Posted in At Home, home education

Homeschool Critics

Months ago, someone asked my husband when I’d be going back to work to “help” him. Wouldn’t it be “nice if he didn’t have to work so many hours,” or “bring in our families income alone?” And of course, “so, you’re not going to put your kids back in school… at all?” At first, I felt offended and it kind of surprised me someone outside of our home honestly thought their judgment on how we raise our family was acceptable to speak on.

Everyone has an opinion about how you should raise your children or run your household. It’s up to you to decide whether you allow their opinion to affect your decisions.

His response was that we didn’t chose to homeschool our kids to save money on after-school care, or keep the kids out of daycare. That it was a life-decision for us, and that we had no plans on sending the kids to public school. That he did sometimes work long hours, but that it was worth it. <insert heart eyes here.>

My husbands response still makes me so proud. When we first started homeschooling he was on board, but skeptical. He wasn’t sure that homeschool was the right choice for our family, but willing to try. He grew up in the small town we live in, and was concerned that our kids would “miss out” on all the things he participated in. It was never a question of education, because he felt lacking in that aspect upon graduation. I’m happy to say that now he doesn’t just understand, but believes homeschooling is right for us.

Facing skepticism can be hard. Especially if it comes from family or friends. When we face inquisitive relatives or pessimistic friends, we have the power to choose how we will react and what we take away from the conversation.

The fact is, there’s a high likelihood you will not change their opinion. Unless you homeschool, keep your home, or raise your family exactly how they feel it should be done, they’re not going to be convinced, and that’s okay. It’s not their family. It’s yours.

When you’re faced with unsolicited opinions or questions:

  1. Don’t allow their opinions to sway yours. If you’re homeschooling, it’s because you spent countless hours pouring into all there is to know about keeping your kids home. Remember your truths, and your “why.”
  2. It’s not your job to educate everyone. It’s your job to teach your children, maybe someone else’s kids at a co-op… possibly a Sunday school class, but it’s not your job to convince someone that will never, not once, take part in your journey.
  3. Remember that God chose you to be their parent. Not uncle Bob or cousin Kate. Not your siblings, mother-in-law, or sister-in-law. You.

Truthfully, there are a hundred more memes and posts on facing adversary than the number of times you will actually face it. I think most are surprised by the support they actually receive. Questioning someones lifestyle is a bold move most will avoid. Obviously, judgment and adversary will exist. Family, friends, and strangers will probably judge what you do, because that’s what humans do. Whether or not you try your hardest to be nonjudgmental. <– Preaching to myself there.

But what’s that saying? “What’s said about you, not to you, isn’t your business.”

