Leading from Legacy

The Gift of Music
Musical ability runs deep in our family.  Family history on my mother’s side says that around the turn of the century my great-grandfather, a music teacher by trade, courted my great grandmother with an autoharp.  I vividly remember my maternal grandmother using that same instrument to play hymns, though she could’ve also played on the piano, the organ and the guitar.  She and her husband passed on that love of music to their eight children, of which my mother was one.  Each of them learned to play an instrument for the family radio program which included hymns and gospel music followed by a sermon by my grandfather.  Six of the eight grew up to use their talents regularly for Sunday morning worship and one even graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.  Many of the 28 grandchildren, including myself, studied music and still play.  Our family reunions seemed more like mini-recitals for the grandchildren followed by a hymn sing for the adults.

Whether it was practicing piano, singing with my mom, or studying music education in college, music was a big part of my life.  The day I met Harold, he was leading worship at my grandmother’s church.  Even before our children were born, we envisioned music to be important to our family.  It was only natural that we pass on our passion and heritage to our four daughters.  While we gave them opportunities, we did not force their participation.  Their musical gifts and talent led them to include music as a part of their lives.  All four play piano, three play a second instrument, two have sung on the worship team at church, and one has recorded a CD (Read more…) and is now studying worship full time.  Music still continues to play a major role in my life.

A Family Call
I believe that family lines often have a common destiny and that God gives gifts to achieve that call.  In the Old Testament, God set the precedent and called the family of Levi to a common destiny—to care for and serve in the tabernacle.   Throughout history, businesses and trades have been (and continue to be) passed down to the next generation in the family.  History is replete with examples of families who governed—dynasties in China, monarchies throughout Europe and Russia.  Although we in the United States have the privilege of voting for our leaders, there is often a pattern of generations of families who serve in governmental leadership.  Generation influence is also strong in the area of acting, Olympic participation, professional sports, military service, missionary work, and even pastoral ministry.

Both my maternal grandfather and my father were ordained ministers; Harold’s maternal grandmother was an ordained minister and evangelist.  The day Harold was ordained, his mother came into his office and began to pray fervently for him with tears streaming down her face. She later explained to us that she felt compelled to pass on the anointing of her mother.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.

Leading from Legacy
At some point, every child struggles to find their place.  What am I good at?  Where can I excel?  What should I major in?  What job should I get?  What is God’s plan for my life and my future?  Here are some ways to lead from the legacy God has given your family:

Consider your family tree.  When guiding children of any age, study past generations.  Do you see a common passion or gift throughout the generations?  Is there something that God has called your family to accomplish?  Ask God if your child is part of that legacy and listen to your child’s areas of interest.  Our girls are inspired when they hear of how God has used their grandparents and honored when they think about following in their footsteps.

Broaden your focus. For instance, though our family has a legacy of music, the gift of teaching has also been passed down from my great-grandfather.  Two of my aunts and several of my cousins are professional teachers.  I combined the two and became a music teacher.

Think outside the box. God doesn't always follow the same path; sometimes he does something new.  In our family, two of our four are passionately pursuing music as part of their daily life.  One daughter is pursuing education and another is pursing medicine.  To my knowledge there is no gift of medicine in our family, that doesn't mean she can’t or shouldn't pursue medicine.  God sometimes skips a generation or even establishes a new stream.

Be intentional. Before filling the schedule with more activities, be intentional.  Strengthen the strengths of your child and help him or her choose activities that grow skills or talents.  At twelve Victoria gave up ballet so that she could spend more time on the music she loved.  Her time was well spent.  Ask questions and help your child focus on what is important for today and for the future.

Redeem the gift. Maybe your family isn’t full of great examples of Christian life or ministry.  God’s gives gifts, but it’s up to us how we use them.  You can still discover hidden treasures in your family line, but God may call you to use them differently.  For instance your may be from a family of successful but unethical businessmen, but God is calling you to use that same business acumen to multiply wealth for missions or ministries.  Redeem the gift.

Search out the legacy of your family and walk in the blessing that God intended it to be.

A Secure Investment: Investing in Your Children

(Note:  This article is by no means intended to criticize working moms or moms who don’t homeschool.  God calls families to different ways to raise their children:  there is certainly more than one way to raise a godly child.  My heart is to encourage moms who have chosen motherhood as a career.  It is a wise investment.)

After investing diligently for twenty years, my retirement account still stands at zero.  It has nothing to do with my broker or with the economy, but it is a direct result of how I invested.  For more than 20 years I have been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for our four daughters.  I have invested money, time, and energy into teaching, training, and mentoring these young women and it is an investment that has paid high dividends.  (Of course my husband has also played a significant role in their development, but this article is not for the Daddies.)

Before our children were born, I was a public school music teacher who also taught several classes of hearing-impaired students.  Most of the 750 students I saw each week knew my name and some even regularly visited my classroom for extra time together.  I had a decent income, a retirement account, and summers off.  My career afforded me the opportunity to make great dinner conversation as I described how I taught music to hearing-impaired children.  I taught for two years and loved my job.  In the eyes of our culture, I was successful.

God blessed my husband and I and three days after the last day of school, I found myself at home with a newborn baby girl who wasn’t interested in my teaching success!  My ultimate career choice was to be a wife and mother, but somehow this wasn’t what I thought I had signed up for.  Everything was new to both of us and it took some time for us to learn.  Even more disappointing was the reaction of friends and acquaintances when I told them I was a stay-at-home mom.  Some of them questioned what I did all day and others politely smiled and found someone else to talk to.  It was painfully clear that society did not approve of my

No matter what the view of others, I stayed true to God’s call for me and our family.  There were joyful days and there were difficult days (when wanted to quit or resign!).  Most every day was full—full of laundry, cooking, cleaning, straightening, counseling, teaching, repeating, training, undoing, redoing, correcting, repeating, disciplining, discipling, and did I mention repeating?  We read the Bible together, prayed together, talked together, dreamed together, and cried together.  Sometimes the progress was infinitesimal and my dream of God-fearing daughters seemed elusive, but still my husband and I prayed and stayed the course.

As with any investment, there was risk.  Would it be better if we had a second income so we could provide better?  Would a one-income household limit what they could do?  Should we send them to school so they can be taught by the “experts” instead of an inexperienced mom?  What if I ruin them?  The enemy of my soul tried to discourage me and cause me to doubt our choices and my value, but I held to the truth that I am a precious daughter of the Most High God.

Today, our investment continues to yield a high rate of return.  We have four daughters who are lovely, inside and out.  They aren’t perfect, but they know the Savior who is and they’ve been saved by grace.  They know the Word, and they obey the Word.  They are carriers of His presence who sow seeds of Jesus’ love everywhere they go.  My time as a stay-at-home mom has been the best investment I’ve ever made.

The Family Orchestra

More than twenty years ago, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education.  Today my musical teaching is limited to helping my daughters with their private lessons, but my mind still thinks in musical terms.  Recently I’ve been thinking about the similarities between a parent and a music teacher or an orchestra conductor. Music teachers, the first instructors for beginning instrumentalists, teach the basics and endure hours of repetitious and often out-of-tune practice.  Parenting young children is often like being a beginning music teacher—you build the foundation and repeat the same instructions though the process is sometimes tiring and you may see little progress.

On the other hand, orchestra conductors direct instrumentalists who have mastered the basics and are ready to perform with other accomplished musicians.  It is quite similar to the role of parenting during the teen years.  If we parents do our job in the early years, our children won’t need the same level of instruction during their teen years.  Instead of being music teachers, we become more like an orchestra conductors.

We make sure everyone is on the same page.  You can imagine the cacophony of sound that would emerge from a symphony if only one  player was reading music from the wrong page.  Similarly, the beautiful melody of a family can only be achieved if we are on the same page.  When the girls were very young, we tried hard to communicate what was important and why.  We talked about what it means to follow God.  We explained why we chose certain activities and didn’t choose others.  Today, Harold and I try hard to communicate our goals and expectations not only for the girls personally, but also in regard to our schedule—what family commitments we have (We keep a master calendar.) and how each person can best serve our family during a certain period of time.  Our children can’t read our minds.  If I don’t communicate, I can’t expect that we’ll be on the same page.

We set the tempo of our home. As the girls have grown, so have the number of activities and opportunities they have opportunity to be involved in.  When the girls were young, Harold and I discussed which activities were beneficial for the girls and for our family.  Today, the girls come to us with requests and together we discuss the commitment and all of the ramifications to our family life and to our schedule.  As a pastor, my husband has many responsibilities and commitments so we try to look at the calendar and set a reasonable pace for our schedule.  We live in a fast-paced world that seems only to speed up with each passing year.  We try to set a reasonable family pace, balancing busy days and busy weeks with times of Sabbath and refreshing.  Some Saturdays we declare a family day—we disconnect our home phone and Harold turns off his cell phone.   The world has much to offer to fill our days, but it’s our job as parents to set the tempo.

We direct entrances and exits. With two drivers who are very committed to church and attending college, I sometimes feel like we have a revolving front door.  Our culture tends to accept the division of children and their families—children of all ages are involved in sports, music lessons, school activities, church activities, youth group, part time jobs, etc.  None of these activities are bad in and of themselves; however when activities become a “drop and shop”—drop the kids off so you can do what you want—it can divide families.  Give thought to the “entrances and exits” in your home.  All too soon your precious ones will be exiting the front door to start their own home.

We control the volume. In a house of four girls, this one is pretty tough.  Those who know our family well know that there is a certain level of excited chit-chat that accompanies our daughters.  (Some call it noise; I call it happy sounds.)  It is sometimes easier to live a life full of noise and activity than to take time to be silent and alone.  It is important that we teach our children to choose moments of solitude so they can think, process, create, and most importantly, hear the voice of God.  If the volume is turned up too loud, we may miss the still small voice of our Father.

We encourage each one to listen to the other. In an orchestra no one instrument should stand out louder than another, unless they are playing a solo.  Each player needs to carefully listen to those around them.  Listening can be a challenge in our home.  It seems there is never a lack of response to any comment made by one member of our family.  Most certainly at least one other member has an opinion or suggestion about the topic at hand.  More often than not, I hear overlapping layers of conversation interspersed with laughter.  I believe that all individuals, no matter their age, have a desire to be heard and understood.  I sometimes feel that my job is to be the “conversation traffic police”—stopping conversations that don’t build each other up, encouraging one speaker at a time, and reminding speakers to slow down so I can understand.  Monologues are like solos, but dialogues allow the beauty of each individual to shine through so that each one feels heard and understood.

If you are a parent, you are like a music teacher or orchestra conductor.  You may not be capable of teaching piano lessons or conducting a large group, but God has given you, and your family, the ability to create beautiful music that will bring honor and glory to Him.  Soli Deo Gloria.

13th Birthday Celebration

Some families celebrate birthdays in a big way and others barely acknowledge the day aside from any other.  Our family has chosen to honor and celebrate each child, on each birthday, as a confirmation of their uniqueness and identity.  Since no child is the same, no celebration is the same; however, each celebration must have the elements of honor and surprise. Recently, our youngest turned 13.  Since we’ve chosen not to use the term “teenager,” the age 13 is not so special to our family but in the mind of our youngest daughter it represented a milestone.  It was shaping up to be a pretty uneventful day since I had nothing special planned and no precious gift to give.  (A month earlier we had helped her purchase an upgrade to her violin—an early birthday present—so she would have time to get used to it before her spring recital.) Since she was already aware of her gift, we were searching for some sort of surprise that would also show her honor.

