Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writing Progress

Last year, one of Autumn's friends wrote a poem at school that was quite creative and cute.  When I read it, I questioned whether Autumn could write something like that.  This wasn't the pride kind of questioning.  It was the 'is she even able'--'does she know how to write at all'--kind of question.  I've written on this blog that I decided to switch writing curriculums this year.  For Kindergarten, I had used The Writing Spot with the girls.  But, the first grade teacher's guide I had wasn't specific enough in its plans so it seemed overwhelming.  That was why I'd switched two years ago.  After two years of Writing With Ease I had questions like the ones I mentioned earlier.  Is Autumn learning to write?  

She is a creative little girl and my feeling began to grow that she needed a creative curriculum.  So, I went back to the curriculum I'd started with in Kindergarten from Great Source.  I'm starting Autumn with the second grade level, though, because she hasn't been taught formally how to write.  Writing With Ease taught her how to summarize (which she still wasn't very good at after 2 years) and copy good grammar and punctuation.  So, we started school last week and she was so excited to jump into her new writing curriculum, Write Away.  The first three days were getting to know her book.  Yesterday she had her first practice journal writing and I wanted to share it.  Her dad and I were pretty surprised by it.  It reinforced to me that I made the right choice in switching.

*Please note that all spelling, grammar, and punctuation have been typed exactly as she wrote them.

My Practice Journal by Autumn

One day I was doing my spelling, When I felt my chair move.  I thought, "I did not move my chair.  Who did?"  I looked underneath my chair and I saw Eli, my silly brother.  I laughed.  I said "Eli, What are you doing?"  Eli said "I want to be a Gost for Haloween."  I said "Eli, I know you want to be a  gost for Haloween.  Now, get out from under there." (Now jsut to be sure, I was not being mean.  I had to do my spelling you know.)  So Eli, my silly brother, my Three-year-old brother got out.  He had draped a blanket over himself.  But instead of taking it off and going to play he said "O-o-o-o-o." (He was being a ghost.)  At lunch I said Eli "Eli since I know how to sew (for the first time,) I'll make a costume for you.  it will be a ghost one."  the end

Sami is enjoying her writing now too.  My plan is to do copywork (one sentence) and dictation (again 1 sentence) once a week with her like Writing With Ease recommends to supplement her writing curriculum, Write One.  

She dictated this story to me yesterday:

Sami's Story

Pam and Dan Race

Pam and Dan race.  Then they have a picnic.  They have a great time!  They get back to the race.  Go Pam.  Go Dan.  Pam wins.  The End

I'm excited to see my girls develop this year in writing!  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Homeschooling Children with ADD/ADHD

I find that I often straddle a line.  Before I homeschooled, I was a public school teacher.  I earned my master's degree in education.  I learned a lot in my classes.  There is an old saying that teachers teach because they can't do anything else, but that simply isn't true!  It take so much skill to be a good teacher.  

When I worked in the public schools, I grew to respect and admire the knowledge and experience of the special education teachers and the teachers that worked with students with learning disabilities.  They had training beyond what I had.   I saw their demeanors and patience with their students.  Because of my experience I have doubted whether a homeschool parent could teach their child at home as well as teachers with specialized education could.  

Two weeks ago, I read a book that changed my mind.    The book was written by Melinda Boring.  It is titled Heads Up Helping.  It was published about 5 years ago.  Melinda is a homeschooled her children all the way through school--kindergarten through high school.  Before she had children, she was a speech therapist.  And she put that experience to good use being a homeschool mom.  I know from watching Eli's speech therapist, that speech therapists are wonderful observers and learners.  Ms. Boring's book begins with her story of how she discovered her son had ADHD.  In the first 20 pages of her book, I learned so many lessons.  I reflected on the things I've said and heard from other moms over the years.  I reflected on what I'd do different now walking forward having heard this story out of a desire to love the children I meet who need a little extra understanding.

In her book, Melinda addresses so many facets of teaching, living with, and loving a child with ADD, ADHD, or other learning disabilities.  She explains and addresses such issues as distractibility, fidgeting, social skills, adapting curriculum, and developing a child's strengths.  I especially enjoyed her discussions of auditory and visual distractibility.  I wish I had read such a book back when I was teaching middle school (although it wasn't written yet)!  She gives simple and constructive suggestions of how to help children cope.  Her suggestions are specific to homeschooling, but I think many of the suggestions would be very helpful for parents with children in private and public schools.  Parents can use her suggestions as spring boards to other ideas that might be feasible in a classroom.  Ms. Boring's chapter on sensory seeking and avoiding convicted my heart deeply.  My middle daughter is very tactile.  After reading this chapter, my perspective changed.  I need to realize that my daughter "sees" through her touching.  I need to train her how to "see" gently and make appropriate requests of her.  I can't expect her to go into a building full of glass for an hour and not touch anything.  But, I can expect her to go in for a half an hour with close supervision by Mommy.  She can handle that.  

There is one noticeable topic that she does not address--medication.  I have been corresponding with the author and I learned that she did this purposefully because medication is such a controversial topic.  It was not a helpful tool for her family.  From Melinda, I learned that medications can often have horrible side effects and they are not consistent.  When children grow, their bodies often don't continue to absorb the medication the same way.  I have had other conversations with friends who've expressed the same feelings to me in the past.  I have three friends with children who have been diagnosed as bipolar or extreme ADHD.  Yet, I have also heard from a few parents that medication helps.  I can see that it is a very personal decision whether or not to choose to have your child take medication.   

I mentioned earlier that this book changed my mind that a homeschool parent can teach their child at home as well as the public schools could teach him or her.  In the course of reading this book, my respect for Ms. Boring as a fellow homeschooler grew deeply.  She was a student of her children.  I also know that her experience isn't limited to one child.  The Borings have three children.  Her oldest son has severe ADHD; her middle daughter does not have any learning disabilities; and her youngest daughter has ADD.  She did research throughout their educations.  She shares in her book that she diagnosed her son by using a list of symptoms from the DSM around the time he was going to enter kindergarten.  She did have that diagnosis confirmed through testing.  As she explains in her book, the label of ADHD was helpful because it "put an end to having him mislabeled - as a defiant, disobedient, stubborn, stupid, noncompliant, and more." (p.36)  That statement was very insightful to me.  I thought back to how often students were spoken of that way in the schools I worked at.  After reading this book, I have no doubt that Ms. Boring was better able to teach her children than the schools could have.  I also now believe that homeschooling parents can teach children with learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD successfully!

