But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
-Philippians 4:10-13


Contentment.
Sometimes it is a difficult concept to grasp.

In the verses above, Paul is writing to fellow believers in Philippi who hadn't been able to show their support for him. He knew they were concerned, but that they just didn't have an opportunity to show it. Even though their support would have been helpful to Paul, he had learned to be content no matter the circumstances.

How?
Verse 13 is key: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Often times this verse is quoted separately from the Scriptures before it, and we quote it in reference to the really, big, huge, hard, demanding things in life, those things we KNOW we Jesus for: things that scare us, things we don't have answers for, things we just can't see a way out of. A well-meaning brother or sister in the faith will encourage us and remind us that we can do it because of Christ, and He will strengthen us.


This is true. No doubt about it, as our God is an awesome, amazing, wonder-working God.

But what about in those areas I like to call the small places?

As wives and mothers, we face a billion small, mundane places every day and it is easy to become dissatisfied: vacuuming, diaper changes, dish washing, picking up toys, reading lessons, wiping noses, cooking meals, doing laundry, a listening ear to a husband--day in and day out, multiple times a day.

If we're not careful, the enemy sneaks in to whisper lies to us, that we should seek more, anything else outside of our homes, that this work is nothing but drudgery, that there is freedom out there, that you need to escape. . .

I challenge you to remember that God's grace, His strength, is available in the seemingly mundane, daily to-do's. It is available in all those small places. It's available right there where other's can't fathom the reason you'd be willing to stay at home, working to raise a family, serving and loving a husband.

Remember, what we do each day as homemakers, wives, mothers and homeschoolers is worthy work. It is blessed work. It is work with an eternal purpose. The routine tasks are just a small portion of it on eternity's scale. Keep that in mind. Know that we can be content, right where we are--in the midst of overflowing sinks and never-ending laundry piles. God is there, too. He is right there in the middle of dinners, toys, ironing and mopping floors. He is right there and He is your way to contentment.

Like Paul, we must learn how to be and what to be depending on the needs of our situations. We must learn to be grateful for the assignment of being a wife and for motherhood. It is a precious calling that many desire to embrace, but may never know. Welcome the mundane, work through it with contentment. God has called you and He is your strength.


**Originally written here for Our Homeschool Forum.**

Contentment

by on Wednesday, December 23, 2015
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked o...
spice


Any mamas feeling overwhelmed in your homeschool? Sometimes we become so serious and stressed about meeting educational goals that we forget about relaxing and having fun. Particularly around this time of year, you may have had a bit of fall burn out, leading right into the busyness of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Well, this post won't solve all of those things, but it is my hope to lighten the mood a bit and encourage you to have a bit of fun. Here are some fun (maybe even goofy) ideas.

Have school in a different place. . .
Not just outside or sitting on the couch (the go-to place for homeschooling, right?) Have school under the dining room table, in a big closet, in the hallway or on mom and dad's bed. Silly, right? But your kids will get a kick out of it! (The older ones may think you're nuts, but trust me, they like this kind of thing, too.

Switch up the curriculum plans. . . 
Sometimes neither you or your children want to see that English book for another minute this week. It doesn't necessarily mean that the curriculum is not a good fit; it may just be that you need a little break. That's when things like printables, unit studies and lapbooks can be a life saver. Two of my favorite places to turn when we need a break from curriculum are Currclick.com and homeschoolshare.com--both have resources available for free (or for a small cost) in every subject for a wide range of ages.

Announce a no school day. . .
That's right. And spend the day with your kids, playing with them, talking with them, just being with them. Get on the floor and push cars and trucks around, go outside to play hide-n-seek, work on that space shuttle project, have a tea party, finger paint, tickle some toes, kiss a few faces, and give lots of hugs. Put the school books away for the day and relax.

Have an "electives" day. . . 
Take a day to learn some out of the ordinary things for your family. Have a day to bake new recipes or try new foods. Pick a day to learn a new skill like sewing or crafting. Learn some common phrases in a new language. Work on a family project like organizing photos or painting a room. Pick something "new" to learn and make a day of it.

Have a dress up day. . . 
Yep, do math a Minnie Mouse (or whoever!) and have your kids come to school as their favorite character, animal or person. You could do Biblical people, fairy tale characters or whatever you want. Keep it simple by using what you have around the house, and have fun. Try to guess each person's character before they tell.

Let the kids choose the subject. . .
Maybe your little one loves history, but isn't too keen on math. Or maybe you've got a little English major who just isn't feeling science. Give them a break from everything except one or two of their favorite subjects, and let them just spend the day enjoying what they like most. It's productive, low stress for you, and they'll likely to get a few paces ahead in those subjects.

