Mom, Your Degree and Career Are Worth Every $.

LauraHomeschooling, Motherhood0 Comments

Before I had children, I’d write the monthly check to pay my college loans and I’d wonder if I’d ever get my money’s worth out of my college education.

Then, as I was transitioning from my career as a teacher to a homeschooling mother, I worried that the skills I developed in my career would atrophy and my hard work would fade into meaninglessness.

It took me several years to adjust from a lifestyle of measurable, consistent achievement to a more amorphous existence. It took me just as long to bid farewell to my love of a paycheck, pats on the back, and public appreciation. But, those appetites faded over time as other ones grew. I came to love the ongoing pleasure of seeing my dearest humans grow centimeter by centimeter, discovery by discovery. I began to love the freedom of creating the rhythms of our days, of feeling satisfied with relationships instead of output.

I like how I’ve become more human, really.

And yet those questions about getting my money’s worth and keeping my skill-set still lingered in my mind.

Until things like this started happening…

When our firstborn was 2 years old, she said she wanted to be a nurse. Not “become a nurse someday“, but to be one, now. Pronto. She wanted to introduced herself with, “I’m a 2-year old nurse.” And she was. She’d notice the slightest cut on anyone’s hand and ask about it. She mastered the application of Dora Bandaids by the time she was 3 1/2 years old.

I could tell that God had given us a child who would love the sciences. This helped me to see two useful things: that our daughter would love – and need – scientific instruction asap. What a thrill to access all of the things I learned earning my B.S. in Biology. When she was 4, I taught her how to set up an experiment with a control and a variable. We looked at things from the inside-out, and when she had complex questions about cells, energy, or heart chambers, I knew where to begin.

Now that she’s 11 years old with countless other interests, and followed by siblings who are miniature mathematicians, readers, musicians, writers, administrators, athletes, you name it, I can confidently report that every dollar and all of the hard work I invested in my college degrees (a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a M.A. in English Literature) has been worth it.

My higher education shaped me and my creative work as a mother. It provides the wealth of ideas, skills, and know-how that I give to my children every day. Because of what I learned in college, grad school, and my career, I introduce my children to literary themes from their earliest memory of conversation. I teach them how to speak from the heart, choose good books, read carefully, listen for details, and write persuasively and gracefully. I teach them how to work hard and ask good questions.

I never could have guessed that my education and career would be so valuable.

I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it would find its greatest value in my children, through motherhood.

Do you ever struggle to justify the financial and time investment of higher education and career with motherhood?

This may help:

Today, take some time to jot down 3 ways in which your education and career have enriched you with content, perspectives, and skills that you could pass along to your child. What are your child’s dreams and ambitions? Look for ways that your unique education and skill set complements your child. As you begin to enrich the miniature scientists and artists around your kitchen table, you’ll get such a kick out of the way God has lavishly prepared you for motherhood.

How to Have a Good Day After a Rough Night

LauraHomeschooling, Motherhood

I’m the mother of six children, ranging in age from six-months to 14 years old. As you can imagine, I don’t often get a full night of sleep. I’ve discovered that the health and happiness of our home depends largely on how I respond to sleep-deprivation.

I imagine that most homeschool moms are in the same situation. We’re up feeding newborns, comforting toddlers, soothing coughs, cleaning sheets, talking with teens, planning for tomorrow, or praying through our cares and worries. How can you and I have a good day after a rough night?

How can we thrive during exhausting seasons of motherhood?

Sometimes after a rough night, I simply have a bad day. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I’m prone to be cranky… all day long. I lose my temper, I have no patience, I’m angry, I blunder through our school day, and it’s just ugly.

There are those days. But there are also days when God gives me the grace to thrive in the midst of this hardship. Despite sleep-deprivation, He helps me to lead and love my family well. Here are five things that I do to recover from a rough night of sleep and rejoice in the day that the Lord has made.

1. A Sleep-Deprived Mom Must Pray

Our all-powerful Heavenly Father sees us and loves us. He knows our situation and establishes the work of our hands for us. He ordains the work we do through the night and will give us grace for day ahead.

God’s mercies are new every morning.

The most practical thing we can do after a poor night’s sleep is turn to our Heavenly Father and say, “I’m exhausted. Can you please restore me? Can you please give me what I need to do this day well and homeschool my children?”

Time after time, God has saved the day for me when my brain feels so foggy and I feel like I’m dragging around a burden.

2. Don’t Count the Hours that You Slept (or Didn’t Sleep)

There are certain things that we can’t think about too much. We could totally psyche ourselves out if we calculated our insufficient sleep. What we’d discover is that we got the same amount of sleep—and in the same REM-hijacked pattern—of a tortured prisoner.

