Your Suffering Is Not the End of the Story

LauraDiscipleship, Ministry

Our pastor was dying of cancer. On weekdays, we’d receive updates about his treatments and his suffering. We’d beg God to heal and sustain him. Of course, we trusted God’s sovereignty and knew that He would do everything in love, but we also lamented that things were not as they should be.

In the dark days leading up to our pastor’s death, his preaching seemed supernatural. A thin, frail man would approach the podium, but as he opened his Bible and taught us about Jesus, he’d transfigure before our eyes! He’d become a young vibrant man, full of vim and vigor, with glowing cheeks and a strong body. At the end of his sermon, he’d pray, close his Bible and slowly—carefully—shuffle back to his seat as the transformation dissolved.

Halfway Healed

One particular week, our Bibles were open to Mark 8:22–26. We read that:

Some people brought to [Jesus] a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

I wish I could remember what our pastor said about the passage, but I can’t. I wish I had written some notes in the margin of my Bible or saved the sermon outline. All I can remember is that at the end of the sermon—after expounding on Scripture in all of the right ways and teaching us that, most importantly, Jesus came to heal our hearts that are blinded by sin—our pastor looked out at us and quietly said, “I do not know why Jesus did not heal this man completely the first time.”

His painful honesty settled over us like a blanket. Of course, we knew that he was actually saying, “I do not know why Jesus hasn’t healed me completely . . . and I do not know why Jesus hasn’t healed you completely.” We sat in silence, grappling with the mysterious ways of an all-powerful God.

Please read the rest of this powerful story on the True Woman blog by clicking here.

When “Maximizing Your Potential” Isn’t Enough

LauraBible Study

I don’t know about you, but I feel so much pressure to make a name for myself, be all that I can be, and to maximize my potential. I feel like we’re all in a race to promote and protect ourselves, to achieve self-actualization the fastest. I’m so tired of focusing on me, me, me.

That’s why today I’m asking myself, would you invest your life to promote someone else?

Instead of maximizing your own potential, you’d maximize theirs.

Instead of working hard to advance your own agenda, you’d promote their message, desires, and life’s calling.

Instead of building your own audience, pursuing your own happiness, earning your own reward, and leaving your own legacy, you’d be all about theirs, theirs, theirs, theirs.

How would that feel?

(Read the rest of the article at enCourage.com today!)

How to Successfully (and Peacefully) Breastfeed Your Newborn at Night

LauraAll Posts, Babies

Guess who I think of when I wake up to feed my newborn at 2:30 in the morning?

I think of you!

It’s true! As I pull on my bathrobe and quietly walk into our sweet baby’s room each night, I reflect on all that I’ve learned over the past 14 years of feeding babies at night and I think, I should pay it forward by sharing the things I’ve learned with my readers.

With our first baby – and even our second – I spent hours every night trying to feed those babies and comfort them back to sleep. I swaddled and shushed and sang and swayed myself to exhaustion… and depression. Even with Babies #3 and 4, there were things I was doing during those nighttime feedings that were perpetuating my exhaustion and postpartum depression.

I needed to learn how  to make those night feedings more peaceful and successful.

Thanks to the advice of generous people over the years, nighttime feedings have gotten better and better with each baby. Now with Baby #5 and Baby #6, nighttime feedings have been much more efficient. Baby and I get better sleep and I don’t struggle with PPD like I used to.

Here’s what works for me. I’d love to know what works for you! If you share it in the comments, we’ll all be stronger for the insights.

How to Successfully (and Peacefully) Breastfeed Your Newborn at Night

  1. First, watch The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD

You don’t have to read the book, just borrow the DVD from the library or from a friend to learn 5 things to try when comforting a baby. When you welcome your sweet baby into the world, try each of the 5 things often. Don’t give up! Just because swaddling, shushing, etc. seems awkward at first, keep at it. These are tried-and-true ways of comforting a baby; there’s a big chance that at least one of them will work well for you and your baby.

For us, swaddling has been a bedrock of peace in our parenting. We’ve used it for every baby and we are believers in its ability to calm and help our babies. In general, we have happy and peaceful newborn-days: I think that swaddling is a big reason why. It helps our babies feel safe and secure: it helps us feel confident and calm. Add a personal touch to this process and pick out one of adorable lovies and add a wubbanub to go along with the monogrammed lovie blanket which always makes great combo baby gift.