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Posted in Uncategorized

His Mercies are New Each Day

Can we talk about how easy it is to backslide? How easy it is to get through an entire day without reaching for the Bible, or spending time in prayer? About how when we get to the end of our day we’re stretched, and angry. We’re DONE and wishing the kids were in bed. And not. Talking. Anymore. When we are just done answering questions and wiping butts? It’s such an embarrassing thing to speak about as a believer. It shouldn’t be, but it is. It’s a hard place to be, and it’s not lost on the small people we’re trying to lead to Christ each day.
Today was one of those days. One where I pushed our bible time back. When I prioritized chores and school work over bible time. I’m ashamed, but it happened.
I got to sleep in this morning after a fitful night with the baby. And I felt GOOD about it. I reveled in the graciousness of the Lord allowing me to stay home and teach my children; to allow our routine to go with the flow. But by the time I got to 10:00 p.m. I was finished.
I’d forgotten all about how happy I was as we checked off all our little boxes on the to-do list, or the excitement of printing our new L.A. curriculum.
We watched a movie after dinner and my husband jumped up right as it was ending, “I’m gonna go run.” And he put on his shoes, and walked out the door.
Sure, that sounds normal, right? But then things got hairy. The baby starting crying right as I pulled on my leggings to also workout. The kids went out too, but came back before he did, showering and leaving trails of water on our slick tile after forgetting towels. One decided they were going to make a sandwich, even though he hardly touched his dinner. Another needed Paw Patrol immediately or she. would. die. And another spoke without breathing (I mean, honestly!) about Minecraft. All of these things sound fine. Normal. Between 9:30-10:30 is a normal bedtime for us, so they weren’t in the wrong in anyway.
Again, all if it was normal in our home.
But in that moment I was suddenly overwhelmed, and honestly jealous of the way he could just walk out and do exactly what he wanted. I wasn’t kinda jealous, at that moment I was super jealous. And not at all thinking about a Christ-like reaction to my stress and jealousy.
And it isn’t his fault.
It isn’t the kids fault.
It’s mine.
It was my stupid human heart, being all humany. It was my stupid human brain screaming, “that’s not fair!” It was that tiny thread, (not spending time in His word.) unraveling something bigger as I inadvertently came to realize that I’m not in control in an ugly way.
It was me putting my worth and sense of accomplishment on all the things I checked off my list for the day, and all the things still to be done, and not at all on Christ. Or all that I need from Him.
So at 11:00 while he was in the shower, and the house was quiet— because 45 minutes before I’d lost my marbles, yelled at all the kids including the two, TWO year old— they’d gone to bed. Enter my husband, as I’m laying out my mat, “would you like me to hold the baby?”
WOULD I LIKE HIM TO HOLD THE BABY?
I wanted him to hold the baby when he up and left. I wanted him to hold the baby and usher me out the door when I was washing dishes and switching laundry as he enjoyed a movie with the kids. (When I could have but I CHOSE not to, because my husband is an awesome and helpful man— for the record.) And, for transparency, I said it. And he looked dumbfounded, because he was. Because I can’t expect him to read my mind. I can’t, after ten year, pretend like he’s 100% in-tune with with things I don’t say out loud, or things I wasn’t even thinking. I didn’t slam the dryer door, or bang dishes around.
No, I was content. Until I wasn’t.
I was a patient mom. Until I wasn’t.
I was a understanding mom. Until I wasn’t.
I was a loving wife. Until I wasn’t.
I was IN the word. Until I wasn’t.
And I SO wasn’t.
So, here at sit, at 12:38, pouring my heart into words after hearing His word. Feeling regret while the ones I want so badly to apologize to sleep.
I woke up happy to have slept-in courtesy of God’s grace, only to forget to do the most important thing I’m called to do: to teach my children of His grace. To pray with them, and read with them.
I put aside what we should be starting our day with, no matter what, and replace it with earthly lessons, and mundane chores, and an empty promise to “do it later on.”
And a Disney movie.
Don’t be me. Don’t forget to spend time with Him first. You need it mama. I need it. We need it.

Posted in Uncategorized

September Photo a Day Challenge

Join me this September as I share a photo each day. These will be shared on Instagram and I’ll try to keep up over on Facebook as well. If you’re not already, follow us on Instagram by clicking the Instagram icon on the right! I share stories almost daily, and pictures/videos 3-4 times a week. 🙂

To join in, simply save this picture and follow the daily prompts!

Posted in Faith

Three Things Every VBS Volunteer Should Know

I’ve learned a lot about vacation bible school and children directing VBS over the last few years. It’s one of the most exhausting time of the year for everyone involved. We dedicate all of our spare time to this event starting weeks, most of the time months, in advance. Each year I’m surprise, as I’m sure all churches are, at the way God ensures we have what we need, and all the volunteers necessary to make the event happen.

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There are three things I wish everyone knew coming in to this.

