Mom Monday Week 29 – Gratitude

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Lately, I have been receiving the same message from different sources of inspiration – which makes it bold and strong in my heart, because I realize Providence really wants me to get this. Ready? Here it is: Be thankful. Feel grateful. Count blessings. The glass IS half full.

On her gracious blog, Ann Voskamp recommends that we fight feeling with feeling. That makes a lot of sense.  Continue reading »

As I read Attitudes of Gratitude, the same message came through. If you feel angry, think of something that makes you thankful. Like, the house did not fall on us last night. The more outrageous, the better. It might even make you smile.

When I read Mommy Pick-Me-Ups, the authors reminded me to step back and take a deep breath when things heat up between my children. That’s the moment to remember how thankful I am for having the gift of these children. They teach me patience and help me grow in my character.

Devotional for Homeschool Moms

As we started memorizing 1 Corinthians 13, my children and I talked about what true love is. How can I feel love toward somebody else if I am busy feeling self-pity?

So back to Ann Voskamp – fight feeling with feeling. Replace self-pity with gratitude for the things you do have.

If you are able to read this blog post, that means you have internet access somewhere, somehow. Just to have that – internet access – is a blessing. I know, I know, it can easily be a curse, too, but let’s stay positive and grateful, OK? :)

If you are able to read this, you have eyes to see – how wonderful! You are not blind.

If you are able to read this, you may have felt God’s calling to homeschool – imagine that! The Almighty had and has a job for YOU! What a privilege to work for Him!

If you are able to read this, you take time to feed your soul by fellowshipping with other homeschooling moms in the blogosphere – there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors. That says a lot about your commitment to spirituality. Congratulations for taking a moment to feed your soul.

Do you see how gratitude takes care of negative feelings?

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Story of the World, Volume 1, Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 of Story of the World Volume 1 is called “Egyptians Lived on the Nile River.” It would be really easy to spend three months on this chapter. We spent almost three weeks.

I read the first section to them, “Two Kingdoms Become One,” and we looked at our wall world map to locate Egypt and the Nile river. We did the map work recommended, Student Page 6. With that fresh in mind, we built a model of the Nile according to the directions given in the Activity Book. My Egyptians got very sow-happy with the grass seed, as you can see from the picture.

Nile River Model

Our Nile River Model, Day 1. I should probably take pictures in three weeks, too.

We read “The Longest River” as a substitute book for “The Nile River,” but it seemed extremely dry and boring. I’m all for nonfiction books. Yet, my children just could not get excited about this one. Not all nonfiction books are created equal, obviously.  Continue reading »

What I learned through this switch is that, if my library does not have a particular title, I may have to buy it. The library’s “equivalent” may be free, but we may not get anything out of it, either.

The Nile River Map

Map Work

It helps that during our Bible class/devotional we are working through Old Testament stories. Egypt gets mentioned again and again. The idolatry, the abundance of water and crops, etc.

So I made the connection for them with the Nile. I think it gives the kids a better understanding of our history lessons. I really like linking our subjects through the backbone of history.

One other craft I found cute and easy to make, relatively speaking, is a pharaoh’s headdress inspired by this blog.

Pharaoh's Headdress

My daughter wearing the headdress we put together.

I read the second section to them a few days later – “Gods of Ancient Egypt.” My son said he enjoyed the story. A few days passed before I asked him to color the Osiris and Set coloring page. He remembered the story and told me the plot in one sentence. I did not even have to ask him.

These narration exercises are interesting to me because sometimes I have to ask him questions to get him to talk about the story, while other times I don’t need to do anything. He just starts talking about it and gives me the story in a nutshell.

We also read Egyptian Gods and Goddesses and found it rather creepy. The kids were almost afraid of some of the pictures in there. We did not read it again. Usually, we read books several times. Not this one.

Osiris and Set

My son chose to color only the coffin. I thought it was a great way to summarize the story and emphasize the main idea.

As you can tell, I am still getting used to the whole teaching process. There are so many things to prepare and so many manipulatives to bring out. Then, the lesson itself happens super fast. My children move on to other things and I am left to clean up the mess. We went outside on the patio to prepare the Nile river model. The sandbox is on the patio, too. As soon as we flooded the Nile and watered the grass seed, the kids moved on to the sand box. I was happy, because my other goal was for them to play outside after we finished history. So it worked out.

I am explaining this lest my readers think I have it all figured out and brim with self-confidence. I don’t. It’s OK to tackle this homeschooling thing with butterflies in your stomach. It really is.

As you can tell from his map work and coloring page, I don’t require perfection. He is only six and I accept his best effort and praise him for it. Just because we study ancient history in the first grade and lean towards classical education does not mean we are perfectionists.


