Tin Cottage Journal

Tin Cottage Journal

Friday, December 23, 2016

Angel in the House

A childless couple, a failing toy factory, a troubled marriage,  and a door nobody opens set the stage for a mystery that will keep you guessing from start to finish. 

Who can slueth out this puzzle?  Enter Eli - a suit wearing, news watching, 7 year old foster child who sleeps with a teddy bear and calls a taxi when he decides to play hookie from school.  That just leaves one missing piece -  who is this pint sized cosmopolitan sage?  

"Angel in the House " is heartwarming and sweet, without a crumb of cheese.

"Angel in the House" deals with sensitive issues of grief, loss and disappointment with disarming delicacy and a mischievous grin.

This movie was first released under the title "Foster," then "Angel in the  House."  At one point, Netflix released it as "Christmas Angel in the House."

Netflix released it as "Christmas Angel in the House."

I streamed "Angel in the House," via Amazon Prime.

Rated PG for 1-2 uses of strong language and sensitive issues.

Photos used under Fair Use terms for the purpose of product review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Syrian Wedding

A Syrian Wedding

by Nicholas Seeley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Za’atari by Moonlight

Eighteen year old Amneh and Mohammed, 22, could make beautiful music together if only they were living in the peaceful Syria where they grew up instead of the bleak and impoverished, Jordanian provided refugee camp, Za’atari.

If Za’atari by moonlight is more attractive than sunlit Za’atari, it is only because the darkness hides the harsh realities of makeshift shelters, community toilets and the publicly visible clotheslines that typify the loss of privacy and dignity the refugees lost when bombs and gunfire drove them from their Syrian home.

The primary question the refugees all face is, " Shall we do our best to get on with our "normal" lives, or is "normal" only something we left behind and hope to return to someday? How a family answers that question determines whether they pursue education, business, or social connections or defer the major events and accomplishments that make up life: preparing for the future, schooling, career preparation, building relationships, marriage and childbirth.

Amneh's and Mohammed's families decide they have delayed their marriage long enough. They face the fact that they will not have the extended, extravagant festivities they so enjoy, and rent a lovely wedding dress from the ramshackle bridal shop and make plans to prepare the best meal they can on their one-burner camp stove.

I couldn't help but think of Fiddler on the Roof and Anne Frank as I read this documentary account of Syrian life in a refugee camp. Their Jordanian benefactors offer basic shelter, and donations from other nations provide the minimum allowance of calories needed to maintain life. But, as the Za’atarian villagers know, "normal" is a relative term and truly, "There is no place like home."

I didn't give this book a 5 star rating to measure it's enjoyment factor. Three stars given for how interesting it is, and 1 star is to indicate the importance of its message. The 5th star is a medal of honor for the courage and strength it takes for these people to persevere. They deserve far more, but like resources in Za’atari, those are all the stars I have.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's January of 1946.  World War 2 is over, but young Juliet Ashton, like all Londoners, is attempting to emerge from the ruins and begin life anew.

As she searches for a topic for her next book, she receives a letter from a stranger, Dawsey Adams, living on the British Isle of Guernsey,  requesting that she find and order a particular book for him

Guernsey had been occupied by the Germans and, unable to get any supplies, the people had, in desperation, burned the books in the town bookshop as fuel to keep from freezing to death.  Dawsey made mention of their literary society, which sparked a correspondence between him and Juliet, in which he attempted to satisfy her curiosity about the a paradoxical existence of such an organization on a book poor island.

Juliet, entranced by the poignant and humorous tales of the occupied islanders, decides to write their story, so she leaves the rubbles of London behind and relocates to Guernsey.  There, she embraces the griefs, grit and gifts of the eclectic, indomitable people who will change her life forever.

Once I remembered to carefully note the writer and receiver of each  letter or telegram, I was able to immerse myself in the story.

As Juliet is the primary protagonist and the most frequent writer and receiver of the messages, I slipped into her chair, sipped her tea  and reveled in the struggles, mysteries, and triumphs of Guernsey from behind her eyes.  Like Juliet, I fell in love .

