This is a great quick list for helping you get organized… and stay organized. I’ve come to realize that it’s a mindset. I just found this blog this morning and encourage you to take a look at other things that she has written.

Homeschool – Why We Love It

When my step-son came to live with us, he was well past school age.  He is a very special, special-needs child who will never think and perceive beyond the mind of a 5-year-old child.  So, when he came to live with us, my teaching him was on the very basics of life.  He hadn’t learned how to do much of anything for himself at all.  He couldn’t even fold over Velcro on his shoe (let alone put his own shoe on) because it was a complicated concept.  He was sick and thinking like a 2-year-old.  But, we worked hard.  He lost 80 pounds, we worked with his doctor to get him phased off of all of his medications and, once his mind was clear, he started learning and developing until he behaved more like a 5-year-old and could do many things for himself.  You could say we home-schooled and we still spend a lot of time working with him and teaching him.  We probably will for as long as we live.  Schooling him is a special challenge in and of itself.  There are many homeschool parents out there who have the additional challenge of having to homeschool their special-needs, school-aged child under their state regulations, taking special tests to help show improvement if there is the capability of such, and also teaching their children who do not have special needs.  I respect what you’re doing!  It’s not easy.

This month we formally registered our homeschool with our state for the first time since my youngest son is now 7.  We have a formal school name (as required by our State) and an official logo that was fun to create.  My son is excited.  He’s in second grade this year.

My son LOVES homeschool.  We homeschool all year round for several reasons.

  1. My 7 year old son laughs when I say that one of the reasons is that I don’t want his math, gammar and spelling to leak out of his ear during the summer.
  2. Another reason is that we can cover so much more than they do in a standard public school.  Who says that a child must learn only so much per grade.  Kids are sponges and we need to take our clues from them as to what they are capable of learning, understanding and retaining… and how they learn best.  There’s the formal school time and then there’s the informal “life learning” that takes place all the time.
  3. The third reason is that this allows us to have shorter “formal” school hours each day.   That gives us time to do other learning activities such as cub scouts, field trips, fun computer research, cooking & baking (while he’s still interested in participating), learning games on the computer that he doesn’t even think of as “learning”, reading aloud together, volunteering, playing, doing chores, taking care of the pets, helping Daddy with landscaping things, participating in community sports and activities (tennis lessons, little league, tae kwon do, and anything else he’s interested in taking), and so much more.  Life is as fun and filled with learning as you make it.
  4. We don’t need to take days off for parent/teacher meetings.  (I’d be a little worried if I had to meet with myself.)  We don’t need teacher work days so the teachers can get seemingly unending paperwork completed.  We don’t have to worry about taking snow days off, although if we wanted to we could take the day off and play in the snow while learning about how snow is made in a fun and casual way.

Our schedule is completely different than the public school schedule.  We have the freedom of flexibility.  We fit our school into our family life, yet spend more hours learning (since it is year-round school) and learn more than kids in public school.

What public school do you know where a second grader is learning art, Bible, typing/computer (because he’s really interested and motivated to learn and at the moment he really wants to be a computer specialist when he grows up), basic economics (saving, giving, spending money, keeping track of his money using his math skills), spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, writing (including script, because he’s done exceptionally well with printing), imaginative writing (creating stories and poems), geography, history, math (beyond the public school grade 2 math because he already learned half of that last year), music (piano, theory, voice, music appreciation by listening to and identifying various styles of music scores and instruments, etc.), personal development subjects, photography (simply because he’s so interested in it, motivated to learn, and has been experimenting with his camera for a year now), PE (through the community activities, through our homsechool association activities, and at home), science, sign language, Spanish… and more?

What public school covers all of that in grade 2, participates in science fairs, geography fairs, history festivals, music concerts, numerous field trips (most can’t afford more than a few), and has time to teach to each individual child’s needs without sending tons of homework home to be done in the evening?  (Bless the hearts of each teacher in a public school.  You have to respect their hard work.  Their job expects that they teach a large number of kids from many various family cultures since each family has their own unique culture, personaliities, capabilities, and interests/motivations… and complete it all in 180 days or so.  It’s simply not possible with an average of 36 kids in a classroom, with a limited school budget, and with policies about not being allowed to teach certain things.)

It’s so much fun for the kids to do what they are motivated to do.  It’s so much fun for them to participate in all of the extra activities and know that they created that science project and presented it for the fair or they created that geography presentation on the country of their choice, etc.  It’s so much fun for them to have various ways of learning, a good variety of activities, and personal encouragement all along the way.  Homeschool allows for parents to teach their kids in this way.

Not every homeschooler does all of this type of thing.  Each Mom and Dad evaluates their own children, their motivation, their interest, their needs, their capabilities, etc., before adding additional classes.  It’s not a competition.  Homeschooling means observing each and every child and doing what’s best for him/her.  It’s about our children, not about a curriculum.  It’s about spending more time with our children, giving them greater opportunity to practice and develop in various areas, and teaching them our life values.

It’s OK if one child is, for example, in grade 2 for most classes, grade 1 for math because that’s a bigger area of stuggle for her, and grade 3 in reading, writing, spelling, etc.  (That wouldn’t be possible in a public school.)  We can take more time to cover areas of stuggle and that’s OK because we homeschooling parents have the ability and the flexibility to do exactly what our children need… and a parent is the best possible judge of what his/her child needs because we know our children better than anyone else could possibly know them.  With homeschooling parents that truly care and are vested in their child’s life, there will be no child going through homeschool never having really learned to read (as has happened too many times to children in public school).  There will be no moving a child on from grade to grade because holding him back reflects badly on the school’s record.  We can take time to make sure that our children really, truly understand the foundations and concepts of a subject before moving on to the next level.  That is called flexibility and it allows us to do what is best for our children.  We can let our child go ahead in an area that is really easy for her because she is getting bored with the “same old, same old” in that subject.  On the other hand, we can choose to allow her to look up other examples that reflect the concept she just learned so that she isn’t moving way ahead or we can take a short break from that particular subject, getting back to it in a couple of weeks.  There are many ways to handle situations like that.  Again, it’s called flexibility.

We homsechool parents teach to our childrens’ needs.  My husband and I have put together this year’s curriculum for our son because he is doing really well in all subjects and is extremely motived to learn these extra things.  It’s wise to take advantage of it when a child is motivated to learn.  If we find that the extra classes are a little too much, that’s OK.  We switch one of the subjects from formal learning to informal learning and cover it in a different way or we still do the formal method, but do a shorter class once a week or once every two weeks.  There are so many different ways to handle it.  Again, it’s not about the curriculum, it’s about your child and what he/she can do.  It’s about making sure your child isn’t bored because school is too slow and making sure that you’re not pushing too hard and taking things too fast.  It’s all about your child.

It’s incredible.  My husband and I can choose to teach the extra things that my son is motivated to learn.  We can teach in a way that our child learns best.  We’re doing what we feel is best for him and giving him the biggest headstart on life that we can possibly give.  We have the ability to help him think independently and, as time goes on, to study independently so that by the time he’s out of highschool he’s incredibly well prepared for college and the world beyond.  He’s only going into grade 2 right now.  Yet, with everything on our list, my son has plenty of time to play and just be a kid because we have the flexibility to cover this at his speed and teach the way he learns best.   We love homeschool.

Busyness, Focus, and Living a Godly Life

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ~ Socrates

It’s Saturday.  Another week has gone by and I’ve been so busy that, as I look back, I have no idea what half the busyness has been all about.  Recently I feel like I have been letting life happen to me…  and getting grumpy in the process.  That is a sad state of affairs!

I’ve done my usual running errands, dropping off and picking up kids, going to Tae Kwon Do Class, doing house work, and working in the office for our business.  The week has included volunteering, giving haircuts to the guys in my family, cooking meals, baking, shopping, planning, and making important phone calls.  And then there was homeschool.  Although I’ve tried to find time for writing, the only time to accomplish that seems to be in the wee hours of the morning (like right now,,, sleep was elusive and it’s 3:13 am as I write these words). Yet, with all of the busyiness there’s a sense that things have been left undone.  I have arrived at the end of the week feeling like time has flown by and left me as I ponder, “What important thing did I even accomplish?”.  My mind has not been focused and I feel like I’m being pulled in a bunch of directions.  Lately time goes by, but I don’t feel effective (or efficient).

Have you ever felt like that?

Talking things out has always helped me find answers and focus.  So, for those of us who are going through this, how do we get past it?  If we look at our lives and what we see as our purpose in this season of life, what is it?  Focusing like this needs to be a mindset.  I  honestly believe (from experience) that multitasking simply allows us to lose focus and do many things not so efficiently.

Focus on what is important in this season of life and get rid of the superfluous.

List your priorities.  My personal priorities in this season of life are growing in my relationship with God, being a godly wife, rearing my kids, and homeschooling.

