Count your blessings;
Name them one by one. Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one. Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.
          (Chorus of "Count Your Blessings")

"I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth."
                                                                                                                        Psalm 34:1

On my third reading of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I finally took her dare to record the blessings in my life. This week I reached 1,000. The simple act of writing down God's gifts helps me notice the small things, remember the big things, reflect on His kindness, and focus on gratefulness rather than complaining.

Here are 16 of the 1,000. If you want to see the full collection, you'll have to outlive me and come to my funeral. My journal will be displayed by my photos. : )

Ongoing opportunities for the girls to earn money
ew friends to pray for
ncouragement from a friend

he alto line to "Behold Our God"
Having a plan for supper before 4:00
pen windows
sing my whole board [in Scrabble] and getting a 50-point bonus
full pantry
ot running out of gas on the turnpike
ough rising

oing to the gym with Janessa
ce cream
resh chocolate chip flaxseed muffins for breakfast
he squeeze of trials which makes me exercise faith and cling to Christ
eeing the Holy Spirit's activity in a meeting with a friend

Onward to 2,000!
If you're anything like me, you're on the lookout for perfect people. Well, in your head you know there has been no one perfect but Jesus to walk this earth, but your heart tells you that some people, particularly women, get awfully close. You read their books, or hear them speak, or observe them from afar at church.  And what you see doesn't look anything at all like what you live.

Look at her. She glows when her husband speaks. With her children she is patient and creative. She is fashionable and beautiful and never seems to have a hair out of place. God has given her purpose, He's even given her a platform to share her wisdom, and she is serving Him with joy.

Then you look at yourself. You see the ring around the toilet. You remember wanting to ring your kid's neck this morning. Your head rings with more doubt and insecurities than you think you can bear. As you think of her, your head bows lower.

I don't know about you, but it's dangerous for me to read too many books or blogs because what begins as an attempt to collect ideas can end up throwing me into a pit of condemnation. Because I can't see the full picture of these women's lives, I assume they are doing everything (or nearly everything) right.  Me?  Not even close.

You've probably already figured it out, but Mrs. Perfect is not writing the posts on this site.  I have convictions and ideas to share--as do you--because God has been a faithful teacher He has generously given me gifts for the good of His people--as He has you. These convictions, ideas, and gifts are what ooze through each post. But if they show anything about me, it's only one-dimensional. They don't announce the other dimensions that are just as true--like that I'm hesitant to cook for people outside my family and that sometimes my kids are hesitant to eat what I cook, that I can't think fast, that I am ignorant about many things.

I still wrestle with insecurities. I hear the critic squawking in my head, telling me I can't. I write a post, only to wonder if I'm telling readers what they already know. I mean, if I know it, everyone else does, too, right? I grapple with the irony that I am a writing teacher who isn't much of a writer.

If this site encourages you to truly enjoy learning with your kids, I will be most happy. If, as more women stumble onto the posts here, a conversation develops and we can learn together as peers, I will be ecstatic. Never do I want you to leave this site feeling discouraged or condemned.

Our strengths and weaknesses are different, but we all have something in common: we need God to lead us to tomorrow and beyond, for without Him we can do nothing.

May God bless you as you follow Him.


From Mary DeMuth on Inferiority:

A blog is not a proper medium
For a heart splayed here
But I feel it still
This insidious beast
Strangling my voice
Stammering my speech
Holstering what little reserve left
And carelessly shooting my will to the stars


I see others superior
And me beneath them
So very very far below
A submarine me looks up
Through warbled waters
At their staid massiveness
Their casual assurance
Their wit and intelligence

You stoop, dear Lord, to earth
Not once
But twice (Click to tweet)
Once to fit my shoes to your sacred feet
Twice to lift me from the dust
And set my feet on a rock
The kind of rock making
Us all the same

So when I cower beneath
Another’s magnificence
I’m forgetting the stoop,
The shoes,
The lifting,
The rock my toes wiggle upon
And I’m forgetting all You’ve done
To set me free
From my own insecurity
And the tyranny of others’ betterness.

