A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Reading for Homeschool Moms

Today's post is dedicated to something most every homeschooling mother loves - BOOKS!!! Come on, you know you love books - so why not admit it and embrace your inner book-a-holic :)

Well, maybe not every homeschooling mom loves books the way I love books. I love tattered books that have been read over and over again, brand new Apologia science books with their "new book smell", paperback or hardcover, taped up binding, written in and highlighted, pages folded to mark a page or bookmarks hidden deep within the pages, even e-books...I love them all!

One of my favorite pastimes is reading (who knew?!). And during the summer months I have some books that have become staple in my homeschool preparations for the upcoming academic year. I'll list the titles and authors of those books and hopefully some of you will share some of your favorites with me!

Number 1 ~ "Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe" by Todd Wilson

Number 2 ~ "For the Children's Sake" by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Number 3 ~ "Wisdom from Proverbs: Devotions for Homeschooling Moms" by Barbara Coyle

Number 4 ~ "Things We Wish We'd Known" compiled and edited by Bill & Diana Waring

Number 5 ~ "Welcome Home, Daddy" by Lorrie Flem

Number 6 ~ "Reaping the Harvest" by Diana Waring

and finally, my latest addition to my favorite summer reads to encourage and inspire me as I prepare for the new school year....

Number 7 ~ "How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids" by Rachael Carman

While I have many more titles I could share, the first six books on my list are the ones I read yearly, the ones I find myself thumbing through when writing lesson plans, the ones I keep on the bookshelf in my bedroom for immediate access when I have a homeschool emergency and need to read something that will provide some wisdom. Of course, the Bible is my number one read each and every day, and no other book will take the place of God's Living and Active Word - without Jesus as my Lord and Savior, our family's homeschool would still be stuck at 1 + 1 + 2. All the credit goes to God, that's for certain!

The last book on this list is a product I received to review as a member of this years TOS Crew. I don't want to give away too much prior to posting my review next month, but I can tell you that this book is a keeper and has secured it's place on my list of annual must-reads.

Now, if anyone would like to share some of their must-reads, I'd love to hear from you!

Happy summer reading, my fellow homeschool moms!

Day 105 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Responses to Comments (Organizing Books, Caught in a Funk, & Diabetes Prevention)

Today I am playing catch-up. This post is dedicated solely to answering comments and questions left in response to previous posts. Lucky reader, today you get a nice break from my non-stop commentary on all-things homeschool!

First off - "What Should I Do With All These Books??" replies:

Vickie said: I do keep a bookshelf that is the current year's books. I have a basket that I keep by my chair with the current books in use. I rotate them out as needed from the year's bookshelf. I like this much better. I do have my other bookshelves that I put the books when they are not in use for the year. I took half our entry coat closet and made it a supply closet. Shelves floor to ceiling and when I hit the back to school sales in August....they get plenty stocked. Everything in its place (or should be) and I can tell a kid to go get whatever that is on shelf #??. IF they put the item back in its original spot, it can be found again. Now, I need to purge my regular bookshelves for books that others have given me and I think I'd like to want to use them but in reality find that they don't fit in my schedule of classes. These books need to go.

Great post! Thanks for sharing some great ideas.

My reply:

Vickie, I LOVE your idea of keeping a basket by your chair with the current books you are using. Not only is it functional, and the books are kept in a location where they are convenient and easy to access, but books in a basket look good too! An organizational tip that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing?? That's a keeper in my book :) Thanks so much for sharing!

Martha said: Thank you for sharing some ideas here. I am going to see if I can make them work for my family.

Visiting you from TOS Crew and following you know.

