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Monday, June 22, 2015

ABC's of Homeschooling: E is for Early Learning

I have a passion for early learning - it may have something to do with my mom, who has been in the early childhood education field for over 25 years. I worked as a nanny and taught preschool for a while before my children were born and I also provide free preschool resources on my blog. I believe that it is NEVER too early to start teaching our children. As homeschoolers, we do not follow the public school guidelines for many things - so why would we follow their idea of when a child should start learning?

 If 85% of children's core brain structure is developed by the age of four (Source), then early learning is a crucial aspect of educating our children. Nationally, less than 10% of public investments in education and development are spent on children, ages four and younger (Source). This is yet another area in which homeschooling parents have the opportunity to step outside of the societal norm - and take advantage of this crucial and exciting time in your child's education.

I believe that there are three keys to successful early learning: Sensory, Literature and Play.

For toddlers and young preschoolers, sensory learning is huge. The more hands-on, the better. Many people think of sensory learning simply as a container that you fill with items for a child to play with - but sensory learning is truly about engaging all five senses. 

Sight: Colorful, but simplistic - you want to catch their attention without over-stimulating. Make sure that signs and posters are on their eye level. Show them picture books that allow them to find items, like Seek & Find or Lift-a-flap books. Play "I Spy". Do scavenger hunts (like this!) to search for colors, sizes and shapes. 

Touch: There is a reason that young children want to touch everything. This is a huge part of their learning - long before they are even verbal. Allow children to explore different textures - you can do this easily with items in your home: carpet, leather, wood, plastic, silk, yarn, feathers, dirt, sand, rice - you get the idea! Let children play in water and play with food items (jell-o, pudding, ice). Stacking is another important aspect of touch - duplos, wooden blocks and stacking cups are all great investments. Your children will learn to compare sizes, shapes and put things in order. Sing "head, shoulders, knees & toes" or do the "hokey pokey". The teaching opportunities are endless!

Smell: Do you smell something? What is that smell? Does it have a smell? What does it smell like? Simply asking your child these questions will inspire learning. Use everyday moments to investigate the scents around you. Let them smell the ingredients as you are cooking, sniff flowers and plants on a nature walk, you could even diffuse essential oils (which have many other benefits as well!). 

- Sound: Listen and talk - communication with your child is one of the most important roles you can play in early learning. Play music - I like to play worship music and fun children's songs as we go about our day. I put on soft classical music whenever we are reading. Practice animal sounds and vehicle sounds with them. Just make silly sounds and have them mimic you. Create rhythms by clapping, stomping, and using musical instruments - encourage them to echo you. Sing to your children (they don't care what you sound like!). Practice using quiet voices and loud voices, low voices and high voices, fast voices and slow voices.

- Taste: This one is pretty simple. Encourage your child to taste as many different foods as you can. Read stories about certain foods and then let them try it. Describe different tastes to them - salty, sweet, sour, smooth, hot, cold.  Talk about where foods come from. Play taste-testing games with them and let them help prepare their food - they will be more likely to eat it!

Learning through literature starts long before your child can read, or even recite their alphabet. Children are learning so much more than you can even imagine when you read to them. Start reading them books as early as you can. Read them simple board books. Read them the classics. Read the Bible. Read chapter books. Listen to books on tape, watch movies made from books that you read and most importantly - talk about the books you read. Ask who, what, why, when, where and how questions. Expand upon your reading - have your children draw pictures, do projects and act out the stories. 

I love Literature-based learning. Almost any good book can be stretched and used to cover many subjects. For instance, the book "I Am A Bunny" could be turned into an entire unit study on the seasons and weather (check out how I used the book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" with my {then}18 month old here and here). Your children will better retain the stories if you create learning experiences with them. Be creative and make it fun!

