Friday, February 15, 2019

For The Temple: An Heirloom Audio Review

One of the biggest things that has always drawn me to educational arenas has been how powerful receiving information and exposure from multiple sources can be toward genuine learning.  That means reading it in a book once isn't enough, not even a little bit.  Reading about it, writing about it, hearing about it, getting up and moving in some way to do with it, even eating certain things can all contribute heavily to how much your brain accepts and maintains of the subject.  So, whenever we discover engaging ways to explore history BEYOND just reading it in a book, it is worth noting! We've only been on the Homeschool Review Crew for 3 years, but Heirloom Audio and their exciting Audio Theater has become a regular favorite review each year for this very reason.  Today we're talking about their latest production, For The Temple.

What We Received:

For this review, we received a 2 disc set that totaled about 2 1/2 hours of listening time and a 51-page digital study guide.  For The Temple is another adventure inspired by The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty that takes you through the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The story tells of John of Gamala who finds himself caught up in the conflict between the Romans and those who would oppose them. As Jewish culture compels an allegiance to and protection of the temple, there is much rallying to save it from being desecrated. The confusion and misunderstanding that even takes place today regarding God's plan for Israel and Jesus' fulfillment of the law, which takes His people beyond the temple and thus God's will, is beautifully scripted.

How We Used It:

In times past we've listened to these stories in the car on the way somewhere, but this time J (8) and miss Z (5 1/2) laid out on the bedroom floor with a snack and some Legos.  This works better than listening to it in the living room because of regularly interrupting sounds.  The nature of this production is complete with music, clangs from swords, different accents and varying sound levels which makes it difficult to understand with any competing noise. 

The study guide was something we used after the kids had already listened to the story once, but I would recommend doing it as you go for my children's ages.  In addition to background information periodically placed throughout the guide, there is a page like the one below for every track of the story.  Each page includes a Listening Well, Thinking Further and Defining Words section. With all the action that goes on, the Listening Well section is a great help for ensuring that you are paying attention and not missing important things.  The Thinking Further is more like discussion or even essay questions if you were assigning work.  Especially for older children, this guide could create an entire unit or project of study surrounding this event and time period.

Since we have listened to and liked the CD's Heirloom Audio puts out before, my children are happy to sit down and listen to another one.  I do believe anything that doesn't include cleaning is a welcome activity as well, but they do genuinely enjoy listening to these stories.  When asked what they thought/learned, my daughter said, "If this was a movie I could tell you about it more."  But then she also proceeded to throw in all the details that her brother didn't readily provide.  My son gave me the general highlights, but when I pressed him for something interesting or that he really liked, this is what he said:  "In the story, they were fighting to save the temple, but John starts to think about what if the Romans winning and destroying the Temple was what God wanted."  This was a great setup to sum up the story AND talk about what God's will looks like sometimes.  I also loved the combining of our Biblical knowledge with history (like the works of Josephus, etc.) which builds an even clearer picture of God and his will for us.

Right now our history study is primarily US History, but world and Bible history studies would be ideal for working audio theater into your curriculum.  But any time I need an entertaining, educational and thought-provoking experience for the kids (that also renders them contained and relatively quiet for a while) our stories from Heirloom Audio are a great option!

Keep Up With Heirloom Audio on Social Media

Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial

Since my oldest child right now is 8, our experience and perspective might not be the same as older children.  Head on over to the Crew page to read other family's reviews and experiences to get a better idea of how this might work in your family.
For The Temple {Heirloom Audio Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, February 4, 2019

Momma Worries & Holy Spirit Assurances

The shift from being a parent of two to three has been significant, to say the least. Not only are we outnumbered, but the required mental attention is an entirely different animal sometimes. Instead of just a mental burden of getting two children dressed in the morning, there is now a blind hope that you don't forget something or someone in the process.  Mismatched socks, neglected hair and ridiculous clothing are too often par for the course, whether we're headed to the park or a funeral.  The reality is much heavier with three that you WILL forget things.  The good news is that you learn it's not really that big of a deal to see last nights mustard on the cuff of someone's pants.  What is troublesome is wondering if you will forget something far more important. 

If you have siblings, you know that we don't all have the same experiences under the same roof.  And I understand why all the more these days.  To give all parents the benefit of the doubt, it is probably not because they loved one child more than the others, but how much life was crashing in on them at the time you were hitting a particular milestone.  This morning as I let the dog out, I glanced into the yard and was met by a dozen or more bright yellow and orange soccer cones and the remains of miss Z's outdoor kitchen adventures from yesterday.  I love that girl and her imagination! When all of a sudden fear gripped my heart for the things that any one of them might forget or never appreciate as they get older.  What if they lose their imagination and ability to have fun?  What if they forget the value of a garden or a walk in the woods?  What if they lose sight of who made the forest and gave them life?  What about all the things I remember to say to one of them but not the other two? What about all the things I'm forgetting? 

