Teens and Mission Trips

Guest writer Taffy Hunter shares a family experience in today’s blog post.


My daughter is 15 and in grade 10. She is an amazingly smart young lady who does very well in school; she has good friends and she loves Jesus. My daughter also suffers from extreme social anxiety and panic disorder. This is so severe that she has taken years of counseling and hard work just to be able to order her own food at a restaurant, or check out at the store by herself. She has done hard things to help herself grow — like joining Pathfinders and going to OshKosh Camporee with her club, or going to camp for a whole week alone.

This year she was presented with the opportunity to join with friends and our local school on a mission trip to Bolivia. Please understand, two years ago this would have been impossible for her because of her anxiety. This year, however, she showed interest and I felt I needed to encourage her to try. She has known for a year about this upcoming trip, and has talked about it off and on throughout the summer.

I asked her the night before the paperwork was due if she had decided to go or not. She just sighed and looked at me and replied, “Mom, I just can’t. I just can’t go alone.”

I replied, without much forethought, “What if I went with you?”

The next morning, I woke up to a bright-eyed daughter with her completed application in hand!

“She took me up on it? What have I done!? How will we pay for this? We’re going to Bolivia?!” I thought.

I smiled encouragingly as I took the paperwork and filled out my portion. I handed it back to her and we prayed together before she handed it in to the group leader later that day. Even with the prospect of me coming with her, she was still terrified and had a panic attack after turning it in.

So often when we are raising teens, we forget they still need parents! They still need our full support, and sometimes they still need us as their security so they can do the hard things. This girl, who has come so far with her anxiety, was trying her best to step outside of her comfort zone — to do what she felt the Holy Spirit was calling her to do. She was terrified but willing and still unable to do it alone. As her mom, I get to support her by being the “wind beneath her wings” on this trip, and it makes me so proud of both of us!

The trip is a bit daunting in that we each have to raise $2500. She is a hard worker with a willing spirit, so we are pulling together as a daughter/mother team and doing whatever God calls us to do to raise the money that we need to go spread the Gospel to the people of Bolivia. Our relationship, which was already great, is growing even stronger as we work together, pray together, and even panic a little together!

Already, I am seeing her grow in ways she hasn’t before. She is taking her public speaking class with a new spirit of “I WILL do this,” because she knows she will have to talk to strangers on the trip. She has learned some handcraft skills as we’ve made hats, scarves, and other items to sell for donations. She has made dozens and dozens of enchiladas and lasagnas to sell. She has taken photos of auction items, and had to learn about lighting and setting to get the best photos she could. She has cleaned houses, raked leaves, and sold fruit without complaint. She has been calculating the finances and watching our account as it grows. She is thinking about others, readily willing to help, and happy to say “thank you.”  Already, so many life skills have been learned or reinforced just by choosing to go on this trip.

Most important of all, I believe, is the call that Jesus has put on her life for this season. She has responded to His mission, and is faithfully following through to reach her goal. Spiritually she is growing as she moves along in faith and trust that she is doing what God wants her to do, and that I am there to support her.

If you have a chance to help your teen, or someone else’s teen, go on a mission trip, please do so! I had no idea the things she would learn, how she would grow personally and spiritually through this entire process. I have a new appreciation for the many ways preparing for mission trips affect teens, and set them up for a lifetime of service centered on Christ. I can’t wait until we get to Bolivia in March. I am looking forward to seeing the growth, understanding, and spiritual maturity that I am sure will happen when we are on the trip.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Taffy Hunter

(Emilie and Taffy have created sites for those interested in supporting their trip: https://www.youcaring.com/emilieandtaffysmissiontriptobolivia-939844 or https://www.32auctions.com/BoliviaorBust.)

It’s a Watery World

We watched a movie called Stranded at Sea recently. I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone, but it was interesting and made me think. It was the true story of three men in World War II who survived a plane crash and being “stranded at sea.” Although as homeschooling parents we might sometimes feel as though we also have crashed and are trying to stay alive, that is not what this post is about!

As you can imagine, most of the scenery during the whole movie was the ocean. Seeing all that water reminded me of the next letter in the NEWSTART acronym: W. Here these men were, surrounded by water but dying of thirst. Are we in the same boat?

