Friday, January 13, 2017

Winter's Redemption: Snow Days!

Last week we had a couple of fun snow days! We finally got the chance to try out sledding in our front yard.  Being 6+ months pregnant limits my (wise) sledding time, but it allowed me to get some fun pictures!

Even in the bitter cold, the physical activity did everyone so much good!  I know how hard it is to get outside sometimes when we're cold, but it's even more important for our health and well-being in the winter.  Winter gets a bad reputation because it limits certain activities, but even in the 'death' of the year, nature is our friend in refreshing and renewal.

No children were harmed in this activity and, in fact, loved falling out as much as anything else!

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Battle of the Wants

In our media driven society, being the right kind of mom is impossible.  Feed your kids the healthiest food, but don’t go overboard and be that mom who always asks about ingredients.  Don’t let your kids dictate your life, but make sure you listen every time they have something to say! It is such a struggle to find the right balance in these kinds of things, especially when you hear the debate on a loop over the loudspeaker in your head.  One of the biggest ones I go back and forth about is the wants.

“But I don’t want that!”  “Can I go – I WANT to go!”  “You never give me what I want!”

On the one hand, as parents we want our kids to be happy and associate their childhood (and us, of course) with mostly positive things.  I’m a piano teacher and I’m all too familiar with the stereotype of forced piano lessons for years that promises to build resentment and malaise for both the piano and the parents.  None of us want that kind of relationship for/with our children.  Yet, on the other hand, we simply do not always get what we want in life.  Success on any level takes work.  As kids, as adults, even as Americans, try as we might there are many realities far out of our control and always will be.  Expecting different sets us up for all kinds of failures and can often cause us to miss out on some truly magical times of growth and learning.

So, this is me. All. The. Time.  I honestly recognize there must be a balance and see the foolishness of letting the pendulum swing too far in either direction, but it can be really hard knowing when to disregard the “I don’t want to” and when to intentionally facilitate those desires.  It can be especially hard around the holidays because – whether you can financially accommodate it or not – one or both parents probably have a deep desire to see their family happy and excited, whether about gifts or outings of some kind.  How often do we stretch that budget farther than it should go for some excitement factor only to regret it when the bills come in January?

When we get stuck on the wanting fence, we must first set our boundaries and life values.  Of course, let the moral values preside, but after those are clear, look at budgets, time, and relationships.  A want shouldn’t outweigh some of these things without a greater reason than just because I want to. Sometimes no is inevitable once we’ve considered how much it costs or requires of us.  When the moral or truly limiting issues are ruled out, a person’s individual needs or goals need to be considered.  When a child is saving money for a larger toy or could help out a friend, but is suddenly drowning in the temptation of the now, it’s the perfect opportunity for a hard life lesson.  Choosing not to facilitate both options for them equips them for the choices adults have to make daily. 

Just like the media’s perfect parent is something of a Bigfoot, making the ‘right’ choice may not exist most days.  The good news is that in wrestling with these choices we end up fulfilling the wants that matter more anyway.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Beginner's Bible: A Zonderkidz Review

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}
One of the most important parenting tasks Mr. Butler and I have is to teach our children the Bible and start out their lives with the habit of consuming it daily.  While I know that the word of God is so powerful, if it isn't in the stores of my mind and made available to use when needed, it can be made ineffective, to say the least.  As many of us are diving into reading the Bible (or parts of it) in a year, why not encourage our kids to do the same!  Our kids need these habits set in place as soon as possible for maximum benefit!  Last month, as part of the Homeschool Review Crew, we received The Beginner's Bible from Zonderkidz to review and it has certainly supported the family goal of studying the Bible more regularly.  Since J was born we have been exposed to a few different kinds of children's Bibles, but I had never taken a look at any version of this one.  It widened my children's Bibles experience!

