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Friday, January 20, 2012

My Homeschool Makeover

Before the Christmas break, our family was close to burnout, including the kids. School was drudgery for all of us. The break couldn't come fast enough.

Over the break, I did some real examining. I like to do that from time-to-time - step WAY back and get a bird's eye view of things - and decide if what we're doing is working and still aligns with our purpose. I usually seek Godly counsel during those times, even if they are from afar (internet mentors). I talk with my husband, with God, and with fellow teachers.

Out of this time of examining, I created a new plan for our homeschooling day. We've now been operating under the new plan for a month, and are seeing TREMENDOUS fruit from it. My 7th grader actually told her father, "I like school this way. It's more fun." To me, that's success!

SO, WHAT'S THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND IT?
  • To ditch most of the boring textbooks in favor of a more exciting learning approach with books and the internet and maps and microscopes - whatever we can get our hands on.
  • To do more schooling together than apart - as much as possible.
TEXTBOOKS
Let me start by saying, all of us homeschoolers who were schooled in the traditional government schools struggle with the break from just translating our school experience into a home environment. I work against that in my own life. My goal is NOT to do traditional school at home! My goal is EDUCATION, not school at all! I want to foster a love of learning in my children, and teach them how to TEACH THEMSELVES. Most American children have the sentiment that school is boring. Why is that? Does it have to be that way? I don't think so. I do believe children must be taught to do things whether they like them or not - liking an activity is not a prerequisite for doing that activity. However, learning CAN and SHOULD be interesting and fun. The government doesn't necessarily know what's best for MY children. There way is not always best! I am the mother of my children, and therefore, it is my responsibility to go before God and determine how they best learn and what they should learn. It is possible to meet the state's standards without adopting the state's methods. 
All of that being said, I examined some of the textbooks we were using. Some are fantastic - keepers!

Bible/Christianity: The Bible is the best textbook for learning the Bible, no doubt. Each day, we begin by reading our Bibles and discussing the passage. We also memorize one Scripture per week. Even the preschoolers are at the table during this time, so they recite them with us. We learn one hymn per month, memorizing the verses, as well as learning about the history and why they were written. And, of course, we pray each morning.
We also began, this month, going through a new book called A Child's Geography: Explore the Holy Land. I cannot tell you how much fun we are having with this! We learn about the places mentioned in the Bible, and where they are today, and how the geography plays into what took place then and now. It's fascinating the children! I'm learning so much, too!

History: My favorite history curriculum is Story of the World, hands-down. It is made up of four volumes that you teach to all your grade levels at the same time. Once you finish the fourth volume, you return and repeat all of them again, your children being older and gaining a greater understanding the second time. History is taught chronologically (something I've always believed in). I LOVE this curriculum! I often supplement the history stories with videos from YouTube or images from Google.
We don't do history every day. We read our chapter story on Mon or Tues, then usually do supplemental reading (from the library) or pick a project from the activity book on Wed, and take the chapter test on Thurs.

Math: I've always been a Saxon Math fan. I myself went to a college-preparatory, all-girls, Catholic high school who used Saxon Math. After homeschooling Hannah her whole life, I now have almost all the primary levels in my school storage. We are familiar with it and understand how it works, so we keep it.
I began this semester having the children grade each problem right as they finish it, instead of waiting until the end of their lesson practice. That way, if there is something they don't understand, they can learn it before going on and completing the entire page wrong. I stay at the table with all of them as they complete their math lessons. As soon as one of them gets an answer incorrect, they call me over. I walk them through the problem so they understand their error, then they continue with the next problem. This method alone has improved our math grades significantly, which has built their confidence. We do math three days a week. This doesn't always work, but for this semester, we're on track to finish each book by the end of the school year doing three days a week.
(On a side note, I like to play classical music while we're doing our studies. It provides just the right background noise for studying.)


