Productive without pressure, and joys without regrets. January 2016

Focus on Function don't pine after perfection for B2S

On one hand, I can’t believe January is over. We are already 1/12 of the way through the year. I don’t feel like I accomplished a “January” amount of fresh-starts and goals.

But on the other hand, I’m thankful January is over. I love the lived in feeling of an everyday life. I do enjoy reflections, projections, and motivations for personal change, but like with everything – too much of a good thing is just too much.

So, here at the end of a good start to the New Year, I have a few things to share about what I’ve learned: January 2016 edition.

1. I can’t stand reading a fiction ebook. I had no idea this was the case before attempting to read Five Brides for our book club this month. Non-fiction ebook? Sure. Digital cookbook? Love it. But this experience reading fiction on a screen has made me want to throw an old fashion tantrum.

2. I have learned a way to trick myself into being energized by (some) social engagements. This is a huge one. I’m writing a whole separate post on it because it has kind of changed everything about me. From introvert to functioning extrovert. Okay, maybe not that far, but close. I no longer severely dread having to be in public, which I used to do even with close family and friends. I can now leave an engagement feeling lifted up and not drained to the core. I am able to reflect positively on my contribution to the situation without regretting all the ways I deflected, avoided, or stalled.

3. Kale salads are kind of my pregnancy “thing.” I’ve been trying really hard to eat primarily vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats. (I got this book from the library to help me understand this way of eating.) I’ve shared my new Pinterest love for finding recipes on my Facebook page too. It’s amazing what a great recipe can do for my overall well-being.

Photo from MMD

Photo from MMD

4. I made a list of books I want to read in 2016, and I thought it would feel stifling. I thought I would rebel against a predetermined plan for what to read, but instead I feel free from the overwhelm of “there are so many good books to read – how can I ever choose the next one?” feeling.

5. I’m loving the podcast What Should I Read Next by Anne Bogel. I like hearing people talk about the books they’ve liked, disliked, and what they should read. I’ve never been a huge fiction reader because I don’t know which books at the library would be worth my time (I learned quickly that borrowing 12 titles only to return all 12 unread isn’t worth the effort). This podcast helps enormously, and Anne is just plain pleasant to listen to.


6. The pros and cons of Apple products: The iPhone camera is highly superior to other phone cameras. This lesson learned has been a painful one. I’m still working through the transition. That said, we are also happily ditching Apple. We tried to love our Mac Mini, but it is just too slow. The operating system doesn’t allow for the level of management we are used to – for instance we can’t schedule system updates, we can’t see when programs were last opened or for how long they ran, and it doesn’t have a great file structure. I do, however, love the track pad and multiple desktop functions, but those things don’t weigh as much as the things I dislike. So, we are saying goodbye.

7. Educational theories: I’ve been researching and evaluating educational theories for about a year. I was introduced to Classical Conversations (CC) in February 2015, and I honestly had had no exposure to the classical model before that time. Being the hungry-to-understand-everything person that I am, I set out to tackle this option and either determine if it A.) Was for us. OR B.) Was not for us. With a solid why for whichever choice we made. But I still can’t figure out what is right for us and it’s consuming a lot of my mental space. We are planning on attending another CC informational meeting soon, and I’ve set the deadline for decision for March 30th because we leave for the Great Homeschool Convention on March 31st.

8. I finally got to start a new Bullet Journal in a real Dotted Leuchtturm 1917. To describe the love I have for this journal would be to take way too much space and time. Let me say, trust me, the dots are amazing. Please, for the love, try the dots. (If you love writing in a journal or specifically Bullet Journals, then you really need to try this journal.)

What I’m reading:

Posts that relate:

Things that are making me happy:

  • Seafoam. I don’t think I can say this is a “OK” pregnancy craving, but I can say that I love it. It’s a good thing it’s expensive or I would eat way too much of it.
  • Downton Abbey. No explanation needed.
  • Read Aloud Revival Membership! The Master’s classes to be exact. Learning how to create book list that is unique to us and the Education in an Hour classes have been excellent. 
  • Baby kicks. I know it’s probably because this little one is #4 and I’m really used to the feelings, but it’s been wonderful to remember that I’m carrying life inside me!
  • Indoor grill. I’ve been making grilled chicken more lately for dinners. It’s amazing what a simple tool can do to the taste of food. I love grilled food.
  • My toddler in glasses. Pictures coming soon to Instagram. (And I cut his hair too!)

That’s it. I hope you had an enjoyable January. Productive without pressure, and joys without regrets.

