An Ode to My Dad- a Christmas Post for the Holidays

My Dad keeps me safe.

My Dad keeps me in line when I get unruly.

My Dad lets me sleep while he takes care of the tough stuff.

My Dad teaches me to be a better person.

My Dad can mend a broken heart just simply by being present.

Wherever I go my Dad has already been. He knows the places I can visit too, and also knows the places I need to avoid.

My Dad meets me in the most unexpected places mostly because he really gets around.

My Dad hides me away in a safe place when things get too scary.

My Dad is surprised by nothing.

My Dad desires to be with me more than anything!

My Dad always allows me to make my own choices, even though he knows my choices may hurt me more than I understand.

My Dad loves me no matter what I’ve done and who I am.

My Dad demolishes my enemies even when I haven’t noticed.

My Dad is in charge.

My Dad teaches me how to love and live.

My Dad fills my happy cup, with his love, I always have more than enough.

My Dad is the King and I am His princess.

My Dad gave me the best present for Christmas, and the ultimate sacrifice to be with me, His Son, my Saviour.

God, thanks for being my Dad!

 

Have a wonderful Christmas season celebrating the best gift ever given!

Love,

The Ladies at Mud and Mire

manger

 

 

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Homeschooling Part 2- Getting Started

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-15

Much like Dovette, my story begins the same way. I sent my oldest daughter back to school after summer and my heart was broken for the fourth year in a row. I kept thinking that while I knew all mother’s feel some sort of sadness when the summer ends, that my heart felt differently. There was a restlessness growing in my heart that I knew I had to explore and homeschool wasn’t even on the radar yet. I began by checking out other programs offered at other local schools. I had interviews with principals at three different schools (including our own), trying to find what would satisfy my heart. It wasn’t until I sat with the principal at my daughter’s school that clarity began to take place. His words were simple. We are called to be the salt and the light in the world, but if we don’t have a solid foundation of what that means and who we are than how can we go out into the world and remain people of integrity who don’t bend and sway with the peer pressure? He was talking about growing our children within a Christian school, and yet God spoke with the utmost clarity to me in that moment. Next to God, who knows the needs of my children’s hearts better than us, their parents. Who knows their struggles, their strengths, and the way they think and behave better than us? And yet, each day I was depending on someone else to teach them to be the children, and one day young adults that God has called them to be. I knew in that moment that I wanted (along with my husband) to help my children grow their saltiness and burn the brightest light they can with a firm foundation that starts at home. It took some convincing to my husband that this was right, but after speaking to endless homeschoolers we were both convinced and began our journey. It’s now one year later, and I’m so thankful for this decision we made!

The moment we decided to homeschool opened up so many questions though. I can honestly say it was information overload leaving me with more and more questions, and a spinning head with where and how to start. Having just been there myself, I wanted to offer up what I learned in the first part of my journey in hopes of offering clarity to those of you just starting out or just beginning to think about homeschool. I apologize for the long winded post on this one, so my suggestion is to just keep to the questions you’re seeking clarity on and skip the rest.

Where do I begin?

Before you started signing papers and buying books take a minute to think about what you value. Maybe you’re a textbook lover who values facts and written knowledge and want to instill that in your kids. Perhaps the character of your child is more important to you than textbook knowledge. Maybe it’s faith, finances, creativity, of something else that you place value on in life. Whatever it is, write down the three most important foundations you think are most important for your child to learn. This will help you see where you want to invest the most time, money and effort into.

I keep hearing the terms traditional, blended, and aligned. What does this all mean?

In Alberta we have the option of choosing one the above mentioned options. Traditional means you are choosing all your curriculum based on what you want, without following any guidelines set out by Alberta Education for your child’s grade. It gives the least amount of funding (I believe it’s somewhere around the $850 mark this year)

Blended programs offer slightly more funding. The funding for this category this year sits around $1200. With blended you must be at least 50% aligned with Alberta Ed’s learning outcomes. One subject that must be fully aligned is either math or language arts, the rest is up to you and your board on where you wish to align. How you get the end objectives for the year is up to you and your board on what programs/ textbooks will work. You do not need Alberta schoolroom textbooks to achieve this.