  1. It’s not about you. Kids are loud, messy, and sometimes a little wild and can leave you wondering why on earth you’re spending an entire week of your  summer saying things like, “don’t lick the table! Get that out of your nose!” VBS cuts into summer vacations and lazy summer days. Yes, being rewarded for your efforts with snacks, meals, recognition, and more can be relieving after a long week, (Or more.) and can make you feel like your effort was worth it, but VBS is about the children. (And if you’re a teen volunteer reading this, nope, not kid. 😉 The smaller ones.) VBS is about stepping out in faith for a week and giving all we can through Christ to these children. When you’re exhausted at the end of the week, know that your exhaustion may have led a child to Christ, or fifteen years from now, may lead an adult to try out your church, remembering the impact this yearly event had on them. One of my favorite stories in our church is from a yearly volunteer that grew up in foster care. She says VBS was one of her favorite events as a child, that the snacks and ability to have days of fun has always stuck with her. She now ensures we have yummy snacks made with lots of love every year. She pulls kids into the kitchen to give them special treats, and solves behavioral problems with quiet and kind words, and usually a pocketed piece of candy. You can make VBS an event to remember with lots of grace and selflessness.
  2. VBS is not school. These kids (Most of them.) are on a much needed break from quiet walks through the halls, rigorous schedules and intellectually challenging school work. We want them to get to know Christ, not just learn facts and memorize scripture with no context! Let’s paint them pictures of the amazing stories of God’s people, that we as adults, can translate clearly (And maybe not so clearly sometimes.) from the black text of the Bible. Let’s help them create wonderful memories of VBS while instilling in them what it feels like to be part of a church family. Telling mom or dad about every little “oops” the kid had when they come to pick up, may very well be the reason they don’t come back. I’m not saying if Susie chops off another girls ponytail you keep it to yourself, I’m saying if you had to tell Susie to stay with the group five times, or if Peter just couldn’t stop talking during the Bible lesson, you could probably just keep it to yourself or let the director or pastor know if it’s a problem. When a child isn’t following directions perfectly at a fun event, most of the time a parent reaction will be, “if you can’t behave you can’t go.” And that’s the exact opposite of what we should want! My favorite saying is, “a child that needs the most love will show it in the most unloving ways.” What better place to show unconditional, Christ-like love than VBS!
  3. Fun IS important. Having fun doesn’t mean they’re not learning. In fact, the more fun you can make a lesson or game, the more likely they’ll remember it. VBS isn’t school, if they miss a day, or the whole week, there are no black marks or required notes. If a child isn’t having fun, they won’t be back. Let’s turn their jumping in the halls into elephant stomps. Their running into monkey’s swinging from a vine. Entice them with imaginary lions, and and hidden animals in the “grass.” The more fun they have they more likely they’ll be back.

As volunteers in the church our goal is to serve Christ. Jesus wanted us to understand the importance of leading the children to Him, so at the end of the day when you’re exhausted, over-stimulated, and maybe a little frustrated, just remember all of the sweet faces that heard the name Jesus that day.

 Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” Matthew 19:14

Posted in At Home

Feeding Our Family of Seven for less than $800.00 a Month

It took me a while to decide whether or not to post this. Our house is ever evolving. Change isn’t feared or frowned upon. If something doesn’t work, we just let it go. But when something DOES work, (Even if it’s only for a season.) we grab on tights. The one thing that hasn’t changed in a couple years though is the amount we spend monthly on groceries. Even with an increase in income over the past two years, we still try to stick to $800.00 a month or less, using our money in other places in our lives. Like bills, (duh.) fun weekends and vacations. These things mean something to our family and Herman works a lot, so it’s what we choose to do when we have him home.

Sharing this about our family feels… reeeally personal. I get pretty personal here, but this is like, one giant leap forward. I remember a point in our lives, when I would scour Pinterest for cheap meal ideas and would be astonished at the amount their “low cost” trips to the store would bring them to. I don’t feel like what we buy and how we plan our meals will do this to anyone with the number of kids we have, and you may even gawk at how on earth we DO get by.  But, I’m gonna tell ya, because what we feed our family seems to be a popular interest.

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We spend about $800.00 a month on groceries and household products. I’ve never broken down what our costs look like with just food, but we tap out at $800.00 a month. So, with that $800.00 we buy our food, (Obviously.) paper, cleaning, and hygiene products. It’s just easier for me to wrap my head around it including all those other things. I don’t want to do extra math, or separate transactions so this is just how we do it.

About a month ago I realized we were blowing through our food throughout the week and coming up on grocery day needing to go to the store or the only choice would be eating out or running to the local Dollar General, costing us a lot more money. We don’t have the storage space in our house to shop less often. We don’t even have a real pantry, so I needed to make sure what we were buying each week would last us until grocery day without any real hiccups.

Because we didn’t have a solid plan the kids were just eating whatever, whenever throughout the day using a lot of bread, tortillas, lunch meat, cheese, and eggs. They can all, except Emma, cook simple meals and make cold lunches. I like when they do this, but the way they were doing it just wasn’t working and was costing us a lot of unplanned and expensive trips to Dollar General.

I knew I had to do something, so I created a meal plan, complete with snacks and lunches (before I would just loosely plan our dinners) and after that first week I learned planning for Saturday and Sunday was a necessity or we would end up using things meant for the weekly snacks or lunches.

With this plan we didn’t even reach $800.00 this month, and I’m super happy about that. The meals we eat aren’t organic, on any kind of diet plan, and aren’t exactly the most healthy either. We do have fruits and vegetables regularly, though, and don’t buy any “extras” often, like pre-packaged snack items, sodas, or even juice.

If you click here, or down below, you can download our meal plans for every meal, plus snack, as well as the grocery list that aligns with each week. I hope this can help another family, or give you ideas on how you want to plan your meals.

The lists I’ve included don’t include things we use in the kitchen regularly like spices, oils, and condiments. Also, when I buy things like rice that we use two weeks in a row, I know that one bag will last the two weeks and don’t buy it again the next. Of all the meals above there is only one recipe I can link for you today. All the other recipes are things I’ve made for a long time, and I plan on releasing a post next week with the recipes and how we prepare meals and snacks throughout the week.

Do you follow a meal plan? What does that look like for your family?

 

DOWNLOAD YOUR ONE MONTH MEAL AND GROCERY PLAN HERE!

Posted in Uncategorized

Not Your Average Unschoolers

We are not radical unschoolers. If you know, or have an idea of what unschooling is, chances are whatever it is you’re thinking of, isn’t us.

I’ve read most of the radical unschooling books, I’ve also read my fair share of many other types of homeschooling books. On a scale of one to 100, one being traditional schoolers, and 100 being radical unschoolers, we are like… an 80.

 

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Radical unschooling extends to parenting. Out of all the things that could separate us from other unschoolers with a bold line, this is it. While we do give our children a lot of grace and space to make their own decisions, we have limits and their actions have parent-determined consequences.

I think one of the biggest examples of how our parenting slightly reflects radical unschooling but then dramatically differs is words we allow the kids to use. “Bad words” became a topic about a year ago. The kids were pushing boundaries, asking what words were okay to say and which were not. Words like heck, crap, sucks, and even the ones they”d only sound out, “shhh-iiiii.”

Herman and I both agree that “bad words” are just words. Jesus wouldn’t have scolded someone for saying “sh*t” because it wouldn’t have even been a thing. He probably would have though they’d sneezed. They made the decision that words that get a wow factor when they hear them from others aren’t words they’d ever say. (At least for now.) But words like heck, crap, and sucks (like, “oh, that sucks!”) weren’t bad, and we’re okay with that.

However, we have a very strict policy that if an adult ever corrects them they’re not to argue that we allow them to say it, just apologize and try to never say it around them again. We also ask them not to say words like that during co-op, play dates, or while participating in clubs because not every parent agrees those words aren’t bad, and we all agree they’d never want to be the one to get someone else in trouble for teaching them a new (bad) word. The novelty of those words wore off quickly and none of them use them anymore. The most controversial things they say are, “shoot” and, “see you later, hater.”

There are just some things I feel more comfortable teaching my children in a “sit down and listen for ten minutes” environment, and then there’s other things that I don’t think a special song, or curriculum is needed for them to learn something organically. You’d be surprised the things your children learn when you step back and allow them to lead.

Hayden has always been a traditional learner. So, during the short time span we ALL unschooled fully, he was bored, and sometimes felt lost when it came to finding something else to learn about. He’s a sponge and absorbs so much all the time, but for some reason the freedom to choose when and what to learn about overwhelmed him. He’s done an online curriculum since. So, not everyone in our home unschools.

We also:

-Have screen time limits because we notice hard-to-handle behavior and  bad moods when we don’t. Yes, we’ve tried before.

-Have strict rules when in stores or unfamiliar places because I don’t trust strangers or that the kids won’t push boundaries in public settings. The golden rule for stores is “one hand on the cart at all times,” and we remind them when they do let go and try to roam (Because they’re still kids and need reminding.) that, “if I cannot reach out and touch you, I cannot prevent someone from grabbing you and running away.”

-Have some sort of almost daily lesson. We do drop it if we are going to be gone all day, or if the weather is nice and we don’t stay indoors. Perks of almost-unschooling.

