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This is not ‘homeschooling’

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With the Coronavirus closing down schools all over the nation, thousands of children are coming home to be educated.  Kids will be appearing every morning, ready (or not so ready) to crack the books, open the laptop,  flip the page of the packet…you get the picture.

And the teachers are…guess who? Mom and Dad.

In this unprecedented move to close all the public schools (and colleges, and libraries, and bars, and restaurants) our leaders are attempting to slow down the rate at which  Covid-19 spreads. “Social distancing,” as it is called, is being touted as the only way in which thousands of people will be spared getting the sickness at exactly the time overwhelming hospitals.

As a homeschooler for 9 years, I have been educating my children every day in the same way a lot of moms and dads are doing it now for the very first time…and also not.

Here’s what I mean. This is actually not “homeschooling,” at least, as we know it. Some elements are the same (the schoolwork, the complaining, the endless snack eating), but that’s about it. I guess what I am here to tell everyone is: this is not typical homeschooling.

Out and About

Most homeschoolers will tell you that they are so busy being out and about in the community that they actually have to schedule time to be in their home to complete curriculum work. It’s kind of an unspoken joke. One homeschool mom might say to another, “No, we really can’t make it this week. We have to finish chapter 5 in math.” Other homeschool mom nods head knowingly.

My boys and I have done a lot of different things over the years including weekly co-ops where parents teach a variety of developmentally appropriate classes, play-dates at the park, classes in the community, art class, sports, library events, church events. Currently we belong to a bi-weekly co-op, a weekly high school level course, weekly library meet-ups and a few other things.

And right now, they are all cancelled.

Don’t get me wrong. They should be cancelled. But, even for homeschoolers, we are not used to this amount of family “togetherness.”

Curriculum

Many homeschoolers, unless you are a total beginner, have had some time under their belts to discern how each child learns best, what is the parents preferred way of teaching, what curriculum is a good fit and other important actors.

Public school parents were literally thrust into this role overnight!

I do not envy you and I want to support you.

Working too?

A lot of homeschool moms work as well, but, we have had the time to arrange our schedules so that it’s somewhat conducive to homeschooling. I write part-time and teach nature classes, but I homeschool around that.

Public school parents whose kids are home are probably expected to be just as productive in their home offices, while schooling at home, a Herculean undertaking.

A little free advice

I was recently asked to offer up a sample schedule for a nationally published article I wrote online. I felt really bad doing it, because, I didn’t want some mom, who is home for the first time during this pandemic to read it, try it, and feel like a failure.

Here’s what I can offer to moms teaching at home right now: Take some time to observe your children’s learning habits. Just a day or two. Look and see where they like to work, do they like to sit at a table, on the couch, do they use the computer, do they have to shut out noise with headphones…anything that can clue you into their learning style.

Get to know them as students.

Evaluate how your day might flow. And you need to know that the schedule that might work for your colleague and her children, may not work at all for you.

Take notes, jot down ideas, and even think outside the box.

One of the things I have been hearing is that the amount of work sent home is way too much to handle. If you are in the situation, I want to give you permission to not do it all, or do it at a slower pace.

Lastly, this: spend time with your kids.

Kids need relationships with their parents right now. They need us to be together and they need us to not be totally stressed out. They are feeling their own fears right now. So, it’s ok to take time out during the day to watch a movie with them, bake, plants seeds, or just chat.

Ask yourself: when this is finally all over, how do you want your children to remember this time? And act on it.

Jenny

 

 

 

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happy

I am 46 years old.

I have had 46 years of life.

Cooking/eating meals, dressing myself, driving to and fro, getting educated, relationships, friendships, marriage, having babies, and parenting.

But it’s only recently that I felt comfortable with myself.

I became a Christian at 22 but I never felt comfortable in my skin. Settled with who I am.  Happy with the person I am inside as well as with the person I portray out to the world. Okay with presenting myself “Just as I am” (as the old song goes).

