The thing our kids need most

Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace

It was an ordinary morning, breakfast bowls stacked next to the kitchen sink as we traipsed into the front room to gather together before jumping headlong into all the day held for us. Even though our learning takes place {mostly} at home, it’s important for us to have this time to gather together so we can talk, read a bit, and pray. Oftentimes, it is at this beginning of the day or as our day winds to a close at night where the most profound conversations take place.

This day was no different. I’m not sure what we were reading on this particular day, but something prompted me to ask the boys if they needed to do anything to gain acceptance by God. We have discussed grace before many a time and I found myself surprised when one of my boys nodded vigorously. I asked him his thoughts. Possibly surprised by his own response, he stumbled around trying to find words to express the thoughts in his head.

It was an eye-opening conversation. This son of mine, who has such a sweet relationship with the Lord, had forgotten that he was first a child of God – loved unconditionally. He had forgotten what God wanted most was not adherence to a system of beliefs, but rather relationship. My son needed a reminder that his identify was first found in Christ. And in the context of relationship, his life is changed from the inside out. This is both the simplest truth out there and yet one we constantly confuse. We do nothing to earn our own salvation and yet it is in the receiving of this gift of grace that our heart’s response is obedience. It is easy to want to be about the business of changing our own lives and measuring our acceptance by how we are doing in this instead of focusing on the Lord and allowing Him to change us.

This kind of amnesia is not limited to children alone. In our busy lives it is easy to conflate what we do with who we are. When we do this, life gets overwhelming, we can become discouraged as we step on that hamster wheel of trying to do life on our own. It is in the slowing down, focusing on Jesus and what He has already done for us, what he continues to do in us that hope is found.

I was reminded of this fact again when I read Kendra Fletcher’s book, Lost & Found – Losing Religion, Finding Grace. This memoir draws our awareness into how we can easily slip into mistaken identities. This book reminds us of the freedom we have in Christ.Lost and Found, Losing Religion, Finding Grace

We are swept along on her journey towards fully embracing this reminder as God used situations in remind her that her identity rests in Christ alone. I found myself nodding in agreement and reminded of the importance to not only give myself regular reminders, but to be sure my children receive those regular reminders too.

Just like I needed to do with my son, Kendra recounts a time when she needed to have one of those conversations with her daughter. Her response to her daughter’s forgetfulness both inspired and convicted me when she wrote,

“Sweetheart, your identity is not us. I want you to have wonderful memories of your childhood, and I want you to always love being a Fletcher, but Honey, your identity is never, never, never us. Your identify is Jesus, your Redeemer. Don’t forget that. If you learn anything in our home, I want you to walk away knowing whose you are and what he has done for you.”

The thing our children need most is Jesus. They need to know Him deeply. We can pray for them, talk to them about what it means to know and walk with Jesus, and model how that relationship can impact a life. Our children who have committed their lives to Christ need regular reminders from us about their true identity and the freedom found when we rest in that profound truth. They may homeschool, or go to public or private school. They may attend one church or another. They may be an athlete or a bookworm (or both), but that does not describe who they TRULY are because all of those things can change. They need to know that life is about knowing Jesus and making Him known. We need those reminders too so we can be reminding our children. Lost & Found gave me one of those beautiful reminders and I’m blessed because of it. I know you will be too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After talking to Kendra about her book last year when we were both speaking at the same event, I was excited to order it. This was the very first book that I’ve ever pre-ordered. I’m hooked. The book arrived a week and a half before the official launch date PLUS it came with a $3 refund because Amazon has a pre-order policy that guarantees all pre-orders get the best price of the book.  While my book is officially set to release on May 30th, those who pre-order could get their book earlier and you are guaranteed to get the book at the best price should it go on further sale anytime between now and the end of May!

An Easter Devotional for You {COUPON CODE ALERT}

The perfect family Easter devotional. Simple, Sensory-Rich, DeepThis post may contain affiliate links.

 

 

So I’m on blogging break because I’m packing like a mad-lady, but I had to pop in and share about this really quick.

The weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter) are some of my favorite – not only when I was a girl, but especially now as a parent.  This is a beautiful season to reflect on the most important event in human history.  God’s plan of redemption unfolds with the death and resurrection of Jesus!