With only two weeks to spare, God inspired me to honor Abigail by inviting 13 friends—ages 5 to mid 30’s-- to celebrate with her.  (Abigail loves her family, but she is an encourager and has quite a collection of friends and pen pals!)  I chose Dad as her first friend and sent emails to the parents of 12 of Abigail’s close friends explaining my plan.  (I would’ve sent invitations, but I didn’t really consider it a party and the idea came to me kid of last minute.)  I would purchase 13 pink roses.  Each guest would arrive between 7 and 8 pm bringing one rose and a card or letter of blessing.  Cake and ice cream would be served promptly at 8 pm.  I knew that some friends had prior commitments for that evening and may not be able to participate so I asked for RSVPS’s to make sure all 12 would be present.  Amazingly, every friend but one was able to make adjustments to the schedule and participate in honoring Abigail.

On Abigail’s special day, we celebrated as we celebrate each birthday--donuts in bed.  Along with the donuts, Abigail found a small gift on her tray—a fancy green key to our home on a cool key chain.  This has become a traditional gift for 13th birthdays.  It is more symbolic than practical, but as the girls get older they sometimes have need of a key after a babysitting job.  It’s our way of saying, “You are responsible.”

In the afternoon, Abigail and I went to Starbucks for a surprise meeting with Miss Kelly, a young woman who sings on the worship team with Abigail and the one of the 13 special friends who was unable to attend our evening celebration. She presented Abigail with a pink rose tied with a ribbon and bought her a Passion Fruit Tea Lemonade.  The three of us chatted together for about 20 minutes and then Miss Kelly had to go back to work.

While Abigail and I were at Starbucks, two of my older daughters baked and frosted a cake, shined the bathroom, and delivered the roses to Abigail’s friends.  Some of the roses were delivered to the church, a central location for others to pick them up, and some to friends in the neighborhood and surrounding area.  When we arrived home, the house was completely ready for a surprise celebration.

Dad came home from work and presented Abigail with a pink rose—tied with the same ribbon.  Abigail remarked how it was the same ribbon as Miss Kelly’s, but didn’t catch on.  Dinner was Abigail’s choice, taco salad, and then she opened her presents from the family.  Just as we were finishing, the first guest arrived, followed quickly by the next friend.  By the third rose presented by the third friend, Abigail had caught on.  For the next hour, friends, siblings and parents arrived, one family at a time, until at 8 pm we all sang and she blew out the candles on the traditional Moore Family Birthday Cake.  (Recipe)

The celebration was a success.  Our sweet daughter enjoyed our special time together as a family.  She was also quite surprised and honored by her friends’ presence and their sweet words of life to her.  Daughter honored and surprised.  Mission accomplished.

 

Post a comment and tell us about a special birthday celebration in your family

The Blessing of Teen Daughters

Our parenting goal has always been to raise children who love God with all their heart, mind, and soul; however, each phase of a child’s life is unique and requires different parenting skills to achieve that goal.  Whether or not you choose to use the label of “teenager,” the ages with the word “teen” are years of enormous change, growth and development.  In our home, it has been a joyous time of great blessing and precious memories.  Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past seven years, but most apply to any age: Parenting Daughters Find joy in who she is. Focus on her good traits. Pray for her weaknesses. Make memories. Mentally record her laugh. Do it her way, sometimes. Ask if she wants help. Declare your love. Always respond with kindness. Spend quality time together. Compliment her often. Expect the best. Drink in her smile. Kiss her goodnight. Listen. Gently guide her. Share her excitement. Try something new. Be silly. Hug her tightly. Value her opinions. Enjoy her company. Tackle a challenge together. Encourage her attempts. Listen more. Take lots of pictures. Correct her privately. Think outside of the box. Speak respectfully. Dream together. Treasure the beauty of today. Trust God with the future.

By:  Joy Moore, Copyright 2011

Modest Swimsuits: 2011 Edition

The spring swim wear search is on and I can tell that I’m not alone.  The stats on my website show that there is a lot of interest in the article on modest swim wear that I posted in May of 2010.  Here is an update on what is available for the summer of 2011: There are many more modest swimwear choices available online than there were just two years ago.  In fact, some sites offer suits that cover everything but your face—a little too modest for my taste.  My search is for suits that match our standards for daily living in regards to neckline, tightness and length; though I admit some swim skirts are slightly shorter than than I would allow for a daily wardrobe.

Stitchin’ Times This is still my first choice for modest swim wear.  Last May I posted our experience with suits we’ve purchased over the years.   Last spring we ordered two of the new two piece design—tank dress over swim panties.  The dress sizes ran pretty true, but the swim panties ran about a size larger.  Next time I’ll order a size smaller than the dress I order.  The dress was fully lined, as I requested, and the quality of the sewing was even better than previous years.  Of the two swim dresses, one was made of fabric that seemed to have more nylon in it and it has certainly worn well.  The other dress seemed to be made of lighter-weight fabric and only made it through the end of last season.  I really wish there was some way to gauge the durability of the fabric before ordering.  Overall, the dress is the most practical pattern for fun swimming or a day at the beach; however it is not practical for serious swimming.

Land’s End I’ve purchased suits from Land’s End for more than 15 years.  Unfortunately, Land’s End quality is not what it used to be.  This year you’ll find some new swim dresses which give more coverage on the bottom, but not nearly enough on top, in my opinion.  I did notice a high waist swim mini, a swim skort and low-cut board shorts as options for bottoms, but there were no tops that I felt offered enough coverage.  I suppose you could purchase a one-piece tank and then put the bottoms over top—while you swim or even after you swim.  This may be the best modest suit option for the active swimmer.

Swim Modest I mentioned last year that we had enjoyed the Swim Modest suits we’ve ordered in the past.  Although the suits are available in girls’ or women’s sizes, I think these suits are best suited to younger girls who are frequently in and out of the pool or ocean or young women who aren’t self-conscious about their thighs.  I was able to use most suits for two years.

Here are some other off-the-beaten-path websites that I discovered this year.  I haven’t ordered from these sites, but they offer alternative styles and a variety of fabrics for reasonable prices.

CL Swim Designs (Christian Living Swim Designs) Some very cute designs for girls!  I particularly like the tank top and cap sleeve options with the swim bikini with the skirt cover up.  (I think I would request the skirt be made slightly longer.)  Unfortunately, they do not offer adult sizes.

Hydrochic Stylish women’s swim wear–for a price.  Their swim shirts—short sleeves or ¾ sleeves  only—are all quite unique.  For bottoms, they offer both long and short skirts as well as swim pants.  Sizes range from XS adult to 3X adult.

Sewn By Di For a more economical option, try these custom suits for girls, teens, and women up to 5X, including nursing and maternity suits.  Customers can choose the type of sleeves and length of both skirt and leggings as well as fabric.  Though there is no online store for purchase, you can place an order by email.

Dressing for His Glory These patterns are a little more traditional than the other sites I mentioned.  Separates include jumpers, shirts, t-shirts, culottes and swim skorts for girls and women (petite, tall, and women’s sizes).  All available fabrics are solid colors.

Meant to be Modest Another choice for a modest swim dress!  They only have one pattern, but so many choices of fabrics.  Seller will adjust skirt and legging length by request but requires that knees be covered by either skirt or leggings.  Sizes range from 2T to women’s XL.

Some of the suppliers above have ready-made inventory, but most custom make suits to your specifications.  Be sure to order soon so your suit will be ready when the pool opens!

NOTE: The companies listed above are not relationally or financially connected in any way to Daughters4God.

The Blessing of Technology Boundaries: Three Key Principles for Christian Parents

After I posted the article on technology in the January newsletter, Covenant Eyes asked if I would write a guest blow.  It may sound familiar, since some portions are based on the January newsletter, however the majority of the article has never been published on our site. Read the article on the Covenant Eyes blog...

Help Your Child Develop a Prayer Life

Many Christian parents want to pass on their faith to their children. We are no different; we want our girls to have a vibrant relationship with the God who loves them so much.  That relationship is built through spending quiet time in God's presence, reading His love letter the Bible, and communicating with Him through prayer. Like any goal, it doesn’t happen by accident; it requires a plan of action. In our home, we have used different strategies for different ages.

PRESCHOOL 

It’s never too early to introduce your daughter to the power of prayer. Preschoolers are capable of praying more than “God is great; God is good.”  When my youngest was only two, we visited a 99-year-old saint who attended my church when I was a young girl. During our visit, we had a time of prayer. Each of us placed our hand on this precious prayer warrior and offered a prayer of blessing. The last to pray was the 2-year-old who babbled something incomprehensible. The woman was moved to tears that such a young child would pray for her. Here are some to introduce your preschooler to prayer:

  1. Explain that prayer, talking to Jesus, is like talking to their friends.
  2. Remind them that God hears every prayer they pray.
  3. Give them opportunity to pray from their heart. If they have trouble thinking of anything, start off with “Thank you, God, for...” and let them fill in the blank.
  4. Pray before each meal--even at restaurants.  This lets them know that God is important no matter who is watching.
  5. Make a prayer book. Place pictures of your family, friends, pastors, missionaries, etc. in an inexpensive photo album. As you flip through the book, your daughter can pray with you or repeat after you: “God bless____________.” Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this while my girls were preschoolers.

ELEMENTARY 

When our girls were old enough to read on their own, I made them a prayer card that doubled as a bookmark in their Bible. This simple tool helped our daughters develop their own prayer life. You can make this card on a computer, but these directions are for doing it the old-fashioned way, by hand. Be sure to write clearly and print unless your daughter can read cursive. Here’s how to make a prayer card for your daughter:

  1.  Choose a 3×5 card, with or without lines. Look for one in your daughter’s favorite color or use a white card and make it colorful with markers or stickers.
  2. Begin on a side with no lines. Hold the card in a vertical position with the longest side going from top to bottom. Begin by listing names of your family, one name per line: Ex. Dad, Mom, brothers, sisters, grandparents, other close family members.
  3. Next, (on the same side) list pastors, missionaries, teachers, or others in authority.
  4. Lastly, include things on the heart of your child like a friend who is ill. My oldest daughter included the country of China because she felt called to missions at a very young age.
  5. The opposite side is for your daughter. Choose one or two character traits that your daughter needs to work on. (ex. honesty, diligence, contentment) List the positive trait and a Bible verse about that trait. For example, if you need to work on truthfulness, then you may want to copy Psalm 34:13. If you’re struggling with diligence, you could copy Proverbs 10:4. Each day your daughter can read the verse and pray that God would change her heart. If your daughter reads the scripture each day for several weeks, she’ll memorize it without any trouble.

Of course, the card will not be accurate forever and will have to be updated every 3-6 months. Involve your daughter as you make changes. Pray together about which trait(s) your daughter needs to develop and encourage her as you see growth in her character.

UPPER ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL 

Encourage your daughter to begin a prayer journal. Many Christian and non-Christian bookstores carry bound books with lined or unlined blank pages or create your own with a 3-ring binder and dividers. Here are some suggestions to help your daughter prepare her journal:

  1.   Use a prayer plan like ACTS: Adoration – telling God how great He is Confession – repenting for what you’ve done wrong Thanksgiving – thanking God for His blessings Supplication – bringing your requests to God Prayer isn’t a laundry list of requests; it’s about building a relationship.
  2. Make a list of daily prayer requests, similar to the list above or help your daughter divide the requests: Monday for Missionaries, Tuesday for neighbors and those who are sick,  Wednesdays for Pastors, Thursday for family, Friday for Friends, Saturday for School.
  3. Make a chart for prayer requests, include a space for the date you begin to pray for the request, the date it was answered, and the answer. Seeing so many answers to prayer will grow your daughter’s faith.
  4. Record the scripture you read each day. Write one sentence summarizing the scripture in your own words and one sentence about how it applies to your life.
  5. Write your prayers to God. Encourage your daughter to write her feelings, reminding her that written words should be respectful and represent only what she would speak to others.
  6. Listen to God. In my own journal, I record my thoughts and prayers in cursive writing and what God is impressing on my heart in all caps.  Later, I can easily look back and focus on God's encouragement to me.  Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue.

Prayer is such a key part of a relationship with our God. The earlier we teach our children about prayer, the earlier they establish that vital spiritual discipline.  Earlier is better, but it's never too late to start.  If your child is older, model to them the importance of prayer by praying before meals, talking about how God has answered prayer, and offering to pray with them about challenging situations in their life.  My dear mother prayed blessings over us each day just before we walked out the door to get on the bus.  And of course, pray for your child and ask God to give them a desire to be in relationship with Him.

These are just a few ideas God showed us to teach our daughters about prayer.  Ask the Creator of creativity to show you how to best reach the heart of your daughter and help her develop a vibrant and powerful prayer life.  I'd love to hear ideas from your family about how you have taught your children about prayer!

Cooking Birthday Party for Girls

Every birthday is special, but our older two girls especially looked forward to their tenth birthday-- the first time they were able to have a sleepover.  For various reasons, Harold and I chose to discontinue sleepovers altogether and start a new tradition for our third daughter's tenth birthday party.  (We don’t do parties every year, so this was a big deal.)  I asked God for creativity, and He gave me the idea to have a Cooking Birthday Party.  We invited ten girls, ages 9-11, for the party that started at 11 am and ended about 3 pm. Invitations

Option 1:  Use recipe cards with the following handwritten information:  the title “Cooking Birthday” as well as who it’s for, date, time, location, address and RSVP.  The recipe card should easily fit into an envelope for personal correspondence.  Purchase extra cards and envelopes and use them for thank you notes.

Option 2:  If you have some computer skills you can design your own invitation by importing a photo of the birthday girl or some still life reflecting cooking.  Be sure to include the same information I mentioned above.  Print the invitation on cardstock to give it a little weight.  (You can buy individual sheets at an office supply store.)  I recommend designing two to a sheet, cutting the page in half (either direction) and folding the invitation in half.  Send them in invitation-sized envelopes.

Preparations

Preparations for each activity are listed below.  I set up “stations” in the locations listed, including all the supplies and instructions I needed.  If I planned more than one activity at the same location, I had a basket with instructions and supplies for each activity, including an empty basket to hold the supplies from the first activity.  I also set the table in the dining room where we’d be eating.  Careful, advanced preparations will make for smooth transitions during the party.

Decorations

I kept it simple since most of the budget went to the party activities.  We chose blue paper plates and napkins that coordinated with the invitation.  The activities for the party kept us in different rooms, but we decorated the dining room with blue and white helium balloons.  Fresh flowers would be a nice touch.

Activities

As guests arrive, each girl put on an apron with her name written on the tag and made a chef’s hat. Make a chef’s hat at the kitchen table (15 mins.) Before the party:  I cut the white posterboard into strips, according to the directions, and collected the white tissue paper.  I had the tape and paper clips available.  I also had a stapler, just in case. During the party:  As the girls arrived, I explained to each one how to make the hat.  Anna helped the others, since she had already made her hat.  The girls can chat while you put the supplies in an empty basket and wipe off the table.

Prepare lasagna at the kitchen counter (30 mins)

Before the party:  Gather all the supplies you’ll need, including ingredients, measuring utensils, a large bowl, and a lasagna recipe using no-bake noodles.  Be sure leave enough time to defrost frozen hamburger.  Purchase aluminum foil loaf pans, one for each girl’s lasagna.  Use a permanent marker to label each pan with a guest’s name. During the party:  Of course you’ll want the girls to start by washing their hands.  Explain to them that preparing a meal is an important responsibility for a wife and mother and that today we’re going to practice.  I had the girls take turns measuring, preparing and adding ingredients to make both the meat and the cheese portions.  I allowed each girl to assemble their own lasagna.  (Make sure they have the pan with their name on it.)  The lasagnas baked on a cookie sheet while we did the next activity.

Blindfold the Cook at the kitchen table(30 mins.) Before the party:  Locate a blindfold, sleeping mask or bandana.  Also have available a large spoon, a timer (you can use the stove timer) and two bowls, one with a bag of large marshmallows.  (Save some for consumption.) During the party: We followed the directions, however we opted not to eat the marshmallows that had been used in the game since many hands had touched them!  I suppose you could set a rule that you can’t touch the marshmallows, but scooping them is harder than it looks.

Eat Lunch in the dining room (30 mins) Before the party:  Set the table.  Prepare a simple salad and slice some bread. During the party:  Serve the individual lasagna on each girl’s plate.  Serve the salad and bread family style.   I also had a pitcher of water on the table.  The girls can toss their paper plates, forks, knives, and the foil containers when they’re finished, but have them keep their cups for dessert.  While the girls are eating, prepare the kitchen table and other surfaces for decorating the aprons.

Decorate the Apron kitchen table (45 mins.) Before the party:  I purchased aprons in bulk from a warehouse club.  Then, I purchase several colors of fabric paint.  I think I had 3 or 4 at the most.  Mixing paints is not recommended with that many girls.  I collected my shaped sponges, paint brushes, and pencils to draw designs.  I collected some old t-shirts and had enough newspaper to cover the table.  (I removed the kitchen chairs with fabric seats.  I needed them in the dining room any way!) During the party:  I reminded the girls that the paint was NOT washable, asked them to wear a t-shirt and then let them be creative.  Since it’s been five years since I did this party, I’m a little fuzzy on how we fit all the girls and their aprons in my kitchen!   You may need to work in shifts.

Open Gifts (30 mins.) This is the easiest part!  No preparation!

Decorate Cupcakes on the kitchen counter (30 mins.) Before the party:  I baked cupcakes the day before the party so they would be completely cool. During the party:  I bought one color of frosting, some sprinkles, and a few small bags of candies like Skittles.  When the girls were finished, they took their cupcake to the dining room.

Cake time in the dining room (30 mins.) During the party: While the girls were decorating, I cleared the table, set clean paper plates, and poured waters in their cups.   When everyone was at the table, the girls ate their cupcakes together.

Party Favors

Of course, the apron is the party favor.  (Remind them to be careful because the paint will probably still be a little wet when they transport it home.)  My budget was spent, but you could also include a wooden spoon, utensils from a dollar store or a cookie cutter.  If I remember correctly, we sent a recipe card with the lasagna recipe in our thank you note.

Best of All

I believe this is a way to remind our daughters to be keepers at home.  It’s good to teach our daughters that cooking healthy meals is an important part of their responsibility as a wife and mother.  Practicing their skills in the kitchen helps them to feel more confident and having the apron somehow makes them feel a little more “official.”

Technology: Guarding Hearts and Minds

The speed of changing technology is mind boggling.  In the 80’s, my first computer experience included a boot up disc.  In the 90’s our girls played with an outdated Apple computer (Yes, I mean Apple.) and we bought our first family computer with 5 gigabytes of memory for Harold’s start up business.  In the 2000’s, internet and cell phones became necessities for doing business.  Today, I am typing this post on a laptop and some of you will be reading it on your smartphone that is significantly smaller and holds 10 times the memory of my first computer.  What an incredible evolution!  What an incredible responsibility… Though technology has changed at nearly the speed of light, I believe that it’s difficult for us parents to follow at the same pace.  Yes, I own a laptop, I communicate to friends through email (but that’s not my only form of communication), I navigate the web with little difficulty (especially when it comes to shopping =D) and I do text my daughters--but somehow I’m still not as skilled as my girls.  I once read an article that explained my lack, suggesting that the language of technology is a primary language for our children.  They’ve grown up with it.  Most parents have had to learn along the way and some of us are better than others at learning languages.  It totally made sense to me and explained why my then 6-year-old knew how to change my desktop and screen saver and I hadn’t a clue and why my 19-year-old had to help me learn how to subscribe to itunes podcasts and import my digital pictures.  I’m learning and progressing, mind you, but no matter how much I know about my computer it is certain that one of the girls knows more.

Computers can do some amazing things.  In the past month, the girls and I have used our computers to shop for gifts, research fibromyalia and identify blue delphinium, create a powerpoint presentation,email missionary friends in Spain, listen to a podcast from a church in California, Skype a friend in China, listen to music, get directions, design advertising pieces that will be printed in a local woman’s magazine, and of course, type and send this newsletter to hundreds of subscribers.

However, computers are a tool that can be used for good or for evil.  There are a lot of sites on the internet that are dangerous to my children’s lives and souls.  A few years back, one grieving mother came to me at a homeschool convention asked for prayer for her then 11-year-old who had inadvertently accessed pornography while visiting grandma. (She gave me permission to share her story.)  With the click of a mouse, not only can you access pornography, but I’m told you can find out how to build a bomb, how to commit suicide, why the Bible isn’t true, and so many more facts and opinions that fly in the face of our faith.  As parents, it is our responsibility to protect our children as they learn to use technology responsibly.  Sure, we can choose not to incorporate technology into our lives because it’s too dangerous, but using an oven or stove is dangerous, too.  Instead of relegating our cooking to the microwave, we teach our children about safety, supervise them, and give them opportunities to use the oven or stove within safe boundaries.  The same process works for the internet.

As parents, it is our responsibility to set boundaries and protect our children as they learn how to use technology so that they will learn to make wise choices when given that opportunity.  When our girls were very young, they had very limited access to computer games and no access to internet unless they were watching me or their dad.  Toward the end of elementary school, we still used computer games but we also began to incorporate the computer and typing skills into school assignments.  They still had no access to internet, email or Facebook.  Somewhere around middle school, we began to make use of computers as a research tool.  Instead of purchasing some security suite, I used the Windows program to change security

settings that limited their internet sites to only those that I had unlocked with a password.  (How to change internet security settings in Windows )  It can be annoying to repeatedly enter your password on certain sites, but the alternative of having my child wander the web alone is just not an option.

When Harold and I agree that a daughter has moral character, is responsible, obedient and is making wise choices more than foolish ones, we consider expanding the boundaries.  For instance, she may get an email address if there is a need.  (Anna got one last year when she was fourteen so she could communicate about her ministry, Blessing Wells.  Abigail still doesn’t have one, but has 5 or 6 penpals that she communicates with by snail mail.)  Our computers have a high security filter and are subscribed to Covenant Eyes, which doesn’t block sites but compiles all web usage and sends a bi-weekly report to accountability partners you choose.  A daughter must always ask permission to use the family computer.  If she needs to do research for school, I may allow her to use my laptop alone while I’m in the room occasionally walking behind her.  She and I both know that all of her activity will be logged and the report will be sent to our very good friend and to one of our pastors.  When she has proven herself faithful, I may extend her time on the internet—for destinations, not just for wandering.  If at any time we see a negative change in character and behavior, the privilege of using the computer is revoked.

