Monday, December 19, 2011

Gift of the Magi--Link to a Family Read Aloud

One Christmas story that we enjoy every year in various forms—an Adventures in Oddysey radio drama “spin-off” of it; short story in our compilation books; audio of it; etc.—is the O’Henry story, “Gift of the Magi.” It is such a poignant short story of sacrificially giving, something that many of us know very little about in today’s society.

I thought I would probably find it online since it is beyond the “copyright” years and is available in so many books. And I was right! So I wanted to share it with our readers, in the hopes that you will have a short read aloud session with your family—with a lively discussion following! “God bless us, everyone!” (Oh, wrong story…) smile…

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Musings--All Parts--Reprint From Newsletter 2008

Two years ago I wrote a “Holiday Musings” article for Training for Triumph’s newsletter. It has a lot of the same ideals that you will find in this blog—in season and out of season! However, I want to share it with you this Christmas. I pray that you will be moved and encouraged by it.

                                                              “Holiday Musings”
                                                               by Donna Reish

I love Christmas! I love giving gifts to my children; I love lights and beautiful decorations; I love doing family activities over and over again every year; I love baking goodies and giving them away. I even have a verse to substantiate my desire to give good gifts to my kids at Christmas time: “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). I mean, God knows that even we mere mortals love to give good gifts to our kids!

Although all of the things in my “I love” list above are somewhat “unspiritual,” we have found through the years there are some common threads that we try to emphasize/do during the Christmas holiday—some to remember and ponder what Christ has done for us more fully; some to deepen our relationships with each other; some to show Christ’s love to the world. Allow me to give you a list of my holiday musings.

1. Think about, talk about, sing about, and remember the true reason for Christmas as a family throughout the month. We have found many things that help us focus on the birth of Christ more and more throughout December: singing carols together; reading Christmas picture books with the littles in the afternoons; collecting nativity scenes; reading from chapter books that emphasize the birth of Christ, such as Max Lucado’s Cosmic Christmas, Gene Edwards’ The Birth, and Marjorie Holmes’ Two From Galilee; going to community events that point us back to the reason for the season, such as Christmas plays, live nativities, walks through Bethlehem, Christmas cantatas, movies, and plays that emphasize the coming of the Savior.

2. Create family traditions. We have too many holiday traditions to list in just one short article, but research has born out the importance of traditions in building a child’s outlook on many things—and it is so obvious when you hear children talk and repeat that mantra: “We always…” There is something about being able to say that we always, or our family likes to… Two of our favorite traditions are decorating the house together and reading inspirational Christmas stories throughout the month of December.

Our older kids laugh until they cry as they give play-by-plays of each ornament making ordeal we have gone through. (Our tree is decorated with only home made ornaments—another tradition we have is that of making ornaments together.) Anyway, they have a joke of holding up the sample ornament (one that I bought that we were modeling after) and holding up one of ours and chiming, “Sample ornament; Reish ornament” over and over. Then they tell about the time I threw the cinnamon sticks across the room in a fit of Christmas stress as we tried to make the “ornaments in a minute” out of cinnamon sticks. Then we all laugh some more—and I try my best to keep from crying as I think about Christmases gone by—and wonder where the years have gone and long for just a day from a Christmas ten or fifteen years ago.

Traditions do not have to be elaborate or expensive. Some of ours (besides the decorating night and ornament making) are as simple as watching certain Christmas movies while we wrap gifts; eating shrimp alfredo while we watch White Christmas; reading about holiday traditions each morning; learning a new carol together each year (all the verses!); having the kids exchange their gifts with each other on Christmas Eve; reading inspirational stories each night before bed; reading one of the Gospels during the month of December; etc.

3. Think about Jesus’ entire life—his birth, life, death, and resurrection—not just his birth. Linking the Christmas story to the fact that without it we would have no hope of salvation is important, especially with younger children. Two ways that we do this include discussing, reading about, and singing about the names of Christ and what they mean throughout the month; and reading one of the Gospels—not just the Christmas story—during December. This helps us focus on our salvation even more. (Another thing we have done to focus on Jesus’ entire life is to listen to Focus on the Family’s radio theatre “The Luke Reports.” I will put links to some excellent resources throughout December, so check back frequently!)

4. Reach out to those less fortunate—and do so in a way that costs you and your children something. I know that doesn’t sound very “Christmasy”—good cheer and mistletoe and all (btw, I love mistletoe if the right “mistletoe-ee” is around!), but taking a can to a canned food drive or parents buying gifts for the children to leave at the angel tree are not sacrifices for our children—and do not do much to teach our children the true meaning of Christmas—and the true meaning of sacrificial giving.

When I speak of reaching out to those less fortunate, I am talking about giving up time (a few evenings or days?) and money (money with which a child could buy himself something). I’m talking about doing hard things. I’m talking about getting dirty, being inconvenienced, etc. I know that sounds strange, but honestly, what could we possibly do or give that would be too much for our Lord? Find true, meaningful service projects for your children—extensive time spent at a nursing home or group home caroling, making cookies with residents, reading to them, etc.; earning money to be used to give gifts to truly poor or forgotten people (like county home residents or the disabled); going out into the homes of people who never have a Christmas visitor; serving food at a soup kitchen; cleaning mattresses at a rescue mission. Focus on others more than ever before this Christmas—your children will thank you for it eventually. (For the new year, read the stories written by the author of Mandate for Mercy (also the founder of the Mercy Ship ministry) about how his mom made his family squeeze together in the car every week to pick up poor and desperate people to take them to church—and the impact this had on this man causing him to spend his life on the poor and desolate—this is the kind of reaching out we are purporting here.)

