Dandelions!

This morning, we took a deeper look into that ever-so-pesky-to-adults but absolutely beautiful-in-the-eyes-of-children plant that begins to appear in the spring-time – DANDELIONS. We did some painting play (color blending as we only started with yellow and blue and we made green) and we also read Dandelion by Don Freeman. This “learning” took little planning and gathering on my end and now Noah is more excited than ever to see the little pesky yellow weeds pop up and beautify the world around him. Happy Spring!

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Q1 Rice Report

I realized today that I have not taken the time to blog since January 30th, the day before Noah’s 5th birthday. So much has happened in 3 months!

With every passing day, our faith continues to grow. It is an incredible journey having God be the center of our home and family. We continue to make divine connections with people who matter; people in the homeschool community, people who have committed to a life walk with Jesus, Godly friends who speak biblical words of encouragement over our lives, and connections at church that have absolute eternal value. I continue to learn new things about God’s Word and promises for our lives that inspire me daily to be a better mother, wife, teacher, friend, daughter, and citizen. Living for God and His Kingdom leads to a truly fulfilled life – and I am forever grateful.

Homeschool. We are gearing up for something BIG and awesome in our lives and we are so ready to get started! Steve and I have conversations daily regarding homeschooling that really connect us in our following of Christ. We have absolute victory in knowing that God has led us here and because of that, we will succeed in our efforts to provide our son with the best quality education possible. The deeper we dig and the more we pray, the more we know for certain that this is exactly what God wants for our lives right now. The story goes something like this: In April 2010, when Noah was about 18 months old, in a very unforeseen and peculiar way, I was offered a job at Kalamazoo Right to Life to serve as their Office Manager. I worked there until July 2013 when I resigned to start a home daycare. However, what makes this most significant was the woman I was replacing as Office Manager was resigning to continue a homeschool education for her 3 children. I remember, in meeting and training with this woman, how curious I was about homeschooling. I am the product of a public school education, so my thinking was very much foreign to this idea. It was the day of my interview at KRTL that the idea of homeschooling was planted in my heart…forever. I am not sure she will ever know the impact she made on my heart by resigning that day…for her children…for her family…for their education…and for God. Since the original idea, God has continued to work in the hearts of both Steve and I. When I decided to resign in July 2013, I was replaced by a great young woman of faith. She is very active in her community and the pro-life movement as a whole. She was president of the WMU Students for Life organization on campus which really defines her boldness to a T! Oh, and she was homeschooled her entire K-12 education. So I started at KRTL having homeschooling planted in my heart and I left with a vivid reminder of the seed that had been growing ever since. Meanwhile, Steve started a new job in June 2013 and he quickly learned that his boss and his wife homeschool their children; and she plays a prominent role in the leadership of the local Homeschool Performing Arts organization. We started meeting families at church that homeschool. Steve started stumbling up entrepeneurs, podcasts, books, articles, research and blogs that reference homeschooling and learning of leaders that were homeschooled (and homeschool their children). Here are a select few I have stumbled across recently. In November, our church did their annual Valley Girls Give Back event and the group my mom and I were a part of was delivering wish-list items to Alternatives Pregnancy Care Center to serve our community in a really BIG way. The woman who led our group was incredible and made an impact in my life in that short time we spent together that day. After the event a small group of us went to lunch and it turns out she homeschooled her two children. Since then, she has continued to encourage me. I started (and quickly became comfortable) having conversations with people about homeschooling when the topic of education surfaced and initially, we discovered many naysayers. We believe that with those conversations, we planted seed to a new idea and people began to watch, listen and learn. Since then, many of whom were first resistant to the idea have come around in their thinking. Of course, some have not and with that we have learned that following God’s lead on anything in life will never come with ease. There will always be push-back and negative people along the way and God gives us the tools we need to overcome that. Since the thought was first planted in our hearts, it is amazing what God has done to reward our following Him. He has given us divine favor and connections that only He can provide. He has paved way for fantastic support systems, local homeschooling networks and opportunities for our family to embrace in this journey. With every passing day we grow more and more excited about what God has in store for our family. Stay tuned as there is SO much more to come!

