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.

3 Ways to Bring Simplicity Back to Holiday Gift-Giving

3 Ways to Bring Simplicity Back to Holiday Gift GivingMy Christmas memories as a young girl include lots of food, lots of people, lots of whimsical decoration, but very few presents. The gifts I received were simple, often homemade, and only a sprinkling.

I was always thrilled to open the carefully wrapped packages. I clung to the gifts for the entire holiday season. Some gifts I cherished so much that I still own them.

Today, as I prepare a Christmas list for family and friends, I am reminded of the simple gifts that meant so much to me growing up. While I want to prepare handmade gifts for loved ones, I can’t help but think how they’ll fare beside shiny technology. Will the gift be appreciated? Will the invested time be honored? Or, will the item be tossed aside in favor of a more modern, twinkling toy?

It’s clear that we live in a time where portable plastics with bells and whistles take center stage. That’s not going to disappear anytime soon, no matter how nostalgic we become. Children born in the last 15 years have no idea what a world without internet is like.

How do we gift for the child who has everything, including a digital play sink?

How do we share something simple with a niece or nephew when they can create their own website in the blink of an eye?

How do we offer a piece of Christmas magic when the child thinks Santa Claus is the reason for the season?

Even without technology, you can still be a successful gift-giver and the young recipients will remember your thoughtfulness forever.

How to bring simplicity back to holiday gift-giving:

  1. Begin with your own child. While you may be tempted to influence all the children of the world, you can only begin with your own child – and not just at Christmas time. Throughout the year, teach your child about the handcrafts you grew up with. Have him feel the texture of yarn, smell the woodsy scent of natural wood, see the colors and patterns in fabrics, hear the sound of an acoustic instrument, and taste the wonders of homemade food. This exposure will take your child away from invasive technology and sensitize him to the simple pleasures in life. When the holidays roll around, he will appreciate the effort a person has put into a handmade gift.
  1. Offer a supplement to go along with a handmade gift. You don’t necessarily need to wait for the parents to begin knitting mittens before you share the gift of simplicity with someone else’s child.

If you’re going to crochet a new hat for a technology-crazed nephew, offer a supplement to go along with it.

Some ideas include:

  • a story to go along with the hat (an inspiring story about how you learned to crochet, or about how a charity that crochets for the needy got started, such as Krochet Kids Intl. and Keeping Kids Warm)
  • a timeline explaining the history of crocheting (for the history buff)
  • a list of famous people who wear crocheted hats today (or the style of hat you made)
  • “how-to” instructions to get started himself (use clear pictures for each step of the way)
  • list websites that share videos specifically teaching children to crochet
  • include tools for the child to learn to crochet (yarn and needles)

If you are gifting a wood-crafted gift to your selfie-loving niece, supplement with:

  • a bag of wood craft bits (easily found for cheap at any dollar store)
  • an already assembled natural wooden birdhouse or jewelry box ready for staining/ painting (also easily available at dollar stores)
  • a book for children about wood crafts
  • basic supplies for working with natural wood like sandpaper or glue (depending on the age, you can also supplement with a child-sized hammer or saw)
  • wooden pegs and popsicle sticks
  • tickets to see the latest wooden sculpture exhibit at the museum
  1. Offer a simple gift that lasts all year long. Competing with technology is easy if you give a gift that a child can enjoy all year long – not just within seconds of unwrapping. Think in terms of experiences rather than things.

Some ideas include:

  • a class the child has always wanted such as music, photography, skating, or crochet lessons (consider a three-month session instead of the entire year if finances don’t permit)
  • a subscription to a favorite magazine
  • a yearly pass to the botanical gardens, eco-museum or space center (or whatever else is the child’s passion)
  • monthly subscription for a surprise box (many companies offer random crafts, science, art or themed educational kits that arrive at the door monthly – who wouldn’t love the anticipation and mystery?)
  • teach the child to give to others in need (start a “Giver’s Club” together that meets monthly where, by next Christmas, the club donates items of choice to a charity of choice)

In what ways will you bring simplicity back to gift-giving?

How to Help Your Child Become an Enthusiastic Reader

This guest post was written by Yin Mones- a graphic artist, writer, and mother.

enthusiastic-reader

In these busy days of internet, smartphones, video games and instant gratification, parents are forgetting the importance of reading. It’s a huge problem.

For children, reading is one of the most important ways to develop both mentally and socially, providing a stimulating way to get to know the world around them.