-Don’t force reading. I think this is the most controversial thing we do, and also the thing that makes us resemble unschoolers the most. We work on letter recognition, counting, letter sounds, and sometimes blends, but there are not tests, grades, and required memorization. We do make exceptions, though. Like, Gabriella was diagnosed with Dyslexia. Her doctor was super cool about it, and told us that unless we had plans to put her in school, to go slow. Allow her to take her time learning and use resources that best work for her and that a large number of school children are discouraged by their dyslexia because of peer disapproval and rushed education, and she’s lucky not to have those issues. She’ll be starting a program called All About Reading soon, though it’ll be on her time and not rushed.

So, while my kids aren’t free to do as they please all day everyday, they do have more freedom than most. I kinda wish I could coin a term that works better with how we live, but for now unschooling it is.

What are your opinions on unschooling?

Posted in home education

To the New Homeschooling Mama

Today I saw a woman who encouraged me during my first “holy guacamole, what did I get myself into?” day of homeschooling. I had, at the time, four kids under the age of six. I was maybe two months in after pulling Gabriella and Hayden from school. A sweet friend of mine told us about a homeschooling day at the library. It was our first time attending any type of homeschooling event.

It was one of those morning I just muscled through to get us up and out the door. I wasn’t feeling amazing and had lost a baby just a month before. I was irritable, hot, (Because October in Texas is still hot.) and worried about how my kids would behave. Would they decided to redecorate the bookshelves? Would the sit and listen, or would they get up and show off their track skills?

I was acutely aware of every little move and noise they made. All of the other kids were able to sit through the story! None of the other kids had to use the bathroom three times! Ryder was still just a toddler and wanted to touch everything, and didn’t understand how to use a quiet voice. Lylah was three, and didn’t care at all about anything that was going on.

I just wanted to “fit in”! This was possibly the new community I would become a part of, and even though the kids were just being kids, and not doing anything out of line, I was frustrated. And hot. I remember being hot.

The truth is, my kids probably weren’t being as ‘bad’ as I remember.

Halfway through the activities the whole group got up to move to the other side of the library to use the tables  and I used the shuffle to duck out. I, as discretely as possible, (which is not at all with four small children.) snuck out the side exit.

Before we could even make it into the parking lot my friend and the sweet, sweet woman I had just met caught me. I was doing everything possible to hold back the tears of frustration that were swimming in my eyes, and trying to remind myself of all the reasons why we chose to pull the kids in the first place.

My friend sympathized with me, and asked me to come back in and the amazing woman I’d just met touched my shoulder and told me the kids were fine. That they weren’t disturbing anyone, and things weren’t as bad as they seemed to me. She told me that when she saw me walk through the door with my hoard of small children that the Lord had told her to pray for me and to encourage me on my journey.

 

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I honestly don’t remember if we went back in. I think we did, but that was kind of a turning point for me. It was the moment I realized that my homeschooling (turned unschooling) journey wouldn’t ever look like another. That having other mama’s to turn to when things get rough, or just for random conversation to fill your cup is important. And being able to admit that you’re having a rough day is just as important.

Just because you have a bad day doesn’t mean it’s time to ship your kids off to school. It doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for the job. You love being a mother, but you don’t love having a bad day. That doesn’t make you a bad mom. Same for homeschooling. One bad day does not define your journey.

Bringing your kids home after being apart from them is something that’s not often talked about. Being with anyone all day every day, after spending hours apart is challenging. I even have moments of frustration with my husband when he stays home from work for an extended weekend or holiday. (Haha, no judging!)

If you’re new to homeschooling, especially if you’ve pulled your kids out of school to keep them home, find your people. You will need them. And please know, you are not alone. Your kids are not as wild as you think, and if this is what the Lord has called you to do, you’ve made the right decision.

We always tell our kids no one is perfect, but sometimes forget that includes us. We’re not perfect parents, spouses, or friends. We can correct our kids until we’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day they’re still just kids. Tiny people trying to find their way. And, if they’re new to being home with you all day, there’s a chance it’s going to be a challenge for them too.

The subtle changes can be just as hard to navigate as that first leap of faith. But you can, and will make it. The point is, give yourself grace and find others who do as well. ❤