Whenever Juliet was not privy to the facts, I became a nosy postmistress, steaming envelopes open and entertaining myself with the secrets and drama of Guernsey's citizens, then innocently resealing them. What fun, as the reader, to know the thoughts, desires and intentions of each character, while each character knows only that which or she has personally observed or had confided in them.

How I wish I could be a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Even Potato Peel Pie might be digestible among such a hardy, supportive group of survivors.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Adventures of Nicholas

The Adventures of NicholasThe Adventures of Nicholas by Helen Siiteri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Mother read the 1966 Scholastic version of this story to our family around 1969 or 1970. I was 9 or 10.  We all enjoyed it.

I loved this book and shared it with my husband during our first Christmas season as a married couple. He loved it also.

I honestly do not remember reading it to our son, born in 1990. I know I fully intended to. Perhaps I couldn't find it!

I may still have my old copy somewhere. This is a treasure, a lifetime favorite.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Autobiography of an ExColored Man

The Autobiography Of An Ex Colored ManThe Autobiography Of An Ex Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just finished this book for the 3rd or 4th time. I reread very few books, no matter how much I like them. Though classified as fiction, the speaker in this narratives lives & breathes. This time, listening to the Libravox recording, read by James K. White, brought him more to life than ever.

The character is SO real, and the historical perspective so revealing. I felt as if I were there with him, from his "Little Lord Fauntleroy " beginnings to his cosmopolitan adulthood, and the down to earth stuff of life that both broke & shaped him.

His comments on the attitudes, weaknesses & strengths of the various demographics of the African American population at that time explained so much. Both black & white Americans need to understand the changes since that time, both encouraging & discouraging if we are to grow in unity and become a mutually supportive society. This should be required reading in high school. However, in mixed race class in some localities, there might be too much friction to get the benefit of it.

I wonder if this would make a good movie or if it would lose too much in that form. It would be interesting to meet his family, friends & enemies, and I'd enjoy the 1920s styles and music but so much of the meat of the novel is introspective. Only a very gifted, sensitive director could hope to achieve good results. Anything less would cheapen it.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Does it take a village?

It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach UsIt Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us by Hillary Rodham Clinton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Considering I spent years in the Conservative community, where people who never read this book joked about and condemned it, I had never bothered to read "It Takes a Village" qin the 90s. It's been on my "to read" pile a few years now, and I decided if there was ever a time to read it, that time had come.

Regardless how one feels about Hillary's ambition or political tactics, this book is worthy of being judged on its own merit. It offers plenty of wisdom for every time and place in human society.

At it's simplest, this is a pleasantly nostalgic read, exploring the general sense of safety most Caucasian, middle class families felt in the 50s and 60s. Penny candy, walking to the park to play until the street lights came on, the values instilled in church and school, the strong sense of community, community pride and patriotism, and so much more.

Though African American families faced tougher challenges, I have long heard those who grew up or raised a family during that time also reminisce about the pleasures of walking to the corner store, playing outside without fear of impending danger, and how family, friends and neighbors all kept a watchful eye on everyone's kids, intervening as needed, affirming and mentoring, and telling your Mama if your escapades were of a dangerous or ill intentioned nature.

Hillary addresses, within the context of her pleasant or fearful memories, how different our society is today: how long work hours increase family instability and undermine marriages, the importance of monogamy in creating a safe environment in which to nurture a child, and how when families fall apart, the undergirding of our entire society is torn asunder.

She speaks of how our sense of alienation, fear of strangers, and inability to feel safe anywhere, limits our involvement in community, cooperative service projects, and ability to raise children to be free, run and play, or even go to the corner store without a sense of forboding.

She reminds of things we took for granted, such as good schools, public pools & playgrounds, safe streets, and neighborhood policemen who knew your family and were our mentors, protectors and  friends. Libraries were free, most school supplies were provided, we had recess twice a day, participated in public performances, created art & explored many types of physical activities to increase our health and fitness.