These are some little to no-cost, spur of the moment ways to change up your homeschooling routine a bit. Don't forget, you can always add a bowl of ice cream to the end of a homeschool day as a sweet treat! What ways do you spice up your homeschool?

spice

***I wrote this originally for Our Homeschool Forum.***
skirts


It's surprising what topics come up amongst women in homeschooling circles. Besides the famous "what curriculum or method do you use?" there are plenty of other debates discussions as well: breastfeeding vs bottle, schedules and routines, farm life or the city and on and on. One such hot topic is skirt-wearing. I've heard so many arguments for and against skirts my entire life, it is unbelievable. And I began to ask God, what is it about skirts? What does Your Word say?

Well, He is faithful, friends, to hear and answer. So I will share what He has shown me thus far.

BACKGROUND
Growing up, my family went to a church where women were taught to wear skirts only. When asked about the Biblical basis for the teaching, the answer in short was: "If you're a saved and sanctified woman, then you wear skirts. If you wear pants, you're not saved and are in danger of going to hell." Yeah. Totally one of the most UNSOUND doctrines out there. Not Bible-based at all, as apparel is not a salvation-level issue. There is one Way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ, not clothing:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through Me."
-John 14:6

So as a child, my parents taught me to wear skirts to church and church functions, but I was free to wear pants, shorts, skirts or dresses any other times. What they required no matter what I wore was a standard of modesty: nothing revealing, too tight, too short, etc. Period. Always. No matter what.

A WORD ON MODESTY
(Modesty in and of itself is a topic for a whole other post. However, there are a few things I'd like to mention.)
My parents, my mother in particular, taught me to dress modestly and appropriately for every occasion. Period. And I do mean every occasion, including sleepwear. She taught me that a lady adorns herself in a way that should reflect her character. My personal thoughts on this: "Yay, Mom! Thanks so much for that teaching!"
I'm all for modesty as that is Scripture-based:

". . .in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works."
-1 Timothy 2:9-10

So, what about skirts, I asked God, are skirts/dresses the only or more modest apparel? Short answer: no. I do understand that some women feel more modest in skirts than pants, so for that reason they choose skirts. Understood. No issues with that.

But, I have seen some highly inappropriate skirts that this pants-wearing woman would NEVER, EVER consider wearing. Let's just say we all have seen the skirts that have less fabric than my pillow case...NOT a modest look. And, on the flip side, we've all seen pants that were so skin-tight, you wonder how the woman can move or breathe or whether her circulation has been impeded...NOT a modest look either.

So I'm like, Lord, you've shown me that either type of clothing (skirt or pants) can be totally becoming or completely ridiculous. So what is it about dresses and skirts for women? What is it?

ANSWER
Each culture, historically, has had it's own fashion statements and types of clothing. But one commonality amongst every culture and its attire is this: clear distinctions between men and women. This idea is as old as time. All throughout the Bible, God makes clear distinctions between men and women in their physical make-ups, in the home, in their roles in reproduction, in the church and in appearance, just to name a few. Specifically about clothing, God gave us these words:

“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God."
-Deuteronomy 22:5

With that in mind, I began looking at our own American culture. And I thought, when did women start wearing pants as the norm? And why the qualifier "women's" pants? So, I talked to those who have gone before me and I found that, up until 50 years or so ago, pants were culturally men's clothing while skirts were women's clothing and therein was the clear distinction between men's and women's clothing. My mom said that she can remember when pants weren't even an option to purchase for women in clothing stores or even in sewing patterns, so if a woman wore pants they were literally putting on men's clothing.

Friends, I have to tell you, the Lord opened my eyes to this truth anew and I about fell out of my seat! Here's how it happened: I was watching the news one morning, and in a neighboring state, the public school system was implementing "transgender" bathrooms. The proposed sign for the new bathrooms was displayed on the screen and it was the little stick figure we're all accustomed to seeing for restrooms, except this one was wearing half skirt and half pants.

Yep. My mouth dropped open in disbelief.
Then the light-bulb moment: In all of my pants-wearing days, every single time I looked for a bathroom sign, I looked for the one wearing the skirt because I knew that distinctly referred to me--a woman. I was floored at how evil and twisted and deceptive that one "transgender" bathroom sign was, and at all the confusion it held. I just couldn't believe it and the Lord reminded me that He was NOT the source of confusion:

"For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints."
-1 Corinthians 14:33

And all of my questions and wonderings and all of my prayers flooded my soul and I thought, I get it. I get it, Lord. There should be clear lines of distinction, clear expressions of those differences that God made between men and women. Women wearing dresses or skirts and men wearing pants (in our  American culture) is one of those expressions.

