Friday, December 30, 2011

I'm Just Too Busy

    Funny thing about this time of year is that we tend to look back and evaluate what we've done and think about the things we want to do.  We can call them resolutions or goals, but I think most of us really do have a "resolve" to make something in our life a little better.  Once the hectic atmosphere of Christmas passes I always feel like there are things that I want to do better next year---don't we all?  I know a lot of us hate to make resolutions that we won't keep, but if you're anything like me, you know there are things in your life that need to change.

   Which is why I am back here on my blog.  I have not kept up with it the way I imagined and over the last couple months I have been thinking that I would just let my blog become inactive.  I am just not a blogger I said to myself...I just don't have time for it...and many other excuses I could come up with.

    To be honest it was hard for me to even sit down this morning and write, because I haven't written anything in several months and I feel a bit sheepish.  However, I realized that for the last few months I have just been making excuses.  The truth is we make time for the things that are important to us.  I know as a homeschool mom I am always busy, but I also know that if my best friend calls I will stop and take a few minutes to talk to her.  If one of my kids gets sick I will take them to the doctor.  I routinely take the dogs for a walk and clean my house, and I homeschool.  Even though these things can eat up my time (and A LOT of it) and sometimes make me cranky the truth is they are important to me and I am not too busy to do them.  I have made choices about those things (conscious or unconscious).  

   If I hadn't enjoyed blogging then that would be a different thing, then it wouldn't be quitting.  It would have been an experience.  No different than trying a new food and deciding it's not something you would eat again.  No one feels like a failure for not eating something they didn't like after giving it a try or even two.  However, I do enjoy blogging.  I just felt frustrated that I had great ideas of what to put in my blog and then when I finally sat down to do it at the end of the day I wasn't motivated, or the post I had thought of earlier is no longer to be found in my brain.  I felt like it wasn't as wonderful as I thought.  So, in essence even though I didn't think I was making a conscious decision to quit I was.  Every thing we do in life is by our choice whether we do something or do nothing.  Letting things go by the wayside, whether it's friendships, or hobbies or a blog, is a choice to not do those things. 

    So here I am again, because I enjoy blogging.  I am here again because if we try again then we aren't failing.  If Edison could attempt to make the incandescent lightbulb thousands of times before finally getting the right combination then I have many attempts to fit blogging into my life and find the way that it works for me. 

   For that matter as I start 2012 I have many attempts to "re-try" other things in my life that haven't gone the way I wanted them to this year, and maybe I will finally succeed, or maybe I will have to try again next year, we'll see.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stripped Away....

    I have been thinking the past few days of the words to the Matt Redman song, "The Heart of Worship."   When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come...

     It has been on my mind because that is how I have been feeling the last couple months...and thus the reason I haven't been blogging.  It's hard to know what to write when God is stripping so many things out of my life.  There are days when He is my lifeline and my rescue and days when I feel like I am hanging on by a thread.  Unfortunately the good days I get so many things done that there isn't time to blog and the bad days I don't want to write anything.  As a matter of fact the bad days I am unmotivated to do much of anything.

      But here I am because I love writing, and even if I have to go based off a list of topics I am going to start blogging several times a week.  Right now all the good and bad thoughts are just swirling around in there together and I think it will be freeing to have some of them out on paper.  Writing about the good things will make me feel better.  I have been having my kids write about what they are grateful for and what they are angry about.  I thought it might help them deal with some of the transitions we have experienced this year, and some of those that we are still processing.  Then it occurred to me that it would be a help to me as well.  So, while some things will remain in my own private journal, some things will be shared here as well,  as a way to remind myself that not everything going on around us is a trial we must walk through.  Our lives are filled with sorrow and suffering, but also with glory and grace.

     God has been asking me to let go of some things the last couple months and they are big things, and they are painful.    He has some big changes for us on the horizon, and as hard as that is it's also exciting.  After all He led the Egyptians through the desert in order to get them to the promised land.   I am not looking for a land of milk and honey, but I have to admit it would be nice to leave sorrow and suffering behind at least for a little while.

   So, if anyone is still reading I hope that you will join me on the journey of looking for the little love notes that God is leaving me along the way.

     The way that God reminded me of His love today was that He helped me find a missing library book.  That seems small, but there are times that it seems like if one more things goes wrong it will put me over the edge.  So, one less worry today is more helpful than it seems.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The myth of the "homeschool" mom...

    I know that I haven't blogged in a while, partly because this last month of summer I was just trying to pull my life together.  When I feel disorganized I certainly don't feel like blogging about homeschooling or mothering since I feel like I am not as put together as I should be. 

   So, imagine my surprise over the last couple weeks when people keep telling me that I seem to have it all together.   Then last week at a homeschool park day a mom shared that she was having a rough time and felt like she must be doing it wrong because the rest of us seemed to have it all down.

  And that's when I realized that I should be blogging about my crazy and sometimes chaotic life.  I wanted to blog to give other moms helpful tips and things I've done that have worked well, but I think they are also needing the truth of what the live of homeschool moms really look like.

   The myth of the homeschool mom is that her kids are sitting down to school (which everyone is so excited to do) at precisely the time they are supposed to, dressed and with their morning chores done.  They listen to her read without interruption (or raise their hand if they need something) and then go and do their work.  No one yells or cries, and everyone LOVES homeschooling.

   Now, since I have 6 children and have manged to homeschool without causing serious bodily harm to any of them people assume this is my life.  Or they assume that anyone who can homeschool 6 children has some sort of saintly type qualities. So, let me assure you that I am not a saint and the only reason I have succeeded at all is by the grace of God.  I also want to assure you that I do have bad days around here, and not just bad like we couldn't get everything done, or bad like no one cooperated and everyone lost privileges for the day.  I'm talking bad like there was loss of privileges and the continued bad behavior until there was some yelling and then crying on mom's part, and on a really bad day she may even breathe the threat "Maybe I should just send you to Public School."

   Now, I am not justifying this behavior.  And I am willing to believe that there are some moms who never go there, but I really think from my experiences of talking with other homeschool moms we all have some days like this, and we all have a couple of those really bad days.  But those days are not a failure if we turn around the next day and do better, or even if we just manage to get up the next day and try it again.  Marriage, mothering, and homeschooling are exercises in character for us just as they are for our children.   I shouldn't be yelling at my children, but my character is flawed and some days under extreme pressure it shows.  The blessing of learning that is that I can make the changes I need. 

   And I think that is the real heart of a homeschooling mom.   A flawed woman who wants to do what's best for her children and her family; who wants to follow God's leading and bring Him glory, but gets tripped up daily by her own character flaws as well as her response to her children's character flaws and after some weeping and praying gets back up and tries not to trip over the same things again.

    So, for those of you who have started school and are having a rough time of it, we have all been there.  Character training takes years, and just so you know my children are often sitting down at the table eating breakfast in their PJ's when I come up to get school started, and some of the teenagers have not even gotten out of bed yet.  I have a couple of children who do not like school at all, one who is disruptive nearly every day and a dog who always seems to need a walk in the middle of history.  My kids routinely seem to disappear into the bathroom while I am in the middle of reading aloud, or get up for a snack (which makes everyone else hungry for a snack too).  I have children who cry (even when I am calmly explaining something) and some days I make the children cry by the things I say or do.  But I love that my children are growing up at home, that we are learning together, that God is using the character flaws in our family to make all of us better people, and that there are good days and brief moments that make it all worth it.    Our family (and our character) grows stronger little by little, not in one day of homeschooling. 


Friday, July 29, 2011

No time for priorities....

   I can hardly believe that it's been more than 2 weeks since I made a goal to blog everyday..and guess what?  I have only blogged 4 times since I made that goal for myself. 

   The other thing I can hardly believe is that my summer is nearly over and I am not going to get much done after all.  I had a list of goals and a plan, but nothing worked out the way I planned it.  The one thing I forgot to include in my plan was that my kids take up a lot of my time even when school isn't in session.  When summer finally arrives after working so hard at school for 9 months it feels like I have oodles of free time, but that gets eaten up rather quickly once the kids start adding activities to it.  And me too, there are some things this summer I didn't plan on doing that fell into my schedule and ate it up.

