Friday, September 11, 2015

A New Way

Half of my tribe is away on an adventure with Daddy, exploring downtown Atlanta. When an airline offers $1 tickets, you hop on that action no matter where or when they want you to go. At least we do.

So the other half of us are here at home. The 10 month old baby boy, two three year olds (my husband calls them the "Twin Terrors"…I 'm thinking we might need to come up with a softer nickname.) and myself.

How is it, that these three littles kept me on my toes all-freaking-day yesterday, even more so than when my six are are home together?

One of my kidlets, who shall remain nameless (but whose names sounds strikingly similar to Nursie), was a pill 90% of the day. I actually refer to that as being "a turd", lovingly, of course. She fought me on every little thing, she stirred up trouble with the other three year old constantly.

I told a friend last night, "It was one of those days where a child seeks out attention, even if it's the negative variety." Sigh. Those days are just exhausting, and they usually come when you expect things to be peaceful and easy.

I had three less children yesterday after all. It was supposed to be a cake walk.

Well, maybe not a cake walk exactly...but easier for sure.

Instead, it was a draining day.

Big family insider scoop: the more children in the family, the more *some* problems are diffused.

How does on earth is this possible, you ask?

My older children, (ages 9, 7 & 5) help distract, redirect and lighten up my little ones frequently. They see a younger one who needs help and their gut reaction is to lend a hand. They can sense that a storm is brewing and they creatively encourage calmness (or at the very least happy wildness). They do all this pretty much as second nature.

Yes, sometimes I ask, or beg, or yell from the other end of the house for them to "Please help a Mom out!"…but so many times, it's self started, self directed…it's just who they are.

Now don't hear me say my three oldest children are up for sainthood, cause that's not reality. They too create their fair share of strife…sibling squabbles are the tool God is using to refine me (and by "tool" I mean fire). The bickering, name calling, hitting, teasing…it's an area we work on daily. All day every day.

Somehow, someway, however, the truths about peace Dustin and I are speaking into their ears are soaking down into their souls. My children's hearts are being shaped, ever slowly, into people who help make peace.

I can see that right now more easily, because in their absence, we are missing their peace making skills.

It is usually in someone, or somethings absence that we are able to clearly understand what that person or thing brought to our life.

Sometimes, losing something or someone benefits our health…we are better off.

Other times, we realize what a gaping hole that something or someone has left behind…we are better because of it/them, but now our life is lacking that unique aspect they brought.

Even though this is a quick trip my children and husband are on, and Lord willing, they will be home late  tonight, tucked into their beds…they are gone right now, and we are missing them.

I am grateful for that longing, because I can more accurately see a gift they bring our family that I was taking for granted. They are far from perfect children (and those don't exist anyway), but good grief, they are stinkin' amazing at being the big siblings this crazy crew needs. Our older three are digesting the truths we are imperfectly, but consistently putting before them…that peace making is the way of Jesus, and the world surely needs a whole bunch more of us pursuing that way.

We are Matthew 5:9 people.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

I kinda dig The Message wording…

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

To my kiddos on Mother's Day,

Nothing could've ever prepared me for the complexities of motherhood. No class, no heart-to-heart, no blog, no workshop, no book. As much as the words of others who had walked the path before me might have encouraged me (maybe, really, more like frightened me...)  they could not fully prepare my soul for the beautiful, challenging, messy time that awaited.

You think that Mama knows it all...that I am so very much older than you. Can I tell you a secret, kids?

Truth is, Mama is really just a kid herself. I am relatively new to this whole motherhood gig. 9 years ago my first babe was still tucked away inside my womb, cozy and safe from the world. My tummy was her whole world. But that was only 9 years ago...I haven't been a Mama very long.

I know you kids think I have all the answers...I guess in some respects I do. I am the one, after all, who answers every. single. question. All day, every day.

But really, I'm learning as I go.

Newsflash: I have never been a Mom before. I didn't get a four year degree in motherhood and fulfill an apprenticeship before the first of you was placed into my waiting arms. There was no practice, no rehearsal, no training to prepare for what I now spend my every day doing. That's hard for you to even imagine though, at 8, 5, 3 & 1. I am all you know of motherhood.

I adore being your Mama. It is by far the absolute hardest task I have ever been entrusted with, by is worth it. There is no greater joy than the exhausting work of loving your little lives up in The Lord. The daily feeding of your bellies and your souls is so daunting...but so incredibly beautiful.

