Friday, November 30, 2012

The Wonderful World of Curriculum!

The world of curriculum, for the new homeschooling parent, is a bit overwhelming...to say the least…




It is kind of like trying to figure out which PARTICULAR ice cream flavour you prefer…and we all know how everyone likes their special brand of ice cream…



“You know me, just plain vanilla for our family.”



“I don’t even know how ANYone can use anything but chocolate.”



“A bit of butterscotch, choco-mint chip, and a side of whatever else is available...this is what works for our brood!”



When I first decided that I wanted to homeschool, there came the question….so which curriculum do we wanna use?



I went to the local Convention for Homeschoolers…I talked to vendors, experienced Moms, other teachers & educators...I ordered books on homeschooling....I visited our local library and re-searched some more...I read website reviews and blog articles…I still was not 100% convinced of what I wanted to use for our family; what was actually the RIGHT choice for us??



I found the more I shared my thoughts with other families, the more I started to doubt myself. I still did not have strong convictions on why we were choosing homeschooling, and that led to a non-committal attitude towards any ONE homeschool philosophy.



In case you are new like I was, you may not even realize that there ARE various homeschool philosophies...

Such as: Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unschooling, Accelerated Learning, Programs Similar to Regular School (not too popular), Montessori, Eclectic, and more!



As I learned the jargon, and learned which curriculum matched a particular philosophy, it helped me to understand more of what I was ‘wading around’ in.



Of course, I am oversimplifying things…but at the beginning of our journey it was all confusing to me!



So in the end I made my decision. I found it wasn’t popular with the majority of homeschoolers I met. But then again, the reasons why we choose to homeschool were often not the same....



For us the adventure began because....


We had moved too far away from our church’s Christian school…



We didn’t feel like the drive was worth it if I couldn’t work in the same area…



We did want to see if there would be ANY academic benefit to me helping our children individually…



And lastly, there always seemed to be a lack of time together when our kids went to the school. For that I blame myself & my husband, our busy lifestyles, and overburdened schedules.



So for now, we have decided to continue with the same curriculum the Christian school our children attended have used….Accelerated Christian Education.


A.C.E. curriculum comes in small booklets (called PACES), and consists of 12 paces for each subject per year. They are easy to read, easy to follow, yet challenging enough that it keeps the child stimulated as they build upon each unit.



It is not perfect by any stretch…but it allows me to:



-have more free time, as this system teaches children to be independent learners



-have a goal set for each day, easy to measure and promotes a hard-work ethic



-they have tests at the end of each unit: so it is easy for me to evaluate if they have mastered the material (I realize that is not the goal for each homeschooling parent, however I find it useful to see that our time is being well utilized)



I DO supplement the material with:



-story time with all the children (on topics that encourage character development)



-hikes, and other educational outings



-regular times at our local library



-social meetings with our local chapter of homeschoolers



-times on the internet (guided by Mom) to learn how to safely navigate the web to find information or educational games



-gym & physical activity (outdoors in nicer weather; indoors otherwise)



-music and dance opportunities through regular extracurricular activities





I believe this year my children have had a fairly well-rounded education. However, I already see the temptation to compare ourselves to others, and feel like we ‘somehow don’t measure up’.



I am learning, as I recommend to ALL new homeschoolers, to lighten up on yourself. Most of all…enjoy the journey! One day and one step at a time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A reminder of God's kaleidoscope...

"Jesus loves the little children....

ALL the children of the world...."



....today while reading an article from a magazine....I was struck...
.......there really ARE so many children around the world!!!


Some living in abundance, some in lack....some with a wonderful Mother & Father...maybe a sibling..or two...or MORE!



Some with only a single parent...some left alone...or with a foster parent...or perhaps another substitute guardian.



Some living with 'perfect' health...other struggling with a difficult sickness...or perhaps a disability.




Some with the beauty that draws smiles from onlookers...others that draw smiles ONLY from those who can see them for WHO they really are :)





Some are generally happy and trustful...others seem bent on making life a whirlwind from the time they arrive!





Boys...and girls! Twins & other multiples...




Yet, one thing they have in common.


All needing unconditional love & acceptance.






A caring hand ....to help them....to guide them through this journey we call life.


Perhaps that's why Jesus never stopped the little ones from coming to Him...He said, "Bring them to Me."


I imagine children coming & cuddling on His lap, safe & content in His loving arms.