There is one question you might have after reading this book.  That question is, "How did she know behaviors were due to her son's ADHD and not misbehavior?"  My husband, who did not read the book, could not get the picture of Ms. Boring and her children that I did by reading the book.  I could see by reading the book that Ms. Boring cared deeply for the hearts of her children--which I believe is the place all misbehavior begins.  In my emailing Ms. Boring, I posed this question to her and she confirmed to me that each parent must observe carefully and seek to know the hearts of her children so that he/she can discern what behavior is misbehavior and what isn't.    

So often books and resources within the homeschool world don't extend beyond this little world.  This is one book that I wish would.  Parents could be equipped with the tools in this book.  Educators would enjoy this book of anecdotal research that is easy to read.  Honestly, most of the books I review have been published by major publishers.  Once in a while I have reviewed a book by an author that has sought to use an independent publisher so that they could get their work published.  This is one of those books.  I think that is part of what impresses me so much about this book--it isn't one that has been fine tuned by a highly paid editor and given a glamorous cover.  It's real and honest.  Ms. Boring is down to earth and easy to like in her writing.  She's honest with her readers.  

I can't give this book a rating that will do it justice.  On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I'd give it 5+.  There's room for improvement (mostly chapters that could be added), but as it stands this book is a treasure.  If you know a Christian parent of a child who has learning disabilities or ADD/ADHD, please pass this recommendation on. There is a burden on my heart that the parents who need to hear this message would.  

If you have a child who has ADD/ADHD or a learning disability, you may find Melinda's website very helpful.  
Heads Up Now   On the website, you'll find many of the resources that worked for her children and resources that she has gathered, such as her fidget bundle.  Her book is also available via Amazon or her website.

Lastly, in case you were wondering, how are her children doing now?  Did they all graduate from high school?  Yes, they did and it sounds like they are doing well.

Please note that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book from the author in e-book form for review.  I read the first 20 pages online and then printed out all 172 pages on my printer so that I could read it.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

The subtle morals of picture books

I only have a minute but I wanted to post this before I forgot.  

People who don't homeschool often ask me why I do when I tell them that I homeschool my three children.  What exactly was it that was the catalyst to my decision?  I say "my decision" because it prompted me to bring it to my husband and then we discussed it together.  That catalyst was a conversation I had with a friend when Autumn, my oldest daughter, was 1 1/2 years old.  My friend had twins in first grade and a two year old.  She had received that week a notice from the school about sex ed. that requested her permission for instruction of her children.  

First grade?  Sex ed.?  What???  

Now, what sex ed. meant to this school district in Georgia in first grade is probably different than you'd expect.  Although, sexual reproduction is now discussed across the country in fourth grade instead of in seventh as it was when I was growing up.  

Sex ed. in first grade was the propagation that all types of families are morally right.  This specifically meant the teaching that gay couples with children are legitimate family units just as families of heterosexual parents with children are.  That is how sex ed. is introduced in first grade.  

My discussion with my friend made me realized how early on the schools would be teaching my children what was right and wrong without the foundation of the Bible and God.  Often I likely wouldn't even know what my children had been taught.  This realization hit me hard.  It distressed me.  And so, I found myself on the road to homeschooling.

Last weekend I picked up several picture books at a garage sale.  I got home, cleaned them up, and set them aside.  On Wednesday, I needed to clean up my homeschool room and I thought I'd find one of the books a new home.  The book was titled Babies Everywhere.  I had flipped through it and it looked cute and fun to read.  I set it aside.  The next morning I had a nagging thought that I should examine it carefully before I gave it to someone.  So, I opened it up.  There were many mommies and daddies holding their children.  But, then I noticed something else.  In the city scene, a man was walking arm in arm with another man.  A few pages later, a mommy was laying on the bed on her stomach while her baby was in the crib.  On top of her lay another mommy.  These two women were obviously more than friends.  On another page, there were two daddies sitting very close together while one held a small pair of shoes and the other a little girl.  I was pretty surprised and disconcerted.  

This book reminded me of why I homeschool.  This is how sex ed. begins in our public schools today--through the reading of such a picture book.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The First Day of School

This past week was a bit stressful and busy in our house.  

My husband decided in July that he would like to take the week off before we started our homeschool year.  I also had been notified that I had jury duty and we thought that this of all times I could actually go.  So, last Wednesday we headed off to Dutch Wonderland for the day.  It was great.  We all had a good time, though the water park area was way to crowded to be enjoyable.  The lines for the rides were never too long (I grew up near Disneyland which routinely had 1-2 hr. waits for rides).  So, that was Wednesday.  

Thursday my husband began talking again about a second motorcycle.  We've been in the discussion phase for a long time about this.  I had shared with him that I felt my van loan should be paid off before we bought a new bike.  We realized that next month we could either a) pay for a bike outright or b) pay off the van.  On Sunday, I called in and missed being called for jury duty by one panel!  So, we spent Monday with the kids and discussing motorcycles.  I'm sure you understand this--big purchases require a lot of discussion.  You want to make the right decision and not waste the resources God has given you.  On Monday, we did decide to buy a second bike outright.  The question left to answer was: "Which one is the right one?"  God was gracious and brought about a few conversations so it became clear to my husband which was the right bike.  So, Tuesday we spent the purchasing said bike-- a Suzuki Bandit 1250s.  New vehicle purchases always seem to take a while, so it consumed our Tuesday.  We rushed home and got to share a meal of crabs with good friends.  

Wednesday morning rolled around and my husband headed off to work and I headed off...  to start planning the first 3 days of school!!  Lost in the shuffle of the past week because there wasn't time was the planning I had planned to do!  Mid summer, I had planned out my overall plan.  But, not my daily plan.  

There are many ways to plan for homeschooling.  I have to admit that I love to plan and organize.  I feel better when everything has a place.

One of the ways to plan is to plan week by week.  Take your books and plan out your lessons for the week based on what you were able to do that week.  This works well when you don't need to get through the whole book and you are working on a skill like phonics and reading instruction.  You don't want to rush or feel pushed by a deadline.  

One friend of mine plans for 6 weeks at a time.  She takes a day and spends that time writing out daily plans.  I assume she probably writes 4 days of plans per week--allowing for one day of unexpected events and activities.  The rule of thumb that I've heard is that the goal is to get through 80% of your material in a year.  

Then, there's me, the uber-planner.  I have to admit that when I first started homeschooling I really didn't plan at all.  But, that's when my husband got concerned and my plan book became my first proof that I was teaching our daughter.  So, for PreK3 and PreK4, I wrote 2 or 3 days of plans.  For those years, I didn't have set goals of which books I wanted to complete.  They were open ended years.  So, I planned on Sunday afternoon for the following week.  It took me about 15 minutes.  My curriculum for those years is simple.  My plans were more like checklists for me.  I would check off what I taught to hold me accountable.

