August: How I Roped Myself In #31Days

Today I’m linking up with Emily from Chatting at the Sky and Leigh Kramer for their August posts: What I’ve Learned and What I’m Into.

What I’ve learned:

1. I am capable of so much more when fear is removed.

I roped myself into the idea of doing a #Back2School in #31Days series during the whole month of August by saying to myself:

You’ll only have to write 400+ words, you can count a day by just posting to Facebook, and you don’t have to have a picture in every post. Just mark every day in some way. Make a difference in small steps – and don’t despise the smallness.

Oh how the series outgrew this standard. It has taught me to count my days, and make my time count.

B2S Day 31 August Recap 1

I can’t believe how much I’ve grown as a writer because of this series, not to mention the fact that I have faced down the startling challenge of setting up a room that started like this (these were the before pictures included in Day 3).

I had the special challenge of continuing to settle into our new home – we moved in July – so setting up a space for all the home education supplies to live isn’t something I have to do every year (actually, I almost have had to do this every year, 3 moves in 5 years – but I think I’m done now).

2. I was encouraged to discover my unfair advantage. Anne from the Modern Mrs. Darcy shared hers and then gave clues as to how to find your own.

Mine is memory.

I remember things. I don’t try to remember everything, and I admit when I don’t remember something (that used to be an area of stubbornness – being really good at something tends to bristle me when I’m found lacking in it).

I’m trying to be more reflective about what I remember too. Not just rushing past and getting on to the next thing, but savoring. Slowing. Steading. I am who I am right now, and my memories are my treasures – some have eternal meaning. These mean more to me than whether I have a leaky shower to fix or a load of laundry to wash.

I don’t know what my unfair advantage is supposed to be useful for in its entirety just yet, but for now I’m studying it – I’m thankful for it.

In balancing writer and mother - mother comes first (crazy hair optional).

In balancing writer and mother – mother comes first (crazy hair optional).

3. Celebrating Tuesdays. I’m reading Simply Tuesday, and it feels like the perfect mental summary to the lessons simplifying externally have taught me. Sure the external stuff needs to be decluttered, organized, removed, addressed, etc. But what about the thoughts, people, places, and memories all jumbled up in my soul? Where do these pieces fit? Am I allowed to sit and simplify my heart?

Yes.

I loved listening to the Intro and 1st Chapter of the book so much that I went out the same day a bought it. Which leads me to #4.

4. I am an audible learner. Every session I’ve listened to by Dr. Kathy Koch, every sermon by Pastor Mark, every podcast, and every audiobook I’ve engaged with feels more permanent in my memory. I’m not sure if it’s also because I like to listen to these over and over, or if it is because I sincerely love hearing voice, tone, and inflection to gain a greater understanding of the author’s intent – either way, listening enriches and teaches me. This is also the reason why online courses that include audio files or videos feel so valuable to me.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to:

(For a list of audiobooks we listened to last month click here.)

If you’ve never tried audiobooks, or you don’t think listening to podcasts is a habit you want to start – I’m not trying to change your mind!

But if you’re feeling stuck, if your thoughts are more discouraging than encouraging, or you just don’t have the leisure to read as much as you’d like – then let me encourage you to start by picking one thing to listen to. Pick a household chore that you find yourself doing the most (for me, it’s dishes and meal prep) and couple that chore with listening to something you’ll benefit from. Prop your phone or tablet on a surface that is safe or crank the volume on your computer and enjoy. Or during quiet time for your kids, pop in your ear buds and fill your mind with helpful and encouraging thoughts to strengthen your heart and mind.

What I’m into:

I think it’s safe to say, I’m still into audiobooks.

So moving on.

Blogs

I’ve been really into my blog this month, and I know that sounds weird. I’m not saying I’m idolizing it or praising it – I’ve just spent a lot of time with it and in it. The time taken to write and share here has grown me – and for that I’m thankful.

The most popular posts from this past month were:

I’m still into my Bullet Journal. I thought I was going to cave and buy a The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, but I realized that I just wanted the thoughtfulness of the yearly planning portion and I didn’t think I would truly use the daily planning (making it another wasted planner on the shelf). So, I studied the sample pages (thank you Amazon for the “Look Inside” feature – helps me every time).

I did, however, cave and bought this planner. I knew it was time to separate the blogging part of my life and begin taking more practical steps to build this blog even more. It’s exciting.

Other blogs I’ve visited most this month:

Books

I bought Teaching from Rest (still waiting on this to arrive!) and A Million Little Ways (Kindle special! $1.99 I’d rather have paperback, but I’m just happy to have it. I’ve borrowed it from the library 3 times – never to finish it – and hold requests sometimes take forever to fulfill).

These two books represent two wonderful sources of inspiration for me. I’m often and most deeply mentored through books written by women just a little ways ahead of me in the story of their lives. I love pouring over their words, thoughts, and lessons.

