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Constructing your home’s “Wall of Education”

Friday, 02. January 2015 by Renee Ellison

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You’ve heard of the halls of education?  Well, here now, we’ll be constructing the wall of education smile : a wall dedicated only to home schooling materials.  Nothing else is allowed to even be set there.

Assemble it simply with long boards and cinderblocks.  Create a headspace of about 12 inches between shelves and build it only about 3 to 3.5 feet high.  This whole structure is totally portable; you can move it whenever you have to.

Now this is what you put in, on and above it:


In it:
Set each of your Sterlite™ box totes into a cubby hole assigned to each child with his name labeled on that shelf.  He is always to return his box exactly there.  Nothing else is to be kept in these cubby holes or totes—only immediate academic materials and their current reading book and bible.  Underneath each tote, slid directly under the tote spine-side facing out.  (This tilts their totes slightly upward and inward—an added plus.  In these notebooks will go all artwork and writings.  No free floating papers in their totes!

On it:
• The clean long surface on the top of the bookcase which ends up being about waist height—will now be filled in with this stuff:
• A box of the EXTRA paces, that they aren’t currently working on—all labeled according to subject and grade levels with taller stiffer paper between each section.
• A three-hole punch
• A box of scratch paper
• Spare pencils, colored pencils, scissors, tape and markers.
• And multiple approved recreational reading books, with bookends (covered bricks hold them nicely).

Above it:
• A large flat paper map of the world
• A large clock
• A large wall non-gloss calendar that can be easily written on
• A schooling chart (made of 1/2 inch graph paper) with all of the children’s names down the left side and all the topics across the top—a red marker tied to a long string and nailed next to it to mark off their work as they do it each day.  This frees mom up from keeping track of it all.  All she has to do is look at the large chart and presto she knows what each child has done and not done.
Zoom-Type• Little yellow art book (ask me about that)

(optional—but a really good idea, as described in an earlier post—a visible progress board (just a section of that wall…no actual board) dedicated to Mom and/or Dad’s progress on their big projects.  You put up Post-it notes directly on the wall of what is left to do—one item per Post-it note—written in large print with a marker—(no pen or pencil—can’t see such writing a foot away)—when you get an idea, or remember another next step that you’d forgotten, you write it down and post it up there—all future steps are written out up there—then as each step is accomplished it is taken off the wall and put at the bottom of the wall—so that you can see the stack grow at the bottom of all you accomplished.  This is a simple, marvelous, easy tracking system.)

Nearby:
A piano keyboard set nearby that has headsets—sparing the mama and papa from hearing beginning practicing by the younger set.  A practice chart directly above it with all the children’s names on it, and what they are to practice next.

Voilá—more academic organization than you ever dreamed—now in place—you’ve got your “horse to ride” sitting right in the stall—and YOU DID IT!

Filed Under: Home management tips

15 power tips for organizing your home

Friday, 26. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Organizing your home deeply and thoroughly has some hidden pluses for your emotions. Decluttering and arranging helps clarify you.  As you do it, you discover where your subliminal goals are headed: “There’s no time for [this] or [that]”, or “I’ve lost interest in this or that”.  The action of organizing takes people who are struggling with depression, out of that depression in a hurry.  Gaining order in your home makes you feel on top of things (instead of under them), and moves your life forward, positioning your past where it should be—in your past—defined and drastically pared down.  Further, you just plain feel happier sitting down in the midst of a very organized home, tickled every time you open a drawer or a cupboard.  An organized environment is invigorating.  Your entire family feels its effects.

To accomplish this, a person must say no to other activities for a brief while to provide more time to do it.  We all make time only by prioritizing time.  Action clobbers negative emotions.  Motion creates e-motion.  Here’s how to start that motion:

1.  To conquer that overwhelmed feeling, just move in that direction.  Take a baby step.  Sort and organize some little corner, or some little box of something, and you’ll find you take off like a rocket.  Unfortunately, that overwhelmed feeling may remain an obstacle each time you start.  Overcome it by applying the same strategy tomorrow: just “go”, move, vamoose, and soon you’ll have a trail of finished organization—in your wake—behind you.  Even 15 minutes of “organization attack” a day will work wonders in your home.

2.  Visual clarity is the goal of all organizing.  You must be able to see everything at a moment’s glance.  No more rummaging for anything.  For example, according to this line of thinking, you don’t want to stack t-shirts, you want to roll them so that you see the spine of all the colors at once.  You don’t want to put cans of food behind other cans of food, you want to make risers for cans so that you see all three rows at once.  You don’t want to stuff scarves or belts into a drawer, you want to perhaps clip them on a hanger so that you remove one hanger and see them all at once, or roll them.

3.  Files are most often just stand up trash.  Purge your files.  Label well the ones that survive.

4.  Label all boxers and containers on the end that you see first, as you approach.  Label everything.  When labeling glass jars, get a large roll of white electrician’s tape to use as the base of all of your labels.  Put a piece of this down first, on your glass.  Then attach your lettered label on top, making it slightly shorter than the white electrician’s tape, or write right on the electrician’s tape with a black marker.  Cover it with a shorter piece of scotch tape, too, to keep your writing from smudging off.  Then whenever you want to change the label you pull off the electrician’s tape and it all comes right off easily—no time wasted picking and poking off an old paper label.  For cardboard boxes you can attach 2 strips of electrician’s tape about five and 1/2 inches apart. Then scotch tape your 3X5 card label on top of that; that way when you go to pull off your label it doesn’t pull off a patch of cardboard box with it.  The scotch tape that you have on both ends of your card is only attached to the top of the electrician’s tape.  Or just use 3X5 cards and don’t care if they pull off a patch of cardboard smile .

5.  Overcome reaching obstacles.  If you have to move things to get at things, put things that are seldom needed in those areas, or re-hang a door (of a room, fridge, or cupboard) to open in the opposite direction if that would make access more convenient.

6.  We use 20 percent of our stuff 80 percent of the time.  Therefore, put hot things in hot spots.  This one tip alone will revolutionize your home.  Store your most used stuff efficiently, within optimal reach.

7.  Think about your containers.  Corral your stuff into pleasant looking containers.  Records boxes (no larger than one cubic foot) are the best.  They are inexpensive at only $2.00 a box—cheaper than most plastic containers by far.  The lids are super easy to take off and on.  And the uniformity of how they look all stacked up or spread throughout the house makes you feel neat and organized.  This is far better than an assortment of random cardboard grocery store boxes with four-flap lids; those look messy and are a pain to open and close.  Then proceed to little containers within containers—all labeled.  Little containers in all drawers and cupboards will organize things beautifully.  Under the bathroom sink, use the space on both sides of the drain pipe by using narrow containers lifted up higher than your front containers.  To achieve this, put your “to-be-used-containers” on top of other “not-to-be-used” containers turned upside down, as stands for the top container.  You can also use bricks or narrow cardboard boxes or old plastic storage containers for these unseen risers.

8.  Obtain more instant space.  You can purchase plastic bed risers to put under the legs of each bed, thereby obtaining instant increased space to organize into, there, as well as install a ceiling shelf around the top of a room in your house or down a hallway—these fit neatly over your door jambs and provide enough space to tuck scores of additional records boxes up there.  Use shelf boards that are 12 inches deep.

8.  Put like things together.

9.  Purge books that you will never read again or that are easily obtained from libraries.  Purge old college textbooks and notes.  Purge jars and unneeded dishware.

10.  Use only plastic hangers in your closets, for a uniform neat look.  Pitch the wire ones.  Put containers in the bottom and top of your closet so that you can see everything at a glance.  Obtain a little two-step folding ladder to use to retrieve all your high-up storage.

11.  Re-think your outfits.  Don’t have 13 outfits that all say the same thing.  Make your outfits different enough to merit keeping those clothes.  Think only 8 (maximum) nice (well thought-through from head to toe) outfits for “public”; having 8 (instead of 7) puts you ahead one day each week in your rotation so that no one ever sees the same outfit for 8 weeks (two months) if you attend the same gathering/meeting every week.  (Perspective: when George Mueller clothed 10,000 orphans he had only three outfits for each child: their Sabbath outfit, one to wear, and one to wash during the week.)

12.  In with the new; out with the old. When one new thing enters the home, one old thing has to go—whether it be a purse, a magazine, shoes, a serving dish, etc.

13.  Mat both the outside and inside of both your front and back doors.  The more dirt that is trapped in these mats, the less dirt there will be on the floor.

14.  Use command hooks anywhere you need to hang things for easy retrieval—i.e. extension cords, bag of clothes pins, etc.  These are super easy to apply.

15.  Pack your cupboards with more food staples—food that is stable, that is good for you, and that you like to eat.  Food is only going to get more expensive and more difficult to find.

In conclusion, remember that the goal of organization is visual clarity.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Finding the best mattress for your health

Sunday, 21. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

Has your mattress lost its zing?  Is one of you slumping toward the center of your bed because of the weight of the other one in bed at night?  Are your arms falling asleep or tingling in the night?  Is your mattress reflecting heat back at you all night long?  Are allergens and chemicals in your mattress giving your immune system fits?  Do you feel the effects of metal in your mattress and box spring?

When you lie on memory foam (e.g., ComforPedic® by Beautyrest®) is it comfortable but toxic smelling?  Studies are revealing health problems that seem to be coming from metal and petrochemicals in bed mattresses.  One such report is an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola.  Perhaps you yourself have experienced increasing problems sleeping on the traditional mattress with its coil springs, fire-retardant chemicals, and petrochemical-produced gels and foams.  If that’s where you are, we have saved you mega-hours of research, if you want to a solution that will have no side-effects.

Bottom line: SleepEZ.com is a third-generation family business in Phoenix that produces one of the best mattresses in the marketplace today.  From our considerable research, we think they offer the best value for the money, too.  Plus, by spending your money with this company you are directly supporting families that operate a U.S. factory.

Here are the key findings from our mattress research:
Choose organic/natural latex from a company that will answer your every question with promptness, honesty and clarity.  There are scores of competitors out there, and there are many variables.  Is it necessary for it to be Certified Organic; will it suffice to know that the latex is natural, grown and produced by a source that does not include the use of pesticides and petrochemicals?  What are the differences between memory foam and latex foam, and how could the two be combined (as some companies claim to do—apparently falsely so)?  Is the company marketing aggressively?  You’ll know: you’ve been doing Internet searches and suddenly your screen is blotted with recurrent excess ads from an aggressive company.  Is the company making claims that are getting it in trouble with the law, or that lie to you (claiming to be the only seller of a certain type of mattress), or charge too much, etc.? 

What is the flame-retardant the company uses (to meet federal safety requirements)?  (The MSDS for Kevlar, for instance, states that fibrils of the material, if inhaled will cause lung damage; moreover, it would release some toxic gases if it burned.)  Is the sales/marketing department separate from the people who make the mattresses?  Are they rude to you, unresponsive, and unpleasant to deal with after you’ve made the sale?  Are glues used in the manufacture of the mattress?  (Avoid those, too.)  Do you want the Dunlop processed latex or the Talalay method of manufacturing the foam?

We feel confident that we have at last obtained the best solution for the bed that is best for our health.  Our choice is confirmed by scores of testimonials at themattressunderground.com.  The moderator of that site noted that he believes SleepEZ “compete[s] well with the best in the industry in terms of their quality, value, and service.”

One of the many things we like about the SleepEZ mattresses is that they are modular.  You build your own—and you can order a queen or king bed mattress with separate side-by-side segments, enabling you to have a firmer combination on one side and softer on the other, plus the ease of moving the smaller sections as opposed to hefting one heavy mattress.  You might like to get the top layer as one piece; you could always cut it apart with industrial scissors or an electric knife, later, if you want to.

Shawn, the President of SleepEZ, personally answers phone calls, and talks knowingly about every aspect of the selection.  (Read what customers are saying about him at http://www.sleepez.com/testimonals.htm.)  He asks 3 questions about each of you—weight, height and sleeping pattern (side, back, front sleeper)—and then designs the layers to fit that.  From our many phone conversations with him, each of which he answered patiently, helpfully, and with integrity, we discovered there would be little benefit in having four 3’ thick layers rather than three.  He explained that you wouldn’t actually feel down to that fourth layer unless you weigh 300 pounds or more.  People pick the four-layer mattress more for the visual appeal—a more commanding presence in the room.  The same effect could be gained by lifting your bed by putting its legs on inexpensive plastic bed risers.

These foams are made from trees, not from petrochemicals, and are not glued (which could introduce toxic chemicals); instead, the core substance was washed and rinsed several times, and then the the latex was baked and frozen.  In these beds there are absolutely no allergens—no VOC’s—and the bed feels super comfortable.  Further, if you choose a variety of firmness levels for the layers (soft, medium and hard) you can keep rearranging the hardness of the three layers even after the mattress is in your bedroom.

Knowing what we do about fabric frequencies (as noted at LifeGivingLinen.com), we like the option of an all-organic-cotton cover for the mattress and for the wooden frame beneath it, rather than mixing cotton and wool which would cause the signature frequencies of the materials (plant kingdom and animal kingdom) to cancel each other out.  Instead of a cotton/wool blend, a better option in our opinion is their cotton/rayon cover (all in the plant kingdom; something general research has not caught up with yet; a bonus insight smile ).

In summary, uncovering and settling the bed problem is a great way of improving your health odds.

In exchange for our extensive research on this topic, which saves you time, if you go with SleepEZ, do us a favor and say that Renee Ellison referred you and they will give us a wee cut for bulk orders.  It costs the very same to you, whether you mention our name or not.  SleepEZ will treat you very well; their customer service is extraordinary. Other mattress companies we dealt with were downright irritating.

Our own results of sleeping on a Sleep EZ Talalay 9” foam latex mattress?
Thanks to SleepEZ, we have had the best night’s sleep in a long time.  AND we had fun in setting it up.  The day our mattress and foundation arrived, the two of us had a blast assembling it.  It was so good to see what is actually inside the bed we’re sleeping on.  No doubt it would be fun to watch a video of a couple unpacking and setting up their bed—lying on each level of mattress softness as they laid it down, and oohing and aahing about how nice it is, how soft, how it doesn’t smell, how ingenious its design is, how it breathes, how flexible it is in terms of adjusting the level of firmness and softness, etc.  We doubt that anyone sets up one of these beds in silence!

The SleepEZ organic bed is amazing—dreamlike—everything we ever wanted in a bed—superb in every way.  We sleep soundly, and don’t awake with a metallic taste in our mouths as was the case when sleeping on a prior purchase of a new coil-spring mattress.  The foundation, too, is made in the United States, and is equally ingenious in its design and in the ease of its assembly, using no tools.  You simply can’t go wrong with these mattresses—and this company!

Filed Under: Home management tips

Why bother educating your child?

Sunday, 21. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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If you’re homeschooling, but some of the aspects of your children’s general education have been falling though the cracks, here are some reasons for powering-up the academics a notch or two.

Why hone in on general education:
You want to be committed to the academic endeavor in increased measure, because gaining a large general knowledge in all subjects is what I call growing a conceptual alphabet with which to understand life.  This augments children’s total view of life—gives them an intellectual confidence in navigating all social conversations and in hearing all world news—because they can pin new information into the context of something they already know.

Further, a large general education increases children’s worship of God incrementally as they grow in their awareness of the intricacy and complexity of what God hath actually wrought.  It is the uneducated who think life is simple or that they totally understand it all.  Gaining increased wholesome knowledge grows real humility: “The more I know, the more I realize that I don’t know.”  Becoming aware of how God shows forth His complexities—not only with physical matter but with designing systems in which it all works together—creates further respect for God.  And then, of course, being vaguely aware (as it happens to us) of how God makes and disciples the human being on top of all of that is mind-blowing.

All wholesome knowledge complements (as in: completes, rounds out, gives insight to) all other knowledge.  There is no downside to having our children know too much of God’s world in all of its glorious detail.  Knowledge gives a person a leadership edge, a kind of natural authority; you can’t lead other people if you know less than they do.  We want our children to be the head, and not the tail, as it says in Deuteronomy 28:13, and achieving this requires building mental muscle.

Why we don’t get to the academics routinely:
When we examine why academic education doesn’t happen, it is in invariably because the logistics, structures and routines of education aren’t settled, and the type of education we have chosen is too mother-dependent; she just can’t get to it all.  No woman is super-woman 24/7.

But, happily, there is a way to make this happen easily and largely, without a heavy demand upon mama and papa, by using the A.C.E. curriculum.  When your children read the English, Social Studies and Science ACE paces they will begin to teach you (the parents) at dinner time every night!  You’ll be amazed at how much they learn and retain. They will grow to be happily conversant in all sorts of topics, wowing the socks off of you.

Second, academics falter if there is no habit of studying.  We want to give our children a lifetime habit of continued study—of continued curiosity and of continually being well read and articulate both in speech and writing.  It has been said that “reading makes a large man, speaking a ready man, and writing an exact man.”  There is no downside to that smile !!!

A third reason is that the years of childhood and child-rearing pass all too quickly.  This is the season of life to do the lion’s share of laying the academic background for all future mental superstructures one wants to build upon that.  The remainder of life never again affords this opportunity to do it this fully.  Therefore we want to make hay while we have this chapter opened up, via a childhood that was God-given for that purpose.

A common mis-assumption about basic learning:
Here’s a final point about why educate: it is so easy as a parent, myself included, to assume that our children know everything we know.  But, sigh, they don’t; it has to be re-taught to every generation.  Children are devoid of all sorts of knowledge that we take for granted.

Implications of focusing (or not) on conquering the 3Rs:
Soooo, what are the implications?  Having this high vision of the benefits of a strong general education might reduce the temptation to have a capable young adult focus on work to the exclusion of his basic education.  Even your most hardworking child would do well to always allow for an hour or two of daily study (in addition to Bible study), even during the summers.  Just think “Abraham Lincoln” to help keep it all in balance.  Young Lincoln worked during the day and flung himself down by the fireplace light to study aggressively every evening.  He never quit the learning for the physical labor, or for developing his financial base.  He grew them both together.  William Holmes McGuffey, godly author of the McGuffey readers of the 19th century, was passionate about preaching the Good News (he memorized entire books of the Bible) and educating young children.  He declared that we must “teach our children to become lifetime lovers of learning.”

The value of establishing good educational habits:
If your home’s daily routine is often shattered or your family travels a lot, you have little hope of maintaining this academic habit unless you get organized with portable thin academically assigned storage boxes—one for each child with their name written in large print on both the top of the box and on the ends.  That way if they are grabbed and stacked in the van on the way out the door, each child can quickly open his own box and make good use of ten minutes while he is out and about with his parents.  This box is an extension of his head.  It is the very first purchase I would make.  It will be used not only for travel, but in the home, as well.  The children will tote these boxes to a more quiet room to study, or take them outside under a tree.  (Train them to always tuck the lids directly under the box each time the box is open, so no one trips on lids flung all over the floor smile .  I recommend the $4 Sterlite™ 6.2 qt. boxes with the green handles.  Having these school boxes is a must in order to successfully tote around and keep track of the A.C.E. paces and other academic materials, to not lose momentum, to keep each child organized without you, and to keep a grip on what comes next!

At home, the boxes are then to be put back in exactly the same place every time—on your learning wall set of shelves (read about that in the next blog post).  If such a system does not get put in place, much time is wasted hunting for academic materials that could be spent actually doing the academics.  Making optimal use of momentum time is the organizational principle here.

Grab the time; make the time!
We were often on the road while we were raising our daughter.  She studied year ‘round, grabbing snippets of focused time wherever life halted enough to squeeze them in, and progressing while the wheels pounded the pavement.  She accomplished volumes of study in this manner.  We constantly used the adage: “Use small minutes wisely to grow your brain; this is your life that you are building!

Feeling overwhelmed? Use a visible project board to get more done with less mental effort

Monday, 15. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Feeling overwhelmed as a homeschooling mom?  Here is an instant project board idea that will free up your brain from having to carry so much.  This idea works in and through your zooey schedule and your constant demands for multi-tasking.  For most of us, sometimes it is hard enough just to make it through the day, let alone progress with any additional projects we would like to accomplish ourselves.  In just a few seconds you can set up an easy, do-able project board that can help you get going.  This wall-board will enable you to visualize what you need to do—but you don’t have to actually do any of it until you feel like doing it.

After hearing about the unparalleled success rates of using a professional project board, I recently started a homespun version on the back of a bedroom door, using Post-It notes and my door—that’s it—no other surface—just the door.  I stuck my sticky notes under a number of category headings all over the back of the door.  I put them on the back of that door so that no one sees them, because that door is usually open.  So, the list is against the wall until I want to see it, privately.  My door is now covered with little mini-tasks.  At first I was tenuous about writing notes for it—but now I recklessly throw all kinds of mini-tasks up on there.

You can often find Post-It notes on sale, making the financial toll almost nil—one-tenth of a cent per Post-It note or so smile —not bad for a tool to get yourself wonderfully organized.  For the clearest visibility of what you write on them, I find that the light yellow ones work best; if the paper is any darker, you can’t see your lettering from a distance away.  You could use the more flamboyant-colored Post-Its for your headers at the top of the door, noting each category you want to move forward in.

I’m finding this system more successful than anything I’ve ever attempted as a tool to “manage me”.  It gives a visual oomph to get tasks done.  If you are super tired, or have only five minutes, you look at the door and you may not have energy (or time) for a big task, but you can spot a little something on there and think “Oh, E-Z-P-Z, I can just whip that one out.”  This enables you to “limp when wounded”—eventually accomplishing an amazing amount.

To give yourself a wee reward when you’ve completed a task, transfer the Post-It note to the bottom of the door and watch your accomplishments stack up “down there” (if you need this sort of motivation smile —and some of us do).  Otherwise, pitch them in the trash as you do them.

Here are a few little additional tweaking tips I learned while doing this:

    + Write only one task on each Post-It note (this saves rewriting lists of details over and over).
    + Write out your note with large letters, using the whole Post-It note surface for your short phrase.
    + Write with a marker instead of pen or pencil; it comes out much bolder; you can see it further away.

Happy enhanced brain power, and stacks and stacks of accomplishments to you!

Filed Under: Home management tips

Struggling with peer pressure

Wednesday, 10. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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How do I teach my children how to withstand peer pressure?  My son is a completely different person when he is around a certain friend.  We have spoken to him about his behavior, but it seems that he desires a friend so much that he is willing to change to fit in with this other boy’s way of functioning.  The other boy makes fun of everything we do, and our son joins in with this behavior so he will be accepted and have “fun.”  When my husband and I correct him about it he becomes grumpy and sullen.  He is a marvelous, loving, caring, kind, helpful, gentle young man when he is at home, but a completely different person when around this other person.

Wanting to please their peers can be a serious problem for young people. When my husband’s folks raised their children, they solved the problem with daring forthrightness; they simply told them, “You’re different!  Get used to it!” And get used to it, they did. The primary way? They were taught to participate in all things good by leading everything, whenever possible.  Also, they were never allowed to go to worldly events. They had to occupy themselves with something else that evening—something that would grow their world.  So occupy they did—and soon forgot the other.

In our own family, we isolated the child and taught her that the way of the common peer is a boring path of mediocrity—showing her time and again that when people saturate themselves in the world it doesn’t lead anyplace good. They do endless figure 8’s throughout life. We diffused the lure of the pagan by pointing out the end results over and over again.  Eventually she began seeing it herself, and pointed it out to us.

Thus, instead of being fearful that your child won’t fit in, you make him euphoric with his own high plans.  He will scarcely have time to contemplate the life of worldlings, because he is sooooooo busy making something exceptional out of his own world—and getting ahead in life.  Perhaps your husband can take your son to work, with the goal that he would learn a practical trade, perhaps building his own paid-for house someday with the skills his father taught him and thereby never have a mortgage—for example.  Now that’s an exciting consuming goal for a while.  Help him set his personal goals higher.

Don’t give in—and don’t give up.  Sharpen your vigilance.  Increase your own friendship and time with him. We have great encouragement in the Psalms that it is okay—more than that, it is actually righteous—to choose righteous friends. Proverbs 18:24: “A man with unreliable friends comes to ruin.”  Have him look up that verse and these, too: Proverbs 12:26, 13:20, and 14:8Proverbs 5 talks about giving thought to your ways—and that the ungodly wander aimlessly.

So, who should the children of godly parents relate to then, especially if they have few if any peers?  The immediate family. You just go deeper with befriending siblings.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s family life was amazing. The brothers were deep good friends. They constantly challenged each other, intellectually and spiritually, so much so that eventually no one on the outside could keep up with their vigor and rigor. The Bonhoeffer boys began to see that their own family was exceptional—and that they couldn’t find such first-rate companions just anywhere.

The best companions any child can have are other mature Bible-believing adults—most especially his parents.  Peers generally drag each other down. A third grader doesn’t have enough of an experience base to mentor another third grader, for example.  Hover over the formation of friends very carefully.  Continue the watchfulness all the way until you get them down the marriage aisle with a like-minded mate of deeply shared faith—ideally, early on.  Then, and only then, can you put your feet up and rest.  The devil tells you to quit such work when they are 16 (or 6, for that matter, when parents give them over to kindergartens all over the world).

Develop in each child the habit of having strong personal daily devotions.  See to it that your children read in scripture every day by themselves and for themselves.  Teach them the habit of underlining something for themselves and taking down one idea from the text; they can write it in their own notebook.  For adolescents it wouldn’t hurt to read ten chapters of Proverbs every day for three days and then do it all over again—and again and again for a while.  The book of Proverb repeatedly warns that having the wrong friends can lead to ruin.  Scripture will speak directly to their spirit.  Make them eager to see what God says, for the final bar is soon.

Finally, don’t submit to parental erosion.  One of the enemy’s commonly used tricks is to make us throw our hands up.  Instead, we throw our prayers up, and we “up” our vigilance.  By doing this, you will be tracking the problem at the “letting out of waters”—at the hole in the dike, right at the source.

Thoughts on family entrepreneurship

Saturday, 29. November 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Entrepreneuriship is what founded our country, and it is currently yielding better and faster results for the young than most college degrees.  It is beneficial for homeschoolers to train their young thoroughly and ongoingly in the dynamics of entrepreneurial endeavor.

Having said this, here are some balancing statements regarding family entrepreneurship:
Sometimes hearing a talk or reading a book on this topic can cause us to make work assumptions and take daring risks that go beyond the implications of the talk or the book, which were designed to first and foremost inspire, or to get us to think outside the box, but skips over some “in-the trenches reality” fall-out.  In other words, it may tempt us to lay hold of implications that simply are not true in our particular case, and which go beyond what the work actually is and what it will yield.

All work involves a high measure of tedium; no work exists anywhere without that.  There will be some hours in all types of work, whether it is for an outside boss or you are your own boss, that will demand sheer grit endurance.  One could conclude from a short inspirational talk that one route is horrible and the alternative route is totally pain free or slave-free, which is not true.

Anyone who makes it in any business endeavor has worked like a slave to get there—even MLM’ers.  The ones that make it big, worked.  Their growing income didn’t fall off trees.  It cost them something.  They lived, slept, ate and drank their MLM business endeavor, and worked far in excess of normal business hours.

Sometimes inspirational talks can avoid discussions about obstacles.  For example, the current red tape that small businesses are under is far more difficult to navigate than what small businesses in the past had to deal with.  For example, the minute you hire anyone, you have to consider the fiscal and financial toll of computing worker’s compensation, Obamacare expenses and reporting paperwork.  It can turn into a nightmare quickly.  To hire any contract worker socks the upstart company with heavy taxes, which may be out of all proportion to what the business entrepreneur can recoup in the initial years.  Currently business governmental red-tape is a formula for failure, for not being able to make it.  It is business sludge.  The political leaders of the State of Israel had to change their tax structure and business laws in order to jump start their country decades ago.  Currently we are governmentally in a business law jungle; the noose has tightened.

Also consider the anxiety levels of self-employment.  To be an entrepreneur means you wake up every morning unemployed, and that can cause high levels of stress.  One never knows if the personal business one thinks will work, will actually succeed, given the current climate, especially if no one else has tried your particular new idea.

Having listed these entrepreneurial cautions and considerations, here are eight good resolutions:
One:  To lower your stress levels, grow your entrepreneurial endeavors on your side hours, over lunch breaks, evening hours and weekends, until they can sustain you financially—before you even think of quitting your 8 to 5 SURE job.

Two:  Tighten the use of all your stray hours. To grow an alternative plan, you must continually ask yourself the question: “Is this the best possible use of this hour to advance me financially?”  As a parent of a budding entrepreneur, it is most important to teach this single paramount principle to adolescents.  Every hour lost in youth is irretrievable.  Ben Franklin is a great example of getting serious about finances early in life.

Three:  Throw yourself into other people’s seasonal or short-term income streams.  Whenever money is flowing, get in the boat and paddle in that water.  Then come back to your own dreams when nothing else is happening—making use of private hours in the deep, cold winter months, for example.  We watched our very fiscally wise neighbor do this.  He always worked for someone else whenever he was asked, and then did his own projects when nothing else presented itself.  Thus, he grew both kingdoms at once.  Money earned little by little is what makes a solid future, not “waiting ‘til my ship comes in!”

Four:  Begin with what you already have. Examine and take inventory of the endless possibilities of your own land, your house, your car, your specific resources, your buildings, public buildings, other businesses, your aptitudes, your knowledge, your talents, people you know, current business relationships, apprenticeship possibilities close to home, and free online training.  Many of the most successful entrepreneurs have logged in many hours in online education—three-day workshops in various subjects, etc.—taking advantage of the training opportunities and finding ways to “plus” their business more.

Five:  Take your expenses out of a child’s upstart small business endeavor; he or she must reimburse you for the plastic cups for a lemonade stand, for example.  This teaches the children that they never get the whole dollar; they have to learn to factor that in from the get-go.

Six:  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Ecclesiastes 11:1 says: “Toss your bread on the waters” —morning, noon and night—for who knows which one will succeed.  Multiple income streams assure MORE success.

Seven:  Steer clear of MLM’s, they place too much stress on friendships because they are loaded with expectations for the other guy (over which you have almost no control, after your initial influence).

Eight:  Use your few rare high energy free hours to plan for the use of your low energy hours.  In other words, learn how to limp when wounded.  Develop the personal discipline to keep going doing something that involves brawn but no brain to keep advancing your own little world in the directions you want it to go, using small moments wisely.  It is important that parents teach their young how to marshal stray hours to build their own fortresses.  That gives them focus and ammunition against the temptation to fritter away their time in ways that don’t further their own long-term goals.  A productive child is a happy child.

For further reading along these lines, read Sure Financial Steps for Beginners.

Spiritual profundities in Les Miserables

Sunday, 23. November 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Victor Hugo’s nearly 1,500 page French tome, Les Miserables, may well have been the most profound novel ever written.  If you have a teenager or young adult, this is a good read.  Here are some thoughts to accompany that reading—to view it not only as a story, but as a parableThe novel is a full discourse of every nook and cranny the soul runs to, to understand itself.  It is saturated with spiritual verities.

Javert epitomizes the law, unbridled and metastasized into a cancerous fever on an insistent hunt for its prey—a universal “gotcha”.  When the law becomes a conundrum even to himself, his soul is confronted with an irresolvable complexity.  Choosing mercy is unthinkable.  Sadly, as seems the case with most people, he must die with his theology intact, even if it doesn’t “fit” and even if it was proven to be incorrect.  Suicide is the only way out of his rigidity.

Juxtaposed to this is a depiction of the very opposite, the low-life; lawLESSness run aground in its own bawdy insatiable flesh.  The flesh even pillages the dead for more stuff, totally blinded to the fact that this IS, in fact, eventually death for him, too—and then what will he live for?  The revolutionaries are the “arm of the flesh” trying to change the hearts of men from the outside in.  Without God as a reference point, without prayer, men are sure to strew the stage of life with death.  As in Hamlet, revenge eats up everything in its path; not a soul is alive on that stage at the end of that tragedy.

Eponine depicts for us the secular humanist who is hunting for salvation in a place where it will never be: a hand-picked lover, who himself is preoccupied with someone ELSE.  She dies in the arms of a transient fulfillment.  Desperate to be sure of her ground, she tells IT how to function, what to say and do, and she clings to it still.

And Jean Valjean?  His thieving habit, he thinks, needed to work his own salvation, still not cured after 19 years in prison (that it was done for a good purpose made no difference), so he tries it again.  He sees no other way to meet his needs—which are many.  But, alas, his trembling confidence is met again with the “lock-him-up”.  Life, for him, now, is a verified endless dead-end.  However, this time his thieving despair is unexpectedly met with the priest’s “Take my silver candlesticks, too”, and Valjean’s habituated impulsive world-view dissolves.  What is this?  Some mysterious abundance that goes beyond my needs? Mercy?  Not only has he now felt it, he also now realizes that he may be the agency of it, too.  His conversion is none other than Christ in the soul—the synthesis of law and mercy.  The halleluiahs break out over his wasteland and he quietly and maturely lives differently—Calvary bound, too.

The story has it all.  It even raises the great universal, cosmic question of “Who Am I?” Am I this thing or the other?  Where do I “come down?”  Where is my core?  What is my zip code, really?!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous poem from prison was titled the same: “Who Am I?”  “Am I caring and deferential, as my prison mates imagine me to be, or am I the wild man who thrashes around inside, full of questions?”  Shakespeare’s Hamlet adds to the body of literature, also asking this question.  “To be or not to be? that is THE question.”  And so, too, we see the Psalmist, King David, beg for integration even in his mature soul—far more advanced than most: “May the meditations of my heart be pleasing to thee, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  May I not live in shadows.  Deliver me from splinteredness.  Make me “one” before thee, in my inward parts.  Show me to myself.

“Who am I” is a question that really none of us can answer.  Only He who made us really knows.  Self-discovery takes a lifetime; it is really only unveiled as we partake of God-discovery, and even then it is only mincingly understood.  With Bonhoeffer we end up saying, “I do not know, but what I do know is that “I am Thine!”

(For another believer’s more extended foray into this topic, see Bob Welch’s book of 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables.)

Pros and cons of using the Charlotte Mason approach to elementary education

Monday, 17. November 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Some homeschoolers are worried that if they were to use the Charlotte Mason approach, vital sequential skill development would get lost in the matrix of actually trying to DO her approach.  For example, if a child were to try to learn the violin or piano by “wandering and wondering,” he might not end up at the level of excellence of an Isaac Stern or an Arthur Rubenstein!  Indeed, sometimes it takes a ruthless sequential tutor to get you there.  A huge chasm begins to develop between Mason’s lofty ideals and what actually happens in the home.

On the other hand, some parents worry that following a course of sequential academic skill development will lose some of Mason’s “awe and wonder” development.  Certainly, no devoted homeschool mom wants to lose that aspect, if there is some way to achieve it along the way.  Bring ON the awe and wonder!

Considering the above two scenarios, let’s look objectively at the strengths and weaknesses of Mason’s method of elementary education, with an eye toward implementing what’s good and discarding what’s not so good.

By the way, interestingly, with only a little tweaking, “what’s good” in the Charlotte Mason approach can all be applied to A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education’s curriculum) with less than half the effort and cost. For one thing, right out of the shoot, the parent doesn’t have to spend the greater part of two decades hunting and shopping for the next “great book” (each child will need truckloads of those)—nor will she spend the exorbitant amounts of money to acquire that library.  A.C.E. has already compiled over 15,000 “greatly written” concepts, much of it in story form, FOR you, and there is no lid on what your child can read in the evenings and weekends in the larger great books—without the HAVE-TO pressure for also doing that during your core academia in the day. Keep in mind that you’ll be doing schooling for 12 looooooonnnnnggggg years in one form or another.  What happens when the parent “tires”—then what?  All theories look good on PAPER.  What happens on Thursday mornings after mommy has been up all night with the baby?  That is the “rub”.  What if we can’t FIND a “great book” that day?  And what of the daily development of math and writing skills?  There is a lot more implementation complexity here for a homeschooler than meets the eye.

The strengths and weaknesses of Mason’s core tenets:

One:
Mason designed schools to implement her method.  Being unmarried herself, she, no doubt, did not realize the value of the sheer holy VOLTAGE of what having one’s own children at home produces over a lifetime.  These educational setting CHOICES are the difference between “home-centric” life and “peer-centric” life.  The potential for unity, bonding, and spiritual influence (as a FAMILY) in the world is staggering if homeschooling is done “right”.  It is what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were achieving through their dynasties.

In schools—yes, even in good private schools—the “curriculum” may become far more than a parent bargains for, while the child rubs shoulders with peers from broken homes, media-addicted homes, spiritually defunct homes, emotionally abandoned and preoccupied homes, twisted homes.  The mandate in Deuteronomy 4-6 to educate one’s OWN offspring at home primarily by ADULTS is the most powerful means of discipling the next generation known to man.  Other third graders simply does not have the experience base to mentor YOUR third grade child—but mentor them on the playground and in the restrooms, they will.  The good can become the enemy of the best.  Where education takes place needs to be a concern for any spiritually responsible parent.

Two:
Mason recommends having children read REAL literature (instead of twaddle) from the get-go. Who could argue with this!  We absolutely agree!  Many nursery rhymes and fairy tales are straight from the pit of hell.  Only the devil could have designed them to terrorize children so well.  They cut their teeth on: “When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.”  How lovely.  And why we would ever teach that a fox eats your grandmother as per Little Red Riding Hood?  Just what a child needs, don’t you think?!  Every single one of those rhymes and children’s stories need to be evaluated BIBLICALLY.  What is to be DRAWN from this story anyway?  And Mason would roll over in her grave if she saw what the MEDIA now adds to this collection of garbage.  Even ADULTS couldn’t stand this parade of horror, grotesque creatures and violence that are now marketed to our children.  We all can be agreed with Mason: jettison the reading JUNK—all of it.

Mason’s phrase “real literature” or “classical literature”, however, is in great need of tweaking.  One has only to read Kevin Swanson’s book, Apostate: The men who destroyed the Christian West, to realize that classical literature can be from the pit of hell as well. Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, for example, leaves the adulteress with none of Christ’s blood to draw from, and no law to understand her guilt by.  There is no confession, and there is no redemption.  Who wants to put that hopelessness and ambiguity down deep in a young adult’s soul?  Aristotle, Plato and Socrates were avowed atheists.  Would we allow them through our front door in person, sitting our children at the feet of their long white robes, if given the choice?  So, what is the solution here?  We must hand-pick this “great” literature.  The Apostle Paul later despised his worldly education, as did Augustine, both of whom were thoroughly educated in the “classics.”  For ideas, especially for young daughters, get Melanie’s stellar highly screened list of favorite books off our website; she (being a librarian from birth smile ) already did decades of screening homework for you in this area; her book selections are superb.

Three:
Mason posits using narration (a verbal or written summary as a response to all verbal or written content shared with the child, as opposed to fill in the blanks).  This is an EXCELLENT strategy.  The brain works hard to cling to and refashion knowledge in order to make it one’s own, via this process.  But sometimes (oftentimes), Mom and Dad aren’t around, or are preoccupied and CAN’T listen to the sheer AMOUNT of narration that eight children would require to do EACH day to process ALL information this way.  Let us get some balance here.  Fill in the blanks isn’t akin to hell.  It, too, is a way of processing information smile.  It CAN get the child educated, too!  The solution? Use narration around the dinner table at night and every chance you get, but spare yourself the rest of it through the day if you have to ALSO get the laundry done and dinner fixed!  Using it as your highest trick in the bag, doesn’t mean you HAVE to use it unmitigatingly.  Use it as a marvelous educational tool on your teacher’s belt—one of many.

Four:
Mason puts forth having children take meandering nature walks, noting discoveries in a notebook, and drawing (and sometimes collecting what they see).  Go for it!  This is good stuff!  But this nature emphasis doesn’t have to limit or define the REST of one’s academics.  It makes sense that this would be a wonderful childhood activity—especially to replace hours of media.  But so is music practice—which builds virtuosos, and drawing skill—which builds real art ability (not the development of artistic abstractions), gymnastic skill, entrepreneurial endeavor (so your 13 year old can completely run your apple orchard BY HIMSELF, selling the produce, doing his own spreadsheets, etc., and your daughter can cook any gourmet meal to serve to 12 people, at the drop of a hat, no sweat! or vice/versa).  Any open-ended REAL LIFE activity will accomplish “awe and wonder growth”, sparing a child from hours and hours of childhood aimlessness.  The strategy?  Figure out what an ADULT is and incrementally get there, starting today while the person is a young child.

Five:
Mason recommends teaching grammar/writing skills off from the child’s own written works.  Yes and no.  Sequentially teaching a child the ideal way to do his penmanship and cursive writing is not awful.  In fact, for generations it has yielded LEGIBLE handwriting.  And teaching phonics sequentially will save you tons of academic heartache later.  However, if a child still guesses at what he is reading through using comprehension clues, his reading will stay dwarfed.  Wandering around in the alphabet might not “get you there”.  Reading doesn’t HAVE to be a hit or miss proposition.  There is a KNOWN way, tired and true, to get this job done that takes the guesswork out of it for a lifetime.

On the other hand, Mason’s dictation ideas are excellent.  In fact, historically, taking down daily dictation was used by the French in their schools, to very good advantage.  To see what actually makes it onto the child’s page is a wonderful way to frequently and casually “test” him or her. Mason’s focus here is great.  We agree, wholeheartedly—but that doesn’t preclude ALSO teaching him writing skills, line upon line, to get him there.

An EASY Solution? Have your cake and eat it, too ?! At very low financial cost to you?
Use A.C.E. as your track to ride on (very inexpensively) and have your child do narrations off THAT content, some days, if you wish.  The content is there all gathered FOR YOU.  You can just vary your teaching STYLE around those 15,000 concepts that are already provided FOR you.  THEN have your child read recreationally the “great books” from your pre-screened list of excellent REAL books—i.e. all spiritually non-compromised great literature.  Reading all of the available biographies of missionaries, for example, teaches your child selflessness like nothing else.  All biography inspires; it reminds us that we each just have one life to live, and it shows us the way some truly great individuals chose to live.  There.  We just saved you hours and hours of shopping, anxiety, and oversight trauma—and your child WILL get educated.  You can take that to the bank.

Finally: also teach your child the Bible by reading sequentially through Egermeier’s Children’s Bible Story EVERY NIGHT before bed.  Do not skip this input.  The years pass quickly, and what you didn’t put in their spirit may not ever get put there.  After a few times through the Egermeier edition you can switch to Arthur Maxwell’s 10-volume set, The Bible Story; the pictures are exquisite.  If you don’t teach your child the Bible, you might as well scratch your influence in the world, no matter how well educated your child becomes in all the other areas.  It IS sadly possible to educate an intelligent murderer, you know.  We must teach our children the WHY of life, not just the HOW.  Live in and through and under the BIBLE, thoroughly.  Then and only then will you have “educated” your child.  God-speed.

Steer your young girls out of “Magazine Anxiety”

Friday, 14. November 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Faith cometh by hearing, worldliness by sight. Magazines mainline discontent into most every young girl in the country.  The polished pictures carry a world of impact.  Anxiety is what it sells—levels and levels of unmitigated anxiety.  Magazines set up a comparison between what she IS and what an airbrushed photo shoot makes all other reality SEEM to be.  The “loser image” thoughts overwhelm a young girl (and often her mother, by the way, via her own magazines).

Sight is often not reality; it can be 180 degrees from reality.  It can even be a downright lie.  Photo shoots and materialism make us focus on our trappings instead of essences in in all sorts of areas (for example, needing yet another set of dishes, rather than serving a better meal; needing the right image jacket, even though very uncomfortable; etc.).  We then live for the wrong things.  “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”  Thus, we hold on to the nebulous “win” as more and more images flood the soul from the action-packed noisy media, too.  Magazines and media are some of the devil’s chief agencies of getting the human to prefer the knowledge of the tree of good and evil to what we could have been and could have had, spiritually, over the course of a lifetime, if we had stuck to the tree of life.

In grocery store check-out aisles we see magazines that read “Celebrity Falls in Love,” marries, has baby, lives in mansion—but on the other side of the rack are all the magazines that tout the break-ups, the affairs, falling out of love, bankruptcy.  Train your daughters to skip the cruise through celebrities’ lives; that goes nowhere.  Those “realities” are nightmares of living in figure 8’s, perpetually.

We traveled to Panama once and while on a public bus noticed all of the scantily dressed, spiked heeled, tightly jeaned, overly made-up teenaged girls glued to a magazine in their lap—all of them, faces riveted there, yes, up and down the bus.  They learned what to do from the magazines, studied them religiously, and then enslaved themselves to carry it out in their lives.  When a few of them hopped off the bus, a gang of boys waited for them at the bus stop—ready to eat their dessert.  They had done it many times before, and had the routine down.  Virginity was a thing of the past.  The girls had been brainwashed to live for display, and paid the price for what the display brought them.  The magazines have one goal in mind: to make our daughters into sex slaves.  Whether it be in school or at church, makes no difference.  You can’t leave a young girl—in the bloom of youth—half-dressed and expect that she will be a servant of the Lord.  Shut off the propaganda machine.  Get it out of your home and their lives.  Begin when she is young.  Never let it in.  Dump the anxiety production.  Your daughter is flirting with visual cancer.  It is no gift to her.