Book Review: "The Grace Of God", Andy Stanley

Overview:  A-
Pros:  Very readable
Cons:  Wasn't as "meaty" as I had hoped
Recommend:  Yes

I wasn't sure what to think going into reading this book, knowing little about Andy Stanley and having never read anything by him before.  But I've been pleasantly surprised.  Mr. Stanley points out very well how grace began with creation, how giving the law to Moses centuries ago was an act of grace meaning to point them and us to Christ, and how grace is not meant for good people.  This book was very well written and very easy to read and it certainly spurred me into thinking more about God's amazing grace!  A bonus is I've come to see some of the Bible's stories in a whole new light -- especially the story of the woman at the well.

So why did I give it an "A-" instead of something better?  There were parts of the book that just weren't "meaty" enough for me, if that makes any sense.  Despite thinking more about grace and seeing some Biblical characters in a new light, I still felt like this book was a "light" read.  And while I wouldn't have said it before I read the book, I guess I really was looking for "TGOG" to challenge me and I didn't really get that.  Overall, though, reading "TGOG" has been a great experience for me and I would definitely recommend it to other readers.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book for free in return for agreeing to review it.  Check out http://www.booksneeze.com/ for more information.


Summer's gone?!?

It's so hard to believe it's half-way through August already.  What a summer, though!  Most of our summer was spent preparing for our trip to Turkey.  We had a blast, although there were some hiccups back home with the kids.  John (6) suffered from severe homesickness but those who had him -- church friends the Snyder's -- did a fabulous job with him!  Elizabeth (7) also came down with strep throat while we were gone but, again, thanks to church friends - the Pituch's - and Jonathan's mom, things turned out pretty well (although it would have been nice if we could have avoided making Ms. Charissa and baby Lucas sick -- sorry guys!).  Nathan (12) and Caleb (8) were in South Carolina with my parents, Timothy (3) was with Elizabeth at the Pituch's, and Lydia (2) was with Jonathan's parents (Elizabeth joined her there after her strep diagnosis).  Again, we say thanks to all those who helped.  We couldn't have gone without you guys, obviously, and we cannot say "Thank You" enough!  (If you follow me on Facebook, there are some pictures there.  I'm too lazy to post them here -- sorry!  Maybe another day....)

Right after returning from Turkey, I jumped in (almost literally) to preparing for homeschooling.  Spent 3 hours one day ordering curricula.  Wowzers!  But I think we've got almost everything ready to go.  In fact, 99% of our stuff is here and the kids (primarily Nathan) have asked to start early!  When we homeschooled in the past, I always started the day after Labor Day and had planned to do that again.  But I think this is it....  My "plan" (ha ha!) is to sit down with them Monday and go over "stuff" plus spend some time decorating their bags I bought them from Oriental Trading to keep their books and stuff in.  Then, Tuesday, I guess we'll start.  After reading some homeschooling blogs and talking to a few homeschooling moms, I've decided we're going to try a 4-day school week.  Mondays will be kept "free" for things such as field trips, doctor's appointments, errands, and deep housecleaning.  We plan on evaluating where we're at as far as the school year goes come Christmas and if it's not working, we'll go back to a 5-day week.  My primary reason for doing this is that, while homeschooling Elizabeth (and rushing those in public school to school), I never felt like I had enough time to do housework AND school on the same days.  Seemed like the days I focused on cleaning, little school got done and vice versa.  So I hope this "fixes" that.  Elizabeth's portfolio evaluation went VERY well which has bolstered my confidence quite a bit.  Here's what we're planning on using this school year:

~Nathan, 7th grade:
*Math - BJUPress Pre-Algebra (we went with a "standard textbook" in hopes that a video series Jonathan's discovered on YouTube for free will fill in the gaps; again, we'll evaluate as we go and I have "Teaching Textbooks" and "Math-U-See" as potential back-ups)
*Science - Apologia General Science
*Grammar - Easy Grammar Plus (plus Mom's creative writing course)  :)
*History - I'm doing a history/study of the 50 states on my own, with "Draw and Write Through History" and "The Star Spangled State Book" as jumping off points

~Caleb, 2nd/3rd grade:
I say 2nd/3rd because Caleb could really do most, if not all, 3rd grade work.  However, he insists he "can't skip 2nd grade".  :)
*Math - MathUSee, Beta
*Science - Apologia's "Exploring Creation Through Astronomy"
*LA - "First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind", level 2
*History - same as with Nathan

~Elizabeth, 1st/2nd grade:
Elizabeth was in 1st grade this past year but she's not technically ready to move on to 2nd grade in reading/writing and language arts and will probably take math a lot slower than Caleb (but that's okay!)
*Math - same as Caleb
*Science - same as Caleb
*LA - "FLLFTWTM", level 1
*History - same as Caleb

~John, 1st grade:
*Math - MathUSee, Alpha
*Science - same as Elizabeth
*LA -same as Elizabeth
*History - same as Elizabeth

So......here we go!  We wish everyone a blessed school year and hope you all have enjoyed your summer!  Won't be long and we'll be talking about Christmas (?!?).  Yikes!  :)


Birthday buddies!

