Great week following a hard week

Hello,

This has been a great week for our family. Two of our boys were baptized on Sunday. Last week was a hard week for us. We lost two family members from two different sides of the family. One of them was our piano teacher, too. We also had an elderly family member who fell and broke his hip. We are thankful for our health this week, and we are thankful for the two who were baptized on Sunday.

Not the end of the year, but …

Since I have been rather relaxed in writing in my blog this year, I thought I would do a recap post. I think I need to dub 2009 as the year of change for me. But I will go back to the end of 2008 first.

One of the biggest things that has happened in my life in the last 12 months was the loss of my grandfather. He and my grandmother helped my mom raise me and my younger brothers. So his diagnosis of stage IV kidney cancer in Novermber of 2008 was a blow to me. We cared for him at home with the assistance of hospice, and he went to his heavenly home on December 13, 2008. This was one day after his 87th birthday. What a blessing he was to many, many people.

January of 2009 is a blur of winter sickness and the beginning of an evening phlebotomy class. After many years out of school, I returned to college for a continuing education course. I found that I could still learn new things and be successful as a student. I finished my course in March of 2009, and I became nationally certified in May of 2009.

In the months from January through early June, I also was a caregiver for a great-uncle. I had help from many family members. He had a stroke at the end of May, and he went to his heavenly home in early June. I also starting working on my bachelor’s degree online at the end of May.

June and July were quite busy with acitvities, my office work, my school work, and various odds and ends. I contracted a really bad case of poison ivy, and I decided that I did not have time to devote to working out and losing weight, but I was going to do it anyway. So I started some lifestyle changes. I had made some smaller modifications prior to this, and at the end of November 2009, I am 39 lbs. lighter. I just started a 12-week challenge with some dear friends. So I hope to have great news at the end of the challenge.

In July, I also lost my paternal grandmother. She was a dear saint of God. I had a mini-breakdown for about a week after her passing. Somehow, losing 3 family members in 7 months can really work on a person. But through that I found that my faith was stronger than ever. And I learned to give it all over to the Lord even more.

August 2009 brought on a new chapter in our lives as our daughter began college. She has been my faithful right-hand person for many years. And I had to make some changes to just about everything in order to learn to do things without her help. I have had to re-do the chore charts a few times, but the boys and I have adjusted. And I have learned that I do have a few cooking skills. :-)

In September of 2009, I added a new activity to our homeschool. We joined a bi-weekly co-op. I am teaching a science experiments class to 3rd to 5th graders. It is a blast. And my boys are enjoying getting to know more homeschoolers. We all needed some fun and social acitivity to our lives. I was also appointed as an administrator of my great-uncle’s estate. He had no children, and this was my last promise to my grandfather that I would take care of his brother.

October of 2009 was busy and enjoyable as fall settled in. We had a great time playing and enjoying our co-op days. I was also learning how to get a lot of work done in very short amounts of time. :-) Each day has its section of things to do, and there is not a lot of time in between activities.

November brought in even cooler weather and more beautiful fall colors. It also brought a new challenge for me in school. I started my algebra 1 course. It was a short, five-week class. And it was intense. And I discovered that I can do math as well as write. Now, I am into week one of algebra 2, and it is definitely working my skills out. I have also had a MAJOR computer crash and server move for my website. I am hoping it will be live and working properly very, very soon. (read that as tonight!) Thanksgiving was a bittersweet time for my family. We rejoice in the blessings of this year. And we miss those who have gone on before us.

I am looking forward to December. We have our church Christmas play. And I am singing my first solo. This is a big fear that I am facing. So far I am surviving the play practices. But the night of the performance will definitely be one to lay before the Lord. I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my family. And I am thankful and blessed that I have had a year of growth and renewal in 2009.

May God bless you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know this is late, but I wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all my many blessings this year. God has been so good to me and my family. We have enjoyed more time together as a family this year, and I am thankful that despite some of the trials of the year, we are closer than ever. For some reason, trials and tribulations either bring you closer to force you apart. I am thankful for being closer as a family.

Off to workout and get my Saturday morning going!

Thankful Friday

Hello! Sorry for my long absence from my blog. Much has gone on in my life this year, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about the things that are important to me. The main things that are important to me are God, my husband, my children, my family, and my friends.

One thing I have discovered about my focus is that I can be very tied up with using my computer all day and all evening until bedtime. I have good reasons for being online. My business is an online business, and I am going through some growing pains and learning some new technology. My education in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree is online. Many of my friends and family are online.

But my husband and children are in the here and now. Do I want them to think they are always competing with my time while I am on the computer? Of course I don’t.

