Category Archives: Homeschooling

Dear Homeschool Mom Who Isn’t Ready to Go Back to School

Dear Homeschoo Mom Who Isn't Ready to Go Back to SchoolDear homeschool mom who isn’t ready—or can’t bring herself to think about school: In other words, a letter to myself.
 
I’m 187 years old in homeschooling this fall, I think. Maybe not. I’ve lost track. Truth be told, I haven’t thought much about what I’m doing for school this year. There’s a stack of books on my dining room table with a piece of paper on top that says, “TO REVIEW.” I need to place my usual online order for math. Reality?  I don’t even want to look at it.

I did catch the sale at Walmart on spiral notebooks. Got a whole box of those bad boys! Felt like a small victory.

Hey, I know you’re wondering what’s going on with me. I mean, I speak to thousands of homeschoolers every season. It’s my job to pump you guys up—but honestly, I’m a little depleted right now.  You should see the piles of books that I still have to sort through. Normally by this time of year I’m pretty well ahead of the game. Try not to think too much less of me.

Like I said, 187 years. That’s a long time. I’m tired.  I know, I know. “You chose this,” you say. Just like we chose to have a big family. I know, I know.

There was a time when comments like “Well you chose this” would have really hurt. I’m over it now, because I’m too busy being hard on myself. Your criticisms can’t compete with the voices in my head. Believe me.
Our kids are going to be in 1st, 6th, 8th and 10th grade this fall. Somehow, the three we graduated seem to be doing fine. I say it over and over.
Earlier today, the five and eleven year olds were “catching” slugs. You know, for the “habitats” they made out of my two best clear storage containers. They’re not my best containers anymore. They’re full of dirt—and slugs. One has a praying mantis in it. They were feeding it moths and spiders yesterday. Seems they’ve discovered what the word “carnivorous” means in the process.

“Hey, this is unschooling!” I laughed out loud. Fifteen years ago I would not have counted that. That was before I knew the value of letting my kids be bored.

They’ve been bored a lot this summer, because I’ve been writing a book… for a year. Today, I turned in the final manuscript. After I emailed it to my publisher and agent, I went downstairs to see how the kids were faring. Our thirteen year old was making her first ever batch of gluten-free pretzels. They were good—warm and salty and pull-apart soft.  I suggested she hide them—you know—from me. She’s getting really good at this baking thing.

“Maybe I’m not failing,”  I thought. “Looks like someone is figuring out ratios’n stuff.”

My son, now going into his junior year, is finishing up Biology after ditching it for my speaking season. Poor kid. Instead of finishing Biology with his class, he was with our family, lugging books around the country and helping us sell books while taking in cities like Dallas, New York, Chattanooga, Nashville, Orlando, Topeka and Denver.

“This is American History/Geography/Consumer Math/Psychology,” I mused. “I’m pretty sure I’ve read articles about unschoolers getting into Harvard.”

“Maybe I’m overthinking this again,” I thought.

Because in all my years of homeschooling, for every year of changing schedules, curriculum and stress levels, one thing has remained the same: the equipping grace of God. Really, it’s all Him. Even if I don’t start school for two more weeks (and we probably won’t, because sane mom is better than stressed mom) His grace is there.  I don’t have to do papier-mâché globes and salt-maps of the State of Washington by mid-October to find the grace I need.

Maybe, just maybe, God is reminding me that if I’ll do my part—He’ll do His.

So, if this is you tonight (and if it’s not, that’s okay too) I thought maybe, just maybe, you could use the same reminder that the Spirit spoke to my heart tonight.

 
It’s going to be okay.
 
Breathe.
 
You don’t have to start next week. (really!)
 

Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. <3

Pray. Ask God for His specific instructions. His yoke is easy.

Make a {simple} list.

Make a {simple} menu. Cereal can be a meal. You’re welcome.

Remember God’s faithfulness. God will finish what He has started.

Enjoy the kids. Enjoy them. Take walks. Take field trips.

You don’t have to be ready right now. You just have to be listening.
xoxo
heidi

Planning a Family Road Trip? 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Hit the Road

10 Things You Need to Know When Planning a Family Road Trip

In 2009, our family took our first cross-country road trip. Since then, we have logged almost 70,000 miles together as a family, criss-crossing the United States many times.

For our first trip, we purchased a class “C” RV that our daughter found on Craigslist. It was built in 1987 (a good year, since that’s around the time we graduated from high school, right?) and had a low odometer reading of about 30,000 miles. At 27 feet long, it wasn’t too long. The reason we bought this one was two-fold:

  1. It had two sets of bunkbeds in the back instead of a master bedroom.
  2. It slept up to ten… not comfortably, but it could be done.
10 Things You Need to Know Before You Roadtrip

2009 – Green Roadtrippers

I could write for months about the RV, and indeed, I might—but I have met so many parents who want to roadtrip with their kids that I think for this post, I’ll cut to the chase and give you some practical tips. If you’re homeschooling, a word of caution for those of you who think you’re going to be “roadschooling” and that it will look even remotely like regular school.

It won’t.

Also, my husband did not appreciate our lack of privacy—but that’s another post for another day.

As I write this, we are on our way home from a long four months of travel. As an author and speaker, we depend on this time of year, as it’s the “busy season” for conferences. Our travel is what supports our family in many ways—but we didn’t start out that way. We started out with a desire to reach out and touch other families… and along the way, we discovered a new way to live.

Traveling together is not easy, but oh, it’s worth it. It’s family-strengthening, maddening, memory-making magic. You won’t regret it hitting the road with your family—but there are a few things that I’ve learned the hard way that just might make it a little more magical and a little less maddening. You’re welcome. :)

Happy roadtripping!

  1. Homeschooling? Leave your “regular” school books at home. Really.
    When we did our first trip in 2009, every child had a bin of school work. It was perfect. And that, my friends, was a problem. After two months, I put all their school stuff, with the exception of books to read for enjoyment, into a box and I shipped them home. The emotional temperature in our RV returned to normal the very same day.Instead of your normal routine, consider offering these kinds of books to the kids when you’re on the road:

    National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas
    National Geographic Kids United States Atlas
    Mad Libs on the Road

    10 Things Parents Need to Know Before Going on a Roadtrip

  2. Whenever possible, stop and see interesting things. Visit national parks. Visit local aquariums and museums. Learn the history of the places you’re visiting. Go to the ocean. Instead of spending our limited funds on places like Disneyland, we opted for places like “The Hermitage” in Tennessee, “Fantastic Caverns” in Springfield, Missouri, “Monticello” and George Washington’s home, “Mount Vernon.” Our children have seen the Magna Carta, walked the battlefields of Gettysburg and touched the Liberty Bell.*side rant* My husband and I fear for a generation of children who don’t know the history of the United States or the path to freedom that was so hard-won. It’s not enough for us to expect our kids will learn all they need to know about our history from textbooks. Nothing can take the place of actually being there.Make some *real* memories instead of asking the kids to write about what they’re “learning” on the trip. Trust me on this one. They’re learning.
    RV_trynewthings

    First time seeing the Gulf of Mexico (2009)

     

    Rare weekend off the road Tennessee Aquarium (2016)

    Rare weekend off the road Tennessee Aquarium (2016)

     

  3. You don’t need to think of everything when you’re packing. Forget your allergy meds? Need vitamins? Forget underwear? Leave a kid behind? (just kidding not really) Here’s the thing: in most cases, you can always get what you left at a store along the way. Stop freaking out. You will forget something, so expect it.  Wal-Mart is your friend. And speaking of when you pack…
    Free laundry facilities at a state park near New Orleans for the WIN!

