Archives for September 2012

Ch Ch Ch Changes

I guess you know if you are a true introvert by how you respond to life’s storms.  I tend to duck into my shell and wait for everything to settle.  The last few weeks have been a time of hunkering down.

Just four short months ago I received the call that would change my life forever. On Monday morning, my mom went home to be with Jesus. Watching her struggle on this earth before her death was the hardest thing I have ever done. I had spent weeks begging the Lord to heal her and keep her on this earth a little longer. In the end, my will was conformed to His and I begged for His mercy to take her home.

After weeks of pain and suffering, she was ready to go.

We were finally ready to let her go.

This was the first time I had experienced death so personally. I have lost grandparents, but somehow expected them to go. They were older. My mom was 55. She was a beautiful lady, both inside and out. Everyone who knew her loved her and thought she was the sweetest thing. She was sweet.

My mom, Julia, with my oldest daughter

I have already began to see God working things for good through her death. There have been multiple opportunities we have had to talk with others about the Lord. The message at her funeral was terrific. The pastor laid out the gospel message as he talked about my mom finishing the race.

Through all of this, I realized out firm a grasp I have on this world and the things in this world. Life on this earth is so very short. And then we face eternity. I don’t think our finite minds can truly comprehend eternity. I know I can’t. But I need to try. Because the things I do on this earth have eternal consequences. The things I do with my blog have eternal consequences.

For those who have followed my blog for a while, you may have noticed a change around here. Not a huge change, as I am the same person, doing the same things in my life. I just felt like I wanted to focus on where the Lord is leading me. There are tons of blogs out there that provide information on homesteading, homeschooling, herbalism, healthy eating, etc. I spend time reading many of them as I learn and grow.

But I realized that the main focus of my blog should be where the Lord is leading me. Sometimes that might be homesteading or herbalism. Other times it might just be where He is leading my heart. And while I am anxious to get back to writing about practical matters, I am also thankful for some of the new paths the Lord is leading me on.

One of the things He has put on the heart of my daughter and myself is starting up an online women’s Bible study. I haven’t attended a women’s Bible study in many, many years. There are several reasons for this. One of the reasons, most of the “Bible” studies were actually book studies…reading someone elses book then pulling in a few scriptures to validate the point being made. I don’t think there is anything wrong with reading good books. But if we say we are having a Bible study, let’s study the Bible. Another reason is that I don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with my husband. When he is home, I would prefer to be home as well.

I guess this is why we felt an online Bible study would be great. We can work on our studies at home, when it is convenient. We can then post our thoughts in a forum so that we can discuss our studies and any questions we may have. We will begin our studies in Genesis, then work our way through the New Testament. We will have memory verses to work on as well.

If any of you would like to join us, click the link below.

Women’s Bible Study Forum

Last, I want to say thank you to all of my readers and friends. I have had so many of you let me know that you were praying for me during this time and it really means so much. I can honestly say that I have felt the presence of the Lord and His peace during this time. I am going to miss my mom terribly, but her death has made me even more thankful for the hope I have in Jesus Christ!

Schoolhouse Review: Raising Real Men

When my third child was a baby, we were attending a rather large church.  The church had every program imaginable, including a two room nursery.  I couldn’t bear to leave her in there, so I would try to sit with her in church as long as possible (on the very back row).  Being the only baby in the sanctuary, I was very aware of the looks I would receive at the slightest peep.  I actually spent most of each service in the cry room (with adjoining doors to both nursery rooms).  I remember over hearing the children’s leader as she stopped by to check on the nursery workers.  She was commenting on a baby that just wouldn’t stop crying.  She made the remark that it was better for the baby to be left crying so that it would get used to being in the nursery.  It just broke my heart.

Over the next seven years, I pretty much continued the same pattern with each subsequent baby.  It was very obvious that other church members were not in agreement with us keeping our children in church, but we knew in our hearts that it was the right thing to do.  It was because we had some great theological reason to do so (although I wish we did), we just felt that our children should be in church with us.  At the end of the those seven years, we began hearing about something called a “family integrated church”.  We were shocked!  We couldn’t believe there were churches where every family worshiped together.  We looked into it further, but were unable to find any churches close enough for us to visit.