I have had time these past few months to work on a new schedule for us. My daughter is starting a new phase in her life as a full-time college student. That has changed the dymanics of our household. I am needed to do more tasks on a daily basis. I have trained the boys to take on new tasks. And I have let them see that mom can still cook and clean when necessary. So, while it was nice to have someone who did a lot of these tasks for me, it has been nice to jump back into some of the things that keep me involved in my family.

Also, I have considered my role with this blog. I enjoy writing and sharing. But I also have to keep certain boudaries in place. I do not want to write something that would potentially embarrass one of the children one day. I don’t want to share so much that my family’s privacy is compromised. I like sharing and getting to know people trhough their blogs. But I want to keep to certain boundaries.

Many of you know that we suffered a major loss in our family last year. We have also lost two more family members since then, and another family member has received a very grim diagnosis. So I have had a lot to process and work through. I have learned to make priorities. It is easy to get carried away online and look for the next big reward. It is easy to let a stat counter make you feel better or worse about yourself. And really it does not matter in the long run, if I am neglecting my primary jobs as a wife and mother.

Add to all of this some major technical challenges and a few intenses college courses and I have just not had time to write in my blog like I used to. But I miss it. So I am going to try to write more often in my blog. I am on Facebook, and I like the quick and easy format of posting and reading posts in one place. But I also like relationships that I have in the blog world.

With that, I am thankful for my God, my family, and my friends. And I am thankful for the different ways that I have to communicate.

Looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving,

Still around

Sorry for the lack of posting. I have a new interview to post. I have been running like crazy since last Thursday. I had a conference, tax-free week-end, and a computer issue. It seems I am never bored.

August is the busy month for me, since there are a lot of homeschoolers who buy books in August. So, feel free to join in. I don’t mind staying busy. You can find my website at www.dhss.com, in case you didn’t know.

An Interview with JoJo Tabares of Communication Comedy Network

In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to interview several Christian publishers. Today, I have the opportunity to introduce you to JoJoTabares of Art of Eloquence and Communication Comedy Network.

Many of you may know her from Grace Talk Soup and Communication FUNdamentals. She is starting a new program called Communication Comedy Network. I listened to her podcast last week, and I plan on working it into my schedule each week. I love that I can listen live, or I can listen later in the day as time permits. The regular scheduled programming is on Thursday mornings.

JoJo, please tell my readers what made you so passionate about communication.

I was a painfully shy child who was always the new kid on the block because every time my father’s company needed a volunteer to uproot his family and take them on a new adventure, my dad’s hand went up! And it was an advanture, too! But as a shy child, I often had trouble making friends. As the new kid, I didn’t even have a history in common with my new friends. I was also kind of a nerd and what they used to call a “goody two shoes.” I really didn’t fit in with many of my new friends. Those factors combined made for an incredibly lonely young lady. I just thought shyness was part of my personality. I was wrong. Through a series of fortunate events in college, I discovered that I was merely untrained in the art of eloquence when it came to social situations. Once I began taking communication classes, I realized that shyness was NOT part of my personality and that I was actually a gregarious goofball who enjoyed socializing and storytelling. I realized that what the ‘beautiful people’ or the popular kids had that I didn’t in high school wasn’t a magic formula or charisma. It was the confidence and knowledge in social situations. That prompted me to want to help others avoid the pain and loneliness I felt as a child.

I raised my children to understand social communication from a very young age. I watched in amazement at the things my children were able to accomplish at such a young age because they had these skills I didn’t until I was an adult.

After I began homeschooling a fellow mom asked me to teach a communication course out of my home that would help her painfully shy daughter. I remembered back to my days as a shy child and knew that a traditional speech course would intimidate the begeebers outta her! It would me at that age! So I began to search for a speech curricula that was creative and fun and taught from a Christian perspective. I found some that were Christian based, but they looked like something that would send those begeebers running for cover! I had been writing since I was 9 years old so I figured I could write my own curricula making it fun and thereby taking the begeeber scaring factor away. Before the books were back from the printer, my class was full and I had parents literally waiting on my doorstep to see if the book was ready for purchase!

I hadn’t thought about selling it, but God opened a door and there seemed a huge need! I started with one general study on basic communication skills, which is now called Say What You Mean for Teens. I soon was asked to create all sorts of communication studies for various ages and situations. Art of Eloquence has studies for all ages including adults. We have studies on speech, conversational topics, defending the faith, leadership and even online audio classes!

I enjoyed reading all the quotes along the side of your blog. Where do you find these gems?

I have collected them for years. I find many of them as I read through God’s Word. I subscribe to various internet newsletters and sites. Some of them come from my podcast listeners or my blog readers or my customers!