In the last several months, God has planted people, conversations, and connections into my life that are absolutely His work – there is no question about that. I have received messages on facebook from people I have virtually no communication with, and they are seeking God and a church. They see my posts; they think about my posts. Never let evil fear you away from sharing your faith. Social networking sites are a valuable tool for reaching and loving people. I find that people who contact me are looking for “what we have” in terms of happiness, joy and contentment (or satisfaction). “How are you always so happy and positive?” “Don’t you ever have bad days?” “Where do you get all your energy?” “Aren’t you tired?” I believe people are often seeking the freedom, peace, wisdom, and empowerment that only God can provide. They are seeking the tools to do things the “God way.” That is all I do. I try to live according to His Word and EVERYTHING I do, I do it for Him. I get my energy, motivation, creative ideas, thoughts, and drive from God. It is all from God. There are 7 people, which I know of, who have contacted me for information regarding our church and have been led, by God, to VFC. Their hearts have changed, their families have changed, and their lives have changed. Ours has too! We are so proud to be a part of Valley Family Church!! 2013 was a year of incredible opportunity and growth for our family. We love being a tiny part of something so great. Our family is on the testimony page and I cried when I read it. At this point, we could write an entire book of testimony for VFC. This church has changed our family, our relationships, our confidence, our perspective – our lives! Check out their annual report for 2013. I was blown away.This church has changed our family, our relationships, our confidence, our perspective – our lives! Check out their annual report for 2013. I was blown away. I have learned to be comfortable in sharing my faith – even when the moment seems uncomfortable and when being bold is hard and seems awkward. I have learned to speak from my heart (spirit) in faith knowing that God will help me find words that are appropriate for that person in that moment. This has helped me learn to encourage others as they grow in their faith. I love that there is more – more to learn, more to do, more to plant, and more to grow in my faith as I begin to plant His Word in my heart and begin to exercise my ability to access it every day of my life! Having God’s tools and life-guide to access – in trial and hardship or in celebration and excitement – is irreplaceable.

Noah. Every day Noah is growing in his faith as a result of watching Steve and I grow in our faith. We have a Christ-centered home. We listen to WCSG-FM 91.3 Christian Family Radio station in our car always and on the way home from preschool a few weeks ago we were listening and they were doing their spring share-a-thon where they collect funds from listeners for their annual operational fund (it was ending that day, so we had been listening all week). Noah said, “Mom, when are we going to say yes to God and call?” When your 5-year-old is led by the spirit, it is amazing. When we got home, we called and gave a gift as a family and Noah gave his own gift of $1 from his “Give Envelope” (he also has Save and Spend envelopes). I was blubbering and sobbing on the phone and so was the woman on the other end. She was moved by Noah’s generosity. We listened to them announce our names on the radio and they explained Noah’s story on the air! He could not believe what he was hearing from these familiar voices on the air, “When we get a donation with $1 tacked on the end, we know there is a story behind it.” God is doing awesome things in the heart of our little guy!

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We are gearing up for an AWESOME summer of family togetherness! We have many fun adventures, camping trips, and travels planned and are so anxious to explore new things together!

In Him,

Amanda Rice

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4 looked good on Noah…

As I sit and reflect on the year of Noah being 4, I am brought to tears with absolute joy and pride. I could not be more proud of the little boy we are raising. However, I cannot help but face the reality that I just tucked my little 4-year-old into bed for the very last time because he will wake up and be…FIVE!!! There will be a lot of pictures in this post and honestly, I cannot be more thrilled that I feel inclined to catch every moment in pictures. That way, I will then be sure to remember every single important detail of FOUR…forever!

