Losing My Life As a Homeschool Mom

I used to be a singer, evangelist, toured in a band and hung out with musicians. I had a billion friends and lots of time to spend with them. People used to recognize me when we were out: my long blonde big hair stood out and all the times I got to speak and sing in public made people who I didn’t even know, felt they knew me. I loved those days and remember them fondly.

losing
Rehearsing with some of my favorite people
God called me home when my daughter was born almost 15 years ago.

I just realized it’s been about one-third of my life! I always wanted to be a stay at home mom. As a creative extrovert, there has always been a part of me that has wanted to keep relevant and public. During my stay at home years I’ve run an at home business, led worship part time, and participated in various events outside the home. Every single time I try to run back and find myself, God calls me back to the home, and my husband and children, not to make THEM my identity, but to point them to Jesus. And I’m so grateful. 

While I’ve enjoyed managing meal calendars with fun stickers, singing lullabies and hymns to nursing babies, and finding ways to worship while cleaning toilets…it has wiped away all the glamour and accolades from what used to be a kind of public life. When my kids were little, they thought I was a sort of celebrity when I knew people everywhere we went. We now quietly run in and out of stores, without being recognized as the “singer girl and her kids.” 

losing
Proof of the big blonde hair

losing

 

My body has been morphed by eight pregnancies, my blonde hair is now brown (and let’s be honest, a little gray), and someone please bring me to a make up counter to teach me how to do middle aged make up! I’m no longer surrounded by lights and smoke, but little boys and girls growing into men and women. And I realized recently, I’ve lost myself. 

Several years ago, a dear friend challenged me to find my identity outside of music.

I wondered if I could. Subconsciously, I tried finding my identity in other ways. But over the past few years…I’ve found that an identity in and of myself is virtually meaningless. Yes, God has given me gifts. I can (and intend to) use them to bring Him glory and I even intend to enjoy those gifts. (I literally JUST had someone ask me to consider using music in my ministry again…so please don’t think I’m abandoning music altogether. It’s a gift to use, but being the music girl is no longer my identity. This is a GOOD thing.) Losing myself has been one of the greatest gifts of being a homeschool mom. Music, business ventures, even my husband and kids, my home; NONE of it can give me lasting fulfillment.

Recently, going through the routine aspects of my day; making meals, cleaning up, tidying the house, I was listening to some of my old favorite tunes. Watermark came up in the playlist, and this lyric just brought me to grateful tears: 

If I ever find my life, then I’ve lost it
For there is nothing more to life
Than to lose myself while I’m
Running, running, running
Running after You

It was like Matthew 10:39 came to life in my heart. As a homeschool mom I’ve had the gift of no longer running after my own life, but running after Jesus.It’s literally the main reason I’m home with my kids: to run after Jesus with them and to live out His call to me as a parent in Deuteronomy 6:5. He has been a constant, running after me. I’m surrendering to Him, and losing my life for His sake…and I’m finding my life, in Him. 

I’m so thankful for the precious calling on my heart. Giving up my own life for the call He has had on it, has given me the perspective I need to pursue Him more passionately. Losing my life as a homeschool mom for Jesus…and thankful for it.

Checking In With Our Kid’s Hearts

hearts

Lately, God has laid on my heart to check in with my kid’s hearts. Today, I took each of my older four children aside and went for a walk: one-on-one.

We set out, my oldest and I, and I asked some simple questions: “What’s going on in your heart lately? Anything on your mind? What has God been doing in your life?” She talked a bit, I listened. Then I talked a whole lot and she listened. That’s sort of how we roll. I’m a talker. She’s an introvert and listener. It was sweet. Her heart is golden.

We got back to the house and I asked the next in line to walk. We got outside and I said, “So, what’s God been doing in your life these days?” He looked at me and said, “Wow! This is so cool. I’ve been looking for a time to share with you some things I feel God is doing.” We walked and he talked. And it was amazing, because we were seeing answers to prayer together in ways that astounded us both.

hearts

My next son was eager to get out to the door when I returned. “What did you talk about with the older kids?” I laughed and told him how cool it is that we have similar temperaments and how we are both third born in the family. We discussed his gifts, and wondered what God might have in store for all of the unique ways he has been gifted. He doesn’t care for history, though the rest of the family loves it. So we talked about all the reasons it’s good to study it. We smiled, laughed, and he prayed for me when I felt like a migraine was coming on. He had recently shared some things going on in his heart so we checked in on that and shared our thankfulness for all that God was doing in his life.

