Shaking up home education (guest post)

The internet has a funny way of making with world smaller. It also has a way of opening doors to connect with people you would otherwise never meet. SisterLisa has become just such a friend. We are doing a bit of a blog cross pollination. Here’s her post.

It took me just over a year to shake the strict standardized style of education when I brought my kids home. Our homeschool days seemed so sterile, cold, rigid, and bland. I needed to draw out the adventure, intrigue, and exploratory imaginations of my children and the itemized memorization of facts wasn’t a success. How were we going to break out of the mold, how could I get the minds of my children off the conveyor belt of dictation, and how could I restore the youthful crusade for adventure they had before kindergarten?

I decided I would have to break the mold and halt all stagnant studying that was putting my kids into a slumber. I had to wake them up! Sometimes education can become so mundane that we get lulled into an almost hypnotic trance of numbness. We needed a spark, a jolt of excitement. I needed to go for the shock factor. So we put down the schedule and headed up to the hills to go for a hike.

What? No school today? Was this spur of the moment field trip mom’s fancy way of saying she hadn’t carefully scheduled out the lesson plans for the week? They were apprehensive about what I was doing, then again so was I. They sense that in us. They knew I was trying to fly by the seat of my pants that day and somehow it made them all a bit nervous, wondering what I was up to. I think we all had those inner butterflies and wondering if we would get in trouble for this. No classroom, no textbooks, no schedule. What was I thinking?

We packed up the water bottles and snacks, grabbed the sunblock and tied up our shoe laces. We were going to brave the outdoors as our classroom that day, we were facing what it meant to be organic homeschoolers. We needed to get out of the house and head out for some sunshine!

As we hiked up the small mountain before us, my son noticed an odd looking rock at the top and recognized it from a previous trail excursion with daddy. “Mom, look! It’s Monkey Face Mountain!” Such an odd name for a rock, but that’s just what it was, a rock formation that looked like a monkey face. It was my first opportunity that day to spontaneously teach some history about the city we live in. My oldest daughter joined the conversation as she shared about a report she once wrote about the woman who founded the city alongside her husband. General Bidwell and his wife Annie created a heritage for our town. This was the very park that she donated to the city in her will and we began discussing the importance of respecting the legacy she left us with and why it was important to her that we keep the park clean and as natural as possible.

The conversation turned toward recycling and how the homeless helped to keep the park tidy as they collected any cans left by irresponsible hikers. When we finally reached the top, we could see the whole city beautifully garnished in green trees for as far as we could see. The history lesson continued on as I explained how Annie Bidwell and her husband imported trees from all over the world into the town and how our town has the nickname of The City of Trees. Then, right before my eyes and ears, I heard the most amazing thing as we sat on that mountain. Their imaginations began to flow again as they embarked on an imaginative adventure of day dreaming about walking trees and monkey mountain coming to life to join the adventure with us. The day of spontaneous learning had finally sparked and together we broke the mold of traditional learning.

We had so much fun that day and as we hiked down the mountain we planned to head straight to the library to find books about environmentalism, the history of our city, and social studies about how to be a community. My older two girls went straight for the library’s computer to look for books while I directed my younger two to the children’s section. We found an array of books on these topics for all their ages and turned the day into a vast unit study that the whole family could enjoy together. This was the kind of organic living that my heart desired for so long. This is what has helped to instill in my children a heart for this beautiful planet they live on. This was just the beginning of my daughter’s passion to speak up when rain forests are being destroyed unnecessarily.

Something new was birthed in my children that day, a charity of the heart for this home away from home. A new passion for living in the kingdom while still on earth, a passion to learn how to be a participating member of the Kingdom, a passion to be charitable, a reason to live and to learn how to bring the Kingdom to earth and how to care for the earth.

This was how we broke out of the box. It was a leap of faith to follow my heart, trusting in God to guide us that day, living in the spontaneous moment that only homeschooling could afford us. It is with much excitement that I share with you what gave us a new birth experience with our homeschooling.

1. Homeschool by faith: Lesson plans and schedules are great and needful, but spontaneous learning can happen anywhere.

2. Fear not: Don’t be afraid to follow the guidance of your heavenly Father in your homeschool.

3. Listen to your heart: He gives us the desires of our hearts and it is safe to listen within. The Spirit will teach you all things and bring to remembrance the things He has taught you.

4. Use your imagination: If we want our children to tap into imaginative learning, we must do so by example.

5. Be willing to use a variety of books: It’s ok to grab an elementary age book with beautiful illustrations to break open the imagination of your older children. Allow the whole family to participate in the learning adventure with many resources on the subjects you’re introducing to them.

