Loosing the Reins

Loosing_the_ReinsWhen our children were little, they required a lot more guidance in their learning. They needed me to walk them through a daily and weekly routine. They thrived on knowing what to expect next, what each day brought to them. As my littles have grown, however, I’ve come to realize they are wanting a little more control over their learning routine.

I like routine. With all of life’s responsibilities, good planning removes a lot of the stress and headache of trying to get everything done. The danger in too much control is that our children can sometimes feel boxed in, forced to follow a pattern which they had no say in making. As our children get older, it helps to include their input and loosen the reigns.

We started out our learning year just as we have the previous few. We had our routine in place and our electives chosen. Our ‘rotation’ spots were all picked out and mommy had the perfect plan in mind. Somewhere around the beginning of second quarter, my kids started to voice new-found opinions. Would it really be that life altering if they got to choose when they did electives?

It seems instead of doing electives at an appointed time they wanted the freedom to work on these learning areas at will. If they chose to rise earlier than everyone else, they could practice their Spanish then. Free time between learning subjects might be the perfect opportunity to sit at the piano. It wasn’t a matter of avoiding these topics, they simply wanted the freedom to choose the appropriate time themselves. In other words, they wanted a little control.

This didn’t seem like such a far-fetched request. They are getting older and have solid reasons for wanting the bulk of their afternoons free; it’s not like they are pushing off electives only to sit around doing nothing. They still plan to get things done, but in their own time. Afternoons could now be free to bake, sew, play together, and even just rest.

Part of me had doubts, but I wanted to give them a chance. So, we compromised. I would allow them the freedom to choose when they did their electives. If they couldn’t stick with it, and I was having to remind them too often, we would return to our normal routine.

Thus far the plan has worked well. My girls are cruising through their lessons with me and finishing their electives in good time. While my son needs my input and assistance a little more than his sisters do, he too is doing very well. Unless the kids are learning a new piano piece or my son needs a reading partner, they are handling electives entirely on their own. Loosing the reigns and allowing them monitored freedom was a great decision for all of us. The kids are learning to structure their own time wisely and mommy has less to worry about. It’s been a win-win change.

Now, if only I could convince them that 25 minutes if not a half an hour. Cutting corners doesn’t count!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time,…”
~ Ephesians 5:15-17

Your Turn!: How closely do you monitor your children’s electives? Is this something you work on together or allow them to manage on their own? Share your ideas with us!

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What If Life Was a Formula?

What_If_Life_Was_a_Formula?I just don’t get it. I did the research. I planned appropriately. I was so excited to make this event happen. Yet here I sit with my day in shambles and confusion filling my mind. Some days, no matter how hard I try, things go awry. It’s enough to make me wish life were a formula and all I needed to do was plug in the right building blocks. Then I’d always get the results I’m looking for. Wouldn’t I?

Instead of a geometry formula – one which never changes and can be depended upon – I am often faced with daily problems which rival any algebra equation. There are a multitude of operations, the order of which is important, and unseen variables which keep popping up. To make matters more confusing, even when I think I might have solved things correctly, something pops up which throws me right back into the thick of things. It doesn’t help that some of those factors in my equation have freewill. They bounce around my equation at whim, constantly causing me to re-evaluate where I stand and what my final outcome might be. Sometimes they clump together, making my eyes cross. Other times, they hide until the last-minute. Just when I think I’ve gotten it figured out, they jump out and like to watch me scramble. Other times, other times, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t figure it out.

Yet even as I sit here thinking on life’s uncertainty and wondering where I keep going wrong, I have to wonder.

What if those pesky variables are really a blessing in disguise? It’s those little unexpected surprises which often lead to something beautiful. Things I never would have planned and yet they fill me with goodness as I marvel at God’s work. The bouncing variables keep me flexible and growing. Through these circumstances I am forced to grow and become more than I would have if left with a rigid formula.

What if this equation called today is God’s mercy and grace? The Father knows in His infinite wisdom that I have a tendency toward a desire to be in control. If left to my own devices and my rigid formula, I might grow to depend upon my own strength and work. Perhaps forgetting God’s goodness all together. As He carefully places these changes in my perfect plan, He is reminding me He is boss and not me. He gently causes me to remember that without Him this is not possible and I need Him. He forces me to abandon my plan and gaze upon His own. His plan is always far better than mine.

Looking back on the day, I still shake my head. No, it’s not what I had in mind. I am tired and a little empty. My idea of what the day should have looked like is in shambles. But I am no longer confused. No matter how hard I try, life is not a formula. I do not have the ability to rearrange variables nor adjust freewill to fit my desires. Instead, I rejoice in what the Lord gave us and trust He is in control.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
~ Isaiah 41:10

Your Turn!: What helps you refocus and relax after an unplanned, crazy day?

