A Trip to Zion

Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad. Psalm 14:7 (NKJV)

Are you looking for a fun family vacation in God’s creation where you will be reminded of God’s Word and promises?  Where there are activities for children of all ages?  Where accessibility is ensured and shuttles deliver you from April to October to your next scenic point?  I have just the place for you, and now is the time to plan your trip!

Last July our family made a trek to Zion National Park in southern Utah to rendezvous with our New Mexico cousins.  And though it was 100 degrees and the crowds were at their peak, we had a wonderful time exploring this unique National Park.

My dear sister-in-law made reservations for us in March, and the closest campsites at that time were an hour away in Cedar City at the KOA.  The hour drive wasn’t so long because of the pretty scenery and time to discuss hiking plans.  The Cedar City KOA had a central picnic area where we could join our cousins for meals, though the KOA itself was better for RVs than for tents.

But when we saw the campsites in Zion National Park, we knew that’s where we would like to stay next time.  For the Park campsites you must make reservations now, because they fill up by December.  The park campsites are convenient to the shuttles, trails, visitor centers, and ranger programs.  You can even take a shuttle back into the town of Springdale for groceries.  Nestled among the trees in their own quiet area, the campsites are the way to experience Zion.  If you still want to be in the Park, but not out in the elements, try the beautiful Zion Lodge.

So, how does Zion National Park remind us more of God’s Word than the other three National Parks in southern Utah (Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches National Parks), or the Grand Canyon, just two hours away in Arizona?  Though Zion Park gained its title from Mormon pioneers, a Methodist pastor, Frederick Fisher, gets the credit for many of the park’s names.  Pastor Fisher named three peaks after the Biblical Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Running through the Park is the Virgin River, named for the Virgin Mary who gave birth to our Lord Jesus. Another edifice, “The Alter of Sacrifice.” memorializes the Old Testament story of Abraham obediently offering his son Isaac, foretelling God giving His only Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. Rounding out the Biblical illusions are the Great White Throne, Angels’ Landing, and Watchman.

…And I will place salvation in Zion,
For Israel My glory. Isaiah 46:13 (NKJV)

Numerous activities beckon every visitor who enters Zion National Park. From early  morning ranger hikes to late evening campfire programs, to talks and hikes throughout the days.  I asked our six year old son what he liked best about Zion, and he replied, “Soaking my feet in the Virgin River after that super long hike.”  I must add to his list, earning a Junior Ranger Badge, successfully hiking to the top of Observation Point in 100 degree weather, and making it back down, even though we ran out of water! We also took the shuttle to end of the road to visit the River Walk and convinced ourselves we must hike The Narrows on our next visit (this is a hike in the river, so we have to plan our trip for non-flood season and rent special shoes, June and early July might be best).

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Take Jesus on your next vacation or camping trip.  Start your day with a family devotion and prayer, then head out early to make the most of your day with hiking and fun times with your family.  Thank Jesus for His beautiful creation and let each family member say thank you for their favorite part of the day.  Get started here…Plan your trip here!

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.  Psalm 9:11 (NKJV)

And I have put My words in your mouth;
I have covered you with the shadow of My hand,
That I may plant the heavens,
Lay the foundations of the earth,
And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ”  Isaiah 51:16 (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Summer Fishing Fun

Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:19 (NKJV)

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We have some fishing fun for you today! Since it is hot and summer time, your family may be sipping lemonade, orange juice and other beverages that come in a carton. How about turning those cartons into fishing fun for the kids?

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Joel and I were sitting by his wading pool one hot July day, when we came up with this idea.  We cut fish shapes from a lemonade carton, since the coating on the carton protects the fish in the wading pool.

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Then we fastened safety pins to the mouths of the fish.

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Finally, we tossed the fish in the wading pool.  Joel fished them out with his magnetic fishing pole.

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If you don’t have a fishing pole, you could attach a magnet from your fridge to a string on a stick.

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While we were making our fish, we talked about how Jesus liked to go fishing.  In fact, many of Jesus’ friends were fishermen.  Sometimes Jesus’ friends had trouble catching fish and Jesus would tell them to “throw the net on the other side of the boat.” Then they would catch so many fish the net would almost break.  How did Jesus know there were so many fish on the other side?

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Today’s TEA CUPP for homeschool moms:  Stay cool, recycle, have fun fishing, talk about Jesus. 

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You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  Deuteronomy 6:7 (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

 

Favorite Home School Readers

pathway readersTeach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.  Psalm 86:11 (NKJV)

Which books do I still keep on my shelf after 20 years of homeschooling?  Please let me share them with you!

Today let’s look at our reading books.  I’m so thankful God started us on these readers with our first child, because they are the best!  I’ve tried other books over the years, and nothing compares with these Pathway Readers.  The books are for grades 1-8, and my only wish is that they had four more books to go through 12th grade!

From First Steps to Our Heritage, you will read stories about Amish families, like Peter and Rachel’s.  The black and white illustrations never show the people, just the scenery and animals.  But that doesn’t bother our children.  It lets them imagine what the characters look like.  Each story is a lesson in character building, as we read about boys and girls who try to do their chores and lessons and be good, just as we are trying to do at our house.  As we reach the upper grade books, we read more stories from history, some of the best collections I’ve seen.

The highlight of my morning is sitting on the sofa with my children, reading these books.  We especially enjoy taking turns reading pages.  This makes it easier for a slower reader.  The youngest play toys on the floor at our feet, enjoying the stories as well.  More than once a child has exclaimed, “I remember this story!”  when it came his year to read it in the book.  He really was listening when playing at our feet!

A special note, you can get the complete set of Pathway Readers right now from Timberdoodle.com for only $90.  That will be money well-spent.Millers

Another set of books we truly love are The Miller books by Mildred A. Martin.  These titles include Storytime and the Millers, School Days and the Millers, Wisdom and the Millers, Prudence and the Millers, Growing with the Millers, and Missionary Stories with the Millers.  The Miller family stories will stick with you and your children, long after the day is over.  I remember crying through many of the Missionary Stories, asking the kids to finish reading for me. Your children get to learn life lessons right along with the Miller children, as their parents bring them up in the Lord.

The entire set of Miller books is available from Milestonebooks.com right now for only $41.50.  Another great investment for your home school!

With Pathway Readers and Miller books as the core of your reading program, you won’t need much else.  However, it is always fun to sit as a family each evening, enjoying a classic read-aloud. So, next time I will share our favorite series and classics that are still on our bookshelf after 20 years of home school.

Until then, God bless your home school!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

A Preschool Day

Joel's day3So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

“What are we going to do today?”
“What’s next?”
“I have nothing to do.”
“Can I watch TV now?”
“When will you play a game with me?”

Do you have these same questions at your house?  Are you going bonkers, getting through a long day with your preschooler? How do you stop the questions, and keep the day moving in a smooth fashion, while getting all the chores done, too? Please let me share what works in our family.

More than 20 years ago, we had a 3-year old girl who was always hoping for play time and art time and watching Barney on TV.  Mommy wanted to do all those things, but I also had chores and errands and meals to fit into the day.  So, I came up with a way for our daughter to see her day at a glance, knowing that her favorite activities would be coming soon.

We had a stack of Family Fun magazines at the time, so I cut out photos and cartoons of kids doing various activities, such as reading books, going to the park, eating lunch, etc.  I glued these clippings onto note cards and strung them up with clothespins, so our daughter could check the next activity.  Using clothespins made it easy to rearrange the note cards with each new day.Joel's day

A few years later, we also had a little boy who wanted to know the daily plan, but first I needed the chores to be completed.  So I took photos of the kids doing jobs around the house, from feeding the cat to sweeping the kitchen.  I cut the photos into star shapes, put magnets on the back, and arranged them on the refrigerator.  When each chore was completed, it was put into a special envelope.  When all the jobs were finished, it was play time.

I used the star chores again with our third child. When he completed all the stars for the day, he received a “star-buck” good for buying a prize at the “Mom Buck” store once a week.  Now he is almost 16 and would prefer Starbucks over one of mom’s star-bucks :-).

With our fourth child, we have made the stars a combination of chores and activities, so he can see the whole day at a glance.  Each morning I rearrange and exchange the stars to show our plan.  Joel’s day usually starts with feeding the cat, eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing his teeth, making his bed, and doing an extra chore.  Then it is school time where he plays with Mommy, has stories, does a craft, and eats lunch.

After lunch, Joel heads outside for swings or sandbox, then comes in for a PBS Kids show.  The late afternoon brings Legos or a project with Daddy.  Dinner is followed by bath time, stories, and a bedtime prayer.  Joel is so used to his schedule that he will remind me, “Mommy, you have to do my schedule!”  He will even get sneaky and switch “pick-up toys” with “reading stories” so he can skip clean-up time. But Mommy is wise to this!

Joel's day2Over the years I’ve found our star chores and schedules can be used even into the early elementary years.  When the kids have outgrown the photos, it is time to start a regular lesson book (about third or fourth grade).  By then the kids have such a good routine, they know just what to do.  I hope this will help answer the preschool questions at your house!

Apply your heart to instruction,
And your ears to words of knowledge.  Proverbs 23:12 (NKJV)

This article is the second in my Home School Tea Time series, sharing a few things God has taught me in our 20 years-and-counting home school journey.  Today’s message helps you plan your preschooler’s or early elementary student’s day. Be blessed and be a blessing!

New King James Version (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

My Home School Story

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Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

The other day I realized, we’ve been home-schooling for 20 years!  This is 2016, and in 1996, when our daughter was in first grade, we began to home school.  There have been many ups and downs these 20 years, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  This story is how God called us to home school our children.  Perhaps He is calling you, too, and you are wondering how to get started.  I hope my home school story helps you…

We have four children on earth and three in heaven.  When our oldest two kids were ages three years and four months, we moved to a new state.  We were blessed to meet other families with young children who all had the same question for us, “Are you going to home school?”

I hadn’t even considered home school! But when the third person asked me, I thought perhaps God wanted me to look into it.  Our daughter attended preschool at our church when she was four. That whole year we prayed about whether she should go to kindergarten the next fall, or not.  When August rolled around, we still didn’t have an answer.

A friend was hoping to build a new house and told me the story of seeing a double rainbow right over their property; she took that as a “go” sign from God.  I prayed for God to give us a sign about school for our daughter. The next Sunday at church, the pastor announced that the new principal at our daughter’s school was a church member.  We took that as the sign, and sent our daughter off to kindergarten.  It was very hard to put our sweet, curly-haired girl on the school bus, just two weeks after her fifth birthday.

Our daughter attended a large rural school, where students came from all walks of life.  The teachers did their best to help the kids succeed, but they only had so much time for each one.  It seemed we were doing more with our daughter on the afternoons and weekends than she was doing during her school hours.  We would read stories, paint pictures, go for nature hikes, visit the zoo, write our own stories…I wasn’t sure why I needed to send her off on the bus each morning.  So, at the end of her kindergarten year, we decided to home school.

I remember my dad asking how long we would be home schooling.  I didn’t know at the time, but I thought a few years, at least. I often wondered why God wanted us to have that one year in public school, and perhaps it was to solidify our decision. Now, 20 years later, we’re still home schooling and about to start our four-year old on the journey, as well.  What have I learned in these 20 years?  Let me share a bit with you…

I’ve learned I’m not cut out for this!  Seriously, that’s what so many moms tell me, “I could never do that.  I don’t have the patience.”  My family will tell you I run out of patience, too.  But I keep on going because this is God’s calling.  If you’re going to home school, you really have to jump in and do it and never quit.  There will be good days and bad days, good years and bad years.  But in the end, you will be so glad you stuck with it.

I’ve learned that kids grow up way to fast, and home school is the best way to spend time together.  Yes, it’s true.  Our daughter is now 25 years old, a college graduate, working on a masters degree and expecting her first baby.  Our oldest son is now 22 and finishing a degree in mechanical engineering.  We are so thankful to still have our 15-year old son and our four-year old son at home!  The times I cherish the most are when we sit on the sofa together and read stories.  There is nothing cozier and more special than that!

I’ve learned that Daddy is a great help with home school.  Yes, moms, be sure to get dads involved.  Many times I was sure the kids learned more from doing a wood-working project or science experiment with Daddy, than all the months of book work they did with me.  It is so good to have Daddy on board and supporting the whole home school.  We like having Daddy help us start each day with prayer and devotion at breakfast before he heads off to work.  Often he’ll come home early to do a project, giving me a break, too.

I’ve learned to use the library.  When we first started home school, we had a very small income with no room for extras.  I took my two little ones to the library every week, where we checked out a huge stack of books.  We would spend the week reading them together.  Sometimes we would have a theme such as Africa or the circus, but other times it was just a random collection of stories.  You don’t need “real” curriculum until the kids are in fourth grade.

I’ve learned there is math all around.  Our most favorite thing to do for math is to bake cookies.  We double the recipe or use the wrong size measuring cup, just to do a little more math in our heads.  All my kids know how to make cookies!  There is also math on the calendar, the clock, the thermometer, the speedometer, the ruler, the calculator, the grocery store, in counting objects, and the list goes on!  I start my kids on Saxon Math in 4th grade, but before that we just work on facts, telling time, making up word problems, and an occasional work book from Walmart :-).

I’ve learned 4H has great lessons for kids.  From animals to sewing to cooking to wood-working to mechanics to photography to robotics to electricity…you name it!  If your kids join a local 4H club, they can sign up for any of these activities and receive detailed activity books.  Youth in 4H also learn great life lessons such as record-keeping, organization, goal-setting, community service and leadership.

I’ve learned what works for one might not work for all. But I still might use it, because I like it! There are certain books I love that I use for all our kids.  Pathway Readers and The Millers books have some of the best family stories and lessons. Other curriculum, such as Jensen Grammar for high school, I gave up on the third child.  Sorry, Mr. Jensen, we just couldn’t do grammar any more!

I’ve learned to ask friends for ideas.  Our town has a loose-knit home school group.  There is probably a group in your area, too.  In bigger towns, families get together to share lessons in a co-op fashion.  Our group passes around used books and shares tips on Facebook.  One friend and I used the same high school curriculum, and cried on each others’ shoulders every quarter when it was time to send in the school work.  It’s good to have a home school friend!

I’ve learned to make Jesus first and last.   Our days begin with prayer and an Our Daily Bread devotion at breakfast.  Our days end with the kids being tucked into bed with a prayer, too.  We know we aren’t perfect, but we ask Jesus to guide us in our lessons and activities throughout the day. Start and end your days with Jesus, and let Him fill your moments in between, too.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

My Call to Homeschool

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, And great shall be the peace of your children. Isaiah 54:13 (NKJV)

Our kitchen cupboards are decorated with handwriting verses.  The wall by the stove displays a world map.  The shelf by my kitchen table overflows with school books and supplies.  And I get to see my children all day, every day!  I must be a homeschool mom!

One of the things God called me to do 15 years ago was to homeschool our children.  I know He doesn’t call everyone to homeschool, but this is God’s call for me.  How I came to know His call was quite a prayer process, as I’m sure it is for many moms who wonder if they are supposed to homeschool their children.

My first awareness of homeschool came when I was a child.  My aunt was homeschooling two of my cousins.  My cousins are really quite brilliant and didn’t fit into the public school setting.  I didn’t hear much about homeschooling again until I was grown-up and a teacher, teaching at a Christian school right after we were married.  There I met a mom who was considering homeschool for her active son.  I couldn’t believe that she would want to take him out of the “perfect” Christian school!

But then we had children!  When our daughter was three and our son was an infant we moved to Ohio.  Within the first year we were there several random people asked me if we were going to homeschool our children – one from my husband’s work, one from church, one from ballet lessons.  Why were all these people asking me about homeschool???  My daughter was only three! Was God trying to send me a message?

Well, it is interesting how time flies quickly when the kids are little.  Soon our daughter was almost five and it was time for kindergarten round-up. We hadn’t made a decision yet, so we took her to registration.  All that summer we prayed for God to give us a sign of what we were supposed to do.  A friend who was praying about a house was encouraged by a rainbow right over the property where they were to build.  I kept looking for a rainbow or something to point out what we were supposed to do.  Then late in summer, the pastor at our church announced that the new principal at our daughter’s school was a member of our congregation. We took that as the sign that Kallie was supposed to go to school.  Just a week after her fifth birthday, I put my daughter on a big yellow school bus and sent her off to kindergarten.  Oh, how that broke my heart!

To keep in touch with our daughter’s school, I volunteered every other week.  While I was there I discovered she wasn’t doing more than we already were doing at home. For special activities they would bake cookies or watch a movie, activities she already knew well.  And for a special guest they invited Kallie’s dad who worked at the Nature Center.  With 30 kids in a kindergarten class, we just didn’t see how Kallie was learning more than she already did at home.  So, at the end of kindergarten, we decided to homeschool Kallie for first grade. I always wondered why God let us send Kallie to kindergarten, since we had prayed for direction before that.  The reason I’ve been able to see over the years is that one year convinced me never to send our kids to public school, whereas I might have been tempted if we hadn’t experienced that year.

I remember my dad asking, “So how long are you planning to do this?’ I didn’t know. We were just going to take it one year at a time.  Some of those years were good years and some were struggles. Some days I just wanted to give up.  But we persevered, and were constantly encouraged by how much we could positively influence our kids for Jesus Christ.  When our daughter graduated high school as a homeschooler in 2008, I thought how fast the time had flown and how thankful I was that we had homeschooled her and had all that time together.    I never regret it for a moment.  Today I continue to homeschool Kallie’s two younger brothers.

Some of our favorite activities in homeschool over the years have included field trips and family trips, reading stories together, writing stories together, art projects,  science with Daddy, playing post office, making scrapbooks, baking, planting gardens, etc.  We have also played piano at the nursing home, served at soup kitchens, and been on mission trips as a family.

When Kallie was in second grade, we used the Moore Foundation who encouraged us to write down why we homeschool, so that on days we feel like quitting , we can look back at our reasons.  Here is what I wrote then and still believe today:

We homeschool because God called us to homeschool our children.

We homeschool because we love our children.

We homeschool because our children grow up so quickly, we want to be with them as much as possible.

We homeschool because we want our children to have Christian family values.

We homeschool because our children are each unique and learn at their own pace.

We homeschool because we can learn at home or when we travel any time of year.

We homeschool because God called us to homeschool our children.

Over the years there have been many Bible verses God has used to encourage me to keep teaching our children.  These verses could also be posted on the walls of your homeschool classroom, as an encouragement to both parents and students…

Teach me, O LORD, to follow Your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Psalm 119:33 (NIV)

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. Psalm 24:4-5 (NKJV)

Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Proverbs 4:13 (NIV)

Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. Psalm 27:11 (NKJV)

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 (NKJV)

If any of you are praying about homeschooling, some of my favorite resources include…

Pathway Readers for grades 1-8:
http://www.pathwayreaders.com/

A Reason for Handwriting:
http://www.areasonfor.com/article.php?id=19/

Saxon Math for grades 4 and up:
http://saxonhomeschool.hmhco.com/en/products/default.htm?level2Code=M0006/

Apologia Science for junior/senior high:
http://www.apologia.com/

The Moore Foundation:
http://www.moorefoundation.com/

The Sycamore Tree Academy:
http://www.sycamoretree.com/

Mary Pride’s Reviews:
http://www.home-school.com/

Home School Legal Defense Association:
http://www.hslda.org/Default.asp?bhcp=1/

May God bless and guide your efforts to obey His call and bring up your children in the love of Jesus our Lord!

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica