How one conversation led to peace, rest, and the right curriculum.

Remember when I mentioned my conversation with Sarah McKenzie?

Well, she doesn’t know this yet, but her advice to me personally changed the course of our decision entirely (for the better*). Let me explain…

I went to the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) with 4 companies in mind as possible curricula for the next year. I was openly leaning toward Classical Conversations and away from Memoria Press with Tapestry of Grace and Veritas Press nestled in the middle. I didn’t even take the time to research Classical Academic Press because I was under the misconception that they didn’t put together a “whole grade” package. (And remember what I said I needed? Hand holding.)

Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)

So, here’s my process of research and decision.

Veritas Press: First Impression – confusing lesson plans without a clear instructor’s guide (each subject has it’s own lesson plan without a clear agenda and without a checklist). I would have to read separate plans for every subject. Very expensive. For one of my children I calculated an “at least” total of $1,300.

Tapestry of Grace: First Impression – too much work. As much as I appreciate the value of their history and Bible program – the 4 year cycle, the cool map, the whole family integration – I just felt like I would have to do so much more work to pull together all the other subjects to create a whole plan for my children’s year. At this point, I didn’t know what Latin, Language Arts, etc. to use, and by choosing Tapestry I would have to find all of those for myself. And it is also very expensive: $300+ for just the Instructor’s Guide. I would have to find and purchase all of the other resources in addition, along with finding and buying all of the other subjects we want for a whole year.

Classical Conversations: I have already experienced this curriculum, and I wanted badly to like their co-op. But the week of the GHC, I finally felt peace that the co-op would not fit our family. So, I wanted to use this program as just the “spine” for all our subjects. The Foundations Instructor’s Guide (IG) would be our hub for what to learn in all the subjects. We would use the history cards and memory songs, but all the additional resources I would have to find on my own. 

Memoria Press: First Impression – Great packaging. The resources were grouped by grade on one side of their booth and by subject on the other. It was easy to find and become familiar with what would be expected for a year using their products. They use a lot of workbooks (it’s kind of what they are known for) and they put a high emphasis on Latin. Talking with their representatives made me feel confident that we would be able to utilize their tools and teach our children in the classical model with their products. The cost for two students in the same “grade” was just over $700. This includes all subjects, even science and math.

By the second day of the convention, I felt convinced that Memoria Press would have to be the company for us. They offered everything I wanted most: convenience (hand-holding), confidence (full-curriculum IG with checklist), and relatively lower cost.

If left to myself, I would have grabbed the cute basket of goodies labeled with the appropriate grade, headed to the checkout, and breathed a sigh of relief that I would be all set for next year. Even though I wasn’t quite convinced that my kids would love all the workbooks, and even though the read alouds for the year were books we had already read.

Thankfully, I’m not left to myself. My husband was so supportive of my preference and even asked good questions of the representatives while we together looked over their products.

As a caution, he said: “I just want you to pick a company that we can stick with for the long haul. I don’t want to jump from company to company each year. Like Memoria this year, and Veritas the next. Whichever company we pick, I want to stick with them for the duration so that our kids don’t have gaps in their subjects.”

For example, if Memoria teaches biology for 3rd grade and Veritas teaches biology for 4th grade, then switching like this would mean 2 years of the same subject and we would miss other subjects.

I took his caution as a healthy burden. One that was wise and helpful in slowing down my desire to just pick and be done.

But the burden created conflict within me. I wanted to pick Memoria, but I had no peace about committing to use it for the long haul. I kept going back to their booth between sessions. I looked and looked at all their resources while praying. I did the math between Veritas and Memoria, which made me feel even more pressure to pick Memoria. Even so, I still didn’t have peace. I told my husband that maybe we should just wait and not buy our curriculum like we always do.

Used with permission from CAP.

Used with permission from CAP.

Finally, feeling at a loss for what to do with my urge to buy and my burden to wait, I saw Sarah McKenzie at the Classical Academic Press booth (which I still {wrongly} viewed as more of a classical model resource booth and not a “curriculum booth” – they have great curriculum!). I mustered the nerve and went over to talk to her.

I felt silly, but I laid out my situation for her and asked for her opinion.

