To All Parents Who Found Themselves Homeschooling

It’s not every day that our kids come home from school for March Break and never return. With the swift arrival of COVID-19, our collective worlds were turned upside down. Teachers and parents quickly pivoted to learning at home. Now, three months, untold meltdowns, countless tears, and numerous naggings later, we’ve crossed the finish line! It wasn’t easy, but we did it! Or at least we survived!

Looking back on my prayer journals from 2010-2011, I came across several prayers I had written as a homeschool mom. Between reading the entries and recent chats with other moms, I realized that we could all use a little encouragement. At the end of this post, I’ve included an entry from my prayer journal and a link to a video where my daughters and I offer a few tips to both parents and kids about homeschooling.

Whether you’re a full-time homeschooling parent, or you were thrown into it this spring and are dreading the possibility of potential part-time homeschooling for the fall, here are a few thoughts from our eighteen years of homeschooling to quiet any fears of inadequacy or worries of how you might cope.

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On a hike with our three eldest, Kurtis, Konnor, and Elanna circa 2003.

The following is some practical advice that I hope proves helpful. I wanted to tear down some beliefs and dispel fears that may surround homeschooling and offer some benefits to the process. Yes, boundaries need to be in place, and I’ll highlight a few, but much beauty can occur as a result of schooling at home.

Beliefs

During the years we homeschooled, I often struggled with fearful thoughts about the process which had the propensity overshadow our experience. I often felt inadequate, like I could never quite do enough (as you’ll see in the excerpt from my journal below). I had vague thoughts that I was failing my kids in some way or another. Did all the other mom’s really have it all together?

Many nights I fell into bed exhausted from doing too many things. Running the day over in my mind, instead of celebrating what we had accomplished, I bemoaned the ways I felt I had fallen short that day or the things that remained incomplete. I worried my kids wouldn’t know all they needed to know.

Years later, I see that I didn’t need to worry, and you don’t either. It is unlikely your kids will fall behind learning at home. Their education isn’t composed merely of the things they learn during this time. Learning is a life-long endeavor. You have the unique opportunity to model learning and curiosity not just for now—or for grades—but for their lifetime.

During the years we homeschooled, I was often asked about the socialization of my kids. Wasn’t I worried they wouldn’t be adequately socialized? If my idea of the socialization of a person was based solely on peer socialization, I should have been concerned. But homeschooling afforded my kids the opportunity to engage more fully with all different types of people and all different age levels.

Occasionally, I was asked if I had a teaching degree. I did not, but I do have a university degree—not to say that you need one to teach your children. If you are committed to the process and foster and facilitate a healthy learning environment, they will learn. You have strengths, gifts, and skills to extend to your child’s education regardless of whether you have a Bachelor of Education.

Don’t expect perfection. Go easy on yourself and your kids. Be patient both with them and yourself. Allow for bumps and bruises. Talk about what you can do better when you or they make a mistake. Alter your mindset or attitude, if needed, and your kids will take your cue and rise to your expectations.

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Discovering a snake.

Boundaries

While learning at home allows for fun and flexibility, it also requires some structure, routine, and boundaries. It’s helpful to start school at a set time each day, structuring in time for breaks and lunch, and an assigned ending time. Consider designating an area where most of the schooling takes place and remove as many distractions as possible. Setting clear expectations and an agreed-upon consequence for failing to meet those expectations is invaluable. Equally important is follow-through. This will prevent untold hours of infuriation and nagging.

Once you have clearly stated your expectations (consider making timelines for the completion of schoolwork), expect your child to deliver. If they don’t finish their work, first uncover why they haven’t. Were you unavailable for a time, or does your child’s schoolteacher have yet to reply to a question to finish? If they could have completed the work but chose not to, consider how to address that behavior.

Resist nagging. If you were clear on your instructions and expectations, and they could have completed the work, calmly inform them of the consequence. Consider asking your child’s opinion ahead of time what you should do if their work isn’t completed. Often their choices are harsher than you’d pick! If they don’t finish, when it comes time for play with friends or screen time, you can calmly say, “I’m sorry, I’d love to let you play but you chose not to finish your work.”

This works well for teens too but be sure to pick something that offers enough of an ouch-factor for that child. Then, whatever you do, don’t give in to begging! In this way, you help your kids learn the concept of reaping what they sow. In addition, you’ll be encouraging them to grow in self-discipline and gain responsibility for their choices.

