day fifteen | a few favorites: homeschool | write31days

I’ve had three friends lately ask me about book recommendations for homeschooling, so I thought I would share a quick post with a few of my favorites. Now these aren’t textbooks or workbooks; they are resource books to learn more about homeschooling approaches and thoughts and such.

First up, if you have ever considered homeschooling but aren’t sure if it’s right for you. Or even if you are homeschooling and know it’s right for your family, but have trouble defending your choice to nosy family or friends- READ THIS. Don’t Do Drugs Stay Out Of School. It’s an incredible, fairly easy read that really delves into the creation of our current schooling system, it’s goals, strengths and weakness, and compares the actual needs to children to what homeschooling and traditional schooling can provide. Personally, I think even if you don’t WANT to homeschool you should read this. It will change how you consider mainstream education.

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The next one I love gives a really good, solid Christian foundation for your approach to homeschooling. Educating the Wholehearted Child. I’ve mentioned I love anything the Clarkson’s write, and this doesn’t disappoint. I came away from it with a focused, yet open view on how to approach homeschooling. I felt more prepared and gathered. It’s a wonderful overall view on the goals and purposes of homeschooling our children with God as the guiding line.

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This book, The Homeschooling Handbook was another resource that I have used. It is not from a Christian perspective, and it provides a wider view on homeschooling. I particularity found the chapters that discussed the different types of state requirements and approaches to be helpful. It’s a good resource, but fairly long, it’s a good skimming book.

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The next book is actually a series: What Your Kindergartner Needs To Know. And they have one for each grade level. I’ve taught kindergarten, and yet, I still felt concerned that might leave out something, or miss some vital part of information this year. (Although really, with homeschooling, you don’t miss information, you can teach it as you need it, which is what is nice!) But still, I was hoping to find a good general guideline over the breadth and depth of topics we might want to cover in a year. This book is an awesome resource for that. It has a chapter for each subject, and they are written in a way that lends them very nicely to being read-alouds. Besides helping me create a scope and sequence for the year, it also gives me a great jumping-off point to introduce information! This is one of our favorites, and Jarvis loves reading out of this! (Note, there is a revised version- I have the older version and love it, but I’m sure the newer one is just fine!)

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I will share more as I run across them!


 

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day fourteen | seven: spending fast | write31days

As I had mentioned before, we started The Seven Experiment in a small group after we finished up Financial Peace. So I was pretty sure this whole “spending fast” would be easy, since we had already curbed a lot of our spending habits in FPU. Hahahaha. I’m absolutely sure that God giggled at that thought.

Many of the issues of consumption that we will talk about today we have discussed in other chapters. We’ve set the stage to understand that the US as a whole consumes an inordinate amount of stuff, and thus SPENDS an inordinate amount as well.

“The real issues is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects. Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures- the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%.”

“If hundreds and thousands and then millions of us challenged the paradigm, saying no for every two times we say yes, acknowledging the power of our consumer dollar- to either battle inequality or reinforce it- then our generation could turn the ship around.”

What is your biggest excuse for spending? For that new purse, or that shirt on sale?

I mean really, it’s not a big deal right? You have the money, you worked hard for it, you want it- you deserve it. Or how about “other people spend way more.”

That’s where we fell. Here we had work out this budget, telling each dollar where to go. We were giving generously beyond tithing, saving reasonably, and spending as necessary, right? We were pretty comfortable.

But as I began to look at the sheer amount of money were were actually spending- even on necessities, I couldn’t stomach it.

Yes, that monthly grocery allotment fit easily in our budget, but did it NEED to be that high? Could I reduce it more? Free up more money? Yes we could afford to eat out twice a week, but did we need to do that? Or could that money be used elsewhere?

There is a lot that we can AFFORD. But that doesn’t mean that’s where our money should go. So where should it go? We are back to the question of saving vs giving. What does the bible call us to DO with these financial resources we are gifted with?

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Check out Luke 12:13-21. Jesus is discussing an inheritance with two brothers, who both have rightful claims. But he rebukes them for the focus on storing and saving. He talks to them about the heart of the matter, their attitudes on “rightful entitlement.”

Yes, we worked for this money, we earned it, but it ISN’T ours. Saving within reason is acceptable, but apparently there is a limit to what we can store for our future ease and merriment. Jen shares that she found some clues that Jesus shared that help you evaluate your own attitude towards savings:

Greed, Relational distress, Abundance, Excessive wealth, Upsizing, Hoarding, Selfishness, Spiritual Poverty, Striving toward ease and merriment.

If saving falls under these categories, then it might be time to evaluate our ultimate goals as stewards of His wealth.

Now let’s look back at giving. Specifically at tithing.

For YEARS I pretty much thought that a tithe was basically the extent of my required Christian giving. I mean I tithe and the church distributes it as necessary. Perhaps I give a bit here and there as needed, but as long as I tithe that 10% (net or gross? my accountant mother loves that question, haha!), then I’m good.