This post is linked with Emily Freeman's Let's Share What We Learned post. Click on her name to check out the original post. Also, there are affiliate links in this post, read my disclosure to find out more about that. And finally, subscribe to TheHomeLearner to hear more about home life, learning, parenting, and more for free - delivered straight to your inbox. Thanks for reading!


Until Next Year September: What I learned & What I’m Into

What I'm Learning and Into September 1

Why record what I’ve learned and what I’ve been into?

Record to remember, 

remember to recall, 

recall to recover, 

recover to move on from there, 

move on from there to grow, 

grow to live, 

live to know what it means to be alive, 

know what it means to be alive to breathe gratitude, 

and breathe gratitude to get a taste of heaven.

What have I learned in September? Well, right off the bat let me tell you that September was amazing. I realized that it is my favorite month of the year! I never considered myself a “favorite season” type of person where all the passion for life flows wild at one point on the calendar, until this year. I am so excited to bottle up all the goodness from summer, and I am looking forward to all the blessings fall and winter will hold too.

So here are a few of the things I bottled from September (What I Learned – Emily style, and What I’m Into – Leigh style, all mixed together):

1. Relationships with my little people.

I’m soaking up every moment of their littleness. Often I fear what my children will face when they are older. How will they handle the harsh realities of this world? My brain goes into flight when I even give it an inch to imagine the possibilities. I’m learning that the best way to train them for the future, to guard their hearts and minds, to build a solid foundation of integrity, character, and values is to enter into the moment they are in and process it with them. I don’t want to tell my kids what to think – I mean, don’t get me wrong – I do want it to be that easy. I wish I could just tell them what to think, and save them from the years of trouble from wrong thinking. But that wouldn’t be living, and it wouldn’t be honoring them as people nor their childhood as a process. I want to be a mother who can see a moment, enter it quietly without an agenda to change it, and learn my child before teaching anything. I’m learning that my children accept me and embrace what I have to show them so much more freely when I am shoulder to shoulder with them.

2. Living Proof Live

Goals after LPL September

Beth Moore is like a Pumpkin Spice Latte to me. I don’t get to enjoy listening to her all throughout the year, but when it’s time I savor every single word. Audacious has been a word confronting me and reminding me of all that I learned as I move forward.

3. Revive15: Women Teaching Women

I attended the Revive15 Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana put on by Revive Our Hearts, and it was such a rich time of learning to write, to listen, to teach, and to savor the Word. Jen Wilkin shared a word about the danger treating my devotional life like a debit card that I swipe to get what I want right then and there. She said that the true life in the Word is to make deposits into a savings account – everyday, little by little, the investment grows into a rich life in the Spirit as I meditate on the Word.

// Leigh DeMoss taught on what it means to have the Spirit’s anointing and the importance of waiting on the Lord to teach me before teaching His Word to others.


And Dr. Eric Mason. He taught from Psalm 51, the importance of ongoing repentance. It was a power-filled conference. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend and receive a word from the Lord.


4. Piano Guys

What I Learned and What I'm Into September 3

We super love music in this house, but no one loves it more than my littlest man. I’m so head over heels for his air-cello-playing and dancing that it doesn’t matter that we are listening to the same CD on repeat for the 4th time.

5. Reading

I finally got to the point where I was completely fed up with junk-food-books. Like, they make me upset. I don’t want them near me, in my house, or in my child’s hands. I made up an action plan and we have been working the plan. I’m happy to say that it has drastically changed our library experience for the better.

What I'm Learning and What I'm Into September 4

Plus, I finally brainstormed a better incentive program for my children. Previously, when my daughter was first learning to read longer texts, she wanted to jump right into chapter books, which we encouraged. We told her that if she could read an entire chapter book then we would pay her a small token amount. But sometime between then and now, we lost track of how many books she was reading and she just kept on happily reading for the fun of it. Win/win. Except she was just reading junk-food-books. So now my challenge is to encourage her to read the books I pick out for her, which is why I needed a new incentive.

Raffle tickets.

I’m going to give my kids raffle tickets for each book they read that is assigned to them. Then once a week we will have drawings for different prizes. I’m still working out the kinks on this system, but I’m looking forward to see the momentum build from the amount of quality going into their minds.