Remain positive and hopeful. Avoid scolding or belittling, and gently correct undesirable behavior. You want to reach your child’s heart instead of training them to be a mere rule-follower. Whenever possible, use positive, encouraging words and praise your child when you notice a job well done or work completed in a timely manner. Celebrate mastery and milestones. Use sticker charts to track achievements, or rewards such as a special treat, a trip, or a party from time to time.

As you set boundaries, consider how your child will fill their free time, especially the amount you allot for screens and phones. It’s so easy to allow the extra time to be swallowed up on devices. Instead, schedule intentional pockets of screen time, such as during a break or for a limited time after school.

Benefits

Homeschooling holds the potential to create valuable memories and close family connections. By virtue of being together, you have the opportunity to connect and speak into your kids’ lives in a way you might not have otherwise had. Be intentional about how you use this gift of time and the things on which you choose to focus the most attention.

Time spent learning at home allows space to adjust to your kids’ needs and learning styles. In the elementary years, I found I could squeeze more out of our school day when I changed locations for different subjects. They sat at a desk for subjects such as Math, Writing, and Spelling. For Bible, History, and Reading, we would move to the couch. Science would happen at the kitchen counter, and crafts might take place on the floor or at a different table.

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Ralph reading to the kids at bedtime in 2003.

In the early years, during read-aloud, the kids would often sit on the couch snuggled beside me. If they wanted to play Lego while listening, I allowed for that, occasionally checking in for comprehension. I let them choose books of their choice for free-time reading, even if they were above or below their reading level. If a certain curriculum or method of teaching wasn’t working, I changed course and tried something new.

Since schoolwork can usually be completed more quickly at home than in a classroom, the extra time affords your kids room to deeply explore an interest. If you notice curiosity toward a subject, you might consider providing materials or equipment to further engage their intrigue.

Avoid taking over or forcing the continuation of a natural bent or interest. Doing so may cause them to reject their natural curiosity. The extra time at home offers a spacious environment to independently sample various interests for the sheer joy of learning without any pressure to succeed.

Don’t feel you must fill your kids’ schedule with countless activities or endless amounts of work. Boredom fuels creativity and allows quiet space to process and refuel. There’s no need to stimulate your child’s learning at every turn, which can exhaust them or make them anxious with the never-ending flow of work. Instead, make space for free time, independent decision making, creative projects, play, reading, and relaxing.

Take opportunities to learn on the go. Hands-on experience is priceless. Get outside. Go for a walk or hike in nature. Take field trips or have a picnic in the park. Our kids loved our family trips and dedicated time apart from structured study.

Beauty

The beauty of homeschooling is the ability to be flexible, the joy of learning together, the increased time as a family, simpler moments, and the capacity to a deep dive into interests.

When our kids were little, for our morning break I used to spread our teddy bear blanket on the floor and sit on it with them to enjoy milk and cookies. I loved the hours we spent cuddled up beside each other while reading picture books and then classic literature. Sometimes I played classical music or an audiobook during art. There was ample time for extra reading and creativity.

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My son Konnor’s 16th birthday party included his homeschool and public school friends, and his siblings. The fake cigarette my son, Kurtis, is holding was a prop from their homeschool co-op play!

To make life easier, I tried to choose activities that the three eldest kids could participate in at the same time such as swimming, skating, gymnastics, and music lessons. We met with a local homeschool group for soccer, baseball, cross-country running, and field trips. We joined a homeschool co-op and for many years enjoyed learning with other homeschoolers one day per week. We played learning games, made crafts, or cooked together. We also cleaned together each week and each child was responsible for a level of the house.

Once the three big kids graduated from homeschooling, our youngest and I continued homeschooling for one more year until she enrolled in a Christian private school. During that one-on-one time, we enjoyed lunchtime picnics at the park and occasionally set up a fort in the backyard where we read together. Another homeschool mom and took turns teaching a subject to one another’s child for a semester.

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Our family – Easter 2020.

What did I hope our kids would glean from our homeschooling journey? Apart from academics, I hoped to inspire intrinsic motivation, self-confidence, compassion for others, and a life-long love of learning. If they, in addition, carried fond memories of our time together, an understanding of God, and a secure knowledge of how entirely we love them, I had fulfilled what I set out to accomplish.

