Monday, July 30, 2012

Great God of Highest Heaven

I have mentioned my love of the Puritan prayers found in the Valley of Vision prayer book.  Sovereign Grace music has a collection of songs based on these prayers, which can be very helpful to me to sing rather than just to read.  Here are the lyrics of one of my favorites, to start your week. 

O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore

I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace

Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face
You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me

Words and music by Bob Kauflin
As recorded on Valley of Vision

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

Hear it here:  Valley of Vision CD

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Prayer for Parenting

I'm busy this week writing lesson plans, going through books, (thinking about) cleaning the school room and starting the countdown to our first day in just four weeks!  In the middle of all that, I really NEED to take the time to pray over our plans and focus on the things that matter most.  But, I have to admit that I'm not a great pray-er.  

I know that I need to first and foremost pray for my boys, but sometimes it seems like I'm just bringing my shopping list before God - first, the staples: Milk, Bread and Eggs (salvation, health and safety).  Then the extras -  character traits I want to see them grow in, or particular needs we have had this week.  I don't like my prayers to feel like a grocery list, so I kind of end up not praying very specifically at all. 

Do you struggle like this, or is it just me?  Anyway, I really want to grow in my prayer life - learning what it is like to really communicate with God, how to persevere in prayer and how to not wander into thinking about my actual grocery shopping list while I pray!

As I start this school year, desiring to incorporate more prayer into my plans, I will share what things have helped, what I have learned and hopefully you will feel comfortable with sharing with me too!  I have found that sometimes it helps to read and pray written prayers to help me to learn how to pray.  I have found great help reading the prayers in the Valley of Vision prayer book.  I also found a resource specifically for praying for your children, called Setting Their Hope in God:  Biblical Intercession for Your Children by Andrew Case.  (It is only 99 cents for Kindle right now!)  I think I might try those resources as part of my morning devotions and when I find something helpful, I will post it here to share with you. 
Last school year, I had taped to the cover of my homeschool planner a prayer that I found at Pastor Scotty Smith's blog over at the Gospel Coalition and I wanted to re-post it here for you.  Here is the link to the source, in case you might want to tape it to your homeschool planner!
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:1-3
Heavenly Father, it’s a liberating joy to address you today as the architect and builder of your own house—including the household of faith and my children’s place in your family. No one cares about and loves our children more than you. I know that now better than ever. Our kids are your heritage.
I grieve the years I spent in pragmatic parenting, assuming if I prayed and parented just right, my kids would be converted at a young age, would never get into big trouble and would be protected from all harm. How na├»ve on my part. But my rejoicing is much greater than my regretting, for you’ve proven yourself faithful to your covenant love… even when I was overbearing and under-believing.
I praise you for rescuing me from parental “laboring in vain”—assuming a burden you never intended parents to bear. O, the arrogant pride of thinking that by our “good parenting” we can take credit for the encouraging things we see in the lives of our children. O, the undue pressure our children must feel when we parent more out of our fear and pride, rather than by your love and grace. O, the miserable unbelief of assuming that by our “bad parenting” we’ve marred our children forever and have limited what you’ll be able to accomplish in the future.
Father, only you can reveal the glory and grace of Jesus to our children; only you can give anyone a new heart. You’ve called us to parent as an act of worship—to parent “as unto you,” not as a way of saving face, making a name for ourselves, or proving our worthiness of your love. I really believe this, but the move from parenting by grit to parenting by grace has often been three steps forward and two steps back. Take me deeper; take me further.
Since our children and grandchildren are your inheritance, teach us how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners. Give us quick repentances and observable kindnesses. Constantly remind us that you call us to be faithful parents, not “successful” parents. More than anything else, show us how to parent and grandparent in ways that reveal the unsearchable riches of Christ. Keep teaching us how to love and lead your covenant children “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14 NIV). Father, dazzle and delight our children with your grace. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ faithful and loving name.
How do you make praying for your kids a priority and a habit?  
How do you make it more relational and less like a shopping list? 
What prayer resources do you recommend?
(I look forward to hearing from you!)

