Homeschooling Resources for Every Season of Learning

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Some of the questions I field most frequently involve inquiries about homeschooling and educational resources--the go-tos for the how-tos and what-ifs. Resources can be helpful as we all need boosts of encouragement and fresh ideas for the home education journey.  

When asked, I recommend the resources I've found most beneficial to us in the shifting seasons of our 25 years of homeschooling. Walking alongside a family, I try to offer recommendations which most closely address that family's unique questions and circumstances. Who has time to read through material which isn't applicable? We don't! We are a community of families with full days and many blessings.  

To that end, I compiled this blog of resources into categories. As you read through the list, you'll notice many of the selections incorporate multiple ages or facets of home education. Therefore, recommendations which are broad or could incorporate many seasons are listed in each potentially applicable stage. I hope you find this format beneficial. If you have additional questions, ask in the comments or connect with me via email. 

New to Homeschooling

Homeschooling for Excellence: How to Take Charge of Your Child's Education and Why You Absolutely Must, David and Micki Colfax (Warner, 1988) - one of the first books I read about the possibility and potential of homeschooling; helped me to see education outside the box

Home School Heroes: The Struggle and Triumph of Home Schooling in America, Christopher Klicka (B&H, 2006) historical account (with data) of homeschooling in America

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6; one of the resources I most recommend at evaluations when parents ask for this type of guidance

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie (Classical Academic Press, 2015)

The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight: Managing Your Days through the Homeschool Years, Heidi St. John (Real Life Press, 2012)

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith (Scribner, 2015) - philosophy of education and testing; opened my eyes to the myths I believed

Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling, Diana Waring (Emerald Books, 1996) 

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; fits nicely in a diaper bag for quick reads; highly recommend

Preschool Homeschooling

Spiritual Parenting, Michelle Anthony (David C. Cook, 2010) - parenting with implications for home education; reading this book was confirmation of what Mike and I always believed about parenting and learning

The Three R's: Grades K-3, Ruth Beechick (Mott Media, 2006) - a definite TREASURE in our home

The Five Love Languages of Children, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell (Moody, 1997) - love languages with parenting, learning, and teaching applications

Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home, Raymond and Dorothy Moore (Hewitt Research Foundation, 1981) - one of my all-time FAVORITES; read and reread many times over

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend 

Elementary Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell (Apologia Press, 2009)

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (2012, Jossey-Bass) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend

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Middle School Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey (Franklin Covey Co., 1988) - our teens appreciated this book, too 

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted FAV of ours; highly recommend

High School Homeschooling

Celebrate High School, Cheryl Bastian (Zoe Learning Essentials, 2015)

Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (Gallop, 2001)

And What about College? : How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions at the Best Colleges and Universities, Cafi Cohen (Holt Associates, 2000) one of the first workshops I attended about high school and one of the first resources I read

Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition, Cafi Cohen (Three Rivers Press, 2000) - another one of my first high school reads

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another all-time FAV of ours; highly recommend

Learning Differences 

When the Brain Can't Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder, Terri Bellis (Atria, 2003) - this resource became invaluable in my parent education

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Picture and Living Book Guides

Who Should We Then Read?, Jan Bloom (Jan Bloom, 2000) - volume 1 and 2 are two of my FAVORITE go-to's for Living Books; LOVE author and series information provided in this one-of-a-kind resource

Read for the Heart, Sarah Clarkson (Apologia Educational Ministries, 2009) - annotated and helpful for selecting just the right read

Honey for a Child's Heart, Gladys Hunt (Zondervan, 2002) - one of the first books I read about reading

Give Your Child the World, Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan, 2016) - listed by geographical location with helpful info about the content of each book

Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best in Children's Literature (Revised Edition), Elizabeth Wilson (Crossway, 2002)

Do you have a resource you recommend? Share in the comments so others can be encouraged!

 

Beating Afternoon Boredom

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Who doesn't battle afternoon boredom?

Let's not take a show of hands. Rest assured, my hand would be raised. 

You know the story. Three o'clock. Children squabbling. A high schooler STILL needs help with Algebra. And dinner? It's frozen on the counter! 

Afternoons can be hard. Yet, after years of beating afternoon boredom, I know the efforts I made toward defeating "I'm bored" syndromes--in myself as well as my children--mattered. In fact, hobbies launched and rediscovered interests became catalysts for entrepreneurial pursuits, high school courses, and career choices.

Beating afternoon boredom is worth every ounce of time and energy we can muster. 

At a recent mom's event, a group of ladies gathered after to ask me how our family beats the afternoon wearies. 

Our strategies varied with life seasons. 

When we had two eager, active boys, we: 

  • spent many afternoons outside. 
  • visited local parks. 
  • had Popsicle and wading pool parties--adding measuring cups, a bucket, and garden hose to change things up--as long as the weather allowed.
  • ran around outside playing with squirt guns.
  • played in the lawn sprinkler. Notice the hose and water trend?
  • read a book together while sitting on a blanket outside or on the couch inside.
  • took an afternoon bath with bubbles and wrote with shaving cream on the walls (great for practicing letter formation).
  • took nature scavenger hunts. 
  • played hopscotch or jumped rope. 
  • created with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. 
  • painted the garage door with water and paint brushes. 
  • tossed bean bags. 
  • bought a basketball hoop and gathered children from the neighborhood to play. 
  • played wiffle ball in the dead end street.
  • created with watercolors.
  • encouraged outdoor adventures and independent studies. 
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When we had lots of littles with a few bigs who needed afternoon help, we:

