Friday, August 23, 2013

Week 1: Starting Well

This week we began our academic cycle. How that works for us is predominately based on our Tapestry of Grace cycle. It is broken down into four, nine-week units, totaling 36 weeks of academics. Within that we cover Bible, history, geography, literature and writing.

The kids seemed quite ready to go back to a regular routine, so we did our best to fit in as much of the content that we have to cover. I am a big believer in pacing. In fact, I am beginning to think I may be an unschooler at heart, but cannot make the leap out of that ol' box. I don't think that school should be done for school's sake. I don't believe in checking boxes to just have them checked, I don't put any stock in "busy-work." That said, we do have one area that I have not figured out how to cover without a bit of busy-work, and that is in science. I think that next week I will need to make some adjustments.

In the meantime, we introduced Year 1 of Tapestry of Grace, the first module of Apologia General Science, continued writing, math, grammar, and spelling, and worked on some Geography review. Not bad for a first week!
Learning the sections of the OT books
Getting started in Science
Lego Star-Wars Pilot training...break time!
Oh, and P.S, we I have to add this, as it will be a major part of our school year...CrossFit!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Have No Greater Joy...

Today's pool trip was a bust. We thought we would go to the USMC base pool for the afternoon. All summer long it has opened at 1:00 PM, so we showed up and were pleased to see that it was not crowded at all. Got up to the window to pay and was informed they were closed until 3:00 because school started back on base this week. Boo! So the kids and two of their friends and I spent a good 45 minutes in 95 traffic. Some might think that a waste of time, except for a couple of real gems in conversation that made me want to cry happy tears, laugh, do a dance or something!

I overheard a conversation about you-tube videos that the boys watch about modifying their nerf guns:

Friend: "I wanted to watch that one with (something something something) but I haven't seen it yet.
Son: "NO! Don't watch it. It's inappropriate and this guy "kills" his brother using special effects. I didn't like that. And its just...uh...inappropriate."

Later in conversation I was asking my son's friend if he planned to do a particular club or not. It came around that one of the reasons he didn't want to join was because they gossip about the kids who don't do as well, and he doesn't like to say bad things about people. :) Then he followed that up with, "I'm just not sure where God is leading me yet."

I am so enjoying this season where my kids now have friends that they have had for a long time. We have worked hard to cultivate these friendships and there is honesty and trust among them, though there have been times when we have needed to correct and admonish them concerning their friends. When I hear this kind of talk coming from my son and his very good friend, it gives me hope. I know they are sinners, but I see a desire in them to do the right thing--to do well. Today, I am encouraged.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Warning About The Worry Trap

On Sunday I wrote this post about not feeling quite ready to begin the school year. As I went to sleep that night I was comforted by my son's words that he had just spoken to me when I went in to check on him before turning in. I talked to him about my feelings of ambivalence and how I didn't want to start, and he said with a smile, "We should just do it, Mom." That attitude showed through the whole next day in both of them, and they did their work with energy and a positive outlook. The dynamic was comfortable, natural, and something that can be sustained. It wasn't the high-intensity hyped-up start to the school year that we used to have--the ones where I thought the first day would set the tone for the year and make everything okay. It was more of a mood that said, "This is what we do--we've had a good break, now it's time to do work." (As I write that, I can hear the undertones of how much CrossFit has influenced our approach to many things in life.)

Two moments in particular delighted me, though there were quite a few throughout the day. The first was as I sat down with my daughter and opened one of her books, I realized she didn't know all the different parts of a book--title page, table of contents, index, etc. So I went over them with her. Then I asked her to read the first page. Up until the very end of last term she was a reluctant reader. She could and would read according to her ability, but would moan and groan about it, and be exhausted at the end of it. This time, however, she said, "Sure!" and proceeded to rattle off the whole first page without difficulty or hesitation. In the last week she has picked up one of her brother's Percy Jackson books and is reading it on her own because she wants to. So we made the leap from Inky the Indigo Fairy to Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief in one day.

The other moment was when I observed my son ripping pages out of his science notebook. This bothered me until I saw him diligently taping pages together, folding them a certain way, and putting them back in the notebook as he was instructed...he was...wait for it... following instructions on his own! And he didn't want any help from me! Yes, people it's true! They finally do become independent, but in our case it has taken much longer than I anticipated. Woo hoo! Can you see me doing a happy dance? (No...thank God you can't. Some things you just don't need to know.)

