Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On the Weekly Presentations

One of the most important portions of our Classical Conversations community day is the opportunity to give weekly presentations.  Practicing the art of speaking clearly and effectively prepares them for the Challenge program, college, and later at home with their families, in ministry, and in any workplace that they may be a part of in the future.  The ability to communicate well is no longer a priority in our culture, we can see it everywhere we look: in song lyrics, books, signs, tweets, magazine articles, Facebook posts.  I suffer from awful communication skills myself.  My ability to write is fair at best. That is not what I want for my kids.  I want them to know how to effectively communicate their thoughts to anyone at any time.

The academic year is set up to be 24 weeks long, so that means each child  in the community has the chance to prepare for and give 24 presentations each year! Throughout the year they work on speech skills and as they get older they go more in-depth into the subject of their choice. 


This year I am tutoring a class of mostly 4-year-olds and a couple 5-year-olds.  We are focusing mainly on sitting quietly, keeping our eyes on the presenter, and asking questions at the end.  At this age it is mainly just show and tell.  The kids all look forward to it! Throughout the morning a couple of them will ask, "Is it time for presentations yet?"  :) 


This is the first year that I have not been in the room with Zoe in her Foundations class so I don't have the chance to watch her do her presentations in the morning, but thankfully there is Essentials in the afternoon, during which time I get to see Zoe present her carefully crafted paper each week for the writing portion of the day!  As we listen to each kid present their paper, we are all listening for specific clauses, dress-ups, and stylistic techniques that they put into their paper.  Zoe loves to include similes, metaphors, and alliteration in her papers.  I love that the kids are paying attention to what details the paper presenters put into their papers! ;)

One thing I have noticed, at least in this particular Essentials class, is that no one is too shy to present their paper.  In fact, it's quite the opposite, most of them are anxiously excited to read their papers aloud to the class!  A couple of the boys are a little indifferent about it, but they always do very well when they present. It's so encouraging to see this!  The whole purpose of learning how to write and present well is to learn how to effectively communicate.  Later when these kids get to the Challenge program they will also be learning how to accurately communicate through the study of Logic.

What I love most about all of this is that it is not only for the student's sake that they are learning this skill. Though their confidence does increase with each presentation, the goal is to equip these young people with the tools they need to share the gospel with all who would believe.  We want these kids to be confident in what they know and in what they believe, and in their ability to speak clearly and effectively about whatever it is they take on in the future.  For my girls, this will be a strong help to them in all the work they do with their own families and any additional work that God provides for them throughout their lifetimes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teaching Like Socrates

A couple weeks ago I attended a seminar on How to Teach Like Socrates.  This was a 1 Day Practicum through Classical Conversations in Sioux Falls, SD.  I had been wanting to learn more about the Socratic method of asking students multiple questions to help them draw out their own conclusions.  This method is an excellent way to learn how to think for yourself.  It also teaches students within a group how to be gracious towards people who have opinions that differ from their own.  This is used often throughout the six years of CC's Challenge program.

I enjoyed the class for the most part.  The first half of the day was fantastic! There is so much to be said about this idea of simply asking questions to learn!  I also learned about how Socratic circles work!  This was totally new to me!  One group sits in the 'inner circle' and participates in a discussion while the rest of the participants sit in the 'outer circle' only to observe.   I happened to be in the outer circle when the discussion of Harry Potter came up.  I wanted to say something so badly but I could not, for I was in the outer circle. ;-) My opinion was quite different from all the rest that were offered so I thought to have a third take on the subject would have been all the more interesting.  Oh well, that'll have to be for another day! 

We took turns going from the inner to the outer circle.  I would recommend a longer time limit than 10 minutes though, especially for a more challenging topic.  I think it's also important to begin with everyone being on the same page, having already defined terms so that everyone is aware of what exactly the topic is.  Also, I would encourage one not to pick a verse or two out of the Bible at random and try to explain them in a group discussion unless everyone had time to thoroughly read the entire passage ahead of time.  The end result was a little nutty.  The speaker even pointed out how off track from scripture we got right away in one of the discussions. 

Since some of the topics we covered in our little circles were a little elusive to begin with, so I had very little to contribute. Half the time I was just confused at what the purpose of the discussion was.  That and I had an awful sore throat the whole time. :(  

I am definitely looking forward to learning more about this method in the coming years. When done well, I can see how helpful this is in encouraging real discussion and hearing everyone's opinions on the topic.  It will be good for my daughters to learn as they get older.   

I learned a wealth of info about this in Leigh Bortins' book The Question.  The whole book is geared toward that dialectic stage of learning where kids really begin seeking answers to their many questions about life.  Learning how to ask questions is one of the most important skills a student can acquire.  Each question is a starter building block for a whole wealth of info to build on, and that goes for any topic!  

As I learn more about the classical methods of learning, my excitement grows!  I want my kids to get the education that I did not get, and this is most certainly what I was looking for.  It is a completely God-centered education that is sharp, rigorous, and fun!

Monday, October 23, 2017

My Banned Phrase & Attitude List for Myself

Banned Phrases for Myself

I got the idea from the IEW banned words lists.  There have been several things I've been working on lately and one of them includes eliminating certain phrases from my life.  I'm sure this list is going to keep growing, but so far these are some that I have been avoiding lately and hope to ban completely as time goes on.

Reminder: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

Parenting: My kids should know how to obey their parents and if they don't, I should be actively disciplining until they are obedient on the matter.  Two phrases I'm working on eliminating are:

"I can't get my kids to do _____"  or "My kids won't_____"

Identity:  My identity is in Christ alone, not in my accomplishments, my work, my family, my personality, or anything else.  Who I am is not determined by my own ideas of myself.  Most of the time when I use these, they are just an excuse for sin.

