When something has to change…

I don’t think that I have been completely honest with my readers for awhile. And for that I do apologize. Something I never want to portray is that my life is perfect. I think that when people put up that persona, they are not being true to anyone.

At the same time, I never want to come across as smearing all my and my family’s weaknesses all over the internet. My children, especially, are young and not mature yet. They still have time to grow and mature and become all God has for them to be. And really, I do too.

So I apologize if I have ever made it sound like homeschooling has been a breeze for our family. It has not. We have struggled for a few years- persevering nonetheless. But it has been far from easy.

Most days are spent battling attitudes and actions that leave school work unfinished. Balancing the education of four in different grades, while challenging, is nothing compared to trying to care for toddlers and infants simultaneously.

As if that isn’t enough, our family business has grown to the point that my husband is not able to be at home as much as any of us would like. And while he is not the main educator, having to do this without his help is even more difficult.

Here is the thing- I think that homeschooling is great. There are moms who rock at it. They are able to engage their children to truly love learning, which is the ultimate goal. They’ve been able to provide their children with plenty of enriching activities and adventures to add to their experience in ways that school children do not always get.

I do have some children who did pick up that love of learning. It is a joy to watch them investigate and independently learn on their own now. But not all of my kids are picking up on this… so something has to change.

This fall, our four oldest are attending Christian schools. The goal for my oldest has always been to get her into a high school- this is her year, and she is so excited! : ) The three middles will be able to get a fantastic education, as well as opportunities I cannot provide for them at this time.

Evelyn will be doing preschool at home with me. We do plan to begin each of our littles in homeschooling to build a foundation. I’m happy for that.

As always, we will reevaluate every year to see what is needed for each child. If I have learned anything from homeschooling- and parenting- it is that no two children are alike.

When I tell people about the change in plan, I get the idea that they think we are giving up on parenting altogether. Some of my kids even think this! The truth is far from it. I know that these schools will partner with us in their education, but not substitute for us- and I appreciate that.

This decision has come about through much prayer and leading by God. Even so, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had guilt about this step. That I don’t feel like a failure at some level.

I know there are moms out there in my shoes, and with even more kids, who are doing so well with homeschooling. I know that there are moms more dedicated, more knowledgeable, more creative, more energetic…. I know that in some ways, I have failed my kids.

But instead of wallowing in self pity, I am accepting what is our reality. We have a lot of kids. I have a limited schedule and resources. I want more for my kids than what I am able to give them.

My feelings are so mixed on this. I am fearful and excited. I am nervous and relieved. I am sad and hopeful. In the confusion I know one thing is certain: we are still, as a family, living this life as an adventure in faith with our Lord. As long as we are walking with Him, He is not going to let us slip.

So all this to say, pray for us in this transition. The kids and this mom could sure use it!

Back to It!!!

Let me tell you, this Christmas break was needed. I wasn’t planning on a 3 week break from school- more like 2. But the beauty of homeschooling is flexibility. So we added a week to our break.

But now I have to play catch up on lesson planning.

I love lesson planning. It is fun to chart out goals and drink coffee at the same time. There is always a little trepidation when I plan, because I know- I KNOW- that plans change and fail. I know that it is hard to stay on track- especially with so many to teach.

So how do I stay on track? How do I keep the kids focused?

I make a chart for each of them with their assignments for the week; this includes lessons, tests, homework for the younger ones, and any other expectations they have academically. I must approve their work to be checked off. No checkie, no move on-ie.

They also have five coordinating file folders- one for each day of the week. Assignments and quizzes and tests are filed for each day and when they finish, they go in my folder to be graded or looked over. Now, if I’m on top of things, this is done quickly. If I’m not… I know it is there.

The kids seem to thrive on this system. When we fall away from it (and we do…), the consequences are noticeable.

So what happens when we start slacking? Do I beat myself up mentally?

No. Life happens.

Think about it. You are running a household 24/7 PLUS teaching your kiddos. Most parents send their kids to school for that, because they realize how big a task it truly is! Mama, it is a HUGE undertaking. Never downplay that.

And kids get sick. YOU get sick. An emergency arises. Or maybe not. Maybe you are all stir crazy and just need to get out of the house. Field trips take time, but are so helpful to learning. The list of interruptions is endless. And let’s remember- people are more important than schedules.

So I do not beat myself up when we get off course. I know we will get back on and crush it again. When I beat myself up mentally about getting sidetracked, I have a more difficult time jumping back on board.

“See? You are in over your head.”

“Why did you think you could even do this?”

“You can’t stick to anything…. why bother even trying?”

When I embrace the uncertainty- which God says will come- I can give myself grace.

“Well, I got to catch up with my friend. I really needed that.”

“We’ve been working so hard, God knew we needed a break.”

“Let’s tweak this schedule to make it work for us.”

“So glad that we could do this field trip. It will really enrich our lesson time.”

Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. You can do this.

It is so easy to get off balance in this area. There are those of us who thrive on schedule and order, and when the unexpected arises, our entire being is sent into a tailspin. Then some of us just throw out the system entirely when we get off track. Neither way is best.

So here are a few ways to deal with the unexpected in homeschooling… the rest of life may not apply. : )

1. Be realistic about getting back on track.

Was there a death in the family? Did you just have a baby or relocate? Every circumstance is different, but do not place an unreasonable expectation on yourself or your children. It will most likely end in frustration and getting further behind. Take the time you need to do what you need to do.

2. Focus on the interruption.

If a child is sick, take care of your patient. If a friend needs a helping hand or listening ear, be there. Don’t spend a field trip worrying about how to make up lessons. Be in the moment and address the matter at hand, whatever it is. We can only really be great at one thing at a time.

3. Make a restart goal.

I know, I know, I said the complete opposite thing in point #1. It would be grand to live in vacation land forever, but the fact remains that there is work to be done. Life marches on. Plan a date to begin again and stick to it. I broadcast it to others so I have some accountability.

4. Assess making up.

Do you remember being in school and having a sick day? Your classmate would drop by your necessary assignments to make up. Teacher was usually pretty lenient about the work, because she/he knew one day will not ruin your academic trajectory. Remember that. A whole unit on addition is a bigger deal than one day of averaging.

5. Never give up. Ever.

If throwing in the towel is never an option, you will never throw in the towel. Be determined to continue on even if you hit more bumps and interruptions than a slalom ski hill. That is the nature of life with kids.

So, let’s get back on the homeschool train without the extra baggage of guilt and frustration of messed up schedules! Do you have a tip that helps you in the midst of interruption? Share in the comments and help other moms out!

How Do We Do It: Homeschool Edition

I don’t post a lot about homeschooling. Part of it is because I still feel like I know so little, even though our family has been at it for 8 years. Part of it is because I know people and blogs who are very efficient and good at homeschooling. I’d rather you go to them for curriculum advice.

It’s not that we fail at it. I guess it’s more about what my philosophy of homeschooling is and how that makes our education here look very different than others. And yet, it might not be that different at all.

So maybe, today, I will share a little of what my basic objectives/ideas in homeschooling are. I’m the first to say this is a work in progress. But here goes:

  1. I want my kids to love the process of learning.

There are too many kids out there who think all learning is stupid. Ironically, they are not being smart by saying this. A love for learning is based on the premise that learning is a lifestyle that never ends. That goes for academics as well as spiritual pursuits. We are never done. It’s easier to do something when you love it.

2. I want my kids to be responsible adults someday.

The wonderful crazy thing about homeschooling is that my goal does not have to be to “get through the book” or “ace all the tests”. I get to integrate character building at will. I get to disciple my children all the time. Things like, kindness, service, selflessness, perseverance and initiative. There are many great teachers who instill these things in students too, but I am just as interested in my kids’ character as I am in their grades.