2. Invest the first 3 days after birth in breastfeeding your baby. 

Put your feet up. Enjoy the opportunity to rest your body. Focus on breastfeeding your baby as long and as often as possible and necessary. I actually choose to stay in the hospital as long as possible so that I can focus on breastfeeding. For me, this helps my milk to come in and it helps my babies to learn how to breastfeed. Once my milk comes in, baby typically receives a full feeding and we are well on our way to maintaining a 3ish-hour cycle of feeding, waking, and sleeping.

This also puts me in a good position to anticipate the night feedings once we are home. Night feedings tend to be every 3 – 5 hours for the first couple of weeks.

3. Get the nod from your pediatrician to let your baby wake you  when she is hungry. 

At the 2-day appointment, I ask if I can stop setting my alarm clock to feed the baby every 3 hours. When the doc says “yes,” I’m all-in! I sleep soundly and trust that baby will wake me up when it’s time to feed.

4. Don’t turn on any bright lights, screens, or sounds. 

My goal at night is to convince my body and my baby’s body that it’s night time, time to sleep. I keep things dark and quiet. I cuddle and handle the baby tenderly, but I don’t talk to the baby.

I don’t use my phone, I don’t watch TV or listen to anything while I’m night feeding. (When I night fed Baby #4, I read on my iPad or phone, but learned that it was a major contributor to my anxiety and PPD. As it turns out, sleep studies have discovered that breastfeeding mothers suffer from insomnia and unhealthy sleep when they use screens at night. Apparently, the stimulation turns our brain on and inhibits us from falling back into deep sleep even when we do get back to bed.)

So, join me in just rocking quietly. We don’t have to be productive or entertained all of the time. Let’s give ourselves a break and enjoy the sweet peace of the night. If I’m lucid enough, I will enjoy the time in prayer, otherwise, I just rest quietly in the darkened nursery.

5. I aim to follow these steps for every  night feeding:

  • If necessary, use the bathroom and fill water bottle first.
  • Then, un-swaddle baby, leaving the swaddle blanket laid out in the crib for an easy re-swaddle.
  • Nurse baby on one side, burping baby when necessary.
  • Change baby’s diaper.
  • Re-swaddle baby.
  • Nurse baby on the other side, burping baby when necessary.
  • Baby falls asleep while nursing.
  • Lay baby on her back in the crib.
  • Return to bed immediately. Savor the sleep… zzzz….

6. Get the most out of each feeding… even if baby falls asleep before he’s done.

Try not to skimp on a feeding.

It is SO tough to make sure baby gets a full feeding when baby falls asleep and I am deliriously tired. Whenever I’m tempted to lay baby down prematurely and return to my own warm bed, I remind myself that I’d rather work hard to get in a full feeding now and earn a 3-hour stretch of sleep than enjoy the instant gratification of returning to bed now only to be woken up in 30 minutes by a hungry baby.

I’ve learned that if I need to rouse a baby who is already changed and re-swaddled, I just need to lay her in her crib and sit in the rocking chair for a few minutes. Sure enough, she starts to move and root for her next feeding. I pick her back up and finish feeding her.

If you’re ever tempted to shorten a night feeding, I hope you hear me cheering you on to get the full feeding in! I know you’re exhausted and your bed is so so comfy-cozy, but if you complete the feeding, you’ll LOVE that 3 or 4 (or 5!) hours of sleep that are coming your way.

7. Remember: things change dramatically at 3 months.

During the early newborn days, I have to remind myself often that SO much changes when a baby turns 3 months old. Typically, everything gets much, much easier: nursing, sleeping, playing, everything. By remembering that the most challenging days of breastfeeding and sleep-deprivation are numbered, I feel encouraged to serve God – and my baby – gladly, in this season.

I hope that something here is helpful to you.

Please check with your doctor before listening to anything I say here. I’m not a pediatrician. I’m just a momma who is sharing what works for her. 🙂

What are your tips and tricks for these sweet newborn days? 

photo credit

Help for the Child Who Can’t Fall Asleep at Night

LauraAll Posts, Character Training, Discipleship, Motherhood

You’ve tucked your child in bed.

An hour later, you hear those familiar little footsteps…

What you do next could have a big impact on our child’s heart.

Last year, our 7 year old son went through a long season in which he couldn’t fall asleep at night.

He would try, honest.

Yet every night, when the old farmhouse was quiet for the night and his siblings were sleeping peacefully, our son would climb down from his top bunk in the boys’ room, come find us and say, “I just can’t fall asleep. There’s too much on my mind.”

