Monday, August 24, 2015

The Heart of Homeschooling

As we enter into our sixth year of homeschooling, I am amazed at how much has changed.  I began this journey with 4 kids, ages 3-10.  Life was busy and anticipation was building as we prepared to bring home our fifth child.  We dove in excitedly but I often had to remind myself that, even though I felt like I had just put on someone else' shoes, God had been clear in His calling.  We did it, all of us, for five years.

But, as you know, the dynamics of our family began to dictate a reevaluation of this decision.  Was it still right for everyone?  As much as I wanted everyone to LOVE homeschooling and work together as one sweet, happy family that was no longer the case.  After much research and prayer (and prayer and research!) we decided to allow our two oldest children to go to a local school.  A "brick and mortar" school.

I can now tell you, without a doubt, that we made the right decision.  Praise. God.

We all just finished our second week.  I have had off-handed comments from other moms about our decision. Yes, the schedule is hard.  Yes, we don't love waking up at the crack of dawn to be at school by 7:30.  (We are all night owls...every last one!)  But my three still at home are getting started with their daily schooling by 8:00 as a result and finishing up by early afternoon, leaving time for important things like playing before we pick up the teens. And, let me tell you, despite the fear that I haven't prepared them enough or that they might be behind my teens are doing ok.  They are adjusting and happy because THIS IS WHAT THEY WANTED.

And isn't that the heart of homeschooling?  To teach our kids to make good decisions and walk with confidence?  To overcome difficulty and have the initiative to get their butts out of bed and work hard?  To know HOW to learn, when to ask for help, and that there are authority figures beside Mom and Dad who do truly care and will go out of their way to help if you just treat them with kindness and respect and show initiative?  I didn't expect to watch them do this until closer to college, but it is happening now.  Despite the struggles to adjust and tense moments in the car after a long day when they are tired, don't feel like conversation, and still have homework looming, they are determined to do this thing and do it well.  That makes me proud.  I think they are going to thrive.  I think God will have more room to work with me stepping back from the role of teacher and just being their mom.  For us, for now, for these two, this was right.  As with homeschooling, we are taking this year by year.  Life holds no guarantees, so we would be foolish to plan any further ahead.

Homeschoolers do what we do because we believe it is the best thing for our child at any given time.  But we also have to know when it is NOT the best thing.  Sometimes, it is not.  And do you know what makes me especially thankful?  That we have a choice.

Now for my three still at my mercy in my classroom, I cannot begin to tell you what an incredible year we are already having!  For the first time, I decided to buy a "all-in-one" curriculum.  We are using Heart of Dakota "Preparing Hearts for His Glory" along with Time 4 Learning Language arts (for the 3rd graders), Spelling-U-See, Handwriting Without Tears and Teaching Textbooks Math.  It has been a JOY to teach this year using HOD's unit studies approach.  My kids are absorbing information like sponges, becoming adept at poetry appreciation, interpreting Scripture, making beautiful works of art, along with copywork and narration that go along with the weekly units.  I feel like this year will be extra sweet for them as I have these hours to pour into them while my teens are happily where they want to be.  Laughter fills our classroom, excitement over the accomplishments of their siblings, and happy playtime ensues at the end of the day when the teens come home and Mom is available to help them with homework if needed.

Yes, the schedule is hard.  But this year, it is right.  I am thankful.  And I hope that, if you are struggling with deciding what to do for your children regarding their education or, really, anything that you will be encouraged.  There is no one right decision.  Every kid is so different.  Let God show you what is best for them now, today, and be willing to accept if it looks different that what you expected.  Sometimes different is better!

And coffee.

Definitely coffee.

Friday, August 21, 2015


I have a basket beside my bed that is full of books.  Unread books.  They are the books I intend to "get to" one of these days, but the pile unfortunately grows fast than I can read them.

Hello, my name is Jeanine and I am a book hoarder.

I have grand ideas as far as my ability to find time to read, but reality doesn't line up.  5 kids, homeschooling 3 of them, everyone being shuffled from one place to another AT THE SAME TIME.  Yeah, I really should start listening to audio books in the car...but the noise from the peanut gallery.  Not practical.  Not now.

So I grabbed my copy of Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae, which I am currently reading and really enjoying so far, and cast a quick glance at the others.  There is one, in particular, that I am avoiding:  The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippets.  It is about a woman who died recently...her offering to those of us who would be left behind.  Encouragement, I'm sure. Perhaps a warning?  I don't know because I haven't read it yet.  Now, I bought Longing for Paris AFTER this book, so why am I not reading The Hardest Peace first?

Because the thought of picking up that book and actually reading it scares me.

There.  I said it.  I didn't really realize it until about an hour ago, when my friend posted on Facebook that she was reading this exact book.   Coincidence?  I think not.

