Monday, March 31, 2008

A Day Late . . .

Dana at Principled Discovery is hosting Home Education Week. Each day of this week, she is listing writing prompts dealing with homeschooling. I forgot about yesterday's, so I'm combining Sunday & Monday's prompts.
Pre-children, I was a high-school English teacher for nine years. I absolutely loved my job. I taught at a small magnet school in our school district, and it was an ideal situation. Most of the children were pretty well motivated to learn, and there were few discipline problems compared with the typical public school. Because we were small, I had many preparations and have taught an abundance of English courses (English I, Composition & Grammar, Freshman Seminar, English II, English III, English II Honors, English IV, English IV Honors, & AP Literature)I loved planning, staying up late at night to find additional resources and activities that went beyond the textbook and sparked students' interest. I loved learning myself, especially about pedagogy, and received my master's in English Education, became AP certified, and National Board certified, and led workshops for other English teachers.
Even before I became pregnant with our first child, I knew that I would give up my teaching career and stay home with our children. Both my husband's mother and my mother had stayed home with their children, and we felt that it was a right fit for our family, even with the sacrifice of losing one income and my great teaching position. I reasoned that I could go back to teaching once the children were in school.
About three years ago when I was teaching Bible School, one of the Bible Verses took root in my mind: Deuteronomy 6:6-9. I continued to think about these verses every so often, and the flower of homeschooling began to bloom in the back of my mind. This past summer and fall, my daughter played Upward Soccer for the first time. At the games, I ran into an acquaintance from high school, Karen, who had moved back to town and was homeschooling her four children. I was also introduced to her two friends who also homeschooled. They were never overt in their talk of homeschooling, but when I asked Karen about it, she shared how she became interested and what they did. She then loaned me her copy of The Well-Trained Mind, which I devoured. I then checked out every book our local library had on homeschooling, beginning with Lisa Whelchel's book So You're Thinking about Home Schooling.
Caroline, another Upward Soccer friend, invited us to attend our local homeschooling groups special night for couples in October. I broached the idea of homeschooling with Joel and suggested that we attend. He agreed, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the meeting. We met many other homeschooling families, who, we were pleased to find, were mostly like us. The speakers at the meeting were a husband and wife who had homeschooled their children from preschool through high school. Their homeschooling philosophy was in line with mine, and Joel & I left the meeting that night encouraged and with our minds pretty well made up that this homeschooling thing was something we wanted to try.
Around Thanksgiving of last year, out of the blue, I was offered two different teaching positions. These offers rocked my confidence in our homeschooling plan. One person had even said, "I'd hate for you to waste your talent. You're so good at teaching." Now, she didn't know that I was thinking of homeschooling, but that comment still shook all my good intentions. After much prayer, the Lord led me to Titus 2, and those verses confirmed for me that homeschooling was God's will for us. These verses have also become a beacon for me in illuminating my mission at this season in my life (they are also the inspiration for my blog title). Now, if I were faced with the above comment, I would simply answer, "I'm not wasting my talent, I'm concentrating it."
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity of staying at home and accompanying my children on the exciting journey of learning. We will begin "officially" homeschooling this fall, so the closest thing I can offer you to show what normal is for us is my post on deciding curriculum. You can find it here. I am sure that mixed in with all this planning will be days when things don't click, when Emily Anne doesn't feel like school, when I am discouraged and frazzled by other demands, when Will won't allow us time for school. Still, though, I can't wait for the journey to begin!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Today I'm participating in Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie. Lately, I've been trying to make weekly plans for dinner, and it has helped in organizing my grocery shopping. I've also noticed that I tend to overeat less during the day when I know what's planned for dinner that night. I want to start being more intentional with breakfast (to avoid having Pop-Tarts every morning!), so I'm including plans for breakfast, too. Recipes for items with an asterisk are later in the post. I think you'll be able to see where I get the majority of my recipes!


Breakfast: Banana bread (made tonight with EA's help!) & fruit

Dinner: *Oven-Fried Parmesan Chicken Strips (the kids love these, & they're healthier than heat & eat chicken nuggets) & *Tomato-Basil Pasta Salad


Breakfast: Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Dinner: Tater Tot Casserole (from Kysha at Love's School) & Steamed Veggies


Breakfast: Homemade Bread (cooked in the bread machine with the timer set to start so that the aroma of fresh bread wakes us up in the morning!) with my in-laws' apple butter

Dinner: Pork Tenderloin & *Stacked-Grits Spinach Salad & Smashed Sweet Potatoes


Breakfast: Yogurt with fruit

Dinner: Slow Cooker Pot Roast & Egg Noodles & Green Beans


Breakfast: Cheese Omelettes with fruit

Dinner: *Chicken Parmesan & Salad

Oven-Fried Parmesan Chicken Strips (from Southern Living)

Makes 5 servings

2 tbsp. butter

1/3 c. reduced-fat baking mix

1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

1/8 tsp. black pepper

2 lb. chicken breast strips

1. Melt butter in a 15-x10-inch jellyroll pan in a 425 degree oven.

2. Place baking mix and next 3 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; shake well to combine. Add chicken, several pieces at a time, shaking well to coat. Arrange chicken in melted butter in hot baking dish.

3. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until chicken is done, turning once. Serve immediately.

Tomato-Basil-Asparagus Pasta Salad (from Southern Living)

(Note: My husband's not a great fan of asparagus, so I'm leaving it out this week!)

1 (16-oz.) package bow-tie pasta

1 lb. asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 cup bottled lemon vinaigrette

1 (1-oz.) package fresh basil, chopped

1 pint (16 oz.) grape tomatoes, halved

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding asparagus pieces during the last two minutes of cooking time. Drain and rinse under cool water. Stir together lemon vinaigrette and chopped fresh basil; pour 3/4 c. dressing mixture over pasta mixture. Stir in halved tomatoes and salt and pepper to test. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Toss pasta mixture with remaining 1/4 cup dressing before serving. Garnish with fresh basil if desired.

Makes 4 main-dish or 8 side-dish servings.

Stacked-Grits Spinach Salad (from Southern Living)

1 (14 1/2 oz.) can chicken broth

1 cup quick-cooking grits

2 cups shredded cheddar, divided

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 c. pecan pieces

7 cups shredded fresh spinach (I just use a bag or two of Baby Spinach)

4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup Italian vinaigrette (I love, love Newman's Own Olive Oil Vinaigrette with this!)

Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in grits. Cook, stirring often, 4-5 minutes. Add 1 1 /2 c. cheese; stir until melted. Pour into a lightly greased 8-inch square pan. Chill. Cut grits into 8 triangles; cut each triangle horizontally in half.

Melt butter in a large skillet over med.-high heat. Add pecans, and cook, stirring often, 2 min., or until toasted. Remove pecans from skillet with a slotted spoon.

Cook grits cakes in batches in skillet over med.-high heat 2 min. on each side or until lightly browned.

Toss pecan pieces, bacon, and remaining 1/2 c. cheese w/ vinaigrette.

Place 1 grits cake on each of 4 individual plates. Top each with 1/4 cup spinach mixture. Repeat layering 3 times, forming stacks. (Note: I've never been able to get my salad to "stack" like the recipe says, so we just treat the grits cakes like a gigantic, soft, yummy crouton!)

Chicken Parmesan (from Southern Living)

1 c. Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. ground red pepper

2 skinned & boned chicken breasts (I use 3; our 2 young kids split a chicken breast)

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 tbsp. olive oil

Tomato Sauce (I like Classico Four Cheese sauce)

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine breadcrumbs, flour, and ground red pepper in a small bowl, and set aside.

Place chicken between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Dip 1 chicken breast in egg whites, and coat with breadcrumb mixture. Dip again in egg mixture, and coat again in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken breasts.

Cook chicken in hot oil over med. heat 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until done.

Place chicken breasts in a single layer in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish. Top evenly with tomato sauce and cheeses. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheeses melt.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sheltering Our Children

Today's quote from the Heart of the Matter meme concerns home educators' sheltering our children:
"Clearly there is an appropriate kind of sheltering. When those who are opposed to homeschooling accuse me of sheltering my children, my reply is always, 'What are you going to accuse me of next, feeding and clothing them?" ~R.C. Sproul, Jr.

This quote seems to me to boil down to one of the ubiquitous questions about which homeschoolers are asked: socialization.

In The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer says,

But it's important to understand what socialization means. According to the dictionary, socialization is "the process by which a human being, beginning in infancy, acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of his society." . . . Who teaches all this?

This last question gets to the heart of the matter of socialization. Bauer goes on to state that there are many agents of socialization and that the absence of a school setting doesn't mean that our children won't be socialized. Our children are exposed to an abundance of opportunities to learn socialization: church, sports leagues, co-op classes, travel, etc. Many of us aren't sheltering our children from the outside world; we are carefully selecting how our children are taught the rules of society.

When people ask the question, "Aren't you sheltering your child?" They are often referring to the world of public school. Bauer points out that this atmosphere is not the optimal one for socialization:

[School] is a very specific type of socialization, one that may not prove particularly useful. When, during the course of his life, will he find himself in this kind of context? Not in work, or in family life or in his hobbies. The classroom places the child in a peer-dominated situated that he'll probably not experience again. . . . Peer dependence is dangerous. When a child is desperate to fit in--to receive acceptance from those who surround him all day, every day--he may defy your rules, go against his own conscience, or even break the law. . . . The antidote for peer-centered socialization is to make the family the basic unit for socialization--the center of the child's experience. . . . [But] the trend in our culture is to devalue--even bypass--the family as a basic unit of socialization. But it's within the family that children learn to love by seeing love demonstrated; learn unselfishness both through teaching and through example (choosing to teach a child at home is unselfishness at work); learn conflict resolution by figuring out how to get along with parents and with each other.

