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Journal of a Not-So-Ready Homeschool Mom: Unboxing Our Homeschool

journal of a not so ready homeschool mom unboxing our homeschool
unboxing homeschool books

Are you a not-so-ready homeschool mom like me? It’s been several months since our ready-or-not homeschool officially convened. I’m tempted to classify them as long, hard, slogging days. But if I take a step back and put on my objective lens, they haven’t been quite that bad. They just don’t look anything like the idyllic portraits of homeschooling I see on Instagram…it takes a hot minute before my objective self can remember that Instagram isn’t the standard I’m holding to. And sometimes I do have to remind myself to choose joy in my everyday homeschool. Because it is a choice. It’s not something that magically happens when everything is going according to plan…obviously!

Last month, I shared about the initial focus I’d set for our homeschool, and I’d say we’ve done well at it. We’re all getting into the flow of new rhythms, setting aside things that aren’t critical in this season, and building our gratitude muscle by constantly looking for things to add to our thankful jar. In evaluating the first few weeks of our journey, I’m struck by the transformation I’m seeing, even in these very early days. I might’ve once likened it to peeling away the layers of an onion; but having recently dived into our first new curriculum, the image of unboxing is much more appealing. Life is like a box, as the saying goes. Maybe it’s chocolate, maybe it’s books, maybe it’s the layers of yourself or your kids you thought you understood. We’re all unboxing something.

not-so-ready homeschool mom

Unboxing Me: The Not-So-Ready Homeschool Mom

I am still a mom trying to focus on kids, a household, graduate school, freelance work, and pandemic survival. All those layers, for better or worse, are still with me. Every. Single. One. Perhaps I can hold out hope for a few of those things to be unboxed someday. But for now, I’ll be grateful for these new layers of myself that I’ve noticed:

New Appreciation

I am becoming tuned into the unique perspectives of my children. My daughter sees life as one big quest to discover all the things, and she asks the most amazing questions. I spent three years of high school in a Socratic program and distinctly remember agonizing over my inability to ask questions. It’s fascinating to me how quick she is to question pert near everything. There are far more questions happening in our homeschool than there are answers, and I’m learning to be ok with that. I don’t need to have all the words. She is so quick and so sharp; I am learning to appreciate her innate curiosity and talent for learning. This is the beauty of our homeschool journey.

New Perspective

I am resting in the unconventional nature of my role during this season. While my husband’s career in live events is in a strange holding pattern and I’ve assumed the role of primary provider, I don’t get to do as much of the teaching as I’d like. And that’s ok. Everything we need for this day has been generously given to us: my opportunities to work, his opportunities to be here and participate in our homeschool journey. This won’t always be the case. Occasionally, I have to unbox the guilt that wants to grip my heart for not being fully focused on the kids. By unboxing it, I can name it and release it bit by tenacious bit.

Unboxing the Kids

I remember thinking when I was a brand new mom that I would not let anyone put my kids in a box. To be honest, I’m not sure I did so well with that; I’ve certainly learned it’s not as easy as it sounded back then. I have renewed that commitment to myself to allow my kids to explore the world on their terms and to discover and follow their passions free from conventional standards. This is quite a shift from the boxy classroom approach they’ve had the past couple of years; the sudden freedom to not conform has certainly taken some getting used to.

They’ve been such champions this season. Cantankerous? A little. Fidgety? Most days. Messy? More than I’d like to handle on occasion. But they’ve also pivoted on a dime, adapting as their ready-or-not homeschool teachers have gotten their bearings, and kept chins up despite the unfamiliar nature of all the things.

New Expectations

I knew that the expectations they’d formed during their time in a traditional classroom would take some time to undo, so I’ve not been concerned with packing our homeschool days with schedules or rigid structure; I just wanted us all to settle into a rhythm. And they’ve done that. I borrowed a concept they loved from our Montessori pre-school days: the workplan! It’s a flexible tool that provides the kids with both autonomy and accountability. Some sources list specific activities for each day, but I keep it simple and only list subjects since we don’t really have multiple options per subject these days. The workplan lets the kids know what’s expected and also allows them some control over the course of their day.

New Standards

Someone asked me this week if homeschool would be rigorous enough, and I was able to confidently reply that I’m just not concerned about rigor right now. There’s a time for everything, and eventually I will be concerned about how hard they’re working and what progress they’re making. But right now, I want to make sure that we reignite a holistic interest in the act of learning. How quickly they can recite math facts is far less important to me than whether they are learning to think mathematically. I could force them to spend dedicated time in rote memorization, but I’d much rather watch them unbox a love of learning and know that the math facts will come in time. When they ask if we can read more Life of Fred at dinner and again at bedtime…I know we’re on the right track.

Unboxing Our First Curriculum

Our house is a testament to my deep love affair with books. There are shelves in every room, and I am always overdue for a purge. But really, is there even such a thing as too many books? I think not! But I digress… When we unboxed our first curriculum, it was hard to say who was more excited, the kids or me. Side note: that they’re as excited as me about a box full of books may be one of my favorite accomplishments of motherhood to date.

So Many New Books!

My kids were skeptical at first when I told them our new schoolbooks had arrived from GeoMatters, but by the time they had all the books unboxed, they were begging to get started. From character studies to encyclopedias and atlases, this collection of books will take us through the early exploration of our country in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. (Note: No matter what curriculum you use, you really do need great books to homeschool successfully!)

Unboxing Curriculum

Paths of Exploration provides our framework for history, geography, science, language arts, and creativity. I was hooked from the minute I heard it was literature-based and only loved it more as I investigated, finding its roots running deep in Charlotte Mason philosophy of the natural flow of subjects for holistic education.

