For the month of October, I've been participating in a photo challenge with Jami at Homemaking Ministries and Young Wife's Guide, and I'm having a ball! Because I'm more of a writer at heart rather than a photographer, there's always a bit I share behind each picture. Anyway, my intention was to share them on my blog, a week at a time for friends that don't do Instagram or Facebook. As you can see, I'm a little behind, but here we go. (If you are on Instagram with me, just pretend this is the first time you've seen this!) 😁

Looks like fun! Late, but I'm in. 😉
#homemakingministries #day1 #homemaker#love #loveeveryday #noidlebread

From the No Idle Bread bookshelf....
#homemakingministries #day2 #readingformama #allthebooks #love#noidlebread

A completed #homemaking task...found these canisters at Aldi. I love that the smaller ones can stack inside of my cabinet, freeing up counter space.
#homemakingministries #day3 #catchingup😊 #kitchenhappenings #housework #love#noidlebread

So, this appeared on my to-do list today. My little ones decided today was the day to pull out the toys from the under-the-stairs closet and reorganize everything. I (ahem, "we") got it done...too tired to take an after pic. 😉
#homemakingministries #day4#finallycaughtup #numbers5thru7 #mybabies#love #noidlebread

#BIBLE reading this GREAT is our God! And, oh, how He loves us! So very #grateful..
#Psalm145 #lovedbytheMostHigh #humbling#homemakingministries #day5 #love#loveeveryday #noidlebread

Most of the time, I'm drinking water all day long. But, right around this time, when the air begins to cool, this is my favorite hot tea! Now.....just waiting on this air to cool. Still feels like summer time... #whereisfall 
#homemakingministries #day6#favoritedrink #love #noidlebread

The "after the family gathering" face! Lol!!!! I'm tired, y'all. Lasagna, baked ziti, chicken and shrimp alfredo, spaghetti and meatsauce, broccoli, spring salad, and garlic bread. Thankful for a #Husbandwho's a beast on the grill (the chicken and shrimp) and isn't afraid to help me stir sauces and man the oven. It must have been pretty good, because a couple of people started falling asleep. 😴😁 #funtimes
#monthlyfamilygathering #ourturntohost#hospitality #homemakingministries #day7#selfie #love #noidlebread

I hope you all enjoyed the first 7 days. I'll post the 2nd week in a day or so to catch you all up on what's happening in the No Idle Bread household this October. If you feel inclined, join in!! 

The to-do list is always looming for the homeschool mom. And one of the things on the list is a successfully run homeschool, where children learn happily and accomplish the goals you set lay out for them. Often, we have to cheer our children on, encouraging them to remain diligent to the work before them. Then other days, it feels more like we have to drag, push, or pull them on in the the right direction, just to complete the day’s work. And those types of days tend to carry on and on.

It can become so easy to get stuck in that mode of “make sure you get your work done” or “did you check that off your list” or “did you finish your assignment yet”. . .ahem, I may or may not know this from experience! At our core though, we just want our babes to thrive, to do well, to give their best, to love learning. . .but all of that can be easily lost in translation if we aren’t careful. When I feel myself hitting this place in our homeschool life, I have learned am learning to back down a little, pray for the situation and then sprinkle some good old fashioned love on them. Letting the children know they are special to me really is easy to do and doesn’t cost a fortune.

Constantly go to the Father on your childrens’ behalf, but especially during times of stress and strain. There have been intense times in our school day where I will pull my child aside and pray over them right then and there. God is faithful, and although the situation may not be resolved immediately, the tension is diffused. Sometimes my children thank me for praying for them, but often they don’t. That is okay because these prayers are sown in faith. One day, they will be very grateful and will look back with fondness over the prayers we’ve prayed. Pray fervently for your children.

hugs and tickles
All of my children find this refreshing, even the older ones. Hugs are free and they are loving and they make children feel secure. My kids love when I hug them, even my older ones and random hugs are the best!

