Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eight Years in Pictures - Part 4

Rebecca, May 2005

Below: August 2005
After Lydia's birth
Toe-headed Nelson looks on

Paul and Rebecca
After the birth of Lydia
(We were still in North Carolina)

Now living in Illinois.
Visiting a farm belonging to some church members.
Rebecca, March 2006

I cannot find a picture of the whole family together... sorry

Eight Years in Pictures - Part 3

Our Family in April 2004
At Seminary in North Carolina

Just the two babies
December 2002 (still in North Carolina)

Eight Years in Pictures - Part 1

Just a few days after Rebecca's birth

I love this picture...  
Four generations together! 
Mother's Day 2002

Rebecca with Great Grandma (my mom's mom)

Our family in May of 2002! Just the three of us!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rebecca Turns Eight

Rebecca is:
- the sweetest eight year old I know
- the biggest helper I know
- great with children
- going to be a great mother
- a real gem
- kind, compassionate, caring, giving
- always the first to see a need and want to meet that need
- a Christian
- a prayer warrior
- eight going on twenty
- the most mature eight year old that I have ever known
- the family nurse
- a quick learner
- a sponge for information
- precious

I could go on for hours, but I think you get the idea! 
Our special little lady is eight years old today!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

For Food and Fun

I don't just cook and experiment with recipes so that my family can eat... I do it for fun! I am playing in the kitchen even more since I got my new Cuisinart stand mixer! I am spending half my day in the kitchen... which makes it terribly hard to get anything else done... especially when I am getting so many dishes dirty!

Anyway, I promised to keep you updated on how the mixer was working out. I have mixed reviews. Firstly, I think it is fabulous! I am in awe of a machine that does all the hard work of bread-baking for me! BUT, I am angry at the machine. The box said that this machine could handle 15 cups of flour! It lied! I cannot make breads that require more that 8-10 cups of flour. Well, I can, but I end up doing the kneading myself. And, well, isn't that why I bought this machine? (The dough climbs the dough hook and starts looking like something from The Blob movie!) So, you see, I have a love-hate relationship with my mixer. So long as I make the recipes found in the mixer's own recipe book, everything turns out perfectly. But, when I try recipes written by people with fancy, schmancy Bosch mixers nothing works out as planned. (I did not get a Bosch, because they cost twice as much. I would have to make a lot of bread before it would pay for itself!)

That said - I am still trying out some of the excellent recipes on the Mennonite Girls Can Cook website. I am loving their yeast-rising bread recipes! The other night I made Health Buns... which required me to do some hand-kneading as the recipe needed far more flour than they say it should. Anyway, I made these buns larger than dinner rolls... we used them as buns. You know, like for cheeseburgers. Very unique flavor with the molasses as a sweetener.

Long story short... if the box did not say that it could handle 15 cups of flour, then I would think that my mixer is the best thing since sliced bread. But, it lied... and that makes me mad.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sick Kids

Thanks to vitamin D and vitamin C, we did not get sick all winter until the end of February! (No one had been sick for over a year!!!) But, since late February we have been passing this cold from one child to another. Baby Josiah is not doing well at all. His nose is all stuffed up. And, I can easily praise God for our infant nose syringe... without which Baby could not breathe to eat!  Two nights ago he slept very little, and I had to be awake with him until 4 am. Fortunately, God gave me the ability to get up in the morning with the other children regardless of my lack of sleep! (Though, I had to work very hard not to let the grumpy bug get me!) Paul has been sick with a cold/cough off and on since late February. I am still well. Each time my throat gets tender, I take additional vitamin C. And, the next morning I wake up feeling well. I do have enough energy to make it through the day with sick kids... but I do not have energy for a full day of school. We are doing only 2-3 subjects a day right now. I think once the weather warms, and the windows open, we be back to our normal routine. Until then, please pray for my sick family.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

First Snake of Spring

That's right, folks... we have found our first snake of 2010! It was in the cellar... indoors, but not exactly in my house. Paul found it when he went down to change the furnace filter. He is on the handle of our softball bat.
It took us well over an hour to identify it, as it is a juvenile. We finally concluded that it is Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racer, also known as a Blue Racer. I identify many of my snakes using the Missouri Department of Conservation website. We are very relieved that this little guy is non-venomous! And, we are happy that he eats mice... though I would rather live in a house that is both mouse free and snake free! Living in an old farm house in MO is a homeschool mother's dream... sort of.

