Homeschool Co-ops: Why We Haven't Joined One

Gone are the days when you are the only person in the world to homeschool, where there is only one curriculum to use, and there's no support anywhere for your decision.

Now, a simple search of "homeschooling" online will yield a ton of results that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. That's great, in the sense that there are so many options, methods, and curriculum choices so parents are able to tailor their children's educations. But it can become overwhelming if you are trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing.

This is where homeschool co-ops fit in for my family. I know plenty of families that thrive with the homeschooling/co-op life style. But, it just wasn't a fit for us. Here's why. . .

1. Time and Place
You have to meet usually weekly (possibly twice a week, depending on the ages of your children), at a certain time, at a certain place. This was a no-go for my family. When we began homeschooling, we had just left public schools to homeschool our children and we just wanted to be at home. No deadlines, no commitments, no being on someone else's schedule. For the last 3 years I had been waking the kids up and rushing them through morning routines so I could get them to school on time. I didn't want any part of that sort of thing, even if it was weekly.

We wanted every ounce of flexibility that homeschooling offers a family. Plus, we began homeschooling when I was about 6 months pregnant with our 4th child, so maintaining our flexibility was important for major life events like that.

2. School Zone
Coming out of public schools ourselves, my husband and I were ready to "detox" our own brains, as well as our daughters', about what education should look like. The co-ops we found mimicked the traditional school environment: classes grouped by age, teachers/leaders/tutors in charge of those classes, meeting for a specific day and time, pledge of allegiance to begin class, etc.

Now, I have no doubt that wonderful things can be learned in this environment. They most certainly can--in fact 3 family friends of ours have their children in different co-ops and their children are learning some pretty AMAZING things! However, the setting was all too familiar for us and we wanted to school our children away from that traditional set up.

3. Curriculum Choices
This was big for my husband and me. We'd already been down the road of having no say, no choice at all in what books we'd use to teach our children. As a matter of fact, my girls rarely brought school books home; it was always a worksheet ripped out of the book, so we could never quite tell what book it was or what the scope and sequence was. So, choosing for ourselves what we would use was important, and we didn't want to be bound by what the co-op had chosen.

The other thing that concerned me was the rate of learning with those curriculum choices....what if my child needs to slow down to really be able to master a concept? What if my child needs to move ahead because he or she has already mastered a concept? I didn't want to be told that we must be on such-and-such lesson, by this day, because that's how the program works, or because that's more convenient for the group.

4. Cost
Many co-ops are on par with the price of private schooling. So, put very simply: it was not an affordable option for our family. And, that became even more apparent to us as the Lord blessed us with more children. Co-op costs are just not in the budget.

Now, I realize that all co-ops are not created equally and that each one is run a bit differently from the other. Therefore, this is not meant to be an all inclusive run-down of how every co-op is structured. But these seemed to be the recurring themes that concerned us most amongst the popular ones in our area.

Now, lest you get the wrong impression, I don’t think a co-op is necessarily a bad idea.
Let me tell you about the co-op of my dreams. . .

  • Meeting with two or three other like-minded families, maybe once a month or every other month
  • Relaxed environment, like my home or theirs, or at the park, or where ever we decide
  • Doing one or two subjects or projects with all of our kids, together, no matter the ages
    • For example, I might teach a health lesson with a hands-on activity one month, while the next mom might choose arts & crafts for the next
    • More enrichment based, rather than curriculum based
  • Maybe we get together to go on a field trip sometimes
  • Other times we get together to simply fellowship, to talk over a potluck lunch, to let the kids play
  • Share our tried and true tips and tricks of parenting, homeschooling and family life

I don't know if this would technically qualify as a co-op, maybe it's more of a support group.
Whatever it is, it is what I would call ideal.

Have you decided to use a co-op for your family's homeschooling? Why or why not?

**Originally written here for Our Homeschool Forum.**


Blizzard Happenings

The view from my front door

My region of the country is right in the middle of a blizzard.