This article will help you motivate your child to read more — encouraging a lifetime of reading and learning. Getting children reading should be more than fundamental. It should also be fun.

Developing a lifelong reader

As a parent, you know how curious your child can be. Questions like “why” and “how come” begin to fly fast and furious out of their mouths at a very early age. Reading can help answer their questions. In fact, when a child realizes how much they learn from reading, it becomes a “go to” option for them.

Getting children reading for the long term involves two things.

  1. A positive attitude towards reading
  2. The desire to continue reading and progress

Instilling these attitudes in your child can fill in the blanks that their natural curiosity creates.

2 Steps to get your child hooked on reading:

Step 1

Creating a positive attitude is the first step in getting children reading, and you should start helping your child develop this at a very early age.

You can start with simple storytelling when a child is 0-3 years old. Read to them. Tell them stories. Show your own enthusiasm from reading. Use facial expressions and different voices for different characters. Have fun with it. Children pick up and mimic their parent’s attitudes and examples, and this goes for reading as well.

You should make reading together a part of every single day even for just a few minutes. It should become a fun habit that your child looks forward to. (It’s also a great way to create a loving bond with your young child that will carry on throughout life.)

Step 2

Creating the desire to continue reading at higher levels is your next goal as a parent. By reading to them everyday when they are young, you have already taken a huge step.

Other steps to getting children reading for life is to make it accessible–filling your home with magazines and books. Surround your child with the chance to read. As your child grows, let them choose their own books. Introduce new genres, comics, and new devices for reading.

A child reading on tablets and smartphones is standard in today’s world—and expected. (Although a good hardback book is still hard to beat.) Start asking questions, and teaching about grammar too.

Help them make the connections they see in books with things that happen in real life. You’ll start to see the light bulbs going off in their minds. As they grow older comic books are a great option for continuing to make reading fun.

The love of reading for life is one of the most important gifts you can give your child.

These steps will get children reading for life

By making reading a fun habit, you are proving how wonderful books can be. It will become a fun and special part of their lives (and they won’t even realize how much they are learning and developing along the way.) Before you know it, reading will be as routine to your child as playing a video game or a game of cards.

Getting children reading for the long term fills in the blanks their curiosity creates, helping then learn and develop faster than ever.

More ways to get children reading — and loving it

You will soon discover many more ways to bring reading into your child’s life:

  • Gift-giving: Be sure to always give books as a gift.
  • Libraries: As they grow older, take trips together to the local library.
  • Bookstores: Although bookstores aren’t as widespread as in days past, they can still be found—and spending a few hours in a bookstore is great way to inspire the wonder of books in a child.

Reading is one of life’s greatest and most valuable treasures. It is one you will want your child to enjoy forever.

About the Author:

Yin Mones is a graphic artist, writer and a mother. She is a regular contributor at The Mini Ark – an online collective, publishing Bible storybooks and Christian learning materials. Check out her works at The Mini Ark blog: http://www.theminiark.com/blog

071:Thanks for Giving…

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On this week’s homeschool podcast I’d like to introduce to you our newest team member and writer, Nikisha Ware. I decided to read aloud her encouraging post for this week’s Thanksgiving-themed podcast. I pray that you’ll be encouraged.

thanksgiving transparent

The following was written by guest blogger, Nikisha Ware of http://www.successtory.org/.

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NWare I confess that Thanksgiving used to be my least favorite holiday. A distant fifth behind Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, and New Year’s. As a child, I can remember hearing the story of Native Americans and pilgrims enjoying a lovely feast together. But, the story never resonated with me.

But now, it’s more than just a wonderful mealtime. Thanksgiving is now a time to remember, review, and refocus. It is a time to tell God thanks for giving new life. It is a time to tell our friends and families thanks for giving us the opportunity to serve. It is also a time to tell our children thanks for giving us a legacy of service.

Remember.

One of my favorite praise and worship tunes is 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord). When I sing this song at church, my hands automatically raise. This song says it all. So whenever the holiday season gets frenzied and you’re tempted to use your outside voice, remember there are literally thousands of reasons to be grateful and to give thanks.

 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies

never come to an end; they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23

Review.