May is 2 BIG birthdays around these neck of the woods!  John turn 6 on the 5th and for 13 days, I've had 2 six-year-olds!  ;)  But, alas, Elizabeth is 7 today!  I seem to have neglected to do John's birthday post 
(have no idea why!  Sorry, John!) so here they are together!


John, shortly after coming home from the NICU

Elizabeth, just shy of 2 and John, just shy of 1, at the zoo

Brownie-making helpers!  (PLEASE do ignore the messy kitchen!)

Just after Uncle Fred and Aunt Marcy's wedding, 2008


2010, just after eating Lydia's birthday cake with pink icing (and with big brother, Caleb, too!)



Book review!

I've never done this before so I don't know if there's a protocol to follow or not.  If there is and I don't follow it, you'll have to forgive me.  :)

If you use Twitter, who do you follow?  I follow Crossway Books.  In late March, I volunteered to be one of 100 bloggers to review a book for them.  And, boy, am I glad I did!  This is the book:

"The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment On Your Side Of The Fence" by Stephen Altrogge

Did you know you're at war with a conspiracy??  The world, Satan, and even your own heart are trying to get you to believe the big, proverbial lie that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  But as Christians, we're called to contentment and Mr. Altrogge does a fabulous job, IMHO, of pointing out the fact that we can truly be content while on this Earth!  It's a brutal war but with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can win and find ourselves like the woman who, eating only a little bread and water, threw her hands up in the air and claimed "All this and Jesus, too?!?"  This book was hilarious at times -- left me literally laughing out loud and sharing passages with my husband and my 11 year old which is something I never do so that says a lot.  One of my favorite passages hilariously points out that sometimes we view God as a "Divine Dentist".  We know that going to the dentist is good for us but we don't particularly enjoy it, do we?  And at times, this is how we view God.  We know that He is sovereignly working everything out for our good but we often hunker down, waiting for the next bomb to drop.  We really shouldn't do that...instead, we should count our blessings.  Did you wake up this morning (obviously you did or you wouldn't be reading this!)?  Think about how many people in the world didn't get that blessing....  Did you eat today?  If you're living in America, it's likely you ate more today than someone in some other part of the world eats in a week -- or worse....  Even if your budget is tight, if you're not living on the streets, you have A LOT to be thankful for!  Counting your blessings is one way to find true contentment but another point that Mr. Altrogge pointed out is that we need to remember that we have an empathetic Savior.  This point was extremely convicting to me 'cause I have never quite thought of Jesus in this way.  He suffered worse than we can ever imagine...if anyone can empathize with us in our suffering, Jesus can -- and He DOES!  Praise God!  So next time you're suffering, try to remember that Jesus knows exactly what you're going through and that He cares!  One last point I'll share, then you'll have to go grab the book (and I highly recommend you do!).  Another point to remember that will go a long way in helping us be content is that we're not of this world.  This isn't our home.  This world and it's inhabitants will disappoint us because we're not made for this world.  Our glorious home awaits!

Oh, okay, I have to share one more point that I've already shared on my Facebook page -- complaining is like putting God on trial and accusing Him of abuse or abandonment.  When we complain, it's like telling God that we don't agree with His plan for our life, that He doesn't really know what is best.  We don't get what we want (or worse -- what we feel like we "deserve"), we complain, our level of contentment plummets, and God is not glorified.  *ouch*  This point has kept popping up in my head these past few days as I've found myself complaining.  I'm prayerfully trying not to have a spirit of complaining which will be a looooong process, I'm afraid.

Thanks, Crossway, for letting me read this book!


