A Much Needed Break

This week was break week in our homeschool. Can I get a “holla” from all the homeschool mommas reading this? 😉 Let’s face it, as much as we love homeschooling our kids, it is not all sunshine and roses. Some days it’s just plain hard! The discipline to keep showing up and guiding our children through the work of learning is hard to cultivate, both in ourselves and in them. So it is good to take a break sometimes and step back to breathe, rest and re-evaluate how everything is going.

We just finished Term 1 of AmblesideOnline Year 2, so it was high time for a break after plugging along for 12 weeks without stopping. The funny thing was that this week, my kids acted like they didn’t even know what to do with themselves half the time. They are so accustomed to our normal daily routine on week days that not having that same structure left them wondering what to do. Even my 2 year old was asking for school! I take this as a good sign that our daily rhythm is working well for our family and that it is providing what they need to get their days off to a good start!

At the same time, though, I needed a break to recuperate, reevaluate and reorganize before plunging ahead into the next term. And I feel like I have accomplished that this week. Here’s how:

Recuperate:

The first thing I did after we finished school last Friday was to put all the school book in the homeschool cupboard, just as they were, and shut the doors. Then I proceeded to spend the next three days not even thinking about homeschool stuff. I didn’t plan or prep anything. I didn’t clean up anything other than to just shove it in the cupboard out of sight. I just let myself clear my head and not worry about what was done or what was coming up. It was lovely!

Reevaluate:

On Tuesday of break week, I finally sat down with my son to go through his Year 2 Term 1 exam questions. AmblesideOnline has these exams already all set up for us, so all I had to do what print off the questions! Then we sat on the couch and he told me as much as he could remember from different books, did a few oral math problems, recited some memory work, etc. It was pretty quick and painless. The important thing about these exams is that they give me a chance to look at some weak spots in my teaching. It is not so much about grading my student as it is grading myself. If he didn’t remember very much of his Spanish vocabulary or know a term we were supposed to have studied in Geography, it is not because he was not trying. (I can tell when he is just trying to get out of doing the work of narration or recall!) It shows me that we did not spend enough time in those areas to let him make the connections with the material. So I know that I need to shore up those subjects next term.

Reorganize:

Finally, on Wednesday, I sat down with all my school planning resources and got to work planning for the next term. Creating new memory work pages for April was first on the docket. Then I wrote out lesson plans for the first week of the next term. I printed out new math worksheets and the next month’s set of nature study lesson plans. Finally, when all the planning was finished, I set about the un-glamorous task of cleaning out and reorganizing the homeschool cupboard. I don’t know how these spaces get so cluttered so quickly, but it had become quite a mess! I sorted and tossed and filed and rearranged…I even sharpened all the colored pencils! Hours later, I finally had a neat and tidy home for all our school books and supplies once more, and I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders.

After that work was done, I was free to enjoy the rest of our break week catching up on other tasks around the house and online. Today we had a family fun day, since my husband is off from work for Good Friday. We let the kids use up some Toys R Us gift cards that they were saving before that store goes out of business. Then we explored the Cool Springs Galleria mall because I had not found the time to wander over there yet. We ended with lunch at a Chinese buffet, and we all came home happy, full and sleepy! I know to some people it doesn’t sound that exciting, but for us, it was just right.

That’s what break week looked like here in our neck of the woods. I’d love to hear what you do in your homeschool during breaks! Leave me a comment and tell me something you love to use your breaks for!

 

How Embarrassing! – True Confessions of a Book Blogger

I am going to admit something really embarrassing as a book blogger. I debated whether or not to even post about this because y’all are going to laugh at me. But they say confession is a laugh, I am going to just put it all out there.

Readers, I finished an entire book, loved the book, and even blogged and posted on social media about this book….all while thinking I was reading an entirely different book! Ugh. There I said it. Want to know what book I was actually reading, versus which book I thought I was reading?

Ok, I just finished Call the of the Wild. I thought it was White Fang. Again, ugh!

