Responding to the Loneliness of a Disconnected Culture

Responding to the Loneliness of a Disconnected Culture

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. Before that, I office’d out of my home where I had minimal contact with humans during the day. As an external processing extrovert, this hasn’t always been easy.

With the advent of social media, smart phones, and a disengaged culture, this has become more of a struggle. My kids are older and we don’t “play” with other moms and kids like we used to do. I know I’m not alone in feeling lonely, disconnected and forgotten at times. We don’t talk on phones anymore. We send texts or comment on social media, or perhaps on e-mail. My kids barely even know how to answer the phone. We haven’t had a landline for years. I get that it’s our culture. There’s little I can do to change the world around me. But it bothers me.

I’ve tried to do my part. Instead of texting my neighbor to see if she has an egg or powdered sugar, I try to call. I’ve made it a goal to send a hand written note to people in my life once a week. I don’t always do it, but I continue to make an effort.

disconnected culture

My family was alone this past Thanksgiving. We had a lovely day together as a family, but it was sad for me too. It was another feeling of disconnect from others. So when I received a phone call from a childhood friend, I was seriously shocked and surprised. Mike called just to wish my family and me a Happy Thanksgiving and to bless and encourage us. When I answered his call, he told me he prefers the “personal touch” to a texted message. I can’t even tell you how much this encouraged my heart. It made me feel human. I felt remembered, encouraged, and loved. It was a simple, short phone call, but it literally made my whole day.

disconnected culture

There has always been power in reaching out to others with a personal touch. It seems today, the power has increased exponentially. We are a lonely culture. No one ever thinks I’m lonely. I have an abundance of beautiful friends and contacts. It’s true. However, I’m not immune to feeling the sense of “alone” in our disconnected world. None of us are.

I’m so challenged by my friend’s simple, but kind gesture. It’s not the first time he has surprised me with encouragement, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I want to learn from Mike, and reach out and tell the people around me that I love them, the specific things about them for which I am thankful. I hope you join me in this challenge. Just a simple, small step to reach out and touch someone’s heart with a personal call or letter or invite to coffee or lunch can have an impact on the people in our lives.

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

When I speak with moms about making connections to our kid’s hearts, I often hear things such as: “How can you stay so calm? I’m way too fiery.” Or, “How do you know what to say? I could never think to say those kinds of things to my kids in the moment.”

I want to share with you a little secret. When my parenting paradigm began to shift to a more connected approach, I was fiery and didn’t know what to say either. To be totally truthful, I’m STILL fiery. My personality and temperament are a gift from God and they haven’t changed.

A change has taken place, not in my personality, but in my submission to God’s beautiful ways…which are not my own. As I understand more of who God truly is and what it really means to walk in unity with Him, I am able to trust and submit more of who I am, to let Him mold me.

I mess up. A lot. When I was beginning to learn the messages of connection from Connected Families…the mess ups were sometimes, literally, All. Day. Long. I wanted to communicate safety, love no matter what, that my kids were capable and responsible for their actions. However, that didn’t always happen.

My kids were just laughing about a day that I THOUGHT I was living out the messages. At the sweet age of 8, I told my son that because he argued with all of my instruction that he could live a day WITHOUT instruction and parent himself. I thought this was so creative. I was going to teach him to listen to me! What I ACTUALLY communicated was rejection, throughout the day. I remember talking to my friend Jim on the phone later in the afternoon telling him what I had done. I felt depressed, realizing I had pushed my boy away and did nothing to grow anything lasting in him. Jim helped me come up with ways to communicate better with my boy, and thankfully we ended the day with a strong message of acceptance and love.

Often times, though I WANTED to communicate grace-filled responses, my old responses of anger, control, conditional love, and “you aren’t capable,” would creep into my interactions with my kids. It isn’t in the natural part of my spirit to give life-giving, always loving messages.If I make a mistake and then tell myself, “I’ll never change, I just can’t do this. I’m too fiery. I don’t know what to say,” then I’m also saying, “My kids aren’t worth me sacrificing myself for better parenting.” I love my kids passionately…but I’m not able to walk in perfection. Letting go of perfection has helped. 

wisdom

So, let’s get practical. When I find myself responding with anger or sarcasm, saying or doing something that isn’t my new heart for parenting, I do the following: I stop. I remove myself from the situation and take time to calm myself before I say any more. I ask God for wisdom. Then I go back and practice what we call a “do-over.” I look at my child and simply say, “I’m sorry. When I was sarcastic just now, that isn’t that kind of parent I want to be, nor the message I want to give to you. Will you forgive me? May I have a do over?” Then, I try the interaction again, sharing the messages I want to share, in a manner that shows love and safety to my child. 