It is so helpful to slow down and dig deep here.  I shared tips on how to make Easter meaningful to children a few years ago, and then last year, my friend OhAmanda came out with a fabulous resource to help parents in the pursuit of teaching our kids about this amazing time in history.  We love it and so even in the midst of packing, painting, wiping boo-boo’s, and trying to make sure they don’t unpack too much right behind me, I had the coherent thought to see if she’d extend ya’ll a coupon code.  Good friends always come through for you! 🙂

COUPON CODECultivate” can be used to get the book 20% off.  Good through April 4th!

So if you are on the hunt for a great hands-on, sensory-rich approach to making Easter interactions meaningful this year, check out A Sense of the Resurrection.

Here are a few reasons why I’m so excited about this resource!

  • Sensory Rich: Children learn through engaging their senses.  This book masterfully engages each of the 5 senses as it draws our family into a growing understanding of and relationship with Jesus!
  • Bible-centered.  The ebook is your resource.  The family text: the Bible!  She provides Scripture references to read for each of the 12 activities.
  • Provides context and talking points.  So often, parents don’t know where to start with having a conversation about what we read with the Bible and how to unpack these truths with our children.  This book provides that!
  • Only 12 Lessons.  Yes, this is a positive.  The truth surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection are deep and worthy of pondering.  This is not the time to jam pack schedules with lots of art projects.  I plan on starting next week and doing 2 a week so we have time to ponder and savor how God is speaking to us and what we are learning about His great sacrifice.
  • A Mix of Craft and Activity – Amanda refers to these as building memorials and making memories.  It is a wonderful blend of both which mixes things up.  Surprisingly, I’m not a big arts and craft kind of person.  I’ve blogged about many of our projects in the past, but that is not a daily norm around here.  We do love simple activities that draw us into meaningful conversation.  This beautiful ebook does just that!

She provides a sneak peek at one of the lessons here.

Each lesson consists of the following sections:

Read it together

Do it together/Make it together (depending on if it is an activity or a craft)

Talk about it together

Do more together (there is an option to make a printable flag banner with a symbol for each lesson)

If you are looking for something new to do with your kids this year, you can’t go wrong with A Sense of the Resurrection. Be sure to use my exclusive coupon code, “CULTIVATE” to get 20% off!

I pray you have a wonderful season of contemplating the death and resurrection of Jesus and draw your children into the wonder of it all too!

More posts I’ve written on this topic:

Easter Ideas for Young ChildrenTop 10 Easter Books

Will I get to meet you? Here’s an introduction.

Life is kicking into high gear this week.  After spending last week on the couch with a horrible cold, this week finds me thankful to have found my voice again and getting excited to head out to Pennsylvania for the CHAP Homeschool Convention this week.  The following weekend will find me making my way to Michigan to speak at the INCH Homeschool Conference.  I’m beyond excited.  It is always such a delight to share encouragement and practical ideas with other families.  I’m always blessed to hear stories and share ideas for this grand adventure we’ve embarked on.

Will I get to meet any of you in person!?!?!?

Here are a few things you might want to know about me…

  1. I firmly believe that everyone who feels CALLED to homeschool can do it! {It might take some creativity, hard work and a whole lot of prayer, but I’m here to cheer you on and give you some tips to step outside of that “school-box” mentality and embrace the beauty of a lifestyle of learning.}
  2. I LOVE learning.  It’s like Christmas {almost} everyday as we get to unwrap new mysteries and explore uncharted waters.
  3. I LOVE learning about learning.  I’m always looking for tried and true tips and I’m a biology junkie, so the science of how the brain learns is of particular interest.  And yes, I’ll be sharing some of my exciting finds with you all!
  4. I’ll talk endlessly about it with anyone who will listen.  Just try me.  
  5. I champion the need for movement.  While some need it more than others, it’s an essential element in the learning process.  So mother’s everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief.  It’s a-ok that your wiggly little one hangs upside down from the couch while you read aloud.  Just think of it as an oxygen rush to a fertile mind.  The great folks at the CHAP and INCH Conferences will be the very first to see my book in printed form!  That’s right.  I took the plunge and am making my book, The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks, available in print!  The cards will be all ready to cut and go!
  6. I’m a book lover seeking to pass on that love of books to my children!
  7. I’m not an introvert.  This seems to be rare in the blogging world, which is probably why I’m a reluctant blogger.  I’d much rather be talking to you in person!  I tend to get a bit excited and animated.   
  8. Love the outdoors.  When the stress level starts to rise in our home we either resort to reading picture books on the couch or heading outside to explore the beautiful outdoors and learn about nature!
  9. I have a passion for making the most of the preschool years.  The early years are such a powerful time in a child’s life.  I love encouraging families to pursue hands-on play and lots of great books in order to maximize this precious season. #WorksheetsAreOverrated.
  10. I love to share how life, love and learning all intersect.
  11. I marvel at how God works in every facet of life!
  12. These people mean the world to me!

