Thursday, July 31, 2014

July to the Max: Fireworks, Baseball, and Church Camp

July passed in a hurry, didn't it? Just like that, summer break is almost over and we're starting school on Monday. I'm excited about that, but also sorry to see our relaxing (and not so relaxing - church camp anyone?) days go.

Pinning Right Now:
I'm all about the planning these days.

We use The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child as our History spine so I love these printable planners from Barefoot Ragamuffin. Great way to keep track of all those extra reading books.

These weekly planners from The Flanders Family look like they'll be helpful for keeping my older students on track. I like to give them assignment sheets on Monday morning so they can be responsible for much of their own work.

Learning Tangent offers some simple homeschool planner pages.

If you're looking for more homeschool planner pages, I have a Pinterest Board just for you! (I also have a board for organizing which has other printable planners, not just for homeschooling)

Reading:
I've finished 11 books in July. (Come back tomorrow to see the full list).
I read one book for review in July: The Good News About Marriage.
My reading stack right now looks like this:
It was double this size, but I cleaned out the books that I just didn't have time to read. This stack is heavy on the non-fiction though, so I know some fiction will be sneaking in there. Several books are for a post I'm working on for next week: Reading Through World War 1. And let me just say: I'll be glad for a break from war reading once that's done.

Watching:
Guilty pleasure admission time: I've been watching old episodes of Magnum P.I. It's perfect escape watching after a long summer day. (Philip's even watching them with me despite his original hesitation. Next up: Matlock, which my husband somehow missed as a kid. I asked him what he watched at his grandma's house if they didn't watch Matlock, but his grandmas must not have been fans.) We're up to season 3 now. (Another admission: we skipped the first season.)

We watched the new Robocop. No, it's not the best movie ever. But it has Gary Oldman and Jennifer Ehle in it, two actors I always admire. And it raises some interesting questions about what exactly it is to be human and why can't science explain or duplicate that? (Yes, I can find an interesting philosophical discussion anywhere.)

We've started watching the Sharpe series because my husband is reading through the books. My impression is that it's Horatio Hornblower on land, but since we like HH, that's not a problem.

We finished watching the second series of Endeavor. This is good stuff. We've seen nearly all the episodes of Morse and all the episodes of Lewis and this is a great addition. (So fun to see John Thaw's daughter in this new series.)

And last but not least (and actually, this probably should have been first on this list since we watched this early in July), we finally watched The Lego Movie. Fun. (And "Everything is Awesome" has replaced "Let it Go" as my children's song of choice, which really is awesome because if I had to hear a Frozen song one. more. time...)

Going:
  • We watched a great fireworks show with my sister's family.
  • We celebrated the 4th with my grandparents
  • My mom and I saw the Mary Poppins musical at a dinner theater place with a lovely group of friends.
  • We finally made it out to some yard sales. I found some great education stuff (puzzles, magnets, games, etc.) but not much else.
  • We spent a week at church camp. (Always a highlight of our summer!)
  • We went to a Reds game with friends. (And the Reds actually won, which is a rarity these days. Sigh.)
(Not the greatest picture, but our photographer was a little unsteady on her feet. Anyway, it's proof that you can squeeze an almost 15 mo. baby into a moby wrap.)

Blogging:
I made a list of my favorite Books to Inspire a Love of America.

I talked about Summer Jobs, Theirs and Mine (a mom's manifesto).

I wrote a love letter to my ink pens (Sort of.): Cheap Notebooks and Nice Pens.
I shared 11 Tips for Homeschooling Without Breaking the Budget. One I didn't include: shop around for a co-op that doesn't break the bank. We found one near us that is much less than the others I researched. So we're giving it a try this year. It's still more than we're used to spending, so we're hoping to pick up some extra work to give the budget a bit of relief. We'll see how that goes.

So, what did you get up to in July? Are you ready for a new school year?
Linking up with:

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure page for more. Thanks so much to those of you who use my links or search box - every little bit helps!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: The Good News About Marriage


We've all seen the statistics: marriages just don't last. 50% end in divorce. Christians divorce at the same rate as the rest of culture. Second (or third) marriages are doomed from the start.

But what if those things just aren't true? Would it change how we talk about marriage? How we think about marriage?

It should.

Shaunti Feldhahn doesn't write about what she wishes were true: she does the research (and examines research done by others). She crunches numbers (and I'm thankful that there's someone out there willing to do that. All the numbers tend to make my eyes glaze over). She analyzes the evidence and reports what she's found.

