Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Baked Spaghetti Meatball Casserole

image via dreamtime.com

I found this recipe one day after I had already started cooking my own spaghetti sauce with lean Italian sausage. Thus, I left out the meatballs and it was still delicious. Admittedly, it seemed strange as I was putting it together and I didn't have high hopes, but wow! It was delicious and different and just the variety we needed in our Italian menus.

Other spaghetti casseroles I looked at were too much like the baked ziti I make; I don't use ricotta in my baked ziti so it's really more like baked Mostaccioli, but layered.

This casserole has a unique taste and even the kids ate heartily (okay...well...the five year old was underwhelmed, but otherwise it was a good night. She comes around eventually.)

Source for original recipe is spendwithpennies.com. It's a recipe site I highly recommend for families.

Ingredients for meatballs (Optional-- you could just use your own meat sauce)

1 lb lean ground beef (I use 93/7 lean ground turkey)
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 T. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 T. fresh chopped parsley
1 egg

Directions for meatballs:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all meatball ingredients and form into 1 inch balls. Place on a foil lined pan and bake 18 - 20 minutes. Remove meatballs from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Ingredients for casserole:

12 oz. package thin spaghetti

1 T. olive oil

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, (reserving 1 1/2 cups for casserole topping; 1/2 cup needed for casserole mixture)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (reserving 1/4 cup for casserole topping; 1/4 cup needed for casserole mixture)

1 large egg slightly beaten

2 T. fresh parsley

28 oz. pasta sauce (or more to taste; I used a cup more)

Directions for casserole:

Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with olive oil. In another bowl stir together egg, parsley, pepper, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and pepper. Toss with the pasta and place in sprayed casserole dish.

Yes, at this point it will look dry and unappetizing, but trust me--it turns out tasty. :)

Top with meatballs and pasta sauce. Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes. Remove foil, top with remaining cheeses (1 1/2 cups mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan), and continue to bake until cheese is melted and browned.

Do you have a baked spaghetti casserole already in your repertoire? What do you love about it? How does it differ?


Monday, April 28, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook 4/28

Outside my window...

It's supposed to be sixty degrees today with rain expected. We still wake up to a 64-degree house. Spring means warmer days, but the nights and mornings are still cold. The grass has greened up beautifully, but the leaf buds are late on all the trees around here, and many people, like us, were disappointed that their tulips didn't bloom (too cold for too long, with one April snow). Or, it's time to put in new bulbs this year. The library's tulips look great.

The girls are riding their bikes around the driveway and the boys are playing basketball.

I am thinking...

This is nearly impossible to answer because I'm always thinking. My life is lived in a cloud of thought, and only the children's needs, my love for them, and my responsibilities toward them and toward God propel me forward, doing the next thing. If left to myself, I would read and write all day. The good news about this is that it's easy to remember to pray throughout the day, and the bad news is that I'm not always fully present, unless a lesson, cuddling, or read-aloud is happening.

The chores give me plenty of time to think, though a mother's thoughts are always interrupted. My need for quiet solitude keeps me up late at night at least 4 nights a week. In fact, Jane Eyre was finished at 3:30 AM one morning, because I couldn't read uninterrupted during the day. I can survive on 5 hours of sleep, but it isn't ideal. The kids get up between 7:15 and 8:15 every morning.

I am thankful...

~ for spring and the joy the outdoors gives my children.

~ for online friends and church friends.

~ that the fuel pump went out in the van in our driveway last night as we were getting ready to go to the spring church picnic, rather than in the AWANA church driveway twenty minutes earlier. That would have been a disaster. Only the boys and my husband went to the picnic, as husband's car is 25 years old and can't accomodate car seats or all six of us. The girls were crying and angry at first but they got over it.

Paul entered the dessert contest at the picnic with peanut butter eggs, which taste better than Reeses. You won't be able to stop eating them so don't try the recipe. Just my two cents. :) He didn't win but he did get complimented, so he was happy.

~ My father-in-law's air conditioning went out a couple weeks ago in Florida, and he had just gotten it fixed the day of our regularly scheduled phone call (4x week husband talks to his father for 90 minutes at a time. His father is still living alone and doing well, at 91 years old).

Our AC has been out since last fall. Husband mentioned it and asked if it was the motor or the compresser that went bad on his father's. Anyway, the next phone call his father said he sent money to help fix our air conditioning. We have thus far collected $300 in an envelope for AC repair, so we didn't really need money for it, but for whatever reason his father took this problem to heart. He sent money for the children's education funds, but he doesn't otherwise send money. This is a new thing.

About the same day he wrote the check, we had prayed earnestly at morning devotions and lunch prayer about the $76 we owe for our two sponsor children. We usually pay it at the first of the month, but that couldn't happen this month. The AC money from Grandpa was God responding to our prayer on the very day we prayed it. I had great faith and I wasn't worried (this learned from experience only), because if you seek first His kingdom, your daily bread and your tithes and offerings will be provided for. Not so all your wants, but that is part of God's chiseling of our hearts and minds--that we wouldn't crave so many things.

The rest of the AC money will go to the fuel pump repair on the van. God is so amazing always--especially when we give him the chance to be amazing.

I wish we could meet all our obligations ourselves, but if that were the case we wouldn't see the hand of God in our daily lives, and we wouldn't pray for our daily bread. Being low-income is bittersweet, but without choosing it I wouldn't be able to homeschool.

In the kitchen...

It's roast chicken tonight with sweet potatoes and steamed veggies, and homemade chicken noodle soup with honey cornbread tomorrow. Other plans this week are navy bean soup, shepherd's pie, chicken enchiladas, and spaghetti casserole. 

I am wearing...

long jean skirt, nylons, long-sleeved pretty fitted tee, and a sweater. The house is still cold around lunch time.

I am creating...

chaos with the spring clothing switch. It would be done by now, if not for all the books I've enjoyed reading lately. There's a pile for Goodwill, a pile for a child at church, a pile that will fit the kids in a couple months, and the remaining clothes that need to be washed or rinsed and hung up in the closets. Right about now, it always seems ideal to dress as the Indians do, with a couple leather dresses or loin cloths. We spend too much time with clothes around here, partly because I like the kids to be clean, and our yard is full of mud this time of year. I make them change when we go somewhere, and that only creates more laundry.

I am going...

no where until the van is fixed.

I am wondering...

if anyone actually reads all my ramblings. Daybooks are usually short and sweet.

I am reading...

