First - have they heard the "I Have a Dream" speech? It is only 17 minutes long - watch it on full-screen, turn up the volume and really listen.
Tracking ID UA-67579211-1
Nearly a hundred years had passed since the Emancipation Proclamation, yet America's black citizens remained trapped in a legal morass of prejudice and codified bias. The right to vote, to work, to receive an education, to simply "be" in certain spaces - all were points of contention. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man with powerful gifts, born for "such a time" as the Civil Rights Era. If your students don't know why we honor MLK, Jr. with a holiday - today is the perfect day to remedy that!
First - have they heard the "I Have a Dream" speech? It is only 17 minutes long - watch it on full-screen, turn up the volume and really listen.
Secondly - especially for your high school students - have they ever really THOUGHT about the words of his speech? Of how he crafted and carefully expressed every idea with the goal of impacting people's hearts and minds forever? I have two free files for you: A student printout of the speech, with numbered paragraphs to help you read it closely and discuss it, and a teacher's key close reading I created for my Intro to Lit class students. Simply fill in your email address on the contact form below, and I will send you the link to download the files. I encourage you to go over this speech - if not today, this week; if not this week, this month. We honor the man, when we keep his dream alive!
Not all rigor is mortis!
Honest, I am not trying to rush everyone forward...but we only have 23 days until the turkey carcass is in the freezer for soup, and people start lining up to buy their Christmas trees at the local Home Depot!
Maybe it's because I was born on Thanksgiving (oh, so many years ago!). Maybe it is that I have heard Thanksgiving is called "The Introvert's Holiday" for its more reflective, more intimate pace. Whatever it is - I always try to make sure that in our home, we pause between the mad back-to-school/World Series/Halloween rush...and Christmas season...to be thankful. I want us to take a breath. I want us to think. I want us to take time to honestly snuggle into life and just be glad to be here. It seems that this moment - this moment in time - is not too much to ask.
If it seem appropriate to pause to reflect on all our blessings, before we celebrate the greatest blessing of all - how can we do that? It needs to be visible, because in this month-before-THAT-month otherwise it will get pushed to the back burner. It needs to be easy. It needs to be inexpensive. It needs to be - at our fingertips.
All too often, I wait until the day before Thanksgiving...then I think, "OH! We need to talk about THANKFULNESS!" Ha. As in, "Hey kids, before everyone starts asking you what you want for Christmas - possibly even AT the Thanksgiving table - let's try to think about what you are already thankful for!"
More recently, I've tried to make autumn our season of Gratitude. As we settle down into the school year, we try to consciously appreciate the gifts of family, home, friends, and the simple everyday blessings that mean the most. But - how to make that a visible part of our every day?
So, I took a few pictures, put together a cute little bulletin board set....and then never used it on a bulletin board! We love to use it as dining room decor - around the top of the wall, or just above the chair rail level. I print off the pictures at Costco - but if you have a good quality printer, you can do it right at home! We cut out and paste the border, cut out and leave a stack of the "leaves" laying in the middle of the table all month. Any - and all - of us are encouraged to write down a blessing in their lives when it comes to mind...and stick it on the wall. (We use painter's tape - whatever will leave your wall unscathed will work!)
By Thanksgiving - I hope - we have a more sincere understanding of the blessings in our lives, and a more sincere gratitude going forward into a season that SHOULD be a season of giving.
I am happy to share the set with you - and hope it helps your family as you seek to develop an attitude of gratitude!
Finally, today, I want all my friends here in The Red Couch Reading Room to know - I am sincerely thankful for YOU this season. You are my comrades in arms, as we seek to build integrity, wisdom, and discernment into our students, our children. Thank you for coming by to visit, thank you for inspiring me, and thank you for holding the bar high in your homes and classrooms! You are a blessing to me!
I've talked here - often - about how different seasons seem to bring particular books to mind. In my house, books are not mere acquaintances to be stored on a shelf after introduction. Here in my very own three-ring-circus, books are friends. We revisit them regularly, renewing our old acquaintance on a chill autumn afternoon, and then treasuring the visit as much as if we'd shaken the characters' hands.
Funny enough, some books just call out to be read on a drear November afternoon, casting a ray of light into a cloudy, drizzly day. So I thought I would list off some of our favorite autumn reads for you today. Dare I confess the thought came to me as I sighed into a favorite tale once again, relishing and remembering the sometimes familiar cadence of Louisa May Alcott? I am at once comforted by the familiarity of the story, and startled at the surprising things I have missed ere this reading - or perhaps forgotten.
