Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Calling All Mentors (Yes, That Means You Too!)

Dear friends,

In my post about "The Joys of Mentoring" this past Sunday, I promised to put up an article I wrote several years ago for Nancy Campbell's Above Rubies magazine.

Calling All Mentors (Yes, That Means You Too!)
by Virginia Knowles in 2001

When many women hear about “Titus 2” style ministry, with the older women training the younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God,” they often envision the older woman as a sweet gray haired grandma setting an extra place for tea in her cozy cottage. And that’s wonderful! I’m so thankful for the foundational principles I’ve learned from older authors and speakers like Nancy Campbell, Elisabeth Elliot, and Edith Schaeffer. But I also need to see these things lived out, so I am grateful for friends, usually only several years older than me, whose personal examples I can watch and follow in the areas of raising young children, home schooling, and handling the cultural challenges that teenagers face. I think that when the Lord is talking about older women, he is also looking for any serious Christian woman who is further down the road in life, anyone with valuable experience to share with someone coming along behind. We all need to aspire to this ministry, and we all need to start the process now. Don’t waste these years while waiting to attain senior saint status! Get all the help you can from mentors in your own life, and then turn around and help someone else.

Years ago, I felt the call to start ministering to other moms. Knowing how absolutely imperfect I am, I felt extremely inadequate. However, I knew I had a message to share, through one-on-one conversations, public presentations, and most of all, writing. I started small but the opportunities have grown tremendously. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. During the years of trying to share with other women what is on my heart about family life and home education, I’ve seen four keys to mentoring.

Truth: This is our solid and enduring message. We can’t just blurt out our personal opinions. Our curriculum is God’s Word, his standards, his desires for our lives and families. We must be Bible students, we must be women of prayer, we must surround ourselves with godly teaching and encouragement from other believers, and we must be serious about living reverently! And, yes, we must be brave enough to apply that truth to personal situations, even if it means confronting someone (gently) with an area which is making them stumble. We can also fortify one another for the realities of life.

Transparency: Along with truth about God’s word, we must be truthful about ourselves. We’re not even close to perfect. If you exude a Super Mom image, that will be very discouraging to a younger woman who feels she could never measure up, and it can be so disillusioning when they finally see you mess up. Boom! You fall off the pedestal! No, we must always be humble and confess how much we need God’s grace to cover our sin and shortcoming. That’s the gospel. We haven’t fully attained, but we are pressing on anyway. If a mom has an idealized notion of motherhood and is disheartened by her own failure, it’s a relief for her to hear that others struggle with the same things. From our own hard knocks experiences, we can challenge her to engage in spiritual warfare on behalf of her children, rather than expecting a rose garden without weeds and thorns. (I need to be reminded of this all the time!) On the other hand, we must also be discrete and not just dump our past and present problems in full view. This destroys our family’s privacy and makes the other person extremely uncomfortable. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your lips. There is a time to share your struggles with someone, and a time to refrain, which brings us to the next key.

Trust: In any mentoring relationship, there must be mutual trust. We need to know that the other person will not gossip or turn against us. We need to know that the person will be honest with us. When advising someone, we need to trust that person to do what is best in her own situation. She may not be at a place in life where she can receive what we say right now. Or she may agree, but isn’t in a position to implement it because of other family members, health or finances. Or maybe it just wasn’t what God would want to say through us in the first place! We must always trust God that he will work these things out in his own good time. We plant the seeds, and he can make them grow.

Training: Finally, in all of our emphasis on spiritual issues, we must not neglect the practical every day “keepers at home” stuff, like how to organize a house, feed the family, serve the husband, and teach the children. I think of the “wives meetings” that our church had when I was a newlywed career lady, and how I was encouraged to trust God for starting our family. Two of these friends also showed me how to make log cabin quilt blocks. I remember my excitement about going to a home decorating class at a local church -- what an outreach opportunity! When I first started home schooling, several moms showed me their books, shared their catalogs, and gave me helpful hints. I’ve been a mom for fourteen years now [in 2009, let's update that to 22 years!], but I still love to learn about all of this stuff! I need it! What an area for Titus 2 training!

Whatever your age, ask God to show you what you can do to encourage other women to follow his ways!

If there has been a special mentor in your life, could you please hit the comment button below and tell us a little about her? What did she do or say that was particularly helpful to you?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Joys of Mentoring

Dear friends,

Yesterday, I had the immense privilege of taking part in two very special events -- one about giving mentoring, and the other a sweet reminiscence of receiving it many years ago.

From 9 AM to 2 PM, my friends Meredith Curtis, Cheryl Bastian and I presented the Finish Well workshops about high school home education. We didn't know how many people would show up, so we were so blessed when about 40 ladies arrived. We all had a lovely day learning together. I wish I could have heard Meredith's and Cheryl's workshop! Each of us treasures the opporunity to mentor other mothers. Soon, we will try to post our workshop notes, PowerPoints, and/or videos, as well other helpful web links, so check www.finishwellhomeschool.blogspot.com/ when you get a chance.

In the evening came another absolute delight for me! Our dear friends Roger and Mel Franks were in town, and about 50 of us got together for a reunion. (You can see pictures here.) I suppose I need to back up and explain here. In 1984, I started attending Northland, which at that time was a small community church meeting in the English Estates Elementary School cafeteria. Roger was one of our pastors there. I had started visiting Northland because I had heard him teach on John 1 at our InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting at UCF.

