Day 5 - Rely on the Simple and Uncomplicated

Day 5 - Rely on the Simple and Uncomplicated

Rely on the simple and uncomplicated. Do what suits your family best. You know all of those absolutely jaw-dropping buffet spreads and fresh pine swags and elaborate gift wrapping designed specifically for each member of your family, including the goldfish? Skip 'em. Unless you just love to put on the spread and the decor, do what your family loves and will enjoy. Everything else elicits the opposite of easy Advent ideas that don't overwhelm. 

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Day 2 - Find a Church. . .

Day 2 - Find a Church. . .

Find a church that has a Christmas Eve service or other Advent services and events. You don't need to own an Advent wreath and candles if your own church lights and celebrates every week leading up to Christmas. Just make very good use of the time you spend together and that shouldn't be overwhelming at all, even if the kids can't remember which Advent Sunday it is by the time you hit the church parking lot. This isn't a homeschooling subject! Enjoy the experience.

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5 Days of Easy Advent Ideas That Won't Overwhelm

5 Days of Easy Advent Ideas That Won't Overwhelm

Do you feel it, too? That unmistakable pressure to do, be, and go at Christmastime? What if we could just all take it down a notch and listen, quietly, to what God is saying and showing us this year?

What if we could choose a few simple, purposeful activities that are easy and not overwhelming, but that bring a sense of wonder and focus to our Christmas celebrations this year? 

That's the goal this week as I publish each post in our short series. For our family, Christmas can come and go in a fretful blur and leave us exhausted and also empty, when we should be feeling filled up with the realization that this is the gospel! Here He is, the Word become flesh! 

I'm going to go out on a limb here - I'm certain God did not design our feasts and celebrations to be overwhelming and leave us feeling totally spent. I'm certain His heart is for us to feel more by doing less. More of Him, less of us. More Christ in me, less me trying to do my Christmas thing.

How about it? Ready for 5 days of Advent ideas that enhance and don't exhaust?


We're not doing this series alone. Join all of our blogging friends at the iHomeschool Network for a week of excellent 5 Days of Christmas posts. Click the link right here to be taken to a whole list of what everyone is writing about over there!


Sex Talk for Parents, Couples, Teens, and the Rest of Us

We've spent a significant amount of time and energy around here on the topic of sex, sex education, and talking to our kids about sex. This week's episode features author and speaker Sheila Gregoire as we discuss the purity culture, the homeschooling movement, and how the messages we're sending our kids reach far into adulthood, for better or for worse.

We thought it was time for a big sex round-up post, giving you all the resources you might need in one convenient place. Our heart is to give you solid tools and leave you encouraged and prepared to dive into the more complicated conversations with your spouse, your kids, or the people you minister to.

Not seeing the post round-up in your email? Click through the post image above!

Affiliate links included



Audiobooks That Parents and Kids Can Enjoy Together

Let's be honest. Some audiobooks that kids love to listen to can be the most insipid and annoying stories we adults have ever heard (or forgotten, as it were). Are there audiobooks that can truly be enjoyed by both adults and children?

Yes, of course! We've put in a good 23 years of audiobook listening with our kids so far, and we thought it was time to share our favorites with you. We happily still have 10 weeks of summer left here in the western hemisphere, so crank up the audiobooks and pour the lemonade!

Conversely, if you're reading this in the winter, light a fire and pop the corn!

These are affiliate links below (thanks!) but we often find what we love to listen to from free sites like HooplaDigital and Librivox.

Audiobooks to Enjoy With the Youngest (Ages 3-6)

(This list does not include shorter picture books.)

Riki Tiki Tavi

When We Were Very Young

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

James Herriot's Treasury for Children

Winnie the Pooh

Audiobooks to Enjoy With Tweens and Middle Kids (7-12)

Just So Stories

Hank the Cowdog

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

All the Wrong Questions series - Lemony Snicket

The Chronicles of Narnia

Swallows and Amazons

Adam of the Road

The Adventure Collection: Treasure Island, The Jungle Book, Gulliver's Travels, White Fang, The Merry Adventures of Robin

The Ralph S. Mouse Audio Collection

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Wonder

There are plenty of classics and options for older kids that are enjoyed by both both parents and teens. We're choosing not to create a list here in the interest of time, but are happy to help with specific suggestions.