Wonderful Wednesday – Ad-Hoc Science

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My plan was to spend at least two hours outside today. We are playing catch-up with time outside.

It has been raining lately and I have been busy with different projects, so I did not make outdoorsy time a priority. My children play so well indoors, away from screens, and I did not want to deal with bugs and/or DEET and sunscreen (there, I said it!) – it was easy to forget how important it is for them to be outside.

Well, we ended up spending five hours. We left after two hours because I had a planning meeting with other Sevier County Homeschooling Group moms, then they had swims lessons. On the way back from swim lessons, we stopped at the park again, for almost three hours.  Continue reading »

It’s called Mills Park and it has a playground, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, several benches, a creek running by, a disc golf course, restrooms, outdoor sinks, grills and a wonderful grassy hill, perfect for rolling down on.

Children rolling down the grassy hill at Mills Park

My children rolling down the grassy hill at Mills Park

I don’t know why we don’t go to Mills Park every day. We should.

Oh, I know why. Because I used to be really bothered by their getting wet in the creek or muddy in the puddles around the playground.

I have since transcended that. The more I read about how time spent outside helps children reverse myopia or not develop it at all, the more I want them to spend time outside – no matter what the cost. That’s why we do laundry, right?

The more I read about how time spent outside helps children do better in science, the more I want them to explore and dig and analyze and take note of bugs, bees, trees, birds and everything in between.

Today I heard a mother scold her toddler rather harshly about his getting in the muddy area. I cringed but looked down at my shoes because that mother used to be me. My kids could not help but notice the scene. It was rather embarrassing for all parties involved, but the mother was relentless. I said a quick prayer for her, that she may allow her little boy to get a little dirty – it’s good for him.

Here’s what I have observed about kids in nature: they don’t need toys. The playground gets them started, but they use it differently after a while. Instead of going down the covered slide, for instance, they straddle it. They go up and down on top of the cover. I try not to panic. The ground is soft.

I did bring a soccer ball and it helped break the ice with one boy in the morning and another one in the afternoon. But the ball got put up after the second boy brought his puppy out. The kids let the puppy chase them and ran around on the grassy hill for almost an hour.

Little bird in a cage - my kids observed it and played with it for an hour

Little bird in a cage – my kids observed it and played with it for an hour

Through it all, they learned some science. They observed “small fishes” in the creek. I told them they were tadpoles.

My son came to the bench where I was sitting with my book and grabbed the water bottle. After he quenched his thirst, he tilted the bottle and took a good look at it. “Mommy, why does the water stay flat even though I tilted the bottle?” I explained about gravity and the state of being liquid.

We noticed a cardinal on a power line. He was busy singing and we could see him open his beak and hear him at the same time – always a special treat.

During my planning meeting, which happened at the Sevierville library, somebody brought a small bird in a cage. My children observed it and played with it the way you can play from just outside the cage. I asked them how many “fingers” the bird has. My son said, “Three.” A few minutes later, “Mommy, I was wrong. There are three in the front and one in the back.” I congratulated him for good observation skills.

They should sleep well tonight after this day spent mostly outside.


Mom Monday Week 28 – Water, Water, Everywhere

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Homeschooling is uncharted territory with each one of your children, because each one is unique and may require a different curriculum. But when you homeschool your first born, we are really talking uncharted territory, 100%.

It’s no wonder that I am overjoyed to see how things tie in so beautifully for us, even though we are only beginning our second year homeschooling. Lately, it seems that the theme in most of our studies has been water, water, everywhere. Continue reading »

We have started the study of history – the ancient world. A big issue in those days was water. We have been taking our time with the chapter on Egypt and the Nile River. I can’t wait to show you what we have been working on. But the idea is that water was extremely valuable back then. If you had water, you had crops and healthy animals. You could survive.

Water Water Everywhere

This concept was only reinforced in our devotionals, because we are studying the Old Testament stories from Betty Lukens’ Through the Bible in Felts. After a famine in Canaan, probably related to a drought, Isaac moved to Gerar to find water for his animals and for his family and servants. But he experienced a lot of trouble because of water wells in Gerar.

You know the story. His father dug many of the wells which Isaac reclaimed as his own. The locals were not happy. They took over these wells. Isaac had to dig another and then another, because the scenario repeated itself.

Isaac persevered. At one point, he moved further away. That adjustment worked and he was allowed to remain there.

The Bible story mentions that they always seemed to have water and food in Egypt, but God promised Isaac abundance if he did NOT go to Egypt.

