Guitar Lessons for Kids

I love homeschool, but sometimes I worry about some of the extracurriculars. Thankfully there are several free resources to be found online.

My husband taught himself how to play in high school, and consequently used that talent to win me over, because who doesn't love a guitar player!?

 Each of my 10 year old sons have enjoyed learning to play piano for free at home, so we bought them their own guitars for Christmas!!!

  We love the Beginners Acoustic Guitar Kit , it has everything you need to start; with a bag, pick, strap, tuner, and plenty of extra strings. When we added these all up separately, this was a very good deal.

While my husband can play basic guitar, he isn't a trained guitar teacher. We decided to find a guideline to help the process. He is going to do one weekly lesson, with each boy, using these lesson plans and videos. He gets to be  our music teacher, with his own teacher manual!

We found for these well done Lesson plans, videos, and printables for beginning your kids on the guitar FOR ONLY $25!


Four Gifts at Christmas
Free Piano Lessons at Home: Hoffman Academy

Roman Soldier Helmet

We are enjoying our study of Rome during Rome to Reformation.  The end of the Roman study calls for a roman feast and roman costumes.  To be honest, we haven't gotten to the feast yet, and we made these costumes during winter break, 2 weeks after we were supposed to, but that is just how homeschooling goes sometimes.

We found this tutorial online, but didn't have cardstock.  I solved this by printing on regular paper and using Aluminum Foil to cover all the pieces.

Materials Needed:
  • Roman Solder Helmet Printable (on regular paper is fine because you're covering with foil to stiffen)
  • Aluminum Foil (I bought the cheap stuff from Dollar Tree)
  • Stapler
  • Red marker or crayons
  • Scissors
 1. Print Roman Solder Printable

2. Children cut out pieces, coloring top red.

3. Assist your children in covering with foil, all except top of fridge.  Use pieces twice the size as the piece of paper, and fold over, creasing at edges.  It is OK if it's not the exact shape as your paper, it is just a guideline. 

4.  Staple pieces together on the spots where the templates indicates to glue.  Put on child's head to size straps before stapling. 

Where Grief and Christmas Meet


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

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

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

I keep crying, but one eye is filled with tears of grief, and the other tears of joy.  I honestly can't the difference anymore.

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

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

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

Gone To Heaven Folder- How To Show Love After You Die

I just want to start out saying that I HATE that I can now write this article from first-hand experience. My wish is still to be living in ignorance of the importance of a will, or even what probate court is, but I'm not.

I used to think making a will was just plain morbid, and almost a jinx. The thought of either of my husband or I passing was so painful, that I pushed the thought away and ignored the need for a will. Some weird part of my brain thought that if we wrote it, then something would happen to one of us.  In hindsight, I see it was as logical as thinking if you avoid the doctor, then you can't get cancer.  But it is how I felt. 

We know now it is a final act of stewardship and love. God has given us earthly possessions, and we need to be stewards of them, even after we pass. God has given us people in our lives, for good or bad, who will need to deal with our possessions when we have gone ahead to Heaven. 

We lost my brother-in-law to a freak accident 2 months ago.  He was in perfect health, only 36 years old, with a fiance and four minor children.  He had zero reason to think he would be going to Heaven any time soon.  Thankfully, we know that is exactly where he went, to his Heavenly Father. That knowledge is the only way we survive the grief. But that knowledge did not make the logistics of his passing easier.

I asked my family if I could share this  information, and our sincere wish in sharing our experience is to help in anyone's future grieving process. Your loved ones will need time to grieve you.  The more decisions that have to be made, the less time they can focus the grief process in a healthy way.

In Your Gone To Heaven Folder

After my brother-in-law's passing, my father-in-law shared that they have a "Gone to Heaven" folder. It includes more than just his will; it takes all the decisions out of your loved ones grief process.  His church urges the men in of the congregation to do this, and I am so thankful for that push towards stewardship and love. 

They tell you there are a lot of decisions after someone passes, but I had no idea how many.  I thought once you arrange the funeral, (which itself takes several emotionally exhaustive days), you are done. But no, that is only the beginning

Think of your Gone to Heaven Folder as a way to show love to the ones left behind, to take care of them even when you aren't there to do it yourself.  Of course, we know my brother loved us while he was here.  This past year he affirmed that more than any other time, ironically we had never all been closer than in the 10 months before he passed, but the logistics after his passing made the grieving process difficult. 

1.Last Will and Testament & Living Will

It will take some time to put your will together, but it will be a TINY fraction off the time your loved will have to take after your departure. Do not wait.

