Monday, February 10, 2014

Rest and Hope for 2014

As a preface you may want to read my recap of 2013. Or not.

This year when I started to prepare for my New Year's Resolutions I asked the Lord what I needed in this year. What does this year need to be for me? The first word that came to mind was Hope. I think as a part of the healing I went through in 2013 I let go of a lot of cynicism. I finally feel the freedom to Hope. And, Oh My, I'm in daily need of Hope.

But it also seemed like I kept hearing a whisper saying, "Rest."

"Two words?" I thought, "I can only have one. I need to decide between the two."

As I slowed down and starting thinking about both of these words I realized they are inseparable. Hope and Rest. Rest and Hope. I need them both.

You know when you get a new car and you you suddenly start seeing cars exactly like yours everywhere you drive though you ever noticed that model before? Well, after I decided on Hope and Rest for my words this year it was like that. Songs on the radio, messages at church, blogs I read, all talking about Hope and Rest! One blog post had the most beautiful way of explaining the relationship between the two:

Hope is really about rest. Resting in the imperfections of today because you believe that tomorrow there is possibility.

I had written this down on New Year's day:

"Rest, because I feel I need a reminder to slow down and focus. Also, because I want to rest in the promises of the Lord. Which leads me to HOPE."

This is the song I sing the most right now. It is my prayer. My meditation. I want it to be my breath prayer.



 So, I wrote out a list of things I'm hoping for in 2014:
~ House sold
~ Our New House!!!
~  Financial freedom and peace
~ Better job (for HH) or Peace and Favor at current job
~ A year of health (No more ER trips, please!)

There are other, more immediate things I am hoping for right now and I'm sure there will be more through out the year, but this is my list of "big" hopes, if you will.

I sat down to use a portion (#22) of Ann Voskamp's Grace Plan for 2014 and ended up using her whole list as a base for my goals. Much of what she listed is what I want for myself. Why re-write what has already been so poetically penned.

For my specific 2014 goals I decided against "fixes" I wanted in my life and decided for the things that I felt just make me more whole person: daily disciplines, intentional/relational parenting, respecting and joyfully serving my husband, pursuing friendships.

And, of course, I always have a long list of books to read. This is just my "serious reading" list.

Books To Read:
These are the books on my shelf (minus one I still need to purchase) that I want to use to help me be a better me, mom, and wife. The ones marked (devo) are those that I plan to use in my morning devotional time. The others will probably be my night time reading books. Most are carried over from last year's list. Some I have already started.

Shepherding A Child's Heart
Love & Logic for Parenting
Sheet Music
Dare to Be (devo)
David (devo)
Children: In Life, In Meetings, In Our Hearts
The Power of a Praying Wife (devo)
The Love Dare (devo)
Preteen Wise
The Father Heart of God (devo)
Practical Theology for Women (devo)
Love and Respect 
I Will Look Up (devo)

I know we are already a month into the New Year and this may seem like a late post I actually waited on purpose. Although my goals, thoughts, and desires for the year were written down on the 1st of January, I like to wait a bit to see if anything changes. Posting a month late is also a good reminder to stay focused or to get re-focused.

I'm still excited about this year and I know it holds good things for us all. May we seek them with the eyes of a child.

Did you set goals for the New Year? Do share!



Friday, February 7, 2014

Favorite Things Friday Kid's Edition: Books

It's no secret that I love books. I could live in a library. As long as it had a cafe of course.

I've tried and am trying to instill my love of reading in my children. One way is by surrounding them with a zillion books to browse and read. I also try to read to them as often as I can. They, of course, have favorites that we have read so many times we've memorized them and the bindings are coming loose.

There are a few favorites, though, that have caused me to stifle my giggles.

The first was a favorite of Amelia's when she was about two. My MIL got the book for the kids thinking Abiah would especially like it because it was a narrative about Daniel Boone. No one ever assumed that the two year old would be the one to drag it out everyday over and over.

She had very little patience, though, for the actual story. She just wanted us to turn the pages until we got to this one:


She would point her chubby finger and say, "Buns! Him's buns is sowing!"
 

The next book is a favorite of Jackson's. I bought it at a resale/antique store this last fall because it is old and I thought we could incorporate it into our schooling or family time. It's called Wise Words for Little People. It was written in the late 80's.So, never mind. It's not old. It's very young.

When I started reading it to the kids I was so happy. Every little story is based on an encouragement or admonition from the book of Proverbs. My kids loved it and they could understand how the Proverb applied to them.