She explores how extremist political policies have robbed us of most of these ingredients of creating cultured people, fostering compassion, patriotism and developing skills to express ourselves as needed to be active participants in our careers and the national dialog.

By condemning the safeguards and opportunities that made these things possible, by calling it "government interferance" and "communism," we have allowed private business to take over these privileges and have ceded our American inheritance to corporations who monopolize our resources and hold them for ransom at unaffordable prices.

Though "Mayberry" was never a complete reality, its spirit did exist in communities who fostered its sustaining values for many generations. In the name of "free market," we've sold our birthright as Americans to preserve community rooted in our shared strengths, wisdom and contributions. We now sacrifice our mutually owned public amenities to private control. Public libraries, school systems and public utilites are becoming increasingly owned or controlled by private interests. Guardians and transmitters of classic literature, art, history and the 3 RS have become purveyors of pop culture, mythological versions of history, and expensive tutoring with the sole intention of gaining profit, whether or not they successfully perform or deliver the promised goods and services.

The Hillary who wrote this book in no way resembles the person the conservative right presents as a murderer and a dictator who will ruin our lives.This Hillary is a person of commitment, humility and a desire to serve.  Whatever the sum total of Hillary Clinton may be, the foundational building blocks of a healthy society offered in "It Takes a Village " are generally agreed upon by most Americans.  Only suspicion and political programming keep us from exercising our rights and reclaiming our personal and common birthright from those we allowed to defraud us of it.

I'm taking my time with this book, so I have no idea when I will finish it. I'm sipping it like a fresh cup of coffee. It's a pleasure to read.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lost? Learn to Listen!

Life has become more complex than ever. 

On a personal level, we make decisions concerning our health, careers, finances, relationships and parenting choices.  Our families depend on us to tend and guide them well.

Furthermore, we have moral and civic responsibilities.  Should we choose to engage, we can influence the stewardship of natural and financial resources, caring for the less fortunate, and guiding the character of our communities and our states.

On a national level, we are responsible to be honest and informed voters, voices for justice and defenders of freedom for all.  Our vote can determine the fate of the homeless, the disabled, the unborn, the uninsured, the immigrant and the refuge.

Even globally, we, Americans especially, because we have a government "of the people," can address issues concerning war, peace, world hunger, education and more. 

Information abounds.  It's more difficult than ever, without hardening our hearts, to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and the homeless on our doorstep. 

Even on a personal level, the availability of scientific studies, television talk shows and celebrity doctors keeps us thoroughly informed and demands our best efforts as parents, spouses, sons and daughters, to insure our families are educated and healthy, mentally, physically and spiritually.

How can we handle it all?  How can we sort the information and our priorities and discern which choices are best?  Which needs are our God given assignments?

Facing such demands, we need the gentle guidance of God's Holy Spirit to have any chance of choosing well, or even to maintain our sanity!  However, unless we listen for that still, small voice, we will only hear the clamor of our own minds and the voices that surround us.

Isaiah 30:21 offers just the instruction and assurance we need for such a time as this.  The Lord says,

"Whether you turn to the right

or to the left, your ears will hear
a voice  behind you, saying, 
“This is the way; walk in it.”

That sounds like an offer I can't afford to refuse!

When have you been guided by that still, small voice?
What was the outcome?

How have your missed out on this offer?  What were the results in your circumstances?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ancient Paths

Our Father,

The ancient boundary lines are covered hidden by the litter of the centuries.  The ancient boundary stones are overgrown by millenia of religious, cultural and political traditions.  We follow maps marked with the lies and errors of those who came before us and continue to further deface them with our own foolish notations.   Even a true map can be "read" to suit the purposes of predators and mad men.

Even what one generation learns the hard way is discarded and forgotten by the next, even while the wounds left by the hard lessons are bleeding still.

We no longer can tell left from right, up from down, sick from healthy, or true life from walking death.

We need your guidance more than ever.  Lead us by your Spirit, in Jesus' name!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Save $5 on your first Swanson's order

If you're anything like me, you spend a bundle on vitamins and supplements.  On top of that, my grocery bill has increased considerably since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and must eat gluten free.