Learning how to think is one of my top priorities, and this curriculum is informed by the research of Drs. Benjamin Bloom and Ruth Beechick, both of whom studied the paramount nature of thinking skills in the learning process. At the same time, given the ready-or-not start of our homeschool journey, the step-by-step parent-teacher guide removed nearly all of the overwhelm I felt at the prospect of sourcing and crafting comprehensive lesson plans. Every single thing we need for each lesson is all in there…amen and hallelujah!

Unboxing Curriculum

They enjoy the variety of activities within their student notebooks. My son has even come to appreciate the copywork at the beginning of each lesson! Differentiation is built right in so that we can adjust for their unique needs from one activity to the next. I’ve enjoyed the ease with which we’ve all taken to this new framework; we were able to fully engage with it from the outset, no easing in required.

Always Something New

In reflecting on the past few weeks, I’ve realized that homeschooling will likely be a journey of unboxing one thing after another. Something will always be new and emerging: sometimes it will be new pieces of me, other times it will be new insights about my kids, and yet other times will be the excitement of discovering the new places our journey will take us next. The thing I need to do right now is learn to make the most of those unboxing moments because that’s the beauty of homeschooling.

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Dear Homeschool Mom: How to Love Your Husband While Homeschooling

dear homeschool mom how to love your husband while homeschooling
husband and wife holding hands

Dear Homeschool Mom,

Sometimes as we homeschool (or as we get prepared for the new homeschool year over the summer), we let our jobs as mothers and teachers (and chefs and housekeepers and chauffeurs…) stop us from spending time with our husbands and showing them that they are important to us and that we love them. Being a mom is a hard job, and being a homeschooling mom is even harder! (And if you have special needs kids, that adds an extra element of stress and difficulty!)

husband and wife holding hands

But it’s important for our children to see what a healthy marriage looks like. I realize there are more and more single moms who homeschool today, and I’m so happy that single moms are increasingly able to homeschool! But I think most of us hope that, if our children choose to marry as adults, they are happily married!

Having a happy marriage while homeschooling is possible! Yes, we’re busy. Yes, our lives are often stressful. But we don’t have to sacrifice our marriages!

I don’t remember when I came across The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary D. Chapman, but I wish I had come across it much sooner! I think it would have been so helpful for my husband and me to have known about love languages and affirming each other’s love language 30 years ago when we were first married. We didn’t know that we spoke different love languages or that we needed to each meet the other person’s need to be loved in the way each of us understood. We probably each thought we were doing all we could do to love the other.

And to be truthful, when our children were all younger (They’re 25, 24, and 18 now.) and needed so much care and attention (especially our severely autistic child), we were both exhausted and burned out most of the time. I sometimes wonder how we survived! I hate to admit it, but our marriage wasn’t top priority for many of those years. But we had promised God and each other that we’d stick together, so we were determined to do it! The love languages book did make it easier, though!

And, to be honest, I’m not sharing this with you because I have any obligation to this book or the author. I’m sharing it with you because I truly do wish I’d known that different people have different love languages. I think it would have made some of those difficult years a little easier. I think it could have helped us avoid some misunderstandings. And I think it would have made the good years better!

Basically, there are 5 love languages. They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

I realized that my husband has two primary love languages. (Most of us have more than one.) His are quality time and physical touch. My husband loved (and still loves) movies and television shows. He has always enjoyed sitting down in the evening—especially after the children are in bed or in their rooms for some quiet time before bed—and watching a movie or TV show. I never took the time to sit and watch a show with him because I was always too busy. Once the kiddos were in their rooms or in bed was the only time I had to catch up on everything I needed to get done! When I reminded myself that quality time was one of his love languages, it became easier for me to set aside what I thought needed to be done and spend 45 minutes or an hour watching something with him simply because he enjoyed it when I did. (Keep in mind that it’s his idea of quality time, not mine, that meets his need!)

His other love language is physical touch. I think most men speak that one! I realized I also was not spending time giving my husband the physical affection he needed—inside or outside of the bedroom. That was difficult for me for a long time because my children were so physically needy that I felt like I had nothing left to give at the end of the day. I didn’t want anyone touching me or needing anything from me once the children were in bed. But once I began to understand that physical touch was one of his most important love languages and that he didn’t feel loved if his physical needs weren’t being met, it helped me understand his needs and that he wasn’t being selfish or uncaring. He simply needed me.

This doesn’t mean that my husband doesn’t appreciate acts of service, words of affirmation, or receiving gifts. It just means that those aren’t as important to him. Those are the love languages that he might appreciate having met now and then, but they aren’t necessary for him to feel loved on a day-to-day basis.

You can probably guess that, as a busy work-from-home, homeschooling mom, my most important love language (at least right now) is acts of service! My sweet hubby is wonderful about helping with the laundry (my downfall!) as well as helping to keep the kitchen clean. Now that the children are older, they are required to help more too, but my husband makes sure it gets done one way or another, and that means so much to me! (It also helps free up more time for me to spend with him—and he knows that!)

Over time, we began to realize that meeting the other person’s needs made each of us happier too! We didn’t start out doing a very good job of it at all, but we have improved with time and effort, and you can too!

No, you don’t have to read this book to have a happy marriage. But it can definitely be helpful if you’re looking for ways to help your husband feel loved and to strengthen your relationship. Not only will you and your husband be happier, but it will be a great example of a happy marriage for your children. After all, our children are the reason we do what we do, right? So I’d like to encourage you whether you have a wonderful marriage or a marriage that needs some improvement to learn how to better love each other. It truly is worth the effort!

Wendy Signature Transparent Backgroundxoxo

NOTE: There are also books for The Five Love Languages of Children and The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. If you like the one for adults, you might also like these!

Do you have tips or ideas to share with us? We would love to hear what you have to say about having a happy marriage and modeling a happy marriage for your children! 

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Three Ways to Choose JOY in the Everyday Homeschool

three ways to choose joy in the everyday homeschool
3 ways to choose joy in the everyday homeschool

As homeschool moms, most of us juggle about a hundred tasks every day (or maybe even every hour), always with the feeling that there is just so much to do! At the heart of this reality, there is also the struggle to maintain the atmosphere of peace and joy that so many of us long for in our homes.

