Monday, August 15, 2016

EMERGENCY BROADCAST ANNOUNCEMENT FOR HOMESCHOOL MOMS

BEEP BEEP BEEP...THIS IS NOT A TEST...ALERT! ATTENTION! CALLING ALL HOMESCHOOL MOTHERS! THIS IS A WARNING! THIS IS A WARNING! THIS IS A WARNING! WE INTERRUPT ALL LIFE ADVENTURES FOR THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION!


     Please stop all tasks and take heed! Please step away from the google search of every method and mindset. Drop the debit/credit cards and do not buy another piece of curriculum. Put the home schedule revision # 7 back in the cabinet. Stop laying awake at night in a panic as you revisit all the details of what needs to be done. Erase the plans you have drawn out to ban all co-ops due to resentment that you can't leave your children there while you get things done. Ignore all fears that you can't do this.

     Go ahead and cry. Let out your emotions. Scream out "I AM OVERWHELMED" at the top of your lungs in front of all your neighbors and friends if need be. Write your nay-sayers and acknowledge you know they don't think you can do this. Admit to your spouse that, although you do love the children, you have repeated thoughts of the old days where children were sent off to boarding school...and seemed to turn out fine, right? Right?

     You are not alone. This is universal! It's called "BACK TO SCHOOL". Also known as "the time of the year when mothers are trying to do what they feel is right for their family but it's hard and overwhelming and mindboggling and you second guess if just putting them on the bus wouldn't be such a bad idea after all..."

     Take a deep breath and repeat after me "IT IS OKAY. ALL HOMESCHOOL MOTHERS FEEL THIS.(Yes, I mean 100%. I mean, I haven't taken an international survey but I just know). I AM NOT ALONE. THIS IS NORMAL. NOTHING WORTH HAVING IS CHEAP. THIS IS COSTING ME SOMETHING BUT IT'S WORTH IT. I TRULY WANT THIS (If you can't say that one with confidence just go ahead and say it in faith.) IF GOD WANTS THIS FOR ME THEN I CAN DO IT! YES, THIS IS HARD BUT IT'S NOT THE FIRST THING I HAVE CONQUERED! I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT WITH GOD'S HELP!"

     Now then. How are you? Still second guessing yourself? Wondering how all this works? Think God picked the wrong family? In all seriousness, it's okay. I believe those who have gone before you have been there. I am in my 8th year of homeschooling and I feel this way every year we start. Even more so, sometimes I feel this in the middle of the year. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That doesn't mean I should give up. And you shouldn't either.

     "If God is for you, who can be against you?" Romans 8:31. No matter how you feel or what you are facing with the school year, you have nothing to worry about. Fighting for what you know God has for you isn't easy but He is with you. He is the One Who will give you supernatural guidance on what to do and what not to do as well as the when, how, and why answers. He is the source of life physically but also mentally as you make your way through the maze.

     There is peace. There is clarity. There is favor. There is wisdom. There is patience. There is joy. All of these are readily available to you from the Lord. I have personally experienced them all in my life with schooling my girls. There comes a point where you will settle in and get in a groove. It may take time (for some, lots of time...as in years) but you will with God's help.

     My first year I was a professional researcher spending most of my time meeting with ladies and asking questions but it did end up helping . My second year I revamped all I had tried the first year and felt better. My third year I realized a person doesn't need to buy a lot of extra bells and whistles to teach, so that saved money. My fourth year I accepted that maybe I do need a co-op, which relieved stress. My fifth year I admitted that teaching a true ADHD child was difficult so investing in a tutor didn't mean I was a failure. My sixth year I was clueless on the new English curriculum despite my college degree, so I worked as hard as my 4th grader only to discover we knew what we were doing by the second semester. My seventh year I realized how fast the years are going so I need to stay focused. And now we will begin our new year of school in about a week or two. But Every year gets better! I am loving it because I know there are challenges but God is for me and always, always, always helps me.