B2S Day 31 August Recap 4

I also asked on Facebook for a fiction recommendation – see the post here – and the response was amazing! I’m still looking through all the titles and making the list (requested by some of the commenters). This simple question created a community! To my surprise and delight, friends started chiming in that we should start a book club – both online and in person. And given my love for connection, books, and organization I said yes – with a catch: I can’t meet every month. New and exciting things can quickly trump boring but important things – knowing this, I quickly limited myself and the amount of time and effort I’ll allow to this gift-group.

Being: there & here

This might be a “What I’m Learning” and “What I’m Into” overlap – but I’m gradually seeing myself fill the role of encourager in practical ways for some close people in my life. And while I take accountability seriously (I’m still learning to see it in a positive light and not as punishment), I am learning that I love to be the person that supports and strengthens others in their pursuits. Cheerleading was never something I sought out – and my personality is much to sober to embrace shouting and jumping – but in the softer more personal way, I’m gifted in this.

I’m learning to offer it to others freely – without criticism or expectation.

What’s interesting to me is that as I see people come to me from outside my family for help in little things, I’m seeing myself understand my role of encourager and supporter within my family.

B2S Day 31 August Recap 3

I’m learning to balance being there for them and being here for us.

It’s much less glamorous to be an accountability partner to the members of your own family – and it involves a lot more commitment, love, grace, and forgiveness. It also demands honesty and exposure of my own shortness, smallness, and weakness. This is where the real work is done – but where the richest rewards are won.

I’m so into my home and my people. I’m looking so much more forward to September than I ever have before because of August – counting each day and making it count, growing in baby steps and imperfect progress, and accepting the less, the lack, and the small for how they ground me.

This is the LAST POST – Day 31 – in the #Back2School in #31Days series, to see the list of topics covered click here for the index.

Be sure to get access to this FREE Audio eCourse:

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 29: 5 Tips for Being a Healthy (Happy) Home School Mom #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 29 5 tips healthy happy home school mom

I believe the pressure to gather, buy, and prepare for the Back to School season is heavier than Christmas for the home school mom.

It isn’t just a measure of love or thoughtfulness. The child’s growth, development, and entire education rests upon the resources that we can (or can’t) supply for them.

Add to that the weight of the housekeeping, child keeping, and schedule keeping – and by the first week of school, I feel chained to an endless list of places, people, and tasks. I completely lose myself to the rush of being everything for everyone. (I identified my problem with saying yes too much yesterday.)

Somewhere in October, I usually come up for air. Wanting and able to actually see and tend to my own needs as an individual. As I have observed myself for the past number of years, I have found that I always put my needs last. My need for further education, adult conversation, a good book, alone time, healthy food, and a number of other little things get passed over for the sake of being efficient, committed, and involved in the lives of everyone around me.

I believe that the best resource I can offer my children is myself – healthy, happy, and equipped only with what is necessary to accomplish a well-planned week.

I hope these tips help to safe guard my heart for this coming school year – so that I’m not resentful of the schedule (that I designed) by November, and also so that I am just as healthy and engaged now as I will be in February. There’s something about preparing for the mindset, sacrifice, and health of the future that these tips have helped me to stay satisfied in every season.

5 Tips for Being a Healthy (Happy) Home School Mom:

Authority: This goes back to Day 17 when I wrote about the confusion of “I’m in charge, now you’re in charge” seesaw that was my experience with kids a few years ago. Everything changed in my heart and mind when I stopped resenting my children. I realized it was my fault that some of our days were a runaway train of child driven activities and chaos. Each day I woke up not knowing what the point of the day was – sure we had a schedule for the week, or even events on the calendar – but a rhythm to each and every day? Expectations of their contribution to our family’s health and well-being? No way. They weren’t required to do much, and since I lived in reaction to them most of the time – they were the ones with the most authority.

That has all changed, and I didn’t have to become Authoritarian to accomplish it.

I know from experience that taking ownership of the day before it falls into my children’s hands is essential for our health and happiness. This will look differently for every one – it will be as unique as you are, just as your conversation, language and style of relating to your child(ren) is different than mine. But the point remains true – if you don’t own the position of authority in your home, then they will. Remind yourself every morning that you are in charge (in a good way) and the success of each day depends on you.

Anchors: Each day needs an anchor. In our home, I don’t like to have more than one major anchor activity that takes us out of the house per day. I think of these anchors like the spindles on a wheel. The center of the week is home, and each day has one thing that takes us out into the world – this allows for slow movement and balance. I want to be operating smoothly by December. A little consideration, lots of “no’s” to the good (not best) things, and patience will provide so much peace and purpose that makes my job as home school mom a pleasant one.

Self-care: Everyone needs self-care. Even if you define it in the most basic terms of hygiene. I think of the care of my “self” as balancing physical, mental, emotional, and soul care. I need both nourishment and boundaries. It’s important to not neglect either of these for the sake of keeping up appearances.

