Monday, January 31, 2011

Night School

Often, people ask me how we run our homeschool. Do I teach every subject every day? What times do we do school? Do the kids sit at a desk or at the table? I have so many people (it really isn't even funny how many people) tell me that they just want to come sit at my house and watch how we do school, so they can figure out how I do it all. Truthfully, if someone were to come sit at my house and watch me, they'd probably be sorely disappointed. It's not nearly as organized and well planned as some seem to think my homeschool is. But, I thought I'd give you all a small glimpse into our school, so maybe you will be inspired to try something new. (Or maybe you already know this great secret, and your kids do the same thing!)

Each night before bed, Britches and Little Man go grab their book and spend about 30 minutes to an hour reading. This is our reading class. If they have questions about words or meanings or anything, I am there to help them. Otherwise, they just read. 

I don't usually let them pick just anything. I make sure they are reading a good book, sometimes a classic, that has good, wholesome content, and has enough depth to it to be challenging. Britches is reading a horse book she got for Christmas, and Little Man is reading The Chronicles of Narnia. For Christmas, he got the complete set all in one book. So, the book is huge, but he's just focusing on one book within it at a time. Britches was thrilled that she finished her book tonight, and Little Man was very happy that he finished one book and was moving on to The Horse and His Boy.

And that's it. Nothing special about our reading program. No papers to fill out to see if they understand it. If they can tell me what their book was about, they get it. So there's no need for me to "test" them on their book. This is also how my children are able to speak with such good grammar. It isn't because I'm all that great of a teacher in that department. But they read so many well written books, they have learned the correct ways to speak. I have always tried to steer them away from books that used improper grammar or language, because I didn't want that to be what they learned. And it has worked. 

So if you think I have something spectacular going on over here, just know that it isn't all that. School is just life with us. 

If you're finding it difficult to teach certain things to your kids, try adding it in to their day in a way that they don't even realize it's school. If you have a hard time teaching math, try getting in the kitchen and cooking something together. If you can't get them excited about history, go visit a living history museum. If science is their hang-up, create a cool experiment with them, like making slime, so that they are just having fun, or go visit a hands-on science museum. And if you can't seem to get your child to be still during reading time during the school day, try doing night school and just letting your children pick a good book that interests them and let them read away. It's really that easy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Winner of the Free EXPO Ticket Is...

WOOHOO! I have a winner for my blog giveaway!! YAY! ~Drum roll, please~

And the winner is TERRI LOCKARD!! Congratulations Terri! You are going to LOVE the Schoolhouse EXPO!! And for those of you who didn't win, go get a ticket at the early bird price of $19.50. You will be glad you did! After Feb. 10, the price will go up. So get your ticket early. Thanks to all of you for entering!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Testimony

It has been said that one's testimony should not be more than a few days old. In other words, you can't live you life retelling what God did for you once long ago. You should be constantly in a state of Him working in and through you for His purposes. We should be able to say, "Hey, let me tell you what God did TODAY!" So in light of that, I wanted to take a few minutes and tell you what God has been doing in and through me over the last several weeks.

Back in the summer, an article that I submitted to The Old Schoolhouse was accepted for publication into their Winter 2010/2011 issue of the magazine. I had been waiting anxiously for about seven months to see that article in print. How very disappointed I was when they e-mailed to tell me, only a week before the magazine was to ship, that, due to unforeseen circumstances, my article would not be used in that issue of TOS. They asked if I would be willing to let them keep it to use in the Winter 2011/2012 issue of the magazine. Well, to be perfectly honest, I was furious and really didn't care a thing in the world about letting them keep it. I was ready to just call the whole thing off and forget about it.

For the next few days, I prayed hard over this, and I sought the counsel of some Godly people. And let me tell you, when you pray and really seek God over something, He will answer. I asked God, very honestly, why he was slamming this door right in my face, right on the heels of another door being slammed in mine and Brient's faces. I told God I just didn't understand it, and I couldn't figure out what was going on or what to do. This is what He told me.

He said I was putting too much hope in people, and not where it needed to be, which was in Christ. I had put my hope in the people at TOS, and they let me down. I had put my hope in the people at my husband's job, and they had let us down. There have been times when I have put my hope in people at church, and they have let me down. The bottom line is, people let you down. The only One who will NEVER let us down is Jesus Christ. When our hope is focused solely on Him, we can rest in the fact that He knows the future, He has our best interest in mind, and He has a perfect plan to see us through. After He showed me those things, I had to repent of my selfishness and my misdirected focus, and I had to ask Him to help me refocus my attention on and hope in Him. Whew! You would not believe the release I had after that. It was as if a burden was completely lifted off of my shoulders. I no longer needed to sit and worry over the things that "might be," because now it didn't matter. Whatever happened, I knew it was in God's perfect plan.

So the next morning, I e-mailed The Old Schoolhouse and told them that I would love for them to keep my article to print next year. I told them I was very disappointed about the whole thing, but that I was trusting God to do everything in His timing. Done.

Well, let me tell you, as soon as I did that, God began to pour out blessings one after another.

First, I talked to Sharra, a girl who, last summer, wanted to have me be a pre-show speaker at one of TOS's webinars, but that never came about. So I asked her if that was pretty much a dead issue, since it had been several months since I had heard from her. She told me that she did still want to use my presentation as a show opener, but there were several factors that had prevented them from doing as many webinars this last year. That's why mine had not been used. But she was still planning to use me hopefully this year to open for a webinar.

THEN, Sharra asked me if I would like to be on the Homeschool Speakers Bureau. Well, to be perfectly honest, I had no idea what that was. So I looked at the link she sent me for a little more information. I was amazed - first at the site, and second, at the sheer fact that she ASKED ME TO BE ON IT!! It is basically an online database of speakers who are available to speak at any convention or meeting or whatever. If a person is holding a convention and needs someone to speak during the event, they can search this database to find an appropriate speaker, and they will pay you to come speak! Oh my! So I told Sharra that I would LOVE to be a part of the Speakers Bureau, sent in my application, and was approved two days later. Woohoo!

And then, Sharra asked me if I would like to be on the Schoolhouse EXPO Squad! The Schoolhouse EXPO is BIG, and TOS was in need of bloggers who would be willing to help promote this great event. YES!! I definitely wanted in on that! So I signed up, and now I am part of the EXPO Squad and will be regularly blogging about all the great events leading up to and including the EXPO in May!

Also, I decided to send in another article to a different magazine, Eternal Encouragement, which is a magazine to encourage women to be all that God has for them to be in the areas of motherhood and being a wife, and so much more. My sweet friend, Juliann, sent me one of their newsletters out of the blue one day. I had never heard of this magazine, but I decided, after reading their newsletter and web site, I wanted to get in on their work. So I sent my article to Lorrie Flem, the publisher, and forgot about it. Two days later, Lorrie e-mailed me saying that she really enjoyed my article, and that she wanted to publish it in their fall issue of Eternal Encouragement! WOW! I am so excited, I just cannot tell you!

So I tell you all that to say this. There was an issue in my life that was not pleasing to God. I was placing my hope in many things, but not the right thing. I was not putting my full hope in Christ where it belonged. After God brought that to light, and after I repented, He began to work and move again in my life. I seriously wonder if He would have poured out all those blessings the way He did if I had not done what I was supposed to do first - repent.

Is there something holding you back from all God has for you? Is He standing by waiting to bless you, but can't because you have too much "self" in the way? Is there something you need to pray over and ask His forgiveness? Don't miss out on all that God wants to do in and through you simply because of some little thing that's in His way. Ask Him to show you any area that needs to be yanked out by the roots, and then ask Him to forgive you.

I am still a work in progress. He has not shown me all that He has for me yet. And I am sure there are still areas He will bring to light in time that I need to work on. But I have just been simply amazed at how, when I turned my face back to Him, He was able to pour out blessings over me. I love it!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

**TOS Homeschool Expo Giveaway**

I am so excited today! There are so many great things going on, and I can barely contain myself! So let's get right to it.

Today, registration is open for the Homeschooling With Heart LIVE spring EXPO! What is the EXPO? I'm glad you asked.

The Old Schoolhouse store describes it this way:

"  The Schoolhouse Expo will help you recharge your heart for homeschooling as you enjoy live sessions with an incredible array of speakers at our fantastic, online, five-day conference! Covering a vast amount of information, you’ll hear about ways to improve your homeschool and plan for the upcoming year, all from the comfort of your home. It doesn't matter if you live in the states or internationally, you will benefit from the Schoolhouse Expo as you enjoy five days of interactive sessions with dynamic speakers, a virtual vendor hall, fabulous door prizes, and free gifts valued at over $200 for every attendee!"

In a nutshell, the Schoolhouse EXPO is a LIVE online homeschooling conference that you can attend while sitting on your couch in your PJ's and sipping hot cocoa if you like. Have you ever thought to yourself, "I'd really like to go to one of those homeschool conferences to get some new, good ideas, but it's just too far to drive. I have no one to watch my kids while I'm gone for several days. And, it costs too much."? Well, you are in LUCK! No excuses here! During the Schoolhouse EXPO, you will get the privilege of attending a FANTASTIC, information packed 5-day conference without ever leaving your house!

Look at all you get during the Early Bird Sale . . .
  • Live Schoolhouse Expo Ticket—$39.99
  • Free Gifts Package—$211.73
  • Bonus Freebies—$103.15
  • HLA Membership—$65.00
All yours for just $19.50!

Each year, there is a limited number of tickets up for sale, and they sell out FAST! So be sure to reserve your seat now, while there are still tickets available.

This conference is slam packed with great speakers who will offer you a wide variety of topics from which to glean information. Be sure to check out the speaker/topic list to see everything on tap.

Don't forget to check out the free gifts and door prizes section of their web site to see all the great things that will be given away! You will DEFINITELY want to get in on these prizes!

If you still need more information, and there is a LOT more to know about the Schoolhouse EXPO, visit the Schoolhouse EXPO online, and follow their blog to keep up to date on all the excitement.

And now, for the other REALLY EXCITING NEWS of the day!! I, yours truly, was asked to be on the EXPO Squad, which means I will be doing regular posts to keep you up to date on all the happenings of the EXPO, and to help you remember the EXPO date. (You certainly don't want to miss any of it!)

But what that also means is that I get to give away ONE FREE TICKET to the Homeschool EXPO!! YAY! (I just LOVE blog giveaways!) So if you'd like to WIN a ticket to the EXPO, listen up. Here's how I will hold the contest on my blog. Leave me a comment below this post telling me why you would like to win a free ticket to the Homeschool EXPO. You will only have until Saturday, so get to it people! On Saturday evening, I will hold my drawing, and I will announce on my blog who won. If you are the winner, you will also be receiving all the freebies that go along with a purchased ticket - FREE!

I look forward to reading all your comments! Don't wait. You are NOT going to want to miss this!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Britches' Art

For quite some time now, my Britches girl has shown an interest in art. When she was younger, she liked more of the "arts and crafts" type thing, but lately, she has really been getting into painting. For over a year now, I have heard her talking about different artists that she watches on PBS, like Donna Dewberry and Bob Ross, but to be quite honest, I never really pay that much attention, because art is not my thing. So I listen politely to her, and show her that I care about what interests her, but then I go about my business and forget all about it. Anyway...

She has started painting some very nice pictures on regular copy paper. Nothing that would sell for money, but a good attempt none the less. I suggested to her that she might want to try painting on canvas, because her copy paper would get too wet and tear after she had put a lot of work into it. That was especially a problem when she would try to paint with watercolors. So we went to Wal-Mart and bought her some small canvases that had no wood frame on them. They were just a piece of cardboard, or wood, or whatever they use, wrapped in canvas. She wanted the small ones, because she wasn't too sure she could fill a big canvas. Well, she used all three of those that came in that pack, and then she went back to painting on copy paper.

I told her I'd be happy to take her back to the store to let her buy more canvases, if she wanted. Yes, she buys her own things, because she has this "thing" about someone buying ANYTHING for her. It's amazing that the kid will even let me buy her food and clothes. It's unreal how upset she gets when someone tries to buy something for her, instead of her buying it with her own money. I have never in my life seen a kid like that - ever. Anyway, she said she would like to go get a few more canvases from the craft store, so she could practice her painting on something that would last a little better than just plain paper. So off to Michaels we went.

It just so happened that they had a special on a 7-pack of canvases when we went. They were $14 for the pack, which made each canvas only $2 a piece. These were the larger ones, too, and this made them cheaper than we got the small ones before. So she decided to go with the 7-pack. She picked up a few paint brushes she had seen Bob Ross use that she felt she needed, and off we went.

The next day, she woke up just itching to paint on her new canvas. So after the little ones went to take a nap, and I knew all her painting would be safe, I gave her some free time to create. I left her alone for about and hour and a half. When I walked out of the room, she had just begun putting some blue paint on the top of the canvas. An hour and a half later, this is what I came back to find.

Needless to say, I was very impressed with her work. Especially considering the fact that this girl has never had an art lesson in her life, but has only watched those shows on PBS and learned from them, and checked out books from the local library and learned from those.

One day, if the time gets right, I may sign her up for professional art lessons. But for now, she has free private tutors via our local public broadcasting station, and they seem to be teaching her pretty well.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back to the Manger

OK, so I know I'm a little behind on this post, but, hey, better late than never, right?! Back in about September, all the kids at church started practicing for the yearly Christmas musical. And when the big day arrived, they were all THRILLED - thrilled to get to perform for everyone, and thrilled that they didn't have to sing that musical one more time! HA! But seriously, they all did a great job!

And for my kiddos, this was the first year they actually had important parts. Britches is so stinkin' shy, I all but had to MAKE her do the part they needed her for. But Little Man, well, he was another story. When he was assigned his part, he ran around telling EVERYONE that he was one of the MAIN people in the play. That was sort of true. And Little Sister, she's my girl! She is a ham, and LOVED having everyone see her on stage singing. She did great, and was very disappointed that, after the musical, she wouldn't get to sing the songs anymore. (It's not like I don't have the CD, and it's not like she doesn't have them MEMORIZED! She can sing them any time she wants!) Anyway...

Here are all of my kiddos, including my kids from children's church!

For a 4 year old, Little Sister did the most amazing job learning and doing all the motions to all the songs! She really got into the musical. She is such a ham.

My sweet Britches Girl is the most shy kid EVER! She was mortified when we told her she had to be in the play and actually have a real part! But you never would have know she was scared, because she sang her little heart out and did the motions beautifully. We borrowed that adorable skirt from my mom's wonderful boss, Ms. Joy. It belongs to her granddaughter. We were very thankful she loaned it to us, because, even though I am very capable of sewing a poodle skirt, I really did not have the time. 

And there's my Little Man. He was so proud of his part, and had the lines memorized on the first day. I was so proud of him!

I was so proud of all the kids for all the very hard work they put into this Christmas musical. I was also thankful for Stephanie, Rena, and Jamie, who all worked tirelessly teaching it all to the kids. Those ladies are probably still singing those songs in their dreams. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Great Christmas Gift

Over the holidays, Brient and I were blessed with the BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER!!! Oh my goodness, I was THRILLED!

To a gardener, the most important things in life are dirt, seeds, sunlight, water, mulch, and pine straw. I LOVE these things. LOVE THEM! So when we were given FIVE really large bags full of pine straw as a Christmas present, I was ecstatic! I just had to show it off!

For years now, I have wanted to completely clean out and cover my herb garden with pine straw for the winter. But since my pine trees drop about 3 pine needles a year, and Brient won't let me go raking up and down the road anymore (he's such a party pooper!), I never actually have enough pine straw to finish out the entire job. Which means, I end up sparsely covering only a fraction of my herb garden, and the rest looks, well, pathetic!

But this year, as a Christmas present, our good friends, Ray, Rena, Caleb, and Emilee, gave us enough pine straw to completely cover my entire herb garden! So here are my pictures of my pathetic little herb bed before and the lovely herb bed afterward!

This is before...

And this is after!!! Notice how lush and beautiful it now looks! YAY!

My blueberry bushes are tucked in for the winter.

My comfrey and lemon balm have a nice, warm blanket around them, too.

And my angel now has something to smile about! 

Brient and I are so thankful for our good friends, and for the sweet, thoughtful, WONDERFUL Christmas gift they gave us this year!

The Great Number Rumble

As most of you know, I am now happily textbook FREE! YAY! But just because I don't use any textbooks, that doesn't mean that I don't teach my kids. Recently, I started using a very non-traditional way of teaching math to my kids. It's a "living math" approach, and you can find out all about it at Julie's Living Math website. I strongly encourage you to check it out!

In each lesson I do with my kids, we use a unit study to learn a subject in a fun, relevant way. But for the entire time we have been homeschooling, math has always been a separate study, usually coming from a textbook or worksheets. I wanted to bring math into our unit study way of learning, instead of just teaching math facts that didn't seem relevant to the kids - or to me for that matter! So when I saw the math history unit studies that Julie has put together, and I saw what a great price she was offering each lesson for, I was VERY thrilled and decided to give it a try! For $20, I bought cycle 1, unit 1, and that gives me eight lessons. But don't be fooled. Those lessons are so packed with great information, this will take us several months to complete. For these eight lessons, I could easily fill up an entire year of learning. Couple that with all the great math readers - LIVING BOOKS - and you've got a GREAT study of mathematics, great mathematicians in history, and the things those mathematicians discovered.

I'm not going to give you all the details, because you should go buy your own copy of the lessons! (They are well worth the $20!) BUT, I did want to tell you about the very first book we have been reading with lesson one. This will be the first time I have ever done a book review on my blog! EXCITEMENT!

Oh my goodness, I wish they had this book when I was in school! This book starts out with 2 boys, one who is a regular kid and the other is a math genius. Since he doesn't see himself as a genius he prefers to call himself a mathnik. Even though the regular kid doesn't quite understand the mathnik's love of math, they are still good friends and hang out together. One day, the director of education announced that math would be removed from the school curriculum, effective immediately. Everyone begins cheering - except for the mathnik. He is furious, and wants to know what in the world the director of education was thinking. The director agrees to a debate with the mathnik, and the great number rumble begins, with the whole school watching.

The director opens up the debate by trying to explain why math isn't relevant and really doesn't have anything to do with life. It's just something hard that confuses everyone, and kids should be able to focus their attentions toward other more important things in their schooling. Then it is the mathnik's turn.

Go get yourself a copy of this amazing book to find out just how many places you can see math in our everyday lives. (I had to buy it, because it's not at my local library. Check your library before you buy, though.) I will tell you, I was SHOCKED at how much math is in the world. In fact, I would go so far as to say the world is made up MOSTLY of math. I had no idea that math is in EVERYTHING, from art to sports, from magic tricks to computers, and is even found in the weather and in the way animals and insects use their instincts.

We found out yesterday that math is in a lot of magic tricks. My kids LOVE magic tricks, so they really got into this lesson! Here are the pictures of the fun we had.

In their first magic trick, we tied strings around both of their wrists, looping them together so they couldn't get loose. Their job was to figure out how to get free without untying or cutting the strings. Britches looked at the strings on their wrists for just a minute and said, "I'VE GOT IT!! I know how to do it!" (Glad she did, because it confused me a little!)

Next, we took a simple 3X5 note card and wanted to see if we could fit through it. After making a few calculated cuts, we proved that you CAN indeed fit through a 3X5 note card! What a trick!

Now everyone knows that a dime is smaller than a quarter. But we wanted to see if we could make a quarter fit through a dime size hole in a piece of paper. For this one, we talked about different shapes, and found out that, even though the diameter of the dime is smaller than that of a quarter, when the paper is pulled up slightly, it makes an ellipse (an oval) that the quarter will slide right through.

We also learned all about Mobius bands, what they are used for, and how it makes one continuous loop on BOTH sides! Also, Britches cut it right down the middle to form a really curly band. Pretty cool!

This book does not actually TEACH you any math, as in, you won't be sitting down doing multiplication facts on a sheet of paper afterward. However, this book has sparked an interest in both of my older kids that just wasn't there before. Oh sure, they did math - because I MADE them. But now, they can't get enough of this book, because they are just itching to see where else math can be found. They are begging me to keep reading. We have about 2 more chapters left in it, and I'm sure we will finish those today, because they just don't want to stop. And each day, after our reading, I have heard them during their free time referring to the things we learned from this book earlier.

On thing that Little Man has learned is that, if he wants to be a computer animator like he thinks he does, he's going to have to learn a LOT more math! And Britches, who is really into art, has realized how different things in math can make her works even better than they already are.

I only wish they had read this book to me when I was in school as a kid. I had no idea how FUN and RELEVANT math is, and I never really learned it like I should. I am hoping that, by approaching our math time in more of a focused unit study approach, my kids will grow to have a LOVE of this subject. Go check out the book. You will be glad you did.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just Another Day of Homeschooling - Sort Of...

This week was our first week back doing official "school" after the holidays. I knew that it would be an easy week, since we were just getting back in the swing of things. For the first four days, we finished up our Constitution Celebration unit that we abandoned when the holidays arrived. But today, I had planned for NO SCHOOL! That is one good thing about homeschooling: you can deem it a home ec day if you need to!

Well, I should have known that, even though we were having no structured school today, it didn't mean we wouldn't be learning something. And sure enough...

While we were eating lunch, Little Man asked me, "Are you a vegetarian?" "No," I told him. "I'm what they call a peskatarian. I eat fish and a little chicken, so I'm not exactly a vegetarian." "You're a WHAT?"

So that got us talking about the differences in a vegetarian, a vegan, and a peskatarian. A vegetarian eats no meat, but will eat the by-products of animals - like eggs, cheese, and milk. A vegan, on the other hand, won't eat meat OR any of the by-products of animals. They have milk substitutes, meat substitutes, cheese substitutes - nothing that I really think tastes good, but that's just my opinion. And then you have a peskatarian. A peskatarian will eat fish and chicken occasionally, but mostly leans towards a plant and grain diet. I, personally, avoid all red meat, because it gives me a terrible stomach ache, and I really don't care for the taste of smell of it. So there you have all the differences. Now you know.

For some reason, we started talking about shrimp, and how, as a peskatarian, I still LOVE to eat them! Britches started talking about "that nasty black line on the back of the shrimp", and how she usually tries to get rid of that before she eats it. I told her I do the same thing, because, well, you know what that is. She looked at me kind of funny, and then, she and Little Man, at the same time, said, "GROSS!! You mean that's POOP?! Oh that is NASTY!"

Well, to be honest, I really didn't KNOW for a fact that the nasty black line down the back of a shrimp was poop. I just knew it was called  the vein and that you were supposed to take it out. So, off we went to my trusty computer to look up a diagram of a shrimp and see if we could figure anything out.

The diagram that we looked at really didn't show us much, except that the tail was really the different abdominal segments. So we looked a little further. I went to the Straight Dope website, who say they have been "fighting ignorance since 1973." I knew this was the place to find the answer to our poop question. Check out what they have to say about a "shrimp vein."

Needless to say, we learned that a "shrimp vein" is actually the shrimps intestines, and the "black stuff" is the contents thereof. When I read that to the kids, Britches said, "What's an intestine?" Little Man and I both looked at her funny, and Little Man proceeded to tell her that your intestines are what pushes the poop out of you. (See, all those human body lessons we did last year have paid off!) She was completely grossed out!

After much research on the topic of shrimp poop, we have concluded that the best thing to do, aside from never eating shrimp (which isn't really an option), is to take out the shrimp intestines before ingesting. I mean, who really wants to eat sand, decayed vegetation and decomposing bits of dead animal, I would just like to know.

So there you have it. Our day of no school really turned out to be quite educational. It always does. That is the beauty of homeschooling. Life is school and school is life. You can never get away from learning when you are spending all your days with your children. And I'll bet they don't teach THAT in a textbook!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking Back at 2010

Wow! I cannot believe another year of life has come and gone. When 2010 first began, I felt God impress upon me a need for change. Change - to stop doing a few things I had done all my life, and to begin doing some things that I never liked or had the courage to do. Change. It became my word for the year - my year long theme. And boy has this year been full of change.

To kick off this last year, I gave up a long time habit of coffee drinking, and made a commitment to my health. I had been a couch potato long enough, and I was ready to get my heart in shape. I bought a treadmill, began walking and a little running, and a few months later, I signed up for my first ever 5K race. All total this year, I have participated in three 5K's, and it has been great fun! Running was never EVER something I liked to do before, but now, I find it a really great way to spend my time. And, my body feels much better by being in good physical shape.

The kids and I decided early in the year to enter a video contest. Little Man wears an insulin pump, and the company that we bought it from was holding a contest that would include a making a video introducing their new mascot. The kids worked really hard, and their video turned out GREAT! It was put on YouTube for everyone to view and then cast their vote. We didn't win, but our video did come in about 5th place. (We guessed that by looking at the number of votes at the end. I'm not for certain on that, though.)

In February, I stepped up to lead our homeschool group's annual science and social studies fair. That was big for me, because, usually, I prefer to just participate in events like that and not actually lead. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and wasn't nearly as stressful as I thought!

Brient and I have continued with the children's ministry at our church, and we have seen it grow in so many ways. We began teaching children's church on Sunday mornings, instead of Sunday nights, and have watched some great things happen! It was only by God's hand that everything has come together as it has. We spent several weeks cleaning and decorating the children's room, and thanks to my husband and his hard working self, we now have a bright, exciting, fun room for our children to come and worship God. Each Sunday it blesses me to lead them and watch them praise God Almighty and learn of Him in a deeper way.

Over the summer, I agreed to help out for a week of 4th and 5th grade church camp. I have never been a counselor in a setting such as that, and it was WAY out of my comfort zone. Yes, I work with kids every week at church, but I don't usually LIVE with them for a week, eating, playing, and worshiping with them ever single day. After the first night, I began to panic, and wasn't really sure if I was up to the challenge of leading kids at camp. But I stuck it out, and God blessed mightily!

Also, it was the first time Brient and I ever let our kids go to camp. Granted, we were there, but I wasn't able to keep an eye on them the entire time. But I let go of them a little, and let them enjoy the fun of camp. They had a blast. (Hey, even though I wasn't there next to them the whole time, I did know most every leader there, and I knew SOMEBODY was watching them! I still don't trust just anybody with my kids.)

Earlier in June, I had a thought - a fleeting thought, really. I have always loved writing, and I just, on a whim, decided to submit an article to The Old Schoolhouse magazine for consideration to be submitted into their magazine. On their web site, they state that it could take four to six weeks to even hear back from them regarding an article submission. To my absolute amazement, someone wrote me back THE NEXT DAY to discuss printing my article! So in January of 2011, my article will be published in the winter edition of The Old Schoolhouse magazine! That is something I have never had the thought (or would have had the courage) to do, but I am so glad I decided to send in that writing. And I just can't wait for everyone to read about my sweet friend, Kayla, who the article is really about anyway!

This year, we chose to take part in our local homeschool group's co-op. Co-op is a time set aside each week where many families come together to cooperatively teach each others children, and it's something I always felt was too much like a private school for me. I didn't have any desire to have anyone else teach my children. But in the spirit of change, Brient and I decided to give it a try. It has been well worth it - for all of us. Britches and Little Man just love all their classes, and I personally know nearly every one of their teachers, so I don't worry about them all day. And Little Sister and Baby Girl just love to have a day out of the house to go play with some different toys and some other kids their age. And for me, well, I offered to TEACH three different classes at co-op. It has been a challenge, but something very rewarding!

Because I chose to teach co-op classes, I knew there would not be a lot of extra time for me to plan and prepare our own personal homeschool lessons. So I decided to start using a great resource called Download N Go. They offer all inclusive plans for some amazing unit studies, and I just knew this would be a good fit for our family. There was virtually no planning necessary! And they offered some really great topics to learn. Soon after I made the decision to use these unit studies, I read somewhere that they were looking for homeschoolers who would be willing to use and then write reviews for their units. So I signed up to be on the Download N Go Review Team. We have thoroughly enjoyed all the different units we have done so far, and we're looking forward to some really great titles in store for the spring of this new year. I have even made a few new friends through this team.

In November, I decided to take a 25 day challenge put out by my friend, Ray, called The Gratitude Project. For the 25 days leading up to Thanksgiving, I wrote about something for which I am thankful, in an effort to be intentionally grateful. And let me tell you, I had no idea how hard The Gratitude Project would be. After about 10 days, I had already covered all the people and things I was thankful for, and I began to have to LOOK for things. And there were days that I just really didn't want to be thankful. There were some really hard things going on and a lot of uncertainties, and I really just didn't feel like being thankful. But by participating in The Gratitude Project, it caused me to seek out things for which I was grateful, and really focus on those things instead of myself.

At Christmas, I made my first ever fruit cake! My daddy LOVES fruit cake (though really, I still can't understand why!), so I told him that was what I would be giving him this year. He was thrilled. So I got in touch with my friend, Juliann, the one and only other person I know who makes and eats those things, and asked her to please share her recipe. It turned out to be WONDERFUL, or so my daddy tells me! It made three large fruitcakes in loaf pans, and one smaller cake in a pan about half the size of the others. My daddy was thrilled to have a supply to keep in the freezer to enjoy long after the holidays were over.

I'm sure that, to most of you, these things don't really seem like much, because, in truth, they are things that most people would do anyway. But for me, in order to do many of these things, I had to overcome some really challenging obstacles. I had to deal with my complacency, insecurities, down right fear of a few things, and I had to go out of my comfort zone more than I ever have in the past. I won't go into the details of all my fears, because, believe me, you would be laughing your head off at most of them! But just know, the things I have done this year, for me, are no small feat.

Besides all the fun, amazing things I did this year, there have been some great changes made in my heart as well. This has been a year of the greatest ups and the hardest downs for me. God has shown Himself in such mighty, mighty ways through so many things. But all through this year, He has broken me to nothing, and then reshaped me the way He wanted me. And it seemed like, for some reason, I just could not get it right, because soon, He would break me again just to reshape me more. This has happened through the entire course of this year. It has been a source of the greatest hurt and the greatest joy all at the same time. I have learned to trust God with my life and everything in it. I have learned that my timing is rarely ever His timing, and I have learned to sit back and wait on Him. I have learned that, no matter how big of a fit I throw, it will not hurry Him up in the least. It will, in fact, slow Him down as He has to wait on me to finish my tantrum. So I have learned that, even in the uncertainty of things I cannot control, I still must wait on His perfect timing. There have been some BIG issues this year, and My God has handled each and every one in His perfect time and according to His perfect will. I have learned to trust Him, depend on Him, learn from Him, and wait on Him.

Change - it was the perfect word for this year. God placed in my heart a desire for change, and this year has proven to be one big change after another!

And out goes 2010, just like that...

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess