Archive for Home School

Ideas for Every Day Art

Do you feel unqualified to teach your child the arts?

You’re not alone.

Whenever the topic of art comes up in homeschool circles, those who classify themselves as “non-artsy” shrug their shoulders in defeat, assuming they could never teach their kids art. They say things like, “I can barely draw a stick figure.” or “I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle attached to it”.

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There’s good news for you in the non-arsty camp. Art is so broad that you are probably already creating art but without thinking much about it.

  • Maybe you aren’t a maestro, but have you ever gathered flowers from around your yard to arrange a centerpiece for your table simply for others to enjoy? Floral design is an art.
  • Do you send handwritten notes with flowing script, sealed with pretty stickers, intended to make the recipient smile? Writing and penmanship are both arts.
  • Do you enjoy kneading bread dough and find it therapeutic and beautiful as you shape loaves for dinner? Baking is a delicious art.

The truth is that a creating art starts with art appreciation. It’s a lifestyle and and an atmosphere which stops to take notice and savor beautiful things. Raising an aspiring artist is easier than you might think but there’s one rule: You have to step out of your comfort zone and try it.

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I wish people viewed art, music, and poetry (and every pursuit of crafting beautiful things) as integral to the whole person, instead of extra-curricular. Art should be considered the webbing on which all other academic disciplines attach themselves. History relates to art because it’s the story of people and people make art. Math, because design is orderly and universal truths are needed to create rhythm and sequence, etc…

Christians often view art as superfluous, like something you can enjoy when your real work is done. Taking time to create art is seen as a “hobby.” I think Protestants have gotten this wrong for so long that it has affected the quality of work produced by Christians when years ago, some of the most influential artist were Christians.  I for one have seen my fill of cheesy “Christian” movies that lacked excellence and were, frankly, poorly made art.

“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?

As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important.

Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.

The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.” ~Francis Schaeffer

I’m going to share ways we encouraged art in our home. But I’m really excited to share YOUR thoughts below about how you incorporated art inexpensively and consistently into the home. Thank you so much for contributing!!

Ideas for Every Day Art

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Music::

There are so many ways to enjoy music.

  • Pandora, Spotify, and classical radio are free and allow you access to the greatest composers of all time.
  • When children are young, allow them to make their own music. Bells, rhythm sticks, piano, glockenspiel, pots and pans are all ways to let them enter into music making as they listen to the composer.
  • Sing with your children! Teach them folk songs and hymns. Can there be anything sweeter than “Infant Praises” in the ears of God?
  • If you have access to instruments, let your children play them.
  • Attend free concerts in your community.

Ambleside Online has a composer study rotation, which is a painless way to immerse your kids into their work. We would choose one composer a month and mainline on listening to their work during dinner and free time.

Artwork::

  • Start cheap. Crayons, watercolors, washable markers, chalk, pens, pencils, modeling clay, scissors, and good sized paper are all you need to begin with your children.
  • Spend more as you progress. Eventually buy better art supplies as your budget allows. For the serious art student I recommend Windsor Newton Watercolors, Arches watercolor paper, Prismacolor colored pencils, Tombow Dual Brush Markers.
  • As you work, talk about the process. You might point out that the red paint appears purple when you smear it over the blue. Or that the paint gets runny the more water you add. Or find out what happens when you mix blue and orange. Or as you are out and about, ask “How do you think we could paint clouds like those right there?” “What colors would you mix to get that spring green color?”
  • There are YouTube videos galore on painting, drawing, pastels, etc. When our kids were young, we enjoyed the Draw Right Now series, especially books 2 and 5. For older students, look into  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Don’t criticize your child’s artwork. Pretty please, just don’t. I once watched as a mother hovered over her 4-year-old as she painted, telling her that she was making “that tree wrong” and it should be “that color” and the child was shutting down, unsure of herself.  Not very “inspiring” conditions for a young artist.

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Consider anything your child shares with you as a gift. Ask questions if you like. But in the moment, criticism is not helpful.

Ambleside Online has a Art Schedule that is similar to the composer schedule. You study one artist per month or term. If you have a color printer, you can print them off and stick them on your fridge. If not, set each artists work as a screen saver so your child gets familiar with the feel/style simply by exposure. Let your child try to “copy” the masterpieces.

Boston has the MFA. Your city might have an art museum as well. Many libraries display the work of local artists, as well.

 

Poetry::

My mother loved poetry and would sometimes read it to us at night. We memorized poetry in school, and learned to love the flow of words and the way the language sounded.

If your poetry skills are shaky, or your reading aloud skills are sub-par, consider listening to poetry online. Less is more. One poem enjoyed for a few days is a delightful way to help them appreciate it.

There are so many beautiful poetry books for children:

A Child’s Garden Of Verses. (This edition is OOP but you can get it used for about $5 and the illustrations are lovely.)

Some poetry is easier than others. If you don’t know where to start, try the work of Christina Rossetti or A.A. Milne.

Many songs are just poetry put to music. Hymns can be sung, then spoken articulately.  Folk songs can be spoken and clapped so they notice meter and rhythm.

Handwriting::

I guess penmanship isn’t taught in school anymore, but in the Beals home, penmanship was practiced. Handwriting has a personality. When you see someone’s handwriting, it says something about them. They were in a hurry when they wrote this. They were relaxed and happy as they penned this. They were all business here.

Sending mail via the USPS may be outdated, but there’s something special about getting a handwritten note in the mail in an impersonal world. There are so many occasions to write. Sending a  get well or a “thinking of you” is a gift to the recipient. I love getting a card from my grandmother with her proper, gorgeous script. Sometimes she affixes stickers to the envelope. Usually there is a recipe tucked in or most recently, a recipe for canning blueberry jam.

When my kids were younger, we used handwriting time to copy verses for older people who were shut in at a nursing home. We’d deliver the verse and hang it on their bulletin board to add some color and cheer to their room.