A Noel Piper (the famous John Piper's wife) book entitled Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, which a woman from church gave me, and a book entitled King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry, a Newbery medal book that is part of the boys' curriculum this year.

I am hoping...

to be done with the clothing switch today.

I am looking forward to...

a living room cleared of all clothing.

I am learning...

something new everyday about being a mom.

Around the house...

the carpet needs vacuumed, the floors need sweeping, and then there's the clothing and dishes. I had headaches Saturday and Sunday so only laundry, dishes, bathrooms, and cooking got done.

How is your day going, my friends? How can I pray for you?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kindergarten Teacher Resigns Over Testing

Washington Post image

This filled me with tears. A veteran Cambridge, Massachusetts teacher resigns after the district piled on the assessments year after year, starting with No Child Left Behind. More and more was required of her, taking her further away from the children's needs.

Washington Post : My Job Is Now About Tests and Data--not children. I quit.

Below is a copy and paste of her resignation letter, but click on the link above for the whole story.

February 12, 2014
I am writing today to let you know that I am resigning my position as PreK and Kindergarten teacher in the Cambridge Public Schools. It is with deep sadness that I have reached this decision, as I have loved my job, my school community, and the families and amazing and dedicated faculty I have been connected with throughout the district for the past eighteen years. I have always seen myself as a public school teacher, and fully intended to work until retirement in the public school system. Further, I am the product of public schools, and my son attended Cambridge Public Schools from PreK through Grade 12. I am and always have been a firm believer in quality public education.

In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children. I have experienced, over the past few years, the same mandates that all teachers in the district have experienced. I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them. Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of Kindergarten and PreK. I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above. Each year there are more. Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend. I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.

I was trying to survive in a community of colleagues who were struggling to do the same: to adapt and survive, to continue to hold onto what we could, and to affirm what we believe to be quality teaching for an early childhood classroom. I began to feel a deep sense of loss of integrity. I felt my spirit, my passion as a teacher, slip away. I felt anger rise inside me. I felt I needed to survive by looking elsewhere and leaving the community I love so dearly. I did not feel I was leaving my job. I felt then and feel now that my job left me.

It is with deep love and a broken heart that I write this letter.

Suzi Sluyter

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hitty Her First Hundred Years - Newbery Medal 1930

The Newbery Medal, the most prestigious American children's book award, was awarded to Hitty Her First Hundred Years in 1930.

Grade level Equivalent: 8.1
Lexile Measure®: 1180L

Overview: Hitty is a doll of great charm and character. It is indeed a privilege to publish her memoirs, which, besides being full of the most thrilling adventures on land and sea, also reveal her delightful personality. One glance at her portrait will show that she is no ordinary doll. Hitty, or Mehitable as she was really named, was made in the early 1800s for Phoebe Preble, a little girl from Maine. Young Phoebe was very proud of her beautiful doll and took her everywhere, even on a long sailing trip in a whaler. This is the story of Hitty's years with Phoebe, and the many that follow in the life of a well-loved doll.

I've begun reading this to the children after breakfast and lunch. Not only is it a living history book, spanning one hundred years starting in the 1800's, but the prose is charming and engaging and the characters lively and expertly developed. Your child's vocabulary will be enriched, her imagination engaged, and you, dear reader, will be charmed beyond belief at this delightful story, the first of its kind. My boys are not amused thus far, but the book promises lots of adventure, even on the high seas and in India, so I think they'll be smitten, as I am, in no time.

There is a newer version reworded by Rosemary Wells, which I encourage you to avoid. Reading the original prose is always better.

Rachel Lyman Field (September 19, 1894 – March 15, 1942) was an American novelist, poet, and author of children's fiction. She is best known for her Newbery Medal–winning novel for young adults, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, published in 1929.

Field was born in New York City, and, as a child, contributed to the St. Nicholas Magazine. She was educated at Radcliffe College. Her book Prayer for a Child was a recipient of the Caldecott Medal for its illustrations by Elizabeth Orton Jones. According to Ruth Hill Vigeurs in her introduction to Rachel Field's children's book Calico Bush, published in 1931, Field was "fifteen when she first visited Maine and fell under the spell of its 'island-scattered coast'. Calico Bush still stands out as a near-perfect re-creation of people and place in a story of courage, understated and beautiful."

Field was also a successful author of adult fiction, writing the bestsellers Time Out of Mind (1935), All This and Heaven Too (1938), and And Now Tomorrow (1942). She is also famous for her poem-turned-song "Something Told the Wild Geese". Field also wrote the English lyrics for the version of Franz Schubert's Ave Maria used in the Disney film Fantasia (film). Field married Arthur S. Pederson in 1935, with whom she collaborated in 1937 on To See Ourselves.

Field was a descendant of David Dudley Field. She died at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California on March 15, 1942, of pneumonia following an operation.

Rachel Field also wrote a story about the nativity of Jesus Christ titled "All Through the Night".     source
Do you have childhood memories of Hitty, and have you ever owned a Hitty doll?

2nd image

Friday, April 25, 2014

Musings On Education (A Thomas Jefferson Education review)

The Simple Homeschool site recommends a book entitled A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille.

Having seen it on the site for a couple years, I finally purchased a used copy from Amazon and began reading. While it's fairly smooth reading, it didn't take me long to notice that the book was never professionally edited (even my 2nd edition copy). It's essentially a self-published book printed by the still-unaccredited university the author founded (George Wythe College).

If you research this author on the web you will find that he has a couple degrees from diploma-mill colleges that are now defunct. His only real degree is a BA from BYU. While I found the book very inspiring and even life-changing--I'll explain why in a minute--it's not well-researched and it makes a few seriously flawed statements (you should learn Spanish, for example, by reading Don Quixote in the original language), though it contains outstanding quotes to reflect on as well. The author clearly has a worthwhile vision.

An ambitious entrepreneur, Oliver DeMille is expert at creating websites and businesses (with his friends) that look official and impressive, but have little substance. He co-authored another book, LeaderShift, which is listed as a NYT bestseller, but only because the authors manipulated the market, as is common now, by arranging for bulk orders. Any book can appear on a bestseller list if many copies are ordered in the same week, but the appearance will quickly wane, while still allowing an author to claim himself a New York Times Bestselling-author. Forever. While this is legal and becoming more common, it's unethical. Entries on bestseller lists now come with an asterisk if bulk orders were reported.