  • sat on the floor in the hallway across from the bathroom so I could supervise littles in the tub while also helping an older sibling with math or editing papers.
  • spread a blanket under a shade tree for afternoon tutoring while the littles rode bikes around the driveway or played hide-n-seek. 
  • listened to audio books, our favorites being Jim Weiss recordings and Your Story Hour, again while mom worked with the bigs.
  • offered play dough, pattern blocks, old magazines to cut, or watercolor paints. 
  • enjoyed playing in the sandbox while mom and older siblings sat nearby and completed math or mom edited papers. 
  • used masking tape to create a "village roadway" on the carpet so littles could build houses and garages for their toy cars and play "village". 
  • made a masking tape hopscotch on the carpet for littles to be active when weather wouldn't permit us to be outside. 
  • asked bigs to go on a date and take learning to new surroundings. 
  • discussed the plot and characters of a current read while running errands or taking a sibling to practice. 
  • encouraged bigs to work on independent studies. 
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When we had a menagerie of ages, we: 

  • enjoyed front porch read-aloud time. 
  • created with Lite Brite.
  • went to visit great-grandma. 
  • sat together on the couch and read books of interest. Farm study was always a favorite. 
  • took a teen or young adult on a date to talk about things that mattered to them. 
  • used a coupon and bought five pounds of clay at a local craft store. 
  • spent time at a local park or community swimming pool. 
  • made brownies for the elderly neighbor and went to visit. 
  • built a fort outside. 
  • dug a hole in the backyard (not my favorite or my idea, but it was sibling generated and encouraged collaboration and working together). 
  • made impromptu afternoon library runs. 
  • created something yummy in the kitchen, often to "surprise" Dad when he returned from work. 
  • made cards for family member's birthdays.
  • enjoyed spin art. 
  • cared for our porch science projects
  • spent the afternoon creating with watercolor. 
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Go ahead! Beat the afternoon boredom. YOU can do it! It will be worth your time and effort. 

And, in the process, your children and young adults will learn valuable life skills: time management; collaboration; communication and conflict resolution; work ethic; teamwork; working independently; and caring about others ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

25 Intentional Moments with Your Teens and Young Adults

"Mom, can we go on a date?"

It starts when they are little, but it doesn't have to end there. 

Teens and young adults LOVE intentional moments with their parents, too. 

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A wise, older mom once encouraged me to foster a relationship with my children when they were young. I have to admit, it wasn't always easy to be excited to watch ants make a hill, walk around the lake hunting for tadpoles, or play Candyland for a second or third time as laundry hollered to be loaded and dinner shouted to be started. There were seasons of new babies and illnesses. 

But, I listened to my friend's her sage wisdom, what she had learned from her experiences.

The purpose, she said,

"If you want a relationship with your young adults, start when they are little and never stop!"

Twenty-seven years into this parenting thing, I can say I was intentional about putting my best foot forward to engage in my children's lives.

But, I will be honest. I wasn't always happy about setting aside my ideas or my activities. 

There were moments I complained. There were days I was tired, but persevered anyway. My children saw my intentions. 

What I learned from that older mom?

My efforts mattered--all of them, even the ones that were not picture perfect.

Fast forward. 

What do we do when children get older, when dates are more than playing a game (though some older children still enjoy games), stopping by the playground, or catching butterflies?

Or, what if life circumstances kept us from spending as much time with our children as we would have liked? Do we throw in the towel and assume a relationship with our teens can't be fostered? 

We start with where we are now--parent and child, parent and young adult.

No one outgrows the need for relationship and time spent on relationships is never wasted. 

So, where do we start (or continue) with our older children? 

Start with what they enjoy, what they like. 

With five very different teens, young adults, and adult children, the times we spend together varies.

Sometimes I initiate time together. Other times a child asks will ask to spend time together. Some of my ideas are really creative, others met a daily need, or accomplished a  task. Our favorite times include:

1. Sipping hot chocolate. Outside on the patio or sitting cross-legged on the couch, just the two (or three) of us.

2. Taking a walk. This is a favorite for one of my health and fitness-minded young adults. 

3. Going to the thrift store. Often there's a goal for our adventures at our local thrift store's half-price Wednesday. We most always arrive home feeling great about the time we spent together and the bargains we find.

4. Working out together. This is a HUGE stretch for me (no pun intended!) but makes my young adults chuckle. Yes, we've had some laughs at my expense! Laughter is part of relationship building.

5. Painting the bedroom. At some point in the teen years, most young adults desire to freshen up their room. Spending a weekend choosing a color and applying the new coat of freshness can make memories, for sure.

6. Designing a website. My entrepreneur asked if I'd help her figure out how to build a free site. A few days later, we were able to say, "I couldn't have done that without you!"

7. Going shopping. My children know shopping is not something I really enjoy. I like bargains, but I have other things I would rather do. And, with eight children, it seems someone always needs a new shirt, underwear, or a larger size sneakers!  And, often the request doesn't come at an ideal time. However, if one of my children needs something and asks me to go along, I'm there. In fact, one of my favorite mommy heart moments was when my adult child set up his first apartment and asked me to go with him to give my opinion on a couch. I was honored and accepted the invitation with a warm heart. I will never forget that day!

8. Eating a plateful of nachos. While my boys were playing high school baseball, they would often arrive home starving and needing to process the action of the game. It was often hard to keep my tired eyes open--and I rarely remembered the fine details of every inning--but those late evenings were more than worth the sleep I lost. I will admit these late night dates made maintaining weight a challenge. 

9. Reading a book. One of our young adults loved to read and then engage in conversation, pondering thoughts with someone else. Often Mike or I was that someone else. What an honor and a privilege! Perhaps your young adult might enjoy this type of time together. 

10.  Sharing an appetizer. Sharing an afternoon appetizer at a local restaurant may be just the change of scenery your young adult needs. Often restaurants offer afternoon specials to encourage patrons. Research the deals in your area. It may be just the renewal a relationship needs. 

