Stop the Race. Look Up.

A nature loving mom with nature loving children means a homeschool brimming with nature projects.

Some simple peanut garlands hanging just outside our back door provide nourishment for the squirrels and much entertainment as we watch the animals bustle around gathering the nuts.

My soft-hearted, nature loving daughter can’t stand to leave the peanut garlands in an area where the squirrels have to work for it. She attempts to give them a challenge but usually within minutes she’s lowering one of the tasty treats to an area where the squirrels can have a heyday with it.

It’s like watching a nature documentary right outside our door. We watch as two squirrels fight over the peanuts. Who can get there first? Who’s quicker? Who’s stronger? Who is more nimble? Who can find the best hiding place for their peanut?

Their movements are fast. Frantic. My heart begins to race just watching them in their haste. And then I remember. As I watch one of the squirrels dash across the yard my eyes raise a bit and I remember the peanut garlands my daughter has yet to move still hanging from the trellis. Just above these frantic squirrels heads, peacefully resting there, are two long garlands of peanuts. The squirrels race around in their stress, capturing their prized peanuts. greed overcoming them. All the while an abundance of what they treasure hangs just above their heads.

Do they know? If they did know, would they rest a little? Would they slow down and enjoy the process a little more? Would they be more apt to share with the other squirrels in the yard?


Oh, do I ever see myself in these squirrels. The way I get so wrapped up in my own needs and the needs of my family. The way I bustle about in a frantic pace when I act as if our lives depend on my ability to move fast. The way I so quickly forget my Provider. The One that meets my needs for each day. The way I forget to look up and remember the Giver of great gifts, holds in abundance everything I need, ready for me just when I need it.

Can we all just slow down a bit today? Can we stop the race we find ourselves in and instead look up and remember the One that knows our true needs?

Just as the squirrels in our yard rush about completely unaware of the blessings hanging just above their heads, we too, rush about, missing the blessings and the provisions the Lord has for us.

But, if we’d just slow down. Stop. Look up. Commune with the Creator and stop the race. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

 

 

What I Learned in April

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

tulip path

What We Read This Month:

Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson–A beautiful compilation of delightful short stories of the creatures living in the forest.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by  JoAnn Deak and Sarah Ackerley–as we have been on a healing journey this school year, healing from past trauma, this was a wonderful, short book to solidifiy some of our learning about the parts of the brain, their function, and amazing ways in which it heals.

My Reading This Month: 

The Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman—great book with helpful exercises to strengthen any marriage.

Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro—interesting book describing the principles of EMDR therapy and how you can apply those some principles to your own life.

Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel Amen—I am not quite done with this book, but I have found it very interesting. I enjoy how it has practical  yet powerful ways to change your thoughts and thus improve your overall life.

My Learning This Month:

“The Yes Basket”: I learned this idea here: The Yes Jar. I love the Empowered to Connect website and podcast. I have learned many helpful tips there.

The Yes Basket has helped our family with problems such as stealing gum or treats, boredom causing “bugging behavior”, difficulty with waiting for someone to be available to play or help, and the general feeling of deprivation.

How it Works: We have a small basket on our family room coffee table labled YES. I place individually wrapped gum and Hershey Kisses. Other ideas are lollipops, small toys, fidget toys, bubbles to blow, etc. But, my kids are content with gum and Kisses. I like to keep things simple! I usually place 1 or 2 pieces of gum and 1 or 2 Kisses per kid per day.

Rules: They must ask to have something, but I always get to say, “Yes!” They have to keep it equal…no taking more than their share. They must throw away their wrappers. If they do not follow these rules, the Yes Basket is closed the following day.

Feel free to try the Yes Basket in your family and let me know how it goes!

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What I Learned in December

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

December pathWrapping up another month and the end of 2017, I am reflective. It’s been a month of celebrating, growing, and rejoicing. 2017 has been a year of challenges, eye-opening revelations, and steps toward growth. To end a year a little softer, a little less tense, a little more aware, and still clinging to the Lord, is just where I want to be. Thank you, Lord!

Our Reading from the Month: 

A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy A beautiful book which kept our attention and stirred great conversation.

A Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling We are using this for narration, reading it slowly, one chapter per day.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet We are reading the whole trilogy but have only finished book one so far. We plan to see the play in Bellingham in February.