My reply:

Martha, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and "AHOY" from one Crew Mate to another! Your comment made my day :)

I would also like to share tips on where I store items I receive for review purposes as a part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. I really work hard at using the products as extensively as I am able with my family prior to my reviews. As soon as I am listed as a reviewer for a product, the product name and review due date are written in my homeschool planner and on my family calendar (highlighted in both places so they can't be missed!). Once I receive the item, I start a page for it in my review notebook. Basic info is noted first, and then as I peruse the curriculum I add further details. I also am careful to obtain as much information as I can from my children who have been using said item. All of my review items that are physical products are kept on the top shelf of a bookcase that is across the room from my primary homeschool bookcase. My primary bookcase has doors, and looks more like an armour than a bookcase. Once school is done for the day, the doors are shut and I can be a "mom" for the evening (the "homeschooler" will reappear the following morning). The bookcase that houses my review products is more traditional in style, with open shelving. My wireless printer is located on this bookshelf, and my son's college textbooks and supplies for Friends University were stored there last year. Things I need weekly for our youth group and all of my son's Wheaton College information are stored there now. The top shelf is reserved for my TOS products (the non-physical products I receive are stored in a file on the desktop of my laptop and a USB removable drive is used to back this file up). My one overarching piece of advice for keeping track of the products I'm reviewing would be location - keep things in their rightful place and you'll find them when you need them. Not to mention that if they are kept in plain sight, I tend to "handle" them a lot more than I would if they were kept in the homeschool cabinet with it's closed doors. Don't have an extra bookshelf? Neither did I, until I picked up a wood shop book on and set my son to work. I must say, he did a fantastic job and spent hours sanding and sanding - there isn't a splinter to be found and it's as smooth as a piece of glass. Oh, and of course I counted it as a half credit toward a wood shop elective on his high school transcript :)

Next I will reply to a comment left about my post "Out of Sorts or Caught in a Funk??"

Martha said: Hope your week of Bible School went well, even better than you expected!

Is your son headed to Wheaton Collegein Wheaton, IL? I worked there for the food service company years ago.

Visiting from the HS Crew.


My reply:

Martha, he sure is headed up north to Wheaton College in Illinios! So neat to hear from a member of the Crew who knows about Wheaton! Made my day :)

Lastly, I will reply to comments left in response to my blog post about Diabetes Prevention.

Very Blessed Mana said: Such great advice. Would you be willing to go into more detail of what you gave up, what you added, what helped the most, etc...?

Lisa said: Thanks for these tips. And I would 2nd what Very Blessed Mama said about going into more detail! My dad was diagnosed with Type 2 a few years ago, and it runs elsewhere in my family too, so I want to do what I can NOW before I fall into the same pattern!

My reply:

Very Blessed Mama & Lisa, I am more than happy to give some additional info! As for what I gave up - that's a long list but it can best be summed up in 2 words: Sugar and Carbs. Does it contain sugar (or the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup!)? Then I don't eat it. Is it a food that is primarily a carbohydrate (which turns into sugar in the bloodstream)? I don't eat it. Now, I can't avoid ALL sugar and EVERY carb - so I am as choosy as possible. I read the labels on the Greek Yogurt I buy and I purchase the brand that has the least sugar. I eat flat bread (very popular and easy to find right now) and that eliminates a whole lotta carbs! Peanut butter is my best friend, and there are several natural options available that are more expensive than sugar-laden peanut butter but far cheaper than the long-term cost of diabetes. Bananas seem to be fine for me, but some people have a little trouble with their blood sugar when they eat them. Watch how you feel and don't be afraid to check your blood glucose with a monitor. Many companies will send you a kit free of charge - but read the fine print, some of them don't come with test strips (they can get expensive!) and others require you to do "coding" (which isn't terrible, but it takes a bit more time). Your doctor may even give you a free glucose monitor; my physician was so happy to have a patient working to prevent diabetes, she was willing to help me with almost every request I had. Veggies are always okay - spinach salads are a win-win (healthy greens and iron to keep my chronic anemia at bay). Try toasting some flat bread, add sliced tomato with salt and pepper (a little olive oil based mayo can add extra flavor) and viola! you have an easy lunch idea. Strong mozzarella cheese is fast and full of protein. Oatmeal is typically a good option for those working to avoid Type 2 diabetes, but it actually raises my blood sugar to an unacceptable level whenever I eat it. Try it for yourself - the odds are that it will work well for you (but don't eat the sugar filled kiddie flavors). Drink plenty of water (by plenty I pretty much mean TONS!). Weigh yourself about once a week to see if you are losing, gaining or maintaining. Walking is great exercise, doesn't require a gym membership, and most everyone can do it! Walk with your hubby a couple of evenings each week and think of it as a "mini-date". Or rotate walking with your kids, one at a time. They will cherish the time they have with you, and you'll be doing something great for your health while making terrific memories. Above all, commit your plans to the Lord and seek His wisdom each day. He knit you together and knows exactly what you need in order to stay healthy. Ask Him, be willing to obey Him, and be prepared to hold on while you enjoy the ride!

