3 Practical Tips for a More Peaceful Homeschool Day

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

I’m in the midst of homeschooling an 8th, 5th, and 2nd grader along with a precocious K-4er… add to that a 2-year old with a twinkle in his eye and a newborn. It’s a full house around here and I am always on the look-out for tips and tricks that will make our days more peaceful and productive.

This year, we’re using Sonlight 100 for our 8th grader, Sonlight E for our 5th grader, and Sonlight LA 2 for our 2nd grader. This means there’s lots of learning going on at many different levels: there are read-alouds, creative writing projects, Bible songs, research papers, patriotic songs, timelines, maps, vocabulary enrichment, spelling quizzes, and art projects galore.

Surprisingly, much of our daily happiness comes from the decisions we make in the small details of homeschool life: in this case, how we organize assignments, how we arrange our desk space, and how we deal with distractions.

I’ve just gotta share these 3 simple things that have added a tremendous amount of peace to our daily lives this year.

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

Homeschool Assignment Books

I first heard about this very simple method from Sarah MacKenzie at The Read-Aloud Revival (don’t you just love her?). I dug up some spiral notebooks right away.

We’ve been at it for at least 3 years now and here’s why they work for us:

  1. They provide a daily log of each child’s work. At the end of the year, I flip through these with our evaluator and ask for feedback about my daily expectations. She can see the progress and consistency of our work.
  2. They are an easy way for each child to see what is expected, to learn time-management, and to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
  3. They are a simple way for me to set each child up for success for each day. Here’s what works for me: in the afternoon, I grab my “Mom Binder” that contains a 6-week chunk of pages from our Sonlight Instructor Guides and simply transfer the assignments into each child’s assignment book for the next day. Even our 8th grader who follows along in her own Sonlight 100 Student Guide likes that I let her know what I expect from her each day. (Sometimes I jot an encouraging note, a verse from the Bible, or draw a silly cartoon in the margin to spice things up.)

Study Nooks

Study nooks make me ask myself one big question: Why has it taken me so long to make this happen?!

For some reason, all of our kids like to do their work downstairs with the whole gang… and all of the hubbub. It’s practically impossible for our 2nd grader not to be distracted by the pre-schooler’s story time, the 2-year old’s antics, or – of course – the little one’s show time. (Who can resist the Treehouse Detectives when stuck in the middle of a math fact sheet?). At any rate, I splurged and spent a few dollars on a tri-fold poster board, cut it in half to make 2 study nooks, and changed our lives forever. These provide just enough privacy to help my 2nd and 5th graders focus on their work. They feel like they have their own place in the world while being in the midst of all of the fun.

The bonus, of course, is that you can decorate the nook with study aides. We post the week’s spelling words, memory work, and math-tips.

Noise-cancelling headphones

As it turns out, our homeschool rivals a rock and roll concert. After all, we need the same equipment! Any variation of our kids may use these noise-cancelling headphones whenever I’ve lost control of things and the 2-year old is jousting with the 4-year old while the baby cries and Mr. Demme calmly teaches about binomials on the TV and the 5th grader practices the A minor scale on her violin.  (It kinda does resemble a rock and roll concert, doesn’t it?)

These headphones help whomever can’t focus, to focus. That’s a win.

(When they arrived in the mail, our 8th grader tried them on. Instantly, a serene look came over her face. “Oh, I want to wear these forever!” she swooned.) 

Do you have any tips and tricks to add? What helps to bring peace and productivity to your homeschool day? I’d love to know!


5 Simple Ways to Connect with Your Child

LauraHealthy Living, Motherhood

Looking for a simple way to connect with your child today?

You don’t have to go to Disney World or spend the weekend at an indoor water park in order to build your relationship with your child. Honestly, sweet day-to-day connections happen right at home when we make a few good choices.

I’ve been feeling mid-winter stress that can darken and distance me from the people I love the most. That’s why I’ve been calling to mind these very simple-yet-powerful things that will make a difference in my home. I hope that they strengthen and encourage you, too.

Oh, and be sure to remember this: spring is always on the way!


The Day in the Life of a Homeschool Middle Schooler Using Sonlight Curriculum

LauraAll Posts, Middle School, Sonlight

How to… middle school homeschool?

I’m glad you asked.

Good morning, world! This is me, Viv. I’m an 8th grader who is learning history, literature, language arts, and Bible through Sonlight 100. Are you curious about using Sonlight’s middle school curriculum? Come see what a typical day looks like for me at home. I’m about to start my day… and this is my pile o’ books.



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

Sometimes I wake up around 6:45 to enjoy my quiet time with God. Other times, I wake up around 7 or 7:30, eat breakfast with my family around 8 a.m. and enjoy my devotions after that. Here I am doing a lesson in the Holzmann’s Bible Study Sampler. (I love that it is straight-forward and simply teaching me to read, interpret, and apply the Bible.)


I like to do math right away in the morning. I spend about 30 minutes on Algebra 1 (from Math-U-See). Today, I’m learning about polynomials. Mind-boggling.


Sonlight 100 has me reading through Joy Hakim’s A History of US series. It is so interesting! When I read history, I read every which way: I stand, walk around, lay on the floor, stretch… In warmer weather, I lie on the trampoline or relax on the porch.


(That’s my sister, Lia. She’s in 5th grade and she is working on Sonlight E Intro to American History Year 2 of 2.)

After that, I tackle a bunch of desk work: I add details to my Timeline Book and maps, I practice spelling words, do Wordly Wise Book 8, and work on the Sonlight 100 Language Arts assignments. This week, I’m researching Autism for a research project that is due next week. (I’m exploring the ways we can best educate and nurture children with autism. My aunt has worked very hard to learn about this topic and she pointed me to The Autism Navigator and this podcast.)

Some days, I use this block of time to do my homework for my Science and Literature co-op classes. We meet on Thursdays. (So, get this: in science, we are studying Arctic Climates. I wonder if that’s why Antarctica came to us this year. It was 8 degrees today! Check out this cool YouTube clip of a scuba diver in Antarctica!)

Of course, I’ve gotta cuddle with this cutie whenever possible, too…

Lunch time! It’s “Make Your Own Sandwich Day” aka, “Make Your Brother’s Sandwich, Too, Day”. 😉


It just so happens that today, my mentor came over. (We get together a couple of times a month.) Right now, we are working through Life Purpose Planning. I treasure our friendship!!

After that, I went to play practice (I’m a Bird Girl in Seussical Jr.!) and went to a friend’s house for the afternoon, but USUALLY, on an average homeschool afternoon, my siblings and I play outside, exercise for 30 minutes (we circuit through rowing, running, and the 7-minute app), read for an hour, and work on art projects while my mom reads to us.


We have dinner as a family around 6. We do the dishes, then we may watch a show, read, or play a game. (For those of you who know me in real life: I’m taking a break from all of the hours of ballet that I was doing earlier this year, and I honestly really like the regular evenings at home. It’s kinda nice.)

So, there you have it! I’m learning so much – and reading unforgettable good books – by using Sonlight 100. At this point, I am able to manage most of my coursework on my own, which I really like. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have about using Sonlight 100 (or homeschooling in general) from a middle schooler’s perspective.


Yep! That’s my life! 🙂

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.


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.