Thoughts for Saturday Night

Some days, I don’t get much chance to write things out, and it sometimes seems like they start piling up in my brain, waiting to be put on paper (or computer). Several days this week were that type of day, but by the time I could type, I was tired enough that I was afraid I wouldn’t make much sense. Tonight I wanted to get it all down so I wouldn’t forget.

The thought that has kept my mind busy today is simply this. If God is love (1 John 4:8), does that mean that sin is the absence of love, or acting without love?

If God is love, does that mean that sin is the absence of love?1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails.

Thoughts through the week

Earlier this week I discovered a book of sketches written in the early 1900’s. It’s interesting that sketches used to refer not just to a drawing, but also to short writings that served the same purpose, to draw a quick picture of an area or person. I really want to start writing some of these, putting the sketches of days I remember and the people I have met along the way into writing so that I don’t forget them.

Learning Joy and Vocabulary Building Blocks

One of my goals for this year is to have the boys learn to study together. Since Will is in the 10th grade and J is in the 5th, it’s a bit of a challenge to come up with areas where they need to learn the same thing. Science is one area where both boys can study together since they’re both interested in the same subjects, although Will is pulling away from science somewhat this year and devoting more of his attention to music; but I finally decided that vocabulary would be the area where we cover ways to learn together, something that is sure to help as they pursue higher education in the coming years.

Our vocabulary text is written by Michael Clay Thompson, part of his Word Within The Word series. I was one of his students the first year he returned to teaching high school, my class were some of the guinea pigs for his curriculum, and so I know by my own experience how well it works. Of the classes I had in high school, this is one of the very few that I can point to and say I use what I learned in it extensively. If you are curious what a lesson looks like, I also found this study site which gives the words and definitions along with a few ways to help learn them.

The study pages that I remember from high school (and which are continued in the book that I have) include not just the prefix, suffix, or root, but also include what language the word is from and list several examples of how it is used in everyday vocabulary. Occasionally an example isn’t obvious until you think of the what the word means and then it makes complete sense. For example, “circum” (which is Latin for around) is used in the word “circus.”

Anyone who has talked to me about education very long, knows that one of my ideals is that learning should be fun. As young children, we find joy in learning. I love watching a toddler learn something new. Their smile is full of joy and they clap their hands, excited and encouraged by their newest discovery.

And this continues until the point when we sit them down and say, “Okay, learn this now.” And forced learning is so contrary to our natural inclination, that we freeze up and forget how fun it used to be.

That is, until we find a subject on our own. And then the effort of learning how to learn falls on us again and we discover our lost joy.

I’ve been watching this play out with my older son. We had a guitar because I used to play in college and wanted to relearn. His best friend suggested that Will learn how to play. On his own, he started working out how to learn. He would practice, sound awful, and go back and practice some more. He sought out his own teachers, researched guitars, and found videos that would teach him techniques he wanted to learn. Now, I think he is incredible, especially for someone who hasn’t been playing a year yet. Perhaps I can convince him to record a video so I can share it.

Growing up, one of my favorite books was Cheaper By The Dozen. The father in the book would go into a company and ask for the laziest man in the company – and then watch how he worked. His theory was that the laziest man would use the least steps in order to conserve energy and by breaking down his work habits into steps that everyone could follow, the job could be done faster by all.

What if we applied that same theory to learning? Watch any child. If possible, watch them discover something new that they want to learn. What steps do they take to learning on their own? It is pretty much a guarantee that unless a child has been schooled, learning will not look like a classroom with a textbook and exercises, at least until much further along, when the subject has become more than a passing interest, but a serious intent.

I think that was one of my favorite things about Mr. Thompson’s vocabulary lessons. He broke words down into steps – and in doing so, changed them from something we were required to learn, into something fun. When you learn the building blocks of words, the prefixes, suffixes, and roots, then suddenly instead of a boring vocabulary lesson, you can be a child playing with stackable blocks and coming up with words like pseudoantibambivour (for a definition, read Surreal). Just writing the word, I can still see my class coming up with it, while one of our artists illustrated it on the chalkboard.