It snowed from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning.

Today, the sun is shining.

I'm glad to be snowed in with my favorite people.

I thank God for the provisions He's provided for my household, 
for it is by His hand we have been fed.

Scripture and Snapshot


Spaces in Ages

Early on in my marriage, people gave all types of advice on the various ways my husband and I should approach having children--from waiting until the time was "right" to how many we should have. You name it, we've heard it.

There was also the advice on age ranges:
Make sure you don't have your kids too close together! Too close together and there will be sibling rivalry.

But then. . . .
You don't want them too far apart! Too far apart and they won't be able to relate to each other or have anything in common.

My thought was that all sounded conflicting and either way, someone wouldn't be pleased. What should I do?

Simple answer: Let the Lord have His way.

I am here to tell you, both are myths: I have children as close as 14 months apart, and as far as 12 years apart. A competitive child will be competitive no matter how close or far apart they are from another sibling. Finding common ground has more to do with attitude and perspective, not age.

The point is, the spaces in ages are what they are, but what is most important is the environment in which you raise your gifts from God. Unhealthy competition can be channeled into ways to promote teamwork amongst siblings, instilling in the children that the family is a team. We win and lose together, and certainly don't try to "one-up" each other. We teach our children to celebrate one another, to rejoice with one another and to show compassion when someone is down.

Common ground, the other myth, isn't so difficult to deal with either. Each person will have a set of interests that are all their own. However, we are a family and have always enjoyed doing things as a family, whether that be singing songs, playing games, or cooking together. Common ground is first established by mom and dad and the children spring board off of that.

Also, younger siblings give older ones the chance to serve, to realize what they were like as babies and toddlers, and even gives them the opportunity to show the little ones how to play something they used to enjoy at that age. In return, the little ones see even more examples of kindness and patience. They also learn to respect boundaries and property by not disturbing an older one's project or musical instrument or whatever they may deem as "off limits."

It is such a cyclical blessing to watch the children learn from each other, to learn to communicate with each other, to figure out how to work through their challenges and to lavish each other with love and care and heaping doses of grace.

I watch the ways they watch each other, and my heart is doubly blessed. I get to see glimpses of my older daughters' mothering skills, the way they may deal with a minor toddler meltdown, the way they rock a baby, how they do the silliest things to make their siblings laugh. I get to see my oldest son's confidence be boosted because he realizes that 2 younger brothers are doing everything he does and he's eager to show them the way. I see how the little ones look up to the older ones, yet feel like they belong right in the mix of everything, not shunned or pushed away.

Again, spaces in ages are what they are--it's the home life environment that matters most, what is taught, what parents expect from their children as family members. Sure there are rough patches and bumpy roads, hard seasons and tough times. But overall, home life should be a blessed life, no matter how close or far apart your children are. The family dynamic can be such a sweet blessing from God when we cultivate it according to His Word, and worry less about what the world says our families should look like.


Growing Again

Happy New Year, ladies!

My family and I have some sweet news to share. . . .

Once again, I am thankful that God has graced my womb with life. . .eight times. . .
My heart swells with gratitude over and over . . .
It is humbling, overwhelming, shocking, and joyous at the same time. . .
God is good like that.

I never, ever imagined that I would be a mom to a little brood of children. I never thought my husband and I would say things like:
"Two large pizzas won't feed the family!" or "A 7-seater isn't gonna cut it!" or "We pretty much need an entire pew at church!"  
{{Large family problems, right? LOL}}
My husband says it all the time, "God's way is perfect." He's right and I'm so glad that God knows what's best.
"Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches."
-Proverbs 24:3-4  
Being a wife and mother has molded me, shaped me, matured me, and stretched me several times over, in so many areas of life. It has sent me chasing hard after God, because it has shown me just how much I need Him, and how little I'm sure of in my own strength. God is faithful, and He's not through with me yet, as I continue to learn of Him and grow in Him.

