For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and glory - honor, splendor and heavenly bliss! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Too Much Stimuli

As Americans, it's part of our culture to be busy. It's our national virtue. We work more hours than any other culture in the world. We are taught at a very early age that it's our job to be productive. We fill up most of our life with tasks that need to be accomplished. We give our kids chore charts, we make lists, we carry planners, and when we have conversations with people and they ask what we've been up to lately we lament, "Oh, I've been SO busy!"

But who made us busy? Did we somehow allow everyone around us to decide for us how to spend our time? Maybe sometimes that's the case, but most of us make that decision for ourselves. For most of us, the first question we ask ourselves when we finish a task is "What's next?"

The problem with this culture of busyness is that it doesn't allow for down time. It values a person for how much they can get done in one day instead of how much time we spend with our loved ones or how much time we spend on reflection.

Here at our house, we have been sick for nearly a week. Each family member has taken turns with the stomach flu. It was terrible, except for one thing. We had lots of time. We could easily say no to outside interference, and say yes to doing nothing. It gave me a lot of time to think and read.

I made it through two books about home schooling: Christian Unschooling by Teri J. Brown and School Starts at Home by Cheri Fuller. Both emphasize a need to "unplug" from electronic stimuli AND a strict busy schedule in order for natural learning opportunities to occur. Children have less motivation to turn to reading, pretend play, or educational activities if they are constantly being entertained by television, computers, electronic toys, OR extracurricular activities.

Having grown up in a house with a mother who HATED television, this concept is nothing new to me. But what struck me as "new" while reading these books is that it's not just the kids who can be effected by too much stimulation, I am just as vulnerable. I am just as likely to turn to Facebook or browsing the internet during a down moment rather than doing something that would be more nourishing to my mind and spirit. Instead of writing on my blog, which is an excellent outlet for me because it requires thought and contemplation, I play Sims. Instead of spending time in prayer, or doing personal devotions, I watch TV. Instead of reading a book, I... well, you get the point. I expend so much head space on things that have no value, and avoid the things that do with the thought, "I'll do that when I have more time." When exactly will that happen?

In one part of "Christian Unschooling" a mom struggling with scheduling commented on praying over her day planner. Specifically, she prayed that God would lead them throughout the day and that He would guide her children to whatever He wanted them to learn that day. I thought that was such a beautiful thought, because ultimately we as parent's control only a tiny amount of what our children need to learn. Praying, and recognizing, that God is the one who controls these things helps put our anxieties at ease. It allows us as parents to share the burden of raising our children with God, rather than try to carry that yoke on our own (and it's a very heavy yoke at that!). It's something that I need to do more of. As always: a little more You, and a little less me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New to home preschool? Me too.

I'm half way through my third week of home preschool'ing my kids.

And check it out, I'm still alive!

Some amazing stuff has happened during these short few weeks. I've learned a lot about my kids. I've learned a lot about different home school philosophies. I've developed a routine that seems to work for us, although I'm sure it will improve.

Four year olds are amazing. All you have to do is open your mouth, and they respond with questions. They're so eager to know everything, and so ready to jump in when they think they already know. This age seems to be all about learning and absorbing, so teaching them isn't hard. The hard part seems to be getting them to slow down for three seconds! As soon as we finish an activity or project the first question is usually, "What's next, Mommy?"

Ummmmmm..... uhhh.... I guess we better think about that for a minute.

There are a few things that have helped on this brief foray into the unknown, and since I spent so much time grasping at straws I figure I'd outline those things in case anyone else out there could use a hand. Keep in mind, I am NOT an expert, I'm a blundering first-time mom/first-time homeschooler.

- Don't freak out, it's just preschool. This was the wisest bit of info that a friend told me and she was absolutely right. There is no failure here, it's not even required for kids to go to preschool, you really can't mess this up. So relax!

- Check out the Library. They have amazing resources both for you and for your kids. Kids learn a lot just from reading. So even if they just pick out a bunch of books and take them home they'll learn a lot from that. I've made it our goal to read at least 2 new books a day. So we go once a week and check out about 10-14 books. When we get home, I put all but 2 of them away so that we can have something new to read each day. This seems to help keep their interest level high when each day we can read something "new". The Library also has plenty of books on home schooling. I check out one a week and try to read it.

