Thursday, December 18, 2014

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers That Mean Something

I got this in my email from Baptist Global Response and I couldn't help myself. I had to share it with you. BGR is a great ministry that truly meets the needs of those they help, both physically and spiritually. It's the place we give to the most, outside of our local church mission offerings.

When I got this in email I immediately shared it on Facebook and as my husband has started the habit, we never share anything about giving without actually giving ourselves. So, I purchased:

A Safe Place for Young Girls $5
$5.00 $5.00
10 Fish: $3
$3.00 $3.00
Feed a Hungry Child for a day $.50
$1.00 $1.00
Liter of water & food for one day $1
$1.00 $1.00



I printed out my receipt and I will actually place this in my daughter's stocking. That way she will know that in her honor we gave to help the needy as well as to make her happy on Christmas morning!  I can't wait to show her!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Middle of Middle School Year 1

When I grew up we called it Junior High, but here they refer to it as Middle School. No matter what you call it, this was Gess' official first year out of elementary school. It has been interesting trying to find curriculum to meet her needs but it has worked out so far. She is at least working more independently.

My most exciting and newest change has been our math curriculum. I want to write about it soon but haven't had the chance. It is called Life of Fred and teaches math through stories. While you follow the life of this interesting character named Fred you learn math. You practice math facts, learn geography, time, addition and subtraction concepts as well as early algebra. The greatest part is the child doesn't really know that they are learning. It feels like play. My only concern is that since I started at the beginning its all review for Gess so of course it comes easy. However, it is the first time in her life that Gess has been excited about doing math! She even wants to do it on the weekends! While this is elementary math Gess is still on that level. Math is where she struggles the most.

For Social Studies we are still using Veritas Press and are loving it. While my next unit won't be free as I am not reviewing anymore, the cost will be worth it to me to have a subject that Gess can do totally on her own!  Without my help she has a grade of 94%! We are still on Old Testament and Ancient Egypt and we are almost half way through so this will take us into the summer. Next year we will get New Testament, Greece and Rome. While these are geared toward elementary school, I am confident that the content is challenging enough for Gess. It is certainly something you don't get just anywhere. I considered using their Bible curriculum but they come from a Calvinist theology so chose not to.

For Bible we are still using God's Great Covenant. Again, while this is still elementary level, I feel there is enough content to make it challenging. We should begin Old Testament II in January or shortly thereafter.

For writing we we are still working our way through Essentials in Writing Level 2. This also has her reviewing basic English skills. She has them solid for reading purposes. Writing is much more difficult for her. She loves how they explain it here.

We will be hopping back into Logic of English in January. We are quite a ways in but since this is review for children who don't read well it is presented in a way that makes it on target for Gess' age group.

While taking a break from LOE we have been using some other worksheets along with Essential Skills Advabtage (ESA). We will continue to use ESA as a supplement.  Gess really enjoys it and it's FREE!

Science is what I am still up in the air about. We have been doing our own astronomy study using resources I already have. In January I think I will try Science Shepherd Homeschool Science Curriculum since it comes with video teachings and only costs $35 a year plus a workbook for the unit I want to start with. I will let you know what we think of it as I don't know much about it.

That's where we are at halfway through our school year. How has your semester turned out? Feel free to share resources you find are working for you! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas with the Co-Op

Today we had great fun with our new homeschool co-op. We went to the nursing home and performed The Little Drummer Boy. Gess was asked to be the angel, but she preferred to be a shepherd, so she was!

Next we invaded our local grocery store and split up into 2 teams. Each team had a budget of $20 to spend on getting food for a family in need. This needed to be non-perishable items that would make a good meal. Our team lost because we went over. Ours came to $20.43.  That's not too bad though. They picked out some good items. Macaroni and Cheese, veggies, cans of fruit, pasta and spaghetti sauce, juice, cake mix with icing and a few other things. 

After that we stopped at the old fashioned soda shop for a treat. Gess got a Dr. Pepper float and liked it!  That was a great way to celebrate Christmas I think. Our final meeting of the year is a mom's only luncheon. I am looking forward to that!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

First Snow

Having our first snow in November is something that doesn't happen too often around here. It came down on a Sunday while I was at church. As I was in the nursery waiting for children to arrive, I got some beautiful shots.

After lunch Gess was anxious to play, but first she helped daddy clean off the cars.