My children love a good snack or treat from time to time. We are not an overly “snacky” family, meaning we don’t snack all day long. Pretzel rods and popcorn are always available if  someone can’t hold out till the next meal. I try to give my children good, full meals, with 2nds (or 3rds) if they are still hungry. That way, 30 minutes later they aren’t asking for a snack.

Anyway, some days I will randomly just go around and hand out treats to each of my kids and they love it, because it’s unexpected. It varies from things we have on hand, like marshmallows, fruit snacks or popsicles. Other times it’s candy I buy specifically for this purpose. Skittles, candy corn, lollipops and Smarties are some of our favorites.

index card notes
After the kids have gone to bed, I will write a little note to each of them on an index card. I put the card at their place at the table so they will see it the next morning at breakfast. The note will tell them I love them, of course, along with something positive about that child. They note isn’t elaborate and I don’t expect them to keep the note forever. The gesture itself will go a long way in making them feel special

stickers, stars, and smiley faces
This one is pretty self explanatory! What child doesn’t love a sticker, star, or a smiley face on their papers??? And, guess what? Big kids enjoy this, too. And reserved especially for my big kids, I may also leave a funny note beside the sticker, just to brighten their day.

small privileges  
These are just little extras that thrill my children. Things like:
  • Extra time up before bedtime
  • First to have video game time after school
  • Choose the menu for breakfast or lunch
  • Free reading instead of assigned reading
  • Movie at naptime in the living room, complete with blankets and pillows
  • Pick the next flavor of Kool-Aid, even allowing for some very interesting combination flavors

I often tell my older kids that at the end of this homeschooling journey, we need to still be friends. In other words, homeschooling should strengthen our relationship with our children, not tear it apart. The point is that we have a unique job as mother/teacher and there are simple ways to remind our children that they are special to us.

What little ways do you let your children know they are special to you?

Also posted at Our Homeschool Forum.

Making Them Feel Special

by on Saturday, October 14, 2017
The to-do list is always looming for the homeschool mom. And one of the things on the list is a successfully run homeschool, where ch...

From the Cover:
Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture

From the Inside Jacket Cover:
The Bible was originally written to an ancient people removed from us by thousands of years and thousands of miles. The Scriptures include subtle culturally based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature, and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the Scriptures read. The NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible gives you a window into this world. . . 

A timeline precedes each of the Testaments, showing a chronological progression of Biblical history and world history simultaneously. Before the Old Testament there's a Hebrew to English translation to explain words that do not have a direct equivalent. Similarly, before the New Testament, there is a glossary of commonly used terms. There are plenty of other charts, maps, notes, pictures (historical documents, artifacts, etc.) and articles dispersed throughout the Bible. The words of Christ are in red and of course an index and concordance in the back.

My Thoughts:
Although the text remains true to the NKJV of the Bible, all of the supplemental information gives it the feel of a text book. I find this helpful in some ways, and off-putting in others. It does provide an awesome amount of contextual background, from notable rulers of the day to the way of life of various cultures, how they worshiped and in ways these things effected God's people. However, these are Holy, sacred Scriptures, the very Word of God. So, I'd rather not think of this Book as just another historical account of the Ancient times.

When I open God's Word, I seek His truth and I long to understand Him and His ways. So, I am accustomed to reading Bible notes that help me do just that, ones that give me more insight into the character of God. . . not notes that, for example, explain the idols that near-by pagan cultures may have worshiped, complete with pictures and all.

Again, there are some very helpful and useful resources in the NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible that I think are great and intend to investigate further. I appreciate what the authors do in providing a cultural context to bring another level of clarity to God's Word. However, I believe I will keep my current Bible as my "go-to" source for daily reading, and this one will remain on the shelves as an additional reference.

