An Update on our School Year (Our Schedule, Curriculum, Homeschool, Public School, College, oh my!)

Way back in August when I shared this very delicious Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe, I mentioned a bit about our school year and our family Bible time. Several asked for more information, so here I am, a month and a half later, finally getting around to writing a few details about our schedule and curriculum.

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The good news: So far, this year isn’t as difficult as the past three years have been. Thank you, God. Our high school aged sons had some tougher classes during those years that threatened to push both student and mother over the edge of sanity. Everything in comparison seems easier this year, even though it’s still hard work. So here we are, not losing our sanity. Mostly.

This year we have:

Asa ~ age 20, a college junior

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Of course he’s not still homeschooling or even living at home, but I thought you might like an update on him anyway. :) Asa lives on the York College campus across town, so we still get to see him from time to time! He’s in the thick of his Business Communications degree plan, is known as “the video guy” on campus, and is well on his way to making a career of videography and photography. He’s paying his way through school with his camera, by studying hard so he can keep his academic scholarship (he has to maintain a 3.75 gpa or higher, phew!), plus he’s got a soccer and a choir scholarship. Somehow he keeps up with all of this, along with heavy involvement on campus, without ever sleeping. Also, he has an adorable girlfriend. Be still my heart.

Justus ~ age 17.5, a high school senior

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He is all but finished with his high school graduation requirements, so he is focusing now on getting more college credits under his belt. (We heart dual credits!) He’s taking World Literature on the York College campus, and Intro To Business at the public high school for college credit.

Big News! Nebraska changed their requirements this year for homeschoolers. In order to participate in extracurricular activities at the public school, homeschoolers only have to take two classes (which is much more doable for our family compared to previous state requirements). So Justus and Elias are taking two classes each at our local high school so that they can play soccer with the team in the spring. So exciting!

Justus is taking piano and voice lessons each week, choir at the public school, and produces music on software at home each week too. Perhaps it goes without saying that he is planning to be a music major in college next year.

Elias ~ age 15.5, a high school sophomore 

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This kid is hitting his high school basics hard this semester so that he can begin dual credits next semester (or next year…we’re still working out some of the specifics). He’s taking Choir and Weight Lifting at the public high school for his two required classes which will make him eligible to play soccer with the team. We chose those because there’s no homework involved, seeing as his homeschool academic plate is very full this year (details below).

Elias takes voice lessons each week and has no idea what he wants to do as a career in the future. It will be fun to watch God reveal that to him in the coming years!

Malachi, age 12.5, a 7th grader

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This guy is so full of ideas I can’t keep up. He’d rather ignore all school work and instead develop his ideas all day (mostly with LEGOs and YouTube, both of which he’d like to turn into businesses). Unfortunately, he has mean parents who still make him do his Pre-Algebra. So, he works hard to get his school work done by lunch, if possible, so that he can go with ALL THE IDEAS all afternoon.

He is on both a city team and a club team for soccer this fall and is busy writing two scripts for a church middle school event in the spring.

All three of our boys who still live at home will play for our homeschool basketball team this winter (Malachi’s first year!). They also all referee soccer for our city rec league, and some for club teams too, which has been great money for them through the years. They all work with Matt here and there doing various handy man or lawn care jobs, which is great for their work ethic, skills training, and savings accounts!

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What does our school year schedule look like?

6:30ish I get up and have quiet time with God before the household gets up. The boys wake up to their alarm clocks so they can be ready and at the table at 8:00.

8:00 Our family enjoys breakfast and Bible time together (I explained more about our family Bible time here).

8:40 Justus and Elias leave for Choir at the public school. Elias has Weight Lifting right after that, so Justus hangs out in the library and does school work during that period.

Meanwhile, Malachi and I read World History together (Sonlight curriculum) at home. Then he heads to a computer to work on Pre-Algebra (Teaching Textbooks) in the hopes that he’ll be done with that computer before Elias gets home. I answer emails and do other small blogging jobs while staying nearby to answer any math questions Malachi has.

10:30 Justus and Elias get home from public school. Justus practices his piano, guitar, and does any college class homework that needs to be done.

Elias starts on Geometry (Teaching Textbooks), then moves on to English, Zoology, and Economics (all guided by Sonlight curriculum suggestions, but adapted by Matt and me to fit his needs/learning style/state requirements). He finishes his day with Spanish (DuoLingo) usually around 2:00. We’re trying to squeeze in some ACT practice right now as well.

Malachi does his English, Science, and Reading (all Sonlight curriculum), then moves on to Spanish (DuoLingo). If he’s diligent, he can be finished with his work by noon.

12:00 Justus heads out to his Intro to Business class at the public school.

1:00 Everyone (and by this, I mean everyone but Asa, of course) is home and we eat lunch together, if possible.

