It’s OK Not to Do a Co-Op Moms, I Promise

It’s OK Not to Do a Co-Op Moms, I Promise

I’ve been a stay at home mom since my oldest was born nearly 14 years ago, when I consider our “homeschool” began. Homeschooling wasn’t as popular or accepted as it is today. It was sometimes scary to have your six year old at the store with you during school hours, or let your kids play outside before the buses got home.

Most of the more experienced mamas I knew would say, “all you need is a Bible, math curriculum, a library card, a ton of love, and your child will get a great education.”

We were encouraged to keep things simple. Desks and formal schooling areas weren’t necessary. The all so often socialization fear was met with “your kids are socialized when interacting with the plumber, they’ll be fine.” These hippie homeschool moms assured me that my kids didn’t need to be with 30 other kids their own age all day to become well rounded individuals.

Most of us moms loved Carole Joy Seid, and Charlotte Mason; nature walks and read alouds; interest led schooling on the couch in the morning and Little House On the Prairie in the afternoon. Ah, the good old days of homeschool.

 

co-op

Over the past several years, the culture among us has changed. Influential dominionist homeschool leaders have been called to task and taken out of the arena (hurrah!). New curricula publishers pop up every day. Mommy blogs (like this one) are everywhere. The choices for a homeschool family are overwhelmingly abundant. In our area we have an endless pick of co-ops. Families can choose co-ops for select classes; all required classes; field trips; groups where moms teach kids and encourage one another; groups where moms drop kids for entire days and kids are taught material and assigned homework the rest of the week. On-line schools exist. Special groups for fine arts abound. Phy-Ed classes are provided. Some co-ops provide year books, proms, student council, study hall. A family could easily spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on various classes, groups, and activities.

co-op

I’m not here to judge any family for making choices to participate in any of these groups. Sometimes, it is absolutely the right thing to do for your family. It may be the right thing for my family down the road as well. I’m not picking on you if you’re called to a co-op.

I do want to say however, the hippie homeschooler’s advice is still legitimate. While homeschooling is becoming more and more accepted, we are still constantly asked, “How can you teach every subject?” or “How will your children be properly socialized?” and now the popular, “But, you’re in a co-op, right?” The pressure to give in to other people’s views of schooling can be strong. When I’m asked these questions, I confidently say, “There are plenty of lovely co-ops available. We choose not to participate. We are thriving.”

You CAN homeschool WITHOUT all of the available options today.

It’s still true that your children don’t NEED be socialized by same aged peers. Rich, living books, God’s word, and a math curriculum is still a legitimate education. Starting late, rather than early, is still a legitimate theory in educating. Working hard at keeping your home from becoming “school at home” is still an acceptable value. If you want to stay at home with your kids, and teach them all by yourself, it is OK!

I know you all don’t need my permission. But, maybe you need to hear that other moms are still trying to hang on to the legacy of the families who went before us? I recently walked with a friend through her process of feeling that she SHOULD do a co-op, even though she didn’t want to. God wasn’t calling her and her kids to one in this season of life and it was a relief for her to know she wasn’t alone. No matter how much the culture of homeschool changes, the simple values which started the homeschool movement do remain the same.

Dear Weary Homeschool Mama,

Dear Weary Homeschool Mama,

I spoke with a friend the other day. She was drowning in teens and toddlers.

Just like you.

Another friend and I have been trying to connect, but she’s been running ragged to soccer games, track meets, piano lessons, and kid’s events.

Just like you.

For the past month, the world has felt heavy in my soul.
~The sorrow of a friend who held her baby for only 12 days.
~Another dear sister is battling the wounds left on her children by the people who gave birth to them.
~I’m exhausted from my own middle aged hormones.
~I’ve felt the loneliness of a world who has given up human interaction for screen time.

Just like you.

It’s spring time. Birds are humming. The sun is starting to show it’s face again. The world is waking up. But I’m tired.

Just like you.

Sisters, we are under spiritual attack

The homeschool life can be a lonely one. Little people surround us, all day, every day. While this reality is a tremendous gift and joy, it can also feel isolating. Loneliness makes us feel vulnerable.

Homeschool moms do all the things every mom does. The one difference is our children’s education is almost completely our sole responsibility. Mixing our own insecurities, the doubts we feel at times from family and friends, the day to day decision making and the stakes feel very high. Pressure and anxiety make us crack.