3. We learn to remember, not a “bulk dump”.

I want my kids to understand concepts, not just breeze through to take a test. And it is hard. And discouraging. You second guess yourself and think you are royally messing your kids up. I have to remind myself that learning is not a race. I want my kids to gain a mastery more than I want them to add another star to their chart. So, sometimes, we struggle. But those struggles make the victories greater.

A beauty in home education is that it can be tailor made. I am not a worker on an assembly line. The same things are not going to work for different students. Adaptability is key. Age, learning style, weaknesses and strengths make for many differences to adapt to.

4. I want my kids to function in society.

There is a reputation that homeschooled kids are social idiots. Some of it is unfair, but some of it is well earned. I think that we need to teach the social aspect to our kids in a balanced fashion. Think of a balance: one side, complete independence. The other end: constant succumbing to peer pressure due to naivete. I want a Christ-centered approach where my kids dependently independent yet engaged with others around them. Wordy? Yes. Another post for another time.

6. Commit to making things work.

I am committed to homeschooling. Part of it is desire and the other part is necessity. The same idea goes for curriculum. I could spend a lot of time and money getting fancy curricula, but seeing as I have neither, I must make do with what I have and can afford. Also, changing too often, at least for my kids, really can confuse them; especially if each year you are trying different methods. I tried out several different math curricula for consecutive years, until I finally decided to stick with one that, while it isn’t my favorite, I can work with it. We just couldn’t keep changing.

Remember too: just because a curriculum is challenging doesn’t mean it is wrong for your child. School is a great place to learn to overcome difficulties, and that is a lesson so needed for our young people today. When the going gets tough, work harder.

At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit really needs to be your guide in homeschooling. I can’t do it myself. The wisdom I need to teach and ultimately disciple these children has to come from God. When people find out we homeschool, the #1 response I get is, “You must be so patient! I could never do something like that.” You know what I want to say (but don’t)? Neither can I! It’s a lot of moments of “Lord, give me…”

Give me wisdom. Give me patience. Give me love. Give me understanding. He has to give me a lot of things during the school day. But you know what? He’s generous.


Homeschool Startin’ Soon

I must confess that I am not completely together for school this year. As I look at all my “together with it” friends and their First Day of School pictures, I’m wishing that my act was together and my kids were starting before everyone else.

And yet, here I sit. The kids are all playing and I am giving myself a slight pity party. It’s not going to last long.

I think that the end of summer is a magical time. Up here, in Wisconsin, the harvest is getting up and running. County fairs are still occuring. School doesn’t even start before September 1 up here. It’s a golden time.

A photo by Faye Cornish. unsplash.com/photos/n3XTxxV7qhI

It’s a time to finish up all that fun that we wanted to have and didn’t get around to. It’s a time to take life a little slower and relish every last moment before the school year begins in earnest.

I refuse to go through life in a hurried fashion. Deadlines are great, and we all do need to learn to abide by them. But when we go through life in a event to event fashion, I don’t think we really get to enjoy the gifts that God gives to us.

Busy-ness does not equal holiness. And that is very difficult for our society to understand. If you get invited to countless parties and such, you are seen as popular. When you have business meetings constantly, you are seen as important and successful. The funny thing is, that is not what God demands of us.

No, He tells us that we need time to be still. God cannot be acknowledged like He desires when we refuse to stop and take time with Him.

I can do nothing as a mom and still be very busy. It really does not take much to get bogged down in the dailies of life. Add homeschooling. Add helping family. Add being an active church member. Add soccer mom…. it adds up really fast. And the temptation is to take life fast so that I can accomplish everything and look awesome doing it.

fast lane

But if living life in the fast lane means God becomes nothing more than a blur, I don’t want it. God wants us to drink deeply from His Word. He wants quiet moments with us to slow our speeding pulse and ease our troubled mind. When I am living too fast, I am not spending time with Him that I so desperately need. I’ve got to-do lists and deadlines and chores galore. The key here is prioritizing the most important things.