So, I just want to take a bit of blog space to give God the praise for the things He has done.

Lord-willing, Baby Girl will be joining the family sometime in May 2016.



But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
-Philippians 4:10-13

Sometimes it is a difficult concept to grasp.

In the verses above, Paul is writing to fellow believers in Philippi who hadn't been able to show their support for him. He knew they were concerned, but that they just didn't have an opportunity to show it. Even though their support would have been helpful to Paul, he had learned to be content no matter the circumstances.

Verse 13 is key: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Often times this verse is quoted separately from the Scriptures before it, and we quote it in reference to the really, big, huge, hard, demanding things in life, those things we KNOW we Jesus for: things that scare us, things we don't have answers for, things we just can't see a way out of. A well-meaning brother or sister in the faith will encourage us and remind us that we can do it because of Christ, and He will strengthen us.

This is true. No doubt about it, as our God is an awesome, amazing, wonder-working God.

But what about in those areas I like to call the small places?

As wives and mothers, we face a billion small, mundane places every day and it is easy to become dissatisfied: vacuuming, diaper changes, dish washing, picking up toys, reading lessons, wiping noses, cooking meals, doing laundry, a listening ear to a husband--day in and day out, multiple times a day.

If we're not careful, the enemy sneaks in to whisper lies to us, that we should seek more, anything else outside of our homes, that this work is nothing but drudgery, that there is freedom out there, that you need to escape. . .

I challenge you to remember that God's grace, His strength, is available in the seemingly mundane, daily to-do's. It is available in all those small places. It's available right there where other's can't fathom the reason you'd be willing to stay at home, working to raise a family, serving and loving a husband.

Remember, what we do each day as homemakers, wives, mothers and homeschoolers is worthy work. It is blessed work. It is work with an eternal purpose. The routine tasks are just a small portion of it on eternity's scale. Keep that in mind. Know that we can be content, right where we are--in the midst of overflowing sinks and never-ending laundry piles. God is there, too. He is right there in the middle of dinners, toys, ironing and mopping floors. He is right there and He is your way to contentment.

Like Paul, we must learn how to be and what to be depending on the needs of our situations. We must learn to be grateful for the assignment of being a wife and for motherhood. It is a precious calling that many desire to embrace, but may never know. Welcome the mundane, work through it with contentment. God has called you and He is your strength.

**Originally written here for Our Homeschool Forum.**


6 Ways to Spice Up Your Homeschool Routine


Any mamas feeling overwhelmed in your homeschool? Sometimes we become so serious and stressed about meeting educational goals that we forget about relaxing and having fun. Particularly around this time of year, you may have had a bit of fall burn out, leading right into the busyness of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Well, this post won't solve all of those things, but it is my hope to lighten the mood a bit and encourage you to have a bit of fun. Here are some fun (maybe even goofy) ideas.

Have school in a different place. . .
Not just outside or sitting on the couch (the go-to place for homeschooling, right?) Have school under the dining room table, in a big closet, in the hallway or on mom and dad's bed. Silly, right? But your kids will get a kick out of it! (The older ones may think you're nuts, but trust me, they like this kind of thing, too.

Switch up the curriculum plans. . . 
Sometimes neither you or your children want to see that English book for another minute this week. It doesn't necessarily mean that the curriculum is not a good fit; it may just be that you need a little break. That's when things like printables, unit studies and lapbooks can be a life saver. Two of my favorite places to turn when we need a break from curriculum are Currclick.com and homeschoolshare.com--both have resources available for free (or for a small cost) in every subject for a wide range of ages.

Announce a no school day. . .
That's right. And spend the day with your kids, playing with them, talking with them, just being with them. Get on the floor and push cars and trucks around, go outside to play hide-n-seek, work on that space shuttle project, have a tea party, finger paint, tickle some toes, kiss a few faces, and give lots of hugs. Put the school books away for the day and relax.