In the midst of all this, let me put things in perspective. When people told me way-back-when that I didn't need to worry too much, that eventually it "clicks" and kids just "get" how to read, I still stressed. I seemed to think I had spawned genetic mutants who would be decoding Peter Rabbit at age three and reading Shakespeare by age 8, but no, they are just basic, normally-developing kids who happen to be pretty smart. They just aren't geniuses. Hear me when I say this: Homeschooling does not make your kids more gifted than they are. It might help them to cultivate their gifts and develop them sooner than if they were not as closely tended, but it doesn't change who they are. Your attention to their natural learning styles, gifts and tendencies might help them to use all their talents and abilities more effectively, efficiently, fruitfully. But if your child is 6 and still does not like reading, it's really, really okay. really. Even if she is 7 or 8, it's still okay. (My dear friend whose girls are older than mine is reading this shaking her head.) Please understand that I just crawled out of that hole. Just. Shaking head, smacking forehead...I fell into the worry trap. Again. But now I'm out and trying to help you not fall into the same hole. See me? I'm standing in front of the hole, waving my hands and saying, "Don't go there! It really is going to be okay!"

So we had a good start. I hope the rest of the week continues in the same vein. I will update at the end and report how it went.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

That Time Already?

I just tucked in my kiddos. I have picked tomorrow as the first week of the 36 weeks of our history curriculum, Tapestry of Grace. I prefer to start a couple of weeks ahead of the public schools so that we can have a longer winter break. The thing is, I feel really melancholy at the moment--not excited to start a new cycle of learning and discovering. I feel more like I'm going back to work. I don't think it should feel this way at all...

I want to sit quiet and alone to meditate and sort through my reservations and misgivings about what I have taken on. Some things I have taken on are so outside my comfort zone, perhaps I am bumping up against the discomfort. Anyway, time will tell. I trust the Lord to help me sort through this.

Friday, August 16, 2013

So I'm trying to Decide...

If I like camping or not. My family loves it. I have never been on a bona fide camping trip where you go to someplace in the woods, sleep in a tent, do something in nature and ward off critters in the middle of the night. I am a very black and white kind of person. I don't do well with mixed emotions about something. If there are mixed emotions about something, I tend to lump it in the "less than optimal" category, and chuck it. I reckon I have thrown out quite a few babies with the proverbial bathwater as a consequence. I am trying not to do that this time, as my family seems to really like camping. I, on the other hand, am on the fence.

We have just returned home from a two-day camping trip to the Shenandoah valley to have a last summer "hurrah" and enjoy nature in all its late-summer glory. It was a mixed experience and these are my thoughts...what do I do with this baby?

What I did enjoy:
1. frogs in the trees at night.
2. camp fires.
3. massive marshmallows the size of your fist roasted over said campfire.
4. tubing down the Shenandoah river, but it should be noted that one does not have to camp to have this experience.
5. watching my family enjoy the experience and hearing them go on and on about how much fun they were having.
6. seeing more stars in the deepest dark of the night than I have seen in many years. It was like white dust on a black background, encircled by a mist. I can't remember when I last saw that many stars or the Milky Way. Even saw a shooting star.
7. Seeing the kids learn new skills, like charcoal grilling, using a hatchet, building a fire. (Girlie learned how--the boy is an old pro--he prefers to light a fire with flint and magnesium.)

No wimpie girls in this family!
Just happened to have this hatchet in his bag...
Grilling duties
What I could do without:
1. bugs.
2. waking up to everything feeling damp.
3. raccoons getting into our stuff and making me dream that bad guys were breaking into our possessions all. night. long. (I was super-jumpy after that--glad it wasn't a bear. I'd have been standing watch with my son's slingshot for the rest of the night!)
4. rummaging through the cooler and bin to prepare meals (need to organize the meals better).
5. not sleeping due to dogs barking, roosters crowing, cows mooing in the distance on a nearby farm, raccoons invading, other campers talking (until 2:00 a.m.!)... (I'm a light sleeper. No...I'm a non-sleeper in an unfamiliar environment.)
6. bathroom issues. just sayin'.
7. ashes all over everything.
8. a noisy camp neighbor who laughed like the bad guys in cartoons (mwahahahaha!) every couple of minutes--but that was his real laugh. Either that or something really awful was going down at that campsite. 

At first glance, the cons outweigh the pros so my gut reaction is TOSS IT, but the weight of the pros is much greater than the weight of the cons--except for the sleep thing, which is a biggie for me. Come next summer, who knows what we'll do? I'm sure the kids will want to go again.

