Homeschooling Minus the Headache or Heartache

I’ve noticed an interesting connection. I look at my neighbors, community, state, nation and the world and see everyone is unique and beautiful but I do not have any compulsion to copy their day-to-day life. I don’t ever look at other people’s lives and think, “Wow! I need to copy everything you wear, the house you buy, the food you eat, the car you drive.” But I will do that when trying to select homeschooling curriculum, schedules or philosophies. I wonder why I put myself into that box? Why would I think that of all things our best learning would come from copying someone else? 

I certainly like to consider reviews and recommendations. But when it comes to my children’s education, trying to follow in any particular person’s footsteps does not seem natural to me. Maybe some personalities and families feel considerable trust and assurance by following? It could be that my personality of enneagram 4 or INFP likes to be wild and free?  Ultimately I return to the path that leads to peace and rest. I know that when my thoughts are saturated in fear and unmet expectations that I’ve wandered from our signature adventure.

Limitless Hugs

Our life and times are connected. I believe there is an inherent knowing that is passed from one generation to another. This little hug from one person to another to say “I see you and I love you”. Decades ago our sweet Grammie – the sweetest lady who ever lived – painted this picture of this sweet kitty.  When our little Rachel was 6 years old she miraculously convinced daddy to get our little Snowflake. Coincidence?  I don’t think so. I believe Grammie was able to sense into the future and painted this kitty. She did not know it but her creative expression was an offering of a limitless hug. This connection makes us feel close to her even though she’s been gone from us for three years. We love her. And she loves us.

Cat painting
Snowflake

I would also like to state that our creative Rachel hopes to one day open a coffee cat shop where people can come to sip her delicious coffee and have an opportunity to adore and adopt a sweet kitty. Did Grammie had a sense of this as well? Maybe.

Coming Home

We traveled over 3,000 miles to find a dream come true. Family reconnected. Memories were made. Hearts were reconciled. Visions fulfilled. I had no idea what this trip would mean to us.

I remember the moment when we made the decision to book the travel arrangements. It was a nudge that seemed to come from out of ourselves. We were immediately girded with strength in the matter. It was about the same feeling we had when we decided to finally remodel our kitchen, return a car we had just purchased a couple of hours before, support a widow, and granting ourselves permission to ask for professional help when caring for aging parents.

These things all were an invitation to step into trust. We heard the call and felt sure that it would all work out as it was supposed to without having the details laid out. But I like knowing details – like the details you are given when going through high school and college. There is a course and schedule. But as we engage past guarantees we experience intuition and the call to step into the promise. We actually are given a guarantee. We are given a Promise. The details may be unclear but ultimately we know He Redeems.

Wendell Berry wrote some comforting words in the offering of Jayber Crow:

“I can remember those early years when it seemed to me I was cut completely adrift, and times when looking back at earlier times, it seemed I had been wandering in the dark woods of error. But now it looks to me as though I was following a path that was laid out for me, unbroken, and maybe even as straight as possible, from one end to the other, and I have this feeling, which never leaves me anymore, that I have been led.”

Psalm 107:1-2  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

Long Time No See

It’s been more than a year since I’ve spent time to write out my thoughts about homeschooling. At this rate I’m averaging about two posts a year.

But believe me there have been many hours spent listening, talking, mulling, daydreaming, reading, searching, trying, failing, succeeding, and sweating over this thing we are working through in our home. This record of my meandering and digging in various potholes is enlightening. It reveals an intense desire to do this thing right. And really the core issue is searching for the best method to ensure peaceful days. When I imagined marriage I imagined perfection since we were both going to be nice and peaceful people. I imagined perfect parenting and perfect children because we were going to be kind and endearing. I imagined there was a particular path we could walk to guarantee successful relationships, education, and a lucrative lifestyle.

So I tried listening to many voices that seemed to call to me with a guaranteed approach to living perfectly. Sure they did not actually guarantee perfection but it all did sound heavenly. We tried our hand at a co-op which was beneficial in many ways but really left myself and my creative middle daughter in tears. I even scolded my youngest out of anger – in front of everyone – gasp! So humbling and horrifying.  I took the wheel many times in my oldest son’s lessons to ensure success. Wow this is all so hard to write.

This year it was decided to be independent and study topics of individual interest while also using a reading/history curriculum that helped me to feel as though we would be exposing ourselves to general topics we might not simply stumble upon on our own. The summer season of planning was rather frenetic. I attended a homeschool convention which was hosted by two vastly different schools of thought. A classical homeschool founder presented her ideas to a thirsty crowd of parents while Todd Wilson known as The Smiling Homeschooler has his own homeschool ministry also offered his insight. What I noticed about the two experiences was one presenter seemed quite stoic and might I add stressed, while the other looked genuinely happy. At this point I knew I needed genuinely peaceful and happy. But there I go again looking to people to point out the right path for my family and judging hearts that I don’t even know.