Some textbooks, while they may not be bad, are just unnecessary. Much of my examination of this centered around language arts. Language Arts is multi-faceted. You can purchase a textbook for every part of it - handwriting, spelling, phonics and grammar, English and writing. We had most of these for each child. It was becoming too cumbersome to get through them all. Everyone needed a turn with mom, and I'm only one person. We couldn't fit it all in our day. So here's what I opted for instead:

Language Arts: Journals
It was told to me that good readers become good readers because they read a lot. Hence, it would make sense that good writers become good writers if they write a lot. We bought a writing notebook for every child. We call them their journals. My 1st graders journal is a primary journal, so it has handwriting lines inside so he can still work on forming his letters correctly. His also has blank space at the top of each page for drawing.
Each day, the children open their journals and I give them a writing prompt. I found lists of writing prompts online and saved them in my bookmarks. The writing prompts might be something like, "If I were the teacher for a day, I would..." or "If I had $100,000 to give away, and I couldn't spend it on myself, what would I do with it and why?" They are really great questions! So I give them a prompt, and then the learning begins. Here's how it looks:
7th grade: My 7th grader is encouraged to try to fill the entire page with her answer. Some prompts are easier than others to fill a page, so I'm not a Nazi about it. But depending on the type of prompt it is (writing a factual story or describing something or writing an imaginative story), I encourage her to brainstorm in a separate place first - gather her thoughts. Once she has some direction, she can begin writing.
She LOVES journal time! It's her favorite part of the day! This is the child who HATED writing before, now she's filling more than a page at times. Sometimes she asks me for help when she gets stuck - writer's block. She's working on writing good introduction paragraphs, using the middle to develop her intro, with several paragraphs that support her initial position, and then effectively summing it up at the end. Sometimes she struggles to write long enough paragraphs - paragraphs must be more than two sentences. She's such a "get-to-the-point" type of person. But she's learning a lot through this process.
When she's finished, we edit it together. I teach her editing markings. We look at how to better word things. I might help her to see how something she wrote was unclear to her reader. This is part of learning writing mechanics - the most important aspect of language arts in the 7th grade.
3rd grade: My 3rd grade son struggles with this assignment more than any of my children. He's at an age where writing is a new concept, so this assignment is HUGE for him, but still foreign. For this grade level, he's required to write a PARAGRAPH answer. A paragraph, I tell him, is a minimum of 4-5 sentences. We work on a topic sentence, a few supporting sentences, and a conclusion sentence. Even for him, brainstorming is required. A fellow teacher suggested having him diagram his brainstorming: writing the topic in the middle, with three branches coming off of it - then writing his three supporting ideas on those branches. It works very well! He requires the most help putting his thoughts into words - a proper sentence (not a sentence fragment). But when he's done, I have ALL the children look at his work. My 1st grader might say, "He capitalized the word 'birthday' in the middle of a sentence." We correct that. My 7th grader might say, "That sentence is not complete - it doesn't have a subject and a predicate." We're ALL learning together!
1st grade: My 1st grader is expected to first DRAW a picture of his answer to the question. He draws his picture in the space at the top of his journal page. After he's finished with his picture, we together think up ONE sentence to describe his picture, which answers the question. Sometimes, I write the sentence for him first, and he copies it onto his journal page. I instruct him to pay special attention to copying it EXACTLY as mom wrote it. If there is a comma, I want him to write a comma. If mom capitalized a word, he should also capitalize. I look to make sure he included the period at the end. We're working more towards dictation writing, where I feed him words and he tries to write them himself. For easier words under 3-4 letters, I encourage him to think of how they might be spelled. For larger words, I spell them out loud for him. I always correct handwriting errors. If he didn't form a letter properly, I stop him, have him erase it, and show him how it is supposed to be formed. All of this is learning the mechanics of language arts, but in a fun way.
Preschoolers: The preschoolers like to feel like they're participating, so I allow my three and four year olds to practice writing letters or numbers in their journal as well. They have age-appropriate lined notebooks.
The best part is, when we are all done, we all read our journals aloud to each other. The children are fascinated to see what their siblings wrote. We get to practice public speaking - reading clearly so our listeners can understand. Journaling allows us to work on all aspects of language arts - we learn spelling mechanics, how to properly write sentences, paragraphs, and full-page papers, how to write in a way that makes it interesting for our readers, and much more! This has become a favorite daily activity!
Language Arts: English
The second facet of our language arts program is English. All of my children have their own grade-level English books. I REALLY like Rod & Staff English curriculum - I love that it's Bible-based, yet it covers EVERYTHING, probably too much, that a child needs to learn about English, grammar, and writing. It is best for children 2nd grade and higher. My 1st grader uses First Language Lessons. This past semester, I began to grow frustrated with how many times I taught a concept to one child, and then just a few days and sometimes hours later, taught the same concept to a second child. All of their textbooks cover virtually the same material, but on different levels. Over the Christmas break, I listed all the topics left to cover for all of them for the remainder of the school year, and found commonalities. From there, I wrote the master topic list into my lesson plan - one topic per week (or two, depending). I now cover one topic for ALL of the children at the same time. Then, we open their textbooks and individually complete the material on that topic at their grade level. I have found this saves tremendous amounts of time. It saves my mind, as I have one focus for all the children for the week, and can get more creative in how I carry that out (for instance, focusing specifically on our topic in our journal time). Yes, the children are working through their textbooks out of order, but that really doesn't matter. The important thing is that all the bases are covered. We're really enjoying this approach.
Incidentally, my 1st grader is still working through his spelling/phonics book (we like Modern Curriculum Press's Plaid Phonics and Spelling Workout). Until the age they are reading fluently, I believe these curriculum are necessary to build a good foundation for reading.
Language Arts: Reading
All of my children have an age-appropriate reading list from which they work. I developed the reading list because I really wanted my children to complete their education having read a large amount of classic literature. I look up the reading grade level of each story on Book Adventure and then assign it to the appropriate year. My children are required to read at least 30 minutes per day. I have them write book reports, or give an oral report, on every-other book they read. My 7th grader is an avid reader. She loves reading, always has, so I don't have to stay on her about reading. My 2nd grader doesn't care to read so much, but he must, so he does, and he's very good at it. It's on his daily checklist. My 1st grader is just learning to read, so right now, he's reading things like Bob's Books or other beginning reader books.
In addition, we visit the library every-other week, sometimes weekly. When we go, we learn how to look up books of their interest. They are each allowed to get one book or DVD of their choice, and they also must get one book or DVD that will teach them something. Sometimes they choose books about California. My 7th grader is trying to learn the guitar, so she got a book that taught how to play guitar.
We also enjoy audio books as a family. That is often what we listen to in the car on longer rides. We have the entire Chronicles of Narnia series on CD, as well as classics like Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, and Little Women.  We find most of our audio books from Focus on the Family's Radio Theater. They are very well made and fabulously entertaining!