11.  Solving a jigsaw puzzle. Though this hasn't been a terribly frequent choice, when we did engage in this challenge we were able to say, "We accomplished a task together."

12. Making greeting cards. From the very early years of our marriage there hasn't been a lot of extra cash in the budget for cards. Creating cards to make someone smile, has definitely been heart-warming. Making several to keep some on hand for needs that arise may be a great way to spend time with your creative. 

13. Visiting a museum. One of our young adults enjoyed visiting museums, especially art and history. Interestingly, I became quite interested in both art and history, neither of which were natural interests of mine. I love when the interests of one family member rub off on another. 

14. Volunteering together. When my high schoolers began to need community service hours, we were always looking for venues to serve. Though it would have been easier to drop off and go, when invited to stay, we accepted. As it turned out the experienced blessed several family members for several years. 

15. Enjoying free coffee. I have a young adult who is very frugal...and loves coffee. This has definitely been a favorite date, especially National Coffee Day rolls on September 29.

16. Using a coupon. In a large family where money can be tight, we have gotten creative and in the process have enjoyed great times together, frugally. Honestly, once they got the hang of it, my teens and young adults came up with amazingly great deals and ideas to send time together.

17. Riding bikes. Whether biking for the sake of staying fit or enjoying time outside, this has been a favorite in all stages of life. 

18. Doing a DYI project. If you have an innovator or a creative, this can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I have learned fun DIY ideas from my young adults. 

19. Enjoying nachos, AGAIN!  WHEW! The high school ball nights turned into freshman year of college--seemingly overnight! My oldest--then a college freshman--invited me to share his nachos, a little later in that season of life...at 1 AM. I said YES! And, I never regretted it. He continued to ask and I gained what I call the Mom Freshmen Fifteen!

20. Going BOGO. One of the favorite date requests for our youngers and olders is BOGO shakes at the local Steak N' Shake. The waitresses know us well!

21. Sharing a tradition. Some of our dates were a vehicle for generational sharing. Consider the traditions of your family and how you might share those with yet another generation--shopping for sibling Christmas presents, coffee with Grandma, attending Memorial Day veteran celebrations have been among our favs.

22. Learning a new skill. Learning is life-long. We parents can model this by inviting a young adult to learn a new skill alongside us or we can offer to help a young adult learn a new skill, perhaps one he or she has desired to learn for awhile. Together, my young adults and I have learned how to make lollipops, plant a garden, paint window shutters, and sew aprons. What new skills may await the relationship with your teen?

23. Opening a bank account. Sometimes life's seasons bring amazing date opportunities. Embracing these times, we have with our young adults matters. Often we grab an ice cream or coffee on the way home!

24. Cashing in on rewards. I wasn't a big coffee fan. However, when one of my young adults wanted to join a reward program so we could date and earn rewards, I was all in! And, we've both enjoyed the time together and the freebies!

25. Sharing life! Moments with your teens and young adults don't have to fancy or elaborate. The important point of cultivating a relationship with your children is being intentional about taking time to share life together. In doing so, the parent-child-young adult relationship is built and fostered.

Every. Moment. Matters. 

 

 

Winter Fun for FREE Plus Extras!

We all need mid-year boosts--teachers, parents, and learners! 

Celebrate Simple is all about encouraging and equipping parents and families; adding spring in your winter steps! 

We have created several winter-themed, inter-related learning resources for your family--all ages preschool to adult. The contents of each resource is related but nothing is duplicated. 

Our first FREE winter resource is FREE to subscribers! If you are a current subscriber, you will receive this resource in the next newsletter. If you haven't yet subscribed, please do! We would love for you to have this handy, practical winter-themed unit. The contents are related to all of our NEW winter items listed below. The content of Simple Winter Family Fun includes

  • conversation starters for family members of all ages,
  • winter-themed book lists for preschool through high school, 
  • practical ideas for family team building,
  • learning activities for Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (different from those included in Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes),
  • a four-year plan worksheet for families walking the home education high school journey, 
  • winter-related spelling words with fun spelling practice ideas, and
  • math practice for patterning, counting by fives, and solving word problems.

Our second FREE winter resource can be found in our FREE RESOURCES tab. Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes is a shorter math study similar to Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Parks and Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Nature. Click on FREE RESOURCES to download your copy!

Our third winter resource is intended to extend the learning in the above units.  The snowflake blank book and foam snowflakes are available in the store. The self-adhesive snowflakes can be use for sorting, counting, adding, and multiplication. When littles are finished sorting and counting, the snowflakes can be used to make a counting or addition book.

Finally, we are offering a winter special which includes all of the above resources AND a Magiscope! This sturdy, metal microscope has been a favorite in our home for twenty-two years and comes with a lifetime warranty! Our scope was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from his gandparents! 

Whether your winter will be spent outdoors making snow forts or indoors wishing it would snow, refresh the mid-year, winter blahs with some fun new ideas and resources. We would love for your family relationships to grow and for this to be your best winter EVER!

Remember, every moment matters when using what is intentional, real, and relational! 

Legacy: Learning Alongside

It's that time again. Time to paint the exterior of our house.

Who is the first person I consult, to find out what needs to happen first, then second, and so on?

My Dad is a carpenter genius.

He can fix anything! 

I remember when I came to this conclusion.

I was an elementary girl, a constant companion alongside my Dad in his wood shop. In that shop, he created from wood, sometimes the wood from trees near our home. He made dining room chairs, grandfather clocks, hutches, and my toy box!  


Our kitchen--the one in which I prepare meals for my family--was crafted in his mind and made with his hands. 


He is my Dad, but he is also a mentor. He is a mentor for me and for my children. We learn from his genius. 

He has helped us with many home projects--roofing, kitchen and bathroom demo and design, home add-ons.