Number four was anxious to get alone with Mom and see what this was all about. She initiated questions with me, and we talked about our dream home floor plan, setting, and decor. We began to get to heart issues and she readily shared some struggles, how she is wanting to grow, and asked for advice on how to deal with a few things. She prayed together and she asked for some accountability and to check in on how she is doing at a later date.

Little Cinca would have loved to go for a walk too, but at this point, my feet were a little raw from having worn flip flops and my headache was returning…so we sat together and read a silly book instead.

I’ve decided that my goal this school year is to do weekly check-ins with my kid’s hearts. I’m going to log in some time praying over this and our time together. Each precious child will get one day each week for a 15-30 minute heart check. We can pray, follow up on how things are going and share with each other in ways that aren’t practical for group sharing.  These kids are getting big and there is so much going on in each of them in their unique life stages. I’m so thankful God is leading us to connect in this way right now. I need it as much as they do.

Do you do anything special to connect with your kid’s hearts? I would love to hear about it!
I hope you all check in with me too to see how this idea is going this year!

Six Steps for Starting Your Homeschool Year Right, Putting On the Armor of God

new year

new yearA new homeschool year is upon us. No doubt, you have spent countless moments prepping for this time. Confessions of a Homeschooler and Homeschool Creations have been recipients of your many searches as you’ve done your diligent homework for the school year ahead. Budgets have been stretched and your shiny new (or used) curriculum is set up in the book shelves. The kids are signed up for all the church, co-op, and community activities. Meal planning has been done and school rooms have been re-organized. Each child has picked out new crayons, pencils, notebooks, and folders.

Good job mama!

Setting up our homes to educate our children is a serious task that takes wisdom, foresight, organization, and planning. However, if you are anything like us…shortly after beginning a new year of schooling and plans, you hit a snag. Maybe the kids aren’t quite as enthusiastic as mom about the new schedule. Math keeps getting harder and harder to explain. Attitudes are rough, voices raise, wills clash, tears are shed; before you know it, your best laid plans have crumbled around you. The kids sigh with relief as you usher them out to play, and you slump over in a chair asking yourself, “Why do I do this?”

Homeschool mama, please hear my heart…for all the lovely aspects we experience in the calling to homeschool, the reality is…this life we’ve chosen is HARD. There is no scheduling we can do, no curriculum we can choose, no organizational system that will shield us from this reality.

Thankfully, we can plan for all the challenges we WILL face as our new school year unfolds.

Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us to, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This is the first thing we need to do as we prepare for the school year: recognize that our struggle is not against our CHILDREN…but against an unseen force. The enemy or our souls doesn’t want us to homeschool! And he certainly opposes our efforts to disciple our children in this setting. STAND AGAINST HIS SCHEMES.

What schemes have you faced in your homeschool struggle? Whatever they are, you can know that you have everything you need to face them. So how do you then, stand firm and put on the armor of God in your homeschool?

1. Keep the belt of truth buckled around your waist:

Resist being tossed around by all the philosophies of the world and keep our minds set on truth. Be in God’s word! I know this sounds like another thing to “check off” your list. But it doesn’t need to be a burden! Be creative. You don’t need to do it like everyone else. Here are some ideas:
Have a daily quiet time and read the Bible on our own.
Read the Bible before/during/after breakfast or lunch with your children.
Join a Bible study.
Purchase a devotional book.
It doesn’t matter HOW you do this, what time of day, or how quiet it is around you…just DO it. Read God’s word!

2. Keep the breastplate of righteousness in place:

Recognize that YOUR righteousness will never be enough to please God. Realize that if you are God’s child, it is HIS righteousness that cleanses you from all sin. Submit to the cross..and know that your purity comes from Jesus’ blood. When God convicts you of sin, turn from it, acknowledge your need for God and obey Him. He will change your heart. (Hint…you will mess up in your parenting as you homeschool. A lot. Be quick to see your need for the gospel and confess your sin, not only to Jesus, but to your children.)

3. Make sure your feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

When you mess up in your home and confess and apologize, turn away from self condemnation. Ask for a Do-Over. But even better, use your mess ups, your kid’s mess ups, and life’s heart aches to continually point your kids to the cross and the gospel. When my kids sin, when I sin, when we butt heads, or argue, I have the opportunity to talk about our need for Jesus, and how He is enough for us. There are opportunities to be ready with the gospel of peace EVERY DAY in our homeschools. Keep going back to the cross, over and over again.

4. Take up the shield of faith: Faith is a gift from God.

If your faith is small or weak, ask God to increase your measure. When lies come into your head that cause you to doubt your calling, you need to replace those attacks with truth from God’s word.  Remember what He has called you to and why. Recognize the lies that seep in (i.e., Can I really do this? Will my kids be OK? Did I pick the right curriculum? Is it worth it to homeschool and live on one income? It feels like we are missing out! Fill in your most common lie), and ask God to help you to resist believing the lies, and believe He will be faithful.

5. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit:

Our kids put on helmets when they ride their bikes to protect their brains. We need our brains protected by continually renewing our mind. We need to hear the story of salvation often. Let’s renew our minds with the truth of what it means to be in Christ. Remember it is HIS goodness that keeps us and changes us, not our own. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by quoting scripture. Scripture is our greatest tool in facing everything we face as moms educating our kids at home. I’ve said it a few times in this post already…but Ephesians 6 seems to make it a recurring theme, so I will too; read it, quote it to combat lies, memorize it, sing it, just let it be your guide. 

6. Pray!

Pray for your children, your homeschool, your home life, yourself as teacher, your husband. Pray, pray, pray as you shower, exercise, make meals, and clean toilets. Pray when you are fighting with your kids (even better, pray together!). Bring ALL your prayers and requests to God. Be alert and pray for your homeschool friends. Pray WITH your homeschool friends. Start a prayer co-op. Two school years ago, my kids and I invited three families to pray with us, two times a month. The boys prayed together (my oldest son lead), the girls prayed together (my oldest daughter led), and the moms prayed together (I lead).

I can not promise you a year filled with ease by following these steps. You can count on various trials as you face your days: sick kids, messy houses, bad moods, confusing studies, bad diagnoses, family problems. I CAN promise you that when you put on the armor of God you will be guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. You will come to a fuller, more mature faith; growing in Christ. Your Savior will face each challenge with you, keeping you strong, helping you stand firm, until you see Him face to face.

Here’s some extra credit for you:

One of my kids and I have had regular face offs for awhile now. Both of us have had some less than exemplary behavior. Tonight, we went together and hung out, just the two of us. We talked about some things God is teaching us, we played cards, we ate junk food. Right before we left to go home I said something really simple. “I’m REALLY excited for this school year with you. I love you so much. We’ve had some hard times. We will probably have more hard times this year. But, I’m committed to you. And I want to work on communicating better and showing you love and patience.” I wish you could have seen the smile on my kiddo’s face. If you need to do this with any of your kids, do it! You will both be so glad you did.

Homeschool on! These days are precious and fleeting! Enjoy…and put on your armor!

Does a Connected Approach to Parenting Really Make a Difference?

Recently, someone yelled at me for not doing what this person wanted me to do. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and I felt a familiar rage rise up inside of my spirit. I was ready to fight back against the injustice spent on me. Before I opened my mouth, a flash back of a conversation I had with my 14 year old daughter raced through my mind:

Jules was in a musical…and her director, talented, but fiery in spirit, often said unfavorable things to the cast. The negative comments were not directed toward her, but her castmates. However, one day, my daughter and the cast mates she worked with most closely were the recipient of sarcastic, hurtful remarks. When I picked her up that evening, I asked if there had been any blow ups at rehearsal. Jules calmly explained the situation, with no inflammatory remarks toward anyone. I was livid that an adult spoke to my child this way. I asked my daughter’s response which was,

“Mom! It wasn’t about me. I’ve watched the director interact with the cast and it’s just how this particular director chooses to work. It isn’t the best way to address things, but it also isn’t personal. I don’t need to own this and feel upset. I’ll keep doing my best and look for what I need to work on in the midst of words that are unpleasant to hear.”

connected teens

The silence in our van was deep and wide. I had to catch my breath, reflecting on the maturity of my first born. In all honesty, had it been me, I would have probably debriefed it with about three friends and let it bother me for days. I’m guessing my 14 year old would never have mentioned the event had I not asked. Her ability to measure the situation with such maturity took my breath away.

As I reflected on my daughter’s capacity to face unwarranted hostility, I took up courage and strength and made a choice. The person who yelled at me wasn’t my issue to take on. It wasn’t about me! Because of the strength garnered from my daughter’s example, I faced my adversary calmly, respectfully, and even validated this person’s feelings about the situation.

And the words from Romans 12:18-21 immediately rang true:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will replay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” 
Those verses references are from Proverbs 25 where the Lord concludes, “In doing this, the Lord will reward you.” I was rewarded immediately, with a peace flooding my own soul.

My oldest son was sitting out by our fire pit, looking deep in thought. I went out and asked if I could join him. I told him I would be up for listening to anything that might be on his mind. He slowly opened up to me some troubles he was having with a sibling. I looked at this almost a man, but still my little boy in absolute awe. Five years ago, this boy suffered with an overactive sense of justice. He kept me on my toes and my knees as we dealt with his often big emotions which could disrupt the household. Today, he quietly shared his struggle with kindness toward a misbehaving sibling. He told me he was asking God for wisdom and help to love this family member with an enduring “love you no matter what” kind of tenderness.

connected teens

I felt tears spilling over my eyes. I confessed my own struggle to love unconditionally when this family member acts out. Putting my arm around my son in understanding, I shared how his godly response was exactly the example I needed to move forward in parenting this child. He looked at his own actions and went running to Jesus for help. I shared how proud I was of the character growth, humility and love, he exhibited. We prayed together…asking God for wisdom, growth, and His spirit of kindness and love. We prayed for our sweet family, lifting up the challenges we face together. Humbly we asked for God’s Spirit to reign in the midst of the joy and the heartache.

We walked back into the house and I silently thanked God for intervening in our family so many years ago now.

There were so many times in the beginning of our journey as we began to change our mind set from “adversarial” parenting, to a more connected approach, that I doubted and wondered if this was the right way to go. I have no question anymore. My children are more equipped to face the world and it’s challenges as young teens, than I was in my first few years of marriage. I’m learning from their depth of insight and maturity and challenged to be a better version of myself. What a gift to move from a place of trying to control these little hearts, to a place of freeing them to be who God intended.

Giving our kids a safe home where they know they are loved no matter what; where they understand they are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing; creating an environment where our children are responsible for their actions and moving toward wisdom is something I will never regret. I’ve been struggling the past couple of months to implement these messages consistently with a couple of my kids. I’m re-energized as I see my older children living them out on their own. And I’m ready to re-commit myself to living out these values in our home.

I hope you choose to join me in my own journey. Together, let’s reach our kid’s hearts for the sake of Jesus and reconciling our children and others to God.

When Children and Big Families Become Idols In Our Lives

large family

Sitting around the picnic table at my in-laws’ cabin, my mother in law laughed and said, “Could we get any more people around this table?” I looked at the nine of us sitting there and said, “Well, we tried.” There was a little bit of uncomfortable laughter, because of course, we lost our last baby. Later, this conversation caused me to reflect on the idea of having lots of kids.

How we got to our number of kids is an entirely different post. However, I remember when we decided that our home was not complete after having the “perfect” one girl and one boy…I began to think about large families. I read the “large family” message boards on Baby Center. There was a lot of complaining on those boards about comments people made about numbers of children or how people would stare and count heads as a mama and her many ducklings walked by.

large family

I remember being slightly nervous when we announced baby number four. How would people react? Would we get the stares and weird comments? It turns out, we did. I was accosted by a grandmother in a grocery store who lectured me on being more responsible to the planet as my 6, 4, 2, year olds and newborns sat blinking wide eyed at her. This was the first of a long line of comments we received. I had joined the offended group of mothers of many.

There is another side of this club however. Once you have a “larger than most” family…you begin to meet large families. Homeschoolers often have large families (again, the reason for this could be another entire post). When you are surrounded by people who don’t judge you for having children…another problem sometimes occurs. You are judged because you don’t have enough of them.

I’ve talked to SO MANY women who feel the number of children they have is inadequate. They feel sorrow for having ended their fertility because their family just didn’t fit the mold. Some women feel they have to explain repeatedly that they longed for another child(ren) but their biology or their spouse or some other reason stood in the way. Other women have felt left out of conversations or belittled because they possibly had one less child than the other women in the room. Believe me when I say, I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

When we lost our last baby, I was sorrowful for the loss. I was also sad because I wanted to have another baby so much. As some time went by and I was processing my feelings, my good friend asked me a question, “Are you idolizing the idea of having another child?” The question shocked me. Was this possible? Children are a blessing! I quickly realized however, that many blessings in life can become an idol. I stopped and took stock.

Had I ever thought I was “better than” someone else because of the number of children I have been given? Ouch, that hurt. I was guilty.
Was I trusting that God had a plan or was I trying to force my plan on Him? Uh-oh, guilty again.
The reality is that, while large families can often be insulted by others…there are also many comments made to us that puff us up. I can’t tell you how often I’m lauded and praised simply because of the number of children I’ve given birth to. I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has let a few of these comments go to her head.
Having brought a certain number of children in the world doesn’t make you an amazing mom. Raising them well, caring for them diligently, and giving them every opportunity to know Jesus Christ…that’s much more impressive.

One day my kids were watching the Bate’s family reality show and one of the adult children was asked the question, “How many kids do you want to have?” This young mom of three had had difficulty conceiving and suffered several miscarriages and answered the question like this, “Well, that’s kind of a silly question isn’t it? It’s not really about the number of children I want, but what God wants.” If you really have a heart submitted to God’s plan, than you can be satisfied with fewer children if that is what God provides as well, right?