What if a child owns their own computer?  Two of our daughters have made such an investment when they were about sixteen.  They may own their own laptops, but they must still abide by the boundaries we’ve set.  I still have permission to hold them accountable to the amount of time they spend on the computer.  I know all passwords for their computers.  Their computers are subscribed to Covenant Eyes. If they aren’t sure about the name of the website, they don’t enter it in the address line; they Google search it instead.  The girls give out their email only to good friends and don’t email or instant message or Skype guys without permission.  At any time, Harold and I have the right to read any of their email—not because we’re nosey or distrust our daughters but this would be necessary if we observed them making choices that cause us concern.

Today we continue to protect our family by setting boundaries, using the security suite that comes with our internet provider and by subscribing to Covenant Eyes.  My husband also has an app for his phone that reports web usage.  We are doing our best to set an example of being responsible and accountable in our use of technology, because you’re never too old to be responsible or accountable.  Let this be the year you make a plan, set some boundaries, and choose to guard the hearts and minds of your family.

Four Ways to Help Daughters Dream Big Dreams

Anna isn’t afraid to dream big dreams; dreams that will only become reality through the supernatural power of our magnificent God.  What seems to be impossible is a challenge she readily accepts; her faith is keeping me on my toes. D4G:  Tell me about Blessing Wells International.

Anna:  It is an organization I started to raise money to provide clean water for the people of Africa.  I first thought of Blessing Wells about two months before my thirteenth birthday.  I didn’t want to be selfish so I decided that I didn’t want to receive any birthday presents.  I wanted to give back to the people of Africa.  I wanted to make a difference and help the people of Africa survive and live without diseases and to have clean water.

I also wanted to give other people the opportunity to help build a well on a more personal level.  Even though they give in a small way, it makes a big difference.  Without other people I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.

D4G:  What was your first goal?

Anna:  My first goal was to build a family well in one year.  I achieved that goal and raised $750 in about 11 months.  I partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to be a part of a well project in the mountains of Sudan.

D4G:  How do you raise money?

Anna:  I take donations, I’ve sold candy, but mostly I design and make sterling silver and gold-filled jewelry.  I started with simple earrings and now I’m doing single strand necklaces and bracelets.  At first my mom helped me, but now I do all the work myself.  I’m learning wirework and hoping to make rings in the near future.

D4G:  How do you choose your designs?

Anna:  God.  I go to the bead shop and God shows me.  God definitely helps me choose the beads and things.

D4G:  Where do you sell your jewelry?

Anna:  I sell my jewelry at flea markets and personally to people at my church.  I’m hoping to set up an online store soon.

D4G:  What message do you have for other girls your age?

Anna:  Do hard things and make difference.  You’re never too young to do something important.  You don’t have to wait until you’re a certain age to do something important.  After I started Blessing Wells, I read the book, Do Hard Things (by:  Alex and Brett and Harris) and it really encouraged me that I’m not the only one who is working hard to make a difference.

D4G:  What is your current goal and how long do you think it will take to achieve it?

Anna:  My current goal is to raise $6,000 to fund a community well by the time I graduate from high school in June, 2014.  I am still in the process of looking at different organizations to partner with, but my goal is to find one where I remain anonymous.  I would love to help build the well, but I don’t want my name on it or any other special treatment.  It’s God working through me and not just me.  We’re just God’s vessels anyway.

A Note to Parents:

If your daughter has a dream that seems bigger than life:

  1. Resist the temptation to shoot it down. It may seem completely illogical and impossible, but pray about whether it is a dream from God.  If it is something on His heart, look for opportunities to partner with her.
  2. Be creative and look for connections.  The flea market at our church has been a great way for Anna to market her products.  Consider partnering with people or organizations that are already doing what your daughter wants to do.  It’s a safe way to find out how invested she is in the dream.
  3. Use the network you have. You don’t have to do everything; find some friends who are experts in what she needs to know or to do.  One of my friends designed a brochure, a business card, and a website for Blessing Wells so Anna could advertise.
  4. Look for teachable moments. I allowed her to host a jewelry party in our home so that she could start launch her collection.  It was a great opportunity for her to practice her public speaking skills. Helping make the jewelry was one way I could support her, but as soon as she was old enough, we took a jewelry class together so she could improve her skills and work independently.

While Blessing Wells International has required thought, planning, time, and investment on Anna’s part and some encouragement and work on my part, I am certain that the blessings for God’s children in Africa far exceed the little we have given.  I am grateful to have the privilege to partner with God and with my daughter to dream big dreams and to bless His Kingdom.

 

Reflections on Purity Weekend

It’s over and I survived.   All of my girls know about “the birds and the bees” and I lived to tell the tale.  A few weeks ago, I took my youngest daughter on “Purity Weekend”--my fourth and last.  You’d think I’d have felt relieved, but I found my feelings to be different. When we started the tradition of Purity Weekend with our oldest daughter, I was insecure, uncertain, and fearful.  How will I know when she’s ready?  How will I know when I’m ready?  What if I say something wrong?  What if I forget something?  I recognized the need to inform my daughter about the creation of new life, but I felt completely unprepared.  Since I was raised in a very modest home, this topic wasn’t discussed and the thought of having such personal discussions made me quite uncomfortable.  After much research, I collected some resources and planned the special event.  It was a great success.

As I prepared for our third daughter’s Purity Weekend, God impressed me to write a collection of information and object lessons to help parents inform their daughter about purity, sexuality and courtship.  The Gift of Purity:  Letters to a Daughter About Guarding Her Heart was released in April, 2009.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this resource, here is a short diary of how we used The Gift of Purity for Abigail’s Purity Weekend.

The week before the event I made an invitation for Abigail, telling her of the dates of her Purity Weekend and time we would be leaving.  I kept the location, the topics, and my planned activities a surprise.  Although it would’ve been great to mail the invitation, I ended up sliding it under her door.  With tears running down her cheeks she ran down the stairs and hugged me, hardly believing that the day had finally come.

When the big day arrived, Abigail and I loaded the van, said our good-byes.  As we drove, I hinted around a bit and then asked her if she wanted to get her ears pierced—something she had been anxiously awaiting for several years.  She was ecstatic and a little nervous, but so excited when she saw the results.  After dinner we checked into our oceanfront hotel at the beach (a great deal on Expedia).  She was overwhelmed by the ocean view.  We got settled in and then sat outside on the balcony as we completed the first section entitled, “Purity,” defining purity using biblical standards.  Abigail enjoyed the “Purity Point” object lesson demonstrating that you can’t identify pure water by sight alone.  We closed in prayer as together we dedicated each part of our body to our Lord and Savior.

Our Father gave us the beautiful gift of a clear morning and a glorious sunrise.  We completed the second section of letters about God’s creation of intimacy in marriage and the object lesson demonstrating the power of sexual intimacy to tie two people together.  We finished with some warnings of how Satan tries to pervert God’s precious gift.  The sunny day beckoned us out of the hotel room and we walked several blocks to a little restaurant serving a great breakfast buffet and some gigantic chocolate chip pancakes.  As we walked back to the restaurant, we visited a few shops and crossed a few things off our Christmas shopping list.

Back at the hotel, we began the last section of The Gift of Purity, entitled "Courtship."  Abigail was sad when she realized it was the last section.  We talked about the difference between courtship and dating and why her dad and I had chosen courtship as the process to discover her spouse.  The "Purity Point" object lesson reminded her that giving away a kiss is giving away a little of her purity.  When we concluded, she joyfully agreed to abide by the process of courtship and signed the Commitment to Courtship.

Now it was time for some fun!  We drove to a local spa where I had scheduled an appointment for a manicure.  The spa was lovely and her technician made her feel like a pampered princess.  Her first professional manicure, it was a memorable experience for one who wants to study cosmetology.  We returned to our hotel just in time to change our clothes and freshen up before dinner.

Abigail and I decided to take pictures on the boardwalk before going to dinner.  Actually, I decided that because it was a set up for Abigail.  I told her we'd ask someone to take our picture together, so I called to a man nearby, "Sir, could you please take our picture?"  Abigail immediately recognized her father, the would-be photographer.  Surprise and joy in her heart brought tears to her eyes.  For several moments, she was completely still in her daddy’s embrace and then together we drove to our dinner destination.

Over dinner we talked of courtship and the commitment Abigail and I had just signed.  Harold reminded her of her preciousness and presented her with a lovely purity ring.  Again, tears swelled in her eyes as Dad slipped it on her finger.  The three of us continued our celebration.  Abigail repeatedly looked at her manicure and the lovely ring on her finger—I’m not sure which one she liked more!  Dad returned home after dinner while Abigail and I stayed at the hotel one more night.  Neither of us wanted it to end.  Following a relaxing night of sleep, we gathered our belongings, checked out of the hotel, and arrived at home in time for our Saturday morning pancake breakfast.

Purity Weekend is over, but every one of the girls has mentioned that they want to go again.  I’ve told them that there isn’t anything else I have to tell them, but they insist it doesn’t matter.  According to my four delightful daughters, the best part is just being together.  I enjoyed the time as much as they did.  Maybe I’ll start another tradition.

A Lesson Plan to Teach Time Management

Introduction for Parents

Since the girls were quite small, we have tried to teach them to be good stewards of their money.  A few years back, God showed me that He was just as concerned with how we steward another commodity—our time.  He has given us the precious gift of 24 hours to spend each day.  Truly our time is not our own.  When we choose to follow Christ as Lord, we also choose to surrender everything we have to our Savior—our time, talent, money, dreams, future.  As parents, it is our responsibility to help our children make wise, God-honoring choices about how to use their time.

This brief lesson is designed to be used with children ages 8-14 years old.  I believe it will be most effective when you make it your own by using personal examples or applications to your own family.

Budgeting Time

Many people use a budget to help them plan what to do with the money God has given them.  God wants us to be responsible with what He gives us.  People make budgets to determine how much money to tithe, give, spend, save, and invest based on their priorities.

In the same way, God wants us to be responsible with the 24 hours that He gives us each day.  A schedule helps us budget our time and determine how to use the minutes and hours of the day based on our priorities.  Neither a budget nor a schedule is a permanent law set in stone.  Both can be adjusted temporarily or revised, if necessary, so you may want to write in pencil so you can easily make changes.  Print this schedule worksheet and use it to make your own schedule.  Here are some ideas of what to include on your schedule:

Tithing Time

A tithe means, “tenth.”  In the book of Genesis, Abraham gave God a tenth of his possessions. The Bible doesn’t ask us to give a tithe of our time, but the same principle works.  All of our time belongs to God, but He asks us to spend it in certain ways.  God desires us to spend time in church with our Christian family celebrating our God.  God also desires that we have a “date” with him, spending time in His presence praying and hearing His voice.  Most of us aren’t spending a tithe of our hours with God, but God hasn’t required that of us.  He wants us to regularly spend time with Him and with His people.

On your schedule:  Label blocks when you are at church for worship service, Sunday School, or other activities, including travel time.  Also label blocks for family worship or devotions.

Spending Time

When we make choices about what to do and how long to do it, we are spending time.  When we aren’t doing anything or just playing outside, we are still spending time.  A schedule is helpful because it keeps us focused and accountable to do what is most important.   Some things on a schedule are necessities, like going to school, doing homework, doing chores, participating in activities, or even daily hygiene.  When you’re an adult you’ll have other necessities on your schedule like work, laundry, or homeschooling your children.  On your schedule:  Label blocks for daily hygiene, chores, school, and any activities (ex. sports, dance, music lessons) you participate in.  Ask your parents to help you determine how many blocks to label for sleep.

