Surprises Along The Way

We are entering into year 10 of our homeschool journey. I wish I could say that we have been forging ahead on a laser-focused path. It seems we homeschool the way I do life – hopping from one idea to another, looking for the next best thing in an attempt to make the work of homeschooling feel more like play. I tend to experiment with one method or another and end the year with a desire to do better the next year.

In years past, my prayers were too small and short-sighted. This year, 2019 – 2020, I pray for Light and the Power of the Holy Spirit to flood our hearts with His Truth so we walk in deep-seeded belief.

” I have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

Shall I tell you the next best thing I found? Ha! I have to laugh because I’ve done this every summer. I spend three months relaxing in Alaskan summers, foraging for ideas, searching for answers. Then I take that research and turn it into a year of big dreams and visions of reinventing my children and our family. Well – I did learn a lot this summer and I do have big dreams. But instead of trying to find a method that “works” for each of my children I’ve been encouraged to read from wisdom. I do this not to find a guarantee or ensure success in our lives but because I truly do believe The Word contains Truth and Life. The outcome of our lives I trust to Our Father. I’ve not stumbled upon anything new. Just as G. K. Chesterton felt he found a New Thing but stumbled upon something ancient, I’ve found the ancient and feel it’s a New Thing.

So thank you to a woman from Ambleside, England for her life’s work to teach us that “children are born persons” and that “education is a science of relations”. Thank you to all the other sojourners who have taken a similar path and let their Light shine before men, therefore bringing glory to our Father. Thank you to a homeschool mom who mentored other moms this summer and invited us to live more fully alive. Thank you Father for providing surprise funding so my family can take a capstone trip to England this Spring after studying about the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation. Your fingerprints are everywhere.

Hiking. They pull way ahead of us now, both ascending and descending. This is Mt. Baldy above Eagle River.
A stellar summer in Anchorage with record-breaking heat resulting in a bumper crop of tomatoes.

2019 Planning: Where Structure Meets Spontaneity

I’ve been reviewing 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, etc., and notice a significantly concerning trend. As mentioned many times in prior posts, my twitch is to look for solutions, purchase books and curriculum, and buy into other people’s view of what homeschooling ideal is the “best”. After many years it appears I’ve taken by eyes off my children and focused them on following Facebook and Instagram feeds. So late last year I completely deleted Instagram and Facebook. What a relief! I feel I can breath again and my children have my attention.

Now that the firestorm of voices trying to sell me an idea or ideal is turned off I have time to calmly walk through our house and see the huge piles of books and papers I’ve accumulated. Extravagant hours and money have been spent to try to become all the things the voices said I and my children should be.  It appears I was trying to use osmosis to learn because we have not actually read most of the books. Instead of taking these years to walk our own unique journey I stopped at a fork at the road and dug a deep trench filled with a varied and deep library that is not relevant to our family. My children stay very busy and curious studying a few select things which gives them time and energy to be curious and discover their own talents.

So as a journaling lover, I’ve decided to put a few rails in the road to help me to stay focused on God and my children instead of the materials. One way I plan to train myself to not twitch into purchases is to go through a real planning and implementation exercise. With the Christmas break I have time to reflect and create. Super fun! So I thought I’d share some images of my journals. This system is birthed out the desire to have some stretching and strengthening in crafting my personal intentions (I like that word so much better than “goals”) while also being able to use my personality and creativity to track and implement my intentions.  

Cultivate What Matters Powersheets. I have ordered my 2019 set.

Wild Simplicity Daybook. I use this as a prayer, passion, and vision board journal. 

Traveler’s Journal. I use this leather-bound book which house three budget booklets.
Cultivate What Matters includes a monthly Tending List to guide my days and calendar. This was my 2018 January list.
This inside glimpse shows you the gem Lesley Austin handcrafted which she lovingly calls her Wild Simplicity Daybook. I use this handcrafted earth-thoughtful beauty to house two vessels. The first booklet is a Diary which I use as a vision board and a place to capture the highlights of my learning for the month. The second booklet I use to keep track of my days. I purchase these items from Lesley Austin on Etsy under SmallMeadow. Her shop is napping right now for Christmas but she will be placing more of her offerings after the new year. I am also a member on her online haven Wisteria & Sunshine. You can sign up to join this sanctuary at anytime.
In the Diary there are several interesting sections that invite planning and intention setting. I like to take the blank pages provided and add clippings from magazines to add some focus and interest. It is always interesting to me to see what pictures land in the book and the words that land on those pages. I also have other lovely journals where I write prayers and verses as led. My children know that a gift of a journal will always be perfect.
This Book of Days, also from Lesley’s shop, will be the vessel to hold my daily and weekly schedule. My priority list and special notes have a home to the right and bottom of the weekly calendar spread. Isn’t it so pretty and simple?
My traveler’s notebook has a small booklet where I can plan the week’s meals and create a sticky note shopping list. I don’t assign a meal to a particular day but make a list I can choose depending on our mood or fancy.
A cute folder in the Traveler’s notebook gives me a place to put my receipts for the month. And this Susan Branch calendar serves as a vision board of the artistry I’d like to continue to create and will be used to track weekly food and miscellaneous expenditures. I suppose writing in a pretty calendar will help motivate me to stay focused on my weekly budget allowances. I’m hopeful that if I focus on the purpose God has for our family and not spend all my time and money resources on finding the “perfect” ideal that I will be doing my family and big favor. 