(I received copies of this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

It's Back to School season right now, even among homeschoolers. For as flexible as we claim to be, most of us follow a more traditional school year--myself included. So what if we aren't quite ready to start and are feeling like there are loose ends we still need to tend to? Here is a quick list of things that can be done relatively easily to help homeschooling get off to a good start and continue to flow well.

create a daily flow for each subject
Not all of us use a curriculum that has lesson plans laid out for what we are to do each day. In fact the majority of my curriculum is not laid out for me. So it helps me to make my curriculum choices "open and go". I do this by selecting assignments in advance to be done each time we do that subject. (This is great when homeschooling more than one child because you can use that assignment list for the next child!) I also create a daily flow to each subject. For example, in science, my middle grade children work according to this rhythm every science period:

  1. Read the lesson up to the "experiment" section.
  2. Complete the experiment and then complete the rest of the reading.
  3. Define any science terms and copy any science principles.
  4. Answer the discussion questions/notebook page.
Then I put that daily flow plan on a sticky note or index card (taped) inside the child's text book or notebook, so they will know what's expected and it helps them become more independent in their work.
*Note: selecting assignments in advance can be done for the entire school year, half the school year, or quarterly. . .just so long as you are ahead of where your children are.

print worksheets and make photocopies ahead of time
It never fails that in the middle of a lesson, you realize that you need a paper printed and you don't have it. My experience has been that I can't find the original, or that my printer won't work, or that my computer is running slowly. Meanwhile the kids are kind of in a lull, waiting for me to fix the problem. It just becomes an interruption to our day.

So, I print every worksheet, test, coloring page, map, quiz etc. for each of my children, for every subject ahead of time. Yep, that's a lot of copies. Yep, that's a lot of ink. But the peace of mind, friends. . . that's the goal. If printing for the year is too much, try it quarterly. The whole point is to be ahead of the children so you are prepared.

weekly work binder
Now that you've printed a massive stack of papers ahead of time, file them away according to subject, grade, child or whatever works for you. Then before the start of each school week, put whatever worksheets or print-outs each child needs for the week into that binder, again filed according to subject, grade, child, day, etc. This keeps hand-outs in a central location so each person knows exactly where to find what they need for the week. I can keep up with my little ones' work and my older children know where to get what they need without needing to ask me. Also, it makes their work portable as we do our school work in a couple of different places in our home. I came across this brilliant idea HERE and we are trying it out this year.

color code
This tip is as old as they come, yet I'd never tried it before...until now. I've got four kids that I'm officially schooling and our colors are green, blue, black and red. We are using composition notebooks this year, and those colors were readily available. Plus, green and blue are my oldest girls' favorite colors, so that worked out great. Anyway, I'm not big on color coding every little thing (like cups, plates, and bath towels), but I do like the convenience of being able to glance at a notebook and know exactly who it belongs to. Color coding by child might not be your thing, but you could color code by subject or day of the week to help you organize school work.

organize materials in a way that makes sense to you
So, if the above color coding advice sounds like a nightmare to you, don't do it!! Go with what makes sense for your family. For example, our history book suggested organizing any written work by continent and our writing curricula said to organize essays by type (narrations, historical, fiction, etc.). While that sounded great when I read it and organized our binders, it ended up being a disaster for me. I realize I am a chronological mama--I like things to be filed in the order they were completed so that I'm better able to see my children's progress. Also, when my homeschool portfolio review comes around, I can pull samples of their work, in order, to show a logical progression of what they did each month. So we will simply organize things one lesson at a time.

get a new planner; don't wing it
It's just better for all involved if you have some way to track each day. You can purchase a planner, from a simple calendar book to something that schedules every hour of the day. It can be on paper or online. What has worked for me is to make my own planner each year. There are tons of free planning pages online so it can be very simple to pull together a custom planner to fit you and your family. I get most of my planning pages HERE. In times past, I found that the planners I purchased had 2 major problems: 1. lots of pages I never used and 2. not enough space to write in daily assignments. So, I make my own now and I love it. If you choose to do this, you can print the pages and stick them in a binder (which is what I do) or take them to an office supply store and have it laminated and comb bound for you.

