Surprised by Zootopia

Opens in theaters tomorrow, March 4th


I have to admit that I didn’t expect much from Zootopia, but boy was I wrong! I had the chance to see it earlier this week with our resident YouTube reviewer (a.k.a Griffyn Stahlmann or “G to the S,” as he refers to himself), and we were both surprised at how good it turned out to be.

The newest feature film from Disney is set in the modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia, a city comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown. Zootopia is a melting pot where animals from every environment, whether or predator or prey live together harmoniously.

The story centers on a rookie police officer Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), who has overcome decidedly insurmountable odds to achieve her dream of becoming the first bunny cop. In spite of her success at the police academy, Officer Hopps has to work extra hard to prove herself, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), in order to crack a seemingly cold case.

Beneath the typical “kid story” of believing in yourself and working hard to become anything you put your mind to, there were underlying stereotypes, prejudices and judgements that threatened the harmony of Zootopia and the hopes of the film’s heroes.

The plot takes some unexpected turns along the way, holding the attention of the kids and the adults in the audience. It’s a fun and meaningful story that the whole family can enjoy.

Zootopia opens in theaters tomorrow, March 4th. It’s a great pick for a family movie, but you can skip the 3-D if you’re on a budget this week. I happen to enjoy 3-D and would probably see every movie that way if I could, but I know that a lot of people do not share my enthusiasm for it. If that’s you, Zootopia would be just as exciting in the standard format. We got to see it in 3-D, and there was nothing particularly exceptional about it.

If you head out to the theaters this weekend, stop back and tell us what you thought of Zootopia! And if you’d like to see Griffyn’s review, click here.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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How Long Do “Things” Last in YOUR House?

Teaching kids to respect belongings

teaching kids to respect belongings

Ever since I can remember, I have been teased about how long my “things” last. Believe it or not, I have clothing from my twenties (I’m almost 47) that my girls now wear – yes, my clothes are “cool” again! My friends swear that my shoes never wear out or that my purses and bags never show their age. I suppose there is some truth to that. The furniture in my house is almost ten years old and looks as good as it did the day it was delivered, they are antique furniture that I got at this website here. If you´re more into a modern style, then check out Shabby Chic Furniture. My parents taught me that paying close attention to how we care for our things is showing respect for our things, like our roofing, we used the best quality Slate Tiles for our roof and it turned out perfect.

From the time I was a child I would keep the original plastic on my new things, such as the plastic cover on my computer top or a plastic sheath over a metal end on a bag, because I wanted it to look new forever. I stored most of my things in the original boxes if it wasn’t something I used on a daily basis. Well, now that I’m older, I’m not quite that picky about my things looking brand new, but I do tend to take extra care of my belongings.

It’s something that I learned from my parents. I had the parents who always helped me think through what would happen if I didn’t put something away; they reminded me of the possibilities of accidents or damage that could occur if something was left out or kept in an environment that wasn’t safe.

My dad was especially frugal. So to him, the thought of having to repurchase an item that could have lasted much longer if just taken better care of was ludicrous! And both my parents were clean freaks. A person could eat off my dad’s barn floors, and you could practically perform surgery in my mom’s bathrooms! When I was a kid, I thought it was ridiculous. Of course, now that I am an adult, I am grateful. My parents recently had epoxy floor service near Dallas come and redo their floors, they love it!

I guess that I inherited their mentality.    

To be honest, this mindset has served me and my family well. Respecting our things teaches responsibility. As a child, I knew that I had a responsibility to take care of my things and my parent’s things. I wasn’t allowed to leave my bicycle outside overnight. I wasn’t allowed to leave my dirtbike muddy after racing on our trails. I wasn’t allowed to run off and play after we came home from a day of boating. I was made to wipe down the boat and clean it immediately, so that the dirt and grime from the Illinois river water didn’t have time to set. I did get a bit lazy, because now I just go to rent these boats because I don´t have to completely clean them afterwards.

I was taught that if I see garbage on the floor – pick it up. It will make cleaning easier later, AND there is less risk for damage – what if the “wrapper” had something sticky or dye on it? I was taught not to be rough with things, such as sitting on tables, plopping with all your weight onto couches or flinging things around in the house. I was taught that if I see pieces to a game to pick them up immediately (even if it wasn’t mine) and put them in the correct box. And guess what? I didn’t lose my game pieces that way!