"I am not the kind of person who..."  or "I wasn't made to...."
"I am the kind of person who..." or "I'm just the type of person who..."

Work: No grumbling. Do any and all work joyfully without rolling eyes, sighing, and frowning.  If I can't do the work in this way, it's time for a break and a lot of prayer.

No blaming my bad attitudes on anything other than my own sinfulness (i.e. no coffee, time of the month, etc.)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A New School Year, A New Perspective on Education

What is the purpose of education?

I believe the sole purpose of all education is to know God and make Him known.  Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One brings understanding.  

In other words, for us to be wise and knowledgeable in any way, we must first fear the Lord, and He is the only one who can bring us any understanding.  Education (the cultivation of wisdom and virtue) happens only when we fear the Lord.  The Bible is clear that any "wisdom" without God leads to foolishness. 

The more we study this beautiful creation, the more we get to know our Creator.  The more we know, the more we realize we don't know, which demonstrates to us that God is infinitely greater than anything we could ever imagine.  As we study His creation we see God's goodness, power, and his character in plain view, and there is nothing more humbling than seeing ourselves in comparison to God.  The more we learn about God, the more we begin to see just how powerful, gracious, and mighty that He really is!  So as we study, our education should not be about the building up of individuals, but should be exactly the opposite; education should result in nothing but humble adoration of God. 

The modern progressive education methods are vastly different from how all education was prior to the 1900s. This includes everything from public school to homeschool. Education, in general, used to be geared more around enculturation instead of individualistic learning.  When we talk about classical education, it is really referring to education as it was before the current model took shape.

What we now call education is actually more of a training season which serves as a means to get a good job, so all learning is separated into stand alone subjects: math, language, sciences, humanities, art, etc.  Most of your time is spent prepping for tests that you'll take and then not remember for the rest of your life.  They hope that one or two subjects will "click" with you and then you'll go on to specialize in those things.  When all is said and done, you specialize in one or two subjects and hope for the best. If you can't find a job, maybe you'll go back to school to specialize in another thing, and hopefully get a good job, and all will be well in life.... right? Or could it be possible that the sole purpose of one's life is not a job? If it isn't, why on earth did they spend 13-18 years "educating" you for this work?

In reality, these topics are all interrelated, which means that they don't exist independently of each other.  Life is not divided into these different sections.  Every subject is related to every other because it's all part of one story, and if you are a Christian, you know that they are all in direct relationship to God.  So if all learning, from the first cry to the final breath, has a real purpose; if it all actually matters,  if God is at the center of ALL there is to learn, why would we give them an education that ignores God?

You're either going to learn about the world as if it exists on its own or as if it has a creator and sustainer.  If you believe in the latter, then why wouldn't you, a Christian, want to spend every second of every day getting to know our Creator better?  Why wouldn't you want the same for your children? Also, why would you want your kids to be bombarded with all sorts of conflicting ideas without the tools to sort through / discern them yet?

When you are restricted to learning about God's universe through a humanistic worldview, the end result not going to be good.  It's much like someone telling you to put together a jigsaw puzzle with no picture to guide you.  You may have no reference point because there just isn't one. The pieces came together by chance. However, it's still your job to put them together, to see whatever the picture turns out to be for you.

Then they tell you that they've included the pieces to 3 or 4 additional puzzles in the same pile of pieces and you are to find out which ones fit into your tasked puzzle and which ones do not, before you even try to put your puzzle together.

Now, many people at this point would just give up, thinking it was just not worth it. For those who actually try to stick it out, there will be a lot of confusion and stress along the way as they first try to figure out if this piece fits into your puzzle, and then figure out what in the world the puzzle is a picture of.

A solid, Christ-centered classical education provides you, the Christian, with everything that you need to put that beautiful puzzle together.  A full, clear, completed image of what it is you are aiming to put together.  As it turns out, the picture is not nearly as ambiguous as was originally let on.  The pieces were not there by chance, they were created, and when put together, they create something marvelous!  

The more you learn about this beautifully designed puzzle (creation), the easier it will be to know which pieces need to be discarded and which ones to keep.  The pieces you need will be much easier to identify among the ones you don't need.  You'll also start to see how and where each piece fits perfectly into the picture, and throughout your time of completing the puzzle, you'll be able to go directly to that completed picture as a frame of reference anytime a new puzzle piece comes your way.

We know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so all education should point us directly to or (at the very least) in the direction of Christ. Everything we can learn about is part of a broader story (one very large picture). Our kids are a part of that same story. It's a story they should know well, and eventually, it's a story they should be able to pass on to future generations.

We can send them to church each week, yes, but a weekly Sunday school class cannot possibly cover it all.  If they attend a human-centered school, we can do our best to counteract any misplaced puzzle pieces they were given that day (provided that you know about them).  Then we can help them seek out any additional pieces that are not being provided in their curriculum; in order to supplement their education at home, which is what many people these days need to do.  But if God hands you the opportunity to have complete control over your child's education, why not take advantage of that opportunity?

Think of all those hours spent at school. Every second matters. Kids spend so much of their childhood being educated in one direction or the other, so shouldn't that education (wisdom and knowledge) be pointing them to their Savior? Their one and only chance at eternal life? If not, what are they gleaning from their education? Is it anything other than foolishness? If they are being taught all day, every day, that their education is all about them and all that they can accomplish for themselves, they are going to have quite a difficult time trying to sort through all of those misplaced puzzle pieces once they reach adulthood and reality sets in.  Many adults will spend their entire lives trying to find the right puzzle pieces before they can even get around to putting them together. It does not need to be that way.

