Thursday, September 4, 2014

Homeschooling on the hard days

We started school on Tuesday. It is now Thursday and I'm writing a post entitled "Homeschooling on the hard days"...does that tell you something about our first week?

Some days things just seem to go your way. Everyone gets up on time with happy hearts and good attitudes (including mom!), the coffee is perfect, breakfast and chores are done quickly and efficiently...I mean really done, not "shove it all under the bed so it looks clean" done. Once school starts things hum along smoothly with laughter, smiles and loads of learning taking place. Everyone can find their books and school supplies are exactly where they're suppose to be. It's not uncommon to hear, "Hey Mom, look at this! Did you know that...?" We're loving homeschooling.

But today was not that day. No, today I found myself wishing I could put them in school, give myself a coffee IV and take a long, hot shower.

So how do you homeschool on the hard days? Those days you won't to throw in the towel? If you've already put the local public school on speed dial, take heart my friend...there is hope!

1. REFLECT - Think back on why you started homeschooling in the first place. Chances are you're not doing it just for fun and certainly not because it pays well (at least not this side of eternity). No, you're doing it because it's your family's conviction or calling. Because the school system is failing. Because your child has special needs that only you can accommodate. You fill in the blank. We all homeschool for our own set of reasons, but keeping those reasons in the forefront of your mind on the hard days will help keep your resolve strong.

2. REFOCUS - Set aside the bad day and refocus on what your children need to learn. Maybe the "terrible, no-good, very bad" day shone a light on a character issue that needs addressing or a heart issue that's reared its head. Maybe you need to tweak your morning routine a bit to help it flow more smoothly. Ask the Lord to show you any areas that need attention and commit to making the necessary changes. 

3. RECHARGE - After wading through our less than stellar morning, I headed out for a walk along the canal near our house. It was a beautiful September morning. I chatted with the Lord, sketched out the next article for my column in our state homeschool magazine and came home feeling much better. A bad day might be a signal to do something different, something to fill you up. You cannot effectively homeschool your kids if you're running on empty. Did you hear what I said moms? There is a bit of a mindset in some homeschool circles that taking time for yourself is considered selfish. No, it's a necessity! You wouldn't try to run your car on empty, or continue to pour water from an empty pitcher. Both need filling and so do YOU busy mom! Neglecting yourself robs your family of the best you can be.

4. RELAX - A bad day is just that, a day. It doesn't mean the rest of your week or year will be that way. Rest in the Lord and trust that his mercies are new every morning. 

Or in the words of my favorite Southern belle, "After all, tomorrow is another day".

Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to School Mantel - it's so adorable!

So the other day I was suppose to be planning our school year. Somewhere between researching history activities and ordering math curriculum I got sucked into the vortex that is Pinterest. I found this adorable printable from Sweet Coconut Lime and before I knew it was redecorating my mantel for back to school. Anything to put off that planning stuff just one more day.

Isn't it just the cutest??? I printed it on cardstock and used an extra frame I had hanging around to make this the focal point of the space. Then I got busy scavenging the house and my kids' school supplies for the rest. The burlap bunting was purchased a few months ago for $1 each at Craft Warehouse and covered with chalkboard contact paper. I've used them for loads of different things. Crayons, pencils and a few old books (one of them is from the late 1800's) round out the extreme cuteness. Total cost: $0! 

Oooh, I just love free decorating! Now if only I loved school planning half as much.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hiding God's Word in our hearts...and the shower

Here's something I never expected about having teenage boys...the incredibly loooong showers. They don't have to spend much time on appearance, but apparently the shower is where they do their best thinking. Who knew? 30 minutes into it we're banging on the door and interrupting their watery reverie. Yes, we're dream killers like that.

For school this year we're memorizing what I'm calling the A-B-C's of scripture - a scripture passage for each letter of the alphabet. Should be a fun way to shake things up a bit. I'm not sure where the second part of my brainstorm came from. Probably a lack of coffee or something. I decided since they spend such an inordinate amount of time chillaxin' in the shower that I would give them something to stare at while they're in there. Sorry for the poor pic quality. I took it with my the shower.

Taping a large Ziplock bag in an area that doesn't get too wet allows me to change out the page inside each week. Around here, we call this multitasking at it's finest.

And in case you're wondering, anxious starts with an A.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Back to school - seriously?

Normally this time of year we're already back in school mode. Seeing all the back to school supplies in the stores usually makes me giddy. Getting boxes of curriculum in the mail...oh man, that's like Christmas! I put the date on the calendar and go into full on planning and organizing mode.

But not this year. OK, I did buy some new pencils and composition books, but even that lacked the usual excitement. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that summer is already over. I've put off the start date until after Labor Day, hoping my feelings will catch up soon. I'll let you know on Tuesday how that works out.

Here's the thing - if I waited to start school this year until I felt like it, I'm pretty sure not much would get done. Feelings can't be trusted. How thankful I am that my God isn't like that! I don't have to doubt his promises or that he'll do what he says he will do. His Word is not dependent on whether or not he FEELS like doing something. Can you imagine if he were like us humans? Fickle and changing depending on the temperature outside, the time of the month or how much coffee he's had?

Nope. His faithfulness and mercies are new every single morning. 

Times when parenting gets hard and we're feeling worn out.