This is the fun I want to teach my sons – actually, I want to teach them this about every subject. It’s not about learning for school, it’s learning for the joy in it. LOL As I’m typing, I keep missing the y and typing job – and it just hit me that that’s the difference, that learning can either be a job or a joy. There’s time enough for jobs. Childhood should be a time of joy and wide-eyed wonder. 🙂

I’m Typing, But The Batteries Are Dead

On days when Ken goes in to the office, often I pack 2, 1, or 0 boys up and head out to the bookstore.

When we moved, we left behind a bookstore that was about a mile from our home. Now, if I want to go to the bookstore, I’m looking at a drive of about 20 miles. Thankfully, 4 of those miles are a straight shot from Ken’s office to my favorite hangout. Even better, along the way is a Starbucks, so if we’re super early, we go get a coffee (etc.) at Starbucks and then at 9, when B&N opens, we head over.

Among the many things that I love about homeschooling is that fact that we can do it from pretty much anywhere. As long as we have 2 e-readers, we’re set to travel. All of J’s books are on the Kindle this year, and Will has all but 2 (with 1 more to come later). In fact, yesterday, J – wanting to show me that he was mature enough to do his studying without me needing to supervise, downloaded a 10 minute timer onto his Kindle and proceeded to go through his reading list, all on his own, taking time in between each book to share some commentary with me on what he liked or how interesting the lesson was. (I really can’t brag on the 10 minute lesson plan enough when it turns a boy who would avoid reading whenever possible into an eager student.) The wonderful thing about all of it was that because he got his studying finished, he was ready for an art lesson when Miss Casey arrived with her grinning and waving little one.

Casey is a dear friend who volunteered to teach the boys art and art history this year. Both of my artist hopefuls jumped at the chance, so J was super-excited about the lesson yesterday and the fact that older brother had opted to stay home made it even sweeter, since younger siblings don’t always get special one-on-one lessons.

Marty the Mighty Book DragonHopefully soon I’ll be able to share Casey’s website with you (once the start of school calms down and I can focus on something else), but for now, go check out Lady Sparrowhawk on Facebook and Etsy. Or, if you want something really special, check out her new book on Amazon, Marty the Mighty Book Dragon. J recommends it, “Mom, you have to read Miss Casey’s book, it’s good!”

10 Minute Thoughts

Several years ago when I was writing my social media blog, SU Comments, I started a series of posts called 10 Minute Guides. Each post was about 10 minutes worth of information on using a social media site. Usually there were 5 or 6 guides for a site, but at 10 minutes a day, it didn’t take long to have a good understanding of how the site worked.

So why is it a surprise to me that 10 minutes seems to be a magical number for studying too. My younger son, who is a good reader but sometimes has a hard time explaining what he’s read and so usually prefers an audio book over one that he has to read, is actually enoying reading his books when we set the timer and he can stop after 10 minutes. Perhaps most surprising though (at least to me), is how much is covered in that 10 minutes of reading time. We’re actually ahead of the weekly schedule I’d planned out before school started, but comprehension is significantly increased from last year.

Maybe that’s because 10 minutes allows for real focus, without giving much time for the attention to wander. Just like the 5 or 10 or 15 minute cleaning periods that Flylady suggests, 10 minute reading periods allow time to get done what needs to be done, but are in short enough increments that we don’t dread the work and so, mentally, we’re more prepared to enjoy what we’re doing and thus do it better than if we’d set aside more time per subject.

Basic Daily Homeschool Plan

I’ve written before about how our homeschool this year is a merger of Flylady and Ambleside Online with a bit of our own material added in.

Today, I thought I’d share our Basic Daily Plan.

This is the goal for Monday through Thursday. Fridays are a bit more relaxed, not as much reading, and we review what we’ve learned during the week.


