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
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
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
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
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.

When You Lose Your Baby and Your Fertility At the Same Time

Two years ago, I was pregnant. We found a creative way to announce it to the kids. All of us were thrilled. Our house was already buzzing with five sweet kids and we knew that many people in our life wouldn’t understand. But, we still felt there was one more little Swannie missing from our table.


Morning sickness had kicked in. Around 7 weeks I couldn’t hide my growing bump. The weeks were going by quickly. It was an exciting and scary time, thinking of what it would be to transition to a family of eight.

One night at dinner, we decided to discuss baby names with the kids. After lots and lots of suggestions, our little Cupcake suggested we call the baby “Happy.” We decided we would go with the name Happy, until we were able to find out if we were Team Pink or Team Blue.

Team Happy

The very next day my doctor could not find a heartbeat. I drove home devastated. We gathered the kids and told them their baby Happy was gone. I remember the pathetic little huddle we made on the basement floor. Tears streaming down each of our faces, we told God how hurt we were, entrusting our pain to His care. And then, I don’t remember who it was, maybe it was me, it may have been one of the boys, but we started thanking God. We know that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Each of us thanked Him for knowing better than we did. It wasn’t an easy prayer. It was a prayer of faith. That prayer of faith turned into a time of sorrow filled worship on that cement floor.

A week or so later, on October 1, David and I walked into a hospital, knowing our baby’s body would leave mine. We faced it bravely. We cried when it was over. My doctor held me and cried at my bed side. We went home that night with empty arms. And for me, an empty womb.


We ached for our baby, but life went forward.

As the days slipped into weeks and then months, I started noticing my body doing strange things. My doctors didn’t seem very worried. But six months after our loss I began to bleed, profusely. And it didn’t stop. For an entire month, I just bled and bled. I was sick and miserable. I either called or went to the doctor nearly every single day. The doctors told me it was “normal” for a woman my age and tried to manage the bleeding with medication.

When I began to hemorrhage, we sat down and prayed. As we prayed, both David and I were convinced God was leading us to do something we thought was outrageous. At 6:00 AM, we drove to a closed doctor’s office, 50 minutes from our house, where I was not an established patient. Miraculously, the doctor came in early that morning and though the clinic was closed, he saw me anyway. After an exam, he scheduled emergency surgery. He asked us about our marriage, wrote down each of our kid’s names, and asked about our faith life. Our appointment wrapped up as he prayed for each one of us by name, prayed for my healing, for wisdom for himself as my surgeon, and off to the hospital we went.

After surgery, the next six months followed with the total absence of bleeding…and the presence of one gigantic cyst. Almost a year since we lost our baby, I was back in the hospital, this time having surgery on my remaining ovary. The cyst removed easily, but other complications kept me in the hospital for several days.

Instead of having a baby, we had a year of suffering

The year we thought would end in a full term pregnancy and the care of a newborn looked quite different. We took on over a year of physical suffering. And in the midst of it, lost our fertility. We were going to end our years of reproduction with loss.

In other loses, I always thought, “We can try again soon!” This time it was, “It’s over. My baby is gone and our family is now complete.”

It’s hard for some to understand that losing your fertility after having five kids is a struggle. For me, it was. It was appropriate to mourn both losses for a season. And then there was a time for my grief to come to a close. Here are some things that helped me move toward peace when I had to say goodbye to my baby and my dreams for my family size:

  1. Choosing a thankful heart. I thanked God for the eight pregnancies He has given me. The five children I am blessed to raise are an amazing blessing and gift. There are three children I will get to meet in heaven, who I didn’t get to meet on earth. What a joy it will be to see precious Anna, Sam, and Happy!
  2. Examining my heart. Were pregnancy and childbirth becoming idols in my life? Was I lacking faith that God’s ways were best? It helped to ask some probing questions to come to a place of acceptance of God’s will for my life and our family. Asking God to cleanse me from any sin and give me faith was helpful and good.
  3. If I felt something was missing in our lives, was there something else God wanted to birth in our family? What new focus could I have with my kids that I couldn’t have had our other baby lived, or our fertility had been restored? What new ministry might God want to give us to use our gifts for His glory? How could I move into this new stage of life as a family with joy and purpose?