"Red, & yellow, black & white...
They are PRECIOUS in His sight...
Jesus, loves the little children of the world"



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

TOP TEN LIST of PARENTING RESOURCES

I love to read...








I always have....





In my first grade I won a reading contest...I remember chowing down at least 200 books! Yes, I was a little bookworm, as my Mother can attest too :)


So now that I have 4 children you can only imagine the amount of parenting books that I've read...

Ones that say this & ones that say that...ones I've never bothered to finish. Too much theory & not enough practical information.

I know when I became a first-time parent (about 13 years ago) I was on the prowl for info to help me adjust.....and since then there have been many OTHER reasons I have kept going, kept pursuing good parenting books. I have searched & purchased many. Some I simply perused at our local library.


My favs are those that focus on PRACTICAL parenting skills.


Today, I share my TOP TEN LIST with you. This is not exhaustive....there are many other good reads for parents out there. But these are 10 that I can attest really helped me in some way, shape or form. Maybe something will catch your eye & perhaps you'll find a new one to add to your 'must read' list. Enjoy!!



1) No Extraordinary Child By Denise Mira



This one can be purchased from Amazon or google her home website. She is a mother of FIVE boys!! She homeschooled all five of them....Denise shares about training our children properly in many arenas of life. Her passion is to raise young leaders, and from what I can tell she has done an amazing job so far. Great read :)


2) The Strong-Willed Child By Dr. James Dobson



I read this one after my first born came...he was very strong-willed! You will learn from this book that being strong-willed does NOT have to be a negative aspect of anyone's personality...it just may be a rougher ride on the journey. Gives lots of practical advice on how to help your strong-willed child develop into a leader. Loved it!


3) On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam



This one is an essential to read BEFORE you give birth. I thank a good friend of mine for recommending it to me. When my 2 eldest children were born sixteen months apart you can ONLY imagine the need to encourage them to sleep through the night. I followed this recommended program with all of my children..... and it worked! They gained weight very well, and it was so blissful to have a full night's sleep for most of the first year. ***Note: with my eldest child I was stubborn, so I didn't begin until he was 8 months old. Big mistake! Better to begin right from the get-go.



4) On Becoming Childwise By Garry Ezzo & Dr. Robert Bucknam



Gary Ezzo actually has an entire series covering the whole gamut of child-rearing. This one (along with the one featured above) are the two I found most helpful. The ages from 3-7 is an interesting time period. They're not tots anymore, yet not quite tweens. They are learning to develop their moral character in major ways during this period. I found each of my children asking deeper questions, and beginning to understand more about the world around them. This is a great companion for any parent with a child in this age bracket.



5) The Five Love Languages for Children By Gary Chapman & Dr. Ross Campbell



What a helpful book! Ever wonder why two of your children do NOT respond the same way to your loving gestures?? Every child has a different way they will perceive your love, and actually the authors narrow it down to five in particular-->acts of service, gifts, time, touch & words of affirmation. Read this book & get a handle on how to show YOUR particular child how much you love 'em!



6) Hide or Seek by Dr. James Dobson (or the updated "The New Hide or Seek")



This book not only affected some of my parenting strategies, it helped me understand WHY many people act the way they do when they feel inferior. Strongly recommended for all parents...not matter WHAT age your children are.



7) The Great Physician's RX for Children's Health by Jordan Rubin with Dr. Fiona Blair



Being interested in our children’s' health is certainly not a new phenomena. However, the amount of conflicting information out there has certainly grown! This book simplifies and overviews: food choices, supplements for kids, a balanced view of vaccinations, and exercise!

Certainly a great read if you're looking to improve your family's health :)



8) The Battlefield of the Mind By Joyce Meyer



Why do you say is this book included in a top ten list of PARENTING books?? Cuz you cannot be an effective parent if you are thinking poorly! This book (and this author in general I must add!) has helped me tremendously in gaining control over any anxious thoughts about the future of my children.

***This author ALSO has editions specifically for children or teens. My eldest has read the children's edition and it helped him a lot with some of his negative thought patterns. Also highly recommended reads!



9) ***This reco is specific to homeschooling parents.

Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling By Mary Pride



Best book out there if you are, or have ever considered homeschooling! Complete with details on every type of philosophy out there in the (actually VERY large) world of homeschooling, it will become your best friend. I read it over & over when I first considered homeschooling. Once I began meeting homeschoolers it helped me to understand the 'lingo' & wade my way through numerous curriculum sales. Great read & very well organized!