5. Reach out to your relatives. Yes, those strangers who are watching television the whole family get together while puffing away on their cigarettes. Teach your children to go to family get togethers to serve—not to judge. Start out teaching your children about this concept of serving relatives with a Bible study (ahead of time) on “being great in God’s kingdom by serving” and “doing for others asking nothing in return” and “being a light by your good works.” Then, if it is true, tell your children that you have been more concerned about yourself than you have of others at past family get togethers. And that you want your entire family to change all of that. That you want to “do your good works that others would glorify your father in heaven.” Discuss ways that you can do this during this holiday season: working harder to make good dishes to the gatherings (no lentil casserole, please—bless these people with fat and sugar!); helping with young cousins; encouraging grandparents; helping to set up and take down; being kind to each other as an example of family unity to those who might not have any idea what that looks like. (Note: Because I always get asked this, I will put a caveat here—I am not talking about reaching out to relatives in any way that would put your children in danger. We recommend that your children never be left with non-Christians and never be put in situations in which they could be harmed.)

6. Really talk to others this holiday season. Your ministry of bringing your relatives to Christ will begin not with your family’s judgment of them, but with your interest and concern for their lives in general. Jeff Myers, leadership specialist and founder of Passing the Baton, gives the following list of things to discuss this year with relatives young and old. Some are one-on-one types of discussions while others would work well for group discussions**:

Express thanks to someone in the room for something they did for you.

"I'm thankful for..." Finish the sentence.

If you could have the attention of the whole world for 30 seconds, what would you say?

One thing I'm thankful for about our country.

What is the key to success in life? Why do you say that?

Tell about a lesson you learned the hard way.

What are some ways life is different now than in the old days?

Tell a story of a decision your ancestors made that changed the direction of their lives-and yours.

Tell about a lesson you learned by watching someone else.

"A person I would like to honor publicly is..."

"Time and money aside, I would rather be..."

Tell about an experience that changed you for the better.

Tell a story about something that started out bad but had a happy ending.

"My first hero was _________."

Tell about a time when you showed courage.

Describe a teacher who had a significant influence on your life.

Tell about an invention that made your life easier.

"The most admired public figure when I was growing up was ____." Tell a story.

Tell about a memorable event in your life.

"A famous person I've met is _____." Tell about the experience.

"I got in so much trouble..." Tell the story!

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**Note: These are good to print off and use as dinner discussion for your immediate family, too!

6. Express genuine gratefulness to God and others. December is a month to really display the quality of gratefulness—and to teach your children to do so too. Not just mere ”thank-you’s”—but sincere thanksgiving to God for His Son and for others for everything they do for us. Teaching children to say thank-you, write thank-you notes, etc. is a start. However, gratefulness begins with the realization that everything good we have comes from the hand of God. That we are nothing without Him. And that He knows what we need more than we do. It is deepened when we give up materialism—the idea that we have to have this or that in order to be happy—and focus instead on the good things God has done for us. Thoughts on materialism would require an entire article in itself, but when we have to have things to make us happy, when our mood and outlook change as a result of getting more and more, or when we cannot be happy in whatever situation we are in (materially speaking), we are probably steeped in materialism. Praying through this, sharing with our family the importance of giving up our ideas that we somehow deserve this or that, focusing on gratefulness for all that God has done for us outside the material things we are lacking—these are ways to feel and exhibit true gratefulness.

7. Spend quality time reaching into your children’s hearts. That’s a tough one, huh? I mean, the busiest time of the year, and we have to add another thing to the list. I remember vividly eighteen years ago when I had five kids ten and under. I still had younger siblings at home who would come and spend a lot of Christmas week with us. I made four Christmas dinners in a row for various relatives. I got up early in the morning to make home baked bread and rolls and went to bed late at night to get the overnight breakfast casseroles in the oven. I get tired just thinking about it. I was trying to serve others, but found myself distanced from my kids by the time the holiday week was over. I can remember looking at Joshua, then ten, one evening after the relatives had all left, and calling him over to ”sit in Mommy’s rainbow” (my bent legs as I lay on the sofa)—and he seemed so far away. I had been with him all week—I was usually with my older kids all the time as they did not have any older siblings to take them anywhere like my littles now have! However, I felt so far from him. I had let the busy-ness of Christmas keep me from those I love the most. Now I have to remind myself that one more home made goody or one more shopping day is not worth distancing myself from my children. Stay close. It’s Christmas!

This Christmas I pray that all of us can ”keep Christmas” in a way that glorifies God and teaches our children deep Christmas truths.

*Copyright TFT 2008

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Joni and Friends Wheels for the World "Miracle Story" of JAKE

Had to share this latest devo from Joni and Friends daily devotional. (You may subscribe to receive them in your email inbox or your FB feed at )

There are many times when we can clearly look at a situation, and if we are people of faith, declare the action a complete miracle (as opposed to a "coincidence"). This JAF story is definitely one of those. Read it to your family at dinner tonight! :)

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. --Proverbs 19:21

Our Wheels for the World team arrived in a small town in Poland to distribute 225 wheelchairs and Bibles. Before the day had hardly begun, however, their plans were in shreds. The assigned room was tiny and cramped. But before anyone could come up with a plan B, streams of families with disabled children began pouring through the doors. The place quickly became packed and noisy. Everything was thrown into confusion. "Lord Jesus," the team prayed together, "may your purpose prevail here." Then they went to work greeting families, assessing needs, locating pre-assigned wheelchairs, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus at every opportunity.