   I am a big believer that we make time for the things that are important to us.  That can be very convicting on the days that I just waste time (and thanks to Facebook and email those days are out there).  But what is frustrating to me is that some days I actually did get all my scrapbooking stuff out only to get nothing done on my scrapbook.  Or I managed to get a few stitches into the blanket I am still trying to finish, but that was it.  It makes me feel like I can't accomplish anything that's important to me.

    But then I remember the reason for so many of the things that interrupt my "important" projects.  Things like swimming with friends instead of hanging out at home.  Things like driving kids to lessons and activities.  Things like weeding my garden and cleaning.

   As it turns out the things that interrupt so many of my projects are actually my priorities.  God has given me a home, a family and friends.  Cultivating and managing those things take up valuable time, but they take up valuable time because they are valuable things.   Running a household with 6 children is no small task.  Making my husband feel loved and cherished instead of doing a project is indeed a worthy goal.  My friends fill my life and I need them, and sometimes they need me. 

   As I look back on it I think my summer goals were a bit misplaced.  I did want to use the extra hours I had to catch up on some things.  That is a worthy goal.  Honestly, sometimes it is hard to focus when there are so many unfinished projects hanging over my head.  Having a few things off the table would make my next school year run smoother.  And honestly a few of those projects, if finished make my kids feel special.  Scrapbooking takes time, but I know that for my kids being able to sit down and see their life in pictures not only helps them remember--it also makes them feel important that I want to document their life.  If I did manage to finish my son's baby blanket this summer he would also feel special. 

   But still I know my son would prefer that we go to the park than that we sit at home so I can cross-stitch.  I know my kids would rather go to the pool than watch me scrapbook, after all there are no pictures to put in the scrapbook if we never go anywhere. 

   When I think of my summer this way I don't feel cranky at all.  I feel like there were some things I accomplished.  Actually everyday I manage my home and provide love for my kids is a day that I have done something worthwhile, even if it feels like nothing.  My kids had some wonderful experiences this summer that they wouldn't have had if I wasn't willing to drive them there (or make arrangements for them to get there). 

   I think when I sit down to make my school-year goals next week I will put the people first and the projects last. Then that will help me remember that  I do actually have time for my priorities...I just have to remember what they are.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Building character with laundry detergent?

    Several years ago when my in-laws moved out of state they offered us some of the items they no longer wanted to keep.  There was a period when we moved four times in 3 years, so I now have a policy to de-clutter often.  So, I turned down most of their offers.  However, there was an old game based on character traits that we decided to keep.

      We only played the game a few times, but my husband's aunt suggested that we pick one character trait for the week.  Sometimes our character trait hangs up for a little longer than that, but we try to change them frequently.  That way some weeks we have to work extra hard at character traits we aren't good at, and some weeks we can focus on those that are our strength.

    There are some character traits in the box that I hadn't thought much of.  Two of those are resourcefulness and thriftiness.  Good things to be, but I guess I never thought of them as character qualities.  It makes sense when you think about it, since a person who is wasteful (the opposite of resourceful) or extravagant (the opposite of thrift) often lacks discipline and self-control.

    In my experience most homeschool moms don't spend on things that aren't necessary or throw things out that we might still be able to use.  (Although we need to be careful not to hold on to everything...often we can use it to bless others).  So, when we came upon resourcefulness and thriftiness I thought it would be an easy week for me, since we already practice that by sheer necessity.

    However, I have discovered that as thrifty as we homeschool moms can be there are always more ways to cut corners.  Some things don't work for me, but some things I have really enjoyed.  So, I cut my boy's hair (because it's easy and they mostly prefer buzz cuts), but I don't cut my daughter's hair, or my own (though I did attempt that a couple months ago to see if it was worth saving money...and I actually wrote about that on my blog).

    In the last year I have decided to try to see if there were ways that I could save money cleaning.  I am already the electricity police, so my family didn't need any more of that.  (Although this winter I am thinking of trying some other things to keep our energy costs low).  So, last year I started making my own laundry detergent to see how I would like that.

     I used the Duggar's recipe, but at the time I couldn't find a single bar of Fels Naptha, so I bought a package of them.  The soap seems to work just as well as regular laundry detergent.  It doesn't get out all the stains without pre-treatment, but neither do any of the name brands.   I only had a couple issues with it.  Number one, because it's a bit more watery than what I'm used to I used too much at first because it didn't seem like it would be enough.  Secondly, there are a few odors that it just doesn't remove.  That may not be everyone's experience, but I had some clothes that still smelled when they were dry.  The easiest solution to this problem was to add some baking soda to the laundry.  So, I pour in the detergent and then a couple small scoops of baking soda.  I made a new batch last week, this time using Ivory soap.  I have to say I like the Ivory better than the Fels Naptha soap.  It's easier to grate and it leaves a slight scent to my clothes.  I once added some essential oils to a batch of the Fels Naptha to make it scented, but the one I chose didn't make much difference and I never tried anything else.

       Anyway, I have been pleased with the batch made with Ivory.  I have also tried homemade powdered detergent.  It doesn't last as long, but it is quicker to make in a pinch.  This is what I do if I run out of detergent during a busy season (like when my kids are in a play and have 3 dress rehearsals in a week).

     Besides that, which has actually saved me a lot of money (since I do around 600 loads of laundry a year) I also stopped using fabric softener.  For one thing I found out from a friend that there's formaldehyde in it (she can't use it because she's allergic to formaldehyde..which is in more things than you want to know by the way).   It also made me a bit nervous that it doesn't really list any of it's ingredients on it.  And our friend who fixes appliances told us that it's bad for our washer.  Since it's so "gloopy" it doesn't rinse well, so it can cause build-up in our washer.  Anyway, I use vinegar now.  Vinegar still softens the clothes and removes static.  It seems surprising, but it doesn't make the clothes smell.  The strong vinegar smell evaporates and so your clothes don't stink.

   Last week, I decided I would try to make a few more changes in an attempt to save money on cleaning supplies.  I don't spend a ton on that, but I did have a slight downfall I wanted to correct.  When my kids were smaller and I needed help cleaning the house I bought a Swiffer Wet Jet.  We had hardwood floors at the time and my kids couldn't wring out a mop very well by themselves.  I have replaced it a couple times as well, because it got broken.  We don't always buy the spray that comes out automatically.  A lot of times I have my kids spray the floor with a vinegar/water mix and then mop (but apparently they find this really annoying as they mention it to me every time they have to do it).  We also tried using rags or paper towels instead of the disposable pads, but it doesn't work well (and my kids find this more than crosses the line into highly irritating).

   So, last week I went to the store looking for some washable pads that would fit on the swiffer and instead bought a whole new mop.  I did find washable microfiber pads that would fit the swiffer, but I also found a mop where you can add your own cleaning solution and it sprays from the mop. (Even better, unlike the swiffer it doesn't require any batteries).  I knew this way all of us would win.   My kids won't be irritated at having to hold a spray bottle in one hand and mop with the other, now they can spray from the mop (just like before), but I don't have to buy an expensive cleaning solution (which in my opinion also smells like it has a lot of chemicals in it).   I also bought a rag for my kids to clean the windows with, so we won't go through a whole roll of paper towels.

    So far these changes were easy.  I wouldn't mind doing a bit more work if necessary to save some dough, but since my kids know there's an easier way they would rather trade money for convenience.   The only cleaning supplies I'm not ready to give up yet are in the bathroom.  Scrubbing bubbles cleans my bathtubs so quickly that I just don't want to have to trade to something where I will have to scrub more to get that bathroom ring off (I'm working on convincing myself).  The other thing is the disposable disinfecting wipes.   I have 5 boys, and the only way I am going to get them to clean up their mess in the bathroom is if it doesn't take them long to do it.  Their bathroom is 10 times cleaner since I bought those (and since I made the boys start cleaning it themselves), and that is worth the money.

