Monday, January 26, 2015

Trying to Find That Perfect Church Environment

I have to ask - is there such a thing as a perfect church environment? Do you have a church without  tension, judgment, cliques, lack of volunteers, etc.? The list could go on and on of the reasons why you don't like this church or that church. Our family is in a holding pattern. Currently we do not have a home church. We actually home church watching online sermons. Many fellow Christians would view this as not really "doing church" and might even through a little disapproval our way. They might say "What about congregating with fellow believers like the Bible says we are supposed to do", or simply "Why weren't you in church this past Sunday".

Our family has many reasons as to why we have found ourselves in the predicament that we are currently in. We loved our home church and up until a couple of years ago you would find us there nearly every time the door was open. For the last 11 years you couldn't tear me away, but something began to slowly change over the past 2-3 years. I still don't know if those changes in our thought patterns about church are going to turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. I know that at times I really miss my church family (not that I couldn't get together with them any time I pleased by simply picking up the phone and inviting them over).

I'm looking for something different in a church. Something that doesn't revolve around showing up every Wednesday and Sunday to sit in a pew, listen to a message, go out and have lunch, then go home. I want to be involved in something bigger and more meaningful. I don't want the focus to be on me getting something from the church but me giving something to the church. Not the church building or church members but the body of believers or maybe not believers in our community. Not waiting for the hurt and brokenhearted to come to us and join in yet one more church program, but going out to them. Instead of spending money on church programs, building upkeep, staff salaries -  actually taking the tithing money collected and doing something in the community for the hungry, the hurting, the needy.

Does this type of church exist? Am I setting my sights on something that isn't attainable? Would other believers want the same? Something authentic. Something real. Something beautiful. Something life changing.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Upcoming Elementary Educational Reviews

I may or may not have mentioned that I did end up rejoining The Crew this year for educational reviewing. January - May I will be concentrating on products for the elementary age students and June - August will be some high school materials. When I resume when my tutored kids in mid-August until December we will be back with elementary curriculum. In the coming couple of months here is what you can look forward to seeing:

In Freedom's Cause - An audio theatre production with many actors you will recognize. We have already started this one and I think the girls are really enjoying it. I don't want to go into much detail - you will need to wait for the review! Review post will be available in February.

Indoctrination - I already handed this DVD off to my husband for him to watch and get his opinion. I will be watching it this weekend. Review post will be available in February.

The Critical Thinking Co. - We are using and reviewing an editing workbook. Started this one this week as well. Review post will be available in March.

Visual Learning Systems - Online science program for all ages. This one will arrive in a week or so. Review post will be available in March.

So many wonderful educational materials out there to try with our children. I hope you will have fun checking out the links and come back for the review posts after we have worked with the products for a few weeks.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Drudgery of High School - What is Working For Us

Well, we are halfway through Grace's 10th grade year. I have to admit that high school work isn't very fun. Every day is like the day before. Biology, American History, Consumer Math, Spanish, Literature, CNN Student News, and Bible. A little Easy Grammar, Driver's permit prep, and Basic Math Skills Review thrown in a couple of days a week to round it out. Tuesdays are fine arts days with Girls Ensemble, Ballroom Dance, Art, and Drama. That is Grace's 10th grade year in a nutshell. No time for fun. No time for field trips. No time to relax.

Sometimes I want to go a little unschoolish, especially since Grace still has no real plans about wanting to attend college. If I knew for sure that she wouldn't change her mind once she saw many of her friends and boyfriend going off to college, then I would definitely change it up and take an even more relaxed path with high school.

Remember the quote that someone in the homeschool community coined at some point, "Don't let the curriculum master you, you master the curriculum." That is where we are at the moment. Halfway through the year I have had to tweak a few things. Here is what we have done that looks a little different than what you might find in your average high school classroom:

Biology - This year we are using High School Biology In Your Home which is a research based curriculum. The student can use books, textbooks, and the Internet to locate their answers. There is a quiz at the end of each chapter, labs, and final exams for each semester. Here is what we are doing differently. Some of the quizzes I allow her to do as open books as well as the 70 question final exam that she is currently taking for the first semester material ( yes we are about three weeks behind if you are working on a true school calendar). I am also allowing her to do all her labs virtually as she is really not into cutting dead animals up and I didn't want to go to all the expense to purchase microscope and slides. If we decide that Chemistry is in line for the next school year we will be outsourcing this to a hybrid school environment and they have a wonderful lab.

American History - Dave Raymond's American History was hands down our first choice for American History this year. I love that I can hand it off to Grace and she can finish it from there. At least I thought that would be the case. She watches five lectures and takes notes. At the end of the five lectures there are 10 questions to answer which I have been treating as kind of an end of the chapter quiz. She is having trouble deciphering her notes and answering the questions to match up with the answers in the teacher's information. Since I am not watching the lectures with her it is hard for me to decipher if her answers are even close to what was discussed in the lectures. So I recently decided to change this up a bit. Essay writing comes much easier to Grace than trying to answer questions at the end of a chapter. Each chapter she will pick one of the persons or topics covered and write a short 1-2 page essay about said person or topic in place of answering the questions. This curriculum also requires three projects throughout the year (detailed map reproduction -already done, 3-5 page essay, and a longer hands on project that has yet to be decided). Plus you keep a portfolio which is like a scrapbook of drawings, quotes, etc. from what you have studied each week.

