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 Currclick.com 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
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.  

Have you asked your kids what they want to learn?  I want to know how you are incorporating it into your homeschooling.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Embracing Challenges as a Mom: Can You Prepare for It?

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.  Also, please subscribe by email or follow via one (or more!) of the social media outlets for updates.


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. 

Moms, Don't We Know These to be True?

It was such a pleasure to speak to the Shoreline MOPS group in Austin this past Friday morning!  I loved being in the MOPS atmosphere again -- it is a wonderful ministry for young moms!

My topic for the morning was "Embracing Challenges" and I began my talk listing things that as moms, we can agree 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 christianbook.com 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.