Daily Focus - April 2014

  • The Lone Tree

    Posted in Daily Focus on Wednesday, Apr 30th

    Attempting to find a few moments with the Lord before the beginning of our homeschooling day, I hiked the ragged bluffs in the pasture near our ranch. As I walked through the dry stubble, sage brush, and yucca plants, I came across a small cottonwood tree. With no other trees of any kind close by for miles, it looked completely out of place. The rocky ground in which it grew offered little nourishment, and I knew months had passed since any rain had fallen. "How does this little tree stay alive out here all by itself?" I asked myself. Read More...


  • The Joy of Children

    Posted in Daily Focus on Tuesday, Apr 29th

    Call me crazy, but I just love kids. Therefore, making the decision to homeschool our four children wasn't difficult. It was simply a result that grew out of love. What did seem crazy, however, were the countless, negative remarks I received from people who felt bogged down by the responsibilities of parenting. Such comments like, "Why in the world would you want to stay home with your kids?" or "I can hardly wait until they're ready for school, so I can enjoy my life again," seemed as crazy to me as my homeschooling did to them. In response I thought, "Why wouldn't you want to spend time with the people you love most?" Read More...


  • Focused Homeschooling

    Posted in Daily Focus on Monday, Apr 28th

    Distractions. Every day you face them as a homeschooling parent. Although some may seem good in themselves, they can steal time from your family and destroy your homeschooling schedule. Learning to recognize each interruption as either a divine rescheduling or an evil diversion takes discernment that only comes from the Holy Spirit. Whether it's a long phone call from your mother or sister or an invitation to enjoy an impromptu outing with another homeschooling family, you must prayerfully consider what daily activities are best for your family. Read More...


  • Cutting Remarks

    Posted in Daily Focus on Sunday, Apr 27th

    If you've ever been slandered by someone as a homeschooler, you know the difficulty in forgiving hurtful words spoken in ignorance. As a homeschooling parent, rising above cruel remarks was a constant battle. Dealing with misinformed statements like "Homeschoolers don't educate their children; they simply brainwash them and turn them into non-thinking Christian zombies," required the supernatural love and forgiveness of God. Unfortunately, many years went by before I finally realized the lesson God was teaching me — how to love others in the face of opposition. Read More...


  • Hen and Peck

    Posted in Daily Focus on Saturday, Apr 26th

    One of our homeschooling family's favorite springtime activities was visiting the local feed and seed store to see the new baby chickens and ducks. Every year the store converted several small aluminum water tanks into warm, cozy homes for these little creatures. My children never tired of watching their antics and especially enjoyed their baby peeping noises. As my young daughter leaned over the tank to pet their soft downy feathers, she looked at me with questioning eyes and said, "Mom, can I have one?" Read More...


  • Putting Down Roots

    Posted in Daily Focus on Friday, Apr 25th

    After you've lived somewhere like the windy, western plains of Nebraska, you begin to appreciate the value of a tree. Inspired by the founding father of Arbor Day, Julius Sterling Morton, my young son decided to make some changes in our barren landscape. Using seeds from his grandparents' ash trees in northwest Iowa, he planted hundreds in different locations on our ranch for a homeschool science project. My son faithfully watered each seed for several months, but soon discovered the climate and poor quality of soil were unfit for starting a new tree. Discouraged, my young son said, "I guess Iowa seeds simply won't grow unless they're in Iowa dirt." Read More...


  • The First Loaf

    Posted in Daily Focus on Thursday, Apr 24th

    My daughter's first attempt at baking bread in our home economics class served as a stark reminder of the importance of patience. Although she carefully measured and followed the recipe's directions when making the dough, her lack of patience in waiting for it to rise paid a stiff penalty. Thinking she could hurry the process along, she only let the dough rise 15 minutes instead of an hour. Later, as she removed the bread from the oven, she discovered the consequence of her actions. Each loaf was flat and too hard to eat. Read More...


