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.