Homeschool Convention 4 -- Michelle Duggar

I've saved the best for last but that's just because it was the last thing we went to that day.  Candace & I were in line by 1:45 for this 2:30 event and I felt very sorry for the conference that was actually attempting to go on while we were all lining up outside.  Anyway, we got in the junior ballroom a little after 2 and found it quite hilarious at the people trying to track down the various Duggar children for autographs and pictures.  Bless their hearts, they were trying to do their jobs!  They were trying to pass out a few goodies to us all -- a picture of the family, a 2-sided sheet that had information on one side on the difference between flattery and praise and how to appropriate praise our children and on the other side, a chart of different character qualities they try to stress with their children.  There was also so information handed out on the plan of salvation and some information on the curriculum they use from a place called "The Advanced Training Institute" or ATI.  About 2:15, Jim Bob Duggar was spotted and a line quickly formed.  They started relatively close to on time (surprising for Duggars, if you watch their show!).  Jim Bob introduced his wife and then Michelle took the stage.  She opened with prayer and then encouraged us to pray for her because she said a crowd this size made her weak in the knees (she joked how she's used to speaking to groups of about 20 -- ha ha!).  Then she told a story that I know will stick with me forever.  She asked if there was anyone in the group that 2 or more children under the age of 6 and lots of hands went up...then she moved on to 3 children under 6, 4 children under 6, and 5 children under six.  There weren't many hands left up at that point but then she asked if anyone had 6 children under six.  I think she counted 2 hands....Then she recounted how she had 6 children under 6 and was pregnant with her 7th when she had a spiritual moment that changed the direction of her life. She was up at 1 AM doing laundry when she began sobbing, mostly from exhaustion.  And she said God the Father spoke to her and asked "Michelle, it's easy to praise Me when things are going well.  Will you praise Me when things aren't going well?"  And then, she said, she threw her hands up in surrender and the only thing she could think to say or do was to sing "The Joy Of The Lord Is My Strength" which she sang for us (she has a lovely voice!).  6 short hours later -- at 7 AM -- they were at piano lessons.  She made sure to tell us all to never schedule piano lessons for 7 AM!  Anyway, while falling asleep during piano lessons, her children's piano teacher asked if she was okay and, long story short, this sweet piano teacher has come to do their laundry for 13 years!  Michelle's point was that God knows what we need and when we need it and if we're surrendered to Him, He'll give us or somehow send us the help we need!  QTS (question to self):  How often do I actually live my days surrendered to Him instead of trying to work things out on my own?  She talked quite a bit about surrender -- perhaps we need to surrender our idea about how much sleep we need (boy, that hit close to home!) or perhaps we need to surrender our idea of a perfect family or perfect homeschool....  She interjected the need for a schedule with the thought being that they don't always meet their schedule but at least there's a goal, at least they have something to shoot for.  Then she moved on to anger and talked about another "epiphany" (my word, not hers) of teaching her children about meekness.  She, feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit, apologizes to her children (still 6 under 6 at this time) for yelling at them and makes the commitment to whisper when she feels the urge to raise her voice.  And then she told the funny story of this new-found commitment being tested almost immediately.  She was changing a diaper when an older child asked if they could have the half a can of pineapple left out on the counter for snack.  "Yes you may," she tells the child, "but you have to wait on Momma to get it for you."  That child didn't wait on her and tried to help his/herself and ended up making a GIGANTIC mess.  Instead of yelling, which was her gut instinct, she asked the child to go wait for her in the bathroom while she thanked God for giving her such a huge mess to clean up so she could calm down before "chastening" (her word) that child.  And she made the point that when we're tempted to yell "WHAT DID YOU DO?!?!", we should stop, keep calm, and instead ask "What did you do wrong?".  Make sure you get the child to acknowledge what he or she did that was wrong so you can make sure that child understands because, in this situation, when she asked what that child had done wrong, the child replied "Spilling the pineapple and juice" when the real issue was the disobedience of not waiting as he/she had been told.  (Personal interjection -- for more info on getting to the heart issues with your children, read "Sheparding Your Child's Heart" by Paul and Tedd Tripp.)  There was another thing that she brought up and I desperately wish I had been taking notes -- she talked about having one-on-one time with her children and always asking 3 questions, of which I can only remember 2.  First was "How are you?" and the 2nd was "Is there anything you haven't told Momma and Daddy that you want to tell me about now?"  I really wish I could remember that 3rd question.  Such a great idea when you're alone with your kids, things I've never thought about.    

This was such a blessing!  I was soooo convicted at some of her points, especially concerning surrender and anger, and I cried quite a bit (although I managed to not blubber like a baby which is what I usually do once I get started) so I probably wouldn't have been able to take notes after all!  :)  If I ever get the chance to hear her again, I know I'm going to jump on it!  Our culture needs much MORE women like Michelle and far FEWER strong-willed and outspoken women, amen?


Homeschool Convention 3 -- Activities (?) and exhibit hall

Saturday, 11:30 AM "Field Tested Suggestions And Activities For Infants Through School-Aged Children"
Carolyn Schulte, "Flowering Baby"

Well, you can't win them all, right?  This one is definitely chalked up to a loss!  She was the sweetest "little old lady" (and I mean that in a flattering way!) but by the time we got through her experience as a public school teacher (in California, no less!) and all about her daughter and especially her grandson, we got very little, if any, suggestions for activities!  By the time she flew through the Powerpoint presentations on actual activities, I was too tired and too cold to write them down.

