Nicola Pisano – Nativity Panel in the Baptistry in Pisa.

Day 1 in Our Advent in Art Series, Nicola Pisano

Day 1 in a 25 day exploration of the nativity in Western art.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory.   John 1:14

Welcome to Day 1.

I know that for many Christians, Easter is the time of year to contemplate the sacrifice Christ made to save us, but, personally, the season of advent has always been more meaningful. The concept of the incarnation: God taking on flesh and coming as an infant with the purpose of sacrificing Himself to redeem his creation–it’s just more than I can put into words.

Yet, throughout the history of Christianity, artists have attempted to make visible the miracle of the nativity. Over the next 25 days we will be exploring 500 years of nativity art. I’ve chosen works that are significant within the history of art as well as personal favorites. Narrowing down my choices was difficult.

My hope contemplating these masterpieces will not only increase your knowledge of art but  reawaken in you the wonder and beauty of the incarnation.

The first work we will be considering is a panel from a pulpit designed and sculpted by Nicola Pisano completed in 1260. A bit of background is necessary to put this work into it’s historical context. Pisano lived and worked in Pisa, Italy in the 13th century. He was both an architect and a sculptor.

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Tips from a formerly disorganized mom to a functionally organized.

Practical help to end the overwhelm

Practical tips when you feel overwhelmedPeople who know me might be laughing right now. I am a go with the flow type mom, and messes are part of the flow. However, without some serious organization, homeschooling and 4 sons meant overwhelm. (Yes, four sons, the cutie in the photo is a granddaughter, a new adventure.)

Since, organization can be a struggle for me, I’ve worked hard to come up with simple solutions. These are boy tested, and worked for us. I found the more elaborate a system, the less likely I was to keep it up.  Okay, let’s get functionally organized.

The classic organization advice is to have a place for everything. Great advice, however, things always seemed to migrate. What’s up with that?  We’ve probably all tried to put everything in it’s place…but often that seems to not be quite the ticket. So a few additions to that excellent advice.

Eliminate the clutter. Recently, we’ve been doing some pretty radical culling out of our belongings and I realize just how overdue we were. I’ve also been reading up on minimalism. I’m working toward a more simplified life, and have found a great deal of wisdom in letting go of so many material things.

If you are constantly having to re-organize your stuff, it might not be that your unorganized, it might just be you have too much stuff! Really, think it through. Being organized is great, but if you are just organizing to fit more and more stuff into your home, it’s time to back up and re-evaluate. Things take up space, financial resources, and time. Make sure the trade off is worth it.

If your children are overwhelmed by the thought of picking up their rooms, they probably have too much stuff in there. Do them a favor and help them sort out their favorites and donate the rest to a charity. A win win for everyone.

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Make This a Summer to Remember

Making the Most of Your Kid's Summer Break

Ideas for keeping your summer stress free yet memorable.

Summer is here!!!! 

Except it’s not.

I was at the library with my 18 month old granddaughter this morning and overheard some conversations between moms and the children’s librarian. They were discussing ‘summer slide.’ That dreaded decline in students abilities over the summer break.

On Pinterest, I was deluged with posts about how to keep your kids reading over the summer, or… here’s a link to math worksheets to keep those skills up. On Facebook, more articles on the same theme. Everywhere I turned it was another reminder that we need to keep our children productive, learning, doing… ALL THE TIME.

What happened to lazing on the grass watching the ants, running in the sprinklers, or eating watermelon on the porch? When do we all get to take a BREAK!

I love books, ideas, and education as much as anyone, but I also love children. They get one childhood, that’s it, just one. And while there might be some ‘summer slide’ going on ( frankly, can’t we mitigate that with something more enjoyable than worksheets..sheesh), there are also huge benefits from just taking a break.

Imagine, stepping away from the planning, unplugging the computer, ditching the phone and spending a few weeks with your kids. Not keeping them productive, not shuttling them from activity to activity, not vegging in front of the TV or computer…but spending time with them. Enjoying them. Listening to them. Creating with them.

