Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Evaluating our School Year: Prayer

This post is part of a series I'm doing as a way to evaluate our school year.  I am covering each subject, describing what we did; what worked for us and what didn't work; and detailing any changes I plan to make.  I find this process so helpful as I finish out our year and before I begin to plan for our next year.  

~

Prayer
WHAT WE DID:Directly following our Bible time, we had a prayer time together.  This was a really sweet time for us each morning, and until this year, I hadn't attempted it.  Sure, we have always prayed before each mealtime, but we hadn't set aside a prayer time like this.  Right now all of our kids are old enough that we are able to do this, and it was such a welcome addition to our mornings.

Most days I would simply ask, "What can we pray for today?" and often the kids would remember the various needs of family members and friends, needs in our own home or in the world.  We prayed a LOT for the refugees this year (thank you, my sweet Audra, who wanted to pray for them every.single.morning).  And we prayed a lot for the presidential candidates.  We also prayed for our Compassion kids.

Since our prayer time followed our Bible time, we would also often pray about what we'd read or learned.  Sometimes by that time we'd already had a rough morning with bickering or a stressed mommy, and one of my kids would pipe up, "We could pray for peace for the rest of our school day."  And so we did.

IMG_0654

I wrote all of these prayer requests down on our morning time sheet for that day.

Then each of us would select one or two things to cover in prayer, and we prayed for 5-10 minutes.

At some point during the year I encouraged the kids to begin their prayers with a "Thank You, God, that You are ___________ " type-praise.  I want them to learn to come before God with adoration and praise for Who He is, not just to Him for something.  So this was a good, hopefully habit-forming practice that we kept up.  I actually have made a note on my planning list for this next year to cover some of the attributes of God in our morning time, but I haven't fleshed that out yet.  (Does anyone know any good resources for that?)

We will continue to do prayer the same way next year! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Evaluating our School Year: Bible time

This post is part of a series I'm doing as a way to evaluate our school year.  I am covering each subject, describing what we did; what worked for us and what didn't work; and detailing any changes I plan to make.  I find this process so helpful as I finish out our year and before I begin to plan for our next year.  

~

Bible
WHAT WE DID:
Every day, the first thing we do during our morning time is to read from the Bible or a Bible story bookI've written before about my two favorite Bible story books.  This year we read Hurlbut's- just a page or two each morning, not even always finishing the section.

Here are some of the things we do for Bible time narrations:
1. Stop after reading a paragraph or two and call on one of the kids (surprise!) to narrate it for me.
2. Ask questions at the end of the reading time:  "Adelia, tell me about ____________"Isaac, can you describe ____________?"
3. Utilize our dry erase board for sketching out the story itself.  (I'll break up the story into parts and have each child take one part and draw it on the board.  Then we'll show daddy at lunchtime and
each child can re-narrate his/her part to him.)
4. Utilize our dry erase board for writing up the "characters" from the story and listing what we learned about them. Generally I have the pen, and I'll say, "Okay, what did we learn about __*insert name here*___   from this passage?" and the kids will call things out and I'll write them all down.


Towards the end of the year we also read the "Proverb of the Day".  [So, the first day of the month we read Proverbs chapter 1, the second day of the month we read Proverbs chapter 2, etc.]  One of my oldest would read the chapter aloud, and then I would generally ask all the kids if any parts/verses stood out to them and we'd talk about it.

All of our Bible time ends in some sort of conversation or discussion, and it is nearly always my favorite time of the day.  I love hearing my kids' observations on the Scripture we read.

CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR:
My older two have requested that we skip the Bible story books and read straight from the Bible. This is what we'll do for next year.  (I have kept the Bible story books in our rotation for the sake of the little girls, because so much of what we do is geared toward the older kids that I have to work to try to keep some things *younger* for them.) 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones


Well.  I have officially decided that everyone needs to make these.

There's a coffee shop in town that has similar scones and they're amazing. But not as amazing as these.

In fact, even though we ate them hours ago, Isaac just said to me,  "Mommy, thanks again for breakfast.  I can't get over how good those were."

