add "I appreciate you!" to the grocery clerk who checks out your order?

"giving preference to one another"  - Giving preference is choosing or selecting something before yourself.  Do you choose to go out of your way to do something or say something to someone else without thinking of yourself first, such as checking on a neighbor that you haven't seen in awhile?  Or what about sharing cold bottles of water to workers laboring outside at your house or even the house next door? 

Be careful though, because you may not even realize who is watching .  

Your kids will see you thank the associate.  And they will also hear if you complain about how long it took for her to ring up your purchase.  They will remember if you made an effort to do something for a neighbor that took time away from what you wanted to do. 

There is too much impoliteness and discourtesy in the world today. With the veil of anonymity that the Internet and social media can bring, it can provide a platform for people to berate, humiliate and vilify others unashamedly and with cowardice.  By exhibiting and teaching courtesy, your kids will learn that doing what Jesus asks of us is more important that having the world revolve around them.

While it may be quite awhile before I hug another stranger, I do plan to work harder at being kindly affectionate, honoring and giving preference to others.  That may be just the type of "hug" someone is waiting for.

Have you had an experience similar to mine?  Please share your story here or add a link to your blog post so we can read about it!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

#musesofamom: The Importance of Servant Leadership

"Good leaders must first become good servants." 
-- Robert Greenleaf

When you look at it, "servant-leadership" seems to be a misnomer. How can you lead but be on the serving end of the equation? Wouldn't that make a leader look weak?

The best way to answer this question may be to see a real-life example of true servant leadership. Let's look at John 13:1-20.

In this scripture passage, the disciples of Jesus are going to meet with him in the "upper room" to celebrate the Passover meal. As in the custom of the day, there would be a house servant available who would wash the feet of the guests as they arrive. This was a smelly, dirty job to be sure, since the major mode of transportation for people at that time was walking the sandy, gravelly streets and trails from one place to another.

This time, however, there was no servant. And neither do you see any of the disciples offering to do it for the rest of the crew. Instead, they sit down to have a meal with Jesus, unwashed.

It is before they begin the meal that Jesus himself stood, removed his robe, (I see this as the modern day "rolling up your sleeves") procured the water basin, wrapped a towel around his waist as the servants did in those days, and personally washed the feet of each disciple.

Humbly. Gladly.

What could have the men been thinking as they watched their rabbi, their leader, bending before each man to hold, wash and dry each grimy foot? Were they embarrassed that Jesus was doing this dirty, unappealing job of a servant? Scripture records only one verbal objection, that of Simon Peter, who speaks when everyone else was silent. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (Okay, it was a little obvious, but maybe Simon Peter was a little tongue-tied and sheepish to see what Jesus was willing to do, but that he and the others were not.)

After the job was complete, Jesus states: "Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them."

Jesus was reiterating that "the exercise of leadership is to follow this model of servanthood." (IVP New Testament Commentary)  He was near the end of his ministry, and one of his last lessons was to stress the importance of servant-leadership to his disciples --- a lesson that would help them as they took the gospel around the world.

"Servant-leadership all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up 
and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, 
they don't work for you, you work for them." 
-- Ken Blanchard

In today's society, it can be easy to detect those people who understand the importance and wisdom of servant-leadership, and that is how they act. Is the person "me-focused"-- doing what it takes to press themselves forward to success, or are they "other-focused" -- doing what it takes to press others forward to success?

The person who has "jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind." (James 3:16 NLT) They may get what they want at the time, but in the end, they will not get lasting success. No doubt because people will distrust them and give their loyalty and service elsewhere.

James goes on to say in verse 17: "But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere."

Servant leaders follow this pure wisdom from God and express it in their leadership. They ask: "What do people need? How can I help them get it?" Leadership guru John Maxwell says,

"True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader." 

But when you do serve your followers, you will in turn be enriched anyway, since Jesus told his disciples in John 13:18, "Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them."