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Reduce Stress In Your Homeschool Day

A simple concept that can provide the key to less homeschool stress

Great perspective to approach homeschooling for the long haul.Homeschooling is stressful. There are time constraints, financial burdens, and parent burnout. However, the big source of  stress is fear that we are not doing enough to provide our children with the education they will need

When this fear snuck up on me, I found relief and hope in applying, what I call, the law of the farm.

Farmers have to plan for the long haul.  They plant in the spring, water and tend their crops all summer in hopes that, come fall, there will be a bountiful harvest.  Can you imagine a farmer foolish enough to think he could go out and plant in October and harvest in November?

The law of the farm applies to many areas of life.  Parenting is just one example. As parents we repeat ourselves, endlessly.  Teaching our children to say thank you, to wait their turn, to ‘use their words’ and to share. The pure repetition necessary to instill these lessons takes persistence and fortitude.

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Are parents really qualified to teach their children?

Research shows Homeschooling is a viable option despite parental education, income level, or race.

Yes, and here is the research to support that claim.I understand if you have your doubts. We have been taught to think that we need a special credential to teach our children and that if we teach something in the wrong order our children will be permanently damaged. As you will see in a minute, the research suggests that not only are parents qualified, but that they do an awesome job.

The reasons should be obvious…who is more concerned and tuned in to a child than his parents? Who knows his/her strengths and weaknesses better? Who is more interested in seeing that child succeed? What school can offer the individualized help that a parent can offer? Just the one on one tutoring nature of homeschooling gives it many advantages over a classroom situation.

Added to the fact that parents have far smaller ‘classes’ to teach, curriculum writers have realized that homeschoolers are a big market and have written curriculums with the parent/educator in mind. You don’t need a credential to use these materials, most come with step by step instructions. Understanding that parents will be doing the teaching, curriculum writers have made their products family friendly.

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The Habit of Thought

What we think about when we are free to think about what we will - that is what we are or will soon become. ~ A.W. Tozer

Helping our children develop a healthy thought life should be a top priority.Whether parents with kids in school or homeschoolers, this area of the thought life of a child is central to life. I wrote the article for homeschoolers, but I find this area of life is something I still need to work at in my 50’s. We never outgrow the need to get better at managing our thoughts.

At the start of a new school year we focus on creating a workable schedule, buying the best curriculum, and writing up lesson plans. As the school year progresses, we discover that curriculum choices and schedules are only a small part of our challenge as teachers.

Rather than struggling with curriculum, most parent/teachers struggle with their student. At one point or another we all hear:

  • “But why do I need to know this?” (Be sure to read that in a super whiney voice to get the full effect.)
  • “I just can’t understand math.”
  • “I hate to read.”
  • “Why do we have to write evvverrrry day?”

Dealing with the whining and complaints can be exhausting and leave parents feeling like they are failing at the educational task. It would be a mistake to think that the issues inherent in this sort of grumbling will be solved by switching up the school day, or making learning more ‘fun’.

The underlying issue here is a failure on the part of the child to self-regulate, or to see what needs to be done, and to have the internal fortitude to get on with doing the work with a positive attitude. Developing that ‘internal fortitude’ or positive attitude toward work, is going to be far more important for your child’s long term success than any of the academic skills you are working on.

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Why Geography?

Raising globally aware children should be every parents goal.

Great article on the reasons for geographical awarenessWe live in a crazy and exciting time, the world is changing… daily. When I wrote up my Philosophy of Education, and looked to the future, one of the things I wanted to impart to my kids was a concern and interest about life outside of the United States.

With advances in travel, communication, commerce, and the internet, the world is literally, at our doorstep. As Steve and I sought to prepare our kids for the life God has for them, we felt a critical part would be helping them to develop a global perspective.

Now, I am very grateful I was born in this country, and have had the privilege of raising my children here. I think knowing our history, understanding our government, and expressing gratitude for our freedom is a vital part of our role as homeschoolers.