From batch #2: using frozen raspberries that had been partially thawed.

I've adapted the recipe slightly from the original recipe found on pickycook.com and she has great step-by-step instructions with photos on there if you're interested.

Here is what you'll need:

8 T unsalted butter, frozen and grated*
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1/2 cup buttermilk (original recipe calls for whole milk; I didn't have any so I subbed buttermilk)
1/2 cup sour cream 
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon table salt 
the zest of one lemon 
1/4 cup of white chocolate chips
turbinado sugar (or regular) for sprinkling on top

*I have never in my whole life even heard of freezing and then grating the butter prior to reading this recipe, and it is GENIUS.  When a recipe calls for cutting in butter (for scones, struedel, and pie crusts), from here until my dying day, I will be doing This Brilliant Thing.  (My own stick of butter was refrigerated and after reading the recipe, I threw it in the freezer while I picked berries from our yard, so mine was only in the freezer for maybe 10 minutes, but still.)


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and start grating your stick (8 T) of butter.  Then put your grated butter into the freezer.

2. Whisk together buttermilk (1/2 cup) and sour cream (1/2 cup) in a small bowl; refrigerate until needed.

3. Whisk flour (2 cups), sugar (1/2 cup), baking powder (2 tsp), baking soda (1/4 tsp), salt (1/2 tsp) and the zest of one lemon into a medium bowl.

4. Add the frozen, grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.

5. Add buttermilk and sour cream mixture to the flour mixture; folding with a rubber spatula until just combined.

6. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface.  (I used floured parchment paper.)  Sprinkle flour on the dough and knead the dough with your hands a few times, until it just holds together in the general shape of a ball, adding flour as needed if it's too sticky.

7. Roll the dough into an approximate 12-inch square. Then fold the dough into thirds (as you would a business letter) and transfer the dough to a plate lightly dusted with flour and put it back into the freezer for 5 minutes.

8. Take the dough out of the freezer, and transfer it to a piece of floured parchment paper or a silpat and roll out again if needed (12-inch square).  Sprinkle fresh raspberries and white chocolate chips evenly over the surface of the dough, then gently press them a bit into the dough.

9. Roll the dough to form a log, and then lay seam-side down and press down on the top of the log,  slightly flattening it.  Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the log into scone-looking triangles.

10. Brush tops with some melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until the tops are browning, 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven.



A note on using fresh or frozen raspberries: 

For my first batch, batch #1, I used fresh raspberries.  I had briefly washed them and then scattered them on a paper towel to dry off.

For batch #2, I used raspberries from the freezer, partially thawed, and they were decidedly wetter when pressing them into the dough.  Although the scones from batch #2 were equally delicious, they didn't retain their scone shape as well.  (All that to say that if you use frozen raspberries, don't thaw them at all, sprinkle them right on frozen.  I think that would work better.)

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Heavy-hearted


There is so much on my heart these past several days that I hesitate to write or say anything at all, and yet I do not want to be silent, either.

First and foremost, I am grieving the loss of the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, as well as the lives of the five officers killed in Dallas: Officer Lorne Ahrens, Officer Michael Smith, Officer Michael Krol, Officer Patrick Zamarripa, Officer Brent Thompson.

I have been praying for the families and the friends of these men, that God would bring them the comfort only He can give. 

I am praying particularly for our brothers and sisters in the Dallas area this week, black and white, to move toward one another in love.  I am praying for reconciliation, rather than retaliation. 

I am praying that God's Spirit would empower people to love, where there might otherwise be hatred, anger, or fear.  I am thankful that God is the Light of this dark, broken, and hurting world.  And I am praying for God's people, as His image-bearers, to be light wherever they are, in whatever spheres they are in.  May the fact that Christ is in us compel us to a place of unity and of compassion, no matter our race or ethnicity.

I pray that I will be one who reaches out to those who are not like myself, and especially those who may feel devalued.

