The ABCs of Christmas

The ABCs of Christmas
Collin R. Hudson © 2013

A Merry Christmas
Because unto us a
Child is born
Down from Heaven
Even to the Cross
For God so loved the world that He
Gave his only begotten Son
Heaven and Earth rejoice
In one baby
Jesus Christ
Kind and just
Loving and forgiving
Mature and cool-headed
Never doubting God
Over our heads He hung
Promising us a Place in Heaven
Quiet like a lamb to the slaughter
Rising again three days later
Savior and Redeemer
Truly King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Unfathomable love for us
Vile as our sins are
With Him we are cleaned as white as snow
eXpect Him this Christmas season
Ye sinners repent and be
Zealous to share the Good News of Christ!

Sometimes, your children surprise with what they are capable of. Collin wrote this today in his free time and all on his own. It humbles me to watch my kids relationship with God strengthen grow.

*****When our kids were younger, we gave them almost the entire month of Christmas off and we did Unit Studies for Christmas, made cookies and presents and spent a lot of time serving. We really wanted Christmas to bring heart change to our kids and we purposefully made time for that. In high school that amount of time off becomes harder but they still book much of their December schedule with service projects. This poem was written by a 12 year old, Collin, over his Christmas break. It might be a good Christmas writing challenge for elementary and middle school kids or as a family devotion during advent.


The Last Straw 

Several years ago, I bought a book called “A Candle in the Forest” which is a compilation of Christmas stories by Joe Wheeler. One of the stories is called, “The Last Straw” by Paula MacDonald and is about a family whose children can’t stop bickering and fighting. The Mom remembers a tradition her Grandmother told her as a child. Each person in the family writes their name on a piece of paper and then they each draw a name and play “Secret Angel” for a week. Each time someone performs a kindness, like making a bed or does another’s chore secretly, they can place a straw in the nativity to prepare a place for Jesus when he comes on Christmas Eve. Thus, their home is transformed from a place of bickering and anger to a joyous home where each member places each others needs first.

Each year, I read this story out loud and then we draw names each week for several weeks during the Advent season. We have a basket and strips of fleece that can be placed (secretly) in the basket every time we do a kindness for another family member. Then on Christmas Eve, after everyone has gone to bed, Scott and I place a “baby Jesus” in the basket and put the basket under the tree.  Signifying that we are preparing for Jesus’ coming in our hearts and our home.

We have found this to be a great way to prepare our hearts and home for the coming Christmas celebration. It’s one more way to have “J.O.Y”. (Jesus, Others then Yourself)

***Edited later to add: If you have older children “who are getting too smart for their britches” as my Grams says, you might want to state that they are not to purposely try and figure out everyone’s Angel. It does not bring love and harmony to a home – trust me.


Making Christmas Memorable

yum... a log...
Yule Log from our Dickens Christmas Study

I love Christmas.  I love everything about it: the decorations, the baking, the eating, the Christmas choirs, the family meals, the parties, the crafts, wrapping the presents – everything.  It is my favorite time of the year.  I love to spend time doing all of those things but what I treasure most is delving into the spirit and meaning of Christmas with my family.  We love to do service projects, reach out to neighbors and study advent. I really want my kids to carry all of our traditions and memories of our Christmas celebrations into adulthood.

The Christmas season, however, is one of the busiest of all seasons; add homeschooling and you have a recipe for becoming certifiably crazy! Several years ago, after talking it through with my husband, we decided we would take the entire month of December off.  We start school early enough in August to allow us the time to do that while still finishing in mid to late May. I wanted to make sure our days were still somewhat scheduled but I wanted the freedom to really enjoy the season of giving so we decided to do a yearly Christmas Unit Study.  

We use an open and go curriculum that includes Bible, history, science, art and music for the school year.  Using this style of curriculum for the rest of the year allows me the time and energy to plan a great Christmas unit study.  I usually have three main elements to our Christmas Unit Study: Bible, read-alouds and crafts and goodies.

What should our Christmas Unit Study Teach?