Sometimes in life, there are moments that confirm your heart was right. Today was that day for me. A few years ago, at the Family Expo, our family ran into a great woman when we were searching for preschools for Noah. We kind of knew what w…e were looking for, kind of thought we knew what kind of “curriculum” we were seeking, and kind of knew what environment would be the best fit for Noah. Actually, there is a good chance that we knew a bit TOO MUCH about what we wanted that we perhaps approached our search with a closed and narrow mind. Then, we came across the PCCN Preschool table/booth – where we met Mrs. Kreg. I knew instantly. Well, I knew nothing…it was my HEART that knew instantly. Over the past 2 years, Noah has attended PCCN and been an active part of the summer camps they offer to the kiddos. Mrs. Kreg is one of those women who obviously followed her dreams and chased her heart’s true passion. She loves her work and it is so obvious. She loves her kiddos and she loves the families they come from. Today was Noah’s last “special day” at PCCN, where they take a day of the school year to celebrate each child and what makes them special. His friends get to ask him questions and my far was the question that came from his friend Riley, “What are your favorite shoes?” Lol. Through tears, Mrs. Kreg shared that what she thought makes Noah special is that he makes her a better person – keeping her always wanting to learn. Noah asks a lot of questions, questions that most adults aren’t even sure of the answer. My answer, through tears, was the same as last year – I love his curious spirit and love for learning. Noah loves information – facts – answers. He is a TRUTH seeker. I will say that for ANY parent looking for a very special and unique-in-every-way preschool program, PCCN is where you need to begin your hunt! Regardless of the direction you will go with your child’s education after preschool, PCCN is a great starting point. We love you, Mrs. Kreg! We love your heart and who you are as a person – your family, your values, and your faith. I look up to you as a mentor. You are a true gem and Noah will forever remember the experiences he has had at PCCN! I’m a little emotional that my little baby is turning 5! (Sorry, when my heart overflows…it just overflows!)
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On the 25th, we had Noah’s big annual birthday party. I am sure people wonder why the big birthday fuss? Why such a big party every year? Won’t he have expectations? No. He won’t. And besides, in case you may have not noticed, I like to celebrate everything! Earth Day? Valentine’s Day? President’s Day? EVERY DAY! I am a theme gal so, yes, we will ALWAYS celebrate the day of our son’s birth IN A VERY BIG WAY! ❤ Here are a few pictures from his fun sledding party! It was so much fun and the snowman cupcakes and hot cocoa bar were a big hit.
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Noah’s birthday present from Steve and I this year is a special family trip. We leave tomorrow morning for Grand Rapids to visits a hotel/indoor water park and to visit the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Noah has never been to a hotel and he is very excited for this special trip. Mommy and daddy are equally as excited to get away for the weekend! 🙂
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I am going to share twelve photos reflecting on the past 12 months. I hope you enjoy them as much as my heart does. The memories we have made the past year have been priceless and I would not trade any moment we have shared – for anything.

January 2013 – Dr. Seuss 4th Birthday Party Day!

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February 2013 – A winter family walk at Bishops Bog in Portage.

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March 2013 – Celebrating St. Patty’s Day with cousin, Harmony!

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April 2013 – Climbing a tree at Al Sabo!

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May 2013 – Kayaking on West Lake!

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June 2013 – A walk at the Kalamazoo Nature Center

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July 2013 – Noah first pet…Snowball!

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August 2013 – Our Trip to the Mizikar Family Reunion to Pennsylvania!

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September 2013 – Picking blueberries!

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October 2013 – Our little geographer seeking answers to a few questions!

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November 2013 – Leaf Jumping!

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December 2013 – Riding the Holly Jolly Trolley

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January 2014 – Sledding Birthday Party Day!

NOAH IS 5!

Happy 5th birthday my sweet, silly, kind-hearted boy! As I read Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh, The Places You Will Go’ to him this evening, I cried almost the whole way through it. I let him stay up a little bit later feeling like that would maybe let me hold onto 4 for just a few minutes longer. The fact is – he is growing up. He is growing to make us so proud and we cannot wait to see the world-changer he will become someday.  He is kind, curious, generous, silly, and willing to take the lead. He is strong-willed and I love that about him, but he also has a gentle (and perhaps a bit more laid back than mommy…) spirit like his daddy. He is simply great and I have enjoyed every moment since his birth – even the hard moments. But the fact is, there have not been many. Our little guy has challenged us more with questions about space, science, and the world around him than he has ever challenged us with his behavior. He is good. He is great and we are SO looking forward to a full weekend of snuggling, laughter, and celebration!

