The Benefits of Homeschooling

kids doing puzzle at library

kids working outside art

The last time I blogged about homeschooling, I was only teaching my twelve-year old son. Now, I’m instructing my fourteen year old daughter who is above average, a grade ahead and sharp as a whip. She alone, keeps me on my toes. She alone, keeps me burning the midnight oil, researching, learning, reading, and printing everything I can to not only maintain her grade level but challenge her as well.

kids studying in dining room

My son is easy. Seventh grade work isn’t as challenging as tenth grade work.

He’s our class clown also. The other day he was dragging his covers to the dining room table where they do their lessons, when I stopped him in his tracks.

“Hey, where are you going with those covers, young man? It’s class time, so take that blanket back to your bedroom,” I said.

“But mom, I’m cold and I don’t feel good. I think I have a fever. Can I just stay home from school today,” he asked?

“No sir, you cannot.” I felt his head, which was perfectly normal. “You stayed up too late last night and you’re wanting to sleep in, and in case you hadn’t noticed, YOU ARE AT HOME! Homeschool, remember?”

I smiled as he drug his Dallas Cowboys fleece blanket to his room in slow motion.

There are days when I am stretched beyond my comfort zone, when I’m teaching my children things I did not learn in school as a child. It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time. I’m very grateful for this era of technology where so much information is available in so many formats. I still like taking trips to the library and checking out books, the old-fashioned way as much as I enjoy e-learning through limitless resources on the internet. I’ve taken my children on field trips to science museums, art museums, the wildlife preserve and an awesome aquarium exhibit in Oklahoma. Teaching and learning has never been more fun.

kids at science museum bubbles

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oklahoma aquarium

But the benefits of homeschooling are so much deeper. I’ve listed a few and if you’re a homeschooling parent I’m sure you have a list of your own. If you’re not a homeschooling parent, trust me, it’s more rewarding than you can imagine.

BENEFITS:

Quality one on one time with your children
You get to select the curriculum, so you know exactly what your children are learning
YOU learn new and exciting things too
It’s FREE and/or affordable
You get to set your own hours
You get to provide delicious and nutritious meals (kids are always complaining about school lunches)
The learning environment can be inside the house, on the patio outside, at the park, the library, etc.
Learning can take place any time of the day (I quiz them during dinner, after dinner, while they’re sleep LOL)
You are free to explore your child’s individual interests and tailor lessons accordingly
The educational field trips and learning adventures are limitless
You’re able to incorporate family and religious values into the learning process
The intimate and very active part you play in your child’s education is priceless

So at the end of the day, I am grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to share in my children’s education. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

home schooling rocks

Love,
Toni

toni beside bed2

26 Declarations of Strength!

sunrise through clouds
We all have problems in this life, but at the end of the day, how are you going to handle the challenges you MUST face? Will you allow yourself to get better or become bitter? Will you trust God or trust yourself? And ultimately, will you allow your tests to make you stronger or will you crumble under the pressure? I choose to live, learn and increase in strength. For all my sisters (and brothers) who may be going through a difficult time right now, be encouraged. And be strong! I wrote this for US today:

There is a strength inside of me that he wish he had.
There is a strength inside of me that the devil would kill me for.
There is a strength inside of me that she envies to the point of seething rage.
There is a strength inside of me that the world didn’t give me.
There is a strength inside of me that the world can’t take away.
There is a strength inside of me that takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’
There is a strength inside of me that only weeps in the presence of my heavenly Father.
There is a strength inside of me that declares, Show no weakness!
There is a strength inside of me that must move on. I must!
There is a strength inside of me that understands that, Only God can fix this one!
There is a strength inside of me that sings through the midst of my tears.
There is a strength inside of me that walks tall, even with a shattered heart.
There is a strength inside of me that carries my children, with broken arms. I’ll NEVER drop them!
There is a strength inside of me that stands, even when I don’t know what else to do. I stand!
There is a strength inside of me that fights victoriously, on my knees!
There is a strength inside of me that understands that, NO WEAPON . . . And again I say, NO WEAPON BABY!
There is a strength inside of me that prays in an unknown tongue. The devil don’t know everything!
There is a strength inside of me that shares secrets with God. He makes known his heart unto me.
There is a strength inside of me that will fight for mine!
There is a strength inside of me that says, “I will trust the Lord, with my whole heart.”
There is a strength inside of me that through wisdom, accepts when to let go. And let God!
There is a strength inside of me that will fulfill my destiny, and will not die one second short of it!
There is a strength inside of me that embraces all that God has for me.
There is a strength inside of me, he wish he had.
There is a strength inside of me, the devil would kill me for. But he can’t.
There is a strength inside of me and his name is Jesus!

