Posted in Homeschooling, Work & Life

What About Homeschooling?

A couple of weeks ago, I shared about the homeschooling side of my organizational system. But, you have probably noticed that I rarely write about homeschooling.

It’s odd, I admit. Homeschooling is such a huge part of my life. I was homeschooled through most of my childhood, and now I’m in my eleventh year of teaching my own children. So, why does it not figure dramatically into my writing? Well, there are a few reasons.

First, I am not really the hands-on, photograph worthy homeschool mom that you might see on Twitter, Pinterest, and in the great bloggy world. Yes, I’m comparing myself, and I am not that mom. Oh, we have done some of those things in the past. I do have posts on the family blog of the elementary years displaying outings, projects, and funny moments. And, there are sometimes blog worthy moments even now that they are older. But, now that the kids are older, those picture perfect moments have grown fewer and farther between because my kids do not fit that homeschool model either. Books fill their love for learning, but pictures of kids sitting around reading book after book after book tend to get a little old.

Second, we’re strange. What works for us does not work for many other people. Maybe even most other people! (Again, rather obvious from social media and the blog world.) So, I actively refrain from writing about what we do as if it’s THE way to homeschool. It’s not. It’s just our way to homeschool.

Finally, I love to encourage and mentor other homeschoolers, but I’m a one-on-one kind of person. If you have questions, I’d love to sit down face to face or over e-mail and talk through them with you. I’d love to help you discover what will work best for you and how to get the most out of your homeschooling. A blog post does not accomplish that. Not in the least. Mostly because I can’t hear your questions and respond according to your unique needs.

There’s a Problem, Though

All of this leaves me bothered about something. You see, there are a gazillion homeschool bloggers out there. Think I’m kidding? Get on Twitter and search #homeschool. Then, begin following everyone that pops up. But, as you follow, make sure to look through and follow all of the recommendations connected to each new account you follow. It keeps going and going and going and going and going! And all of them have plenty to share about their homeschool experience.

And that bothers me. Not because they are sharing what works for them (I applaud that part!), but because their posts often – and usually very unintentionally – leave other moms like me (and maybe you) feeling like failures because we cannot make that same system work. Or because we have never taught this topic or insisted on those lessons. Or because we don’t do all of those creative, hands-on projects. We come away with the feeling that, no matter how exhausted we already are as we try to fit everything in, we have to make sure to fit in this one more thing or we’ll be leaving incurable gaps in our children’s growth and education.

That, my friends, is a lie. And many of the homeschool bloggers out there would be mortified to discover that they in any way contributed to that lie.

I work with a team of amazing homeschoolers. Each of us has homeschooled a different way. We prioritize differently, and our children are all developing differently. But words cannot express just how much I have learned from my amazing coworkers through the years. They encourage me, exhort me, and share their wisdom with me. How I love it!

That is what homeschool community is meant to be. And, that is actually what the blog and social media world can be to all of us, if we know how to navigate it and sort through the massive amount of information flowing our way.

So, I have decided to start writing more about homeschooling. Not necessarily about what works for me, but more about how we can navigate this huge, intimidating, but potentially helpful community that is the world wide web of homeschooling. And I would love to hear your questions! Is there anything you want to know about homeschooling or navigating the online community? Any general homeschool questions that you have never known how or where to ask? I’d love to hear from you! Either comment below or click on the Connect with Me tab at the top and send me a message. I’d love to connect with you over a little homeschool chatter!

Posted in Homeschooling, What Works for Me, Work & Life

The Planner in Me: Homeschool

I’m a planner. I’ve always loved calendars and planners and getting things all lined out! Recently, my husband wrote a blog post outlining what he uses for schedule and organization. When I shared it on social media, I mentioned that I would outline my own system soon.

My system actually started with success on the homeschool planning front first. I have tried many, many planners and organizational systems over the years, both for homeschooling and for life. All of them kinda sorta worked, but each one left something to be desired. Then, I ran across a huge discount on a planner that only had a few months of life left in it. That was early 2011; it was also my very first Well Planned Day planner. Later that year I would become a volunteer reviewer for the Well Planned Gal, the creator of the planner. But for the time being, I was just trying out a planner I’d never heard of from a company I was only vaguely familiar with.

And I was hooked.