    Free laundry facilities at a state park near New Orleans for the WIN! (2009)

     

  4. Less is more. I took everything and the kitchen sink with me on our first trip—because I didn’t know that it was more realistic to think of myself as the “motorhome mama” that I inevitably turned into whenever I didn’t feel like using all those “necessary” items. I mean to tell you, that Pampered Chef microwave cooker (which I paid top-dollar for) taunted me from it’s place in the cupboard every time we ate at Taco Bell or cracked open a skillet meal from Costco. In 15,000 miles, I used it twice. Two years later, when we swapped our class “C” for a class “A,” I brought three things I knew I would use: an electric griddle, a single serve coffee maker (saved us a million bucks in Starbucks) and my crockpot.
    Take what you will use with ease! (2011)

    Take what you will use with ease! (2011)

     

  5. Protein > Carbs. When you’re on the road for hours at a time, avoid snacks that are rich in carbs. Carbs make kids wiggly and wiggly kids do not last long on the road. We stock our car cooler with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, jerky, nuts, and veggies when we can. And just in case you think I’m no fun at all, we do indulge in bite-sized candy bars and local sweets. But trust me. If you can keep simple sugars and carbs low, your kids will last longer … and so will you! Check out this travel snack pack!
    Maps like this are must-haves... if you have the window space!

    Maps like this are must-haves… if you have the window space!

     

  6. Hit the road early—and get off around dinner time. We’ve done it all: traveled through the night, traveled until we were all just dead on our feet. But when we started being disciplined about getting up early and getting off the road around dinner, something wonderful happened: we started enjoying the road much more!  If you think about it, it’s common sense, which makes me wonder why it took me nearly 15,000 miles to figure it out.
    This was our second RV. As you can see, we made the most of the space we had!

    This was our second RV. As you can see, we made the most of the space we had!

     

  7. Hoteling it? Use price-cutting apps. I don’t have time here to explain all the differences but I have found that I can stay sometimes up to 70% off using these apps. Of course, it doesn’t always work; if you’re in Yellowstone during peak season, you’ll be hard-pressed to find great deals. Favorites? Priceline and Hotwire. Our rule-of-thumb is that we like to be under $65 per night, and that the  hotel must have breakfast. Many of the hotels serve dinner and breakfast, making a higher cost worth it, especially if you’re traveling with a crew like we have done.Come to think of it, I’m going to write a post about my favorite apps for traveling. I have several that we can’t live without. This trip, we started using Air B&B … and I think we’ll never go back to just hotels again. That’s a blog post for another day.
    Always look for hotels that offer free, full breakfast. Read reviews online before you book a room!

    Always look for hotels that offer free, full breakfast. Read reviews online before you book a room! (2011)

     

  8. RV’ers: if you’re trying to save money, most WalMarts still allow RV’s to stay overnight for free. It’s great! Some of them even have hookups, but those are few and far-between.
    Make new friends! Here's Jay, getting to know the manager of an RV park in Alabama.

    Make new friends! Here’s Jay, getting to know the manager of an RV park in Alabama. (2010)

     

  9. Never take your safety for-granted. I hate to have to put this in here, but we’ve learned the hard way that the road is not always friendly to travelers. We were robbed blind in New Orleans on Father’s Day in 2009—a memory that will stay with us forever. In just twenty minutes, a group broke into our RV and stole almost everything we owned. Nothing was spared. Now, we travel with our eyes peeled, and we never leave things like laptop computers in vehicles. We put them in backpacks and keep them with us.Know gun laws in each state if you conceal carry. Stay safe out there!
    At the White House

    At the White House in 2009

     

  10. Carry a paper atlas with you. Phones can die. GPS systems can fail. Ask me how I know. You need to be able to navigate your way around the “old-fashioned” way. Use them, yes. But never rely on your electronic devices to get you where you’re going.

 

It’s been eight years since we became hard-core, homeschooling road-trippers. This year, we have traveled over 17,000 miles in our Honda Odyssey, which has pulled a small cargo trailer triumphantly from sea to shining sea. If it seems overwhelming, it is. But it’s worth it.

I have a few days left of sitting in this car … and I’ll try to put together some more tips along the way.

Happy trails!

Vinyl Travel Map

Cook ‘Carry Crock Pot

When You Think You’re Failing as a Mother

Encouragement for Moms

It had been one of those mornings.

You know the kind. The kind of the morning when the attitudes and behavior displayed by your children drive you to despair that they will ever become productive, law abiding citizens.

Yeah, that kind.

There was complaining – about everything.

There was selfishness – lots of selfishness.

There were rude comments.

Oh, and did I mention complaining?