Teens, Tweens, Toddlers - How to Manage Multiple Ages and Homeschooling

It seems like a lifetime ago, but when we started homeschooling, our oldest son was four. We also had a two-year-old and a newborn, and as life went on, we added another baby about every other year or so. Pretty soon we had a big group of eight kids from 15 down to the baby, and I felt like I was drowning every day.

I have learned and implemented a lot of management techniques over the years.

Sometimes the things I try work and other times I have to scrap the whole shebang just an hour or two into it. Quite honestly, my current frustration is teens who see the systems, know the systems, and ignore the systems. Systems, it seems, aren't the stuff of which relationships are made.

I'm not so good at relationships. I'm very good at projects. For all the homeschooling moms out there who love to while away the afternoon with a cup of coffee and a long conversation on the couch, I'm the homeschooling mom who would rather organize paperwork and cook dinner. I'm the one to whom administration and organization come naturally. I'm the one who is socially inept most of the time, so if you want to throw a party, I'll get it all up and running for you. Just don't ask me to host. Ha!

I'm working on the relationship part, and I love reading books by homeschooling moms who are relationship rock stars.

Are you needing help knowing how to not drown while homeschooling?

 

 

How to not go completely under? I can do that. In fact, I have a whole site dedicated to helping you figure out how to homeschool older kids well while managing little ones, too. It's called Preschoolers and Peace, and it's been around a long, long time.

Help is here!

I also have two eBooks that might come in handy, particularly if you want to cut to the chase and not have to poke around the site for the info you need. The first is called Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling Older Kids With Success While Loving the Little Ones at Your Feet (affiliate link), and it covers everything from home management to kid management to schedules to food to school ideas.

The other is Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Day (affiliate link). I was struggling getting to all of the subjects we wanted to cover, such as Scripture memory, art, writing letters, etc., and so I implemented a group time around our kitchen table that includes all the kids. It's been the anchor to our homeschool for the past 15 years!

Here's to thriving in our homes!

-Kendra, who is off to focus on some relationships here . . .


What Can a Kid Do With Their Free Time?

Are you asked by your kids, "What can I do?" on a continuous loop? Our standard answer is, "Honey, it's not my job to entertain you, so you need to look around our great big house and find something to do."  Actually, Kendra just says, "I'm not your cruise director." They don't always like that response, but when we tell them that they could go memorize a poem, they seem to suddenly be able to come up with something to do on their own. Parents for the win.

Just to help our kids out, we printed and posted the following list. If you want a copy for yourself, feel free to download it below.

What Can I Do With My Free Time?

· Ask older siblings or grandparents if they have jobs you can do 

· Practice your instrument

· Practice your sport or dance

· Read

· Swim laps to improve strokes (breast, back, freestyle- 10 laps per stroke)

· Run 10 laps around the front circle, increasing to 20 by a certain date (you choose)

· Work on the keyboarding program 

· Write a letter on the following rotation-

  1. Grandparent

  2. Friend in a faraway place

  3. Aunts and Uncles

  4. Cousins

  5. Our president, congressmen, senators, governor

· Do a craft

· Do a puzzle

· Origami

· Carve wood

· Work on your nature notebook

· Organize a cupboard (ask Mom)

· Memorize Scripture

· Draw 

· Drawing class video

· Ballet class video

· Jump on the trampoline

· Ride bikes

· Skateboard

· Roller skate

· Sidewalk chalk

· Play a board game

· Research a subject you’ve wanted to learn more about and begin a notebook page on it

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THE LIST!



9-Year-Old Boys and Homeschooling and Moms

I have an almost-9-year-old boy. I've raised three of these creatures prior to the current one, and as he pulls his typical 9-year-old antics, I remind his disgusted/annoyed/frustrated older sisters that this is perfectly normal. 9-year-old boys are disgusting/annoying/frustrating.

Case in point:

Big sister said, "Take those out of your ears or you'll ruin them."

He replied, "That's the point."

I am confident that his goal was not to actually ruin the pencil or his ears, but as soon as sister made a comment, he felt the need to put her in her place and communicate that he is above the need to worry about a mere pencil/eraser/ear drum.

Also, get aload of these fingernails:

Gross.

But most of us moms-of-9-year-old boys can look past the smell and the muddy shoes and the constant activity. Most of us see a future right around the corner that all too soon includes careful clothing selections and Axe Body Spray. No hurry.

What we struggle with as homeschooling moms of 9-year-old boys is some variation of this:

Hiding under the bean bag because, math. Poor kid. I asked him to do his two pages of math and it was surely a sign to him of the coming apocalypse. 