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Factoring Birthdays Into the Homeschool Routine

Factoring_Birthdays_Into_Homeschool_RoutinesFor whatever reason, when we’re planning out our yearly routine, it never enters my mind to factor in birthdays. With four kids, two parents, and several grandparents it might be time to start factoring in the many celebratory days I seem to overlook when creating our homeschooling routine.

If you’ve been following us on any of our social media sites recently, you’ve noticed the stream of birthday posts coming in during the last few months. My kids have birthdays pretty much one month after the other, and those in-between months contain holidays. The fun never stops! Call us funny, but it just doesn’t seem right to make a kid do “school” on their birthday, so we take the day off and do whatever they like. As the teacher, same goes. Pop’s the principle so you know he’s going to want the day off. As for extended family, we’re helping them celebrate so that deserves a day of rest, too.

This doesn’t seem that big a deal, really. Until I remember her birthday happens to land on a test day. Or his birthday is also our routine science experiment activity. Then, the homeschool scramble begins… Do I switch up that test and make her take it the day before her birthday; the day after; do I skip it all together? Should we do makeup work the following day or double the previous so we finish our materials by the end of the school year? It’s crazy, I know.

After several – several – years of homeschooling, you’d think I’d have this down to a science, but this always slips my mind. Their birthdays are firmly imprinted in my mind. I know we’ll be taking the day off. Yet, every single time, I forget to include this factor on our homeschool calendar. Meaning, I forget to mark down, “No school today. Birthday.” Essentially ignoring all dates what-so-ever, and only focusing on routine. Instead I happily plod along and mark down, “Arithmetic Test Today”. It’s not until the week before the special event I actually look at the dates on my nicely organized homeschool calendar and realize my mistake. Then, I scramble. This is especially true when one honey’s birthday happens to always land during the last week of school. You know, wrap up week? Goodness.

It’s a laughing matter, truly. What’s a few days here or there? The moments spent together far outweigh the issue of missed work or tests not taken. It’s merely the fact I overlook this each and every year which continues to amaze me. Perhaps by the time my youngest graduates high school I’ll finally have it down. Then again, who knows?!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
~ Psalm 118:24

Your Turn!: Do you pencil birthdays into your homeschool calendar or routine?

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Finding Inspiration to Finish Strong

finding_inspiration_finish_strongHere it is, our holiday vacation is almost at an end. I’d love to tell you we’re all ready and excited to head back into our learning routine next week, but honesty demands a voice. The kids would prefer another three weeks of vacation – ahem – and mom is thinking she just now got a change to relax; it’s already time to start again? Through the leading of the Spirit, it’s time to find inspiration so we can finish our year strong.

It’s hard to remain motivated in teaching the kids when whining, fussing, complaining, and sleepy heads prevail. I further complicate the matter when I attempt to take this problem entirely upon my own shoulders instead of relying on the Lord for inspiration and wisdom. With prayer, I bow my head and ask the Lord to show us how to finish our year strong.

We Will Pray – Instead of making this my last resort, I purposefully need to make this my first hope. Through Christ all things are possible. The Lord can work in my children’s hearts, increasing anticipation for the remainder of our learning year.

We Will Create a Plan – Without a plan, we fail. If we are going to finish strong, we need to be purposeful. Things are not going to magically happen on their own. This will look different for each family, based on the Lord’s leading, but a plan is a good place to start.

We Will Look for Beauty – Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, I am going to look for it. I will remind myself of those glimpses of lovely waiting for us. The look on my child’s face when they finally get it. The beauty of an afternoon walking in the forest. The joy of discipling my littles. When I purposefully seek these out, inspiration is plentiful.

We Will Move in Faith – I’m not going to lie. There will be days which try the soul. Moments when I will hang my head and wonder if I’m doing this right. However, I will choose to not allow those moments to overcome me. Instead, we will move forward in faith that Christ will help us overcome.

I’m not sure where you’re at in your learning year. Starting, finishing, or mid-way – as we are. Wherever the Lord has you right now, I pray He would fill you with inspiration to finish strong. May we take one day at a time, looking for inspiration in the tiny moments which fill our days, and praising the Lord for each breath.

“But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.”

Job 32:8

📢 Chime In!: Where are you finding inspiration to finish the learning year strong?

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Before Over-Booking Gets Out of Hand

before_over-booking_gets_out_of_handIt’s coming; I can feel it. Once the learning year gets underway, things start moving along at a faster pace. Then the holidays hit, and chaos begins. We go from just a few activities a month to activities several times a week. We jump from one event to the next, trying to fill our days with fun and fond memories for our kiddos. In all the planning, sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew.

One of the dangers in being a parent is over-planning. Now, add homeschooling to the mix and you have one crazy household! Not only are we planning our learning routines, but we are adding in sports events, field trips, visits with friends, play dates, swim days, crafting opportunities, and more. Before you know it our calendar can be overbooked.

