Saturday, September 14, 2013

Old blog, new blog

Believe it or not, I started this blog in 2008! I've gone through periods of intense involvement here, followed by periods of quiet absence. I seen my children go from carefree, curious toddlers to big kids, all while homeschooling and learning about mothering, Christian parenting and raising children with special needs.

I've realized now that I've grown out of this blog, so I've created a new one--one that focuses on homeschooling, yes, but also on other, more broad areas of life as a Christian wife.  The Hidden Beauty of Home is about homeschooling, homemaking, biblical womanhood and motherhood in general, with a little on foster care and adoption thrown in. I'll warn you, I don't look at my blog stats, and I don't care how many people read my blog (but feel free to comment and share my posts!) so don't expect perfectly timed posts on perfectly engaging topics of the perfect length. Do expect to hear real thoughts on real issues, hopefully presented in a clear and relevant way. :) So please visit me on my new blog!

Jennifer


Monday, March 11, 2013

Belated Curriculum Post!

To be honest, I haven't kept up with my regular blog friends since Little Bird was born. I have a very few I check often, but my long list on my feed? Not so much. But I do remember I always loved reading curriculum posts. You can tell alot about a homeschool by what curriculum they have chosen! Now we are over halfway through our year, and I don't think I ever did write a curriculum post! So, in case y'all are wondering, here's what we use:

Our core curriculum is Adventures in My Father's World. It's technically for 2nd to 3rd graders. I have a seven year old (nearly 8) and a six year old doing it. They are ALL over the place in the various subjects, so I really don't have them in any particular grade level. We all love this curriculum, and highly recommend it. My Father's World covers their music, art, history, Bible, and science.

That being said, we don't use their Language Arts or Math suggestions.

For math, little Bean (7) uses Teaching Textbooks 4, and so far we are pleased. Miss O (6) uses Christian Light Education 1 and so far, again we are pleased. Eventually, I plan to move her to TT as well. It doesn't start until 3rd grade, so for now, we are staying with CLE.

For Language Arts we use: Amish Pathway Readers, grade 3. Miss O reads them aloud, and Little Bean completes the corresponding workbook pages. We love the readers, but the workbooks is...blah. We will continue with the readers next year and leave the workbook aside.

Writing With Ease, level 1. It's ok. We won't be using it again next year.

All About Spelling. Little Bean finished Level 4 this year and Miss O is starting Level 4. So Bean is taking a break while O finishes this level, and then they'll enter Level 5 together (this will really cut down on the individual time I have to spend on spelling).

For handwriting, Bean is using a cursive workbook, but it's really not been helpful. Miss O is using A Reason for Handwriting. It's fine, but we probably will switch next year. She is nearly finished.

We use Heart of Dakota for book recommendations. And we get those at the library. :) HOD has some great book lists!

We also have Heritage History's CD libraries. We have their Young Reader's Collection and one other. The books on these CD's are all public domain, but beautifully formatted for you. These we use to supplement our history studies. Bean reads many of them on his own (daily reading time) and we read them together as well. Right now, he is reading Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans, and together we are moving through Boys and Girls of Colonial Days. I highly recommend HH. It is a valuable supplement to any history program. The books are of a very good quality, and it is very inexpensive. I had a coupon code, and only spent $20 on two collections.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'm writing a family devotional!

And I'm planning to share it with you all! :) Don't get overly excited, I'm not writing a book or anything, but a ten lesson family devotional on the fruit of the Spirit. Our church has been talking about the fruit of the Spirit recently on Sundays, and one day as we were heading home, I said something to Raymond about how we should study the fruit of the Spirit in our family worship time. He laughed, saying he was thinking the same thing. I love when what we learn in church can be expanded upon at home!

We found a devotion online and started using it, only to quickly find that it didn't meet our needs. It was too watered down, and there wasn't enough scripture explaining what each fruit of the Spirit really is. It was a great jumping off point, but every night I kept thinking that there was so much more we were adding to our study and I started wanting to rewrite it myself. So I am!

Hopefully there are those of you out there who read my blog and would benefit from something like this. I'm not sure how long it will take me, but I hope to finish fairly quickly. This is the first time I've ever attempted to write something like this, and I'm finding that I enjoy it very much and will likely write more in the future! The other aspect is learning to share files. Does anyone have advice on that? I had a dear reader offer to host my power cards (a very popular post on my blog due to pinterest), but I would rather host my own files so I guess I need to figure that out too!

I'm so excited to share this devotional with you all, and I hope some of you are excited as well!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why I homeschool, and the answer to an even tougher question



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I wrote a post several years back about why I homeschool. It was a good post, I think, and reflected my feelings at the time, and to some extent still does. But I think the question has changed now from why do I homeschool to why do I choose live the life I live-which includes homeschooling, but also so much more.