To save money, gas and time, I order my vitamins, supplements and over the counter meds from Swanson's Vitamins.  I also order certified gluten free oats, buckwheat (a.k.a. Kasha) and other gluten free foods from Swanson's.  Swanson's carries herbal teas, natural remedies, beauty and skin care products, and many other items most families need and use.

If you subscribe to their email updates, you can get great deals, and if you order $50 or more, shipping is free!

Get $5 off your first order by using this link to visit Swanson's web site and set up your account.  If you do this, I will get a discount on my next order, too!
Get $5 off your first Swanson's Order!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Perceiving God

Our perception of God shapes who were are. If we believe God is evil, we will either rebel against the very idea of God, or we may become evil ourselves in our misguided efforts to do what we believe He expects of us. If we believe God is good, we may abuse Him by taking unfair advantage of His perceived mercy, or we accept His grace and attempt to live what we believe by being as good as our strength and understanding allow. How can we be sure our image of God is true? By looking at Jesus. How can we insure we choose the right path? By following Jesus' example. How can we be sure we our hearts are pure and our living is flawless? We cannot. We must pray for growth, trust His grace, and extend the same to others.

Monday, January 19, 2009

No image captures the peace of body, heart and mind like that of a sleeping kitten. A sleeping cat portrays total abandonment of all cares, total relaxation, and even an expression of joy as the purr of contentment builds inside the furry creature.

Reading Isaiah 30 is a a mixture of hope and sadness. It is a picture of people who have created grief for themselves and will have none of God's solutions. God's solutions and promise of rest are grounded in repentance and trust, not in our determination to control our own world or flee our situation.

15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
16 You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.'
Therefore you will flee!
You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.'
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill."
18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

No rest is found in our determination that we are right... that we have all the answers, or in our determination to fix everything ourselves. Peace and rest, and even SOLUTIONS (salvation) are found in giving up having our own way and turning control over to our Father. Only in this way will we find anything near the contentment we see in the form of a sleeping kitten.

I pray I will be one who will live in this promised rest, granted only to those who WAIT on the Lord! It is a discipline to replace my worries with patience and praise and resting in Him, but it a sacrifice that pays rich rewards. I don't think many of us ever arrive at a state where we never fail in this giving up control to Our Father, or living in the REST He promises to us. It is a continual, daily exercise of discipline and faith. If we beat ourselves up for failing in this, we only dig ourselves deeper into guilt and worry. When we realize we have fallen into the "I'm the one who's in control here, and I've got to fix all this," it is better to just pick up where we left off and begin again, relinquishing all our cares to our Father and taking hold of the rest He offers.

It is interesting that He finds our unwillingness to do this as a stubborn, sinful thing. We may see it as a virtue, a sign of being dependable and responsible. God sees it as rebellion!

Here are some scriptures to ponder... promises of the peace of mind, rest, and salvation found in
releasing our cares to Him.

Exodus 14:14
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Psalm 46:10
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

Psalm 27:14
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall
strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The Bible is full of such promises. Do a search in various versions for the words rest, peace,quiet, confidence, and salvation. You may be surprised how often this comes up in scripture.If only it didn't take so many of us a lifetime to figure it out!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I came to love you late,
O Beauty,
so ancient and so new.
You called, and broke
through my defenses,
and now I long for you.
You breathed your fragrance on me,
and I drew in my breath
and now I pant for you.
I tasted you, and now
I hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me,
and I burn for your peace.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What to do? I no longer live in a tin cottage in T. County, but a lovely stone cottage in Memphis. So, what about my title, Tin Cottage Journals? If you want to see pics of my house (though the pics do not do it justice, visit my Xanga journal at www.xanga.com/tincottage. Anyway, I'll update here soon, I hope!~

Monday, January 01, 2007


Wow! Can you believe it's 2007 already? I remember when the very thought of 2000 sounded like science fiction to me, and now that we're here, I guess that is what we are living. I can think back to images in comic books, T.V. shows and stories that have truly been fulfilled in many ways, though seldom in the way anticipated in the media. The human element is so much more prominent in the midst of the technology. PLUS, in science fiction, technology was always so adequate and flawless. It always worked and never broke down. Until Star Wars! Star Wars told the truth about "the future". The Y2K scare confirmed it.