All of these things were made exponentially worse by the fact that all 6 of my kids were in the mix. 

As we loaded the car later that morning and headed to my co-op teacher training at a local park, it was hard to muster a smile to cover the insecurity and doubt that I felt about my skills as a mother, a homeschooler and co-op teacher.

It was a beautiful day and the kids eagerly scrambled out of the car onto the playground.

I watched nervously as the other co-op teachers rambled in one by one, parking their cars and unloading their broods.

I wonder if the 8-year old will get mad and push his brother?  How long until the 5-year old begins whining?  Will my awkward tween daughter engage with the other girls her age or will she hang out on her own being – well, awkward?

One teacher’s daughter walked past noticing a mom-of-many littles struggling and offered her assistance.

I observed with gratitude another teacher’s son being kind to my difficult 8-year old. 

Some of the teachers’ older boys started a game of soccer with the younger boys.

Although I was blessed by the other teachers’ well-behaved children at the park, I also began comparing their behavior to my kids’ behavior earlier in the day and couldn’t help but feel even more discouraged.

Our tutor meeting began with light chat and laughter.  How I cherished these women!  Each talented and beautiful in their own way, we talked about how school was going and how we were looking forward to Spring right around the corner. 

We poured over our lessons for the next quarter, marking notes and sharing teaching tips gained by our years of teaching.

As we wrapped things up, one teacher’s son came over to lodge a complaint (the first one of the afternoon) against a sister who was insisting on having her own way.

Another teacher commented how her kids (the helpful one earlier in my tale) had been having issues with stubbornness.  One by one we began to share bits of our struggles with our own kids. 

One child had been on kitchen duty for 4 weeks as he stubbornly refused to do the job consistently without complaining.  I could relate to that – but 4 weeks!  That was pretty bad, yes?

I scanned the horizon, as moms at parks are prone to do, counting heads, making sure all my babes were accounted for.  I noticed my often stubborn son playing peacefully under the slides with another boy. 

My 5-year old leaned into my side, content to play with his toys quietly on the blanket.

My tween was laughing and kicking a soccer ball with the other tweens with apparent ease.  (What she may have been feeling inside is another issue!)

As we packed up to leave and the kids shouted their farewells, I smiled. 

My kids aren’t’ perfect – far from it.  But they are precious works in process – just like me.

Dear mama, if you’re fretting about your kids’ behavior, I want to encourage you that we all are!


 5 Verses of Encouragement for Moms

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-4

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Never lose heart that the consistent, daily reminders and even consequences and teaching that we give our kids will result in young people who help, who are kind, who are patient. 

 

Printable Autumn Activity Pages

Autumn Activity Pages The Busy Mom (1)

I love a good season-themed activity pack to give my two youngest. This month I created this cute printable pack that my almost-four-year-old and six-year-old can both enjoy!

In the pack you will find the following fun activities:

  • Trace the line
  • Memory Game
  • Do the Math!
  • Number Practice (1-20)
  • Letter Practice (Upper-case and Lower-case)
  • Do-A-Dot Fun
  • Size Sorting
  • Coloring Sheets

What you will need to have on hand:

  • Crayons or Markers
  • Do-A-Dot Markers
  • Cardstock (if you prefer to print for durability)
  • A Printer
  • Paper

To download the Autumn Activity Pages click HERE.

Autumn Activity Pages The Busy Mom (2)

A Few Tips to Homeschooling a Wide Age Range

A Few Tips to Homeschooling a Wide Age Range 2

One of the biggest challenges I find with homeschooling is scheduling it all in. Even if we don’t have a super set and outlined schedule, it’s still one of the biggest stressors when it comes to the homeschool year. I want to make sure I fit in everything, but I also want to make sure I’m not overwhelming anyone. I tend to let my kids lead in that realm of things, as far as how much they can do. I set the guide because we do need to cover certain things each year, but beyond that – it’s up to their ability and desire.

We usually end up doing much more than I had planned because my kids are eager learners and love to read. Often times at the beginning of the year I’m shocked at how much we have planned for the year. I believe that our relaxed approach to our schedule is a huge contributing factor to them having such a love of learning.