So I’ve come full circle again to my initial mantras of loving my kids where they are, not putting pressure in academics but building relationships, and looking for opportunities to smile. My children are growing up quickly. It feels there are not many more days left to make memories while we are a full house. 

GRATITUDE

I’m so pleased that we purchased that old RV and drove all over the state for our son’s golf tournaments, we finally camped in Homer, we booked that introductory flight for our son to actually fly a small plane, we helped our middle daughter realize her dream of getting her parrolet from a breeder in Florida, we enrolled our youngest back into gymnastics but at the recreation level, we dropped the honors level of Biology class for our son and are doing the basic level with me studying alongside him so he can learn good notetaking and study skills, and we accommodated our middle daughter’s desire to change math curriculum and encourage her to be a mermaid.

There is no magic formula. There is no perfect curriculum. There is no guaranteed system. There is the masterpiece of my child.

Psalm 138:8 The LORD will work out His plans for my life – for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.

 

 

 

EMBRACE

Embrace is a word that warms my heart. It’s a word that stirs me to practice compassion this coming year. Compassion is a “compass” to direct my “passion”. EMBRACE now. EMBRACE here. EMBRACE my family. EMBRACE me.

The year 2017 was one of great improvements because we actually accomplished some big goals  – a new kitchen, bit the bullet and did the bunion surgery (so glad!), purchased a used motorhome for in-state adventures, golfing expeditions, and a Drive/Chip/Putt competition for our son in Seattle. But with all the accomplishment, I sure spent a lot of time checking out of my real life by scrolling, searching, comparing, chasing, and just plain avoiding.

So this year, with the help of Lara Casey 2018 Goal Setting Series and her PowerSheets and Sue Elvis from Stories of an Unschooling Family conversations about focusing on what really matters, I’ve decided to pull the plug on distraction so I can fully embrace my life.

Bye bye Facebook. Ta ta Instagram. Adios apps on my cellphone.

Aaaahhh…what a relief!

So will this blog also replace my endless searching and restlessness? I don’t think so. This blog will be a place where I can talk through my connections and choices.  I think it will also be a great addition to the journals I’ve set aside to help gird my intentions for the year. My list of journals include:

  1. Meditation (to capture what my heart tells me when I practice sitting in silence).
  2. Mom’s Education (my commonplace on books I’m reading and connections to my children’s education).
  3. Panda Planner
  4. Weekly menu (using a travel journal to hold coupons, weekly menus, and shopping lists).
  5. Wild Simplicity Daybook to track my children’s homeschool daily activities.

So for now, I’m going to click publish, send this intention out into the universe, smile, and be.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to the real me.

And may you also enjoy uncovering the real you in 2018!

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Experimenting with Structure & Creativity

Alan has been working on a science experiment as an assignment through his co-op (more about this later) and it made me think how fun it has been to personally experiment in the world of structure and creativity. During our Christmas break, I’ve picked up some wonderful resources that seem to scratch that creativity itch that occasionally taps on my shoulder. I’ve really enjoyed reading the biographies of some very artful ladies. Maybe you’ve heard of them?

  • Morgan Day Cecil. If you have an opportunity to take one of her on-line classes, follow along on her YouTube channel, connect on Facebook or Instagram, DO IT! She is a wild feminine force and she gently leads us into wholeness.
  • Julia Cameron at juliacameronlive.com wrote “The Artist’s Way”. I’m currently going through her online artist class. This class is something that I could recommend to any woman – let alone any woman who is homeschooling. There are daily, weekly and monthly exercises used to awaken your mind and soul. Fabulous. Life changing. (I mention some of the practices later in the post).
  • Susan Branch at susanbranch.com along with her delicious list of book recommendations. She has inspired me to work on sketching, watercolor painting, and lettering.
  • Lesley Austin writes on all things beautiful, simplicity, and quiet. I use her Wild Simplicity Daybook to journal what we have learned each day in our homeschooling journey. She is a place of calm retreat.
  • Gladys Taber  wrote monthly diaries about living in Cape Cod. She depicts a relaxed and fully engaging lifestyle that I would like to embody.

I know these are alot of links and with today’s internet noise it can feel overwhelming to be handed so many recommendations. But I have to say – these ladies are inspirational. I think the beauty of it is that you’ve come across your own inspirational resources. It is amazing that when we open ourselves up to growth and movement, the resources appear on our doorstep. I believe that is the same with our children and their interests. As you experiment and open your heart and mind to experiences that point you toward your Maker, you are bound to experience renewed hope and joy.