Self-care for the home school mom is vital for the strength of the home as a whole.

It’s important to consider the needs and demands of good self-care when scheduling our commitments and weekly activities. Stretching my strength to the limits of what I can physically handle – late nights, lots of running around town (toting a toddler), and more than one commitment per day will break me. Once I’m broken I need a couple weeks of calm in order to get my feet back underneath me.

When I realized that each year I take a couple weeks “off school” in October because I was too spent on our out-of-the-house commitments to fulfill my inside-the-house commitments I knew I had created a problem by my own desire to be too many things to too many people.

B2S Day 29 5 tips healthy happy home school mom 2

My people need a healthy (and happy) woman, able to be fully present, active, and mindful of how to manage our home and school.

My self-care looks like (this is a mixture of daily and weekly items):

  • Getting up before everyone else in the house for time with my Lord alone
  • Writing everyday for personal and public use
  • Reading a balance of non-fiction and fiction
  • Setting goals
  • Dating my husband
  • Casting a vision for my parenting and my personal growth
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Creating meals from whole foods
  • Stretching my body to be increasing in endurance (because running after a toddler isn’t for the weak)
  • Pursuing relationships with friends
  • Laughing (vague, I know. But I just need to laugh regularly.)

Your self-care may look entirely different than mine and still produce the healthiest and happiest version of you to your family – and that’s not only good, that’s great!

Education: It’s important for my health and well-being that I be actively pursuing my own further education. For me that looks like taking online courses, reading classics, and taking every opportunity to listen to lectures by the greatest professors, pastors, and teachers from around the world. I do not want my mind to become dull or disoriented to the world around me. Educating my children isn’t a process of handing over facts, I want to encourage them to learn by leading them by my example to pursue knowledge, understanding, and above all wisdom.

Food: This is a really practical one. I need good, healthy food to feel happy. I know I need to not neglect the priority of meal planning and budgeting in order to provide my family with the best foods that will fuel our bodies and our minds. Junk food and fast food may be the easier routes when the schedule is so packed that I can’t even see straight, but for me – too much junk in equals feeling like I am junk.

You are what you eat.

As a home schooling family, we have the privilege of eating almost every meal together, and while I can’t promise my children that every meal will be from scratch – I can be mindful to prioritize our food year-round for better minds and bodies.

With these 5 things in mind, I have seen slow, imperfect progress in my soul toward becoming the woman I want to be, the wife that compliments and supports my husband, and the mother who cares, nurtures, and educates with contentment and patience.

Here are some practical resources that have helped me on this journey to a healthier self:

  • FREE Healthy Living Mini Audio eCourse: The 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families :: From the creators of the Ultimate Bundles – The course contains a collection of quick and easy-to-follow lessons from trusted bloggers:
    • Essential Habit #1: “Nurture Your Best Self (and Bust the Productivity Myth)” with Heather from Mommypotamus.
    • Essential Habit #2: “Keep Your Family Fit (Gym Membership Not Required)” with Crystal from Money Saving Mom.
    • Essential Habit #3: “Eat More Homemade Meals Around the Table (with Less Stress Than You Think)” with Katie from Kitchen Stewardship.
    • Essential Habit #4: “Reach for Natural Remedies with Confidence (and Know When and How to Use Them)” with Katie from Wellness Mama.

    Each lesson comes with a 20-minute audio lesson, PDF transcript, and a practical “Take Action” guide. The lessons are inspirational and practical.

  • Make Over Your Mornings :: I won’t bore you with more encouragement to try this one. Just trust me – I still believe you should do it.

B2S Day 29 5 tips healthy happy home school mom 3

  • Paddle Upstream :: Live with the end in mind. From Tsh Oxenreider, author of Organized Simplicity (life-changer for me) comes this course which will guide you to living the life that has purpose and meaning. “Living upstream means paddling against the flow of culture—a well-meaning, good-intentioned culture that, frankly, has gotten it wrong about a few things. But paddle we must, using our well-trained arm muscles and a good compass… because it’s the right thing to do.”
  • Grocery University :: Crystal Paine’s first course has been made over. It will help you get a grip on your grocery budget. I know for me healthy food is just as important as a healthy bank account. Ready to learn how to spend less than $50 per week on groceries? I know saving money is a high priority for me!

This has been Day 29 in the #Back2School in #31Days series, to see the list of topics covered click here for the index.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 28: First Things and A Recipe for Rest #B2S #31Days

Photo credit, words added

Photo credit, words added

My family attended our “Meet the Teachers” night last night at the private school where my daughter and son will attend the homeschool program.

The simple surge of excitement to see friends, find desks and lockers, try out the recess equipment, and check off a list to earn a popsicle was enough to rattle me. I’m not ready for this, I said.