The afternoon wore on. A tired father, carrying his little five-year-old disabled boy on his back, finally reached the head of the line. But when he lifted his son into the pre-assigned chair, his shoulders slumped. It didn't fit! "I am so sorry!" our seating specialist exclaimed, "this is the wrong chair." But there were only a few chairs left. Pushing aside several adult chairs, she reached for a child-sized one. But it was highly customized, with side supports-including blue leather backing with "Jake" stitched across the middle. In the end, there was no other choice. It was that chair or nothing. When the father lifted his boy into the new chair, it fit perfectly! An interpreter exclaimed, "It's like it was made for him!"

"By the way, what is your son's name?" someone asked the boy's mother. "Jakob," she replied-and everyone gasped! When an interpreter explained to the boy's mystified parents that "Jake" is the shortened version of Jakob-they, too, cried for joy. The whole family-along with almost sixty others-opened their hearts to receive Jesus that day. The Lord's purpose had prevailed!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Openings in Our Cottage Classes Near Ossian, Indiana

I tried to get this as a note on FB at TFT, so I wouldn't need to put it here, but it wouldn't you are not from near us or are not a homeschooler who might be interested in cottage classes, just hit delete! :) Thanks for your patience with my lack of savvy with technology!

Anyway, we still have openings in a few of our homeschool cottage classes near Ossian, Indiana to be held on Wednesdays.

Specifically, we have openings in CQLA Level A, CQLA Level B, and Ancient History.

I am going to post the information below about the Ancient History class. It is taught by our son who has an undergraduate degree in history. He is an amazing teacher with detailed handouts and amazing power point presentations each week. If you have a student in sixth grade or above who would like to "audit" this class--just listen to the lectures, receive the handouts, etc, but not do it for high school credit/complete the homework, let us know. Our younger kids often do that with Joshua's classes--they are that enjoyable.

Follow this link for more class information (schedules/prices, etc.):

Learn more details about the Ancient History class below:

Week One‐‐Egypt: Deals with the rise of Egypt with a focus on the people who built ancient Egypt into a great nation. These include Narmer, the man who unified Egypt; Snefru, the persistent Pharaoh who build the first pyramids; Hatshepsut, the female Pharaoh; Tuthmosis III, the great conqueror; and the most unusual Pharaoh in Egyptian history, Akhenaten. Other topics covered in this week are the importance of the Nile River, multiple instances of collapse and rise, and the impact of Joseph on Egypt.

Week Two—Egypt: Covers Ramses the Great, who came to power at the height of Egypt’s power. He is known as the Great because of his military accomplishments, including the famous battle of Kadesh, as well as his vast building projects across Egypt. After Ramses, the empire began a long decline that led to Egypt being conquered by a succession of foreign invaders including the Assyrians, the Nubians, the Persians, and Alexander the Great. This class finished by examining the Ptolemies. They were responsible for building the Great Lighthouse and the Library at Alexandria as well as translating the Old Testament into Greek. This class also covers the Exodus.

Week Three‐‐Historiography and Barbarians: This class is divided into two parts. The first deals with historiography—literally the study of history. What kind of evidence do historians have about the ancient world? How can the study of pottery shards and skeletons tell us how people lived thousands of years ago? How do historians use documentary evidence (such as the Bible) to shed light on ancient cultures? The second part of this week deals with the so called Barbarians who invaded established empires from China to Rome. Who were these people and why were they hated and feared by the most powerful nations in the world?

Week Four‐‐The Middle East: This lesson covers the empires of the Fertile Crescent. Sargon built the world’s first true empire. Ur attempted to build a communist style economy and failed miserably. Hammurabi conquered a great empire but is most known for his legal system established in the Code of Hammurabi. The Kassites ruled from Babylon before they were conquered by the greatest empire of the near east: Assyria. The Assyrians were able to conquer and control most of the Middle East using ingenious and brutal tactics including the forced deportation of the ten northern tribes of Israel.

Week Five—Persia: This class begins by looking at the glorious but short lived Babylonians and their greatest king Nebuchadnezzar. Cyrus the Great made Persia a great power by conquering Babylon, Egypt, and Lydia. The Persians were an unusual people to create an empire since they were originally nomadic herders. Cyrus was praised by many of his enemies. Greek accounts remember him as just, kind, and wise. The Old Testament tells the story of Cyrus sending the captive Israelites home. Later rulers struggled with rebellions in Babylon and Egypt, two failed invasions of Greece, and finally, the destruction of the empire by Alexander the Great.

Week Six—India: The kingdoms of ancient India were incredibly wealthy. Beginning with the Indus Valley civilization and whose water and sewage systems were thousands of years ahead of their time. But the civilization disappeared mysteriously. The Mauryan Empire was as large and wealthy as Persia or Assyria and, under Asoka, guaranteed freedom of religion to all of its citizens. India was rarely united but that didn’t stop them from changing the world. They traded all over the known world, invented chess, proved the world was round, invented the decimal system and were the first to use the number zero.

Week 7 – China: China was without a doubt the greatest civilization of the ancient world. In terms of size and technological accomplishments they left the other great empires far behind. This lesson begins by looking at the unifying factors of China such as Confucius and the “Mandate of Heaven” which gave the emperor absolute power as long as he served the people’s interest. We will also look at the vast irrigation and canal networks that allowed China to have a population far larger than other ancient empires. The Chinese invented paper, printing, gunpowder, money, wind power, the iron‐tipped plow, and much more.

Week 8 – China: This class focuses on the fall and rise of China after the Mongol invasion. Despite their technological advances and incredible wealth the Chinese always struggled with nomadic invaders. The Mongols were one of those invaders and ruled China for nearly one hundred years. But they were expelled by a beggar named Zhu Yuanzhang who established the Ming Dynasty. The Ming dynasty continued China’s greatness. One of their greatest achievements was the grand fleet of the early 1400s. The ships of the fleet had watertight compartments like the Titanic—only hundreds of years earlier. The largest could carry between 500 and 1000 men—compared to the 40 carried by Christopher Columbus’s Santa Maria.

