Character Sketches

We have noticed that there are lots of birds in our neighborhood. We have Sand hill Cranes, Ruby Throated Humming Birds, Gold Finches, Doves, Robins and Cardinals. Just the other day we had our first Bald Eagle.

Our Bald Eagle is a juvenile bird, he all dark in color and hasn’t gotten his adult white plumage yet. He sits in a near by tree and we can hear him calling for food, or to one of his eagle friends who are probably fishing at the nearby lake. We are constantly fascinated by the nature around us, it’s so much fun to learn more about it.

The Bald Eagle is an animal we have studied before. It’s also the subject of some of our favorite bible verses.

“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31.

Many animals are mentioned in scripture. Why not learn the two subjects together? We can study an animal’s character as well, not to mention learning a few new things about human character. We have used the Character Sketches book series for our study for many years and love it!

These wonderful books combine Nature studies with the words of scripture and the study of biblical character. Published by the Institute in Basic Life Principals, we first learned of them from one of the original authors, Larry Gutherie, who was a popular speaker at our favorite Christian camp–Camp Forest Springs.

The large volumes 1-3 are beautifully illustrated. Each character principal has it’s own chapter. This one is on Gratefulness. The chapters begin with a Nature Story and scripture references. 

The Bald Eagle for example, exemplifies Gratefulness in the way it shelters it’s young from rain and storms by spreading it’s wings. There are many other physical features of the animals described on each page.

Everything from where it nests, to when they grow their feathers is described and pictured in detail. My kids love this part. Did you know eagles nests can be as big as 9.5 feet? Or that they co-habituate with other kinds of birds who use the bottom of the stick structure of the eagle’s large nest to build their smaller one in? Amazing.

The course is designed to be used daily, it is recommended for reading after the evening meal (preferably by the father of the household). Each session lasts 1/2 to 1 hour long. The chapters are studied for two consecutive days and includes the character definition, nature story, a pop quiz, scripture references, and a scripture story that exemplifies the character trait being studied. This material is suitable for discussion with middle school and high school students, although adults children of any age will be captivated by the beautiful artwork in each volume.

These are over-sized books of heirloom quality volumes that are leather bound. The are available for purchase on the Institute for Life Principals website. The complete set is $105.00. A bargain! The company also makes  Character Sketches materials for younger children, including coloring books, memory verse cards and character study workbooks.

Your family will enjoy these books and the principals that they teach for generations.

Designer Mom

Top 10 Things I Have Learned About Homeschooling

It’s the dawn of a new day. We begin anew with our struggles and successes. There are many reasons we continue to home school our children, and lots of things we have learned over the years. Here are a few thoughts to share on the subject:

1. The Approach: We have tried all the different home school approaches including classical, unit studies, literature, virtual schools and traditional text book. We have learned in ALL of them. Pick the approach that works for you and stick to it. Most of our learning has been classical, but at times I have felt it was easier to teach certain subjects in different formats. For example we did a unit study on garden bugs and spent the summer digging and identifying critters in the garden. Had we read a book on garden bugs it would not have been as interesting. Just because you choose one method however, doesn’t mean you are locked into it. Life happens, it may be easier to do virtual classes in high school, or just read great literature when your new baby needs more attention. Whatever you choose, love it and know that your kids are learning even when you have your doubts.

2. Burnout: The amount of books available on home schooling is staggering. The amount of curriculum available is incredible. The amount you actually have to accomplish each year for your own piece of mind, without thinking your kids are behind the public school system is probably even bigger. It’s okay to pace yourself. We had some years where we only did science and history every other day. We also had a year where we were totally burned out on history and only did science. Currently we are motivated and doing both subjects each day. It’s okay. By the way, did you know there is no history on the SAT? Don’t sweat it.

3.The Grass is Not Always Greener: I remember trying all 4 or 5 English programs other people were recommending. One day our 8 year old son said “Mom, why can’t I just use the program we have? I LIKE this one?” Enough said. I never wavered again. It’s great to try new things, but there is something to be said for picking a program and persevering through it to the very end. English is English, and whether you choose Mc Guffy, Explode the Code, Bob Jones or Abeka, your kids will have a good understanding of the language in the end. I would have saved myself hundreds of dollars and many years of frustration had I known this simple thing.

4. Life Skills: One of the most important things you can do for your kids is teach them Life Skills. Whether it’s painting, repairing walls, changing a tire, fixing a household appliance, balancing a checkbook (which I still can’t do by the way), sewing or managing their time, these skills are invaluable. Kids can always check out a book and teach themselves how to do chemistry, but there are far fewer books on Life Skills. It’s amazing how many people can’t do (or are too lazy to do) simple things that were once essential for survival in modern society. Check out How to Videos on YouTube there are lots available to learn from.

5. Know What You Believe and Why: Many Christians fall away from grace at some point in their lives. As much as we try and establish our children’s faith, there may be times when they question it and are drawn away. Firmly teach your children not just your beliefs, but WHY you believe what you do. Your faith is easier to defend if you have the right tools.

