Time With Jesus

The new year is coming. I have friends who make resolutions and plans to lose weight, exercise, eat better, work harder, get a new job, or change their life. Ugh. I do not make resolutions. I break those within minutes of midnight. I do, however, make goals — goals to be a better person than I was the year before. Yes, even goals to lose weight, eat better, and exercise. But, my most important goal is to continue my walk with Jesus and to be closer to God. While these general goals never change, this year I want to make it with intent. And honestly, this came up because I have let my personal worship time suffer.

The devotional book is 5 Minutes with Jesus by Sheila Walsh. It literally takes five minutes to read that days devotion.

One Sabbath in September I was wearing multiple hats at church. I was worship coordinator, the six-minute social volunteer (a fellowship time right after the service), and I even stopped in my Juniors class (for about a minute). From the time I got to church until I left that afternoon, I focused on the details: who was moving this, who was playing here, who needed mics, getting the attendance count, and setting up juice and crackers. And, you know what? By the time I walked into my house after church, I had walked 5000 steps (approx. 2.5 miles) – AT CHURCH!

I did a lot, but do you know what I didn’t do? Listen to the sermon. Oh, I caught a few minutes of it, but I didn’t get much nourishment that morning. I didn’t even get a chance to open my Bible, something I find myself saying a lot throughout my week. And, I crave that relationship with my best friend, Jesus! I want it. I need it. I long for the time and the energy, to be honest, to fellowship with Jesus. I must find time to spend in the Word and in prayer.

Taken Aug. 5, 2017. From left to right: Me, Alex – my newly married son, Geovana – my new daughter-in-law, Angela (21), Tim – my husband, Aaron (17), Adam (15).

Like all of you, my life is busy. My oldest got married this last summer, but I still have three kids at home. Angela, 21, has a profound developmental delay and medical issues. Sadly, this means she is a toddler in mind and an adult in body. So, her care is 24/7/365. Sometimes balancing her needs and the needs of the rest of the family is difficult. My two youngest boys are 15 and 17, and of course I am still homeschooling. Between their homeschooling, volunteer work, youth group participation, and Boy Scouts — and since neither one drives yet — these are also my things to deal with. Every Friday right now I teach two classes at our local faith-based homeschool co-op to kids ages 12-18. I have even started volunteering at the local church-school every Tuesday morning to help in the library. Then there are chores, bills, shopping, etc. You get the idea.

OH! I forgot one – I am a student. I am back in college myself now and maintaining a 3.7 GPA. And, I am supposed to find time to exercise, eat right, cook healthier meals, spend time with my husband, and be with friends from time to time.

Yes, we have seasons in life where we are busier than others, but Satan is always there with an excuse we can conveniently use. When all four of my kids were little, I had the excuse that I was too busy with them. As they have gotten older, I have had new reasons to not focus on that most important relationship. I tell myself I am too busy, I don’t have time, that my life is too full.

We cannot be lights in this world (Matt 5:14) if we don’t understand the true “light” we have been given. How can we truly love what we don’t know? The Word is our greatest defense, our deepest joy, and our most sincere love.

His Word is our food — our spiritual food, yes, but it is as necessary to us as breathing. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” So, if we are not spending time reading His Word, learning His character, finding that trust, finding that spiritual renewal – how can we KNOW Jesus? Because, as John goes on to say in verses 2-5, “He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” The Word is Jesus, Jesus is the Word.

So, how do we find time in our schedules to meet with God. Well … just that way — we schedule a meeting with God. I have a friend who gets up early every morning to spend time in the Word and with Jesus before she goes to the gym and then goes to work. Another friend says to Jesus every day, “Let’s do lunch.” I know a couple that studies and prays together in the evenings, after they have put the kids to bed.

Another friend who homeschools her seven children and helps her husband with their ministry, recently told me she felt like she was drowning. She was struggling in her personal worship life. After some prayer and talking to a friend, she decided to start getting up at 4:30 every morning. Yes, I said morning, now pick up your jaw! She takes that time every morning and studies and prays. And, you know what? God BLESSES that time. She has the energy to teach, play with, and enjoy her kids and husband all day long every single day, because she chooses to get up and spend that time with Him.

If you just cannot find 15 minutes or more in one block, that’s OK. Spread it out. Even five minutes while in the bathroom (yes, I hide there too) can influence the rest of our day. Read a Bible verse while the eggs cook or while sitting in the car waiting for a kid. Consider listening to the Bible; find an app that will read it to you while you are vacuuming or resting. Take advantage of nap time, PE, or other time when the kids do not need direct supervision, and read a page from a devotional. And, don’t forget to pray throughout your day while doing the dishes, driving, or dusting. Do what you must to get that few minutes in the Word and with our Savior; He will bless those minutes. And once you start, you will find you have more time than you thought.