Forgive me.
Yes, forgive me.

Writing is scary. According to Denise J. Hughes, we can overcome our fear with one word. Find out what it is here.

What do you think? How have you begun, or what is your plan to begin?
If you have young children who are learning to read and write stories, share these books about Rocket, a curious dog, and his teacher, a little yellow bird.  Very sweet!
Teaching my girls to read is a highlight of our homeschooling years. I didn't officially know what I was doing, but I figured it couldn't be that hard. Long before thousands of curricula were written, people learned how to read. I assumed we could handle the process without the experts and, happily, I was right. (Of course, I know that children, for various reasons, need intervention and curricula. I don't mean to heap any condemnation on anyone but rather share what worked for us, in case it will work for you, too.)

My strategies were simple.

I made our home a literate environment, with books and print in nearly every room of the house. We spent hours reading together.

I made sure they interacted with the alphabet often, with puzzles, magnetic letters, pictures, books, etc.

As soon as they could hold a pencil, they began writing. When they needed to know how to spell a word, I sometimes dictated the letters, sometimes told them the letters' sounds. I taught them suffixes: for instance, I'd say "ing," and they would know what letters to write.

I wrote words on index cards and posted them on the objects they represented.

I helped them see patterns in words, again with index cards.  I wrote <at> on a 4 x 6 card.  I cut the rest of the cards in half. On one, I wrote a <p>, on another an <f>, on another an <r>, etc., stacking them into a book held together with two brads. They flipped the pages as they read each word.

I wrote sight words, one per index card. I lined them up one after another on the carpet to make a sentence for them to read aloud. Often I made them goofy. Of course, it was then their turn to put the cards into a sentence for me to read and, of course, their sentence was goofier than mine.

The MagnaDoodle was our best tool. I would write a simple note to them with words they could easily read.  They would erase my note, writing a response with words they knew. After erasing their message, I would respond with a simple message, adding in a new word that would push them to use phonics.

When I read aloud, I would periodically stop and point to a word I knew they knew. They would read it, and I would continue.

Super Easy Readers (Bob books) and easy readers (Green Eggs and Ham) as well as sites, such as, gave them more tastes of success and practice.

Reading for a beginner is exhausting. I propped my little readers with support, sharing the reading load with them.

Most of these strategies focus on decoding rather than comprehension. I found that, because we read (and reread...and reread), enjoyed, and talked about so many books together, comprehension was absorbed rather than taught.

That's what I can recall after more than ten years.  As you can see, I did nothing magical or profound. But the results were both. Reading gave them the key that has unlocked an endless world of learning.  Teaching it to them is one of the best gifts I could give them.
The house is empty of everyone but me. My husband is in Virginia for work; my girls are on a mission trip to Boston.

So little time, so much to do before they return.

I helped friends in the morning and afternoon. In between I wanted to visit two libraries. On my way to the first one, I too-late-to-do-anything-about-it zipped past a police officer. A glance at my rearview mirror confirmed what I assumed: he pulled out behind me with his lights on.

When I imagined this moment countless times before, I thought I would tremble and cry. I didn't. I slowed to the side of the road, opened my window, and reached for my license. Calm and cool.  Oh yeah, and I whispered, "Please, God, help him to be merciful."

The police officer approached my van, my hand already poised out  the window with my ID. I said sheepishly, "This is the first time I've ever been pulled over."

He needed to know that. I've been driving for thirty years, after all.

He took my license and addressed me sternly: "In the winter, the speed limit through here is 25. In the summer, it is 15.  You were going 43. Whatever season it is, 43 is way too fast. You know why it's 15 in the summer, right?"

Yes, I know. A park is on the right side of the road, a public pool on the left.  "Children," I replied.

He continued: "Because it's your first time to be pulled over, I am going to give you a verbal warning--not even a written warning--but you need to slow down.  Have a good day." 