   I am sure a lot of you moms out there are even more frugal than I am.  I would like to be more frugal in the kitchen, but I am not a good cook, so I can't make things from scratch (well I can, but my kids would gladly tell you stories about that).  Some of you may be less frugal.   I certainly don't think that buying laundry detergent makes you extravagant or wasteful.  I do think though that when we think of thrift as a character trait it can help us to examine where in our lives we could be more careful with our resources that God has given us. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal 7/17/11

In my life this week...

    Well, I vowed to blog everyday for the next month, which is already not working since we ended up having a couple of days that were busier than I expected.  I wanted to blog every day because I have been putting it off and then it isn't getting done at all, however Friday and Saturday were days that I don't think a supermom could've blogged on. 

  I did, however, manage to make some headway on some of my summer "to-do's" as several of my other homeschool mom friends did (both in real life and in the blogosphere).  Perhaps we are all feeling the time crunch.  This week I did 10 scrapbook pages and made 3 batches of laundry detergent.  Two of the batches were powder (which only takes about 10 minutes and doesn't last as long), but with that I am hoping that we will be well into January before I have to make any more.  I tried a different soap this time and I am liking it much better.

I am inspired by...

   In church today one of our pastors preached about earth being our temporary home and looking forward to heaven.  It was both a good reminder to not get so caught up in all the little details I have to manage here, but also a reminder that someday we all die, and there are some things I need to tell those I love (and people I don't get along with either for that matter)

I'm grateful for...

    This week I had 3 of my kids out of town (camp, missions trip, visiting family) and my mom took one for a whole week to help him do some work around her house.  So I was thankful for friends who took my other two children to do fun things and just hang out with their families.  I love it when other people give my child an experience I wouldn't have been able to, and I appreciate the perspective it gives my kids to be around other families.  I was thankful for a couple afternoons without kids, but I also find that when I spend too much time by myself it makes me more resentful of all the things I have to do when my "real life" returns.  Guess that's something I need to work on.

Questions or Thoughts I Have...

   Several things, some of which I am just going to have to wrestle with myself.  For one thing I am trying to decide which activities are the better choices for us in the fall and I am having trouble making up my mind.  

    Secondly, I am having trouble getting some graphics to show up in the blog posts themselves.  I am not sure how to fix that, but I am hoping to figure that out this week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don't Forget the Little People

   It was hard for me to figure out what to blog about today.  I have a list of things I would like to blog about (as I'm sure most bloggers do), but I had one of those days where I was behind the eight ball most of the day.  I was running late, messed up dinner, got cranky with my kids, etc.  Those kind of days make me feel like not blogging, because what possible advice could I offer other homeschool moms, except maybe what not to do.

     However, the day didn't start off badly.  I joined some other homeschool moms for breakfast.  This summer we decided that it would be fun to do a mom's breakfast every couple weeks.  We do a potluck type breakfast, and kids are welcome.  For the moms who don't have the room for a lot of people we meet at a park and bring breakfast there.  

    Most of the moms there today had younger children (younger elementary, preschool, toddlers and babies).  It reminded me of when I was in that stage of my homeschool journey and how much I needed the support of other moms, especially "veteran" homeschool moms.  It was so hard to make connections and feel like I was doing the right thing when I didn't know anyone else who was homeschooling.

   I think about this topic off and on since I help lead a support group.  I plan activities and field trips, but since my kids are older I don't always have activities that include the younger moms.  I don't leave them out on purpose, we just aren't always doing things the younger kids can do.  It can be a challenge to plan an activity that my older kids can't (or don't want to attend).  For instance my teens aren't excited about going to a Play Place.

    So, I do my best to try and encourage these moms, and stay in touch with them, since I remember how much I needed someone to say, "You can keep doing this."  But I wanted to encourage other moms to do that too.  Don't forget the little people, the moms who are just starting out and need encouragement and connections.  Even if our kids aren't the same age I know it gives other homeschool moms comfort knowing that if they show up at an activity they will know somebody.

   Some of the ways we can help these moms is to help them get plugged in.  If we know two moms with kids the same age, or two moms who have only children we can introduce them and try and help them connect.  We can send emails or make a phone call to see how they are doing, how homeschool is going.  We can tell them the things we did to make connections, to help our kids find friends, etc.  

     We had a mom leave our group recently.  She was having a hard time finding other moms with younger kids to connect with.  After she left we had an influx of moms with younger kids.  So, I sent her an email and let her know there were some younger moms and that I hadn't forgotten about her, etc.  She told me that she had found another group and made some connections, but she said something else that stuck with me.  She said that if she had still been seeking to connect with others my email would have been a lifeline to her, and she appreciated that I was concerned for her well-being. 

   It made me think, "Am I being a lifeline to the moms who are newer to this?  Am I being a lifeline to the moms who just moved here and are trying to find connections for their kids again?"  I wanted to put this out in the blogosphere to encourage other moms to do this too.  Homeschooling is a LONG journey (as is motherhood in general), and we all start it at different stages.  Some of us start at the very beginning and some pull their kids out in elementary, or Jr. High.  We may think we don't have anything to offer, but sometimes being a listening ear is all that another mom needs.  Someone to say, "That sounds tough," or "I'm sorry you had to deal with that."  I read recently that women process our feelings by talking, and that our husband's brains are actually not capable of dealing with the amount of words that we speak in a day, nor the amount of emotion that we sometimes throw at them.  I'm not offering this as an excuse, just an interesting observation that sometimes our husbands physically cannot process these things as fast as we can.  If we give them too much they stop listening because they have to.  This is a good reminder to be concise, but what it really made me realize is that we need other women to process our feelings to, or a prayer journal or a blog.   Maybe we can be that for other homeschool moms as well.

   So, this week I am going to try to reach out and be a lifeline (or at least a sounding board) for one mom.  I hope that you will consider doing that as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not knowing where to begin

   Really most times that I sit down to blog it's a post that has been running through my head all day.  Something that came up that I started thinking about and just had to share.  The last couple weeks though I haven't had any idea what to write about.  I do keep a list of things to write about, but none of them seemed "inspiring" to me.   I knew that if I sat down and started typing there would be something to say, but since I wasn't sure what I would have to say I did nothing.

   My "real" life is like that too.  I have a whole list of things I would like to get done, and I know if I just get started then something will get done.  But sometimes I am afraid that I won't have time to finish, so I would rather not start, and sometimes I am not sure how to tackle the task, so I do nothing instead.  And a lot of the time I am just not excited about doing it.   It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because I know that making the effort feels good even if I get nothing accomplished (most of the time anyway). 

   Today there are no children in my house.  This rarely happens.  I did have grand plans today.  I had a few things to catch up on and then I was going to scrapbook.  However, it's 5:30 now and I have yet to get my scrapbook stuff out.   I needed to make another bath of homemade laundry detergent today and I did that.  And now I am blogging which I also wanted to stop neglecting.  But my scrapbooks didn't get brought out yet because I went out and dipped in the kid's wading pool and read a magazine.  Not productive at all, and I am glad we have a privacy fence as my neighbors would surely have gotten a laugh out of me sitting in the kids pool.  But, I was hot and I can never cool myself off in their pool when the kids are home, because I get splashed.  Not to mention who could read with kids running around outside?  Whenever I try that I almost always end up reading the same sentence over and over until I want to cry (and not only does that freak the kids out, but I also don't want them to think that I am the kind of mother who would rather read or do "my stuff" than watch them play and hang out with them).

   So, this what my summer has been like.  I have a list of goals and things I would like to do, but so far I don't feel like I've gotten anywhere and school starts SOON!  I am actually not really sure when I'm going to start school, but I do suddenly feel like time is running out on me.  And not knowing where to begin has really left me with not doing much of anything (now since I rarely get to do hardly anything that is it's own blessing I suppose). 

    So, my plan for the next month is to give myself specific tasks to do each day to get my goals done.  For example I have 2 boxes full of magazines that I need to go through.  I am using them for a craft for the preschoolers at church and I am cutting letters out of them, and pictures of children.  Doesn't seem like a big deal except that those magazines have been sitting in my basement since April.  I decided I am going to get rid of them this summer.  I decided that I would do at least 2 magazines a day.  Now, I still have 2 boxes sitting in my basement, but the piles in them are getting smaller.  So, if I do the same thing with scrapbooks and my other goals then I just might get somewhere.   So, for the next month I am going to make myself blog every day even if it's really short and dumb (wish I could think of a more creative word than that).  Please feel free to skip the dumb posts.  I am hoping by doing this not only will I get in a good habit of writing every day, but also of organizing my thoughts, becoming more concise, and getting some good ideas.  (When I am blogging I always seem to think of things I would like to write about). 