The next challenge is the wide age range of my children. My eldest is in 8th grade, then the next of my kiddos is in 1st, followed by my little one who is 3. I guess the three-year-old would be considered preschool or toddler school level.

As you can see, we have a pretty big age range. You might have more kids which might mean you have several kids in multiple different grades, more than I do.

So, how do we face head on homeschooling a wide age/grade range?

First things first

See if there is anything you can teach all of the kids together. For instance, if your 8th grader is studying American History, why not have your younger children study American history too? They don’t have to do it at the same intensity or depth as the older one, but they can still do it. Many curriculum options out there offer this flexibility to tailor their curriculum for older and younger students to use at the same time. But if they don’t have that option, you can easily relay the information to your younger one in a manner that they understand.

Next, keep your schedule super simple.

For us, this is essential. And as more of my kids are heading into school age, it’s been a huge life saver for us.

I have a rather untraditional schedule with my kids. It works for us and it helps me teach each of them according to their needs without feeling like I’m overwhelmed, overwhelming them, or missing anything.

My approach: I don’t teach every subject every day! That’s right. We have designated days for our more meaty subjects. This allows us to focus on one topic at a time and allows me to spread myself amongst my kiddos to give them the best attention I can.

So, how does this look you’re wondering?

Let’s say we do Math on Monday, History on Tuesday, Science on Wednesday, Language Arts on Thursday, and Foreign Language on Friday. That’s just a sample of what it could look like. Many wonder – but what about constant practice? What if they forget skills from one week to another until that subject day arrives?

Here’s how we prevent that:

Using the example above, Math would be taught on Monday. We would work through the lessons and then practice with our worksheets. I would work with the older student first and work my way down through the younger ones.

Then Tuesday comes along and we’re on to History, but before we start History we do another Math worksheet. Our math program offers 5 worksheets for each lesson so it happens to work well with our schedule. If that weren’t the case, I would simply create or find worksheets based on Monday’s lesson.

This way, they are refreshing and practicing their newly learned concepts all week, but just with a simple worksheet which takes maybe 5 or 10 minutes. They’ve taken the core of the lesson on Monday – leaving the rest of the week for practice.

Back to Tuesday, when we’re on History. After we do our Math worksheet we do our History lesson and discuss it. We do some map work and really dive in to any discussion questions that we may have. But we don’t just forget about it until next week. On Thursday we would have a brief discussion with my youngest about what we learned on Tuesday and I’ll have my big kiddo write down a paragraph or two. Catering to their capabilities.

This keeps things fresh in their heads, allows for time for it to really soak in for a day or so, and allows for me to see how much they have retained. It’s a super chill approach to learning that we have grown to love.

If this schedule just does not appeal to you, I have another suggestion. We’ve tried this method before and although we liked it, we went back to our one-subject-a-day method.

Work with your older kids first. They are more likely to have work that they do more independently than your younger ones, but may need you to either teach the lesson or at least assign them the lesson for the day should they be working on it independently. When my eldest hit 6th or 7th grade, she did a lot of her work independently and I would just grade her work and discuss it with her after.

Once you’ve finished with your hands-on lesson teaching with your older kiddos, move on to your younger ones. You’ll have the peace of mind that your older kiddos are working on their school work, which allows you time and focus to teach the younger ones.

Encourage independence as soon as they show readiness.

As I mentioned above, my eldest started doing a lot of her work indecently once she hit 6th grade, for sure by 7th grade. How did I know she was ready? It just got to a point where I realized she was ready to take a stronger hold of the reigns and work at her pace. She works much faster this way too. I think my schedule was holding her back a bit.

Total side note: This is something I just adore about homeschooling, my kids can begin to work at a pace that suits their learning needs and style so much sooner than they could in what’s referred to as a traditional school setting. But with homeschooling booming, I think traditional is changing.

Takeaways

Don’t try and teach each of them different subjects at the same time. If your kids are working on two different subjects at the same time, it should be independently. Stretching yourself into different subject directions AND grade directions will cause you to burn out.

