Building Castle Walls: And Keeping Enemies Out

I have been thinking a lot about castles.

I am what some call Generation X (some toss me in with Millennials). I grew up with Disney princesses before they were called “Disney Princesses,” Ninja Turtles before TMNT, and Legos that didn’t come with instructions. Castles were for magical maidens, stories, and cartoons; movies were filled with brave heroines; and no matter how deep the moat or how thick the walls, the threat was never really a threat. Tom and Jerry never really hurt each other, and that anvil never permanently stopped that Wile E. Coyote.

Since I’m grown and have a world of my own and a castle of my own (my house), this juvenile idea of the beautiful world and all the beautiful people in it has been changed a bit. My rose-colored glasses have come off, and I see now why castles have moats — why they have draw-bridges, and walls made of thick stone.

In the Bible you can find a similar structure — a castle fit for a King — Solomon’s temple. Not only did Solomon build the temple to certain specifications, he dedicated it to God. Some culture and Bible scholars theorize that the outer walls of the temple were as thick as a man’s body is long. That is some intense security. The walls were high and thick, the space dedicated to God Himself. And the man who built the temple? Solomon built the temple that his father, David, had planned, because David was a man of war, and God wanted a man of peace to build his temple (1 Chronicles 22:8). It doesn’t matter how high the walls are, how well-constructed, or how well-guarded. If we don’t have a heart of peace, can we build a peaceful castle? Can it keep the war out?

Who Builds Your Castle?

God has given us a special job as parents. We are to raise these kiddos with compassion, love, discipline, and God’s guidance. There’s an invisible umbrella image always in my mind: God’s the fabric that keeps the wind and rain off, my husband is the stick that is constantly holding that fabric up, and me and the kids are safely underneath (and the kids are hiding under my coat and warm in my embrace). See it? Our castle is like this — with Christ as the cornerstone. You can’t just throw wood and nails at the foundation and make a house. You have to carefully place joists, measure angles, and sand down edges. You have to have a vision and a plan in place. Don’t let outside influences build your castle, plan your homeschool program, or replace the education you envision for your family.

Who Is Allowed In?

As homeschoolers, we love programs — Adventurers, Pathfinders, Sabbath School, co-op, conservation programs, summer camps, and more. Most of these programs have leaders and staffers that have thorough background checks and training programs, but that doesn’t mean we can be absent. Be involved! Meet the leaders, the staff. Volunteer! Host an outing or get-together. Get to know who your kids know, and make sure it’s a good fit. If you try out church school extra curricular groups, children’s ministry clubs, or homeschool co-op groups, and it just doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to go. If there isn’t a group for you, start your own! Many of us are picky about the electronics we use (movies, games, apps), but we forget the doors and windows (the guests we allow in), or vice versa. Be careful to guard your whole castle.

Castle Upkeep

Though a house is built, and walls, windows, and doors keep the outside world out, someone has to take care of it on the inside. Windows can become broken. Doors can become damaged and let cold air seep inside. Walls can deteriorate. Garbage can pile up. The air can become dusky. Bacteria can grow, and health issues can crop up. It doesn’t matter who builds our castle, or who we let in or out if we don’t maintain the inside. THIS is a problem in our house. We need a chore chart — a routine! We need all hands on deck! STAT! I think many homeschool families probably have this problem too. It’s close quarters, it’s 24/7, and dishes, laundry, and baths must be done.

Take Action: Evaluate the people and things in your life regularly. As often as you check the batteries in your smoke detector or complete your spring cleaning checklist, you should take a look at who and what is participating in your life.

Resolve to Read Scriptures in 2018

This year our family is going to focus on Jesus. That sounds crazy, right? We should always be focused on Jesus, but sometimes our focus is broad where it should be narrow.

It’s easy to tell our kids as we’re walking through the woods, “The tree has nuts because God made it that way.”

We can answer the questions, “Mom, why is the moon a full moon sometimes?” with blanket statements about God’s seven days of creation, but will I always be around to answer them? I hope so, but if I’m not, I want my boys to know where to find all the answers they need. The Bible.

The B-I-B-L-E, Yes, That’s the Book for Me!