1:45 On Tuesday/Thursday, Justus heads to the York College campus for his World Lit class. Elias and Malachi finish any work they have left. This is the point I can usually get a little bit of uninterrupted blogging work done, maybe, sort of. (Not that it matters, but it is 3:47 right now and I have been interrupted no less than 13 times in the past 30 minutes. Working from home is so relaxing and productive.)

The rest of the day and evening involves soccer games, church activities, or ministry opportunities. Often we don’t eat dinner together until around 8:00 pm during the fall. However, our boys’ homeschool basketball season is about to begin, which will mean that they need to eat and leave by 6:30 on Tues/Thurs evenings.

Our School Year - Homeschool, Public, and College

Through each full day, God always provides for our spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. My dirty kitchen though? Well, I’ll get that clean after all the kids graduate.

The Teenage Boy and the Toilet Paper

Sometimes I feel all alone in this big old house full of men. It’s five-on-one here, with me being the only female in a house full of males. A husband, four sons, and me, the wife and mom, speaking a language all my own. How frequent it is that I speak sentences full of words no one understands.

Or so it seems.

Family at Nebraska City

Perhaps I do provide too many details when I share fun news. “Our friends had their baby!” I say, following up my announcement with the size, weight, details, details, details, and details that we all most certainly care about very much! I finally come up for air, and they all give an appreciative nod and a “cool” or a “nice” before zoning back into whatever it was they were doing before I started my speech.

Sometimes it seems like they aren’t listening. Sometimes it seems like they don’t care.

I know better though. They hear. And they definitely care. They just aren’t as interested as I am in the color of the darling bow the baby wore on her head on the way home from the hospital (multi-colored with flowers, thanks for asking).

My boys and I shop together, but I’m alone at the rack with cute sweaters and adorable tops. We have a blast anyway, meeting back up and high-fiving over the clearance deals we’ve all found. We laugh together about the weird shorts that are still on the rack for so many obvious reasons, but wonder together if we should actually buy them for Asa because if anyone could pull off such ridiculous looking apparel and make it look cool, it would be him.

Hangers in the clothing store.

The fun I have with my household of men truly takes my breath away, even while there are times I long for any one of them to get excited with me about how great it would be if we actually put all the shoes in the closet where they belong. The fact that no one but me can see the pile of books on the steps that needs to be carried upstairs blows my mind. How do they walk over and around them twelve times but never once see them and pick them up to take them to the place they need to go? I do not understand this.

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But I’ve learned that the fact that they don’t always see doesn’t mean that they don’t care. And just because their faces don’t light up over the news of a new baby or the sight of a clean kitchen doesn’t mean they aren’t excited or appreciative.

As their mom, I will continue to share too many details, because I can’t help it and after all, someone needs to prepare them to hear all the details and words their wives will some day share with them every day, am I right? My arms will flail and my eyes will light up and my voice will show ridiculous inflection as I tell about the exciting deal I found on strawberries and a new recipe I’m excited to try as a result, even though they will only shrug after hearing my details and simply say, “Cool. Can we have some?”

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But then there will be the day when the basket that holds the rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom becomes empty and I will look up to see my 15-year old son get a full package out of storage, open it, and fill the basket just like I have been doing for years. He wasn’t asked to do this chore. I didn’t even know he knew my system. But there he is. Filling baskets with toilet paper.

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These are actual baskets in our actual bathroom,
filled with actual toilet paper by an actual teenage boy. 

Apparently, they do see. They do notice. They do care.

My eyes light up over this! I gush with appreciation, using many words and flailing arms to express my thanks! He responds with a wordless shrug, because after all, it’s just toilet paper.

No, Son. It’s more than that. Here, let me tell you in detail why this is means so much to me…

The Teenage Boy and the Toilet Paper

How We Developed a Morning Bible Reading Time With Our Family

It might surprise you to know that what originally started our morning Bible reading time with our family was a bit of selfish need on the part of this mama.

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What selfish need was my motivation? Oh, just a little something I like to call peace and quiet. The silly little desire for my four small boy children to actually stay in their chairs during a meal and not throw scrambled eggs toward the window or poke each other with forks. The desperate attempt to find some sort of order for our mornings when we were staring down a 7-year old, a 5-year old, a 3-year old, and a 6-month old.

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Now truly, motivation for beginning our Bible reading time was the fact that we felt like good Christian parents should probably actually read the Bible to their kids. Funny that I didn’t at first equate Christ-like character and heart training with Bible reading. Good Christians just read the Bible, right?

I could interrupt myself here and ask what I even thought it meant to be a “good Christian” because what? Like there’s such thing as a “bad Christian?” Either you’re a Christ follower or you aren’t. But I digress.

