Author: Lindsey Jane

The pastor's wife is the homeschooling, crafty, reading, singing mama bear of seven awesome kids!

Untriumphantly: Embracing the Ordinariness of the Season

Welcome to Advent.

This Advent devotional is written for you, for me. It is a personal devotional for the season of Advent. Advent includes the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Once Christmas begins, we’re on to the 12 Days of Christmas—like the song. While I usually write family devotions, this one is intended to be personal. Although you can use it however you like. I’ve intentionally chosen a translation of Scripture that I think you’ll be a little unfamiliar with. I wanted it to read like something new. Sometimes our familiarity with Scripture makes us deaf to what it is saying. If you don’t enjoy the translation I’m using, feel free to look the verse up and read them in your own Bible. I’ve also included a song for each day. I’ve carefully chosen them specifically for each devotional, so I do hope you’ll choose to take the time to listen to them. It is my prayer that in embracing the ordinariness of the season, we’ll find ourselves looking down into the manger and seeing something new in the face of the baby who came to save us. I pray we’ll not jump ahead to the cross, and instead sit with our infant king for this season. I pray that this ordinary start to the cycle of the liturgical calendar will be a grounding experience as we move into a new year as His people. Instead of trying to be simple as an apology, I want to embrace it. This is an ordinary December. I’m an ordinary Mom. And Jesus still came to save me and He will meet me here.

Advent Is Coming

Advent is quickly approaching. This year, I’ve written a devotional titled “Untriumphantly”. This season, I’m encouraging you to embrace how ordinary December can be. I’m putting out the call to not just get by this Advent, but to choose simplicity and have a deeply profound Advent. 20 devotions. 1 per weekday through the four weeks of Advent. Each will be set to release on the day it is to be read here on the blog. I’m also linking you to other Advent devotionals, articles, and even a craft that I have put out in years past. My prayer this Advent is to not get swept away in busyness and enjoy God with us this season.

The Benefits of Advent

Pocket Style Advent Calendar

Advent Family Devotion Tips and Tricks

Personal Advent Devotional

Family Advent Devotional (Week One) (Week Two) (Week Three) (Week Four)

ScentBird Review

I’ve been trying out quite a few new things to review for you guys. Today, we’re talking about the company ScentBird. You’ve probably seen ads on your social media for them.

If you don’t know what ScentBird is, I’ll fill you in. It is a perfume (or cologne) subscription service. They have all manner of other products these days you can choose from, as well, but I used it solely for fragrance, since that is what the heart of the company is.

You choose a plan for 1-3 fragrances a month for the price of $14.95 to $34.98 each month. Each fragrance “sample” is actually pretty large. They’re close to the size of a roll-on perfume, but they’re a spray! Each bottle contains about 120 sprays of perfume. They consider that a month of perfume, but it is, in fact, a lot of perfume! It is much bigger than the big sample bottles. These bottles are 8ml. The largest sample perfume I have is 2ml. So, you are getting a decent amount of product. Now, they sent me a fancy case that you can change out the scent in when I signed up. You can add more of them as you desire. But each scent regularly comes in a white paper tube thing with a lid. I like that. I write the name of the perfume in sharpie on that tube so I can easily find them in my drawer.

The basic premise is that you can try a perfume for a month to see if you like it. This is excellent for anyone who just doesn’t quite know what they like. It is also good for people who want to change it up often or who want a variety of scents to choose from each day without buying a dozen perfumes.

Now, this is where I think their model falls apart. Once I find a perfume I love and want to commit to in a bigger bottle, ScentBird doesn’t sell that. They only sell the sample sizes. So, I have to go find this perfume only to realize that not all the perfumes they carry are available to buy in the US. (Big bummer.) So, it doesn’t really help you find your perfect scent if they aren’t helping you acquire your perfect scent. As a business model, it is designed to become obsolete– only they don’t really expect you to find what you’re looking for. They expect that you’ll want to go on sampling forever. Only, no repeat sampling!

