Thriving During Distance Learning

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

There is a beautiful sentiment of simplicity behind this quote and perhaps in today’s digital age, the “library” could be replaced with the “internet” though many would still shudder to think so. But now that we are being temporarily stripped of our usual luxuries and even confined to our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, this ancient quote is being put to the test. Children are having to practice “distance learning” since attending school is not an option and parents who didn’t ever plan to homeschool are struggling to figure out how to ensure their children stay on the educational path while juggling everything else on their plate, possibly even working from home. Can we really find satisfaction without our restaurants, movie theaters, and shopping excursions? Are books and outdoor exploration really enough to educate a child? Many parents are now having to ask themselves this question along with, “How are we going to get through this unfamiliar territory in one piece?!”

As a former-public-school-teacher-now-homeschool-mom, I hope I can offer a bit of encouragement here, but not alone. My friend (and veteran homeschool mom of four now-adult children) Jane and I worked together to compile a list of tips, tricks, resources, and encouragement for parents who are now faced with the seemingly daunting task of educating their children from home. We hope these insights prove helpful and encourage you to THRIVE through this unique time, not just survive it!

So get ready, this is a long one. Grab a beverage, and put the kids in front of a screen and don’t feel guilty this time. 😉 Here we go!

Thriving While Distance Learning… A Few Points to Remember

  1. School at Home is NOT the Same as School in the Classroom… You don’t have to recreate the school day. *You might want to find a way to occupy your children for 6-8 hours a day, which is a different topic and we’ll have some helpful resources for that as well, but first, please release yourself from the idea that you have to be teaching or your child has to be “actively learning” for 8, 6, or even 4 hours each day. It’s simply unrealistic.* Public school is designed for many children in a classroom setting. At home, learning goes much faster one-on-one. Try to set realistic expectations including shorter bursts of learning, frequent breaks, and motivate with rewards. Remind your child that you’re in this together. If you both can put in effort to get through an assignment, then you can both enjoy a reward (make a fun snack, take a walk, watch a movie, etc) together afterwards. We will give sample at-home routines later on. See for free printables and resources for covering subjects at home. Also remember that worksheets are “busywork” and might be necessary in the classroom so the teacher can assess everyone’s knowledge; but at home, if your child can answer a science/math/social studies question orally, they don’t need to write it down (unless you’re assessing their writing skills, too). And if they can complete six math problems quickly, efficiently, and correctly, then they don’t need to do 16. That is exasperation and will lead to burn out. More practice is needed only when more practice is needed.
  2. Focus on the Basics and Keep It Simple… It’s important to note that most of what our kids learn for science and social studies is repeated year after year in public school. So if you are also working from home, or you’re short on time, don’t stress over those subjects. Science can be really fun to do at home but if you’re not a science person or the thought of social studies intimidates you, let it go. Reading and math are the foundational skills kids need to “keep up” in school so give yourself freedom to focus on those, especially if your child needs extra practice with either.
  3. You are Not Alone… As a former public school teacher, I can imagine teachers everywhere trying to figure out what this classroom hiatus will do to the rest of the school year or the start of the next. If you can remind yourself that everyone is going through the same new situation, you can take some pressure off yourself to do this “right.” Reach out to your teacher friends and your homeschooling friends. Seek advice when needed (the digital socializing will be welcomed, I’m sure). But avoid comparing to what it looks like your neighbors are doing. Every family is unique and gifted in different ways. You are the right parent for your child and you do have the ability to teach them!

So HOW Do we Thrive While Learning at Home?

Set a Goal. Ask yourself, “What do I want to be able to say about this experience when it’s over?” Matthew 6:24 says that we cannot serve two masters, and Jesus was constantly calling people to demonstrate their devotion to Him by giving up something else they held precious. I believe this principle (if we are not intentional about serving God, we are serving something else) can be applied here. Sarah Mackenzie, author of Teaching from Rest* and the Read-Aloud Family*, and host of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast said in a recent episode that if we are not intentional about setting a goal to a desirable outcome, we are probably working towards an outcome we might not favor. When your kids go back to school, you might say something like, “Well, we finished all the work the district sent home” or “we ‘did school’ for 4 hours a day” or “it nearly killed us, but we survived.” But if you’re intentional about setting a desired outcome, you will be able to say so much more.

When my kids go back to school/things return to “normal”, I want to say that…

  • we grew closer to each other
  • we grew closer to the Lord
  • I helped my child master a concept he/she was previously struggling with *Remember that public school is not really designed for mastery. It’s nearly impossible for one teacher to ensure that 30 students master a subject before they move on and many kids pass from one grade to the next with C and D grade averages. You have a rare opportunity to zoom in on an area of struggle for your child and help them get over the hump so they’ll be more successful when they return to school. It’s okay to push other things aside to give more attention where needed.
    • Need help mastering math facts? Check out or There are also several math game apps that can be used on tablets and smart phones. Math games such as Boggle, Rummikub, Farkle, and even Battleship are great to play with your kids. (Public school teachers employ these in the classroom, too, TRUST ME.) If YOU are struggling to figure out how the teacher wants your child to solve their math problems, now is a great time to discuss with your child how you would do it and give them an alternate way to solve the problem. This might help them figure out how to explain to you how they learned it. (Now THAT is number-bonding with your child!)
    • Need help with spelling? Check out Play Scrabble, Scrabble Jr., or Bananagrams (one of our favorites).
    • Need to work on printing or handwriting skills? Bible verse writing and copywork are great ways to enhance this and can be easy components of morning work. has FREE Bible verse copywork in printing and you can get cursive by joining the site for $10/month. What a great way to commit the Bible to memory, or something you can work on WITH your child! Writing letters is also a great way to improve handwriting and I’ll address that in more detail further down this post.
    • Check out Worldly Wise for help with vocabulary enhancement!
  • I helped my child learn a new skill or I learned a new skill with my child! Youtube has so many tutorials for things like crochet, whittling, and art! (My kids and I learned Chinese brush painting through youtube and it was so much fun!) Check out for more video tutorials on handicrafts. These are great for your kids to do during movies or read-alouds, especially if they are naturally on the fidgety side.
  • We improved our morning routine or got better at household chores. Parents of littles know that it is a daunting task to teach our children how to do a chore WELL. You have to put in a lot of effort up front to see a good return in the future. So if you’ve ever felt like you couldn’t help them get better at a chore or improve your morning routine because of busyness, now’s your chance! Get that morning routine down pat so it will be automatic when school restarts. Help them learn how to wash dishes, make their beds, or even cook a meal start to finish.
  • We did a unit study on a topic my child shows intense interest in! Visit for ideas and helpful tips and how to integrate school subjects into one unit. is a good resource for highschoolers, too!
  • My child “got over the hump” in reading and now enjoys it! This may seem like a stretch to those with reluctant readers, but it IS possible. So, let’s talk books…
    • First, I encourage everyone to subscribe to the Read-Aloud Revival podcast! It’s not just for homeschoolers, but for everyone who desires to “make meaning connections with their children through books.” You won’t regret it.
    • You can have a “family book club” or a “parent/child book club” or even a “virtual friend book club!” Pick a book, read it together (or separately during your own quiet times) and discuss them. That’s a literature class. And if you read a book that takes place during early American history, ancient times, the middle ages, or a biography; you’re also covering social studies! Visit for booklists in every category including struggling readers, first novels to read-aloud, and favorite picture books!
    • Listen to audiobooks! These are a great form of entertainment that doesn’t include staring at a screen. You can listen to an audiobook while doing a puzzle, a handicraft, coloring, or even cleaning the house or cooking a meal! If you have a struggling reader, it is perfectly acceptable to allow him or her to listen to an audiobook while following along in their own hard copy. It is a GREAT way to learn pronunciation, nuance, vocabulary, and fluency in reading.
    • Books that make good family read-alouds:
      • The Chronicles of Narnia
      • The Green Ember Series
      • The Wilderking Trilogy
      • The Penderwicks series
      • The Vanderbeekers series
      • The Bronze Bow (*great for Easter)
      • Vinegar Boy (*another Easter book)
      • Lost on a Mountain in Maine
      • The Golden Goblet
      • The Door in the Wall
      • Running out of Time
      • My Father’s Dragon series
      • The Little House Series (The Long Winter would be especially relatable during hard times, and these make FANTASTIC audiobooks–they are extremely well done!)
      • Anne of Green Gables
      • YWAM – Christian Heroes Then and Now
      • My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (*good for struggling readers)
      • Magic Treehouse series
    • Books you can read and then watch the movie (compare/contrast):
      • The BFG
      • Matilda
      • James and the Giant Peach
      • Because of Winn Dixie
      • The Tale of Desperaux
      • The Little Princess
      • Little Women
      • Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings Series