Week 9–Africa: Africa is often overlooked by many but has a fascinating history of its own. Ethiopia became a Christian nation shortly after the death of Christ and remained independent for over 1600 years. In West Africa three kingdoms, Ghana, Mali, and Songhai built trading empires that specialized in the gold trade. They were so wealthy that when Mali ruler Mansa Musa took a pilgrimage to Mecca he spent so much that gold lost much of its value throughout the Middle East. But the kingdoms collapsed and the “gold coast” later became known as the “slave coast” because of the slave trade. In the East Swahili city states and cattle kingdoms traded with India and Southeast Asia.

Week 10–America: Pre‐Columbian Americans lived in all types of societies from tribes, to small kingdoms, to grand empires. Meso‐Americans were characterized by healthy populations and long life expectancy thanks to modern agricultural techniques. The Aztecs and Olmecs lived in stratified empires. Both of them were nearly always at war with their neighbors.

Week 11‐‐Rise of Athens: No ancient civilization has as much of an impact on America as Athens. This week covers the birth of democracy and how it was almost destroyed. The lesson begins with the father of democracy, Solon, and his reforms which planted the seed but ultimately failed. After overthrowing a tyranny the Athenians turned to Cleisthenes who built on Solon’s foundation and created the world’s first successful democracy. But the mighty Persian Empire threatened to destroy Athens but the Greeks defeated them at Marathon and later at Salamis.

Week 12‐‐The Fall of Athens: Greek advances during the golden age include some of the first historical works, the birth of scientific medicine, advances in mathematics, art, and architecture. But the Peloponnesian War with Sparta changed that. Early in the conflict a plague broke out which killed the Athenian leader Pericles. But it was the failed invasion of Sicily which crippled Athens.

Week 13‐‐Alexander the Great: The small and rarely united kingdom of Macedon became a world power because of two kings. The first was Phillip who revolutionized the Macedonian military and conquered

all of the Greek city states including Athens. His son Alexander conquered the great Persian Empire. Even though Alexander ruled his entire empire for only three years before dying in Babylon he spread Greek culture throughout the Middle East.

Week 14‐‐Rise of Rome: Rome was established as a small city on the banks of the Tiber. Early in their history the Roman people overthrew the monarchy and fought a series of wars to remain independent and free. They began to unite Italy before running up against the powerful empire of Carthage. In a series of wars the Roman republic conquered Carthage.

Week 15‐‐Republic to Empire: The Roman people hated the idea of having a king. And after conquering Carthage it seemed that the free people of Rome could not be stopped. But as they grew the Senate became more and more corrupt. Pirate raids and slave rebellions led many Romans to consider the unthinkable—a single ruler instead of a republic. The people got their hero in Julius Caesar who was assassinated. But his adopted son Augustus Caesar replaced the republic with and Empire.

Week 16—Israel: This lesson begins with the Old Testament including Joshua’s conquest, and kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon, the divided monarchy, and the Babylonian captivity. But this lesson will continue the story of Israel with the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire. The Maccabees established the Hasmonean dynasty which ruled over a kingdom larger than David or Solomon. But they were overcome by Rome who put Herod in charge of the kingdom. Israel wanted independence and rebelled leading to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back-to-School Study Skills--Textbook Previewing With Your Kids Part I of III

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” Robert M Hutchins

I wanted to add some more thoughts to yesterday’s “study skills with textbook previewing.” These are in no certain order or age group—just some things that haven’t really fit in the last couple! (How’s that for organizing and study skills???)

1. Taking the textbook preview further

There are a number of ways that you can take the previewing of textbooks that I discussed yesterday even further with your children for more comprehension of the material:

a. Do his first few assignments out of the book with him, pointing out the things again that you observed in your first preview. This will help him see that those things are not just good things to know, but also helpful for completely homework quicker and more accurately.

b. Help him prepare for his first test with his textbook and you by his side. Show him how he can use the glossary, sidebars, table of contents, etc. to quickly fill in his study guide or quickly determine what the most important aspects of the chapter are in order to prepare for a test.

c. As you are previewing a text (for the first time or an additional time), use a large sticky note to record what you find. Write the title of the text at the top, then make notes about what it contains as far as study and homework helps. Stick this in the front of his textbook and help him refer to it when he is doing homework or test preparation. You could even record a plus and minus system, such as

+++ means something is going to be really helpful---a +++ beside the Table of Contents, for instance

+ beside a word he writes in the front of his book tells him that this might be somewhat helpful—Example: +Some graphs

- No study questions at end of chapter—again, he can make a list in the front of his book (on a large sticky note), etc.

d. Help him “label” different sections of his book with sticky notes along the edges. For example, you could put a yellow one at the beginning of each chapter and a pink one on the page that has definitions for that chapter, etc.

2. Prepare your younger student for textbooks by using user-friendly non-fiction books

Maybe you are not in the textbook stage with your kids; however, you can begin preparing them for those all important study skills that I described yesterday with quality non-fiction books. If kids at ages five, six, eight, and ten, learn to navigate around Dorling Kindersley, Eyewitness, and Usborne books (among many others), they will be heads and shoulders above other children who have only been exposed to fictional stories (more on the benefits of fiction later!).

These outstanding non-fiction books have literally hundreds of topics that interest kids, but they are so colorful and alluring, you do not feel like you are “teaching” at all. Additionally, they have many aspects that your child’s future textbooks will also have: glossaries, Tables of Contents, sidebars, graphs, pictures, inserts, definitions, bold font, italics, etc. Reading these to and with your children when they are younger will provide a natural step into textbooks later on.

