Dear Graduate, Advice From Someone Who Cares

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Dear Graduate,

Congratulations! You have reached a very important milestone in your life, and you should be very proud of your accomplishment. Your parents could not be more ecstatic, your grandparents think you are awesome, and even your siblings can not keep from shedding a tear of joy. You, my friend, are a bona fied rock star! And then, you wake up and find yourself on the other side of graduation day with a big ole “welcome to the real world” staring you right in the face. What are you going to do now? You could not wait to get here, and now you are not so sure you are ready to enter into the unknown.

grad1Do not fear. First of all, start by remembering that graduation is a commencement. Commencement means a beginning, a start. There is something beautiful about a new beginning such as spring or a new born babe. Likewise, this commencement of your adult life is also beautiful and fresh. Embrace it! Welcome the many possibilities with open arms, an open heart, and an open Bible. Let the Word of God be the lens through which you view every situation, and the filter through which you wisely discern each decision.

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Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”

Always remember, you are not alone. You have family and friends that want nothing more than to help you succeed. But even more than that, your Father in heaven wants to help you succeed.

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Philippians 4:6

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

So, with all these people who have your back, the question that begs to be asked is, “what constitutes success?” After all, you didn’t work this hard and come this far to settle for mediocrity, right?

1. Is success getting into the best university?

2. Is success keeping a 4.0?

3. Is success earning a college degree?

4. Is success obtaining a prestigious career?

5. Is success becoming famous?

6. Is success amassing a fortune?

The answer is yes and no. I know, I know. This letter is supposed to be helpful and not confuse you even more than you already are. Just hear me out. Most of these things, in and of themselves, are admirable goals to set for yourself. There is nothing wrong with furthering your education, becoming a productive member of society, and planning your financial future. In fact hard work definitely has its reward.

Proverbs 13:4

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
    while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

Being richly supplied is a great reason to work hard, but let me encourage you to concentrate your effort on treasure that is incorruptible.

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John 6:27

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

You see true success really has nothing at all to do with numbers 1-6. True success is a home in heaven. True success is eternal life.

Matthew 16:26

 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

You are at the beginning of the rest of your life. Your future requires you to make many choices. Some will be failures and some will be successes. My hope for you is that you will accept nothing less than TRUE SUCCESS, graduate. Why reach for the stars when you can reach so much higher?

capsIn Him,

Shanna

 

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Unit Studies: Delight Directed Learning

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 I am so pleased to offer all my homeschool friends the insights of one of my favorite homeschool moms, Vicky. She contributed the following article on unit studies to Life in the Cleft, and I could not be more pleased. I think you will definitely see the great things that can be gained from doing unit studies and will certainly be motivated to try a unit study in your own homeschool.
Shanna

Unit Studies: Delight Directed Learning

Like many Moms in January, I was struggling to get back into the swing of things after a nice restful Christmas break.  I use an Eclectic approach in our homeschool, and enjoy a variety of philosophies and resources in our educational journey.  I was trying to think of doing something different and I began discussing the upcoming Olympics with a friend of mine, Kim, who homeschools her four children.  We brainstormed the idea of teaching our kids together for a day to get them motivated and interested in doing the Unit Study.  We divided up tasks like buying supplies, printing resources, and locating books.  It was just the push I needed to whet my appetite for planning school activities again after a long break in our routine.  What a perfect opportunity we had as homeschoolers to dive into current events and learn more about such a major historical event as the Olympics since we had the flexibility to spend more time on certain subjects.My friend Kim recommended Amanda Bennett unit studies (and I had heard other moms recommend her units as well).  As soon as I perused her site I knew I had found a goldmine and couldn’t wait to download the Olympic Unit.  It was like Amanda did all the work for me to be “that Mom” that spent hours pulling resources from a variety of places in order to integrate all subjects for one thorough Unit Study.  This wasn’t just “fluff” that you find on Pinterest where you do a few craft projects with your kids on The Olympics, read a book or two, and say “That was fun!”  This was purposeful learning that addressed different types of learners as well as gave room for challenge work.  Amanda Bennett Unit Studies are offered in one and four week units.  The Olympic Unit was a four week study.  We started a few weeks before Opening Ceremonies and planned to finish as the Olympics finished.  Due to many different circumstances, we ended up only doing three weeks of the Unit.  If I were to do another Unit Study from this resource, I would choose the one week option.  Four weeks was just a little long for us, but that’s our family’s experience. The Amanda Bennett Unit Studies are lessons organized by Week 1/Day 1, Week 1/Day 2, etc. until the end of the fourth week.   I especially admired that each day began with a Bible verse or inspirational quote to go along with the day’s theme.  This verse or quote was copy work for the kids.  Then each daily lesson plan offered child-friendly videos/sites to enhance the study (everything from videos of the beautiful geography of Russia, footage explaining the science behind the sports, athletes and their personal stories, tourist attractions, and many more).  Each day’s lesson also offered hands-on activities, vocabulary work, comprehension work, reflection opportunities, geography practice, and biographies to name a few.

