We’re getting to that time of year. The end is in sight for the second semester of school. Kids (and parents and teachers) are daydreaming of summer freedom and fun.
And maybe you’re starting to think a little about next school year. Maybe the word “homeschool” has even gone through your head a time or two.
And you have a million and one questions. Your child is just starting out and you’re wondering how to even get started teaching at home. Can you possibly teach him or her to read? What do you do about friends or music lessons or sports?
Or you have a student who’s been in public or private school, but something just isn’t quite right. And you’re wondering if there’s another way.
I’ve been where you are, my friend. I never had any thoughts about homeschooling when I first had kids. Then something happened. While my oldest was enrolled in a local, private preschool, I kept hearing the whisper of “homeschool.” But then I’d have another epic power struggle with a four-year-old (sad, I know…we’re much better now) and I’d throw the homeschool idea into the crazy file.
So he went to a Christian school for kindergarten. And he did great. I substitute taught for the school and had every intention of enrolling my second child there and maybe teaching full time. But the idea of homeschooling never really went away. I just intentionally shoved it to the back of my brain. I didn’t want to go there.
It turns out that God was patiently trying to bring me around. But I’m a little slow. So when that didn’t work He gave us Ella. And through her and circumstances and me FINALLY yielding my will to His, I sent in my letter of intent.
And we all lived happily every after…………well, not exactly.
Yeah, it was messy and sometimes ugly. And then there were sweet moments and satisfying days. I quickly realized that the lifestyle of homeschooling was often teaching me as much as it was them. I needed to learn to be a more consistent parent. I needed to reign in my temper. I needed to depend on God WAY more than I ever had.
Teaching was the easy part. Molding and training these sometimes stubborn little hearts while not losing my cool was the real challenge. (Looking back, I really believe that other than teaching them to read and teaching them about God, the most important lessons for beginning homeschoolers are those of following directions, working with a good attitude and persevering through frustration. If you wait to work on that while you’re in the middle of quadratic equations and cellular biology–it’s not gonna be pretty.)
And here we are, eight years later. Now I teach an eighth grader, sixth grader and 1st grader. It hasn’t been easy. There have been days (or months) that I daydreamed about sending their little fannies out with the school bus. I can’t say that I’ve gotten it all right. We’ve seen each other at some of our worst moments.
So why am I still doing it? For me, it has always boiled down to obedience. I know that this is something God has called me to do. If it wasn’t from Him, I probably would have thrown in the towel long ago. (I’m not saying that everyone is called to homeschool. This is just my story.)
That’s not the only reason, though. The good has definitely outweighed the bad. We have learned so much together. My kids are closer that they could ever be if they were apart for 7 hours a day. We have incredible discussions about history or society or God. I get to share in their victories. I get lots of hugs all day long.
We’re a team. And I love it.
I tell you all of this because I want to be upfront. There are plenty of families that have entered into homeschooling half-heartedly, or with some idyllic notions, and they’ve had their worlds rocked. Some give up because of it.
The decision about schooling is unique to every family. And sticking it out for us boiled down to three things…
- Commitment or calling–Why are you doing this? Are you firmly convinced of it? Because if you’re not sure, it’s so much harder to get through the tough days.
- Willingness to be humble–Can you admit when you’re wrong? Can you depend on God daily for what you need? Can you put aside what you would rather be doing (to explain that math problem 10 more times)?
- Following through–We all start out with good intentions and goals. But it’s another thing to keep that train moving for 9 months at a time, year after year. Can you keep pushing them towards maturity and understanding, little by little, day after day? This is a huge responsibility. And they’re counting on you to get them ready for the next phase of their lives.
I’m not at the finish line yet. And in another few years, maybe I’ll give you a completely different list. But these seem to be the things I come back to every year.
There’s a lot that goes into this decision. Next time, I’ll give you some resources that might help you along in the process.
If you’re a homeschooling family, what led you to the decision?
Yesterday, as we were driving out of our way to drop of library books (cause I had forgotten…again) I asked my daughter, “When you grow up, are you going to remember me as the mom who was constantly forgetting things…and couldn’t manage to order a leotard that fit?”(She has a dance concert in about 2 1/2 weeks and at this moment I have ordered/returned TWO different leotards, one too big, one too small. And three different pairs of ballet shoes, just to get ONE that fit.)
