Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A: Abundance

I am so excited to be joining in on Blogging Through the Alphabet again! I completed all 26 weeks last year, and I hope to complete all 26 this year. Looking back, I didn't have a central theme to all of my posts. I considered a theme this go-round, but I couldn't decide on just one. So, this year, it will be random once again!

As I thought of a topic for the letter "A", the word that came to my mind was Abundance. The simple definition in my dictionary is "a great supply; more than enough".

As I look around my house, I am overwhelmed with abundance. We have a refrigerator full of fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs and leftovers (another example of abundance). We have not one, but two deep-freezers full of fresh beef from one of our cows and fresh venison from the deer my husband and children have killed this year.

Our bookshelves are overflowing with books - I even had to put some in my storage building. The kid's rooms are so full of toys, we have to buy more baskets and bins to store them in. We have more Bibles than people in our home. Our closets are so full of nice clothes, we are always running out of hangers.
We have central air-conditioning and heat to keep us cool or warm, plus a fireplace. We have flushing toilets and electricity at the flip of the switch. We have clean water with the turn of the faucet. We have beds with mattresses, sheets, blankets, and pillows. We have two reliable and luxurious vehicles to drive, as well as money to fill the tanks.

I have five children so I have an abundance of hugs, kisses, tears, tantrums, long talks, laughter, and snuggles. I have an abundance of entertainment throughout the day, games to play, puzzles to put together, and books to read. I have an abundance of laundry to do, meals to cook, beds to make up, and toys to pick up.
I could go on and on, but I think you understand. Your home, too, is full of abundance.
John 10:10 "I came so that you may have life, and have it more abundantly."

(another attempt at hand-lettering from me)
Jesus came to give us life, but not just any life - abundant life. Does this mean he came so that we could live in beautiful homes with nice cars and designer clothes? So that our kids could have all the latest electronic gadgets, be involved in all of the extracurricular activities they want and have more toys than they could ever play with? So our bank accounts could be full, but our hearts empty? No - not at all.

I don't believe in a prosperity gospel, but I do believe that God blesses His people. I don't believe that you should be close to God so you can have all of the material and worldly possessions you desire. I believe the abundant life Jesus is talking about here is not worldly-focused by Godly-focused, heavenly-focused, Kingdom-focused.

He came so that we could have an abundance of grace, forgiveness, mercy, healing, and peace. When we find these things in Jesus, the material and worldly possessions don't mean as much anymore. We have all we could ever need in Him, so there is no voids left to fill with superficial things.

Ephesians 1:3 says "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ." Notice is says every spiritual blessing, not just some of them or most of them. God has given us an abundance of spiritual blessings, as well.

I also believe that you can't deny the abundance we as Americans have. Even if you aren't rich by the world's standards, you probably have a home with running water, electricity, and air-conditioning. You most likely have real floors instead of dirt floors and a roof over your head. You probably have closets full of clothing and shoes, even if they're not brand-name or even brand-new. You have food in your pantry and refrigerator, a TV to watch, a phone to use, internet access...we live like kings and don't even realize it.

The response to our abundance should be giving. We have the ability to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and bind the wounds of the injured. We can mend broken hearts, give rides to the people who don't have transportation, and offer hospitality to the less fortunate. There are so many things we can do, so many things we should do, so many things we are called to do. If we ignore the needs of others, we will answer to God for it one day. If we see someone who needs help and refuse the help we can give, we will be accountable.

We need to remember to thank God every day for the luxuries we enjoy and take for granted, for the abundance we are constantly complaining about.

 Join us in Blogging Through the Alphabet! It's not too late to start; in fact, this week is the first week. So please join the fun!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Week in Review: 1/9 - 1/13

This week we have had much nicer weather. The kids got to play outside quite a bit, which was nice. We will be leaving next Saturday headed to Alabama for another job. It is exciting to go to new places, but I always miss our house, our church, our family and friends. We decided to rent a condo this time, which will make things much easier! The condo is right on the lake, with a swimming pool, swing set, picnic tables, and a grill right outside the door. God really blessed us with this spot! I told the kids it would be like one long vacation, except they will be doing school. My brother, his wife and their two kids will be on this job, and it always makes it easier to have someone there with you. We are planning to have a Bible study with the pipeline wives!