So we wanted to be good Christian parents, and that surely must mean that we should read the Bible to our kids. And we wanted all the eggs and muffins to stay on plates and then get eaten, so it started to make sense to us that if we read the Bible to our kids while they were sitting at the table eating their food, we could get a two-for-one. The kids would sit and eat. The “good Christian parents” could read the Bible. Everyone brushes their teeth and moves on with the day.

Thankfully, before we got much farther into our parenting journey, God convicted us that shaping our kids’ hearts and character meant much more than simply “reading the Bible” to them. Of course, reading the Bible is a fabulous and necessary part of the journey, but it’s so much more than just reading words and moving on. We started talking with our kids frequently about God’s work in our lives. We started using scripture as a part of their training in ways that were fun and meaningful.

We learned that we needed to make Jesus’ life and and love a part of every aspect of our lives so that we, too, could live a life of love.

As parents, we learned along with our kids. There’s no magic formula for perfect parenting, but there is a Holy Spirit, the perfect guide. The more we listen to His leading and direction, the more we know what to say, how to love, and how to guide our kids.

As for our morning family Bible reading time at breakfast, it’s become a practice and tradition that we all hold dear. It’s much more than words in a book. It’s the Words from the Book. It’s Truth. It’s Life.

Reading to our kids during a meal began as a way to keep them focused on both food and words. It worked for us then, and works for us now as it brings our busy family of teenagers together for conversation and Biblical truth before we hit the ground running.

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Keeping their hands busy any time I read to them when they were little
was a necessity if I wanted them to actually hear the words I was reading.

No matter how you choose to fill your kids with Truth from the Word, do find the ways that work for you. During meals, in the car, at bedtime – any or all of the above, as the Spirit leads you. Change your times and practices through the years as needed.

Don’t limit scripture training to be something your kids learn on Sunday mornings. Make it a part of every day of your lives, as parents, as individuals, and as a family.

And if you read the Bible at the breakfast table with your little ones, enjoy the added benefit that the eggs will be thrown at the window less frequently and forks will be poked at siblings less often.

How We Developed a Morning Bible Reading Time with our Family

Huge List of Screen Free Activities for Summer Fun

This is the point in the summer that my kids are too hot to play, too hot to work, too hot to move, and too hot to care. Therefore, reaching for a device to play a game or zoning out to Netflix feels like the best option.

Knowing this is true for kids of all ages {Laura raises her hand while trying to cool down with a Coffee Milkshake} I asked my friend Kim to use her brilliance and creativity to come up with a list of ideas we can suggest to our kids, all of which do not involve a screen.

Huge List of Screen-Free Activitiesfor Summer Fun

Sounds good? Here we go!

List of Screen Free Activities for Summer Fun

1. Read, of course…

We’ve already talked about all the good books to read! (Did you see this list?) First and foremost, cooling off under the fan with a good book is a perfect screen free option this summer. Look over our list of great book suggestions. Join our Summer Reading Party. Read, read, read!

2. Have a Board Games Tournament

Huge List of Screen-Free Activitiesfor Summer Fun

Select any of the following, making adjustments depending on your kids’ ages. If your kids are old enough, enjoying any of these games in tournament form could be a blast! Even if your kids are “too old” for little kid games, sometimes it’s fun to pull them out and have a “Throw Back Game Day!”

3. Have Fun With Bubbles

  • Have Bubble Races – Hold your bubble on your wand and see who can go the farthest.
  • Set up a Bubble Obstacle Course – Create an obstacle course and try to get through it without your bubble popping.
  • Hold a Bubble Contest – Compete for who has the biggest bubble, smallest bubble, one that flies the highest, one that lasts the longest…
  • Make Big Bubbles – Use lids from different sized cottage cheese, yogurt, or sour cream containers to cut into fun bubble rings. Dip the the rings into the tubs of homemade bubbles, made as directed below. This makes great big bubbles!
  • Check out these Bubble Guns for an extra level of fun!

Need a Homemade Bubble Recipe?

Homemade Bubbles
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 12 cups water
  • 1 cup dish soap
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients in a bucket or tub, stirring gently.
  2. Allow mixture to sit for one hour before having bubble fun!

4. Use Sidewalk Chalk in a Fun New Way

  • Use Water – Dip your sidewalk chalk in water and see how that changes the color and consistency of the art.
  • Have Sidewalk Chalk Contests – Compete for who can draw the silliest, biggest, smallest, brightest, largest, most accurate, etc.
  • Use Sidewalk Chalk to Decorate Rocks – It is like dyeing Easter eggs, only with chalk and rocks!
  • Spread the Love – Write a message of love, encouragement or fun on a neighbor’s sidewalk.  Leave a Welcome Home message on a vacationing family’s driveway. (Note from Laura: This is my favorite of all the ideas Kim came up with!!)