6. Unit Studies and Lapbooks

So, I’m using Five in a Row (FIAR) Vol. 4 this year with my 2nd and 3rd graders. What is a unit study? I’ll be explaining and expounding on the subject soon for the Educational Theories Defined series. (I haven’t abandoned that train.) The cool thing for September has been that each week the book I chose lined up exactly with the weather and the calendar. How neat is that? I’m so thankful that I took the extra time to go through the whole list of books and wrote down the title in a seasonal category because I never would have used the instructor’s guide out of order if I had not seen another blogger recommend writing out the titles per month.

Studying Roxaboxen during the first week of fall was a blessing. The sweetness of the story in the changing seasons and growing old of the children – seeing how time passes and changes us was so tender and practical. For science we studied seasons and time and celebrated the first day of fall; it was as if the story gave them handles on this thing called life and they could examine it closely with the tools they had.

What I'm Learning and Into September 2

This was another way for me to stay in the moment with them too.

7. Power naps

Did you see the time on my alarm from this picture? Right. I’ve been very close to getting up everyday this week at the earlier time, and it is so worth it. To be able to finish the whole day just as strong as the beginning, I’ve learned, that I need to take a 10-20 minute power nap. As soon as my youngest nods off for his nap, and the older kids are happily engaged in quiet time I announce to them that I’m laying down, I tell them for how long, and I let them know that they can come and get me if they need me. Once I’m in bed, I set an alarm. I’m the type of person that will lay awake in panic thinking what if I fall asleep and don’t wake up on time and then dinner won’t be ready. Yeah, I need an alarm for my sanity. Then when I start to remember to-dos, projects, ideas, or whatever – I push them out of my mind and tell myself that for just this short amount of time I’m not allowed to think about anything. I usually doze off, and wake up a few minutes later very refreshed! Sometimes I reheat a half of a cup of coffee from the morning and then I’m super. And going to bed at 9:30pm is also key to this rhythm.

Books from September:

And many, more but these are the ones that we have parked on for days.

What did you learn in September?

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.

August: How I Roped Myself In #31Days

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

What I’ve learned:

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

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

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

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

B2S Day 31 August Recap 1

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

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

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

Mine is memory.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Here’s what I’ve been listening to:

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

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

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

What I’m into:

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

So moving on.


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

The most popular posts from this past month were:

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

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

Other blogs I’ve visited most this month:


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

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

B2S Day 31 August Recap 4

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

Being: there & here

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

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

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

B2S Day 31 August Recap 3

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

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

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

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

Be sure to get access to this FREE Audio eCourse:

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

July Recap: A peek into my life.

July 2015 Recap

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

What I’ve learned:

1. Change is possible. I really, really like bite size goals. It’s deeply changing my life in ways I never thought possible. Like tackling our new house and all the craziness of unpacking boxes – it used to take me months (give or take a year) to fully settle into a space. Simply because I would have no idea how to break down the tasks into smaller, manageable chunks.

Because I didn’t know how to break down tasks like this, I considered myself lazy, weak, or just plain useless. I know I’m good at some things, and that’s always good to remember and to balance with what I’m not good at – but there is something about a cluttered space that screams you aren’t good enough. When functioning feels impossible just because there isn’t a flow anywhere, how do I rise to the challenge from a position of defeat?

Enter practicing bite size goals. It isn’t about how to write a good plan or dream big for the space – it’s about relearning how to think. It’s about learning to see – to bring into focus the dream and the reality.

I’ve needed many teachers in this area, lots of practice, and a healthy dose of gentleness with myself for trying and failing.

I never thought this was possible. I would counter my failure feelings by adjusting and adapting to a space that wasn’t quite functioning well and tell myself that I’ll just have to get used to it this way. Sounds a little Eeyore-ish I know. Believe me, I’ve lived many months in that state.

So the first thing I’ve learned for July 2015 is that I can learn something hard, different, not natural for my personality and gifts, and I can be gentle with myself as I change slowly and imperfectly.

July 2015 Recap 2

2. I am a passionate about learning the Bullet Journal. I’ve already written about it (to be published soon in the #Back2School series – complete with “before” pictures), so I won’t share the details just yet – but it’s going to be great. I’m in the process of developing systems for the Bullet Journal that will help in home schooling.

3. I’m stronger than I thought. As I mentioned in #1, I’ve lived a lot of my life labelled by my weaknesses. And while I think it’s very important to know physical boundaries and prioritize rest and full-stops, I need to learn a new mental message. I shared this struggle in this status about needing to replace lies with truth. I was hung up on day 10 in the course (there will be a 1-Day-Only sale in August) I was taking because I didn’t want to try to sound all “superwomanish.” I tend to swing from one extreme to the other, and because I know this about myself – I’m learning to take change slowly. So the truth that replaces the lie that I’m weak and will never be able to do difficult things is I believe I can try. And you know what? I have tried, and kept on trying. I’ve had discouragements, but the truth says again I can try. Lie: stay down you’re defeated already. Truth: get up, you’re only defeated if you want to be.


