should we expect siblings to always be best friends?



“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5

“Be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:50

“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:19


One of the greatest rewards of homeschooling is the sense of oneness in spirit that family members can experience. Siblings become peers and classmates, bosom friends and life-long companions. I have witnessed this over and over again and recently one of my sons shared with me about his friendship with his closest-in-age brother, “We talk on the phone nearly every day. Even though we live 3,000 miles apart and don’t see each other very often, he is still my best friend.”
This is not to say that there are not differences that come up between family members, sometimes even great and conflict-inducing ones. But because of the closeness and purposes in life that are shared, there is a foundation on which to build if conflicts do occur. Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation” (Romans 12:16). Although there is a natural bond in families, being like-minded is a goal that must be worked toward.
Growing up with no siblings, one thing that has always confounded me has been the delight that siblings get out of teasing and provoking each other. My husband has one younger sister and has often reassured me that this is normal, fun behavior, but it often seemed like the most energy-draining part of every day for me. It has taken me many years to fully appreciate this dynamic!


Undoubtedly there are certain attributes and characteristics each family member has that mix about as well as oil and water and will most likely never be fully appreciated, even into our mature years. My mother was the middle child in a family of nine children and she was always matched up with her sister who was 16 months older than she was. They shared the same room, sometimes the same clothes, and many times I heard my grandmother even confuse their names! One time I picked up my mom at this aunt’s house after she had been there for a visit and when she got in the car, my mom sighed, “Well, I’m glad that’s over with. Edith always bosses me around, tells me what to wear, what to eat, and what to like on television.” They were both in their 80s at the time and it made me giggle but she was completely serious!
Sometimes we are placed into relationships that we might not have chosen if not for the family ties. In fact, most moms say that one of their children seems to grate on their nerves more than others or that certain sibling combinations cause them more grief or disruptions to family unity! But rather than lamenting the struggles and finding ways to not engage the other person, being in a home with others who share your experience of homeschooling, in spite of the differences, can shape our character for the better. Learning to recognize the different personalities and gifts and how to express appreciation for those qualities takes skill and practice. Without siblings, I had to learn this lesson later in life!
During my second year of college, I was part of a musical team that was sent out to churches on the weekends. The fine arts department assembled a variety of people for each group and, to my surprise and disappointment, Denise, a girl who lived in my dorm, was placed on our team. Denise was aloof, generally unfriendly, and sent the message to the rest of our team, not to mention our whole dorm, that she was better than everyone else. Being in close quarters with her was unbearable and spending hours in the school van with her was only possible when I offered to be the map reader in the front seat or arrived early enough to sit next to a window with one of the other team members sitting on my other side.
On one weekend in early spring, we were sent to a church in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Caught in a blizzard with blowing snow and temperatures in the negative double digits, we were invited into the homes of church members to wait out the weather and, of course, Denise and I were sent home with the same family. After we arrived at the old farmhouse, out in the middle of nowhere, they carried our bags upstairs and said, “Sorry we don’t have any heat in the upstairs but we put extra quilts on the bed. If you just snuggle up real close you will be fine!” I am not sure which of us was more horrified but we were so cold we jumped into the bed and pulled the covers over our heads, shivering and, through chattering teeth, giggled at the absurdity of the moment. Talking long into the night, I heard stories about her family and discovered her goals for the future. I would like to report that this was the beginning of a lovely friendship, but I cannot. It did, however, help me appreciate some of our differences and helped prepare me for many other times in my life when I had to rise to the occasion and “work closely” with someone whose personality and gifts I found irritating!
Should we expect everyone to always get along well with each other in the same household? I do not believe so. Though two people may both be born-again, growing Christians, there may be differences that prevent the closeness that other relationships share. Even within families, there are typically such a variety of tastes and perspectives that there will always be conflicts. Those who say this is not true and offer a formula for guaranteeing sibling harmony are expecting even that which Scripture has shown us does not always happen! Consider the story of Paul’s disagreement with Barnabas regarding their missionary journey from Acts 15:39. Paul was adamant that Mark would not be going with them on the voyage and Barnabas insisted that Mark should go. We are told, “there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another from the other and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.”
Sometimes being at peace with all men means agreeing to disagree and to go separate ways. For mothers, this can be particularly difficult to reconcile, as we love all our children so dearly. This is when we need to cry out to the Lord for wisdom in helping our children express respect and kindness to each other but without expecting all of them to create an artificial environment of being bosom buddies.


from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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the agony of defeat

driscoll glare

As we take on the task of mentoring our children, we, like Paul, must realize that ministry often means pain and suffering, heartache and opposition. Too often we are criticized by family members, ostracized by our neighbors and mocked by fellow believers. Even our children are often resistant to us, balking at learning the basic subjects and many times even the Gospel message itself. Combined with the stress of everyday life as a homemaker and teacher, we can easily become discouraged when we see little to no fruit for our efforts.

