Touching the Heart with Real Life Homeschooling

There are lots of myths and misconceptions about what homeschooling is all about.  Yes, our children must take all the same coursework to fulfill high school graduation requirements and take college board exams to further their education.  There are tests, projects, and papers.  There are even opportunities to play competitive sports through athletic leagues.  However, for our family a big difference is the emphasis we can place on the heart.

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

All this week our fellow bloggers at the Schoolhouse Review Crew are a variety of different articles about how homeschooling looks in the nitty gritty of real life.  We are coming late to the game, because we growing and stretching.  Not literally.  I think anyone with children, regardless of whether you homeschool, has seen instances that as your child is about to embark on their new phase of development that they may hit a rough patch during this transition time.  It may be seen in difficulties with motivation, tensions with family members, or a stretching of their wings in exploring new levels of independence and forming of their own values to name a few.

The wonderful thing we have found about homeschooling is we can take a break or adjust our schedule to truly touch our children’s hearts when they need it the most.  This may mean a modified school schedule or even taking a break realizing that we will still get the work done later.  Taking time to truly pour our hearts into our children’s is a privilege and blessing we have as homeschool parents.  If our children were experiencing a tough spot in their lives while attending public school, we might be able to get an hour of dedicated time with them in between school dismissal, dinner, and homework.  And the reality is that sometimes it just takes more than an hour.

Our apologies for coming late to the game, but schooling the heart and fueling the soul is the main topic of learning going on in our Real Life Homeschool this week.  I encourage you to click on the graphic above to see a listing of all the blogs participating.  There are some wonderfully creative and transparent families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew that I am sure will bless you right where you are at as we discuss Real Life Homeschooling.

Even Special Learners Grow into Adults

Special Learner Adulthood

When our children with special learning needs are younger, our focus is usually all about the academics.  How do I help my dyslexic son to read?  Will my daughter with dysgraphia ever be able to communicate through the written word?  Will my child with ADHD be able to ever have the focus to make it through an entire lesson?

As our children grow, we realize that in spite of their learning challenges adulthood is getting closer by the day.  Some of the early learning challenges will disappear, others will continue to be challenges, and yet we may reveal new struggles as our children grow.  But what we can’t do is judge our child’s whole life by their academic accomplishments.  They are so much more than their academic work.  Even academically gifted children don’t want to just be defined by their academic prowess.

Children with special needs do not necessarily have delayed development in other areas.  Your son that is still struggling with reading that piece of literature or doing long division is still dreaming of the cute little girl down the street, the number of days until he can get his driver’s license, and dreaming of someday being a dad and husband.

As a mother of a child with special needs, you just don’t give up on these dreams for your child.  You want them for them just as much as they do.  So here is the secret – don’t limit your child to his challenges, but start defining him by his talents and abilities.

In entering the high school years with our child who has some special learning needs, my husband and I realized that we will be making a grave mistake to try to force this child to go down the path of a traditional four year college education after high school.  We are looking at this child’s gifts and talents and asking the questions of how to raise and equip our son to be a responsible, hard working adult.  How can we assist him in achieving his personal goals for the future, which even he will tell you does not include the Dean’s List in college?

Here are some tips of what we have gleaned so far from our journey:

  • God can work with just about any skill set as long as there is the character to back it up.  Lots of character building in how to treat others, where to put your faith, the value of a good work ethic, planning your next steps, and then doing the next right thing.
  • Look at where your child’s talents lie and then identify potential trades that magnify their skills rather than their challenges.
  • Seek out mentoring relationships with professionals in different lines of work.  Whether you have learning challenges or not, personal connections always way in heavy when seeking employment.
  • Determine where it is appropriate to utilize tools where proficiencies may be lacking.  Our child really struggled with dyslexia when he was younger.  Spelling is still not his strength.  We have chosen to spend extra time on teaching him to use spell check and grammar check on whatever device or software he is using.  This is a great tip for anyone, but critical for him in presenting himself well through the written word.
  • Self confidence goes a long way.  No matter what our abilities are, none of us accomplishes much unless we believe we can.  We believe we can, because others tell us that we can.  As others encourage us, we take on small projects which eventually lead to bigger ones with each success.  Be intentional in creating opportunities for success and continue being his biggest cheerleader.
  • Build life skills that will be crucial.  The richest people in the world are not always those that make the most, but those that know how to manage what is entrusted to them.  Teaching your children to manage their finances, their time, and their resources in all areas is critical.  There are many successful people from all eras of history that came out of poverty and with little formal education.