Some nights, we’d just send him right back upstairs. “Keep trying!” we’d say. On our better nights – when we were miraculously patient – we’d listen as he talked about his fears, his joys, his wrestlings with God, his questions about faith. Then, he’d say, “The worst part is that once I start thinking about these things, I realize that I’m not sleeping yet and it gets me really upset!

God meets us in our sleeplessness.

And then, one night, something dawned on me that changed everything. I wrapped my arms around our son and savored the inner thoughts of a boy not unlike King David, not unlike Samuel in the temple of the Lord. When they couldn’t sleep, David and Samuel discovered that God Himself was pursuing them in the quiet of the night.

I told him so.

Son, you remind me of King David. Do you know that he would toss and turn in bed? He wrote many psalms from the joys, tears, and wrestlings that would come to his mind when he’d lay his head on his pillow at night.

We read Psalm 6:6.

“I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.”

and Psalm 63:5-8

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”

Psalm 16:7

“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.”

and Psalm 4:4

“Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah”

Maybe the quiet time before sleep is a holy time when God has our kiddo’s full attention.

Sweetheart, your sleeplessness could be a blessing from the Lord. What would happen if you accepted it? What would happen if you turned toward our Heavenly Father to pray, rejoice, cry, repent, and thank Him?

I contrasted this option to that of stewing, worrying, and over-thinking things.

“Try not to think too hard”.

Hot Air Balloons, Evening Moon, Cappadocia, Turkey

I told him this story about a guy in a hot air balloon:

Did you know that there’s actually a phrase, “Try not to think too hard?” It’s referring to those times when people fixate on something so intently and then freak out. Imagine someone up in a hot air balloon. He has waited his whole life to ride in that balloon. The weather is perfect and the balloon sails through the sky peacefully. But while he’s up there, he begins to notice how small and fragile the basket is. He notices the fire being torched above his head over and over again. He thinks about how dangerous this is. He looks at the thin silk of the balloon and the manmade ropes that are holding everything together. He looks down and notices that the earth is many, many feet below him. These thoughts begin to crowd in on him. He’s afraid he’s going to fall and there is nothing he can do!

And then, he freaks out. I mean, really, freaks out!

Imagine how dangerous it would be for him to lose control way up there in a hot air balloon. Imagine what would happen if he cried, screamed, kicked, or jumped out of the balloon that was peacefully saving him. Imagine how his opportunity to sail across the sky would be ruined by his fear and overthinking.

He needs someone to calmly say to him, “Try not to think too hard about this”.

He needs to take a deep breath and to be strong in his mind.

He needs to trust God.

To notice the beauty all around.

To relax and enjoy the ride.” 

A few months later…

Sometimes a child’s once-intense struggle will suddenly disappear… and we don’t even notice. That’s what happened with this. Weeks had passed without those late night footsteps creaking down the stairs, without the calming conversations, but I hadn’t even noticed the difference.

Then one night when I was tucking the children into bed, making my rounds with songs, prayers, lotion, and cups of water, that sweet and strong 7 year old boy lifted his head from the pillow and said, “You know, Mom, I never told you how much our conversation helped me. Ever since, when I lay down to go to sleep, I always think about that hot air balloon. I tell myself not to think too hard and I decide to spend my time with the Lord instead of getting so upset.

How comforting to be a human in the care of our ever-watchful Heavenly Father.

How deeply comforting.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

Enrich Your Middle Schooler’s Socialization Through Literature: The Call of the Wild Book Club

LauraAll Posts, Books, Middle School, Sonlight

Build homeschooling socialization while reading a good book together!

“The general tone of the team picked up immediately. It recovered its old-time solidarity, and once more the dogs leaped as one dog in the traces” (59)

Last year, Vivienne and I had such a great time hosting A Tom Sawyer book club together that we decided to do it again this year. Vivienne’s 8th grade Sonlight literature curriculum includes The Call of the Wild

We wanted to invite some friends along for the journey north. It just so happens that I teach a homeschool middle school literature class for Viv and her peers once a week. We agreed that this would be the perfect fit: we’d devote the first quarter to a The Call of the Wild book club.

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

It’s more fun together!

Twelve enthused peers read The Call of the Wild together, cheering Buck’s survival, wincing at the gore, fuming at the human incompetencies and cruelties, and rejoicing at the love of John Thornton.

We read the book over the span of 6 weeks, covering 2 chapters each week for 4 weeks and using the final two weeks for writing workshops. (The parents had requested that the students write a 5-paragraph literary analysis paper during the course. This ended up being a wonderful opportunity to introduce this style of writing to the students: they learned so much from one another.) I can confidently say that the students thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the book together and I was honored to sit in on their laughter and discussions.

