The Hope of God’s Calling

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”

(Ephesians 1:18)

I’m the type of person who likes to know what’s coming up. I like to plan, and know what to expect. While I was dating my husband, I practiced writing what my name would be once we were married. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and took childbirth classes. Before we started homeschooling, I read magazines and books on the subject and talked to moms already on the journey. If I know what’s going to happen, I can be prepared.

Over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes God doesn’t want me to know in advance. He wants me to trust Him and ‘go along for the ride.’ When I discovered my writing was something others wanted to read, I knew He was calling me to be a writer. When other moms needed encouragement, I knew He was calling me to be an encourager. When chronic illness entered the life of a loved one, I knew he was calling me to trust Him.

This is not a ride I would have chosen. Perhaps, if I knew how long the ride would be … I knew marriage would be forever. I knew childbirth would be (probably) less than a day (thank You, Lord, for 6-hour labors!). I knew my children would grow up and become adults, and that my part in their schooling was only 12 years of their lives. But, chronic illness … I don’t know if there will be a remission. I don’t know how debilitated my loved one will be. I don’t know how this will affect our lives. Yet I yearn to know the hope of His calling.

I will trust Him. I will lean on Him for understanding. I recently saw a sign that said, “Fear is a liar. Don’t listen to him.” I knew God put that sign there for me to read. It was His way of telling me, “It’s okay; I’ve got this– I’ve got you.”

Lord, enlighten the eyes of my heart! Where are You leading me? I can feel You prompting me to pull away from certain activities, and cling to others. But what I feel the strongest is change… and that always scares me because I fear the unknown, like many others. I do trust You, Lord. Show me Your direction for my life so I don’t fight You. Help me to shake off this fear and lean on You. Keep my feet on the path You have chosen for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The A to Z of Homeschooling Groups (part 1)

Homeschool support groups play an important role in the life of a homeschooling family. Whether that group is online or in person, strictly for support or for co-op classes, there’s a great deal that goes on behind the scenes that you may not be aware of — I wasn’t, until I helped to form a new group a few years ago.

Not all groups are the same, so some of the items on the list may or may not apply to the group you’re in, the group you’re thinking of joining, or the group you plan to start. It is my hope that this series of articles will refresh your thinking about support groups.

Activities — From field trips to holiday parties, activities for the children are a big draw to new members. Society is concerned with “socialization” of children, and groups that have plenty of activities to choose from will add new members on a regular basis. Some groups have field trips weekly while others have them monthly; holiday parties and pot lucks may be monthly or quarterly; co-op classes may meet once or twice a week.

If you are thinking about participating in the activities your group offers, be sure to schedule the activity (and drive time) into your day/week. I’ve heard from many moms who complain about too many activities and not enough time with their curriculum! Don’t sign up for an activity just because it’s offered. Does it fit with what you’re studying (or will be studying, or have studied recently)? Is it in your budget (not all activities are free)? Does it offer educational lessons you feel your children must have now, instead of later? If you answer ‘no’ to any one of those questions, think twice before participating.

On the other hand, activities are a great way for your children to meet and make new friends. It also gives you (the mom) an opportunity to meet and make new friends as well. Taking time to interact with other families is a blessing for everyone.

Books — Being part of a homeschool group gives you direct access to a huge library. I have yet to meet a homeschool mom who is not willing to loan out a book or two (unless she’s using the book, of course). Many groups that meet in churches and have access to a storage closet (to hold items between meetings) will invest in plastic milk crates to hold “library” items. Each month these books are brought out and offered to the members to “check out” for the next month.

Do you have specific questions about a book or program you are thinking of using? There’s a very good chance you’ll be able to get reviews of just about any book from the members of a homeschooling group. Many groups schedule “round tables” in February or March, which allow members to discuss various books and programs they’ve used. You’ll also find out who will be selling which books at the end of the year, as many families will offer books and curricula they no longer need to group members first.

Calendar — Well-run groups keep a calendar. Activities are scheduled and kept track of so as to avoid conflicts for families with multiple ages/grades. With today’s technology, that calendar can be tied to an email group or an email address. In an email group, all members have access to it and can see right away if a date is open to plan a field trip. They would also be able to ‘pencil in’ any activities they plan. Large groups benefit from having a single person in charge of approving, scheduling and promoting activities, while smaller groups can be a bit more relaxed.