I had to take it outside for a better look. 

 Comparing it to the pictures on the computer.

I know what you are thinking, "look how calm she is." Well, what you don't see is my reaction to when the snake starts climbing up the glass. I know it is a tiny thing... and I had the jar covered... but still, I lost my ability to reason for a time. I went frantically through the house screaming, "Paul's it's moving. Help, he's moving." Paul made fun of me... but was really none to eager to take it from me. He somehow managed to get him into a large mason jar for better examination. (That jar had a real lid!)

There were no snakes harmed in the writing of this blog post. The snake was re-deposited back into the cellar (by Paul... I wanted him put out in the shed). He is likely just one of twenty babies hatches last fall... oh the joys of being a country homeschooling mom.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

America's Godly Heritage

We watched a documentary movie this afternoon entitled America's Godly Heritage. It is available through Netflix, click here.) We were VERY pleased with this documentary.

I HIGHLY recommend that all Christian families watch this movie! I was amazed by many of the quotes contained within the movie. The movie, by the way, relies almost entirely on first-hand historical documents. So, we are hearing the original writing's of the founding fathers.

This documentary spends a lot of time talking about the true meaning of "seperation of church and state." And, how Thomas Jefferson's words have been taken terribly out of context since the 1960s. The film also focuses on the downfall of our nation since prayer, Bible reading, and the Ten Commandments were taken out of school. (And, no - I am not arguing that these things should be put back in... that era is over). It is amazing to see how assertions made by the founding fathers, regarding our nation's need to stay rooted in biblical principles, have proven true!

I highly recommend that you add this movie to you Netflix queue!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why We Homeschool - Part 2

Options, lots of options!

- So many curriculum options that your head will spin
- or, maybe you won't use curriculum at all! (or, like me, you can mix and match whatever works!)

- Phonics VS. whole/sight words? Your choice! And, you are free to change your mind at any time!
- Should I teach math before or after I start lunch?
- You can stick to your schedule or modify it when necessary
- classical education VS the contemporary model
- get dressed or stay in pajamas (my kids have no choice. They have to dress to be allowed at the breakfast table!)
- to vaccinate or not to vaccinate - it's up to you
- so much free stuff on the internet, check my links in the sidebar
- we can go outside for class any time (I mean to do school, not just to play... though you can certainly do that too ; )
- Mommy has a headache. OK, time for recess. It is raining? OK, watch this movie I got on space exploration. You already watched that? OK, let's get on YouTube and watch a space shuttle take off.

I love having the freedom of changing plans mid-term (ahem... mid-day!), if something is not "clicking" with the kids! I was at liberty to set aside Saxon 1, a few years ago when Rebecca was not ready yet. And, I was free to start that same course with Nelson early, as he is mathematically minded. I make decisions like this all the time, to best suit our schooling to the children's natural abilities (or short-comings).

Most importantly though, is our option to make everything in our school relate back to God. I talked about this the other day. We can start with prayer. We can use the Bible as a primer. We can copy Bible verses for handwriting practice. We can sing hymns for music lessons. We can learn that God is The Creator.
... You get the idea.

It is great to have options!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Making Bread Just Got Easier

Paul bought me a new mixer! It's HUGE! We bought a Cuisinart 7 Qt Stand Mixer. I have been wanting a big mixer for a long time, but cost prevented it. But, Paul set aside some of our tax return money to go for the mixer.

"What is it, Daddy?"
My first attempt with making bread in the mixer, instead of by hand.
The finished product.... well, actually we had three loaves.
But, we gave one to our pastor, who came by for a visit today. 
And, the other loaf disappeared very quickly!
I guess that means it was a success!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Moderation in Food Preparation

Oops, this has been sitting in my queue for about a month.

What does being moderate in food preparation mean to me? What kind of balance am I able to realistically achieve?
We all know that refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are bad. However, what you do with that information will vary. When we were first married, everything I made for a meal came in a pre-packaged form. Every meal contained large doses of both sugar and HFCS. But, we were happy and enjoyed every meal. (Ignorance was bliss.) Last year, I removed nearly all sugar and HFCS from our diet, to the exclusion of meals with family, candy from kindly grandparents, and just about anything that comes pre-packaged. I was happy about my determination to keep my family healthy, but I hurt a lot of people in my wake. Have you tried to tell a grandparent that their candy and sweets aren't wanted... while the kids have tears in their eyes? Is such determination really necessary? Will a few pieces of candy during the month really hurt my kids?