In my defense, I was not actually reading this book with my eyes but listening to it on audio via the Volumes app on my iPad. And at least I was reading a book about a dog, and it was by the same author. But I still feel really silly. I mean, the audio book cover art DOES have the title right there on it. And I just overlooked it completely. I had the title “White Fang” stuck in my head, so I just kept on believing that was what I was listening to. Nevermind the fact that the words “call” and “wild” are key words that keep showing up over and over throughout the story. There was some mention of “fangs” in there, too, but I don’t think that justifies such a glaring mistake on my part!

So, there you have it. My embarrassing confession of reading an entire book without even knowing what I was reading! I’m sure there is some deeper meaning or lesson you could pull out of this silly little story of mine, but I’m not even going to try and redeem myself at this point. I am, however, going to sit down and actually start reading the REAL White Fang by Jack London now, since I picked up the print copy from my local library today. I’ll tell you how it goes!

But before I close, someone please tell me you’ve done something like this before! After all, confession is good for the soul!

Join the April Scripture Writing Challenge

Last week I shared some of my top reasons for writing out the Scriptures, and that post got me to thinking. Why not invite my reading community here to join me in writing the Word together? There is nothing like the accountability and encouragement of others to help us grow in our faith, as well as in building new habits.

During the month of April, I am going to be writing out the whole book of Philippians. Would you like to join me? I have already created a schedule with the book divided up into manageable daily passages to copy. I even created a printable that you can download and print out to keep handy in your notebook or journal. Each week I plan to send out a special encouragement email with a short devotional on what I have learned as I have been writing out the verses that week. And I would love for you to dig into the Word with me so we can challenge and encourage each other!

You can sign up for the Philippians Scripture Writing Challenge using the button below. When you do, you will receive a welcome email containing the link to the printable guide, as well as be added to the email list to get the weekly devotionals. We will be starting on Easter Sunday, April 1st, which I thought was as good a time as any to begin (or continue) focussing on Christ through His Word!

Join the April Scripture Writing Challenge here!

Rhythms and Routines #fiveminutefriday

rhythms and routines

I could go in so many different directions with this week’s “routine” prompt! (Which means I should probably think about doing some posts on related topics!) But I think I’ll stick with why I love rhythms and routines as a non-type A personality and as a mom of young children.

I used to try to create a schedule with times to do specific things during my days. This never, ever, ever, ever worked for me! I could not stick to a schedule for more than one day, if I could even get through that first day at all! So I thought I was just not a person who could organize my days. But then if I just went through days without any direction at all, I felt very disorganized and lost.

Enter: Rhythms and Routines!

For me a routine is more like a rhythm that helps provide a general structure to my days without being rigid or scheduled. I know that I need to do some things during certain parts of my day, but not at specific set times. A routine gives me grace to switch things up if I need to in order to accommodate our ever-changing schedule. But it still gives some direction as to the general outline of each day and keeps things somewhat predictable, both for me and my kids.

And that’s another thing about having a routine… My kids know generally what to expect of each day. They aren’t left guessing about everything because that would leave them feeling uneasy, too.

Rhythms and routines keep us sane and stable while giving us room to be flexible. So if you don’t work well with a schedule, but you know you need structure, give a routine a try. I think you’ll be glad you did!

This post is part of the Five Minute Fridays link-up hosted by Kate Motaung. Join the FMF community and get your free-write on! Find my other Five Minute Fridays posts here

5 Reasons I Love Writing the Scriptures

This past year I have finally found a good rhythm for my daily quiet time, something that I can be consistent with, even when I don’t have a lot of time or energy. Want to know my little secret? It’s pretty simple, actually. I am writing out Scripture, copying a few verses, by hand, every day. That’s it. Nothing profound or complicated. But do you know what? It works. I am meditating on Scripture and learning new things with this very simple practice. I wanted to share with you why I love studying the word this way, in hopes that you may benefit from trying it yourself!