This gal who had tried one planner after another and rarely been diligent with any single planning system had suddenly found the one homeschool planner that truly worked. And now, six years later, I actually get to help make them! Why yes, I do love my job.

Ahem…back to the task at hand. So, why do I love Well Planned Day so much? Well, it accomplishes what I had always looked for before. It allows me to lay out assignments on a weekly basis in a large, roomy format. For even greater ease of use, I keep a colorful array of Frixion pens on hand. (Yes, they really do erase well – very important for when the schedule needs to be tweaked.) Each child has a color of their own, then there is a separate color for things I do with each child. When each assignment has been graded, I write the grade beside the assignment. Then I highlight the assignment, leaving the grade un-highlighted until I have entered it.

So, where do I enter the grade? Well, that’s part two of my homeschool planning system. You see, I don’t like to plan on paper more than a week or two in advance because of all of the little things that pop up and require us to change the plan. But, I do like to have a handle on the whole school year. That’s why I also use My Well Planned Day, an online planning software. I lay out the entire school year online, then I can tweak it as needed each week. It saves me a ton of time and allows me to stay on top of where we are. And, it’s a great place to keep grades, which is especially helpful now that I have a high school student who will need a transcript soon. Oh, and the best part is that the girls each have their own login. So, they can get on, pull each day’s assignments, and make notes in their own student and high school planners. In the next couple of years, I’ll teach Steven how to do the same thing.

What’s neat about it all is that I got to spend last weekend showing other homeschool parents what works for me. I helped Rebecca the Well Planned Gal, aka my boss, man her booth at the Ft. Worth Great Homeschool Convention. Yes, I was working. But, the whole time I was also getting to share what works for me (and getting to spend time with my amazing boss!). What works for me doesn’t work for everyone, and I was quick to admit that this weekend. It’s fun, though, to know that I get to be a part of sharing the system that I love!

Next week I’ll share what I use for everything beyond homeschooling.

Posted in Around the Web, Repost, Thoughts from Life

Sock Dolls & Homeschool Tradition

Remember the “looking back at old posts” idea from yesterday? Here’s a post that I wrote nearly three years ago for work purposes. The sock dolls aren’t as prominent these days, having given way to other things. But, the traditions birthed from those sock dolls are still growing. This is a precious memory. 

My daughter’s ninth birthday was just around the corner. She loves homemade gifts, but this particular year she had no requests and I had no ideas. So, my husband and I made plans to purchase a gift or two instead of making something. Suddenly, inspiration struck! Two mere weeks before her birthday, my precious child decided all she wanted for her birthday was a homemade sock doll.

To this day I have no idea where she got the sock doll idea. I wonder if she even knows! I began to interrogate her, trying to determine where she had seen or heard of the idea, but she would just shrug and say the thought popped into her head. I dug deeper, hoping to determine just what sock doll image she carried in her mind so I could attempt to create what she was envisioning. A doll made out of socks seemed to be her only criteria.

After finally remembering a sock doll pattern book my mother-in-law had passed on to me some time before, I set to work. Pressed for time and lacking in confidence, I prayed I could create something that would make my daughter smile. By the time the big day rolled around, a nightgown, two dresses, and a brown-haired, green-eyed sock doll named Susan were wrapped and ready for my brown-haired, green-eyed birthday girl.

Not Just A Doll…

I never would have imagined the tradition that sock doll request would become.

Hardly a birthday or Christmas passes without at least one more doll joining the family. A year after Susan’s arrival, William graced my daughter’s tenth birthday celebration. Ella joined the sock doll family a few months later when my daughter decided that her little sister needed a doll of her own. William and Susan now have a son named George, and Ella met Oliver this past Christmas. My son, who was given a blue-eyed chef named Han for Christmas, is helping me assemble a little sister for George. I believe my middle child has created a sock bunny, and both George’s little sister and the sock bunny will soon be wrapped up and presented to my oldest for her twelfth birthday.

When I first started homeschooling, I mourned my inability to establish homeschool traditions.

I hate paper crafts, and I never could get my act together early enough to plan the perfect food celebration for every holiday. I felt like a failure because holidays such as President’s Day and Valentine’s Day would pass by without an educational, yet celebratory, plan. An old school year would simply end with little fanfare, and a new one would begin in much the same way.

