Sunday, December 7, 2014

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have been making my own laundry soap for a while now. I started off with this recipe, boiling soap and what not. I remember feeling thrilled to make something like this on my own, and desperately wanting to do something different, anything counter-cultural to enhance my family life.

In the end, the whole soap boiling and cooling and pouring was too time consuming and I lost my gusto. . .

Until I spent some time on Pinterest, and I found this recipe. It has the same basic ingredients as the first one, with a few extras. But most importantly, it is a dry, powder detergent. That means no boiling!!! Oh, and it works great, too!

This is what I use:
  • 1 box of Borax
  • 1 box of Washing Soda
  • 1 4lb. box of Baking Soda
  • 1 3-5lb tub of Oxyclean (I've used Sun brand, too)
  • 2 bars of  Fels Naptha (I've used Zote, too, but prefer the other)
  • 1 or 2 containers of Purex Crystals (pick how much or how little of the fragrance that works for your family)
Before combining everything, the soap bars need to be grated, of course. You can do this the old fashioned way with a hand-held grater. Or, you can use a mighty food processor, which will give you a much finer grate. (If using kitchen gadgets in this way strikes you as odd, just remember that it's soap and you can rinse it off!) Also, if you like Zote, it comes in flakes, thus eliminating the need to grate the soap.

When you combine it, do not just dump everything in together. Instead, mix a little bit of each ingredient together in layers at a time. I mix mine in a 5-6 gallon bucket and then store it in the Oxyclean containers I've saved over time.

It works great and lasts for a long time. I use just about 2-4 Tbs. per load, depending on the dirt factor of my laundry load. I haven't calculated what it costs per load. However, I can tell you that the cost for all the ingredients is about $30 and I only make it about once per year. Not bad, huh?

This is how I make mine, but please be sure to check out the original recipe for tips, pics and more!
Ladies, I hope you find this to be a useful way to bless your families and save money, too!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Day's Grace at a Time

There's been a bit of silence on the blog here for quite some time, huh? I've missed writing here and the interaction with friends and sisters in Christ. I've noticed that this happens during my busy seasons. And, no complaints, but I'm certainly in the midst of one.

The Lord is ordering my steps and showing me things that I did not know. He's faithful like that. So, I've had to respond to His call and turn inward, buckle down and really focus on where He's placed me.

My home life.
Having more children does that, centers the focus on the home.
Having the strength to love a husband does it, too.
Homemaking....making a home.

God is showing me anew how to look well over the ways of my household, showing me how to live that out as our family grows and changes, the path I should take...
Day by day, bit by bit...
I find myself calling upon His name, crying out to Him over this home of mine, and those that live here.

The Lord is helping me to let go of things I was never meant to carry, yet seek Him out in the tasks that are mine to do. I'm learning some hard truths, while enjoying some abundant blessings along the way.

Blessings along the way...not anything exceptionally profound by the world's standards. But, when I add them up--abundant. When I look at the spiritual gain--abundant. When the Lord allows me a glimpse of what will be laid up for my children--abundant. . .God is great.

So great is He that in all His splendor and majesty, He takes time to see about me, to walk me through my highs and lows, to listen to me cry again and again: "Lord, I can't do this without You!" He knows this and He shows Himself strong, even in the small places...our God is so great.

Just working my way through, a day's grace at a time.

And He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, 
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, 
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
-2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why I'm Not Afraid Anymore: A Letter to My Baby Girl

Dear Sweet Girl,

I can't believe you are 5 months old already! I was looking into your sweet face the other day, just reflecting on your days with us. I felt so silly because I remember being afraid when I found out you were coming. (I mentioned it to you once before.) Yes, I was afraid, not because you were you, not because of you at all. I was so happy and blessed to know you were coming. But, I was afraid of what people would say about you, about me, about our family. Words hurt.

My mother always said, "Who cares what people think?!" Well, up goes my hand! I'll be flat out honest, and say, "I do! I care what people think about me." Probably a bit more than I should, though. (And if more people were honest, they'd have their hands raised, too.) So, that was my fear. What will people say now?
Be strong and of good courage,
do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you.
-Deuteronomy 31:6

With six kids in tow, your mom has become a walking anomaly in this world. Apparently, having more than 2 children is not what's up these days. Anymore than that and people think you've lost your mind. Obviously, Mommy didn't get that memo. Not only do people think I've lost my mind, but they have no shame in questioning the blessing that you and your siblings are.