After that hour-long session, Candace and I split up.  I went to the exhibit hall.  WHOA!  In the program for the convention, there are 4 solid pages of vendors listed.  Page 1 alone had 81 vendors so that means there was probably somewhere around 320 vendors!  Now, not everyone of those vendors was a homeschool company.  There were TONS of colleges (secular & not), there was a Mennonite family-run KitchenAid stand, Lego was there, many places that sold used books, 1 vendor that did only art supplies, and 1 vendor that did t-shirts and things like that (I got a purple tote bag that says "Homeschool Mom Of 6" for $5!).  I picked up a few catalogs, actually picked up and looked at a few books I'm thinking about using next year, and other than my tote bag, I made 1 other purchase.  A friend of mine (thanks, Beth!) had sent me an email earlier in the week with many links on it and I noticed that a place called Knowledge Quest had National Geographic maps 25% off for the weekend.  After I went to Knowledge Quest's founder, Mrs. Johnson's, 8:30 session, I then found a social studies book I was interested in buying called "The Star Spangled State Book".  I stopped by their booth and bought the map I wanted for $17 and that book for $19.  Bonus -- it was TWO maps for that price.  One of the world and one of the US.  They're huge and came laminated!  I've hung the world map on the wall behind our kitchen table and used shipping tape to put the one of the US on our table.  Could have spent hours there going through the booths with used books but, alas, I only had what I thought was 2 hours before the session featuring Michelle Duggar.  Thankfully, my tummy got a hold of me and told me to eat around 1 or I would have really been hurting!  Not finding anything in the exhibit hall that interested me, I followed my nose to the cinnamon almonds up on the 3rd floor but, sadly, didn't buy them and bought a pretzel instead.  At this point, it wasn't even 1:30 yet and the line for Michelle's session was already forming!  So I ate my pretzel while in line for me & Candace.  Michelle's session was the highlight of my day but that's another post that will be on it's way shortly (I hope!).


Homeschool Convention 2 -- "The Lighter Side Of Education"

Saturday, 10:00 AM, "The Lighter Side Of Education -- How To Relax, Enjoy, And Laugh And Still Be A Parent-Educator" by Dr. Christopher Perrin, M. Div., Ph. D.  (You can visit his blog at www.InsideClassicaled.com but I haven't done that yet.)

This guy was a very well-educated, Christian philosopher....which led to interesting choices of words, some of them in Greek and Latin.  He almost lost me a time or 2!  But I love what he had to say.  He didn't have an outline or a 1-2-3-4 point system so below are his...

Key points:

*In scripture, we are called to joy so if there is no joy in your life, something is wrong!

*Our vision is what propels us forward.

*There are 2 sides of the mind -- the side that is "running to and fro", gathering information, doing research; and the side that is stopping, gazing, and soaking.  We need to exercise BOTH.  Things don't become permanent in our minds until we stop, gaze, and soak them in.

*All ideas have consequences.

*Beauty, goodness, and truth (I would add GOD'S beauty, goodness, and truth) need to be paramount in our lives.

*Teaching is helping them to see what they cannot see.

*In Latin, the word for school means "play" and in Greek, the word for school means "leisure".  (Sound like any public school you see today?!?!  Just my .02 worth....)

*What are you kids here for?  They're hear to be "celebratory image bearers" (referring to use being image bearers of God).

*Are there friendships in your family?  Do you take your children for one-on-one time?  Do LESS and pursue these moments!

*Model a love for learning.

*If you're not laughing, it's probably because you're not trusting in the goodness of God!  Are your children not in His hands?  Has He not promised you good things?  Has He not given you everything you need to take care of your kids (the key here is relying on His strength, His grace, His goodness, etc).

*Home education is a life of constant repentance of your anxiety and saying "Above all else, I'm going to love my husband and children".

*He mentioned TONS Of quotes and I apologize for not writing down where they came from and I also apologize that I'm probably not quoting them exactly.  "A man should take his mission but never himself seriously"..."Angels fly because they take themselves lightly"..."Carelessness in your seriousness is frivolity"

*Your children are not about YOU.  You are about your children.

*Practical tips:  take nature walks, read for enjoyment, be silly, join in the play of your kids, have lots of celebrations/celebratory dinners....  Practical tips from other h-schooling moms:  have your children draw cartoons of the history they're learning...have a "tea time" between the transitions in your days (between subjects, between school & whatever) -- this mom was suggesting a few minutes of quiet time to read a little bit of scripture (although she did really drink a cup of tea); she even got her teenage SONS involved!

Homeschool Convention -- "Choosing The Right Curriculum"

Saturday, 8:30 AM, "Choosing The Right Curriculum For Your Family" with Terri Johnson of Knowledge Quest Publishing Company.