Now, I could try to blame such moments on the monster cold I was recovering from. Except I ordered the first one before that hit…and let’s face it, this is not an isolated thing. Nope. If I’m brutally honest, I have to concede that I’m not nearly as together as others might think.
I really don’t care about how others perceive all that. But lately, my list of foibles and blunders keeps growing. And it’s starting to get a little discouraging, ya know?
I remember way-back-when. When my brain seemed to work better. Sometimes I have my husband tell the kids that I did indeed used to be smart. He’ll quote my GPA in college. (Not that they have much of a clue what that is, being homeschooled and all.) But that was before even one bundle of joy had arrived to evidently drain out a good measure of mental abilities and replace them with mommy brain–which I don’t think we ever fully recover from. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
I think I’ve learned to just laugh at myself.
Because it seems that the modern mom has her plate full. Whether you work outside the house or 24/7 behind those four walls. Whether you have one kid or ten. There’s just so much to keep straight. Education, doctor visits, bills, school papers and events, extra curricular classes, holidays, birthdays…and then you best be serving the highest quality organic gourmet meals in a sparkling clean kitchen…right?
Then there’s that mom who really does seem to have it altogether and can’t understand why I keep forgetting that thing I was supposed to bring her…again. Cause her brain is not swiss cheese like mine.
Let’s chalk it up to a dose of humility. (And a kick in the pants to get myself a little more organized.) A reminder to keep my to do lists a little more simple. To slow down and really think about my day.
There are those seasons during the year that are just crazier. Spring is like that for me. I love it after a long winter’s hibernation. But it’s challenging.
So for all the mom’s out there that are starting to feel like a crazy mess, for all of us who lose papers or forget deadlines or put the mail in the refrigerator…I hear ya. It’s time to not take ourselves quite so seriously, pray for grace, enlist the kids’ help, and type a billion reminders in our phones.
We may never hack it as the “perfect mom,” but I wasn’t going for that anyway. I’ll be happy with somewhat-together-mom that loves her family like crazy.
One way or another, I’m gonna play in the dirt. And hopefully grow some food in the process. I’ve got seeds, soil and pots. Our homeschool botany curriculum taught us that all a seed needs to grow is warmth, moisture and oxygen. Check (got a cozy place in the mud room), check and check.
But what about when those little boogers poke their heads up? Well, then, dear readers, we need us some light. Inside. In the bleak days of early-spring-but-it-still-feels-like-winter.
That’s where today’s post comes in. The hubby and I have put together our own little, inexpensive grow station.
Check out my guest post this week at Modern Alternative Mama for all the how-to.
Happy (indoor) gardening!
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There are those days…or months or seasons. You know, the kind where nothing seems to be going your way. Where no matter how many times you get back up there seems to be something right around the corner to knock you down again. Sometimes it seems like those waves keep breaking over your head with no end in sight and all you really want is a chance to take a breath.
It’s a fact of life. None of us escape difficult days. It’s all part of the Fall and how sin has messed up this whole world. I find it’s better to not be too surprised by it all. Not that I’m a pessimistic fatalist that expects trouble at every turn. But if we think we’re entitled to a life of rainbows and sunshine, we’re not living in reality.
The real measure of maturity is not whether we can skillfully avoid hardship, but in how we handle it.
Living moment by moment
When we’re in the middle of uncertain or difficult days, and we don’t want to get swallowed up by anxiety and worry, the secret is to live in the moment. Do the thing that God has put right in front of you, right now. It may do nothing to address the situation. But it can keep you from wallowing. It can be a needed distraction.
By doing so, I leave tomorrow in God’s hands and live the moment He’s given right now. No amount of fretting is going to make a dent in my problem. It’s wasted energy. Pointless.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day as enough trouble of it’s own. Matthew 6:33-34
Keeping my sense of humor
Sometimes you just gotta laugh…or else you’ll cry. I can’t tell you how many times a little silliness has saved our family from letting ourselves soak in frustration, anger or despair.
If laughing is the LAST thing you want to do, enlist a friend. Schedule some goof off time. A break from your problems might be just the thing you need to see things clearly.
A cheerful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22
Remember WHO is on your side
The truth is sometimes it doesn’t really feel like God is on our side. Weak as we are, we are quick to feel abandoned and blame God when the hardships start stacking up. After all, if He really loves us…
And then we start to ask that most damaging question…why?