Science: Currently, my sister-in-law, who is home for a year from teaching science in the Sudan, is teaching all of my children their science curriculum. She meets with them one day a week. My 7th grader has additional science assignments to complete throughout the week.
However, for next year (when I will be adding a Kindergartner), when she leaves to go back to Africa, we will adopt the same concept as we use in language arts. For science, I will look at the standards required for science for each of my children, and find common threads. For instance, my Kindergartner will have Earth as a standard. My 2nd grader will have Earth Materials. My 4th grader will have Shaping Earth, as well as Rocks & Minerals. Since all these concepts are similar, why not teach them together? Then give grade-level appropriate assignments based on that concept. I will most likely not use a science curriculum next year. I will use the library, the internet (for research as well as videos), experiment kits, and a science encyclopedia to teach. We'll explore as much as we can, in a fun way.
I must tell you right here about one of my favorite fun-learning resources. BrainPop has TONS of cartoon videos to teach concepts in EVERY subject, even math and fine arts! I absolutely love it, and the kids do as well, because the characters are funny. When we were beginning to study the forms of writing (narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive), there was a video to introduce that. They all watch it at once. I highly recommend this resource! I've considered adding this to their daily links - just have them explore this site and watch whatever videos they find interesting.

Geography: Geography was one of my favorite subjects in school. I loved learning about the world! We are just beginning to incorporate geography on a grander scheme this semester, and the kids are LOVING it! Here's how we're doing it:
First, when we study history out of Story of the World, we look up those places on a wall map or a globe. I have wall maps of the world as well as the United States hanging on our playroom wall. The globe is portable so I can bring it to the kitchen table when we are working there. In addition, if we are studying history on a certain continent, we use that continent as our launchpad for geography. For instance, this month, we've studied the stories of Marco Polo and the birth of Russia. Since we're focused in on Asia, we are working on memorizing the countries in Asia. We start with 10 places a week. I print off numerous blank outline maps, then daily, put numbers in the 10 countries, and have them fill in the 10. We keep adding to what we know each week. We'll move on to another continent after Asia. (By the way, my 1st grader does not participate in this activity.)
One of the most fun activities we do each day is visit a website that shows The Last 24 Hours in Pictures. They are professional photographs from around the world in the last 24 hours. New pictures are put up each day. There are about 13-17 pictures daily. They are fascinating! We look at the pictures, read the captions below, and then the children have to go to the world map and find the location of the picture. Even my 1st grader can participate in this. My preschoolers ooh and aaw over the pictures. We also get a feel for what is happening in the world around us - current events. This is one of my favorite daily activities!