In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice this act of evaluating, repenting, apologizing, trying again, I started to notice something. Sometimes, I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was.

An added bonus, I was communicating several strong messages to my kids:
  1. It’s OK to be authentic and bring mistakes to the light.
  2. Modeling repentance and asking for forgiveness has given them the tools to do this in their own relationships.
  3. Grace and truth are high values in our home.
  4. God changes our hearts, and sanctification takes time. We can be patient with each other as we grow.

After years of practicing do-overs, calming myself, and communicating unconditional love, safety, humility, and wisdom to my children, it has become more of who I am. It is more natural now. God has been using my continual trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time. So much so, that I don’t even recognize myself in the comments from the moms with whom I’m blessed to interact. 

You can do this too. You don’t need to stay enslaved to a temperament that needs refining. Growing in wisdom takes time. I don’t have all the answers and say everything perfectly to my kids. However, I’m doing better. You can do better too. Let go of the perfectionistic thoughts that tell you, you have to do it right all the time to do it at all. Those are lies from an enemy who wants to steal our kid’s hearts. Fight it. The victory is already yours, waiting for you to pick it up and take it. You CAN connect with your kid’s hearts.

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

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

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

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.

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

When our big kids were little, I remember thinking that they were trying to control me. Their job was to obey, my job was to enforce obedience. When they didn’t do what I said right away, I felt worried that they were going to become difficult. Ceasing to obey me on demand would give them a pattern of disobedience if I didn’t strongly intercede.

I remember asking them to get out of the car, or to come with me upstairs to get on pajamas or brush teeth for bedtime. When they stubbornly resisted, I felt a tightening in my chest. I needed to remain in control and they needed to do what I said!

Sometimes, I spoke with a stern, angry voice, “You need to get out of the car, NOW!”

Other times, I would grab an arm and physically pull the child out of the car, with a scowl on my face and a desire to show I was boss.

Have you been there? Can you think of times when you didn’t know what else to do?

Believe me when I tell you, there is SOMETHING else you can do!

God DOES call my children to obey. It is my job to HELP them do so. In the past, when they didn’t listen and I felt the pressure rise in me, I gave into it, lacking self-control. When I matched their level of stubbornness, I created a power struggle where everyone felt as if they lost. This was the opposite of helping them obey, it created hardened hearts toward me.

When I repented of my need to be in control, it transformed my relationships with my children.

Today, Cupcake wouldn’t get out of the van. I asked her to come inside. She flatly refused. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I calmed my entire body and took a deep breath. Then, sweetly, gently, I walked over to the car. I extended my hand toward her in gentleness. I sweetly touched her arm and smiled as I said, “Come on in with Mommy, honey.” She simply reached for my hand and walked inside.

transforming anger to peace

This kind of interaction between us didn’t happen over night. In the beginning when I began walking in freedom with my children, I would have to stop, count, pray, breathe, ask God for wisdom. My children didn’t always respond right away to my smiles or gentle gestures. Sometimes they dug in even further. I needed to find wise, kind responses. Over time, they began to understand that my heart was changing and they could trust me.

In the beginning, I messed up a lot. During those times of messing up, there were days when it felt hopeless. Sometimes I feared I would never change. I lost hope that this grace-filled way of relating would have a positive impact. Humbling myself and committing to a do-over was an hourly part of my existence.

As days have turned into years, muscle memory has kicked in. My body doesn’t immediately get tense when kids resist what I have to say. I’m able to stay calm, listen to their view point, give them options, and I have power to turn from the temptation of forcing obedience. As I have changed, my kid’s hearts have opened to me. They resist me less and trust me more. This has taken years! And we are still working on it! Am I perfect at it now? No! But we are all TRANSFORMED.