6 steps of advanced thought and preparation for buying curriculum:

1.  Know you and your child's learning styles.  We all learn through certain "modalities".  We all learn through our eyes (visual), our ears (auditory), and our hands (kinesthetics).  However, we as individuals tend to favor one or 2 way(s) of learning over the other(s).  Knowing how you learn will you help you be a better teacher to your children; knowing how your children learn will help you pick out the best curriculum for them because all curricula choices are skewed towards one or two learning styles, regardless of what it might claim.  For help in figuring out your younger child's learning styles, Terri recommends you visit this link.  For figuring out your own learning style or your older child's, she recommends this link.  (NOTE:  I have not visited either of these links yet.)

2.  Know your philosophy of education, what you think education should be.  There are 5 mainstream philosophies to homeschool:  1) unschooling (also referred to as "child-led", "organic", etc.), 2) "school-at-home", 3) unit studies, 4) classical, and 5) Charlotte Mason.  (NOTE: For more info about these philosophies, please visit this website.  This website offers more than these 5 styles listed here; I think Mrs. Johnson was just trying to give an overview, not a comprehensive list.)

3.  Consider your finances and set a budget!  Make a point to buy the best tools you can afford.  That might not include "top-of-the-line" curriculum but that's okay (it's also okay if it does include that!).  Bear in mind that the more a resource costs, the less teacher prep it will require.

4.  Browse catalogs and/or visit Cathy Duff's website www.CathyDuffyReviews.com.  You can also check out Ms. Duffy's "Top 100 Picks For Homeschool Curriculum" from Columbus libraries.  1 good and bad note on that book -- the good is that it includes testing for your and your child's learning styles and then matches each curriculum with the learning styles.  The bad?  The book was written several years ago and a lot has happened in homeschool since then.  I think her website includes an updated list but I'm not 100% sure.  Some catalogs Mrs. Johnson recommended are "Sonlight", "Vision Forum", "Veritas", "Timber Doodle", "Rainbow Resource", and "Christian Book Distributors".

5.  Read curricula reviews.  Again, check out Cathy Duffy's site as well as Amazon, "Eclectic Homeschool Reviews" and other homeschool magazines.  Google it!  :)

6.  Once you've chose a curriculum, bear in mind there are many places to purchase it, some more expensive than others.  You can purchase directly from the publisher, from a discounter such as CBD or Rainbow, from a place like Amazon or other sort of bookstore, from homeschool conventions, and from used book places such as eBay.  Pros/cons -- the publisher is going to have the highest everyday price but will often have the best sales; a discounter/Amazon will have the lowest everyday prices but rarely have sales although they may offer free shipping; at a homeschool convention, you can pick up the item and actually browse through it and the vendors tend to offer sales at conventions -- however, remember you'll have to either go back at the last minute and actually purchase the items OR lug them around with you; browsing through used places will be more time consuming.


Other key points:

*It's okay to make curricula mistakes!  You are not married to a curriculum once you've purchased it.  If you discover it's not working for you, there could be a 30/60/90 day money-back guarantee or you could consider selling it as used.  And move on to picking a new one.

*Look on-line!  You can often download and print samples.

*Have "perfect" curricula (which is truly not possible) is not a guarantee for a great or even good homeschool.  Homeschooling is about what YOU put into it.

*Homeschooling should be goal-oriented, not curriculum driven.  You should set goals each quarter/semester/year and try to accomplish them.

*June is the best time to not only list used curriculum you might have to sale but also to purchase used curriculum.


Some curriculum choices Mrs. Johnson recommends that she's tried during her 13 years as a homeschooler:

Phonics -- "Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons"

Handwriting -- "Handwriting Without Tears"

Math -- "Singapore" (a more "mental" curriculum), "Math-U-See" (more visual), and "Teaching Textbooks" for pre-algebra & up

Spelling -- "Spelling Power" and "All About Spelling"

Grammar -- "Rod And Staff"

Writing -- "Write Shop" and "Adventure Novel" (high school level)

Geography -- "Expedition Earth", "Map Trek", "A Child's Geography", and "The Star Spangled State Book"

History -- "Story Of The World", "Tapestry Of Grace", "Sonlight", and "Biblioplan" (sp?)

