Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Homeschool Hints - Part III

It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year once again…time to choose teaching materials for next year. In this installment, I thought I would share some of my favorite resources for purchasing curricula, as well as some of the resources we have personally used and enjoyed. Being the Type-A person that I am, I have spent hours each year researching the various options, so if you have questions, please feel free to email me and I will be glad to help you.

Homeschool Resource Companies:

1. Rainbow Resource Center – Started as a family business, they now have over 40,000 products in all subject areas (and great toys and books, too!). They have great customer service, and you can’t beat their prices. This is probably my favorite resource company of all. Visit them online at: http://www.rainbowresource.com/

2. Christian Book Distributors – This is probably my second most-used company. While they are known for great prices on Christian books and music, they also have a great homeschool department. Again, great service and great prices and a huge variety of resources for all budgets. Address: http://www.christianbook.com/

3. Library and Educational Services - This is a great place to purchase books, audiotapes and audiodramas (such as Adventures in Odyssey and Focus on the Family) for amazing prices. Check out “The Truth Chronicles” by Adventures in Odyssey—our family favorite for teaching worldview to children. Address: http://www.libraryanded.com/

4. Apologia Educational Ministries - An excellent resource for Creation-based science programs. More about them below… http://www.apologia.com/

Specific Subject Recommendations:

1. Math – Our favorite Math program has been Math-U-See. This is a great hands-on program that stresses mastery and understanding over just memorizing facts. The videos are helpful and funny, and compared to some other programs it is relatively affordable. Website: http://www.mathusee.com/

2. World HistoryThe Mystery of History (Volumes 1-3) is one of my all-time favorite resources. Linda Hobar takes you through History starting with Creation. This is from a Biblical worldview, and teaches Bible history right alongside world history, teaching our children that the “stories” in the Bible are NOT stories, but historical fact. There are activities for young, middle and older students, making this a great resource for multi-level teaching. http://www.themysteryofhistory.com/

3. American HistoryTruth Quest History is a “living books” curriculum, involving reading many books, both fiction and non-fiction. They have an elementary and an older-level course. It is really a glorified reading list, which I have supplemented with other resources, but it makes finding the books much easier. http://www.truthquesthistory.com/

4. Science – I have a couple of recommendations here. Overall, we have thoroughly enjoyed anything from Apologia (see above for website). Their middle school and high school courses can’t be beat if you are looking for a college-prep, Christian-worldview science course. They also offer elementary level courses, which are wonderful. My kids love their science courses. We also recently discovered an elementary curriculum by Richard and Debbie Lawrence (a local couple), which are now marketed by Answers in Genesis (http://www.answersingenesis.org/). We tried the chemistry course this year, and my son especially loved this one. It is called God’s Design for Science.

5. Language Arts – I confess this is the area I have most struggled with in finding teaching materials. While there are many available, there haven’t been many that I have liked! We have found good materials for grammar (Easy Grammar – available at most of the resources above) and spelling (Reason For Spelling), and have tried many different writing courses, finally settling on The Institute for Excellence in Writing (http://www.excellenceinwriting.com/). While this course is truly excellent, I have also found it somewhat difficult to use (and expensive), requiring many hours of preparation time that I don’t have! If you have any suggestions for me in this category, please feel free to leave me a comment and share your wisdom…I would welcome your suggestions. I feel as though we have tried just about everything out there in the course of teaching three children, without finding just the right fit for Language Arts.

I hope you find this information helpful. There is such a plethora of materials available, it can be difficult to wade through them all and find the right fit for your family. Just remember, what works for one person may not be right for another. Keep your children’s learning styles, interests, and temperaments in mind when selecting materials, as well as your own. If you dislike certain material, that will definitely be communicated to your children, and none of you will enjoy the learning process. And that is what is important…teaching your children to love learning, no matter what the subject.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hope is Alive

Yesterday morning, I sat down to read the newspaper while I had my breakfast. As I read, I felt my heart slowly sinking into despair. I went from stories of senseless shootings and mass murders to stories about how our President wants to make changes which will require all health care workers to perform abortions, even against their consciences. Later that day, I read the headline story on MSN.com (which was the cover story in Newsweek magazine) about the “decline and fall of Christian America”. Every day we are flooded with such stories, telling us how evil abounds and how our country turns farther and farther away from our godly foundation. More and more often, my husband and I discuss the state of things in our world, and worry for the future of our children and grandchildren. As I read these depressing stories, one of my children suddenly piped up, “Mom, it’s Easter week!” And in the midst of the darkness, I glimpsed a great light.

Over 2000 years ago, something newsworthy happened. A baby was born, one who fulfilled all the prophecies of long ago. He came in a humble manner, not in a kingly fashion, as was expected by the Jewish people who awaited his arrival. He grew up, traveled around ministering to people and meeting their needs in a quiet, humble way. And then, one day, he entered the city of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and was greeted by the people. They waved palm branches and yelled their praises, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” In the midst of their suffering and struggle against the Roman oppression, their Saviour had come and hope was born.

Things were no different then. They had problems, and violence and suffering. People were sick, they made poor choices, and they had hatred and discord, just like us. They, too, needed hope, just as we do today. They were under Roman oppression and needed someone to save them. We are under the oppression of sin, and need someone to save us. In the Jewish religion, it was required to make a blood sacrifice in order to obtain forgiveness for their sins. (Hebrews 9:22 says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”) We, too, are in desperate need of forgiveness. I see, more and more, the darkness overtaking our society. Immorality is rampant, the very definition of marriage is crumbling, 40% of new births in America are born to unmarried mothers, alcohol and drugs are being consumed in vast amounts and by younger and younger children, and the pursuit of pleasure has become the sole purpose of our existence. We are desperate for someone to save us.

A mere seven days later, that Saviour was arrested. After a sham of a trial, he was brutally nailed to a rough, wooden cross, where he suffered unimaginable pain and grief, separated from his Heavenly Father, and bearing the weight of all the world’s sin…past, present and future. He was mocked by those he came to save, tortured and reviled by those he had treated only with the purest of loves. And yet, he looked on them with grace, and pleaded with his Father to forgive his tormenters. After crying out to his beloved Father, he breathed his last. Hope was dead.

His disciples holed up in their houses, defeated by their grief. Their king had apparently failed them. There was no battle, no mighty warrior who freed them from the hated Roman rule. They were cast into despair, not understanding that the story was not over.

Three days later, the sun rose on their grief. Early in the morning, Jesus’ mother and some other women went to the tomb to anoint his body. Upon reaching the tomb, they were surprised and frightened to see that the stone (which sealed the entrance) had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a man, dressed in white, and were alarmed. After reassuring the women, the man gave them some astonishing news. “He is not dead…He is risen!” Their Saviour had not failed them…hope was alive again. Jesus had risen, just as He promised.

And in this resurrection, Jesus offers us true freedom. He paid the blood offering for our sins, once and for all, and offered us the chance for a true resurrection…to a new life and a promise of eternal life with Him in heaven. Hope is not dead, no matter what you read in the newspaper. Hope is alive and well, in the person of Jesus Christ. If you know Him, and follow Him, your hope can illuminate the darkest night, no matter what you are experiencing right now. And that is what we celebrate this coming Sunday…that we have a Saviour, and that He most definitely lives.