I like to plan our unit study to tie into the history timeline we are studying.  For instance, while studying ancient times we do a unit study of Hanukkah to go with our study of Jewish Feasts and Festivals.  When studying Rome, we focus deeply into the events and times surrounding the birth of Christ.  In studying the Renaissance, we like to study the 12 days of Christmas and their meanings.  We once did a great study of Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol” while learning about the 1800 and 1900’s.  For years that we study Geography we learn how other cultures celebrate Christmas.  I find it to be a great addition to our regular studies and the kids look forward to and enjoy our Christmas studies each year.  

There are many topics of Christmas Unit studies that you could do, just look at your current school subjects to find inspiration!  You could find inspiration from a read-aloud such as a “Little House on the Prairie” Christmas study or from your families heritage.  

Bible and Read-Alouds

After I have an idea for the subject matter I start to look for the meat of our study.  What are we going to learn?  I love to look at daily advent studies for kids for our Bible studies. There are many on the market.  Everything from Bible-based ornaments that you hang on the tree to a daily advent story book.   I also have several Christmas story compilations that I choose to read from based on our topic.  You can add a musical element to your unit study by studying and learning traditional Christmas Carols.

Living What You Learn

While I am researching our Bible study, I also try to plan an outreach of some kind.  Going to serve at a feeding center, working at a distribution center for Operation Christmas Child, singing or playing at retirement homes, or looking for someone who has been forgotten and needs to know that Jesus loves them.  I find that our outreach project is what my kids have remembered most and truly expresses the reason for the season.

Crafts and Goodies

This is clearly the easiest to plan.  A quick search on the internet reveals many books on Christmas crafts and goodies.  I narrow the books down based on the topic that we are studying and try to plan two crafts and/or baking activities a week.  While studying Christmas around the world, we made several nativities in the style of different countries.  My favorite had to be the origami nativity, which was very colorful and very different from the nativities that we are accustomed to.

Invite Others

I like to involve and invite others to join us in our craziness.  We invite family, friends and even the neighbors!  Last year, we celebrated a traditional Las Posada and my neighbors agreed to be the “unkind” innkeepers.  Having others involved is, of course, more fun and also has a side benefit of sharing the workload! If you are studying Dickens’ time, have everyone bring a traditional food for the time period and have a potluck.  We have had quite the variety of meals from cookies from around the world, to foods that Jesus might have eaten to traditional Christmas meals from the Renaissance times.  This is also a great way to witness to neighbors and friends in a very nonthreatening manner. We want to teach our kids to reach out to the whole world to and share their faith.

Often times in our busy homeschooling days we forget to take time to enjoy our children and focus on the true significance of the season. If your house is anything like mine, by Christmas we need the break from our normal curricula. A Christmas unit study is a perfect way to learn something in a fun and engaging way. Your kids might not even know they are still home schooling!

Here are a few of my favorite resources depending on topic.  These are affiliate links which help to fund this blog.


Hanukkah – for those using MFW these are great for Creation to the Greeks

Jewish Holidays All Year Round

Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays

The Story of Hanukkah

The Everything Kids Hanukkah

The First Christmas – Great for those who are studying Rome or who want to get back to basics.

Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook Advent

Nativity Coloring Book ( my daughter really liked to have something to color while we read)

Make Your Own Nativity

Hands On Nativity Craft Book

Adventures in Odyssey Follow the Star

Christmas Around the World – for those studying Geography.  This is also the easiest of the Unit Studies to use to involve other families.

Celebrate Christmas Around the World

Christmas Crafts Around the World

Christmas Cookies Around the World

A Dickens Christmas – I have done this several times, when studying this time frame and with older kids.

A Christmas Carol – Great Christmas read aloud with older elementary and up kids.

Progeny Press Study Guide – To make it even better!  A study Guide!

Victorian Christmas Crafts

Victorian Christmas Coloring Book

Here are a few of my very favorite Christmas Books

Family Celebration of Christmas – we have used this since my kids were little.  Make an advent wreath, make the felt tree and you will use them for years.

Best of Christmas in My Heart V 1 – I have read these stories every year since I was single.  They help get me in a Christmas mood.

Christmas in My Heart V2 – Oh and you should have your favorite hot drink and a cookie and have a Mom Time Out with these stories.