I sometimes still look at the empty spot at our table. While I no longer envision a baby there…I do see it as symbolic for our family. That empty chair is there to remind us that Christ is always welcome in our home. Our door is open in hospitality to those who need to be loved. It’s a symbol of work to be done. There are plans laid out for us that God has already prepared in advance. When I think of the one who I thought would sit with my little girls, I’m reminded of the future glory which awaits me; where I will worship Jesus with my three little ones who got to rest in His presence before me. Finally, it’s a reminder that God’s ways are not like my ways; but I can trust His ways, for they are best.

Loss is a difficult part of life. If you’ve suffered miscarriage or infant loss, my heart goes out to you. If you are struggling with infertility or the loss of fertility, I’m so sorry. So many questions go unanswered. I do know however, God is good, you can trust Him, and you are loved.

When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

During a recent car ride, nearly all of my kids were fighting and one girl in particular was displaying extremely unkind behavior to some others. We had been going strong for several days with lots of late nights and we were all tired. Another late night was ahead of us and I was irritated that we were dealing with sibling fighting only three minutes out of the drive way.

Upon my request, David pulled over and so I could give full effect to the guilt trip I was about to deliver. I told the biggest offender that I had no problem turning the car around and sending the rest of the family on the fun outing. She and I would stay home. I watched her eyes fill with tears and heard apologies begin to fly around the van.

You would think I would have felt satisfaction. I didn’t. I slumped over in my seat, disappointed with myself. I’ve been walking the path of freedom and grace in parenting for eight years now and STILL there it was:



Fast forward to a different day. One of my sons decided to engage in a power play with one of his sisters. I stuck myself in the middle of their controversy. Acting as both judge and jury, I swiftly decided my son was guilty and wanted to make sure he knew it. Not only did I want him to know how displeased I was with his unkindness, I wanted to bring him to sorrowful repentance by using harsh words and a displeased face. There it was again:


In the first scenario, I created false repentance from my daughter. She wanted to go to the activity, so she apologized. She wasn’t turning from her sin, she was avoiding consequence. In the second scenario, I disobeyed God and exasperated my son. He hardened his heart toward me. I wasn’t even a part of the original conflict, but now it was all about me! His body language showed me that he was DONE with any instruction from me.

The tragic thing in both of these stories is that I not only sinned against my children, I sinned against my Lord. Ephesians 6:4 clearly spells out my part in the parent~child relationship and I failed.

Do you find yourself failing in this way as well? Do you find yourself controlling your children instead of building godly wisdom? Are you building a culture of true repentance in their hearts? Or demanding a false repentance that bears no lasting fruit? Are you intensely irritating children when their sin makes you feel annoyed or angry? If so, please hear me:

There is hope.

I was angry with my son. However, when I saw I was losing his heart, I became concerned. My need to be right was going to drive him away from any wisdom I might have. A lifetime of these interactions would drive him away from not only me, but God. And then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and told me to take the plank out of my own eye. I was mad at my son for trying to control his sister, while I attempted to control him! Such hypocrisy! I cried out to God for help, a softened heart, and I removed the plank in my eye by humbling myself.

“I need to confess something to you Pal. The way I was talking to you earlier was totally out of line. It’s not the kind of Mom I want to be. It’s not the kind of mom God wants for you. I’m sorry for sinning against you.” He forgave me and I watched his heart soften. We were then able to  discuss his behavior. He apologized to me and told me he had already gone to his sister in repentance.

I went on, “I’m thankful you forgave me. My sin wasn’t against you alone. I sinned against God as well. He has told me in his word not to exasperate you, and I did. Will you pray with me while I confess my sin?”

Moments later, we sat down in a public restaurant with the other kids who had gone in before us. My son silently bowed his head in thanks for his food. After the meal, he stood next to me and tenderly placed his head on mine. Our hearts had come back together. We were restored to each other and to God. And he was able to again receive instruction in the Lord from me.

The BEST of parents mess up from time to time. YOU will sin against our children as I did, but in your own way. We are so, SO fleshly and still being sanctified.

So what do you do about it?

When you fall, turn your hearts to God and admit it! Confess your sin and walk in humility. If you are in need of God’s intervention in your parenting as I am, (and I suspect you are) you will need to do this kind of work, over and over and over and over and over again. But do it! Walk with God! Keep your kid’s hearts!