A real leader, one who is a servant-leader, isn't the person to whom all things are done for, it the person who will help those who work with her and for her, teaching them and preparing them to one day be leaders. There are plenty of managers out there who can manage and facilitate their workers to get things done. It's another thing to be a leader and help their workers to their own success.

To think about: In whatever your vocation is right now, what is one thing you can do to help an employee, co-worker or associate towards success? 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

#musesofamom: A Lesson about God

Feel free to share or repost this graphic!
After finishing the book, "Wonderstruck" by Margaret Feinberg, I opted into her daily "21 Days of Wonder Challenge" to further my awakening to the wonders of God that are all around  . . . but that I always seem to miss.  

Today we are on day #17 and the subject is: God.  Her challenge was this: 

"With a blank sheet of paper and pen in hand, along with a Bible nearby, begin making a list of the characteristics of God. Write down various names for God. Record attributes of God. List promises of God. Then spend some time thanking God simply for who he is and offering words of adoration to him. The wonder of God’s presence awaits you."

While this could be an easier exercise for some, I honestly admit that I had a hard time getting started.  Many attributes and characteristics did come to mind, but for this challenge, I thought it would be more relevant to journal the attributes of God that have a striking importance right now in my life's journey.  

And that's why I had a hard time starting my list.  

At this point, I opened to the Psalms. There are so many things about God for which I am so glad and grateful, and they are all listed in the Psalms.  He is majestic, powerful, redeeming, all-knowledgeable.  He is the ultimate Guide, Comforter and our Salvation.

Finally, a word came to me. Confidant.  

I do believe that the Lord was telling me in that moment something about Him that I didn't know enough about!  In the Psalms, I started digging for treasure.  

"... trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge."
(Psalms 62:8: NLT)

This verse reminded me that it is okay for me to pour out my heart to Him and to tell Him anything and everything that is on my mind! I can weep before him, laugh with Him, share my soul with Him.  He wants me to, and better yet, He is going to reciprocate.

"The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them."
(Psalms 25:14  NIV)

Jesus said to his disciples near the end of his earthly ministry: "I no longer call you slaves [servants], because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me." (John 15:15 NLT)  

There was a realization that although I am happy to do that things that God wants me to do, He is asking me to be more than His servant. He wants to be my friend, one to whom I can confide anything and He can do the same in return.  What a wondrous revelation!

Margaret said today in her blog:  "Wondrous delight is found in the presence of God."  Oh how true that was for me today!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#musesofamom: Lord, Please Bless My Plan!

At the beginning of each new year, many of us take time to make resolutions, set goals and plan what needs to be accomplished.  Some of us are eager to plan out each detail and post it for daily remembrance; others of us plan internally.  Either way, women have a drive and desire to accomplish -- whether it is on large or small scale.

To accomplish our goals, some of us thrive on the busyness of getting there; others of us may have stress under the constant pressure to perform.  We may see those women who seem to "do it all" and then feel as though we aren't doing enough.

Women today wear many "hats", so to speak.  You may be a mom, entrepreneur, employee in the service industry, volunteer, ministry worker or other type of public service.  We all want to do our jobs well, and many of us have our jobs on the home front too. We want to know that whatever we do, are we doing enough?  Is what we are doing making an impact?

Can I encourage you that while striving for success is a good thing, we must remember that regardless where we make our work, we should not make plans for our lives first and then ask God to bless them -- we are asked to come close to Him, communicate with Him, so He can show us what our plans should be.  No matter how busy you may be, you cannot be productive or effective unless you put God at the helm.

Once you are on the path God puts you on, you will see what is the most important, what has priority and what He wants you to focus on.  That will result in the success He wants you to have, for His glory.  And for your happiness and peace.

Commit your actions to the Lord,
 and your plans will succeed.  
Proverbs 16:3

Monday, January 28, 2013

#musesofamom: The Real Winner of the 4th Grade Spelling Bee

Last week, I made my ten-year-old son cry.  Can I be totally honest here and say that at the time, I wasn't really sorry for it?  