I met my husband Thad there a few weeks later. We used to go to a Bible study at Roger and Mel's house during our courtship and engagement, and I grew to love and respect them for their wisdom and gentleness. They loved pouring their lives into others, which is the heart of mentoring. A year later, Roger left the pastorate and moved his family of five to Maryland to join up with the Great Commission Church there. Another year later, after Thad and I were married, we followed them up there. It was such a blessing to soak up their mentoring for the next seven years of early marriage, motherhood, and home schooling before we moved back to Florida. During those years, Mel gave birth to her final four babies (some of them premature, which required extended bed rest) and we had our first four. I vividly remember several instances where Mel spoke such words of grace and clarity to me when I was discouraged or confused. She is the one who taught me the concept of the "happy mess" -- how we should not to get upset if we see the remnants of our children's creative fun, though we should remind them to clean it up when they're done.

Mel mentioned last night at our gathering that a dear lady named Marge Nelson (pictured left) had mentored her during early motherhood. I turned to thank Marge, because mentoring is really a chain of love from older to younger, and on down the line as the younger becomes older, and then more younger women come along. So if I have mentored any of you in any way, you can thank Mel and Marge. And you can pass it along!

I think it is a tribute to Roger and Mel, and to the joys of mentoring, that so many folks would come to see them 25 years after they moved away. But you know, as precious as they are, they have been just one link in our chain. So many of you have shared your lives with us as well, and we are so very grateful to God for you!

Go explore the joys of mentoring!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Met a VIP 25 Years Ago... Then I Married Him!

Dear friends,

Yesterday, Thad and I celebrated our quarter-century anniversary of knowing one another. I actually wrote last year about our first meeting, so I won't do it again. You can read the story here: Two Dozen Years and Counting.

I would like to share just four things (out of many) that I appreciate about my husband, along with some fresh examples.

His integrity: Recently I mentioned to him that I had lent some home school text books to someone who hadn't returned them yet. He replied, "That's OK. What I'm really concerned about is whether we have borrowed something from someone else and not returned it." He would never want to take advantage of anyone! I've seen this over and over again even since I've known him, and I respect it.

His organization: Thad likes to have everything all laid out. When he was shopping for a used car so that he could pass his Camry on to Rachel, he had his "car buying" folder filled with his notes about everything related to his search and the particular car he eventually chose. We bought a 2000 Toyota Camry from a private party yesterday, and when we went to pick it up and get the title transferred, the guy was really impressed with how thorough Thad was with his information. It's a good thing that Thad is so logistical in his thinking, because I am not at all. My fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants style is certainly a challenge to him, but he hasn't given up on me yet! :-)

His simplicity: Thad commented yesterday that his "new" Camry had a few nicks on it, but that he had bought it for its low mileage. I smiled and told him how much I appreciated the fact that he wasn't trying to make some fancy impression on people with his car. I also told him, "If I had thought you were that kind of guy, I wouldn't have married you!" We are pretty plain people. I'm glad that he has never liked me to wear much makeup, because I don't particularly care to bother with it except for very special occasions. Thad is a thrifty man and shops for the best deal, but he's not stingy. He does try to make sure we have a decent computer in the house, because he knows how much it means to the rest of us.

His prayers: I can't count how many times we've been talking about something, even while running errands around town, and he'll say, "Why don't we just pray about it?" And that's what we do, right then. (He doesn't close his eyes while he's driving and praying, though!) I think he realizes, like I do, how inadequate we are for doing the things we need to do, and how much we need the Lord's help. We've had our share of bumps along the way these past 25 years, but with the God's grace and a solid commitment, we've gotten through them -- together!

This past weekend, our church (http://www.metrolife.org/) showed the movie Fireproof. It is a grace-filled film about a firefighter whose troubled marriage is rescued when he takes on "The Love Dare." Thad and I saw it when it first came out last year, too. Thad mentioned how much he like the music, so I bought him the soundtrack for it yesterday. It's got several very touching songs. One of them, "Love is Not a Fight" by Warren Barfield, starts out like this...

Love is not a place to come and go as we please
It's a house we enter in
Then commit to never leave
So lock the door behind you
Throw away the key
Work it out together
Let it bring us to our knees
Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave
May God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight
But it's something worth fighting for.


May God bless you all with his grace and love!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This is the Day (Wisdom from an Egg Carton)

Dear friends,

Yesterday when I opened a carton of eggs to make dinner, I found a curious and delightful thing printed on the inside: “This is the Day which the Lord has made: Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalms 118:24” What a smile that brought to my face! It’s such an example of glorifying God even in business. Thank you, Dutch Farms Wisconsin! I cut out that little chunk of Styrofoam and hung it above my stove as a reminder.

In honor of the egg carton’s divine advice, I’d like to think of one day that the Lord made -- this past Monday -- and rejoice in it. Join me!