The Bible is not merely ancient stories about redemption and Christian church heritage. Now that my oldest son is reading, he has the entire bunch excited about reading the Bible. This affords me countless opportunities to use the scriptures in our home.

Science

We are a country family through and through, and our boys love to play and get dirty. They are filled with questions about the world. The incessant why that tires us moms out midway through the day is what drives these kids, and I’m ready to take advantage. The moon is in the sky because God put it there, but there is a whole scientific system that God put together in doing so — time keeping, gravity, ocean tides, light, and more. Because God made everything on earth, we can use the Bible to help explain anything we see on earth. The kids love this.

Math

Math has been a struggle in our house, but since my son is so interested in reading the Bible, it is easy to turn a math lesson into something fun. First grade addition: we hate it, right?! When you read through the New Testament account of Jesus collecting disciples, addition isn’t so bad. Finding as many animals as possible, cutting them out, and adding them to a crude drawing of an ark can be fun, and can be a science, math, and art lesson!

Language

My son’s favorite thing is to find the red letters so that he can read Jesus’ words. Jesus’ words are red, but other systems of language like quotation marks, punctuations, and literary devices are used throughout the Bible. Poetry and prose are used. Even references are used when Jesus and angels, even Satan, quote prophets. Study parables and then let your kids write their own that teach the same lesson. Illustrate a story and combine art with language. The possibilities are endless.

Social Studies

When we’re cutting and hauling firewood, it is tiring. It can be cold. It can even be frustrating to think how easy people with central air and heat have it. For us, though, we can use it to teach a lesson. In Bible times they had to light a fire to cook, to warm bath water, to survive cold nights. The amount of work it took to bathe and to cook led to the large gatherings that took place in the Bible, like Passover meals, Sabbath meals, and even foot washings. Start a discussion about other cultures, and what the culture of Christianity used to look like. What did evangelism look like in the beginning of the church? What about church itself? Was there Sabbath School? What about other cultures today?

When you use the Bible as your textbook, it is possible to teach every subject. When you combine God’s Word with your own knowledge and experience, as well as everything you know about your kid, it can be the best lesson for everyone included. Give it a go. This year look to Jesus for supplementing your homeschooling lesson plan. We are.

Some of Our Resources

The Bible App for Kids

Kids’ Club Bible Lessons

Children’s Ministry Magazine

SDA Homeschool Families

13 Things to Do This Winter

As soon as the weather settles into winter, I can breathe a sigh of relief. According to the calendar (and sometimes nature), there are 13 weeks each in winter, spring, summer, and fall. I’m going to focus on winter because it’s my second favorite season, and because…here it comes!

Week 1: Short Stuff

The shortest day of the year, also the first day of winter (December 21) is a great day to talk about length. Everything on earth can be measured. Spend every day this week exploring one system of measurement (metric, imperial, liquid, weight, time, etc.). Waking up before the sun and marking times for sunrise and sunset can also be fun.

Week 2: Garland Games

In elementary school we used to have something called the Turkey Olympics the week of Thanksgiving, where the classes would compete in Olympic-style games that were all Thanksgiving related. While the family is together for the holidays, create some fun games and put the brains and bodies to use in a healthy competition — indoors and out!

Week 3: NEWsletter

It’s a new year, and so much happened in the last year that children can find it hard to keep up. Instead of holiday cards, consider writing a NEWsletter with your kids. Leave a section on each letter for your kids to write something in their own handwriting or to draw in a box. Send it to everyone you love.

Week 4: Snow and Ice

Even if you don’t live in an area that gets “winter weather,” it’s a great time to explore the water cycle. Go outside and make ice, or make it inside and watch it melt outside. Shoveling snow for family and friends to earn some money is a practical way for your kids to spend this week. Create an opportunity for ice to expand and bust (this is surprising to kids, even if they’ve read it in a book).

Week 5: Animals in Winter

What is hibernation? How do animals cope with the cold? Are there animals that change their eating/hunting habits during winter? What type of animals are in your neighborhood? This is a great time to visit a zoo or nature center.

Week 6: Winter Gardening

Visit the grocery store and show the kids the types of vegetables and plants that can grow in winter. Onions, beets, carrots, and cabbage are only some of the cold weather veggies that you can grow in winter. Find out why they grow in the cold. Start a garden, or plan one for next year.