The Greek word Paul chooses to use for “opposition” is interesting. “Agon” literally means “putting forth intense exertion in the face of conflict” and was typically used in the context of a sporting event where opponents fought to the death. We get our word “agony” from this word, hence the popular phrase from ABC’s Wide World of Sports: “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” How often do we fall into bed at night, knowing all too well the agony of defeat?

Paul reminded his beloved Thessalonians that he was willing to do spiritual battle on their behalf, assuring them that being a Christian is not easy. He was transparent with them as he shared his past experiences and painted no picture of a perfect Christian life. Just imagine Paul showing his scars to the wide-eyed believers, making sure they understood what embracing Christ could look like up close and personal!

This is the model Scripture places before us.

from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home


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January banana bread

 banana breadLook what nine sad bananas on the counter made on a frosty winter morning!

January Banana Bread

1 stick salted, softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 t salt

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350°. Cream the butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, and mix well. Mix the bananas, adding to wet ingredients. Add salt, soda, baking powder; mix well.  Add flour and milk, a bit at a time, alternating the two as you mix. Spray pans well with non-stick cooking spray. (This recipe makes one large loaf, 3 small loaves, or 1 dozen muffins.) Fill pans no more than half full as they will rise well. Bake muffins for about 15 minutes, small loaf pans for about 25 minutes, and large loaf pan for about 40.  All ovens are different so watch carefully and test for doneness with a toothpick. Cool briefly then turn onto racks to complete cooling,

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home after the holidays


Nothing is better than grandbaby cuddles!

After two months of planning for the holidays, experiencing the holidays, and recovering from the holidays, I finally have made it to my desk and can write again!

We spent Thanksgiving with our son and his wife and girls in Tennessee, enjoying the time with them and the trip there and back, which included a stopover at Miss Patti’s Settlement. As soon as we got home I started baking Christmas goodies and decorating cookies, preparing tins to share with family and friends. Each year I try to pick a new assortment of cutters to use for the sugar cookies and to work toward my goal of mastering the piping and flooding techniques. This year I included a purple shooting star designed after I saw some gorgeous dresses worn by choir members at a Christmas concert we attended.


 Loved these violet shooting starts!



I have been collecting a variety of tree cutters and I think they are my favorite!

We spent nearly two weeks down south, celebrating Christmas at our daughter’s home in South Carolina and enjoying the “cousins” as one of our California sons and his family were there, too. Clay especially enjoyed playing basketball with the kids and helping them each make tie dyed t-shirts. We looped back through Tennessee again on our way home to visit with even more grandgirlies before we returned to Illinois and our sweet kitty who was patiently waiting for is to come home. As much as we enjoyed seeing everyone, we did miss Christmas in our own home and it felt like I didn’t really have a chance to enjoy all the traditions we have grown to enjoy over the past four decades!


 The tie dyed shirts were a hit!



 Grandpa is exceedingly patient!


 Cuddled cousins watching Lord of the Rings!


 Grandpa’s Christmas stocking treasures were another success.


 These guys are playing Scrabbleship, a Scrabble and Battleship hybrid.



 The annual Christmas pizza party yielded five 24″ pizzas!



Teddy wouldn’t get out of my suitcase. He was so happy we were home!

I have missed chatting with those of you who visit here and who aren’t on Facebook. I am hoping to change that this week….lots I want to blog about and we are preparing some new podcasts as well. Hope you all had a lovely holiday season!

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the devotionals #3


What do Kirk Cameron, Betty Freidan, and Erma Bombeck have in common?  Stay tuned for this week’s podcast with thatmom to find out!

Questions for reflection and discussion:

1. On a scale of one to ten, how valuable is homemaking to your life as a woman, wife, and mother? Why?

2. How has Betty Freidan’s perspective on homemaking influenced your life?

3. In what areas of your homemaking do you believe you need to be more diligent and responsible?

November 22, 2014
The Devotionals No. 3

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what does success in homeschooling look like?



One spring I was asked to address the graduating high school seniors at our church’s annual awards banquet. While I prepared my remarks, I kept coming back to the true meaning of success as I thought of each student I knew personally, many of them Christians with high ideals and starry-eyed goals for the future. What could I share that would inspire them, but also keep their feet on the ground so that the discouraging times I knew were coming would not result in the destruction of their faith? As I pulled a book of quotes off the shelf to consider what I might add to my presentation, I was surprised when a quickly written note I had scribbled on the back of an envelope came tumbling out. It read, “Success is obedience to the known, revealed will of God.”

Joshua 1:8 confirms this wonderful truth: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” God’s will for us, as known and revealed to us in Scripture, holds the key to success!

Jesus made it even simpler for Christians to understand: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). According to Jesus, loving God and loving others are the marks of success!

Interestingly, nearly everyone, when asked, would quickly say that if they had to choose, success in relationships would win any day over career success. Even government studies that have been done to examine what makes American citizens the most happy have confirmed this: more than anything else, people want to be content in their relationships with each other! In fact, research presented in the American Economic Review (2004) concluded that “the conditions and experiences associated with people’s happiness are almost all ones that most Americans approved of heartily: strong marriages, close friendships, acts of charity and community service.”[1]

So, why do so many families approach the education of their children as though the opposite were true? Government-approved academic success, entrance into top universities followed by careers with six figure incomes, athletic accomplishments, and even the telltale signs of popularity like being the homecoming queen or head cheerleader are the stories that grace the pages of family newsletters and social media. These are often what motivate a family’s choice of school districts when shopping for a home. Their siren songs lull parents into believing that these are the steps to achieving parenting success. Though most of them do not actually believe that material wealth or job security triumph over happiness in relationships, they approach teaching and training their children as though they do.

Sadly, too often this is also the case with homeschooling families. Feeling the pressure to be accepted by friends or even confirm to disapproving family members that their educational choices are valid, moms and dads prioritize in the same way for their own children. Typically, the first question asked by new homeschoolers is, “What curriculum should we use?”, assuming that academic success ought to be the first priority. And yet, if happiness in life is most fully measured by the success of our relationships, why is it so rare to hear someone talk about the dynamics involved in building sound relationships, especially those based on the commands given in Scripture? Library shelves are full of books promoting man’s wisdom, but what about desiring to know what the Bible actually says about fulfilling the two greatest commandments? ~ from the Introduction to The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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the devotionals #2


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His listeners: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” ~ Matthew 7:11 “Jesus assumed that moms and dads, who are sinners by nature, will give good gifts to their children, using this thought to help us recognize the truth that God will not withhold any thing from us He deems is good. The difference is that because we are sinners, we sometimes have a difficult time discerning what those good gifts for our children might actually be! Join me as we consider some of those good gifts and just in time for Christmas!

Questions for reflection and discussion:

  1. Which of these suggestions do you see as the most needed by each of your children this year?
  2. Which of these gifts is the most difficult for you to give? Why?
  3. If you could go back 20 or 30 or 40 years, which of these gifts were missing in your own life? Which ones did your parents give to you in abundance? Which ones could you give to them at this time?

November 10, 2014
The Devotionals No. 2

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avoiding the holiday blues


Hands down, the most discouraging aspect of life, to me, is when we have been busy and the house gets cluttered. I have always longed to be one of those “place for everything and everything in its place” sort of people but this is more difficult the more people you have under one roof. Add to that the delight I find in reading not one but several books at one time, sticky flags and note cards piled high near a steaming cup of tea, and then include my craft projects, all on top of homeschooling mess, and, well, you get the picture.

While I have a desire to simplify my life, and have taken some pretty good steps toward doing that, the holidays bring their own set of clutter and chaos that add to holiday depression by default. Since our married children live so far away, when they are here during the holidays, I do not want to spend time doing the necessary housework when I could be playing with a grand baby. So, keeping ahead of the game is the solution that I have found works best for me. When I follow through on that plan and the house stays fairly tidy, I am not as prone to discouragement which can lead to depression.

Here are a few things I have found helpful:

1. I try to not allow any necessary chores to lag behind during the excitement of holiday activities. Since my laundry room is in the basement, “out of sight, out of mind” can too often rule the day. I have been trying to stay ahead of any laundry that needs to be done, being fully caught up right before company arrives. That way, if I have to go a couple days, it won’t cause anyone to be screaming “I am out of underwear” while guests are here!

2. I sit down right after Thanksgiving and plan a menu for the Christmas weeks. I start baking cookies, breakfast muffins, and quick breads and freeze them. In large disposable foil pans, I prepare family favorites like lasagna, chicken tetrazzini and homemade soups, labeling and freezing them, too. The week before Christmas, I make several cheese balls and wrap them in foil for late night snacking along with the large tray of summer sausage Aunt Ruth and Uncle Don typically send our direction! A couple days before the first company arrives, I dejunk the fridge and fill it with salad fixings, yogurt, and deli sandwich supplies, including Kosher dills and good mustards. I have large jars on my counter filled with a variety of cereals and homemade granola. I place baskets filled with a variety of teas and hot chocolate mixes on the counter next to a stack of holiday mugs, along with flavored creamers for coffee. All these things make it simple for moms to feed their little ones when they need to eat and allows for little time in the kitchen for me when I would rather spend it with my family. Since no one gets up at the same time, breakfast is also simple and easily prepared. And, of course, the cookies and quick breads are emptied from the freezer daily! Since I came upon these tricks, there is much less kitchen time for everyone.

3. In years past, we have tried to complete our Christmas shopping early, aside from my husband’s famous Christmas Eve stocking stuffer hunt, which he loves so I refrain from commenting and have learned to work around. When catalogs start arriving in September, I save ones that have interesting, educational items for kids and usually will shop from them online. They often offer days of free shipping, which is always nice if you need to buy gifts to send far away. This year we have drawn names among the children and their spouses, all of us only buying gifts for the little ones. The last few years, it took us all so long to open presents on Christmas morning that we needed to have a different plan. I am actually quite excited this year and because it gives each person just one person to consider, I think the thoughtfulness with the gifts this year will be really special. Since over spending at Christmas can lead to a lot of frustration and depression when the bills come in January, having a budget and staying within it can be a life saver.

4. Usually Clay and I are in bed before any of the children are these days, so I use the early morning hours to tidy up the house, keeping clutter at bay, and cleaning bathrooms, etc. It feels good to greet everyone with these chores done, especially guests.

5. My husband usually saves personal days and vacation time to take during the Christmas holidays and we look forward to this all year. We do not schedule a lot of activities during December but do like to invite friends and family in for dinner and board games and we love attending a Christmas concert or two. The last few years, since we have added daughters-in-law to the family, I like to schedule a time to take just the girls to lunch or a girl movie with whomever is here. Clay likes to do an outing with the guys, too, and we also like to take just grandchildren somewhere so the siblings can have a great visit while we spoil the little ones! By not filling the holidays with too much stuff or too many events, we are all able to enjoy real time and real conversation, which means making real memories.

6. Family traditions can trigger many of the things that bring back memories that are painful. While I believe traditions are good, we also need to be creating new traditions. If you or your husband grew up in a difficult home, this is particularly important. As you grow together as a couple and you raise your own family, there is an organic nature to what you will do regarding Christmas. Your own traditions will come about naturally as you all serve one another. You also have to remember that one of your goals is to establish a pattern for your own children so they will do the same when they are in their own households. Clay and I spent 3 Christmases and Thanksgivings in Germany with no extended family and it was a wonderful time for us to establish our own traditions. I can remember being so blessed when I got a letter from my mom and dad one year, telling me about their trip alone to the Christmas tree farm. While it was a little bittersweet to read, it also blessed me to know that the two of them were still a family!

7. And, above all, Christmas is a time to reflect on the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. What meaning is there to family or Christmas celebrations without contemplating the wonder of the manger and the power of the cross? A few years ago I bought a Little People nativity set and placed it on the coffee table so I could have those conversations with little ones. Keeping a continual song in our hearts can be done by having continuous Christ-centered music playing in our homes during the holidays.

I would love to hear what others do to make the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays a time of blessedness and encouragement.

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the blessings of reading the Bible



“We love God when we love His Word. God has told us Himself all of the benefits of Scripture and gives us many precious promises through it. Listen to just some of the blessings of reading the Bible: believing and obeying God’s Word keeps us pure; it protects us from falling and keeps us from sinning, it is more valuable than all riches; it protects our hearts from worthless things; when we know it and obey it, we won’t be put to shame; it is the means to giving us life; it is our hiding place and a shield for us; it gives light; it imparts wisdom to the simple; it redeems us from oppression; it tells us of the wondrous works God has done; it makes known all His deeds among all the peoples for all generations; it leads us in worship and fills our hearts with the joy of the Lord; it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. The Bible is to be our source of wisdom as we go about our daily lives. It was literally God-breathed, and was given for teaching what is right and true about God, for challenging us when we sin, for correcting us and for training us in “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8) (KJV). ” ~ from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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