I'm sure the big question here for those of you moms who are currently homeschooling a 9-year-old boy is, "So what do I do when he collapses on the floor because I dared to present him with school work?"

A few tricks that have worked for me:

  • Turn on some motivating music. The day of the pencil-in-the-ear, we listened to the Star Wars playlist from Apple Music.
     
  • Give work in short bursts, followed by activity or "brain breaks". Favorites here are jumping jacks, sprinting up and down the stairs, running laps around the yard, and getting to use the bathroom. Just kidding. But no, really.
     
  • Liberally use the stop watch on your phone. My boys in those middle ages love to be timed, whether it's a math workbook page or emptying the dryer.
Homeschooled Boys: Why Apple made a stopwatch on every iPhone.

Homeschooled Boys: Why Apple made a stopwatch on every iPhone.

  • Allow food. A bowl of peanuts, a handful of carrot sticks, and yes, even that gum you and I were never allowed in school. I get it - they wanted to preserve their flooring - but in our home, gum often allows a student to focus on the task, much like doodling or knitting or coloring helps us adults to focus on a speaker or podcast. 
     
  • Remind them that you are their teacher, and as such, they do need to get their school work done. But when they've finished, let 'em go! Give them the freedom to play/exercise/read/whatever.

Need more good resources all about boys?

Did you know that other parents struggle with the 9-12-year-old boy group, too? Our friends Hal and Melanie Young over at Raising Real Men have a whole "boot camp" (encouragement/major cryfest/boost) just for parents tackling this stage of life.


You can get FULL ACCESS to bonus interviews, exclusive content, and cool free stuff by joining theHomeschoolingIRL community, and you can do that by subscribing (and telling your friends about us, too!)

The Lifegiving Home

This post contains affiliate links.

We generally don't talk a lot about homemaking on our episodes of Homeschooling in Real Life, but we do mention family culture and we certainly talk a lot about creating a home that makes kids feel safe to live transparently. We definitely do talk a lot about pointing each other to Jesus, too, don't we? 

Sally Clarkson was one of the first homeschooling moms I (Kendra) listened to and read almost 20 years ago when we started homeschooling. She was an encourager, a passionate lover of Jesus, and a gentle voice who reassured me in my dark moments. In particular, I remember a story she told in one of her early books about being frustrated with her kids as she heard them goofing off down the hall, until she discovered that they were actually oohing and aahing over their baby sister. That was confirmation my Type-A self needed to hear.

Sally's the big sister I never had. She might be the mentor you are yearning for, too.

Right now in the Fletcher home, a thousand plates are spinning and threatening to crash at the slightest provocation. My heart is desirous of creating a home that doesn't feel like a freeway collision, but my flesh is weak, friends. When Sally's book, The Lifegiving Home, arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I knew this was the right time to read it. I read what I need.

The Pinterest pressure is off, though. I was leery of that, you know. I don't need another idea screaming at me in the face and revealing what I loser I feel like. I'm pretty good at doing that myself. So then, this, which Sally and her daughter Sarah wrote together:

"We want to show women (and men, if they're interested) how to create a space that supports vibrant, productive living and supports growth of body, soul, and spirit."

Yes. Me, too! I want to create a home that is all of those things. A place that feels like a refuge rather than what I currently feel: the place where all my work is and that I can never escape all the work. And maybe, if I create a place of rest and refuge and beauty for Fletch and me, all of that will spill over onto our kids and seep into our souls, don't you think?

I'm still reading The Lifegiving Home, so I can't tell you how this story ends. But I can tell you that it's a lovely winter read, perfect for the days I'm anxiously awaiting the almond blossoms next door and a warmer breeze and flip flops every day. 

One more thing? Don't try to be Sally. Don't try to be us. Just be you. God created your home to be a place that reflects the unique ways He has gifted you, and that's a beautiful truth.

Nothing is required for the making of a home except a heart that loves God, an imagination fired by His Spirit, and hands ready to create.
— Sally Clarkson

More from Sally Clarkson:


Grace and Gumballs - How the Gospel Informs Parenting

Last Friday wasn't an unusual day except for the fact that my normally always-complaining child amped up his complaining to legendary heights.

We started the day with a tennis lesson, which is fun and active and led by a coach who knows how to get kids playing quickly and well. It was sunny outside and the courts were dry. Really, what was there to complain about?