The greatest thing we can do is to trust also in the fact that God had a divine plan for each of our children before they took their first breath.  He will provide a way for their future as adults in line with the purpose He has for them.  It is our job to instill in our children to continue seeking Him, asking Him to reveal that plan, and then doing our part to accomplish what He has put before us.  If our children can do that with a measure of integrity, their lives will be a success!


Motivate Your Child Giveaway

One of the greatest challenges in parenting is growing with your children as they grow. As parents we desire for our children to become all that God wants them to be. We make all kinds of sacrifices in time, resources, and our own personal desires to help make this happens. But what does a parent do when they fail to run with the ball that is handed to them. Some kids are so self-motivated, while others seem satisified to just exist at times. As a parent, I want to encourage my child to flourish, because they are wanting what comes next and not just to avoid punishment. But how do you accomplish this when your child’s desire does not match your own. In having an opportunity to read a pre-release copy of Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told, I have been thrilled with the helpful tips and changes in mindset that are enabling our family to take on these challenges in a much healthier way.

To celebrate the release of Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told,  members of the Launch Team are sharing a wonderful giveaway filled with a Go Pro Camera, $50 Mardel Gift Card, $25 Amazon Gift Card, and book bundles from both the National Center for Biblical Parenting and Thomas Nelson Publishing! Three winners will win prizes with a total value of nearly $800!

motivate your child giveaway

Here’s what you could win:

GRAND PRIZE  ($500+ value)

Go Pro HERO3+ Silver Camera ($300 value)

HERO3+ Silver captures gorgeous, professional-quality 1080p60 video and 10MP photos at speeds of up to 10 frames per second. Built-in Wi-Fi enables you to use the GoPro App to control the camera remotely, preview shots and share your favorites on Facebook, Twitter and more. Compatible with all GoPro mounts, you can wear it or attach it to your gear for immersive POV footage of your favorite activities. It’s waterproof to 131’ (40m) and built tough for all of life’s adventures. Combined with stunning low-light performance, high-performance audio and an ultra wide-angle glass lens, HERO3+ Silver makes capturing and sharing your life easier than ever.

NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value)

The Christian Parenting Handbook  and Companion Guide

Parenting is Heart Work

God’s Awesome Story

Hero Training Camp Children’s Curriculum

Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst  Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill

The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill


FIRST PRIZE ($165 value)

$50 Mardel Gift Card

NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value)

The Christian Parenting Handbook  and Companion Guide

Parenting is Heart Work

God’s Awesome Story

Hero Training Camp Children’s Curriculum


SECOND PRIZE ($115 value)

$25 Amazon Gift Card

Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst  Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill

The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway dates: January 12, 2015 @12:00am ET through January 28, 2015 @ 11:59pm ET

Terms and Conditions: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Amazon. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


New Resources to Help Families Navigate the Teen Years

Family Toolbox Image

Helping your teens navigate the waters of growing into adulthood can be challenging.  The most frustrating part is that many times they are unable to see how important their behavior and habits will directly impact their lives as adults. There is now a resource where parents and teens can join together in discussing some of these very issues and find solutions that will not only make your home more peaceful, but the future much brighter.

The Family Toolbox is a new resource kit for families with teens written by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN, of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.  It is a DVD / video-driven tool that promotes communication about some of the most challenging yet common issues in relationships between teens and their parents.  The tough part of these issues is that they are heart issues and not just behaviors that need adjusting.

Family Toolbox Pinnable Image

How it Works:

The Family Toolbox is a program that includes the DVD segments mentioned above, but it also comes with a study guide.  Within the study guide, there are things as a parent you should consider and work on preparing your heart for before doing the next lesson with your children. Followed by this is a brief summary that helps to create the setting for the video segment about to be watched.  After reading the summary together, the family should watch the video segment.  These segments are approximately 1-2 minutes in length.  Ideally, families should watch these segments through at least twice before delving into the discussion questions.