What other tips do you have to make homeschooling go smoothly for you? How do you organize your school work? What type of planner do you use? 
Happy schooling, y'all!

Also posted at Our Homeschool Forum.
Let me just say, I am usually not the product-pushing type of person. But today, I am! So, I'm just going to put it out there right away and say: take a look at the pencil sharpeners from Classroom Friendly Supplies!!!

If you are anything like us, then you've been through a few pencil sharpeners in your homeschool. We've tried the electrical sharpener that works great until it gets jammed or the motor gives out....or the toddlers stick things other than pencils into it. Then, we've tried the little personal sharpeners for each of the kids and it chews the pencil to a nub before it sharpens, or the lead keeps breaking over and over again, or the lead keeps falling out. We tried a manual with a crank handle, which was great, until someone broke the shavings compartment. It won't stay attached, which means that the entire sharpener won't work.

All of those problems are now solved! This shiny red sharpener arrived a few weeks ago and we love it!!!

It's a manual sharpener that gives a perfectly sharpened pencil every single time. It comes with a mount that gives you the option to secure it to a table or counter top. The shavings tray sits underneath the blades to catch shavings, rather than encompassing the blades. So the function of the sharpener is not dependent upon the tray. Here are pics of my 5 year old son demonstrating how to use it and you'll see how unique this sharpener is!

To begin, slide out the silver face until it clicks in place.

Pinch the 2 black knobs together BEFORE inserting your pencil.

Maintain the pinch and put the pencil in as far as it will go.
Let go of the knobs and the sharpener holds the pencil in place.

Hold the top of the sharpener (do NOT hold the pencil) and crank the handle to sharpen. When the handle feels "loose" and the tension is gone, you know your pencil is ready!

Pinch the black knobs again BEFORE removing the pencil.
Perfectly sharpened pencil every time!

This sharpener arrived right in the middle of our back to homeschool planning, which was great as we've been getting everything ready for the new school year, including freshly sharpened pencils. All of my kids have been scouring the house finding all sorts of pencils to sharpen, excited about having their turn to use the new sharpener. And we've been happily sharpening away!

If you're interested, visit Classroom Friendly Supplies to check out what my family calls the best pencil sharpeners ever!

I received the pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All of the opinions expressed were my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

A Husband's gentle touch
A sink full of dishes
Goofy children giggling
Crumbs on the floor
Slobbery baby kisses
A diaper change
A hot cup of coffee
Full laundry baskets
A candle burning 
School work to check
A blanket to keep warm
Bathrooms to clean

These things are ordinary in my life. At least one of them is bound to happen every single day. But if I'm not careful, it's easy to take them for granted, and I miss the true treasure--blessed gift--they really are.

Some items on the list above, hands down, we'd all agree are the sweetest things ever. But then some of those items, well, we struggle to see the gift they possess. The world would have us believe that some of these things are boring, or they are not worthy of our time. We feel like if someone else can do them, then great, especially if that means getting our hands dirty, yielding of ourselves, and serving those in our own homes.

To do so means a lot less "me time" and way more "them time." It means being faithful and diligent, when no one can see you, without any public recognition over what you're doing. Others would say, there just isn't enough wow factor, that they must be amazed and entertained and these things are nothing but drudgery.

But if we look closely enough, we find that blessings abound in our regular, routine, day-to-day, ordinary lives. It's the tiny things: the small victories, the sweet notes, a kind word, a song heard. Treasure upon treasure: the people in our homes, the tasks God has given our hands to do, the ability--both mentally and physically--to carry those tasks out. Yes, even the mundane, unexciting, non-glamorous things are a treasure because they hold lessons for us, and if we let them, they refine us and mature us, all to the glory of God.

"Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; 
nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness 
to those who have been trained by it."
-Hebrews 12:11

Remember, sisters, we are to live this Christian life in service to others. And if we refuse to engage the treasures in our own homes, how can we honestly live that out outside of our homes? Even our very own precious Savior, bent low to wash His disciples' feet (John 13:1-17).