Like a friend whose face and laughter are as familiar as your own, a book is never completely knowable. A great book, like a great friend, is multi-faceted and growing in meaning as you grow in experience to understand it! Here are some of our very favorite "Fall" books!
I hope that among these books you find a few new friends, and that in their pages you find a little challenge, a lot of wisdom, and a never-ending source of joy. May your autumn be warm & cozy, may your school year bring you ever closer to your goals - academic, spiritual, and emotional - and may your family be blessed as you seek to grow together in all the best ways.
Let me know what YOUR family's fall favorites are! I love to meet new "friends" too!
Not all rigor is mortis!
It's summertime, and the living is easy!
But...if you are like me...you will stress right up until you have some semblance of a plan for next year! Oh, it doesn't have to be fine-tuned, but you don't want to wind up like I did one year: On the first day of our homeschool, I realized I had forgotten to order math books. I'm a Lit. gal, you know? I had planned their history/literature/creative unit studies to within an inch of perfection. But, I had completely forgotten math! Perhaps that's why every summer from that year forward in our homeschool, I made sure to craft a rough draft of a plan at least four weeks out from our start date.
I always made a day (or at least an afternoon!) of it. I know you're hoping I'll tell you I rented a hotel room for a weekend, but the truth is that it was more like a quiet park with a thermos of tea and a shady spot under a tree! I confess to having planned out one year in a cemetery on a Sunday afternoon (It was quiet, shady, peaceful, gorgeous. I have no regrets).
Now that I'm considered a homeschool "veteran" - with my ducklings sailing off to college & career adventures - I'm sometimes asked to share my tips & tricks for planning and recordkeeping. I thought perhaps I'd share them with you all - in a few blog posts between now and September 1st. I'll show you my ideas, tell you why I think they worked for me, and I'll even send you the files for the forms, if you would like! :D Anything to help a homeschooling sister out! :D One caveat: Please don't make fun of my super-simple style! I like my forms and my planning to be stream-lined and plain! Maybe some of you can identify?
Today, let's start with just sketching out the upcoming year. Step 1: Cementing my vision for what I want to cover all YEAR. Step 2: Break that down into quarters, Step 3: Break the first quarter into weeks. I wait for a bit to sketch out the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters - let's see how we progress on this pace first!
So...Step 1: the first thing I use is a "Course of Study" worksheet for each student. While I recommend we keep these on file for high school students in my home state of California, it honestly makes planning pretty simple if you quicky fill out one of these for each student. Fill it out on your laptop, or print it out (but use pencil!) - whatever you like. I generally fill them out on my laptop, but when I have a final version I'll print it to keep in my handy-dandy view binder (aka my HOMESCHOOL GAL FRIDAY - because it does everything!).
Think of a "Course of Study" as the overview. You will flesh out each of these subjects later, but for right now you are just documenting that you have your bases covered. You have a textbook, resources, or a plan for every area you intend to cover. Simply fill in: Math - what text or resources you will use primarily, and then jot down the publisher information. That's it - very simple.
Next -Step 2: if you want to cover a particular course in 36 (or how ever many weeks you teach) weeks of school, you know you will have four quarters of nine weeks. So, divide the total number of lessons by 4 to see what you need to cover in each quarter. If there are 120 lessons in a grammar curriculum, you will need to cover 30 of them in each quarter to finish the book**. If you plan to have nine weeks in your school's quarter, you can cover 3 lessons per week for six weeks, and 4 lessons for the other three weeks, in order to cover a total of 30 lessons that quarter. Now - where are you going to keep all of that information?
** We should really talk about this obsession with "finishing the book" that we all have...
Well, you have a choice! For elementary school, I like to separate the subjects out and make it super simple for my students (AND their teacher - me! ) to know what we should aim to accomplish each day. So... STEP 3: for elementary school, I fill out one planner for each week, numbering them Quarter 1, Week 1; Quarter 1, Week 2; Quarter 1, Week 3, etc. Next I go through and write in any field trip days, or holidays. Then - knowing how much you need to do each week - simply fill it in under the correct days. Tackle one subject at a time, all the way through. Math is usually an easy one to start with. Here is an example of a Kindergarten planner:
See? Told you I like to keep it simple!
