Starting Your Homeschool: Mental Preparation

Often times when we read about what is necessary to begin homeschooling, much of the focus is on school supplies, school room set-up's, curriculum choices and the like. While those things are important, I'd thought I'd approach this topic from the mental prep side. How can you mentally prepare for starting a homeschool?

1. Vision for Homeschool
This is something you'll want to talk with your husband about, that you flesh out together. Maybe even include your children if they're old enough. And, above all, prayer is key. Pray over and for your homeschool. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do as a family. Ask Him for help along the way as your journey unfolds. Remember: the Holy Spirit works in homeschools, too!

A good friend once told me to ask myself, "Why do I want to homeschool?" The vision for your homeschool will stem from your answers to this question. Once you look at your answers and see what is important to your family, you can then put it in statement form for the family to refer to throughout the school year. Remember, though, overtime your needs may change as your family changes, so updating your vision and goals is completely reasonable. It may even be wise to revisit your vision each year to see if your family is on track.

2. Unlearning
If you were educated in public school or any traditional school setting, you've got to let go of the idea that your home MUST mirror that environment. Of course you'll have pencils, paper, and a few teacher's manuals, but the whole set-up is unnecessary. Your kids don't have to line up everywhere, ask to go to the restroom or sit in assigned seats. You can start your day with prayer or jumping-jacks or a song. It is up to you to decide.

The reality is that you will be instructing your children at home, and home life never stops. Noses need wiping, dishes still pile up, telemarketers still call, and all of that will happen while you're teaching Math and rocking a sleepy baby. What you should know is that you are mom first and what you'll begin to learn is that homeschooling really is a natural extension of parenting, as parents are children's first teachers anyway. You will see the beauty of teaching your own children in every aspect. Educating your whole child--spiritually, emotionally, physically, academically--is best done in a loving environment at home.

3. Don't Join the Comparison Game
Yep. Unfortunately, it's seen amongst homeschoolers, too. There are parents trying "out-do" each other, competing about curriculum choices and whose child is further ahead, or comparing school room set-ups and who has the latest furniture from IKEA. Remember, your kid is not someone else's, and your home life is different from the next person's. Don't fall into the "grass is greener" trap. Comparing what you're doing to what another mom is doing all the time, point-by-point can be dangerous, making you feel pressured to implement things that aren't a fit for your family. These are your kids, this is your home. Walk confidently in what you're doing.

Also, if you're pulling your children from a public/traditional school setting, you may be used to comparing how your child is fairing against his classmates, and you're probably used to the teacher giving you stats on what percentile your child is in compared to average kids his age, and so forth.

Here's the reality: each of your children is likely to be the only one in his/her grade in your home. So, you have to develop a sense of confidence in the progress your child is making. Setting a standard for each child, for each level is great idea. That way, you have a course to follow and a sense of where things are and where you want your child to be. Additionally, checking out what another mom is doing every once in a while can be so helpful and can give you fresh ideas and a new perspective. Just never let comparing dictate what you choose.

4. Bad Days Happen, and So Do Really Good Ones
Just let that settle nicely in your brain. There will be days when things will run so smoothly and so according to plan, that you'll feel like homeschooling is a breeze. Then there will be days when you'll want to press the "do-over" button about every 10 minutes, or the other alternative: just sit in the middle of the floor and cry. But this is the reality of life--good days and bad days--no matter where we find ourselves. It'd be true if we were at the office working from 9 to 5 each day. It is also true of school teachers, too.

News flash: the "experts" don't always have it all pulled together. Of course, they want you to think they do, otherwise you might not be so comfortable leaving your children with them. But guess what? They feel overwhelmed and behind schedule sometimes, too. There are days when they feel like all they did was try to gain order in the classroom or couldn't cover what they'd planned in the allotted time.

We are all human, and no one ever has perfect days all the time. For some reason homeschool moms exclude themselves from this certainty and place an unbearable burden on themselves to have a perfectly smooth good day every day. Rest in the fact that normal is a healthy balance of good days with some bad ones mixed in. Remember, God is faithful and He grants new mercies every day. (Lamentations 3:22-23). Follow His example for yourself and your homeschool.