Fine Arts: This year, my children chose to take a twice-monthly art class from a local woman who teaches out of her home. They've really enjoyed it. Next year, I'm considering taking a quarter of the year to study some famous musicians and their works, another quarter to study some famous artists and their works, and then perhaps a semester working on a foreign language. I would love to study Latin, as so many languages are Latin-based, so knowing the roots of words can help them figure out the meaning of words in many languages. Or perhaps we'll study Greek or Hebrew as a tool of learning the Bible. I'm thinking we'll save Spanish for when the children are a bit older.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF SEILER HOMESCHOOL:

EARLY A.M.
·         Collective Bible reading
·         Sing hymn
·         Scripture memory
·         Prayer
·         Morning Chores

A.M. (put on classical music)
·         Theology (A Child's Geography: Explore the Holy Land)
·         Math
·         Language Arts
-          Journals (put their thoughts into words or give them a writing prompt or write a summary of something they learned, and teach writing mechanics from their work, using books as a model)
-          Phonics
-          Reading (or write their own books, McGuffey reader)
-      English
·         *Art* (only on certain days)

EARLY P.M.
·         History (have littles draw what we’re reading about, everyone can fill-in maps, timelines, have older children write summaries)
·         Geography (memorize 10 geography places each week)
·         Read aloud time (Mom reads aloud)
1.       Classic Literature
2.       Delve deeper/Explore (geography, nature, history, theology, etc.)
Last 24 Hours in Pictures·        
      Typing practice (both boys)- Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing
·         *Science* (only on certain days)

LATE P.M.
·         Choose from:

-          Music practice
-          Woodworking
-          Build something in the garage
-          Work on history timelines
-          Serve Dad in some way
-          Go exploring outdoors
-          Baking
-          Sketch in nature journals
-          Go for a walk
-          Cooking/dinner preparation
-          Family project
-          Journal
-          Art  (coloring, drawing, painting)
-          Play board games

Just to note: No two days ever look alike. No day ever looks as perfect as this schedule. But we work towards these goals. And I want to mention one other thing: This is a FULL-TIME job. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I recently released myself of some ministry responsibilities that required a lot of my time. I have never felt better about homeschooling as I do now. I am completely devoted in time and energy to my children's education from 8am to approximately 3pm. Sure, I get to throw in some laundry during their breaks (we take approximately 20 minute breaks after completing two subjects). But I'm mostly focused on them during the day. The rest of my duties can wait.

The last thing I want to share with you is about a family tradition of ours. Our kids absolutely LOVE this tradition, and they learn FABULOUS character lessons while we do it. ALMOST every single night, we watch Little House on the Prairie. We own up to season 7. We started over again before Christmas, and now we're on season 2. Here's the important part: We frequently pause the movie to discuss what is happening. We talk about it from a moral standpoint. We allow the children to point out God's obvious hand in a situation, or the bad choices a character is making, or the consequences of good or bad choices. At the end of each show, we talk about the lesson to be learned. My children all beg each night to watch LHOTP. This is one show that actually results in BETTER behavior in my children, rather than negatively influencing them to behave poorly.

Well, I hope you have found all I've shared helpful and thought-provoking. Homeschooling should be enjoyable, not drudgery. If nobody is liking it, including you, then its time to re-examine some things. Praying your homeschool journey is full of joy and success!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Teaching Godly Character

