Monday, January 29, 2007

Priceless 5 Meme

I (finally) did the meme Jenny tagged me for, but I put it on my other blog this morning. If you came from Home is Where You Start From, c'mon over next door! See you there!

We all do it...

that "thing" you do when you feel like you're overwhelmed by schooling your kids. I think I've done it all: Ordered new curriculum, revamped the existing program, cried, laughed, scrapped it and started over, made it harder, made it easier, changed styles, put the kids in school ('kay, I've never done this one), threatened to put the kids in school (guilty), joined a co-op, quit a co-op, chunked the books and "de-schooled" for awhile, gotten baskets of books from the library and vegged out while the kids dove into the books on their own, gotten all work-booky... :::sigh:::

Yesterday I did a new one. I was in the schoolroom working on our plans for the upcoming week. I had my laptop on the table (on which I keep my lesson plans) and was busily typing away and going though the kids' weekly binders, while the desktop computer behind me played samples from the BJU HomeSat DVD courses. I watched all of them. Yes, I did. (Well, for the grades my kids would be in next year- 6th and 8th.) And, I'm going to say it- They were good! I was very impressed! The teachers were smiling, dressed in outfits (not in their jammies), coherent and cheerful. There were lots and lots of visual aids and applicable examples. They address the camera, not a classroom full of children.

Get this: The sixth grade reading teacher was reading a story about a snake, and talking about how the writer used a simile to describe how the snake moved. "Like a slinky." Let's see, do snakes really moved like a slinky? So she pulls out a slinky and you observe the slinky and decide what a great simile that was. Okay, I may or may not do that, depending on how much coffee I've had and the proximity of a slinky. BUT- then she reaches down and gets this pillow case and puts it on the table and proceeds to pull out a real snake, so the students can watch it move and discuss the simile. For the remainder of the clip, she reads the story in a very expressive voice as the snake slithers like a slinky all over her book. What sixth grade boy wouldn't like that?? I would be using an expressive voice, too, if a snake were slinky-ing all over my literature book, but it would not be the story. LOL

It's official. I've hit my February Funk.

Off to do our reptileless reading for the day...


Friday, January 26, 2007


Taken from The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons Vol. 1 - by Todd Wilson

Fine Art Friday: Seurat

Geoges Seurat: "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"—1884, 1884–86 Oil on canvas

Last week while we were discussing some of the paintings in the online art detective activity, my son asked, "Oooh! Is that the guy that paints with all the dots?" I remembered how much he loved looking at Seurat a few years ago, and thought today might be a fun day to revisit him now that the kids are older. I found a wonderful website put together by the Art Institute of Chicago called Art Access. We will be reading about Seurat here in the Impressionism/Post Impressionism section.

This painting is particularly fascinating because of the technique: pointillism. Pointillism is the technique of applying small points of color to the canvas so that at a distance they blend together. My kids have always been intrigued by how "up close" it's a bunch of dots, but as you back away they form a very distinct picture with subtle shading, outlines and shadows. Of course, we'll have to try our hand at it as well... And for good measure, we'll practice saying the painting's title in French: "Un dimanche apres-midi a l'Ile de la Grande Jatte"

Appreciate something beautiful today!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I KNEW it!

One of my favorite coffee mugs is onto something.

Coffee is a smart way to start the day!

Lie #4

**This is the fourth post in a series that I have been writing from the book Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe, by Todd Wilson. (If you haven't read my other posts on the topic, you can find them by clicking on the link in the label at the end of this post.) **

It's at this point in the year that you may be evaluating how your kids are doing in the curriculum you've been using, or you may be thinking through how you're going to get it all done before trying to take some sort of summer break. January and February are historically difficult times for most homeschool moms because there's a let-down after the holidays, no major "breaks" coming up (unless you count the Valentines Day Party- if a co-op or group you're in does one). Day after day you fight your kids' attitudes about their work, try to stay on some sort of schedule and every Friday you tell yourself, "Okay, next week will get better!" I, personally, have gotten so frustrated at times with my kids (well, mainly it was frustration with myself which I took out on them) that I have said such harsh things to them that I've thought, "If they went to school and a teacher talked to them this way I would yank them out of there so fast..." Part of the frustration, for me, is feeling like I'm falling short. Falling short of the wonderful plans I had back in August, short of what Susan Bauer does in the Well Trained Mind, short of what they're doing at the elementary school down the street, and certainly falling short compared to what the other homeschoolers I know are doing. That's because I have believed...