We were in the midst of studying for the fourth grade spelling bee.  Josh was in the final group of 15 students who would complete in just two short days in front of his peers.  To prepare, he was given a list of 600 words to review in a week's time.  The challenge would be a great way to teach Josh the benefits of hard work and good competition.

We were on word #247. 

"Mom! I'm missing too many words! I CAN'T DO THIS!"  

"Of course you can. You are the smartest kid I know. And the best speller."

"No, I'm not. I can't remember how to spell these words!"

"That's because you haven't learned them yet. We are learning them now."

"How many words did I miss on this page?"

"Don't worry about that. We are just reviewing right now."

After a few more misspelled words, his eyes started to glisten with tears.

"Mom! I'm not good at this. Can we stop now?"

"No. I know you can do this. Just a couple more words and we'll stop for the day."

I felt like Mother of the Year.  NOT.

At the beginning of the week, I was sure that I knew my child and his capabilities.  He really was a good speller. Was I pushing him?  Yes.  Did I encourage him along the way?  Yes.  Was it hard work?  Yes.  (For him and for me!)  Doubts began to surface when the frustration would set in.  I could see how he was progressing, but he could not.  I was hoping to build his determination, but he was feeling defeat.  That's where the tears began.

But even through this, I knew there was an importance of teaching him that doing new things can be difficult,  hard work pays off and there are rewards along the way.  It was my goal as his coach to motivate and to teach him some skills he could learn from the experience.  

When I would see his frustration, I would stop, encourage and praise him for what he was doing right.  It would be enough to keep him going through more words until we were finished with our 20 minutes.  The night before the spelling bee, we persevered through the rest of the list and by then, I wanted the whole thing to be over as much as he did.  While I could sense stress, I was quick to assure that those feelings were normal and I had no doubts of his skill.  

Despite my "motivational speeches" and my good intentions, I neglected one important thing:  to ask him what was going on right at that time in his mind and heart.  Instead, I was quick to give encouragement based on what I was seeing, not what I was hearing.  

It was then that my husband intervened.  Through his God-given wisdom, Chris could see that while Josh was nervous about the next day, he was not so much stressed as he was worried that he was going to disappoint his parents in the worst way imaginable:  by failing.  Josh, with his compassionate heart, will do anything to please and to keep peace. Chris not only encouraged Josh, but he prayed with him at bedtime and stayed with him until he was relaxed and could fall asleep.  

Josh didn't need stress relief, he needed failure relief.  He needed to understand and grasp that no matter what, he had worked hard, and wherever he finished -- we were his biggest cheerleaders.  

He didn't need my motivation as much as he needed my patience, praise and prayer.  While he did agree that  he could do well in the spelling bee, he needed the assurance would be accepted, no matter what happened. 

The following morning, there was a brighter outlook.  I made a nutritious breakfast for Josh and sent him off to school on the bus, telling him we would see him at the spelling bee.  I promised not to sit too close.

We were prepared for anything, and I was as nervous as anything.  However, you want to know what I saw?  

Confidence.  At each turn, Josh came to the microphone and spelled word after word, not showing an ounce of nervousness or stress.  Seeing the assurance in this ten year old as he spelled for his peers was not as much the result of my coaching as it was an answer to prayer.  We were so happy and encouraged, we didn't care how far he progressed through the contest.

He finished in second place.  

After several rounds between himself and another 4th grade girl to determine the winner, the moderator pulled out the 5th grade spelling list.  Josh got stuck on the word, "nitrogen", but he finally realized where he had finished.  He was overjoyed with a grin that wouldn't quit.

It was then that I cried.  Looking back -- I believe that it was me who learned the most from the 4th grade spelling bee. 

Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord.  The Lord will be his confidence.  
(Jeremiah 17:7 GWT)

Here are a few things that did help us through this process. Maybe some of these will help you too!   

