Can You Hear Them?

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

(James 1:22)

They may not say much verbally, but people all around you are speaking: at work, at the store, at the bank. They speak through body language, through their actions, and with their eyes. People are speaking… do you hear what they’re saying? Do you hear their souls searching for Jesus? How are you answering them?

Be swift to hear (James 1:19) what people mean—not just what they say. What do they need? Listen with your eyes as well as your ears, and then DO. Act on what you hear:

  • That new teller at the bank could use a smile. You can see how nervous she is.
  • That business man pumping gas could use a prayer. You don’t know what he needs prayer for, but God does.
  • The neighbor child is drawing a wonderful chalk picture on the sidewalk. It’s colorful, well-thought-out, and only she knows what it is. She needs to know her work is appreciated and admired.
  • When you spoke to your friend on the phone, she said everything was fine, but you heard the edge in her voice. She was distracted, distraught, disheartened. She needs your encouragement, your edification, and your prayers.

We are to be doers of the Word, not hearers only. What do you hear Jesus telling you to do? Speak up, step up, show up! Did the Lord’s words go in one ear on Sunday and out the other before you awoke on Monday? Don’t be afraid to review your notes on Monday morning. Do you need to be inside a church to remember to do as Jesus would do? Ask God to show you how to apply Sunday’s lessons to your life, starting right now.

What would Jesus do? He would bridle his tongue, say a prayer, discern the need, then speak and do. Listen to the multitudes. Listen to those close to you. What can you do for them? What would Jesus do?

Lord, search my heart. Whom have I overlooked today? Use me… give me the opportunity to do Your will. Make me a bold doer, and not just a hearer. My hands are Your hands, my feet Your feet. Use me for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for it is in His name that I pray. Amen.

Snow Days and Snow Brains

I just received word that our local church will be closed tomorrow due to the weather. This past Tuesday school was closed for the same reason. Usually the closings are farther between, but this has been a very unusual winter around here.

Personally, I enjoy snow days. They allow me to work on things that I normally don’t get a chance to work on, like correcting math (I am woefully behind!) and updating this blog and printing out next years curriculum (Continuing the Journey). I don’t worry about running out of food because I shop for a week at a time — although this week we didn’t get out to shop for next week because of the weather … but I will enjoy the challenge of throwing together a healthy meal with what’s on hand in the freezer! (We’ll shop the next chance we get; maybe Monday.)

A few days ago, as I was driving in my car and listening to the radio, the DJ was talking about the upcoming storm (the one I’m currently in) and how the snow would keep everyone home. I’m not sure how she got on the topic of ordering pizza to be delivered, but she was talking about how we should tip the driver extra because s/he was driving in weather we didn’t want to be driving in — because it’s bad enough to close schools, or churches — and all I could think of was, “What person in their right mind is going to order pizza during a snow day?! You would have to have a snow brain to expect someone else to deliver pizza to you if you won’t even drive in the snow yourself!”

Am I right?! Make chili, make grilled cheese, make homemade pizza, but please don’t expect someone else to risk their vehicle and their life to deliver your food if the roads are bad.

Organizing a Homeschool Graduation

Each spring, homeschooling parents around the world celebrate graduation. Banding with other families, they successfully hold ceremonies that rival many colleges.

What does it take to organize a full-scale graduation for thirty-five to a hundred, or more, graduating seniors? Lots of pre-planning, the forming of committees, and dedication to the cause.

Pre-Planning the Ceremony

Usually, the planning begins nine months prior to the ceremony. During the month of August, parents and seniors meet to decide what they wish to include in their ceremony. Some ideas include:

  • Keynote Speaker
  • Musical Presentations by Students
  • Speeches by Students
  • Presentation of Scholarships
  • Presentation of Diplomas

Another key factor to consider is who will be in charge. Everyone’s help is needed, but one person—or one couple—should be responsible for overseeing meetings and the final program. Someone who has already graduated a child is a good candidate, but don’t rule out someone graduating his or her first child. Good organization skills and communication go a long way with cooperation from other families.