If the calendar is tied to the group email address, there would definitely be one person in charge of it. But, having it “in the cloud” would allow that person to schedule activities with their phone, computer or tablet.

Dues — Groups that rent a room for meetings, or have any hard copy mailings, are bound to collect dues from members. Whether those are yearly dues or monthly love offerings is left up to the leadership. I’ve been part of large and small groups that collect yearly dues. I’ve also been part of groups that collect no dues at all–these are usually online groups, and no dues are needed because everything is done over the Internet–and they survive on love offerings taken when an activity requires funds.

Encouragement — Support groups function a bit differently than co-op groups: they exist to offer support to the mom, not necessarily classes for the children. But that doesn’t mean the children get no support! Even without co-op classes, support groups often offer parties, spelling bees, science fairs, family picnics, field trips and more. If you’re looking for encouragement to keep going with your homeschooling journey, a homeschooling group is the perfect place to get it.

Fellowship — Homeschooling can keep you home-bound if you let it. Being part of a local group gives you reason to get out and enjoy some fellowship with like-minded families. As much as homeschooling moms love to talk about homeschooling, they also like to talk about other things (like the fabulous crock pot recipe their family always asks for, or the new dentist they found, or what they read in their Bible that morning). Life isn’t all about teaching. Life is about living, about building relationships, about glorifying the Lord. If you find you can’t get out to fellowship with other women in a local homeschooling group, try finding one online (Yahoo Groups and Facebook are two good places to start).

Stay tuned for the next installment which will cover the letters G-M in this series about homeschooling groups!

Just Like Christmas!

(This is a Throwback Thursday post, written in May of 2007.)

The books I’ve ordered have started arriving. It’s like Christmas around here! I’m going to be teaching Communicate! and Learning to Love Literature to my two oldest boys (a Sophomore and a Senior) next year. Communicate! uses two main books: People Skills, by Robert Bolton, Ph.D., and The Research Paper Handbook, by James D. Lester. L2LL has one main book besides the literature books: Reading Between the Lines, by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

Rather than share one of each of these books between the three of us, I decided to purchase three copies. So, I went to Amazon.com and searched for the books to see if I could get any of them used. (eBay didn’t have any the day I was looking for them.) Bingo! I found all the books I was looking for and paid, on average, about $5/book. Half of them have arrived already, and I expect the remaining books to arrive over the next few days.

Don’t you just love to get mail–especially packages in the mail?! Next year is going to be a very good year!

Getting Exercise

When my children were little, it was easy to shoo them outside to play. Our house sat on an acre lot with plenty of mature trees, and we were at the end of a dead end road. They liked nothing more than to go outside and play in the sandbox, explore in the tall brush of the empty lot next door, and ride their bikes up and down the road. Exercise was never an issue.

Fast forward to our next house (in a different state): no cable TV and no reception for local TV allowed them to continue to be outside with friends– as well as downstairs playing video games. Exercise still wasn’t much of an issue.

Fast forward to today: The last two children are in high school and we’re in yet another house (and state). The three oldest have graduated and lead fairly active lives. While the two youngest are not overweight in any sense of the word, I still like to see them getting out and getting some exercise. We have a pool, and there is access to a nature park just down the road. We also like to go for walks when possible.

I’ve never felt the need to buy a Physical Education program for our homeschool. In the early years of our marriage, when there were just 2 or 3 children, we would accompany my husband when he traveled for work. Everywhere we went, we’d explore the hotel, the surrounding businesses, local parks and the zoo. Whenever we’d visit relatives, we spent plenty of time swimming in the lake, hiking in the mountains, and traipsing through cemeteries (searching for names of relatives). I counted these weeks of travel as gym class!