Buuuuuut, no.

Go on and read Luke 11:37-45.

“I’m starting to wonder if Jesus actually meant that.  Was He serious about sanctification through extreme generosity? Is He really advocating giving our goods to those without? I don’t know if He knows this, but this would mean completely retooling the way we live and spend. News flash, Jesus: Almost zero people I know live like this. I feel safer with the prosperity group think than with Jesus’ ridiculous plan. The justification of the Christian community is happy to oblige me.”

Oh my.

 

I don’t know about you, but this whole santification thing, this whole becoming a deeper, more committed, always growing follower of Christ; it’s pretty much my life goal. I mean right?

And GENEROUS GIVING, that’s a way to get there?

Well of course, it makes sense. Of course generous, sacrificial, radical giving is sanctifying. How did I miss this before? How did we, the church, miss this?

“What if we are actually called to a radical life? What is Jesus knew our Christian culture would design a lovely life template complete with all the privileges and exemptions we want, but even with that widespread approval, He still expected radical simplicity, radical generosity, radical obedience from those with ears to hear, eyes to see?”

Jen says there are two easy shifts to reducing our spending: non-consumption- simply just NOT buying as much, and redirecting the money saved into other needs.

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Non-consumption is easy, and so, so hard. It’s so hard to say NO, I may be eligible for cheap phone upgrade but I don’t NEED it. That whole saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!” Yeah ok. I can get on board with that.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever buy something just.because.you.want.it. But it does mean that every one of those choices to buy “wants” and not “needs” should be weighed carefully, and the opportunity cost considered.

And now the whole redirecting our savings- so if we aren’t spending as much, then what do we do with all this extra money- and believe me, start telling yourself no as often as you say yes and you will find heaps of money hanging around. Even if you THINK you live paycheck to paycheck, chances are if you really looked close, there is a lot of discretionary spending going on there.

Jen challenges us to live on 75% of our income, or even 50% and then give the rest away. OH MY.

Ok, seriously, that would be radical. But just think of what you could DO!!

“While it is easy to become paralyzed by the world’s suffering and inequalities created by corruption and greed, we actually hold immense power for change, simply by virtue of our wealth and economic independent. Because we decide where our dollars go. Never has so much wealth been so concentrated; our prosperity is unprecedented. If enough of us decided to share, we would unleash a torrent of justice to sweep away disparity, poverty, and hopelessness.”

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For her fast, Jen and her family only spent in 7 places for the whole MONTH. The Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market, HEB gas station (flex fuel), Online bill pay, Kid’s school, Limited Travel Fund, Emergency Medical, and Target. She noted that she didn’t use the emergency medical fund at all, only used a bit while traveling for speaking arrangements, and only went to Target once the whole month, and for under $50.

She also included a “giving clause” that meant that any charitable giving continued as normal.

Since our fast was just a week, we opted to not spend at all for the whole week. Which honestly, is kinda cheating. It meant I made sure to make a grocery run the day before the week started and we just didn’t eat out that week.

Yeah, it was kinda lame. We have a few we would like to do again someday, for a whole month, and this is one of them. I think it would hurt more that way, which is kinda the point.

But it did make a difference in our spending habits long term.

Like I mentioned before, our grocery budget was well within our means and fit our zero based budget, but after paying closer attention, it was still out of control. Over the span of two months we cut it down by 37%. Our eating out budget we cut by half! And our discretionary “pocket money” as we call it went down by nearly 40%. The majority of those budget cuts went into charitable giving, although some did go into savings. (As next month we officially moved onto baby step #5, yipee! although we label it personal development funding as we don’t consider college necessary for most people- that’s a whole other post though!)

Ultimately, I would love to get to a point where live on 75% of our income, or less, and that’s something we are praying over.

Although the spending fast wasn’t a huge eye opener for us, it was a strong confirmation of where God had been moving us, and that the tensions He was creating in us had reasons and goals.

What does your banking statement say about your heart priorities? What do you want it to say?


 

(What is #write31days?? Check out here to learn– and check out the #write31days post to see all the posts together.)

day thirteen | national pregnancy and infant loss day | write31days

I thought a lot about what to say in this post.

To tell the truth, I’ve said nearly every thing before. And since this day falls just a month after the anniversary of Job’s birth, and just two months after our most recent miscarriage, I’ve posted about this recently.

So what do I want to say today, on this day that serves to remind us of pregnancy and infant loss?

Well first off, I want to rejoice on just how open people are now about baby loss.

I’m thankful that many of my friends have opened up in their own losses.

I’m thankful for the older ladies that have shared stories of their lost babies with me, many of them who had rarely talked about their babies with anyone.

