A Freed Soul

This is the day to begin.  You’ve felt the prodding in your heart. There’s that habit that you just can’t shake…no matter how hard you try.  That secret you’ve never told anyone…but are beginning to wonder if it’s affecting you more than you thought it could.  Those patterns that you learned in childhood as “normal” but are becoming destructive in your life and relationships now.  These things that subtly haunt you, trap you, and weigh you down.  This is the day to acknowledge that they are there…and that you want to dismantle them.

Don’t worry.  You don’t have to completely dismantle them today.  But do decide today to take the steps toward dismantling them.

Every single one of us is impacted by patterns we learned in childhood, wounds we received along life’s journey, and our own propensities to veer away from God’s best for our lives (i.e. sin).   These three things affect us more than we realize.  Unattended to, these are the things that dismantle the very hopes and dreams we have…the very health and wholeness we long for within ourselves, in our relationships, and in our connection with God.  All too often, we just keep functioning within failing frameworks because it’s familiar.  It may not be healthy, it may not be whole, it may not even be remotely hopeful…but we trudge on because it’s familiar. 

But what if we stopped.

We if we said we were done with the familiar flawed functioning?  What if we said we wanted more?  What if we stepped out, took a risk, and pursued wholeness of soul? 

Sure.  It might be entirely destabilizing.  We might even feel like the rug is being pulled out from under us. 

But what if in the end, we found our footing on a ground more solid than anything we had previously known.  What if our whole lives could be different?  What if God could change you? What if you could feel hope?  What if you could feel whole inside yourself?  What if you could pursue health in your relationships, connecting meaningfully with those you love most, dismantling your destructive patterns and replacing them with life-giving ways of relating?  What if Jesus could actually transform you?

These “what if’s” are worth doing the hard work of the soul.  And today is a great day to deicide to engage this work.  Making the conscious decision to deal with your soul is always the first step.  Take it. 

See a therapist, go to counseling, join Celebrate Recovery, attend The Journey Training, schedule a SoZo session, talk to a trusted friend, read a book, tell the truth…tell the truth…tell the truth…say what’s inside that you’re too afraid to admit but desperately need to say if you’re ever going to be whole. 

Surrender yourself to Jesus’ overhaul of you.  Tell Him what’s not working, what’s hurting, what’s broken.  Because He is the only one who can truly and fully heal, change, free, and make whole.  You will never be able to do it on your own.

Believe and embrace that He does give:

Beauty for ashes.
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair*

Believe and live out the truth that:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.**

Do it for your marriage, for your kids, for the Kingdom…do it for yourself. 

Take a step toward wholeness of soul. 

Take the risk. 

It could change the rest of your life. 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (ESV)

* Paraphrase of Isaiah 61:3 found in the song, “He Gives Beauty for Ashes” by Crystal Lewis.
** 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

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Changing How We Homeschool

Something had to change.

The way I was homeschooling was not working.  But I honestly was terrified of doing anything different.  At least initially.  Changing style was complicated for me because I was homeschooled (all. the. way. through.) and I have a degree in education and I’d spent a handful of years as a public school teacher.  I was more than well-acquainted with the good and bad of so many different approaches…and thought I knew the best way for us.  I was so afraid of doing a bad job homeschooling.

This past fall, though, every day was a struggle. While I loved the idea of homeschooling, how homeschooling was going for our family was not awesome.  Initially, it didn’t seem like there was a solution. 

At least not a solution I could see yet. 

But remember how I shared a few months ago that God had shown me that the only way I’d be able to homeschool is by His Spirit?  Well, He has come through again. 

Do you know what needed to change most?  Me.

And I didn’t even know it. 

I thought I was doing a good job.  I was using the best materials.  I had a consistent, manageable schedule.  Val was helping out with the littlest guy at the start of our day.  I was comprehensively assessing quarterly.  And I had even pulled out my lesson plan books from my teaching years to make sure we were right on track with first grade. 