Father, I thank you for strength today. I thank you for strength for my journey. I thank you for strength to cast all my cares upon you because you care deeply for me. I thank you for strength to finish this life course. I thank you for strength to understand that this battle is not mine, but it is your battle, Lord and you will fight for me. I thank you that when I’m weak, you are strong. You are my strength, Father. THERE IS A STRENGTH INSIDE OF ME!

toni beside bed2 Love, Toni

My 2013 Resolve (Small Changes)

My husband and I rearranged our bedroom last weekend. Man, what a chore!

After talking about it for several months, we both agreed to get out of bed and just do it. We found things we thought we’d lost, cleaned areas that couldn’t be reached before (like behind our heavy mirrored dresser) and vacuumed and sneezed from the dust, polished the furniture and sneezed some more. I have asthma, so my husband threw open the windows to give me some relief.

The move was a 6-7 hour process but when we finished, we both stood back and admired our hard work. Pleased, is an understatement. Enlightened, is more the word for what I felt.

In addition to rearranging the furniture, I went out and purchased a few simple things to add some color and elegance to our master suite. From a store called Ross’ I bought two metallic red lamp shades and two burgundy throw pillows to add to the black, white and silver pillows we already had. I found a beautiful black and white photo at Kirkland’s of an ocean cascading over giant rock pieces which now hangs above our bed. I got a black leather bedroom bench that sits at the foot of our bed atop a contemporary area rug and my husband stumbled upon two matching pictures of an ocean beach with hues of a bronze sunset echoing off the water and sand. Breathtaking!

Now it doesn’t take much to inspire me to write.

Relaxing in my comfortable chair, I reflected not only upon my day, but upon the year ending. 2014 is right around the corner and I’ve decided to look at my new year with a new heart and a new mind. I’m not making any resolutions, (I’ve never kept them anyway) but I have been inspired with a few new revelations from this year.

What I resolved in 2013:

Things may look good on the surface, but may have decay on the inside. This applies to humans as well.
To have an exterior of beauty is simply not enough.
Resolve in your heart to make small changes.
Small changes make big differences. Like my bedroom.
Don’t try to give up all your bad habits at once, instead, give them up one at a time, successfully.
Some things only God can do. And some people, only God can change.
I/We do not have the power to change another individual. Only ourselves!
Walk in integrity, even if you have to walk alone.
As Polonius, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet once said, “To thine own self, be true.” Be brutally honest with yourself, even if the self you see, is ugly.
Do not be afraid of change.
Choose to love, at whatever cost.
Pursue peace as a priceless gem, and when you find it, don’t let anything, including death, part you from it!
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” saith the Lord. I promise to never worship any thing or any one, in this lifetime or the next. ONLY GOD, will I serve!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! May 2014 be our best year ever!

BEFORE
bedroom1

AFTER (Small changes)
bedroom2

Four unique gifts to give yourself this Christmas!

Christmas tree2
Being the last minute Christmas shopper that I am (I work better under pressure), I decided to add one more name to my shopping list before December 25th. Mine!

I felt like Santa Claus, literally, when I made my list and checked it twice, then a few more times after that. I made sure I had everything within reason for my husband and children. I was even blessed to surprise my family in Oklahoma this year with small gifts and tokens of love. Then I decided to add my own name because, for all the right reasons, I needed a few important things.