I’m thankful that more and more it’s becoming common to share your pregnancy early (at least with close friends and family), so that you have support, whether it’s in a joyful birth or a heartbreaking loss.

 

This last miscarriage, it was different for me. Like I said, it was early, earlier than the rest, we only had a handful of days to begin to dream of this new life. We didn’t tell anyone (except the two ladies who happened to be with me the day I took the test, and couldn’t help but notice my shock!).

To be honest, I cried a few tears and then tucked the thoughts and pain away. This child never had a heartbeat. Development stopped before that could happen. I told myself it was different. I told myself I was fine. I’d done this before.

Just a few days later, I found myself sharing with another woman about the miscarriage. And her reaction stopped me in my tracks.

She was heartbroken for me. She grieved for the life and hope I had lost. She teared up for me. Her words, “If we truly believe life begins at conception, then you should take the time to grieve for the life you lost.”

Ugh. She’s right.

Just when did baby loss become so normal to me?

It’s common, yes. But the loss of life is never to be glossed over.

Jace and I have each lost a grandparent this year, and the grief process over each of them has been long and hard.

Obviously I grieved Job and Monkey.

The difference?

I was telling myself that since we only had a few days to get attached to this one, that it hurt less.

 

But I was fooling myself. I’ve said it before, and I do believe it, every loss, no matter how small, how early, or how brief, is devastating.

Thanks to my friend’s words, I finally made myself face the real feelings behind our most recent loss. I let myself feel the pain, and along with it came the echos of pain from before. The emptiness inside. The nights of crying in the dark at the sheer stillness inside me.

That, that is what I was avoiding, the inevitable fall off the cliff into the memories of pain. But our child deserved it. I needed it to heal.

 

So today, I just want to encourage you to not lessen any loss. To realize that every loss, no matter how early or for what reason, is exactly that, the loss of a life. Of hopes and dreams and knowledge.

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Dearest Piggy,

I’m sorry that I didn’t let myself feel your loss. I’m sorry that we didn’t get to meet you. I will always wonder who you were and what you might have been. But I am thankful that your brother and Monkey were there to greet you. I am thankful that you never knew the pain of this world. Someday, I can not wait to hold you! Until then, we will love you forever,

Mama


 

(What is #write31days?? Check out here to learn– and check out the #write31days post to see all the posts together.)

day twelve | 10 on 10: I hope | write31days

Children,

It feels that I spend a good portion of my day as a referee, even though I try to let you work out your own problems as much as possible. However I’ve lost count of who’s bitten whom how many times, and what bruise is from whom.

Some people say it’s normal, this hurting and poking and teasing and torturing one another. Others claim their children were never like that.

I wonder if it’s the closeness in age? Or perhaps the sheer number of you? Or maybe it’s these stubborn, passionate personalities you all seem to have inherited.

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What I do know is that you love each other. I’m sure the next 14 years of you all in our house will have plenty of bumps, but I hope, more than anything, that you will always remember that us, this family, we are best friends. And that they will always be the ones to protect your back.

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I hope he’s the one who steps in front of someone calling you a name.

I hope she’s the one you borrow shoes from for that concert.

I hope he’s the one who comforts you when you get hurt.

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I hope she’s the one you call when you need a ride home.

I hope that she’s the one you call when you’ve met someone that touched your heart.

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I hope he’s the one you call in tears when someone broke your heart.

I hope she’s the one you skype with to pick out an outfit for that long-awaited job interview.

I hope he’s the one that you tackle in the middle of a thanksgiving holiday football game.

I hope she’s the one who tells it to you straight when you can’t face your own mistake.

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I hope he’s the one that you call when you’ve done all you can and the electronic just won’t work properly.

I hope she’s the one you call when you need another hand on that project waiting in the garage.10on10-6

I hope she’s the one you proudly introduce your minutes-old baby to.

I hope he’s the one you call in desperation when your own newborn baby is screaming in the middle of the night.

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I hope she’s the one you call when you get those medical test results back.

I hope he’s the one you call when you just need a cup of coffee and some comfort.

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I hope she’s the one you complain to when your toddler flushes another toy down the toilet.

I hope he’s the one you call to plan that surprise birthday party for your parent’s anniversary. (here’s hoping!)

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I hope, someday, sooner and later, that you find that despite those differences and those similarities, despite the past, because of the past- that you are siblings. That the bond of brothers and sisters becomes something to always be celebrated.

So here’s to my little four-pack. May you always find that McCowns are best friends. And understand that sometimes being best friends is a little uncomfortable, but always, always worth it in the end.

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(What is #write31days?? Check out here to learn– and check out the #write31days post to see all the posts together.)

day eleven | seven: waste fast | write31days

Ah, I had a mental break, and I’m back.

Ready to jump into the waste fast!