5 Reasons I Love Writing Out the Scriptures

1. It is easy.

There I said it. Even though I’m naturally a morning person, I am also a mom. Of a toddler. Who still wakes up at random times throughout the night asking to be tucked back in or to have a drink of water. And then I can’t get back to sleep for an hour or more. (Thanks, kid!) So I’m still in a somewhat sleep deprived state a lot of the time. But I know I am a better person when I get up a good hour before my kids and have some quiet time to sip some hot tea, pray, study the Bible and read from a good book. If I have to do much intensive study early in the morning, I’m probably not going to do it. I need easy. I need a predictable routine that I can do while still in a bit of a fog. Writing Scripture by hand is an easy way to wake up my brain and start meditating on the Word without a lot of hassle. All I need is my Bible, a notebook and a pen. (And my hot tea. I can’t forget the tea!) I currently am copying whole books of the Bible at a time, so I just sit down and start where I left off.

2. It makes me focus.

If you are anything like me, especially in the early morning hours, you understand when I say that if I just sit down and read a big chunk of the Bible, I get distracted. Maybe I’m reading too fast in my eagerness to get on with planning my day. Or I am letting my mind wander off to my to-do list or that random Instagram photo I saw while I was brewing my tea. But if I have to put pen to paper and neatly copy down exactly what I’m seeing on the page, my brain has to kick into gear and actually make sense of what I’m reading and writing. Plus, there have been studies done on the actual difference it makes to hand write things instead of typing them, not to mention the data on how much better our minds retain information we read from an actual paper book than an electronic source. The whole tactile experience of this practice of copying verses straight from the text actually makes me pay closer attention to the Word!

3. It aids with meditation and memorization

This builds on the previous idea, but the act of writing something down really does help with memorization and meditation. Not only does the time it takes to write out Scripture force me to focus on just a few verses at a time, it also makes me think about what I am writing longer than simply reading the passage alone. I find myself remembering what I have written during my morning study time much later on in the day, and thinking through the greater context of those verses as well. I am not actively trying to memorize any passages right now, but if I were, I would probably try to write it out every day or two. I used to do that when I was in grade school and had to memorize a lot, and it really does help! Again, you can find a lot of studies on why and how writing and re-writing things aids in memorization, in case you want to delve into that idea a bit further!

4. It brings new passages to light.

I am currently copying down whole books of the New Testament, rather than just a few verses pulled out here and there. I know there are a lot of topical Scripture-writing plans out there, and they definitely have their place. However, I have found great benefits in copying a whole book of the Bible, especially in regards to understanding context. As my professors in Bible college always said, “Context is king!” If you read and study a passage in light of the surrounding text and the greater overarching theme of that book, you begin to understand individual verses even better than when you study them on their own. I have found this practice very enlightening and enriching to my devotional life.

5. It is free!

One of the great things about copying Scripture is that all I need is stuff I already have. It doesn’t need to be fancy to do the job. I buy inexpensive composition notebooks at Walmart for all sorts of purposes, and I just set aside a new one for Bible journalling as needed. Yes, you could buy a special journal or moleskin if you think that would motivate you to write out Scripture more. But for me, simple and cheap/free is the way to go! Bible study plans online and in print are great, but they can get so expensive. And if I am not going to have the time and mental space to really get the most out of a purchased Bible study guide, then it doesn’t really seem worth the expense. Although I do value good training in studying Scripture (I went to Bible college, after all!) I do not believe it is always necessary to have someone else tell you what the Bible says. If you are a true believer in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to the meaning of God’s Word. So you don’t need fancy Bible study tools all the time. You just need to pray and ask Him to speak through His Word! Then read it and listen to what He has to say!

What are you waiting for?

Now that you know just a few of MY reasons for using Scripture writing as a Bible study and devotional tool, why don’t you try it out for yourself! Maybe you will find even more reasons to love copying the Word that I didn’t mention. If you do, I hope you’ll come back here and leave a comment. We can encourage each other along the way!

 

This post is part of the Grace and Truth Weekly Christian Link-up. To read more or participate, visit ArabahJoy.com.

The Reading Report, Vol. 10: A Little Spring Cleaning

We woke up to a light coating of very wet snow on the grass and trees yesterday, all glittering in the sunshine and making the woods look like a fairy world. But by mid-day, the snow had melted completely, as I expected since it is nearly spring in Middle Tennessee! I know a lot of people start talking about spring cleaning this time of year, and we get to itching to air out the house after being shut up for so long. I participated in a local consignment sale over the weekend and hauled out a bunch of the kids outgrown clothes from last year. Of course, I also brought home a fresh batch up new-to-us duds for this spring and summer.