God wants you to know Him and love Him, because He knows you and loves you.  He created us to be in fellowship with Him.  There is not a time of day where we are not meant to be in fellowship with Him.  Our time at school, learning about this world that He created, is time that should not be set aside, apart from Him.

God should be the center of all of our education, every single day of our lives.  Education does not stop the moment you graduate college.  It continues throughout the rest of your life.  We pass on all that we know to our kids. Our kids are the future generation and what we teach them will be passed on to future generations.  Shouldn't we be preparing our kids for what is to come (in this world and Heaven)?

For these reasons, Lord willing, modern government schools or curriculum are not in our future, at any time, for any reason.

I want kids (all kids, not just mine) to know the big picture, the real story.  I want them all to know their Creator and His creation as He created it, not a tiny cheap knock-off version of it.  I want them to be well equipped to see the natural world as it is; with open minds and eyes wide as they observe the ant, the butterfly, the Grand Canyon, language patterns, the elements of the periodic table, petrified wood, geometry, or the milky way.  I want them to understand that "chance" does not exist.  Every moment God provides them with is there because He planned for it, and He is actively controlling every second of it.  It is all there for them to know Him better.  He reveals aspects of Himself through it all. God is literally gifting them with the knowledge of Him every time they study His word and the world He created.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

As parents, we are to point our children to Christ by teaching them his ways.  That can be done when it is convenient for us (on Sundays and at dinner time), or it can be done every day, through their education, and at Sunday school, and at the dinner table, and at the breakfast table, and every moment we spend together. In other words, all the time.

Whether it is done through homeschooling classically or a Classical Christian school, our goal for their education will always be to provide them with the tools they need to know God and make Him known.  What else is an education for, but to prepare them for a life devoted to spreading His name, to being a light that shines in the darkest of places? This is a gift I want to give to my children; a broad, Christ-centered education in truth, goodness, and beauty, so that they will know God and make Him known. 

One other thing that I appreciate so much about classical Christian education is that it teaches children not what to think, but how to think.  They don't leave out any of the "hard" topics.  They learn how to wrestle with hard things in an effective way, which allows them to reason well as an adult. The students learn how to figure things out for themselves, there is no teacher telling them that any topic is right or wrong - instead, they are instructed on how to define terms, compare, see relationship, circumstance, and seek out testimonies, all to understand the ideas and then they make their own decisions.  They study logic and debate, they learn how to ask questions, and then they go on the learn ways to effectively communicate their well-informed decisions.

A Classical education provides them with the tools they need in order to learn anything, to teach anything, and to do it all well, to the glory of God.  I get SO EXCITED when I think about this! We want to prepare our kids for anything that comes their way as an adult - any job, any conversation, any joy or trial of any kind because that is what God has instructed us to do as parents.  The only way to thoroughly prepare them for this is by immersing themselves in the study of God in His word and to find aspects of Him in the universe He created.  By knowing God and his beautiful creation, how it works, and why it works, these kids are going to be so *crazy* prepared for anything that God brings to them in their lives.   They will have the ability to make a real difference in the world as they bear the fruits of the Spirit, through wisdom and understanding of their Lord.

Education can truly be a beautiful thing.  I can't imagine going about it in any other way.

Colossians 1:9-11  "We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his wills through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,e t 10 so that you may live a life worthyu of the Lord and please himv in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,w 11 being strengthened with all powerx according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,y "

On Beginning Essentials of the English Language

We have been in the Foundations program of Classical Conversations for the past three years. This year is our first year being in both Foundations and Essentials!

Essentials of the English Language (EEL) is a program that serves students in the higher-grammar / early dialectic stage (usually 4th-6th graders).  This program is amazing! It's a full English language program that goes deeper into the English language than I ever did in any school I attended. The students also spend time mastering math facts in this class, which will serve them well in later years.

For the past three years, we have used the First Language Lessons curriculum; another classical curriculum to use at home from 1st to 3rd grade.  In place of FLL this year we are just doing Essentials, although I still may incorporate a few things from FLL into her lessons throughout the year. Zoe always did super well with these lessons so I knew she'd probably enjoy Essentials, but I never really expected her to enjoy it this much so quickly!

She and her friends have already memorized Chart A, and she surprisingly made it through her first key word outline and paper with no issues! We definitely need to work on spelling, but I am encouraged by her willingness to jump in and do her work.

I am grateful to the highest degree for this program. How I would ever manage to cover this much (+ the public speaking skills) without access to a good Classical Christian school, I have no idea.  It would be incredibly difficult, that's for sure. Week 2 happens on Monday! We'll see how this next week goes since we'll also be officially starting our homeschool year on Tuesday.  :-D

Friday, August 25, 2017

On Bread, The Gospel, Domesticity, and What Have You

My Bread Dilemma

Have you ever wanted to do something for years and years but just... didn't? Learn a new skill, try a new food, start a new business, etc.?

For years I have wanted to learn how to bake bread.

And not just loaves of bread, but all kinds of bread and bread-ish things, including tortillas, biscuits, pizza dough. It's actually one of many domestic skills that I have wanted to take the time to learn, but have not.

Something has been stopping me from even attempting to bake bread and I could never pinpoint what the root of it was until recently.  Was it laziness? A fear of failing at trying something new? The fear of "wasting" money on tons of flopped bread? Well, yes, all of the above, but the root of the problem was much bigger than those things.