Plan your schedule realistically. Don’t try and do every single thing every single day with each kid. It’s just not realistic. I like to think of it this way: in college, do you do every subject every day? Nope! So there is no harm in not doing every subject every day now either.

Work with the older kids first, then work with the younger ones. While you’re working with the older ones have the younger ones work on something like handwriting or maybe give something for them to color. I have a few connect the dots booklets for my younger kiddo. This keeps her busy while I teach her big sister, and helps her practice her numbers!

And finally, encourage your kids to begin working independently as soon as they show readiness. This is beneficial to them and their development. Taking ownership of their work is exciting and encouraging for them!

A Few Tips to Homeschooling a Wide Age Range

Homeschooling Mom, Are You Ready to Run into the Roar?

 

TBM Homeschooling Mom Are You Ready to Run into the Roar

Have you heard of Martin Rooney? If not, let me introduce you to him! He’s the founder of Training for Warriors. According to the Training for Warriors website, TFW is “a fitness program that was originally created for some of the best athletes in the world.” Over the last 15 years, it’s been recognized that the TFW training methods can be great for anyone who wants to lose fat, build muscle, and feel good.” (If you’re interested in reading more about TFW, you can do that on their website.)

Besides creating TFW, Martin Rooney is an amazing motivational speaker! When I listen to him give a presentation, it makes me want to work hard and reach my goals! One of the motivational stories he tells is about running “Into the Roar.” Here’s what it means (as summarized by me):

Female lions are the main hunters. When they are hunting gazelles, they run after them and cause them to form into a group or a herd. Then they run them in the direction of the male lions—whose only job is to roar loudly to cause the gazelles to run back toward the female lions who are waiting to kill them! The moral is that the gazelles who actually live are the ones who run “into the roar.” They are the ones who, though the male lions sound scary, choose to be brave and run toward them and, therefore, away from the real danger.

Martin Rooney’s point is that we often have to run “into the roar” in our own lives. It may be easier and more comfortable to run away from the things that are hard for us, but if we choose instead to run into the roar, we will live and thrive! We will reach our goals. We will get in better shape, learn more, eat healthier, better teach and train our children, or reach whatever other goals we’ve set for ourselves.

It may seem scary to run into the roar. It won’t be something we’re comfortable doing. It won’t be something we necessarily want to do. But if we do it, we’ll be glad we did in the end!

Are there areas in your life where you need to run into the roar? Is there a goal you’ve been wanting to reach but just haven’t quite had the courage to go for it yet? Don’t wait for the new year or for more time or more money or whatever else it is that you’ve been waiting for! Instead, run into the roar right now and make the first step toward reaching your goal!

In my case, my goals for this school year are:

  1. to get my 8th grader doing her school work independently
  2. to make sure my son—a senior this year—finishes well and is prepared for college or work
  3. to do better about making sure dinner is ready every evening so we don’t have to eat out and aren’t tempted to eat junk food
  4. to get in better shape

I have plenty of reasons (excuses?!) why I haven’t reached these goals sooner, but I decided to run into the roar and work toward these goals anyway. Instead of telling myself all of the reasons why I can’t do these things, I decided to look for reasons and ways that I can.

Just about 5 months ago, I made the decision to run into the roar and reach these goals, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made progress in all of the areas I listed. I can’t say that I’ve reached my goals yet, but I’m definitely on my way.

There have been times that I’ve felt discouraged or taken a step backward toward the “danger” of settling for less than what’s best. There have been a few times that I’ve wondered if all of the work involved in reaching these goals is really worth it. There have been times that I’ve thought about quitting because of the work it requires to reach my goals. But then I’ve reminded myself that running into the roar is what’s best for my family and for me. It’s what will help my reach my goals and set a good example for my family to follow. It’s what will make me feel better and be more successful. And it’s what I’m going to do.

Running into the roar isn’t the easy way, but it’s the best way! It’s the way that will cause you to finish well.

What about you? Are there goals you’ve been putting off because you just don’t think you can reach them? Are you ready to run into the roar? If you’re ready to go for it, please leave a comment here so we can pray for you!

TBM Signature Small

Click here to see Martin Rooney’s explanation of running “Into the Roar.”

