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Fabulous Family Friday–‘Rithmetic

Friday, February 11th, 2011



I have a confession to make.

Math is the “bug-a-boo” at our house!  :o 

Whenever “life happened”, guess what was first to be dropped?!

Guess who has gone through about 8 math programs over the course of her 19 years of homeschooling?!

If you guessed “math” to the first question and “ME” for the second, you are right!

I thought for sure it was more like TEN math programs, but here’s the line-up:

Bob Jones Math (kindergarten)

A Beka Math (first grade–didn’t even finish unit one!!!  I am NOT an A Beka Mom!)

Saxon Math for 2nd grade (we did get half-way through that one…)

Back to Bob Jones Math for 3rd grade (I think we actually finished that one…)

Miquon Math (that was fun!)

Math-U-See–loved it!   For awhile, anyway…

Developmental Math–the older girls appreciated this one more.   The smaller booklets to work through weren’t so intimidating!  However, it does get pricey.

Mastering Mathematics–one I looked at when I first started and wish I had just went with it–I probably wouldn’t have changed so much!  We have been doing this for several years now and have overall really liked it.

But now….. ;)

I have found what I believe is THE math program, especially for more relaxed “math-as-real-life” moms!

Introducing……Math on the Level!

Let me say right up front–this is not a “take it out of the box and hand it to your child” type of program.  And it seems pricey until you realize– it is a one time purchase!  That’s right, NO workbooks, NO consumables!

I am just learning this myself, but so far, I am really impressed and decided to keep it after my 60-day trial period was up.  That’s right, you get SIXTY days to try it out, not just 30!  When I was reading testimonies like “You couldn’t pay me to give it back!” and “I teach all three of my children in half an hour”, I was ready to try it!

I actually had Susannah look it over at first and explain a lot to me as I was in the middle of another project I needed to give much of my brain power to!  She is going to help me by teaching math, so I felt she should feel comfortable with it.  She really likes it!  And as I am spending more time with the materials, I do, too!

The overview is very readable and understandable.  Carlita Boyles is a homeschool mom and developer of Math on the Level.  Here’s what the Introduction says about the development of MOTL:

“The Math on the Level teaching approach was developed over many years as Carlita taught her own children at home.  At first, she started out each year trying to use a textbook for homeschool math instruction, but each time she became frustrated with the textbook, put it aside, and used her own ideas to successfully teach her children.  After a few years, she gave up on textbooks altogether and developed what would ultimately become the Math on th Level teaching approach, teaching children at their own level of maturation, focusing on practical family life activities, and reviewing topics on a daily 5-A-Day paper.

“In early 2006, Carlita was approached by several homeschooling moms who asked her to write a math curriculum so they could use her teaching approach.  After prayerful consideration, John and Carlita decided to take on the challenge.  This project grew into an extended effort in which both worked together, blending their backgrounds in education and engineering to produce Math on the Level.”

I really love this approach!  It actually validates the “real life learning” math we’ve been doing, and gives me a way to “document it”, without making my children copy and copy and copy a bunch of problems.

I’ll give you a quick overview of what’s ahead, and then, because I am still in the “learning stages” myself, I plan to share some each Friday about how it is working for us!

Okay, first off, you have a concept chart where you can go through and see where your child needs to start.   And it starts in the very beginning…things like “Beginning Counting” and “One-to-One Correspondence”.

Let’s say you get close to where your child is, but aren’t exactly sure if they really know one-digit multiplication or not.  You would then create a 5-a-Day review paper (she has LOTS of ideas so you don’t always have to use your brain to come up with some!) that would include that concept.  If your child breezed through it, then you would mark it as learned.  If not, you would mark that as a concept to teach.

(I was going to link to a page I thought that showed this concept chart, but alas, MOTL is not coming up for some reason!)

What are 5-A-Day review papers?  That is where your children will review concepts they already know.  Although there are only 5 problems (at all levels!), those 5 problems could end up covering 19 concepts!

For example, let’s say one review problem is:

Is is < , =  or > ?  Fill in the blank.

1.802 ÷ 0.53   _____   7 1/4 – 3 3/4

You are covering math symbols, dividing decimals, subtracting mixed numbers (like denominators), but since one answer is in decimal form and the other in fractions, the child will need to convert the fraction to a decimal and compare the decimals. 

Isn’t that great?!  And the best part is, as I said, she has pages of problems you can draw from!  Yeah!

There is the overview book (in a binder), which really explains things pretty well.  I would say if you have either 2-3 hours to just sit down with it all, or have half an hour or so a day for a week, you would get this and be able to go with it.  Actually less–I spent maybe an hour, read most of the overview book and have enough of a grasp to get started!

The binder with the overview also has record keeping forms, and once you decide to keep MOTL and register with them, you will get a download link to where you could even keep their records on the computer! 

I bought the complete set, so I also have 6 spiral bound books:

 ~Operations (+ – ×  ÷ )


~Money and Decimals

~Geometry & Measurements

~Math Resources (Charts, Graphs & Set Theory, Word Problems, Math Dictionary, How to Memorize, Memorizing Math Facts)

~Math Adventures (Cooking, Using Money, Travel Time, Games, Math Vocabulary, Unit Studies)

Each of these books are color coded in the Concept chart, which is really nice! 

My goal this next week is to get fine-tuned where my younger set are in this book.   Of course Noah and Isaiah are very beginners, so they will be easy! ;)  

This program is billed as Pre-K to Pre-Algebra, and that is really about all we need.  Yes, I know you are supposed to do higher math.  Did you know I got the Algebra II award in high school 32 years ago, and it hasn’t made me a better person, wife, mother, or Christian?!

I’m not knocking higher math, I just think it’s interesting that now everybody needs it.   I have one daughter that wanted to do Geometry, so I bought her Patty Paper Geometry.  Yes, it’s an introductory program.  But it is all she needs at this point. 

I have another daughter that was overwhelmed with math.  So for “higher math” she is doing a consumer math (remember that? Do they even do that in public schools anymore?!).

Math in Everyday Life

Teacher’s Edition  (pretty much just has answers)

I will say that this text has a bit of an overkill on some of the forms, so I do not make my daughter do it 12 times or whatever they have her doing!

I also have her do only 1 internet activity–there is more to life than working on math all day! ;)

If my daughters were to need higher math (meaning algebra, geometry, etc.) I would probably invest in Teaching Textbooks.   They have math at all levels down to 3rd grade.  If you want something they can pretty much do on their own (with the computer) then this is the program for you.  Personally, I would prefer the Math on the Level approach for younger years, even into “middle school”, with consumer math for high school, Teaching Textbooks for algebra, et al.

One other possibility for “consumer math” that another daughter did, was Dave Ramsey’s Foundations for Personal Finance  .  The HomeSchool Buyer’s Co-op did have this as a special recently–I’m not sure if it’s still on or not.  That’s how I got it–my daughter loved the dvd presentations!

I hope this gives you a glimpse of some good resources, and please stay tuned–I promise, whatever else I write about on Fridays, I will give you updates on how Math on the Level is going!  :D

(And hopefully they’ll back online SOON!)

Have a blessed weekend!

My girls have a few new items on their Etsy shop, if you want to check them out, PLUS a Valentine’s Day coupon!  Click here!

They’re Catching Up!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

We get a quarterly mailing from our local school system.  We live in a rural area with a consolidated middle and high school that serves parts of two counties.  Not a huge school, but bigger than the less-than-500-total K-12 school I attended!

This issue was about math. 