Choosing Committees

Organizing a graduation doesn’t happen overnight. Families must agree to meet monthly and work on each aspect little by little to make sure everything is in place for the big day. The need for everyone to pitch in is paramount. Having a few families that shrug off their responsibilities causes undue stress on the rest of the families. Teamwork is key.

By forming committees, each part of the ceremony is handled by a small group of parents. Types of committees can include, but are not limited to:

  • Obtaining a facility and decorating it
  • Finding a photographer or videographer
  • Planning senior activities during monthly meetings
  • Securing a speaker
  • Yearbook committee
  • T-shirt committee
  • Cap and Gown committee
  • Senior banquet
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Music planning

The possibilities are as varied as the imaginations of those involved. Simple ceremonies need fewer committees. Keep in mind the number of people needed for each committee. The yearbook committee may need five or six volunteers, whereas the committee to secure the speaker may only need two or three.

Dedication to the Cause

As noted, committees meet monthly to work on the jobs assigned, or to report on work done between meetings. Decisions are made, jobs are completed, and everyone knows what’s going on each step of the way. Parents dedicated to the cause create the best possible graduation ceremony for their children.

As springtime approaches once again, and brings the end of the another school year, homeschooling parents around the world will celebrate the graduation of a child—thanks to pre-planning, committees, and dedication.

If you’d like to find a support group in your area that holds graduation ceremonies each year, contact HSLDA for more information.

Each spring, homeschooling families around the world celebrate graduation.

Each spring, homeschooling families around the world celebrate graduation.

School Year-Round

(This is a Throwback Thursday post. It was originally written in February of 2007.)

My husband and I have decided to school year-round this year. This will mean less busy-time at the end of the year, and less review-time at the beginning of the year for the children. Our oldest will be a senior next year, and we have a few classes we want to squeak in before he graduates. Schooling year-round will help us achieve that goal.

I’m currently finishing up Chapter 8 in Volume 5 . Chapter 9 will be a 30-day unit, and chapters 10-12 are each 15 to 20 days. That’s 81 days… not going to get that done by the end of May! We’ll just keep working through the summer.

Once we finish Volume 5, I’ll move onto Volume 1 and keep going with school. In September I’ll move everyone up a grade as we begin the “new” year. With that in mind (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise) we should finish Volume 5 around the middle of July (taking into consideration spring break and various days off between now and then).

If I continue to school year-round, I could take off one week each month, and even a few miscellaneous days here and there (up to 10 days) and still get 180+ days of school done each year. Since this would be our schedule, I could choose which week of each month we take off. If I need two weeks for a trip, I can schedule the last week of one month and the beginning of the next month. I may even decide to have half-days on a week off… the latter half of the day, so we can sleep in ;) … and then we’re not really missing much school because two half-day weeks would equal one full week. This would come in handy for emergencies like sick days, or unexpected company, or spur-of-the-moment trips.

Isn’t homeschooling wonderful?!

(Author’s note: Year-round schooling didn’t work for us after this year was completed, and we have reverted back to the school calendar followed by the public schools–for the most part. But, it sure did look good on paper!)

Cleaning Up Your Homeschooling Area

Wherever you teach your children, you’re sure to accumulate clutter. Properly sorting and storing materials allows for a more relaxed teaching environment.

Nothing breaks the flow of a lesson faster than having to stop and find something. Whether you use a separate room for school or the kitchen table, you’ll soon find papers, projects and pencils piling up all over. Here are five tips to help you get organized, so you can relax and enjoy your time teaching.

Declutter the Area

If it isn’t related to school, find a home for it elsewhere. Toys, clothing, craft projects—any unnecessary item in your homeschooling area should be escorted out. If you need to keep toys in the area for younger children, make sure you have a place for them (see below).