Who would have ever thought technologically savy people would have so much in common with village handy men and shade tree mechanics? Or be so young, so much of the time. Now, those we turn to when it all falls apart are not highly paid engineers, either. If they get paid at all, they're lucky to make what an experienced secretary makes, post 9/11.

Raising a child born in 1990 to near adulthood has been a tricky feat. I was so concerned that we raise him to be able to cope in HIS generation, prepare him for the world HE would face. He had an interest in computers, and we felt sure he could make a good living pursuing that if he chose. But then, after 9/11, we saw kids who had planned to go into computer tech careers flounder in confusion as it became evident that computer techs were a "dime a dozen" so to speak, and the payscale plummeted.

Other fields that had seemed to hold promise also succumed to low pay and overcrowding.

Suddenly, I realized we were no more equipped than our own parents had been when it came to anticipating how to prepare offspring to face the future. In their day, you get a good education or a good job, and you stick with that job, and that field as long as you could. Longevity was everything. Now, it can be a death sentence. It became virtually impossible during our adult years, and we lived feeling unsettled as we had been taught that stability was the evidence of maturity and respectability.

I have even more recently realized, while watching my son play video games, surf the web, blog and communicate via instant message, that the very things I might view as time wasters may well be the skills that enable him to succeed in the world he will navigate as an adult. But how could we have understood that all along? We could have saved quite a few lectures and a lot of frustration over the years if we had.

The "play" of any generation will probably turn into the "work" and "reality" when that generation reaches adulthood. My son and his peers will rule the world with joysticks and keyboard, while staying in touch with associates, friends and family via whatever form of instant messaging is the latest and fastest and the most like "being there".

Occasionally, it may all break down, and they may have to pick up a phone or actually drive somewhere. But, they'll call the village "geek" or whatever, to fix it all. Or, they may just blow on it to clear the dust and try again. If that doesn't work, they'll turn it off so it can "reset" itself, or cool awhile. Then, soon they'll be communication, creating, courting & delegating again, with the world at their fingertips.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Many of you know eBay has banned the sale of Teacher's Manuals on the site. This ban is broad, and countless auctions have been shut down. It is true that some manage to slip through, but this is only because eBay is not able to police every listing. Among auctions that have been shut down have been vintage Dick & Jane teacher's manuals (honest) and every known publisher, including McGraw Hill, A Beka, Saxon, BJU, and any more you can think of. This has hurt homeschoolers, educational book sellers, and even sellers of collectible & vintage books! In addition to this, eBay continues to raise fees, which forces sellers to raise prices... and sales have been down. More and more sellers are looking to relocate.

A huge group of booksellers got together in a Yahoo group
and have investigated and voted on where to relocate, since eBay is being so crazy. They decided some solidarity is the only way to make progress, rather than scatter all over the net. This group has over 300 members!

The votes are in!
Here are their top choices:


www.blujay.com and


A runner up:

These are good sites. Because they are free or inexpensive to sellers, some will be passing the savings on to the buyers. Little Piggy is going to be clean, as it is home school focused. Blujay wants to stay clean, so if you see something that is offensive, there is a button to click to report it (PLEASE DO!). I don't really know about Wagglepop, but it is one of the sites the sellers have decided on.

PLEASE pass this on to everyone. If we fail to support this effort, then we may just end up with more of what I call "ghost town" auction sites. You've seen 'em. Hardly anyone selling. Nobody buying. PLEASE check out the sites listed above and PLEASE spread the word. We don't have to let the megaGiants of commerce dictate to us. If we unite for change, we CAN make a difference.