I never thought Jackson would catch on to this book so early. This is the story he wants me to read the most:

"If you're acting naughty, Your parents may spank you. But when you get older, You'll want to say, 'Thank you!'

You can see in the picture that Little Bear is getting into the medicine cupboard. Here's what happens next:


Yup. Little Bear is getting a spank. I think Jackson is drawn to this story because he's been in Little Bear's shoes. Of course after the spank Mommy and Little Bear hug and kiss. I'm sure Mother Bear is saying, "I don't want to spank you, but I can't let you be disobedient. I love you very much. Please obey Mommy." Which Jackson is also familiar with.


Books are a lovely thing.

What are some of your family favorites?


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Homeschool Q & A: A typical day and schooling with a toddler

For the first Q&A post see here.

I started this series to answer some questions for a friend. Since they are questions I get asked often I thought I'd write my answers out here for anyone else interested.


Q: What does a typical day look like for you while homeschooling and what do you do with Jackson during school? 

A: Because of our extra-curriculars everyday looks a little different, but I try to keep some schedule and routine for our actual schooling. 

Although I'd love to run everything Von Trapp style with time lines and whistles, life really just doesn't work that way. (smile) I go by a To-Do list and organize from there. I try to get up before the kids for quiet time, but this can be difficult with kids who still crawl into my bed half-an-hour before I plan to be up. I've learned to be flexible and remember that this is a short season. Abiah is up at 6:30 for Bible reading. The rest of the kids are almost always up before that, but I'm trying to train them to stay in their room until 7 so I have time to finish my devotions and shower.

Our mornings are started with kids getting dressed, chores getting done, piano practice, breakfast, and breakfast clean up. Most days HH is home for breakfast so we get to eat with him. 

I try to get us started with school by 8:30, but it's usually more like 9 or 9:30. First I get Abiah going on the subjects he does on his own. Then I spend about an hour working with Amelia and Jackson. Really this time is to give them some special time with me. Amelia is my main focus scholastically, but Jackson is her tag-a-long so we find things for him as well.

This is just one room. And it looks like this everyday. They have to have it all cleaned up by the end of the day. And then they start over as soon as they wake up. :)



When they get done and I send them off to play I do school with Hazel. Her curriculum takes 1-1&1/2 hours to do. Of course everything takes a bit longer because I'm working with children who have a mind of their own, a will of their own, and a bathroom schedule of their own. There are lots of interruptions, to put it plainly. 


Hazel was upset and refusing to do her math because there was a girl apple that had four worms in it and that was disgusting and unfair to the girl apple. Also, the girl apple should have been at the top of the page. Her least favorite memory verses are the ones that talk about rotting bones. She generally puts up a fight about rehearsing those ones. But, obviously, she's a princess and princesses shouldn't have to talk of such things... Oy vey! Puberty is going to be thrilling.

Though I aim to train my kids to show me and each other respect by allowing me to work with each one individually, really this is just part of being a family. Kids have to pee and poo. They need to express their ideas and thoughts. And they need remind you they have a will of their own every now and again five seconds later. 

After I finish with Hazel we have lunch. I usually make lunch while Hazel finishes up a writing task or puts her books away. Amelia and Jackson are usually cleaning up toys and Abiah is finishing up the subject he is on. After I've eaten I read aloud to the kids. Abiah has scheduled read-aloud books with his curriculum so that's what we read. Afterward we clean up from lunch and I settle Jackson down for a nap. 

While he's napping the girls play quietly-ish and I do school with Abiah. Depending on the day, scheduled lessons, and Abiah's work ethic we can be done anywhere from 1-5. I try not to carry work over to the next day, but sometimes it is unavoidable. 

Abiah is in a music class on Mondays and Hazel is in one on Tuesdays. The class is at 3 so we aim to be done with school in time to leave for class. Wednesday is a rather busy day for us. I only do school with Abiah and Hazel on this day. After school in the morning, we go to our homeschool group at 1:30, come home for dinner, and then leave again for mid-week church by 6:45. Thursday is a quiet day usually, and it is also our last day of school for the week. HH is off for the weekends beginning Friday morning so we spend Friday with him. Our curriculum is mostly scheduled for a four day school week so we just do any Friday work on Thursday.

I've found that our schedule has seasons because we have seasons. Last year looked very different. I like this year way more than last year, but the kids are a little older and are getting the hang of the routine a bit more.

One of the things that helped me relax about our daily school routine and my need for it to be perfect was a comment I read in our curriculum. The author was sharing their family's daily schedule and she used the phrase "we've trained our kids to..." a few times. I realized if I want my kids to follow a routine I have to train them to. And because they are still so young I can't just expect them to know on their own. So a lot of what I do is training. This year, thankfully, I don't have to do so much of that with Abiah. It's been a breathe of fresh air especially since I have three others who still need so much of my time in that area.