But this time was different.

I am beginning to realize my time, our time with my Dad--the time from which I can soak in all he has to share--might be limited.

I want to soak in all the wisdom I can, and I want my children to have the same opportunity. 

So, last week began our house painting project. It was a PROJECT!


Simple paint and brushes, but a TON of work and perseverance. 


Pressure washing to finish, prep to fill cracks, trim work to be painted, shutters to be covered, and brushes to clean. But we did it as a family--grandpa, parents, and children! Together.

Each person quickly found they were better at one job than another. And, for some there were skills to learn. Some learned to trim paint, others practiced rolling. Some found joy cleaning brushes--I mean, playing in water!  I realized my children were learning alongside my Dad--a legacy--much like when I learned by his side in the wood shop, alongside him when we added-on to our house. I want my children to learn all they can from him. 

Indeed, every child--toddler to adult--learned something this week. Some heard and then imitated my Dad's positive attitude. Others learned how to hang a roller on the side of a paint can. Another observed how Pop angled the brush to paint the mortar joints. 


It was a PROJECT with lots of real learning, from a man who is leaving a legacy. 


As I painted, I wondered. 

What legacy I will leave with my children.

Will it be the books we read together? Will it be the cheesecakes we baked together? Will it be my positive comments and words of encouragement or the "be a blessing" I spoke as they left the house? Will it be something I couldn't have fathomed, something which has yet to take place? 

I don't know what legacy I will leave with my children. But I do know one thing. The time, effort, sacrifice--the intentionality of my days--will matter. I know so. I learned that from my Dad (and my mom, to be honest)! 

Parents, we will leave a legacy.

What will that legacy be? 

Likely, it will be something you and I did intentionally, with items which are real and personal, with moments which are relational in nature.  

Our moments matter, every one of them.

4 Ways to Keep Holidays Simple

Holidays are fast approaching. I can feel them coming at us full speed. In fact, parades, recitals, concerts, plays, cookie exchanges, and mom's night out are already on the calendar. Children are begging to start holiday baking and decorating. EEK! 

Perhaps you feel like I do as the holidays approach. 

How can the focus of the holidays remain in focus, not crowded by commercialism and comparison? How can days be simplified so relationships are strengthened, not strained? What if really boils down to for our family is,

How can be keep the holidays intentional, real, and relational? 

First. Discuss Priorities. Mike and I set time aside to talk about what the current year's priorities will be. The early years of our marriage found us considering how we would incorporate traditions from both sides of the family. The more recent years have been refreshing as we included children and young adults into the conversation. Their insights and what they felt was important or what they wanted to experience was often different than what Mike and I were considering. In the many seasons of our marriage and family life, the priorities changed slightly, often dependent on whether we welcomed a new baby (we had two December babies), tried to keep active toddlers out of the Christmas cookie dough and decorations, or whether family would travel into town. 

Second. Set Realistic Expectations on the Priorities. Our family has enjoyed making gifts and goodies to give to others. We have also enjoyed serving. However, we have had to consider the ages and stages of our children. If our goal was to bake cookies for the neighbors, I had to decide if I would rather them be a part of the baking--realizing there may be a flour blizzard--or if it might be better to bake while they took a nap. Years when we went to look at Christmas lights with toddlers who didn't particularly like the car, we chose displays closer to home.

Third. Don't Overload the Schedule. WOW! I learned this one the hard way! I am an extrovert who loves people and adventure. I had our family coming and going 24/7. Toddlers missed naps. Children bounced from too much hot chocolate and cookies. Over the years I learned it is better for us to do fewer things well and make great memories than filling every day and night with parties, musical events, and crafts. Children can't enjoy or remember the holidays if they are a whir and blur of hustle and bustle. And, children with tendencies toward sensory or anxiety challenges may crumble before their parents very eyes. It just isn't worth the chaos and stress of overloading the calendar. Lord willing, there will be more years to come.

Fourth. No Guilt Downsizing. There are definitely times in our twenty-seven years of parenting where we had to downsize the holiday and I constantly reminded myself it was okay. There was not harm done if we had to set up a table top tree instead of the eight foot monster. The table top tree kept the toddler out of the tree and I kept my sanity! Mike and I had to decide what was important for our family in any given year and then stand confident to ward off guilt.

It is important to remember, one mom's simple is not another mom's simple. And, simple may look different in different mothering seasons. Define priorities, set realistic goals and expectations, and don't overload the schedule. Do the holidays at your pace, considering life's circumstances and the needs around you. Read a few extra books. Look your children in the eyes, enjoy a conversation, and pull them close for a hug. 

Holidays, like every day, can be intentional, real, and relational. Those are the holidays my children remember, and I am pretty sure yours will, too!

 

Three Ways to Gather Up Courage

Courage. 

That is what it takes for moms to make it through the day--for me to make it through the day!

As I am working with one learner--working through six long division problems to cement the steps--I am also caring for another little who had a tooth extracted earlier in the morning. There are dishes in the sink (just a few but they are weighing on me), laundry in the washer and laundry waiting to be folded. Oh, and a toddler needs lunch and dinner is shouting to be started.

In the midst of all this, I receive a text from a dear friend.

"How is your courage today?" 

At that moment--the moment when hurting gums, forgotten math steps, lingering dishes, and piles of laundry were closing in on me (at least it felt that way)--I needed that text. My courage was fading. I know I'm not the only mom whose courage fades now and then. For some of us, courage fades several times a day depending on our circumstances.

Do you know what was so special to me about that text I received?

The text from my sweet friend reminded me I had courage within me.

Courage is within me. My friend knew it. That is why she asked how my courage was; not if I had courage today.  Her question reminded me I had courage. I just had to gather it and persevere through the day. 