10) My TOP PICK for parenting help would have to be this book-->



The bible. Maybe some of you are surprised...

Of course, mine does not look like the one above (they have study ones now, different translations as well, notes to help us better understand the culture, ones that are audio, computer down-loaded options, topical studies, and much more!) but all of them in actuality DO have the same verses & the same content.

The bible isn't normally listed in topical sections, so it's best to use a concordance, or another book that has sorted it out for you. Nonetheless, the bible has offered me MORE wisdom on parenting that I have ever found elsewhere. I sometimes just read through the book of Proverbs to glean parenting tips. Ephesians has great thoughts on family life. Both Timothys as well.

Anyway, this one is up to you to get into and dig. Google a bible online if you don't already have one. They're free & usually fairly easy to use.





Well that's it...my top ten list. Hope you've found it helpful. As stated above, there are MANY other great authors I could mention...but these are a few of my favs!! Happy reading :)





Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Healthy Christmas Eating: TOP TEN LIST


"Christmas can be a HARD time to eat healthy!" How many times have I heard that before...even from my own mouth...


I must say, I always look forward to the coming holidays....


Christmas trees...Christmas lights...decor...parties...friends...family...celebrating the birth of Christ.....







& let's not forget about all the goodies that make their 'grand entrance'!!





...sometimes I think they dance in front of me when I go to parties :)



"Eat MEEEE!", they cry out....



But seriously...Christmas is a time that can be difficult to stick to our guns & continue to follow our healthy weight principles....


It's easy to have one, two, three + extra treats while making your rounds at a social holiday function. It's easy to get out the 'fat' pants, put on a big Christmas sweater and call it a day.





As a woman who has struggled with weight almost all of my life, and now a newly registered holistic nutritionist as of last month, I find that you have to prepare AHEAD of time before you hit the ground running during the holidays...


Out of all the books I've read on the topic, and what I've found helpful for myself, I've created a top 10 list of tips for the Christmas season...Enjoy!!!

  1. You've probably heard this one before but it bears repeating...drink LOTS of water! Best time to drink it is 1/2 hour before a meal, or 2 hours after. That way it won't distort any of your digestion juices.
  2. Fill up BEFORE you head to a party/event. This will help to prevent over-eating on the treat section! Best choices would be foods that make for a stable blood sugar level upon arrival: so focus on whole foods that contain fiber, & combine with a protein. Examples--> apple + peanut butter, banana + pumpkin seeds, trail mix, hummus & some raw veggies
  3. If you're gonna cheat, the experts recommend doing it all within a ONE hour span. That way insulin levels are kept to a minimum. Less damage that way, and back to the grind once you're home!
  4. Offer to bring a snack to put towards the event. Then you can plan to bring your fav healthy (& yummy) treat! Even if it can't compete with the choco-mousse cake, at least you have one item you know is familiar & a better choice.
  5. Ramp up your physical activity. Many times we blow it once or twice, then feel so bloated & out of shape that we sabotage the whole thing! By taking an extra long walk, doing a video, riding your bike or walking on the treadmill...you will help to curb the extra weight from packing on...AND hopefully avoid becoming discouraged!
  6. Eat a healthy balanced breakfast. I know it's been said over & over, but the most important meal of the day truly is breakfast. You'll have rev up your metabolism and help avoid binging later.
  7. Eat smaller portions. If you are going to dine on ALL the desserts at the table, then offer to split them with a friend or spouse.
  8. Let yourself have a guilt-free cheat day! This one only works if you eat consistently healthy the rest of the week. One of my friends does this regularly and has had marvellous results.
  9. Focus on the people that you want to connect with at the event. So often, I've found that just by moving myself away from the food spread I'm instantly able to focus on why I'm REALLY there.
  10. Write down your health goals! I do that regularly and I've found it very helpful. I pray about them, share them with like-minded friends, and look for small changes I need to make. I only focus on one or two changes at one time. Remember it's not a sprint, but a race!

~Cheers to the Christmas season~

Monday, November 26, 2012

Homeschooling...it's like going on a trip!

How often do you travel?
 
 

More importantly, how often do you travel WITH children? If you haven't had the privilege of doing both than I assure that traveling with children is an entirely DIFFERENT experience than doing it alone!!