Health, Homeschool, & Happiness – 2014

My deal for 2013 was to keep it REAL. I certainly did take more RISKS, ENJOY, APPRECIATE, and I LEARNed an awful lot in the process. My goal for 2013 was to “be more willing to ENJOY and APPRECIATE opportunities to LEARN when the prospect of RISK approaches me.” And I did.

For 2014, I have decided to focus on 3 H’s – Health, Homeschool, & Happiness. I love the photo and text below. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Ps. 37:4 I often get asked the question, “Where do you get all of your energy? How do you stay so busy? Don’t you ever get tired?” Well, God gives me the desires of my heart and has blessed our lives immeasurably.

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I plan to spend more time in the coming days nailing down specific goals, but for now, I know my focus. I know where all of my time, energy, efforts, and heart will be invested in 2014. Our family has so much to look forward to in the coming year and I cannot WAIT for all of the opportunity and adventure!!

Until next time, I leave you with my 3 H’s for 2014. What are your goals, resolutions and desired accomplishments and why? And how do you plan to put your goals to action? I would love to hear the desires of your heart – because acting on goals always starts with putting thoughts and dreams into words.

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Saved By the Bell!

For the past two days, I have spent a lot of time replacing one to-do list with the next. I cross off everything I have accomplished and throw away my post-it – feeling accomplished – and then I realize everything I already did, has a “phase two” and needs revisiting for one reason or another. For example, “Do Christmas Cards” turned into “Buy Stamps,” which then turned into “Print Address Labels,” and finally, today, I got to cross “Mail Christmas Cards” off my list. This, of course, is a smaller-scale to-do and absolutely pales in comparison to all my other to-dos right now. Sigh. I put Noah (whom has been sick for 3 days) to bed this evening I sat down on the couch only to be greeted by 3 neon orange post-its staring at me on the coffee table! I pretended they were not there. I felt and absolute sense of relief when I noticed my bible on the coffee table as well. RING, RING, RING…”Hello?” “Oh, Hello Jesus. I am glad you called.” Saved by the bell.

God instantly took me to Luke 10:38-42 –

“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

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I love this passage. I think about it often, actually, because of the busy life we lead. I will say, that I prefer busy over bored, lack-of-enthusasium, and BLAH any day! Blah isn’t me. I like to be doing something, creating something. However, I will be the first to admit that Jesus often speaks to me in the department of “slow down and focus on what matters”. God called me tonight in the right moment to remind me that CHRIST is the REASON for this SEASON. And it was an absolute relief! I physically feel relief and God’s grace. My duty as a Christian does not involve mimicking the distracted, exhausted, defeated, and task-driven Martha. It is my duty to choose the better part always.

When I get to the end of a day and I realize I have only eaten 3 Cuties clementines and not had a single glass of water all day, it is time to re-focus. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee – to give my full and undivided attention to Him – Christ. That moment matters. It just changed my entire perspective as we approach the day of Jesus’ birth. I don’t want to “reach” Christmas Day gasping for air and feeling like a wrung-dry rag doll. I want to spend Christmas Day thankful, blessed, joyful and my giving-spirit on overload! It is hard to focus on the things that matter when we are so exhausted and overwhelmed.

Take a deep breath with me this evening and know that our God has got us covered – He has our back! Relax. Focus. Breathe. Love. Drink hot tea. GIVE.

We Are Going to Homeschool Noah.

The “WHY?!”

Well, here it goes. Noah was born on January 31, 2009 and as many of you know, it was not an expected pregnancy. As it turns out; he may be our one and only miracle so we plan to invest everything we have into him. In this blog post, I plan to explain why WE have decided to homeschool Noah. We are called. Really, I could stop there. I realize for any unbeliever, however, that this may not be enough reason to take a leap of such. I realize facts, statistics, and information are helpful as well, so I will have a little (well, A LOT) of that to share as well. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, “Homeschooling – home education or home-based education – has grown from nearly extinct in the United States in the 1970s to now about 2 million school-age students. Much research is being done, internationally, on this fast-growing form of education.” We are excited to be a part of it!