By educating our children at home, we decide how to socialize our children. We are not simply allowing them to experience the status quo, nor are we trying to isolate them. We are selecting with care those habits, beliefs, and knowledge to which we hope are children will adhere. Just as we differ by not participating in public school, so too will the end result of our socialization differ.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

I don't think it's by accident that shelter is a part of the trio of basic needs of human beings, along with food and clothing. Our homes provide a buffer to protect us from bad weather, and the family as the main unit of socialization protects us from the ill winds of today's culture.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thirstin' for the Word Thursday


"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37b)

Feeling a bit parched? Searching to quench that thirst with an iced tea or Diet Coke? Dive into the Word for real refreshment!

I try to be diligent in my Bible reading and am often rewarded by God's speaking to my heart through particular scriptures. I pause and sometimes even write them down. The reflection usually ends there, however. This year, I would like to pursue the verses that God lays on my heart by pondering how He wants me to apply these verses in my life.

Here is what spoke to me this week:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20)
In the afterglow of the tumult of emotions that Easter effects in me, this verse has special poignancy for me this week, beginning with the last phrases. Last week's celebration was all about these words: "The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me." Although it was Paul writing these words, that "me" stands for each of us, individually and personally. I can know, without a doubt, that Jesus hung on that cross so that I could experience eternity with God. For many years of my life, I believed the doctrines of the church but never really thought that theyapplied specifically to me. I thought that I was simply lumped in with everyone else and that I had better try really hard to be good so that I wouldn't catch God's attention and be found out as not quite good enough to be His chosen. One day, a very perceptive woman said to me, "Celeste, Jesus died on the cross for you, and He still would have died on the cross if you were the only person on earth." Those words changed my perception and my relationship with God forever, and they apply to you, too. Just put your name in place of mine and declare that statement aloud!

What do we do with this awesome knowledge, with this wellspring of gratitude? We "live by faith." If Jesus loved us enough to undergo beatings, torture, death in the most humiliating way, separation from God, so that we wouldn't have to endure these things, He certainly "works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). We can live in confidence knowing that God wants the best for us.

What, then, do we do with the first part of the verse, "I have been crucified with Christ"? Wasn't the crucifixion substitutionary? Didn't Jesus die on the cross so that we didn't have to? In a sense, yes. But Jesus said, ""If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). What is our cross? How must we be crucified? We must "deny ourselves." "We no longer live" in our own desires and will. Our cross to bear is submitting our will to God's perfect will. The good news is that Jesus lives in us through the Holy Spirit, who will equip us daily to submit ourselves to God's authority.

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Homeschool Curriculum

OK, for those of you who check in occasionally, you'll know that we're starting our first "official" year of homeschooling this fall. I have been reading and researching to discover the curriculum that I think will work best for us. My daughter will be 5 on September 13 and has been in 3K and 4K at our church's preschool. Here's some information on her background and what resources I'm leaning toward.


We've been through about a third of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, and in preschool she's learned phonics rules for all the consonants and short vowel sounds. She hasn't gotten to blends yet. She is recognizing sight words as I read to her (my, the, etc.), and she has read a few of the Bob books to me. Next year I'm leaning toward continuing with The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and supplementing that with Explode the Code, Book 2, which reviews consonant and short vowel sounds and then moves on to blends. Of course, I think the most important part of learning to read is being read to, so we would continue lots of read-alouds.


Emily Anne loves to write, especially letters to her grandparents and friends. She tells me what she wants to say, and I spell out what the words. I've noticed, though, that she wants to use capital letters and mix uppercase and lowercase letters. She also doesn't make the strokes the proper way. Frankly, I wouldn't really mind, as her handwriting is legible, but I think she will need the handwriting background to learn cursive writing. Is this even an issue today? I think about my high-school students and how few of them wrote their essays in cursive writing. Anyway, I'm leaning toward two handwriting resources: Draw Write Now, Book 1 and A Reason for Handwriting. EA loves to draw, and I think she'd find the step-by-step lessons of how to draw animals and children fascinating. The sentences to copy that go along with each lesson should make handwriting a little more enjoyable for her. A Reason for Handwriting has short verses from Psalms and Proverbs, which is scripture I was hoping to emphasize next year anyway. We can use these verses as our memory verses as she practices copying them throughout the week, and then she has had neat bordered paper she can use to write her verse and send it to family members, friends, etc. I really like this authentic use of writing.