Do you ever worry that God is preparing you for something awful?  Like if you hear a story on the radio or TV and you pray, "Dear God, please don't let that happen to me or anyone I love."  I think that is what is holding me back...the fear that, if I let myself go there and imagine my family having to move on without me that I will have invited the worst to happen.

Yes, I know that is a dumb thing to think.  I don't believe in Karma or luck (good or bad) so to say I am afraid of what will happen if I read books like this is stupid, right?  But I have a dear friend who just got diagnosed with cancer.  Another whose child suffers countless numbers of seizures every day.  Another whose child just walked away from their faith and family and is knee-deep in Eastern Mysticism.

Sigh.  This world is beating us to a pulp.  I watched the sixth planned parenthood video and wept as a newborn baby struggled for its last seconds of life after being aborted.  A godly woman who has spoken loudly and clearly about the times in which we live, obeying her Lord regardless of what the culture throws at her, is now about to bury her beloved husband.  There is bad news everywhere.  It is getting worse by the day.  I am not naive enough to think I won't be touched by it.

So I found myself avoiding the hard books.  I tried to live as though I believe God is good and has good plans for me, but the "Fearings" (read Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard and you will understand this reference) have been chasing me down and I have been guilty of listening to their whispers in the night, of avoiding the blessing of what God will do in the midst of hard because I don't want to endure hardship.  I want life easy.

But God has never called anyone to easy.  Serving Him means I am diving headfirst into the deep-end of life. And even if I don't read that book, I'm in the middle of hard.  So I can pretend that I am able to avoid the hard stuff and not read that book...
or I can read it an maybe, just maybe, gain strength and vision for tomorrow from someone who did endure the unspeakable and has something to teach me.

Ignorance, it turns out, is not always bliss.

So, ok God.  I hear you.  I am putting it next in line.

Question:  What are you avoiding?  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Survival of the Fittest (a post for all of us who braved Tax-Free Weekend)

I stood at the mouth of the school supply section in Target, heart pounding.

"I can do this.  I mean, look at all these hard can it be?  It's just pencils, pens, folders..."

I took a deep breath and stepped in to the crowded aisle with my cell-phone in hand.  I had 6 emails from four different teachers with the necessities my teens will need for the year.  School starts Monday.  I really could have used this list weeks ago before, you know, the craziness of tax-free weekend.

Because, y'all, I would rather pay tax than face THIS...

But here I was, 3 days before school starts and these people are intense.  There are no traffic laws in the school supply section.  No right lane or passing lane or even designated parking.  No, these people went all third-world on me and I would not have been surprised to see a donkey cross the aisle.

I quickly wove through the crowd and chose the items on the lists.  I was determined to get out with my ankles intact.  I have homeschooled for FIVE years.  I intentionally avoided tax-free weekend just like I avoid Black Friday!  I have the next year's curriculum planned out by the end of May and all supplies in place by July.  This weekend?  It is for crazies.

Today, I was in the thick of crazy.

I checked out without injury and put my purchases in the trunk.  I drove home, thinking that surely...surely...I would not need to make any more trips.

I was wrong.

Three more emails came late Friday afternoon.  WHAT THE????

I sighed.  I can probably wait until after the weekend, but what if my kids are the only ones whose loser parents didn't get all their stuff before Monday?  That could result in social ostracization or, worse, sympathy stares.  I can't do that to them.  They are nervous enough!  So back out I went...this time to Wal-Mart.

I. Die.

The school supply aisle is trashed.  Stuff on the floor, name-brand colored pencils SOLD OUT.  People wandering with lists in their hands and blank stares, barely able to mumble "excuse me" when they collide head-on with the other moms who look like they just want coffee...or wine.

Or coffee and wine.

I began limping because, apparently, the stress had depleted my body of something and I had a TOE CRAMP.  You know, the one where your middle toe involuntarily begins to point painfully downward and we have all been told to eat a banana when that happens?  There was no stinking way I was going to limp all the way across the store to the banana section.  I kicked off my shoe and massaged the offending toe, willing it to relax.

Then I had a thought.

What about the office supply section?

6 aisles back it stood.  Y' was virtually EMPTY.  Rows and rows of binders, folders, pens and pencils still neatly arranged and the aisles were clear!

Has no one else realized this but me?  Surely I'm not the only one?  But there it stood...beautiful and bare. I selected my items, the toe finally relaxed and started walking toward the checkout when...

"buzz buzz"


There it was.  Email number 10...another school supply list.  I silently thanked God that I had not yet paid and went straight back to the glory of the office supply section and put the final purchases in my basket.  I've got this.  I'm gold.  I am outta here.

I checked out, fought the urge to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb, and went home.  We spent the next hour figuring out which thing was for which class for what kid and I sat down next to my husband after dinner to decompress when...

"buzz buzz"

I. Can't. Even.

We apparently need a scientific calculator for Algebra.  Hello, Amazon Prime.


It will be here Monday.