Ideas for The Call of the Wild book club:

Whether your student is reading The Call of the Wild as part of Sonlight 100 or you are simply wanting to connect with your middle schooler in a meaningful way, creating a book club around such an engaging adventure will be worthwhile. The Sonlight 100 curriculum provides many helpful text-level questions, discussion-starters, vocabulary help, and map work. I wove this material into our book club meeting each week.

First, make a few introductions…

Reading The Call of the Wild is greatly enriched by understanding the author Jack London, the concept of the dogsled team, and a bit of history about the Klondike Gold Rush.

Meet Jack London

Before the book club began, I read a biography about London so I could share some background with the students.  They were fascinated by his story: his rough start, his dog-eat-dog stint in prison, his struggle with alcohol, his love of reading, and his extremely hard work ethic as a prolific writer. A little bit of information about the man behind the typewriter helped the students to understand the themes of the story better. They loved learning that London found gold in the Klondike Gold Rush: London returned home with $4.50 worth of gold dust in his pocket + a priceless treasure in his mind. When he began writing about his Klondike adventures, Jack London became America’s first millionaire writer.

(Feel free to take a peek at the PowerPoint that I created to guide my talking points: Introduction to Jack_London PowerPoint.)

Meet a dogsled team

We watched some National Geographic videos about dogsled teams – how they train and how they live. This gave the students powerful visuals to know how a pack of dogs works together as one to forge through snow and ice in the Klondike. It also provided a reference point for how such dogs should be treated and how they are treated in The Call of the Wild.

Meet the Klondike Gold Rush

We also watched some footage about the Klondike Gold Rush so the students could see for themselves the daunting journey north-west.

Adopt a Dog.

Viv suggested that each student “adopt” one of the dogs in the book. We purchased a miniature calendar of wolves and divided the pictures amongst the students. Then, we divvied up the dogs: Curly, Spitz, Sol-leks, Dave, Teek, Koona, Billee, Joe, Dub, Pike, Nig, and Skeet. As we read, each student kept a careful eye on his/ her dog and updated us from week to week. This helped the students to care about the minor characters and to notice the personification, mannerisms, personalities, and outcome of each dog.

Read aloud.

The first week, we sat in a circle and took turns reading aloud Gary Paulsen’s introduction as well as the first few pages of the story. We were hooked!

Throughout our meetings, we would often read aloud passages that we liked or needed to discuss.

Keep a commonplace book.

Encourage each student to jot down favorite quotations each week. Some students will copy passages about characters, others will copy the descriptive writing, still others will copy the life lessons. (This time around, a few of the boys copied down all of the gory descriptions – Curly’s downfall was a favorite.)

These commonplace excerpts are a great way to spark conversation.

Simply ask, “What did you write in your commonplace book?” and let the conversation evolve from there.

Be sure to keep a commonplace book, too! Your students will want to know what catches your eye.

Enjoy conversations about the book.

Sit back and guide the students with a few good conversation starters. This book sparks fantastic discussion: there are countless interesting topics to explore: civilization vs. the primordial, human decency, survival, the treatment of animals, greed, ignorance, love, freedom, vengeance, teamwork, leadership, and strength.

What did your students like?

What made them angry?

I am a Read-Aloud Revival fan, so I use Sarah Mackenzie’s helpful questions to prompt conversation. In her newly released Read-Aloud Family, Sarah provides 10 poignant questions that you can ask about any book and expect to connect with your student. I stick with these and am never disappointed.

Create a Klondike Gold Rush Game.

One week, I handed out slips of paper and asked the students to jot down a handful of questions and answers from the book. I distributed a few blank board games and passed around a basket of amusing figurines and a few dice. Then, I plunked a pile of chocolate gold coins on the table for each winner. The students used the trivia questions to progress through their “Klondike Adventure” and – in the end – decided to share the gold coins.

Send the students on a Klondike Adventure as a “dogsled team”.

Create a physical challenge for your students to accomplish in small groups: the goal of this is to help the students recognize the power of the leader, the follower, the dissenter, the weak-link, . You could designate each student’s role on the team or you could just sit back and watch as each student naturally takes a place in the group dynamic. Talk about the experience afterward. Compare it to the dynamic on Buck’s dogsled team.

Oh, and of course, top the whole thing off with Klondike Bars on the last day! (Yum!)

“When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack” (139).

