Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be

Sometimes in life topics reoccur with such intense frequency that you can not help but heed the message being taught. Recently, for me this message has been of finding my true calling in life. Scripture, conversations, and most recently Max Lucado's book You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be have all worked to convict me that I was uniquely created by God for a specific purpose. While I feel that I have been blessed to find my true gift in life, I found Lucado's book to be a wonderful encouragement on this subject.

You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be is a quick yet enjoyable read. I was able to sit outside while my children played and devour this book in an hour. The chapters are numerous yet short and full of an abundance of scripture references. 

In his book Lucado writes about finding your "sweet spot" in life. Your personal sweet spot is when you cruise through life, enjoying all that it has to offer. You enjoy going to work, your enjoy the company you keep, and all around life is "good". If you have achieved this then according to Lucado you have found your "sweet spot".  If you are personally struggling with work or where you find yourself in life, I would like to encourage you to read this book. As Lucado repeatedly points out in his book, God had a perfect plan in creating you and you alone. He gave you unique gifts that are a small solution in society. My favorite quote from this book is "you're not God's solution to society, but a solution in society."
Book Description from the publisher:
God made only one version of you. He custom designed you for a one-of-a-kind assignment.
You are heaven's Halley's comet; we have one chance to see you shine. You offer a gift to the world that no one else brings. So find it and bring it! And when you do, both you and God will smile.
Yes, you can be everything God wants you to be.
Thomas Nelson Publishing kindly provided me with free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Praying Over the Kitchen Sink

Your quiet sanctuary and place of respite with the Lord may be no farther than your kitchen sink. Put away your dishwasher and enter into prayer and discussions with your Heavenly Father over a hot soapy sink of dirty dishes. Honestly, try it.

For all of my adult life I have had a dishwasher which I regularly used to clean my dirty dishes. I would hurriedly rinse the dishes and load them in the dishwasher then run off to do something else on my to-do list. Then 3 months ago we moved and I gave up my dishwasher. Dishes are now cleaned in the sink by my own two hands as I look out the window and watch the birds feed and scurry about. Three times a day or more I can be found with my hands in a sink of hot soapy water. At first admittedly washing dishes by hand was a chore I gladly handed off to anyone who volunteered to wash. Now however, I have learned to enjoy my quiet time at the sink. As with many other aspects of our move, the Lord's hand lay upon me while I stand at the sink scrubbing food from our last meal off of a stack of dishes. He uses this time to open my heart to prayer. I pray and meditate upon anything and everything that comes to mind. Prayers requests from friends, personal worries and prayers, and praises all flow from my heart. My new prayer room is in fact not a room at all. I now pray best over a sink of dirty dishes as I watch the beautiful world outside my kitchen window.

Your personal prayer time does not have to be a set time each day. Open your eyes, your heart, and your mind to all the beautiful opportunities God sets before you each day to pray to Him. Turn off your dishwasher and turn on your sink.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Homeschooling while living out of boxes

Due to an extended vacation and moving, homeschool for my kids pretty much did not exist for the month of April and May. Now that my curriculum has arrived, we are working back into our study routine. And I say working back into the routine because today was pretty much a flop. No fault of my kids mind you, mostly my fault and the fact that we are living out of boxes.

I had every intention of getting some great lessons accomplished today. God had other plans for us though and I am learning to graciously go with the flow. Wherever the flow might take me throughout the day. Today for example, the flow took my kids and I to Staples. Why Staples you ask? Well, frankly because we had only one sharpened pencil for 2 kids and no pencil sharpener for the pencil my youngest son broke while I was in the shower. So in a haste and feeling of frustration I packed up the kids and headed out in the rain for some much needed school supplies.

I half contemplated heading to our storage unit to find all the supplies packed away in the abyss of boxes and household items but considering the rain and the sheer weight of some of those boxes I thought better of that decision.

Schooling while living out of boxes is proving to be a huge challenge. I don't have anywhere to efficiently store our school books and supplies. I seem to have it all in one big pile and just transfer that pile from one place to another as we use it. I miss my workboxes. I miss our school table. I miss my book shelves. I miss my organizational system.