Monday, July 10, 2006


A few years ago I spent a short time "on the road" with my truck driver husband. I had never realized how inhospitable the people and businesses of America are to the ones who deliver their bread and butter, their clothes and their shoes, and their toys. In many towns, every parking lot had a sign "NO TRUCK PARKING ALLOWED. VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED". It was okay to pull up to the back dock...to deliver their food, and all that they needed to survive...but after that, they wanted us to melt soundlessly into the night. Don't use our parking lots, don't hog our roads, and don't stop at our restaurants to eat.

Night after night, traveling mile after mile, looking for a place to eat or sleep, I suddenly realized that I was experiencing something Jesus probably experienced on a regular basis, and felt a kinship to Him in His life of being homeless, despised and rejected. Lying in the truck bunk at a roadside park, staring at the ceiling, hoping no one would pound on the side of the truck to evict us, I felt new kinship with my Savior. He had taken me into His confidence and I had learned to know Him by new Names ..."Despised One", "Rejected One" and the "One Who Had No Place To Lay His Head".

Oh, Yes! We turn to Him readily as "WONDERFUL COUNSELOR", "MIGHTY GOD", "EVERLASTING FATHER", and "PRINCE OF PEACE"! We love Him as our gentle "Shepherd", "Older Brother", "Healer" and "Provider". But, must we share in His sufferings as the "Pierced One", the "Wounded One", the "Bruised" and "Broken One"? Do I really want to empathize with Him as One "Acquainted with Grief"?

He says, "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:24) What does this mean? Does it mean tacking "In Jesus Name" to the end of every petition?
How can we ask unless we know Him in Whose Name we are asking?

Do I know Him as "Homeless" unless I have been homeless? How do I experience Him as "Scorned" until I have been the target of snickers and snide remarks?

When a friend turns against you and does you harm, then you can truly turn to Him as the One who was "Betrayed" for you. When your reputation has been smirched and lies spread about you, call upon the One who was "Falsely Accused", yet spoke not a word in His own defense.

If I truly want to KNOW Him, then there will come times when I must "share in the fellowship of His sufferings". I say I am His friend, but do I really want Him to take me into His confidence? How else can I understand His heart unless I experience some of what He suffered for me?

As He takes me into His confidence, by sharing His heart and mind with me, I will have greater understanding of who HE IS, and I will learn to know Him by His many names.

When I suffer physical pain, may I realize that I am sharing in the suffering of the "Wounded One", and call Him by that name!

When I do not know where the money will come from to pay for my basic sustenance, I want to embrace Him as my "Poor" Brother who had to depend on the handouts and donations of a fickle following to pay for His physical necessities.

Spurned by the one you hoped would share your life forever, call upon the Name of the One who was "Rejected" by those He loved the most.

When all of life is dark, and it seems God does not care what happens to you, remember the One, who, upon the cross, in Earth's darkest hour cried, "My God! My God! Why have You FORSAKEN me?" Call upon the "Abandoned" and "Forsaken" One.

Oh, yes! We DO love Him as our Comforter, our Redeemer, our Righteousness, and our Provider, but to know Him in intimacy as our Bridegroom, and to truly be His friends, it's necessary that we must learn to know Him by His other names as well.
Finally, knowing those Names, we can call Him by them. "Oh, Precious One who was WOUNDED for me! HOMELESS for ME! DESPISED and REJECTED One, My Treasure and My Lord!!!"

Hopefully as we learn the meaning of His names, we will become more like Him , and begin to see Him in the faces of the suffering people around us. Then perhaps, as we have learned to abide in Him, see through His eyes, and know Him by His names, we can more truly experience what it means to claim the promise of praying in JESUS' NAME.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Homeschooling Through
Crisis & Chaos
Recently, a lady shared with a homeschool e-mail support group her desire to continue in homeschooling, though she struggles with serious illness and other daunting obstacles. She asked the ladies of the group to share their thoughts with her, as she feared she was not up to the challenge. Her struggle is great, indeed, and my prayers are with her. I do not know if my response to her will be helpful to her, or to you, but I share it here in hopes that these words might be a blessing to someone in difficult circumstances.