The first gift to myself is a lifestyle change. I’m overweight (a little) but it’s a little too much. So, no more dieting and fooling myself with temporary changes that don’t last. I’m giving myself the present of a new mind and outlook on health that will result in better eating habits, consistent exercise and a positive attitude. I will not have high blood pressure or diabetes because of my inability to change!

My second gift to myself is a resolve of inner peace. I will be at peace within myself regardless of what others say or do around me. I’ve had enough stress in my life for a lifetime and I will no longer allow that silent killer to destroy me!

My third gift to myself is a determination to fulfill my destiny. I understand that we all have different paths and not everyone in my life is going in the same direction as I. So, no more distractions, I choose to remain focused so that I may reach my destination of success.

My final gift to myself is love. I will love myself, period. I love myself enough to rid my environment of toxic people, to say no when I really don’t want to do something, to spend time alone enjoying a golden sunrise, and to fulfill my own dreams and not feel guilty about doing so.

The gifts to myself cannot be purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue or Dillard’s or any expensive department store for they are priceless and eternal. So while you’re in the giving spirit this season, remember to give yourself something of perpetual value that will change you for a lifetime. Happy Holidays to all and Merry Christmas to myself!

Love,
Toni

Gifts for Readers and Writers

Originally posted on Shannon A Thompson:

Today, I did an interview with Rusty’s Reading. One question was what my top three bucket list things are. I said, “Visit Japan, write a memoir, and…” You can read it here.

Minutes Before Sunset is also being featured on YA Book Deals. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a free ebook! 

I’m glad everyone enjoyed the interview I did with Andrew Vogel, an actor on Under the Dome on CBS. I really enjoyed his take on creativity and living your passion to follow your dreams. But, today, I am talking about something seasonal. Since the holidays are near, I thought it’d be fun to share gift ideas for writers and readers for everyone who has one (or multiple of them) in their life. We all know about the common e-reader, but I thought I’d add a few more:

1. Gifts for writing, of…

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Homeschooling, It’s a New Day!

HOMESCHOOLING JORDAN DINING ROOM Hello wordpress family, I’m back, for today, at least. I’ve been missing in action for several weeks and this is why. . .

I’m the proud new mother of a 7th grade homeschool student! Woo Hoo!

Well, in the beginning it started out, “Mom I love being home schooled, I wish we could have done this a long time ago.” But today it’s, “Aww, mom, this is too hard, I wanna go back to public school.”

Well, that’s not happening, LOL. I’ve come too far and had to fill out too much paperwork and jump through too many hoops to get here, so now we’re going to stick it out until the end! Besides, I’ve started to like this ‘learning with my child’ idea. Not only am I taking a very active part in his education as his primary instructor, but I know EXACTLY what he’s being taught, I’M THE TEACHER, YAY! The challenge may be great, but the rewards are greater!!!

So to every parent who has homeschooled their children, my hat goes off to you and for any parent who may be considering it, please research it fully and if it’s something your child will benefit from, please do it.

Now, I’m only a beginner, but I will have wonderful stories to tell you as my son and I both learn about integers (math), the Supreme Court (history), and how to say apples in French (des pommes – day pom)! What an exciting journey ahead.

Love,
Toni

Highlights from MegaFest 2013

Megafest 2013 logo
I’ve been traveling the past couple of weekends but now I’m back, ready to share some of my most memorable moments. I went to the one and only MegaFest in Dallas, TX the last weekend in August, and I would like to share a little about that experience. If you have never been to MegaFest, it is truly something you and your family should plan into your vacation time. Please enjoy my highlights!

HIGHLIGHTS FROM MEGAFEST 2013

This year’s MegaFest was BIG! Over 50,000 people from all over the world gathered in Dallas, Texas the weekend of August 29-31 at the magnificent Omni Hotel, the Dallas Convention Center and the American Airlines Center downtown, to celebrate the world’s largest family fun festival!

I had never seen anything like it before as this was my first MegaFest experience. I was in total awe of the collaboration of events, activities, seminars, movie screenings, concerts, expos, celebrity red carpet interviews, comedy shows, and kids and teenagers activities. There was literally something for everyone!