- Check your local school district's website. My school district has printable preschool packets that have a full curiculum that's seasonally appropriate for each month. It includes activities, worksheets, and book lists. If your district doesn't offer one then feel free to click here.

- There are homeschool co-ops out there where homeschooling families get together one or two days a week to do more in depth classes. My local co-op doesn't offer anything for preschoolers, but yours might.

- Parks and Rec usually has some kind of classes that you can sign up your kids for. Mine offers a movement/dance class. I plan to sign them up in January. Check other places like your community center. This is something I need to do more of, but in the little I've heard there's a lot of options.

- Coloring pages! There are a ton of them out there, just google whatever subject matter might be appropriate. I recently found some awesome pages with turkey's and pilgrims by searching "Thanksgiving coloring pages".

Websites that I've found exceedingly helpful:

Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations: She's amazing! I have been using her wonderful thematic preschool printables since day 1. My kids love the activities, and her ideas are terrific. I check her page every day, and I love all of her organizational aids! She really is the one who gave me the courage to even try this.

I Can Teach My Child: An excellent blog with wonderful craft ideas! The thing that strikes me the most about this site is that each activity is meant to point our children to Christ. It's beautifully done!

Kaboose: I love the craft ideas here! I'm so uncrafty, and these ideas are simple and actually look like something you'd want to display in your home rather than immediately chuck in the bin.

If you know of any other great home schooling sites I'm all ears!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recipe: Bierocks

I recently read an article about the beauty of recipes that have been passed down for generations, and how those who know how to make such things NEED to pass on that knowledge whether anyone asks for it or not. It's the duty of the knowledge holders to find someone who wants to learn. Otherwise the knowledge is lost.

Thankfully, my grandmother (who turned 95 this past August) has generously passed down her recipes. A few years ago my sweetheart of an aunt, Aunt Charlotte, started the monumental project of tracing over all of my grandmother's faded pencil written recipes and making photo copies of them, printing them, binding them, and distributing them to all the relatives. Sadly, my aunt passed away before her project was finished. But her husband and some other relatives pressed on and completed it. Thanks to them, we all have a copy of my grandmother's cook book.

The title? Kissin' Don't Last, Cookin' Do.

I've been trying to make a point of making something out of this book for my family each month, and of course I'm starting with the things I remember. And since my Dad specifically requested Bierock's for his birthday it made sense to start with that.

Bierock's are essentially an eastern European version of a savory hand pie. Seems like nearly every culture has their version: empanada's and calzone's come to mind. It's a convenience food. It can be wrapped in a lunch box, eaten on the go, made in a huge batch it freezes well for a quick weeknight meal. Add a salad, and you're in business.

This time around, I took my grandma's recipe and combined it with some other recipes that I found online. And I had one lonely carrot in my crisper, so I threw that in too.

It all starts with 2 lbs of hamburger in a skillet browned with an onion and minced garlic clove. Once that's done, add 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper. Then shred a small head of cabbage and put that in, along with 2 Tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds. Cook until cabbage is wilted. The end result is this:

Then you get out your dough. You can use whatever you like. I know my grandma makes her own, and I've heard that you can also use those refrigerated biscuits from a can. I used two loaves of frozen dough, and then I set it on my counter to thaw/rise according the the package directions. It takes about 4-6 hours depending upon the temperature of your room.

Then I rolled out one loaf at a time and cut it into 6 wedge shapes.

Put 1/4 cup of the filling on each wedge and then fold the corners to the center and press the seams together. It doesn't have to be perfect, remember, this is a peasant dish.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. The result is a heavenly smell in your kitchen and hot yumminess inside of bread.


2 loaves of frozen bread dough, thawed
2 lbs of ground beef
1 yellow onion
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 small head of cabbage
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1. Place bread dough in a greased bowl on the counter and cover with towel for about 4-6 hours before you're planning to cook. If you need to leave it longer than that you can thaw in the fridge overnight.
2. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic. Add salt and lemon pepper. Shred the cabbage and add it once the beef is cooked along with worchestershire sauce and caraway seeds. Drain liquid.
3. Roll out dough 1 loaf at a time on a floured surface. Cut into 6 wedge shapes. Place 1/4 cup meat mixture onto each wedge. Fold each corner to the center and press seams together so that no meat is exposed. Perfection is not part of this recipe. Rustic is a good word for it. :) Place each pastry on a cookie sheet.
4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
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