Raising our children to have Godly character is the number one reason our family has chosen to homeschool. We believe it is far more important than academics. We pray that our children are little lighthouses everywhere they go - that the character of Christ shines through to the world around them.
The goal of instructing our children in Godly character is that they are equipped and motivated to make right decisions even in our absence. With all of our children, we have made it a goal to give them the moral reason why we instruct them to do this or that. Just to say, "Because I said so," all the time doesn't teach them how to think morally. So we've made a concerted effort to say something more, for example, like, "We don't throw our garbage on the ground. If everyone did that, our community would be a junkyard. It wouldn't be very pleasant to live here, would it? Putting your garbage in the trash can is being considerate of others."
A lot of character training happens naturally, as life happens. But I also purpose to instruct my children in different character qualities using the Character Qualities chart I found on the Duggars' website. The Duggars didn't create this chart - it actually came from Bill Gothard's ministry, "Institute of Basic Life Principles." I focus on one box from the chart each week. Each Monday, I teach the children about the particular character quality we're talking about. I define it for them. I have them look up the Scripture reference given. We talk about the opposite behavior, and then what it looks like in real life, perhaps even acting it out.
Throughout the week, I look for the character quality being played out. I make a big deal to praise when I see a Godly character in action. I also make sure I am living it out before them.
I think it is very important for our children to have a Biblical foundation of God's commands for us as Christians. How else will they know if we don't teach them? The Bible instructs is in Deuteronomy 6 to "5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." This must become part of our lifestyles - the lifestyle of being a full-time, Godly-character child-trainer. What a privilege!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rhythms

I've always been into rhythms, living by a specific ebb and flow each day. Rhythms give me a sense of direction, and I feel it gives my children stability. I am constantly striving for a nice balance between necessary tasks and living out my priorities. Everyday, there are certain tasks I HAVE to do. But if that's all that makes up my day, I feel empty. There are things I really WANT to do everyday, and I must find a way to incorporate them as well.

Over Christmas break, I spent time, as I always do this time of year, re-evaluating my days and how they're spent. I look at what's working and what isn't. I inventory that which is missing from my current daily life. I look for strategies to live better and fuller. At this same time, I'm planning out lesson plans for our second semester of school, and it all goes hand-in-hand. I concluded that our family needs to do more studying collectively and less individually working for separate textbooks. I have already begun to create a workspace at our dining table with supplies and white board and all that's necessary. I sifted through language arts textbooks of all grades and found common threads that can be taught together. I listened to some wonderful audio teachings (volume 1 and volume 2) from Victoria Botkin (a homeschool veteran) that inspired and gave fresh ideas. From my evaluating, I was able to come up with a new plan for my school day.

LIVING OUT MY PRIORITIES EACH DAY: So what is on my list of priorities? Simple things, really. Things like spending time with the Lord each morning - worshiping, praying/listening to His voice, studying His Word, writing in my journal - and taking my vitamins, drinking green tea, taking a walk, playing with my kids, reading to my kids, encouraging/supporting my husband, reading an inspiring book, and having personal time to do something I want to do (for me, that usually means researching something I want to learn more about) - these things I enjoy, and I want to find a way to incorporate them into my life. If I don't plan them in, they just don't happen.

I've been practicing this daily marriage of priorities and tasks for quite some time. But last week, I came upon a beautiful tool that does the same thing. I found it on Ann Voskamp's blog: A Holy Experience. It is a printable Daily Planner, and because of the attractive layout and fonts, it is far more fun to use than a torn page from a spiral-bound tablet. I'm enjoying the experience of drafting out the coming day in bed each night just before falling asleep.

WHAT GOD IS SPEAKING: As I've had time to get off the rat wheel and re-evaluate life, there has been one message God has spoken loudly to me - it is to live slow. I can't help it, I'm task-driven. I'm always moving forward, and quickly. And I want everyone around me to hurry up, too. But I'm afraid this lifestyle has often led to burn out and self-induced stress. I'm not very pleasant to be around when I'm on my fast-track. But more than that, I'm discovering that I'm missing God in the present. I don't notice Him in the now. I don't see Him in the child who's begging me to come see the tower he made with soft blocks. I don't see Him in the steaming cup of hot tea. I don't see Him in the bodies who will adorn the clothes I spend countless hours laundering. I don't see Him in my here and now. And therefore, I'm missing out on a great piece of the Christian life. I'm not living the fullness. And these past few weeks, as I've had time off school and I relinquished some ministry responsibilities, this realization was revealed to me. I want to slow down - stop and smell the roses. I need to slow down. God is in the present.

NEW BLOG FEATURE: I wanted to quickly draw your attention to a new feature added to this blog. You will find it at the top right-hand column of this page. It is a space for you to fill in your email address and subscribe to this blog. Every time a new post is published, your email box will automatically receive a copy. It's a handy feature to ensure you never miss a beat!