Then, to top it all off, your older brothers are just 15 months apart, and there are just 14 months between you and the last one. So, you see, people have had A LOT to say about our family. And, for the most part, it's always directed at me--negatively. So, I began to focus on the negative. What will be said at the doctor's office, the grocery store, the post office, the library, at a restaurant, or any other place the people happen to notice that you were on the way?

I remember, sweet girl, that I was just about ready to let the evil one steal my joy.

I had been through the Scriptures, searching for comfort. I already read the passage below about a thousand times and I couldn't seem to find the peace I once had:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord
The fruit of the womb is a reward. 
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, 
So are the children of one’s youth. 
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; 
They shall not be ashamed, 
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
-Psalm 127:3-5

But, for some reason God showed me this same Scripture again, just in a different translation. It was a glorious revelation:

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb His generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.
-Psalm 127:3-5

Oh, this Word gave me power and it strengthened me where I was weak. It also chastened me for ever allowing people to make me doubt or waver over the beauty God was pouring into our lives: the fruit of the womb His generous legacy!

Sweet girl, you are the one God chose to help Mommy not to fear what man says about the gifts God gives. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! He chose you, little one, to help Mommy maintain my focus on the Kingdom work at hand.

It's not about avoiding the staring, probing eyes and the dropped jaws when we all walk into a room. It's not about telling people that we are not, in fact, a clan, a gang, a day care, a baseball team, a children's choir, or a reality show, but a real, flesh and blood family. It's not about catching an attitude when the 1 millionth person asks, in disbelief, if all 6 of you are my children. God has already taken care of all of that--because my enemies don't stand a chance against me.

It's about our family showing the love of Christ, even when we don't get that in return. It's about Mommy remembering that although you may see people attack us for being large, more importantly, you all are watching the way I respond. It's about your Daddy and me raising you all for His glory. It is about believing God, that I am who He says I am, and that He's equipped me to do what He's called me to.

It's about going where He's asked me to go, without fear. (The song on my lips these days: Where He leads me, I will follow. . . I'll go with Him all the way.)

So, when I find myself as the only Mama in the place with 6 kids in the middle of the day, I embrace it. I welcome it. Someone needs to know that it is a wonderful thing to accept the children God gives as gifts. Someone needs to know that the appropriate response when God gives a gift is: thank You. Someone needs to know that being seen in public with all of your children is nothing to be ashamed of. Someone needs to know that you can absolutely love every child in your care. Someone needs to know that it is an honor to diligently raise a family for the Lord. Someone needs to just see something different so the Lord can speak to their hearts. Someone needs to know that they should not be afraid to follow the Lord.

Thank you for what you've taught me, baby girl. The Lord has used you already in a mighty way.
Love, Mommy

Fear not, for I am with you; 
Be not dismayed, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, 
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. 
-Isaiah 41:10

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hard Work

Life is hard right now. I'm learning that God doesn't always call us to do the easy.

Before I continue, please don't confuse hard with being unhappy. I have a Savior, Who walks with me and talks with me, and wraps me up in His love daily. I have a great husband who is committed to me and our children, but most importantly, he's committed to God. And, the Lord has granted us the awesome task of raising up 6 children for Him. Happy? Yes. Blessed? Indeed. Hard? Absolutely.

I am in the thick of things, in the trenches of a very busy stage. Days and nights run together and before I know it, a month has gone by. I fall asleep in the middle of checking emails or grading papers. My sweet baby girl still wakes me at night to nurse, most times, more than once. There's soccer and/or swimming every day except Friday and Sunday for the older 3. My "preschool crew" has so much energy that I wish I had just a tenth of it so I could get myself together. Right now, my family needs me fiercely, in a way they won't need me 15 years from now. And, I have to dig way deep and remember that one day, the fruit, a glorious harvest, will come.

Some days I feel like Eve. Eve had no example, no woman to tell her how to love her husband and children. No woman to show her how to be a keeper of her home and how to raise little ones. No one carved a path out that she could follow. I get it. In our extended families, I'm the only one who stays at home (both my mother and MIL are working women), the only one to homeschool, the only one with "that many" kids. . . I love that God has called me to this life, this life of giving myself in service to my family, the people I love most. But, I keep thinking, wouldn't it be easier if someone else I know, I mean really know, had done it first?

And, in the middle of all my run-on thoughts and whispered prayers, I get the comment from the lady in the grocery store who tells me that although my kids are well-behaved, I'm brave for taking 6 kids grocery shopping. Really? Brave? Me? I'm here because we have to eat, Ma'am, not because I'm brave.