She wisely gave me her advice to carefully listen and apply my husband’s advice, and she used her own experience of listening to her husband and how much of a blessing it was to her. I know she really listened to me, and even positively commended Memoria Press, citing a friend who uses and loves them. She joked that their packaged baskets are so cute, it just makes you want to go get your grade and take it home all nice and neat.

I had a red flag here, and thought “oh no, I don’t just want their product for the cute baskets!”

I thanked her for her advice, noticed she had more women lining up to speak with her, hugged her and thanked her for sharing herself and her work with all of us. I picked up a Classical Academic Press catalog just for reference and left the booth.

The next morning, I still had no peace. I realized that the red flag was really a stop sign. I did just want a cute basket to take home. 

So, I sat down and prayed. I had my bag with all the catalogs, so I opened up the Classical Academic Press catalog just hoping for some direction.

What I saw surprised meA chart of their products across all grades. A map for a “whole grade” curriculum. (You can view Classical Academic Press’ whole catalog for yourself by clicking here.)

I was hooked. I read every word in the catalog that applied to my children’s ages and grades. I liked everything I saw. I was able to connect the dots between the program and our life. I felt like their program was both full of integrity and academic excellence, yet their approach was gentle and restful. (Scholé, right?)

I was beginning to feel passion for this company, excitement that this could be truly what I was looking for. I started to pray. Then I started to do the math.

It’s true that they don’t have “bundles” for each “grade.” You can’t just drop into their booth, say I want 4th grade, and walk away with your cute basket. So, I used their map and the catalog to piece together what I would need for two students. The total calculated to approximately $400 for everything minus science and math. (They do not offer a science nor math programs.)

I sent a feverishly excited text to my husband proclaiming that I was changing my mind about Memoria, including what I had just found out about Classical Academic Press, and asking him to pray!

There are more pieces to this story: attending Dr. Christopher Perrin’s session (with my husband) titled “Classical Christian Education 101,” talking with (asking questions of) representatives at the Classical Academic Press (CAP) booth, and lots more praying. One of the fun things that felt like a treat to me was that CAP uses Veritas Press’ history program, and I loved this program. I wanted to use it, but I didn’t feel confident to pull that program out of the whole of Veritas. CAP did that work for me.

So, we picked CAP and I was so very blessed in the process. They told me at check out that they were offering a special 20% off discount because of an anniversary they were celebrating as a company, and we were going to get free shipping on anything not available right then.

Ready to see what we bought?

(Pictures, links, and product descriptions used from the Classical Academic Press website with permission. To find CAP products that would best fit your child’s age, go to ClassicalAcademicPress.com, at the top there are 2 navigation bars – the purple bar contains their “Products” and you can research their offerings by grade, subject, series, or online course offerings.)

SSL2-Program

Song School Latin 2: Student workbooks, flashcards, teacher’s manual, and DVD Weekly lessons include songs, chants, new and review vocabulary, an introduction to grammar, and derivatives, all without leaving behind fun illustrations, stories, games, and activities. Song School Latin Book 2 will more than prepare students for their journey on to Latin for Children Primer A. They will surely continue their love of learning Latin with Song School Latin Book 2!

W and R Fable

Writing and Rhetoric: Fable including the MP3 files of the stories being read. The Writing & Rhetoric series method employs fluent reading, careful listening, models for imitation, and progressive steps. It assumes that students learn best by reading excellent, whole-story examples of literature and by growing their skills through imitation. Each exercise is intended to impart a skill (or tool) that can be employed in all kinds of writing and speaking. The exercises are arranged from simple to more complex. What’s more, the exercises are cumulative, meaning that later exercises incorporate the skills acquired in preceding exercises. This series is a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric. Fable is the first in a series of twelve books that will train students over six years, starting in grades three or four and up.

Well Ordered Lang Lev 1

Well-Ordered Language Level 1A & 1B student books, teacher’s manual, and MP3 files of the songs & chants. What if the study of grammar could harness a child’s natural curiosity? What if it could be a source of delight to children? The Well-Ordered Language curriculum presents the study of language in a way that appeals to a child’s inborn curiosity and desire to collect, gather, and order.

