No Regrets

The following article was written for our monthly PSP newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!

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School LogoI recently had a conversation with a couple that was new to home schooling.  To say that they were discouraged would be an understatement. They started out excited about what they believed to be God’s call on their lives regarding the raising and educating of their children, but were now ready to throw in the towel. What had changed in the short time since the school year began?

The answer is a couple of things had changed. First of all, as we all have come to understand, “free time” is a luxury that the home school mom is often lacking. For those used to dropping kids off at school, doing as they need, wish, and please until it is time to pick the kids up can be a difficult thing to let go of. “Where do I find the time to…?” is a frequent question amongst newer home school moms. Balancing family, taking care of the home, looking after kids, a husband, three dogs, a cat, the turtle, and 5 goldfish can be quite demanding. Coming to terms with the fact that home schooling is not just “something we do,” but in fact really is a totally different life style can take some adjusting to. Some people never accept the change and, sadly, stop home schooling before they start to see the real blessings begin to come in.

Another thing that had changed was the perspective of their kids. The delusion that home schooling meant no more work, lots of extra play time, and running around in pajamas (sometimes that does happen, but shouldn’t be counted on) all day was quickly dispelled by devotions, about 5 extra subjects (the creative home school mom can easily give credit for many things taken for granted), and added responsibilities to look after younger siblings while Mom helps another with their lesson.

I was reminded of the account in Exodus 11 of the children of Israel and their situation… “…so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic: but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:4-6.

Kids Pic

The Lord disciplined the children of Israel for their grumbling and complaining, not because meat is evil itself, but because the dissatisfaction with what He had provided was an offense. They were looking back with longing to the way things used to be; which, if we remember correctly, included slavery, cruel treatment, and misery (so easily overlooked in their moment of hunger).

Discontentment will always poison our joy in that which we do have, what God is doing, and the fruits of our current labor later on. In Philippians 3 Paul describes in verses 7-11 the idea that the things he had had to “give up” for Christ were actually rubbish by comparison to what he had gained in knowing Christ. In context, he was specifically dealing with his Hebrew heritage, zeal for the law, and assumed righteousness; but the concept applies to us as well: the things which God calls us away from are not to be desired over the blessings He wants to bring into our lives when we are obedient to His will, His calling, and His Spirit as He leads us.

The other question I had to ask this couple was, “What has not changed since the Lord called them to home school?” The answer was basically that God had not told them to stop. Many times, we look at our circumstances, which can certainly be trying at times, and assume that because there is opposition, this must not be God’s will for us.

While this can, in fact, be true, it isn’t necessarily the rule that should be applied to every choice we make. In Acts 9:15-16 we read the following: “But the Lord said to him (Ananias), ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’“  In this passage, it is clear that Paul’s sufferings were not a result of him not hearing God correctly, but rather the result of his actual obedience to the calling God had placed on his life.

When we walk in obedience to God’s call upon our lives, we not only can expect difficulty, but should. The enemy is not going to go down without a fight, and throughout history, whenever God has sent His own to deliver, preach, and disciple, there was always opposition. Should we expect any less when we have taken our children out of a public school system wherein he has free reign?

So where does that leave us? With the family I had the opportunity to speak to, it left them needing to be obedient to God’s call for their family, even though it was difficult, thankless, and filled with opposition. Oftentimes that is, in fact, the situation we find ourselves in. What we know we should do is the hardest choice. It would be so much easier to give up, say, “It’s too hard,” turn around, and head back to Egypt; but to do so would go against what we know God has said to us.

Thankfully, we are reminded that our help comes from the Lord. In Philippians 4:10-12  Paul writes regarding contentment, regardless of circumstances, and concludes his statements with the following: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Php 4:13). In Hebrews 4 we are reminded that Jesus Himself intercedes with the Father on our behalf, and that as our great High Priest, He is able to understand our situations, thus making His intercession perfect in every way.