Jen started off this chapter this this, “The bible and I are all ready to turn you into a tree-hugging, dreadlock-wearing, organic-farming, compost-producing hippies (kidding… mostly.)” And I got excited, because yes, we are somewhat hippies (minus the dreadlocks…)

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ooooo, that one hurts a bit, huh?

Skim through Job chapters 38-41 and the words God uses to describe his creation are magnificent.

“I wonder if we enjoy such a cavalier attitude towards creation care because we’re so removed from the effects of its squandering? We are Americans. We are above the nuisance of depleted resources. We’ll just buy more. Surely there is more.”

And how about Isaiah 24:5-6, “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed laws, violated the statues and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.” The whole of Isaiah lists the sins of Gods people over and over again.

If creation is a spiritual mirror, what does the earth currently communicate about the level of injustice God’s people are allowing and perpetrating?

“When we exploit the labor of the worker and plunder natural resources and deny the social costs of production and poison our air and water and exhaust the earth’s forests, the poor are profoundly affected. The depleted earth isn’t just an indicator of injustice; it is an injustice itself. The impact of environmental degradation falls most heavily on the people who are least able to mitigate these impacts- poor and vulnerable populations.”

So is taking care of our earth not just about respecting our Creator and his magnificent creation, but also about taking care of the poor, those we are called to serve? Does curbing our rampant uses of natural resources and flagrant ignorance of the egocolgical choices we make ACTUALLY serve God in the ways He has called us?

I believe so.

We can unlearn destructive habits, foster new habits that help creation to sustain and flourish, in the ways God intended. And thus, help the most vulnerable populations begin a new history. We can change our consuming habits that simply feed our own desires and comforts while others barely scrape together the necessities.

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There are some choices we made, before, during, and after this study that really focus on this.

For her fast- Jen chose to focus on seven habits of a greener lifestyle: gardening, composting, conserving energy and water, recycling, driving one vehicle, shopping second-hand, and buying only local.

This was an interesting one for us. We do garden, we compost, we conserve energy (hubby is the electric police and my kids have learned his ways), and we buy second hand clothing and local food whenever possible.

We weren’t recycling (because hubby has concerns about the energy efficiency of most recycling– aka, potentially using more energy and creating more emissions through recycling than from brand-new production.) but that’s a whole other ball game, I’m not going to debate that now. We did recycle during this fast, and have continued afterwards, but honestly, the BEST approach is to simply REDUCE your consumption of all packing, including recyclables.

The key to doing this??

BUY LESS STUFF.

I know, it’s crazy. Wait what. You want me to buy less?

But Chelsea, we have to eat, but Chelsea, Amazon Prime is so much easier than driving to Walmart (plus Walmart has questionable business practices and support questionable employment methods in those vulnerable countries you had mentioned).

I hear you screaming talking at me.

Believe me, I am an Amazon Prime addict. I think it happened somewhere in the middle of a North Dakotan winter storm when I had newborn twins and a two year old. Why in the world would I drive 45 minutes to town when Amazon delivers in two days??

But man, Amazon is TERRIBLE about packing. As are most online suppliers. So this was something that hit me for sure. We try to reuse whenever possible with packaging, but definitely something to think about. I now try to group my orders so there are fewer boxes and packing.

No Impact Man is a fascinating documentary about a family who attempts to make the smallest environmental impact possible for a year. In NYC. It’s really eye-opening and enjoyable to watch.

And there is something to be said about cooking with real food, there is a whole lot less packaging when you buy bulk, real foods than there is with pre-packaged processed foods.

Here are a few practices we do that reduce our waste: (more information on each of these practices here)

cloth diapering
cloth wipes
un-paper towels
reuseable snack bags
cloth tissues
reuseable grocery sacks
reuseable produce bags
wash and reuse plastic ziploc bags

These are some things that we started as a result of this fast:
refilled reuseable baby food pouches (since at the time, Jean preferred the pouches to baby food on a spoon)
reuseable cloth coffee filters

And there are a few things that we would still like to learn more about- such as capturing rain water for use with our livestock and garden and self-sustaining gardening practices. And of course, cutting down our consumption. Because let’s be honest, we just have too much stuff already anyway.

As part of this whole creation focus, hubby has recently become interested in the practice of Permaculture, which is “a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction and integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.”

He has learned a ton already, and is actually taking a course through Permaethos to learn even more. These practices, put into place on the most destitute of land areas, have been shown to create thriving, self sustaining farms that not only support the people living on and near them, but also the creatures and plants around and in them as well. It’s fascinating stuff. I’m making the hubs write a post another time.

And another thing that became even more important to us after this fast was Fair Trade. There’s ton of information to get into on this, but here’s a great website. I make sure our coffee and chocolate are fair trade, and aim to source things even more as we go further and replenish our bulk resources.


(What is #write31days?? Check out here to learn– and check out the #write31days post to see all the posts together.)