Lie #4- Everyone is more disciplined than you and more spiritual.

This one is a biggie.

I spoke at a homeschool association meeting in the fall, and had my lesson plan binder with me to show how I had it put together. As I was across the room talking with someone after the meeting, I looked up at the head table and saw some ladies flipping through my binder, pointing, and commenting. I will share with you that at that moment I would rather have been standing there in my swim suit than had people analyzing anything in my plan book... but that's another post for another day! Anyway, I got over there and they had been discussing our daily schedule that I had in the front. I have a lovely Excel spreadsheet, color-coded by activity and blocked off by segments of our day, mapping out an organized, orderly day in which everything-including chores and quiet times- gets done. My wise, funny friend cut right to the chase. She pointed at the schedule and asked, "How many days actually look like this???" I laughed and told her, "So far, one. So I quickly made a chart of it and preserved it in my computer!"

So many of the homeschooling books and articles we read set a standard that I have to wonder if the authors themselves even keep. There's one I love to read, but the author's children are now in school full time. Other moms appear to have it all together, mapped out, planned... but how many days actually look like that? But, like I said in Lie #1, does it really matter? Does that really have any bearing on my family at all?

And then there's the spiritual aspect of it. "Everyone's more spiritual than you." If "spiritual" means "speaks lovingly and softly to her children, reflecting a meek and quiet spirit," then I'm not spiritual at all! If "spiritual" means, "can quote extensive amounts of scripture, including the references" then I can just forget it. It's so easy to think that everyone is more "spiritual" than yourself... however you define spiritual.

I have a wise friend, who is a pastor's wife. When people come to her, struggling with disorder and angst in their lives, she always asks, "How are your quiet times lately?" That's an off-putting question to some, but I know what she means. I have seen a direct correlation to how my schedule, life, relationship with my kids, teaching, intimacy with my husband- all areas of my life- are functioning, and the consistency of my time in the Word and in prayer. But the reason to remedy this situation and begin increasing- even if only by a minute or two a day- time reading Scripture and praying is not because others or "more spiritual." It should be because I crave the relationship and fellowship with my Heavenly Father. Several years ago when I felt like everything was falling apart and my home was in complete disarray, I organized one thing: a quiet time notebook. I made one change: a quiet time, at some point, every single day (even if only for a few minutes). That one change brought about a snowball of changes in my life that you would not believe. How that would work in your life, I don't know, but I've seen it work in mine. But does that mean I'm more "spiritual" than you? Absolutely not! There's a difference in being inspired by what someone else does, and feeling condemned by what they do. Can you guess which one is a tool of the enemy?

All moms struggle with discipline and consistency, they just do. Even the most "spiritual" mom thinks others are more "spiritual" than her. Don't believe the lie!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What's on the "school menu" this week?

A few years ago I was back-to-school shopping at Sam's Club and found a flourescent marker board (like they use in restaurants) and I thought it looked like so much fun... for something. (I just can't pass up stuff at Sam's!) So, I bought it and hung it in our schoolroom. I decided to put our "weekly specials" on it. Each week (usually Sunday) when I'm finalizing our lesson plans for the coming week I check through our calendar for any outside activities or things we want to (1) remember or (2) look forward to. I added some fun border around it (from the teacher's store.)

It's fun to change it out with fun lettering each week and the kids like to glance up there and see what the "specials" are! This afternoon as I was "changing the menu" for the coming week, I thought I'd stick a picture of it on my blog in case it might work for someone else.

Have a fun week, whatever you've got cookin' in your school!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fine Art Friday: Art Detective

Today we will be searching for this mystery painting:

In a fun online Art Detective mystery here. Maybe your kids would like to try it, too!


Shades of Lie #3...