Finally there’s aligned. As far as funding goes this category offers you the most funding (I believe it is around $1500 for this current year). Aligned means you’re matching all the required learning outcomes set out by Alberta Education. In much the same way blended programs work, you would need to discuss further with your board on programs /textbooks that would meet the standards.

Who holds me accountable?

Once you’ve got an idea of your values and have given some thought on the style of homeschooling you wish to do, begin your hunt for a school board. All students in Alberta are required to be part of a school board. This is not the same at the school your child attends daily. Homeschool boards are typically separate and there’s a long list of them. Quite often in the spring they will have open houses for you to come and check them out. Many offer school libraries, field trips, and plenty of help should your child need extra care. Take the time to explore them and speak with representatives to see if they make you feel comfortable. If you’re not comfortable with the facilitators or feel like you’re being pushed to teach something that doesn’t meet your core values than it’s not the right board for you and it’s time to keep looking. You can find a list of Alberta Homeschool boards here (click on #1 and download the Alberta boards).

Your board and facilitator will hold you accountable to the learning outcomes you desire to have for the year. It is their responsibility to make a report and send it to the government. Depending on whether you’ve decided tradition, blended or aligned will slightly change how they report back.

Do I need a membership of some sort as well as a school board to make it all legal?

One of the hardest things I struggled with was what and who I needed to sign up for. All you need is a school board, everything else is extra and YOUR choice on what to be part of pr not to be part of. Alberta Home Education Association (aka AHEA) is a great group with a wealth of homeschool information (seriously! go check out their website!), but not a requirement to join. They do offer a great annual conference with plenty of information and encouragement that I highly recommend attending if this this your first year (side note- plan on going to listen, but don’t buy anything, trust me it’s gets overwhelming). But again, the government does not require to be part of this association, or a local association either. These are more for social support. Another you may hear of is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (aka HSLDA). Again, it’s a great group and does have many benefits, but not a requirement (note: some memberships will also require you to have a membership with HSLDA).

Memberships aside, there are also many online social media groups for homeschoolers. And guess what? They’re free! They are groups of people who collectively get together for field trips (the more people you have the better the discount you may get :) ). I encourage you to join one of these. It’s a great way to make friends (for your kids and yourself), and offers great support when you need it (and trust me, there will be days when you’ll need support of some sort).

What’s the time commitment as a parent for all this?

When I first got started I had envisioned a 9am-3pm type of day with me standing at a chalkboard and teaching my children Monday to Friday from September to July. If you want the honest truth, I also envisioned myself in a long skirt, with perfectly curled hair, a table full of kids (FYI- we only have 2 kids plus one of the way), and they were also in well pressed clothes and washed, happy, and angelically peaceful. Ok, I pictured myself as Mrs. Duggar, because I was pretty sure that’s how homeschooling must look.

When I shared this with other moms they began to laugh and tell me how it actually goes.

  1. We work from about 9:30-11:30am on actual textbooks and then we are done for the day, with the exception of 15 minutes of reading before bed at night, and the fact that since we’re traditional I teach my kids all day using life. (ie- how to make cookies, how to take responsibility of pets, write and send an email to Grandma and tell her about your morning etc.). Do I stress about making sure that every minute after 11:30am is a teaching moment? Nope, sure don’t. Kids are smart! And having fun and playing and free time teaches them just as much!
  2. We didn’t start until October, it’s now December and we are halfway through all our textbooks. Since we are expecting a new baby in February, my daughter wanted to get as much done before then because, and I quote, “I want more time to help you and the baby, Mom!” (sweet kid hey?)
  3. Most homeschoolers are done by April, and that includes breaks at Christmas, Easter etc.
  4. You don’t need to look or be a Duggar to homeschool. We learn in our pj’s most days, it’s how we are most comfortable, and when you’re comfortable you’re brain works its best. Also, I am no where near as patient as the vision you may have of a homeschool mom. There have been many times I find myself forehead on the table counting to 10 wondering why she can’t grasp a simple concept.

What does it really all cost?