…A New Tradition

Only after the sock dolls began multiplying with great rapidity did I realize that our family really is creating homeschool traditions. We usually forget to work in thankfulness activities all through November, put out the perfect Valentine’s display, or welcome Easter with reminder-filled baked goods. But we do not forget to line up the sock dolls and their stuffed companions to help recreate the first Christmas. We always remember to pull out a favorite book in March to make sure the stuffed menagerie knows the story behind St. Patrick’s Day. Napoleon the Penguin preaches stuffy church every Sunday, and Alf the Calf has performed at least one sock doll wedding in full-fledged Impressive Clergyman fashion.

I no longer mourn the holidays and events that pass us by without the typical homeschool crafts and foods.

A cheap bag of men’s tube socks, some fiberfill, and a supply of fabric scraps might not seem like much for other families, but for us they symbolize surprising tradition in the form of pilgrim and Indian sock dolls retelling the story of the first Thanksgiving. That, my friends, is tradition enough for me!

This article was originally written for Home Educating Family’s blog, now WellPlannedGal.com.

Posted in Faith Nuggets

Willing to Work

I find it funny when people say, “Oh, I could never do _________. I’m not ________ enough.” Go ahead – just fill in the blank. You just might be able to remember at time when you have said just such a thing. I know I can!
As is frequently the case, God has used both life in general and my children specifically to make me completely rethink my “I could never” statements. Take my oldest child, for instance.

No Outlet

For years I have marveled at the stories floating around in my daughter’s mind. She is so incredibly creative, and she has concocted entire worlds in her imagination. For years, I tried to figure out how to get those worlds out of her head and into a form that she could share with others. When she was little, I had this notion that, as soon as she learned how to write, she would be able to keep a journal and just write everything out. When she finally did learn how to write, however, it didn’t take long for that notion to crumble.

The physical act of writing proved to be excruciatingly tedious for my sweet girl. She could draw all day long. But handwriting was a completely different story. She hated it. And I finally accepted the fact that my sweet girl would never write. She finally accepted that it was okay to hate writing, even though she needed to learn the basic skills involved. But when it came to those stories, I was determined to not give up. We would just have to get them on paper another way.

Discovery

Fast forward a few years. As my daughter grew older, she learned a new skill: typing. Or keyboarding. Or whatever it is called these days. She learned how to push the letter keys on a computer keyboard in quick succession to cause letters and words to appear on a computer screen, an action that opened a whole new world to her. And created quite a shock for her mother!

First, she wrote a nearly perfect book report without help. Then, single-paragraph writing assignments for school became easier for her.

But it didn’t stop there! I nearly fell out of my chair the day she said, “Mommy, I got to write three paragraphs in language arts today!”

Got to? GOT to? Whatever happened to “had to”?

It got better still. She followed that statement up with, “It was fun!” I almost cried.

A few days later, I walked into the living room to see her propped up before a laptop, tapping away.

“What are you doing?” I asked, curious.

“Writing a fantasy novel,” came her matter-of-fact reply. Later than night she asked me to help her set a daily writing goal. Yes, that time I really did cry.

Work for It!

My child thought she hated to write. But she discovered she just needed the right avenue through which to do it.
All of us have dreams and talents. But, we often find ourselves limited when it comes to actually turning those dreams into reality or utilizing those talents. So, we hole up. Or give up. Or push it all down. We neglect to fight for those dreams. We refuse to push for ways to express our talents. We are unwilling to think outside the box.
Scripture is full of evidence that God is not limited by normalcy. Story after story reveals how He worked creatively, uniquely, and unexpectedly in the lives of biblical heroes. The incredible reality is that you and I are no different. Were our talents and dreams to be fulfilled through normal ways, how often would we give glory to our Creator? But, when He makes us turn to Him for a creative solution, He is glorified as the world watches what only He can accomplish through us.

I have been privileged to read some of my daughter’s novel and peruse several related short stories. It is so obvious to me that God made no mistake when He created an incredibly imaginative child who hated to write. She had to blossom. She had to push. And now, she loves writing more than she ever would have had she not had to work for it.
What are you willing to work for?

Posted in Thoughts from Life, What I Do

Working Mom

I have a question for you. When you think of your identity, what title do you give to yourself? I have several. Pastor’s Wife. Homeschool Mom. Writer. Editor. And, up until recently, Stay at Home Mom.