Giving Time

God has promised to provide for our needs and often He provides more than we need.  Sometimes God gives us abundance to bless us and other times God provides extra so we can give to others.  God’s Word says to “consider one another’s interests ahead of your own.” (Phil. 2:10)  Our priorities should not focus only on ourselves.  God desires that His children live as a family by sharing, giving, and preferring each other.  He also commands us to feed the hungry and care for those in need.   At this stage of your life, you probably don’t have a lot of money to give, but you can give your time.

Talk with your parents about the opportunities available in your church and community and how you might be able to serve as a family.  Babysit for free for a family in the church or neighborhood.  Some communities have soup kitchens or distribute food through the local Food Bank.  Some churches have a ministry to the elderly who aren’t able to come to church.  Volunteer to serve in the children’s department at church so parents can be in service.  Pray with your parents about what would be the best option for you and your family.  On your schedule:  Label blocks on your schedule for the area(s) that you plan to give your time.

Saving Time

Time is a limited commodity.  You may get a raise and make more money, but no one on this earth can make more time.  The only way to have more time is to use it more efficiently.  Believe it or not, there are companies hired for the specific purpose of saving people time.  These companies collect and analyze information about how people use their time and then make recommendations for how the time could be used more efficiently.

You don’t have to hire a company to save time.  Take a good look at your schedule to find ways to save time and conserve motion.  For instance, it is probably a better use of your time to do all of your chores in one block of time than to do chores in short segments throughout the day.  Before you start school or homework, sharpen a pencil, gather your books, notebooks and any other supplies you’ll need.  This will help you work with fewer interruptions.  Taking your dishes to the sink after a meals takes less time and energy than leaving the table and then going back to get your dishes.  At the end of the day, hang up your clothes if they’re clean or put them wherever you keep your dirty clothes.  This takes less time and energy than putting your clothes on the floor and later picking them up and putting them away.

One of the most effective ways to save time is to stay organized.  When everything has a home, it is easier to put things away and locate them when you need them.  This will eliminate or at least decrease the time you spend searching for something you need.  You can save minutes a day by changing some habits and being organized.   On your schedule:  You can’t really label a block for saving time, but you can consider the suggestions above and choose one or two that you will add to your schedule.  If you are challenged in the area of organization, you may want to add a block or two of time to work on organizing one area of your life—school, room, closet, or other area.

Margin

You may be familiar with the word margin from assignments you’ve had in school.  Margin is the white space around the words on a page--basically the space that isn’t occupied.  Margins are important in writing because they allow people to easily read the content on the page.  If every space is filled, it would be confusing.  The same holds true for your schedule.  It must have some margin, unoccupied space, in case something unexpected happens or you just need some time to relax.  Margin also allows you to do your best without feeling rushed and pressured to move on to the next thing.

Take a look at your schedule.  If all of your blocks are filled, you need to make some adjustments and find some margin.  Talk with your parents about what might need to be adjusted or eliminated.  You may want to add margin or overestimate travel time to allow for the possibility of traffic and still arrive on time at your destination.

If all of your blocks aren’t filled, that’s ok!  The goal isn’t to fill all of the boxes.  The goal is to make time for all of the things that are valuable to God and to you.  Any square that isn’t filled is like having extra spending money.  Ask God to show what to do with your extra time.  On your schedule:  Label any margin blocks.  Make adjustments to your schedule, as needed.  You may have empty blocks that you’ll fill in the future.

Making the schedule was the easy part; now you need to fine tune it.  Live with the schedule and see what works and what doesn’t work.  If you’re feeling rushed in some area, try to shift the schedule a bit to make a little more time.  (You can divide the blocks to make smaller segments.)  If you consistently finish an activity with time to spare, you may want to shorten the block of time for that particular activity.  Activities may come and go.  Use your schedule to help you avoid the overcommittment syndrome—having more activities than you have hours in the day.

One schedule doesn’t last forever.  It is helpful to start with a new worksheet at least once a year and make a new schedule.  Take time to reevaluate priorities as well as the amount of time spent in each activity.  No matter how old you are, a schedule can help you be more productive and focused in what God has called you to do.

Homeschool Time Management

If you’re a homeschooling pro you probably have your own system for planning.  (A good system is anything that works well for you and your family.)  When I work with moms in my area, I find many who are homeschooling newbies who wonder how to make a schedule or others who label themselves as “organizationally challenged” who are looking for some ideas.  I’m not an expert, but over the past 14 years I’ve learned a lot about how to plan a homeschool schedule I can live with.  I don’t expect that the Moore family schedule will work perfectly for any other family, but I do hope that some of these ideas will help you better plan for the needs of your homeschool and your family.

PLANNING A CALENDAR FOR THE YEAR

Before I make a plan, I spend some time contemplating our current needs and our future needs.  After I’ve collected the information I can better put it onto a calendar and into a useable form.    When I am planning, I use 2 year-long calendar I’ve printed from the internet so I can see the whole year at a glance. (One calendar year from Sept. to Christmas and the next calendar year from Jan. to the end of school.)  When I’m recording the information and marking on the calendar, I find it easiest to plan using a block-style calendar so I have enough space to write.  Block-style calendar are available at discount dollar stores or you can print individual calendar pages from the internet.  Remember you’ll need a calendar page for every month of the school year which means 2 calendar years.  I make all my marks in pencil, since I often need to make adjustments or changes during the planning process.  Take a deep breath, grab a pencil and here we go…

Choosing Days Off

We seem to be able to focus best when we have regular breaks, short or long.  However, I find that I personally must have a regularly scheduled long break to do some deep cleaning and put the house back together.  (One week off every six weeks is ideal.)  We also take days off around holidays or when my children have scheduled breaks from activities such as piano lessons, dance or sports.  With that in mind, here are some questions to help you plan which days you plan not to do school.  As you make decisions about each area below, put an x over the date (on the block-style calendar) you’ve decided not to have school.

  1. Holidays—Which holidays will we take off?  How much time will I need for preparation (including cleaning, meal prep, laundry, shopping, etc.)  Our standard:  Labor Day, Wednesday before and Friday after Thanksgiving, 2 ½ to 3 weeks off at Christmas, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day
  2. Vacation—What time of the year is best for our family to take a vacation?  How much time will I need to prepare for the vacation (including shopping, laundry, packing, planning, etc.)  For years we vacationed during the first week of October—cooler weather, fewer tourists, and a more convenient time for our family and my husband’s work situation.  Since we started school in August, a vacation in October was a welcomed break.  Our standard:  One day off before we leave, one day off after we return (This is critical!  After many trips, I realize that I need a day to recover, unpack, and gear up for “normal” life.)
  3. Spring Break—Are my children involved in activities that are affected by the public school spring break schedule?  I found that when I scheduled a different week for our spring break and still had to take the children to activities, it didn’t feel like a break.  There is no right or wrong.  Choose whatever works best for your family.  Our standard:  Spring break based on activity schedules or children enrolled at the community college
  4. Field Trips—Field trip days count as school days in our school.  They aren’t days off, but they are certainly days that are a welcomed break in our normal routine.  I look at the curriculum and try to find activities that coordinate with what we’re learning, but our excursions don’t always line up with our curriculum.  A trip to Williamsburg or the science museum is always educational, no matter what we’re studying.  I generally schedule field trips between our longer breaks.  Our standard:  Between 5 and 10 field trip days a year
  5. Other breaks—When am I or my children less motivated to do school?  I find that January is almost always a tough school month for us—we’ve just had a long break, we’re inside, we’re halfway through school, but still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I increased our productivity by adding a winter break week or long weekend around President’s Day.  It gives us something to look forward to when we’re in the January doldrums.  You may also want to take days off when family comes to visit or if you have a special event for your family.  Our standard:  Winter break the week of President’s Day, spring break usually the week before or after Easter

Planning the First Semester and Determining the First Day of School

I begin with the end in mind.  Here’s my plan.  It may seem a little confusing, but stay with me.

  1. If you haven’t already, put an x on all the days you are not doing school, including the day you want to begin Christmas break.
  2. Determine how many weeks of school you want to finish before Christmas.
  3. Begin with the last day before Christmas break and count backwards, labeling each day you plan have school (ex. 5,4,3,2,1 Week 16; 5,4,3,2,1 Week 15, etc.) until you arrive at Week 1.  The first block of the school week will be labeled with both the week number and the day number.  Week 1 Day 1 is your first day of school.

Planning the Second Semester

Christmas is a real high point in our family so January seems like a bit of a downer, especially since we have to get back to school after a nice long break.  I find that my children are motivated to work when they know there’s a vacation day in the near future.  We finally found a rhythm that works best for our second semester—6 weeks on, one week off, 6 weeks on, one week off, 6 weeks on.  School’s finished!  Sometimes we have to flex a little based on Easter or spring break, but overall this plan works best.

  1. Determine the first day you’ll do school after Christmas break.  Label that day “Week (whatever you stopped at before break.) Day 1.
  2. Label each day you plan to have school with one number in each block (ex. Week __ 1,2,3,4,5; Week__ 1,2,3,4,5; etc.) until you have completed the number of weeks in your school year.  The last day you label is your last day of school.  We usually have 34 weeks of book work and 2 weeks (10 school days) of field trips.  I schedule 34 weeks of school and record the dates of the field trips to equal 36 weeks or 180 instructional days.

Schedule At-A-Glance

Now that my schedule is planned, I take all the information and transfer it into a form that shows me the plan at-a-glance.  Here is a sample of our school calendar.

PLANNING A DAILY SCHEDULE

When homeschooling several children who can read, it is helpful to have a list or schedule to follow and to record what work has been completed.  June is traditionally my planning month when I make weekly sheets with daily assignment grids for each child.  Sounds like a lot of work?  Not really when you consider that once my school year starts, it is turn-key since both they and I are aware of the daily expectations, my students stay on task much better, and I can reuse the schedule with the younger girls.

Daily Schedule for Elementary

Since I am a list person, I naturally love the grid system of planning and scheduling assignments.  When the girls were old enough to work independently, I made each of them an assignment book—a 3-prong folder with weekly grid pages that detailed their assignments.  Sometimes grids are left empty the student isn't able to do the assignment alone.  When each assignment is completed, the block is checked off, providing an easy way to keep track of completed work.   Here is a sample elementary school schedule.

Daily Schedule for Middle and High School

I continued the grid system for my oldest, but then realized that my second daughter was working at a different pace in some subjects.  With some changes and adjustments, I created a syllabus for each subject that included expectations and a grid of daily assignments and assignment due dates.  This way I can mix and match subject levels based on the student’s ability.  Here is a sample of a schedule for an upper level class.

Making Adjustments

When our oldest entered the community college as a dually-enrolled junior *(earning high school and college credit simultaneously), our schedule drastically changed.  Up until that point, my schedule was my own to plan and control.  About four weeks into the first semester I was planning our regular October vacation.  Victoria innocently looked at me and said, “I have class.  I guess I won’t be able to come with you.”  Needless to say, we rescheduled the vacation and I adjusted my schedule to mirror her breaks so that we could be together as a family.  I have no control over the college schedule, but I still have the flexibility to make a schedule that maximizes our family time.

The goal of any daily or yearly schedule is to make the best plan that best suits the needs of your family.  Over the years, that plan will change (after all, how many high school students still have nap time?!).  Our job as parents is to make adjustments and adaptations in the midst of a dynamic situation.