So, this year we embarked on a very “unlike me” type of journey. We signed up to participate in a classical co-op which is quite regimented in my perspective. Being a person who enjoys freedom to frolic about and not comment to any particular “system”, I have found that this co-op to be a surprisingly great experience for my oldest. He is 13. He loves friends. He likes a good challenge. And at this point in his life he enjoys a good debate. Although he is quiet, he will speak his mind when given the opportunity in public.

However, my very creative and free-flowing middle daughter has considered each Monday in this co-op a type of “torture that she wishes never to repeat again”. So we will close out this year as best we can. My expectation was simply to glean as much as we could from this experiment. I would probably have pulled her out at the end of this last semester but intense me signed up to be a tutor and I’m with it for the year.

I personally have really enjoyed the journey and find that having a group to meet with keeps me on my toes. The families there are lovely. Our tutor, Miss Beth, in Alan’s class of a little less than a dozen 8th graders, is a kindred spirit. She really makes the whole thing worth if for me. As much as a resist some of the premises of this type of co-op,  I’ve learned so much and my daughter will admit she has as well. She recites all the little songs and factoids she has learned over the past 12 weeks. She has the opportunity to amass a little more knowledge in the next 12 weeks and will be counting the days until they are complete.

Our 2016-2017 homeschool experiment is at the half-way point. Will my son return next year? Probably if the same tutor continues to teach. Will my middle daughter? No. Will my youngest daughter? Probably not. But I have to say that the monthly small reimbursements for teaching have sparked a personal interest in continuing a side income-producing opportunity. I’ve been so excited to “take the family out” with the money that I have earned. I’ve never had to work so hard for money but it feels so invigorating.

We will see how my experiment with writing daily morning pages, weekly artist dates, and taking silent walks each week will open the door to more opportunities to teach and create. These exercises are recommended by Julia Cameron in her book, “The Artist’s Life”. I feel like the resources that I’ve recommended have given me a real boost of energy. Now I need to create boundaries around this new enthusiasm and really connect with my family and friends. I can get lost in the self-discovery journey and forget to enjoy the people and experiences in the present. How do you spark joy and continue focusing on your family?

(P.S. Started brewing my own Kambutcha. Thanks Samantha!)

kambutcha

This is how I live dangerously

(P.S.S. No academics over the last few weeks. Instead, we all slept a lot, poured ourselves into our passions, and laughed a lot.)

 

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Their lists typify each personality

 

 

 

When Homeschooling is Too Hard

“The harder something is, the more it requires my softness.”

This is a saying that is rocking my world right now.

I first heard it from a wonderfully nourishing site of Jen Hoffman at http://healthymoving.com.

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It seems the end of this school year has brought out my insecurities in abandon. Floudering about and grasping for the next thing that promises success, I have been demanding my children to hop to and get in line. I look at our seemingly small progress and project visions of  failure. Instead of seeing the victories and successes I see only “small” and “insignificant”.

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As I was putting to bed one of my very deep thinking and intuitive children, she told me, “Mommy, you trust God for everything but not with school.” Ouch! I think she is right. Another morning, when I was feeling significantly tender and unsure of my ability to lead my children (which ended up taking me down the path of ranting and raving about our need to DO MORE! and TRY HARDER!) my youngest girl came up to me showing me what she had copied into her notebook that morning. I was expecting to see the usual display of cute little backward letters all strung together without regard to spacing or alignment. But the words floored me. “RESTFUL“. Nowhere in the book from which she was copying could I find that word. It is as though The Spirit had her speak words of truth into that moment. And she brought it to me in a sweet offering of a way. I was undone.

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Trying to lead by inspiring and not driving has been difficult for me. The way we as a family climbed to the peak of Mt. Baldy in Eagle River is how I’d love to experience our homeschool days. I was fully confident in our ability to scale our first mountain of the season. I was enthusiastic, fully loving being out and stretching our muscles, pushing ourselves until we were breathless. I willingly accepted and enjoyed the sweaty work. I didn’t bark orders. I didn’t pronounce doom and gloom. I didn’t think anyone was lazy. We simply kept taking one step after another while calling out words of encouragement while stopping to soak in the awe of the vistas we were attaining. We knew we could make it to the summit. And we thoroughly enjoyed the reward of reaching the peak.

So as we continue to plod along this summer in our educational and recreational activities, I’m going to remember the words of our Deliverer:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.  Matthew 11:28-30

I don’t expect life or homeschooling to be “easy” by my definition of “easy”. It is hard work. It is trust work. There is a yoke. There is a load.