For Josh:  
  • Knowing when study times would be and that there was a designated amount of time allotted (15-20 minutes worked best).  Keeping shorter study times help lower frustration.
  • Allowing some free time in between reviewing sessions for a little reading or TV. 
  • Giving some guidelines of how the material could be studied. (Kids need to be guided on how to study and memorize.)
  • Granting undisturbed time to study alone, using his own thinking process.
For myself:
  • Remember to praise, congratulate, reward throughout the process!
  • Be patient and calm in order to deflect frustration. (Use chocolate if necessary. Seriously.)
  • Ask questions periodically:  "How are you doing?  Are you nervous? Where else can I help?"
  • Pray with my child so he knows where his strength comes from.

Friday, January 04, 2013

#musesofamom: How I Found FREE E-books

Since I love to read, my library is starting to overflow.  Once a year I usually purge and take more current titles (still in pristine condition - usually my fiction books) to the library for donation.

Last year I got an iPad 3 and I have gotten hooked on it's convenience. During my flurry of app downloading, I found the free Kindle app, but didn't think I would really use it since I definitely like to kick it  "old school" when it comes to reading:  I want to hold, feel, smell and experience the book in the literal, not digital sense.

That has changed.

It all began when starting an investigation at to see if I would be lucky to find some interesting e-books for free in order to experiment with the Kindle app. (And I absolutely love a bargain!) Did you know you can find a listing of 100 FREE Kindle e-books?  Yep.  Go HERE.  It's updated daily.  You can also find lists of Kindle e-books for $3.99 or less, and you can search for e-books by category.  

Have a Nook?  You can find great e-book bargains HERE.

Since then, I have come across these excellent resources I can recommend for finding e-books for free (or nearly free).  Click on the name to go to their website.  

Gospel e-books  (Kindle e-books only)
Book Bub (Kindle e-books only)
eReaderGirl (Kindle, Nook; PDF)
David C Cook Publishers - (Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBook and more)

There are surely more out there, but these sites promote what is current in Spiritual Growth, Inspirational Fiction, and Marriage/Family books.  

Although I do not own a Nook, I did find that Barnes and Noble's The Nook Blog promotes free e-books on Fridays.  

Be sure to follow any available Twitter feeds of free e-book promoters (my first three recommendations are all on Twitter).  It is important to remember that most promoted e-books are only free for that specific day, so if you click on a link the following day, don't assume that the book is still free.  Look for a $0.00 price before clicking through to the check out.  

The great thing about Kindle e-books, even free e-books, is that once you buy, you own them for life.  You can also use them across any device that is associated with your account.  For instance, I have the iPad, but my hubby purchased a Kindle Fire for himself.  We use the same account, so any books I may have "purchased" for free through our account are accessible for his Kindle, and vice versa.  

If you don't have a smart phone, tablet or a Kindle/Nook, no worries!  There are apps for your computer too. Both Nook and Kindle have apps for your computer, and with Google Play, you can read on the Web.  

Some choices for my 2013 reading list will be free e-books that I downloaded in the last couple months.  While I still like to have that actual book in my hand, the digital option is catching on with me quickly!   Knowing that I can download a book and read it at my leisure without ever "unowning" it, plus still have the ability to highlight different quotes and passages, has become more appealing.

Especially with our tough economy, it can be hard to keep up with a reading habit!  I hope that these e-book hints will help you increase your reading for this year.

Did this article help you?  Please Pin this photo to Pinterest so others can benefit too!

Know of a website that offers free e-books?  Please comment and let us know where to find it!  Thanks!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

#musesofamom: How I Set Reading Goals

Thanks for visiting again today!   If you are new here, Welcome!  Please take a moment to subscribe to my blog, or click on the icon to follow me on Twitter.

Yesterday I posted nine different ways to get more out of a book.  Today I wanted to share part of my 2013 reading list.  Yes, just "part" of my list, because as the year moves forward, I like the flexibility of adding any newly released books to the stack or a treasure I may find while scouring the shelves at my local library (or Goodwill!)

Following the example of Crystal at the Money Saving Mom, I always make sure that I have a mixture of spiritual growth, business/leadership/productivity, fiction/biography and family/marriage related books on the list.  While it is important to learn, grow and stretch, it is also important to have some fun reading too.

Here's just the start of my list (not in any specific order) of what I'm planning to read this year.  If you want more information on the book, simply click on the title.

