Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Perfect Paradoxes

Isn’t it remarkable that…
…the Light of the world was identified by a star he named and numbered (Ps. 147:4)?
…the Creator of woman came to be born of a virgin (Is. 7:14)?
…the shoulders that would bear the government (Is. 9:6) would also bear the beam of a rugged cross?
…the Mighty God and Everlasting Father (Is. 9:6) came to earth as a naked, needy infant?
...the Rod and Branch of Jesse (Is. 11:1) became the one crucified on a tree?
…the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3) brought joy to the world (John 15:11)?
…the carpenter (Mark 6:3) would be nailed to a piece of wood?
…the Word (John 1:1. 14) came to earth as an infant who could not yet speak?
…the Lamb of God (John 1:29) arrived in a stable, slept in a manger where sheep may have eaten, and was worshiped by humble shepherds?
...the Rabbi and Teacher who knew all things (John 1:38), allowed Himself to become an infant needing care and training?
…the King of Israel and King of Kings (John 1:49) gave up His heavenly throne in Paradise for a dusty, dirty, sin-filled kingdom?
…the Son of God became the Son of Man (John 1:49, 51)?
…the Bread of Life (John 6:48) came to be born in Bethlehem – the House of Loaves (Micah 5:2)?
…the One who fulfills all the prophecies and Scriptures (John 19:28) wrote those Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:21)?
…Immanuel, God-with-us (Is. 7:14), came to earth one Christmas night so that Christmas could exist?

This is amazing, paradoxical love – so amazing that it could only be from God Himself. Thank You, God!!

Have a blessed Christmas rejoicing in the arrival or our Lord and Savior!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advantages of Music (listening or playing)

14,200,000 results. 14,200,000! That’s how many results my computer pulled up when I searched for an answer to the question, “What are the advantages of listening to music?” Needless to say, I didn’t research all of them. Honestly, I got to page three and gave up. Some sites were totally irrelevant to my goal. Others were promoting styles of music with which we disagree (no, I don’t believe there can be Christian rap that is more effective than any other style of music in elevating my heart to worship God). And some sites were beyond my four-year-degree comprehension. But most of the relevant results upheld the theories many of us already have regarding music listening.
Let me enumerate just a handful of those theories:
1) Listening to music with a definite beat can sharpen concentration because the brainwave patterns are affected. Any change in the activity level of the brainwaves caused by music also enables the brain to shift speeds more readily.
2) Because of these alternations in brainwave activity, other bodily functions also are impacted. Autonomous nervous system functions like breathing patterns and heart rate can be altered with music. Slowing one’s heart rate and breathing typically allows a relaxation response to occur. Such a relaxing effect shows why music can play a literally vital role in promoting health and preventing the damages of stress.
3) Listening to music has been shown to improve a stroke patient’s recovery process. Finnish researchers determined that if stroke patients listened to music for a couple of hours a day, their verbal memory and focused attention recovered more readily and they had a more positive mood than patients who did not listen to anything or who listened to audio books. Listening to music also has been proven to reduce pain in situations involving acute, chronic or cancer pain. And we’re not talking small reductions. Some patients report up to a 50% reduction in pain.
4) Music therapy is also being used to treat depression. The soul has a strong response to music. Just think of David’s harp playing and the impact it had on soothing Saul’s soul (1 Sam. 16:23). Saul was refreshed and made well by the calming qualities of David’s music.
5) There is some discussion about the truth of the so-called “Mozart effect, which suggests that spatial reasoning and music have a neurological and psychological connection. Just by listening to certain styles of music, supposedly, IQ test scores and cognitive development increased in young people. Some critics claim this notion is a myth based on faulty testing, while others say further testing has proven its validity. Few studies disagree with the concept that spatial-temporal reasoning is enhanced when children start learning music – to read it or to play it.
6) It has been repeatedly proven that music helps in developing a better interaction within the brain. People who listen to music develop stronger interactions with their right and left sides of the brain, and that effect is even more obvious in individuals who play a musical instrument. One writer (and musician) reported:
A skilled and trained musician actually has a larger brain with more enhanced neural pathways as compared to a non-musician. A professional musician’s auditory cortex contains 130 percent more gray matter than that of non-musicians (Hotz, par. 5). This would suggest that exercise of the auditory area, as induced by the necessary rigorous and regular music practice for a professional musician, increases its growth. Musicians who began study early in life also appear to have an especially enhanced corpus callosum, or neural bridge, between the brain’s hemispheres. In fact it is up to 15 percent larger. (Hotz. Par. 5). This phenomenon is further exemplified by the findings that musicians process music with both ears, and therefore both hemispheres, while non-musicians process music with only their right ear (Mitchell, par. 3).[1]
And the list could easily go on three or four more pages with this discussion of the physiological, emotional, mental, and psychological effects that music has on an individual. Suffice it to say that increasing time listening to carefully chosen music can have numerous positive effects on every member of your family. We encourage you to play music when your children come down to breakfast. Get them started with a positive outlook and energized physiological response for the day. Recognize that children can concentrate better, at times, with music playing in the background while they are doing their schoolwork. (I still struggle with this concept because I need complete silence to concentrate on anything at my age, but I’m realizing that I’m getting old…Sigh.) Have quiet background music playing when you eat supper. And you can even let your young ones listen to music at bedtime to soothe their hearts to sleep. There are advantages the whole day long in listening to quality music. (Another blog will follow soon, Lord willing, for those of you who are asking, “What is quality music?” I’ll let you live in suspense until then. :))