So now that we’ve released you of the pressure to do things “just so” (you’ll choose what’s best for your family, right?!) how exactly will you keep these kids occupied all day?!

  • Have a schedule and follow it loosely. I like to say “rhythm” rather than routine. A schedule is good for everyone’s mental health. Children thrive on structure, honestly they do. But you also need to allow yourself grace, especially during an uncertain time such as this. A good suggestion is to have “anchor points” during your day. These are times that give your day structure and are largely stuck to, even when other things go astray. Meals, for instance, would be anchor points. And then you can ask yourself, “what do we want accomplish before lunch, or after?” In our house, quiet time is a big anchor point. It’s always after lunch, after the kitchen is cleaned. We read a picture book and then it’s naptime for the youngest children. The older two sit quietly in their designated areas for 30 minutes of quiet self-directed study. They can read, do activity books, practice origami, etc. Then they get an additional 30 minutes to play math games on their tablets. After that, they can play together quietly (usually legos or a board game together) until their siblings wake up from their naps. This is the most blissful time of my day! We all need a little break woven into our schedules. A certain time of day for physical activity ( or outdoor exploration is a good anchor point, too.
  • You might try a designated start and/or finish to your “school” day. Maybe you open with devotions or a read-aloud time and you end with a nature walk? In our family, we do devotions during breakfast and then the older kids get right into their kitchen chores. When that is done, they have a checklist of morning work to get through on their own. If your child has a packet from his/her teacher and some of it can be done individually, now might be a good time to do it. Then I lead a lesson in whatever our topic is for the day, and we’re usually done by lunch, sometimes before. Then we focus on keeping a clean house, going for walks, reading aloud, art, music, or cooking in the afternoon.
  • Allow time for your child to research a topic of interest to them. This might be a “golden hour” everyday, or we have “Wonder Wednesday” when the kids get to “ask Google” about something they’re interested in or wondering about.
  • Write letters! I know this might seem archaic in our digital age, but consider that if writing a letter to a friend or family member is your child’s ELA lesson for the day, how they might enjoy it! Make sure you check for proper spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and letter format. The skill of complete sentence, paragraph, and letter writing are almost lost these days and you will be giving your child a good advantage if you hone these skills! If you’re feeling artistic, you can paint and design your own postcards to send to friends and family together. Letter writing could be done once or twice a week.
  • For additional ways to fill your days, look into for freebies and resources. Doing a craft after a read-aloud is a great way to use up time! For younger kids, try making your own playdough, baking, painting, drawing, and imaginary play. For older kids, the book Look, I’m an Engineer* has so many fun science experiments to do with household objects. (I will link other miscellaneous resources at the end of this post.)

Final tips to leave with you…

  • Remember that you’re teaching a child, not just material. Put your relationship before the curriculum. Don’t focus on what your child needs to learn, focus on what your child needs: you, comfort, security, connection, structure, love. You’ll do just fine.
  • Focus on the process, not just the outcome. You probably won’t find instant outcomes, so don’t look for them. Just focus on fostering relationship and learning with your child.
  • Expect pushback. Your children will struggle to see you as their “teacher” at first. Remember that you are their parent first and teacher second. Be honest. Acknowledge that you will do things differently than their teachers and that you’re learning together. Don’t take it personally when they exhibit a bad attitude; this is an adjustment for everyone.
  • Model a love of learning for your child. You’ll both be better for it in the end.
  • Plant a garden together. Read books. That’s really all you need.

Additional Resources:

*This post contains affiliate links.

When Will Daddy Be Home? (Finding Strength When Dad Works Long Hours)

It’s Friday night, our typical “date night”, but like this Friday night, we don’t always get to enjoy it. And like every other night this week, I put the kids to bed alone as they asked if they’d still be awake when Daddy gets home. (They won’t be.) Yes, it’s “peak season” at UPS which means while everyone else is trying to get more family time in for the holidays, we’re getting less of it. But though I’m no “newbie” to having a husband work long, odd hours; I’m still a work-in-progress when it comes to dealing with it graciously. (Mercy is not my strongest quality, you may know.)

So before I dive a little into my journey with this issue, I just want to say that…

  1. This post is not a way for me to put down my husband. I hope that will be clear. He works really hard for our family and I’m proud of him!
  2. I’m not seeking sympathy, and I know I’m not alone. In fact, most of my friends have husbands who work LONG hours or odd hours which leads them to manage their homes accordingly. I know there are many husbands out there who work longer than mine or are away from home for longer periods of time. I don’t want to compare. All moms have hard things they deal with. Period.

When Randy and I first got married, he was working third shift (11pm-7am) and had Thursday/Friday nights off. He was “emergency staff” which meant that he didn’t get any holidays off unless they happened to fall on his normal “weekend” and if someone called out sick for the day shift, he would sometimes get forced to stay and work a double. About six months into our marriage he also went back to school full time. And I got pregnant with our first child while working full time myself. We thought we were busy then! I longed for a time when he would work a “typical” 9-5 job. I dreamed we’d have family dinners, put the kids to bed, and then snuggle up on the couch to watch our favorite show, and then go to bed TOGETHER. And for a brief period after he graduated and we had two then three kids, he did work a “9-5” job. But he also worked part-time Mon-Thurs from 7-11 pm. No enjoying the evenings together. No going to bed together. A little over three years ago, for good and necessary reasons (that I didn’t understand then and won’t get into here) he gave up his two jobs and began working for UPS. His 8-hour days quickly turned into 10-hour days minimum, 12-14 hour days during busy seasons or difficult weather. And while yes, he was now home “more” in the evenings, he wasn’t home for dinner or bedtime–probably the most trying and tiring time of day for any mom. And then we had a fourth child. And now we have five. And I have accepted that I will not get the “typical 9-5” schedule I thought I wanted. And honestly, I’m okay with it. But it doesn’t mean that it feels normal when a week goes by and he hasn’t come home earlier than 10:00 p.m. or when he has to start working Saturdays during the already busiest season of the year.