Rebekah especially loves calligraphy and you can see some of her work here.

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Photography::

The world of digital photography makes practicing this skill inexpensive and non-threatening. Don’t like it? Delete!

Kids can learn the ins and outs of DSLR via YouTube or library book and practice away fairly inexpensively.

Handiwork::

There are so many useful crafts that it’s hard to know where to begin. Basket making, jewelry making, woodworking, needlework, beginning sewing with felt, needle felting, flower arranging, card making, ceramics, pottery, etc. are all areas where creativity can flourish.

Reader Advice::

I asked my readers to share how they’ve encouraged art in their homes. Here are a few responses.

I think that it has to be something that is a part of your everyday life, and not something you perceive as an extra. That can be as simple as: taking your children even when their infants to free outdoor concert, having the radio on at home playing music all different kinds, playing CDs, or MP3s, or DVDs! Anything with music in it. That might mean that the first concert you can only stay 10 minutes or so, that will get better over time. The same is true with drawing or painting, it’s not something you introduce as extra, there are crayons and paper is laying around everywhere and whenever they are bored or need downtime that’s what you do. I think if you don’t perceive the arts of something extra and the children won’t either, it will absolutely be a part of their lives. Give me children can also play percussion instruments and that’s fun to do the kind of family drum circle even when they’re just infants! Pots and pans work doesn’t have to be anything fancy.” Beth MacLeod Largent
“I give my kids beginning piano lessons. Even if you’re not a virtuoso, it’s easy to do the beginner stuff. I highly recommended Alfred’s “Music for Little Mozarts” series. You can move through the lessons faster than a weekly lesson with an outside teacher and save 1+ year’s worth of tutiton. They have a music appreciation aspect to the series as well where you can purchase a cd and book. My kids love it. They dance and learn beginning singing. We also do the art lessons included in our homeschool curriculum. (My Father’s World). I always tell my kids that learning art and music makes their brain stronger and think better.” Charity Harley
 “We have had a dedicated “art room” as long as I can remember, and the kids are free to create during their downtime. We talk about an artist once in a while, and display his/her works on the walls. I play piano and sing for them while they play or do art projects, and they sing along. I introduce them to classic and traditional songs, literature, art, poetry on a regular basis. The library has been a great resource for finding books, music, etc. Youtube videos have served us well. The Virtual Art Instructor has also been an amazing tool for learning visual arts. My kids also are in classical ballet and tap classes. Our education is heavy in the arts because my kids are extremely creative, and their creativity spills over into all other subjects. Their education is much more interesting and though provoking because of the arts.” Andrea Hanson

We started our young kids with just crayons and playdoh to give them a chance to create. And that morphed into preschool art like tearing paper to create collages and using beans or pasta to make things. I also rely on a few resources for project ideas – Before Five in a Row is a preschool curriculum that incorporates art and also Five in a Row for the older ages. Lots of good intros into artistic elements but in a welcoming way. Also a blog I like that gives good step-by-step instruction is Art Projects for Kids (http://artprojectsforkids.org/) – a lot of fun and simple projects using supplies at home. We also do nature studies and use field guides and nature books for ideas on drawing and using watercolors. For music and art appreciation, we check out books from the library about artists and composers (some good picture books are available) and listen to music online (allowing us to study some instruments). None of these have been expensive but have given them a good intro if it’s something they want to continue exploring Oh and we bought an inexpensive keyboard so our kids could take basic piano lessons and they’ve enjoyed it so far, even if it’s not something they are passionate about.” Kim Pina

 “Hubs and I are both musicians, and our oldest (7) is in piano lessons. One inexpensive thing we’ve done to introduce all of them is simply to follow our local orchestra(s) on facebook. There are LOADS of free opportunities sponsored by local businesses and such. My favorite is that we got to be in the audience for a live interview with Itzhak Perlman and to watch him play a solo in a piece with 70 young violinists from the area. Tickets for his performance with the city orchestra the night before were upwards of $140 each. Watching him play with local students was free! Just one or two songs, but still… I’m less “up” on visual arts. We’ve done some crafts, pointed out design in architecture, woodworking in old buildings, etc., but not much else. I’m filling that gap next year, though, with homeschool group art appreciation classes at our local art museum. It’ll be $450 total for all my kids for 10 classes, which I consider to be a good investment. It’s a well-known museum and classes will be grouped by age and taught by actual art educators. I’m pretty excited about it.” Tiffany Dujinski
“Homeschooling has been a great blessing. It has enabled us many opportunities. Here are a few “out of the box” things that I have used to incorporate art into our family…playing the piano for them just after they climbed into bed. They all have taken piano lessons and two of them like to write and play their own pieces.
I also incorporated color and creativity into lunch and dinner preparation. Fruit trays and vegetable trays lend themselves to lots of color and texture.
I also talked about loving others through our presentation of the food. It says that we took the time to prepare for them and it’s healthy!
Playing classical music in the background has given them a love for classical. It is their go to music. I have taught homeschool classes…we made cloth hand puppets (incorporating sewing) and then we developed a puppet skit (incorporating creative writing). I taught a drama class by pulling out some of the parables and then assigning different parts to act out. I have also spent time doing my own art and inviting them to join me and I have shared my art supplies. This is huge! Basically, I have shared what I love with them and they have in turn encouraged me in what I love to do.” Karen Todd
“We always had music playing in our home. Consequently, our older son is an amazing singer and can play any instrument. We used to take trips to Museums, many are free on certain days, and the boys would bring along their sketchbooks and pencils. They would choose a piece and try to copy it. My younger son loves to sketch and draw. We also used to sculpt and paint at home. We made pictures for people and crafts for holidays. My kids appreciated hand made visuals of any kind and still make, draw, and write their own cards. They learned to appreciate the arts because their own creations and talents were so valued.” Amy Engelberger
For our family it started vey locally, art exhibits in our town. To meet & speak with the artists while viewing their work made it more real than textbook study, though that was to come as well. Artists are very generous people willing to encourage even the youngest budding artist.  Sharon Gensmer
 “I think it’s a lot like raising readers – fill your home with books, read to them, and spend time reading yourself. If you fill your home with music or art, do music or art with them, and enjoy it yourself, they’ll likely develop an appreciation for it, too. Music is part of the fabric of our family’s life, so our children’s appreciation has grown naturally. The other arts require more effort on our part, b/c my husband and I have not developed a strong interest in them ourselves. For music, we take them to every free classical concert we can, and we regularly enjoy music from our classical library and WCRB. Our enjoyment of classical radio has actually morphed into a fun game we often play at dinner – when an unfamiliar piece comes on, we first attempt to identify the period it comes from; then we venture guesses on composers from that era based on what we hear (a baroque piece featuring horns, for instance, will typically yield at least one Handel guess). With that simple game, our children are effortlessly learning the periods of classical music, the major composers of each period, the unique “sound” of the composers, and the key pieces an educated person should be familiar with, based on how frequently they are played on the radio (Beethoven Eroica, anyone?). This has been a real treat for us, b/c now we have kids putting on classical music while they eat breakfast! Jenny Noel
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What 20 years of homeschooling has taught me

