Going Green

I’m thinking March might be a good time for me to “go green,” to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Now, I’m talking about something more fulfilling than turning a plastic cup into a leprechaun craft, something any homeschooling mom can do in her sleep. It’s more complicated, more personally meaningful.  Going Green

A good friend and mentor inspired me when she asked, “If money were no object, and you could do anything in the world, what would you do?”

In a second I ruled out the obvious:

  • cuddling with Hubby on the sofa; traveling together; watching endless, first-run episodes of “The Good Wife”
  • enjoying my children; reading aloud favorites on that same sofa; taking weekly field trips that don’t involve bugs; doing our Mother’s Day walk every Sunday and not just once a year
  • eating pepperoni pizza with extra cheese without gaining an ounce or spending a dime

Of course, spending time with Jesus went without saying; I’d actually finish the Bible in a year; join the choir; pray—and not just without ceasing, but without dozing off. All those things being said—or not said—if I could do anything…

I would write.

I’d script thank-you notes many wedding guests have waited twenty years for (consider this my heartfelt, written apology). I’d scribble in a month’s worth of lessons in my teacher’s book. I’d send e-mails my little people’s “Mama!” “I’m hungry,” and “I don’t understand…” interrupted. I’d follow through on those complaint letters I’ve mentally composed, voicing my dissatisfaction in fancy, perfect, rarely used cursive.

I’d pen long love letters to Hubby like I used to before life blossomed about us. I’d sign my name to a load of “just thinking of you” cards. Christmas greetings would no longer get pushed to Presidents’ Day. I’d text, private message, post a comment, and hash-tag to my heart’s content. Birthday cards? Check. Love notes on Valentine’s Day? Check. I’d even give “Happy Columbus Day” a shot.

And then, I would really write. Essays and devotionals. Novels and children’s books. Poetry, music, journal entries. Oh, and weekly blog posts. I wouldn’t just “like” Facebook posts; I’d comment. I’d give voice to all those thoughts that flit through my mind in the shower but dissipate with the steam.

It’s not that I wouldn’t pursue other directions in my life, not because they’re all good, but they’re all necessary—studying God’s Word, parenting, teaching, even sweeping the stairs. But if one day the rocks will cry “Jesus!” surely I can lift a Papermate pencil in His name. After all, He commanded His children, “Whatever your hands find to do, do it verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Well, my “hands” love writing, a skill I use—however rarely—for His glory and my pleasure, just as He talks about in Matthew 5:15, 16. Just how do I take this “road less traveled by” a little more often?

First, reduce. 

I need to invest less time and energy on activities that others can do—in other words: delegate! I can deploy my army of little people to dust, slather peanut butter and jelly on bread, and build tower blocks with M&M. Sometimes Maven can listen to Brown Sugar read about what Dick and Jane are doing these days, and I can even turn a blind eye to Hubby who struggles to fold a fitted sheet or a towel into thirds. I can complete tasks in stages, unpacking boxes over time or investing thirty-minute chunks planning or brainstorming.

Next, recycle. 

I can repurpose a few daylight hours for grander pursuits by not wasting time refolding Hubby’s towels. That carves out time spent writing. Sharing family chores keeps me from typing at 3 a.m. when I’m “weary, worn, and sad.”*

When I recycle my time I must truly, diligently convert that time into something reusable—once I crush a can, I can’t refill it with soda. If I dedicate to edit my novel, that’s what I should do. I can’t get distracted playing solitaire, watching “House Hunters,” managing sibling squabbles from afar, cleaning the refrigerator, or catching up on e-mail.

Finally, reuse. 

I’m reaping the benefits of doffing my micromanager hat even if I can’t completely retire it. Delegating certain chores serves higher, more beautiful purposes than I planned, like using a one-gallon milk jug for a flowerpot. My little people build trust and dependence—on God and each other. We develop a sense of responsibility—personally and as a group. It pokes a hole in the pride balloon—not one person can do everything. It’s definitely taking a village to teach M&M his colors and letters. Hubby gets to spend more time in the family hurricane—He can give the Crusader more manhood training before college starts and somehow learn how to fold sheets.

Consider your own skills, talents, dreams, or desires in terms of Matthew 5:15, 16. It could be knitting, reading, or beading. Perhaps you enjoy running marathons (why, I’ll never understand), eating 300 hot wings in 30 minutes, taking 15-minute power naps, or writing children’s curriculum. Maybe it’s interpretive dance, painting, baking, or music composition.