My Reading this Month:

Cure Your Child with Food by Kelly Dorfman Very interesting book addressing so many common issues: anxiety, constipation, picky eating, ADHD, hyperactivity, poor sleep, stomach aches, etc.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Insightful book. I am only able to read a little at a time as it’s quite heavy at times. I definitely recommend this book to anyone with past trauma or working with kids who have experienced trauma.

My Learning this Month:

More structure/routine equals less decision making and less stress.

In the last several months, we have adopted more structure and routine into our daily lives. I have always considered myself a structured person, but often that structure was in my own mind. I followed the structure, but I didn’t clearly communicate it to my children. I am the type of person that can become quickly overwhelmed by rapid fire questions and demands being made at me. Creating more clearly communicated structure and routine in our day-to-day to life has drastically cut down on the amount of on the spot decisions and questions I need to field. Whew! What an unexpected blessing this has been!

Example: dinner menu hung on the kitchen cabinet. Each weekend, I sit down and create a very basic dinner menu plan for the week. Result: kids have more time to process and deal with dinners coming up in the week that are not their favorite, I refer them to the menu each time they ask, “what’s for dinner?”, I am aware of what ingredients I will need for the week, and there is one less day-to-day decision I have to make. This has been a win/win for all of us.

dinner menu

Helping My Kids Respect Time/”Owed Time”

“Kids can’t regulate on their own so the parent has to be the regulator,” therapist and adoptive dad, Lynn Owens.

The above quote helped to motivate me to become more structured and diligent about helping my kids move toward greater self-control, including time management.

In practical terms this looks like stating a specific time they will be required to be at the table in the morning to begin school, or in the car to leave, or at the table for a meal, and then keeping track of each minute they are late. Each minute they are late gets doubled and becomes their “owed time”. Owed time equals time spent sitting at the table in the kitchen doing absolutely nothing for the entire time they owe. The first time one precious daughter of mine earned 6 minutes of “owed time” for being 3 minutes late for school, she panicked. She quickly began bargaining. “Mom, I will do 6 extra chores for those 6 minutes! I will make dinner tonight! Just don’t make me do nothing!” I realized we were really on to something. My kids need to practice being quiet. They need time to just be still. They need to begin to see that it is actually possible for them to do nothing at all without dying.

My husband commented that he has never seen one particular daughter act motivated to be on time until we implemented this strategy.

Most days they are on time now. If they owe time, it’s typically 2-6 minutes. Their future spouses, friends, and employers will be thanking us someday for putting up with the current drama when we inform them of their “owed time”!

Let us begin this new month, this new year, remembering our newness in Christ. Our rebirth. Renewal. Rejoicing in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

What I Learned in October

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.October path
What We Are Reading:
The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
The Pond People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Don’t let this list intimidate. We usually just read one chapter a day. Slowly reading the books, narrating back the reading for the day, and short discussions, have richly enhanced our learning.
Living Education
Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I am new to Charlotte Mason. Well, this is not entirely true. The first friend to take the time to sit me down and explain how she homeschooled her children explained Charlotte Mason and her methods to me. But, I am new to understanding and taking hold of the philosophy of Charlotte Mason.
Upon hearing about Charlotte Mason, I was immediately drawn to the idea. Being a lover of the written word and high quality literature, I was hooked.
But, just as the seed in Mark 4 became choked out by thorns, my instant draw to the lovely way to educate according to Charlotte Mason became choked out by the idea that I needed to do more. Longer lessons. Complete more. Produce, produce, produce.
Charlotte Mason was a 19th century educator who believed in using Living Books (books said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit) in order to educate the whole child. There is much more to learn about Charlotte Mason and you could begin here: Simply Charlotte Mason if you would like to learn more.
This Charlotte Mason philosophy brings me a sense of freedom and peace in educating my girls.
Rather than working against the natural way in which my children and I were created, we are now working our way back to the way in which we were designed to learn and live.
We are reading and learning from Living Books. We are spending regular time observing and learning in nature. We are learning and practicing the skill of narration: retelling stories or portions of literature from memory.  We are looking at art and reading poetry.
I am lessening my words with each passing day and allowing my children to process, think, create images, connect ideas and be led by the Spirit.
We are filling our minds with the lovely. We are dwelling on beautiful ideas. We are keeping our lessons short and we are wanting more. We are being led by the Spirit and our homeschool is alive again.
Nature Study
Nature study is one of my most favorite parts of the week. We get outside. We use all of our senses. We observe. We learn. We laugh. We get excited about the beauty of the Lord all around us.
We are using the book, Exploring Nature with Children to help focus our learning. This book has a weekly nature walk activity, a nature journal activity, a poem, and a piece of artwork to study.
Enjoy our photos of our nature study.
What did you learn this month? What books are you reading? Please share your learning in the comments! I’d love to read it!