“But how,” one may ask, “can He understand this…?” Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? God is no stranger to a difficult task for people that don’t appreciate what is being done for them, and who attempt to make the difficult even more unendurable.  Since our trials are eclipsed by the enormity of redemption at the cross, we seek grace and mercy from the One who understands better than we think. The resources of Heaven were enough to see Jesus through Calvary. How much more can He help us as we strive each day to walk with Him? If we really stop to analyze things, even when the going gets rough, He still includes little joys along the way to keep our hearts encouraged.

May He strengthen you when you are weary, comfort you when you are hurting, fill you when you are empty, and settle you when you are anything but at peace. He really is sufficient.

Your Helping Hands

Pump_Day_2Welcome to “Pump Day”; your weekly encouragement to remember that, once upon a time, before you were your kids’ mommy, you were your husband’s lady.

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Our hands do a lot of work, don’t they? We clean rooms with them, we do laundry with them, and we do mounds of dishes each day. Our hands get cut, bruised, banged up, and doused with chemicals constantly. Do yourself a little favor, start taking better care of those hands!

I don’t know about you, but my hands are constantly being attacked. You will frequently find a band-aid on my finger, a sponge on my palm, or some bottle of cleaner in my grip. Hands are essential; we do pretty much everything with them! While I commend all the effort which goes into keeping our homes, kids, and lives in order, on occasion, it might be beneficial to start taking care of the extremities doing all that hard work.

In the last couple of years, my hands have become extremely sensitive. My skin has become increasingly dry; my nails cracked and rough. It took me a while to catch on; I was being too rough on them. It was high time I started paying attention and taking better care.

Now, I wear gloves as often as possible when doing chores. I use a softer hand-soap which doesn’t dry out my skin. I also use lotion frequently – you’ll find bottles of the stuff in almost every room of my house. I’ve learned my lesson and my hands are doing much better. (No more cracked, sore skin!)

Pink Gloves - Williams Sonoma

It might seem like a silly point to worry over, but my hands are important to me. These are the hands which caress my children’s faces. These are the hands which hold my man’s hand. I want my skin to be soft and touchable, not rough and cracked. It’s a small thing, but a good one.

Time to Chime In: Are gloves only for ladies or does your man wear gloves while doing dishes, too?

As always… While fashion is fun, we should remember:
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – I Peter 3:3-4

Well, That Was Provoking

Tunnel VisionLife can be challenging, especially for a child. There are so many things to learn, rules to follow, and people to obey. They have seemingly little control over their own lives and can often get frustrated when things do not go their way.

One of the most frustrating trials a child can face is when their own parent provokes them. Whether we mean to or not, as parents we can push our children beyond what they are able to endure.

I find it beneficial to periodically reflect on my parenting; making sure I am not the source of my child’s frustration (and least not purposefully). Here is a list of ways that I can provoke my children:

  • Constant criticism and a failure to encourage
  • Double standards and/or being a hypocrite
  • Being angry and harsh
  • Lack of affection
  • Telling them what to do or not do without giving Biblical reasons
  • Comparing them to others
  • Embarrassing them (correcting, mocking or expressing disappointment in them in front of others)
  • Lecturing them and not listening
  • Failing to be humble and asking for forgiveness
  • Giving them a greater burden than they can bear (whether it is homeschooling work, chores, or responsibilities)

Beach BumsThe Bible teaches that we are not to provoke our children to anger. (“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4) While this verse speaks directly to Fathers, I am sure it must also apply to us moms.

Reflecting on my parenting and my relationship with my children, I am able to clearly see ways in which I am failing as a parent and ways in which I can improve. While I will constantly fail, I pray that I am getting better.

Time to Chime In: Do you reflect on your parenting? What do you see?

Perfection is the Goal

per·fec·tion·ist  /pərˈfekSH(ə)nəst/
noun
  1. a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.
    “he was a perfectionist who worked slowly”
    synonyms: purist, stickler for perfection, idealist;

    “the just-so placement of every little figurine and throw pillow immediately gave him away as a perfectionist”

I admit it; I’m a perfectionist. I like to get things right and won’t stop until it’s just so. I like order, neatness, and cleanliness (it’s next to Godliness, right?- just kidding!). When you think about it, though; what is the alternative? If we aren’t aiming for perfection, what are we aiming for?