It feels as if our job holds little esteem in society. We make little jokes like, “I have a four year degree and I walk around saying things like, ‘Will you please stop licking your sister’s elbow?'” We do have degrees, but we let our own skills and interests take the back burner to our children’s education. Being forgotten makes us depressed.

The enemy of our soul wants us to stay stuck in loneliness, pressure, anxiety, and depression. He wants to lure us into sin.

We are on the front lines in our homes as homeschool moms. Our enemy, the devil is roaring and prowling looking to devour us and our children and our marriages.

Take heart my sisters, Jesus is the answer.

I’ve been praying for God to give me fresh vision in my walk with Him, in my home, in my life. Thankfully, my God has been quick to answer with encouragement for my soul.

Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

When I feel forgotten by the world, overlooked, under appreciated, weary and worn out, God has reminded me that my citizenship lies in another realm, heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back. Do you hear me friends? He is COMING BACK. He has the power to bring all things under his control.

Satan wants us to stay stuck, discouraged, and wallowing in sin and self pity. We can not stay stuck. We have work to do. There is nothing glamorous about our role as homeschool mom. Today, I listened to narrations, checked copy work, read aloud, corrected spelling errors, and taught Math and History. I emptied my cupboards, wiped down shelves and re-organized my kitchen for the warmer months. I played house, and watched The Waltons, made meals, and did dishes, participated in devotions and played gin rummy. In the back of my mind, I Corinthians 3:12-15 played over and over.

“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

One day, I will stand before Christ and He will look at what I have done with my life, and test the quality of my work. If it survives, I will receive a reward. The task He has set before us is eternal. What we do from day to day is enormously important. And ultimately, it will either survive or burn.

We may not feel like Corrie and Betsy ten Boom loving others in a concentration camp. Bruchko’s persistence in bringing the gospel to South American indigenous tribes who wanted to murder him, may seem a more noble or worthwhile life. If we feel this way, we are totally wrong! Every day, we are called to love and sacrifice when it’s hard. We bring the gospel to children who don’t always want to hear it. Our children don’t always appreciate us and at times treat us poorly.

As  I wipe down cupboards, I can wipe them with joy in my heart, and work as if unto the Lord. When a child comes to me for the thousandth time for a drink or a problem or for help, I can love them with the patience and kindness of Christ in me. If I feel lonely and forgotten, I can remember, this world isn’t my home and He will never forget or forsake me. On those desperate and weary days, I MUST remember to cast my anxieties on Him, for He cares for me.

Jesus has already done His job. He never moves away. I need to do my part to respond and submit to His ways. He may or may not change my circumstances. He does however, refresh, empower, fill, and strengthen me to do His will.

When I’m lonely, I remember His love for me.
When I’m weary, I rest in Him.
When I’m depressed, I renew my mind with His precious word.

Press on my friends. Put on God’s armor and fight your enemy. He can not have me! You are not his for the taking! This role we’ve been given is huge. Don’t give up and let your works turn into flames. Lean into Jesus. Let Him love and live through you. You are precious to our Savior, and to me.

~Michelle

Six Ways to Be Intentional In Sibling Bonding

Intentional Siblings

“Dear God, I thank you that we get to be home and do school together. Thank you that we are in a musical and can spend that time together as well…”

…This was an excerpt of a prayer one brother was praying for another. It took my breath away. We all want our kids to love one another, because, let’s be honest, it makes us feel pretty warm and fuzzy. There are however, other reasons we want our children to get along with their siblings.

It’s practical:

Rob Reinow shared at a retreat how he was always hoping for a prayer partner from his youth group, never thinking he had a built-in prayer partner right down the hall: his own brother. So often, we find ourselves discontent, even into adult-hood, looking for new experiences and new people. When our children form tight bonds in childhood, they can live their entire lives with their best friends. Siblings can given amazing spiritual support when it’s a natural part of life growing up.

Mom and Dad won’t always be around:

If things go the right way, our kids will out live us. When parents are gone (so I’ve heard), you can feel a little alone in the Universe. When our children have grown deep bonds, they can be there for one another. We share many of our first life moments with our siblings. Who understands us better than those who we spend day in and day out in our childhood?

Sibling relationships are training ground for all future relationships:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…amazing life-lessons can spring up from sibling relationships. Our children will some day be someone’s roommate, employee, employer, spouse, or friend. What better way to hone relational skills than with the people we see the most (and have the hardest time getting along with)?

How do we intentionally help our children form bonds of friendship?

