Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: Home schooling

A New Morning Habit

Mornings have long been a frustration to me, in the sense that we’ve struggled to get breakfast done and our day begun.  It’s seemed like we’re very disjointed/disconnected, not very family-ish, and have such a hard time getting to the point where we’re doing anything besides spinning our wheels.

Last month, the Simple Homeschool weekend links included this gem – What’s Working :: 5 Strategies for Right Now, from Amongst Lovely Things, a blog I hadn’t previously read.  Sarah gives some great ideas in a relatively short post, but the one that jumped out at me was #3 – “Start Early. Very Early.”  When I read her description of how her family’s mornings used to be, and I thought she must haved lived at my house!

The whole insistence on being “dressed and ready for the day before starting schoolwork” is really lingering residue from out-of-home education.  But we are not trying to bring into our home what happens in a school building.  No, we are seeking to educate our children at home in the way that best fits them and our family.  And sometimes it is difficult to even spot the things we do as a result of the influence of the school system.

So Sarah describes how they have thrown out the “getting ready” and have begun a habit of just starting the day with reading aloud together.  In her words,

Trust me, getting out of bed is a much more appealing prospect when chores and math aren’t looming directly overhead. My kids wake to the promise of a cozy blanket while mama reads a story. I sip coffee while I read, and before we know it we’ve got 30 minutes of  literature (or history, science, religion, or whatever else we’re reading about that day) under our belts.

Oh, that sounds inviting, doesn’t it?!  It definitely got me thinking.

Then, around New Year’s, I read a terrific article from Thomas Jefferson education about Winter’s Educational Superfood.  More good stuff in there than I can cover in this post, but it was further motivation for me to want to switch things up with our routine!

So last week, as we got back into official school stuff, I started calling the Blessings out to the living room first thing in their morning.  Now, my morning starts long before theirs, as Jonathan leaves for work about 45 minutes before most of them wake.  I use the gap for studying of my own, or a quick nap, or trying to get some of my computer stuff out of the way before they begin their day, or even making breakfast for them!  But when I’m ready for them to begin their day, I call everyone to the living room and we begin.  So for me, starting early is less about time-early and more about first-thing early.

We are reading I John 1 this month, one of them reading it from my Kindle each morning.  By the end of the month, it should be somewhere between very familiar and memorized.  And since there are five chapters in I John, the book will fit in nicely by the end of our “official” school year.

After we read our Bible chapter, we read a chapter from a classic.  Right now we are enjoying Little Women.  Not sure what will come next, but I think all the Blessings and I are enjoying it.

While I read, they usually eat breakfast (if something’s ready), or one of the older Blessings quietly fixes something, then they eat.  It seems so much easier to move on to other studying and work after starting our day together with a cozy read.

And, a treasure for you from this morning’s read.  I found this so resonated with me that it was difficult to make it through the paragraph as I read aloud to the Blessings this morning…

If I don’t seem to need help, it is because I have a better friend, even than father, to comfort and sustain me.  My child, the troubles and tempations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavely Father as you do that of your earthly one.  The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom.  His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength.  Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.” ~~ Marmee to Jo in chapter 8 of Little Women, “Jo Meets Apollyon” ~~ Louisa May Alcott

Maybe you’d like to try it?  Maybe you have found something different that is fabulous for your family?  I’d love to hear about what morning routine works for you!

Advent is Coming! (A Gift For You)

From Dictionary.com
ad·vent [ad-vent] noun
1. a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of the holiday season.
2. ( usually initial capital letter ) the coming of Christ into the world.
3. ( initial capital letter ) the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world.
4. ( usually initial capital letter ) Second Coming.
Word Origin & History –
“important arrival,” 1742, an extended sense of Advent “season before Christmas” (O.E.), from L. adventus “arrival,” from pp. stem of advenire “arrive, come to,” from ad- “to” + venire “to come” (see venue). Applied in Church L. to the coming of the Savior, either the first or the anticipated second…
(Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper)

Advent, the time when we ponder with wonder the coming of our Savior, and look forward with anticipation to His coming again, begins next Sunday, December 2. What an opportunity for family worship and memory-building around the true reason for the Christmas season!

