Food for Thought

 

On this crisp fall afternoon
I thought I’d pass along something I’ve been mulling over.
Perhaps it might speak to you too?

 

Edie over at LifeInGrace recently penned this honest post.
It has messed with me.  At least I pray that it has.
And while Edie’s words are written within the context of God’s calling on her life to home educate her children,
there are parts of this post that apply to any of us who are in positions of influence.
And if we believe the gospel to be true, then aren’t we all in positions of influence?

So, even if you are not a homeschooler; even if you are not a parent;
might you slowly savor the following words?

We must come to the table hungry.
And our children learn by our example.
They know when we’re trying to force feed them from food we don’t eat ourselves.   ~Edie Wadsworth

I recently listened to a sermon on Matthew 23.
In this text, Jesus is addressing the crowds and his disciples.
Prior to offering the following warning, He silences the Pharisees
who have been trying again and again to snare Him in a game of words.
When the Pharisees do not dare ask Jesus anymore questions, He then turns to the crowds and says:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,
so practice and observe what they tell you–but not what they do.
For they preach, but do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.        ~Matthew 23

Now, I know that God speaks to us through His people and through His Word.
And so, in light of Edie’s thoughts and Jesus’ caution to the crowd both blindsiding me this week, I begin to wonder…
How often am I placing burdens upon my children that I am not willing to carry?
How often do I expect them to feast upon food–whether in discipline or education–
that I am not willing to palate myself?

If I want my children to follow Jesus, then I must passionately draw near to him every day; every moment.
If I want my children to love learning, then I must roll up my sleeves and dig in right along with them.
If I want my children to be diligent, joyful, obedient, grateful…
then I must live out those things.
Children can spot a phony.  So can lost people.

This arduous road of becoming who we ought to be has taught us
that life is beautiful and life-giving and full of wonder—but it is not easy
and it was never meant to be.             ~Edie Wadsworth

More than anything, I must choose to live the gospel:
in my parenting, in my marriage, in my teaching, in my working and my playing,
in my going out and in my mealtimes, and, yes, even in my resting.
I must live authentically, practicing what I preach,
swallowing hard the sustenance of repentance and allowing it to bring restoration.

This is how I will win my children’s hearts,
And the hearts of a broken world.

 

(Note:  If you are a homeschooler, may I quietly urge you to read Edie’s post in it’s entirety?  You may find it here.)

 


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Today I joyfully offer some practical thoughts on how we bring simplicity and beauty to our home & homeschool…
paving paths for peace.

 

Homeschooling brings with it loads of books, manipulatives, art supplies, more books, etc…
things you may not otherwise have about the house, or at least not in such abundance.
In addition to the many tasks of managing a home and family,
homeschooling also brings the added responsibility of educating our children with excellence.
Creating a beautiful, efficient way to organize our materials and order our day is paramount.

 

 

 

Our kitchen is the hub of our home.
While we have turned our lower-level Family Room into a school room of sorts,
I keep the resources we use daily in one of the glass-front cupboards in the kitchen.
More often than not, this is the room I am in.
It makes sense for me to keep the materials I use most right here.

These inexpensive baskets are from Target and the chalkboard labels (which I LOVE!) I found at Potterybarn Kids.
We use Chalk Ink to letter our labels.
It’s what they use on all those quaint deli and coffee shop menu boards.
It looks like chalk, only bolder and doesn’t wipe off.
And it’s easily removed with a little H2O.

 

 

Keeping track of multiple children’s schoolwork on a daily/weekly basis can be a challenge.
Over the years I have used several systems, never really finding one I was crazy about.
And then last year, I stumbled upon this!

The file box is from Target.
The size and style were perfect for what I had in mind, but it was a bit unimaginative for my taste.
Throw in a scrap of toile and some homemade modge podge (i.e. glue and water) and voila!
Simple and chic.