The truth was that I could never justify setting aside time to devote to learning such "domestic" skill without there being any "real" use for it.  In other words, I have no plans to open a bakery any time soon, so what value could bread baking really have beyond our own simple enjoyment?  Was our enjoyment of homemade bread worth spending all of that valuable time learning? I knew that I wanted my girls to know how to bake as well, but why did I want them to know this? Was it for sentimental reasons? Because it would make me happy? Well, I want to spend what little time that I have helping to set a good example for my kids.  I want my kids to live lives that will change the world for the better.  How is this skill going to help them do that?

How is this skill going to change the world?

The Game-Changers: My Bible and a Podcast 

This year is the first year that I have ever actively set aside time to read my Bible all the way through.  I joined a 2-year plan on YouVersion and just started reading.  Not to my surprise, the simple act of reading the word every day changed me.  As I continued to read, the Holy Spirit convicted me of how I had been spending my time all I wanted to do thereafter was surround myself with all that is good, true, and beautiful.

Enter What Have You, a podcast by sisters Rachel Jankovic and Rebekah Merkle, daughters of authors Doug Wilson and Nancy Wilson, sisters to author Nate (N.D.) Wilson. Both Rachel and Rebekah are authors as well.  I've since read their books and have loved them all. What I admire most about this family is that they obediently use everything they have been given by God to bring glory to God.  I have been so encouraged by each of them this year in more ways than I can count, but the podcast, in particular, has been an enormous blessing in my life this year.

I believe I found this podcast in March.  Amazingly enough, I can't remember how I found their podcast! Though I had been reading books on education by their father and following his posts online for years, I didn't realize the connection until after I listened to the podcast. Strange, right?

Throughout each episode of What Have You, they spend time talking about several different of domestic topics, usually just what they've been up to lately, often including bread baking.  Then they'll spend time discussing a deeper theological topic, usually pertaining to sin struggles that Christian women might face.  As I listened to more episodes, I could tell that these two women had a much stronger, clearer understanding of domesticity than I had.  They had a biblical perspective on the domestic, which I had always assumed I had but as I would soon discover, I did not.

I quickly began to notice the differences between their worldview and mine.  We are all Christians, but the difference was that these two women had a worldview that was entirely Christian.  Their worldview was scripture based. They know the scriptures well and they apply God's word to everything, especially when it comes to sin.  Then there was me.  I knew only some scriptures well and applied them vaguely to only some parts of my life.  And sin? I was aware that I was probably sinning multiple times a day but had no idea how often or what those sins might be. I just knew that I was a sinner. If I noticed a particular sin I felt guilty and depressed and knew that Jesus had paid for that sin, but had no idea what I was to do about this guilt. The more I compared worldviews with Rachel and Bekah, it wasn't hard to see the many inconsistencies in my life.  I started to notice a lot of areas in my life that were not consistent with what I said I believed.

So the Lord, through my Bible reading and through this simple podcast did something rather remarkable.

Months ago, shortly after I had discovered this podcast, there was one day where it suddenly hit me that I had been assigning value to a humanistic worldview of life and work, but my goals in life were inherently Christian.  Obviously, these two concepts are demonstrably incompatible. This was the root of my problems with domesticity. The culture had shaped much of my worldview without me even knowing it, because I was not consistently in fellowship with Him, because I valued fellowship with the world over my time with Him.  By assigning any value the world's way of thinking (in regard to domesticity), my perception of my duties at home was severely twisted.

It was by listening to these two women chat about seemingly simple things (the domestic) next to discussions on several more complex biblical concepts (theology), I started to realize how comparable these two topics are in their value. I saw how profoundly important something as "simple" as the domestic arts are in comparison to say, discussions on sin, faith, and loyalty. All of it strongly impact the heart and the culture.  This is because God uses all things for the good of those who would love Him.  Everything that is done by a believing Christian matters; right down to the tiniest of details. There is nothing outside of His control, thus, there is nothing that I can do that is not going to matter.

And just like that, my skewed perspective on the domestic things in life completely shifted towards Christ.

It seriously was a huge turn of events for me!

For years I had felt like I had been trekking through thick, muddy creek water and finally stumbled into an ocean full of crystal clear water.  It is so refreshing and so freeing! I had been moving along, slowly, in somewhat of the right direction but really had no idea where I was headed, why I was headed there, and all I knew of how to get there was to just keep trusting God, continuing the trek towards the life that I knew would be pleasing to Him. I kept going, but I was severely discontent all the way.  This false idea of what domesticity actually is still had a huge hold on me, and I had no idea.

This obviously goes beyond baking bread.  This clash of worldviews in my mind flowed directly into all areas of the home life: doing the laundry, dishes, general cleaning, meal planning, cooking, etc.   On the surface, domestic tasks had always been important to my heart, but the lie had permeated my mind that told me that the work lacked any real skill, that it was not worthy of my time, and that it won't amount to anything in the end.  My choosing to remain home with my family I was destined to a life of meaningless work.  I honestly felt as if all of this work was pointless.  The laundry would never be done, dishes would never stop, feeding my family real home cooked meals seemed impossible most nights, clutter ruled the house, and I firmly believed that makeup and nice clothes are just not in the cards for me, at least not until my kids are grown and out of the house. These types of lies constantly sent me into a fit of saying to myself or to my husband, "What's the point of this? Why in the world does God have me here, in this place, doing this? Shouldn't I be out evangelizing somewhere?"