Moms, Dads, if you find your parenting paradigm is causing you distress, pain, anguish…try another way. If you feel defeated, lay awake at night regretting your parenting interactions…you can change! Start small. Smile when you want to give a disapproving look. Speak softly when you want to yell. Ask God for a calm heart and wisdom.

When we as parents obey our commands in our relationship to our children, our children are better able to obey their command to obey us.

Reach out if we can pray for you or help you take the first steps toward a grace-filled home. We are here to help.

First Day of School

First Day of School

There’s very little that’s authentic about our family’s First Day of School posts. It’s really not our “first day.” We have a very fluid homeschool and we are always learning. We don’t put a high emphasis on what “grade” our kids are in. Mainly, this helps us know where to categorize them in events outside of our homeschool.

But we love doing “first day” pictures when the rest of our area goes back to school. It breaks my heart whenever I see pictures of children looking downcast as their mom celebrates her children going back to school. As a homeschool mom who feels grateful for every day home with her kids, it’s very difficult to understand.

We are having a party over here at our house today… a party that celebrates our freedom and gratitude to homeschool.

Happy First Day of School everyone! We pray you have a blessed school year, with hearts turned toward God and turned toward home.

Malachi 4:6 y’all!

 

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

One question I hear all.the.time: What do you do with your little kids when you are trying to homeschool?  Homeschool moms love to plan, purchase curriculum, and dream about crossing off all our check lists.

But…babies, toddlers, preschoolers! They are a reality in many of our homes. I’ve found that pre-school aged children don’t care about our carefully laid plans.

Here are ten ideas for investing in your pre-school aged children during the homeschool day:

1. Buy a good baby carrier:

When your hands are free, you can nurse that baby, while teaching a math lesson. You can keep your little crawler out of dangerous cupboards as you listen to narrations and dictate spelling lists. With a toddler on your back, you can stay engaged and sing and talk together as you make pb&j in the kitchen.

2. Use play-dough during concentrated school time only:

Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE play dough, magic sand, and all things messy. Keep it for special occasions when you want them to stay engaged for just a few minutes longer. Let them make letters in salt or shaving cream. If messy makes you anxious when you already have so much to deal with as far as clean up, get some trays! Teach your toddler to keep materials on the tray as they play. It won’t be perfect, but I’ve found trays to help minimize the mess.

preschool

3. Give the older kids “assignments” to play with the little one for a short while:

Little siblings usually adore older brothers and sisters. Special one-on-one time where older siblings read books or play puppets or build towers with blocks is not only helpful, but so good for their relationships. When Cupcake was a small infant, Jules used to bring the baby and her science textbook to a rocking chair. She would use a British accent (for fun) and read her science assignments aloud to the baby. It made a boring subject more fun for Jules and was a blessing to everyone.

preschool

4. Make sensory bins:

Grab an empty bin or tray, fill it with rice/perler beads/popcorn/rocks/water/beans and top it off with small toys. If you want, get “fancy,” make themed bins (I was able to do that this year and it was so fun! I included one of my big kids and he had a blast finding little toys to put in the bins). Little hands love to pour items from cup to cup and to make discoveries under the layers. (Notice the tray under the bin? I use those trays all the time!) *Supervise your little ones to keep them safe and your house from becoming a rice field.

preschool

5. Make a light table:

I took a white trofast storage bin, put left over lights underneath it and gave my preschooler opaque toys: letters, window clings, reusable ice cubes, neon letter templates, dollar tree plastic shot glasses. She loves to build on the light table. It has a calming effect. Bonus, you can turn the bin over and fill it with all the toys and the lights…easy clean-up.

preschool

6. Dramatic play:

Dramatic play is our FAVORITE around here. We have a closet right outside our school room. It was nearly empty, so I made it into a cute little nook where my little girls have home-base for dramatic play during school time. I hang up dress-up clothes and rotate them out. The dramatic play toys are small and fit on the top shelf of the closet. No one can reach them but mommy and they only come out when I’m doing concentrated school time with big kids. We have a camping set, specialty food items, a tiny kitchen, doctor kits, and a cash register. I set up the rug outside of the closet with a “theme” and give them different props on different days and set them free with their imagination.

preschool

7. Do school together:

My little Cupcake takes her “school” so seriously. One of her frequent prayer requests is that she can “get her school done.” My favorite “school” ideas for littles over the years have been:

~”Before Five in a Row.” The book list from this gentle curriculum is precious. Even if you don’t purchase the teacher’s guide, your preschooler will enjoy sweet time on your lap with classic books that teach many beautiful concepts.