I also think it’s vitally important that our children know that we are only one part of a diverse and fascinating world. I was very concerned as the boys grew that they would be proud of their country and heritage, balanced and tempered by a concern and appreciation for other cultures and people. I wanted my children to be geographically as well as culturally aware.

We spent time pouring over globes and maps. We spent time reading stories about people living in other parts of the world. We learned the history of far away places, and learned about other religions. We tried ethnic foods and did projects on various countries. We talked about what daily life would be like if they lived somewhere else. My hope was that all of this would translate into responsible adults who had a concern for the world beyond their borders.

Now part of giving our kids a global perspective is very practical. Many jobs of the future will include an ‘international’ component.

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Busting The Myth Of The Perfect Homeschool

And Embracing The Imperfect Journey That Will Nourish Your Child's Soul.

Great article about embracing the everyday, ordinary moments.This post is dedicated to all those homeschooling moms who fear that they are not doing all that they should to assure their kids get a great education.

I was scrolling through some past newsletters and came upon this paragraph. In the article I was talking about the value of going on field trips, I’ll let you read it before I go on.

“Sure, the boys probably giggled at the naked statues at the art museum, chatted with their friends while a docent was talking, or mindlessly played with the science exhibits without reading the information. However, they also, with continued, regular exposure, came to appreciate fine art, love poetry, respect nature, and comprehend the scope of history. I feel sure that it was the routine exposure to the world beyond our door, that has contributed to their thoughtful, seeking attitudes as adults.”

A key to successful homeschooling is realizing that not every day is going to be exceptional. Most days, your kids will fight, lose their book, or complain that they hate to read (or write, or do math, or all three). Chances are good that tomorrow your kids won’t suddenly morph into Super Homeschool Child who wants to do extra Saxon lessons, read Plato (in Greek) and act out a Shakespeare play. Most of the time, you’ll just plod along, doing what comes next and hoping to catch up with the laundry.

And that’s okay!!!!!

There will be those amazing moments (not whole days…but moments) when your child makes a key connection, finds a book they can’t put down, or ask a particularly insightful question.Those moments are sprinkled in and keep us going. But if you are expecting those special moments to be the norm, you are going to be disappointed and you are going to be stressed.

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The key to raising a reader that is often missed

How to encourage reading

Great reading adviceWe all want our children to be good readers. We want them to love books!  A child who loves to read has a huge advantage in life.

But there is one common mistake parents make that can quickly turn your child off to reading. That mistake, pushing them to read harder and harder books.

I see this all of the time in bookstores and at the library. A mom is standing with her 8-10 year old child and the child has picked a book. The mom looks at it and says, “No, this is too easy for you, go pick another one.” Or the parent picks a book and shows it to the child who says, “No, there are too many words on the page.” Sound familiar???

It seems obvious that if we want our children to get better at reading, we should push them a bit to read harder and harder books. Let me explain why this backfires.

In order for your child to enjoy reading, they have to be able to follow the story. I’m hoping you have all had the experience of becoming lost in a book. The world around you fades away, and you are living in the story. This is a wonderful experience, and it’s addicting, in a good way. If we want our children to get addicted to reading they need to have this experience.

Now imagine yourself reading that fabulous book but every few words you have to stop and struggle to sound out a word. With determination you make it through the page, but because you have been reading in stops and starts, you could never really enter into the flow of the story. Your enjoyment, no matter how fabulous the book was, would be limited. More than likely, your comprehension would be less than perfect as well.

I’m hoping you are seeing the problem. If a child is always pushed to read at the top level of his ability, he will never be free to enjoy the book. The result is that your child will not see reading as enjoyable but as work. For some kids, if they are constantly pushed, they will begin to feel frustration every time they pick up a book, this frustration can quickly turn into statements such as: “I’m not a good reader.” “I hate reading.” or “I’m stupid.”

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