Note: We teach our students (in our home, our cottage classes, and in our language arts books) a simple memory device for remembering fiction and non-fiction:

Fiction=fake (both begin with f)

Non-fiction=not fake (both begin with nf)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back-to-School Study Skills--Textbook Previewing With Your Kids Part I of III

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” Robert M Hutchins

Sitting down with your student and his textbooks (maybe one per evening) during the first week will go a long way towards his comprehension and ease of use of those books throughout the school year. Try these specific strategies for previewing textbooks with your student to help him or her get the most out of his or her texts this year:

1. Graphs and charts—Remind your student that charts and graphs usually restate (in another form) what is indicated in the text. He can use these for quick overviews, as well as for reviewing before tests.

2. Enumerations—If his text uses a lot of enumeration, it could be that this subject has a significant number of lists to be learned. Point him to these lists and show him that often what is listed in the margins or sidebars is also expounded upon within the text.

3. Section headings—The more headings a book contains, the easier it is to learn from. The student is constantly reminded, by the headings and subheadings, of what the section is about. Show him how helpful these headings can be as he uses the book during his reading and for test preparation.
4. Pictorial aids—Maps are always in included in history textbooks. If his textbook contains a large assortment of maps, show him how they can help him see the big picture. Maps usually show where something that is discussed in the text occurred.

5. Glossary—Books that contain glossaries give the student an easy way to find definitions that may be more obscure within the text. Teach him to use this for quick finds, but encourage him to use the text itself for most studying since students who learn vocabulary in context retain it better.

6. Tables of Contents—The Table of Contents can be used somewhat like an index to find where information is in a particular chapter. It is especially good for getting a big picture about a whole chapter.

7. Prefaces, introductions, and summaries—If a text has any of these three, some of the work is already done for the student. Show him how advantageous these are for quick previewing of a chapter.

8. Footnotes—If a student is in a class that requires research papers, footnotes can be a real plus. We teach our research paper students to use lengthy works’ footnotes to find other credible sources that they might use in their papers.

9. Appendixes—Appendixes are the “extra credit” of the book. I always like to thin of myself as a prized pupil, so I tend to gravitate to these right at first, since they’re usually for those who want additional information—and I always want to know more! Tell your students that sometimes the appendixes aren’t even used in the actual course, but they are good for learning more, for research-based reports, and for cementing what is found in the text.

10. Indexes—If a book doesn’t have an index, I say send it back and get a new one! Show your student how quickly he can find information with the index. The more specific the index, the better it is for the student.

11. Bibliography—The bibliography gives lists of books, articles, and documents relating to the subjects in the textbook. Like footnotes, we direct our research paper students to these.

12. Pronunciation guides—These guides give the phonetic markings to aid in reading unfamiliar words. Many texts do not have these guides, but they are helpful in a class where a student will be giving presentations so the can pronounce unknown words correctly.

Any signaling or sign posting that a book contains is that much more opportunity for the visual learner, especially, to learn and retain. If you have an auditory learner, you might have to record his vital info on cd or cassette! Smile…More study skills coming soon!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back-to-School Study Skills--Textbook Previewing With Your Kids Part I of III

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” Robert M Hutchins

I'm going to go back to "teaching while we sit in our house," but it's back to school time, so I want to re-run a three part article about textbook previewing with your kids to help them start out well with this fall's school success.

I want to touch on specific “how to’s” of study skills without getting so technical that I lose “non-teachers” out there! When I find a good idea or method in learning that seems to work, I have a tendency to get so excited about it. (You didn’t know that my “chores” and “prioritizing posts,” did you??) So I will alternate between practical suggestions (evening routines for studying) and techniques (teaching our kids to “read between the lines” in their books), etc. So bear with me!

Comprehension and study skills are not necessarily as much remembering all of the details that were read as much as knowing how to read for meaning, remembering the most important parts, and being able to locate information as needed. Students’ textbooks in the content areas (science, history, government, health, geography, etc.) lend themselves greatly to comprehending the information they contain.

I recommend that you have your kids bring their textbooks home, one at a time, and follow some of the tips below previewing their books with them. This will help them (and you) determine the signaling systems, layout, study tools, etc. that each book includes.

A student needs to now quickly how to find information in his book, whether there’s a glossary or index for quick vocabulary help, how each section is summarized, and many other tips that can be discovered right when he begins using that text (with some help from Mom or Dad). By previewing his whole text at first, he will know how user friendly it is, how to set up his notes, and even which study strategies will and will not work for that particular text.

Tomorrow I will give a lengthy list of specifics to look for in previewing your students’ textbooks with them. Invite your friends to join us!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Teach Them When You Sit in Your House: Sixteen Cents Buys a Lot of Love! (rerun from Jan 2010)

You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7

         “A penny for your thoughts; a nickel for a hug; and a dime if you tell me that you love me.”

We have talked at length over the past year and a half about communicating with our kids. And how communication is a strong form of "teaching when..." The ditty above is a little chant that we used to say to our kids to remind them that we want to talk to them, that they are valuable to us, that we love them "ten million times infinity and beyond." From this saying, a valuable “object lesson” developed and tied the heartstrings of my son and me in a special way some ten to twenty years ago.

The rest of that jingle (after the infamous "penny for your thoughts") goes on to offer not only a penny for what the person is thinking, but also a nickel for a hug and ten cents if he or she says “I love you.”

Sixteen cents… a meager amount of change that elicits warm feelings (and, I admit, a few tears of longing) as I write this. Our oldest son and I used to take the “penny for your thoughts” a little further when he was a little boy—and repeat the rest of the jingle to each other, complete with a big hug and special “I love you.”