How about parenting? How many of us find parenting easy? I mean, REALLY easy...so easy that it requires minimal effort. So easy that you almost FORGET that you're doing it. So easy that you could have a billion other activities simultaneously going on & you would be fine. Okay. No sweat involved. You got this one baby!!!


Okay, so I'm being sarcastic. If you're a parent you're either smirking, or rolling your eyes...


What is my point??

Parenting IS hard work. Parenting does take a lot of planning. A LOT of hard sweat, often tears, and sometimes pain. Personal growth is NECESSARY and definitely involved.



Now, take your parenting to the next level...imagine you heard a commercial like this.....



"Hey parents!! Have you ever felt like life was way TOO easy? That you weren't being CHALLENGED enough in your weekday?? That perhaps you could use a little less "ME" time???"





"Wait a second...there's more!! Do you just find yourself feeling that your house is a bit TOO organized, TOO clean & orderly?! How about life in general? I bet you find it's not THAT exciting & lively enough???...well, we have something that will meet your needs & more!!! It's called.... HOMESCHOOL!!"



"That's right! You heard it here first...homeschool is where you take parenting to a whole NEW level...no dimension actually! You will get the privilege of spending the ENTIRE day with your kiddos. Teaching...that'll be you. Training...that'll be you again...Cleaning the house & organizing...well, that will slide a bit...'me' time & social time...well, we can't promise you the moon...heheheh.." Commercial fades...



Since the beginning of my homeschool journey this year I have had MANY surprises....







Don't get me wrong though...there have been MANY, many blessings of course! Many awesome & cuddly moments. I've eavesdropped, & heard with great pleasure, our children bonding together in a deeper way. Many "eureka!" moments when one of the kids learned something new....




....Or how about the satisfaction of being an integral part of my childrens' education. Nope, you can't buy that.

But there have been many challenges. Many times I've wanted to quit (even in just 3 short months!). Many times I've called my hubby in tears and said, "Please come home early....pleeeeezzzzee!!”


Many times I've wondered why people do this at all....


I feel like homeschooling should have a handbook. A BIG handbook written by seasoned homeschoolers. It should be read & re-read by all those who are interested in trying out this particular pursuit.





I must digress and share I did find many books at the library that attempted to fulfill such a task...but many of them (not all of them, thank goodness!) didn't share the ins & outs of practical homeschooling...and how much your life will really change!


You WILL be challenged....but you will find JOY as well...and did I mention you will be challenged!!!


That's why I feel like homeschooling is similar to going on a trip. You plan...you pay for your ticket..you try to make sure everything's ready, but in fact you may find you forgot something. No worries. It'll work out okay...


You bring your camera. You have great expectations. You are counting down the days!


But then the trip begins....& of course there will be setbacks.....there may be 'delayed flights', 'rainy days' and more than likely 'long periods of waiting around for those fun moments you heard the trip advisor raving about" (smile).




The trip WILL ultimately be fun. I'm assured that the trip WILL be rewarding...however, ultimately you better enjoy the whole experience cuz this TRIP...well it's one made up of many small, yet special, moments :) Precious memories you will carry for a lifetime.

Parenting...that's a challenge for sure. Payoff=amazing!

 But homeschooling...challenging to the MAX! ....payoff though...=unforgettable!


To the seasoned homeschoolers...today I salute you!


(Now off to grade some work!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

& If I ever need a laugh....

Some "I'm thankful" thoughts today..


One of the greatest sources of inspiration in my life would have to be undoubtedly....my children! They know how to get Mama to smile :)



And they don't usually do it on purpose either...

Every night before I tuck the little ones in, I try to get a few minutes with each one of them. All by themselves. Just Me & Them.

I must admit that with a larger family (only four, but enough to keep me hopping!) it is often difficult to spend individual time throughout the day with each child. So, I find this special time is truly treasured.

And IF I somehow forget to come by their rooms (not too too often though...) they will call out to me from their beds..."MOMMY! MOMMY! Are you coming to tuck me in? Pleeezzzee!! Don't forget me!"



Often these nights are filled with the cutest little questions. Or phrases. Or chuckles. Or tickles. Best moments that a Mama could ever dream of.

Tonight was no exception.

My youngest (he's 5) asked me about heaven again (one of his fav topics of late).