   So, here's to coming up with a place to begin, because a little something done every day can end up being a big thing.  Hoping big things (or at least accomplished goals) come out of me tackling my little projects one little step at a time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I left my heart in...Sacramento?

   I recently returned from a short visit with a friend who lives near Sacramento.  I should point out that this visit was without my 6 kids.  My husband took care of them while I was gone.  He took them to all their events and even found a replacement vehicle for us while I was away (since our car was recently totaled in an accident).

     The last few months our family has been struggling with some trials and when I shared that with my friend she offered to let me use some frequent flyer miles to come out and visit her.  It was meant to be a break for me, to give me a chance to pull myself together...and it gave me something to look forward to even on days that were a challenge around here.

    I expected that the visit would give me a chance to hang out with my friend and relax, and give me a little bit of breathing room.  However, I was surprised by the way that God grew my heart while I was down there. 

     So, I wouldn't say that I left my heart there...but I did come back with a different heart.  I had some time to get some perspective and it changed some of what my struggles were.  Here is what I learned in Sacramento:
  1.   I live in Colorado and being in the mountains is one of my favorite places to be.  However, I haven't seen the ocean in 10 years and I was reminded of how wondrously our world was created and how magnificent and beautiful it is....which made my heart grateful.
  2.   My friend moved back to Sacramento a couple years ago and in the meantime we have made do with phone conversations (which doesn't always work with small children).  On the drive to San Francisco (which is an hour and a half from her house) we were able to really talk.  In phone conversations there is no body language for me to gauge if it's okay to ask certain questions, not to mention that I can't give a hug over the phone and sometimes there aren't the right words to say.   As a result I feel more connected with my friend, more a part of her life...this made my heart feel less isolated.
  3.   My friend has a 3-year-old son with autism.  She also has a 1-year-old.  This visit was a chance for me to see into her life.  On the phone and through emails she communicates that sometimes her life is stressful, but I got to see firsthand what that means.  Now I can see not only how frustrating it can be, but how good of a job she does.   This made my heart more understanding.
  4.   Seeing my friend struggle with her son's autism made me realize that God gives us all something.  It has been hard to struggle these last few months, and sometimes in my frustration I have felt bitterness at the ease that others seem to have.  Seeing my friend's life firsthand made me realize that even though my struggles are different I am not alone in facing things that sometimes seem to be more than I can bear.  This made my heart feel peace.  
  5.   Getting a chance to be in my friend's house and in nearly every aspect of her life allowed me to see her in a way that I hadn't before.  Being with her I realized that sometimes in a way to make her feel better I want to make her feel like her life is normal.  I want her to feel that her son with autism behaves like other kids, that he is a normal child.  However, after being there and seeing some of his therapy I realize that he isn't normal.  I'm not saying that in a bad way, I just realized that he will always be different, and for my friend raising him her parenting will never be the same as mine.  My attempt to make her feel normal actually makes me seem dismissive of her concerns.  This made my heart compassionate and it has caused me to think of other ways that I might dismiss the pain of others unintentionally.
  6.    My husband and kids did fine without me physically, but upon coming home I realized that having me gone was hard for them.  Not that I think I shouldn't have gone, but it made me realize again the effect that I have on my household.  The spiritual presence that I bring to this house is different than what my husband brings and I realized how much my family needs that.  That made my heart feel renewed.
    Those are just brief thoughts, but it has been amazing to me how much God could grow my heart in just a few days away from home.  How much my perspective could change in 100 hours.  Even after being home for several days now I am still reflecting on how to express how I felt about my vacation and what to tell others when they ask about it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Effects of a homeschool convention...

  I spent the weekend at our local homeschool convention and there are a ton of things I could write about.  How wonderful and encouraging it is to be supported.  How overwhelming it is to be surrounded by curriculum.  Yet what struck me the most this weekend was how the convention can make homeschool moms like us feel less than.

    Now there are highs and lows at every convention and certainly I believe the benefits outweigh the low self-esteem we can struggle with.  For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about let me paint the scenario for you.

   You enter a workshop, looking for great ideas, hoping to be encouraged and find ways to make your homeschool experience go better next year (since we all have things that need improving).  But as the speaker starts talking about all the things she does/did on her homeschool journey to make their homeschool great and their family closer we can start feeling discouraged.  For example, even though she has grown kids they all still come over on Fridays with their spouses and have a potluck dinner and play games.  One son wants to go into politics.  Or he takes his teenagers to work with him because they need their dad and every dad should have a job where his teens can be with him.

    Now I am not saying any of these things are wrong.  In fact a lot of things that other homeschoolers try can bring us great benefits if we implement them as well...BUT sometimes they make us feel guilty because we know we just can't do some of those things, or our husbands wouldn't do some of those things.   Or we had a great time at the convention and when we come home our kids are bickering and fighting.  We're in such a good mood from the convention that we put on our "good mom" face and discipline the right way.  But as the bickering continues we start feeling like our family will never be as successful as those other homeschool families.

   Now we all know that those homeschool families have their struggles and downfalls, but it makes little difference to us when our 12-year-old is telling us that we're the meanest mom ever.  I must confess that one of my biggest pet peeves is when the speakers say that they did this or that and their kids have never strayed as if homeschooling a certain way is a formula that guarantees wonderful lives for our children full of only good choices.  As if homeschooling can protect our children from all the temptations of Satan, as if the enemy can't figure out how in the world to tempt homeschool kids.  Now let me get off my soapbox and finish this post.

   So I feel like I need to say that the workshops do give us some good goals to strive for, but we need to carefully consider and pray about implementing any idea just because it worked for someone else.  I believe that sometimes we are convicted to change something that needs to be changed, but sometimes we are just changing something because we feel bad or guilty just because someone else says we should. 

     I needed to remind myself today that God uses the good things that we are doing in the lives of our children, but He also uses the bad things.  If we as mature believers are shaped by trials and struggles then so are our children.  I remember reading once that being married is meant to make us holy and not just happy.  That doesn't mean marriage is all the pits, just that God uses those relationships to make us better people.  In the same way He will use our failings to make our children the people He wants them to be.  Much like He makes us better people (and better parents) by what our children bring into our lives. (Nothing like 4 out of 6 children throwing up every 15 minutes from 9 PM-4AM to teach endurance).   Having lived with flawed human beings we have more patience with others.  Having a sibling who talks too much might teach us better communication techniques.  Having a brother who struggles learning to read might teach us not to make fun of the kids at church who stumble when asked to read out loud from the Bible.

   So, at the homeschool conference this weekend I was encouraged.  I was encouraged by being around other homeschoolers, by being in some workshops where I was doing some of the things the speakers were doing, by getting some ideas that might help me change some struggles for the better.  I was also encouraged by a God who reminded me that just as He is using all the situations in my life (good and bad) to change things that need to be changed, He is using all the things in my life (good and bad) to shape my children into the people He wants them to be.   

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Under Construction...

    Remodeling has been on my mind recently.   You might think this is because my husband is a carpenter, but in fact I am thinking of the kind of remodeling that God does.   I stumbled across this illustration in a book by Gary Thomas called Sacred Influence.  He says, "..change the equation of your marriage by remodeling yourself."  This quote got me to thinking about the kind of remodeling that can take place on the inside, and the kind of remodeling that God does not just in our marriages, but in our lives as well.

    It's an analogy that appeals to me, and that's easy for me to relate to.  For one thing it's my husband's job and I have seen ugly rooms become beautiful ones and unfinished basements become living spaces.  We've also remodeled several houses that we've lived in so I also thought about the length of time that the process can take, how frustrating it can be, but what a gift it can be when it's finished.