Dear mom with many facets to your day, how is your courage today?

Seriously, I know you have courage. It is there--just like mine, even if we don't feel it at the moment.

So, how do we proceed? 

How do we gather up our courage to persevere through the day?

Know. You are in good company. That's right! Every mom struggles with courage at some point--if not daily--in their motherhood journey. We soothe sick children, battle laundry wars, and fight mind games with dinner preparation. You, mom, are not alone in your frustrations or your discouragement. How could you connect with friends--maybe an impromptu visit to the playground or walk around the block-- who could remind you that you are not alone?

Admit. Yep! Admit fear. Admit discouragement. This morning when I woke, I acknowledged my fears for the day: how my daughter would react to the anesthesia, how I would orchestrate the day amid her recovery needs. Having acknowledged my fears and concerns, I was better prepared for what might come. Hence, as I was driving to the dentist with my daughter, I was able to listen to her nervous chatter and endless questions. Later, when she needed pain meds and soft foods amid math, diaper changes, and dryer buzzing, I was prepared mentally. I admitted my fears and later my discouragements and was better able to deal with the details of my day. 

Know. Know the why. As moms, why do we do what we do? For me, when I know the why behind anything I do--cleaning, cooking, running errands, reading aloud to children, offering kind words to Mike--I'm motivated to complete the task at hand, even when I know it will be hard. Knowing my why makes a difference. For example, I took my daughter to the dentist today (and reviewed math over and over with another) because I care deeply about their physical and academic well-being. That care for their well-being allowed me to sit on the dentist chair and hold my daughter's hand (our dentist is awesome) and it allowed me to sit and redo math problems even when other things clamored for my attention.


As moms, we all face challenge, difficulty, and pain. Many of us have also faced danger.  


Knowing I am in the amazing company of other moms who experience the same things I do, admitting my fears, concerns, and discouragements, and knowing the why behind what I was doing was essential to staying afloat. 

Did my courage begin to fade today?

Yes. Yes, and I did get discouraged mid-stream when my daughter needed care, laundry was shouting at me, math needed re-doing, and dinner wasn't more than a thought. However, my friend's text message was the reminder that I indeed had the courage in me, I just needed to gather it up. 

How is your courage today? 

I KNOW you have it in YOU!

 

 

 

Dear Mom Who Worshipped in the Lobby

Dear Mom Who Worshiped in the Lobby This Week,

After spending many Sundays worshipping in lobbies with littles, you would think I could have a better attitude.

Well, today I forgot my years of wisdom and experience--the very things I would have told my younger momself when she came face-to-face with this morning. 

It all started with an escaping toddler who walked over three worshipers in our pew to get to the aisle. She had an escape plan, determined. 

I wasn't in the mood.

However, I followed my daugher because honestly, she had already disturbed three people and I didn't want to disrupt worship for anyone else. We scurried to the back sanctuary door as fast as her little feet could carry her. We eventually made it to the lobby.

I should clarify. 

I know where the nursery is located. 

However, for reasons which would make another blog post, toddler number eight spends Sunday morning with me. 

When we arrived in the lobby my daughter made a direct path to the checker game on the coffee table. At first she and I sorted checkers--light and dark colors. She smiled as she sorted and then placed each checker, one-by-one, in the provided draw string bag. I interacted with her while keeping an ear tuned to the worship audio feed. 

Ten minutes into our worship experience, my daughter calmly sorting, dumping, and stacking, I decided to step over to the coffee kiosk just arms length away. I selected a cup and filled it, leaving a half-inch for cream. All of a sudden, while moving my cup closer to the cream carton, I saw checkers flying through the air! Everywhere. In my haste to see where the checkers where landing, I tipped my cup and coffee flooded the coffee station. AND, at that very moment, with checkers still landing, my daughter decided to follow (read, run!) a small friend who had captured her attention. 

I retrieved my daughter and cleaned up the coffee. Together, she and I played checker hide-and-seek, looking in the nooks and crannys near the coffee table. As we searched, I counted checkers thinking surely I would have to make a quick trip to the local Target to buy another checkers set for the church. 

That's when my attitude slipped. 


"Why did I even come to church? I could've stayed home and cleaned my house!"


When calm returned to the situation, I thought about my mom friends--YOU--who spend Sunday mornings in church lobbies. If you are like me, you don't particularly like worshipping apart from your husband and family, yet for reasons likely unknown to others and unique to your family, you worship in the lobby.

Reflecting on my past experiences with lobby sitting and countless conversations with moms I've met while worshiping in the lobby, I pondered what I would tell my younger momself had I had an opportunity. I would tell Cheryl:

YOU are doing a great work. Mothering matters, but it may also be hard, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. You will turn bright shades of red when checkers fly and coffee spills. However, the time you spend mothering--every moment--will be worth the effort. Cheryl, your mothering matters not only today for your children but it also makes deposits for your future grandchildren. None of your mothering moments will be wasted, not even worshiping moments in church lobbies. 

The season is short. Cheryl, though life seems to stand still when your are in the middle of trial--when seams in socks cause tempers to flare and all the sippy cups are hiding somewhere in your house--you will someday be on the other side. Your children will be adults and you will have a different perspective. In fact Cheryl, that biter you are nurturing in the lobby today--the one you can't even fathom putting in the nursery--will indeed grow into an amazing, caring young adult who will love people well. Caring for people will be that adult child's life work! Someday you will reminisce on your seasons of lobby worship and realize those were special times, times which really did pass by quickly. 

Enjoy the one-on-one time. Cheryl, your toddlers will only climb in your lap for so long. Embrace the moments. Snuggle while listening to the sermon or read a board book. Those face-to-face moments--those heart moments--are precious. Don't wish them away!