For my friend Janette, let me say "Thanks!!" for reading my blog and leaving such encouraging comments. Your migraine meds have wreaked havoc on you, but the Lord knows what His plans and purposes are for you and I know He doesn't want you to stress too much over it but to try and relax and let Him take care of the details. Probably sounds like trite advice, but I really do mean it. He's got your back for certain!

Thanks for reading this post of "replies" and Lord bless you today!

Day 104 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Me? Like the Israelites in Ezekial chapter 8?

In the Eighth chapter of Ezekiel we read an ever-lengthening list of Israel's sins and God's response to said sins. The sins listed are really just different versions of one primary sin - idol worship.

It's pretty easy to read a book like Ezekiel and feel as if we're living light-years ahead of the Israelites. After all, we could reason, we don't have Asherah poles in our front yards and pagan altars on our back porches. There are no "high places" in our garages or basements - are there??

What the Old Testament often refers to as "high places" may not still exist in exactly the same form, but we do have plenty of false idols in our midst. Oh and don't think we're exempt just because we're homeschooling moms. If God's chosen people didn't get a free pass for being the children of Abraham, we don't get one either. (Let me clarify - I am in no way disputing the fact that as Christians we are subject to the New Covenant and live under grace rather than the law. I believe that with every fiber of my being. I'm saying that abusing God's grace through idol worship is just plain wrong.)

We have plenty of "high places" scattered across our country - the massive sports stadiums built just for us to worship the team of our choosing prove it. Our ability to satisfy the false idol of "stuff" with a few clicks of a mouse via the world wide web is another case in point. What about our ridiculous worship of food in the United States? How many drive-thru options do we really need? (I'll give you a hint - we don't need any; we only have fast-food on every corner because we want it on every corner). Sounds a lot like Old Testament Israel and Judah as described in Ezekiel, doesn't it? God's lists of their sins continued to grow as they kept feeding their need for more and more idol worship.

That's the thing about false idols - those who worship them have to keep upping the ante. Like potato chips, enough is never enough.

Homeschoolers can fall into the trap of worshipping a certain method of curriculum. We can succumb to the temptation to believe we're the "only ones left" who are doing things God's way (check out the life of Elijah to see what God says to us when we think we're the only ones left...). What will the future of America be if we don't raise the next generation the right way? Umm, well if God's way of doing things teaches us who He will use, then we might want to check our motives and our heart condition, because He uses guys like Peter and Saul of Tarsus. Women like Rahab (the harlot) and Ruth (the Moabite) are mentioned in Jesus' family tree, and they were not well mannered homeschool girls.

I say this all to remind myself (more than anyone else reading this post) that I do not have it all figured out, and I am not given a guarantee that all things will turn out just like I hope as long as I follow a certain homeschooling formula. I say this in the hope that I will continue to homeschool to God's glory without letting my homeschool become an idol. I say this with the intention of having any and all misconceptions about Who God is and how He works washed away by knowing Jesus better and better one day at a time.