MegaFest 2013 hosted Oprah’s Lifeclass, the inaugural International Faith & Family Film Festival, the Just Churchin’ Comedy Show (with Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash), the Ball Up Streetball Classic Tour Championship and empowerment sessions for men, women, young adults and children.

On Wednesday, August 28th, there was a press conference with Bishop TD Jakes, who was joined by the Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, to kick-off the three-day inspirational festival celebrating Relationships and the Restoration of Families through Faith.

I participated as Media representing Six Brown Chicks and I worked harder, and walked longer and sweated more profusely than I have with any physical workout at my neighborhood gym. I’m sure I lost several inches and pounds during this ‘five’ day event (for me). I checked in Wednesday and stayed through Sunday.

I met some of the most wonderful people and made contacts that I hope will last a lifetime. There were several ‘moments to remember’ that I want to highlight as well as a checklist for anyone wanting to attend MegaFest next year.

MOMENTS TO REMEMBER

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Oprah’s Life Class – This was definitely something I will never forget as long as I live. I watched with goose pimples how Oprah and thousands of other women (and men) responded to the words of wisdom that came from Bishop TD Jakes. Please be sure to watch the life class this month of September 2013, it’s about fatherless children.

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The Woman of Purpose Concert benefiting Autism Speaks – This concert featuring the Grammy and Oscar Winner, Jennifer Hudson, emceed by comedian and talk show host Steve Harvey was truly something to see. Performers ranged from Brandy, Mary Mary, Joe, and Kim Burrell, just to name a few. A portion of the proceeds from the concert went to benefit Autism Speaks.

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Woman Thou Art Loosed – The only thing I have to say about this is, NO MORE CHAINS, I am loosed!

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International Faith & Family Film Festival – This was an extravagant affair. There were training sessions, movie premiers/screenings, and Q & A sessions with directors, authors, screenwriters, and actors. This was truly amazing.

If you’re wanting to attend MegaFest in 2014:
• Start planning and saving money now.
• Book flights and hotels in advance.
• Pack clothes and shoes according to Dallas, Texas weather. But also plan for surprises (like rain).
• Women may pack heels but also plan to wear flats and tennis shoes for the vigorous walking around the convention center and the hotel and outside to catch trolleys and buses for travel within the city.
• Make sure to have ‘some’ cash on you. If you’re anything like me, I don’t carry much cash in my purse but I had to go to the ATM several times because I needed CASH for parking (they didn’t take credit/debit cards!) and cash for some of the vendors at the Family Expo.
• Register online! It will save you from having to wait in those long, long lines with frustrated folks. Also take your receipts and proof of purchase/registration to MegaFest. Don’t leave home without it!
• Pack snacks and bottled water. The restaurants and food vendors were a little pricey for some. The average burger, fries and coke was right at $10.00+ (per person). A 20 0z bottle of water was $4.00. (I can get a 24 pack for $3.00 at Wal-Mart)
• Overall, plan to have a good time and to be blessed. There is so much to do, you’ll have to pick and choose because you won’t be able to do ‘everything’.

Love,
Toni

Reflections of my Soul (Healing)

Healing is an amazing thing! It is the process by which something that was once ill, sick, or deficient gets better (immediately or over time) and is restored. medicine

When we cough or sneeze or grab tissues for our runny noses, we want nothing more than to raid the medicine cabinet for Tylenol, or Advil or SOMETHING that will make us feel better. A simple headache is quickly remedied by over-the-counter aspirin, good rest, a good meal, or all of the above.

No one really likes to be sick, for real. Whether it’s a common cold, the flu, or something as serious as cancer or any incurable disease, people just want to feel better.

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I was thinking about healing the other day and couldn’t help but thank God for good health, both physical and mental. The interesting thing about sickness is that it can be either in your body or your mind. Some people may be in great shape physically but not well mentally or emotionally.
medicine three stressed out

But I have good news. I know someone who desires above all things that you and I live healthy, productive and happy lives. Just because your life AND my life may get chaotic at times, does not mean that it is supposed to be that way all the time! I heard a young lady say the other day, that her life was FULL of drama and that nothing goes right and that something crazy happens to her every day, literally.

I cringed.