I remember standing in the kitchen hearing this woman answer with faith about her number of babies, and I realized that I may have had a subtle picture of children not simply as blessings from God, but as trophies to show off. I felt a familiar feeling of conviction. Pride.

I thanked God for rebuking my heart and I completely surrendered my family size into His hands. You see, surrendering to Him doesn’t always mean having 19 kids. It can also mean, you will have five (or whatever number He has blessed you with). Jesus knew in His wisdom that this time of adding babies into our family had come to a close and I thanked Jesus for the beautiful blessings He has given our family.

I am not “more” than a woman who has zero, one, two, three, or four children. I am not “less” than a woman who has six or more children. My “quiver” size has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else’s. The amount of “blessing” that children are, aren’t in the number of them we receive. They are in living out God’s beautiful plan for each of our families. You are not defined by the size of your family. If you are in Christ, you are defined by who God says you are, and that alone.

Dear moms of many…I encourage you to untangle yourself from any subtle lies that you may be believing. Your children are a sweet blessing, but they don’t define you. Be free from numbers, competition and letting your family size go to your head. Enjoy each blessing He gives you but do so with humility as you interact with other moms around you.

Dear mama friends…especially homeschool mama friends who feel the burden of being left out of the “moms of many club,” please be free. Delight in the gifts He’s given you…not the number, but the individuals in your home. Let go of the pressures around you that say you aren’t good enough because of your family size. Embrace the unique, beautiful plan God has laid before you.

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Isaiah 61

Through an unfortunate turn of events, I was brought back to a painful time from my young adulthood. Thrust into a room full of people with whom I shared a mixed past, I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of emotion it carried. We were gathered together to say goodbye to a young life, tragically taken too soon. I wept for the dear friend who was experiencing the loss of his son. As time went on, I found myself weeping for other reasons as well.

Sixteen years ago, I left a job I enjoyed, to take a position at a new church. The beautiful time I spent working with people I loved in this new position, has been overshadowed by the devastating blow I experienced when that job came to a close. In one fell swoop, I lost my ministry, my title, my income, my community, my identity, and over the months and years that followed, some of my closest friends. The words used to expel me from my position stung to my very core…and as time spun out, I realized I had lost even more; my drive, ambition, passion, and self-image were challenged at a frightening level. It took me years to cultivate a new picture of who I was when my world fell apart.

Walking into the funeral, seeing faces from one of the most challenging times in my life, I felt nearly frozen inside. All the work I had done to forgive, seek repentance, find closure, release bitterness…it was like, it vanished. Insecurities rose up into my chest like a hormone charged hot flash. To top it off, I found myself sinking into a shame spiral for letting thoughts of self, mix into the grief I felt for my friend and his family.

However, as the day wore on…I began to see beauty once again, rising from ashes. Slowly, God began to work out a mantle of praise, to replace my spirit of fainting. Levity found a path to healing, when a friend who saw my suffering leaned over to tell an off color joke. The warmth of companionship and encouragement met me through a phone call from a sojourner who understood some of my suffering. That phone call brought the grace, and healing words I needed when my friend reminded me, “God’s grace is bigger than what you thought you needed from the past.” When I thanked this friend for not judging me in my selfishness on this day, he assured me that God was nudging me toward healing in deeper places than I had yet explored from these past events.

Isaiah 61

I felt myself rising up, like an “oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

The suffering that took place in my past was a deep wound. Tonight, I thanked God for those wounds inflicted on me. For some reason, He found it so good to take that pain and “rebuild the ancient ruins, raising up the former devastations.” In the midst of the turmoil, he spoke rivers of grace and has been “repairing the ruined cities” in my life. “Instead of shame, I have been given a double portion, instead of humiliation I am shouting joy over my portion. Everlasting joy is mine.”

I may have been removed out of ministry, and been robbed of relationships by the enemy of my soul. However, since that time, the Lord God has given me five children to minister over every day. He has given me the calling to homeschool. Jesus has given me a deep richness of friendships and community with some of the most amazing people He’s ever created. God has knit together my heart to my husband’s and given us a new ministry; encouraging parents to lead the way toward a gentle, biblical foundation of parenting children, in order to equip parents to disciple children in their homes.

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.”

Thank you Jesus for restoring to me the years that the locust has eaten and given me more than I had before. You are good. Even in the pain, I praise you.