We have good days where I think we've finally, finally figured it out. And then we have no good very bad days when it feels like we have so far to go. Honestly, most of that depends on my hormones, though. I've learned to be aware and make adjustments in my attitude and our work load, if need be.

I hope this encourages you.

Do you have a question about homeschooling or about ours specifically? Leave me a comment and I'll add it to my list!

Blessings, ya'll!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Paper







Ok. Mostly wordless. I need to explain. My SIL's boyfriend, so my boyfriend-in-law, works for a paper company and he gave us a huge box of paper. And this little Miss, especially, makes the most gigantic messes with it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! She loves to color and goes through at least 100 sheets a week.

I sent my boyfriend-in-law a message thanking him for fueling my children's need to draw on a new piece of paper every few seconds. I also thanked him for fueling our wood stove, because that's where it all ends up.

I do love that I don't have to constantly replace my copy paper that I use for school. It was getting ridiculous. And I was getting stingy. We're all happy. :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Book Review: Happy Wives Club

About a year ago my heart was burdened for some marriages of the people in my life. It was a small flood of my circle of friends and family, from the past and currently, who were facing huge struggles and were going through situations I'd never even imagined. Although HH and I were doing good at the time I felt an uneasiness. It wasn't that I was questioning the rightness of our relationship. I just needed to know how we were going to make it work.

I remember sitting with a group of ladies, most of who are much older than me, and asking, "What is the one thing you would say is the most important to a marriage? Besides Jesus, because that's obvious."

One lady replied instantly, "Sex." There were some heads nodding in agreement. I countered her response with, "Really? Sex? Is that what you need or what he needs? I know sex is important to marriage, but is it the one thing, other than Jesus, that it takes to make a good marriage?"

Another woman spoke up, "I heard a message on marriage many years ago. The speaker was talking about the passage that says, 'A husband must love his wife, and a wife must respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:33). He said that the reason husbands should love their wives is because it is very hard for men to love. They are logical beings and love is an emotion.  And woman are called to respect our husbands because it is easy for a woman to love. We do that unconditionally.  But, if someone does something we can't justify it is very hard to have respect for that person. The Lord stretches us by asking us to do the things that are difficult in our way of thinking. So for women it is respect and for men it is love."

What she said was as a thick healing balm poured over the burden my heart was feeling. I had an answer. I left that night with hope and a plan for my own marriage and a determination to pray for the ones that I'd been burdened for.

This last month I jumped at the opportunity to review the book, Happy Wives Club, hoping that, maybe, I would discover a little more of an answer to the question I had last year. Within the first few pages I felt right at home. The author, Fawn Weaver, had been on a journey that took her to six different continents to find, for herself, an answer to the same question I had been asking.

I was confused a bit at first because there was so much back story of the author's travels and experiences. I think I was expecting the book to mostly be stories about the couples she interview. The beauty I found in her writing was that Fawn, through her personal journey in marriage and the mundane of her travels incorporated with the beauty of the relationships she encountered, found the answer she was seeking. Her journey was as important as her mission.


Another thing I liked about the book is that it wasn't one sided. I seem to see a lot of "Women, here's how to be a better wife" books, but I've often wondered if there are as many for men. Though this book is titled Happy Wives Club, Fawn really stresses the mutuality of the relationship.

It's funny because the book almost felt anti-climatic. But in the end that felt right because, of course, the answer to happiness in marriage is more simple than we think. In our over dramatized culture and world we expect the secrets to life to be filled with magic and fairy dust and unicorns. They should definitely be far fetching and almost difficult to reach. But Fawn reminds us that happiness is as simple as mutual respect and service and friendship.

It was a book I could hardly put down and when it was over I felt a renewed determination to pursue true happiness in my own marriage.

Disclaimer: I received this book through booksneeze.com in return for my personal review. 

In addition, because this review isn't long enough already, my dad and I were talking about this post and the book and he had an amazing point that he illustrated with a song I remember him playing for my mom.






Be blessed, ya'll!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

'Til My Sides Hurt: Man-child's Gonna Get Slapped One Day

Abiah has a tendency to say what is on his mind, and, without meaning to, sounding completely rude. Sometimes he thinks he's funny, but most of the time he just doesn't realize that he sounds like he's trying to be offensive.

I was talking to my parents about it and made the comment, "The kids gonna get beat up some day because he sounds so rude."

