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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Art of Self-Education

There is a certain mentality that sets pioneers apart. They are not afraid of change or challenge, and they always live in expectation that there will be a blessing at the end of their journey.

They also don't have much patience for wasteful pretense, vanity, or for the "book-learned" individual that has not earned his stripes through real-life application.

When a genuine pioneer sets out to learn something, it's purposeful. There isn't any time or space for sitting around to ponder for pride's sake; no exalted "food for thought" for fools or jesters, or for drifting aimlessly and ending up in the puffed-up regions of one's own mind. Spirituality is more concrete than abstract; God's existence is a given, and time spent in spiritual pursuits is all about knowing Him and serving Him just as He has asked, not about why He does or doesn't do things or any of that other cosmic-consciousness nonsense. 

Pioneers don't think much about education, they just live it. If they need to acquire some knowledge, they do what it takes to seek it out. They knock on doors and walk miles, if necessary, to gain every bit of understanding they need to accomplish the task that is fervent in their hearts. They spend hours in observing, and more hours in "cogitating" until concrete pictures begin to form in their minds and fill their dreams at night.

Even though it seems as though the whole earth has been conquered, we still need the stalwart and the brave; the thinkers to whom there are no boundaries. They are being born every day, we just need to stand aside and give them room to step out of the crowd.

In order to do this best, we need to give way to true education, which has never been about mice running through a maze to get a reward, but about learning things simply because they are necessary for living, exploring, creating and blessing others.

The system we have put in place is not about nourishing healthy minds, but about giving them Hostess Twinkies instead of steak and potatoes. They step up to the vending machines we call public schools and then press the appropriate buttons until we pronounce them "educated," but their minds are filled with empty conceit or a dread of a hopeless future.

Then we tell them to "grow up," and they stare blankly.

Homeschoolers know this, and this is why we are so very dangerous. In place of teaching our dear children how to circumnavigate around God's wisdom, we let them dive in, head first, and swim in it until they are filled, covered and immersed completely

In place of mere facts, we offer them ideals. Instead of "requirements," we give them true direction. Rather than a prefabricated world, we introduce them to the tools with which to create their own.

We don't sanction for original thought, we welcome it. We allow them the time, or even slow the pace, so that their thoughts can honestly take shape and solidify without the constant rapping of a thousand nonsensical commercials beckoning them to chase after every rabbit-trail and pipe-dream.

And when our work is done, we step back, and we watch, and the world wonders, and is blessed, by what God has wrought through our children.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

King Alfred's English

Language study is a hobby of sorts for me. Besides looking up the definition of a word, my spaghetti-brain will often get me lost on some outrageous rabbit trail to find its origins...sometimes I get so wrapped-up in the pursuit that I forget what word I was originally looking up!

This is why, as soon as I saw it recommended on Good Reads, I just had to get my hands on a copy of King Alfred's English, written by Laurie J. White.

It took me about 6 weeks before it was available from the library, but it was worth the wait!

This is not another snooty, dry textbook on the origins of our language, but reads like a novel that is hard to put down! This is the type of book that demands that I find "free-time" to read it!

Laurie is a Believer in Christ, and so her history is full of references to the workings of Christianity throughout the history covered in her book. She even focuses on how the King James translation of the Bible came into being.

Besides this, she has a website that offers a timeline that is so amazingly wonderful I just had to mention it! Her Pack of Tricks is also quite amazing! (there is even a teacher's page with worksheets and tests)

Even though I am able to read this book for free from the library, I am putting it on my prayer list as a "must have," worth every penny I could spend for the education of my children here at home!

If you have a child (or children) who consider spelling and grammar, or even history, "boring," just sit them down and read this book with them--you'll not only be engrossed from the very first page, but you will even find yourself laughing in places!

*At the writing of this post I did not receive any special consideration in any form from the writer or publisher of this book--I just liked it so much I had to share!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lilla Rose Party; Beauty and Modesty with Sarah

Sarah Elizabeth
Today I am going to interview my sweet daughter, Sarah, who is very interested in beautiful, modest fashion for women and young ladies.

Me: Sarah, tell our audience just why you are so interested in what we ladies look like on the outside? 

Sarah: I've always been pretty "girlie," but in a way I think it's a duty to look pretty and modest at the same time for all who have to see us all day long! When we don't care about our personal appearance, people will get the impression that we don't care about anything else. It's very selfish not to realize just how beautiful and feminine God has made us! 