Perhaps I’m not the only one to notice this strange phenomena and all the challenges which come with it? Our intentions are well-meaning and our hearts are in the right place, but, next thing you know, the kids are getting cranky and you are all tired of running in high gear. Slowly, but surely, you become overwhelmed.

Might I make a humble suggestion, to myself as well as everyone else? Instead of over-booking our lives with event after event, let’s save time for things which really matter and events which benefit our families the most. Not every opportunity needs to be taken, and not every event needs to be attended. We need to learn the fine art of saying, “No!”

Just looking at our current calendar, I can already tell we are starting to hit our limit. Before bite off more than I can chew, it’s time to start saying, “No!”

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
~Mark 6:31

📢 Chime In!: How is your currently calendar looking? Is the coming month starting to look overbooked?

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5 Things I Do Everyday

5_Things_I_Do_EverydayMy day is filled pretty much from the moment I wake up till the moment my kids’ heads hit their pillows. (And, sometimes even beyond that.) Life is busy. There are a multitude of things I am responsible for, and even more things trying to get themselves added onto my ‘to do’ list.

While I’d love to say I always get to it all, I am only human. To help maintain order, and keep me feeling as if I haven’t failed by not doing it all, here’s five things I do everyday; no matter what:

Sit in Quiet (& Hear the Lord) – It is all too easy to surround myself with busyness and noise. There are times God speaks in the chaos, but more often it’s in whispers. If I don’t make a point of slowing down, I risk missing the voice of the Lord.

Pray Over My Children – Each day, I start out praying over my family. I have specifically assigned days to pray over every one of my kiddos, but always say a quick prayer over all of them each morning.

Bless My Husband – Being a homeschool, stay-at-home mama, my day tends to revolve around my home and kids. I don’t want my husband to feel as if he doesn’t matter. I make a point of asking him each morning (and often throughout the day) how I can bless him. Does he need anything of me; is there something I can do for him; or would he like my company? I want him to feel loved and important, no matter how full the day might be.

Increase in Wisdom – No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I like to become a little wiser each day. Whether it’s from books, people I know, or reading online posts, I enjoy learning and growing closer to the Lord.

Think About Naps – Notice the word think. Napping is a dream. Kind of like wanting to go to Tahiti or something. It sounds lovely, but I just can’t manage to get there.

These five, simple things keep me going strong and ready for what’s coming next. However, there are a few things I’m not doing that I probably should be:

  • Taking those silly naps!
  • Giving myself permission to rest.
  • Hugging my kids more.
  • Digging even deeper into God’s Word. (I’m fixing that with a new Bible study!)

Life might be a little crazy around here at times, but with the Lord’s leading we’ve established positive highlights in our day. By taking time to hear God’s voice, pray, and seek wisdom, we are choosing to focus on what’s best for our family.

There’s always going to be more busyness with which we could fill our day, but nothing will ever be more important than these. Now, if only I could manage to get to those naps!

 “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This [is] the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

🔔Time to Chime In: Is there something you should be doing daily, but aren’t?

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My Future Starts When I Wake

I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.

~ Miles Davis

My_FutureThe life of a homeschooler is an adventure, isn’t it? Our daily routines can be a little chaotic. Add the fact that my husband also happens to be self-employed and you increase the fun.

While we might have the freedom to choose our routine, the fact remains that dedicated learning time must take place. In order to do this, one must actually emerge from under the covers and make a start to the day. However, this could be a real challenge.

Given that we don’t have a firm bedtime, do we stand firm on a wakeup time? Personally, I prefer waking up at a good hour (meaning early), getting responsibilities out-of-the-way and leaving afternoons for additional fun and learning in the field. Unfortunately, the kiddos don’t agree with me.

My kiddos would prefer to get up when they want to. As in noon. And, yeah, I just don’t see that happening. However, forcing them to wake at the crack of dawn when they might have gotten to bed a little late due to a homeschool outing doesn’t quite sit right either. What’s a mom to do?

I prefer having the kids in bed around ten o’clock. While that might seem a little late for some, it fits our routine quite well. Usually I have them up again, getting ready for the day around eight the next morning. This allows them ten hours of solid sleep, starting off the day well rested and ready for action.

I am the first to admit this does not always happen. Thus, waking up can be a bit… tricky.

🔔Time to Chime In: We’re curious. Do you have a dedicated wakeup time? How do you determine when is the best time to get the kids out of bed and how long to let them sleep?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: Finding Sanity

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

Amidst all the homeschooling fun, a busy parent could use the occasional quite moment; an opportunity to breathe, relax, and be at peace. While we touched on this topic briefly during our ‘I Can’t Homeschool‘ series, we felt the need to once again encourage fellow homeschooling parents to include this important step in their homeschool routine.