When the long weeks hit and I’m forced to be “it”–responsible for all decisions, scheduling, planning, in addition to my regular tasks–I quickly realize from where I’m trying to pull my strength. Sure, I could last one day. I would get the text that it was going to be a “late one” and I would feel sorry for him. I would put on a brave face, tell the kids Daddy would be late, and I would take care of everything myself and make sure his plate was saved (if he even wanted to eat that late at night) in a clean kitchen. I would shut down the house stoically. Then the next day when the same text arrived, I would explode. Surely more than one day of this was too much to ask! I’ve been home with these kids all day and I need help! It felt personal. I knew he wasn’t doing it on purpose, but it still hurt. I didn’t remember signing up for this. And because I wanted to hurt him back, I would respond in anger. And then there were the Saturdays. Tell me you’re working a Saturday and I will accuse you of not putting your family first. I mean, they can’t make you, right…?

I remember listening to a podcast a couple years ago on this topic and one of the hosts described wanting to hurt her husband “back” for working long hours by giving him the silent treatment, willing him to cross her so she could explode. I thought I was listening to myself for a second. (Seriously, check out Risen Motherhood if you haven’t already. I can’t say enough good things about their book or podcast!)

But wait. The reason I take it personally when he works so much is because I believe that I am “owed” a certain amount of time by my partner. My teammate. My co-parent. Isn’t he “supposed” to be putting in a certain number of hours with us, too? But the reality is, my identity is not a mother or a wife, but a daughter and servant of God FIRST. And yes, He has given me the joy of being a wife and mother next and those are roles I take very seriously. But within them, whatever comes my way day to day, are really between God and me. My job is to do my best with it. Just as Randy takes what comes his way each day and does his best. God never promised I would have a “working 9-5” husband, but He did promise that He would take care of me and my needs. And that He would always be there for me, even 9-5, when I’m “supposed” to be running the house myself. And even in the middle of the night, when I’m getting up again with the baby/toddler/child.

And consider this: though it isn’t a personal attack on me when my husband works late, my sin really is an attack on Christ. And his response is not to hurt me back, but quite the opposite. And that’s the way I’m called to love my husband.

The truth is, I can only love him well when I’m rooting my identity and strength in the Lord and letting Him satisfy me fully. When I do that, He helps me show love and mercy, even when it’s hard.

So how do we make it work? Here are some practical things that we do in our house to keep our marriage and family strong, and help me maintain my sanity when the long hours hit…

  1. Find a routine that works and keep it up. It doesn’t mean it has to be a strict “schedule”, but a routine that becomes familiar to everyone is helpful so that whenever Dad gets home, he can easily recognize where we are in the routine and jump in if needed. For us, this means I’ve had to let go of the dream of family dinners for a while. We get them on the weekends, and they are a priority! But during the week, it’s family breakfast. We are now a family of early risers so that we get meaningful morning time together because we never really know what the evening will look like. I can remember when Randy first started this job and he would tell me when he “thought” he’d be home. If it sounded early enough to have dinner together (like, 7:00) I’d try desperately to keep the kids up and happy so we could eat together. But 7:00 would soon turn to 7:30, then 8:00. He didn’t quite know how long things took yet and whether he was going to be sent out to handle an emergency somewhere. And then I’d be left with hungry, tired children who I had to feed, bathe, brush teeth, and put to bed all alone. Much later than I wanted. So we decided that for my sanity, we had to maintain a decent bedtime, which meant dinner had to happen by 6/6:30 no matter what. We save a heaping plate for Daddy every night.
  2. My personal time with the Lord is vital and our time as a couple with Him is that way, too. We both have our quiet times in the morning. I get my workout in, and then we do devotions together at 6:30. (I told you we’re early risers.) Breakfast and family devotions are at 7:30 and then he supervises the older kids cleaning the kitchen so that by the time he leaves for work at 8:30, we can start our school day or whatever we’re doing all dressed and clean and ready to go.
  3. Family time is the best time! We have family movie night, family game night, family nature walks, family book club. Everything we do as a family is a big deal and it’s super fun. If we have to clean the house one Saturday, we play loud music and make it a big family affair. We take family day trips and overnight trips. We make the most of our time together because we know how precious it is.
  4. We save things for Daddy. Whatever happens during the day or whatever we discover, we make it a point to share with Daddy when we see him. (The kids recently saved him 2 pieces of origami paper so he could discover just how fun they think it is to make paper animals.) We save him what we bake, and save the biggest, best portions of supper for him. We video call him when we can and if possible, bring him a latte if his route is close to where we are. We do our best to include him in our day.
  5. Likewise, if Randy happens to come home early and I’m still preparing dinner or the house is (just a little) chaotic, his first words are always, “Hello, beautiful. How can I help?” When Randy is home, he’s PRESENT. He makes it a point to participate in our day when he’s able to.
  6. I don’t allow myself (anymore) to dwell on the negative. It was so easy to feel sorry for myself when day in and day out I was doing everything alone. But I’ve realized it does no good. And when we go to events without him, I smile politely and answer the “where’s Randy” questions quickly. It doesn’t do any good to try to garner sympathy from others by emphasizing his absence or trying to explain why he needs to be at work (or sleeping when he worked nights). I know he’d rather be with me than at work. My goal is to make him look good in public and especially in front of my children. (I do have my good friends who “get it” because they’re in the same boat. We vent every once in a while in a healthy way, trust me! Just because we know it’s necessary, doesn’t mean it’s always easy.)

Some verses that serve as good reminders for me:

  1. Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns anger away. But mean words stir up anger.”
  2. Romans 15:5-7 “Our God is a God who strengthens and encourages you. May he give you the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had. Then you can give glory to God with one mind and voice. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has accepted you. So accept one another in order to bring praise to God.
  3. Philippians 2:13 “God is working in you. He wants your plans and your acts to fulfill his good purpose.”
  4. Psalm 62:5 “Yes, I must find my rest in God. He is the God who gives me hope.”
  5. Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are tired and carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light.”
  6. James 1:12 “Blessed is the person who keeps on going when times are hard. After they have come through hard times, this person will receive a crown. The crown is life itself. The Lord has promised it to those who love him.”

I wish I could say I no longer get disappointed or have hopes and expectations of shorter days at times and that my reactions are always gentle. I’m working on it. God is helping me. And while mercy may not be my strongest suit, He’s blessed me with a husband who is very quick to forgive.

When the days are long, we tire quickly. It’s a good thing I have two laps even though I’m only one person.

Left: Randy helping with our Resurrection cookies last Easter. Right: Noah practicing his reading with Daddy. You can tell he jumps into our family life as soon as he gets home.

Advent Means Waiting…

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great LIGHT…” Isaiah 9:2a

We are a few days into Advent. Are you feeling overwhelmed with everything on your to do list? Are you already a little “behind” in the plan you had in place to achieve with your kids or personally this month? Maybe you want to cut back but you don’t know what to cut out… All the events, activities, and “plans” seem so wonderful!

Something Randy and I try to do is cast a vision for our family at the start of each school year. This allows us to set goals and helps us decide what events, extra curriculars, and other things are doable. Does it fit into our family vision? If not, we don’t do it. This year’s vision is all about rest and family togetherness. We are allowing ourselves to learn what it means to be a family of seven (!) without a lot of outside pressures. So when the busy season hit, we had to pick and choose which things encouraged rest and family closeness and what didn’t.

This Advent, we are using Truth in the Tinsel from Amanda White ( which encourages a simple craft to go along with a scripture reading everyday for the month of December, and we have our family Advent wreath which we light each Sunday and read scripture and sing a hymn together. This may seem like a lot, maybe the opposite of rest to some; but trust me when I say we’ve stripped away many other things. These activities just happen to be the “big rocks” in our jar. Everything else is the sand that falls in between.