We will start off with the number one reason and that is GOD. God took me straight to Luke 6:40 which states “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Which teacher do we want Noah to be like? How can we truly impress upon Noah’s heart if we only see him at dinner and at bedtime? That is not enough time. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Deciding to homeschool automatically puts a family in the spotlight because it is “not normal”. If you want what is “normal”, do what is “normal”. I am not sure your thoughts, but today’s “normal” is rather frightening. Steve and I have spent a lot of time deciding our opinion on “normal” and that is simply NOT what we want for our son. I am so grateful that I do not answer to this world, but to Christ. He has led us to homeschool in prayer and there is simply no further discussion (for believers). If we are following the desire God has put into our hearts, how can there possibly be any further discussion?

The second reason was derived from the overwhelming amount of research we started to come upon once we decided to start following God’s lead. Studies show that much of the criticism and skepticism aimed at homeschooling is due to common misconceptions, overgeneralizations, and flat-out lies. As with any school, they all are different. Same goes for the homeschool. You are given the freedom to make it as you wish for your child(ren). From the perspective of academics, “homeschoolers typically rate 37 percentage points higher than public school students. The average homeschool 8th grade student performs four grade levels above the national average (Rudner study)”. Also, this article also provides great research facts on homeschooling. At home, I can make sure we are going at Noah’s pace (not wasting time or moving on too quickly from a subject area of his interest), ensuring mastery of subjects, having one-on-one teaching opportunities (which is certainly not the case in public schools), and the flexibility to tailor curriculum to Noah’s individual needs and interests.

Thirdly, the opportunity that homeschooling provides is ENDLESS! Time. Time. Time! Time in life flies so quickly and we only have our child for a very short time before he will grow up and move on to big things. Of all the times I have checked, I notice that “me time” is not mentioned in the bible because my time belongs to God and my child. The opportunity would provide the time needed to teach, time to explore, time to research and answer Noah’s complicated questions about the world that surrounds him, time to travel, time to engage in ministry, time to volunteer and invest in our community, time for real-life interactions with people of ALL ages (the opportunity for “socialization” seems more likely here than in a room of 30 children his same age), time for hands on experiences, time to visit nursing homes and read to the elderly, time as a family and most importantly, time spent with GOD. He is not likely going to get closer to God in a public school. Noah has an incredibly unique love of information and we want to continue to feed that rather than snuff it out with curriculum.

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Our Goal. I truly think that Erica, blogger at Confessions of a Homeschooler, says it beautifully: “We asked ourselves “What do we want our children to look like when they’ve finished their formal education? In Luke 2:52 it says “And Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and men.” We want them to learn to trust in the Word of God, to have it hidden in their heart. We want to train them in the way they should go, so it may go well with them. We want them to be healthy, confident, and to know they are beautifully and wonderfully made. We want them to keep their childlike faith, and we want them to be a light in this world. We want them to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [them] to give the reason for the hope that [they] have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Pet 3:15) We want them to be confident, to have good manners, to be compassionate, to be respectful, and to be humble in spirit.” This is exactly our goal for Noah.

That is a lot to ask of a teacher. We’d rather trust God to work through us than leave this important work up to a stranger.