For now, it is time to get a shower and some sleep to make up for that which the raccoons stole from me...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thoughts of the Moment...

There are so many things on my mind. Here's a random treatise about it all. (Okay, not quite a treatise--it's a little shorter.)

Time Flies, Kids Grow
A Job Well Done
My son turned 12 on Friday. He knows this is significant, and we have spoken to him about the transition to manhood--we don't believe in "adolescence." You are a child, then you become a young man. Jesus was in his Father's house at 12, learning and becoming a man. You will learn to behave as a man should behave. That means start saving for your first car, your phone and any other thing you think you will need to get around and exercise some independence once we really start getting on your nerves. We will help you look for opportunities to work and earn money so that you can save for said items, because men don't ask their mommies for stuff. But don't worry, I'll still lie down with you and snuggle and chat when it all gets too overwhelming. I'm still your mom. You're still my little guy...

What Stresses Me Out
I may becoming agoraphobic. Or I may be an introvert. I may be some combination of the two, but there is also this: I really like being at home. I dislike traffic. I dislike most people until I meet them. Then I really like them and that stresses me out because then I feel like I'm making too many friends and won't have time for them all because...I really like being at home. Texting stresses me out because all those new friends text. a lot. But yay! New friends!

What Makes Me Happy

Hearing my children laugh and giggle makes me happy. Watching my daughter climb onto the lap of her dad or brother and snuggle her little nose into them and kiss them unabashedly makes my heart swell with joy. The fact that they really don't mind her doing this also pleases me greatly. I love it when the cat sits on my hand while I'm trying to type, like right now. I love it when I throw massive amounts of stuff away because it's all junk and stuff and doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. I love hearing my children pray...really pray. I love the way it feels to exercise really hard and feel like I can't go for another second or die. I love good, real food eaten with my family and good friends who also share this appreciation. I also like lining up the school books and laying out a really good plan for the year...even though I rarely end up following the plan exactly. Later on in the year it will make me happy to ditch the plan, so it all works out.

Our happy-clean school room...
Okay, and I have to say it...I love a clean house. That makes me really happy. It may seem shallow but it is important to me. That is all.

What Makes Me Sad
When my kids cry, I feel sad. I cannot bear to see them suffer...but even more in this season, I find that there are many people who are suffering far greater trials than we are. I have a friend whose vibrant little boy has been diagnosed with AML Leukemia and will be in the hospital for 6 months. My heart is breaking for them, and I am constantly in prayer for this family, though I have completely run out of words to say on their behalf. I have another friend whose daughter has been suffering from a devastating case of Lyme disease for a year and will have to endure a crazy amount of treatment. This is crushing...how do I pray? But I keep doing it, hoping that the noise we make in God's ears will move heaven to help her. I have to believe it will...When I think of all these things in perspective all the small stuff is just--small stuff. Things fall into place of their own accord--the lessons, the cleaning, the life, the list of to-dos. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. Amen, and amen. It makes me sad when I worry and stress about things that just don't matter. Lord, help me keep it all in your eternal perspective.

As I prepare to start my 8th school term of educating my children, it is my prayer that I can humbly submit each day to the Lord and remember the "happy," prayerfully consider the sad, not dwell on the stress, and cherish each day with my children who are growing so quickly.
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)
typical...

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Part 1: So You Want to Homeschool

I've been thinking, as I often do this time of year when folks new to homeschooling are getting the back to school jitters, raiding the binder aisle at Staples, lining up all the no. 2 pencils neatly in their boxes...What does it take to do this well? I am finally in a place in our homeschooling journey where I find people looking to me for advice and guidance on how to get started! As I counsel them about curriculum choices and what books are helpful, I think of the things I really want to say. Much of it comes from wise words a dear mentor and friend shared with me before I ever started homeschooling, but they have carried me so far. The balance of it comes from me making the very mistakes I hope you won't make if you read and consider what I share here.

This year my son will be 12. That means I have been homeschooling for 8 years, beginning with his pre-K year until now. If he were heading to public school (p.s.) he would be entering 7th grade. My daughter is 8 and would be entering 3rd, for what it's worth. I should qualify this by saying that I really don't know where they fall in comparison to their p.s. counterparts because a. I don't give the yearly standardized tests, and b. our course of study is so different that I can't really compare it to p.s. curricula, and c. I don't care how they compare. Now before you jump on my back and tell me how that's an irresponsible position to take and I'm not considering my children's future, and "they'll have to test sometime" and yada, yada...read this and this. I assure you that we've thought it through.