It would also happen that I noticed this week that my reading life has gotten a bit messy lately. I have started a lot of books already this year, but I haven’t finished nearly so many. My mental  book lists are in quite a jumble! Even though my physical book shelves may appear pretty tidy, I feel like my reading life is in desperate need of a good decluttering session. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I get overeager to read “all the things.” Then I get overwhelmed with decision fatigue every time I sit down to read because I can’t figure out just which book I should pick up and keep reading. I know some people can have up to 10 books going at the same time, but I don’t think I am one of those people.

In order to clean up my reading life, I am going to shelve a bunch of the books I have started, just for the time being, and focus on just a few at a time. My approach to doing this needs to be balanced so that I always have some different types of reading material to choose from. My goal is to have only 3-4 books in progress at the same time. I aim to keep at least 2 fiction books on the docket at all times, one print and one audio. I also always need to be working through just 1 non-fiction devotional or self-help book. (This is the most challenging genre for me to actually finish, so just reading one at a time will help me stay on task.) Since I am continuously reading something aloud with my son, usually a new book for us both, I count it as part of my personal reading, as well.

Books I’m Keeping on My Active List:

True Grit–this is the newest selection for the Close Reads podcast. I am halfway through this book already, and I have relished it so far. It is not only a quick-moving book, but it is surprisingly humorous. I have also been intrigued by the many references to Scripture and bits of moral commentary.

Call of the Wild— I chose this book largely because I got it free on audio and had never read it before. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the vivid descriptions of mistreatment of dogs that make up a large part of the storyline. It has not been an easy listen, although it is an excellent piece of literature and a compelling story. Painful but powerful…I think that is how I would describe this book.

Hello Mornings–I am determined to finish this book by the end of the month! It was the selection for the February focus in the Cultivating the Lovely Podcast Patreon group, but I didn’t get started until halfway through the month. I am enjoying and gleaning some good insights, but it is just slow going for me because of the genre.

Dr. Dolittle–this is our new family read aloud. I am sure it won’t take us very long as the book is not thick, and the story is a fun one!

Books I’m Shelving for Now:

The Wreath–I was borrowing this from the library and hadn’t gotten far enough in before the due date to merit renewing it. It’s on my B2tC Challenge list, so I will get back to it sooner or later!

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (and the Key)–another B2tC Challenge book that I started with good intention. But this one is a painful read for me, and I can’t have more than one of those going at the same time. Maybe I will pick it back up when I finish one of my other fiction books.

Full–I do want to finish this book very soon. I only wish I had started it at the beginning of the 40 Day Sugar Fast because once that was over, I lost motivation to read the book, too!

Utopia–Another B2tC title that I started and couldn’t get into right away. I have had this book sitting on my bookshelf since college days and have never read the whole thing. I WILL finish it this year if it’s the last things I do, ha!

Better Together–I did read the first several chapters of Pam Barnhill’s new book, and I am really enjoying it so much! I just can’t read everything at once, and since I am pretty content with our current Morning Time and school schedule at the moment, I decided to put this on hold for the time being. I may come back to it during break week, though, just for a fresh bit of inspiration during my planning for the next term. (I do highly recommend you get your hands on this book before March 31, 2018 so you can get the fun exclusive bonuses Pam is offering! Just order through my Amazon affiliate link, then go to the Better Together book page and fill out the form at the bottom of the page to claim your bonus!)

The Spiritual Life–I started this yesterday on one of our long drives to and from church because I had forgotten to bring a book or knitting along for the ride. It is another of my B2tC titles, and I am looking forward to reading this as a devotional supplement, once I get finished with my other books in that genre.

Books I’ve Finished Lately:

Frankenstein–Having finished this book, my reaction was mixed. I was glad to have read it and gotten rid of all my pop-culture saturated ideas about what it would be like. I did find it a captivating and suspenseful read. There were some very thought-provoking ideas presented throughout the book. However, I also felt that I had to have a willing suspension of disbelief about the way Frankenstein acted throughout much of the story. Perhaps he really was a genius, but he did not display a lot of common sense or ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. His failure to take proper responsibility for the creature he had made really, really bothered me. But I guess that was part of the point of the story.