Her current 4K class is using Saxon 5K (not quite sure why!?), so I hesitate buying the 5K texts since she would already be exposed to most of it. I am a little leary of jumping ahead to Saxon 1, but I understand that there is a lot of repetition in Saxon, so hopefully I wouldn't be pushing her too far ahead. If I were, I'd just put aside Level 1 until she were ready for it. Any feedback on this idea?


I have From Mudpies to Magnets and would use some of the experiments in this book, along with thematic studies of butterflies, weather, gardening, and whatever science themes catch our fancy. We would also do a weekly nature walk and keep a nature notebook.

Social Studies

I'm not planning on doing any particular social studies or history next year. My husband is trying to find a big world map and a big US map to put on the walls of our school room. Then, we'll mark the settings of the books we read and places we've traveled. If a particular place piques our fancy, then we'll do a unit study on that area.


We have The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos, and I plan to read it aloud each day, followed by prayer time and Bible songs (I'd love some suggestions for good Bible songs. We have some by Judy Rogers, which are great but a little old for Emily Anne and Will right now).

I would love any feedback any of you home educators have to offer. I haven't ordered any of these resources yet (exept for From Mudpies to Magnets) and probably won't until the end of April. My local home educators' group will be holding a resource sharing event in April, and I'll want to attend that before I order curricula. Once that happens, though, I will really want my hands on these resources to plan and organize.

Are there any other curricula or resources you wouldn't be without?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Faithful Chick has posted today's scripture for pondering:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

As I read these words, the word "weary" jumped out at me. For the past two weeks, I have been telling myself that I am so tired, but the word weary perfectly describes my condition. I feel so exhausted that I can barely muster the energy to do much of anything. This weariness comes from the physcial tiredness that small children tend to cause--their abundant energy, their curiosity and need to explore, their frequent awakenings in the night, and their early morning risings. My weariness also comes from the repetition of the mudane; in short, I've been in a rut.

My husband has taken a week's vacation this week, and having him home has already helped relieve my physical tiredness. Just being able to sleep another hour in the morning knowing that I won't have to forego a shower for the day if I don't get one before he leaves for work has helped to rejuvenate me. Of course, having him here to help entertain the children has helped relieve some of the exhaustion and has helped to shake us out of our rut.

Still, these verses remind me that the ultimate refreshment comes from God's Word. I think that many times what tires me out more than anything is worry or emotional stress. By turning to the Bible, I discover that I can rely on God. I learn more about Him and see that He loves me and takes care of me. I don't have to be weary; God wants me to rest in Him. What could create a better night's sleep than knowing that our God is watching over me?

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Great DVD & Tagged

My friend Van sent me a great treat this week--the DVD version of From the Pound to the Palace. This sweet story tells of a dog, Air, and his misfortune of being lost. He ends up in the pound where he is rescued by a boy and his mother. Air quickly decides that he never wants to leave his master and be lost again. Besides the wonderful kid-friendly parallel to the relationship we should have with our Master, the DVD also features the voice talents of Renee Swope and her two boys. "Air" does a wonderful job of narrating the story with enthusiasm and expression. He definitely grabbed my little ones' attention because after we had played it through once, Emily Anne asked for a repeat performace! A bonus feature of the DVD is an abundance of scripture and discussion questions to provoke thought about our relationships with the Lord. I'm looking forward to repeat showings of the DVD and further probing the discussion questions. You can get your own copy of the book or DVD at Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Also, I was tagged yesterday by Rachel at Keep the Way to share 7 random facts about myself. Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs

4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here are my 7 random facts:

1. My one claim to fame is being named one of 5 finalists for South Carolina Teacher of the Year for 2002.

2. At the SC TOY Banquet, I was able to meet one of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides), and he remembered me a year later at a book signing!

3. My little toes are sideways when my feet are flat on the floor. My husband hates that!

4. My husband and I spent part of our honeymoon in an Irish castle.

5. I've been zip-lining in Costa Rica. This activity was very out of character for me, but I'm so glad I did it. You could see howler monkeys in the trees beside us and see the rainforest canopy (we were 200 feet up part of the way).

6. I love tea! I collect tea pots and tea cups. I prefer loose teas over tea bags, and my favorites right now are Harney & Sons Indian Spice (for chai) and Chocolate Mint. Yum!

7. I've taught myself to sew and smock. Here's a dress I smocked for my daughter (I didn't sew this one, though).

So, now you know a little more about me. I'm not sure that I have seven readers, so if you read this, consider yourself tagged!