This summer I find myself re-reading some of the earliest books I ever read on home education. Turning the pages of these old friends makes me nostalgic.  My level of ignorance in the homeschooling department was matched only by my fear of pursing it in those early years.  I hardly knew how to parent, let alone, teach. These book mentors taught me so many principles that were not simply for “education” but for nurturing people.

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In my ignorance, I was looking for the “right way” to teach English or Math, but God redirected me and taught me big picture stuff about reaching hearts before minds. I learned that education is a misnomer without nurture and I had five little image bearers to consider.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

You are educating a person and their personhood is worthy of respect and love. That’s what Susan Schaeffer MacCualey explains in For The Children’s Sake. She gets this truth from one of the core tenants of the Charlotte Mason method: children are born persons.

Children are born persons.

This principle that a child is a person and deserves respect as a fully functioning, capable person permeates the Charlotte Mason method.  Schaeffer explains that in order to truly educate a person, you have to respect them enough to give them excellent information and assume that they can digest, process, and draw their own conclusions based on that relationship with the idea.

So correct information alone is not enough.

Methodology Matters

A perfect curriculum in a toxic environment will “educate” a child as the school of hard knocks will educate surely enough. A stove that burns can educate a child. The facts might be correct but the methodology matters and must be right as well. We’ve all heard or lived the horror stories. Teachers who wield fear or humiliation as a weapon. I’ve seen it too many times to count. “Excellence” on the altar of results and the child’s personhood is sacrificed and spirit crushed.

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If the atmosphere in the home or school is not filled with love and respect, then what exactly are you trying to teach the child? What’s the point?

Take a small child on your knee. Respect him. Do not see him as something to prune, form, or mold. This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels. He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become. If his choices made now and in the future are to be good ones, this person must understand reality and see the framework of truth. In the shorthand of language, we call this “knowing.” The child is a person who needs to grow in knowledge…

We are told by many in our generation that this small child is cog in a machine, or even that he is a possession like a pet animal. Many adults now “have” a child in the same way they “have” a washing machine or a collie dog.

We must answer: NO. You are holding a person on your knee, and that is wonderful…

Look well at the child on your knee. In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence. We can only love and serve him and be his friend. We cannot own him. He is not ours.

For The Children’s Sake, pg. 13

Trusting the Method

Looking back, I am so thankful I trusted the wisdom of Charlotte Mason and Susan Schaeffer MacCauley. And if you have young children, I’d encourage you to read For the Children’s Sake,  because no matter what type of education you pursue, the atmosphere must be conducive to the child flourishing. Institutions of learning that seek to control, conform, intimidate, bully, or simply don’t allow the freedom of thought apart from answering multiple choice answers is not nurturing a mind that is interested in the world around them. The WHY of education is as important as the WHAT of education.

What this looked like on a daily basis.

Now that my children are all older and I only have two students at home, I’m more convinced than ever that the Charlotte Mason method works beautifully. It’s a natural and nurturing approach to learning. It still requires careful work and rigorous reading, but it’s never shoved down a child’s throat.

Charlotte Mason wanted the child put in contact with the best books. Nothing dumbed down. First hand accounts and living books were a must. After short lessons, the child was to tell back what they learned from the interaction. She called this narration. It was the precursor to written and oral reports. She insisted that children be exposed to music, nature, and art, things that many children in 19th century London were deficient in. (Amazing that art is still seen as an extra in many schools today!) The goal was education as a life.

It gives me such joy to see my adult children pursue many areas of interest.

My oldest daughter (my homeschooling guinea pig, poor thing!) excels in calligraphy, creative homemaking, and practicing hospitality in her home.

Years of music practice (okay, violin practice was OFTEN painful!!), enjoyment, and exposure produced kids who were interested and who enjoy singing, composing, and practicing together on the piano, violin, or whatever instrument they pull out of the closet.

My son and husband landscape our home and make it beautiful for all of us. My younger daughters enjoy writing, decorating, art, nature, photography, etc…

Early Attempts Were Messy

In the early years, like learning to ride a bicycle, our artistic attempts were messy. Violin intonation was off, sketches were unrecognizable, muffins were burnt, tea cups were broken, milk was spilled, tempers flared, and table manners less than exemplary.

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But every shared attempt was accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated as “relationship building.”

(One of my favorite memories is of Matthew as a cute toddler surprising me with a chubby little handful of my red geraniums that he had picked from my planters! Eek!)

If it’s shared, appreciate it, moms. (Your kids don’t have to share their ideas or attempts with you, you know. That’s a trust. Steward it well.)

Simple things are the big things.

Simple things like tea time or reading time allowed us to exchange ideas and see where our kids were coming from while enjoying great literature.