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Here’s a brief timeline of events in our Unit Study:
*We checked out books from the library about Russia and gathered general facts about the country.
*We read more about the origin of the Olympics as my son is obsessed with Greek Mythology and Greece in general.
*We posted new maps of the world and began looking at the various countries that would be participating in the Winter Olympics
*We made a Unit Study journal by decorating a spiral notebook with many different flag stickers ( I found these at a local party supply store, Horner Novelty ).  This would house all our copywork, free writing, questions, research, etc.
*We began our very first day of the Unit at our friends’ home so we could decorate our journals together and do the Day One activities as a group to build excitement.
*We worked on our own in our homes throughout the unit but met two more times to “do school” together and share projects.
*We watched Opening Ceremonies together and had an Olympic kick-off party

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Other resources I found helpful besides the Amanda Bennett Unit Study:
*printouts from Enchanted Learning.com
*free Lapbooks and pages from various sites on Ancient Greece, The Olympics and Russia
*Oil Pastels Art Olympic study from HodgePodge
*Pinterest boards on similar Unit Studies

Here are some things I learned as I went through the Unit Study adventure with my kiddos:
1.  Sometimes God whispers……”Try something different.”  

Like I said, I have been eclectic in my schooling, but right after Christmas it was such a crazy time. We were relying on the textbooks and a pretty boring routine as we came off of the family time-mania and needed some structure.  I remember shortly before starting the Olympic Unit my daughter Grace had been working in her English textbook and the skill was Dictionary guide words.  I was just expecting her to “check off the list” and complete her workbook pages in the rush of our schooling.  She hated guide words.  Then we begin our Unit Study.  Each day it had important vocabulary related to the lesson.  So our challenge was to look up those words, write their definition and discuss which meaning best fit the context of the Olympics.  Suddenly, she had a new reason for her guide word practice and it was an exciting challenge and not a workbook page.  All kids crave meaning in their school tasks and here it was…..let’s locate the page for perseverance, torch, gravity, muscle, and other words we will be using frequently as we read and write about the Olympics.  I think of this verse as I witnessed my daughter enjoying her “skill work”:  Ecclesiastes 9:10 reads

“Whatever your hand find to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”

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2.  This world is bigger than your school room.  

It’s easy to fall into your own four walls, your own co-op groups, and your own homeschool day.  However, as we took a detour from the norm and dived into the Olympic Unit, it provided us some time to look at God’s big beautiful world and appreciate different cultures, customs, languages, flags, talents, etc.  As we journeyed around the globe and located different places we read about it was nice to discuss God’s hand in nature and proof of His Creation.  Psalms 87:1 reads

“His foundation is in the holy mountains.”

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3.  Feel like you’ve been slacking in a certain area in your homeschool?  Try a Unit Study!  

If you dive into a Unit Study, chances are you will be amazed at how many subject areas you cover without even trying.  I had been slacking in Geography and Science.  What an amazing thing that the very things I had been feeling low about were the very two things that really poured into my kids’ minds as we went through the Unit Study.  I really don’t think that was a coincidence!  I think it was the perfect reminder I needed that learning can be fun, resources are endless, and sometimes it’s nice to draw conclusions in new ways aside from your chosen curriculum.  Just at the time I was really feeling inadequate ( I mean every homeschool Mom has time to address EVERY subject in their homeschool but me of course ) I got an injection of joy by seeing my kids work really hard in areas I felt I had failed them…and they were doing it with excitement not dread!  Map work and health/science were easily addressed through the Unit Study.  We spent time learning about the heart, the muscles, gravity, wind, snow, and many other pertinent topics to the Winter Olympics.  So my worry turned to “Hey!  we are learning a LOT!”

 Proverbs 16:3 states

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

 Beginning each day with a prayer and a verse to focus on was key during our Unit Study.

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4.  Homeschooling is a fantastic journey and even a bigger blessing when shared!

