Monday, April 16, 2012

A Little Help From My "Friends"

This week's blog cruise topic is, "Who inspires you?"

As a Christian, I feel I ought to say, "Well, God, of course." Right? After all, it is He who ultimately convinced me I needed to homeschool. He can be very persuasive...and inspiring.

As a parent, I feel I ought to say, "Oh, definitely my kids...I have to keep one step ahead of them, so I have to stay on my toes!" It is true...they are the reason we do what we do. They are our heritage. Our blessing. Our inspiration.

As a wife, I feel I ought to say,"My husband. He inspires me to be the best I can be."  Hopefully our husbands make the homeschooling journey more pleasant by helping us meet all of its many challenges and inspiring us to hang in there when the going gets tough.

As a daughter, I feel I should say, "My mom and dad. They are my best friends in the world." They do provide me with so much support that helps me keep going when times are tough, and their kind words and actions often inspire me.

As a friend, I feel I should say my sister-in-law and other homeschooling friends, since gaining insight from those who are traveling the same road and also by helping those who are just starting on their voyage can be very inspiring.

Well, all of these things are true. I do gain inspiration to keep homeschooling from all of these places. What a blessing it is to not be traveling this sometimes difficult and often challenging (but ultimately rewarding) road alone. However, the truth is that sometimes I hit a wall and just can't see what to do. I've exhausted all my resources and still haven't figured out what my next move needs to be. Other times, it seems I've lost the motivation I need to motivate my students. Sometimes I've been praying and can't seem to hear what it is that the Lord wants to tell me. Other times it's because there is an issue that my hubby can't seem to make heads or tail of any more than I can. Perhaps my friends and family have told me what they would do, but none of their answers have worked for me or don't seem to fit my exact situation. Or perhaps I can't find someone I feel I can talk to about a certain topic. What do I do for inspiration then?

Well, here's what I do. I'll admit it to you right now. I am a seminar junkie. A sermon addict. A homeschool or Christian conference groupie. I LOVE to learn. I adore listening to other people's ideas and methods. I find that picking a topic I am feeling uninspired or sluggish in and listening to sermons or seminars about that topic really gets me geared up and raring to go.

Do you attend your local homeschooling convention every year? Are you like me and by the end of the convention, even though you just finished your previous school year, or haven't even completed all of the last year's work, you are ready to get started implementing all the fun and interesting stuff you just heard about?? I don't think I am alone in this, am I?

Well, one way to keep that feeling going all year is to buy the conference cds/mp3s during the convention. It's a bit pricey, but if you save up during the year for them, they can be an inspiration to you all year long, and that is worth the price. You usually get fifty to one hundred talks to choose from (at least you do from our huge convention), and knowing that you will have the collection to listen to later leaves you free to focus on catching your favorite speakers during the convention without feeling that you are missing something important in another room. It also makes it possible for you and your spouse to take time throughout the year to listen to certain sessions together, then to discuss how to implement them in your own homeschool. One of my favorite lectures, from quite a few years back, is GASP! Are you leaving Gaps??? by Tami Duby of Tobin's Lab. Her lecture convinced me to stop worrying about what the state and my neighbors/relatives thought about my homeschooling choices and to focus instead upon what God wanted me to teach my individual students to acheive His purposes and plans. You can purchase it online here...if you are questioning your homeschooling decisions at all, it's definitely worth it.

Another way of gaining inspiration, especially if your local convention isn't that large or inspiring, is to attend one of the new-ish online homeschool conventions. There are a few I know of, though I have not participated in most of them. There are the Heart of the Matter Conference, The Schoolhouse Expo, and The Ultimate Homeschool Expo. I also found the Homeschool How-to Conference, which looks promising, and is free on May 1-3. You might want to check it out.

A few years ago when I was feeling particularly lonely and uninspired (during the months I was pregnant with Boo and not feeling very well), I discovered Cindy Rushton, who has a TON of online seminars available for your listening enjoyment. I was inspired to try notebooking by listening to her lectures on the topic, and she has plenty of printed downloads to supplement her talks, full of ideas and examples to spur you along, as well. You might want to check out her Ultimate Sets, available for immediate download, if you need inspiration in a hurry!

I also have certain speakers whose cd and tape collections I like to bring out an listen to whenever I need inspiration. One of my favorites is Gregg Harris. He has an older collection of how to homeschool talks that I have particularly enjoyed throughout the years.