We’ve had those days occasionally, right?  Those blissful, wonderful, happy, joyful days when the sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and all is well in this happy little home. And then, there are the normal days.  The ones where we’re happy most of the time but there is just that hint of argument between siblings or that lack of patience from Mom or that whiny, “HOW many letters to I have to write?” attitude.  And it doesn’t take much for joy to flee from us.  I know the battle. So I wanted to share with you three ways I have found to really help our family maintain a peaceful atmosphere in our homeschool. Hopefully they will offer some encouragement to your heart today.

3waysJOY

 1. Put relationships before curriculum.  

So many of us have done it (or been tempted to do it). We get a shiny new book or curriculum, and we love it so much that we just HAVE to make it work.  Even if our kids hate it and it isn’t working by any stretch – we are STICKING to it because, for goodness sake, it was expensive and we’ve already scheduled out the year.  Yep.  I know the feeling.

I know from experience – if a curriculum truly isn’t working for your family, it may be time to put the curriculum on the shelf and tune into what the people need.

When we force curriculum, schedules, book lists, philosophies, and methods onto our children when they aren’t working – we’re stirring up a recipe for unrest.  The joy and peace we’re seeking are quickly heading out the Exit.  Because if the children aren’t enjoying their days, we won’t be enjoying our days.  Mom will be frustrated, irritable, and discouraged, and those feelings will be communicated to the rest of the family (whether directly or indirectly).

After six years of homeschooling, I’ve realized that if I want joy in our homeschool, the little people in my life need to always come before any sort of program I have in my head or on paper.

Charlotte Mason talked about this concept often in her writings.  She spoke about children being ‘born persons,’ meaning each child is an individual with God-given gifts, talents, abilities, and a personality all their own.  Every one of them will have unique needs in the homeschool setting.

Relationships before curriculum means the delight of learning and the joyful atmosphere of home always come before my desire to pursue a certain method, read a certain book, or accomplish a curriculum.  Sometimes, this means going against the grain, making sacrifices in love and choosing to trust in God’s leading and your child’s unique abilities and needs.

2. Say YES more often.

The other morning, I had a full-blown ‘yes’ moment which I recently wrote about in a post titled, Why We Can’t Let our Schedule Steal our Joy. But basically, the short version is this:  The kids desperately wanted to go outside and play in the beautiful autumn morning sunshine.  I desperately felt the need to stick to my schedule despite that aching feeling in my soul to just GO OUT AND PLAY.  I chose so surrender and say YES.  We were all incredibly blessed by a morning of autumn glory and building relationship with one another.  The ‘scheduled’ work got done (at least mostly) later.

I’m convinced we all just need to loosen up, laugh, play, and say YES to those positive spontaneous opportunities that arise.  And this TOTALLY includes me!  I’m right in there with the moms struggling to pull the reigns in and stick to those checkmarks and notebooks.  But here’s the thing – this time when the kids are young and want to play with me and long to just revel in the joy of the unexpected, of the precious, of the joyous – this time won’t last forever.   Kids grow up FAST.  We grow old.  Time is short and there is so much beauty waiting to be enjoyed and explored all around us.

As homeschooling parents,  we have this crazy gift of time with our children.  We CAN run outside on a Monday morning and roll in leaves and call it Nature Study.  We can spend 3 hours reading on a rainy afternoon.  We can play a 7:30am game of cards just because our youngest child gives us those eyes we can’t refuse.  We can make pancakes for lunch and eat them in a fort.  We can say YES, and we should do it much more often.  Because every time I’ve said ‘yes’ to surprises like these, I have been RICHLY blessed and filled with joy– right along with my kids.

3. Refresh and refocus.  Often.  (Every day if possible.)

For me, this means curling up on the couch, in bed, sitting outside in the early morning stillness – however and wherever I can, to spend time alone with God and my journal.  This is the time to refresh and refocus on what we do and why we do it.  To consider the bigger picture of what life is all about.  It’s a time to pray about the struggles we’re facing, that situation that stole joy today, that regret we have, those moments we were lacking in everything we needed.  Also, a time to count gifts and journal gratitude for every little smile, wink, achievement, experience we were blessed with throughout the day.

This is when the Lord fills me with His renewing strength for yet another day pursuing a JOYFUL life.  I can’t do it alone, and I know I need His daily cleansing and refilling to keep on pouring into my children.  This focus on what really matters, this reliance on God, this practice of reflecting on blessings and triumphs, this surrendering of all the ways I need His help… THIS is where I can really move towards a home filled to the brim with JOY and peace.

(hug)

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Dear Strong Homeschool Mom

dear strong homeschool mom
woman and kids dressed as super heroes

To the mama who knows that her rough moment, which maybe turned into an entire afternoon…or week, will not become HER. To the mama who can hurt from the weight of life’s demands, both self-imposed and otherwise, but will still rise to the challenge the next morning. To the mama who may be overlooked because your sister, your cousin, your bestie has it less together, needs more help, or makes others feel needed. To the mama who chooses to commiserate instead of complain.

This one’s for you.

mom dressed as super hero with kids

You seem like you have it all together. With errors few and far between, you get to all the practices, lessons and meetings on time. Your kids are in relatively clean clothes. You can find something in the fridge or pantry to toss down the gullets of those hungry babies… most of the time. You are a shining example to the people who can’t understand how you do it all.

But, even the shiniest stars burn out.

Maybe our fake smiles are just a little more deceptive?

When my husband first left to work overseas, I thought for sure this was my Everest. We had friends and family pouring in the, “we got her”s to him, and the “if you need anything..”s to me. But, somewhere along the line, when I absolutely did not have a very public downfall, people decided that I was the mystical unicorn that could do it all, be it all, handle it all.