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I know there are many wonderful, caring teachers in many schools.  I don’t fault them.   It’s the system that isn’t always in the best interest as someone in Washington tries to “standardize” academic learning as if children are widgets on a factory conveyor belt.

The title of the main article was how mathematics proficiency is about understanding and application.

I certainly agree with that!

This particular paragraph amazed me, and then tickled me.

We know that what children need to learn in mathematics today is vastly different from what they needed to learn only a few years ago.  Computation, basic math skills, and memorizing formulas remain important, but math proficiency today is all about understanding and application.  Students must be able to connect mathematics to other subjects and the real world….”

I found myself scratching my head that until today, apparently, understanding and connecting math to the real world wasn’t as important?!  I don’t think that’s what the writer really meant….was it?!

I know when we used Math-U-See,  Steve Demme had shared how some of his students in class knew the basic operations, but not when to use them.  Both are important! 

A few paragraphs later:

Schools in the United States traditionally teach mathematics an inch deep and a mile wide while schools in other countries teach for a deeper understanding.  We can no longer teach as we have always taught.  Today’s children must be able to apply mathematics skills to everyday situations; they must know how, when and why to do it.

Again, I find myself wondering…what have they been teaching?  And up until recently we haven’t taught this way?

I think if we look at the history of education, someone may find that 100+ years ago math was taught quite differently in our schools.  A quick look at Ray’s Arithmetics, which were finished in 8th grade, would show that they knew their math waaaayyyyy better than most college bound seniors today!

I agree that schools teach math (and other subjects) an inch deep and a mile wide–it’s the nature of the system.  There have certainly been strides in many schools to change some of that, but quite frankly, you can only do so much when you have a student for 1 hour a day, in a class of 20-30 students with all their varying degrees of need and abilities of understanding.  I have learned from teaching piano that you can’t go home with the student and motivate them–especially if they don’t have the support at home.  I really feel for public school teachers who really care and try–they have a hard job!

I think the acknowledgement of needing to teach math differently and make sure it applies is commendable. 

I also think homeschoolers have been doing this for a long time!  

I am perpetually “behind” in math, it seems, yet my children have always seemed to have a strong conceptual understanding.   I always felt if I had to err on one end of it or the other, knowing the when and why was a bit more important than speed. 

Soon I’ll be reviewing a new math program we are trying and are really liking!  One that I believe fits the criteria the article in our local school’s mini-magazine is looking for, but this one was developed by a homeschooling mom for use by homeschoolers (although those wanting extra help remediating math could use it, too!)  Stay tuned in a few weeks for the review!

It was funny how the captions to the pictures all involved math–a young man saying how music helps him with his math, another saying, “Believe it or not, there’s a lot of math involved in sewing!”

Not news to us!  :D

I’m not knocking the school–kudos to them for trying to do a better job.

It just makes me feel good to be able to homeschool and be on the cutting edge–even ahead of the public school!

I think I might keep this one and put it in my “Why I Homeschool” file!   If I’m ever questioned, I can show how we were doing this before it was the “going thing”! 

Isn’t it nice to know the public schools are catching up to us?!   ;)


An Adventure–and Then Some!

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

How do you describe the wonderful time a family can have on a 5283 mile trip “out East”?!

My girls have done a much better job keeping up–both on their blog as well as in their visual journals!  I wish I could have worked on mine in the van as we were going, but that never seemed to work out!   Guess  they have had more experience working in tight quarters than me!  ;)

It was definitely worth all the packing and planning and persevering to make it happen!

I really have to give the girls a LOT of credit—I became extremely ill the Saturday before we left.  In fact, even until Thursday I was beginning to wonder if we were going to have to postpone the trip!  But I started feeling better and well enough to get my stuff washed and packed–nothing like waiting until the 11th hour!!!!

We knew it was an ambitious trip and that we couldn’t “see it all” no matter how much we wanted to!    It was great, though, to do what we could and at least hit the highlights.    And learning continued to take place–the girls would look things up on the internet when we got to a hotel or McDonald’s (for free WiFi!).   Road Scholars, indeed!  :D

We were gone 19 1/2 days.  We only stayed at hotels 7 of those 19 nights!  The rest we stayed at the homes of wonderful family and friends, and even had a few quick visits with family and friends sprinkled in between those!   Sometimes it made it hard to leave in the mornings, though, because we enjoyed the fellowship so much!   And a few times, it meant we bumped a few things off “the list” to be able to enjoy that fellowship!

Was it worth it all?!

A resounding YES!!!!

Fabulous Family Friday–Road Scholars!

Friday, September 17th, 2010



From Wednesday’s post–several of you guessed my mom, and you were right!  On the right is our 13 year old daughter, Anna.  When we  were at a reunion this summer, a cousin gave me this picture of my mom.   Later, when I was looking at it at home, I realized how much Anna resembles my mom at about the same age!!! (We’re guessing Mom is 14–she got her ears pierced at 13, I believe!)

What makes it special is that Anna has two middle names….we already had her name picked out when my grandma (Mom’s mom) wasn’t doing well.   Dallas and I talked it over and decided to add my grandma’s middle name to Anna’s.  It just so happens my dad’s mom has the same middle name!    That is why I thought it extra special that not only does Anna share my grandma’s name, she also resembles my mom!

It’s really neat to see how your parents looked at younger ages–of course, back then, they weren’t taking 10,000 pictures a year!  So there aren’t as many photos to compare.  

I really appreciate having this photo!


It’s been a crazy month or so!   Between getting things for all our canning and running to Chicago and getting ready for our trip East….well, it’s been busy!

About a month ago, some newer homeschoolers were asking me when I start school.

“Define school!” I smiled.

“Well, when do you start with the books.”  The mom asked.

“Usually after Labor Day, but this fall, we’re planning a trip out east and THAT will be school!”

Yes, my children will be Road Scholars!  (pun intended! ;) )

What are they learning?




Geography!   What states were going through, how they’re connected….and putting together maps and finding our points of interest on them.   Mapquesting each “leg” of the trip (there are 25 legs now…we’re 1/4 of the way to being a centipede…. :D )


History!   One daughter is quite into the Revolutionary War and has found out more and more about different battles, soldiers, etc.

Another daughter or two really got into lighthouses and learned a lot about their history (including Cape Hatteras, the tallest lighthouse in America.  Yes, we’re going to go see it!)

Math!   Can we fit in 3,500+ miles in 14 days?!   (No, we are taking 16 days!)

Actually, I think *I’m* getting the math!   Figuring gas mileage and costs, how many nights we need to stay at a hotel, how many hotel rooms we will be forced to get.  Some have said three–I mean honestly!  Just because we have ONE more child than each room is supposed to hold?!   (Five max in most rooms.)   Okay, then we’ll stay at Homewood Suites  2 bedroom suite–we did that when we visited the Creation Museum  last year, and they even have a yummy HOT breakfast!  That alone saves us $50-60!!!

Two of the girls were writing down how much it cost to get into some of the lighthouses….



Language Arts!   One daughter has blogged about it!

Problem-Solving Skills!   How to fit 11 people plus needed stuff into a 15 passenger van with the back seat taken out.   We were going to rent a motorhome, but we have more people than seatbelts, so that is out.    Deciding if we have time to really see Jamestown.   Do we go ahead and go to Arlington National Cemetery  or cut it out?   (You’ll have to wait and see what we decided!)


There is also the “problem-solving” of what Susannah is going to eat, since many places are NOT gluten free!

Of course, there is also the problem of who will take care of the animals? (Thankfully some dear friends offered to do this for us!  Thank you, W. family!)


Computer skills!   Looking up info (all 3 computers were busily in use Sunday night!) for attractions, maps, eating places, hotels…..