I thoroughly enjoyed teaming with my friend Kim several times during this unit.  We combined our interests and talents so our kids could share many educational moments!  We cooperated with resources, craft projects, snacks, physical activities and general lesson ideas to bring the Winter Olympics to life in our homes.  It was so nice to have another teacher around and we bounced off each other so the kids were receiving twice the help!  One day when Kim and her children came to visit us she brought Tootsie Rolls for everyone.  Why you ask?  Well Tootsie Rolls were first manufactured in 1896.  This just happens to be the same year the first Modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece.  Of course our kids made the connection and it was a pleasant surprise to have another Mom treat my kids to new facts and treats. They will never forget that!  The same day Kim brought white T-shirts so the kids could decorate Olympic Ring shirts for our Opening Ceremony party.  Another day she created a Olympic Bingo for our kids to do together and gave medals to the winners.   As Moms we sometimes feel like we have to think of everything on our own.  We don’t.  God gave us friends to support us on our homeschooling journey for a reason!  I am extremely grateful He provides me with friends who encourage, support, and pray for me in my homeschooling journey!  Kim is my sister in Christ and it’s a blessing to know God gives me who I need for this journey!

 Proverbs 19:20 states

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”  Isn’t it a comfort to know we can call upon friends to help in our motherhood?

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5.  Doing a Unit Study helped us work as a team and make time for delight-directed learning.

As my children worked daily in their studies, they developed a new sense of pride in researching and writing about what they learned.  It became more than just watching a video about an ice-skater or bob-sled team.  They wanted to know more, they wanted to read more, and they were excited to write about the athletes they met.  In our own corner of the world in cold and snowy February we were motivated by men and women who shared their life aspirations and dreams with us.  Similarly we as homeschool moms needs motivation now and then and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my kids light up as they would tell Dad their new-found facts, figures, and amazing stories they had discovered that day.  One of my favorite quotes from Olympian Wilma Rudolph: “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose.  Nobody goes undefeated all the time.  If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”  I remember one day the Unit Study suggested writing an acrostic with our names about ourselves and our talents. My kids beamed with their poems.  It’s great to be able to spend time developing relationships and building confidence as we homeschool.  As we continued through the dreary February I was reminded,

“And let us not be weary in well doing,

for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”  Galatians 6:9.

I will definitely explore future Unit Studies from Amanda Bennett as well as collaborate with other Homeschool Moms and Homeschool bloggers to bring Unit Studies into our year.  The experience was a blessed one!

vickyVicky Adkins Yocum

I am a SAHM and am in my first year of homeschooling! I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree as a Reading Specialist I am a previous public school teacher. I have been married for almost thirteen years and have a daughter and a son. I love teaching Bible class, all things Disney, family get togethers, musicals and traveling.

Dear Homeschool Mom, You Deserve an A+

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Dear Homeschool Mom,

Has it been “one of those days” AGAIN today? Have you decided to throw in the towel or at least planned a solid escape route to go hide in the bathroom? Have you felt isolated, alone, and completely out of control? Do you feel like every decision you have made from hand picking curriculum to choosing to homeschool in the first place has been a mistake? Do you feel ill equipped, inadequate, and like a complete failure? If you had to give yourself a report card would you be in danger of not being promoted?

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Stop right there! Before you answer any of these questions, let me tell you why I believe, despite all these roadblocks, that you deserve a big A+!

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1. You trust God’s plan for you as a wife and mother

Titus 2:3-5

“the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

By choosing to be a homemaker, loving your husband and children, and being a “teacher of good things”, you are fulfilling the role God desires for you to fill. In so doing, His word is not blasphemed but exalted.

Homeschool mom, how can you be failing when you are trying your best to be what the Father would have you to be?

2. You esteem the needs of children higher than your own needs

Let’s face it. Homeschooling is a very SELFLESS act. It requires much denial of self and much giving to others, namely your children.

Philippians 2:3

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

Homeschool mom, how can you be failing when you are placing the physical, educational, emotional, and most of all spiritual needs of your family above any selfish desires you may have for yourself?

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3. You know and can meet your children’s needs better than anyone

You carried your children in your womb, nurtured them from day one, and know everything about them. Why at age five should you all of a sudden relinquish your role of molder and care giver to someone who more than likely is a complete stranger? You have rejected this option for your child. You have chosen to continue in that role of nurturer and teacher even if it gets difficult, scary, and downright unenjoyable at times.