Can we tackle our to-do lists? Preach, sisters. This mama relishes in the scratch of the pencil lead (Ticonderoga #2s, obvs) crossing another task off my planner. But, guys? What if I was crying as I did it?

You see, just because we are capable does not mean we are bullet-proof.

Are you tired? Because I’m tired.

A beautiful tired.

A content tired.

But, tired.

The schoolwork, and the lesson-planning, and the house, and the kids in a season of bickering, and the surprise, “I better go get new tires!” and the, “Why are we out of eggs AGAIN?” We are not impervious to those things or to this life.

But, we do refuse failure. We COULD. NOT. cook dinner tonight? We know we can order a pizza. We needed to slow the moment by watching a movie with the kids? We know that doesn’t mean we’ve ruined them from the inside out.

The strong mamas are all mamas. All those mamas who come from a place of love. To fight for it another day. Who know they are making a difference. However incremental it may seem. Who know that their fatigue is not the sign of a hard life, but of pulling-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps grit.

Maybe you share my belief that God sees me. And has not given these trials to drown me, but opportunities to birth new light in me. To shape my endurance.

Maybe you don’t come from a place of faith. No biggie. You know who sees you? Those little nuggets you made. They see you never giving up. They see you getting knocked down and getting right back up. They see you taking care of their basic needs.

You are making an impact. This is your legacy.

You may not have your tribe beating down your door to offer help, but you are seen, sweet friend. You matter. You’re not just here to take care of the pee-sheets and the dinners and the math work. Little eyes are looking up at you as the one who gave them grace for their accidents, who made their favorite dinners, who know you care so much you devote your days to teaching them at home.

Us strong mamas, all mamas, we are carried by our faith and/or each other.

Struggle for a day. But you find that warrior princess inside you that has kept you going this long. That has fooled people into thinking you’re the unicorn. You draw on us until you find her.

Because you have never walked alone.

:: Rocky theme music plays ::

author with her family

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How to Ease the Transition Back to School after a Long Break

how to ease the transition back to school after a long break
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
young girl doing science experiment

At our house, back to school is not easy.

My kids do not look forward to getting back to a school routine after a long break. My kids thrive on routine, and any change in routine requires a period of adjustment.

Over the years, I’ve created a few routines and ideas for helping kids who struggle with routine changes get back into school without creating stress, fears, or tears.

girl doing science experiment for back to school activity

How to Ease the Transition Back to School after a Long Break

Use these tips to make your own back-to-school experience happier!

1. Start with the Fun Stuff

My daughter’s favorite subject is science. She loves conducting experiments and learning about how the world works. She is a lot more likely to be responsive to a change in routine if that routine involves her favorite activity–science projects. I always try to plan a fun activity for our first day back to school.

Another option is playing educational games. There are lots of games that can be used to teach math, science, geography, history, and more! This is a fun way to get back into structured activities that your children will look forward to.

2. Create a Routine and Stick with It

Since routine is so important to my kids, they are much more accepting of getting back to school when we follow a strict routine. My eldest, “Monkey,” likes to create her own routine, so I include her in the new semester plan. She likes to assign a specific time and order for each subject in school.  If she is allowed that control, she is much happier about the return to school.

Some families do better when they plan an order for the day but not necessarily a strict schedule. In other words, you might decide to create a flow for your day so that your children know what comes next, but you might not want to assign strict times for each subject or other activity.

3. Start Small

After long breaks like Christmas break and summer break, we often start small and gradually increase our school to the full load over the course of a week. For example, on Monday we might do science and math. Then on Tuesday, we add English. On Wednesday, we add a couple more subjects until by Friday we are doing every subject. The slow build-up keeps it from being overwhelming to the children and to me.

4. Have One-on-One Time

My kids start to act out when they do not get enough one-on-one time. During a holiday break, they spend a lot of time playing on their own but get less parent face time. My kids respond well to one-on-one time, and I bet yours do too! However, if I ask them to do something alone (a hard school assignment or a difficult chore), they will get upset and – inevitably- conflict will occur. After a break, my kids like to see me right there in the trenches with them, either offering hands-on guidance in school, reading something to them, or doing chores together.

5. Spend Time in Review

Sometimes it seems that my kids forget an entire grade level during a long break. I know this is why many families choose to homeschool year-round, but for us it works better to take breaks during holidays and summer. If you feel like year-round homeschooling might work well for your family, though, our article, 10 Reasons Why Year-Round Homeschooling Is a Great Idea, will give you some information and even free printables to use for planning.

When school starts again, it helps make things easier if…well, if it is easy! I often go back and have the kids work on things they haven’t forgotten in order to build up their confidence before giving them something new to learn. This has worked well for us in preventing meltdowns and stress during the return to school. Many curriculum programs even have this review system built right into the textbooks.

These simple strategies have worked for us as we transition back to school after a long break. I find a little foresight goes a long way!

NOTE: If you’re struggling with getting back to school because of feeling burned out, please read Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom. I think it will be an encouragement to you and will give you some strategies for dealing with burnout and hopefully preventing it from happening in the future.

Do you have ideas for easing the transition back to school after a long break? Please share your tips in the comments! 

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Should You Make New Year’s Resolutions?

should you make new years resolutions
New Year's Resolutions

Believe it or not, whether or not to make New Year’s resolutions can be a hot topic! Many of us have strong feelings one way or the other about it. Some believe it’s extremely important to make them each year because, after all, it’s hard to reach goals we haven’t set. Others believe it’s a complete waste of time and should be avoided for that reason.

New Year's Resolutions

What about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, do you make them for your homeschool? Your family? Fitness? Finances?

I’ve had years when I’ve made homeschool New Year’s resolutions and years when I’ve made resolutions related to fitness or my family. I’ve had other years when I haven’t made any at all. I try to base my decision each year on how well I’m already doing reaching my goals or how much I need extra motivation and a fresh start.