Kindergarten was different.  I realized that I needed to cover more.  But, the subjects I was focusing on were math and reading.  Both are subjects that need mastery.  I think I wrote a week's plans at a time.  I didn't allow for many days off, though, and showed my daughter and myself only a little grace.  I was afraid and nervous about teaching my daughter to read.  It is an enormous skill that I marvel at.  It is amazing how God helps our children's brains connect symbols to sounds, then connects those sounds together to form words, and connect words to form sentences.  It is amazing when you consider it!  It is also awe-inspiring and inspires fear in me.  I hadn't gone through this process before.  I did not have any fellowship or guidance that year so it was a difficult time for me to find my way on my own.  I wasn't exactly sure what to do.  My weekly planning worked okay, but I knew it wouldn't be enough for first grade.  I needed to plan more extensively for first grade.  It would be my first official year and I wanted to make sure I covered everything.

I should mention that when I was a classroom teacher my greatest weakness was switching plans midstream.  I didn't follow through when I was teaching language arts long enough to see the fruit of that curriculum plan.  If it wasn't working right off, I scrapped it.  The way this experience affected me as a homeschooler was that I was afraid I would do the same thing--and my children would suffer for it.  So, I chose textbooks that I could use which hold me silently accountable to teaching my children what they need to learn.  God has graciously helped me find books that work for me and my kids.  Except for one occasion (Autumn's first grade math), I try to switch in the summer instead of in the middle of the year if possible.  

After preschool, I had asked my mother in law how she planned when she homeschooled.  She explained that she would take her books at the beginning of the year and divide them into 4 quarters and then write the days on top of the pages of when they were to be completed.  At the time, I assumed she meant Mon/Tues/Weds/Thurs/Friday, but I realize now that I didn't specifically ask what she wrote on each day to label that day's work.  What I attempted to do for first grade with Autumn's Explode the Code book was to write a calendar date for each Monday, and then write Mon/Tues/Weds/Thurs or Fri at the top of each page.  Again, I got myself into trouble.  When Autumn was sick or I was sick, the daily plan got messed up or I had her make up and do double pages to get back on track.  I think this method could work if you numbered the days  of school (1-180) instead of assigning them to days or dates. 

For my first grade planning, I did increase my planning.  Bu, I OVER planned.  I made a daily plan for the year for all subjects (subject by subject).  Crazy, huh?! I realized about two weeks in that it was crazy.  It was completely impractical.  For one thing, it was too much paper and I had planned for each individual subject.  Then, I took those individual subject plans and colated them into daily plans the week before and filled in my plan book.  I wasted a lot of my time and paper.  The other problem was that it didn't allow for unexpected breaks or days off.  So, I pushed through.  I felt constrained by my plan--Blech!  I felt locked in and so did Autumn.  In many ways, it was a miserable year for her and I.  I think I may have learned more than she did that year!  When I finished up that year, I knew I needed to keep pursuing a plan that would work for me.  

An even bigger problem I face that year was that I pushed Autumn and myself too hard.  I realized that I could get our grammar done in March--so I did!  We finished several of her subjects early in March and April.  I think I was afraid that we wouldn't get through it all.  I also switched math curriculums on Autumn in the middle of the year so we had to double up a bit on Math to catch up and get on grade level.  At the end of the year, Autumn wasn't happy and either was I.  I saw improvements--more efficient planning and less time wasted.  I also saw my folly--pushing too hard and cramming our year into a shorter time span.  I asked too much of my daughter and of myself.

For second grade (last year), I made some big improvements.  My weakness in first grade had been the impulse to work ahead and to over plan.  In second grade, I resolved to fight the impulse to work ahead and to remind myself that the planner showed me we'd get through our books by the end of the year.  

So, I made my monthly calendar using abbreviations.  This planner had a page for each month.  I took my books and broke them down by chapters.  Since I typically try to do 180 days of school like the public schools (which is typically 36 weeks), I divided the number of chapters into the weeks.  I spread the chapters over the year.  (I didn't do this for our phonics and reading instruction books.)  I made this plan so that I would know that we'd get through the books by the end of the year and also so that I would be better able to resist the impulse to work ahead.  I allowed a week for spring break and two weeks for Christmas break.  

Each week, I wrote the plans for the coming week.  When Christmas break came and we weren't on track with social studies and science, we only worked on those subjects for the first 3 days (no Math or Language Arts) until we were back on track.  By the end of the year, we'd completed all of our subjects except for Art.  I have realized that Art is often a hard one for homeschoolers to get done.  We made it through about half of our book.  That was enough for me.  Art isn't a core subject.  I was encouraged through conversations with friends that I could show myself and my kids grace in this area.  

I felt good about my planning last year.  The improvements I made worked well.  We finished the year without being burned out.  There wasn't as much tension or stress in our classroom.  Of course there was some when my daughters struggled to focus and procrastinated, but that's just part of homeschooling.  My weakness was art (a required subject in this state)--so I signed my kids up for an art class this year.  I have also started looking into other art curriculums in case I'm not always able to sign them up for a class.  I'm going to be posting reviews in the coming weeks of the curriculums and resources I've found.  

I have looked at a lot of planners over the past few years.  Last year, I used this one by Carson-Dellosa.  It had lined blocks for all of the subjects.  I used one side for Autumn and one side for Sami.  I had ordered the Well-Planned Day the year before, but it only had room for 4 subjects.  I loved all of the extras in the planner, but there wasn't enough planning space for me.  I found this planner at a garage sale for $2--it's normally $10-15.  

Since I am not a unit study person and teach subject by subject, I need a lot of space to write.  There were 8 skinny blocks on each page of the Big Plan Book.  That was my one complaint.  I wanted wider blocks.  The neat freak in me had a hard time going over the lines.  

This year, I used pages from my Mom's Journal for the monthly pages when I planned back in July, but I wasn't entirely happy with it.  I knew last week that I needed either to make a planner that worked for me or go get one!  Lakeshore had a coupon for a free planner if you spent $20.  I thought it was worth a look.  So, we stopped by there on the way to Trader Joe's.  Lakeshore had lots of planners to look at so I could compare.  Surprisingly, I liked the Lakeshore Planner best!  It's only $7 and has lots of pages.  It has a monthly section as well as a daily section which is perfect for how I plan.  So, I had my planner--now I just needed to get my planning done before the school year began!  

Tuesday night after our friends left I copied my monthly plans into the monthly section so everything would be in the same book.  You can see my abbreviations.  I made one column for Sami's books and one column for Autumn.  The subjects I've included in these monthly plans are Social Studies, Health, Science, Literature, and Math.  If my children need to stay on a math chapter longer, I do slow down for that.  It is very important that they master math concepts before they move on.