I hope that this sparked your imagination for ways you can invite some students to join you in The Call of the Wild! You’ll have a wonderful time together.

YOUR SEASON OF LIFE DOES NOT DISQUALIFY YOU TO SERVE THE BODY

LauraDiscipleship, Ministry

Three years ago, I felt called to start a Women’s Ministry at our local church. I dog-eared a stack of Susan Hunt’s books and studied the material on the Committee on Discipleship Ministries website. I prayed and talked with other women about it. I presented a thoughtful proposal to our elders: they were enthused and supportive. Everything was moving forward… until I got pregnant with our fifth child. By the time I entered my third trimester of the pregnancy, I humbly told my husband and our Session that I had to “push pause” on the whole shebang. I didn’t have the energy or drive to continue. They were understanding, but I was disappointed and discouraged.

This wasn’t the first time I had to modify my commitments to the local church in order to tend to my life at home. In fact, it seemed like every time I offered my gifts to the church, I inevitably had a baby (wonderful!), or got sick (not wonderful!), or the kids got sick, or my husband traveled, or we moved, or we needed to visit family.

I felt doomed to inconsistency and undependability.

Being a daughter, wife, mother, and friend seemed diametrically opposed to my calling to serve the local church. Because my life ebbed and flowed so much, I believed that I was disqualified. I struggled with cynicism. Why should I volunteer when I know I’m just going to have to back out in 6 months?

Have you ever felt this way?

Head over to enCourage.com to read the 3 principles that have transformed the way I see my calling to serve the local church. I hope it encourages you as you pray about how you may use your gifts for the Lord.

You and Your Child Can Share the Gospel in India this Fall

LauraAll Posts, Discipleship, Family Fun, Sonlight

We want to share the good news about Jesus, but we are so self-indulgent.

Every morning, we gather at the breakfast table and thank God for our opportunity to learn and to develop our gifts for Him. We ask Him to use us in His world. Little by little, we want to learn how to love God and how to love people. Little by little, we want to share the good news with our friends and neighbors, near and far.

But I’ve gotta be honest with you: it’s hard! It’s hard to keep our eyes on Jesus when we are prone to focus on ourselves. It’s hard to offer our time and talents for Him when we have so many opportunities to indulge ourselves and to pursue our own pleasures. When I scan our schedules and budget, I’m alarmed by how consumed we are with ourselves. Even in our homeschooling, I’m tempted to make much of ourselves, while relegating Jesus (and the people He loves!) to the sidelines.

Lately, I’ve been asking God to give me more love for Jesus. I’m asking Him to help me guide our children toward living for Jesus, not for ourselves. 

May our prayer be, “More of you, Jesus. Less of me.” 

Here’s an Opportunity to Make Much of Jesus!! With Our Kids!! 🙂

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Most days – during this season of our lives – the kids and I stay within the borders of our home, our town, our county. Every once in a while though, we get an opportunity to jump the hedges and reach out to the larger world.

This week, I heard about an awesome opportunity for us to share the gospel in India… and YOU can join us!

(This comes at such a wonderful time for us because our friends have recently adopted a precious child from India. Our kids have already been caring about India for the long haul of that adoption process. Now that they’ve met their newest friend – and are smitten – they will be even more invested in this opportunity.)

Did you know that 4 out of 5 people who believe in Jesus do so because of something that influenced them by the age of 14? In India alone, 22 million kids will turn 15 this year. Our family believes God has called us to do all we can to reach these kids before this great opportunity is missed.

A Free Opportunity to Learn about India Together

Would you like to join us in partnering with Mission India and Sonlight for a campaign called “Experience India“?

During the month of October, we can all learn how much people in India – especially kids – need to know Jesus! Over 400 million people there have never even heard His name. So, let’s do something about it!

Once you sign your family up, you’ll receive a FREE Adventure Pack (includes a free virtual reality headset) that will allow your family to walk in the footsteps of children in India – almost literally – through virtual reality! And once your experience begins, expect powerful videos, engaging devotionals, memory verses, special activities, and transformational stories from India that will captivate your family!

An Invitation to Raise Money for Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs

There are no strings attached to the awesome opportunity to learn about India through “Experience India“.  But there is an additional opportunity!

In November, we’ll all have the opportunity to then raise money for Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs, where kids sing songs, get homework help, and best of all, learn about Jesus. Let’s get creative in raising money – the kids can save their spare change, sell crafts, and earn money through odd jobs. We can ask friends and family to join us in supporting these Bible Clubs through a fundraising page.