Me: When you think of the word "modest," what comes to your mind? 

Sarah:  To me modesty has to do with sweetness, at least in my mind. How you dress should display the sweetness and innocence you have on the inside. It's a way of expressing how you are "covered" and how God is protecting you. 

Nicole takes a country stroll
Me: In our modern day, what are some things we can do to be both "beautiful" and modest at the same time? 

Sarah: Skirts and dresses are a part of that protection and covering I mentioned, because they do an excellent job not to reveal everything about our bodies. They are beautiful and practical at the same time. You can do a lot of things with skirts. You can layer, embellish and accessorize so that you look good for every occasion, and even appear dressed-up in order to make your family feel special no matter what you are doing! You should dress very nice each and every day, and skirts really add dignity to everything. 

Me: How does hair, personal hygiene, and even make-up fit into your views on beauty and modesty? 

Sarah: Let's begin with our hair. Some people can go really crazy with it--like making a mess out of your hair--that's just really weird! But the Bible says that a woman's hair is her glory, that means that we are glorifying God by fixing our hair and making it look as lovely as we possibly can without over-doing it.

Me: What are some of the things you do to make your own hair look lovely? 

Sarah: Well, I like to braid my hair, and you can often find me wearing ribbons or even hair accessories (Lilla Rose has some really terrific ones). I have naturally straight hair, which I know is the current fashion, but I still love to curl my hair. I really don't pay attention to the current trends, but instead, I try to dress and do my hair in a way that looks good to me. 

Me: What about personal hygiene and make-up? 

Sarah: I'm a morning person, so I get up earlier than almost everyone in my home and go through my morning routine; first I wash my face (I actually use lotion to wash my face, because it moisturizes as it cleans), thoroughly brush my teeth, put my make-up on and style my hair. This usually takes me about half of an hour altogether. 

Me: What kind of make-up do you consider necessary and why? 

Sarah: Some ladies don't wear make-up because they want to honor their fathers or husbands. My dad appreciates a little make-up on ladies, so this is fine in our home. I feel that mascara, some foundation powder, a small amount of blush, occasionally some eye-shadow and a little bit of lip gloss are appropriate. I try not to put it on too thick, because the idea is to enhance, not to give yourself a whole, new face! 

Me: What are some other things you would like to say on the subject? 

Sarah: Jewelry! Some folks feel that it's not proper to wear any jewelry at all. It can be OK, as long as you are very careful about what you wear, and make sure that you are not obsessed with it or over doing it. I put on just enough accessories to complement what I am wearing, but not so much that people are blinded, or distracted by what I wear! 
Me with a Lilla Rose clip

Also, in Proverb's 31 we find that a good woman actually tries to clothe herself well, so caring about what we wear in order to look nice and appropriate can't be sinful! 

Me: Thanks, Sarah, you know, you don't have to do a thing, you have always been so beautiful to me! 

Now, for that Lilla Rose party!

My friend, Heather Mason, is allowing me to invite all of you to participate in some really special deals beginning right now Thursday night, January 17, 2013 through next Friday, January 25, 2013. 

Heather is a large family mom, and is also quite an entrepreneur, just like that Proverbs 31 woman! I love promoting her business and helping my readers at the same time (and now, first-time buyers who order three clips can order a fourth one free!) 

Also, this Friday, tomorrow, Lilla Rose is offering a one-day discount on their three newest clips!

Here is the portal to the party (FYI--who ever orders during this party event will be automatically entered to win a FREE Lilla Rose Clip!):

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Inspiration of Duty

I slept and dreamed that life was Beauty;

I woke and found that life was Duty! 
Author unknown

Our age is the age of SELF. We unflinchingly proclaim it in bold letters on billboards and on magazine covers and declare it vociferously from podiums and pulpits too. It's the same dribble that we find saturating every talk-show on each and every television station.

The word "duty" has been demoted to a chest of relics of times past; one in which sentries died at their posts. These days we always stop and ask, "What will this do for me?" before we proceed with anything. In fact, self-seeking has become so rampant these days that anyone who offers help without expectation of pay or any other benefit is either thought to be mentally ill or mentally challenged. 