I am learning moment by moment that a life laid down most closely resembles My Savior. So I lay mine down again and again...and fight for joy in the midst of the selflessness He asks of me.

When the four of you are grown, and sit around talking about your childhood..sharing stories, laughing and perhaps shedding a tear for the hurts...I pray that you give me grace. I hope you can see the woman who was trying to raise y'all to love The Lord, to love others...I hope you know I tried my very best. You will know better than any other people on this earth (besides your Dad) that I am a far cry from a perfect person. I get angry, I get ugly, I loose my patience, I get frustrated, I say rude things, I am a flawed woman...fighting minute by minute to choose joy in the chaos and selflessness in my self-centered desires.

 I pray that you can see me for the woman that is beneath the title of Mama...that you might love and respect even, the way I have loved you.

While I'm not perfect, hopefully you can see Jesus in me. He is my strength, He is my hope. He continually draws me back to Him...softens my easily hardened heart...helps me grow into the Mama y'all need me to be. I hope you will see, through my mistakes, through my missteps, that if Jesus loves your Mama with an unrelenting love, He surely loves you just the same.

I am trying, at the nudging and reminding of The Spirit to be an intentional Mama. To peer into the future and consider the lovely, strong, intelligent, compassionate, selfless adults y'all are going to become. As I picture these grown ups I have yet to meet, yet already know, I think about how my daily interactions are forming or destroying who you each are called to be.

I tell your Dad frequently, "Isn't it so cool that we are raising our future best friends?! I mean, it's kinda crazy, right?"

It is crazy. It is cool. I pray that it becomes reality.

By God's goodness I won't botch the whole thing.

I trust that He will fill in the gaps your Dad and I will undoubtedly leave.

I love you four more than any words could do justice. You are my greatest work, my greatest gifts. I am incredibly grateful to be your Mama, and I thank you for loving me.

Please be patient with me, I will be patient with you (it's your first time to do the kid-growing-up-thing too, after all) we continue to grow up together, day by day. Thankful to be journeying with you.


Friday, April 18, 2014

every day good

When my brothers and I were growing up we fought often, as siblings do. Sometimes it was a wrestling match, resulting in carpet burns on elbows and knees. (Pretty sure I brought that upon myself a time or two by pressing the power button on the Nintendo, being threatened to keep holding it in until they finished their game...then letting go and running for my life.) Other times it was a water fight when our parents had left us home alone. (Picture 3 kids, squirt guns, spray bottles and cups of water...chasing each other all over the house, slamming and locking doors, slipping and sliding.) And of course, frequently, our fights were a battle of words.

As we would argue, things usually progressed to the place where we were just shouting the same things over and over again. The only thing that changed was the volume, as it increased layer by layer. The tone of our arguing was usually much uglier than the actual words we were spitting out. By the point that we had exhausted all our venom, one brother, who will remain nameless, would yell vehemently, "CONVERSATION OVER. I WIN THE CONVERSATION. I WIN!" 

And with that remark, he would storm off. 

It was maddening to be on the "losing side". With that one statement, everything I had been trying to express had just been wiped away...I had been dismissed. Even though our "conversation" had been less than polite, it was declared over without my consent...and to add a dash of insult, I had "lost", which meant none of my words had carried any weight at all.

Why is it we so desperately want to be RIGHT...all the time? It must be ingrained deep within us, this desire to win. 

As I've watched the social media world unfurl in the past year, I've noted a lot of "winning". The area I have particularly seen it rear its ugly head, is tragically, within our Christian communities. Boy, do we like to win. We like to gather our evidence, line up our points then bash/correct/condemn/talk down to anyone who happens to listen. 

We have become Jesus Lawyers. 

We gather facts, build our cases then present our information. It morphs from information sharing (or "sharing the truth" as we like to call it) to beating others up with our words. We become the prosecutor and defendant all at once. It is US against THEM...and we will most definitely WIN this conversation.

Is this what Christ called us to be? His legal defense team? 

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Matthew 7:1-2

The Word of God is radical enough, it is alive and like a double edged sword. The Word of God is the alone can pierce and then make new the hearts of man. The Word of God does not need a Jesus Lawyer to defend it or to prosecute those who don't believe. 

What if...instead of being Jesus Lawyers, we were simply Jesus Lovers? 

What if...we become so enamored with our Savior that the only thing that pours out of us is love?

What if...we cared more about loving Jesus, and living like him?