Eye Bounce

I wrote this particular blog item several years ago but I wanted to re-visit it as my kids have become older. The eye bounce has been a great tool as my boys, especially, have gotten older. Connor often tells Collin to eye bounce even before I can now. I love that they are watching over each other’s purity, although I wish it wasn’t quite as necessary as it is. We can’t hardly watch a commercial without needing the eye bounce. Anyway, here’s the original blog.

Little eyes sometimes seem to notice everything that you don’t want them to notice. At the mall, they notice the store with scary items in the front window or the store with the beautiful woman posing in underwear. There are so many things these days that are inappropriate for little eyes to see that it gets exhausting having to tell them,” Don’t look at that!”. Isaiah 33 :14 & 15 says,

“He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil16 this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.”

We need to teach our little ones to shut their eyes from contemplating evil. At this year’s homeschool convention I heard a speaker talk about how she taught her children an “eye bounce”. An eye bounce is simply bouncing your eye from the inappropriate sight to something else, quickly. This is an easy way to teach your kids ( especially useful for boys as they get older) to eye bounce away from things that God doesn’t want in our mind’s eye and our heart. I also taught my children the little song ” Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little eyes what you see, For the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little eyes what you see.” This helps them to remembe that God does care what they see and what they put into their little innocent hearts.

Use the eye bounce this week as you go to the mall or anywhere in public that you can quietly remind them to “eye bounce” away from things that are not appropriate. Make it a game and have fun with it, just beware of funny looks as your children (if they’re anything like mine) yell “Eye bounce” in chorus.


A Word About Down Time

I am a busy girl.  I like being busy, I like being needed.  I like to be in charge of things.  I like my world to be ordered and I like my house to be clean. I like my kids to be well educated and I like them to be busy with quality programs and purposeful activities.

I like all of those things.  However, I need down time.  I don’t just like it, I need it.  My hardworking husband needs it, my College boy who is maintaining an A average and working for MIT needs it.  My 10th grade twins, who are busy with AP and Honor classes, Bible Bowl and Robotics, need it.  If I am honest, I will also admit that if I don’t plan down time for all of us, it just won’t happen.

I am currently teaching my 4.5 year old niece once a week using My Father’s World Kindergarten.  She wants to learn to read and apparently, Auntie Dawn, is the only who can according to her little self.  We do a modified version of two or three days of K depending on her attention span each week.  We have also been doing all the days of creation and we just got to Day 7, the day of rest. We read, “ By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  Whenever I have have taught this lesson ( and not only have I taught it to my kids but I have used several times for Sunday School),  the kids always seem to wonder if God was so tired after all that work?  Caileigh asked if God needed a nap because he was grumpy after all that work?  (She was clearly remembering  all the times I would ask if she was tired and needed a nap because she was grumpy.) I always say, ” No, God didn’t need a rest.  He was showing us how to live and He knows that we need to rest.”  God patterned a work week for us. Six days of work and one of rest. He created us and knows what is best for us.

When we were doing Creation to the Greeks, the curriculum scheduled us to have a true Sabbath as we study about the Feasts and Festivals of the Jewish Nation.   So we cleaned the house on Friday, made a big meal for Friday night and prepped all the food needed for Saturday.  We had dinner by candlelight and watched as the first star came out.  The next day we ate, played games, took a walk, and watched a movie together.  What a lovely day it was.  We laughed, played and enjoyed each other and I was reminded that God’s Fourth Commandment was to remember the Sabbath.  It is directly between the commandments about our relationship with God and our relationship with man and I think that’s on purpose. When we rest, we have time to focus on God’s blessings but it also allows us focus on our relationships.  Without having to worry about whether the house needs cleaning or the laundry done, we can just focus on our family. We are going to be more patient, loving and kind if we submit to God’s plan for our lives. Note that the Sabbath pattern also plans a time to work hard and then rest.  God knows us and He knows that we are probably not gonna rest if our house is a mess and food needs to be made.  I love that about Him.

If you were sitting with me right now drinking tea ( okay, you can drink whatever you want, I will be drinking a London Fog tea), I know the next thing you would say is, “That sounds wonderful but how in the world am I gonna do that?  Do you know how busy we are?”  Life is busy and homeschooling can be crazy busy but it must be scheduled.  Do I plan this kind of Sabbath every week?  No, I don’t because Soccer and Bible Bowl and Robotics and Driver’s Ed have to happen.  However, I do plan it every month or two.  I take some time and look at our schedule and plan it every month or two.  I put it on the calendar and then I say, “NO!” to anything that pops up after that.  We are busy that weekend, we are resting.  We watch movies, stay in our pj’s, eat fun foods, play games and rest and we are better for it.