My homeschooling journey began before I even had kids, and for very practical reasons. I was in college, about to get married, and my fiancé and I had decided we wanted to serve as missionaries overseas. So I decided to study elementary education because for one thing, teaching is a common job for foreigners overseas, and secondly, when I had kids I could homeschool them myself (bear in mind this was long before I realized one did not need a teaching credential to homeschool!).

Later, when my first child was nearly 3, "everyone" was putting their kids in preschool and I began to feel the pressure to put him in too, at least part time. But after visiting several schools, something wasn't right in my spirit, and I knew he needed to remain home with me. There was no spiritual or deep reason for this; I just didn't feel "right" sending him off to school. So, with me he stayed.

He and his sister grew and learned, and soon, they had learned everything a kindergarten student would learn in school and then some. Now I felt I would be doing them a disservice putting them in school; how bored they would be! Not to mention the kids and teachers they'd be exposed to, whose values were often directly opposed to what we were trying to teach them. At this point, I knew we were homeschooling for the long haul, even if we stayed in the States. But again, no real spiritual epiphany here. Homeschooling wasn't an issue of faith for me, but one of pragmatics; keeping them home would be better for them academically, socially, and would support our value system.

Fast forward several years, and now I am the biological mother to a nearly 8 year old, a 6.5 year old, and an infant, and an adoptive mother to a 1 year old. We had been doing the homeschool thing for quite a while. My kids were smart, "ahead" for their age, and happy. And we all loved homeschooling. Homeschooling was a major way that we could be together as a family, and for us, family life has always taken center stage.

That is, except in church. After all in church, each one of my children was separated from me and from eachother, each learning something different from someone different. And this is where my homeschooling journey, and my why question changed.

I knew why I homeschooled--because sending my kids away from me didn't feel "right" (among other reasons). But if that was true, why did I send them away from me in church? And why did I delegate my and my husband's duty to train them up in the instructions of the Lord to the church? I read this: "So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home, when you are on the road, when you are going to bed, and when you are getting up". (Duet. 11:18-19), and this "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord," (Eph. 6:4), and this, "Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children" (Joel 1:3) and hosts of other verses saying the same thing. Over and over again I saw that the Bible commanded PARENTS to train their children in the faith.

At once I realized why sending them away from me each day felt so wrong. Could it be that God was commanding parents to train their children at home? No, he doesn't specifically say to homeschool, but it does say to teach them His words, each day, all throughout the day, and wherever we go. How could I do that if I sent them to school each day? The kind of school didn't matter, whether private, Christian, public, Montessori or any other. How could I train them and admonish them in the Lord while at the same time relinquishing my authority to another person who may or may not share my values, and who definitely isn't commanded by God to teach MY children? The truth is, I couldn't. So yes, I began to see that homeschooling was the only way I could follow the commands to train my children in the Bible. (For those of you whose eyes just bugged out of their heads when I used the words "only way"and "homeschooling" in the same sentence, please rest assured, my beliefs regarding this relate only to our family. I'll let the Lord lead you and yours how He sees fit!!).

Now here comes the but: For many years when my oldest children were small, my faith took a back seat to keeping house, changing diapers, and just staying afloat. Yes, we homeschooled, but homeschooling alone does not a disciple make. Oh no, plenty of people homeschool and have no faith, or like us, homeschool, and teach the Bible, but don't integrate it into every facet of life, as these verses command. To put it bluntly, my faith, though strong, had gone flat. It was who we were, but it had little to do with what we did and how we raised our lovely children day by day.

Then, I saw this movie, and it changed me. So I showed it to my husband, and it changed him too. This movie made me realize that while homeschooling is great (for those wondering, this movie doesn't mention homeschooling at all, this is just what I learned from watching it), alone it doesn't suffice for the kind of child training I now felt God calling us to in scripture. Homeschooling, education, had to take a back seat to discipling. And the life of our family had to integrate our faith in every way possible. After seeing this movie, in the words of my husband, "we could not turn back". Our children needed to worship with us when we sat at home, and when we went to church, and when we walked on the road, and every other time.

This was the beginning of our venture into family integrated churches--churches where there is no Sunday School, no nursery, no age segregated activities. Just families (and singles, and young marrieds, and widows, and children) worshiping the Lord together. And at home, the expectation is that the fathers would lead their families in daily discipleship.

As it always seem to go, one new thing leads to another, and another. And it was no different with this venture into a family integrated church. Prioritizing family worship every.single.day. is something that family-integrated churches really believe in. I wish all churches would encourage this more, but, I digress.  The point is, that was something we had never done before.