Whatever the gift, stop wasting it under cover of some elaborately woven bushel basket you designed in your spare time. Keep in mind Colossians 3:23, 24: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

Go green, or go home.

*from “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” a hymn by Horatius Bonar

Embracing the Sabbath in Homeschooling

sabbath homeschooling

Let’s face it: we moms need a break once in a while! Quite honestly, one break each hour would suffice for me- but life doesn’t quite work out that way. Nonetheless, I need break and I whole-heartedly admit it! Additionally, over the past few years I have learned to embrace break-taking.  I call it my “alone time”.  It’s when I pamper myself with silence (which is golden!), a good book, a bubble bath, or a walk to our downtown coffee shop. To me, it’s a sabbatical. Or, more like- a Sabbath. What does it mean exactly to embrace the Sabbath in homeschooling?

My kids are older now, so I can afford to get away a bit more than a few years back, and with my husband’s flex scheduling there are times when I can have much more alone time.  But, boy do I remember the days when all I could dream of was grabbing a few minutes to myself!

I hope the following advice will help you to realize that even if you’re not in a life space where you can get alone (i.e.-younger kids), you can still find ways to unwind.

Take a homeschool break

I promise you, one day of not homeschooling won’t hurt you or the kids.  The kids will love you for it, and you might possibly even enjoy some downtime, right? Public schools call it teacher in-service. As a homeschooler, I call it a mom’s time out. We’ve been planning and implementing curriculum all week/month/semester long, and once in a while you just need to have a time out.

And that’s okay.

Use your break to either do something you love, or do nothing at all! But make sure your break means exactly to you what you mean for it to be.  Make it intentional and worth the break time you carved out.

Do something you love

What do I do when I have some downtime? Well unless I decide on a nap, which is a big possibility, I might pull out a hobby I’ve had on hold for a while.  One of my favorite hobbies way on the backburner is knitting on looms. I just began this over the holidays and found that I’ve fallen in love with knitting.

I also enjoy reading or listening to an audiobook.  I may decide to take a trip to the library by myself and check out some audiobooks, or I might check out one from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

Another thing I enjoy (besides all this blogging and podcasting!) is sitting at my piano and writing songs.  I love music and playing the piano takes me into another world where it’s just me and God.  I love it!

Whether your passion is sewing, cooking, reading, or taking a walk out in nature, doing something you love can give you a new burst of energy for the daily grind you face at home.

Do nothing at all

Okay, so you’re wondering how I could have added such a bland tip to this list, but in reality, taking a break means just that. If there’s nothing you want to do but rest, then go get some much-needed rest. Lie down on the couch or curl up in bed and try to catch your z’s.  This is easier said than done if you have little ones, so you may have to plan for this one and hire a mother’s helper or have a family friend over, but when you need the rest, you deserve to have it.  It’s better to invest in your rest through hiring a sitter once in a while than to pay for it later in doctor bills.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t take much to burn yourself out to a fizzle. Get the rest you need by getting to bed earlier if you need to.  If you have babies, tots, and little ones under 6, basically my advice to you is try to get some extra help.   I know how difficult it could be to get everyone down for naps at the same time just so you can have a break. If you have special needs children, same advice.  You, mom, deserve a break called “rest”. If your kids are older, they’re more likely to be understanding of your need for a break and can probably assist in helping you achieve that.

Finding some reprieve away from the hustle and bustle of family life can be the breath of fresh air you need to regain the strength you need for another day of work.  Remember, God rested on the seventh day. Find some time and space in your life to take a break.  God gave you the gift of a Sabbath. Whether you take it on Saturday, Sunday, or other day of the week is not my concern. I just pray that you will begin to take some time- any time- for yourself, and learn to be replenished for all the work you’ve exerted. It’s a simple principle that really works.

One book that is helping me to understand this concept in fuller detail is a five-week session study by Priscilla Shirer called “Breathe”. You can pick up a copy at Lifeway and download the video messages if you’d like to dig further into these concepts of the Sabbath. This is what I have been studying lately and is a blessing to my life.

How about you? Do you keep Sabbath or integrate it into your life? I’d love to hear more about what Sabbath means to you in the comments below.

Happy Homeschooling!

Click on the image below to find out how other homeschool moms are renewing themselves during mom time.

renewing

Save Time and Aggravation with 3 FREE Online SAT Vocabulary Practice Links-Part 2

Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net
Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Hi there! I hope you’ve enjoyed the first part of this series and in Part 2 here, I hope I’ll be able to delight you with another free resource which will save you time, money and frustration. 