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}
This hardback book includes over 90 Bible stories that my 6 year old was able to read just fine, but comprehensive enough to read aloud with everyone. My husband started including it in the kids nightly reading time and noted with disappointment that the story of Cain and Abel was not included. Biblical accuracy is really important in our household, but as we explored the book further we were surprised to see instances of baptism and Paul's missionary journeys were included in the New Testament that often are omitted.. So, you can't have everything, but there were some nice details included. 
Though it has been around for a while, the Beginner's Bible has recently been updated with new 3D artwork and some great resources to complement the book's use.  At first, I just gave the book to J to read during quiet time and he seem to take ownership of it pretty quickly.  Later, while exploring the website, I discovered a wealth of activities that accentuated the Bible study perfectly and for a range of ages!  Whether you have a large classroom setting or just trying to enrich your kid's Bible involvement, there is probably a resource for you.  On the website you have access to the following:
  • coloring sheets (using artwork straight from the Bible)
  • word searches 
  • mazes 
  • trivia cards 
  • placemats 
  • sticker sheets
  • posters
  • snack ideas
  • reading suggestions
  • games (paint, puzzles, matching, etc.)
  • videos
  • bookmarks
  • and even more!

With all of the resources that Zonderkids has provided, you could easily develop a Bible curriculum for your students - for the year, for a few months or whatever your needs are!  Adults and kids alike, the most important foundation for a relationship with God is knowing what He teaches.  In my experience, one of the best ways to learn is to receive information and reinforcement from multiple directions and this resource website makes learning about the Bible almost as easy as osmosis with the variety of options available!  All in all, we found this Beginner's Bible to be a great place to start your kids

If you have younger kids or have different needs, Zonderkidz also sells a version for little ones, a deluxe version (that includes audible CDs) and a collector's edition.

Keep up with Zonderkidz on Social Media:

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, December 30, 2016

All Roads Have Rocks

By the time our children start school, we’ve already had to choose a side a dozen times.  For every choice my family makes I can find a camp ready to fight to the death that it is not only a good choice, but the only choice I can make if I love my child.  And I completely get it.  The surge you feel when you hear foolish arguments being made to justify an easy road.  Or the switch that flips inside when you are made to feel so very small for a choice you wrestled with and prayed over.  On any given day we all desperately want to be reassured that we’re doing a good job and making the right choices for our family.  It is in the heat of these encounters that all of us have made claims that logically just cannot be, but we’re so upset that the need to defend a position is too difficult to resist.  We start using words like always and never to villainize everyone who disagrees. 

I love homeschooling and if asked would probably suggest you choose it for your family.  I believe it facilitates so many good things in a child’s education and growth as a person.  There are some impressive success stories of homeschooled kids growing up to change the world.  However, if I or anyone else ever suggests that homeschooling is easy, fixes everything and eliminates all problems associated with the educating and raising of children, know that it is simply not true.  Public school by its very nature facilitates some great things for children – automatic structure, peer motivation, and great networking opportunities for college and careers.  Public school graduates students – myself included – all the time who enter adulthood with the skills they need to succeed and bring good to the world.  But again, if anyone tries to convince you that the public school has the ability to stamp out every struggle and can fill every child’s needs perfectly all the time, they are deceived as well.  Either vehicle we choose will hit rocks and holes in the road.   

Take any other opposing views and the scenario will be the same.  One side solves certain problems while creating others.  Being married has wonderful elements like companionship and security, but the struggles of living in harmony with another person are very real.  Yet, being single eliminates that struggle while creating the burden of isolation.  Moving out to the country gives you fresher air and better views, but you usually have to drive quite a bit to run errands.  There are always trade-offs and sacrifices.  The next time some heated debate lands in your lap, try to remember this:  Most of our choices are less about finding a clear path to our goal, but the path with the rocks we’re most comfortable working around.  While a lot of times there are real issues that need to be faced, don’t deceive yourself into thinking that either side is a slam dunk.  Successful results come from hard work, commitment and sacrifice -  not simply picking the right side of an issue.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

We're Having A...

With both of my other kids we didn't know the gender and were completely surprised!  This time around since we were doing an ultrasound anyway, we decided to find out.  My awesome sister-in-law orchestrated an adorable gender reveal for us amidst ridiculously cold weather and very busy schedules!  It was a very fun time and we discovered that we're having a...