So why did the book inspire me? Why do I claim it is life-changing? It encourages every parent, student, and teacher to be well read in the classics, and to discuss the classics together and write about them. I was so inspired that I've read more books in the last two weeks than I have in the last 6 months. (That's why I haven't appeared on this blog much lately.)

What positive change has come from this? My mind is filled less with mundane, laundry-related thoughts; I'm thinking intentionally more of the time. The difference is a legacy-living daily existence, rather than a get-through-the-day mentality. Great books, or biographies about great people, pull our minds up from our floor-scrubbing.

Don't get me wrong: scrubbing the floor and having a family to scrub it for, is a blessing. Serving others is worthwhile and lofty, but we need inspiration in our days. (I don't mean Facebook or any other time waster we deceive ourselves as being worth our time.) I mean inspiration from the Bible and from Great Books.

It's true, knowledge can puff us up and make us snobby, so we'd do well to balance all our reading with plenty of Scripture, which humbles us before God. (1 Corinthians 8:1 ...Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.)

Classics, by their timelessness, lofty ideals, and picture of the human condition, remind us of our place in time and history, and they push us to make our lives matter. We honor God by using our time wisely--by seeing our lives as a gift from Him--and yet so often we think nothing of wasting time.

Not only am I reading more myself, but I'm asking my boys more questions about their reading, requiring more of them in terms of analysis, comparison, and articulating how a book can impact their lives.

I've always believed in the power of good literature, so many of Oliver DeMille's assertions affirmed my own educational philosophy. Still, I haven't been an avid reader since becoming a mom of four, and now, thanks to this book, that is changing. The book fired me up as a learner, teacher, mother, and citizen.

Mentorship versus teaching is a big part of the book. To mentor effectively, the parent/teacher must continue her own education so as to inspire her students. Inspiration is the goal--creating lifelong learners--and the classics do that beautifully. Great Books inspire us.

Do I think my children are likely to become societal leaders if they are classically-trained, as the author asserts (even promises)? I don't know what God's plan is for my children's futures, but I believe they're certainly more likely to become leaders if they are exposed to good books and biographies, and if they are taught to think, rather than just regurgitate.

Public schools (conveyer-belt schools, he terms them) prepare the nation's youth to take jobs/go to college someday, with some propaganda thrown in. What's missing are well-trained minds to lead our country forward. Brick-and-mortar schools don't emphasize thinking, evaluating, leading, and inventing.

DeMille acknowledges that public schools can have some very good teachers, but asserts that most teachers are mediocre, teach-to-the-test types who fail to inspire students to pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake. Rather, public schools push students to learn just enough to get a good job. Leadership, statesmanship, entrepreneurship--needed so that our country and its freedoms survive--are neglected.

It wasn't until I started teaching my boys with Sonlight's curriculum that I realized how deficient my own education had been. My public-school teachers primarily used textbooks, except in an honors english class I had in highschool, which was superior to a college-prep course but still not ideal. In college I chose a Renaissance-inspired school at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD's - Revelle College), but even it did not classically train me, though it came close, forcing me to take calculus and physics as well as the humanities. I'm learning so much more now, as a homeschool mom, than I ever have before. And what's more, my learning is inspiring me!

When my older son saw me so absorbed with Jane Eyre earlier this week, he commented, "Maybe I should read that book. It must be good if you love it this much."

If you've been wanting to homeschool and your husband is resistant, I highly recommend DeMille's book to inspire you and your husband toward what could be (even as inspiration to supplement your child's public education). Despite DeMille's questionable credentials, he's hit on something good here, along with John Taylor Gatto's (Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling of America). Gatto's is a well-researched, well-written book.

Dumbing Us Down Overview: With over 70,000 copies of the first edition in print, this radical treatise on public education has been a New Society Publishers’ bestseller for 10 years! Thirty years in New York City’s public schools led John Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine. This second edition describes the wide-spread impact of the book and Gatto’s "guerrilla teaching."

John Gatto has been a teacher for 30 years and is a recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award. His other titles include A Different Kind of Teacher (Berkeley Hills Books, 2001) and The Underground History of American Education (Oxford Village Press, 2000).

How would you evaluate your own education? Did it train you to think, and were you inspired toward life-long learning?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thankful Thursday 4/24

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!   
Peter, age 12
~ my flowers
~ God
~ trees
~ my pine tree
~ my garden
~ my siblings
~ the love of my family
Thanksgiving is good, but thanksliving is better. -- Matthew Henry
Paul, age 10
~ my cousin's Easter party
~ loving mother, father, siblings
~ chocolate
~ paints and construction paper
~ that I'm doing well in math
 “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” -- Epictetus
Mary, age 7
~ my brothers
~ my cousin's Easter party
~ my sister
~ my mom and my dad
~ that we have a beautiful tree in front of our window to look at
~ warm clothes
~ that my mom loves me and she always tucks me in
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” -- William Arthur Ward
Beth, age 5
~ my brothers
~ my sister
~ ballet dress, ballet shoes, ballet DVD's from library
~ that I can learn to do ballet every day
~ my dollies
~ that I love God and my family
~ Africa missionary stories I read recently: David Livingstone, Mary Slessor
~ Jane Eyre, which I reread earlier this week
~ the way excellent books expand the mind and horizons, and give us a better sense of our place in history and time
~ Beth, who still gives and needs lots of cuddles
~ Mary's determined, inspiring mind
~ Peter's appreciation of God's glorious creations
~ Paul's steadfastness and desire to better himself
~ a strong, loving husband
~ the Lord giving us life, and meaning to accompany it
~ the joy that comes from knowing God
What are you thankful for, friends?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Holy Week

Matthew 27:50-53 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Luke 22:41-44  He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Jonathan Edwards:

This was the greatest act of obedience that Christ was to perform. He prays for strength and help, that his poor feeble human nature might be supported, that he might not fail in this great trial, that he might not sink and be swallowed up, and his strength so overcome that he should not hold out, and finish the appointed obedience.
He was afraid lest his poor feeble strength should be overcome, and that he should fail in so great a trial, that he should be swallowed up by that death that he was to die, and so should not be saved from death; and therefore he offered up strong crying and tears unto him that was able to strengthen him, and support, and save him from death, that the death he was to suffer might not overcome his love and obedience, but that he might overcome death, and so be saved from it. (“Christ’s Agony”)

John 11:25-26Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.