Has something changed? you might ask. In fact, I can almost see the wondering on the faces of some friends, wondering if I’ve suddenly decided to put the kids in school and work outside the home. And, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s more of a discovery.

Defining Stay at Home Mom

It’s a realization that for many, many years, I’ve struggled with my role as a mom.

I have this mental definition for the “Stay at Home Mom” title. It’s a mom who essentially structures her life around the care of her home and family. Everything else is secondary.

For fifteen years, I’ve called myself a stay at home mom. But, can I share a little secret with you? I have never fit the boundaries of my own definition, and I have always felt the conflict of that without ever understanding why.

Just recently, it all clicked in my head when I realized that I have actually worked for nine of my fifteen years of motherhood. And, in the years I didn’t work, I always had something specific to focus on. In the early years of motherhood, it was photo editing. I loved to take pictures, keep them well organized on my computer, and edit them in a variety of ways. Later, I started writing and discovered the world of product and book reviews. Only now do I see that I looked upon both of those “hobbies” as jobs.

Only now do I see that I’m not really a stay at home mom, and I never have been. On the contrary, I have always been a working mom. The whole time.

A Beautiful Mental Shift

Admitting that is a big deal for me, because I realize I have always felt a bit ashamed of my jobs – ashamed that I enjoyed them more than keeping up with my home or cooking for my family. It’s not that I preferred being away from my family. Quite the contrary! I love being with my family. But, I’ve always preferred the work that is not home related. The more I loved my jobs, the more I felt like a stay-at-home mom failure.

Something about the simple admission that I am a working mom changes so much in my head. You see, like many of my friends who also work – some from home and others outside the home, both in part-time and full-time capacities – I still prioritize my family. I shape my work options around doing what’s best for my family. I work in a way that allows me to homeschool. I work in a way that makes me available to my children when they need me, while still setting parameters and boundaries for work time. My family is no less of a priority. But, the care of my home is not my job. It’s a joint responsibility for every family member.

I cannot even begin to explain how that admission has eliminated conflict for me. That realization has helped me interact better with my children. It will allow me to share responsibilities of home care more freely, rather than feeling like a failure because I thought I couldn’t keep up with my job.

I’m a work in a way that most vibrantly nourishes my family working mom.

And, do you know what? I still highly value stay at home moms. But I also absolutely love who I am and what I do.

What about you? What title have you adopted? Does it fit?

Posted in Around the Web, Homeschooling, Thoughts, Thoughts from Others

Around the Web – June 18, 2014

I haven’t gotten quite back into the full scope of blog reading this week as I’d hoped, but I’ve still come across a few posts that I really enjoyed.

Doug’s Blog

A couple of weeks ago, Doug wrote a post about earning his MDiv and contemplating what’s next. Obviously, I know all about his journey and his plans because we have talked through these things many, many times. But, “Third Degree Burns?” also has a point. No matter what might be ahead, consider where God has you right now. Obey here and now. I needed that reminder.

Oh, and if you like historical fiction and want something a little different, take a look at Doug’s review of Edwin, High King of Britain.

The Fun of Homeschooling

The Nerd Factor

I love the way homeschooling feeds our nerdiness. Here’s the phrase that caught my attention this week:

Do you hear the words Allon-sy, Geronimo, and Fantastic all the time in your house? Are jelly babies on short order? Does the sound of the T.A.R.D.I.S. echo from your living room? If so you might be the parent of a Whovian. (Who am I kidding? You might be a whovian yourself.)

I love that a fellow homeschool mom wrote “Using Doctor Who in Your Homeschool.” And my oldest immediately said, “Yes, please!”

The Training Factor

I also ran across this post about the need for children to move and play and be outside: WHY CHIDLREN FIDGET: And What We Can Do About It

And this post about summer boredom:
Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

A Lifestyle Thought

Then there’s this post: Because There is a Difference

I absolutely loved this post. It expresses what I know to be true about myself. My eating habits, or any other health or discipline habits, mean nothing if my heart is not in tune with Christ. Aimee Byrd articulates that fact beautifully.

Be sure to check out what my HEDUA friends have been reading and writing in Must Reads. And don’t forget to share your links with the rest of us!