Rise and Shine – Do morning routine, eat breakfast, wash breakfast dishes


Bible study and choose a verse for the day (we use YouVersion and both boys chose one of their offered reading plans). Will is reading Josh McDowell’s youth devotions and J is doing a study of Luke.

Set timer for 10 minutes and study:


  1. Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History
  2. This Country of Ours
  3. Clara Dillingham Pierson’s Complete Among the People Series
  4. Madam How and Lady Why (Yesterday’s Classics)
  5. I Am Joe’s Body
  6. Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 5 (Christian Liberty Nature Readers)


  1. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus
  2. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. 2: The New World
  3. The Voyage of the Armada: The Spanish Story
  4. Christopher Columbus Mariner (Meridian)
  5. Utopia (Dover Thrift Editions)
  6. Everyman and Other Miracle and Morality Plays (Dover Thrift Editions)
  7. The Faerie Queene (Penguin Classics)

Set timer for 5 minutes. This is a race. See who can be the first to find 10 things that aren’t where they belong and put them up.

Set timer for 15 minutes each:

  1. How many sections of Khan Academy – Math can you complete? OR Practice with Times Tales: Times Tables Made Easy!
  2. Quiz each other on vocabulary
  3. McGuffey Reader – practice public speaking
    (J) The new McGuffey fourth reader
    (W) McGuffey’s Fifth Eclectic Reader (McGuffey’s Readers)
  4. Poetry study
  5. (J) McGuffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book (W) Current events research

Set timer for 10 minutes and work on daily Home Blessing item (see list)

Set timer for 5 minutes. See who can pick up & throw away 20 items that need to go into the garbage.

Set timer for 10 minutes each:


  1. Copywork
  2. Home Geography for Primary Grades (Classic Reprint)
  3. Heroes Every Child Should Know (Yesterday’s Classics)
  4. Great Astronomers
  5. Great Inventors And Their Inventions (Yesterday’s Classics)
  6. Rotating list of weekly items


  1. Westward Ho! or, the Voyages and Adventures of Sir Amyas Leigh, Knight, of Burrough, in the County of Devon~ in the Reign of Her Most Glorious Majesty Queen Elizabeth (Scribner’s Illustrated Classics)
  2. A History of English Literature
  3. Ourselves: Our Souls and Bodies (Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series)
  4. How To Read A Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
  5. Study Shakespeare’s Sonnets
  6. Copywork


Set timer for 30 minutes. Clean up lunch dishes, do daily chore.

Set timer for 30 minutes:

  1. Do free reading
  2. Art or nature study, work on journals

Set timer for 10 minutes:

  1. Instrument lesson on Monday, practice instrument the rest of the week
  2. Weekly items
  3. Weekly items
  4. Weekly items
  5. Weekly items
  6. Weekly items


As far as a timeline, this usually looks like this:

Wake at 7, start morning routine.

8:00 – Time to study – first, 15 minutes – 30 minutes for Bible study

8:30-9:40  First set of 10 minute readings

9:40-9:45 Pick-up race

9:45-11:00 15 minute study blocks

11:00-11:10 Home blessing

11:10-11:15 Pick-up race

11:15-12:15 Second set of 10 minute readings

12:15-12:55 Lunch

12:55-1:00 Clean up lunch dishes

1:00-1:15 Daily chore

1:15-1:45 Reading time

1:45-2:15 Art & Nature

2:15-3:15 Third set of 10 minute studying

Afternoon free except for watching a science and/or history documentary twice a week.

Early Morning Thoughts

We, the world, don’t want a specific country to be the world’s police force. Except for when we do.

The problem is, the same countries who are hollering against the use of force now, would be hollering just as loudly for force if things were going in the opposite direction.

World news is far from my favorite subject. I hate getting caught up in it. Politics is one thing, probably because it’s kinda fun and although perhaps my opinion may occasionally influence others (according to Klout, my influence is a 64, whatever that means), by and large, my own activity in politics isn’t going to do much to change the world.