Daily rest must also be scheduled.  Quiet time should happen in each and every homeschool home.  It’s important.  Quiet time still happens in our house and I have teenagers.  Whenever we are done with school ( usually 2:30 or 3:00) we usually scatter to read, relax or nap.  By 4:00 we are rested and ready for all of our afternoon and evening commitments.  When mine were little, I mandated a two hour QT.  They could read, listen to books, play quietly with Legos but they must be on their beds in their room, being quiet.  For the first hour, I would clean, do laundry, prep dinner etc and the second hour I would read, watch a show or nap.  Then we would get up, have a snack, watch a Veggie Tales and get on with the rest of our day.

Rest makes our days much calmer and all of us much more patient and loving.





Musings on Testing

****My twins are taking the PSAT this week and I am looking at tips and strategies for them.  It’s only practice for them as they are only Sophmores, but we are starting to look at SAT/ACT/AP Test prep so it’s starting to loom again.  This post helps to remind me that my kids are not defined by a test and neither am I. And while these tests can provide scholarships and college acceptances, God is still in charge and has a plan for my kids lives that aren’t dependent on a test score.  We will teach them, train them and encourage them to do their best but we’ll leave it in God’s capable hands. *****

A Word About Testing

For the umpteenth year, I am sitting in the coffee shop drinking my tea waiting for my kids who are taking the standardized test.  In our state, we have to take tests every other year starting with 3rd grade.  We do testing every year as we want our kids to be comfortable with the process long before it really matters in high school.

When my kids were younger, testing time was incredibly stressful for me.  When they were testing, it felt like I was being tested and I didn’t have any control over the outcome.  I didn’t sleep, I stress ate and I was a general mess.  It felt like my entire worth and job outcome was in the balance.  Now, however, I look forward to it.  I get to sit and drink tea, read a book, and relax.  Yes, relax.  You heard me say it, relax.

I think there were a couple of realizations and events that changed my attitude about testing.

– It’s just a momentary snapshot  in time.
When the twins were in third grade, we got the test prep book, like I do every year, learned how to fill in the bubbles (because we don’t ever do that in our homeschool), got the feel of reading the test book, made sure to read all the directions twice and check every math problem.  The day of the test arrived and I hugged and prayed over my kids and went and proceeded to bite my nails for the next several hours.  When I picked up my kids, they were ready for the after test ice cream and I asked how it went.  Connor and Collin said they the thought they did fine and I asked Caileigh about her math test and she said in her little cute voice, ” It was easy peasy, Mommy!”  We happily went for our ice cream and I impatiently waited for the results.  I got the results back and found that the boys did really well and I was very pleased.  I opened Caileigh’s test and all her LA and reading tests were very high and most of her math tests were great but then there was one at 18%.  18%? How in the world could that happen?  I took a deep breath and called Caileigh.  She bopped down the stairs with a smile on her face and then I asked in a non-smiling, irritated voice, “Caileigh what happened in your test?” Her sweet smile faded and she took a breath and replied, ” I was bored with the test so I filled in the dots to make a pretty flower.”  Horrified, I asked, ” Did you even read the questions?” “No, Mommy, I just made a flower.” “A flower? You made a flower?” Her big brown eyes filled with tears and I was stunned by both the fact my daughter scored a 18% by just filling in the dots and that I had handled this all completely wrong.  I had no words and I sent her to her room. I have had to spend many years undoing the damage I did in that moment.  I had to come to realization that a test is just a small moment in time and the results can be changed by a whim (like making a pretty flower pattern), an upset stomach, a headache or even just uneasiness in the surroundings.  That’s all it is, a moment in time.  It doesn’t really test what they know, it tests how they test and regurgitate information.  It has its place, but very little real weight should be placed on the results.

