Finding the Joy — What's new

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve had lots on my mind and I’ve sat down to write many times, but the words just don’t come or a baby wakes up or I get completely distracted talking to my husband. I’ve yet to perfect the art of writing during the day when I’m in the midst of schooling, playing and caring for the boys. I just haven’t been able to do it. So for now, it’s a fly by update to let you know how I’ve been “Finding the Joy” lately. (Remember that New Year’s post?)
1. It’s warming up! We’ve been so thankful for some nice days lately to be able to go outside and stretch a bit. It’s been warm enough to even have school outside a few days. As a side note, I completely underestimated how distracting the trash truck might be. The boys got up every 30 seconds to see if they were coming to get our trash.

School outside

2. I’ve learned to Find the Joy with messes. Let’s face it boys (well kids in general) make messes. I’ve had to learn to let go a little and allow them to experience the mess and delight in it.
Craft time


Soap Making with soap berries

3. We’ve been studying Medieval times with the older boys. So I’ve Found the Joy in sword fights, Knights, castles and teaching boys how to be men.
Sword fighting

Scooter jousting

Chocolate castle

4. We discovered food allergies. Okay, so there isn’t much Joy to find in having to rid our entire house of peanut butter (a staple in this house). In fact, it was really really scary. But I am so thankful that we have the ability to pay for the life saving medicine we need in case he has another reaction. I’m also really thankful that his first reaction wasn’t worse.
Scary stuff

5. We’ve had some great times with the cousins and grandparents. We have been finding the Joy in being closer to family.
Caterpillars came!

6. I’m teaching myself to crochet. Seriously, moms often feel like they wash, dry, teach, fold, cook, clean, rinse and repeat It feels like you never get anything done. So, I decided I needed to learn to do something that meets two criteria. First, it must be able to be picked up and put down relatively quickly without having to start over again. Second, it has to stay done. I needed to be able to have a project and have it stay done, like forever (or at least for a while). I really enjoy sewing but I can’t get fabric and a machine out very quickly and I don’t have room to leave it up…so that’s out. And hello! Pins + crawling baby = bad news. So, crochet it is. I’m making of list of “stay done” things I’d like to learn. Next on the list embroidery and guitar.
And now just a few pictures of the last few months. I *hope* to post more often. In fact, in my brain I’m working on a series…called “Feeding the crew”.
He loves to wear Daddy's flannel

Zeb discovered the dishwasher.

Play dough... Please don't eat it!

Don’t forget to Find the Joy!

You can do it!

As the school season gets rolling here I’ve answered a lot of questions about homeschooling. Yes, I school our boys at home, the oldest 4 anyway…Zeb doesn’t know his ABCs yet at 4 months but we’re working on it. (Oh how I wish there was a sarcasm font!)

It seems like lots of people are intrigued by the idea and maybe even toy with it for a time but it often seems as though the conversation ends with the other parent saying one of two things…either she says “I don’t think I could do it, I’m not smart enough!” or “There’s no way I could homeschool…I couldn’t stand my kids for that long!” So here’s what my response is (at least in my head anyway)…
First: We homeschool not to keep the bad influences out or to make our kids academically superior or because we’re afraid of the “real world”. We homeschool because we view it as less about education (although very important) and more about discipleship. We are called to disciple our children at all times and quite frankly when we send them to public school we are allowing someone else to do it. They are often taught values and beliefs that are contrary to our beliefs and the values we believe are important for them to understand before setting off in the “real world” (even in a small school).
Second: I love it. It’s hard absolutely. There are days when I seriously think they might be better off on the big yellow bus going to school because we get frustrated. But the truth is, I know they wouldn’t be. We might have rough days, but the freedom homeschool offers is that we can modify our day, our lesson plans and our teaching methods to meet the needs of each child. Not only that but if all else fails I’ll outsource to dad or someone else who might have a different perspective. Unfortunately, in many public classrooms they just move on because our teachers have a  classroom full of children and can’t individualize the education being delivered. (Not because they don’t want to, but because when teaching 35 other children it’s difficult to stop and make it work for one or two).