Keep Jesus the focus of your homeschool, keep your heart open and accountable to your husband and to friends who will give you honest council, and be sure your children don't usurp your husband's place in your life and you will be well on your way to keeping the false homeschooling idols at bay.

May you be blessed beyond measure by the Lord, and may His grace cover your family and your homeschool!

Day 103 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Watch for a post tomorrow that answers the questions I've received about organizing your homeschool and preventing diabetes!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Some Diabetes Prevention Tips

Today's post doesn't exactly have much, if anything, to do with homeschooling ... however, the tips I'll share could easily be incorporated in your homeschool's health lesson plans :)

Just to update any of my blog followers who may not know about my struggle with diabetes - about 18 months ago I had some blood work done to confirm my suspicion that my blood sugar was out-of-whack. Sure enough, I was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic. One more fasting glucose number over 126 and I would have been confirmed as a Type 2 diabetic.

Having an older sister who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a toddler, and knowing how much she has been through over the years convicted me that I could not, in good conscience, allow myself to succumb to a preventable form of diabetes when my sister has had to live with a non-preventable version of the same disease most of her life. So what did I do, exactly? In a nutshell, I did whatever my physician told me to do!

My eating habits changed overnight, dramatically. I check my glucose to ensure I'm not making any costly mistakes in my eating. I make sure my A1c is checked every 3 to 6 months, and if it isn't steadily going down then I make adjustments to my lifestyle. I'm careful to pay attention to symptoms that didn't use to phase me at all - things like my vision, numbness or tingling in my feet, headaches, fatigue, and even my temperament. The result? I've lost 45 pounds (and am keeping it off without any extra effort). My blood sugar numbers are consistently low, just where my doctor would like them to be. My A1c has continued to decrease, and my goal is to hit 4.5% within the next year (at my last test it was 5.3%). My vision has improved, headaches that were chronic are now an extreme rarity. I don't get tired at mid-afternoon anymore. The heat poses no threat and doesn't bug me at all - and I used to fall apart if the temp rose above 90, haha! I could go on and on, but I'd better get busy blogging about my diabetes prevention tips!

These tips all come from reputable sources, and can be verified by doing a little research of your own. I have plenty of things that work well for me, but today I'm sharing things that work well in preventing diabetes across the board.

Tip # 1 -Eat greens, like raw Spinach (my favorite leafy green choice!). It makes a delicious salad, and it's pretty good eaten straight out of the package. If you eat potato chips for a snack, switch to Spinach and prepare to be amazed at the difference in your health. One serving a day has been shown to decrease diabetes risk by nearly 10%. Yea, that's a powerful snack!

Tip # 2 - Remember to make a fat-free choice as often as you can. Take yogurt, for example. Eat Greek for the high protein content, and eat non-fat for your pancreas. Fat-free foods improve the pancreas' ability to function optimally. And since the pancreas' main job is to produce insulin, a healthy pancreas means a lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Tip # 3 - Grab a handful of walnuts and sprinkle on the flax seed. These two healthy nuts have proven themselves worth their weight in gold when it comes to diabetes prevention. Consuming them on a regular basis lowers the risk of diabetes in middle-aged adults by 20%. So snack on walnuts, add flax seed to your oatmeal at breakfast and toss it in your home-made baked goods. You won't be sorry and you probably won't even know it's in there!

Need more reasons to eat better? How about this reason - DIABETES KILLS! We all know that death is the ultimate statistic - one out of every one dies. The Bible tells us that it is appointed to man once to die and then to face the judgement. It's going to happen to each and every one of us. But it doesn't have to happen as a result of complications due to diabetes! High blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, stroke, blindness, amputations, kidney disease - the list goes on and on. Sound scary? Good - it is scary. And what's even scarier? 25 million Americans have diabetes. Some estimates say that number will double, possibly triple, over the next 2 decades.

Diabetes prevention is possible - I'm living proof. If I can do it, anyone can do it. The Lord helped me once I was willing to admit I needed His help, and He is no respecter of men. He will help you, too.