What are some other ways new homeschooling families can mentally prepare to begin their homeschooling journey?


15th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

After 15 years of a covenant marriage, my husband and I chose to renew our vows and have a celebration with family and friends. We were surrounded by so much love, joy and support. . .it's difficult to put into words. It was a celebration that will forever be written upon our hearts. 

It was such a beautiful day. . .special and sacred. Upon exchanging vows for the 2nd time, my husband and I had a better understanding of the sincerity of making a promise. Our love is no longer new, but has matured a bit over the years. Now there's a deeper understanding of loving, honoring, and cherishing. We've been through some things, weathered a few storms together, which made those vows all the more powerful. God has knit our hearts together, our day-to-day experiences like strands intertwined over time, difficult to tell were he stops and I begin. . .part of the oneness of marriage.

We have been richly blessed these 15 years with love, faithfulness, children. laughter, hope, and grace. Because of God's faithfulness, we give Him praise. We pray for many more years to come, that we may grow and continue trying to love each other in a way that reflects the character of God.

The kids (minus 1) ready to head out the door

A family shot (minus 2) before the ceremony began

Husband getting the little ones squared away

Me waiting with Baby Q for the start of the ceremony

Older kids walking in to be seated to the right

Walking into the ceremony with our littlest ones in tow
My favorite picture of us

Secret: the 3 younger ones had fruit snacks & raisins
waiting for them on their seats

My father-in-law, who is a minister, officiated the ceremony
Husband's tears up as we exchange promises

Sand ceremony: one bottle of sand for each person in our family
Husband and I are pouring the foundation

Several minutes and lots of pouring later, here's our family sand bottle

My own tears falling while 1 Corinthian 13 is read


Husband and I get the little ones in the wagon.
Notice Baby Q is gone. . .she started to cry during the sand pouring so my mother took her for me

We did it! We were so happy and emotional and overwhelmed by love all at the same time.
A moment we'll remember for always.
I hope that I captured the gist of our ceremony. To be honest, words and pictures just don't do the day justice, but it was worth the try to share it with you.

There were tons more pictures from the ceremony, as well as from the reception that followed. 

Rather than overwhelm you with more pictures, I will share a video tribute that was played during our reception. It tells our family's story, starting with how I met my husband.
I hope you enjoy!


Our Newest Arrow: Baby Q's Birth Story

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth." 
-Psalm 127:3-4
Quiet time on the blog usually means things are busy on the home front. . .

On Wednesday, May 18th, God blessed us to deliver another baby girl. She was born at 1:30 pm, weighing 8 lbs and 11.5 oz, and 21 inches long.

Baby Q
Labor pains woke me up around 7 am and after 30 minutes of contractions, I knew the time had come. After a brief whirlwind of confusion with my doctor's office, my husband and I arrived at the hospital sometime between 10:15 and 10:30 am. At this point, I was 8cm dilated and 80% effaced.

I have been blessed to deliver all 7 of our children without surgical intervention, but this one was different: no epidural or pitocin or any other medications.

This was a desire of my heart, and God heard my prayers. He allowed me to experience birth naturally and I am so grateful for that. This was important to me because I want to be able to share the experience with my daughters (and daughters-in-law).

So much of womanhood and mothering has been lost from times past, leaving a gap between generations. Women become wives and mothers not knowing how to do many basic tasks of keeping a home and child-rearing, not to mention breastfeeding or natural childbearing.

I am one of those women, who has struggled to learn homemaking, mothering, biblical womanhood along the way. I want something different for my daughters. And birthing a baby naturally, even in a hospital, is part of bridging that gap for me. It was a long time coming--I mean 6 other deliveries before I was willing to try, but I am so grateful for the entire process, 13 years in the making.

I know I've said this before, but I am amazed at how He takes time to see about us, even in the small places, all the way down to the details. This song played over and over in my mind during my laboring, which just reiterates Romans 8:28--
"And we know that all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Whatever we face as believers, including laboring to bring a child into the world, God's intentions are clear: to bring about some good in the end. "He's intentional, never failing."