Social skills!  Reconnecting with old friends and family to try to squeeze at least a quick visit on our way through.

Character development!   While we patiently wait to hear back from aforementioned old friends and family…. 

AND we will also be developing character while  traveling 3,500+ miles together in close quarters with NO air conditioning….



Auto Mechanics!   Fixing all the things on the Big Red Bus that  needed fixing….just weren’t planning on fixing them all at once!  (Guess that’s more Dallas’ department.   But you can bet the boys were around observing!)




All kidding aside, truly there is a lot of learning going on right now.   No, it won’t be recorded in workbooks–but it will be recorded in blogs and visual journals!

Don’t underestimate the power of real-life learning!   So many times we are spending our energy worrying about “getting back to the books” that we can’t enjoy the learning that is taking place through the “real life interruptions” that come up.

This is something we have wanted to do for several years.  We actually wanted to go “out West”, but reality is we’d need a month, and we just can’t get away for that long.   We decided to “go East” and see as much as we can.  We won’t be able to see everything historical–and there’s a lot of history along the east coast!   But the main reason for this trip was to spend some time together as a family before everyone starts marrying (no, there are no prospects in the wings nor are we looking for any on this trip!).

Which, of course, brings me back to what I “preach” all the time–




Fabulous Family Friday–wRitin’, Part 2

Friday, August 6th, 2010

I decided to work on “part 2″ this week and do the second R of Relationships next week–I’ve had a crazy busy week and today picked up 3 bushels of peaches that need done right NOW!



I said this would be a much shorter post–well, maybe! 

Grammar…..read Ruth Beechik! ;)  

Did someone say, “Grammar”?! I’m outta here!

Ruth Beechik says over and over (and over and over) that you don’t learn grammar to write, you write to learn grammar.  I wholeheartedly agree.  And quite frankly, life is too short to work on grammar books every single year of a child’s life.  I know some of you may raise an eyebrow at that, but as one who has graduated three from homeschool now, and all three can write fairly well, I feel I have a little experience to make that statement!

I think learning grammar in context is the best way.  A really good resource I’ve used for that is Learning Grammar through Writing.   It seems to be out of print right now, but available used.  I used it more as a resource for me to teach on the spot.   Really, a good handbook would do the same.   Something you could look up and point out why a comma goes here (or doesn’t), whether to use lie or lay, and whether to say their/there/they’re.

Believe it or not, that is primarily the way I have taught my older daughters–and after awhile they learn to use those handbooks themselves! ;)

Hear Ruth Beechik’s tongue-in-cheek but oh-so-true wisdom on grammar:

Did God’s voice thunder from Mount Grammaticus, “These nouns and these verbs which I give unto you shall you use with all the inflections thereof which I declare unto you; and you shall teach them unto  your children and your children’s children unto all generations”?

No one I know believes that such an event occurred, but many people treat grammar as though it occurred.  For over two centuries our schooling has conditioned whole generations to view grammar as an authoritarian system.  Our textbooks contained all the pronouncements about “right” and “wrong.”  Maybe we, personally, didn’t understand some of them, but that was our fault, we thought.  It was clear–to somebody.

                               ~You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully, p. 197

Here is an interesting tidbit that also might shed some light on the “study of grammar”:

Grammar teaching….was closely intertwined with study of the classic poets, and not a means for learning language.  In primary school, Greek children had already learned to write fluently, and then in grammar school they studied the classic writers, and learned grammar in that context.

You would not want to imitate Greek teaching methods, since they were limited.  For instance, because they had no printed books, a great deal of time was spent comparing the students’ written copies with the teacher’s in a critical examination of the text.  As time went on, the Greeks lost all sense of why they were teaching the classics.  Emphasis was on words and details rather than on meaning.  Knowing details of the classics became an end in itself, and lost was the vision of heroism, morals, thinking and other higher purposes in literature. 

Some would argue that we are suffering the same loss of vision about why we teach grammar.  As a scholarly discipline, it is one of the highest uses of the human mind.  But as an authoritarian system, it fails us.  It doesn’t help our children write, as we hoped it would.

                   ~You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully, pp. 165-166


True confessions–I have some that don’t know all the “technical” terms of grammar–but they can write.   As usual, if I’m going to err, I want it to be on this side of that debate!  :D

The Language Lessons books by Sandi Queen I mentioned last week do have some gentle grammar.   If you’re not using them, I suggest finding a good handbook you like (Rod and Staff, Writers Inc., or the aforementioned Learning Grammar through Writing).  I personally do NOT feel you need a separate grammar “program” to work through.  If it is not going to necessarily help your child write better, and it’s taking time away from real writing–why bother?!  

There are a few “Charlotte Mason” type gentle grammar studies out there that I could use, if I were inclined to do something more “official” with grammar.  Karen Andreola’s Simply Grammar is sweet and pretty low-key.   I know it’s written for “elementary age”, and it’s mostly oral, but do you really need a scholarly study of grammar for every child?   If you really, really feel they need “more”, please wait until they are older (I would say 15 or older and writing well) and maybe do Easy Grammar.  But please do NOT buy all the graded workbooks, just the main book and please do NOT make your child do each and every problem on each and every page.   They can go over it, do a few exercises, and if they get it, go on.   The goal is NOT to fill that workbook up but for them to learn it so they can implement it in their writing!

You're not *really* going to make me study grammar, are you?


 Now on to spelling!


With my oldest two, I did the traditional spelling methods.   Leah used to be able to pass her tests with flying colors….then not be able to spell “with” or “white” in her writing!


I became very frustrated with the “traditional method”, and I was blessed to get a good deal on Spelling Power many years ago.    I really liked it for the oldest two daughters.   The next two seemed to get bogged down in it.   We tried Alphaphonics for awhile, and it was helpful, but still didn’t help as much as I had hoped.


For Susannah, we found Apples.   Apples 2 was okay, but she liked the first one better.  Then we used (ahem…very minimally!) Spelling Wisdom from Simply Charlotte Mason.   It is basically copywork, and when they are ready, you dictate the sentence or passage to them.  She liked it fairly well, and I don’t know why we let it drop.   She’s “graduating” now, but if she wants to pick it back up, we might! ;)


Cassia started using Andrew Pudewa’s Phonetic Zoo.  I did not buy all the cds–I thought we could make our own tapes!   A bit of work, but doable!  She really liked it, but life got in the way and we didn’t keep up with making the tapes (which is probably why maybe you should buy the cds…).   I looked at AVKO’s Sequential Spelling, and it looks good, but Cassia decided to try Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout.


Now this is not a pull-it-out-no-planning item!   But neither will it take you forever to figure out!  We just got started on this last spring before my mom passed away, so it’s on hold until this fall.    I basically have used a lot of what I’ve learned from other spelling programs and Ruth Beechik about testing the words they miss vs. studying a list and then testing.  So I was going through the lists from grade 1 (sometimes the simplest words trip you up!).   There is a little grammar instruction in there, too.




If you are brave enough to not have a “curriculum”, per se, you can use Ruth Beechik’s ideas in You CAN Teach Your Child  Successfully.  She has Common Word Spelling Lists for grades 4-8 in there (even though Kathryn Stout’s has grades 1-4 in hers, I again don’t think children need formal spelling instruction until 4th grade or older…usually older!).   You could test them until they miss some, let them study those, help with any “rules” that might apply (but don’t get caught up in that too much!), and then retest with another list the next time.