My dad, who is like Abiah's twin born 40 something years earlier, said, "No. I never got beat up. I knew enough not to say that kind of stuff to guys."

"I'm not talking about guys, Dad. He's gonna get slapped by some girl that he'll unknowingly offend!"

"Oh... Yeah... I think I got slapped a few times."

Exactly.

Here are a few gems, plus a few other funny things he's said lately.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was lamenting to Abiah that Amelia had left her cream colored jacket outside and it was now all muddy.

He just looked at me with a blank stare and then said, "If I was a girl maybe I'd understand."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Around Christmas my parents caught the flu and were horribly sick for two weeks. Towards the end of their sickness we had an emergency with Jackson one evening and I needed them to rush over to watch the other kids while HH and I took him to the ER. Because of the situation my parents dropped everything and came right away. My mom, who is always done up, hadn't done her hair or make up because she'd been so sick. When they came in the house Abiah greeted them at the door. He looked at my mom and said, "Hmmmm, bad hair day?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During our Christmas at home I made a huge platter of snacky foods for our meal. There was so much that we ended up eating it for a few days after, too. On day three of snacky foods for lunch, Abiah was doing the dishes while I was getting everything set out.

"We're eating that agian?"

"Yup. We need to eat it up."

Then he walked over to a pan of beans I had on the stove and peaked inside to see what was in there.

"Oh good. You're still cooking."

Now this comment was just a timing thing because I found out later that he was actually checking to see if I was still using the pot so he'd know if he had to wash it or not. So, I'll give him that one, but in the future someone else might not be so nice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We were making a list of different flowers for school and I had listed some off for him and he repeated them, or what he heard, back to me, "Violets, lilacs, and cockroaches?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

While dictating to him his spelling words:

Me: Your next word is circumference.

Abiah: Sir Cumference? Do I even know him?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And a little note from me to the girls he'll meet in the future:

I try. I really do.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homeschool Q&A: How long and Why

I am often asked by friends and acquaintances for help or advice on homeschooling. I love answering those kinds of questions and helping in anyway I can, but sometimes there isn't time to sit and have a lengthy conversation. So I thought I'd start blogging through questions and then I'll have this as a resource to point people to.

 

And here's where the disclaimer comes in.

Disclaimer: I am in no way the final authority on homeschooling, and I am well aware of that fact. I have opinions and ideas (some original, but most borrowed or adopted) and I love to share them, but I fully believe that you are the best judge of what your family's need are. I share with the idea that you will glean from me, as I have and do from others. I also share hoping for and expecting grace. Homeschooling isn't for everyone and I believe that and am okay with that. But, it is what my family does so I have ideas and thoughts about it.

The first few posts come from a list a friend sent me. She is in the beginning planning stages and has some questions. Since busy schedules are keeping us from a face-to-face conversation I thought I could type it out for her and also file it away for others.


 


Q: How long have you been homeschooling?

A: Well, the last job I had before HH and I got married was for a local company that supports homeschoolers through state testing, classes for students, help with special needs students, and tutoring. In order to fill out my schedule more I became a tutor. With the guidance of my boss, who has been working with homeschooling families since HH was in kindergarten (at least), I ended up with a full schedule of clients that I homeschooled for their parents. This was from 2001-2004.

Most of my students were ESL students who had a difficult time in the public system because of the language barrier and the lack of time for one-on-one instruction. I also had two girls with special needs that I met with three days a week for 3 hours each day. I would homeschool them and send them home with work for our off days. It wasn't typical homeschooling, but it served the need of the families and I really feel it gave me the confidence to homeschool my own kids.


Our kids have only ever been homeschooled. I started with Abiah when he was about 4. I only started that early because he was ready and interested. It wasn't much at first but it gave him a little something different to do during the day.


Q: Why did you decide to homeschool?

A: Well, for me, the answer to this has evolved. HH and I knew we wanted to homeschool our children before we were even married. It was something we had talked about and decided to do. I think in the beginning, though, it was more of what we knew. HH was only ever homeschooled and I had homeschooled 8th-12th grade and then was already homeschooling other kids. I don't know that there was a lot of depth or thought put into the decision. It's just what we wanted.



I learned quickly, though, that it wasn't enough of a reason. On the hard days I generally would end up in an internal rant that ultimately ended in me deciding it was all HH's fault; I homeschooled our kids because he made me.Totally not a fair conclusion, but Crazy Momma Internal Ranting rarely is.

