This morning we grabbed our Bibles and notebooks (and Mommy’s caffeine), gathered on the couch, and read the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem… That familiar story we’ve read each Palm Sunday.  You know the one… Where Jesus’ disciples obeyed his command to go get the colt…  How everything transpired just as Jesus said it would…  How this young, untrained animal carried the Savior of the world into town…  And how the people saw Jesus coming and threw down their cloaks and palm branches, shouting, “Hosanna!” (Which literally means save us.)

Oh, what a refreshing reminder this was to kick off this week!  This familiar story that we’ve read and read came alive with fresh meaning once again.  Beginning with the fact that Jesus knew what was happening and why it was happening… And He still does.  He knew where the colt was, He knew what needed to be said, and He knew that it all needed to happen as it happened for a purpose- His purpose.  He is the Son of God.  He could have ridden into town on a more majestic animal.  He could have split the sky open and come into town with thunder and lightning and let them know the king had arrived.  He created the universe, for crying out loud!  But that wasn’t the plan.  That didn’t fulfill the prophecy, and it wouldn’t have suited the purpose.  He knew the message that needed to be relayed, and He knew the means by which to relay it.  He knew all that needed to be known then, and He still knows now.

Do you see the recognition of the Savior in this account?  From the disciples sent to get the animal to the young colt to the people on the side of the road, they all saw Jesus for who He is.  The disciples didn’t question Jesus when He told them to go take this animal that would be tied up.  When you read that, it sounds preposterous!  Walk down the road until you see this colt tied up, then untie it and take it away without permission?  That would certainly raise some questions.. .but the disciples just obeyed.  They trusted their Lord, trusted His instruction, trusted His plan, and it worked.  And when they brought this animal to Him, it seemed to know its Creator, its Master, and it calmly obeyed His command and carried Jesus into town.  The people watched for Jesus, and threw down their cloaks to pave the way for the King, calling out Hosanna!, recognizing Jesus as the One who saves.  What a word to each of us- a call to pause and see Jesus for who He is, to worship Him, to bow before Him, to praise His name and proclaim Him as the only One who can save us.  In this time where everyone is looking for someone to step in and save the day, what relief there is in knowing that ultimately there is One who can bring us the salvation we all long for!

Yes, these were indeed great reminders for me on this Monday. But do you know what was even more remarkable?  My children.  I directed them to this passage this morning, but they made the connections.  They retold the account to me with enthusiasm, reading deeper than the words on the page, pointing all of us to Jesus.  It was more than palm branches and riding on a donkey.  They got it, and they shared it, and my heart swelled with love as I saw them get excited about Him.  And as much love and joy as I felt in that moment watching my children love Jesus and talk about Him with such passion, there was the slightest twinge of guilt… because just how often does my Father’s heart swell with love because of my bubbling over about Jesus?   Certainly not as often as it should.  As these girls of mine learn and grow in Him, I find more and more that I am steadily learning and growing just as much alongside them.

Homeschool lessons…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  That’s because this whole homeschool thing has been kicking. my. behind.  No joke.  Trying to find balance between regular home/wife/mom duties, teaching a middle schooler, teaching a first grader, and keeping a wild-as-snot, overly-temperamental (but so adorable) two-year old entertained so said school work can get done has proven to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated.

That being said, I’ve done some learning and growing myself these past few weeks, and I’ve decided to post a list of lessons I’ve learned so far (mostly as a reminder to myself as the school year continues!)…

