Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year Love.

I love the New Year. I love thinking about it, I love looking forward to it, I love planning for it!

What are you setting your heart on for 2016? Do you love the New Year? Hate it? Plan January to a T and then go back to regular life in February?

I hadn't given the coming year much thought until just the other day... I've been so busy lately, so I told my brain "Wait until after Christmas, then enjoy your week thinking & planning for it." And hey, it worked! So now, I'm thinking about it and I am excited about it.

One thing I've been working on in multiple areas of my life is perfectionism. And no, I'm not working on BEING a perfectionist... I'm working on NOT being one. There is a big difference between expecting things to be done well, and being a perfectionist about it. We'll just call the perfectionist a perfectionist, and the person who does things well the "well-doer."

The perfectionist says "My way, that is what is best." The well-doer says "I'll do my best and make sure it's great." The perfectionist says "Load the dishwasher my way, or else the dishes won't be (my idea of) perfectly clean." The well-doer says "Please load the dishwasher, and do your best job." The perfectionist says "Give me that, I'll take care of it." The well-doer says "Thanks for helping me, let me finish that for you." A perfectionist goes back & fixes a job done by a 6 yr old with frustration. A well-doer thanks their 6 yr old and finishes up the job without criticism, happy to have received help.

Yes, there are times for teaching and times for making a child do a job a better way, but most times it's enough to instruct with happiness. A perfectionist is greatly displeased with anything less than perfect, which is not really in the skill-set of a 6 yr old, right? So why are we like this? What is wrong in us that causes so much anger with less than our idea of perfect? Why do so many of us have so much frustration with happy effort, and cheerful attempts?

I often feel a stifling fear of what might happen if things don't go my way. I know that sounds silly put so simply, and it's not like I am literally cowering in fear every day because of my children, but truthfully, fear is driving this frustration ship. I feel this insane pressure to get done with grocery shopping in a  decent amount of time, get dinner done at a certain time, get the house cleaned up a certain way, have things put away at a decent speed, get my list of to-do's done in a certain manner and the list goes on. This pressure is always self-inflicted, driven by a fear of "not." Not being accomplished, not doing the best job, not getting my to-do list done, not being who I want to be. Sadly (and thankfully), none of these things are pertinent to living a life that honors God.

The perfectionist in me wants everything done in a way that produces the best outcome. However, in God's world, we don't see what is best for our lives each second of each day. I can't see the storm ahead and prepare adequately. I can't see an accident we avoided by being late. I can't see how my children only having put half the toys away within my 10 minute time-frame will enable me to spend quality time with them, teaching them good habits. The perfectionist constantly misses out on good things while being upset that the "best" things didn't work out. What's really sad, is that the perfectionist's idea of best, is hardly ever actually best. Even when "best" happens, there's usually still a feeling of something missing. And usually, what we think is best, and our fear of "not best" is completely irrational. Like, what's the worst case scenario of 10 dishes getting less than perfectly clean in the dishwasher? Getting our idea of "best" is rarely all it's cracked up to be.

Don't get me wrong, I've had lots of great days where everything went my way, where my kids were amazing & I was a lovely mother ;) Those days are awesome. And rare! And it's totally fine to enjoy those days and revel in how awesome it is when your plans just happened to be the Lord's plans too. The problem lies in what we do the other 355 days of the year. Proverbs 16:2 says "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit." We think we are planning good things, but God knows our hearts. He knows when those intentions are pure, and when they are full of selfishness. He knows when we have a plan because it really is good or whether we just selfishly want our lives to be as easy as possible.

This is what I am going to be working on this year. I want to challenge myself to look at all my frustrations & see where they are rooted. I am going to look closely to see if my demands upon my family are reasonable, or based in my desire to have things my way. When my plans go awry, will I get mad or will I ask God what he is doing? Will I be willing to concede with joy, or at least without bitterness? Will I look at daily detours as interruptions or as revelations of God's plan for that day? Are these opportunities to see God actively changing my day to work his redemptive magic? Do I want my way, or do I really want God's?