Back to my planning story... Wednesday morning, I printed out a copy of my curriculum plan for each girl and went subject by subject to write the first three days of lessons in.  I clipped this copy with paper clips to the inside of the front cover of my planner.  By 9:30 a.m. I had those plans written.  It meant a later start to our day, but so be it.  We're homeschoolers after all.  I needed to show myself grace.  My husband had actually encouraged me to wait another day, but I wanted to get started!  I wanted the routine back and so did the girls.

This picture shows my daily plans for the first three days.  There are 8 blocks across the two pages.  I like it.  I drew a line in the middle of the daily blocks for the kids.  I use abbreviations for each book and check off as we go.  I put the corners in each section to show when we've completed this subject.  

For the first time this year, I bought student planners at Lakeshore for the girls.  I have written the assignments they can work through mostly on their own in this book.  Both Autumn and Sami liked being able to check off what they completed.  There are lines for each subject (which I'll probably use in years to come if I use the same student planner), but I just wrote each book on a separate line for now.  I suspect these planners are going to be a work in progress for this year to figure out how to use them best.  

So, that's my planning story.  Probably a far longer one than you'd expect.  But, I think that's how homeschooling is.  Try something.  Figure out what works for you and what doesn't.  Keep what's good.  Make improvements.  My planning this year was so much easier than last year, because I found what worked for me.  Now I get to work on helping my kids keep track of their assignments too!

If you were wondering how my first day went, well, it was a mixed bag.  I had organized my room at the beginning of the summer.  Not only was my planner not ready yesterday, neither was my room.  Desks needed to be cleaned out at the beginning of the day and so did my homeschool room! Over the course of the summer my room got cluttered.  As I began teaching, I started feeling claustrophobic and cluttered.  I couldn't lay out my planner.  So, as soon as we'd gotten our work done for the day, I started cleaning out.  A pile for storage, two bags to donate to a new teacher, a big pile for the garage...  

Today is day two.  I have a less cluttered room and plans done for the day.  The glitch today is that a thunderstorm is forecasted for this afternoon.  So... we're heading out to grocery shop this morning and come home to homeschool afterwards.  Life's just that way--flexibility is required! ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fiction by Women

A week or two ago, I posted a link to ChristianAudio.com.  They are offering a free audiobook download of Hannah Coulter this month.  Hannah Coulter is one my favorite books.  It is written by Wendell Berry.  What I remember most being struck by in this book is that a man wrote it.  He wrote it with all the reality of life and accurately wrote what a woman would think or feel walking in the shoes of Hannah (or at least what I, as a woman, imagine she would think).  What often with books is that people of the of the opposite sex, particularly women, write what they would want someone of the opposite sex to say--not necessarily What they would say.    

This past week I read a book that made me feel just this way.  It was written by a woman, but it felt a bit unbelievable.  I just couldn't imagine a man saying what the man in this book did.  

The book I read was Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren.  I wanted to read it because it examined the struggle when a loved one dies of Alzheimers.  The main character is Krista.  Her mother began showing signs of Alzheimers when she was 14 years old and had full blown Alzheimers by the time Krista was 19 years old.  

The plot also involves Dane, Krista's high school sweetheart.  In the story, Krista and Dane are about 37 years old.  Dane has waited 20 years for Krista and he began the Alzheimers clinic where Krista's mom lives.  Krista has pushed him away many times over those years since high school. Of course the story is as much about Krista and her mom as it is about her relationship with Dane.

The plot about Krista and her mom was interesting, but the part about her and Dane seemed contrived because of the dialogue and their interaction.  I had a hard time believing that Dane would have waited 20 years for her or that he would have said the things he did.  

The writing of this book was fine, but since the story didn't seem entirely realistic to me I wouldn't recommend it.  I did read in the front of the book that the author really did her homework about Alzheimers.  That part of the story was very cohesive.  It was the other plot elements that struggled.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah publishing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why Do I Have to do Math?

I remember when I was student teaching in fifth grade and I asked the kids a few questions.  First, I asked them what was they liked in Math.  I wrote the list on a transparency so they could see it.  Then, I asked them one by one if the items on the list were easy or hard for them.  Then, I went second list of what they didn't like to do in math.  I asked again for each of the items on the list if they were easy or hard for them.  My students started to see the point.  They realized that they liked what was easy for them and they didn't like what was hard for them. I then asked them how long they'd been doing the things that were easy for them and how long they'd been doing the things that were hard for them (I picked one or two things from the list.).   The connection started to be made...  I pointed out that the things they'd been doing a long time were easy for them and the things they were just learning were hard.  So, they needed to know that the more they did something (a math computation), logically, the easier it would get for them!

For some kids, math is not their forte.  But, they need to know its practical applications so they can use it throughout their lives and be competent in what they need to know.  I know many parents who have told me over the years that their kids will not need to know how to Algebra when they're grown up, but they will need to know how to do simple percents, addition/subtraction, and multiplication/division.  I am one of those odd adults who has used algebra all of my adult life.  Just yesterday, I was doing a proportion in my head to figure out how much my husband could afford for a new motorcycle.  I also use simple algebra equations often to figure out the missing number.  But, the biggest part of my life where Math comes into play for me is at the Grocery Store.  In order to be a wise shopper, I am constantly comparing item prices, price per ounce, coupon savings, and prices across brands.  These are skills I want my children to learn and as with any skill, my students would have told you that you need to practice it before it will become easy for you.

So, what math skills do children need to learn when they shop?  When I was teaching, I made a unit on coupon shopping for third graders.  It was a simple unit.  It involved making a shopping list, cutting coupons, comparing item cost with and without coupons, and paying for what you needed.  Recently, I found a supplemental math unit that teaches all of these concepts and more.  It is titled Grocery Cart Math by Jaye Hansen.  It is published by Common Sense Press, the publisher of the popular series Learning Language Arts Through Literature.  This book was published in 1994.  Surprisingly, it is still entirely useful.  I say "surprisingly" because technology has changed much of how we shop in the last 17 years.  The grocery store is one of the few places that hasn't changed as much.  

This curriculum is appropriate for 3rd-5th graders, but I would also recommend it to middle schoolers who need life skills practice of how to use math.  I wish I'd had this curriculum 8 years ago when I was tutoring a high school student who really needed practice like this book provides.  It is not meant to be a full year math curriculum, but it could be considered an elective for middle school, or a summer supplement in elementary school, or a year round activity to keep your kids busy when they go to the grocery store with you!  The assignments are a bit like a scavenger hunt, so as long as they will stay with you while they search or you can trust them to search on their own, it would definitely keep them busy for a few minutes.  This curriculum would also be great for a parent of a child who attends school and wants to supplement at home during the year or summer with some practical math lessons.