If you’re tallying up those hours (or lack thereof) and they’re starting to get you down, move on. It is what it is, and you’ve got a day to live!

3. Instead of Complaining, Ask for Help

The days that I complain, “I’m so exhausted. I’m worn out. I’m tired.” are so much worse than the days when I choose not to complain.

I complain because I want pity, compassion, sympathy, and help, but it backfires by making me—and everyone around me—miserable. Instead of complaining, I simply have to ask for help. This is much more productive!

I’m improving at recognizing my need and asking my husband, family, and friends for help when I know I’m weak from exhaustion. They are happy to come to my rescue.

4. Do the Next Positive Thing

When I wake-up from a rough night’s sleep, I look for the first possible positive thing that I can do. Somehow, this starts me in a good direction for the day and puts some wind in my sails. It helps me to say, “I’m alive, and I have a day to live. I’m going to make good choices even though I’m tired. I’m moving forward!”

I make sure I get a refreshing shower in the morning. I add a squirt of fresh lemon juice to my glass of water to get my metabolism going. I take my vitamins. I open my Sonlight Instructor’s Guide and get the lay of the land for the day, knowing Sonlight has already planned out my homeschool lessons (one less thing for me to have to do). I might go for a quick 10-minute walk to get my blood pumping.

What would get your day started on the right foot even if you’ve had a rough night? Maybe you’d feel encouraged after a rough night if you

  • sang a hymn
  • savored a 15 minute devotional time with the Lord
  • enjoyed a cup of coffee
  • flossed your teeth
  • put a load of laundry in the washer
  • read a chapter in your current novel

Whatever it is, take that step in the right direction and you’ll feel invigorated for the day ahead.

5. Look for Opportunities to Sleep

If you are caring for a newborn or for a child who is sick or having a series of nightmares, consider adjusting your schedule so that you can sleep longer in the morning, take an afternoon nap, or go to bed earlier than usual.

Seasons of sleep-deprivation call for a change in priorities: maintaining your own health is at the top of the list! Look for opportunities to sleep and care for yourself so that you can be strong to care for the ones who need you.

God cares about us when we’re up at night, loving and serving our children. Let’s discover the surprising ways He’ll strengthen and help us during the day.

(This post originally appeared on Sonlight.com!)

FIVE ONE-LINERS THAT TRANSFORM THE WAY I HOMESCHOOL

LauraHomeschooling, Motherhood, Sonlight

As I go through my days, homeschooling six children and serving the Lord in a variety of ways at home, at church, and in the community, I am regularly blessed by a handful of one-liners that invigorate me and help me to do the right thing with the right attitude. These five phrases come to my mind, and shape my life, on an almost daily basis. I’m thrilled to share them with you, hoping that one or two might be helpful to you.

1. “Just Do It”

Whenever I long to connect with my children, to read more books, to play more games, and to be more affectionate, I remember the phrase made famous by Nike, “Just do it”. Instead of grabbing the calendar to schedule a time or revamping our homeschool day or, worse, despairing over my failure to do these things, I just do the thing I’m longing to do.

Cindy Rollins writes about this in her lovely memoir Mere MotherhoodMorning Times, Nursery Rhymes, & My Journey Toward Sanctification:

“So often mothers worry about what they are not doing. I hear these things all the time… To these moms, I say, “get up right now and do THAT thing.” Today, now, put down this book and have your child immediately write a narration or have your devotions or take a walk.”

Cindy Rollins

This tidbit of advice transforms my ideals, theories, hopes, and dreams into realities. Grab this little phrase for yourself. I can’t recommend it enough.

2. “I’ve Changed My Mind”

Years ago, I was feeling stuck by one of my decisions for our homeschool.

Things weren’t working for my child, but I didn’t want to second-guess myself, cave to my child’s complaints, or appear uncommitted. My friend, Renee, comforted me with the truth that I could change my mind. She reminded me that only God is perfect and unchanging; humans have limited understanding and are learning new insights all of the time.

Parenting became less burdensome when I realized that it’s okay to reassess and modify my decisions. On a regular basis, I need to tell my children that I’ve changed my mind. It is humbling, but it also demonstrates that I am learning and adapting as I go.

You can change your mind, too, you know.

When you need to adjust a rule, a schedule, or a decision because circumstances have changed or you have learned a new insight, go ahead and change. Your child will respect your honesty, humanity, and flexibility.

To read #’s 3, 4, and 5, hop over to the Sonlight blog by clicking here. May God bless your day!

HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD DO WHAT YOU SAY

LauraHomeschooling, Motherhood, Sonlight

Homeschooling, and parenting in general, would be so much easier without resistance, rebellion, and whining. Wouldn’t it be awesome if our children did what we told them to do?