5. Enjoy Outdoor and Backyard Games

6. Set up Some Water GamesHuge List of Screen-Free Activitiesfor Summer Fun

7. Set up Sand Box Fun

8. Go on New Adventures

  • Park Hop – Go from one park to another in your town and surrounding areas, take a friend, have a picnic
  • Have a Progressive Dinner – Start with salad at one house, hors d’oeuvres at a second, main course at another and end up with dessert at a final house
  • Go Geocaching – With a smart phone and some hiking shoes, you can make this happen.  Don’t have a smart phone?  Try a handheld GPS.  You will have to scout your locations in advance and bring a list.
  • Go on a Treasure Hunt or Scavenger Hunt – Create a series of clues and a treasure at the end.
  • Go a New Way – Have a destination to which you like to bike or walk?  Try taking a different route.
  • Look Online – Use the internet to find new, fun, free things to do in your area
  • Camp out in the backyard – If you can’t do over night, then pitch the tent in the yard for an instant playhouse/fort/hideaway

9. Set up Creative Indoor Play

  • Sensory Bins with Rice, Beans, or Salt – Let kids play in containers of rice, beans or salt.  They can draw letters, shapes and pictures.
  • Play with and draw in Shaving Cream
  • Make Homemade Playdough (Mix 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch and 1.5 cups warm water. Stir all together and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour into something to cool. Once it is cool, knead it and you can play away.  If you want to add color, put food coloring in the water before boiling the mixture.
  • Paint with Water Colors – Cover the dining room table with large sheets of paper and let the kids paint away
  • Make a Selfie – Take a large sheet of paper and trace the child’s whole body.  Let them decorate and draw the shape to resemble themselves.
  • Hold a Talent Show – Do Mom and Dad have talent?  What about the kids?  Show it off!  Don’t forget the video camera!
  • Get out Simple Art Supplies – Use pine cones, pipe cleaners and googly eyes to create a miniature family
  • Have a Lego Contest
  • Hold a Coloring Contest

10. Cooking TogetherHuge List of Screen Free Activities

Fun Kid Friendly Recipes

What are some of your favorite Screen Free Activities to suggest to your kids? Leave a comment to share!

Some of these links are my affiliate links.

The Boy Who Saved Christmas

This post was originally published on December 20, 2013

After having three baby boys within four years, Matt and I ceased to have the ability to finish sentences or call our children by their given names. Our little fellas became accustomed to answering to “A-Jus-El-um-um-COME-HERE-BUDDY!”  Having more than three children didn’t seem to make sense to us since obviously, we were no longer making sense.

When those three little boys were ages 5, 2, and 6 months – my mom was diagnosed with ALS. Thus began a journey in our lives that was filled with grief, pain, and hardship as we traveled back and forth to Kansas to be with Mom as often as we could during the next 22 months. If I couldn’t get my act together before, I certainly couldn’t even find my act during this time.

I remember crying out to God during one of my lowest points, just a few months before she died. It had been a year and a half since her diagnosis, and she was failing quickly. Knowing that we were soon going to lose her, I fell on my knees and asked God to help me find joy again. He listened. He heard. And He answered. Just a few weeks later, we were shocked to find out that we were expecting baby number four. Now that was a surprise we had not anticipated! Indeed, we were filled with joy.

We were able to share the news with Mom (who was convinced that we would surely have a girl this time). Suddenly all of us – my dad, my brother, all of us – had a reason to smile. We had something to look forward to! God is so much fun. Little did we know how this baby would continue to be the perfect blessing we would all need during the coming months.

When I was about four months into the pregnancy, Mom finished her race. We were relieved, sad, grateful, devastated, and exhausted. We all began a new journey of life without her – enduring that year of “firsts” that families experience when they lose someone. The first birthday without her. The first Mother’s Day. The first Thanksgiving. The first Christmas.

Oh, Christmas. Mom loved Christmas. How would we ever have Christmas without her? Should we try to carry on the same traditions she loved? Should we plan the same menu? Should we have Christmas at Dad’s or would it be too painful and empty without her there?

As it turns out, the new baby we were expecting answered all the questions for us. On December 20 (twelve years ago today), our fourth baby boy was born. It was decided that all of the family would come to Nebraska to meet him and to celebrate Christmas in our home. We would eat whatever we found in my freezer and we would keep the holiday simple. That sweet baby boy was just what we all needed to be able to smile through our tears as we shared our first Christmas without Mom.

Happy 12th Birthday, Malachi Mark! God gifted you to us, bringing us tremendous joy and hope. May you always allow yourself to be used by God to be a blessing to others.

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Free New Summer Reading Challenge Printables For Your Family

When my kids were little, we went to the library every week during the summer for the special Summer Reading Program they offered. This kept our boys excited about books and they loved the opportunity they had to win small prizes and meet challenges.