You can probably tell from the title, the evidence simply does not support the awful headlines. Here's what Feldhahn discovered (spoiler alert!):
  • The actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent.
  • Those who attend church regularly have a significantly lower divorce rate than those who don't.
  • Most marriages are happy.
  • Simple changes make a big difference in most marriage problems.
  • Most remarriages succeed.
You'll need to read the book to see her evidence and whether you find her arguments persuasive. 

I did. Marriage is definitely a challenge in today's world. But let's not make it harder than it has to be. Let's find out how to encourage each other in our marriages and how to speak hope instead of negative inevitability. 

This book can help with that.

I do recommend reading this one in context with her previous book,The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Differencesince they are related and it will help you make sense of this second book.

Neither book takes long to read and my husband and I have enjoyed discussing them. (Yes, these are books about marriage that a husband can enjoy too.)

Want to know more?
You can find Shaunti Feldhahn at her website: Shaunti.
On Facebook: Shaunti Feldhahn.
Or on Twitter: Shaunti Feldhahn.
To find out more about this book, or to order a copy: The Good News About Marriage.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weekend Links - July 26, 2014

We've had a busy week at church camp, so not as many links for you today. Meanwhile, I've got to catch up on the laundry (SO MUCH LAUNDRY) and get our lives back on track so we can start strong on Monday.

Spiritual / Inner Life

Marriage / Parenting

Writing

In the News

If you want to know why my family thinks church camp is so important - even though it's exhausting and disruptive to our family life while we get ready for it and recover from it - see this series of posts: What's So Special About Church Camp?

What caught your eye this week?

Linking up with:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What's So Special About Church Camp? Part 4

P - Camp is the chance to Prepare.

Camp is kind of a unique thing. There's a unique emphasis on spiritual things and doing the right thing. Sometimes it's easier to feel like a Christian at camp, surrounded by other Christian kids, or at least kids not exactly opposed to Christianity.

But that's not the way life is the rest of the year. We do our best to equip kids to face the real world. We teach a biblical worldview. Not just what we believe but why we believe it. Kids are not too young to learn apologetics.

Some kids need the time at camp to realize they don't need their phones every second of the day.

Some kids need camp to learn how to make friends with a new crowd of people.

Some kids need camp to learn how to lose gracefully.

Some kids need camp to see how they can push themselves and feel pleased by their efforts.

Some kids need to see what a godly man or woman act like, how they respond to difficulties or trouble.

Some kids need to be reminded that commitment to Christ is not just words we say, but a life to live.

Camp, done right, is a way to prepare a child for the other 51 weeks of the year.

Part 1: Choose
Part 2: Achieve
Part 3: Minister

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What's So Special About Church Camp? Part 3

M - a chance to Minister.

Some children receive this benefit - a chance to minister to others - as well as the adults. A popular child will reach out and include a new kid. A child will sit with a hurt friend since she can't go on the hike. Someone will help a friend make her bunk before inspections. They'll work together on projects and during group activities.

But in spite of those things, this one is primarily why church camp is good for adults:

A chance to unplug (although maybe not as completely as we enforce this rule for the kids. Counselors with spouses back home have to check up every once in awhile)

A chance to learn patience.

A chance to sacrifice your own desires (MORE SLEEP!) for the good of others

A chance to benefit from truth, simply explained

The staff from our church does not pressure children to make a decision about Christ. We never - not ever - ask a child to pray after us or say some words.

We listen.

We teach.

We try to answer their questions (and children have a lot of questions) as best we can with the Bible.

And we pray, a lot.

We aren't trying to make a quota of professions of faith (real or imagined). Instead, we pray for the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do and awaken these young spirits to their need for a Savior. The joy of it is we get to be part of that.

Part 1: C is for Choose
Part 2: A is for Achieve

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What's So Special About Church Camp? Part 2

What's so great about church camp?

A - A chance to Achieve.

Our camp has memory work, team competitions, personal challenges, sports, swimming, bunk inspections, board games, and challenges that stretch your creative muscles (design a flag, make a poster for your team, make up a song about your team, etc.)

No child excels at everything we do. Some children will not be recognized as the fastest runner or the neatest bunk. Some will stare at a creative assignment with blank faces. Some will breeze through their memory work and others will struggle. Some will be constantly surrounded by a group of buddies and others will take longer to warm up. Some will quickly grasp the rules of a new game and others will need two (or three, or more...) explanations. Some will sing enthusiastically in choir or act their hearts out in drama. Some will wish they could do craft every night.

Some children will be staying away from home for the first time, proving to themselves (and their parents) that they can do it.

For the staff, it's a chance to push ourselves. Play more games of dodgeball than we have in an entire year. Swim more. Stay up later and get up earlier. Supervise more meals, patch up more scrapes, remind more children about sunscreen, sing longer and louder, answer hard questions, pray more.