So back to my response:
Some day I’m going to flippantly say “Well I can tell that you obviously had someone else teach her to walk/talk/think/eat because look at that execution! I mean there is no way a plain old parent could teach their child to walk with such grace!” Okay not really, but seriously…you’ve taught your child so MANY things in the first few years of life why would you ever think you couldn’t teach him? I mean who better to teach your little one than you? You know how this kid thinks better than anyone. You know that he has a particular affinity for the color blue and that he really likes dinosaurs and has memorized most of their names. So why not use those dinosaurs to teach counting, math, science, spelling or English? When my second son was learning his addition facts we were having a miserable time, and I mean miserable! I would write 3+5 = ? Over and over again, and no matter how many times we “built” it with legos, used fingers, toes or whatever he would struggle to grasp the concept of any addition problem. Finally exasperated I sent him to run outside. He has always been very active and we both needed a break, so I asked him to go run a couple laps around our backyard and off he went singing the whole way around the yard. As he was wrapping it up, I asked him to pick up 3 rocks as quick as he could and put them in a circle I drew on the porch. He dropped three rocks in the circle and I asked him to pick up 5 more and put them in a second circle I drew. As he put them down I said “Now quick! How many rocks do you have?” Without missing a beat he said “8”. So I wrote the numbers above the circles. It was a huge breakthrough for us! I could tailor learning to fit what he needed at that moment. For the record, he no longer has to run laps to add but we used a similar concept to subtraction and multiplication.

I have  a confession to make…I am miserable at English, Grammar to be specific. I kind of hated it in school. A lot. We didn’t diagram sentences until Junior High and I hated every single minute and once you get past the adjective/adverb territory and in to prepositions…I feel totally lost and my guts wrench. This last year we did a program called Shurley English with the boys, it involved diagramming sentences and parts of speech past adjectives. I.Was.Terrified. to teach it to them. I mean, what if I seriously messed up? And I can’t remember squat from when I was in school. So you know what? I learned it all over again with them. I stayed a day ahead with lessons so I was prepared but we did it together. The beauty of the program itself is that it has the little jingles to help remember parts of speech, it has question and answer flows to learn how to diagram  sentences and it makes total sense! Where was this stuff when I was 12?
Some parents think they have to have a Master’s degree in everything to be able to teach their children. First grade teachers are super smart, without a doubt, but few of them have a master’s degree in calculus, literature, history and science. It’s called knowing where to look up the answers and being willing to learn together. So no, I’m not the smartest person around but am I qualified to teach my children? Absolutely! And so are you! And really, when they get old enough for the subjects I know nothing about like say calculus…technology is awesome and they can learn it through a correspondence or online course.

My children do benefit from being accountable to others who may teach them throughout the year, they learn that someone else has expectations too and not just mom. For example, we have a wonderful gal from our church who teaches them art during the week. They have learned that she expects them to sit still and listen too. She gives them instruction and they’re expected to follow those instructions and complete the task. They learn accountability to others. When we lived in Colorado we had a group of homeschool families who got together once or twice a month. The kids might prepare a project to present to the group, write a paper or report to share with someone else. One year I taught a science unit on the human body. I went once a week and taught about a different body system, we did experiments and dissected stuff…it was awesome! I was able to use my in depth knowledge as a nurse and experience to teach the whole group. Another mom put together a music program, while another provided math tutoring. We worked together to give our children the best learning experiences possible. We are still a bit of an oddity here so there aren’t as many homeschooling families, but there are still those experiences out there.

My response to the second statement “I couldn’t stand my kids all day!” is one that gets under my skin more than others. First, they’re your kids! If you can’t stand them then it’s probably a parenting issue. And secondly, if you can’t stand them how do you expect a complete stranger to? I mean really, if your child is so irritating that even you…the one who is supposed to love them unconditionally and all, doesn’t want to be around them…there is more than schooling at issue there and perhaps you should spend some more time around them…training them perhaps and learning to love them.

I do think it’s possible for most parents to homeschool their children. I realize that not every parent feels that conviction (and I don’t expect them to). But don’t NOT homeschool because you don’t think you can, it is possible and YOU CAN DO IT! (Is that grammatically correct? We haven’t made it to that lesson yet…)

Does that count?

One of the great things about homeschooling is that our days don’t always look like “school”. We don’t have to sit at the table and do worksheet after worksheet. We don’t even have to open a book and it still “counts”. There are plenty of days when we do open books, but around here…it’s not our whole focus.
So today, we were a little less “traditional” in our approach. Here are some highlights from today.
* It works better to hang up clothes when you put the hanger through the neck hole rather than the arm hole. It’s also a good idea to put big people clothes on bigger hangers. Daddy’s shirts don’t stay very well on kid hangers.
* It’s cute the first time brother climbs in the laundry basket for a “ride” from the dryer to the living room. It’s not so cute when both little brothers do it.
* It’s moth (miller) season here in Colorado. I worked on hand-eye coordination with the boys by arming each of them with a fly swatter and told em “Have at it fellas”. Then we learned how to vacuum thoroughly and dust the walls.
* You have to watch Titus when he’s swatting moths. He’s a little crazy with his follow through and some times he hits you if you’re not looking.
* We have a lot of stuff. We’re sorting, throwing, packing (no we don’t know where we’re going yet) stuff. We have a system. Too bad sorting “stuff” isn’t as fun as sorting Legos.
* Egg cartons burn for a long time when you start them on fire with a magnifying glass. They make a lot of smoke and kind of stink.
So no, our day didn’t look like school but we learned valuable lessons. Oh, they each did a worksheet in math and read for 45 minutes. I guess that makes it “official”.

What next?

When I tell someone I’ve quit my job, the very next question is “what are you going to do?” Well… I’m going to stay home with our children. But I really think the question they’re asking is “how are you going to pay your bills?”
The truth is we have no idea what lies ahead for our family. We took a step of faith (and obedience) when I turned in my resignation. We felt like God was calling me home full time to disciple and school our children. We trust that God will provide for our family because He is faithful to those who are obedient to Him. We have never been hungry and we have always had a home to sleep in. 1 Timothy 6:8 says “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content”. We have been so blessed that Kerry has always been able to find a job that provides for our needs and that we have both been able to work while homeschooling and have not had to put our boys in childcare. We are looking forward even more to me being able to be home full time. (And can I say when I was younger, I never thought I would want to be a stay at home mom…but that is a whole other post).
So no, we don’t know what lies ahead. We don’t know if we’ll move or if we’ll stay here. Kerry has been called to be in ministry and he would love to be in ministry full time. He is looking for a position that will allow him to be full time answering that call. So if you know of anything…:)
Will we move? Beats me. We are open to moving just about any where, and since I worked as a traveling nurse the idea of a new place is a little exciting. (Although we like it here and are so blessed by a church family that is really FAMILY). Our Kansas family would like us to move that direction, but we really are open to any where. I’ve always wanted to try living in Alaska, but they might disown us if we moved there. Some of our criteria for if we move are that 1. the church be Biblically sound and we are called there 2. I will be able to stay at home and 3. the homeschooling laws/options are doable. We’re not limiting ourselves to certain states or areas (although there are some we’d enjoy more than others).
Saying “I have no idea” sounds so ill advised when people ask the “what next” question. But it isn’t. No we don’t know where we will be, what we will be doing or where we are going. But we do know that we are being obedient and our God is faithful. Both Kerry and I have felt such peace since we’ve made our decision, and because of that peace we know we’re doing exactly what God has called us to do. I may not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future (I think Homer said it). That’s exactly how we feel.

Matthew 6: 25-24 (NASB)

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes thegrass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


I’m also reminded of a song we sing sometimes in church. It’s a Gaither song (not usually my type), but it captures why we’re so peaceful about our “unknown future”.

Because He Lives

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives.
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

And then one day I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.
And then as death gives way to victory,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone!
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives!

~ William and Gloria Gaither ~


5 ways to help boys learn

Let’s face it, boys are different (in most definitely a good way). As a homeschooling mother to 4 boys I had to learn how to teach them differently. They’re rarely content to just sit and do workbook pages all day long. It has been a delightful adventure finding new ways to teach them the same concepts I learned in school sitting at a desk.
1. The number one way to help boys (and children in general) learn is to have realistic expectations. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to sit at a desk all day. I hate sitting through hour long meetings 3 times a month. So it’s unrealistic to expect our children to sit there and be happy about it. If we, as parents, don’t have realistic expectations for our homeschool, we hinder the learning that takes place. Having unrealistic expectations makes our home stressful, we put pressure on our children to meet those expectations and we they don’t, we get cranky. It’s much easier to adjust our plans and be FLEXIBLE than to try to push our agenda.

2. Let them wiggle! Is it really such a big deal if our 7 year old stands up while he does math? Does it really matter if he needs to dance around a little bit while he’s remembering his spelling words? I really don’t think so. Some kids learn better when they can move around. I know I did. I remember being in nursing school and being able to retain information so much better if I could read it or try to learn it standing up. I distinctly remember taping the flow of blood through the heart on the back of my closet door. If I could stand there and shift my weight back and forth I was able to retain it so much better.

3. Show them how to apply it. Very few people enjoy learning stuff they never get to apply. The same goes for our children. It helps solidify the knowledge in their little brains if they can learn about something in our school and then apply it in real life. For our boys, the excitement (yes I said excitement) for math comes when they learn a concept such as subtraction and then see how we use it in real life. Or in Bible when they memorize scripture, but later can apply it to a life situation or circumstance. How awesome that they get to actually USE the knowledge they’re getting. The same goes for the little guys. My 3 year old is delighted when he recognizes a letter we’ve been learning in school on a sign in the store. His eyes light up like it’s the coolest letter Z he’s ever seen!

4. Let them study something they like. While there is a time and place for them to learn the “boring” stuff, sometimes they should be able to learn about something that fascinates them. My 9 year old son just finished reading a book from Vision Forum called “Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction”. It was all about how to build these mini weapons out of household and “junk drawer” stuff. He collected stuff to build them, he built the weapons with dad and then tried them out on Lego guys and stuffed animals. It wasn’t in our curriculum but he learned some great lessons in trajectories, geometry and weights. We did have to set some limits on when he could break out the book, but it served as a great motivator to complete his daily work.

5. Take learning outside.  Even if we’re just “doing math” the boys enjoy learning outside. When Otto was learning to add we took it outside. I would say “Otto! Go get me 3 rocks as fast as you can!” He’d run around the yard and find 3 rocks. Then I’d say “Otto! Go get 5 more rocks.” He’d run and get 5 more rocks. Then I’d ask “How many rocks do you have?” He would say “8” fairly quickly. Then we’d write the math problem in chalk on the sidewalk in front of us. If I would have just written 3+5 on a piece of paper in the house it would have taken 30 minutes some days to get him to do the problem, which resulted in frustration for both of us. We do nature walks when the weather is nice enough to be outside. We have really enjoyed watching our trees start to blossom or the seedlings sprout in the garden. Kids are meant to be outside. There is no reason they can’t be.

Trying to pop popcorn with a magnifying glass.

The most important thing we can do to help our children learn is to have fun with them discovering the world around us. Remembering that we’re not re-creating a public classroom at home, but we are learning at home, together.

F is for Flexibility

This week was a lesson in flexibility while homeschooling. Having the whole week’s worth of lesson plans shot will teach a mom all about flexibility. F is for flexibility for sure!

On Wednesday night our son got sick. By the time my husband brought the other boys home from church he wasn’t feeling well and was sick before we went to bed. In the middle of the night our youngest was also sick with the stomach flu. It was overwhelming to me.
I wasn’t just thinking about the laundry, cleaning and nurturing that needed to take place, but I was also thinking about lesson plans, school and math. I was overwhelmed because I was thinking about all of the stuff I wanted to get done this week. My focus was off.

God has called us to homeschool not so we can plow through workbooks or get hundreds of projects done each year. He’s called us to homeschool so we can disciple our children. I have learned in the last 4 years we’ve been homeschooling to thank God for the flexibility it affords us. But I have also learned to be thankful for the lessons in being flexible He teaches by letting me have weeks like this past one.
It is so easy, especially with my over-achieving self, to get caught up in thinking we won’t get it all done by the end of the week or even by the end of the school year. I have learned though, that it’s okay to say “so what?…we’re homeschooling…we have FLEXIBILITY!” It’s so easy for me to forget about the discipleship part of homeschooling (which should be the biggest part) and focus on the stuff.

If it weren’t for this last week I would have missed out on being humbled by someone else’s grace while she served our family. I would have missed out on spending time with my husband and children snuggling, watching movies and just being a family. Even though we were sick we enjoyed spending time together. It’s not often that we get to just hang  together.
The beauty of homeschooling is that we don’t have to stick to a rigid schedule. We can take days off if we need to when someone is sick or if it snows and we need a snow day to play outside. When Knox was born we were able to take a few weeks off to grieve and heal as a family.
We don’t have to worry about getting behind, because we have time to make it up. Now, I can’t go completely off schedule for days on end, but a day or two here and there doesn’t mess us up too badly. If all else fails, we can just add another week or so on to the end of our school year. (We don’t homeschool year round, but are thinking about it).

I learned a lesson in flexibility this last week. I was reminded that getting our worksheets and projects done shouldn’t be my motivator, discipleship should be. I was able to disciple my children this week, even though we have lessons undone.