Just $24 enrolls one kid, and Sonlight is matching gifts given by November 14, up to $100,000!

Join us in telling kids in India about Jesus!

Sign up for “Experience India” anytime until September 28th. Click here to learn more about it!

You and your child will learn about the children in India through the Virtual Reality Experience through the month of October. 

Then, you and your child can raise money to fund the Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs from November 1, 2018 – November 16, 2018. 

 

How To Teach Multiple Sonlight Grades: Our Daily Sonlight Schedule

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

Two of the most common questions about Sonlight Curriculum are…

“How do you teach multiple students?” and,

“How much time does it take to teach multiple Sonlight grades?”

I don’t have all of the answers, but I’ll share what works for us AND give you a peak at our weekly schedule.

(P.S. I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion. This is one way that I can help provide for our family while sharing helpful information with you!)

First, a little background: We have 5 children and 3 of them are using various Sonlight curriculum.

Until last year, I kept all of my kids in the same Sonlight level, custom-fitting Language Arts and Math for each student. Halfway through last year, I noticed that our 7th grader needed more of a challenge, so she began Sonlight 100 American History while the rest of us finished Sonlight D.

This year, she’s still going strong with Sonlight 100, while our 5th grader is doing the complete curriculum for Sonlight E Intro to American History Year 2 of 2.

I use Sonlight E for our group History and Read-alouds (our 2nd and 8th grader join in). And, our 2nd grader is doing the 2nd grade Sonlight Language Arts curriculum.

Planning our weekly schedule took time and attention…

This summer, I invested a lot of prayer, time, and consideration crafting our weekly schedule. I worked diligently to figure out how our daily schedule would best promote a strong education, peace, independence, community, goodness, truth, and beauty.

What you see in our weekly schedule is a labor of love. Of course, following through with the schedule every day is a labor of love, too. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? God has called me to this beautiful and important work and I want to do it with my whole heart.

I am the schedule keeper…

I hesitate to share our daily schedule online because whenever I do, I get push-back. Critics say I’m too rigid, that I’m stealing my children’s freedom, relaxation, and wonder.  On paper, our daily schedule doesn’t look like the “gentle rhythmsthat other homeschoolers prefer.

I keep my eye on the clock.

I move us from one thing to the next when the time comes.

(But, I do it in a gentle, calm, and organized way. Does that count?)

I do this because it works best for our family.

I am happier with order and structure.

In my opinion, we have a peaceful-yet-productive atmosphere in our home. I think my kids are fun and that they have fun. Most of the time, they’re spunky, kind, curious, and relaxed kiddos.

We tend to have very happy days – even full of freedom and wonder. Our careful schedule is one of our vital tools.

Each day, we aim to complete each assignment in the Sonlight curriculum, but if we don’t finish something, we simply make a note of it and return to it the next day. If I get behind on the read-aloud schedule, we catch up by listening via audio book in the car.

I adjust the schedule as often as necessary…

As much as I am keeping the schedule, I am also always adjusting the schedule. I keep my eye open for how each child is faring. Does anyone seem too distracted? too isolated? too bored? too overwhelmed?

How can I adjust our plans to bring life into each child’s day?”

I make little adjustments on the fly and jot notes on my printed schedule. After each 6-week session, I analyze the entire weekly schedule. I keep the elements that are working and make changes where necessary. I print out a fresh schedule for the upcoming 6-week session of homeschooling.

Our schedule is based on our “best day ever”…

That’s really how I title our schedule: “Best Day Ever!!”

That title reminds me that this schedule will only happen when everything is humming along perfectly and all 6 of us are happy, healthy, and amiable.  How often does our day actually go according to plan? I don’t know… rarely? But, I do know that this schedule is our ideal and our expectation. It’s kinda like a compass that keeps us coming back to regular and good work after the tantrum, the bee sting, the frustration, or the mishap.

Without further ado…

Here’s my schedule for teaching Sonlight to Multiple Grades at Once:

(And here’s a link to the PDF: Sonlight_Daily_Schedule_With_Multiple_Grades.)

BEST DAY EVER!!

