Simplifying

When I started homeschooling we lived in a two-bedroom apartment with very little space to have a bunch of clutter or homeschooling “necessities.” We simply had one small shelf and a kitchen table, along with our normal bookshelf. We had just moved to this apartment on a minimalist whim, and we were enjoying the stress-free living — but it was short lived.

Our family expanded and so our living space had to expand. We moved to a three-bedroom apartment with a bigger living room and a separate dining room. This also allowed us to use one room as the homeschool room. With that extra space came extra stuff. Our next year I had my oldest in second grade and my middle child was in “tot” school. So, I had to buy a bunch of manipulatives, workbooks, supplies, curriculum, and so on. I was soon outgrowing our extra space.

When we had baby #3, we ended up having so much stuff in our bigger apartment that we were getting quite tired of the clutter. We decided it was time to buy our own home. Huge step for us. Three kids, two adults, and one dog simply needed more room. So we went to a four-bedroom, 2.5-bath, two living-rooms, eat-in-kitchen, dining room, and full-basement home. We have enjoyed some of the space. The major downfall is the backyard is very tiny. I have found ways that, as a suburban family, we get nature study in (as it is SO important — it’s where you find God), but it has been very trying with kids who love nature.

We loved the large basement, and that is where we decided to have our homeschool room. I got it all set up. I had bookshelves, mounted wall desks, computer table, shelves for supplies, decorations, pocket chart set-up, and a carpet time area. It was glorious. It looked like a SCHOOL room. Surely we would use it!

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Um, yeah…right. We soon realized that we felt like we were in a dungeon. Even though it was a finished basement, it didn’t have windows on the side where we had set up. We realized that we LOVED being able to see outside while doing work, having natural light, and we enjoyed sitting on our couch while reading. We didn’t seem to get much done in that setting at all. Don’t get me wrong, God blessed us, but I feel we were already blessed before and just didn’t realize it.

“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all.”
~John Holt

So what was I to do? I had begged and pleaded for this extra space. I felt horrible that I wasn’t utilizing it! I finally told my husband that I was moving the schooling stuff upstairs and packing up the whole basement. So, I packed up the basement and moved all of our stuff to one tiny closet, one book holder, and one nine-cube shelf.

 

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It was simple, and we loved it! Now we get to sit in the comfort of our couch, wrapped in blankets, reading our books. My daughter will take her workbooks up to her bedroom for her quiet space, and simply work right from her bed. She loves it.20151118_101822

My middle daughter will work on sticker books or read with me. That’s it. She is learning her ABC’s but we have realized she is simply not ready for full academia. Some days she will ask for some papers to work on, but other days she doesn’t want to do anything. She is only four. We go to the library, and they pick out whatever books they want. She picked out Asian cats (domestic) and zookeepers. This last time it was an insect book. I will continue to let her lead.

We have other changes coming. We feel God is calling us out of the city. We just bought our house a bit over a year ago, yet we are feeling fully led to sell. We have always planned on country living. We want to be self-sustainable. Our kids love the country, we love the country, and even our dog loves the country. We knew we were going to retire in a specific area, and now we feel God is calling us there sooner. And, I am OK with that.

“The home is the first and most effective place to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self control, the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
~David O. McKay

Finding Our Niche

I tend to be a relaxed homeschooling mama. I like to cuddle and play, and I don’t feel hurried to push full-blown academia on my kids. I told myself before, since this is only our second year homeschooling, that I was going to be more relaxed and take Dr. Moore’s approach rather than trying to race the public school system. But, I forgot his words and my own advice! I tried being a strict homeschooler whose focus was on getting through it instead of learning through it.

In the beginning of the year I planned our days, weeks, months, and year so full of extras, and I surely thought it was going to be easy to stay on task. And for some reason, I thought we could do it all and follow a strict schedule (with a strong-willed preschooler and a very curious toddler). I wanted to keep my 8.5-year-old busy, and I originally didn’t want to push academics on my 4-year-old, but she asked for it, so I obliged. So, on to planning I went, and this is what I came up with:

Our full-on daily schedules would look something like this …

Hailey: Bible and breakfast, history, math, English, spelling, lunch break, reading, science, read aloud, art, health, and Spanish (ladder 3 on alternating days). Then there is free time, craft time, any projects to fill in for science and history, etc. Oh, I forgot book club on Tuesday and art group on Thursday!

Autumn: Bible and breakfast, workbook, numbers, alphabet project, lunch break, story time, and then a craft.

Levi: play, climb on the girls, manipulatives, PlayDoh, lunch break, nap, and climb on stuff and tear apart the house while mommy is focused on the girls.

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In the beginning of our school year, I was on task. I was pushing us. Everything had to be in order. Then my youngest (toddler) would get into stuff, climb on the girls, scream, throw tantrums, etc., and we would get side-tracked. Then my 4-year-old would decide she didn’t want to do what I had planned out, or have a meltdown herself. All the while my 8.5-year-old was distracted by her surroundings or doodling. I think I had meltdowns from at least one, if not more, of the kids every day …

I realized that this wasn’t working for us … again. So, I let go of my wonderful planner that I had taken so long to research and choose. I put it away. I haven’t looked at it in a month or so, minus the few times I had to look at the calendar. We also have a lot of things going on in our family and huge decisions being made, and it has been adding extra work and stress. So, with all of this, I laid off A LOT on academia.