Maybe this is more organization that your world can handle.  That’s ok.  You don’t need to do it our way.  This is only one way to have a plan and keep your students accountable.  The truth is there are many days I could talk us all out of doing any school!  With a schedule, we are much more productive and I know that we’re staying on track and that we won’t be doing school in July.  May God bless you and direct you as you make a schedule for your family.

*Please note that I am not encouraging that every high school student be enrolled at the community college.  Each family must make decisions based on God’s plan for their family and its members.

Back-to-School Memories

Planning for school is quite a task—choosing curriculum, ordering books, purchasing supplies.  It takes a lot of time and thought.  My mother never homeschooled her five children, but her job to prepare us for school was just as challenging.  She had an incredibly organized system to accomplish that goal, but the process never took precedence over making each of us children feel special.
 
A TRADITION IS BORN

In early August we took inventory of our clothing.  Mom sat on the edge of my bed with notepad in hand, recording my needs with the most beautiful cursive writing.  Ours was an extremely frugal family and often my list was short since I had an older sister whose hand-me-downs supplied most of my wardrobe.  My sister was much taller than I and the clothes never fit perfectly, but Mom altered them often by ripping out the seams and remaking the garment using the worn material.  There was one exception and that was the outfit for the first day of school.  Mom always made sure that we had something new to wear.

Our first stop was the upstairs sewing room where we’d pour over boxes of patterns and stacks of fabric my mother had bought inexpensively at a local warehouse.  I’d choose a pattern and fabric for my new shirt, skirt, gauchos, or pants.  If the fabric inventory was low or mom didn’t have a pattern in my size, we went to the fabric store, sat side-by-side paging through pattern books, and searched the remnant table for the perfect piece of fabric.

A few weeks later, with list in hand, Mom and I went school shopping for the things she could not sew.  This was a highlight of my year!  With four siblings, I recognized the treasure of having Mom all to myself for a few hours.  We generally started at Kmart (before the Wal-Mart years) and purchased the “foundational garments” mom couldn’t make.  Sometimes we bought shoes but our family most often went to a friend’s store to purchase everyone’s shoes at the same time.  We bought new notebooks, folders, notebook paper, a new box of 64 Crayola crayons complete with sharpener (I still love the smell of those crayons!), and whatever else we needed that year—a lock for a locker, an assignment book, or a book bag (pre-backpack years).  When every item on the list had been crossed off, Mom let us pick out something special that we wanted.  Once I chose a set of watercolors.  Another time we got a treat from the Kmart food counter—cherry red Icees with pictures of polar bears on the cup.  When I came home with my bags of treasures, I presented them to my siblings and later to my dad when he got home from work.

Our shopping days changed a bit over the years.  When I was in eighth grade, we went to the outlets in Redding, PA.  The following year when I was in high school, there were only three children at home and money wasn’t quite as tight.  We began to buy jeans and a few other things at the mall, but Mom still sewed whatever she could.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but she managed to make stylish clothes by combining several patterns for one garment or allowing us to help design our own pattern.  On our last school shopping trip, for college, she helped me find a rug remnant and coordinating comforters for my dorm room.  I remember little of the items we purchased over the years, but I still feel the warmth of uninterrupted time with Mom.

EMBRACING THE TRADITION

Now I am making precious back-to-school memories with our four daughters.  The first year I began to homeschool, I had a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and a six-week-old.  I wasn’t really thinking about shopping.  I was just glad to have my curriculum!  School days were short and we had many opportunities to shop for new clothes or school supplies we needed.  As the girls got older, I recognized the need to spend one-on-one time with them and my heart remembered those special shopping days with Mom.

We adopted the tradition of back-to-school shopping days, but with a Moore family twist.  We still take inventory of clothing, pass along the hand-me-downs (a rare thing since all the girls are now nearly the same size!) and I make a list of what each one needs.  We also take inventory of what school supplies each daughter has and will need in the coming school year.  I schedule a day for each daughter and together we “conquer the list.”  There is no sewing room or fabric or patterns.  I high-tail it to Wal-Mart!  We collect our school supplies first, and then we pick up any “foundational garments” and hit the sales racks.  Depending on what’s on the list, we may end up at our favorite thrift shop.  In our area of Virginia, it’s not always easy to find winter clothes in August, so we often finish our shopping later in the season.

Like my mom, I let the girls choose something they’d like—something that isn’t a necessity.  Over the years, Abigail chose a bendable pink ruler, Anna chose a collapsible ruler, Elisabeth chose a paint-by-number picture of a horse, and Victoria chose a beautifully decorated journal notebook.  If it fits in the budget, we may get some ice cream or even have lunch at a fast food restaurant.  Most of all I make opportunity laugh and to listen.  I don’t want it to be a totally serious time, but if it seems appropriate I’ll ask what they liked or disliked about the school year before, what they’re looking forward to, and what they’re thinking about for the future.  And like days gone by, when we return home one sister joyfully shares her newly-purchased treasures with the other sisters.

This year I thought we’d try something different.  Since time was limited because of our Guatemala missions trip, I thought we’d do a joint shopping day at an outlet center sometime in the fall.  It seemed like a good idea at the time since two are at the community college and didn’t really need much in the way of supplies or clothing.  But here I am, three weeks into school, feeling the loss of those special moments with my girls.  I don’t miss the shopping, but it’s not really about shopping.  I miss the one-on-one time with my daughters, one way I can communicate to them how precious and valuable they are to me.  It doesn't matter that we’ve already started school.  I’ll squeeze in some time with my girls between Chemistry and Algebra 2, and thank my mom for taking time to make back-to-school memories with me.

Making Memories with Family Adventures

Many of our friends know that we love to go on adventures.  Adventures are fun any time of the year, but summer is particularly great because we aren’t in school and the weather is good.The time together on our adventures has bonded our family and brought joy and refreshment to our souls.  We seldom spend money beyond the cost of gas and a picnic, but the memories are invaluable.

Making a Plan When the girls were young there was little money for entertainment, so we looked for ways to be creative.  We would tell the girls that on Saturday (or whatever day worked) we were going on an adventure.  We didn’t tell them what we were doing or where we were going.  (That way if things didn’t work out, we could choose an alternative plan without disappointing them!)  Our adventures today aren’t always a surprise, but they’re always full of fun. We usually pack a picnic lunch to eat along the way.  The same food we eat in our kitchen seems much more exciting when we’re sitting on a blanket under a tree.  Our traditional and simple picnic lunch: chicken salad, loaf of bread, bag of carrots, bag of grapes.  We usually have those items on hand, they’re easy to pack, and the sandwiches are easy to assemble at our picnic.  (Sometimes I throw in an unexpected sweet treat!)  Because we pack the same things each time, everyone knows the drill and can help.

Choose a Destination Most of our adventures are free (or very cheap!) and close to home (an hour or less drive).  We chose the simple pleasures of life and things that our special to our area—a walk on the beach, a ride on a car ferry, a hike at the arboretum, a climb up a lighthouse, or a walk in Williamsburg.  The goal is not to “wow” the kids but just to enjoy life together.  Here are some other resources to help you choose adventure destinations:

Summer Fun Jar I asked the girls to dictate to me the activities they wanted to do and I recorded them on slips of paper.  (Ex.  Go rollerskating, go to the park, paint, have a hair salon, play a marathon Phase 10 game with all 10 phases…)  Many activities were just fun things to do around the house and others were more like adventures.  We put these slips of paper in an old tin and named it the “Summer Fun Jar,” though it wasn’t a jar at all!  We continued to add activities until summer break arrived. During the free days of our summer, we took turns choosing a slip of paper from the “Summer Fun Jar.”  The paper chosen revealed the adventure of the day.  Some days it was just us girls, but Dad joined us for the adventures away from home. If you don’t feel that you have enough time to create your own “Summer Fun Jar,” you can purchase Summer Fun, our collection of family-friendly boredom busters for fun-filled adventures. Nearly every card in this book represents a slip of paper that was in our “Fun Jar” or an activity that we’ve done as a family. Ideas are divided into categories by color of paper: sunny day (yellow), rainy day (gray), requires money (green), ministry opportunities (white), and girlie activities (pink).  Other activities are listed by regions in PA, MD, VA and NC (purple).  We’ve also included some blank cards for you to add your own activities.  Since the online store is temporarily under construction, you can order Summer Fun by calling Daughters 4 God at 757.472.1897.

Letterboxing If you like searching for hidden treasure, letterboxing is for you!  People around the world hide plastic boxes (think: Glad disposable).  Your job is to find the hidden box using the clues posted online. Getting started is simple.  At letterboxing.org you’ll find several options on the home page.  There’s a “getting started” article as well as a “search for boxes” option that sends you to a page where you’ll enter your geographic information.  Choosing by region narrows your choices more specifically to your geographic area.  Click on the name of the box to link to the clues.  Use the “Print View” option on their website for a printable version of the clues.  Before you begin your hunt, bring your printed clues, a small notebook and a stamp you would use to make a craft—not the US mail type! When you locate the box, you’ll find a treasure inside.  Each box usually has a stamp (many hand-carved), a stamp pad and a small notebook.  Your job is to use their stamp to stamp your notebook.  Then use your stamp to make an entry in their notebook.  Sometimes we remember to bring our stamp and sometimes we don’t.  Instead of a stamp, we always sign our names and where we’re from. If you enjoy letterboxing, you may also enjoy hiding a box and creating the clues.  We also thought it would be cool to have a specific “family stamp” to use for our letterboxing adventures.  Maybe someone in your family could carve a stamp with symbols that reflect your family. While doing some research for this article, I also discovered another letterboxing website: www.atlasquest.com.  We’ve never used this website, but I found that some clues from the letterboxing site are linked to the Atlas Quest site.  Same basic idea with basic information to get started and a way to search boxes, though there are more specific descriptions about your location including the length of the hike, whether it is bike friendly or pet friendly, and whether it is in a fee area. Our family has been on several letterboxing adventures in our hometown as well as in a neighboring state.  We were unable to find a few of the boxes, but the directions led us to discover some beauty of God’s creation that we would’ve otherwise missed if we hadn’t been searching for a plastic box!

Summer 2010… As the girls grow older, our summer has quickly filled with jobs and other commitments. There are fewer days available for adventures.  It is with fondness that I look back on those special family times.  I anxiously look forward to the few unplanned days of our summer when we can pick a card from the “Summer Fun Jar” and go on yet another Moore Family Adventure.

Post a comment to this article and tell us about your letterboxing experiences or your fun family adventures.

Under Construction: Our New Online Store

Some of you may have noticed that our online store is temporarily under construction while we make some adjustments.  When our new store opens, you’ll find some changes.  After much prayer, Harold and I believe that God is leading us to make some adjustments to our ministry. First, we are discontinuing all products that aren’t exclusive to Daughters 4 God.  We will continue to carry our self-published titles such as Lady Day, The Gift of Purity, the audio products, and our sterling silver jewelry.  It is impossible for us to offer the other products at prices to compete with Amazon or CBD.  At this point, I’m planning to review new products for raising daughters, but we will not be offering them for sale.  Fewer products mean less time managing inventory and more time for writing and for ministry at our local church.

Second, we anticipate that our new store will have audio and pdf downloads priced less than a hard-copy product.  Some of you have asked for a “Cleaning Game” download so you don’t have to pay shipping.  We think that’s a great idea and we’re working to make that a reality.  We’re also hoping to add more audio teachings as well as some other books that are in development.