Before today, only our family knew of our decision to homeschool Noah. Steve and I had been praying, researching and discussing it and it is amazing what God does in your life when you simply yield to His will. Suddenly, the fear of judgement isn’t so scary. Suddenly I feel more equipped than ever to travel this journey with my family. My parents were incredibly supportive and we appreciate their optimistic outlook and the confidence that gives us. My parents, of course, were not surprized because I have been going against the status quo and the world’s expectations my entire life. Mandy doing something different again? No shock there! After all, I was a Republican, pro-life powerhouse all the way through high school and my education at WMU. Being pro-life on Western’s campus is a task in itself. It isn’t “normal”. I have never been “normal” and I plan to stay that way. We appreciate the supportive response we got from Steve’s sister and her husband. They expressed that they are excited to see us continue educating Noah at home and they shared in the excitement that this journey will bring our family. They expressed this love and support even though that means we will have to stop providing daycare for their sweet girls in May 2014. My siblings are all very supportive and excited to see how something so “different” unfolds in our lives. My best friend said, “Everything you do, you do great. This will be no different. You will exceed all expectations and run over all naysayers.” And I will. Here is what I say to the naysayers: DO SOME RESEARCH and accept that we were led here by God. We refuse to maintain relationships with any Eeyore as we pursue this exciting journey in our life!

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I enjoyed the time Steve and I spent talking about our personal public educations and how we did (or didn’t) benefit from the experiences we had. Steve did not enjoy his experience in school. He expressed that he didn’t have too many friends and was picked on a lot. He feels he still has a speech issue that was never corrected. I had a big group of friends, I was an athlete, I went to the proms and dances, I was involved and was liked by (most of ) my teachers. My public school experience was, overall, good. I enjoyed it. We have decided NOT to spend our time bashing the public schools and pointing out the numerous, absolute shortcomings of the Common Core and standardized testing. We have made a commitment to remain positive and settle that it is simply not for OUR family. Is the public school a good fit for other families? Sure! Do they do a great job at educating the masses? Sure! Is it a good fit for Noah? Absolutely not at all.

Oh, and socialization. This is such an interesting topic and aside from homeschoolers being more socialized, we are interested in HOW Noah will be socialized. Manfred B Zyskthis says, “Go to your local middle school, junior high, or high school, walk down the hallways, and tell me which behavior you see that you think our son should emulate.” As I stated, we don’t want “normal” for Noah. Noah has an introverted personality and we are not interested in changing that about him. Steve is an introvert and still prefers to “play” (or work) alone. As his parents, we know and have seen Noah thrive and lead in any and all social settings he has been in. He, in fact, has probably had more social experiences than some children leaving 8th grade at the local public school. So no worries, we will not forget to socialize him! That is actually our specialty.

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When you think about a “homeschool”, what does it look like to you? Chances are that if you view it negatively, you and I are seeing it very differently. I see constant opportunity to learn and thrive in the child’s AREA OF INTEREST. I see the absolute lack of standardized testing. I imagine freedom to explore what you love. I see the lack of “rushing” and teachable moments spent teaching. I am not a teacher (as I have been reminded, but I could be with only a small bit more schooling as I have a bachelor’s degree), but I believe whole-heartedly that the impact we have as parents trumps any “school” experience a child will ever have. That is simply the truth. I see lack of pressure and PEER PRESSURE. I see a fun, faith-filled, thriving environment where failure is not even considered. I see failure and shortcomings turned quickly into conversations about strengths. I see social experiences and time spent with children and people of ALL AGES in the real and natural world in which we need to learn to live and operate. I see God everywhere. I see family time, togetherness, and lack of the idea of traditional “school” all together. I see travel. I see wonder, curiosity and imagination gone wild on a constant basis. That is what I see. What do you see?

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We are so excited to start this faith-based and exciting journey! We are going to have so much fun! We may just spend our first day of class sitting on a blanket under the wind turbine located on KVCC’s campus. Learning takes place by doing. There will be a lot of “doing” going on in our homeschool.

Again, we thank the family and friends that have expressed confidence and support in our decision. We appreciate your love and faith in us!