Small actions that showed care were encouraged. Cookies were baked, and lemonade squeezed. We oohed and ahhed over ideas and someones attempt at drawing.

Little by little, small interactions cement relationship norms, for good or for bad.

We encouraged family times and traditions. Decorating for holidays together. Traipsing through the woods for Christmas greenery and picking the perfect plaid ribbon for our front door.

We ate dinner nearly EVERY night, making time in our schedule because we believed dinnertime to be sacred.

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Ideas were talked about and our values passed down around dinners of spaghetti or garlicky roasted chicken, or bowls of beef soup with LOTS of cheese. We spoke of God in terms of friendship and glory and goodness and read the Bible at the table with our kids.

Of course, our Christian worldview was the basis for all we did (and still do.) We prayed “Thy kingdom come” in general, yes! But we prayed “thy kingdom come” to our family specifically as we lived and honored the teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (We are FAR from perfect so with seven sinners living under one roof and bumping into each other, we really needed grace and enablement and forgiveness many times a day!)

Hospitality was intentionally practiced so we could share our lives and hear stories from different people with different life experiences. Outsiders were always welcomed in.

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We’d have missionaries stay with us for days or weeks and our kids would pour into their kids. By their teen years, our kids could entertain without us if someone dropped by. I recall coming home to Emily who had prepared and served shortbread and tea for grandma when she stopped over while I was out.

What does any of this have to do with education, you ask?

Nothing if you’re talking in terms of textbooks or SAT scores.

Everything if you are talking about nurturing children while they learn. Over 20 years of “home education” has taught me that education should be about life and should never suck the life out of children. Education should leave the child wanting to know more, wanting to care more, and interested in the world around them.

Additional books you might enjoy::

Educating the Wholehearted Child

Charlotte Mason: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning

What have you learned about homeschooling that you could share with our community?

 

*Next post, I’m going to talk about adding the arts to your day, even when you feel unqualified and artistically challenged.

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for reading and supporting my blog.

 

Homeschooling Mom, You Are in Charge of Your Happiness.

I spoke to a younger homeschooling mom this week who was clearly exhausted and suffering from burn-out.

After telling me why she was dreading the next two months of “school” , I asked her if she’d ever considered this:

“You are completely in charge of your own happiness. You don’t need permission to make changes for your own sanity. If you are discouraged, change something or nothing will change.”

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She needed to look for creative ways to make room for things that bring her joy. She was suffocating and needed some soul-oxygen.

I have been in her shoes too many times to count. We don’t have time so we don’t take time. It’s a vicious cycle.

Sometimes we get so stuck in the same old rut, that we don’t even know we are spinning our tires and headed nowhere. Spinning our tires requires movement and energy, so we equate that with productivity. Fast paced, multi-tasking, non-stop activity does not guaranteed progress. In fact, I’ve found that it almost guarantees burnout.

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The great amount of work that is truly on the shoulders of a homeschooling mom can scare us into a life of hurry and worry.

We begin pushing our kids to perform with a “standardized expectation” where kids can’t be themselves or excel in their own strengths. No, come end of the year, we must all perform for the test. Proficiency in every subject. Just call me Drill Sargent Mom.

Maybe we forget that education is not simply about gaining knowledge to pass tests.

It’s about relationships, training, direction, discipleship, character, and the atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of the “The Atmosphere” of education, that sense of well-being, connection, and joy that you share with your child that assures them that you are glad that you are together today!

We are training for real life situations.

Grandma is sick. We’re packing it up to get her some ginger ale and make some soup.

Mrs. Jones lost her baby. We’re headed there to watch her kids so she can rest.

Mrs. Smith is really struggling this week. She’s coming here for coffee and we’re going to cheer up her kids. 

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Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s real life training. And we have to plan time for small things that will yield big results in our happiness. (This will be different for every person, depending on your interests!)

If you are dreading the end of your school year and you find yourself less than enthusiastic about it, evaluate why.

  • What has zapped all your energy?
  • Where are you stretched too thin?
  • Have you become the “do everything” mom, so that the kids aren’t carrying their weight?
  • Have you let behavior slide so that your days are filled with a constant chorus of whining?
  • Have you taken time to refresh your own soul?
  • Have you purposely pursued time away from the kids/classroom to nurture life-giving friendships?
  • What inspiring friend can you plan to spend time with this week?
  • Are you looking for ways to serve others outside of your own home?
  • How can you provide moments of beauty in your daily routine?
  • Are you over-committed somewhere? What can you cut?
  • Have you under-nourished your own interests? What can you add?

Being a homeschool mom should not mean that you are now cloistered into your locked house, only to emerge for necessities like groceries and doctor’s appointments. You don’t stop being a sister, daughter, friend, neighbor when you teach at home. In fact, this role almost requires you that intentionally pursue a connected lifestyle to spark imagination and inspiration.

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If you are suffering from burnout, and you still have a way to go in the semester, it’s time to change something. Write down two things you can do this week to plan for moments of beauty and inspiration.

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Oh, I know. It’ll slow down your pace. You may only finish 130 lessons, rather than 140, but I think your kids’ experiences will be richer. (Don’t worry. The traditionally schooled kids rarely finish all their textbooks either.)

  • Make tea time a daily thing.
  • Take an afternoon to shut off all electronic devices and spend some serious time in the sun and fresh air.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Arrange a small display of flowers for the table.
  • Notice the beauty around you in nature.
  • Notice the negative self talk in your own mind. Maybe your own words rolling round and round in your head–words or failure, or bitterness, regret, or disappointment–are the reason you are so sour and drained. Dwelling on the negatives will always do that to you.
  • Take a walk.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Head to the library and find books that inspire you to learn something new.
  • Paint outside with the kids.
  • Laugh with a friend.
  • Make a bon fire.
  • Read aloud to the kids.
  • Enjoy a treat together.
  • Invite people over. Connect in meaningful ways. Live. Enjoy your life and the people in it.