I like to take things slowly. This is why I’ve been preparing for almost a whole month to go Back to School, tackling items on my list that seemed more intimating this year than ever before.

Learning how to break tasks down into bite sized chunks has totally changed my life.

And it has changed my attitude too.

When I feel rattled in more than one area of my life, I lose my place of rest – and I don’t always know how to get it back.

I’ve lived entire years rattled. Constantly over stimulated by my surroundings and unable to steady my feet on solid ground.

So this little rattling, while uncomfortable for me last night, carried with it a renewed passion to stand firm on the things that I know must come first. I’ve banked my life on these first things. These are the things that are far to valuable to let go of just because the energy of a bunch of people together threatens to make me feel undone.

My first things:

Inner spiritual strength: raising my children and committing to the path of home education is admittedly hard. Sometimes when meeting someone new, they will comment, “Oh, I could never do that.” And I say, I can’t either. It isn’t in me to patiently train my children day-in-and-day-out. If left to myself, I would’ve thrown my hands up years ago and said “I can’t do this.” But He equips the called, and He strengthens the weary.

Home comes first: I’ve finally accepted that I cannot be a Yes Woman. My first few years of home education were compromised by saying yes to every good thing. If there was something at church, Yes! If a friend wanted to meet for coffee, Yes! If a child needed babysitting, Yes! Being home on purpose for the priority of education, training, and doing life together was not prized – and so being home came in second. Like knowing I should buy organic produce – it was always what I knew I should do, but couldn’t because of all the other good things I thought we needed.

Personal discipline: nothing replaces the hard work of personal discipline. I have not found a single thing on earth that can replace or mask a lack of it. When I lacked personal discipline – I felt thin, transparent, and guilty all the time. Like for all my worth, talent, gifts, and value (from just being, not from doing) wasn’t truly enough. I constantly felt like I was trying to fool everyone into thinking I was a respectable person. Instead of focusing on being a respectable person and then not caring if others thought so or not. Hard work, integrity, strength, and healthy thoughts have guarded my mind from even caring what people think of me – this is the worth of personal discipline. So when I feel tempted to slack or compare, I quickly correct my sights to my current goals and priorities remembering that my first things are what matter most to me – not whether my first things are like your first things.

It’s a real battle for me to overcome the temptation to seek after fitting in or the easy life, and a real test of faith in the Way of Jesus and the upside down logic that the way up is down.

I’ve learned that when I feel like fighting against the rattling of my soul, it’s really time to rest. True rest helps me not only prioritize my first things, but it also enables me to recognize my rattled feelings for what they are and stand firm from a position of peace.

A Recipe for Rest

Recipe for Rest for the Home School Mom:

For every activity, decide in advance when you’ll stop. This may seem a little overkill on the planning side, but it helps me budget my time well. {Here’s more on how I use a time budget.}

Know your limits. I get overwhelmed easily, and if I start to feel overspent on an activity then I want to give up. But when I know how long a task will take me, or I know how much energy it will cost me – I can plan for how to better accomplish the task. And if I need to I can choose to break the task up into smaller parts.

Take notes so that you can pick up where you left off. This goes hand and glove with #2. When I need to take a break from writing, but I’ve just gotten to the good part – I jot the idea down quickly. Or when accomplishing the “to-do” list that is my life, I’ll write down progress on a task that’s started but not yet finished. (Using my Bullet Journal for this has been very helpful to keep everything in one place and in context.)

Develop self-control. No one can do it all. No one can be in two places at once (and yelling down the stairs to answer a child’s question doesn’t count). Everyday we make thousands of choices with our time. The “no’s” are just as powerful as the “yes’s.”

Identity. No one else can rest for you. Know your needs and commitments. Untangle what you do from who you are and make peace with rest.

Keep your heart and mind focused on the truth. Rest is commanded for the believer, and we find our rest in Christ. True rest must originate from a relationship not simply relaxation. Meditating on scripture has allowed me to rest even in the middle of chaotic circumstances. I have known the deepest rest when my trust has been in the Right Person and not in myself or my circumstances.

Set goals for the future wisely. One sure fire way to burn out is to fail to factor rest into your routine. So make sure to have anchors in place that allow for consistency without having to reinvent the wheel each week.

Rest is a sacred and wonderful blessing to be enjoyed, but as a busy mom I’ve missed out on it for the sake of “getting more done.”

It wasn’t until I listened to a message on rest and work that my heart began to change. I realized I wasn’t honoring God with all my “gotta work harders” and my “no rest for the wearies.” I couldn’t find rest in my own strength (I was believing these  7 lies that keep me from rest) and I wasn’t enjoying my work to the fullest either because my efforts were out of balance.

If you’re feeling out of balance, may I recommend Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings course? You may be delightfully surprised to find out that the first area she makes over is rest. It’s so important to living a purposeful life, and it comes before setting goals and getting the To-Dos done.

