Poetry & Words

7 Things Evangelicals Can Learn from the Liturgical Church

Why do evangelicals ignore ancient church history? Why do nondenominational churches reject liturgy? Why is there such a gap between American evangelicalism and global Christianity? //
7 Things Evangelicals Can Learn from the Liturgical Church
When I was rebranding this blog, I wanted to include the term “liturgy” in my tag line. But my multi-faith writers’ group quickly said no. Liturgy, they said, was synonymous with Catholicism. I countered liturgy simply meant “the work of the people”, as in

  • our habits,
  • the intentional environment we create,
  • our patterns, and
  • the way we worship through the consistent choices we make daily.

Everything we routinely do is our liturgy, I argued. Besides, even in the context of church, Catholics do not own the term. Many Protestant worship services contain liturgical elements. My colleagues dissuaded me. I compromised, concluded I’ve spent too much time reading the dictionary, and went with the word “rhythms” instead.

But the exchange stayed with me, and I haven’t been able to stop asking questions. (I still like the word “liturgy.”) Why do we tend to think liturgy is Catholic? Don’t even the most seeker-friendly emergent evangelical churches practice many repetitive liturgies of their own invention — for example, in the distinct and recognizable way a worship team continues to play chords and pluck guitar strings while the leader transitions from singing to prayer at the end of the first set of songs, every single week?

Why are so many Christians determined to reinvent and rename the entire church experience, swapping out every term for something more relevant and hip?

Why do evangelicals shun the concise ancient creeds and write forty-page Statements of Faith instead? (Seriously, why?)

Why do American evangelicals think there’s an inverse relationship between the quantity of art in a church in the the quantity of holiness? Why is “church art” dismissed as religious in non-denominational circles?

Has America’s history of intense individualism really had that much effect on the way we view worship? (In other words, can we blame our uniquely-American hangups on the Puritans?)

Continue reading “7 Things Evangelicals Can Learn from the Liturgical Church”

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Homeschooling

100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids - by Gina of the Oaxacaborn Blog

Are you homeschooling a gifted / twice-exceptional (2E) child with sensory-seeking tendencies? Me, too! Let’s navigate this wild ride together. I created this mega-post for you, a huge list of 100 resources, sensory tools, educational websites, digital subscriptions, apps, games, morning time ideas and tips for homeschooling gifted and advanced learners.

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It’s a strange world, isn’t it, the cross-section of homeschooling and giftedness? In my own journey so far, I’ve experienced…

. . . a two-year-old begging to learn to write.
. . . a three-year-old announcing “I’m done with toys. Can I have a math book?”
. . . a four-year-old offering to read a bed-time story, then reading “how to prepare a slide” from the appendix of a microscope encyclopedia.
. . . a five-year-old reading 500 books in one calendar year.
. . . a six-year-old reading 500 more books the next calendar year.
. . . a seven-year-old overcome with emotion, hugging a beloved algebra textbook before reluctantly dropping it down the library book return.

You won’t find much support from the world at large for this sort of aberrant behavior; and sadly, you won’t even necessarily find that much within the homeschool community (until you find your tribe — more on that, later.) But this is my normal, and I am willing to bet that if you’re still reading this, it might be your normal, too.

Are you feeling tired, discouraged, or intimidated? I’ve been in this homeschool world for a long, long, time. I’m the child of homeschool pioneers, and I’ve been a reader since age three. And friends, you can do this.

You can homeschool your gifted child.

[This post contains affiliate links.]

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→100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

Homeschooling a gifted child is a whole different thing, isn’ t it? It’ll try your patience. It’ll test your mettle. It’ll put you at odds with the conventional homeschool community, as you, stapled to a cheetah, are wholly unable to conform to the delay-formal-academics-until-age-seven mantra.  And I’ll be real: it might even cost you friendships.

But for the gifted child — especially the twice-exceptional child — homeschooling offers an opportunity to thrive. You have the opportunity to create a personalized situation, especially designed for your child’s own quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. Spelling below grade level? Yup, you can accommodate that. Thinking mathematically far above grade level? Yup, you can accommodate that. Needs chewing gum and a wiggle seat in order to focus? Yup, you can accommodate that. You get to create your child’s own IEP and learning environment — and you don’t have to fight anyone to get the accommodations approved.

But as joyous as it can be to watch your asynchronously-developing, twice-exceptional kids bloom, it’s also exhausting. Parenting intense, gifted children — not to mention homeschooling them — takes a lot out of you. It’s a marathon, only it feels like you’re running sprint speeds all the time. (Sound familiar?)