We shall start with the morning, since I am in a chronological mood. You might be tired of hearing about scrapple, but we are not yet tired of eating it, so that makes a good beginning to the day, if not also to my story. I had mixed a huge batch over the weekend and was now frying up the first of it. It turned out well, which is fortuitous since one daughter woke up, smelled it cooking, and said, “YAY!” I would not have liked to disappoint her, and I didn’t. A certain son came out moaning that he did not feel well at all, but declined to spell out the specific symptoms. He perked up considerably upon devouring his scrapple, hovering near the plate where I was flipping the sizzling slices from the griddle. He ate more than his share, which I encouraged, largely in part because he kept patting me on the back, hugging me, thanking me for making scrapple, and telling me what a GOOD MOMMY I was. I definitely go for that sort of boyish affection. The scrapple had also apparently remedied his aforementioned undefined malady.

(Thank you, Lord, for good food that I can prepare for my family!)

Next up on the schedule: swim lessons for Ben and Melody at Cady Way. If you were a thorough blog reader last week, you might have noticed prior mention of this at the bottom of my post, And They Were Strong and Bold. To put it shortly, Melody had been carrying on like a kidnapped princess, screaming and kicking and generally behaving unroyally – until the very end of Thursday’s lesson when she decided that swim lessons were actually fun and that Miss Kendall was not a sea monster. Not surprisingly, Monday morning found her apprehensive again, but I am happy to report that she quickly reclaimed Thursday’s courage and joy. I got to slip away and swim five laps. Someday she will swim laps and thank me that I made her take lessons. I hope.

(Thank you, Lord, for strong bodies and for the opportunity to try new things.)

At home again, I determined to fit in at least one vital facet of our intended summer schedule: morning Bible time. We are still picking our way through Isaiah, this time chapters 35-36. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)

(Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Word -- your a love letter to mankind – which is illustrated by your beautiful world.)

I read during Melody’s nap time after lunch, lying on my bed next to her. I had seen the Pulitzer prize winning novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, praised by children’s author Kate DiCamillo, as well as by Biblical counselor David Powlison. The plot: John Ames, a dying 76 year old Iowa preacher, writes a memoire for his 7 year old son. With an eye for natural beauty, a heart for humanity, and keen insight into theology, he artfully weaves back and forth between past and present in his tale of life, love, and conflict. A good book, I would say. I am not using “good” as generic faint praise, but in the truest sense of the word: “good” being a virtue, a fruit of the Spirit. (Much as I have referred to the Bible as the Good Book, but I won’t capitalize it in reference to a mortal novel.)

(Thank you, Lord, for authors who understand and take the time to write and rewrite to get it right.)

Later in the afternoon, my friend Ruthann called. This is not a common thing, since she is a missionary to Italy. Happily, the Wells family is on furlough, and she had an extra slice of time to bestow on me, the grateful recipient thereof. In the half hour before she arrived, I cleared the living room of laundry baskets and then sliced peaches and nectarines. (There was no time to bake a cobbler, which would have been rather homey and hospitable, but fresh fruit is still a worthy offering.) Ruthann and I traded small tales of real life and family and education and ministry. I told her about my scrapple experiments, and of my relatives Priscilla and Margaret who have patiently coached me by e-mail on the fine points of concocting this Pennsylvania delicacy. As I walked Ruthann to her van, I noticed a package peeking from my mailbox. It was from Margaret, my scrapple coach, second cousin, and friend. It contained two boxes of Bell’s poultry seasoning, a very thoughtful and practical response to my comment that I hadn’t found any locally for my scrapple. Ruthann smiled to see such a vivid proof of the cousinly kindness I had just been praising only moments before.

(Thank you, Lord, for thoughtful friends, even ones who live so far away.)

By then, dinner time loomed upon me. Monday is one of the three nights of the week that I cook. (Teenage daughters are wonderful in the kitchen!) Fortunately, Thad had browned an extra batch of hamburger while making burritos last weekend, so it was easy enough to add beans, diced tomatoes, and sauce to make a big pot of chili. I also sliced more peaches and nectarines to make cobbler. The recipe in our church cookbook is easy enough that I won’t need to refer to it again: 1 cup each of self-rising flour, sugar, and milk, plus one stick butter, and then the fruit. I doubled it, and we had enough left over for the next day. Hospitality is not for guests only, but a daily opportunity to nurture our families as well.

Just after dinner, Joanna asked if she could meet her friend Cynthia at Starbucks so they could encourage one another about their Bible reading and prayer times. Good enough! (“Good” – as in fruit and virtue again!) I loaded the three younger kids in the van, dropped Joanna off, and then headed to Sam’s Club (just across the street from Starbucks) for milk and such.

(Again, Lord, thank you for family and friends and food! We can never be TOO grateful!)

Before I knew it, the younger kids’ bedtime arrived, but first I wanted to read aloud to them. Mars Needs Moms! by Berkeley Breathed (the cartoonist of Bloom County) was my literary choice. It starts, “Mothers. Milo often wondered what so special about them. Anyone could see that they were giant, summer-stealing, child-working, perfumy garden goblins. There was hardly much special about that.” He changes his mind by the end of the book, thanks to some extraterrestrial intervention. Mars may not really need moms (though it makes for a hilarious book) but earth sure does. I’m glad to be one of them. Tucked into bed, Naomi and Melody asked for their goodnight benedictions: "The Lord bless you and keep you and make his face shine upon you and give you peace.” Then we sang Psalm 23 together.