There are 38 one-page worksheets that cover math topics such as volume, number comparison, making change, percentage, estimation, rounding, and addition/subtraction.  An example from the volume assignments is finding what is sold in 1-gallon containers and comparing the cost of those items.  For each assignment there is a section to be done in the store and a section to be done at home.  The at home sections typically involve logic and reasoning so that students can understand grocery shopping.  On the volume assignment I mentioned the parent is to discuss with the child why some things cost more than others.  I was impressed by the application section on the assignments.  The at-home sections made these assignments into really useful learning moments rather than just plug and chug worksheets.

The one downside to this book is that is non-reproducible.  The cost is only $8 per book at CBD.  I wish they'd charged $10 instead and made it reproducible.  Copyrights and curriculum are something I believe we have to be respectful of as Christians.   So, what are your options when you can't reproduce a book?  1) Buy another copy.  2) You could three hole punch the book and put it in a binder.  Take a transparency and three hole punch it.  Put it in front of the page you want to work on that day.  Use a Vis a Vis marker to write on the assignment for that day.  3) You could have your child write in pencil and erase their answers afterwards.
That is a lot of work though, so it may just be worth your while to buy another copy!  I do tend to choose curriculums that are reproducible for these reasons.  

If you're looking for a curriculum like this, I recommend this one.  The pages look a bit old fashioned, but they're formatted simply.  Once you read one lesson, you'll probably feel like I did--"What a great lesson!" I know I could have written similar lessons for my children, but sometimes my time is worth more than the cost of the curriculum.  In this case, I think $8 for Grocery Cart Math would be a wise purchase.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this curriculum for review from Common Sense Press.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Comparison Living

Today was one of those days.  It had its ups and its downs.  It started off with a down.  I slowly climbed back up.  Mid-morning I sat down in Starbucks with Broken-Down House and opened it up to start reading where I'd left off.  I didn't realize it, but I'd opened up the book to a different page.  I began reading and began here...

"...as we experience the reality of life in this house, sometimes it will leave us confused and overwhelmed.  Sometimes it will leave us hurt and angry.  Sometimes we will give way to envy because the house of someone living nearby seems far less broken.  Sometimes we will just get weary of the stress of it all and long for a house in perfect repair." from p. 85 of Broken-Down by Paul David Tripp

I was then comforted by this reminder farther down on the same page of this book...

"You have not been left alone...He knows who you are and he knows where you are living.  he knows how hard it is to live in this broken-down house because in the flesh he lived here himself." from p. 85 of Broken-Down House by Paul David Tripp

My strength began to return.  I returned to pick up my kids from their last day of VBS and head home to start  cooking as much as I could.  I had a long list of cooking tasks to accomplish during the afternoon before we headed over to a birthday party before the evening program at church to finish off VBS.

I began my cooking with cinnamon rolls, tomato salad, and bran muffins.  I also made chicken salad for my husband's dinner.  Amidst this 3 hour cooking session, a man came for our yearly termite inspection.  When he was done, we of course began to talk.  Our conversation was very interesting.

He reminded me of myself at 21 when I spoke with a young man who told me I worried him because I had all the right answers, but my heart was missing.  The way I'd put it now was that I was relying on me to fix me--not God.  I heard the same thing from this man this afternoon.  I encouraged him to seek fellowship and come back to church--any church.  I heard him say over and over that he is a lone wolf and that he relies on himself.  He separated from his wife 2 years ago and is now divorced.  He wants to be a great dad.  He's trying to fix himself.  I shared with him that he can't--only God can do that.  We're imperfect sinners.  Of course the conversation threw my cooking off track, but I know that needed to come second.  It was strange to hear someone say to me what I might have said to the young man who approached me 16 years ago to talk about what my relationship with Christ was really all about.

After I'd gotten as much cooking done as I was going to, we headed over to the birthday party.  I have lived next to a military post for six years and have never set foot on it--until Friday.  As I drove onto post, I was struck by how nice it was.  It was a different world from the one right outside the post gates.  As I drove onto the street where my daughter's friend lived, I thought "what a blessing to live here.  The homes are very nice, very little traffic, safe neighborhood...  I thought of all the things one would have to be thankful for if living there.  When I entered the house, I commented to another guest about the quarters.  The woman quickly replied to me how cramped the quarters were and blew my comment off.  In that moment, time froze for me.

I was struck immediately about how we all think the grass is greener on the other side.  I was struck by how easily we all fall into the trap that we need a bigger or smaller home, a newer or older home, a larger or smaller lot, more or less landscaping...  You get the drift.  We live in a world of comparisons.  What we have is so hard to be content with--thinking that if we had something else we'd be happier.  But, happiness doesn't depend on what we do or don't have.  It depends on how we see what we have--our attitudes towards what God has given us.

I heard this song several years ago and it has a powerful message.  One thing that I have missed since my husband got out of the military six years ago was the strong sense of community in the Army.  I had great friends and fellowship during his years in.  But, there was one thing that I often struggled with.  It was the dynamic between enlisted soldiers and officers.  My husband was enlisted in the army.  There is a separation between enlisted and officers.  There are reasons for this. But, there are also, unfortunately, some very crummy side effects.  One of them was that I had friends tell me they and their husbands couldn't be friends with my husband and me.  Most officers' wives would isolate it to their husbands and maintained that they could still be my friend.  But, it still affected how they related to me.  I still remember how one wife reacted to meeting to me and how little I felt.  I had my master's degree...I was a teacher...I knew I had worth in God's eyes and yet I felt so little in that moment.  

Unintentionally on Friday, the men at the party conveyed that they were officers.  I never mentioned that my husband was enlisted.  I could tell they assumed that he wasn't.  The wives assumed as well.  I didn't want to go through the process of explaining that my husband is a good, capable, and smart man.  I didn't want to explain that it was his "enlistment" that gave him the skills to do the job he has now.  I didn't want to feel like I had to defend my husband and myself-- and that we were as good as they were.  

It's amazing to me how quickly someone can make another feel inferior.  I grew up in Southern California.  What you wore determined how people saw you when you walked into a room.  Where you lived was the secondary determiner.  I grew up in a world where people were constantly compared to one another.  