Though I never would have admitted it before, I was treating my work as a brainless and menial job. When you don't value your work, it's easy to put in minimal effort.  I like what Bekah said in the fourth episode of What Have You, she said that it's easy to sink down to the lowest common denominator at home (when there is seemingly no real value to the work).  I was sinking low for a long time.  God used these two women to bring me back up.

Finding the Beauty in Domesticity 

She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

You know when you are hiking up a hill and you are almost ready to peer over a hill to see the view, but you are not quite there yet. Well, I knew that there was real value in domesticity, but I could not see it yet.  I had hoped that one day God would show me the beautiful view that I knew was there. This year, God saw it fit to reveal it to me, and you guys, it is far more beautiful than I ever dreamed it could be!

God has given us all real work to do: loving our husbands and children, pursuing a life of purity, kindness, self-control, and submission so that God's word may not be reviled (Titus 2).  We are to serve as an example of Christ's goodness.  We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).  The more we Christian women derive our strength from the world, we will fail. When we are relying on God as our strength, we will be blessed.  God gave women a fantastic role to fill (Proverbs 31) in this incredible life, and joy comes when we are faithfully obedient to His word.  For years  I would often throw myself into outside work with no problem (Classical Conversations, photography, Norwex, writing, etc.) because I knew it had a purpose (to benefit my family) and I knew God could use that, but when it came to matters of the home, I was completely lost.  I would often wonder how domesticity could possibly be culturally relevant. Thankfully, I now know what it means to live faithfully and how in doing this, everything we are doing in and with our homes (and our community) is culturally relevant because everything we do for God will be used by God for the good of those who will love Him.

God is the one who is really at work here. 

This is why we need to be diving into the word of God every day! We need to be in communication with Him through the reading of our Bibles and prayer, we need to constantly, every day be submitting to His authority.  I know that my complete lack of understanding when it came to domesticity was as a direct result of my lack of time in the word.

Whether you are doing the laundry or speaking at a conference or tieing your daughter's shoes or cleaning out a closet or raising up a child, it is all for His glory.  He sees it.  It matters. No matter what we are doing throughout the day, we can do it joyfully in the knowledge that God is using this for good!  Not every day will be perfect. When we sin (and we will, multiple times a day) we need to confess those sins, and continue on in faith, guilt free.  If we are bogged down by sin, we are not trusting in Him and we won't be able to see where we are going. We will sink down into the lowest common denominator. All that is left when we get down that low is to muddle on aimlessly through the depression until we realize that the root of the problem, the true culprit we're dealing with is actually sin, and thankfully, as a Christian, we can be free of that guilt and pain by confessing those sins to the God we believe in.  God will use this for YOUR good, and you will be blessed.  You see? Working in the home is a lot more than simply doing the daily chores. This is an enormous part of your own sanctification.

God didn't design women to just "get by" in life. We are to bring our A-game to every part of life (Proverbs 31). It really is true that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  Approach your home life with the mentality of making this work profitable.  Look at everything He has given you and turn a profit on it.  In other words, do all unto the glory of God, and nothing but good will come of it.  God will use it all, whether we know how or not. Lives will be changed and Christ will be honored through your obedience.

Always give the best of yourself to your household. Work incredibly hard at everything God has placed before you.  If you know that baking bread and biscuits will bless your family, do it. If making a quilt would bless your family, do it.  If the hallway closet needs to be reorganized to bless your family, do it.  Take the time to truly bless your family.  Make the labor intensive meals.  Take frequent breaks to cuddle with your little ones.  Learn new skills and learn them well, through tons of trial and error.  Nothing is a waste when you are pouring everything you are living out His word.  This is how to live life abundantly.  It is all for His glory, His good purposes. Pour your love to the fullest degree in your home, that love and kindness will flow out to others in the home and out, and that, my sweet friends, is how baking that bread will change the world.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Visualizing The Bible

"Visualizing the Bible" is a visualization of Bible cross-references that was created by Christoph Römhild and Chris Harrison

"The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect."

Additional visualizations can be found on Chris Harrison's website.   :-) 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Happy Monday!

It's Monday! A new work week.  Every week presents hundreds of ways to learn, work, and live for Christ. I am so thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to serve my family this week! 

This week my goal is to CLEAN HOUSE.  This week is my last full "free week" to get all this craziness in order before the school year begins.  We are not officially beginning until the 28th, but our commitments for the school year really begin to pick up next week. 

Next week will be entirely devoted to school plans and to cleaning out the school room.  That will take the full week, I am sure. 

The house suffered quite a bit during the past week as I was sick with a cold and had no energy to do just about anything.  Today was my first day getting back on track.  

Here are a few other things that I've been up to today. 

Developing Habits:

Dishes - Since I took a month long break of this habit, I'm beginning again.  :-) 
Laundry - Right now I am doing laundry every single day until it is "done".   Once I'm caught up, I'll switch to a weekly laundry day. 

Audiobooks Listened to:

Death by Living by N.D. Wilson, completed! 5/5 stars! 

Podcasts Listened to:

Read Aloud Revival, latest episode
Plodcast, latest episode

The Lost Tools of Learning - an essay by Dorothy Sayers, the brilliant 1947 essay that prompted the revival of Classical Christian education today. 
The Question by Leigh Bortins, chapter 4 on reading dialectically. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

50 States Before They Graduate

One of our educational goals for our kids is to have each of them visit every state and state capital before they graduate high school!