Taking care of our things is not necessarily intuitive. I believe it is something we must demonstrate for our kids.  Thanks to my parents, this is something I have learned and in turn, been able to instill in my own kids. I can remember my dad telling me to put the folding chairs and tables away after a gathering and then explaining that I shouldn’t be so rough with the legs of the table or stand on the tabletop while I had it upside down to put the legs down, because it would weaken the integrity of the table and shorten its lifespan. He always explained “why.”

We all have things we value. Being responsible for your things is a form of respect. But respecting your things takes self-awareness, consistency, commitment and self-discipline. At the end of the day, these are all character traits we want our kids to have. So, why not begin teaching them now how to respect their things and other people’s things?

Here are a few pointers that can help get the ball rolling.

Have a Routine

If you have littler children, have a clean up routine with a song (such as the Barney song) to make it fun and create a habit. Narrate why it’s important to clean up. The trick is to clean up EVERY TIME and after EVERYTHING you do and help them to understand WHY. The “why” is important. Remember, kids learn what they live, and their little eyes are watching you.

If you have older kids, a Barney song may not be helpful, but you CAN help them create a new routine. Let’s say your teen is always forgetting to do a few things when he leaves the house, such as making sure his computer is put in a safe place, homework is placed in the proper folders, a phone charger is packed and they are wearing good shoes when heading out somewhere rugged.

Start by making a short and simple list. It could look like this:

  • make sure computer is safe
  • homework in proper folders
  • phone charger packed
  • wear shoes that won’t get ruined

Write out your short, simple list ,and have your teen memorize it. Help him make a silly song out of it, if that makes it more fun (it does in my house). Then, sing it with him before school, after school, at dinner, in the car and whenever it pops into your head to do it. Then begin having him recite it to you a few times during the day for a few weeks. Each time your teen begins to head out the door, have him sing his song to you (or just recite the list) and then ask him if all the items he mentioned have been done. Soon you will have a new habit form in your teen. Start with a few things, and once those have been mastered, move on to more. Just remember to always go back and do a refresher on things of the past to keep him in the habit. We all need reminders.

Become Self-Aware

Being self-aware is the key to any change you want to make. Start making mental notes about yourself. This is the key to helping your kids become more self-aware.

  • Do I always pick up after myself?
  • Do I stop to think about how something may get ruined? (i.e. scuffing my shoes by how I stand or brush against things, being careful about where I set my purse, being aware of where my personal belonging are so they don’t get ruined or lost, thinking through how others may step on something of mine or push on it in a way that it could break, etc.)
  • Do I allow the kids to leave ink pens, small toys, socks or anything else lying around left out or on the floor? (These little things are precursors to big things)
  • Are there any rooms left untidy before bed each night?

My kids use to put their weight on the side of their shoes while standing. It would pull the sole apart from the side of the shoe, then BAM! We had a useless pair of shoes. I explained to them in detail how it ruined the shoes. And then, every time I saw them stand like that, I would gently whisper, “Don’t stand on your shoe like that. It ruins it.” My kids learned fairly quickly to not do that. I haven’t seen that “stance” in years from my kiddos. Again, the “why” is important.

Be Consistent

If you find that you’re busy and you just don’t feel like picking up the silverware that your two year old has flung all over the floor, you are demonstrating inconsistency, and your six year old is watching. You may not care in that moment about your silverware, but if it were your glass bowls, you probably would care. But staying on top of all of it (the little things and the big things) will bring consistency in your home. If you stay on top of those small moments of not taking care of the unimportant items, it will bring great dividends when everyone in your home is handling the more important items.

Stay Committed to the Cause

Staying committed even when you are tired and burned out will bring you peace and save you money. Yes, save you money! If you teach your kids to take care of the items in your home (including their personal things), you won’t be replacing them as often. Things last longer when you treat them as special.

I said earlier that I have clothing that is over twenty years old. Well, I don’t dry my clothes. I wash them, fluff them in the dryer for about five to ten minutes, then I hang them to dry in my laundry room. Living in small spaces has never stopped me from this routine. I often use door jams to hang the clothes on hangers. Clothing seems to last forever when you don’t use the dryer. And it saves me a ton of money.

Practice Self-Discipline

This all takes self-discipline. It’s tough to get up and correct your kids when you are in the middle of something or follow up to inspect if they put their computer in a safe place. But if you do that now, one day you won’t have to.

Let’s teach our kids to respect the things in our lives by paying close attention to how we care for them. Leave us a comment and share how you teach your kids to respect things.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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The Plans I Have For You Devotional

When Jody and I saw this devotional from ZonderKidz, we knew we had to check it out. The whole idea that God has a unique plan for every person and that kids should seek Him and dream about their future is music to our ears.

The Plans I Have For You includes a devotional and journal and seems to be geared toward kids ages 8 to 11-ish. I had my 9 year old daughter go through it, and she really enjoyed it. The devotional is beautifully illustrated and engaging. She had a hard time pacing herself and just wanted to keep reading the devotional. But she was slightly less enthusiastic about the journal. Not because it isn’t good, but because she’s not a big fan of writing. She liked copying in the Bible verses and she enjoyed the parts where they asked her to draw pictures, but when the journal asked her to think deeply and write about her thoughts, she seemed less than enthusiastic. I was a kid always loved to journal (still do), so I would have been thrilled with that part of it.

The devotional is an illustrated 90-day devotional written by bestselling children’s author Amy Parker and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, teaching and inspiring kids to dream about their future, to focus on faith, love and joy and to recognize that God has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us.

The journal prompts creative thinking and exploration of the talents and personalities that make us special and then helps kids explore how God may use our unique traits to spread love and joy and make the world a better place.

Leave us a comment below or leave a comment on our Facebook page, and you could win a free set of The Plans I Have For You Devotional and Journal.


(In accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Don’t Judge a Kid By His Piercings

kid piercings, blue hair, teen

Last year, two of my teens wanted piercings for their birthdays. My 16 year old wanted her nose pierced, and my 13 year old wanted his lip pierced. It was the first time my husband and I had to figure out where we stand on this.

We are a Bible-believing, Christian family, and we make decisions based on what we believe the word of God and the Holy Spirit are saying. But the issue of piercing is not a clear one for us. We have read the Biblical arguments both for and against it, and we don’t believe there is a mandate against it, which is why many of us have our ears pierced.

So the next consideration was more practical than spiritual. Both of these teens live in an artistic world. Sky (the 16 year old) is a musician. She sings at the opera house, does musical theatre and writes, records and performs her own music. Although she would have to remove a nose piercing to perform in an opera or for a theatre performance, having the piercing is not going to limit her choices in the music industry.

Seth is an aspiring filmmaker. He interns at a creative complex where there are animators, web designers, videographers and all sorts of innovators and entrepreneurs who collaborate on diverse projects. The place is buzzing with young hipsters, zipping around on hover boards, none of whom would be the slightest bit tweaked by a lip piercing.

But we also knew that in the homeschool community and to some degree, in the church community, holes anywhere other than earlobes might not be so welcome. We suspected that they might face some judgement and that we might too.

So ultimately, my husband and I knew that we had to be entirely convinced of whatever decision we made. If we rejected piercings, we would need for our kids to understand why. And if we approved it, we would need to feel confident that we could defend our decision. We know a lot of parents believe that they should not have to justify their choices to their children. They believe that what they say goes, and that their kids to accept their authority without question or comment.

We do believe that parental authority is vital. Jody and I have done radio shows about it, written blogs and articles, taught workshops and given countless talks about establishing a solid foundation of authority. But we also firmly believe that rules without relationship breed rebellion.

Our kids have to know that we value them as individuals. Our children are not extensions of us. They are not ours. They are unique individuals who belong to their Creator. We are just stewards for a short period of time. And while it is absolutely our job to train them and guide them and mentor them to adulthood, we must respect them and value their ideas and interests and desires because they have all been hard wired differently, each for unique purposes that are different than our own.

So if we were going to tell our children that they could not get the piercings they wanted, we had to be fully convinced that it was for their best. Ultimately, we want our children to believe with all their hearts that we have their best in mind.

So here’s what we decided…

After thought and prayer and conversation, we decided that our kids could express themselves in clothing, hair and ornamentation in whatever way they wanted as long as

  1. It did not compromise their modesty or purity
  2. It was not permanent (more on that in a moment)
  3. It would not jeopardize important opportunities in the present or for their future

If either of these two teens had jobs (or wanted jobs) that would be compromised by their piercings, we would not have given our permission. But they’re both entrepreneurs. She has a henna business, and he does videography and video editing. One of my other kids is an aspiring lobbyist. He wants to excel at debate, work on political campaigns, page for the senate and ultimately be taken seriously in the realm of government. A nose or lip piercing would not be a good move for him (not that he would even want one). But for my two artists, it doesn’t present a professional stumbling block.

We also don’t believe it compromises their modesty or purity. And lip or nose or even eyebrow piercings are not permanent. Neither is blue hair, which the 13 year old also wanted to try.

Tattoos are permanent. Gauges in ear lobes can also cause permanent changes to the ears. And we have decided that for anything permanent, our kids must wait until marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:4 says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” So anything permanent must be approved by their future spouses. Once we explained this to our kids and demonstrated it in the Scriptures, they agreed.

Be Careful With Criticism

Jody and I have seen too many young adults turn away from their parents because they feel rejected by their criticism. When our kids believe that we are forcing them to live by our standards in order to make ourselves look good or to avoid potential judgement at church or in our own peer groups, they will eventually reject our standards and may even reject us when they have reached the age of independence.

We have to let our kids be their own people, and we have to deeply value the people they are, even if it is profoundly different from ourselves. Yes, we want them to be wise and pure, and if their choices could hurt themselves or others, we have to assert our authority but also come along side them and coach them toward better choices. Perhaps your family will have a different conviction about piercings than ours did. That’s okay too. Just be willing to sit with your children and discuss your beliefs. Let them know that you deeply value them and you want them to make right choices. Explain your convictions, and stand by your choice. But do it out of love and not fear.

And be careful not judge other families who have made different choices. Remember, every family and every individual has a different calling.

kid piercings, nose ring, teen


Sky knows that she is called reach the lost. She is not called to reach the church. So she is going to look different than a girl her age who is called to minister primarily to the church body. The apostle Paul said, “To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:21, 22).

Let’s be careful not to make quick judgements about what is acceptable or unacceptable. Some have argued that our kids shouldn’t look like the world – they are set apart. Being set apart goes deeper than outward appearance. Our kids can be both relevant and pure. They can dress modestly and still be creative and relevant. The choices they make as ambassadors of God will set them apart.

When they choose peace and prayer during a crisis, they will be set apart, and their peers will notice. When they avoid profanity while the people around them don’t, they will be set apart. When they focus on growing their skills and becoming their own best at whatever gifts and passions they’ve been given, instead of focusing on growing their social life and winning favor with the opposite sex, they will be set apart.

One Pesky Problem

Our kids are to be IN the world but not OF the world. Jesus said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Therein lies our challenge.

Last year when we were key note speakers in British Columbia, one of the conference coordinators gave an excellent talk, and in it he said that in many ways it seems the Amish got it right. We must protect our children from the evil one, so we are tempted to shelter them from the world and cause them to live in the safety of isolation. But there’s one pesky problem with this plan — the Great Commission.

God is going to use every one of our kids in a unique way to fulfill His plan. Some will be called the mountain of government, where piercings and blue hair will not make them effective witnesses. Others will be called to the mountain of arts and entertainment, where piercings and mohawks are not at all strange. Let’s be sensitive to the passions and purposes of each our kids and each other’s kids, and let the Holy Spirit (not biases or prejudices) do the leading.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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The Secret to Raising an Accomplished Kid

raising an accomplished kid, opera, the hobbit, star of the show,

What will your child accomplish this year? A year can hold a multitude of achievements, but there is a secret to raising an accomplished kid that many people overlook. 

Recently I was talking to an admissions officer at one of my daughter’s top choice colleges, and after discussing some of the highlights of her resume, the admissions officer asked, “Are we talking about one student?” She was amazed that one student could have “so many” accomplishments. But to be perfectly honest, I was amazed at her amazement.

My 16 year old is focused, and she works hard at pursuing her passion. But she has not done anything truly extraordinary. She has not done anything that any motivated 16 year old couldn’t do.

She wasn’t a semifinalist in the prestigious Intel Science Competition while living in a homeless shelter like Long Island high school student Samantha Garvey. She didn’t receive a $1 million celebrity investment in an app she had written like 17 year old tech wizard Nick D’Aliosio did. She didn’t gather over 170,000 signatures on a petition to insist that a woman should moderate one of the presidential debates like three girls her age from New Jersey did. And she is certainly not a Nobel Prize laureate like young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

The way I see it, this admissions officer’s statement was not actually a commentary on my child’s “exceptional achievements” but rather an indictment of society’s woefully low expectations.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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4 Ways To Choose The Best Math Curriculum

I always have parents telling me that they have tried it all…and they feel resigned and a little hopeless. I hate when that happens.

If math curriculums have been a sore spot in your homeschooling experience, here is the “Mr. D” List for choosing the right math curriculum for your family.

1. Stick with it

I have travelled across North America, stationed myself in Hawaii and questioned select educators in Europe to research a broad range of math programs. I wanted to learn how they are constructed, how inclusive they are and how the concepts are delivered. What I have discovered however, is there really aren’t major differences between curriculums content, only in how they’re structured. What I did learn, is that the schools with the highest performance percentages remained consistent with their curriculum. The school system used the same textbook series middle school to high school to create consistency and promote higher comprehension.

When students first begin a new program, it can be difficult to adjust. But if they tough it out long enough, something wonderful happens. Our brains begin to adjust to the new learning style, making it easier to comprehend. So if you feel like your textbook isn’t working for you, ask yourself “have I given it enough time?” You’d be surprised how much you grow and develop in the course of a school year.

2. Compare your high school textbooks against entry-level college textbooks

It is critical to have a solid mathematical foundation before entering college. College professors spend little time reviewing concepts with the hopes that you already have a strong grasp on what was covered in high school. When choosing a high school curriculum, it might be helpful to browse through the table of contents of your current math book and compare the topics to an entry-level college textbook. If there are some concepts missing, it might be best to invest in a different textbook.

3. Don’t make a decision based on the price

When finding the right curriculum, money should not be the main consideration. Obviously it plays a role, but if you are either looking to get a bargain or spend as much as possible for the “top of the line” curriculum, you might be disappointed in the results. Always keep in mind that price does not entirely reflect quality. Be sure to collect your research and don’t make the mistake of letting price be the deciding factor.

4. Decide what your end goal is for your education

Whether you plan to attend college, vocational school or complete high school and go right to work, it’s important to align your education with your future goals. If you are still unsure, then assume you’ll attend college, and study with that mindset. By choosing the highest and broadest level of math, it will leave your options open and help you cultivate a deeper understanding for the concepts you’re learning.

Knowing what you want to do is key to deciding what curriculum to use. That may also mean completing a little homework on the vocation you’re eying to learn what kind of math skills or education levels are required. Of course, there is nothing wrong with changing your mind, but it’s important to actively look towards the future and plan accordingly.

In my own life, I would have never thought I would become a math curriculum creator. I did however want to be in business for myself and play music. But when the time came, I had to decide what would be my profession and what would be my hobby.

Finally, if you make a curriculum switch, be sure you didn’t miss anything.

Math is important, and colleges need to know you’re on par with the nation’s average. Their only uniform measure of knowing you didn’t fall asleep during most your high school math classes is how well you perform on the SAT and ACT. As of March 2016, the SAT is changing to include a higher level of math expectancy. If a student has a solid comprehension of Algebra I and Geometry, they could score well on the old SAT. But the new SAT requires students to be proficient in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II.

By moving to a new curriculum, there’s a chance important concepts could be overlooked if the new curriculum assumes the content was already covered in a previous course. For example, in my Algebra II course, we cover logarithms and matrices. If a student comes to my Pre-Calculus course without covering these concepts, it can serve as a challenge for the student. While this isn’t a deal breaker, the start of the semester can be a little rocky. Fortunately, I provide plenty of review videos and extra practice for anyone in need of a refresher crash course.


For more information on the Mr. D Math options or to connect with Mr. D, visit him at

Dennis DiNoia

Dennis DiNoia has been immersed in education for over 25 years. He holds a M.A. in Education from the University of South Florida and has been a Florida State Certified Secondary Mathematics Teacher since 1988.

10 years ago, Mr. D left the public school system to develop an online curriculum for all levels of high-school math, from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. His unique and effective approach teaches students to understand math as a language, and he infuses problem-solving skills that transfer to everyday life.

Mr. D has had great success in assisting students to raise their test scores on SAT/ACT/FCAT and other standardized tests. Due to the need for assistance in this area, he created specialized test preparation seminars and online videos based upon his years of experience in the school system and private tutoring industry.

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What is serving you well?

Earlier this year, I asked myself a question that was a real game changer for me. I asked, “What is serving me well in my life?” But to answer that question, I found myself first asking the opposite question. “What isn’t serving me well?” For some reason, that one was easier for me to tackle.

The first thing that came to mind when I asked the second question was TV before bed. I had a made a weird observation. Whenever I crashed on the couch at the end of the day and watched TV right before I went to sleep, I had a much more difficult time getting up the next day. I almost felt a little hung over in the morning. But if I skipped TV and spent the late evening doing other things — stretching, journaling, reading — I had more energy the next day.

It turns out there’s science behind this. Blue light, which comes from a variety of sources but includes the light from TV, phones, computers and tablets, interrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm and affects sleep. Since this discovery, we’ve made a new rule in our house. All computers, phones and other electronic devices get collected about 90 minutes before bed.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Just For Men

Have you noticed, in general, that Christian men have slim choices in devotionals? I have been to quite a few men’s groups, and the study material might as well have been a tract that I was handed on the street on the way in. The fact that a Men’s Devotional Bible exists was exciting news.



My initial unboxing was a little disappointing. I love the look of the cover. It’s very simple and neat — black background with a white frame for the title and a small beige accent. The font is clean and elegant. My issue is that this is a hard bound volume. I am used to a leather bound travel bible that I can throw in my bag all day long. This hardcover doesn’t seem like it would take the punishment of permanent backpack residence. That being said, it may be the only negative.

It’s the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible, and it comes with 365 devotions created under the editorial oversight of Dr. Sam Storms with contributions from more than 50 Christian leaders. Introductions are written to orient men to each book of the Bible and are directed specifically at how the book can relate to a man’s walk with God.

Matthew Stahlmann

Matthew Stahlmann is Jenni’s husband. Together they have seven amazing kids. A lead guitar player for more than 25 years, Matt is passionate about music and worship.

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Weekly Leader — October 16, 2015

If this is your first time seeing the Weekly Leader, scroll down and read all about it below the line. Then pop back up to the top for next week’s suggestions.

Weekly Leader for the second week in October.

Quote for this week:

“The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can’t.”  –Mark Twain

Mastermind Monday

Leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and problem solvers understand the value of studying the lives of people who have made important contributions to the world. In the 1670’s Sir Isaac Newton wrote in a letter to his friend Robert Hooke saying, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That is just what reading biographies can do for your family. As a family, make a list this week of some of the biographies you would like to read, and find a time to read out loud together for at least a 1/2 hour per week.

TED Talk Tuesday

Viktor Frankl: Why Believe in Others

This week’s sections is a little different. It’s from TED’s Best of the Web series, and it is a fabulous lecture by influential psychiatrist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. In it, he explores youth’s universal quest for meaning. It should be a message that resonates immensely through temporal and cultural boundaries, offering some nourishing, intelligent bits to chew on.

*Note — You may not always agree with the perspective of a TED Talk, but rather than shy away from it, use it as an opportunity to explain why you don’t agree.

What’s Up Wednesday

“Drink This Book” — Read about one innovator is doing to help increase the world’s access to potable water.

Think Tank Thursday

“Freedom lies in being bold,” said poet Robert Frost. Talk about what you think it means to be bold, and try to think of a time when you either were bold or wish you had been.

Famous Friday

Nicolaus Copernicus

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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How to permanently declutter and organize your home

Earlier this year, I read a review about a book that promised to show the reader how to declutter and organize once and for all. It was a system that claimed to be so effective that you would never have to do it again. I was curious. What system could possibly be so effective that you have to do it more than once? I have tried a bunch of different organization and cleaning systems in my adult life. I did the FlyLady system years ago. Well, I should say that I TRIED to do the FlyLady system. It wasn’t her system that was a problem. I am sure it was me — I was the problem. It felt too complicated for me, and I couldn’t keep up with it, so I just decided to install this home sound system and clean my own home while dancing to some music.

So I ordered this book that promised permanent organization, probably more out of curiosity than anything else. When it arrived in the Amazon envelope, the first thing I noticed was how small it was. How could a system so entirely life-changing (that’s even part of the book’s long title) be summed up in such a small package?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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