As Joshua grew up, we would occasionally remind each other of how much we love to talk—and how much we care for each other by giving each other sixteen cents. When he was in high school and worked part time, I would wake up in the morning to find him off to work—with a penny, a nickel, and a dime lying on my desk. When he would open his lunch box, he would sometimes find sixteen cents taped to the inside of his pail. Not enough money to buy lunch, for sure, but enough money to know that Mom will be waiting on him ready to talk when he gets home from work.

What objects might have special meaning to you and your child? Is there a special item that you can attach unique meaning to for one or more of your children? Is there a trinket, heart, words to a song, picture of the two of you, favorite picture book, etc. that can be utilized as an object “just for the two of you”?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Teach Them Diligently When You Sit in Your House: Techno-Free Zones

“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7

I have mentioned on here over and over the blessings we have received by not having television stations for at least twenty-eight of our thirty years of marriage. (We tried it a couple of times for a few months.) Now there is so much more to contend with than television programming!

That is why we advocate a techno-free zone for family talking times--a spot or two in which you sit with no technology drawing you away from the people you are supposed to be spending time with! For us, this means gathering in the living room (where we have no computers; we don't have a television, so it's mostly just one of the four computers vying for our attention--besides cell phones, of course!). We put away our cells and just sit and "be." (We also like to gather around the dining room table for games in the evenings and our room (with the laptops closed!) late at night..and don't forget around the fire or the porch!)

If there is one thing I love to do with our kids--it is "being." Today Ray called from work to double check our schedule for the ten days that Kara is home--and he said it once again, "We have to have three or four evenings to just 'be.' We can't book every moment she is home."

Just being...being together...being family...being there for each other...being a sounding board...being whatever our kids need--preferably in a techno-free zone sometimes!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Developing Strong Study Habits for Younger Students

I have a lot to say about teaching our kids God's Word and ways as we "sit in our house"! I just haven't gotten my notes all together due to computer issues (just got the last computer back from the shop AGAIN,..). So, August has come upon us quickly...and so has "back to school time." I want to re-run some posts from last August about helping our kids with study skills, back to school routines, etc. for those who may have missed them or those who were not with us on PP last August. is the first one....a link to many links about developing strong study habits for younger students. Now is really the time to get serious about implementing some of these schedules and ideas (before the day before-back-to-school!), get your iced water with lemon and click and read! :) Thanks for joining us!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Teach Them Diligently When You Sit in Your House: Quality Time

“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7

Out of all of the times/places that we are told to teach our children diligently, “when you sit in your house” has got to be the most challenging. Over twenty years ago, Gregg Harris gave us the greatest advice in his parenting seminar (that we have used weekly and teach others to do the same): Whatever is important to you to do with your children should be attached to something that is already in the schedule. Thus, we attach reading together to rising/going to bed; we attach family prayer to meals; etc. However, finding time to “sit in your house” is another matter—and one that I would like to address over the next couple of weeks.

How many of us “sit in our houses”? That is, we sit—not to watch television, pay bills, surf the web; play computer games; read the paper, etc., but just SIT. With my AOADD (Adult-Onset ADD—self diagnosed!!!), sitting is not one of my favorite things to do—unless I am doing something else at the same time (i.e. working!). However, this is an often-overlooked period of time that we truly need to tap into in the training of our children.

We have to force ourselves to “sit” with our children. We need to make it a habit to just take a seat next to one or more of them each day—no electronics, no work on our laps—and just “be.” These moments are when this diligent teaching during “sitting in your house” will occur.

Not necessarily formal teaching, though there are definite times and places for that. But just “being.” Just saying, “Tell me about your day.” And truly listening. Times to listen to their hearts sing the “talking song” that our family adopted as a parenting cue many years ago: “Talk to me; show me that you care. Talk to me; listen to the words I say. Talk to me; there’s so much we can share. I know you love me when you talk to me.”

Recent statistics indicate that teenagers spend an average of less than thirty minutes a week in a “meaningful relationship” with their mothers and fifteen minutes per week with their fathers. Fifteen to thirty minutes a week with Mom or Dad during some of the most critical years of a person’s life! (We have said for years that ages sixteen to twenty or the highest need years for our kids in terms of parental time and support.)

Another recent study of parents and children by an insurance company said that children WANT their parents to spend time with them. Eight out of ten said they resented being put in front of a television (instead of spending time with Mom or Dad); sixty percent said they wished their parents spent more time with them and worked less.

Parents who bring work home (instead of being available for their kids); put their own hobbies and interests before the kids; and are consumed with their home and possessions more than their kids are being coined as “Maybe later” parents. As a mom of five grown kids (ages nineteen through twenty-eight) and two youngers (twelve and sixteen), I can tell you for sure that “later” never comes.

So…the first piece of advice we have for “teaching them diligently when you sit in your home” is to “sit in your home”! Set aside other things and make the time. Fire pits; bonfires; electronic-free rooms; porch swing moments; Mom & Dad’s bedroom for midnight meetings; family meals—all of these give opportunities to sit with our kids. Let’s make it happen!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teach Them Diligently….When You Sit in Your House: An Introduction

“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7

It is time. It really is. We have our mornings organized (!); we have the most important things first; we are “teaching ‘them’ (the things God gave to us already) to our children when we rise up”—and we need to move on and continue this throughout our day—in the other locations and times referred to in our Deuteronomy verse.

I love the next section! I love it because my husband is so good at it. I love it because we have found ways to really make it a reality in our home. I love it because it is so natural when you spend time together as a family. I just love it!