(Thank you, Lord, for the motherhood and for goodnight prayers.)

My final task of the night: ordering most of our home school curriculum from Rainbow Resource, a company which has awesome selection and the best prices I’ve seen. For weeks, I had been carefully compiling my list of books needed for our kids’ Providence home school co-op classes, as well as a large order of grammar and literature books for my English students. Fortunately, my husband Thad suggested that we go over my list line by line together, checking to make sure we had all the right stuff. That’s a good thing, because we had to make a few adjustments to the order. So here’s to Thad for being an excellent home school administrator! It’s not exactly a 9 to 5 job – we were up until almost midnight finishing it up.

(Thank you, Lord, for my dear husband, and for the privilege of educating our precious children. And thank you, Lord, for sleep!)

“This is the Day which the Lord has made:
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

My Books: Learner's Journal, Real Life Home School Mom & Common Sense Excellence

Dear friends,

Over the years, it has been my passion to share with other home school moms about how to handle the special challenges which we face as we educate our own children. These are the books I couldn't resist writing! I hope you enjoy them too!

Each July or August, I do a new print run of my three books: The Learner's Journal lesson planner and resource log, The Real Life Home School Mom, and Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade. I am planning to do take them to the printer in about two weeks, to be ready for shipping the first week of August. Since I am a home school mom and not a big business, I like to keep my inventory low and only order from my printer a little more than I need right away. Please e-mail me by Friday, July 24 to let me know which books you would like to order, including the titles, quantities, colors (for the Learner's Journal) and your estimated total with shipping.


The Learner's Journal is a practical lesson planner and resource log used by hundreds of home school students over the past eight years. You will need one copy per child. Color choices are red, blue, yellow, pink, green, or ivory. As always, profits from The Learner's Journals will be sent to Malawi for the ministry of native church planter Pastor Headson Makazinga. It is $11 per copy. To see more information on the Learner's Journal, click here: http://www.virginiaknowles.com/learnersjournal

Review of The Learner's Journal at Eclectic Homeschool Online
Review of The Learner's Journal in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

The Real Life Home School Mom: It's a Life in ReVision addresses the emotional, spiritual and logistical aspects of home school, though it does cover academics as they relate to these topics. This is a book for moms who want to thrive and not just survive the home schooling years! Since I have learned so much and gained new vision since I orginally published the book in 2000, I did a major rewrite and expansion of this book two years ago. This is reflected in the new subtitle: "It's a Life in ReVision." This new expanded version (over 175 full-size pages) is $18 per copy. To read the introduction and chapter summaries, click here: http://www.virginiaknowles.com/thereallifehomeschoolmom
Review of The Real Life Home School Mom at Eclectic Homeschool Online

Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade, a comprehensive subject by subject teaching guide with over 240 pages, is $20 per copy. I also revised and updated this book last year. To read the introduction and a detailed table of contents, click here: http://www.virginiaknowles.com/commonsenseexcellence

Review of Common Sense Excellence in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
(scroll down to middle of page)
Review of Common Sense Excellence at Homeschooling from the Heart


  • Shipping in the U.S. is 10% with a minimum of $3.50. If you live in outside of the U.S., please e-mail me so I can calculate the shipping charge based on your order.

  • If you order 3 or more copies of any combination of books, you can take a $1 discount per book.

  • Wholesale prices are also available for orders of 15 books or more. Ask for information!

  • I would prefer orders by check sent in the mail. If you would rather order by PayPal, we can do that as well. Either way, please e-mail me a preliminary order right away so I can get a count of what I need to have printed. Then I will send you information on where to send payment by mail or PayPal. (My PayPal information has changed since last year!)

Let me know if you have any questions about the books or the ordering process!

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, July 9, 2009

And They Are Strong and Bold... (Girls and the Grand Adventure)

Dear friends,

I stepped into my 20 year old daughter's bedroom and it was a huge mess! But there was a reason, a good one. Julia is in the middle of packing for her fourth missionary trip to southern Bolivia. She leaves Saturday. Not only that, but her friend Sarah, who is also going to Entre Rios, has been staying with us for several days, so they are packing together. I sat down amidst the piles and breathed deeply, a few tears trickling. For they are strong and bold, and I am one happy mommy.

Among the clothes and toiletries in the packing pile are gifts: Twisty balloons, crayons, coloring books, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and Spanish picture books for the children. Spanish theology books for the village pastors. (The books are all from Brightlight, our favorite used bookstore. My joy was to help pick them out earlier this week.) Two jars of peanut butter (one creamy, one crunchy) for Angela, the only other American at the mission. A box of books for Barbie (an American Mennonite home school mom in Entre Rios) which was sent here by her parents in North Carolina to avoid the exhorbitant postage rates into Bolivia. Several small photo albums filled with pictures Julia took the last time she was there, to bless the dear families she loves.

And oh, how she loves them, and more importantly, oh how much she loves the LORD. That's what makes me cry. She loves enough to venture so far away, taking countless travel risks I don't know if I could take. She loves enough to do without the comforts of home -- like clean water or a real bed. She loves enough to work hard on a construction project, to sweat and maybe even bleed. She loves enough to learn the language and attempt to translate for her American friends. With this kind of love, my daughter is strong and bold in the Lord, and so is her friend, who is new to this missionary stuff, new to South America. I am so pleased for both of them!