6. Know Your Kids Learning Styles: This is critical to your homeschooling success as far as I am concerned. Read “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style” by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson to figure out how your child learns best. It will save you years of frustration. If you can’t figure it out, try having your child analyzed by a professional. I was amazed that our two dyslexic boys learned completely differently. One was completely auditory, and the other was completely visual. I had no idea part of their difficulty in academics was that they could not learn by the same methods. Years of money and time were wasted before I figured this out, don’t make the same mistake, homeschooling will be so much easier!

7. Support: It is so important to have others who support what you are doing. Find them, they are out there. Whether you join your local home school group, email group, or blog network we need daily affirmation that what we are doing is right for us and our families. Many a great home school Mom has quit what they enjoy doing because they lack the support to keep it up.

8. Fruits of Your Labor: They say patience is a virtue. When homeschooling it is very difficult to be patient when you wait years and years to find out if your kids will be successful. Passing the SAT/ACT tests and actually get into college seem like the lights at the end of the tunnel. I was sure we weren’t doing enough as home school’s until I did my oldest son’s High School transcript. He went to a local school beginning his Sophomore year, and needed a record of all he had learned. By the time I got it all down on paper, it was TWO PAGES. His student councilor called me over and over, convinced there was some mistake. There was no way we could have accomplished so much. He had enough credits to graduate as a Junior. Make your child a transcript for fun, even if High School is a long way off. Include a reading list, service project list, athletic activities, awards and honors. You will be amazed how much you have done. Our son is still in school by the way, he will officially be a Senior next year, but he takes classes just because there is so much he wants to learn before he goes out into the world.

9. Put Blinders On: Sometimes I think we struggle because of all the distractions in life. Opposition to home schooling is out there, so needy family members, rotten politicians, mass murderers, Tsunami’s and all sorts of other disasters. We get much more schooling done by unplugging from the world and just concentrating. There is plenty of time to send emails, surf the web, watch the news, and answer the phone when the school work is done.

10. Never Give Up: If your child is struggling with a concept, explore alternative ways for him to learn it. Explore auditory, visual, and tactile viewpoints. When all else fails seek professional opinions. If he still struggles try something else, but NEVER give up. One of our dyslexic boys didn’t learn to read until he was 12. We would work on something simple like reading short words (cat, dog, etc.) and learning the alphabet song each fall, but he couldn’t do it. He could not memorize the letters and sounds for anything. So we would work for a couple of weeks each school year before we were both so frustrated we would give up. Eventually we came across a reading expert that specialized in right brain development and learning. With her methods, he began to learn to read at age 12. She told me that he was the most right brained child she had ever seen, and if we hadn’t come to her, he probably would have never learned to read. Today, he loves to read. He personally spends a part of each day teaching and reading with his younger brother so he won’t ever have the same issues. The struggle was incredible, but the lesson of perseverance we have all learned is priceless. Don’t EVER give up!

Designer Mom

Eat This Book

A while back our church started a campaign to read the Bible in one year. This by itself may not be that unusual. But, as we are a very young congregation with a high tech mind-sight,  it’s not just reading the Bible all by yourself in one year, it’s different. They have it all online:

Here’s the link:

On this site you can find different reading plans, from the entire Bible to a slower children’s version. You can down load and print a schedule, or download it on your mobile phone. You can read commentary on their blog and ask specific questions regarding passages of scripture. It’s amazing. You can also watch 5 minute videos on the scripture passages. This week’s Easter message was fantastic. Who knew you could do so much with sand?

Watch the video here:

They also give recommended versions of the Bible to read. We downloaded the ESV on our Kindle for free! We love our Kindle!

Have a great day!

Designer Mom

The Partridge

Christmas Eve has arrived, ahead of my anticipated schedule. I still could do more shopping, haven’t cooked all the things I wanted to, and the house could still be cleaner. But, here we are. In spite of my lack of readiness the time has come. I thank the Lord for the people in my life who have helped me get here. Our family and children helped out with the shopping and wrapping, our friends dropped off cookies and goodies that I had no time to bake, and my Mother is has arrived a day early to help clean the house. What blessings.
We are so fortunate aren’t we? Yet we don’t always take the time to appreciate all we have. Even the right to worship on Christmas Eve services is a true blessing. One of my favorite carols is The Twelve Days of Christmas. It is often thought of as a secular song, but it really isn’t. We came across this research when we studied Christmas some years ago.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Catholics in England during the period of 1558 to 1829, made up this song as part of their “catechism”. It was intended to help children memorize facts about scripture during a time of Christian Persecution in England. Being caught with anything written during this time could not only get your imprisoned, it could get you hanged, shortened by a head, or even drawn and quartered.
The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The “true love” mentioned in the song has nothing to do with an earthly suitor, but refers to God himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is none other than Jesus Christ  the son of God.
Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which fakes an injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem.
The other symbols:
The Two Turtle Doves are the Old and New Testament 
Mourning Dove Photo
Three French Hens are the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Photo
Four Calling Birds are the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Five Golden Rings are the first five books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”
Six Geese A-Laying represent the Six Days of Creation
Caution: Wet Paint
Seven Swans A-Swimming are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit or the seven sacraments
Eight Maids-A-Milking are the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing are the nine fruits of the holy spirit
10 Lords A-Leaping are the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping are the 11 apostles
12 Drummers Drumming are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed
God Bless and Merry Christmas!
Designer Mom