I sincerely hope you are not feeling weighed down by all the options and stressed from all the running around. Advent means waiting, anticipating; after all. How can we do that if we’re busy doing all. the. things??? (Spoiler alert: you can’t.) But I also encourage you to find some way to shed LIGHT on the true meaning of Christmas in your home. Decide what your “big rocks” are and let everything else fall away. You’ll be happy you did!

Pics from getting and trimming our tree, always a good time and my favorite way to celebrate my birthday…

On Entering the Season of Busy…

Whether or not you homeschool, or if you have 1 or 5 kids, the end of August/beginning of September typically gets busy. The lazy days of summer are ending and the crisp air brings with it a fresh motivation to get back into routine and cross things off our lists. School starts. Sports start. For many of us, this marks the true new year.

As I look at my own lists, I can’t help but feel a little nervous. The busyness looks, well, busy. We’re starting a new homeschool year with five children. We will have soccer, piano, gymnastics, and co-op this year. New curriculum, new extracurriculars. We are house hunting and it’s already beginning to take a toll on my emotional and mental space. (Hey HGTV House Hunters, can you guys just come and do the work for me please? That’d be great, thanks.) We have a major plumbing project (not a repair, just a project, thank goodness) set to start at our own house on…. (drum roll, please) the day I planned to start our homeschool year. (Talk about throwing a literal monkey wrench into my plans! hehe. Sorry. Had to.) I’ve also got an almost 2-year-old who is absolutely insistent on “using” the toilet. So I guess potty training is happening. New friends, new get togethers, new social calendars. It’s all wonderful stuff, really, but it can be overwhelming when it’s all at the same time. So here are some things I’m making a priority right now so I can combat the stress of it all and not feel overwhelmed.

  • Staying in the Word. You’ve heard the adage that you can’t fill other people’s cups until yours is full first? While I appreciate the concept, the saying has always left me feeling a little… empty. I’m supposed to FILL my cup??? I have 5 kids to take care of! And then something in this morning’s devotion stuck with me. The author rejected this phrase and said that rather than worrying about making sure we’re full, we just need to make sure we’re constantly connected to the One who can pour His love and grace and mercy through us; like a vessel. I used to stress about getting enough Bible reading and prayer time to make myself “full”, as if that was actually possible. But really, as long as I’m grabbing hold of the True Source of love and grace without letting go, I can still dispel those things to the people around me. I stay connected by reading the Bible and my devotion on YouVersion while nursing, listening to Bible study podcasts, and through constant prayer.
One of my favorite podcasts, “Risen Motherhood”, produced this lovely flower printable as a reminder of the four parts of the Gospel. It’s on display in my bathroom (where I spend a lot of time meeting kids’ needs) and serves as a good source of encouragement for me.
  • Staying connected to our “peeps.” Family, church family, close friends. Right now Randy and I have pulled back from almost all of our regular church responsibilities we used to have while we adjust to our growing family, homeschool co-op, and house hunting. We have a lot going on right now! But we know the value of staying plugged in, even when we don’t have to be there. And while we need to be protective of our family time and our calendar right now, we also have to be intentional about scheduling time with friends and family. We need our circle to lean on, keep each other accountable, relax with, pray with, and do life with! We’d be lost without them.
This past weekend at a cookout we coordinated, we had 5 families including 22 kids present! They had a duct-tape warfare battle and it was epic. Though the night was fun and soul-feeding for us adults, it was the same for our kids. They need this too. (Excuse the blurriness, there was some serious action happening here.)
  • Exercise. Seriously. For the past eight weeks I’ve been following a training program and consistently gone for a workout/run four days a week. And on my “off” days, I’m practicing pilates or intense stretching to keep my body limber. And in return, I feel so good. My mood is better in general (not that I don’t have my, ahem, moments), I feel stronger when I play with the kids, and I have satisfaction in knowing I’m taking time for me and it’s actually doing my body GOOD. Along with eating better, this is true self-care.
I love that my “new” routine also brings me closer to my fitness-loving husband. And he’s more than happy to take the reigns of breakfast duties now and then if I oversleep a little or just have a really long run that morning. It’s amazing to come home to homemade oatmeal hitting the table or the smell of bacon already sizzling in the oven. He’s kind of the best.
  • Plan time for rest. Randy and I have scheduled date nights every Friday and there is very little that will get in the way of those. We need the time to romantically connect after the week and really relax. We eat what we’re in the mood for–either something delicious we cook together or order out–after the kids have gone to bed, and talk about anything and everything. But in addition, it’s important for me to know when my next “real break” is coming. We have a weekend away with friends coming up in a couple weeks. Hello, mini vacation! After that, I’ll be scheduling our first break from school and our next family getaways. Randy and I also try to get away for a night or two at least once every year. It’s such a great opportunity to recharge our marriage batteries, especially if we’re in the midst of an extra busy season!
  • Limit social media. I find that during highly busy seasons, this can be pretty tricky. That’s because when we’re stressed or anxious or over-worked, it feels good to mindlessly scroll through Instagram or Facebook. But if I’m constantly doing that, it does nothing to improve my mood or lessen my stress. In fact, it actually limits the time I have to do the things I should be doing to wind-down (see previous four things listed).

So with that, while I work on limiting my time on IG and FB, I’ll also be signing off this blog for about a month. I need to focus on getting our homeschool underway and in rhythm and figuring out how to make our fall schedule work for us while we also do everything else! I’ll occasionally share some old posts about homeschooling on my other profiles as we kick off this season.

I can’t wait to share about what we’re doing in school this year. I’ve worked hard this summer weaving together multiple curricula and lining things up the way I want them and I’m seriously stoked about the upcoming school year. I’m approaching this year in a whole new way (for me) with a fresh mindset. I’ll likely be writing about that and how it’s going next.

What’s on my nightstand right now. (Audible books obviously not pictured.)
Another way I unwind. 🙂

Are Holiday Traditions Too Much Stress?

Spritz cookies, candle making, sugar cookies, TV Christmas specials, Christmas Eve candlelight service, counting down the days with candy canes, advent wreaths, reading Luke chapter 2, Twas the Night Before Christmas, breaking the peppermint pig, paper crowns, pickled herring, and the list could go on.

All Christmas “traditions” we had growing up in my family. Some we did at home, others we did with the grandparents. Some were built into the weeks before Christmas in grand anticipation, others were a part of our family Christmas Eve celebration. Some were to remember Jesus’ birth and why we celebrate Christmas, others were for family heritage and family fun. As a kid, they all enhanced my Christmas experience. But as an adult, I know we can’t fit everything in every year and it can be difficult to decide what to do and what to skip to save our sanity. Holiday traditions can be stressful and in the age of pinterest and social media, the pressure to do and post all the cute stuff with our kids can be overwhelming and sometimes depressing. (For Halloween, did you carve pumpkins, hand make your children’s costumes, hand out regular-sized candy bars, AND serve hot cider to your neighbors? Did it seem like all the other moms on Facebook did?) Then there are all the memes that encourage you to abandon anything and everything that causes even the slightest amount of stress for your holiday season. But is that really the best option? Should we scrap everything? How do we decide? 

My peppermint mocha cookies I developed last year.

I feel like every year I set out to do less and still end up doing more than I planned. I’m still working on fine-tuning my filter to decide what stays and what goes each year, but I thought I’d share some thoughts I’ve had on the subject lately that are helping me on my journey and might help you, too!