Months before, I had started reading this blog and more specicially, these posts, and was SO incredibly inspired by the dedication of this mom to have daily family worship time. My husband has caught the vision too.

Yes, it's new. It takes practice. And we are having to hash things out as they come. But the truth is, I have never felt more like I am doing just exactly what God is calling me do. And that is why I homeschool, and that is why I live the way I do. :)
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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Long time, no blog!

The truth is, once I had our Little Bird, my life basically got turned upside down. She is 10 months old today, and I'm just starting to feel like life is normal again. I don't really even know if people are still visiting my blog. I know once I had Little Bird, my online time drastically decreased. In case any of you all are still around, here's what's been going on around here:

 Little Bird was on her apnea monitor for about 3 months. They never really said what caused her ALTE, but the more I reflect on it, the more I'm convinced that she was choking on mucous and couldn't clear it and so stopped breathing for a bit. She is a very healthy 15 pound crawler now. :)

 Our little foster daughter Mimi (18 months) is VERY close to being our forever daughter. I don't wanna be overly optimistic, but I'd say another month and she'll be officially ours. At that point I look forward to sharing her story and her name (we got to rename her) with my readers!

 We are still homeschooling! Did you really think we'd ever change that?! ;) We are using My Father's World and we are enjoying that. I did recently change Little Bean (age 7) to Teaching Textbooks. He tested into the 4th grade program, but rest assured he is NOT a 7 year old fourth grader all around. He excels in some areas and he needs alot of improvement in others. Miss O (6) is the same way. She is reading at a 3rd grade level in the Amish Pathway readers, but is "behind" in math. We just switched her to Christian Light Education for math and are repeating 1st grade math (she is nearly done with Right Start's 1st grade book).

 We have four kids, and for someone like me, that's large. So it's been quite an adjustment! Hence, the lack of blogging. Actually, this past 10 months has been a lack of much of anything for us. We pulled the kids out of boy scouts and American Heritage Girls and 4-H. We made it to family reunion and down to Tulsa for holidays, but it's hard. I love my family though, and YES I want more children. Now, whether that's through natural means or adoption or both, who knows! Once Mimi is adopted, we plan to be respite providers for the foster kids in our agency for a while, then eventually switch to emergency foster care, and then probably back to regular foster care. And now that things are calming down, I am considering a homeschool co-op for next fall.

One thing the Lord's been speaking to me personally about is biblical womanhood. I started thinking about what a godly woman should look and act like. I think it may be somewhat different for everyone. But I'm learning that God has given us women some wonderful guidelines in his word about this subject as well as biblical women to look up to and emulate. And I have been feeling blessed as my eyes are opened and my heart is changing when it comes to this subject. More to come about that.

I'll leave you all with that! I hope someone reads this, lol! I know I've missed interacting with my readers since I left so long ago!
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Large Family Tip--The Family Closet

The title says it's for large families, but really, if you have a kid(s) who can't seem to keep their dresser drawers tidy or a house that isn't conducive to gathering laundry, a family closet might be right for you.

I learned of the family closet shortly before Birdie was born because I was flipping out about having 4 small children to care for and was looking for ways to make daily living more efficient. The family closet is one of the things we have incorporated into our lives since Birdie came around, and it has worked out very nicely and cut down on my laundry duties as well as made it easier for my big kids to keep their clothing tidy and accessible. One of the benefits of the family closet is that everything is hanging, so you have less folding to do. Another is that everyone keeps their clothing in one place (and ideally in or near the laundry area) so that when you put your clothing away or gather dirty clothing, you only have to visit one location. I would have ours in the laundry room if I could, but our laundry room is ridiculously small. Maybe some day we'll remodel and make it bigger! Another benefit for larger families is that it eliminate the need for dressers in the bedroom. This is great for room sharing or tight spaces. It also frees up bedroom closet space for other storage items. And one of the benefits I have seen in our own lives is that it avoids the messy dresser drawers my kids tend to have.

Step one was to limit the amount of clothing my kids had out. My kids have grandparents on both sides that spoil, spoil, spoil them! So they have way too many clothes. I got some boxes, just basic moving boxes, but you could use something fancy if you like, and I labeled them by gender and by size. I wish I had a picture, but they are stored in Birdie's closet and she is sleeping right now! I limited them to about 5 to 10 shirts and shorts/pants and one jacket. I limited socks, undies and pajamas too. One way to get good use out of all the clothes they have is to rotate them monthly or as the seasons change. Here in Oklahoma, the weather changes from day to day, so I do have to make sure to keep at least a few of each season out just in case. I don't really limit the baby clothing because babies don't get into their clothing needlessly the way my big kids do, and because babies go through alot more outfits per day.

