Saturday, April 30, 2011

If mom isn't happy....

The last couple weeks my kids have been crankier than usual.  They have been bickering and treating each other rudely.  So, I thought we should start listening to Christian music while we get ready for school, maybe change our Bible study to focus on some verses about treating each other kindly, or maybe my kids needed to lose some privileges.  I had some ideas I was going to try that's for sure.

   So imagine my surprise when I was reading a book about anger in children and I discovered that my attitude can affect my children's attitudes.  Well, of course I knew that, but I certainly didn't think that my attitude could be responsible for the level of misbehavior that I was seeing in my children.  I admit that I have one child who picks up on all the negative energy and really acts out when I am cranky, but all of my children were acting unkindly. 

    So this week I decided that instead of being snappy or having that irritated mom voice I would say things to my children like, "When you do that I don't feel respected," or "that behavior is dishonoring to me."   I actually thought that my children might find this a little silly to have their mom talk like that, but I was surprised by how effective this was.  I resolved to not be snappy or cranky and to do my best to speak to my children in a way that didn't sound like I was always scolding them.

   The results?  Well my kids were better behaved and there was less bickering this week.  The challenge was when my kids were rude or disrespectful to not respond to them in that manner, guess I still need to work on that one.  Overall though it was a very convicting exercise for me to realize that my attitude really sets the attitudes of others around here.  On the one hand I could be upset about that because it seems like I can never have a bad day, but on the other hand if a good attitude makes my children's attitudes better, then that would also make me have a better day, and I'm in control of that.  What power and responsibility, but in the end there is a payoff for me as well.  I'll try to remember that in the future.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Homeschool Because....

   At one of our support group meetings last year we wrote out a list of why we homeschool.  I keep this list hanging on my fridge for those days when I need a reminder of why it is I decided to take on this journey.  While I believe that homeschooling is the best classroom environment for students, and I know there are academic benefits to homeschooling those reasons don't figure into some of the top reasons on my list.  So, here is my list of why I homeschool my children:

  • God called me to
  • My children are worth it
  • I'm protecting my family
  • I enjoy my children
  • I get to learn new things
  • It's my responsibility
  • We can all be together and learn together
  • I want to be one of the most important influences in my kids' lives
  • We can talk about God all day long (if we want)
  • I want my children to have good character
  • I want to know my children as intimately as possible
  • To promote positive learning
  • Because of the freedom and flexibility
  I am sure that you have your reasons too.  Feel free to share them.  Maybe I'll even add them to my list.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Keeping my mouth shut

     I have to celebrate just a small victory today.  I know there aren't many people reading my blog yet, though there may be some who come back to this article, or some friends who check in from time to time.  Still the blogging universe makes it seem like you are talking to others even if you are just having a conversation with a computer screen. 

   All the same, there was a small victory for me today.  I love words.  I love to write.  I love to talk.  In my adult life I have learned there are some times that it's better not to share things with others,  because I have been hurt.  So, I can be cautious and quiet sometimes around others.  However, if there is anyone who gets to hear all my words it is my husband and my children.  This means sometimes a brief history discussion gets turned into a lecture, or I am not content ending the discussion of a character trait we are working on until I have given numerous examples (or too many numerous examples).  This means when I am hurting or worried my words can be discouraging or even mean-spirited.  I know other people wouldn't think that of me, but sometimes those who love us best are the ones who see those parts of us that we hide from everyone else.

    My husband is self-employed and work has been dreadfully slow this Spring.  Actually it is the worst Spring that we've ever had.  The past several weeks it seemed like work was coming only to have one job after another cancel.  I know that none of the people canceling are being mean-spirited.  There are legitimate reasons that none of these people can have the work done right now.  However, last night I was very discouraged because it seems like this Spring we just can't get back on our feet.  I cried and cried, but when my husband came into the room amazingly I did not speak.  Oh I was tempted to tell him all my discouraging thoughts, but some things are left better unshared (or shared only with Jesus).  Don't get me wrong, my husband would still have loved me if I had said mean things about how he can't get any work, or discouraging things about how things are never going to get any better, but I know those things would have hurt his feelings.  I am sure as much as I struggle with trying to homeschool and raise 6 kids on my husband's income the struggle is even greater for him.  I don't want him to feel like a failure, especially when it isn't his fault.   So, I kept my mouth shut.  I kept thinking of the line most of our mothers have told us, "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all." 

     And this morning when I sat down to have school with my children I also did not lash out at them or try to discourage their happiness.  I even laughed with them today.  I am still not sure how God will get us through this Spring, but He has gotten us through difficult times before, so I know He can do so again.  In the meantime while I am waiting for Him to do something I am going to try to keep my mouth shut more often.   I always thought my husband should know everything that I am thinking and feeling, because we are one, because I want us to be intimately connected.  However most of the time my husband knows that I am hurting...crying is usually a clue to that.  I don't always have to spill the whole jug of milk for him to see that it's sour inside.

   So, I am celebrating today, because today I can see that my comments would have just made my husband feel worse, even if they had succeeded in making me feel better.  Today I can see that the words would not have accomplished anything.  Would they have brought in work?  No.  Would they have made him look for a real job? Maybe, but that isn't necessarily what I want.   Would they have strengthened our relationship? No. 

  So, today I am writing it down, just so that I remember that it can be done.  I can keep from speaking words that won't build up our relationship.  I hope that I will remember this again and again so that even during difficult times I can encourage my husband to keep doing what he has been called to do, even if that encouragement only comes from me keeping my mouth shut.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Worth it in the End

     Today is the most glorious of Sundays because it's the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior. 

