Friday, January 30, 2015

Motivate Your Child - Book Review

Parenting seems to be an area of perpetual growth for me.  How to parent more effectively isn't really something I thought I'd be thinking about at this stage in the game.  Now was to be a time of exploring subjects that I was interested in learning more about like photography and psychology, or maybe gardening and natural medicine, but certainly not how to be a better, more effective parent.  Well, we all know the old saying, "We make plans, and God laughs".  I'm pretty sure he's had a few good belly-rolls to my credit, and that was just yesterday.  Am I alone on this?

Yes, we have 10 children.  Yes, we made mistakes.  (eh, hem...still make mistakes)  What's different now with these three that remain in our charge than the seven that went before them?  Us.  Simply put, we are different.  Although we found ourselves a little blindsided with the idea of raising not one, but three more children after our, let's just say, prime child rearing years, one gift we've discovered is the gift of conscious decision making and real planning.

If you've been around here any length of time you know that stepping into the big things in life with a plan and an idea of how we'd like things to turn out really isn't what we do around here.  However, with hindsight being 20/20, and stronger faith base present in our lives, books like Motivate Your Child finding their way into our clutches is a little more than happenstance as far as I am concerned.  Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN, have done a wonderful job equipping parent with the knowledge of the conscience, it's importance in the development of our children, and the relevance it hold in our faith walk.  Despite my becoming more conscious about the way I parent these past five years, I can honestly say that I had never once given thought to helping my children develop a strong conscience.  It just never crossed my mind.

Motivate Your Child is a two-part book written in a practical manner that first addresses the moral development of our children, and then addresses their spiritual development.  The insights given are simply stated, and plenty of real life experiences are present to illustrate the concepts at work in real life families.  What I like most about the real life families is that so many different types of families are represented.  That spoke to my heart.  Often times when we read a book on parenting it seems to be written to the "normal" family.  You know.  That nuclear family with a mom and dad and four children.  Families of all types are represented here, even homeschooling families.  This is something I noticed right away, because we are anything but normal in our makeup.  The fact that step-families, adoptive families, foster families, single parent families, as well as two parent families are all represented indicates to me that the unique challenges faced to each of us do not exclude us from the ability to implement the ideas shared within the pages of this wonderful book.

After reading Motivate Your Child I feel empowered.  Parenting to the heart is something that I've always felt instinctively, but my instincts on how to actually pull this off have been a little faulty.  With the responsibility of ushering three more young people into adulthood I have never taken my role as parent more seriously.  Never before have I known how to so effectively remove myself from the circumstance and not take things so personally.  Never before have I had the tools to empower my children through teaching and discipline.  Praise God I am figuring these things out more and more.  With a book like Motivate Your Child in my tool belt things are certain to continue to improve for my family.  Something that I was taught within the last year is reiterated within these pages, and that is that truly effective parenting begins with disciplining myself.  It seems so simple now that it's out in the open for me, but it really has been a real lesson for me to learn.

My view of my role as a parent has really morphed over the years.  Motivate Your Child is a book that met a lot of my hi-lighter, and I will be sure to reference it time and again as we implement more of what we learned through its teachings.  This resource really fills a gap for me.  I have always struggled with how to impart biblical teaching on the hearts of my children.  Coming up with awesome parables for all of life's circumstances has never been my gift.  BUT, with the teachings on building internal motivation and the promptings of the conscience, as well as the spiritual lessons, I am better equipped now than ever before.  The knowledge imparted through the pages of Motivate Your Child has put me in a better position than ever before to raise thoughtful young people with a strong spiritual walk that see their mistakes as learning opportunities rather than failures.  For this I am thankful.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Week in the Life

We've been having a lot of fun here at Royal Academy.  The air is downright frigid outside.  It is January in SE Michigan after all.  That being said, I've been trying to talk myself into making a bigger commitment to getting outside with the kids more often.  We tend to hibernate in the winter.  I see it as a season, though.  I mean, really.  Who wants to spend half an hour putting winter gear on children only to return back inside 15 minutes after you walk out the door?  Well, not me.  However, the kids are getting older.  Bella and Avery are more adept at dressing themselves, and Harmony is growing into quite the helpful young lady.  Both are HUGE bonuses for this "round-two" mom.  Tomorrow is the first day in our new routine where I have Nature Walk added to the planner.  We'll see how we do.  There are 11 acres here to explore, after all, and it would be a shame not to discover all there is to discover.