There I said it. . .but despite all that I miss from my old house 2000 miles to the west I am blessed, thankful, and excited to experience whatever house we get to live in here in the midwest. Our future farm house will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Living out of boxes is only temporary, our home here in the midwest is forever. The learning opportunities, challenges, and memories that my family and I will get to create together on our future farm sustain me through days like today. A broken pencil, school supplies buried in a storage unit, and a 20 minute drive to town to get a pencil sharpener are miniscule prices to pay for the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Fine Motor Activities for Young Children

Are you wondering about how to maintain your young child's fine motor skills during the summer? Are you concerned about your child's fine motor skills and want to work with them over the summer to get them "caught up"?

The following ideas are things I do with my youngest or plan to do with her this summer .

  1. Write letters in a bowl of flour (or sugar, salt, etc)
  2. Do dot-to-dot pictures
  3. Cut shapes, pictures out of a magazine in a specific shape or outline of the object.
  4. Roll playdoh into little balls using both the palm of her hands and then only the tips of her fingers
  5. Transfer cotton balls from one bowl (or ice cube tray) to another using tweezers or kid chopsticks
  6. Handwriting sheets found online or at discount stores (dollar stores, etc). Be careful to look through the font style though, some sheets use the wrong script of letters like "a". Kids don't learn a's like this.
  7. Sidewalk chalk writing
  8. Write on whiteboards
  9. Finger painting

Self-care lessons also increase fine motor skills in preschool and young elementary school children. 

  1. Tying shoe laces
  2. Buttoning shirts
  3. Snapping pants
  4. Zipping jackets
  5. Washing dishes (plastic is best at this age) :)
  6. Vacuuming
  7. Sweeping
  8. Using hand tools (screwdriver, hammer, wrench)
  9. Locking/unlocking doors
  10. Cooking (stirring, rolling out dough, using measuring cups, cutting with a blunt knife)
  11. Bathing
  12. Dressing
  13. Opening jars and bottles

No matter what you do to help your child improve their fine motor activities this summer, remember one thing! KEEP IT FUN! This isn't calculus and they will have plenty of fine motor skills by the time they leave for college so do not stress about it now. Enjoy your kids and have fun. They will never know they are learning.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Deals, Deals, and More Deals!

The basis of this blog has never been to share frugal finds or deals around town. However, the deals I found today directly relate to homeschool and well frankly, I am just too excited about the deals I got today to not share with all of you. :)

The first huge deal of the day was at Borders bookstore. I went in with the intention of buying The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition). Because the library in our new town does not carry this book, I wanted to get a copy of my own. I have been saving up my e-Rewards points to get $15 off a book at Borders. Which considering after the $15 off a new copy of TWTM at Borders is cheaper than Amazon, I could justify my purchase and a trip to Borders. But of course, since I was there and my family and I had time to kill I spent some relaxing time looking at books while my kids listened to storytime. I ended up buying some Singapore math workbooks for this summer to help my boys stay practiced with their Math. I also found some helpful teaching resources for next year. I am such a homeschool Mom, I love books and teaching resources. :) When I went to pay for my haul the lady at the counter mentioned something about me being ready for the summer. I then casually mentioned that I was a homeschooler and these were teaching resources for my kids. She then replied that Borders has an educational discount which they extend to homeschoolers. Now, I know I have read on other blogs and homeschool forums that Borders offered this reward but honestly with everything else going on in my life I must have forgotten. The manager informed me that I needed to bring in proof of homeschooling to get the discount card but she would kindly offer me the 25% discount on all of my educational purchases today. Holy cow!! With the huge stack of books I was purchasing, a 25% savings was huge!!! Score 1 for the bank account!