Kids are notorious for not seeing a math book when there is a sock on top of it. (And they won’t pick up the sock to see if it’s their math book because the sock belongs to their brother.) Keep out the clutter to make finding school materials easier.

Sort All Materials

Pencils, markers, crayons; lined paper, construction paper, computer paper; teacher’s books, resource books, student books, reading books; projects being worked on, completed projects, supplies for future projects—all of these items need to be sorted and kept in their own special place for easy retrieval. “A place for everything, and everything in its place” as my mom used to say.

When you need colored pencils for making a graph in math class, you don’t want to spend twenty minutes looking among the loose papers for them. Writing utensils, paper products, and books are easier to find when they are not mixed together.

When you need colored pencils for making a graph, you don't want to spend 20 minutes looking among the loose papers for them.

When you need colored pencils for making a graph, you don’t want to spend 20 minutes looking among the loose papers for them.

Store Properly

Purchase plastic bins with covers, or other storage containers, in appropriate sizes to store your items: shoebox size for drawing and writing implements; “mailbox” slots or in/out trays for paper goods; plastic crates and bookshelves for books; shelves for displaying projects and large bins for storing unfinished ones. When your child is working on a project, she should know exactly where to find the glue.

Remove Unnecessary Items

Older children can keep their school items in their rooms. This allows them to be accountable and responsible for their own books, supplies, and projects. This also means fewer things for you to keep track of, making your school area cleaner.

Being responsible for their own items is a step toward being responsible for items not their own, such as a company car, a spouse’s camera, an infant’s life, etc. Each child matures at his or her own rate; you’ll know the best time to start allowing this responsibility.

Clear the Area Daily

At the end of each day, spend 15 minutes decluttering, sorting and storing items in your homeschooling area. Enlist your children’s help! Keeping it picked-up daily saves you from having to do a huge cleaning when things pile up from neglect. Clear workspaces also give you more time to teach, while cutting down on search time.

Homeschooling can be messy. It’s a never-ending battle, but with the above five tips, your homeschooling area will remain neat and clean. You’ll also be teaching your children good organizing techniques. Their future spouses will thank you!

Cabin Fever

February always seems to bring Cabin Fever with it. When we lived in WI, there always seemed to be a “February Thaw” early in the month before winter came back with a vengeance for another 6-8 weeks. As I write this, the majority of the country seems to be either snowed-in or frozen-over. What’s a mother to do with homeschooled children who cannot spend too much time outdoors due to the weather?

If possible, this is a great time for field trips to museums and art galleries. This is also a great time to break out board games. We’ve gathered quite a few over the years. Perhaps you’ll find a new one (or revisit an old one) for your family to enjoy:

Classic Trouble — What could be easier than racing to the finish?

Game of Life — Choose your path wisely!

Scrabble — You can count this as spelling. ;-)

Monopoly — A little strategy, and a little luck, and you just might win!

Jumbling Tower — It takes a steady hand to play this game.

Roll Through the Ages — This is a new family favorite. This turn-based game will keep you on your toes.

Apples to Apples — Lots of laughter with this game. (and remember, the Helen Keller card trumps all others!)

Whoonu — Another game filled with laughter; how well do you know your family members?

Snake Oil — Watch creative thinking come to life in this fun game — you will laugh a LOT!

Pizza Party — Fast-paced and for all ages.

Do you have a favorite game at your house? Leave a comment and let us know!


Finding Room

(This is a Throwback Thursday post — it was originally written in March of 2007.)

Usually we have school around the kitchen table. Each child is responsible for their books and must keep them picked up so we can eat meals. They must also keep track of them in their rooms so they can find them for school the next day.

After our second move, we started using the wetbar in the family room as our schooling place. This was really great because we could leave our stuff sitting out and it didn’t interrupt our meals! Now that we’ve moved again we’re back at the table, but we have two to choose from: kitchen or dining room.Last year we used the kitchen more, but this year we’ve used the dining room more. I have one son who prefers the couch, and since he’s older and working more independently, I let him sit wherever he desires.