Read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

This is Day 28 (only 2 more posts!) in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 25: Anchors and Hot Air Balloons

B2S Day 25 Learning Balance Hot Air Balloons and Anchors 1

If you’ve known me since 2007 or before, then you’ll know that I haven’t always been a good planner. (I was reminded of this, and wrote about it in a Facebook status today actually.) I wasn’t a natural at motherhood either. After my oldest child was born, I was the type that was completely rocked by the amount of work from just one child. I never had a clean house, I struggled to make dinner every-single-night, and I hesitated to make any plans because I was terrified of the amount of work it required to make it out of the house.

Fast forward 8 years, and I feel like a different person. I sympathize with the woman I was, but I don’t in anyway want to go back to that place of disorderly chaos – inner and outer mess.

I haven’t achieved perfection in planning, nor have I simply copied and pasted someone else’s plans. I’ve worked long and hard at understanding how I function – and how my children function too – and this work has led me to learn balance through Anchors and Hot Air Balloons.

What are Anchors?

Anchors have 2 definitions in my life. #1 an anchor is the one thing a day of the week is known for – it’s the main quality of that day that gives it purpose and holds it to the week.

For example:

  • Monday: Prepare for piano and BSF
  • Tuesday: Library day
  • Wednesday: (HC)2 day
  • Thursday: Stay home day
  • Friday: Errand day

#2 an anchor is a full-stop and transition from one activity to the next within each day. There may be many of this type of anchor during any given day. So, from the morning free play to the morning lessons, there will be the anchor of snack time.

Anchor = full-stop, transition.

Something everyone needs (and wants) that is a neutral authoritative stopping point, like snacks times, meal times, bathroom breaks, outdoor time, quiet time, etc.

This type of anchor is flexible, and it is important to discern the use of a full-stop to change activities based on the personalities and number of people in the home. Some kids like them, and some don’t.

For instance, my daughter loves her freedom to learn and move through the different activities of the day – she doesn’t look forward to an external full-stop-transition that an anchor commands, but for my son he craves the distinct starts and stops that an external force puts into his activities. He doesn’t like the idea of having indefinite time to play with his Legos. He will nag me with words, begging for me to give him a time for a full-stop to do something else.

Instead of always giving him an anchor to look forward to like saying, “in an hour we will have a snack and then you can work on your Zolocolor” I will say something to encourage him to stay in the moment and simply enjoy what he is putting his mind and hands to. So, if he is playing with Legos I will create challenges for him to wrap his mind around in his building and designing, or I’ll praise him for taking the time to notice how the pieces fit together or the uniqueness of his creation. I don’t want to bring him down too soon.

This encouragement is what I think of as a Hot Air Balloon.

I help him stay in the height of an activity longer before coming down for a change.

Hot Air Balloon activities are the joyful extras in any day. I like to think of them as the surprise rewards of taking an extra 15 minutes to finish the chapter I’m reading in my current favorite book, or the spontaneous trip to the park, Dollar Tree, or grandma’s house just because we can.

For me, I tend to be like my son – I like to stay close to the full-stops. I don’t like to crash from the height of an activity so I limit my enjoyment of what I’m doing out of fear.

So as I plan for our quarter, I’m adding in the Hot Air Balloon idea to my weeks in order to stretch myself to grow in the areas that I’m weak.

3 practical things that will help me to more fully enjoy Hot Air Balloon moments are:

  1. Planning dinner the night before so that I’m not frustrated or pressured for time to come up with something at 3 in the afternoon when my kids are usually the happiest and most energetic. I want to be free to join in the dance party or run outside to take a deep breath with them – to be in the moment.
  2. Sticking with the major anchors of the week and not flexing on the essentials. I know that when I have wiggled around with our routine, I inevitably feel like a failure. Boundaries are meant to keep me safe. When I acknowledge and live within my boundaries (being sure not to create too many of them) I enjoy the safety and freedom of being well within.
  3. Writing out the schedule of what needs to be done for the next day every evening. Seeing the essentials on paper either limits or frees me depending on how much there is to do. If I don’t write things out ahead of time, I struggle with the fear of forgetting something, doing things in the wrong order, or beating myself up for some sort of false guilt. (When I don’t have clear boundaries – again – I tend to try to do all the things or be all the things to everyone. And then I need to go back to ending the struggle between good mom and bad mom.)

Anchors and Hot Air Balloons are my symbols (you can use them too) for balance.

For staying close to the ground and flying high in the sky. Balancing humanity and spirituality. Stewarding work and rest. Honoring highs and lows. Creating rhythm.

The challenge for this day in the #Back2School in #31Days series is to write out the Anchors for the week, begin to write out the Anchors in a single day (also known as our block schedule – post explaining this, coming soon), and record Hot Air Balloon moments.

This is Day 25 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Don’t miss out!

TODAY IS THE ONE-DAY-SALE of Crystal Paine’s #MakeOverYourMornings course.