The first question I’ve asked myself is: What does the Bible say about traditions? The Bible actually addresses traditions in a couple ways that I think are absolutely important to consider as moms deciding what we want to do with our children each year. First of all, we are encouraged to practice traditions that cause us to remember what God has done. God commands the Israelites to remember how He saved them by celebrating Passover, repeating the stories to their children, and in Joshua 4 God had them make an alter of stones to remember how He helped them cross the Jordan river and to tell the story to their children for generations. Jesus also tells the disciples to continue practicing the Lord’s supper after He’s gone in remembrance of Him. So traditions that point to Jesus–finding ways to remember Him and retell His story to our children–whether through story books, crafts, devotions, whatever, are not only good things to do, but we absolutely need to be doing them with our kids. I’m not saying they need to be the craftiest things on pinterest, but we should be doing something to tell our children the story of Jesus in a meaningful way.

But, Jesus also warns against doing outward deeds that are meaningless to our hearts. (Matt 23:27-28) He says, “Woe to you!” So absolutely DO NOT DO the super crafty thing if it’s going to make you bitter. Find a different way to pass on the Christmas story to your children and use a medium that comes more naturally to you. The last thing we want to do is look showy on the outside but have bitter and stressed out hearts.

So what about the other stuff? What about the stuff that is just family fun? Do we scrap it if it stresses us out? Yes and no. I’ve never thought that anything worth while is going to be completely stress-free. My key now is to figure out the exact source of the anxiety. Here’s an example. Every year I get annoyed when a child spills the flour everywhere and sometimes I might even yell if the cookie making process is getting out of control. But I still look forward to making cookies with my kids each year, and so do they. They don’t remember me yelling that one time–they count down the days until we make cookies together. I’ve come to accept that life with four littles is going to be a little stressful for me because it’s going to be messy and I don’t like mess. But, this doesn’t mean scrapping the cookie making altogether. What it does mean is maybe I don’t pass out cookies to friends every year anymore. Randy and I used to give cookies out at Christmas but the more the kids want to be involved, the more chances there are for messy cookies, thumbprints where they don’t belong, and unnecessary anxiety. So I won’t give cookies out anymore because that’s too stressful. When I don’t have kids licking their fingers every two seconds, this tradition might restart. So if you used to get my Christmas cookies and don’t anymore, don’t be offended, be thankful. 😉

Do I have to do the same thing every year? No! For this question, I say, do what makes you happy. My kids are growing, maturing, and changing. They are capable of more each year, but we still have littles. So now my two older kids might be able to handle more, but I still have to weigh the fact that I have an almost-three-year-old and a one-year-old around who want to “participate” but can’t fully. Last year I might have been able to do more because I had a napping toddler and a sleeping infant. Now with two toddlers, I have to weigh my options carefully and if I decide it’s not worth going the extra mile in something, I know there’s alway next year, or the year after. I’m never going to be able to fit everything in one year and that’s also what makes it fun!

So where can I get ideas for the meaningful stuff? Many churches offer family devotions to take home around advent and lent. They might even have family events that reinforce the meaning to these seasons. This is great because you don’t have to look far for inspiration if you follow your church’s calendar of events! Another source I love for advent and lent is Her advent devotional for kids is called The Truth in the Tinsel and her lent packet is A Sense of the Resurrection. If these are too time-consuming for you, there are so many excellent books you can read aloud to your children for each season–check out your local Christian bookstore. (We like “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at Christmas and “Benjamin’s Box” at Easter.)

If holiday traditions annually stress you out, this year I encourage you to remember the freedom you have in Christ to not do the same thing every year, and to not try to be the perfect pinterest mom. But don’t neglect the responsibility you have to pass down the story of Christ to your children! May your heart be happy and light and your fingers not be perpetually sticky. Happy holiday traditions!

Yes, we’ll be making these silly turkeys again this year, after all the other Thanksgiving preparations are finished. And it will be pure fun!

Homeschool Series Part III: What it Looks Like

It’s official. I stink at keeping up with the blog. I wanted to write and publish all three parts of this series within a week of each other and completely failed. I don’t know how other homeschool moms with littles write regularly, but I know there are some out there who do! Hats off to you, Mamas! As for me, I’m learning to accept my limitations and write when I get the chance. So here’s a little glimpse into our busy homeschool world…

If you’ve talked with anyone who home educates their children, you’ve likely heard all the benefits there are to this lifestyle: flexibility, tailored education for children, more free time. I touched on these and more in my last post about why we chose this form of schooling for our kids. (Be sure to check out Part I, too, about freedom in education.) But you might be wondering, “Ok, but what does a homeschool day actually LOOK like?” Whether it’s pure curiosity or maybe you’re thinking about educating your own kids at home and need some ideas, I’m going to address that question here.

I’ve said before that we loosely follow a Charlotte Mason style of educating our children. Charlotte Mason was a teacher in England around the turn of the twentieth century.  Along her career, she published several books containing philosophies of education. She viewed children as persons with their own ideas, interests, and desires. In her philosophy, children should enjoy the learning process through hands-on experiences, real and meaningful encounters with the materials or ideas being taught, and have opportunities to formulate their own opinions and thoughts, rather than being told what they’re “supposed” to think. She believed children should be presented with a “feast” of quality learning on a daily basis.

I’m not an expert on Charlotte Mason by any means, and I’m only halfway through the book, For the Children’s Sake, which is an informational book about Charlotte Mason’s life and philosophies of education. But everything I glean from books and podcasts about her philosophies I love. Picture studies, music studies, nature studies, and poetry studies are just a few of the things she insisted must be in a child’s education and we incorporate them all on a regular basis.

So what does our schedule look like? It’s important to note that it changes at times. Whether it’s year to year, or even week to week, the schedule doesn’t always look the same. I try hard to make my schedule serve ME, not the other way around. With two toddlers of my own and the occasional visit from our neighbor’s baby who I watch 2-3 days a week, I have to be flexible.  It’s also important to note that I keep my lessons short. This is another Charlotte Mason “trick.” I agree with her that it is better to have your child’s full attention for 5-10 minutes than to have half of their attention for 30-40 minutes. When they are giving their full attention, they will retain more information. And when they get into the habit of paying full attention, they will continue to do so when the time frames increase which is much better than getting into the habit of only half-listening or interrupting all the time. We can get so much more done in a short amount of time when we are working one on one or one on two and they are fully present in the lesson. It’s awesome! This means that most of the time, we are completely done with school by lunch. The exceptions to this are when the toddlers are really antsy or continuously interrupting us in the morning so some of the school gets pushed off until the afternoon when they might be napping. Or maybe none of us are feeling the art or read-aloud component of school in the morning and this is better saved for afternoon tea or snack time–picnicking outside on a blanket or cozying up on the couch indoors.