Whether you are a full-time homeschooler or schooling at home is temporary, there are untold ways to make this time as joyful and memorable as possible. Even though homeschooling requires much hard work and dedication, you will never regret the time you intentionally spent on your kids and the relationships that were strengthened as a result.

Click here to watch a video of my daughters and I offering tips and encouragement for homeschooling.

Prayer Journal Entry – May 2020

I see all the years of teaching, of asking them to write (even though they disliked it for so long and often moaned), of having them read great literature and reading aloud to them so much has definitely had an impact. I praise you Lord, because it is a joy for me to see what you have done in spite of all my inadequacies, and often lack of faith, that I was doing a good job—though always feeling it was never enough, good enough, or long enough. 

So could you, Lord, level the path before us and make your way clear [concerning homeschooling for highschool]. We need you. I desperately need your wisdom to do this. Show us the way. Help me to trust you (not look too far ahead), and go your way, not mine. I am very thankful for what you have done and are doing in their lives and mine. May they be a blessing to you (as you love them so much). May they know this intimately, deeply, thoroughly. 

Amen

Our Easter

This Easter is unlike any Easter I have experienced in my lifetime. Most people living at this point in history have never had their lives disrupted by a pandemic and had to celebrate without loved ones. Many I know have lived comfortable, predictable, safe lives. Now, many of us are figuring out first-hand what it feels like to not feel in control (we were never really in control) and not feel safe.

It’s not comfortable. It’s not easy. And we aren’t accustomed to it.

Despite how difficult the COVID-19 adjustment has been, I am inspired by the myriad of ways those around me are helping others during this crisis. Some of you are making meals for the sick, some are shopping for neighbors, family, or friends in need, others are keeping us well-informed. Some are sending encouraging text messages or emails, others are setting up prayer meetings or zoom calls, and others are checking in on their friends on the daily.

Our medical staff is using their training to care for and heal the sick, and the teachers have pivoted to teach and support our children online. Neighboring children are writing colorful chalk messages of hope on the pavements. My son’s in-laws are making fabric masks and helping collect items for the food bank.

As unique as we are wired, we will also uniquely go through this time. We will use our various giftings in individual ways, and it will be marvelous to witness humanity rising to the call. But let’s also remind ourselves that just because one person isn’t doing what you’re doing, or what I’m doing, it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing what they should be—or need to be—doing right now.

This is a collective hardship and we will each approach it differently. What appears a looming mountain for one may look like a rolling meadow for another. That might mean that doing a load of laundry and making dinner was what they could do today. If another is highly productive during this time, for them, keeping busy may be their way of coping.

For some, this break may feel like a much-needed vacation—a wonderful improvement from their former harried pace. For others, it may seem like not much has changed. For others, this may stir up feelings of unease and anxiety.

Let’s not judge one another based on our own ideas of what we deem right but accept and help one another. Let’s celebrate the myriad of ways we will traverse through this and the limitless creativity that will be exhibited by our fellow humans in the process. Let’s be kind and patient with each other’s shortcomings, and the ways we find we can—or cannot—cope. Let’s ramp up the love and care for one another and overlook the rest.

Mariana, Kiki and Monty at Cottage
We have been blessed to have my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson with us during this time.

This Easter, and this week, as we care for those around us, I hope we will also take some time to pause and reflect on the One who taught us how to love and who offers hope. One who came to heal us both on the outside but more importantly on the inside. One who gave his life to give us life. Who conquered death and rose from the grave to give us a fresh start. And though the way we celebrate may look a bit different, the reason we do so remains unchanged.

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Cozy, quiet morning reflections.

“And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” John 15:13

 

 

Sacred Motherhood

It may not feel like it, but what you’re doing is sacred.

It doesn’t feel like it during the 3 AM feedings, or when you’re changing the seventh diaper before noon, or when you’re comforting a wailing baby while wailing yourself.

Kurtis, Konnor, and Elanna – 2003.

Motherhood doesn’t feel sacred when your two-year-old is asserting their freedom of speech at the grocery counter, when your three-year-old just completed a crayon masterpiece on the living room wall, or when your five-year-old just bit your best friend’s daughter’s arm.

It doesn’t feel sacred when the teacher calls home about misbehavior twice in one week, when you lose count of the times you’ve corrected for this misbehavior, or when you’re completely at a loss on how to fix it. 

It doesn’t feel sacred when your teenager is distant, when they impart that they just backed the truck into your neighbor’s Porche, or when you happen to notice cut marks on their wrists.