What I Learned in June

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

IMG_0581June! The month with the longest day of the year. Days full of light. More freedom from routines.

I love this path photo above. Sometimes the Lord just lays out the path in front of us. He says, “You have been stumbling over the rocks, sticks, and waves long enough. I have set this path before you. Take it! Follow Me!” He cuts away what needs cutting away and reveals His perfect way. His way which may not feel perfect, definitely doesn’t feel easy, but nonetheless, it’s His sovereign, Holy, wise plan. When I follow it, His fruit is displayed and my heart is at peace. Oh, Father, you are so good!

Books I am reading (which are encouraging me to follow Him):

  • Matthew
  • Taming the Giants: Stripping the Power from Overwhelming Emotions by Cathy Dickinson
  • Anything by Jennie Allen
  • Quick Tips for Busy Families by Jay Payleitner

Books I am reading with my girls:

  • 24 Family Ways
  • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
  • The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Fox

We are participating in a reading challenge, which encourages us to read books from all over the world: Give Your Child the World. Some books we’ve thoroughly enjoyed during this challenge:

  • Owen and Mzee The language of friendship. By Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu
  • Off to class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes
  • Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World by George Shannon
  • A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World

June books

A Summary of My Learning This Month: 

Traditions

Kids love traditions! They love having special things that are unique for our family. They love knowing they can count on the repetition of the fun activity or event or food. We have developed a couple of easy, new traditions which are helping to bring greater family connection. With our girls nearing the teenage years, we are facing a new dynamic…our kids don’t always want to spend time with us! It’s strange, new, sometimes nice, and sometimes a threat to our closeness. Traditions are helping to maintain some together time.

America’s Funniest Videos (AFV) in the big bed! We ALL load up in our king-sized bed. All the humans in the house as well as our 2 cats and we laugh and gasp at the crazy things people do on video. Fun, light-hearted time to relax and laugh together is a beautiful thing.

Visiting Tree Houses! Can a tradition be a tradition if it’s only happened once? I don’t think so. But, can we can count it a tradition if we plan to repeat this activity? I think so! My husband found us the most lovely “House in the Trees”in Tigard, Oregon where we played games, ate snacks, read books, watched Lassie and Little House on the Prairie, pretended to be pirates, slid down a slide to exit the house, drank coffee, and connected as a family. This activity is begging to become a tradition!

Sunday afternoon tea. We bake gluten free scones, put some cheese and fruit on a plate, and each get a warm beverage of our choice, and enjoy a little sit down, lovely time together before the busyness of the week takes off the next day.

Schedules

Although my children fight the idea of using a schedule for homeschooling, we all breathe a sigh of relief now that we have made the adjustment to having blocks of learning times scheduled each day. I purchased some cheap, very basic planners from Michael’s. I have always resisted using any kind of planner or schedule book because I feel so boxed into the format they use. But, the planners I found have very little on them. On a two page layout for each week, they contain only 5 days of the week, Monday-Friday, and contain 6 boxes per day, as well as a notes section.

Planner pic

Sunday evening, I sit down and think through our week and each day. It takes a considerable amount of time and brain power, but it avoids so much conflict, anxiety, and debate throughout the week. We often make adjustments to our schedule. It’s all written in pencil. But, it’s working very well for us to have a general idea of what each day holds. It’s also giving us a chance to see how long things actually take and helping to provide necessary and important breaks.

Recently, while visiting a science museum, our children’s anxiety and moodiness heightened after we’d been there for several hours. No one was ready to leave, but there was so much talk about what we were going to do next. I thought of our planners and the boundaries they provide, and quickly and verbally explained a rough schedule for the rest of our time at the museum. Everyone let out a deep breath, and my one daughter looked at me and said, “Thank you, mom. I just needed to know what was coming.”