Here's the thing: I'm not more special, more holy, more patient, more righteous, more wifely or more motherly than the next lady out there. I don't have an S on my chest, no magic powers, and it is so clear that I don't know everything. I long to be mentored by some legendary, but real-life Proverbs 31/Titus 2 Woman, all wrapped up in one, who could literally take me by the hand, sit with me, pray with me, and teach me each day. I wish I could talk to my grandmothers (who are both resting with Jesus) and ask them how they dug deep to show the love of Christ in the midst of staying at home, dirty diapers, washing laundry, submission to a husband, conflicting schedules and making dinner on time, among other things.

This is serious work--homemaking, homeschooling, house-wiving, home-raising. It is hard work. But, there's no other place I'd rather be. For some reason, God has called me to this, even if it is for nothing more than His Glory. So, although there was no path laid out for me in many of these areas, I will carve one out for my children. It's hard some days, I feel weary some days, I need His help every day. Just because it's hard though, doesn't mean it can't be done.

". . . being confident of this very thing,
that He who has begun a good work in you
will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. . ."
-Philippians 1:6

By His grace, I'm committed to honoring my husband, to follow his lead, to love him, to help him, to care for him and build him up, showing him that after God, he comes first.
By His grace, I'm committed to showing these 3 girls what godly womanhood looks like. That homemaking is not secondary work, that if they come home from working or start out at home from the top of their marriages, they have not wasted their time or education, that fulfilling and profound work can be found in their own homes.
By His grace, I'm committed to showing these 3 boys the type of wife they want to pray for, how a godly woman will do them good and not evil, why they'd want to cherish her and love her like Christ loves His church.

This path I'm carving may be rocky and roughly hewn, it may be imperfect with twists and turns. But, this is the work He has given my hands to do. So, I yield to Him. And, when I yield myself to the will of the Lord, things will fall into place.

Afterall, He is the One who makes straight the crooked places.

I'm trusting Him to do just that. Daily I'm depending on Him, leaning on Him, pressing into Him, and clinging to Him with all my might. It's hard, but it's right were I'm supposed to be.

"I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;
I will lead them in paths they have not known.
I will make darkness light before them,
And crooked places straight.
These things I will do for them,
And not forsake them."
-Isaiah 42:16

Friday, August 15, 2014

School Room Tour 2014-2015

Welcome to our school room, or our little school house, I should say. Yep, that's right, we have a stand-alone, one room, school house. It used to be a work-shed (from the previous owner) and my hubby converted it for us when we decided to homeschool. But before you think, "Aww, how cool is that?! A real one-room school house!!"--it definitely has it's pros and cons.

It's neat because the kids "go to school" each day, and we have a place to store all of our school books and papers. And, when my little babies are napping during our school time, they have a quiet house all to themselves. Also, my kids play in there all the time, using it as a clubhouse or jail or whatever else. However, when the cold months hit, it is a challenge for me. Going from the warm, cozy house to a little icy room to turn on heaters, well, it's not my thing. When the weather is too wet or it's just too cold, we have school at the kitchen table. That means we have to lug some of our school stuff into the house and find a temporary place for it. And then, when the winter weather breaks, it's fun again to get back to our school room because by then, we're ready for a change in pace. You see what I mean? The school room and I have a love-hate thing going on!!

This is the view from the doorway

And the view when I stand in front of the TV

To the right of the door: our calendar, small map,
a little shelf with some games and books,
pencil sharpener, hand sanitizer, and the wise owl.
Through the window, you see my house/kitchen window

Continuing to the right: where my big kids sit,
wall map of the world, some grammar posters

Now on the back wall opposite the door:
These 2 shelves are new here (they used to be in my pantry/laundry room),
Very top row: dictionary, math manipulatives, paper,
They hold our school books, each child has their own shelf,
Bottom left row: curriculum from last year, waiting to be used again.
Bottom right row: History and Science reference books,
Nice USA map from the dollar store!

Continuing along the back wall:
TV, my work space in the corner,
More dollar store posters

My work space, leading into
our preschool station

Continuing to the right:
This is where my 1 and 2 year olds will hang out
And of course, more posters. . .LOL

To the right of the little table:
Shelf with globe and clock,
Office supplies, flash cards, portfolios,
Art supplies,
Shelf in the middle has my teacher's manuals,
Bottom 2 shelves plus the crate have things for the toddlers to do
Chalkboard/white board (the only IKEA item in this school room!)