    The last 5 months have been a time of remodeling in my life.  The demolition at the beginning was incredibly painful and hurtful, but that has mostly subsided.  Even though the initial destruction is over, the rebuilding process seems to be taking a long time over here and some days (or weeks) it's frustrating to me to still be in "remodel" mode.  I keep wondering what God is up to, and why after all these months I still can't see it.  It's like hiring a contractor to re-do your bathroom, but you don't get any input.  You just tell him to make it better than when you started.  Then you spend the whole project checking in every day and trying to visualize what He's doing.  Some days (like when he puts the tile down) you think, "Wow that's better than I would have chosen."  But other days you stand in there and think, "I like the tile, but this bathroom is so ugly, I liked it better before," even though the project isn't finished.

   In contrast redecorating is what Christians do in our own life.  Similar to adding a new piece of furniture or paint color sometimes we change something that makes our life run easier or makes our family look (and sometimes function better).  These are some of the "a-ha" moments that we have in church, things like "Oh I never realized that when I do that my spouse feels dishonored, so I'm going to stop doing that."  Now I believe that those things are convictions from the Holy Spirit, but we feel the conviction and then we choose to redecorate or not.

   Remodeling isn't like that at all.  Remodeling is when God makes big changes in our life, and those things either strengthen our character and turn our lives into something more beautiful or we choose to close the door to that room that has been demolished and not let the contractor finish his work.  Sometimes we move out of the house all together.  But the one I am most guilty of is stalling the contractor's work.  I let Him come in and do His job, but some days I don't like what He's doing so I fire Him.  I tell Him I can finish the job myself, or He can come back when He lets me keep the leaky faucet because I like that better than the new one that will actually works better.  Then a couple days later I call Him up and tell Him I was wrong and He can come and replace the faucet after all.     It sure slows the project down and I wish that I could just let Him do His work undisturbed, or better yet that I could be more helpful during the process. But some days I just get sick of the remodeling and I don't care if the room is beautiful when He's done, I just want Him to hurry up and finish.

   In my husband's line of work quality takes time.  A good contractor doesn't dawdle, but He does the job as quickly as possible without compromising the quality of the work.  A good contractor also doesn't gloss over something that needs to be fixed.  Sure you can replace molded drywall, but if you don't figure out what is causing the mold then in a few years you'll have to replace it again. 

     Our heavenly Father is like that as well.  He has a vision of something wonderful that He can build into our lives.  Sometimes we don't need the whole bathroom redone, just some new tile or a new drain.  He comes in, makes the change and it cause us a little inconvenience, maybe even some slight pain and then He's done.  But there are times when He comes in, tears the whole room out and fixes it piece by piece.  He takes the tub out and there's a leak, so He has to fix that.  He gets to the lighting and some new wiring needs to be done.   Like a quality contractor He can't leave the problem unresolved or it will just come back.  Sometimes though we ask Him to leave and we either try to finish what He started or we leave the room in shambles and pretend everything is okay.  Then a couple months (or years) later the problem is back and when we let him come back in it's harder to fix.

     Where can we find hope when one of our internal rooms is all torn apart?  If we have been remodeled before we have the reminder of what a beautiful thing He created last time He was at work. And the Bible talks about remembering the works He has done.  The Bible also give us hope, and I think there are a couple of verses that come to mind when I think of remodeling.

   "He has made everything beautiful in his time..."  Ecclesiastes 3:11
     "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Phillippians 1:6

    One day we will have glorified bodies that don't need any more remodeling.  In the meantime we can take hope that we are being transformed to bring glory to the Lord and we can rejoice with those who have been remodeled and transformed.  We can share our stories to bring others hope in the midst of their own remodeling.

   "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."  Hebrews 10:23


Saturday, June 4, 2011

The lazy days of summer?

      To be honest summer is my least favorite season.  For one thing I am not much for the heat.  I remember as a teenager I used to love taking naps outside in my swimsuit, but now the thought of that makes me ill (and not just because the thought of putting on a swimsuit is slightly tainted by the fact that I've had 6 kids),but because being in the sun too much makes me feel sick and gives me headaches. 

    Anyway, while summer was once a time to sit and enjoy reading books and having fun in the sun I now look forward to it for all I can get accomplished.  Sometimes I wish that I could have a summer where I didn't have to do much, but honestly that makes me a little cranky thinking of all the things that would never get done.  

   I love homeschooling because of the flexibility it creates, and we do have a little bit of school over the summer...a few hours here and there to catch up on stuff and to make sure we don't forget anything.  For the most part though I take as much time off as I can simply because I need it.  I know once school starts (and all the activities that go with it like Awana for example) the time I have to get things done shrinks to about 30-45 minutes a day.  I would like to say an hour, but if you count all the interruptions from various children I am sure that takes at least 15 minutes off the clock, even if I was working on the same thing for an hour.  This is true even if I hide in the bathroom (also known as the teacher's lounge), because my children always know when I am in there.  

   And honestly, even though I know it shouldn't be the case I am just crankier when school is in session for the simple fact that there is less time for me and more time spent helping other people (mainly the tribe that lives here), sometimes more time than I would like to spend.  I think that sacrifice is necessary for my growth, but I can espouse on that some other time.   I am a nicer person in the summer.  I would like to be that same nice person year round even when I have more responsibilities, but I am a work in progress.

    What I am looking forward to most this summer is getting a few things done.  Some of these things have been on my to-do list since January, but I am hoping this summer I can accomplish at least a few.  So, here is my list of what I hope to be doing during these "lazy" summer days.

  • deep cleaning (actually this one is fairly easy since I already did some this spring--I have one kids room left)
  • scrapbooks--honestly I would love to get all caught up, but my goal for the summer is to catch up just 1 year (I am 3 years behind)
  • learn to crochet---I did try this in the Spring, but I could not figure it out.  It may not be for me, but I am sure hopeful that with my daughter's help I can actually make something.  I have my eye on a project I would like to attempt, so we'll see.
  • "spruce up" my blog--there are some changes I would like to make here as well, but I certainly need some uninterrupted time to work on that.
  • work on my family tree---For Christmas I gave my dad a family tree that goes back 5 generations.  I started doing the research for him, but as it turns out I really enjoy it.  There were some holes that I couldn't find information for and I would like to have time to get some of that figured out.
  • I have a stack of 5 or 6 books that have been waiting for me, and a list of even more that I would love to I will be doing at least a little reading.  I have been trying to read while on the treadmill, but that makes me a bit dizzy.
  • Be nice to my neighbor---I am sure this sounds funny, but I found out today that my neighbor thinks I don't like her.  Apparently she has said hi to me a few times and I didn't respond.  I would not have ignored her on purpose, so I am either deaf or just relieved to be outside without any children bothering me.  So, I am praying for ways to show her that she is important to me.
  • Do a puzzle.  Oh, I love puzzles, but when they are out I can't do anything else, so I don't get them out during the school year.  If I get enough of my goals accomplished maybe I can do more than one puzzle, or maybe I will do several and just leave a few of my goals unfinished, after all they have been waiting for several months already.
  • Finishing my son's blanket---I would like to finish cross-stitching a blanket that I started for my son several years ago.  He is almost 8 by the way, but insists that he would still like to have it, so I am going to try and finish the not too distant future.
  • I found some great systems that work for me around here, but there are a couple areas of my life that I would like to be a bit better organized, so I am going to try and figure out how to put that onto paper.  For one thing the number of library books that come home with us and then don't get returned on time bothers me.  I have some checked out, my kids have some checked out...I think I will blog about this one day and perhaps come up with a great solution for next year.  I also need to supplement my calendar system...still thinking about that.
  • Be thriftier...I have some tips I would like to try and see if they do help around here.  Problem is they involve trips to the store and money (although they should save me money in the end).
  • Unfinished projects.  There are several small things around here that could be accomplished with just a few hours over here, or a couple phone calls (trips to the vet, getting the ducts cleaned, finishing a craft project that's more than halfway done).  It would feel great if I could finish these up--or just even one or two.
  Reading over that I'm not sure there will be much time to enjoy summer, so I will have to try and spread it out and do just a little each day.  And yet reading the list also makes me feel so excited and ambitious that I can hardly wait to get started, so I think my summer will be enjoyable anyway, even if I'm not laying around.   