I first began to consider this goal in 2014 soon after we first joined Classical Conversations.  With all of the study we were doing of states and capitals that year, I began to realize just how much there was to see and do in this country and I want my kids to see and experience as much as possible!  At that time I had also started following some blogs by fellow classical educators who were well on their way to accomplishing this same goal:  Half a Hundred Acre Wood (best. blog. ever.) and Pocket Full of Rocks.

In CC, geography is studied every year from age 4 all the way through about 13 years old.  The kids learn early on how to locate U.S. states and physical features as well as countries (current and historical) and prominent physical features all over the world. Later in their first year of the Challenge program, they learn how to draw the whole world from memory.  This knowledge will be used throughout the rest of their time in the program, in college, and beyond in a multitude of different situations.  Having a good handle on geography is important when studying the rest of the world, as it is an excellent framework to relate all other areas of knowledge to.

I begin counting states for each child once they reach about 4.5 years old, preferably 5.  I want them to remember their time in each (or most) of the states, so this means that my younger ones will end up going to multiple states multiple times over the years, but our first trip between the age of 4.5 and 5 is when they can start checking off states and capitals! :-)

In addition to visiting states and capitals, we try to visit sites that are a part of their geography curriculum (physical features such as lakes, rivers, canals, trails, mountain ranges, national parks, etc.).   We will also be traveling to as many places (museums, key locations, monuments, etc) that tie into the history and science grammar pegs they are memorizing.  We also listen to a American fiction and songs along the way.  The girls love learning and singing the songs created by CC Happy Mom (on YouTube).  She has a song for each week in each of the three cycles.

We'll be leaving Alaska and Hawaii to the later years so that these trips will count for all three kids at once, as I don't see us all going both of those places more than once, as wonderful as that would be!

Zoe's Current Count: 22 States | 17 Capitals | 8 Trips Total

Rivers: Rio Grande, Missouri River, Mississippi River  |   3/9
Mountain Ranges / Valleys: The Rockies, Sierra Nevadas|   (2 / 11)
Mountains (Specific): Mt. Whitney  (1 / 8)
Bays / Sounds: 0 / 6
Lakes, Great Lakes / Niagara Falls: 0 / 7
Canals: 0/5
Trails: 0/7
Deserts: The Colorado Desert, Mojave Desert  | 2 / 5
Prominent Features: Grand Canyon, Black Hills  | 2 / 10

Zoe began in 2012 with a trip to Kentucky and Missouri.   She is now 9 years old.

Avery's Count:
Begins in December 2017 with the trip to Disney World!

Kaylee's Count: 
Begins any time after October 2020.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Zoe's 9th Birthday!

My amazing little Zoe celebrates her 9th birthday today! Her childhood is flying by so fast.  I wish time could just slow down a bit! 

Full emoji-fied birthday post to come soon.  :-D 

All The Things: How I Tackle Productivity and Organization

ALL THE THINGS! How do you ever keep track of all the things?!

Think about all that you do in a day, a week or a month. Everything that you do requires time, whether you are thinking about it or not. Many things require a lot of time, some things we don't even realize are taking up our time.

I want to give you a glimpse at how I am now managing all of the things. :)

Here is an example of what occupies my brain on a weekly basis.

Prayer, daily Bible reading, caring for a 9-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 1-year-old, family time, building relationships with friends and family, hospitality, theology, home education, read-alouds, writing (Hood Magazine), tutoring (CC), classroom Prep for CC and LLA, a photography business, Norwex business, CCM blog, Classical Conversations, Living Legacy Academy (LLA), lesson planning, budgeting and bill paying, sorting, editing, and storing photos, reading (50 book goal in 2017), audio books, library, online library requests, travel plans and budgeting, online ordering (Hy-Vee, Target, Amazon, friends' direct sales), activity planning, paper sorting (so. much. paper!), meal planning, ways to better my health, fitness plans, emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook, Instagram, social media plans and posts for all my work, new home searching, packing, making time for podcasts, grocery shopping, piano, appointments, Awana, sweeping, mopping, dishes, laundry, clutter cleaning, baths, new things to learn, and organizing. And there are more. There is always more.

Gah! That's a lot of brain power. And it's a common problem that many of us have. When we break down all of the thoughts we have each day, we each have our own long list of responsibilities turn into way too many tasks to keep up with on our own.

Seriously, you guys. I often will get overwhelmed to the point of tears.

I do love my life. It is exactly the life that I dreamed of having. I wouldn't trade any of it. But I also know that I am only capable of doing so much. I believe one reason for that completely overwhelmed and hopeless feeling that happens is a result of just the insane number of things there are to keep track of. I also have some mental disadvantages: lack of sleep (baby/toddler season of life), concentration issues from partial epilepsy and of course, that pesky anxiety that never seems to go away.

If I see a cluttered room, I don't just see one cluttered room. I see 100 individual things that need to be put away, donated, or thrown away. I see the hours of time that must be allotted for that one task. That causes a short-circuit in my brain. I start to panic. And I do panic.
When considering what task to do next, this is often my thought process:

Who has time to clean a cluttered room when there is laundry to do, a piano lesson to get to, English lessons to complete, and an article to work on?

Or, who has time to work on an article when there are English lessons to complete, Awana verses to memorize, dishes to do, and the living room is a mess?

Or, who has time to do English lessons when there are math lessons to catch up on, CC memory work to review, the floors are covered in pet hair, and there is a mountain of laundry that needs to be done?

Or, who has time to call a friend or meet up for coffee when there is an endless to-do list to accomplish?

It's a seemingly endless cycle of frustration.