Have an "electives" day. . . 
Take a day to learn some out of the ordinary things for your family. Have a day to bake new recipes or try new foods. Pick a day to learn a new skill like sewing or crafting. Learn some common phrases in a new language. Work on a family project like organizing photos or painting a room. Pick something "new" to learn and make a day of it.

Have a dress up day. . . 
Yep, do math a Minnie Mouse (or whoever!) and have your kids come to school as their favorite character, animal or person. You could do Biblical people, fairy tale characters or whatever you want. Keep it simple by using what you have around the house, and have fun. Try to guess each person's character before they tell.

Let the kids choose the subject. . .
Maybe your little one loves history, but isn't too keen on math. Or maybe you've got a little English major who just isn't feeling science. Give them a break from everything except one or two of their favorite subjects, and let them just spend the day enjoying what they like most. It's productive, low stress for you, and they'll likely to get a few paces ahead in those subjects.

These are some little to no-cost, spur of the moment ways to change up your homeschooling routine a bit. Don't forget, you can always add a bowl of ice cream to the end of a homeschool day as a sweet treat! What ways do you spice up your homeschool?


***I wrote this originally for Our Homeschool Forum.***


Why Wear Skirts? An Honest Reflection


It's surprising what topics come up amongst women in homeschooling circles. Besides the famous "what curriculum or method do you use?" there are plenty of other debates discussions as well: breastfeeding vs bottle, schedules and routines, farm life or the city and on and on. One such hot topic is skirt-wearing. I've heard so many arguments for and against skirts my entire life, it is unbelievable. And I began to ask God, what is it about skirts? What does Your Word say?

Well, He is faithful, friends, to hear and answer. So I will share what He has shown me thus far.

Growing up, my family went to a church where women were taught to wear skirts only. When asked about the Biblical basis for the teaching, the answer in short was: "If you're a saved and sanctified woman, then you wear skirts. If you wear pants, you're not saved and are in danger of going to hell." Yeah. Totally one of the most UNSOUND doctrines out there. Not Bible-based at all, as apparel is not a salvation-level issue. There is one Way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ, not clothing:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through Me."
-John 14:6

So as a child, my parents taught me to wear skirts to church and church functions, but I was free to wear pants, shorts, skirts or dresses any other times. What they required no matter what I wore was a standard of modesty: nothing revealing, too tight, too short, etc. Period. Always. No matter what.

(Modesty in and of itself is a topic for a whole other post. However, there are a few things I'd like to mention.)
My parents, my mother in particular, taught me to dress modestly and appropriately for every occasion. Period. And I do mean every occasion, including sleepwear. She taught me that a lady adorns herself in a way that should reflect her character. My personal thoughts on this: "Yay, Mom! Thanks so much for that teaching!"
I'm all for modesty as that is Scripture-based:

". . .in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works."
-1 Timothy 2:9-10

So, what about skirts, I asked God, are skirts/dresses the only or more modest apparel? Short answer: no. I do understand that some women feel more modest in skirts than pants, so for that reason they choose skirts. Understood. No issues with that.

But, I have seen some highly inappropriate skirts that this pants-wearing woman would NEVER, EVER consider wearing. Let's just say we all have seen the skirts that have less fabric than my pillow case...NOT a modest look. And, on the flip side, we've all seen pants that were so skin-tight, you wonder how the woman can move or breathe or whether her circulation has been impeded...NOT a modest look either.

So I'm like, Lord, you've shown me that either type of clothing (skirt or pants) can be totally becoming or completely ridiculous. So what is it about dresses and skirts for women? What is it?