     Since I sing in the choir at my church this means getting up at 4:45 so that I can be there for the sunrise service, and singing in all 4 services.  I don't love mornings anyway, but I don't sleep well when I know I'm getting up early because I am afraid that I will oversleep.  This can make for a really long Sunday, so I drag my feet a little bit on Easter Sunday morning.

    Having done this for several years now though I know that it's worth it.  Being in the choir loft at our church I have one of the best views.  There are four small windows that overlook one of the foothills that our church is at the base of.  There is no feeling more incredible than singing about our risen Savior as the sun comes up.  Knowing that I have that sunrise to look forward to is what gets me out of bed, even if I drag my feet a little.

    I think homeschooling is the same way.  We believe that it will be worth it in the end, but some days we just aren't motivated to do it.  Some days we drag our feet but still get out of bed and do it.   We can keep our motivation up by remembering those incredible feelings we've had.  Even if we've only been homeschooling for a short time there are little successes to celebrate.  If you need something to keep you getting out of bed this time of year find a homeschool mom farther along on the journey than you.  Someone who can share some of the joys of homeschooling, who can give you encouragement to overcome those "hurdles" that you are facing.

    So today keep in mind the bigger picture, not just the goals we have for our children and the rewards of homeschooling, but the incredible hope that we share because of our risen Savior.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Laundry Business

  Since my 6th child was born seven years ago I have averaged between 10-13 loads of laundry a week.  This averages out to about 4800 loads in the last seven years.   I attempted to figure out how many loads of laundry I have done since I got married, but stopped after realizing that the amount of laundry I did in the first 3 years of my marriage (when it was us and then just one child) is about equal to the amount of laundry I do in a year now.   It's hard to imagine that I now do three times as much laundry as I did as a young wife and mother.  It amazes me actually because I had trouble keeping up with it then.  Had I realized what was coming that could have been overwhelming. Actually now that I think about it there were a few years that were overwhelming.  

   I mention this because laundry and housework can be one of the hurdles to our homeschooling, or at least one of the things that discourages us.  I am sure that most of us know of a homeschool mom who is super organized on this point and has a clean house almost all of the time.  Some of us might even be that mom. 

    Just to keep it real I want to make it known that being a domestic goddess is not my strong suit, it's not written into my genetic code.  It has actually taken me the last 14 years of motherhood to figure out a good system of keeping my house clean enough and my laundry done.   Even then I think there is still room for improvement, I'm just too tired to tweak my system right now.   I am not much of a list maker or a list follower for that matter, so I had to figure all this out by trial and error.  Some of my friends could probably tell you stories of my years of error (which is why they aren't writing on my blog).

     Laundry is actually one of my more favorite chores.  I don't really have a favorite chore, but if I did laundry would be up there.  I don't mind the washing and the folding, it's the putting away and the hanging up of clothes that sometimes doesn't get done as quickly as I would like.  And I don't iron.  Actually there were several years I didn't own an iron.  Don't worry my husband hasn't suffered from this.  He is a carpenter and I am sure that people would laugh if he showed up to tile in a freshly pressed shirt, or at least I hope they would.   

      I only do my laundry once a week.  Friday is laundry day at our house.  I try to do all 13 loads in one day (with the aid of whomever is my laundry helper for the week), but a lot of weeks I end up doing a couple loads on Saturday.  I know for some of my friends the thought of all that laundry piled up would be overwhelming, but it gives me a motivation, something to accomplish.   I have tried doing a couple loads of laundry every day and that makes me feel like I am ALWAYS doing laundry, and that feels oppressive to me.

     As tedious and oppressive as homemaking tasks can feel to some of us we can make them more of a drudgery than they are.  If I look back on the 680 (or more) loads of laundry I have done in the last year that can feel like an accomplishment, but if I think of all the dishes I have yet to do and the laundry I have yet to wash that will feel like a burden.   Being a homeschooling mom can be a challenge, but we can also make it a pursuit.   We can take charge of our days and give them all we've got (which granted some days is less than others).  The mops, brooms, washers, stoves, pencils and other tools of the trade that we use can be implements of worship. 

    There are many resources available that can help with setting up a system for keeping your house in order.  To be honest most of them have not worked for me, I find them to be too structured.  In recent weeks I have taken a personality test and  I have realized the reason for this is because most housekeeping systems are put together by Beavers (or people who really like details).  I am not a fan of details, but the longer I homeschool and try to manage 6 kids the more I realize they are necessary.  I just try to limit the amount of details I have to deal with on a daily basis for the sake of my free spirit.  I have included some resources in the article to systems that I have borrowed some things from, but it's important to note that I came up with what worked for me.  It is amazing how many resources are available not just for homeschooling but for managing our homes in general.  Often when we find one that works for us we are so passionate that we tell others it's the way to go.  That leaves those of us who can't make it work feeling like there is something wrong with us or our kids, especially in the early years of homeschooling/mothering.   There is no failure here.  Failure is when we stop trying.  Sometimes we just need to try the system a little longer, sometimes we need to tweak it, and sometimes we just need to throw it out altogether.    I encourage all of you moms who read this and are struggling to ask other moms what they do, and those of you who have systems that are working for you to comment and tell us what is working.  A lot of what works for me is bits and pieces of other systems and advice from friends.    

    God's creativity amazes me.  The way that He has made each one of us and our families to be so different.  Each of my children with their own personalities and their own failings.  I have a child who wishes I cared more about details, and a child whose idea of putting away clothes means shoving them into a drawer and trying to force it to close.  We cannot expect to homeschool like our best friend, or to have as clean of a house as the super-organized mom at our church with a large family (that is not me by the way), but with the gifts and talents that God has given us we can find a way to make it work.   

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive and inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving."   Colossians 3:23-24