~ jobs
~ vehicles
~ my honey and how hard she works
~ Beth's joyousness
~ Mary's ambitious spirit
~ Paul's quietly persistent and loving nature
~ Peter's creative motivation and ambitiousness

Peter, age 12

~ my sister and how she plays hide-and-seek with me
~ my brother because he plays basketball with me
~ God rising from the tomb
~ eternal life
~ the love of my dog, Rudy
~ worms on the sidewalk after a rain

Paul, age 10

~ I'm able to get exercise in this better weather
~ Rudy is so cute
~ Jesus rose again
~ that I get to go to church
~ the fun of learning the Easter story again
~ my hot wheels cars (I treat them as a whole team)
~ the delicious chocolate cake I made

Mary, age 7

~ wonderful songs that come, like We Believe by the Newsboys, and Shake by Mercy Me (I like to memorize all the words, like the song that has this: It's a long and narrow road.)
~ I love God and he loves me
~ my loving mom who always comforts me during thunder storms
~ that Jesus died on the cross for us

Beth, age 5

~ being a princess
~ dessert
~ resurrection time
~ my dog
~ chocolate candy in my bucket


~ songs that teach, songs that bring tears, songs that bring us to His throne
~ riding in the van and hearing my children sing out their hearts to Jesus with joy and abandon (powerful, very powerful)
~ that Jesus was obedient unto death
~ two Compassion letters in one week
~ my husband taking half day off so I can make progress on the spring clothing switch
~ a book I'm reading: A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille

Publisher Synopsis: Is American education preparing the future leaders our nation needs, or merely struggling to teach basic literacy and job skills? Without leadership education, are we settling for an inadequate system that delivers educational, industrial, governmental and societal mediocrity?
In A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century, Oliver DeMille presents a new educational vision based on proven methods that really work! Teachers, students, parents, educators, legislators, leaders and everyone who cares about America's future must read this compelling book

~ a book I read a few days ago: The Shadow Spinner


~ that thanks to some persistence, my girls can readily explain crucifixion, Good Friday, Resurrection, and "it is finished"
~ the challenging process of discipling (it lends a strong sense of purpose to my days)
~ my loving husband
~ the comfort of scripture
~ wisdom from the Lord to help with daily struggles
~ prayers from friends; online friends

What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Apr. 11

In my life this week:
Note: Though I tend to put a lot of links in these posts, none are affiliate. This is a personal, non-business blog.

My 12-year-old son Peter polished his flyers for his dog-walking business--$3 for a half-hour walk. Over the course of 3 non-rainy days he passed out all the flyers and each day, he's asked me if I've received any phone inquiries. He did the math and decided he would be wealthy enough to buy anything he wanted from garden nurseries to fuel his gardening hobby, if at least 10 people hired him to walk their dogs.

I cheered him on, silently wondering how husband or me could chaperone 10 different dog walks (something we would do until we trusted the dogs and their owners). Of course it seemed easier to say no, but neither of us had the heart to do that, nor did we think it was what God wanted.

I encouraged him to pray for God's blessing on his endeavor, and we asked the siblings and Daddy to pray with us. So far, no inquiries. I'm also praying that the Lord rewards my son's entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to work hard. No matter the outcome, I'm proud of him for casting a vision and following through. I told him that God would reward his work-ethic and follow-through.

I don't want our being low-income to define our children in any way, but I do feel fortunate that it requires them to use their head more since nothing comes easily.

Yesterday a Freecycle email came through about a tall plant shelf, presumably for keeping inside. I responded at my son's request, and the person who first expressed interest in it has not followed through and picked it up, so this morning we got an email asking if we're still interested. If it works out for us to pick it up before anyone else does (Freecycle is a first-come, first-served enterprise), I will know it's God's way of blessing my son's efforts.

Such shelves go for $45 or more in the stores, and we just can't buy my son all the gardening treasures his heart desires; one wouldn't think so, but gardening can be an expensive hobby if you want more than rows of vegetables.

It seems that in the homeschooled community there's a higher-than-average prevalence of entrepreneurship, and I have to wonder if it's because the kids are freer to develop into the person God created them to be, away from the peer pressures to be part of a cookie-cutter mold. Boys are pushed by the bullying types to be tough, non-serious about academics, and anything but geeky entrepreneurs. It's as though the bullies want all the boys to have average abilities/characteristics, because then the bullies won't feel threatened by classmates' talents or grades.

Girls are bullied too, of course, but when I taught first grade as a public school teacher, I didn't see this among the girls. Tough boys bullied more, at least at that age.

In our homeschool this week:

The boys, ages 10 and 12,  are learning so much about other cultures this year in Sonlight's Core F, and more about world poverty through some of the missionary books, including Teresa of Calcutta. It's so valuable for children to gain perspective regarding how 80% of the world lives (on less than $2.50 a day).

I'm so thankful that Sonlight put together this unusual Eastern Hemisphere package for homeschoolers. It would've been very time consuming for me to do such a thing myself, and would I have had a similar vision? I don't think so.

With each missionary book, 12-year-old Peter comes to me, sheepishly telling me he thinks God is calling him to China...Calcutta...Africa...to be a missionary. Next, he exhibits stress and conflict because it doesn't go along with his deeply-felt desire to be a farmer. I have to wonder if it triggers some kind of OCD thoughts, because I finally have to say...let it go. The Lord is a God of order, not confusion, and he would never want us to stress about the future, which is in his mighty, gracious hands. I would love for Peter to be a missionary and/or a farmer, and I told him so. Maybe God will put together a way for him to help third-world farmers someday? That sounds like God, doesn't it?

Due to my son's condition, I have to choose my words carefully, always.

I gave the children their spring "Easter" buckets, full of candy, but no trinkets this year, because of the costs associated with our new dog. We give the buckets early to separate it from Easter Sunday and the spiritual meaning of Easter. Paul put together a graph of his candies, encouraged by me, since I knew he would enjoy doing it and the girls' math skills would benefit. I got him started by attaching candy wrappers to a large piece of paper, since the girls wouldn't know all the candy company names.

My children always conduct complicated trades whenever they're given candy. It's so amusing to watch, and 5-year-old Beth often gives much of her candy away for free. She likes plain chocolate and peanut buttery chocolate, thank you very much...not weird things likes Smarties.

All the children are spending more time outside, so no one is going ahead of schedule in their novels anymore. The pace has slowed on sunny days, which are few in Ohio.

My first grader is moving right along, doing writing, math, and reading every day, and some social studies and science weekly. The girls painted more this week, partially because of an inspiring library book I read. And with that...I'll share some trade books with you.

