Counting to 1,000 (645-676)

“I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.”

Psalm 35:18

 

Happy 4th of July! Let’s thank God today, not just for the freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S., but also for our freedom from sin. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are no longer captives to sin. What freedom!

Continuing my list of one thousand gifts this week — #645 is the best gift so far!

645. her meeting with the pastor about her upcoming baptism (Oh! What joy for those whose hope is in the name of the Lord!)

646. the two free books earned from Barnes & Noble — because they love to read

647. new friends at swim camp

648. a picnic lunch on the patio at the Arboretum

649. sunny, 70-degree weather

650. water lilies and tadpoles

651. how she longs for her sketchbook and colored pencils

652. catching the rose garden at peak bloom

653. girls in white dresses

654. her fascination with finding sticks

655. the smooth, curved edges of the oak leaves

656. the mighty oak that stretches its branches so far and wide, giving us shade

657. just breathing the sweet, intoxicating smell of the roses

658. roses, roses and more roses

659. little girls in the rose garden

660. a second, same-day trip to the rose garden, with camera and sketchbooks in tow

661. how wild they run in the lush grass

662. the sunlight that turns hair and grass and everything golden

662. watching and learning from sisterly love as it blooms

663. a short wait and a wise doctor at urgent care

664. medicine and insurance and the healing that comes from Jehovah Rophe, the Lord Who Heals and Restores

665. the little one who diligently prays for her big sister to recover

666. air conditioning on a hot, humid day

667. news of Annie’s birth

668. God’s faithful protection over him as he launches the sailboat

669. shelter from the severe wind storm that brings in cooler weather

670. how the clouds glow after the storm passes over

671. the first sail of the season

672. a 5-year-old’s prayer for wisdom

673. captivating clouds at sunset

674. lessons in contentment and God’s provision

675. reading John 4:7 after giving water and popsicles to the men working hard in the heat

676. hydrangeas blooming on the patio

Cheers for the Red, White and Blue

Last Friday, my sweet friend Kate invited the girls and me over for an early 4th of July celebration with her family and another mutual family of friends.

Kate served up these delicious chocolate malts (and photographed them, too!)

One of Kate’s most prominent spiritual gifts is hospitality. Sitting in the wicker furniture on her four-season porch, sipping a malt, and gazing at the breathtaking white hydrangeas… Isn’t this why lazy summer afternoons were invented? I start to wonder if I really did fall into a page of REAL SIMPLE magazine. Or perhaps it was a children’s story book I landed inside of.

 Not that any of us moms could linger daydreamily for long, mind you. With 11 kids between the three of us, it was quite a busy and festive place!

After having their faces painted and making and decorating their own patriotic top hats, the kids marched in a parade. 

Everyone took turns being the Grand Marshall; this was Linnea’s turn.

Thank you, Kate, for a lovely and memorable afternoon of fun! And thanks for taking these beautiful pictures, too! You simply amaze me, and your friendship is such a sweet blessing!

Presentation Day

Last week our homeschool group held its 2nd annual Presentation Day — a wonderful event that allows the students in our group to display some of their hard work and also perform before a live audience. It’s a fantastic way to wrap up the school year, and it’s also good medicine for us moms! When we are all wiped out at the end of the school year, there’s nothing more encouraging and inspiring than seeing the kids put on an incredible program — piano, violin, guitar, skits, poetry, ballet, singing, live science experiments, and even some magic tricks. It’s also really a treat to check out all the amazing projects other homeschoolers have been working on in art, science, history, etc.

Linnea has been studying U.S. history all year — from the Leif Erickson to Thomas Edison, and from Delaware to Hawaii. So she put together a pretty nifty U.S. history display, which included her tri-corn hat, her paper patchwork quilt, her drawing of the Statue of Liberty, her drawing of George Washington, her replica of the Oregon Trail, her replica of Jamestown 1607, and her 93-page U.S. history scrapbook that she labored over diligently all year.   

the Oregon Trail replica

She also had several pieces of artwork on display from her Friday art class with Mrs. Henriksen. The one pictured above is one of my favorites.

During the special program, Linnea played “Pink Polka Dots” on piano, and then she recited the poem “Bed in Summer” by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Laurel recited “To the First Robin” by Louisa May Alcott. Then, accompanied on guitar by their dad, the girls sang “Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue.”

They did a fantastic job! I’m so proud of them and all their hard work this year. We all have learned so much and made so many great memories together! I’m enjoying summer, but I’m also looking forward to start fresh again in the fall.

It’s a Snow Day!

Someone recently asked me if homeschoolers ever get snow days.

By my measurement, that’s a deep question. So I guess it requires a pretty deep answer. 

Consider the beauty of a snow day: Catch up on sleep. Hang out all day with people you love dearly. Take a break from the usual routine of school or work. Stay home. Wear your pajamas all day. Sip some hot chocolate in the middle of the afternoon. Slow down and enjoy a new experience outside like sledding or building a snowman.

Homeschooling is a lot like that. A flexible schedule allows homeschoolers to catch up on sleep when they’ve been deprived. They hang out all day with the people they love dearly. They can wear pajamas all day, though we never make it much past 8 a.m. in ours. Homeschoolers often have time to enjoy a new experience as a family, whether it’s through a book that’s read-aloud, a field trip to the theatre or museum, or a science project worked on together.

Also consider the classic book Snowy Day, written by Ezra Jack Keats. It’s a simple story of a little boy who wakes up to a winter wonderland of snow. Since school is canceled, the boy spends the entire day exploring and playing in the fresh snow. Among other things, he experiments with his foot prints, makes a snowangel, and eventually discovers that snowballs melt when brought inside. That one day he learns more about snow than he ever would learn about it in a classroom.

Likewise, when there’s an opportunity to sink deeply into a certain subject,

homeschoolers have the freedom to wallow in it for a while.

They also have the freedom to step back and view it from a totally different angle.

Don’t get me wrong. A classroom can be great for practicing handwriting and studying spelling words and reading all about this incredible world our Father created. But often a textbook experience falls way short of a true learning experience. And that’s what’s great about education that isn’t trapped inside the four walls of a classroom. That’s why it’s essential for students to have the freedom to go out into the world to learn about it up close, first hand!

Most folks agree, enjoying a snow day is the safe, cozy thing to do when the snow is really piling up outside. And for our family, homeschooling is a safe and cozy way to truly learn about this great big world God created.

Yes, homeschooling has its ups.

And homeschooling has its downsides.

But we strive to enjoy the ride anyhow.

And we are thankful for friends who help us up when we reach the bottom.

Together may we reach new heights every day, whether it’s a snow day or not.

Back to School

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It’s back to school for our family this week! Our first day went as well as we could expect. We actually chose to start on Labor Day because the girls couldn’t stand to wait another day. They really look forward to school!

Much of what we are studying this year centers on U.S. history, a few presidents and a little about each of the 50 states. One of  today’s highlights was learning about the Pledge of Allegiance, why it was written and what it means. Linnea drew and colored this picture of the flag.

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Laurel did her own version of the flag below.

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One little-known perk of homeschooling is that students can wear hats to class! This was especially convenient for the first day because during our lesson about the Pledge we discussed removing your hat to show respect for the flag. It’s helpful to actually have a hat on when you learn that.

This year both girls have desks, and they are arranged side by side beneath one of our bulletin boards. Personally, I’m pretty thrilled about the bulletin boards. They are like giant scrapbook pages. Well, almost.  Another perk is that everyone gets a handy-dandy organizer tote (black with white polka-dot accents) to keep scissors, pencils, crayons, rulers, and the like right at your fingertips. Very useful and cute, too! 

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This one is my favorite picture from the first day of school.

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Parental Rights Amendment

One of my favorite of the 10 Commandments is “Honor your father and mother.” I mention it to my kids quite often. Children need to respect and obey their parents as authority figures because parents (in most cases) know what’s best for their children and act in that best interest. For our family, this is a key part of raising children to become adults who love and obey the Lord.

That said, you can imagine my complete dismay when I recently heard that our government is poised to adopt the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child , a purposed international treaty that empowers the government to over-rule any decision a parent makes on the children’s behalf — decisions like where to attend church and how to correct wrong behavior. This is a deeply disturbing invasion on our rights and freedoms as parents. The worst news is our nation’s top leaders support it wholeheartedly.

Hearing stories about the erosion of parental rights in America’s courts also sends chills up my spine. So, in an effort to safeguard the relationships between me and my children and to protect the freedoms of future generations, I am spreading the word about the Parental Rights Amendment.

Michael and I first heard about this amendement a few months ago, and right away we both signed up to support it. This amendment will protect against the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child and other threats to parental authority.

Here’s the official plug for the Parental Rights Amendment from www.parentalrights.org:

A parent’s right to raise their children as they see fit is a time-honored American tradition, but today it is being threatened. The Supreme Court’s Troxel v. Granville decision in 2000 undermined a 75-year heritage of Constitutionally-protected, fundamental parental rights, which 8 of the 9 justices abandoned. At the same time, a growing body of international law fuels activist judges to legislate foreign standards from the American bench, while treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child would subject parental decisions to government oversight and international review.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (MI-2) has proposed HJR-42, the Parental Rights Amendment, to stop the erosion of parental rights in American courts while simultaneously defending our laws from international invasion. Please, visit parentalrights.org to learn more about the Amendment, and to join their email network by signing the petition to protect parental rights.

I urge you, if you care about your parental rights, please sign up!

May God Bless America

Today is the National Day of Prayer, and as I look out the window I see a beautiful spring day. Buds have turned to growing leaves on the trees. The rustling grass has grown a vibrant green. It’s a sunny, breezy, 71 degrees in Minnesota. What a beautiful country we live in!

God has blessed us! How can we not respond with thanksgiving? How can we not praise the Maker of the beautiful creation around us? He is worthy to be praised. 

Today I am saddened to hear that the White House is not participating in the National Day of Prayer. When in our nation’s history has there been a more urgent need for prayer? So many Americans are without jobs today. So many are off fighting for freedom in distant lands. So many suffer from countless diseases and heartaches.

Especially when the leader of our country choses not to humble himself before God, the rest of us must continue to pray fervently and humbly. Let’s pray that God takes hold of our president and changes his heart. Let’s pray that the veil over the president’s eyes is lifted. Let’s pray that these remarkable trials draw our president into a right relationship with the One True God. Let’s pray that God will forgive our country’s arrogance, our self-sufficient attitudes, and our idolatry. Let’s ask Him to continue to bless the United States of America.

The prayers of the righteous will avail.

Freedom

Here’s an inspiring and challenging quote from my favorite president:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” 

-President Ronald Reagan