Jesus desires that relationship with us as much as we do with Him. There is a craving in each of us, a hole in our hearts, a hole that can only be filled by Jesus. He went to the cross with intent — intent to save us. We can set aside time in our lives with purpose and intent to spend with Him.

Three Steps to Organize Your Homeschool

Hanging File Folders

Organization is of utmost importance when homeschooling. In fact, getting organized for the school year will help both the child and the parent stay on task better. If you find yourself or your child getting frustrated, it may be because you need to organize a little better. As a mom, caregiver, wife, and entrepreneur, I have to stay ahead in order to make sure that schooling is prioritized in our home. Here are three tips that help me and my family stay on track the most.

Weekly Folders

Before the school year started I planned out the first semester. Early on, I realized that I didn’t want my business to affect information and lessons my children were taught. I also knew that I would have a lot on my plate that could change at any moment. Therefore, I went through my lesson plans and printed everything that I could, related to the subjects I planned to teach during the entire semester. I separated each folder by week. For instance our first semester is weeks 1-18. The hanging file folder system gives my kids an opportunity to go to their folder and then choose which assignments they will complete first.

Weekly folders for homeschool organization

Daily Folders

After my daughter’s choose their assignments, they put them in daily folders. The daily folders help provide more autonomy. Monday through Thursday they can choose their morning work, and then on Thursday I look at what has or has not been completed yet.

The beauty of this method is that my kids feel like they have a choice regarding what they study. It also helps prevent them from having to wait for me to explain everything daily. In the mornings after we have devotion, they can get started on their folder work on their own. Then, after an hour or so, I teach a new lesson or help explain information that they need help with. In addition, the folder work is a great addition for our portfolio and helps reinforce different lessons.

An Area for Completed Work

Having a completed work area is hugely important in my home, mainly because our state requires us to keep a school portfolio for our children/students. The completed work area helps my kids know exactly where to put their work so I can grade it in a timely manner. It also helps them be more responsible with their own papers, and keeps papers from getting lost around the house.

After four years of homeschooling, this is the system that has worked best for me and my two daughters. 1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” When you’re homeschooling life can be overwhelming at times, so finding a way to stay organized can help keep the entire family in a better mood. While all three may not work for your family, the cool thing about homeschooling is that you have the freedom to tweak and use the tips that work for you, and ignore those that don’t.

Experiential Learning

Growing up I remember hands-on learning as something that was incredibly valuable to me.  I liked to be active, on the go and busy. Now as a parent I am seeing the value in slowing down, and can truly appreciate the effort my parents went to when taking us out and about!

In the very early stages of schooling still with our preschooler, we are looking for ways to engage our child in learning while still sparking her need for play and imagination.  Over the summer she participated in three days of “Critter Camp” at the local nature center; she continues to explore and learn more about nature and asks to take hikes, read nature books, and visit outdoor learning spaces. Our library hosted a speaker who is a homeschool senior and advocate for honeybee education, preservation, and hobbyist beekeeping. They had hands-on models of bees, large posters of their environment and needs, as well as how we need them for our eco-system, and they answered questions about bees. Due to this learning opportunity, potentially in the spring we will add a beehive to our little homestead.

Recently another nature center in our area sponsored a “Meet the Raptor” program and specifically had a session for younger children.

Rachel the Peregrine falcon and Gonzo the turkey vulture were the guests of honor. I think this visit was perhaps more exciting for Daddy than anyone else. Although our shy preschooler didn’t ask questions, she watched and listened intently. After we left she began to process the experience and ask more about raptors.

As we try to implement experiences and hands-on learning, I am hopeful that it leads to organic growth of interests in our children. After taking our oldest to baby and parent music classes since she was an infant, she has a love of music and desire to learn how to play, sing, and enjoy music in our daily lives. I am curious to see what other types of adventures we can take.

I would love suggestions from others on what their early learners enjoy doing that is experiential and hands-on.

My Rationale for Homeschooling

I have sometimes been asked out of curiosity, sometimes out of frustration, “How long do you intend to homeschool?” My children are 11 and 7, and we have been homeschooling since they were 4 years old and 11 months old.

Homeschooling is not always the most attractive option or the most financially viable; however, it is the only option for our family.

I never forget the evening I picked the children up from nursery, and my son said, “Mom, why did you take so long?” Traffic was especially heavy that day, and I was the last parent to arrive.

I decided to homeschool before I knew who I would marry or if I would be able to have children. Therefore, my son’s question hit a painful place. That night I prayed for a way, and the next day it was provided. I could work freelance in social work education while homeschooling. It has not been easy, but we have never regretted our decision.