I urge you to pay attention to what is around you. I mean really look at your daily life. Stop just long enough to take it all in as more than just the same ol' same ol'. Beauty is every where. Gifts are all over the place.

Crumbs on the floor and dishes in the sink mean my family is fed. And not only are we fed, we had a choice in what we wanted to eat.
Laundry to do means we have clothes to wear and clean running water. And again, a choice in what we wanted to wear today.
Noisy toddler voices become music to the ear when we remember these precious days are fleeting. You'll look up and you have teenagers
Moving a husband's boots to the closet may remind you of how hard he works to provide, that he has a job to go to each day.
You can see the sun shine. You can smell a flower. You can breathe.

Honestly, the list goes on and on and on.
Be faithful in the small things, and even in the hard things, sisters, be faithful.
Treasures abound in the ordinary.

Also posted at Our Homeschool Forum.

Treasures in the Ordinary

by on Monday, August 28, 2017
A Husband's gentle touch A sink full of dishes Goofy children giggling Crumbs on the floor Slobbery baby kisses A diaper ...

When summertime hits, for some of us, it's all about the beach or the pool, family vacations, or simply a break from the regular routine. I would love to lounge poolside every day and catch up on some good reading or to have an extended vacation and dig in sandy shores all day. However, that is not this summer's reality, here at home with my sweet children. We have been intentional in taking a break from our regular routine, adding a bit of fun and surprise each day. Nothing big or super fancy, but definitely noticeable….like pancakes on a Wednesday, when we normally have them on Saturdays. Or, nap time “sleepover” in the living room, with popcorn and a movie. (Sometimes twice a week: once for the big kids and once for the little kids.)

While my children are resting and recharging, I recognize that I need to do the same, but in a different way. Here are two ways that I am recharging this summer: 1) reading God's Word and 2) organizing all sorts of things.

I know. That probably wasn't what you thought I was going to say, but it has brought a peace to my soul that was very much needed.

God's Word
As Believers we know that we get our rest, our refueling, our peace, our confidence, our sanity through the truth of God's word. Summer has come to be a time where I can focus on my own Scripture memory, learning passages by heart. It's a time when I can dig deep to study and search out answers, giving greater attention to some heartfelt matters. I can read a book in the Bible that I haven't read through yet, or participate in an online Bible study. Simply put, I can take my time and drink in the Word, not feeling rushed by my checklist of to-do's for the day.

So the last point may be easier to understand why it brings me rest. This point may be a harder sell; just stay with me. When mom is unorganized, she does not have peace. . .at least this is true in my household. So summertime affords me the opportunity to get rid of things I don't need, to give attention to household tasks I've neglected, to organize school material in preparation for the coming year, to give away clothing and shoes that don't fit, to pass down to the next child clothing and shoes that do fit. I can take the time to organize things that have become a bit frazzled by the end of the school year.

I believe that wanting things “just so” is part of our make-up as women. We are in our element in our homes, as our homes are our domain. Scripture advises us to watch over the ways of our households (Proverbs 31:27). For me, when things pile up because of busyness or even due to necessity, those areas actually become an irritation in the back of my mind because I know they fall under my domain and are my responsibility. Organization recharges and energizes me, because I feel accomplished when I see the progress being made. It also gives me a clean slate to work with in preparation for the adjustments surrounding the start of a new school year.

So far, I'm off to a good start with resting this summer. I have memorized Colossians 3:1-8, am reading through the book of Leviticus (after finishing Jude and Philemon), and studying Biblical feasts, as well as Christian head covering.

I have organized my little ones’ closets and the toy closet (again). I've handled a number of small to-do's, am revamping my cleaning routine, while planning high school down to 1st grade for the coming year.

Peace of mind, y'all.

Also posted at Our Homeschool Forum.

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