I have actually done this with Diane Lopez’ book “Teaching Children“.  She is a Charlotte Mason advocate, and her book is subtitled “A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level Through Sixth Grade” (what a mouthful!).   She has a Spelling section as well as a Dolch Sight Word List in the Reading section for each “grade”.   Again, I don’t advocate worrying too much about spelling too soon.   But going through these lists/ideas as well as using words from their writing (Ruth Beechik advocates writing every day!), will really give you more of a well-rounded spelling program than you realize!


Also, please don’t do 20-30 words at a time!  5-10 are really enough.  If you are just “testing” to see where they start missing grade level wise, you could maybe add more in just for that purpose, but please don’t give them 20 words each week (or whatever time frame) to study!


Barb Shelton  (another favorite!) in her Jumpstart Navigator said that for years her children had only 5 spelling words each week.   Her daughter went on to do well in college, and I believe her son is a well-adjusted adult as well!


Diane Lopez’ book doesn’t have word lists for spelling, but has listings like:


1. Phonetic and structural analysis principles

     Example:  silent letter(s) “ight”–bright  fight  light  might

     night  right  sight  tight


2. Content areas

     Words from the content areas should be used to supplement

     the regular word list. (This is taking words from their

    writing and reading.)


3. Sight words

     Use words from the Dolch list and the basal reader.


4. Calendar-related words

     Review the days of the week, months of the year, and

     seasonal words.


Ideas taken from Second Grade Spelling section


I didn’t list all the ideas, but that gives you a picture of what it’s like.   And again–this is very doable and low-key!  I like low-key!  :)



The bottom line for me is to not stress about “doing it right” or “covering it thoroughly” but working through it gently, in context with real life writing and reading.  


In all honesty, isn’t that what you do when you need to check up on your grammar?   Or spelling?  Do you go do a “course” on it or just look up what you need?


There may be reasons where a formal study of grammar would be helpful, but I honestly haven’t used diagramming sentences since I had to do it in high school.   It didn’t make me a better writer, either.  


I share all this to help you relax–you will find what works for you and for your child(ren). 


And of course, above all, keep the 3Rs of Relationships top priority!   If it’s causing tears (in your child and/or you!) or making you have knots in your stomach, it’s time to change!




If you want some help planning your schedule, head on over to Belinda Letchford’s blog (I love her website, too!).  She has three posts on planning that are very good and realistic. 


Planning Part I:  Getting My Head Around Planning


Planning Part II:  Writing a Study Schedule


Part III:  Prep Time


And here’s a wonderful story from another post, You Are Mine, Twice Over!


 I hope you find her posts helpful during this “planning season”.  



As for me, it’s “canning season”!   ;)







Fabulous Family Friday–First of the 3Rs

Friday, July 9th, 2010



First, I want to thank you all for praying for my dear friend’s 5 year old daughter who had spinal meningitis–PRAISE the LORD it was viral!  She is home and doing well–better and better each day!



I know you’ve all heard of the “3Rs”–Readin’, wRitin’ and aRithmatic.  (Not good for spelling, but I guess it works! LOL!)


I have another “acronym” use for the 3Rs–Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!  ;)


(That’s Relationship with God, Relationship with your husband, and Relationship with your children!)


So today, I’m going to address the first R on the academic side–or should we call it, First R (a)?!



First the “Readin” R.



Teaching your child to read can be one of the most rewarding things in life! 


Teaching your child to read can be one of the most frustrating things in life!



It all depends on your motivation and your approach!  Are you teaching them out of fear of state standards?  What your mother (or neighbor) thinks?  Because all your homeschooling friends are?  Because they’re “supposed to” know how to read by age 6?  (I’m sure it’s stated somewhere in Scripture….maybe one of our pastor friend’s favorite book of 2 Hezekiah! ;) )


Why do we teach our children to read?   I mean, really?  


  • So they can function in society
  • So they can eventually learn independently, requiring less of mama’s oversight
  •  So they can read and learn God’s Word


All of those are really good reasons, but of course you know the third one is the most important.   If you teach your child to read at 6 (or 3 or 10 or whatever) and they function well and successfully in society, but they don’t pick up the Scriptures and read them and allow God to speak to them through Them…..then what good was teaching them to read?

We “reward” the children when they learn to read by buying them a nice Bible with their name imprinted on it.   I buy a large print Bible, making it easier for beginner reading eyes to read.   So far, only one of the 4 older girls has bought a different Bible than the one she started with–and that was after 7 years!

Each little girl excitedly asks, “When will I get my Bible?!”    We usually give it to them for their birthday or Christmas, whichever comes next after they learn to read.    No, they probably can’t understand every word, but they are quite proud to have a Bible of their own to do copywork out of and to read for “quiet time”!

I will confess that so far, 5 of my 7 girls have been later bloomers in reading.   I was worried about the first late bloomer, and one day I thought, “Isn’t this why I homeschool?  To be able to allow them to learn at their pace?”

I relaxed a little and backed off being so intense.  By 8 1/2 she was reading, and by 11 I had to pry her nose out of books!   I remember one season I actually had to limit her reading!!! 

Now, what was I worried about?  :D

I realize there are sometimes issues that make it hard to learn to read and I am not qualified to advise about that. 

So what did I use? 

I started with Writing Road to Reading.  Very thorough.  Very intense.  After 6 weeks, Jessica and I were both tired of it!    I then used a “method” I had heard at a homeschooling conference.   I use the word “method” loosely!  There was no curriculum, no books.  If you have something that has the basic phonics rules in it, that will do.

The lady sharing this used Matthew 5 to teach her child reading.  No kidding!  I started doing that with Jessica, and she delightedly said, “Mommy, I like this so much better than when you stand at the chalkboard and say, ‘old’!”

You take the first part of Matthew 5:1:  “And seeing the multitudes….”

And.  You would help your child sound this out (obviously, you have taught the sounds by now.  Maybe just to these letters plus a few).    Now have your child add a “b”.  Baaaannnnnd.   “h”  Haaaannnnnnd.   Even have them try the ones that don’t make words.  “j” Jannnnnnd.

You get the idea!

You’d teach that in a short word, the vowel usually makes it’s “short” sound. 

You might only do that for one day or several, depending on your child.  Then the next time, drop the “d” at the end and do it all over again!

ban, can, Dan (could quick point out we make “mama letters” for names!), fan, man, pan, ran, tan, van.

Next time, take off the n and put the d back on.  You’re off!

bad, dad (or Dad!), fad, had, lad, mad, pad, sad

Next go to “see”–the first syllable in “seeing”.  You could even spend a “lesson” or two on syllables, having your child clap the names in your family.  Don’t quiz them on it or make a big deal about it.  Have fun!

Okay, so “see” makes the “long e” sound.  Here we go again!

bee, Dee (if you know anyone with that name!), fee, Lee, wee (vocab–tell them it means small!)

Obviously some harder ones you won’t do.  And if they say, “Oh, nee!” you can explain that’s a special one that they’ll learn later.  Commend them for a good try!

Next is “ing”.   You got it!

king, ping, ring, sing, wing

“The” would teach the “th” sound and that vowels at the end of a word say their name (or you could save that for “he” later in the verse!).

“Multitudes” has the CVC as well as the CVCV patterns.  If that is Greek to you, I mean:

Consonant-short Vowel-Consonant (mul) such as “can” or “red”  and

Consonant-Vowel-Consonant-Vowel  (tude) such as “cane” or “rope”.

You can have fun teaching “silent e” and change words just by adding “e”!  (Or the “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking” rule).

can/cane; man/mane; pet/Pete; rob/robe…..