There are a total of 8 videos with 16 Life Success Principles being focused upon.  In reviewing the list of of the Life Success Principles, I found it hard to believe that there is a home that could not benefit from some intentional time developing these principles more:

  • Be Respectful Even When It’s Hard
  • Develop Internal Motivation
  • Develop Healthy Habits for Following Instructions
  • Look for Ways to Contribute to Family Life
  • Solve Problems Instead of Generate Conflict
  • Learn to Value Correction
  • Apologize Well
  • Develop a Plan for Being Responsible
  • Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
  • Train Yourself to Accept No as an Answer
  • Avoid Arguing
  • View Your Family as a Team and Look for Ways to Work Together
  • Practice Flexibility When Plans Change
  • Learn to Handle Unfairness Well

Honestly, most of the Life Success Principles are things that most of us adults could benefit from working on as well.

In addition to the 8 video segments viewed as a family, there are 8 corresponding videos for parents to watch.  These videos are about 10 minutes in length.  They are presented by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller in discussing our roles as parents in the dynamics we see in our own home.

Turansky Miller Headshot

Things We Liked:

There are things that really stood out to our family in using and reviewing this program~

  • The insights provided by Dr. Turansky and Joanne Miller are biblically based and speak much more to ministering to the heart of your child rather than just changing behavior.
  • The video segments are portrayed through families from different ethnic backgrounds as well as different family structures, such as single parent homes, homes where grandparents are integral in raising the children, and traditional two parent homes.  This speaks to the fact that these are issues that relate to all of our homes if we are honest with ourselves.
  • The videos are short, realistic, and not “preachy” in nature.  This is what is appealing about the program to the young adults in our lives.  I truly believe that the teens want to be a part of the solution to a more harmonious home and not just the scapegoat for everyone’s problems.
  • There is a balanced approach in responsibility on both parents and their children for making changes.  Our children’s behavior and heart may need some changes, but it is usually our parenting that allowed things to get to where they are.

What I Craved:

I truly craved a third set of videos that showed the right answer. After all, we just want to do it right.  However, in giving it more thought, I am not sure there is a single right answer.  Each family needs to work out within their own dynamic and circumstances what needs to change and how hearts need to be refocused.  Teens want to be heard and what better way to bring about the discussion and rely on one another than in not providing a scripted response to the video segments.  Fundamental to most of the challenges seen in these video segments is the need for mutual dialogue and respect in order to reach a higher ground.

The Family Toolbox is available for purchase from the National Center for Biblical Parenting at the following website. Two versions of this program are available.  A downloadable version can be purchased for $79.99 and the hard copy is available for just $20 more.  By visiting the same website, information can be obtained for using this is a small group environment either in a parenting group, bible study, or teen youth group.

Family Toolbox Disclaimer

Growing into Adulthood

Like most parents, Gary and I have desired that our children would grow into responsible and honorable adults.  We have not always known how to accomplish that and even now question if we are headed in the right direction, but have found guidance from listening to our instincts and gleaning from those that have gone before us.

When we have considered different areas of our life, we have found no example of consciously going backward in order to go forward.  When a baby learns to crawl, its next natural step is walking.  I have never seen a baby that has learned to crawl to voluntarily decide to just give up crawling to sit in a crib or baby carrier all day.  In looking at career development, I don’t think in the years that I worked in Corporate America that I ran into a manager that requested to go back to an entry level position before heading to the Senior V.P. Office.  That is why it seems so counter-intuitive to encourage development in our kids through childhood and then allow them to veer into a period of laziness, under-accomplishment, and disrespect that our culture has come to label as “being a teenager”.  Where did this come from?

Our family uses the Word of God to make as many decisions as possible and gain insight when things don’t seem cut and dry.  Nowhere in the Bible do we see evidence of a God ordained period called adolescents.  This alone has caused us to pause in working through our family’s perspective on those years when our children are transitioning from childlike behavior and thinking into adulthood.

Zech Buck Edited

In the end, we have concluded that as human beings we generally form our expectations of ourselves more times than not by what others expect of us.  For this reason, we have chosen to expect our children to continue progressing toward adulthood in a consistent manner.  It is a training up time to try on adult level responsibility and thinking gradually in preparation for having families of their own to lead at some point in the future.

Our son, who is pictured above, just went hunting this past weekend.  He is fourteen years old and has come to love the outdoors and hunting.  However, it is not just the thrill of the hunt or the challenge of getting a 10 pt buck.  Zech has come to understand the power he has as a man in being able to literally feed his family.  When he has a successful hunt, we see his confidence soar.  He proudly field dresses and then assists in butchering the meat to put in the freezer knowing he has had an active role in taking care of his family much as his father does.  In preparing for this time, many valuable lessons have been learned about discipline, respect, and responsibility.