So this is where I want to be on the sugar/HFCS issue -  I will keep cooking from scratch. I will keep making healthy breakfasts, snacks, and desserts. I will not buy cereal, Oreos, or candy. BUT, if someone gives my child a cookie, I will not refuse it. (But, I will try to limit such kindnesses received to just one.) And, when we have potluck dinners at church (every week) we can each eat one dessert.

So, the goal is preserving the health of my family without going overboard. Here is what I am coming to see: Food can be an idol, no disputing that. BUT, a person's food regimen/diet can also become an idol. (Perhaps even moderation can become an idol? But, I am in no danger of that... *laughs*)

This verse is not so very out-of-context in this application:
 "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life 's span? Luke 12:25 (NASB77)
Even if you can add years to your life by completely abstaining from sugar and HFCS, at what cost is it purchased? Have you trampled upon the feelings of others? Have you spent so much time consumed thinking about what to eat that you missed the whole point of life?

I hope to find a balance in being a good steward of my body, good manager of my kitchen/home, yet all the while keeping an eye towards the bigger picture.

Goals and Accomplishments

Those of you who have followed the blog for a long time, or know us in real life, know that Paul and I are working towards getting out of debt. Paul used to be a Pastor. One of the reasons he felt that he was no longer qualified for that role was because of our debt. (See Titus 1 and I Timothy 3: these texts do not speak specifically of debt, but of being "above reproach.") about a year and a half ago, we nearly filed for bankruptcy. We were drowning in debt.

That day that we were looking up phone numbers for bankruptcy lawyers, God stopped us. I cannot say that we heard His voice, but we both just KNEW that God did not want us to take that step. Among other things, we kept coming back to the idea that it would (in the eyes of some) make Paul permanently unfit for a pastoral role. (I do  realize there are differing views on this, and I am not looking for debate.)

We never did call a lawyer. We decided to stick it out. I talked to creditors on the phone daily... usually while they ranted, I cried. I begged God for relief from such a heavy burden of debt. We begged God for miracles.

Time and again, God has miraculously provided for our needs. Our income has not been enough, in the time we have lived in MO, to make ends meet... but we never go without true needs. Our propane tank has never gone completely empty (though it has gotten down to 0%). Our home has always stayed warm enough to be comfortable with many layers of clothing on. We have always had enough food. These are just a few examples of God's provisions.

But, in the past TWO MONTHS, God has been doing some amazing things for us. One local hospital cancelled Paul's debts to them (about $3000 for a CT Scan). Another hospital cancelled my debts and reimbursed what I had paid. We used that reimbursement to get caught up on our van loan and pay off a few small bills. (I cannot tell you how many times we have nearly lost our van!)

Then, with our tax return/credit we paid off all of our remaining credit cards except one! So, our debts are now realistic! We have college loans (who doesn't!?), a van loan, and two personal loans, but only one credit card, and one last small hospital bill! I cannot tell you how great it feels to be released from these debts! But, I can tell you that I do NOT regret choosing to pay them, rather than having them all written off by bankruptcy. (Please know that I am NOT judging anyone who has claimed. I am just saying that we could not claim.)

It has been a long journey. It has not been easy.
Here are some of the ways we cut back:
- canceled our life insurance last March (which I do not really recommend)
- canceled cell phones last March (though we recently picked these back up)
- no eating out, unless someone sent a birthday check, or family took us out
- very few new clothes/shoes
- using cloth diapers
- cancelled long distance service on our home phone (we kept the landline, because we have to have it for our internet service)
- choose the slowest speed of internet for many months (we recently moved it back up)
- no gym membership (for me, I LOVE to work out and go to aerobics classes)
- live in a house with snakes, mice, and more, just because the rent is cheap
- ran the heater at 60-63 degrees last year. This year with a new baby in the house we ran the heater at 67.
- I tried to use mostly free homeschooling resources off of the internet, and checked out books from the library to supplement. I sometimes use gift money to buy curriculum.
- Paul has to fix anything that breaks himself
- very small entertainment budget (we allow for 15/month for Netflix during the winter months)
- no dates, because we cannot hire babysitters
- very few visits to see my family in IL
- no dishwasher for a long time
- no piano until last week
- no fancy mixer for making bread (until last week), I had to make it by hand

