1.19.2017

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:

Everyday:

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”) 





10.14.2016

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. 


10.06.2016

Five

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!!! 


9.19.2016

The Gift of an Unraveled Soul

I just completed the second of two weekends at an experiential training that could best be described as an emotional and psychological healing boot camp.  While at the training, I was given the opportunity to basically see my naked soul in a mirror and process all that I saw.  It was intense, raw, unconventional, vulnerable, hard, and incredibly healing.  After just the first weekend, I described to Val that it felt like my soul was unraveling…it felt like a really good and necessary unraveling…all kinds of false paradigms that I’ve lived under throughout my life coming undone...and while good and necessary, it still felt like an unraveling.  And unravelings are never easy. 


I had signed up for this experiential training because I knew someone who had been through it and I had seen her truly change…I had seen her become freer and more confident.  I saw my friend embrace and run with her God-given design in a way that I hadn’t quite seen so fully expressed in her until this point in her life.  I also have this dream of seeing women know their own story and become reconnected to their God-given design, so I signed up for this training just so I could know whether or not I could, in good conscience, recommend it to others as a tool of sorts toward that dream of mine.  I had no idea how God would actually use it to overhaul me. 

The first weekend truly let me see myself in a crystal clear mirror.  My soul.  My emotions.  My patterns.  My false paradigms.  My struggles.  My strengths.  Me.  In a mirror.  The first weekend also gave me some new tools to incorporate into my life as I saw these things about myself.  Over the month in between the two trainings, as I connected with God over these false paradigms, He began to unwind many of them.  Some of these false paradigms I’ve been living under for as long as I can remember, while others had come into play as recent as four years ago.  I began taking them one at a time, praying over the specific one, asking God where it came from, asking Him for His truth over that paradigm, and ultimately asking Him to heal and reset what was false into what is true. 

As I got closer and closer to the second weekend, God begin pulling forward memories that I hadn’t thought of for years.  I knew He wanted me to pay attention, to find themes, to remember where some of my patterns and beliefs began.  So, I did.  I engaged with Him, because this process was way outside my comfort zone and I needed to know that it was Him walking me through every step of the way.  In fact, this training was so outside my comfort zone, so incredibly vulnerable that I considered not going to the second weekend.  But after some encouragement from my friend, and a deep sense inside myself that I needed to see this process through to the end, I went to the second weekend. 

Now on the other side of that second weekend, I feel like I have been given an incredible gift to have been able to go through this training.  God used this training to bring me face to face with some things I desperately needed to let go.  And at the same time, He used it to call me forward and reclaim some of the things I had lost along the way amidst life’s struggles.  In fact, over the course of the last few years due to some deep wounding, I had stopped trusting.  The love and support I felt through this training, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, dismantled that wall. In the rawness of soul, facing myself as I truly am, as I engaged with God throughout the experience, I found myself reconnected with my design and realigned with who God made me to be. There is nothing like being reacquainted with who you truly are, the false paradigms unraveling, your soul reawakened, your whole self reengaged.

I feel like I am a stronger, more peaceful, more present mom…more self aware, more able to find my calm in the chaos than ever before…and more able to really connect with my kids.  I also feel like I’ve got a new tenderness and love for Val now, too.   Honestly, I feel like I’m a revived woman.  Not just going through the motions of life, carrying all my responsibilities, trying so hard to do a good job, but breathing, loving, present, me. 

After experiencing such a profound impact through this training, I wanted to tell you about it!  This training is for anyone, whatever your background…whether it be traumatic or not.  It’s for men, women, young, not as young…anyone.  However, this training isn’t for everyone at this very moment…it would be something you would have to want to do.  I will tell you this: if you come to a place where you want to see yourself honestly and be realigned with who God designed you to be, this experience is precisely what you want.  The training itself is definitely unconventional, yet it is this very characteristic that makes it so effective.  The best way I could describe the training is that it is like a counseling session on steroids in a group setting done through active learning experiences, direct teaching, open sharing, and personal processing.  I will also tell you that it is possible that there could be parts of the training you may not agree on a philosophical or theological level.  As you face those, discern those for what they are without letting them negate the training all together. If you can do that, this experience could be one of the best tools you ever gain in life.

Also, while the training is led by Christians, the training itself is not a faith-focused training per se.  In fact, the training primarily deals with emotional and psychological healing…and it is up to each participant to take it to the spiritual level if he or she so desires.  For me, because I chose to engage the training on a spiritual level, I experienced a powerful and personal spiritual healing connected to my emotional and psychological experience.  I believe that the deepest healing and lasting change will come when you engage your spirit with the Spirit allowing Jesus to do the work of truly changing you.  However, this is still a phenomenal and powerful experience simply at the emotional and psychological levels!

If after reading all this, you feel a longing in your heart for this kind of shift in your own life, I’d encourage you to check out The Journey Training website (click here).  If you decided to go through this training, you would ideally sign up for “Threshold”  and the “Crossroads” that follows it the very next month so that you go through the experience with mostly the same group of people.  If you have any questions or just want to know more, please contact me (click here).  While I’m not personally affiliated with The Journey Training, I’d be happy to answer whatever I can from my own experience! 


If you ever do sign up to go through this training, please let me know (click here), I’d like to be as much of an emotional support through your process as I am able.  

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