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Psalm 121: Help for Your Journey (and a FREE Printable!)

On Sunday, the pastor at our temporary church home taught from Psalm 121. This psalm has long been one of my favorites, and each time I read it, I am reminded of the Lord’s protection. If you are not familiar with Psalm 121, it starts out like this:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

This psalm is part of a group of psalms known as the Songs of Ascent, meaning that they were sung on the journey up to the mountain city of Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. I really love the opening verses so much as they encourage me to look to the Lord for my help and remind me that my Helper is the very One who created the universe! But on Sunday the verse that actually struck me the most was the final verse:

The Lord will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121:8

When I read these verses this week it was as if the Lord were speaking to me directly, saying, “I know you are worried about this whole moving process. But don’t fear or fret, my child. I have this all planned out and will guard your going out of this place and you coming into the next in my perfect time. You are held in my hands. Be at peace.” It was just what I needed to hear at that moment. No matter how many times we have read a passage of Scripture, it can impress us with new insights because God’s Word is living and active.

Because of this truth, it is so valuable for us to spend time meditating on Scripture and letting it sink deep into our hearts and minds. In light of this, I wanted to create a tool to help us meditate on Psalm 121 together, so I came up with this little coloring page with the entire chapter centered on it. This printable is available FREE for my blog subscribers as a little thank you for joining me on this journey! Subscribe below if you have not already, and you will be sent a password for my new Resource Library. Then you can download the PDF and print as you wish. I encourage you to read and meditate on the psalm as you color the floral motifs, then display it somewhere where you will see it on a daily basis and be reminded Who is your Help and Keeper!




Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

We Are Family: Child Chore Training, Pt. 3

Welcome to the final installment (for now) in this series on Child Chore Training! Last week I gave specific examples of what this currently looks like in our home. Today I want to share how and why we pay our children for doing chores.

I guess we should start with why we chose to pay our son for his chores every week. First, we decided at age six he was ready to begin learning some basic money management skills. We want him to grow up with an understanding of how much things cost, how long it takes to earn enough money to actual buy something worthwhile, and how to save and give back to God some of his earnings. Also, even though he does chores because he is part of the family, we feel that paying him now gives him an idea of what it will be like to work for an employer some day. We told him early on that if he did not do his chores when asked each day, he would not get paid, just like an employee does not get paid when he or she fails to show up for work. So it is an additional motivational tool to get those chores done! Plus, our son is at that age in which kids start to want to buy things themselves, and his is into Legos in a big way. We have never been able or willing to buy toys just anytime throughout the year, saving those things for birthdays and Christmas. So now he knows that he can earn his own spending money and save it up for as long or short an amount of time as he wants before spending it on that new Lego set he has his eye on. But he already has learned that the longer he saves, the better!

As to how we pay him, we started out with a rate of $.05/year of his age, so he is currently paid $.30 every Saturday. We will increase his pay as his responsibilites increase, probably right around his next birthday. I have sometimes allowed him to earn an extra nickel in the week if he has been especially helpful with extra chores that were not on his list. Yes, this is a small amount, but we do not have a big budget as a family right now, and he really does not NEED much of his own money yet anyway. It is more about the lessons learned than the money earned!

Since part of our goal was teaching him how to manage his money, we divided up his earnings into three categories: spending, long-term savings, and offering. Because I did not want to be counting out strange amounts of pennies each week, rather than divide his $.30 into exact percentages, I simply put $.20 into his spending pouch and $.05 into both the savings and offering pouches each week. We found a set of 3 matching zippered pouches in the school supply section at Walmart last year, and they have been perfect for this purpose!

In case you are wondering, my son is not allowed to spend from his savings until much later in life. This is truly meant for long-term savings and can only be spent on something big, like a car or college. We will eventually open a savings acount for him for this purpose. The offering money is supposed to go with him to church every week. You might not believe it, but he gets a real thrill out of putting that nickel in the plate eery Sunday! I cannot totally take credit for how we do this whole payment for chores thing, since I originally heard about it from organizing guru, Mystie Winkler of  Simplified Organization. (That’s my affiliate link, by the way, because Mystie and her courses are AMAZING!)  In case you want to hear how she and her family does it, here is her Youtube video “Paying Children for Chores“, so can get more inspiration!