Friday, June 3, 2011

So much to learn....

   Really I started blogging because I have millions of thoughts running through my head, which usually ends up with me talking to myself in public places.  I needed somewhere to share what is going on with my life.  Hopefully so other homeschool moms can say, "I know exactly what you're talking about," or "Here's what I did..."    And I must confess the people who live in my house are tired of listening to me all the time, so I was hoping there would be someone out there in "webland" or "blogland" who might show some interest in what I had to say.  If not then I can just going on talking to myself, or my cat since that seems to have kept me at least partially sane the last 14 years of motherhood.

   What amazes me is how little I know about blogging.  I have been visiting other blogs and I am so amazed at what some of these pages look like.  It's almost like the first time that I visited a homeschool much curriculum I wanted to use it all.   This blogging journey is similar in some ways.  It's overwhelming to think of all that lies ahead and all that I must learn if I want to keep doing this.  It's also exciting to think of all the cool things that could happen and all the benefits there could be from getting to connect with other bloggers and homeschool moms.  It's also a bit nervewracking (my spell check this isn't a word no matter how I spell it)  to think of the many ways that I am probably going to screw this up a few times before I get it right.  I only say that because I have had some missteps in homeschooling.  (I don't consider them failures since I have either fixed them, or I'm still working on them.)  The difference is that blogging is a little more public than homeschooling, so there is the possibility that more people will be involved to see me screw up.  However, since I suspect that most of them will be moms I am pretty sure they will be forgiving since most of us have discovered (and felt guilty about the fact) that you can't be as perfect of a mom as you thought you could be.  

    So, here I start this new journey and hope that I will enjoy it as much as I enjoy homeschooling.  The only dilemma I now have (besides figuring everything out) is that I am so excited that I am wanting to take summer break early so that I can work on my blog.  While I am sure my kids would love this, I would regret that come August when I have to catch up on the few things we actually needed to finish.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal 5/30/11

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

     In my life this week:  Not much school and a couple of fun days.  Had some personal breakthroughs though about my marriage.  Have been reading a great book and it reminded me that marriage is what I make it.  Not like my husband doesn't have his own responsibility, but it was a good reminder that what you put into something is usually what you get out of it.

     Places we're going and people we're seeing:  Field trip to the Insect Museum and Butterfly Pavilion.  Free day at the outdoor pool (and only 1 out of 6 kids got sunburned).  And a graduation party for my best friend's son, always encouraging to be around some homeschool moms who have graduated a child.

     My favorite thing this week was:  Honestly, we didn't do much school this week and my favorite thing was having some free time to do some of the things I wanted to do.  For example, I found the headstone of my great-aunt Margarett who died as a baby.  This was my Grandpa's oldest sister who died before he was born.  

     What's working for us:  One of my son's has quite a temper issue, and we have been trying a new technique where he journals/asks himself questions about what he responded so angrily.  This is actually helping him see that sometimes his response is not warranted and he is doing much better.

     Homeschool questions I have:   I am trying to figure out if next year I should have my 8th grade twins do biology with my sophomore age son, or if I should have them do it in 9th grade and my oldest in 11th.  My best friend offered to do biology with us so that I don't have to buy a microscope, but one of my twins has a learning disorder, and so I am wondering if it would be too much pressure for him to do it in a group.

     Photo to share:    At our field trip to The Butterfly Pavilion everyone in our family had a butterfly land on them.  I didn't get pictures of everyone, but this is a picture of one of my sons with a butterfly.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The award we can't show off

   As the school year winds down we homeschool moms like to look back and evaluate our accomplishments.  We want to think about what worked and what didn't.  What can we be proud of and what did we really mess up?

   Our homeschool support group has a family meeting every month and this month we put on a homeschool showcase night where everyone could come show off some things that  they had done this year.  Surprisingly we had a pretty low turn out, but I think I know why.

       One of the most difficult things about being a homeschool mom is feeling like you don't measure up.  We read all the statistics about how homeschoolers have greater academic success than other schooled students, etc. and we feel the pressure because for some of us our kids aren't there, or anywhere close.  Some of us have children with learning disorders and our celebration is that our child actually read a whole book by himself this year and he's in middle school (not that we'd share that with others because it might embarrass him [or me]).   Some of us finally tackled a huge character issue in our kids or were confronted with another that we thought we handled pretty well (but again some things you can't share with others because it would embarrass your child).   Some things we don't share because we don't want other homeschool families to know that we aren't perfect.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's true and we know it.  We shudder to think what some homeschool families might think if they knew some of the issues we were having with our kids.  After all we're supposed to be set apart and different from those public school kids right?  The truth is our children are still sinners and our enemy is very crafty.  Homeschooling doesn't guarantee that our children (even as much as we shelter them) won't fall into sin, even sins we think our kids are immune to.  Our response to those situations is what sets us apart. 

       And that's where I sit at the end of this school year.  For our showcase I did manage to gather up some awards that my kids had accomplished this year, and a couple art projects.  In reality though we didn't do a lot of hands on projects or cool history notebooks that we do some years.   I wanted my children to feel like they had something to celebrate, but in reality it didn't seem like we had much to show for this year. 

    Quite honestly the last 5 months have been a time of testing and trials in our home.  This Spring I felt like I had been put through the ringer and some days I was so discouraged that it took all I had to get up every morning and homeschool my children because I knew it was the right thing to do, not because I necessarily wanted to do it.   I skipped over a lot of the cool hands-on projects we usually do because I just didn't want to expend the effort. 

    Do I feel like my children are worse off for having this kind of Spring?  No, honestly I don't.  I realized today that we did have something to showcase, but it's not something that everyone can see.  We persevered this year, something that the Bible talks about a lot.  A character trait certainly worth having.   Even though most of the trials were aimed at me I know my children felt them too.  You can tell when your parents are struggling, so my kids get a perseverance award too for putting up with a mother who was just trying to hold it all together for a while.   And I am celebrating that I didn't quit, that I am stronger than I thought I was, that my God is an ever present help in times of trouble.  I don't remember a lot of what we learned this year, and who knows where the kids would even test, but I am so proud of us.  Proud that we are still a homeschool family and that we got through this together.  I know we homeschoolers say it a lot, but the truth is whatever my kids learned academically this year is nothing compared to how they grew in their character.  I know sometimes we homeschoolers throw that out there so much it sounds like a cliche, but there are some years that it holds more truth than others.   I am sure that some of you can relate and have had a year where all you really have to display is perseverance (or some other character trait).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Miracle Worker...

   We had an interesting experience this weekend.  I was hoping to share it in The Homeschool Mother's Journal, but because of graduation celebrations we attended this weekend I didn't have time to blog and link up there in time.  However, this experience is worth a blog post all it's own, just for the sheer unlikelihood of this ever happening again.

   Friday night it just so happened that all 6 of our children were gone at the same time.  Now, this does happen, but only when I plan it.  Friday night it happened by coincidence.  You might think this is the miracle that I address in the title, but it's not. 

    I was gone about 30 minutes dropping everyone off at the places they needed to be.  I was waiting for my husband to get home so that we could go for a quick dinner before we had to start picking everyone up.  While I was waiting I went to put something away in my daughter's room.   I was admiring how clean it was (this is a mini-miracle...we require her room to be cleaned and vacuumed once a week, so it is usually clean for a few hours on Thursday).  It was Friday and my daughter's room was still clean.  She had moved some of her knick-knacks around and I was trying to figure out where she had moved her fish to.  Her beta fish lives in a small tank on her dresser.  I couldn't seem to find him anywhere when I noticed that the tank was laying on the floor.  The cat tends to drink from the tank, so I thought perhaps she had knocked it over.    I am dreading telling my daughter that something happened to her fish and wondering how long it's going to take me to find the fish in her room.  (We lost one of my son's toads once and it took us several days to find him---yuck!). 

   To my amazement this is what I found

In the bottom of my daughter's clothes hamper is a small amount of water and her beta fish (the white square is the top of the fish's broken tank).    The miracle here is that my daughter had no dirty clothes, they were all in the wash, and that she had put her hamper back where it goes.  Any other day or week the poor fish would have been toast.  