Mikaela and Eli finished days 24-28 in Bob Jones University DVD learning. Mikaela had to write an essay this week for Cultural Geography comparing communism, socialism, and capitalism. She is getting better at writing essays, as she has already had several to write since using BJU. She had a chapter 2 test in Algebra I, and I'm happy to say she understands what she is learning. She has been doing multi-step equations, and let me tell you, they are not easy. I've been doing right along with her, and some of them totally stump me. Honestly, I let her skip some of the really hard ones. We do them together (while I glance every now and then at the teacher's guide to make sure I'm not making a mistake). She can do the easy ones with no trouble and some of the semi-hard ones with no trouble. Fractions in multi-step equations trip her up, and she has a hard time with word problems. She is doing pretty well, though, so I continue to give her help as needed. I figure if she was in public school, she would have to have a tutor, so I'm kind of her "tutor" and teacher. We do her work together, although I let her work some on her own, but I check them right away. So about half an hour to an hour of my day is sitting with her doing Algebra. Physical science continues to challenge her, but she did well today on her section review questions. She is on chapter 4, which is simply titled, "Mechanics". Writing and Grammar is easy for her, and she enjoys her assignments. She has to read a book she's never read before and write a book report on it, due next Friday.

Eli had to write an advertisement this week for Writing and Grammar, and he did a really good job. We have got to work on his handwriting. He has always had sloppy handwriting, but this was him working really, really hard. Dysgraphia? I've thought maybe. His hand hurts to write, but he doesn't complain like he used to. I love how he added a blue "slide" for the "L" in Playground.

 I love these little Writing assignments at the end of each chapter. So far, he has had to design a book jacket and keep an observation journal. He is also learning about personal pronouns. He is learning about prime numbers and factorization in math, which isn't very challenging for him. He is learning about Asia in World Studies, and he continues to enjoy this class. He is always throwing facts at me that I don't know! In Life Science, his favorite class, he is learning about cells. He has watched several investigations on his DVDs this week. He learns quite a bit from this course. Honestly, the Life Science is the most impressive class we have! I would recommend it for anyone. There are fun projects and plenty of investigations (experiments), and his teacher makes the class fun to watch. The little kids often watch with him, especially when Lab Rat is on! He's a rat puppet that cracks lots of jokes and is very cute.

Mikaela and Eli are going to a youth weekend conference called D-Now. They left yesterday afternoon and will be back on Sunday. Mikaela went a few years ago and a had a really good time. I'm hoping it will give them a nice boost in their spiritual life for this year.

 Mercie completed Unit 18 in Bigger Hearts for His Glory, and Silas completed Unit 1 in Little Hearts for His Glory. You can read about their weeks by clicking on the links. Titus did not do preschool this week, but I pulled out Little Hands to Heaven to start with him next week. I forgot how sweet and wonderful Heart of Dakota is!

I began reading "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Trip this week. It is transforming my parenting habits immensely. Just the introduction to the book was hugely convicting. I've highlighted my way through a few chapters, and I'm using the accompanying parent handbook, which is workbook/Bible study.

I'm also learning to hand-letter. I'm just teaching myself by *blushing* looking through images of hand-lettering fonts. I am pretty good at copying them without directions, but I have a long way to go! Here is something I made this morning. As you can see, I have lots to learn! I used watercolors for the background and a plain Sharpie to letter the words. It is so much fun.

How was your week?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Little Hearts for His Glory - Unit 1

This week, Silas started back using Little Hearts for His Glory. We started in the beginning on unit 1 instead of picking up where we left off. I figured he wouldn't remember anything, and he needs to work on the skills taught from the beginning of the program. It builds on itself, and I didn't want him to miss anything. He had a great week, and he enjoyed Little Hearts so much more this go-round.