Just another shot to give you an idea of where we are in the room,
the Luvs box under the chalkboard stores our
science experiment stuff (i.e. cups, balloons, foil, etc.)

Above the door, I put up the alphabet in cursive.

And that is what the Chelmont Academy looks like! (Oh, and there's a big rug in the middle of the floor where the kids can stretch out.) Nothing too fancy. Not too much different from last year. I am wondering what we'll do in the near future as my littlest 3 get older. We'll see! But, it works okay for now.

Any advice on things I can do to make the most of our space? Do you have a designated room or does school happen anywhere?
Happy Schooling!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Taking the Leap: 8 Tips for Transitioning from Public School to Homeschool

This school year marks our 4th year of homeschooling. . . and 4 years out of public school.
Like many parents, when our oldest daughter turned five, we received paperwork from the county and registered her for kindergarten at our local elementary school. And, off to public school she went. When she was in 2nd grade, her little sister began kindergarten in the same school. But, it was during that year that my husband and I prayerfully made the decision to homeschool. . . and we're so glad we did!

Although our overall experience was generally a good one with our local school, there were quite a few things that we weren't pleased with. I could go down the line, naming each one, but that's not the point here. The point is, the Lord began to deal with our hearts concerning our responsibility in educating our children and we felt the best and most effective way to live that out was to homeschool.

So after completing 3 years of homeschooling, here's my advice to someone else who's looking to transition.

1) Prayer
Do not take this part lightly!! Prayer changes things, it allows us to tune in to our Savior who will prepare our hearts and minds for the most humbling task of homeschooling. Remember, the Holy Spirit works in our homeschools, too! So, pray for wisdom, guidance, strength, and discernment. Pray for God to bless your homeschooling, that He would be found throughout the pages of the school work. Stay connected to God.

2) Plan
My husband and I knew we wanted to homeschool by the fall of our 2nd daughter's kindergarten year. That was just a couple of months into the school year. I was just itching to pull them out the EXACT day we made our decision. But, we felt it best to wait until the entire year was over, and use that time for planning.
I read as much information as I could on homeschooling, I became familiar with my state's laws, and I got in touch with another homeschooling mom and picked her brain for information, etc. I began comparing various methods for homeschooling,did I want to do everything at home or join a co-op? Just try to think some of these things through before you begin and use their last days in public school to do it.

3) Sharing the News
You're excited about homeschooling, your children may be thrilled, too. However, not everyone will be happy for you, and that just may include some family and friends. Not everyone will understand and yes, there will be those who will try to discourage you. Be prepared for it! People will give you unwanted "advice" and will make rude comments. They may tell you horror stories about the mom who got in trouble because she didn't file her paperwork on time, or about the kid who was 15 and still couldn't read, all because of homeschooling.*SIGH* And let's not forget the famous "how will your kids be socialized?" question!

Realize that even the nicest teachers/administrators may not understand your decision and will question your choice. The way they see it, you are taking your child(ren) out of the school they're teaching in, and if they're teaching there, then it must be great, right?!? Some teachers will take your decision personally. The point is, be prepared for the naysayers and DON'T LET IT SHAKE YOU!!! Share the news when you're ready and be confident in what God has called you to do, regardless of what people say.

4) Talk with Your Child
Once you as parents have made your decision, make the child aware so they are prepared ahead of time. Don't wait until the day you begin homeschooling to let your child know that is the plan. Use your discretion about how far in advance to share this information, depending on their age and how long they've been in school. Involve your child in the planning and prepping. Consider his/her ideas and think about practical ways to include some of them. Talk to your child (if age appropriate) about #3 (above) and what the responses from you all as a family should look like.

5) Celebrate
Celebrate the decision to homeschool!! It is a new and exciting time, so make a lasting memory! Go out to lunch, pick a name  for your school together, come up with school colors if you want! Have a game day, select supplies for your school room or decorate it with balloons.

6) Keep Negativity to a Minimum
Your perspective about the public school experience may be different from that of your child's. After all, children and adults think differently. So, just because you may view it as less than favorable, your child may have some very fond memories. Respect those good things, allow your child to express the good times, too. I think a healthy discussion of anything your child(ren) struggled with is definitely appropriate, but bad-mouthing the school to the child isn't helpful. Keep the heated discussions for your spouse or a trusted friend!
Our first day ever of homeschooling. . .