My littlest girls have birthdays just one day apart 🎂

Birthday party in the hospital 😊 

"Baby Q" was born one day before her big sister's birthday. We were able to go home the next evening after she was born. So far baby is doing well, recovery is good, and nursing is going strong. I'm sleepy, and I can't quite keep my days straight yet, but overall, I feel incredibly blessed.

A big, heartfelt "Thank you!" to everyone who prayed for us. 💜

"They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them."
-Isaiah 65:23


Bible Study Fun

The Bible is an important part of my family's life as it is the foundation of our faith in God. So, naturally, it is important in our homeschooling as well. While we do have a more in-depth, sincere Bible study time each day, I also wanted to incorporate a little fun in our Bible learning as well. I think taking the Bible seriously is an important thing to teach my kids. However, that doesn't mean we can't sprinkle a little fun in there to cultivate a love of learning God's word. Here are a few things we do.
"A merry heart does good, like medicine, 
But a broken spirit dries the bones." -Psalm 17:22
Scripture Drawings
Sounds easy enough right? Well, this is a bit of a challenge because it uses some creativity. Exactly how do you show that we should have no other gods before Him? Or that we should not take the Name of the Lord in vain? (Exodus 20:3, 7) It has been fun seeing some of the things my kids have come up with. Some of their drawings have been very literal and others have been very abstract, but both lots of fun.

Bible Books
There isn't anything fancy or brand new here. Kids have been learning the books of the Bible for ages! Still, there is just something cool about knowing and reciting all 66 books and where to find those books without using the table of contents. It brings back childhood memories for both my husband and me, and so it's another family fun idea. We've taken the Bible books in chunks, about five or so at a time, and just add to them as we learn them. We're not in a race and there isn't some special prize at the end. What gets my kids going is that they get to quiz me! They keep me on my toes!

Bible Flip
Now this one is a race. I'll call out a verse from one of the Bible books that we're learning, and my kids have to try to get there as fast as they can. The first one to get to the passage has to recite it out loud. We do this just a few times per week and boy do they get a kick out of it. My little ones who do not read yet, pretend to find the verse before the older kids do. We've had ties and we've had blow-outs, and we've had people reading the wrong Scripture. (Bonus: sharpening listening skills!) We keep it light-hearted and we laugh about it. You know your kids enjoy this activity when they ask, "Mommy are going to do Bible flip today?" And if I respond with a, "No, not today," I get an, "Aww!" in return.

Bible Movies/Series
There's nothing like seeing the best compilation of history ever being played out before your eyes. My children absolutely love to watch Bible movies, whether cartoons or real actors. As their understanding of God's word matures, what we've been doing is critiquing the show based on Biblical accuracy vs. embellishment for the movie's sake. The last ones we watched were The Prince of Egypt and The Passion of the Christ. It was interesting to hear their take on things and a few times we even paused the movies to consult the Scriptures if we weren't sure.

These are a few ways we enjoy learning about the Bible. How does your family make Bible learning fun?

Originally written for Our Homeschool Forum.


36 weeks and Counting

Hey Ladies!

Just checking in with a bit of a pregnancy update of sorts. I am officially 9 months pregnant and I am patiently awaiting my baby girl's arrival. I know I haven't posted on this pregnancy as often as I have with some of the others. But honestly, I have tried to treasure each bit of this pregnancy in my heart, and it's hard to believe that the end is near. There have been highs and lows, as there are with any other thing in life. But I am forever grateful to God for this blessing He's given to my husband and me, and to our family as a whole.

Labor and delivery are at the forefront of my mind right now. I'm wondering when labor will start and how will I handle it this time and where I will be and what time of day it will be and so on. I pray about this process and then I wonder about delivering her, so I pray about that, too. Yes, even after having had 6 kids, all of this still crosses my mind, and it does so more and more each day.

My daughter (aka photographer) caught us in a real life moment.