-A test or a grade doesn’t define who you are.
My best friend tells a fantastic story about her mom and her brother.  When the son was little, he struggled with reading and learning problems and came home with a failing report card.  He was so sad and felt so dumb.  Taking a look at her son’s face, she took the report card and set it on fire out on the grill and looked at her son and told him, “A grade doesn’t define who you are.”  That boy is now a Professor at a University in Arizona.  I love that story, and those words have been what I have used to help undo the damage I did with Caileigh.  I used those words with Connor when he had a panic attack right before the SAT’s because he forgot his Scientific Calculator and we had to rush to get him a new one and it left him so flustered that he bombed the test.  “This does not define who you are. This is a snapshot in time.  You are a beloved child of God who is a genius with Computers, writes amazing piano compositions, a great teacher to underprivileged kids and well loved by your family. Not to mention you can take this test two more times. No sweat.”  Those tests also don’t define who I am as a teacher.  I am a beloved child of God, a well loved wife and mom and a hard working teacher who wants the best for her kids and my kids scores do not define who I am or even a good reflection on he job I am doing with my kids.  They don’t show my kids character, they don’t show what great writers my kids are, they don’t show the diligence my kids have when facing a hard math problem.  They don’t show how well my kids understand the cause and effect of history, or how deeply they understand their reading. They show how well and how quickly they can regurgitate information, just like Google or Siri can.

So why test at all then?

We test every year for several reasons. One, it trains my kids in how to take a test which is an important skill for high school and college.  Two, it gives me a guide in picking curriculum and spotting weaknesses.  If all of my kids were all lower in mental math then I can work on that.  Sometimes, it shows that I need to spend a little more time focusing on punctuation.  We realized with Connor that while he scored really high overall in everything, his pre-algebra  skills were his weakest test.  He passed AP Calc with flying colors but his lowest score was on fractions.  So, we reviewed those before he went to college and have the twins doing more daily review of past topics. I use it as a tool to help me figure out their weak spots.  That’s all they are, a tool.

We have found that having academic goals each year and then working on tracking those goals each year are a much better litmus of how they actually are doing.  It’s also a much better litmus test on how I am doing as a teacher.  Am I meeting their needs, shoring up their weaknesses and helping them soar in their strengths?  Is my relationship with them strong?  Can they take constructive criticism, am I teaching them diligence and perseverance?  Am I helping them to meet their goals?  Am I pointing them back to Christ? All of those questions are a far better test of my teaching ability than whether they picked out all the wrongly spelled words.

How to Stay Sane and Homeschool Too!

Ecc 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Balance – A state of which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

Homeschooling is hard.  It requires us to be even more than a wife and mother, which is hard enough.  It makes demands on our time, our energy, our focus, our social life, our me time and our money.  When we decide to homeschool our children it is like signing a job contract for at least a year, if not the next twelve years.  It is a job, make no mistake about it.  If our children went to a traditional school, they would have teachers whose job is to educate our children.  We would expect them to have our children as their main focus, that our children’s education is that teacher’s main priority.  Those teachers are expected to be on time and ready to work when their students arrive.  We expect them to be prepared, have lessons planned that are interesting, fun and above all, meet the educational goals that we have for our children.  We don’t want them to answer the phone, check their e-mail, post on Facebook or pay attention to anything other than educating our children because that’s their job.  When we decide to homeschool, it is our job, not our only job, but for a certain time of the day, our main one.  We should be able to schedule at least 20 hours a week toward that job.   To do homeschooling successfully, we must have this as our mindset.  However, we also have many other priorities that press in on our time and attention and that’s where it gets tricky.

As homeschooling Moms we have to find balance.   We have to be a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a Sunday School Teacher, a laundress, a maid, a gardener, chauffeur, a chef and if that’s not enough, we also have to be a teacher, a curriculum designer, and a school nurse.  We  pressure ourselves to do all these things well and feel like failures when one of these things fall to the wayside.

Whew, what a load, no wonder we get stressed and feel over worked and meet our husband at the door and tell him that he’s in charge and that we’ll be back when we find our sanity.  I remember in our early years of homeschooling telling  my husband that I was going to go join the circus because it would be less crazy.