  1. Wake up early, but let them sleep.  Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am NOT a morning person.  I don’t talk, I don’t think, I don’t hear, I just don’t function until I have crawled out of bed, showered, and caffeinated.  So, with three early risers in the house, I have to make myself get up early and do those things so that I can love on them when they burst out of bed.  (And on the rare occasion that they are still sleeping past 7:00, I let them sleep!  If they are still snoring, chances are their bodies need the rest, so I’ll take those sacred moments and let them lie.)
  2. Organization is a must!  I have to be as prepared as I can be before our day gets going… because if they’re waiting for me to get my act together or gather lesson materials or whatever, trouble will come.  Messes will be made, fights will be started, and attention will be lost.  For our family, I have found that work drawers and assignment notebooks work great, and I keep sensory boxes prepared for the little one (and just embrace the mess that creates- the mess is worth the few minutes of peace!). 
  3. Be flexible and think outside the box- homeschool gives us great freedom!  We don’t have to sit inside at a desk all day.  We’ve used stuffed animals for history reenactments, Barbies and Legos for math problem solving, sidewalk chalk on the driveway for fact practice… whatever works!  And when all else fails, we take it outside- it’s amazing what a little sunshine and fresh air will do for everyone’s moods on a hard day!
  4. Home Ec is an opportunity for learning.  I caught myself stressing over the mess of the house while the kids were just waiting for me to get school started… so I put them to work!  It’s important for them to take responsibility around the house and learn to work as a family, and it’s amazing how much faster chore time goes when everyone pitches in.
  5. Don’t be afraid of technology.  I know we should limit screen time, and I’m not saying park your kid in front of the t.v. all day.  But there are lots of resources available that children enjoy- YouTube videos for science and history, documentaries and educational television, Internet research, making PowerPoint presentations, typing notes on the computer instead of writing, educational games on tablets, etc.
  6. Learn on the go!  We stay busy, and medical appointments are a regular part of our weeks, but school must go on!  So we learn wherever we go… Bookbags with books and practice sheets go in the car, flashcards in mom’s purse for waiting rooms, learning about healthy foods and budgets at the grocery store, and taking time to stop along the way to explore new places and enjoy nature.
  7. Encourage creativity.  My girls are artsy and hands-on, so nothing makes them happier than some craft supplies and time to use them.  They also love having opportunities for free play- and I have found that often their playtime incorporates things we’ve been learning about!  They act out scenes from books, pretend to be scientists, set up pretend stores and use their math skills to buy and sell, play school and actually teach each other… learning doesn’t stop during playtime.
  8. QUIET TIME!  This is a must in our house.  This mommy is an extreme introvert, meaning I desperately need quiet, alone time or I cannot function.  So that’s a regular part of our day, and everyone knows it.  During the afternoon we take at least one hour for everyone to retreat to their own rooms and chill.  For the older girls, that requires thirty minutes of reading (free reading or assigned reading, and we LOVE books on CD!).  Some days quiet time has to be enforced, while other days it continues well beyond an hour without anyone realizing it- and that’s okay.  But when it does end, we are all in a much better mood and are ready to interact and enjoy each other.
  9. Don’t try to do it all.  I was a classroom teacher for 9+ years before starting this homeschool journey.  It was ingrained in me that you use every second of the day for learning- no down time.  That meant covering every subject thoroughly and cramming in every possible worksheet and game and activity.  And in a classroom setting, that is helpful- it keeps students engaged and lessens chaos that occurs when many children have little to do.  But this is not a classroom!  This is a family, this is a home, this is life… and we can learn through many avenues.  We don’t have to pull out every textbook for every subject every day.  We don’t have to do every suggested lesson, or every activity or worksheet that accompanies every lesson.  It’s not always necessary, so don’t feel pressured to squeeze it all in every day.  Enjoy learning, enjoy your children, enjoy the journey.
  10. And I saved the best for last- Know when to call it a day.  In this house full of hard-heads, we can push each other to the brink of insanity in no time flat.  Some days, someone just doesn’t get a lesson.  Some days, someone just needs more attention or more downtime.  Some days we just have to put our plans on hold and take a break- and we have that opportunity.  For me, it comes down to remember our ultimate goal- what is it I want from my children?  What do I want them to learn more than anything?  What do I want to see in their lives?  Honestly, it isn’t math fact mastery or acing another test or reading the entire textbook.  It’s to see them love Jesus, to watch them grow as disciples, to become servants who love others the way Jesus loves.  The books and the studies are important in helping them become who He wants them to be, but those aren’t the main purpose.  So, some days we just have to pause, or totally stop, and learn to pray, to love, to serve, and to focus on the One who put us on this journey to start with.

So, friends, that’s a little bit of what I’ve learned and I hope to remember as we keep on trucking… What tips do you have?

Why We Chose Homeschool

I’ve been challenged to consider my reasons for homeschooling my children, and to actually put it into words and hold on to it.  It really made me pause and think about why we’ve chosen this path at this time, and I would challenge any parent to sit down and really reflect on your family’s choice for education- I personally don’t think there is any one right way to go about it, but it’s good to give it some thought and know why you do what you do.