My second deal of the day was at a local thrift store. At thrift stores I always head for the book section first. Like I said, I am a sucker for books! :) Since my husband was with me today, I could sit down and really look through their stash; something I am not able to do when I take the kids on my own. I found a bunch of Dora and Diego books which my kids and I love, I also found construction books (Tonka, big machines, etc) which my boys love. All of these books were not marked with a price and when the cashier rung them up she charged me a quarter for each book. Lastly, I found a Wordly Wise B book which normally sells for $6 or more. I bought a NEW copy today for .25. Yep, one little quarter. Nothing more nothing less. Yeah! Score 2 for the back account!

Also at this thrift store I found an amazing deal on canning jars. Now I know this isn't homeschool related, but if you homestead or grow a garden and can you can relate to my excitement. The jars were marked at between fifty and sixty-five cents each. I chose a few of the pint jars that were marked fifty cents. Upon checking out, I causally asked the cashier (who knows me because I am in this store once a week or so) if she would give me a discount on the rest of the canning jars that are back on the shelf. She replied that yes, she could sell them to me for a quarter each.  I about fainted! I got about 8 pint and 22 quart canning jars for a quarter each. If you can regularly, you know what an awesome deal this is. When I brought the jars home to show my Mom, she was so shocked to hear that they came down on price for me. She didn't think you could bargain with them at all. All I can say is, it never hurts to ask. What did I have to loose? Nothing! But man, I sure did gain (and save) a lot by asking. Our garden is packed full this summer, these canning jars will come in very handy this fall when I am elbow deep in tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and beets to just name a few. Score 3 for the back account!

I consider each of my purchases today a huge blessing. God knows my needs and provides them to me at a price I can afford. He opened the doors for me today to supply the things my family and I need to continue down the path He has set before us; homeschooling, homesteading, and happiness.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Teachable Moments During the Day

A few months ago I realized that my youngest does not know the same things her older brother knew at the same age. Simple things like colors, alphabet, etc. No, I am not one to compare my kids amongst each other, but I do believe that because she is otherwise very smart she should know these simple things already. I wholeheartedly take the blame for not spending more time with her individually to teach her these things over the past year. Being that it was our first year of homeschooling, I think her educational foundation fell by the wayside. I truly feel bad-mommy guilt for that! Thankfully, these simple things can be taught at any time of the day and anywhere. Like today for example, we did a quick 5 minute lesson on opposites and colors.

Our lesson took place in the pool of all places. We were playing with 2 balls and while we were throwing the ball back and forth between ourselves I asked her questions comparing the two balls. For example, which ball is heavier? Which ball is louder (when it hits the water)? Which ball is bigger? After each question I would turn the question around a bit. Something like, which ball is smaller? Which ball is quieter? Which ball is lighter? I also asked her to point to the red ball then the orange ball. Not only was this lesson fun but it was purposeful. My daughter never knew she was even learning, it was just a fun game for her.

Which over the years I have come to realize that early learning is all about fun! It doesn't have to be formal. I don't need to spend hard earned money on a formal preschool curriculum. Everything I need to teach my kids the early fundamentals is right at home, at my fingertips. Much to my relief after working with my daughter for just a bit these past few months she has caught up to where she needs to be. And best of all I can save all that money and just buy her fun stuff to use for school when she is older. :)

Other teachable moments during the day include:

  • ask your child where the "x" colored car/truck is
  • if there are older siblings in the car with your preschooler play eye-spy
    • "I spy with my little eye, something "insert color"
  • Ask your child to hand you things, but ask in a descriptive manner
    • "Please pass me the white flour."
    • "Please hand me the yellow lemon."
    • "Can you please give me the smallest spoon?"
    • "Can you get me two forks please?"
Playing; (these options are endless)
  • sort colored cotton balls in groups then count the balls in each pile
  • coloring; "Please hand me the red crayon."
  • place flash cards with numbers, letters, or colors on them on the floor. Have your child jump on or hand you the card you ask for.
  • bath time; I bought colored bath letters and numbers for my kids. My 5 year old essentially learned  all of his letters and numbers this way. I asked him to hand me a letter or number. This eventually progressed to spelling words in the bathtub.
I'd love to hear more of your great ideas. Please share!!

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