Where Grief and Christmas Meet


This is supposed to be the best time of the year, yet there is always pain mixed in the joy of this season. Even in the biblical nativity account,  hated King Herod introduces unimaginable grief into the miracle story of  Jesus' birth, with his ambition leading to deaths of many innocent children. Joy and pain in one story. Suffering and a Savior, intertwined.

 I feel the meaning of Christmas sharply in my soul this year. The coming of our hope, our Savior. We unexpectedly lost my husband's brother last month to a tragic accident. He was only 36, and a father of 4 children. He was a godly man, who had fought hard for joy, true love, and healing, before his life was cut way too short. I am truly proud to have been his little sister for 15 years. We are heartbroken.

It is also the 5th anniversary of Sandy Hook shootings, another sinful man killing beautiful innocent children. So many are heartbroken.

 The joy and pain go hand in hand. The beauty of our world is so intricately connected to the pain, sometimes there is no separating them. You feel them both. They both hurt, but in different ways.

 I don't think I ever truly appreciated the beauty of this world or the overwhelming  grace, mercy, and miracle of the gospel, without the sharp pain of the suffering on this world. I hate that I have this new appreciation for the holiday,  and detest the avenue in which it was learned, but I do. The greatest gift God can give us, besides our salvation, is perspective.

I know the pain of seeing a loved one pass away before my eyes, while at the same time feeling the joy of knowing he is falling on his knees as he sees the face of his savior. Both pain and joy, sitting next to each other in my heart. Extreme pain, extreme joy.

Today I fall on my knees, with both crushing grief and overwhelming thankfulness in equal measure. I hear the Gospel Story, and see my Savior.

Beef, Bean, and Rice Freezer Burritos

I made these after our family had taco night, so I already had the meat and rice made! I just doubled all my ingredients, then put these together after dinner!


*1 lb ground beef
*Taco seasoning
*2/3 cup of water
*Refried Beans (15 oz can)
*Flour tortillas, 8 inches

Rice ingredients
*2 cups chicken broth
*1 cup white rice
*1 tbsp olive oil
*1/2 cup salsa

1. Cook ground beef, drain grease. Add taco seasoning and water, and cook until water is absorbed.

2. Add oil in medium pan, cook rice until slightly brown. Add chicken broth and salsa & bring to boil, then reduce and Cook for 15 min. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

3. Warm refried beans

4. Soften tortillas by warming in microwave. Assemble burritos by adding about two spoonfuls of beef, beans, and rice.

5. Roll burritos and wrap in plastic wrap. Store in freezer grade ziploc bag.

To Warm:
Remove plastic wrap, and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Sometimes I poke the middle once with a fork to make sure it heats evenly.

What doesn't kill you...

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"
This proverb is so well known, that even my kids know it. I'll admit I have sang Kelly Clarkson's song "Stronger" at the top of my lungs multiple  times in my car. Even so, there is something that sometimes feel a little false about this saying.

I recently read a twist on the well-known saying that struck a nerve; "What doesn't kill you gives you unhealthy coping mechanisms and a dark sense of humor." I laughed out loud because it was true of me for so long. I still have a dark sense of humor, because humor is a way to survive pain. In high school, when I was living with an emotionally abusive and mentally ill mother, I said my life could have been a great sitcom, albeit a somewhat dark comedy that probably would now be on HBO. :)

Personally, I am learning that those things that almost killed me (emotionally, spiritually, & physically) eventually make me stronger, but first made me less willing to admit my weakness, and try live in my own existing strength.

Maybe as Christians we should rethink this phrase.
Here is my suggestion:
"What doesn't kill you, makes you deeply grateful there is someone much stronger."

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me"
1 Cor 12:9

How to Fight Winter Blues while Homeschooling

The key to fighting winter blues is to start the fight EARLY before they begin!

 It's mid October and that time of year again in Northern Indiana, time to break out my HappyLight during morning coffee! My doctor told me to begin light therapy close to Halloween. I followed his advice 2 years ago, and felt a difference in my normal winter blues.  Last year I waited until Christmas,  and it was too late.  Seriously,  order now and help winter blues before they begin!!!

 I use my light 20 minutes to an hour each morning as I drink my coffee, read my teacher's manual, and read my Bible. Sometimes I even keep it on as I begin our Together Time, and my kids benefit too. My husband starting using it during his devotionals, and he said he noticed a difference too.

The light wakes you up, and tells your brain it's morning. It helps maintain healthy circadian rhythms through the long dark days of winter. Without the light, I tend to stay up later, and sleep in later, leading to lethargy and depression.

Winter can be a beautiful time for solitude, but solitude is not the same as isolation.  Isolation is a dangerous place to be. Make sure that you are not becoming isolated during the long gray months of winter. No relationship is based on accident.  We must be intentional about the friendships in our lives.

Many people ask how my kids make friends.  My answer is usually that my kids have to actually learn what adult friendship look like, their friends are not delivered to them by proximity.  We have to be intentional with getting out and spending time with friends.  It is quality time, versus quantity.