There is no way on God’s green earth that I could live like that, not now, not EVER! Again, that is. There was a time in MY life that I had lots of drama and turmoil and stress and craziness until I decided I could no longer carry the weight of that type of existence. The stress of my BAD choices was trying to kill me and I decided that I was just not ready to die. So I surrendered my heart to God.

I asked the Lord to heal me. I wasn’t sick in my body, I was sick in my mind and emotions. I was terminally ill in my psyche and on the verge of death by way of suicide, when the Lord stepped in and began the amazing process of restoring my mental health. Through the ointment of his word (the Bible), positive speaking, positive music and definitely hanging around positive people, I gradually got better. I had to get away from those life-stealing, leeches and vampires that wanted to drain the very essence of my soul, those NEGATIVE TALKING AND NEGATIVE THINKING PEOPLE!!!

Today I am healed by the stripes of Jesus, physically, mentally, emotionally and yes, even spiritually.
Every area of your life can be restored. God uses several avenues by which to bring healing to our lives. He uses his word, (his son Jesus), he uses positive people, even laughter. Of course there’s medication (over-the-counter or prescribed), but most of all He wants us to experience an abundant life of peace, joy, happiness and love.

For financial, physical and mental health: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2

For mental health: ”For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (a stable mind).” 2 Timothy 1:7

For physical health: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3

For overall good health: “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” Psalm 107:20

For mental/emotional health: “A merry heart (a happy heart/laughter) doeth good like a medicine” Proverbs 17:22

Love,
Toni

Reflections of My Soul (Destined)

Embracing your destiny is like embracing a distant relative you’ve been eagerly awaiting to meet. It’s your daddy’s, mother’s, father’s, cousin’s niece from down south about twenty-three miles east of the river that runs past old lady Martha’s place. smiley face

You’ve heard of this relative, you’ve even dreamed of meeting this relative one day. From what you’ve been told, this relative is filthy rich and has in their possession something of extreme value, just for you. The only catch is that on your twenty-first birthday at 12:01 am you have to be at the Mississippi bus terminal in the north-west section, approximately 20 feet in front of the information desk before you can meet this relative and obtain what it is they have for you. bus terminal

This thing in your relative’s possession has the power to radically change your life, forever! You will never have to work another day in your life and all you must do is meet the basic criteria and at the appointed time, receive your gift.

Is there anything or anyone that can keep you from following the specifics of this demand? What will stop you from being at the exact place at the exact time to meet your relative and receive your inheritance?

Well, your destiny of promise, hope, success, and over-whelming blessings are your inheritance (your gift) and the distant relative is God. He has in his possession a destiny (future) with your name and your name alone stamped all over it. It’s yours! No one else can have it! He wants desperately to give it to you, but you must FIRST meet his criteria.

The funny thing about destiny is, we all have one and I don’t know about you but I want to fulfill my God-given purpose. I want all that God has for me. I am destined for: Success NOT failure, good health NOT sickness, prosperity NOT poverty, and a peace of mind INSTEAD of fear and torment.

I’m embracing my ‘no-longer’ distant relative and walking in my destined inheritance. What about you?

Love,
Toni

Reflections of My Soul (Excited)

Have you ever felt the amazing twinge of ‘wonder’ growing inside of you? It is an intoxicating surge of adrenaline that pokes and pokes at your heart, causing you to smile at apparently nothing. It’s like having a secret that no one else can fathom. A beautiful, life-changing secret that only you and God share.

You can’t tell your friends, they may envy you. You hesitate to tell your family, they simply may not believe you. So you just keep your mouth closed, your eyes peered, and your heart in anticipation, knowing that because God has made you a promise, it will, without a doubt, come to pass!

SONY DSC God is a PROMISE KEEPER!

The excitement of my future keeps me going from day to day. I may not understand everything, and I may not have the answer to every problem, but I’ve learned over time, to trust God because he has never let me down. Grateful, is what I am. Trusting Jesus is what I do, and being excited about my future, takes my breath away!

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? – Numbers 23:19

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”
― Gloria Steinem

But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.” ― Raymond Carver

Love,
Toni