As a child, I believe Thanksgiving was my least favorite because it wasn’t associated with any gift-giving. I know awful, right? I have come to appreciate the gift of service and to understand that giving with a grateful heart is my offering to God. Mark 10:45 reminds us that Jesus came to serve, not be served. So becoming more like Him involves asking the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of disobedience, self-sufficiency, a growing self-righteousness, or a growing self-confidence, outside the bounds of what God would have us walk in, that would hinder us from giving freely, joyfully, and without expecting anything in return. Whew! Only with God is this possible.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly

or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Refocus.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to count your blessings and give thanks to others. Researchers link an attitude of gratitude to greater success and better health. Most of us are aware of this, but still struggle and need to be reminded of how fortunate we are. Counting our blessings is great, but it doesn’t help the people begging for spare change to buy food, get a job or feel cherished. To appreciate what we have is good, but more than that, we need to give back. My family is re-focusing on what it means to be thankful this holiday season. I never want our children to count their blessings in lieu of reaching out. We decided it’s not the season to gloat over our gifts and mumble a few grateful prayers. As we look for ways to serve the people in our community, we intend to turn our gratitude into action and pass the hope we have been given in Christ to others.

Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow

I will give it”—when you have it with you. Proverbs 3:28

 I challenge you this Thanksgiving to stand with me and my family in remembering, reviewing, and refocusing on God’s blessings, our offerings to others, and how we can better show Christ to the world.

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Ways to Reach Us:

Big Mistake You Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year-Pt 3

RECAP OF BIG MISTAKE PARTS 1 AND 2

Part 1 shared how the big mistake of isolation happens with some homeschool families and what the Word of God teaches about relationships. Part 2 shared the story of our family’s journey through the big mistake of isolation and two steps you can take for your transformation.

Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year - Part 3 by Donna Marie @ ChristianHomeschoolMoms.com

Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year – Part 3 by Donna Marie @ ChristianHomeschoolMoms.com

I also posted a poll and encouraged you to share about your own journey. If you haven’t, yet, make sure you comment with your answer for the poll and read other family’s comments on the article for part 1. If you answered no on the poll, part 3 may help you move forward and, eventually, change your poll answer.

WHY YOUR FAMILY SHOULD STAY COMMUNITY-CONNECTED

For Christ-Focused Families who homeschool, being part of a community of like-minded folks who love learning is priceless. It is not just about plugging in with other church members who have the same core spiritual beliefs, though that helps. And also, depending on your family’s specific unique needs and goals, it may not even be about hanging around other homeschoolers. Below I have listed some key benefits of connecting with a supportive learning-focused community.

FIRST: KEEP YOUR HEART OPEN

BEFORE YOU READ THE LIST: remember to embrace whoever God sends you, no matter where He chooses to send them from into your life. This is because His ways of doing things are higher than ours, and His thoughts are greater than ours. So, keep your heart open to hear from Him about new relationships so you can clearly discern which ones are sent from Him.

SEVEN BENEFITS OF STAYING COMMUNITY-CONNECTED

  1. ➤ receive non-judgmental support for your homeschool purpose and goals
  2. ➤ give empathy and non-judgmental support to other homeschool families; giving back always makes you feel better about yourself and your homeschool, as you see how what you share makes an impact on them

o   Also, according to Genesis 12:2-3, God has always intended for His People to be a blessing to all families of the world. You cannot do that in isolation.

  1. ➤ accountability with other home educators who regularly ask the right questions that remind you of what you said you were going to accomplish this year
  2. ➤ learning about tips and approaches that may help you tweak some elements of your schooling, especially if your homeschooled children are gifted or have special needs which are not addressed in traditional curricula
  3. ➤ adult to adult conversation and authentic, empathetic friendship on a regular basis
  4. ➤ extra-curricular and physical education support, such as by creating or joining a co-op homeschool group, local community programs or special events (e.g., soccer team, local theater classes or urban farmer’s markets events, and countless other opportunities)
  5. ➤ become more active and healthier – studies have shown that isolation can cause you to become physically (and mentally) unhealthy, especially if you are staying in your home all of the time. It is important to set a great example for our kids so that, as they mature, they will understand how to take good care of themselves and build healthier relationships.

SHARE OTHER BENEFITS YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED

Use the comments area to share your positive experience. Please tell us about the benefits you have seen from staying community-connected. This will help each of us here get more perspective on this topic.

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR YOU = BLESS THE WHOLE WORLD.

God’s purpose for your homeschool family is to be a thriving part of the community and to bless the world. Get out there and have fun with your family. Explore and have new experiences together. Build an extended family of friends that love you all and can relate to your unique homeschool journey on some level.

God bless you and your family with a great life and even greater relationships than you have ever experienced before.