Spiritual Growth:
Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst
Let. It. Go. by Karen Ehman

Family / Marriage
Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich
Grown-up Girlfriends by Erin Smalley and Carrie Oliver
Becoming God's True Woman by Nancy Leigh Demoss

Love Does by Bob Goff
Are You Fit for Life? by Jack Graham
Resolved Primer: A Look Into the 13 Resolutions by Orrin Woodward

Fiction / Biography
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly

My goal is to read 51 books this year.  If you want to keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my reviews or what I plan to read, you can click on the Goodreads widget on the right hand column of this website. You can also click on the "Book Reviews" tap at the top of my blog for a list of posts related to my book reviews.

Is there a book that you already know you want to read this year?  Please post it in the comments here!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

#musesofamom: Nine Ways to Get More From a Book

First of all - Happy New Year to you and thank you so much for visiting!  Please choose to "follow" my blog or subscribe to my Twitter feed.  2013 is going to be an eventful year here at the blog, and you won't want to miss anything!

The knowledge I am about to share today is not original; I will fully disclose that I "borrowed" this from a must-read leadership book: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. If you have not read this book, or it has been years since you have (perhaps in college when you "had" too), then I highly recommend that you add this to the top of your 2013 reading list.  In fact, it has been a couple years since I have I picked up my copy, so I will read it again too, just to show it's that important.

Here is my paraphrased and condensed version from Carnegie's Nine Ways given in the introduction of his book:

1.  Have a deep desire to learn something from which you are about to read.  Don't read to read; decide at the beginning that you are reading to learn.

2.  Read through each chapter twice. Right, I said, "two times." This really works!  The first time you tend to read at your faster pace; the second time you will undoubtedly find something you missed before. You may be tempted to move to the next chapter, but wait until you've read the current chapter twice, unless you are reading entirely for entertainment.

3.  Stop frequently to think about what you are reading.  Again, don't read just to read, but ask yourself how you can apply what you are reading.

4.  Keep a highlighter by you at all times so you can immediately mark those things that jump out or are important to remember, or make comments or notes in the margins.

5.  If you want to get a real, lasting benefit from a book, don't think that reading through the book once will work. Take time throughout the year to go back to your highlights or notes to refresh yourself so it will continually be applied.

6.  "Learning is an active process." says Carnegie.  We learn by doing, so if you want put into practice what you are learning, then do something about it right away.  Choose one principle you read and find a way to put it into practice that very day.

7.  While Carnegie suggests here to give a family member or colleague a dime (this was 1936!) or dollar  when caught violating a learned principle, I like this approach much better:  Find a reading buddy or accountability partner whom you trust.  This will be your "go-to" person who will promise to work with you and to encourage you as you put into practice what you've learned.

8.  Go back and check yourself on your progress.  This is where a journal or day timer (if you aren't a wordy person) comes in handy to chart your progress daily or weekly.  See where you would like to make improvements and what lessons you are learning.

9.  Keep track of successes! A gratitude journal, conversation over coffee with your accountability partner, or even tweeting or Facebook messaging your success to the author will help you celebrate (and the author will appreciate the encouragement too!).  Buy a new copy of the book and share it with another friend.  Not only will you be inspiring your friend, but you will also begin to grow a community who can work together towards learning new principles, scripture or lessons.

While Carnegie's list was written with his leadership theme in mind, I know that these principles will help with the majority of non-fiction and inspirational books we are reading today.

Nothing is better than reading.  We are losing so much by spending the majority of free time in front of electronics and forgetting the Classics and those books (past and present) written to help, teach and inspire.  Let's commit to reading more about successes instead of watching the depressing drama of people on TV.  Let's decide that we will read more about improving ourselves and helping others succeed instead of watching 24 hour news channel stories that can be so negative.  (I'm not saying that knowing what is going on in our country is not relevant; I am saying that we should not constantly dwell on it, but do something instead!)  Let's make our New Year's resolution to read more, and everything else we want to accomplish will more than likely come to pass.