~Chocolate Chip School: We do have Counting Bears…but, nothing made my Cupcake happier last year then when I announced it was, “Chocolate Chip School time.” We got out chocolate chips and counted them. Simple addition and subtraction is fun when you get to eat your manipulative. Siblings came running when they heard us subtracting and everyone enjoyed a little chocolate break in the day.

~Ziggy school: All About Reading has a sweet way of introducing letters to your preschooler with their pre-reader program. Make sure you purchase the activity sheets. They are darling. All of my littles have LOVED Ziggy the Zebra. He says such silly things. Sometimes he helped Cupcake listen to instructions that have nothing to do with the “AAR” program. Taking instruction from a puppet is more exciting than following mommy some days.

preschool

~Letter Search: Cupcake and I got some squishy bath-toy letters. After Ziggy introduces a letter to us, we take out the bath-toy letter and put it in our “hunting box.” Then we go around the house and try to find things in the house that start with our letter to put in the box. THIS IS SO FUN. Do it!

preschool

~Include them in the “big kids” school projects: Whenever my kids are assigned an active, hands on, messy, or fun project, we make sure the little ones are front and center. Does it sometimes lengthen the project? Yes. Have there been times when it frustrated the situation? Certainly! We just look at those as character building moments for all of us and move on.

preschool

8. Make a “can-do” list:

Sometimes it’s overwhelming for everybody to think of all the things preschoolers “can’t do.” I used to have a “Catty Can” list. I laminated little cards and hung them on an o-ring. Each card had something “Catty Can” do; sing the alphabet, roll a ball, color a picture, read books, play dolls, blow bubbles,” The list can be as long and creative as you want it to be. When Catty was a tiny little thing and she felt frustrated with being told “no,” we got out our “Catty Can” list and picked an activity.

9. Don’t forget your baby:

Homeschool moms…you have so much to do. I get it! Math, handwriting, history, read alouds, science labs, spelling, grammar, art, breakfast, lunch, clean up, dinner, Bible, memory, character issues. Being a teacher to our big kids is important. If God has blessed us with little ones who aren’t in school, they need us, just as much as our big kids did when they were pre-schoolers. Make sure you are hugging, laughing, tickling, reading to, coloring with, pushing on the swing, chasing, being goofy, dancing, singing silly songs and spending time with your little ones. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of hard play to help them feel remembered, loved, and valued.

10. Hold your plans loosely:

You know I love a well thought out plan. Please remember, that plans should not trump people. Our little ones will be fussy, sick, and overwhelmingly needy at times. It will be tempting to feel like they are getting in the way of our plans. Sometimes, God has a curriculum for us that doesn’t match our beautiful planners. Pay attention when He puts something in our path that pulls us away from what we thought was the “perfect day.” Especially if that “something” is one of our little ones. Don’t look back on the preschool years of your children with regret because you pushed them away to check off a list. Gently guide, love, embrace, and include them as much as you can!

Oh…and one more tip:

Don’t do school when they nap! Really. Don’t do it. Use that time for all of you bigger people to refresh and rest. You can thank me in January for that one.

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

After planning the Big Picture of your homeschool year, it’s time to begin focusing on specific plans.

I’m using The Simple Plan, by Mardel for my planner. But any planner will have daily pages that should work for your homeschool.