While we can’t eliminate all of the struggles-of-the-will in our homeschool, we can make choices that help our children be more content, reasonable, and obedient. Here are three principles that can help your child do what you say.

1. Believe the Best About Your Child

In many ways, our children are trusting us to tell the story of their lives. When we believe the best about them, they believe us and are more apt to do the right thing. Conversely, when we assume the worst about them, they believe us, and it affects their behavior negatively.

It all comes down to our attitude as their mother. When we ask God for the ability to live according to “love always hopes,” we influence our children in radical ways.

To get your wheels spinning about how your hopeful attitude could transform your home, visit the Sonlight blog by clicking here. You’ll find some examples of ways that this plays out in my home on a daily basis and two more helpful principles.

HELICOPTER PARENTS: DON’T FLY AWAY!

LauraAll Posts

EnBlogImageparenting-1024x551

Every time I scroll through my social media account, I see some type of warning about being a helicopter parent. They say kids these days are too sheltered and are suffering from our fear-laden over-protection. I know that I’m not supposed to obsess over my child’s life.

I’m not supposed to solve his problems for him, perfect his resume, or rescue him from natural consequences, but I’m wondering, am I a helicopter parent?

Are you? 

And if we are, what should we do instead?

I’m concerned that as a society we’ll panic and swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. In an effort to avoid over-scheduling, over-indulging, and over-controlling our children’s lives, we’ll simply steer our helicopters away, erring on the side of neglect.  In 20 years, we’ll discover that our children have grown up without the much-needed presence, wisdom, affection, and support of their parents. Parents will simply “helicopter” somewhere else, obsessing over careers, self-image, health, pets, or whatever.

Simply “flying away” is not the solution.

God helps helicopter parents by giving us a clear vision of what our relationship with our children should look like in Deuteronomy 6. In verse 7, in particular, he tells parents, “You shall teach [God’s character, ways, and commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

If we want to avoid helicopter parenting, our best alternative is to get out of the helicopter and to put our feet on the ground next to our children.

God’s vision of parenting is intimate and relational. It is ordinary and on-going…

Continue reading at enCourage.com.

The Importance of Wisely Timed Words

LauraDiscipleship, High School, Motherhood

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

It was one of those afternoons with a thousand commitments. The kids and I loaded the van with the snacks and bags and strollers we’d need in order to make the most out of our trip into town. The first stop would be to drop off our 13-year-old at ballet. We’d swing back around at the end of our excursions to pick her up. She was bringing a change of clothes, so she could go right from ballet to attend a volleyball game with our church youth group. After the little ones were buckled into their seats, she climbed into the passenger seat, squished her ballet bag between her feet, piled her clothes on the center console, and stashed a brush and a handful of hairpins on her lap. She’d fix her hair into a ballet bun during the 20-minute drive to the studio.

I had a million things on my mind. It wasn’t until we were a solid 10 minutes down the road that I finally exhaled and settled into the stretch of country road connecting our farmhouse with town.  I glanced over at my daughter. The visor mirror was open, and she was gathering her hair into a pony tail, holding a few hairpins between her teeth. I asked if she had everything she needed for ballet and money for the game. “Mmm hmm,” she mumbled through the hairpins. Then, I looked at the clothes that she brought for the game.

“That’s what you’re going to wear to the volleyball game?” I asked with disappointment in my voice. “With those shoes?” I added. “They don’t match very well.”

Read about the important lesson I learned by heading over to the enCourage blog…

Reading Valentine Cards, Little House on the Prairie, and Charlotte’s Web

LauraBooks, Reading-aloud

When E.B. White recorded the final audiobook chapter of Charlotte’s Web, he couldn’t get past Charlotte’s death without crying. It took him 17  tries. We nod our heads and know why.

The time is coming – not soon enough – for me to pull our copy of Charlotte’s Web off the shelves for our annual reading. We wait until the lilacs are blooming on the lilac bush by the swing-set so I can read chapters at a time while little ones swing or join me on a quilt under the scented bush. I’ll never forget the year we spread the blanket out under the tree and were set to read when we realized that the 3 pigs had escaped their pen in the barn. We left the book and ran up to the barn. While the children waited outside, this farm-girl-in-theory-alone called out to the God and walked the pigs down the hallway to their stall. Each step in the right direction was both uncertain and wondrous. As if an angel led them, the pigs filed into their pen obediently. I fastened the latch and breathed again. The kids and I returned to the book and gaped when the chapter for the day was, “Pig’s Out!”

Until those lilacs bloom, we’ll be reading the final chapters of These Happy Golden Years, followed by The First Four Years. This is history for us: our first time reading through the entire Little House on the Prairie series aloud together. May it not be the last.