Children need to play. Young children need a lot of time to play. They are learning when they play. They do not need a million toys, but have materials available for them - blocks, art supplies, cars, dolls, dress-up clothes. Give them time to play outside each day - and give them gross-motor opportunities (ridings toys, balls, hula hoops, etc.). If you cannot be outside - let them dance, jump and wrestle on the floor. Children need all kinds of play, here are a few types of play that you should be providing...
- Independent play: Let them play whatever they want, with anything they want (within reason!), however they want. Using that incredible imagination God gave them. 
- Structured play: Set up learning experiences for them. Put out play-dough, paint sets or a game.  
- Group play: Find a mom group, church program or just invite some friends over! Siblings work well for this as well. It is wonderful for them to have time to play with other children practicing leadership, cooperation and problem solving skills.
- Adult play: Play with them. They want and need you to engage. Build a fort, create a sidewalk chalk masterpiece or role play with them. 

Be present with your early learners, communicate and have fun! They are sponges in a world dripping with adventure.

Emily Powers is a redeemed daughter of the King. Wife to Ben; a Pastor & her high school sweetheart and mama to three precious souls; Evelyn, Beckett and Annabel. Emily is a former preschool teacher and a published children's book author. She shares her homeschooling & motherhood journey on her blog Teachable {MOM}ents; where you can find her free Preschool Resources. Most importantly, she wants to help other moms find and cherish the teachable {mom}ents in each day! You can also visit Emily on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

Monday, June 1, 2015

I am Not a Disappointment

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail...

You asked us to...and so we stepped out - in faith. We walked away from Pastoral ministry, walked away from our home, walked away from comfort, walked away from "normal". We were scared - but we wanted something radical, we were done with mundane. Still, I heard the voices...

You are failures.

You are ruining your kids' lives.

I knew they were lies. You told us - job, home, church. Quickly You provided a job for Ben. We moved into an RV - 6 people in less than 500 square feet of space. My brother and sister-in-law allowed us to park the RV next to their barn. We worked hard to make it feel like a home, and we began to settle in. We found a church that welcomed us - not because we were Pastors, not because we were doing anything for them - but simply because.

And there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand...

We started to see the light at the end of a long and stressful tunnel. And then the knock came at the door, the knock that threatened our new little slice of comfort. Zoning was called. We had two weeks to either move out of the RV, or move the RV off the property. We didn't understand why this was happening. What will we do? Where will we go?

I will call upon your name, and keep my eyes above the waves, when Oceans rise...

We prayed that You would provide a new home, or a new place to park the RV. You're so good, You provided both. A wonderfully generous family from our new church - whom we had never even met, graciously offered to let us move the RV onto their property. I cannot even begin to explain how much it moved us to see Your love in full action - ready to meet our needs. My brother & sister-in-law were already planning to renovate their basement, and also offered to move up their renovation schedule so that we could move into their basement.

My soul will rest in your embrace, for I am yours, and you are mine...

We prayed about it and decided that it would be best for the kids to stay where we already were, close to their cousins and move into the basement. So after a whirlwind couple of weeks, we moved out of the RV, into the basement and put the RV up for sale. Yes, you heard that right - the RV we had just spent 6 weeks remodeling, we were now going to say goodbye to...Again the voices came...

You have failed.

You are a disappointment.

But Your grace enveloped us. You said, keep following, Keep trusting. It wasn't easy. It isn't easy. I haven't told very many people about what is going on. I was ashamed. Embarrassed. I wanted to wait until it was all nicely tied up with a bow. You know - we went through this really hard time, but now we're on the other side. We walked through deep waters, but now we're on the shore and sun is shining! But that's not where we are - we are still in the depths of the water - treading. Multiple calls of interest to buy the RV, and multiple no-shows...it has not sold yet.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters, your sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, you've never failed and you wont start now...

We spent last evening with a few family and friends, worshiping and sharing our hearts. As I shared, You began to speak through a sweet new friend. I am not a disappointment. You are proud of me. We have not failed. You are proud of us. I am not an embarrassment. I am your daughter, in whom you are pleased. We stepped out in faith - we actually put action to our words. We said, we'll follow your lead - and we are. It doesn't look like we thought it would - but that doesn't mean it's not your good and perfect will for us. Just like a baby taking their first steps, the mother is not disappointed when they fall - we rejoice for the steps they took. You are rejoicing over our step of faith. we still don't know what the future holds, what comes next...and that's okay. I began to think of the song, "Oceans" (Hillsong) - a song that has meant so much to us lately and what if I really meant the words? What if I'm actually living the lyrics to that song?