Today I’d like to share several articles related to this topic. I hope you find these articles helpful and that they’ll give you some guidance as you decide whether or not to make your own resolutions this year.

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Inspire Moms

If you’d like a few ideas for realistic resolutions that will inspire you to connect more with your family in the new year, 5 New Year’s Resolutions to Inspire Moms is for you!

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Strengthen Your Family

The first article in this list was full of ideas to inspire moms, and 5 New Year’s Resolutions to Strengthen Your Family is, you guessed it, full of ideas for families! So take a look at this article, choose a few suggestions for things you’d like to add to your family’s time together, and prepare to have a great year with your family!

3 New Year’s Resolutions I’m NOT Making!

Our article about New Year’s Resolutions I’m NOT Making is a look at how we sometimes tend to put pressure on ourselves to make resolutions that may be difficult to keep and that may add stress to our lives. If you tend to be a perfectionist or to set goals that stress you rather than bless you, I hope this article will encourage you to give yourself grace.

New Year: Resolutions vs Goals

What is the difference between a resolution and a goal? Why does it matter? Do you need to make one or the other? In our article, New Year: Resolutions vs Goals, you’ll get the answers to these questions and more. You’ll also get 5 tips for creating your own goals or resolutions for the new year!

Parenting Resolutions

These Parenting Resolutions are all about allowing God to show you how to live and how to teach and guide your children. These aren’t difficult, but they will be life-changing for you and your children!

7 Stress-Free New Year’s Resolutions

If you’d like to make some New Year’s resolutions but you need them to be realistic and doable, this article is for you! These 7 Stress-Free New Year’s Resolutions are sensible and reasonable, but they are also going to help improve your new year!

Why I Never Make Homeschool New Year’s Resolutions

Or, if the idea of making New Year’s resolutions is nonsense to you (especially the idea of making homeschool-related resolutions), you might enjoy Why I Never Make Homeschool New Year’s Resolutions. It’s on our sister site, Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, and it’s a look at why you might not want to choose the new year as a time to make changes to your homeschool.

It makes sense to take some time to think about whether you want to make resolutions for your life, your family, or your homeschool. It is definitely smart to consider how things are going and make a conscious decision about whether changes need to be made. It also makes sense, though, to make changes at the right time and to make changes that, if possible, are not stressful to your family or you!

I hope you have a blessed and happy new year!

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Are you looking for ideas for activities, games, printables, and recipes for some New Year’s Eve fun with your kiddos?

New Years Eve ideas for families

Whether you love to party the night away or go to bed early, this article is for you and your family! You’ll find a variety of printables, games, activities, crafts, recipes, and more that you can enjoy with your family on New Year’s Eve! These Family Ideas and Activities for New Year’s Eve include suggestions from moms like you along with printables, tutorials, and recipes from our websites.

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5 Tips for Finding Gratitude in 2020

5 tips for finding gratitude in 2020

We’re reaching the end of what has been, for many, an especially difficult year.  I don’t have to tell you that the last several months have been full of totally unexpected struggles and complications as a result of the global pandemic. We’ve all been affected in some way, whether emotionally, financially, physically (or all of the above). But now, as we finish get ready to say farewell to 2020, we are also entering the holiday season: a time of gratitude, reflection and hope. I think that many of us are looking forward to the holidays, and the warmth and good feelings that come with them.

Still, it can be hard to find those feelings of gratitude – even though you may want to –  when you’ve been grieving losses and living under a cloud of stress. Though I feel very fortunate to have not been as impacted by the pandemic as I know many others have, there have been other years in my life when personal loss has cast a shadow over the holidays, and the tips I’m sharing today are things that have  helped me – and other friends of mine- reconnect with a sense of gratitude in the midst of difficult times. If you are looking for some ways to shift your perspective as we wrap up 2020 – and move forward into a brand new year – then I hope these 5 tips for finding gratitude will be helpful to you.

gratitude scaled

A little disclaimer: Please note that I am not promoting “fake happy” or a plastered on “attitude of gratitude.”  I’m personally a very big believer in being real with yourself about what you’re experiencing and feeling. In other words, if you are sad or down about something in particular, I think it’s important to be able to say to yourself, “I am upset about _______, and it’s okay for me to feel that way,” while also looking for things in your life to be grateful for. I’d also like to note that – if you are here because you are struggling with depression and/or anxiety that has been constant – l hope you’ll reach out to a friend, family member or counselor who can be there for you.

1. Write Down/Verbalize the Things You are Grateful For

Okay, so this is probably the first thing you expected to see on this list, but that’s for good reason!  When you start looking for things to be grateful for, and actually make a habit of pointing them out to yourself,  it re-wires your brain to cultivate “an attitude of gratitude” (AKA the Pollyanna effect).  Some people like to keep a special journal that they use to write down a certain number of things they are grateful for, each day. It doesn’t have to be a big number of items, or even big things in general. In fact, it’s the little things that sometimes add the most sweetness to life, if you can learn to stop and appreciate them.

Snuggling up with your family to watch a movie, reading a book with your children, taking a walk with a friend, or having a quiet time with your cup of coffee in the morning –these are valuable moments in life that we can sometimes fail to appreciate unless we try to be aware of them.  I’m a Christian, and one way that I like to cultivate this habit is thanking God for specific things when I pray (as I teach my daughter to pray, this is something I am trying to help her cultivate, as well). Whether you keep a gratitude journal, commit to a regular prayer time, or try to make a habit of verbalizing a certain number of things you are grateful for everyday (or all three), making a habit of noting the good, small things in your life can make a big difference in how you see the world.

2. Create New Traditions to Look Forward To

When my husband and I were dating, there was a period of about a year and a half when our relationship was long-distance. It was hard, and every goodbye seemed to get harder. However, one thing that made it easier was always having our next meeting  already planned in the calendar before we ever said goodbye.  It didn’t make it easy, but the hope of having that next meeting in mind helped both of us to move forward in our day-to-day lives while also maintaining a long distance relationship. That experience was difficult, but it made us both more grateful for the time that we had together (and, once we were able to live in the same place and get married, our long-distance experience made us more grateful for that, too.)