If you are dreading the homestretch, change it up. You’re on your own schedule. And you don’t need anyone’s permission to care for your self. You are in charge of your own happiness!

What are you going to do this week to plan for happy and inspiring moments? Share in the comments!

 

20 Homeschooling Articles to Help New Homeschooling Moms

Several of you asked that I post all of my homeschooling articles in one place. Here you are. Happy Homeschooling!

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Five Questions Every Homeschooling Mom Should Ask Before Choosing Curriculum

Favorite Homeschool Resources/Tools Series :Part I, Part II, Part III

Good Advice On Home Education

The Early Years of Home School

Favorite Friends In the Early Years

Being Scared to Death Of Homeschooling

God Is Bigger Than Our Educational Choices

Grace For the Homeschool Mom

Homeschooling {or not} During Times of Crisis

One Reason I Love Homeschooling

Fun Things For Homeschool

A Little Trick I’ve Learned Through Homeschooling

We Censor Our Kids’ Books {And a trick that makes it easy}

Hey, What Are You Looking At?

Charlotte Mason on Taking our Kids Outdoors

Limitations Make Children Creative

Advice on Education from Across Party Lines

Summer: The Perfect Time to Start Nature Study

Adding Watercolor To Your Nature Study

An Example of Charlotte Mason Narration

 

Thoughts on being scared to death of homeschooling, and thoughts on the thoroughly educated child

I’m entering my 17th year of homeschooling.

If you’ve read here for more than two minutes you know I favor the Charlotte Mason method, have an artsy/crafty bent, emphasize music and poetry, read a lot, and tend to be rather eclectic.

What you might not know is that I feel totally unqualified to do this job.

I’m not musical. I was an average student. I didn’t like to read. I’ve not mastered higher math or science, so how could I ever teach it!?

(I am artsy and that’s about it.)

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I’ve always known that I could not give my children the kind of education they need.

This has been the cause of a lot of fear in my life. I love my kids and didn’t want them to suffer because their mom was a bumbling idiot who thought she could do a better job than an actual teacher. I’ve always realized that if I messed this homeschool gig up, my kids would be the one to suffer in the long run. No pressure there.

I decided early on that the best course of action would be to attend a local homeschooling conference. For me, it was overwhelming and seemed to confirm what I already knew–“I’m not cut out for this.” Walking the aisles, eyes scanning the mounds of curriculum (too many choices!) I literally feel dizzy.  I was afraid that someone might try to strike up a conversation with me about what curriculum I’ve been using, and recognize me as the homeschooling fraud of a mom that I felt like.

I didn’t benefit from a homeschooling conference, but I did greatly benefit from an experienced lady at our local support group, Debbie. She listened and gave feedback. She encouraged me although she had a gazillion other things to do. She talked to me about all of the different ways people homeschool. She just gave me courage.

As I took each step, I also learned another truth: God had gone before me and was there to help me each step of the way. He was walking my homeschooling journey with me. He knew before the foundations of the earth that I’d be doing this job that I felt totally unqualified to do and that half the time I thought I’d lose my sanity performing. (You’re with your kids 24/7, ya’ll. That can be oh-so-good and bad.)

When I asked for guidance, He gave it. When I seemed lost, He helped me find my way through the advice of a friend or by information on the internet.

I learned that knowing my own limits as a teacher and understanding my personality mattered tremendously because I couldn’t be someone who I was not. And learning the personality of each child was crucial to understanding their learning style.

I devoured For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School and A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning and Educating the WholeHearted Child  and realized that I was drawn mostly to the Charlotte Mason method.

I connected with Charlotte Mason’s respectful ideas about children:

  • that they are not creatures to be molded/created but were already born a person;
  • that adults should not abuse power or use fear/manipulation to make a child learn; (all I can think about is Mr. Gradgrind in Dickens’ Hard Times!)
  • that the mind of a child thrives on quality knowledge.

I appreciated that she taught that children should be kept clean, taught good manners, never demeaned (this during Victorian England when children were to be seen and not heard).

In short, children are capable and deserve respect. You don’t teach them how to learn—they already have that capacity. You provide excellent resources.

I realized that I don’t have to be an expert on anything to read my children excellent books and to expose them to the lofty ideas and beautiful language of people more intelligent than I.

I try to lead a “beautiful life” (cultured) with my kids. Much of this comes by adding music, art, literature, and details to our surroundings during the day. For instance, I might add flowers or a candle to our school room. I display the artwork of one or two artists per month on my fridge to familiarize them with that artist’s style. We read the poetry of one or two famous poets per month.We bake and craft.  We take nature walks to enjoy the creation. We have tea and cookies in the late afternoon in the fall/winter. We enjoy local produce and do seasonal excursions. These are all things that anyone can do. I’m trying to raise kids who notice and appreciate little things because education is more than taking in information.

To be truly educated, you have to care about how you fit into the grand scheme of life. Knowledge has to change you for the better and move you to action. You have to appreciate beauty simply for the love of it. You have to be curious about the inner workings of that concept you don’t quite grasp.

A truly educated person cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others no matter how “insignificant” they are on the social scale. I don’t care how much my kids know book-wise if it doesn’t cause them to be better neighbors. 

I think as a society we’re satisfied with a shoddy definition of education. As moms, we have to make sure that we don’t confuse taking in information with being educated or advancing through school with understanding knowledge.

We need to see our kids as whole people–education being a small part of who they are.

They need to know that they were created for a relationship with God and that outside of that relationship, nothing else makes sense. Their minds need to be informed and infused with the mind of Christ.

As I enter another year, I am confronted yet again with my own lack: lack of expertise, energy, and knowledge. And I know that though homeschooling can be lonely, I am not alone; God has gone before me and will be with me (and you!) as we start this new year.

 

 

 

{*post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. }

 

Hey, What Are You Looking At?

It’s that time of year.