Over time, your do-overs will decrease and your victories will increase!

My sons were in a major battle. One of them slammed a door on the other. David and I heard the kind of yelp that causes panicked middle-aged parents to run as if they are in 5th grade again. As the details unraveled, we saw pride and deceit in the son who slammed the door and caused an injury on the other. My Mama-Bear instinct was strong. I was enraged to see a child of mine had been hurt by another individual’s temper. I was livid to discover I had been lied to on top of it. My instinct was to spew shame filled messages to the perpetrator of the crime.

Thankfully, my muscle-memory kicked in and I knew that I could help my child in his sin without sinning against him. Quickly, I offered up a silent plea for God to give me love, grace, and forbearance. After tending to my hurt son, I walked over to my other son and gently rubbed his back. David and I asked gentle, but pointed questions as to what was going on in his heart. Without excusing his behavior, we were able to communicate: “It’s OK to admit you have done something wrong. Bringing your sin to the light is necessary for healing. You need forgiveness. Our love for you hasn’t changed because of the temper, the pride, or deceit you displayed. And God’s love for you hasn’t changed. In fact, God’s love was demonstrated while you were yet sinning, by giving His son as a sacrifice for you.”

His heart didn’t soften right away.

The boys requested time alone to discuss things with one another. After they talked, they went back to life. Forty-five minutes passed when the son who had hurt the other, came inside, with a sorrowful and contrite spirit. He apologized to his brother for hurting him. The Holy Spirit was able to work in our son’s heart because we hadn’t exasperated him. There was no effort to control him or force a change of heart. True repentance brought forth beautiful fruit from a heart that had been softened by grace.

Let the gospel of grace transform your hearts as you parent. You won’t do this perfectly. But if you humble your hearts and let the God of love and truth guide you, you will be transformed. And his power will begin to change you-and your kids; slowly, beautifully, over time.




Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

It’s hard to write a post like the one I’m about to share without including a few stipulations. Yes, there are crazy people in the world who treat women and girls like property. It’s true that many women are called into important, wage earning, professions. Certainly, some women are called to single life. Let’s operate under the assumption that I’m NOT functioning as a voice for the dogmatic stay at home daughter movement. And many, if not most of our daughters will one day marry and have children. Fair enough?

I grew up watching Laura Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie, dissatisfaction with “just” being at home as a wife and mother. Maggie Seaver of Growing Pains, grabbed her brief case and coffee while kissing her children goodbye as they got themselves ready for school. Claire Huxtable practiced law and brought her skills home to navigate the waters of a large family. I was told repeatedly I could be anything I wanted to be. My list of possibilities was long; teacher, broadcast journalist, advertisement, musician, pastor, missionary, writer, etc.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother. I have no memory discussing this as an option. I remember dreaming of success and goals achieved. Of course marriage and having children was part of the plan, but almost like a side bonus, not, THE DREAM.

What kind of messages have you received about motherhood? Recently, talking to older teens and young adults about their dreams I often hear, “I want to be a teacher, a nurse, a missionary, etc.”

I’ve been gently asking, “Have you ever considered becoming a homemaker?” These young ladies don’t know how to answer a question which has never been posed to them before.

Have the young ladies in your life considered homemaking as a career?

I love the idea of my daughters receiving a solid education, a foundation on which to support themselves, and general development and growth as human beings. There is something I know however, which they do not. I know what it feels like to hold your very own baby in your arms for the first time. I’ve experienced what it is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would give your life’s breath for that baby the instant you lock eyes. I’ve wept the tears of a woman who nursed her baby, not wanting to hand her over to a childcare provider at 12 weeks of age. And I’ve walked the path with numerous women, shedding tears over wanting to stay home with their babies, but set up their lives in such a way that it was financially impossible.

What messages are we giving our sons and daughters about homemaking?


Why don’t our girls dream about the passionate pursuit of raising children as a profession? Do we not present it as a glorious option? Is the pull on the world, requiring two incomes to live like those around us, so strong? Do we send our children (boys and girls) into higher education, accumulating unthinkable debt so that staying at home with children is an impossibility? Do those of us who live out the roles of homemaker do so joylessly, making the job unattractive? Is the church building up and valuing the glorious job of mothers raising their babies and children at home?