For those kids who love reading, I would really like to encourage continued interest and reading. One of the things we liked about our own literature series at home was that we could read any book we wanted, dissect it, discuss it and watch a movie about it. When we read Julius Caesar, we were also able to watch a short, animated movie on Sparknotes .  I was really pleasantly surprised by their short movies on various popular American and English fiction. Here’s the link to Sparknotes Literature Videos (with narration) : http://www.sparknotes.com/sparknotes/video/title/1 and the link for the second SAT vocabulary resource :  www.vocabulary.com.

Also, don’t rule out watching some of the Shakespearean plays on Youtube and also movie versions of famous literature on Youtube as well.  Like the Odyssey.

Robert Fitzgerald, a Harvard educated author, translator, and journalist was well known for his wonderful translations of Greek poetry.  His translation of  “The Odyssey”  is one of the most beloved modern translations of this epic Greek poem. Vocabulary.com has vocabulary for the whole translation: Books 1-7, Books 8-13, Books 14-18 and Books 19-24.  Each section has 40 words.

How about learning some poetry terms like “caesura”, “enjambment” or “consonance”?  No more sitting down and memorizing these facts while staring into space: practice here each day for mastery.  Among other great themes, there is vocabulary for those of you who are studying Jane Eyre, Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, etc.  There are almost 1200 links for literature alone.  Just type in whatever you and your kids are reading, and you just might find vocabulary for it.  Also, you can make your own list, much like the first resource in Part 1. There is a lot of flexibility here and it’s a very versatile tool.

When I first clicked on the vocabulary link, I didn’t think too much of it until I realized what it would really do. I know of other vocabulary programs which cost incredible monthly fees and don’t work as well. You will have to sign up with a username and password of course, but it’s free. Here’s how it works:

http://www.vocabulary.com/howitworks/

My summary? Here it is :

  1. Sign up first.
  2. This website uses adaptive learning technology (Adaptive Vocabulary Instruction ). If you get a word wrong or click for a hint, a list of words you need to learn will be compiled for you.
  3. You can earn points and achievements on the website. Mastery of words is demonstrated when you answer enough questions right on a word.
  4. Your progress is charted and can be seen when you click on the ‘My Progress’ tab. ‘Leaderboards‘ show which are the week’s highest scorers.
  5. You can make your own list or use what the website has. They have lists on test prep, literature, morphology and roots, historical documents, political speeches, news etc.
  6. When you sign up for a free account, you will also get a weekly vocabulary quiz word in your email, plus alerts to new articles on the Vocabulary blog. Check out a recent blog post : http://www.vocabulary.com/articles/tasty-morsels/whats-the-difference-between-thanksgiving-and-thanksgiving/

That’s it!

Please let us know if you have any questions about this post, and how it has been helpful to you.  Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series at a later time.

Image is from Pixabay Public Domain Pictures

I’m Saving Up to Homeschool

saving up to homeschool

I was sitting down with a friend talking about goals for the New Year. I’d shared some of mine already and it was her turn. She had what I call the “usual” list: paying off debt, losing weight, etc. However, I was completely floored by the very last one on her list: saving up to homeschool. This one was new to me…a first in my journey. I was intrigued to say the least, so I asked her what her plan was. My purpose today is to share her plan with you!

  • Take a look at what your costs may be. For example:
    •  It costs $75 to register with the umbrella school she chose
    • The curriculum she wants is roughly $350 with shipping
    • It costs $65 to register with the local homeschool association and the support group she wants to join
    • It costs $100 for the homeschool legal association she wants to have
    • It costs $400 for the co-op she wants to join
    • She estimates that she needs $200 for supplies
    • Total: $1,190.00
    • NOTE: This is just her situation and is not typical of all homeschool expenses!
  • Get on curriculum companies’ mailing and email list– many times they will offer specials to their subscribers and not the general public.
  • Attend material display meetings– some companies will offer discounts for ordering during a materials display or homeschool convention.
  • Develop a savings plan– this is where it gets interesting!
    • Set aside a portion of your income tax refund, if you get one! (Her goals was 3-5%)
    • Open a separate account for the monies to go into and set up automatic transfers. (She is transferring $20 per pay period into the account.)
    • If you prefer saving  cash, think about it like this:
      • It’s January first, and you have 32-36 weeks, depending on when you want to start. (You also have to allow for shipping time, so you may have fewer weeks to spread your plan over.)
      • Get a cash box and don’t keep the key on you. This will keep you from dipping into it.
      • Use a simple plan. There are lots of savings plans out there, so you can navigate your way through those and tweak them to work for you. Or, you can do one like this: $1, then $2, then $3, and so on.
  • Shop around! The publisher may not always be the best way to go! Compare prices and take your time.