I also have a form with more categories to use for upper elementary, or middle school, if you need to break it down even further. But my favorite form is the high school planner. I simply tell them what I want done during the week. For a lot of their work...they simply DO it. I certainly do teach in high school. I make notes on their planner what days we will be discussing what. They initial when their work is done for the week. I leave a lot of the scheduling - as much as possible, really - up to the high school student. If they want to finish by Friday at noon and head to the beach, I am really all for it! Here is a sample from one of my high school students:
Of course, perhaps you would prefer to continue scheduling out for your highschool students on a daily basis. That's fine. Use whichever form works for your student, and for you. Whichever makes it easy, keeps you on track, and allows your family to do their work in the most efficient way. This is YOUR homeschool!
If you would like my very plain, super simple, no frills, fillable forms - fill out & submit the request next to the picture of my course of study, and I'll send them out to you asap.
I hope I've helped a bit! Chin up, march forward!
Not all Rigor is Mortis!
Here it is - SUMMER! If your house is anything like mine, we spend a good chunk of time reading during summer. Reading for fun, reading for information, reading anything and everything from cereal boxes to book series!
Also, if your house is anything like mine, you may appreciate a few new ideas. I thought I'd ask my kids - what were your favorite read-alone books? (True confessions: two of my three college kids make it a practice to re-read a book series from their childhood every summer. They pick a different series and just absolutely plow through it. They say it is like visiting an old friend. Just thought you should know how seriously we take our books around here, before you go taking any of our recommendations to heart!)
I asked, so they responded. You will notice that my kids do love history, and great biographies. At any rate - I hope this provides some ideas, a few new favorites for your family, and some hours of pleasurable reading for your summer!
First chapter reading favorites: I had to cut this list off somewhere. My kids kept saying, "Oh! And..." so here are the books they listed before I cut them off!
Boxcar Children (We love the original 19 books series written by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Some of the later books are great, too, but the original charm & innocence is missing in some of the later titles.) These four orphaned children face a daunting world together, and solve simple mysteries with all the intrigue of Sherlock Holmes!
The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle by Bill Myers. (Each of the 28 books begins “My Life as a...”) My kids laughed out loud – snorted even – with these funny, faith-filled books chronicling the mis-adventures of a 6th grade would-be writer. The main character – Wally – survives the most extraordinary adventures with his friends & family, writes super-hero stories, and teaches good character & Christian values along the way. My Life as Dinosaur Dental Floss and My Life as a Smashed Burrito with Extra Hot Sauce were probably my boys’ favorites. Good, clean, silly humor perfect for a summer reading binge!
The Motorcycle Mouse (series of 3) - Really. This mouse has a heart as big as his motorcycle! Guffaws sure to accompany reading - practically guaranteed!
The Phantom Tollbooth, by N. Juster. Milo, a boy who is bored with everything, comes home to find a tollbooth in his house. Via the tollbooth, he enters a land beyond, where he must rescue the Princesses Rhyme & Reason. Honestly, how much else do you need to know before you check this out of your local library? A classic that parents & children can enjoy together!
Childhood of Famous Americans series: We loved the whole series. I believe there are 70 in print today, but some of the out-of-print books are still available on amazon & ebay for a good value. These are accessible biographies of Famous Americans, but they focus on the title character’s childhood. I would say they are 3rd grade reading level, average 192 pages, with accessible vocabulary. My children read these the summer after 2nd grade.
Betsy-Tacy (series) by Maud Lovelace. I know I’ve mentioned these in a previous post, but I cannot help but include these charming books here as well. Betsy, Tacy, & Tib are charming friends for any young girl! The ten books in this series are some of my daughter’s favorites! Loyalty & devotion to friends is one of the values present throughout the series, and their high-spirited adventures make these books a fun read.
The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sigh. Love. ALl. I'll probably include these on every book list I ever make!
Favorite Series/Books for 10 years old & up:
This may well have been the most difficult thing I've ever asked my grown children to do - to look back on their junior & senior high school years and list their favorites among all the books they have read. You will note a decided sci fi/fantasy bent.
Brian Jacques’’ The Redwall Series is filled with a heroic deeds and unforgettable characters. The animals who inhabit the pages exhibit all the humanity they can muster! There are 22 books in the Redwall series, and I think they make a great first read in the fantasy genre. The world of the Redwall books is a medieval world filled with anthropomorphic animals who are good & caring – and who are battling to save the abbey from evil and to maintain peace & justice. If you have loved LOTR or Watership Down as an adult, you will understand the pull of these charming mice & their friends. Besides, any book with a mouse as a hero simply shouldn’t be missed!