Foot-in-Mouth Man (FIMM) is one of my favorite characters. What was your inspiration for him?

Everyone has stuck their foot firmly in their mouth at some time in their lives. FIMM is all of us rolled into one misunderstood character. FIMM sticks his foot in his mouth so often he has Athlete’s Tongue! He makes communication mistakes so you don’t have to. He’s fun to laugh at because he’s not a real person. Ooops! Did I write that out loud? LOL

Please tell my readers what is new at Art of Eloquence?

Well, my podcast is brand new! My co host left the show and I heard the Lord direct met to recreate it in a really fun way. It’s going to be called CCN: The Communication Comedy Network. The network will feature various shows that teach real communication issues in a really funny way. I’ll play all of the characters that host each of about 3 shows per week on the network. I’m going to have a news show with various reporters who report obscure news items that reveal some communication insight. There will be a cable show with a professor who teaches words and grammar. And there will be the main part of each week which will mainly be a talk show. The Talk Talk Show where I play myself as the host. I’ll ask a question of my audience and have an open discussion about experiences as I share tips for better communication in that area. Sometimes the Talk Show will be preempted by an infomercial or a Game Show like a Spelling Bee. Each show is designed to share some insights in a humorous way about communication skills that will be engaging for all ages!

JoJo, thank you for taking the time for this interview. I have enjoyed getting to know you better. And I am sure my readers have enjoyed learning more about you. And I encourage them to tune in tomorrow for your podcast. I know I will be tuning in!

An interview with the Lamberts of Five in a Row

When we began our homeschool journey 9 years ago, one of the first items I purchased was one of the Five in a Row manuals. It did not take long for me to purchase all of their manuals. They were written by Jane Claire Lambert and her daughter Becky Jane Lambert Schoeppner. One of the highlights in my homeschool journey was meeting Steve and Jane Lambert at a homeschool convention in Cincinnati, OH a few years ago. You can see their love for the Lord and homeschool families in person and in their writing. I am very honored to have had a chance recently to ask the Lamberts some questions, so you can get to know them better.

Steve, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Can you tell us a bit about your family. You have been in the homeschool market a long time, and you have touched many lives in the process.

We began homeschooling in 1982. Both of our daughters are married to wonderful men. Becky and Troy have been married 11 years and have four great children. Becky handles Five in a Row operations, shipping, etc. in addition to being a full-time stay-at-home-mom, wife, homeschool mother and church leader. Carrie and Michael have been married 7 years and have one adorable daughter. Carrie and Michael are both involved with Five in a Row as website designers, product designers and more in addition to their own freelance work as graphic artists, website designers and professional photographers.

Can you tell us how God is using you to minister to homeschoolers today?

We continue to travel and speak at state conventions as keynote speakers. In addition we’re actively involved on our website forums each day offering encouragement and advice. We serve on the national board of directors of First Class Homeschool Ministries, and together with Jay & Heidi St. John we do a homeschool marriage retreats called “Real Life Marriage” workshops for Christian homeschool couples.

When did you hold your first marriage encounter weekend, and what led you to hold it?

We began in 2007. We’ve actually only done a total of 5 events because we can’t afford to do them very often. The logistics of getting the St. Johns from Washington State and us from Missouri to where ever we’re invited are complicated with travel and hotel costs what they are these days. However, we are committed to do what we can, because we have seen such an outright attack on marriages in recent years.

You recently had a marriage encounter weekend. Would you like to tell us about it? From what I read, it is not your typical weekend.

No, it’s really not “typical” of marriage weekends. We lay our own lives open in a very vulnerable way. Then we challenge couples to get real with one another and get real with God. The sad truth is that there are few places where it’s less comfortable to “be real” than churches and homeschooling circles. We’re supposed to have all of our ducks in a row at all times and look good. But any hope of healing broken and hurting marriages begins with getting real; taking an honest look at our own lives and the condition of our marriage. First we have to get real with ourselves- then with God and with our partner. We can’t heal broken marriages in 24 hours, but we can put hurting couples on a path that will lead to healing if they have the courage to walk down that path.

How did you become involved in First Class Homeschool Ministries?

I (Steve) was the keynote speaker at the WATCH conference seveal years ago. (Washington Association of Teaching Christian Homes) Jay and Heidi St. John served as president of the state organization at that time. As we dialogued before, during and after the conference we discovered that we both had a heart for connecting homeschoolers and local churches into a life-giving, mutually supportive community. The more we talked the more we felt connected and eventually Jay & Heidi asked us to serve on their Board of Directors for FCHM. It’s been a tremendously rewarding relationship.