1. We’ve taken Jim & Lynne Jackson’s advice and we “send our kids on dates.” We have encouraged our kids to pair up, pack a favorite shared activity, and give them money to split a treat in a restaurant. We sit nearby to make sure they are safe, but far enough that the entire activity needs to be directed between the two of them. What an amazing bonding experience this has provided! (We especially like to pair up kids who may have been having trouble getting along in recent days or weeks.)

2. Our kids share bedrooms. We have plenty of bedrooms in our house, but it is entirely normal for kids to pile up in one or two rooms each night. They giggle, debrief their days, and bond in this way. Sharing bedrooms always challenges different personality types to work together in stressful settings. This is a good thing!

3. We encourage our kids to give each other hugs. This actually occurred recently, when I found out one of my sons told the director of his play that he didn’t want to hug a female cast mate and that he doesn’t hug his sisters! I made a fun game out of them all hugging each other until everyone broke out laughing. Since then, I occasionally nudge one to hug another. I don’t like to make a big thing out of this or do it all the time. I’ve noticed however, there has been a new warmth among the crew since implementing this idea. I’ve even seen them initiate a few hugs to one another without my prompting.

4. Strategically placing kids in the car or at the table has been amazing. Two of our feistiest kids struggle often with loving one another. We decided to place those two in the very back of our van for a very long road trip. Just the two of them. With no one else to talk to or rely on for entertainment for hours on end. This devious little plan was brilliant beyond words! They had a couple doozy fights back there. But in those fights, they gloriously worked things out…and they enjoyed each other immensely. Parenting win!

5. Our children pray together. We shared about our prayer day in a previous post. On the day when that child is singled out for more significant prayer, if brothers and sisters are around, they pray too. This plan has done two things for our kids: the one who prays has grown in love for the one for whom is prayed; the prayer day kid has grown vulnerable by sharing requests in front of siblings. As time goes on, I hope to encourage more independent prayer between our kids. It is my hope that into adulthood praying together (without mom and dad) will feel natural.

6. Our kids school together. This is a unique benefit for homeschool families. Over the years, I have enjoyed watching kids say their scripture memory passages to one another during the day. My oldest daughter has often included younger siblings in school projects that have been fun such as baking, olympic games, science experiments, etc. Our oldest son has followed her lead and is exhibiting the same kind of inclusion with the younger kids. Nature hikes, sledding, basketball, read alouds, three meals a day, devotions, prayer time, we are together a lot. There is definitely a lot of distinction in their learning as we have almost a decade spread between the five of them. However, we joyfully bump into each other all day as we circle around our to-do lists. I can’t help but think this is knitting their hearts together in a special way.

I really did feel warm and fuzzy when my son prayed that prayer of thanks for his brother. But more than that, I am deeply grateful for the relationships they are forging with one another. I hope and pray that as we are intentional about our children bonding with one another, that their love for each other will grow and reflect the love of Christ.

Intentional Siblings

 

 

 

The Weird Way Homeschoolers Socialize

The Weird Way Homeschoolers Socialize

homeschool socialization

Over the years we’ve had a lot of questions as to how our homeschooled kids will be properly socialized. There are plenty of articles arguing the benefits for and against being in a room full of kids your own age and the effects that has on a child’s socialization. Homeschool kids are not around their peers all day. However, the socialization they receive can be priceless.

I took my kids out for breakfast. We sat eating our pancakes and drinking our coffee, when an exuberant man, in his sixties, walked in to the restaurant with a huge birthday cake hat. We saw him smiling at us and we wished him a happy birthday. I kept waiting to see his buddies that must be meeting him to celebrate his big day. The man was smiling at all of the children in the restaurant, sweetly holding the hands of waitresses as they passed by and I soon realized that there would be no one joining him at his table.

A woman and her three small children walked past the man. Stopping them, he did a couple of hand tricks for the kids, bringing joyful squeals. He blessed the mom with, “You have lovely children” as she walked away.

The man approached our table and congratulated me on having such a beautiful family and homeschooling them. He knelt down and asked if he could tell us his story. Removing the attention grabbing hat, he told us he wore it (or other hats like it) to disguise the scars on his head where he had surgery on three brain aneurysms which had popped 31 year ago.

He told his miraculous story of courage, and hope and healing

He was a young man when he suffered the aneurysms and he had just quit his job to move across country and start a new life. With no life insurance, a wife and two young children, they accrued almost one million dollars in medical bills. Half of his body was paralyzed and his mental capacity was that of a 7 year old. The doctors who helped bring restoration to this man told him that it wasn’t their hands, but a miracle from God.