We began our homeschool year this week and as I evaluate where each child is, the old tendency to compare surprises my heart yet again. Comparison is always a cruel tormentor:

Maybe we should have done that curriculum all along. Why is she struggling with these math facts? Did I use the wrong method? Did I not spend enough time with this child laying foundations? 

Panic creeps in as we compare our “right now” to some dreamed up version of what life must be like in the Joneses house.

The snare of compare. (pdf here)

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord feels like calling to me, HEY, What are you looking at?! Get your eyes back on Me!

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Where He Leads me, I will follow.

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you don’t homeschool, but do you wonder if you should perhaps be feeding your kids all organic food, or decorating your home like so and so, or maybe you should try the child raising techniques that the Joneses seem so enthusiastic about?

It’s easier to follow other people’s methods than to follow the Lord.

It’s easier to take our cues from flesh and blood, from what can be seen and measured, from the confident homeschooling mom who seems to know just what she’s doing, than it is to walk by faith.

There are no glaring advertisements when you walk by faith. No printed confirmation tickets to where this ride is going to take you. No money back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy the ride.

But the just shall live by faith. Even in matters of child raising and education.

When we look to Him and set our gaze on His Word, peace ensues.

The comparison ceases as we step-step-step gently in the path He’s provided for us.

The glorious truth is that Jesus will lead us if we are willing to follow.

And although it’s fine to ask for help and wisdom from seasoned women who have had great results, we have the promise of generously, “liberally” given wisdom, to anyone who asks in faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I know from experience that it’s easier to hop on Google than it is to sit and pray.

I know it’s easier to talk to a friend than to pray.

It’s easier to try to do more and be more in the pursuit of excellence, but what God wants is your faith, and with that faith, He’ll perform for you. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can take your humble efforts offered up in faith and multiply them and make them powerful for His kingdom?

When our eyes are gazing on Jesus, we can be confident that He’ll guide us through prayer and His Word.

I will let you in on a little secret: Jesus can answer your child raising questions. I can testify to this many times over. I can remember needing practical life wisdom for several issues with our kids. I would pray and ask the Lord to make His will clear and let us know how to deal with this child. I remember kneeling by the side of my sleeping stubborn toddler’s bed. I was to the point of a near break down after a particularly bad day, and I begged God to send me answers. I can tell you that He always did either through a book, or wisdom from an older woman. And once I prayed about it and left it with the Lord, I was in “wait and see” mode. I was expecting answers, and He never disappointed. We have an open ended invitation to ask God for wisdom any time we lack it. It’s one of our BEST resources. God loves your kids more than you do, after all!

My encouragement for you is to follow God on the path He has prepared for you. Keep your eyes on Him. Your life, home, ministry, and family dynamics may look totally different than mine. God has made us all unique, and He’s leading us, by His grace, to the end He has planned for us. Our job is to trust Him, obey His word, live a life of holiness and FOLLOW.

Don’t try to make your path match the Joneses. Follow Jesus.

 

 

In Praise of the Pensive Child

One of the best ways to validate your children is to accept them for who they are.

There is a huge tendency to push our kids into what we love or what is currently pushed by society. Peter has often said that “what you praise, you produce.” For instance, a school that is constantly praising and showcasing sports and promoting their athletes will produce more athletes, because children want to please and mankind grasps for mutual admiration.

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In the Christian home, if we praise virtues like thankfulness and faithfulness, versus “outcomes” like straight A’s, we’d be more apt to have hard workers and less apt to produce kids who’ll obsess or even cheat for the A.

Although this post is not theological, I believe that God has given us gifts and talents–we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator– and to stifle that gift in a child defies the God who gave it and is extremely cruel.

The world needs a variety of personalities to make it interesting. Imagine a world where everyone was a visionary, a conqueror, a leader, an entrepreneur, a pusher-to-the-topper, a warrior. Certainly we need these, but we also need the beauty created by poets, writers, painters, philosophers, and musicians. We need to value those who stop to think really long and hard about a topic and research it rather than just spouting off the first thing that comes into their head, because we need more depth and truth seeking in a world stretched thin with information.

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The world needs the pensive child.

In a blaring, media-filled, message- saturated, lights blazing, get-your-moment- in-the-spotlight-and-be-famous Kardashian world, we need to encourage the pensive child.

They’re not seeking spotlights. They may even avoid crowds. They don’t want attention drawn to them and they don’t appreciate being forced to perform by pushy parents.

And please don’t mislabel them as directionless or lazy because they haven’t started the college application process by age 10.

The pensive child is an evaluator of life. She considers her place in this moment of time. She thinks before she speaks, if she ever does.

You see, she’s learned that not everyone appreciates this beauty that she sees, so she stifles her sharing, fearing the labels: “out there” or “weird” or “space-y.”

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In truth, she doesn’t mind quietly enjoying beauty alone or with a special friend, because appreciating beauty and living with eyes wide open has its own rewards: inner contentment and happiness. She may secretly feel badly for those who choose not to see. Those who’ve been consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and of electronic worlds.

She’ll lumber on, steady, intentionally, writing, drawing, observing, painting, composing, practicing.

So moms of the pensive child, readjust your expectations and encourage your child. Don’t equate thoughtful and slow to unmotivated or air-headed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume that because your child is not a born “goal maker” or “go getter” that he’ll never amount to anything.

While you may be caught up in the busyness of life, they are busy studying the shapes of clouds and noticing how most of the colors of the spectrum can be seen in a sunset. They are wondering how to translate that exact green of that spring leaf into their painting. They noticed the ripples on the water and wondered how to paint them. They noticed how one ripple affects the entire pond, though only seen for a moment.

They live life differently than you, maybe,

but they feel deeply and appreciate much and stop long enough to wonder. And to wonder is where real education begins. Self- education. 

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Boys, especially, are encouraged away from quiet pursuits. Poetry is seen as effeminate and painting isn’t as manly somehow as sacking someone in football.