   There were a couple lessons here.  For one the fact that she had put everything in it's place saved the fish's life.  For another had she closed her door the tank never would have been knocked over.  But really the whole incident is a fluke, and had it happened any other time the outcome would have been very different. 

    So, we call it a miracle here.  The fish got a second life (and a new bowl), and my daughter got the gracious gift of not losing something special to her (even if it is just a fish).  It reminded me that God often orchestrates such small events as a reminder that He is in control of this universe.  I certainly think that there are many other important things He is doing with His time, but I also believe He wants us to know that the little details of our lives matter to Him.  Every little prayer He answers is just more proof that He is capable of doing what we ask (and some things that we don't).   He doesn't have to answer our prayers and He doesn't have to prove His faithfulness, but He does.

    Honestly it makes me think of the verses in Matthew 6 that talk about how the birds of the air neither sow nor reap and yet our heavenly Father feeds them.  This week we are thankful that He chose to protect something as small as my daughter's fish.

     Normally that would be the end of the post, but being a cat lover I want to make sure that I end with a proclamation of the cat's innocence.  As it turns out the dog put his big old paws up on the dresser to get to the small container of fish food and knocked the fish tank over.  He then ate all the fish food (as well as spilled it into a laundry basket of clean clothes) and in typical dog fashion looked guilty and immediately wanted to be let outside when I came home.  Now mind you he looked guilty before I even discovered the fish, but he did have the decency to look guilty, thus ensuring that we couldn't stay mad at him.  However, we have decided to put the fish food in a safer place.   


Friday, May 20, 2011

Some Thrifty tips just aren't worth it...

     I hesitate to post this on my blog as it creates the possibility that people will be looking at me funny for the next couple days.  However, I figure if I can't laugh at my own mistakes then I am taking life too seriously.

    My husband is self-employed and work has been slow as of late.  Since his job tends to to run in cycles I like to try and be thrifty.  I also believe that resourcefulness is a character quality and that God wouldn't want us to be wasteful.  So, from time to time I try a new thrifty tip that I have found somewhere.  A few of these things I have found useful and still continue to do.  However, this week I found one that I will not attempt again.

     It all started when I saw a book in a bookstore on being thrifty and decided to check it out from the library (the library is my attempt at saving money, though since I am forgetful I tend to end up with fines, which I think is till cheaper than buying the book).  It did have some interesting tips in it, though most of them I had heard before.  One of their tips involved cutting your own bangs.  There was a "special trick" to keeping them even. 

     Since my bangs were starting to get a bit long I thought this might buy me a couple more weeks before I had to go get a haircut.  Truth be told I should have known better because in the past I have tried to cut my boys' hair and it did not work well.  The difference is I can give them a buzz cut if I mess up.  The"trick" involves twisting your bangs together and then cutting straight across.   Now whether it was the tip itself or I just screwed it up (which is possible) I don't know, but my bangs did not come out evenly.   I evened them up enough that it isn't very noticeable, but if you look closely enough you can see that they aren't even.  

    My husband said he didn't notice, neither did my boys, but men tend to overlook little details like that, so that may not mean anything.  In the long run this is not the worst hair problem that I've ever had.  (I've had two fairly bad experiences, both of which I paid money for).   Overall I learned something which I already knew about myself, that I should never cut my own hair.   I also will not feel guilty for going to the stylist anymore since I know that this is something that I cannot do myself.    One of the pluses of being thrifty is knowing what is worth paying for and what isn't.  

    I have found some things that do save me money in the long run, that I am both good at and I don't find to be an inconvenience.   I am hoping that I will find some more this summer as I have in mind a few things that I would like to try, but we'll see they could end up not working so well either.   Maybe by the end of summer I can add to the list of thrifty things that are worth doing (at least for me) and share it with all of you.  In the meantime stay tuned there are liable to be more funny stories to share.  In case you're hoping for something really exciting don't hold your breath, my husband is a carpenter (who specializes in remodeling) and therefore I don't attempt to fix anything in my own  house.  I am confident that i could figure out how to do a couple things, but I don't think that my husband could survive the few failed attempts that I am certain would occur.

    If you have a thrifty tip that works for you please share, maybe I can try it and add to my list, or at least give you a laugh.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oil on opened wounds...

     That's what the email I received today said, "Your message of grace is like oil on open wounds..."   Honestly, a homeschool family that we know well has had some troubles this spring and I have been meaning to send a card or an email to them for a couple months.  Only I never got around to it.   Why?  I wasn't sure what to say.  I wasn't sure they'd want me to say anything.   And the more time that passes the more awkward I feel for not having said anything when I knew they were hurting. 

   I knew that God had called me.  Most of the time my callings are feelings of "oughtness", an awareness that I can do something to help, and that I should.  Too often though as a homeschool mom of 6 kids I don't make time for those callings, even though they are such small acts of obedience.  A card to a friend that is hurting, a meal for my neighbor who has cancer, a care package for my friend who just lost a baby, a gift for a widow that is spending her first Christmas alone.  These are the little things He asks me to do, the ways He asks me to be His hands and give a physical manifestation of His love.  Sometimes I manage to get around to them, and sometimes I miss the opportunity to be a blessing (and be blessed in return)

   This time God asked me to bless someone with my words of support.  To say I knew what was going on and I was sorry.  I certainly did not expect a reply.  The amazing thing was that their reply was a gift to me, to know that I helped soothe their wounds.  I gave them a gift and they gave me one back.  It reminded me of the verse in Proverbs 25:11 that says, " A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver."  It was that way for me today, and for this other family as well, all because I responded to the feeling of "oughtness" that God had given me. 

10 Ideas for Finding Free Field Trips

     One of my favorite things about homeschooling is field trips.  I think that has something to do with the fact that I have 5 boys.  There are only so many days that I can read over boys shuffling through Legos or wrestling with each other.  Plus I have a very energetic child who does not enjoy school, but he learns a lot on field trips.  We have been to many exhibits and museums that are well worth the cost that we pay to visit, but with 6 kids a field trip isn't always in the budget. 

   So here are some of the great things that we have done for free.  It's certainly not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will give you some ideas whether you are planning a field trip for a group or just an outing for your family.  For those who live in Colorado I have included actual places in parentheses, you should be able to google the company for more info.

  • Greenhouse---most states have a local greenhouse they get their flowers from.  Many of these greenhouses, or even some of the smaller garden shops are willing to set up a tour for your group. (Welby Gardens)
  • Post office---not all post offices will give a tour, but most post offices know of a local one that will do tours.  There is also a General Mail Facility in every state that offers tours (usually for age 10 and up)
  • Factories---many factories will not give tours to children due to safety guidelines.  However, there are usually a couple of exceptions to this.  The best way to find out?  Call around and ask.  (Hammond's Candies, Celestial Seasonings)
  • Small businesses or stores--sometimes a small ice cream shop or other storefront business will give a tour to a small group.  Great Harvest Bread has many locations all over the United States and most of them offer tours where you can come and see them make some bread.  A very yummy field trip.  I once called our local Ben & Jerry's and they were willing to have a small group come, but I dropped the ball and we never went.
  • US Mint---unfortunately this will only apply to those of you who live in Denver or Philadelphia, but you can also take a free online tour.  Still if you are able to stop by the mint sometime, I would recommend it.
  • Hikes or nature walks are free and a great way to get together with other homeschool families without a lot of pressure.  Your kids can bring a nature journal or you can just hike around and enjoy the great outdoors.
  • Animal shelters and pet stores--I am not sure about Petsmart, but I have heard that Petco will sometimes offer tours.  Our local animal shelter offers classes (on wildlife or how to meet a dog for example) and a shelter tour for free (they do encourage non-monetary donations for the shelter such as toys, stuffed animals, etc).  The risk of this field trip is coming home with a new friend.
  • Free museums---we have several local museums here that are free.  We have a historical museum that offers replicas of farms from the 1860's and 1890's as well as a free geology museum (which is tied to the Colorado School of Mines).  Museums paid for by a city or University may often be a good free choice (Littleton Historical Museum, Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum)
  • Art Galleries/Theaters---It may be an anomaly, but close to us there is a cultural center that puts on plays.  The plays are not free, but the center also has an art gallery, a small exhibit hall and a sculpture garden where the kids can climb on Squiggles the dragon.  Check cultural centers in your area, most of them charge for special exhibits and theater performances, but many have small galleries or exhibits that are open to the public.
  • Newspapers/TV stations--many local TV stations do not charge for field trips, but most of them require students to be at least 10 (sometimes 12).  It can also be hard to find a person to contact to get information about field trips, but worth the effort if you manage to get a hold of someone.
     There are many other ideas that we have thought of but not yet followed through.  I am sure that most homeschool moms have some great ideas or places they've gone.    I also keep an eye out for free days at the local attractions, but I didn't mention that here as I am sure that most moms do that.  Hope some of these activities keep your summer full, or give you great ideas what to do for next year.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal--5/15/11

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week...