Diving deeper and studying the meaning of “REST” reveals: 3) to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation.

MY YOKE IS EASY TO BEAR” includes: 1) fit, fit for use, useful 1a) virtuous, good 2) manageable 2a) mild, pleasant (as opp. to harsh, hard sharp, bitter) 2b) of things: more pleasant, of people, kind, benevolent.

MY LOAD IS NOT HARD TO CARRY” also means: 1) light in weight, quick, agile.

So when I place my trust in the Savior of my children to lead them individually, to bend their dispositions and hearts toward the things He has planned for them, being willing to allow personal styles and unique callings in Christ to govern our choices, I can feel the weight of performance drop off my shoulders. We can be fully confident that the work He begins in us will be completed by The Author of our salvation. With this full assurance and expectancy, I can enjoy the hard work knowing that we are gaining strength and  the magnificent gift of perspective.

I will continue to repeat the mantra that “The harder something is, the more it requires my softness.” And my softness is my cheerful expectancy that the God of Good, Beauty and Truth is at work in my babies’ hearts, and praise YHWH, in my wavering heart as well.

 “The harder something is, the more it requires my softness.”

Early Retirement Anyone?

garden.jpeg

I’m about ready to retire now. Ready to retire from homeschooling, cleaning, cooking, washing. This is the time of year when I want to cast off all responsibility and go on an adventure. The funny thing is we just returned from a vacation to Hawaii. You’d think I would return refreshed and ready to plow ahead. But something deep within my soul seems overwhelmed. Too much noise. Too much talking. Too much struggle. Too much. Maybe it’s the highly sensitive personality of mine, or being an INFP, or simply being a mom who has been on call for 12 years nonstop.

What would happen if I didn’t get up early in the mornings with a quiet time, didn’t rally my kids to get up and “start our day” with chores, devotions, and a read-aloud, didn’t pull out math books to work on fractions and percentages, didn’t ask for daily writing and reading practice, didn’t make dinner, and didn’t wash the clothes? Well Mother Bear used this method and her family rallied when everything started to feel gross and unbearable. Also, it seemed to be a good method for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. And I understand that those are fictional characters. But I’m wiling to give it a try. I wonder what the results will be from this experiment?

I feel that what I’m really tired of is the feeling of pushing and pulling my family toward my vision for life. I’m ready to spread my wings and pursue areas of interest for myself. No books on the “right” educational methods. No podcasts about “how to do everything better”. More resources about enjoying and expecting. I’m ready to stop waking up in the morning and dreading the day. I wonder if my children have been waking up dreading their days?

So this is my experiment for this time. Casting off mundane routines. Shedding expectations of conformity. Instead, I will listen for the whispers of peace and move in the direction of delight. Join us?

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“Come to Me, all who labor and area heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

The Light Quenches Shame

Sunlight

We are designed to live in The Light, to bask in His Radiance. We are draped in His very Life. Our being is meant to absorb the glory of His brilliance as He shines His smiling and accepting face upon us. We are simply to look toward His Presence and absorb the nourishment. We are changed at the core of our being. We are united with Him in Christ.

I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness. John 12:26

We are clean and can be sure that we are presentable inside and out. We are washed and have no shame or evil. Our conscience is clear. He always keeps His word. Hebrews 10:22

But what if I choose to sit down, hide in the dark, and run from the radiance? The SON is still there. The reality of His life reaches even into the dark rooms of my soul. If I choose to hide in the shadows and frame my world through the lenses of shame, then I will walk miserably through the gloom, refusing to accept healing. So why do I linger in the shadows? Are they comfortable for me? Does the shame seem normal, natural? Do I prefer to paint the picture of my life with words of unworthiness? Do I believe that I have no choice?

These cold, dark words penetrate, cooling my heart until I see myself as unworthy. When did I first feel this message of unworthiness? Do you know when you first allowed shame to define you? When was the first “Shame on You!” severely spoken into your precious heart? If we accept that message, take that lie into our being, swallow the shame, then we view everything and everyone else through those dark lenses. Has anyone told us we can simply walk away from the shadow of shame and stand up, facing the light of day?

As I’ve spent time reflecting on the words I choose, the attitudes I project, and the assumptions I entertain, it is startling to me how much of my perspective is drenched in the words, “You’re not good enough”. So then of course I have to push myself to achieve more. Look cuter. Exercise. Declutter. Organize. Whiten my teeth. Redecorate. Find the perfect anti-aging skin cream. Sound smart. Make excuses. Blame others. Shame others. Find some way to differentiate myself to get noticed.