But it wasn’t working.  Almost every single day was stressful.  I was trying to make school happen in my home, and was missing one of the most beautiful benefits of homeschooling: individualizing education for my very own kids.

God broke through my perceptions of how I needed to do homeschool in order to be successful and instead showed me a new approach.  Rather than try to fit my kids into the curriculum and grade-level box I’ve always known, I am taking a “continuum” approach (our own term for what we’re doing this year now).  Rather than try to fit us into the plan, I am making the plan fit us.  I am teaching each of the boys the next thing.  They’re each working at different rates in each subject area.  I am allowing for this.  I am letting down.  I am intentionally focusing on and directly teaching the basics and then enjoying the rest.  I am pursuing their questions and interests, capitalizing on them for teachable moments. 

So what does this new approach look like in real life.  It looks like this stack of books every day.  And it looks like a handful of other titles we incorporate throughout the week. *

It has been a huge leap of faith for me to step back, loosen my plans, remove myself from a grade-level context, and simply flow with what’s next.  It actually terrifies me.  I fear offering my kids less than the best.  But what if the best isn’t a tightly run homeschool reality, but a fluid and rich family life of learning together? 

As I adjusted, let down, and taught the next thing, something completely unexpected happened…

Both boys started to learn the very things I had been so worried about….things that just weren’t clicking all the sudden were coming into place for each of them.  Just like that.  It’s as though in the release, they were free to grow better as learners.  They didn’t need better lessons, they needed space to grow and freedom to find their own pace.

* In case you’re wondering more specifically what we’re actually doing/using now, I’m listing it below:


Calendar: This our brief start to the day and includes a variety of calendar related activities.

Daily Journal: These are little blank books I bought at Target last summer.  All the boys are expected to do in these is draw a picture and write about it.  For now that looks like inventive spelling of a word or phrase.  They can write and draw about anything they want.  Elijah is also expected to include the date on his journal entries.

Handwriting Without Tears followed by practice on personal whiteboards of the letter they were working on that day.  With free time to draw on the whiteboards after handwriting practice. 

Singapore Math

ABeka Phonics

How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lesssons (I do supplement this with little leveled readers {levels A-E} to change up the lessons some as the “100 Lessons” book can be a little dry and/or challenging at times). 

We read extensively before bed every night, which is really where most of our “read-alouds” actually happen.

Every Week/Month:

ARTistic Pursuits by Brenda Ellis (I have fallen in love with this art program.)

Words Their Way for spelling (this may be one of the most significant shifts we’ve made curriculum-wise and it has been so worth it!)

First Language Lessons, Level 1 from the Well-Trained Mind (sometimes we do this)

We take a trip to the library every week (I put about ten - twenty books on hold every week so they’re ready for me when I get there and the boys each have to pick out at least one book of their own to take home each week). 

Pinterest  (no joke, I look up all kinds of activities on pinterest to supplement our curriculum and to really be able to “teach what’s next”) 


The Truth about Homeschooling

Can I be honest about something for a minute?

Sometimes homeschooling is the hardest best thing I’ve ever done.  I love, love, love that I get to homeschool my boys.  I am confident in this moment that this is the best fit for our family for this particular season and stage in life.  So, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

But sometimes homeschooling is so hard.  Fellow homeschoolers, am I right or am I right?!

A couple weeks ago, I had these three magical homeschool days…one morning last week I took a picture of us as we sat outside to do our lessons after the boys had made an early morning donut and WalMart run with Val…all of us so happy and flowing together like syrup over a pancake…or the morning when Solomon started sounding our words for the first time and those very basics of reading were just rolling for him (I took a picture of that, too).  

Then days later I found myself in a succession of childhood meltdowns, difficulty with the material we were working, struggling to keep my cool, and me in tears once everyone was down for naps and quiet time.  In fact, I was mentally considering what my quickest “out” from homeschooling would be.  Val sat with me that day as I cried and expressed all my fears and frustrations, helping me regroup and see the overall picture. 

Days later a full cup of coffee drenched my lesson plan book.  Enough said.

There have been days when I’ve wondered why anyone homeschools ever.  And then there are a lot more days when I’ve thought that homeschooling is one of the best things we’ve ever done for our kids and our family.

Because it is easy to see the happy pictures and shiny posts on social media about the magic of homeschooling, I wanted to reach out and share this post.  A balanced glimpse into the reality of homeschool… the highs and the lows…the moments of magic and the days of despair. 

In fact, it was in one of my most desperate moments toward the end of last school year, that I prayed under my breath something along the lines of: “How can I actually keep doing this?!”  And God’s answer came in the next split-second, “By my Spirit.” 

Homeschooling is truly the best fit for our family in this season of life.  It is an incredible privilege and gift.  And yet, homeschooling requires so much.  So much heart.  So much energy.  Sacrifice.  Time.  Investment.  Organization.  And flexibility.  And so, “By my Spirit,” has become my mantra.

This past summer when I needed to plan our next year, I sat on our school table and asked the Spirit what needed to be set up differently in our schoolroom.  And He brought it to mind.  And that arrangement of the schoolroom has made a huge difference.  When it was time to work on the daily school schedule, He showed me how to lay out the day.  And it has flowed so well (most days).  And when I was recognizing how crazy challenging it was going to be to try to homeschool with a two year old in the mix, my husband (also led by the Spirit) offered to help with our two year old on the days he didn’t have to work at the hospital.  So we get our reading/phonics/spelling block done first thing in the morning while Val and Silas do their own thing.  

Because homeschooling is this hodge-podge of amazing and fun and awesome and challenging and hard and difficult moments, because homeschooling takes sacrifice and vision and investment, because there are days I feel like I am tapped out, because homeschooling is a dynamic, evolving experience within our family, I am grateful for the mantra God placed in my heart, “By my Spirit.”  I honestly wouldn’t make it without that as my homeschooling paradigm. 



Solomon.  You are one of the most amazing humans.  You are giving, kind, tender, emotionally intuitive, funny, fun, handsome, and just so awesome to be around! 

You are about to turn five tomorrow…and I honestly don’t know when that happened.  We’ve had all these amazing years and they run together and now all the sudden you’re five. 

You are learning to read.  That feels so grown up to me.  I sit there with you, asking you to sound out words and I realize how old you actually are…you sitting there reading words.  Not only has your learning to read been this milestone to my heart of how much you are actually growing up, it has also been an overall awesome experience!  You just flow with learning.  It is so fun to experience these early school years with you.

You also just flow with life in general.  You have an old soul and amazing sense of humor.  You feel the rhythm in music.  You are so happy spending your time just playing…with Elijah, with Dad, or all alone.  Your room is your own special place in our house.  In fact, it is so special to you, that you keep it very orderly, making your own bed without being asked and picking up toys as you finish playing.

You watch your shows upside down on the couch and are often doing gymnastics-type moves throughout the house.  You love getting to watch a whole movie in one sitting, especially either of the Cars movies or either of the Planes movies. You love bowling.  And playing with your Imaginext figures.  Elijah is your best friend.  And Dad is your next best friend. 

You really only like a few foods: jerky, desert chips, parmesean cheese, bacon, hamburgers, orange juice, crispy pepperonis, fries, strawberries, and donuts.  You also like treats and popcorn.  Your menu is fairly simple and predictable. 

Uncle Vic and Lexie are some of your really special buddies.  They have a way of seeing you and connecting with your tender heart.  I love that they are special people in your life. 

You have a philanthropic heart.  At the beginning of the school year, I asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, and your answer was “someone who gives people stuff.”  That’s who and what you want to be when you grow up!  You are so generous and aware of others that Dad and I make a point to look out for your heart, too, so that you don’t get missed in all the giving and other-mindedness.

I love that I get to know you…and be in the same family as you…I feel like us getting to be mom and son is a particularly special gift…because you are such a special person. 

I love you!

Happy 5th Birthday!!!