7) Homeschool vs. School at Home
Do not try to recreate the school room environment at home because it will not be the same. Carving out a place to learn and instruct is different from recreating the school room environment.So, while you may want a specific space to do your schooling in, you probably don't want your kids lining up to get there, or raising their hands to ask to go to the bathroom. Some days doing history on the floor makes sense or doing jumping-jacks while going over math facts is the way to go. Don't feel you have to be in "teacher" mode, addressing your children like, "Class, today we will do this or that." You are their mom (or dad) and let learning in your home be a natural extension of parenting and home life. Remember that homeschooling is a way of life and learning can occur in a number of ways.

8) Take Time
Take time to unlearn. Let's face it, public schools and homeschools are different. Period. So relax, unwind. Get used to being together all day, read together, sing together, play together. Get used to not rushing out of the house every morning, see how it goes taking everyone grocery shopping or running an errand. Spend a day at the library. Just be together.

And when you do begin instruction, don't panic and feel like your child has to know everything there is to know in the first year! Don't try to force the learning; it will come. Try a gradual implementing of instruction. For example, in the first week, simply start with Language Arts and Math. Then in the next week add in History, then in a few days, add Science. It's okay to slow down and get used to the way it will work.

These are the things that have worked for our family. What other tips do you have for transitioning from public school to homeschool?If you are considering homeschooling your child(ren), what concerns might you have?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Curriculum Choices 2014/2015

Let me just start off by saying, I am SO grateful for the opportunity to homeschool my children. My husband and I don't have all the answers, but we are honored that God has granted us this calling. We are not perfect, but we are committed to raising our children for the Lord. So, we count it a blessing to be able to do that as we educate our children each day, right here at home.

So this year, I am going to attempt to participate in the 6th Annual "Not" Back-to-School Blog Hop. This week's focus: Curriculum.
Click here for link-up

I haven't quite figured out the best way to list everything--should I go by subject or grade?? Right now, I have 3 who are school-aged; how will this look in 5 years, when I'll have 6 that are school-aged????? {Thoughts swirling in my mind!}

 Here at the "Chelmont Academy", we piece our curriculum together. We use the Well-Trained Mind as a guide, adding and/or removing curriculum as we feel is appropriate. {Just ask my kids--I've been known to remove pages from books or go through with my big, black permanent marker if the information is not in line with Scripture (i.e. evolution vs. Creation)!}
Any way, let's get started!

We have daily devotion time during/after breakfast. I usually do our Scripture memory time, and then I'll read whatever the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart, what I'm studying, or something the kids want to know more about. Right now, we are reading about wisdom from the book of Proverbs. We've also started singing a hymn or two, which has livened up our time a bit. The kids think it's fun.

This will be our first year doing some sort of Bible curriculum, using Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool.* It is an online study and the lay-out is very simple. The children will read a passage of Scripture and answer a few questions about what they've read. Nothing fancy at all, which I appreciate. Sometimes finding the perfect Bible "curriculum" becomes a distraction, and we neglect just simply reading the Word. I also appreciate it because it is free, already compiled, and fits the requirement for the homeschool umbrella we've joined this year. I let my children chose what they were interested in studying:

{*Easy Peasy offers a full online, Christian education for free, or you can use it for just a few subjects like we are.}


Language Arts

We use Kid's Health, which is a free, online health curriculum, complete with lesson plans, quizzes, movies and activities. It is intended for a classroom setting, so I never use every thing, but there is a wealth of information.

For P.E., my husband has that covered. He has a minor in coaching, played college football, and loves athletics, so I let him do his thing.This fall we're covering soccer, flag football, and will continue with swimming.

  • Piano: Teaching Little Fingers to Play
  • Flute (private lessons*)
  • Viola (private lessons*)
  • Music/Art appreciation through Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool: Again, it is all online, the lessons are planned out, and it's free. This is an area where I struggle to always pull something together, so this is a blessing to me. We will coordinate it with whatever historical period we are studying.
  • Art with a Purpose/Artpac: simple, straight-forward art concepts.
{*Check your local university for music education students who are willing to offer private lessons. This has made lessons affordable for us.}

Logic and Foreign Language
  • Typing Web: A free site where I'm able to manage all of my kiddos' progress.
Well, I think that's it. That's enough, don't you think?! Any one want to help me with a schedule so I can fit everything in??? :) It is my prayer that sharing this information with you helps in some way to make homeschooling your child(ren) easier.

Happy Schooling!
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