I’d like to share with you again this year my book Anticipating the Savior – The Advent Wreath as a Tool for Worship.  As I have said in the past, our family has been deeply blessed by the use of the Advent Wreath, and I pray that this offering of a free e-book will bless and aid your worship as well, whether you are worshipping alone or with a house full of family.

Just right click on the following link and choose “Save Target As” to save the .pdf file to your computer.

Anticipating the Savior – The Advent Wreath as a Tool for Worship

I would be delighted for you to share this book with your friends and family. Would give me the grace of directing them here to share, please?

AtS_ButtonPic

Quick shopping list for your Advent Wreath:
Four candles for the outer ring of candles. They can be tapers, votive, pillars… or whatever works for you. Depending on preference and availability, you need three purple or blue, and one pink or red. You might consider purchasing an extra set in case the first burns too low.
One white candle for the center Christ candle. I like to use a pillar, but find what suits you.
Candle holders for safety. I use simple individual candle holders for my tapers, and a small glass plate for my pillar.
Greenery of some sort for your wreath. An actual wreath, a length of garland, live evergreen branches… the form is much less important than the heart!

 

Happy Reformation Day

Eh? Reformation Day? Is that some holiday that the non-Halloween crowd invented to have something different to celebrate on October 31?

Actually, no. Though I had thought so myself until just recently. And it is nice to have something to talk about besides Halloween.

October 31 is the traditional date for Martin Luther’s posting of the Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, commonly known as the95 Thesis on the door of All Saints Church at Wittenburg in 1517, an event that is often credited with sparking the Reformation. There is record of church celebration of Reformation Day as early as the 1560s, so the observance is nothing new.

We have participated in extensive Reformation Day celebrations in the past (fun memories!), but this year we will simply be talking some about the Reformation, singing A Mighty Fortress is Our God… and starting to put up apples (which is totally unrelated).

For a surprisingly well documented (for wiki) collection of Reformation Day information, see this article. I found this quote particularly interesting:
The fact that Reformation Day coincides with Halloween may not be mere coincidence. Halloween, being the Eve of All Saints’ Day might have been an entirely appropriate day for Luther to post his 95 Theses against indulgences since the castle church would be open on All Saints’ Day specifically for people to view a large collection of relics. The viewing of these relics was said to promise a reduction in time in purgatory similar to that of the purchase of an indulgence.

Have a blessed day!

Songs, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

We’re working on getting back in the habit of having a hymn and a Scripture song (or, occasionally, a chorus) that we sing daily each week. This springs from a desire to instill the great hymns of the faith and the Word of God into our children, and, thankfully, they all seem to enjoy it. I have been deeply blessed over the years as the Lord has used the words of hymns and Scripture songs to bring His truth to my mind in times of need, and I pray that this habit will be seed in the lives of our Blessings.

This week’s hymn is May the Mind of Christ My Savior. Such a wonderful prayer:

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Words: Kate B. Wil­kin­son, be­fore 1913; ap­peared in Gold­en Bells (Lon­don: Child­ren’s Spe­cial Ser­vice Miss­ion, 1925).

Music: St. Le­o­nards, Ar­thur C. Barham-Gould, 1925

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcQm_KlWAI4&w=560&h=315]

A pdf of the sheet music can be found here.

Our Scripture song for the week is Romans 12.1-2:
I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, *
that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect.
(repeat to *)

Here’s the Thing…

We have been working on getting some steady forward motion in our schooling. The State Fair put a bit of a kink in our efforts, but this week we are getting down to business again. I was feeling extremely frustrated and overwhelmed this morning, at which point I generally start thinking we need to switch this or that about what we are doing for school. Or that I am just a failure as a home schooling mom. I called Jonathan in anguish and told him all the things I needed him to tell me. In detail. Things like: It’s only the second day back at working on a new daily routine, and I shouldn’t expect everything to be perfect from the start; it’s more about being consistant than about having the “perfect” system/curriculum/schedule; really, it WILL be okay. And so on. He’s so patient with me.

