Deadlines are awesome.

I’m up to my waist in preparation for our little baby #4 to arrive.

At the time I’m writing this we have between 4-6 weeks left before we can expect her make her appearance. Nothing like a baby to create a big deadline.

I’m nesting. The wonderful and irrational have become a normal part of my everyday.

Nesting brings about some unique and seemingly irrational behaviors in pregnant women and all of them experience it differently.

Since I’m not a new kid on the block when it comes to this stage of pregnancy, I’m accepting the helpful parts of nesting (cleaning, organizing, decluttering) and I’m trying to reject the counter productive parts.

Women have reported throwing away perfectly good sheets and towels because they felt the strong need to have “brand new, clean” sheets and towels in their home. They have also reported doing things like taking apart the knobs on kitchen cupboards, just so they could disinfect the screws attached to the knobs.” 

There’s so much to do, and so little time. It’s definitely the procrastinator’s dream situation because there is no shortage of adrenaline when thinking through all the things that have to be done now.

So what does this mean for homeschooling?

I’ve decided that the baby’s arrival is not only the deadline for all the things I need to prepare for our home, but it is also the deadline for having next year’s homeschool plan prepared.

I realize that it isn’t popular to line up all the next year’s resources this far in advance. For goodness’ sake, most people aren’t finished with their current year yet – It’s May! But we’ve worked hard this past year, and we’ve been finished with the bulk of our curriculum load for weeks now, and so it feels natural to get the new stuff out now to review instructor’s guides, introductions, and user guides.

Baby or not, late spring is my favorite time to decide what we will do and how we will do it for the next year.

Because:

  • Strengths, weaknesses, and limitations are still fresh in my mind
  • Interests have emerged through what we studied that were different or more developed
  • I have fear of procrastination and this early “get it done” time frame works for me
  • I make bad decisions when I get overwhelmed (see this for proof)

So, over the next few posts I’m going to be sharing my year planning tips in short and sweet chunks. I’ll be writing primarily for the benefit of those who have never tackled planning for a whole year before because I recognize that when you’re planning for the very first time you’re in the most need of practical, step-by-step tips. (If you aren’t a first-timer, I would love for you to engage in the comments to add your tips and suggestions too. Thanks in advance!)

Plus, you may have similar feelings to the first time pregnant mama who is excited and scared to death at the same time. You’ve been carrying the desire, calling, and/or conviction to home educate your child(ren) and soon it will be time to “start.” To deliver all the training, resources, and tools. All you need is a deadline to get it done.

And trust me, you don’t want to wait until August.

I’ll be your eyes and ears at the GHC (tell me whom you want interviewed and/reviewed).

It’s time to go to the GHC!

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This week I’ll be traveling to the Great Homeschool Convention and gearing up for our biggest investment in our home life. 

I will be listening and learning from the nation’s experts in education, homeschooling, parenting, and family life. 

Check out the list of speakers here.

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Can’t go?

I’m planning on writing about at least 3 sessions – and you can have a say on which ones! Let me know who you would like to hear from either in review or interview, and I’ll consider adding them to my list. 

Here’s a sample of some of the sessions:

  • I want to QUIT homeschooling!
  • Nurturing the Writer in Your Child
  • Why Children Must Play to Learn
  • My Child Can Read, So Why Can’t He Spell?
  • Am I Doing Enough? Implementing the Classical Christian Model in the Elementary Years
  • Balancing the Busy – Practical Encouragement for the Weary Woman
  • The Importance of Fathers in Education
  • Blood and Morality: The Tradition of Adventure Writing for Boys
  • Helping Distractible Students Succeed
  • Why Do They Do That? Technology’s Influence Over Your Kids’ Beliefs and Behaviors
  • G.K. Chesterton and the Metaphysics of Amazement

These are just a few of my favorite session titles. There are many MANY more to choose from and many more topics than these – like teaching science, handling money, college preparation testing, teaching gifted students, and much more.

This is going to be the most exciting year yet!

And when I get back, the plan is to decide what we will be doing for next year! If you’re curious what we came home with last year, you can read the list of sessions we attended or purchased by clicking here.

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more moment by moment updates on the GHC (and maybe a little behind the scenes).

My homeschool (my life) depends on it.

I haven’t been following my own advice, and I haven’t set real goals in weeks. And I’ve been getting a lot of these sideways glances.

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Day 4: Yes, You Need an Incentive.

Video: Just a few minutes a day, doing something you love, can motivate you and make all the difference.

Workbook: List practical rewards for continuing on the path that is moving forward. Write out the external motivators (simple things like a great cup of coffee or lighting a candle) and the internal motivators (the deeper things like preparing for the day allows me to better align with my purpose in life).