I really struggled with the concept of self-care. I honestly didn’t know for sure whether self-care was biblical, whether it was pleasing to God, or it was just another humanistic concept designed by self-focused humans. I also didn’t even really know what I truly needed.

I think it got worse after raising three babies. I had really lost myself along the way. I think it actually happens to a lot of moms.

My last baby was born five years ago (when I was 41, oh yeah!). As he has grown, and I have accepted that he is indeed my last, I quietly decided to reclaim myself. Being that he was my last, I knew I had to be content with myself from here on out, as baby-snuggling, toddler-training was now a thing of the past (although, admittedly parenting is not over).

So…it was time to decide. Who was I exactly?

And, while we are talking about this, why didn’t I fit into ONE clean and neat category? (annoying!)

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At one time or another, and maybe your specific timing was different, did you ask yourself that same question? Who ARE you? Where do YOU fit in? What do you value and even like?

As mamas, this is bound to come up. Mothering can be somewhat lonely and our efforts to reach out and make friends along the way do not always go well for a variety of reasons.

Mothering in and of itself is can be a very outward facing act with not too many tangible rewards. Do you get a pat on the back for staying up all night with your sick kiddo? All those tears shed during Algebra II…does your teen come back and say “Thank you mom so much!” All the laundry and dishes…it gets really wearying!

One of the most distracting things that prevents us from doing this sort of self-work is the temptation to look at other moms and compare ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard for me to even admit I do this…but I do.

Was I the tough, outdoorsy lady? The feminine wife? The modest-Christian mother?  Stay-at-home-mom? Working mom? The long-haired, long-skirted homeschooling mama? I looked around me and saw all of these women, and thought “They look happy and content with themselves,” or “She seems pleased enough with who she is. She probably doesn’t even think about this.”

From talking with other moms, we also are not so great at taking care of ourselves. Can I get an “amen”? How many times have you seen yours kids sick, driven them to the doctor, gotten the diagnosis, ordered the medicine…all while being sick yourself? We put ourselves last. Which is okay for a time…but only for a time. It will catch up with you.

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Thankfully the Bible is replete with scriptures that give me confidence and clarity to go forward in this process of deciding who I am truly.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come.

1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Galatians 3:26
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.

New creation. Chosen. Daughter of God.

These scriptures and many like them remind us that, in fact, our person-hood is not tied up in all the things that we look at with our physical eyes, but rather in the spiritual renewal of being a Jesus-follower.

That levels the playing field immediately, casting open wide the door to be whoever God chose you to be.

You don’t have to be one type of category of person, neatly packaged and tied with a bow. You can allow yourself the space to wear the hiking boots one day and the high heels the next! As long as you are Christ-centered, it doesn’t matter!

Next, even Jesus took some time to get centered (if we can call it that). Luke 5:16 says that Jesus “went away to solitary places and prayed.” In another translation, the Bible says he, “frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.”

Maybe you need to withdraw a little bit every week to pray, to jot down thoughts, to plan your week, or to think through the things that make you happy.

At 46, my own personal realization is that I love myself and the way God made me, and that I wasn’t happy when I judged myself harshly, comparing myself to others.

And I do (literally) wear hiking boots one day and heels the next. 😉

 

 

 

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How My Garden Has Changed in 17 Years

What’s in a hobby?  Why do we choose to spend our time doing the things we do? Maybe you crochet or knit.  Perhaps you love to spend a rainy afternoon baking or writing long letters. Maybe your thing is athletics?  A nice long run or bike ride.

Whatever hobby you choose, you have to love it to spend the amount of time on it that you do.

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That’s what gardening is like for me.

Now, I grew up in a gardening family.  My grandfather was a gardener and so was his daughter, my mother.  But, I had no interest..that is, until I got my first apartment with my husband.  I immediately starting gardening in pots on our second floor balcony.

I have driven by the 3-family house since then, and the balcony is gone.  (Maybe I watered too much?)

When we bought our house in 2001, one of the selling points was a huge yard.  No more pots.

Fast forward, I have been gardening in that same space for seventeen years and the garden I have today is NOTHING like the garden I started out with.