And perhaps politics fascinates me because it’s a future event for the most part. Learning about potential new leaders is studying something that only has the possibility of happening, not the guarantee. The news is the opposite – I’m studying the history of now, events too new (and perhaps too polarized) to be  put in the history books, but events that have already been set in motion, the only discussion is about how we’re going to handle them – which leads us back to the world’s police force.

None of the solutions that I’ve seen so far seem like they are going to help the specific Syrians who are being harmed. Governments think about other governments, not people when it comes to those outside of their own country. Why are our first thoughts about attacks of any kind, instead of help to those who need it most. (I’m not saying attacks will never come, but when we start off thinking of attacks instead of help, we’re twisting the solution that will be arrived into a solution of control instead of a solution that aids.

Creating a Homeschooling Control Journal

I have been a big fan of Flylady for years, and one of the things that I’m not only incorporating into our home, but also into our homeschool, is her suggestion for a Control Journal. Flylady has several control journals available for free on her site (or you can purchase her control journal through the Flyshop).

Each year, as we prepare to homeschool, I actually use Flylady’s tools and advice in order to set up our homeschool, but this year I decided to take it a step further and as an exercise during the first week of school, the boys are setting up their own Control Journals. By the way, I get no benefits from the sale of anything on Flylady’s site, but I do wholeheartedly recommend any of her items. I’ve never once purchased anything from there and been disappointed.

Here is the activity that the boys were given for the first day of school –

Activity 1 – Building a Control Journal

The Control Journal is your own personal manual for listing and keeping track of your routines and studies.

Make your journal something personal, that you will enjoy. Editing as we go along is okay.

Today’s task – gather up your supplies




Dry erase markers

A calendar

A small notepad

A zippered pouch

Page protectors

A calculator

A hole punch

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Charlotte Mason meets Flylady

As the summer draws to an end each year, visions of home school dance in my head.

In my imagination, two boys are sitting, happily pouring over books of ancient lore, occasionally looking up to quietly ask a question, then down goes the head to soak up even more knowledge.

This year, although we’re only 3 days into the official school year, I’m actually seeing more of this than I have before, primarily because of a few changes I’ve made.

It started when I read a quote by Charlotte Mason shared by Ambleside Online:

“But do not let the lesson last more than ten minutes, and insist, with brisk, bright determination, on the child’s full concentrated attention of eye and mind for the whole ten minutes. Do not allow a moment’s dawdling at lessons.”

–Charlotte Mason {Vol. 5, p. 30}

For years, I have been a fan of Flylady. I frequently share her message with friends – “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” This summer, when I read the post from Charlotte Mason, I had an “ah ha” moment – Why worry about getting each subject finished up before starting on a new one? In school, it’s even easier than in taking care of the home to work for a few minutes at a subject, and then put it aside to work on more later.

Over the next few posts, I will share our specific set-up and ideas and projects to consider.

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Grace = Freedom

Romans 7:5-6 For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths.

But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

As a Christian, your job isn't to judge someone because they don't have the same beliefs as you do. If you act like a pompous jerk, don't be surprised if they aren't keen on joining your Jesus train.  Reflect an image of truth and love, not judgment and pride.   - JarridWilson

Ask the Christians you know and you’ll learn that at one time or another, most were caught up in a life of law.

A friend shared a quote once that I wish I could remember verbatim, but the gist of it was that although as Christians, we believe that we’ve been forgiven, we go around blaming ourselves constantly for failing to stay within the laws, and so while we should be the ones who have the most to rejoice over, instead, for many, we live lives of perpetual misery from not staying within bounds.

Let me say here and now, it would be better to live a life professing not to believe in Christ and then to have a death-bed salvation than to live like this. Living a life of misery because you are a “follower of Christ” does nothing for anyone, not yourself nor others. Living a life of misery because you are a "follower of Christ" does nothing for anyone, not yourself nor others.