Taken from The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons Vol. 1 - by Todd Wilson

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I'm always up for a good sale...

I just got this in my email today!

FYI, B & N is pretty picky about making sure you have your "teacher ID card" (whatever that is for you- mine is a business card from our local homeschool association).

I think I'll go browse next week...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lie #3

This is the third post in a series that I have been writing from the book Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe, by Todd Wilson. (If you haven't read my other posts on the topic, you can find them by clicking on the link in the label at the end of this post.) I have looked forward to getting to this particular lie, because its one I have fallen for again and again, especially in recent weeks.

As we have entered the new year much has been posted in bloggyville regarding healthier cooking and eating. Last week's Works-for-me Wednesday was about eating well, and I happily posted about it on my other blog. I loved reading what others do to eat healthier! As I read the blogs in the CWO blogring, I get wonderful ideas every Monday when I read everyone's Menu Plan Monday posts, hosted by Laura the Organizing Junkie. I love seeing what everyone's cooking, and have printed out some great recipes. But, lately as I've been perusing the menu plans for the week, I have been falling prey to...

Lie #3: Everyone Fixes Better (Healthier) Meals Than You

My posts thus far in the series have not included quotes from Mr. Wilson's book, mainly because I want you to please get this book (it is awesome), and because my purpose is not to replicate the book chapters on a blog. But, this week I will be quoting from him because I love, love, LOVE what he has to say on this topic.

He addresses the fact that in recent years, especially in homeschooling circles, there has begun the belief that what you cook and how you feed your family is somehow tied to your spirituality or the quality of mother you are. What began as an honest attempt to help us become better stewards of our temples (bodies) and help our families do the same, seems to have become increasingly legalistic. More and more moms are talking about how they only eat organic food, feed their families only certain vegetables grown a certain way, grind their own wheat or bake everything from scratch to eliminate preservatives. I went to a Bible Study once where one mom was talking about the "holistic cleansing" she was doing, and that's just about all that was talked about the entire hour.

One of my very favorite quotes from this book is this: "Maybe you do these things that I have mentioned. If you do, that's great... BUT keep it to yourself (Romans 14). "

"Sadly, there are many moms who are scared to death that someone will find out that they buy Twinkies or serve cold cereals that turn the milk blue. They try changing their lifestyle and eating habits, but someone else is always out there to tell them they should be doing more. They go to bed feeling guilty, sure that they have failed their children, husband, and God. They believe THE LIE."

Sure, we should strive to eat healthier and to avoid gluttony, which is certainly a sin. But, there is not an imperative in Scripture that says you should only eat certain types of foods. (I know there are some books to the contrary.) For some, the quest to eat healthy and perhaps even be known for their superior eating habits has become an idol in and of itself, and even a source of pride. I was at a homeschool meeting a few years ago where organic/whole foods, vitamins and supplements were the topic for the evening, and I remember skulking out of there at the end of the meeting thinking about the fried, hormone-laden, solution-injected chicken nuggets I had fed my family that night. It's not that it wasn't an appropriate meeting topic, or that there's not valuable information to be had regarding nutrition, but it must be kept in perspective and not touted as anything other than a choice, preference, or personal conviction. It's certainly not a commentary on one's spiritual standing or as Wilson puts it, a "measure of godliness."

I'll close with his wise words:
"You're a busy homeschooling mom and can't do it all. If you have to buy TV dinners to keep your sanity, then that's OK. You're OK, and lots of other homeschooling moms do the same."


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Homeschooling Report on PBS

Here's an interesting report which aired on PBS this week. I either missed it or it wasn't available on our PBS station, but I just watched it here. I'm still coveting one mom's bookshelves! :::sigh:::

FYI, it worked better for me to watch in Windows Media Player, rather than RealPlayer, which you get to if you click on "Windows" (either large or small) when the small window pops up to show the video. It's about 10 minutes long.