Trade Books to Share:

Painting the Wind, by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan

Painting the Wind

Overview: Children's Literature Review
From the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall comes a picture book that makes the reader want to pick up a paintbrush and start to paint all the things he sees around him. Through the eyes of a young island boy, we are introduced to the painters who invade his island for the summer. We see the painter of faces, landscapes, animals, and seascapes. As the little boy learns to take note of everything and everyone around him, he is finally able to do what he has been unable to do before, and that is to paint the wind. When he paints the bending trees as they lean against the strength of the wind, he captures the image that has eluded him. The illustrations here are beautifully done, as though the brush has just been laid down. This is a good story for a child who is quiet and introverted, to share with him an outlet for creativity. It will help the child who is noisy and rambunctious learn how to become an observer of life. 2003, Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins Publishers,
— Joyce Rice

After hearing me read this book, the girls were so excited about painting! They found it so inspiring and it even made me wish all the chores would go away, so I could just start painting.


Sweet Potato Pie by Kathleen D. Lindsey

Sweet Potato Pie

Overview: In the summer drought, the only thing that survives on seven-year-old Sadie's farm is the sweet potato crop. When the bank threatens to foreclose, Mama remembers the upcoming Harvest Celebration -- an ideal place to sell her sweet potato pies!At the Celebration, the kids do their part, shouting, "Pies for sale! Pies for sale! Sweet potato pies for sale!" When the General Store, the local restaurant, and the Sweet Shop place large orders, the family knows they’ve saved the farm. The book’s bold, colorful images and strong message of cooperation and family ties makes it a delight to read.
During a drought in the early 1900s, a large loving African American family finds a delicious way to earn the money they need to save their family farm.

This is a beautiful, inspiring book about the entrepreneurial spirit and family values. It features a simple sweet potato pie recipe at the end, which we will try tonight. I happen to have just the right number of sweet potatoes on hand.


A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding ( New in 2014)

A Gift for Mama

Publishers Weekly Review 12/02/2013
The beauty and rich culture of historic Vienna course through this sweet, circular story from Lodding (The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister), in which a boy strives to procure the perfect birthday present for his mother. Armed with a single coin, Oskar quickly finds his purchase—a yellow rose—in the middle of the street market. But before he can bring the lovely gift home, an artist asks Oskar if he’ll trade the flower for a paintbrush (“I can paint a picture for Mama,” says an amenable Oskar, “the perfect present!”). So begins a folktale-flavored chain of exchanges that eventually leaves poor Oskar empty-handed. Luckily, one of his kind deeds is rewarded just in time, bringing the story full circle. Colorful storefronts, elegant carriages, and a stately opera house depicted in Jay’s (The Cloud Spinner) earthy palette and crackle varnish help evoke an earlier century. Her stylized forms—along with spirited background appearances by a cat, fox, and runaway dog—underscore the vibrancy of city life. An author’s note about Vienna’s role in inspiring the book is included. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: The Organisation. (Mar.)

This story is charming, exuding kindness and warmth, and the illustrations are captivating. It's a good idea to have a map available when you read these social studies-themed books to children. It helps children place each book within a cultural and geographic context, and if you have a blank map, you can mark each place you've visited through trade books, even pretending you're taking a plane flight, or a ship, to the designated area.

I always say, if you have a good library available, you don't need to purchase a social studies curriculum for lower-elementary students. Living books are better!


Easter Buds Are Springing: Poems for Easter selected by Lee Bennet Hopkins, illustrated by Tomie de Paola

Overview: Hopkins has gathered a happy collection of poems which celebrates both the religious and secular aspects of Easter. Themes range from the rebirth of the spirit to the fun of Easter rabbits and Easter eggs, to the joys of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, to the reappearance of flowers in the spring.


Easter by Gail Gibbons


School Library Journal PreS-Gr 2 --This clear, simply-written explanation of the religious aspect of Easter is suitable for young children. Jesus' life and death are treated briefly but with enough detail to provide an excellent basic introduction to the subject. The crucifixion is shown from afar to soften its cruelty, and afterward the risen Jesus happily astonishes his followers. Next the symbols of candles and spring flowers lead logically into a discussion of the other aspects of the holiday, including Easter egg decoration, hunts, and baskets; Eostre, the spring goddess who gave the day its name; and the special Easter foods and clothes. The crisp ink and watercolor pictures have a naive simplicity that gives the Bible story and Easter customs warmth and appeal. Gaily colored, each is in a green frame with its enclosure broken by a stylized flower, candle, chick, bunny, or heap of decorated eggs. A short explanation of the special holy days such as Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday is given at the end. An excellent presentation of the Biblical events, done truthfully and with consideration for young children. --Patricia Pearl, First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, Va.


I Gotta Draw by Bruce Degen (author of Jamberry)


Publishers Weekly
Charlie Muttnik is known in his Brooklyn neighborhood as "the pup with the pencil." He's always drawing pictures in his chaotic household, where he lives with his mother, father, and older sister. But when Charlie goes back to school, his strict new teacher, Miss Rich (a smartly dressed cat), doesn't approve of Charlie's doodling in class. Miss Rich has a change of attitude, however, when she realizes that Charlie learns best through his pictures. So during a spelling lesson, Charlie is allowed to draw in the back of the classroom, as long as he spells the words out loud, and for a lesson on the solar system, Charlie draws and labels the planets. Degen, illustrator of the Magic School Bus series, conveys Charlie's spirited nature through his floppy ears, tennis shoes, striped T-shirt, and exuberant concentration as he draws. Comics-style panels mimic Charlie's visual interpretation of the world around him, with his own art integrated into the scenes. Readers who don't conform to a one-size-fits-all style of learning should welcome the message about creativity, classroom flexibility, and breaking the mold. Ages 5-9.

Again, my girls were inspired by this story and promptly got out our drawing books!



Paul, age 10:

~ I am thankful that it was sunny a few days this week, even though it's been raining for over a day now.

~ I made an obstacle course outside that was fun for jumping for my sisters and me.

~ for my Easter bucket candy.

~ for playing basketball outside with my brother.