Our family has a 7:30 breakfast rule. Because of Sunday morning church and Saturday morning sports, this is a 7-day rule right now. Breakfast is at 7:30 everyday and you must be dressed with your bed made and ready for the day when you come to the table. On homeschool days, this is when we do Bible. We are able to discuss our devotions for the day over breakfast as a family. Immediately following breakfast the kids have a few chores to do and then it’s right into school. Abby is usually starting her spelling by 8:15. So here is what our daily schedule might look like written out:

  • 7:30 Breakfast/Bible
  • 8:15 Abby – spelling, Noah – play with Emmalyn & Eli
  • 8:25 Abby – ELA This varies daily from mini-lessons on grammar, oral narration, oral composition, written composition, dictation, poem memorization, copywork, picture studies, or week-long units on a different fairy tale which I’m incorporating myself. The lessons almost never go over 10-15 minutes.
  • 8:40 History for Abby & Noah This is usually in the form of a read-aloud and then a IMG_20180910_123457368retelling of what they remember. Sometimes there is an accompanying fun project or video. At the end of the week, Abby writes a summary of the topic or person we’ve studied.
  • 9:00 Abby – book basket (quiet reading from any of the books I’ve placed in the book basket for the week) Noah – kindergarten letter work, reading, number sense, etc, with me.
  • 9:20 Math We usually do a hands-on lesson with manipulatives on the living room floor or kitchen table. Noah participates with us. When the lesson is over, Abby does written practice in her math workbook. We use Singapore. 
  • BREAK/SNACK AT 10:00
  • 10:15 Science/Art/Other We don’t do science everyday but when it’s scheduled, we usually do it right after snack. We might have an art project to do, a music study, or something else that’s “special” planned and that would go here or after lunch.
  • After lunch we might play a math or reading or letter game or take a nature walk. Then I read aloud before quiet time.

There’s our schedule. It doesn’t always look exactly like that, but it’s close. I can’t emphasize enough that every homeschool looks different and it’s not always “picture perfect.” But I love this homeschool life, I really do. And I honestly think my kids do, too.

Whether you do homeschool, private school, or public school with your kids, Mamas, I hope you remember the freedom we have in our education choices and to change our minds when something doesn’t seem to be working. There is no “one-size fits all.” I’d like to leave you with just a few of my favorite quotes about children, education, and homeschooling.

Children want to be sparked like flames, not filled like barrels.” – Heraclitus

Whatever curriculum you use, remember to give yourself and your children three things: something to love, something to do, and something to think about.” – Karen Andreola

Homeschooling is about freedom. But not just doing things the way we want. It’s also about our children’s freedom. Let’s not hold onto our methodologies so tightly that we forget the reason we’re doing this in the first place. Children are born persons, after all.” – Ainsley Arment

Free time is necessary for the fruit of creativity. It grows out of a rich life. All children respond to this abundance with ideas, plans, imagination, playing. They solve problems, think, grow. Children respond to life by living. They need this time to grow.” – Susan Schaeffer Macaulay


Homeschool Series Part II: Why We Homeschool and It Works for Us

In my last post, I talked about how we have freedom in our education choices and should choose carefully what we feel is best for our families. I’m attempting to answer the popular question I get asked, “Why did you decide to homeschool?” in perhaps a round-about way.  One reason it can be hard for me to answer that question is because the reasons my husband and I decided to homeschool in the first place are not necessarily the same reasons we continue to do so. We’ve only been at this for a few years and are by no means experts, but I think our attitudes and beliefs about homeschooling have already evolved from when we first started even thinking about it.

When my husband and I were engaged and I was finishing up my student teaching in my last semester of college, he told me that if we had kids he wanted me to be a stay-at-home mom and wanted us to homeschool. I adamantly disagreed on both accounts. I was finishing my degree and I planned to use it! I also didn’t know much about homeschooling but my initial thoughts were something like: weird and unusual and why would I do that? Randy’s main reasons for wanting to homeschool had to do with having a negative school experience himself, wanting his kids to know and believe the Bible before anything else, and his political leanings. Being a libertarian, he tends to want to stay as far away from heavily government funded/influenced institutions as he can. I thought he needed to chill.

For me, I never thought much about how I planned to educate my kids. I guess I assumed they would go to public school like I did. Just like I never thought much about whether I would breast or bottle feed, or what I planned to name my children… until I actually became pregnant and was forced to start really thinking about these things. And though I was against homeschooling at first, over time I can say that God changed my heart. Although I loved my job and was really passionate about teaching ESL, when I became pregnant with my first child, I had an overwhelming desire to stay home with her. At the time this was out of reach. I continued working full-time until my second child turned one, but my desire to stay home never left and I started clinging to the idea of homeschooling because if Randy wanted it to happen so bad, I was sure he’d find a way to make it financially possible. And though I don’t want to get into all the details here, as a public school teacher, I saw so many flaws in the system that homeschooling continued to appeal to me. (It’s not that I don’t care about the education of all children or that I felt that my kids would really suffer in the public school system, but my heart and mind were being softened to the desire my husband already had for our family.) Homeschooling would mean getting to teach the way I wanted and giving my kids a quality education that centered around love, family, Biblical principles, and hands-on learning. So those might be the reasons we had in mind when we agreed to pursue homeschooling, but why do we continue?

Why DO we homeschool?

The first and simple answer for me is… I just love it. For a while, I didn’t think this could “count” as an answer. It doesn’t seem legitimate. But isn’t it? If I can give my kids as good, if not a better education at home, shouldn’t I first WANT to do it? These days, it’s not a popular opinion to love being around your kids. But I seriously do. It’s not that they don’t drive me crazy at times or tire me out; but in general, I really love spending my days with them.

My kids get a one-on-one (kind of), tailored-to-them education that is fun for all of us. They might not consider everything we do fun, because there is an element of work and rigor, of course. However, we get to do hands-on experiments, outdoor exploration, crafting, reading aloud, and kitchen learning that my kids don’t necessarily consider “school”, but I know better. 😉

Another reason homeschooling really works for us now, that we couldn’t have predicted back when we began, is that our family schedule has become unique and not at all what we envisioned when we first started a family. My husband isn’t home for dinner Monday through Friday. We used to say that we would always make family dinners a top priority in our family. But now it’s family breakfast. And quite frankly, I’m not sure our breakfasts would be able to be as leisure and meaningful as they are if we all had to run our separate ways early in the morning. Homeschooling allows us to have real family time in the morning so that if the kids can’t see Daddy before bed, it’s not as big of a let down. Homeschooling allows us freedom to be flexible with our schedules in other ways–to go shopping in the morning when stores aren’t as crowded, to take field trips at discounted rates on “homeschool days”, to take vacations on “off” weeks, or go out for lunch somewhere along Daddy’s route so we can have a family lunch out! And because the rigorous parts of school don’t take quite as long when you’re working one-on-one or one-on-two, we have way more time to explore other interests. Noah borrows books on outer space from the library, and Abby is working on writing her second “book” in a series. (Yes, she is quite an ambitious little girl… look out, world!)

Finally, homeschooling forces us to do family devotions and Bible learning. I am confident that we would want to do family devotions even if our children were being educated outside of the home. But I wonder how difficult it would be–especially with our unique family schedule. We use a curriculum that builds Bible learning into the schedule and weaves it into the other subjects whenever possible. So when we have our family breakfasts we do family devotions. This year in kindergarten, each unit that Noah studies focuses on a letter of the alphabet that stands for something God made. He is learning about God’s creation, A-Z. In second grade, Abby’s Bible theme is the different names of Jesus and she has a new memory verse every other week. She also gets her own devotional from time to time to do just with me or independently, but I am very grateful that our core Bible learning is already planned out for me and we have time in our day to fit it.

Now that I’ve made homeschooling sound so appealing… (right?!)… HOW exactly does it work? What do our days actually look like? And who is this Charlotte Mason woman I applaud so much and why was she so great? That’ll be in my next post, part three. 🙂

Here we are getting ready for breakfast during the first week of school this year. Everyone had a name card that had the meaning of their name on it and Abby got a new Bible.