Now, I live in a world that does the same thing, though not as overtly.  The difference is that I grew up on the "right side of the tracks" and now I'm on the "wrong side".  It's been humbling to live where I do.  A year ago, a gal I know said to me when we were thinking of moving that we could come look in her neighborhood but that we wouldn't be able to afford any of the houses where she lives.  Last week, I had an older woman tell me she would never go to the town where I live because it's a "bad area".  Honestly, comments like these make me feel like I'm 10 again and having someone criticize me for wearing the same pair of pants twice in a week. (I only had 1 pair since it was almost always warm in L.A.)  The reality is that people everywhere work to pay their bills and that you can't own a house (except on rare occasion) without working hard to pay your bills and take care of your family.  The stereotypes about where I live have been instilled in the minds of people who live in this county for years.  I wish they'd take a step back, push the reset button, and open their eyes.  Parents work hard to take care of their families and pay the bills no matter where they live.  Where someone lives makes them no less worthy of respect, value, or of friendship.

I don't want my kids to grow up like I did constantly being compared and learning to compare.  They just need to be themselves.  They are valuable because they are who God made them to be and because God loves them.  They aren't valuable because of their jobs or what they can do.  Autumn's value isn't determined by how well she does in school or how well she reads.  I want them to feel good about who they are and not have the insecurities I do that were planted so, so long ago when I was their ages.  

I was really shaken by my experience on Friday.  The interesting thing is that no one said anything overtly to me and not put me down.  But, it's my baggage.  So many memories came flooding back and feelings from the past were once again very real.  So, as I begin a new week, I find myself setting down those memories, closing the book, and getting back up.  I am trying to remind myself to let go and forgive those things people have said to me in the past.  It isn't who I am.  I am not "less of a person" and neither is my husband or my kids.  But, I'm also not painting pictures of Egypt this morning.  I don't long for the life of the Army anymore and my heart is filled with compassion for the wives of enlisted soldiers who still have to deal with the hierarchy.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fear of the Dark

Children have so many fears when they're little.  I remember two years ago when my girls were SO afraid of bugs.  I'm afraid that I wasn't much help since I actually don't like bugs.   Still, I continually tried to encourage them not to be afraid.  I hid my fear of bugs.  When they were upset, I spoke in a calm voice and tried not to make a big deal out of it.  They did seem to grow out of their fear though they still didn't them them.

This summer they changed.  My daughter, Sami, has actually gotten crickets out of the underbrush for a friend's frogs.  She's come a long way.  I believe that part of what has helped her is my friend, Jenny, who loves bugs.  Her example and joy in God's creation--bugs--has opened my daughter's eyes and helped them to feel comfortable holding, touching, and being around bugs.

Sometimes it's hard to know just what to do to help our kids get over their fears.  Bugs are a common fear among kids.  Fear of the dark is another very common fear children have.  

Many parents leave the lights on for their kids.  Some put on music at night.  But, often the kids are still afraid.  As parents, we can help them learn to cope with their fears, such as a fear of the dark, and turn to the Lord.  Often stories can help us set the stage for such lessons.    

Pat Holt and Robyn Vander Weide have written a story titled The Long, Dark, Scary Night.  It is about a little boy named Dylan who is afraid of the dark.  He does everything he can to put off going to bed.  Once in bed, he thinks he sees a monster, a dragon, and then a ghost. 

This story was originally published as a part of a collection of short devotional stories titled Everyday Adventures, back in 1982.  There were only a few pictures with each story.  In this update, the story has been spaced out by pictures.  The language has been updated only a little.  It was very interesting to me to compare the two line by line.  I could see why the authors changed the text as they did.  They made it more readable.  The story flows better.  

My children are not very afraid of the dark.  But, they understand fear.  They struggle with many fears of their own.  In the future, I will remind them of Dylan's fear and how faced it when their fears come up.  One of the ways we fight fear is to hold onto God's truth in His Word.  The parents in this story teach Dylan to do just that.  

My girls, who are 7 and 5 years old, liked this story particularly because they felt the boy was a little older.  They could identify with the little boy and felt he was their age.  My son, who is 3, loved it as well.  

If you have a child struggling with fear--whether it be of the dark or something else, this book might be a great tool to help you model for your child how they can hold onto God's truth to fight their fears.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, I did check around and found that this book--like Searching for God's Love--is sold for the best price at this website:  http://www.seethelightshine.com/store/books/the-long-dark-scary-night.html  It is $8 plus shipping.  It can also be purchased on Amazon for $11.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the authors.

Searching for God's Love

I love used book sales!  At this time in my life, it is less stressful to fill our house with books from used booksales then to stress about finding a lost library book somewhere in our house.  I am blessed that several of the libraries sell used children's books at their book sales for a quarter each.  Whenever I find children's books about God, I always pick them up.  I take them home and read them.  Most of the time I redonate them to the library.  But, every once in a while, I find a buried treasure.  

Four or five years ago, I found one of these.  It was titled Everyday Adventures.  I only paid a dime for it.  I read through these stories with my daughters and I loved them.  They enjoyed them too, though my younger daughter wasn't able to follow them as well because it was a lot of reading and not as many pictures.  She was only 2 1/2 at the time.  

I tried to find the author, Pat Holt, online.  At first, I found a Pat Holt that wasn't the Pat Holt I was looking for.  So, I kept looking.  Finally, I found the author.  Recently, I emailed her and discovered that she has republished two of the stories from Everyday Adventures.  

The first story is titled Searching For God's Love.  It is authored by Pat Holt and Robyn Vander Weide.  It is illustrated by Kevin Brockschmidt.  Searching for God's Love was the first story in Everyday Adventures.  Ms. Holt and Ms. Vander Weide did a wonderful job updating this story.  As I read it to my kids, I saw my oldest daughter lean in and smile as she saw the boy learn about where God's love is.  My 3 year old son's attention never wandered.  

Searching for God's Love is the story of Duwad and his dog, Droopy.  They were given an assignment by Duwad's Sunday School teacher to go home and search for God's love.  He searches all over and doesn't find it at first.  And then, his dad comes alongside him....  

The story is perfect for 3-6 year olds.  My oldest daughter said it wasn't favorite because the pictures of the little boy make him look like a 4 or 5 year old.  She's at that age where she wants to read stories about kids her age.  She did enjoy the story, though.  I could see it in her face.  My 3 year old son just loved it.  I asked him to show me with his hands how much he liked it and he stretched them out wide.  My 5 year old daughter enjoyed it as well.

In my mind, I was of course comparing it to the original story.  I like this updated version much better.  I remember when I read the story originally longing for more pictures!  The authors did a wonderful job formatting the story and breaking it at appropriate points with pictures.  I loved the color and style of the illustrations.  At the end of the story, are a few short questions that follow Bloom's taxonomy of learning domains.  Bloom's Taxonomy is an educational tool that teachers use to help students process what they've learned at a deeper level.  The author's questions are a great example of how parents and teachers can do this with such a story.