Peter and the Starcatchers series (5 total books...Peter & The Starcatchers, Peter & The Secret of Rundoon, Peter & the Sword of Mercy, and The Bridge to Never Land) by Dave Barry - these "prequel" to Peter Pan books are swashbuckling adventures with fast-moving plots, plenty of fun, and just enough danger & intrigue to keep readers on the edge of their seat! And, yes, this is the Dave Barry who wrote all those amazingly funny newspaper colums for al those years!
Dragon Keepers Chronicles by Donita K. Paul (this is a Christian Science Fiction author and there are five books in the series. ) I am not a science fiction afficianado, and I didn't like the "dragon/vampire" trend sci-fi took a few years back. But...there are exceptions, and this is one of them. Ms. Paul does a terrific job of using the genre as a tool - a background - against which to set intriguing characters, rousing adventure, and deliver a bit of eternal truth along the way.
Mars Diaries or (new title) Robot Wars(another Christian science fiction series - we think there are 10?! ) This series centers on a science community on Mars in the year 2039, and a 14 year old boy who encounters the challenges of Mars life with a scientist's eye. Recommended for reluctant readers as it has less demanding reading level, but it has high entertainment value!
Incident at Hawk's Hill (a true story. Simply amazing frontier happening. I don''t want to spoil it by telling too much. There is a boy. He becomes lost. The way in which he survives and is protected is simply stunning! There is a sequel, which is “fine” but we just don’t like as well.)
EVERYTHING Rosemary Sutcliffe ever wrote! (although I would consider these educational, #3 child just mentioned them as his second favorite “fun reading” behind Brian Jacques) This is an historical fiction writer with an impish sense of humor and an engaging writing style. We were first exposed to her via Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus (retellings of Homer’s The Iliad & The Odyssey, gorgeously illustrated by Alan Lee) but soon expanded to The Eagle of the Ninth series tracing the Roman invasion of Britain. I honestly don’t know half the early history of the area that my children do, and this is in entirety due to their voracious reading of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s books!
Eragon series by Christopher Paolini (He was a homeschooled student who wrote his first book - now a movie – when he was 15.) Eragon, Eldest, Brisinger, and Inheritance are the titles.
Girls (at least) should definitely read the Louisa May Alcott books. My daughter and I collect them. We LOVE: Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, An Old-Fashioned Girl, A Rose Among thorns, A Round Dozen, Eight Cousins.
They might also enjoy all the "Anne" books now. "Anne of Green Gables" and etc., by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It is a series of...6 or 8 books? We really like them, but the style takes a bit of getting used to. There are just a lot of words!
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls - HYSTERICAL book for read aloud...I actually had soda come out my nose one night while trying to read a particularly funny part. Also - Where the Red Fern Grows, also by Wilson Rawls
My guys LOVEDLOVEDLOVED the Walt Morey books - Gentle Ben, Deep Trouble, Kavik the Wolf Dog and many - MANY others. My boys have both read through all of these - he is an older award winning author.
Of Course - C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia...but also his Space Triology (which too many people miss!)
And, of course, JRR Tolkien. Don't stop with The Hobbit and the LOTR Trilogy. If you have college-level readers who loved those titles, point them in the direction of The Histories of Middle Earth, Tales from the Perilous Realm, or The Fall of Arthur. My oldest also loved The Simiralian, but it is a tough read and not for the faint of heart.
Finally, the last books my older two listed as favorites were the Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead . They began reading them while they were in the 9th grade. It is pretty complex reading, but they both consider these among their favorite books. Taliesin, Merlin, Arthur, Pendragon, Grail...are the titles, I think. It is a very intricate re-telling of the Arthurian legend by a modern Christian writer (although these are NOT Christian books).
I hope the Red Couch Reading bookshelf has provided you with some new ideas for this summer! And, hopefully, some of those books and their characters will become friends you enjoy visiting time and again!
Not all Rigor is Mortis!
I confess to having a partiality for our fireside poets. Oh, I know they are not as revered as they once were, but I still think that for everyday use - those comfortable companions you turn to time and again - nothing beats a Fireside Poet. They were so surprising in their day - the first to use American imagery and American ideals to blaze a very new American style of poetry.
Today, as we are looking toward Memorial Day, I turn once again to that most famous of all of our country's first celebrated bards - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was rock-star-famous in his own time, known both throughout the United States and abroad for his very American verse. Given his near poet laureate status, Longfellow took it upon himself to compose poems about America's important moments...and those became some of America's most important poems. "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" comes to mind. And how many school-children for over a hundred years memorized long portions of "Hiawatha" to recite for school programs?