Imagine a world without the great painters and musicians of the past. Imagine if Bach’s mother told him to head outside and play with the real boys and discouraged her son from what he was clearly born to do. Just imagine no Bach.

Whatever your child’s bent, when you embrace it, you’re loving that child where he or she is. Not trying to change to fit your ideals. Just loving and nurturing and encouraging.

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That is one of the best ways to really reach the heart of your child. It’s not hard. It’s loving them—not loving who you want them to be or who you think they should be to make you feel validated– but truly loving them.

The pensive child is relational and as a parent, you must, must, must enter their world and relate to them where they are. Show them by listening that  you love their music, that you appreciate that insight or poem. They’re sharing a piece of themselves with you.

If you don’t completely understand your pensive child, ASK them questions about what they are thinking and then just listen. Then appreciate their little insights and tell them so.

 

 

Grace For The Homeschool Mom

I’m a homeschooling mom of nearly 20 years and I’m weary.

This post is to help you, the weary, burnt-out homeschooing mom, embrace a word that we seem to ignore: enough.

Homeschooling moms have many wonderful qualities to be sure, but I’m not sure that giving ourselves grace is one of them.

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School is never enough. We always do more, expect more, try more. Homeschooling marketers KNOW this and feed this insecurity in all of us: buy this, do this, try this, don’t miss this! And buy it we do.

We keenly feel our own under-qualifications for this monumental job and so we try to overcompensate. In the end we burn ourselves out, scare away other would-be homeschooling moms, and discourage fellow homeschooling moms at the very meetings that were started for our support.

I’m just gonna say it:

I don’t want to attend another homeschooling conference.

I toss out homeschooling catalogs that come in the mail without so much as a flip through them

I really, really don’t want another tutorial on making Valentines sculptures with plaster of paris or a how-to guide on building a rope course.

Please don’t send me that link to that amazing lap-book website you were telling me about. {I die a little inside when I realize that moms out there do all THAT in a typical homeschooling day.}

Grace is what I need right now. Grace with myself that affirms, “Sarah, you are doing enough. God will fill in what lacks.”

There comes a season when you really step back and assess your current course. You ask the hard questions like:

  • What exactly is an education?
  • How do children learn?
  • What do MY children need to learn?
  • What strengths can I encourage in each child? What weaknesses need work?
  • Have I allowed comparison to steal my joy and drive us all a little neurotic?
  • Have I forgotten that I DO, I WILL, and I ALWAYS WILL HAVE limitations? {So does every other teacher in America! Not to mention the limitations of the kids.}

I need to recall why we started doing this in the first place:

  • I want time with my kids.
  • I want to teach them our family values, and about our God on a day in and day out basis.
  • I want them to be avid readers.
  • I want them to love learning and pursue it life-long.
  • I highly value family time and flexibility.
  • I want them to have time to pursue the interests they love.
  • We want to travel.

When I step back I realize that my list is quite short,

but my self-made daily to-do list is oh, so long, burdensome and unnecessarily complicated. 

So, I’m saying no. I’m calling good enough enough.

I’m growing whole-hearted children over here and that takes inspiration and creativity and time. It means saying no to a million good things in order to make way for what we value most.

I don’t just want them to read a snippet in a text book, answer 10 questions for a test, and believe they are educated on a topic. We’re going to read living books (Books that inspire and are written by an author with uncommon knowledge and a passion for that subject.) on a variety of topics and enjoy the read. We’re going to discuss, debate, and digest the material.

I want them to empathize and feel deeply the sorrow of those who have suffered injustice in their history readings and biographies and rejoice with those who discovered cures for once life-threatening diseases, or stood up against the wrongs of society with uncommon bravery. I want them to feel the energy of the symphony orchestra and experience the joy of preparing a nutritious meal to present as a gift to your loved ones. I want them to remember that hearts are tied together around the candle-lit dinner table over simple things like spaghetti and garlicky bread.

I want them to enjoy famous composers, artists, poetry and try our hand at our own.

And while Pre-calculus is a necessary evil of high school life and requires a textbook, we’re not going to let textbooks rule our education.

We’ll discuss and hash out politics, theology and different ideas around our dinner table.

We’ll visit museums, concerts and libraries and take advantage of the rich History we enjoy in the New England area.

And when mom can’t remember what an independent clause is or the difference between mitosis and meiosis, we’ll all sit and watch Kahn Academy. Or we’ll  learn via the History and Discovery Channel.

We’ll embrace quiet times alone with our thoughts.

We’ll cultivate creativity, by picking up hobbies like knitting or crocheting.

We’ll do what we can and breathe. We’ll be happy and call it a day.

We’re no longer calling it school, but instead real life. And it is enough.

Are you burnt out? Take some time to invest in yourself, too. You can’t always give. You need little snatches of time to take in.  It might be a walk through a beautiful shop, buying some flowers, arranging some furniture in a creative way, reading a book, painting, sketching, walking or talking with a friend. There’s nothing noble about running yourself ragged into the ground.  Do what it takes to get yourself in a good place where you are ready to jump in, serving your family with a renewed outlook. :)

 

 

Homeschooling {or not} During Times of Crisis

Wednesday morning, all was normal. I was sitting behind an observation window, chatting and drinking iced coffee with my sister Hannah while our girls tumbled and jumped at their gymnastics lesson. I received a startling phone call that Peter’s mom had several strokes that morning and was now in the hospital. After an extremely high risk surgery, she is still recovering in the ICU tonight.

I have to tell you, that after a week like this, I am all the more thankful that we homeschool our kids. School schedule is never a thought during a crisis. Learning is a lifestyle and not an artificial time slot we need to worry about making the kids fill. I’m not stressing about whether we’ll get lessons done today or tomorrow. They’ll get done. We’ll do their math when we are ready. We have all day or all week if we need it.

We took the kids to Woodneck Beach today in Falmouth, MA. So peaceful and beautiful.