The same intentional mindset must be made for Homeschooling moms.  I don't care if you are an introvert or raging extrovert, no man is an island.  We are designed for relationship.

Some ideas could include, a monthly or weekly playdate with a few other homeschool moms.  Don't worry about school that day, throw the lessons out, and focus on relationships.

Yes, we all know this one, but it is so important.  This can go hand in hand with intentional relationships. Find another homeschool mom and make them your walking friend.  It doesn't take hours of strength training to keep up your spirits in the winter.  Just walk a mile or two slowly with a  friend a few times a week.
"If you want to go fast, go by yourself.  If you want to go far, go with a friend."
Maybe find a homeschool friend with a teenager, and you can pay them to watch the kids while you walk the mall.  Just stay active.

I hope this helps someone.  Fight the winter blues before they begin!

You may also be interested in:
Isolation versus Solitude

What is a homeschool co-op?

Banana Oatmeal Raisin Cookies- Dairy & Egg Free

1 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup oil, plus 1 teaspoon oil
1 banana, mashed
1 1⁄2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 1⁄4 cups oats
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup raisins

Mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
In a separate bowl mix together the brown sugar, sugar, oil, and water.
Add the banana.
Stir in the flour mixture and mix well.
Stir in the oats.
Stir in raisins.
Chill in fridge for hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Drop cookies by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet.
Cook for 13 minutes until done (they should be a bit browned on the bottom).

Pros & Cons- MFW Creation to The Greeks

We are definitely a My Father's World Family, but that doesn't mean we don't tweak the curriculum every year to fit our family.  Everyone has their own pros and cons, so my pros may be your cons.  Please comment below how you tweaked CttG to work for your family!

Bible and History are VERY linked  this year. You will have a thorough look into the Old Testament, and what was happening in the Ancient World during our most well known Bible Stories.  This was extremely helpful, even to me as an adult.  If you have done MFW 1st grade, there will feel like a lot of repeats, but it is more in depth, with world history added.

  • History Books-Journey through the Bible  & Ancient World were great.  Journey through the Bible, which  added much needed historical context to all the Bible Stories.  Ancient World was very kid friendly, with easy to read info and colorful illustrations.   
  • The Jewish feasts added a depth to the OT study, using the book Celebrating Biblical Feasts. We did end up staggering these throughout the year.  Many of the feasts are right the beginning of the year, and felt overwhelming.  My suggestion is  1.) look ahead and be OK with spreading out your feasts; you can do the Sabbath feast anytime throughout your year (not just the week it is scheduled)  2.)Read through the whole feast before buying supplies.  We did only some parts of each feast, like challah bread and ceremony during Sabbath, but not traditional Sabbath meal. 
  • Egyptian and Greek Studies were fun, and added historical context again to the Bible Stories we all know.  The activities were usually low key, without tons of extra items to be bought, but memorial and help the children learn the concept.  For example, we played the Egyptian game of Senet, and it was included in the student sheets.  I will mention that Egypt felt like it lasted a very long time (almost the entire first half of the school year), and like the Jews wondering int he Wilderness, I was ready to leave  Egypt when it as time.
  • Student Sheets-Complete a timeline and create a history notebook, which includes a page for each major event or person, map work, and illustrations to color.  The maps alone make understanding the ancient world so much easier.  The timeline is also extremely similar to if you did MFW 1st grade, but with added historical events that were happening in the Ancient World.  I highly recommend doing the timeline, so you can see when historical events happen in the biblical timeline.
  • Student Sheets- The Maps and Timeline are well worth buying the students sheets,  but I was frustrated with the amount of notebook pages you have to create on your own. Look ahead and be prepared each week. There were several weeks when I was caught off guard, and would quickly have to make and print a notebook page, or we would skip it all together because I am just that Mom.
  • Streams of Civilization, while a very interesting read for me as an adult, sometimes went over the kids' head.   It would be great if you have a history fanatic, and/or older middle schooler. Take the advice in the manual, and read before hand so that you may summarize.  Also be OK with not much retention of details in SoC.  If my kids could recall what happened in Ancient World, then I felt that was approach (they are in 5th grade). 
  • Book Basket- Book Basket is usually our absolute favorite part of the MFW, but this was one of the first time I can say we barely used the book basket lists.  I think this is due to the year long heavy focus on Old testament stories.  There were multiple weeks where I didn't use any of the books.  When we would focus more on Egypt and Greeks, I was able to get more books, but even then the list was not the most helpful. 

  •  Pyramids- We enjoyed learning the science related to the pyramids using the books Pyramids. The book itself included simple to execute hands-on activities.
  •  We were just not fans of the Creation based science  this year, and almost skipped it entirely.  I say this not because don't believe in Creation based science, but because  Many of the experiments were redundant from either years past, or information my children already knew because we are a very outdoorsy family that has visited every nature Center in a 200 miles radius of our home. 
7th and 8th graders, use Apologia science instead of the above (purchase separately). We are in 5th grade, so not applicable to us.