Session 1 (August 20 – September 28)

7:00 a.m. Kids wake-up (dress, make beds, chores)

7:30 – 8:00 a.m. Delightful Breakfast & Clean up (Play New City Catechism)

8:00 – 8:15 a.m. Personal Devotions (for the big kids)

8:15 – 9:00 a.m. Mom: Circle Time w/ 2nd grader, Pre-K-er, and 2-year old (calendar, songs, nursery rhymes, Bible story, games)

8th grader: Math-U-See Algebra

5th grader: Practice Violin (8:15 – 8:45)

9:00-9:30 a.m. Mom & Pre-K-er (using The Good and the Beautiful Pre-K)

8th: Sonlight 100 History

5th:  Saxon Math 6/5 (8:45 – 9:15), then Rosetta Stone French (9:15 – 9:30)

2nd: Play with 2-year old (We call this “BROTHA TIME!!”

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Mom & 2nd Grader (Math, 2nd Grade Sonlight LA, All About Reading)

8th: Sonlight 100 Language Arts

5th: Sonlight E History (9:30 – 10:00), then practices Piano (10:00 – 10:30)

Pre K: Plays w/ special toy or does school drawers

2-year old: Crib Time (Blinds up! Music on! Fun toys and books in crib! When he’s ready to get out, he sits at the table with us and has a snack/ plays with a table toy like playdoh, a little tool box, or art supplies)

10:30 – 11 a.m. Mom w/ 5th Grader (Sonlight E Language Arts – especially Spelling, Dictation, and Writing)

8th: Typing (10:30 – 10:45), then Special Interest until 11:30 (sewing, choreography, science, art, photoshop)

2nd Grader: Sonlight LA (Explode the Code, spelling words, handwriting, copywork)

Pre-K and 2-year old watch a show (like Little Bear, Daniel Tiger, Leap Frog, etc.)

11 – 11:30 a.m. Mom: Five In A Row (FIAR) w/ 2nd Grader, Pre-K, 2-year old

8th: Special Interest

5th: Sonlight E Language Arts (including Wordly Wise)

11:30 – 12:00 p.m.  Lunch, clean-up

12:00 – 12:30 p.m. Mom: w/ each child (otherwise, recess/ free time until 1:00)

Monday: Violin w/ 5th Grader

Tuesday: Piano w/ 5th Grader

Wednesday: Bible Study w/ 8th and 5th Graders (trying Navigators 2:7 Series)

Thursday: SCIENCE/ LIT.  CO-OP

Friday: 8th, 5th, and 2nd: Take Dictation/ Spelling tests

1 – 2 p.m. Quiet Time

8th, 5th, and 2nd do Sonlight Reading assignments + Free Reading

Pre-K plays in room (sometimes naps)

2-year old naps

2 – 2:30 p.m. Afternoon Symposium: Part 1

M: Cards/ letters for people

T: Art Study

W: Nature Study

Th: Science/ Literature Co-op

F: Play a Game

2:30 – 3:00 p.m. Afternoon Symposium: Part 2

Sonlight E read-aloud while kids sketch or do water color

3 – 3:30 p.m. Tea Time w/ a delicious snack

M: Adventures in Odyssey

T: Share excerpts from Reading Journals

W: Adventures in Odyssey (Mom meets w/ mentor)

Th: Current Events

F: Poetry

3:30 – 4 p.m. Chores

6 p.m. Dinner

Scheduled evening activities: ballet lessons, worship team practice, meetings, etc.

In conclusion…

It’s easy to post an impressive schedule online at the beginning of the school year and never really implement it IRL. I feel confident in sharing this schedule with you because it’s very similar to the schedule that we enjoyed last year (and in years past). Lord willing, this is not just my “beginning of the school year pie-in-the-sky ideal that will fizzle away in a week or two”. This is really our daily life and it really works for us. Things are going well as we get the school year up-and-running.

(Now you know why I don’t talk on the phone during the day. Or knit scarves. Or run a business. Or follow through in creating even a smidgeon of the blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, or Instagram posts that flit through my mind. 🙂 I’m okay with that. These precious days – carefully filled with learning, connecting, discipling, and playing with my children – are what I want to do most of all.)

So, what are your questions? What other tidbits of “how homeschooling works for us” would you like to know?? 

 

How I Organize My Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum and Student Work

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

Check it out: A sustainable way to utilize the gargantuan Sonlight Instructor’s Guides!

This year, I’ll be teaching Sonlight 100 to our 8th grader, Sonlight E to our 5th grader, and Sonlight LA 2 to our 2nd grader.

You know what that means: larger-than-life Instructor Guides (IG). As much as I LOVE the wisdom, guidance, and plans packed in each IG, I don’t want those wide 4-inch binders stacked up on my desk. They’d be heavy. They’d be formidable. I wouldn’t use them! That’s why I came up with this plan that keeps our IG’s at my fingertips.