 

Since I’ll be too busy with travel and spending every extra moment with my family, I won’t have any time for blogging.  So I thought I’d leave you all with a few of my favorite’s from the archives…

Intentional Living Means Setting Goals {I’m in the midst of setting summer goals}
10 Ways We Cultivate Learning
10 Things Homeschooling Has Taught Me About… Myself
Homeschooling: Why Socialization Matters
Incognito Testing: A Homeschool Mom’s Secret Weapon
Created to Create: Finding Your Inner Artist
A Forest Walk {or how we do it out here in the desert}
How We Utilize Brain Breaks in Our Home
10 Days to Boosting Brain Power Series

 

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Why I haven’t been writing much…

It has been in insanely busy month.  We’ve all had them, right?  Well, this month has been one of the busiest in a long time.  We traveled so much last semester, that I found it hard to get into a groove with our learning routine.  Just as we’d hit our stride, we’d head out to go speak, or to a conference, or to visit family…  As the new year dawned, I found myself craving routine.  We needed a smoothness to our days.  There is something to be said about habit.  It makes for easier days and it’s easier to get everything done well.

My sister had her second baby today! Hurray!  I’m wiped out just from pacing the hospital waiting room and then taking care of my nephew.  And with planning my first mid-year refresher and leadership conference for AFHE this month, there simply hasn’t been extra time to write and craft blog posts.  I’ve been plugging away at getting back into a smooth-flowing learning and living routine during the day and then planning and preparing like a mad-woman at night.

But I’ll be popping in here soon enough.  I can’t wait to tell you about our fabulous new typing program, how teaching money management skills has helped with my desire to slip into routine (double score), our newest art tool and of course some books that we’ve been loving.

In the meantime, I had to include some pictures from our adventures exploring glass blowing and the Chuhily exhibit that’s in town right now.  As we delve into our Honor unit this semester, we are starting off learning about the attributes of God {amazing} and a sculpture/pottery unit.  Since our co-op hadn’t resumed yet, we decided to go check out some glass sculpture!

I never cease to be amazed by and delighted in the power of reading a book or two about something and then going out to experience it!

KNOWLEDGE + EXPERIENCE = Learning Bliss!

 Glass Glass3

Glass7Collage

Glass4

Glass5 Glass6 

Happy Thanksgiving from My Family to Yours

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!  We’re trying to keep warm back here in St. Louis and enjoying time with family.

Remember when I promised all of my subscribers a tool you could download to help guide as you engage with your children in applying God’s Word to everyday life.  Well… I had the wrong file attached for all of you in yesterday’s email.  You’ll find the right file at the bottom of your email or feed now.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read about how we are using the Hidden in My Heart CD’s to help build a Christian worldview in the early years, go read it now and enter in the giveaway!  Subscribe via email and you’ll get the 4 page resource I put together for you all to help spark everyday conversations with your kids as they apply the truth in these beautiful songs to their lives.

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Can I be honest?

show low collage

It’s been a crazy week.  It started with a weekend of standing in awe of God’s creation.  I just love Arizona and its wildly divergent beauty.  We took the scenic drive from the Phoenix area up through Globe to Show Low for an AFHE event and speaking engagement.  The mountains, canyons, cacti, and pine forests are simply stunning.

The kids were fried by the time we returned home that evening.  Six hours in the car can do that to anyone.  Sadly, our car was pretty fried too.  As I type, it is sitting in a shop getting a new engine.  All of that mountain climbing pushed our struggling van over the edge.

As it sputtered earlier in the week, I could feel myself spluttering too.  It was one of those weeks when life seems a bit overwhelming and you start to listen to yourself more than you speak truth to yourself.  It was one of those weeks when I wondered what happened to my brain.  Forgetfulness and lack of attention to details meant extra time out in the sun, I forgot a deadline and had to scurry to keep a promise made, copies made and arrangements made for a speaking engagement that is next week instead of this week and the list goes on…

When this happens it is a clear sign that I need three things…  sleep {I’m famous for burning the candle at both ends}, time with God and time outdoors.  Thankfully, I can cover the last two in one fell swoop.  So we’ve been doing a lot of God-Talk Walks this week!