As we welcome Memorial Day weekend, perhaps this would be a fitting reminder of the meaning behind the day? Written originally to remember the soldiers of the Civil War, "Decoration Day" was first published in "The Atlantic" magazine in 1882. What then was known as Decoration Day, a new civic observance, soon gave rise to Memorial Day - a time to remember all of those military veterans who gave their lives for our freedom. And wouldn't you know? Henry Wadworth Longfellow is the man who rose to the task. I still don't think anyone has summed it up better.
Perhaps you might read this around the table this weekend, and pause to remember? The picture & poem at the top of the post are downloadable. Feel free to share. And, have a very happy Memorial Day Weekend!
What a great time of year! The sunshine is coming back (or the fog is coming in), warmer days are ahead with that fantastic California weather we all pay for in our rent payments, and we are headed into one of the BEST times of the year.
We have Summer Dreams – We all want to make the absolute MOST out of every summer day. There is SO MUCH for our kids to experience & learn. It is a sweet three (okay, two...depending on school schedules!) month period where everything and everyone takes a breather from the regular rat race! Church schedules break for summer, school schedules break for summer – even regular sports teams change up schedules.
In our DREAMS, we see summer as one blissful pool party after another, everyone is in flip-flops and bathing suits all day, and the living is easy-breezy. There are fewer responsibilities on the calendar, there will be less stress, and there will be TIME – for friends, for fun, even for some romantic dates under moonlit palms, and of course a family vacation where the memories will live forever through the perfect photo album we are going to create from the pictures we take...
vs. Summer Reality
But,the REALITY is ...THAT summer rarely happens.
June 15, School lets out. Mothers across the country say, “YAY ! It’s Summertime, and the living is EASY!”
July 15. Summer is half over. Mothers across the country say, “Where has the time gone? We haven’t done anything, the kids are making me crazy. This isn’t what I thought this summer would be!”
August 15. Summer is over, school starts on Monday, and Mothers across the country – whether their kids go to private, public, or homeschool, are saying, “THANK GOODNESS SCHOOL IS STARTING. We will get back to our ROUTINE.”
The reality of summer, for many families, is that whether they just try to let the kids relax and not have a schedule - just "be kids" - or whether they try to schedule every moment - soon ugly attitudes, annoying behaviors, and just plain SIN NATURE begins to surface.
And nothing brings out bad parenting faster than snarky kids with entitlement issue whining about being bored during an August heat wave!
I propose a challenge to you. CHANGE YOUR THINKING. Instead of trying harder, instead of gritting your teeth and just "BEARING" it - how about a whole different "take" on summer?
What if we focus on RELATIONSHIPS this summer? In fact - what if we think of the entire summer as an opportunity for relationship-driven ministry?
Yes - you will still "do things" - but the goal isn't how much "fun" you can have - it is simply to be present. The fun will show up, I promise. Make the THINGS you do simple, and count the TIME and PEOPLE you do them with as precious!
When we focus on RELATIONSHIPS and people ...we can find a purposeful summer.
What in the world is a purposeful summer? Purposeful carries connotations of intentionality and meaning. Basically, rather than being driven along by the tide of the calendar or by other people’s expectations....it means you are going to grab the reins and steer the course of your own ship a bit – through the guidance and direction YOU have sought from God about WHAT IS IMPORTANT to do this summer.
PRAY ABOUT IT! Pray about your children, your husband, your friends, your extended family. How can you serve them? How can you improve your relationships with them and bond through shared memories?
What does it look like to have a PURPOSEFUL SUMMER ?
1) RELATIONSHIP building with your husband & children – strengthen the bonds within your family. In Deuteronomy 6 we are taught that teaching of God’s ways happens when we are walking along, when we are sitting at home, when we lie down together, and when we get up. Teaching our children can only spring out of RELATIONSHIP. If we never walk together, talking along the way...when does that happen? If we never sit together at home...when does that happen? If we never lay around and talk...when? Frankly, our children will value what we say MORE when they value our relationship with them more.
What about the relationship with our husband? It is enough to remember that our relationship is to reflect glory to God. Marriage is a PICTURE of Christ & his bride. With so many hours spent apart, due to work and other commitments, it's hard to remember to be intentional about our time together. Summer is a great change-of-pace time to fix that!
2) RELATIONSHIP building with friends and extended family – serving them, loving them, being very PRESENT with them. How can we be the family of God if we don’t know each other? How do we “bear one another’s burdens” – as scripture plainly instructs – if I don’t know that you HAVE any burdens? If we aren’t real with one another. And how do we get to that place? TIME.