A year ago this last fall I came to a breaking point. I shot off a text to my dear friend who I admire and who has gone before me a few years and I basically said "I can't do this anymore! I don't know how to school my child and get him to do his work! I've tried everything! He hates school and I know he could love it!"

She ever so gently responded, "Yes. He does hate it. I think you need to take a break and start over."

I knew she was right, but it hit me in the gut. Not because of her, but because I was lost. And starting over seemed daunting and how do you do that with a toddler and two crazy girls running around, all who want your attention too?!

 

The short story is that we took a week long break and I prayed and researched, spent time with my kids and talked to HH, and researched and talked to my friend. In the end I know the biggest change was what happened in my heart, but another part of the change was defining my vision for homeschooling our children. I still don't have an exact list, but during that time, and since, I have read and re-read many times over this post from Ann Voskamp. For me it was like reading what my heart wanted to say and wanted to want, but didn't know how.

Another reference for me was For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I had to take this one in slowly and I know I'll go back to it many times over. It is a beautiful breakdown of Charlotte Mason's educational theory. My ideas of what education should look like were challenged, as were the approaches I have taken with my children. It was a continuation of the gentle redirecting my heart and mind needed.

 

There were also a lot of little things. A blog post here. A conversation there. It all added up for me.

I have a long list of books to read to continue my own education on homeschooling and I'll share as I finish them.

So, after all of that back story, what I tell people now when they ask Why? is this:

I believe I am the best teacher for my children. I know them best and have the time to give attention to ALL their needs, not just their scholastic ones. Education is important to me, but to me education is also more than math facts, timelines, and proper grammar. When a struggle arises between teacher (me) and student I have the time to dive deeper and look for the heart behind the attitude or behavior.

I also have time to learn their strengths and weaknesses and I have the freedom to let them work at a pace that fits them. Traditional math didn't work for Abiah so we switched it up and he is thriving. Sometimes Abiah likes to walk while he practices memorization. Hazel likes to sit on top of the table while we work together. Both Hazel and Amelia prefer to be dressed as princesses while schooling.  And Jackson likes to climb things all day. 






Also, I don't homeschool because it is easy for me. I do it because I love to. I get comments all the time from other mom's about how I must be so much more patient because they could never do what I do. 

No. I'm super impatient. Every single day I fight impatience and selfishness. Occasionally I win, but mostly I don't and we do lots of apologizing. Homeschooling is just what I've chosen to do. Everybody's job drives them a little crazy even if it's their dream job, like mine. 

Also, I just really like being with my kids. The day-in-day-out is hard and raw, but it's the best thing I've ever done and it's the only thing I ever wanted to do. When Jackson was born I remember freaking out because I had 18 years left of homeschooling. It seemed like an eternity and I didn't know if I could make it that long. This last fall when he was potty trained I almost cried because I realized that I only have 16 more years of homeschooling left. Oh, the pendulum and how it doth swing.

Another reason for me is that I agree wholeheartedly with Ann Voskamp when she says, "We personally don’t believe that children are called to be kingdom warriors in the public school system because, in our humble, and very possibly misguided opinion, that doesn’t seem a level playing field. There are agendas operating there that may leave a child at a disadvantage. But do we need to walk with our children in the world with a vibrant, fearless faith that has full confidence in an all-powerful God? Yes!" 

 

I believe I read a post (that I can't find!) (Okay, here's one, but I don't think it's the original that I read, but you'll get the gist) from another homeschooling momma that likened her children unto tender young seedlings who need time to mature in the greenhouse until they are strong enough to withstand the weather and storms of the outside world. My hope is that we shelter our kids enough to hold onto their innocence, yet we are honest about real life and the real world enough so they make a smooth transition from our home to where ever they may end up. We talk about real things and we talk about a real God and his real love and real power.

I would add that I also think it would be cheating our kids to place them in an environment where they are basically raised by, and in turn raising, their peers.  Aside from the adult to child ratio in typical classroom settings being extremely low, the awake hours spent away from parents and family and with peers leaves the majority of influence up to the other children in the class.

And we pray it all comes out right in the end because, really, we all as parents are just doing what we feel is right for our children. A wise friend challenged my moping about past parental mistakes by asking, "Do you ever make a decision with the purpose to hurt or damage your child? No! You make all decisions believing that it is the best thing for them." And, it's true. That's what we're all after, right?






 So, for us, this is a part of why we homeschool. I hope this glimpse into our hearts as parents and educators of our babes encourages you whether you intend to homeschool or not. Like I said above, you are the best judge of what your family's needs are. God gave your children to you because he knew you were exactly the parent they needed. You are doing a great job.

Be blessed, ya'll!