So when I saw this post from Diane and how she is taking the Daily Outdoors Challenge, I was inspired.  She shares about her visual count of days in a row with purposeful time spent outdoors.  I’m doing this!  My kids are great with accountability if they have a visual reminder and they’ll be dragging me outdoors, even on those days when I think I’m too busy not to go unwind outdoors.  As long as they don’t try and get me out during the heat of the day, I think this could work.   Crepuscular boys, remember our word for the summer!

The Daily Outdoor Challenge!

Block Play: Building Up the Whole Child

Block play builds serious skills and develops the WHOLE child!

Block Play Builds Serious Skills!Citiblocs: Bigger kid blocks that build serious skills Citiblocs - bigger kid blocks that build serious skills

In keeping with this month’s theme of writing about things we love (and giving away some of it), I want to talk about BLOCKS!  If you are thinking that block play is just for preschoolers, stay with me a minute.  People of all ages can benefit from some good ol’ fashioned block play and today I’m sharing with you about our bigger kid blocks,  including a Citiblocs giveaway! 🙂

It is no secret how much we love blocks.  I wrote about how they ‘build the mind’ during my series on open-ended play a couple of years ago.   But the more I think about the benefits of block play, the more I’ve come to see that they really help to build up our children in a variety of different areas.

Building with Blocks Builds the Mind:

♦ Increases hand-eye coordination

♦ Develops an understanding of cause and effect

♦ Enhances spatial awareness

♦ Enhances logic thinking capabilities and problem solving skills

♦ Enhances creativity processing

♦ Builds awareness and use of simple shapes

♦ Develops concrete use of counting and one-to-one correspondence

♦ Sharpens math skills by the process of grouping blocks together, adding or subtracting blocks from the group, etc…

♦ Enhances language skills as they narrate what they are doing or describing the desired end-product

Building with Blocks Builds the Body:

♦ Develops and coordinates small and large muscles

♦ Helps to achieve a dimensional sense of oneself in space

♦ Builds an intuitional awareness of object/space relationships

Building with Blocks Builds Social Skills

♦ Facilitates cooperative play and work if building with a friend or sibling

♦ Provides sharing opportunities because there is a limited supply of blocks

♦ Strengthens learning to interact graciously when their ‘creation’ is knocked over

Building with Blocks Builds the Emotions

♦ Increases their ability to meet new situations with resourcefulness

♦ Provides ability to sustain interest and overcome frustration

♦ Promotes conscious self-control

♦ Increases joy and skill in discovery

♦ Enhances a feeling of joy and competence in motor control and balance

Whew.  That’s a whole lot of benefits.

We’ve loved our big wooden blocks and they still get played with from time to time.   But it has been exciting to see the boys rediscover their love of blocks when we received a set of Citiblocs for Christmas.  It was deja-vu with a refined twist.  Brows knit together in concentration.  Gross and fine motor skills were tested and honed.  The box they received only came with 100 of these smooth, small, identical blocks, so there was some serious negotiating taking place.  They had an opportunity to learn how to work together and the give and take of sharing a limited resource.  And oh the creativity…

Unlike Lego’s (which they love too), there were some pictures of completed projects, but no step-by-step directions.  Rich and the boys sat down for an entire afternoon engrossed in the work of fashioning boats, towers and anything else that struck their fancy.   Since then, these blocks have come out frequently and the boys are saving up money to buy 200 more of these babies, because there are some creations that they would like to try and make that for which we simply don’t have enough blocks.  For instance, they really want to try and make this snake.  We also love BionicBlox connectors that go well with these Citiblocks.  We reviewed BionicBlox here.

snake

Recently Erin, over at Naturally Erin, wrote about an unfortunate homeschool encounter with their postal worker.  It had me laughing as I could totally relate!  What struck me was when her son responded that he didn’t go to school.  Instead, he “played at home.”  While not the perfect thing to say in the context of the situation, he hit on an important benefit of homeschooling… What so few fail to realize is that play builds some serious skills and homeschooling gives the time that they would otherwise spend getting in line, waiting for papers, etc to get down to the serious work of play!