All this ties in even further with our health and science studies of late. I am in the process of teaching my children to drink water between meals. For their age and body mass, they recommend six cups per day. I drink at least eight. I love water.

We all know that our bodies are mostly made of water. Have you told your children? Here are some activities you could use in your homeschool to relay the importance of drinking water.


Mom Monday Week 27 – Meditate

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Can you believe we hit the half-way point in 2014 – and now we passed it? This seems like a great moment to pause and meditate on how the Lord has led us thus far.

Ellen G. White, a Christian author of the 19th century wrote, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us and His teaching in our past history…”  Continue reading »

Don’t you love the way they talked back then? I know, I know, not everybody talked or wrote that way. Just sayin’…

Meditate Mom Monday Devotional for Homeschooling Moms

So let’s take a moment and meditate on God’s blessings to our families in 2014. Psalm 119:27 says, “I will meditate on Your wonders.”

Let’s stop doing and let us be. Still. And know. That He is God.

I can think of all the meals I have prepared for my children. All the cleaning. The laundry. 180 days of meals, sweeping the floor around the dining room table. Folding towels and tiny dresses and small socks. Why am I going back to doing?

A Christian author reminded me in an email that God made human beings, not human doings.

How have I been so far this year? Have I been more calm, more at peace with myself and my circumstances? I am glad to answer “yes.”

Plus, I have learned that I need to drop some of my responsibilities after I bring my commitments to an end later this year. I cannot just drop out. It does not work that way.

And now about homeschooling… I found a great quote about burnout in children. It’s by Ruth Beechick, the author of The 3 Rs and other fantastic books that will teach you how to teach your children. She says, “Burnout comes from unsuitable work, either too much mindless busywork or too much pushing beyond the child’s present ability. Remember to lighten up once in a while with a change of pace – something like a day trip or a Friday of free time.”

You can probably relate to what she is saying, can’t you? So pay attention to your own work but also pay attention to the work you give your child. Let us all avoid unsuitable work.

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Story of the World, Volume 1, Chapter 1

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Last week we started Chapter 1 in our history curriculum, Story of the World. I read to the kids the first section about the first nomads. Then, we read “It’s Disgusting and We Ate It” – one of the recommended books. The kids (and I) can only take so many pages of that book. They groan and moan at almost every sentence. It truly is disgusting. :)

“Ancient Agriculture” is rather dry for a living book. It feels like a textbook. I tried reading it to the kids and they interrupted me, asking for another book. I must say, this is where I don’t follow SOTW to the letter. I know Susan Wise Bauer, the author, recommends doing different activities if they work for our families. This is where I have to learn to watch for their reaction and not feel bad if we cannot complete a certain reading assignment.  Continue reading »

Bottom line: if the kids don’t enjoy something, I don’t insist. Right now they are young and the objective is to get them interested in learning and excited about discovering new things.

From the beginning, I questioned whether ancient history would even be something to teach in first grade. But, as I learned more about SOTW, I realized it is truly written as a story. Plus, it has all these hands-on activities and reading assignments which my children would enjoy. Finally, exposing them to vocabulary and concepts and giving them a framework of history and geography won me over.

However, I made a decision early on that, as soon as an activity or book does not interest them, I would not push it on them. That’s what I love about homeschooling. We have freedom to choose.

Little girl making cave paintings

We made cave paintings for our craft. The mess was incredible. I cleaned red paint off the table and in the bathroom for a few days after that, always discovering a new spot. My mistake was that I sent them to the bathroom to wash their hands without thinking that they will be touching light switches and sinks in the process. But they had fun and that’s what matters.

We also looked up cave paintings under Google Images. As I was doing that research, I found out that cave paintings have been recently found in Romania. They are some of the oldest cave paintings in Central Europe, demonstrating that early people engaged in similar art activities throughout the continent, not just in Western Europe.

I would say we would take the kids there when we go to Romania, but these cave paintings are naturally protected from human eyes as one must go under water inside the cave to get to their location. Phew! That’s great, because I don’t like caves to begin with.

By the way, I don’t get into the age of the earth with the kids right now. They are too young for that debate. Instead, we started Through the Bible with Felts all over again. I have used this Bible curriculum with them in the past for specific stories. I even started it out with them last year, following it chronologically, but by Moses and the plagues we all gave up. I think picking up the felts for the next story got to me. I hope to be more diligent with it this year. Pray for me. :)

This time, I started all over again from Creation and we are working our way through it to reinforce customs and people of the ancient world. At this stage, people and locations on the map are more important than dates. I was glad my son knew who was the son of Abraham and Sarah. I did not know that answer until I was 17, when I started reading the Bible on my own. It’s fun to teach them these Bible lessons in their childhood.