I always find it odd that people look down on perfectionism as if it’s evil. Being a perfectionist is associated with being overbearing, always anxious, and stressed at the slightest ball of lint being on a piece of furniture. Perfectionists always have things together (at least that is what we are told) and fall to pieces when even the smallest item is out-of-order.

What if we are looking at perfectionism all wrong? Maybe we ought to applaud those who seek to get things right. Instead of berating others for being ‘perfect’ maybe we should celebrate their effort. Look at the alternative…

Instead of seeking perfection, we have people who eagerly look to be bad. There are those more than willing to fulfill the ‘bad boy’ role and find new ways to get themselves into trouble. Instead of perfection, we have people who are content with being mediocre. Some are willing to simply skate by in life; they have no high aspirations outside of themselves and are okay with barely making it.

As Christians, our goal is to be like Christ. Christ was perfect. So, in essence, if we are trying to be like Christ, aren’t we trying for perfection? I think so.

Honestly, I don’t think the problem lies in trying to be perfect. No, the problem is in how this manifests itself. Perfection is a goal we should attempt, with the understanding that we’ll never actually reach it this side of heaven. Attempting perfection only becomes a problem when we allow it to overwhelm us and take over our lives. Instead of seeing perfection as our end goal, we panic over the fact that we haven’t reached it today. We need to keep the target in mind and simply take one day at a time; getting better with each passing moment.

As homeschoolers, we can be tempted to see perfection as a poison in our homes. Who needs the pressure of finding the perfect curriculum or the perfect routine? But, this isn’t what is meant by being perfect. Being perfect is who we are as people, not which day-to-day routines we follow through with. It is our character which we are seeking to perfect; not our chores.

As parents, this too can be overwhelming. Are we perfect parents; are we training our children to be perfect adults? Again, I think we are looking at this wrong. We are going to make mistakes, we are going to fail at times; this doesn’t mean we should not try to constantly do better, hoping to one day conquer a particular area of our life and move onto yet another area which needs work.

Perfection is simple; it’s choosing to not accept less than what is perfect. Not the perfect house, not the perfect outfit, but perfect character. So, yes; I am a perfectionist. But is this really a bad thing?

Time to Chime In: Do you think perfection can be reached this side of heaven?

The Craft Table: Crafting Clay

Craft-Table_LogoWelcome to the Homeschool Mom’s Craft Table. Enjoy a quick foray into the world of art; join us as we delve into projects, offer helpful tips, explore new tools, and encourage all things creative. Come along and share a world of fun!

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Scheduling art with our kids can sometimes be a challenge, can’t it? We tend to like the idea of doing art with our kiddos, but never get around to finding the right activity, or lack inspiration and creativity. In our house, I’ve found that sometimes art works best when I merely provide the medium and allow our kids to pick their own project!

Art is a given in our house. Being married to a professional artist who works in many mediums, our children are constantly surrounded by color and design. Art is a part of their lives. As often as possible, we encourage our children to delve into the creative arts and explore.

In our homeschooling closet, we have a mass assortment of materials and mediums for our children to work with. Instead of waiting on me to come up with a project, our kids are welcome to explore on their own time. We’ve got paints, chalk, charcoals, stamps, and more.

Crayola Air Dry Clay

A recent addition to our closet has been Crayola’s Air Dry Clay. Unlike other clay we’ve purchased in the past, this clay is extremely easy to use, is easy to re-moisturize should it start to dry, and dries nicely within 24 hours. You can paint it quite easily as well.

It should be noted, this clay does seem to have a hard time bonding to itself. (Although, from experience, most clay does.) When our children attempt to model cute characters for themselves, they find the figure needs to be in one solid piece; additional pieces tend to simply fall off once dried. We are getting better though and learning new ways to use this medium.

If you’re interested in working with clay, I highly recommend grabbing a tub and trying your hand. Here are a few links to help you get started on form and technique:

Crayola

Crayola – YouTube

Don’t wait for a ‘good opportunity’ to try out new art projects, just go for it! You’ll have tons of fun and learn some new skills along the way.