We all know that we need to set priorities for ourselves, but how to go about it is another challenge. In my mind, nearly all of it seems equally important, so at any given moment, asking me to just pick one thing and then move onto another doesn't work. I start working on one thing and I start to think about all of the other things that are equally or more important, and either I switch tasks or I feel terrible about neglecting the other things, so much so that is starts to depress me.

I needed to find a "brain dump": a place to write it all down every little thing that comes to my mind and sort it so that I am able to visually see what needs to be done, and then I can begin to prioritize.

For years I have been looking for something that could help me manage my time well. I buy planners, calendars, and I've tried probably 30-40 different to-do list web/phone apps.

Last year I finally found an online planner that I love! I also found the style of physical planner that works best for me as well. This month, my husband and I both decided to pay the $28 for the year to use the premium features, and it is so worth every penny spent. Overnight, this has transformed my little world! :-D is my favorite web/phone app. By far!

Awesome Features:

  • Sub-projects and sub-tasks galore. 
  • Simple display and color coordinating! I love how uncluttered it looks compared to so many other online planning sites. 
  • Project sharing with my husband. 
  • We can comment back and forth on any of the individual tasks/projects. 
  • I can sync the scheduled tasks with my Google Calendar! 
  • I always have access to it. I can add this on my computer or on my app when I'm out. 

Just look at this!! It's SO EASY!

Favorite Features:
  • It is FAST. I can't tell you how much I loathe slow programs. Having a programmer as a husband has given me a lot of insight into how websites and apps are supposed to work, and when it takes 10-15 seconds (from start to finish) to add a task, vs maybe 3-5 seconds (with Todoist), it makes a big difference in your overall experience with the app. 
  • No manual entering in of dates and times! When you add your new task, you just type out "on Friday at noon" and it will automatically set that up for you when you select "Add Task". 
  • No manual sorting! Just type in #nameofproject into your task and as soon as you select "Add Task" it files it for you! 
  • Type "F" to quickly find ANY task!! Say I'm not sure where I filed something. Not a problem. I just need to type it into the quick search and it'll bring up everything with that word! 
  • My most used feature: Type "Q" to quickly add a task! 

The Categories

I divided everything into five main categories: Shaina, Family, Work, Education, and Errands. I have about 28-30 sub-projects and sub-tasks. These, for the most part, will stay the same.

Most of the time, I have them all closed up so that I only see the five main categories. This makes me very, very happy. :-D

  • Goals
    • Resolutions
    • Reading
      • 2017 Books
      • Books Read
      • Books to Read
    • Future
  • Personal
    • Prayers
    • Notes
  • Mommyhood
  • Homemaking - Any household functions that are solely my responsibility.
    • Meal Planning
    • Monthly Tasks
    • Yearly Tasks
  • Computer - Anything that requires being at the computer. Emails to respond to, articles to read, photos to sort, etc.)

  • Cleaning
  • Kids
    • Zoe
    • Avery
    • Kaylee
    • Milestones
  • Budget
    • Bills
    • Envelope System Savings
  • 40 Tasks
  • Traveling
    • CA Summer Trip 2017  (Packing Lists, Travel Budget, Places to Visit, People to Visit, etc.)
    • Aberdeen 2017
    • Pierre 2017
    • Travel Plans for 2018
  • Holidays
  • Future

  • Norwex
  • Creatively Classical Mom
  • Shaina Photography
  • Hood Magazine
  • CC Tutoring (Classical Conversations)
  • CC Social Media
  • Lessons
    • Math
    • English
    • Spelling
  • Classical Conversations
    • Cycle 1
    • Cycle 2
    • Cycle 3
  • LLA (Living Legacy Academy)
  • Curriculum 
  • Book Lists
    • Read Alouds
    • Audio Books (for the girls)
    • CC Books (books to read that align with whatever we are learning about each year)

Whenever there is an errand to run, I quickly add it to Todoist by typing "Q", the errand, and #errands, hit "enter" and done!  Less than 5 seconds.
  • Groceries: This is the only sub-category that I have under errands.  It's super easy to type "Buy milk #groceries".  When I'm at the store, I just look up my grocery list and anything that we need will be there. 

I still have a physical planner and calendar, but now having this online planner, I can use these other resources much more efficiently.

My favorite physical planner is The Simplified Planner. Noticing a trend here? I love simple things. Just say no to clutter! :)

The planner consists of one page per day and every month there is a monthly layout. That's it.

I looked ALL over the place for a daily planner and was surprised that there are very few in existence!! I was so excited to find this one because not only was it a daily planner, but it was pretty too! Color and style is very important to me when it comes to something I am going to be looking at day after day.

The left side of the page has your day for timed appointments, the right side is a to-do list.

On the bottom section of the page, there is a large square for dinner (or all meal) plans on the left side and on the right a square for notes.

My physical calendar of choice is this one, I have bought it every year for the past 4 years:

  • It has an oversized grid, so there is plenty of room to write.
  • It's simple, similar to the planner above.
  • It hangs up in a very visible spot in our house.

And of course, to keep track of all the dates and important events, I use Google Calendar. :-)

So on the topic of productivity, I finally started "reading" aka "listening to" this book (audio version). It has given me several great ideas so far! I normally don't read many self-help books, and I'm particularly cautious about the Christian "self-help" books that I read. I have been a fan of Tim Challies for many years, though, and I've always admired his productiveness, so I was excited to see that he had written this book!