More recently, when the pandemic put a damper on all of our travel plans for the year (as I know it has for many of you), my family created some new weekly traditions that we could look forward to. We started doing family art nights more regularly, and we began making more of an “event” out of family movie nights (we even bought a popcorn maker and seasonings). Yes, we were still (very) bummed to have to cancel a long anticipated vacation, but having these new, smaller traditions to look forward to definitely helped and has given us many new memories to be grateful for.

My point in all of this? Hope is a big part of gratitude. You need things to look forward to and be grateful for in your future, as well as the present.  If you’re reading this, maybe part of what you’re sad about is that some of your favorite holiday traditions just aren’t going to work out this year. That’s totally understandable, but I’d also encourage you to come up with a new tradition that you can look forward to, and be grateful for,  this year.

3. Take a Moment to Breathe (and Re-prioritize)

The phrase, “taking a moment to breath,” can having many meanings.  However, in the case of growing gratitude, more than one of them  apply. For example,  if you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, stress, or negative feelings, taking  (literally) a few minutes to simply breathe mindfully may actually help you step away from your mess long enough to find a new perspective. Sometimes, finding more gratitude in your heart can really come from something as simple as a quick breathing activity.

But “taking a breather” can imply bigger changes, too. Sometimes it can mean taking a break from something–stepping away from one thing purposely, in order to focus on something else. I think that this meaning can be extremely helpful for anyone struggling to cultivate a grateful heart, particularly in these ever-changing times. Many people this year (maybe you are one of them) experienced a major shift in daily responsibilities: jobs furloughed (or permanently lost), kids now at home more often, etc.  For example,  maybe you suddenly find yourself displaced from a previous role, while now filling the (perhaps unexpected)  role of “homeschooling parent.” 

It can be unsettling when your daily responsibilities are get shifted so suddenly. Sometimes, it can even leave you feeling strangely guilty, or like you are wasting your time, simply because life does not look how it did before, or how you expected it to.  When things feel that way, consider this suggestion to “take a moment to breathe,” with this meaning: allow yourself to take a break from any previous expectations, so that you can enjoy your life at this moment.  Savor the present, even if it’s not what you were in the middle of anticipating before life caught you off guard. Take a break from that previous image, and be here, now. Your life is precious: far too precious to spend your days feeling like you’re waiting around or wasting time. Take a moment to breathe and refocus on current priorities. It may help you to feel more grateful for each day.

4. Stop the Scroll-and-Compare-Syndrome

The comparison game can be a real challenge to feeling grateful, particularly when our iPhones act as magic mirrors to the outside world. I’m guilty of social media comparison: 100%. And you know what? Too much scrolling and comparing (as addicted as I can be to it) never makes me happy or pleasant. In fact, in kind of makes me feel like a whiny brat inside! Someone else is always updating their kitchen for fun, while things around my house are constantly falling apart. Someone else is always losing weight doing the same diet that never worked for me. Someone always looks gorgeous when I feel like a mess. That family goes on all the cool vacations, and we haven’t been able to travel. Ect. Ect. Ect. 

I’m just being real with you guys. And you know what else I’m going to say, right?  This scrolling and comparing situation is not healthy, nor is it conducive to having a grateful heart.

Not only is Scroll-and-Compare-Syndrome unhealthy, it’s also not based on anything real.  Social media is a magic mirror to the outside world, but it’s one with a very limited perspective.  The other day I did an experiment with my own social media page; I scrolled through my Instagram and tried to imagine what other people see. You know what I realized? They see me with make-up on, at pre-approved angles. They see my daughter always smiling or doing something cool. They see the beautiful property where I live, not the sometimes stressful symptoms of living in a very old home.

Often, we document only our favorite things on our virtual pages, and we leave the stress and unpleasantness behind. I was just thinking (and I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else), wouldn’t it be nice if we could snapshot and save our favorite moments of each day to look at–just for ourselves, instead of comparing our stresses to everyone else’s “best-moment feeds”?

5. Learn from Failure and/or Loss

One thing that we homeschooling moms can usually agree on is that we want our kids to learn from life, right? And if something goes wrong, or if it’s a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Well, there are lessons to learn from that too. 

For some reason,  though, it can be  hard to have this same kind of grace with yourself as a “grown-up.” After all, are grown ups “allowed” to  make mistakes, or have things work out differently than how they planned? Ha! We both know the answer is, “Of course we make mistakes.” Also, sometimes we are going along, sincerely doing our very best, and life pulls the carpet out from under our feet anyway! But we still can – and still should- find things that we can learn and be grateful for, even (especially) in the messes that leave us humbled.

If this season in life has been really rough  for you, and you are struggling to find external things to be grateful for, then perhaps it will be more helpful to search for the internal things you can be grateful for. 

How did you grow? What did you learn? 

Maybe you’ve found a healthy way to cope with stress this year, like taking time to journal, pray, or exercise.  Maybe you’ve learned that you are stronger and more flexible than you ever knew before. Maybe you’ve learned how to recognize the people in your life that you can trust or count on (or those that you can’t). Maybe you’ve found more valuable priorities from realizing what you can do without ( and what you can’t.) This kind of wisdom and insight is infinitely valuable, and you simply can’t find it when life goes smoothly. So, as you reflect back on times of recent struggle, remember to be grateful for those things that only you can see. Write them down, and keep them close.  It’s an unexpected sort of gratitude, but it’s beautiful in it’s own way. 

I hope that these tips help you to find gratitude and joy in your heart in the midst of the holiday season.  It’s been a strange year for the world, and I know that many of us have learned a lot of things we did not expect to. If you have more  tips for cultivating gratitude that you’d like to share with other readers, I hope that you’ll drop them in the comments below for all of us to read! Wishing you peace and joy.