Here are just a few of the helpful resources we found:

Michigan Home Education Conference – http://conference.homeschoolmichigan.org/

National Home Education Research Institute – http://nheri.org/

Kalamazoo Area Homeschool Association http://www.kahsaconnection.com/

Home Education League of Michigan http://www.homeedmi.net/

Homeschool Achievement Confirmed Research http://www.hslda.org/docs/media/2009/200908100.asp

HOPE Support Group in Plainwell – http://www.kahsaconnection.com/SupportGroups/HOPE.aspx

OASIS Homeschool Support Group – http://www.gatheringplacechurch.net/oasis.php

US Department of Education – http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009030.pdf

Academic Research on Homeschool Performance – http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/home-schooling/

Michigan Department of Education – Laws – http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-6530_6569_35175—,00.html

Home Schooling in Michigan – http://www.michigan.gov/documents/home_schools_122555_7.pdf

Research Facts on Homeschooling – http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html

Great Homeschool Conventions (some hosted in Ohio) – https://www.greathomeschoolconventions.com/

Interview with Dan Miller – http://www.homeschoolnetcast.com/home/2011/6/30/22-the-homeschooling-buzz-interview-with-dan-miller-retired.html

The Farmer’s Wife Tells All (former public school teacher homeschooling her 4 children) – http://www.thefarmerswifetellsall.com/2013/11/06/5-reasons-we-dont-homeschool/

TLC (The Learning Community) – http://www.tlckalamazoo.com/

11/6/13 – Four Years and Counting…

Four years ago on November 6th, I was prayerfully considering how the rest of our lives would play out. I was looking around at the 200-some people who were part of our special day and thinking about how each of them played an instrumental part of our lives in that season. Four years ago today, I married the BEST friend a girl could ever ask for. I married my soul mate. What we started on November 6, 2009 was something that is growing beyond my wildest imaginings. We have faced some challenges and I am gratified for each one of them because it has allowed us to fine tune what has grown to be a spiritually full and exceptionally healthy marriage! So far, we have beaten all odds together and we have overcome the doubts that so many may have had about where our lives would go since 2008. Is it not totally evident that God was on board the whole time? That HE held the blueprint?! It was He who set us in motion and it was He who brought us together to meet in 2005. I am thankful everyday for the plan that God held for our lives. We have been and continue to have our lives blessed more than I could have ever dreamt. Happy 4th Anniversary, Steve! You are our rock and a great illustration to our family of what Godly love looks like.
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There it is, in Acts…

Things become clear to me when my heart rate is at its maximum capacity in beats per minute. Unlike most people, I think best when I am moving and usually in a beaded sweat. Relax and think? Not so much. Not for me. Tonight, after getting Noah in bed, I worked out so hard that I actually threw up and that has not happened since high school when I would train for softball. Nothing beats the feeling of pushing your body’s limits. I forgot what that felt like. Anyway, I am inspired to write tonight about a recent revelation I have had. Acts. The Books of Acts in the Bible. I will be absolutely transparent and admit that the subject of the Holy Spirit has always been a fuzzy area for me to comprehend. Father, YES. Son, YES. Holy Spirit, Yes…I think…kinda. Let me sort out why. First thing is first, I need to take my shoes off. (I cannot write with shoes on).

I am going to start by giving every bit of credit to Pastor Beth Jones and her book, Getting a Grip on the Basics. Tonight in my class at church we were going through chapter nine in the book, “How to Be Sure You Are Filled With the Spirit.” My first thought, when I went through the material and studied all the scriptures LAST WEEK was, “Well, yeah. I am. I am solid in my faith and I believe it all. Everything. Not just pieces and bits. I pray and sing praises to the Lord daily.” I had already been through the material because I simply could not wait to find out more about what His Word had to say about this topic. I didn’t want to wait. Something kept prompting me to read Acts. I was hungry for Him and His Word. Well, this chapter and the entire Book of Acts made it all crystal clear to me. You should read it in its entirety.