Now you are probably thinking to yourself, how far along is she (because I look plenty big)?  I am not due until April!!  I am measuring ahead and my babies are always big but also this pregnancy is so different than my other two, especially where I'm carrying.  With J and miss Z the weight gain was very broad across my body.  This kid is all belly and makes me look ready to pop!  Whatever the case, we're very excited and grateful for a healthy report.  :)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gifts Ideas to Encourage Bible Study

One of the things I really appreciate and value is intentional living.  We try to carry that out in our lives but it can be really hard.  As you probably know, intentions can only go so far anyway and real life is complicated at best.  So, when I find things to place in my family's life that will encourage mindful living, you know I'm going to share it with you!  For those that put their trust in God, spiritual growth happens the most when Bible study is a part of their life.  If you're searching for some great gifts that will bring enjoyment AND encourage Bible study, you're in the right place!

1) Grapevine Studies combines 100% Bible (no commentary) with illustrating that is great for all ages!  While scripture is being read, students are encouraged to draw pictures.  It comes in digital formats and physical books with traceable versions for younger kids and blank versions for every wanting to illustrate their own version.  With each book their is an accompanying Teacher's Manual that provides great teaching points and the suggested stick figure illustrations.  Old Testament, New Testament, Individual Character Studies, Bundles, and a Bible Calendar are just a few of the categories you can shop for.

2) Apologia is a powerhouse in the Christian homeschooling world producing very high quality curriculum, but for this article I want to focus on a few of their books that are great for faith building, no matter your educational circumstance.  The study of Christian apologetics (reasoned arguments and justification) is fascinating, but sometimes difficult to introduce to children.  The Young Defender Series is a great starting off point that is designed to introduce children to fundamental questions of faith.  As these questions get solid answers in our family's minds, exploring what the Bible says becomes even more of an adventure!

Does God exist?
Did God create life?
Is Jesus Alive?
Can we know right and wrong?

3. Scripture Coloring Journals are just another way to incorporate the Bible with creative outlets - both in coloring and in journaling. My mind retains so much more and much better quality information when it is free to create and wander.  I have found some great ones at places like Sam's or Hobby Lobby.  Here is a really cute one from Amazon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hoping for Life

“Where there’s life, there’s hope.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
In my house are several houseplants and Ivy is one of the easiest and most proliferating plants to maintain.  Every year or so I’ll collect my plants to pull off dead leaves, repot some that have grown too large and try to beautify others.  Before we moved I had pulled off a green vine with no leaves from a larger plant and planted it in hopes of reviving it and growing leaves.   The pot I used had deep significance to me because a sweet cousin of mine had given it to me when my son was born.  Because of that significance, I was hoping to will the plant to thrive.  Of course, there is no guarantee that the plant would make it because I had failed before, but more often than not, it turns out beautifully.
This transplant happened a year ago from this writing.  For over 11 months, I watered that little vine – which was pretty ugly as ivy vines go because it had no leaves – with little to no changes that I could see.  Month after month, I kept watering it with a glimmer of hope just because I wanted it to survive so badly.  We moved and for a while it was in the kids’ bathroom and then I moved it to mine because there was an abundance of sunshine there.  Up until that point, nothing changed or suggested that it was even alive, except the vine was still moderately green.  No leaves, no sprouts, nothing.  In June, with no significant event crowning the moment, a little perfect leave sprouted on the vine.  2 months later, today there are several gorgeous leaves!  It’s the little things, I know, but this illustrates such a beautiful thought about life and our children.

Our children are originally connected to a womb that facilitates everything they need to grow and develop.  When they are born and throughout our time with them we are doing the work of transplanting them into their own pot so to speak where we pray they will thrive.  But there are always times – sometimes years – in their lives where there is no visible fruit.   There is just enough life to keep us from giving up, but it still might seem futile.  “That will never happen.”  Too many times we make up our minds about the possibility of something.  Learning a skill, mending a relationship or even making a life right with God – never underestimate the beauty of the human spirit and the power of God.  Many things might be unlikely, but never quit working, hoping or praying for those important things we’d like to happen.

There may be difficulties and discouraging trials right now.  That in no way dictates the possibility of new life in the future!  Every time I walk by the edge of my bathroom window and see that flourishing plant, I well up inside because it is just proof that with God and His tools and His time frame, all can be made new again.
This content was originally published at  Homeschooling with HeartThe Old Schoolhouse Blog.