As I reflect on the magnificent gift that was given us, as Christ laid down His very life for us...poor, wretched sinners...I can't help but think that what He wants from us in return is to be Jesus Lovers.

He loved us enough to sacrifice himself on our behalf...He takes our sins, our burdens and carries them.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Today is Good Friday. When we live as Jesus Lovers, every day is a good day indeed.

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Philippians 1:21

There's where we win...we lose ourselves, our need to defend, to be proven right...and we gain the peace and love of Christ. Yes please, Lord.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


As 2013 drew to a close, and a new year started, I read a book that messed me up. In that good way.

"Uncover the art you were born to make. 
There's a reason I chose the word uncover. It's because our image-bearing identity is already true. But we often cover it up with discouragement. doubt, practicality, or excuses.
Instead of setting off on a journey to find your art, consider staying right where you are to uncover your art. Like the tree with roots crawling deep into the ground, God has already done the work of putting his art within you. I believe he's asking us to do the work of uncovering what is already true and trusting him to release it for his glory and the benefit of others."

-Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

"You want to know the meaning of life? This is your highest calling: You are called into the dynamic co-creation of the cosmos. This breath is your canvas and your brush. These are the raw materials for your art, for the life you are making. Nothing is off limits. Your backyard, your piano, your paintbrush, your conversation, Rwanda, New Orleans, Iraq, your marriage, your soul. You're making a living with every step you take."

-Jon Foreman (taken from A Million Little Ways)

I wrestled with those words...and I realized that I have been ignoring mine.

My life is pretty well wrapped up in the ongoings of our family. Sure, I take care to go on dates with my husband, to get together with friends and have "me" time every once in a while...but am I fully living out who I was created to be? Or am I just really good at wearing all the hats, balancing all the roles that I am super blessed to be in...without ever thinking twice about what God might want me to uncover.

Freeman suggests looking back into our childhood as a way to reconnect with the art we were created to make. So I did. I thought back through the years that held my most physically awkward times (oh my...that's putting it so very lightly), but also years that I was growing into me. I was exploring who I would become by fully embracing the way God had created me.

Little me was really cute. 

Words were so very important to me. I read every book I could get my hands on...Babysitters Club to my school library's Encyclopedia Brittanica (Nerd alert: I coveted those books. Every mail-order commercial made me swoon.). The genre did not matter, but having the words in front of me to journey through did. Even as an early reader, I savored each and every moment spent with a book.

Yes, I rocked bangs, glasses, braces AND the biggest jean "shorts" you've ever seen. (circa 1994)

Another key part to my look back into the younger me was remembering my journals. I am thankful to still have a few of those gems...and boy, do they reveal the heart and mind of little Carly. (slightly terrifying and hugely hilarious).  Daily happenings, special celebrations, the ups and downs of being a kid (and the torture of having two older brothers)...all captured on paper in my loopy, semi-cursive handwriting. For as much as I cherish thinking back on my childhood memories, reading through my old journals brings fresh perspective to those times. It's as if my memories are black and white, but reading my words brings them into color.

As the years went on, somewhere along the way I got distracted and stopped tuning in to my connection with words. In my growing up, I got my busyness I let go of the things that really make me, me. The me that God created me to be uses words to express myself. The me that God created me to be takes the time necessary to put my thoughts out before me, either typed or hand written. The me that God created me to be feels more like myself when I don't have a million ideas and thoughts jumbled up in my noggin'...because I've spent the time to purge them so I can have a clear head.

In the mix of wife life and motherhood I have been so caught up in everyone else that I squeezed out bits and pieces of myself that just couldn't fit in anymore. Little details that just had to go, because there was no where else for them to be...but gone. The habit of creativity was lost. Layer on a couple of decades, then four children and top it off with homeschooling (read as: never, ever having a moment to myself) ...and the me that needs to write got buried somewhere deep beneath.

I am incredibly thankful for my children, supportive and loving husband and the opportunity to home school. It is a choice I gladly make each day. I know that a life laid down most closely resembles Jesus, therefore I do not begrudge putting my family's needs before my own. However, after reading and wrestling with Freeman's book, I have begun to realize that I shouldn't wait till the kids are grown up and gone to unleash my creativity...that I need to find time to pursue it on a regular basis. Through tapping into my creative spirit, I am being fully who God created me to be...and that me, she is sure to be a better wife and mother.