My husband has always liked to go to conventions with me and one of his favorite things to do is to pick workshops for me to attend. One particular year ,he picked a session that talked about scheduling.. There was a reason my lovely husband wanted me to go to that particular seminar.  One of my failings is that I consistently think I can do everything and I want to do them all well.  I am a little bit crazy that way. So, I over commit and then I  do everything in my power to make sure I get it all done, often times sacrificing sleep, rest, health, sanity and quality time with my husband.   It had also started negatively affecting my health and it was becoming a real problem. When he saw a session on scheduling, he was determined that this was the session for me.
I am not the most naturally organized person in the world.  I want things to be organized and well planned but I would much rather have someone else do the organizing. I have a tendency to forget things that might not be on my priority list.  You know the unimportant things like fixing dinner  or having the laundry all done before we run out of underwear or his personal pet peeve, not putting lids back on  properly or at all. Details, details.  This is also why my husband or my best friends never give me the movie,or play or museum tickets. I am thinking important things and can not be bothered by where I put the tickets.  Combined with the over-commitment issue, my dear husband had enough so I went to the seminar.

Through the stress I was placing on my family, my  feeling l like I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing and the seminar, I took away several things.  Firstly, I needed a schedule. Secondly, I needed to start treating homeschooling as my job and I needed to dedicate uninterrupted time to my kids but then when that time was up, I needed to move one to my other tasks.  Thirdly, I needed accountability.  I needed people in my life who weren’t afraid to say, “Are you sure you have time for that?”

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan. ” Margaret Thatcher
Make a Schedule
Before you make a schedule, I want to talk briefly about the value of “ish”.  Don’t let the schedule become a tyrant, it is a tool for you to use to meet your goals and only that.  There is no schedule bouncer who is coming for you if you don’t do it exactly.  Give yourself that freedom.  This is a guideline not a mandate.  Depending on your personality, some may have more flexibility than others and there is nothing wrong with that.  Make a plan that you can actually do – not just something that you think you should do.  A plan that you can and will do, not one that if you were your sister’s best friend who always has it together, does.  God made us unique and our schedules will be unique too.  I always think of my schedule having the value of “ish”.  “ At 12 ish I will do this or that. “  My value of ish is 10 – 15 min plus or minus, except hard schedule items like piano lessons or Dr.  appt.  The value of ish applies to my internal, house schedule, not my external house schedule.   I have to do that to out smart my self,  I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, even my schedule so I made it work for me.  You need to make your schedule work for you.  If you are highly unscheduled then start slowly and just have a week where you get up at the same time, the next week add meal times and then add homeschooling.  You can do baby steps if you need to, don’t get hung up on starting everything right away.  If you were planning on running a marathon, you wouldn’t start by running the 26 miles the very first day.  You would maybe run a mile or two and slowly add additional miles as your body became accustomed to it.  (This example is only hypothetical, I would never run a marathon.  That would be crazy talk)  The same thing with a schedule, to make it successful make small goals and as you make them a part of your day and week and new items.

Isaiah 32:8, “But the noble make plans, and by noble deeds they stand.”

The Weekly Schedule-

The first thing to do when making a schedule is to write down all the things you do in a week.  You might write them all down on stickies so you could move them around if you needed while making your schedule.  I just wrote it all down on a piece of paper and then added them to my schedule with a pencil and a really big eraser.

Things to plan Weekly:
School, Lesson Planning, Meal Planning, Laundry, Weekly Cleaning, Daily Cleaning, Date Night, Library Visits, Kid Activities, Church Activities, Grocery Shopping, Yard Work, Cooking, Quiet Time, Exercise, Time for Appts., Bedtime,

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  – Stephen Covey

The school schedule – 

This is the schedule that is posted on the frig and my  kids have had input on this schedule.  It seems like it changes several times during the first couple months of school.  For instance, my oldest came to me and asked if he could start his school day with piano practice.  He felt that the could put more attention to it and do a better job if he did it first.  The twins wanted to do history, science and bible back to back at the beginning of the day because then they could work on their independent work at their own pace and not be waiting on me to finish school.  So I moved my shower time to later in the morning.  If you come to my house before 11, you will find me in my pajamas or work out  clothes with my hair in a pony tail and I may or may not have brushed my teeth.  Be warned.