Step two was to gather my materials--a good sized closet (but you can use your mud room, laundry area or any other place that a shelf can be installed), a shelf--I purchased Closet Maid shelves at Target for around $12 dollars each, and hangers--both pants and shirt hangers. The only other thing you need is bins and laundry baskets. I wanted fancy cute bins, but I also wanted to keep the project cheap, so I used plastic bins that had previously been used for our Workbox System. You need a bin for each child's socks and a bin for each child's undies. And you need a laundry basket for each child, or if you have many children, pair them by age groups or genders, or however you like. This is just how I do it. I also have a shelf and dresser in the closet, but only because I had no where else to store it, so in it went. I chose a few pairs of jammies and each child has a jammie drawer. It's messy. But I can handle one messy jammie drawer per child. You could hang jammies too, but I didn't think it necessary since jammies don't really wrinkle in a messy drawer the way day clothing does. And since I didn't have enough pants hangers, the shelves have the baby's pants and a couple of the big kid's pants/shorts. If I had more hangers, I wouldn't use that shelf at all!

I've included some pics so you can get an idea of what it is like. Maybe the family closet is something that will work for your family!
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Last review for a while

For the past two years I've been on The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, which consists of a group of homeschooling parents who receive products and write reviews about them. I've received hundreds of products, some of which I liked, some I loved, some were so-so, and some I really didn't care for. And through it all, I've shared my thoughts with you! I hope I've helped some of my readers learn about new products that they may like for their homeschools. Since I started on the Crew, my family life has gotten busier and busier. My oldest was diagnosed with Autism. My middle child developed severe reflux, which caused frequent nighttime vomiting. We moved across the country and then purchased our first home. We became foster parents and are now in the process of adopting our drug-exposed foster daughter. And then we had our Little Birdie, who scared us to death with her ALTE (life threatening event) and who is now on an apnea monitor. And through all of this, I reviewed products. TOS may have been the one thing in my life that didn't change over the last two years.
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Now though, it's about to. I present to you today, my very last review for the Crew (...at least for this year). For my last review, we were sent a DVD and accompanying PDF file of lesson plans by a company called Dive Into Your Imagination. Our DVD is called What Makes a Fish, A Fish? and is presented in a documentary style, geared toward children in PreK or K, but certainly entertaining and educational for those students who are older. Set to playful music, information about what makes a fish a fish is presented to the viewer in simple, consise sentences and with pictures of real ocean fish to accompany the information. After the main portion of the video, children can continue watching to learn more about scuba diving and what it entails. The DVD itself is only about 30 minutes long, long enough to have a bit of worthwhile content, but not too long to lose the attention of a small child.
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Anne Crawley, the founder of Dive Into Your Imagination never saw the ocean until she was in college. Growing up near the Pacific as I did, this is fairly unimaginable to me! But Anne began to have this passion to help children enjoy and discover the wonder of the ocean, and that's how the company began. Through her DVDs and corresponding lesson plans, Anne attempts to interest children in the ocean and its' creatures.

The DVD alone is educational, fun, and well made. I (and my kiddos) especially enjoyed the narrator's simple explanations and the video footage of unique fish and their habitats and survival skills. See some sample chapters here. Little Bean, my oldest, LOVES fish, so he was really into this product. What makes these DVDs stand out though is the instructor guides. that come along with them. Our guide is nearly 300 pages and includes what basically amounts to a unit study on fish which is integrated with the content of the DVD. The lesson plans are laid out in a step by step manner, and untilize different educational tools (graphic organizers, anticipatory sets) that remind me very much of my time in college studying education. Lessons cover a wide variety of subject areas, including Language Arts, Science, Geography, Math and Character Education. There is a lesson corresponding to each chapter on the DVD. The lessons are not some after thought, thrown together to make the product more educational; rather, it really shows how much time and effort was put into making these lessons educational, interactive and engaging for the students. From what I can gather from the website, the instructor guides are purchased separately from the DVD. Each DVD costs $19.95, and the print version of the instructor guide is $299. There is free shipping through out June using the following link: http://www.anniecrawley.com/store/

Would I recomend this product? Sure I would! Is it essential to your core homeschooling curriculum? No, probably not. But if you like unit studies, and want something super organized and easy to implement that incorporates technology and includes a variety of content areas, and you want to learn about fish, then this product may be what you are looking for!

What Makes a Fish, A Fish? isn't the only DVD this company sells either. Crew members had the chance to review several other titles as well, including Who Lives in the Sea? and Dive Into Diversity. Click here to read what other reviewers thought. Visit the company website to learn more about these products.

I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review, and all opinions are mine alone.

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