So this is me, bravely stepping out into who God made me to be. It took a few months to accept the fact that this is indeed how I am created...and I am ready to fully embrace it. 

What is your creative calling? What creative art might be uncovered in your life, if you dared to look?

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Great Juggling Act Part Two: {don't drop the baby}

The question I am most commonly asked is "How do you manage the littler kids while you teach the older ones?" 

From some people,  I get the "I have no idea in the world how you do it."...which to me is really a statement wrestling with the above question.

Granted, it seems like total silliness to teach bigger kids with smaller kiddos underfoot. I mean, there are no babies and toddlers running around in public schools...throwing toys, begging for snacks, wanting to be held, stinking up the place with dirty diapers. It would be too distracting. So when you think of homeschooling, with children of a variety of ages, its hard to picture how it all works.

As with most things in life, another more seasoned woman has helped shape my understanding of this very matter. Drawing on the experience and insights from someone further down the road is priceless. Especially when the person has a relationship with Christ that they are filtering their lives through. 

When I began this homeschooling journey with Shiloh in kindergarten, my other kids were 3 yrs and 1 yrs old...and I was pregnant with our fourth baby, due that May. I read this article and it resonated with me profoundly. 

While academics are important, very, very important...they are not everything. 

They are not the main lesson.

Understanding this, digesting this, living out this truth 
has made all the difference for me. 

It has given me peace during the moments I would have otherwise given up. 

I cannot do it all. I cannot keep all four children (now ages 7, 5, 3 & 1) happy, contented, on task, engaged in learning, playing peacefully at all times. There is no magic way to entertain my two little ones while I teach the older two. There is no perfect trick, no brilliant toy, no clever system to make it happen. I realize this might be incredibly discouraging to those of you hoping that I have discovered the golden ticket on Pinterest somewhere. 

The truth is, "the baby IS the lesson". 
(If you didn't click on the link above and read the article I mentioned, go do it!)

How I respond to my little ones, in the midst of our learning time each day, is the true lesson I want my bigger kids to learn. I want them to grasp how very precious little ones are, that the helpless need our matter what our agenda is. I want my older kids to learn selflessness, and it starts with me. Yikes. 

When I treat my two precious little ones as if they are a burden...that is the truth I am teaching. When I sigh, and fret and stress out that my little ones need my help or my attention again...that is the truth I am teaching. When I show my frustration that toddlers and babies are annoying me by acting like toddlers and babies...that is the truth I am teaching.

Above math, science, English & history I desire for my children to be in love with their Creator, and to live lives that selflessly serve those around them. I believe that starts at home, with each of them and Dustin and I. We have the high calling to teach God's truths to them. Some of that teaching happens through words...but most of it happens through our hands. What we show our children by what we do is the most powerful lesson they will ever learn. 

In our home, I remind myself that the baby is the lesson pretty much everyday. Sometimes, I am able to give the big two a little instruction of what to do while I step away for a moment. Other times, I have to jump and run to the needs of a little one and the big two know to pause and wait. There are moments all I need to do is pick up one of the littler ones and snuggle them while I continue teaching. While I try to keep toys out of the school room while the big ones are working, the exception is the stray toys the little ones drag in and out. I want our little ones to know that they are always welcome, never a bother. 

There are times, however, when my little ones need to learn that they must be quiet, or take their playing to another room if they wish to keep being loud. That's a part of the teaching and learning that is going on too...the little ones learning that they must respect the work the big ones are doing. 

While there is no one magic solution to keeping the little ones busy in a good way, there are basic ideas I use. Most of these I pull out only when they seem to be having a hard time playing on their own. There are those days & those moments when nothing else seems to keep little hands pull from these:

- A few toys/puzzles/educational games that they can use independently...that are only for use during school time. The key to this is making sure they don't need much extra help to enjoy them. That may mean showing them during a non-school time how to use or play with them. We have found these Alphabet Popsicles to be a great "toy" for times such as this. 

- Create a sticker chart to reward good behavior. This works for my 3 year old, who is old enough to get the concept. 

-Save TV time to use only as a last resort. If the TV is playing all day long, the kids learn to tune it out, and all it adds is extra noise. Use it sparingly, and when you do turn it on let them know the only way it stays on is if they sit down and watch the show quietly. We prefer for shows that teach things we approve of...there is A LOT of mindless, fluff directed at children, which we avoid. (That's probably a whole other post for another time.) Some of our favorites include "Super Why", "Word World", "Sesame Street", "Little Einstein's",  "Veggie Tales", "God Rocks" & "Friends & Heroes".