My daughter and I received our fair share of "reactions etranges" last year when we were in France. Not to our appearance, of course (at least I hope not!), but to the fact that she was homeschooled. Our friends there had warned us that homeschooling was frowned upon, even regarded as something that one might do if in some sort of cult. So, I wasn't surprised or insulted in the least. The reactions (from the other moms outside the school where we were waiting for our friends' children) were typical and expected. Besides, homeschooling is what afforded us the opportunity to be standing there having that particular conversation in the middle of the school year. My daughter even had the fun of spending a day in an international school while we were there (so now I can officially say she's "been to school!") After praying our friends through a two-year stint in French public schools and seeing the harshness first-hand, it's hard for me to read of a bill clamping down on the rights of French homeschoolers and agree at all with its title of "Protection de L'Enfance" ("Protection of the Children").

Well, it seems France has made some headway toward homeschooling becoming more accepted, with the help of the HSLDA. Some may call it the "H$LDA" if they want, but none of us should take for granted the work they (and others) have done on behalf of homeschoolers in every state, and now in other countries.

You can read the HSLDA E-lert that went out last week here, and the report of the victory here. This is an interesting article about the victory in France and a short summary of the recent flap about homeschooling in Germany as well.

Today, as I have a "teacher work day" in our school room, I am feeling especially thankful our freedom to school our children at home, and praying for the rights of those in other countries to do so as well.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fine Art Friday

Okay, I love this! "Fine Art Friday." I saw this over at Mental Multivitamin a couple of weeks ago, who linked the idea back to Quiet Life. We used to spend so much more time in "art appreciation" than we do now, and that's something I want to change in the new year. Now is when they will really be able to actually appreciate it! So I thought it would be fun (when I'm together enough) to post the art we will be talking about that Friday. Here is ours for today:

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures (Christ Learning to Read), 1910. Oil on canvas. Dallas Museum of Art

There is an interesting bio of the painter, Henry Tanner, here.

I actually have this reproduction framed in our schoolroom. I bought it several years ago when we were at the DMA, because it really speaks to me as a homeschooling mom. Mary, one arm wrapped around Jesus, the other holding a copy of the scriptures for Him to see. I love the way Jesus is pointing to the words. I love thinking of Him "reading aloud" to His mother. Him reading the scriptures aloud to her would be akin to one of my kids reading me one of their original compositions! He wrote the very words she helped Him learn to read. It's a powerful image to me, and each day when I see it in our study it reminds me to take my role seriously, as I imagine Mary herself did.

Appreciate something beautiful today!


In our house, he runs under the ottoman. There. I've shared. :)

Have a fun Friday!

Taken from The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons Vol. 1 - by Todd Wilson

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lie #2

What would you do if your doorbell rang right now? (Go have one of your kids ring it, just for effect...) What if one of your kids looked out the front window and said, "Hey Mom, Mrs. So-and-so just pulled up in front of our house!" (Have one of them do this right now, just for kicks...)

OR- what if I called you from my car and said I was in the neighborhood and I'd be stopping by in the next 5 minutes, because I have this great book I wanted to drop off for you to take a look at. Don't worry, I'm just popping in for a second! See you in a few!

Did your chest get a little tighter just thinking about it? Did your eyes just dart around the room noticing the piles? Did your mind's eye just venture to the entryway, leading into the living room and visualize what a visitor would see... and cringe?

If you're like me, you'd dash around the house while calling out commands to the kids:

"Pick your stuff up off of the stairs!"
"Quick, put the dogs outside!"
"WHO left this on the couch??"
"Someone go make sure the downstairs toilet is flushed!"
"Oh, my GOSH, look at the living room floor!"
"Hoist the mainstay!"
"Swap the poopdeck!"
"This isn't a museum, people, let's MOVE!" (:::channeling "E.R."::::)

And why is that? Because, you may believe...

Lie #2: Everyone Else's House is Cleaner Than Yours

Why do we think that? We've been to friends' houses and to us, it looks perfect. Or maybe it was perfect. Nevermind that she was still breathing hard when you got there, from hurriedly getting it cleaned up before you arrived...

