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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Another Thanksgiving here and quickly gone tomorrow. What are you thankful for today? At the very least, here is my list.

My amazing children whom I love and who love me.
For a husband who is my best friend.
For a free country where I have the privilege to vote.
For this roof over our head; our sanctuary.
For a second vehicle (and the first one too).
For working hot water and appliances.
For amazing friends who never fail to lift me up when I am down. Who truly understand me and who love me.
For extended family.
For the ability to school my children at home.
For the wisdom of my dear friend Sheryl and others along the way.
For parents who raised me in love, doing the best they knew how.
For plenty of clothing for myself and my family.
For a God who loved me so much He sent His Son to die for me! To Him I owe everything!

May you be blessed this year not only on Thanksgiving Day but every day to follow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Planning the Homeschool Year

I've had several people ask me how I plan our homeschool year. Let me start by saying, this is what my family does; it's not a perfect fit for everyone. However, using the simple guidelines here I know will be helpful for every homeschool.

1. Establish how many days you want to actually school. We count in some sick days, holidays we know we'll be out of town and 2 weeks of extra "off" days. In the past we've had 5 day school weeks; some families have 4 day school weeks.

2. Figure out what month you want to start school and what month you want to end. For us, September through May works well. Some people school year round and others change things up even more. That's fine, just make sure you have a goal in mind.

3. Figure out what curriculum you're going to use, what books you want to cover, etc... We use A Beka for our core curriculum and fill in with other things. We see how many lessons/pages are in the book and how many pages/lessons we need to do per day in order to complete the work within our time frame. I then write in the front of the books how many pages/lessons need to be done per day so no one forgets :)

4. I keep a running list on my computer of extra books, activities, etc... I want to cover for the kids. This is very helpful at keeping me on track.

Having all this prepared out well before the new school year helps give us focus and stay on track and lessons stress immensely. Without this, I know I would be asking for disaster. If you need any help planning your school year, please feel free to ask. I'll help you in any way I can.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The New Homeschool Year

I just got a neat ebook from The Old Schoolhouse and wanted to share a few quotes with you. It's full of wonderful biblical wisdom in letting God lead your homeschool. This woman taught a 6th grader while taking care of toddlers; which of course totally spoke to me. That's our situation! The book is called The New Homeschool Year and can be found FOR FREE at this link -

"In your home, it is important to determine who makes the decisions....If you are not the authority, you will be met with questions, comments and complaints.....If you go back in history and examine the on-room-schoolhouse model, you can see clearly the teacher had a plan for the school day and the children understood the plan was to be followed.....In order to have a successful multi-level school, you must establish that you have authority and you will decide the plan for the day."

I can't reiterate how important this is.

"You can also decide to focus your primary attention on the absolutes. For us, those are: Bible, math, and reading. If we only get a small amount done for some reason, I will choose those first."

I have a homeschooling friend who has homeschooled her 8 children. Her youngest is Allysha's age and she has 5 homeschool graduates and one on the way with a couple in between. I've often looked to her for advice whether it be things she did well or things she feels she didn't do well with the first ones. She told me from the beginning reading is essential as is math. She doesn't even do any other sit down lessons with the children until they are in 1st grade because these two things need to be mastered well. This has helped our homeschool tremendously and I'm so thankful for her wisdom.

"If you start each day with no plan and you are continually reinventing the wheel, your children's education will suffer for it....Put yourself in their position. Imagine you get to work each day and your boss, who controls all your work has it locked up in his office. He tells you to sit at your desk and wait for him to decide what you should be doing. Then he gets distracted......and you are left to sit listlessly and roam the halls...That is what it's like for your children when you have no plan."

She explains here that there are lots of great activities. Just because they are there, doesn't mean they are a wise use of our time.

"....our heavenly Father knows your frame (time) and knows your limitations. He will never ask you to do more than you are physically capable of doing...If you feel like you have more on your plate than you can possibly do well, then you are very likely doing some things he never intended.....prayerfully consider what are some things you need to set accomplish the good work He intends for you."

After this she lists a things she had to forgo so she could do the task God had called her to; homeschooling. Everything on her list isn't bad, it just stole time away from her family. Things from co-ops, to excessive trips outside the home, hobbies, tv, long phone calls, etc... Things we're all guilty of.

Man, I'm still reading through this and loving it! I know every homeschool has room for improvement. I pray that you will all take time to pray today by yourself or with your spouse and see what the Lord wants you to do in your school. Do your children know what they are to be doing daily? Do they know that you are the authority and follow it? Are you putting too much on your plate to do the good work God has given to you; homeschooling your children? I know sometimes it's easy to have pity parties. That's not what we're here for today ladies. Today is a new day and tomorrow is a new school week. See what he has for you today. Do that great work he has called you to! God will equip you to do just that! We serve an amazing God!