In history, we started reading the book "History for Little Pilgrims". Silas learned what history is and when it began. We talked about the creation of the world, when our human history began. He made this collage by tearing blue and brown paper into pieces and gluing them into a mosaic. He then drew and cut out a cross to put in the middle of paper to remind him that Jesus is the center of history.
(He lost his third tooth this week, another bottom one. Those top teeth are hanging on tight.)

We started a timeline. I cut a poster-board in half and stapled it together in the middle. He drew a cross in the center because Jesus is the center of history. He drew an earth on the left side, since that's the beginning of history, and he drew clouds on the right side, since Jesus's return will be the end of history.

We talked about the earth, and I introduced the concept of continents and oceans to him. He loved tearing the paper for the cross mosaic so much, I had him tear blue and green paper and glue them on a circle for the world. He then copied "God made the world" on his paper.
(He was being goofy. He and Titus have a new favorite TV show - Bonanza! They play Bonanza all the time, and try to find outfits to match their favorite character. Silas wants to be Adam Cartwright, and he found an orange button up and a black vest from a suit, and paired with his cowboy hat, he looks like Adam. He has his wooden pop gun, and they ride their horses - the arms of my couch - while watching the show. It's so funny.)

We did a fun rhyme called "God's Creation". We leaped, galloped, and hopped to the different continents.

We played "Adam says", a variation of "Simon says", and he had to move like animals. I would say "Adam says slither like a snake", "Adam says hop like a kangaroo" or "Adam says fly like a bird". We read about animals in his science book.

We read 5 chapters in "Reddy Fox". When we tried the program last year, he wasn't interested in the story. Now, however, he listens intently and can answer questions. He even asks to read "Reddy Fox".

I picked up "The Reading Lesson" (TRL), which we had started  before and quit when it was too much for him. We didn't get past the second chapter last time. Now, we are in the middle of chapter three in only five days, and he is doing wonderful.
For handwriting each day, I had him write his full name along with some words and short sentences he is learning in TRL. He does great with copy-work and dictation! I think he has an easier time spelling words than reading them.

He continued working in Math Mammoth on addition. He loves addition and is really good at it. He got to practice with number lines, which was a new concept.

We read a few devotions in "Devotions for the Children's Hour" and talked about how God made us for a special reason. We talked about how important it is to learn about God. Next week, I will make him memorize the scripture and listen to the CD.

I'm looking forward to unit 2 next week!

Bigger Hearts for His Glory - Unit 18

Mercie picked up in Bigger Hearts for His Glory (Heart of Dakota) right where she left off last year, on Unit 18. She had such a fun week and looked forward to school each day.

In history, we read about Robert Fulton and his inventions. He made the first steamboat that actually worked. As a child, his nickname was Quicksilver Bob because he once bought some quicksilver (mercury) for an experiment. She gets to choose one word to define for vocabulary, and she chose "quicksilver". She wanted to know what mercury looked like, so we did a Google images search, and she drew a picture on her vocabulary page.

She used a plastic fork to paint 'fireworks' on a piece of paper, because Robert Fulton once made his own Roman candles for the Fourth of July. This was a lot of fun! She wrote a sentence about Robert Fulton on this once it dried.

She was excited to add "Robert Fulton 1765-1815" to her timeline.

She also made a Notebooking page that told facts about the invention of the steamboat.

In science, we finished up the One Small Square: Woods book. We compared the wingspan of six different owls by measuring and cutting yarn. Then we measured her arm span and compared it to the owls!

We also used straws to see how an insect sees things with its compound eyes.

She made a Notebooking page with funguses and plants and learned that fungus can't make its own food while plants can.

Her poem this week was "The Harbor". She illustrated it with a cute steamboat and we talked about onomatopoeias. She had fun reading the poem with feeling. She had it memorized by today!

She memorized Proverbs 19:21 this week - "A man can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail." (NLT) We learned about the character trait optimism.