What do I want my children to see when they walk out the front door every day?  I want them to see God's love.  This book will help illustrate to them how they can do just that.  I would follow up with your own game.  After reading the book, walk around the house and ask your child to tell you where God's love is.  Then, walk outside and ask again.  My children and I have done this before and it always makes all of us smile.

I highly recommend this book.  I think it's a treasure!  Just the other day, a friend asked me what I recommend for toddlers and preschoolers for Bible story time.  My first recommendation is always Ella Lindvall's Read Aloud Bible Stories.  There are 4 volumes.  They are wonderful for 2-5 year olds.  Alongside this book, I like Kenneth Taylor's Big Thoughts for Little People.  And this book has now been added to my list.  Searching for God's Love is a treasure that I think parents, grandparents, and children will love!  

I am glad that the authors have also chosen to update another story from Everyday Adventures titled The Long, Dark, Scary Night.  I'm going to post a review of the second story the authors have republished tomorrow.  

If you're interested in purchasing this book, I did do a little research.  Only the hardcover is available on CBD and Amazon, which is about $17.  On the authors' website, http://www.seethelightshine.com/store/books.html, a paperback is available for $9.  I calculated the shipping for my zip code and it would only be $2.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the authors for review.   

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not always such a good idea...

This morning I went to visit a friend while my kids were at VBS.  This friend happens to be in a nursing home--in the Alzheimer's unit.  She came to live there a little less than a year ago.  At the time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she and her husband were told to expect about 3 years of coherancy before she she lost touch.  

But, doctors are often wrong.

She got sick and was given an antibiotic that triggered her Alzheimer's to rapidly take hold of her mind.  She had hallucinations and lost her awareness of what was real and what wasn't.  After she was taken off the medication, she regained a tiny portion of what she had lost, but not a lot.  Within a month, she was in the nursing home.  

Over the past year, I've tried to visit her periodically.  But, because I have 3 young children someone has always been sick.  I could only go visit when everyone (including me) was well.  

The last time I visited was a month ago.  It was the first time she didn't know me at all.  I sat with her and sang some hymns to her.  After my visit, I thought I would try and go each week, but I got sick in July and couldn't go.  Her husband had tried to tell me at the time that it was okay if I didn't go.  I reassured him at the time that I wanted to.

Today was probably the last time I will visit her.  

When I arrived, I saw her walking into her room.  I asked if I could sing to her.  She said she didn't know.  She said she was dumber and couldn't put thoughts together.  She walked around her bed and then back around.  She told me "they" were doing something that they'd already started.  She wasn't able to make the decision to sit down.  

I realized that my visit was doing her more harm than good--it was making her more aware of how much she doesn't understand.  It set her ill at ease because she didn't know me.  I told her I loved her and left.

I am sad.  Sometimes what seems like a good thing to do isn't always the best thing to do for the other person.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hannah Coulter Audio Book

Hannah Coulter is one of my favorite books.  So, it seems odd that I don't actually own a copy of it.  It's written by Wendell Berry.  It has always amazed me that a man wrote this book.  It's a wonderfully written book full of insight.  ChristianAudio.com offers one free audiobook a month.  August's selection just happens to be Hannah Coulter. If you decide to download it, I do hope you enjoy it!  


Monday, August 8, 2011

The truth about life

I spend a lot of time reading.  There always seems to be something I am pondering, struggling with, or sorting through.  On the first day of this year, I reviewed a book about suffering titled Be Still, My Soul  http://lovetopaint.blogspot.com/2011/01/understanding-and-accepting-suffering.html.  I enjoyed the book and was encouraged by it.  I read the book because I struggled with understanding the place and purpose of suffering in our lives.  It encouraged me a lot, but I was still left with some questions.

How do I cope with the yuckiness of the world?

How do I keep it from overwhelming me and not becoming cynical? 

How do I keep sight of eternity?

How can I best love a fallen world?

What should I expect of the people in my life?

How do I hold onto hope?

As usual, a book came across my path that I hoped would help me answer some of these questions.  I mentioned it a few months ago in this post:  http://lovetopaint.blogspot.com/2011/05/books-we-choose-to-read.html  I started reading Broken-Down House by Paul David Tripp in late May.  It is now August!  Although I can read many books in a day, some books need to be read over time.  This is one of those books.  I find that I need to read it a chapter at a time and let it sink in.

Paul David Tripp begins with this wonderful quote early in the book, 
"The Bible is not a higher-plane tome about some mystical life of spiritual devotion.  It does not teach blissful separation from the brokenness of everyday life.  No, the Bible is a book about this world.  It is a gritty, honest book.  When we read Scripture, we face the world as it actually is, in big-screen, high-def details.  God doesn't pull any punches.  He doesn't paint over any cracks.  he doesn't flatter or avoid.  There is no denial of what is real and true." p. 26

Tripp explains that we live in a broken-down house that is in the process of being restored.  Our world is a broken-down house and so are we.  This metaphor was very vivid to me when he reminded me of what it's like when you're remodeling a house.  It's messy, dusty, and often chaotic.  Things are out of place until they get fixed and everything's put back.  But, when there's repairs that need to be done, you can either put them off or fix them!  And if you don't fix them--they only get worse.  So, how do we cope with this mess and chaos while fixing the house?

That's what this book is about.  First, Tripp talks about what we need to know to see this world and ourselves rightly.  The second part addresses what we can do.  This book is meaty and has so much solid truth in it.  It is difficult to distill all of the important ideas I have in this book into one paragraph.

I thought I would just touch on one chapter I read this week.  This week I felt particularly convicted by the chapter about eternity.  It began with a powerful story of a woman losing every material thing that mattered to her in this world.  She learns some very hard lessons and realizes that her hope was in the things of this world and not in eternity.  She also faces some hard truths about herself.  Tripp shares that after all that she had gone through she realized that no one was ever good enough for her.  Her expectations for all in her life, including herself, couldn't be met because her hope had been placed in being perfect and in this world.  Questions followed that asked the reader, in this case me, to reflect--am I expecting too much of the people in my life?  Am I expecting them to do things they were never designed to do?  Where is my hope really being placed?  What makes a week good?  (This question implies that what makes our week "good" may not be what should make it good.)

In answering these questions for myself, my thoughts went first to my family.  My children really behave quite well.  They have their squabbles now and then, but they love to play together and love each other well.  Yet I get frustrated at the first sign of a squabble.  Is that appropriate?  No.  

My middle daughter has struggles with eating foods she doesn't want to.  But, is she healthy?  Yes.  

My youngest son gets upset when anyone says no to him, but he's 3!  Pretty usual for a child that age.  I try to talk him through it and help him understand his emotions, but I think some (not all) of his behavior will just have to wait for him to grow up.