The whirlwind of this emotional girl is not insignificant.  At 8, 5 and almost 2, my nest is still full and my chicks are still my charges to guide.  The responsibility of being the strongest lighthouse (for now) showing them the way to God is so daunting at times.  I'm so thankful for them, but I'm also aware of how fast it is going.  At bedtime, J was asking me about the difference between high school and college which morphed into how many colleges are around Oklahoma and how they were different.  One day scholarships and programs offered are going to be all we talk about.  And by that time, this part of my mom job will be largely done.  What if I forget something and it's too late?

My panic and worry often gets the best of me for a little while, but I'm thankful the Holy Spirit doesn't leave me to my own devices for too long.  So, two things.  

#1 Wherever my children go, God will be there, even though I'm not.  It may not change my compulsion to hold their hand into every new room, but the Almighty God can and will walk with them providing hope and peace. 

#2 It only takes one person remembering what is important and worthwhile to remind others. The bonds my children are building right now can breathe new life into them when they are older and lacking.  It only takes one person with joy in their heart and a spirit of life about something to rekindle old memories and joys into someone else.   Not only is God filling in the gaps of my parenting, but He can use my other kids to do it! There is something about a shared experience (even when the details are slightly different) to raise up hope and new life.

My favorite pic of my Papa, J.D. and me at the Azalea Festival

My Granny Susie, my brother and I
My sweet Aunt Nell passed away last month and one of the best things that came about aside from celebrating her was the stir of memories.  Thinking of places and times that had long been forgotten swept me away onto water rapids made of tears.  The best part was leaving that place with a deeper appreciation for the very special blessing my brothers and I were given for being a part of this large family rich with all kinds of blessings.  Music, gardening, sharing what (little or a lot) you have with every neighbor and friend, and most of all a devotion and love for the one who gave us all things.  I could write a book - and I might some day - of all the exceedingly special and significant things surrounding this sweet Elmore family that I get to ride on the coattails of.  My grandparents have been gone since before I became a teenager and their precious home has been torn down and sold for a while now, but the diamonds that are still growing out of that small Healdton, Oklahoma house are becoming too many to count.  And like this momma fears for her own little cubs, sometimes we forget the value of being a friend to every man like J.D. was or the healing goodness of a home-cooked meal like Susie always provided.  Thankfully, you couldn't have known them without knowing the God they served for that love has flowed freely into all of their children as a constant reminder of what really matters.  They have given us all a wonderful heritage to hold on to and remind us when we get off track.

No person can ultimately control the course of someone else's life and I know that there are many unknown events awaiting my children.  But amidst dysfunction or tragedy, I can give my children the gift of a heritage.  Some of it, like the heritage I received from my parents and grandparents, is already set.  The rest is ongoing and that is up to me and Mr. Butler with God's help.  What a beautiful ray of hope for the fearful "What if" kind of day I started with.  

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Hard Things Are Worth It

It has been said that ending your shower with a burst of cold water can invigorate you and even prompt an endorphin rush.  I've tried it before and it's true - you end up feeling energized! But sacrificing that cozy warm shower for the almost painful ice cold one is hard.  I know it will have a good result, but that doesn't make the choice to do it an easy one.  A lot of things that are good for us in the long run are hard to get started.

The commercial culture we're bombarded with daily sends the message that we should never have to do hard things and that convenience should rule.  Reality teaches the exact opposite, if we bother to listen.  Worthwhile things like health, financial stability, solid relationships, raising kids to be an asset to society, and honing any craft there is takes work, commitment and are classified as hard things.  Being sick, broke, alone, raising jerks and having no skills is easy.  Look around you. That describes a lot of our world today.  The easy things in life usually result in junk. 

This puzzle was a doozy and I knew it was a little too hard for the kids to do it by themselves, but that didn't deter them.  It just meant they asked for help.  We all chipped in over the course of a few days and when it was finished it, they were so proud.  It struck me that they never really considered it being 'too hard' as a bad thing, just a reality that we adjusted for.  If you know my son and his burdensome view of math, you know that they aren't always so pure, but in that moment they illustrated a  beautiful perspective that we can all learn from.  Hard things are doable with a little bit of help and commitment.  Not only are they doable but they are worth it! 

I don't know what the hard things are in your life, but what if you didn't immediately think of them as hard?  What if our first response was that this is something I need some help with to accomplish and nothing more? Marriage is one of those things that is easy to give up on when you think you have an easy out.  Living with the knowledge that God didn't design marriage with divorce in mind creates a wall that says it just isn't an option.  When both parties live that way, it's amazing the things you can work through and thrive amidst.  Marriage is really hard, but completely doable!

I know there are so many with real hardships and burdens they are carrying.  As spectators we can easily get caught up in complaining about the lazy or shallow living.  Instead, let's bring light to those who do really hard jobs and do them well! Celebrate the committed and the trustworthy!

Monday, January 21, 2019

39: A Year of Preparation

I turned 39 a couple of weeks ago.  Since the new year began we have had a lot of sickness in our house, I have had some depression, and two deaths, one of which was really sudden and completely unexpected.  It's January and it's cold.  When all of these things collide, even the introvert starts to feel isolated and alone.  Now that everyone appears to be staying well, it feels like I'm starting the new year all over again, except January is almost gone!