Have a Spinach eating, fat-free yogurt enjoying, walnut munching, anti-diabetes kind of day!!

Day 102 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Out of Sorts or Caught in a Funk??

The idea behind this post comes from a good friend of mine who has been encouraging me recently as I've struggled with something that normally comes easy to me. You'll never guess what that "something" is I've been struggling with...

Since my first child was born 18 1/2 years ago, I've been a "teaching mom". My son entered the world with a collection of books and classical music that surpassed those of many full-grown adults. Truth be told, I was reading to him before he was even born! Preschool? I was his teacher (and the teacher of my 4 daughters). Elementary? Me again. Middle school? Yup, that was me. High school? Uh-huh, me once more. College? Well, I didn't teach him during his time at Friends University and I certainly won't compare myself to the professors he'll have at Wheaton College this fall, but I'll just be a text message away should he have, say, a grammar related question.

I've taught Vacation Bible School for 16 or so years, Sunday School for 17 years, written lessons for our youth group, did the same for a Wednesday night children's program, and am about to begin my 14th year of homeschooling. I have probably used or examined curriculum from all the major Children's Ministry publishers, and am becoming pretty familiar with Youth Ministry curriculum. For a whole lot of years I've been tweaking and adapting Bible lessons, studying and compiling notes, setting aside articles and gathering resources, and generally working to make sure each child I come in contact with feels as if they are valued and loved. And yet the last few weeks as I have prepared for this year's VBS, I have been feeling just plain out-of-sorts. Last night as I worked to calm myself down and teach the lessons to each of the 4 age-divided classes, my jitters multiplied and I felt like, well, a failure.

There, I said it - FAILURE. Homeschooling mothers wear many hats, and for the most part we do all of our jobs well. Maybe every task isn't achieved with excellence, but many of them are! Perhaps we don't have a gourmet dinner each evening, and maybe the laundry waits a couple of days to be folded, and (in my case) those precious photos of the kids may never make it into the scrapbooks! But those things don't make me a failure, do they? Don't I know that I'm only meant to do the things God has called me to do, and He has no unrealistic expectations? Yeah, I do know that. And I need to remember that more often.

What about you? Are there things in your life that set you up to think you're a failure? If you viewed those things in the light of God's great love and His lack of unrealistic expectations, could you change the way you feel and maybe even the way you live your daily life?

Today as you go about your business, remember that all God's promises prove true. Take the time to open your Bible and find out what some of those promises are. And don't tell yourself you're a failure - because you're not :)

As for me, I'm going to have a fun and blessed evening teaching some cool kiddos about Jesus!

Day 101 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Should I Do With All These Books?? ~ Part 3

This is the third post in my series on the topic of what to do with all your homeschool books and supplies once the academic year has ended. Here's a recap of the first two posts:

~ Sort Books As You Finish Them

~ Update Your Older Student's Transcripts Right Away

~ Make a List of Books You Have and Books You Want/Need

~ Shop the Spring & Summer Sales and Conventions

~ Choose to Honestly Evaluate Your Math And Science Programs NOW!

~ Get Rid of the "Junk"

The Fourth of July has come and gone, 100 degree temps are the norm, central air is my very best friend - yes indeed, summer is in full swing! It's the time of year when I get to enjoy relaxing days with my family and don't spend too much time working on homeschool "stuff". While it's nice to enjoy the downtime with my family, it can also be a little bit risky. I am perfectly able to enjoy my summer so thoroughly that I neglect planning for the upcoming school year. Since this fall marks the beginning of my 14th year as a homeschooling mother, I've learned how to make the most of my summer and get ready for what's just around the corner!

Here are 3 more tips that will (hopefully) help you enjoy these lazy-hazy-crazy days of summer and make your homeschool preparations a breeze!

