Heart Check 4: A Cure for Fear

  • Q.  Where is God? A. God is everywhere.
  • Q.  Can you see God? A. No; I cannot see God, but he always sees me.
  • Q. Does God know all things?A. Yes; nothing can be hid from God.
  • Q.  Can God do all things? A. Yes; God can do all his holy will.
As you prepare to teach your children this week’s collection of lessons, take some time to meditate on Psalm 139, the passage from which our memory verses are taken. It’s a wonderful thing to realize God’s surrounding and sustaining of us.

The verses which most stood out to me are 15 and 16:
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

As I write this, we’ve just celebrated the 2 year anniversary of the stillbirth of our 3rd daughter. Even now, the memories of that day are vivid and painful. But as much as I still grieve her death, there’s such comfort in knowing that God ordained her days. Even before she was conceived, He knew that she would only live a brief 8 months.

And it’s not just her life and death that are in His hands. My life, my husband’s, my other children – all of them are secure in Him until that day of their death comes. It won’t come before He ordains it. As a consummate worrier, I have a tendency to imagine worse case scenarios for everything. Every business trip I wonder if my husband will make it home. Swimming with my children, I fear for their safety. And since my daughter’s death, these morbid worries have increased.

But as I read Psalm 139, those fears are brought back in check. I cannot protect my family from everything. Danger, sickness and even death will someday befall them. Yet their days ARE ordained by God and until He calls them home, they are safe in His  keeping.

What about you? What lessons does Psalm 139 speak to your heart?

Finding meaning when life seems mundane

I've got to admit. My daily schedule is not the stuff of adventure, excitement or accomplishment. In fact, if I was to detail to you what last week looked like for us, you'd probably fall asleep! It's easy to feel drowned in the mundaness of everything. Some mornings I wake up and wonder what my life is really accomplishing in the seemingly never ending round of dirty diapers, dirty laundry and dirty, well, with little children almost everything seems to get dirty on a regular basis.

Back when I was in my early 20s, I had big dreams of what life would hold. The mission field, ministry to refugees, film production, inner city outreach - I had so many ideas, so many plans to change the world, to make a difference. And then the first baby came. And the next. And the next. Rather unwillingly, all those dreams and plans were slowly shelved, making room instead for a realm of ministry that involves a high level of routine, chores and baby babble. Not exactly what I'd imagined.

I've been struggling with the disparity between my past dreams and my current reality. While I'm confident that God has placed me exactly where I should be, I have had trouble finding meaning that's bigger than the daily grind. All the books I've read about the high calling of motherhood ring true to me, and yet their noble words somehow get lost under a pile of toys. Fighting discouragement, I've begun to pray, to ask God to give me a new vision and a new heart for service.

You want to hear the answer He gave me? "...set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things..." (Col. 3:2) As I've been meditating on that reply, God has directed my heart into three ways to make each day, each moment meaningful:
  1. Set His glory as my sole aim - all my dreams of great and life-changing ministry sounded noble and were backed by good intentions. But I've come to realize that unless God ordains them, these worthy pursuits are worthless. Now when the nagging feeling of dissatisfaction or the disquieting worries of another "wasted" day arise, I refocus. I lay my life once again on the altar of His glory and cast my cares upon the One who has a much bigger plan than I can ever imagine.
  2. Invest in worldwide outreach...through prayer - It's easy to forget that God is ultimately the One who brings the fruit, who causes the increase out of ministry labors. It's also easy to forget that He works through the agency of our prayers. I'm trying to keep these truths closer to my heart by making intercessory prayer a larger part of my day.

    I may not be able to serve in a Haitian orphanage, but I can pray for each of those precious children. I may not be able to take missions trips to far flung destinations, but I can pray for the inhabitants. I may not be able to smuggle Bibles into closed countries, but I can pray for those who do. As I've focused more on prayer, I have a sense of purpose and of partnership in ministry that provides a deep sense of fulfillment.
  3. View every hour of the day as a training opportunity - My little angels wear me out. It's quite common to reach a point where I just want them to stop! Stop the noise, stop the fighting, stop the bad attitudes, stop the mess making. Instead of using whatever the crisis du jour is as a platform for teaching, I just try to squelch the problem. Great example of what purposeful parenting is NOT! So I'm trying to change. Trying to view those irritating situations as opportunities to train and disciple my children and point them to the Savior. After all, the point of embracing the mundane life is with the end goal of training them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord! Don't want to miss the forest for the trees!
So what about you? How do you rise above the challenges of motherhood? Or of tedious work? Or of whatever wearing situation through which God is allowing you to pass? I'd love to hear what the Lord is doing in your life!