     As we have taken this journey, I have grown tremendously in my walk with the Lord. The challenges have caused me to truly seek Him. We have not regretted our decision to home educate. We understand it's not for all families and yet feel blessed it is for us. The results of our endurance and hard work has paid off 10x over in more areas than we could have imagined.

     So, as we end this emergency interruption...just know, you are okay, dear friend. God is with you.

     BEEP BEEP BEEP ... we now return to our regular scheduled life of adventure!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Parenting Teens Back to School



   
The excitement I had for going back to school changed dramatically after elementary. The joys of a new lunch box, meeting my teacher, discovering how much recess time was allotted and hoping friends noticed that I had lost a baby tooth were soon replaced by thoughts in the mind of a blossoming teenager. I looked forward to the status of being in an older grade, the fun of electives, seeing friends every day, and showing the world how much I had matured through the summer. But I also had other no-so-exciting emotions. I wondered if my clothes would be cool enough, what classes to take for college preparation, how to manage the endless social dramas, and if I was going to make the JV or Varsity basketball team. Back to school had certainly changed.

     Certainly, if you are in the midst of raising a teen, then you know students aren't the only ones feeling the change. What used to be a fun trip hand-in-hand to Wal-Mart for a pack of d├ęcor pencils has turned into a Mall trip with much discussion of what is or isn’t allowed. It’s a time of change for the parents as much as the student. So what are some insights into making the best of school preparation with your teenage child?
1. Keep It Fun! Teens are still tender at heart! While they long to be grown, there are parts that are still enjoying childhood joys.  So, create a celebration of the back to school days! Make a countdown chart in the kitchen, take them for a fresh haircut, leave a note of funny things you remember from being their age and/or hopes you have them this year. Some more ideas are to visit the school before it starts just to say hello to staff for a pre-school connection, make shopping day fun by planning out what is needed and the best places to look then enjoy stopping for a treat as you chat about how your child feels about the year, or have some close friends over for a back to school hang out time or dinner out. Their tender teen hearts may or may not express how much all this means but they will enjoy, appreciate, and remember all you have done.



2. Keep It Simple! With all the changes during those teen years, simplicity is a gift that some teens aren’t sure how to acquire. Everywhere they go, there are options and decisions for them to be involved in something. Whether it’s more classes, afterschool clubs, sports, church activities, community events, friendships, homework, home jobs or even a workplace job, there is much to be done! If you can help them narrow down their choices and responsibilities with logical reasoning it will help them not be overwhelmed. Think through their natural abilities, personal interest (not just because someone else wants them to do it), weekly schedule, daily schedule, cost, responsibilities and necessity to do what is offered. As you move through a time of investigation and discussion, you will both learn what will be the best for all involved. This will keep things simple which helps the teen and the whole family.  

3. Keep It Close! While these years are a time to offer more freedom and growth, this is also a critical time to stay close to their heart. They may or may not seem interested or may not be home as much but they do still need you! It will take some planning and patience on your part but keeping them close is a must. As you go into the school year, have a conversation about your love for them and desire to stay connected. Then go into the fall with plans for meals as a family, set weeknight or weekend outings, leave notes of encouragement as well as be willing to stay up for those late-night chat times, attend their activities, create time to know their friends, and do whatever it takes to get into their world. In return, having a close relationship that makes an effort to be together gives more opportunity to discuss the realities of teen pressures, friend issues, personal struggles, and deeper emotions. Going into the school year with the support of a parent that works to stay close gives incredible stability for the developing teen and endless rewards for you as the parent!

  These days may be different than years before but it can be a meaningful and enjoyable time in the journey of parenting as your teen goes back to school!

 *Article used as published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine August 2014  by Casey Gibbons

Trying to Train!

    



     All I am trying to do is "train up a child in the way she should go". But that is not always easy! This video clip is exactly what happened yesterday. I was feeling frustrated so I decided to video it exactly the way it was two minutes previously...and the phone even rang without prompting...which is part of our normal life too! Ugh. So many distractions. 