I am praying for the protection of black boys and black men.  I am praying for black mothers who are fearing for the futures and the very lives of their boys.  I am praying for white mothers who are fearing for the futures and the very lives of their black boys.

I am also praying for the protection of police officers.

I am praying against the fear that is so pervasive in our society.  I am praying for compassion for us all.  I am praying that we would walk in the ways of Jesus; that we would be humble people and that we might glorify God through our words, our actions, and our thoughts.

This week Mark and I have talked a lot about these things.  We have also talked with our older kids, and these conversations sometimes filter down to our younger girls.  There was a moment this week when we were all eating together at the table and we were talking generally about what was going on in our nation.  Adelia, my beautiful brown-skinned daughter, happened to tune in and ask what we were talking about, and one of her siblings said, "Police officers killed some black people."

I don't know how her eight-year-old heart and mind processes such a statement. 

Or last year, while playing with a group of children at church, another little girl declared, "She can't play this game.  I don't like people with black skin."

I don't know how her heart and mind processes such a declaration.

I know how mine does.  My heart aches, and the tears come.  I want to protect my little girl.  I want her to know that she is made in the very image of God.  I don't ever want her to feel self-conscious because of the color of her skin.  I look at her and I see the beauty with which God made her: tightly coiled curls pulled into twists, her beautiful skin tanning even browner after these days of warm sunshine, her wide smile, her infectious laughter, her playfulness and her strong will.

Never am I more aware of the beautiful brown of her skin, or the whiteness of my own skin, than when this issue comes up.  Because suddenly I look at the issue of race through her eyes.

She asked why, there at the table surrounded by her white family who loves her.  Why indeed?

What can I say to her in these moments, when it seems as if my words will carry such weight and ought to be so significant and yet I feel so inexperienced to speak to this at all?

What I say to her is this: God created you, and He delights over you.  And then we talk about how we are living in a broken world, and evil abounds, and that people act out of fear or hatred and that this is why we all desperately need Jesus.

Andra Day has a powerful song called Rise Up, and here is a part of it:
And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again
And I'll rise up
High like the waves
I'll rise up
In spite of the ache
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again


Every time I hear that song I think of the many times the black community has had to rise up in the face of oppression and violence, of how they have had to rise up again and go out and live amongst those with prejudices against them.  I have nothing but respect for these courageous men and women, and we have so much to learn from them.

May God give us His heart, His eyes, and His love.  And may we all look to the Day where we will all stand before the throne of God as a great multitude, from every nation, tribe, people and language, in worship of the One who is worthy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stacy's Summer Playlist














Stacy's SUMMER playlist

I may add more to this, but for now, these are the great songs I'm listening to:

Take the World | Johnnyswim
 

Brother | need to breathe
 

Hold Us Together | Matt Maher

Ever Be
| Bethel Music

Try | Colbie Caillat  (Also, if you haven't seen her video of this song?  DO.  
It's powerful and makes me cry every time I see it.)
 

Trust in You | Lauren Daigle
 

Everywhere I Go | Tim Timmons

Coming Home 
| REND Collective
 

Oh Our Lord | All Sons & Daughters
 

Home | Johnnyswim

The House That Built Me | Miranda Lambert

I'd love to hear what YOU'RE listening to!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Evaluating our School Year: Poetry

Hello friends,

This post begins a series of me basically processing my thoughts (and sometimes my kids' thoughts and opinions) here on the blog regarding our homeschooling year.  I plan to cover each subject, describing what we did, what worked for us and what did NOT work.

I find this process so helpful as I finish out each year and before I begin to plan for our next year.  Each year I end up tweaking things and refining them in a way that will result in a smoother run NEXT year.  At least that's the plan.  :)

So... I'm going to begin with POETRY, since a reader (Hi Candice!) recently had a question about this.


WHAT WE DID:
Each month we reviewed one poem from the previous year and learned a new poem.  We read our poems-for-the-month every school day during morning time.  Each child had a copy of the poem in front of them that I would pass out before each reading, then file afterward in my Morning Time binder.