Sisters in Christ, if you have been called to marriage, motherhood, and homemaking, you have received a high and holy call.

We receive no paycheck or glory and few accolades from the world. Managing our homes however, brings us to a glorious place of storing up treasures in heaven. As we change diapers, scrub toilets, instruct toddlers in the kindness and gentleness of the Lord, organize our cupboards and prepare meals; we have the ability to perform every task as worship unto the Lord. When we creatively prepare a menu on a budget and joyfully serve our family, we are serving Jesus himself.

Teaching our little ones the gospel in our day-to-day interactions, growing them in godliness and discipline is a certain way of doing our part in fulfilling the Great Commission we’ve received from the Lord Jesus. Impossible questions need to be answered, world-views need to be shaped. Boo-boo’s need to be tended to with great wisdom. And our husbands need our love and attention as well. All of this takes great skill, devotion, and selflessness.

I don’t know that we will turn the tide, making the High Call of Motherhood and Homemaking, into a longed for profession in our culture. But we can do an amazing job of showing the beauty of it in our homes. We can do our job with excellence. Join me in challenging our daughters with our devotion to the home and the Lord.

Let’s challenge them with our words as well.

We can speak highly of our job as homemaker. When we talk about our daughter’s futures, when we talk about Jesus command to “store up treasure in heaven,” include the career of motherhood as a path for them to consider as a worthy call. I don’t have my daughter’s lives mapped out for them. That is between my daughters and the Lord. I do desire, when they think of the future, to realize that jobs with titles, advancement, and paychecks aren’t the only career paths to consider. Homemaking doesn’t need to be an after thought. It’s a worthy, lovely, worthwhile career they can be proud in wanting to pursue. Let’s give our girls the dream of raising a family for Jesus.

My Three Year Old Lied to Me…And I Taught Her a Lesson

My Three Year Old Lied to Me…And I Taught Her a Lesson

We sat reading books, when I looked over at Cupcake’s shelf and saw a Lego sitting by her clay doll figures. It was a cute teddy bear looking Lego I had never seen before. Curious, I asked, “Is that a Lego?”

Her face scrunched up with guilt, she broke eye contact and said, “No. It’s just a cute thing I found.” I knew she was lying. “Connected family” thoughts immediately raced through my head. I knew her lying was creativity gone awry. I knew I didn’t want any further interactions to continue to lead her down a path of dishonesty. But I also suspected there was another purpose for this interaction.

I simply said, “I’ve never seen that little Lego before.”

three year old lied


Her face was racked with guilt as she quickly replied, “I saw it in Ode’s room when he was sick. His eyes were closed, so it was OK I took it. I’ll give it back.”

It was at that moment the Holy Spirit brought to mind several small conversations little Cupcake and I have had over the past 15 months. When Cupcake was two, we brought her to a vividly descriptive Good Friday service. Ever since, the cross, Jesus, and sin have often been on her mind. Last week at bed time, she articulated that she loved Jesus because he died on the cross for her sin. I asked her what sin.

“Lots of sins. Hitting, scratching, pinching. Plus, He rose from the grass.” Laughingly she asked,  “Is it funny I said, rose from the grass? Wanna hear me toot?” Despite the jokes and the flatulence, I knew God was at work. Recently, while shopping, she picked out a cross wall-hanging from a store and said, “Let’s buy this Mommy, because Jesus died on the cross for my sin and yours.”

I glanced back at the little teddy bear Lego. There were some choices to make. I could let this go. She’s little after all. And she had already mentioned she should give the bear back. On the other hand, maybe I should make a big deal out of how she lied to me. She needs to learn lying is awful!

A still, small, quiet voice was telling me there was something more for her.

I gently held Cupcake’s sweet face in my hands and: “Sweetie, when I asked you if that bear was a Lego and you said no, do you know what you were doing?” She shook her head no. “It’s called lying. Lying is a sin baby. When you told me you took that Lego from your brother’s room without him knowing, do you know what you did?”

Smilingly she answered, “Yeah. I just played with it.”

I gently responded, “No sweetie. You stole it. Stealing is sin. What does the Bible say about sin?”