Continuing to think and pray after talking with Jonathan, I was convinced even more that what we truly need is to reduce distractions and Just Do It. Every weekday, unless there is a true emergency. Yes, educating at home is wonderful because there are so many opportunities for learning outside of book work. But, if my children are not able to keep their checkbooks balanced because we were too busy with other fun learning experiences, then I will have not done my job.

So, after chatting with the principal upon his arrival home from work, here’s the plan: School is in session every Monday – Friday of every week for at least the next month, so that we can truly get a routine established. That means grocery shopping, library trips, etc. have to happen evenings/weekends. That means yard jobs for the boys have to be done after school work is finished for the day. Until the apples come in and we go crazy with apples for a few days, we are going to be being very intentional and focused about getting a good groove established. And after apples, it’s back to business.

Hopefully, as time goes by, we will be able to be more flexible again. But we’ve had too much flex for too long, and it’s time to get busy!

Creation Museum Trip ~ Day 4 – Sat. Oct. 9 ~ Last Day

Saturday was our last day at the museum, and we had originally talked about leaving in the early afternoon. More on that later.  Heh.  We struck camp and had the van loaded by around 10.30, and ate breakfast on the way to the museum. Not as early as we had hoped, but still pretty impressive for the 12 of us and all our gear.

Our first workshop on Saturday was the Buzz about Bees workshop with Doug Nelson, a home schooling dad of seven whose family business is bee keeping. Doug is also the bee keeper/educator for the Creation Museum. We are interested in adding bees to our repertoire at some point, so we soaked the bee workshop, and were thrilled at the opportunity to go out to the museum’s bee hives later in the afternoon to watch and learn even more.

The Snakes Alive workshop was also a hit with our family, since Jonathan has all of us trained to appreciate snakes and other reptiles. Rick Teepen has an extensive collection, taught us some interesting things about the animals, and best of all, has a passion for Jesus Christ and brought out some very practical spiritual truths.

A highlight of the day for this newly-dairy-free mama was a Chai Latte from the Palm Cafe at the museum. I normally avoid soy like the plague, but I couldn’t resist this one time treat. It was yummy!

Some shots here and there around the museum on Saturday:

Worlds of Creation, the other current planetarium show, highlights the wonders of our solar system. Here is the Smith gang waiting in line for the show:

After our late afternoon trip out the bee hives, we made our way to the bookstore for our final visit. Some of the Blessings and Jonathan spent birthday money from Papa and Gramma Byrd. Instead of leaving early, we “closed down” the museum before hitting the road, so we arrived home around 3am. That’s just how we roll.

It was a fun, memorable, and educational trip. I’m already looking forward to the next time!

Creation Museum Trip ~ Day 2 – Thurs. Oct. 7 ~ At the Museum

Highlights from Thursday:

Buddy Davis day!  We planned our trip to coincide with a day when Buddy Davis would be at the museum.  We enjoyed the workshop where we learned from Buddy how to draw and to sculpt pteranodons, as well as gaining knowledge about pteranodons and other dinosaurs.  Later in the day we attended a concert by Buddy, which was a treat.

In the Dragon Legends Theater, a video about dragons and dinosaur runs on a loop.  The theater is small, cozy, and a perfect quiet spot for nursing.  We watched the video once as a family, and I enjoyed it multiple additional times throughout our visit.  If you ever visit the Creation Museum with a nursling, the Dragon Legends Theater is your friend.

The Dinosaur den is an area of the museum showcasing a multitude of dinosaur sculptures (the lion’s share of which were sculpted by Buddy).  The family checked it out while I fed the little fella.