As most of our boys hit the upper grades and outgrew the library program, I saw that our younger two boys needed a little extra motivation to read during the weeks of summer they were home. (Our older two are welcome to participate also, but they tend to be gone more than they are home during June and July.) So we started creating our own Summer Reading Challenge here at home. I set up a simple reward system – tailor made to what I knew would motivate them! I wrote about this last year and offered some free printables. This year, I made more to share with you!

For you, Summer Reading Challenge Printables

Create Your Own Summer Reading Challenge

I’ll share how our family sets this up, then of course you can adapt it to meet your needs if the Summer Reading Challenge idea works for you!

1. Set up a system.

Decide how many minutes or hours your child needs to read before he/she earns a reward. Do the minutes/hours count if the child is being read to, or do they need to read on their own? How will you keep track of time spent reading? (I recommend using these charts!)

2. Talk to your child(ren) about what rewards would be fun motivation for them.

Our kids earn a prize after they have read for five hours. Typically our family’s prizes get a little bigger as they read more and more hours. Here are a few our kids came up with that they would enjoy:

  • Redbox movie rental
  • $1 ice cream cone from Runza
  • Choose something from the Dollar Store
  • Invite a friend for a sleep-over
  • $2 Happy Hour Big Pizza Slice at Pizza Hut
  • Drink from Captain Red Beard’s (our local coffee shop)
  • Still brainstorming :)

3. Put it all into a chart.

My oldest boys don’t care about a cutesy chart to log their hours, but Malachi (age 11) still enjoys one. (However, even the older boys need to at least log their hours in a notebook so they don’t lose track.) The rewards are usually listed on our fridge.

This year, Malachi will use the Pirate Chart I made. (For some reason he didn’t choose the Flowers and Butterflies Chart?!?)

Free Summer Reading Challenge Printable Charts

I’ve made these charts as generic as possible so that you can use them in whatever way your family prefers. The Pirate Chart and the Flowers and Butterflies Chart can be used a little differently than the others that are for writing lists and checking off goals. Consider writing prizes on each cut-out piece for your child to glue onto the chart once they’ve earned that particular prize.

Grab your free printables!

These are free for everyone and will connect you to our fun Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone. It’s free, of course.

Enter your email address here, then check your inbox for download instructions. Print one, print them all, use them in whatever ways work best for your family to enjoy reading this summer!

If you are already subscribed to Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone, you should have received an email yesterday giving you instant access to this freebie. Look in your inbox for the subject: FREE Summer Reading Challenge Charts!

A Day in the Life ~ Homeschooling Older Kids and Teenagers

Many have requested that I share what life is like for our family now that our kids are older. What is our homeschool routine? How is it that as the kids got older and more independent, Mom actually got busier? What does a day in our life look like?

Today, I took pictures and notes all day long. I’ve documented our Wednesday as best I can. Why today? I chose today because I finally remembered the post request this morning and decided to started taking pictures (and you thought I was so organized). You’ll notice that most of the pictures don’t include the kids. It’s a teenage thing and I respect it. I now present to you over 20 {mostly} kidless pictures.

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After all, what could be more fun than looking at a picture of our overflowing compost bucket??

First I’ll fill you in on who we are – then I’ll share the specifics of our life today:

Matt and I are self-employed. I’m a writer-blogger (hi!); Matt runs a variety of businesses from snow removal/lawn care to rental property management to handyman/construction. Every work day is different for us based on the current deadlines and to-do lists. We tag-team the needs of the kids and needs of the household.

Our boys are now 18, 15 (almost 16), 14, and 11.

Asa (18) is a college freshman, living on campus at our local Christian college and juggling a very full academic and social life. Justus (15) is a high school sophomore; Elias (14) is an eighth grader; Malachi (11) is a fifth grader. So in summary, we have one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary. (And I question why I can’t keep up.)

Family Christmas Pic

For me, today began as it usually does with a cup of coffee and my Bible. I got up later than I meant to (whatever though, I needed sleep) – so that cut into my quiet time as Matt got the boys moving for the day.

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The boys are typical teenagers, which means the first thing they like to do in the morning is grab their ipods from the living room table to see what they missed while they were sleeping. Sometimes I hate ipods and want to run them over with my car (like when the boys are so zoned into them they don’t hear me telling them to load the dishwasher or that the house is on fire). But this is our culture and this is how they keep up with their people and make plans, so I try to be okay with this (while still setting boundaries). After a few minutes, ipods stayed in the living room as the boys headed to the kitchen to find breakfast.

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Everyone warmed up their own leftover French toast or pancakes and grabbed applesauce and/or blueberries. Matt read to us from the book of Romans as we ate. Today we ate in a hurry because Justus and Malachi had to be at their piano lessons at 9:00.