4. Create physical space for library materials. I have a pretty good memory. I can recall what we’ve checked out and where it is when it is time to return things. And I’ve tried to always have a specific library bag – after learning the hard way that it is impossible to go to the library without a bag. But what about when the bag comes in the house? I couldn’t stand shuffling the materials around the house with no “home” for them. Enter the library spot for our new house. This little bookcase has no other purpose than to house library materials below and bags above.

What I’m into:

Good Eats (and in the kitchen)

  • I’m into theme night dinner planning! It’s been fun; it will only last a couple of months before I get bored and need a new system – but for now, I’m enjoying the pre-planned, organized meals. IMG_3230
    • Monday: Breakfast
    • Tuesday: Tacos (anything with salsa)
    • Wednesday: Crockpot
    • Thursday: Beef Day
    • Friday: Fun Food Friday! (one member of the family gets to choose their favorite meal, this is on a rotation)
    • Saturday: From the freezer day
    • Sunday: Family and what’s-in-the-fridge-day
  • I’ve been surprised at how much I love press-and-seal wrap. Really. We bought it while we were painting to seal brushes and rollers, but the leftover roll has been my go to for food storage. I love it.
  • Dawn + Bounty = A beautiful thing. I’m a germaphobe and I dislike wet dish towels in the sink. I know it could be considered wasteful to use a paper towel for a job that a regular towel can do, but I’m feeling so clean that I’m not letting it bother me. IMG_1072
  • Soy Decaf Tazo Chai. As a former barista, I know that making the perfect drink can completely brighten someone’s day. I also know that frilly drinks and extra modifiers can get over the top – so I know it’s silly when I list my current favorite beverage. But making it at home saves me so much money and the sweetness in my day brings me so much joy – it’s worth mentioning.

Good Reads (both on the web and on my shelf)

  • I can’t ever get enough of Kara’s posts on Quill and Camera. Her humor and humanity help me feel a little less crazy and a lot more alive.
  • Simple Homeschool is doing a series on an important topic right now called “The Hardest Part of My Homeschool Year.” IMG_1031
  • 31 Days of Praise by Ruth and Warren Myers. I shared this recommendation on Instagram and even though it isn’t new to me in July 2015, I’m reading it again and it’s so good.
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. This is my first Hemingway read, and I have to say I’m still waiting to be hooked. (Oh my. You have permission to roll your eyes. Sorry about that one.) It’s such a sort novel; I’m about half way through it. The significant thing for me as I read it is the reminder that I am so far behind where I wish I was in terms of my education. See – I’m a learner – that’s how I view myself. Not a has is all together woman who home educates and is able to teach anyone, but a woman with a passion to learn and tell about it. So if I’m “behind” for my age or class or whatever, I know that I’m moving forward in the direction that’s important to me. Learning on purpose.

Good Tunes (and other things to listen to)

  • Audiobooks! For the love, we have been burning up the CD player with these amazing stories: 11745480_492011830965682_3782969095363555709_n
    • Wrinkle in Time, this one was mostly for me although my kids heard the first few chapters of it and the last few chapters. I listened to the middle chapters after they went to bed and I’m glad I did. Thinking about “the man with red eyes” and “it” still make my stomach churn. I’m super sensitive to anything “thrilling,” but I’m so glad I finished the story. The last few chapters were so tender.
    • Clementine’s Letter
    • The Talented Clementine
    • Adventure’s in Odyssey At Home and Abroad (listened to the entire volume in one day) I wrote the list of great topics for conversation starters with my kids in this post.
  • Music: a must at our house for all my music smart kids.
    • Shane & Shane I have so many memories from listening to these songs. I love that their songs help point me to Jesus.
    • Slugs and Bugs: my kids were doing a “Morning Jam” for days where they would turn on these CDs and dance and sing – for hours – happily. Hours.

Good Deals:

  • Chatbooks! I almost forgot about them. Emily Freeman wrote about these last month and included a code for getting the first one free.
  • Cloth diapers. Since settling into our home, I’ve broken out the cloth again. I love saving $10/week. It feels good, and they are very cute too.

I think that about sums up July. I hope you’ve enjoyed your month too!

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.