First homeschool convention

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend the MidWest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati.  I have never been to a convention before, even when homeschooling Nathan.  I was really excited even though I only got to attend one day of conferences.  I left Friday evening in time to attend the Tim Hawkins concert with Candace.  LOVE Tim Hawkins & totally enjoyed his concert.  Candace had originally planned on taking her whole family down for the convention, which started on Thursday, and stay in a suite.  However, when they changed their minds, they cut their reservation back to only Friday night and I planned on staying down there with her while our husbands and Candace's Mom had our kiddos.  I hesitate to mention the name of the hotel we stayed at...while we were impressed at the size of the two-story suite, we were unimpressed at the dirty carpet and cob webs on the ceiling and at the front desk's lack of knowledge.  There was a restaurant in the lobby and we asked what time they opened for breakfast.  We were told 7...it really was 8.  We asked how much we'd have to pay for parking in their garage for 24 hours and we were told $2, maybe $4...with a change in plans, we weren't even in the garage 12 hours and the charge was $6!?!?  We had an awesome breakfast at a place called First Watch and then ventured back to the convention.  Our first conference started at 8:30, our second one at 10, third one at 11:30, then Candace took a conference at 1 while I walked the exhibitor hall, we met back up at 2:30 for another session, and then decided to leave early at 4.  We intended on returning at 6 for the "Grand Finale" involving the Duggar Family from TLC's "19 Kids And Counting".  However, seating was on a first-come, first-served basis and at 3:30, folks were already lining up.  We needed to eat since we had only had breakfast and a snack and knew there was no way we could leave the convention center, eat, and get back in time to actually get a seat.  We drove a little bit up 71 and had dinner at "Aroma Restaurant & Sushi Bar" at a mall.  Yummy! We were home by 8:30, a full 2 hours before we thought we'd be home which was good.  I was welcomed home by hugs & kisses, had time to tuck everyone in bed, and was in bed by 10 which was STILL earlier than I had even intended to be home!  THAT equaled a full night's sleep which I desperately needed.  I intend to type up my notes from each of the classes we attended and post them here, not only for my own sake but also to maybe help or encourage others.  Stay tuned!


Parental ponderings and homeschool wonderings

So....a lot's been going on in this head of mine (shocking, I know).  If you are a Christian parent, you NEED to pick up a copy of "Family Driven Faith" by Voddie Bachaum, Jr., in my humble opinion.  It's literally changing my life.  Here's the deal -- estimates on the low side are that 70% of teens raised as believers leave the faith before the end of their first year of college.  "Why?" raises a tons of possibilities and in this book, he doesn't necessarily try to find the reasons; he just tries to help a Christian parent change what they can to where it can prayerfully not happen to them.  Let me ask you this, Christian Parent -- what are you doing on a daily basis to "preach" the gospel to your children?  Are you having regular family worship in your home, led by the spiritual leader of your home (your husband, if you have one and he's a believer)?  Now, don't loose me here 'cause I know what I'm about to say a lot of people are going to blow off.  Just listen to my question and let it sink in and then, above all else, pray about it (and don't attack the messenger!).  If your children are gone from you for 6+ hours a day attending school, how is that affecting your job as a parent required to teach them the things of the Lord?  "Well," you say "I just can't homeschool my kids."  That may be true but I'd like to take a stab at helping you see that it's not as far-fetched an idea as you think it may be by dissecting some of the arguments I myself have been clinging to lately.  **Disclaimer**  While I'm currently only homeschooling 1of my children, we made the decision recently that Caleb & John would stay home next school year, too.  After reading this book, Jonathan & I are prayerfully adding Nathan to that list.  I'll explain why as we go.

Argument #1 -- Nathan will be in junior high next year.  I can't teach junior high!
Can't I?  If you've ever picked up a homeschool curriculum catalog before, you're going to know what I'm about to say is very true -- there are TONS of options out there.  Many of them include "virtual" teachers.  There are parents out there who have tread this path before me & thrived; I can glean from their experiences.  Regardless of my insecurities about teaching junior high, am I allowed to let fear keep me from obeying God?  If I truly feel God is calling me to homeschool my children, then am I allowed to tell God I can't because I'm afraid.  *ouch*

Argument #2 -- Nathan is in band.  I can't give him that option at home.
True that!  I can't do band with 6 kids of all different ages and no one able to play an instrument other than me & Nathan.  Band is very rewarding -- I know.  Been there, done that!  I used to say "High School band was the best 4 years of my life!".  And while that is true in many ways, obviously many things have come into my life since then that have trumped it.  And no parent wants to feel like they're depriving their children, right?  I certainly don't.  However, I'm coming to realize that "good is the enemy of the best".  While allowing Nathan to be in the band would definitely be a good thing, is it the best thing for him right now?  Can I justify my decision to allow Nathan to stay in public school just so he can enjoy band?  Can I not find something else for Nathan to do that will be as beneficial to him, all the while keeping him at home?  Pondering that one, big time....