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Teeth brushed, the two boys packed their piano books along with some school work so that while one boy was having his lesson, the other boy could read or do English. In the meantime, Elias tried to sneak back onto his ipod (as I pictured it being crushed under the van tire) and then got scooted upstairs to do his English lesson. Then, since he was the only boy home, he got on the computer to do his Algebra.

I used the quiet time to start writing this post, then shopped online to order Justus’ birthday presents and made a grocery list off Pricematcherz.com.

Matt took his truck to have the tires worked on, and they finished just in time for him to pick up the boys from piano. Good thing since I was still in my jammies. ;)

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Once home, Justus went straight back to the school computer to work on his music. Malachi and Elias started playing soccer in the living room. (It’s winter. I don’t own knick-knacks. THEY WERE GETTING ALONG. Carry on, boys.)

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What? Don’t you have a soccer goal by your front door?

I sent Elias in to empty half the dishwasher. Malachi played the piano for a while, then I sent him off to do his reading. Elias and Malachi began working on a video project together, while still getting along. Justus was working on Geometry on the computer. I finished tweaking an article to send into our local newspaper (I write a weekly column) and suddenly needed food. It was only 11:00, but I am always hungry for lunch earlier than anyone else. (I eat an earlier breakfast, plus I’m more of a five-meals-a-day kind of eater.)

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I warmed up Taco Soup (working on a recipe for you!) and got out guacamole, carrots, and clementines.

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Around noon, everyone else was hungry too, so they dug in. They chose kiwi instead of clementines. While they ate, I read aloud from our latest missionary book.

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Lunch over, I had to head to Walmart to get ink for my computer so I could get a printed curriculum in the mail. I grabbed some price-match items while I was there, then ran to pick up Malachi’s buddy to hang out for the afternoon. While I was out, Justus completed his Physics and did some English and History reading. Elias read English and Science. Malachi completed his math assignment.

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Once I got home, Justus finished cleaning out the dishwasher, Malachi loaded it with dirty dishes, and the rest of us put groceries away.

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At 1:55 Matt, Elias, Malachi, and his friend headed out the door for an indoor soccer session. On the way, they dropped Justus off at the college campus for the 2:00 MWF Psychology class he’s taking. (You can read here about how we get dual high school and college credits for our kids.) I settled in for exactly 45 minutes of quiet work time before I needed to leave to pick Justus up from his class.

Everyone was back home by 3:15. I spent a silly amount of time on the phone tracking down a package that hadn’t been delivered. The boys found snacks to eat. Elias and Justus did their Spanish lessons on the computer. Malachi hung out with his friend. I closed my office door to write this post. :)

I checked on the boys a while later and found the door to the back room closed up tight. Why?? Usually it’s open a crack, but when it’s closed like this, it usually means “I’m recording so don’t walk in until I’m done or you’ll ruin everything!”

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What are the boys working on in there? Well, Justus and Elias currently have four big music/video projects they are working on with their church friends. Our church is hosting a Youth Rally coming up in February, and videos are a must; plus the boys need to complete some videos for LTC – a leadership event coming up in April. They’ve spent hours the past few weeks (some on their own and some with as many from the youth group who can help out) writing lyrics and scripts, creating beats and tunes, recording voices, videoing the action, and editing their work to put it all together. I can’t tell you how much I love them doing this.

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I snuck into the room later to take a picture of what is our “recording studio”/school-computer room/Matt’s office/guest room. The boys invested in that fancy microphone you see there, and Matt and I got them the mic stand and pop filter for Christmas.

The rest of the afternoon passed with me hiding in my office trying to get some work done. I hollered out at one point for each boy to scrub four potatoes for dinner. I came out of my office around 5:00 and made a big pot of Potato Soup. I had the boys work together on sides of sweet peppers, olives, raspberries, and pickles.

We headed out the door at 6:20 for Wednesday evening Bible study. At 8:15 we were back home, joined by a young couple who is getting married this March. Matt and I visited with them (pre-marital counseling/mentoring) until around 10:15. During that time the boys were sent upstairs to fold and put away the huge laundry pile. Once they finished that, they hung out in the back room and watched netflix until 10:00 when we headed them up to bed.

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Now it is 10:54 and I am wrapping this up and calling it a day. Thursdays usually require a little less running around compared to Wednesdays, though the two middle boys have basketball practice tomorrow night. Never a dull moment.

So how was your day? Have you found your schedule changing as your kids get older?

Provide and Protect ~ a Prayer For My Children

Provide and Protect - a Prayer For My Children

It used to be me. Or so I thought.

When they were little, I was the one who provided everything they needed and protected them from anything that might hurt them. I set up their routines and walked them away from situations that were too much for their young hearts to handle. I set the boundaries, set the stage, set out the activities. I said yes, said no, said too much, said too little, said things wrong, said things right, and said it will all be okay. I was in charge. I was in control. I was the one.