Before life so rudely interrupted me, I had big plans for 39.  I've coined it my year of preparation.  I know 40 is just a number, but it still causes you to take stock in your life and evaluate where you have succeeded or not.  And since I have a tendency to rush ahead and borrow trouble, I've pre-evaluated myself at 40 and found myself wanting.  Since I don't particularly appreciate failure (even if it is self-inflated), I've decided to spend this year preparing for 40.

I guess failure is a strong word.  What I'm really circling around are the ways I haven't reached my potential.  The physical toll running a household, having children and homeschooling them has taken on my body and mind is far greater than I ever anticipated.  My natural inclinations to read, play/sing music, creatively explore in general have been muted at best by the very significant needs of the precious souls running around my house.  In short, I just haven't kept in mental shape the way I expected to (before kids).

My baby is almost 2 (in April), Mr. Butler and I are committed to getting in better shape physically, and there are no major hurdles preventing healthier habits.  So, here are a few areas where I'm committing to spending more time in this year:

- Reading, both the Bible and other good books.  I'm determined to reignite this love!

- Music: Singing and playing the piano are things that have come easily to me when I spend time in them.  For mental health, I need to invest more time here.

- Writing as a Practice.  With extra time being more of a luxury after kids, my writing has been by demand rather than an exercise routine.  I need to exercise my writing with the intent to cultivate quality and creativity.

- Friendship.  I'm not great at friendship without full plate.  I'm awkward and nervous and terrified of bothering people. But I'm also lonely a lot.  So, pursuing friendship is mandatory this year.

Regrets are just so ugly and I want to have as few as possible.  Setting some intentions and goals for this year is one of the best ways to diminish the number of regrets I have AND cultivate a healthier version of me!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tips for the Frustrated Parent and Teacher

As a piano teacher, I don't usually get very frustrated with my students because they are not my children.  I can only do so much to convince them to practice or take my advice and I know that ultimately their parents will have the most influence on their daily habits.  However, it is a different thing altogether when I am teaching my 5 year old daughter on the piano.  I get so frustrated so fast and expect the moon out of her before she has a chance to sit down.  Being the parent AND the teacher, even just in a homework situation, can be far more complicated than we expect.

The next time you find yourself ready to throw up your hands or just keep getting mad with your offspring, keep these tips in mind.

Tip #1: Imagine this was any other kid in the world.  Would you have more patience or understanding with that other kid? Would your expectations be a little more reasonable? All too often we get our pride mixed up in our teaching and put unnecessary pressure on the learning process.

Tip #2: Environment matters.  Is the room or space you are working in loud or full of distractions?  Is it too hot or too cold?  Have you tried adding/taking away music or moving outside for a change of scenery?  We all have optimal circumstances for learning and it behooves you to learn your child's.

Tip #3: Reality Check.  Are you expecting mastery overnight when it should be something that comes gradually? Did you as the parent/teacher drop the ball somehow on preparation and are now feeling pressed for success?  Things at home do not always go as planned and then other things get pushed around as a result.  It's easy to take our stress out on our children, even when it has nothing to do with them.

Tip #4: Change the trigger. Teaching our kids - especially when they struggle - can become a big trigger for everyone.  Dreading helping your child or dreading getting help from a parent is not what we're going for here.  If one or both of you are so tense and stressed about this, then something has to change.  Hug more.  Be more encouraging.  Share a treat.  Find some way to change the tone of what you are doing so that you can both relax more and actually learn something!

You are your child's biggest advocate.  Don't let stress of unimportant things take away from the most important people in your life.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Snow Days!

I have trouble communicating clearly in real time anyway and praying is no different.  Sometimes I chatter away and other times I struggle to know what to say at all.  In one of my chattering moments this past fall, I prayed for snow.  It wasn't one of those down on my knees begging moments, but it was a candid conversation with the Almighty about how much we enjoyed snow.  If it was in His will and any kind of possibility, I just wanted to mention how absolutely great it would be.  So, I'm not taking credit for the snow at all, but I have thanked God for a beautifully answered prayer!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 - More Than Conquerors

In 2018, we set out to 'Crush It' and while we certainly did in some areas, we found others to be quite overwhelming.  The wear of maintaining 3 kids, not losing the weight fast enough, budgets needing to be tamed, loneliness and anxiety kind of mushroomed on us as the year went on.  After some soul-searching and some time focusing on each other,  Mr. Butler and I have come out on the other side ready to overcome the stuff that has been keeping us down.  

So for 2019, our family theme is taken from Romans 8.  The chapter compares our earthly and physical weakness with the depth of love God went to in order to redeem us.  I have certainly felt the weight of the devil's distractions and hurdles lately.  I'm so thankful that despite the burdens I might be carrying around, God can use it for good and in it we can be more than conquerors through Him.