[1]“Music and the Brain,” Maria Ramey, www.flutecorner.com, cited December 1, 2009.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

“Gems from Our Kids”

The Christmas shopping season is approaching. I know that because the stores already have displays in place heralding the coming holiday…or encouraging shoppers to buy, Buy, BUY! And I know it’s coming because we’ve been getting our Christmas mail order catalogs by the fistful each week. My little ones (and even a few of the big ones) will sit on the couch and dream together through the latest Danish plastic building block magazine or Vision Forum catalog. Repeatedly we hear, “I want this, and this, and that…oh, and one of those!” We probably couldn’t afford their wish lists even if we didn’t have to pay taxes. In any event, it was one of those wish-list moments that gave us another gem of a memory from my three-year-old son, Jedidiah. He was showing Daddy all the swords, the crossbow, and the grappling hook in the Vision Forum catalog and informed his father that he wanted one of each of them. Kris replied, “Let’s say you could only have one thing from this catalog, what would it be?” Jed was undeterred, “But I want all of them. I’ll even buy them with my own money.” Then, without skipping a beat, “Dad, can I borrow some money?”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beta test group for US Government Curriculum

Zeezok Publishing is looking for students/parents interested in being part of a beta/test group for a new high school US Government curriculum. A restricted yahoo group has been set up for the participants. If you are interested in participating please send an email to:


This is a restricted/members only group. Once the allotted spaces have been filled the group will be closed. After you subscribe you will be contacted, via this yahoo group, in the next few weeks as to how you can participate. There is no cost involved, all materials will be provided. You will be asked to evaluate, comment and provide feedback on the material so it can be finalized before going to press. All "classes" and work will be available on-line. 

Here is a description of the course: A Noble Experiment: The History and Nature of the American Government, written by Mr. Tim Spickler, M.Ed., a certified secondary teacher with over two decades of government teaching experience, is designed to be student-directed with a minimum of teacher preparation and involvement. A Noble Experiment covers all the national standards for high school civics and government, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, as well as the subject matter traditionally included in secondary government courses. With our unique and interesting approach to the subject matter, your student will enjoy studying the history, foundations, principles, and organization of our government.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Student Contracts

Do you ever feel like “the bad guy” in your home schooling efforts? In this twelve-year adventure I frequently have felt like a mafia-style “heavy,” laying into my kids when they were not remembering their assigned work, when they were not getting their work done in a timely manner, or when they were not making their best effort in the work they submit. I would scold, cajole, encourage, bribe, discipline, punish, and demand from my children a certain quality and quantity of work, but the effort always seemed to end back in my hands, though we are trying to raise children who are self-motivated and self-disciplined in their academic (and physical) labors.  

Finally, about five years ago, and after an entire summer of prayer and reading respected authors for organizational suggestions, it occurred to me that having my children sign a student contract at the beginning of the year would be a way to place the responsibility for accomplishing their work in their hands. So I created an individualized contract for each student and required him to sign it at the beginning of our school year. Yes, this is one contract my children are forced to sign, but they do have some freedom to approach me about studying a different subject area (within reason) than what I have listed for that year. And they do have some freedom within the contract to determine what day(s) they will accomplish certain subjects, if it is not a daily subject.

The idea behind the contract was that if my students balk at an assignment or whine that I am demanding too much of them, I can pull out their contracts and point to the fact that they signed and agreed to the given guidelines. Accompanying the contract was an explanation (verbally, though it would be wise to include it in writing so everyone “remembers” the same rules) of what the consequences would be for not fulfilling the requirements listed in the contract. Computer privileges seem to be the element of life that most motivate our children, so we have used that in our consequences. For example, if our children are late in getting up, they lose a minute of computer time for each minute they are late getting to breakfast. Since they only get an hour of free computer time a day, they are fairly motivated by that time constraint of being up by 7:30. If our children are late getting school started (which it is supposed to begin at 8:00 A.M.), they lose double time for each minute they are late in starting their schoolwork.

Granted, this still makes for some hassles for me in keeping track of time and the number of minutes that the kids are late, but I’m no longer the “heavy,” I’m just the clock-watcher. I just have to keep a little pad of paper next to me to write down the times my four students are up, and when they start their schoolwork. Then, my kids have to blame themselves for not getting up and at ‘em; and I don’t have to keep barking orders or demanding obedience from them. If they choose to disregard the rules or the guidelines they signed in their contracts, that’s their choice. But there are consequences for those choices, just as there will be consequences in the real world if they choose not to abide by the hours and contract stipulations in their work place.