He found it. It was too cold/tennis balls were too slow/his arm hurt/the sun was in his eyes/he just wanted to be home playing Legos and by the way, why aren't we home playing Legos???

Coupled with the complaining was rudeness directed at our coach, which earned him a couple of laps around the court during the lesson. By the time we got into the car, I was having to talk myself down from the angry parental lecture ledge, knowing his heart was not in a place to hear me anyway.

There's always a struggle with the Dark Side, isn't there?

There's always a struggle with the Dark Side, isn't there?

We drove across the busy road to the grocery store, and as I parked I gave him and his sister typical mom instructions: "I'm just running in for a few things. Do not ask me for anything while we're in the store. Just a few things. Got it?"

I bet you can guess what my complainer did next. I'm pretty sure we hadn't even passed the gumball machines before he was begging me for a quarter for the gumball machines. I was seriously going to lose it with this kid, but I took the high ground and kept quiet. I prayed and asked God to help me not lose my cool. 

Having grabbed the few items I needed, I gave complaining boy and his sister permission to head over to the gumball machines while I checked out. Nice of me, wasn't it? Apparently not. My discontented offspring grumbled all the way to the row of machines-that-dispense-junk, adding a few "I wish I had a quarter" statements in for good measure. 

As we left the store to head to the parking lot, the discontent one excitedly informed me that he had turned the mechanisms for each and every machine and, "LOOK!" A shiny green gumball lay in his hand. "I didn't even need a quarter! The machine gave me one for free!"

What kind of a lesson is that? Be an ungrateful grump and get a gumball? I shook my head and wondered what exactly God was doing and then, right there in the middle of that grocery store parking lot, it hit me. I turned to my complainer and I said, 

"Son, you do not deserve that gumball." His face dropped as he contemplated the possibility that I was now going to take the candy away from him. "You have done nothing but complain this morning. You were disrespectful to Coach Weber and you completely disregarded the instructions I gave you as we left the car. But that gumball? It's God's grace in your life.

We are all as discontent and self-focused as you have been today, and that's exactly why we all need Jesus. Do you see? Jesus didn't give us what we deserved. He gave us the gift of forgiveness and life and grace. He gave us the gumball when we deserved to sit out and stew in our sin.

When you are ever tempted to think that you are the center of the world, remember the gumball. You've been given forgiveness for your sin and a gumball of grace and eternal life on top of it."

It didn't take an angry mom lecture to turn the heart of my complainer that day. I always thought it would. I spent two decades of parenting thinking that if I pounded my kids with the law, they would straighten up and do what I and God wanted them to do. But that's not the way it works! It's the gospel - the good news - the hope of Christ, the totally upending truth of what He did for us - that grabs our hearts and squeezes them tightly and turns our heads toward Him.

I saw it clearly in my son. His eyes widened, his shoulders relaxed, and his need for so many things he thought might make him happy that particular morning slipped away in the blinding light of grace and mercy. 

Is it a formula? Nope. There aren't any. But it's the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is more than enough!


There is more grace in Christ than sin in you.
— Burk Parsons

You can get FULL ACCESS to bonus interviews, exclusive content, and cool free stuff by joining the HomeschoolingIRL community, and you can do that by subscribing (and telling your friends about us, too!)

The Gift of a Journaling Bible: One Grandfather's Legacy of Love

Are you familiar with journaling Bibles? I began seeing them appear on Instagram and thought, "Wow! How lovely! I could never do that . . ."

Many of my artist friends are journaling and drawing as they read and study their Bibles, but I didn't begin to think about how a grandparent or parent could leave a legacy until recently when we were having lunch with friends. Their 12-year-old daughter had just been handed her own copy of the Bible, beautifully illustrated and annotated just for her by her grandfather.

First, he created a personalized list of verses he prays for her:

He wrote all about the hand of God and traced his own hand right on the page:

He illustrated stories and wrote out his prayers for his grandaughter in the margins:

He added personal touches, like an outline of his own foot!

It's a beautiful gift, isn't it? 

I'm past thinking I have to be an artist to leave a legacy of love in a journaling Bible. What matters most is a heart for the gospel and a desire to see it lived out in our children's and grandchildren's lives.

Find your own journaling Bibles (affiliate links)


You can get FULL ACCESS to bonus interviews, exclusive content, and cool free stuff by joining the HomeschoolingIRL community, and you can do that by subscribing (and telling your friends about us, too!)

5 Terrific Christmas Advent Devotionals

This post contains affiliate links.