  • Going for the Gold

    Posted in Daily Focus on Wednesday, Apr 23rd

    My oldest son loved the old West stories in our U.S. history curriculum. He seemed to identify with the early settlers who left the comforts of home and family in the East for adventure and gold in the West's unknown frontiers. Because my son's interest in this chapter of history ran deep, we decided to celebrate his tenth birthday with a tour of a working gold mine in Colorado. Read More...


  • High Waters

    Posted in Daily Focus on Tuesday, Apr 22nd

    We had seen the dark cloud in the distance. Knowing we were in for another soaker, our family prepared for a torrential downpour. Just as we completed our preparations, however, it seemed like some invisible hand reached out and moved the cloud. After not even receiving a drop of rain, the sun came out and we thought the storm was over, until we heard a flash flood alert on the radio. Apparently, eight inches of rain had fallen in the neighboring town, and a three-foot wall of water was headed our way. Read More...


  • Flying High

    Posted in Daily Focus on Monday, Apr 21st

    The annual kite flying day was only two weeks away for our homeschooling group, and my oldest son was looking forward to winning the category for the highest flying kite. For several months, he had been preparing the perfect design. Using the old box shape, he believed that his kite would fly higher and better than any other kite in western Nebraska's strong, spring winds. His balsa wood frame was tightly wrapped in light-weight flour sack cloths, and with his father's help, he tested the kite's lift and drag performance several times. Read More...


  • Early Morning Singers

    Posted in Daily Focus on Sunday, Apr 20th

    Their greeting surprised me that morning. As the sun rose, their warbling song filtered through the window and lifted my spirit with the hope of spring. My patience had been running thin for the past several weeks, and God knew that I needed a boost to finish our homeschooling year. With their joyful melodies ministering to my soul, I listened in amazement and smiled as I watched them sing. Their tiny bodies shook and resonated with sound, appearing as if they used their entire being. "Amazing," I thought to myself. "These little wrens do a better job of praising the Lord than I do." Read More...


  • Daily Chores

    Posted in Daily Focus on Saturday, Apr 19th

    What chores have you delegated to your children to keep the homeschooling wheels turning in your family? To save electricity and money, my youngest daughter's chore was hanging up the clothes to dry. Each morning after breakfast, she either hung the clothes outside in the fresh summer air or inside on the drying rack during the winter months. With six people in our family, this task grew into a time-consuming chore. Early on, she discovered that no amount of complaining or procrastinating would relieve her of the responsibility. Learning to face the task with resolve and determination, she acquired a work ethic that has since served her well in the workplace. Read More...


  • Painful Reminders

    Posted in Daily Focus on Friday, Apr 18th

    The morning started with the warmth of a spring sun and God's prompting to take the children outdoors. Winter had been long, and I knew their spirits needed refreshment. Calling homeschooling off for the afternoon, I sent each child his separate way to enjoy his individual interests. My youngest set out to watch the ants as they built their new home, my oldest started down the road for a bike ride, and my two middle children walked to the paddock for a leisurely horseback ride. Read More...


  • To the Finish

    Posted in Daily Focus on Thursday, Apr 17th

    The end of the school year was getting closer. The calendar wasn't the only source that revealed that fact. The quality of my children's schoolwork was also an indicator. With the finish line in sight and carefree summer days just ahead, my children rushed through their lessons. Poorly written compositions, half-answered history questions, and math papers with high percentages of incorrect answers confirmed that spring fever had hit our homeschool. I needed to find something to motivate my children to finish the school year working to the best of their abilities. Read More...


  • Side by Side

    Posted in Daily Focus on Wednesday, Apr 16th

    Would you like to know a successful homeschooling secret? My children did their best schoolwork when I sat next to them as they completed their assignments. Sounds too simple, doesn't it? I thought so, too, until I tested my theory. No matter their age, the difference was remarkable between the days when I quietly sat nearby and the days when I was busy with chores in another room. Apparently, my presence empowered them with the reassurance that I was there to help if they had a question. Read More...