Then she tried to make a snowball but it wouldn't pack very good.

So, she settled for making a snow angel.

Monday, December 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo Novel Writing in One Month - I Did It!

For the first time in my life I took the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a novel in a month. It was also the first time I have ever attempted to write a novel at all. I have started a few books that I never finished, but they were all non-fiction about homeschooling, the bible, etc. This was a novel, a book to read just for fun. It was hard, but I did it.

Now before you start wondering when this book will be available let me assure you that it never will be. When you are focused on the number of words you don't have time to edit and I absolutely did not do any editing. Not only that, but the story line is all over the place. I was doing a good job of building characters and relationships but it wasn't really going anywhere so I threw in a little crisis which held me for awhile but I didn't feel it was enough. So I added in some other aspects and the story took a major turn leaving the the other crisis completely ignored.

There were also characters who I began to develop that never came to fruition and the title of my book, based upon my original concept, didn't even seem to go with what was happening so I had to go back and throw in scenes to work it in. Oh, and while I had a place to keep all my characters I would forget to write some down and so a few characters had name changes along the way!  One time was because I confused them with someone else and the other was that I just plumb forgot what I originally called him! And I still don't have a firm setting in place. I tried coming up with a fictitious name only to find it actually existed. I just didn't have the time to research geography.

In spite of it all I got my 50,000 words in which left me with a pretty good chunk of an incomplete and frenzied novel, but at least it does have a beginning a middle and a end. While it might not be totally cohesive, the point of the project was reached. I proved that I could write 50,000 words in a month. Just think about it. If I can do that, what can I do if I take my time? It was fun and helpful to see how well I could get my creative juices flowing. I handled areas of writing I felt weak in much better than I had expected and in the end I am left with some well developed characters, a theme, a title, and a few ideas of where they might lead. You never know, one day there just might be a book, but it will be built upon this session, not actually what was written during it.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thoughts on my Media Fast

Since my blogging obligations for the Schoolhouse Review Crew ended in November, I thought it would be a good time to take a break from the internet and other media. So, from November 1 until Thanksgiving Day we went on a media fast.

Now, let me explain how we defined that for ourselves because we did not refrain from every form of media or even every website. Instead, we targeted areas where we felt most vulnerable. My husband makes his living from computers. He always has and probably always will. He started out in computer repair, then sales, and now he writes software, so expecting that we have no use of computers is kind of difficult. So what we did do during this time was limit ourselves from the majority of it.

What we didn't do.

We refrained from any type of video games on the computer or X-Box.

I also gave up social networking including Facebook. I did remain engaged in two local groups which we use for planning between meetings. I absolutely did not read my feed to see what friends were posting and I did not post anything publicly. (I did, however, have to post my reviews on my blog's Facebook page.) Other than those two final reviews I did not write, post, or even read other blogs. I did however, check the news and weather.

As for television. That isn't a huge distraction for us as we don't have cable television, but we did avoid it anyway with the exception of a couple of shows that we watched together as a family which happened no more than once a week. I also let myself watch a cooking or news show if I were on the treadmill.

We also took away Gess' mp3 player so she didn't listen to music all month unless we played some while doing chores or were in the car, which wasn't often. We did have a couple of karaoke nights where we all sang some Christian songs together. I also listened to some talk radio, but much less than usual.

I also took a lot less pictures. I love blogging and sharing about what Gess is learning. I do think it is important for people to see her do the same things that other kids do, but sometimes I just want to enjoy the moment. Therefore I have taken very few pictures. We even toured an entire museum and I don't have one picture to show for it! We do however, have our memories. Memories of me beside my daughter, not behind the camera. Don't worry, there will be more pictures in the future. but stepping back from that too was important. Some memories need to be captured, but some simply need to be treasured.

What we did more of

Leaving the internet, video games, and television behind really did free up a lot of time for me. Things I did to fill that extra time were:

Bible Study/Prayer - This was really one of my goals. To make God a priority. I was getting my morning devotion time in but not much else during the day. With some time freed up I was able to do my Beth Moore Bible study before my husband came home from work each afternoon. We also started doing more as a family. While I would like to see it grow we are now talking more about it at the dinner table. We are also holding each other accountable for memorizing verses.

Visiting People - I keep in touch with lots of people via Facebook, but seldom see them face to face. While I had hoped to do more visiting than we actually did we did have some people over and randomly went and visited others.