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Instead of tulips popping up this April, we had a massive snow storm. Shut in due to weather, I decided to re-organize our school room and prepare it for the next year. I thought I would share our space with a picture tour. Enjoy!

school room

These are the big four’s desks.

school room

Looking from the other side of the homeschool room.

school room My desk. The white storage cart at the end is where they turn in finished work. I correct it, slap some Michael’s stickers on it (stickers are in the white bin hanging off the homework hand in cart) and hand it back.

school room

The top shelf of the Expedit shelf holds school supplies and things I might need at my desk but don’t want sitting out in the open.

 

school room

The 3-ring binder row. The box on the left holds our discipleship folders we use in a class we call, “What’s Up?” The next box over holds our “Picture Smart” Bible pages. The third box has my kid’s color coded binders. I put all of the finished work I want to keep in those binders. It’s really nice to have them accessible. I put in their papers, paintings and drawings, and anything cute the smaller kids create during their days.

school room

These are my leveled reader shelves. Most of the kids are finished or nearly finished with these shelves, but the concept worked really well, so I’m going to keep them there for Cupcake when Catty finishes up. I altered the organization just a wee bit from my original post.

school room  This is Mommy’s shelf. I placed my favorite parenting/homeschool books here, just to feel like I have some adult friends with me, holding me accountable during the day.

school room

Sticky notes, head phones for computer use, and smelly markers. A bit eclectic, but we needed a spot for these much used items.

school room

The clear bins hold puzzles, special “school time” learning toys and activities for Cupcake. The canvas bins on the bottom shelves hold our Heart of Dakota curriculum years which are not in use at the moment.

https://www.heartofdakota.com/

The book shelf on the left of this photo holds our Shutterfly year books and most beloved book sets. Cupcake’s desk is full of notebooks and coloring books and sticker projects and whatever she wants to keep there.

https://www.shutterfly.com/

Moving on to the cupboards! The top to shelves hold glue/gluesticks, extra crayons and markers, mod podge, gel pens, duct tape, trays and smocks for painting, etc. The bottom shelf holds all of my pre school materials: Before Five in a Row, Pre-AAR, and several beginning readers.

https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/

I didn’t do anything to this messy cupboard. It holds batteries, a laminator, more gel pens, old crayons, notecards, and a label maker. It’s a small out of the way cupboard and I fill it with things we need only occasionally.

school room

Here we have Bible and devotional books, art books, poetry and sensory supplies. If I need an activity for a bored kid, this is my go-to spot.

school room

This shelf holds Ancient History, a little bit of Geography, Early American History (currently in use), and several science texts and books. The bottom shelf has a smattering of modern history and an open spot for my big plans to continue adding Sassafras Science to our work load.

school room

This cupboard holds our Math and early reading and spelling curriculum. We use CLE math for grades K and 1, and switch to Teaching Textbooks as soon as we pass into level 3. I’m not using All About Reading or Spelling at the moment, but hanging onto it, just in case I need to use it for Cupcake. My guess is we will use the readers, but I don’t know if I will be needing that rigorous of a program for her. The bottom shelf holds my oldest son’s work he needs to finish for grade 6.

school room

The last hanging cabinet is reserved for English and Spanish. It holds a few more spelling pieces, Rod and Staff grammar, Analytical Grammar for future use (of which I am a BIG fan…but that’s another post), Logic of English (which I probably won’t use anymore, does anyone want it?), and Spanish text books and plans. The bottom shelf holds most of the 9th grade work my oldest will be starting soon, along with a couple of books she will be finishing up in the next week or so.

school room

Just thought I’d share my daughter’s master piece “cheat sheet” for sentence diagramming. Seriously, I BARELY understand this stuff. She’s a whiz.

school room

We don’t have much in this room that isn’t directly related to schooling choices. But we do have a cupboard full of some favorite games.

school room school room

These last two pictures are “bonus pics” :). The top one is a shelf in my kitchen I use for our “morning time” together. It also houses the group work I do with the middle kids. It’s just too noisy to do much group work in the actual schooling area. We reserve the “school room” for a quiet study space and one on one instruction with mom. Group work is done at the kitchen table, in the play room, or on a couch somewhere. The bottom picture is our music area. That Hobby Lobby locker stores their music books, and I think it is just the cutest.

I hope you enjoyed my picture tour! It was fun sharing it with you. It really helps to have a “home” for all of the supplies we use in our homeschool. Of course, you don’t NEED this kind of space, but I find it a huge blessing. One of my favorite things is to look at pictures and videos of other homeschoolers schooling spaces. If you have a space you’d like to share, link it up in the comments. I’d love to join your tour!