When I started hearing about funding and which route to take one of the things that I really wanted to know was what would it cost me and could I afford to not only be a stay-home mom, but also make all the purchases needed on one income? I knew I wanted to do traditional for an assortment of reasons, which also gave me plenty of flexibility, but I wanted numbers! So, for those of you who are number freaks like myself, here’s the breakdown of how our spending for this year has gone:

Language Arts 3 – program from A Beka…price: $80 (inc the workbook, teacher guide and shipping)

Math 3 – program from Bob Jones…price $100 (inc the workbook, teacher guide, and no shipping b/c I bought it at the store in town)

Geography book (not part of a program)…price: $20 (has all the countries and landmarks from the world, so it will be used for the next few years to say the least).

I also bought a few exercise books (the $1 kind for extra writing and math help).

Total for textbooks: $200 (all of which is covered by our funding)

My daughter is also in dance, which we chose and are able to use as physical education and get reimbursed for.

We use the library for many resources, and go on mini field trips (costing from free-$10).

There are also many free resources as well, like the following:

http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com/overwhelmed-homeschooling-free-homeschool-deals/

http://www.homeschoolshare.com/levels.php

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Price-Range/Free

All our books were purchased new, but you can often find the teacher guides used at your local homeschool stores, which can save you a bit. And, I do highly recommend you get the teacher guide so you can quickly mark your child’s workbook and move on.

 

So there you have it, some answers to those frequently asked homeschool questions. I hope it helps you, and if you have more questions feel free to included them in the comments section.

Love,

S

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A Different Christmas

Matthew 5:4 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

 This year has been a big one for my family, actually come to think of it the last couple of years has been a challenge. Nevertheless, I know that I am not the only one who has lost a loved one and has experienced the birth of a new sort of Christmas holiday. The sort of holiday where our loved one is no longer around.

I won’t make this a lengthy post, other than I wish to pray for all of you who are mourning the loss of someone you love.

Dear Father,

I pray for these women, these mothers, these daughters, these wives, these sisters, these aunts, these grandmothers, these cousins, and these friends. I pray a special blanket of protection over them this year, that You might comfort them during this special holiday, that You guide them with Your staff of righteousness and that You lead them through a dark valley.

I pray that You hold them safely in Your arms as they take a moment to let the walls down, whether that’s having a good cry in the shower, or in the arms of a loved one, or finally giving in to whatever emotion that they have been holding in to appear strong. You know each and every one of their hearts, I know this….and I know that You are a God of amazing comfort. That You have knit each of these people together and You know their deepest desires and their deepest pains Father, and that by Your Holy Spirit, they can be strengthened to endure. That they can be wrapped in Your abiding love, and that You will accept them if they are hurting, if they have anger that they’ve been holding on to, or if they feel that You have long forgotten them. I pray Father, that Your love become a tangible experience for these women this year. That You inspire people to speak into their lives with words of comfort, or that Your Holy Word, just jump off the pages and speak directly to their hearts. Most of all, I thank you Jesus, for dying so that we might live.

I pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen

 

Psalm 73:26

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Love, D

 

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Homeschooling Part 1-Capturing Hearts at Home.

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

Proverbs 18:15

I can’t remember how it all started. I think it started in grade one. Call it Mother’s Separation anxiety, but I remember being very sad when I sent my oldest child off to full time school. I missed her desperately during the day, and then again in grade two I continued to feel the same way. All year I had this discomfort about the sort of things she would unintentionally bring home. These things would come home in the form of dirty songs, silly phrases, bad words, unkind behaviour, and lastly unwelcome head knowledge that a seven year old girl shouldn’t be aware of yet. These are the things that led me on my journey to homeschool.

I remember the final day she attended school. It was the day before March break and I watched her trudge out to the bus which would arrive outside of our house, dressed in the full snowsuit get up. She looked so small and little to me when she quickly barged through the back door, exasperated that the latch on the back gate had frozen shut. The two of us ran out to the gate to get it unstuck, me in a housecoat, she pulling her backpack behind her. As I watched her run toward the school bus, I immediately wished the gate had stayed frozen just a little longer so that I could hang out with her there in the cold for just another minute.