Have a blessed Easter weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thirstin' for the Word Thursday--Easter Edition

This week it is a series of verses from Luke and John that spoke to me:
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."
Jesus answered, "I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you knew me."
(Luke 22:31-34)
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."
(Luke 22:39-40)
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
(Luke 22:45-46)
"Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with them." But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
(Luke 22:54-62, italics mine)
"Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. . . . When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord, he said, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."
(John 21:15-17)
It simply amazes me that interwoven in the greatest story ever told is a personal story that illustrates the results of Jesus's crucifixion. As I reread the events of Holy Week, I was so struck by how much Jesus cared for His disciples in the midst of His own suffering.
Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him and tried to warn Him. He knew that despite Peter's good intentions, his faith would fail him in the midst of his fear, confusion, and disappointment in the trials ahead. Jesus then went on to pray for Peter and to urge Peter himself to pray for deliverance from temptation. The very night that Jesus knew that He would be arrested, beaten, and crucified, He was so concerned with Peter's reaction to these events that he used some of His last precious moments of freedom to pray for Peter. Even when Peter and the other disciples fell asleep, Jesus returned from his own private prayers about what He must endure to urge them to pray for strength.
As Jesus is in the midst of a trial for His life, He isn't concerned for Himself. When the rooster crows, announcing Peter's third denial, Jesus looks straight at Peter. These words knocked my socks off when I read them this week. I had never realized the poignancy of this event before. Just imagine the look in Jesus's eyes when he looks straight at Peter. Mirrored there we see disappointment, hurt, pity, but no surprise. Now imagine those eyes turned on you when you sin. Wow, there's not a better way to feel true repentance is there? I believe that's why Peter "wept bitterly."
I think Luke is my favorite gospel because of the personal touch that he places on the stories of Jesus's life, but the all-important ending to this story isn't found in Luke; it's found in John. After the tumult of emotions of the crucifixion and resurrection and all its implications for everyone, we see a microcosm of these implications here on the shore of Galilee. When John recognizes Jesus, Peter can't restrain himself. He doesn't even wait to row the boat back to shore but jumps into the water and swims to Jesus. This compelling desire to be close to Jesus assures us that those tears that Peter wept weren't just from disappointment or bitterness or sadness, but true repentance. Knowing Peter's heart, Jesus insistently asks if Peter loves him. We are told that Peter is hurt by the number of times it is asked. And what is that number? Three. The same number of times that Peter had denied him. Jesus gives Peter a chance to cancel out each of his sins by confirming his love for Jesus.
Indulge me a moment by letting me share with you a conversation that took place over lunch this week in our house and which warmed my heart. Emily Anne was recounting all the activities this week, from a preschool Easter party to egg hunts (3 of them!) to grandparents visiting.
"And Daddy and I both get Good Friday off!" she said.
"What's Good Friday?" Joel asked.
"It's the day that Jesus died," she answered.
"But why is it called good?" Joel persisted.
"Because Jesus died for our sins to be forgiven," said Emily Anne.
I think on that shore in Galilee Peter understood why Good Friday was good, too.
So, what verses touched your heart this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Great Choices for Read-Alouds

As I'm gearing up for our first "official" homeschooling year in the fall, I've been doing some research. It's the kind of research I love best: reading!

Emily Anne has gotten where she likes to have a chapter (or two . . . or three . . .) read before bed instead of just picture books. I love being able to read to chapter books to her! We have read The Wizard of Oz, Raggedy Ann and the Golden Rings, Little House in the Big Woods, and are currently reading Pippi Longstocking (who I remember fondly from my childhood, but am realizing is not the greatest role model for children!). As I anticipate more read-alouds, I realized I wanted to be a little more intentional about what books I introduced, so I have been checking out a lot of books from the juvenile section of the library and compiling them into an annotated bibliography. I've particularly been looking for charming old-fashioned stories. I've included possible themes in case I want to incorporate them into a thematic unit and possible extensions. Since I like to do read-alouds from picture books during the day so that Will can join us, too, I've included some of those as well. Here are my results so far.


Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey. 1948, Puffin Books. This simple story of Sal and her mother picking blueberries for next winter starts off a little slow. However, the story picks up as the reader realizes that Sal & her mother’s harvesting is paralleled by that of Little Bear and his mother.
o Themes: blueberries, bears, hibernation, canning
o Extensions: onomatopoeia, story modeling

Rabbit Hill, Robert Lawson. 1944, Puffin Books. This short novel tells the story of Georgie, a rabbit, his family, and all the other animals on the Hill. The plot centers around the arrival of “New Folks” in the Big House. All the animals have distinct personalities, and add humor to the story. The main theme of the story is the interaction of human beings with the animals in their habitat.
o Themes: rabbits, woodland animals, Connecticut, St. Francis of Assissi, gardening
o Extensions: comparison/contrast of this novel & Peter Rabbit (Peter & Georgie; Mr. McGregor & the Folks)

The Tough Winter, Robert Lawson. 1954, Puffin Books. This sequel to Rabbit Hill shows how difficult it is to survive a tough Connecticut winter. The departure of the Folks for bluegrass country and the arrival of the caretaker and his wife underscores the relationship between human beings and animals. Uncle Analdas, who makes an appearance in Rabbit Hill, plays a larger part in this novel.
o Themes: hibernation, Kentucky, woodland animals, winter, Groundhog Day

Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry. 1947, Rand McNally & Co. This novel is a must-read for anyone who loves horses. It takes place on the barrier islands of Virginia and chronicles the story of Paul & Maureen Beebe, who capture a horse and love and care for her and her foal. The novel opens with a flashback to a shipwreck during colonial times to explain how the horses arrived on the island. Younger readers may find this beginning slow, but the action picks up with the introduction of the brother and sister.
o Themes: breaking horses, barrier islands
o Extensions: dialect

King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian, Marguerite Henry. 1948: Rand McNally & Co. This novel tells the story of Agba, a mute Moroccan stable boy and his horse, Sham. Agba and Sham travel from the sultan’s stables to the royal stables of Versailles to a Parisian carter’s stable to an English Quaker’s home, to an innkeeper, to an aristocratic manor to the wild fens of England and back to the manor. The story’s theme shows how human beings can affect their horses, for good or ill. Sham winds up founding a new line of thoroughbreds, including Man o’ War and Seabiscuit in his lineage.
o Themes: Morocco, Arabian horses, horse racing, muteness

Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild. 1937: Random House. Don’t let the new illustrations on the cover fool you; this is an old-fashioned book. It is the story of Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil, three adopted sisters. When money becomes tight for their guardian, they enroll in a school for the stage, with the goal of earning money for their family. Each of the girls has a distinct personality to match their distinct hair color. The novel deals with sacrifice, the meaning of family and lessons of pride and sets these lessons amidst toe shoes, foot lights, and engines (yes, engines).
o Themes: family, ballet, theater, Shakespeare, child labor, engine and auto repair
o Extensions: Read & act out a children’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; prepare for an audition like the girls do (recite a speech, prepare a song and dance)

I hope you've found a few new (old) books to try out. So, what are your favorite books for read-alouds?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

All I Ever Have to Be

My friend Amy over at Signs, Miracles, & Wonders has started a new carnival on Saturdays dealing with the songs that inspire us. Here is my contribution for today.

Do you ever feel the pressure to be more, do more? Society today sends the message that whatever we're doing, we could be doing more. There are so many options available to us today that even if we are frantically running from here to there, there is always another activity that we just can't get to. We then feel guilty that we can't do everything. Even worse, self-improvement books send the message that we should always strive to be better. The Army's popular slogan to "Be all that you can be" is often twisted by the world to "Be
more than you can be."

Now, I have never been a fan of complacency, but our culture points toward personal ambition rather than the true aim of bettering ourselves: becoming more Christlike. Unfortunately, this struggling to be more, this dissatisfaction with who I am, compared to others, has dogged me throughout my life. Thankfully, God has sent a song to me to remind me that I never have to be more than who God has made me to be: "All I Ever Have to Be" by Amy Grant.

I was first introduced to this song at a church luncheon for my graduating class from high school(Yes, back in the 80s!). My English teacher and Teacher Cadet teacher, Joanne Merck, who had also taught a Bible study for us teens, played the song for us. Joanne later became a mentor for me in my teaching career and adult Bible studies. I'm proud to call her a friend today.

Here are the lyrics to the song:
"All I Ever Have to Be"

When the weight of all my dreams
Is resting heavy on my head,
And the thoughtful words of help and hope
Have all been nicely said.

But I'm still hurting,
Wondering if I'll ever be
The one I think I am.

I think I am.

Then You gently re-remind me
That You've made me from the first,
And the more I try to be the best,
The more I get the worst.

And I realize the good in me,
Is only there because of Who You are.

Who You are...

And all I ever have to be
Is what You've made me.
Any more or less would be a step
Out of your plan.

As You daily recreate me,
Help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do
What I can find.

And all I ever have to be
All I have to be
All I ever have to be
Is what You've made me.

I try to remind myself of two lines from this song whenever I catch myself trying to measure up to the world's standards. "The more I try to be the best, the more I get the worst" shows me that when I strive to live up to (or exceed) other people's expectations, I am going to be living for this world. I am making myself worse according to God's standards.

The other line that means a great deal to me in this song is "Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan." This line reminds me of Psalm 139:14 and that God has made me just as I am for a reason. All of my personality quirks, talents, and experiences work together for God's purpose.

If you get a chance to listen to this oldie but goodie, I believe it will bless you. It certainly has blessed me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Organization Swap & Hop

Today Lysa TerKeurst's Swap & Hop deals with organization. My organizational idea deals with memorizing Bible verses. I would try to do this and would memorize one, only to have it drop out of memory as I memorized others (I am firmly convinced that bearing children drastically reduces brain cells!).