A scribbled napkin with your wishes is not legal. In Indiana, You need a document that is signed in front of at least two witnesses (check your states laws), preferably in front of a notary.  Better to have it signed in front of a notary, because without notary, those witnesses will be called into court to testify they saw you sign it (and court is not free). It does not matter if you are happily married, NEVER assume what happens to your estate.  I am not a lawyer, just sharing the tidbits we've learned through this process. 

Orally expressing your wishes is not legal.   It does not matter that you told a loved one your wishes!  We knew my brother's wishes, but we didn't have it specifically in writing.  Each member of our family, and his fiance, had had a conversation in the past few months with our brother about who he wanted, and more specifically who he didn't want, involved with his business and even allowed in his house, but legally, it is all hear-say. Change your will whenever you have a big life changes; like a divorce, engagement, or estrangement.

As a wedding photographer, I saw for a decade how weddings bring out the BEST  and WORST in people.  I have recently learned funerals do the same.  It is understandable, grief distorts our perspectives, but let's face it, there are just people in the world, who will exploit even a death. 

No legal will equals the government getting involved. In Indiana, our state, if you die without a will,  your estate will most likely go to probate . Probate means the government WILL get a  chunk of your estate, in the name of helping settle who is executor of the estate. They will most likely name your spouse as executor, but not before they take a chunk out in lawyer fees and court costs.   The last resort is probate. 

Worst case scenario, the last thing your family needs is a lawyer being involved by someone filing for rights to an estate in probate before you even finish funeral arrangements or bury your loved one (yep, that happened to us...even the lawyers were shocked and had never before seen anyone file before the burial). Probate will take a chunk of the estate, no matter who is appointed executor. Probate court doesn't care about the deceased wishes, it cares about what costs the estate the least amount of money.  Probate won't make sure money gets put into trusts for kids, or is managed according to the deceased wishes. Probate court makes sure creditors paid, period. 

Ways to make a will include:
  • Hire a lawyer.  It will take an experienced lawyer  maybe an hour or two to draw up a will for you.  The ONE BILLABLE HOUR you pay will be so much less than the COUNTLESS BILLABLE HOURS & COURT COSTS your loved ones will have to pay after your passing. 
  • Use online legal service. My husband and I used Legal Zoom, and were very satisfied with the result.  You will still need to get it notarized and signed with witnesses. 
  • Write your own using online template (make sure it is legal according to your state) You need a document that is signed in front of two witnesses.  Better to have it signed in front of a notary, because without notary, those witnesses will be called into court to testify they saw you sign it (and court is not free).

2. Personal Information/Passwords

There is no one whose job it is after a  death to  track down all the the accounts that need to be managed or paid (no one who does it for free at least). Death Certificates do not arrive the day of death, so do not assume loved ones will be given access to your accounts or phone immediately. Many times, it takes several weeks for death certificates to be mailed.

You of course are keeping this in a secure location, that is known to your trusted loved ones.

Examples of items needed:

  • Phone Password (your thumbprint may not work)
  • All your email accounts and passwords
  • Any online accounts your have
  • social media passwords (optional)
  • bank pin 
  • life insurance information 
  • List of monthly bills and how you pay them (do you pay online, where do you keep your files, is your mortgage taken out automatically, etc).  This of course will change more often than other items, but will give your loved ones a good place to start.
  • passwords to any safes in the house, especially gun safes
  • Side note-If you have a "role" in your family, make sure others know how to do it. My husband and I sat down last week and he showed me how to pay the monthly bills. 

3. Your Burial and Funeral Preferences

Once you are done, this section is where you add your favorite quotes, song, poem, picture for obituary, etc. We learned how hard this planning process was.  It takes several days; no bills get paid, no texts get returned.  You get stuck on on their obituary wording, and every other little detail that reminds you they are gone. Some of the planning was cathartic,  but so much of it just kept reminding us we were not in a dream.  

My husband and I personally haven't finished this section, but I have started it at least.  I asked for the song I sang when I decided to give my life to Jesus, "I Surrender All". Also included a few of my favorite quotes from Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis. 

My father-in-law has already written his obituary.  While it may seem morbid to you, it is a huge relief to me to know his voice will still be present after he departs for Heaven.

4. Letters to your children and loved ones (optional)

I haven't finished this yet.  And that is OK.  I know my family will not have to deal with the logistics of my passing, and they will be able to focus on the many ways I show them I love them already.

This is the hardest part, and honestly the least important logistically. If this step is too emotionally hard for you, and delays you from putting together this folder, please skip it for now.  You can always come back to it, but the other logistical items will show love to those left behind by helping them not question their decisions. 

Beef, Bean, and Rice Freezer Burritos

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


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

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

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

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

3. Warm refried beans

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

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

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

What doesn't kill you...

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

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

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

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

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

How to Fight Winter Blues while Homeschooling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may also be interested in:
Isolation versus Solitude

What is a homeschool co-op?