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1. The soil has changed

First of all, new soil is untouched soil.  When we began, we found rocks, but as time has gone on and the dirt has been added to, manipulated and re-arranged, I no longer find rocks.  I have reached depths in the soil where I see different colors of decomposition, I have added bags and bags of cow manure, and I have dug and then re-dug. Now, when I prep the garden for the yearly plant, it’s pretty easy to move the soil and pretty easy to pull weeds as well.

2. The garden space is PACKED.

I have over-done it.  I always pack too much stuff into my little space.  I forget how much room a cabbage takes up! When I first began, I tilled 3 neat rows.  I also have mature perennials like Egyptian onions, mint, Jerusalem Artichokes, raspberries, and milkweed now that come back every year and if I am not careful, choke out my productive space for food plants.

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3. The bugs have changed. 

When we first started I had very few bugs and more critters (rabbits, moles, voles, even deer!).  We put up a fence and buried it 6 inches into the ground and that seems to have prevented little nibblers from approaching for about 12 years now. Now, I get your typical insects like cabbage worm, aphids, white flies, snails (a wet year) and Japanese Beetles.

Therefore, I have needed to educate myself on how to manage these pests and get rid of them when necessary.

I also have many beneficial bugs in my garden like long-legged flies, multiple pollinators, and Ladybird beetles.

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4. The tree line has changed.

There is a tree I depend on to give my garden some shade.  My garden in right in the middle of the yard.  But it is in decline.  Many of its branches are breaking off and it will not be long before I have to cut it down.

I have also added trees that will eventually bring some shade to the garden such as a peach tree, fringe tree, and a Rose of Sharon.

And most importantly…

5. I have changed.

In the last 17 years I have learned through mistakes. And that is THE main advice I give friends when they are asking me for gardening advice.  Learn from your mistakes and don’t give up!

I have used products I wished I hadn’t, I have seen plants look like they are flourishing only to die overnight, I have had summers (while pregnant or with a new-born) where I let the weeds win, and I have allowed plants to succumb to pests through neglect.

I just keep learning.

Here’s to another 17!

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So You Withdrew Your Kids From Public School, Now What? Part One: De-Schooling

Moms know best.

They know when things are just not working out with the school their kids go to.

They know when the bullying has gotten out of hand, when their son/daughter is just not learning anymore, when their child cries and has belly aches every morning before school.

So, mom makes and choice and says,”I am bringing her home,” and files the needed withdrawal papers (different depending on where you live).

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Now what?

Let’s talk through some of the steps you should take from that point.

First of all, and I cannot stress this enough, you really need to take some time to DE-SCHOOL. This is not the same as Un-school (which is a form of homeschooling), this is to take some time to do NO SCHOOL at all.

What??

This may go against all your mommy feelings and you may feel like you are being an irresponsible homeschooler, but, trust me, you need to take this period of time.

Here’s why – if you child has attended school for any period of time, he/she has a certain, pretty rigid idea of what school is, what “learning” is.  This may include but not be limited to: schedules, bells, big hard books, desks, shuffling through the hallways, bumping into tons of kids, noise, grades (failing or passing), emotional stress, etc.

Whether the public school experience has been a positive one or a negative one, you and your child will need to take some time to just be in the same space and get used to the idea of learning at home and to having you as the teacher.

Now, this time  is not wide open free time. No, no, no. (We’re not talking hours of tv watching and videos games).

This time is you laying a foundation of how you want education to go from here on.

During this time you should:

Attend art shows and museums
Plug into local homeschool groups
Go hiking, swimming, walking etc
Read books together
Listen to audio books
Cook together
Read the Bible together
Draw

and most of all….talk….and LISTEN.

Your job is to gather information during this time. You are on an information seeking mission. You are going to use this time to hear what your student loved and hated about public school and to see if you can ascertain what sort of student he or she is.

Attempt to answer these questions:

Does your child like to do hands-on things?
Is your child a natural artist?
What are the areas that the student hates/struggles in?
What are his favorite subjects?
What are things that she would like to learn more about?
What subjects is he behind in?