A great way to connect with me and get more gospel centered resources throughout the day is by "liking" this blog on Facebook.  Can you help me get to a (whopping) 30 likes?  Thanks!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Story of the World - a review (part 2)

{This is a two part review of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child series by Susan Wise Bauer.  This post will cover the final two books in the series, Vol. 3 – The Early Modern Times and Vol. 4 – The Modern World.}  The previous post covered the first two books in the series, Vol. 1 – Ancient Times and Vol. 2 – The Middle Ages. }

The first year of Story of the World, I was teaching only a 1st grader, the next year a 2nd grader and a Kindergartner. There wasn't too much adjusting for age differences because I was primarily just teaching one child, and the others would listen along, but not really be expected to be responsible for any real content or activities. It was just fun stories. For Year 3, we had both a 3rd grader and a 1st grader and for Year 4, I was teaching all three boys - 4th grade, 2nd grade and Kindergarten. So for the last two years of SOTW I really had to deal with making adjustments for teaching multiple ages. In addition, as SOTW progresses, the work required in the activity book advances and the subject matter (20th century especially) becomes more mature - slavery, holocaust, civil rights, 9/11. In this post, I thought I would share how we negotiated those challenges in our family.

Additionally, Year 3 and Year 4 cover the time periods of the development of the American nation, but since it is a World history program, the emphasis is not on American history. I wanted to make sure that we covered more in that subject area than was offered, so I will share some supplementary materials we used to make sure the boys knew enough about our country's history.

Adjusting for Different Ages

Year 3 of the SOTW was pretty easy to adjust for differences in ages.  All the boys like the coloring pages (it gives them something to do with their hands while I read aloud.)  After reading the chapter section, I would do the comprehension questions orally.  My 1st grader was better at remembering the details and the competition helped motivate the 3rd grader to try hard and remember the answers.  I didn't ask the 1st grader to narrate, at least not every time.  I did begin using the test book this year, but written responses were required only from the oldest, we used the questions in a game-show type review for the others.

Year 4 required the most adjustment for the ages.  Instead of narrating, the book begins to teach outlining and writing from an outline.  We all worked together on completing the outline, but not even the oldest was outlining on his own by the end of the year.  We worked on writing from an outline in our writing curriculum, so we didn't work on it here as well.  We used the tests for both the 4th grader and 2nd grader to do comprehension reviews (much more than the previous year.)  The 4th year of SOTW doesn't include coloring pages anymore, so I ordered a file of coloring pages from the publishers website.  This gave us at least one picture to color for the younger kids (2nd and K), and we also used a few Dover coloring books or online resources as well.
SOTW 4 Coloring pages
Dover Coloring Books (History)
American History Coloring Pages (free)
History Coloring Pages (free)

Adding More American History

The other thing I adjusted for in Year 3 and 4 of SOTW was to add more American history either by spending more time on the stories they did cover, or by adding stories that were left out that I wanted to include.  (How did I add more and still finish one book each year?)  We still read all the stories in the book, did comprehension questions and map exercises.  I didn't do nearly as many of the enrichment activities for these chapters.  I wouldn't say we "skimmed" those chapters, but we didn't linger long on them.  My pace was generally to read one chapter section each day (5 day schedule) and complete the coloring page and map activity for that chapter.  At the end of the chapter, we would spend one day to review the content and any additional reading or activity we had time for.  When we reached a chapter on the Jamestown colony or the Pilgrims we might spend an extra day or two on the sections - completing extra enrichment activities.  We would usually find a historical literature selection to spend even more time on those areas, even after we had moved on in the history text.  (Literature selections we used are at the end of this post.) 

Certain events were significant enough to spend two or three weeks camped out on them and completing a mini unit study. 

Year 3 Mini Unit Studies

13 Colonies (2 weeks)
(library books)

The Revolutionary War (4 weeks)
The American Revolution (Landmark Books) by Bruce Bliven, Jr.
The American Revolution by Alden R. Carter
Land Battles of the Revolutionary War by Diane Smolinski
History Pockets:  The American Revolution (Evan-Moor Publishing)

 (Toy soldiers are great for boys learning about wars - this is the Battle of Bunker Hill.)

Between year 3 and 4 we studied Colorado history by traveling to lots of historical sites for our summer camping trips and reading books on famous people from the time.

Year 4 Mini Unit Studies

Civil War (4 weeks)
Field of Fury by James M. McPherson
History Pockets:  The Civil War (Evan-Moor Publishing)

Westward Expansion  (1 week):
Library books and History Pockets:  Moving West (Evan-Moor publishing)

World War I (1 1/2 weeks):
Library books and
Truce by Jim Murphy
Coloring pages

World War II (3 weeks)
The Good Fight by Stephen E. Ambrose
Coloring pages, library videos, great grandparent interview

Several subjects didn't involve full unit studies, but we focused our project work or extra reading on those subjects:  the great depression, civil rights, space race, fall of communism, 9/11 and the war on terror.