She grinned and in a sing-song voice replied, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. So you lied and you stole and that was sin. Her laughing eyes sobered. “The Bible also tells us, “The wages of sin is death. Did you know that? Do you understand when you tell me that Jesus died for your sins, He died for sins like stealing and lying about little Lego bears?” Her eyes were serious and sad. I went on…

“We also know that God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. This means that even though you’ve sinned against Him, God loved you enough to give you His son. Jesus never sinned. He was total perfection. And His death means that when you believe in Him, trust Him and not your own goodness, you will be forgiven.”

Then I asked her the golden question, “If you stop lying and stealing, will that make God love you more?” Grinning and smiling she said, “YES!”

I quickly and quietly said, “No. It doesn’t. God doesn’t love you based on what you’ve done. His love for you is based on what Jesus did for you on the cross. You can’t ever be good enough to earn God’s love.”

You can’t ever be good enough to earn God’s love.

At this point she snuggled in and said, “Let’s read a Little People book.” I hugged her and we picked out a great big one with lots of lift the flaps. As we counted monkeys in the Little People Zoo and laughed at the purple hippopotamus with a red bird on his teeth, I silently prayed. I thanked God for the opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with this child of mine, and that we don’t have to clean up before Him to gain his approval. I thanked Him for the cross and prayed Cupcake would submit to His final work on it, and soon.

There are gospel opportunities at every point in our days moms and dads. Don’t miss them. I don’t want “good kids.” I want kids who know they aren’t good on their own. I want surrendered kids. Kids whose hearts are fully submitted to the cross are kids with changed hearts. Don’t for a minute think the gospel isn’t for little ones. Let your little ones come onto Him and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.


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.



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.


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.

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

There is a trend today in social media Mom blogging, the “Messy Mom.” The Messy Mom says she’s imperfect and fumbling and stumbling through life. She doesn’t have it all together. She presents her parenting challenges, flaunting her children’s struggles and her reactions. She says her reactions aren’t perfect. However, I wonder if she might be a little bit proud of how she handles things in her flesh. She loathes pinterest, yet presents a pristine, perfect looking blog. She sets high standards for her children, but excuses her harsh, unloving responses to them.


messy mom

Moms…don’t buy it! Don’t buy into the messy. If you are a Christian you are NOT called to imperfect, messy, sin-excusing lives. You are called to growth, love, self-sacrifice, holiness, and grace. Will you be perfect in this? NO! Should you flaunt your imperfection? NO! Should you flaunt God’s glorious grace in your life as it changes you? A billion times, YES!

John 15:16 “…I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will remain…”

I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 

Romans 6:6 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. 

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” 

Dear, dear sisters in Christ…God has called you to a high standard. Don’t miss HIS call for you as you watch moms, “glorify in the messy.” Love unconditionally. Make your home a place of peace and safety. Grow responsible adults. Teach your kids God’s word. Don’t compromise. Our culture wants you. Don’t give in. Be set apart. Be holy, because He is holy.

Love Your Kids Challenge

Love Your Kids Challenge

Think back to the pre-parenting days when you wanted to be a mom or dad. Remember when you looked at the positive pregnancy test or heard/saw your baby’s heartbeat the first time? Do you recall the day you got the call from your adoption agency or social worker? Your child was ready to come home? What did you feel like the first time your saw your child’s face, tiny hands and feet, smelled their skin? Can you still feel the warmth, the longing to protect, soothe, and sacrifice for this new life in your home?

love challenge

Love challenge

Those first moments with our children are some of the sweetest moments in our lives. As time wears on, the feelings fade a bit. We sin against our children in our selfishness at times. Our children sin against us in their willfulness. At some point we have to stop the continual gazing at our child and go on with life. Our joyful zeal diminishes and our ideals take a back seat to sleepless nights, feedings, crying, diapers, toddler messes, homework, activities, sibling rivalry, teenage heartaches and mistakes.

Have you stopped smiling at your kids?

Do you feel disillusioned and disappointed? Tired and complacent? Are you lacking peace, contentment? Do you feel angry? Have you stopped gazing at your children and smiling?

Some of you have children home for the Summer months. (Or in our case, a loose schedule as we are not “formally” educating our children and taking a homeschool break.) My heart breaks a little bit every time I see a mom post on social media how she needs a wine break by 10 am. I hurt when I see the looks on little faces when moms talk about how they can’t wait for Summer to end so mom can get her freedom back. Let’s do better moms and dads!