It was certainly interesting for me to consider- I am a product of the public school system, I was trained as a public school educator, and I’ve worked in both public and private education.  I love teaching and I love learning!  And I am not opposed to public schools or charter schools or private schools- there are amazing curriculums out there, taught in amazing school settings by amazing educators, and I’ve experienced a little bit of it all.  But, God has led our family in a different direction for this season.  It wasn’t a path I thought we would be on three years ago, and I have wrestled with it for some time before finally accepting that this is where He has us right now.  My reasons my change and develop over the years, but here are my “why’s” at this point in time…

  1. To encourage my children in their walks with Christ.  Ultimately, I want my children to love God above all else.  I want them to live lives surrendered to His will and His calling, and it is my responsibility to help them learn how to do that.
  2. To help my children develop a Biblical, Christian worldview.  The world is a scary place.  There is a lot of chaos and misunderstanding and sinful living going on.  People are pushed to look out for themselves and do what’s best for them and not worry about morals and values.  It can be so easy to be led astray.  I want my children to not ignore the issues in the world or be sheltered from all that goes on, but rather to view it all through the lens of Scripture, and to process information and form opinions and make decisions based on God’s word.
  3. To teach the way they learn… Children are all different.  God created each one of them uniquely according to His design.  They have different learning styles and interests, different things that make them tick, different ways of viewing the world around them.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all teaching style that will fit all children.  If they’re going to develop to their full potential, they need to be reached where they are and pushed in a way that will motivate them and encourage them individually.  All children can learn- but they don’t all learn the same way.
  4. To teach them how to learn…  Like I said, I am a product of the public school system.  I was a master test-taker.  I won the awards and graduated as valedictorian of my class… but all of that means nothing now!  What matters now is the one teacher I had many years ago who took the time to help me grow in my learning- who pushed me to think, who challenged me to learn and ask why and how and not just memorize information for a test.  Not everyone has that one teacher.  Some are blessed with more than one, but some never have that opportunity and therefore don’t learn how to learn.  I want my children to be lifelong learners.  I want them to develop skills that will enable them to learn anything at any time in any setting.
  5. To instill a love for learning… This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous point, but it’s a little different.  Not only do I want them to learn how to learn, but I want them to enjoy learning.  I want it to be fun, to be exciting, to instill a sense of wonder and awe in them.  Not everything is going to be fun and exciting, but there should be enjoyment in learning something new every day.
  6. To enjoy life with my kids… We are learning together.  We are doing life together.  We are exploring God’s world together.  We are slowing down and embracing the gifts of each moment together.  And through all of that togetherness, there are moments of driving each other totally nuts, but we are creating deeper relationships with each other and with God, and learning to value our family in new ways.
  7.   To make the most of our time together… Learning doesn’t just occur during certain hours of the day.  There is so much of this great big world to learn and explore and discover.  We learn more when we get out there and live and experience things.  We can learn through our books at the table, or through exploring nature at the beach or the park, or through playing a game or cooking a meal or taking a trip.  I want to train my children to embrace learning opportunities whenever and wherever they may arise and not be confined to the four walls of a classroom.
  8. To challenge them… Some things are more challenging for my girls, and some things come a bit easier.  I don’t want them to get stuck in a rut of doing what comes naturally and easily all the time.  I want to push them to be better versions of themselves, the grow into the young ladies’ God has created them to be- and sometimes that means stepping outside of their comfort zone.  I don’t want them to just do enough to get by or to take the high road because that’s what they know.  I want them to always be striving for more, to never settle for mediocrity.
  9. To encourage out-of-the-box thinking… I don’t want rote memorization.  I don’t want robots who can repeat whatever I tell them.  I want them to think of things in new and different ways, to be bold and courageous and even a bit weird if that’s what it takes.  I want them to question things so that they take ownership of their beliefs- so that they know what they believe personally and why they believe it.  And sometimes it takes looking at the world in a unique way to figure that out.  There’s room for that in our learning environment!
  10. Because this is what God has called us to do…. Sure, I’ve given this lots of thought and I have my own reasons for choosing this path, but ultimately, we are where we are right now because this is where God has placed us.  It isn’t where He has placed everyone.  It doesn’t work for every family.  It wasn’t for us initially, and I can’t predict where we will be five years from now.  But for this season, in this moment, this is where He wants us, and we are embracing that and rolling with it… and counting our blessings along the way.