Consumer Math - Math has always been a real struggle for Grace. She is an artist and subjects like math and science are not interesting to her and are harder. Last year was Algebra 1 and we actually got through it with a C as her final grade. This year she wanted to take a break from the hard stuff so I put together some materials to be a Personal Finance/Consumer Math Class. We did Money Doesn't Grow on Trees from Knowledge Box Central (I was kind of disappointed in this one as it didn't really delve to deep), Basic Math Skills book from Math Essentials (for review so she doesn't forget how to do all the basics), and now Consumer Math from BJU which is kicking our tail. Who would have thought that Consumer Math could be so confusing, but some of the formulas that are used for figuring taxes, etc. are just plain brain busting. Her weekly schedule for this looks like Scott helping her 3-4 nights a week with the new Consumer Math book and the other days completing a couple of pages from the Math Skills book.

These main three subjects are the only thing I have had to change up as everything else seems to be moving right along. I don't write about Grace often anymore on this blog because she is older and I know doesn't want to be the focus of my blog as she has been for the past years. Occasionally though a little update is warranted.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Some of My Favorite Online People - In Other Words - You Need to Check These Out

I have read many blogs over the years and met many wonderful online friends. Here are just a few of the blogs you should be reading. At least in my humble opinion.
Plain Joyful Living - Love their lifestyle and running a home family business.
Teachable Moments - Love this woman and her family. Her teaching philosophy has inspired me so many times and in so many ways. You really need to go back and read a lot of her older posts and then continue following with the current ones.
HomeSchool Girls - Grace and myself have so much in common with this family. We all love theatre and performing. Plus they live in the small town I grew up in.
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers - Host of the Weekly Wrap Up. It is so much fun reading what other families are accomplishing in their homeschools each week.
See Jamie Blog - A fellow Georgian. I am drawn to her educating style and her heart for adoption.
Moments With Mother Culture - A must for all you Charlotte Mason lovers out there.
Fimby - This family inspires me to no end. Love their educating style and they took months off to hike the Appalachian Trail.
Little Earthling Blog - So much here it is hard to fit it in just a couple of sentences. Adoption, educating, a child with long term illness, and fun when the oldest daughter got married and moved to New Zealand.

Journey to Excellence - I can't believe I forgot to put this one down. Love this family. She was a fellow Crew member up until this year.
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Blog - I started out being a reader and lover of this magazine and then over the past three years a product reviewer.
I hope that some of you will find these blogs uplifting, informative, and just plain fun. I certainly have.


Books on My Nightstand

I tend to keep a pretty eclectic stack of books beside my bed. I always read 30 - 60 minutes prior to falling asleep and usually have a book with me wherever I go (just in case there is any down time or wait time). For Christmas my son gave me a Visa gift card and every single penny went to new books. I had found that over the past 3-6 months it was getting harder and harder to find books that would capture my interest and keep it. Every time I went to the library I would come home with a big stack and not finish a single book. To me it doesn't matter - adult or young adult fiction are winners. Here is a rundown of what I am reading and my thoughts so far:
The Message - I needed a new Bible and wanted something a little different than my NIV. So far I have used The Message for my nightly Bible reading time and like it, but I don't think I would use it for my main Bible all the time.
Gifted Hands - This is one of those cases where I have seen the movie before reading the book. Grace actually wants to read this one so I thought I would buy it and read it first then hand it off to Grace. I haven't started this one yet.
Gone Girl - It took me a while to get into to this one, but once I did I found it kind of fascinating and disturbing. I have not seen the movie on this one. This book might not be good for the faint of heart as far as language goes. Way too much foul language for my taste but I still couldn't put it down because I wanted to see how it all played out and ended.
Wicked Ways - Haven't started this one yet but Lisa Jackson is one of my authors that I revert to reading when I have nothing else and just don't want to have to think over anything to hard.
The Uglies Part 2 (Pretties) - I have just started Pretties, the second in The Uglies Series. The first book we are reading with our teenage daughters in a book club that meets once a month. The girls are still reading it and not really enjoying it. I like it but don't love it. I have already moved on to the next book because again I just want to see how it all plays out. I was surprised that the girls haven't liked it as it gets great reviews from both teens and adults.
On my kindle I am still reading a few titles as well, most recently Not a Fan for Teens because it was free. I also still have the third Outlander book that I started but trying to read a book that is between 500 and 1000 pages seems very daunting at the moment. After many months of not really enjoying reading and just going through the motions, it is great to have a few that I do look forward to each night before bed.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What Every Young Girl Loves - A Horse Unit Study

What young girl doesn't enjoy a good horse study. Every young girl I have come in contact over the years goes through some phase of loving horses. This includes Grace as well. I remember Grace drawing horse after horse after horse. We read stories about horses. We studied horses and eventually she went to a couple of horse camps and took some horse lessons. Once she did a little growing up that passion kind of fell away to other things.
Now that I have younger girls at the house again the whole horse thing is in the picture  again. Each month I try to start a new literature read aloud. This month I chose Black Beauty and the girls are really enjoying the story.