 

 

Each child has a designated color with a folder for each day of the week.
On my planning day–usually Sunday–I gather all the seat work they will have for the week
and place it in the appropriate daily folder.
On school days, the kiddos know right where to look for their gear.
This means if I am unavailable for the moment, they can still get right to it.
That is such a gift to me!

 

 

A few of you asked for a better glimpse of our Daily Rhythm and Family Threads.
You may click on the photo below for a clearer view.
Thanks for your grace on my editing job, as I smudged out our last name for privacy purposes.  (warm smile.)

Our Daily Rhythm is just that:
a steady beat that helps bring order to our day.
While there are times specified, they are just a guide.
I try not to get too distracted by the clock.
What matters most is the peace that pervades when we move to a predictable rhythm…
not that we’re done with breakfast precisely at 8:30.
(Which, by the way, almost never happens!)

A few months ago I recommended the fantastic book, Organized Simplicity.
This little gem helped us discover our family purpose statement, shape it into words, and then put legs on it.
We coined our finished product Our Family Threads.
It is so good for us to keep our purpose posted front and center
where we can be reminded daily what we’re about as a family.
We created hand motions for each of the threads and often run through them together as a part of our Morning Huddle.
It’s just another way to ensure these threads run deep into the fabric of our souls.

My talented husband created our Lesson Planner.
I was looking for something that would allow me to lay out a week at a time,
and would hold plans for all the kids on one simple page.
This design has worked well for us.
I keep it on the fridge or sometimes carry it on my clipboard when I need it to be mobile.

 

 

Our family is a part of a Classical Conversations community, for which we are so grateful!
Every week we tackle a new set of CC memory work,
securing mental pegs upon which the kiddos can hang new information they come upon in their studies.
Thanks to the inspiration of a dear friend who made something very similar for her family,
we created this Memory Work Display Board.
It displays all of our weekly memory work in one central location and is always visible (usually in the school room).
We try to review our memory work daily, right after our Morning Huddle.

 

 

Perhaps the thing I am most often asked regarding homeschooling is this:
What do you do with your littlest ones while you are teaching your older kids?
Great question.

I find that keeping fun, educational toys on hand helps to keep little minds and fingers busy.
My two-year old can tell right away when I am trying to push her aside.
And then she clings.
You know, those whiny, wrapped around your leg, “Hold me, Mommy!” moments.
If I can give my toddler something to do right in the midst of where I am teaching the older crew,
she is perfectly content.
Most of the time.
After a while, she may get bored and wander off to play by herself.
But that is her choice, which is far better than her feeling pushed away.

 

 

In those moments when my littlest ones are especially needy,
I try to remember that just a few minutes of close cuddling with Mom is sweet medicine that will soothe their souls,
reminding myself to hold closest the ones hardest to love.

 

How I hope these offerings have been helpful to you.
I would love to answer any specific wonderings you may have.
Please slip me a note on the Welcome Page if there is something you are curious about.
I would delight in hearing from you!

 

A  few links that have moved me in paving paths of peace for our home & homeschool.

Live a Celebrated Life:  The Beauty of Ceremony. Ah, yes.  Once again Ann speaks such lovely, captivating truth.

Order and Routine:  Making Straight Paths for Peace. Again this beautifully wise word from Tonia.

Circle Time. We open our days in a similar way…our Morning Huddle.  Before Dad heads off to work, we gather together to pray, often sing, and remind one another of our Family Threads (our family purpose statement).

Routines Help to Develop Habits and Make Life Lovely. A veteran homeschool mom offers this glorious encouragement on the gravity of daily rhythms.

 

 

 


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Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. ~Charlotte Mason

 

My prayer for our home is that it would be a place where we are very aware of the nearness of God.
That as we learn and laugh, love and lash out, forgive and then muddle things again…peace would prevail.
That we would cling to grace in the moments and name His gifts out loud.
It is contagious, you know…this clinging to grace.
Little ones now reminding me when my heart takes a posture of pride.
“What are you thankful for right now, Mom?”    Right here.