What’s new with Five in a Row? I have noticed that you have branched out a bit in recent years.

The homeschool market has changed dramatically since we began homeschooling nearly 30 years ago. Five in a Row has won countless awards and been recognized in so many gratifying ways, but we’re wanting to stay connected to the new generation of homeschoolers today. To continue our vision of effective, great academics acquired through lessons that promote a deep love of learning, and that are presented in a way that cause families to grow strong together, we need a more interactive internet experience for parents, and more ancillary products that can help fill niche needs for each unique homeschool family, etc. We are working on all of these. It also means, in many cases, helping nurture young couples in the area of life skills: Marriage, Christian discipleship, parenting, etc. So many young couples today that grew up in the 80’s really don’t have any known, working model for what marriage and parenting should look like.

We’re also very proud of a new product called “small talk” which is a professionally developed set of diagnostic tools and parent-directed therapies for the more than 10% of children who suffer from speech and language delays. Author Cari Ebert is a professional pediatric speech pathologist and she has offered homeschool parents a complete program for about what one diagnostic testing session would normally cost.

Remind us of your websites, and where we can find more information about your ministries.

Gosh. There are so many these days. Thank you for letting us share them.

Our primary website is www.fiveinarow.com which is where readers will find 10 forums for daily support and much more

Our digital and downloadable products are found at http://fiardigital.com

Small Talk is available from www.homeschoolsmalltalk.com

Jane’s regular nature blog is

http://janesnaturenotes.wordpress.com/

Steve’s Monday-thru-Friday blog of homeschool encouragement and teaching ideas:
http://homeschoolheaven.wordpress.com/

First Class Homeschool ministries is

http://www.firstclasshomeschool.org/pages/

Our homeschool marriage retreat website is http://reallifemarriages.com/

Thank you, Steve, for taking the time to tell us about the ministries you and Jane are involved with. May God richly bless you for the time you have both taken to minister and mentor homeschool families across the world.

An interview with Mrs. Candace of Sonbeams

Let me introduce you to one of my publishing friends, Mrs. Candace of Sonbeams. I was delighted that she was willing to participate in an interview with me. I spent some time reading her information on the Sonbeams website, and I found myself more energized about teaching my preschooler this fall. When you have one preschooler left in the bunch, you tend to be less enthusiastic about teaching preschool — again —- for the 6th time. Kind of like potty training for the 6th time. Somehow, preschool had become just another thing to do. But after reading through her website and looking at her beautiful family, I am off to a better mental start on my school year with my preschooler.

Mrs. Candace, tell my readers a bit about your family.

Well, first and foremost, I want to share that we are a family that loves the Lord. We desire HIS will for our lives above anything else.

My husband is a great supporter of my staying at home with our children. We both realize that our children are a blessing from God,and know that He has given us the responsibility to ‘train them up in the ways of the Lord’. We firmly believe that we will be held accountable for the job we do as parents, and don’t take this task lightly.

I am a former preschool teacher, nanny, piano teacher, and children’s choir director. Children have ALWAYS been a part of my life, and I’m praying always will be. I stay at home with our children, and will be the first to admit that I’m far from the perfect mother/ housekeeper/ teacher. :) All I can do is do what God has asked me to do – and to the best of my ability. His grace takes it from there.

We have 5 children, 4 living with us. Our oldest is a 5 year old son, always ready to learn something new. It’s really a challenge to find new things for him to do! Next in line is our 3 1/2 year old daughter, she’s also our only daughter. A tender heart, eager to serve, full of love – she’ll be starting ‘school’ this fall.

The next blessing for our family joined our Heavenly Father before they were born, and we’re excited to one day meet them in Heaven! God graciously gave us a son the following year, and life hasn’t slowed down since. DS2 will be two in August, and he will be doing Sonbeams on a VERY basic level. It’s impossible to make him believe he’s not as big as the older two. :)

Last, but not least, we have a 3 month old son. He fills our days with smiles and baby noises, hugs and kisses.

As you can imagine, there’s never a dull moment, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We are looking forward to learning to plant a garden in the near future at our new home, as well as trying to raise some hens for our own egg supply. Life itself will be a big teacher for us over the next few months.

After looking at your website, I was energized and excited about teaching my preschooler this year. Tell us how Sonbeams came about.

I guess you could say our oldest is partly behind Sonbeams, aside from the Lord’s direction. :) He has always been ready to learn something new, and I began using what I had on hand to teach him. Much to my surprise, he was reading at 3 1/2 years old! BTW, I’m not counting on another child like this.