I remember my husband’s aunt telling me how they use to have to fetch water for all their needs when she was growing up in Italy. I often think how blessed I am that I can just turn the faucet on and abundant waters flow. Helping my child (and yours too) receive those blessings is the subject today.

As homeschoolers, we can monitor if our child is drinking enough water each day. It is another one of the blessings that being home brings. Our children have access to water all the time, whenever they want it, making it easy to provide their bodies with the necessary amount.

However, if your child is like mine, a reluctant camel, preferring juice and soy milk to water, here are some ideas to make the water go down easier!

My son loves Legos, so he uses a magnetic brick that will hold eight smaller Legos to keep track of his recommended eight glasses of water each day. Other ideas could be eight dimes stacked on the counter and the child gets to keep one for each glass they drink. Eight straws in the glass, removing one each time your child drains it, makes a fun time of it. The possibilities are endless; just pick something that holds your child’s interest.

How about a water bottle with marked off increments of ounces? Every time the student finishes a subject for the day, they need to drink to the next line. Of course, a fancy new water bottle always makes the task more pleasant. Adding lemon or lime increases the taste appeal here at our house. Or, how about some fancy ice cubes to swirl around? Speciality ice cube trays or the plastic refreshable ones are cheap enough.

As parents the world over know, it’s not just a battle to get water into a kid, but also a battle to get the kid in water! It is important, though, to use that water on the inside and the outside, so make sure part of the homeschooling day happens in the shower!

My mom used to always talk about a doctor whose cure for everything started with prescribing plenty of water. It’s good advice for all of us and an important part of our homeschooling day, so drink your eight today!

Organizing Our Days: Inside Our Read Aloud Basket

Last month I wrote about the part-reading plays in our homeschool. This month, I am excited to share the inside scoop on what we call our Read Aloud Basket. It’s basically a drop box for our read aloud subjects which I keep centrally located on our dining room buffet. We often read at the table while coloring or on the couch, but we have also grabbed a book to read on the trampoline outside, or in the car while running errands (my oldest reads during those times).
My Read Aloud Basket is similar to what many have coined a Morning Basket, but we use ours throughout the day. It’s a place to store our subjects that are important to me and that we cover collectively as a family.

That being said, it’s important to me to regularly expose my children to poetry, and this is the first book I’ll cover in our basket. I’ve grown to love the challenge reading poetry requires. Our ears and minds learn to hear what the author is saying, and we have enjoyed trying to express ourselves through rhymes. The poems we are currently enjoying are Lessons from Nature: Poems for Boys and Girls, by John Bunyan, the same author as Pilgrims Progress. We read one or two at the dinner table, after a meal, while waiting for the last child to finish eating.

Another table reader we often read during breakfast is The Family Book of Manners, by Hermine Hartley (every meal we have some that take longer than others and I like to stay seated til everyone’s done). This book is great fun, and we practice our manners right there at the table. It’s a great way to start our days with our best foot forward before we ever leave the breakfast table.

Another important topic I like to cover together is health. There are so many resources for health, and currently we are reading the First Book in Physiology and Hygiene, by J.H. Kellogg. It contains short lessons with questions to answer, and we do this while dinner is heating up, along with review our Scripture verses or character goals that we’ve chosen with our character trait of the week.

I keep our family prayer journal in our Read Aloud Basket along with our family Bible lessons we use each morning for family worship. It’s a simple spiral bound notebook and we also write our goals for the week in there to pray over each day. We use the family Bible lessons for evening worship in review. I also keep an Uncle Arthur’s Bible Stories book to read sometime during the week with my little ones as it helps cement our Bible lesson each week for them.

A favorite in our Read Aloud Basket is our chapter books! These mostly consist of missionary stories, but at present we are rereading Stories of the Pilgrims, by Margaret B. Pumphrey. We usually have one going, but we currently have a second chapter book that we read only when Daddy is available. These chapter books we read in the evening after everyone is ready for bed and evening chores are done. We have evening worship and finish our day with as many chapters as we can squeeze in before lights out!

Other books I’ve thrown in our Read Aloud Basket but that we don’t cover daily include What We Believe for Kids, by Jerry D. Thomas, and Guide’s Greatest Sabbath Stories or Sabbath Readings for the Home. These are books we enjoy for early Friday evenings as we welcome the Sabbath.