So to whet your appetite a little (and get you to invite your friends to join us!), I give you a partial list of things we will be discussing in this section of character training—ways that we have discovered to teach God’s Word, God’s Ways, and our family ways to our children when we “sit in our house.” Join us for more details!

-Story time




-Listening together

-Parenthetical Parenting

-Expectation Explanation

-Teaching like Jesus

-Reading together


-Prioritizing it—making the time to “sit in your house”

-“Good report” time

-Songs/sayings to build relationships

-Family worship

-Treating Our Children Like Jesus Would

-AIM—Answer It More


-Techno-Free Zone

-And much more! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ending Our "When You Rise Up"

"You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7

We are about to move out of the "when you rise up" portion of our Deuteronomy verses about teaching our kids God's Word and ways all the time....but I want to leave you with a few more links about the morning before we do.

I have always loved our morning schedules. Not because they were so regimented or so early--but because everybody always knew what to expect. I like to say that for twenty-eight years, we have done nearly the exact same thing for the first two hours of every weekday--year round. There is something comforting (and less chaos  producing) to know what the schedule or routine will be.

 I guarantee instant improvement in your day when you look at the first block of time of each day and get it how you want it. (No, the time will not always be the same; the exact order might change a bit (devos then breakfast; chores then devos...)...but the framework will be in place for a successful day.

1. Doing most important chores first:

2. The day starts the night before--two posts beginning here:

3. A few morning routine posts start here:

For more on morning organization, devotions, etc., go to blogspot, go to the index, and look under organization, schedules, devotions, faith teaching...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When You Rise Up: Age Appropriate Chores--Character Building in the Mornings

“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7

We really are going to move out of the "when you rise up" stage of "teaching them diligently"--honest! However, we have found that if you get the first hour or two of your day down the way you want it, you will have a much more successful day later on. Also, success in the morning motivates us to more success later in the day--success breeds success!

So, we have gone over and over the "faith in the mornings"--private devotions, listening in the mornings, family devotions and read alouds, and more.

The other area that we like to tackle following faith in the morning is character training via chores and responsibilities. We did an entire month of chores, morning routines, chore charts, and chore schedules last year, so I encourage you to go to the blogspot, look in the index under chores, and have at it.

For today, I am going to post the link for the "age appropriate chores." Summer is the perfect time to establish new chore schedules, morning routines, and more!

Chore Resources:

Age Appropriate Chores (starting here with littles for several days):

Friday, July 1, 2011

Training for Triumph/Positive Parenting Has Many Services and Materials for Families

Training for Triumph, a ministry and publishing company by Ray and Donna Reish, offer many services to the homeschooling community.  TFT has been in operation formally for six years (though informally for many years prior to that). Check out the services we offer below!

Training for Triumph Cottage Classes

          We offer cottage classes for homeschoolers grades two through twelve in up to three FW-area locations (and sometimes other locations as well, upon request). We offer complete language arts classes for all levels, writing classes for many levels, speech and debate, history, high school sciences, and more! Check out our offerings for the coming year at .

Training for Triumph Correspondence Classes
    All of our Meaningful Composition books are available for use in our correspondence writing program. In this program, you choose the book (from our site--see samples) that you want your child to do, register for "correspondence," and we send the syllabus, class schedule, etc.--and each week for sixteen weeks your student mails his assignments to TFT teachers who in turn, grade everything and make audio cd's of their remarks and helps. Students grow in leaps and bounds in their writing with this approach! Check it out at

Training for Triumph Speakers
    We offer at least three (and oftentimes more) speakers on over fifty topics pertaining to homeschooling, parenting, teaching, marriage, and more. We can tailor make a workshop or seminar for your group or speak to living room groups in the area. Check out our many speaking topics at

Training for Triumph Writing Workshops
    We offer a general language arts workshop (The Almost Three R’s) as well as SAT preparation, creative writing, composition-only, and much more. Again, we can tailor a seminar or workshop to your group.

Positive Parenting
         We have a Christian parenting blog that has literally hundreds of posts on topics pertaining to the Christian family. If you have heard us speak and are interested in knowing more about a topic, check out the index at Positive Parenting: Or you may sign up there to receive PP in your email or LIKE us on FaceBook to receive it in your feed as it is posted.

Training for Triumph E Newsletters
            We have e-newsletters that go out periodically containing updates on our ministry and publishing company, as well as homeschooling and parenting helps. Check out past e newsletters at or email us to register to receive them regularly via email ( OR LIKE us on FaceBook (Training for Triumph) to receive notifications in your FB Feed when a newsletter comes out.

Free Curriculum Samples!
            We have a full one month sample of Character Quality Language Arts available for free at our site—including Lesson Plans and Answer Keys—of all four levels. This lets you “try before you buy” and also lets you see what level would be best for your student. Additionally, we have three weeks of each Meaningful Composition book at our site for free—and new ones are continually being added. Check out our samples at

Free Language Arts and Usage Tips!
     Our blog, Language Lady 365, has a few tips each week in the areas of grammar, usage, writing, reading, speaking, homophones, spelling, and more! You may sign up to receive this service via email at OR LIKE LL 365 on FaceBook to receive notifications in your feed.

Christian Parenting Seminar
     We offer a Christian parenting seminar, Character Training From the Heart, for between four and ten one hour sessions. (Note: This is a Christian parenting seminar and is not-homeschool-specific—so invite your non-homeschooling friends as well!). Host a seminar in your church, in a living room, for your Sunday school or small group, or homeschool group! We can do a Friday/Saturday or mid-week service—whatever works for your group. This unique seminar teaches parenting based on character training that comes from the hearts of parents—as opposed to simply outward control. We begin with character qualities that are appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers and work up to instilling “advanced” character qualities in teens and young adults. Check out a potential schedule and workshop descriptions at

We Are on FaceBook!