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Encouragement for the Warrior Homeschool Mom

encouragement for the warrior homeschool mom
Warrior Homeschool Mom
superhero mom

When Trish and Wendy asked if I’d like to write encouragement articles for homeschoolers, approximately, 157,000 ideas came to mind.

I take the hearts of mamas very seriously, so I knew I couldn’t waste an opportunity such as this.

‘Excited’ was a massive understatement.

Encouragement for the Warrior Homeschool Mom

But, then? The 1-year-old and 4-year-old spent the better half of two weeks synching up their grievance-airing schedules, going full ham on their own personal Festivus rituals. I swear those two weeks lasted about 53 days.

I thought for sure there was going to be a Samantha-shaped hole in the wall. The husband would have to tag-in from here because I’d be on a sunny beach somewhere, undoubtedly, missing the tiny people who made me doubt my sanity. Because life’s ridiculous like that.

The chaos went on so long, I just couldn’t hang. I used happy, playful emojis to mask my seemingly never-ending stress of the situation while still remaining “social.” I just couldn’t handle “reliving” it, even if it meant I’d have to sit with it alone.

So, who am I to encourage anyone?

I was sure that if I were more, if I were better, life wouldn’t have gotten so wonky. Because that’s what a mama’s back is for, right? To carry all that weight?

warrior homeschool mom

Once the curse had been broken and the fog lifted, I finally realized there hadn’t been an extended commentary on my maternal repertoire.

But, one on love.

Love is what had me take my kids’ actions so personally. You too?

… Love is what allowed them to feel their emotions so freely, knowing I’d be there to catch them when they fell, even if I was crying in the process.

… Love is what made me get up and try again each day.

I look back at the times I sat in the back corner of our walk-in closet and absolutely fell apart, the times you could read the defeat all over my face, and wonder when was the exact moment I subconsciously decided to let the days define me. When did it become less notable that I still made sure they had clean clothes to wear, good food to eat, and a safe place to rest their heads for nighttime prayers and goodnight kisses, all the while being dragged through an emotional battleground? Is it simply because those things are in the ‘mama’ job description?

They do deserve those things, regardless of my feelings. Those are their inalienable rights.

I just hope to encourage you to fully acknowledge the times you showed up even when you felt broken, even when you felt like you were running on fumes.

I want to live in a world where it’s not overshadowed when a mama is knocked down 7 times, but she stood up 8.

Day in and day out, you throw yourself back into that ring because, in the words of my favorite gif, “That’s what heroes do.

warrior homeschool mom
Photo credit: Unknown

You are not ordinary, satisfactory, average. You’re someone who refused to quit. Even if you cried. Even if, every night, you gave your other half an earful about all the ways you felt less than. Even if it looked like everyone but you had it figured out. Even if it seemed impossible to reconcile the “defeats” that are more tangible, with the more figurative aspect of perseverance–making earning the “W” seem like too lofty an aspiration.

Give yourself the win. It was hard-earned.

Through the whole extravaganza, I carried this gnarly weight of feeling that I had been buried, that I was inadequate. Enough walking uphill, in the snow, both ways will do that to a person.

Plot twist: I  hadn’t been buried at all. I had been planted and, maybe, for just this moment.

Maybe my wild was meant to be a page in someone else’s survival guide. Maybe I’ll spot the signs of emotional burnout in one of my virtual soul mates that much more quickly, making sure to bless her inbox with some love and her doorstep with some flowers. Maybe I’ll squeeze a friend’s hand a little tighter, knowing the bravery it takes to admit feeling defeated, to reassure her that judgment is for the birds, the season does end, and, most importantly, that none of this has been an indicator of her worth. That bravely speaking her temporary truth won’t lead to permanent suspicions about the happiness of her life. That it takes a village to raise a mama, for better or for worse. That she was meant to do the hard things.

I (and maybe you) was just a mom in the thick of it.

And, I promise you, we were not riding solo.

There’s this great paradox right now of how much to reveal, how much vulnerability to allow, because you just don’t need the assumptions that your life is always in the trenches. But, your heart? It yearns for the connection of another soul reaching out to yours in the abyss.

You’re nowhere near the mess you might think you are. Even if you felt like nothing you did was worth watching.

Do you know what you did model for your littles, as a stream of not good enoughs ran across your noggin like a news station feed?

You modeled perseverance. You modeled grit. You modeled someone who made impossible a fallacy.

You modeled what it is to be a warrior.

And, through it all, they still wanted to be next to you. They still searched your eyes for recognition, still grabbed your hand for support, still needed you to hear what was on their hearts. Simply because you’re you.

No one has given up on you because of a few hard days. We, this glorious sisterhood, are still here. Just don’t give up on yourself.

There are many, many thoughts out there about what a mama’s supposed to be, about the mounting expectations from those in the cheap seats not walking your mile.

But, when did they ever matter?

“…I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship” -Louisa May Alcott

samantha

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7 Ways Grandparents Can Help Homeschool

7 ways grandparents can help homeschool
Getty 1159092856

Last week I had an enlightening conversation with an extended family member about her homeschooling endeavors…..not with her children, but with her grandchildren.

Our talk got me thinking about how “hip homeschool grandparents” might be a rising trend in the homeschool lifestyle. For one thing, today’s grandparents often seem more youthful, and are more active, than the “grandparent stereotype” of yester-years. Often, they are eager to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives.  Second, more families today have two parents who manage full-time jobs alongside home life.  While this doesn’t make a homeschool education impossible, it certainly makes it more difficult to juggle, especially when several children are involved.  While such families can (and do) certainly cope with this struggle in any number of ways, enlisting grandparent involvement can actually be a great solution for everyone!