They have a huge range of scents! I could probably make a queue that would last me several years. Some of their scents are “premium” and cost an extra $5. I haven’t found much of a rhyme or reason for the extra charge. Some very expensive perfumes are on the regular list and some that aren’t so expensive are on the premium list. They say there are premium products that might be up to $15 more, but I’ve only come across the $5 upcharges.

Their billing is a little crazy. They’ll bill at the very beginning of the month and will not ship until the end of the month. I had one month come at the beginning of the next month, just a day before I was charged again for the next perfume on my queue. Their shipping seems to be very slow. I will say that each perfume is packaged well, though.

You can skip months easily or cancel. If you cancel, they’ll start offering you the moon to stay. They’ll throw in another free holder and possibly a free perfume if you’ll just sign up again. Once you rejoin, your queue awaits you. It doesn’t disappear. So you can get a month, cancel, sign back up when you’re ready for more. It was easy to cancel.

The app is easy to use. You can add to your queue, cancel, skip, and review from the app. You can do all those things from the website, as well.

All in all, it is a service I enjoyed. I don’t think I can take getting perfume every month because it quickly becomes too much. But I like the concept. It is also appealing that if I don’t like a scent, I can just pass it on to a friend without being out lots of money. I think a ScentBird subscription would also make a great gift. You can give the gift of ScentBird and let the recipient choose their own scents through the year.

I really do wish I could get Hollyrose by Room 1015, though. That perfume was my jam. And to all of you thinking I smelled like a grandma last month, you’re welcome. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I’m now rationing out the last of it. And moving on to this month’s Wild Poppy, which isn’t nearly as good.

Also, if you’re not a perfume person, maybe you should rethink your position. Perfume always fits. And some of it is awful. But some of it is awesome. And sometimes you get compliments on how you smell. And sometimes people are nicer because you smell nice. And some people still don’t like perfume and that is okay.

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Creating Your Own Curriculum– Science

We’re still talking about Creating Your Own Homeschool Curriculum. You can do this. It is super simple.

Choosing what to use for science is just as easy as it is for other subjects. Just pick a book, topic, or supplement and get to it. There are lots of ways to go about science curriculum. I’m only going to cover a few of them because this is a blog post, not a book.

For younger kids, nature study may be all you want to do for science. Nature study is super easy and super appealing to small children. How do you “do” nature study? You go outside and look around. Nature study helps younger kids learn to observe what is around them and to start asking questions about the things they find.

You can go about nature study as organized or freely as you want. Want to just go outside and see what you see? Do it. You know about the world around you more than you think. Observing that the leaves are falling off the trees right now as the seasons change is a full lesson for the week. You can add onto that if you want, but it really can be as simple as watching leaves fall.

Exploring Nature with Children and Firefly Nature School are two organized ways to go about nature study. Each will give you a new topic each week and you’ll dive into that topic as fully as you want. Exploring Nature with Children has a student book with places to journal and poems to copy if you want to go that direction. They also send out a weekly email about the topic of the week with links to videos you can watch or activities you might want to do. The actual PDF contains information for the week, potential activities, and book lists if you really want to go whole hog. Firefly Nature School is a bit different. You get a monthly PDF pack with lessons for each week when you subscribe. It comes with lovely cards to print out and guides to the topic of the week. It also gives some additional reading suggestions and activities. You can also buy the lessons you want on a topic by topic basis.

Unit studies are great for science. You can choose something you’ve observed in nature and research that thing until your child’s interest runs out. Twig and Moth, Brave Grown Home, Chickie and Roo, Green Urban Creative, Home and Haven, and Stephanie Hathaway Designs are just a few of the companies/individuals that make beautiful cards, posters, and visuals to go along with your nature and science journey. You can grab books from the library, watch videos on YouTube, watch documentaries on Amazon or Disney+, go on helpful field trips as you explore your topic. This is great for all of science, not just nature study. Why just learn a few facts when you can really dig in?