Week 7: Art & Science

You don’t often see art and science combined, but this will be a week of fun! Dissect fruits and stamp with finger paint to compare shapes. Make homemade flarp or Oobleck, and then use food coloring and glitter to jazz it up however you’d like.

Week 8: Community Service

There is something that needs doing, and you’re going to do it! Before this week begins, ask the city office if there is a need. Many food banks will allow supervised children to volunteer. Animal shelters often ask for children to come in and pet the animals. There is a lot that one family can do for a community in one week.

Week 9: Stargaze

If you live within driving distance of a planetarium, this would be a great winter field trip. If not, this is the best time of year to view the stars. If you live in the city, drive out for a night in the country and enjoy an endless starry sky — maybe catch a glimpse of Mercury, Venus, and Mars while you’re at it.

Week 10: History and Commerce

Valentine’s Day happens because of a historical event. Do you know it? Maybe you don’t want to explain the gory details to your kids just yet, but there are many historical reasons that we have the things we have and do the things we do. Why do we have clocks in our houses? What did the first clock look like? Explore Valentine’s cards and how mail was sent in colonial days.

Week 11: Making Museums

Science fairs are big in the public school scene. It will be fun to build your own museum exhibit this week. Choose a theme, collect specimens, arrange a display, and go public! Maybe your church will let you display your exhibit in the fellowship hall. (Sample ideas: Waldenses, creation, science God’s way, etc.)

Week 12: Creative Cooking

During cold weather people like to eat hearty meals — comfort food. It’s a great time to utilize your crockpot. Most the time we don’t let our kids help us in the kitchen because of the hot surfaces and sharp utensils. When you cook in a crockpot, the kids have an opportunity to work with cold ingredients and still feel ownership when the meal is served.

Week 13: Spring Cleaning

Is cleaning really a homeschool activity? Yes! And, making a spring cleaning plan that includes family members, goals, rooms, and workdays is basically a math question waiting to be completed.

By the time you’re finished with this list, the weather will start to warm and the school year will be winding down to the last weeks. Keep up the good work!

Good luck to us both!

 

Practical Lessons: Working With Tiny Hands

Usually when the homeschool co-op semester begins, I choose classes that the kids will enjoy, classes that I’m too broke or bored to teach. Lego Art, Messy Munchkin Crafts, Edible Science, and Cupcake Decorating are some of my boys’ favorites. Since I’m trying to monopolize our school time this year, I am opting for more practical co-op classes this semester, classes that I can’t teach and that might help the kids after this year and beyond. These type of classes can be taught with YouTube videos and a few supplies as well.

American Sign Language (ASL)

I cannot teach my kids sign language because I don’t know any language besides English. I jumped at the opportunity to put my first grader in an ASL class, because it is practical, affords the opportunity to interact with other kids, and can lead to career choices later in life. When a hearing child knows sign language, they can be an unexpected blessing to others, so this is a great opportunity.

Hand Sewing

I don’t sew. My husband learned to sew in the Army, so he does all of our family sewing repairs. It’s an incredibly positive influence on my boys. Since Daddy can sew, my eight-year-old was more than happy to take on a sewing class (with a needle and everything). At an age where they cannot do a whole lot to help, how wonderful will it be for him to contribute by sewing on buttons, hemming his pants, and making minor repairs? He’s already excited that his first project is nearly finished and, after missing two weeks of class, he can move onto the next one to catch up with his classmates!

Idle Hands

What are your homeschool kids doing with their hands? As parents and homeschoolers, we so often depend on art to keep our kids’ hands busy. Scissors, penmanship, crayons, paintbrushes — these are all a necessary means to help children develop. As they grow, there are other practical tasks they can do with their hands, skills they can learn.

  • Make crafts to sell for a “book fund” or “field trip.”
  • Build bird houses, towers, or feeders to help the environment.
  • Dust the furniture to help Mom and Dad.
  • Wash dishes (correctly) to help Mom and Dad.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Plant an herb garden to contribute to the pantry.
  • Take up an instrument.
  • Learn to type (stories, letters, news, etc.).