(affiliate link)
As always, I have so. much. to. do. I really should get back to work. ;-) I am so happy to share all of these things with you, and hope that I've at least encouraged you in some way!!
Happy organizing!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Fourth Child: Saying Goodbye Before Hello -- Julian Lael Ivy (January 2017 to February 2017)

A New Baby

On January 17th, the day after my 32nd birthday, I learned that I was pregnant again!  It wasn't a total surprise but at the same time, I really didn't expect that I was pregnant so when I saw the two lines (on two different tests) I was shocked and so, so, SO thrilled!  For years I have dreamed about having four children.  I couldn't believe that it was actually going to happen.  Especially considering that it took 2.5 years for us to conceive our 2nd child.  There were a few years there where I thought our oldest was going to be an only child.  Now here I was, expecting baby #4!

I had so many hopes and prayers for this child.  I could not wait to meet them.  My only nerves had to do with how close in age my youngest two would be, but I knew even that could prove to have many advantages to it.

As I announced the news to family and friends I chose to simply send them this image.  I just love it.

For this baby I decided to not wait to announce it.   I think I am now past the point of keeping these kinds of secrets now.  Even in the future, I don't think I'll hide anything.  After my Mom died 11 years ago I found that hiding things and keeping life events and changes to myself for too long doesn't do me any good, it only brings more stress.  I'd much rather walk through the joys & trials of this life with my friends and family by my side.
This image with a sweet quote from Winnie the Pooh is what I used to make the announcement on Facebook. 

"If I am thinking correctly," said Pooh, "a new baby is probably, undoubtedly, the grandest gift that ever could be." 

A week later, my morning sickness hit me like a ton of bricks.  Every moment of every day for three weeks I counted the days until I would reach my second trimester, the time where my morning sickness was likely to go away.  

That never happened, though.   My morning sickness and food aversions started to go away exactly one month after I had found out I was pregnant.  On February 17th, that was my first sign that something was different from all my other pregnancies.

On February 18th, I began the process of losing my precious baby.  On the 20th it was confirmed after two very long days of wondering and worrying, that my baby was no longer alive.  On the night of the 21st I had to take a very disappointing trip to the ER.  I can honestly say that I never had any idea how much physical stress and pain that would be involved in losing a baby.  It's all still happening so I don't want to dredge up more fear and sadness in communicating my thoughts on this, so all I'll say is that it is nothing short of traumatizing.  


On the 22nd, a woman whom I had never met before, came by my house with an incredible gift.  She gave me a much needed hug and went on her way.   She runs a foundation called Awakening Grace.  They provide these special care packages for any woman who has lost a baby.

"The baby died. But your mommy died too, and so now the baby is with your Mommy in Heaven. She is not alone anymore!" - Avery, age 4.

I was in tears as I opened up this box.   It is filled with so much love! I can't express how thankful I am for Awakening Grace.

The Name

A few days ago I had the realization that though this child was not with us anymore, this child was a real member of our family, and they didn't have a name.  This baby needed a name. I didn't want to refer to them as "it" forever.  The challenge was finding names that were not overtly female or male names, as we will never know what the baby's gender was.

We named the baby Julian Lael Ivy Herrmann.

Julian means "Youthful", is a common name for both girls and boys, and is the name of a place that is special to us (Julian, CA).  

Lael means "Belongs to God".  The first thing this child ever saw or knew was God.  I know that He will care for Julian in far greater ways than I ever could.  I fully believe God has a plan for this little one.

Ivy was chosen as a result of prayer.  I strongly believe God answered my prayer because out of nowhere the word Ivy kept coming to my mind.  I looked it up and saw that it represents faithfulness.  I thought, "Well that is perfect."  A while later I remembered a line from Kari Jobe's song, "The Garden" that talked about ivy.  I looked up the song and stumbled upon this...

I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  It was such a strong and blatant answer to my prayer.  I love when God does this.  Looking back on what books I've been reading, the books in the Bible that I've been reading, the songs that have stood out to me and ministered to me over the past few weeks, now I can clearly see exactly how He had been preparing me for this trial.  God going before me and preparing me for this time is one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen. 

My Mom's Grandchild

"The baby died. But your mommy died too, and so now the baby is with your Mommy in Heaven. She is not alone anymore!" - Avery, age 4.  

It fills me with so much joy to think that God has given my Mom a grandchild to love and care for.  I don't know much about Heaven.  I've always thought of it as something too complex to ever comprehend.  It's a place that exists outside of time and space as we know it.  Nevertheless, I KNOW that both my mother and my child are in the presence of God.  I pray that they are together.  

His Will, Forever 

Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum) wrote this song following her own miscarriage in 2015.  I fell in love with this song just a few weeks before losing our little Julian.  Tonight I finally got up the courage to listen to it again.  It truly expresses where my heart has been this entire week.   There has been so much confusion and sadness, it's so hard to count it all joy when all I feel is aching pain.  It's especially hard to walk through a trial when you just can't seem to make any sense of it. I have so many questions, fears, and concerns.  I feel defeated.  So many of my "plans" seem to have just been squashed.

I just need to stop and remember He is God and I am not.   Thy will be done.  

I know He hears me when I am crying out in grief.  I also know that He is going to be the one who comforts me during this process.

I take refuge in Christ.  He is the only one who can bring me peace and restore my joy.  The hope that I have in Him is incredible.  I don't know how I would function without that hope.

Maybe one day God will provide us with another child and we most certainly will rejoice.  But that child will not be Julian.

So for now, we grieve.

Finding Joy in the Winter Months

For our family, this time of year is full of two things: celebrations and a slightly overwhelming sense of cabin fever. Both Gage and I cel...