We have lived in this house, in MO, since August 2008. It has been HARD! But, I am finally truly grateful for it! (Though, honestly, I do still struggle with contentment with the idea of staying here indefinitely)

And, we still owe far more on the van than it is worth... but, if we stay on track it will be paid off in less than 3 years. That seems like forever right now, but I must try to be more optimistic. After all, we do not know what God might do next!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why We Homeschool - Part I

This post is an answer/reply to a comment from a previous post. I have included the entirety of the original comments and questions here as a block quote. My answers are below. In posting this, I am in no way looking for a debate to break out. In fact, I hope it does not. I am answering here, because my answers were too long to be written in a comment box.
 I am a Christian who is also a public school teacher, and I have to say I'm having difficulty reading some of these posts/comments. First of all, I feel a bit attacked by the comment about the devil being on the rampage in our public school system. The devil has his hand in all places, even in some of our churches! How is sending your children to public school any different than letting them join an organized sport or playing with the neighborhood children. I went to a Christian college with MANY other women and men who earned education degrees and are now teaching in public schools. You really have no idea how many Christian public school teachers there are out there. If your children aren't in public school anyways, how do you know if there is something wrong with it? Did you go to public school - were there problems that you had with it then? I'm sure that you spent time thinking about your options before deciding to home school, but I just hope that the first reason was not because you didn't want them going to public school and that you had some positive reasons for wanting to do it. It seems like you are a bit TOO concerned with what is taught in public schools. In reality, if you are being the parent you should be, you should have no worry that your children are going to be discerning with what they see in the world around them. If they are raised right, and something evil crosses their path, they will come to you. Do you worry that they will not?
I have a Bachelor's degree in education, and I'm almost finished with my Master's degree in Reading and Literacy. Still, I would never feel adequate to educate my own children in every aspect that they would possibly need from kindergarten through high school. What if your child had a learning disability and needed special education services in order to reach his or HER potential? What if they needed speech services, or a remedial reading program? You would deny him/her of that? Would you even know how to identify some of these issues? And what if your child had a mental disability - I have an autistic student this year who is able to do everything my regular education students can do academically - he only struggles socially. The way that he learned his academic skills was nowhere near the same as regular education students. If you had a child like this, what would you do? Would you still home school? Without any expertise in the area, how would you even know how to teach him?

I agree with what you say about how our first calling should be "going into all the world," but how are your daughters going to do that if they are not encouraged to go to college or some other form of life outside of the church and home. We are the salt of the earth, and as my pastor says, "the salt isn't doing any good while it's still in the salt shaker." It is true that some could refuse the call to missions in order to go to college, but isn't it true that for MOST of us the world around us IS our mission field? What if a female is called to go to college in order to be a lighthouse to others there?

I think it is important that we teach our children what the bible says, but that we give them chances to practice it. Be sure you are not living a life of separatism. I went to school with some people who came from home schooled homes and MOST of them knew what they believed, but couldn't put into words WHY they believed it. How can they spread the word of God when they aren't experiencing those first young opportunities to tell others about God? Later in life whenever they encounter resistance, they won't know what to do because they've never experienced that before. Do your children know any other children that are not from Christian homes? If not, how are they getting their first experiences spreading the good news?

I agree that the devil is at work all around us - as you have said. Unfortunately he has a stronghold in many homes, schools, and churches. You are right that any time we let our children go anywhere or do anything there is a chance that they will be exposed to something unbecoming.

I, too, went to a Christian college where many men and women were trained to be educators. And, I have a lot of respect for teachers! As a homeschool mom, I have an even greater respect for teachers! Never before did I know what planning and forethough went into lesson plans! And, I cannot begin to imagine how you can keep order in such a large classroom - sometimes I struggle with just a few kids (*winks*). I cannot answer for my other readers, but my husband and I both went to public school. Though we do not judge all schools by our own experiences, we certainly do tremble at some of what we went through and some of what we were taught. I BY NO MEANS think that public school is all evil all the time. There are a lot of good things about public schools: organized sports, choirs and bands, highly educated teachers, state of the art equipment, well-stocked libraries and more. However, a Christian parent does well to consider what is being taught in the classes their children are attending (or could attend). I do not think that a parent can be "too concerned with what is being taught." I think it is our duty as parents to guard our childrens' hearts (Proverbs 4:23), because they are too young to do it for themselves. However, we know that we cannot shelter our children from sin, and we hope to train our children in such a way that prepares them for fighting their own battles in the future. Also, when you think about how many hours the children are at school - compared to being at home - then it becomes even more valuable to know what they are being taught. (And, please know again, that I am not saying that everything a public school teaches is bad.) Kids are in school most of the day, and then come home to do homework, eat, play, and go to bed. If a Christian parent chooses to educate their children in the public schools, then I hope they are very committed to spending the evening hours with their children. Otherwise, it is almost as though the school is bringing up the child and training him... not the parent. What I mean to say is that a child will most likely be taught by the person/people they spend the most time with.