As this sweet brother shared his story, tears were flowing out of my eyes and he said, “Don’t do it! Don’t cry, now I’m going to cry! And I can’t cry. My life has been spared and now I need to fulfill my destiny of bringing joy into the lives of others.” It was difficult not to cry. Thirty-one years had passed and he was still grateful for his second chance at life. Back at his table now, he blessed everyone who walked by with a smile, greeting, joke, or little trick.

I wanted to pay his bill, but another guest from across the restaurant had already offered. Instead of leaving the restaurant we asked the birthday man if we could sit with him while he ate. He was so excited and asked if our little Cupcake could sit on his lap. She did and he goofed with the kids for several minutes. I shared with him my own story of miraculous healing 20 years ago and this time he began to cry as he said, “Ah! You know! You know first hand the power of the healing of the Lord! You must know Jesus!” We joyfully told him we did and he shared how God has given him tools to help with the effects of his injuries.

Wrapping up our conversation, he tearfully told me that because of short-term memory loss he would not remember us when we left. He wanted us to know how much joy we brought to his life and how he hoped he had brought blessing to us. He stood up to kiss me on the cheek after telling me his injuries at times make him socially unaware. We talked a bit about the power and love of God and how we don’t always understand his ways. He confessed it wasn’t really his birthday, but that EVERY day was his birthday, as each day for the past 31 years has been an incredible gift.

My children and I circled this amazing man and we spoke a blessing over him and he hugged us and he spoke his own special blessings over each of my children. We got home more than an hour later than I had hoped. It didn’t matter. My kids were socialized in the weird way homeschoolers socialize. And it was beautiful.

Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

When we began homeschooling eight years ago, I came across the idea of “calendar time.” We are not trying to create “school at home.” However, there are certain skills that take lots of repetition and having a daily time to practice those skills seemed like a good idea.

We think of our entire home as our schooling area. We do have a formal school room (I will give you a tour at some point) where we used to do our morning calendar time. That room has now become our “quiet study room” so our calendar time has been moved to a different spot. The older kids don’t join us for calendar time anymore (tear), so it has been nice for them not to be disturbed by this portion of the day which can get quite loud. I don’t love the idea of my home looking like an elementary school, so I picked an unfinished area to pin up our morning board activities.

morning calendar time

I got these cubes about 9 years ago. When I call out, “Five minutes until calendar time,” the three kids that participate in it finish up what they are doing, run to their stools, open the tops to get out their pencils and notebooks and sit down. We start our time together by singing a silly song and them coming up to me and holding my hands and jumping as high as they can.

morning calendar time

Then we move over to our calendar which I bought at a local teacher supply store. We sing songs about the date and then we write the date. We talk about the weather and write one sentence about the weather and sing a song about weather. I teach abbreviations, and different ways to write the date. They record them in their notebook.

I got this little plastic box to store the weather and calendar pieces when note in use.

morning calendar time

After this we move to our cork-board and pick different activities. Sometimes we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We sing silly songs so we know how to spell everyone’s name in the family.(Although, I am not currently doing this as everyone knows how but the three year old. I will start it up again sometime after she turns four.)  There are specific prayer requests for various people written with wet erase markers. Cupcake gets to pick a shape and color of the day each morning. We pray for our pastor and missionaries and ourselves. We practice phone numbers and our address. Each week we work on a scripture passage to memorize.

morning calendar time

After covering the calendar and cork boards we move to reviewmorning calendar time

I’ve found it’s easiest to do things like flash cards and review for the day all in one setting.

morning calendar time morning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar time

We practice multiplication, addition, and subtraction facts, reading music, state facts, the books of the Bible, and the last picture are flash cards I made of Clay and Sally Clarkson’s “24 Family Ways.” I am just going to be honest and say that my kids did not love the devotional, but I like the concept of reviewing how we idealistically want to relate as a family to God, parents, one another, ourselves and our possessions. We review math facts daily, but we rotate with the other flash cards.

morning calendar time The last thing we do is read from a devotional and sing a hymn. Right now we are finishing up “Leading Little Ones to God.” This devotional is so, so, SO good for young children. I’ve read it several times. I anticipate reading it one or two more times with my little girls in the future. I like doing a devotional that is geared toward younger kids, as the rest of our family devotion times are usually more catered to the older kids in the family. We are not hymn only kinds of people, but the rich doctrine in the hymns is priceless. We learn a new verse each week, which means we end up learning approximately one hymn a month.