How does one develop a personal relationship with God and why should that come before anything else?  Well, to answer the second part of that question, we women can’t be godly wives and mothers if we’re not taking care of the “learning to be godly” part of the equation.  But, what exactly does it mean to develop our relationships with God?  That part is simple.  Have quite time so that you can refocus on the rest of your daily life with a new perspective.  Get your Bible, a pad of paper or notebook, a cup of coffee or tea and sit down.  (I’m not a morning person, but I have found that doing this early when the kids are in bed ensures that it is, indeed, a QUIET time.)

Once you start your day with a focus on God, you’ll be surprised at how much you think about it at little moments here and there during the day.  When something comes up that you might be struggling with, thoughts of what God has been teaching you through His Word come to mind as a reminder.  Having God’s Word in your mind makes it easier to make the right choices, move past the issue, and develop the ability to show grace toward others in your life.  Even as I write this sentence, I’m reminded of what I’ve read recently and how it applies to actual situations in my life.

“A wife of noble character, who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”
Proverbs 31: 10-12 (NIV)

Being a godly wife becomes easier when I work on my own personal relationship with God.  Being in God’s Word in the morning helps remind me throughout the day to hold my tongue and be careful of what I say (James 1:26), remember that my husband was created with a need to be respected (Ephesians 5:33), esteem him and take care of his needs (Philippians 2:3-4), live a life filled with grace toward my husband as God has given grace to me (Ephesians 1:6), and so much more.   Because I’m focusing on changing myself (God changing me) for the better I focus less on trying to change my husband at all.  This stuff is tough.  Our natural tendencies are to look after our own needs and do what’s best for ourselves, try to change others, etc.

But, something interesting happens.  When I respond the way God asks me to respond, my husband’s responses toward me become more loving.  (Don’t take this the wrong way.  He’s an amazing man and far more filled with grace than I am.  I know without a doubt that he loves me with all his heart.)   It’s the same in reverse… when he responds the way God asks him to respond to me, it makes it so much easier for me to live “peaceably”, show respect, and live with grace.  I just wish that I’d remember that every day, all through the day, every time I’m tempted to tell him how he should be… every time I open my mouth to correct something… every time I choose to respond in a way that is contrary to scripture.  But, I do have hope that over time, as God continues to work in my life and as I continue to work on what He’s teaching me, those responses will become less and less a part of my life and godly responses will become more of the norm.

I don’t know one woman who hasn’t tried to change her husband.  But, ladies, God gave you the husband you have.  He’ll work in you.  He’ll work in your husband.  Marriage is not a 50/50 proposition.  (I’ll give 50% if you give 50%.)  It’s a 100% proposition.  I’ll give 100% regardless of my spouse’s behavior or attitude.  It’s not your job to be the Holy Spirit in his life.  Its your responsibility to build him up, encourage him, love him, respect him, honor him, support him, be there for him… and work on changing what God wants you to change in your life, not in his.  Let God be the one to work in your husband.

“Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old, he will not turn from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

Rearing my kids and homeschooling is a full time job, in and of itself.  The thing about homeschooling is that it allows me to have input in my sons’ lives at all times (through teaching, through my example, through spending fun times together, through reading together, and in so many other ways).  There’s the formal part of school and then there’s life.  Homeschooling isn’t just doing school at home.  It is focusing on rearing my child and using all of life (from morning to night) to teach him in various ways.  So, regardless of whether we’re sitting down and doing math or social studies, going grocery shopping together, reading just for fun, baking cookies, having conversations in the car, taking care of the dog, or anything else, it is all an opportunity to speak into their lives and teach them about relationships, God, life, self-discipline, and a vast array of other things.

It’s so easy to be strict in order to keep order in the homeschooling process.  But, I have to keep reminding myself that my focus is on my children as a whole.

There is so much to distract.  It’s important to avoid the tendency to get on the computer and do something when my child is needing my attention (one of the reasons my blogs have turned from daily to… random).  If there’s not enough time to do everything, then I have to set priorities.  My children are a priority.

So, to answer the comment at the beginning about not feeling effective (or efficient), once the focus is clear then everything funnels through that priority funnel.  Spending time reading with, baking with (etc.) my youngest son is an effective and efficient use of time.  Spending time making up on-the-spot silly songs with my austistic son when they bring a smile to his face is an effective and efficient use of time.  Having my youngest do chores with me while we sing (for example, picking up toys from the living room floor and moving small furniture while I vacuum) is an effective and efficient use of time because we’re doing something together, learning how to focus on work, and making it fun at the same time.  Making time for my husband and actually listening to him while he’s talking is an effective and efficient use of time.  Spending an hour on Facebook is not an effective and efficient use of time if I have many other things that need to be done.