She picked right up in Rod and Staff grammar 2, learning about adjectives. I forget how wonderful this grammar book really is! We do most of the pages orally, but I have her write down one exercise in her composition book. It's usually around 5-10 sentences or phrases.

In math, she learned how to multiply and divide by 4, reviewed clocks, addition with carrying and subtraction with borrowing, and finding the perimeter of a square.

She continued reading "The Mouse and the Motorcycle". I may start Drawn into the Heart of Reading with her - I spotted it in my storage building this week and can't quit wanting to go back and get it!

I found this picture she had taken on my phone of her bed and her stuffed animals and doll. She got the unicorn last year for Christmas, and she still loves it! The thing is bigger than she is, but she sleeps with it every night.

How was your week?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Heart of Dakota and Placement

When I first started looking into Heart of Dakota for my four younger children (back in 2015), I read many comments and reviews on the message boards about PLACEMENT. Honestly, I paid no heed to those warnings. I figured placement wasn't such a big deal; after all, I had been homeschooling for so long I thought I knew what was best for my kids. Plus, I was dead-set on combining Eli and Mercie - my then-5th and 2nd graders.

We completed 18 units in Bigger Hearts for His Glory. It wasn't working for us. Eli was too advanced for the material, even though I ordered the extension package for him. It wasn't enough for him. Mercie wasn't quite ready for the history readings and Notebooking assignments. We boxed it up, along with the Little Hearts for His Glory I was using for Silas, who was 5 at the time. He wasn't ready for Little Hearts, either. The story-time and history readings didn't hold his attention at all.

*Sigh* I really wanted Heart of Dakota to work for us. I loved the concept of it, the layout of the teacher's guide, and the wonderful books that go with it. I tried so hard to make it work, but it just didn't.

Now, Mercie is nearly through with 3rd grade and Silas is 6 and 1/2. I was thinking about pulling out Little Hearts for His Glory and starting over with it with him. When I pulled the enormously heavy plastic tub out of the storage building, Mercie dug into the box. She pulled out her binder and started flipping through all of the Notebooking pages.  She asked if she could do Bigger Hearts again, and I thought it would be a great idea. We picked up on unit 19 this morning, right where we left off last time. I could tell right away that it was going to be a great fit for her now. The history and science seem just right for her. I even dug out her Rod and Staff grammar book, and we picked up in the middle of the book. She completed her regular Math Lessons for a Living Education and continued reading "The Mouse and the Motorcycle".

Silas also enjoyed the history and story-time readings today. He continued in Math Mammoth, which he enjoys. I also grabbed "The Reading Lesson" from the box, which we had started but it was too much for him. Now, it seems perfect. He flew through the entire first chapter of the book, and we will pick up on chapter two tomorrow.

I was thinking this morning how important placement is in Heart of Dakota. It is totally skill-based and keeps progressing with each level. If your child is placed too low, it will be boring; yet, if your child is placed too high, it will be frustrating. If you are looking into Heart of Dakota for your child or children, I implore you to take the placement chart seriously. Pour over the samples of the first week, also, which will give you a good idea of what the projects and reading assignments will be like.

I am excited that we are starting Heart of Dakota again, at least with a few of mine!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Week in Review: 1/2-1/6

The first week of 2017 is almost passed. We started back to school Monday, and I am so glad we did. Not only do we all function better with a routine, but we had a major cold front come through the past few days. We have been indoors for several days, so I'm glad we could do school to help pass the long, cold days. Of course, these silly boys always find something to do!

Titus got a new toolbox for Christmas with a set of "real" pretend power tools. He quickly added his dad's hammer, a few nails, and a pair of work gloves to his toolbox. He totes this thing around outside, hammering nails into the ground and fixing all of their toys.

He is my preschooler. We started using Progressive Phonics Alphabetti books this week. I wasn't sure how he would respond to them. He is learning letters, sounds, and words all at once. He learned the "c", "a", "t", and "s" this week, along with the words "sat" and "cat". He has a reader that we read together - I read the black words, and he reads the red words. The red words are only the words he knows, sat and cat. He loves doing this each day! I even heard him telling Silas what the storyline was. He was very detailed and used lots of expression when narrating! He even explained the emotion of the cat in the story. I was impressed!