I also love listening to sermons, as they challenge you in your spiritual journey, which is more important than your educational one. I have quite a large collection of sermons on tape or cd from many sources, but I will just tell you about a few of my favorites.

First, there is SM Davis. He is a conservative Baptist preacher who gives excellent talks about the family, anger, relationships, character, and more. If you are experiencing any troubles at all with the raising of your young ones, you might check out his site, Solve Family Problems. You can preview some of his best sermons online (scroll about halfway down the page to find his sermons), and you can download the fill-in-the-blank sheets to accompany each of the sermons, if taking notes helps you remember information (it also makes the sermons an excellent source of Bible lessons). One of my favorites is What to Expect from a Twelve-Year Old. This is one you should listen to with your kids of all ages. It will inspire some and humble others.

Another preacher favorite is Andy Stanley, son of Charles Stanley, whom you may already know. Andy is an excellent speaker/preacher and my son, Tex, in particular, loves to listen to his sermons. A few times a week he chooses to listen to one of his sermons for his Bible lesson instead of working in his chosen Bible study text. I have absolutely no problem with that! Of course, we love Charles Stanley's sermons, too.

I also like Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill. I think his studies on Proverbs will really make you think, and I hear from my brother that his marriage series is very inspiring, in terms of making your marriage better, though I have not yet listened to it myself. Jeff Pollard, a very conservative preacher (also reformed), has a series on family that will inspire you and make you think.

Mark Hamby of Lamplighter Ministries offers his seminars online for free. He is a wonderful homeschooling father who is not perfect...he made mistakes, which he transparently shares with you, as he discusses the importance of family, fathers, and choosing the best literature to influence your children and future generations.

There are also a few companies whose audio products often inspire me, and the one that pops into mind first is Vision Forum. I have several of their cd sets (or have listened to them from the library), and have found almost every lecture to be the sort that really makes me think, and to want to talk to someone about it to figure out how it should be applied to my life. I won't say that I am fully in agreement with every statement every speaker from that organization makes (for one, I am not in agreement with all of their reformed doctrine), but overall, I truly appreciate their goal of building up the family as a center of discipleship, being mission minded, and focusing on Christ and the Bible when making decisions, from choosing what books to read to what we encourage our children to do as their vocation. We have learned from many of the ideas presented on their Family Strategies set (though a few of the topics weren't really applicable to us), been motivated by the Entrepeneurial Bootcamp set (which I got for only ten dollars at the Antique Mall, of all places!), and been enouraged by the Babies, Adoption, and Family Logistics set.

Two of my favorite speakers who are connected with that organization are Doug Phillips and Voddie Baucham (and here's another page with sermons, but not all of the links work, so you will just have to try a few out, if you are interested). Another favorite is Ken Ham. Here's a link to Divided, The Movie, with both Ken Ham and Doug Phillips in it talking about how worldy youth culture has permeated our churches and seeks to figure out why so many of our youth are leaving the church. I was certainly inspired by this film.

Recently, I discovered the Embassy Institute, a resource of the Institute of Basic Life Principles. I know there are some who will find fault with some of what Bill Gothard says, but there is a lot of good to be found as well. I signed up for the online Institute, which is only $9 a month for unlimited access to every talk they have available, plus all of the outlines. I have been inspired by quite a few of the messages so far, in particular the one by Gil Bates about How to Support a Family of 19 with No Salary (though he was working during this time period, he talks about trusting God to supply your needs). You can check out some of the topics and you will see that many of the 49 character qualities are covered. Each topic is linked to talks that support learning about that topic. It's been a great investment so far.

The point of this long post is that if you are ever flagging in your determination to homeschool, questioning your Christian walk, or concerned that you may not have what it takes to stick to the long road ahead...DO NOT GIVE UP! Go online or to the bookstore or to the library and find yourself some audio inspiration from those who have gone before you...your "friends" and comrades on this sometimes difficult, always worth it, journey. You will be feeling inspired before you know it and excited once again, and before long you will find that you have become an inspiration to someone else.

The blog cruise link goes live on Tuesday and you can check out what others do for "a little inspiration" then.

Until next time...



1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing so many great resources. The first one I'll click will be the Lamplighter one. We enjoy their books so much.

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