Archive | August, 2011

all those little things… making a big difference

26 Aug

Waking early this morning, as I stepped out of our bedroom, I noticed we had failed to close the front door before we had gone to bed.  The view through the screen was breath taking… it was the “breaking of the dawn” – beautiful!

Today, what’s left of it, is Friday.  The end of our first week of school.  I don’t know if I have ever had the first week go so well.

At times I wonder: Why do I choose to get up early? Does the exercise routine really make a difference? Am I being transformed by reading God’s Word and seeking the Lord? Am I making more work than is necessary by serving a good solid breakfast early in the morning so we can all eat together?

As I considered the last few days, I knew the answer to my questions.  So many details all came together.  From menu planning,  the kid’s morning chores, to the children’s  self discipline  learned through the early years  – all played an important role in helping the days to run smoothly. It was worth the laborious process to develop these systems and habits.

Soaking in the fresh morning air, I was thankful for the week and thankful that all of those little things we have worked toward over the years have added up to so much!

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Set Priorities for your Family and Stick to Them!

18 Aug

Living in such a fast paced society, if we are not careful our families will be swept into the current and pulled places we may not want to go.

“Are we asking questions that help evaluate the priorities of our lives?”

– What is most important in our lives? Are we living in such a way to preserve or enhance how we spend our days?

-How does our family spend time together and is there any way it could be improved on? What is stealing away our time?

-What are the most important things we want to teach our children? Are we  prioritizing the time to teach them in an effective way?

-What could we change to better serve each other and others, as a family?

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…just a few things to think about at the start of a new school year

Managing Toddlers while Schooling

16 Aug

I think one of the biggest challenges of  teaching at home is trying to keep the younger siblings occupied long enough to be able to focus on the older students.

Even families whose children go to school must deal with the same issues, as they try to help their young students with homework in the evening.

Over time, out of necessity, we found several ways to make this process much easier.

Children, of all ages, love routine.  As I planned my school schedule of topics to cover, I also mapped out my little ones’ morning.  If they still took two  naps a day, that gave me two natural blocks of available time.  But once that season passed, I found the toddlers loved to be in the mix of things. Sometimes they would be included in class, other times were set aside for their own quiet play.

For instance:

9:00 – 9:30:  Bible Class with family  (Give the little one crayons and paper. It is a good time for them to learn to sit still and be quiet –  for 30 minutes, on your lap if needed.  If you have practiced Blanket Time, this is an easy transition.)

9:30 – 10:00:  Toddlers Play Time (I kept several bins of toys tucked away so I could pull out a different one each day. The child should not be allowed to leave the designated area.  If the next older sibling is available, it is a great time for them to be given a “babysitting job.” It is a good way for the older to learn to serve. ) *btw, don’t let them leave the area without picking up their things.  It is a habit worth developing!

10:00 -10:30: A half hour educational movie. (I liked to look for something that might help them learn their letters or numbers. Remember to keep the volume low so as not to distract the students.)

10:30 – 11:00: By now the little ones are ready for some action and attention.  It is important to remember to give them your focus as well or they will demand it in unacceptable ways.  Take time to go outside, go for a walk, roll down some hills, PLAY!

12:00  Lunch (Sit down together. Give the kids a chance to talk about what they have been learning.)

1:oo  QUIET TIME!  If you have been following Not Without Aim at all, you know I love quiet time.  It doesn’t matter what age, little ones should nap, readers should be reading, if reading hasn’t been mastered yet- picture books are available, and if anyone happens to fall asleep napping (that would be me), all the better!

1:30 Back to class – quickly before the babies awake!

3:00 Time to be done!  Free! Go outside, play, explore, create…

Taking a little time to plan ahead goes a long way in keeping a step ahead of the crew.

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Reality in our home, and most -I would think, is that some days it feels like discipline issues consume a lot of our time and energy.  Don’t be discouraged. This training is just as important as the academics! Without the painful process of learning self- discipline, the academics are useless!

One week til school begins…

15 Aug

It is hard to believe we have been homeschooling for around 23 years and still have 12 more to go! Wow!

If you think, by now, I have it all down and know all the answers – you are SO wrong!  Each year I wonder what I should keep doing, and what needs to change.  When August rolls around, I find myself asking Mark, “How in the world will I be able to orchestrate  seven different grade levels and maintain the responsibilities of everyday life? There is no way!” he laughs a bit and confidently replies, “You always say that, but you always find a way.” Of course he is right, it always works out.

In keeping with my goal, to read at least one book per year on education, I recently finished The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, written by Leigh A. Bortins.  I love the concept of the Classical Education and have tried to incorporate it into our homeshcool philosophy, but it is easy to get overwhelmed, finding myself unable to achieve everything that can appear to be so important.