In math, we are reviewing the numbers 1-6, and I introduced the number 7 to him. He completed two worksheets a day, writing the numbers, counting the objects and circling the correct numbers, and cutting and gluing.

Silas is also using Progressive Phonics, the beginner reader. He went over the "at", "an", and "ad" families this week. He also reads the red words while I read the black words. He wants to read the whole story, but of course, he can't yet. He also has two activity sheets to complete each day. I use the words and sentences he is learning for his handwriting practice. He is getting much better at copying sentences, using capital letters and period and spacing between words. He can also spell the words in the word families he is learning. He learned to spell and write his last name this week, which made me so proud.

I purchased Math Mammoth level one for Silas, since Math Lessons for a Living Education wasn't enough math for him at this point. He reviewed grouping numbers into groups, addition, and greater than/less than. He loves completing these colorful worksheets. He can count from 1-100 with messing up too much and can read and write almost any 2-digit number. He has trouble with the teen numbers, which is funny to me. He can read 85, 72, 48, no problem. But he often calls 18, 81 or something altogether different. We're working on it!

We have been working on the very basics with him for a while, so I've been thinking about pulling out the Heart of Dakota guide "Little Hearts for His Glory". We started on it last year, but it quickly became too much for him, and most of the history and science was going over his head. I kept it all, and I think I'm going to go to the storage building and get it out to start using Monday. I will keep on with the phonics and math we are doing, but it will be nice to have a guide to use for Bible, science, history, and other fun things. If it's not written down, I probably won't do it.

Mercie is nearing the end of her third grade year. She started working on fractions this week in math and made a poster showing 1/2 - 1/8 fractions. She is still learning her multiplication and division facts, which is proving to be very difficult for her. We are working on 2s, 3s, and 5s right now. She gets division and multiplication mixed up and is very easily frustrated. We are moving slowly. She copies the fact families in her notebook daily, and I'm hoping this will help.

In language arts, I have been doing my own thing with her this week. She is almost through with Learning Language Arts Through Literature, and as I looked through the book, she won't be learning anything new. I really want her to have a better grasp on the parts of speech, so this week we reviewed nouns and verbs - common and proper nouns, past, present and future tense verbs, and more. I gave her ten spelling words which she already knew or learned easily. She began reading "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" this week. I came up with some fun extension activities for each chapter. She has learned what an onomatopoeia is, drew several pictures and had copywork from the book.

In history, she read about Squanto and made a Notebooking page for him. She is reading about William Penn today. She was excited to tell me how Pennsylvania got it's name! I love when my kids are excited about learning.

In science, she is learning about the different classes of vertebrates and making a small book for each class. She loves the fact that she gets to get on the internet and print out pictures of animals! She glues them to paper and writes facts from her book. She thinks it's a lot of fun.

Eli is my 7th grader using Bob Jones through the DVD classes. Here is a breakdown of his week.

Life Science: This is one of Eli's favorite subjects. He loves the teacher, Mrs. Vick. She makes the lessons so much fun. He finished chapter 3 this week and took the test, which he made a 28/30 on. Mrs. Vick does "Investigations" which are like science experiments, quite often. Eli enjoys watching her do these while he fills in the appropriate worksheet.

World Studies: Eli isn't crazy about this subject, but he does learn a lot. He started Unit 2 this week, "Changes and Development in the Cultures of the World". He learned about Africa this week - the African family and society, religion, art and architecture, early African empires, and commerce in West Africa.

Fundamentals of Math: Eli learned about scientific notation this week and how to perform operations in scientific notation. He also had a cumulative review today and has a test on Monday. I'll have him do a few problems over the weekend from his lessons. They are only assigned the "odd" numbers, so I can have him do some of the "even".

Writing and Grammar: Eli has done well in this subject so far. He has been learning about linking verbs, principal parts of verbs, and tenses.