Baking - My husband was probably glad about this one. I had not made home made bread in awhile. Now I have made a few batches, among other things. I am also cooking better meals in the evening, though I could still improve on that as well.

Reading - I have read more books this month than I had in awhile. However, this month, when I would normally sit down and watch a show, I read a book instead.

Read Alouds - I always love family read alongs but we don't always make the time. This month we did. We are currently reading The Hobbit as a family several nights a week. We are still busy with other obligations so we don't remember or have time every day. But this has been the most consistent we have been.

Exercise - I used to joke that I seemed to never be able to fit in exercise, Bible study, and chores. I could manage 2 in a day, but not all three. Well guess what. Dropping media made it happen! After my bible study but right before dinner I was able to get in my exercise and by this time my chores were already done. It's amazing!

Write - I took the NaNoWriMo challenge that I will be posting about soon. But what I found is that even in the 15 to 10 minutes I would sit killing time on Facebook was enough to get another scene written in my book, or at least part of one.  I hope to keep that up now that the challenge is over and take my time to write something good. Who knows, maybe one day you can buy my book!

What we learned

My husband and I were talking about these changes one evening and he said the thing he noticed the most was that we were more dis-tractable. I liked that phrase. It pretty much said it all. We aren't absent parents. We don't veg so much in front of technology that our daughter is ignored. I have been through phases in my life where I was like that but I identified and corrected it a long time ago.

We always try to have family game night and things like that. In fact, if you notice, playing board games wasn't something we did more of because we always made time for that. It wasn't so much what we did that was the difference, it was when we did it. We now had the flexibility to do it the moment it was asked of us. "Dad, you want to build with me?" "Let's play monopoly." "Can we go for a bike ride?" Those are things Gess asks a lot but this month they were answered with an immediate action to do the thing instead of, "Yes Gess, in a little bit." "We will do that later tonight." Or even, "Maybe tomorrow or this weekend."

I also had the ability to act upon my own inclinations right away. Through my Bible study and prayer time I am learning that to be God's servant I need to be available. So, part of our visits were stirred out of the fact that I had someone on my mind. Instead of just praying for them, or even sending a card or calling I baked them something and saw them in person. I am more willing and able to follow the prompting of the Spirit when I am less distracted by media.

I also learned that while I have a lot to say, no one needs to hear it, at least not all the time. The first couple of weeks I had several things run through my mind where I would think "I need to post that on Facebook." Sometimes it would be something humorous, or a serious slant on a social problem of the day. Other times it was just something I thought people might find interesting. I was faced with the reality that I really did think people needed to hear what I had to say. I realized that so many of my pithy comments were more about building up my ego than about informing or entertaining others. That was a harsh reality to face.

I have to tell you the hardest day for staying away from Facebook was election night. I was glued to my television watching the results online and I had so much I wanted to say. But you know what. No one who needed to hear would listen and everyone who did already agreed. I was OK enjoying the evening alone and instead of giving man the credit, I gave it to God. He is the one who puts rulers in place. Not a one of them will save this country. Only He has the power to do it.

The truth is that life is about relationships and things like internet and social media have its place in assisting us with them, but all too often it ends up replacing them. We interact with more people than we ever have before and at the end of the day people feel more alone than ever before too. So my goal is to log off more often and get out into the real world. See people face to face. Not in a virtual book or on a website but live and in person. That is how God made us. To be together. I hope that I will not lose that perspective as I enter back in. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

10 Reasons for Thanks Week 4

1. I am thankful that a holy God would love me enough to save me. That while I was still a sinner Christ died for me. He did not wait for me to be worthy, for that I would never be. With the psalmist I ask, what is man that God is mindful of Him? Not knowing or understanding such a love, I simply thank Him for it, each and every day.

I am thankful for God's Word. How I have access to know more about Him and to learn how to experience His love, mercy, grace and peace. I am thankful that I have many copies, in many versions, when there are people around the globe risking their lives to get one. I am also thankful there are missionaries working diligently to get those to them.

I am thankful for answered prayers. That God hears and has mercy and grace. I am also thankful for unanswered prayers as God truly does know best and can use things that I don't understand for His glory. I am thankful that I can boldly go before the throne of grace and know that He hears me. That is truly enough.


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