Homeschool Series Part I: We Have Freedom (and Responsibility) in Education Choices

I’ve wanted to write about our decision to homeschool for a while. It’s a question that often gets asked, “What made you decide to homeschool?” And I wish I didn’t struggle so much with how to answer it. So maybe the process of writing it out will help me form a better verbal response the next time someone is curious. But I also want to share the joy and beauty of homeschooling with anyone who might be looking at their kids’ education options. I don’t think homeschooling is the only or always best option, but I do think it’s a great one! And I definitely can’t fit all I want to share about homeschooling in one blog post. So I’ve decided to create a 3-part series on homeschooling. The common thread through this series (besides homeschooling itself) is that we have FREEDOM in the choices we make in how we educate our children. So I hope you will find this encouraging and maybe even a little enlightening.


The main reasons I often struggle to answer the question about why we decided to homeschool is because I’m afraid of being judged and I fear others will think I’m judging them. But this fear is not rooted in Christ. Because of the Gospel, we have freedom to make many different choices; we are no longer bound by the law. As Christians, sometimes when we’re passionate about something, (without necessarily meaning to) we can turn it into a sin-issue in our minds, even if it isn’t one. Both Jesus (Matthew 15) and the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 10) reminded us that we cannot be made “unclean” by what enters our body, but only by what comes out of our hearts and minds. I think the decision we make about formally educating our children is a lot like this. It is not a sin to choose one way or the other, though sometimes we judge each other as if it were. And though we have this freedom in Christ, it also comes with responsibility. We have the responsibility to weigh our options carefully and choose what will be best for our family and children. And in a way, we all have the responsibility to “homeschool” our children, but I’ll get into that more later. First, I’d like to address some of the common misconceptions surrounding homeschooling and some of the reasons we worry about judgment…

Because we’re Christians, it is often assumed that my husband and I are trying to shelter our kids from the “evil public schools”, or that we think all Christians should be homeschooling their kids if they can. Neither of these are true. In fact, because my husband and I are Christians, we know that the only thing that can save our kids is Christ. And that because of the Gospel, we have freedom to choose the kind of education we feel is best for our children–because we believe that God works in all education modalities and there isn’t one that is best for all. Just like sharing a hobby one loves with others, I want to share the joy of homeschooling with others, but this doesn’t mean I think everyone should be doing it or should even want to. God made us all unique and all of our children unique, and that is a beautiful thing!

On the flip side, sometimes it is wrongfully assumed that homeschoolers are not doing their part to help take care of their community, or we receive judgment for not “adequately exposing” our kids to the diversity around us. But there are several ways homeschoolers can and do support public schools and help take care of their community. We donate supplies, participate in community activities, financially support community programs, and some families even volunteer their time at local schools as a family. And it’s also important to point out that exposure to diversity does not automatically equal loving kindness to one’s neighbors. That needs to be taught and can be cultivated in a variety of settings, not just a public school. Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling is difficult and does take a lot of time to prepare and can cause us to focus a lot of our attention inward while we’re working so hard for our families. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we have a responsibility to our community, as well.

Are public school teachers and homeschoolers on the opposite side of the education aisle? Can we even be friends? Of course we can! And if we have the best interests of children in mind and desire a strong education for all kids, we are very much on the same side. Rather than judging or condemning each other, we should be praying for and supporting one another. As a former public school teacher, I can certainly speak to the fact that teachers need our prayers! They need prayers for grace, patience, wisdom, guidance, and stamina. And they covet prayers for their students, too. Homeschooling families need prayers for much of the same. The parent/teacher/child/student relationship can be a tricky one to navigate.


I mentioned earlier that as parents, we all have a responsibility to “homeschool” our children. We have freedom to choose whatever mode of formal education we deem best for our family, a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. But we have the responsibility to educate our children about God’s laws, His Word, His Son, and also the things of this world, no matter where they are going to get their academic education.  We need to have an open line of communication with our kids so we can be aware of the influences in their life and set an example of what a humble servant of Christ looks like. And if we are teaching our children about these things as we should be; in a sense, we are all “homeschoolers.”

So with all this freedom we have to choose whatever kind of education we want for our kids, why on earth would anyone choose to be the one to do all the planning, prepping, and teaching math, science, history, reading, and keep their kids home all day when a bright, beautiful, yellow school bus could come and take them away for six hours a day??? I’ll get into why and how homeschooling works for our family in my next post…

10 Goals for a Year of Homeschooling

I was a little aghast when I logged onto my blog site to see that my last post was dated April 18! I knew it had been a while, but I didn’t realize it had been THAT long! I never even wrote about our final author study from last school year or concluded my series on our studies. I have pictures of recipes I planned on recording here, as well, which never happened. I have no profound reason for this other than four small children, the busyness of finishing our school year plus wrapping up my work at our church. I hope to write more this year about food, homeschool, and life but I’m not making it an official goal because my goals this year revolve more around DE-stressing, not adding more to my plate. 🙂 So let’s just say hopefully you’ll hear from again soon and on a more regular basis, although I’m making no promises.

I wanted to start our school year by recording some of my goals for the year, so here I am. These aren’t academic goals for my children, these are goals for me as their teacher, and our school year in general. So hopefully when I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or discouraged, I can come back to this and remind myself what I set out to do at the start. And if they provide any other homeschool mamas with ideas, encouragement, or wisdom, then I’ll be doubly blessed.