I go through lots of cycles with motivation. From hyper-motivated and set out to change the course of my entire life to woefully under-motivated and barely able to make my own coffee in the morning before the kids come downstairs.

Underneath motivation is a drive, and sometimes – quite frankly – I have zero drive for life. I mean I live, I eat, I maintain the most basic of tasks around the house, but I have absolutely no motivation to do anything more than just survive. And when I feel like this, homeschooling seems nebulous and impossible. Failure becomes my companion rather than my enemy.

My kids are old enough now that they know the difference in my demeanor. They can tell what kind of day we are going to have based on whether or not I care if they watch PBS Kids first thing in the morning or not. Now, I don’t think it’s life-altering to allow them to watch Wild Kratts every morning, but the sad fact is that any show (no matter how educational) makes an imprint on how they will go about their day.

So, I survived a major slump in December. I wanted desperately to start January with fresh motivation. Pregnancy aside, I know the difference between physical limitations and mental blocks. I’ve been through the homeschool year cycle 3 full turns now, and for this fourth cycle I want to make sure I’m continuing to put more of myself into the success of our year than the year before.

Isn’t lack motivation usually the first domino to fall?

Which leads me back to the Make Over Your Mornings course (yes, I’m talking about it again because I’m working through it again – I’m not afraid to come right out and say that I need to re-makeover). As I wrote out my homework for Day 4, I realized I have some really great motivators already in place (the ones that worked really well before the day I saw the 2 pinks lines) if I would only rise and shine for my life. I felt a renewed sense of purpose. Finishing Day 4 was easy, and I felt accomplished.

Until the moment the alarm went off the next day. And the next.

I completely bombed. Like, getting out of bed an hour later than planned, bombed.

And with this failure came the bullying feeling of shame.

Emily Freeman describes it this way:

When fear bullies my soul, I know it because I spend lots of time wishing I was someplace else.

  • I become obsessed with building my life
  • I am frantic to catch up.
  • I feel like I’m missing out.
  • I search but don’t have hope of finding.
  • I build but don’t have a vision for finishing.
  • I strive but don’t believe I have what it takes.
  • I compete.
  • I compare.
  • I hide.
  • I feel ashamed but I don’t know why.
  • I refuse to move toward others.
  • I dread small beginnings.
  • I look at other people’s eight-foot assignments. (That only makes sense if you’ve read chapter 5.)

The solution to this soul-bullying is love. (You’ll have to read the rest of the chapter for yourself because I’ll get in trouble if I copy any more of it here.)

And when I woke up on my own this morning, 35 minutes before my alarm feeling well rested, I knew it was for love that I am awake. It’s for love that I’m alive.

When I live without love, I lack motivation every-single-time.

When I live without love, I don’t care about PBS Kids watching in the morning.

When I live without love, I hit snooze 3 times.

When I live without love, I slump and our homeschool routine slides later and later into the day.

When I live without love, I get dreadfully close to wanting to give up all the good things in my life that I have had to work so hard for.

So, Crystal is right: You need an incentive. And I believe there are rewards for hard work. I must enjoy the incentives for what they are, but I can’t cling to them when the motivation runs out. Because I’m not Pavlov’s dog and I can’t truly be conditioned to behave a certain way indefinitely, so I must stay in better tune with my heart and soul. I must recognize my need for living in tune with love.

My homeschool (my life) depends on it.

Links to what’s helping me right now:

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Be kind, please rewind.

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I’ve been processing through some regrets lately.

Motherhood hasn’t come naturally for me, and the toddler stage has been the hardest of all to figure out – especially the first time around. Seeing the way I relate and bond with my youngest has had me thinking about what I missed with my oldest. As a toddler, I just didn’t treat her the same way I treat my current toddler.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them equally, it’s just that my goals were different. With my oldest, my goal was to aid her development. I wanted to do the best job I could at helping her advance.

My husband and I already knew we were going to homeschool, so I wanted to get my game on – “it’s never to early to start.” At least that’s what I thought. I was operating from the traditional school model and didn’t even know it.

I wanted her to perform for me – write her name, learn the alphabet, count to 20, know all the colors and shapes – all at the ripe old age of two. I wouldn’t have said out loud that I wanted a good performance from her to validate my hard work, but that’s what it was and I can see it clearly now. And thankfully for us both, she wasn’t designed to perform. I had to learn the hard way that I was the one who wasn’t developing correctly.

The time between my oldest and my youngest has taught me to relax, to be with them without wanting anything from them, and to learn them.

But sometimes I feel like I started to learn this too late. Like the window of innate bonding was thwarted during my daughter’s toddler years, and no matter how hard I try to love, understand, and support her it never seems to make up for the bonding we lost.

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It doesn’t seem fair, and I often want to make it right. I realized that the nagging feeling of regret has been working into my heart a good desire to make a change, to work harder at relating and bonding in ways I missed before, and to search for the grace in our relationship.

