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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Myth: I don't have enough patience to home school...

If I had to say the number one main statement I hear when I tell people that I am homeschooling our children, it is almost always, without fail, "Oh, I don't have enough patience to home school."  And, my near immediate response..."Neither do I."  And, honestly, this is the truth.  If I could recount the number of times that I am seriously impatient with our children (and as the numbers grow, my impatience is revealed more and more), I would really have to begin getting into some seriously high numbers.  But, the point of home schooling is not to be a perfectly patient adult.  Shoot, I would think that any teacher would be easily able to say that there are many days when their patience is significantly tried in teaching a room full of children, so it is certainly not crazy to say that patience is not a pre-requisite for teaching our children.  Are there any pre-requisites?  Well, if we plan on doing a beneficial job for our children, yes, I do believe that there is one main pre-requisite that stands out in my head...humility.

"Humility?" you may be asking, "Really?!  Of all the available traits of importance; intelligence, book-smarts, a college degree, high school diploma, etc., you choose humility?"  And my answer, of course, is "yes."  All those other attributes, skills, and smarts we have will only add to what we can pour into our children, but if we do not first begin with humble and submissive hearts towards God, nothing else we can teach our children will matter.  The fact is, we can pound information, knowledge, Truth, scripture, science, math, etc, into them all we want, but if we do not model for them a humble heart, we will not be setting them up for a blessed existence when they become adults.  This has been a very important truth for me, as I have been learning it piece by piece as my years of motherhood have grown longer.  It is inevitable that I will sin before my children.  It is inevitable that I will lose my temper, say foolish things, speak rashly or harshly, etc.  I am human, and flesh, so as I go through this process of sanctification, becoming more like my Savior, my humanity will continue to show itself.  Knowing this, when I act in ways that are a poor example or reflection of God's character, it is CRITICAL that I then model humility and repentance before my children, asking them for forgiveness and prayer for my weakness and then continue to intentionally work on my failings with each passing occasion and opportunity.  I am so very blessed to watch this transaction occur on a regular basis.  My oldest, Lily, has the most beautiful heart when I fail to exemplify Christ properly.  Just this morning I took out some frustrations with another child on her and spoke harshly to her.  Once I had gathered myself together, I sincerely told her that I was really sorry I lost my temper and than although I was right in what I was saying to her, I was very wrong in my delivery.  I should not have taken out my frustrations on her.  I then asked for her forgiveness, which she quickly gave, and then asked if we could pray together.  I was so upset with myself and my lack of self-control that when we held hands to pray I could not speak, so my little girl prayed for me, and over me...the tears flowed easily.  This is called "being humbled"...God saw fit to give me children so that I could be broken in my pride and grow in His character. I needed to be humbled, and apparently continue to need it on a regular basis.

If there were one often overlooked benefit to homeschooling our children, I would absolutely, without question, have to say that it is the spiritual benefits and blessings that it bestows upon the homeschooling parent!  There are definitely blessings to be had for our children, but the homeschooling woman (I will use woman here loosely, understanding that men/dads too will experience the same blessings, but for sake of ease...) must, on a daily and sometimes minute by minute basis, sacrifice the self in order to serve the little children in her care.  I wish I could say that this was a "lesson learned," but this is most decidedly a lesson in learning right now.  I suspect it will continue to be for some time, too.  We all tell our children, "Practice makes perfect."  Well, there is no better way to grow in patience, love, joy in times of difficulty and trials, peace, gentility, etc. than to have to face opportunities with our children day in and day out as we uncover their every strength and weakness, and they uncover ours.  There is no better way to grow in developing relationships and strengthening our bond to one another than through going through to toughest times together and coming out of them together.  At home, especially when lived all day every day, there is no true escape...confrontation, difficulty, etc. must be dealt with head on and both offenders must learn how to serve another instead of expect to be served.  There is no better way to learn how to be a servant of Christ than when walking in His shoes through the floors of our homes.  Motherhood is not easy.  Home schooling is not easy.  But, the eternal rewards of persevering in these areas, in doing them God's Way, in submitting to Him each step of the way, and in obeying His guidance and Word with every inch that we move, are more valuable than any gold or silver that could possibly be accumulated in this entire world.  We, as parents, must always be of the mindset that John held for his disciples: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 1: 4).  And, for them to learn to do so, we must be models of truth walkers.  Perfect?  By no means, but humble before God?  Always.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting It Together