So, that’s it from me! Now I want to hear from you! Do you pay your kids for helping around the house? If not, do your kids get an allowance? I am curious to hear your repsonse!

Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 3: Year-Round Schooling

Welcome to Part 3 of my Homeschool Basics series! Missed the previous posts in this series? No worries! Part 1: Why We Homeschool is here, and Part 2: How We Homeschool is here

It is July, which means many homeschool families here in the United States are knee deep in planning for the coming school year! A lot of families have actually already started school, too. Some start in July because it gives them more time off for the winter holiday season. Others because the area in which they live is just so stinking hot in the middle of summer that they might as well stay inside and so some schooling! Then they take a longer break in the fall when the weather cools off again. One big advantage of homeschooling is that you really do not have to stick to the traditional school year if you do not want to!

Since my husband works in academia, the traditional school calendar actually would work well for our family, but we also have a fall birthday to work around. Because we are currently using Ambleside Online as our curriculum, we really wanted to wait to start his Year 1 work until after his 6th birthday. We also had been doing some more traditional school at home before I discovered Charlotte Mason, and we needed some extra time to relax and refresh our family rhythms after finding that too stressful.

Enter, Year-Round schooling with a January start! Sounds strange if you haven’t heard of it before, but it is pretty simple, actually. We start our school year in January, and every 6 weeks, we take a week break. I think I first heard about the 6 weeks on, 1 week off schedule from Mystie Winkler of Simply Convivial. I plan for about 5 weeks for summer break, and we also take a break from Thanksgiving through New Years. I got this idea from Dawn Garrett, who blogs as LadyDusk, who calls this long winter break their Yuletide Session. Setting up our school year in this way allows us a good amount of rest times throughout the year in which we can enjoy the weather when it is good and enjoy the holidays without the added stress of trying to push through schoolwork. It also gives me time to plan when it is cold and dreary outside instead of when it is prime outdoor playtime in the summer.

This year, however, we do have the added problem of being in the middle of a move that is not on a schedule. We had planned on going ahead with school and just stopping when the actual moving date got near, but once we were a few weeks into our summer school session, it was clear that this was not going well. Being in transition for a long period of time has taken its toll on all of us, and we just needed to back off from the “we have to do this!” mindset and focus on relationships for a while. Our winter break might get shortened, but that is ok. We are never really “behind” because we home educate, and we are learning every day, even if it does not involve sitting at a table and doing math worksheets!

How about you? What sort of schedule do you use for your homeschool year? What do you do when “life happens” and your schedule needs to change? Leave me a comment below!

This post is part of the Homeschool Nook Link-up Party.

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

The Reading Report, Vol. 2

Welcome to Volume 2 of “The Reading Report!” I am so glad to have you here to discuss books and reading with me! In Volume 1 I listed all the books I have read over the past year or so, but now I am ready to write about my current reads. So fix your favorite beverage, pull up a chair and let’s chat about books, shall we?

What I am currently reading. . .

First up, because it is the book I was reading most recently, is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I started this one to participate in a discussion group on the AmblesideOnline Forums, and it has been really helpful to read along with other people. We are reading it very slowly, just one “book” every month, which is good because it is pretty meaty. At first I had a hard time keeping all the characters and their relationships to each other straight, but now that we are halfway through, I feel a lot more comfortable with all that. I am still trying to figure out how I feel about this book. I like it, but not in the same way I like, say, Pride and Prejudice. The Brothers Karamazov is the first Russian novel I have read, and the pacing and structure is very different from my usual reading. I am finding that I do not always understand the deeper themes and ideas that are being developed in the conversations alongside the plot, but I decided that for my first reading, I don’t need to worry about that. I am just trying to enjoy the ride and see it through to the end, which should not be too hard since I really am curious to find out what happens to the various characters!