Leigh Bortins describes such a practical, do-able approach to teaching children of all ages combined with the reality of everyday life.  I was especially encouraged that I could apply so many of her principles without changing the curriculum we  are already using.  The concepts are applicable for children in a  home schooled situation,  a private school, or a public school.

One of the ways, this summer, I applied what I had learned, was to work on some memorization with the children.  Our lunch time became quiz time.  The more we quized, the more fun it became.  Of course it’s always more enjoyable when you know the answers! My four year old would repeatedly want to be asked to name the planets.  She managed to get them down perfectly!

With seven days and counting, the rest of my week will be filled with scheduling, making photocopies, creating lesson plans, and picking up school supplies.

As a result, over the next few days,  Not Without Aim’s focus will also be devoted to school related topics.

btw, I appreciated what I learned from The Core so much I purchased one for each of my sisters as a birthday gift.  (Sh… they don’t know yet!)

Just for fun… popsicles

11 Aug

The kids have been dreaming of popsicles, and after they started showing me the popsicle recipes they were finding, I started dreaming of Popsicles too!

So, this morning we had a popsicle making party! We made three different kinds.

This one was made with homemade Greek yogurt. (Hmm, can it be Greek if it is homemade?)  Blueberry jam was carefully mixed in with a swirl of raspberry syrup an top.  It looks yummy!

Next batch also had the wonderful yogurt, cantaloupe chunks, blueberry jam, and raspberry syrup artistically placed in layers. So pretty!

The kids found some espresso Popsicle recipes. We knew the older kids would love to try these when they get home from work, so we made quite a few. We combined coffee, whole milk, heavy whipping cream, and a bit of raspberry syrup to sweeten it.

I am always in search for the nutritious, fun to eat recipes, so when they found the cucumber lemon flavor, it was a hit (at least with me)! It really does look refreshing.  Instead of lemons, we used limes and made sort of a lime-aid. The trick is to let it freeze for an hour or so (a lot longer in our house, due to the repeatedly opened freezer door- “just checking mom”!). Then stir in the ice crystals and add shredded cucumbers.  It looks good!

The kids had researched and found that coffee filters placed upside down over the cup, held in place with a binder, make a perfect support for the stick.  Apparently when you flip the popsicle over and take off the cup, it helps keep the little fingers from getting so sticky.  We’ll see.


Here is the almost frozen, finished product.  I can’t wait to taste them!

Now, for the rest of the story…

10 Aug

I really did love camping with the family. I wouldn’t want to say anything to detract from that, but…

take  a look at this picture.  I posted it again because I love what it says.  First of all it is of my daughter, and she is delightful!

In addition, when I look at it, I feel calm, relaxed.  It represents a perfect day. All is well.

It is tempting to leave you with that image, but I am quite sure that some of you, especially with children, have experienced vacations that turn out to be more work than pleasure.

I do love my family.  Everything I wrote yesterday is true, but it is so easy to get the wrong picture.

While I sat in the garden weeding this morning, I pondered what I had written yesterday.

I looked down the row I had just weeded. It looked picture perfect, just like the pictures and my description of The Gift of Time.

Yet, when I looked over at another part of the garden… (well, lets just call it “The Jungle” where the kids go to pick tomatoes and end up getting lost), I realized I had only given half of the story!

We embraced our trip knowing rain was in the forecast. We hoped the showers would be intermittent, and they were, but each time the rain came, it seemed to  pour double the amount! The tents leaked horribly. The sleeping bags, towels, back packs…  all soaked.  I am not talking about one or two sleeping bags,  there were 16 of us! At one point, my love for camping may have wavered just a bit.

I could continue, there was a series of many unfortunate events…  I will not take the time to describe.

Often, it is in the struggles we draw closer. We dig deeper. We build  memories. Our character grows.

“Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.”

… taken from a little book called The Valley of Vision

So, we will continue to face the valleys of each day, to be continually increasing our vision in the heights.

The Gift of Time

9 Aug

I love my family…

Birthdays come and go, one after another throughout the years.  Sometimes a big deal and other times not.

Our family -of all ages, looks for ways to bless and celebrate each person on their special day.

This year, my sweet children chose to give me the gift of time. Time together.

I love the thoughtfulness of pondering, what would I truly like.

The Gift of Time.

They planned, organized, and provided for a trip to the ocean, camping on the beach.

Playing in the sand, walking on the shore, riding the waves,

Reading a book, tailgating for lunch…

Time, just spending time.

What best can I give my family. What do they want most from me?

Time, some quality time.

And when the miles separate us, our hearts are still near

We look forward to our next gift of time.

Thank you dear family.

I love you.