HOPE (& calm) for homeschooling through the holiday season.

A Prayer for Calm 2

Is it safe for me to tell you that I’m a little bit freaked out? That I’ve almost already had a few minor break-downs? Because it’s November. The first week is almost over, and since the weather has been so wonderful in Michigan I don’t have my usual handles on the season. Before I know it our calendar will be packed full of really great activities, family and church events, and let’s not forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (One must be prepared.)

All the clamor and commotion of the holiday season can leave me feeling a lot less than thankful. My nature is slow paced and thoughtful. I process in days not minutes. I plan this way, teach this way, and I am tempted to resent any one or thing that pushes me to speed up, hustle about, and be in more places at once. I don’t normally worry about being too busy because of the effort that was put into creating our schedule – until the holiday season, and all that seems to fly out the window. And this year I don’t want to fall prey to the pace of the culture.

The culture in our world today is fast, seeking instant gratification. If I’m not careful I won’t notice that the culture outside my home is playing a heavy, invisible role in my mind. It comes in through social media, homeschool program drop offs, texts from friends and family, and even on Sunday morning. There is always a message of what the “norm” is for every environment, activity, and community. And in most seasons I can live counter-culturally without much negative feedback.

While I want to do all the things and be in all the places, I’ve learned that the greatest test of this season is not pass/fail graded on whether I can or can’t do it all. But rather, it is a test of whether I can be in a state of calm no matter the amount of clamor, hustle, or other’s expectations hovering around me. Can I live with the dissonance of the culture of the world around me and the culture I want to cultivate in my heart and in my home? Can I remain calm when the inside and the outside are at odds?

A Prayer for Calm 1

And what about home schooling during this season? Am I supposed to steamroll on and check all the boxes, or let it all go and catch back up later? Where October felt full, November arrives and threatens to burst at the seams. Do I want to neglect the first things in order to affirm my extended family? Can I compromise with our schedule and get back on track before the slump of February?

I’m really wrestling with these questions this year. I want to be intentional about guarding our family’s culture. If I don’t, then I will put on the culture from the outside and start to push out my priorities for the sake of doing more, being more, and attending everything. But that doesn’t nurture calm, it creates a crazy feeling in my soul. Over the past few years I’ve found myself still recovering in January from all the crazy feelings that busyness created.

For me, the craziness inside doesn’t just come from holidays. Last night I spent an hour detailing to my husband all the ways I have been feeling stressed and overwhelmed. (This was a confession-session. If you aren’t able to do this with your spouse or someone close to you and you’re going through a stressful situation, then I highly recommend this book: When Life is Hard. I read this book in 2010 during an especially hard time in my life when I had no physical person to go through the trials with me.)

I shared all my burdens and came to the point of surrender that was necessary in order to know how to stand back up and move forward. Without examining what’s making me feel crazy, how will I know which burdens to continue to carry and which ones to forsake? Only clear predetermined priorities can help me answer this.

I want my family culture for this busy season to be calm. I want the nature of peace to pervade everything we do. I want there to be relief when we are together in the privacy of our home that we can take with us outside the home running to whatever various commitments we may choose.

Calm isn’t the same as easy. It will require diligence to carry our daily burdens and to continue in prayer when schedules are full and we feel too busy. And cancelling plans for fear of busyness isn’t true calm either. Remember: as your days, so shall your strength be.


I want my 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 robs us of the opportunity to enjoy to the fullest this unique season of the year. Being fully present, fully calm, and fully thankful is a gift both to me and to others and this is the gift for which I am praying.

So maybe you’re feeling like me and you don’t know how you’re going to keep up with this busy season, or maybe you’re not like me and you love the hustle and bustle – either way, I’ve written a prayer to help protect what’s most important: living in unity with the Lord and enjoying a calm spirit because of His presence.

Click here for A Prayer for Calm During a Busy Season.

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More encouraging thoughts on culture and calm:

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#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.


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? 

Back2School Logo

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.


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.


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.

#Back2School in #31Days: Day 1 – The Why

Back2School Logo

Last year in August, I found myself heading back and forth to the store 6 times for school supplies. I love office supplies – new Sharpies (or my new favorite pen), Crayola, journals, binders – this is one of my happy places danger zones.

The first trip I was armed my list, piled the backpacks, notebooks, colored pencils, etc. high, and paid quite a large sum for such not-long-lasting things, and went home still feeling excited for Back to School.

Then around the first week of September as we got into our language arts, I realized I needed a couple more notebooks.

And 3-ring binders for Bible.

And I still didn’t have a “24oz water bottle” for my daughter.

The back and forth was driving me crazy. I was sick of Back to School by the 2nd week of September.

Procrastination and I are not good friends. I super don’t like feeling overwhelmed – the feeling that I’ve forgotten or lost something. When I have too many things stored in my brain and not on paper – I start to get short and snappish. It isn’t fun to be around me. It isn’t fun to be me.

In Emily Freeman’s new video about her new book, she talks about how it’s hard sometimes to live with the hustle and bustle of life on the outside, but what about when you have that feeling inside?

Have you ever been there? I have.

For me, I’m realizing that Christmas and Back to School are some of the most fun times of the year, but also the busiest. I mean, the lists and all the shopping they demand is enough stress to make me throw up my hands and give up. To not care and not try.

The resources – time, money, energy flowing through my fingers from the stress of getting things together at the last minute. What should be exciting and energizing makes my soul feel weighed down and crushed. And don’t get me wrong I love to buy me some Crayola – I would have 3 sets of every product they sell if I had unlimited resources.

Last August, after what felt like the hundredth trip to the store, I developed a weird connection between how much I loved my child and whether they had the best name brand water bottle for school. That’s when I knew something was wrong in my spirit, and I had waited too long to get ready for going back to school.

Waiting until the last minute, or doing a whole bunch of preparing all at once isn’t good for my soul. The rush, the pressure, the money, the panic to do-everything-right weighs me down and I don’t make wise choices under these circumstances. I make fast choices.

Fast choices during a Back to School sale aren’t good choices.

So this year, I’ve decided to chronicle my #Back2School adventure (using this hashtag). I’ll be sharing daily (except Sundays) what little progress I’m making on getting ready for school in a way that allows me to breathe.

Since we just moved into our home the first weekend of July, the series will start out with a bang – some really awful BEFORE pictures of what our schoolroom was. WAS. There will be an AFTER picture but I’m not aiming for perfection.

My motto is: Focus on function – don’t pine (or pin) after perfection.

Focus on Function don't pine after perfection for B2S

I found this little scribble in an old Bullet Journal (more on Bullet Journals for school on Day 8!).

I’m asking myself what little step can I take today to get me closer to my goal of being ready for school?

It can seem so overwhelming to face transitions, change, and challenges – but I’ve been slowly learning that I can break down what seems like a huge task into bite size pieces.

I hope this series will inspire you to break down your challenging tasks – will you join me for #Back2School in #31Days?

Here’s the index:

For more help to break down tasks into bite size pieces, I highly recommend Tsh Oxenreider’s book One Bite at a Time 52 Weeks of breaking life’s tasks into manageable chunks. (This is an affiliate link. I own the book and love it – I think you will too.)728x90