So, for those of you with little ones underfoot as you are teaching at home...know this...He will give you what you need each day. He will prepare your heart to handle interruptions with grace. He will give you the patience you need to be the mom they deserve. Start your morning with time with God, and you will see Him drawing you ever close throughout your day.

This verse has been my anthem, it speaks to me in every area of my life. As my heart is drawn closer to God and His all-surpassing-never-failing-love I am filled with Christ's perseverance. I must rely on His strength to get me through the challenging moments...the imperfect-chaotic-stressed-out-times when, if up to me, and my strength I could stink up our whole day. I am selfish, but through Christ I am constantly being refined to become more and more selfless. And that is a lesson worth teaching every day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Great Juggling Act Part One: {house work}

One of the biggest challenges in home schooling is learning how to juggle. Learning the balance and rhythm to make your days flow without losing your sanity in the process. Just the thought of this keeps many moms from embarking on homeschooling. They count themselves inadequate without even attempting it. I have heard literally dozens and dozens and dozens of times "I could never do that!".  

The reality is, it's hard. It's incredibly challenging...and aside from actual labor and child birth, it's the hardest thing I've ever done. When your children are home all day every day there is NO break in the action. There is no one to watch your kids while you clean the house/tackle the laundry monster/organize an over-stuffed closet/do the dishes or cook dinner...which means that in order to do any of those things (which unfortunately must be done, most of them daily) you have to somehow keep an eye on your children/keep them from hurting themselves or each other and play: waitress-nurse-problem solver-fight breaker upper. To add the weight of educating your children to this jumble of responsibilities sounds like absolute madness. I truly understand the "I could never..." sentiment...because if I'm completely honest, I can get swept up by a wave of discouragement and count myself not fit for the task. 

Satan loves to use any smidge of self doubt to drag me down and keep me from that which God has called me to. He's very crafty and very lame like that. He can actually work his negativity web around me so slyly that I begin to think it's reality...and I begin to question everything I've been working towards. 

I know what is it to self doubt. I know what is it to feel that the role I've been called to is bigger than what I can actually do. 

Thankfully, I also know The One who created me. The One who put a desire in me from a young age to have a family of my own one day...The One who stirred up my heart to keep my children close and pursue home school...The One who blessed me with a supportive husband and united our hearts for this endeavor. How could I see all that my Heavenly Father has specially equipped me with and then turn my back on the calling He gave me? 

I believe that this crazy juggling act before me is one that God has prepared for me to do. That is what I cling to when all else seems out of control and too darn hard.

So how do I add home school into our day and also juggle younger children and housework? I'll tell you what I have done, and I'll tell you what I'm looking forward to doing this new school year (which starts next Monday!).  I am a firm believer in trial and error. I am forever changing things up and trying to find a better way to do things...because I believe that putting into practice what we learn, from both positive and negative experiences is a good thing. Static living is not living to the fullest. And I don't know about you, but with 4 kiddos in tow, I just don't have time to waste doing things that don't matter. 

With housework...what I have done in the past is just survive. Truly. The past two years of homeschooling I have not had a rhythm to my housework; and that is something I am actually excited about altering this school year. In the past, I have cleaned only out of necessity. 

Oh, a kid scribbled crayon on the tile floor?...I guess I'll scrub that. 

A spider ran into that dusty corner?...guess I'll squish it and wipe up the dust.

An entire, brand new box of cereal was just dumped on the floor?...I'll get the broom.

A kiddo used diaper cream as hair & body lotion?...time to do some laundry.

A couple of us are out of clean underwear?...quick, add it to the washer!

People are coming over for dinner?...I'll do a fast and furious wipe down of the bathrooms and hide stray toys.

Seriously, this was how I managed...or lacked to manage our home. Slightly embarrassing but hey, I was also pregnant with baby numero quatro or had a newborn for those two years so I'm cutting my previous self some slack. 

You can imagine how this style of doing things only added stress. Chores around the house were dealt with on a crisis basis...there was no preventative measures, no routine to keep the house in a presentable state each day. That spelled disaster. It caused panic. It was not fun.

I have been easing into a new routine around the house, and the smallest of changes are helping in big ways. It's a little bit "Fly Lady" and a whole lotta Large Family Logistics . 