So many of us who have been career women before having a family tend to have a “corporate world” view of life.  Daytimers, schedules, meetings, lists of tasks and accomplishments, completed projects… My career defined who I was in my mind.  They’re all good things, but they don’t define our lives.  They don’t define who we are, in reality.  Using that sense of self-definition means that playing with my son is not an accomplishment.  But, just think… if, during playtimes, my son learns to talk with me while he’s little and we keep that line of communication open throughout his growing up years, he’ll come to me to talk when he’s a teen and an adult and may need advice, may need to talk something out, or may just want to spend time with his Mom.  The precident has been set from an early age.  He knows I’m there for him now.  He’ll know I’ll be there for him always… even if it’s just to bounce ideas off of someone.  He’ll be in the habit of connecting with us.  Those times are valuable and have more than one long-term purpose.

So, whether you’re an At-Home-Mom or a mom who works in the business world, don’t let busyness keep you from your true focus.  Don’t let the business world mentality impact how you see yourself and your accomplishments in life, in general.  That’s great for business, but life is much more than business.  We do need focus and purpose or life happens to us rather than us making things happen in our lives.  But, remember that projects and specific accomplishments are not the only things that validate our lives.

Well, I have written far more than I intended.  These are things that I’m continuing to work on.  Thank goodness my children and my husband practice grace towards me as I should be doing toward them.  I hope that my experiences have spoken into your life in some way and impacted your perspective of busyness, focus and living a godly life.

Quiet Time in God’s Word

What exactly does it mean to have quiet time in God’s Word?  And how do you do it?

Well, first of all, having quiet time in God’s Word means literally reading the Bible.  If we want to get to know God, we need to go to His book.  Just like with any relationship, our relationship with God is a two-way street.  God has already shown us about Himself in creation.  But, He also showed Himself to us through written word.  He’s been reaching out to us and speaking to us.  It’s our turn to make an effort to get to know Him.

If we want to grow in our relationship with God, we need to know who He is and what His thoughts are so that we can understand more about Him and about ourselves.  That means that we need to take time just to spend with God.  Usually that’s called having “quiet time” or “devotions”.

“Let me hear your loving kindness in the morning,
for I trust in you.
Teach me the way in which I should walk
for to you I lift up my soul.”
(Psalm 143:8  NASB)

Here’s how to begin if you haven’t been having quiet times with God.  If you have, some of the ideas below may be helpful to include in your quiet time.  Now, keep in mind that you don’t have to do anything so formal as notetaking, but it is helpful.  If you do this, over time you’ll be able to look back at the notes and see the growth in yourself and your perspective.  It is a very encouraging thing to see growth over time.

First get a couple of notebooks.  One will be used for taking notes and the other will be your prayer journal.  Then put the following things together in one place where you plan to have daily quiet time.  You’ll need your notebooks, a Bible, and pencil or pen.  If you have a devotional book you’re using, put that there as well.  When you get up in the morning, grab a cup of tea or coffee and settle down in your “quiet time place”.

If you are a parent, I highly suggest that you do this before the kids get up in the morning.  Then it will, indeed, be a quiet time.   I am not a morning person.  But, I suggest a morning quiet time instead of waiting until later in the day for a couple of reasons.  First, you’ll find that during the day you get so busy with the kids and your schedule that before you know it, it’s bedtime and you haven’t read your Bible.  Secondly, it’s a great start to your day.  I find myself being able to think through (meditate on) what I read in the morning during the course of the day.  It just sets the tone of the day for me.  When I do it later in the day I am still learning, but I seem to miss out on keeping my focus during the day.

If your kids are too young to be independent in getting ready for the day, make sure you get up in plenty of time to have devotions before they get up.  If they are old enough to take care of brushing their own teeth and getting dressed themselves and they happen to get up while you’re having devotions, it’s OK.  Finish your devotions.  They can learn to get into the habit of getting ready for the day while you’re having devotions/quiet time.  It’s good for them to see you in God’s Word and it’s good for them to see you set a priority of God first in your day.  Some of the great men of Christian history saw their parents have quiet time with God and learned to respect their parents’ time for God.  It set an example which they followed in their own lives.  When my youngest son sees me reading my Bible, he wants to read his as well.

Start your quiet time praying that God will help you focus and give you wisdom to understand what He wants you to know from the scriptures you’re about to read.  Then get into the Bible and actually read.  There are lots of great books out there that are helpful, but they don’t take the place of reading the Bible for yourself.  Ask God to teach you as you read, to show you what He would want you to learn and think about during the day, and to give you wisdom to understand.  God says that if we ask in faith for wisdom He’ll give it to us.