Be prepared. Preparation will save your sanity. I know there will be mornings which will not go as planned. However, be intentional about preparing for times--including Sunday worship--when you may have to entertain a little unexpectedly. Consider filling the diaper bag the night before. Cheryl, some of the things I found helpful when I sat in the lobby were small snacks (quiet snacks, not crumbly), board books, a coloring book and crayons, and an educational card game. One of my children's favorites was Busy Bee, an old card game my grandmother gave us. 

Encourage another person. Cheryl, you are not alone! In fact, there might even be moms in the lobby with you. When there are, respect the moms who don't want to engage in conversation--they may be listening to the sermon--but also be open to engage and connect. There may be a mom sitting next to you sporting a coffee stained shirt and whose toddler has just tossed checkers around the lobby. That mom might need an encouraging smile, a warm hug, or a comforting complement. Camaraderie is important. 


Dear mom who worshipped in the lobby this week, YOU are not alone and your mothering moments matter. I was right there with you, yes in a different church, but I experienced the same thoughts and feelings.

One day you will be able to worship again with your family. In fact, someday when the young adult years are upon you, you may look down the pew filled with the friends your once-little-lobby-worshiper has invited to church.Three weeks ago, I had that experience.

My lobby moments mattered. YOURS will, too!

 

 

 

A Story, A Masterpiece

Caught between the unfolding events, we wonder what will happen next?

What will the next paragraph reveal?

What light does this paragraph cast on the next chapter?

Our lives are eloquently-written classics, penned by the Author. We sit on the edge of today's paragraph waiting to see how today's actions will unfold and impact the rest of our story. It is a masterpiece!

I don't know about you, but I constantly remind myself not to be eager and read ahead--like I longed to do when reading my favorite chapter book as a child--but to enjoy today's chapter; the sights, the sounds, to take them in and relish them.

As I focus on today's rising action, I might find myself frustrated, discouraged, wanting to put down the story and read no longer. Or, I might find myself seeking, praying, content, and full of gratitude. I believe this is how the Author intended me to read this masterpiece, this classic. I remind myself not skip ahead, impatiently reading what might spoil today's joy.

And then there are tomorrows. Oh, what about those tomorrows?

Tomorrow will reveal new events, new characters, new lessons in due time when the sun rises and mercies are new. Will we be content to enjoy today's amazing paragraph and not read ahead? 

I pray I will. How about you?

5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

Words are gifts.

Looking back over twenty-seven years of parenting eight children--toddler to adult--there are words I don't regret. Words spoken aptly. Words purposeful to the moment. Words to build up. Words carried through the day...and years. 

I don't regret

"Let's go to the park!" Let me out of here!  This was a common thought in my years with many littles. With a handful of bouncy children, I needed a break. Though I thought this many times a day, I don't regret staying the course and holding my tongue. In fact, replacing "let me out of here" with "let's go to the park" kept difficult moments positive with words that brought life. I don't regret, "Let's go to the park."

"Let's  _____ together!" Fill in the blank. Let's bake together. Let's do a puzzle together. Let's build Legos. Yes, there was flour in the grout. Yes, we were eventually missing pieces (they likely got swept up with the flour and ball field clay).  And, for those wondering, I didn't particularly like Legos. However, as our adult children have spread wings and flown from our home and as my elementary learners seem to grow by the minute, I don't regret accepting their invitation (or extending offers to them) to do our days together. Oh yes, I was tired--still am. But I couldn't have reaped the relationships I have with my children (including my adult children) without sowing "let's ____together" with wild abandon, even when soil was rocky or weeds popped out of no where--meaning I was tempted to give up and quit!

As children have become adults they continue to invite me into their lives: to shop (I am not a shopper but eagerly accept) or to coffee (I didn't enjoy coffee, but now have a coffee rewards card). There are many aspects of family life which could've contributed to our relationship--and likely did--however, I suspect the relationship began to soar with the open invitation to do life together.

Who doesn't appreciate an invitation? 

"Let's take a break." Littles only sit for so long. And, if I am honest, I can only sit for so long. Yesterday, in fact, I spent several hours at the kitchen table rotating learners with questions and explanations. To stay in the game, I had to take short breaks: freshen a glass of water, stretch my legs, step outside to get the mail.

Taking breaks develops work ethic. There's a body clock in all of us, the one that signals we are about to slide off track. I'm not suggesting children take a break every time they don't like something or begin to feel uncomfortable. Just the opposite. We've all had to work through those tendencies. But if we are honest, there is a point when we become unproductive and need a mind change, if only for a moment. Helping children not only understand what their personal time frame is and then helping them lengthen it (hear attention span-that's another post) is a valuable life skill.

In addition, helping children build a repertoire of positive, productive ways to take breaks is invaluable. 

I will never regret the short breaks we took: walking around the block, skipping to the neighbor's house and back, counting to 20 when frustrated, or standing up to stretch. As our children grew, breaks offered opportunities for intentionality, conversation, and life essentials.

"Your brothers and sisters will be your best friends." Fighting and bickering can get the best of a parent; it's had me often. In fact, hearing myself speak the words "your brothers and sisters will be your best friend" reminded me that my efforts could some day reap rewards. And, they did! I don't regret speaking these words. 

Today, our adult children are intentional about coming to visit younger siblings to play games or bake cookies; to pull littles close, smile into their eyes, to get on their level. These are moments a parent treasures, moments I once dreamed would happen. And they did!

"Let's read a book." Beginning in the young years, I purposed to make books an acceptable, inviting option. With fond memories of personal picture book favorites and daddy's calming read-aloud tone, I wanted to offer the gift of story to my children. Reading several books a day (not always in one sitting) laid a foundation of enjoyment, invitation, wonder. 

I've discovered another gift of story.

