Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Purse Shopping

Gesserine is almost a teenager. In October she will be turning 13. She has lately started carrying around a purse that she has had since she was a little girl. She never played with the purse until now. It just sat in her toy box year after year. Then suddenly, she wanted to start carrying it. I was excited because I tried to get her to start carrying one a couple of years ago, and that too never interested her. I am glad she is finally wanting to do it!

The purse is really small so it isn't very practical or comfortable. I felt she needed one she could actually use so last weekend we went purse shopping. Gess isn't really good at browsing for things. There are so many options she doesn't even know where to start. Even when its time for lunch in our home she will ask me to give her some options, so we started with that. I picked out several purses I thought she might be interested in and asked her if she liked it or not. If it was a yes, it went into the shopping cart until we got about 7 or 8 options. We then tried them out one by one.

We narrowed it down to her top 3.

Then I had her walk around with them for awhile.

Her favorite was the flowered one on the left. I then had her walk around with it on her shoulder while we shopped. Before we were done we learned it was not comfortable enough, so we tried the pink one on the right. It had a smaller but stiffer strap. We then settled on one she didn't like earlier but since we found it in red she was more agreeable. This isn't as cute as the others but the strap is very soft. For Gess and her special needs, that seems to be the most important component in selecting any piece of wardrobe or accessory.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Essentials Skills Advantage

As most of my readers know, my daughter Gess has Down syndrome. While she is a great reader there are some reading skills she still needs to practice, comprehension being one of them. Like most kids, Gess loves computer games and activities but because of her special needs not all of them work well for her. Thankfully, my latest review turned out to be perfect for her.

Essential Skills Advantage is a complete online reading and language program for grades K-6. They have over 20,000 activities to keep your child engaged while they learn. Starting with reading readiness skills and phonics for kindergarten they work up to some great activities such as reading comprehension and spelling for the upper grades. That is where Gess spent most of her time.

For the purpose of my review I received a one year subscription to Essential Skills Advantage. Here is how it works. When you log in you come to a menu with all the activities that are offered.

Once they select their activity they are given a list of topics that are covered. They can work completely through them and go in order, or skip around. Most of the time I just let Gess choose but sometimes I would assign her work. Once they are in a particular topic they have the list of specific activities. As they complete them they earn stars. On this list you can see the ones Gess has completed. They are the ones with the stars under them.

Once they successfully complete the activity they pause for a brief reward celebration where this dog comes and does a dance as you are rewarded with your stars. Gess enjoyed this part because she loves having her successes recognized.

You can also check on your star activity along the way or at the end. Here is what it looked like after Gess completed a section on Homophones.

You can also print off certificates so you can reward their successes offline too.

The activities themselves were great. These are actual learning activities rather than just games you play so you know that your child is really learning when they  log on. I was very impressed with how well they were done. The game had a peaceful feel to it. There were no loud or flashy presentations yet it was still very cute and fun.

I am trying to give Gess more independence so I was thrilled that this program offers interactive upper elementary level content. Gess enjoyed each activity. They were bright, engaging, and easy to use. The fact that she didn't need my help very often was great.

The only things I did not like about the program was that you every time you changed activities you had to log back in again. That was particularly frustrating if you were just viewing them to see if they were even what you wanted to begin with. Also, while you can change the child's password you apparently can't change your own. It would have been helpful to do be able to do that. I felt the fonts could be larger in some of the activities as well.

I also didn't understand the grading aspect of the program. As the parent you can go in and look at your child's marks. When I do, they are mostly 100% and that seems to be due to the fact that you can't continue in an activity until you get the problem right. If you type in a wrong answer you get a beep and don't move forward to the next problem until you get it right. So basically, you are forced to get 100% on most activities anyway, so why keep score? It also trips up a student who doesn't know the correct answer. On multiple choice they can keep trying but if its typed in, they are just stuck. I had to help Gess on a couple of those answers so she could move on in the activity.

Otherwise we absolutely loved the program. Gess enjoyed it very much. It was challenging and fun all at the same time. She never minded doing her lessons. In fact, she usually did more than I required of her. She just kept going and I was certainly OK with that!

Their customer service also seems to be really super. I didn't have any problems that I needed to contact them about but Gess accidentally contacted them when she found the report a bug feature, probably because it's icon is an adorable little lady bug. When I emailed them back to explain what happened they were very gracious and helpful! I love that the people behind the program are that engaged and personable! They really do seem to care about their product and want to please the user.