We also wanted to make sure that we memorized all the Presidents of the United States and did a quick overview of what they were known for.  We put each president on our timeline, learned a song to memorize their order and watched a great series on the presidents that gave a quick but helpful overview of each president.  We watched these segments as we came to their time in history.  I recommend this series:   Disney's The American Presidents Video series (Vol. 1-4)

Whew!  That is how we worked in a little more time in American history and still maintained the context of overall world history from the Story of the World.  I hope that is helpful to you if you are using SOTW and wanted to emphasize American History to a greater extent.

Now for our literature lists:

Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 3

Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac
Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla
Voyage to Freedom by David Gay  (About the Mayflower)
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes  (Revolutionary War)
Kanousky, the Indian Boy and David Brainerd The Indian's Missionary (
Stowaway by Karen Hesse (About the travels of Captain James Cook)
Duel!  Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words by Dennis Fradin
Seaman by Gail Langer Karwoski  (Lewis and Clark expedition)
Stolen Man:  Story of the Amistad by Barry Louis Polisar
Amos Fortune by Elizabeth Yates  (Slavery) Excellent!!!
Journey of Jesse Smoke by Joseph Bruchac  (Trail of Tears)
The Boy in the Alamo by Margaret Cousins
The Francis Tucket series (Books 1-5) by Gary Paulsen (Oregon Trail, westward adventures)
Zeb Pike, Boy Traveler by Augusta Stevenson
Kit Carson by Ralph Moody

 Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 4

(This list is my longest, it includes read alouds, independent reads for the two older boys and picture books...)
Hard Gold by Avi (Colorado Gold Rush)
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (homesteading)
Courage to Run:  A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman by Wendy Lawton
The Drinking Gourd by F.N. Monjo (Underground railroad)
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine (slavery)
Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation by Patrice Sherman
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (Illustrated by Michael McCurdy)
Abe Lincoln goes to Washington by Cheryl Harness
Abe Lincoln, the Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters
Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln by Jean Fritz
Iron Thunder by Avi (The Monitor and Merrimac)
The Story of the H.L. Hunley and Queenie's Coin by Fran Hawk (Civil War)
Abraham Lincoln by Ingri D'Aulaire
Escape by Night:  A Civil War Adventure by Laurie Myers
John Brown:  His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix  (Harper's Ferry)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Journal of Sean Sullivan, a Transcontinental Railroad Worker by William Durbin
The Battle for Little Big Horn by Marty Gitlin
The Wild West by Henry Brooks
Sergeant York and the Great War by Tom Skeyhill (WWI)
War Horse by Michael Morpugo (WWI)
"In Flander's Fields" A poem by John McCray (WWI)  Great for memorizing!
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom  (We watched the video, also check out this great virtual tour of the Ten Boom home...
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margo Theis Raven (Berlin airlift)
Balloon Sailors by Diane Swanson (Berlin wall)
Children of the Storm by Natasha Vins (persecution of Christians in USSR)

Monday, July 23, 2012

The God Who Promises Deep Personal Change

"Because Christ lived perfectly, died sufficiently, and rose victoriously, you and I can come out of hiding. We are free to own up to, without fear, the darkest of our thoughts and motives, the ugliest of our words, our most selfish choices, and our most rebellious and unloving actions. We are freed from our bondage to guilt and shame. We are freed from hiding behind accusation, blame, recrimination, and rationalization.
Confession is powerful and effective. It turns guilt into forgiveness. It turns regret into hope. It turns slavery into freedom. It turns you from mourning over your harvest to planting new seeds of faith, repentance, and hope. You see, you are not trapped! Things are not hopeless! The Lord, the great Creator and Savior, is the God who never changes, but at the same time he is the God who promises and produces deep personal change. The changes he makes in us are so foundational that the Bible’s best words describing them are ‘new creation.’ God’s plan is to change us so fundamentally that it is as if we are no longer us; something brand new has been created!"
— Paul David Tripp
Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God
(Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2004), 124

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapter 6}

The First Principle of Parenting

"If you ask parents what is the most important thing they can do to raise children who will follow Christ, some will mention adequate discipline, others enrollment in a Christian school, still others the importance of homeschooling or Bible reading.  They rarely mention example.  Yet example is the first principle of parenting."     William Farley, (pg. 107)
That statement is enough to really put fear into me.  In fact, I really didn't like the whole first part of this chapter.  I felt like a bigger and bigger weight of despair was sitting on my chest.  It is probably what Jesus' disciples felt when Jesus explained the true meaning of the law to them in the Sermon on the Mount.  He showed them how what they thought were "keepable" laws were really deeper heart issues.  Not just "Do not murder" but "Do not hate", not just "Do not commit adultery" but "Do not lust in your heart".  He reveals the depth of our depravity when we realize that we cannot keep God's standards of holiness.  And this is how I felt when I read the statement above.  Even though it would require a lot of effort and commitment from me, I could do all the right actions (homeschooling, bible reading, discipline) that might guarantee that my kids would follow Christ, but if my example is the standard... I am crushed.  Does that mean there is something wrong with the standard?  Is Farley wrong about "example" being the main tool in our toolbox to raise children who follow Christ?  I don't think he is.  I think there are definitely those who have come to Christ in spite of their parents' examples, but if I am thinking solely of what MY responsibility to my kids is, it would not just be words, but a consistant example of what it means to follow God.  Did I mention how much I felt crushed by this?

Christ is the only example that perfectly reflects what it means to follow God.  So, should I just try harder and hopefully I'll come pretty close and God will say, "Well, you tried, I guess that is good enough, no one is perfect, of course, and your heart was in the right place"?  I don't think that is it.  But that is what I would have thought was the right answer for most of my life.  Just try harder.  Farley perfectly describes what I am feeling when he says, "Aware of the importance of example, sincere parents strive to model the gospel - but the harder they try, the more aware of their failings they become."  (pg. 118)

Obviously trying harder is NOT gospel powered parenting.

The answer, Farley says, is humility.

"The key to the family functioning as a redemptive community, where the Gospel is the glue that holds the family together, is parents who so trust in Christ that they are ready and willing to confess their faults to their children."  - Paul David Tripp (quoted on pg. 119)
Let me open up a window on my life to show the opposite of humility... Let's say I show ungodly anger to my children in a moment of frustration and unrestraint.  When I realize my sin, I feel shame- my pride causes me to want to ignore the action and move on.  Listen in on my conversation with myself... "After all, I apologized to them for the same kind of outburst yesterday - they will think that I didn't really mean it.  If I'm constantly apologizing, they won't respect me anymore.  In order to maintain my authority, I am not going to apologize for this, I'm just going to move on.  They were disobeying me, they need to know that they can't continue to push me this far.  In fact, my anger is just the consequences of their continued disobedience!"  OK, that was embarrassing... but do you see how all that guilt, shame, justification and blaming all came from basically the sin of pride?  I don't want to admit (to my children, or to myself) that I don't have it all together!  (I still think that I have some merit in me that deserves the favor that God has given to me.)
So how does the gospel help with my problem?
A few helpful quotes from Farley...
The gospel opens my eyes to who I really am - "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).  "Biblical humility," notes G. A. Pritchard, "is not some self-induced groveling or hang-dog attitude.  Biblical humility is seeing ourselves as we are.  Humility is a response to beholding the holiness of God."  (pg. 118)
"Those who meditate on the message of the cross strive for holiness.  Their efforts only make them more aware of their failings.  This causes them to run to the cross for forgiveness more frequently.  It causes them to need the cross more desperately.  All of this happens because they feel the weight of their sins more biblically."

What is the effect of this humility in parenting?

"Confession sends a crucial message to our children.  It reminds them that, yes, my parents are imperfect, but they are deadly earnest about following Christ, about wanting to change, and about doing things God's way."  (pg. 120)  

And I no longer feel crushed, I feel freed.

I hope that you got as much out of this chapter as I did, even though I really had to wrestle with it.  I didn't touch at all on Farley's emphasis on marriage from this chapter, because it was not the area that struck me most.  Please feel free to comment on that aspect of the chapter if it is what struck you.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment on any chapter that you have finished either here or on that chapter's post.  You can find all the posts here.  I find that writing out my reflections really helps me to cement them - maybe you will too. 

The Story of the World - a review (part one)

{This is a two part review of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child series by Susan Wise Bauer. This post will cover the first two books in the series, Vol. 1 – Ancient Times and Vol. 2 – The Middle Ages. The next post will cover the final two books in the series, Vol. 3 – The Early Modern Times and Vol. 4 – The Modern World.}
Now that we have finished all four years of The Story of the World series (SOTW), I feel ready to give an assessment of how it has worked for us.  I have found in the past that I have been too quick to recommend a resource without sufficient time to evaluate it  and then either regretted would have tempered my recommendation after I had actually used the entire curriculum or had compared it with something else.  Having used the entire scope of this curriculum now, hopefully my thoughts will be more helpful, rather than just enthusiastic and hopeful. 

I will start off by saying that I do highly recommend this series.  It worked extremely well for us.  No curriculum is perfect, so if you are looking for a perfect curriculum, this is not it, but good luck on your quest!  I will explain what we liked about SOTW, what was challenging for us and also how we changed it to suit the things we either didn’t like or that didn’t work as well for us.


First, an introduction… if you are not already familiar with SOTW, it is world history curriculum for elementary ages (1st – 4th grade) written by Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well Trained Mind – A Guide to Classical Education at Home.  The highlights of world history are taught in chronological order over 4 years starting with Ancient Times (beginnings to the last Roman emperor), then the Middle Ages (Fall of Rome to the Reformation), Early Modern Times (1600 -1850) and the Modern Age (British empire to turn of the 21st century).  Materials for each year include the story book, an activity book/teacher's guide (definitely recommended), and a test book (not necessary, especially in the younger grades).

What We Liked

The Stories – The boys loved history time, because it was basically read-aloud time.  They got to hear well written stories, that happened to be about real people in real places.  When it was time for history, the boys got out their history notebooks and would color a page from the activity book while I read a story to them.  They might also get out their Legos and build something to go along with the story.  Susan writes in an engaging manner with lots of drama and interest for elementary school age kids.  We also loved when we could get the SOTW audio book from the library.  These are recorded by storyteller Jim Weiss who is really fun to listen to.  This is a fun added resource and great for car-schooling!

The Maps and Activities -  After we heard the story, we would complete the map activity from the activity book.  This was a great way to learn geography because it was associated with a story.  It also helped us to review what we learned.  We also enjoyed completing the activities that were suggested in the Activity Book, but I have to admit that I wasn’t brave enough to try and mummify a chicken!  Sometimes the boys made up their own activities just from their interest in the subject – my oldest tried to make his own papyrus from cattail leaves (which didn’t work very well, but was definitely a learning experience!)  We finished the first year with a Roman feast, which everyone loved.

World History – I really liked that this history was truly world history and not just western history.  I have noticed that many homeschool history programs, especially classical history, limit their study to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, but this series includes civilizations all around the world – the Americas, India, Africa and China are all included, at least in the most significant events.

Literature Suggestions – The element of the program that cemented history the most for our boys was the historical literature that we read along with the time period that we were studying.  The Activity Book has lists of recommendations for each chapter of study – you could never possibly read them all, but we were able to find many options that the boys really enjoyed.  Occasionally the list will contain an out of print or hard to find book, so I would find other alternatives.  I will include the list of books that we read for the first two volumes at the end of this post.

Answering an Objection

Many people that I know have really enjoyed this series, but there is one objection that I have heard from some that may cause some to avoid this series.  I have heard people say that it isn’t “Christian” enough.  I think by this objection people may be comparing this book with those from Christian homeschool publishers where every chapter has an explicit reference to Christ, Christianity, the Bible or Christian morality integrated into each subject or chapter.  Admittedly, this book does not do that.  However, to say that a book isn’t explicitly Christian on every page is not to say that it is somehow compromised or anti-Christian. 

Susan Wise Bauer is a Christian author, and includes several important Christian stories in her books.  In Vol. 1, she recounts the stories of Abraham, Joseph, the birth and crucifixion of Christ and the destruction of the temple.  For Christians ,this is not near enough Christian history and they will want to supplement or integrate other biblical history into their study. 

I’m OK with it not being included in my history text – not because I don’t think that the Bible is history, but because I don’t always agree with how homeschool publishers explain this history – their theology may not be the theology that I teach my children. 

As a parent, I want to make sure that the way the biblical history is told matches up with the biblical theology that I believe and that my church teaches.  Without naming names, there are homeschool publishers from all over the theological spectrum and I want to guard the gospel in my children’s education! 

So I will willingly take on the extra task of integrating biblical history into our Ancient History study, early church history and biographies into our Middle Ages study, Reformation stories and missionary biographies into our Modern History curriculum.  (I will list some of our favorite resources along with the literature selections at the end of this post.) 

Finally, if you are interested in this series of books but are unsure about whether they contain enough “Christian” influence, I would suggest reading Ms. Bauer’s own reflections on why she wrote the way she did, in this article.

Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 1

The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Mary Hoffman
D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths
The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki
Alexander the Great by Jane Bingham
Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld  We loved these books  – a great look at the life of a young boy in Roman times, with a mystery to solve too!
Mystery of the Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfeld
See You Later, Gladiator by Jon Scieszka 
Peril and Peace:  Chronicles of the Ancient Church by Mindy and Brandon Withrow  
This is the first book in the History Lives series – an excellent set of resources.  Subject matter might be too advanced for 1st graders and you may need to verbally edit any sensitive subjects (specifically martyrdoms) but definitely worth adding to your library for reading at a later age.
508142: History Lives Box Set History Lives Box Set

By Mindy Withrow and Brandon Withrow

Let history come alive and learn about early Christianity with this 5 softcover boxed set! Featuring books that span Christianity from 3BC until 1860AD through tomorrow, these books will teach you about important people, events, and places---all the important events that have led to Christianity being what it is today. Books included are:
  • Peril and Peace, Volume 1
  • Monks and Mystics, Volume 2
  • Courage and Conviction, Volume 3
  • Hearts and Hands, Volume 4
  • Rescue and Redeem, Volume 5

Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 2

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
Monks and Mystics by Mindy and Brandon Withrow (Vol. 2 in the History Lives Series)
Son of Charlemagne by Barbara Willard
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor
Beorn the Proud by Madelieine Polland
The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski 
Knights of the Round Table by Gwen Gross

Joan of Arc by Shana Corey
Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
Courage and Conviction by Mindy and Brandon Withrow (Vol. 3 in the History Lives series)
(Most of these selections were read alouds and a few were read independently, as my son’s reading level developed.)

In my next post (look for it next week!), I will review Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 of the series and address some of our difficulties and accommodations as the subject matter gets more difficult and we began to teach multiple ages, as well as how we integrated more American history into the world history curriculum.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

10 Random Thoughts {From Our Vacation}

Our family was on vacation last week, so this is a pretty light week on the blog as I get caught up on laundry and grocery shopping and life. A perfect day to post a Top 10 Tuesday...
"10 Random Thoughts {From Our Vacation}"

1. This could have been my new profile pic, if I hadn't put the flower in my mouth.
Beautiful field of Colorado columbine on a very steep mountain.

2.  That is a really long drop.  I'm pretty sure that they are not as close to the edge as it looks.... um... right?
The Last Chance Mine Creede, CO

3.  How quickly confidence can turn into despair...
At the top of Engineer Pass 12,800 ft.
Um.... yea.  The car wouldn't start at 12,800 ft. 
It was a tense 20 minutes until it providentially came to life after banging around on it alot and praying really hard.

4.  Some park rangers can be pretty tough on you if you get the answer wrong in the Junior Ranger book about feeding the wild animals.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Come to think of it, we might have confused him a little with this.
 I guess it's not all his fault he got the answer wrong.

5.  This is what happens when three boys have been camping at high altitudes for a little too long.
OK, you got me.  It's not my boys, it's three marmots.

6.  {Sigh.... }   I love vacation!
 A field of fuschia paintbrush above timberline on Imogene Pass.

7.  According to my middle son, sour cream and onion potato chips are more "lady-like" than other potato chips.
(Maybe it's because he wanted the BBQ chips all to himself.)

8.  Really, is it necessary to document the use of the alpine potty?  I'm sure I've used toilets that are higher in altitude than this one.
(Well, not as nice as this one though.)

9.  Anytime is a good time for a geology lesson.  Good thing Dad is a geologist.
"Is this one worth anything?"

10.  God has really made a wonderful, beautiful world and blessed us with blessings beyond compare!  Imagine what heaven will be like!

 (Our vacation included lots of 4WD trips over the high mountain passes of the San Juan mountain range in Colorado.  We visited Creede, Lake City, Telluride, Ouray, and Silverton... with a stop in Gunnison to fix the starter on the car.)

I'm linking up today with Top Ten Tuesdays at Many Little Blessings...
 if you joined us from the linkup Welcome to My Blog!
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Love Being a Mother of Boys!

One of the blogs that I like to read is called The MOB Society - (for Mothers of Boys). 
The mission statement from their blog is:
Used by permission from The MOB Society

Being a mother of three boys myself, that is a mission statement I can get behind!! 
(I only wish I thought of it first.)

I am participating with their Boy Mom Blog Hop this week, so if you are a new visitor to this site,
let me introduce myself...

I'm Jennifer- new blogger, and a not-so-new homeschooler, but still feeling like a novice in both capacities.  I primarily write to point others to the sufficiency of Christ in all things, specifically in homeschooling and parenting.  Here are a few posts to give you an idea of what I care most about and to give you a sample of the blog...

I also love to share great links to articles or quotes that keep our minds on the power of the gospel, great resources for teaching kids important spiritual truths and I have started an online book club where we are currently reading Gospel Powered Parenting by William Farley. 

And here is the Family!

Thanks for coming over to our blog and checking us out! 
I would love to "e-meet" you too, so leave a comment so I can check out your site and say hello!

or "like" GCH on Facebook.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting {Chapt. Five}

A Gracious Father

Last chapter we learned about the holiness of God, which includes his perfection, his purity, his justice and his wrath.  Pretty heavy stuff.  But such an important background to what our chapter is about today.

"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
Psalm 103:8

What amazing news!  Do you realize that this is the description that God gives of himself over and over again in the Old Testament (the place we usually think of speaking mainly about his wrath)?  God's plan to extend grace to us did not begin in the New Testament, it was his plan from the very beginning.  But he knew that grace would be at a very high price.  

So what is grace?

Farley introduces us to a commonly used acronymn to understand grace (God's Riches At Christ's Expense), but he says that it doesn't quite go far enough, because it doesn't include the important concept of what we really deserved - which was holy wrath.  He also mentions that many Christians don't have a very good understanding of what grace is. 
At this point of the book, what would you have defined grace as? 
(I commonly used the G.R.A.C.E. acronymn minus the mention of what we actually deserved.) 

Farley procedes to explain grace with what he calls "five important propositions":
  1. God is Free. (He is free to be gracious to some and not gracious to others - he is not obligated to give grace.)
  2. God has no needs. (He is not gracious to satisfy a need in himself - such as fellowship or being loved, or being unhappy.)  *Side Note: Watch for these errors in children's bibles!*
  3. Sin is infinitely offensive.  (The depth of our demerit is impossible for us to fully understand. God was gracious to enemies, not to friends.)
  4. We are helpless.  (And we have virtually no knowledge of it- we believe that we merit grace by our works.)
  5. My capacity to understand grace will always be a function of my understanding of what it cost the Father to be gracious.
My favorite quote from this section was: "Virtue keeps more people out of heaven than all their sins combined."  (pg. 96)  He goes on to explain what he means:
God's son came to earth and suffered infinite pains precisely because we are helpless.  Christians are those who confess, "Our situation is and was helpless."  In fact, reliance on our virtues is not a neutral issue.  It is deep sin.  It makes God angry.  Why?  Attempts to be "good enough" reject Christ, his cross, and his atoning work. (Pg. 97)
How should God's holy grace affect parents?
The author says:
  1. The grace of God should convince us that our pretensions to parental perfection are futile.  
  2. The grace of God makes parents increasingly sincere, gracious, and humble.  It prompts us to confess our failings and ask for forgiveness.  It causes us to administer God's discipline with tenderness and compassion.
  3. The grace of God motivates us to love our spouse and our children sacrificially.
Here are the study questions I want us to focus on today:

There are many motivations for serving Christ - fear, guilt, insecurity, pride, and grace.  Which of these motivates you most frequently? 

What would a Christian look like if that person were motivated by nothing but the grace of God? 

How can we motivate our children with grace?

I look forward to your comments and thoughts on these questions!  Remember you can comment on any chapter you have read so far, by going to the book club page to find the post related to that chapter.   

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I'm on vacation with the family this week, camping with the family in the Rocky Mountains!  Today I'm sharing a few great links I've found around the internet and a special discount for books!

First,  I often recommend books on this site through my affiliate relationship with Christian Book Distributors.  (An affiliate relationship allows me to earn a tiny amount on any purchases that you might make by clicking through my site.  This tiny amount might in the future allow me to pay a blog designer to upgrade this blog and increase it's reach.)  Anyway, CBD very frequently has as good or better prices on their books as Amazon, but they don't usually compete because of Amazon's better deal on shipping.  Today, I want to offer you an incentive for buying through CBD by giving you a special discount code for free shipping on orders of $35 or more.  This code is unique to me and can be used three times, so if you want to make a purchase, snag it up - first come, first serve!
Here is the promo code:  379395APFZSB  and here is my link to CBD...

And my favorite articles and links lately.....

25 Rules for Moms of Boys  This is a fun list of things for moms of boys to remember.

 Our job is to protect our children's innocence  This author brings up some really important thoughts about being too quick to expose your kids to movies and music with violence and sex in them.  She effectively argues from her own experience being over-exposed.  Who can't relate to that!?  I sure can.  I also like how she admits that she couldn't protect them from everything, but that doesn't negate the point at all.

Summer Art and Science Fun  Do you cringe when your kids want to get out the paints and brushes, the glitter glue and the volcano science kit because you just know how much mess it will be to clean up?  Why not take the science and art outside.  This post has some great ideas.

Three links to articles that help me remember what is important: 
Christ is Our Treasure, Not Our Homes
How to Make Life Changing Memories Without Actually Doing Anything Special

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Myths, Half-Truths and Propaganda Part 2

Last week I posted my list of Top 10 Homeschooling Myths, Half-Truths and Propaganda.  I was being a little silly and sarcastic, but my point is that you need to be aware of these things so that you can be discerning and not base your support for homeschooling on weak arguments or false expectations.   Here are the last five of my Top 10 list, and then I will have some thoughts about why all this is important.