About this time, we moved to Spain.  Our church there was tiny and very close-knit.  We continued to keep our children with us, and were questioned about it.  By this time, we had began to articulate the reasons we felt it was important to do so.  I remember the objections from some of our Spanish friends, number one being that there was no way there children would sit through church.  Then I remember the Sunday when one of the young couples kept their 2-year-old with them.  It was a struggle at first, but the father was very diligent in working with the boy and keeping him in line.  After a time, the boy was able to sit in church with his mom and dad.  I had never talked with this family directly (they only spoke Spanish and Portuguese), but they watched us and knew it was what they wanted for their son.

We have now moved again and have finally been blessed to attend a church where everyone stays together for the entire service.  There are many Sundays when I sit out in the lobby (we have services in a hotel) with other mothers trying to keep our youngest ones quiet.  It is a training process and let me tell you, none of us has it down perfectly.  We are all striving each Sunday, with each of our children, to lead them as the Lord would have us.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:2-4

When I was given the chance to review an advance copy of Curt and Sandra Lovelace’s new book Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship (published by Hal and Melanie Young of Raising Real Men), I knew that this would be a book that I could really relate to. I was hoping that it would also offer some insight into the why’s and how to’s of keeping children in church. That is exactly what it did!

I want to start out by saying there were a few things that I was very thankful for as I read this book. First, Curt and Sandra have such sweet spirits that really come out in their writing (I have never met them personally, just my observation from the words they write). I could tell that they have written this book in love and are very passionate about its message. Second, they have finished the race. What I mean by that is they have struggled with all the elements they have written about and have seen the fruit of their labor. This is so important. Theory can be good, but when I am struggle with an issue, I want help from someone who knows where I am at. Third, and most importantly, they draw on the Word of God. Every aspect of our lives should be viewed in the light of scripture, especially something as important as the gathering of believers.

In the book, Curt and Sandra start out explaining why children should be included in the worship of the church. Something that really stuck with me was when they told how each of them came to know the Lord as adults. They showed that although they were baby Christians, unfamiliar with the Bible, and not understanding everything during each service, they were still invited to attend church with everyone else. They weren’t sent off to a special class for their level. This made me stop and think. There are probably some children that understand the Word better than some of the adults in church, and yet we would think it preposterous to send the adults to “baby Christian church”.

Once Curt and Sandra walk through the Biblical foundation for families being together in church, they then advise parents to count the costs of doing so. I thought, “wow, that’s a great idea, wish we had done that!” We didn’t even know what the costs were. Thankfully the Lord has sustained us. It would be nice, especially if you are just beginning this journey, to know why you are doing this and to write it down. This road can sometimes get rocky (especially for the one having to do most of the training) and it is a great reminder to stay in the race.

Because we didn’t have mentors in this area, we have kind of just flew by the seat of our pants in training our kids to stay in church. I knew the long-term goal was for them to sit through the entire service and to begin to listen and retain what was being taught, but I never thought about the steps it takes to get there. I appreciated both the practical examples that were given in the book, as well as information on what is reasonable to expect out of our children. For example, Sandra explains how to put together a special bag with age appropriate items to keep the child entertained. This may seem like a common knowledge thing to do, but I think we sometime overlook the simple things that make our lives easier. I was reminded that if I would spend some extra time preparing something special, it would help keep my child’s interest longer than the few toys I throw into the diaper bag as we head out the door.

Another thought I had as I read this book, is that we sometimes make our lives harder by worrying about what others think. For instance, Sandra talks about nursing her baby to sleep after the first part of church. I can’t tell you how many times I have been able to keep a little one quiet during the singing part of church, then left to go nurse them outside because I thought others my think it was wrong to nurse in church (I always cover up very good). It was freeing to hear from someone else, that yes, it is OK to nurse your little one quietly in your seat.

A couple of last thoughts that stood out to me were the fact that we need to be very careful not to judge others, especially as they are going through the training period with their children. Yes, some services may be more distracting, but we need to bear one another’s burdens. Which leads me to another thought. As we get older and have children who have learned to sit quietly through church, we should reach out to others who may need a break in their training efforts.