I do have some exciting news for those of you who would like to try it. While membership to Essential Skills Advantage is $9.99 a month they do offer a FREE version of the product at This will not give you access to the parent portal and ads will be in the newsletter and in the sponsor landing page. Otherwise its the same great product! If you decide you want more and sign up before October 1st and you they will give you 50% Off! All you have to do is use code TOS50. That discount will remain in effect for as long as you are a member too.

To learn more about Essential Skills Advantage 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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Friday, August 22, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: UberSmart Math Facts

Gess has Down syndrome so as most of you know, she really struggles with learning her math facts. However, I know a mom whose child was successful in learning their addition facts. They said the key was to drill regularly. Unfortunately that is where I fail. I found it so frustrating for both Gess and myself that I tended to put it off. When I saw that UberSmart Software was going to allow us to review UberSmart Math Facts I thought it might be the perfect solution to my problem.

UberSmart Math Facts is a computer program that works like regular flash cards. It is very simple and easy to use which is one of the things I loved about it. To learn your math facts you don't need flashy, you just need repetition.

You start by learning the math facts. To do that they simply show you the flash card without the answer. Then you click the show button to see the problem with the answer on the other side.

Once your student has used the learn feature a few times they are now ready to practice the facts for themselves. This works just like when you have the physical cards. You see the problem, answer it (by typing it in), then check your answer on the back.

The tests are a little different in that it shows you both the card before and the card after the problem you are working on. They want to give it the feel of a test in which you can see more than one problem on the page. This was sort of confusing for Gess. For instance one time she was on the problem 2+1 which she has memorized really well but she suddenly seemed to have a need to make the answer include 7 or have it come out to 7 because the next problem was 7+2. She thought there was a connection somehow I guess. She is getting used to it though and it is probably good for her to learn that way. You can also skip a problem and come back to it later. Gess of course hates skipping anything. I can never get her to come back to a problem. She refuses to budge until what is in front of her is done so she never did that.

What I loved the best was their approach to teach the kids the facts in order. You learn all the 1s, 2s, 3s, etc, rather than mixing them all up. That is the only approach that seems to work with my daughter's special needs. This also means that as they work their way up and the problems get harder there are actually fewer new problems to learn. We are currently in our 2s but Gess has made great progress.

I also like the way they time the tests. Doing facts quickly is important so most kids need to work on accuracy as well as speed. However, they do let you hide the timer and they score it both as timed and un-timed. While some students need the incentive of the timer for those of us with special students, its nice to have the option! If you hide the timer there is nothing making them feel rushed and they won't even know they were timed. As the parent you see in their progress report two grades for one test: timed and un-timed. While Gess got a 92% un-timed, her timed score was more like 64%. The good news is that only I see that score. She has no clue the timer is even on.

While we are using this for addition the software does cover all four operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They also have some dot cards and key entry practice for beginners.

The only thing I did not like is that it doesn't really go to full screen. It takes up the full screen placing a blue background behind the workspace so there are no distractions in the background, but otherwise you can't make the cards any bigger. They don't really need to be, but Gess does seem to prefer having a larger workspace. However, visually they were still easy to read and use.

UberSmart Math Facts is a simple program at a very affordable price. It is helping me remain consistent with practice while avoiding the frustration that I might cause Gess during the process. When a child moves slowly and we have a million things to do during the day we can unintentionally rush a child.  I fear that I do with Gess sometimes so I avoid doing it at all. However, this program, as simple as it is, does it all for me!  Then, when I have the time I can go look at the report and see how she has done!  She seems to enjoy it much better this way as well. If I do see her getting frustrated I simply send her back to the learning mode that day. Since getting this program I put my flash cards away and Gess hasn't missed very many days practicing her facts! We are finally being consistent! Thank UberSmart, for making my life easier!

UberSmart Math Facts sells for $24.95. It is a downloadable program so you can use this year after year and you have permission to use it on all the computers in your home that run Windows. Each of your students will have their own user so you will be able to keep track of who is doing what. While it is intended for grades K-6 it is great for any child who needs to learn or refresh their math facts.

To learn more about UberSmart Math Facts 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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Free Friday: KidsTV123

I was looking for a song to help Gess review the months of the year. She had this memorized once but since we don't really talk about the order of the months all the time she seems to have forgotten. Since we memorized the days of the week by a song, I thought I would find one for the months of the year too. In doing so I found some really great videos for young kids!

KidsTV123 has great quality videos for kids. These songs are really well done and are not as annoying as your typical kid song. I also like that the music is calming and slow. It is easy to follow and gets them thinking about the words rather than just bouncing around. These are really great for kids with special needs!