Lately God has been working with me on organizing my life and our household so that the functioning of it is a bit better of a representation of His children. In other words, our God of peace and orderliness is helping me to grow in this area with our ever-expanding family. I have been blessed to be part of a mom's group that is providing practice ways to do this and I have been so pleased with the results.
Honestly, I thought I was an organized person, but it has become blatantly obvious to me that it only applied when I was the only variable in my schedule. Organizing an entire household of lives is a whole other level of mastery altogether! I never realized how much thought and effort really comes into managing a large family until it was so clear to me that I was not succeeding in that area, lol. Thankfully God has a sense of humor and loads more patience than I could ever imagine. As usual, His timing was impeccable and just at the right time I joined this group. Hallelujah,
God, You are so good!
The book that we are covering is called "Large Family Logistics" by Kim Brenneman, and although I have not necessarily put to direct application everything that has been discussed or recommended in the book, I have walked away with nuggets to help progress our family in the right direction for us. In addition, my husband and I also made the leap and both got iPads, which have been super helpful for me and getting my organizational tactics up to speed. I have found some wonderful apps that have helped to consolidate my paperwork load and eliminate the oils of clutter that I cannot seem to avoid (another Hallelujahs is in order)! My favorites thus far have been Evernote and Cozi, which have pretty much covered my needs for the time being.
The biggest nugget that I have gained so far with the work God and I are doing is simply having a goal/theme for the day. Coming directly from the "Large Family Logistics" book, labeling each day of the week is a major organizer of home management. So, in my home, I have a set day for (in no particular order) Laundry Day, Office Day (which is today, and the reason I am taking the time to work on my blog), Gardening Day, Town Day, Cleaning Day, Kitchen Day, and the Lord's Day. I have found it so wonderfully helpful to alleviating my stress that when I realize that the floor boards have not been cleaned in 3 years and are in desperate need, I can simply add it to my list for Cleaning Day and move on with my day. Usually, that item would tack onto my already loaded list for the day, and I would simply become overwhelmed, having a growing list of tasks that never seemed to be getting accomplished, try as I might.
The biggest blessing in this for me is feeling a bit more free to do special things with the kids, because I know that eventually my sits of things to get done will get done, because I have it scheduled into my week. So, today was fun because we had a little "Tea Party" together. I would love to say that I am the mother who does this all the time, but I am not...and God is working with me on it, lol. The kids and I enjoyed our little out of routine time and then, once finished, continued on with the day's agenda. God is good. I've added a few pictures of our enjoyment today. Their smiles make it all worth it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seasons, oh Seasons

I don't know about you, or any other homeschooling parent, but I totally struggle with not feeling like I am giving my kids the best.  The best attitude, the best birthday cake, the best clothes, the best shoes, the best energy, the best books, the best dinners, etc, etc.  In this season of life, I rarely feel like I am really doing much "up to par" because things are so busy and full.  Between homeschooling, household management, discipline needs, college, and pregnancy, my day is packed, so squeezing in those special moments with the kids does not happen nearly as often as I would like.  Thankfully, this is an area that God is helping to bring to light so that I can give it more attention.  But, during times like this, Ecclesiastes 3 comes to my mind: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...."  I know that my schooling will not last forever, and in only a handful of months I will finish my degree and this additional load will be removed...hallelujah!  In addition, shortly thereafter I will give birth to baby #5, which will of course bring its own load of new beginnings and adjustments.  But, you know, I am okay with that.  Even though right now is not the right season for the extras in life, it is a great season for each of us to get down the basics and really learn to enjoy the simple things.  For this, I am thankful.