  • I Think I Can, I Think I Can

    Posted in Daily Focus on Tuesday, Apr 15th

    Like the little blue engine, my chant each morning during my early years of homeschooling was "I think I can do this!" I'm sure if others had heard my thoughts, they would have laughed. Trying to gain the confidence I needed for homeschooling, I thought that if I said the words enough, I would eventually believe them. Truthfully, I wasn't quite so sure I could homeschool. The idea of teaching my five-year-old seemed easy enough, but that was before I started teaching phonetic sounds. Since I had learned to read with sight words, teaching phonics was a whole new experience. Already, I was facing a roadblock of insecurities, and my homeschooler was only in kindergarten! What was I going to do when we got to high school? Read More...


  • Dandelion Bouquets

    Posted in Daily Focus on Monday, Apr 14th

    The money shortages we experienced while homeschooling gave our family plenty of opportunities to discover life's simple pleasures. My husband and I enjoyed inexpensive dates, and we found activities for our children that cost very little money. One springtime activity we enjoyed most was having the first picnic of the year and walking barefoot through the new green grass. Read More...


  • I Forgot

    Posted in Daily Focus on Sunday, Apr 13th

    How many times have you heard your homeschooler say, "I'm sorry, but I forgot to read that lesson" or "I forgot to get my assignment done"? When my children were little, saying "I forgot" meant exactly that. Their young minds were still developing and learning how to organize and remember. However, as my children grew older, I realized that "I forgot" was more often an excuse for being lazy or procrastinating. The unintentional forgetfulness they experienced during childhood stood in stark contrast to the forgetfulness of sidestepping their responsibilities as an adult. Read More...


  • Bitter Roots

    Posted in Daily Focus on Saturday, Apr 12th

    "I can't believe it, Mom!" cried my son. "Look at this!" Walking to the flower bed where my son was standing, I looked down and shook my head. Sure enough, the noxious weed that we had been trying to eradicate was back in our flower bed again. Frustrated, I realized the problem was my fault. When we had first moved to our home several years before, I had thought this weed was a flower. Unfortunately, after watching the other flowers choked out by this weed's entwining, tubular roots, I knew I had made a mistake in letting it grow. Read More...


  • Homeschooling Comfort

    Posted in Daily Focus on Friday, Apr 11th

    Let's face it. Some mornings you wake up as a homeschooling parent and say, "If I have another day like I did yesterday, I'm going to lose it!" Between your little ones fighting and your older children taking the lazy way out of their schoolwork, you're tired of being a policeman. Ironically, those discouraging days seem to be the very ones when someone calls wanting your encouragement to start homeschooling. You feel like the proverbial blind leading the blind and think to yourself, "If she only knew!" Read More...


  • Kids to the Rescue

    Posted in Daily Focus on Thursday, Apr 10th

    What do you do when you homeschool and the teacher gets sick? Not long after we first started homeschooling, I woke up one morning with an aching fever. "Great, now what am I going to do?" I thought to myself. My parents were out of town, and realistically, caring for my two toddlers was all I could handle for the day. Calling my two older children into my bedroom, I weakly said, "Mom's really sick today. You'll have to work on your schoolwork by yourself or just read books and play." Read More...


  • Too Much Love

    Posted in Daily Focus on Wednesday, Apr 9th

    Every morning I wondered what new discoveries laid ahead for my children as we homeschooled. Although I had the day's schedule planned, God always seemed to lead with His divine lessons. As my son and I walked to the barn for chores one spring morning, we noticed several cocoons hidden beneath the boards on the door. The cocoons were large, and as we examined one of them more closely, we saw a slight movement. Slowly, the cocoon began to crack open, and we could see something struggling to get out. "Mom, what is it?" cried my son. "Let's cut the rest of the cocoon, so it can get out!" Read More...


  • Hide and Seek

    Posted in Daily Focus on Tuesday, Apr 8th

    One of my favorite rewards of being a homeschool parent is that my family had so many opportunities to play games. Of course, the usual game our younger children chose was Hide and Seek. With the help of their older siblings, my little ones actually became very good at hiding completely out of view. However, even though they managed to hide their bodies, they usually couldn't control their giggles when I said, "Come out, come out wherever you are!" After locating their hiding place, it was my turn to laugh when they asked, "Mommy, how did you find us so fast?" Read More...