Kindergarten at Home: The First Month

Whew!  We survived our first month of homeschooling Kindergarten! Actually, "survived" is probably the wrong verb - "accomplished" provides a better fit for our experience. Some of the milestones reached during our school's germinal month include:
  • Happiness (5yo) becoming comfortable with reading (as opposed to resistant like she was in the spring)
  • Sweetness (4yo) loving her personalized alphabet adventures so much she asks for "more of my school, Mommy?"
  • My children LOVING science (we're studying the Human Body)
  • Daddy teaching the first art class about drawing details, which revolutionized my children's artwork
But less this listing of accomplishments make you think all was ease and comfort, let me list some of the challenges:
  • Mr. Moose (1yo) deciding to give up his morning nap. Bad because that naptime was to have provided us an uninterrupted schooltime
  • This revocation of naps has made school much more stressful for Mommy as she tries to fend off his grabbing (and eating) of books, papers and crafts; tries to balance holding him with phonics games and math books; and generally wears out from the whole experience
  • Mommy struggling with the increased workload of school and not having a good attitude about it. 
Those challenges have yet to be fully addressed, but I'm going to be evaluating things and seeing how I can modify my schedule to cutdown on weekly preparation and to somehow work around Mr. Moose's afternoon nap (a puzzle still, because I usually work on my freelance writing projects then).

When I was trying to plan our kindergarten year, I searched high and low for blogs that would give ideas and inspiration. There wasn't much. Instead, there was an overload of preschool sites and a plethora of older elementary blogs. But in the Kindergarten realm, I felt alone. So in case you're wanting to read more about how others are homeschooling their kindergartners, here's what we're using:
  • Firm Foundations: A Bible study based on the Catechism for Young Children (written by yours truly)
  • Artistic Pursuits, book 1: An excellent art curriculum geared towards PreK - 1st Grade
  • Little Otter's Science: A gentle, slow paced study of the human body. We're making a lapbook about the body as a go along. The girls enjoy looking at it and showing their Daddy any new additions to its content.
  • Singapore Math, Kindergarten: Great and thorough
  • Sing, Spell, Read & Write: I've heavily modified this curriculum to fit my daughters' needs and learning styles, but the backbone of the program is working well for us. I'll post more about my modifications some day in the future
  • Various unit studies: Every fifth week, we're taking a break from the regularly scheduled programming to pursue some type of unit study that the girls are interested in. Our first unit study adventure will be this coming week, and we'll be learning about birds and going bird watching.
So that's it! If you want to see my lesson plans in more detail, just let me know. Looking forward to the next four weeks of school and our learning adventures.
Theme: Show God love by telling others about Him
I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.” (Psalm 119:46-47)

Scripture Memory: Review Psalm 100:1-3

Catechism Review: Q.  How can you glorify God? A. By loving him and doing what he commands.

On Mission: Read Psalm 145:3-12. What kinds of things does the Psalmist say we should tell others about? Discuss how we can show God love by telling others about him. Read a missions book or watch a movie about a missionary and discuss how their love for God motivated them to tell many others about Him.

Further Resources: My goal for my children at their current ages (5 & 3) is not to necessarily be out witnessing! Instead, I want to give them a vision for talking about God and then model that for them. To help with the former goal, we’ll read a biography about a Christian hero geared for young children. I’d recommend the Heroes for Young Readers series published by YWAM or Hero Tales by Dave and Neta Jackson. You can also download a pdf book, On African Roads from WMU.  Another fun resource is the Kids on Mission site from the Southern Baptist Mission Board. They’ve got great videos geared towards kids on mission related topics. Finally, check out Wycliffe’s Bright Ideas PreK and elementary curriculum to find some other fun, mission focused activities.

Firm Foundations 3:2

Theme: We show love to God by obeying Him

Scripture Memory: Review Psalm 100:1-2, then focus on memorizing verse 3a:
  • Know (Tap on your head with pointer finger)
  • that the LORD is God (Lift both hands upwards).
Catechism Review: Q.  How can you glorify God? A. By loving him and doing what he commands.
Love to Obey: Read John 14:15, 21. Before you read, tell your children to listen for what Jesus says we will do if we love Him. Illustrate the lesson by telling your children you’re going to draw a picture for them. My girls love princesses, so that’s what I’ll draw (or at least say that I’ll draw) for them. Ask for their input as you create the masterpiece, but DON’T follow their instructions. In fact, as much as possible, do the opposite of what they requested. When you finish, ask if they liked the way you drew for them. Talk about how following Christ’s instructions shows our love for Him.