 

 

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

bedtime

bed

The usual bedtime routine with my four year old looks something like this: Daddy helps her work through her evening list of tooth-brushing and pajama wearing. She then hides under the covers and giggles waiting for me to find her. I pretend I don’t know where she is and call through the house. When we throw back the covers for the big reveal, we laugh and snuggle. I sing to her, read her a book, say prayers with her, and we chat a bit. She asks me to stay with her awhile, and I do…until she is asleep.

Tonight, I left before she fell asleep. Earlier in the evening, I heard one of the big kids say they hoped to play Apples to Apples as a family. When I got downstairs the game had begun, and I joined in. Minutes later, little Cupcake walked down, saw us playing and with a pathetically sad voice said, “You KNOW how I feel about you being with me at bed time…PLEASE, come back.”

I DO know how she feels. I also know she is the little caboose in our five car train. The four “train-cars” sitting in front of me were proof that this little girl bed-time sabotage doesn’t last forever. I could have chosen tonight as a night to help her grow a little in this area. That wouldn’t have been a horrible idea. However, my heart flooded with a love and understanding for a little mommy-loving girl, who really loves to be by my side. 

I called her to me, asked her to climb up on my lap. I wrapped my shawl around her like a blanket and sweetly suggested she close her eyes. As she snuggled in, she looked up and said, “I know this isn’t really the time for talking, but could you just pretend that I’m a baby and you’re the mommy and you’re rocking me to sleep?”

Right now I can picture sighs from wise Grandmas who know I got a gift tonight. I am aware there may be some people reading this who think I’m a fool, letting my baby have power over me.

I’m all too aware that these sweet babies in my home are meant to grow up…and my job is to help shape them into adults. I also have the gift of perspective…being an older mom, who realizes four year olds don’t stay four.

My first four babies came approximately every two years. I didn’t have the option of making the choices I make with our little Cupcake. It wasn’t realistic to sit with each one until they drifted off to sleep. Honestly, if I remember correctly, I probably would have sat with my girlfriends, discussing how hard it was to get the older ones to bed, thinking this stage would never end.

The stage did, however, end. Not because I struggled with them to stay in their beds or did anything to teach them to self regulate. It ended because developmentally, kids don’t stay four. They grow up. I wish I would have known this back then. Isn’t that life? Experience is our best teacher…and rose-colored glasses are a good friend.

I’m thankful tonight for the sweet gift of being an older mommy. What a sweetness God has granted in the five souls He designed to grow up in our home. If  you’ve been given sweet babies to raise up into men and women, please remember them as a gift. Hold them tight. Sing them “Silent Night,” by the tree while you rub their backs and re-tell the greatest story ever told—of the God-man who became flesh.

Holding my little one while playing Apples to Apples with my big kids and David isn’t something that will go in our photo album. It was such a forgetful, ordinary night. An ordinary night transformed into a tender, Christmas gift, I intend to cherish awhile.

Merry Christmas from Swannie House friends!

~Let every heart, prepare Him room~

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

tragedy

There is so much bad news. Hurricanes, earthquakes, mass murders, terror attacks, droughts, disease. Our newsfeeds are full of inexplicable horror stories and tragedies on a daily basis.

In the aftermath of the Vegas attack, I began to hear personal stories. People I knew that were at the concert. Friends who knew people who had senselessly lost their lives in this unexplainable horror. I fought inside with how to properly share of yet another shooting with my children. How do we raise our kids in such a scary world?

Politicians and keyboard warriors began their verbal sparring which is the typical response to tragedy today. We are angry with each other because of our beliefs about climate change, gun control, and who really is or isn’t pro life. Instead of coming together in our heart ache, we rip one another apart and cause even more sorrow around us.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream: My family was sitting together around the kitchen table, when I suddenly felt my body floating up into the air. David was next to me, and I turned around, reaching my hand to one of my children, joyfully saying, “Come! The Lord Jesus is calling us home!” I realized there were two shadowy faces, still sitting at my table, while David, three of the children and myself were all rising up into the clouds. My face turned toward Jesus, and I wasn’t able to think anymore about who had been left behind, I was only filled with joy and marvel at being taken up to the one who has loved me and called me His own.

I woke up from the dream. When awake, I was able to remember there were people I loved who weren’t taken up to the Lord. It was a miserable beginning to my day. But, it brought me straight to my knees in prayer.

I really don’t believe my dream had a direct correlation to the rapture of the church or the eternal destination of my children. I do believe that God spoke to me in that dream.

tragedy

Picture source

My friend Tammie and I were texting about the Vegas tragedy, the worries of nuclear war, and the plight of some specific orphans with whom we had become aware. (You know, just your normal, run-of-the-mill texting conversation.) One thing I shared with Tammie that day, I’d like to share with you: “there is not much time left, no matter how we slice it. It’s time to live for better things.” I often hear people say, “Oh, there have always been signs of the end times.” Why do we do that? Do we want to convince ourselves this isn’t the end?

