Castleberry Hearts are Texas Bound!

IMG_0126.JPGWhat can I say except we are so thankful for this journey of seminary the Lord brought us on! Five years ago we put our home in S.C. on the market, sold half of our belongings, and moved to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for Grant to embark on his M.Div.

AudreyKate was just barely a toddler, and I was seven months pregnant with Evangeline. What we didn’t know is that the MDiv would lead to a PhD and that our three years at Southern would expand to five. We have seen God’s faithfulness over and over again these past five years. We have made lifelong friendships we will treasure forever and we feel indebted to the encouragement, support, and spiritual education that Southern has imparted to us. We are just one of many families who has had the privilege of coming in and going out the doors of this seminary into ministry. We are grateful beyond words for those of you who have prayed for us and encouraged us in this journey.

Now that Grant is finished with his residential coursework for his PhD (he still has more studying left) it is with great excitement that we share that he will be joining the pastoral staff at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas! Grant gives the details of our move in his resignation letter to CBMW.

I wanted to share the news here with you – to those who read my blog and have encouraged me through your comments and messages. I plan to keep on sharing what the Lord is teaching me and I am grateful for each one of you.

From my heart,

GraceAnna

homeschooling little ones from the kitchen table

This blog is a place where I mainly love to just write. 

But as I am homeschooling this year, I thought it also might be a great place to share some of what we are doing from time to time.

I’ve received some emails recently asking me what curriculum I chose for the girls this year, if I am involved in any homeschool groups, and what I am doing with little Charles while I teach my girls.

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CURRICULUM:

While my children are young, I want to keep things as simple as possible. The day will come too soon when they will have lots of formal instruction every day. But I want to keep kindergarten at home as fun as it can be. My focus has been on two main things: getting a good start in math and teaching AudreyKate (who is in kindergarten) to read.

I am using Saxon Math this year. I like it for a couple reasons. It is mainly what my mom used with us growing up so I’m familiar with it and it is very straightforward. I also chose it because the daily calendar is incorporated in to each lesson when you use Saxon’s Meeting Book.

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We live in a 1200 sq foot house, and I homeschool from our kitchen table (or the backyard), so I don’t have a lot of room for posters or a morning meeting corner. Everything I use, I need to be able to put away when school is over. The meeting book covers all the basics I would teach if I were teaching in a classroom (date, days of the week, counting, weather, etc), without all the cuteness. But I do have this cute old fashioned slider calendar I like to use with the girls to keep track of the date.

The other main curriculum I am using this year is Logic of English. I did a lot of research before I ordered this series (I watched almost all these videos!) because I wanted to make sure it would really work for us. At the end of the day, I went with it because I love the phonogram approach. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that I struggled to learn to read as a child. Among other things, when my mom began teaching me phonograms, I think that really helped things click for this literal learner.  I went from not being able to read at all, to reading Little House in the Big Woods!

This curriculum has been a lot of fun for us and I really like the instruction for teaching cursive writing. I am teaching AudreyKate cursive first because a). I really want her to be able write in cursive for the rest of her life, and b). because cursive requires less fine motor control than print.

IMG_2573.JPGThis year, I am also teaching a little phonogram/handwriting class at my home with one of AudreyKate’s friends. I pack a lot into our two hours of class each week, but it is such a fun time and the girls do a lot of games and multi-sensory activities as they focus on their phonograms and cursive writing.

In terms of Evangeline, I am using a lot of preschool books I have had for a while and used off and on with the girls (I will link some at the bottom). My amazing mother-in-law also does preschool once a week with Evangeline over FaceTime. They work on her letters and read lots of books. I just love that Lulu makes time to do this with Evie and it helps me immensely as I always use this time to work with AudreyKate.

Grant does Bible with the kids every evening. I know I could do this first thing in the morning, but between unloading the dishwasher and getting everyone breakfast, I usually want to get started on AK’s seat work first thing. But I love that no matter how late or tired Grant is, he always reads to them and explains the Bible lesson so well. Right now he is going through The New Children’s Bible by Anne DeVries. 

EXTRACURRICULAR

IMG_2282.JPGOne of the recurring questions I’ve been asked is if we are doing Classical Conversations this year. I ALMOST did, but in the end I decided not to for a couple reasons.

{I will say that everyone I know who does CC loves it (you know who you are ~ Amy Grimme and Mel Reedus to name a couple!) and the program seems amazing!}

However for this school year, I wanted to have the complete flexibility homeschooling provides. The nature of Grant’s schedule and PhD work means that sometimes we travel during the school year ~ so I didn’t want a Friday morning commitment each week (our CC is on Fridays). And I only do school 4 days a week right now ~ so Friday is our off day that I use to play catch-up, do housework, or do something fun with the kids.