Irena Sendler 1943
Irena Sendler clearly was not an opportunistic woman. She continually risked her life during the horrible years of the Nazi occupation of Poland to save 2,500 babies and children, and when found out was tortured, her legs and feet were cruelly broken by her interrogators. Yet, she did not seek recognition. As a matter of fact, this heroine went widely unnoticed until the year 2000. For many years after the War she was persecuted in her own country by the communists for cooperating with the Polish government during its period of exile.

When she was interviewed as an elderly woman, she did not wonder why no one had acknowledged her, honored her, or offered her any material reward for her sacrifices. Her greatest concern was that she could have done more; can you imagine that?

In our home we have never offered monetary reward to our children for doing their chores, no, not even for "special projects." We all pitch in, and we all contribute, because taking care of each other is our duty

Duty is so much higher than glory, and so much more inspiring, that victories hang upon it.
William M. Thayer

We train school children to expect to be recognized for the slightest effort. Janet receives a certificate of achievement for saying her "ABC's," for memorizing her multiplication facts, or for cleaning the whiteboard. Does anyone stop long enough to explain to Janet that each task, well-done, contains a joy all its own? Would anyone dare suggest that she clean the class whiteboards simply because it is the right thing to do?

What are we expecting when we appear before God--a standing ovation? When asked about meeting his reward in heaven, an old Jewish rabbi once remarked, "God will say to me, 'Were you good to your wife,' and I will reply, 'yes.' Then He will say, 'Were you a good father,' and I will say, 'Yes.' Next He will ask me, 'Were you good to your fellow-man,' to which I will reply, 'You, Lord God, know everything, and you know that I was!' to which He will reply, 'Good, then you did what you were supposed to do!' and that will be that!"

Sherry Hayes
Raising good daughters today means that we must learn to back away from the "diva" and "prima dona" mentalities. Nothing is owed us, everything is expected. It should never be a matter of what we can get, but what we can give, always keeping in mind that we would never be able to do anything good apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus!

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:2)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mommy's Toolbox--Things to Consider When Turning the Corner in Your Home-schooling!

A major planning slump!
It's the beginning of a new year--a time when countless home-schooling mothers seem to experience a major planning slump in the months between Christmas and spring-time, especially with those mothers who are home-schooling for the very first time!

We may feel a bit unsure because:

  • Our children are not cooperating.
  • The curriculum we chose doesn't seem to be working.
  • The relatives (and/or friends) are really negative.
  • Our life and/or home is in such disarray that we can't get "school" done.
  • We aren't sure we can handle 12 years of this!
  • Financial circumstances are adding to the difficulty and pressure of the situation.

Here are some ideas that have helped me to get "over the hump" during the past 25 years. 

1. Don't give your children too much too soon. I read recently about a young mother who wanted to begin officially homeschooling her little girl before she had even reached the tender age of two-years-old! In my humble opinion, bright toddlers are like "little learning machines," they rarely lack the energy or enthusiasm necessary for discovering and enjoying new things!

The trick is to tap into their natural inclinations. A good initial step would be to keep a toddler's environment free from empty-brained "time wasters," such as the new gadgets for babies that are supposed to mimic iPhones, iPads, and the like. Small children will learn best in an environment that facilitates and encourages open-ended play, such as with blocks, dolls, a sand-box, Legos, etc. Fortunately, these types of play-areas and toys are easy to come by, and are not too expensive.

Three other important parts of a good preschool curriculum are: 1) responding in a warm and supportive manner to questions, 2) reading books aloud, and 3) including your child in day-to-day life experiences.

To many this is a natural part of the nurturing that is essential to teaching your children at home. 

What is next?
2. Don't be afraid to drop something that is either too advanced or too tedious. If your children don't like the curricula or methods that you are using that's one thing, it's another thing if you dread using them yourself! 

No matter how colorful, glossy or high-tech a program may seem, it could be the very worst thing for you and your family. 

The kind of learning that makes a lasting difference in a person's life is not the canned-type that must be driven by teachers and other authorities. Schools don't understand this, of course, and this is primarily why they are forced to use advertising gimmicks to keep the attention of students. This is the reason why much of the curriculum materials are so colorful and filled with graphics, but even the best window-dressing in the world will not hide the blandness that lurks beneath, and savvy young scholars can sniff out demagoguery a mile away!

The learning that sticks is so interesting on its own merits that your children won't have to be prodded to use it. You will quickly discover that your kids will sneak it into their bedrooms, and hide under their covers to read about it after bedtime. They will be so engaged with it that they will want to spend every waking hour in its pursuit because it is "delight-driven" learning. 