This week, we received our National Geographic world map from Amazon. We put it on the wall in the room where we do most of our studies. The kids love it. They look at it every day and ask questions. Informally, we do some geography, too, it seems like. I grew up with maps on the walls in my room and that has always kept me aware of the world around me. I want my children to know their geography, let’s put it that way.

They really liked The First Dog and Little Grunt and the Big Egg. We read those during our bedtime reading.

I would have made the effort to make a “Game Bag” but (1) I don’t enjoy sewing all that much and (2) we don’t need another craft project lying around the house and needing to be put up at the end of the day, when all the playing is done.

That’s it for Chapter 1. How have you enjoyed working through Chapter 1 in your homeschool?

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The Value of Teaching Cursive Handwriting

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I have written here before about our choice to teach cursive first and only. Here’s more information on the subject.

Many families truly appreciate the flexibility that homeschooling offers them. It allows them to include skills and subjects they deem appropriate as part of their learning day and they can include religious education if they choose. And they can focus more on subjects that public schools do not include, or deemphasize. Some of these subjects often include music, the arts, and cursive handwriting.

Zaner-Bloser Homeschool Ways Fonts Online

More and more public schools today are eliminating cursive handwriting instruction, citing a lack of time in the daily school schedule and instead focusing on preparation for standardized testing. Many experts in early childhood education, however, believe this can prove detrimental to young students during early brain development. Continue reading »

Some educators are still “fighting the good fight” to include cursive handwriting in their curriculum, such as Dr. Denise Guy, superintendent of public schools in Abilene, Kansas. She cites Virginia Berminger, an educational psychology professor at the University of Washington who says, “Because handwriting necessitates physical sequential strokes to form just one letter (as opposed to a single strike in hitting a single key), massive regions in the brain are activated, including areas of thinking, language, and temporary information storage and management.”

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting

Even the new Common Core Standards adopted by most states no longer require cursive handwriting, much to the dismay of many educators and researchers.

While homeschoolers can take cues from public schools, this is where that important level of flexibility and personal choice comes into play. One of those skills children should learn despite reduced instruction in public schools is cursive handwriting. There have been multiple studies that cursive handwriting instruction can help develop cognitive ability and confidence to more efficiently perform the skills required for a variety of different content areas.

Zaner-Bloser Intro Cursive

Some primary education experts actually suggest teaching cursive writing before print as a way to help improve reading skills, as children often confuse letters such as “b” and “d” when learning to both read and write print. Generally speaking, when teaching cursive writing first, children will learn to print quite nicely later on, while if print it taught first, their handwriting may not be as nice as it could be, and they often develop a “hybrid” of print and cursive when writing every day.

Zaner-Bloser offers cursive handwriting programs that fit perfectly into a homeschooler’s plans. Each lesson can be completed in 15 minutes and research shows that students who have greater ease with fine-motor writing tasks have better academic skills in second grade in both reading and math. The Student Edition includes easy step-by-step instruction and self-evaluation, provides meaningful practice and application, and engages students with colorful, fun activities. The program goes beyond simple repetition and works to explain why each stroke is done in that particular manner so the student has a complete understanding of cursive. The Zaner-Bloser method definitely provides the homeschooler with all the tools necessary for success!

Zaner Bloser Fonts Online Plus

Another tool from Zaner-Bloser that works hand-in-hand with the cursive writing program is ZB FontsOnline. This program helps to reinforce the handwriting instruction by creating worksheets, practice pages, and more with this online application’s editable page templates featuring grade-appropriate guidelines and Zaner-Bloser’s manuscript and cursive alphabets. Right now, there is a great offer from Zaner-Bloser to purchase ZB FontsOnline for only $14.99. Simply go to http://www.zaner-bloser.com/zb-fontsonline-plus and use code ZBFOP. Offer expires 12/31/14.

Post contributed by Zaner-Bloser


Happy 4th! And a Parade Webcam Link

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Just a quick post to wish everybody a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

We live in the town which hosts the first 4th of July parade nationwide – when the clock strikes midnight on July 3, the parade starts in Gatlinburg. We are on Eastern Standard Time.

Would you like to watch it? Here’s a link to a live webcam overlooking the downtown area.  Continue reading »

It’s 10:30pm as I type and people are setting up their chairs and already sitting down, waiting, waiting, waiting.

My husband and I watched the parade live 10 years ago, when we were dating and were looking for excuses to spend time together. I cannot believe it has already been a decade since that day…

I think everybody should experience this midnight parade at least once in their lives.

Enjoy!