Or so I thought.

They’re big now. They are amazing and skilled and smart and fun, and one by one, they are launching. Their steps are becoming their own; their thoughts and behaviors are less and less a result of my commands and instruction and more and more a brave leap of their own long-legged independence.

My prayer is no longer crafted out of the ideas on my own heart. Recognition of truth has left me with very few words. I know little about tomorrow. You are the One who knows your Kingdom plans for my kids. I’m simply the one whose heart longs for their good and for their walk to be on the path you’ve carved for them.

I’m not who I once thought I was.

I’m not their provider. I’m not their protector. I’m a huge part of their life on this earth, but I’m only their mother. I’m the one God gave them to show them love and guidance. But you, God. You are the One who knows what they need and how to provide.

This is what I ask of you:

Protect

Protect them, Lord. Protect them from people who do not have their best interests in mind, from people who are self-seeking and heartless, from people who will hurt them.

Protect them from apathy. Protect them from becoming self-centered, self-seeking, self-deprecating, and self-motivated. Provide them the heart to lay aside self in order to seek You.

Provide

Provide for them, Lord. Provide people to encourage and hold them accountable, to build them up and make them stronger, to inspire and challenge them to be more like Christ. It takes a village. Build it strong and high and full.

Provide my children with confidence and skill, tools and words to get themselves out of any situation that would be harmful to them in any way. Provide them with the confidence to do right and strength to flee from wrong.

Provide everything they need, because You are the One who knows precisely what that means.

Do what I cannot do. I trust you with my children.

Thank you for the blessing and honor of being Mom to my sons. How cool of you to give me my four favorites. How wise of you to grow me along with them. How gentle of you to hold us so gracefully. How perfect of you to love us so consistently.

To my boys:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

 

An Open Letter From My 42 Year-Old Self To My 28 Year Old Self Who Is About to Begin Homeschooling

Dear Much Younger Me,

How I wish we could sit for a while with a cup of coffee and chat about this homeschooling journey you are about to begin! That won’t work though because you are me – 14 years ago – and for some strange reason, you don’t like coffee yet. I do not understand this.

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If it was possible, I would love to tell you a few things. First this:

You really, really need to chill out. I mean, your uber thorough lesson plans are adorable, but take a look at that baby’s face and realize that hello?! He’s five. I know he seems old to you because the others are so much smaller. But he’s not big – he’s little. He does not need to sit still for that long and workbooks for boys are almost always a disaster. I know you’ll figure this out by boy number 2, so God bless the oldest child. But really. Long school days with all the subjects and all the books and all the projects – they are too much. Your stress isn’t blessing your children. Keep plugging along for the next 13 years of his schooling, and I guarantee that while there will be holes in his education because there always are for every single kid in the entire whole wide everywhere, he is going to be prepared for adulthood. History is history, so if he doesn’t catch it now, he will catch it eventually because you teach it over and over, year after year. The same goes for science – and pretty much everything else you teach from K to 12. He’ll get it. In the meantime, if you could just reeeeeeeelaaaaaaaaaaax.

Now this one is important, so listen up real hard: The “ideal” almost never happens. In fact, what you can pretty much count on is that at the very moment you have gathered your chicks around you on the floor to learn something fabulous about the Bible or about the weather or about the water cycle…someone will have to poop. Please stop being angry about this and trying to figure out what you are doing wrong with your schedule. Poop happens and toddlers melt down and phones ring and UPS men knock on the door (usually all at the same time but it is okay because when you are weak, then you are strong).

It’s mostly best to stop listening to what everyone else is doing. Every once in a while, what you hear or see inspires you. But most of the time, it stabs you with guilt over everything you’re not doing. (Don’t even get me started about the Pinterest of the future.) The boys don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. They need to do what you – their mama – decides they need to do. Seek God’s direction and listen only to His voice.

You will love every single moment of homeschooling…except for all the moments that you don’t. You’ll feel bad for not loving all of it. I sure wish you wouldn’t. I wish you could see that all the stuff you consider to be a failure each day is really a big part of your kids’ success. This is what real life is made of. So when the day doesn’t go perfectly, recognize that you are teaching your kids to be normal adults who face and handle normal life situations. This…is success.

Most of what you think is important now really isn’t. Godly discipleship and training matters 10,000 times more than memorizing dates on a timeline. Of course you will often think you are failing at the boys’ spiritual training even more than their schooling, but remember God’s bigness. As long as you are in communion with your Savior and seeking his guidance, forgiveness, and recognizing His grace – oh dear one. That’s all you need to be doing. The kids will learn to seek Him too. Keep bringing Him into the conversation often – in the car, when talking about situations with friends, when shopping, when teaching, when cooking, when cleaning – all of it. Make God a part of every part.