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters WHEREVER you would call me. 
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my savior. 

Walking. Stumbling. Trusting. Blindly. Following. Farther. Deeper. Closer...

May we ever trust you more. When we are in the wilderness, there is nothing else to do but simply rest in knowing that You've got us...You've got this.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Faith in the Face of Cancer

About a year ago, I felt God was pressing me to step away from blogging for a while. I didn't know exactly why or for how long, but I wanted to be obedient. So I walked away. I was in the early stages of my 4th pregnancy and ended up having a lot of sickness for the first half of the pregnancy. I began to focus more on my children (especially my spirited 2 year old, who needed mama's attention), homeschooling, my husband, my home, my church. It was nice to take a break. A few months later, my dad had a bad fall and broke his femur, requiring surgery. My husband started helping my parents out with things around their house and yard, and we were spending a lot of time at their house. Then, on August 5th, 2014 we welcomed our newest blessing ~ Clementine Hosanna ~ through a beautiful homebirth (story to come soon). We were settling into life as a family of six, when one night in November I received a phone call that took my breath away. Now seems like a fitting time to start blogging again and share part of this story. 

I was half asleep, but adrenaline was pumping - I knew something was wrong if my mom was calling me in the middle of the night. On the other end of the line, she was telling me that my sister - who had recently moved out of state - had a seizure, had been taken to the hospital and they had found a brain tumor. I was in shock. We had just gone to visit her 2 weekends before that and had a wonderful time Christmas shopping together. She was fine then. I had just spoken on the phone with her that previous evening. She was fine then too. She is only 27 years old - she is healthy. She has a husband and son. She cannot have a brain tumor...but I found myself rushing around the house, packing bags for Clementine and myself as quickly as I could. My parents were on their way to pick us up and then drive four hours to be with my sister. 

The next week was a whirlwind. The doctors were confident that tumor was benign, but it needed to come out. It was the size of a golf ball. The surgery was scheduled for the following week. My dad and I traveled back home so that we could both be at our respective churches for services that Sunday (he is a Pastor, I lead worship), and then drove back to my sister's a couple of days later for her surgery. My brother and his wife also traveled to be there for the surgery. The night before her surgery we enjoyed a beautiful time of worship together.

Check out my sister's husband's blog to see more videos of our worship time and read more about their story! My sister went into her surgery trusting God, and we lifted her in prayer throughout. Many friends and family members joined us at the hospital during the surgery - we took up an entire family waiting room! She came through the surgery beautifully. The surgeon achieved a gross total resection, which means all of the tumor that he could see was gone and Sarah was 100% herself! God was so good during this time. He took care of every detail , even providing breastmilk for Sarah's son (Gideon) who turned one the day after her surgery. 

Sarah came home for Thanksgiving one week after her surgery and we all rejoiced that God had brought us through! We thought the hard part was over, we thought Sarah was just on the journey to recovery. But when the pathology report came back a few weeks later, we learned that Sarah's tumor was a Grade 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma - that means cancer, aggressive, scary. Everything changed. But Sarah's faith never wavered. 

"Light a candle, light the dark. Light the world, light a heart or two. Light a candle for me. I'll light a candle for you." My sister and I sang this song countless times over the past 15 years. But today it spoke to me more than ever before. Thank you to every single person that has "lit a candle" for me over the past two weeks. Thank you for your prayers, strength, and encouragement. Words can't fully describe how deeply you've blessed me. Although life is full of unanswered questions, I am promised Gods faithfulness. His relentless love and constant presence is every reason for the smile on my face.. Oh and this perfect little boy;)

