I was in a Mom Mood today… Mamas, you know what I’m talking about. We had what I would classify a “bad” trip to the grocery store, which is kinda silly. Nothing was knocked over or forgotten. No one ran away or hid in a clothing rack. For the most part, they held on to the cart and participated in getting the things we needed, and no one asked to buy anything they didn’t have money for in their pockets. They were all just a little hyped up and full of energy, while I was utterly drained.
I recently taught a lesson in my Bible study class about overflow. Whatever we fill our cup with, eventually overflows. What spills out of us ends up covering the things, and people around us. If we’re overflowing with joy, then everyone around us will see and feel the joy that is spilling from us. If we’re overflowing with hate, anger, or rage, that is what everyone around us will see and feel too.
This morning I woke up in a bad mood and then allowed that mess of a sleepless night and frustration to stay in my heart and cling to all the silly little things that happened this morning. Ella forgot her wallet, had to turn around. Hayden took about 15 minutes to get fully dressed, Ryder didn’t like his pants, and Emma didn’t want to sit in her car seat. All of those things stuck to my bad mood until I was overflowing with nasty black tar that is spilled out of my mouth, heart, and mind and filled up the people around me. If that’s what I’m filling others up with, what’s going to spill out of them next? How can I fault the next child that rolls their eyes at me or talks back? I’m filling them up with everything I’m feeling while expecting them to return happiness and contentment. I’m hoping for respect and love, but I’m dishing out anger and harsh words. Yikes.
Parenthood is humbling, hard, and joyful all at the same time. It’s the things we fill our hearts up with the most that determine whether we sink or swim. So that way when we’re feeling jostled or broken what spills from us is (mostly) love. I gave myself a break today, apologized to my kids, and then prayed with them. Give yourself a break, and fill yourself up with something good, Mama. As my favorite bloggers, Abbie, at M is for Mama says, “hard is not the same thing as bad.” I think as parents we all need this as our mantra. If you’re in agreement, you can grab a cute print of it here, I have one in my bedroom that helps remind me that life is good even when it’s hard.
A few years ago I came crashing head-on (Okay, not literally) into the Holman family. They had come to visit our church for a brief period and I was incredibly intrigued by them. I could see the love they had for one another radiating from the group, and all of the love they had to share with others in their sweet faces. I’m not making this up, and if you know them or ever meet them, you will know what I mean.
From the first time I walked into the Holman house, I knew there was something about their family everyone needed a piece of. No, they’re not pie… they’re better. The love they have for Christ pours into everyone conversation they share and every aspect of their life. When Sarah sent me a message asking if I’d be interested in reading her new book, There was Always Laughter in Our House, my immediate and exact response was “YES, YES! I would love to!” with one heart emoji…. after I deleted the 12 I initially added.
You see, a few years ago I was digging deeper into my faith. Re-working the way our family presented itself and had longed for quite some time for two specific (along with other non-specific) things that I didn’t have any examples of in my life but wanted a tangible example of and guidance… but no one I knew provided that. The Holmans were Gods way of showing me that I was, in fact, not as crazy or off the wall as I thought, and there were others out there who felt the same way. I wanted a large family I could love on forever, and I wanted our girls (and myself) to wear skirts and adopt a more modest approach to dressing, which isn’t common for our denomination or either of our families. Herman and I discussed these things many times but never came to any solid conclusions. What would people think seeing our still new-to-Christ family suddenly change the way we dressed? That question was between me and God I later understood. Mrs. Holman took us in and loved on us as if she’d known us for years, and I felt so warm and comfortable in their home.
I’ve learned so many lessons from the Holmans and I’d like to share a few with you:
- It’s okay to forge your own path as a Christian: When I met the Holmans for the first time I could feel Christ’s love through them. There are things the Holmans celebrate and do that aren’t necessarily common in the church. I loved this about them and used it as “permission” in my own life when I needed guidance from a Christian family to do less than common things for my faith. The church isn’t always right, but Christ is.
- It’s okay to want a large family (or not): Most of the time people question why on Earth we would ever want a large family. Some, are even rude about it or think it’s irresponsible. The love in the Holman home proved to me that it is possible to have a large, loving family on a single income despite the nay-sayers.
- Homeschooling is doing what’s right for your family. Mrs. Holman has homeschooled since before it was popular, and similarly to the path we’ve taken to get where we are, she also started out with an all-inclusive curriculum only to switch to something more relaxed that worked better for her family. Seeing the way their family worked together like a well-oiled machine, and how happy each child was with their education drove home the idea that homeschooling is not one size fits all and is always best when tailored to your family.
There are many lessons I’ve learned from the Holmans in the time I’ve spent with them, and I hope I learn much more. If you’ve yet to meet the Holman family, check out Sarah’s new book, There was Always Laughter in Our House, which is now available for pre-order until November 24th. It’s not the same as in-person, but it’s close.
Many studies show kids crave structure; as an unschooling mom who allows her kids quite a bit of freedom, it’s my job to give them the structure their minds want in ways that are useful and also harmonious with our unschooling life.
Here are three ways we incorporate structure into our unschooling family:
- Chores. The kids are always expected to do some kind of chore or multiple tasks each day. We usually have some sort of system that tells the kids what is expected of them. This doesn’t always come in the form of a chart. They get bored with stickers or small novelty items easily. The number one motivator is technology. One of the rules we have when it comes to chores is your own room is not a chore, it is your responsibility to maintain. Are their rooms always clean? Ha! No. Sometime, we can’t walk through the cut up paper and toys, and we require them to clean up, but it’s not a daily thing. We do, however, have a list (sometimes physically written, sometimes not) of chores that we put on a rotation that the kids are responsible for before they’re allowed to have screen time. Sometimes the list is unnecessary and they’ll be told to clean the kitchen, or living room before playing/watching. We don’t pay them to help maintain the house, but we do pay them to do things that aren’t daily necessities. The only rule we have for paid chores is: your room must be clean and your required duties finished before you can be paid to do a job.
- Church. As members of our family (and small children that cannot stay alone) the kids go to Wednesday night Bible study each week. As members of our church, we see it as our responsibility to attend studies or volunteer our time. While the kids are still small enough that they do not volunteer on Wednesdays and Sundays I do. Not only does a scheduled, weekly activity add structure to our home, but they know, no matter the season, we will be at the church every Wednesday and Sunday unless someone is sick. As a family that often volunteers in our church, they will usually spend long hours with me prepping a lesson, or re-doing a room, or getting ready for a festival or program. These extended hours require them to behave better than they would at home, with less to do. This demands self-control from them. While they’re not perfect but neither am I.
- Manners, respect, and responsibility. As children all under the age of eight, the amount of responsibility they actually have is small, but they do have things they are responsible for. It’s not always the same, though. For example: recently we had hundreds of Queen butterfly caterpillars at our house. The kids wanted so badly to bring a few indoors to watch cocoon and hatch. I told them I would not take care of them alone and they needed to stay in their rooms. (Our cat likes them… and not in a good way.) The girls hatched about six or seven and let them free without much help from me, washed the container they used to put them in when they were all gone, and got rid of all the plants and water they used. This is a job well done for a seven and six-year-old. Manners and respect are essential in our house, too. We’re pretty laid back (hence- the unschooling thing), but we do expect common courtesy from the children (and ourselves) as well as respect for elders and each other. We allow them to choose their bedtimes as long as they’re getting enough sleep to function responsibly and be nice the next day. As soon as one of them has tired eyes and stomps about grumpily, or has nothing nice to say to anyone, their bedtime becomes regulated until I believe they can fall asleep at a decent time.
Does your family unschool? How do you incorporate structure into your home?