Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Butlers and Sports

Since my background was dominated with music and artsy type of activities, having athletic or sports-minded kids just didn't register as a possibility.  Low and behold J would turn out to be one of the most ball-loving kids I've ever met.  I'll be honest - the sports culture that many people find themselves in does not appeal to me.  Spending all weekend at the ball field 12 weeks in a row on top of practice and extra activities is too much.  It quickly becomes too much time away from family, too much priority away from spiritual things, and just too much for young minds.  I absolutely support a fit and active lifestyle and there does come an age where may be a place for competitive sports (for some kids), but for this family it is later rather than sooner.  

Having said all that, we have done several seasons of YMCA sports with some success.  Up to this point our kids have been 6 and under so the under emphasis on competition and overemphasis on playing with integrity and fairness has hit the sweet spot in my book.  Mr. Butler has coached several times and that has been a great experience for him and the kids!  With one practice and one game a week, we're able to not get overbooked too easily and enjoy the benefits of organized sports without too much drama or expectation.

As the kids get older, the possibility of higher competition may arise - especially with J's love of the (every) game - and we'll have to maneuver through that and honoring our other priorities too.  But for now, I'm so thankful for the opportunities to experience some of the benefits of sports without sacrificing too much of their childhood and other family priorities.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Currency of Kindness

There is a stark difference between the landscape of my inner-city public education and my children’s country-style homeschool education.  With the recent turmoil surrounding law enforcement and racism debates, my thoughts have rarely made it to my mouth.   Every time I go to speak, I then remember that I’m very much white, well-provided for, and have little desire or time to enter a fight that’s way out of my league.  So then I sigh with shame and relief that I’ve really got nothing relevant to say anyway.  But the shame lingers because I know my children, whom I am working so hard to protect, still have to choose to be part of the solution rather than the problem.  In light of homeschooling, what can we do to change this backdrop of anger, privilege and prejudice?  How can we cultivate a relevant and informed understanding while not joining the destructive fray?

It has to be through kindness.   What if kindness was a baseline to everything else we do?  Before a child is put on a pre-engineering path or considers scholarship options, what if she were well-equipped with gracious words in the face of an angry person?  What if a child was taught the value of every person, role, and perspective before knowing how to use a checking account?  What would our communities look like if serving others – in nursing homes, restaurants, and every day dirty jobs – was a requirement before cell phones or driver’s licenses were handed out? 

As powerful as a parent’s role is, we cannot expect to stamp out poverty, crime or injustice as long as the devil is in play here on earth.  Whenever policies and laws change, evil will adapt and attack differently.   I can, however, teach my children the currency of kindness.  The adults that spring forward from my little homeschool could lift others up from out of their circumstance, work for the purpose of generous giving, or serve the confused and misled rather than fuel the ugly fights we are seeing today.

1) Courtesy.  “Yes, ma’am.” “No, sir.” “Please and Thank You.” Holding the door for others.  Exercising patience in any and every line you might be in, including traffic.  Whomever you hold in high regard, treat others as though they were that person.  And yes, whether they deserve it or not.

2) Appreciation.  Listening and understanding someone’s position, experience and needs long before you comment or act.  In marriage, the work place and even in politics, when I feel listened to and at least appreciated for sharing my view I am more likely to consider opposing views.

3) Value and Gratitude.  When we are taught gratitude in every circumstance, value in all things goes up.  Did we do without?  In the future we can show empathy to others.  Did we always have extra?  In the future we can commit to sharing with those without.  Either way, gratitude adds value to everyone’s life!

The colors and complaints will likely change.  Our position on policy might even shift.  Learning to see others – all others – as valuable and in need of Christ-like love will always be the most user-friendly currency.

This content was originally published at  Homeschooling with HeartThe Old Schoolhouse Blog.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Miss Z & Me

I was terrified of having a little girl - and for good reason.  The girls in my lineage are a lot to handle.  But after 3+ years of getting to know each other, I can honestly say, as girls go, she's my favorite! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

MyFreezEasy: A Meal Plan Review Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
The majority of companies and products I've gotten to review this year have been education and homeschooling related.  Today, while this absolutely fits in with a homeschooling lifestyle, my review is for any person in need of a quick meal and a better plan for those days with NO time!  MyFreezEasy has combined the art of meal planning with freezer meals to create custom meal options for your family.  They offer multiple membership options, but what I'm reviewing today is the Freezer Meal Plan Membership - the Premium Annual option.

As you can see in the graphic below, right from the start you have several different options to choose from in the various meal plans that changes every month. Freezer meals aren't exactly a new idea, but sometimes the meal prep can take a huge chunk out of your week, even if it is on Sunday night.  One of MyFreezEasy's goals is to provide something easier than spending an hour preparing food each night because some nights that is just an impossibility!  All of their recipes are family tested and require minimal preparation time.  Just today I prepared tonight's dinner for the crock pot as well as a full meal for the freezer in about 15 minutes. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
With your membership you receive access to more than just a simple meal plan, but step by step help throughout the entire process.  Included are things like:

-Well-organized shopping lists
-Assembly instructions including how to prep and in what order.
-Printable labels for each meal
-Highlight and how-to videos for meals and techniques
-Dairy-free and Gluten-free modifications on all recipes