Goals for My Homeschool Year

  1. Connect with my children. We [loosely] follow a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling for the most part. She was a HUGE advocate for getting to know the children you are educating and treating them like people with opinions of their own. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the time you get to spend with your kids. I would be squandering that gift if I let our days pass by simply trying to get stuff done and not paying attention to what my kids are thinking, feeling, exploring, and learning. I do not want to sacrifice this grand opportunity to really get to know my children in order to finish the page, book, lesson for the day.
  2. IMG_20180819_071453058Schedule “margin” into my routine. I’m a planner. It’s pretty easy for me to set a routine and it’s not too difficult for me to stick to it. But what I don’t do often enough is schedule the “margins.” I’m learning to do this with time it takes to get ready or get somewhere. With four young kids, I’ve learned that it will take more time than I think it should to get out the door. So I plan for that. It’s a little bit harder to do with my school schedule, but my goal is to get better at it this year. Then I don’t have to get frustrated when a math lesson takes longer to complete than I expected. My kids sense my frustration, which leads to them feeling like they failed or at least, let me down. By scheduling “margin”, I hope to avoid (or lessen) these feelings of frustration on both ends.
  3. Remember to re-evaluate. This year will be my first year following an official curriculum for more than one child. My son has always been able to sit and listen in on his big sister’s schooling, and he has had his own little books to complete as well. But this year he’s more “official” and I’m a little nervous. So I want to remember to re-evaluate periodically. I need to re-evaluate our schedule to make sure both kids are getting the amount of time with me they need. I’ll need to re-evaluate our days, and maybe even our curriculum. I never want to become too set in my ways that my children suffer simply because I’m trying so hard to make something work that just isn’t working.
  4. Remember that I have nothing to prove. This is a tough one. The homeschool world has come a long way and so has acceptance of the idea. But in many cases, homeschooling is still considered unconventional. This leaves many homeschool mamas feeling like they have to prove they made the right decision. We feel like we have to prove that our kids are learning just as much, if not more, than traditionally educated children. We feel like we have to prove that they’re “being socialized” enough. And we have to prove that our children are enjoying every single day of this homeschool journey and THAT’S what makes it so “worth it.” But the reality is, not every day is a joyful journey. Just like anyone else’s school days, some are good, some are better, and some are pretty terrible. And you know what? My children’s and my identities are rooted in Christ alone, not other people’s perception of our homeschool. And I believe that He called my husband and I into this particular education style.  I do think that parents should weigh the education options they have and if they have a choice, choose the one they feel will be best for their kids and family. But we all have freedom in that choice because of the Gospel. WE are not our children’s saviors and homeschooling is not going to “save” my kids… from anything. (Other than maybe having to wait in the snow for the bus to come! One of the many things I love about this choice.) 😉 Only God can do that. So I need to remember that all of this is for His glory; not mine, and not my kids’.
  5. Be flexible. I should really try to be more flexible in all areas of life, but particularly IMG_20180820_124821840the homeschool front. I recently read Sarah Mackenzie‘s book, Teaching from Rest, and loved every minute of it! Along with the idea of scheduling in margin, another thing I gleaned from the book was to be flexible with my plans because #1: they may not be God’s plans and therefore, don’t matter; and #2: who can predict exactly what will happen over the course of the year/month/week/day??? A recent example of this was the way we started our school year. I had planned on starting with Abby (2nd grade) on Monday, August 27. Noah would start kindergarten on September 4. But then we were invited to a lake with a homeschool group for August 27 and the weather for that day and the following days looked gorgeous. And it just so happened that the week prior, our van was in the shop and the weather was pitiful. So Abby and I had a “soft start” a week early while we were stuck inside and didn’t make it a big to-do like the first day of school usually is. That freed us up to enjoy the next week outside and with friends. It wasn’t what I planned the beginning of our school year to look like, but it was definitely for the better. I hope I can continue adjusting with such ease as the school year progresses.
  6. Read-aloud ALL THE TIME. Okay, so this honestly stresses me out just a little bit. That’s because there are SO MANY great options for read-alouds and there is absolutely no way we can get to all of them! Right now, I’m reading 3 different chapter books aloud to my children. Abby is reading her own chapter book (and frequently requests to read chapters aloud to the rest of us) and I have 2 books going on my own. Not to mention the picture books we read before Emmalyn and Eli’s nap times. It is overwhelming, but in the best way. We are so fortunate to have so much great literature at our fingertips. I know I can’t get to every single great “classic”, so I’m not going to make that a goal. It would turn into a list I felt I had to follow and I’d stop re-evaluating and being flexible with our reading time in lieu of checking books off a list, and I don’t want that to happen! So I just want to read aloud as often as possible and make sure we are never without some interesting book to immerse ourselves in!IMG_20180812_191552991
  7. Pray always. This is another continuous “goal for life” that almost goes without saying. But sometimes it doesn’t, so I wanted to make sure I did. 😉 (Did you get that?) I want to make sure my plans align with God’s plans for my family and our schooling, so I need to stay connected with him. And while it’s easy to remember to turn to Him for the big things, sometimes I overlook the little things that could easily turn into big things if I don’t give them to God first.
  8. Get enough rest. I’m talking about me, here. I’m useless to the children I’m supposed to be caring for and teaching if I’m staying up too late planning, reading, or watching TV and not getting enough sleep. Even though I’ve always known I needed it, this has never been easy for me. So I’m making it a goal to make sleep a priority.
  9. Put the phone away. I have seriously cut back on screens for myself and my kids lately. It’s usually not that hard to do when the weather is nice. But specifically, I haven’t had Facebook on my phone in months and I really limit my log-ons these days. I love it. Days that I don’t go on Facebook at all are the best days. And take a look at goal number 6! How do you think we have time to read all those books? We’ve also been playing a lot more board games lately, which we love. But my phone can still be a hindrance to school time if I’m texting a friend, checking email, or hopping on Instagram. And since I no longer need it for work purposes throughout the day, it goes in the bedroom behind a closed door during school. We have enough distractions with the little ones running around, I don’t need to add to them myself.
  10. Take regular “field trips.” This year we’re studying U.S. History in 2nd grade and I feel so fortunate to live in New England during this time! Such small states so close together, and lots of American history right in our own backyard! So this is a more year-specific goal, but I want to take full advantage of our flexible schedule and prime location. I’m excited for a great school year!

Pictures from our lake day on what would’ve been our first day of school. So glad we opted for flexibility! 🙂

I’m so glad she’s developed such a strong love of reading!

A Sense of Accomplishment

Do you ever put off a small task for so long that by the time you actually complete it such a big weight is lifted off your shoulders and your feeling of productivity is disproportionate to the rather small size of the job itself? No, just me? Okay. I can accept that.

Example: We have a very small dual fish bowl with a divider for our 2 betta fish. I HATE cleaning it. It takes all of 5 minutes, but I still don’t like doing it. So when I intend to clean it out, I move it to the counter by the sink. And there it sits. Just staring at me every time I go to the sink. Taunting me. And still I let it sit for a week or more before I finally clean it out. Then, I feel an immense amount of accomplishment and as if I don’t need to do anything else that day. That 5 minutes of cleaning really took a huge weight off my shoulders. I’ve done so much today! Cereal for dinner, everyone!

When I was a girl, my mother taught me how to cross-stitch. (She taught me many other crafty things as well.) I really enjoyed completing little embroidered pictures until the day I picked one that was way too tedious for my child-level of patience! I’m pretty sure she warned me that it would take too long, but I wanted it anyway. It was a picture of a little girl in a pink dress holding a pot of roses. And she had dark, curly hair. So much dark curly hair! And that’s where I started. After weeks of working with just brown tones and feeling no sense of nearing any kind of completion, I gave up. I put the piece aside and again, it taunted me every time I looked at it. It was a reminder that I had quit, I failed, I shouldn’t have picked it, my mother had wasted her money on it for me, and I couldn’t move on to a new project or I REALLY would have quit. It sat there all four years of high school. Then, when I was packing up to start my freshman year of college, I secretly packed it in my car. I was an adult now, gaining my independence. I wasn’t going to let this uncompleted task hang over me. I finished the piece that year and paid to have it custom framed and presented it to my mother for Mother’s Day, or her birthday, or a combination of the two! 😉 It now hangs on the wall in my parents’ bedroom and I’m pretty sure she changed the entire color scheme of the room to coordinate with the picture.

I love the feeling of accomplishing something–no matter how big or small! Don’t we all? I can’t stand to see a task truly go uncompleted and since the cross-stitch project, I can’t recall a single project I haven’t completed. Although, I also haven’t picked up any new cross-stitch since! Ha!

IMG_2052Last week I got to experience another sense of accomplishment when I completed Elijah’s baby blanket! He’s almost 6 months now and I started at the beginning of my pregnancy, but at least it didn’t take 4 years! It’s actually not the longest it’s taken me to do one of my children’s blankets, either. Noah was about 9 months when I finally finished his. Abby was 3 months. Emmalyn is the only one whose blanket was actually finished before she was born. And in the process of completing my own children’s blankets, I made 6 others for friends’ babies! We don’t plan to have any more children ourselves so in a way, I feel like this chapter in my life is closing, though I can’t say that I’ll never make another baby blanket or crochet anything ever again. And I still enjoy the process, thankfully! Or maybe I’ll pick up a new hobby soon…


Either way, I’m glad to have this particular blanket done because it was a brand new pattern for me and quite a challenge. “Why did you decide to pick something new to you for your FOURTH baby when you have way less time on your hands?!” my husband asked. “Because I like a challenge.” And even more, I LOVE completing a challenge–even if that challenge is 2 bettas staring at me from the countertop for over a week. 😉