In response to the amount of education that a homeschool parent has... I think I speak for just about everyone when I say that we all feel inadequate. And, I do think that there are some parents who are too undisciplined and poorly educated to do it well on their own. But, there are so many available resources in these days that it is amazing! There are all kinds of books written on home education (many by highly educated individuals like yourself, who came out of a public school teaching situation), blogs, web sites, and more to help a parent. (Not to mention the hundreds of fantastic Christian curriculums to choose from!) Also, there are homeschool associations where mothers and fathers collaborate to teach each others' children. For example, I might teach lessons in music, some one else can teach some lessons in art, another can facilitate P.E. (And, of course, field trips, speech classes, and play time.)

As for learning disabilities... Homeschooling a "normal" child is a daunting task, and I will be the first to admit that educating a struggling learner is even harder. BUT, most homeschool parents feel grateful to be able to care for these special needs on their own. The benefits of this situation would be that: 1) I know the child very well, 2) I have all day every day to work with him/her at his level, 3) There is much more time spent one on one with the student, 4) There is less of a concern that others will make fun of the struggling student. And, again, there is SO much helpful information on the internet and in books about all types of learning and behavioral disabilities!

I hope that all Christian parents are raising their children with the intent that they will some day be a light to the lost world around them. For our family, this means training them at home until they are old enough to make positive decisions for themselves. Then, we will gradually turn them loose into the world. And, if they go on to college, we trust that they will be well prepared for the differing worldviews that they find there. We are not raising our children in a bubble, trying to shield them from all sin. Rather, we are trying to introduce them to varying worldviews through the lens of the Bible. When we talk about divorce, abortion, creation, government, mathematics, etc. we do so from a Biblical standpoint. This is the biggest reason that our family has chosen to homescool. When I teach the children to read - I have great joy in telling them that we learn to speak and write so that we can learn more about God and make Him known to others. When I teach math and science, I find great joy in sharing with the children the order that we find in the universe. We are studying the order of things laid out by an Orderly Creator. This is, in our minds, giving them a firm foundation to build upon later.

I completely agree that Christians ought to be the salt of the earth! And, that we should not lock ourselves in our homes to keep us from sin. Instead, I think we ought to spend our time at home preparing to go into the world and bring others to the Lord. BUT, it is my personal opinion that children are not ready to be little missionaries sent out into public schools.Children are not well enough equipped to stand alone in such a role. However, we are training them so that they will be ready more every day until the time comes for them to be on their own. And, though I am not in favor of being a complete separatist, set away from the world... I am in favor of doing our best to be different from the world... to be in it, but not of it. And, we are doing our best to train our children to be holy, which does of course have to it this meaning of being apart from and separate. No homeschool family is perfect! We do our best to train our children to raise them to be educated believers (knowing what they believe and why they believe it). But, ultimately we parents cannot make them be Christians. It is still a decision they have to make for themselves. (However, I do personally believe that homeschooling is a good foundation upon which to make that choice).

In regards to college education - I agree with you, that perhaps college is the best way to prepare a person for the work that God has for him/her. The Lord has certainly called to Himself doctors, teachers, presidents, and other professionals that require higher education. Even my husband, who is a mechanic, finds that he can better provide for his family if he were to go back to college and get a degree in that field.

In writing this reply, I am in no way attacking you. These conversations are always easier to have face to face! I know that you cannot hear my tone of voice or see my face, but I assure you that you would hear and see only kindliness there.

Furthermore, I have a lot of Christian friends who are "called" to teach in the public school. I will NOT question what you feel is the Lord's calling on your life. Likewise, may of use here are "called" to homeschool. We ALL need to be careful how we address one another when we talk about these issues.

Thanks for your comment. If you have any other questions or comments you are more than welcome to e-mail me. I love talking about why we homeschool. (I just love talking *winks*).

With sincerity,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Piano Pictures

These pictures are very true to life. I almost never get to sit and play alone.