When tension rises or bodies grow weary, books offer a restful oasis.

As children matured and moved passed picture books, my comment became "let's read the next chapter". 

I have a multitude of opportunities--daily--to speak words aptly, to bring life. I am sure you do as well. Will you purpose with me to choose those words today? 

For, what we sow today we will reap tomorrow. 

Want to hear more? Cheryl and Mike have added the content of this blog to a NEW workshop for 2017. 

 

Life Lessons in the Laundry Room

The laundry room. Daily laundry loads.

Life reflections, unexpected.

That box. That one (yes, that assumes there are others) box in the laundry room, way up high atop the file cabinet (yes we still own one).

Last night I began the PROCESS of dejunking the laundry room, under the influence of my very organizational-minded daughter.

It started with that box.

I began digging, wrestling through papers and pictures. Tossed a few in the trash. Read entries from my college journal, the one I kept while dating Mike. Shared some of my thoughts with our children and then made a "keep" pile. I pulled out a binder of notes scrawled on napkins, scraps, and bulletins; a book someday. I added the binder to the "keep" pile. Another binder. This one dated in the 1990s full of notes from an encouragement column I wrote as a homeschool support group leader. I read over the columns, smiling at the names, remembering the faces and field trip moments. People I knew and walked the homeschooling journey with, twenty years ago.

Ah, my early years of home education with our oldest children five, seven, maybe ten years old. I purposed an environment of love, grace, enrichment; a place where intellect could be challenged and a love to learn modeled. I wanted learning to be digging deeper, studying the fascinating, fostering curiosity, but also master math facts and memorize the periodic table. I planned my days with the "goal" or "what I thought they would need" when they walked over our threshold.

I loved those days. Blossoming with potential, fresh with anticipation, hope and aspiration. I loved being a mom, being with my children, watching every light bulb light, pondering how their early passions—strategy, the outdoors, people, analytics — might be used in their future.

Forward to today.

The oldest are now adults, one graduated from college, earning an MBA, working full time and acting as CFO for a non-profit. The other, married, pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy. Each unique.

But here is the interesting part...at least to me, the lesson I reflect on.

The lesson which will impact the education of the ones still at home.

Though I envisioned young men walking across my threshold, educated a certain way, prepared for certain things, I would have never dreamed my young strategist would to teach business skills to people in Haiti. Had I known that, I would have prepared him a different way!

But wait! Prepared him a different way? He WAS prepared.

That is the lesson I learned.

Though we had our vision set on something totally different, God used our faithful prayers and provided EVERY opportunity my son needed today. His learning at home PREPARED him for where he is today. And, I am glad I really didn't know exactly what he would need, as my heroic attempts to PREPARE him would have pigeon-holed him, given him too narrow a perspective, limited to what I thought "he needed".

There is no way I would have ever fathomed him teaching business skills to business owners in Haiti.

And even if I did, how would I have taught those skills?

I look over my thoughts in those notebooks. All I thought I had to do. All I thought I knew, but really didn't understand. All the books I thought we had to read. All I purposed. All great things.

Now, I see differently.

What did he learn from his days in our home.

  • The ability to communicate with others and work with individuals very different than himself.
  • The ability to take risks, to visit places that might not be safe, for the sake of something bigger than he can understand.
  • The ability to solve a problem, a problem he didn't even know he would have.
  • The ability to pour his heart into something, not give up, and walk faithfully when the future is unknown.

That box.  The one stored in the deep, dark corners of a closet or the one atop tall piles in the laundry room. That box of lessons. 

I'm glad my daughter encouraged me to purge and organize.

In the process I was able to reflect on our years and look to the future, with new anticipation.

What opportunities will our children have ten years from now? I don't really know, and I am glad. That reflection causes me to use what we have and know today, to the best of our ability, with what is provided, and allow God to plant our feet to destination I cannot possibly know or understand.

Simple Words of Comfort

Tough times. We all have them, even our children. 

Hard things happen.

"I am in this with you."

Sitting at the learning table, a little struggles to read. 

Simple words offer comfort.

"I am in this with you."

Processing a relational hurt, a young adult lowers eyes, saddened. 

Simple words bring comfort.

"I am in this with you."

Writing spelling words that seem impossible to get right, a learner cries in frustration. 

Simple words give comfort.

"I am in this with you."

Motherhood brings long days and review lessons, unknown math facts and misread vocabulary. When those times come--and they will--both parent and child need reassuring words. Words of assurance, words of comfort. 

"I am in this with you."

Because you are and it makes all the difference. 

Who needs those words today? 

Delighted to Be a Speaker at FPEA 2016

I am thrilled to be back at FPEA again this year. New workshops. New insight. New stories and practical helps to equip and encourage at every stage of the home education journey, preschool through high school.

Come see me at my workshops! I'm walking the journey with YOU!

Friday 10:30am

7. Celebrate Simple! Intentional Home Education

The simple teaches the profound. Cheryl shares stories and offers insight from her 21 years of homeschooling eight children — the everyday teachable moments, the simple yet ingenious ideas, the interest-driven learning — the things her graduated and grown young adults say mattered most. Learning together, building family relationships, is priceless. It's simple and worthy of celebration!

Friday 3:55pm

68. Happy (High School Paper) Trails to You!

High school is not a one-size-fits-all experience. It is a time to refine the skills needed to polish a student's God-given gifts and talents. But what does that look like on paper? How do you tailor courses which will prepare your child for what God has planned for their future? Cheryl walks parents through answers to these questions.

Saturday 1:45pm

129. Celebrate Middle School: Fostering Ingenuity

Middle schoolers will surprise you! When they do, be ready to foster ingenuity, seize opportunities and think outside the box. The middle school years, ripe with potential to impact entrepreneurial ventures, employment or college/career paths, can also be conflicting for parents and children. In this workshop, Cheryl offers practical tips from experiences as a homeschool mom and a wife of a 27-year middle school educator.