While no two gifted kids are the same, there are definitely some common threads running through the tapestry. Weary mama stapled to a cheetah, you are not alone. 

Let’s keep going down this list of one hundred resources, books, websites, products and tips for homeschooling gifted and advanced learners.

→Best Sensory Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

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So much of the SPD (sensory-processing disorder) information available is geared toward sensory-avoiding kids. Have you noticed this, too? But when I learned about sensory-seeking behaviors, my eyes flew wide open, and suddenly so much made sense to me. The behaviors disrupting our homeschooling day weren’t caused by a lack of focus (gifted kids often hyper-focus) but rather by a drive to seek out sensory-enriching experiences. When I started providing opportunities for sensory stimuli alongside our school tasks, everything changed. Put at ease by the sensory input she craved, my daughter was able to direct her attention — calmly! — to the task at hand. Here are the sensory-seeking tools which work best for us:

  1. Tangle Relax Therapy Fidget

This small plastic fidget is covered with rubbery nubs, and has numerous twistable joints so it can be manipulated into endless shapes. Fits easily in a pocket; a favorite!

  1. Puffy Snow Slime (DIY)

This puffy slime only keeps its volume for one day, but is relatively inexpensive to make, especially if you already have saline solution on hand. We skipped the dye.

  1. Dollar Store Cookie Sheets

Yes, cookie sheets! These are the perfect work surfaces for clay and slime messes — and for puzzles and other games with small parts. (See more tips on creating clutter-free activity centers in your homeschool.)

  1. Thinking Putty

I prefer Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty to the other silly brand. The mini 2″ tins are perfect.

  1. Water Beads

Not just for preschoolers! A couple of teaspoons of beads in a $1 plastic shoebox provide lots of soothing sensory play. Add a drop of lavender EO and grapefruit seed extract to keep the beads from getting musty.

  1. Stetro Pencil Grips

These particular pencil grips were recommended to me by an OT, and have been very effective in correcting my daughter’s grip.

  1. ARK Therapeutics Brick Stick Chew Necklace

The colors of ARK Chew pendants correlate to different levels of toughnesses, from soft to more durable. Depending on your child’s personal preference, one might work better than another. Once we bought a chew necklace — and gum presto! no more chewed and ruined shirts.

  1. PÜR Soy-Free Chewing Gum

Free of both sugar and aspartame, this gum has been a lifesaver. Lots of kids can focus so much better when chewing gum.

  1. Wiggle Seat / Balance Disk

I can’t say enough good things about wiggle seats! They’re a cross between a chair pad and an exercise ball, and allow the user to wiggle. In fact, since you inflate the balance disk to fit the person’s weight, the user has to wiggle at least a little in order to maintain balance on the chair. It’s a discreet way to get the wiggles out when you still have to be seated. When my daughter first took outside classes (at age 3 for Chinese) she took her wiggle seat with her. Game changer — and not just for kids!

  1. Foam Place Value Disks

It can be frustrating when we expect kids to immediately grasp abstract math ideas without tangible examples — why not use concrete methods first? These place value disks are so versatile.

  1. Exercise Ball

My daughter likes to read entire books while rocking or bouncing on an exercise ball.

  1. Yoga Mat

Yoga Mats can make a great surface for read-alouds, lapbooking, etc — not all school work has to be conducted at a table or desk! The texture is especially fun when layered over a plush rug. Try to choose a mat that’s OKEO-TEX certified, so it’s not off-gassing endocrine-disrupting chemicals. We found ours at Aldi!

  1. Silicone Body Brush 

Comparable to the sensory brush sold by Fun & Function. It makes a great fidget, and we’ve also had good luck diffusing meltdowns with this, too.

  1. Fuzzy Vests or Fuzzy Socks

Under the “What should the teachers know about your child?” heading of a class registration form, I once wrote “May try to pet other students’ fuzzy shirts“. True story. Sometimes, it helps to have the fuzzy shirt near.

  1. Light Covers / Light Filters / Umbrella

Have you seen the fitted fabric covers to filter harsh light in classrooms? My daughter figured this accommodation out on her own — I saw her underneath a big open umbrella in the living room, working on Chinese homework. “It’s cozy light under here, mama!”

  1. Swipe-Sequin Pillowcase

No one can resist a good flippy-sequin — they’re addicting! My daughter keeps a swipe-sequin pillow nearby when she’s doing written work on the floor — and they’re the ideal squeeze-buddy during a read-aloud, too. We got ours at Hobby Lobby; but here’s a similar swipe-sequin pillowcase.