We just wrapped up week one of our newly implemented routine, and we all have had a wonderful time playing and learning this week.  It has been a nice hodgepodge of playing, curriculum, games, impromptu moments, and tweaking the schedule to allow for some flexibility due to a couple late nights.  Yes, week one, and we already employed the right to change up the plan.  In my book that is a VERY beautiful thing.

School for us doesn't always resemble the brick and mortar style school most people think of when they think of education.  Honestly, in my opinion, I am doing things the best when it least resembles institutional education as far as I'm concerned.  My crew seems to learn best hands on, and that's when we generate the most excitement.  Another one of my goals this season is to institute more art into our week.  We have some real budding artists here, and I really do see the real value in art in regard to brain development and such.  I'm sorry to say it had fallen by the wayside.  Somehow, I had fallen into the trap of being more focused on finishing the curriculum on time and lost the joy part of learning.  As far as I am concerned the joy is the most important part, and I had inadvertently misplaced it all together.  With a little shift in priorities, all is right in our world at the moment.

I thought it would be fun to share a little photo journal of sorts to show some of the highlights of our week, messy house and all.  After all, we really are LIVING here in The Zoo Crew.  Hope you enjoy this little glimpse into our week:

Bella exploring math with our frogs on a log.

Harmony exploring the function of
vocal cords and the voice box.

A little make believe princess play.

The newest addition to our routine, Tablet Time.

Avery exploring the effects of water temperature on his color changing car.

Fingerprint Art

Learning some Kung Fu moves to correlate
with our study on The Boxer Rebellion.

Wrapping up the week with some snow fun!

What have you been up to this week?  How do you incorporate more outside activity into your routine?  I'd love to hear about your life at home learning with your family.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Motivate Your Child - GIVEAWAY

I've never been one for New Year's resolutions.  However, I have posed a few challenges to myself for this year.  One of them is to stretch myself when it comes to blogging and social media and all that that may encompass.  I have a few irons in the fire, but this is my first big challenge of the year.  Never before have I been part of a book launch team, never before have I participated in a Rafflecopter Giveaway.  It is a tremendous honor to have my first experiences with this aspect of blogging and social media be with such a wonderful book.

Over the past week or so I have been given a glimpse inside of the book Motivate Your Child, and I am waiting in anticipation of holding the print copy in my hands.  If you've spent any time here at The Zoo Crew you know just how important it is to my husband and myself to raise the current three children in our charge to be self-motivated, self-driven, and independent.  Never before has this been so important to us as parents.

Motivate You Child promises to be a timeless resource that we will surely reference over the upcoming years of ushering these three children into adolescence, young adulthood, and ultimately adulthood.  I was hooked at the introduction.  I am proud to host the following giveaway here at The Zoo Crew.  Good luck!

To celebrate the release of Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told,  members of the Launch Team are sharing a wonderful giveaway filled with a Go Pro Camera, $50 Mardel Gift Card, $25 Amazon Gift Card, and book bundles from both the National Center for Biblical Parenting and Thomas Nelson Publishing! Three winners will win prizes with a total value of nearly $800!

  motivate your child giveaway

Here’s what you could win: 

GRAND PRIZE  ($500+ value)

HERO3+ Silver captures gorgeous, professional-quality 1080p60 video and 10MP photos at speeds of up to 10 frames per second. Built-in Wi-Fi enables you to use the GoPro App to control the camera remotely, preview shots and share your favorites on Facebook, Twitter and more. Compatible with all GoPro mounts, you can wear it or attach it to your gear for immersive POV footage of your favorite activities. It’s waterproof to 131’ (40m) and built tough for all of life’s adventures. Combined with stunning low-light performance, high-performance audio and an ultra wide-angle glass lens, HERO3+ Silver makes capturing and sharing your life easier than ever.  

NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value)

 The Christian Parenting Handbook  and Companion Guide Parenting is Heart Work God's Awesome Story Hero Training Camp Children's Curriculum


Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst  Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson   Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine  All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill  The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill 


FIRST PRIZE ($165 value)

$50 Mardel Gift Card

 NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value)

The Christian Parenting Handbook  and Companion Guide Parenting is Heart Work God's Awesome Story Hero Training Camp Children's Curriculum


SECOND PRIZE ($115 value)

$25 Amazon Gift Card

 Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst  Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson   Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine  All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill  The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway dates: January 12, 2015 @12:00am ET through January 28, 2015 @ 11:59pm ET Terms and Conditions: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Amazon. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn. 