Steps to a Detailed Plan:

On Sunday evening, I sit down and look at my family weekly view calendar and I fill in appointments and anything that may compete with “at home” time for our school days.

detailed plan

Every afternoon, when the kids finish their school work, I correct their work and assign the next day’s assignment. I section my planner by subjects and each kid gets a line on that subject (in birth order).

detailed plans

I go through Jule’s work first, checking off what she has done and writing down the next day’s tasks in her planner. This pattern continues for each kid until I’m done; correct assignments, check off that they are complete in my planner, add next day’s assignment. All turned in assignments are returned to the kid’s desk and I start with the next kid.
Jules and Peebs have The Simple Plan student planners, by Mardel. I make sections for each subject and give more detailed assignments than what I actually record in my own planner. It guides them through the day. I tell them what they need to do on their own and what they need to do with me.
The beauty of giving daily assignments is I can adjust what we do from day to day to keep us flexible. This way the kids don’t ever feel “behind” or “ahead” and frankly it is giving them much less stress than when they used to have an entire guide in their hands. I simply need to look at my “year-at-a-glance plan” for each subject to make sure we are making good progress through each subject area.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

Odes and Catty didn’t get fancy planners. It really wasn’t necessary as most of their work is done directly with me. I write down their plans in a plain notebook: I love adding little love notes and words of encouragement in their books. This may look slightly overwhelming, but it honestly only takes a few minutes each afternoon.

detailed plansdetailed plans

As the kids go through their school day and complete their work, they turn in completed assignments in this dish-drying rack (placed inside of an Ikea Raskog). If the book doesn’t fit the drying-rack, they place it on the next shelf down. When their day’s work is complete, they add their planners to the completed work bin and I begin my work of correcting and assigning:

detailed plans

I pull out each finished piece of work and put on a sticker or write a note. I keep stickers in the front of the dish-drying rack. If appropriate, I write directly in the book. If I don’t want my handwriting to be permanent, I add it to a sticky note. The kids LOVE getting these notes from me. It makes them feel their work is important. I’ve noticed they do their work more carefully as a result. I also take this time to look at any errors or things that need attention. Words that are consistently mis-spelled are placed on a sticky note outside the notebook they turn in. We work on those errors throughout the week.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

The method of handing in assignments for me to look at during the day has cut down on a lot of interruptions. Before implementing this method, kids were nearly constantly bombarding me with questions while I was doing lessons with siblings. That has almost completely come to a stop.

Each kid has color-coded folders where they turn in assignments done on loose leaf paper. Finished work is placed on the right side of the folder. I send it back with a note and sticker on the left side of the folder for them to see. The next time the folder comes back to me, I either throw away the paper on the left, or put it in a color-coded three ring “better binder.” Guess what this means? No crazy paper work at the end of the year! And a portfolio of work is at my finger tips to store away for posterity (or a burning party when they graduate, if so desired). detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

So right now, you are likely thinking one of two things: “That girl is CRAZY!” Or “Get me to Staples for better binders, now!” Either way, I’d love to hear if any of these ideas are a help for you. What do you do to plan the details of your days?

 

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

I recently shared our homeschool year plan for 2017-2018, and promised I would share some of my planning process. Planning a season of homeschool can seem daunting. It does take some time and thought. I’m going to break this down into different posts and show how I’ve done this step by step in my home. I hope it is helpful.

Steps for Big Picture Planning:

1. Pray:Big Picture Planning

Take time to pray alone, with your kids, with your spouse. Ask God to give you wisdom on what will be the best fit for your particular life season. Trust Him to lead you.

2. Evaluate:

What is going on in the life of your family? Are you pregnant? Will you be giving birth soon? Do you have a newborn or toddler who will require significant attention this school year? Is there a move in your future? Are you, your children, or loved ones struggling with on-going or significant illness? Will you be traveling? Do your children have any learning disabilities or challenges that need to be addressed? Be realistic about all you can accomplish within different life seasons.

3. Think about your kids:

What are their interests right now? What do you like doing together? Ask your kids for input. Is there an area of growth you would like to explore? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Is there a character quality or spiritual discipline that are important to your children’s development? What books have you been wanting to read? How old are your kids and what is reasonable to expect from them? How do you want your days to look? What is your educational philosophy? Do you want your home to look like school-at-home? Are you taking a relaxed approach? Will you use textbooks and workbooks? Do you enjoy reading aloud and lap books?