Looking for a terrific Advent devotional this Christmas? We've mined the best of the best - our family favorites - for you. After 22 years of parenting, we have some definite favorites!

5 Terrific Christmas Advent Devotionals

1.

Starting with the youngest in the family, we love Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Adventure for Little Hands. It's a perfect Advent study for the little ones because each lesson is short and to the point. If you aren't into pulling out all the crafy stuff, you can also get the printables. Color, cut, and go!

 

 

2.

If you have a heart to get past all the crazy stuff that comes with Christmas and seek Jesus this advent season, then Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles migh be the devotional for you. It begins, centers, and ends on the gospel - the good news - and leaves us breathless with gratitiude and wonder.

 

 

3.

Our hands-down family favorite from year to year is the Jotham's Journey series. Fast-paced, engaging for most ages (from 4-year-old to adult), chalk full of Christmas truth, and tender, each book in the Jotham's Journey series will leave you wishing Christmas was right around the corner again so that you can read the next one!

Jotham's Journey
Bartholomew's Passage
Tabitha's Travels
Ishtar's Odyssey
 

4.

If you want a hands-on approach to a Scriptural study of the Bibilcal account of Christ's birth, we think you'll love Grapevine Studies' Birth of Jesus. Draw your way through all of the events surrounding Christ's birth. Beginning in Nazareth, you will introduce your students to Mary and Joseph as they learn the news that they will be parents to Jesus, the Messiah!

 

 

 

 

5.

If your home is filled with teens or college students, young adults, and you, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas is a book that will help you dive deep into the meaning of the gospel. Compiled from the sermons and writings of Christians such as Timothy Keller, Randy Alcorn, Francis Schaeffer, John Whitfield, and Martin Luther, this is a book that will point you to the one who gives us reason to breathe in the middle of the holiday rush.



You can get FULL ACCESS to bonus interviews, exclusive content, and cool free stuff by joining the HomeschoolingIRL community, and you can do that by subscribing (and telling your friends about us, too!)

What to Do When Courtships Fail

There is one affiliate link in this post.

After last week's episode with author Thomas Umstattd, Jr. - Courtship in Crisis - a listener wrote to tell us about her son's heart-wrenching 3-year courtship that ended in sorrow. For every courtship pitfall Thomas mentioned on our podcast episode and in his book of the same name, our listener confirmed that her son had the exact same experience: a controlling father, jumping through numerous hoops, distrust, accusations, and ultimately, a phone call from the father to "break up" with his daughter's suitor - her son. 

We're protecting our listener's identity, but wanted to share this quote from her email:

"Our observation was that the father really liked being in CONTROL. They couch it in a lot of “biblical” language, so it’s almost like if our son questioned anything, he would be seen as rebellious to his authority, etc. and he would be “out”. He was compelled to to do whatever they said out of the fear of losing someone precious to him.  

There is so much more I could say about the dangers of this system. . ."

She then went on to ask us,

". . . how can we help him through this?  He said to me a few days ago, 'Mom, I don’t know how to get through this.'  He said he thought the whole point of doing things this way (i.e. the “right” way) was to protect you from this kind of hurt.  He just doesn’t understand. He poured so much of himself into this . . . 

I’m so frustrated with it all! He’s such a godly young man. He tried so hard to do things the right way. It is crushing me to watch him hurting so much. I thought maybe if he could talk to some other people, or read some stories of others who have gone through the same thing, it might help him? Would you or your guest be able to point me in some direction?"

It always amazes me how a listener will contact us when I think we have no impact.

First, I am so sorry to hear this story and no matter what I write, I want you to know how truly disappointed I am for your son, and by extension for you as you help him navigate the next step. We are walking a very similar path with a son who had a failed engagement five days before the wedding (and full of sinful behavior). Our son is still rebounding and it has been two years. I remain very critical of this model, so know that my criticism is pointed toward the system and not you or your son.

Yes, this is what the courtship “model” is supposed to avoid, but your son’s story is exactly what we see as the problem. These capable young men (who fail just like all of us) are forced to “engage” the father. When these young men are seen for who they are (real) and they don’t meet the father’s unreasonable expectations, they are shown everything that is wrong with them and then discarded. This is a pile of hooey!