At the beginning of a month, I read that month's new and review poems aloud, to get the right cadence of the poem in their minds.  Then after a week or more of only me reading them, I might have one of older kids read them, or I would read a line and see if the rest of the kids could fill in the following line.  Toward the end of the month when they were all very comfortable with it, they would take turns reciting the poems throughout the week.

Here is list of our poetry selections for this past school year.  (You should be able to google any of these titles and/or poets and find the poem in its entirety.) 
September|October
IF, Rudyard Kipling (new)
Nine o’Clock Bell, Eleanor Farjeon (review)

November
The Mist and All, Dixie Willson (new)
Who Has Seen the Wind? Christina Rossetti (review)

January
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost (new)
The Eagle, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (review)

February
February Twilight, Sara Teasdale (new)
The Children’s Hour, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (review)

March
The Lake Isle of Innisfree, William Butler Yeats (new)
Written in March, William Wordsworth (review)

April
Nature, Poem 9: The Grass, by Emily Dickinson (new)
The Sun Is First To Rise, Elizabeth Coatsworth (review)

May|June
Bilbo’s Walking Song, J.R.R Tolkien (new)
The Cow, Robert Louis Stevenson (review)

My favorite books of poems for young children is either A Child's Book of Poems (illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa), or A Child's Garden of Verses (Robert Louis Stevenson, and illustrated by Tasha Tudor.

One of Fujikawa's illustrations

For middle-aged children I really like Favorite Poems Old and New, with selections by Helen Farris.  Our copy is an old, red, hardbound book I picked up at a thrift store years ago.  I also have a copy of The Classic Hundred Poems (Harmon).  Everything else I find online.  Ambleside online is a great resource.  Click here to find a list of AO's recommended poets.



WHAT WORKED:
The purpose of introducing poetry to the kids is to expose them to the language of the poets and the cadence of verse, and I think we really succeeded in this.  We all really enjoyed it, and the kids all said they want to keep doing exactly what we did this past year.

WHAT DID NOT WORK:
I can't really think of any thing that didn't work.  I will say that my older kids could have taken on more challenging poems.  They are able to memorize more easily than the little girls, and could have tackled longer poems, for sure.  (Ella, for instance, gets a poem down after just a few times of hearing it and can recall and recite it months later.)  But I intentionally chose fairly simple poems that the younger girls would like to hear, and they all liked our poetry time, so I think it's a win.  :)

***


Please feel free to post any questions you might have, or list your own favorite poems!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Choosing good books for your pre-teen or teen daughter to read

A reader once asked me (Hi Henna-Maria!) about choosing good books for our pre-teen or teen daughters.  This is such an important question.  
   
I have a lot to say about this topic, actually, so bear with me.  Just a caveat, here, too: I try to be really selective, but what I think is appropriate or wholesome may be different than what you find to be so.  So please use your best judgment, not mine.  ;)

Also, I haven't done this perfectly, by any means.  In fact, there were two books Ella read recently that had parts in them that I did not remember or anticipate that I wished she hadn't read.  Ugh.  (More on that later.)
Ella (14) has always loved to read, and she reads quickly.  I am thankful she doesn't mind reading books over again!  When she wants a new book to read, she peruses her shelves and finds a favorite and reads it all over again.  :)  I'm also very fortunate because she likes the same type of books I do (classics and historical fiction), so that makes it easier because she can select from my library or from those I have read and remember.  That has given her many books to choose from, and they took us a long way into her life  (just off the top of my head— beginning with Little House on the Prairie and the rest of that series, Anne of Green Gables, and many others by L.M. Montgomery, Little Women and others by Louisa May Alcott.)  
However, she has more time to read than I do and because she reads so quickly, I cannot keep up with her. So I do not pre-read every book she reads.  However, (and this is probably the most significant part of this whole post:) I trust her judgment and I trust our relationship. 

We have a spent years being selective about books.  And by now I trust her taste in books.  We have read primarily whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,... (Philippians 4:8) in our home for so many years that her appetite has been developed for such and she naturally seeks those books. 
 