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Best Laid Plans

It's highly likely that most all of my homeschooling buddies know my favorite, one-word answer to the question, "What is your favorite thing about homeschooling?"

Do you know the answer?  It is the one thing for me that outweighs all other general pluses of educating my family on the homestead.  Of course I love that we can freely study our bible and have God be the center of our homeschool.  I love being available to my children 24/7, and them to me.  Yes, even when they drive me batty, and I them, this is still a major bonus. Being able to provide a custom tailored education based on the interests and learning levels of my children is pretty huge as well.

There is one thing, however, that complements these big bonuses found only in home education.  Have you guess it yet?


Am I the only one that embraces this humongous gift of living and learning at home?  Did you get sidetracked and forget that you run the show?  Are you caught in the daily grind?  Don't be afraid to step back and follow your instincts.  Never before has this unique attribute of home education been more appreciated and respected by me than right now; this very moment.  As each hour, day, week, month, and year goes by my appreciation of the gift of flexibility grows more and more.  With that appreciation comes my willingness to wield it with wild abandon.

We started this journey out this time around the way I've seemed to do most things since, oh I don't know, birth?!  We dove right into the frigid water of the deep end, willingly, head first.  Is there really any other way to do things?  (I know there is, but they typically elude me.)  It seems my nature is either to plan things to death and forego ever starting, OR dive right in clothes and all.  Somewhere along the line the middle ground disappeared for me.  Presuming it ever did actually exist.

We've been tooling along here at The Zoo Crew quite well with our tutelage at Royal Academy.  In the beginning we started our with a little deschooling, getting to know each other time.  It was well worth it to us on many levels to spend this quality time together, especially for our resident elementary age child coming to us from public school with a lot of emotional luggage in tow.  The toddlers, well, I'm sure you know how they are.  They learn no matter what we are doing, and they are all too happy to tag along on all of our adventures.

After everyone got settled and a little more comfortable with our new lifestyle we settled into a "canned" curriculum which we loved, and it served us well at the time. When we started out with My Father's World I thought it was going to be our thing through the end.  I mean, we really did love it, but alas I am always the rebel.

From there we etched a little closer to my eclectic heart by tossing out the "canned" curriculum and worked on areas of weakness for a while which led us into following our own version of the four-year plan laid out in A Heart of Wisdom.  As we enter back on the track we laid out for this school year, after a much needed extended break over Thanksgiving and Christmas (despite finding two of us --me included-- still sick after THREE MONTHS of illness in our home), I look longingly toward spring.  It's not the renewal of life in the growing things on our land that calls me.  It's not the warmer temperatures and the sudden downpours.  It's not the promise of animals and an abundant harvest.  I love the winter and all it encompasses.

What I look forward to is the completion of this phase in our homeschooling journey.  I look forward to closing this chapter and writing a new one.  Once spring hits, our textbooks will close, this plan will end, and a new chapter will lay blank before us.  I have different plans this time around.  The plans that lie ahead do not include the textbooks of this school year.  They may not include literal textbooks at all, unless they come upon us naturally, but we do not plan to be held captive by chapters and workbook schedules.

I am looking forward to embracing the natural opportunities for learning that exist all around us; our home, our community, our land, our family and friends.  My heart has always been eclectic with an unschooling tendency, and that is exactly where I am being led for the next season.  When I watch my four and five year old (21st and 26th of this month, respectively) learn with wild abandon despite the absence of textbooks, or sometimes in spite of their presence, I am reminded that we are all learners all of the time.  That is, unless the love of learning is snuffed out for us by false timelines and artificial learning environments.  One of our guests over Christmas, a public school student, made a statement that shook me back to my core belief system, "Why are we learning when we're not in school?"


It is my desire to instill a love of learning in my children so deep that there will be no compartmentalizing involved.  Living IS learning!  It is exciting.  Learning is human nature.  It took me years, in some cases over a decade, to reignite my love for certain "subjects".  I literally thought I hated (HATED) history.  Can you believe it?  History?  Boring?  Are you kidding me?  Science was right there too.  You do know just how fascinating science is, right?  I somehow managed to come out of high school with the idea that I just wasn't smart enough for science.  Did I mention that I was a honor roll student, editor of the yearbook, and student of the month?  Yet, somehow I was so diminished in this subject area that I sought outside instructors for my older homeschool graduates.  I just couldn't cut the muster, or so I thought.  Craziness!