Thank you, Mr. Police Officer, for showing me mercy today. You saved me time and money and kept my record clean. I'll try to remember not to forget to drive slower next time. If not, at least I'll remember I was warned.
This afternoon I uncovered notes from a presentation I made at a local homeschooling  fair in 2005.  Maybe they will be helpful here. (If you make it to the end, there will be a treat!)

Fanning the Flame: Teaching Writing to Your Elementary-Aged Child
Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.
~ W. B. Yeats

Extinguisher #1
Replace real writing with a list of things to do (penmanship, spelling, vocabulary, grammar exercises).

Fanning the Flame
Encourage your child to write, write, and write some more.

Extinguisher #2
Limit children to certain types of writing.

Fanning the Flame
Allow your child to show her personality, to develop her writer's voice, to write about subjects which interest her.

Extinguisher #3
Make writing a separate subject.

Fanning the Flame
Integrate writing with other disciplines.

Extinguisher #4
Expect a piece to be immediately perfect.

Fanning the Flame
Encourage your child to utilize the writing process.

Extinguisher #5

Assume that every piece must be a finished piece.

Fanning the Flame

Allow some pieces to remain in the drafting stage.

Extinguisher #6
Insist that a child complete the entire process without assistance.

Fanning the Flame
Encourage, brainstorm, take dictation, helpful.

Extinguisher #7
Bring the school mentality home and grade or red mark the child's work.

Fanning the Flame
Appreciate the child's accomplishments. Take note of errors for future instruction.

Extinguisher #8
Ignore writing because you feel incapable.

Fanning the Flame
Be a learner.

Ah, you made it...or you cheated and skipped here for the treat. Whatever the case, here it is, the story of a boy-turned-author whose early teachers were "extinguishers" and whose later teachers were "fans." Enjoy.
You can find a beautiful collection of chalk verses here.

If you have a boy who loves Legos and needs encouragement to write, check out this download which links the two.

There is also one that links Legos and language arts here.
When students transition to junior high and high school and begin taking classes with teachers outside the home, Moms transition, too. No longer do we decide the curriculum or set  the expectations. We relinquish that control, so our children can learn from experts passionate about their subjects.

Initially, it seems glorious. We don’t need to plan any lessons, grade any assignments, or coerce our child to meet any deadlines. We happily place that responsibility in the lap of another.

But we soon realize that the teacher is not a clone of us. "Wait a minute," we might say, "her standard is higher than we’re used to."  Or we might think: “I expected him to be more creative.”  Or “Hey, she isn’t encouraging my son enough.” Or. Or. Or.

I’ve experienced both sides: I’ve been the mom and the teacher.

Here are some of my thoughts:

       * Expect a learning curve the first month or two. It takes time to adjust to a new teacher’s expectations and style. Don’t panic. It’s okay for students to experience some hiccups as they adjust.

        *When someone else is shouldering the responsibility of teaching, you can stand on the sidelines to encourage when necessary and help when asked.

        *If an expectation is unclear, encourage your student to ask questions, communicating directly with the teacher. It is not your class; it’s your child’s.

        *When a teacher grades a paper, accept the grade. Even if it is lower than you like, it is a growing opportunity for your child.  If it needs more discussion with the teacher, allow your child to initiate the conversation.

        *Trials are part of life. When we face difficult circumstances, we can grow. Don’t rob your child of this chance to mature by stepping in prematurely or inappropriately.

        *Don’t expect teachers to encourage your child as you do. They are serving more kids than yours.

        *The class may not look exactly like you want it to look. That’s okay. It’s beneficial for your child to experience something different from what he gets at home.

        *Don’t offer excuses for your child. It’s good for her to take responsibility for her actions and choices.

        *Trust the teacher.

If you tend to be a helicopter mom who hovers over your children or a fire fighter mom who wants to rescue them from the flames of trial, recognize your tendency. Resist writing that e-mail or making that phone call. Wait. Watch. Encourage. At the end of the class, you’ll likely have a student who has adapted to another person’s style, learning despite that person’s weaknesses, stirred by his/her strengths, and prepared for the next challenge in line.