Mommy Pick-Me-Ups Review

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For the past few months I have been reading the mommy devotionals from Mommy Pick-Me-Ups by Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden. The subtitle of the book is “Refreshing Stories to Lighten Your Load” and it aptly describes the format of the book.

Also known as the guru of Christian mentoring, trainer, international speaker and author Edna Ellison has written many other books that you may find interesting – look for them wherever Christian books are sold. Linda Gilden is a prolific writer, speaker, editor, writing coach, and Certified Personality Trainer. She has penned the popular Love Notes series.

Unlike a traditional devotional, Mommy Pick-Me-Ups offers 77 stories organized as follows:  Continue reading »

  • The story itself, which introduces you to day-to-day situations any mom would encounter
  • A Bible verse that correlates with the story
  • A Pick-Me-Up, which further explains the Bible verse you just read and it shows how the Bible principle in that text is relevant to the story
  • Creative Parenting, which proposes tips or activities for handling yourself and your children should you go through something similar

I find it very easy to read and I have already experienced God through these devotionals. You know how parenting in general and mothering in particular can demand much energy. How can anyone keep it all together – unless they have a Source of renewable energy? How can you even remember how to act according to biblical principles – unless you  take the time to remember when the house is quiet?

book-mommy

It is only through God’s presence in your life that you can be guided to do the right thing as a mom. And that presence does not just happen. One must cultivate it. Quiet time with God is how that happens. And this little devotional book can be your tool for several months to accomplish just that.

I would like to share just two of the devotionals that God used recently to help me.

The other day I was deciding whether to stay home with the kids and catch up on different projects (phone calls, blogging, homeschooling, helping a family member move countries – you know, the usual stuff…) or go to the Heritage Center in Townsend for an archaeological program designed for kids. I had the energy, but I knew the kids were tired because we had spent six hours in Knoxville’s Safety City the day before.

As I read the devotional, I came across this passage which encouraged us to find ways for cousins to spend time together as they grow up, so that they understand they are family. I took it as God whispering to me to stay home and take care of my projects, including helping relatives move closer (i.e., to the United States). My children have only this one cousin and his parents are trying to move countries.

Later that day, I made my phone calls and, wonder of wonders, I got a hold of an immigration attorney who has been very hard to catch before. I also talked with a possible employer for my brother-in-law and he said, “I just got back into the office. I have been out of town until yesterday…” Perfect timing.

Another devotional that spoke to my heart was “Duck!” We all face the temptation to pride – especially when success comes our way. I like this fresh take on the old, old story of inflated self-esteem which meets with the thorn of humiliating circumstances.

But the most important passage for me was this sentence: “When you help others rather than challenging them, you are more likely to be in God’s will for your life.”

I do have a tendency to challenge my kids to obey instead of helping them get there. So this really spoke to me, calling me higher in my mothering skills.

I have been blessed by reading this devotional and I think that you will, too.

I received a free copy of the product above in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. The Amazon links above are affiliate links. All opinions I have expressed here are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


Wonderful Wednesday – Veggie Garden Update

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I have a small garden where I play “Farmer.” It’s only 4′x8′ and I don’t expect to feed my family from it. But if we can get some veggies every year while the children experience the cycle of sowing, weeding, watering and harvesting, I am happy.

This year, we already learned some lessons from it. Now, I’m back with an update.  Continue reading »

It has been raining almost every day for the past three weeks. I have not had to water my garden. Yeah!

I did have to clean up after our cat, who had been using our garden patch as a litter box. Yuck!

My husband came up with a solution: plastic fencing that can be wrapped around the four poles of the garden bed. I knew those poles would come in handy one day…

So here’s my veggie garden in full swing, with the new fencing around it.

Veggie Garden - Summer

My small garden is producing a lot this year.

 

Our one and only blackberry bush

Blackberry bush - almost ripe

We picked about 15 blackberries today and, from the looks of it, we will have more

 

Our one and only grape vine

Green grapes on the vine

This would be the first year we would enjoy grapes from our backyard

 

One of our blueberry bushes

Green Blueberries

We always get lots and lots of blueberries

 

A baby cucumber

Tiny cucumber

I showed this baby cucumber to my son. He touched it, got hurt and blurted, “It’s prickly!” all before I could warn him.

 

Tiny tomatoes

Green tomatoes on the plant

It looks like we will get some tomatoes this year.

 

Tiny peppers

Tiny green peppers on the plant

We love green peppers and grow them every year. They are so sweet compared to grocery store peppers.

 

These pictures are quite the metaphor for children. Growing, developing, not yet fully matured, but perfect in every way. And cute.