Us.
In this place.
Together.

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.                     Philippians 4:8

 

And so we seek to permeate our learning space with that which is lovely,
creating an atmosphere that is inspiring and inviting; safe and yet full of endless possibility.
This is to remind ourselves again and again that God is good, and creative, and beautiful.
But we must also whisper loudly this profound truth:
People matter so much more than things.
And when all is dust, what remains are the things of God.

 

With this in mind, I humbly offer you a few glimpses of our learning environment.

 

Color, Color All Around!
Our Art Caddy.

Cultivating Creativity.
Displaying the masterpieces of young artists.

Keeping Things Cozy.
The fireplace in our schoolroom.

 

 

The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.              ~Plato

 

The Earth is the Lord’s and Everything in it!
Our wall-sized world map.

Books!  Books!  Books!
Old crate of early readers for our littlest learners.

Mental Pegs.
Our weekly Memory Work board…young minds and imaginations soaking up truth.

Wondrous World!
Ever encouraging them to think beyond themselves.

Imaginative Elements at their Fingertips.
Another glimpse of our Art Caddy.

Lessons Learned.
Some of our core curriculum.

Tick. Tock.
Tracking time and scribbling important somethings.

Words and Wonder.
Nestled by the fire and a million miles away.

All Things Beautiful.
A vast supply of books on music, art, and poetry tucked in the corner of our kitchen.

Looking on Loveliness.
Displaying the works of great artists.
(We steep ourselves in one artist, composer, and poet for a long while…currently Monet, Mozart, & Robert Frost.)

A Steady Beat to our Days.
Keeping our Family Purpose and Daily Rhythm at the hub…ever reminding us where we’re headed.

 

 

Truly, though, the beauty of our learning environment stems from the relationships of the souls within it.
Having the time and the space to nurture those relationships is of immeasurable worth.
Extravagant grace!

 

 

 

 

Need a little learning atmosphere inspiration?
These women and their contagious creativity have been my muse.  Enjoy!

 

Order and Routine:  Making Straight Paths for Peace. Tonia writes wisely of bringing beauty and order to the environment.  I go back to this post again and again and again.

The Live and Learn Studio.   Heidi @ Mt. Hope is at it again!  She just revealed her family’s new fantastic learning space!

School Room. Jennifer’s simplicity and style are lovely.

Here and here.   Megan’s eclectic use of creativity and color are always delightful!   (She sparked our pop bottle crate & mason jar Art Caddy.)

This room. We figured out how to frame our wall-sized world map from this practical post.

School is now in Session! Here at August Fields they recently custom built their new home with a schoolroom to boot!  Oh my!

Beauty in Simplicity. Don’t have a separate learning space?  Katherine’s post encourages that less is more.  And if her blog looks familiar, yes…we use the same template…Simple Press by Elegant Themes.

Organizing Head and Heart to Homeschool. Ann always with her heart on her sleeve.  Her schoolroom breeds beauty.

 

 

 

 


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I have been thinking long on learning these days,
wanting to share a few reflections here about homeschooling
and why on earth our family has chosen this path of education for our children.

 

I grieve at the notion, though, that some of you might read these offerings and mistakenly think I am recommending a prescription for the raising of children.
May I humbly preface my thoughts with this?

In no way do my husband or I believe that homeschooling makes a family more honorable or more Christ-like.
The problems in our world today have little to do with education and have everything to do with sin.
We are all sinners in need of God’s grace.
Jesus is the only salve for our souls.
Jesus.  Not Homeschooling.

We have many, many dear friends that have chosen other education routes for their families.
These are people whom we esteem highly and for whom we have the utmost respect…
families who are making an incredible impact in their spheres of influence and whose children are walking in authentic, passionate relationships with Jesus.

Why, then, is homeschooling the means by which we have chosen to teach our children?

The most honest answer I have is that it just feels right…for us.