I remember a couple of years ago my dear father-in-law stopped by for a visit. He was sitting in our living room enjoying a nice glass of iced tea, contentedly looking around. Finally he said, "Cyndi, you have such a nice home. It is really beautiful." I was in the midst of smiling modestly and graciously when my sweet son piped up and said, "You should have seen her when you called and said you were coming! She said, 'Kids! Quick! Clean up the house! Grandpa's coming!' She was freaking out! "


The truth is, we live in a home... with kids. Not only that, but our kids go to school here as well. When I first started homeschooling, I thought about how when I had taught public school, we all left the building by 4:00-ish and then the cleaning staff came. The next morning the restrooms were alway nice, fresh-smelling and scrubbed. My boards were clean, the trashcans were empty, the cafeteria tables and kitchen were clean and ready. The hallways were shiny and polished each morning. How does this happen in schools across America? Besides the fact that there's a whole separate STAFF assigned to that job, it happens because for a few hours every single day, everyone vacates the premises and the staff restores things to their original, upright positions. While the kids are creating disorder in another environment (home) the environment in which they created disorder all day (school) is being set back in order! But for homeschoolers, it all happens here. And it doesn't have to look like it doesn't.

I don't know about you, but I don't have a cleaning staff. We don't leave while the cleaning staff sets things back in order. We are here creating the messes, and then somewhere built into our life we set about cleaning up the messes. There's almost never a time in our day-to-day life when it's all done and perfect. We are always somewhere in the creating messes-cleaning up cycle when the doorbell rings. We just are. And so are you. So are all of us.

Awhile back my daughter said, "Mom, I'm so glad we don't have the kind of house where there are certain towels we can't use." I knew what she meant- guest towels. We certainly don't have any of those! But in my mind I thought, "Oh, honey, there certainly are towels you shouldn't use! If it's so stiff and dirty you can't dry your hands on it... don't use it!" (Sometimes we forget to change out the towels in the downstairs half-bath. Ick.) But I loved what she was saying... that she's comfortable. And that's what I want for my kids. I don't know anyone who grew up in a perfect, neat-as-a-pin-all-the-time house and really has fond memories of it. Or really has fond memories of their mother! I want my kids to enjoy living here, feel comfortable in our home, and enjoy their mom in the process. I've been looking for balance in this area for years, because having the perfectly set-in-order house can become an area of bondage for me if I let it.

SO, if you are reading this completely aware of the messes in your house, but picturing mine being serene, orderly, perfectly-decorated and smelling like Pine-sol, stop believing the lie! And if you are sitting there serenely, in your orderly house which does smell like Pine-sol, enjoy it. It may not last long... ;)

Friday, January 05, 2007


Taken from The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons Vol. 1 - by Todd Wilson

Lie #1

Has it really been a week since I posted on this blog? My, how time flies. All week I've wanted to write about what's been on my heart for the past few months. Back in August, I stumbled upon Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe, by Todd Wilson, a homeschooling Dad. This book did for me what Nancy Leigh DeMoss's book, Lies Women Believe did. It revealed some erroneous thoughts (which are actually lies that I had begun to believe over the years, maybe not even consciously) which had become beliefs and were shaping the way I felt and acted. I highly recommend both of these books, and am thinking of buying a bunch of Wilson's books to give some of my homeschooling friends this year for their birthdays. It has been so freeing to recognize some of these thoughts as "lies" and "take them captive" to Christ.

I thought I would start the new year by writing a post each week about one of the lies that he highlights in his book, and posting my thoughts about that particular lie. He has some excellent insights in the book, and as a former pastor and a writer, his thoughts and writing are much more eloquent than mine, so I in no way intend to replicate the book here on my lil' ole blog. But, I thought it would be good for those who read here (me incuded!) to think through each of the lies. I'd also love to know what you think!

Lie #1: Everyone else’s kids are better than yours.

I know I have struggled with this particular lie before. How about you? I’ll be rocking along in my school year, thinking we’re doing pretty well, until I sit at gymnastics with another homeschool mom. We make casual conversation and she tells me how their school year’s going and what her kids are learning. Her toddler is sitting beside her, eating a healthy snack of carrots and water while playing with math flashcards. She just dropped another child off at strings ensemble. Her older child is nearby on his laptop writing a paper on the latest classic novel he’s read. Instantly, I’m dead in the water. “I haven't taught my kids that.” “My child can’t play that instrument.” “My kids could never learn that language.” “We haven’t fed the homeless yet this week, either!” Ack!!