We are a pretty average American family: Hard-working dad provides a dependable income, we have 2 children, neither of whom have any special needs, allergies, or extenuating circumstances. I drive a mini-van. Yup, it's the average middle-class life. What I hope, however, is that the choices we have made are not average. Some would say that we are swimming upstream, that we have a counter-cultural way of thinking, that we are...odd. But, these are the choices we have made, and we feel that they are the best possible for our family. I don't mind being odd.

Are You a Victim of Your Own Life?
I've been encountering people often of late who seem to have become "victims" of their own lives, circumstances, schedules. They have an excuse for everything: why they can't exercise, why they can't homeschool, why they can't change their diet, why they are always exhausted, why they are making lousy decisions...a reason why they can't do a or b, and how they "wish they could but they can't because x, y, z." Oy. It makes me tired to listen to people gripe about circumstances which they have brought upon themselves. I'm not talking about people who have true extenuating circumstances, illnesses, tragedies, etc. I'm talking about...well, people like myself. Interestingly, the folks in hard circumstances are the ones least likely to complain...

In this post I want to break down into the simplest terms what we as homeschool parents need to consider before taking on this very important job. We also need to continually reconsider these things as we journey along, because babies become big boys and girls and lives grow more and more complex. We need to remove ourselves from our circumstances and take a different perspective, and spend some time meditating on the basics. Very, very few things are inevitable. Most things come about because of choices we make, and sometimes we find ourselves under the pile and feeling like a victim. Sometimes we need to take the very painful step of un-making those choices, clearing our plates, heading back to square one, and any other cliche that you want to use to describe the process.

Food, Safety, Survival
I used to be a La Leche League leader helping mothers breast feed their babies. Often we would encounter these mothers who were panicking and stressing and getting all kinds of unsolicited advice from people who should not have been giving it. They would want to give up, couldn't figure things out, would be sleep-deprived, hormonal, and often crying. In those moments I would break it down for the mom by saying this, "If you were stranded alone with your baby with no resources but a little food and yourselves, what would you do?" The answer I heard each time was predictable--she would breastfeed the baby and sleep with the baby at the same times, and wear the baby on her body. This is basic, commonsense parenting. Feed the baby, keep the baby safe, keep both of yourselves alive. It has brought the human race far.

Education Through Living
If you expand this for a few years down the road, you can consider what you would have to do to teach your child what he / she needs to live and survive past infancy. With minimal resources, what would you do? You would teach by demonstrating, working side-by-side, and by telling stories. In everything you were doing, you would be showing the child, talking to him, and explaining, probably by telling stories about yourself, relatives, Bible characters, mythical figures, fairy tales. Time would be plentiful and relationship would be deep. Life would be done together, and not divided into funky little modern-day compartments. It would all work together seamlessly.

Yes, You Can...
In this post I want to stimulate you to just break things down to their bare parts. You can homeschool your child, but you have to know that you can. Tune out the opinions, the social pressures, the cacophony of culture and media, and spend some time thinking about what is best for your child and you, his parent who has been given a responsibility by God to raise him well. Really...just go lie down on your bed or sit with a pad of paper and reflect on this: If you could remove all the perceived barriers that are in your way and have a clear path on which to travel with your child, what changes would you need to make? (Don't consider how hard or painful it would be--just what needs to be changed.) Pray for God to reveal to your heart everything that he would have you consider, and nothing that you should not, and believe that he will do it. Write it all down. Cry a little. Pray some more. Let go of all your preconceived notions about what educating your kids should look like. After you have done this very important part come back and read part 2.

Part 2: So you Want to Homeschool

In the previous post, I stripped things down to their bare bones. If it were just you and your child, how would you teach him? Are you a victim of circumstance? Do you need to remove some barriers?

In this post, I want to examine the first of two things I think you need to equip yourself with before beginning this journey. If you buy into these now and invest deeply in them at the outset, you will lay the groundwork for longevity and success. There is nothing to purchase, so get your head out of the curriculum catalog and the school supplies. Instead, open the Word and get in there, and we'll talk. Two things--have you guessed them yet?

Conviction

In my homeschooling journey, the thing that has supported me the most is the absolute certainty that I was doing the right thing, the best thing, and often the hardest thing in order to educate my children. Above all, you must know your reason for doing this. Is God calling you to do this? Are you leaving a public school system because you think you can provide a better education? Are you taking on the education of a special needs child who has been sidelined by the system? Are you a free-wheeling libertarian-type who thinks that children need to be unhindered by walls and textbooks? Is it some combination of all of this? I cannot stress this enough--Know. your. reason. Write it down, talk it over with your spouse, your best friend, your children (who, frankly may not share your conviction at first). Write a mission statement, cast a vision.