Lastly, I want to share my family worship binder which I keep in our Read Aloud Basket to help me stay on track throughout the day…

It’s a simple one-inch, three-ring binder with dividers in it for our worship topics. The topics consist of scheduling (our daily time log), Scriptures (a list of our quarterly memory verses), character (our Character First lesson), hymns/songs, and resources (loose papers I want to read the children)/future reading List. This binder is so essential to keeping me together and helping our day start right and stay on track. I can’t emphasize enough how important a schedule and family worship are to the success of our day.

Reading aloud has become a big success in covering topics that were not otherwise regularly implemented in our home. I hope this peek into how our Read Aloud Basket weaves important subjects throughout our day has inspired you. I’d love to hear about the subjects that are important to your family and how you tackle them collectively, whether through reading or another venue.

Blessings, Allison

Homeschooling in Botswana

Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.

My name is Lynn Jones. I am married to Steve, have a stepdaughter, Daniella, who is 22 years old and stays with us. I have a son, Jacques, from a previous marriage; he is 21 years old, and also stays with us. The youngest is Patrick; he is 12 years old and he is the one homeschooling. We all stay together with my mum on the same property.

We live in a town called Maun in Botswana. It is a very busy tourist destination on the edge of the Okavango Delta, which attracts a lot of visitors, with plenty wildlifethe ideal place to raise children.

Steve works in a camp called Jao Concession.He is away from home for six weeks, then comes home for two weeks. It was difficult at first, but now I am used to it. I work full day in town as a bookkeeper/accounts. We also run an NGO called Feed a Child Botswana, where we feed over 100 children a day on a weekly basis, as well as some elderly people who can’t care for themselves.

Sunrise over the Thamalakane River in Maun

How long have you been home schooling?

We have only just started homeschool, so it is all new to us with quite a bit of challenges, but we are getting there.

Why did you decide to home school?

We don’t have much choice where it comes to schools: two international schools, one private school, and the rest are government schools where most of the local children go.

The standard of education has dropped considerably over the last two years. Patrick is a year away from high school, and we would have to send him away to boarding school, which we do not want to do as we would only see him twice a year.

We decided to have a go at homeschooling and see how it goes.

Aerial view of the Okavango Delta from the air: you can only get to the camps by plane.

What style of home schooling does your family follow?

We believe that it should be a structured syllabus. 

Do you have a philosophy about home schooling?

We have no philosophy but we believe in oneonone learning, as Patrick seemed to get behind at normal school and no one cared if he understood the work or not.

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school, and why?

We chose Wolsey Hall Oxford. It is a British syllabus, with text books and loads of online tutoring and help. As we don’t have museums and other places to visit besides the Okavango Delta, where we go for little breaks, I have to rely on the internet so he can see what is out there in the wide world,and broaden his knowledge on what’s out there. We also watch a lot of Animal Planet and National Geographic programmes, or any other educational programmes that come up on the tv.

When Patrick completes his KS3 course in two years time, he will then move on to the IGSE course, also through Wolsey Hall, which is recognised by many universities in South Africa and Botswana, should he choose to study further.

Patrick and me

Are you the primary “teacher,” or does your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?

As my husband works away from home and I have a full time job, we have two ladies (tutors) who come to the house Monday to Thursday to help Patrick with his school work, and on a Sunday I help Patrick complete his assignments which are due every week. He has five subjects, and every week one subject is due as an assignment and gets marked by Wolsey Hall tutors, and the results get sent back to us.

What does a typical home schooling day look like in your home?

Patrick gets up at 7 a.m., has breakfast, and starts preparing for his lessons which start at 8 a.m. He first reads a Bible story and prays before he starts. He has sections of 30 to 40 minutes at a time with a 5to 10minute break in between. He spends about two hours on one subject, then moves on to another subject until 1 p.m. 

He does English, geography, and history with one tutor on Monday and Wednesday, and math and science with the other tutor on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday is usually a day off on condition that he has completed the work schedule for the week. In the afternoon he has an hour of homeworkwhere he answers questions on the relevant work he did that morning, with additional written math homework. 

The rest of the afternoon he usually plays with his friends until I get home at 5 p.m.We have dinner and revise the homework together, then get ready for bed, which is around 8 pm.

On Sunday morning he goes horse riding with his friends, and in the afternoon we sit down together and work through his assignment that’s due for the week. We usually have to hand them in on Tuesday.