Saturday 3:55pm

153. Teaching Precious Preschoolers and Little Learners

Young children have an insatiable curiosity to learn and a natural desire to work alongside people they love most. How do we utilize these innate qualities to maximize their learning potential at home? Drawing from 28 years of experience of teaching early learners, Cheryl challenges attendees to look beyond societal and educational pressures to the emotional and developmental needs of young children. 

No Goats for Us!

I am glad I didn't buy the goat!

Had I listened only to popular trends twenty-one years ago when I began homeschooling there'd be a goat in the back yard (or maybe several) and an AA in my son's back pocket when he graduated from home.

Neither would have been helpful to our family, and particularly for our son. 

There's wisdom in learning from the experiences of those who have walked the path. I've learned from many.  However, sometimes the experiences of others are not the best provisions or plans for us. Had I not taken the time to really ponder (insert prayerfully consider over a period of time) the goat purchase would have relegated my family to something short of best for them. 

Families are unique, as unique as the number and ages of siblings, as unique as the colorful array of personalities. Our growing family? No different; though some days I longed for it to be the same as another family, somewhere. It would have been easier to just do what they did.

Those first years of homeschooling taught me that if I wanted to be successful (whatever that was in any given year) I was going to have to do my homework, and love the family in front of me, not the family next door or the next state over. I needed to learn, but I also needed to find the goodness in what I had. I tried to

  • Connect with my husband and my children, daily. When this started slipping, others things slipped, too.
  • Attend local homeschool support group meetings--especially the panel format meetings where several moms shared their journeys--but prayerfully sift out the gold nuggets our family needed, not just take home what sounded good or ideal.
  • Made time for the state homeschool convention. It was big! My first several years, I took in small bites at a time as not to overwhelm my brain with could haves, should haves, if onlys.
  • Subscribe to a magazine for encouragement and continuing education.  From this resource (I like resources I can highlight and dog ear) I got ideas and perspectives from a wider and broader community of homeschooling families. I wasn't taking surveys, but I did want to get ideas of what worked for others. I could tweak for our learners.
  • Read widely--again for continuing education and personal renewal--but reminded myself that anyone, even those not fully versed in the subject, could write an article or blog post. I learned this early on when I began regularly reading a column specific to  homeschooling high school, only to discover the author was high schooling her oldest at the time she wrote the articles. Yes, she had wonderful insight and ideas, but I realized I wanted perspective from someone who could offer "been there done that" or "I would have done this differently" or "this worked for one, but not the other". 

I didn't do all of the above my first year! YOU don't have to, either.

As I reflect on our homeschooling years, more than two decades and several graduates later, I realize though I have experienced a wealth of opportunities and milestones, and gained nuggets of wisdom, I am still learning.  There are still learners in my home--more learners, more unique perspectives and needs--ripe with potential.

And, I do know this, looking back, pondering...

  • My son didn't need the goat. He didn't need the AA, either. He needed a mom who would allow him to study Chemistry for hours at a time, practice math problems over and over, and read books from a variety of interests all afternoon, if he wanted. This is what prepared him for college coursework: long stretches of study on the same subject.
  • My other son didn't need the goat, either (but dual enrollment and an AA was helpful). He needed a mom who would put aside pride (fear of what other homeschooling parents would think) and allow him to join Boy Scouts. His time in scouting offered opportunities to learn experientially from wildlife commissioners, ornithologists, biologists, contractors, and business professionals. Interacting with people of all ages and a variety of backgrounds prepared him for his career as a physical therapist. And, he gained valuable leadership skills as he climbed to Eagle.
  • My oldest daughter needed choices. Choices for how to learn. Choices in curriculum. Choices in course content. And, she didn't choose goat.

I know other families chose goat, and it served them well.  In some cases, very well. Ah, the beauty of home education and unique paths. Your child might need a goat. Then again, he or she may not. 

Glean from the experience of others, but don't be afraid to ponder and give second thought.

YOU have the wonderful opportunity to make choices for your family--goat (or other fascinating experience), the gift of time, undivided attention, personal tutoring, or a hand to hold along the way. The list is infinite because the needs of every family--and every member in that family--are different, not like any other family. 

Embrace the difference, the uniqueness. Time passes quickly. 

(I am just so glad our homeschooling hasn't--at least so far--involved goats!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mama Heart

Celebrating Simple.

What does a mama heart post have to do with celebrating simple to teach profound truths?

Mamas around the world walk with children and young adults through life-changing circumstances and decisions. Some mamas are more hands-on than off. Other mamas walk alongside, listening. In some situations mamas sit with head and hands pondering how to help. Often the only thing we mamas know to do is pray. Simple! 

Pray. Seems like a simple, pat answer especially when a child, young or adult is looking for an answer, hanging on the cusp of a pivotal time, a decision which changes everything. As mamas we want more, something concrete, something we can offer to cling to. At least I have. 

We, I and family members, have prayed for months, taken next steps toward something beyond our young adult's grasp, beyond our ability to "make it happen". The efforts, intentionally and action, were ours, but the answers were not. 

I wanted, as a mama, to make it happen. I couldn't. All I could do was a simple act. Pray. 

Today a phone call came.

The first indication that events are unfolding. We are seeing answers, our family, my young adult and I, the mama. And, my heart? It's full. 

Not because of something I controlled. I hadn't the power to make "it" happen. 

The only power I had was to pray. And, let God do the work. 

So, I am celebrating the simple today.

Simple prayers lifted daily. Profound truth reminded. 

Let God do His work.

And, us?

We do ours even if it seems way too simple.

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