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I recrafted our schedules on a dry erase board — nothing is permanent on that! Our schedules are now a little less crowded and divided up. Now they look like this, though they’re flexible (if we don’t get to it, we pick it up either the next day or the next time it’s scheduled) …

Hailey: Everyday — Bible, reading, history; Monday — English, spelling, math; Tuesday — science, Spanish, health; Wednesday — art, projects, music; Thursday — spelling, math, English; Friday: science project. These are not set in permanent marker. We have even taken days off from academics and focused on other things. This has helped Hailey tremendously with her anxiety and sensory issues. It looks like a lot written down but we zip right through it, and if I see that she is feeling overloaded, we stop for the day.

Autumn: Everyday — Bible, story time, craft, and whatever academic she chooses (pattern blocks, counting bears, numbers, alphabet). But, I let her decided. No planning for her. We do have Heart of Dakota for our pre-K curriculum, so we follow their Bible songs, stories, and rhymes (little songs to go with the letter and Bible character of the week). I have decided to start working on character traits with her, along with Bible, more than anything else. She simply is not ready for it.

Levi: He is only 20 months so he plays with pattern beads, foam blocks, PlayDoh, and button art. He also enjoys the Bible story and story time. 20150921_094928

Since we relaxed a bit on the schedule, I have noticed a huge difference in our stress levels, and I can tell we found our niche.

Our future is uncertain right now as we are in the middle of some huge changes (that I believe will better our family), but I hope that these changes bring us closer to God in every aspect of our life. My kids are nature lovers, and I think we’ll be getting more of that soon. So, I know that our academia will be more focused on God’s creation in the future, and I cannot wait to share with everyone!

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“[Homeschooling] recipe for genius: More of family and less of school, more of parents and less of peers, more creative freedom and less formal lessons,” School Can Wait, by Raymond S. Moore.

Worship Through Art

What does one write about when simply nothing exciting has happened recently? We have been keeping pretty busy with church activities, school, house projects, soccer, sickness, and anything else that’s been thrown at us. There are a lot of other things we do too, such as grocery shopping, field trips, library visits, and much more. We are in our busy season, and it has been quite interesting to see how we will fit each day’s things all in that one day. It’s tiring.

However, with all this busyness I find myself spending more time with God than I have in a while, even during our “off” season. You see, I have been in a mood — no, not just a mood, more of a dry spell. I was not using my “extra” time to learn anything extra … just doing the normal Bible reading or doing bits and pieces at a time. Don’t get me wrong; I was studying, but I was feeling a bit dry.

12042610_10207717976927984_7722690825084470335_nSo, I was thrown into a Facebook group call Journaling Bible Community. I found revival. I love art, journaling, and spending time in the Word, so putting them all together made sense. Well, I have before, but in a separate journal and nothing like this! So, what is Bible journaling? Well, you see there are so many wonderful people whose God-given talent is art (some of us are not so good but we enjoy it anyway). They use this as their way of studying the Bible, and it is considered worship through art.

I love it!!! Not only do I get to read scripture, I use the SOAP method, pray, and let the Holy spirit guide me on what my I should put on that page for that certain scripture.

So you see I am reading and creating, which helps people like me remember the text that was read. Sometimes its just lettering, writing and drawing, or just drawing to illustrate what you got out the text. There are so many inspiring artists out there that can help you come up with something, or you can go on your first gut feeling. (I feel like that is God saying, “This is what you should do.”) You can even get a journaling Bible that has art work in it for you to color if 12027584_10207684957902529_5246343504436110362_nyou don’t feel like an artsy kind of person.

So, where do you begin? First, many people prefer to get a journaling bible specifically made for this, but others use a regular Bible or a journal. I had an Bible given to me that was already tattered and old, given to me in that condition. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t feel right about throwing it away or recycling it; that felt like I was defacing it or something. I had this Bible on my shelf and it was about forgotten. Then one night I was thinking about what I was going to use for journaling — a pad of paper, a journal, or try to save up the money to buy a new journaling Bible. That old bible popped in my head! I gave it a new life!!! It has become more than just an old tattered Bible. I covered it to make it look pretty, and the pages are coming to life once again!

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So, what happens when you fill your Bible? Save it as a keepsake! Some people even change their Bibles on a regular basis. I do plan on getting a journaling Bible for the New Year, and this one will be put away and given to my children. Or, if it’s not filled up, I will let my daughter finish it. She loves art and drawing so it will be fun for her too!

Below are some links for you to check out that are all about Bible journaling. I hope this will spring up something creative in you!

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http://www.illustratedfaith.com/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/675075232583189/
https://www.facebook.com/13Prayers?fref=ts
http://13prayers.com/ https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=journaling+bible

Farm Freedom

Over Labor Day weekend my family and I spent our last fun weekend at my in-laws’ farm, as they are retiring and are in the process of selling. It was a bit sad for us, as you can imagine, yet wonderful. It is our one place we frequent to get a break from the suburban life and space to run free in nature.