The credit for my tip today must go to Simply Charlotte Mason via Adventures at the Allen Academy. It is a wonderful scripture memorization tool that works great and makes me look organized. Here is how it works: (I hope to add pictures to this post; my camera batteries were dead!)

  • On a selection of index card dividers write the following: Daily, Odd, Even, each of the days of the week, and dates 1-31. You will need a total of 41 index card dividers. I used regular index cards and then used the sticky tabs to make dividers. Place these dividers in an index file box.

  • Make index cards with scriptures you have already memorized and want to memorize on them. I typed mine out so that I would have a record of the scriptures in case they got lost and so that my daughter could have a hand in the project by cutting them out and glueing them on index cards. I imagine that you could also make an index card you could stick in the front or back where you list the addresses of the verses if you want a record.

  • For scriptures that you already know, put one card each behind all the index cards beyond Daily (Even, Odd, Monday, etc.). You may start out with none you know, and that's fine; you'll eventually add them as you learn them! Choose one scripture you want to begin memorizing and put it behind Daily. Other "new" verses can go in the very back of your box.

  • Each day, read aloud the Daily verse together. If it is an even day, read aloud the verse behind Even as review. If it is Friday, read the verse behind Friday's tab. If it is the 14th of the month, read the verse behind 14. This way, you learn a new verse and review 3 other verses.

  • When you have a new verse learned, shift it to the Odd divider and shift all the other scripture cards back one divider. If you have cards behind all 41 dividers, you can have more than one verse to review behind each divider (You'll also be a Scripture Memory Queen!).

Here are the verses that we've started with:

Philippians 4:13

Psalm 118:24

Genesis 1:1

Philippians 4:8

Deuteronomy 6:5

Luke 6:31

Psalm 139:14

Psalm 119:105

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Proverbs 3:5-6

Jeremiah 29:11

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1 Peter 2:8

John 13:34

Ephesians 6:1-3

Philippians 4:4

Ephesians 2:8-9

Hebrews 13:16

John 3:16

1 John 1:8

Proverbs 6:6-8

Luke 1:37

1 Corinthians 14:40

James 4:7

John 6:35

John 10:11

John 14:6

Galatians 3:3

Galatians 3:29

Galatians 5:5

Galatians 5:22-23

Ephesians 6:11

Philippians 2:14-15

Colossians 3:2

Colossians 3:17

1 Timothy 4:12

1 Timothy 6:10

Hebrews 3:12

Hebrews 11:1

James 1:19-20

James 5:16

1 John 4:19

Galatians 2:20

2 Corinthians 12:9

Proverbs 22:1

Proverbs 21:2

Proverbs 20:3

Proverbs 20:11

Proverbs 20:24

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Today's edition of Thirstin' for the Word Thursday comes complete with a new button! A big thank-you goes out to Kysha of Love's School for creating this button for me! Feel free to copy the HTML code and post this button on your own blog! I would love for others to know about TftWT!

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37b)

Feeling a bit parched? Searching to quench that thirst with an iced tea or Diet Coke? Dive into the Word for real refreshment!

I try to be diligent in my Bible reading and am often rewarded by God's speaking to my heart through particular scriptures. I pause and sometimes even write them down. The reflection usually ends there, however. This year, I would like to pursue the verses that God lays on my heart by pondering how He wants me to apply these verses in my life.

Here is what spoke to me this week:

Now fear the LORD and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24: 14-15 NIV

Have you seen all of the pretty items with this last sentence from this verse on them? Here is one. Here is another. Check out this whole site (I love going in this store whenever I visit my parents). I must confess that I've really wanted something with this verse to put in our new house, consecrating it in a sense, to God. What, though, does it mean to make this choice?

When Joshua spoke these words to the Israelites, they had entered the Promised Land and received their inheritance. They had seen God's faithfulness in rescuing their fathers from Egypt and providing for them in the wilderness. They had seen God drive out the nations before them in Canaan. They were living out His promise to them: "So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant" (Joshua 24: 13 NIV). (How this verse should resonate with us today!)
Why then would serving God seem "undesirable?"

It isn't easy to serve God. Joshua tells the people so in verse 19. James also tells us to expect difficulty because it brings about spiritual maturity. We are able, though, to serve God because the Holy Spirit lives within us when we accept Christ. Through Him, we are equipped to serve God. Paul is incredulous that the Galatians would attempt to live the Christian life on their own without relying on the Holy Spirit, and this is what we must do also.

As for me and my house, serving the LORD means yielding and relying on the Holy Spirit in order to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Recipe Swap!

Lysa TerKeurst is in a recipe slump and has created a recipe swap carnival. Hop on over to get some new ideas on what's for dinner.

I tend to gravitate toward collecting main dish recipes and often have a hard time coming up with side dishes that go with the entree, so I'm posting three recipes that will give you a great dinner menu. The main dish is a Weight Watchers' recipe, but, never fear, the low-fatness can be negated by the yummy dessert! The other two recipes are from Southern Living, which is the source for most of my recipes!