We took the kids to Woodneck Beach today in Falmouth, MA. So peaceful and beautiful.

Homeschooling has allowed us to really be “all there” in a family emergency. Yes, by the end of the year I am ready to pack all of our books away and never ever look at them again, but in so many ways, homeschooling has helped us to tailor our lives around what is most important to us.

It was important for the kids to be with their grandmother at 11pm as she’s coming out of the surgical unit. It is important that they sleep in after an emotionally stressful night. It was important that we have a family day today after this type of week.

I’m sure homeschooling has many weaknesses and just a week ago I would have been ready to rattle them off to you because I.just.want.to.be.done.

But tonight, I’m thankful for it.

I hear so often, “I don’t know how you homeschool five kids!” And tonight, I have to say, I don’t know how women who don’t homeschool do it!

 

Diet, A Few Recipes and What’s New

 

Just an update on what we are up to lately, besides getting over the flu. :)

1. Diet Details and a Recipe.

Many of you have asked about the details of my new diet. I am the last one to be giving diet advice since I have a long lasting love affair with One-Bowl Brownies and Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, and I am still figuring out what I am doing, but for right now, I’ve eliminated several things from my diet: white flour and sugar, hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup and anything “highly processed”–meaning that if it is a chemical name that I don’t recognize, I don’t eat it. My grandmother has not eaten flour or sugar for years, and I am beginning to think that her sensitivities to them are hereditary. :)

So far it is going well. The biggest surprise of this diet is that my energy level is back to normal for the first time in two years. After my bout with mono, I had resigned myself to a life of low energy. I am beyond thankful that my energy has returned. I no longer feel like I “need” a cup of coffee in the a.m. As a matter of fact, I skipped coffee a few days last week and never noticed.

So, what am I eating? Fruits, veggies, salads, chicken, beef, roasted root vegetables (sweet potato is a fav) whole grains, soups, nuts, etc…

Here is a great recipe that I enjoy for Crustless Quiche. What I love about it is that it is very forgiving. I rarely make it the same way twice and it always comes out great. Here is the original recipe:

Crustless Quiche with cheddar, onion, mushrooms, pepper and baby spinach.

Crustless Quiche

4. c thinly sliced and unpeeled zucchini

1 c. chopped onions

1/4 c. water

2 eggs, well beaten

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

2. T parsley

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

1/4 t. garlic powder

1/4 t. oregano

1/4 t. basil

Saute zucchini and onions in water for 10 minutes; drain. Combine eggs, cheese and seasonings. Fold into zucchini mixture. Pour into 10 inch pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

***My variations:

First of all, I use 6 eggs for my family and double the spices. I bake it in 9X12″ glass pan. I use whatever veggies I have on hand that day. Today I used 2 small onions, baby spinach, 1 cup chopped mushrooms and some yellow pepper and fresh chopped basil. In total it was about 4 cups of veggies. I also substituted sharp cheddar cheese. After I put it in the pan, I topped it with sliced fresh tomato slices.  I bake it for about 8 minutes longer for the bigger version, so that the sides are browned slightly. This recipe is from an older woman in our church, (a woman who had 15 children!!), and I love it because it is economical and delish! :)

2. Family News:

This weekend my daughter Emily was part of the Southeastern Mass. District Orchestra. It was a great experience for her, and we are blessed that she was given this opportunity.

Proud parents. :)

3. Books I’m Enjoying:

I am reading The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management and am thoroughly enjoying it. Of course, books like this make sweeping generalizations about a culture when they write about what the “French” do, but still, it is a great look into areas of obvious differences in thinking between our two cultures.

For instance, French women value quality in their food. We tend to value quantity. (and our bodies are showing it!) The French use internal cues to tell them to stop eating, as in “I am full.” Americans use external cues, as in, my plate is clean, or this TV show is over. If one symbol could depict American’s eating habits, it would be a car; the French, a table. It is a very insightful read. :)

Also, I’m reading How to Look Expensive: A Beauty Editor’s Secrets to Getting Gorgeous without Breaking the Bank. It is full of common sense beauty tips and she references Kate Middleton quite a bit. Enough said. It covers how to ask for the right hair cut, applying make up without looking cheap and made up, the top ten lipstick shades that make up artists swear by and other awesome tips I’d never heard of. For instance, did you know that to apply the right amount of perfume, you should squirt a little on your hairbrush and comb your hair? It will cling to the natural oils in your hair in just the right amounts so that your scent is not overpowering! :) (Caveat: I have had to take my black sharpie to several words in this book.)

4. Favorite Products:

This winter we started our fifth child on Considering God’s Creation. I was reminded again how much I love this program. It is notebook-y in a way, but uses the power of observation to help guide the child in classifying plants, bugs and animals. I love that it melds the scientific method with a Charlotte Mason-ey flair. :) If you haven’t used it, I would highly recommend it.

Hope just started Considering God's Creation this semester.

5. A Fabulous Recipe from a man’s blog! :) Who knew?

I knew I had to try this recipe when I stumbled upon the title “100 Year Old Recipe” on Tim’s blog. I made this treat for my family and can verify that it was indeed delicious. (I tried a bite! ahem!) Anyway, it is full of apples and cinnamon with a caramel glaze and would be great with coffee or tea.

100 year old cake recipe.

I love trying old recipes and love reading old “receipt” books. Years ago, recipes were not more than a list of ingredients, hence the term receipts. I am always fascinated that women years ago had a general understanding of what measurements yielded soft, fluffy biscuits or a fluffy cake without worrying about exact measurements.

6. Quotes I’m Pondering 

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

The highest glory of the creature is in being only a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be all. Water always fills first the lowest places. The lower, the emptier a man lies before God, the speedier and the fuller will be the inflow of the diving glory.”

Andrew Murray

Your turn!  Tell me what you’re reading, products you’re loving this winter, or link to fabulous recipes you’re making right now. AND any diet tips are welcome! :)