This past couple of months I've struggled with morning sickness and my house manager role really suffered.  One of the biggest areas was cooking.  The most efficient way to tackle MyFreezEasy is to purchase all the necessary ingredients and then spend an hour combining several different meals to put in the freezer.  Over the next month, you'll have plenty of options when time is just not on your side!  An alternative to that, and what I ended up doing, was pick a meal for dinner first thing in the morning and then create two meals, one for the freezer and one for dinner that night.  This method stocked my freezer too, just at a slower pace.  There are also options with how you physically plan meals like what meals are included, different printing options of recipes, labels, assembly instructions, and shopping lists.  You can use all or none of these.  You can spend a day and then not think about it again until next month or spread it out as you have time. That's the best selling point for me is that there are options and no one way to do it! Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
 Like any new plan or program, at first sight there are quite a few papers you could print out and finding what you want can take a little bit at first.  Once you are familiar with the layout and your needs verses what is available, MyFreezEasy is a slam dunk.  There are plenty of recipes to choose from each month and I've already gathered a couple of favorites to use again next month.  The time invested is not that much, but provides a great dividend of doable and yummy dinners that you didn't have to slave over!  And then when you consider cost - less than $10 a month (when you buy a year's subscription) - I can confidently say this is a great idea to consider for your family!

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Read what others had to say about it: Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Know Your Child Today

One of the most fun things to do with a newborn baby is to see who he looks like.  From the very start, we look at these beautiful children with comparing eyes ready to categorize them in some way.  From your dad’s eyes to your brother’s pouty lip, we look for the familiar, don’t we?  Those familiar traits instinctively draw out deeper love and connection!   As that child grows, the categorizing continues into realms of behavior, attitudes, and temperament.  This cataloging is one of the reasons parents should be considered the expert on their child.   We are seeing it all and constantly studying to further know and connect with our children.  One of the advantages of homeschooling and being your kids’ primary instructor is an even greater knowledge of our children’s skills and limitations.  But have you looked intently at who your child is with a mind open to seeing changes or misconceptions? Are you focusing on understanding them as much as you are their academic record?  While we may be experts, infallible we are not. 

I have known a few families where one child goes astray in one way or another and a common denominator is always the lack of understanding or acknowledgement in this child’s differences.  Often the parents treated the child as though they were (or should be) just like them (commonly the same gender parent).  To a misunderstood and immature mind, when core personality traits aren’t understood, all the parents’ instruction and guidance can come into question.  Truly knowing and acknowledging our children – especially when they are not like us in some significant ways – is critical to fully equipping them to succeed and glorify God with their life.

My mother is a very extroverted (gets energy from people) person while my father is introverted (gets energy from being alone).  No one ever said I should feel a certain way other than obeying God, but somewhere I got in my head that since my mother is a girl then I would be like her because I am a girl.  Turns out I’m very introverted - like my dad - but spent the first 20 years of my life not really knowing the difference and pushing myself to lengths that just made me sick and miserable.  I’m 36 and still struggle with the compulsion to be a people person, but physically just can’t keep up.  This wasn’t some grand neglect on the part of my parents but more of a lack of vocabulary on the subject.   We now have mainstream tools like love languages, temperaments, and color codes to better understand each other, as long as we pay attention.  In knowing our children, we’re really talking about blind spots.  Parents don’t set out to ignore or misunderstand their children.  In some cases, children don’t ever communicate feelings of disconnect or difference until there’s already a major problem.  It’s asking the questions you think you already know the answers to and being willing to shift gears when you’re surprised at the responses.  It’s about being faithful to revisit who your children are today.

This content was originally published at  Homeschooling with HeartThe Old Schoolhouse Blog.

Spiritual Growth through Poetry Analysis: An Everyday Education Review

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
The majority of the products I get to review are geared towards my children and their education.  Today I'm talking about something I used solely for myself: Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert from Everyday Education, LLC.  Late high school and college students would certainly benefit from this study or anyone looking for a different avenue for mental and spiritual growth.   This book is, by design, a devotional intertwined with a clear study of George Herbert's poetry, capable of accomplishing many things within the reader.

George Herbert was a Welsh-born Anglican priest whose poetry and spiritual content has been noted by many over the years including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis.  In this text, Joseph L. Womack walks the reader through over 50 poems in a uniform manner highlighting the following elements:

The Big Picture: What the poem is about.
The Parts of the Picture: A stanza-by-stanza explication of the poem with selective identification of literary devices and poetic techniques.
The Parts of the Picture Come Together: An explanation of the movement of thought through the poem
Reflections: Questions for further meditation.
Scriptures for Further Reflection

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

If you took one poem a week to study, this could last an entire year.  For a classroom setting, there are some recommended deeper learning exercises as well as the option of studying only certain poems  as the table of contents organizes them by theme and subject manner. The dual nature of studying both George Herbert's poetry and also his history through personal reflection provides a wealth of learning no matter how you decide to utilize it.
In my review of it, I simply started at the beginning and read until I ran out of time or in some cases fell asleep!  A mom's study time is sometimes difficult to fit in you know.  With my children being under 6, I have had less opportunity to study denser topics like poetry in the past few years so this delving felt a little indulgent on the one hand and overwhelming on the other hand.  The extensive discussion about each stanza certainly carried me through my inexperience or rusty thought processes where the poetry was concerned.  The history and context that is found sprinkled throughout each poem's discussion is an education all its own.  Since all of Herbert's poetry is thick with spiritual implications, it is impossible to embrace this study without your mind contemplating a relationship with God.  In my opinion, the most effective way to maximize or intentionally pursue spiritual growth is to spend time in the corresponding scriptures provided for reflection.  This return to God's word seems to connect Herbert's poetic experience - and any reflections gleaned - with your own relationship with the Bible, bringing new life to both.  A wonderful exercise on your own or in any kind of study group!
Other members of the crew reviewed a couple of other texts in literature and writing as seen below.  Be sure to visit some of their reviews to determine if they might work for you.
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