When Your Homeschool Year Starts Off Crazy

When Your Homeschool Year Starts Out Crazy

We started our homeschool year last week.  It went great.

For one day.

Then the crazies came to visit.  Interruptions.  Crisis.  Family stuff.  Business stuff.

Something inside me knew it was coming.  Every year it seems that something stops me from getting off to that great start that I’d dreamt of during those long uninterrupted periods of planning over the summer.

And then it happens – friends begin sharing their awesome back-to-homeschool photos and experiences on my beloved Facebook page.  This is when it starts to get ugly inside my head.

Why, after 20 years of homeschooling can’t I figure this out?  I encourage moms all summer long as a speaker at homeschool conventions!  Shame on me!  Guilt. Condemnation.  Discouragement.  I told you it was ugly.

One thing this long haul of homeschooling has taught me  is that my God is faithful.  I may be discouraged but I do not despair.  2 Corinthians 4:8  “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing.”

I head to the bathroom – many a busy mom’s prayer closet – and pour out my heart to God.  He is the only one to go to.  Only He knows why.  There is no logical reason for my failure.  I know how to plan and organize a homeschool.  Only He has the answers for my aching heart.

As usual – I felt the Lord’s peace and presence.  There is no shame or condemnation here.

I have peace, yet there is this part of me that hurts. That is when God reminds me that the pain I’m feeling is the idol I insist on making out of my kids’ education being torn down.  God wants His best for me and my kids and that’s not going to happen if I insist on getting in the way.

Coming from a long line of highly educated people, God knew my propensity for making academics an idol.  He has blessed me with 7 kids with dyslexia to make sure that never happens.

But I still try.

I still want to teach every thing.  Teach it well.  Finish every page.  Have my kids get A’s on all the tests.

And I still want my first week of school to go well.  Is that too much to ask?

God is telling me that my homeschool is for His glory not for mine.

Honestly, looking back over my 20 years of homeschooling, I see so clearly that God has removed my signature from the lives of my kids.  Sure I’ve loved them and fed them and done my best to faithfully shepherd them alongside my husband, but their successes are nothing about me – nothing but evidence of God’s amazing grace.

Every year I try to pick up the reigns again and make homeschooling and parenting about me – about what I can give and do and create out of these kids.

But, however much I want to be in control:

It is God that knitted them together in my womb. (Psalm 149)

God who has created them with purpose – since before the foundation of the world.  (2 Timothy 1:8-9)

It is God that causes them to will and to work for His purposes. (Philippians 2:13)

Freshly humbled, I am able, once again, to let go of my grip and let my ideals, my plans and my purposes go.

It’s a little scary and exciting all at once.  Shouldn’t that be how it is when we walk with the living God?

If you are struggling with the back to school crazies, may I encourage you with the encouragement that I myself have received?

The baby is the lesson.  Most of my homeschooling days have been filled with babies and toddlers in arms and under foot.  Even though my youngest is now five and a very enjoyable, mostly rational young fellow – I have grandkids!  When the babies and toddlers are distracting you from your plans, remember that the baby is the lesson.  Relax and enjoy them and show your older kids (who could otherwise be doing Math or English) that babies are a treasure.  Show them how to love and enjoy that noisy, messy toddler.  Mercy, kindness, compassion, service – that is the lesson for the day.

God is your Headmaster.  We can plan and research all summer long but remember what the God has to say about the plans of man.  “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

It’s not about you.  I know this is uncomfortable.  Believe me.  I know!  Our homeschools are not for our glory.  Look how quickly we finished our studies.  Look at how well my kids did at the spelling bee.  Look at all the great hands on projects we’ve completed.  Although there is nothing wrong with these things, they are not why we homeschool.  We homeschool to raise kids to love and serve God and each other.  Academic pursuits must be second to spiritual tasks.

God is faithful, Mama.  If life is looking a little crazy today, step back and seek the One who has numbered your days.  There is rest in knowing that He is perfectly aware of how much English you finished today and you are right where He wants you.  And when others see your homeschool, though they don’t see a Pinterest perfect mama, they will see a family that is being perfected by what God is doing in their lives.

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