Each culture, historically, has had it's own fashion statements and types of clothing. But one commonality amongst every culture and its attire is this: clear distinctions between men and women. This idea is as old as time. All throughout the Bible, God makes clear distinctions between men and women in their physical make-ups, in the home, in their roles in reproduction, in the church and in appearance, just to name a few. Specifically about clothing, God gave us these words:

“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God."
-Deuteronomy 22:5

With that in mind, I began looking at our own American culture. And I thought, when did women start wearing pants as the norm? And why the qualifier "women's" pants? So, I talked to those who have gone before me and I found that, up until 50 years or so ago, pants were culturally men's clothing while skirts were women's clothing and therein was the clear distinction between men's and women's clothing. My mom said that she can remember when pants weren't even an option to purchase for women in clothing stores or even in sewing patterns, so if a woman wore pants they were literally putting on men's clothing.

Friends, I have to tell you, the Lord opened my eyes to this truth anew and I about fell out of my seat! Here's how it happened: I was watching the news one morning, and in a neighboring state, the public school system was implementing "transgender" bathrooms. The proposed sign for the new bathrooms was displayed on the screen and it was the little stick figure we're all accustomed to seeing for restrooms, except this one was wearing half skirt and half pants.

Yep. My mouth dropped open in disbelief.
Then the light-bulb moment: In all of my pants-wearing days, every single time I looked for a bathroom sign, I looked for the one wearing the skirt because I knew that distinctly referred to me--a woman. I was floored at how evil and twisted and deceptive that one "transgender" bathroom sign was, and at all the confusion it held. I just couldn't believe it and the Lord reminded me that He was NOT the source of confusion:

"For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints."
-1 Corinthians 14:33

And all of my questions and wonderings and all of my prayers flooded my soul and I thought, I get it. I get it, Lord. There should be clear lines of distinction, clear expressions of those differences that God made between men and women. Women wearing dresses or skirts and men wearing pants (in our  American culture) is one of those expressions.

It wasn't until the rise of women's rights and feminism that the adamant push for women to wear pants was seen. The thought was that women to be able to do everything a man did somehow made them "equal" including wearing his clothing. You never saw these same women advocate the opposite for "true equality": men wearing women's skirts! (Which, by the way, I do not recommend. I'm just making a point.) Instead, it was the doing away with what makes a woman look like a woman and so the lines began to blur and the push became so loud that a woman wearing pants (traditionally and culturally men's clothing) has become "normalized" and "accepted."

And so we see the trickle-down effect of other things in our society being pushed upon us, forcing us to accept them as "normal," whether it is the attempt to "redefine" God's design for marriage or mandate "transgender" bathrooms, we all see the push and the shift. However, God's Word is clear, His design is not a mistake. Men and women are different and those differences should be embraced, celebrated, and expressed. No blurring, no confusion, with clear distinctions.

So what does that all that mean for me?
Let me start with what it does NOT mean: What it does not mean is hatred or bashing of women who wear pants. That is NOT the point of my sharing this, nor will this post or blog be a platform to do that, ever. Again, skirts and pants are not "salvation-losing or -gaining" issues and the ONLY thing that can redeem us is the shed blood of the Lamb, the only Way, Jesus Christ. Period.

While I may not be against wearing pants ever in life (as in you must wear skirts only),  I do have a TOTALLY new perspective on it and what it represents.

What it does mean is that I accept the the truth of God's Word, that He made men and women differently, intentionally, on purpose and that is something to accept fully rather than reject, in even the smallest of ways.

It means that I will try to incorporate more skirts into my wardrobe because I (personally) have a clear, Biblical reason to do so. It also means that I've lived for 30+ years wearing mostly pants and that creating a new habit may be difficult--particularly on cold, rainy, or snowy days. {Prayers/tips welcomed and appreciated!}

It means that I have daughters to teach and I never, ever want them to look for their value or self-worth in comparing themselves to men and what men can do. It means that I want my girls and I to embrace every bit of our God-given femininity. One way of doing that, among others (like make-up, perfume, or hair bows, for example) is wearing clothing meant to distinguish me as a woman.

What are your thoughts? What verses and teachings have helped you embrace Biblical womanhood and femininity?

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