Time to Chime In: Have you ever worked with clay? Which brand is your favorite?

Aw; Just Skip It!

Field-TripsGood news! A fellow homeschool parent just rang up with an awesome field trip opportunity. You are so excited you can’t wait to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. The problem? Well, you didn’t really plan this into your year. Do you skip the regularly scheduled program, reduce it, or double up another day? Decisions, decisions…

I like field trips, don’t you? They are fun, exciting, and get us out of the house. The one downside to last-minute field trips is that they tend to throw my routine off-balance. What do I do with the material I had already planned for that day? Put it off or just skip it altogether? Well, it depends.

Honestly, if I can avoid it, I try to not have my kids ‘double up’ on work just to enjoy a field trip. This isn’t fun for them and doesn’t seem necessary. However, on occasion, there are subjects which I really want to cover and activities the kids would enjoy; these I try to simply move to another day.

Field trips, in-and-of themselves, are generally educational. You aren’t really ‘skipping school’, merely replacing a day of book learning (or at home learning) with being out in the field. It’s all in how you choose to view the situation. Field trips can be incredibly great learning experiences and there is much to be gained by them. Enjoy them and get the most out of your day!

For those looking to organize field trips, but are struggling to put one together. HERE are some tips on getting the most out of your field trips!

Time to Chime In: What do you do when an unscheduled field trip opportunity pops up; skip, double up, or reduce?

Would You Rather Be a Mule?

“A mule is an animal with long, funny ears
He kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny and his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And, by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule”

- Swinging On a Star, by Frank Sinatra

MuleMost days, our kids do just fine with their learning. We eagerly race to the table and settle in for a few hours of focused lessons. I wish could say that everyday was like this. However, on occasion, my babies can be quite stubborn. What’s a parent to do?

On mornings when our children just won’t budge, dragging their feet to the table or perhaps making life miserable for themselves while trudging through their work, I have two options: I can get mad or I can figure out what is causing the trouble.

Not Enough Sleep – A frequent cause of stubbornness seems to stem from lack of sleep. They kids stayed up too late the night before and are, therefore, having a harder time focusing on today’s activities. The remedy: Give them a lighter load today, get them to bed on time, and then try again tomorrow. This usually does the trick!

They Have a Need – Rushing through their morning routine, especially when they sleep in later than they should, sometimes the kids choose to skip out on breakfast. (Um… sorry guys, you probably inherited this from me.) My kids are having a hard time because they have a physical need like food, a drink, or even exercise. The remedy: Figuring out what their body needs, giving it to them, and trying again!

They’re Irritated/Frustrated – Sometimes it takes just one thing to set our kids off. It could be harsh words spoken, a shirt that’s too itchy, or pencil being tapped on the table. The remedy: Identify the offending factor and remove it immediately.

They Need Help – Did the work I give them seem too much? Did they not truly understand it? Kids will often dig in their heels when they are really begging for help. The remedy: Sitting down with them and walking through their lessons. Ask them questions and help lead them to the answers.

They’re Intimidated - Similar to needing help, new lessons can often be intimidating. Instead of pushing forward with anticipation, our kids can drag their feet expecting to fail. The remedy: Encouragement. I need to help them see this is a challenge needing to be conquered, not the end of the world.

Too Much Work – I have grand visions for my children’s lessons. Once in a while, my visions are little too grand. My kids balk at the amount of work or time stretching out in front of them. It seems I have overwhelmed their minds and overburdened them. The remedy: Ease up! I need to restructure the lesson, reducing where I can.

Of course, there are times when my kids are just being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn; this is a character issue which needs to be worked out. However, with prayer and a quick evaluation of their needs, I can better help them move on from this obstacle.

Time to Chime In: I’m sure your children are never stubborn! (laughing) But, for the sake of argument, if they were to exhibit such a trait… what is your plan of attack?