Argument #3 -- Nathan is SUCH a social child.  He'll be bored at home.
Nathan is already bored at home on days off from school.  BUT -- who's fault is that?  As a young man 11 1/2 years old, it's partly his.  He should be able to find something (good) to do to occupy his time.  However, isn't some of the responsibility also mine?  In the very least, it absolutely is -- if Nathan claims he's bored (which he often does) and he decides to occupy his time by bugging his younger siblings (which he does on occasion), isn't it MY job as his mother to redirect him?...  Here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately -- "What do I remember about being in junior high?"  I remember feeling tortured at school because I was not only fat, I also wore glasses.  I do remember the good things, too -- I remember winning the science fair one year, I remember loving being in the band, and I remember the one good friend I did have (Hi, Heather!).  Are these things good?  With the exception of being made fun of, absolutely they are good!  But, I'm sure if I asked my parents, they'd rather me remember the things we did together as a family.  When people ask my kids today about school, it pains me sometimes to hear them say how they love their teacher or their friends.  God designed the FAMILY to be each other's best friends!  That's why we have siblings (hopefully)!  When my kids are adults and look back at their years at home, I want them to be bonded to EACH OTHER and to me & their Dad.  I don't want them to remember so-and-so who isn't in their life any more.  Friends are good to have -- I'm certainly grateful for the true friends I have today -- but family should last forever and the bonds of family should go much, much deeper!  And, I have to go back to the question I asked under the first argument -- is my fear of Nathan's boredom enough to allow me to disregard what God is calling me to?

These are just 3 of the arguments I've had in my heart lately and it all boils down to fear.  Fear of failure, fear of pushing my kids away rather than bonding them more deeply to our family unit, fear of loosing family or friends who don't agree with our decisions, fear of other numerous things....but isn't this where FAITH is supposed to come in?  Absolutely it's going to be hard!  I know 'cause I've already done it and it was hard with only ONE child in school!  But the bottom line boils down to 2 things (and I promise I'll shut up after this).  #1 God IS calling me to this, I'm certain of it.  #2 My number 1 job as a Christian mother is to evangelize and disciple my children.  Don't miss the point here -- YES, they're education is important and I'm not trying to down play it nor would I ever claim I can teach better than their teachers can (we've been blessed with GREAT teachers our 2 years in public school).  But, if I had the choice of a child who couldn't read but was passionately in love with Jesus as their Savior or a brilliant scholar with no regard for the things of God, I wouldn't have to think twice about what I'd pick.  And I CANNOT "keep the main thing (the condition of their souls) the main thing" when they're gone from me 6 hours a day.  I have a hard enough time getting homework done in the evenings, much less getting to the heart of my children and prayerfully influencing them for the Lord.

**Is God calling every Christian parent to homeschooling?  No and maybe you're one of the one's He's not called to it -- in all sincerity, you'll have to ask Him (please do).  But I'm certain He's calling me and I hope that you will pray and ask God how you can better influence your children for Him, regardless of where you decide for them to get their education.  And pray for us, too.



February's theme was chocolate!  :)  We read books on where chocolate comes from and celebrated Valentine's Day with friends.  Because I forgot my camera & because I'm lazy, here's what her blog had to say about our day (my notes in italics):

Karen and 3 of her kids (Lydia, Timothy, and Elizabeth) came over this morning for a Valentine breakfast and lunch. Elizabeth needed to do some homeschooling fun, so we all benefited. Big thanks to Karen for including us and coming up w/all the great ideas. (Doing things with friends makes things so much easier and so much more fun!) 

We started with chocolate filled heart shaped doughnuts from Tim Hortons.

Then it was on to cutting hearts out of red peppers for the vegetable & cheese skewers.

Next was the task of making heart shaped pizzas. I made the dough but it was forgettable. However, the fresh mozzarella on mine and Karen's was scrumptious!

Heart shaped sugar cookies would have to be made, of course! After they cooled we iced them with a cream cheese icing and topped them with fresh sliced strawberries and sliced bananas.  (Didn't have bananas on mine 'cause I don't eat bananas but boy, oh boy, were those cookies with strawberries yummy!!!)

The main attraction of the day was chocolate dipping strawberries.

Then striping the dipped strawberries.

The final lunch menu of heart shaped pizzas, heart shaped jello bites, vegetable (cherry tomatoes & red pepper hearts) & cheese (baby bell cheese cut into hearts) skewers w/ranch dip, and hawaiian punch.

The final dessert menu of chocolate dipped strawberries, heart shaped doughnuts, and heart shaped sugar cookie pizzas. Mmmmmmmmmmmm!!