I've washed up all of my little girl's clothes from when she was a baby. Now I have to sort and fold and put them away in a few drawers I've cleared out for my baby girl. It's a sweet/sad moment to go through all those tiny baby outfits and remember how little my almost-2-year-old used to be. She's thrilled about it though, from what I can tell, and loves all things baby right now. She often whispers to my belly, "Come out, baby!" Soon, sweetie, soon. 💜

I've been trying to de-clutter places and spaces as best I can. My littlest girl's room is good to go. My older two girls' room is still a work in progress. They are 11 and 13 and I'm still finding things like Dora books collecting dust on their bookshelves! LOL Now that they have a little sister and one on the way, they are more comfortable parting ways with these items I think, since they know they'll still be around. I cleaned out my own closet and have yet to touch the boys' room. I'm hoping to do that this week so I can donate the items before she comes. I'm sweeping as much as I can and I can't stand to see crumbs on the kitchen table. This is how I nest, folks! 😊

I haven't packed a bag for the hospital yet, but I intend to do so in the coming days. I'm debating on laboring in my own gown or using one of those awkward sized, shows "all of your business" gowns the hospital provides. LOL I did get new flip-flops to use in the hospital shower, though, so that counts for something, right?!

After having 6 hospital births, I respect so much more the natural-ness of laboring and delivering at home. There are so many interruptions to the natural process in the hospital. Honestly, by the time we had our 4th baby, were leaning a bit more in that direction. Although my husband and I both looked into it, it just hasn't worked out that way for various reasons. Any of you ladies have ideas on how to make a hospital birth feel more home-like????? I'm reading a few books about it, but there's nothing like hearing from mamas who've been there.

I had my homeschool portfolio review last week. My reviewer agreed to meet with me in April instead of June. I thought that was very considerate of her and I'm thankful that is complete. We are still continuing to school each day on our regular schedule for the most part. Once the baby comes, we will transition into our "newborn/summer" schedule.

I'm feeling pretty good overall and I can't complain. I'm big and round and I feel like I'm waddling with every move. My husband's sweat pants look more and more like a comfortable alternative to some of my maternity clothes. I'm at the stage where clothes are pretty much the enemy right now. LOL I need a pedicure for sure and one of my daughters has offered to help me--thank God for daughters. 😉 Sleep is harder because finding a comfy position is getting trickier, but that's nothing new to pregnancy. I'm having Braxton-Hicks contractions every day now, several times a day. I'm hoping that they are productive so that there's less work to be done during the actual labor. (A mama can hope, right?!)

I think my husband is mentally preparing, because he's telling people that I'm pretty much at "any day" status. All of the kids are excited, and have expressed it in different ways. Some tell me often how they can't wait to meet the baby, how they're so glad to have another sibling, asking what she's doing or how big she is now. Some of the kids just randomly come up to my belly and start talking to the baby in sweet little tones. 💜

Finally, I am so very thankful. So grateful for the opportunity to carry life one more time. God is gracious. For every time I feel her move or I see an elbow or foot move beneath my skin, or hear her heart beating or just think over the way this pregnancy unfolded--I thank God for it all and pray I never take it for granted.


The Trickle-Down Effect

I walked in the school room the other day and the 4-year-old boy had written a whole host of numbers on the chalk board that I'd never taught him to write. Last time I checked, we were still working on a few letters. . .

One day, I realized that my 3-year-old, who was 2 at the time, knew all his colors because he began naming everything by color. I thought we were still working on the difference between orange and white. . .

My littlest girl, who's 22 months old, recognizes all her letters, but hates to sit down for any alphabet flashcard time. Flashcards were a big hit for her 5 older siblings, but not so much for her, so I'm thinking, how does she know this?

My oldest son, 8 years old, regularly announces how he's already familiar with the history lessons we're studying. He goes on to tell me all of what he knows, and I'm thinking, this kid is on point.

I watch my oldest girls, now 11 and 13, do more and more and I think, when did they learn that? Like I watched my 11-year-old pick up her little sister, balance her on her hip just right (Mamas, you know that classic hold I'm talking about!) and she walked on across the kitchen with her to get a cup of juice.