Catechism Notebook: Glue your “disobedient masterpiece” on week 3′s notebook page. Give it the caption “Show God love by obeying Him”

Firm Foundations 3:1

Theme: We show love to God by seeking to learn more about Him
Scripture Memory: Review Psalm 100:1-2. Then begin memorizing verse 3: “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.We’ll work on the first half of the verse today with the following actions:
  • Know (ASL Sign)
  • That the Lord is God (Pretend to put a crown on your head)
  • It is He who made us (Use hands to model imaginary clay)
  • And we are His. (Point at self, then point upwards)
Catechism Q&A: Q.  How can you glorify God? A. By loving him and doing what he commands.
If you’re memorizing the Q&A, go over it. If not, just ask the question to your children. In this week’s lessons, I’m going to focus on teaching my kids what it means to love God, as least in small part! I’ll probably simplify the wording even more by asking “How do we love God?” The answer for today is “By getting to know Him.”

Getting to Know You: When we love somebody, we care about what they like and dislike. I’m going to have my kids call up a favorite family member or friend and interview them. I’ll write down the answers as they dictate them to me, and we’ll use this interview sheet as part of our Week 3 Notebooking page.

When the interviews are over, I’ll read them Jeremiah 9:23-24. Getting to know God better is more important than being rich or having great strength or even being really smart! We want to know God better, and that’s why we have Bible time together every day. We want to know what God likes, what He dislikes, what’s important to Him and how He is at work in the world. It’s sort of like interviewing Him, just like they did with their friend on the phone. Pray and close out the lesson.

Lesson Add Along: Focus on phone ettiquete. Teach your kids how to properly answer the phone when it rings, what they should say (or not say!) and how to close out a conversation. Do some mock phone calls together. To memorize their phone number, draw it outside in chalk. Have them hop from number to number, saying each number out loud as they jump down the “path”.

Firm Foundations 2:4

Theme: Your purpose is to live for God
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matt. 22:37)

Scripture Memory: Review Psalm 100:1 & 2

Catechism Q&A: Why did God make you and all things? For His glory.
A Purpose to Live By: Provide some fancy stickers, fun paper, glitter, etc. Let your children decorate a card or poster for someone special in their life. When they get done, talk about who their masterpiece was created for.

Next, read Colossians 1:16 together. Who are we created for? Read Matthew 22:34-40. What did Jesus say is the greatest thing we can do with our life? That is our purpose!

Notebooking: Glue two hearts and write "Love God, Love Others" as a reminder of our life purpose!

Firm Foundations 2:2

Theme: Learn what "purpose" means
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21)

Scripture Memory: Review Psalm 100:1 - "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth."

Catechism Q&A:  Q. Why did God create you and all things? A. For His glory.

Discovering Purpose: Read Proverbs 16:4 and discuss how God has a purpose in everything. Do your kids understand purpose? Help them by showing them an assortment of household items. Ask, "What do we use this for?" When they tell you what the object's primary usage is, explain how that job is the "purpose" of the item. After going through the pile of objects, point to them and ask, "What is your purpose?" Then refer back to the Catechism question - their purpose is God's glory!

Notebook: Draw a picture of 1 or 2 of the items discussed today and write its purpose under it. Then draw a picture of your child and write their purpose next to the portrait.

Firm Foundations 2:1

Theme: Because God created us, He owns us!
Scripture Memory: Over the next several weeks, we're going to memorize a chunk of Psalm 100. We'll start today on verses 1 & 2:
  • Shout (Cup hands around mouth and shout!)
  • for joy to the LORD  (Point upwards)
  • all the earth (Draw a large circle)
Catechism Q&A: Why did God create you and all things? For His glory.

Scripture: Read Psalm 100 together. Do they recognize the first two verses from today's memorization? Start memorizing verse 3, and draw attention to the phrase "...we are His..." That means God owns us!

Ownership: If your kids are anything  like mine, they mastered the concept of ownership early on. All it took was a sibling wanting to play with one of their toys. Suddenly that item they hardly noticed 5 minutes before became one of their most treasured possessions! While this protective ownership can be highly annoying, it can also help them understand God's ownership of us a little bit more.

Show your kids a selection of items from around the house. Have them sort the items into different piles by owner. Then pick up, say, one of Daddy's shoes and ask, "Can this shoe go to the park whenever it wants to?" Discuss how the object can't do its own thing...it has to obey the owner! Come up with some silly scenarios of toy dolls refusing to play or clothing items wanting to be worn upside down. It's crazy for the possession to make the rules! Instead, the owner makes the rules! In the same way, God makes the rules for our lives because He is the owner. He created us!

Notebook: Play this Preschool Animal Homes matching game. Have your children match each home to its animal owner. Store the game on your Notebook page in an envelope pocket.

Firm Foundations 1:3

Review: Let your kids put YOUR memory to the test today! They ask you the catechism questions and you provide the answers. Is your memory as good as theirs? Take time to review Colossians 1:16 as well by singing it fast and and then singing it slow.