Bible: He is learning about the holiness of Christ.

Mikaela is my 9th grader also using Bob Jones through the DVD classes. Here is her week:

Physical Science: She had a few hard lesson in Physical Science - really, this is the hardest subject she has. I have such a hard time helping her, even after I read the lessons and study the teacher's guide. She is learning about scientific measurements, which sounds really simple, but it's not!

Cultural Geography: This is her favorite subject! She really likes the teacher on the DVDs, Mrs. Bullock. She finished chapter 3, made a 100 on her chapter 3 test, and completed a fun Island project. She had to draw an island, name it, and label 20 geographical locations on her island and name them. The island's name and geographical locations had to center around a certain theme. For some reason, she chose Potato Island as the name and had fun naming the locations - Mashed Potato Mountains, Grated Potato Gulf, and Baked Potato Beach are a few!

Algebra I: Math is Mikaela's weakest and least favorite subject. She is actually doing pretty well this week learning how to solve multi-step equations and simplify equations. She does Algebra last so I can sit with her and help her. She watches the video by herself, but she usually needs a little help with the lessons.

Writing and Grammar: She doesn't usually need any help from me with this subject. She learned about pronouns this week - demonstrative, interrogative, reflexive, intensive, indefinite...and several more types.

Bible: She is learning about the functions, history and chronology of the Bible. She doesn't have a Bible video every day, but she always has an assignment.

Whew! I was afraid I wouldn't be as involved in their school as I normally was since they have been using the DVDs, but I have to grade and check work almost daily! I think I know more about what they are learning now than I ever have! It's been an adjustment for all three of us, but I think we're finally getting into a groove with it. We are usually done by 1:00 each day when we start at 8:30. They are allowed a ten minute break between subjects, but they don't always take it. Sometimes they take it between two subjects.

We also played the game Blokus almost every day this week! This is my new favorite game. The kids love it, too!
We are still on a break from gymnastics, karate, and piano lessons. It's nice not to be rushing around all the time, especially in this cold!

How was your week?

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Today, the weather is very chilly. We are staying indoors because the kids have runny noses, coughs, and sore throats. It's 2:00, and the kids are all finished with their school work. Titus and Mercie are playing with Play-dough. Mercie, Silas and Eli just got finished painting with our water-color pens. Mikaela just completed her Island Project for Cultural Geography.

Today, I am trying to figure out what to do with Silas and phonics. He is 6 and 1/2 years old, the oldest child I've had that can't read yet. We have tried many things. They all work well for a while, but he hits a wall, so I try something else. I don't expect to him to be able to read right away when we start a program, but I do expect to see progress. We were using the Kindergarten Mom's R.E.A.D. program, which teaches word families and sight words. It worked well for a while, but he wasn't really progressing. I printed out the Progressive Phonics beginner reader to try with him, which we have been using this week. I'm not sure about it yet. I will continue it for a while longer, unless I can figure out another plan. I want him reading by the end of the year. Reading is such a big factor in learning - and homeschooling curriculums as well. He should be in 1st grade this year, and he is for math, but most first grade programs assume the child can read at least some words.

Today, I am resting. I was sick earlier this week with a horrible sinus infection. I am finally feeling better, but have been pushing my body too much. With the cold weather outside, I plan to rest on the couch with a blanket and some Bonanza DVDs. The older two can fold the four loads of clean laundry I have waiting in baskets and put them away for me. I'm learning to delegate work more to the children. I can't do it all!

Today, I am trying not to think about the fact that we will be off to another job in a few week. This time, we will be headed to Alabama, which is close to home. We still need to decide if we are going to purchase a new travel trailer or try to rent a house and haul some furniture. I'm not doing a very good job of not thinking about this.

Today, I am going to put a big pot of vegetable and beef soup on the stove to simmer. I'll make cornbread to eat with it tonight.

Today, I am thankful for a new year and new beginnings. I am thankful that God's mercies are new every morning (because I need my share of new mercies).