Isaiah 49:15

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

Homeschool mom, how can you be a failure when you have chosen to remember the needs of your children and show them compassion?

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4. You are a blessing to your family

You completely understand the brevity of your time with your children.

James 4:14

“whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

It starts from the day you bring them home from the hospital. They grow so fast. They transform right before your very eyes. You have chosen not to miss a minute of that transformation: good, bad, and ugly. Because of this decision you are a blessing to your family. You are going to have the opportunity to help mold these precious gifts into what God would have them be, and in the process instill in them the most important goal in life. No, that goal is not being a genius, a musical prodigy, or getting accepted into Harvard. You are getting your family one step closer to spending eternity together with the Father and His Son. It DOES NOT go unnoticed.

Proverbs 31:28

“Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her”

Homeschool mom, how can you be a failure when your children call you blessed and your husband praises you?kids2

So there you have it homeschool mom. Even the worst days are working for good toward the most important objective of getting to heaven. You are aiming your quiver full of arrows towards the bulls eye with a prayerful heart and an iron will. Will you always be 100% accurate? No, we all have bad days. You know, the kind that make us want to lay our quiver aside; days we feel like complete failures that couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn. We even have days we use that escape route to cry in the bathroom. We are not alone in this journey. We have one that lifts our heads when all we can do is bow them low.

Homeschool mom, how can you be a failure when you are leaning on the ONE that never fails?

In Him,

Shanna

 

 

Studying God’s Word at Home: Growing Up in God’s Word

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(Disclaimer: I received this curriculum free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Whether you homeschool or not, as parents, the MOST important task with which we are charged is to instill the word of God into our children’s hearts. It is not an option. It is not something we can hand off to someone else. It is a command, and should be treated as such.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9

 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

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Many times it can be extremely difficult to find non-denominational Bible study material that is age appropriate or unfilled with doctrinal fallacies. So, when I was given the opportunity to review a new curriculum written and published by members of the Lord’s church, I JUMPED at the chance! To say I was excited would be a huge understatement. Pryor Convictions Media’s Growing Up in God’s Word is a breath of fresh air. It is written by Heather Pryor who has been a Sunday school teacher for over twenty years and a homeschool mom for eighteen. Experience is a great teacher, and it is evident throughout this curriculum that Mrs. Pryor has learned a very effective way to teach the scriptures to children.

I was given the choice of several titles:

Genesis

Exodus

Life of Christ, Part 1

Life of Christ, Part 2

Acts, Part 1

Although they all sounded fabulous, it was an easy choice. My son just put on Christ in baptism a few months ago and became a New Testament Christian. I decided that a study of the early church would be timely, and what better way to study this than to delve into the first part of Acts?

Acts_part_1_coverI was not disappointed when I received the curriculum and saw just how thorough it was. In fact, I knew I had “struck Bible study gold” after reading the introduction page. Heather encourages teachers to be excited about studying God’s word, to not be afraid if you don’t have all the answers, and my favorite advise by far, to NOT “dumb down” the Bible for your children. This was music to my ears, and I immediately knew this was going to be a fantastic study with my son that was well worth our time.

As a homeschool mom of the past thirteen years, I have gone through my fair share of curriculums. What makes or breaks a curriculum in my mind is it’s ease of use. Acts Part 1 is VERY user friendly. It is laid out in way that would be very difficult to misunderstand. There is even a suggested schedule. The beauty of it all is this. It is a suggestion, and this curriculum can be easily adjusted to meet your needs.

If I had to choose my favorite thing about Growing Up in God’s Word, and I have many, it would have to be the fact that it goes straight to the source, the Bible. While this may seem like a huge or difficult task for younger children, Heather takes the “eat an elephant one bite at a time” approach and it really works. After reading several verses, you take to time to make sure the student understands the text, ask questions, and allow the student to expound on what they have read. This method is extremely effective and sets the stage for your child to become a true student of the Word. It actually teaches them HOW to study which in my opinion is something that even many adults struggle with.

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The enrichment work in Growing Up in God’s Word is just the cherry on top.

Putting Down Roots: Memory Work

Farther Afield: Map work

Harvest Fun: Games and Activities

Food For Thought: Puzzles

Fruits of Our Labor: Crafts

All of these just further plant the word of God deeply into your child’s heart and develop stabilizing roots so they shall “not be moved”. My child, and I’m sure yours will, too, especially LOVES the Fruit of Our Labor. It is an excellent way to put that positive connotation on Bible study. We really enjoyed making “tongues of fire” cupcakes.