As my kids get older, nature study morphs into the art of nature journaling. Science becomes more typical science. You can choose a ready made curriculum or you can just read books about science and learn.

As a large family mom, I like all my kids to be doing the same science. They may not be using the same books, but I like them to be on the same topic. It keeps things simpler around here. And as an added bonus, when the older kids do projects or experiments, the younger kids are learning similar things and can observe or participate and get something out of it, too. Or I can have my older kids lead the younger ones through an activity that educationally benefits them both. Since I use history for my literature spine, it makes sense that I also base our science around our history. This year, we’re in ancient history, so for science, my kids are doing geology and archaeology. Science doesn’t always neatly fit with history, but usually some connection can be made. You could place astronomy in the Middle Ages or your could place it in Modern History. Physics can easily go in early modern history. Anatomy can fit pretty much anywhere. Chemistry usually fits best in Modern. Again, this is entirely unnecessary, but it can make a year flow much more cohesively and have kids connecting their subjects in a very organic manner.

If you decide on chronological history, but don’t want to choose a specific area of study, you may want to check out Berean Builder Science Curriculum. They arrange science in chronological order by discovery. It really highlights well how the scientific process works and how one discovery builds off another. It also shows how even when scientists are wrong at times about aspects of their discoveries, they still help advance science. It helps kids learn that just because one thing a scientist said was proven false doesn’t mean it wasn’t helpful in the scope of discovery or that the scientist was entirely wrong. It is quite a unique way to study science.

There are a great many places where you can find a “real books” science program built for you. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think, “We’re going to study physics” and then figure out what books to actually read. Guest Hollow and Sabbath Mood both come to mind. You can also choose a textbook as a “spine” and then branch out from there in what you read.

I have Idea Lists for Oceans, Weather, Physics, Flowers, Birds, Astronomy, Anatomy, Zoology, Botany, Earth Science, Pets, and Nature. There are, of course, endless numbers of topics to study. If you want, ask your kids to help decide what to study next. Then you just find books for the topic. You can buy them or head to the library with a topic in mind.

I feel like I should remind you that there will always be holes in their education. At graduation, your child cannot be an expert in all fields of science. Not even scientists are experts in all fields of science. No adult was ever hindered because they couldn’t label all the parts of a cell or replicate the periodic table on command. Your child doesn’t have to either. When they are young, science is about exposure to the world. As they get older, they’ll understand it more and be able to make more connections. But they will not be experts. They aren’t meant to be. If they were, college specializations wouldn’t exist. So don’t fret if you skip something. There will be holes. Everyone has holes in their knowledge. Without looking it up, do you know how thick the earth’s crust is, what the function of the spleen is, and what happens if you add magnesium to heat? If you do know those things, cool. If you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’re an uneducated baffoon, it simply means you’re human. (And you can know all those answers with a quick Google search.) So while I do strive for excellence with my kids, I don’t strive for expert understanding or memorization. I don’t have to be able to name all the constellations to enjoy the stars.

Science also doesn’t have to take a lot of time each week. For younger kids, doing an hour of nature study once a week is enough. As they get older, maybe 2-3 days a week for 45 minutes or so is plenty. Some curriculums will come with a day by day plan for you. If that works for you, cool. If it doesn’t– don’t do it that way!

When my oldest were small, we did Zoology for several years. I took them to the zoo once a week. That was our science. Watching the animals and asking the zoo keepers our questions. I didn’t have a specific curriculum. I didn’t even have a plan. They learned about animal classification, animal habits, habitats, ecology, animal conservation, and more just from weekly zoo trips. No program. No books. Well, I did buy them a couple animal encyclopedias because they loved looking through them on non-zoo days to figure out what they wanted to find out at the zoo. I’m just saying– use what you have available to you. If you’re farming– that is totally science! If you’re near the beach– weekly beach trips totally counts as science! It doesn’t have to come from a textbook and have worksheets. You don’t need those things to learn. If you want them, cool. But they aren’t necessary at all.