Art and Music

  • There were several hands on art projects through the year schedule in the teacher's manual.  We did most of these, with success and fun had by all.
  • We again skipped the Music appreciation lessons focus on Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel with easy-to-use CD's (in the Deluxe Package). I am sure they were good, we just never seem to fit them in. 
  • We again skipped the MFW Art, which was using God and the History of Art (in the Deluxe Package).  See Supplement/Add-ONs section below for the Art we used in stead. 


  • We enjoyed The Children's Homer, as well as fables from Aesop's Fables for Children. That said, many became bedtime stories or audio books during lunch, because they were hard to fit in during school day.
  • We all LOVED Books by Patricia St. John (The Tanglewoods' Secret, Treasures of the Snow, and Star of Light) inspire children to live the Christian life (in the Deluxe Package). I highly recommend getting these, either in book or audio form. 

  • We have never had great luck with MFW recommend Math. We use Math U See, you can see our review here.

Language Arts 
These are based upon MFW recommendations. Foreign language is optional but highly recommended. We have not had time to really fit one in yet.

  • Roots Words-  This might have been one of my favorite parts of this year's study.  Root word were simple to learn, but so important to future vocabulary skills.  My kids and I love learning entomology of words we use everyday. 
  • Language lessons for Today, Grade 4-  We again enjoyed LLFT, because it is a gentle Charlotte Mason approach to language arts.  Some years past have felt almost too light, but I think the 4th and 5th grade are beginning to pick up, at an age appropriate level. 
  • Writing Strand- Level 3.  We had some mixed feelings about this book, but overall I would recommend.  At first the instructions were confusing to all of us, but once we learned the flow of the book, we got the hang of it.  We personally never did "Record of Progress" page at the end of each exercise.  My kids can sometimes be reluctant writers, so I wanted this to be a fun time of exploring the beginnings of writing. I do recommend following the manual's advice and doing every other week.

Our Add-Ons and Supplements 

  • Free Online Piano Lessons- The curriculum provides music appreciation, but no actual music lessons.  We remedy that with Free Piano lessons through Hoffman Academy

Pros & Cons MFW Adventures IN U.S. History

As many of you know, we have been using My Father's World since Kindergarten.  We really love them, and can't imagine using other curriculum.  That said, there are always some parts of each year that work for our family, and some that don't.  Please take these as just our experience. Your family may seem of our pros as cons, or vice versa.  


  • History We always love the History sections of MFW, and it is usually my favorite part of the teacher's manual. The Books Story of the U.S. and American Pioneers and Patriots  were great living books, each week my kids asking to read more than assigned for that day.  The many other History Living books, such as North American Indians, were very kid friendly and informative. The student sheets and sticker books were also fun.   We also still use the placement in school, almost every day. 
  • Bible  Learning the names of Jesus was informative, and always tied easily with s science lesson.  For example, when we learned that Jesus was the Bread of Life, we also learned about yeast. The Bible Memory wasn't too daunting this year, like we have seen in later years of the family cycle. 
  • Science-First Encyclopedia of Science was very fun, and kid friendly.  We also printed a list of Magic School bus episodes, found on MFW facebook page. We also enjoy the student sheets and the Bird Nature Study using Birds, Nests, and Eggs.  We went on several nature walks, but were never that great about note booking. The Fun with Magnets set was also used a lot, but mostly in just free exploration. 
  • Language Arts- We like Language Lessons for TodayWe really enjoy the gentle introduction to English and grammar.  We tried a traditional approach on recommendation from a friend, and it was way too much repetition for us. Spelling by Sound and Structure has also been a wonderful curriculum that goes perfectly with our second grade workboxes.
  • Music appreciation lessons focus on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker were fun, and went along with our field trip to see the Nutcracker (in the Deluxe Package). We listed tot he CDs while we colored the History Student Sheets. In the student sheets & on a CD, you get to learn some simple patriotic songs that were very fun.

  •  Art I Can Do All Things (in the Deluxe Package) wasn't for us.We did about half of the beginning lessons, and they were interesting, but we just never got that into these lessons.  Granted,m we didn't have the DVDs. We stopped, and just did Draw Write Now , which my kids LOVED, and we ended up using all through third grade Exploring Countries and Cultures.  
  • Read-Alouds (The Courage of Sarah, NobleOn the Banks of Plum Creek, Sarah Whitcher's Story, In Grandma's Attic, Mountain Born, Farmer Boy) were also great, but we never seemed to get to them during the day, so I started a chapter at bedtime. When that didn't work on a consistent schedule, we got them them in audio book from the library and it turned them into a Pro! Farmer Boy was our favorite, especially if you have young boys.  This was great for along car ride to our in-laws. 
  • Science We did a very small handful of the  activities are included in Science in the Kitchen and Science with Air. We also didn't use the Soda Bottle Bird Feeder, and just used Toilet Paper Rolls, with peanut butter and bird seed.

  • Stack the States App  -Inexpensive app that we used ALL THE TIME.  My husband and I even play on it a lot!
  • Scrambled StatesSimple board game about America, so easy that 2nd graders can play easily without much assistance after first time. 

Draw Write Now with MFW Adventures

Second Grade Workboxes MFW

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