    Honestly, I started singing because it was either sing or let out an exasperated sigh. So, I just made up a song to get their attention. Do you ever feel frustrated with your children when all you are trying to do it is the right thing?! I am sure this is the case for mothers everywhere!  Don't give up friends! Keep teaching even when it's tough! I am preaching this to myself too!
 
    I am reminded of the verse in Galations 6:9-10 (MSG) "So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." Totally for us, friends.

     We must not give up with planting the seeds in the hearts of our children so we can gather a harvest. I can remember a friend of mine who has raised eight children sharing with me that I am in the years of plowing the fields. (I am picturing myself completely digging with a shovel, sweating profusely in the blazing sun with no water as a comparison to what I feel at times emotionally, physically, mentally as a mama!). But she went on to say that I will in time see the growth coming up and will be richly blessed with a lifelong harvest which would be my children loving the Lord! I have never forgotten those words. And so I plow. And you must too.

     No matter what distractions or frustrations we may feel when leading our children, we must keep going. Even better is that our strength, patience, and perhaps at times a fun-loving response will come from the Lord who created our children and chose us to mother them.

     After the song we did move on with still and quiet children ready to actually learn. Little seeds are already sprouting from my little crop!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiXskyTp8t8


  




Sunday, July 31, 2016

Goals for Ages 3-5 yrs old.


          
When we had the first four children in four years, my mind was always racing to remember which child needed to learn what thing. It was mindboggling to keep track only to realize one had not learned something they should have by a certain point. With all the training and teaching going on, I was just happy they were fed and clean by the end of most days. But there is more that needs to be learned in those first five years.


      So as some of you have asked, we are sharing the list of important things we wanted our girls to know and do between the ages of 3-5. This list allowed me to keep track of where each girl was and who needed to learn other things. 


     They are divided into 5 Categories that we implement every day for some through guided life learning and other days when we do "school time" which is approximately 3-4 days a week. 

 All these goals can be taught through basic simple teaching, games, books, dvds, car rides, Cds, and lots of talking. Plus, depending on when you start kindergarten, you have two to three years to teach it all so that takes the stress off of cramming it in their little heads in a year.

      On that noteconsider starting kindergarten as close to age 6 as possible. I say this for a couple of crucial reasons. First, when they enter kindergarten closer to age 6 they have had more time to develop emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

     When they are on the "older side" of kids in the class they can have the experience of leadership to the classmates because they are ahead. Just think of the joy of being one of the first kindergarten kids to lose a tooth, or to be a fifth grader with cool braces, a junior high sports boy with a year ahead in height and strength, a mature freshman girl that is out of the awkward stage, or being one of the first friends to drive and have a job. In addition, their hearts have had time to grow in the Lord and they are able to make solid decisions with wisdom and knowledge that time gives.
     
     Secondly, when you start later, the child is home longer on the back end of high school before leaving for work, college, or marriage. A year can make a difference when entering the adult world. And by those years we want every second we can get with our kids before they are grown and gone!

     Although a child may be ready for kindergarten schoolwork that doesn't mean you have to send them. Go ahead and have them do some older work at home but consider waiting to place them in kindergarten at church class or school class until closer to age 6. This is a precious time to bond and enjoy a stage with your child as much as possible. Honestly, I would rather have my toddlers go to preschool a few times a week than my 5-6 year olds leave. They are easier and so much fun to do everyday life with by the time they are out of the "I walk around and get into stuff in dangerous ways" stage!

     And if you have already started your little one and this info is too late, perhaps the Lord will lead you to make the courageous decision to hold your child back a year to repeat or to just take a year off. My mom had to make this choice with my brother when he was in the second grade. He turned 7 in September and started second grade but she felt it was best to hold him back. He thrived socially and academically far better than the year before which kept on through his high school years.

     For us, our Allison turned 6 in June and we started her in Kindergarten then. She will be 7 in June and starting first grade more mature than those younger students entering that are perhaps just turning 6.

     Just something to think about but God will lead you for what your child needs and it may be different.