Additionally, science experiments are optional. If you don’t want to do them– don’t! Do not stress out about what they’ll learn without an experiment. You can also ONLY do experiments from a book like this or this if you want. You know what will work best for you and your child. It doesn’t have to be complex. It doesn’t have to be Instagram worthy. Want to know my kids favorite ever science activity? Finding a walking stick. Like, going out in the yard and finding a stick long enough to be considered a walking stick. That’s it. We’ve made bricks, looked at bugs through microscopes, found consolations with a telescope, made aluminum foil boats to race, mixed all sorts of slimy concoctions– and they love finding a stick the most. (Insert shrugging emoji here.) Do the experiments. Don’t do the experiments. Occasionally point out a snail. You’re great at teaching science!

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Creating Your Own Homeschool Curriculum — Bible

We’re continuing talking about creating your own homeschool curriculum. You’ve made your subject list and now you’re narrowing down what to put in each subject. As I said before, choosing a curriculum is just choosing books. It is super simple. You can choose a book, a program, part of another curriculum, whatever you want that makes school work for your children.

Complete Jewish Bible

Bible was a difficult subject for me, personally, to really decide what to do with. For one, I’m not Reformed. There aren’t a lot of ready made Bible studies for kids or families that aren’t Reformed. And I don’t want to spend all my time editing what is being taught so that it is theologically cohesive.

I also wanted it to be different from Sunday School. My kids are in church and I wanted their Sunday school experience to stay a Sunday school experience. I didn’t want to bring flannographs and crafts into every lesson every day.

I want my kids doing Bible every day. I don’t want them to have something so complex we only hit on it once a week. I wanted it to be daily enriching. And once they can read, I want it to teach my children how to have daily Bible reading time. I wanted to use it to build a Bible reading habit for them.

I opted to handle the subject in multiple ways. We place some Bible in our Morning Basket. We read a Psalm together daily. (When the Psalms run out before out 180 school days have passed, we read a chapter from Proverbs.) We also read a devotional book for kids in our Morning Basket. On Friday, we play a Bible game in our Morning Basket instead of the devotional book. (Check out The Action Bible Guess It Game, Apples to Apples Bible Edition, or So You Think You Know the Bible.)

That still leaves the actual Bible subject open. For younger kids, I think what I do in Morning Basket is enough. We’ve added more because I think there is always room for a little more Bible time. But for younger kids, I think prayer, a Psalm, and a devotional are quite a lot of Bible and is sufficient. However, I spent years doing only that much, and I think I missed some opportunities to really help my children grow in their faith.

For my younger kids, we have two things we do for Bible this year. We alternate days four days a week on which we’re doing that day. (We’ll talk about Friday later.) In previous years, we’ve read through the Herein is Love Commentary series, which we loved. We’ve read through various Bible Storybooks.

Rachael and Leah by Topher (7)
  1. Each child is illustrating their way through the Bible so at the end of the school year, they’ll have their own Bible Storybook. I read them a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible. As I read, they draw an illustration of the story. It is super simple. They love it. I love seeing what stood out to them in each story.
  2. I read a chapter of a Christian story. I try to pick books that are imaginative, but thoroughly Christian. This term, we’re reading The Ark, The Reed, and The Fire Cloud. (It will likely take us more than one term to finish.) The Imagination Station, The Cooper Kids, and The Sugar Creek Gang are other good options.

That leaves the older kids. As I said before, one of my goals for Bible as a subject is to help my kids develop the habit of daily Bible reading. We’ve chosen to do a SOAP method of Bible study. They each pick the book of the Bible they’ll be reading. (The Pastor or I will advise if they ask.) They use these books of the Bible printables to keep track of their reading. Each day, they read a chapter.