Mostly motherhood feels messy and raw. Like you’re wearing your heart outside your chest while walking in the wilderness without a compass. But it’s also brilliant, beautiful, and sacred.

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Our Family – 2010

Because mothers change the atmosphere. They change it with their love, their laughter, their prayers, their protection, and their presence. The countless times you walked through ordinary, produced extraordinary. All your unseen and uncelebrated actions piled one on top of the other, day after day, bumped into eternity.

The times you wiped a nose, a bottom, or wiped away tears. The times you got on your knees and played even though the house looked like a tsunami passed through, or later got on your knees to pray for the strength to clean up said tsunami. The times you administered hugs, Bandaids, advice, desserts, medicine, money, drives, and driving lessons—all selfless, sacred acts that had a profound impact.

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My kids and I – 2019

Because right now, right beside you, these little humans are becoming big humans. All you do for them and choose not to do (for their own good), is helping them grow into the person God envisioned from the beginning of time. The same child you helped learn how to walk, will one day run headlong into their own future and, eventually, into eternity.

Make no mistake, this is sacred work.

The way you love them, serve them, speak to them, look at them, and the time you spend with them has a profound impact. God chose you for the task. He has entrusted you with these little people, and when you trust him, he gives you all you need to accomplish this sacred work.

It won’t be easy—you already know that—but it will be worth it.

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Our first year homeschooling. Kurtis (JK) & Konnor along for the ride. I apparently didn’t know how to spell tomorrow back then!

The years I raised and taught our four kids at home took more than I had. Some days it felt anything but sacred. But I believe that you too will one day look back and marvel at the impact of your selfless, sometimes mundane, day-to-day, imperfect, accumulated acts. That you too will see that every strand of your love wove a rich, strong, safe nest for those babies who are now, sooner than you imagined possible, ready to fly and soar on their own.

We get one crack at this thing called parenting. Let’s slow down, be present, and love them ridiculously well. Not one second of that time will be wasted! xo

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

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Our kids and first grandson – Jan 2020.

Click here to purchase my 31-Day Devotional Soul Focus – Trials

Click here to purchase my novel One More Tomorrow

I’m Officially a Grandma!

Watching my firstborn son and daughter-in-love undergo childbirth this week—a common yet profoundly miraculous event in our human experience—burst my heart wide open. Gazing at my first-born grandson stole any last reserves. I’m undone.

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Holding a tiny miracle—Montgomery Jake.

The sight of our two families, woven by marriage, crowded in the waiting room made me smile. We sat in a row with anticipation scrawled across our faces, each with our own memories, our own brand of overcoming, our own hopes and dreams all converging in this monumental moment amid a miracle about to transpire.

This moment, and many others, strung together to form a lifetime. Continue reading “I’m Officially a Grandma!”

Visits Home

69880890_898957227127775_3111926164998848512_nTwo months ago, my eldest daughter moved to Toronto. Somehow, like all of life’s upheavals, I survived this transition. That hollow ache—the result of the vacant space her colourful personality and limitless energy occupied—hasn’t been quite as insurmountable as I imagined it would be. I’m happy to report that it’s not all tears and pining, and I haven’t yet succumbed to numbing by chocolate! I may, however, be guilty of calling or texting her daily.

Last September was the first time in eighteen years that we didn’t return to homeschooling. A lot has transpired in a year. My eldest was married, my second-born began film school, my youngest went to “real school” and—as I mentioned—my eldest daughter moved out.

Despite being with my kids for untold hours over the years (people used to ask me all the time how I did it), I managed to reserve some space during our time homeschooling for personal pursuits such as writing, painting, and gardening. I understood that once my children launched I would have time to pursue these passions. That time tumbled upon me last September.

Now a full year has passed and after dedicating the year to my writing, I am earnestly awaiting the launch of two books, my novel, and my devotional/journal. Being a writer is a dream I’ve had since childhood which is now becoming a reality.

As precious as reaching this goal is to me, when compared to the depth of joy I have found in being a mom, the two don’t reside on the same scale. However much I adore writing, however cathartic I find painting, or pleasing I find gardening, I’d trade every page, canvas, and blossom for those conversations, those hours, and those moments of togetherness with my kids.