The other fiction I am actually really reading right now is Brideshead RevisitedThis is another read inspired by a group discussion, this time on the Close Reads podcast from CiRCE. I find it interesting that this is one of several books I have read this year that are either during or shortly after World War 1. This was a time period I have virtually no knowledge of, but reading fiction from that era of history has given me a desire to know more. The prose in Brideshead Revisited is truly some of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. Waugh is a master wordsmith. I have also really benefited from the podcast discussion as it has helped bring out a lot of ideas I would have otherwise missed because I am so new to the concept of reading closely.

In non-fiction, which is usually my weak spot, I am dipping into three different parenting books right now, all of which I have enjoyed and gleaned wisdom from thus far: Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson, Grase-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel, and Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. I will write in more detail about each of these later when I have gotten closer to finishing them!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

I actually FINISHED a whole book! And in just one short week, too! It has been a while since I read through something that quickly. I am on the launch team for a brand new book called More Than Just Making It by blogger Erin Odum of The Humbled Homemaker. I will have a post dedicated to my book summary and review, but suffice to say that it was an excellent read! Part memoire, part practical tips on how to go from financial frustration to financial freedom. If you are at all interested in getting the book, I highly recommend you check out the preorder bonuses because they are amazing!

What’s on the back burner. . .

So, I sometimes have a problem with a little “start-itis” in which I begin reading too many books at a time. Some of the books I was gung-ho to start in the winter and spring have had to take a back seat. I fully intend to read them in the very near future, but for now I just don’t have the bandwidth for them. Back burner books, in no particular order, are: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (I was mostly listening to this on audio, but probably need to switch to print because I was tuning it out too easily); Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (again listening on audio); Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (another audio book I haven’t had time for); The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain; and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.

I was considering sharing a bit of my “To Be Read” list, but I think this volume is quite long enough already! What are you reading right now? Have you finished any great books lately? I wouldn’t mind adding a few more titles to my own wishlist! 😉

Open Hands: Releasing Control of What Is Not My Own

We had a house showing today. I am not sure how many we have had now, but every time it stresses me out so much. Today was no different. I cleaned most everything yesterday because I knew we would be out of the house this morning for prior commitments and would only have time and energy for vacuuming and final tidying in the afternoon. Still, the whole day I was on edge. I snapped at the kids for stupid little things. I felt discouraged and frustrated. I complained to God about how long this process is taking and grumbled about all the hard things that have happened to us during our time here. When it was finally time to clean up before leaving the house for the showing, I was super tense, worrying that everything might not be just perfect enough and that the people coming would not be impressed and not want to buy the house. And it would be my fault for not cleaning enough, for not taking good enough care of the house or the yard.

That is when it hit me. I was taking sole responsibility for selling this house upon myself. Forget the fact that God gave my husband his new job without any help from me. Forget the fact that He has provided everything we have needed up to this point, again without my help. Sure, I keep praying for Him to help us sell and move and all. But then when it is time for me trust Him to work, I take it all on myself. And that makes me a very nasty person to be around. And I am pretty sure it doesn’t do a single lick of good for the house, actually! That stung, to realize that I have been so faithless and allowing that worry to control me to the point of even taking it out on my kids.

But even in the midst of conviction, I felt a sense of relief. I do not have to sell this house. I do not have to clean every speck of dust off the floor in order for God to bring us a buyer. I do not have to stress about the house having the perfect lighting and temperature set for a showing. Those things might help, but God does not need me to do them in order to sell this house. It is not ours anyway, not really. He has given us at a resource for a time, and now we are releasing it fully back to Him to use for a different purpose. What if I let go completely and let Him work as only He can? Yes, I do still have to do my job. But I don’t have to hold tightly to control every detail. I do not have to sacrifice my relationship with my children over this. I can hold loosely to all things because my Father is caring for me.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

So from this point forward, I am making an effort to release control of the sale of this house and all the details that go with that. I am going to prioritize spending quality time with my family, making heart connections and memories with my children. I am committing to open my hands to release that which is not mine to control and to accept that which God has already given me. And I am thankful that tomorrow is a fresh new day. . . And nobody is coming to look at the house, so I will not be cleaning. Well, maybe I will at least do the dishes. 😉

This post is part of the Grace & Truth link-up at Arabahjoy.com.