  1. IKEA bathmat

The top side is of the Toftbo mat covered with ultra-soft nubs, and the reverse side is slightly grippy. It’s a fantastically economical sensory rug — can be used for a reading corner, chair pad, on the floor to dig toes into, or even as a tactile item to play with while listening to audiobooks. And did you know you can find IKEA items on Amazon now, too?

  1. Gel Bead Sleep Mask

Soft velour on one side, and gel beads on the other, this sensory mask can be placed in the freezer.

  1. Hot Water Bottle with Knit Cover

The hot water bottle is a classic for a reason! Comforting and calming.

  1. Rice Bag (DIY)

This can be used to provide warming sensory input, but has an added advantage over the hot water bottle because rice bags can be used as a fidget, too. The rice offers great texture (and you can add dried lavender!)

  1. Aromatherapy Roller Ball

I especially like this pre-diluted lavender roller — it’s safe for kids!

  1. A Balloon and Cornstarch (DIY)

Stress balls are so easy to make, and so satisfying to squeeze!

Shop my Gifted / 2E Homeschool Toolkit

We’re only a quarter of the way through this huge list of resources, so let’s keep going….

Continue reading “100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids”

Poetry & Words

What People Don’t Understand About Having an Only Child

What People Don't Understand About Having an Only Child

Five years ago.  I don’t wish time to stop, because if time had stopped then I wouldn’t have today in all its glorious tumbling mix of beauty and brokenness.

No, I never wish time to stop.

This photo from the past is a femtosecond suspended in space — a single transient moment in time’s flight over us.

We’re in my favorite place on earth, high above the sea overlooking Bodega Bay, and the white-bright sunset is casting slivers of diamonds over us, by the handful. My pants don’t match my shirt, and I’m wearing my brother-in-law’s too-big shoes. She’s set to bolt away and grab fistfuls of sand. The sky is molten. We are hands on a clock, dials on the face of the sun.

And time flies on.

The shadows go round, and round, and round. She’s so little here, my third-grader, and my heart sometimes feels like it will split right down the middle.

See, she’s a miracle, you know, I miracle God granted in defiance of what time’s overly-speedy hands had begun to do to my physical body. And she’s light. Can’t you see it here, the light? True to her name, she’s Alenka, the radiance. When she was born, the nurse learned over the bed and asked, in a voice breaking under the weight of meaning, “What have you come to teach us?”

Strangers, won’t you step down and lift your head and open your eyes? Won’t you see beyond the narrow explanation you’ve created in your own mind?

You ask me why I had no more; I reply: no more arrived.

You ask so often. Do you realize how often you ask?

You never see the sorrow in my reply.

You ask at the line in the grocery store.

You ask at the library.

You ask at homeschool groups. (Oh, especially at homeschool groups.)

We’re dependent on God for so much. The thin tissue of our lungs fills and empties, fills and empties, fills and empties. We breath in oxygen; our organs are fed. We do not owe the function of these inner workings to our own righteousness. Our heartbeats, our respirations, the skin that covers these shells — gifts from the Maker, all.

Don’t count and measure and compare.

We aren’t given equal portions in this life, but we are given enough. We are given our portion. It is my sorrow that my arms cannot hold more; yet it is my joy they can hold the unspeakable gift I’ve been given.

Can you look at this life as liquid gold, with me? As chrysolite and as chalcedony? [1] We all walk sacred ground; there are no ordinary places. [2] We are souls inhabiting bodies; we are magic of the celestial kind.

Look to the Light, my friends, look to the Light and rejoice.

Poetry & Words

The Battle Between Blogger and Writer

The Battle Between Blogger and Writer

I feel stretched out, sometimes, pulled and twisted and at odds in the middle between the world of the writer and the world of the blogger. One is born a writer, but made a blogger.

For the writer, the sky itself shouts and whispers. Words fall down all around me from the sky, and I gather them up by the armfuls and pour them into the lines, giving my book a little shake at the end to settle in the errant punctuation.

But the blogger writes for function and purpose; proposals and contracts call for a practical list of countable tips that scrape away the cloud-words and add in keywords which screech and rasp against the lyrical rhythm.

For the writer there is always more to say — an endless spring of words to channel into funnels and sift, the gold letters glistening against the dross. But for the blogger, it’s never enough. The blogger must pour stats atop the words, and must toss the words together into a promotional salad, mixing up the letters every which way, until they’re poured out onto the editors’ desks and extruded through the constricting channels of social media.