My job is to take care of my family and be present with them.  I'm very hard on myself.  I need to be able to admit my mistakes, repent, accept forgiveness, and let go.  I don't need to condemn myself.  

This book is helping me process some issues I've seen in the world and have struggled through this year.  I know this is one of those books that I'll dog ear and underline.  I'll come back to the book shelf year after year to remember and be challenged to put my life and the world around me in the right perspective.  I need to remember to keep my eyes on eternity and God's glory and not on myself and this world.  I need to live in this world and love people well, but not get broken down by the yuckiness of this world.  I hope this book will encourage many people as it has me.  It's like drinking a glass of water when you're parched.  Soda doesn't really cut it, because water is what you've really been needing.  

If you're struggling as I have with the yuckiness of this world and how to cope with it...or if you're struggling with how to help your children cope with how to live in this world and not be of it...I highly recommend this book!  I hope your heart and mind will be deeply encouraged by it as I have been.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Shepherd Press.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What Is Old To Some Is Not So Old To Me!

Today a new book arrived.  

I Remember When... is written by Dawn Wynne.  She happens to live in Southern California, where I grew up.  

When this picture book arrived, my children wanted to read it right away. So, we did. Even though they are 7, 5, and 3, they all enjoyed touching the book and turning the plastic dial on the phone. I explained to them what each of the items on the pages were and how they were used. I also shared with them which ones we have or friends have. I just lent my friend my film camera and my mom still types with her typewriter. We just visited my mother in law's house where there is a rotary dial phone. One of my friends just bought a record player. Many of my friends actually do hang their laundry out to dry. I do realize that for many children all of the things in this book will be foreign to them. My family and friends may be a bit unusual.

On Dawn's website, she has pictures of a storytime she did. She read the book and brought in a clothesline, washboard, record player, and other things people used to use. I think this would be a wonderful idea for a teacher or librarian who wanted to read this book. It would bring the book to life for children to see the pictures and then have the opportunity to actually see how a record player works.

The illustrations are done in a very contemporary style of illustration. My husband and children liked them. I have to admit that I like more traditional styles of illustration. The pictures do a good job of bringing the story to life.

If you are a grandma or parent and you want to talk with your young child about how life was in the 50s and 60s, then this would be a good book to read with them! And if you happen to live in Southern Cal, check Dawn's website, www.dawnwynne.com, for her storytime appearances. 

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for review.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hope, Courage, and Faith

Is faith in oneself the same as faith in God?  


Is Courage based upon who one is the same as courage from God when we are weak?

I don't think so.

Is Hope that our dreams will come true the same as the Hope we have because of Christ?


Our culture touts the values of hope, courage, and faith.  But, it bases these values in the potential within ones self.  It grieves me deeply.  The way these messages are conveyed to us sounds good and encouraging.  How could they be bad things?  They aren't necessarily bad--but they are bad if they take God out of the picture.  

Psalm 2:1-3 ESV
  1Why do the nations rage
   and the peoples plot in vain?
2The kings of the earth set themselves,
   and the rulers take counsel together,
   against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3"Let us burst their bonds apart
   and cast away their cords from us."

The rulers took their counsel together--to rage against God means to take him out of the picture.

What do I think is true courage?

Courage is bravery-- a bravery based on knowing that God is for us and knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

Joshua 1:9
9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

What do I think is true Hope?

Hope is the feeling that events will turn out for the best.  True hope is placed in Christ and that God is working in all that is going on.

Psalm 39:7
7"And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
   My hope is in you.

What do I think is true Faith?

Faith is trust in God.  Trust that He is who He says He is, that He is in control, and that He will do what He says He is.  

Hebrews 11:1
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Yesterday, I posted about a book titled Eight Keys.  It was about a little girl who basically learns that the keys to life are all inside of her.  Faith, hope, and courage can all be found in her own heart.  God was not a part of the picture.

After I finished reading Eight Keys, I picked up another book titled Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory.  It was published by Thomas Nelson.  This book was advertised as "The true story of a blind man, his guide dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero."  This story is much more about blindness than about the events of 9/11.  The Publisher's Note at the beginning explained how Michael became blind.  After the story, there is a timeline for the events of 9/11, acknowledgements, courtesy rules for the blind, a long essay by the president of the National Federation for the Blind, and a list of resources for the blind.  I appreciated most reading the courtesy rules for the blind.  

It was interesting to read Mr. Hingson's story, though I wasn't always engaged.  This book wasn't what I expected it to be.  I was expecting an autobiography that shared how a man walked with God through 9/11.  But, that wasn't really what this book is.  This book is the story of a blind man and all that he has accomplished and done.  It is a story about his trust and faith--not necessarily in God, but in himself and his guide dog.    

As I began reading the book, I kept wondering, where is God in this picture?  God didn't show up until page 106 and then He's talked about for 6 pages.   

Let me take a quick, but related  rabbit trail...my grandmother and great-grandmother went to a United Methodist church where I grew up.  When I was a teenager, I offended my great-grandmother, because I said that if one didn't believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross then they wouldn't go to heaven. She replied to me that faith is a private matter and that it was rude to talk about it.  My grandmother shared with me that she believed if you are a good person you will go to heaven.  But, that isn't what the Bible says.  

I do not want to malign these authors or the Word of God.  What the authors said is essentially true, but there was something missing for me.  The focus of those 6 pages was all about what God did for Him.  His relationship with God seems to be about what God does for Him--a feel good friendship.  This picture of what it means to walk with God concerns me.  It reminds me a lot of what my grandma and great-grandma believed.

Our lives are not to be about us, but to be about God.  We are to bring glory to Him, not to ourselves.  We are to give credit for our achievements to Him--knowing that we are His creation.  I do this very imperfectly, but it is my heart to bring glory to God.  I have lived with much pride in my life and was taught to be proud of myself and bitter when I did not receive accolades I thought I deserved.  When I surrendered my life to Christ, I saw the errors in this thinking.  I now think it is okay to feel good about things I've done--understanding that I could do whatever it is I've done because of how God made me and what He has enabled me to do.  My achievements are because of Him.  

What do I think of this book?  I think it's good to understand the challenges blind people face and how they view these challenges.  Did I enjoy this book?  Not really.  Would I recommend it?  Again, no.  I read biographies and memoirs, because I want to be encouraged by how people have walked by faith.  That isn't exactly what this story is about.  It is very similar to the memoir I reviewed several months ago about Rick Tramonto.  That biography was basically "I did this, I did that, I did this, I did that...oh, and then I decided to believe in God...and then I did this, I did that, and then I did this."  This book follows that same pattern.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Thomas Nelson Publishing.