If that is hard to think through or follow, then the next easiest thing for me, and one I also used, was Ruth Beechik’s simple but wonderful (as anything by her is!) “The 3R Series“.   The “readin'” one is “A Home Start in Reading” (although I’d buy all three!).  And here is a review by Cathy Duffy.  (Although I would disagree that they need extra “learning activities” to learn–mine didn’t always need that!)

Here is Cathy’s review of The 3R Series.

Even if you choose to use something more traditional, please read Mrs. Beechik’s A Home Start in Reading to demystify the whole process of reading for you!

Now maybe you need something YET a little more….structured.  (That word is used sparingly around here…..LOL!)  When Anna was learning to read  my dad was falling and ending up at the hospital all the time, had surgery, ended up in a nursing home….so I needed something very simple.  I went with a book that has mixed reviews, but we ended up liking it!  Teach a Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.     Here again is Mrs. Duffy’s review. 

As she states, many people are hesitant because of the distorted alphabet.   But I will tell you that it did not phase Anna.  She took off reading, maybe had a few times I had to remind her of blends (like “sh” and “ch”), but overall did not have any issues with it.  Another criticism of 100 Easy Lessons is that the stories are silly.  Well, I didn’t find any of them bad, and yes, sometimes they were really off the wall, but the kids liked them!  It is scripted and easy to pretty much look over in a day and use the next.  I did NOT repeat everything as often as the book said, unless a child was having a huge problem with something.  Plenty of review built in!

Now Bekah and Charissa didn’t care for it as much, so I invested in something I had been wanting to check out for awhile.  Happy Phonics  from Love to Learn.

I confess we do not do the Explode the Code workbooks with it.  I had a post, “Happy Phonics, Happy Mama!”  awhile back about how we do Happy Phonics.   We ? Happy Phonics!

I would go with the regular set and pay shipping–there is an e-book option, but you get ALL of it already on cardstock for basically the same price!   For busy mamas, it’s worth the extra few $$!

I have taught Rebekah mainly this way, and Charissa is learning.  I’m reinforcing phonics with Anna to help with spelling–she loves it, too!   Noah and Isaiah want to do it with me, too–but I keep it very low-key for them, as I explain in my other post.

Happy Phonics is where we’ll stay, I believe!  And no, I don’t foresee doing the bookwork of Explode the Code–although of all the workbooks out there, I would recommend that series.   Here is Cathy’s review of Explode the Code–one of her Top 100 Picks!

One last resource I would like to recommend, although it is not something you “take out of a box and do”, is Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books by Mark B. Thogmartin. 

I had one daughter that did not learn the traditional “phonics first” way.  That’s why I love Mr. Thogmartin’s book!  He says it’s not phonics or whole-word but both.  Children really do use both ways to learn, and some lean more heavily on one than the other.  The same daughter learns piano the same way–none of this right hand, then the left hand, then put them together.  It’s put them together from the start!   But that’s the way she learns.

I am editing this to say that the free copy on the internet is not by permission of Mr. Thogmartin and Mrs. Gallagher.  He graciously commented below that he has rewritten his book and it is now available at Teach a Child to Read.  My apologies to Mr. Thogmartin, as I didn’t know he was rewriting his excellent book and that the “free” ones were without his permission! 

Although I have an older copy of his book, I may just spring for this revised version!

Do you know what I like about most of these “methods”?  They don’t require a lot of drill and kill.   And they can be done snuggling together on the couch!  (Well, Happy Phonics is more on the floor! ;) )

And you know me–anything that builds relationships is TOP on my priority list!

I hope something here is helpful to you, and let me tell you that there really is no great mystery or perfect curriculum.  Sometimes you just need to allow time.   But when they”take off”, it is the most thrilling thing to me!!!

Happy teaching, happy reading and happy snuggling!  :-D




Fabulous Family Friday–Barn School?!

Friday, June 4th, 2010




Before I tell you about the title (I’m sure you are quite curious!) I wanted to share a wonderful child training tool–I think of it as “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” brought down to where the rubber meets the road!

I think I have reviewed this resource before on my blog, but I thought it fitting, since starting the Fabulous Family Friday posts, to do it again!

It is “Don’t Make Me Count to Three” by Ginger Plowman.   The first section is entitled “Reaching the Heart of Your Child”.  There are definitely some concrete ideas in here, but I love it that it starts with the heart.  After all, that is where it ALL starts, even for us as God’s children!

There is an additional resource that is great for using as you train your children, using Scripture.  Ginger also produces this, and it’s called “Wise Words for Moms“.   It’s in a calendar format, so you can hang it on the wall, or just open it for use.   

Ginger also has a website with some other good materials, although these are the only two I personally own.     (Just click on her name for her website.)

I especially think you younger mamas would love this book, but you know, we older ones can keep it fresh by reviewing and remember what’s most important in life–






So what is barn school, anyway?!



Several years ago, when we first started giving music lessons, most of our students were homeschooled.  So while one member of a family was having a lesson, the siblings would play with my girls outside.  The barn is always a fun place to play!  


My daughters decided to make a “town” in the barn, and named it “Butterfly” in honor of the wooden Monarchs that perch on the barn (made by a friend’s father). 




Each girl had a “house” area that was hers.  They used whatever old boards (and some not-so-old!) to section off their areas.  Then they added their “shops”.   Of course, all the students and their siblings wanted to participate!   So each one had their “shop”.     The currency was acorns!  


Your first visit to Butterfly, you could gather a can full of acorns to spend.  After that, you had to come up with your own business!


Two brothers of a student were very resourceful–they were the “water works”.  They would deliver water to your residence or business, and even to the barn loft!   They had quite an ingenious method of pulleys to get it up to the loft so they didn’t have to run up and down the stairs all the time!   Of course, if you lived or worked on the loft, you paid a bit extra for this service!   For an extra fee, they would dump your yucky water! ;)


They had all the amenities a small town could offer:






Grocery Store


Tea Room




Several restaurants


Sign shop


Post Office


UPS (that was one daughter swinging on the barn swing and throwing your “package” into your area!)


Trash Removal


Town “Garage” (for all the bikes!)


Various interesting shops (one daughter made butterflies out of colored paper clips!)


Even a Visitors Center!



Lots of fun!  But did they learn anything?




The library consisted of books bought by the bag at our library sale, as well as revolving racks and the vinyl cushions they used to use for story hour!   We also bought several drawers of the old card catalog system, and the “librarian” just turned the cards around and wrote down what we had!  She also made cards so you could “check out” books.  We even had old encyclopedias out there!  (They’re actually still floating around on the property…..)


The museum keeper also catalogued all the interesting artifacts (one being a tooth that a goat lost!). 


All the shopkeepers had to keep track of what they sold and their inventory, and of course the banker had to keep records!


They decided that there would be no “school” in Butterfly–all students would be homeschooled there!  


Once they had a bank robbery!!!  One student’s brother grabbed the “vault” (an old suitcase) and took off!   He was apprehended and caught.   The “residents” first were going to put him in the chicken house, but no one wanted to stand guard!  So they then brought him to the judge (me) and put in jail (sitting in the living room with me while I taught his sister–not his idea of a great time!).   We never did have a jail–that was the one and only crime!  ;)


 (Not the bank robber!  Just showing a picture of the swing!)

ALL of this took place with hardly ANY input from me!   I did not “make” them do anything.  I suggested, that’s all.   My oldest daughter decided to do a little “newspaper”, handwritten!   I told her about the newsletter template on Microsoft Works, and she figured it out and started cranking out quite the production!    She had an ongoing story as well as cute quotes….just think what she could do now!  Oh!  She IS!   It’s called Seven Sisters blog!  LOL!