JOY DARE 2012: As I told you on Wednesday, I've had my life turned upside down by a fabulous book given to me by my dear friend. The recently-released book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, has impacted my life for good - I'll never be the same. On her blog, the author has launched a "campaign" for this coming year, encouraging people all over the nation through her blog and on the radio and other media to embark on a Joy Dare 2012. She's provided tools on her blog to help her followers seek three God-graced gifts each day for 2012. I have printed my January calendar and opened my fresh new journal (received this Christmas) to embark on this journey. It has been so enlightening. I've even been inspired, like Ann, to grab my camera and capture little gifts I find right around my space - in my backyard, little flowers still in bloom (only in California), the way the light hits the beveled glass on my front door, the beauty of freshly sharpened pencils in a pencil cup in the center of our dining table. Would you care to join us? We'd love to have you. Start the Joy Dare today!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's Been Happening in My Life

I first want to apologize for not posting last Friday. We had the wonderful and spontaneous opportunity to go to Medford, Oregon to visit my parents. My brother and his family came down from the Portland area as well, and we all experienced a very rare opportunity for the 14 of us to all be under the same roof. My dad celebrated his 63rd birthday on January 1st, so we had a party for him. We also took the kiddos high up the mountain, very high, looking for snow, as it was scarce. But the cousins all REALLY wanted to play in snow, and they didn't care how deep (or not deep) it was.

The day before I left, my dear friend/mentor, Cheryl McEachron, brought me a gift. I cherish her gifts, as I know she puts thought into them. I actually was expecting this gift, as she mentioned it to me several months ago - a book she was pre-reading before she passed on to me. It's a newly released book and already getting lots of attention. The title is "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Cheryl doesn't give me books to read just for fun. Cheryl hears from the Lord, and prays for me, and I know the Lord directs her steps. When she gives me a book, its because the Lord has led her to. For that reason, I anxiously put the book in my travel bag to start reading on my trip.


I got the opportunity to open to the first chapter at my parents' house during my preschoolers' afternoon nap. Immediately upon reading the first few lines, I realized this book was no average book from the Christian bookstore. The colorful rich language and writing style was like none I'd ever read before. Chapter one was actually a bit of a downer - sad. But I could relate. I've experienced sadness, and not that long ago. I was with her. I understood. I have felt the things she wrote that she felt, and have thought the thoughts she says she thought. She had me. I was so anxious to keep reading.

And that I did, chapter two, the next day. She described in the second chapter the rock-bottom place, and then the revelation. God speaks, so often, in those rock-bottom places.

I won't give away any more of the book, which I'm still reading. Words really don't give it justice. The book is full of jaw-dropping insight. My life will never be the same after reading this. I can't quite explain how its ministering to me in the depths of my spirit.

I love this gal - Ann Voskamp! She's a farmer's wife and homeschooling mother to six children. She loves much of what I love and has grown in so many areas I strive to grow in. I'm learning much from her. Many times, mentors can be people you've never even met face-to-face - long-distance. They're just as powerful. I have subscribed to her blog, and am being fed daily by her wonderful insights (and photos, which won't make sense until you read the book). Check it out for yourself and see if it doesn't bless you as well: www.aholyexperience.com.

OTHER THAN THAT, I've been enjoying a three-week Christmas break. Just a few days left of that, and school resumes on Monday. I'm now ready. But the break was much-needed for everyone. We were worn out and in need of some play. We've truly slowed down and enjoyed life these past weeks. The holidays were a blessing, and so was putting away Christmas decorations and getting the house back in order.

I also shifted gears in my life. I needed that, too. I was juggling way too many balls in the air, and I wasn't very good at it. I am very aware of my season of life - I am wife and mother, first of all. And right now, while my children are young, that pretty much takes up all my time. And I want it to. They won't be here long and it will so quickly fly by. I have so much I want to pour into them, to teach them, to do with them. I have very little time for anything else.

So the end of 2011 was the end of several roles for me. I passed the baton of worship leading at the church to a very trusted friend. I also passed the baton of church administration, a role I've been filling since the church was birthed, to a very special married couple who will be sharing the duties together with each other. It feels very strange not to have my hands in everything and know everything that is going on and be planning everything each and every day. But it also feels very liberating. Right now, I don't need to know everything about the church. I need to know everything about my family. I pray for the church, love on the people in our church, minister when the Lord leads me, but my main focus in this season of my life is to be a help meet to my husband (who needs all the help he can get) and mother/discipler to my five wonderful children. I feel at total peace with this focus-shift, and my pastor-husband has fully supported me. I'm giving it all I got, and am finding true joy in living right where God wants me.


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