And how has this spilled over into homeschooling? Well, when a child presents with a viewpoint that does not support my master plan of “Worthiness through Effort”, I quickly dive into spouting words of condemnation. But I’m tired of living in this murky swamp. What will it take to rise from this dark space and lift my face up into the light?

I believe that God leads us into prayers. I believe that He prepares doors before we even ask and presents them when the time is right. I continue to seek God’s Word and truth, learn to accept help, and learn to trust Him. I wait to see what new miracle He places on my path. And I look for resources that help point me to His face.

So may I offer you a sweet resource I’ve been introduced to through Heather at the God Centered Mom podcast. “Connected Families – Uncommon Grace and Truth for Parents” is literally changing my heart and the tone of interactions with my family. Their message is immersed in truth and freedom. I have spend considerable time reconciling myself to my true identity with Christ. And this resource is a source of true refreshment, offering real examples and skits to help me reframe my interactions.

Visit http://www.connectedfamilies.org. Please take a moment to look at their life-infused examples and encouragement. They have a fabulous website, they offer free videos on youtube, a podcast, as well as subscriber emails that are amazing resources for parents.

There is also a spring course they are offering. Their modules include: How well intentioned parents miss their kids’ heart, You are safe with me, You are loved no matter what, You are God’s workmanship, You are responsible, and The four messages in action. I’m on module 2 of 6 and believe this is the best present I can give myself and my family. If you feel the nudge to take a step toward walking out of shame and into the light this course may be that first stepping stone. Click on the affiliate link to take a look. http://courses.connectedfamilies.org/?affcode=13462_wf8j8oji. They also offer discounted rates for financial hardship. They do not want finances to be a barrier for attending their course.

Let us linger on the following promise from God’s Word:

God comes near to us – in the midst of our pain and darkness. He draws near and is with us. He is Savior. While we were sinners He died for us. We are reconciled to Him. He is with us. He is with us ALWAYS. Romans 5:8

We cannot imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Quakes!

dark clouds

We experienced a middle-of-the-night wake up call Sunday morning. Our house was rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Having grown up in Alaska, I’ve experience tremors quite regularly. But this one felt different. “Is this going to be The Big One”? I scrambled out of bed and stumble through the darkness  – just incase I needed to round up the children. By the time the earth quieted and the house stopped shaking, our hearts were pounding.

That was a truly humbling experience.  We could only brace ourselves and wait while our world was unhinged. We breathed a huge sign of relief when the calm returned. And there was such sweet relief when all was quiet. I calmed myself with the thought that our house is built on bedrock. And it seems the house can sway nicely.

But how I truly appreciate the quakes I don’t feel, like when we have been out fishing or driving and heard later that there was quite an earthquake that we missed. However, when a quake hits while we are in man-made structures, the results can be dramatic. Our stick-built home filled with possessions can magnify the intensity of any tremor.

Some days our relationships are rocked with instability. There is a shifting and sliding that leaves us dizzy.  It takes your breath away. The noise is threatening. We are shrouded in fear.

Has my heart and hands built unforgiving walls and shallow foundations that do not sway? Am I depending upon shifting sand? Are my hands and heart walking in softness and tenderness? Or have I created an environment of rigidness that actually MAKES the way unstable? The results can be devastating.

My prayer is that we absorb the Truth of Who We Are In Christ. We can stand in peace when the quake comes. The feelings of doomsday come when our rigidness revolts against adjustments. I trust He is continually drawing close to us, pursuing us, freeing us.

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. For the One bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of His good pleasure – is God. So do everything without complaining. Philippians 2:13 – 14

I need this verse because homeschooling is an area where I can complain. My brilliant ideas are not so readily accepted by my children. They are not so thrilled with this or that. My self-made scaffolding buckles under the sway of humanness and childhood. Instead of complaining, I can see that God is drawing our hearts along. His work will be done. So where can I look for open and adventurous places to wander? Where is freedom leading us? What voices of condemnation do I need to shut down? What doors do we need to step through?

Where do I feel weak and need reassurance:

My grace is enough – all that you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. So I will boast in my weakness so the power of Christ may reside in me. Quit focusing on the handicap and appreciate the gift. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t have to worry about my mistakes or shortcomings:

Nothing is wasted with God – even those thing we would like to forget. He takes our torment that we create ourselves and makes a miraculous monument that lives and grows – ever expanding rings of hope and glory. Romans 8:28

When the way seems dark and I don’t know where I’m going:

even the darkness is not dark to You;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with You.
Psalm 139:12

Daughter,

You are Always Safe because you are Held in

Our Father’s Mighty Arms

(REST)

tree house