Every summer I spend time reviewing my reasons. I have a mission statement that my husband and I wrote together, as well as several verses that encourage me as I go. The first is a pretty common one, and one that many Christian homeschool families have identified deeply with, but it embodies in very clear verbiage the depth and gravity of the call that God has placed on us to raise and educate our children.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)
The second verse is a prayer that I pray every time I look at it hanging over my desk or stuck on my refrigerator, and I spend a lot of time in both places.
Deliver me and rescue me from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful. Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. (Psalm 144:11-12)
Finally the third verse is a praise--a joyful refrain that I believe God has placed before me to remind me that in time our efforts will bear fruit.
One generation will commend your works to another; they will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. (Psalm 145:4-7)
But these are my verses...Yours will most likely be different. Ask the Lord to clarify for you the vision he wants you to cast for your household, for each of your children, for future generations. When you have done this you have taken the first and most important step in this journey.

In Part 3 I will examine the second thing that I believe you must possess in order to homeschool well, and it is possibly the hardest thing to acquire and manage...but you must. Ready? You may not like me as well once you read that post...Click here to satisfy your curiosity. (Part 3)

Part 3: So You Want to Homeschool

The Second Element for Success: Personal Boundaries

In Part 2 I discussed the need for conviction, the first of two elements to laying a successful foundation for homeschooling. The second element is a bit more complex, and without it life becomes very messy, and it is difficult at best to educate well in a mess. That critical element is a healthy boundary. If one does not take the time and energy to lay sufficient boundaries in her life, things will get chaotic.

In Part 1 I talked about taking the time to reflect and discern what needs to go. Did you think about it? Are you over-committed with activities for your kids? Church responsibilities? Clubs and charities and volunteer work? Time at the spa? Unhealthy demands from extended family? All of these things appear at the moment to be good and satisfying, but in the end, are they contributing to the life and well-being of your children, whom you are called to raise and educate? I'm not suggesting "helicopter parenting" where you hover over them at all times and everything you do is centered on them, and I'm not talking about "Tiger Mom" mentality where everything in your life revolves around their education. I'm talking about healthy boundaries. Over the years, I have learned for myself that I need "wiggle room." For example, when I clean out a closet or a storage space, I always try to leave some empty space, because inevitably something new will need to be stored there. Next time I clean, something different will get chucked and again, I will leave empty space. It always gets filled. Always. But when it does, I have the space so that the closet doesn't become intolerably messy. Consider in your own life where you need "wiggle room." Here are the things that must go in the closet every time, and must be present in order for us to have a healthy lifestyle and home education environment.

Quiet Time
Assuming a Christian audience here, but if you are not spending time in prayer, reading the Word, and reflection, then something has to go. I am not being legalistic--I am speaking from experience, and I'm sure that you know as well that when we are centered spiritually, all other things fall into their proper perspective. It's not something you have to do--it's something you get to do. You have the privilege of meeting with God one-on-one. Why miss it? This is foundational to teaching our children.

Food, Sleep, Exercise
If you are too busy to prepare healthy food for your family and enjoy meals together, then something has to go.

If you are up until the wee hours of the morning getting stuff accomplished because you have so much going on in the day that you can't find time to get it all done, then something has to go. I'm not talking about the mom who has many little ones with great needs who only can catch time at night for sanity--that is a season that will pass in time, and indeed, it is exhausting, and I sympathize. I am talking to the mom who has overextended herself and her kids running around after "good things" to the detriment of her health (see points below).

If you have no time to exercise, then something has to go. Simple. Make the time, but choose your activity well. If you choose an exercise that you really enjoy, it becomes something you get to do, not something you have to do.

In order to have a healthy home and educational environment, the leader of the pack must be strong, healthy and energetic, and be able to model this for the followers. You are Alpha Mom / Dad. If Mom and Dad ain't healthy, then nobody's healthy.

Spouse
If you do not have time to work on your marriage in every way (spiritually, emotionally, and physically), then it's time to chuck something.

Next there are a few areas where you may need to have less wiggle room and may need to pull the boundaries a little tighter.

Friends and Companions
Proverbs 18:24
"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Without a doubt, friendships and companions on this journey are vital. However,
not everyone is a friend. Not every homeschooled child in the park is a good playmate for my kids. I use the word "friend" very reverently. I am very cautious about getting together with people for coffee or play dates or whatever. I have a few good friends and these people are in my life because we are like-minded in faith, in child-rearing, and because they have companionable children whose company both I and my kids enjoy. Relationships with these folks have taken time and energy and run deep. They are the friendships in which I really invest and would call on in a time of need.  I have a slightly wider circle of people whom I truly enjoy and expect that over time may become "good friends," but I'll leave that to the Lord.

Ask yourself some questions before you invest too much time with someone who is not a fit for you:

1. Is this person a positive influence in my life?
2. Does this person have healthy emotional boundaries?
3. Does this person have children who will positively influence my children? Do my kids enjoy her kids? (Do not force children into relationships with other children because you want to hang out with the mom. That is wrong and selfish and will bear bad fruit in the long run. Do you like to be forced to hang with people you don't like? Don't do it to your kids.)
4. How does this person discipline, correct, teach? (It might not seem like a big deal, but if you spend a lot of time with someone, radically different parenting styles can cause conflict in friendship.)
5. Is God leading me into a relationship with this person?

But, but, but--I think God wants me to minister to this person...wait. If you are just getting started on this journey, you have a calling and ministry. Do not sacrifice it on the altar of playing savior to someone else whose life is a mess. Not yet. There will be plenty of time for ministry, and you cannot have a completely healthy friendship with an unhealthy person.

But, but, but--this woman knows so much about homeschooling and God and cooking, and I need someone to show me the ropes. Stop. Are you looking for a mentor or a friend? Are you on equal footing (kids the same age, common interests, give and take)? If you need someone to teach you and cannot lean on the Lord to guide you, then you need to reevaluate what you are doing in the first place. That is not to say that you will not discover mentors along the way, just don't force it. God knows your need, and he will supply them all.

Church and Ministry
We as Christians are so vulnerable to becoming the go-to-gals when it comes to serving at church. It seems even more so when we homeschool because people catch wind of the "flexible lifestyle" and assume that we can help out in all kinds of ways that other people can't or won't. I have had to learn that my window of service must be wide open for my children and selectively opened for other opportunities. Those opportunities are ones we as a family have discussed and agreed upon. As a result, when we serve we are able to do it with great joy and energy.

When you are approached to serve or are considering an area in which you would like to serve, let your answer always be "I will pray about it," and then do pray about it. More importantly, listen to the answer that God gives you concerning it, especially if the answer is no.

But, but, but--there is such great need! How would God not call us to serve there? Go back to my original point about food, sleep, exercise, and relationships. Are your children going to suffer because you are so drained from service that you are unable to meet their needs? Think about it. Do not think you won't be called to serve, because you will. But first things first--when we have proven faithful with the small things he will give us responsibility over greater things.

Curriculum, Activities and "Learning Experiences"
No, your child does not need to learn violin, 2 languages, Latin, chemistry, and all the core subjects plus go to scouts, play soccer, have his play dates, go to church and sing in the youth choir. No. Not all in the third grade! Just... NO!

I know people who truly have their children in all that and more. I would also make note that those people are not on my list of good friends because a. they don't have time for anything, and b. they stress me out. All that is on that list is good, and all of it can be pursued over a lifetime.

Kids need flex time, time to play, time to be bored. If you have not left them wiggle room, they will be stressed, as will you. Go back to point no. 1 in this part.

Even better, go back to the original point in Part 1. What is your calling, your conviction, your vision for your child? When you consider what learning experiences to give your children, consider them in light of these things. Consider if they will stretch your boundaries, tax your health, conflict with family life.

What Can You Do Well?
The average person can do 3-4 things well simultaneously (I don't mean multi-tasking). Consider what you can do well. For me it is cooking and keeping house, teaching the kids, exercising, and some area of service. Each child is limited in the same way. Each of them has their lessons, 1-2 activities outside the home, and chores to do at home. My husband has a job, home life and honey-do lists, and and at times an area of service. When things become stressful, it is like pain in the body telling us something is wrong--we reevaluate.

It Sounds too Simple...
 
Much of this article has been information that is really just common sense, but as my dear friend put it, we really can be masters of complication. Simplicity is difficult for us because it seems too, well...simple. We think that in order to succeed it must be more difficult, so we make it that way, but Jesus reminds us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. If we are doing this out of obedience to him and are listening to his guidance it won't be complicated, heavy, burdensome or anxiety-inducing. It will be a light and joyful journey.