"So Mom...how many days until we get there, to heaven?"
"I'm not sure exactly.."
"Is it one??"
"Well, I hope not. Uh, Mommy doesn't know."
"Mom, are there gold signs in heaven? Or do you think they're made of wood?"
"I think more likely gold....but not sure."
"Uh, Mom..can you tickle me??"
"Of course!!" and into a round of tickles/chuckles/laughs we go!

As you can see none of our conversations 'keep to one particular topic' or 'stay too serious'.....but that's not the point.

The point is that THESE are the one-of-a-kind memories I don't want to take for granted.....

Soon these moments will be finished...sigh....and the season of life will change....

I hope when all is said and done (that is: when my children fly the coop!) that they will choose NOT to focus on the negative events they've experienced, but instead will remember those sweet 'little' moments of growing up.....

Like the ones that take place with Mama at bedtime :)

Precious.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Martyr sydrome

Women. Wives. Mothers. Do you ever have days when you feel like this?!? Lol..

I have to tell you the truth: sometimes I think this is the image in my mind when someone begins to ask me to serve them in someway (smile). I'll explain...

Some days I have this awesome morning prayer time. It goes something like this, "Lord, if there's ANYone you want me to help today, ANYone I can serve today in any 'ole way, then...well, you know me Lord. Send 'em MY way. I'll do it willingly. I just love to serve! I'm your gal....(big smile on my face & pat on my back~just joking! but you get the picture)".



I get off and my day begins. The race is on and the clock is ticking. This particular morning my husband is home. What a treat! He usually works so much, but today is his day off.

I head down the stairs and my mouth is watering...I want to make a nice low-carb breakfast (I AM trying to watch my weight, right?) and I'm off to find my ingredients...when I hear, "Honey, can you please make me some toast? How about putting the cereal out?" Grumble. Okay, I guess that's not too hard to do.

Fast forward a bit...after breakfast we inevitably have a mountain of dishes sitting over the entire counter top (no exaggeration, really. Not with 4 children). My husband is getting ready to do some outside yard work....then I hear something like, "Honey, do you mind doing the dishes? I'll be in after awhile." Grumble. Uh, sure. Of course.

A little bit later the kids kick in..."Mommy, can you read me some stories? And not the 5 page simple one, but the FIFTY page long-winded one by Dr. Seuss I just love to hear on repeat..."(okay, that's an exaggeration but you Moms know the kind of books I'm talking about!)



How about: "Mommy, where are my new pants? I can't find them anywhere!" They're right here...hmmm, right where you put them last night after you went to bed. Grumble.

"Mommy, can you help me do this 1000 piece puzzle?" "Mommy, can we go play outside with YOU?" "Mommy, I need someone to help me with...."

The phone rings. The cell phone buzzes with a new text. Maybe 5. The emails come. It is to ignored until my set time of course to do those things. But again more 'little' needs and 'little' requests. My patience is thinning.



This of course does NOT happen everyday. And I don't mean at all to imply that my hubby and children are self-centered (in fact I would say they are ALL very helpful, and most of the time very caring/considerate people).

However, I just want you to see how EASY it is to forget about our morning prayer (our original good intentions!) when pressed with all the 'little' demands of the day.

So sometimes, I really do feel like that woman in the picture. I FEEL like a little 'martyr' with a BIG pack of weight on my back.

What does Christ say though? What is His take on all of this?

 "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (see Mark 9:35).

Oh. Hmmm...well, why on earth does Christ say that??

I am not an authority on the scriptures, but here are a few of my own thoughts.

I have a feeling that He was speaking against our selfish ingrained nature. He knew that in our OWN strength we tend to: think about ourselves, look out for numbero uno, forget others, do our own thing, only serve someone else if WE can get something back! At least I know in my own strength that's pretty much what I do......

But why serve? Why keep plugging away at learning how to effectively and consistently serve others? (while NOT of course becoming some sort of a door mat or in essence, taking on others' responsibilities that they should do for themselves).

I don't have all the answers. But I do. know. this.

When I serve others in love. I feel better. I feel energized. When I do it WITH a right attitude. I love to see them smile. To say thanks. Or worse if they don't say anything. To know I pleased Him.

So on those days that I want to grumble. & complain. & feel sorry for myself cuz noone else is SERVING me! I need to remember. True service. In love. Is a blessing.


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