As Christians, these are some of the biggest and best questions we can ask. They are questions we can ask every day and find conviction, determination, greater faith & hope for a stronger will to follow him. This is going to be my #1 resolution, and not just for this year. In my life, in my homeschooling, in my husband-loving, in my advice-giving, in my advice-seeking, in my laundry duties, in my tutoring, in my searching the Word, in everything, I want to ask these types of questions and answer "I want God's plans." There have been many days where my initial answer has been "no thanks" or "not really" but I praise God for turning my heart to understand how staying in a hardened place is never an option. It leads down a dark road of bitterness which is ever so difficult to come back from.

What beautiful things is your perfectionism killing? What areas of your life can stand to be "less perfect" and more pleasant? What things can you chill out about and experience the world not actually falling apart? Find these simple places & be less than perfect. See how nice is feels to accomplish things with a joyful spirit instead of the hard-hearted determination of a perfectionist. Set your determination toward being pleasant with those around you. Enjoy the opportunities to train & teach your children in whatever setting that is.

I think we'll all be happy to see how much more of life can be more enjoyable when we let go of keeping our plans and instead, aim for keeping a joyful, flexible, teachable heart. I feel like I can almost see this, like I can sense it just around the corner for me. All the times I've actually grasped it are just more motivation to live this way more often. Tell all that perfectionism in your heart "You are a lie!" Getting things done perfectly will never trump doing things in a way that leads to love, redemption and trust in the relationships that are most important in your life. And living with abundant love is the best way to show others the life-changing grace available to anyone seeking the Lord.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

New School Year!

Sometimes I can hardly believe that this will be my 3rd year homeschooling! At the end of summer, all I have are good memories of schooling... well, mostly. I open new books, get excited about all the things my kids will be learning... it's wonderful! Then, about 2 months in, I start to look at how many math lessons are left & get a little crabby. I'm hoping that due to some careful scheduling & a greater willingness to be flexible, I can overcome & feel less crabby, less like giving up.

Jovi is a lot more cooperative this year too. I'm really hopeful that she'll make my job a bit easier. We have some things scheduled that will help the kids moods too... we're meeting every other Thursday with a good friend & fellow homeschooler to do our history & grammar together. My friend & her kiddos are also involved in CC, so we will probably add in some geography & review time too.

Speaking of CC, I'm a tutor this year! And I'll have both boys in my class!! I think having them will be good - Cole could use the extra time to memorize as I prep, and Asher likes to know what's going on ahead of time, so he should enjoy that. My class will be small, and I already know most of the kids, so I'm not super nervous... I'm mostly prepped... I'm sure I will be crazy nervous the day before, but I'm glad to do it. While I know it'll be stretching, I think I need the extra push to get a little more organized & stay on top of things. And, I think I could use the additional experience for the long haul. I really hope to stick with CC through high school, so getting some tutor experience in at the lower grades will be beneficial for sure.

Let's see. What else? I guess I will give you a quick rundown of what we are using for the year!

Math - Saxon, memorization in CC
English Grammar - First Language Lessons, memorization in CC
Reading - All About Reading, random extra books I like or my kids like
Spelling - All About Spelling
Writing - Zaner-Blosser books, pre-scripts from CC for Asher
History - Story of the World (ancient civilization again this year)
Art & Science - mostly through CC, additional projects & books along the way, nothing incredibly formal

That list might look a little intimidating, so I'll give you newbies some encouragement...

We do not school more than 4hrs a day EVER! Usually, most days are 2-3hrs, and it's not all formal. We spend a lot of additional time where I read to the kids - devotionals, other classics or just books they enjoy. Here's our general schedule...

Monday - CC, art, 1 kid does reading in the late afternoon
Tuesday - math for both, reading for 1
Wednesday - math for both, spelling for both
Thursday - (every other) - MJ School (language lessons, history, writing) or Field Trips
Friday - math for both, reading for both

I will add in the language lessons, History, CC review & writing on random days where math is lighter for one or both of the kids.

Most of all, what will really help me this year is my willingness to change. I'm starting out with a very general plan for each day - not a real time-table, but just an idea. We'll see how it goes & test out some alternatives. I'm also planning to look at homeschooling more like a real job. I get "me" time later, not usually mid-day or mid-morning or just whenever I feel like reading. I hope laying this desire aside will help me be more content with the way things go, for better or worse! This is my job, it's normal to be challenging. And of course, if I desperately need a break, I will take it! But overall, I'm so thankful to have this job & not some other job. It has flexibility, great potential, rewards, etc. I can coast when I am weary, and I can be ambitious at any point I desire. And mostly, I get to be with my kids & see them grow before my eyes. They are really fabulous & make my job more than worthwhile.