Our initial tour through the bookstore was on Thursday, prepping for a purchasing visit that would come just before our departure.  So much fascinating stuff.

On our way back to the campground Thursday night, we stopped at “our” grocery store – groceries for dinner/Friday, dark chocolate (with no dairy!) and sushi for a treat.

A farkle game with the four oldest Blessings was a fun end to the day, though we were all shivering by the time we concluded the game.  The night-time temps were in the low to mid 40s and we were glad for our blankets.  Andrew slept in many layers in “bed” with Jonathan and I.  He probably stayed warmer than I, but I was glad we could keep him warm and comfy.

(Trying out the WP slideshow feature below… I like it except that it doesn’t look like you can click on individual pics to see them in a larger size.  Any thoughts on picture format?)

[slideshow]

A “school year” underway

While we have school going at some level all year, I appreciate the opportunity for evaluation and goal-setting that comes with the start of a “new” year.  In our family, this usually means evaluation and goal-setting for me as much or more than for the Blessings.  That is certainly true this year, perhaps to a greater degree than usual.

I thought I’d share some adjustments that I/we are making.  Perhaps they’ll encourage or challenge you, or bless you in the knowledge that you’re not alone in this or that.

No-Internet Days
I think I have neglected to share my new habit of considering the internet, for the most part, turned “off” during the day.  I do take a little online time during Siesta,  and there are other reasons for exceptions, but for the most part, I’ve made the internet off limits for me while Jonathan is gone to work.  Why?  Because I need to be with my children.  That sounds cliché’ when I look at the words in type.  But I had gotten to the point where I hid in my room from my children most of the day, considering them intrusions rather than Blessings, being irritated with them for bothering me, and just not BEing with them.  That is not the mom that I want to be, the mom God wants me to be, the mom my Blessings need.  The internet was not the culprit, I was.  But the internet was my enabler and the Father convicted me that I needed to change my habits. So, since mid-summer, I’ve been having a lot more face-to-face time with our Blessings!

A Developing Routine
I’ve realized that with six children officially doing school, we are in need of more structure to our days. Several years ago, I tried using a very structured program for scheduling our days, and it didn’t for me. Great program; I just had a hard time hanging on to the fact that it was my tool, not my master… and I turned into Monster Mom. It wasn’t pretty. So we’re working on figuring out a schedule/routine that will be flexible, yet give us some needed structure.

Breakfast and Lunch
During Andrew’s (very physically challenging) pregnancy, the Blessings generally got their own (cold) breakfast and (not necessarily healthy) lunch. Keepin’ it real. It was physically needed for them to do the preparation, but I fell out of the habit of making sure that they had what they needed on hand for healthy, varied meals. Part of our new routine is eating breakfast together as a family, which makes it natural to work toward the goal of providing more nutritious breakfasts. Since I’m more mindful of breakfast planning, it’s relatively easy to remember to plan better for lunches. Not being “stuck” at the computer all day lends itself to actually fixing these meals for my children more often instead of them needing to do it every time. And you know what? I’m enjoying it!

Memory Work
My friend Hope inspired me this summer with her system for Bible memory with her children. In short, after prayerful choosing of a passage, the mom “(reads) the passage three times every day and the children (chime) in as it becomes familiar. … By the end of the month, they have got it!” We’ve been incorporating this into our morning after-breakfast routine, and are loving it. We started in mid-August with Psalm 1 and all the Blessings who can talk have it memorized. We’re working on Ephesians 1 this month (and maybe next), and we need to put some prayer into choosing passages for the rest of the year. Check out Hope’s helpful and inspiring post for more fleshed-out ideas.

There are other adjustments we’re working on making, but this post has gotten long enough.  Have a blessed week!

Cookie Day!

Wednesday was our 6th annual Cookie Day at the Missouri State Capitol, when families from around the state bake and package cookies and deliver them to the legislators in Jefferson City.