This is why everyone goes home happy and exhausted. You've achieved something - you worked hard and if God blesses, then lives have been changed.

Part 1: Choose.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What's So Special About Church Camp? - Part 1

This is our week our church sponsors for Juniors (roughly ages 7-12, although this year we've got some older kids along). We've grown up going to church camp and for the past 11 years my husband has directed our Junior Camp (and I get to be his sidekick).

Camp is stressful, a lot of work, occasionally frustrating, and somewhat expensive. But despite those things it's also worth more than it costs. This week I hope to share a few of the reasons why, using the letters C.A.M.P.

Today: Choose.

Camp is a week of choices for the kids and the adults.

There are the relatively easy questions for the kids:
  • Cereal or hot breakfast?
  • Save my money for snack bar tonight or have a feast this afternoon?
  • Pick up my clothes or hope the bunk inspector won't notice?
  • Play dodgeball (again) or Shark Tag?
  • Swim or play a board game?
Then there are the slightly harder questions
  • Will I follow the rules?
  • Will I participate with a good attitude?
  • Will I listen to the classes? And let others listen too?
  • Will I include this girl I don't know in my group of friends?
  • Will I try my best even if I don't receive an award?
  • Will I be a good sport in dodgeball or will I resort to excuses? ("It didn't touch me, it touched my shirt!")
  • Will I grumble about the "no cell phones, no electronic devices" rule or will I take this chance to really unplug and focus on other things?
And then there are the choices with eternal consequences:
  • Will I ask questions about what it really means to follow Christ?
  • Will I grow in my walk with Him?
  • Will I give up a sin I've held onto?
  • Will I really focus on the memory work so I can always remember it or will I rush through it to earn a prize?
The chances to make choices come often at camp. The results of bad choices are usually readily apparent. The good choices help make camp a joy.

The adults at camp have choices too:
  • Will I be patient with these children even when it's a hot day and I only got five hours of sleep and I haven't had any coffee yet?
  • Will I choose to find something to encourage in each child instead of a fault to correct?
  • Will I lovingly, gracefully correct a child, if necessary, instead of snapping?
  • Will I go to the pool even though it's a long walk and I don't really care about swimming?
  • Will I referee yet another game of dodgeball even though some other counselor should really take a turn and I'm starting to feel put upon?
There are lots of choices to be made at camp, and some will have eternal consequences. That's reason number 1 why I think Church Camp is a great thing.

Did you attend camp as a kid? What choices did you make?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Links - July 19, 2014

We hit a few yard sales this morning (not too many, but I did find some things for our homeschool supplies - two USA puzzles, a Melissa & Doug magnetic calendar, a Think Fun chess game, & an anatomy coloring book, among a few other things). The big girls are off blueberry picking with their Gram, Philip & Miss Lili went to visitation, and I get to put this links post together in a quiet house while the iBoy takes his morning nap - what luxury.

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
  • Help Your Kids Say 'No' to Porn by Jen Wilkin at TGC. This is SO very important. We had this point driven home just this week. I followed a link on Pinterest and it ended up at a site that had been hacked. I saw things I would much rather not and things I DEFINITELY do not want my kids to see. It was a good reminder though: sin doesn't just sit around and wait for us. The devil is seeking to devour. Sin finds you, and you need to be prepared and your children need you to prepare them.
  • How Generous Are You, Really? by Lisa Byrne at The Art of Simple.
  • Jesus Centered Parenting in a Child Centered World an interview with J.D and Veronica Greear by Trevin Wax.
  • The Power of the Written Word by Angie Warren at The Art of Simple.
  • Four Ways Three Children are Better Than Two by Leslie Loftis for The Federalist. Great points in this post, although I have to admit the addition of our third child was kind of hard (suddenly kids outnumbered adults). What's strange is that adding our fourth and fifth didn't seem that difficult. We'd already crossed the line into "those people" and there was no looking back.
Education / Homeschooling
  • The Little Way to Success by Cindy at Ordo Amoris. Cindy is wise and her reminder is timely for those of us gearing up for another school year.
  • How Family Game Night Makes Kids Into Better Students by Jessica Lahey for The Atlantic. Philip has always suspected this. (Our kids, living with a game designer, don't just have "family game night." There's a game with dad nearly every night at our house, and that doesn't count the games they play during the day.)
Writing / Creativity
In the News
What caught your eye this week?
Linking up with:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Favorite Pins Friday

Blog:
Lots of great resources here, and unlike many of these lists only a few are Wordpress specific.

Remodel:
I don't think I'll ever get tired of books displayed on ledges.