The three students being guided into adult life at Royal Academy will hopefully be spared these difficulties to overcome.  My prayer is that they will love learning and not see it separate of living.  I long for them to embrace life and living fully with all the pitfalls and triumphs that living will surely bring.  Mistakes and victories alike will not define them.  They will merely usher them to what is next all the while providing valuable wisdom to carry forward to their next chapter.

Do you have a vision for your home school?  I would love to hear about it!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Motivate Your Child - Bonus Offer

I am excited to share with you about a new book I’m reading this month -- Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told.  Doesn't that sound amazing? Isn't that what you want for your kids?  Since we've found ourselves taking a entering another round of raising children this has become more important to us than ever before.

God's Word gives us a better way to parent, one that builds strong internal motivation in children. When parents change the way they parent, kids change the way they live.  This fact has become more and more obvious to me over the past several years.  Parenting is so much more about disciplining ourselves than I ever realized the first time around.

Motivate Your Child is a practical book that explores a theology of internal motivation and then gives parents real-life solutions to equip their kids for life.  This is the newest book by parenting experts, Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN from the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP), also authors of The Christian Parenting Handbook. 

In order to motivate parents to Pre-Order the book, the NCBP is offering a $150 package of resources for FREE!  There are video, audio and print items that can be used on a variety of devices.  You can learn more on the Book Website.  You can Pre-Order the book now from any retailer, and then follow the instructions below.  

Pre-Order from Amazon 

INSTRUCTIONS: Purchase the book. Email the receipt to  The NCBP will send you the link and a special code to access these downloadable products. This offer is good until January 31, 2015.

Five on the 5th - Favorite Blog Posts for January

So today is the 6th, but it's still the week of the 5th.  It's all good!  This past month was a bit more intense than I had anticipated.    Illness seems to still be lingering in our household.  Guess who's sick now?  Of course!  Mom is always the last one to get it, right?  Nothing like trying to catch up on sleep after caring for three sick kids over the course of nearly three months just to come down with a cold yourself.  It's the icing on the cake!

Speaking of icing, my first blog post that I would like to share with you is a recipe for The Best Cream Cheese Frosting Ever by Gluten Free Gigi.  This is a wonderful site that was referred to me by the Facebook Page Manager at Bob's Red Mill.  For Christmas morning I used the recipe on the Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust mix bag for Cinnamon Rolls.  I had a few questions, so I visited their Facebook Page and asked away.  They were super helpful and even provided me with this wonderful, gluten free resource.  The frosting pretty much is the best ever, and the blog is quite amazing, too!

As a mother of 10 children in a combined, adoptive, legal guardianship family our family makeup is a little different than the typical, nuclear family.  Sometimes it is confusing to others, and sometimes it is confusing to myself.  Loving that many children and nurturing them into adulthood is something I never saw coming when I was 20 years younger.  It wasn't part of my plan, but it was my calling nonetheless.  Just like the author at Five in Tow, I wouldn't have it any other way.  This is life.  It is mess, and I am absolutely tired.  This post spoke deep into my heart.  (why) I Don't Want More Kids is a worthwhile read for anyone that has ever loved a child.

Lately, I find myself being called back to an older, more simple approach to education.  My focus is more tuned to natural learning and more of the live and learn philosophy.  I find myself reading books about unschooling again and searching deeper into my soul while I examine the hearts of my children a little more closely.  What do they love?  How do they approach life?  What brings them joy?  Durenda at Simple Nourishing Home is a mom to eight children, and her post on The Unhurried Homeschooler pulled me back to my roots as a young homeschooling mom.  She reminded me of what I've known all along and encouraged me to honor my authentic self by reminding me to trust my instincts, and my children.  No matter the style of your homeschool, there are things to be gained here as well as some wonderful resources for further exploration.

I love free books, and I have quite grown to love free Kindle books.  You can own thousands of them for free, and they don't take up ANY space on the bookshelf.  Bonus!  Every Saturday, Homeschooling Library shares a list of free Kindle books on their blog.  They're listed by age and grade level, which I find very helpful.

Even though I am not in love with the idea of living grain free, I am warming up to it, and I do love my friends that share blogs with me that focus on good for you food that is fun to make.  One of my homeschooling buddies stumbled upon this recipe for Grain-Free Sugar Cookies at Danielle Walker's Against All Grain and thought of me.  This means two new gluten-free blogs to add to my list of resources for this month.  Yippee!  Now, I just need to learn how to make Coconut Cream, because that stuff is expensive!

5 on the Fifth
You can visit the rest of the posts here.


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