All of our ministry outreaches are on FB—check us out: Donna Reish:

Contact Information
   Feel free to contact us via email (  ,  phone (260-597-7415), or FB with questions about any of our services. We have been homeschooling for twenty-eight years this fall—and we LOVE to help homeschoolers and parents!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Visiting the Chore Thing...Again!

How is your summer going? Feeling like you are not meeting the goals you set out with a couple of weeks ago? Everything going smoothly?

One of the best things that we have done in the summertime is utilize the lessened school schedule and more down time to teach chores thoroughly, start new routines, etc. If you are one of "those kinds" of moms and are interested in getting started on chores, etc., read on!

Last year I did literally weeks of chore posts. I will give those to you gradually over this week to help you see how you can set up chore schedules, what age appropriate chores are, and more. Stay tuned--and invite your friends! :)

1. We'll start with whose job is the housework--this should get moms thinking about the immense responsibility it is to keep up a household--and the sheer reality that very few women have that much "extra time" to do all of the work themselves--

2. Thinking of getting a new chore schedule going in your home? Check out this link about factors to consider in creating chore schedules in your home:

3. And then two posts of general chore tips:

Happy choring! And believe me when I say that chores are not just for getting things done around the home--they have helped make our adult children the amazing, productive, accomplished people that they are today! :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Re-run: Old Post With Links for Charts for Reading, Chores, Morning Routines, etc.

Last year in our experiment to post 365 blog entries, I realized that I wrote a lot! A whole lot! And some things I wrote are good to hear again--or to be reminded of occasionally. With everybody scrambling to find their new normal for the summer, I wanted to re-post an entry from last year that has links for charts that you can create/use for designing your new normal--your summer schedules and goals. Hope they help today be a better day for you! :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Your Family Is the Glass, Extremely-Breakable Ball--Not the Rubber Ball—Especially for Dads on Father’s Day 2011

"I do the things that I don't want to do...and I do not do the things I want to do..." Paul (paraphrased!)

We have all heard the analogy of managing life as juggling balls. We parents especially juggle and juggle, taking care not to drop the balls too often—and taking extra care not to drop the most important balls at all, if possible. Juggling balls is certainly an accurate picture of playing all of the roles that Christian moms and dads must play.

However, for many of us—and especially for fathers—our view of these juggling balls is not fully correct. You see, we have a tendency to see some of these spheres as less important than others: we often think of our kids/family as the rubber ball—the one that we can safely drop and it will quickly bounce right back up to us with no damage. At the same time, we often view the “work” ball as one that is made of glass—one that will shatter if it is dropped.

The Reishes know this all too well, for we have experienced this first hand. Like many other parents, twelve years ago, we were juggling furiously with no relief in sight. And while we were extra careful with the family ball and the work ball, we had an incorrect view of the work ball, too. It seemed so…fragile while the family ball, though we took extra care with it, seemed so resilient.

We had seven kids ages one through fourteen and an eighth little one on the way. Ray’s work was so demanding and had been our entire marriage. Up until that time, we had managed his sixty to seventy hour work weeks by my staying home most of the time and tending to the home and kids. When Ray was home, he was fully home—after all, we didn’t want to drop the family ball any more than necessary. Once our oldest became a teen and our second child was following close behind, we just didn’t see how we could keep juggling with such a demanding “work” ball that was in grave danger of shattering into a million pieces if not handled with kid gloves.

To make a long story short, our eighth child was stillborn and after my week in the hospital, a ruptured uterus, blood transfusions, and some extremely scary moments, we realized that the work ball was truly not as priceless and fragile as we had thought it to be. And we realized that the truly breakable, non-shatter-proof ball was the family one. Work was shown to be the bounce-able ball that it was—and our family was the priceless, non-replaceable one.

So we turned in the glassy, sparkling work ball for a rubber work ball. Yes, it cost more—everything truly good costs. But a forty percent pay cut, going from a 4500 square feet home to a 1400 square foot home, and the loss of a company car and other perks seemed like a small price to pay in order to keep the most important—non-rubber—family ball up in the air. It wasn’t an easy adjustment for any of us. I was used to a huge, newer house with a large schoolroom, three bathrooms, and more storage than I’ve ever seen in a home. Ray was used to being “somebody” in the company, a plant manager in an automotive plant (and prior to that, its controller). Moving into a forty-hour-per week job without all of the pressures (and accolades) of his former job was a difficult transition for him.

But we got better than ever at juggling! The career ball wasn’t so fragile anymore; the family ball was. If the work ball hit the floor, it bounced back. We became even more careful with the precious gem-like ball known as family.

Obviously, every Christian parent is not asked to give up his or her career to raise seven teens. But if you find yourself thinking of careers as the glass balls and family as the rubber one. Or you find yourself juggling furiously and continually chasing the work ball for fear that it will shatter while the family ball falls and bounces back then falls again and bounces back, you might need to examine those balls more carefully like we had to. You do get better at juggling with practice, but who wants to take a chance with such a precious juggling ball as our kids?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

“When You Rise Up”: Faith in the Mornings— “Rockies and Reading” Part II of II

“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7

In our last post, we described our morning (and after nap) times with our toddlers. TodayMy B I will give you links to some of our favorite early children's books/Bibles. See our blog at for more reviews of resouces to use to teach your children the Bible and character!

"My Bible Friends”

“Leading Little Ones to God” 

“The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes”

“Bible Time Nursery Rhyme”

“Christian Mother Goose”

“My First Hymnal’

“The Beginner’s Bible”

“The Early Reader’s Bible”