For those of you who are looking to walk this path, know that it will take work, discipline, will power, self-control, restraint, (or any other word you could think of), but it’s worth the effort! Plus, it’s one less thing you will have on your mind as you work toward a better 2015! God Bless You and your efforts!

Keeping Up Appearances

Appearances

Real homeschool moms cut back their plants at summer’s end so they’ll come back next spring; they never kill their poinsettias. They can seasonal fruits so they can whip up a fresh cobbler in a (cold) snap. They lead the maple sugaring field trip in the dead of winter, organize camping excursions to observe hibernation and migration patterns, and transform their kitchens into chemistry labs. These moms always make learning fun.

Or so says Facebook.

Me? I kill anything green, even if it’s decked out with tinsel; I can barely get the tree to last through Christmas. Sometimes I buy peach pie filling and I’ve even cooked canned collard greens in a pinch. I never sleep outside, I run from spiders, and I crush anything that crawls (watch out, M&M). I work to instill a love of learning in my seven little people, but honestly, the sound of laughter during school hours raises my hackles (yes, this Grinch can be a mean one).

By social media standards I don’t sound much like a real homeschool mom. I just play one on TV. But I’m okay with that. Just like Popeye, “I yam what I yam.”

 

Appearances2 Benjamin Franklin put it this way: “What you seem to be, be really.” But who are you, really? Is it the “you” who pinned the perfect candied apples or the “you” who burned the sugar coating? Maybe the real “you” proudly shared the picture of little Jimbo singing Christmas carols—or was it “you” who made him cry before Sunday school? Perhaps “you” are the one who posts vegetarian recipes instead of the “you” who routinely chews out her children for various and sundry reasons. Your Facebook friends probably believe they’re getting what they pay for, but your confused family may not recognize the doggie in the window.

Innocuous, right? Hmm. It comes down to Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Ignoring Brown Sugar who’s live and in person so I can show the unseen masses cute pics of her wearing her holiday dress might not be a “good work.” Sharing Hubby and me cozying up over dinner reflects only candlelight, not God’s light—because I surely don’t wish you were there. I’m just shining my light before men, glorifying myself, not God.

Social media has its purposes. Finding the perfect ham glaze takes a few swipes. I share current pics of the little people instead of on our not-so-annual Christmas cards. Texting “Dinner’s ready!” saves me from trouping—or yelling—upstairs. But life’s not all smoke and mirrors and sepia-colored filters. Social media gluttony is just like overindulging in holiday sweets. I just need to “be, really,” not seeking and finding my identity in what I follow and in who follows me, but in Who I follow.

And I know this doesn’t surprise you, despite the raised eyebrows in your selfie. Sadly, our world just likes its “reality” dressed for success in sparkly ribbons and bows, all decked out and hung up for show like the perfect holiday wreath. Once we hang it on the door we lock it, so no one sees the mess it conceals. We naturally crow publicly about our successes and cry privately about our failures. That’s why social media is such a safe place for us mere humans.

But then, our Savior calls us to be holy, not human.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus says, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made sufficient in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” So, the Crusader should “boast in his infirmities” instead of the accomplishments the world tattoos, tweets, and touts. Songbird should measure her wattage by the “power of Christ” instead of by the number of her Instagram followers. I need to show them where their help comes from—the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth—by first showing them I need help, not purporting to be the ultimate resource for others. (Psalm 121:2)

Surely my little people can see the black heart I try not to wear on my sleeve. And not only them, but God. He “does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God looks at my heart. Jesus… the Holy One with the countless followers, a best-seller; an impressive staff of contributing writers, and a rock-solid social media platform. Yet His lens is aimed in my direction, and not at Himself. Post a selfie? Not Jesus! He just didn’t think that highly of Himself. Isaiah 53:2, 3 writes, “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

It doesn’t take a mirror, a camera, or a Facebook entry for me to see as He sees, to be seen as He is seen. I don’t have to post my events and accomplishments to thoroughly enjoy them. I don’t need to forward an e-mail to 50 friends to prove I love Jesus—or that He loves me. I just need to “be, really”—be really, fully engaged in the present moment I’m recording and posting for posterity; be the real wholehearted, fallible mom at home and online; be really intentional and loving and beautiful inside—even if my selfie shows up the very real pimple on my cheek.