IMG_4290.JPGAudreyKate is taking an art class this year at a local art studio run by two artists. This is one morning each week. I love this because it gives AK time to learn and do something she absolutely loves (with an incredibly talented artist) and it gives me focused time with the younger two.

We also have the girls in ballet this fall. They both really look forward to it each week, especially Evangeline!

And lastly, we have our Bible program at our church every Wednesday night, so all those things fill  up their little preschool/kindergarten week very quickly!

CHARLES

IMG_4291.JPGOkay, lastly, I received a couple questions asking what I do with Charles when I’m trying to do school with the girls.

I know I could probably do school in the afternoons while he is napping, but I really am one of those people that likes to get it done in the morning. The girls still have a rest time every afternoon and I use that time for a lot of different things and I typically don’t like to cut into that.

Little brother often plays in his room (we have a baby gate so he stays put with all baby safe things). Many mornings Evangeline will play with him and I can hear everything going on from right outside his door.

Charles also has his “reading time” most mornings in his crib. Some of his favorite books are Cowboy Small ( we ABSOLUTELY adore this book), The Little Train (another favorite by Lois Lenski), Dada (this one is just fun), Mighty Dads (a new favorite for us), and The Magic Bunny (my mom gave this to us when Charles was born and it is the sweetest). Those are just a few of his favorites right now but maybe I will share some more soon.

And Charles will often just join us while we are working on school. I bring some of his toys and he is typically content to mosey around with a train in hand, watching us work.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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I think one of the biggest things that has helped me this year is keeping things SIMPLE curriculum wise so that I have plenty of margin to read to my girls and make sure they have time to create and play (along with the things I want to do for my own  spiritual growth). I want to have lots of time for discovery in the backyard, trips to the library, and snuggling on the couch. And also because everyone is so little, I need to be able to get all of our “seat work” done in a doable amount of time. If preschool and kindergarten are overwhelming, than I figure I am probably trying to do too much.

I’ve gotten a lot of great book ideas from The Read Aloud Revival podcast as well as from literature lists from my student teaching days (I have more resources than I know what to do with). I also just ordered this book and am excited to get started on it.

There are so many great resources available for homeschooling, this is just how we are going about it this year. When AudreyKate started reading Dick & Jane to me a few weeks ago (on her own initiative!), I felt really encouraged that at least some of what we are doing is working.

I am going to link some of the other resources I use below and I would LOVE to hear any suggestion you have and please let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this now and again.

from my heart to yours,

GraceAnna

 

Preschool

Usborne Wipe-Clean 1,2,3

Usborne Wipe-Clean First Letters

Preschool practice

Kindergarten

What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know (we read this on the couch right after lunch, before rest time)

Cursive Practice

Doodling Dragons (part of our Logic of English curriculum. I also use this for my phonogram class)

Student Whiteboard (I use this for EVERYTHING!)

Pointers (these are great for guided reading) I also use these lighted pointers but they have button batteries so I keep them out of reach except when I am using them with the girls.

This is my home, this is my school

As many of you know, my brothers and I were homeschooled our entire growing up years. There’s so much I love about schooling at home ~ not just the memories I have of discovery and learning through the world as our schoolroom, but the ways in which I feel like it cultivated a love of learning in my own heart.

My husband, Grant was in public education his whole life and yet the home was still the center of education. His mom (and dad) were involved in his education every step of the way and were wholly invested in not only helping him learn, but raising him to be a young man of character.

My love for learning, led me to study Early Childhood Education at Clemson. And there is much I love about teaching my own children as we embark on our own education journey.

I have received some emails asking me what we are doing this year for education with our children. I thought it would be easy to compile some of those questions and answer them from here.

But before I do that, I wanted to share the sweetest book my mom gave me when I was home in S.C. last week. I have a special place in my heart for children’s books. I think this is in part to my own journey as a student, and then a teacher. It takes a unique talent to create a story which engages children while also speaking to the hearts of adults.

Children are future adults! So if a children’s book doesn’t stir my heart as I read it to my kids, it never makes it on my favorites list.

But in my opinion, this book does everything a good children’s book should!

For those of you who belong to the early pioneering days of homeschooling, my guess is you will really identify with this book. And of course, for all the current homeschooling mothers, if you’re anything like me, you will for sure wonder if someone took sketches of your own life and plastered them on the pages.

But I think all those who strive to make the home the center of education in the life of their children will love it as well.