Peter, age 12

~ birds

~ trees

~ God

~ walking my dog and hugging him

~ for the book I'm reading about Saudi Arabia called Ali and the Golden Eagle by Wayne Grover

Mary, age 7

~ for God

~ for my Easter bucket candy

~ for library books and family movies from the library

~ playing sports with my brothers

~ playing with my sister

~ that our dog Rudy loves me and hugs me

Beth, age 5

~ for my Easter bucket candy

~ for my dog Rudy

~ for the library

~ for my dollies

~ for God and my family


~ I am thankful that hard days are just single days, and that every morning his mercies are new.

~ For the beautiful changes spring brings, slowly, so we're able to savor them.

~ For books read aloud, which always change the mood for the better here

~ For my husband's hard work and love

~ For a solid church family

~ For the hope of a thrift store trip tomorrow--something that relaxes me as I look for clothes for each member of the family for upcoming seasons. Hoping also to score some church shoes.

~ For Bible verses that speak directly to what I'm feeling

~ For my Life Application Bible, which helps me as I lead the children in morning devotions. We're in the book of Hebrews, which isn't always simple to explain.

Scripture to Share:

I experienced headaches and depression this week so I needed these verses, and maybe someone out there does too?

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:14)

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)

Thank you for reading, friends. How was your week?

So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler?


Thursday, April 10, 2014

When Joy Won't Come

How are you, friends?

The oppressive, shivering winter has been dismissed by the grace of God, at last. There is much to celebrate; new sights, smells, delights. Sunshine, blue sky (not most days...this is still Ohio), and the promise of tulips soon.

I should feel exuberant, I've told myself, yet the last three days have been headache-infused; depression has been my unwelcome companion. Darkness attaches itself to me during on-going physical pain, or when my days are hormone-colored. Usually, these come as one package, creating an overall wretchedness (and a woman named Eve is my enemy).

For me, depression is hopelessness; a perception that the heaviness will never lighten; a sudden lack of energy and drive; an inability to look beyond the present or my own feelings.

Having to cut my mother out of my life has brought many depressing days, as I fight the guilt that inevitably plagues anyone who disowns a parent. I think I've made progress at times, but then someone will say something that brings the guilt and doubt rushing back into my psyche.

Alcoholism--any drug addiction--is the gift that just keeps on giving. Forgiveness isn't the hard thing. It's in trying to break every tie the dysfunction has to you; that is the difficult part. A dsyfunctional family past needn't define us, but neither can it be ignored as a negative force in our lives. Over and again, we have to lay it down before the Lord, asking for relief.

When I detect depression in my heart and mind, I am sure of one thing. Depression must be fought. It's a war--sometimes a spiritual war, sometimes a physical one.

In trying to find relief, I've come across some helpful Scriptures and interesting facts.

Moses, Elijah, David, and Job all dealt with some depression, as did Abraham Lincoln, who sometimes refused to carry a knife to protect himself from suicide. Glowing portraits of Abraham Lincoln usually leave out his profound melancholy. But, this formidable thorn in the flesh inspired him to greatness, as he leaned on the Lord for his strength.

Greatness is...what? What makes a person great?

I think we approach greatness when we've fought our battles with courage, whether the world is in on our story or not (there are many great unknown people with stories just as inspiring as Abe's).

When our choices have allowed God's glory to rest on us, we come to share in his glory. In human standards, that's greatness: we've forsaken our ego for God's, allowing his greatness to overshadow us. When we're willing to let it be about God, instead of about us, we become great.

Whatever our cross to bear is, we've not resorted to bitterness, but have leaned on the Counselor and surrendered our pain to God for his use. 

Some of us have monumental battles and others have smaller ones that feel no less enormous. With the Lord as our shield and our strength, we cannot be defeated. He who stands before us in glory, has already won the battle.

We fight with Scripture; it's a good time for a topical study, or many days in the Psalms. Delve in, read the verses aloud, pray them over your heart. Pray them with conviction and force, as though they're arrows destined for the enemy's Achilles heal. You may need medicine too in some cases, but that cannot replace the Scripture arsenal.

I have a few verses posted below, but this fine lady has posted many more, along with her story of panic disorder, depression, anxiety.

Psalm 43:5 – Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.

Psalm 34:18, 19 – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (19) A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall

Psalm 62:5 – Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

Psalm 126:5 – Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy

Are you sometimes gripped by depression? What has worked for you in fighting the battle for joy?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Word of Peace

The Lord is Peace. May we all lay our burdens down and feel his sufficiency today.

Psalms 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Transformation of Kindergarten

I found this article on Simple Homeschool's Weekend Links:


I agree with everything in this article. I left the regular public school classroom in June, 2001. Two or three years prior to this the state of California (where I taught first grade) changed the kindergarten standards. All students had to be reading before they left kindergarten, including sight words, and be capable of simple spellings. The addition and subtraction facts had to be memorized up to 5 (or was it 8?). 

Teachers had to assess students individually 3 times a year, which became very time consuming. All of us in K and 1st grade assessed individually for 9 total weeks a year (3X and it took about 3 weeks to complete everything). During the assessment periods we didn't have time to teach or practice many new concepts, so it felt like we were losing 9 weeks of instruction. No Child Left Behind was the culprit then, and now, Common Core is making the same mistakes, only worse, and with indoctrination.

Several of the countries performing better than us start students on academics later (7 or 8) and they test only every 3 or 4 years. They found no benefit in assessing more often than that.

It all makes me want to scream. And it definitely makes me very, very thankful for homeschooling.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Apr. 4

In my life this week:

We took a couple day of spring break this week, doing only one or two school tasks. Taking a whole week throws chronic disorders and behavior off kilter and it just isn't worth it. Plus, I like the flexibility of taking a day here or there off, as needed, throughout the year, as opposed to scheduled vacations.

Spring temperatures arrived, causing my 10-year-old's tree pollen allergies to kick into high gear. His main symptom, besides the usual cold-like symptoms, is a ferocious itch in both eyes, barely touched by antihistamine eye drops coupled with an oral antihistamine syrup. This is his third year dealing with this and it affects everything--mood, sleep, productivity.

Along with my other son, who is dealing with a very troubling mental health issue, the ten-year-old questions why God would want him to be so miserable. What is the purpose, he asks? Where is God's healing power? They've heard my husband pray about my migraines for as long as they can remember, so they already know God doesn't always heal, but when it's your own personal issue and suffering in front of you, these questions have to be wrestled with.

I can only pray desperate mother-prayers, and share the appropriate verses related to thorns in the flesh, and talk about my own experiences and how God applies his grace to me daily. Every person wrestles with these heady issues at some point, and in a way I feel fortunate that the boys are learning early how hard the Christian walk is, and how much faith and Scripture it takes to finish the race well.