I need to first tell a little story that has been on my heart for years. When I was in college, I had an experience that I have NEVER been able to make sense of or process in my mind. Now I know why, my faith is not based on information and feelings that the brain can produce. I found myself one morning, at a church with my family for my nieces dedication. I knew right away that it was not like a church I had ever been in before…and the church was decided on by my nieces mother (whom is no longer part of her life). I will say that I was in a season of life that usually led to me feeling like I got hit by a bus, often in the mornings. I have never used a drug in my life, but alcohol used to be my weakness. I didn’t drink it often, but when I did, I would drink too much. The idea of limiting it was unclear to me. Anyway, I was at this church with my family waiting for my nieces dedication. The pastor did it and I think everyone thought we were getting ready to go. All of the sudden, out of the clear blue sky, the Pastor says, “You there, in the pink sweater. Can I pray for you?” Ps. I was wearing the pink sweater. I was mortified. First of all, I had a pounding headache due to my poor choice the prior evening. Secondly, I was not at a good season in my life. I was confused and unclear about the future. Needless to say, my heart was not 100% set on my faith and the God I had grown to know and love. So I stood up and let this man prophesize to me. He went on, and on, and on about how the Holy Spirit was talking to him about ME. Why me? I was thinking, “Why did he pick ME out of all the people in the room.” He said, and it stuck with me to this day because I think about it often still wondering, WHY ME, “You are a leader. You have power to make changes and to make a big impact. You are a leader. Lead. Run and lead. I know you will lead. There are big plans in store for you.” WHAT?! What was this guy talking about? At the time, I sat there thinking, “What a total joke! Did the Holy Spirit mention to this guy that I am still under the influence of alcohol from last night? I sure hope God can’t see me today. I just wanted to go to bed and hide.” Then, it happened. He started to speak in tongues with his hand on my shoulder. My left shoulder. I really left thinking he was nuts as I had never been in a church that spoke in tounges! I also knew enough about God to go home and ask for forgiveness in prayer. I will NEVER forget that experience.

I share this story with you because I have finally reached the point in my faith to realize that the Holy Spirit is very real. I always knew he was, but I was just unclear about it. WHere exactly was He? He is real and He is Alive inside of me. I am SO glad! What a relief! I now can explain to people “where I get all that energy” and “why I am always so happy” because I was not really sure. Why did Steve and I not shed one tear, conquer the fear and beat all odds when he suddenly lost his job unexpectedly? What prevented us from a season of major depression, confusion, and worry? It is God. God did that. Our faith. I am living for an audience of ONE. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is something one simply receives by faith. Reading through Acts and 1 Corinthians has made the purpose for praying in the spirit perfectly clear to me. It answered my questions and filled that spot; that wonder. I have learned that speaking in tounges is not necessary to be filled with the spirit and that every prayer language is different. For me, it is a song. It is praise, worship and melody straight from my heart. Maybe tounges will come later, I don’t know. But for now, I plan to master prayer in my native language. Not to say whether of not the pastor I encountered as a college student was the real deal, but one thing I do know is that I have found myself the past several years trying to figure out what it is he was talking about. Until next time, I will keep living in Crazy Faith. My friends and family already think I am crazy, so why not keep up the expectations?! All my thanks and gratitude to Valley Family Church, Pastor Beth and Jeff Jones, and The Basics!

My book mentioned one that stuck with me. 1 Corinthians 1:27, But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

Going forward after my recent revelation, I am going to spend much more time in purposeful prayer. Real prayer. Not just the boring and repetitive mutterings. No more trailing off in prayer and falling asleep before I am finished. I now know what God intended for us in prayer. I cannot wait to see what our God has in store for our future.

Pumpkin Playdoh Recipe

I have had many requests to post the Pumpkin Playdoh recipe, so here it is! Enjoy it with your little one(s), as that is always my intention. This is a great lesson in coloring blending and science! I love sharing ideas. Happy harvest to you and your family!

Pumpkin Playdoh

Combine in a large pot and whisk until combined:

1 cup flour

1/4 cup salt

1 t cream of tartar

Add and whisk until smooth:

1 cup water

1 T oil (any kind will do)

10 drops red food coloring

10 drops yellow food coloring (add more food coloring until desired shade of orange is achieved)

A bunch of pumpkin spice

Cook over low to medium heat until set; stirring constantly. Remove from heat and knead when it is cool. PLAY! RIp some grass out of the ground, go on a nature hike to find colorful leaves, acorns, walnuts, rocks, sticks and pine cones. All of these things can be used for creative play with the playdoh. Store in a bag or air tight container. Enjoy and SHARE!

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