RE:FOCUS – Clear the Mechanism

RE:FOCUS – Clear the Mechanism

Several years ago, we did an every-Monday blog series called RE:FOCUS that only lasted for about 5 weeks. I must have gotten sidetracked with something else, regrettably. So guess what? It’s time to start up again. As I grow older, I’m realizing more and more that going to church and having a regular quiet time are not the ONLY things that we need to be conscious of doing. Important, yes. But there is more. Life hits hard on Monday morning. When we hit the pavement, it’s essential that we have our focus correctly centered on Christ… and that we keep it there. Focus is a hard concept to master. One of my favorite expressions is “clear the mechanism.”  I love baseball and I love movies, so when the two of them meet, it is pretty incredible!  In For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner is a pitcher who has the ability and discipline to get to a place where everything around him is completely blocked out.  Anytime the voices, people, criticism, noise, or even OUTSIDE thoughts get in the way, he reminds himself to “clear the mechanism.”  In this movie, you even see visually how he truly gets to a place of complete tunnel vision. Check out the short scene:   In our lives, there are so many distractions.  Our jobs can be difficult and stressful.  Relationships with co-workers, friends, neighbors, family, etc. can be hard.  Even “good” things in our lives can distract us from the true main thing… Our spouses & kids can distract us.  Housework can distract us.  “Church” can even distract us.  TV, facebook, internet, sports, music…. Must I go...
Rediscovering Who I Am

Rediscovering Who I Am

You know the moment. You suddenly feel the world crumbling in on you and you feel completely alone. What do you do in that moment? Who hears from you? God has surrounded me with amazing friends and family who are there when I need them. But those wonderful people all too often become a crutch for me. A place to lean. Friends I can see. I can hear. I can touch. This causes me to often turn to them, not to God. The past few years have been a tough period for my family… filled with transition, pain, and working through thick strongholds that have felt smothering at times. In some of these times, I have felt completely alone. Many of the friends who so eagerly surrounded us before “seemed” to be non-existent. In this darkness, I’ve pushed away the very tools God has given me to express worship. I’ve left my guitar in its case, even with music being the gift that draws me to Him like no other. I’ve been inconsistent with running, the world where my head gets clear and I can focus on His strength in me. And my fingers have not been striking the keys on this macbook like they have in the past. The writing has been put on the back burner… the very thing that allows me to process life. I’ve been so distracted trying to fill the ache. Chasing after things that are just distracting me from the true calling in my life. The one I’ve known for a long time. Just feeling these words come off of my fingers and seeing them on the page...
A Little About Me

A Little About Me

I am a wife and mother who is passionate about Jesus and about simplifying things so that others may see Him in this crazy world we live in. God is teaching me what it means to grow where I am planted… to really live for Him. This blog is just a collection of my ramblings along the way. We all struggle. We all have weaknesses. My desire is that this will be a place of transparency in a world that makes us think we need to be perfect. We all have a story. Here is a little of mine… After 37 years, I finally came to the realization that God has given me a story to tell. Although I have made my own choices down the path of life, He has always known what those choices were going to be. My testimony is a GIFT that He wants to use as a blessing and encouragement to others. The place where I am “planted” is a true miracle, a clear example of what God can do in a life. Why “grow where you’re planted”? God does not want us to run to try and find greener grass. If we are living for Him, within His will, we are to allow Him to use us right where we are. There was a time in my life when I thought I could find greener grass, and God set me straight. The goal for this blog is to be a continuous story of how we can grow and be used exactly where we are at any given time. 1 Timothy 1:16 says, “…I...
Fun-Time Phonics! – A Review

Fun-Time Phonics! – A Review

For my last project for the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family was given the opportunity to review Fun-Time Phonics!, a systematic phonics and comprehension reading program by The Critical Thinking Co. It is a 320-page book for grades K-2, full of colorful pages that help children learn to read in a fun way. This program ensures complete phonemic awareness mastery because it focuses on vowel isolation – their individual sounds. Before a student can become a proficient reader, this very basic and important piece must be mastered. Because my daughter has recently been diagnosed with Dyslexia, I was excited about trying this fun curriculum with her. She specifically struggles with phonemic awareness/vowel isolation, so this was the perfect type of stimulating program to try with her. The emphasis of Fun-Time Phonics! is on patterns, not rule memorization. Here is a listing of the components and strategies that are extremely effective with all levels of readers: Builds from students’ natural speaking abilities, developing their auditory awareness of vowel sounds; Incorporates multisensory instruction for introducing the alphabet and short vowels; Provides cognitively-engaging connected text for practice; Utilizes co-articulation to introduce consonant sounds, eliminating traditional stumbling blocks and ensuring a successful reading start; Involves multiple regions of the brain – analytical as well as artistic and language-providing various pathways to long-term memory and automatic word recall. Fun-Time Phonics! is literally an open-and-go program. You sit down with your student, open the book, and easily teach the concepts without any prep work at all. Since we are no longer homeschooling, it is helpful to have a curriculum like this that we can add to our homework routine...
Reading Kingdom – A Review

Reading Kingdom – A Review

As part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family was given the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom Online, a complete computer-based reading curriculum for ages 4-10 by Reading Kingdom. This program is fun and colorful, and teaches children to read and write up to a 3rd grade level. According to the Department of Education, 2 out of 3 children fail to become proficient readers. Reading Kingdom has taken a step to help children enjoy learning to read through their beautifully-designed interface.  This program is also specially designed to work well for children who have been diagnosed with various learning disabilities. Children with Dyslexia, ADD, and Autism thrive in this learning environment. The visual stimulation improves their ability to retain information as they learn it. Reading Kingdom Online is broken up into these segments: Sequencing – the process that allows us to read the same letter combinations as different words by changing their order; Writing – using the keyboard to physically type in the spelling of words; Sounds – phonics, creating words from sounds/sets of letters; Meaning – developing an understanding what words mean in their contexts; Grammar – how words and phrases go together in the English language; Comprehension – developing a complete understanding of what the kids read. Benefits of using this program are: Research based and incredibly effective. The program adapts to every child and provides individualized instruction. Kids can use the program on their own. It’s fun so children think they’re playing a game and want to use it. It was created by Dr. Marion Blank, one of the world’s top experts in reading. It works as a standalone curriculum or...
Review of Middlebury Interactive Languages

Review of Middlebury Interactive Languages

As part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family was given the opportunity to review a semester of Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2, a completely online curriculum by Middlebury Interactive Languages. This program is very fun and interactive, and geared to younger students. Each unit takes a story from Spanish culture and uses various types of games and activities to help students learn the language AND the culture at the same time. Each unit is broken into several lessons, and there is a lot of review of the small pieces of information that are given. It is definitely not overwhelming for young students, but instead helps them to really grasp phrases before moving on. The curriculum also includes quizzes and tests that help them see how much they are learning along the way. As someone who learned sign language while immersed in Deaf culture, I know the value of being “thrown in” to the culture in order to learn. In the old days, we learned Spanish by copying words, repeating after the teacher, and we never used many visually stimulating and immersive techniques. Needless to say, I don’t remember a lot about Spanish. However, while in college, I became fluent in sign language by being thrown in and having to learn the language to survive. This curriculum reminds me of that (in as much as an online program can do that). The students watch and listen to stories in Spanish. While focusing on certain phrases, they pick up other words/phrases through context clues and pictures. It is awesome! Here are a few screen shots of how the program works: Here...

Alpha Omega Publishing – Horizons Preschool – A Review

For Joshua’s 3-year-old preschool year, we mostly used play for math, along with listening in on reading, social studies, science, and health with Katherine. We were SO excited to get to try out the Horizons Preschool Curriculum from Alpha Omega Publishing! We received the complete Preschool package for this review. This Christian curriculum teaches math, phonics, language arts, and other subjects with fun activities and games. The set includes two student workbooks (with 180 lessons), two teacher’s guides, a music CD, and a resource packet with tons of manipulatives. Horizons Preschool is the most incredible curriculum your youngest kiddos! It’s not just workbooks… there are so many things taught through this multi-sensory program. It is a great way to introduce preschoolers to “formal” learning. There are Bible stories, science projects, arts and crafts, music, health and safety, social studies, phonics, math, and a lot of other stuff. So well-rounded, yet geared specifically for this young age! Here are just a few things kids learn in this fun-packed year: Days 1-7 of Creation and the Flood (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, light, dark, air, clouds, rocks, soil, grass, seeds, trees, fruits, vegetables, sun, weather, day, night, hour, seasons, Earth’s rotation and tilt, moon, stars, constellations, astronomy, planets, comets, meteors, fish, climate, ocean creatures, amphibians, eggs, birds, mammals, blood, circulation, brain, body parts, occupations, health, safety, music, work, rules, helpers, friends, family, reptiles, insects, man, cells, senses, bones, digestion, breathing, muscles, obedience, flood, and promises; Letter recognition and sounds Aa-Zz, and alphabetical order Colors and shapes Fine motor skills, such as cutting, gluing, stamping, drawing, coloring, folding, tracing, painting, etc. Physical activities, such as running, skipping, hopscotch, crawling, bowling,...

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers – A Review

Susan Kilbride’s Fantastic Unit Studies is a website offering Science & History unit studies, along with recommendations for books and resources for homeschoolers. For this review, I was given a copy of Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers, a 201-page softcover book that is full of a variety of hands-on science activities for children ages 4-13. The topics are split into two age groups, with half of the units for ages 4-7 and half of the units for ages 8-13. The following units are geared to ages 4-7: Our Senses The Human Body Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life Animals Insects and Their Kin Fun with Magnets Stars and Planets Health Beginning Plants Animal Ecology These units are for ages 8-13, and include more in-depth activities as well as tests: Insects Microscopes and Invisible Creatures Atoms and Molecules Matter Chemistry Fun Weather Force and Motion Simple Machines Light and Color Plants II The units all start with a list of materials you will need to complete the study. At first, I was overwhelmed by these lists, but as I read through them, I realized that MOST of the items should be readily on-hand in most homes. Some things you’ll need to buy, but it just depends on how extensive your arts/crafts and kitchen supplies are. After the needed materials list in each unit, you go into an introduction (sometimes), and then you are presented with several different sub-topics and activities to work through. Every unit is different. Some include more kinesthetic-type activities than others. For example, in the “Our Senses” unit, students build a Mr. Potato Head type craft, using an actual potato, toothpicks, and vegetables. This gives...