Here is the song we used for the months of the year.

We also discovered this one and Gess loved it as right now she is really interested in the solar system!

They have several other topics including opposites, countries, states, numbers, alphabet and so much more. You should really check them out!  While most of these are young for Gess, I am going to share them with my grandkids. I thought you might want to know about them too!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Day of School!

We officially started school yesterday and it went really well. It felt good to have some structure back into our day.  We started by reviewing where we left off. This is important with Logic of English. I want to make sure Gess has remembered all the phonograms before introducing her to new ones.. She has done an excellent job in retention and there are only a few that she missed in her first review. We will have those back  easily by the end of the week!

For Math I am using the Mathletics Curriculum Assessments Books to see what Gess needs the most work on before moving forward. We will probably be doing these for the next few weeks.

We are also reviewing the letters she has written in cursive. You can see her practicing here.

I have also introduced a new Log Book method of keeping track of independent work she needs to do in the latter part of the day. She will have a couple of worksheets each day along with her computer work. The Log Book is a review item that I will be sharing more about next month!

We had a pretty full day which included chores. These are important life skills. It was laundry day!

We also make time to practice the piano.

And of course she gets recess too!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Wizzy Gizmo

I have a daughter who loves to read therefore we spend lots of time at the library. As a parent I wish she had more access to books that promoted a Biblical worldview. That is why I was glad to have an opportunity to review one of the books from Wizzy Gizmo.

Wizzy Gizmo is a company that offers children's books that not only have a biblical worldview, but are actually about the Bible. Using a fictional narrative their characters end up in situations where they learn about and experience events from the Bible. For the purpose of my review Gess chose to read Book Two: In His Image.

Wizzy Gizmo derived their name from the main character in their books. The character Wizzy Gizmo is a science professor and an incredible inventor. His invention Gizmovision has the ability to make any book literally come to life. He uses this invention to help teach children about the most important book of all time, the Bible. Book One: Who Created Everything? was of course about the creation account from Genesis chapter 1. While I like starting things in order, Gess really wanted In His Image which focuses on the creation of man from Genesis chapter 2.

In this book a group of friends, Olive, Thomas, Summer, Eli, their robotic duck, and talking dog go to visit their favorite scientist Wizzy Gizmo to check out his latest invention. This time it was a Gizmoanycream which can make ice cream any flavor you want, and maybe some flavors you don't. I don't think I would have cared for the salad dressing ice cream myself, but the lemonade could be good. Anyway, the kids wonder how Wizzy became so creative and ask him about it. He answers that "being creative is one of the ways people reflect God's image." This leads into the theme for the rest of the book, that we are made in the image of God.

They then go to Wizzy's Gizmovision, turn the Bible to Genesis chapter 2, and place it on the machine. Suddenly the world around them seems to disappear as they end up surrounded by the spectacular view of the Garden of Eden. I have to comment here that I was a little concerned about the time travel aspect of the book but they did an excellent job treating the Word of God with great dignity and respect.

One thing I liked is that didn't use any magic to do it. There is no mystical force in play. It is a scientific contraption that makes the book somehow come to life. I don't think they actually travel but rather are made to feel as if they have just entered the surroundings of whatever book they just opened up. They also never interact in their surroundings. While they are transported so they can see it, they don't talk to anyone there and can't become part of the story. Since we are dealing with the Bible and topics that are sacred, I am really glad that they handled it that way.

I also loved how they handled the meat of the Scripture as well. The machine literally quotes God's Word. There is no paraphrasing or summarizing it. Each verse is quoted accurately from the NASB version of the Bible. They make it bold and have it stand out so you know that what you are reading is important. They talk about what it actually means and share many important aspects of the Word itself. I really like how they begin introducing children to theological concepts such as ex nihilo which means God made the world out of nothing and inerrent which means the Bible is without error. These key vocabulary words are placed in bold too which means you can find it's definition in the back of the book. We loved this part! Gess is always asking me what things mean. Anytime she finds a word she doesn't know, she asks. This allowed her to find the answer for herself.

The only problem I did have with the book was in regard to their character Pepe which is a dog that can both think and speak. The robotic duck I get. He's mechanical. It's artificial intelligence. They claim that Pepe's ability is also artificial. It was from Wizzy's invention of Anama-Gizmo-Logic but that really isn't explained in the story, just in the character information at the beginning of the book. And even if it was, it just felt really awkward when the point of this particular book was how man, not animals, were made in the image of God and therefore have the ability to do things like think and speak. They even laugh at the idea of animals doing certain things, like a monkey writing poetry, all while hanging out with Pepe who is a dog who appears to be able to do that if he wanted to.

The actual book itself is a paperback but it feels more durable than most and the print inside is large enough for children to read easily. That is always a plus for us since Gess really struggles with small print. While there weren't that many it did have some full color graphics that had a cartoon like feel to them.

Gess thoroughly enjoyed the story. I would find her laughing and getting into what was happening. We read it together but she also enjoyed reading it alone. She loved reading the Scripture content and as I mentioned earlier would often look up the new vocabulary words in the back of the book.

Book Two: In His Image sells for $12.99 and is for ages 4-12. This also works great as a family read along. The little ones will be compelled enough to listen and the older ones will actually be reading something on their level. Best of all, every child will learn and grow in their biblical knowledge from it and that is everything I could ever want in a book.

To learn more about the Wizzy Gizmo books and other products 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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Morning Devotions

I hope some of you have been enjoying my Morning Devotions. I am doing them because they are keeping me accountable to my own personal Bible study time by writing down what I have learned. I figured sharing it with others might help them find time to have a devotion as well. Sometimes my biggest problem is deciding what to read therefore I have found having a devotional to read with can certainly be helpful.

However, since this is a homeschool blog I will probably stop posting them here. I will, however, keep the link at the top and side bar of my page so those interested can easily find them. I will start that later today so for anyone looking for today's devotion, I apologize that it won't arrive until later but I have to set the blog up first. Since today is our first day back to school, that will have to wait until this afternoon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Co-Op Organizational Meeting Was Today!

We had our organizational meeting today for our Homeschool Co-Op. This is the first year I am participating. I think it is only the third year they have done one. We live in a small town, so its a small group which probably works best for Gess anyway. It will keep her from being overwhelmed. Because it is small I offered to be the secretary. I manage to become the secretary for about every activity I get involved in! I am the secretary of our local Down syndrome support group, I was the secretary of our diet club we had. I was secretary for our church AWANA club for many years, and when my boys were young I was the secretary of our local little league!  Oh well, at least I know how to be a secretary, right!?

We meet every other Friday for the school year beginning the 2nd Friday in September. We are planning 6 field trips, a science fair, visits to the nursing home 3 times a year, will have a couple of moms activities, an open house, and an end of the year party planned.  During our meetings the kids will have an opening time, a class time, a share and snack time, and an art activity.

I am really looking forward to this for the social aspect for Gess. Having no siblings at home she really needs some kids to hang out with and learning in group settings other than church will be fun too.  I will of course, keep you posted about how it goes!  And yes, there will be some pictures too!

Morning Devotion: Romans 1:22-25

While I am writing this society is mourning the death of a famous actor and comedian. While he was extremely talented he also had a history of depression and addiction and it appears that he may have taken his own life. People who have never met or personally known him are wondering how he could have killed himself. While I don't know why this particular person committed suicide, I do know that money, fame, fortune, possessions, talent, drugs, activism, social justice, or power will not buy you happiness. It's the world, not Scripture, that says the meaning of life is to "be famous," "get rich," "make a difference," or be "remembered." There is no hope in any of that stuff! Christ is our only hope! To suggest that it comes from anything else is foolish.
Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
God not only tells us that men who claimed to be wise became fools, he explains how that happened. Through Paul He carefully lays out the very actions and behaviors that made man foolish and will ultimately lead to his destruction if he does not repent.
Rom 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
While environmentalism and evolution tends to come to mind here I think there are many ways we worship these images too. In our culture we no longer carve an idol out of a piece of wood or stone to bow down and pray to it, but we will spend lots of money on them to decorate our home or office. If we spend more money on decorating our homes then giving to the work of the Lord, that can be idolatry.  What we spend most of our time and resources on matters and the goal of the Christian is to use them to glorify God. It's not wrong to have nice things but look proportionately at how much you spend on your own pleasure and how much you spend on doing the work of the Father. Let us not exchange His glory for something that won't last!
Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
In the Old Testament God had set up a system of judges to lead His people. God was the leader, the king of His chosen people. The judges were merely bringing order based upon the law God had written. But the Israelites weren't happy with that. They wanted a king. After all, the other nations had kings. It seemed right to them to want to be like everyone else. Through Samuel, God warned them that a king was not what was best for them, but they demanded a king anyway, so God gave them what they asked for. He does that with all of us as is clearly seen in this text. God is going to allow foolish people to have what they think they want. In doing so they are going to reap the consequences and it will not be good.
Rom 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
It is evident that the world is worshiping the created man, rather than God. While you won't find many graven images out of wood you can find bobble head dolls and Chia pets. Man's image is plastered on T-shirts, posters, magazines, hats, books, etc. We will spend tons of money to see them sing a song, tell a joke, throw a ball, or simply lecture us. We will stand in line to get their autograph or take their picture. Our time and resources are consumed by having more and more of what some mortal man or woman will do to bring us pleasure. Being entertained seems to be the goal and purpose in life for most of our society.