With a little thought and a smidgen of planning, finding free time is not only obtainable, but completely within reach!

Pray About Your Time – May all things start in prayer. We need to ask the Lord to show us how our time ought to be structured and allow Him to show us ways in which we could be using our time more wisely, making space for much-needed down time.

Restructure Your Thinking – During our prayer and devotion time, we need to ask the Lord to help us focus on the greater good. We might like having several hours to ourselves each day, but the Lord knows best. We should ask the Lord to help us focus on what’s most important, removing any selfishness on our part.

Focus on Your Goals – While we all need moments of downtime, what are our overall goals? When we focus on the end goal, the day-to-day struggles become less important.

Find Practical Ways to Have ‘Me’ Time – 

  • Wake up a little earlier.
  • Stay up a little later.
  • Schedule in downtime. (Who days quiet time can’t be planned into each day?)
  • Teach the kids to play/work independently.
  • Schedule playdates with a friend. (One day we get free time, the next day they do. Each of us get a little time to yourselves, and our kids get to have fun.)

Still Too Busy? Consider Reorganizing Your Day – Hard as it might be, if we just can’t seem to find time to enjoy a quiet cup of tea, much less enjoy an hour of free time, it might be time to start looking at our weekly routine. Everyone’s life goes through busy seasons, but constant busyness might be a sign that we’re overdoing it. It all goes back to praying about how we use our time and allowing the Lord to lead our days.

Let’s face it, even machines need a break now and again. Being a homeschool parent does not mean we have to work from the minute we get up ’til the minute we go to bed. If having a little time to yourself is desired, start by praying about your concerns and then moving toward organizing your day with free time in mind.

May I leave you with this thought: We only have our children for a very short time, too short a time. Take a few moments each day to allow the Lord to fill you, refreshing your heart and spirit. But, remember, you’ll have plenty of free time when your kiddos are adults. You can always catch up on your reading then.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.”
Psalm 62:1

🔔Time to Chime In: How do you find time to relax amidst all of life’s challenges and learning fun?

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A Simplified Life: Free Printables

Simplified_LifeWe are one busy family! I imagine most families are. In order to help keep life organized and as stress-free as possible, we’ve created a variety of charts and lists to keep things in order.

On our newest page, Free Printables, you’ll find our collection of free printable sheets, made available for everyone to use. We pray these resources help your family, offering more time to have fun.

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
I Cor. 14:40

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A Simplified Life: Chores

Simplified_LifeThe first ministry I have been given is to be a Keeper of my home. The Lord has shown me this must come first. If my home is not in order, I might want to reconsider participating in outside activities until they are.

To help me with this, and to better teach our children how to properly care for their own homes, a chore routine has been established:

Our routine is as follows:

Mondays: adult laundry and bathrooms (thorough cleaning)
Tuesdays: children’s laundry, floors, and dusting (blinds/furniture/ceiling fans)                                                     Wednesdays: linens and bathrooms (thorough cleaning)
Thursdays: kitchen cupboards/hallway walls (whichever needs it most), grocery shopping
Fridays: library and errands
Weekends: surface cleaning of any areas in need

Considering it is currently summer time, now is my opportunity to put this schedule to the
test. Is this working for me? Perhaps I need to change some days around to make things work better. I also want to start taking notice of when is the best time to do my chores. I don’t necessarily set a specific time, but setting up blocks of time gives me a general idea of where I might have “free time”.

Chores being designated and set in place, I now want to start having the kiddos get in on the game. Even my youngest helps out. Each of my kiddos is given a task and we all work until the job is done. Our kids need to learn the value of a job well done, working together, and being responsible. Mommy handles the washing of the laundry, but the kiddos help fold and put their own laundry away. Mommy cleans the basins, but the kiddos do the mirrors, floors, and counters in the bathrooms. We have the joy of working side by side and encouraging each other in doing a good job. They will often hear me saying, “Good job, little man! Keep it up honey, you are going to be a pro at keeping your home when you are a mommy, T!” The kids learn to enjoy their chores, have fun working together, and take pride in their work. To help keep track of everyone’s chores, we have created THIS fun chore chart.

Two things I should point out. One, while the kids are young, they are going to make mistakes. Try not to clean up their messes in front of them. Wait until they are out of sight and preoccupied, then straighten things up. This will prevent them from getting discouraged, but still keep your house to the level of clean you might like. The second is this, be prepared that the kids will complain from time to time. Let’s be honest; work is work! Don’t give in and do the chores yourself! You are only making your job harder in the long run and robbing them of the joy of responsibility.

With a routine set in place and a fun chore chart printed, we are taking yet another step towards simplifying life.

“For each will have to bear his own load.”
Galatians 6:5

🔔Time to Chime In: How do you keep track of your children’s chores? We’d love to hear about it!

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