The pages of this gem (written by a now grown-up homeschooler, Jonathan Bean), rang true to my memories of homeschooling. Whether it was my dad drilling multiplication facts into my head or my mom somehow managing to run our home and educate us at the same time.

And it also speaks to me now ~ as this year I attempt teaching my little ones at home at our kitchen table and backyard.

Here are some of my favorite pages of the book. I could have shared every one, but I promise I didn’t! I snapped these pics on a gloomy day, so they are a little dark, but I have a feeling you may not be able to resist getting your own copy.

This Is My Home, This Is My School

 

I hope this made you smile this morning, as you get started on your day with little ones! And I look forward to sharing what we are doing in homeschooling this year in my next post!

the moments we make time for

IMG_1323.JPGThis summer has been somewhat of a whirlwind for our little family. Ever since Grant has been in graduate school, it seems we do a very good job of packing our summers as full as we can with family visits, work conferences, and  borderline insane travel itineraries for three children five and under.

The past few days we have been winding down and experiencing some normalcy at home. I have been tackling organization projects and trying to catch up on laundry and ironing and unpacking the mound of clothes in the girls’ room.

Tonight as Grant finished up a little work, I put the girls to bed and I was feeling the exhaustion from how hard I had been pushing all day. “Can you read us a Bible story?” the girls chimed in together when I was ready to turn out the light.

Now THAT’s a difficult one to say “no” to. Fairy tales, no problem. Stories of when I was little, also easier. But a BIBLE STORY, well that’s problematic.

“Girls, Mommy is SO very tired and it is WAY past your bedtime. Let’s do a story in the morning.”

“Mommy???” AudreyKate sweetly and cleverly countered, “How about we tell YOU a Bible story?”

I teetered on the edge for a moment, in my head saying “no,” but instead out came something like a “Yes.”

“Well,” AudreyKate began, “Once upon a time there was a man named Noah. And the people were very bad and didn’t love God. So God told him to build a boat and he did.”

Her face lit up as she began to recall the details of Noah’s construction of the ark, the flood, and the forty days and forty nights they were all on the boat.

“First, he sent out a black bird and it just kept flying and flying. Then,” her hand gesturing the bird’s flight, “He sent out a dove and it kept flying. Then he sent out another dove and it brought back a tiny piece of leaf, and then he sent out one more dove and it never came back and Noah knew there was dry land.”

As I listened, I couldn’t believe with what accuracy she relayed Noah sending out the fowl.

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I even went and fact-checked it in Genesis 8. Surely she had added an extra bird in there.

I kissed her face, which was now satisfactorily delighted by her apt audience (of two). I felt no less tired, but my spirit was lifted somehow.

As I closed the door I thought to myself, “I’m SO glad I made time for that.”

I never feel like there are enough hours in the day to complete the tasks I want to accomplish. And I don’t even consider myself a very busy person. I’m not solving the world’s problems. But I am thankful when God gives me the grace to make time.

Taking a few moments to stop and pray for a friend. Jotting down a Bible verse to meditate on throughout the day. Writing a quick thank-you note or a text to let someone know I’m thinking of them. Packing Grant a lunch or sitting down and listening to my little girl tell me a Bible story.

Sometimes I think that I must be refreshed and my schedule must be clear to have time, but if I wait for that, I will most likely never have time.

I don’t always know what the right things are to make time for with my kids (I do believe it is good for them to hear no). But I do know this, I will probably never be less busy or my schedule more laid-back (if I am doing what God has called me to). I will just be busy with different things. Less diapering, more of something else.

Of course, in my busy moments of taking care of a home and little ones, I often think about how busy Jesus was in his earthly ministry.

The cares of the world. So many needs around him. No time. And I don’t say these things lightly.

He was on his way to die (on the road to Jericho), when blind Bartimaeus cried out to him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many told Bartimaeus to be silent.

But then those next words, Jesus stopped.

So many people. A cross to bear. A world to die for.

He must have been under intense stress. I can’t even imagine it. He was going to suffer and die by the hands of evil men.

And yet He stopped.

This wasn’t the only time He did this. It is one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry – making time for individuals.

So busy and yet all these moments. He didn’t heal everyone. But He made time for so many.

And because Jesus stopped that day, Bartimaeus regained his sight. There was such a big thing to do, and yet the little thing mattered. And it was no little thing to Bartimaeus.

But I so often think that just the big things matter. All I see are my goals or the “next thing” that I just need to do.

But the little things on the way to the big things matter too. And sometimes those little things are life-changing and soul uplifting!

And they can make the world of difference in the life of a child.

IMG_0982.JPG“Remember when you used to wrap me in towel and swing me in the air?”

“I love it when you sing the toothbrush song.”

“Remember when I used to fall asleep laying on your chest?”

“Mommy, this is the best day ever.”

The big things matter. The work matters. But so do the little things along the way.

Because He stopped.

And everything is changed.

 

 

The Dock

I love the memories I have of growing up in the Lowcountry. There are so many special things about this area. I wrote a piece for Eat Sleep Play Beaufort on one of the reasons why I enjoyed growing up here.

My friend, Mrs. Gaye Spann, recently put her love for the Lowcountry best, “There’s just so much sky and nature here. I just can’t get enough of the sky.”

Here’s the link!

His Kids {a story of hope}

I found our snapshot camera last night and I realized that I never uploaded the pictures from Grant’s Ukraine trip (from November) to our computer! I finally did that today! Of all the many pictures that Grant took (I mean all 10 pictures that Grant took 🙂 ), I especially loved the ones he took with some of the boys from our church’s orphanage, His Kids.

I recently had the opportunity to write an article about the orphanage for a local magazine. It was so neat learning more about His Kids and the impact this ministry has had in the lives of these children. I’m also going to be writing a more extensive article for our church’s newsletter at the end of the month, so you can also be on the lookout for that.

I thought I would share the article here for those who can’t pick up a hard copy. Also, if you are looking for a ministry to prayerfully or financially support, consider investing in this one!

Here is the article, and Grant’s pictures!

His Kids

When Vince Smith first visited the country of Ukraine over a decade ago, the purpose of his trip had nothing to do with orphans. He was on a mission trip with Community Bible Church of Beaufort, who partnered with a church in the Ukraine to help with the training of local pastors. But as Vince walked the city streets and villages of Ukraine, he was overcome with shock and sadness at the vast amount of orphaned children.
Ukraine has over 100,000 orphans, and only 10% of these orphans are orphaned due to the death of a parent; the rest are social orphans – due to alcoholism, abandonment, or imprisonment of parents. Many of these have experienced abuse and violence from parents who were drug addicts or alcoholics. Every year at least 2,000 mothers abandon their babies in maternity hospitals.  Between 6,000 and 7,000 children are abandoned at an older age or removed from homes due to crime or neglect. Orphans typically grow up in large state-run homes, which may house over 200 children. Children usually graduate from these institutions between 15 and 16 years old and are turned out, unprepared for life outside the home. About 10% of them will commit suicide after leaving the orphanage before their 18th birthday. That 60% of the girls will end up in prostitution in Europe and 70% of boys will enter a life of crime is a sobering statistic.  Many children run away from these homes, preferring to live on the street. They are referred to as, “street kids.” Many die young from violence or end up in prison.
Vince Smith shared, “When I left Ukraine, I couldn’t help but leave feeling grieved and distressed about these orphans. I knew had to do something. I just kept thinking about how Jesus said, ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’  And when you read the Bible, you find that orphan ministry is at the center of God’s heart. In James 1:27, the Scripture says that ministering to orphans is ‘pure’ and ‘undefiled.’ And the reason ministering to orphans is pure, is because they can’t give back.”
It was this experience years ago that planted the seeds for His Kids, a Christian orphanage and adoption ministry that the Smith family started through the support and partnership of Community Bible Church and the Evangelical Baptist Church of Vinnitsa, Ukraine.
The ultimate goal of His Kids is to place children in a nurturing and loving adoptive home where they can understand the love that Jesus Christ has for them. “His Kids is all about double adoption,”Vince explained. The ministry’s slogan is, “Adopted by Him, Adopted by You.”
His Kids goes beyond meeting the physical and medical needs of orphans. His Kids seeks to make every child feel like they belong. When the Vinnitsa Christian Orphanage was founded in 2004 as a part of the His Kids ministry, the orphan children dipped their hands in colored paint and put their handprints on the orphanage wall. “We wanted these kids to know that this home was theirs and that each one of them is unique and that their life has value,” Vince explained.
As the orphanage has grown over the years (housing 46 children), so has the rate of adoptions. Both American and Ukrainian families have adopted children who have been placed in the Christian orphanage founded by His Kids.
“Just as each child is different, each adoption looks differently. We try to match up children with the right families (whether locally or globally) and we mentor those families every step of the way,” Vince said. His Kids not only ministers to Ukrainian children, but Beaufort children as well. His Kids partners with the Department of Social Services and helps them place children in loving foster homes.
But adoption and foster care aren’t the only ways that American families can get involved with the ministry of His Kids. Families can sponsor a Ukrainian child for just $30 a month ($1/per day). Many Ukrainian families would like to adopt, but they simply cannot afford to feed another child. Vince explained, “If the financial burden is lifted, many families are able to adopt because that is the only thing holding them back.”
“Sponsoring a child is transformational for so many families,” Vince continued, “It’s been transformational for our family. My kids have been going with me to the Ukraine since we started the ministry and it has affected all of us. Our entire family has invested our lives in His Kids.”
Vince and his wife, Cindy, have three children: Caleb (20), Braden (17), and Ale’ Grace (14).  Ale’ Grace described the effect of the orphan ministry in her life, “It’s completely changed my perspective on orphans in general. It’s made me realize how much I have and now I want to do something for these kids.” Because of the impact of His Kids, Caleb, who is a student at the University of South Carolina, wants to attend law school after college and study international law so that one day he can help with the legal side of adoptions.
A change in perspective has been a recurring theme for many families who have gotten involved with the ministry of His Kids. Vince put it like this, “When families embrace orphans in any way, it takes the focus off of ourselves and shifts it to others. I’ve seen it bring families together as they write letters to orphans and post his or her picture on their refrigerator and pray for that child as a family. The impact that it makes is far-reaching.”
His Kids has not only brought families closer, it’s brought members of the community together as well. Vince shared the story of a young boy named Edik who came into contact with the ministry of His Kids. Edik had an infection in his leg that the medical personnel who were attending him could not identify. They were going to amputate his leg. When Vince heard about Edik’s predicament, he had them send Edik’s medical files to Beaufort. Local doctors examined Edik’s files, identified the infection in his leg, and sent Edik the antibiotic he needed to be healed. Edik’s leg was saved.
Edik’s story is just one of many stories of children whose lives have been forever touched through the ministry of His Kids. On a recent visit to the Vinnitsa Christian Orphanage, Vince asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some children said they wanted to be doctors, others said teachers, dads & moms, missionaries, or pastors. But one child said, “I want to do what you do. I want to help kids like us.”
His Kids has helped foster hope in the lives of orphans who didn’t seem to have any.
The Smith family, along with many other families (both American and Ukrainian), have made a difference in the lives of children who can’t give anything back. Vince couldn’t have said it any better, “When you see one life impacted and changed, it’s worth everything.”
{Vince Smith is the Pastor of Missions at Community Bible Church. To learn more about the ministry of His Kids and how you can get involved, visit hiskidscare.com All Ukraine orphan statistics obtained from World Orphan Project Inc.}
 
 

Happy Birthday DAD!

Today is my dad’s birthday! I am so thankful for my dad!

I’ve been thinking about the many things I have learned from my dad. As I started jotting them down, I realized that every single one that I immediately thought of is a Biblical principle.

Of course, this isn’t everything that my dad taught me, but these are the things that popped into my head.

  • Be in God’s Word daily – “Sin will keep you from God’s Word, or God’s Word will keep you from sin.” {Psalm 119:97}

  • Memorize Scripture {Psalm 1; 119}.
  • Work hard, knowing that you are accountable to God {Col. 3:23-24}.
  • Don’t be ashamed of Jesus Christ {Romans 1:16; Psalm 119:46}.
  • Never gossip or slander {James 3:8-10; Lev. 19:16; Prov. 16:28}.
  • Always honor your dad and mom {Eph. 6:2; Exodus 20:12}.
  • Don’t make fun of people {Mark 12:31}.
  • Ask for forgiveness. No matter how immediate or postponed {Col. 3:13}.
  • It’s better to be a fool in the things of the world and be wise in the things of God {Rom. 16:19}.

  • Pray about everything – the big things and the small things {1 Thess. 5:17}.
  • Never grow cold in your passion for Christ {Rev. 3:16}.
  • Believe God for big things {Matthew 8:8}.
  • Be quick to turn off the television or walk out of a movie if it dishonors Christ {Psalm 101:3, 119:60}.
  • Share your faith. All the time {Acts 4:20}.
  • Be wise with the money God has entrusted to you {Matthew 25:14-30}.
  • Don’t compromise your conscience, “It’s a slippery slope…” {1 Corinthians 10:23}.
  • Pray on the way to church {James 5:16}.
  • Know your spiritual gifts and use them {Matthew 25:14-30, 1 Peter 4:10}.
  • Tithe. “God always gives back…” {Malachi 3:10}.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you {Galatians 5:16}.
  • Know that no matter what happens, God is in control {Psalm 103:19}.
Thank you dad for all the things you have taught me, not just by teaching, but by example! Happy Birthday!
Love,
your only daughter

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. ~ Hebrews 13:7