Basically, I am going  from haphazard homemaking to having a time planned to take care of all that goes into running our house. I now have specific days and specific times to tackle the daily tasks (laundry, dishes, cooking, picking up) and also the weekly to-dos (floor cleaning, bill paying/filing, bathroom cleaning, sheet washing, dusting and special cleaning or organizing projects). I will be adopting even more of the new house work routines as we begin our new schedules next week. 

Since I consider myself a pretty laid back gal, I have fought this type of scheduling with everything within me. Hence, my less than stellar approach I described above. However, now that there are six of us in this family, it is really unavoidable. I must put my big girl panties on and do some things I do not like...for the sake of my family. I have noticed, as I have been creeping ever so slowly into some of these new habits, that after  couple of weeks they are starting to come more naturally. One such adjustment is making sure my sink is empty each night and that the dish washer is running before I go to bed. Old Carly would look at the dirty dishes from dinner and hope that I would have more energy or time to deal with them the next morning. I was crazy. The next morning, it was terrible to come into the kitchen to see last nights food stuck on like cement. Not an encouraging start to the day. It was even worse when I had no clean sippy cups/spoons/bowls/fill in the blank because they were all staring at me under a glaze of yesterday's food. No bueno. As kids began thundering down the stairs asking for breakfast, the dishes added a huge stress at what should have been a sweet start to a new day.

So now I put forth a little extra effort, a little extra time to make sure the dishes will greet me in the best way possible in the mornings...clean. Sounds simple? It is, but it's these simple, thought out, intentional things that make a big difference. Here's how it fits into our daily schedule: (my added housework is in blue).

6:30 - get up, coffee & Bible study, start laundry
7:30 - get dressed, empty dish washer

8:00 - breakfast
8:30 - get dressed, make beds, brush teeth
         help little ones get dressed and make sure school room is ready, change  
         out laundry
9:00 - memory work in History, Geography, English, Science, Math & Latin
9:30 - All About Spelling/Shiloh     Handwriting/Deacon
10:00 - Handwriting/Shiloh     All About Spelling/Deacon
10:30 - Math
11:00 - Reading 
11:30 - free play
           clean up school room, fold laundry & prepare lunch
12:00 - lunch
12:30 - free play
           clean up lunch, get little ones ready for nap & put away laundry
1:00 - rest time (littles nap, big ones read or build with Legos)
          my time! :) Read, email/blog/facebook, nap, tv show 
2:30 - crafts/drawing/painting
3:00 - free play
         weekly chore (different every day) & quick clean up of the house before  
         Daddy comes home
4:30 - board or card game while I start dinner

It's simple, but it's intentional. I really like the idea of being done with the days house work by dinner time. Granted, there will be dishes...and there could be other odd jobs because of the kiddos, but for the most part, my house work ends with dinner. That is a good thing for me and my guilty-mama complex. Now I can put my feet up and relax with my hubby to end the night and not feel compelled to do more. I can rest assured that I used my time fully that day and that everything else can wait for tomorrow. 

For some of you, this may seem like a no brainer. Perhaps you've had a routine to your house work that you've slipped into easily and now it comes second nature to you. You are awesome and I salute you. Others might be in the chaos I used to be in, of haphazard homemaking...let me encourage you, you can do it! You can make slow changes that will become new habits. Decide on one thing, one area of your home and commit to handle that one thing differently...don't pressure yourself to change everything all at once. Take a deep breath and allow yourself time to work up to more. Be proud of the small changes and celebrate your victories. 

Have you had success or struggles in this? Are you a reformed haphazard homemaker? I'd love to hear your ideas, tips and how you handle this part of creating your house a great home for your family. Are you living in the chaos of reactive house work? What one area are you going to commit to make small changes in?

Blessings to you today as you are in the midst of this!

Up next...The Great Juggling Act Part Two: {younger children & home school}

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Questions: Why do we home school?

Can you feel the back-to-school-buzz? Moms everywhere are uniting in their excitement for another school year to commence. Sure, the 10 page long supply list and Wal-Mart bumper cart death match is dreaded...but the start of school cannot come fast enough for most moms (and probably some Dads too). Summer was a sweet thought...back in May, when parents were drowning in the end-of-school-year testing/papers/teacher gifts and class parties. But now, in the blazing heat of August, as all kids everywhere are going freaking stir crazy from being indoors a few too many seems like an air conditioned dream. A potential seven glorious kid free hours a day...five days a regain mental health lost over the past 2.5 months.