Then read.  Take a chapter at a time and simply read the Bible.  (If you’re new to this, I suggest starting with the New Testament.)  If you’re using a devotional book those are usually broken down by day.  Read the section for that day and then be sure to get into your Bible to read the scriptures that go along with it.  Don’t just read books about the Bible.  Get into the Bible itself.  Take your notebook and write down what you’re thinking as you read.  God loves questions.  He wants us to use our brains and think through issues.  If you have questions, write them down so that you have a place to go in your research on a specific topic.   Write down the things that come to your mind, the impressions that you have about what you read.

Take time to pray after reading.  Your prayer journal is where you write down prayer requests.  Write down the date, the prayer request and have a space where you can write down the answer to that prayer and the date it was answered.  Having a special book for prayer requests is awesome.  Just be sure to write down when God does answer that prayer request.  It’s amazing to be able to look back and see answers to prayer documented in your prayer journal.  Pray that the Lord will help you to focus and “meditate” during the day (as you’re driving or washing dishes or vacuuming or whatever you’re doing) on the things that you learned that morning.

Meditate means think about, focus on, ponder, contemplate.  After taking a half hour or so in the morning to read God’s Word and pray, you will have His Word on your mind during the day so that as you go about your daily activities, you can think about what you’ve read.  You’ll be surprised at how connections are made between daily life and what you read in the Bible and how the Bible truly does apply to daily life.

Start having consistant daily devotions or quiet time and you’ll be surprised at how that impacts your life in a positive way.

Tae Kwon Do

My son has been taking Tae Kwon Do for 10 months now.  For the last four months I’ve been thinking, “That looks like great exercise!”  I’ve wanted to join the class, but didn’t have the nerve.  All these young “whipper snappers” (including my son) are flipping over on the mat, doing 80 push ups, 80 crunches, and so many other things that I didn’t think I could do.  They’re going through their forms, leaning move after move.  I was rather concerned that I might end up on my back side trying to do some of that.

English: Rhee Tae Kwon-Do self-defence drill i...
Tae Kwon-Do self-defence drill in May 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, there are two families who have joined the class and are doing Tae Kwon Do together as a family.  My son has wanted me to join him.  One couple goes to church with me and they’re doing it as a family with their son.  That finally convinced me to try.

Thursday was my first day.  My son is loving this.  He’s a yellow belt who is close to getting his green belt and I, his Mommy and home school teacher, am just a beginner.  I don’t even have a rank… no cool white outfit, no belt level yet.  I’m simply working toward getting my white belt.   He can teach me.  He’s pretty excited about it.  (And, I have to say he is a good teacher… very patient with Mommy, noticing wrong stances and showing me how to do it right in a very nice way.)

Well, I had decided to see if I could even do push-ups before the class.  My legs are strong, but my arms are rather weak.  I managed to do three.  Great!  I’m going to look like a fool.  But, I had paid for the class and told my son I was joining him.  He was so excited so I couldn’t back out and the good thing is that everyone lines up by belt rank and age.  So, black and brown belts are at the front.  I am way at the back behind the yellow and white belts.  No one can see me doing the pushups because they’re all focusing on their own pushups, not facing toward me.

I surprised myself.  I actually managed to do 13 pushups while everyone else was flying through theirs and I did every single crunch that everyone else did… all 80 of them with legs in different positions.   I could hear my son (in the row in front of me) giggling, but I whispered to him after the warm ups that I had done 13 push-ups.  He was so excited for me that he shouted out, “Mommy did 13 push-ups!  Good job, Mommy.”  That put a smile on my face.  He has such a sweet and caring spirit.  OK… I didn’t have to flip over on the mat.  But, on Tuesday I will have to flip over my shoulder, roll down my back and land on my feet again.  I can see myself gracefully doing it in my head.  But, reality will probably be a very different thing.  I think I’ll stick with the graceful image that I have in my mind.  🙂  Maybe my body will follow suit.

Tae Kwon Do is fun.  I have a great instructor… a seven degree black belt who is also very patient and does a great job of explaining why we are doing what we’re doing, how to do it without injuring ourselves, etc.  I was right.  It’s excellent exercise.  As a beginner the class is 45 minutes.  When I get my white belt it will be 1 hour and yellow belt and above is 1 1/4 hours long.  Adding two lessons and five home practices to my routine will help me with my weight loss goals.

I highly encourage any of you who are reading this to sign up for a Tae Kwon Do class.   Go for it.  If I can do it (being someone who is overweight with back problems and headaches), you can!  My son told me, “Don’t be nervous, Mommy.  Just do your best!”  Great advice.

Have a blessed day.