These morning times have been precious for me with my children. It’s a great way to begin our day and it only takes 10-15 minutes of our time.

I have the best memories of my kids fighting, saying funny things, and being goofy together during morning calendar time. Now that even my little kids are on the older side, there aren’t really any interruptions or too many goofy antics but it is still fun, in a different way. I was thinking how Odes will probably only do this for one more year and then it will just be the little girls and me. The years really are so short!

I’d love to know if you do a morning calendar time with your kids and what it looks like!

I thought I would leave you with a precious video from when the big four were little. It’s one of our favorites:  

Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

leveled readers

My first born reads books as if her life depended on it. Introverted in nature, she happily retreats to her room with anything from Shakespeare to Family Circus. The idea of leveled readers was not on my radar as she was going through her elementary school years.

My middle kids are great readers. They are also however, energetic and highly extroverted. They like to read, but it’s not something they choose without encouragement.

Making sure my kids were reading books that were challenging and progressing them became a priority.

Finding the books was an easy task. Some of my kids do Heart of Dakota as the core of their homeschool curriculum. Part of HOD includes a program called Drawn Into the Heart of Reading. We don’t follow DITHOR as a curriculum, but the book lists are priceless. I have purchased the various levels of books and put them on shelves by level.

level readersThe first level of books are beginning readers and not a part of DITHOR. I use these books when the kids are learning to read. They read them to themselves several times. Each book must be read aloud to me as well. Once they are ready to move on to more independence, I let them move up to the next shelf. (Beginning readers for us are USBorne books, the readers from Sing, Spell, Read and Write, and various beginning readers I’ve picked up along the way.

The next shelf up contains the readers from All About Reading. After those are completed, the kids begin reading the first level of DITHOR books. 

We have a “homeschool library” check out system. Each shelf has a clipboard with the title of each book. When they “check out” a book, they write their names on the blank. It may take a few days to read a book, so they keep their checked out books in their desks. After finishing the book, they return it to the shelf and check off the box indicating they’ve read it. leveled readers

Each level has been assigned a washi tape. The shelf it sits on, is lined with the tape. The spines of the books have the washi tape, as well as the clipboard. It’s very easy to return a book to the correct spot.

leveled readersAs they move up each shelf, they have different assignments upon finishing their books. In the early levels, I simply ask for an oral narration of the book they have read. Or, I may ask them to read a section of the book to me as well. As they progress, I ask them to write a one paragraph summary. And finally, by the middle of the second to last shelf they are writing full book reports on each book. Occasionally I assign an illustration as well.

Leveled readers for homeschool has been so helpful for both student and teacher. I don’t need to chase down my kids to make sure they are reading. They have no question as to what it is they are asked to do and books are easily found and put away. I have peace of mind that they are progressing in their reading. Let me know if you have any questions! leveled readers

 

6 Shortcuts to Simplify Life for the Homeschool Mom

Up early with babies and toddlers, up late with teens and husbands. We feed our families, clean our overly lived in homes, taxi kids to the doctor, lessons, and sports. They depend on us to keep the schedule, pay the bills, shop for groceries, manage the wardrobes and the laundry. Each day teach them math, language, typing, Spanish, literature, science, character, spelling, handwriting, history, Bible, apologetics, writing and more. We read aloud and color, kiss their boo-boos and bandage their scrapes, change diapers and put little ones down for naps. The task of growing them in wisdom and responsibility in their relationships is one we take seriously. There is no such thing as sick days, prep hours, or bathroom breaks. In fact, we don’t get to go to the bathroom alone, and if we do, someone is standing outside with a question or story. We are homeschool moms.