I pulled from my experiences working in a preschool years ago as I put together lessons for him. There was that ‘one thing’ that had always bothered me in public preschools though, and was a big reason I left – you don’t have the freedom to place the Lord as the foundation. You aren’t supposed to talk about Him at all, yet are encouraged to share other beliefs/holidays.

I didn’t want my son to just learn his letters and numbers, I wanted him to learn about the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and how can we fear and reverence Him if we don’t know anything about Him?

I also needed something cheap (can I use that word?). As a stay at home mom, we can’t afford to buy lots of curriculum books. We do buy clearance books sometimes, but I needed something more in the line of ‘hands on learning’. While some prefer premade materials, I personally like the option of being able to do/make things alongside of my children. We have fun, and I feel they learn more that way.

I started putting things together in line with the Bible. For instance – In the beginning. What was in the beginning besides God? Nothing! So we started by learning the number 0. Who was the first man? Adam. Adam starts with what letter? A!

Colors – what is the payment for sin? Death, and Jesus paid the price for ALL our sin by the shedding of His blood on the cross – which is red.

Each weekhas a Bible verse, and for A it is Romans 3:23. “For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. ‘All’ starts with A, and what is the opposite of all? None, nothing! Maybe it’s just me, but tying school in with Scripture is exciting, and reveals the wisdom of the Lord.

I love that your preschool program is focused on Biblical teaching. How long does it take to go through one of your typical lesson plans?

This varies depending on each child, and even more so if you have more than one child. I really only had 2 ‘hands on’ children when we started this, and each day could be done in 1 to 2 hours. Sometimes more, sometimes less. When baby #3 entered the picture, the day stretched out MUCH longer. We don’t do all of our school at one time, but instead spread it out through the day.

I like to share with members that they don’t have to complete every single thing written in the guides. They are guides, something to give them ideas of what and how to teach. My oldest still begged for more, but at times, our school day was too much for our daughter. I truly believe at this age you need to go with the needs and abilities of each child. Keep it fun and light!

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?

Of course! I’d love to invite them to visit Sonbeams and follow our blog. This year Sonbeams will be taking a little different approach. While the membership still gives access to the guides from last year, I plan to add to that unit studies this year (but at no extra cost). My main goal last year for families that wanted to start right away was to get the Scriptural part done first. This year I’m planning on adding some more hands on/fun activity type things to the membership, as well as more activities for younger children.

Besides the curriculum, we also just released a new collection of ABC Bible Memory Verse Songs. These are a perfect fit with the lesson guides, as each week’s letter memory verse is put to music. I am a pianist, so sitting at the piano and playing tunes is fun. I also used to teach children’s choir. The Lord began placing tunes in my head and fingers as a way to help my children learn their verses. Before I knew it, He had put together a product to minister to others as well! This project has been amazing to work on, and I’m excited to see how the Lord will use it in the lives of others.

My most important goal with Sonbeams is simply to plant seeds of truth into children’s lives. My calling has always been to children, and I have such a love for them. They are honest and sincere, and their hearts are so open to knowing and loving our God. Thank you so much for allowing me to share with you, and I’d like to offer a discount to your readers should they desire to visit the site. Enter 10OFF at checkout to receive a 10% discount on all Sonbeams products.

I also have a newsletter list, and subscribers receive perks such as private sales, discounts, previews on new products, etc.

Blessings!
Mrs. Candace

Thank you for joining us today, Mrs. Candace. It has been a pleasure getting to know you a bit better. And I am looking forward to a new school year with my preschooler.

For the record, I am not being given any renumeration or products for the series of interviews I am conducting with various homeschool publishers. They are wonderful, Christian friends, and I sought to do these interviews for my readers to get to know these publishers better. It seems that it is becoming the norm for bloggers to mention if they are being paid or given perks for sharing links these days.

Fall Homeschool Festival at Biltmore House

Mark your calendars for the Fall Homeschool Festival at Biltmore House and Gardens. This year it will be held on October 1 amd 2, 2009. The theme is, “Living Large: Biltmore Estate and the Turn of the Century.” They encourage particpants to dress in early 20th Century attire.

Cost: $20.00 per person age 5 and up. Payment is due at the time of reservation.

Dining options: Pack your own picnic, or purchase a box lunch for $7.00 with an advanced order.

There are also upgrade options for visiting the Biltmore House both days. The 2nd day upgrade does not include the homeschool activities.

There are also specialty tours available.

Contact Group Sales for more information at 866-851-4661 or groupsales@biltmore.com.

More information will be posted on their website soon. http://www.biltmore.com/education/programs/home_school.asp

We went a few years ago for the Farm Days at Biltmore, and it was well worth the travel and expense.