That year was not a good year “schoolwise”.  I had had three miscarriages within 9 months, off my feet nearly a month each for two of them.  Not much planned school went on.  At the end of the “schoolyear”, I was reading my daughter’s “newspaper” and her story, and said, “Lord, who taught her to write?!  I didn’t!”  And that is when He spoke to my heart Isaiah 54:13 


“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”


We had a family reunion later in the fall after this “Barn School Year”.  As I was giving a tour of the girls’ “town”, some of my husband’s aunts were telling me what curriculum their daughters were using to homeschool, and one asked me what curriculum I used.  I waved my hand around and said with a smile, “THIS is my curriculum!”   :)


At first they were a bit surprised, but as I explained all the learning that was going on there, they thought it was really neat!





I know sometimes we need to guide and have a plan, but I also know that sometimes….no, a LOT of the time–life happens and you can’t do your well-laid plans.  Is the time a loss?  Are you in danger of being “behind”?


Well, no!   I don’t believe in being “behind” anymore.  As long as you are:


Being faithful


Not using it as an excuse to do nothing


Putting first things first (“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…”)


Focusing on relationships


Providing an atmosphere of learning



Then I believe you are where God wants you to be, and He will see to your children’s education.



I had found an interesting book through a school called “Sudbury Valley” in Massachusetts.   Sudbury Valley is basically an “Unschooling School”!   Here is the Wikipedia description.  I am not saying that I agree 100% with all they do, and it is not a Christian based school, but I thought it interesting that this school has been in existence for over 40 years now, and has proven out over and over that having a curriculum and schedule does not equate success, and having freedom in learning does not equate chaos. 


I was able to get the book, “Free at Last“, from the library.   It was an interesting read!   One boy, “deschooling”, spent two years just fishing!  But the detail and intensity he used to pursue fishing transferred later to computers.  


Even if you’re not planning on being an unschooler, or even a “relaxed schooler”, I really think this would free you from thinking, “Oh, Johnny doesn’t know how to read yet!”  or “Susie can’t tell the difference between a noun and a verb!” or how about “Joan’s highschoolers are doing algebra and I know Mary isn’t ready for that.  I guess I’ll have to catch her up!”


I personally do think the children need a little guidance, and I do not necessarily think the kids ought to have a democratic vote in a family! :)   But there’s something to be said for going with the flow of their interests vs. trying to fit them into a curriculum.


Too many times we think it all depends on us doing the right thing–having the right schedule, using the right curriculum, following the right requirements, training our children just so…..but I’m going to let you in on a secret:



NOTHING depends on you



It all depends on YOU depending upon HIM!


The place you need to seek guidance is on your face before the Creator of those beautiful children.   This way takes more time.  More of you.  More interaction (you know–relationships!)  


But this way brings joy, peace, love….harmony, and faith—faith in your Abba Father Who cares for your children more than even you do!    Yes, even their education! 


Be open.  What you hear from Him might go against all you’ve ever thought about education.   But if you really believe He’s spoken, and you have your husband’s blessing, you can be sure you are in His will and you will be amazed at what your children learn.  And even if they don’t learn all the things you thought they should in 4th grade (or 6th or 9th), they will have learned what the Lord wanted them to learn.   You will find these experiences breed a love of learning that you couldn’t stop if you wanted to!



And someday, you’ll have some graduated and wonder how they learned some things…..and then you’ll remember….



Oh, yes!  The Lord taught them!





(Head over to the girls’ blog and see the new thing they’re doing–a cute “Behind the Scenes” video!)


(Special thanks to Anna for her beautiful flower pictures!)


Happy Phonics–Happy Mama!

Friday, January 8th, 2010


I’ve definitely been MIA for awhile!   December kept us all busy with Christmas and birthdays!  (Both Jessica’s and Dallas’!) 



When I was a new homeschool mom (and even when I had several years under my belt!) I was always interested in what others were doing.  Now, remember, this was back in the early 90’s when there wasn’t even HALF the resources that abound today!


In all honesty, the plethora of resources sometimes makes it harder to make decisions!!!


As a veteran now in my 18th year (boy, does that look strange in print!!!), I thought I might share what I’m doing now.   Mind you, things change depending on the season of our lives!


Today I’m sharing what I use to teach my children to read.  That has changed in some respects.  No longer do alphabet cards grace my dining room (now the library) and flashcards and posters reside in the “school area”.


In fact, I’m not sure we have a “school area” anymore!  The whole house is the “school area”!   And the barn, and the yard, and the…..


Well, you get the idea!  



I had to trade in the “Early American Schoolroom Eclectic” look with desks for everyone for a “comfy relaxed-sorta-kinda-Charlotte-Mason” couches and dining room table.  (Oh, yeah.  We don’t have a dining room!  That is now part of the sunroom!)


The desks were just junk holes anyway, and the reality of 9 children each having their own desk was a bit daunting!  



Anyone who reads my blog for any length of time will right away figure out I do not try to replicate school at home.   We do have a marker board that is sometimes left out for ease, sometimes put away (and then we have the pleasure of finding it again!).  We do have drawers in an old dresser that now resides in the sunroom which are “school drawers”.  (And yes, they become “junk drawers”, too! LOL!)


All that said, phonics has taken a whole different direction for me.  I got tired of unfinished workbooks mocking me, and neither could I bear to make a child who had had a major “take-off” in reading come back to fill in blanks about sounds and diphthongs and all that stuff.  


My criteria in homeschooling resources is that it has to fit the child and it has to fit me, too!   If it’s too complicated for me to fit in my day, well, it just isn’t going to get done!



I have to say that Happy Phonics, from Love to Learn, is my absolute favorite way to teach reading!   Okay, to teach phonics!    Diane Hopkins does advise using Explode the Code books, and I did buy the first set of three…..and they sit unused in my bookcase!   (True confessions here!)


Happy Phonics is a series of games that uses a lot of the ideas in Writing Road to Reading, but they are a WHOLE lot more fun!  (I know, because we tried WRTR years ago!!!)  Diane has done a super job!


There are cards, books, and games, all printed on different colored cardstock, and a manual to guide you through it.  A very easy to use manual!   You will need to spend a little time cutting the cards out and assembling a few of the little booklets.   I spent some time and did some, then since I have three girls at three levels, I just try to keep a game or so ahead of the oldest one!     I bought a container at Wal-Mart that is just perfect for keeping it all organized:




This helps keep the cards together for a game.  Each game has a symbol, so if the cards get mixed up, you can sort them easily (or even a child can sort them, and that is more school for them! )


All you need to add is a brad for the Reading House wheel and staples for the books!



To make it special, I take the child into my bedroom.  That started out to have some peace and quiet from the rest of the household (yes, I’ve even locked my door when we had too many interruptions!).   They really liked it, so we continue to do it (don’t have to lock the door as much now!).  I spend about 20-30 minutes per child, depending on what we’re doing.  We’ve sometimes only spent 15 minutes.


Here is what I did this week with each of the girls:


Anna (she’s 12, and she actually learned to read from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but I wanted her to have some more phonics background to help her with harder words):


~Review Group 3-5 cards and lists/ Go over Group 6 cards and lists

~Memory Game/ read from Big Book/ Introduce Group 7 cards


Group 3 is ee, ea

Group 4 is er, ir, ur, wor, ear (from the WRTR phrase “Her first nurse works early.”)

 Group 5 is y__, _y, ___y, _y_   (different sounds of y)

Group 6 is ai, ay

Group 7 is oi, oy


Memory Game reinforces the ai/ay sound.  I also put together the ai/ay flip and read books for next time.