Daily lessons plans-

I make individual lists for my kids for what they are to do daily or weekly for independent work.  If I have done my lesson planning on Sunday then I have this in a lovely chart by day for the twins because that is all the info they can handle and a weekly chart for my oldest because he likes to do his work in larger chunks.  I like my kids to have a checklist and then we both know what they are supposed to do.  I have them show me their chart and pages done before they are able to have free time. If I haven’t done my lesson planning, which happens more often at the end of the year, then I use sticky notes.  I also know of some who have white board lists everyday and this seems to work.

Adding Activities-
Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”
1. Count the Cost in Time and Money
2. When moving or adding activities have a plan for when you will get the original job done.
3. If you struggle with this, have an accountability partner to help you count the cost.

“A system doesn’t necessarily mean rigid structure, but it means setting up organization that works for you.” Sue Shipman
1. Remember to leave room in the schedule for the unknown.
2. Give yourself the freedom to occasionally depart from the schedule
3. Keep the “ish” factor in mind. This schedule is guideline, a tool to be used but not meant to be a dominant tyrant.

Down Time-
Have a time for down time, date time, quiet time and play time.
Down time – make time to sit and be, to go play with the kids to sleep in, to go shopping with a friend.
Date time – this is vitally important to the health of your marriage, your family and your homeschool.  Make a deal with a friend, trade off kids, take a walk, make a quiet dinner for the two of you.   Your marriage must be a priority.
Quiet Time with God – this needs to be in schedule if you are anything like me.  I am more likely to do it if I have planned time for it.

In the end we need to find balance in our lives and schedules.  Yes, homeschooling is important and should be a priority but we cannot let it take over all of our other responsibilities. We must find balance.

Ecc 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Categories: homeschool, preschool, elementary, middle and high school

The Thanksgiving Tree

We started this several years ago  and loved it so much we left it through the holiday season.  During this season, I wanted my kids to focus on our blessings each day.   I wanted us to focus on more of those little blessings that we take for granted.  The blessings that if they were taken away would affect us greatly.  Like quiet moments reading out loud or the blessing of a dog who snuggles on my lap. 

I Thess 5:18 says, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  It is God’s will that we are to give thanks.  To help remind us, I got window markers and drew a tree without leaves on our sliding glass door and put this verse on it.  Each day we each put one “leaf” on the tree with the thing that we are thankful for.  By the end of the month, the tree is quite full and we can count our blessings one by one.  I can also point a kid to the tree when they are being unthankful or greedy.  It is a great visual reminder of the countless blessing God gives us.  As a bonus, the kids love to draw on the window!

Last winter, I painted our pantry doors with brown chalkboard paint because there’s always room for one more chalkboard. So, for this year’s Thanksgiving Tree, I drew the tree on the pantry doors.  I love it there as it is more prominent and is more of a visual focus in our kitchen and family rooms. I find that when we focus on our blessings, our attitudes are much better and we don’t tend to focus on the annoying or negative aspects of our day. 


Practical Meals – Breakfast

We have had three sets of company in the last three weeks as well as a Family Reunion and school is in full swing.  Problematically, the people appear to need to eat, not once, not twice but three times a day!  And since I don’t have a personal chef or a maid or a laundress ( which is what I really want) it falls to me to feed the people.  I don’t mind cooking, actually I rather enjoy it when I have the time.   That’s the problem right there, the time. Time is commodity I don’t have a ton of, so I have had to learn to make meals that are healthy, easy, and can feed a crew.  I thought I might share some of them with you.

Breakfast –

I usually have a large thing of granola made at all times.  My daughter and I use it to make greek yogurt parfaits with lots of fresh fruit, while my sister was here, she ate it as a cereal and my boys eat it as a snack. Dawn’s Granola

Let’s chat a bit about Crockpots.  I have two and I use them ALL the TIME!  I use them for all three meals as well as to make stocks, apple butter, apple sauce, etc.

Here’s my main crockpot.  I got it a couple of years ago and it is a workhorse and also travels well.  I take it to parties and to feed the robotics team.  As a side benefit, it was also pretty inexpensive. Dawn’s Crockpot

I am also looking at getting a pressure cooker like I got my Dad a couple of years ago.  I hear there is tons of new “instant pot” recipes. Pressure Cooker

For breakfast, I have two main crockpot recipes.