(First, a disclaimer: I have a new appreciation for anyone who can make their photographs of binders look beautiful. Wow. Mine look so… un-Pinterest-y. I guess the point is that I keep things simple: white binders, tabs, and clear labels from the label-maker are all I need.)

Here’s what works for us:

First, I plan our school year according to 6-week sessions. (Typically, we take a break for the 7th week, give or take a few weeks, depending on how it all works out around holidays. This gives me time to regularly re-evaluate our learning experience and restock the 1-inch binders.)

Then, I make my own slim “Mom’s Binder” that I can easily access every day. It’s a 1-inch binder with tabs that hold each child’s 6-week IG material. (It also includes plans for 6-weeks of preschool, morning time, and anything else that I like to keep on hand for daily use.)

Here’s a glimpse into that world: You’re looking at the Sonlight 100 LA section… (In the left-hand pocket, I keep the list of Sonlight 100 spelling words for easy access. On the right, I keep 6-week’s worth of IG material. Easy peasy.)

(P.S. I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion. This is one way that I can help provide for our family while sharing helpful information with you!)

Our 8th grader has a 1-inch binder for Sonlight 100 LA and Sonlight 100 History: Sonlight 100 provides a thorough Student Guide that contains most of the information in the parent’s IG. This works well for us because our 8th grader is very self-motivated and she does a great job keeping track of her own assignments.

 

Each 1-inch binder contains 6-weeks worth of the Sonlight 100 Student Guide for that subject. Each binder has a section for the  entire year’s worth of MAPS and any important Appendix items (like the comprehensive list of timeline figures).

It’s stored on the shelf next to a magazine file holder for that subject. Here’s a glimpse of her shelf. (Doesn’t it look so blissfully organized? You can tell we’re still basking in pre-school year organization. Love it.)

For those of you who are using Sonlight for younger kiddos, I also snapped a photo of my Pre-K and 2nd-grader’s shelf. Basically, magazine file holders are easily pulled off the shelf when I work with each child.

One contains all of the Pre-K Sweetie’s work.

One contains our 2nd grader’s math curriculum.

One contains our 2nd grader’s reading curriculum. (We’re using All About Reading and Sonlight LA 2 this year. (For most kiddos this is completely unnecessary, but All About Reading has been such a great fit for our boy and we’re going to stick with it for one more year.)

There you have it! Every 6 weeks, I pull out the bigger IG’s and simply exchange the past 6-week’s pages for the next. How do you organize your Instructor Guides? Tips and Tricks??

Want to Inspire Creative Writing? Try Sonlight Language Arts

LauraHomeschooling, Sonlight

So far, six of the kiddos in this picture love to write.

(The littlest one is still learning her ABC’s…)

Six of them have won young author awards for creative nonfiction.

And six of them have been raised on Sonlight Language Arts.

Half of these kiddos are mine, half belong to my dear friend. She and I have been friends for our entire motherhood and our children have grown up side by side. This spring, her girls wrote and illustrated outstanding picture books for the local library’s Young Author’s competition. They won 1st, 1st, and Honorable Mention.

Imagine!

100% of her students are incredible, thoughtful, creative writers! This points to one incredible teacher.

So I asked, “What’s your secret to raising such good writers??”

(This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!)

Her answer: “Sonlight Language Arts.”

She said it’s as simple as following the curriculum. She doesn’t rush things, she doesn’t skip much. She simply progresses through the curriculum day upon day.

Then, she mentioned three specific benefits of the Sonlight Language Arts curriculum:

First, the read-alouds spark her daughters’ imaginations, build their vocabulary, and teach them effective sentence structure. Through the read-alouds and readers, her girls spend hours with excellent writers.

Secondly, the gentle Language Arts assignments build clear, precise communicators. Step by step, day by day, grain of sand by grain of sand. Again, she doesn’t rush things, she doesn’t skip much.

And finally, she took Sonlight seriously when it encouraged her to be the scribe for her creative children in their early years. As her spunky first and second graders imagined new civilizations, or created uses for a ball of string, or rattled off a list of words that describe the sunset, she’d write down their words and read them back aloud.

(Sonlight encourages young children to develop the skill of handwriting through handwriting curriculum and dictation, but wants to help kids to create and write stories without the complication and hardship of handwriting. It’s a brilliant plan!)

These days, her girls can handwrite easily, so they keep their notebooks close by and are constantly writing, writing, writing.

May the young authors continue creating, writing, and contributing to the world. Thank you, Sonlight Language Arts, for the gentle, solid, effective start.