Maybe I’m being melodramatic. I probably am. My kids might say so and so might their dad. I know they need to make a life for themselves, but this heart stuff gets me every time. It’s not like I don’t see them anymore, it’s just that (apart from one) they don’t live here anymore. It’s the infrequent time we muster that makes me hang onto hugs too long, drive absurd distances to be with them, and take time for projects or events they deem worthy.

But that’s what love does. It gives. It sacrifices. It pours itself out.

Nothing is greater than love.

69700975_2340269146225248_8967045386447355904_nSo in the past few weeks since she moved (I make it sound like forever instead of just two months) when my daughter has arrived home for a visit, you can imagine the kerfuffle. The rush to the door, the exclamations of glee, the suffocating hugs, the kettle promptly warmed for tea, the over-attentive lean into a conversation, the questions so as not to miss a detail, a photo or two.

It strikes me that this is God’s posture to us when we come to him for a visit. If I’m this ecstatic to spend time with my kids when they arrive home, how delighted is God to spend time with me? If I listen attentively to all the details of my daughter’s life, how much more does God listen to me? If I treasure these visits, how glad God’s heart must be with ours.

Psalm 139:7-10 reminds me that no matter where I go, how infrequent my visits, how far I am from God, how poor my choices, how desperate my circumstances, or how destitute my soul, God is faithful. He never leaves me.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

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The love I have towards my kids is but a small reflection of God’s love toward me, his child. Even before I knew God, even before I arrived for regular visits, He loved me. His poured-out, sacrificial love was first demonstrated through his Son’s death on the cross. God gave all to have a relationship with us. That’s how much we meant to him and may be one of the reasons he so desires to spend time with us.

When was the last time you arrived for a visit? You can be sure that God already has the kettle warmed.

Coming Septemeber 17th, 2019

 

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ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

Letting Go…Again.

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She lights up a room. An extreme extrovert, she brings me out of my introversion.

Once again, my momma’s heart is being stretched. Our home, once full of bodies and books, is downsizing its numbers—again. And with it, I’m having to once again adjust as another of the great loves of my life launches.

Not yet a year has passed since my eldest got married, my second son moved into his own apartment, and my youngest started school. Now, my third born is about to plunge into one of her long-standing dreams. In less than a week, she too will fly the nest and move to Toronto to pursue her acting career.

I know we don’t have children with the purpose of holding onto them forever. I know they will eventually have to make their way in the world outside of the four walls we nurtured them within, but it still pinches the heart and stings the soul when the day comes to release them. That day always comes a little too soon.

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My little “Sussila” at ten years old.

The first day of school, sleepovers, the overnight camps are a mere dress rehearsal for the day you say goodbye for real—the day they launch not for a week but for forever.

I know how this goes. There I’ll be out on the front doorstep, where once I helped her climb, my heart suspended between aching and pride as I send her off. I’ll force myself not to over-hug lest she suspects the tears I’ll be fiercely trying to trap behind closed lids. But she’ll probably see them. I’m terrible at pretending and she’s particularly gifted at noticing.

All her zeal for life, energy, fun, and laughter will now be occasional guests in our home. The same place I often wished uncluttered and serene will now be perpetually so. The shoes I used to trip over, the clothes strewn on the floor, the discarded, damp towels (heaven help her housemate) will be replaced with floor! The debriefs over tea at the kitchen counter and the Starbucks goal-setting coffee dates will be replaced with infrequent catch-ups by phone or texts.

Everyone tells you it happens too fast but you brush them off. The days are long but the years are short they say. Listen. They are. One minute I was dragging my bone-weary body through 3 AM feedings, sweeping up countless crumbs, wearing out the knees in my jeans playing on the floor, puzzling over another math question, or nagging after something left undone. Don’t even get me started on the driving—I secretly loved it—but may have spent a solid five years of my life behind the wheel!

Now it all feels like a blink, a breath, as though I could have easily missed it for not paying enough attention. And I’m left with all those wondering whispers bumping around my brain asking, Did I do enough? Prepare her enough? Spend enough time? Teach her enough? Love her enough?

Of course I didn’t. But I sure as heck tried.

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Proud Mom. SO many dance competitions. SO many hours spent driving to dance classes. I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it.

It was all imperfect, as it will always be. A parent can never be enough for all there is in their little-grown-big-one’s life. All I can hope is that I send her off with my love securely tucked in her heart and mind, and trust she’ll take it from here. More than that, the God who loves her far better than I can ever manage goes with her, is beside her, is her biggest fan. That will surely be enough.