There is no doubt the homeschool mom is stretched all day long. I have a few shortcuts that simplify my life in the midst of the flurry:

Short-Cuts to Simply the Homeschool Life

1. Easy to make beds: Research shows that if you make your bed first thing, you’ll be more productive. Or something like that. My boys have bunk beds, one daughter has a little toddler bed, and one of my big girls has a day bed and trundle. None of these are easy to make. I have a regular bed, but I’ve never been a good bed maker. Enter Beddy Beds! These are a bit of an investment, but so worthwhile. (I sold a bunch of old bedding and stuff sitting around our house to be able to afford these and made sure I bought them with a coupon code.) If the bed is made, a room is on it’s way to clean. My kid’s beds look nice every single day. My bed is made every day, and not just made, but made like a picture-perfect catalog. I have one daughter still holding out on the beddy…however, since everyone else has their beds made beautifully every day, she has risen to the challenge and makes hers now too. (Yes! My three year old can make her bed! Beautifully!)

shortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts beds

2. Pre make meals: breakfast, lunch, AND dinner! We’ve all heard of pre-making and freezing dinners. I do this. But I also make ahead kid’s lunches and breakfasts. I make a monthly meal plan. We do one big shopping trip a month. While David takes the kids shopping, I clean out my cupboards and fridge. When they return, I cook all the meat. The next day we assemble all the meals for the month. Then each night I take out the next day’s meal to defrost in the refrigerator. This means no standing with hands on hips in the kitchen thinking, “what should I make?” It means less clean up and less stress.

shortcuts meals

3. Have a quiet time WITH the kids: It is helpful to get up before the kids, but it is also hard. If I wanted to exercise, shower, get ready, and have time in prayer and reading God’s word, I would have to get up pretty early. Not being a morning person doesn’t help. I began having a quiet time with my children many years ago. When they were all small, I rounded up all of our Bible board books and they had baskets of books to look through. Often I gave them a special drink. We set the timer for 20 minutes (I worked up to this when starting out). During those 20 minutes there is no talking. No answering the phone or texts. During those 20 minutes I sit with my Bible and my journal and I have my quiet time with God. Serenity now! It IS possible.

shortcuts quiet time

4. Assign special drinking cups: One thing that drove us crazy in the early years was all of the cups that were used day in and day out. We could run the dishwasher on cups alone! My husband had the genius idea of making Shutterfly mugs for each person in our family. The kids never mistake their cup for someone else’s. The mugs are not only color coded, but also display their names AND pictures. This also means that our dishwasher runs less frequently. I can’t tell you what a game changer this has been. Plus, they are really cute. Turns out they can also be great wisdom building tools.

shortcuts mugs

5. The Laundry dump: Folding laundry one afternoon while watching Little House, my brilliant husband came up with a life-changing solution to this once time-consuming endeavor. We clean all the laundry in one afternoon each week. When it is finished, we bring it up and throw it in mountainous heaps on the floor outside of our bedrooms (hint: wrinkle free clothing–imperative!!!). Then the kids sit with the pile and fling clothing toward the appropriate bedroom door. Once there are seven piles of flung clothing, the wearer of the clothes hangs the items or puts them in a drawer. This takes about 10 minutes…or less. Score!

6. Norwex hair turban: If you own nothing else Norwex, the one item you need is the Norwex hair turban. (Don’t worry, I’m not peddling their goods.) There’s not a lot to explain here. Wash your hair, wrap it in this towel and it will cut down your hair drying time drastically. I used it when I had short hair that required styling with a dryer and it dries it just enough so that you still have enough wet to get the style in. I’ve used it with long hair and it is remarkable how much less time I spend with an electric appliance pointed toward my head. An added bonus is that it makes stepping out of the shower more pleasant when your hair is not dripping down your back.

shortcuts, hair turban

What are some of your short-cuts? I want to hear them!

So, You Had a Bad Day

So, You Had a Bad Day

I love homeschooling. I’m passionate about so many aspects of it. I also know the reality is that it isn’t always glamorous. I felt that reality today. Tired, worn out, sick of winter, feeling cooped up, behavioral issues, messy house, how desperately I wanted a break from it all! Ever had a day like that?

My friend stopped by to drop something off, looking all cute and glowy and 20ish weeks pregnant or so. When I met her at my back door, in the midst of dirt, boots, and coats, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked like my three year old when she gets ready for church; crazy hair, unmatching clothes with hideous patterns, no make-up and smudges clouding my vision through my glasses. Heather graciously didn’t mention the medical belt I had around my waist, (my side still gives me issues). She left and I felt like slumping in a heap of despair. But the rice, broccoli, and beef stroganoff kept me on my feet as dinner needed to be served.

Just then, an almost hail-like snow began to fall. The kids ran outside as David was coming in the door and dinner was ready. I decided to light a candle and serve the two of us, alone. Two minutes into our romantic evening, someone came in to use the potty. As soon as that kiddo headed back out, another one looked through the back, saw us eating and approached the sliding glass door indignantly. After telling him that kid’s dinner would start in ten minutes, two other kids came in the front door saying they were cold and took off their boots to sit by the fire. Our quiet alone time thwarted, I was really starting to feel desperate.