I know it is hard to give up on something that you have spent a lot of money for, and it is a bit hard on one's pride to admit to making a wrong choice, but the alternative is just too detrimental to consider not correcting the mistake! 

Do yourself and your kids a favor and let it go.

(We have chosen to use McGuffey's Readers, Ray's Arithmetics and Spencerian Penmanship, etc. because these cover the basic academic subjects and leave loads of room for other topical subject matter to be learned in more natural ways) 

3. Get some encouragement and moral support from someone who has been where you are now. Keep in mind that home-schooling is still counter-cultural today. When a parent chooses to educate their children at "home," there may be some folks who feel uncomfortable with your decision to do so. The grandparents are worried about how their grandchildren will get along in the world, both friends and some relatives may automatically assume that they are being judged by your unconventional choices, it's simply human nature.  

Be sure that you become grounded in your decision to home-school, so that you will be able to intelligently communicate the why's and wherefore's of what you believe. Have you ever noticed that those who are very confident hardly ever spend time defending themselves, while those who are secretly unsure are the ones who are the most vociferous and adamant? More often than not, they are, in reality, the ones that are filled with unfounded doubts and are easily influenced.

Why are you homeschooling? It is important for you to examine your true motives, because the foundations will determine whether you will be building your home-school with a "house of cards" or on "solid-rock." 

Read some good books, not only about how awful public schooling is, but also about how wonderful true learning can be, and even what true learning is. Take some notes, talk to some people, read some testimonies, make some friends; pray, pray, pray. It is likely that you will come out of such a time of soul-searching stronger than ever before, and you will be able to look past the voices that were once a torment and be able to show unconditional love to those people in spite of themselves! 

4. Get a handle on the small and disorganized things in your life. Are the children unruly?--take some time and energy to get them back into line. Is the current condition of your house in disarray--roll up your shirt-sleeves and get your house in order and then learn how to make it run more smoothly. Get the social media in your home under control, have some sort of routine in place, and become self-disciplined. You know, order adds to our lives, it doesn't detract. Good habits benefit us, but bad habits will enslave us. 

Just imagine how wonderful it would be to not have to waste hours searching for a pair of scissors, a pen, or a hammer when you are hanging a picture. It would be so great to know ahead of schedule what you are having for supper, or that your children will be wearing clean clothes. All of these things take planning and diligence, but having a place for everything and everything in its place will pay you back in dividends! 

5. Learn to take things one-day-at-a-time. In some ways, the choice to public school ones children can give a parent a lot of security; there is an expected course with an expected end, hopefully a college education and as a result a successful life (provided you agree with and are willing to submit your children to their agenda, curriculum, amoral approach and resulting statistical record of failure). 

We are not all the same!
But we human beings have a way of thwarting "the best laid plans." Try as we might, we simply can not squeeze every child into the same mold in the elusive hope that by so doing we will alleviate all of our problems! Students are often unwilling, or even unable, to follow the expected course. They don't always finish the reading assignment on time, or perhaps they can't grasp abstract mathematics, and sometimes may have difficulty concentrating, or get easily bored, and have behavior problems as a result. People are individuals and not machines; they are living and unique spirit-beings, and the God who is there and is in charge is not interested in factory-produced automatons.

Don't live in the future, but allow His plans to unfold before you. If you submit to His perfect will, live to please Him and teach your children to do the same, you will be amazed at how He will be able to work even the worst of things together for your good. (Romans 8:28) 

6. Tighten up, simplify, and learn to live a faithful and thankful, praise-filled life. Learn to make do with little, and God will make you worthy of much, either in this life or in the life which is to come! Money has been tight for us for most of our home-schooling experience. During our 30 years of marriage we have predominately lived from month-to-month, often having to rob Peter to pay Paul. I have had to learn to fix my own hair, give the boys haircuts, sew clothes, alter and repair second-hand clothing, make rice and beans a staple part of our diet, and drastically limit restaurant visits. Nevertheless, with this "deprivation" we have discovered the richness of a life of simplicity and thanksgiving, and the bounty of trusting a loving and merciful God who provides for all of our needs.
Above all, remember, walking in obedience to God is the best way to live a peaceful, and hope-filled life, because He holds our future and we can leave all the consequences up to Him.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.