Creation Lesson 3:
  • Read Genesis 1:24-28 and Genesis 2:1-2.
  • Discuss how God made each animal according to it’s own kind. What does that mean? Using this animal matching game or your child’s collection of stuffed creatures, sort the animals in various ways, ie, by habitat, characteristics or species. On space #6, make a pocket to hold the animal matching cards.
  • Create the art for the final space on this week’s catechism notebook page. Color a picture of the earth, then glue a heart in the middle of it. Talk about how God was pleased with His creation – it was good! Everything God does is good and perfect.
  • Close Out this lesson with praise! Have each child think of one aspect of God’s creation they enjoy. Thank God for it together!

Firm Foundations 1:2

  • Read Genesis 1:14-23.
  • Watch a multimedia slide show from kids4truth about the days of Creation.
  • Catechism Notebook:
    -Using stencils (which you can either make or buy), have your child trace stars, a circle for the sun and a crescent shape for the moon on space #4.
    -On space #5, color and paste pictures of fish underneath some blue cellophane, adding some bird stickers above it.
  • Snack:  Cut slices of cheese in star shapes. Lay them on top of  round crackers. Partake and enjoy!

Firm Foundations 1:1

Scripture: "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth..." (Col. 1:16) - Memorize this verse to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". Create your own actions to accompany the verse or use ours:
  • "For by Him" - Point up
  • "All things were created" - Pretend to hammer, making one hand a fist and banging it on the open palm of the other hand.
  • "Things in heaven and things on earth" - Hold hands up high, then shake them arcing downwards as though drawing a circle.
Catechism: Who made you? God.  What else did God make? God made all things.
Explain to your children that you are embarking on a project to memorize a list of questions and answers about God. Then practice this week's Q&A together.

Creation Lesson, #1:

  • Read the creation story, days 1-3
  • Start Catechism Notebook, Week 1 page:
    There are two options for your week 1 Notebook page.
    -Minibook: Use this minibook and just color the appropriate pages each day.
    -DIY: Make your own minibook which you'll add to throughout the week.  In the first space, glue a white circle on top of black construction paper.  For space#2, paint the bottom half blue, then glue cotton balls to the top half.  In space #3, glue sandpaper on the bottom for land. Then add a green handprint for a tree, along with flower stickers sprinkled throughout.
  • Snack: Eat Oreos (symbolizing dark & light) and grapes!

Heart Check: Firm Foundations Week 1

"By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm." (Psalm 33:6-9)

This week we'll be teaching our children about God as the Creator and the source of life. It's such a basic concept, foundational to Christian faith. Yet because of its very simplicity, I think we forget the implications of this truth. God created us. We exist because of and for Him. Thus our lives should be absolutely centered around Him. We should be quick to give Him the reverence and worship He is due.  "...For He spoke, and it came to be..." That's power!

In the midst of the trials, joys and mundanity awaiting you this week, remember that you are not here for yourself. You are here becuse you were created by and for God. It's His purposes that ultimately matter.

Introducing our 2010 Bible Curriculum: Firm Foundations

Big Theology for Little Minds.
I've only posted on my main blog a handful of times this summer, in case you haven't noticed. In part, that's because of the normal summer busyness as well as preparations for our first year of "real" homeschooling (started Kindergarten with Happiness).  But it's also because I've been writing lessons for our fall & winter Bible curriculum, Firm Foundations.

As I posted in May, I've had a burden to teach my kids God's Word in a deeper fashion. The Bible stories are great in their place and character training is important and needed in its place, but both leave a gaping hole. I believe that hole is the study of theology - the study of God. Knowing who God is provides a framework for the rest of life and a foundation (hence the name) upon which our children can grow in the "wisdom and instruction of the Lord".

Not being seminary trained or having much of a background in systematic theology, I wasn't sure where to start. But a friend referred me to the Catechism for Young Children and that proved to be the answer. Using the general structure of this catechism, as well as the Westminister Catechism, I've devised 16 weeks of lessons (with more to come). Throughout the lessons I focus on the Gospel, on our sinfulness and on our need for a Savior. I don't necessarily agree with all the theological lessons the Catechism teaches. Those Q&As that I wasn't comfortable with I just skipped or reworded. I'm also not covering every point that the Catechism covers. Instead, I'm focusing on the truths that I feel are foundational and needed for my children at this time.

Lesson structure looks like this:
  • Four lessons each week
  • Scripture Memory
  • Catechism Review (which I consider MUCH less important than the Scripture Memory. If my kids learn it, great. If they don't, I'm not worried.)
  • Hands-on lesson to teach the big truth of the day
  • Notebooking/lapbooking to allow us to review the lessons we've learned at a later date.
  • Every 4 weeks, we'll take a week break to review what we've learned so far.
To help me along in my study, I made extensive use of Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade. Loved this book and appreciated all the work she's put into turning the Westminister Catechism into a daily Bible study.

Each week I'll be posting the lessons, along with a supplies list and some thoughts on what that particular week's truths have meant to me. Hope you enjoy and that these lessons will be a tool you can use in the monumental task of raising children for the glory of God!
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