Bekah (10):


~Review Group 1-3 cards and lists/Group 4 cards and lists/ Big Book/ First Nurse Game with Anna



Charissa (8):


~First books/ Reading House “ame” / Silent E Game/ Climb the E Tree Game


The Reading House has a wheel behind it (this is where you need the brad) and then a strip that goes through two slits.   The wheel has a window, and I would have turned it to the “ame” rime, then the strip would put a different consonant at the beginning.  I slowly pull the strip, letting her decode the word (lame, tame, same, name, etc.)

Silent E Game helps get across how e causes the vowel to “say its name”,  and Climb the E tree help differentiate between the two sounds of e.



This gives you an idea of the materials and how I use them.   I pretty much spend about two sessions on each group.  I spend more time in the early games, which start off with Muffin Match for upper and lower case letters, Change My Vowel game, flip books, Rhyme Time (that helps them see how words rhyme), and there are games that match pictures with words.   It depends on the child and how quickly they are catching on.


I’ve used the Group Lists for spelling.  There are usually 3 lists for each group, so I might pick 3-5 words from each of the lists.   I don’t get too hyped up on spelling until they are reading well.   But using the lists helps reinforce the sound or rime that we are working on .


My girls LOVE Happy Phonics!  Noah does, too!  He has started on Muffin Match and using cards to “spell” his name.    Diane developed it for her son, Ammon, who is now nearly grown!


Here are some pictures of us using Happy Phonics:



Muffin Match with Noah (and Isaiah!)



Charissa and I playing "Climbing the E Tree"

Bekah and I playing "Her First Nurse" game

Anna and I playing Memory Game

As you can see, it’s a lot of fun!   And we really enjoy it!



This is really a no-stress “program”.   I get the manual out and write down a day or two ahead what I am going to do.  I don’t get too far ahead of myself, because I don’t know if we might need to spend more or less time on a group!   And my children have been patient with me as I look at the manual to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing sometimes!    



They get reading practice when we all read the Bible in our morning together time as well as at night after supper, besides the books that threaten to take over the house (which is why the former dining room is now the “library”!) as well as library books.  


They do copywork out of the Bible and I am using Institute for Excellence in Writing’s syllabus for some writing, so I don’t really feel I need to drill writing words with the sounds and matching and all that.  They seem to be blossoming, I’m not overtaxed, and we’re ALL having fun!



Now that’s MY kind of “curriculum”!      


Bible Time~Passing on a Thirst for His Presence

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

I had been asked if I’d share what I am planning for our Bible Time (that I mentioned yesterday).  Of course, I can’t do that in just a few sentences!    I have to share my heart about it!



I have been wanting to revamp some things with our Bible time.  I didn’t want it to be soooo boring the younger children were dreading it.  Neither did I want to cater to them with fun and games time.  And I wanted it to be not just focusing on the Word of God, important as that is, but on the God of the Word.  If you’ve been around my blog much at all, you know that I "preach" about relationships.   A LOT!  



I cannot save my children.   I cannot impart to them my salvation.   I can, however, lead them to the Living Water.   And then make them thirsty enough for it they just have to take a drink!



How do I do that?



By sharing the overflow of my relationship with Christ!   As I spend time in His presence, I develop His character, His heart for others…..my constant prayer is that He would so permeate my life that I would anoint all I touch with Him.   Just Him.  



So I wanted our Bible Time to reflect that.  I had been asking God to please show me the "pattern on the Mount" so to speak, as to what He wanted for our family.   My only hesitation in sharing this is that someone may take it lock, stock and barrel without praying about it and then it will become a tool that doesn’t fit well in their hand!   Please bathe in prayer and ask God what He wants for you.  If He led you here and you feel this is your answer, that’s fine.  I just know how prone I am to try to copy something thinking that’s from the Lord when I really didn’t seek His mind on it at all!



This came from…you guessed it!   A Ron Auch book!  Swept Away by His Presence is another awesome book, and in the later chapters he talks about how he has helped churches start what he calls "Morning Manna" prayer meetings.  I’m not going to give all the specifics here, but I will share what I gleaned from it and the tweaks I’ve made for us.



1. Prayer

We first pray for God to be with us, to guide us and protect our time together. 



2. Hymns


We do this already, but I am changing it a little.  Our 7 daughters each have a laundry day (obviously a few double up to get it done during the week!), so on their laundry day, they get to choose a hymn to sing.  Noah picks one on Monday, when Cassia does his laundry.   So we usually are picking two hymns to sing.  Yes, ALL the verses!  We also sing through the hymnbook.  I will go to the piano and pick out the tune if we don’t know it, but we usually sing a cappella.  (I’m not a good enough pianist to play AND sing!)



3. Bible and Confession


I plan for us to read a Psalm together, share from that and our personal quiet times what the Lord is showing us, then read the chapter of Proverbs for that day.  After that, we will pray and confess whatever the Lord has prompted us that needs to be confessed and/or for His help in doing what He is calling us to do from what we read.



4. Intercession


Here we will pray for the needs of others as well as make petition for our needs.  We will follow the guidelines Mr. Auch created for the churches he does this for. 



Monday–government–city, state, nation


Wednesday–World Missions

Thursday–Lost souls, revival

Friday–the Sunday service



5. Praying in the Harvest


This is also from his guidelines, which he got the idea from Rev. Larry Lea.  It is based on Isaiah 43:4-6.  Basically it is facing the different directions and praying for the needs of the community in that direction as well as salvation for lost souls. 



6. Thanksgiving and Worship


Here we will sing our "Hymn of the Week"–a hymn I pick that we sing every day, so that we get more familiar with it.  We will also share thanksgiving to God and praises here, as well as worship Him just for Who He is.



We’ll have a short break so they littles can stretch and get their Grapevine Studies notebooks, then we will do a short lesson on that and end with our Scripture memory.



I may change some things around, but that is my ideal for now.  I think it will take about an hour, with the break and allowing some extra time in case one segment takes more than its allotted time!   Which would be wonderful, by the way!



My breakdown, if you’re interested, is 15 minutes for prayer and hymns; 10 minutes to read the Bible and share and have time of confession; 10 minutes for intercession/petition; 5 minutes for praying in the harvest; 5-10 minutes for worship;  then 10 minutes or so for Grapevine and Scripture memory.



This will first be tried tomorrow morning, so maybe I’ll let you know how it goes!  I have no doubt it will take longer to start with, that the enemy will fight it, and we may spend as much time getting the little guys to learn to sit still  but it will be worth the effort! 



I am convinced more and more that time in His presence is THE most important thing I can be doing–both for myself and with my children.



No other way will we all learn to "Be still and know that I am God".  In reading Taught by the Spirit, (yes, another Ron Auch book!) I am learning that the battle is HIS.  The battle for our nation.  Our churches.  Our marriages.   Our children.   Read about King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12-17.    What did God tell Him?



"Ye shall not need to fight in this battle:  set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem:  fear not, nor be dismayed;  tomorrow go out against them:  for the Lord wil be with you."



And what was Jehoshaphat’s response?  Worship!!!  "And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground:  and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jersualem fell before the Lord, worshiping the Lord."



And then see what he did to "prepare for battle"!   Verses 21-22:



"And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth forever.  And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten."