January homeschooling

January was a "princess" theme:
 Making a princess wand
 My 2 princesses (and the completed wand)
Princess Elizabeth and her crown

She also made a castle out of cardboard and toilet paper rolls, made a "princess pillow case", read about real and fairy tale princesses, and watched "Cinderella" & "Beauty And The Beast" on DVD.  On January 22nd, Elizabeth & I took in "Disney Princesses On Ice".  It was called something different but I'm pretty sure it's the exact same show we saw in 2008 which was kinda disappointing.  But, at least with a better camera, I got some pretty good shots.  
 Elizabeth & her $12 icee
 Mickey & Minnie
 Aladdin & the Genie
Sleeping Beauty 
 Prince Eric and Ursula from "The Little Mermaid"
 Mulan & MooShoo (sp?)
Cinderella in her carriage


Mid-January was "CodeMash" (a conference for programmers, although that's probably a pretty lame description, if you ask Jonathan). It's held at the Kalahari Indoor Waterpark Resort in Sandusky, Ohio, which boasts being America's largest indoor waterpark. With an early morning session on the first day, Jonathan left home around 4 a.m. to make the drive which is just short of 3 hours. It had snowed pretty good the day before so we were a little worried but he made it there just fine and had a grand day! That Thursday, after school, the kids and I headed up to join him. Other than taking the turn into the snowy parking lot at nearly 20 miles an hour (the turn surprised me, to say the least!), we also had a good drive up. We were a little disappointed to get down to the waterpark that evening to learn that they had closed at 9 to clean the park before opening it back up to CodeMash folks only from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Not thinking the kids would have done very well being up that late, we decided to skip the waterpark that night and went back to our gigantic suite instead. We had a full-size kitchen (mental note -- take food to cook next year, if you go, so you don't drop a small fortune on eating there!), a living room with a queen size sleeper sofa, 1 room with a king size bed, 1 room with 2 queen size beds, and 2 full baths (1 with a jacuzzi tub). That Friday morning, while Jonathan was back at the conference, was a little interesting. Thinking the few places to eat on site would be expensive (and they were), I decided to take all 6 kids and venture into Sandusky for some breakfast. The kids were already starving when we got to McDonald's, got out, ordered food, and then realized Mommy had left her checkcard back in the hotel room. :( We went back and retrieved the card but then were too hungry and too stressed out to venture out again so we ate there. 2 donuts, 3 orders of pancakes & bacon, 1 pop, 2 chocolate milks, and 2 orange juices cost me $30. Sheesh! After finally eating, we did venture back out to Wal-Mart to pick up the stuff to eat sandwiches in the room for lunch. After some rest, I took the youngest 5 down to "Tree Top Play", a giant 3-story play area where the kids had a blast! Nathan, too tall for the play area, blew through the only $6 I had in cash at the GINORMOUS arcade, only walking away with a tiny plastic robot to show for his efforts. We met Jonathan after his last conference and ventured back out to Cracker Barrel for dinner. Finally, after much patience on the kids' part, we made it down to the waterpark about 8:30 that night. It was sooooo great! None of the things I had feared came true. We didn't loose anyone, it wasn't so crowded that it was uncomfortable, and I didn't feel like I stuck out in a bathing suit. Tons of people there and there weren't many who would have qualified for a beauty pageant, if you get what I'm saying and I'm not trying to be mean. Anyway, we don't have many pictures 'cause I was busy counting heads, following toddlers through the 10-inch deep water playground, and didn't want to chance our big camera getting stolen or wet. Another late night but it was worth it! The kids had so much fun! My favorite memory of the night is Nathan walking up to me yelling "I'm not afraid of heights any more!" after he had ventured down one of the many huge water slides. Saturday morning (after staying the extra night), we packed up the hotel room, had cereal for breakfast, changed into our swimsuits and visited the waterpark for another few hours before heading home. We think Jonathan had a mild case of food poisoning from his fish at Cracker Barrel the night before which was a bummer but he still played with the kiddos in the water. Grabbed some lunch at Fazoli's, stopped at Meijer to replace a windshield wiper blade on the van & grab Jonathan some medicine to help his stomach feel better, and then made the trek home. (I won't say which one of us it was -- we were in both vehicles -- but one of us came home with a speeding ticket -- the first for either of us! And it wasn't for speeding while driving. It was for gunning it to get out of an exit only lane and back onto the highway. Lesson learned!) A good time was had by all and, if possible, we can't wait to go back next year! If you have the money (our suite runs about $250/night but does include passes to the waterpark), the Kalahari is a great place to visit! During the summer, there's a huge outdoor waterpark, an animal encounters village like a mini-zoo, zip lines, and pool. Inside, near the arcade, there's also a paint-your-own pottery place, a mini-golf course, and a few miniature bowling lanes. Totally cool! If you choose a suite, pack some food to save some money! But, if you can afford it, it was a great place to go!

The view into the suite from the kitchen
 The bedroom with the king size bed 
 The other bedroom with 2 queen beds
 The gang headed to the waterpark (only to be turned away)
The kids substituted waterpark play time for jucuzzi tub play time