Personally, our church now is mostly all in the training phase, but with time those of us who believe strongly about keeping our children with us during church should help others do the same. I am so thankful that Curt and Sandra have poured out their hearts to help those of us who are still in the trenches. It is such a blessing to have others come along side of you and offer encouragement and strength. This book was one of those blessings!

Preorders – Children in Church
Facebook – Children in Church
Publishers – Raising Real Men

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Children in Church, click the banner here:

Photobucket
Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Schoolhouse Review: Speekee TV

Well this was a fun review! After being blessed by Homeschool Spanish Academy several months ago, I was so thankful to have an opportunity to review Speekee TV, an online spanish class for younger kids, this go round.

Learning the Spanish language is something that our family (excluding my husband who is fluent in Spanish) has worked on over the years. I have taken numerous Spanish classes. We have used Spanish language curriculum. We even moved to Spain! So I have seen first hand how second languages develop over time.

I guess that is why I was so pleased with Speekee TV, especially for my younger kids. It gives younger children exposure to the language in a fun and engaging manner. I have to say, though, that it didn’t turn out as I had planned…

Our Experience with Speekee TV

I had planned to have my middle girls, in grades 5 and 2, to use the program. When we first started it, the older one looked at me like I was joking. “Can’t I just do the program Kendra (her older sister) does?” Apparently she felt that she was too old for Speekee.

I didn’t push her to do it. Instead, our three year old fell in love with Speekee! Every chance he gets, including at the hospital or restaurants, he wants to watch Speekee on my phone. And then there is the baby who comes running when he hears Speekee. Then he does his little dance to “Donde vamos?”

In all fairness, Speekee does seem more geared towards younger children. It reminds me of Sesame Street, with the puppets and children singing and doing activities. It certainly captures the younger children’s attention. Amazingly enough, for someone who thought she was too young for Speekee, my daughter certainly knows the songs and phrases well. ; )

With my younger kids, my goal for them is simply to hear the language over and over and try to incorporate as much as we can in everyday situation. I don’t expect them to start conversing, or even to remember everything after a few weeks. What we did was watch one of the ten episodes, then sing the songs together, or go over the topics covered in the episode. For instance, if the episode covered the colors, we would review colors after the show.

I think it might have helped that I know some basic spanish, but it was not necessary. Speekee TV comes with a fasttrack plan that provides 40 weeks worth of lessons. These lessons incorporate the video episodes along with activities and printables to help children retain their learning. There are also flashcards that can be printed out for additional review. I found that these activities were a good mix for all ages. Some of the activities were too hard for little ones to grasp, while others would be boring for the older kids. As someone who has a hard time sticking to a strict schedule, I would just pick and choose things that worked well for us!

A Few Thoughts About Spain Spanish

Speekee is filmed in Spain, and so it brought back memories for us. We laughed as the children said their names, as everyone in Spain names their children Ana “something” for girls and Juan “something” for the boys. Antonio is also a very popular name!

I have heard many times that the Spanish speak proper spanish. Honestly, there is no such thing as proper spanish unless you are talking about not talking slang. Where we lived in Andalusia, people were well known for speaking very fast and cutting off the last half of their words. Each region has their own dialect, although it is all still the same language. I think this is the same here. We certainly speak differently here in Texas than people in New York or Georgia.

Some of the words they use are different than Spanish speakers use here in the states or in South America. For instance, in Spain (and you see this in the video), the word naranja is used for both the color orange and the fruit. Here, the word naranja is used for the fruit and the word anaranjado is used for the color. The pronunciation is slightly different as well. The Spanish pronounce their “c”‘s and “z”‘s with a th sound.

Although there are a few differences, it is easy to adapt (especially for kids) to either one once you start learning and using Spanish.

Glimpse Into Our Learning

Wanted to share a quick clip of our learning. I did have to do a bit of prompting, but he is still learning and loving it!

Age Range

The suggested age range for Speekee TV is 2-10 years old.

Price

Speekee TV’s online version is $7.50 per month or $60.00 for a years subscription. They also offer a free 2 week trial period for those who may be trying to decide if this is the right program for their family.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Speekee TV, click the banner here:

Photobucket
Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Schoolhouse Review: Reading Kingdom

OK, I will admit that I was a little skeptical of Reading Kingdom when I saw that it was endorsed by a famous super model. Unlike the general population, celebrity endorsements usually make me run for cover. However, because I had a soon-to-be second grader who needed some more work in learning to read, I decided it would be worthwhile to at least give it a try.

As I have mentioned many times here on the blog, I am a relaxed homeschooler. I don’t push my kids to read until they are ready. I feel that if you try to teach them before they are ready, you face resistance and frustration.

I started working on reading with Hannah last year. She has progressed fairly well. I don’t have any concerns about her learning to read. I just felt like she needed more practice and more instruction. When we started Reading Kingdom, she was excited to have her own program to work on.

The first few times she worked on it, I sat down with her just to walk her through it and get her going. The first few sessions of Reading Kingdom are skills assessment. I found that these sessions were not as “exciting” as the learning lessons. I made sure that she understood that we were only doing these to find out how much she knew and to find out where she needed to start. She was compliant, but enjoyed the program much more once she got into the learning lessons.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been busy helping to take care of my mother (who is terminally ill). We have spent the last few weeks at the hospital. During all of this time, Hannah would frequently ask, “Can I do my Reading Kingdom?” She would have one of the older kids help her login when I wasn’t available. Honestly, it seemed more like a game for her–something to occupy her time.

After seven weeks of playing using Reading Kingdom, I sat down with her to watch her do several sessions and see how she was progressing. I was so pleased by her progress! I had her read several things to me and she not only knew the words, but was so fluid in her reading.

One of the things that caught my attention (and that I was so thankful for) was the fact that the program teaches capitalization and punctuation along with reading. This may be a no brainer for some of you, but I have always taught phonics separately from beginning grammar. This program combines them so that they are learning the mechanics of writing as they learn to read.

Another plus is that Reading Kingdom also teaches spelling. There are several little games where the student has to type in the missing letters. A couple of months ago, even though Hannah could read easy readers, she was no where ready to spell the words she was reading. I sat down with her today and she would look at the words with missing letters and fill in the letters with no problem.

I have to tell you, my heart was filled with joy. If any of you have ever homeschooled through difficult times, you know the guilt that comes with not being able to spend as much time as you would like to teaching your little ones. I even felt guilty for not sitting down with her during her Reading Kingdom lessons. In my mind, I figured she needed help understanding it or learning the new concepts. It was such a blessing to hear her start reading those words like she was a pro!

How It Works

As I mentioned before, the Reading Kingdom starts by performing a skills assessment on the child. Once the skills assessment is finished, the child is then placed in the appropriate level of learning. When the child begins each level (there are 5 levels), they begin learning words and have the ability to earn books. By the time they have earned the book, they have also learned all the words needed to read the book!

Reading Kingdom combines the best of both phonics (sounds) and whole word (comprehension) education, adding in sequencing, motor skills, meaning, and grammar. For an in-depth understanding of how Reading Kingdom is different from other reading programs, you can download How is the Reading Kingdom different from other reading systems?

Age Range

Reading Kingdom provides reading instruction through a 3rd grade reading level. Children as young as 4-5 can begin the program. Older children through age 10 can benefit from the program as well.

Price

When you sign up for the Reading Kingdom, you receive a free 30 day trial. After that, subscriptions to Reading Kingdom are $19.99/month (with no monthly minimum), or $199.99 per year (20% off). Additional children in your account get 50% off ($9.99/month or $99.99/year). You can cancel your subscriptions at any time.

Reading Kingdom also offers a scholarship for students who are unable to afford the program. When I saw this, it really raised my affection for the company. So many times companies are worried about the bottom line (and I understand wanting to make a living), but it is a blessing when companies are willing to help children out even if they can’t pay. Kudos to Reading Kingdom!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Reading Kingdom, click the banner here:

Photobucket
Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.