Do you have any additional thoughts to spark the imaginations in homeschooled children?

Sisterlisa blogs at The HomeSpun Life and is a Contrib

Charity brings: kingdom

This is part three in my series on charity. (Here are posts one and two.)

Webster defines kingdom as “In Scripture, the government or universal dominion of God.” This is the kingdom I am referring to–God’s kingdom.

I’ve heard it said that love is the currency of heaven. I think it’s more like the air. Where God is, love is there. God chooses not to exist without love. We cannot live without His love.

Your kingdom is built on what is right and fair. Love and truth are in all you do.

Ps. 89:14 NCV

When we extend our hands to the poor we bring God’s love to earth. We bring His kingdom here.

You will be doing the right thing if you obey the law of the Kingdom, which is found in the scripture, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

James 2:8 GNT

Charity, or love, enables God’s kingdom, His government, His way of doing and being right to exist right here with us. Charity opens the door to Heaven on earth.

Sell what you own. Give to those who are poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out. Put away riches in heaven that will not be used up. There, no thief can come near it. There, no moth can destroy it.

Luke 12:33 NIrV

That’s where we belong–in heaven. That’s where our true possessions should lie. Charity brings His kingdom to us and us to His Kingdom. We are moved by what moves Him. His agenda is ours. We strive to please the King, even to our own discomfort. Love begins to motivate us to do more, to reach higher and to advance His kingdom.

Government is, in a nutshell, “who or what is in control.” I want to always choose God’s government over my own. My own government is lazy and self-serving. His is generous and full of unselfish love (charity). He is patiently waiting for us to prefer His government, His kingdom, so heaven can visit us here in the everyday.

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Mt 6:9–10 NKJV

Charity brings: emancipation

This is Part Two in my small series on charity. In installment 1 I provided a definition of “charity” from Webster. Charity is used in the King James as a word for love.  As we practice charity a beautiful thing begins to happen in our own lives: emancipation.

EMANCIPA’TION, n. The act of setting free from slavery, servitude, subjection or dependence; deliverance from bondage or controlling influence; liberation; as the emancipation of slaves by their proprietors; the emancipation of a son among the Romans; the emancipation of a person from prejudices, or from a servile subjection to authority.

Webster’s 1828

We are free from fleshly desires. Setting aside our desires is difficult. Maybe a reason bigger than ourselves helps us do that.

We are free from sin’s hold. When we love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves, as the two Great Commandments say, there is little room for sin in our own lives.

For charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8 KJV

We are free from trappings of the world.  Be warned: charity can cause a loss of personal possessions. Stuff is not as important as people. Meeting the needs of others is important, even if it means meeting them with your own stuff. People know love by meeting basic needs first.

Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.

Deut 15:10-11 The Message

Seeing others through the lenses of charity we are free to see others for who they are (Webster notes freedom from prejudices).   And we are free to do the same for ourselves. But most of all we get a new perspective on who God is. If we can be charitable, how much more charitable is He? (see John 3:16) We stop picking and choosing who we will help. We seek out the unlovely—in all forms—because that’s where the hurt is.

Add…to brotherly kindness charity.

2 Peter 1:7 KJV

We are free to hope. It’s wonderful to have the hope you give others offered to you in return. When you see freedom in action you cannot help but be filled with hope.

For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. 

Galatians 5:14 The Message

I am not saying that we love so we can get something. These are simply a sacred by-product of charity. God set it up that way and I’m so glad He did. It’s beautifully summed up in this passage:

Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

Luke 6:31b-38 The Message

Charity brings: healing

I have been meditating on charity and this is the first in a short series about my thoughts.

According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, Charity is:

CHARITY, n.
1. In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men.

It brings healing to the giver. It’s a wonderful way God made it to work. Somehow when we give love and give out of love we receive love in return. Maybe not from the source we expect, but it does happen. When we give out of our need our need is met.

It also brings healing to the receiver. The warm salve of love heals. It binds up broken hearts. It creates a soft place to fall. It restores and nurtures and blesses.

The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love – love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.

1 Tim 1:8 The Message

Charity invites healing to all involved. When we prefer one another, “thinking favorably” about our fellow man, the door is opened to restoration. Allow God’s love to flow to another person through your actions and through your deeds. Love without strings shows others that we belong to Him and points others to Him.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Col. 3:14b, 15a NIV

Benediction

BENEDIC’TION, n. [L. benedictio, from bene, well, and dictio, speaking. See Boon and Diction.]

1. The act of blessing; a giving praise to God or rendering thanks for his favors; a blessing pronounced; hence grace before and after meals.