God continues to sharpen and put fire my to faith in this season, as all my flaws and weaknesses are brought right to the front.  But, I know this is why He has called me to homeschool and bear more children, so that I can grow to become even more like Him each and every day.  There is certainly no escaping my need for Him now!  And there is also no turning away from the need to give exercise to my beliefs and true spiritual condition on a daily basis.  I must face my weak areas, because now I am greatly affecting not only my own life, but the next generation!  I just love seeing how God works!  Not only do we have the opportunity to teach our children all good things, including the humility needed to apologize for the same sin done over and over again as it is worked on, but we also get to work on our own fleshly nature and learn to practice self-control, etc.  It is the neatest exchange, though not easy in the slightest.  I look forward to the day when the lessons I am learning now are solid as a rock.  That I am sure will be a welcome time of peace!  But, I and confident in this, "that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).  To this, I most definitely say "AMEN!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Faith Comes By Hearing...

"Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." ~ Romans 10:17

So, we have resumed our homeschooling efforts officially by beginning our "school year" in the beginning of August.  I am pleased to say that things are going great.  My focus is Bible, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (3 Rs), so it keeps things simple and easy.  I need to work on the "Reading" part, but Nadya is still getting just the fundamentals of it, so I am hesitant to really start prodding for more until she is solid in the basics.  Lily is moving forward with reading, yay!

The reason for this post, though, is to talk about something I happened to stumble upon that has been a huge blessing in our life, plus an additional resource for solid homeschool material.  I downloaded a free Bible MP3 (New Testament) on my Ipod a few years ago that pretty much got little to no use until recently.  I read another blog that talked about how they would put the bible on for the kids to listen to when playing or going to sleep, etc, and that it really helped to re-enforce the concepts and lessons that were being taught throughout the day in the house.  We are not really in today's world blessed with the luxury to just sit and read the bible out loud for hours a day, so having an audio reading provides a beneficial source for this listening training.  In the words of Kim Brenneman (author of "Large Family Logistics), I am putting to use one of my servants (i.e. my Ipod and sound system) for reading the bible out loud to the children (don't you just love that analogy!)

Well, when I first read about this idea, I thought that it sounded great, but I did not know if the kids would really go for it.  I mean, I know tons of families who listen to audio books on CD all the time and the kids love them, but my kids may or may not really give them any attention and they are certainly not really the preferred listening material.  So, I was pleasantly surprised that when I initially began to play the bible while riding in the car, the kids all listened intently while the gospels were read and Jesus spoke.  In fact, as the days went on, I would receive requests from each one (even Anaya, our almost 3 year old!), which really shocked me.  They loved hearing the words of Jesus and would ask all kinds of great questions.  We listened to Acts, some of the epistles, Revelation, etc, and they loved them.  They are completely absorbed by them, and I am one happy mama!  Now, I always have my Ipod with me to have this option available whenever we have the occasion.  It is funny, too, because even when we have a really short ride (say 5 minutes max to a store down the street) I will still be asked to turn on the bible.  The blessings that this simple little tool has brought into our household have already been significant, and I look forward to the many more to come.

To download your own free bible MP3 (New Testament, NT), go to http://www.faithcomesbyhearing.com/ambassador/free-audio-bible-download.  When I did my download, I did not receive a complete NT, but had a few chapters here and there missing (I do not know why), but the information now says the entire NT, so hopefully you will not get missing chapters.  Even if you do, though, at least you have a great resource while you save some money to buy a complete set.  Enjoy and be blessed!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You'll get it eventually...

I don't know about other homeschooling moms, but I certainly feel less than adequate more often than not.  Oddly, it seems that majority of people I talk to assume that because I have chosen to homeschool I must have "the patience of a saint" or super-human abilities to keep peace and order.  If you have ever been to my house or spent time with my family, you will know that neither of these are true...at all!  I have yet to achieve the level of patience that I wholly desire, and our house is nowhere near the peaceful, orderly place that I envision it to become, but I work hard to remember that "he who has begun a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

There are many good works that are being worked out in our household.  One is the actual academics part of homeschooling.  Every day both my kids and I must learn to submit to God instead of self in keeping this household functioning well.  We all must learn to deal with our own bad attitudes, as well as the bad attitude of someone around us.  We must learn to share our time and our possessions.  We must learn to work diligently and with a good attitude in all things, no matter how unpleasant it is.  We must learn to be humble when we mess up or sin against another, repenting of our poor choices and persistently working to change them in ourselves.  We must remain in step with the bible's guidelines for living if we are to stay on path of goodness, and in lieu of this often accept course corrections when we make a wrong turn.  We must practice the focus of removing our own planks instead of always seeing the speck in someone else's eye.  And, we daily get ample practice to learn the action of love (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8).  God has been great (when I finally call out to Him for help instead of trying to figure it out for myself) to help remind me of the fact that change and learning take time.  He helped me to see that even though I am not 100% successful with my emotional control, etc, that He is always encouraging me, telling me, "You'll get there, just keep working on it."  And this is something I can say to my children, no matter what mess they have created for themselves.  "Kiddo, you'll get there!  Just keep working on it!"