So, here are my boys, ready for another year! They are mostly willing, mostly excited & only whining a little about math. Stay tuned for updates & to hear our adventures & challenges - good luck with your own school year!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mysteries of Pluto

For most of my homeschool adventures or discoveries, I have my good friend Mary to thank. And lately, she has been sharing all kinds of new discoveries with me! Most recently,  she gave me information about the New Horizons probe that has been on mission to take pictures of & gather data about Pluto! Seriously, I do not know what I would do without her!!

In case you haven't seen or heard, this New Horizons probe, sent by NASA, has been en route to Pluto for almost 10 years. 10 YEARS! Here is a link to a video that will give you a little more information on that...

I love seeing people who have the kind of vision & determination to plan out such a long-term goal. I suppose homeschooling is also a long-term goal, which explains why it's so difficult for me to stay focused, and grounded, trusting in this adventure! It's also very pivotal, but back to Pluto...

Here is a link to some of the first pictures & information they have released about it.

The space probe cost over $700 million and arrived on July 14th, though not landing, just cruising by & gathering as much data as possible.

I'm not sure what it is that intrigues me so much. I don't believe in life, or intelligence as we know it, on another planet. I don't even think scientifically we are ever likely to find another planet that can support plant-life or animal-life... and this does not touch on the theological implications of believing there could be other planets with people or animals... it's just not something I think is likely and I don't plan to waste my time considering it really. So, my fascination with Pluto has nothing to do with that. But for some reason, I want to be there!

After reading C.S. Lewis' book "Out of the Silent Planet" I have a little more curiosity about what other planets are like. Just standing on land that is totally new, unfamiliar & who knows what else would be amazing. It also baffles me that God created that little (dwarf) planet, 3 billion miles away, and while we are just seeing what it really looks like for the first time, He already knows all those details. He knows every detail, and has allowed us this progress to see more of the wonder of His mind. Why other planets? Why moons? Why the entire solar system, galaxy & beyond? How far does this emptiness go? It's just mind boggling.

I also think it's nice to think about things we cannot comprehend. To be able to consider the magnitude of the universe & forget suffering, hardship, strife & angst for a little bit is a gift. If I had the time, I'd let my mind wander ever further into thinking about what it will be like to land my feet in Heaven for the first time. In another of C.S. Lewis' books, he talks about Heaven being more real than ourselves... I often forget that it'll be the same me, but the perfected me, that will experience all that wonder & permanence... not an imaginary, dream-land type of version of myself. I will get to witness it all first-hand. For sure. Promised & sealed, done deal! Now that trumps Pluto for sure. But in the meantime, I'm going to look several times a day for new photos from Pluto, and think about the far reaches of space & let it sink in how far-reaching God really is. Or at least try, and I'll get as far as my little brain will let me :)

Here are a few photos I've saved... enjoy!

The last image we had of Pluto & her biggest moon.

This is Jupiter & 1 of her 67 moons, taken by New Horizons on the way out to Pluto.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dream Job!

So, since I was about 5yrs old, there are only 4 things I've ever really wanted to be as an adult. I'm pretty sure 1 of them is totally out of the question now (though it wasn't always), but I actually got to be 1 of these 4 things last month!!! Here they are, in no particular order...

- professional track athlete
- public speaker
- artist (mostly with paint & canvas, but just in general)
- writer

I'm sure you can guess which of these is not like the others!! Haha. Oh well, I'm over it.

I probably told a bunch of you, but I got to speak at a homeschooling conference for Classical Conversations back in May. It was honestly one of the top 3 experiences of my life. One of the rare times where I could feel God with me so closely that I felt like I could almost reach out touch Him, like I could just run & jump up into the clouds. (Let's not get into poor theology on that one, I know I could never touch Him in my flesh & not burn up instantly!)

First time - when I high jumped 5'7" the first time. I know that sounds weird, but God was so near me, giving me wings, making me humble & causing me to just praise Him. I didn't feel unstoppable, I just realized how BIG God was & felt amazed that little old me got to experience Him in that way, accomplishing something I'd worked so hard for. I honestly couldn't believe it. Even though I wanted to clear that bar, I was still truly in disbelief that He helped me do it, even though it was just a small, seemingly insignificant thing in & of itself.