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It has been a major part of my husband’s childhood and that of my children. Not only do they get to see Grandma and Grandpa, but they get to run free, ride on tractors, ride in combines, ride quads, get dirty, and enjoy fresh air.

This trip was quite awesome, just spending time with each other without too much hustle and bustle. I spent one morning stretching outside in the morning light while meditating on God’s word. The verses I meditated on were Philippians 4:8, Psalm 19:14, Isaiah 40:31, Romans 5:13 and my favorite from John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world.”

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The kids enjoyed playing in the dirt and rocks with the old trucks and tractors. We all enjoyed riding our 3- and 4-wheelers and Grandpa’s tractors. We feel so connected when we are not dealing with busyness of city/suburban life. It’s refreshing and freeing.

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While we were there we found this little guy.

Pictured above is a leopard frog with absolutely stunning markings. Here is a bit about them from National Geographic:  They generally live near ponds and marshes, but will often venture into well-covered grasslands as well, earning them their other common name, the meadow frog. Leopard frogs will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. They sit still and wait for prey to happen by, and then pounce with their powerful legs. They eat beetles, ants, flies, worms, smaller frogs, including their own species, and even birds, and garter snakes (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/northern-leopard-frog/#).

We found many creatures there in the country, along with picking cantaloupe out the patch and inspecting the garden. We are surely going to miss it!

How about you? Do you have a quiet place to escape suburban areas (if applicable)? Have you ever just sat outside and looked to the sky and intentionally meditated on the Word? Talked to God? Breathed in the fresh air and just thought “Wow, God”? That is what I got out of our time up there.

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It made me realize how important this is for Christian families. We need to be out in the open spaces and enjoying God’s creation. He placed us in a garden for a reason. I feel rejuvenated and so does my family!

Our goal as a family is to one day relocate to the country, where we can enjoy each other and God’s creation, to remove ourselves from the city and be self sustaining. I cannot wait!

Finding Nature in the Suburbs

Nature is full of God. It’s His art work, His masterpiece. We should surround ourselves in His creation daily. It is where I feel most connected to Him and His wonders. But, I don’t get that daily exposure, and neither do my kids, sadly. However, we make a point to go outside and explore in any way we can. You’d be surprised to what you can find when you look close enough!

“How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number — living things both large and small,” Psalm 104:24-25.

So we went on an adventure around our very small yard. We discovered SO many cicada shells. You know, those annoying loud insects that drive you crazy yet put you in a state of calmness because that “noise” is a reminder that it’s summer?! We have grown affection towards these neat, yet ugly, intriguing bugs!

They remind me a lot of God’s Word:           20150816_192505[1]

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…,” 2 Corinthians 3:18.

 

You see, we can take off that old ugly shell that we hide in, and become a new creature. I know this normally goes with the butterfly, but as you see in the verse above, it states “from one degree of glory to another.” I look at these weird insects a bit differently. They have a very dark beginning. They live underground for 13 to 17 years! IN THE DARK … NO LIGHT! They then mysteriously know when it’s time to be an adult and “grow up,” thus sending them into their journey upwards out of the darkness. Once they are out of darkness they begin to transform into a completely new creature. And, what amazes me is that they can fit into that first “mold,” because once they start to transform they are bursting at the seams!

20150816_193234[1]It’s kind of like us: A lot of us start off in a dark area in our life when we first come to know God. Once we learn of that new life we are inherited, we start bursting at the seams and become new creatures ourselves, in our own degree of glory.

Cicadas are actually neat little creatures! Here are some awesome facts we learned as we watched this little guy shed his outer-self:

  1. The cicadas make their own unique sounds because they have tymbals (drum-like organs found in their abdomen) and their abdomens are hollow, acting as a soundbox.
  2. Cicadas start as small eggs deposited in the bark of a tree or limb (or similar object).
  3. Once the cicada hatches it will feed on tree juices, and then drop down and find its way under ground to feed on tree roots.
  4. After two to 17 years underground, the cicada emerges as a nymph.
  5. They then start to shed their exoskeleton.
  6. Free of their old skin, their wings will inflate with fluid and their adult skin will harden. Once their new wings and body are ready, they can begin their brief adult life.
  7. There are more than 190 varieties (including species & subspecies) of cicadas in 20150816_195424[1]North America, and more than 3,390 varieties of cicadas around the world. Cicadas exist on every continent but Antarctica.
  8. The world’s largest species of cicada is the Megapomponia imperatoria, which is native to Malaysia. The largest species of the Americas is Quesada gigas, aka Giant Cicada.

When I hear the cicada song, I no longer think, “Man, those things are so annoying and loud!” Instead, I will think of the beauty that we got to witness as the nymph transformed into an adult cicada; I will remember how my kids were in awe watching as that big insect came out of such a small exoskeleton; I will remember the sound, for it is the sound of summer; and I will remember God’s Word — we are all transformed into our own degree of glory.

Nature, no matter how small, makes a great impact on each one of us. This school year, cease every opportunity you can to be out in God’s masterpiece.

To read more about these unique creatures, check out http://www.cicadamania.com/.