The point of de-schooling is to allow you and your new students to get to know one another…in a NEW way. No longer are you just mom and child, you are also now mom and student.

Caution: one of the things new homeschoolers need to embrace quickly is that homeschooling’s goals is NOT to re-create public school at home. In fact, it is the opportunity you and your child have been waiting for to personalize  your child’s education, so all boundaries which once existed are now GONE!

Does your child want to learn about WWII? (Great!)
Does your child have an interest in mushrooms? (Awesome!)
Does you child doodle and draw (Utilize it!)
Does your child prefer you read to them vs reading themselves? (Do it!)

Do you get what I am saying, momma?

There are 2 subjects which are non-negotiable in our house (Math and Language Arts) – but I do personalize their curriculum to their strengths and interests. I do not expect everything to get done perfectly and sometimes, some subjects which cause more frustration than others, I say: I will come back to this another day…month…even year.

It bears repeating…you are not re-creating public school in your home. Grasp this opportunity to do the things your child would never do in public school (for lack of time).  

And this,my friends, is how you begin. Gather a supportive community around you!

How long your de-schooling period is, is up to you.  I usually advise 2-3 weeks, but others would advise you to take longer. It’s up to you.

Jenny

 

 

 

 

chores · clutter · declutter · goals · homemaking · Mommas · organizing · Uncategorized

What Does Decluttering Mean Exactly? (And Why You Should Do it)

It’s January, so naturally, the whole world is talking about decluttering their homes.  The stores have gone from being stocked with Christmas decorations to being filled to the brim with plastic totes, drawers, and bins.

Everyone is decluttering.

What does this mean exactly?

Decluttering if the act of going through one’s home to remove items which are unused and unneeded. It may be sorting out your tightly packed bedroom closet, cleaning out your garage or donating things that you think you will probably never use again.

So why do folks do this? 

There are many different reasons. 

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Many people say their motivation is to bring more peace into their home. 
While others say they feel that they are owned by their belongings – and that they have so many, they cannot manage them all.
Some feel that they are anxious and depressed in their own living spaces.

But…

An ever growing population of declutterers are moms of young children who have been overwhelmed by piles and piles of plastic toys and tiny bits and pieces that cannot be easily maintained.

Whatever the motivation, people are looking for change, and they are starting with their living environments.

It is a proven fact that living in a cluttered home actually causes mental health issues. There are endless articles online that will tell you why being surrounded by clutter increases anxiety and depression, and causes the person involved to lose focus and become unable to make choices.

I have felt all those feelings.

“Things themselves don’t make us happy, it’s the emotions and memories we attach to them that make them hard to part with.”

In my own home, we have too many toys, too many unfinished projects, piles of things older family members have either gifted to us and/or passed down to us, and then the other stuff that we actually really like.

It’s a big mess a lot of the time.

I had an a-ha moment recently when I said to myself, “Why can’t I keep the house clean?” Now, I am not an inspired cleaner, but I clean everyday. And I often find myself stuck putting things away… more than actually cleaning. 

I realized that we have too much stuff

There is just too much to manage.

So we have begun to declutter.

Today we put 12 boxes in the garage to be donated.

It feels great. And it’s just the beginning.

I am learning that:

  • Things themselves don’t make us happy, it’s the emotions and memories we attach to them that make them hard to part with.
  • Being surrounded by things actually decreases my ability to think clearly and causes anxiety and sadness.
  • Being surrounded by things doesn’t make me feel satisfied or filled up.
  • The quantity of things I have in my home actually decrease my general sense of happiness and control over my space.
  • Things don’t have feelings.  They don’t care if they stay or go.  It’s us that have to deal with our feelings of attachment and perceived loss.

Is decluttering one of your goals for 2018?  How is it going?

  • Jenny

 

Photo credit: Eric Didier and Markus Spiske

 

 

 

cleaning · clutter · cooking · homemaking · Mommas · Uncategorized

Decision Fatigue and Moms: Management Burnout

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I recently had a long day.  A really long day. I was at the check out counter with all three of my boys and one of them was asking if he could buy candy.