Second time - in Thailand. I was sick the day we were going to go zip-lining, but I decided being sick while doing something crazy was better than being sick on a couch all day. My fever raged, I was so weak, but it was still amazing. I cannot explain why, but being in a foreign land & seeing God work in a distant part of the world, even in small ways, was an incredible blessing. On the long drive to the zip-lining area of the jungle, I listened to worship music & I felt like God was sitting next to me, helping me to see His goodness across the globe, despite my momentary sickness. And even while feeling miserable, I felt amazing. I know that sounds weird, but again, I felt honored, small, and in awe during that time. Like I was so lucky to be there.

Third time - speaking at the Salem Practicum. At other conferences I've been to, I've heard the speakers say things like "I feel so honored to be your speaker" or "I will miss you all tomorrow" or "what a blessing you guys have been." It always seemed fake to me, like they were just trying to make us feel good about being the audience. But let me tell you, it's true! I felt like God must be far beyond the gracious God I consider Him to be in order to give tiny, little me such a great opportunity & responsibility in being a teacher for 3 days. The group was so gracious to me, with veteran moms & experienced speakers thanking me & encouraging me. And truly, I was sad to go back home & not see most of those people again, either for a while or ever! I literally cannot reason through how I got to be a part of it.

I know that not everyone, and probably not many people, really want to do endless amounts of reading & research in order to talk for 3 full days about science, education & teaching your children at home, but I still feel incredibly special for being chosen. Like maybe I fooled too many people to sneak my way in! Seriously, they did not know enough about me to be able to say "Yes, she can do it!" I'm still just amazed about it all.

It was definitely a lot of work. I could not have spent even 1 more hour prepping than I did. I read all the books, fixed all the slides, knew my stuff pretty well, did outside research, had a good plan, but I was still so nervous. I drove 1hr each way, each day to get there, and the first day was definitely the most nerve wracking. I had to keep telling myself that I was well prepared, that all there was left to do was to show up & do what I had planned to do. My nerves definitely got the best of me, but somehow, God helped me out & it was a fabulous 3 days. I played different worship music on my drive each day, and I got a tiny taste of what it might feel like to spend eternity praising Him. When He is there with you, it is unlike any other experience. It's this endless cycle of knowing Him, thanking Him, praising Him, that gives us a deeper understanding, even just by a hair, of the amazing truths surrounding who He is.

And yes, in case you are wondering, I'm doing it again, in less than a month ;) How lucky am I??

And I'm still incredibly excited about it! There are a few more supplemental books that I'm reading now, and re-reading some of the others too. It's a different location, different set of moms, different type of group, but I'm trusting that God already knows what I will say & what those ladies need to hear. He knows how I will learn & grow, which is far more important that being seen they way I want to be seen. But mostly, I am banking of the fact that all this makes Him look good, because He IS good. Far more than good. Even in our bad, He shows how He is good. In all the difficult things, we can see that He is pushing us toward knowing Him, which is our greatest joy, and is also my foremost goal for my kids - to know Him & make Him known, in every circumstance.

So, wish me luck in July! You'll hear from me again in August, if not sooner. And if you want to sign up last-minute for any of these CC practicums, you can find one near you here...

Have an awesome rest of your summer! Enjoy the rest time & take time to revel in the ways your kids have grown over the year!!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Never Stop

Learning is an interesting thing.

As a homeschooling mom/teacher, learning is everything. My goal is for learning to be happening :) I am teaching math, science, English grammar, Latin, History, French... plus all the other things like manners, how things are connected, speech & pronunciation, home ec, how to wipe your own toosh & so much more. It's easy to be so tired at the end of the day that you just tune out, turn on the TV & absorb practically nothing for several hours before bed.

But, is that really the fruitful life we are longing for? Is this really in line with the goals which have set us on the path to homeschool our children?

Don't misunderstand me, I know you need a break. I need a break too. I actually got a really amazing, 2 day break last weekend, but it was practically undone in about 3 hrs. I was just telling my husband that I found 20min today to catch up, get motivated & feel on-goal, and then 10min later it was all undone, never to be grasped again that day. It's discouraging to say the least.

I also often tell people that I need to keep on homeschooling in order to not stay stupid. It's very true! I cannot believe how much is out there in life, history, science & so much more that I just had no clue about before I began schooling my kids. Did you know that Helen Keller knew Alexander Graham Bell before he invented the phone? She wrote about him in one of her autobiographies but didn't mention anything about his accomplishments... I was so curious why she didn't say much, so I looked up all the dates. It was eye-opening for me. I didn't even know they lived during the same time! There is SO much in History that is lost on me. But, this is also part of what created a spark in me to keep learning.

You know, there is never a point in your life where you will be unable to learn more! Literally, unless there are complicated health & brain issues, you never get too old to learn. Never too full of information! Your brain is actually limitless!! Most of us are just too tired, too overwhelmed or too uninformed to have the excitement & dedication it takes to learn. It is a long-term investment, and if you are homeschooling, I especially recommend it! Start now! I wish I had started years before my first child arrived. But, I will leave you with one thing I am proud for starting.

Last summer, I went to a local practicum for Classical Conversations. It was excellent! And our speaker shared about her son who has mastered several kinds of Rubik's cubes. He came & demonstrated for us & I was amazed. I was even more in shock when I learned that solving a Rubik's cube is not a matter of being smart. Seriously. I think most people who know how to solve them are, but not because a person has to be smart to solve it. I think it's because a smart person knows it can be accomplished & learns how. It really is just a matter of learning sequences, memorizing steps & practicing. You do it enough, and your brain just gets it!

Now, what I am proud of is that I started to learn how!!!! I have officially memorized how to solve the 2x2 cube, and can solve the 3x3 by looking at the instructions about 2/3 of the time. It has been really amazing to witness my own brain learning in this way. It's saturation - you do it over and over, and your brain just starts to get it. It has been fun, and exciting. And it feels good to make progress on this old brain of mine. And now I am even more motivated to keep learning, trying things that are hard & not to be discouraged by what I don't know. You don't have to solve a Rubik's cube, but you should start something you know will take time, effort & something which will bring you excitement & joy.

I don't always feel so excited about learning new things, or trying hard things, but the goal is to desire this more often. To want to veg out on TV less & less. To want to know more without immediately being discouraged by how much is left unknown. I hope as this blog grows (as God wills), you will find some of that motivation here. No not just by way of my "success" or inspiration, but also just by knowing me, and knowing my struggles & challenges. I hope I have successes & victories to share, but I cannot guarantee how often they will be. But either way, I know the effort to learn more about this life & the world we are in will be worthwhile, for my own life, my children's lives & hopefully the lives of others around me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Planning Type & The Beloved Schedule

I think I might be the weirdest person around. I don't like a lot of weird things, or have a super strange sense of humor, but I am a very A-type, "all-or-nothing", hate to stick to a schedule but must have a plan type of person. Those seem so weird together! Right? This has definitely made homeschooling challenging for me. Even though I hate to plan things to do each day or having scheduled appointments or tasks that occur every week, I also LOVE doing them & crossing them off. I feel like I hate routine, but I also hate being interrupted, or having my plans disrupted. I feel like I am either way out of balance or perfect. I usually think I am either incredible or horrid. 

This has its ups & downs. One bonus is that I rarely start things I don't plan to finish. I just cannot. This is why I got a C my junior year in English (my favorite subject). Too many papers that I just wasn't exactly sure how I was supposed to write, or didn't fully understand the topic & purpose, so I just didn't write them. Ha! I look back & laugh because if this happened now, I would just go & ask the teacher. But back then, I just wasn't as sure of my abilities, and was too afraid to go & admit that 1) maybe I just was not smart or 2) that I hadn't been paying the best of attention. 

But I also did things that surprised me. Like deciding to write & prepare a speech for graduation. I was no valedictorian by any means, but at our high school, anyone could "try out" for the speech-giving roles at graduation. I was SO nervous to see if I was selected. And I was elated, surprised & fulfilled in being one of the graduates to speak that night. I've always wanted to be a writer. I'm not the best, but I feel a fire in my bones to share hope with others. I often feel I am not smart enough, eloquent enough, educated enough or just even liked enough to be a popular writer. I will never be Jen Hatmaker, or Beth Moore, or Elisabeth Elliot. I will never have enough good stuff to say for it to be a worthwhile endeavor. But then again, I know it's actually God speaking, Him giving me words (hopefully, most of the time), and His divine purpose in placing that fire in me. Like the desire to homeschool, I just have to keep doing my best, taking risks, seizing opportunities & moving forward!   