James 1:5-6 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt...

Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Happy Gospel: The Wrong Jesus

It's not often that I copy someone else's blog post. Today however, I felt I should. It will only take a couple minutes to read through and is so worth it.

The Happy Gospel: The Wrong Jesus

Satan delights to disguise himself as “an angel of light”. He is king at cloaking deception underneath truth. And that is why the Bible tells us to “study to show ourselves approved unto God” and to “rightly divide the Word of truth”.

“…the Jesus I follow demands my allegiance, obedience and death to self. He has some things to say about the way I live, and I am delighted to obey Him.”

“Jesus is all you need”.

True or false?

The statement is true. But if the statement is used to suggest Christ’s disciples have no obligation to live out the gospel in real life (or to attack those who advocate that living out) it becomes a lie.

The statement is cleverly used because it’s safe; and that disarms us, makes us feel relieved and relaxed and open to receive anything that comes next–the deceptive part. (Lies are always “almost true”.)

Jesus IS all we need…..if it’s the *right* Jesus, and not one we have fabricated to suit our natural desires.

The real Jesus motivates us to love His Word, to search out His wisdom, to delight in His commands and to savor His will.

It’s easy to see how rampant this new Christianity is. We have tens of thousands lifting hands claiming to love Jesus, with zero life transformation. If Jesus doesn’t transform us, and we claim Him as Savior, we trample His very death on the cross.

Many, many are being deceived by this new, “freedom” that is perverted. And they are, in turn, deceiving many.

The lie that comes behind this truth is, “I am not subject to obey, to submit my life to the Jesus in whom I believe, to follow His teaching and to uphold His truths–especially the ones that don’t feel right to me. I can make up my own rules and mainly, I just want to ‘hang out’ with Him.”

But that is contrary to what Jesus Himself said.

Jesus delighted in complete submission to His Heavenly Father, EVEN when that submission brought bitterness and agony!

“If you love Me you will obey My commands”.

Members of this new gospel stand with dagger in hand ready to slash anyone who proposes they must submit to a Higher authority, anyone who “teaches” (unless the teacher tickles ears), or anyone who expounds on the practical application of Scripture for our lives.

The bravest ones even re-martyr saints of the past.

Be prepared for the daggers. If you suggest that God has indeed given us guidelines for how to live, you are in danger of the daggers.

“To obey is better than sacrifice.”

If you suggest, for example, that God has laid out an order to family life, that God has something specific to say about marriage roles, if you are, in obedience to Scripture, teaching others to love their husbands and children and manage their homes, you will probably be labeled as a “family worshiper” instead of a “Jesus worshiper”.

You will even likely be accused of being in a cult.

Cause now you’ve gone to meddlin’. Yep, you’re a bona fide ”false prophet”.

(Never mind the fact that marriage is THE VERY PICTURE of the gospel; one would think that makes family a pretty important issue for the follower of Christ to get right.

Never mind the fact that failure to “teach these things” could result in blasphemy of God’s Word. Nope, we better just stick to “Jesus is all you need”, and stay away from all that other stuff in the Bible.

If you suggest that God says “children are a blessing”, you are probably a “child worshiper”. Why do you keep losing focus???

“but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Oh, and don’t dare quote from the Old Testament; that will move you to the rank of “raving lunatic”.

Satan is clever indeed and has enlisted a whole army of deceivers to try and sway God’s people from speaking truth about anything.

“Jesus is all you need” is a safe, happy statement with no strings attached. We can be anyone, do anything and no one can touch us because if they try, we’ll just call them “judgemental and legalistic” and retreat back to our “happy place”.

But the Jesus I follow demands my allegiance, obedience and death to self. He has some things to say about the way I live, and I am delighted to obey Him.

The Jesus I follow is gracious and merciful to those who LOVE Him, who demonstrate that love by obedience.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Does He know you? Do others recognize you as a follower of Christ because you “do the will of the Father”? Can YOU recognize a true follower of Christ?

“Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey and practice it!”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring our Veteran's on Veteran's Day

Our brave men leading the parade.

Jon giving a card to a veteran.

Today was such a wonderful day! I thought instead of sitting at home and watching a 3 minute long video on Veteran's Day, we'd go ahead and go to a local Veteran's Day Parade. While getting ready to go, I had the kids make Veteran's Day cards for the veterans we'd see while we were there; not realizing it'd be at least as much of a blessing to us. It was so neat seeing the kids hand out the cards and the surprise and then extreme gratefulness that followed. It not only brought tears to my eyes but the eyes of the receivers. Too often, we don't realize just how much these wonderful men and women have done for us.

While one veteran was up giving a speech, he told us of the time he had just returned home from Vietnam. He was so proud to be a soldier and be serving his country. THe battle was long, hard and many people had died. Instead of returning home for a hero's welcome, this man returned home to see some people burning the American Flag. Very distraught by this site, he jumped in and took the flag out of the fire. Immediately following this act, he was beat up very badly. While this older gentleman told his story, tears streamed down his face and you could hear his voice choking up as he talked. I am so grateful for this man and all the men and women like him that have served us and served us well.

There is a saying that I'd love to pass along to you today. If you don't want to stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them :) Isn't this country and her people worth protecting?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Healthy Holiday Recipes - Tried and True! Part 1

Here are some of my favorite holiday recipes that are not only very yummy, but healthier too. I will be adding more very soon.

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies - without the sugar by The Nourishing Apron
I would actually call them honey cut out cookies if it were me.  I added in lemon flavoring.  I think a cream cheese, honey and lemon icing would be very yummy!  I also rolled mine a bit thicker and had to bake for 18 minutes.  

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cold butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup honey.

1. Pulse butter and flour in food processor till mixture resembles course crumbs.
2. Drizzle honey and extract through the top hole of the processor while pulsing till mixture begins to hold together.
3. Gather dough into a ball and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Roll into 1/8 inch thick and cut into desired shapes.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  
4. Remove to a wire wrack to cool.

Spiced Cider
6 cups apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1-2 oranges, peels only
extra cinnamon sticks (optional)

1. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves and peels in a cheese cloth and tie it up.  
2. Put cider in a pan and turn on medium/low.  Add in the cheese cloth bundle.
3. Bring to a slow simmer and simmer 10 minutes or so.  
4. Serve in cups with cinnamon sticks sticking out as a garnish.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates
cream cheese, softened
dates - cut in half and pitted
nuts of your choice - walnuts or pecans taste best

1. Spread cream cheese in each date half.
2. Top with a nut then sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
These taste best at room temp.

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2lbs sweet potatoes (I used canned- drain them)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons of maple syrup (or more to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons half and half or milk

1. Cook sweet potatoes and mash till tender - or drain and mash.
2. Add to pan and warm up with the rest of the ingredients.
3. Add cinnamon if desired. I never do because they are perfect without it :)

Spinach Artichoke Dip
I got this recipe from my sister-in-law and boy is it good!
2 cups pram cheese
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1-14oz can artichoke hearts drained and chopped
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayo
2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix together parm cheese, spinach and artichoke hearts.
3. Combine remaining ingredients and mix with spinach mixture.
4. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
5. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

I've altered the way I make it a bit. I hate big pieces of spinach or artichokes so for the directions, I place the spinach and artichokes in a food processor and process. Then I add the rest of ingredients and blend together. I bake just like above. Regardless of the way you make it, I think you'll find this is the best hot dip out there.

Maple Syrup Walnuts by Ellie from the Food Network
2 cups walnuts halves
1/3 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt

1. Stir all ingredients in a warm pan for about 3 minutes or till nuts are toasted and caramelized.
2. Put on plate to cool.
3. Break apart and put in airtight container or bag.

World's Best Gingersnap Cookies by My Years Without Sugar
These cookies have a lovely flavor! I do think they are a bit dry and will try to remedy that next time. Because of that, whatever shape you put these on your pan is what they will come out looking like.
1 cup butter
1 cup date sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg

Mix these ingredients together, then add:
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix these and then add:
2 3/4 cup flour (can use whole wheat flour...)
1 tsp. baking soda

Mix until they are ready to roll into balls (do NOT roll in sugar of any kind) and place evenly on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes until they are cracked on top. I always like to take them out early so they are especially soft and chewy. Every oven is different, so check often and enjoy!

"Mounds" Frozen Candy Bars also from My Years Without Sugar
I thought these were so yummy. I would however recommend making these in mini muffin tins. They are too big and rich for big ones:)
1 1/3 C. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 C. coconut oil (unrefined, virgin is best)
1/4 C. honey
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 C. sliced almonds

Melt coconut oil and honey over low heat until just melted. Whisk to combine. Add almond extract and coconut flakes.
Take a 12-compartment muffin tin and evenly distribute the almonds in each. Then evenly distribute the coconut mixture over each of those. Place in freezer on flat surface for 30 minutes.
Next, you will prepare the chocolate:
3/4 C. cocoa powder (not dutch cocoa)
1/4 C. honey
1 C. coconut oil
1 Tblsp vanilla extract

Combine these ingredients in a 2-cup measuring glass and place in a pot of simmering water. Heat and whisk until everything is just melted. Remove from heat and continue to whisk until smooth.
Take out the tin of frozen coconut and evenly distribute the chocolate mixture over it.
Put back into your freezer and freeze until hard, about 30 minutes.
To get them out after freezing, simply pop them out with a knife. Keep them frozen as they melt otherwise.