VP OT History Cards

Veritas Press’ History program for Old Testament: Ancient Egypt with teacher’s manual, flashcards, enhanced CD for homeschool, and the memory song CD. Thirty-two major events chronologically from Creation to the fall of Egypt to Rome.

Gods Great Covenant OT

God’s Great Covenant, Old Testament 1 student workbooks, teacher’s manual, audio files, timeline, and map.  A Bible Course for Children teaches the biblical narrative from Genesis to Ruth, including the book of Job, at a third- to sixth-grade level. The overarching Old Testament themes of the promises and power of God are presented in simple weekly stories. Students will follow along with God’s people, see how He leads them and keeps His promises, and learn how the stories of God’s people begin to point us to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ.

Reasoning and reading

Beginning Reasoning and Reading student workbooks and teacher’s guide. The Reading & Reasoning workbooks develop basic language and thinking skills that build the foundation for reading comprehension. Exercises reinforce reading as a critical reasoning activity. Many exercises encourage students to come up with their own response in instances in which there is no single correct answer. In other cases, exercises lend themselves to students working collaboratively to see how many different answers satisfy a question.

Student Guide to CE

A Student’s Guide to Classical Education (K-12): this is a guide to which classics are appropriate reading for each grade. (Find it on CAP’s site: Our Products>By Subject>Educational Resources)

For Science and Math: We chose Apologia Astronomy and we stuck with Horizons math workbooks.

So, there you have it. The whole process of choosing curriculum for next year with our 3rd and 4th graders. I hope this encourages you to pray through the process of decision making for your family, to ask for advice (you never know how God will use others to help and guide you), and to trust His leadership when it comes (and to wait if it doesn’t).

I will be continuing to get us all set up for next fall now before our little one arrives (5-7 more weeks!). 

To read more about how I prepare check out these links:

Thank you for reading this lengthy post! I would be more than happy to start a conversation with you regarding what curriculum you are interested in trying for your family. I don't claim to be an expert on your needs, but I would love to listen and pray with you over your decision. Homeschooling is best in community! Also, if you're a Holland Local, let me know if you would be interested in joining a Scholé group. Contact me or leave a comment. Thanks again, and may your homeschool path be full of rest and peace!

For your personal education, I recommend the course I’m currently taking: Make Over Your Evenings by Crystal Paine. (Afflink)

Prepare to be productive like never before!

*I highly recommend Memoria Press – the company and their products. I just know that my children wouldn’t be served best by their products at this time. To learn more about their products for yourself – visit their website!

“Baby Jail” and other thoughts on being a stay at home mom

Magic Wand, a Mr. Rogers Moment, and My Uniform 4

Making coffee, buttering toast, walking the dog, washing the dishes, folding the laundry, and wiping down the sink again… It’s a stay at home mom’s life, and it’s all so b-o-r-i-n-g.

If I’m not careful, these little tasks begin to mock me. This is all you’re really good at anyway. Your effort doesn’t mean anything because it will be undone and you’ll have to do it again.

And my mind gets a one-two punch if I fall behind or things look cluttered. Discouragement is like a shadow, stuck to me. A constant reminder that I am what I do, and what I’m doing isn’t amounting to much.

A friend once called life as a stay at home mom of young kids “baby jail.” And I remember thinking that while a lot of that image doesn’t work, one thing strikingly does: the angst of feeling stuck.

I don’t like feeling stuck. So, I Make Over My Mornings or work through a book on cleaning with the right heart, and I take ownership of making more with my life. I want to live up to my purpose.

Because after all, the whole reason I’m home is to fulfill a greater purpose than wiping sinks, noses, and buns.

But nothing can really change. I mean, I change, my attitude can change, but the fact that I’ve listed out my priorities doesn’t magically transform what it looks like to be a stay at home (schooling) mom.

And that’s when I have to face the fact that no course, book, consultant, or blog will change my stage in life. (And that’s never what they were created to do anyway.)

Being stuck in a stage isn’t a problem to fix and no amount of making over will ultimately change what I’m called to do within each stage.

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 2

So, I own my boring life stage. I accept the thrill-less-ness of folding laundry for the thousandth time (only to run across clean laundry in the dirty pile again).