Her 16 year old sister Joanna, too, is preparing for ministry the great beyond. She leaves for a nearly two week trip to the Dominican Republic on July 23, the day after Julia arrives home. I can't wait to see how she will grow from this extreme cross-cultural experience, this grand adventure.

And then I think of my little Melody, on the eve of her fourth birthday next month. She cried hysterically for the first three and three quarters days of her swim lessons at the Cady Way YMCA. "Mommy! MOMMY! Stay with me! I don't like the water!" Not content that I was only a few feet away. Not even remembering how much she loves to jump in with me when it's not lesson time. And yet we persevered. This morning, rain drenched her lesson time and she shivered in her towel on the edge of the pool. Three times she screamed and balked and would not "kick-kick-kick" her chubby legs for Miss Kendall. The fourth, miraculously, she smiled angelicly and kicked, even said "Thank you!" to teacher. For extra good (and brave) measure, she put her face in the water and blew bubbles. She is not yet strong and bold, but she is edging along the way, a splash at a time. And I am glad. (No, the picture is not from the pool, but from Lake Lily, where she made an accidental splash by falling in last month... I did my best to calmly treat it as an "oops" instead of as an emergency, because I don't want to encourage fear.)


You can read Julia's blog from her three month trip earlier this year at http://www.juliaknowles.blogspot.com/. My favorite post is Las Abras: Love because a little lame old man named Santiego lives what love really is. You may also like to see my blog posts "To Bolivia with Love" (a poem and more) and A Ship in Harbour is Safe..

My oldest daughter Mary Tindall is spreading her wings in other ways. Yes, she's been to Bolivia too, but now she's a wife and a journalist. Her latest freelance project: a movie story for Christianity Today. Check it out here: From Fireproof to Florida. You go, girl!


Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Organizing with Plastic Zip-Style Bags at Home and On the Go

Dear friends,

My friend Toni Anderson at www.thehappyhousewife.com/ (excellent site!) asked me to post some information about organizing life with zipper-style plastic bags, in conjunction with her series called "Itch to Pitch." Summertime is a great opportunity to put your little things in order, whether you are at home or on the go! Trust me when I say that I am not a neat freak. I do this just to survive, and it works!

Zipper-style bags, such as Ziploc, are are more than just for sandwiches. If you plan to use them frequently, you can buy them in bulk at Sam's Club or Costco. We try to keep all of the sizes -- snack, sandwich, quart, and gallon -- on hand. You can also reuse them, especially if it is for dry items. I like to label my bags with a permanent marker.

Here are some things we have done with our family of 12 over the years:

Game pieces: If the box is damaged or you don't have a lot of room on your shelves, take everything out of the box and store the pieces and instructions in a quart or gallon size bag. We put the bags for all of our games in a plastic bin, and stack all of the boards underneath.


Puzzle pieces: We put all of the pieces for a puzzle in one bag, and then cut out the picture portion of the box to put in with it. It can also help to label the back of each puzzle piece with an abbreviation for that puzzle. That way, if pieces get separated from their sets, it is easy enough to see which bag they need to go back into. If your kids have specialty Lego sets, such as one that makes a helicopter, that they don't want to get mixed in with the others, store them in a labeled bag.

Sets of flash cards: Label the bag with a description of the card set (i.e. Addition 1-20). Store several sets, labeled edge up, in flip-top plastic box, and you can easily find the needed ones at a glance.
School backpacks or travel amusement bags: Pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers, tape, and other school supplies can go in a bag within the backpack to keep them from getting lost or from damaging books and papers. If you wish, you can put a set of items, such as colored pencils, in its own bag.

Booklets: A set of phonics or other educational booklets can be kept together in a bag, and stored with other sets in a magazine holder on a bookshelf. (I like Dr. Maggie's phonics readers!)

Books-on-the-go: If you are taking along books to read with you in a tote bag or carry-on, put them in a bag to keep the pages from getting ruffled up during transit.
Purse: Keep a small bag in your purse to keep organize receipts, business cards, other stray papers, hair supplies, cosmetics, etc. (Actually, I use a small plastic first aid box for much of this. I don't carry a checkbook most of the time, so I put my driver's license, debit card, YMCA and library cards in one, and then just put the receipt in it when I buy something. I use another one for small supplies. But a zipper bag is good, too.) I often put my MP3 player, along with its earphones, in a snack size bag to keep them from getting damaged or tangled in my purse. I also like to carry Gospels of John with me to give away to store clerks or other new acquaintances along the way, and a bag keeps them from getting damaged. (I get them for free from the Pocket Testament League. The web site is http://www.pocketpower.org/
First aid kit: We keep a first aid box in our cupboard, but we organize it with small bags. I especially like to keep one bag stocked with whatever I would need in a hurry to dress a wound. This might include various size bandages, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, and steri-strips. When I pack a first aid kit for a trip, it is easy to grab this one bag and know I have the essentials.
Medical On the Go: When we do travel, I also put a variety of children's liquid medicines -- such as pain reliever, anti-nausea, and decongestant -- in a bag to prevent leaking, and then use another bag for an assortment of adult pills in their labeled foil-pack wrappings. When our church sends medical teams to Bolivia or other countries, they pack a lot of the medical supplies in zip bags, along with the instructions!

Traveling: Store groups of small items in quart or gallon size bags to keep them together in your suitcase, or to keep toiletries from leaking all over everything. If you have small children who need help with matching clothes, pack a complete outfit in one gallon sized bag. Then they just need to grab one bag when they get up in the morning, and it will have their shirt, shorts, undies, and socks all ready to go. If you will be staying overnight in a motel en route, pack ONE suitcase for the whole family to take in, rather than one for each family member. Each child can have their own stuff in one bag within it.
Car supplies: Pack a quart size bag with little essentials like bandaids, sanitary supplies, tape, pens, notepaper, small scissors, tissues, etc. Then store it in your glove compartment. You can give these as inexpensive practical gifts to other people, and make sure your teen children have them in their cars, too.

Homeless packets: Many of our friends assemble zip bags full of items that would be appreciated by a homeless person. This might include the items such as protein snacks (nuts, protein bars, peanut butter cracker packets, etc.), a gift card to McDonald's, bottled water or a juice box, first aid supplies, a tooth brush and toothpaste, a small bar of soap, a wash cloth, a Gospel of John or Christian tract, etc. They keep these in their glove compartment and give them to anyone who looks like they might need one. -- like the guys with signs that say, "Homeless! Will work for food."

Care packages:
We like to send boxes of goodies and practical items to a pastor in Africa. I put loose wrapped candy in one bag, a few pairs of reading glasses in another, etc. This keeps items from shifting and breaking, especially if they are wrapped in paper towels or bubble wrap first. He can reuse the bags however he wishes. (I think I once wrote instructions for how to use them in case he hadn't seen them before.)
Pantry: Store similar flavor tea bags once the boxes are nearly empty. Keep a portion of the box in the bag to serve as a label. You can also store spice packets, such as the small packages of taco seasoning so they don't flop all over the place and get in the way. (We buy bulk containers of spices, so this isn't as much an issue for us.) You can also use bags for birthday candles (especially to keep out bugs if they still have residue from the last use) or other small baking supplies. I put these bags in a larger plastic container.

Craft supplies: Beads, jewelry parts, scrapbooking stickers, and other small crafty items are prime candidates for zip-bag organization. Also, if you use a craft knife or rotary cutter, a bag can help keep sharp edges away from fingers that are groping around in the craft box looking for something else.

Tool bag or box: Group small similar items, such as electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, screws, screw drivers, hex wrench sets, etc. Be sure to check with your husband before you do this, and to show him what you have done so he can find things later. (How do I know this? Hmmm...)

Clothing storage: If you are packing away a bunch of baby socks or bibs or other small items that you aren't using anytime soon, put them in a bag to keep them together.

Mismatched socks: After I finish matching up dozens of socks into a wicker basket, I put the stray ones in zip bags labeled, "White socks with cuffs", "White socks without cuffs", and "Colored socks." Then the next time I do it, they aren't so hard to sort. (Or if someone is looking for a match in the meantime, they can find it more easily.)
Dresser drawer: Keep your seldom used accessories, such as belts or scarves, in a bag to keep them from getting tangled with everything else.
Momentos and Souvenirs: You want to save memorable greeting cards, or your baby's hospital wrist band, or a seashell collection from the beach, or Grandma's vintage costume jewelry? These can go in plastic bags, at least until you figure out some more permanent way to display them, such as in a shadow box or a pretty glass jar. Or, you could just take a picture of them, and then let them go...
Photographs: Speaking of pictures, lots of us have them stuffed away in boxes. Get out a stack, and sort them into piles by year (or decade!). Then store each stack in a bag. It won't kill them, really! At least it's better than dust or spills! Later on, you can go back and put them in albums or scan them onto your computer to upload and share with relatives.

Diaper bag: Keep a zip bag in your diaper bag in the event of wet or stinky clothing. You can also use one to keep small or messy items like diaper creme organized.
Christmas ornaments: Set aside one bag for each of your children to keep their own ornaments. Store all of them in a larger container; we use large decorative popcorn tins!
You can read my blog post, A Place for Everything, for other ideas on home organization!
Virginia Knowles

Friday, July 3, 2009

Diary of a Mom's Day in D.C.: Holocaust Museum, Asian Art, Metro Crash

Diary of a Mom's Day in D.C.: The Holocaust Museum, Asian Art, Metro Crash

Dear friends,

As I planned my trip to Maryland for my grandparents’ 75 anniversary party last month, I knew I wanted to spend at least one day touring museums in Washington D.C. I had really enjoyed my visit to the National Gallery of Art last fall (see My Photos at the National Gallery of Art and My Photos of Biblical Art at the National Gallery) , and wanted to again take advantage of the fact that I wouldn’t have all of my kids around to distract me.

While reading the news on-line, I had seen the story about the recent fatal shooting of a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by a rabid racist, and remembered that I had wanted to go there someday. My daughter Mary and her husband Ryan had been there last year and recommended it. It’s not exactly a place to bring young children, so it seemed a good choice for this trip. For the afternoon, I also settled on the Freer & Sackler galleries of Asian art, which are part of the Smithsonian Museum system.