Sarah is my best friend. I may have bitten her a few times when she crashed my perfect toddler world by being born. And we may have had our years of fighting and teenage hormones, but God could not have created a better best friend for me than my precious little sister. She is the exact opposite of me in most ways. Where I am quiet, she is loud. Where I am passive, she is assertive. Where I am unsure, she is confident. But we share love for music, chick flicks, Leaves candles, motherhood and mamas no-bake cookies. We found our friendship there - in duets at church, planning of weddings, phone calls about pregnancy symptoms, up all night with new baby exhaustion. She is my perfect sidekick - she was always the baby to my mommy, the face to my makeovers, the silly to my songs. She is beautiful - I mean truly breathtaking on the outside - but if you could see her heart, you would know that her external beauty is only a glimpse of her full loveliness. Watching her walk through hard times has made me come to know her in a new and special way - losing a babe from her womb far too soon, hours of hard labor to bring her son into the world, and now, cancer in her brain. Through it all, God would find her faithful. She has a strength that I cannot even put into words. I hope that I can be like her someday.

Sarah is trusting God for her healing. God has led her to an alternative cancer therapy through nutrition and herbs, along with radiation, The treatments are expensive, and will be an ongoing cost for years to come. I am stepping outside of my comfort zone here and swallowing pride, to ask if you would consider donating to Sarah's treatment fund. Of course, I am trying to do everything I can for her! You can follow Sarah's journey on facebook and donate on this GoFundMe page. If you give $5.00 or more, you will receive a "Be A Vessel" wristband in support of Sarah! Even if you cannot give, please share! The best way that you can support Sarah, is through prayer! 

Story behind the wristbands:
Throughout the entire journey Sarah has felt God speaking to her very intimately - and what He has told her from the start is that He wants her to "Be A Vessel". We know that cancer was not part of God's plan for Sarah, but we believe that He can use this trial to grow her faith and the faith of many others. We are asking that you join with Sarah and "Be A Vessel" - in prayer for Sarah, and also in your own life. You can purchase a "Be A Vessel" wristband for $5.00 to support Sarah (anyone who gives $5.00 or more will receive one). 
"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." 
2 Timothy 2:21

Thank you all for the blessing you are! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where Do I Belong?

I know I haven't been around much lately. I have been taking a little break, focusing on my family...and just waiting for God to lay something on my heart. Well, He definitely did and it is raw and personal for me. I hope that it speaks to your heart...

Where are you from? The question stares back at me every time I log into my Facebook account. It is a simple enough question for most, but I honestly don't know how to answer it. My parents are both originally from Zanesville, Ohio. My dad joined the air force after they were married and I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. My family moved to Michigan before I was two. At age six, we moved again to Colorado Springs so that my dad could attend a bible college after feeling called into the ministry. We lived there for only a few months, then moved to Ohio because my maternal grandmother had cancer. That was my 1st grade year and I attended three different schools, in three different states.

From that point on, I was a Pastor's kid and we moved multiple more times within Ohio - I never attended the same school two years in a row all through elementary school. I settled into my second year at the same middle school, only to find out we would be moving again - in the middle of 7th grade. I finished junior high, and thankfully attended the same school all four years of high school. My parents didn't move again until I was nineteen - about eight months before my Wedding.

Hopefully, you now understand my predicament. Facebook tells me that I need to complete my profile - but I honestly don't know where I'm from. Ask me where I was born or where I graduated from high school, those I can easily answer. Facebook now even suggests my friends' hometowns to me. It is a familiar feeling that has followed me most of my life. I don't have "the house that built me" or a best friend since kindergarten. I don't remember the old pharmacy downtown or the fire that burnt down the school.

I had a wonderful fantasy of a childhood. Truthfully, I did. We had beautiful family traditions and were a close knit group. My family was everything to me. My siblings were my best friends. I had a childhood full of love, laughter and joy - full of no-bake cookies, loud music, family devotions and spontaneous trips to swim in the creek. We have the home videos to prove it. There is only one thing that I never had - a hometown. I don't think I missed out on some developmentally crucial part of childhood - but I have recently realized that I have spent most of my life trying desperately to find where I belong. I am a people-pleaser, and this desire to please others - never saying no, always weighing my words - comes from a place a deep within. A place that wants to belong. Wanting to be known by others and people to want to know me. I was blessed with a loving and family, and yet the enemy found a small crack in my life that he used to gain entry. Maybe you have felt rejected by family or friends. Maybe you were neglected or abused. All of these things cause us to seek approval from others. Sometimes this manifests as people-pleasing, sometimes as bullying, other times by being a victim.