The truth is this: whether Jesus returns in our lifetime or not, our days are limited in number. Time is running short for all of us. Our life is but a vapor. When we see earthquakes, and famines, wars and rumors of wars, mass murders and horrible disease…let’s stop deflecting these signs in fear. Let’s face them as signs of His return as He said and realize that we have MORE to live for.

What gets us out of bed in the morning? For what do we strive after each day? Are our hearts set on our jobs, school, our possessions, finding ways to fulfill ourselves? When tragedy happens, do we hit our keyboards to rail into the opposition’s belief system? Let’s begin to respond differently! With an eternal perspective that remembers that there are only two things that last: people and God’s word.

I want to set my heart on things above and store up treasures in heaven. It’s the only way I can respond to all the heartache and loss set before me. Living for Jesus is the only thing that can make sense out of this messy world. Living my life in submission, obedience, prayer, and service to the God who is and will make all things new, is the only answer.

How is He calling you to live for Him?

For me, it is a simple, but clear calling. I need to pray. I’m praying for salvation for the lost. Praying for my kids, my church, my friends, missionaries, and for God’s will and voice to be clear in my life. Worship and thanksgiving needs to be central in my day. I need to shout out that Jesus is the only answer to the problem of sin in the world. Homeschool curriculum needs to take a back seat to God’s agenda for our days and being intentional to live out God’s word needs to get me out of bed:

“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.”

Friends, God is giving us a wake up call. Are you listening? Have you heard His voice? If you are able to read this, then you still have the ability to respond to Him calling you today. Turn your heart to Him. If you have not experienced salvation in Christ, stop waiting and let today be the day! If you know Him but are living for yourself, repent! Live for Him! There is still time to turn away from our sin, our self-centered lives, and turn to Jesus to give us the abundant life He promises.

We were recently talking with some friends, and I confessed that I am tired. I have a lot of kids and we are together nearly all of the time. I’m not getting any younger, and their needs are increasing. But, this really isn’t my time to sit back and say, “I’m just too exhausted.” Yes, I need to take care of myself. However, I need to keep asking God for strength to fulfill the purposes He has for me. It’s not my time to enter into His rest yet. That day will come, when He has ordained it. For now, He still has important, eternal work for me to do.

The heart ache around the globe isn’t going to end. But the response of God’s people can change. Join me? Let’s live for Jesus together, while today is still called today.

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

sand dollar

One morning the kids and I discussed Festo Kivengere’s book, “I Love Idi Amin.” Festo had been persecuted and treated horribly, yet chose in the power of God’s love to forgive his evil enemy. I gave a writing assignment for each of the kids to share a time when they had been hurt by someone else’s actions. They could choose to share a time when they responded in love, or a time they didn’t respond in love and how they could learn from their response.

Jules gave me permission to share her paper with you (slightly altered to protect a sibling’s identity).

My sibling broke a gift I got from Hailey. It was a magnet sand dollar with a painting of dolphins jumping out of the water. The background of orange, yellow and red made it look like a sunset over the ocean.
I was so excited about the sand dollar. It was the first gift I had ever received from a penpal. I put the magnet on the fridge next to a friendship magnet I had gotten from another friend awhile ago.
One day, my sibling was reaching for something above the refrigerator and knocked the dolphin magnet. A large piece of the sand dollar broke off. As I watched it happen, I had a pang in me that wanted to yell out at my sibling, exclaiming how much that magnet meant to me.
Instead, I was able by the power of the Holy Spirit, to calm down inside and pleasantly say, “It’s OK. It’s just stuff. Stuff that will eventually burn. It won’t last.”
I kept that broken magnet as a reminder to me to be patient and loving, even when I feel like exploding. I kept it to remember it is just stuff that will burn.

sand dollar

How about you? Has someone broken your sand dollar? Your trust? Your heart? Are you living in the bondage and bitterness of an unforgiving spirit? I have stand out times in my life history when I’ve suffered the wounds of beloved friends. I carried onto my wounds and tended to them with great care. Over time, my bitterness hurt more than the memory of the offense. When God re-awoke my heart to His grace, I was able to pray for my enemies. I lifted them up to Jesus and He gave me the power to forgive. I became free.

So here is my encouragement to you today: be free! Don’t wait any longer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the kind of power to love with His love so that you can look at your “sand dollar” as a reminder that the only thing that lasts are the eternal souls that God has set in His people. Let’s help each other value those souls and love…even when it hurts.