In the winter I like Steel Cut Oatmeal and then everyone can doctor their oatmeal to their liking in the morning. I use Alton Brown’s recipe but I don’t add the dried fruit. ( I don’t like dried fruit of any kind, including raisins.  Some think this is a character flaw.) Overnight Oatmeal  I then use any left over oatmeal to put into my homemade bread.  It adds a nice flavor and texture.

We make Hashbrown Casserole for Bible Bowl Nationals but it also works for dinner for the Robotics team.  I get organic frozen hashbrowns and line the bottom of the crockpot ( usually about half a small bag) salt and pepper them and then put a layer of diced green chiles on the potatoes.  Mix up 10-12 eggs with about 1/2 cup of milk, pour it on top of the potatoes.  Then I layer cheese on top and let it cook for 6-8 hours on low.  This can get overcooked. so its important to have a crockpot that will change to warm after a certain amount of time.  Sometimes I serve this on its own but I also serve this with tortillas, salsa, cheese and sour cream.  Any leftovers, I make into breakfast burritos and throw them in the freezer for on the go days. This can also be baked in the oven and is easy to make ahead of time and thrown in the freezer.

Hard Boiled eggs

I usually have hard boiled (or baked) eggs made and ready for easy protein laden snacks or for a quick breakfast.  I bake my eggs and it is so easy to do while I am cleaning the kitchen or if I have the oven already warmed from something else. Baked Eggs Recipe

Mini Egg Frittatas

Here’s another recipe that I may make for a breakfast (or dinner ) and I make extra to freeze for Breakfast sandwiches.  I heat the oven to 350 and spray a 12 muffin pan with olive oil and put maybe a TBSP of kale or spinach in each cup.  I mix up 8-12 eggs, a 1/2 cup of milk and a 1 1/2 cups of cheese and pour it over the veggies.  I bake for about 20 min and then I have beautiful little individual frittatas.  We usually have the first round with fruit and maybe banana bread but then I freeze the individual ones for the kids to make breakfast sandwiches with.  I have frozen turkey sausage patties and either whole wheat bagels or english muffins available.  Healthy, quick and inexpensive!

Baked Oatmeal

Last but not least, Baked Oatmeal.  This is great because you can make it the night before and just throw it in the oven in the morning.  Easy to do with company and it is delicious.  I haven’t met a child or adult that dislikes this recipe.  I like to add fresh blueberries to the top while it is baking but my kids like it without the fruit and served with milk and butter on top.  Sometimes, I make several of these up at a time and buy disposable pans and put them in the freezer for busy weeks or for when we have company. Baked Oatmeal Recipe



The Best Mission in Life

Several years ago I took a very in depth Bible Study/Class on discipleship.  We read the Bible, we read Bonhoeffer and we even read a book by a Communist detailing how to pursue people to make disciples.  Through the six week class we had to pray and really delve into God’s mission for each of us and to develop into disciple makers.  By the end of the class we were to enter into 2-3 mentor relationships.  At the time all my kids were little and I was struggling with God’s purpose for me.  It seemed like all I did was say, “No” and clean up messes and teach basic reading.  I didn’t feel used for anything important.

Through out the class I still felt less than, as the other members were VP’s of major corporations or Professors at a local University.  I learned something that changed my outlook on life.  God revealed His purpose for me, to make disciples of my three children.  My job was to enter into a teaching and mentor relationship with my three kids and that’s how God was choosing to use me.  My very important job was to prepare them Spiritually, Emotionally and Academically for whatever God would have for them as they leave our home.  I felt appointed by God for this very unique position that only I could do.  It could only be me.  It was up to me to dedicate myself to this task that God gave me.  I wrote out my Mission Statement, my Objectives and Goals and have kept them close to me ever since.  There were days that I longed for a more glamorous task, an easier task, a task that allowed me to hire out the cleaning, the laundry and the whining.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done but it’s also the best.  So Moms who are in the midst of the hard days, let me encourage you to spend some time in prayer, figure out what God is calling you to do, write it out and post it where you can see it, and then put your head down and get it done.    Every day I have to choose again to get out of bed, even when my back is out and it takes my 30 min of Pilates just to be able to leave my room and do what I am called to.  It is hard but it is oh so worth it.  I am grateful for every day I have been able to disciple and teach my kids.  I can see the fruit showing up in the lives of my kids and I know that Jesus gave me the best purpose ever.