We’ve been forced to merge our table-schooling with our couch-schooling the past couple months because our dining room is being re-floored. Since we’re doing it ourselves, it’s slow-going. Our dining room table is currently in the living room. It’s actually working quite well there for school! I’ve jokingly suggested that we make the dining area into a school room, instead of an eating area. But, after living without a formal dining room (eating while standing so the younger children can sit, or eating in the family room in front of the TV) I don’t think that would work for us. Still, a dedicated school area would be so nice…

I’ve heard ladies on the email list talk about having a dedicated school room. Some convert spare bedrooms, some use dining areas, some use family rooms. I know each family must figure out what works best for them. Some families would never dream of having a school room, because they don’t want to have school at home. If they can meet their goals for educating their children, that’s all that matters. Where do your children learn best? Where is your school room? Is it just an area in your home, or do you move all over depending on what you’re studying? Do you have a room set aside in your home specifically for school? What works for you? What would you like to do? Leave a comment and let other families know!

What Made You Choose Homeschooling?

That question was posed to us the other day when a worker came to give us a bid on an outdoor project. I looked at my husband blankly, because (to be honest) I don’t really remember why we chose to homeschool anymore! Oh, I could think of plenty of reasons for homeschooling, but none of them, alone, were our reason for starting this journey. They are what kept us going, though, so I thought maybe I’d share them.

Separation Anxiety — I was, and still am, fiercely protective of my children. The thought of sending them off for 3 or more hours each day just didn’t sit well with me. Five is such a young age! They’re so impressionable at that age, and at 6 and 7 and… Yes, I am the one who suffers from separation anxiety. I love being with my children. I love listening to them chatter with each other, and with me. I love watching their faces light up when they ‘get it’ and I love to challenge them when they don’t. We have had many wonderful days filled with exploring and discovery thanks to homeschooling.

Gang Mentality — When you get a group of people together, the person with the strongest personality usually becomes the leader. As that strong personality influences the other members of the group, the dynamics change until they are all following blindly. We didn’t want our children to follow another child, or even a teacher we knew nothing about. Homeschooling allowed us to be the leaders in our home, to mold and shape our children into the people we wanted them to be. It allowed us to raise thinkers and leaders, instead of followers. After watching other children change (personality-wise) once they started school, we knew we didn’t want our children in that environment.

Curriculum — There had been so many changes over the years to public education, we weren’t sure what was being taught anymore. We didn’t want our grade-school children to be exposed to sex education. We wanted a solid foundation in phonics. And we wanted to be able to see their textbooks, so we would know what was being taught. We knew all of that was hit-or-miss in local schools due to changes in the curriculum and in the transparency of the school districts. If something isn’t broke, don’t fix it! We knew certain methods of teaching worked and others didn’t — we wanted what worked.

God — I know this should have been at the top of our list, but we didn’t begin this journey strictly for religious reasons. Yes, we wanted to be able to teach our children about God, but we knew we could do that regardless of who educated them. However, this is why we continue to homeschool. Our day is saturated with the Bible. We speak freely about Jesus, Moses, King David, and everyone else mentioned in the Bible. We quote passages, and share things we’ve learned from others and from our own reading. Thanks to homeschooling, our children have a very solid foundation in the Bible–and so do I!

Education — My husband and I love to learn. Over the years, I’ve learned many things that I didn’t learn in school myself (or, if I did learn it, I’ve forgotten, so I’ve re-learned it by teaching it to my children). I’m not sure what I’ll do once the youngest graduates in 3 years. Perhaps I’ll have some grandchildren by then, and I can spend time teaching them about God’s glorious creation!