Similarly, his sister is also seeing the rewards and achievements associated with not just settling for a lackadaisical attitude during her teen years.  This past summer she found out that she was not going to be able to go back to the volleyball team that she has played for over the last several years.  She was greatly hurt, disappointed, and a bit at a loss.  As she adjusted to this new reality, we challenged her to not only make a lateral move to a new team, but to make a vertical move.  We encouraged her to use this experience as a springboard for greater things.  And that is exactly what she has done.  She has found another high school level team to play for, but exceeded her own expectations by becoming certified as a line judge for NCAA Women’s Volleyball Matches.

Line Judge Collage

Like her brother, she has come to find that this new adult role fits her well.  In her journey so far, she has discovered that many are shocked by her presence at such a young age among the officials at college matches.  Her professionalism and maturity have gained her the respect of not only her fellow colleagues (who are all adults), but also the coaches and players.

We are so incredibly proud of our children and their accomplishments.  They are really catching on to the rewards they experience both internally and from others as they reach beyond our culture’s ever lowering expectations of young adults and rise above to greater things.

The Gift in a Little Brother

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity ~Proverbs 17:17

Being a mom of two sons has certainly been an eye opening experience, especially as our boys are getting older. Our older son is now in his teens and his younger brother has hit those preteen years. It seems like a blink ago that the oldest was the age of his younger brother. Those four years have passed in a flourish. I have seen such growth and development in not only skills and schoolwork, but also in wanting to be a man, a leader. Our older son wants to be a leader to his younger brother. Unfortunately, desiring to follow his older brother’s leadership is not always on the list of Top Ten hits in our youngest’ mind.

In all honesty, this mama was not ready for the adversity. Yes, there has always been sibling rivalry. However, when your boys get to a certain age, you realize overnight that they are big enough to really hurt one another if they intended to.  Thankfully, that is a road we have not walked down.

Among the books on my nightstand is Raising Real Men by Hal and Melanie Young. I appreciate the writing of the Youngs in their ability to give a long term perspective on situations with our boys that sometimes hit a nerve with a short fuse.

I chatted with our older son this morning about seeing his brother as a gift. He kind of just looked at me and rolled his eyes. I think he was waiting for me to paint a picture of a little prince upon his royal throne above reproach. Instead our conversation went something like this…

Son, I want you to think of your brother as a gift. Now give me a chance to explain. Every parent does things well and other things not so well in raising up their children. Your grandmother was a wonderful and godly woman, but her weakness was that she had a tendency to scream. When my brothers and I would get into squabbles or not do as we should, we could count on her raising her voice as she corrected us. She was not perfect and as a result was not a perfect mother. She loved us and had many wonderful qualities, but she was a screamer. Guess what?  Many times we become parents that look and sound a lot like how our parents were. You know why?  Because they were the only parents we had and taught us what parenting looked like. So, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that sometimes I scream like a mad woman when you push all the right buttons. This doesn’t make it right and certainly doesn’t make you the perfect son either. Your brother is a gift to you, because God is giving you a chance to try out some ways of leading and guiding your brother in the way that a dad would before you become a dad. Think about the things your dad does well and the things you wish were different. Try out what you would keep and what you would change, because we are creatures of habit. If you develop great habits in leading and guiding your brother, especially when he does not want to follow, you will become an even better dad when that day arrives. So, you see, God was gracious when He gave you a little brother.

Boy squabbles certainly can take a much more physical look than girl squabbles.  Mama, if you are weary, don’t get discouraged. It’s just boys. Confide in your older boys that you trust them to be responsible leaders of their younger siblings, but it might just have to take a moment of seeing them for the gift they are.  A big thank you to Hal and Melanie Young for the inspiration in your writing.

A Mama’s Heart on Easter

 Easter Family Pic

This morning as I lay in bed, I knew in my head that today was the day to rejoice a Risen Savior, but my heart just wasn’t honestly feeling it. Sadness felt like it was wrapping itself around me rather than overwhelming joy. I missed my Dad, stepmom, and my brothers as we are scattered in different states this Easter. I longed to be with them and to be a part of their lives in the day to day. I missed my mom and a dear friend who have gone to Heaven and are in the very presence of our Savior.

I tried to get my head and heart to start focusing on the day ahead, but all I could see were dirty dishes, more meals to prepare, clothes to iron for church, and kids to wake up that were enjoying their beds oh so much to get chores done before leaving the house. Again, rather than drawing me closer to a heart of worship, I was honestly getting more overwhelmed and weary and my feet had not hit the floor.