Ultimately, we have to decide we will still love God just as much, regardless of our new and unrelieved suffering. I think that is how God's glory shines through our weaknesses; it's in deciding that we still love Him wildly and in displaying that love for all to see. The Lord gets the glory for our courage and our ever-faithful God-love. He gives us stamina and the strength to praise His Holy Name.

That's not to say my heart isn't breaking for both my boys this week.This has been a hard month, is all I can say. Our new dog, Rudy, is providing divine comfort, even licking tears at times. He's a saint.

In Our Homeschool:

The boys are reading the same books as shared last week. They are plugging along, despite their woes, always enjoying their reading list for the most part. Ali and the Golden Eagle--part of the Middle East studies in Sonlight Core F--is an exciting book and they both get lost in it.

Overview of Ali and the Golden Eagle:
An American working in Saudi Arabia befriends a boy from a remote village and helps him train an eagle to hunt.

My Mary, age 7, is gaining a lot of independence in her reading this month, which has been thrilling. Her strengths are emerging strongly this year. When I read a passage from classic literature from Writing With Ease Level 1, she can narrate it back with an uncanny accuracy to the text.

Writing with Ease Level One Workbook   -     By: Susan Wise Bauer

I sit there in awe of her easy, animated retellings. Even the boys are amazed when they're at the table with us. She has always memorized her favorite books word for word, so this shouldn't come as a surprise to me. She's a strong auditory learner, for sure (ease with AWANA verses supports this). I see her gaining confidence daily in all aspects of school.

Beth, age 5, likes to sit in on the story passages as well and try her hand at oral narration. I can't praise Susan Wise Bauer's writing curriculum enough; it's my favorite part of the day because of the quality and breadth of literature she chose to include. Children of all ages will fall in love with books and stories using this curriculum.

I'm also still enjoying teaching first grade math via Saxon Math 1. It's just excellent. I will definitely continue to use Saxon for second grade, but will then move my girls into Teaching Textbooks, which starts at third grade.

We finished the book of Daniel in our morning devotions and began the book of Hebrews, which will be followed by James. We follow this prayer schedule, which I wrote a while back. The children and I also pray immediate prayers and requests each day.

Trade Books to Share

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan (author of Sarah Plain and Tall)

Publishers Weekly
MacLachlan's characteristically resonant language and Wimmer's majestic paintings affectingly celebrate the natural world and the family. Told in the voice of a child who lives on a farm with his parents and grandparents, the author's poetic narrative opens on the day of the boy's birth, when his grandmother holds him up to the open window, ``So that what I heard first was the wind. / What I saw first were all the places to love: / The valley, / The river falling down over rocks, / The hilltop where the blueberries grew.'' The child introduces readers to the spots that each person in his family loves best: for his mother it is the hilltop where the sky is ``an arm's length away''; for his grandfather, the dark, cool barn ``Where else, he says, can the soft sound of cows chewing / Make all the difference in the world?''. Only after the birth of his sister does the boy reveal his favorite place of all: the marsh ``Where ducklings follow their mother / Like tiny tumbles of leaves.'' Whether focusing on a single, aging turtle or depicting a sweeping panorama, Wimmer's Train Song ; Flight paintings beautifully convey the splendor of nature, as well as the deep affection binding three generations. This inspired pairing of words and art is a timeless, uplifting portrait of rural family life. All ages.

This book is a breath of fresh air...one to savor and read over and over. Patricia MacLachlan is so talented and the paintings by Mike Wimmer are breathtaking.


Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Henry's Freedom Box

Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom
A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

This true story shows a triumphant ending for Henry Brown, but apparently he was never reconciled with his wife and children, who were sold before he successfully escaped via a shipping crate. The bravery and courage in the midst of horrible heartbreak never fails to amaze me as I read more and more stories of the Underground Railroad. What slaves endured in our country is beyond comprehension, especially those in the hands of evil masters. This is an outstanding living history book for all ages.


Dangerous Crossing: The Revolutionary Voyage of John Quincy Adams by Stephen Krensky

Dangerous Crossing: The Revolutionary Voyage of John Quincy Adams

Overview: In February 1778, at the height of the Revolutionary War, the American representative from Massachusetts, John Adams, is sent on a secret mission to France. It is dangerous to cross the Atlantic in winter, but the situation is desperate-the colonies need France's help against the British army. Adams is accompanied by his ten-year-old son, Johnny. Together, father and son must weather an angry ocean, perilous sea battles, and other dangers to help the colonies achieve freedom.
Vivid illustrations and a fast-paced narrative bring to life this little-told story of a character-defining event in the lives of two future presidents.

Excellent writing here, displaying how leadership is born. Another wonderful living history book for grades second and above.


Rutherford B. Who Was He? by Marilyn Singer

Rutherford B., Who Was He?

New in 2013 Forty-three men with forty-three passions, but with one thing in common: a presidential place in America’s history.

With her gift for unforgettable rhythm and innovative rhyme, Marilyn Singer brings the presidents of the United States to life—from Washington to Obama—and contextualizes them in their time. Illustrations by John Hendrix are full of hilarious wit and refined exuberance, and backmatter enriches the experience with short biographies, quotes by each president, and more.

A fun way to learn American history! The poems are short, brilliant, and powerful. A must-have living history book for second grade and above.


The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy

The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark

Overview: For centuries, the Star of David was a symbol of Jewish pride. But during World War II, Nazis used the star to segregate and terrorize the Jewish people. Except in Denmark. When Nazi soldiers occupied his country, King Christian X of Denmark committed himself to keeping all Danes safe from harm. The bravery of the Danes and their king during that dangerous time has inspired many legends. The most enduring is the legend of the yellow star, which symbolizes the loyalty and fearless spirit of the king and his people. The result is a powerful and dignified story of heroic justice, a story for all people and all times.

This is a beautiful story and a beautiful book. Although it is legend, it's true that the Danish people did more to protect its Jewish citizens than any other nation affected by the Holocaust. Few died in comparison. I recommend this book as a poignant, inspiring living history book for ages first grade and above. An author's note at the back of the book distinguishes legend from truth. The spirit of the story is true, in my opinion.