PicMonkey Collage4I highly recommend to all my homeschooling and non-homeschooling friends to check out Growing up in God’s Word and all the other resources available at Pryor Convictions Media. It a great resource for the church and a great blessing to parents hoping to help their children grow up in God’s Word.

Shanna

 

Two (Three, Four, Five….) Are Better Than One

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We just spent the day doing what is, and has been for the past ten years, the highlight of our week. What, you might ask, would that be? After all, you are a homeschooling family. Did you wear your fancy P.J.s and have school on the good placemats at the kitchen table? NO! We spent our afternoon with our PAJCH family. “What is a PAJCH?” you say. Well, according to my children it is the best group of friends anyone could ever ask for. However, according to the legal documents, it is the Putnam and Jackson County Homeschoolers, INC. It is not just a “homeschool group”. It has become so, so much more. (note the usage of the word FAMILY)

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You may be where I was many years ago on this whole “homeschool group” debate. You may be of the mindset that homeschooling is just that, schooling AT HOME. You see, it took a very good friend to help me realize that I DID need to be a part of a homechool group.

By nature, I am anti-social, so being at home ALONE with my children played a huge role in the decission making process to leave the teaching profession and focus on family. I was just as content as could be to stay at home the first few years of our homeschooling journey. I guess if I had a theme song at that time it would have been, “I Shall Not Be Moved.” Against my better judgement, I decided to “sacrifice my comfort” because obviously, my friend really needed this socialization. Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

We need each other!

“Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Eccles. 4:9-12

This truly conveys the value of a friend. In PAJCH, we work together, play together, laugh together, and cry together. My children and I have made friends that are closer than a brother or sister. We meet once a week to recharge our batteries with people who really get “who” we are because they ARE “who” we are. The strength of that threefold cord is comforting and reassuring on many fronts.

We Help each other!

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

Sometimes, we just need help. If we isolate ourselves, this help isn’t always readily available. I have been amazed at the diversity of gifts that are available to be drawn upon in our group. Where I am weak, someone else is strong, and vice versa. I never have to live in fear of not reaching my homeschooling goals because I have friends at arm’s reach that can meet my needs and help me overcome my shortcomings. We also see this willingness to assist and aid among the children. The older children mentor and teach the younger children, and the younger children have role models that they adore. Now, that is my idea of no child left behind!

We Love Each Other!

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

In PAJCH, you never have to wonder about how we feel about one another. It is evident very quickly, we LOVE one another. My father in law compares the relationships to his days in the one room schoolhouse. We are more than assosiates. We are family, and families love one another.

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I guess by now you have realized who was the better friend. (hint: It WASN’T me!) My friend could see what I could not see at the time. We need to be surrounded by people who love us and are always willing to help. Am I blessed, or what? Surround yourself with these kind of people. I can promise you, you WILL NOT be sorry!

Happy homeschooling!

Shanna

It’s Halftime and We’re Going to Win!

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Do you ever get that deep down, almost in the marrow of your bones, feeling of dread? I mean dread so real that you are all but certain that others around you can see it flashing neon sign style right across the center of your forehead. This dread always seems to creep into my psyche pretty strongly as Christmas break dwindles away. It encompasses my thoughts as that Monday of all Mondays, you know the first day back to the routine, is looming large and mocking the serenity of restful days. I begin to mourn the ending of the anticipation of the holidays, cozy days spent at home just having fun, and to be quite honest, school free days. As a huge fan of football, I tend to think of this midway point of our school year as halftime in the big game. Halftime is as crucial to the game as each of the four quarters. It is a time for rest which is sorely needed after devoting a good four or five months to our children’s education. It is a time to recharge our batteries and rejuvenate our excitement for this homeschooling journey we fell so madly in love with in the beginning. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a good pep talk as motivation to keep on keeping on. It is a time to reflect on what we have accomplished so far and analyze our strengths and weaknesses. So many times in the game, halftime adjustments make the difference between failure and success. It is probably most importantly a time to look ahead with the vision of a seasoned quarterback and see the entire field of possibilities for the remainder of our school year. If we can just remember the reason we chose this lifestyle, then that dread is quickly overshadowed by the joys and blessings that are afforded to our family via homeschooling. My prayer for my family and yours is that we never lose sight of the ultimate prize, and that God will continue to bless us all.

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:14

Happy half time!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shanna