And I love how we are continuing block play with these ‘bigger-boy’ Citiblocs!  You can get Citiblocs in quantities of 100, 200 or even 300. We love our natural colored ones, but there are also cool colors, hot colors and camo colors. Be sure to check out their website and their facebook page to see the many creations you can make these small blocks!

Today, I’m thrilled to share with you that Citiblocs has offered to give a set of 100 – count HOT colors Citiblocs to one of my readers.   Woot!  As usual, leave a comment sharing what kinds of things your kids like to build and indicate on the rafflecopter form below that you have done so, to unlock a few other options to gain extra entries.  This giveaway will end on March 27th.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

housewarming

I’m celebrating the move to this new blog home address and and having a ‘house-warming’ party! We’ll have a few giveaways posted each week in March as I share about things my family loves! Check out the opportunity to win

Hidden Art/For the Children’s Sake bundle (Jessica is the winner!)

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child (through 3/20)

Arizona Homeschool Convention and Curriculum Fair pass giveaway (through 3/20)

Playsilks: Unleashing the Imagination (through 3/22)

You’re Invited!

housewarmingWelcome to my new little home.  I’m so glad you are here in time for my ‘house-warming’ party.  This is no ordinary party where you are expected to come bearing gifts.  No, it is my delight to share over the next couple of weeks about things that have shaped and influenced our home and give some of it away to you!  Feel free to tool around and explore. I’m still unpacking boxes and moving in, but can’t wait to start sharing with you all things that are near and dear to my heart. 

Tomorrow, we’ll start with two influential books that have shaped how we pursue this cultivated life!  I’m excited to give a copy of each away to one of you! Be sure to check back.

p.s. If anyone out there is looking for design work or help with a blog migration, I can’t recommend Julie from Deluxe-Designs enough.  She worked with me to get just what this nature-loving, desert dweller wanted. 

Top 12 Posts from 2012

So, I’m coming back just a bit early from my blog break.  Our family had so much fun this evening discussing the highlights of 2012 over a bowl of popcorn.  Boys eyes sparkled as they kept gushing about favorite memories…  I’m in a slightly sleep deprived state (thanks to a bout of insomnia last night) and had to pull out my calender to refresh my memory on what we did. 

A recent highlight for the boys was our wild flight to St. Louis!  Watching airplanes is always a hit, but nothing quite compared with the thrill of landing in windy conditions with a nice sharp pitch to the side and touching down on only one set of wheels…

It was good to revisit the ups and downs of the last year as we eagerly look forward to what 2013 holds for our family.

All of this looking back and planning forward got me thinking about this trusty ol’ blog!  So I decided to take a look back and see what some of the years top posts were. 

In no particular order, here are 12 of the most popular posts from 2012!

As part of of our summer “Daily Outdoor Challenge” we loved finding creative ways to take nature walks and then sharing them with you!
 
While we may not have typical forests, we do still love to hear the wind whistling around saguaro’s…  It is always good to slow down and get outdoors!
 
We loved making this wordless book as we explored the beauty of the gospel and living a spirit-filled life!
 
I’m always thankful for a fresh reminder of the importance we have as parents to train and prepare our children for whatever the future may hold.  Don’t panic.  Pray and Prepare!
 
As mothers, we are cultivating the very culture that will shape who they become…
Talking about cradle rocking and culture creating got me to thinking and applying my mission in real-life. Easier said than done, but very necessary.
 
7. Tale of Two Kingdoms
Our exploration of the spiritual realm and importance of putting on our spiritual armor was a definite highlight this year with oh so many applications and high appeal for this boy-heavy household!

Pondering the phrase, There is so much to the phrase, “Better caught than taught,” as I watch the boys try to fill their daddy’s shoes. What kind of example are we living?
 

9. The Perils of Preschool One of my passions is the preschool years and having a playful, developmentally appropriate approach to ‘academics’ during this time.  It’s also important to laugh often…
 
Oh the benefits of homeschooling is that you aren’t tied down by location and format for daily learning adventures. 
 
As we made our way through our blistering desert summer, we learned to embrace the heat and even utilize it during our adventures outdoors.
 
Book, books, books.  Oh how we love books over here.  It was a treat to compile and share some of our favorite wordless books and share why wordless books deserve a place in your read-aloud time!
 
What a fun year.
Bring on 2013!

Reason #542 Why Boys Need a Mom

 
My goal by the time he turns 18:
that he will have a working knowledge of what clothes pair with what and will consistently apply this knowledge on a regular basis