4. Research:

Ask your friends and more experienced moms things that have and haven’t worked for them. Look at various box curriculum to see suggestions for areas of study for different age groups. (I get ideas for history and book lists based on suggestions from box curriculum such as Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, etc. Go to a homeschool conference and look at material. Contact different publishers to discuss what might be best for your situation. Go to a seminar. In our area, there is a homeschool bookstore that services homeschoolers and offers feedback to fit your situation.

Big Picture Planning Carol Joy Seid offers seminars all over the country or you can buy her DVDs. Diana Waring gives incredible suggestions. Books such as, “Teaching from Rest,” by Sarah MacKenzie, “Educating the WholeHearted Child,” by Clay and Sally Clarkson, “The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling,” by Karen Allen Campbell, offer encouragement and ideas (there are LOTS of good, encouraging homeschool books). Visit co-ops and see if that is a fit for your family.

 

(Note: It’s OK not to do a Co-op, but could be a great thing for your family.)

Consider how you can get a full education from the library. Will you combine all or some of your children on some subjects? Which subjects will need to be one-on-one? What can they do independently? (Note: Most children are not ready for independence until around age 10, though even then, it’s not automatic. Realize that if you are going to do heavy school work with young children, you are responsible to sit with them and give instruction.)

As I go through the research step, I make notes in an empty Word document for each child. I keep websites I want to re-visit in those notes. As I go along, I delete items and ideas that aren’t a fit and by the end I have a good working list of what I’ll be using.

5. Research a planner:

This could keep you busy for several long nights of youtubing. I can’t give any advice about online planners. My expertise lies in pen-to-paper planners. I will link a few here, starting with the one I’m using this year:

Big Picture Planning

A Simple Plan (the planner I used last school year and am using again. I like it because it is dated, gives space for long term planning, monthly goals, a place to record purchases, two pockets (where I keep receipts) and individual planning spaces for up to six kids. The guts are all gray and white, which I don’t care for, but I can fix with a little bit of washi. I’m in love with colorful fun planners. However, keeping this design simpler does cut down the cost.)

Well Planned Day

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Erin Condren Teacher Planner: (this is not a homeschool planner, but I’ve adapted it to use it as such in the past. It is over-the-top expensive…but, Oh.So.Beautiful.)

Limelife Homeschool Planner: (this is also spendy, beautiful, and it is a homeschool planner to boot!)

Happy Planner Teacher Planner: (Not specific to homeschool, but…Happy Planner! I LOVE this line. They are SO adorbs! You can adapt them beautifully to your needs. Plus, Michael’s regularly has 50 and even 60% off coupons!)
If you don’t like any of these suggestions there are billions of planners on Etsy. Start with Plum Paper and after that you will get plenty of suggestions.

*You will spend a good amount of your days/years as a homeschool mom researching. You will make changes and often. Try not to get stuck in the research mode for too long. At some point you will have to make decisions.

6. Decide:

I advise discussing your decisions with your spouse. Once you have decided the route you want to take, entrust those decisions to Jesus and move forward. If you need to make some purchases, now is the time. This is fun! It’s mom’s Christmas when those packages get dropped off:

7. Sort and plan an overview of your year:

I divide my kid’s books onto their own personal shelves. I have a mom shelf where I keep all of the teacher manuals I will use during the year.
Next, I open my planner and plan the Big Picture: I look at each subject and divide it into a year’s worth of general lessons. Then I plot out an ideal “routine” day for each day of the week. This took me about six hours to pull together. It’s a lot of time up-front, however having the big picture mapped out, makes weekly and daily lesson planning extremely easy. It’s worth the up-front effort.

Here are some picture examples of Big Picture planning I did for one of my older kids:

Big Picture Planning
This is NOT a schedule, but a rough idea of how we can structure our days to fit things in. I don’t give this plan to my kids. It’s simply an idea of flow and routine for my own planning.

I left space at the end of the year as I’m not sure how we will space out these subjects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an example of plans for my preschooler. (I didn’t make plans for the rest of the kids when they were three years old. It certainly isn’t necessary! I simply recorded ideas so little Cupcake will not feel cast aside when everyone else hits the books. If I keep her engaged, we will ALL have better days.)