As you bump into other parents at this time of year, trivial chatter about school floats back and forth. What school/what grade/what teacher are exchanged as parents have memorized these stats for moments like these. Which means that I get "The Question" a lot. "Oh, you home school?" (those words spoken delicately, as if they are said too strongly, they might be "catching" and spread like an unwanted germ.) "That's...neat. Can I ask why?"

It's challenging to explain in a brief sentence why we home school. So the bump-into-answer differs greatly from the friends that ask...their desire to understand our why also differs from the random stranger whose "Why?" is truly more of an expletive rather than a real question. I've been able to share our homeschooling journey with several friends who have asked in the past couple of weeks, and I've so enjoyed getting to talk about it. I probably get a little too's hard to contain myself when I get going. (Consider yourself warned.)

So, for those of you who are curious to know, but we can't get together for coffee and kiddo's my long over-due homeschooling scoop.

A couple of things to note first: 

1) These are my opinions/thoughts/beliefs. They don't have to be yours...I'm not trying to persuade you to change your mind, I'm simply sharing mine.

2) You don't have to agree with me. It's ok, we can still be friends. Promise.

3) This parenting/homeschooling/life thing is a adventure. I haven't "arrived" yet, nor am I claiming to. I am learning and growing in this process as much or even more so than my kids. 

"Why do you home school?"

Lots of reasons, really. Let me start with saying that I never intended to do this. It wasn't a part of my parenting game plan. When Shiloh was a toddler, I fully believed that she would one day go to public school (maaaybe private Christian school). Dustin and I had both spent the majority of our school years in public schools, with dabbles in Christian schools. We turned out okay-ish. We didn't see any harm in letting our kids go to public school. I actually remember thinking that we didn't want to "shelter our kids too much"...they would "need" to go to public school to be "normal". We really didn't have any positive exposure to homeschooling, so it wasn't  even  a viable option.

A little back story as to how we ended up homeschooling before I explain more of the whys. The spring before Shiloh was to begin Kindergarten everything shifted. We had been living in Austin for a year, and we were less than thrilled with the elementary school she would attend. We didn't want to stretch our budget to enroll her in the Christian school, mainly because we knew we wouldn't be able to sustain it for the other kiddos one day. One child we could possibly scrimp and save to make it happen, but four? Not possible. We were thrilled when we found out about Fortis Academy, a Classical Christian University Model School. (I know, ridiculous amount of descriptive words, but all those words = an awesome school) I'll explain more about the classical model later...but what we were initially drawn to was the University Model aspect.

A UMS campus has the students attend two days a week, Monday and Wednesday in our case. Parents then home school the remaining days, with books and lesson plans all chosen and prepared by the school. With a much lower tuition rate, we felt Fortis was an answer to prayers. Shiloh attended Kindergarten and the first semester of first grade there before we moved this past December to Athens, TX. With the mandatory parent trainings I had been through with Fortis under my belt as well as learning along the way during our home school days, we decided to continue homeschooling after our move. There was not a UMS option close by, so switching to 100% home school for the remaining school year seemed best. We already had all our books and could continue to follow along with the lesson plans from Fortis. The flexibility of homeschooling was a huge blessing as we settled into our new home and town. 

So with all that said, perhaps some of the answers to the whys will become more clear...because truly, our decision to home school was a gradual process. We did not start Shiloh's schooling with full time homeschooling, but we also knew from the beginning that public school was not where we wanted her to be. I am deeply grateful for God's good, good grace to have led us to Fortis. It was just what we needed to help us understand how to home school. I had so many conversations with like minded mama's, and spent time in many of their homes, checking out their school rooms and gathering ideas on organization/what to do with younger siblings/how to make it all work. It was a blessing to have that time of training. Of course, I didn't realize at the time what it was preparing me for.

Our thinking is shaped more by why we want them to be at home, rather than not in public school. I realize I am very privileged to be a home maker, and since I have that gift, I am blessed to be able to have my children home every day. Dustin and I want to be the main influences in their lives, and in order for that to happen, I need to be with them each day, rather than sending them to learn from a teacher and classmates. How can I shape and mold them if I'm not with them? We desire for them to have an authentic, deep and growing love for their Heavenly Father. We desire for our kids to intimately know their Creator and their Savior, and we feel it is our calling to make that happen. To us, that means using every day together to show God's truths to our children. 