Farmer Boy–My son and I just finished this one together, and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. Even the 2 year old found it enjoyable when she happened to be around. Of course, all the descriptions of food make this a book you don’t want to read when you are hungry! But as a model of a hard-working boy who not only did his work but grew to love it, Farmer Boy is pretty hard to beat!

Babe, the Gallant Pig–this was a quick, fun little book to read on a quiet afternoon! I’ve loved the film version of Babe since it came out waaaay back in 1995 (honestly, how did that get to be so long ago!?), but I somehow missed the fact that there was a book until just recently. My son read it on his own and thought it was great, too. My one word of caution, however, if you are thinking of handing this over to your independent readers….the author uses the “technical term” for a female dog throughout to refer to the mother collie. I did not know this until after my son read the book, and I was reading it myself. He did not mention it, and having not come across this word in daily life, it is probable he just skimmed over it. However, if I had it to do over again, I would probably do this one as a family read-aloud and edit that out as I read!

Well, I think that’s about it for this round of the Reading Report! How is your reading life these days? Do you have any readerly spring cleaning to do? Or is your booklist already nice and tidy? I’d love for you to leave a comment and tell me what you’ve been reading lately!

Tired, but Trusting #fiveminutefriday

Earlier this week, I was so tired of the way things have been going in life that I just wanted to give up. I was tired of the financial strain, tired of plans not working out the way we’d hoped, tired of having to wonder what to do next, just tired of always feeling like the underdog. But I knew I had to just get up and keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting God through it all. I realized as I sought Him that even though I’m tired, I still have work to do. Even if our situation never changes, I have to be faithful in the little things, day to day. He has given me tasks, mundane though they may seem, that do not change regardless of where we live or what our situation is. I can never grow weary of loving my children, of supporting my husband, of serving my church or of taking care of my own health. Yes, I may be physically tired, even emotionally and mentally exhausted at times, but I cannot let myself become so worn down by worldly cares that I stop being faithful to the Lord. More than any other time, I need to go to Him with my burdens and let Him renew my strength. I need to be refreshed by His Word and walk on, doing the good work He has given me to do in this season. I can rest in Him and know the harvest is coming!

“Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:9

“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you;
He will never let the righteous fall.”
Psalm 55:22

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:31


This post is part of the Five Minute Fridays link-up hosted by Kate Motaung. Join the FMF community and get your free-write on! Find my other Five Minute Fridays posts here

Taking the Next Step

Taking the Next Step

Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn that sends us reeling, wondering how to take the next step. That’s what happened last week when we found out our house sale was not going to happen. After all the planning we had set in motion, we found ourselves back at square one, not sure what to do next. For several days I felt like I was just wandering aimlessly around the house, in a total fog. Yes, I was doing the necessary things to keep the household running, but beyond that, I had no sense of direction.

What can we do when life throws us a curve ball like that? Yes, we pray. We dig into God’s Word. We keep trusting Him. Those spiritual practices must be our anchors. We draw closer to God in the hard times than the easy ones, certainly. But what do we do practically to keep moving forward in the day to day? How do we come out of that fog and regain a sense of direction?

For me, I think I need to go back to the goals I made at the beginning of the year. I need to remember the fundamental vision I have for my relationships, my work, and my personal well-being. My situation may change, but the basic desires of my heart are the same. I want to grow in and through trials, and I need to remember that good growth happens slowly, one tiny step at a time. Even though I can’t see very far down the road, I can see far enough to take the next small step, to do the next right thing.

Drink an extra glass of water.

Do a load of laundry.

Read a book or two to my daughter.

Play a board game with my son.

Make extra time for my husband in the evening.

Set up some time out with a friend next week.

Create that new webpage I’ve been planning.

Finish that spiritual growth book I’ve been reading.

These are relatively small things. But they add up to growth. They get me moving in the right direction toward my goals. I have to keep just putting one foot in front of the other, trusting God to lay the path to bigger things before me while being faithful in the small ones.

What do you do when life throws you for a loop? How do you take the next step forward in faith? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I try to reply to every one!