If I hadn’t had these opportunities for travel, and if we had lived in the city instead of the suburbs, I probably would have purchased a program. But, I’m glad I didn’t have to. ;-)

Itchy Eyes

Every night I take time to sit with my daughter in her room and chat, just before bedtime. She’s poured out her heart some nights, and other nights we just sit in silence as we both process our day. And still other nights, we make idle chit-chat — like last month …

She’s been exhibiting signs of allergies for about a week: sneezing, drippy nose, and of course itchy eyes at the end of the day. This particular night she complained about it during our evening chat.

Her: Ugh! My eyes are so itchy!

Me: I can put drops in them if you want.

Her: Okay.

She lay on her back and held her eyes open, while I administered the first drop into her right eye. Giggles ensued.

Me: You’re not holding the other eye open very well.

Her: I can’t help it! Eye drops make me giggle, and I can’t stop!

She held open her other eye long enough for me to get a drop in, but then squeezed it shut so tight that most of the drop came out and dripped down her temple. More laughter ensued as she sat up and used a Kleenex to dab at the sides of her face.

Her: I feel like an old woman, dabbing at tears like this!

Her laughter is very contagious, so I was laughing pretty hard myself by then.

{sigh} I guess you had to be there. :-)

What’s Hiding in Your Refrigerator?

Years ago I saw a commercial that got me thinking: Tommy LaSorta had a bag of moldy tomatoes because he used the wrong storage bag to store them in for 28 days. I realize the company was trying to make a point, but I also know you just don’t keep tomatoes around for 28 days! Then I started thinking about storing various foods in the refrigerator and freezer – where should they be placed and what should they be stored in?

Where to Put Things

Top or Bottom?

I decided to take a survey to see how other women organized their refrigerators. Interestingly, we all seem to place things in similar spots. Beverages (milk, juice, soda pop, etc.) and other frequently used items earned top shelf status in the refrigerator. Dairy products (cheeses, eggs, sour cream, etc.) and breads (bagels, English muffins, loaves of bread, etc.) are in the middle, and the bottom shelf holds supper meats, leftovers, bags of fruits or vegetables, and any other large items that don’t fit on the other shelves. The bottom bins hold fruits and vegetables, and an occasional dessert that needs to be hidden.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
  • Keep frequently used items within reach
  • Keep items that need cooler temperatures near the bottom
  • Keep your refrigerator temp between 35 and 40 degrees F

Door, Shelf, or Bin?

Drawers near the top of the refrigerator are specially designed to be colder, to keep meats fresher. If your drawer has a lever for varying the temperature, set it at coldest for meats, and less cold for vegetables or cheeses.

Bins at the bottom of the refrigerator are designed for fruits and vegetables. If they have adjustable humidity controls, set it higher for vegetables, and lower for fruits. If you don’t have humidity controls, leave the drawer slightly open to allow air to flow in and prevent moisture build up – this is important for moisture-laden foods like lettuce and celery.

If your refrigerator can hold gallons of milk in the door that’s a good place to keep them, along with dairy items and condiments. According to the GE Answer Center the cantilever shelves, those that only have rear supports, are tested for 35 pounds per square foot. That means you can put six one-gallon containers on a full width shelf.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
  • The more people in your home, the more the refrigerator will be opened, allowing cool air to escape
  • Incorrectly setting the temperature controls can cause frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Excess moisture in the vegetable bins will cause produce to spoil more quickly

Refrigerator Freezer vs. Chest Freezer.

Not everyone has the luxury of owning a separate freezer. If you are limited to the freezer attached to your refrigerator, set up a system that will allow you to know what is on each shelf: meats/poultry, dairy/breads, vegetables, etc. This system also works for separate freezers.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
  • Always remove store wrapping and wrap items in freezer-weight foil or paper
  • The day before adding a large quantity of food, turn the freezer to its coldest setting
  • Mark “use by” date on freezer packaging, and be sure to rotate items to avoid spoilage

What to Put Things In

Clear containers, wraps and bags are ideal – you’ll know exactly what’s inside with just a glance. Sauces and other casserole-type leftovers are best placed in plastic containers, while dry items, like chicken breasts, pork chops and hamburgers can be placed into plastic bags. Permanent markers can be used for writing on plastic bags, and ballpoint pen on Avery labels works well for marking freezer containers.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
  • Always remove as much air as possible when preparing items for freezing
  • Raw or cooked meat can be successfully frozen only once
  • Keep freezers 75% full to run efficiently – use jugs of water to take up space if needed

With a little planning, your refrigerator and freezer can be an efficient storage area.