Times when we lack the joy or excitement we expected. 

Times when life seems overwhelming. 

It's times like this we learn the meaning of perseverance, of doing what we need to do despite how we feel. The Lord honors our obedience when we do what he's called us to do. Obedience has nothing to do with feelings, but calls us to a new level of sacrifice. 

That means getting my act together and starting school with enthusiasm whether I want to or not.

It means continuing in prayer when I don't see the end.

It means letting him be my strength when I have none.

It means complete and total dependence on him. And that my friends is exactly where he wants us to be.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Middle elementary writing prompts

My goal when my kids are in elementary school is simply to instill in them a love for writing. We don't do a formal curriculum until jr. high/high school, but instead I offer them loads of opportunities to write each week. Journals, writing prompts, lists, letters, song lyrics...the possibilities are only limited by their imagination.

This year my youngest will be in fourth grade (insert sad mommy heart sigh). I'll encourage her to journal daily, as well as using writing prompt cards a couple of times a week. These include anything from "Would you rather give up reading or electronics for a year? Why?" to "Pretend you were there at Creation. What was it like?" I'm printing them on cardstock to laminate and will keep them in a jar for her to choose from each week. 

Sometimes we will go back and edit some of her writing, using the opportunity to practice grammar, punctuation, etc., but oftentimes I will just let her share it with me, pointing out the good qualities and letting it stimulate further conversation. In doing so, writing will not be something to be feared or dreaded, but become an enjoyable part of everyday life.

Looking for some ideas for getting your kids writing? Check out this free writing prompt printable, complete with instructions and 78 writing prompts to use with your middle elementary kiddos...consider it my "back to school" gift to you! You're welcome!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Homeschool 101: Is homeschooling right for our family?

Families choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons. Religious, state of the school system, safety concerns, learning challenges, schedules  - each is a valid reason to seek a different avenue for your child's education.

Maybe you're entertaining the idea, but aren't sure if it would work for your family. Start by making a list of the pros and cons. What benefits would your family receive from the choice to learn at home? Freedom to learn at your own pace, study what your child is interested in and setting your own schedule are just a few of the pros. What cons do you see as a result of bringing your children home? These will be different for each family, but are certainly worth addressing as you move toward a decision.

Regardless of the reason families have chosen to homeschool, most will attest to the fact that the pros far outweigh the cons. In fact, oftentimes the things we first thought would be a negative aspect to learning at home ends up being either a positive, or a non-issue. Find a homeschool mentor you can share your list with and seek guidance. They may be able to help you see things from a different perspective.

Keep in mind that while you may know other families who homeschool, it is a vastly unique and individual journey. Maybe you're a family of night owls that prefers to sleep a bit later. Nothing says you have to start school promptly at 8:00 am. You might prefer schooling in the evening when everyone's more alert. Have little ones in the house? Make good use of nap times for getting focused work done.  Work with your family's dynamics rather than against it. Your homeschool shouldn't look like your neighbors because your family is unique.  Don't waste time comparing, but embrace what works for you.

More often than not, moms have an easier time embracing the idea of homeschooling. While sharing our thoughts is part of the decision making process, seeing things from the male perspective is sometimes helpful for our spouses to be able to jump on board with the idea. For this reason dads might consider sitting down with another homeschool dad and asking questions.  It is important that you and your spouse are on the same page. From that point of agreement you can consider the options, research and make a joint decision about what's best for your family.

Whatever your decision regarding homeschooling remember it is not set in stone. If you decide a year or two into it that maybe it isn't the best decision, or it was just for a short season, you can always choose another educational option down the road. So relax, weigh the pros and cons, talk to others, pray and don't forget to breathe!

* First published for SELAH of Idaho's Homeschool 101 blog series.

Friday, July 11, 2014

World's best iced coffee recipe

I admit it. I'm a coffee snob.

I use to be a diehard Starbucks fan, but as I've learned the art of coffee (yes, it is an art) I came to realize I can make my favorites at home for a fraction of the cost and it got harder and harder to shell out $5.00 for the stuff. Besides, I like my stuff better now.

Iced coffee keeps me going through the hot summer months. I'll often make a pitcher and keep it in the fridge to sip on over a couple of days...unless my kids find it and then it's all over.

World's Best Iced Coffee

2 cups strong coffee
1/4-1/3 cup half and half (depends on how strong a coffee taste you prefer)
2-3 T sugar or your favorite sugar substitute
chocolate syrup to taste OR you can make a bit of chocolate ganache (see recipe below) for an incredibly decadent treat!

Blend all ingredients for a few seconds until frothy. 

Drizzle the inside edges of your glass with a bit of chocolate syrup or ganache. Carefully add ice and coffee.

Top with homemade whipping cream and a few chocolate shavings for an amazing summertime (or anytime!) treat!

* To make chocolate ganache, melt a handful of chocolate chips with a few drops of heavy whipping cream or butter to form a nice thick sauce to add to your coffee.

* For homemade whipping cream, beat heavy cream, powdered sugar to taste and a dash of vanilla in a mixer or Magic Bullet until stiff peaks form. You will never allow Cool Whip to pass your lips again after trying the real deal.

Iced coffee is best enjoyed with a friend. Or on the front porch. Or with a good book. 

How do you enjoy your iced coffee?

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