That day when she arrived home, I felt better. I felt better because I knew that her bulging backpack was full of her school supplies, inside shoes and all of the other little tid bits that were part of her life inside of the classroom. Now her classroom was home, and I would be her teacher.

Originally when we started schooling it was nearing the end of the school year, and therefore we didn’t qualify for any funding in Alberta whatsoever, so all of the expenses that need to be spent to do the initial start-up, had to come straight from our pocket. Thankfully it was tax time and the expenses for the math book, the English and literature curriculum and some extras for myself and my younger preschool children came to around 600 dollars total. I imagine Avery’s portion of the cost was around 300. We were also blessed to have a lovely woman in Spruce Grove who operated a used homeschool store out of her home and she helped us out tremendously while choosing curriculum.

In the beginning I noticed how my daughter liked to work around the clock. She noticed when it was 10 am, because that was her old “snack time/recess time” at school, and she made it very evident to me that she was ready for lunch right at 12 o’clock! Timeliness was so normal and routine for her that it was difficult for me to adjust. I will be the first to admit that I struggle in the area of time management.

Initially we began by breaking this habit, albeit it wasn’t really a bad habit at all, but rather it just didn’t work for us as a family. This began by figuring out how to start our own new routine and new habits. After careful reading and research, I began to notice how a lot of homeschool families began their day with chores, so that is what I began to do. I made “Chore packs” out of laminated picture cards, hung them on a key ring and she and her brother began each morning with doing chores independently according to their card packs. The little girls of course just tagged along with me and did what I did. Afterwards, we would all sit around and have breakfast together. Following chores, and breakfast we would begin our homeschool day.

I won’t mention too much about what curriculum we chose, other than we decided on easy workbooks in the beginning. Nothing too full of extra planning and extra booklets because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. The other children would play in the playroom while I did one on one work with Avery in the kitchen, and somewhere around 1130 we would break and have lunch. If anything were left over for our daily learning outcomes, we would wrap up after lunch, just in time for quiet time and naps.

Now fast forward a few years, and here we are again, except now it is three children instead of one. This year has been a challenge for me. I am not used to schooling multiple children, and I am regretting the idea of accepting government funding to aide me in my homeschooling. It adds to the pressure to complete tasks for sure, and not in a good way. I will also be the first to admit that I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, however it’s still enjoyable, just less organized.

From the first day I started homeschooling, to now, I would say that it has been a very flexible and enjoyable blessing for our family. We are able to enjoy quality time together and to really forge and strengthen our bonds as family members. I used to be so worried about being able to effectively train my children and through this experience I have been able to do a lot of training and teaching. I also recall feeling immense fear about pulling my daughter out of public school. I almost viewed public school as an authority over me and that if I were to take my child out that somehow I was doing something bad, and I harboured feelings of guilt. I had convinced myself that my children needed to be socialized and that the only way for them to develop effective communication skills and playground mindset was to immerse them in it and hope they survived. It occurred to me that if I wanted my children to learn how to behave well, and to respect other people and handle themselves appropriately, then who better to teach them those skills than me? After all, I am their mother, and I know them each individually like no one else, for now anyways. As far as playground antics, I’m not certain it’s necessary to subject a child to the possibility of being bullied, or to give them opportunity to become the bully when I am not around to correct that behaviour how I see fit.

And lastly, I do not wish to plant the idea that public schools are the worst possible choice. For some families they work wonderfully! And the children thrive and do well, and turn out just fine. Or perhaps it is not an option to be able to homeschool for a variety of reasons and that is okay too. The Bible tells us that we should train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. This is so vital and important to remember, because ultimately capturing the child’s heart for the Lord starts at home and through us the parents. We are the models for Christ, and we are the teachers no matter if we do it on a homeschool basis, or if our children are out of our homes for 6 hours a day. When it really boils down to it, teaching our children biblical principles and shining light on Jesus Christ, we must ourselves be growing in our faith. Learning and living The Word go hand in hand. We cannot expect our children to follow and keep the faith if we are not doing all that we can to show them the way.

Love, D

Please be sure to click the links in the post, they will direct you to some great resources to get started.

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