Then one night, my new teenager girl said she'd help this same baby sister get dressed for bed. When I peeked my head in the room to offer guidance, she had little girlfriend laid across her lap, and was changing her like a pro.

I never explicitly said, Daughter, this is the proper way to sling a toddler up on your hip. And as for teaching number writing--I had good intentions, but hadn't yet given the lesson. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t sat them down to learn any of the things mentioned above.

So, how do they know?
It's what I call the trickle-down effect of learning. 

Not everything is taught explicitly, through formal encounters and a ton of lesson plans. Some things just trickle down and the children grasp them as they come, simply by all of us being around each other, day after day. In homeschooling, there is plenty of time for togetherness.

My children aren't spending the day separated by age, grade level or ability. They spend most of every day with each other and one or both of their parents. Togetherness isn't something we carve out or schedule a time for, rather it is something we live. Life and learning go on in the same space daily and are not two different dynamics in our home.

As they say, homeschooling is a way of life. It offers plenty of opportunities to watch, listen, emulate. . .watch, listen and learn some more. And the learning isn't just from Dad or Mom--it takes place between siblings, too: games played, stories read, tying shoes, zipping up coats, passing down a beloved toy, bedtime routines--togetherness.

When children are encouraged to be around you, to be in your presence, even in the most ordinary of tasks--rather than being shooed off into a corner--it's amazing what they pick up on.

Having the chance to watch it all unfold is a beautiful thing. Keep pushing forward, keep learning as a family, keep being together, keep planting those faithful seeds. The fruit that it produces is a blessed reward.

*Originally written for Our Homeschool Forum


Patient Enough to Homeschool

I'm sure I'm not the only homeschooling mom that's been told by a non-homeschooling mom,
"I don't see how you can do it! I'm just not patient enough to homeschool!"
And my immediate thought is, "What makes you think I'm patient enough?!" Clearly this dear woman hasn't heard my "gruffy voice," as my kids call it, when things aren't going according to plan.

Somewhere out there in Mommy-land, non-homeschooling mothers automatically assume that homeschooling moms have been endowed with some supernatural host of powers, including an ever-flowing, overflowing cup of patience, that not only allows them to stay at home with their own children, but educate them, too!

News flash: there are no super powers--except the power of God.

The truth is homeschooling moms are moms first, which means we are human, too. We love our children dearly but some days they drive us up the wall.We don't have it together all the time, our babies wake up a bazillion times each night, too and we'd rather not have to unclog toilets while drilling math facts. We are also trying to be the best wives, mothers, and homeschool teachers, while balancing homemaking, cooking dinner, running errands, nap times, school work, volunteering, date night, and on and on.
Source Unknown
So what's the secret? Why are we wild enough to want to be with our kids all day, every day?

Well, I'll speak for myself and say. . .
It's the power of God that enables me to remain committed. Plain and simple.

You see, on this Christian journey, we are to develop patience, let it grow and mature.
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." -James 1:2-5
This suggests that none of us are just given all the patience we need up front. It is something that must be cultivated, that we need the Holy Spirit to work within (Galatians 5:22). And let me tell you, being at home and teaching all of my children is certainly an opportunity for just that.

So for the mom who will allow her faith to be tried, stretched and tested by staying at home and teaching her children, the reward is a bit more patience coupled with wisdom. Nope, it doesn't come easy, but the fruit it produces makes the work worth doing.

I realize that one day the baby will sleep through the night and nursing sessions will end. One day my little one won't need help with getting dressed or letters. I know that one day my child will take over reading the stories and math facts will be memorized.  They'll go on to writing term papers and higher learning and beyond. As the old saying goes: the days are long, but the years are short. Homeschooling and time just spent together allows you the chance to seize every opportunity with your children and make the most of it.

So, to the mamas out there who are considering homeschooling but feel you don't have what it takes--I'm here to tell you that all you need is a willing heart. Know that God has called you Mother and will give you everything you need to raise your children up before Him, including educating them at home. You can do this.

Don't worry about having enough patience, it will come.

Originally written for Our Homeschool Forum.
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