Check it out today, buy it for yourself and a friend, and go through it together! The sale is so good, you won’t want to miss out. If you’re still not sure, read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 24: Facing down my panic (the story of the desks). #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 24 Facing Down Panic 1

I started to officially home school 3 years ago. My daughter was 5 years old and my son was 3 years old. I had planned to start kindergarten and preschool with them respectively. I thought I was doing what was expected of me. I had no idea what their learning styles were and for that matter – I didn’t think twice about my teaching style.

I had one focus:  Do every-thing-right.

“Right” was a growing vacuum taking into it every good thing that could possibly be done, and it also meant matching the ideal picture in my head of what a home education looks like.

So, at the beginning of the last week in August 3 years ago, I began to panic. I had tried to read all the Instructor’s Guides to the curricula we purchased – desperate to follow all the rules, check all the boxes, and thereby educate my children.

I wanted my gold star.

But one thing was wrong with the ideal picture I was trying to create for our learning environment – we didn’t have desks. I knew there was no chance of having a schoolroom in our house at the time, so I decided to adjust our living room to section off a quarter of it for a learning center.

I searched Craig’s List for desks, bookcases, and anything I felt would give me the security I was lacking.

All this searching masked my fear. I felt like because I was doing something right, I could ensure the outcome would be what I wanted. I put all my hopes in looking right. I thought that if I had the right desks, the right books, and the “start date” (because every one who knows that we home school would ask, “so when are you going to start?”) then I could ensure that I would get the affirmation that I craved.

Doing, working, searching, gathering never brings security. But that’s what I was hoping for – I wanted to get my security from the outside in.

At the end of each day, nothing was enough. I was still scared that I wouldn’t have the right stuff. I was scared that I would teach the curricula out of order. I was scared that I would confuse my children and mess them up. I was scared of my own laziness and defective parenting.

I was scared because I knew I was the primary one responsible for the education of my children, but it felt like I was the one with the least control.

And 3 years ago when I began to panic on the inside, I channeled all that energy into controlling our environment.

I bought 2 desks from 2 different people. 1 on Sunday, and 1 on Labor Day. I had my mind set that we would start “school” on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. I knew we needed school supplies too. But even though I really had no idea what we needed, I went to Walmart anyway.

Because nothing feels better than spending money carelessly when my soul feels insecure and out of control. Yeah, right.

When we finally arrived home, to carry into the house all of the items that would make me feel secure. My physical proof that we were in fact a home educating family, my husband said that he couldn’t bring the desks into the house right then.

He didn’t know that he was basically stomping all over my emotional craziness, and I kind of freaked out at the potential that all my planning, controlling, and setting up was being thwarted.

I had a full blown meltdown.

In my mind, everything was going to be ready by Monday evening, so that I could wake up Tuesday morning to the bliss of starting our first day of school.

Instead I was having to deal with a change in my plan. The pain of failure threatened to crush me, and I was having to face all my fears coming true.

All my effort, priorities, philosophies, and desires for what was best for my children hinged upon this plan and it wasn’t going to happen.

I rested all my security on having desks in place and plans in motion by Tuesday morning.

After crying and begging my husband to drop everything he had planned for the day to help me, we got everything set up by Monday evening.

But instead of relief, I still felt panic.

Because no matter how many books, desks, pencils, papers, notebooks, crayons, or charts on the wall – none of it could give me a sense of security that this was going to work out for our good. I rested all my hope that I would receive the affirmation I craved on the amount of work I could do to look the part, but I never prepared for the daily work of doing the part.

I wanted to earn the prize for Best Home School Mom on the first day of school, instead of committing myself to looking forward to the prize of finishing strong on the last day of school.

The panic was lying to me.

It said that I could have relief the easy way – on the outside – when I needed to go through some really hard stuff on the inside before I would ever truly face down my panic.

B2S Day 24 Facing Down Panic 3

So, let me fast forward 3 years, and there has been a slight shift in my focus – lots of imperfect progress gained from recognizing more and more the lies that panic feeds my mind and heart. I have had to learn slowly through so much failure that this home school life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Motherhood is a marathon.

I’m learning to prize the long view, to take the scenic route, and to slow and steady myself especially when I feel pressured to plan, control, and design my own success.

And I’ve learned that I’m not allowed to go shopping when I start to feel panic. I’ve banned myself from Target.

3 more important lessons that help me prize peace even when I feel pressured to panic are:

  1. Remember to see my children as growing, changing, and developing – when I panic I subtly believe that I can in fact control them, when peace trusts that my job is only to guide and train them.
  2. Lean into greater levels of self-discipline. Panic says that I can rush, force, and procrastinate to get the same result as patiently tending to the roots. Self-discipline has taught me that progress is hard fought in a daily battle and the fruit from this work is good, organic, and eternal – a sharp contrast to the manufactured fruit of the rush of emotion I get from swiping my debit card to surround myself with the stuff of learning.
  3. My children can sniff out panic from a mile away, and they will fight against it with everything they have. This is not a sign that I should press into the panic further (even though I have, and it hasn’t ever ended well for me or them). I take this as a sign that I am prayerless. Filled with prayer = filled with peace with or without all the right stuff.