Hi April,

My heart is SO moved by your plight. I will be praying for you.

Of course, I do not know enough about your circumstances to be sure my input will be useful to you, but just in case, I want to share some thoughts. If any of this is helpful, I am glad.

I had intended to homeschool my son Joel from DAY 1, but when he reached kindergarten age, I was in terrible physical contdition due to a back injury doctors had failed to diagnose and treat. I was in terrible pain all the time. I felt so depleted I put him in school because I felt I did not have the energy to do what I needed to do for him.

However, what I did not anticipate is how much energy it took for me to get him to school and back every day. I had surgery in October of that year, and spent the winter fighting severe bronchitis and trying to recover from back surgery. It would have been so much better for me to be curled up on the couch with him, reading Dr. Seuss ABC or Goodnight Moon instead of dragging both of us out every morning, rain or shine, and in the icy winter blast every day.

I left him in school through 1st grade as well, since putting him there in the first place had left us with doubts as to whether we should homeschool. He really did have a good experience, relatively speaking, with good Christian teachers, etc. But, we did begin homeschooling in 2nd grade.

I have had some other physical problems that have not left me at my best all the time. My husband has had a crazy schedule through the years, Joel I are NOT morning people, and various family crises and illnesses have proven to be challenging for us and our homeschool process. However, looking back, I wonder how much more challenging some of those would have been, trying to stay in sync with the school system schedule and demands and still address the issues we were dealing with as a family.

A few years ago, my mom went through chemo, and it was devestating to her. We almost lost her to the chemo. We spent a lot of time with her. Sometimes we took the books with us, and other times, Joel just played outside with his cousins.

Here are the things that have helped us survive.... and, I believe succeed, in continuing to homeschool in spite of choas!

(1) Do not feel you have to be locked in to a yearly schedule. You do not have to "school during certain months just because that is what the public school is doing, or because someone else is doing it that way. "School" when it is convenient for you.

(2) Do not feel you have to be locked in to a monthly or weekly schedule. You do not have to "school" Monday through Friday, or take off spring break at any certain time. You may "school" Wednesday through Saturday, or 4 days a week (no summers off). You may take 3 months off in the middle of the year for chemo. You may "school" for 2 weeks, and take a week off for chemo recovery. You may go on vacation in October because you can, and the weather is nice. "School" when it is convenient for you.

(3) Do NOT feel you have to be on any DAILY or HOURLY schedule. You do not have to "school" in the morning and afternoon. You can school in the evening, if that is the time of day you feel better. You mom can help during a time of day that is convenient for her. Maybe another family member can help at a time that is convenient for him.

(4) You do not have to do every subject every year. Some years, you may be in a "basic" mode, pursuing math and reading, and only address other subjects in the most casual way, through fiction, movies and an occasional field trip if you're up to it. After all, you can always do American History NEXT year. There is an awful lot of repetition built into how most curriculums handles those subjects anyway.

(5) You do not have to do every subject every day. My son works better in "blocks". He prefers to do all his history in one day, and all his science on another. Maybe, if your mom is off on Saturdays, and she loves history, Saturday could be "history day" at her house.

(6) Have a "survival package" and a "better days" agenda. Some years, I've used those big fat "all in one" curriculum books by McGraw Hill. On days I was "under the weather", Joel worked assigned pages in that book. He knew what was required in those books each day without having to ask me. But on days I had more energy, I would allow him to "skip" that book and we'd read together and explore areas I felt the need to be more involved in with him.

Again, like I said, I don't know how much of this will be helpful to you. Putting him back in school MAY BE the answer you need. But don't feel that you have failed if your homeschool does not fit a certain mold. Ours has always been rather unorthodox. but Joel is now 15, ready for 10th grade, and already finished with Algebra 1 & 2, and planning to study both Biology and Physics next year. We've done ok, I think.

God bless you! My prayers are with you.

This is a "reprint" from last year, posted here for your encouragement.