I invited my relatives to join me for my “Museum Day in D.C.” and my sister-in-law Dana, my sister Barb, and my niece Amy took me up on it. (Barb and Amy opted out of the holocaust museum and went to the National Gallery of Art instead.) We got a late start that morning, so we didn’t get off the Metro train until 11 AM. Dana and I headed to the holocaust museum, and picked up our free tickets with 12:45 appointment time to enter the main exhibits. Until then, we walked through an exhibit on propaganda and then Daniel’s Story, a hands-on tour appropriate for ages 8 and up. It follows the story of one boy from his normal life in a comfortable home up through surviving a concentration camp. Then we stopped for matzoh ball soup and knishes in the cafĂ© before our appointment. The main exhibit starts on the 4th floor with the Nazi assault in 1933-1939, covering the themes of totalitarianism, prejudice and persecution. The 3rd floor addresses “The Final Solution” in 1940-1945, which unfortunately meant mass murder of six million Jews, or two-thirds of the Jewish population of prewar Europe. The 2nd floor, “The Last Chapter” chronicles the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the Allied victory, rescue and resistance efforts, and the aftermath of the holocaust. Other rooms address the genocides of Sudan and Rwanda, and exhort visitors to take a stand and do something about modern day oppression and genocide. Unfortunately, we had only about an hour to go through what could have taken three times that long, so we didn’t stop to watch all of the videos, listen in the audio booths, or thoroughly read every display. Still, it was a rather sobering experience to witness, at least vicariously, all of the death and suffering that could have been prevented if more noble citizens had taken a firm and early stand against Hitler’s schemes. As Jimmy Carter said, “Out of our memory… of the holocaust, we must forge an unshakable oath with all civilized people that never again will the world… stand silent. Never again will the world... fail to act in time to prevent this terrible crime of genocide… We must harness the outrage of our own memories to stamp out oppression wherever it exists. We must understand that human rights and human dignity are indivisible.” (As I type this, three of my kids are watching Amazing Grace, a movie about William Wilberforce, who worked so tirelessly to abolish slavery in the British commonwealth. I have always sought to educate my children and co-op about justice issues, especially the holocaust and slavery. Click here to read an excerpt from my book The Real Life Home School Mom about how I attempt to educate my students for “Justice and Mercy”). I don’t have time to more fully develop or share my thoughts on the holocaust, but I encourage you to explore the museum’s web site, http://www.ushmm.org/, which has plenty of information, photos, and videos. You can also read the latter portion of my blog post, Do Cry, which lists several related books and videos. You may also be interested in a blog post by Tim Challies called Death Is No Escape about God’s ultimate judgment on Nazi injustice. Someday soon I plan to visit our local holocaust museum in Maitland, Florida. I am also asking a new friend, whose parents were survivors, to come and speak in my co-op English class when we discuss the story of Esther, who rescued her generation of Jews from Haman’s evil plans.

After the holocaust museum, Dana and I met Barb and Amy at the Sackler Gallery, which is connected to the Freer. They were all pretty exhausted by then and kept joking about my Energizer Bunny endurance (which I must attribute to working out on the treadmill and arc machine at the YMCA). Anyway, I ended up walking through most of the Freer & Sackler rooms by myself, quickly taking pictures of anything that looked interesting, along with the captions.

Tsars and the East: Gifts from Turkey and Iran in The Moscow Kremlin, one of the special exhibits, reminded me that most of us tend to think of Iran only as a place of ugly violence, rather than a rich culture of art, literature, and ancient history.

The household pottery on display is testimony to the fact that much of art is designed to beautify our daily tasks, while the calligraphy shows that even the written word can be visually pleasing. There were many ritual objects and idols on display as well, but somehow I cannot imagine bowing down to a stone elephant when instead I can worship the majestic and merciful creator of everything in the universe.

You can see my other art museum photographs here: A Day in D.C.: Holocaust Museum, Asian Art, Metro Crash.

We finally boarded the subway home around 4:15. Tragically, about 10 minutes after we got off our train, there was a fatal Metro Rail crash near a station we had just passed through, on a route I had originally planned to ride on that morning. (It was inbound, and we were outbound, but still it could have been any of the trains.) Again, I was sobered to think about mortality, and reminded that we could always be just one heartbeat away from eternity, just as those seven precious people unknowingly were. As soon as I heard the news of the crash, I called my husband Thad to assure him that we were all right. By the time I got back to my mom’s house later, I already had a message on Facebook from a concerned cousin wanting to make sure we weren’t on the train. (Thanks, Denise, for your care and friendship!)
I’m just grateful that I was alive and well enough to enjoy the feast that my Aunt Barbara treated us to at a Chinese restaurant she had picked for the evening. After my Asian art experience of the day, it seemed fitting to top it off with wanton soup, sesame chicken, and fried rice.

What is the point of this post? There are several: Go out and broaden your horizons! Don’t be afraid to face injustice! Savor beauty and creativity where you can find it! And don’t take life for granted!

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Wonderful Decade of Micah

Dear friends,

It's my son Micah's 10th birthday today! His oldest sister Mary said the other day that it's been "a wonderful decade of Micah" -- and I agree!