I believe there is a reason that God opened the Bible by proclaiming Himself as Creator. As God, there are many ways He could have described Himself. Jesus Christ worked with His hands as a carpenter, creating. God the Father created the heavens and earth from nothing. We’re created in their image, and I’ve found that no matter what learning type, personality type, or age humans are, they still create. Starting this semester, the Ashworths are going to work with our hands. Starting with sign language and hand-sewing, the sky will be the limit.

 

Outdoor Activities You Can Fall For

My boys are outdoor country boys through-and-through! They wake up and beg to go outside before breakfast is warm and table is set. We coax them into waiting until their bellies are full (and mom and dad are dressed), and in the summer we have to debate about the usefulness of clothes on a young boy as well. When fall swings around, there is no damper on the boys’ excitement for the outdoors, but we do have to change the experience slightly.

Less Sun, Still Fun?

The sunny, warm summers meant the boys could run free morning, noon, and night. They’d come in the house with crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, roly-polies, caterpillars, lady bugs, frogs, lizards, and handfuls of other cringe-worthy organisms. They knew just where to look to find the best critters.

When fall comes around the leaves die, the tiny bugs and reptiles seem to hide, the wind is cold, and the boys grow…bored. Where we used to coax them into staying inside during the hottest parts of the day, now we have to convince them there is something worth finding outside after the first run of the morning. We don’t get much snow in even the deepest months of winter, but in October? Nothing but gusty, brown cold. Mom and Dad have to put on their thinking caps when the seasons change.

Routine, Routine, Routine

The R-word is one I hate, and I’m not fond of that word either. The only thing routine about our family is the places we go through the week at the same time every week: church, taekwando, Celebrate Recovery, my mom’s, repeat. During the winter, if we don’t slip outdoor play into our daily routine, it just won’t happen.

This year I’ll be talking a lot about practical life schooling, which is my focus in my homeschooling with my boys. They’re using an online curriculum for their main academics, which means Mom’s role is practical life application. Part of the challenge will be to include outdoor activities during cold months!

Practical Outdoor Play Made Easy 

First, make sure you know what your kid likes to do outside, how they like to learn, and how they burn their tiny-human energy. If it’s looking for critters (spatial, logical), then maybe they’d also like to look for other forms of wildlife — or proof of wildlife (nests, scratches, tracks, droppings). If your kid likes to dig in the dirt (kinesthetic), maybe he or she would also like to stack firewood, rake leaves — and jump into them — and paint a fence.

Here is my list for this October/November:

  1. Yard Work: Clearing trash, brush, weeds, leaves away so that next year our yard can flourish (and we can enjoy the snow more thoroughly this winter).
  2. Nature Hikes: To find nuts, nests, bones, turtle shells, etc., that point to life in the woods. Also bird-watching is fun this time of year because some leave, and others arrive.
  3. Building and Maintaining a Bird Feeder: Build a bird house or feeder for those winter birds that stick around. Let the kids photograph the birds and make a book that they can add to as seasons change.
  4. Stacking Firewood: Mainly because the kids unstacked our firewood this summer, playing, they can stack it this fall. Discuss fire, responsibility, safety, and gain a little exercise.
  5. Fun Play Ideas: Dodgeball, catch, freeze tag, Olympic competitions, leaf/finger painting, and an internet’s worth of other outdoor activities to choose from.
  6. Star Gazing: I don’t know one kid that doesn’t like a bonfire on a fall night. This is a great time to star gaze with your students. If you have a telescope of your own: BONUS. If you don’t, your local library may have some to check out.
  7. Local Nature Excursions: Our regional Nature Center has fantastic programs, and many specific to homeschoolers. They also have backpacks full of themes activities for two-week check-out. If you live near to a nature center, conservation area, or zoo, there are many similar programs for homeschoolers. Also, many regions have fairs, fall festivals, and orchards with regular programing.
  8. Camping: My family loves to camp, and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity this summer. So we’re planning one fall campout before the weather turns too cold for our littles. If you are a camping family, plan ahead, and choose a camping area that has some educational programming during you stay.
  9. Have Fun: Your outdoor play may not be part of your specific schooling, but it is part of staying healthy! Set an example by spending time outdoors, and do something you love to do outdoors. Your enthusiasm will show.
  10. Include Others: Activities can be more fun when you include people you enjoy to hang out with. Spend time outside, then come in for some hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire.