#Back2School in #31Days: Day 8 – What’s a family culture?

A Mother's Day Confession My Family

I hear a lot of talk about building community. We like to make plans for building intentional relationships with people to help, support, and join together. It’s important for us because after all we are human, and we were created to connect.

It’s important to have a culture of connected people – living openly, giving freely, and loving unconditionally.

But a “family culture?” I had to admit to myself the first time I heard that term, I really had not ever thought about anything like that before.

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I wondered to myself: 

How would I define my family in one word – what would that one word be?

Or how about this question: what is one family activity I wouldn’t want to live without? 

What makes our family rhythm unique? What traditions do I want my kids to remember when they are grown?

And why are these questions apart of the #Back2School in #31Days series? 

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Well, as we get ready for fall activities, school, commitments to our communities, and all the other non-summer busyness – there needs to be one thing that stands as a focal point that defines what it means to be a part of our family.

Or I will find myself exasperated by November trying to do everything and not doing anything very well.

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I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts by Sarah McKenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival, and in the intro to her podcast, she says something like:

This will encourage you to build your family culture around books.

I was listening to the one from New Year’s Eve and she was talking all about starting a “reading streak.” Where as a family, they commit to reading aloud everyday for as many days as they can. 100 Days, a year, or maybe more!

This is a great goal and activity that will naturally encourage family bonds, conversations, and memories – all brought about through reading aloud together.

Toddler Turns 2 a

It was also where I first tuned in to her words “build your family culture around books.”

I think it’s worth recommending that we take time to consider what our family culture is. What is it on its own, and what we want it to become (and the steps it will take to get there – like a reading streak.)

Here are my 2 things to consider when building a family culture:

  • List the things you do as a family on a regular monthly basis that are non-negotiable. Like, eating dinner together every night. Talking a family walk every week. Listening to music while baking. Reading either alone or together. Taking a Sunday drive. Playing games together. Or maybe it’s something completely different. Whatever it is, it is yours – it’s one of the best things that makes your family unique.
  • Write your Parenting Purpose Statement (get your free downloadable guide here) and examine who you are and how that distills what is the best focus for your goals and activities.

There are so many good things to be focused on as an individual and as a family, but to truly live a fulfilling life I feel it is important to know how you are each wired. Dr. Kathy Koch has written a great book on the 8 Intelligences which is so practical and helpful in recognizing what makes us tick. I recommend taking time to observe yourself and your children and write out how each member is smart.

Kid-ucation JoeAnna

The next part to creating a family culture is a little tricky: try to pick out one thing that unifies all your smarts and makes your family unique.

I believe that by narrowing down what we are about to one major thing it becomes easier to cross things off our list of options and save space on the list for what’s most important to us.

By looking at each month on the calendar as an opportunity to build our family bonds and enrich the soil of our souls, we all live with more intention, peace, and purpose.

So, today’s challenge is to define what my family is all about.

In our family we: eat dinner every night together and share about our day, play music together, discover new places together, read before bed together, and learn new things together.

My family culture revolves heavily upon an evening routine. Noticing this I can begin to plan ahead by looking at the next 6 months and seeing how to prioritize keeping our first things, first.

On Developing Better Follow Through

I want our family culture to be so rich and meaningful that it impacts those around us. I don’t want the culture of the world in which we live to be so strong that it comes into our home and changes us.

A family culture is worth creating and protecting. It takes planning and prioritizing. It’s one of the biggest blessings of being a family.

Further reading (& listening):

This is Day 8 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

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You (and your kids) are homeschooled. 

The battle lines have been drawn. Once committed to a side, there is no changing for fear of being called a traitor. Even lines within the same side are drawn with questions like Are you a lifer? Or caveats are given like Well, she was so interested in…that we felt it best to enroll her at…

Isn’t there more to a child than where they are (or are not) enrolled? 

Everyone is homeschooled 1

While I was studying the Charlotte Mason theory of education, I was struck by the blurred line between the home education environment and the brick and mortar school. I know a lot of homeschool families who value her work and apply her philosophy in the home, but Home Education was not written primarily to/for home educators. Not in the way that we define home education today.

It became clear that there was something more fundamental than education in the philosophy, and it is the home.

Everyone is homeschooled.

Learning is a mysterious process. Researchers examine and describe it, scholars attempt to understand and explain it, and teachers try to stimulate and influence it, yet no one except God knows exactly how we learn. He has created us with an innate ability to learn, yet we know very little about such an essential quality of our being. – Clay and Sally Clarkson Educating the WholeHearted Child 

Human beings learn. 

It isn’t a matter of whether you stay home full time, or go to a brick and mortar for 37 hours a week. Home is foundational for all of us. It is the environment where we learn the most important things in life.

I had this thought months ago, and the idea was set on my mental back burner. I want to make sure that through my writing I intentionally include those who choose to be involved at whatever level with the educational system. Parents, children, teachers, volunteers – their identity is not that they equal their educational system, neither is my identity that I home educate. It is a fact, but it is not my truest foundation.

Our family. Together we build values, standards, priorities, and activities. And together we practice what we have been taught or have learned on our own. We succeed or fail in everything at home.

Your family does too. I want to cross the battle lines, take down my shields, and respect the humanity in your choices. Because there is something far more important than enrollment and environment – it’s the soul of the learner. The little, unseen person within the body of all people who was given the gift of learning, not by their parents but by their Creator.

I want to promote a view where we see each individual family as a miracle, an un-replaceable, never-to-be-seen-again combination of unique individuals all joined by blood and/or name for such a time as this.

May we all promote this view and shake off the fears that our choices won’t be good enough

The beauty of recognizing that home and family is the foundation underneath education should inspire us to embrace the freedom to each work out our discipleship with respect and honor.

I long to see a development in community where the home educating family and the public educating family can collaborate to encourage the continued work of home discipleship.

Even within the homeschooling community, there exists the need to collectively encourage the fundamentals.  Curricula, routines, sports, and the like all come after discipleship. Each of these things may mark and define our family in specific ways, but they do not add or subtract from the worth of the eternal soul within each person.

What a sacred thing to consider: every family is unique.

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Homeschooling should not be a means of reforming the home and to make all participants look the same, rather the philosophy of home education is in part to honor the God-given miracles of family and learning.

Different children within one family may need different decisions as to what educational system is best for them. And it is important to apply Jesus’ teaching that we must not judge other peoples’ choices. – Susan Schaeffer Macaulay For the Children’s Sake

I aim to extend this view of the home as a sacred place for the family to those who choose not to formally educate their children at home, if they will accept it. If families who don’t home educate and families who do, can join together in mutual understanding that the home is the best environment for the child’s mind, body, and spirit to be shaped then we can all better obey Jesus and love our neighbors as ourselves.

As fall approaches like Walmart’s “Back to School” display boldly announces, let us not fall prey to making decisions based on feeling – fear, envy, and discontent hide in the pockets of new backpacks.

Rather, let us search for ways to support one another in getting back to honoring the fundamental of home and family.

Because everyone is homeschooled. 

Recommended resources:

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#MakeOverYourMornings: The #5Things I Needed Most.

I’ve been circling. Imagine toilet bowl with me. Yes, it’s felt that bad.

Stress mounting to the point of spiraling out of control, and no matter the amount of know-betters and best-intentions I’ve truly been in constant conflict with myself.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you - I may get a small commission. However, this post is NOT a paid advertisement; you will have to read through to the end to see my #1 and #2 reasons why this was written - neither of which are to make money.

Let me explain.

I was going through one of the roughest days I’ve had in a very long time. And no matter how much I could pray through and ask for more faith to trust, at the bottom of everything I was feeling was this demand to know the source – was this a test to make me stronger? Or a temptation to see me fail? Should I beg for mercy, wait, and endure? Or should I fight back, get tough, and push through?

I felt like I was at the fever pitch of what my self-control could handle and yet there was more coming at me than I felt like I could bear. I couldn’t see clearly to the end of the day, let alone the end of the problems.

Enter #MakeOverYourMornings.

Like I said in this status update, I initially put the thought of signing up for the course out of my mind because – I’m a generally organized person. I get up very early, I have a good morning routine, and I’m generally satisfied with how I spend my personal time.

But…

Then I took a good look at myself, and I was still in my pajamas and it was nearly 10am. I had no clue what I was going to do next, eat next, or how we were going to just-make-it-to-lunchtime.

Oh, how my pride is sneaky.

Sure, my personal time was in good order, but my homemaking and scheduling for the kids needed some direction.

I was operating under good intentions, but not goals and plans. Pride, and the fear of change, had me believing everything was going well. I was making it to the end of every day getting some things accomplished but I didn’t have anything to measure it against. How does the saying go? The path to failure is paved with good intentions?

Facing my pajama-clad-self, I realized again that in order to grow in discipline and self-control I would have to accept this help. The right time feeling dawned. I wanted to get perspective – to take an inventory of my responsibilities, habits, routines, schedules, and goals.

So on June 2nd, I jumped into #MakeOverYourMornings with both feet, and here are my 5 favorite things about the course:

  1. Goals – I have grown in baby steps by following Crystal Paine of the MoneySavingMom.com (MSM) for years now. The fact that this course was created by her was a big motivator for me to try it. Her journey with goal setting and follow through has been encouraging and transparent on her blog. When I have tried what she has recommended I have experienced growth and rewards. In the course, she goes in depth to explain the in’s and out’s of goal setting and keeping. She’s written a 64-page handbook to go along with this course including 6 unique printables.
  2. Accountability – The course itself is an accountability. I have to do something every day, and before charting the next day’s task – I need to truly implement today’s. Day #7 is dedicated to accountability, and for the first time in my life I understand accountability in a good way. Before (subconsciously) I understood accountability as a consequence. It was something I needed in order to pull myself back up from falling. In my mind, it had the face of punishment and condescension. It was someone superior pointing down to me. And who wants that? That all changed today because of the way Crystal explained her need for and gaining of accountability for herself. She cast a whole new light on the subject. She built confidence into my heart to change my understanding, to open up to someone, and to believe in growth again. And I came up with a plan to make accountability personal – here’s part of my comment from the #MakeOverYourMornings discussion board: “[How about] a shopping accountability? Just a quick text to someone to say, “hey I’m at (name of store) and I just need to buy (item) – I just want someone to know that I only can spend (dollar amount).” For me, I can’t stand it when I’ve overspent and then I have to tell my husband and ask for forgiveness. It’s-the-worst. I’d rather not shop at all than risk overspending. So I think I’m going to ask a friend to be my text-to-shop accountability partner.” 

    Goal Sheet: written out, pictured, and set as lock screen (so I can't forget about them).

    Goal Sheet: written out, pictured, and set as lock screen (so I can’t forget about them).

  3. Personal – The video portion (which is professionally done) of this course is so personal. Crystal does such a great job at creating a warm and welcoming feel to each day’s video – and her true passion for helping others is communicated beautifully through her friendly words and attitude. I’ve read MSM for years like I mentioned in #1, and I’ve watched her live out the tips and principles that are detailed in this course. So can you just read her blog and find the same practical helps? Not really. The value of this course is Crystal’s voice – her telling in detail how she has lived these lessons one-by-one. Her advise is personal but the take-away is unique to me. She leaves the application both specific enough to know what to do, but the advise allows me to apply my own how to do it.
  4. Approachable – For each area of my life, this course speaks into both my strengths and weaknesses. My weak and lazy areas feel changeable. I’m inspired to make drastic change while also fine tuning areas where I thought I was put together. There is so much in the course – applying to every level of personal discipline – that I plan to go through the course again on a bi-yearly basis (or maybe more) when the seasons of life change and a new approach to accomplishing goals is necessary.
  5. Balance – One of my weaknesses with balancing all of life’s responsibilities with appropriate goals is actually a strength – my passion. When I love something or I am filled with a drive to get something done, I take large chunks of time to devote all my efforts to doing it with all my heart. This is great and I have benefitted time and again from the large strokes of change and accomplishment. The down side is that it is unbalanced. The other areas under my management take a backseat until they get unmanageable (coasting only lasts so long in any one direction) and I must change my focus to the next area. If you can relate, then you know how it feels to try to hold back or stop short of the finish line just because of other demands. But such is life. I’ve learned that no matter if I’m on a roll with writing in the morning, my kids still must have breakfast and we all must get dressed and start the day. Some daily demands cannot go on hold just because inspiration or passion strike. So my #5 reason why I’m enjoying the #MakeOverYourMornings course is a big one because it’s helping me learn how to balance not just how to hold back.

So why would I take the time and effort to share this with you if I’m not looking to make a fortune off of it?

First, this course has inspired me to embrace the confidence of knowing that I have authority over my own life and choices. I needed to consciously choose to put my anchors back in something, and this course has helped me take significant steps in goal setting again. Now, please don’t jump into this course if you want Crystal (or me) to change your life for you! It’s easy to fall into criticizing someone who is doing well with their goals when I’ve tried and failed – if I had been in that attitude then this course wouldn’t have helped me at all. Attitude and anchors mean so much to me in having a positive life.

Second, I love being apart of this big community where together we can make a significant difference. As I shared on #2, the accountability of going through the course and choosing to engage with others has been very helpful and encouraging to me. Plus, on the launch day for this course Crystal gave 25% of profits to a great cause. Read her post to find out more about behind the scenes of the course and the cause.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little bit about what’s helping me change, and I also hope you’ll consider taking this course to see for yourself. Also, I hope you’ll take a minute to read my latest post: Teaching Money Management to Kids.

And as always – thanks for reading.

For more encouragement from The Home Learner and a free PDF guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement, click here.

Just a Homeschooler? Become a Confident Educator.

Every child is born into a home school. Every parent is their child’s first educator.

This continues to be true for everyone as the child grows older – whether the child is sent to a separate building to be trained or kept at home.

Become an Educator 6 ways

Early on in my career as a home educator, whenever I was in a situation where I knew I was going to have to answer the education question – I felt small and insecure. The question seemed to drain all my confidence, even if the person asking was a stranger and they were just making small talk.

I found out quickly that I was doing something different. And when my kids were preschool age, I didn’t want to be viewed as different – I wanted to be viewed as good, brave, commendable. Normal.

I craved affirmation.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the affirmation I needed wasn’t missing from the outside in – it was missing from the inside out. And the issue I had with being different was rooted in a life dominating problem: my “Mom-Identity-Crisis.”

I lacked the type of confidence from experience, and I let that reality limit how I felt about my commitment. When that’s backwards.  Now I let my commitment lead me. I know that as a part of this journey I will have to address road blocks and hurtles, and I know from experience now that these only prove to strengthen my confidence and deepen my commitment.

Here are 6 ways that I’ve bolstered my confidence as a home educator:

  1. You don’t have to feel alone. Whether you’re starting out with pre-K or you’re bringing home your 6th grader – whatever fears and struggles you’re facing there are others in the homeschool community who are feeling the same way you are. There are great sources of support and encouragement – don’t be afraid to be counted as a part of the group. If you struggle with feeling isolated as a person or a family, don’t wait for others to reach out and notice you. Determine your priorities, write out your commitment to home educate and turn that into a mission statement, and then brainstorm 3 small goals for how you will strengthen your commitment to home education. Remembering that these goals need to be self-motivated and confidence building. The best goals will connect you back to your mission and activate the inner confidence to continue. (Consider trying this course if you’d like help learning how to make and accomplish goals.)    
  2. Get access to nationwide programs that recognize and reward parents for being educators too: Barnes & Noble, Pizza Hut, Apple, Adobe, and more. I’ll never forget when I got my Educator’s Card from Barnes & Noble. When I was checking out at the counter – I was buying children’s books – and the woman asked “Are you a Barnes & Noble Member?” To which I replied “no.” She then went on to ask if I was an “Educator?” And I smiled and said “Well, I homeschool my kids.” With a slight laugh and shoulder raise – body language for: I lack confidence in what I just said. To my surprise and delight, she said “That counts. If you can show me your curricula or your scope and sequence, then I can get you signed up to save on all your purchases for your homeschool.”Become an educator Barnes and Noble For Pizza Hut, I saw on the MoneySavingMom.com that home educators were being encouraged to sign up for the “Book-It” program. At the time, I had to go through the process as a teacher. Filling in our “school name” and number of students in the classroom: 2. But Pizza Hut honored it, and we enjoyed free personal pan pizzas. Now Pizza Hut has a full “Book-It” program for home educators; it’s easy and worthwhile to sign up. Become an educator Pizza HutApple has an educator’s discount on their products as well. You don’t have to be the principal of a large school system with a huge budget to get the attention of a company like Apple. On the Apple website in the footer, there’s a link within the Store page that says “Educator.” Clicking on that allows you to see the instant savings that an educator receives. We just recently purchase Apple products from our local store, we were able to confirm our home educator status (mainly by showing my B&N Educator’s Card) and everything was discounted! Become an educator Apple Adobe programs are useful for many reasons, and most recently I researched purchasing through their Creative Cloud subscription. On the home page of Adobe’s website, near the bottom it says that they offer discounts for certain reasons. One being “student.” Under the link, “Am I eligible” it says that homeschoolers are eligible by submission of one of three options: dated letter of intent to homeschool, a current membership ID to a homeschool association (like the Home School Legal Defense Association). Getting this requirement saves 60% off the price of Adobe products for being recognized as a home educator. And more: I’m sure there are more organizations offering benefits to home educators – if you know of more, add them to the comments!
  3. Find out what your state requirements are, and keep good records. This step is vital for confidence in your commitment to home educate. When my husband and I heard attorney David Gibbs, III speak at the Great Homeschool Convention last year, in one of the Q&A sessions he was asked “How do we know that our right to homeschool our children won’t be denied?” And his reply was simple: know the requirements and keep records. If in the unfortunate event that a family were to have trouble with their local and state authorities because of keeping their children home for schooling then that’s where the legal defense associations are there to help. You do not need to busy yourself with understanding the history of the right to home educate, and you don’t have to keep up with the latest home education news from across the world – to have confidence, be counted as a home educator on paper and set the worry aside.
  4. Find a planner that works for you year-round. Ever go weeks without referencing your calendar? Do you keep a personal, kid, and family chart of activities? Do you struggle to get everything organized and synced? How far in advance do you plan for the next season? Or do you only plan for your favorite seasons, and then struggle through your not so favorites while your home and kids suffer from the lack of intention? If you answered “yes” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, then I can’t encourage you enough to get alone for 2 hours with large whole-year calendar and a blank notebook and chart your year in months. Become an educator plannerThis is something that I’ve been doing and developing for a couple years now. I’ve started to notice rhythms and patterns in my families pulse. Times were we need a boost to stay in a healthy beat (February) and times when we need a break to slow it all back down (June). I recommend that you subscribe now to TheHomeLearner.com because I’m working on making a planner available that will walk you through this process of intentionality. It won’t be a pretty “One-size fits all” planner, nor will it be a “follow exactly these rules to live your life like mine” instructional guide. The aim is to provide prompts that will direct your thoughts to discern what intentionality looks like in each season of life for you. I hope you’ll look forward to it with me, and more than that – I hope it helps. 
  5. Annually, create traditions and routines: Holidays, birthdays, and local festivals can be celebrated in much more detail and depth at home. Take the time to commit to plan the rhythm of your family’s year and then enjoy the freedom and creativity that comes from your commitment to be a home educator. It’s a special privilege and unique, personal challenge to have your kids at home for their education. Don’t waste your time. Each day as a home educator, you have the opportunity to capture each moment and turn it into an education. What better education is there than one that teaches a child to live full and with meaningful roots.
  6. Commit to community. This is the positive side to #1 above. If you feel alone in your commitment to home educate, then it is up to you to begin working through these steps. I purposefully saved this step for last too, because it takes confidence and personal strength to step out and ask to be included in a group. And what if you’re still questioning your commitment? If you’re unsure whether you’re committed to this long term, do you need to be involved in a group? Definitely.  Pick one or more of the options below and count yourself a member of the club.
    • Local: I don’t know of a registry of groups, but I know that most areas have other home educators near by. Here are some tips for where to find a local group:
      • Your church or Bible study: ask around to find out if anyone else home educates.
      • Your local library: visit the library at 10am on a Tuesday (or any time and day during normal “school hours”). If there are other school age kids there, chances are good that family home educates. Go say “hi,” introduce yourself and get the ball rolling. It’s a good idea to have connections with families who have older kids than yours to be able to ask questions and receive honest feedback.
      • Parks, playgrounds, or the local coffee shop: similar to the library set up, everywhere you go during the day – look for other families with children.
      • Local businesses and services: If you’re interested in having your children involved in a sport or in volunteering, call the organization and be direct – ask: Do you offer classes specifically for home educating families? You may be surprised at how many families are supported by local organizations and businesses for being home educating families. They want your business and they appreciate the increase in their income from families who are able to attend classes or use their services during the “school day.”
    • Online: There are many different home educating families represented online. Take the time to know why you have chosen to home educate, and then start reading and connecting with other home educators online.
      • If you find a blog that speaks to you, don’t stay quiet – engage – comment, message, ask questions. More than likely the person on the other end of the screen is connected to a great community online that you are welcome to join.
      • If you’ve chosen to use a curriculum sold online, then most companies also offer online forums specifically designed to meet the needs of families using their products. But it isn’t limited to that – forums are a place for like-minded parents to ask vulnerable questions and provide real life responses to questions about behavior, development, relationships in the home, etc. This is especially useful for parents just starting out in their home education journey and for those who do not know any families with older kids than their own locally. Be prepared for debate and disagreements more online than in person as people are much more free with their judgments and criticisms online – and that’s why I recommend first going through each educational theory to find the one or two that best fit you and then look for a group.
    • By phone or Skype: One of my dearest friends is overseas. She and I have connected over Skype and shared what we are learning, what resources we are using (the internet is now e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e), and what we want to do next. It’s a deep friendship and so it doesn’t have to be in person for me to feel accountable and encouraged just by letting her in. It’s important to carve out time to continue to nurture relationships that are distant while in the middle of home educating. Even when I’m involved in a lot of local groups – if there are a lot of new faces in my life, even if they are there for a common goal – I still need to balance new with old. For me, this looks like a call every month or 6 weeks. Our schedules don’t allow us to be engaged more often, and that’s okay. We surprise each other with how much it means to start up where we left off. It’s work to be in touch, but it’s a big part of the good work of staying confident in the commitment to home educate.

Become and educator Emmett at Library

Finally, don’t cut your commitment to home educate short by dumbing it down. How people view “homeschooling” is changing. There is growing interest and respect for parents who are home educating well. I hope you will count yourself as a member of this group with confidence for the next time you’re asked “so where do your kids go to school?”

Thank you for reading. I created a free PDF guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement that will help form a framework for your choices as a parent whether a home educator or not. Click here to sign up for the free guide and posts from The Home Learner.

Also, affiliate links are used in this post. They are set apart by underlining. Read more about the use of affiliate links: Disclosure Policy. Or contact me for more information.