     So, back to some ideas to follow as you guide your 3-5 year olds. Here is what we have researched and used in our children: 


1. God -
His love for us, He does good, and He is good. You can learn these through Bible stories (read from Story Bible book, or use the Dan and Louie Bible Stories Cds), prayer (for anything, anytime, anywhere) and scripture memory. (Steve Green's Hide 'Em in My Heart Cds or otherwise)

2. Others - Receiving love, showing love, manners such as personal hygeine, phone skills, doorbell responses, key phrases (thank you, bless you, you're welcome, please), how to behave in quiet settings (such as weddings, meetings, church). 

3. Play -
Lots of open imagination time, some directed time, playing with others


4. Work -
Why we work (to carry out God's purposes on earth) and how we work (with excellence unto the Lord). Daily chores such as a kitchen job, cleaning their rooms, and one other house job that is age appropriate. These are without pay so they know its part of living in the home and being an important member of the family. If someone needs to earn some money then we assign above and beyond jobs that are harder and not typical.



5. Education - Safety Skills (calling 911, what to do when lost, water safety, strangers), 7 Keys to Health (Water, Rest, Exercise, Vitamins, Healthy food, Massage, and Clean Hands away from the face), Personal Information (names of family members, phone numbers, address), Colors, Shapes, Letters  Counting to 100, Parts of the Body, Handwriting (letter formation, name, upper and lower case, keeping it in a straight line, and spacing), Calendars (days, months, seasons), Workbook Pages (fun books from local store with some cognitive work pages).

          This is a list to plan for and give guidance but don't stress when its not all done perfectly. If you do a bit by bit over the 3,4,5 years it will all come together! I hope that this list is a help to you as you lead your little ones in the way and timing the Lord tells you is best for your family!


For more blog posts, go to the home page at www.realifecasey.blogspot.com

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Time and Plans for Biblical Life Lessons!

     Since our precious children are totally born evil, I decided it is imperative that we have some character building time other than prayers at meals/bedtime and church during the week. Of course we still teach and train as we go, but this set aside time of the day with my girls called "Chic Chat Chocolate" (yes, we actually eat chocolate because I am bribing them into maturity) is crucial for guiding my girls from foolishness into wisdom. So we gather together with blankets and pillows along with my Bible and chocolate for some heart to heart time together in the Word.


     In this post, I listed the themes we decided we need to teach. Each theme is for a month so we can make sure we have ample time to discuss the topics. Also, we cover the topics again each year as they are foundational to growth and I don't want them to forget them.

 I use books/stories, re-enactment fun play, dance, pictures, DVD clips, and any creative way I can implement. However, the creative part is minimal because they lose sight sometimes of the point and we walk away not sure what we just learned. But DO make it an enjoyable time with lots of love and snuggles as you learn!

     Also, it will take some loving discipline to remind them to be still and pay attention. It seems like every distraction happens during this time but I am determined that this time with my girls is the CORE of all I do. This time HAS to happen most days of the week. (We do about 4 days). It is like a golden treasure in my heart! 

     There is so much to teach and such a small window of time before they are off into life on their own. But just think all the golden nuggets you would have placed in the heart of your children for them to have for years to come! What a blessed mother you will be watching them live it out by God's grace. 

1. Start or close with prayer and worship. 

2. Scripture memory. Go over any that you may know or want to know from the ABC Scriptures list (http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/parenting/foundations/spiritual-development/abc-scripture-memory) or review some that are being memorized in your church. 

3. Monthly Topic 
January - The Basics (worship, prayer, fasting) and the Armor of God
February - Relationships (friends, boys, parents, extended family)
March - Bible Layout (books of the Bible and their basic themes)
April - Fruit of the Spirit   (how it applies to our lives) 
May - Scripture Memory (Ten Commandments and Beatitudes)
June - Scripture Memory (The old ABC Song from Psalty and Steve Green CD)  
July - Scripture Memory (Psalm 23 or other chapters like I Cor. 13)
August - Temptation, Thought Life, Emotions (how to handle these)
September - Evangelism (loving and reaching the lost)
October - Evil vs. Good (Spiritual warfare and choosing life over death in our decisions) 
November - Thankfulness (understanding all we have to appreciate)
December - Sacrificial Giving and Attributes of God (use some basic thoughts from the resource list at http://www.josh.org/video-2/attributes-of-god/)