The Boyfriend Sweater

Pump_Day_2Welcome to “Pump Day”; your weekly encouragement to remember that, once upon a time, before you were your kids’ mommy, you were your husband’s lady.

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As busy moms, I’m sure there are days we wish to simply remain in bed with our heads buried beneath the covers. Unfortunately, those days don’t happen that often. When I can’t remain burrowed beneath our comforter, the next best thing is my man’s sweater!

They’re comfy, cozy, and several sizes too big for me; my husband’s sweaters are the next best thing to walking around wrapped in a blanket. There’s nothing better for a drowsy fall day, when all I’m really wanting to do is nap. When I feel the need to be extra comfortable for the day, especially when just lounging around the house, you’ll often find me snagging one of my husband’s sweaters from the closet, claiming for the day.

One of the perks in wearing my husband’s sweaters is their scent. There’s something intoxicating about his smell. It’s clean soap, shaving cream, and Old Spice all rolled into one. (sigh) It’s lovely.

Me in Sweater

After a relaxing shower, I toss on a pair of skinny jeans and nab a comfortable blouse. I hunt through his half of the closet for a sweater and add a pretty necklace for fun. Then, I’m ready for the day. I’m incredibly comfortable yet I don’t feel frumpy. A truly easy outfit.

Recently, I’ve been hunting down new sweaters for my guy. Not only does he like them, but then I have more items to steal from. (wink) It works for both of us.

Time to Chime In: Ladies, do you ever find yourself stealing clothes from your husband’s half of the closet? Which items do you borrow most? For the dads in our midst… Does it bother you when we borrow?

As always… While fashion is fun, we should remember:
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – I Peter 3:3-4

The Nightmare Before…

Our kids usually sleep pretty well. However, on occasion, a few of our children have woken up in the middle of the night experiencing dark dreams which haunt them even when they’re awake. When the Boogie Man decides to drop in on our children, what’s a parent to do?

Recently one of my kiddos has been experiencing some pretty bad dreams. On occasion, I’ve dreamt of being chased by maniacal clowns or some such nonsense. My daughter, on the other hand, dreams of people dying or her being left alone, unwanted.

While I’m sure there are various reasons people could give for why she has these dreams, my immediate concern is helping her move on from them and getting her back to sleep. Here are a few tips we’re using to give her a good night of rest:

Prayer – Instead of waiting for her to wake up with bad dreams, we’re being proactive and praying over her before she goes to bed. We pray the Lord would protect her from bad dreams and help her get a good night of rest. This definitely helps. So far, she hasn’t had another bad dream!

Comfort – When she was waking up with bad dreams, we would make sure to comfort her and let her know we’re here. Sometimes just a quick hug is all they need.

Take a Break – Occasionally distracting them from sleep itself is the trick. We encourage them to take a restroom break, have a quick drink, and perhaps have a snack. When their body’s needs are being met, they are more likely to sleep soundly.

Talk it Out – If they really have a hard time settling in for the night, we walk through their dreams and try to better understand what is causing the problem. We reason out the visions and show them the truth. Even if they can get back to sleep without talking, we usually try talking it out the next morning. Talking it out helps them push aside the previous night and move forward.

We all experience nightmares from time to time, but it hits harder when they attack our kids. Through prayer, comfort, and good parental involvement we can help our children move past these strange visions and enjoy a good night’s rest.

Time to Chime In: Have your children ever experienced nightmares? Share what helped them get through hard nights and finally get some good sleep.

Friendly Competition

My oldest daughter loves to write, it’s just a part of who she is. In light of this, we are constantly looking for competitions for her to participate in, hoping this will help expand her repertoire and develop her writing. This week, a writing competition came to us!

Philadelphia Homeschool was kind enough to send us a link to her newest writing phbwritinglogocompetition and we thought you might all like to join in the fun. You’ll find all the rules, regulations, and essay details over on her site. Make sure to take a look and join in the fun!

Philadelphia Homeschool Writing Competition

If you do decide to join in, let us know! We’d like to keep an eye out for your entry and read your incredible story. The more the merrier!

Time to Chime In: How often do your children participate in friendly competition?