Aerial view of the Okavango Delta

What do you love the most about home schooling, and what do you dislike the most?

It is still early days for us as we only started on 9 January 2017. I am spending more time with Patrick in the evenings when we go through the homework for that day. I feel safer that he is at home and that he has the oneonone tutoring available to him now, and that he doesn’t get left behind if he is not understanding a topic. When Patrick went to normal school, I didn’t seem to spend as much time with him as I do now. It is bringing us closer to each other as we continue our new journey.

I am also pleased that my mum can spend more time with Patrick in the afternoons with a bit of Bible study, as he wants to be baptised. We were never able to do this as normal school came out late in the afternoon, and he was always exhausted when he got home. So, homeschooling has changed that for usto be able to spend more time studying the Bible too, not only going to church.

Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?

It is a more advanced curriculum than what is practiced here in Botswana government and private school, but we believe that Patrick will benefit more from it, and hopefully one day he will thank us for making this change for him.

Sunset over the Thamalakane River

Fiddles, Math, and Training Up a Child

A few months ago I started taking fiddle lessons. Wow! I sound really BAD. It’s like cats are fighting in the living room when I practice. LOL.

Now, how could this possibly help our homeschooling effort?

I’ve been sharing a series based on the familiar “Train up a child” text of Proverbs 22:6. Recently it struck me that we usually focus our attentions on the child when we think about training up a child. Makes sense, right? We focus on what he or she should be learning. That’s definitely the larger part of the equation, but an additional part is the example that we the parents are setting for them. Values? Yes. Morals? Yes. But, I’m thinking more about the “schoolish” part where you take in new information, memorize material, learn skills, etc. Are you keeping your own brain growing by learning new information, ideas, or skills? Does your child witness this?

Honestly, when I took up fiddle lessons, there was no higher thought involved about how it could benefit my child. I simply wanted to learn the instrument. The payoff is there for both of us, though.

As are most of us, I am pressed for time. There was a flurry of activity at first with my violin, but then for at least a month it ended up sitting in its case all week — until I panicked and pulled it out right before my lesson. Hence…the cats fighting in the living room. Hmmm.

Something I learned: Not practicing doesn’t work.
Something my son learned: Not practicing doesn’t work.

I decided that the level of screechy playing I was producing wasn’t enough to satisfy me, so I evaluated what it was exactly that kept me from practicing. It’s ridiculous how simple it was. It was the out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle at work, teamed with the tedium of locating my instrument (we’re building on to our house, so this is an actual feat), opening the case and getting it out, tuning it up, and finally sitting down to play. I thought about it awhile, and considered options. My solution was to locate a safe spot in the house — my enclosed computer station — and leave the violin there, at the ready at all times. It worked! I’m up to three or four practice sessions a week, which is pretty decent for an inherent slacker.

Something I learned: Don’t give up. Use your brain to study situations and find creative solutions that work.
Something my son learned: Don’t give up. Use your brain to study situations and find creative solutions that work.

You get the idea.

The past week has been one of much struggle for my son and math. There’s a new concept for which he’s not remembering the steps. “I hate math. It’s my nemesis!” he declared two days ago. I don’t want him to have the idea that an entire subject is not for him, and I do want him to get the idea that devoting more time to something difficult helps, as does brainstorming for creative ideas.

Fortunately, we don’t live in a McMansion; therefore, our lives are fairly intertwined. I’m aware of my son’s activities, and he’s aware of mine. Thus, my fiddle-playing mission, which he has personally witnessed, became the perfect object lesson. We discussed his current difficulties, and I noted that being “bad” at one part of math doesn’t mean the whole subject is bad. I reminded him of some of the similarities with my violin issues, and what I’d come up with to help myself. That got him thinking.

Solutions arose. He admitted that more practice would probably help a lot. We also came up with a creative, step-by-step reminder system that he could use while working that type of math problem. The next day he completed the dreaded lesson with only a moderate amount of parental assistance.

Today, before starting into math, he asked me if he could repeat the last lesson once — on his own, without any help from me — to solidify the new process in his mind. Success! Yay!

I celebrated his achievement by picking up my violin and practicing for 20 minutes.

Moms and dads, what have you learned lately?

“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it,” Proverbs 22:6 TLB.