Continuing from last Tuesday...

6. We don’t need no socialization!
If there is one question that homeschoolers get constantly it is, “What about socialization?”  So we have built up lots of arguments against this, almost to the point of refuting that it is even a legitimate issue at all.  Let’s face it, we have all seen homeschoolers who are the “stereotype” of a strange, awkward, unsocialized kid.  Most people I know don’t want to be “those homeschoolers”.  By that I mean, we don’t want to be so removed from the world that we can’t even communicate with it anymore.  And it can be difficult at times trying to find the right activities for your kids to get involved with, trying to balance protection and unrealistic sheltering, and making sure your kids are exposed to non-christian, non-homeschooled kids so they can learn to interact with people who are not like them!  If we ignore that this can be a challenge because we don’t want to acknowledge the repetitive socialization question, then we might be closing our eyes to a legitimate concern.

7.  “Train up a child” is a promise!
Hold on, how can I say that the Bible is half-truth?!  “Train up a child in the way he should go and in the end he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)  The problem is not with the Bible, it is with the interpretation.  Here is a helpful alliterative phrase to help you with wisdom from the book of Proverbs:  “Proverbs are Principles not Promises.”  This means that it is a true principle that training up a child in the way they should go is a very good indicator that they will continue to follow in those ways.  The reverse principle is also true, if you don’t look to the ways you train a child, you can’t expect for them to follow in those ways.  But Proverbs are not promises or guarantees.  Look to any mature Christian parent and see how many have raised  all their children with exactly the same training and yet one follows the Lord and another doesn’t.  You see, we think that because we homeschool our kids we are then guaranteed that they will turn out great.  This is not what the passage means.  Salvation is of the Lord and if we don’t realize that, we will be trusting in our efforts and not in the power of Christ.

8.       Homeschooling protects my child from evil in the world.            
The evil is not in the world, it is in US. We are the problem. Our hearts don't seek God, they are in rebellion against him. If we believe that all we need to do is to keep the external evil away from our children - we will be missing the most insidious evil: OUR attempts to be our own Savior through our own righteousness. I have a great book club going on right now on this subject, if you want to study this more!

9.  Government schools are the enemy.
It is true that government schools are based on a naturalistic, secular worldview, that many times there is a subtle agenda towards teaching certain subjects according to the prevailing politically correct cause and that prayer and religious expression have all been eliminated from the classroom.  But let’s not be confused.  The enemy is Satan.  There are many public school teachers who  are Christians and who are battling that enemy in their classrooms.  There are Christians in our churches who maintain a high level of involvement as a witness in the midst of this highly secular environment, because they believe they have a calling to that mission field.  Public schools have good resources to offer to homeschoolers in terms of enrichment programs, testing services and sports programs to name just a few.  Many times the assistance offered by the public schools can help a new homeschooling family to transition into homeschooling on their own, or help them with academic resources and experts for free.  This leads me to #10…

10.  Homeschooling is the only biblical way to educate.
I think the case can be made (and has been strongly made) by homeschool speakers and advocates that parents are responsible for the education of their children.  I do not believe that we can then extend that to mean that every subject that a child is taught needs to be taught by the parent.  Most homeschoolers will admit that they take advantage of all kinds of resources – tutors, co-ops, computer learning, grandparents, other homeschooling parents to help them to teach their own children.  All of this occurs under the supervision of the parent, even if they aren’t the ones doing the teaching.  Additionally, if we were to say that children should only be educated by their parents then we would have to discount all kinds of biblical examples of children being educated by Rabbi’s in the synagogue.  This is likely the way that Jesus was educated, as all Jewish boys were educated this way.  Finally, if we are so dogmatic about this, what would I do if I were to have a debilitating stroke, my husband were to lose his job and we had no ability to educate our own kids?  We would send them to public, charter or private schools because this is what God has provided for us in that situation.  We would also trust that God would help us to continue to supervise their education, to disciple them in their faith and to help them to discern between truth and error.
Most of the first 5 in my list have been silly and harmless, but these last 5 are a little more touchy.  All 10 of them can have serious implications.  One big implication that comes from over-stating benefits is that it can lead to false expectations and assumptions about what things will be like.  Another implication is that we cannot notice our own blind-spots and weaknesses.  Finally, we can become prideful and exclusionist towards other believers who have not made the same educational choices that we have.  For all these things there is a remedy - Repent and Believe!  Your acceptance in Christ is not based on your performance, but on Christ who was the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Look to him and be amazed that he has given us access to the Father apart from our works, but on the basis of His Work - His life, death and resurrection.