We are so surrounded by media that as Ravi Zacharias once said, we are no longer surrounded by it, we are in it. How do we, as moms, protect ourselves and our children from such a culture if we are in it? I think Halloween is a good example of what I mean by that. As a Christian mom I try to keep my children away from ghosts, monsters, witches, goblins, and other evil and yet, during the month of October you are bombarded with it when you go to the grocery store. When Gess was younger shopping was truly frightening for her! These images scared her, as they should. But what do I do? We need food to eat. I have to shop. I can't live in a cave my whole life.

Moms, we need to be vigilant and constantly examine our own actions. While enjoying secular entertainment isn't in itself bad, we need to be careful that our entertainment doesn't turn into worship. My daughter tends to get obsessive about things. There is a certain video game we had to take away from her, not because it was a bad game, but because it was all she could talk about and think about and it even affected her attitude. We could see that this was becoming an idol for her so we removed it from our life and home. We should do that in our own lives as well. I quit reading romantic novels years ago, even Christian ones. It made me long and wish for some unrealistic relationship that would never exist. It made me less content with my own marriage so I gave it up. Your idol can be anything, good or bad so be on the lookout for yourself as well as your children. Something innocent and fun can turn into as much of an idol as a golden calf. It's not what you do, it's why. If a thing or an activity is taking up all your focus, energy, money, and time it might be an idol. Train your children how to tell the difference and be wiling to cut off anything that might be a stumbling block for you. Just because it isn't a bad thing, doesn't mean its a good thing either.
1Co 6:12 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Morning Devotion: Romans 1:18-22

In verse 17 of Romans Chapter 1 Paul speaks of the righteousness of God, but starting in verse 18 he begins speaking of the wrath of God.
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
That is right, while God is love, He is holy and the righteousness of God requires that He judge ungodliness. Whenever I read this particular passage it is so evident to me that this accurately defines the world we are surrounded by today. Not only are the movements in society evil, they are trying to suppress the truth. It isn't enough that they ignore it, they want to shut it out and somehow try to invalidate it. Thankfully truth lies in our infinite God so that will never happen.
Rom 1:19-20 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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.
Yet, while they try to suppress the truth, deep down they know God is real because God has made it known to them. It is not that they never understood, never had an opportunity to hear, or never had enough evidence. No, they have been shown, it has been made plain, and they have rejected it. Therefore they are without excuse.
Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Evil men know God, they just choose not to honor Him and they do that by refusing to acknowledge His existence.  That in turn, effects their thinking. It has become pointless. Oh, they will consider themselves among the greatest "thinkers" of their day, but when you start with a premise that is false and refuse to even consider evidence that leads to the contrary, futility is the result. Their hearts, as well as their minds become darkened.
Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
Psalm 14:1 tells us, "the fool says in his heart there is no God." This passage is a reminder that we can't win over atheists by having the best data. They have already made up their mind to ignore anything that points to God. While it is important to have an answer for them, that answer has to include the Bible. Only the power of the gospel will actually save them. Debating will get you nowhere without it.

Unfortunately we live in a world saturated by people claiming to be wise and therefore we are surrounded by their foolishness. The most difficult part of parenting today is protecting our children from it. When my daughter is fascinated by the handiwork of God and wants to learn more about it we can't simply go to the library to check out books because they are full of the foolishness of evolution. We rarely go to the movies and while some of it is due to the expense, it's mostly because most movies promote an immoral and ungodly worldview. I can't even go to the store without having something opposing my worldview thrown in my face. Let us endeavor to not simply claim to be wise, but actually be wise. To do that we need to follow God. Not only on Sundays, not only when it's convenient, but every hour of every day.
Psa 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Morning Devotion Romans 1:16-17

Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
It is beyond me to try and explain these verses for the power of God is already in them so they do an incredible job on their own saying what needs to be said. What I want to examine in my daily walk are these thoughts:

Am I ashamed of the gospel? Most Christians would be quick to say no and if you spend any time at all on Facebook or social media you can see all sorts of biblical posts from Christians who claim to be unashamed of the gospel. Is that enough though? Is that what Paul meant? I am unashamed to post bible verses on the Internet? I am unashamed to forward an email? Hardly. While doing that can be a good thing, it is not in itself proof that you are not ashamed of the gospel. Unfortunately many of the people who share those posts are not even walking in obedience to the gospel! They go to church on Sunday morning yet live like the world for the rest of the week but think that somehow sharing those verses makes them right with God. They are not.

Being unashamed of the gospel means more than simply saying you believe it. It means living it, sharing it, and being willing to die for it. It means taking time with the lost and the hurting while confronting those who are opposed to it and trying to stop it. It means that the gospel is the reason you get up each morning and the purpose for your entire existence. How can you be saved from utter destruction in hell and not let that affect every aspect of your life?! Which brings me to the next point.

Do I live as if the gospel is the power of God? Note that it doesn't say it brings the power of God, displays it, or offers it. It IS the power of God. Wow! That power, the ultimate power of God was given to me and brought me from death to life. Do I live like that is true? Do I desire to share that truth with others? If not, how can I say I truly believe it is the power of God?

Do I believe salvation is for everyone who believes? Again, this is something we quickly say yes to, but do we live that out? Are drug addicts welcome in your morning service? Would you bring an adult with an intellectual or physical disability to your church? Better yet, would you spend time with them outside of church? Do you think that your drunken relative is beyond salvation and so have given up praying for them? What about the atheist friend who is hounding you all the time about your faith? Are you praying for their salvation or just arguing with them? Trying to prove yourself right will not bring them to salvation. Proving that the gospel is the power of God will.

Do I live by faith? I am not sure what faith to faith means. Every time I read that passage I ponder it and wonder. Commentaries also say they are not sure. What I do know is that my relationship with God is based upon faith alone in Christ. It is through His power, not any work, thought, or effort of my own. So I ask myself, am I living by that faith on a daily basis?

We know that while faith without works saves us, true faith will result in works. I think the key to finding out if your works are trying to earn you salvation or are simply a result of what you have already done is your motivation. Are you trying to prove you are a good Christian when you do something? Do you go to church so other people will see and appreciate you? Do you seek and want recognition for the work you do? If so, those are signs that you are not living by faith. Living by faith means working for the gospel because you are in total awe that you are even in His presence. The fact that God saved you is so humbling that you want to give back and share with others. It is out of love and gratitude that you serve. You don't care who sees or notices. You don't get mad when you are not recognized. You just do it, regardless. Day in and day out, week after week, because you know it is the power of God and that alone is sufficient!

So this week examine yourself in all of these areas. Are you ashamed of the gospel or are you aware that it is the power of God? Do you believe it enough to share it with everyone, even those less desirable? Is your Christian walk done through faith or are you hoping somehow to earn faith? Be careful because faith cannot be earned. That is the beauty of it! I could never do enough to earn the power of God! I thank the Lord that He offers it freely!!  In the movie God's Not Dead there is a line that has stuck with me. "It's simple but its not easy." That is an excellent description of the Christian life. It's simple!! Just believe!! However, living that out is not so easy. Belief with the head is one thing but when it permeates the heart you will find it very complicated at times, but it is so worth it! Do you believe? If so, live like it!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Money Matters and Special Needs

My daughter has Down syndrome and is entering middle school so I want to begin an even stronger focus on helping her understand how to handle money. I am also trying to figure out a way for her to make some money. She recycles cans and that is fine, but I want more of a business model. It would help if I was crafty, but I am not! My goal is try to find something for her to make and sell.

In the meantime I picked up this workbook and so far it looks perfect for what I want to cover. They have this for three age levels: kids, teens 11-14, and teens 15-18.

This has practical, down to earth steps about money management. It appears to teach both how the system works and then how to manage your own money. It is from a Christian perspective which is very important to me. I am considering ordering the actual book Money Matters for Teens to go with it, but it looks like this can be used all by itself.  Here are a couple of quotes from the introduction that I enjoyed.
"The purpose of this workbook is to help you understand how to use money properly and make intelligent decisions based upon what God's Word says and not what some television ad says....
You have a great opportunity to learn at a young age what takes most people 40 or more years to learn: how to make good financial decisions. In this study, you'll learn how to balance a checkbook, handle a credit card, buy a car, even how to choose the right insurance. Once you know all this, you can help your parents do it too (just kidding)!"
All kidding aside, there are lots of families I know where the adults could probably use this advice. If this works well with Gess I will be sure to let you know. With her special needs some of this may be more difficult for her to grasp, but from the look of it I think she will do well with it. I am also considering using this with our youth group at church.  I will make that decision after Gess and I have completed the book.