So once again I find myself in this uncomfortable celebratory mourning. A conflicted state of I’m-so-happy-for-youwhy-do-you-have-to-go-so-soon. Not one or the other, but both. So I’ll sigh, surrender, and sink into another new normal while thanking God for all we shared, all the sweet memories I carry, and anticipate the visits—and texts—to come.

Bye sweet girl. You’re a wonder and a joyous gift. What a privilege it is to be your momma.

 

Beautiful Things

There are so many beautiful things in this life, each day bursting with beauty just waiting to be noticed and celebrated, all miraculous in their own way.

But sometimes I’ve missed the beauty—the holy moments—consumed by my own preoccupations. Sometimes I’ve failed to recognise that these simple moments strung together comprise my life—not a bit of which I prefer to miss. Beautiful things like a stranger’s smile, a tiny, chubby-handed wave, that first sip of morning coffee, the belly laugh of a child, and the birds’ chorus lifting in the air.

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So here’s my reflection of some other beautiful things I’m thankful for today:

latte art tirelessly created by the barista who smiles though the job has its not-so-nice bits

humans who are willing to give time, talent and resources to help others

the spectacular sun on my shoulders that gives life and warmth to our planet

my visionary husband, best-friend and biggest cheerleader, who I get to walk life alongside

my children, the great loves of my life, who have brought me untold joy and laughter and whose various talents I have the joy of celebrating

dear family and friends who crowd around to support and love me and who I get to love and encourage in return

the “prayer ladies” who have bolstered my faith and enriched my life

words to string together to create something from nothing

colours to mix and swirl together on a canvas

a quiet moment to reflect, chose thankfulness and make course corrections

beautiful books that challenge and change the world

flowers and plants to care for that add colour and texture my life’s canvas

the canopy of trees to offer comforting shade and life-giving oxygen

a body to move me to the places I’m meant to tread

arms to draw in another soul reminding them they are cherished

my next breath to inhale, providing another chance to live well

eyes to see all this terrific beauty

Christ’s love and sacrifice that changed everything.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

~ Colossians 3:15-17 (The Message)
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What are some beautiful things you’re thankful for? I love to hear them!

Finding Thankfulness

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I’m thankful for my hubby.

Confession: Fall isn’t my favourite time of year. I much prefer hot, hazy mid-summer days. I adore my garden at peak performance showing off its full glory. I relish a few lazy minutes of reading on the porch with the birds’ chorus adding to the unfolding beauty. There’s the endless, sunspun blue skies, and the warm evenings begging us to linger outside and squeeze the most out of the long days of light. Even as I write this, I’m still mourning summer’s end. 

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I’m thankful for my garden.

But its fall and, in Canada, that means a few changes. And with the changing season come a few things I could stand to be grateful for. Things like: apple cider, the smell of smoke sauntering out of hundred-year-old chimneys, the blazing leaves letting go, comical gourds, pumpkin pies, fall Mums, and cosy sweaters. Maybe you could add a few of your own.

My daughter adores this time of year and makes a fall list – traditions that she keeps each year. Among other activities, she decorates her room, visits the pumpkin patch with a friend, then painstakingly carves the perfect pumpkin once home. She makes procuring a pumpkin spice latte a must, makes a fall play list, and even dresses up for Halloween to hand out candy at our door. Through her, I’m trying to increase my affection for fall.

But no matter where we find ourselves this autumn, no matter how much you cherish the changing seasons, how amazing, or not-quite-so-amazing, your circumstances may be, the truth is we can always find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is an ideal reminder that we really should be living each day thankful, not just one weekend.

Here are some things I’m thankful for: a simple breath of outside air, the late-day sun on my face, a flock of migrating birds crossing overhead, a sip of warm coffee, the bite of food in my mouth before thinking of the next, and a moment of stillness in my home (like this one when no one is making a sound). I’m thankful for my dear friends who love and cheer me on, my children who encourage me to do big things, and my husband who still loves me after 26 years of intimately knowing my every fault. And I’m thankful that God, who knows me even better than that, gave His Son because He thinks I matter.

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I’m thankful for my kids.

This act of being thankful has a way of brushing the cobwebs of ingratitude away. Like the way we gripe in our childish entitlement, or the way we have mini-fits when the world doesn’t give us all we asked for. Thankfulness acts as an automatic attitude-shifter, and the everyday, moment-by-moment practice of it helps us approach our minutes with a healthier, life-giving focus.