Learn:
Source: Apologia Physical Science lens on Squidoo.
We're using this textbook (and the notebook that goes with it) for my oldest daughter's science this year and this lens on Squidoo had a lot of resources I'd forgotten about.

Devour:
Source: The Kitchn
I made polenta for the first time this week. I served it with chicken cacciatore (a family favorite) and it was a hit with most of my family. (I believe we had one holdout, which is pretty good in a family of 7.)

Laugh:
Source: unknown
You have to love homeschool humor, right?

I started a new board this week:
Follow Karen (Candid Diversions)'s board Homeschooling - Shakespeare on Pinterest.
We're excited about adding the "extras" back into our school this year, after years of having a new baby and moving (twice). Studying a play or two (or three) of Shakespeare is one of those things that just didn't happen when we were in "Do Math, History, and Grammar and call it good" mode.

What did you pin this week?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Clean Again

Throwback Thursday is a weekly post where I resurrect a post from the past.

This week: Clean Again: Lessons Learned at Church Camp from July 19, 2008.

What I like about it: as we're once again in the middle of camp planning, I like the reminder that it's about more than just the logistics of games, meal times, and getting 40 girls to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Really, it's about so much more than that.

What I'd change now: once again, there aren't any pictures. So I made a quick graphic. Too bad I didn't have PicMonkey in 2008.
Do you read through your old posts? If you have one you'd like to share, please leave a link in the comments.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

11 Tips for Homeschooling Without Breaking the Budget

We're a family of 7 living on a tight budget - but homeschooling doesn't break that budget. Here's how:

Don't just shop educational stores or homeschool catalogs - keep your eyes open because educational items are everywhere. I found our favorite solar system magnets at Hobby Lobby on clearance. The Target dollar bins have supplied flashcards, posters, magnets, and more over the years. And don't forget to ask for discounts. Some bookstores and education stores will give you a teacher discount if you're a homeschool family (you may have to provide documentation). If you do your shopping at a homeschool convention, try to buy from a vendor that price matches. I save at least $50 every year by doing so.

Yard Sales and Thrift Stores - 'tis the season for yard sales (or garage sales or tag sales, depending on what they're called in your area). Things I've found at yard sales and thrift stores include white boards, chalk boards, bulletin boards, folders, unused curriculum, reference books, calendars (which make great art books), maps, flashcards, games, measuring cups and spoons, play money, Lincoln logs, Legos, Tinker Toys, shells, puzzles, educational toys and baskets to organize everything. Don't forget used curriculum sales, online or otherwise.

Back to School Sales - oh, how I love these. Watch the ads (and keep them, if you have a store that price matches) and you can pick up notebooks, filler paper, printer paper, notecards, folders, markers, crayons, rulers, highlighters and more for pennies. Keep a stash of these items and dole them out as needed through the year. If you want to be truly frugal, do NOT let your children have unfettered access. My kids can go through a ream of paper faster than you can say "that was for printing maps for geography."

Gifts from family and friends - things that make good gifts include art supplies, craft kits, science equipment (my parents gave my kids a very nice microscope), Legos, puzzles, movies, and games. When grandparents or Aunts & Uncles ask for suggestions, don't forget these things.

Hand Me Downs - we've had friends and family pass down books, math manipulatives, science equipment, and more. When people know you're homeschoolers, they might offer you educational things they don't want any more. Accept with a smile. If you can't use it, pass it on to someone else (or donate it). Don't forget about the Craiglist "free" listings. Most of it won't interest you but you never know when someone might want to get rid of something you can actually use.

The Library - this should be a homeschool family's best friend. Most libraries in the US have more than just books these days. There are movies, CDs, audio books, magazines (including technical journals), items available for downloading (ours has ebooks, free music downloads, magazines, and newspapers), and that's not to mention the programs they put on. (So far this year my girls have made marble mine shafts, attending a program on Water - more fun than it sounds!- Fun with Bubbles, and more.)

Don't forget to ask if there's a teacher card option. Homeschool Moms should be eligible (with some documentation) for this and it is so worth it. (Ours means the books are automatically renewed and there are no fees. It can only be used for our school items, not movies or the books for me, but still, that's a big savings for a family with hundreds of items checked out.)

Free downloads and printables - there are entire websites and blogs dedicated to these. Some of my favorites are:
Rotate memberships - you don't have to buy memberships to every museum, zoo, and aquarium near you. Pick one a year (this year the zoo, next year the science museum or something like that). Watch for free or discount days at your favorite spots, if you don't have a membership. Museum or zoo memberships also make great gifts.