Understand that as a dad with three beautiful daughters in the pipeline (16, 14, 12), I am very concerned about who will come knocking on our door. But we look at any potential relationships in the next few years as opportunities to continue to build relationships with our daughters. These are further chances to disciple our daughters in choices and help them to see the gospel. Obviously, we will share any red flags we see, but inevitably we will be pushing our kids back to Christ and guiding them into gospel-centered choices and helping them make decisions.

What do you do now? I can only share what we have been doing:

First, we are loving our son through this tough time. We want him to know that we love him. We say it. We show it. We display it. We want him to know how much we love him in an earthly way. After the failed wedding, he stiff-armed us. There are times that it has been hard to love him and the choices we’ve seen him make. Perseverance has paid off; he now knows that we love him.

Second, we continue to point our son back to Christ. We remind him nearly every time we are with him that his hope, his security, his acceptance, his value, his worth, and his identity are in Jesus. Here’s the kicker: our son is also stiff-arming his faith. He tells us often that he is not in a place to hear about God’s love. He is a skeptic and very discouraged in the “system” which includes God’s role in his well-being. That has been very hard to see, but God continues to provide opportunities for these conversations to bear fruit. We have faith in his return to trusting God. Again, we love unconditionally through these hard times and bad choices.

Third, we have found that being transparent with one another and with our listeners has helped us to realize that this is not an isolated incident. You and your son are not alone. It’s all over the place. In our circle of friends we have found sin and deception over and over. Even in the “courtship crowd,” we see marriages on the rocks, addiction to porn, and sin abounding. There is no perfect system when we deal with sinners.

Lastly, as we’ve watched this take place, we’ve had to remind each other about the gospel. It’s so hard to watch a smart strong faithful son crash. Again, in our case, we are watching him struggle not only with earthly relationships, but with his faith. My only advice is to remind yourself where your hope and security is founded. Fixate yourself daily on Christ and remind one another of the hope you have in Christ alone!

Fletch


More on Christian courtship in the homeschooling movement:

10 Terrific Family Devotionals

On a recent live hangout we did with Rachael and Davis Carmen of Apologia, Fletch mentioned that he hasn't always been a dad who really gets deep into Scripture with our kids, or who has been consistent with family devotions. I love that he was transparent with this, because there are valid and tangible factors that play into that, as I'm sure there are for a lot of dads who work outside the home.   

Family devotions can and should look different for every family. Your dynamics are different than ours, and God delights in how creative He is with each of us. There's no one-size-fits-all here. 

Keeping that in mind, here are 10 family devotionals that we have loved over the years. Sometimes we read them all together after dinner, sometimes Kendra reads them to the kids after breakfast, and often, not every one of us is around to hear what's being read. God works with that, and we're never left lacking. 

Affiliate links.

The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones - Great for younger kids, The Jesus Storybook Bible puts Jesus at the center of every major Biblical event. The readings are just the right length for sleepy kids who can't grasp a whole lot of depth but who can fully understand that the only real Bible hero is Jesus.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, Sally Lloyd-Jones - Short and easy, these daily devotions by Sally Lloyd-Jones often had me teary. I would take pictures of the text and send them to friends who needed to be reminded of the gospel, and though written for a younger age group, I reminded my junior higher that she could get a lot out of them if she were willing to tune in.

Long Story Short, Marty Machowski - Written for a variety of ages (junior high and down, I think), Long Story Short is also a gospel-centered devotional that will remind us all that Jesus is the redeemer from Genesis to Revelation.

Old Story New, Marty Machowski 

Exploring Grace Together, Jessica Thompson - Jessica Thompson has been a guest on the podcast before, and we love how she reminds us all that as parents, we desperately need redemption, too. Exploring Grace Together is great for a K-6 crowd, and tells stories that mirror the circumstances they may be dealing with themselves.

Grapevine Studies- Draw your way through the Bible using stick figures! Grapevine Studies have been a good all-ages devotional for our family, and everyone has their own style when it comes to illustrating the passages we're reading from.

Practical Happiness: A Young Man’s Guide to a Contented Life, Bob Schultz - Not just for boys, Practical Happiness is an excellent book covering topics that both kids and adults can relate to. We found ourselves in rich discussions after each chapter.

Draw To Learn the Book of Proverbs - The Notgrass Company publishes several books with the title "Draw to Learn . . .", and all of our kids loved these. A verse is presented with instructions on how to illustrate it. Really fun to see each child's creativity.

Grandpa’s Box: Retelling the Biblical Story of Redemption, Starr Meade - Grandpa's Box contains treasures that illustrate Biblical truths. The story and themes kept our elementary kids' attention very well.