I have heard it said that we should be sending our kids into public schools so that they can "be lights" to the other children there. I get that, I really do. However, it is our personal belief that at their young ages (7 & 5) our kids aren't ready to be lights in dark places yet. Do I hope and pray that someday they will indeed shine their lights for all to see? You better believe it! Until that time, while they are so small still, and so very impressionable, their little lights can shine in the safety of our home and outside our home in places we feel appropriate. There are a lot of opportunities to shine in our home...a lot of ways to serve and grow in grace. When we have messy moments...when tempers are lost and selfishness creates is a blessing to be the one to draw everyone back together to mend relationships and learn the art of forgiveness. Countless times every day I have the chance to teach my children the most important truths they will ever is a huge responsibility and also a great honor. I pray that this molding of their hearts will last their lifetime and keep them ever drawn to their Lord. 

Other reasons why we chose to home school:

- we love the flexibility of our big picture calendar (taking breaks when we need to, vacationing at off-peak times) and also the fluidity to our days (learning is a natural part of each day, if we stink up a day we can try again tomorrow, if we want to take a field trip to further our learning we do it!)

- the time we spend together as a family is priceless. Watching these four develop strong bonds is so beautiful. We are prayerful that they will be tightly-knitted throughout their whole lives...we feel that this time together will further those relationships.

- the kids can take lessons (Shiloh does piano & voice) during the day rather than in the evening

- we don't feel a classroom of 20 or so peers is the environment we wish them to spend the majority of their days in

- older kids teaching the younger ones is awesome...for both sides.

- teaching our kids that God can be seen in all we are learning about, and that all of it points back to Him is the biggest blessing.

If you're familiar with Ann Voskamp, you might have heard the phrase "one piece life". That struck a chord with me and has since stuck with me as a goal for our family. Dustin and I are intentionally striving to create a one piece life for our weave faith, family, education, service, and fun all into one beautiful thing. We are aiming to connect all those pieces into one, because we feel they are stronger together than separate. 

"What curriculum do you use?"

Our time at Fortis led me to embrace the classical model of education. In a nutshell, the classical model teaches students how to learn, rather than what to learn. It uses children's natural developmental stages to help them enjoy that they may do so their whole lives. 

While there are many options for classically based curriculum, we are excited to be using the Classical Conversations program for the first time. There is a new campus starting in our town, and we feel so blessed to have this way to connect with other homeschooling families and build a community here. Through the Classical Conversations program my kiddos will be learning History, Geography, English,  Math, Science & Latin. They will participate in science experiments/demonstrations, a fine arts lesson and group presentations (public speaking).  We meet on Monday mornings with other students from 9am-noon to set a framework for our week. The rest of the days we continue to study further into the weekly CC work as well as using the All About Spelling and Saxon Math programs.  

"What is your daily schedule like?"

It really works best (although it is hard sometimes...okay, a lot of times) to get going straight after breakfast. This requires that I wake up before the kiddos (H-A-R-D)...but when I do it sets our morning in motion in a good way. This is roughly what our school days will look like, but part of the beauty of this is that we have wiggle room.

8:00 - breakfast
8:30 - get dressed, make beds, brush teeth
9:00 - memory work in History, Geography, English, Science, Math & Latin
9:30 - All About Spelling/Shiloh     Handwriting/Deacon
10:00 - Handwriting/Shiloh     All About Spelling/Deacon
10:30 - Math
11:00 - Reading 
11:30 - free play
12:00 - lunch
12:30 - free play
1:00 - rest time (littles nap, big ones read or build with Legos)
2:30 - crafts/drawing/painting
3:00 - free play
4:30 - board or card game while I start dinner

I realize this schedule may look surprising if you compare it to a traditional school day, however, we can accomplish so much in a short amount of time. With only two students to teach, our time is condense...there is no filler time, no busy work, no built in buffer time to move from activity to activity. 

In another post I'll explain what I'll be doing around the house during the kids "free play" times, and also what I do with the younger ones during our school time. I will also share some homeschooling mama's that inspire me. 

This is a large part of what I'm in the midst of. It is my daily task, and it is not always easy. I have not chosen to home school because it's easier than sending the kids to school (although I think I would stink at getting the lunches, back packs, home work together and kids to school before the tardy bell 5 days a week!) fact, I think it's quite the challenge. I do believe that God works wonders in the difficult stuff of life. I pray that I will honor Him with what He has entrusted into my hands for this season.