You know how you’ve watched other families serve with their kids? Do that. The school work will get done because you are diligent and you understand the importance of self-discipline in learning and education. But truly, let service to others trump the rest of the to-do list. Keep teaching the boys to love God and love others.

They are going to grow up and become young men with weaknesses. Do not despair at this. Understand the power of God at work in their lives. Through their weaknesses, God will be at work in ways you can’t even imagine right now since they are so little. When they are teenagers you will watch in amazement at how God is growing them to become leaders for Him. You’ll see more than ever that God loves these boys and that your job is to trust Him. Like, really trust Him. Stop thinking that you must be perfect, or else. They are His – and His ways are perfect.

14 years from today, you will move your oldest into his dorm room with joy and tears. You will hug him and tell him you love him, and he has grown so tall that he has to practically stoop to his knees to hug you back. You will be amazed. You will watch in wonder at all God has done to grow your family. You will love this. Just you wait.

In the meantime, breathe in the faces of those babies, Mama. Take a lot of pictures. They are precious. While you can’t fathom it, your love for these boys will grow even more fierce. Yes, it is actually possible.

Enjoy your homeschooling journey, Mama.

These days are rich and exhausting, delightful and baffling, overwhelming and glorious. Breathe deeply and keep God first. You are going to survive this beautifully, because God equips and prepares His children. Trust Him.

Freely enjoy peace in Jesus.

Love,
Your 42 Year-Old Self

P.S. Maybe I shouldn’t spoil the surprise, but your future grocery bill is going to blow your mind. Enjoy the fact that they can all now share one apple for a snack and be full. This will make you laugh out loud in a few years (we call that lol, but I don’t have time to go into all of that).

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Perfect for every family who wants to eat well and enjoy more family time:

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Some Of Our Favorite Books

This post was originally posted in October, 2013. Our kids are older now but this list of books is still our favorite!

Books, books, the magical fruit. The more you read, the more you…

Oh wait. Wrong poem.  Sometimes I get confused. Although I’m sure if I threw that poem starter out to my boys, they’d be sure to finish it with something creative. And by creative, I mean gross.

I am excited to share that all four of our boys are now all independent readers. It was a little slow in coming for our youngest, who is now a 3rd grader. But late this summer, it all clicked for him. He now loves reading! Last week he said, “I can’t believe math used to be my favorite. Now reading is so much fun!”  Awesome – just what I love to hear. (Although you still have to do your math, Buddy.)

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Our Family’s Favorite Books

Boxcar Children Books
These books were some of my favorites when I was little. (You know I had my very own boxcar, right? Okay, it wasn’t my very own.  I shared it with my cousins.)  All of our boys have loved the Boxcar Children books, and now I am reading them to Malachi (age 8). Elias (age 11) has already read most of these books, but sits in to listen when he can, because who can resist?

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Ralph Moody Books

We read through most of the books in this series (as a family) a year ago, and now I’m having my two older boys read the last few on their own. What I love most about these books is that they show how important it is to be a hard worker, how much fun it can be to work together as a family, and how if you put your mind to it – you can always find a way to provide. I am so inspired by these books, and my boys love the adventure aspect they include.

Books by Clyde Robert Bulla

These are the first chapter books our boys have read. We have about eight of them on Malachi’s shelf this year – and he’s made his way through two of them already. I love that Clyde Robert Bulla keeps his vocabulary simple and easy to read – all while teaching history and making his books fun and intriguing.  When I pulled these books out for Malachi, all three of his brothers said, “Oh, he gets to read those this year? Malachi, you will love them.”  I love hearing the boys talk together about books they’ve all read.

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Ramona the Pest Series

Malachi pulled his first Ramona book off the shelf this year, too. So far he’s loving it, just like his brothers did. I read this series several times when I was younger. It’s so much fun re-reading these books with my kids.

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Christian Heroes Books

I can’t say enough good about all of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now books by Janet and Geoff Benge. We’ve actually decided to use about 15 of these books this year to go along with our History/Geography studies with Justus, Elias, and Malachi. What better way to study the culture and history of a country than to learn about missionaries who worked there? These books are so well written and inspiring!

I also have to share that as we reach the end of each book, Justus (age 13) likes to point out, “You know Mom, this is the chapter when the missionary dies and you cry.”  Pshaw.  Okay, fine. So I cry at the end of all of these (and the Ralph Moody Books, and just about every other book I read aloud to the boys). I can’t help it.

benge

In addition to these sets of books, our three older boys are all reading lots of books from the Sonlight reading lists for their grade level. Asa (a junior in high school) is reading some Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, The Hiding Place (you MUST read this!), and quite a few others Sonlight recommends.

What books are you and your kids reading these days?  I know I’m not the only mom who cries at the end of a good book. Help me out here – do you get choked up when you’re reading books to your kids?

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