If you are familiar with Connected Families, then you may know their Family Framework to help you grow in God’s grace and truth: 1. You are safe with me. 2. You are loved no matter what! 3. You are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing. 4. You are responsible for your actions. I want to issue a challenge from the second point:

How can I communicate love in all circumstances?

What does it look like to love your kids when things are going well?
Will you show love to your children for no particular reason?
How can you love your children even in misbehavior?

Love challenge

How can you fill your Summer with messages of love and acceptance toward your children?

Here are a few ways you can practice communicating love this Summer:
~SMILE! Don’t underestimate how much our children need to see warmth in our face.

~Listen to your tone of voice. Are you harsh and disinterested? Be intentional to speak with gentleness and sweetness. Show interest in what your kids are saying and sharing. Laugh.

~When you children fight, stop yourself from sighing and feeling exasperated. Look at their fights as opportunities to help them learn about the world and relationships.

~Do you have a child stuck in disobedience or rebellion? Hug them! Find an activity you can both enjoy together and do it. Don’t wait until they “clean up their act” to show them tenderness and interest in being with them. Love them now in the midst of their sin! (Remember God’s lavish love for you.)

~If you have a day with nothing planned and everything is going swell…surprise them! Take them to Sonic happy hour for a candy slushie. Go to a library event or puppet show. Find a free kid movie and go together. Hit an amusement park or go shopping. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or expensive. Just play together and enjoy it without distraction!

~Is it hard to like one of your children, much less love them right now? It is up to YOU to bridge the gap and mend the relationship. Take the lead. Encourage your child in this difficult time and show love even when you may not feel it. Take a walk together. Read a book aloud. Ride bikes. Listen to your child’s favorite music. Watch their favorite YouTube channel together.

~Set down your phones and walk away from your computers and devices. Enough said.

Love Challenge
Join me in this challenge to Love Your Kids No Matter What.

Think back to those first moments of tenderness and the thankfulness you felt for each of your kids. God has given you a great blessing and gift to parent the child(ren) in your home. Don’t forget it. Remember the joy. The days are fleeting and you won’t regret loving your children with a deep, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Let me know if you are with me!
~Swannie Mom

Family Sports Night…One Family’s Solution to a Busy Culture

One of the things we value in our family life is avoiding the “busy trap.” How do you accomplish the daunting task of discipleship when outside activities demand your attention most nights of the week? Our family is striving to regularly eat dinner together, do daily devotions, serve, and open our home in hospitality often. In order to accomplish our goals, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions about our time and finances. One of them is around sports.

A friend shared this article on Facebook: The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports. Our family hasn’t experienced this kind of sport culture first hand, however we know it is common. We’d like to share with you one alternative which has made a big difference in our life.

Family Sports Night

Three years ago, we were invited by friends to participate in a Family Sports Night (FSN). Several families gather on a weekly basis and tried out different sports together. This has been a perfect way to expose our kids to different sports and exercise, while maintaining our family values.

What is FSN?

Entire families meet once a week for a determined amount of time and play sports. A leader chooses the sports by the group’s interest level. The sport has to be something good for all ages, without requiring special equipment. FSN introduces common sports and rotates selections from month to month. Dads and moms teach basic skills related to that evening’s sport for the first hour. A parent shares a short devotional during a break. During the second half of the evening, kids are able to use their skills, by playing an actual game. Teams are divided by age categories so play is fair for developmental stages. Depending on the number attending, there may be several games going at once.

Our FSN meets at a public park. It’s an open event and a great way to invite families to play together, hear a gospel message, and experience sports in a loving and safe setting. The goal of our FSN, according to Dave Miller (the current lead organizer) is “to simplify the suburban American sports frenzy, by bringing all family members together on one night each week instead of running ragged 3, 4, or 5 nights a week.” This goal fits so well with our family values! Our kids are exposed to different sports and healthy competition. Our family is able to play together and invest our time in other life worthy goals during the week. We love Family Sports Night!

family sports night

How do sports work in your family life?

Are the choices you are making fitting into your long term family values and goals? We encourage you to start a Family Sports Night chapter of your own if it would help you meet some of your family goals.