Additionally – we want to build relationships with neighbors, with cousins, with family we don’t see enough – maybe even local grandparents or aunts & uncles. Building relationships also provides our family with service opportunities. Lawn mowing for eldery relatives, a visit and a song in nursing homes, taking flowers and spending a few moments with shut-ins from church - NOTHING combats entitlement and self-centeredness like serving someone else’s needs.
3) Summer is a great time to dig a little deeper in scripture, or to keep a 60 day prayer journal, or to run through a personal bible study....to Call time out in order be purposeful in your relationship with God . It’s a great time to do a “different” sort of family worship too – do a hymn study, if you have a pianist, and learn some of the great old hymns of the faith and their backstories – or Look through “Global Prayer Digest” for articles on different countries and their needs – look them up on a map or globe, read through the guide, and pray for each one. Prioritize time with God. Prioritize His Word. Prioritize Worship. Prioritize Prayer.
This quote, from an article I read recently, expresses so much of what is important about our relationships:
“Grace opens a lot of doors.
GRACE is like fertilizer for relationships. But, remember, growth requires time and patience as well.
God's word is so precious, and instructive, and SO CONVICTING! For me - a task-oriented introvert by original-sin-nature, it took a lot of piling-on of Scripture to show me that #1 - God is relationship-driven...and He wants me to be as well. #2 I need to shed, like the ugly reptilian skin that it is, the busyness and chaos that have often characterized our life.
Don't get me wrong, we ride life like a roller-coaster around here, but I came to realize through all those "quiet life" verses that when it starts to feel scary and out of control instead of breathtaking and exhilerating, it is time to grab a new perspective.
What should characterize my life? Peace, contentment, order. What should characterize my interactions with others? Love, and knowing them enough to share in their lives. I am called to service, I am called to love, I am called to be a PART of the body.
Better start building those relationships. :D
Here is a plan to revolutionize your approach:
1) Bring everybody in on the plan. Make a summer bucket list. Make a calendar. This list of "things" are now not your GOAL - they are your SNEAKY SECRET WEAPONS. They are your TOOLS. They are simply the means by which you are going to get to spend time with your kids, or your husband, or your friends or extended family - whoever you invite to join you. Ask everyone for their "Want-tos" for summer. AIm for "Free" !!
2) Make sure to keep some routine in your days. The chore chart stays (in fact, this is a great time to teach NEW chores, or polish up your expectations on the old ones by working WITH your kids!)
Rise & Shine time & Bedtime can certainly be modified, but keep some sort of requirement to make certain the kids (and you) get plenty of sleep. If they are crabby, then you'll be crabby. If you are all crabby, nobody is going to want to go to the beach with you...
I also instituted a "quiet time" every afternoon. Anyone young enough to nap, did. Everyone else read (or listened to books on CD), quietly in their room. <3 Ah, sweet silence. It recharges us all! The trips to the library were especially designed to furnish lots of great books for this daily respite!
3) Keep your calendar out where everyone can see, but write in pencil (and make sure your kids understand flexibility is the name of the game here!
ps...our husbands will tend to say, "Oh, whatever YOU want to do..." Do a little research. What WOULD he really like to do? Is there an auto museum nearby, like The Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar? It is free - plan to take the family AND the camera! Or maybe he would like to help you visit a new park each weekend, and create a park-ranking for all the great parks in the area!
Hospitaity has absolutely nothing to do with how nice your house is. It isn't even about the food you serve. I guarantee you this: If you invited a bunch of people home after church, and told them you were serving PBJs...people would come. People are hungry for relationships. Hospitality is simply about God, and letting Him use you to reach out to other people.
Make your hospitality easy , low-key and low-prep. Just start. ENJOY yourself!! Invite a family over, and ask them to bring the salad! BBQ burgers, use paper plates, have a water pitcher with iced water to drink. Don't bake something special. It does NOT need to be Pinterest-worthy!! Don't buy stuff, don't make stuff, just enjoy the company!! Yes, it is lovely to make your guests feel special - but the most special thing to share with them is yourself. As you get more comfortable, as your kids get older, as life's seasons change, you can add special touches if you'd like. Just remember, the most important thing is the relationships you are building!
Introverts - if this is scary for you, that's ok. Start by asking another family out to a picnic. Invite a family to spend the afternoon at the beach with you. I promise. Using your house as an outreach point is like a secret weapon - it shows you are open and welcoming in a very tangible way. Try it, you'll like it!