So my kids, at ages 3- and 5-years old refused to play a part in my panic, and they refused to sit in their desks. Their refusal made me feel even more the weight of all my failure, but it was a gift because it made me let go of the lie that said I could have complete control of their education.

B2S Day 24 Facing Down Panic 2

Since then, we’ve all grown. Now, they happily sit in their desks, learning and growing in their interests every day – because I finally let go and allowed them to use their desks on their own time and in their own way.

And at the beginning of this August, when I felt a small pang of panic that I had only 2 desks, but 3 children I chose peace instead. And wouldn’t you know, just like how God always provides, a dear friend of mine (a fellow home schooling mom with 3 kids graduated and 2 more on their way) wrote me and offered us a desk – free of charge and full of blessing.

So, today’s challenge for the #Back2School in #31Days series is to record and remember all the ways that learning is in the daily, the small, and the patient. An education isn’t kept in a room, or a book, or in having all the right stuff – education is a lifestyle; it’s a living.

This is Day 24 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Don’t miss out!

Tomorrow is the ONE-DAY-SALE of Crystal Paine’s #MakeOverYourMornings course. Check it out today, and get a free sneak peek at the material. Or better yet, buy it for a friend and go through it together! The sale is so good, you won’t want to miss out. If you’re still not sure, read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 22: How I save money during back to school (& an honest word to my readers about this series).

We are almost done with #Back2School in #31Days! I know a lot of you have tuned me out already, I get that. So if you're curious, I'll list the topics for next week at the bottom of this post - that way you can decide which posts you'll want to read and which ones to skip. This series has produced a lot of content! When this series is over my subscribers are going to breathe a sigh of relief that their inboxes aren't being overrun. (I'm going to breathe a sigh of relief!)

How I save money during Back to School:

I have to satisfy your possible curiosity or skepticism right off the bat – this is not a post on coupons or free printables.

(There is another great site for this and if that’s what you’re looking for – then click on the link and type “Back to School” in the search bar at the top right side of the homepage.)

When I was in retail sales, I was told that the Back to School season was higher for revenue than Christmas. And I believe it! The shoes, Crayola, and backpacks alone can put you into the hundreds range per kid, and for a home schooling family we have many other needs than a normal supply list.

B2S Day 22 How I save money

Photo credit; words added

So here’s my secret bite size way of lowering expenses:

I separate curricula purchasing from supply buying :: This is my number 1 (and only) suggestion to everyone who home educates. Back to school is this huge crash of summer and fall, recreation turns to routine, and there are so many choices to make. Commitments, activities, clothes to buy, shoes, etc. all needs to be ordered, selected, and purchased at the same time (or so they say).

I do things a little bit differently.

For the past 3 years, I have looked forward to going to the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) for the primary purpose of choosing our curricula for the next year. The one we attend is usually scheduled in April. I have found this to be the best time to decide what to do for the following fall because I’ve spent 7-8 months using our current resources and I have a feeling for what’s working and what isn’t.

At the convention, my heart is ready and my mind is fresh to find what I need for each child to grow to the next level in areas where they are interested and I can barely keep up and in areas where they are struggling and I don’t know how to help.

Choosing our curricula at this time feels peaceful. The whole trip to the GHC is one big gift of grace. Lectures and speakers, continuing my education, and getting to meet the creators behind the curricula has been life changing for me as a woman.

So, if you’re up to your chin in choices right now during the big Back to School rush, and you’d rather crawl in a hole then sit down and research what you should teach this year – may I encourage you to just pick one thing to focus on for now and then come back to the research and decision-making by the middle of September.

Go get your great deals on Crayola and Sharpie now – these things won’t go on sale like this again until August 2016 – and put your mind at ease that not all things need to be purchased all at once.

Even if your mind is screaming that you need to buy things now, and you need to decide.

Just tell yourself a polite no, set a date in your calendar to sit down and review what you need.

Until then just focus on all the other things that matter – the things that don’t cost a thing.

When you do sit down in September, would you consider going to the next Great Homeschool Convention? You may be delighted to know that Ann Voskamp will be a keynote speaker.

And I know from experience that going to this convention does not have to be wildly expensive – I was able to attend my first one for $250 total, including registration, food, gas, and hotel because I went with a group.

Check out the dates for 2016:

2016-HOMESCHOOL-CONVENTION-DATES

An honest note about this series:

If this post, or even this whole series has left you feeling less or behind because of the topics I’ve covered or by the way a blog post has the magic of making everything in my life look nice and settled – all put together – then let me assure you that these posts have not been easy for me.