A Year With Your Children in the Bible, Jim Cromarty - Now out of print, you can find a used copy for a great price. Spend a year in the Bible with your kids; you won't regret it!


http://grapevinestudies.com/product/biblical-feasts-and-holy-days-studies/

Adventurous Mailbox Review - Give Your Kids a Cultural Adventure!

Oh! How happy kits and things that come in the mail make our children! When the opportunity to review The Adventurous Mailbox came up for us, I jumped at it because I knew this would be something our 11-year-old and 8-year-old would potentially love.

So yes, we were given a subscription to The Adventurous Mailbox for the purpose of reviewing it for you. We were compensated for our time, but we certainly have the freedom to let you know if we think something stinks. In this case, not at all!

An Educational Gift That Arrives in the Mail!

The day the box arrived, our two kiddos were beside themselves with excitement. It was hand-addressed to them, which nicely set the tone for what was in store.

It came from Taiwan (cool!) and was from someone named Crameye Junker - very intriguing. Both kids wanted to immediately set to work, which they did, and they soon found out that Crameye is the the narrator of the story and creator of the workbooks. 

So what's in the box? Eight beautifully illustrated books, each with an adventure through a different country: Finland, Taiwan, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Tanzania, and Peru (there are two books that cover Peru.)

There are also personalized letters to each child you've signed up. This feature scored major cool points with our kids because - hello - a letter, for them, with a secret code that gets them started on their adventure around the world. What's the secret code for? The Adventurous Mailbox online hub! Several characters in the stories have a "blog".  There are also terrific educational resources to learn more about each culture, including how people live and work, what kinds of food they eat, what animals are present in those places, and more.  It's a safe site that we allowed them to explore once we saw how well it is built and monitored. 

Annesley gets her letter

Annesley gets her letter

Christian is into it immediately

Christian is into it immediately

A Cultural Education Right From Home

It's important to us to give our kids a view of the world that is not North-America-centric. We read about what's going on in the rest of the world and host exchange students and take or send our kids to faraway places when we can, but the reality is, we can't afford to do so as often as we'd like.

Short of hopping on an airplane, The Adventurous Mailbox is one of the most engaging approaches to studying world cultures and people that I've ever seen. The box that arrives, the letters addressed to the student, the quality books, and the online hub are all excellent components of a quality curriculum, and I'm just getting warmed up!

This is a screen shot of the area of the site that is just for members. There is so much humor, I actually laughed out loud when we watched an animated pig welcome us to the forums and say, "Please read the rules at the top of the forums before you get started. Don't question my authority just because I am a pig. I'll have you know that in some circles I am a rather important fellow. Plus, I am a talking pig and you have to admit that's kind of cool. So let's just save everyone some time and do what I say." Ha!

There's more: a teacher's lounge where you can find hundreds of lessons, from fill-in-the-blank vocabulary pages (with very funny sentences!) to writing sentences using target vocabulary to fun crossword puzzles. It's integrated and very well done. I've got a coupon code for you below that also gets you the teacher's lounge resources for free!

Exclusive Coupon Code

$10 off the Adventurer Package and ree ccess to the Teacher’s Lounge with coupon code HSadventure - Valid until 06/30/2015.

Adventurer Package ($79 inclusive of shipping)

Teacher’s Lounge ($20) This is an upgrade chosen after the base package is chosen.  

In addition to the Adventurer Package, The Adventurous Mailbox will soon be rolling out E­book versions. Later in 2015, they will also have Series Two ready for purchase. Ultimately, The Adventurous Mailbox will have a total of five series (40 books), all with accompanying lessons. 

Recommended for ages 8-12.


Want to learn more about The Adventurous Mailbox? Find them here:

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Five For Friday: How to Respond to Homeschool Critics

Typically on Five for Friday, we highlight 5 posts related to the topic of our most recent episode, which happens to be Answering Homeschool Critics. But instead of drawing your attention to 5 posts, we think you'll be super happy to read a whole list of posts from the bloggers at the iHomeschool Network.

Covering everything from "How are you qualified to be a teacher?" to "But you went to public school and you turned out fine", the bloggers and homeschoolers at iHomeschool Network have a lot of great experience and wisdom to share. We hope you feel encouraged.

Answering the Homeschool Critics


How to Get Teenagers to Put Their Clothes Away

Sign courtesy of a little sister.

Sign courtesy of a little sister.