Extroverts - quick, get some dates on the calendar. Remember to invite new people, not the same wonderful crowd you love. You extroverts are inspiring, because you understand how it strengthens a relationship to have people in to your home. It is vulnerable. It is opening your life to your guests. It is honoring them through the invitation, and God through obedience.
What kind of "stuff" can you do to invite others too? Free things are great - that way you don't have to have any expectations about seeing or doing it all - just come back again!! :D Our local library has tons of summer programs. We have 32 musuems with free days at least occasionally. Our city has free movies, and bands. There are lovely parks & awesome beaches in my area. Look around you - There is SO MUCH TO DO!! In Southern California there is a website: https://savvycalifornia.com/museum-free-days-southern-california/ to help you find the freebie days.
In your area, start by checking www.kidsbowlfree.com and www.kidsskatefree.com and also search "free kids movies summer" to see if theaters near you have a slate of weekly movie showings for kids - free! - and search "free museum days near me" to find museums with free admission days. :D
Here are some of my favorite ideas for 'stuff to do" around the home, too. The TRUTH is, however, that the BEST thing to give a friend, a child, or a spouse is the gift of your time. Spend an hour playing their favorite game, legos, barbies, or whatever your child loves to do. You earn their hearts this way.
Funny thing? Spouses aren't really much different. Enjoy time with them. Do somethig, anything, or nothing. Sit and hold hands.
If you DO have some money to invest in your summer, I suggest you invest in tools to help encourage relationships. Here are some ideas!:
Changing your FOCUS may not change what we DO a whole lot...but it will change both our attitude and vision for what summer can be. I hope you will at least consider putting the emphasis on those relationships this summer – and may your summer be a summer of great contentment – living quiet, godly lives.
P.S. - I put a slide show below, to make it easy to flip through the slides.
I hope you find something that blesses your summer!
Happy spring! There is nothing quite like the change in the air, when the sun comes out and the flowers start to push through. I know some folks find it all so exhilerating that they go into "Spring Cleaning" mode and have to freshen up the whole house! Others of us find that April showers bring May bookworms! :) If you are reading to spring into a great book or two, Miska and I have some great ideas! Of course, these books would be terrific ANYTIME, but perhaps they are just a bit sweeter to read in the spring!
First - how about some terrific read alouds for spring? (Miska's favorites!):
And, of course, we have some suggestions for older readers as well. Have you ever noticed that the best authors have wonderful series? It is true again - for 3 of the 4 recommendations I have for you this spring, you will have more than one book to work through. In fact, for one of the authors, there are 22 books in the series!:
Well, there are so many more great books to soak in this spring! I hope you take them with you as you picnic, pack them in your backpacks on a hike, and carry them to the seashore (along with the sunscreen)! Have fun - and remember:
Not all Rigor is Mortis!
Looking for some fingerplays & songs for preschoolers this spring? Here are some ideas!!:
Most parents think their children are exceptional. And, as homeschooling parents, we carefully plan our curriculums to make sure they maximize their academic potential. We'd love them no matter what - but we plan for them to be brilliant, to attend the best colleges, to make a mark on the academic world in some way.
We work pretty hard at finding the best curriculum and understanding the pros and cons of everything from phonics materials to SAT 2 testing. Sometimes, in the midst of all of that learning and educating, however, we lose sight of the fact that we are not just raising brilliant human beings to impact their world: We are raising human beings who need to interact with their world in order to impact it and to enjoy it.
That said, an article in Time magazine caught my eye recently. Entitled "Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer," by Anne Murray Paul, the article summarizes data from 2006-2010 studies revealing that reading literature actually increases our compassion and empahty for others. What the author calls "Deep Reading" - not simply reading the back of a cereal box or an online blurb, but actually immersing oneself in another time and place - causes us to identify with the people and places we meet in the literature we read. Of course, I suspect all true readers knew this instinctively, but it is pretty marvelous to have data to back it up!
So, as parents, how can we use this now-proven fact to our kids' advantage? Probably by doing what you are already doing, although perhaps now more purposefully: selecting a variety of great literature to expose your kids to a heroes and heroines from all walks of life.
Is it possible that by exposing our children to protagonists both male and female, of all cultural and racial backgrounds, in different socio-economic backgrounds than they experience, and from different historical perspectives than they will ever know - is it possible that this is a powerful took to make them better, more informed, more empathetic citizens of the world? Yes. Ms. Paul also cites a 2010 study which shows that even young children form a better understanding of others' intentions when they have been read to. In fact, the more stories that had been read to them, the more precisely the children were able to understand others - the study called this their "theory of mind."