The prime advantages I see in having students sign a schoolwork contract are that:
  • Students learn self-motivation and personal responsibility. They must abide by a given set of guidelines.
  • Students realize there are consequences for foolish choices, and there are rewards for wise ones.
  • Parents do not have to be drill sergeants or puppet masters. Rather, we are more like supervisors, expecting quality work from our children and inspecting their efforts on a regular basis.
  • Each student has a one-page summary of their goals for a given school year. Those goals can be reviewed periodically (by parent and child) to see how successfully those tasks and goals are being accomplished.
I’m including a sample of the student contract I’ve devised for our children. Obviously, your state’s home education requirements may be different than ours in the state of Ohio, but at least you will get an idea of how a student contract can be worded. And then pray for God’s grace and wisdom to know how to make the start of each day less stressful for your entire family, while enhancing each child’s self-discipline and personal accountability in life. Remember, God promises to give wisdom “liberally and without reproach” to anyone who lacks wisdom and asks for His help (James 1:5). We just have to ask...

Download a copy of the contract in a Word.doc format here.

Sample Student Contract
[Name of Your School]
2009-2010 Student Course Work
I, [student’s name], a high school student at [fill in your school name or your family name], agree to complete the following schoolwork on a weekly basis. (Daily, twice-a-week, regularly, etc. activities are indicated with particular subjects.)

  • Geometry – daily
  • Spelling Power – daily
  • Daily Grams – daily
  • Silent Reading (assigned British literature & pleasure reading) – daily for 30 minutes
  • Writing Assignments (due as assigned)
  • Chemistry – daily
  • Logic– 2 times a week (2 lessons a week or one book per month, whatever works for the given list)
  • Physical Education – regularly
  • Bible Study – daily
  • Geography/History – daily
  • Art History – 1 time per month
  • Vocabulary – 3 times a week
  • Volunteer Work – monthly
  • Home Economics – 3 days a week
  • Piano – daily
  • Choir (through church)
  • Spanish – 4 times a week for 30 minutes each time (or a min. of 120 min./week)

I will be up at least by 7:30 A.M., then have breakfast, accomplish my chore(s), and be ready for school by 8:00 A.M. each school day. I am agreeing to complete a minimum of 182 days of 5 hours of schoolwork a day (the equivalent of 900 hours of education). I commit to complete my assignments and activities to the best of my ability, to God’s glory and honor!



_______________________________________________________
Signature                                Date

Download a copy of the contract in a Word.doc format here. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We've only just begun....

Do you want to know the truth? I’ve never written a blog before in my life. Do you want to know another truth? I didn’t even know what blog stood for until I read some definitions last night. (It is an abbreviated form of the word weblog, by the way.) Almost immediately I discovered jargon, code words, and vocabulary from a “foreign” language. Gulp. I’ve never been a woman to sit down in front of the computer for long periods and read other people’s blogs. No offense to anyone else; I’m sure I could learn a lot from reading their sites! Frankly, I just don’t feel like I have time to sit for an hour a day (or even a week) to read things from the Internet. I barely find 30 minutes each week to write my extended family an e-mail, let alone to “surf the net.” And then friends and church ask why I’m not on Facebook, Blogspot, or any of these other computer-related ways of developing relationships on-line, and my response is: “I barely have time to develop relationships in my house, it seems. How can I do it on-line?”
Well, after some time and thought, and a lot of prayer, I’ve decided to give this blogging a shot. It will only be by God’s grace that I find time to write these musings and ramblings, so you’ll know how “gracefully” I am living by how frequently these blogs change. Topics will range on everything from gem-like memories of things my kids say or do (we have six of them to create lots of gems) to what God has been teaching me from His Word or from my personal mistakes in daily life (ugh). Quite honestly, part of me balks at sharing what God is teaching me because I think, Do I really want people to see how long it takes me to learn some of these lessons? And then I realize that’s just pride on my part.
I am a struggling homeschooling mom, as are many of you. I have six children ranging in ages from twenty-one months (and still in diapers) to seventeen (and now taking some college classes at the local community college during his final year of high school). Keeping on top of lesson plans, household chores, church responsibilities, family relationships, and daily devotions seems to be the lake in which I am continually trying to keep my head above water. It’s a constant struggle to go from changing my toddler’s diaper and keeping our three-year-old entertained while the older kids are doing school to helping my eleven-year-old figure out what an echinoderm really is or learning with my junior in high school how to perform stoichiometry in chemistry successfully.
My goal is that this blog will be entertaining, humorous, joyful, encouraging, relaxing, helpful, and inviting. But above all, I pray that it constantly reminds you it is only through God’s grace that any of us accomplishes anything in a day, and that we need to rely on His grace and His goodness to succeed in every aspect of our lives. That’s not a cliché; that’s reality. Soli Deo Gloria.
While you wait for the next adventure you can go on your own at www.zeezok.com or www.bookpeddler.us