Anyway, I was excited so I wanted to share. Please share any resources you use to teach your teen and/or child with special needs about finances. Also, share any and all ideas for a youth home business, preferably ones that don't require much skill. We are not the arts and crafts sort of family!

Morning Devotion: Romans 1:8-15

Paul was a great example of how we should treat other Christians. His love and commitment to follow believers was truly beyond compare. I think what stands out to me most is how he was always in prayer for them and very rarely for their health or financial circumstances like we so often pray today. No, his prayer and desire for others was for their faith to be strong and effective. When it was, his prayer was one of thanks. We should look closely at how Paul not only greeted his brethren, but how he prayed for them and use that as an example of what our prayers and fellowship should look like.
Rom 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
I don't know about you, but I tend to spend much of my prayer time for those who are weak in the faith. I know that it is good to pray for those who need help, but do I really spend any time praying for those who are working diligently for Christ? I need to spend more time in prayer for all my fellow believers who work hard every day to serve the Lord in one capacity or another. This has encouraged me to start doing that today.
Rom 1:9-12 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. 
I love that Paul admits that he longs for and needs to be encouraged by his friends in Rome. I can relate to the part of Paul that wants to see his friends to impart some spiritual gift upon them. That fits my personality. I am a worker bee, a fixer, the person who wants to rescue all those who are hurting and I want to be the one who has all the answers. The part I struggle with is admitting that I need to be mutually encouraged by anyone else. My pride tells me that if I need anyone else I am a weak Christian. My arrogance tells me that I am mature enough to not need the counsel of anyone other than God. While God's Word is the only and final authority we should lean on, God has established a family of believers who work together to help us live out our faith. I need to seek that encouragement as well as be that encouragement to others.
Rom 1:13-15 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul was eager to be with those in Rome and yet, he was prevented from going. There is no complaining here, no begging God and asking why he couldn't come earlier. He just explains that he was prevented but is now able to come. He accepted whatever circumstances came his way and trusted God through it all. He also continued to work wherever he was. His eagerness was not to get rest or have a vacation. His goal and purpose for going was to preach the gospel. When he was prevented from going he preached the gospel in other places until he could. No matter where he was, including prison, Paul was content to be there and went about doing the work of the Lord. What about you? Is your day filled with a desire, longing, and eagerness to preach the gospel? Or are you wishing you were somewhere else and doing something else?

Keep in mind that Paul's ministry was unique. He was an apostle sent by God to travel the world and share the message. Just because you are not traveling to Rome, or Africa, or anywhere else does not mean you are less of a Christian or that your work is any less important. You can be eager to do the work of the Lord wherever you are. Be careful to not envy and desire a calling that God has not asked of you and instead use the gifts he has given where ever you are in life.

I am a stay at home mom, but I can preach the gospel to my children. Reading God's Word with our children and training them in the way that they should go is important. Even when we are not sitting down and doing an actual study with them they are learning what it is like to be a Christian by watching us. Do they see you take time out of your day to read your own Bible and pray?  Do they see you throw your plans out the window to help a neighbor in need? Do they watch you make decisions about what products you buy, movies you watch, and attitude you have? Yes, as a mother you have the power of Paul to influence, train, and encourage others in the faith on a daily basis!  So be eager to preach the gospel to those who are in your home, you neighborhood, and your community. That is what Paul would do.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Morning Devotion: Romans 1:1-7