On regular days, I don’t know how to instantly reach her heart. She’s unique in so many ways, different from me in all the fundamentals, and our dance assumes an air of distance.

So it would make sense that our bonding, moments of understanding, would happen at unplanned and unexpected times.

Like when we stayed home from church on Sunday because she wasn’t feeling well.

I don’t remember the last time I had a sick day with just her. And honestly, I’m glad I was feeling ill myself because I sat still and stayed with her all day. (I’m working on the whole “with” thing. Not just being in the same building with my kids, but actually being side-by-side with them.)

I had a moment where I knew this time alone was special, mentally chiding myself to not mess it up. But when it comes to relating to her, my strength becomes a weakness: I like to plan but I can’t plan for a heart connection. I can’t make her bond with me. She can sense my intentions a mile away, and if she smells any sort of a “plan” then up goes the wall.

Again, my sickness was a blessing. We just sat together, all tangled up in one blanket, and watched TV like regular, old couch potatoes. It wasn’t normal for us at all, and we watched some really crazy old shows like the Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island. I told her about how I watched these shows when I was her age, and I just enjoyed being with her.

Then something special happened. I wanted so badly for her to bond with me, but I was the one who bonded with her. I felt like a kid right along side her. I came back in touch with what it felt like to be small and vulnerable, to not assume connection but to embrace the surprise of it, and to be lighthearted and free.

I read once (and I just spent a chunk of time scouring my bookshelf to find the source – to no avail) that we accept the quirkiness of adults as if they are somehow fixed or permanent and better to be reconciled with than to try to change them. But with children, we view their quirks as black marks that need to be removed, retrained, and replaced with something more socially acceptable (or in my case, something just less annoying).

On the couch with my daughter, I saw her relax in my presence. She knew I wasn’t going to jump up and correct her, train her, or try to change her. I was with her. I was accepting her, as is. I was lavishly spending time with her not only because we were both sick but also because I love her.

And that’s what I want to communicate to my kids the most through this thing called homeschooling. At the end of the day, I want my kids to know in the fiber of their being that the #1 reason we have chosen to educate them at home is because they are loved, they are known, and they have priceless value just because they exist.

Kid-ucation JoeAnna

If I could rewind the story of my daughter’s life, oh, I would do so many things differently, but then I would miss this grace right here. The grace that says, only through this struggle have you’ve grown as a mother, you now know better, and you’ve always loved her (even imperfectly).

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How to Help a Child Struggling with Loneliness :: Conclusion to the Lonely Kids Series

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I was lonely as a child, and that’s why I have compassion for lonely kids. I hid my loneliness mostly because I didn’t know how to articulate it. My bad feelings about myself, my free time, my lack of support, and lack of understanding relationships came out in dramatic behavior.

This was all by age 7. Even younger than that, I remember thinking: If I were gone, no one would notice.

I wasn’t lonely for a lack of people. I went to a brick and mortar school with lots of classmates and adults buzzing around.

The danger of loneliness is that it is subtle. It’s the difference between doing together and being together. As I modeled what I thought was the right way to behave and make friends, I sunk deeper into just doing my life.

Fast forward to my daughter turning 7, and I started to recognize some of the same old symptoms of loneliness in her. Seeing this in her, I was propelled into an all-out campaign to help her and other kids too.

Lonely Kids Conclusion 2

In my effort to help and teach my daughter to see her bad behavior and the bad feelings behind them, I saw her emotional state get worse.

I think we’re all (even the youngest ones) too quick to pick up false guilt.

Since that isn’t what I wanted to happen, I had to get perspective and start over. I committed to support her in the journey of learning who she can become. I’m taking the long view; not ignoring her bad behavior but setting it into context. Character, talents, interests, and influences all impact behavior.

When I was a child, there wasn’t enough time to pursue my interests. I wasn’t given the opportunity to let my talents emerge and grow. Not knowing my own interests led me to feel useless, and that isn’t what I want for my kids. As their mother, and specifically as a homeschooling mother, I am given new opportunities to support my kids in their character, talents, and interests every day. I have the greatest influence on them.

Having an intentional influence on them is a matter of vision. Short term sees bad behavior and just wants to make it change. Long term sees the roots and patiently tends to the heart of the behavior.

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Here are 4 focal points for learning how to see the roots and provide kids with support:

  1. Identity: Knowing who I am helps me know how I need to be supported. Who am I? Who am I becoming? Who do I belong to? Who wants me? What do I allow to label me? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? Identity is a standing stone. It is something to cling to when no one else is around to support or provide companionship. If I show my children that I have a strong sense of identity then they are one step closer to feeling the confidence of knowing their own identity.
  2. Advocacy: Finding a companion isn’t a matter of convenience, rather it’s a commitment. How willing am I to work on behalf of my child to bring other people into their life? Not only do children need healthy peer relationships, but they also need mentors and older kids to look up to too. Where are these people? What are my child’s interests and how can I coordinate people with these activities to better strengthen my child’s confidence? When I think of being my child’s advocate, I picture myself as a manager of their emotional needs. Taking inventory of fun, creativity, outdoor and indoor activities, curiosity, healthy excitement, down time, etc. and balancing it all. Not perfectly but intentionally.
  3. Modeling: Prioritizing healthy relationships with others that provide me with the support and companionship that I need. No one out grows the need for friends. When I’m lonely and unsupported, my kids see it and they suffer too. I want my kids to see me committed to others, and willing to sacrifice for the sake of understanding and loving other people. Aren’t kids always just practicing adults? I want to give my kids a good example of what to practice.
  4. Family Bonds: Being together and knowing love is a vital need for all of us. We are designed to thrive in supportive relationships. Creating a healthy home community starts with encouragement. Words, time, attention, concern, physical touch, traditions, etc. these are all the currency we have to spend on our children in ensuring they enjoy a rich family life. A life of being together on purpose.

As my kids grow older, I’ve realized they also grow less dependent on me to meet their social needs. Rather they need me to be their mentor, providing opportunities for friendships and bonds to flourish on top of their solid foundation of identity and belonging. They need help in order to recognize what being feels like for them.

Loneliness doesn’t have to be a life-long battle. Let’s break the cycle and step in to help.

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When can I rest? {7 Lies that Keep Me from Rest}

When can I rest 7 Lies

One of the trickiest variables in learning time management is knowing how to plan for rest.

Balancing rest and work goes deeper than a schedule. Just having time to sleep, eat, and transition doesn’t mean I have achieved adequate rest. And while scheduling and planning are wise, as a mother and more specifically a homeschooling mother, my life is constant activity. I can’t even be guaranteed that my sleep will be restful.

I’ve often said there’s no rest for the weary. And it’s sad but true when living with little people. They require more than their fair share of attention all hours of the day.

And when I’m weary, I’m more likely to fall prey to some pretty powerful lies. Just like the crushing weight of anxiety I battled as a first-time mom, realizing that this motherhood thing is a lot harder and more demanding that I could have imagined, starting a new week of planning and scheduling for my family of 5 can feel like a weight I can’t bear.

Believing and living a lie has the power to keep me in bondage to a system of futile thoughts and actions.

The bondage is circular and affects both my feelings toward work and rest. For example, if I’m working diligently on cleaning the kitchen but a child comes in and spills a whole bowl of cereal then I feel like the “job” of cleaning the kitchen isn’t done and therefore I’m not allowed to rest. I have a wrong expectation that I’m not allowed or I don’t deserve to rest until everything is perfect.

And when my heart is set on being perfect, I’ve set myself up to listen to these 7 lies about rest:

  • Rest has to be earned. When the job is done, then go ahead a rest. But is the “job” of motherhood ever finished at the end of the day or week? There’s no time clock at my house that gives me the green light for rest.
  • The strong don’t need rest. Workaholics aren’t the only ones that struggle with slowing down. It’s that sneaky pride that bites me and says you can do it all!
  • You have to pay for it (costs may be losses in life and position, or monetarily: meaning paying for a vacation, boat, new toy etc.). I don’t know about you, but my budget just doesn’t allow for planning huge dream vacations and yachts. If I’m pining after what isn’t within my means, then I’m not only neglecting rest but I’m also not grateful for the opportunities to enjoy life.
  • It comes only a couple times a year on special occasions. Holidays are nice, but they cannot refresh me enough to last for the next several months. It isn’t right to bottle up the need to rest and expect that I can get out of a holiday what isn’t there to get.
  • It is a reward only for those who are worthy of it. Sometimes I wait for someone to award me some “time off” to go and rest. I live like being accountable to myself for the balance of activity and rest isn’t enough – I’m longing for others to notice me and my efforts which therefore affirms that I’ve done a “good job” and now am worthy to take a break.
  • You’ll look lazy if you make time for rest. This one gets me the most because I have been lazy. I have wasted time and energy which robbed my family of enjoying a home of purpose, passion, and life. Getting my focus tangled up in too much “big picture” and not enough bite size pieces has led me to discouragement before the sun even rises. So this lie is a twisted truth. I do need to make time for rest AND work. Just because I haven’t worked well, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t still make time to rest well.
  • It is a means to more work. When my wheels are always turning, and my toe is tappin’ while I’m supposed to be focused on rest this is believing the lie that my rest only fuels me for more work. Work is then the obvious idol in my life, controlling my thoughts even when I’m not at work.

So what should the focus of my rest be? And when can I have it?