Then I remembered a wise saying from a friend –

Sometimes in life, we have to act our way into feeling differently rather than waiting to feel like acting differently.

So I pulled myself out of bed and got busy. When we pulled out of the driveway, I was teary-eyed with sadness, but the spit and polish was on and we were headed to church. My thoughts traveled back to the Easters of my childhood with Easter lilies lining the front of the church in memory of loved ones that had gone before, pictures of me and my cousin in our Easter dresses, my mom’s joy in her Risen Savior, Aunt Marie’s Easter cake in the shape of a bunny, and Uncle John’s antics when we all ran and played outside. I began to realize the sadness that I had in my children not having the fortune of sharing their Easter with extended family in the same manner as I had.

Before I knew it we were pulling into the church parking lot and I felt far from prepared to worship.  God felt so far away, but what I soon realized was that He was just inside the door.  He actually was outside in the parking lot and He had been in our car, but I did not see Him.  My eyes were searching for Him in the past and He is the Great I Am.  He is ever present with us.  As the worship service unfolded and my eyes started focusing once again, I was overjoyed to find my Risen Savior right in our presence.  How I yearned to be right in His presence.  Like the Psalm states, my soul was thirsting for Him as the deer pants by the water.

God then gave me a nudge and I looked down the pew and my eyes became transfixed on my husband and children.  He reminded me that while I was wanting to be near my mama, my children were creating their own Easter memories right there singing praises to God with their mama!  I started counting my blessings and realized the many gifts we can sometimes lose sight of when we let the stresses of the world bury the joy of our salvation.  He wanted my praise in the here and now and not the nostalgic memories of yesterday as cherished as they may be.

In tribute to so many of my mama friends out there, find the blessings in the lyrics to one of my favorite mama songs.  Each time I hear it, the reminders come that the true joy of our salvation can come in little people and dirty dishes.

Technology In Our Homes

Our family recently received a review copy of the new Captivated DVD from Media Talk 101. The viewing of this video linked in with discussion we have had as a family on how technology today impacts us in so  many ways.

Captivated Movie Review
Captivated DVD

The Captivated DVD is 107 minute documentary on the effects of today’s different forms of media and technology on our relationships, neurological development of our children, and how we can be captivated into new ideologies by what we take in through our eyes.

Captivated Movie Review
In addition to scientific research, the video contains interviews with Chrisitan Counselors, Parents, Pastors, and even those in the armed forces of our nation. Young people whose families have gone as a “media fast” are interviewed as well inquiring into what they found in their own personal lives when they no longer were captivated by modern media.

The Captivated DVD is appropriate for viewers of all ages and can be purchased at the Media Talk 101 website for $16.95 with free shipping included. Churches and other organizations that are interested in purchasing larger quantities for their membership should feel free to contact Media Talk 101 for large quantity discounts.

Our Thoughts

The reaction to the Captivated DVD was a divide the size of the Mississippi River, which actually revealed a lot to us as parents. My husband and I were stunned at the research that shared the neurological impact of excessive amounts of television and video games on our children. There seems to be a direct correlation between the number of hours using these technologies and the incidence of shortened attention spans and neurological disorders such as ADHD and even seizure disorders. Related to this was the testimony of officers in the military that cited the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in some of their enlisted men. These men did not suffer from the effects of this disorder from active duty as they had never seen front line combat. Rather those affected testified to having consistently played video games with very violent and criminal behavior.

Throughout the documentary there were a large number of testimonies from parents, professionals, and youth that testify to the breakdown in relationships in the home and even among friends due to heavy technology use. Families that went on a “media fast” where they disconnected from social media and texting found that their relationships actually began to grow deeper revealing that when interacting with others through social media they had contact with more people but the relationships were generally on a more shallow level.

These are just a couple of the things that my husband and I were impacted by in viewing Captivated by Media Talk. We found that our children also took note of what was being shared. When even the thought of a media fast in our home was entertained, we found our teens in particular becoming defensive and agitated. Before the video was even over, excuses and rationalizations were being provided.

Will our family jump on the Media-Free bandwagon? The final vote has not been cast, but by the reaction we saw in our own children, we believe that the folks at Media Talk 101 just might be on to something.

As always, be sure to check out reviews from our the other Review Crew members to see their families thoughts as well.

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