This doesn’t mean that we stop doing our chores and stop going to meetings. Living slower doesn’t mean neglecting fellowship or becoming a hermit or a monk. Being still simply means we don’t rush what God wants to do with us. We let His Will occur in His time and we pace ourselves so that we can see it and don’t miss it in the “blur”.

I think of Jesus. Talk about a life that could’ve become a blur! And yet, you find often that the very Son of God would stop what He was doing and take time to be still before His Father. He didn’t say, “I’ve got all these people to heal. I’ll talk to you later.” He is a man of afflictions like we are, yet without sin. And there were times he slowed the pace down so He could commune with God.

A photo by Thomas Lefebvre. unsplash.com/photos/fnshKX39yV8

When life seems to be spiraling, we can slow the pace down. Only do those things God calls you to. It’s okay to say no for no other reason than you don’t want to cram a day full. It is perfectly healthy to take time to do what seems like nothing, when you are in fact drinking in your blessings and spending time in prayer and meditation with God.

Living life slowly is not a new concept, but it is a declining way of life. Such a shame. Let’s bring back the “be still” lifestyle.

My First Post on Homeschooling

“Never. I will never homeschool my children. They will not get the social interaction at home. They need that school setting. And besides, I don’t think I could do it if I wanted to. I am just not going to be that kind of mom.”
That summed up my thoughts on homeschooling when Natalie was born. I was determined to never homeschool, having gone to school for education myself, I was devoted to a traditional school environment for my children. I loved school, and I wanted my children to have the same wonderful experiences that I had growing up. I had amazing teachers who encouraged my love for learning – and I went to a public school for most of my life.
So when did the change come? Anyone who knows me knows that I am a homeschooling mom. Well, I’ll admit that my intial reasons were out of reluctance. The Christian school we could send her to was further than I was willing to let her go. I wasn’t ready for her to go. (Selfish, I know.) Not only that, but we could not afford to send her to a Christian school.
Why not public school? I realize that it seems hypocritical to say that I loved my public school yet deny it to my child. But here’s the deal: Public schools are different wherever you go. And public schools have changed drastically in the last twenty years. Not in a good way either. So that was never an option for us. I know and acknowledge that kids can get a great education at public schools, but I was not and am not willing to risk it. Just my personal conviction on it.
So we started homeschooling. She wanted to go to a real school at first, because she watched her friends going to school. She likes to do what her friends do. But still, she thrives and does very well. This started to change my reluctance to homeschool. I was revived in my love of learning too.
I was (and still am) finding tons of fun ways to teach my children. I enjoyed making lesson plans. It has been fun to get to put my teacher’s heart to use in my own flesh and blood. My younger children are begging me to begin schooling them too, because they see Natalie enjoying her experience. And this is what my goal is and has been: I want my children to love learning.
We have a lot of highly educated people, but how many of them love learning? How many of them know the art of learning? I find even in teaching a junior high Sunday school class that most kids do not have a love for learning or even a desire to know things. Important things. Necessary things. I have so feared that my children will be like everyone else – not really enjoying the learning process or even knowing how to learn. It has been satisfying to nurture that love for learning in them.
It isn’t easy though. Actually, there are times I feel bad for Natalie because she does not have my undivided attention… I have three other children who are pre-school age and younger! I keep telling myself, and her, that this will change as they get older and she gets older. And I am sure it will.
All that to say, my thoughts on homeschooling have changed drastically. I have found that the way you homeschool your children is unique to your family dynamic. Many people are surprised when they learn that we homeschool, because we don’t “seem the type”. We certainly don’t fit the stereotype. (And by the way, it is okay if you do too.) Our kids are outgoing, involved in church and sports (we have a great YMCA here), and have many friends.
I have a lot more thoughts on homeschooling. And I am sure that I will share different aspects with you, not as a pro at this. I am still in the beginning and learning stages (do you ever get past those?). But I am starting to feel comfortable sharing more about this part of our family, now that it is here to stay for awhile… 
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