Years ago we were challenged by the reality that life cannot be segregated into sacred and secular…
that all of life is sacred because it is all lived in the presence of God.
We make great efforts to live each moment in this truth.
For our family, homeschooling helps blur that imaginary line between the sacred and the secular.
It is as simple as that.

Over the next few posts it would be a delight to share with you what this learning life looks like for our family.

 


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Classical Conversations

I love fall!
The anticipation of a new school year.
The rhythm of steady days.
The crispness of new book bindings and cool breezes.
Such wonder awaits!

 

The last few months we have been preparing to launch a Classical Conversations community in our area.  Classical Conversations is a nation-wide program that equips families to provide their children with a rich Christian, classical education at home.  I am thrilled and humbled at the opportunity to bring something of this caliber to the homeschool families of our region.  I am so grateful to my husband and children who have been wildly supportive as we work together to launch this ship.  I could not and would not do this without their blessing.  I must admit, though, that right now in the midst of the whirlwind of kicking off our inaugural year, I have little time or energy for much else.

Hence, the sparseness around this place.
Thank you for grace.

I have wanted to write all about CC and our excitement as a family about this new adventure.   I am realizing, though, that it just isn’t going to happen unless I enlist the help of a few friends.

Heidi writes a fantastic blog over at Mt. Hope Accademy.  She has written several great posts on Classical Conversations.  I invite you to hop on over to her place here and here and here if you’d like to learn a bit more about Classical Conversations.

For those who might just want a quick taste of CC without hopping all over the internet, here is Heidi’s eloquent explanation in a nutshell:

Classical Conversations is a nation-wide program that helps train and equip parents to provide their children with a Christian classical education. Individual communities hire parents to be trained as tutors through Classical Conversations practicums, who then lead small classes of children in weekly meetings.

For the grammar stage (grades K4-6th), the Foundations program meets for 24 weeks during the school year. This allows for a full month off in December, two weeks for spring break, and ends the year in early April (though, I believe, individual communities set their own schedules). The Foundations classes meet one morning each week for 3 hours. (Leaving plenty of time during the week as well as during the year for additional studies.)

During the morning classes, students are led by their tutors through individual oral presentations (to learn public speaking skills). They are then introduced to memory work in timeline/history, science, geography, English grammar, Latin, math, and Bible. The memory work is followed by science and fine arts projects. Parents are required to attend classes with their children so that they observe and learn from the teaching modeled by the tutors, which will in turn help them guide their children in reviewing the memory work at home.

The memory work outlined in the Foundations classes is designed to prepare the students for the higher-level classes. CC recommends that parents supplement with phonics, math, and handwriting studies at home.

Beginning in 3rd or 4th grade, an afternoon session is available to supplement the Foundations classes through 6th grade. During Essentials, students learn language arts and structure with The Essentials of the English Language Guide, writing through the Institute for Excellence in Writing programs, and math through challenging problems and games.

Day-long (30 week) Challenge programs for logic and rhetoric stages begin in 7th grade. These classes cover math, Latin and Spanish, literature and writing, science labs, debate, rhetoric, and geography (mapping the whole world free-hand from memory!). Students complete lessons and assignments at home during the remainder of the week.

~Heidi at mthopeacademy.blogspot.com

 

 

If you are wanting to learn more about Classical Education in general, I encourage you to check out the following resources:

What is Classical Education?
Classical Education
Dorothy Sayers’ The Lost Tools of Learning
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
The Core by Classical Conversations Founder, Leigh Bortins

 

And here are two other great books about the philosophies of classical educator Charlotte Mason, who has greatly influenced our homeschooling.

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper

 

 

Whew!  That ought to be enough reading to keep you busy for quite a while, should you choose to jump in!

 

Praying you’re enjoying the sweet newness of your school year, Friends, in whatever shape or form it comes in.

 

 

::   featured images  :  glimpses of our school days   ::

 


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