By that point in the trip, I had already had to:

-Decide whether or not the 2 year old would walk or sit in the carriage
-Decide which sneakers to buy for the oldest for camp
-Decide which food to buy which would not bring us over our food budget
-Decide which popsicles didn’t have fake coloring in them
-Decide if I should let the older ones wander off to the toy section
-Decide if the little guy was ready for the next size in pull ups or not
-Decide whether I was going to buy the food for my son’s camping trip today or not

Decide, decide, decide.

CAN YOU RELATE?

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My head was spinning and I was tired of making decisions.

Moms make a lot of decisions don’t we? We are constantly thinking about that present and future and making choices based on what we feel is best.

I recently read a little cartoon about something called “mental load” and I really related to it. It actually made me angry for a little while, and I had to consciously choose to not allow it to brew discontentment in my heart.

In this enlightening article published on Huffpost, the author discusses how once she and her husband had children, the general “workload” of the house increased exponentially.  She talks about how she became the “Knower of All Things.”

Moms tends to carry a lot around in their heads.

Things like how the three year-old likes his toast, to how long the preteen has been on the computer to how many bowel movements the baby has had.

The more children you have, the more of this “stuff” there is to remember too.

So, what are the results of being the brain of the family?

Exhaustion.  You are tired. A lot.

Stress. There’s too much to remember.

Disappointment.  The kids are bound to be disappointed that something wasn’t “remembered.”

Irritation.  That’s a lot of pressure!

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So, what are moms to do?

Here are a few ideas that I have tried to reduce my mental load.

Write things down.  I am 45 years old.  I forget things.  I have taken to writing everything down.  Grocery lists, requests, things to do today, things to do this week…why do you think the “organization” industry is booming??

Delegate. So, there are some things I have to do, which cannot be outsourced.
I have to make sure the three year-old brushes his teeth.
I have to make sure the kids are eating healthy.

But, my thirteen year-old can pick up his own darn clothes off the floor and walk them to the washing machine.  My eleven year-old can clean up his own dishes, get his own drink and other chores. I think too often we think “I HAVE to do this,” when in fact “I CHOOSE to do this,” is more accurate.

Ask for help.  From the kids, but also from your partner. If you don’t have a partner, ask a girlfriend, or a cousin or a neighbor.  You don’t have to do it all by yourself.  This is hard, because it means giving up doing it “our” way and you risk being disappointed.

And most importantly…don’t be bossed around by perfection.  We all have that little voice inside our heads saying “this isn’t good enough,” “that chair is ugly,” “more throw pillows!”  Don’t allow your perceived idea of perfection to kill your joy! That’s what it does – it judges you, it judges others even.  Work on contentment and peace.  Say to yourself “It isn’t perfect, but it’s home.”

Jenny

 

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5 Great Things to do with Christmas Cards after the Holidays

Starting every early December, you begin to receive Christmas cards from family, friends and business associates.  Some are beautiful, sentimental, some are comical and others are poignant.  But what do you do when them when the season is over?

Instead of just throwing them away, consider one of these alternatives:

Frame them!

Some Christmas cards are so stunningly beautiful, or they have such a meaningful spiritual message, that they are worth keeping for annual use. A simple, inexpensive frame, in the right size, can make a card into a piece of artwork.

Cut them into gift tags!

Take a card and cut it with pinking shears (or other shaped cutters) and use them to give gifts the following Christmas. One card may be turned into 3 or 4 gift tags.  Check out the cute ideas on www.thegoodstuffguide.com the pretty tags she made below.

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Make Christmas ornaments!

Using a circular shape, trace around the portion of the photo you would like to keep an cut it out.  Punch a hole at the top and add string.

Make a cute gift box!

I saw this idea on CraftyJournal.com. Cut cards into 5 squares of the same size and punch holes in all four corners.  Then attach them with cute contrasting or matching ribbon and add tissue!  What a sweet little box!