While the thought of not homeschooling flitted through our minds occasionally, it’s never taken root. I am so glad! It has been wonderful watching my children grow and blossom into adults. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been wonderful. Would I do it again? Yes! Would I change anything? Probably not. This is the path God has led us down, and until He gives us a new destination, this is the path we’ll stay on.


When Fiction Touches Life

Last year for my birthday (I turned the big 5-0) I bought myself a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. Oh. My. Word. I am in love! I use it almost as much as I use my phone — and my computer will now sit for a whole day without my touching it!

My biggest reason for getting the tablet was so I could get eBooks to use for school … and for personal reading. I used to be an avid reader. I’m not sure when that changed, but it did. I am once again enjoying both fiction and non-fiction books, for school and for pleasure. This weekend, I read a fiction book that “hit home” so-to-speak.

Years ago I attended a writer’s conference in California and one of the guest speakers was Debbie Macomber. I liked what she talked about, so I bought one of her books — 74 Seaside Avenue (A Cedar Cove Novel) – I highly recommend her if you’re looking for good fiction!

Yesterday, as I was browsing OverDrive for a library book, I stumbled upon The Inn at Rose Harbor, which is also a Cedar Cove Novel. It had been so long since I read 74 Seaside Avenue, I didn’t even remember where it was set. Imagine my surprise when I started reading The Inn at Rose Harbor and discovered it is set near Seattle, WA!

While Cedar Cove is a fictional town, it is set in Kitsap County, which is north of Tacoma and west of Seattle. She mentions Fort Lewis in the story, which is where my son is currently stationed. When she speaks of the weather, I know what she’s talking about because I’ve been there. As I read the About the Author section (because I like to know who I’m reading), I was reminded that Debbie Macomber lives in Port Orchard–the town where my son’s friend lives and where he spends much of his free time.

I find this all so cool! I know the characters are fictional, but as I read the books I can’t help but feel I’m reading about life near my son. Somehow, that comforts me. It’s like he’s right there, in the background of that book. He lives too far away from me, yet I’m comforted knowing life in the area is ‘normal.’

I’ve already downloaded two more of the Cedar Cove books, Lost and Found in Cedar Cove, and 50 Harbor Street. I love borrowing books from the library!

Beef Ribs and Parmesan Potatoes

“What’s for supper?”

Those words often came from the mouths of my oldest boys before they started eating breakfast–and they weren’t even teenagers at the time! Early on, I started posting the week’s menu on a white board on the side of the frig, making it easy for me to answer that question without thinking. One of our favorite meals is a slow cooker recipe. You do have a slow cooker, don’t you? I don’t think I’ve ever met a homeschooling family without one! Last night, I altered the meal just a bit, and it turned out delicious!

First, I put a little barbeque sauce in the bottom of my slow cooker. Just enough to cover the bottom. I then opened a package of boneless beef ribs and used taco seasoning mix as a dry rub, which I massaged into all sides of the ribs. I then placed them into the slow cooker, drizzled more barbeque sauce on top of them, set the cover on and turned it to low. I let that cook for about 8 hours.

About an hour before the ribs were done, I peeled and sliced three large baking potatoes and placed them into cold water. After they were all sliced, I put equal amounts of butter and olive oil (about a tablespoon or more of each) on two cookie sheets and put those into the oven as it preheated at 375F. Once the butter was melted, I brought the sheets out and tilted them to get the butter and oil all over the bottom. I then drained the potatoes and laid them out in a single layer on the two sheets. I then flipped them all over, sprinkled with a touch of salt and some pepper, and then added Parmesan cheese. I popped these into the oven until they were fork tender (about 20-30 min, depending on how thick you sliced them).

My family loves these potatoes, and we never have leftovers! The beef for this meal was actually a new idea– normally I would do either barbeque or taco seasoning mixed in beef broth, but my daughter suggested I do them both this time. The dry rub idea popped into my mind so I gave it a try. It was a huge success! Do you have a favorite slow cooker beef ribs recipe? I’d love to hear about it!