In it's nature, it is pure self. It is superficial. Needing the approval of others to feel like I have worth and value. If I say the rights things, appear the right way, give them what they want - then I will be accepted into their group...then, I will belong. I have experienced dysfunctional friendships and been taken advantage of because of this desire in my life. Because I had wonderful parents, they taught me to value myself enough not to get into trouble or compromise myself in any way. As an mother, I have found a sense of belonging that I had never felt before - these children love me in spite of my weaknesses, they want to know me and desire to be with me. And yet, I still wanted to appear like I have it all together to others...ultimately because I want their approval. I don't speak up when I should - and have ended up hurt and wounded myself, because I don't want to hurt anyone else. I think, if I just do everything right (remember that perfectionism post a while back?), then I will belong. And there is the problem. The idea of doing.

The enemy has long marinated this desire in me. That constant voice in my head. Over-analyzing every word I speak, assuming that everyone else must think of me...what I think of me. And it can be pretty ugly, friends. But it is a lie. And it is sinful. I have been given the gift of adoption into a body of saints. My hometown is the Kingdom of God. I do belong - I belong to Jesus. I am a daughter of the Most High King! He has called me chosen, beloved, beautiful, worthy. He says I am enough - and there is nothing I need to do, nor could I do, to deserve the love and grace He has lavished upon this longing child.

"I must painfully acknowledge that I still operate out of a fear-based center. I have been speechless in situations of fragrant injustice. While the imposter has performed superbly, I have assumed a passive role in relationships, stifled creative thinking, denied my real feelings, allowed myself to be intimidated by others, and then rationalized my behavior by persuading myself that the Lord wants me to be an instrument of peace...At what price?"- Brennan Manning, Abba's Child

What if we truly stopped trying to be accepted by anyone or anything else - and claimed our inheritance as sons and daughters? And rejoiced in the beauty of God's creation - ourselves! When you believe that you are worthless, stupid, unlovable, ugly...you believe that about God's creation. He is a masterful artist who formed each unique part of you. Created in His very image! How could that ever be anything but wonderful? It couldn't be, and yet we allow the enemy to feed our hungry souls with the taste of approval. Say 'yes' too much, over-commit, busy ourselves, be everything to everyone...and there will be no time or space left for Jesus. And we have filled the longing with 'do' instead of 'be'. If we truly want to belong, we must stop trying to 'do' for others, and 'be' His.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Does Your Homeschool Need A Fresh Start?

Today, I am sharing some ideas on how to start fresh this new year in your homeschool on FreeHomeschoolDeals. You will also find a FREE 2014 Goals chart printable

I don’t know about you…but my school year has not turned out the way I planned....
I am in desperate need of a fresh start. I have spent far too many mornings sleeping in later than I should. I have spent far too many days rushing through school so that I can run errands or finish up some project I am working on. I have spent far too many afternoons loading the dishwasher instead of creating science experiments or instead of curled up on the couch engrossed in a magical story.
Read the rest, and print the FREE Goals chart here

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

4 DIY Christmas Crafts

Today, I am sharing 4 DIY Christmas crafts over at Frugal Homeschool Family as part of the 25 Frugal Days of Christmas...

To find out how to make these crafts, click here

Monday, December 2, 2013

Host a Pinterest Party

Christmas is the perfect time to host a Pinterest party! Last year my mom and I put one together, and let me tell you - it was a blast! In reality, it was super relaxing and enjoyable. Four hours of fellowship, food and crafting - what more could a girl want? ;) We made recipes we found on pinterest, and each guest brought one craft to share with the group. We provided hot glue guns, scissors, ribbon and glitter snow paint - plus bags to take our crafts home. 

Our bags said "Saw it. Pinned it. Did it." - a Pinterest idea ;)

The yummy food...

My mom's famous punch - not from Pinterest :)

Chocolate Dipped Oreos & Peppermint Cookies

Chips & Salsa Bar

Our crafting gear

The ladies crafting away :)

Hope you enjoy! Merry Pinning :) 

Have you been to/hosted a Pinterest party?

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