Third, we will not be traveling to homeschool conventions as we have in the past.  (We still haven’t decided about MACHE for 2011…)  It has become more difficult for us to travel together.  Harold took on a new role as Associate Pastor last October which means he can miss fewer Sundays, and the oldest two will be in college in the fall but still living at home.  Yes, we could leave Harold and our two college students behind, but that’s not what the Moore family does.  We’re a team and we minister together.

We believe that this is God’s plan for this season.  We will still look for opportunities to share our heart and our experiences, but just a little closer to home.  That’s a tough one, since we’ve made so many friends over the years.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support.

Ruth Bell Graham once saw a sign along the road and asked that it be epitaph.  Her tombstone reads:  “End of Construction.  Thank you for your patience.”  I suppose I feel the same way, like I’m always under construction.  There’s another flaw, another weakness, another insecurity that my Creator lovingly reveals to me.  But I’m so grateful that He also shows me His complete sufficiency for every area of my lack.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 1:6)  His construction process is not always easy or pleasant, but always necessary and beneficial.   Our construction, both personally and for D4G, continues but thank you for your patience.

Modest Swimsuit Options

It’s hard to believe that swimsuit season is nearly upon us.  Our family used to dread this season, but now we look forward to the summer.  Several years ago the girls came to me wanting to find more modest swim suits.  Even though they were wearing very modest one-piece suits, the suits showed more skin than the girls were comfortable with.  So began the quest to find a modest suit.  I recognize that every family has different standards regarding modesty, but if you’re looking for other options for swimsuits, here are a few suggestions that have worked for our family. PLEASE NOTE:  We are not endorsing any of these products, but merely relaying our experiences in hopes that your family will be able to locate modest swimwear that suits your needs.

Swim Modest I really liked the style of the one-piece suits (short sleeves, shorts and attached sarong), especially for very active girls.  We’ve ordered three child-sized suits from Swim Modest.  The girls especially liked that they could pick out the fabric, but they found that the sarong sometimes got in the way of serious swimming.  It was especially modest for playing on the beach.  The lining in the panty was not attached well, but could easily be attached more securely.   The material is not as thick as Land’s End suits we’ve owned, but they did make it through two years of frequent pool use.

Stitchin’ Times Owned by a woman in Lancaster County, PA, Stitchin Times specializes in custom-made suits with several options, including choice of fabrics.  Styles include a one piece swim dress with attached swim panty or shorts and newly added swim separates—a dress with a swim panty or swim shorts.  The first suit we ordered was a girls-sized cotton blend fabric which took a long time to dry.  Also, a seam under the arm of the tank was slightly bunched and made a red mark after a long day of swimming.  We really liked the quality and the mid-thigh length of the skirt.  The second suit we ordered was a lycra spandex blend and it worked better for us.  Because the material was lighter weight, there was no problem with the seam under the arm. We ordered a sleeveless adult suit and found the skirt was a great length, about mid thigh.  The top of the suit had an attached soft cup bra, but we didn’t like that the outline of the cups were noticeable.  The company gives you the option to special order a suit without a bra so you can wear your own.  We’re trying that option this year for the two younger girls.

Land’s End I’ve ordered various products from Land’s End for more than fifteen years.  The quality and service have never disappointed me.  While the quality has declined slightly over the years, the quality still remains far above the average suit you purchase at a department store.  They usually have several modest suits even for serious swimmers, depending on the styles offered for the year.  We’ve ordered several children’s suits and especially liked the full lining and the full coverage in the seat area.  We prefer the traditional tank design because the “racer back” design makes the arm holes a little low.  We’ve ordered several adult suits.  I love the options for torso, leg opening, bra type and style.  Again, the seat coverage is good and many suits have coordinating cover up skirts available to purchase separately.

If you aren’t able to afford these options but still want to instill modesty in your daughters, consider using my mom’s guidelines.  She asked that when her children were not swimming in the pool or the ocean, we had to be sufficiently covered—boys with a shirt on, girls with a cover up that covered our bottom.  She didn’t want us lounging around wearing so little.  I believe she was on to something.  I hope that these suggestions will bless your family and encourage your daughters as you make swimsuit choices for your family this summer.

My Favorite Things: Middle and High School Curricula

When we began this homeschooling journey fourteen years ago, we agreed to take one year at a time.  It never occurred to me to homeschool high school.  In my mind, that wasn’t an option.  But God had other plans…last year our oldest daughter graduated from high school after 13 years of homeschooling.  (One down and three to go!) After teaching high school for the past 5 years and middle school for the past 8 years, I have collected a list of favorite curricula we’ve used in our home school.  My suggestions are completely unsolicited from any publisher/distributor and I’m not receiving any compensation.   I just want to pass on my experiences to help other families.  I welcome posts with comments or suggestions you might want to pass on to parents who are homeschooling middle and high school.

Science:  Apologia I am science-challenged.  My brain doesn’t think scientifically without a lot of effort and study.  In high school, I nearly failed biology (I strongly disagreed with my teacher about evolution and I paid for it.) and I never took chemistry or physics.  When we decided to homeschool high school, I knew I would need great resources to get me through! We’ve used Apologia’s General Science, Physical Science, Biology, and Chemistry.  In each class, the material is laid out systematically so that even a non-scientific thinker (like me) can understand and apply the concepts.   “On Your Own” questions throughout each module (chapter) help the student process and apply new learning.  (OYO answers are at the end of each chapter.)  Instructions for the experiments are easy to follow which allows the student to work independently, even in Chemistry.  The instructions for the Biology dissections are very clear.  Usually the girls did the dissection and dictated information for the lab report while I read the instructions and wrote down their dictation. The first three texts have an end of the chapter study guide for the students to complete; the chemistry text replaces the chapter study guide with review questions and practice problems for each chapter.  Included with each text is a teacher’s guide which has blank tests for each module, blank quarterly tests, as well as answers for the study guides, review questions, practice problems, module tests, and quarterly tests.  The teacher’s guide also has sample calculations for experiments. Apologia provides other resources in addition to the printed textbook and teacher’s guide.  They have a CD-ROM of the entire textbook that you could use instead of the printed text.  We tried that one year, but found it was sometimes difficult to refer back to what they had studied earlier.  We went back to the printed text.  This year, one of our daughters has sometimes used an audio mp3 and followed along with her written text.  It was helpful for her to have the correct pronunciation.  Another resource, a supplemental CD-ROM, includes animations and other audio visual information supporting the text.  While the supplemental CD’s are not necessary, I’ve found them to be quite helpful—particularly for a visual learner.  The Apologia website has lots of web links for curriculum users and helpful information to help you choose science curriculum over the course of your child’s middle school and high school years.

What I like about it: The scope is academic, yet it is presented simply enough that I can understand.  In each class my children have learned scientific facts that refute evolution.  It is easy for both students and parents to use—students can work independently and parents have all the resources to assess the progress of their students.

Math:  Teaching Textbooks This has to be my absolute favorite high school curriculum find!   It’s like having a private tutor.  Three sets of CD-ROMs include audio instruction for each lesson as well as step-by-step solutions for every problem—practice problems, problem sets and test questions.  (So great for moms like me who don’t clearly remember high school math classes.)  That’s not to say that I don’t have to help my students, but if I get stuck we can watch the videos together and figure it out.  Such a time saver! Each subject comes with a traditional textbook, though spiral bound, and an Answer Key with answers to each problem and blank tests for each chapter.  One set of CD’s has audio instruction for each lesson using a “blackboard” style teaching segment as well as the step-by-step solutions for the practice problems for that lesson.  A second set of CD’s has step-by-step solutions for each of the problems in the lesson.  A third CD’s has step-by-step solutions for each of the test questions. During the past three years we’ve used Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry.   Generally, I have the girls watch the teaching segment, do the practice problems, and check their answers in the answer key.  If they get something wrong, they watch the solution to those problems on the CD-ROM.  Then they do the problem set and check their answers.  If they get more than 3 wrong, they come to me.  Otherwise they watch only the problems they got wrong.  It is a little spendy, but so worth it for families who have multiple students since everything is non-consumable and can be used with multiple students.

What I like about it: First, my daughters have actually enjoyed this math program—a first for some of them.  They understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.  I love that when my daughter has a question in Algebra 2, I don’t have to spend 30+ minutes reviewing the chapter so I can find the answer.  We can watch the CD-ROM together and figure it out.  I think the style of the CD-ROMs and the independence the class affords is helpful for preparing high school students for online classes in college.

Government: Notgrass I found Notgrass at a small homeschool event in Chattanooga, TN.  Each of the various curricula is written by Mr. Notgrass, a dad who homeschooled his children and who holds a degree in Religion and History.  The main government text has 15 units which include instruction.  A separate book has primary source material such as letters, legal cases, and documents that is assigned in the main text.  Another book has review questions for each section and tests for each unit.  An answer key has answers for both the unit questions and the tests. There are writing assignments for each unit.  The lessons were engaging and filled with practical information.  We used the internet to find the names of the cabinet posts we were studying and prayed for these individuals.  I also looked for opportunities in current events to reinforce our learning—an easy thing to do during an election season!  I learned a lot, even though it was the second government class I’ve taught.

What I like about it: I like that it starts with a biblical basis for government and continues to the twenty-first century.  I also like the primary source readings that were included in the supplementary book. PS  We’re planning to use the American History/American Literature/Bible Curriculum for 2010-2011.  I’ll try to post about it later.

Foreign Language:  community college or a tutor My oldest wanted to study Chinese, so we purchased Rosetta Stone for her high school credits.  She put in her time and completed the exercises, but it did not help her to write or speak fluently.  At 16, we enrolled her in a Chinese class at the community college.  (Fortunately, the teacher was a believer we knew.)  Our daughter learned more in a few weeks than she had learned in two years of Rosetta Stone.  (Our experience might have been different with a different language.) We’ve used Power Glide, Bible Spanish, Learnables (French and Spanish), Pimsleur (Chinese), and Visual Link Spanish.  They all teach vocabulary and introduce students to the cadence of the language—which is helpful in middle school.  However, there is no substitute for a teacher when learning grammar and how to speak.  NOTE:  In most states you can receive high school and college credit for the same community college class.

What I like about it: Victoria was able to learn pronunciation, grammar, and culture from a native speaker.  She also enjoyed using her new language skills to communicate with the other students in the class. PS—We’ve just purchased “Tell Me More” French.    We’re only two weeks in, but it has a great balance of listening, reading, speaking, and writing.  I’ll give you a better review after we’ve used it for about a year.

Some observations about other curriculum we’ve used…

Sonlight: My oldest really enjoyed the year entitled “History of God’s Kingdom.”   We liked the strong academics and integrated literature and history, but there was so much literature that I felt there was little time to digest it.  Great for voracious readers, but be aware of what your children are reading since some books may not be acceptable to your family.  The teacher’s manual is great, but I found that the assignments required a lot of parent/teacher interaction or discussion.  I found I didn’t have enough time for the discussions and homeschooling our younger three.

Bob Jones  American Lit., American Govt.: I liked the biblical integration and the simplicity of use.  (Read the chapter, answer the questions, take the test.)  I found many questions on the test that were based on notes in the teacher’s manual and not on the textbook.  The references for the answers are given in the answer key.  You either have to let the student read the teacher’s manual, or read the teacher sections to them.

Bob Jones Writing and Grammar 9 and 11: Great for the study of grammar, but I felt the instruction in writing was a little weak.  The projects were a little easier than what I would expect from my high school students.

Videotext Algebra: We found it difficult to use.  I believe it would work for a math-thinker, but for the math-challenged it was very confusing.