 

When God Speaks for Himself

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

(Galatians 1:11-12)

When I was a child, there were times when I tended to blurt out my thoughts without considering the ramifications. Thankfully, it was only a few times — my older brother helped me understand the error of my ways in such a fashion that I learned to control my tongue quickly. Unfortunately, I now tend to not be much of a conversationalist (thankfully my husband can carry a conversation quite well).

Idle chitchat is not something I do well. Social gatherings can be almost painful for me as I search for ways to join a conversation or start one. Then, a few years ago, I started praying before I left the house, “Lord, give me Your words for the people you put in my path. Help me be a blessing–let them see You in me.”

Soon I was praying a similar prayer as I would be talking to someone at church, at a homeschool meeting, at the dentist’s office, at the bank, etc. “Lord, what do You want me to say to them? Put words in my mouth, Lord.”

Without fail, God does put words in my mouth. Without fail! Now there are times when I must ask for courage to say the words He puts in my mouth! What if I mess up and make a fool of myself? What is someone laughs at me? What if they misunderstand? What if they get mad at me?!

Those are actually the easy excuses to talk myself through. It’s when I start to over-analyze the thoughts He gives me that I start to falter. Is it really God that wants me to say that, or is Satan playing a trick on me? That one keeps my mouth shut every time. By the time I decide it’s what God wants me to say, the opportunity is gone.

When God wishes to speak through you, don’t over-think it … just say it! I am learning, even though it can be frightening at times (see the “what if” questions above). But, when I let God use me to speak to others, it feels like such a relief afterwards! And that’s what keeps me going, what keeps me praying and speaking, time and time again.

“Lord, I thank You for showing me that it doesn’t have to be that hard! All I need to do is open my mouth and let Your words come forth. You will guide my tongue. You will open the ears of those You wish to hear. Your will shall be accomplished. Thank You for allowing me to be part of Your plan. Use me as You need me, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Road Trip!

While one of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to travel whenever you want, many families who homeschool also utilize classes outside of the home and must follow their calendar for time off. Years ago, two of our older boys took classes at a co-op type of place, and three of our five (a fourth when he’s old enough) have taken classes at the local Tech college–again, causing us to follow someone else’s calendar. This is one of those years.

Road trips have come a long way. When I was little, we usually stared out the window, played the ABC game, talked to each other, or slept. (I can’t read in the car, so that’s not an option.) When my children were little, we had a portable TV/DVD player that we’d set on a crate just behind the front seat console. We usually bought a new movie before a trip and that, along with a few favorites from our collection, is what kept them busy.

Today, we’re back down to just two children, both teens. They like to read, sleep, play games on the laptop (we have a converter so the battery doesn’t die), and play games on their handheld devices. Often, they put in their headphones and listen to music while they stare out the window. Oh, and we talk a lot, too! (Our trips are usually 12+ hours.) I like to crochet, which I have no problem doing in the car– but that’s another blog post.

Last year we took a couple days to drive out to Washington state. Before leaving, I had attended a local homeschool convention and picked up an audio book, just to see how my family would like it. I purchased Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince from Lamplighter. These audio books are so well done, it was hard to find a place to stop the story when we stopped for gas!

If purchasing CD’s isn’t in your budget, check out your local library. Not only do they have virtual books, they probably also carry digital and audio books as well. All you need is a device (smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc) with the OverDrive app installed on it. Oh, and a library card!

You can also find free audio books at Archive.org. They have a whole series of shows from the CBS Radio Mystery Theater! With the use of a tablet with a data connection, you can listen to CBSRMT for free straight from the Internet.

What’s your favorite audio book or dramatic presentation? Leave a comment and let us know!

Book Shopping

(This is a Throwback Thursday post, originally written in April of 2007.)