What does this have to do with a homeschool schedule? No idea, getting a little side-tracked, but I think all that other stuff is still worth saying :)

So, here is a photo of several months of my "schedule" for schooling my kids. I have a general routine each day, but it has been in flux the last couple months as my daughter changed from 2 short naps to one kinda short nap (as fun as it sounds, trust me). And I am trying desperately to pray think & will a better rhythm into place! 

Last year, I had no schedule, but with a Kindergarten kid who could read & add a little, I did not think it was necessary. And I still don't think it is. The only thing I had planned, was that 2-3 days a week we spent one of Jovi's naps doing math and/or reading or spelling. And it worked. We made it through all the spelling & reading (only about 80 lessons total) and about 80% of his math. Plus, we did Classical Conversations, and while I did not expect him to memorize everything, we just worked on stuff & learned things alongside it that he was interested in. I felt behind a lot of the time, but I really had no clue how much I was "supposed" to be doing, so it was weird, and not amazing for sure. 

So this year I decided I was going to map out the entire year! And it was fun. I looked at how many weeks we were going to school, how many lessons were in each of my 2 boys' subjects & figured out how many lessons that translated to each week (basic math skills were key in this process). I opted for making it a smaller load each week & schooling well into June, in the hopes that I would not get super far behind & become discouraged. And it has mostly worked. But I find myself getting really worked up when we are 1 lesson behind, or 1 entire day behind. I mean really, to be in mid-February and have my 1st grader reading well, but being being stressed that we've been just 1 reading lesson behind for a couple weeks.... stupid,  right? And to be doing so much explaining to my boys each day, both in school-work and in life, I should expect to be pretty tired & not overly on top of things. 

This is the most challenging part of homeschooling for me. And actually, this is probably the most challenging thing in life for me! Learning to chill out. Every year, one of my New year's resolutions is to relax, chill out, become more laid-back. My husband often says, "I just want to see you relaxed & happy." I'm sure my kids do too! But, it is tremendously difficult to do!!! When you have a lot of responsibilities, and you feel like you are failing others by simply not picking up the living room or cleaning enough dishes, it's hard to just relax & let things be. We put a lot of these weights on ourselves. And while we do have responsibilities, we have to weigh them against the responsibilities we have towards our husband's & children's hearts too. 

Having the opportunity to invest so much into my children's lives is worth the effort of overcoming my laziness, overcoming my selfish ambition, finding ways to cope with fatigue & still be a pleasant person! My schedule has definitely helped me a lot, and if you have more than 1 kid you are  homeschooling, I totally recommend having one - even if it's very loose or vague! Despite all of my all-or-nothingness, I am learning that just a little is still better than nothing. And "not the best" is still better than nothing. When it comes to taking steps of faith, doing scary things & trying something challenging, you just really have to start. Start small, start easy, or go all out & make a crazy plan. Start trying and analyze as you go. Most of all, pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him." 

Be brave, ask for help, try something you said you would never do. Go for it when you feel incapable & you will see God filling in the gaps. It really is amazing. I feel like I have learned a million little & big things about Him and about everything since I started homeschooling. He makes us able. You can test that to your limits! Don't be afraid to find those limits... While it is scary to come to the edge of your ability, it's a thrilling, yet humbling, & fulfilling place to be. It is where you see your child's growth, your flexibility & God's divine power. 

Now I'm just sounding all inspirational & attempting to be motivational. But really, it's worth it. Even if I never turn out to be a famous writer, an amazing genius, or a fabulous entrepreneur, I will never regret the effort put into being the first-hand witness of God opening the hearts & minds of my children. It is a gift I am willing to devote my life to unwrapping. What is stopping you? What is hindering you? Seek out the Lord with those questions. He already knows the answers. And He is willing to help you over those hurdles. And chances are, there are hosts  of other women trying to jump those same hurdles! And many more who have gotten over them! 

Really, all I wanted to do was share my schedule, share my failures & share a little about why I keep pressing on, why I feel like it's worth it. I hope you go away feeling a smidge better, or at least a teensy bit more inspired. If not, I guess I will just try again next week ;) 

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Trivium - My Dumbed Down Version

Today was not one of those amazing homeschool days... well, it was not a particularly amazing any type of day, by any standard actually, from my perspective. Sick kids, less than 4 hrs of sleep, kids knocking over things & making giant messes... I was a wreck before 9am. Anyway, so that is why I am going to write about something totally unrelated! Hahaha! If I think about my day too much, while somewhat unstable, I'm sure whatever I write won't be reading-worthy.

So, the trivium! This is the basis of a Classical Education. Now, I am not going to go into a ton of detail, but I hope my basic rundown will pique your interest & cause you to look into it more.

Trivium means "the 3 roads," and these 3 roads are the pathway to learning. Well, they are actually 3 stages of learning - the grammar, dialectic & rhetoric stages. We'll take a quick look at each one & then I'll give you an example of what this looks like as a child & what these stages look like when learning something new.

Grammar - also known as the poll-parrot stage. This consists of lots of repetition and recitation. Kids are in this stage from about age 4-9 or 10. During this stage, you want to focus on teaching them the basic foundations in all the different subjects. Memorizing math facts, memorizing grammar rules, memorizing basic science laws, learning historical events & gaining a basic grasp on the order of  their events. All of these things are easy for little kids - they love to memorize, and their brains are made to store all this information well!

Dialectic - this stage is full of what's & why's. My kids aren't here yet, but I hear that this can be an incredibly fun & frustrating stage. Children's brains during this stage (ages 11-14-ish) are beginning to connect dots. They are primed for learning how things work & why things work. So, you can expect lots of questions! Now, if your kids have gone through the first stage of the trivium, they are in a great position for this stage - they know all the facts they need to really start to understand all the why's.

Rhetoric - this stage is where they learn how to use the facts, the knowledge of why & how, to effectively persuade others towards the truth. Rhetoric is not "just talk" but it is persuasion aimed towards the truth. And around ages 14-18, especially when armed with years of classical education, teens are in a great position to effectively use all that information, stored effectively, to learn the art of persuasion. They can read great literature and understand the historical contexts, because they memorized & learned about the time those people lived in. They can make great strides in science because they already have the facts stored away in their brains - no need to spend countless nights crying over not undstanding atoms, trying to memorize the table of elements or Newton's laws... the information was stored efficiently & is now easily accessible. This is also a stage where they like to argue, and it's great practice for them! So don't hate on it, let them argue & do your best to keep up ;)

Now, I'm not going to spend time arguing why this is such a great way to learn, possibly the best, but I will give an example to show how this is how we all learn new things best. My example - CrossFit!

When you first start CrossFit, you learn the basics - names of different moves, the general structure of workouts, where a all the equipment you need is stored, etc. As you progress, you start to learn more of the why's. How do I do a snatch? Why do I need to lift heavy weights for only a few reps sometimes & a lighter weight with higher reps at other times? Why do we need to keep our elbows near our sides when we do push-ups? Later, you gain a burning desire to build your own workout that will be effective. You need to have all the earlier information to do that. Do you see it? The trivium is the natual process by which we learn new skills. Try thinking about a new hobby you undertook, or of a new skill you are learning... write out the things you've learned & see if you can find the pattern.

For me, seeing that the way kids learn best is the same way I learn a new skill, is what sealed the deal with teaching my kids using a classical method. This doesn't mean I don't ever tell my 6 year old why something works a certain way, it just means I focus on making sure he is spending his efforts memorizing the facts of life, science, history & math that will serve him so well later in his education.

Well, my brain is about tapped out, so I better wrap this up. I hope this was a simple, easy to grasp synopsis on the trivium. Obviously, I am no professional, but maybe someday I will be! And now you  know just where to start on your journey if you want to become one too.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

How it all started for me...

I really never intended to homeschool. I went to public school growing up, K-12th grade! And I went to good schools. I probably only had a couple lousy teachers, and they weren't bad enough to turn me off of learning... they mostly just left me where I was. I had several wonderful teachers who saw life in me, encouraged me in my strengths, and pushed me past my weaknesses. It's amazing that a good teacher can have such a lasting impact on a little one's life - it makes me so thankful to homeschool, knowing that my child will have someone who really cares about them will be teaching them.

My oldest son is Asher. He's a bit of a tough one, not insanely stubborn, but kind of. He's smarter than he should be - always has been. He is like a mini-adult. Don't get me wrong, he is silly like any young child, and we don't give him adult freedoms or responsibilities, but there's something in the way he talks & reasons that is just different. It's really amazing & inspiring to see. We definitely butt heads often, but so far, I have seen God give me the wisdom to help him through his trials and witnessed God give him the grace to forgive me when I fail. I have to work so hard to just be pleasant after a confrontation, but I'm seeing every day how we both get confrontive when the other person gets confrontive and believe it or not, I'm learning.

When Asher was about 3.5 years old, he had already learned all his letters & could count really well. He started asking what things said, so I thought I would work on teaching him a little bit. I knew a lot of women who were in the midst of homeschooling multiple children, so I asked around for a good beginning to read program. My friend Dar had an old copy of "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy  Lessons." We started at the beginning and the first few lessons were great. Then something happened that was pretty typical. Asher didn't want me to be in charge! Imagine that! I already said he was stubborn... but he really did not want me to know something he didn't already know. Crazy, right? Yeah.

So I started thinking about it & we took a little break. But as he got closer to 4, he just kept asking to read. I kept thinking that I didn't want to fight with him, I didn't want learning to read to become a power struggle, and mostly, I didn want to start him off hating to learn. As my husband & I talked about it, we saw that this was not an issue with learning, ability or desire, but rather, pride. Asher was only 3! He needed to see that mama & papa are in charge. We pretty much gave him an ultimatum: If you want to learn to read, you will do your lessons without talking back and without quitting... Or, if you want to wait & not learn yet, that is fine too.

The struggles were just beginning, but we saw hope. After the first 20 lessons, he seemed to figure out that it was okay for his mom to know more than him. He's very sensitive, so I had to learn how to approach him without making him feel bad for what he didn't know. Once he saw that I was there to help him, not point out his faults, he became much more receptive. Once he saw that there was not another option besides obeying & respecting his mom, he decided to fall in line ;) It really was a wonderful thing to see & it became obvious that he was enjoying the process & the rewards of learning to read.

Asher has since proved to be this way - his pride makes it hard for him to listen to me. I have to be very intentional with being approchable, supportive & not lose my cool when he is being difficult. It's been such a growing process for both of us - not always fun, but definitely worthwhile.

Even after our first reading success, I still did not intend to homeschool. I actually enrolled him into a school just a mile from where we lived. I went to the orientation expecting to feel one of two ways... Either "yeah, this will be great!" or "no way, this just won't work." But I was still incredibly wI shy-washy. I had a good chat with my dear friend who has a son exactly the age between my two boys, and she had found an organization called Classical Conversations. I read up on it a bit, chatted with the director & put it on the back burner for a bit... after all, I was going to be having my 3rd child  within a few weeks!

4 weeks after my daughter was born, there was a mock day for the CC campus I was looking at attending. I showed up, fell in love & went for it. Well, mostly. I still had another wishy-washy couple weeks. I didn't want to homeschool out of fear, so that was the first thing I had to get clear in my heart & mind. My husband was a gereat voice of reason during this time. When I saw how excited he was about it, I had no doubt. It's the best feeling in the world to have your spouse tell you that they think you are capable of giving your children a good education - it might be the best compliment I have ever received!

So here we are, into year two. Lots of ups & downs, now schooling both boys & wrangling my busy daughter, but still committed on this path as far as I can see... Which is not actually that far, but it's my intention for now.  I have made big changes, small changes, accidental changes - schooling is the same yet different everyday. It is boring and exciting, monotonous & chaotic. It's a crazy, wild thing, but also can easily become a giant, tiresome chore. And this is where the goal of this blog lies... I want to help explain the weird extremes that this homeschooling stuff is to those of you seeking help, or advice, or just the companionship gained by knowing others are on the same path.

Please tell me your fears, hopes, dreams, goals & ask me any questions. I do not have all the answers, not even close to half, but I might know someone who does & I am happy to commiserate in the tough times ;) I hope that this is the beginning of something encouraging & inspiring, a place you know you can come & hear things honestly, truthfully. I will do my best not to hide the bad, but expose it to the light, knowing that God shines light in the dark & dispels it into oblivion! I will share my joys, to give you hope, to give you bright spots in your monotonous, wild days. Keep braving the blackboard... it is worth it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


This is new! And exciting :)

Come back in a few weeks & see what is happening. I pray you will be blessed, encouraged, inspired & have ambition to be brave in educating your children!