Herbed Lemon Chicken Breasts from Weight Watchers
2 Tbsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 medium fresh lemon (I really like lemon and will often use a whole one)
1 cup chicken broth
cooked brown rice

On a large plate combine lemon pepper with flour; pat chicken dry and roll in flour mixture. Heat butter in large skillet; add chicken and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Meanwhile, grate lemon zest; squeeze juice from lemon and mix zest and juice with chicken broth. Pour over chicken, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove lid and cook for a further 5 minutes or until juices run clear. Serve sauce over brown rice.

Honey-Glazed Carrots from Southern Living
1 (2-lb.) bag baby carrots
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint (a lot of times I don't have this on hand and leave it out)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring carrots to boil in a 3-qt. saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium, and cook 15-20 minutes, or just until carrots are tender. Drain.

Melt butter in a large skillet over low heat; stir in sugar, honey, and salt. Add carrots, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 to 8 minutes, or until carrots are glazed. Sprinkle with mint and pepper to taste. Serves 6.

Caramel-Pecan Oatmeal Bars from Southern Living
I made these for a church bake sale and was asked three times for the recipe!

1 cup chopped pecans
1 (18.25 oz.) pkg. yellow cake mix
2 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 (11.5 oz.) pkg. chocolate morsels
25 caramels
1 Tbsp. water

Place pecans in a single layer in a 13-x-9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally. Remove nuts from pan.

Line bottom and sides ofpan with aluminum foil, allowing 2-3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.

Stir together cake mix and oats in a large bowl. Stir in butter with a fork until mixture is crumbly and dry ingredients are moistened. Press half of oat mixture evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate morsels and toasted pecans evenly over oat mixture in pan. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Microwave caramels and 1 Tbsp. water in a microwave-safe bowl at High 1 minute or until caramels are melted. Drizzle evenly over warm bars in pan. Let cool on wire rack 1 hour or until completely cooled.

Lift baked bars from pan, using foil sides as handles. Place on cutting board, and cut into 24 bars.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Today's edition of Thirstin' for the Word Thursday comes complete with a new button! A big thank-you goes out to Kysha of Love's School for creating this button for me! Feel free to copy the HTML code from the button in the sidebar and post this button on your own blog!
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37b)

Feeling a bit parched? Searching to quench that thirst with an iced tea or Diet Coke? Dive into the Word for real refreshment!

I try to be diligent in my Bible reading and am often rewarded by God's speaking to my heart through particular scriptures. I pause and sometimes even write them down. The reflection usually ends there, however. This year, I would like to pursue the verses that God lays on my heart by pondering how He wants me to apply these verses in my life.

Here is what spoke to me this week:
"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, 'Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, 'Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
Deuteronomy 30:11-20
These verses command us to love God and to obey Him, something that seems simple in theory but is a little more difficult in practice. Some days living up to this command seems "beyond my reach." Yet, these verses also encourage us to persevere because God has not ordered us to do something of which we are incapable. Verse 14 tells us to saturate ourselves with the Word so that it permeates our mind and our heart so that obeying God becomes a lifestyle. Of course, today, we also have the Holy Spirit to help us obey God's command.
What is the advantage of obeying the Lord? Other than the obvious result of pleasing Him, we are told in verse 16 that obedience brings about blessings. I don't think these are simply the blessings of prosperity. Beth Moore in Believing God points out that the Israelites' Promised Land can be compared to our individual callings today. Our obedience helps create the optimal situation for us to live out the calling that He has placed on our lives. Fulfilling the mission for which God has created us, bringing together our gifts, experiences, and personality is a great blessing. I believe that this blessing is the abundance that Jesus mentions in John 10:10.
What are the consequences of disobeying God? Putting other things before God creates a situation where we disobey Him, and this disobedience leads to our destruction, verse 18 tells us. Again, I don't think this merely means our physical death, but also our spiritual death. Ignoring or rebelling against God's commands also means a failure to fulfill the calling for which he has tailor-made us. If we drift away from God, we won't live long in our individual promised lands.

My favorite part of this passage is the last two verses. Now that I am a mother, any bible verses that mention children have a special place in my heart. Verse 19 shows that our obedience to God affects not only ourselves, but also our children. We should be examples of following God's commands to them so that they, in turn, will be obedient. I also love the series of verbs in verse 20: love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. I find it very comforting that God wants a father-daughter relationship with me. He wants my love, just as I relish in the hugs and kisses from my own children. Just as I want my children to listen to me for their own good, so too does He want me to give ear to his rules. Just as I want my children to run to me for comfort when they are frightened or hurt, God wants me to turn to him first when a crisis hits.
These verses have encouraged me to "choose life" today. Won't you join me?

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.