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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fewer Reviews Coming

Now that our Schoolhouse Review Crew has officially ended I wanted to let my readers know that I am now leaving the crew, at least for awhile. Even though I won't be reviewing products, it is a great resource for finding new things so keep them in mind. If I get opportunities to review individual products I may take those offers, but for the most part my posts will simply be about what is working for us.

As Gess enters middle school it is more difficult to find resources that are "age appropriate." I am eager to find what others are doing for the middle school and high school years. We do have some products we have kept from the crew and a few we have added apart for it. I will probably share more about those after the holidays. I want a little more time to see just what is working as we enter the 6th grade!

It's been a blessing and quite a ride, but its time for me to step back and focus on some other things. So those looking for specific reviews, my old links will remain up. Feel free to like me on Facebook and/or ask me specific questions there or via comments. Also remember that if you are homeschooling a child with Down syndrome we have a Down Syndrome and Homeschooling Moms Facebook Group we would love for you to join!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Reasons for Thanks Week 3

4. I am thankful for my friends. The ones that I don't see as much as I would like to but are ready with a yes when want to play cards, go to a movie, bowling, or some other thing. Those that still gather for game night, karaoke, and cookouts. Those who were here to greet me when I first arrived and still love me even now to those I am just now getting to know. I am also thankful for those I have known over the years but lost touch with only to find you on here again. You are all dear to me!

3. I am thankful for my church family. With my actual family being spread around the country I am extremely grateful for a place where I can feel those bonds face to face, day to day. I have many great mentors and friends. They will laugh with me, cry with me, travel with me, work with me, and pray with me. This has truly been one of the few places in life where I feel like I fit in, so the fact that they even put up with me is reason enough to say thanks! 

2. I am thankful for my family. My husband treats me with great love and respect and never leaves me in doubt of how much I mean to him. My children make me proud in many different ways. I love that they love each other and that they love their mom. We have been through much together and I think it has made us all stronger.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Blue Ribbon Awards

The Schoolhouse Review has provided us with some amazing products, some of which I might never have found. Now our crew has voted for our favorites. Today I am sharing their post that shows what the entire crew thought. Later I will post of some my favorites. For now, see which vendors won the Schoolhouse Review Blue Ribbon Awards!

2014 Blue Ribbon Awards

Thursday, November 13, 2014

10 Reasons for Thanks Week 2

7. I am grateful for kids. My kids, grandkids, friend's kids, church kids, kids with special needs, kids who know everything, kids who know nothing, kids who are chatty, kids how are quiet, kids who make me laugh, and kids who like to cry. Kids are a gift from God. May we treat each of them with the love, care, respect, and dignity they deserve! Hug a kid today! Tell them you care and are glad they are in your life!

6. I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, clean water, and plenty of food to eat including things that are not so good for me but taste really good. I am thankful we have cars to get us form place to place, air conditioning the summer and heat in the winter. We have clothes in our closets, shoes on our feet, and beds to sleep in.

5. I am grateful for laughter. It really does do the heart good like a medicine. I am glad that even when things get tough I can find a reason to laugh. From a simple joke to a silly thing my daughter might say to my husbands cutting commentary while watching a show, laughter makes me happy and for that I am glad!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Purposeful Design

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:19-20)

I had just memorized these verses when I was received my latest review from Purposeful Design. I was extremely eager and have been very blessed to use the Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation in our homeschool.

Jay Schabacker does a wonderful job explaining how God did exactly what Paul said in Romans. Our world was not simply made by an intelligent designer, but with a very specific purpose. It was designed for us. God made each one of us to have a relationship with Him and He made this planet for us to live on. He gave it so much love and care and in it we can see His eternal power and divine nature. It was purposefully designed.

The Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation has 7 chapters, with each one focusing on a different day of creation. Each chapter begins with a beautiful display of God's creation over layed with the passage of Scripture that discusses that particular day. It's a hard back book, with thick pages and easy to read font and text, a definite bonus for my daughter who has special needs. Some chapters are long, and some are short. The book is about 95 pages in all. The stunning images throughout really enhance the message of how everything was magnificently and purposefully designed.

Now this is not simply a book that says on day 1 God made this and on day 2 He made that. It tells us first what was made and then goes into the significance of it. The book points out things like how each element of the water cycle is necessary for each other element and how our earth is set perfectly at 23 and 1/2 degrees. Any difference in any of these things would not provide the necessary components to sustain life! You get to explore vegetation and realize how important plants are to our daily lives and how the instincts of animals are miraculous and can't be explained by science. Then of course we learn about how amazingly unique human beings are! The book ends on God's day of rest, giving us some lovely Scriptures to meditate on.