Big Picture Planning

Big Picture Planning

Stay tuned for Part 2 and how I turn the Big Picture into a daily plan!

 

Curriculum for 2017-2018 School Year

Time for the ultimate Homeschool mom blog post. How geeky are we? But I know I love reading other mom’s plans for curricula, so I decided to share mine.

After much prayer and contemplation, we’ve decided to move away from Heart of Dakota this year. HOD has been an amazing blessing, giving us structure during Cupcake’s first few years of life. I feel it has made us even better equipped to structure our school days on our own. I’m so grateful for our four years with this program!

We have done several “test-run” days of school this summer and we are LOVING our new set up. We are finding enough rigor to keep our synapses connecting, and enough time to do the other things we love. I present to you our carefully crafted school plans for the 2017-2018 school year:

Swannie Mom: 
H.S. Planner: A Simple Plan, by Mardel
Life Planner: The Happy Planner (until January where I am switching to, “Mom On the Go”)

Jules, Grade 8:
Math: Algebra Teaching Textbooks
History: Modern History with Mystery of History , Volume IV
What In the World
Geography: MapTrek and various games
Science: A variety of books on Human Anatomy and Chemistry
simple home labs
Language Arts: Analytical Grammar
Beyond the Book Report
Vocab, home-made mom program
The Missions to Modern Marvels book list
Bible/Faith studies: Faith at Work from Explorer’s Quest
Apologia Worldview
Hero Tale’s
Scripture Memory, Charlotte Mason style
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory
Spanish 2: with Dad
Typing: Typing Club

Peebs, Grade 6:
Math: Math 7 Teaching Textbooks
History: The Renaissance and Reformation, with
Mystery of History
What In the World
Geography: MapTrek and various games
Science: Apologia, Astronomy
Language Arts: Grammar Basics, home-made mom program
Vocab, home-made mom program

Reading assignments and Book reports, home-made mom program
The Resurrection to Reformation book list 
Bible: Hidden Treasures in Philippians
Hero Tales
Scripture memory: Philippians chapter 1
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory
Typing: Typing Club

Odes, Grade 4:
Math: Math 5 Teaching Textbooks
History: Beautiful Feet, Early American History
Geography: Little Passports, USA
Science: Apologia; Zoology, Birds of the Air
Language Arts: A Reason for Handwriting (level D)
Phonetic Zoo (spelling)
Reading leveled readers and various book report assignments
Read alouds include:
Trumpet of the Swan
Betsy, Tacy, Tib
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Caddie Woodlawn
Prince Caspian
The Green Ember
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Bible: Jesus, My Shepherd, Explorer Quest
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory

Catty, Grade 2:
Math: Math 4 Teaching Textbooks
History: Beautiful Feet, Early American History
Geography: Little Passports, USA
Science: Apologia, Zoology, Birds of the Air
Language Arts: A Reason for Handwriting (level T)
All About Spelling (level 3)
Reading leveled readers and various book report assignments
Read alouds include:
Trumpet of the Swan
Betsy, Tacy, Tib
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Caddie Woodlawn
Prince Caspian
The Green Ember
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Bible: Jesus, My Shepherd, Explorer Quest
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory

Cupcake, pre-school:
Math: Counting and Subtracting M&M’s/Counting Bears, etc.
Language: Before Five in A Row
All About Reading, level pre-reading
Variety of learning tools: sensory bins and light table, special dramatic play area (school only toys), magic sand and play dough, puzzles, coloring and painting, washi tape, etc.

Phy-Ed and health: We will continue to train for different events and keep active. Jules and I will be doing some special stretching and resistance band training. I’m also covering various health topics at age appropriate levels this year. We won’t be using any formal curricula for these subjects, but they will be covered.

Odes, Catty, and Cupcake, will still be doing Calendar Time with Mommy. We will learn the date and weather, hymns and prayer time, read devotions and have a sweet time of connection together.

I will explain in a future post how I’m implementing all our plans and planning out an eclectic school day such as this. I will also share how I hold the kid’s accountable and different ways I will connect with them over their school work.

That’s all for now!

p.s. one more thing: do you realize how many books I will be reading aloud this year? It is always stunning to me when I see it all written down! So. Fun.