  • No Place Like Home

    Posted in Daily Focus on Monday, Apr 7th

    When it comes to schooling, there's no place like home. To a homeschooling family, home is more than just a school. It is a church, a playground, a museum, a rest area, a trauma unit, a business office, a hospitality center, a safe place, and more! The home is the hub of the family and a place where we live life together. Read More...


  • The Best Medicine

    Posted in Daily Focus on Sunday, Apr 6th

    To a child, there is only one thing worse than being sick in the winter, and that's being sick during the summer. After all, who wants to lie on the couch when everyone else in the family is having fun playing outside? As I looked at the purple, yellow, and red bottles of medicine in my bathroom cabinet, I heard my young son cry out from the living room couch, "Mom, please don't give me any of those terrible tasting things. They're just going to make me sicker." Although he had been running a fever through the night, I realized my patient wasn't as ill as I previously thought. Ignoring his pleas, I continued to administer the necessary medicine and turned to go back to my work in the kitchen. Grabbing my hand, my son said, "Mom, do you think you could just sit with me for a while?" Read More...


  • Juliette

    Posted in Daily Focus on Saturday, Apr 5th

    Of all the cats my family loved during our homeschooling years, there was never one we loved quite like Juliette. If ever a cat could be perfect, she was. Unlike most cats that are somewhat indifferent and independent, Juliette was a socialite and loved being right in the middle of the action. Best of all, she never played favorites. Juliette made the rounds and spent equal time loving everyone in the family. One moment we would find her faithfully sitting on my older children's laps as they read their school assignments, and the next moment, we would find her being dragged around the house by my toddlers as they played with her like a doll. At nighttime we would find her snuggling in the bed covers as she made the circuit from one bedroom to the next. Wherever and whomever she was with, Juliette loved them pur-r-r-fectly by giving them her utmost devotion. Read More...


  • Boundaries

    Posted in Daily Focus on Friday, Apr 4th

    Growing up in the country, my children spent just as much time outside as inside when homeschooling. For their safety and my sanity, we established an invisible boundary around our farm where they could play and explore without my supervision. Expanding upon this concept, we decided to apply this same principle when visiting Grandpa and Grandma's lake home. Since my four-year-old son was still learning how to swim, his boundary had been set within the beach area only. After one reminder, we let him play in the sand, while we continued to observe him from my in-laws' porch only a few feet away. Read More...


  • You Can't Have It Both Ways

    Posted in Daily Focus on Thursday, Apr 3rd

    Our children were often frustrated when we first started homeschooling because they didn't know whether to listen to Dad or Mom. Our team-teaching approach was seriously lacking, and after the first year, we realized the problem. Although my husband wanted to help with teaching, he simply didn't know where the children were in their studies. When he attempted to answer their questions in the evening, he actually made things more confusing. Making adjustments, my husband and I decided he should be in charge of teaching only one or two subjects and leave the rest to me. Read More...


  • If Walls Could Speak

    Posted in Daily Focus on Wednesday, Apr 2nd

    If your homeschool walls could speak, what would they say? What secrets would they tell others about your homeschooling family? My walls would tell of quiet times reading books, excited times when science experiments went south, creative times of nightly puppet shows from behind the couch, and joyful times when a child received a hard-earned A+ on a semester test. Unfortunately, my walls would also tell secrets of not-so-nice times when conflicts led to unloving acts or laziness led to procrastination. Read More...


  • Who's the Biggest Fool?

    Posted in Daily Focus on Tuesday, Apr 1st

    We experienced a problem in our homeschooling family as my oldest son grew into his teens. Wanting to be accepted, my son started associating with a new group of friends. At first, I was happy to see my introverted son making new buddies, but then I noticed the beginning of undesirable qualities in his character. My son became more reckless and started showing off by taking foolish risks with his personal belongings, including his car. When my son started fooling me to participate in activities we wouldn't allow, it was time to address the situation. I realized I had been the biggest fool for not putting a stop to his foolishness sooner. Read More...