It wasn't until the rise of women's rights and feminism that the adamant push for women to wear pants was seen. The thought was that women to be able to do everything a man did somehow made them "equal" including wearing his clothing. You never saw these same women advocate the opposite for "true equality": men wearing women's skirts! (Which, by the way, I do not recommend. I'm just making a point.) Instead, it was the doing away with what makes a woman look like a woman and so the lines began to blur and the push became so loud that a woman wearing pants (traditionally and culturally men's clothing) has become "normalized" and "accepted."

And so we see the trickle-down effect of other things in our society being pushed upon us, forcing us to accept them as "normal," whether it is the attempt to "redefine" God's design for marriage or mandate "transgender" bathrooms, we all see the push and the shift. However, God's Word is clear, His design is not a mistake. Men and women are different and those differences should be embraced, celebrated, and expressed. No blurring, no confusion, with clear distinctions.

SO NOW WHAT?
So what does that all that mean for me?
Let me start with what it does NOT mean: What it does not mean is hatred or bashing of women who wear pants. That is NOT the point of my sharing this, nor will this post or blog be a platform to do that, ever. Again, skirts and pants are not "salvation-losing or -gaining" issues and the ONLY thing that can redeem us is the shed blood of the Lamb, the only Way, Jesus Christ. Period.

While I may not be against wearing pants ever in life (as in you must wear skirts only),  I do have a TOTALLY new perspective on it and what it represents.

What it does mean is that I accept the the truth of God's Word, that He made men and women differently, intentionally, on purpose and that is something to accept fully rather than reject, in even the smallest of ways.

It means that I will try to incorporate more skirts into my wardrobe because I (personally) have a clear, Biblical reason to do so. It also means that I've lived for 30+ years wearing mostly pants and that creating a new habit may be difficult--particularly on cold, rainy, or snowy days. {Prayers/tips welcomed and appreciated!}

It means that I have daughters to teach and I never, ever want them to look for their value or self-worth in comparing themselves to men and what men can do. It means that I want my girls and I to embrace every bit of our God-given femininity. One way of doing that, among others (like make-up, perfume, or hair bows, for example) is wearing clothing meant to distinguish me as a woman.

What are your thoughts? What verses and teachings have helped you embrace Biblical womanhood and femininity?

skirts
well

We use The Well-Trained Mind as a guide in our homeschool, sort of like a spring board for advice, information and guidance through our homeschooling years. I appreciate the style of writing as though the authors and I are talking, mother to mother. I love the advice and wisdom given, how they share their own homeschooling stories, and how the book reassures parents that homeschooling is something they can do successfully. I like that the classical approach to education is explained and the ideas for ways you can accomplish this approach in your own home.

However, what I have come to realize in my homeschool journey is that overall, the book is written as though you are homeschooling one child in one grade at a time. So when I would plan for each of my 3 school-aged children, their work loads and schedules would look great. . . separately, that is. But, when I put those schedules together, I was easily overwhelmed. Put babies and toddlers in the mix and some days were just disastrous! Here's how I've tweaked The Well-Trained Mind so that our homeschooling is not so stressful.

#1 Combine, Combine, Combine
Now this may seem like a no-brainer, especially to an experienced homeschooler or to a mother of many. But let me tell you, I desperately needed to hear someone say that to me early on. After using public school for 3 years, we were new homeschoolers, and I had a new baby every year for our first three years of homeschooling. Large family living was also new and I was learning my way through that--all while still trying to teach most everything separately.

Long story short, save yourself the trouble of trying to keep track of a thousand different subjects, especially during the elementary to middle school years. Here's what we (finally!) combine: History, Science, Health, Music, Art, P.E., Bible and some Latin. I think Math and Language Arts are good to keep separate according to ability.

I certainly require different work in each subject for each child, so my 3rd grader's assignments will look different from my 7th grader's. It is such a time saver and stress reliever to have the children study subjects together. It teaches them to work together with someone of a different age and level of ability and makes the planning easier on me.

#2 One-on-One Isn't (Always) Realistic
To piggyback off of the previous point, one-on-one time for every person, for every subject just won't work. Seriously. I'm only one mom without the ability to clone myself. Some of the curriculum suggestions and teaching methods in the book require a great deal of one-on-one time across subjects. My advice is this: choose curriculum/subjects wisely and aim for independence.