“…Freedom of God” For years, I pondered that. What did being free mean? How, as Christians bound by the law, could we be free? At one time I thought perhaps that it was a fake freedom – that we were within a gate and our job was to stay within it’s large boundaries instead of staring over the fence wanting what was on the other side.

But Christ is never false, not in word or action. If He was, then what are we basing our hopes upon?

In my ponderings, I would often wonder about Matthew 11:30 – For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. In fact, my questions over this are perhaps the key to explain my final realization of grace.

There is a Christian song that has a line that goes something like “No one ever said it would be easy….” I remember getting so upset with that song when it was popular. I didn’t have an explanation of Matthew 11:30, but I knew it was in the Bible and that Jesus said it – so therefore either it must be true or my own beliefs were false. I just couldn’t explain how it was true. And it was in this mental purgatory that I hovered for years, stuck on the dream freedom, light burdens, and easy yokes, while around me, church messages seemed to ignore these verses, promoting lives of right living in order to work your way into heaven.

There are moments in our lives that are perfect epiphanies, those “ah ha” moments where the world does a little twist and everything falls into its right place, moved from the spot we’d put it in because we didn’t know where it fit.

I’ve had a few of those moments in my life and in my experience, although I never seem to remember the exact date, I can always tell you where I was and what I was doing, and even the general time. This time, I was on the couch in the den, doing my morning Bible study.

I’d been focused on Abraham for a while, each time I thought I was almost finished studying him, something would bring me back and I’d learn something else from studying his life. At the moment, my focus was on Genesis 15:6 – And Abraham believed and God counted it for righteousness.

I could easily share a whole message or several on this verse, and perhaps one day I’ll share my study notes from that time, but for now, I’ll skip ahead to the realization that struck me after the umpteenth reading of the verse for who knows how many days – “Grace! That’s grace!”

Grace is one of those words that for years I had no real definition for. I knew it was a Christian word that you use in Christian circles, but it really wasn’t a word that made sense – when you believe in a God of laws, where is the grace in that?

And even that morning, as I realized that I was reading about grace, I still couldn’t have given a non-churchilogical definition of the word. I just knew that all Abraham had to do was to believe in God, that he wasn’t required to jump through any hoops, there were no laws for him to strive to obey, there wasn’t anything he HAD to do except believe.

Life as I know it has never been the same since. The revelation of grace – of being forgiven without ever having (or even being able) to earn it, of not having to live a guilty life because by accepting Christ I’ve already been forgiven, was the start to a whole new life.

Bible Study – First Day of School

Romans 7:1-6

I’m not sure that I’ve ever really understood this passage the way I did this morning.

Let’s say you’ve been married before. But over the course of your marriage, you came to realize that your spouse was all about the rules (think Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory, but much worse). There was a rule for standing up and a rule for sitting down, a rule for coming and a rule for going. You couldn’t even turn around without discovering that there were rules for what to sing while you turned and which appendage to shake next (that’s what it’s all about, hokey pokey).

Perhaps worst, there were rules for your thoughts – what you thought and how you thought about it.

And it wasn’t that the rules in themselves were bad – not individually. But the rules taught us what we could and could not do and what we could and could not think, and it’s really hard not to think of pink elephants if there’s a rule that you can’t think of them.

Perhaps one of the saddest things I know is that this is what many people think it means to be a Christian – it’s giving your life over to the husband who controls his wife by rules. To be honest, even many Christians feel like this is what a Christian life looks like (and I’ll raise my hand and say that before I started on this grace walk, that description would have applied to me also).

But then, your rule-controlling spouse dies.

Romans 7:2 For instance, a wife is legally tied to her husband while he lives, but if he dies, she’s free.

Not only are you free from your spouse, but you’re free from all the rules they had set up. And now, even if your first marriage was an arranged marriage, you are free to choose your own spouse, someone who will keep you free from the bondage of rules.

Romans 7:4 When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God.