When I went into labor with him, Thad and I hadn't chosen a name for him yet, which is quite unusual for us. However, his big sisters had just finished singing in a musical called "Prophet Speak" and one of the pieces was "The Song of Micah." The chorus went, "He has shown thee, o man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6:8) So Thad had the brainstorm of naming him Micah. I loved it, and that settled it! His middle name is Philip, after my dad. Micah says we should have named him Hewett, which means "little and smart" because he is short and slender, yet very clever and creative. He loves to make things! As I type this, homemade pizza is waiting to go into the oven -- it's what he wanted to make with me for his birthday dinner.

When he was a baby and toddler, I used to call him my "happy chappy" because he had such a sweet disposition. He still has a great sense of humor, and he still brightens our days. Yes, it's been a wonderful decade of Micah! Or, as I often say, "I likah Micah!"


Virginia Knowles

Reading Aloud is As Easy as Apple Pie

Reading Aloud is As Easy as Apple Pie
Dear friends,

I love to read picture books to my kids! In fact, I think that in the early years, this can be the best strategy for home schooling. I’ve always said, “A little phonics, a little math, a little handwriting, and LOTS of cuddling up with picture books on the couch!” The beauty of it is that it is so simple and satisfying. It’s as easy as apple pie!

I recently picked out a stack of picture books from the library that all feature apple pies somewhere in the story line. The differences in them illustrate various ways you can use picture books to teach more than just reading to your kids. If you click on the titles, you can see the books and their summaries on the Seminole County library web site. (Scroll up to see each cover picture on each page.)

How To Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman: I can’t count how many times I’ve checked this one out! It’s a funny story about a little girl who wants to make an apple pie, but the local market is closed, so she travels around the world gathering ingredients. It’s a good opportunity to look up different countries on a globe or world map, and explore the culture of at least one of them. This book is one of the selections in the Five in a Row curriculum. I can’t wait to see the author’s newer book, How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.

How to Bake an American Pie by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Raul Colon: This whimsical rhyming book on how to “bake an American pie” symbolizes how to build a strong country. There are plenty of literary and visual allusions to such things as the song “O Beautiful” and Mt. Rushmore. I appreciate the reference to faith as well, in such lines as, “Now roll out a top of spacious skies to cover this country of ours. Place in God’s grace and allow to rise. Then garnish with fifty bright stars.”

The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathan Bean: Written in the same add-on style as the poem “The House That Jack Built” this warm tale celebrates nature and family. The illustrations are an amusing folksy primitive style, brown and black with splashes or red. My kids like me to read even the longest lines all in one breath!

Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine explores how a young American girl, daughter of Chinese immigrants, blends both cultures. “No one wants Chinese food on the Fourth of July, I say. We’re in apple-pie America, and my parents are cooking chow mein!” Illustrations are cut-paper style.

The President and Mom’s Apple Pie by Michael Garland: Portly President Taft is in town to dedicate a new flag pole, but gets distracted by the smell of something really yummy… This book, full of Americana and bright computerized illustrations, and might be a good way to introduce an American president who isn’t quite as well-known as Washington and Lincoln.

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis by Robbin Gourley is a tribute to the childhood of famous African-American chef Edna Lewis. Edna and her kin make the best of the bounty of the earth, from wild blackberries to pecans, as they also cultivate family ties. You’ll also find folk rhymes, recipes, and a very informative author’s note in this loving water color painted picture book.
“There’s so much to do with good apples!” says Edna. “With bushels of apples in the cellar, we’ll have apple butter and apple cider and applesauce all winter long. But today I’ll make apple crisp, sweet and tart at the same time.”

Then she sings:

“Don’t ask me no questions,
an’ I’ll tell you no lies.
But bring me some apples,
an’ I’ll make you some pies.
And if you ask questions
‘bout my havin’ the flour,
I’ll forget to use ‘lasses,
an’ the pie will be sour.”


If you like the idea of reading aloud, especially as it relates to food, be sure to check out my friend Cheryl Bastian’s books, Flip 3 Pancakes With 1 Spatula (which integrates cooking, literature and math), You Have to Read This One! Raising a Contagious Reader, and its companion guide, Check These Out, which is a unit study on library books.

I was trying to think if I had already posted a certain excerpt about reading aloud from my book Common Sense Excellence on the web. I hadn’t, but some home schoolers in Australia put it up on their site after I had sent it out by e-mail a while back. That saved me a step today! You can find it here: The Beauty of Reading Aloud. (Please note that the web address they have for me on the bottom of the page is obsolete!)

A post about apple pie books would not be complete without a reference to an excellent library cook book, Apple Pie Perfect: 100 Delicious and Decidedly Different Recipes for America’s Favorite Pie by Ken Haedrich, which features such delicacies as Traditional Lattice-Top Apple Pie, Apple Plum Pie with Coconut Streusel, Skins-On Apple Pie with a Whole Wheat Crust, Apple Cheesecake Burritos, and Sam and Jim’s Butterscotch Apple Pie for Kids. (We made this last one: simple and satisfying!) I drool just browsing through this book, and I sure enjoy the author’s commentary and stories behind each recipe. Check it out!

Goodbye, goodbye, you’re the apple of my eye! (Hey, did you know that expression comes from the Bible? Psalm 17:8 says, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” We’re special to God! Keep that thought with you today, no matter what you read or eat!)

Related Posts with Thumbnails