For the most part I know what she’s reading.  She may choose a book from the library shelf, but if I am unfamiliar with the author or title I will try to look it up and read some reviews— (check for the low reviews; they will often alert you to something you will want to avoid).

In general, I also tend to avoid newer books.  I’m always looking at the publication date and generally am on alert if it's a book published within the past decade or so.  I am MUCH more prone to pick up something that is older.

If I am unfamiliar with a book and Ella is interested enough to take it home and read it, I will say something like, “Okay, hon.  But I don’t know anything about that book so if there’s anything in it that is questionable, please come and tell me or set it aside.”  She will.  And she has done so.  Also, if it’s something I remember reading and it’s been YEARS since I read it, I will say something along the lines of, “I can’t remember everything about this book, so let me know if something comes up that concerns you.”  And then I ask her about what she’s reading…. “How is it?  What is the story?  Who are your favorite characters?  Is there anything in there I wouldn’t like?  What other book does it remind you of?

Now. To the two books I mentioned earlier that I wish she hadn’t read.  Or at least I wish I had been able to tell her to skip a couple of pages within the story.  BOTH of these books were recommended by me.
(*cringe*)  One was Christy, by Catherine Marshall.  I remember reading it when I was younger and I had loved it.  So I handed it to her without another thought, trusting it was wholesome. And it is a good story.  She was reading it and enjoying it and then I asked her one day, “How is it?  What do you think about it?” etc, and she mentioned that there was a “bad part” and my heart sort of fell and I’m scrambling to think “What?!?  What was in there?” and then she explained that one of the characters had been assaulted (this is a nice way of saying that there was an older man in her life that had taken advantage of her) and was telling Christy about it in the book.  I had Ella bring me the book so that I could read exactly what she had read, and as I read it, I felt ill because it was awful; and there was such a dark feeling with the telling by this older woman of when she was a vulnerable child being preyed upon, really.  I felt so responsible that I had handed her this book.  I said I was sorry, and that had I remembered that part was in there I would have had her skip at least that portion (if not the entire book for the time being).  But it gave us the opportunity to talk about it, and I was able to answer her questions, talk through the reality of this and to pray with her. 

The second book- more recently- was a book by Brock and Bodie Thoene.  I haven’t read all their books but I remember enjoying the Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicle series when I was about her age, as well as a few other titles of theirs.  She first read Shiloh Autumn, which is a story about some families struggling through the Great Depression, and she enjoyed that, so I encouraged her to check out some of their other books at the library.  And she began reading (and enjoying) their Jerusalem series.  She approached me, part way through one of the final books in that series, to tell me that there was something in that particular book that was inappropriate.  Again, that unsettled feeling in my stomach of, “OH NO.  What have I done?” Especially because in this case, I hadn’t read this particular book/series.  She told me about the part that had made her uncomfortable (and for good reason, poor girl), and then later I read *exactly* the scene she was referring to—which involved a husband and wife in the bathtub that was not at all appropriate for a fourteen-year-old.  (I actually don't think it's prudent to have such a scene in a book for any age.)  Sigh.  I was so disappointed. Again, though, we were able to talk about God-given intimacy between a husband and wife and the beauty of that (but that we don't really want to READ about that, thank you very much, Brock and Bodie Thoene) and I answered questions she had and we prayed together and it ended well.  But still.  (Just learn from my mistakes, okay?)


Henna-Maria, I know you asked specifically about Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series, which I loved when I read them, but I was also much older when I read those books, and I forget the details.  (You've read it much more recently so you will know so much better than I will how your daughter would receive them.)  I plan to re-read those again sometime within the next year and then hand them on to Ella if I think she's ready.

***

Here is the most recent book list I've posted with a list of wholesome books:
Book list for a 13-year old girl

(Since then she's read several other good books, too-- most recently Pride and Prejudice and Emma, both by Jane Austen.)  She's still keeping track of everything she's reading so I'll post a 14-year old list when we get to the end of her fourteenth year.