~ Clean & Organize Your Homeschool Bookshelves
Okay, this probably sounds redundant; you may be thinking "I already did that when I got rid of the 'junk!" But tossing the dried out markers and the notebook that's 97% used up really isn't the same as cleaning and organizing your homeschool bookcase. I'm not talking about a quick tidy here. I'm talking about removing every single book from the shelves, cleaning each shelf thoroughly, checking each book for bent pages, pencil markings that need to be erased, taping torn pages, putting Cd's back in their cases, emptying pencil sharpeners, etc. Once everything has been cleaned and repaired, then and only then you can begin to put books back on the shelves. If you take the time to clean the shelves and check the status of all the books and supplies that were stored on said shelves, you are much less likely to throw any and every book you come across back on those shelves. Only put the books you are 100% certain will be used in the coming school year. And while you're at it, put them away by subject (one shelf for Bible, one for math, one for Language Arts, etc.)

~ Make a Place for Homeschool Books You Want to Use Next Year
Once again, I'm sure some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, "Huh? I thought we just put organize all our books in our bookcase? Why would I do that if I still need to make a place for them?" No, I haven't spent too much time in the sun. The only books you should have put on your bookshelf are the ones you are 100% certain you will use next year. Not HOPE to use, not DREAM about using, but know with total certainty you WILL use. Those are the only books that belong on your day-to-day homeschool bookshelf, along with all your supplies. Books that you hope to use next year, books you want your kids to read in addition to their daily assignments, books you have been hoping to get to the last few years - those are the books that belong on the "WANT TO USE" bookshelf. You may be thinking, "That won't work for me. I'll never get around to using those books if I put them on a shelf where I can't see them every day." But I can tell you from honest experience, having learned by trial and error, this method works pretty well. By keeping my primary homeschool bookcase tidy and relatively uncluttered, containing only the books I know I will be using, I am able to focus on my kid's schoolwork without feeling guilty about those books I really want to use by simply don't have time to use. And each time we finish one book, I put it in it's spot on one of the other bookshelves (in our basement). Then I choose which of the "WANT TO USE" books from that bookcase and put it on the WILL use bookcase. Using this method, I have found I accomplish far more than I ever did when I kept all my "WANT TO USE" books side by side with my WILL use books.
** As an aside, if you are a member of the TOS Crew and would like to know how I organize the products I receive for review purposes feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you ASAP :)

~ Plan Ahead In More Ways Than One
Every homeschool mom knows there is more than meets the eye when it comes to a managing a successful homeschool. Here are some things I do during the summer that make the coming school year run like a well-oiled machine. This is a good time to freeze meals; make a double portion, serve one for dinner and put the other in the freezer. By doing this once a week during my summer break, I can have 12 meals prepared for the coming school year. I also try and stock up on things we use everyday, like toilet paper and laundry soap. This is a benefit to my homeschool by preventing last minute trips to the store that cause me to "rush" through school subjects, and is a benefit to our bank account as we rarely leave the store with just the one or two items we needed. I comb through the upcoming year's science books and keep a list of needed supplies in my purse - by adding an item or two each time I shop over the summer I ensure that I'll have on hand everything we need to complete the experiments. One of the best tips I can share would be to start using next year's planner over the summer. Take note of important appointments, take notes about curriculum choices and books to help you on your homeschool journey, keep your daily calendar with your planner to help you make the best use of your time as you choose to use your time in ways that bless your homeschool efforts - my planner is one of my "closest friends" during the homeschool year. If I use it to my advantage, it contains a thorough record of all our school work for the year, holds a plethora of family memories, and keeps me focused on God's will for our homeschool. Each summer I spend time praying that the Lord would lead me to several Bible verses that will be my focus for the coming year. By writing them in the front of my planner, and reading over them over the summer and all throughout the year, I have been blessed beyond measure year after year. And I can tell you that He who has promised is faithful, and all the Lord's promises prove true.

Enjoy your summer, start planning for this fall, and seek the Lord's will for your home and family.

Day 100 done :)

Jan L. Burt