I also checked out a bunch of books from the library about horses. A couple I actually had on my own shelf from the days of Grace's love of horses. I am rounding out this study with a lapbook from Hands of a Child. Just like Grace though, the girls are not real fond of cutting, pasting, etc. that goes into creating a lapbook. Luckily Hands of a Child also offers notebooking pages to use in place of the actual lapbook. This has worked out much better. We are taking each notebooking page and putting it in a folder for now. Toward the end of the study we plan on visiting a friend's home that has horses.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Artwork Updates

Just thought I would share a few things Grace has been working on, artwork wise. Grace and Scott are hoping to be juried in for a big art show for October of this year in Gwinnet County. They will both need to build up lots of inventory as it is a high traffic art festival.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Boredom to Chaos in Lightening Speed

My readers might remember that a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about finding myself after homeschooling, and that I kind of had the blues during the Christmas holidays with too much time on my hands. My, my ..... what a difference a week makes. Starting Saturday of this past week it has been a whirlwind of activity with no real end in sight. Let's do a recap....

Saturday - Grace had a friend over all day. I went to pick up and drop off said friend in nasty pouring down rain. We all went out to eat for lunch and dinner with bowling in the middle of the day.

Sunday - Got up very early to drive one and half hours away to pick up two new puppies. This was kind of a spur of the moment decision so on the way home with the puppies we had to stop and pick up a few supplies. Later in the afternoon we had a late Christmas gathering to attend and didn't get home to 8:00.

Monday - My tutoring students returned from the Christmas break. Insert deal with puppies. Grace started back into her studies. Insert deal with puppies. Grocery shopping in the afternoon. Insert deal with puppies. Went to Zumba after dinner.

Tuesday - Tutoring students again as well as Grace and her studies. This was the first day of Cooperative in a new location with 71 kids. Can you say chaotic! It was insane. Classes were great! Kids were great! Rushed home after to take care of puppies. I still had tons of Cooperative business to handle that would bleed into the next day.

Wednesday - Tutoring students again and Grace with her studies. Two days ago a part of Grace's appliance fell out of her mouth. Our orthodontist has two locations and of course the one closest to us didn't have any openings. This meant driving 45 minutes to the other location to get it repaired. While there a visit to Petsmart was warranted for the new puppies of course and dinner out because by this point we were STARVING.

Thursday - Grace needed dropped off for Spanish and Literature classes. I rushed back home to let the puppies have some time out before going to my doctor's appointment for a yearly physical. Then to the bank, library, and lunch while I waited on Grace to finish. Rushed us home to again let the puppies out before taking them to their first vet visit. Next home to deal with chicken waterers freezing outside because I kind of forgot to mention that it didn't get above freezing today. After dinner required some extra Biology time.

Do you see a theme going on here. I swear I need to be beat over the head for acquiring two new puppies on the same week that tutoring and Cooperative are back in session. Not enough hours in the day to handle it all. Cooking and exercise definitely fell to the wayside this week. Gotta get back on track with that.

When you see this sweet face though you know it is all worth the hassle and struggle.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

What the Book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess Taught Me

Let me just come right out and preface this whole little piece of writing by saying, I don't fast. There I said it. I'm not going to feel guilty about it. Well, maybe a little guilt. I don't deprive or sacrifice anything during the lent season, although there have been many years that my husband did, and I just watched from the sidelines.  Looking back I am know thinking that maybe I missed out on something. Our society rarely thinks of sacrifice because we are a society of excess and quite frankly most of us like it that way. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess has opened my eyes just a bit. The author Jen Hatmaker is new to me. I saw the title of this book on Facebook and desperately needed something new to read, so in walks the book titled 7, actually it downloaded on my Kindle.

The basic premise of this book is fasting not feasting in certain areas of our lives. Jen took on this amazing challenge that lasted 7 months. She fasted in 7 areas she felt needed attention: Food, Clothing, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress.

I enjoyed her style of writing which was fun and engaging, but also thought provoking at times. It is not a bang you over the head kind of book about religion but it does make some very valid points about our society at large, especially those of us that are Christians. The part of the book that touched me the most starts on page 172 and runs for a couple of pages about what the Early Church would think of church as it is today. Feasting and not fasting. Many of her thoughts on this matter have also been my thoughts over the past couple of years and why I think our family has had such a tough time finding a new church family and church home. My thinking on corporate worship has changed dramatically over the years and continues. One day I might have the fortitude to write a blog post about it.

Regardless, in my opinion this is a very worthy read. Did it impress upon me the need of fasting? Yes. Am I going to do it? Maybe. Some areas of my life need more work than others. Media, spending, and stress are probably the three I would need to work on first. What areas in your life need some fasting? I'd love to hear from you.