There are times so bewilderingly dark, so emotionally or physically painful, that it seems virtually impossible to find a single thing to be thankful for. But even when the light is scant, look hard. There is always a small ray of hope shining in that darkness and lighting something of which to be thankful for – even if it is that next breath.

And, like anything, the more we practice thankfulness, the easier it becomes. What if this weekend we start, and then just keep going – this month and this year – and develop a solid habit of finding something to be thankful for each day, and especially in times of difficulty? I have an inkling we might experience an increased dose of contentment, peace, and joy.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”                      1 Thessalonians 5:18

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  1. Have you made a “Thankful List”?
  2. Develop the practice of finding things to be thankful for each day and even each moment.

52 Things I learned During our Home Schooling Journey

 

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Elanna’s Graduation – June 2018

Eighteen years ago, I embarked on an unlikely journey of teaching my children at home. I only planned to continue until they reached high school, but the three oldest chose to home school through grade 12.

We learned a lot of things during those years, but what sticks with me the most isn’t the multitude of things we gleaned from books, but the things we discovered about life and ourselves. Those years weren’t always easy. Life still happened. And though I was far from a perfect teacher or mother, we came out the other side loving and respecting each other. Today, I am humbled and blessed by the close relationships we share.

Below is a random list of some things I learned. I’m sure I can’t think of everything, but these are a few that easily came to mind. Although it refers to our home schooling journey, I have a feeling you’ll be able to relate, or, at the very least, may find it an encouragement!

52 Things I Learned From Home Schooling:

1. Show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
2. Any effort is better than none. It all compiles.
3. Bear with one another.
4. Patience is necessary – it grows when exercised.
5. If it’s not working, try harder. If it’s still not working, try a different approach.
6. Meant to and actually doing the job are two very different things.
7. It’s hard, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
8. Quitting isn’t an option. Redirecting your effort is.
9. There’s no such thing as perfection, but hard work, perseverance, and a good attitude are a close second.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others or you risk feeling both inadequate and missing what you were created for.
11. Laugh. Cry. Start again.
12. Speak truth when needed.
13. Don’t worry about what others think.
14. Character, integrity, and wisdom are more valuable than all the knowledge in the world. There are plenty of intelligent jerks.
15. Figure out what your passions are and build on those.
16. Nothing is wasted. No effort, trial, or experience.
17. Put down the books, leave the work, and go outside.
18. Play often.
19. Be kind. Speak gently. Smile freely.
20. Not everyone will agree with you. That’s okay. Accept your differences.
21. Make your encouragements more prolific than your critiques.
22. Those entrusted to you rise to your expectations. Set the bar achievably high.
23. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
24. Even if it’s difficult, monotonous, or thankless, you are still making headway.
25. Nothing stays the same forever. Cherish now.
26. Life has seasons. Learn what you can from each one.
27. Read beautiful stories out loud to your kids.
28. Besides God, be your child’s biggest cheerleader.
29. Expect the best in others.
30. Catch your kids doing good.
31. Tell your kids what you like about them, and about the good you see in them.
32. Keep hugging your children even if they appear to no longer appreciate it.
33. A little mess won’t kill you.
34. Say sorry when you’re wrong, then ask for forgiveness.

35. What you do speaks louder than what you say.

36. Talk your kids openly about your faith and failures.
37. Let them work alongside you so they learn from you.
38. Help your children see the beauty in nature and in other human beings.
39. If possible, travel with your children. These experiences offer priceless bonding and provide hands-on experience they won’t get from books.
40. Teach them to serve others so they won’t be self-serving, but compassionate.
41. Guide, don’t control.
42. They aren’t you. Don’t try to make them be. Give them ample space to be who they were created to be. Celebrate their individuality.
43. Take each child out on one-on-ones. You get to know them better this way.
44. Love your spouse.
45. Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
46. Help them form strong habits to achieve their goals.
47. Champion their dreams.
48. Let them make mistakes.
49. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves.
50. Pray.
51. Let your children go and be the miraculous humans God made them to be. It was always the end goal.
52. Choose love first, always.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
~ Colossians 3:14

 

Konnor and Kurtis’ graduation – 2014 & 2016

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1. What could you add to this list?
2. IS there one you could work on this week?