Here are our 24 packages of cookies:

And a close-up of the labels:

“Our” alcove next to Rep. Davis’s office.

Families came here to get their assignment sheets, then moved out all over the capitol to deliver cookies, cheer, and a message of, “We love having legal midwives in Missouri. Please don’t let that change!” 3,550 homemade cookies were delivered this year by 150 midwifery supporters. Great work!

We moved to this area just off the rotunda for lunch.

Jesse and Emily arranged for pizza delivery and folks were able to order ahead of time – it worked great! Samanda brought lots of drinks, which were most welcome. The above pictures were taken before the pizza or the crowds arrived.

The thing about which I’m always disappointed in myself on/after Cookie Day is the fact that I get so involved in what’s going on that I forget to take pictures. The preceeding pictures are all ones that Jonathan was thoughtful enough to take. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have any of Cookie Day events. Thanks Babe!

And here are some pictures I took on our way to the van around 3pm. The Missouri capitol is a beautiful building, and I would love to plan several hours someday to take pictures both inside and out.












Mama Stuff

Stacy at Your Sacred Calling has a great post up today about Kiddos in the Kitchen. Before you read on here, I’d love it if you’d go take a look, and be sure to read the article she links to at Like a Warm Cup of Coffee.

Done? Good stuff, wasn’t it?

The whole “Did he know what He was doing when He gave them me?” question resonates with me (and probably most moms) deeply. I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for my failures instead of accepting His forgiveness and moving on in HIS strength. But He keeps working on me, and it’s wonderful to know that His grace covers my mistakes, failures, impatience, etc.

On the kiddos in the kitchen business…
I have long admired and desired the parenting “model” that brings your children alongside you as you work through the day. It made sense and it sounds so lovely (two links there). But man oh man, it seems so hard to do! (Listens for the Amens) So I continue to desire to live with my children alongside me, and keep looking for ways to make that workable for me.

Here’s how my efforts have often gone in the past. I have something to do, think it would be something with which the Blessings could help. I gather them around, thinking what a fun and bonding experience this will be. 30 minutes later, the project is complete, I feel like I should be half bald from pulling my hair out, and I go to take a nap wondering, “Why do I even try?” A couple months later, I might get the courage to try again.

That probably doesn’t sound at all familiar, does it?

Well, first of all, I’ve been working lately on my heart attitude toward my Blessings. You know I don’t call them that just because I think it’s cute, don’t you? The world around me needs to know that my children are viewed as Blessings. And me? I need the reminder! Yet it is so easy to fall into viewing them as burdens instead of blessings, and I’m continually needing to ask the Lord to give me HIS heart toward my children.

Another very practical thing I’ve realized is that it just doesn’t work to bring all seven of my Blessings alongside me at the same time! The goal of bringing them alongside as I work dovetails beautifully with my (also often unrealized) goal of spending time with them one-on-one. So lately, I’ve been working on remembering to call them to me one or two at a time to help with something.

This has been a great help when it comes to special projects as well. We made gift jars for Christmas presents this year (something I plan to post about separately), and I had them help in teams of two. Each team helped me put togetehr a batch of 6 gift jars. Stephen “helped” on more than one team. Similarly, when we made edible Christmas trees, it was just two or three at a time at the counter.

So while this is a cute pictures of the Blessings and their trees,

I realized while reading the aforementioned blogs that they’re not a realistic view of how those trees happened, and I don’t want to add to anyone’s Mama complex by presenting a false view!
They happened like this:

and this:

one, two, or (at most) three Blessings at a time. Then when they were all done, time for a fun picture, then the eating!

So what I’m trying to say through all my sputtering is this: Take heart, fellow Mamas! Keep stepping along with baby steps, seeking the next thing you are to do, treasure your Blessings, and know that God’s grace covers you and them when you fail. And don’t forget that one of the greatest gifts you can give your cbildren is for them to see you honoring, respecting, and loving your man!