Here are 4 power thoughts for stay at home moms:

Focus on enjoying one part this stage each day – and do it with all your strength. Nap, color, or scooter with them because all too soon these pastimes will be in the past.

Don’t become over busy by default. Running out to Target again, will not help. Put the van keys down.

Avoid burn out by staying accountable for rest. People on Facebook don’t need to know your status at 10:00 p.m. You need to know your pillow.

Take time to develop better self control – it isn’t about saying “no” to yourself, it’s about knowing yourself.

Sometimes it’s okay to scroll through Instagram while waiting for the wash cycle to finish, and sometimes it isn’t because a child could really use your face to face time more. Only you can determine what you need to say no to in any given moment. Make sure to know what is best before spending your time.

At the end of the day it isn’t about whether you’re satisfied with what you did, it’s about whether you’re satisfied with who you are becoming.

Please don’t stay stuck. Reach out. Accept encouragement. Try something different. Set small goals. If goal setting seems impossible right now, try this course (which goes on major sale Friday) or the Make Over Your Mornings one. And please feel free to ask me for help too. Join my accountability group for more personal encouragement. Again, nothing will change the stage you’re in, but any one of these can significantly help you get unstuck. 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Find out what that means by clicking here or feel free to contact me by clicking here with any questions. Thanks!

Homeschooling & Adult ADD: Building a Stronger Brain

Homeschooling & Adult ADD Building a Stronger Brain

Most moms agree, the work within the home is never finished. Even on our best days when everything has been clean, cleared, and decluttered – just wait until the next meal or snack time and there are more dishes, dirty clothes, and tasks that require more work.

The cycle of this work isn’t worth resisting. I’ve personally tried, and I can testify that the attitude of acceptance is the better mental path. Because I know from experience that even on a good day, I may have at least 6 things going on all at once:

  • Unloading and loading the dishwasher
  • Starting or switching a load of laundry
  • Supervising math lessons
  • Writing plans in my Bullet Journal
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Reading a recipe for dinner and/or baking a snack

There’s nothing wrong with this on days when I’m fired up and bouncing from one thing to another – productive, producing, and purposeful.

But then there are days when it feels like everything is wrong with this.

Those days when all the unfinished projects make me feel like I’m working in a dozen different directions all while getting nothing accomplished. Good intentions, starts in all directions, distractions, and burn out can make my home and my heart look and feel like a mess. 

Most times, even though I had checked a dozen boxes and started a lot of great projects, I still felt like a failure at the end of the day. Somehow starting a lot of good things didn’t feel good enough. I wasn’t satisfied with my work. I didn’t feel accomplished. I wasn’t satisfied with myself – who I was or who I was becoming. I felt stuck in action mode, constantly starting things and rarely being allowed to finish them in one setting.

Feeling torn by distractions, demands, and disasters made my brain feel over stimulated and under rewarded. 

Adult ADD is a powerful thing, and I’ve learned that it is impossible to harness this power by ignoring the urges or by giving into each impulse. Instead I learned a way of life that both harnesses my impulse and embraces the way my brain works by making little good decisions in the same direction over long periods of time.

In building a stronger brain and embracing my ADD moments, the following 7 things make all the difference:

Learning to plan. Does it really matter if I leave the dishes half loaded into the dishwasher to run downstairs to throw a load of towels into the dryer from the washer? Nope. There are no “universal household chores laws” stating clearly that all household chores must be started and completed in singular focus and without any distraction. (If that law existed, then I would all be guilty of breaking it every day. I have a toddler. The end.) I know this to be true, yet I have lost my mind over too many things started (by me, I take the blame) at one time. I’ve beat myself into a shame-crushed-pulp for my lack of ability to get things done by the end of the day.

Have you ever started so many tasks in the day that you’ve stayed busy and even productive all day long but by the time you’re ready to go to bed – nothing is completed? I get so angry with myself when I live like this. I don’t want to lack self-control. I don’t want to bounce from one thing to the next – constantly pulled, distracted, demanded, or tempted to change course. So I have to physically write out a plan. I budget my time and choose only the things that I can reasonably finish while factoring in all the real life stuff that has to happen. Learning to plan well has been a life saver for me – not because I never planned my days before – because I have learned how to feel time by using a time budget and therefore I can set myself up for success. This success allows me vision and patience. The ability to see where everything fits and the understanding that I can’t get to everything in one day.

Exercising self-control in noticing the things around me. I wish I could turn off my brain for how much the things around me stimulate me, but since I can’t I have to learn how to talk to myself above the stimulation. When the little things around the house, clutter, dirt, kids toys, books, papers, etc. all scream for my attention, I have to choose to take control of the outcome of the thought before I become overwhelmed. Self-control is calm and allows me to think reasonably about the one thing I should stay focused on. It helps me to not spiral out of control because that’s how I feel when it seems like everything is coming at me.

Allowing interruptions to have a small place in my plan without spending too much time recovering from starting another task. Interruptions come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes I’m the one to blame for interrupting myself by noticing everything around me and deciding at random that now is the time to take action. A couple Saturdays ago, I was in the bathroom when I looked at my glass shower doors and thought today’s the day those things are getting clean. Cleaning the shower doors was not on my agenda, and I was in the middle of several other things. But even though starting a task like cleaning glass shower doors interrupted my plan, I allowed it only because I was committed to getting right back at my original task.

Learning how to enjoy real rest. This has been a long work in progress. I don’t think I would have been able to learn as much about hard work over the past few years if I hadn’t first learned to discern truth from lie with regards to rest. The ADD brain is a tired brain for all the distractions, demands, and decisions constantly coming at it, and a tired mind doesn’t make wise decisions. Without truth and wisdom, my mind is an unhealthy, unhappy place to be. Learning to rest from ADD is a discipline because rest isn’t just sleep. To be able to cease from work and just enjoy the company of my family or the leisure of a good book without my brain firing in all directions is another layer of self-control. One that brings great reward for my tired brain.

Trusting my inner creative to be able to accomplish what I want to without having to follow the set of “rules” that I normally try to follow. Often I feel like my ADD brain wants to attempt a task from a weird angle and my fear of failure also fires and tries to correct this attempt which causes me to feel at odds with myself. I’m learning that if I trust my gut in how I want to approach a task then the fruit will be not only productivity but also a greater sense of self within the task. And if I do indeed fail at my attempt because of the way I went about it, then I’m learning to own it and quickly start over without allowing for regret.

Seeing the bigger picture. Before I started to harness my ADD, I couldn’t see the big picture in my life at all. I thought that was just a personality limitation; I could see the details very well and assumed that not seeing the big picture was just a weakness of mine. But as I mentioned that making little good decisions in the same direction had a profound effect on my ability to make wiser choices and balance my ADD, it also allowed me to see real progress and gave me hope for more and more finishing in my life. I look back now and see that my lack of ability in seeing the big picture was mostly due to my lack of ability to finish anything. I couldn’t step back and get a view for where anything was going because I didn’t understand what follow through in anything really looked like. But when I began to practice follow through in the little things, over a long period of time, I eventually began to see how I could incorporate that same self-control in other areas and eventually over my ADD.

Staying off social media when my ADD is at its worst. When I start to feel like I’m losing my grip on the order and purpose of my actions, I need to avoid social media because I get lost in it. This “getting lost” feels like a break; it can feel like relief in the moment, but it isn’t. Social media is a tool not a replacement for rest. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the starts, projects, chores, and demands in my life I want relief but I need vision. And I’ve seen that when I have the other 6 helps for my ADD in check then I can enjoy social media in healthy ways and at appropriate times.

As a homeschool mom, I’ve desperately need to intentionally do what I can to strengthen my brain and harness the power of my ADD. My hope in sharing these helps today is to encourage other moms who are feeling lost in their starts, attempts, and tasks that you can make progress too. Homeschooling can exasperate my ADD and make my parenting purpose feel muddled, but homeschooling isn’t to blame. I can testify that all things in life are benefitted once I help my brain in these ways.

This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental conditions. Reading this post does not equate to seeing your doctor, counselor, or pastor if you believe you have the same struggle with ADD that I have. 

More Helps:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

#Back2School in #31Days: Day 11 – Planning: Curricula

Have you ever spent a lot of time with someone but looking back on that time it feels like you were with them but not engaged with them?

There’s a big difference.

That’s how I felt about being with my children this past year.

In some ways we had an average year with learning. We finished some of our subjects and totally changed course with others.

We clocked a lot of learning time in our calendars.

But in other ways, our year was unique and came with different challenges.

Before beginning anything new, I like to take a full-stop and think everything through, which is why we are committed to attending the Great Homeschool Convention every year. (This is an affiliate link, but I promise with how much I recommend them – they are not sponsoring me. I’m just eager for free.)

Each year, I’m corrected in my thinking as a woman, wife, parent, teacher, writer, friend – all of it. The sessions always seem to untangle the connections and allows me to understand where each of my roles fit.

I’m coming to anticipate a major shift in my thinking and researching of resources and curricula. It’s stretching for me to trust that God will guide us to the right sessions, booths, and materials for teaching and training our children.

It’s been a huge blessing to trust and commit to the way He shows us. We have made the decision for what we will learn in the fall by April – 3 years in a row now. I have really loved being able to go over the materials during the summer at my leisure – then by August each year I feel not only decided but prepared.

Back2School Logo

So far in the #Back2School journey, we’ve covered the why, envisioning the flow, using Pinterest with caution, creating a book nook, staying in the present while preparing for the future, decluttering before you begin, defining a family culture, and discerning the big picture.

Now for a little more nitty gritty on what we’ve decided to try this year.

I wrote about what I thought we were going to use in the takeaway post from the convention, but we (my husband and I) ended up feeling deeply drawn to reading together as a family. At one point in the exhibit hall, my husband said “I just feel like we need to just read lots and lots of good books together.”

Yes. That.

Let’s read lots and lots of books together.

All you need for a good education is a comfortable couch and a library card. – Steve Lambert of Five in a Row

I wasn’t sure about Steve Lambert’s session – Become Your Child’s Favorite Teacher – for the first 15 minutes. I mean, he was interesting and very funny – his jokes made me laugh out loud and when I repeated one to my husband later, I laughed until I cried.  But I was looking for an “aha!” moment and it never came.

What I did walk away with was a conviction. He emphasized again and again the importance of reading aloud to your children. For me, reading aloud is the easiest thing to put off for later. It’s easier to say, “Go work on a page in your math book” than it is to stop what I’m doing to sit and read together.

By the end of the convention, I knew Steve Lambert had been the most inspiring and helpful speaker for me – and before the convention Five in a Row wasn’t even on my list of curricula to look at.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 3

Long story short, we went with Five in a Row Volume 4 for ages 7-8, which isn’t a well known volume. It comes with the Five in a Row Christian Character and Bible Study content, cookbook, and laminated story disks for a map.

We are really excited to see how unit studies will enhance our home, especially in the 4-corners of our home school puzzle.

The books in the unit study are primarily picture books and at first my 8-year old was apprehensive – and I was too to be perfectly honest. I have leaned on the side of hurrying my eldest to strive for the next levels, the harder challenges, and the deeper materials. So to see “easy” content feels beneath her. But as I was taught in the session “You CAN do unit studies” by Steve Lambert, anyone at any age can do a unit study at their level from great children’s literature. (I wrote an example of how he applied Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel for 4 different age levels in this post.)

Five in a Row unit studies cover all the major subjects: social studies, geography, language arts, art, math, and science – plus Bible and home economics!

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 4

We are really looking forward to the relationship building on the foundation of books, the reading – all of us will take turns reading through these stories, the real discussions that will take place as we dig into these rich stories, and the rest from the busyness of trying to build an education from textbooks and worksheets.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 2

In addition to the unit studies, we chose to add a separate history curriculum. Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books was also speaking at the convention and I was able to attend two of her sessions. My husband is deeply interested in history and the books included in this Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades are excellent. For us, it wasn’t a decision from wanting to do more packaged curricula but rather a decision to surround our children with more quality books to choose from in our library.

Many of the books in this package are hard to find on their own. We felt like it was a worthy investment.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 1

We plan to try using lapbooks to enhance the units of Five in a Row. We bought Heidi St. John’s eBook Lapbooking Made Simple to help encourage the set up and follow through of this method of learning.

What is a lapbook?

It isn’t a curriculum. It is a method. It’s like taking a large Science Fair poster board and shrinking it to fit in the child’s lap. You use manila file folders – open it flat, then fold both sides to the middle spine – and that’s it. You now have your lapbook ready for pasting any number of things into the folder on the topic of choice.

So that’s it. This next year is going to be another adventure for all of us in learning together. I plan on sprinkling posts about how things are going with these resources this year – more for accountability on my part to keep going than for your benefit – but I do hope seeing a snapshot of our planning helps inspire you to engage in your learning journey along with us. Let me know if you would like that in the comments or ask anything you’d like about what I’ve shared in this post!

This is part 3 in the Curricula: What We Use series. Click the link to read Part 1: Preschool and Kindergarten or Part 2: 1st and 2nd grades.

And it is also Day 11 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

2016-HOMESCHOOL-CONVENTION-DATES

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From 900 square feet to 2 bedrooms {How To Simplify}

How to Simplify

Sometimes, less is less.

And when it is, hearing the slogan “Less is More” triggers my gag reflex.

I googled “simplify” and the results were math links. Fractions. Numbers. Calculations.

I searched “simplify” on Pinterest and the results were hundreds of quotes. Talk. Advice. Philosophy. (You can see my search here.)

So what do you do when life and space need to make logical and emotional sense? You combine the two forces.

You simplify.

I’m proof that it can be done. We sold our 900 square feet, two-bedroom home back in the summer. As a temporary solution to our homelessness, we moved into my parents’ home.

Let’s stop and do the math (because to simplify there are facts and decisions to make). 5 people going from 900 to roughly 240 square feet. With 2 major goals: #1 don’t cause my parents to hate us and #2 still love one another. And I think how we’re living still makes sense.

So here’s my 10 Tips for How-To Simplify (and stay that way):

  1. Remember it’s the “who’s” that matter most, not the “what’s.”
  2. Know what really matters to them. What makes the people in your family feel alive? What do they get up talking about? Keep those things. If you aren’t sure what these things are, then please don’t start this process. Take the time to invest in this step.
  3. Read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage – Why these and not other “How To Simplify” books? Because at the heart of simplifying is sacrifice. A step-by-step guide, while helpful in most seasons, can feel too demanding if you’re in the middle of a major life change. Whereas the books above are stories of sacrifice and the simplicity that comes from real honest work.
  4. Think in the here and now. Don’t try to problem solve “what-if” situations. Pack, declutter, get rid of what you don’t need now. Second guessing is sabotage.
  5. Ask for help. I found my help in the form of books, but if you’re really wrestling to make a decision then ask someone you trust to do it with you.
  6. Prioritize. I needed to be able to homeschool my children in our temporary space, which meant that it was an automatic “no” to other things that would compete for homeschooling supplies.
  7. Work hard and build up momentum. If you want to get a lot done, then you have to work hard and fast. The time to sit and think was on step #2, now is the time to just keep going. When you see the progress, it will be worth all the effort.
  8. Make it a regular routine to review these steps. Peace and order require maintenance. Schedule simplifying into your Google Calendar – mine is set for 8:30am every Saturday morning.
  9. Stop and rest. Take regular breaks and learn to breathe deeply. Feed yourself well.
  10. Finally, don’t go to Target. Please learn from my mistakes. I finally realized that when I’m going through a major season of sacrifice and change – I cannot handle going to Target (or any store that carries more than just food). I always end up spending more than I had budgeted, and it wasn’t healthy.

With kids underfoot, it can feel like a move or temporary living situation is going to ruin them. My 7 year old has moved 7 times. So believe me when I say that I have felt like life has been too complicated or too much work. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Since becoming my kids’ safe place there have been less chaos and more calm. My kids know their needs will be met, and we enjoy everyday life.

Less is less. And that’s okay with me. Less stuff means less clean up, less clutter, less baggage.

Upstream Field Guide

Upstream is a self-paced e-course by the talented Tsh Oxenreider of TheArtofSimple.net and The Simple Show (she's also the author of 3 lovely books). I'm an affiliate for this course and the links underlined in this post are affiliate links as well. Thanks!

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?