Webster’s 1828

Many people offer thanks before eating. That’s common enough. But Webster suggests something more in his definition. Something more beautiful even than a prayer of blessing.

Saying Grace after meals? Who does that? I can honestly say I have never heard of doing that until I read Webster’s definition. But it makes sense. Think of the ten lepers that Jesus healed (Luke 17). Only one returned to say thanks. Only one offered his grateful benediction after his provision of healing was supplied.

Am I quick to offer my benediction after my needs are met, or do I just pray a  desperate prayer and then run off like a happy child with an ice cream cone when the moment has passed?

I like to try and write down things that I am thankful for in a notebook so I can recall them later. It’s another opportunity for benediction. For pouring. For quiet communion.

Paul understood this idea of benediction. His letters end with a lovely benediction and encouragement to the believers he is writing:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.  Amen.

Jude 1:24,25

May my life be a continual outpouring of thanksgiving unto my God. My my days end in benediction and peaceful praise, for He is most worthy.

Not ashamed

There isn’t much better reading on the subject of faith in the Bible than Hebrews 11. Known as the “Hall of Faith,” it is a dizzying recitation of people who chose to believe God, even when some of their natural eyes never saw what they were believing for. Do I have that kind of faith? The faith to simply trust God?

God is not ashamed to be called their God.

Heb 11:16b

Wow. God was so moved by their faith that He was proud to be called their God.

I want to be that person, the one who pleases God in that way. I know as a mom I want to be proud to be my child’s mom. God is the same. But the difference between my parenting and God’s is our works don’t make Him happy, our faith does.

Faith is what makes God happy. He said so.

But without faith it is impossible to please him.

Heb 11:6a

Faith, Simply childlike trust in Him is all we need. Not works of the flesh, not perfection. Then He is proud to call Himself our God and I can rest knowing He has the whole world in His hands.

Good things

(Doesn’t that phrase just make you happy?)

Good. Things. Good things.

What are good things and why should we care about them?

Good things, the best things, are things you can touch, like kisses and hugs.

They are things you can’t, like laughter—and tears.

They are things that cost money, like a safe home.

And things that are free, like a smile.

Good things are everywhere and nowhere.

We care about them because they somehow make our lives better. Good things always do.

What are your good things?

On naming the new year

Reading Ann’s post on her yearly ritual challenged and inspired me. I never had thought of doing that before but it makes sense. Naming a year seems to make it more purposeful, more important, more intimate.

So I set out to discover my own word for 2011. Like a child in a wondrous candy store, nose pressed, heated breath fogging the glass, I searched for the perfect word to summarize the focus of 2011. Would I choose something sweet and lemony like Refreshing? Maybe sugary, satisfying Joy instead. Or would I select the licorice root Righteousness? Oh what a wonderful dilemma!

So while I prayerfully considered my choices I reviewed some of the scriptures that have spoken to my heart lately. Then it jumped out at me.

POUR

And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday. Is 58:10

I am poured out to be refilled.

It’s not simply “giving ’til it hurts” or until I am depleted. God doesn’t work that way. He gently and completely pours into us so that we can pour ourselves out again.

It’s such a beautiful thing when it comes full circle. Pouring to be refilled to pour out again. I am going to seek out ways to pour out to my family, my friends, the world, so that their needs might be met. And then getting refilled becomes the sweetest treat of all.

Prayer grotto a la home

Christians in South Korea have the benefit of going to Prayer Mountain. There they have created small prayer rooms that one can close themselves off to concentrate and pray. You can make a special place in your home for quiet prayer. Even a small corner or under a desk can make a great prayer grotto at home.

Image result for prayer mountain south korea

Find a place in your home that’s not busy. a back corner, closet floor or even below a desk can serve as a quiet spot. If you’d like, put up some scriptures, reminders, small maps or pictures. Put a pillow you can sit on and you’re good to go. Children love secret spaces, so this might be right up your child’s alley. It’s a quiet spot where they can go to be alone and talk to God. Encourage them to take their Bible and prayer journal with them to write down anything God tells them.

Why pray as a family?

With  the busy pace of today’s life why should we take time to pray regularly as a family? There are many reasons.

Unity. People who pray together grow closer.

Teaching. It’s a great opportunity to teach your child (and learn yourself) how to hear from God.

Obedience. We are commanded to “pray without ceasing.”

Altruism. We think of the needs of others and not our own.

Peace. We know we have taken our needs to God and He is taking care of things in His time.

Perspective. We are concerned with what God is doing all over the earth, not just in our own backyard.

Contentment. It brings satisfaction and lessens our need for “stuff” and allows us to just “be.”