Our Seasons by Grace Lin and Ranida T. McKneally

Our Seasons

Children's Literature - Laura Ruttig
Outstanding illustrations, combined with an unusual mixture of texts, create a fascinating fusion of styles in this wonderful multicultural picture book. Depictions of seasonal fun mix with scientific explanations for the weather presented, as four friends Ki-Ki, Owen, Lily, and Kevin, dance through the pages. Lin's graceful illustrations highlight the flow of the wind, and her use of brightly colorful shapes with clear, dark outlines convey a peaceful, yet playful tone. A fluid sense of motion also fills the drawings. Written for a dual audience of older and younger kids, the text contains a combination of expressive haiku that are perfect for reading aloud with longer, scientific sidebars that convey information on weather phenomenon. For example, one paragraph next to a depiction of the children building a snowman explains why cheeks turn red in the cold, while the haiku on the page captures the mood of the moment: "Owen's cheeks turn red / From the cold lipstick kisses / Given by the wind" (14). Science and art blend beautifully to make this an exceptional picture book.

I couldn't agree more with the glowing review above. This is one to keep! Excellent living science book for a wide range of ages.

Gratitude Journal

~ The sweet taste of progress in our studies.

~ God's Holy Word, which comforts, trains, and renews.

~ Our new dog, Rudy, who is just what the Lord ordered.

~ Cuddly children who never fail to renew my spirit.

~ An end to winter temperatures, we think. (I won't mention the deep rain puddles all over the yard, making doggy paw cleaning quite the chore.)

~ Lots of wonderful books to enjoy, all inspired by the human spirit and God's glorious creation. Three of my children want to write children's books someday, and Paul wants to write homeschool curriculum similar to Sonlight's. Books have power...far greater than the power of a teacher to impart wonder. Wholesome, classic books are the best teachers for any child.

~ My son Peter's entrepreneurship. He wrote a flyer for his own dog-walking business...$3 for a half hour. I am so proud of him, even though it will mean husband or me accompanying him at first, until we grow to trust the clients and dogs. We have a quiet neighborhood, thank goodness.

~ The richness of sibling relationships. What a God-sent blessing they are.

~ A gentle, strong, steadfast husband.

~ Compassion  children who expand my heart and my family and whose letters bring me joy.

~ Online friends to pray and share burdens with. Thank you. You are special.

More on gratitude in yesterday's Thankful Thursday post.

Verses to Share

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Psalms 121:1-2“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

Thank you for reading and how was your week, friends?

So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Going Deeper

One positive thing about Thankful Thursday is that inevitably, it will fall on a really bad day more than once. On the hardest of days how can we come up with genuine gratitude, when all we really want is to fall into bed as quickly as possible, forgetting the day ever happened?

But this gratitude thing...it's a command. Before we fall into bed, we must utter it in our minds or with our lips. Thank you for...even if it's just hot cocoa. Thank you for hot cocoa after the kids go to bed...help me, Lord. I need you.

Dealing with mental illness in this family, sometimes all we can do when we sit down to pray is say....Help!

And God understands that utterance of our hearts. He knows the depths of despair we're in...and he knows the outcome.

Much of human angst has to do with not knowing the outcome. The Lord's aim is not always to take away the source of our pain, but to provide the grace to walk through it each hour, faith-full, knowing that He is the same mighty, gracious God, who works all things for our good.

When I think of deep, genuine gratitude and the command to feel it, I consider where my eyes are resting. Are they resting on my predicament, or on my Almighty, Holy God? On the best of Thankful Thursdays, God is faithful, steadfast, mighty. On the worst of Thankful Thursdays, God is faithful, steadfast, mighty.

My circumstances may change, but God doesn't. Therefore, gratitude should not be based so much on what we have, but on who He is. My gratitude song here in American should be similar to that of my sponsor child Sheila's in Uganda, who has nothing in comparison.

She has the Lord. I have the Lord. The Lord is the same mighty, gracious God to both of us, everyday, regardless of our circumstances. He works all things for our good and his vision is perfect, whereas ours is cloudy at best.

I want to feel good now, and He is thinking of my eternal inheritance. I want the pain to end now, and he wants the pain to point others, and myself, to Him, during the small amount of time I have here as a pilgrim passing through.

So when we read in the Bible that we must be thankful, it's fine to think of the hot cocoa, except that tomorrow it might be gone for good, and then what? What else should I be thankful for, other than the everyday blessings?

Know what you are truly thankful for. List it. Utter it. Sing it. Fight back tears over it.

The things you're most thankful for shouldn't be changeable, for your family could die in a car accident tomorrow...and then what? The command to be thankful won't change because you've lost them.

In light of that, what are you thankful for, my friends?

~ That He died, That He rose again
~ The Holy Bible, the script for my heart and mind
~ My eternal inheritance
~ Sharing in His glory sometimes
~ Feeling His love
~ Feeling His strength
~ Feeling His grace
~ Knowing I'm a pilgrim here for a fleeting time
~ Knowing that all pain and ailments will be healed once and for all, in heaven

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!   

Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Colossians 3:15-17 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.   

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God

2 Corinthians 9:16 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!   

Isaiah 12:4-5 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

Psalm 100:1-5  A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.   

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken and Black Beans

As I mentioned, it's my lean grocery week and I'm using up what I have on hand, which is mainly frozen chicken breasts. I have another crockpot chicken recipe to share. This can be used for tacos, burritoes, or over rice or salad. Add tortilla chips, cheese, cilantro, anything mexican to top it off.
I love any recipe with the word fiesta in it. It means spicy and delicious and just what my appetite ordered. A fiesta is a celebration and that's just how I feel when eating fiesta-inspired food.


Fiesta Chicken and Black Beans


3 boneless chicken breasts cut into strips
1 can 15-oz. corn, drained
1 can 15-oz black beans, rinsed and drained
1 T. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, cut into strips
1 can 14-oz diced tomatoes
1 can 6-oz tomato paste


Combine all ingredients, mix well. Cover and cook on low 5 to 6 hours. As I mentioned, in my 6-quart crockpot, boneless chicken, even frozen to start, cooks in just 2 to 2 1/2 hours on high. I shred the chicken the last half hour of the cooking time.

My modifications:

~ 1 can diced tomatoes instead of chopped tomatoes. (Use mild Rotel to fire it up nicely. My husband is having heartburn issues so I can't use it right now. Salsa would work too.)

~ 2 cans black beans

~ 8 thin chicken breasts strips

~ About 8 ounces tomato sauce instead of tomato paste

~ 1 1/2 T cumin, and 2 tsp. chili powder

Enjoy and celebrate together!