This simple and creatively inspiring journaling process will be helpful in keeping my intentions. Deeply rooted into the Cultivate What Matters yearly journal and the open-ended Daybooks are the expectations that flexibility and changes will need to be occur. I can make changes along the way but all the while checking in with my heart and seeing where the Lord is leading us.

Have a very Merry Christmas.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him. (AMEN!)

Philippians 2:13

Abundance or Scarcity?

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 

Philippians 4:8

I joyfully read the book, “Rabbit Hill” by Robert Lawson to my three children during Symposium (morning time where I read things that are like mental and heart whole foods). I loved the rich language. The endearing animals were so sweet and also mirrors of our tendency to be nervous and occasionally pessimistic in our circumstances.

Now. Spoiler Alert! 

The ending shook me. The New Folks leaving an alter for the animals to eat from with abandon, providing clean water, with a saint to watch over them was not what I expected. I expected that the people would allow a certain level of foraging from their garden but with limits. But the New Folks created a ready-made banquet for the animals which in turn made the animals respond with treating the garden as holy ground.

Could viewing life from a perspective of being completely cared for with abundant resources within our grasp rid us of relational conflict? I left the reading talking to myself:

“Do I put out poison, traps, roadblocks, barriers to give a false sense of protection and control?” Yes. I see many attempts to manage life and it does seem to create division resulting in an attitude of me vs. them.

“Is there any place where I intentionally set up banqueting tables and is there a positive result from this? Yes. When I really talk with my children, put aside a rigid form of philosophy and focus on caring for their hearts I see life and connection.

“Is this truly a Godly principle?”

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever

Psalm 23 NLT


We Are Connected

We have been to the hospital every day for the past two weeks. My father-in-law is fading and we are looking for an extended care facility to help him with his needs. Many details of preparing for the future and helping to unburden him of his generally unremembered possesions have landed in our lap. We went through a small model of this three years ago when my mother-in-law passed away. 

After Thanksgiving dinner my three children, husband and sister-in-law drove over to the hospital to visit my father-in-law.

The biggest event of my day, other than undercooking the 22 lb. turkey, was our unexpected meeting with Virginia. The first time we saw Virginia, she was fixing her baby doll’s hair and using markers to color pictures. Because we have been to the hospital every day for the past two weeks we have seen various stages of Virginia’s experience there. We have noticed that she has no visitors. Usually her expression is vacant. Sometimes we hear her yelling at the nurses. 

We had just been in my father-in-laws hospital room, catching up on the day’s events, searching his eyes and words for clues on his physical and mental condition when we heard a commotion across the hall. Virginia was having one of her episodes of noncooperation. Each nurse who approached her was quickly pushed away by her violent words and attitude. Then Virginia looked across the hall and made eye contact with me. Huh oh. Well, I smiled and tried to be pleasant. I guess it worked because she smiled back and started walking into our room. Huh oh again. She introduced herself, apologized for the intrusion, and expressed that she was needing to come into our room to find her clothes which the “bad people” across the hall would not let her have. So what could I do? I invited her in.

My conversation with Virginia drifted toward her life in Alaska, her pug dogs, and the tree pendant she was wearing. In the meantime the nursing staff was trying to lure her out of our room but she would not have it. She wanted to stay put and sat down in the room’s wheelchair. She mentioned how sweet the girls looked in their dresses, which she had commented on at a previous visit when we passed by her. She apparently notices pretty dresses. She wrapped her silver hair in a colorful scarf and expressed her creativity by tying up her hospital gown unconventionally. When I mentioned that her tree pendant was something I really admired because of the verse that says we can be like trees planted by living waters she said, “See, when I saw you I knew that.” We are all so connected.

We chatted a bit more and she again apologized for coming in as she was trying to find all her clothes that people had hidden from her. It was then that Virginia’s countenance changed and turned into tears. Through her sorrow she expressed that she was not a bad person and she was so sorry. All our hearts went out to her. I tried to console her and reassure her she had a good heart and was loved by many people. At the same time I was concerned for her emotional outburst occurring in front of my father-in-law because he of his own struggles – a body that has him jailed to a hospital bed and mental weakening. Since his stroke 15 years ago, heart surgery 8 years ago, losing his wife 3 years ago, this once stoic man has changed into a person who experiences unhidden and unapologetic emotion. We are all so connected.

Virginia calmed down, the awkwardness in the room slowly lifted, and eventually a nurse was able to get Virginia to move on. She apologized again for coming in and said she hoped to see us and the girls again when we came to visit. I hope we do see her again and maybe she will remember us. In her sweet mind she is adorable. In distortion she is fierce. We are connected.

Tonight I noticed that Virginia’s dolly is tucked into her bed and the pictures she colored are hanging up in her wall. My 8-year-old daughter does the same thing. We are connected.

As a homeschool family I can become concerned that during this time our “school” time is very light. But these real life experiences are heavy and weighty and what really matters. I’m so glad they were able to experience reaching out and showing care for people in distress. We don’t need to run away. We can sit in discomfort and thankfulness. Be connected.

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.)

 

20161207_180914

Their lists typify each personality