Using the SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) method, the first thing they’ll do is read the Scripture. They’ll write down on a piece of paper (or a journal) which verse they read is standing out to them most in their reading. The second step is Observation. What is this chapter telling us? Are there any places of repetition? What can be directly observed? How is this passage relating to the people it was written to or about? They’ll write this on their paper. The third step is Application. How does this apply to my life? What is my take away? They’ll write that down. Last, but not least, is prayer. They’ll write out a short prayer based on their reading. Super simple. If you want to know more about this method, check this out.

I don’t stop there for Bible. My Logic aged kid also reads a Christian Book a few days a week. This year, he’s reading through the Imagine… series. He’s also read Cold Case Christianity for Kids, Case for Christ for Kids, Love Does for Kids, and Trial and Triumph.

My older kids are now entering a different intensity of school work. This year, since they’re learning about ancient history, our Bible choices centered around that. They’re reading The Bible Among the Myths, Epic of Eden, and Stewards of Eden. (Lectures in Old Testament Theology was close to being put in the line up.) In my opinion, teenagers are capable of reading adult theology books. Don’t be afraid to give them difficult material– just be available to talk to them about it. Apologetics books are also of high interest to teens. Last year, these two enjoyed The Great Divorce, Miracles (by Metaxas), and Miracles (by Lewis). Read along with them. Be on their page. Know how their wheels are turning and you can better help as God guides and shapes their lives.

Now all of this probably seems like a lot to you. You really don’t have to do this much. As I said before, in the past, because I couldn’t find a good curriculum fit for Bible, I didn’t do enough. I didn’t focus enough on it. I didn’t make it enough of a priority. For that reason, as they get older, I definitely focus more on it. If they know calculus, but don’t know Jesus– I’ve failed.

Don’t limit your options to what is under the “Bible” tab on homeschool curriculum. If that was all the options, I’d be sad. You can absolutely use those if you want to. Just be aware of where your curriculum is coming from and how their worldview shapes what is in front of you. Theology matters. Doing your homework ahead of time to make sure what you’re putting in your kids’ hands aligns with what your family believes will save you a lot of time (and confusion) later.

Let’s talk about Fridays now. John Wesley has a method of helping people grow in Christ. He did this through bands, classes, and meetings. A band is a small accountability type group. A class is a small group. A meeting is a larger gathering, like Sunday morning service. That is a gross oversimplification and Wesley scholars are now pulling out their eyebrows in anguish over it. If you want to learn more about it from someone far more intelligent than I am, check this out.

I’ve taken my eight kids and started a family band. Now, technically, my family is the size of a class. But, I was noticing that my kids needed what a band has to offer and there wasn’t any good way to get that going. So, I started a family band. Friday is our meeting day. Each kid shares something that God is showing them. They bring their illustrations or Scripture journals and are eager to share with us. We also do some basic accountability, though I do respect their privacy and don’t go through the full list of questions with them– since they didn’t really choose to be in this band. However, it has been a nice way to help them grow in faith and help give them something in common. They each have something equally important to share– even the young ones. So far, my family band experiment is going pretty well.

ESV Family Devotional Bible

How you set up the Bible portion of your curriculum is up to you. I’ve simply shared what works for me and my kids. You may decide to do a Catechism. That’s great! You may just read a storybook Bible. Cool! You may decide to just read to them our of your devotion each day. (Yes! That is an option! Want to read Mama Bear Apologetics or Death by Living? Two birds, one stone– read it out loud to your kids!) You may pic a devotional books for kids like this one. Neat! You may pick a Bible curriculum designed for homeschoolers. Awesome! There is no single way to do it.

Just don’t skip it. To adapt a quote from The Pastor, if your kids miss Jesus, they miss everything. If you take a back seat on teaching them the Word, don’t be shocked when their worldview is decidedly not Christian. Everything you do shapes your child– from the food you put on their plate to the way you fold towels. It all has an effect on how they view the world and what they are becoming. You cannot avoid your influence. So influence them in the way that matters. Intentionally choose how you’ll guide them. Don’t leave this part to default.

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