The writer in me is always battling the blogger.

And the blogger, against her own will, must fight the writer.

“Out of the red and silver and the long cry of alarm to the poet who survives in all human beings, as the child survives in him; to this poet she threw an unexpected ladder in the middle of the city and ordained, ‘Climb!’” -Anaïs Nin

Poetry & Words

On Soviet Food and Spiritual Food

I’m currently reading a memoir of Soviet times, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias in Moscow. While I enjoy cooking, I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Why did God design food to be so crucial?

On Soviet Food and Spiritual Food

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I’m currently reading Anya von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias of the author’s Moscow childhood. While I enjoy cooking — and obviously, books about cooking — I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Certainly as a parent, preparing, serving, and cleaning up food is a nonnegotiable part of my daily routine. As I go about these chores, I often question why God designed food to be so crucial.

Why does the human body required food, simply to continue to exist? (Or, as I texted my friend the other day, “Why do these people I live with seem to want to eat three times a day?”)

My questioning doesn’t end there.

Why, in heaven, when all things are made new, does feasting still continue to play a central role?

Again and again throughout Scripture, we see food:

The fruit in the garden.

The lentil porridge.

The burnt offerings.

Loaves and fishes.

The last supper.

Perhaps eating, then, is an ever-present reminder of our daily dependence on God.

Take, and eat.

In Exodus chapter sixteen, the Israelites of old had to trust him anew each morning. Manna squirreled away under the corners of the tent or in a basket very openly revealed a lack of trust by dissolving into stinking, swarming mess of worms.

Manna, like mercy, is new every morning. Our own striving cannot sustain us overnight; only He can.

When Jesus teaches us how to pray, He does not tell us His power is vast enough to sustain us for all time — even though it is. No, he tells us we must ask Him for bread, every day. There’s a transcendental significance to the focus on daily bread. (Couldn’t he have just as easily taught us to pray, “Give us this month our monthly bread, so we need not stress about this again until the calendar page turns”? I would have preferred that.)

He didn’t, of course. There are no prayers for weekly or yearly allotments; but many promises for bread and mercy daily.

We are to turn our eyes upon him constantly, over and over and over again.

The hymn-writer Robert Lowry understood this when he wrote,

“I need thee every hour…
I need thee, oh, I need thee;
Ev’ry hour I need thee!”

Every hour. (If you have infants — or teenage boys — this is a very literal reality.)

Eating, I think, reminds of us our constant state of reliance on God. We rely on him for everything — the onrush of air into our lungs, the pulse of our beating hearts, and life itself. Simply to be alive is a gift. And when we set down yet another tired lunch on the table on yet another weekday noon, this ordinary act can be a worshipful acknowledgement of our utter dependence on God.

Work, as worship.

Food, as a worship.

Inhaling the aroma, tasting the spices on our tongue, feeling satiated, feeling hungry — these are all tangible ways to taste and see that the Lord is good. Yes, even if the meal is one you’ve had hundreds of times.

Even if you’re weary of meal prep.

Even then.

And our need for physical nourishment also echoes our need, too, for supernatural food. In the wilderness, David waxed desperately poetic in his sixty-third Psalm:

“You are my God;
I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You,
my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land
where there is no water.” 

Our souls are designed to crave Him as deeply as our stomach rumbles for food after a long day of slim pickings. God didn’t want us to miss this. He didn’t hide the symbolism in parable: he spelled it out for us when he said “I am the bread of life.”

We are supposed to feel as desperately starved for God when our spirits are hungry, just as we do for a food when our bodies are physically famished. Our bodies aren’t designed to last for long periods without eating; so too, our souls aren’t designed for only periodic spiritual dining, taken at infrequent intervals.

Later in the same Psalm where David first declares his wilderness thirst for God, he exclaims what it’s like to finally dive to God after his soul had been starved: “I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy; I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!” (The Message translation)

In the Soviet memoir I’m reading, the author describes mealtime in Lenin’s Russia as “soup with rotten sauerkraut, unidentifiable meat (horse?), gluey millet, and endless vobla, the petrified fried Caspian roach fish.”

Is this what your soul has been surviving on?

Come!

You don’t need to live like this anymore. There is living water. There is life-giving bread.

The shackles are off; the walls have crumbled.

Read! Partake! Drink it in!

The time for feasting has arrived.