Saxon Algebra 1: My daughter was able to do the problems, but she didn’t understand why she was doing what she was doing.  We even used the DIVE CD-ROMs, but it didn’t work for us.  I know other families who really like Saxon, but at our house the explanations did not translate to conceptual understanding.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: A Lesson Plan to Teach Respect

Here is a lesson plan I used to teach my young children respect using an acrostic of the word “respect.”  This is certainly not the only instruction I gave the girls, but I was able to link my future reminders and correction to these expectations.  It could be easily adapted for older children.  Each day, we studied one letter but also reviewed the main concept of the previous letters.    I have included the scriptures, not just the references.  You could use these as handwriting practice.  The very short lessons are directed to the child and are meant as a springboard to further discussion.  I also had a basket of items to symbolize the lessons so that we could look at the item, remember the lesson and review the concept.  The symbols are listed in parentheses.)
 
 
Requests (piece of clothing—The most frequent request I made was regarding the care of clothing.)

Elders  (toy chair—This represented giving our chair to the elderly.)

Service  (thank you note—This represents what our attitude should be to those who serve us.)

Property (any precious possession—This represents the preciousness of something to those we love.)

Ears (earphones—This represents what some people do to avoid a gush of words!)

Comfort (deodorant—Some of the girls were just coming into that stage of needing to wear it!)

Time (watch—This represents being accountable with our time.)

Requests

What does the Bible say?

Read I Peter 2:17.  (“Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”)

It is important that we obey the requests of those who are in authority over us.  Parents are an authority in your life.  God doesn’t live on this earth, so He gave us, your mom and dad, the authority to raise you.  Babysitters are also an authority in your life.  When dad and mom are on a date, we transfer our authority to the babysitter, just while we’re away.  Pastors and presidents and policemen are authorities in your life.  God placed them there as protection for us, whether they’re Christians or not. (Romans 13) (You may want to talk about how they don’t have to obey friends.)  It’s important to learn to obey these people that we can see because it is practice for obeying God that we can’t see.

How can my child show respect?

  1. Respond with a “Yes, Dad/Mom/Sir/Ma’m.”
  2. Obey right away.  Delayed obedience is disobedience.
  3. Obey without complaining.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Take turns being the parent and the child.  The parent asks the child to do something and the child responds with “Yes, ____,” and pretends to walk away (representing immediate obedience.)
  2. The parent takes the role of a complaining child.  The child takes the role of the requesting parent.  If you complain a lot, your child may see how difficult it is to work with a complaining child.

Reinforcement:

  1. Remind your child to respond to your requests with a “Yes, ___.”
  2. If your child is not obeying right away, physically help them move toward obedience.

Elders

What does the Bible say?

Read Leviticus 19:26.  (“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.”)

God’s Word asks us to show respect for the elderly, those who are older than we are.  No matter how much we know and how smart we are, older people are wiser because they have lived longer and have life experiences that we haven’t had yet.  (I realize there are exceptions, but be careful not to open that door unless your child is older and you’re prepared for a discussion about wisdom and foolishness!) God wants us to show respect to older people not only because they’re wise, but because their body gets tired easier. 

How can my child show respect?

  1. Rise when an adult enters for the first time.
  2. When an adult enters the room, offer the adult his or her seat.
  3. Give up his/her seat to adults in public waiting rooms or on public transportation.
  4. Always allow adults to pass through doorways first.  Hold the door for them.
  5. If an adult drops something, quickly pick it up for him/her.
  6. Listen carefully when adults are speaking.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. One child can pretend to be “elderly” and another can be a child.  Both approach the door at the same time, and remember the child goes last.
  2. One child can pretend to be “elderly” and enter a room full of seated people and no empty seats.  (You can use stuffed animals to represent seated guests if you don’t have enough people.)  Another child can stand up and offer his/her seat to the elderly guest.

Reinforcement:

  1. When guests come to visit, be sure to remind your child to offer the best seat to the elderly guests and that he/she may sit in a seat only after all the adults are seated.
  2. When guests come to visit, have your child help serve snacks or drinks to the elderly.

Note:  Many of these guidelines for showing respect to the elderly also apply to pregnant women.

Service

What does the Bible say?

Read Mark 9:35. (Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.")

There are many people who serve us each day—the cashier at the grocery store, the bank teller at the drive through window, the mechanic who fixes our van.  Often, our culture values people who are in charge, not the ones who serve.  In God’s Kingdom, those who want to be first must be the servant of all.  God wants us to show respect to everyone we meet, even if they aren’t as important as a king or a president.  We should speak quietly and respectfully, and we should say, “please” and “thank you.”  We should be grateful for the service they are providing for us.  God has placed many people in our lives to serve and bless us.

How can my child show respect?

  1. Say “please” when he/she asks something of someone.
  2. Say “thank you” when someone does something for him/her.
  3. Send thank you notes promptly.
  4. When he/she visits someone, do not go empty-handed.  Bring a small token of thanks.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Pretend your family is at a store.  One parent or child is the cashier and another is the customer.  Role-play respectful and disrespectful behavior and conversation.
  2. During lunch, pretend you are at a restaurant.  One child can be the “server.”  Role-play how customers should treat the server, especially if the server makes a mistake.

Reinforcement:

  1. Remind your children to say, “please” and “thank you”, especially to family.
  2. Speak respectfully to anyone in the community who is serving you.
  3. Purchase or make thank you notes and have them available.  (One of my friends helps her children make their own address “book” with 3x5 cards in a recipe box.)
  4. When you visit friends, bring a loaf of homemade bread or some flowers from your backyard.

Property

What does the Bible say?

Read I Timothy 6:18. (Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.)

Everything we have is a gift from God.  We should treat our possessions with respect.  If we take care of them, we won’t have to replace them and that will give our family more money to spend on our needs or to give to people in need.  Since everything we have belongs to God, we should not be selfish with what we have.  People are more important to God that things.  We should be willing to share with others.  When we borrow something from someone, we should always ask permission before we take it.  If we take something without permission, that is stealing.  We should also ask how long we can keep the borrowed object and be sure to return it on time or even a little early.  It’s important to respect your own possessions a

How can my child show respect?

  1. Take care of all property, especially property that belongs to someone else.
  2. Be generous to lend.
  3. Ask permission before borrowing something.
  4. If he/she damages something that doesn’t belong to him/her, offer to replace the damaged item.
  5. Return items in a timely manner.  (Set an acceptable amount of time.  Ex. Less than 1 month.)

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk with your child about how it feels when someone “borrows” something without asking.
  2. Talk with your child about how the family can better respect and care for your home.
  3. Talk with your child about how to respect church property. (ex.  Play carefully with toys at church.  Don’t write on offering envelopes if you don’t have an offering.)

Reinforcement:

  1. Borrow books from the library and be sure to return them on time.
  2. Encourage your children to borrow from each other.  That means asking permission first.  If a sibling does not care for another’s property, then they lose the privilege of borrowing for a season.
  3. If your child damages something that belongs to someone else, go with them as he/she admits her fault and offers to make restitution.  If necessary, find jobs for your child to earn money so they can pay for the replacement.

Ears

What does the Bible say?

Read Proverbs 18:21a (The tongue has the power of life and death…)

Read Proverbs 10:19 (When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.)

What a strange thought to respect someone’s ears!  Really, it’s about showing respect by carefully guarding our words that go into other people’s ears.  Words have great power.  With our words, we can bless, encourage, inspire, and make someone laugh.  We can also criticize, judge, and make someone cry.  It is our choice.  Spending words is like spending money:  you need to choose wisely when to spend, whom to spend on, and how much to spend.  Sometimes conversation is appropriate (dialogue, not monologue!) but other times it’s better to just listen.  We also need to guard how many words we use.  Some people are overwhelmed when they hear lots of words.  After awhile they stop listening and “tune it out.”  The more you talk, the easier it is to say something you shouldn’t!  No matter what you say, your words and tone of voice should show respect and bring life to whomever you’re talking to.

What can my child do to show respect?

  1. Use words to bring life and not death.
  2. Look for opportunities to speak or write words of encouragement.
  3. Guard his/her words.  Use only what is necessary—no more, no less.
  4. Speak slowly—it is difficult to understand someone when their words gush out!
  5. Speak in a respectful tone.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Use a ball to teach your children how to have a conversation.  When you ask them a question, throw them the ball.  They should respond with a comment and then ask you a question—then they can throw the ball.  It helps children be aware of dead end comments.
  2. Demonstrate to your children by talking to them with a respectful tone of voice and with a disrespectful tone of voice.  Talk about how it makes others feel when you yell at them.

Reinforcement:

  1. Use a secret family signal in public that alerts family members when they are monopolizing the conversation.
  2. Practice good conversation skills at the dinner table.
  3. Remind your children that conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.
  4. Be sure to give plenty of time for your children to talk with you.  They won’t be as likely to “download” so much on your guests!  When you set a precedent of being an interested listener when they’re young, there’s a greater chance they’ll be willing to communicate through the teen years.

Comfort

What does the Bible say?

Read Luke 6:31.  (Do to others as you would have them do to you.)

Showing respect to others means making them feel comfortable.  Standing too closely to someone or raising your voice can make others feel uncomfortable.  Wisely choose what to talk about and keep it positive.  It can also make people feel uncomfortable if you have food in your teeth or bad breath.  If you have dirt on your face or under your fingernails it can be distracting when someone talks with you.    Another way to show people respect and make people feel comfortable is to be modest—that means you don’t draw attention to yourself.  It is important to dress modestly and not bring attention to your body.  If we do all the talking or our voice is especially loud, the attention is focused on us.  When we talk with others, we should do what we can to make them comfortable and bring attention to our Lord, not to ourselves.

What can my child show respect?

  1. Be clean and neat.
  2. Be modest—dress modestly, behave modestly.
  3. Know which topics of conversation are just off-limits.

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk to your child about how it makes other people uncomfortable when you have bad breath or
  2. Demonstrate and discuss with your child appropriate “personal space” when talking with someone.

Reinforcement:

  1. Make a chart for your child to keep track of daily hygiene.  You can include brushing, flossing, washing face, wearing deodorant, trimming fingernails and cleaning a retainer.
  2. Set specific guidelines for modesty in your family.  Review them before you go shopping.
  3. For daughters, purchase several camis to go under clothing that is either too thin or too low.

Time

What does the Bible say?

Read Ephesians 5:15-15.  (Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.)

God has given each of us 24 hours in a day.  Once we spend our time, we can never get it back.  Spending money is like spending time—we must choose wisely and make the most of what we have. Sometimes our choices affect other people.  When you make plans to meet a friend, your friend says that you are important by choosing to spend time with you instead of doing something else.  If you are late or you take longer than you said, your actions say that your friend’s time is not valuable to you.  You are taking your friend’s time without their permission—which is stealing.  Honor others by respecting their time.

How can my child do to show respect?

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Leave on time.  Don’t overstay an invitation.

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk about how it makes you feel when someone is late when they come to your house.
  2. Talk about how it makes you feel when your parents’ friends come to your house (without any children J) and they stay really late.
  3. Talk about what you can do as a family that will help you to be on time.  (ex.  Lay out clothes/shoes/Bible etc. on Saturday night so you’ll be on time on Sunday morning.)

Reinforcement:

  1. Help your family make a habit of arriving on time for events and appointments.
  2. Give your child a watch and hold them accountable for completing tasks by a designated time.
  3. Coach your child on how to plan in advance so that they will be ready when you need to go somewhere.  (ex.  When you have music lessons, put your instrument by the door in the morning.)