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Make bookmarks for gifts!

Take some of the scenes and quotes you love the most and cut them out bookmark size.  Add a tassle and you can use it all year long.  Check out these blank bookmark templates you can use!

Special thanks to all the creative people on the net!
CraftyJournal.com
Template.net
Thegoodstuffguide.com

 

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Want to Try Bible Journaling?

Start the first 3 months of the year off with a *fresh* Bible journal! 8×10 size.

chores · cleaning · clutter · declutter · homemaking · Uncategorized

How to Regain Control of Your Home After Christmas

It’s December 27, and if you are like me, you are looking around your house and saying: “HOW do I get this place under control again??”

The parties are over, the big meals have been prepped and eaten, the gifts are unwrapped and many played with..and now what is left?

Boxes, bags, bows, scotch tape everywhere, packaging of hastily ripped open toys, dishes, dishes and dishes, and no actually edible food in the house, the cat has a bow stuck to its tail, the dog ate something he shouldn’t have and you think one of your relatives was sick and passed it to one of your kids…

I know you know what I mean.

So what is a mom to do?

Let’s talk through some ideas on how to regain control of your living space again…QUICKLY.

Separate everyone’s gifts into piles.
Each of us currently has a pile from which to draw from.  It may be a mixture of stocking stuffers, gifts and other items, but it’s their pile. There are a few advantages to this:
-It’s all in one place
-They know where it all is
-And when it’s time to say clean it up and put it away, they can do it more easily

Get rid of trash – NOW!
JUST by removing the actual trash from the home (we threw out 4 garbage bags in the last 2 days) you can get a better grip on what actually needs to be done. And it feels so, so good….

Require children to pitch in.
TODAY ask them to devote some time to putting away their own messes, picking up trash, and regaining control of their own space.  It will help to “own” their belongings, it will assist them in thinking about where they want something to go, and it will (rightfully so) put some of the ownership on them! (Mine are doing it as I write this post.)

Hack away at the dishes.
Even if you do it in little bursts all day.  Have the dishwasher running all day if need be. No one like to do dishes (or maybe some of you do??), but, someone is going to come looking for a spoon or a bowl before you know it.

Make a clutter box.
As you move through the home you may notice normal, irritating clutter.  Make a box.  Then decide today isn’t the day for you to feel burdened by it. It’s really not.

After you finish cleaning (or even while you are cleaning) you may say to yourself: “Never again!” I am never doing this again.  But…you know you will.  At least you have 12 more months to get ready for it.

Last piece of advice: drink plenty of coffee (or tea) as you prefer.  You’re gonna need it mama!

From your sister in cleaning today, Jenny

 

curriculum · homeschool solutions · homeschooling · Mommas · organizing · Uncategorized

Weekly Homeschool Checklist: Keep Assignments Organized and on Track

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Now that I have reached the six (!) year mark on homeschooling my boys, there is one thing I have learned I need to do on a weekly basis to keep myself on track and organized.

Keep an assignment checklist.

If I don’t keep a list, the mornings go like this:

“Hey mom, what should I do for school?”
“How about your online work?”
“O.k.”
And then the same conversation repeats itself a half an hour later.

Why?  Because life is super-busy, and I have my own list of things to do and my lack of planning for school  is being reflected in my going to the easiest answer: online work.

But that is not fair to them, and in all honesty, it does not reflect the sort of homeschooling experience I want us to have in this house.

So, I have taken to writing down a checklist of assignments on Sunday night. This has made a huge difference in the following areas:

-getting a long-term plan (2-3 months at a time)
-making consistent progress toward completing one goal
-helps their self esteem because they feel like they are accomplishing something
-assists me in staying with something so that a concept can be solidified (think MATH)
– Gives them a VISUAL representation of their work which is easier than me explaining the list verbally

Does that sounds good to you?

This checklist takes me about 30 minutes to fill out in detail but makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

I think this list is most effective with elementary to high school age children.

Give it a try this week and see if it makes a difference for you too!

Weekly Assignment Checklist ATGT