For example, when my oldest daughter was in 3rd grade, our grammar study was just heavy with one-on-one teaching, all laid out with a scripted text for me on what to say to her. My daughter could not breathe under that formatting( (poor child!), because she just didn't need me to hold her hand through that. Fast-forward a few years and my 3rd grade son is thriving with that exact same grammar book.

So even if the book recommends it (whether that be a curriculum or a method of teaching), keep in mind your child may not need everything read and narrated aloud or dictated to them. Sometimes they need the freedom to read it themselves, mull it over, then apply what they've read. Remember the goal is to teach our children how to learn, to eventually move toward independence from mom.

Although I'm not there yet, high school is around the corner. This may be a season where for some studies, the high school student may have to veer away from what the group is studying to meet certain requirements. I think that if along the way, I've been slowly nudging my children toward independence (less scripted texts, less hand-holding, etc.), the high school years won't seem so intimidating because they've been gaining experience in independence along the way.

#3 Revise the Time Frames
Now, to be fair, The Well-Trained Mind mentions that the time recommendations are simply given so that a parent has some idea how long it should take to complete assignments each day. However, new homeschoolers often stress themselves out trying to check every box and complete every task. Time frames is one of those areas, and I was one of those homeschooling mothers.

Do not be bound by the clock. Use the times as recommendations only. If your child needs 30 minutes for spelling instead of 15, give him 30 minutes. If your child can do an hour's worth of math in 40 minutes, then don't make him do 20 minutes more. If you cannot spare 90 minutes on one history period, try an hour instead. Do not lose one of the most beautiful aspects of homeschooling: flexibility.

Think of schooling as more of a natural extension of living and parenting, rather some imitation of a school day, in an actual school building, with set times for everything. Don't get me wrong, we have a routine for each of our days and a working knowledge of how each day will flow. However, I know it is unrealistic for me to schedule every single assignment by the minute, especially because babies and toddlers could care less about the clock! Life happens around here--potty training in the middle of history, nursing sessions during math, someone needs help with English while I'm changing a diaper--you get the picture.

What happens is that in time, you begin to notice how long it takes for each child to complete what assignments and you begin to understand what the workload should look like. Be patient in this process. Also, as the kids get older and begin to grasp more concepts, their efficiency will increase. Be patient with this process as well. Keep at it and you will find your rhythm, but don't stress out if all of your learning didn't occur in neat little 15-30 minute chunks of time.

Finally, if the work's not done by lunch time, STOP! Don't go any further! Put it away until later in the afternoon or save it for the next day. Trust me. . .this will help you keep some sanity and avoid burn out.

#4 A Word on Science
I love The Well-Trained Mind's approach to science, but only in theory. Coupling the period of history we're studying with the science of the time seemed just fabulous. In reality, it was just a disaster for my family and here's why. Most science curriculum do not take a classical approach, so the The Well-Trained Mind's recommendation is to piece a curriculum together using various science encyclopedias, experiment books, science kits, and the like, for elementary through middle grades. It's a real hands-on, find-out-how-it-works method to learning science.

At first glance, for one or maybe two children, I could totally see how this could work and be tons of fun. My reality is that 3 different experiments for 3 different areas of science had me all over the place. (I really tried, y'all!) And that's right now; in one short year, I'll have 4 school-aged children, with a few younger ones hanging around for the action. Furthermore, the cost for all the science kits and encyclopedias proved to be more than my budget would allow. I tried piecing things together with substitutes and cheaper alternatives, which became a stressful planning session each school year. Then, once I collected everything, it was like pulling teeth to get my children to buy into it all. So, I ditched The Well-Trained Mind for science and branched out on my own. (Don't be like me and take years to figure that out!)

Science is a subject we now do together. We are using Science in the Beginning by Wile and it has been a HUGE blessing to our family. The experiments are straightforward and the explanations are thorough as it explains the science behind each day of Creation. The end-of-lesson assignments are already divided amongst younger, older and oldest students, but I still have room to add to or subtract from the assignments based on my children's abilities. And the obvious bonus for our family: it is Creation-based, which means no evolutionists theories or millions of years, etc. So, if The Well-Trained Mind science recommendations do not work for you, ditch it and go with something else! You won't be sorry you did!

These are the major adjustments we've made so that the Well Trained-Mind fits for our large family. If you use the Well-Trained Mind, what adjustments have you made so that it works well in your family? What tips do you have to make homeschooling with multiple grades a smoother experience?


well


***I wrote this originally for Our Homeschool Forum.***
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