As I began reading Romans this morning I noticed when I got to verse 8 that I had left the introduction of the letter. I seemed to perk up as if I was now getting to the good stuff. I immediately chided myself because I know that what I had just read was powerful. I think the hardest part about being a seasoned Christian is to be able to read the Word fresh each day. It's more than reading the words and checking it off the to-do list. It means we have to read it to gain understanding. So let us do that while we go through the Word together, starting with the introduction of the letter to Rome.
Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Paul starts by telling us who he is, but then continues to expound upon who Christ is. See, our only identity as a Christian should be in Christ. Paul was called as an apostle and was set apart for the gospel of God. That's it. That is his identity. He is not significant in any way. His identity is only in Christ. What is important is that we know and understand who Christ is, so Paul goes on.
Rom 1:2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
Immediately he leans on the Scriptures for validation. The Messiah had been prophesied and the nation of Israel was watching for Him. Paul explained that Christ was the fulfillment of those prophesies. We are to believe the Scriptures, not just Paul.
Rom 1:3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
We know from Isaiah 9:7 that Messiah would be an heir of David and that there would be no end to His throne. This bold statement from Paul is announcing and declaring that Jesus is that eternal heir!
Rom 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
Jesus is the Son of God! That proof isn't in the fact that he claimed to be the Son of God, though he did. It's proof wasn't even in the fact that he was born of a virgin, though he was. The final proof, that final piece of evidence that cannot be refuted, was that God raised Him from the dead! Do you get that? Those who didn't want to follow Christ and who challenged his authority had no way to refute Him now. It was indeed the final proof that Jesus IS the Son of God. That is why He showed himself to so many people and why their testimony wasn't challenged. Producing the body of Jesus and proving that He didn't rise from the dead would have been the sure fire and only way to stop this movement, and believe me, the Jewish and Roman leaders wanted this movement stopped. However, no physical body was ever produced and the eyewitnesses of his resurrection were so many that it was irrefutable. Jesus was declared the Son of God in power. It takes power to raise someone from the dead! What amazing power, what holiness, and what glory and honor our God deserves! This is who was just introduced in this letter: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rom 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
Here again, Paul is explaining that his identity, his work, and even his office is for one purpose. It is for Christ's name sake, for His glory alone. It is only through grace that it is possible. He never takes the credit and never seeks the favor of man. He does it only to bring men into obedience to Christ.
Rom 1:6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
He wanted the Romans to know they were among those who belonged to this splendid Savior. Not because of any works they had done, but because of the grace they had received.
Rom 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here it is, that introduction that can be so often overlooked. Oh, this is the greeting of Paul that we are so familiar with and yet look at how he greets them. He reminds them they are loved by God. That alone should give us pause. This holy, perfect, powerful, omnipotent God of the universe loves us! He not only loves us but calls us to be saints! He offers us grace and peace. His grace is certainly needed if we are ever to have peace. Thankfully His grace is sufficient!

As you go through your day today, as you do the same chores and housework you do every day, remember that. When you are changing dirty diapers, dealing with a tantrum, trying to communicate with a child who is unable to speak, or looking for something appropriate for your teenager to wear out the door, remember you are called a saint and offered grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This daily offering is given freely because you belong to Jesus!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Morning Devotions

I feel led to share my thoughts from my morning devotions with you all. While I am currently going through the book of Roman chronologically, I may not always do that in the future. Even though they are currently being written in order, they need not be read that way. Feel free to only read them when you happen to stop by or try to catch them every week day. They will be stored on my Devotions Page if you want to catch them at your convenience. You can access this page quickly by using the button at the top of my blog. I hope you find these beneficial.

Beginning August 11, 2014
Romans 1:1-7

Friday, August 8, 2014

Final Summer Reading List

This week was our pool party for those who completed the summer reading program. My mother had a medical appointment out of town and surgery the following day, so for the first time we missed it. Anyway, I just wanted to share how Gess finished out the year.  She easily completed the program with the following books!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to School Plan

We are getting ready to start back to school on August 18th. This will be Gess' first year in middle school. Here are my current curriculum choices for the year.

Language Arts/Speech
Logic of English - We reviewed this last year and I absolutely love it!  However, with Gess' special needs and our other reviews, we have gone rather slowly through the book. I hope to complete it this year.

Essential Skills Advantage (ESA) - I am currently reviewing this product but so far we love it! It is affordable and a really great way for Gess to have some independent work in reading.

Logic of English Cursive - I am not sure cursive is going to take or not but I am going to give one more year a try. It really is easier for her when she uses it. It's easier to read and all that, but we have the habit of printing to overcome so I am not sure she will stick with it.

Essentials in Writing - We have spent quite awhile on Level 1. This year we are moving up to Level 2. I have ordered it, but it hasn't arrived in the mail yet.

Mathletics - We will use both the printable workbooks and the online work for practice.

CTC Math - We will use this daily.

Veritas Press - We are loving this and will probably take almost the entire school year to finish. We will probably select another class from them next year.

I am considering using Science Shepherd Homeschool Online which is a complete online science curriculum. I will start with Introductory Science. Like history, it will be really convenient to have much of it done online. However, I really don't much about it, so I haven't decided for sure.

Gess has studied a lot of the Old and New Testament. I think we are going to focus more on teaching her how to have more of a personal devotion time and determine the topics as we go along.

I am not sure we will do a regular curriculum or just explore the topic. There is much I want Gess to learn for her independence in the future as well as school.


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