Sure, it looks easy to read, once I’ve added my pictures and tidied (most) of the grammar. But sometimes my actions have been too far ahead of my words, or worse – behind. This series has forced me, pushed me, and challenged me to finally address the laziness deep inside that tends to get hoarded up until some major change comes and I’m crushed by the weight of all the things that I have to do. All the things that can’t wait any longer, or cannot be delegated out to anyone else. After all, this is my home, these are my people, and I’ve chosen this path.

My goal for this series really wasn’t about my readers. The point of writing all this was to keep myself accountable for the mass of change and work that needed to be done – and my hope was that in each of the posts you would find just one thing  encouraging or inspiring. This has been a whole lot of imperfect progress (I need to listen to Unglued again. Amen?)

So, if you can stay with me for one more week, here’s the list of topics I hope to cover:

Block scheduling, lapbooking, choosing anchors, facing down panic, future planning, creating uniforms (plus a little note about decision fatigue), and possibly a video tour of our schoolroom. But I’m thinking I may make the video available only to my subscribers. They deserve a little special treatment. (If you’re not a subscriber, I highly recommend becoming one now – Click here to read more.)

Back2School Logo

This is Day 22 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Break life’s tasks into manageable chunks: download One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider today!
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Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 21: Building a (better) home school library #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 21 Building a better home school library 1

In 2010, my personal interest-led learning journey began. As a family, we were living in Florida. My kids were 1- and 3-years old at the time. I was the only stay-at-home mom that I knew, and most of my days were spent just managing chaos.

I was alone and lonely, distracted and defeated, and feeding my fear of failure by not even hoping for anything better.

Until the day I became desperate enough to change.

The only downside of this change was an unhealthy attachment to books. In all my youth and intensity for loving to read, I equated happiness with buying a new book.

And bookstores are made for people like me, placing – conveniently by the door as you walk in – their discounted titles for easing your mind that buying 4 books today at $3 really isn’t all that hard on your wallet.

Now I laugh at some of the silly books I bought. The titles reveal what I felt I lacked knowledge of – history, politics, self-help, parenting, etc.

Books, books, books.

And it got worse before it got better.

Because to be a successful homeschooler, I reasoned that I would need to have a lot more books.

But what use is any tool if it sits on the shelf?

Or what good is it if I can’t find it when I need it?

So what I’ve come to understand through 11 moves in 10 years and by the inspiration from others, is that it is simply impossible to live holistically with my life’s purpose and be surrounded by piles and piles of stuff. Even good stuff like books.

My life lately has been one big call to action: Simplify, Set Boundaries, and Organize. And today’s #Back2School in #31Days Challenge is:

Set up a simple home school library.

Since my kids are still young it’s hard for me to expect to have perfectly organized bookshelves. Especially kids’ bookshelves – when the reason I bought the books is for them to read. I can’t expect them to be great readers and great organizers at the same time – I have to pick one or the other.

So, in order to help them in their reading and learning journey, I’ve identified the need for a home library system of organization that works for everyone.

First of all, I had (and still have) to go through all of our books and get rid of the twaddle.

Second, I had to decide how I wanted things organized. One blogger that I follow, alphabetized her children’s books using a simple poster with a large black alphabet stickers.

I bought the supplies to do the same (see the project details below), but then I realized I didn’t want to alphabetize my books just yet.

My kids are still young enough that they don’t know all the titles or the authors, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to be able to replace the book where they found it. I think reality hit me, and I saw my future self endlessly re-alphabetizing.

Instead, I decided to categorize my books by subject matter, unit, or curricula.

B2S Day 21 Building a better home school library 3

Here’s my key:

  • FIAR – Five in a Row
  • EAH – Early American History
  • SCI – Science
  • LIT – Literature
  • SS – Social Studies
  • NF – Non-fiction
  • REF – Reference

Third, for now all pleasure reading books like chapter books or easy readers they still enjoy, go in the book nook. I’m not very picky about how these books get organized only that they’re well taken care of.

Finally, I hope to model not only a love of learning through reading great books myself, but to also model discernment with how many books I own and how I take care of them.

Useful tips for getting rid of books:

  • My experience with Paperbackswap.com
  • Donate to:
    • The library: You can always borrow it if you need to read it again.
    • The local mission: Imagine the person who may be waiting for just the right book to help them break through whatever barrier that’s holding them back.
    • Thrift stores: Think of thrift stores for books like a library that charges late fees up front. Be sure to bring with you the same number of books to donate as you intend to take home.

B2S Day 21 Building a better home school library 2

Project Details: I bought a simple, white poster board and alphabet stickers. I cut the board into strips (which left ragged edges, so I covered them with Washi Tape) and applied the stickers to the strips. Then I simply separated books by subject and placed the poster strip between them.

This is Day 21 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Break life’s tasks into manageable chunks: download One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider today!
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Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.