Also, if you want to go even further, here is a link for some basic character qualities that all children can learn. I simply use this list to put in the kitchen to reference when a child does one of the traits. It helps them learn what they mean and strive to do them. http://www.duggarfamilyblog.com/2012/04/teaching-character-duggar-way.html

     Feel free to change up the theme of the month based on what your family needs during that time or for a theme perhaps your church is using. The goal is to have open discussion and training with those precious hearts God has given you. Make time for it! Whatever and whenever it can be, do it while you still have them with you. Every minute makes a difference! And I hold to this verse in 3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in the truth."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What We Use for School

    
After much, I mean MUCH, research, this is the easy-breezy, bottom line, thorough direction we have chosen to follow for our curriculum. One of the outstanding things about home educating is that we can pick what we feel is the best for our children according to their needs and our direction as a family.

     So, we use different things to teach our children including life experiences such as trips, church, extended family, hospitality, events etc. We have chosen curriculum in book form, some in DVD, some in Audio, some in a teacher/classroom setting, and some online. This format has allowed our girls to flourish in education given in many approaches.


In addition, something else we do that is unique but beneficial is that we often (depends on the year and ages) send our girls to 4-6 weeks of public school at the end of the year. This has been worthy of doing for the experience (MAP testing, field trips, outdoor skills day and to see how other children live and learn) personal discipleship (by way of being challenged by the world against their faith), and a change in pace of the flow of how we do life. This also gives me a little vacation and makes them appreciate home education the rest of the year! It truly does show them the pros and cons first hand rather than us always explaining why we do what we do the rest of the year.

    All that being said, I have listed the curriculum we use the rest of the year.  When you read below, you will see that we use much of the Classical Conversations material and school group. It's extremely inexpensive compared to private classical school and you will know your children are actually learning everything they need to know. This takes the pressure off of my mind wondering if we are doing what we are supposed to do as well as keeps me on schedule weekly.

     Classical Conversations is an awesome co-op (most likely there is one near you) where you don't have to teach as there are tutors. Hooray! And, it meets once a week and your children get many of the benefits of a school (recess, backpacks, classroom setting, field trips, school parties, year book, friends, teachers) without having to go every day. www.classicalconversations.com

     As stated previously, we use many methods and materials. The following is our list:

Pre-school
There is a checklist I have composed of all things needed by the end of the child's fifth year. Check posts for this list.


Kindergarten - 1st Grade
Geography, latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading and handwriting

Math - my own teachings from random workbooks of basic addition, subtraction, clocks, and money

2nd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading, handwriting and grammar

Math - Math-U-See DVD and book program

3rd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - First Language Lessons for Grammar, Classical Conversations Pre-scripts for cursive, personal choice chapter books for Reading, Spelling lists are gathered from various sources depending on their level of ability. I am still thinking about writing material to use for this grade level as I haven't completely landed on a set one to recommend.

Math - Teaching Textbooks Math Program


4th Grade-6th Grade
Geography, Latin, Science, Public Speaking, History - Classical Conversations

English - Classical Conversations Essentials Class teaches the grammar, writing, vocab, and spelling using the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing and Essentials of the English Language.) 


Math - Teaching Text Books Math Program


7th Grade - 12th Grade
All Subjects are Classical Conversations except Math which is Teaching Textbooks and a tutor to fill in the gaps. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Am Not Miss American Teen Anymore...






          (re-post from June 2013) As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.

      Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown people celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year all going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.

      Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And for me, I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.

      Now, fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.



     My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't even been washed in four days, I haven't worn a single ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week. (Not to mention that I caught a stomach bug and have visited the bathroom more times than I checked the mirror in high school.)



      Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 (MSG) that challenges me. "Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."


     There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!

      Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!

      So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength. I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.


P.S. Congrats to Miss USA Erin Brady from Connecticut...let's do coffee in 15 yrs.