Just when I thought I would never be able to finish a conversation with my husband, I remembered for Christmas, our son had given us money to go on a date. I served the kids dinner and asked Jules if she would babysit. We headed through the snow storm for a cone. I hadn’t applied any make up, nor changed my clothing, but no one seemed to care at the local McD.

Upon arriving home, there was a sign on the garage door:

We walked in to an immaculate house. The kitchen was spotless. The rooms vacuumed. Candles were lit and the fireplace blazing. The tea kettle was boiling and out of the oven came a delicious smell. David and I were directed to the couch and in hushed tones preparations were made behind us. Eventually we were served tea and tiny little homemade teacakes on a candlelit tray. I’m telling you, this could have come right out of Jana Duggar’s “How to be a good daughter” play book.

 

We sat and enjoyed our goodies while the kids took theirs at the kitchen island in silence. After some time had passed, for 90 minutes the children played their best piano pieces, read favorite passages of scripture, danced and sang for us. The entertainment was sweet, including the comedy act which began with: “We want you to know we are a company with Christian values.” As gangsta-rap was piped in the background.

I know tomorrow we will be facing a lot of the same challenges we faced today. But tonight, God gave me the hug I needed as we took a rest from the craziness of life. And I was reminded why I love homeschool.

Hospitality Ready Home in 15 Minutes

Hospitality Ready Home in 15 Minutes

Homeschoolers live in our homes…I mean we REALLY live in them. I serve twenty-one meals around my table each week and snacks in between with a minimum of 6 people at each of them. Kids are ALWAYS around. This means…toys, books, clothes, socks, diapers, dishes, crumbs, papers, pens, crafts, are around…all day long, every day.

We think of our home as a haven and want our doors open to family, friends, and neighbors as often as possible. My goal isn’t to impress our guests with an amazing home, but I do want people to feel comfortable and not worried about sitting on week old wet socks or a crumpled bag of Cheetos.

Here are some ways that we reign in the chaos so our home can be “hospitality ready” within 15 minutes.

Give Up Perfect: Let go of “Pottery Barn Catalog” perfect. Open the door with a smile and a “I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you so much for coming!” This first step is most important. If an unexpected visitor walks into my whirlwind, I smile, ignore the mess around me and invite her in with confidence, warmth, and grace. She didn’t come to see my cleaning skills. She came to see me and I am going to set aside thoughts of self and love her.

Clean up every meal, right away: It is our goal to keep our kitchen clear every day, after every meal. We accomplish this by assigning the following jobs: unload dishwasher, load dishwasher/clean dishes, clear and clean table and countertops, sweep floors. Each of my older kids is assigned one of these chores for an entire day. We rotate jobs daily so no one is stuck all week with the same thing. Mom supervises and helps in areas that need help. If the kitchen is always clean…half the battle is won.

Light a Candle: I know it’s not very granola of me to fill my house with flaming bowls of cancer…but I do love a Bath-n-Body works three-wick candle. The scent and the warmth makes for an inviting space. (And yes, I have an entire drawer dedicated to candles.)

5 minute round-up: Before beginning this step, turn on loud music. We have a special “friends are coming” playlist we blast as we work through these steps. Once the playlist is on and properly amped up, we take a laundry basket and go into every room where a guest might wander and we collect any superfluous items lying around. When everything is tidied up, the laundry basket items get distributed to assigned bins. Each family member has their own temporary storage area where displaced items are placed. The set up is right in the heart of our home, between the kitchen and family room. The containers are like white-washed tombs in that they look beautiful on the outside, but the beauty stops there; the insides are a disaster. In order for the system to work well, bins need to be emptied regularly.

Quick Vacuum: While one person is piling up the laundry basket with clutter, another family member can trail with a vacuum for a quick sweep. Nothing feels better than the carpets and floors having a face-lift before you open the door.

Lysol wipes: You may not have time for a heavy duty bathroom scrub, but if you do a quick wipe down you won’t feel mortified when your guest wants to use the loo and you remember the last time you walked in it looked like a crime scene.

My kids and I have this down to a science and we can entertain at the drop of a hat. Not only is it great for hospitality, but it’s fun to do before dad gets home, or before a school day begins to start the day with a clear head and space.