Local parks - playgrounds, hiking trails, educational programs, concerts...you don't know what's available until you check. Take a walk on the same hiking trail once a week and have your children note the differences or keep a nature journal.

Barter - trade piano lessons for art class or babysit for Spanish lessons. Swap your 5th grade math for a friend's 6th grade Science. There are facebook groups, co-ops and more for this but you can also try just asking friends you know.

Prioritize - in our family we buy Children's Theatre season tickets and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra school concert tickets. Those experiences are important to us. But another family might find sports more important and pay fees for baseball in the summer and basketball in the winter. All of those are good things, but if you can't afford them all, know what your family wants and pursue that. There is no law that every five year old has to stand on a soccer field, especially if that five year old would rather be painting. It's not just a question of budgeting your money, but also your time. There are many great experiences and classes. But a family of more than one child cannot possibly do them all. Don't feel guilty about that.

A tight budget might be a challenge, but it's not an insurmountable one.

How do you stretch your homeschool budget?

Linking up with:
Living and Learning at Home
Picture credit: Pixabay

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cheap Notebooks, Nice Pens: A Writing Life

We have so many devices available today. In our - admittedly slow to adopt technology and constrained by a tight budget - family we have a desktop computer, a laptop, my Kindle Fire, and two smart-ish phones. There are so many ways to record our thoughts, activities, and any aspect of our lives we care to remember or share with hundreds of people we may or may not know.

But when I need to write, must write, have to write or I might burst from holding words inside, I always reach for paper and pen.

I'm not particular about the paper, a cheap notebook will do. (For this reason alone back-to-school sales are like early Christmas. Notebooks for $0.17? Yes, please, I'll have them ALL.)

I am choosy about the pen. I prefer Pilot G-2s (since my budget doesn't reach to the truly nice pens). These pens have smoothly flowing ink and fine points, but not too fine, since a scratchy pen is an abomination.

When words are simply demanding to be written, I'll use whatever is at hand (markers, sharpies, colored pencils, crayons in truly dire circumstances) but if I can choose, I take up a pen.

I guard them jealously. My daughters like to take them, using them for intricate pen drawings or cartoons drawn on pilfered printer paper. "Where's my pen?!" is a common cry around our home, since my husband is equally jealous over his pens.

Why do I write when I may never be known for it or receive any acclaim for it? Why take up the carefully hidden pen and reach for paper again and again? Because I must.

The notebook page is blank. I take my perfect pen - not too heavy, not too plastic, just the write amount of ink - and the words come down with the ink, flowing from a part of my brain I don't even have to think about accessing. It's like a magic agreement between the one true Creator God, my empty paper, my rushing pen, and my brain that must spill out words in order to exist.

I may not ever be a published Author. I may never make any money from the scribblings in my notebooks. Or maybe I will, who can say? But it doesn't really matter anyway. A Writer is someone who wrote today.

And my pen is ready.

picture source: Pixabay

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekend Links - July 12, 2014

We had talked about having a yard sale today but somewhere around Thursday night my motivation to do anything just went away. Friday we talked about a free night at a local museum or dressing up like cows to get free Chick Fil A food. But the idea of going anywhere, or, again, doing anything, was just not appealing. We read books. We played board games. We cooked out, just for us. We gave the little folks a bubble bath and let them play as long as they wanted. I worked on some homeschool paperwork. We did not price any items or make a craigslist ad or set up any signs directing people into our neighborhood.

So, no yardsale today. No plans at all, really. And it is good.

But I do have lots of links for you this week so let's get to 'em.

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Friendship / Relationships
Homeschooling / Education
Blogging / Social Media
In the News

Apparently I did a lot of reading, online and off, this week. I never know how many links I've saved until I start writing this post and I retrieve them from all my hiding places (Feedly, my email, Pinterest, bookmarks...)

What caught your eye this week?

Linking up with:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Favorite Pins Friday

Here are a few things that I saved on Pinterest this week:

Blog:
Loved this post, for obvious reasons. But it also inspired me - on a day when my motivation to do, well, much of anything, really - to get up and try again.

Remodel:
We have several extremely dated ceiling fans in our house right now, and no funds, at the moment, to change them out. Then I saw these this week and thought, "We could try that." They couldn't possibly look worse than they already do, right?

Learn:
We'll be using this curriculum (affiliate link):

and we've appreciated the books from Memoria Press for many years, but I also love this advice for working Latin in and making it fun.

Devour:
Try not to drool on your keyboard...

Laugh:

Source: QS PRN
That's my perfectionistic INTJ motto, right there.

You can find these - and many more! - pins on Pinterest:
Visit Karen (Candid Diversions)'s profile on Pinterest.