So, how do we begin? Well, as you cuddle the littlest ones on your lap, make sure to read books that are not just "for boys" to boys, and not just books "for girls" to your girls. Look thoughtfully for books about other cultures, and times. Purposefully find books about children who look different than your family looks. Look for diversity in protagonists, in setting, and in culture. We love the book "Same, Same, but Different" about two penpals, one from the US and one from India. The illustrations are realistic and charming, and the comparisons between life in India and life in the States is valuable for children.
To help your kids think about people in different situations, perhaps a good start is "Beautiful Moon" -by Tonya Bolden- which shows a young boy praying for the homeless and hungry. It has lovely, achingly beautiful illustrations, and is perfect to help 4 -8 year olds think about people other than themselves! In addition, many of the books we consider "Classics" are also terrific.
I think the series that helped my children really get "in the skin" of kids with other experiences was the Lois Lenski series of books on children. Published over 50 years ago, "Judy's Journey," "Strawberry Girl," "Shoo-Fly Girl," "Cotton in My Sack" and others of her America Regional Series show very different ways of living, right here in the United States. While most of them are out of print, many are available in used book stores and at library book sales! We found they were terrific to use during while studying American history. There are as many "American" experiences as there are people - and it is wonderful to explore and as many as possible. Another choice, more readily available, are the "Dear America" series, historical fiction that reads like an auto-biography, placing the protagonist at critical points in history.
As your students progress, make sure to keep up the process. Look for wonderful world literature, literature that expands their horizons beyond their own experience. Many of the classics in American and World Literature do just that. I think of Frederick Douglas' great auto-biography, "Narrative of the Life" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," and on and on. I think of "The Diary of Anne Frank" as my own first shocking realization of what WWII was really about. For upper elementary, "Across Five Aprils," and "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," "Island of the Blue Dolphin," "Number the Stars," are moving tales with deeply indentifiable protagonists. Isn't it interesting that somehow, understanding the experiences of the past can so potently inform our futures?
Perhaps this seems a small step, or an obvious one, to you. Of course, most of us who love literature have probably subconsciously understood this principle. Beginning today, let's take it out of our subconscious and begin to purposefully include compassion-building literature into our studies. We can all only be the richer for it!
Not all rigor is mortis!
True confession? I have been thinking about this post for far too long. I need to write it and get it over with. If you think it is way too far off topic, just ignore it. I'll be back to great literature for us all very soon. But this book - THIS BOOK! - it is so much more than a cookbook. I feel like it is a great find, if perhaps not my usual ..um...'taste' in books!
This lovely, can't-put-it-down book is a history book, a well-written tale of the lives of women and families in American, all told through the cakes they baked. Anne Byrn has written a masterpiece in American Cake. She weaves tales of cake pans, presidents, pioneer hardship, and high society together with gorgeous pictures, fabulous recipes, and a healthy serving of humor as well.
The only thing that could make it better would be glorious photographs of the cakes themselves. Oh! She has put that in too! I had to limit what I showed you - after all, that wouldn't be fair! - but you can see more at the author's info page, including a cute video that will further intrigue you!
If I had a high school student and we were going to work our way through American history and/or American literature this next year, I would DEFINITELY get this book. We would work our way through this book in conjunction with our studies. It would be art, home economics, and so - SO - much fun.
See? On this page alone, you could learn about the "event" known as a "Cakewalk," presidential favorite cakes (or pies), and the umbiquitous history of the jelly roll. Honestly, there is something for everyone in this book. It would be a great Friday afternoon finale for whatever era of Americana you have covered that week, and hey, you wind up with dessert, right?
Now, in the movie Julie & Julia, a woman sets out to cook her way through Julia Child's cookbook. I don't think you could do that with American Cake. You just have to choose. Or - cook them all and give away CAKE right and left - your social circle would be gloriously happy with you!
The book is nicely divided, so you can plan it out to go with your other studies, but the history in THIS book is unlike anything you'll read elsewhere. Fun and entertaining, stories of bakeware and social status told by culinary achievements will have you retelling the anecdotes to friends.
I had not had my copy of this cookbook for thirty minutes before I was recommending it.
So, yes, this is a bit out of my usual realm. Now I will get myself right back over to the literary shelves, where I belong. But this book was worth making an exception - and I think if you take a look at it yourself, you will agree! Happy reading...er...baking AND reading!
Not all Rigor is Mortis! (especially with THIS recommendation!)