Ironically, as you are reading this thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I’ve met her… I’ve felt that way before… Whew! I could never be that mom. My kids could never be those kids,” chances are, in someone else’s eyes, your family IS that family! Isn’t that funny how that works? I think on some level we are always looking sideways at each other, imagining that each other’s kids are somehow “better” than our own.

The fact is, the perfect kids don’t exist, in anyone’s home. Each marriage is composed of two sinners, and the number of kids they have is the number of sinners in their homeschool each day. Period. We are all struggling, we are all imperfect. On any given day, we are comparing our known worst (because we live with ourselves and our children and we KNOW what goes on) to their perceived best (because we can only perceive momentarily, then our tendency is to project the perfect “snapshot” we saw at that moment into what must be every minute of every day at their house.) It’s just not the truth. And we are to think on truth.

So, first of all we must confront that particular lie with the truth: no family is perfect.
But, that doesn’t get to the heart of the lie in my opinion. So what if we know that everyone else’s kids are NOT better than ours. What if everyone else’s kids were functioning at exactly the same level, or even lower, as your kids? What if they had the same number, or fewer, talents? What if they [gasp!] weren’t as cute as your kids, either? Would that make you feel better? Then, you’ve still got a problem. The problem is… comparison. The truth is, their kids, and yours and mine, are exactly the kids that God created them to be. No more, no less. No amount of what I do at home makes my kids any more than God created them to be. We are not powerful enough to diminish them into less than God means them to be, either, for that matter. We are to nurture them according to their particular, God-given “bent.” To think that other kids are “better,” or that if I just worked harder my kids could be “better” is to foster the lie that I have that much power, or to believe the lie that it reflects on me instead of Him. Besides, better at what? Better than whom? What is better? And who measures “better” anyway?? If my kid was standing there speaking French and her kid was picking his nose, would that make me feel better? Can you say… “pride?”

I’m wondering if part of our comparison is a product of growing up in traditional school, where there seems to be constant comparison. Maybe if enough generations are free from such a system, the mindset of constant comparison will diminish. I don’t know.

If we need to believe that they are imperfect in order to feel better about ourselves and our own children, we have still not dealt with the comparison issue, we’ve simply reduced the gap to something we can live with. But the root of the lie is still there: that the condition of someone else’s family has some degree of bearing on the standing of my family. That’s simply not true. For example, I sent out some nice Christmas cards this year, a nice family portrait with a nice border. I was pleased with them, and I sent them. The same week, I received two cards from two of my crafty friends who had handmade their cards with the embossed ink, beautiful ribbons and gorgeous cardstock. Did that diminish what I had sent? Not at all. I could’ve instantly wished I would’ve created handmade cards and been ashamed of my 1-hour Walmart photo cards, but what a wasted emotion that would’ve been. And if their cards somehow motivate me to spend hours next year stamping and heat-drying cards for hours and hours when that’s not even something I enjoy or have a talent for, then there’s wasted time and energy involved as well. The time they spent doing that, I was doing something else.

God gave your children to you, not me. He gave my children to me, not you. They have exactly the mom, family, home, and homeschool teacher they were divinely meant to have. What’s “better” is to be free from comparison at all, on any level. At best it encourages insecurity and at worst it fosters pride. I’m not sure it will be possible to be completely free from it as long as we live on this planet in our fallen human skin and in our current comparison-driven culture, but it should be our goal. We should compare ourselves with Christ, see the gap, and work our whole lives in the power of the Holy Spirit to close that gap until we see Jesus face-to-face in our finally-perfected faith. The same goes for our kids.

If we would all do a little less looking side-to-side and spend more time looking up, we wouldn’t need to worry about who’s “better” at all. How we stand before others is NOT what matters. How we stand before Christ does. We are who He says we are, by His grace.

So, keep looking up... and don't believe the lie!

Next week, we'll confront Lie #2. Until then, I'd love to know your thoughts...


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