I hate that question. I’m not sure there is really ever an answer that’s going to be good enough for us when the suffering seems so severe. So do yourself a favor. Stop asking it. The question we should be asking isn’t why, it’s who?
Who is the source of my strength right now? Who is my help? Who is always bigger than my circumstances? Who’s understanding is way beyond mine? Who keeps me standing when I feel crushed? Who picks me up when I’m knocked down a hundred times? Who is the true source of all joy and everything I really need?
I like the answer to those questions much better.
That answer gives me hope. It resets my perspective. It reminds me of these verses…
For our light and momentary troubles [and Paul was being beaten and persecuted to near death…not what I’d call “light” troubles] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Once again, I write to remind myself. Lately, the days have been stacking up troubles. Not the worst road we’ve ever had to walk, by any stretch of the imagination. But still, after a while, it starts to wear you down.
(And please don’t think I’m trying to say I know all about how to handle hardship. God has to keep teaching us the same lessons over and over. We’re all in that boat, right?)
Praying for all of us, when the road is hard, that we’ll be able to lift our heads above the storm and get a glimpse of real hope. Just a peek at His love and glory.
Therein lies more than enough grace for the battle.
I think that Lent, perhaps more than any other season, holds the potential to narrow our focus to just one all important person. Jesus. If we let these days lead us inevitably to the cross, then there is nothing else to look to.
And there I’m brought back to the days when I first became a believer. I was SO hungry to know the one who had lifted me out of darkness and who brought life to my soul. Every situation, every struggle, I took immediately to Jesus.
Sometimes I wonder if we’ve lost that focus as the modern church. There are so many causes, movements, programs, studies and personalities to follow. It’s easy to get caught up in some “new” way of doing Christianity. We jump on the bandwagon with other well meaning believers and cheer one another on. We expect others to adopt the same new vision that we have. And sometimes we even judge each other’s spirituality by it.
Somehow along the way, it becomes easy for our faith in Jesus to be replaced or added to by the pop culture of the church.
These things aren’t all bad. Usually, they are filled with good works and ideas. There’s nothing really un-Christian about them. Except when they replace our first love, and what should be our heart’s greatest passion.
But what if we had the singular focus of the Apostle Paul who said to the Corinthians…
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor 2:2
Because all these movements and trends and distractions aren’t anything new. They were there in Paul’s day, too. And he knew that when we fix our eyes on Jesus and Him alone, that everything else gets taken care of. All those other emotions, burdens and callings we try to conjure up in ourselves and others naturally come, in the right proportions and for the right reasons. So we will have compassion on the poor. We will seek to reach out to the lost. But it won’t be out of a feeling of obligation or social justice or righteous indignation. It will be because we love Jesus. And he will pour out into our hearts all the fullness of God and it will overflow.
That’s the kind of faith in action that I want. Anything else will fade away or burn us out.
Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus.
My youngest is one of those kids who grazes. We serve her regular meals, and often require her to eat a certain amount. I also try to stop her eating if we’re near a meal time. But nonetheless, she’s the type to be hungry just about all the time, but only for smaller portions. I guess she’s like our little birdie.
All these constant requests for something to eat drive me batty. I’m already often making three meals, from scratch, every day. I, for one, don’t really want to think about food morning, noon and night.
Enter the snack shelf. In our pantry cabinet, Ella has a shelf that’s pretty much just for her, at the perfect height where she can reach it. So when she’s hungry (approximately 11 minutes after her last meal) I can send her there for a self-serve snack.
The offerings vary, but usually there’s some dried fruit, maybe some Chex or granola, almonds, crackers and a few sweet treats. Since she’s the one with all the food allergies, it’s especially helpful to keep all her gluten/dairy/peanut free stuff separated from everyone else’s food.
Of course, this only works if you trust your child not to raid the snack shelf every time you leave the room. Ella still checks with me to see if she can have a bite and she always asks if she’s wanting something on the sweet side.
These aren’t her only choices. There’s clementines and bananas she can peel. There’s usually a bag of cut veggies and hummus in the frig. But still, all of this is easy for her to get.
I find this little bit of independence immensely helpful throughout the day. When it’s time to head out of the house for a while, I can have her pack a few snacks for the car. If I’m gone, then Daddy or Grandpa know that she can easily find food that’s safe for her (without calling me to find out where the allergy free stuff is).
It’s a simple little thing. But I’m finding that it’s the little strategies that add up to a less frenzied day.