Getty 1159092856

If you are a grandparent reading this and currently thinking, “No way am I going to teach biology,” that’s okay.  Maybe you are even a grandparent who is not totally sure about the whole “homeschool thing.” That’s fine too!  If you want to be involved in your homeschooling grandchildren’s lives and educations, there are several different ways you can do so without having to don a labcoat!  This list explores 7 ways that grandparents can help with homeschooling!

1. The Full-time Teacher

For some families, having a grandparent act as the main “teacher” in their homeschool situation may actually be the best solution. This is especially true if both parents work full-time and the grandparent is eager to be involved. Grandparents who take on this role have to be energetic, patient, and prepared to meet “the Dark Side” of their precious grandkids. This situation may, however, run the risk of causing uncomfortable confrontations with their own children (the parents). For some families, this scenario may not be best. For others, though, it can actually be very successful.

2. The Guest Lecturer

A grandparent in this role might be particularly skilled in math, passionate about writing, or interested in learning a new language alongside his/her grandchildren. This grandparent could be in charge of whichever academic subject that he/she feels most inclined towards. This can also give parents the opportunity to have that block of time free during the week.

3. Life Skills Guru

 A grandpa who knows auto mechanics? A grandmother who bakes? For grandparents who are not interested in traditional “school,” sharing their practical know-how can be an invaluable teaching contribution. Home economics and carpentry used to be offered in most educational settings. However, practical skills like these run the risk of becoming lost arts today. A grandparent who is a “guru” of some kind of hands-on life skill can be an invaluable asset in homeschooling.

4. The Storyteller

 Similar to the “Practical Skills Guru,” this role gives grandparents a chance to do something that they may already enjoy—sharing stories about their experiences. In this role, a grandparent could commit to regularly tell a detailed story from his/her past. Such stories give children a unique glimpse into a time that they will never be able to experience first-hand, and even long-distance grandparents can fill this role.  Alongside preserving the oral traditional,  storytelling provides supplementary knowledge about a wide variety of subjects. Students could even make a writing project or documentary with the stories.

5. The Bus Driver

It can be stressful getting kids to all of their various sports and hobbies. If a willing grandparent lives nearby, he or she could volunteer to help with transportation.  While this not may seem directly related to “a role in homeschooling,” it really is!  For one thing, an extracurricular is basically equivalent to an “elective” course in homeschooling.  Secondly, this saves time for parents, who might be able to get some extra grading and planning done. This very practical way of helping out can also develop into a bonding experience over a child’s personal interests.

6.  The Gifting Grandparent

One of the homeschool mothers I talked to recently said that,  even though her parents didn’t understand their family’s choice to homeschool, they still played a helpful role by sending toys or books that went along with what the children were learning at the time.  “The Gifting Grandparent” keeps up with what the grand kids are learning and plans gifts accordingly.  Bonus: this is a helpful role that long-distance grandparents can fill! (So make sure to keep them up  to date with what your kids are learning!)

7. The Cheerleader

Finally, even if a grandparent is unable to be more actively involved in homeschooling, he/she can still be helpful by having a supportive attitude.  A demonstration of verbal affirmation about what the children are learning or how parents are teaching is always valuable contribution. It’s also helpful when grandparents praise a child’s parents in front of the child…just sayin’.

When it comes to their grandchildren, grandparents have so many valuable things to teach, stories to tell, and love to share. Homeschooling provides a unique opportunity to expand the special relationship between grandparent-grandchild into the realm of education. These are just 7 of the meaningful roles that a grandparent may choose to fill in homeschooling, but any positive form of involvement is sure to be meaningful to every member of the family!

Do your homeschooling students have grandparents who are involved in homeschooling? In what ways are they involved?

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Your Value Does NOT Ebb and Flow

your value does not ebb and flow
Pin Your Value Does NOT Ebb and Flow 1
So often we moms feel unworthy and like we have little value or importance. The truth is. though, that your kids and this world need you!
So often we moms feel unworthy and like we have little value or importance. The truth is. though, that your kids and this world need you!
So often we moms feel unworthy and like we have little value or importance. The truth is. though, that your kids and this world need you!
So often we moms feel unworthy and like we have little value or importance. The truth is. though, that your kids and this world need you!
your value does not ebb and flow

Y’all.

I know tensions are pretty high right now, but something just happened to a friend of ours and it made me instinctively want to check in on you pretties because I fancy myself the resident HHM grandma.

#unofficialtitle 👵

💃
#getoffmylawn!

your value does not ebb and flow fb

This friend of ours has a significantly, physically handicapped daughter. They casually mention on FB some things they’ve been up to, safely, with the intention to not let her depression set in.
Especially since she hasn’t left the house in months.

People, -not even strangers-, lit them up one side & down the other for just trying to do right by their girl. Going as far as to say she, & her needs, doesn’t matter.

Now, I need y’all to hear me. I’m not sure how intricate your support systems are, or maybe you’re “the strong friend” who isn’t lent strength or peace often because it’s assumed you get it straight from the tap, but:

uplifting table b

Anyone who’d speak to you this way does not deserve a seat at your table.

Ya dig?

You are not required to virtue signal any dang thing.

You do not have to give away pieces of your inner self so that people can decide how to feel about you.

You are doing your best. And the right people know that.

The sum of your value is not found in the discarded scraps of someone’s bad day.

You wake up every morning, hit the day head-on, regardless of how you feel. Or what new set of shadoobie 2020 has on deck.

warrior woman

Warrior 🔥


And don’t you forget it.

You may not have people banging down your door with reminders, but maybe I can throw one your way?

You are a fierce, powerful person whose value does not ebb & flow with the Judgey von Walnuts who haven’t walked a step in your shoes. It is inherent. And you are unstoppable.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Now, I gotta skedaddle. Gotta do a thing for the husband… 👇

Love y’all,

samantha xoxo

Let the story of who you were send shivers down the spines of our granddaughters. Let them hear about you as the woman was herself who did her own thing and helped others along the way.
~Tanya Markul