April is almost here–that means the beginning of the big sale! Have you created your wish list yet? Are you ready for next year? Chances are, you will have some miscellaneous books to buy, besides math and phonics. Sure, you can search eBay and Amazon and various used book sites to find what you need (and if you do, please use my affiliate link to Amazon!), but then you’ll have to pay shipping. I have a solution that will save on shipping and be fun, too! Antique Stores. Yes, antique stores!

About once or twice a year, when I drive to my mom’s (an hour away), I stop in the town halfway between our homes and shop two specific stores: the Mid-America Antique Mall and the Old America Antique Mall. I’ve found some great items at these places, but the best, by far, are the books! Looking for some classic literature? Grade-school readers from before 1970? Hymn books? “Sets” of books published prior to ‘political correctness’? You need to shop at antique stores!

You should also check at consignment shops, thrift stores, used book stores and rummage sales. Don’t forget library and school sales, too! One of the books I’ve loved for my Weaver studies is the Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock. Imagine my delight when I found Pictured Knowledge (Vol.1, 1916) at one of the antique malls! Pictured Knowledge is similar to the Handbook of Nature Study, but it covers a wider variety of subjects (geography, social studies, nature, space, biographies, how-and-why questions, industry, crafts, life-skills, government, holidays). Now my biggest problem is remembering to check this book before we begin a unit!

Other great finds from the antique malls:

And just last week I found a 9-volume set of The Young Folks’ Shelf of Books (The Junior Classics, 1938, P F Collier & Son Corporation). I’ve already found the one book that is missing (to make this a 10-volume set) on eBay. I also found the third Jr High School Literature book on eBay, too. I love the looks of the old books on my shelf. They just don’t make books like they used to!

Get to know the owners of your local antique mall, resale shop, or used book store. Let them know the types of books you’re interested in, and stop in often just to browse. You’ll love the wonderful finds!

Traditions or Entrapments?

However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Galatians 4:8-10)

Holidays. Traditions. Festivities. The greeting card companies have made it their mission to let us know there is something worth celebrating monthly, or even weekly at times. And we love a good celebration, don’t we? We love the food, the parties (more food, music, fun with friends, etc), and all the sights and sounds that come with each holiday. It’s a veritable feast for our five senses!

Trapped in these earthly bodies, we’re quite aware of what we like. We like Easter ham, with it’s brown sugar glaze. We like the twinkling of the Christmas lights on the tree (and all the presents under that tree). We like the sound of Auld Lang Syne being sung by friends as we ring in the New Year. We like feel of the soft plush Teddy bears in the stores in February. And we like the smell of the fireworks in July.

We also like the way all that delicious food makes us feel inside. Some people go so far as to like the physical effects of alcohol, drugs, and illicit romantic encounters. We like the thrill we get from our five senses–so much so, that we are often willing to do anything to feel that feeling once again.

… when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.

The parties, traditions and festivities often become a ‘have to’ instead of a ‘want to.’ As we move from childhood to adulthood, we are expected to help keep those traditions alive. Over time, there’s more stress than fun because we need to clean the house, cook the food, and make sure there is adequate seating for those invited. We must make sure we have the perfect gift, the tastiest dish, the nicest attire.

… now that you have come to know God …

We claim to be celebrating His birth, His resurrection, His love for others, yet our focus is on the food, the housekeeping, our clothing, the little details. We strive for what makes us “feel good” physically, for what appeals to our five senses.

…how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things … ?

Is your focus really on Jesus? Only you can answer that. Is it possible to hold to traditions and yet still show God’s love to others? I believe it is, but we must be very watchful of the stumbling blocks our five senses provide. When you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch the things of this world, it is easy to ignore that Still, Small Voice inside of you, nudging you to talk to that cashier, that neighbor, that person sitting next to you in the restaurant.

Satan would love for you to get caught up in the activities of this world, to be stressed and unhappy and keep to yourself, to be so busy you can’t even go to church, much less read your Bible. Don’t let him win! Be aware of the stumbling blocks and turn them into stepping stones. Start new traditions of showing God’s love to those around you!

O Lord, search my heart. Keep my eyes focused on You. Let my actions and words be glorifying to You. Let me be more concerned with drawing others closer to You than with satisfying my own five senses. Direct my path; order my days. In Jesus’ name, amen.