    I must admit that my Mother's Day wasn't much of a treat this year.  One of my teenage boys did make me some eggs, but my 3 oldest boys (ages 14, 13, 13) had to be at church early.  With gas prices what they are there is no good reason to drive separate, which means getting everyone ready a little early.  So, my son Max brought the eggs down while I was putting on my make-up and even though there were a bit runny (did I mention we were in a hurry?) I was eating them...until the dog chased the cat who jumped up on the dresser and stepped in my plate of eggs.  So, I fed the rest to the dog (which may have been his plan all along).   Our Sunday school class had some nice snacks set out though.   Normally I plant flowers on Mother's Day, but since my husband (who is self-employed) is not working much I didn't do that this week.  That was a bit discouraging for me, but I am trying to enjoy the flowers that I already have and there are some of those.

In our homeschool this week...

     The National Piano Teachers Guild Competition, which my oldest participated in.  He memorized and played 8 pieces for a judge.  My other 6 kids are involved in a variety of activities, but at this point only my oldest son (14) plays piano.  Otherwise we are trying to wrap up school and figure out what we need to work on over the summer and what I think we have covered enough of.  Normally I stop art this time of year, but we are actually almost done with the book, so I have decided to go ahead and finish.

Places we're going and People we're seeing...

    Besides the piano competition the only people we saw this week was the dentist.  I only took in a couple who needed to get cavities fixed , so I got to sit and read while they were back in the dentist office...a rare treat for sure.  The only downside was that it had rained/snowed the night before.  I had checked before I went to bed and it looked as though all my windows were up, but the driver's side was open just a crack.  So, I had to drive to the dentist office on a wet seat (even with a towel over it) and sit in the dentist's office with a half-wet bottom.

My favorite thing this week...

     My lilac bush smells delicious, and I am trying to savor that since I know it will not last too much longer.  I actually have enough this year that I was able to bring a few sprigs in the house.  My other favorite thing was today....I am fighting a head cold (not my favorite part by the way).  Three of our older boys went home with a friend after a puppet ministry luncheon at church.  Our daughter brought a friend home.  My husband took the 4 kids at our house to the park for 2 hours so that I could nap. that sure makes up for a not so pampered Mother's Day.

What's not working for us....

    As mentioned in my post on Friday the math curriculum I am using for the older boys is working for 2 of them, but not the third.  So, I am starting to pray about what to do next year.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have....

      As I get ready to sort through my curriculum for the year I am trying to decide what to do with it.  I have several books I have been trying to sell the last couple months that are just not selling.  Today I found out about a place that donates books to homeschoolers who need, but can't afford curriculum.  They do this by having people send in books they are not using any longer.  I am thinking that even though I could use the money to put towards our curriculum, God is telling me to donate the things that are not selling.  I will include the link to the website in case any of you have items you would like to donate or if you are in need of curriculum for this year.

A video to share....

    My three oldest boys participate in the puppet ministry at our church.  Today they had a recognition luncheon and the kids did a puppet show for us.  It was very encouraging to me as I realized today what a gift this ministry has been to my boys.  Besides learning to be a puppeteer they also must learn to write skits, choreograph skits, do voices for each character, and also tell Bible stories to the kids (without a puppet), among other things.   I am checking with the head of the puppet ministry to see if the skits they did today are copyrighted before I post the videos.  So, check back and hopefully I will have one posted in the next day or so.  If not then I'll just post a picture of my 3 oldest boys...the 3 puppeteers.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Math Hurdle

  As a homeschool mom one of my biggest challenges is teaching math, especially to older kids.  I understand it, but I cannot explain it very well.  It just makes sense in my head, but I can't always tell the kids why it makes sense.

    Most of the time this causes no dilemmas as I can explain it using the examples from the teacher's guide.  When this doesn't work I have found videos on youtube where people explain math.  This was a great help to my daughter when she was stuck on 3-digit-multiplication.  She could not seem to understand the concept of the placeholder that you put after the 10's (and the 100's) so that you can add them up.  In regular addition you line the answers up and then add them, so she couldn't understand why you wouldn't do that here.  I went to Youtube and searched for videos of 3-digit-multiplication.  I am sure that I explained it exactly the same as the man in the video, but when he explained it she understood it.  She claims that when I explain it my answers are too "mathy" and therefore that is why she doesn't understand them.  In response to that all I can do is scratch my head.

     The dilemma last year was with my 3 older sons.  My oldest, who is 14, loves math, but he was hating Saxon math.  He didn't like all the repetition, nor the way they explained it.  In addition my twin sons who were in 7th grade were giving me headaches trying to teach math.  One of my sons in particular has struggled with a learning disorder, and he is right brained, so I can't always figure out how to explain math to him.  He gets frustrated when he doesn't understand, and then he yells or cries.  This is turn makes me frustrated and I yell or cry.   So, at the end of last year I decided that I was going to find something else.  I was going to find something at the conference that I didn't have to teach, thus ending the battles between my son and I.

   After some research I came across a math program called Life of Fred.  It is meant for the student to read and do on their own.   Each chapter contains a short story where Fred (the main character) uses math in a particular situation and explains how he did that.  At the end of each chapter there are 4 or 5 problems to do.  The boys do the problems and then check their answers.  They are not required to get a certain amount right at that point, as the way the author got the answers is explained for them.  At the end of several chapters is something called The Bridge.  In this case they are required to get a certain amount right to make sure that they understand the material.  In addition as the parent I can make them do all five Bridges if I would like, regardless of how many they get right.

    This has been a great solution for my oldest who loves math, and is enjoying it even more.  Even though the Life of Fred books don't have as many problems he enjoys trying to figure them out as some can be a challenge.  The books are for higher levels of Math.  There are Decimals and Percents as well as a book on Fractions and then two Pre-Algebra books and from there the books go all the way up through Calculus.  Since the chapters are short you can go through the books fairly quickly. The problems are challenging so I don't make my boys do extra, but they also sell companion guides if you feel like your child needs more help.  Another thing I love about the books is that the man who wrote them has his email address on his website so that you can contact him if you have questions.

    This has also worked well for one of my sons in 7th grade, who hasn't had much trouble with math at all this year.  However, his twin brother, Neil is still struggling with math.  Our school year started off well and this approach seemed to work well for both of us, eliminating the fighting.  However, Neil still struggled with the material, occasionally needing help.  As we moved into the book on Decimals and Percents he struggled even more, and we ended up having to go back to me helping him with his math.   At first this went fairly well, but once again we are in the cycle of Neil getting frustrated and mom getting frustrated right back.

    Overall, I have loved the Life of Fred books.  I think the stories are very engaging and I love that my boys are getting to do math independently without having to sit in front of a computer.  However, as the school year draws to an end and I can see that Neil is still not understanding these concepts I have come to the realization that it's time to do something else for him.  Since he is the one who has struggled with learning this has happened to me numerous times, and even wonderful curriculum has not always worked for Neil.    My homeschool journey with him has led me into lots of interesting curriculum I might not otherwise have chosen.  While not all have worked for him they have benefited my other children.

    So, now this summer I will be doing more research to find another math program.  I am open to suggestions from those who have children who are struggling.