I pray you are learning, growing and seeking what the Lord has for you. I’d love to hear what new “take away” you have to share. Please consider sharing in the comments. Blessings, dear reader!

What I Learned in April

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

April Path

A few months ago, I began blogging about my monthly learning. I hope to be a life-long learner and I find it helps to solidify my learning if I take some time to reflect and write about it. I would love to hear about your learning in the comments below. This month, I will begin listing books I am reading or listening to as well as books I am reading with my daughters, ages 9 and 11.

  • Headstands are hard! I used to be able to do headstands  anytime I wanted. They required little effort. Out of nowhere, I began to wonder if I could still do a headstand. The answer is a big fat NO! But, I am working at it. There are YouTube videos with tips to help build up the muscle and balance needed. And, just attempting a headstand is hard work!
  • “Crooked” talk vs. “Straight” talk. “Crooked” talk is saying things or asking things in a sideways way, uses guilt and manipulation rather than just talking “straight”. “Straight” talk is saying exactly what you mean or what you are requesting. Example: “I wish I had some ketchup to put on this dinner.” (Insert whiny voice) Me, “So, think about what you need and what you want to ask me.” “Straight” talk example: “Mom, can you please get me some ketchup?” It may seem like a small change, but I think it can have a large impact. I had noticed a lot of whining and complaining in our house. When I learned about “crooked” talk and “straight” talk, I realized how much  of this complaining could be eliminated by simply stating our requests directly to the person we’d like to ask.
  • Rereading the same passage or chapter of the Bible, over and over again for a month, is an excellent way to gain meaning from the passage. Scripture is truly a living book! My girls and I read chapter 4 of Philippians almost every weekday this month and gained something new each time we read it. Now, I am looking for which chapter we should focus on in the month of May. What is your favorite chapter of the Bible and why?
  • At 9 1/2 and almost 12, my girls are not too old for read alouds! This month, I began reading aloud to my girls during school time for about an hour each day. I am reading science books, fictional books, biographies, and historical picture books. Suddenly, learning came alive! Now when my husband gets home from work, the girls are able and excited to tell about some of our learning from the day. A favorite topic this month has been Ruby Bridges.
  • Spring is a beautiful time for “Nature Walks”. My girls have thoroughly enjoyed checking out books from the library about birds, plants and animals in our area and then looking for them when we are out in nature.
    nature walk abby
  • Books I Have Been Enjoying this Month:
    • 1 Timothy
    • Titus
    • 2 Timothy
    • John
    • Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
    • Teaching from Rest: A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
    • The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson
  • Books We Have Been Enjoying this Month as Read Alouds:
    • Philippians
    • Among the Farmyard People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
    • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
    • Discovering Evidence for Creation and the Biblical Flood by Michael J. Oard, Tara Wolfe, and Chris Turbuck
    • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
    • The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America
    • National Audubon Society First Field Guide Mammals
    • Common Wildflowers of Washington and Oregon

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Piano Praise Beauty

 

Something about the piano praise medley on Pandora brought much needed inspiration this morning. There were no words playing from my speakers, but the words played in my heart. The words echoed,

beauty

beauty

beauty

On a dark, dank, wet day, there is beauty.

The melody repeated and the Lord highlighted the beauty all around. Temptation to go looking for His beauty filled me, until He pointed out that I didn’t need to move from the spot where I was perched at our paint stained kitchen table.

The words from Philippians 4 flooded my heart,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

My pen began to slide along my journal, pouring out beauty.

Beauty in the sounds.

Beauty in the breath.

Beauty in the light.

Beauty in the soul.

Beauty in the raindrops.

Beauty in the squirrel discovering the feed.

Beauty in the shine off the wind chime.

Beauty in the Easter garden awaiting the sun and warmth to aid the grass in growing.

Beauty in the empty cross and tomb reminding me death has no sting.

Beauty in the mound of soil ready for it’s plants.

Beauty in the Easter egg project my 9-year-old left strewn about the table waiting to bless her cousins.

Beauty in the school posters hung on the wall signifying learning happening within these walls.

Beauty in the stack of books laying horizontally longing to be read.

Beauty in the mud covered boots reminding me of the tromping my 11-year-old did the day before.

Beauty in the signs of life all around.

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