"Worship is powerful, it confuses the enemy, and nowhere has that fact been demonstrated more clearly than in that battle…..True worship will so confuse the enemy that he will destroy his own followers." (Taught by the Spirit, p. 148)



"In our spiritual warfare, God uses our worship to accomplish very special purposes.  He uses worship to get His work done in the world.  Prayer, on the other hand, is what God uses to get work done in us. Worship changes the world.  Prayer changes us.  But in order for this to happen, the garment of praise must go on after the sackcloth.  If we reverse that, putting on the garment of praise first, we never bring ourselves to repentance, we ensnare ourselves in a worship of worship, rather than a worship of the one true God."   (Taught by the Spirit, p. 148)



Mr. Auch contends that the greatest way to defeat our enemy is to become more like Christ, because that is the opposite of the devil.  And we become more like Christ by spending time in His presence.



I feel that if I can help my children to grasp that, it will be more powerful than memorizing whole books of the Bible, than knowing theology forwards and backwards, or than the most eloquent singing and preaching they could do.   Time with Him must come first, or all our Bible reading, memorization, study, etc. will be in vain.  If it doesn’t make me more like Christ, it is all in vain. 



Yes, I know, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!"



But you know the rest!



You can salt his oats!  



This is how I plan to "salt the oats" and make my children thirsty for a drink from the Living Well that never runs dry.   The Living Water that is the only kind that will truly satisfy!



I tell people "You must be what you want your children to become."  Too many times we think the right Bible curriculum or class or whatever will do it.  No, it is a relationship, and it must come from us first.  As they see us drinking deeply and often from that well of Living Water, and then our lives overflowing with the fruits of the Spirit from being in His presence, they will want that same love…..joy…..peace—who doesn’t want peace in this troubled world?  It doesn’t come from changing our circumstances but from changing us!   Having His presence within brings peace in the most turbulent storm! 



Then we and our children can "Be still and know that He is God".  Then we can "stand ye still" for "the battle is the Lord’s"! 



I hope that encourages you to seek Him and His "pattern on the mount" for your Bible Time.   As for me and my family, we don’t just want to know about God–



We want to know God!

May He guide you as you seek His face!


A Tale of Tools

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Several years ago, I was struggling with homeschooling (again!), and seeking the Lord for help.   (Make that:  HELP!!!)


It seemed I was always getting bogged down, every year, trying to get it all done (and I didn’t even do all the traditional subjects!   )   I felt my yoke was not easy, nor was my burden light!  So obviously, I had taken on a yoke and burden that were not what He had in mind for me!


My husband is a self-employed contractor, doing mostly remodeling and additions with his small company.  (Small as in him and one other guy!)  The Lord showed me something through my husband’s work—something to do with tools.


No matter what your job, you have tools.   A businessman has his briefcase, powerpoint presentations, computer, etc.   A mechanic has a shop of sorts, a pit or place to work on vehicles,  and different tools to do his job.  A janitor has his mopbucket, mop, broom, glass cleaner, squeegee, cleaning rags, etc.


And a contractor has his tools, too.  THAT is what I am most familiar with (I didn’t say I knew the names of them ALL, but I am more familiar with those than, say, a mechanic’s tools!)


My husband has a shop.  Half of it is family storage, half is mostly for work (office, saws, workbench, etc.).  He also has a utility trailer he pulls to the worksite for longer jobs, which is a "miniature shop", having most of the tools, saws, etc. he might need on a job (including a microwave and refrigerator for lunches!   )  Then he has a topper on the back of his work truck.   In that he has tools that he uses on most jobs, so he has them with him at all times.


Now, imagine, if you will, that my husband has come to your home to remodel your bathroom.  He shows up, wearing every hammer, screwdriver, nailgun, screwgun and staplegun he owns.  (And he owns several!)  He also has on pouches full of nail, screws, nail coils (for the nailguns), etc.   He probably has his set of wrenches hanging somewhere, too!


And he’s carrying his table saw!   You  nervously let him in, wondering if he can make it around the corner and down the hallway to your bathroom without running into and ruining the drywall!  


He can’t.  And he does!


Not only that, but as he’s trying to get into your bathroom door with all this paraphernalia on, he gashes another hole in the hallway drywall, not to mention making a big dent in the door itself!


Since the bathroom isn’t that big, he crashes things into each of the walls, knocks the sink off the wall and drops several items into your bathtub, chipping the porcelain finish.


AAAHHHH!  Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?!   Sounds like he’s drumming up more work!!!!


THIS is what too many of we homeschooling mamas do to ourselves!


We start our schoolyear weighted down with every single book for every single grade we’re teaching.  We’re trying to pull it all together, and wouldn’t you know it!!!  We just gashed a hole in our dinner preparation "drywall"!  Before we can round the corner of the first quarter of the schoolyear, we’ve gouged another hole in our character training "corner".   And as a last straw, before Thanksgiving even, we drop a bunch of things and chip the "porcelain" of our family relationships!  Not to mention the "dent" in our laundry…er, maybe the lack of dent in our laundry?!


Remember I said my husband has three places for his tools.  He has a shop.  Those are tools he doesn’t bring with him, or where he stores tools he might not need often, but occasionally will load into the trailer for a job.   Then there’s the trailer, where the more often-used tools are.  Finally, there is the topper in his truck, where the MOST often-used tools are.  He has tools he may use just a few times a year!  And he has some he uses nearly every day!



So it is with us!   If we let go of our preconceived ideas, of thinking we need to bring "school" home (read John Taylor Gatto’s books if you think the system is important to duplicate!), we can start seeing which "tools" are necessary to use every day, which we can "store in our trailer", and which ones can rest in the shop until needed. 



Then we aren’t cumbered about by so many things that we make more of a mess of things than we fix!!!



For me, that is what "relaxed homeschooling" is really all about.  It is realizing what to let go, what is truly important, and that it all doesn’t have to be done NOW.  (Or yesterday!)



I have learned, in 17 years of homeschooling, that they don’t have to finish a phonics program to read.



That they don’t have to go all the way through a spelling program to spell.  (Nor that they will spell because they go through a program!)



That they don’t have to go through and do all the tests, quizzes and questions in a science book to learn a lot from it.  (In fact, they may learn even more from it without all that other stuff!)



That they don’t have to go through a bunch of grammar to learn how to write.



That not all my children want to write stories.   Some prefer research writing.



That they don’t have to learn algebra to be "well-rounded".  (A very Greek concept, by the way!)


That they don’t have to do history and science every year, in a certain order, to learn those adequately.  That they might learn it in a self-imposed intensive learning session, that I’ll wonder why I ever worried about it!!!



That they do need time with me, as mommy, with each other, with God, to build their character.



That they do need to focus on a relationship with the Lord to be spiritually grounded–not with a theology, a Bible course, or even a Bible study (although those can be good things, they do not substitute for a relationship).



That if they fail at relationships (God, parents, siblings), nothing else they do will matter. 



If they focus first on those same relationships, everything else will fall into place.



If you’re feeling that your homeschooling yoke is not easy, and your burden is not light, perhaps you have put on a yoke Jesus never intended you to have.  Ask yourself, "Whose yoke have I put on?  Jesus’?  Or the ‘state standards’?  Or the ‘what every good homeschool mom does’ monster?"



The fear monster can be so loud that we can’t hear His still, small voice desiring to lead us in our homeschool journey.  Put all those aside, all the things you think a "good homeschool mom" should know/do, and ask the Lord, "Which tools would You have me use at this time?"



When you see His plan for you, you WILL be free!  You can move around unhindered by all the extras you don’t need to be carrying around.  You won’t bash into drywall, put holes in corners, dents in doors nor chip porcelain!  You will be able to do your job efficiently, and you might even be able to whistle a tune of praise while you work!



It’s all a matter of figuring out which tools are the most important, and leaving the rest of them in the shop until they’re needed.



And if you find they’re not needed?



That’s what homeschool swaps are for! 



Blessings as you seek Him in your homeschooling!