I wish I could say that I am a shining example of all of these things for my children, but I would be lying if I did.  The reality is, I am learning so many of these lessons right alongside of them.  Having to face these inner challenges every single day instead of escaping them really makes me utterly aware of my brokenness and weak areas.  But, I am hopeful that after 20+ years of this journey, I will come out the other end a more mature and experienced Christian, which is the best gift I could receive from it all.  This journey is not easy, of course, but it is so worth it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Little House in the Suburb

Lately I been watching a lot of Little House on the Prairie.  My mom is a big fan of the show, but I never really watched it intentionally until this week while we visited her at her house.  While watching the show I have really enjoyed the examples of Christian living that have been provided, especially by the mother, Caroline Ingalls.  Yes, I know it is a fictional show, but she definitely exudes the behaviors that I aspire to exhibit in my dealings with my family and home.

One of the biggest character traits that God has been working on in me is my patience with the kids and my delight in them.  Honestly, I greatly struggle with these on a regular basis.  The kids and I do scripture memorization each day and the ones that really ring in my ears are 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and Philippians 4:8.  Not to mention, though, Proverbs 31:26, where we see that the woman speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction...I need to work on these things.  I have an okay idea of what not to do, but the irony is that Little House has helped to give me a picture of what TO do.  I know it will take time, but I will be diligently working on correcting my lack of patience, quickness of tongue, and emotional reaction (as opposed to response) to the kids.

Another great source of encouragement for me is in the wisdom of other experienced homeschool moms, at this point in the way of blogs.  I know my areas of weakness and concern, so seeing that other families have gotten through the same struggles we have is a great source of encouragement!  Thank God for fellowship, even if in the form of such odd communication nowadays.  I know this homeschooling journey will not be easy, but it will definitely be worth it!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Situated

I really need to get to bed earlier, but I have been so busy getting our dining area organized that I have not wanted to go to sleep!  I am sooo excited.  One of my biggest obstacles with homeschooling has just been a lack of organization, so we went out over the last two days and bought, bought, bought.  Thankfully great places like Ikea and Target have some awesome and affordable storage containers that are now helping to bring order to the chaos of games, puzzles, school items, books, pens, papers, markers, crayons, loose things, and everything else.  It is not 100% complete yet, but I am feeling sooo much better now about the whole room.  Of course, my forearms and hands are sore from cranking a screw driver all last night, but it was well worth it!  Once we get the old china cabinet out of the house, the room will be about done!  Yayy!!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deep Breathing My Way Through the Day

You know, I guess I never really had any preconceived notions of what my life would be life when I "grew up".  All I knew was that I wanted to be married with kids by the time I was 25.  Well, I definitely met that dream, but other than that I had no idea, really, of what my life would become.  Here I am, married over 7 years, four kids so far, and in the beginning of our homeschool journey...wow!

As we really start digging into the homeschooling journey, I must admit, I can definitely have some anxiety come upon me about wanting to "do it right" and make sure my kids are getting a quality "education."  So much so do these thought inundate me that I become the kind of mother and educator that I detest!  What is wrong with this picture?  But, this is where the homeschool community is just so wonderful.  My community right now is found on the internet, and seeing the encouragement and calm, loving advice of experienced homeschoolers helps to settle my fears and rejuvenate my soul.  God is so good to offer "friends" in time of need.

So, here we are, ready for our new adventure.  I am still not clear on how this picture will look, but I am sure that it will be bright and beautiful on the other side, as long as I keep my focus on what God has called me to do and only act according to that calling.  As one wise fellow Christian stated as she shared a story in class, "Why am I doing this?...All for the glory of God, of course.  Anything other reason would just be frustrating."  What a truth!