We’ve also been reading aloud the children’s valentine cards. One of my fondest childhood memories is when my dad and I would sit on the couch with my white paper bag full of valentines. Dad would take each card out, open it up, read aloud the message, fold it back up, and return it to the bag. I remember it so fondly because it felt reverent and grounded. I’m convinced that these moments helped me to love my classmates and to feel loved in return. It helped my dad to learn the names of my classmates so he could ask me about them later and recognize them when they came over to play. These 30-some years later, I snuggle next to my sons and daughters to open each card, read each message, and close it. This year, a bookmark valentine from “Lily R.” smells like grapes. We take turns inhaling its sweet scent then tuck the love notes back in the box. As February goes out like a lion with its wind and cold, we are tucked in by this tradition.

3 Practical Tips for a More Peaceful Homeschool Day

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

I’m in the midst of homeschooling an 8th, 5th, and 2nd grader along with a precocious K-4er… add to that a 2-year old with a twinkle in his eye and a newborn. It’s a full house around here and I am always on the look-out for tips and tricks that will make our days more peaceful and productive.

This year, we’re using Sonlight 100 for our 8th grader, Sonlight E for our 5th grader, and Sonlight LA 2 for our 2nd grader. This means there’s lots of learning going on at many different levels: there are read-alouds, creative writing projects, Bible songs, research papers, patriotic songs, timelines, maps, vocabulary enrichment, spelling quizzes, and art projects galore.

Surprisingly, much of our daily happiness comes from the decisions we make in the small details of homeschool life: in this case, how we organize assignments, how we arrange our desk space, and how we deal with distractions.

I’ve just gotta share these 3 simple things that have added a tremendous amount of peace to our daily lives this year.

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

Homeschool Assignment Books

I first heard about this very simple method from Sarah MacKenzie at The Read-Aloud Revival (don’t you just love her?). I dug up some spiral notebooks right away.

We’ve been at it for at least 3 years now and here’s why they work for us:

  1. They provide a daily log of each child’s work. At the end of the year, I flip through these with our evaluator and ask for feedback about my daily expectations. She can see the progress and consistency of our work.
  2. They are an easy way for each child to see what is expected, to learn time-management, and to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
  3. They are a simple way for me to set each child up for success for each day. Here’s what works for me: in the afternoon, I grab my “Mom Binder” that contains a 6-week chunk of pages from our Sonlight Instructor Guides and simply transfer the assignments into each child’s assignment book for the next day. Even our 8th grader who follows along in her own Sonlight 100 Student Guide likes that I let her know what I expect from her each day. (Sometimes I jot an encouraging note, a verse from the Bible, or draw a silly cartoon in the margin to spice things up.)

Study Nooks

Study nooks make me ask myself one big question: Why has it taken me so long to make this happen?!

For some reason, all of our kids like to do their work downstairs with the whole gang… and all of the hubbub. It’s practically impossible for our 2nd grader not to be distracted by the pre-schooler’s story time, the 2-year old’s antics, or – of course – the little one’s show time. (Who can resist the Treehouse Detectives when stuck in the middle of a math fact sheet?). At any rate, I splurged and spent a few dollars on a tri-fold poster board, cut it in half to make 2 study nooks, and changed our lives forever. These provide just enough privacy to help my 2nd and 5th graders focus on their work. They feel like they have their own place in the world while being in the midst of all of the fun.

The bonus, of course, is that you can decorate the nook with study aides. We post the week’s spelling words, memory work, and math-tips.

Noise-cancelling headphones

As it turns out, our homeschool rivals a rock and roll concert. After all, we need the same equipment! Any variation of our kids may use these noise-cancelling headphones whenever I’ve lost control of things and the 2-year old is jousting with the 4-year old while the baby cries and Mr. Demme calmly teaches about binomials on the TV and the 5th grader practices the A minor scale on her violin.  (It kinda does resemble a rock and roll concert, doesn’t it?)

These headphones help whomever can’t focus, to focus. That’s a win.

(When they arrived in the mail, our 8th grader tried them on. Instantly, a serene look came over her face. “Oh, I want to wear these forever!” she swooned.) 

Do you have any tips and tricks to add? What helps to bring peace and productivity to your homeschool day? I’d love to know!

 

5 Simple Ways to Connect with Your Child

LauraHealthy Living, Motherhood

Looking for a simple way to connect with your child today?

You don’t have to go to Disney World or spend the weekend at an indoor water park in order to build your relationship with your child. Honestly, sweet day-to-day connections happen right at home when we make a few good choices.

I’ve been feeling mid-winter stress that can darken and distance me from the people I love the most. That’s why I’ve been calling to mind these very simple-yet-powerful things that will make a difference in my home. I hope that they strengthen and encourage you, too.

Oh, and be sure to remember this: spring is always on the way!