What I Learned in June

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

IMG_0581June! The month with the longest day of the year. Days full of light. More freedom from routines.

I love this path photo above. Sometimes the Lord just lays out the path in front of us. He says, “You have been stumbling over the rocks, sticks, and waves long enough. I have set this path before you. Take it! Follow Me!” He cuts away what needs cutting away and reveals His perfect way. His way which may not feel perfect, definitely doesn’t feel easy, but nonetheless, it’s His sovereign, Holy, wise plan. When I follow it, His fruit is displayed and my heart is at peace. Oh, Father, you are so good!

Books I am reading (which are encouraging me to follow Him):

  • Matthew
  • Taming the Giants: Stripping the Power from Overwhelming Emotions by Cathy Dickinson
  • Anything by Jennie Allen
  • Quick Tips for Busy Families by Jay Payleitner

Books I am reading with my girls:

  • 24 Family Ways
  • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
  • The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Fox

We are participating in a reading challenge, which encourages us to read books from all over the world: Give Your Child the World. Some books we’ve thoroughly enjoyed during this challenge:

  • Owen and Mzee The language of friendship. By Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu
  • Off to class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes
  • Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World by George Shannon
  • A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World

June books

A Summary of My Learning This Month: 

Traditions

Kids love traditions! They love having special things that are unique for our family. They love knowing they can count on the repetition of the fun activity or event or food. We have developed a couple of easy, new traditions which are helping to bring greater family connection. With our girls nearing the teenage years, we are facing a new dynamic…our kids don’t always want to spend time with us! It’s strange, new, sometimes nice, and sometimes a threat to our closeness. Traditions are helping to maintain some together time.

America’s Funniest Videos (AFV) in the big bed! We ALL load up in our king-sized bed. All the humans in the house as well as our 2 cats and we laugh and gasp at the crazy things people do on video. Fun, light-hearted time to relax and laugh together is a beautiful thing.

Visiting Tree Houses! Can a tradition be a tradition if it’s only happened once? I don’t think so. But, can we can count it a tradition if we plan to repeat this activity? I think so! My husband found us the most lovely “House in the Trees”in Tigard, Oregon where we played games, ate snacks, read books, watched Lassie and Little House on the Prairie, pretended to be pirates, slid down a slide to exit the house, drank coffee, and connected as a family. This activity is begging to become a tradition!

Sunday afternoon tea. We bake gluten free scones, put some cheese and fruit on a plate, and each get a warm beverage of our choice, and enjoy a little sit down, lovely time together before the busyness of the week takes off the next day.

Schedules

Although my children fight the idea of using a schedule for homeschooling, we all breathe a sigh of relief now that we have made the adjustment to having blocks of learning times scheduled each day. I purchased some cheap, very basic planners from Michael’s. I have always resisted using any kind of planner or schedule book because I feel so boxed into the format they use. But, the planners I found have very little on them. On a two page layout for each week, they contain only 5 days of the week, Monday-Friday, and contain 6 boxes per day, as well as a notes section.

Planner pic

Sunday evening, I sit down and think through our week and each day. It takes a considerable amount of time and brain power, but it avoids so much conflict, anxiety, and debate throughout the week. We often make adjustments to our schedule. It’s all written in pencil. But, it’s working very well for us to have a general idea of what each day holds. It’s also giving us a chance to see how long things actually take and helping to provide necessary and important breaks.

Recently, while visiting a science museum, our children’s anxiety and moodiness heightened after we’d been there for several hours. No one was ready to leave, but there was so much talk about what we were going to do next. I thought of our planners and the boundaries they provide, and quickly and verbally explained a rough schedule for the rest of our time at the museum. Everyone let out a deep breath, and my one daughter looked at me and said, “Thank you, mom. I just needed to know what was coming.”

I pray you are learning, growing and seeking what the Lord has for you. I’d love to hear what new “take away” you have to share. Please consider sharing in the comments. Blessings, dear reader!

Back to the Basics

“I am just overwhelmed with how to get it all in…” my homeschooling mom friend and I commiserate about our schedules and determining what to teach. “My son worked on algebra all morning yesterday! He never once picked up his history or literature books!”

“We overslept and then had a cooking project we worked on all morning, ” I fire back.

“What science curriculum do you use?” another friend inquires, “I haven’t even touched on science with my kids,” she continues.

I am hearing a theme lately among my homeschool mom friends. It’s a theme I heard throughout my time as a teacher as well. “There’s just so much to cover and so little time. How do we get it all in?”

Refinement. I have heard it said our greatest refining comes through marriage and parenting. In order to have any peace as a spouse or parent, we have to allow the Lord to refine us, remake us, soften us, mold us into the instrument He can use. But, I have found another area in my life in which the Lord is greatly using to refine, cleanse, and change me: homeschooling.

She came to me, sobbing, rightly confessing her wrong doing. Genuine in spirit, no prompting, no guilt, no pressure from any source. Broken hearted over her sin. Broken. An opportunity for God’s love to better reach into her brokenness…my brokenness. 

Continuing on, my daughter explains the distant feeling she has had lately from God. Hesitantly letting the words slip out about wondering if God will hear her if she does go to Him. Her eyes shyly reach up to mine, fearful of what I may say. Fearful of what she may see in my eyes.

I am quiet. For I know of what she speaks. Small repeated sin, creeping in. Slithering between her and the God she does love. The God she does know. The God she has come to trust in dark hours.

Oh, dear one, I know this distance. I know the guilt and shame. I know the space between you and the Lord growing ever bigger and darker. And, I know that it is not the Lord that moves.

Dear one, I also know the Lord’s voice when He continues to call to you, even when you silence that voice. I know, because I have been doing it for weeks.

My turn to receive His cleansing. Dear one, the Lord has been calling me to refocus our days. He’s been telling me to go back to what He first told me about homeschooling. He’s been prompting me to see that it doesn’t matter my children’s age, they still need teaching from the Word and prayer to focus our hearts each day. He’s been reminding me of what He showed me last school year…a child with a deep knowledge of history, science, and math, without a deeper knowledge of Him and love for His Word, will be lost in this world.

Dear one, I have put math facts above the God-breathed instructional manual.

I see it in your eyes. I hear it in your voice. Your heart is heavy. And, I can no longer ignore the Voice that has been calling to me for weeks.

I am sorry, dear one. Your soul is more important to me than any academic learning.

Dear one, I have been neglecting my part in instructing and preparing you for the spiritual warfare on this Earth.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 ring in my heart:

Matthew 18:6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Although I didn’t model the sin, I didn’t encourage it, and I didn’t endorse it, I wasn’t doing the last thing the Lord told me to do in order to equip my children against the evil in this world. I must take responsibility for my part in my daughter’s broken heart over her sin and separation from the God she loves.

I  remember our times of closeness with the Father. The times my daughters uttered beautiful heart-felt words in prayer. The times when their Bible journals overflowed with art capturing the glory of the Word we read.

I cannot change their hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But, I will be obedient in teaching the Word and allowing time for my dear ones to hear from the Lord.

Math can wait. Instruction from the Almighty can not. 

I will return to the Lord I love.

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Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Overcoming School

2015 brought a radical change for us.

I entered my first public school as a student in 1980. I am old. My education began at Hilltop Elementary School. From Hilltop Elementary, I went on to Alderwood Middle School, to Lynnwood High School, to Western Washington University, to eventually receiving my teaching degree so that I could continue my time at school.

elementary-ed

The September to June cycle was how my life was organized. It’s all I had ever known. Spend August getting ready for school to start, the excitement of school starting in September, school pictures in the fall, celebrating holidays at school, field trips with classrooms, collecting box tops, school fundraisers, the anticipation of school ending for the year in June, and finally summer break. This was my life for 35 years.

This trend of leaving home to attend school continued all the way through until 2015, when God said, “STOP, there is a different way”.

I had never considered homeschooling. In all honesty, I didn’t understand homeschooling.  There are perfectly good schools designed to teach my children. I learned at those perfectly good schools.

It began when I met my friend, Stephanie and her daughter, Katie. I was in my 15th year of teaching; my own children were in the thick of public school: common core, fundraisers, school drama, stress. Stephanie had been a teacher in California and had left the classroom to teach her daughter in their home.

At first, Stephanie simply told me about her experience homeschooling. No judgment. No pressure.

As the Lord began opening up my mind and heart to the idea of homeschool, Stephanie began sharing statements such as:

“No one else will teach your kids like you. No one else loves your kids like you do.”

“God gave you your kids. He will show you how to teach them.”

“It’s a lie from the enemy that your kids need to be away from home all day, 5 days a week..that each family member needs to be doing their separate thing.”

revealed-hear

Is this you, Lord? Could I do this? Should I leave the familiarity of the school setting? Could I handle all day every day with my children? Do I have the patience? Do I have the energy? Will we be able to pay the bills on one income? Will my kids miss their peers at school? Will my strong-willed child do what I ask her?

Each of these questions is giving me an opportunity to trust the Lord and deepen my dependency on Him.

God keeps sending me the message that if my life is comfortable, something is wrong.

Homeschooling has been an opportunity for my weakness to shine and His strength to reign, my need to grow and His power to be utilized.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Over the last several months, so many moms have said to me, I could never homeschool my kids. Reasons include: “my child is too strong-willed”, “we can’t even do homework together”, “I have to work”, “my child is too social”, and “I always struggled in math”.

I am here to tell you that I can honestly say that each of those statements fit for me and my family, too. If God is calling you to homeschool, if you even feel He may be gently telling you to homeschool, calling your attention to the possibility, He will equip you. In fact, He already has. If you are a child of God, with the Holy Spirit residing in you, then you have, “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. It’s not always what I feel like doing each day. But, it is most definitely what God has called me to. And, He has most definitely been faithful in giving us what we need each day.

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When I was too strict with our schedule and routine, He was faithful to reveal a new way to structure our day. When I was trying to recreate “school” at home, He showed me my children’s unique styles and what would work best for them. In fact, here’s a run down of what the Lord has shown me during quiet time with Him: 

  1. Setting alarm clocks, starting early, finishing early, allowing for a lot of creative learning time in the afternoons. 
  2. Beginning the day with exercise.
  3. Checklists for completing tasks.
  4. Doing most tasks in the order each child chooses.
  5. Working at their level in each academic area.
  6. Having two days a week of learning outside of the home.
  7. Having a “no screen time” rule during the school week.
  8. Audio books in the car.
  9. Weekly trips to the library.
  10. Playing instrumental music in the background all day.
  11. Above all else, having a goal of learning to love the Lord with our whole hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Academic learning is a side benefit. 

Is God calling you away from the traditional school setting? Are you scared like I was? Are you willing to get uncomfortable and follow where the Lord leads?

One thing to be sure of, keeping your eyes on Him, you and your kids will learn and grow as He desires. 

You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 11:19.