To answer the question “how long will you homeschool,” I have many reasons. I will share some of my rationale for homeschooling here.

  1. I get to spend all day with my children every day — not the usual hour in the morning and hour before bedtime. I value this time. We grow together and learn to understand each other.
  2. I get to offer one-to-one support to the ones that need focused attention in particular areas.
  3. I get to foster my children’s interest and provide an environment where they can excel at the things they are naturally good at.
  4. We get to explore gifts and talents, and negotiate ways to develop them.
  5. My values that are important get taught. A strong sense of values grounds them in the sense of identity and helps them understand and appreciate who they are.
  6. Character is important, and we focus on helping the children develop Christ-like characters that will be beneficial here and in the world to come.
  7. I get to listen unhurriedly to their joys and sorrows, and help teach them problem-solving skills in a safe environment.
  8. My children learn life skills at an early age. I have seen the importance of this in adults, and have worked with hundreds who lack necessary skills with which to navigate life.
  9. I love seeing the confidence with which my children approach life. Research shows that healthy attachment is needed as it gives children a secure place from which to explore the world. Homeschooling lends itself well to developing a stable relationship with the children.
  10. We learn to grow and have fun together.

Perhaps some of these things could be accomplished while working full time, but I prefer the opportunity to give them the chance to learn and grow at their pace while developing their gifts and talents.

Breaking Tradition (in a Nontraditional Way)

As most of the northern hemisphere is under a blanket of cold, white snow, the rest of us celebrate this time of year in the warmth of the sun. I wish a Merry Christmas to everyone reading this, no matter what part of the world you are in. This time of year, many of our homeschooling families are visiting with relatives and friends, whether that involves traveling or staying near home.

I dread writing articles around holidays, because they always seem so cliché to me. Today, I’m going to break tradition and write about something completely off-topic with Christmas.

Fun Fact: Jesus was not born this day, but did you know the renowned mathematician and scientist, Isaac Newton, was born this day in 1642?

Can you imagine science or math without Isaac Newton? He is recognized for his works, such as Newton’s laws of motion, universal gravitation, and his description of gravity. He changed how scientists view the solar system and the shape of the earth, developed the theory of color, and built the first telescope!

Just look at the amazing telescopes we have now, such as the Hubble Space telescope, launched into space by NASA in 1990. This telescope is the size of a large school bus, weighs as much as two adult elephants, and travels around Earth approximately five miles per second! This telescope has found hundreds of galaxies, discovered moons around planets, watched stars being born and die, and much more. (If you would like to view the Hubble, follow this link.) My favorite star pattern, or constellation, is Orion. This is because the constellation is mentioned a few times in the Bible, it has a unique and easily recognizable pattern, and has quite a powerful significance in the coming of Jesus! First, a few scriptures to share regarding Orion:

Job 9:9 – Who makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south?
Job 38:31 – Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?
Amos 5:8 – He who made the Pleiades and Orion and changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens the day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is His name.
Isaiah 13:10 – For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.

It’s amazing that even in scripture, the constellations and solar system remind us of God’s glory and incredible creative power! Not only that, but through Ellen G. White we have an incredible picture of just how special this constellation is: “Dark, heavy clouds came up and clashed against each other. The clouds parted and rolled back; then we could look up through the open space in Orion, where God’s voice came from. Heaven will come down through that ‘open space,” adapted from Early Writings, p. 42. I encourage you to visit this link to read more of this vision she writes of — Orion.

Also, if you have children of Pathfinder ages (10-16), I really suggest earning the Stars honor! It’s super fun and a great thing to include in their studies of science.

God is amazing. He chose to share His wonderful creation with us, His beautiful, created children. I am honestly overwhelmed in the splendor we get to witness as a result of people He has given the gift of discovery to, such as Isaac Newton. Through these beautiful, scientific solar discoveries, and with the message from His messengers, we can truly be looking for His coming in a nontraditional way!

My prayer is that, through science, we gain a deeper insight to the wonder that is our God. Thank you for reading along. Whatever your plans are for the day, enjoy!

p.s. For a fun family activity, try making a solar scene with paints, poster board, and various sized lids/bowls/cups. Just click on these YouTube links: Galaxy, Planets. (Don’t forget to use safety gear where needed, especially if you are going to use spray paint!) I seriously had so much fun with this project during a Pathfinder leader convention! 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton

https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-the-hubble-space-telecope-k4.html

http://www.whiteestate.org/vez/jul08/did%20you%20know.htm

http://www.pathfindersonline.org/honors/nature/186-stars