Along with the book comes the Purposeful Design: Young Explorer's Club which is a FREE curriculum pack that goes along beautifully with the book. It has fill in the blank questions from the chapter, verses to study and memorize, questions for contemplation, and an area to draw something significant from each lesson. There is also a puzzle and certificate of completion at the end. This comes with both the student workbook and teacher's answer key. We used this and turned reading the book into an entire study in both science and the Bible!

We covered two chapters a week, but allowed for more time for chapters 4 and 6 since they were much longer. Gess really enjoyed reading the book and learned so much from it. She was truly excited and when I would say it was time for science she would run and get the book. I think her favorite lesson was chapter 4, The Fourth Day - Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Of course she does happen to be really into space right now. I learned things myself as well. For instance in chapter 4 it explains how the first three days of creation were the "preparation" for the next three days of creation which are the "filling." I had never thought of it that way but it's true! Days 1,2, and 3 are necessary to place the things created in days 4, 5, and 6. God is so amazing!

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation sells for $18.95 and is for all ages. You can read it to your youngest children who will just love the bright, engaging images and older students as well as adults will find some helpful apologetics. I would highly recommend this to every Christian family. To learn more about the book visit the Purposeful Design website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

10 Reasons for Thanks Week 1

10. I am grateful for books. I love to read and learn new things. I am thankful for the awesome library we have in our community, for used book stores, and online shopping. I love my ebooks, hard back books, paperbacks and lately large print books! While I get to travel so little in real life I can pick up a book and explore far away places, go back in time, head into the future or even brand new worlds! Books are just cool!

9. I am thankful for Down syndrome. Yes, that is right. I am thankful that Gess is how she is. As with any parent I would rather my child be healthy, but the blessings that have come from this experience are too numerous to over look. Especially the friendships that have been made. I am so glad for the bonds that have been made because of one adorable little girl named Gess!

8. Homeschool mommas. That is another group of ladies I would not know outside of a common bond. Our educational choices have brought us together from across the globe! I am so thankful I can get advice from more experienced mothers and that I have people to turn to, both local and far away. You make schooling fun! I am so glad that we met!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: If He Had Not Come

I can't think of a better way to start thinking about the Christmas holidays than with the book I received for my latest review. David Nicholson is a retired teacher and missionary who brought back to life a Christmas story that he often shared with his own children. Originally written by Nan F. Weeks, If He Had Not Come shares the meaning of  Christmas that reveals the true impact that Jesus has made on the world. With beautiful color illustrations this story comes to life and makes one consider what Christmas is truly all about.

In the story Bobby and his Father are reading the Bible together on Christmas Eve before Bobby heads off to bed. As they read John 15:22 the words "If I had not come" jump off the page to him. After he falls asleep he hears a voice wake him up abruptly on what he thinks is Christmas morning. Instead he finds himself in a world in which Jesus had never come! There is no Christmas tree with presents underneath, but more importantly there are not any churches, homeless shelters, or hospitals.

I really loved the way this story played out and it is a perfect tool to use to emphasize to children the impact that Jesus has had on our world. Even as adults we sometimes fail to realize the effect that Jesus Christ had on our culture. Think of all the helpful organizations that surround us because people felt led to follow His example. A large portion of our hospitals were started and are still run by churches. Feeding the poor and showing love and respect to others happens because Jesus first loved us.

At the back of the book they have some excellent tools for exploring the book further. There are interactive topics for families and Sunday School teachers to use. These are very thought provoking questions that can really get children thinking. We went through each one and talked about them. The Going Deeper segment has you examine the Scriptures to learn exactly why Jesus came into the world. This really gets you in your Bible and connects the true meaning of why we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Gess is good at looking at Scripture so this part was really fun. They also have some ideas to think about as you decorate your tree.

They also have a gospel message in the back of the book.They use the ABC method which we are very familiar with because we use it every year in our VBS - Admit you are a sinner, Believe in Jesus, Confess Him as your Lord. They preface it with the thought that while we receive gifts at Christmas we must realize that the greatest gift of all is Jesus. They go through the ABC steps explaining each one thoroughly while providing Scripture to support it. At the end is a sample prayer to pray if you want to receive the gift of salvation.

If He Had Not Come sells for $18.95.  It is a large hardback with very easy to read font and the pictures are lovely. It is recommended for ages 6 and up. My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think every Christian family would love to have this addition to their home library. It would make the perfect Christmas present for any child. They also have it in ebook form for a lower price.

To learn more about David Nicholson and the book If He Had Not Come visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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