2014 word

A few years back I started coming up with a word to encapsulate the coming year. It is usually something I want to develop or a character trait I desire. See the past years here here and here.

This year was especially challenging. It wasn’t easy but the more I considered it one word came into focus. Then I received a book that sealed the deal for me. The word is

image courtesy crdotx

Concise and to the point. It invokes a couple of different images for me. One is that of, well, growing. Duh I know. I picture my little self maturing and bearing fruit. The other is that of a seed. It must die and be planted if it is to grow. I must die to myself a lot this coming year. I will be stretched and challenged beyond anything I have experienced to this point. And that takes some dying. Dying to grow.

I will be sharing more on this in upcoming posts. Please leave a comment on your word for the year if you have one, or on your thoughts regarding mine. I look forward to chatting!

Benefits of home education [for mom]

We often hear about how homeschooling is best for the student. Home education is also great for the mother-teacher as well. Here are just a few of the ways:

time with your children

In my opinion this can’t be oversold. Time with your children should be something you desire to find more of. This seems to be the reason many parents choose not to homeschool–they will have to be with their children all day. I have never understood that sentiment. If that’s the only reason you don’t try homeschooling then let me encourage you to rethink this idea.

you are always learning

Home educating parents are always in school themselves. Learning and exploring alongside your children is one of the greatest homeschool joys, I believe. You don’t have to know it all right now. Taking time to learn together is a wonderful way to bond as a family.

forging relationships

Meeting and praying with other parent-educators forms a strong bond. Finding like-minded parents and children is an important factor in the success of home educating families. It is really difficult to “go it alone,” and with the internet it’s now easier than ever to connect and create life-long friends.

building confidence

Home educating parents are constantly setting goals (and hopefully seeing them through). Looking back over a year, or a semester, is rewarding. You can see how far the homeschool students have come and where you need to go next. Accomplishments such as teaching a child to read are methodical milestones a parent can look back on with pride. This builds confidence that bleeds over into every area of life.

ensuring your desires for your children’s education are met

There is no competing worldview or opposing force vying for your child’s heart and mind. Also you are able to focus like a laser on what you think is important for them to learn. You can also be sure you deal with challenges and giftings as needed.

If you could write this list, what would you add?

Homeschool secret sauce

Ever had something so finger lickin’ good that you just had to have the recipe? So you work up the courage to ask and when you get it you realize you can’t duplicate it because there’s one ingredient you don’t have–secret sauce.

It’s a blend of spices and flavorings so potent, so tasty, so irresistible that you can’t help eating it until your tummy aches. Even then you want more. You liked it so much that just thinking about it makes your mouth water. When you get some you are already thinking about the next time you can get some. That’s some serious gastric goodness.

So have you ever met a homeschool family that left you feeling like that? They seem to really enjoy what they are doing. They are inspiring and you think they have something you want to duplicate. You leave wondering how on earth you can recreate what you are craving. Well, I’m about to give you the recipe to the secret sauce so you can create your own taste-tingling recipe at home and put your own twist on it. It’s not a mystery but it is important.

This secret sauce is the key to maintaining for the long haul, for keeping things hoppin’ and happenin’. Keep in mind this is generic secret sauce. Your own secret sauce may include devotions, prayer time or something else. That’s how you make it your own secret sauce. If you think things are stale, maybe a dash of special sauce is just what you need.

Homeschooling is a bit like nursing

Since I have started working again I have noticed there are a few correlations between what I do now and home educating.

  1. Individual attention. I have two patients and so I am able to concentrate only on them.
  2. Specialization. It takes a special skill set to work as an ICU RN. It also takes a special skill set to homeschool.
  3. Continuing education. You are always learning as a nurse and as a home educator. If you aren’t learning in either role then something’s wrong.
  4. Critical thinking. You must constantly evaluate test results and assessments, put clues together and think three steps ahead.
  5. Caring for the whole person. As a nurse I don’t just care for a person medically. I also care for their spiritual well-being and their soul as well. As a home educator the same is definitely true.
  6. The little things matter. What I do–or don’t do– can make a BIG difference. And little changes in my patient can mean big things down the road. Noticing subtle changes in your children can also make a big difference down the road.
  7. Caring for the vulnerable. It is my responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves. They are counting on me to know what to do and how to do it. I also have to teach them things they need to know until they are well enough to take care of themselves. I feel it is my responsibility to not just make sure they are still alive when I go home, but that they are well cared for, that I do all I can to make their lives better.
  8. You can’t do it alone. No man is an island. We aren’t created to be isolated.Teamwork is important, even within families. Don’t be a martyr or a victim. I need help turning, double checking and sometimes just reinforcing my gut feeling when dealing with patients. Home educators can’t be lone rangers. You cannot be everything your children need all by yourself.
  9. They aren’t with us very long. My patients move out of ICU ASAP. That’s a good thing and as long as they are in my unit I want to make sure they are well cared for. Our children aren’t with us long either. Before you know they seem to move from toddlerhood to high school!
  10. You have to love it. You’ll burn out. You won’t do a good job. Those whose care you are charged with will resent you. You can make silly mistakes because your heart isn’t in it.

They are both critically important roles, and both extremely rewarding as well. When done right, they make a difference in the lives of the individuals in our care.

What to do when you can’t

In case no one has noticed, I’ve been MIA around here. There are several reasons I want to share, hopefully to encourage some of you home educators. I hope my story isn’t too common, only because I don’t want anyone to go through what I did.

It all started more than three years ago. It began slowly and grew to take over my life. It became a giant obstacle that I couldn’t see around or get past. It was choking the very life out of me. It was, in a word, anxiety.

In the beginning it was just annoying but easy enough to manage. But like a cancer it grew and grew. It moved in, and brought with it depression. My days became an inky string of endless weeks. I struggled from hour to hour at times, trying to stay focused, trying not to panic. Many nights I paced the floor, my heart pounding out of my chest, trying to hang on until the crisis passed. I lost weight and looked ill. Many days I really felt like I might die and that was terrifying to me.

There were visits to the ER, to the doctor, to the counselor and [sometimes] to church. Just getting out of bed was a chore, and  trying to homeschool was completely overwhelming. I cried sobbed often. All of life seemed like a dark hole from which there was no hope of escape. No hope. None.

I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I had to put my children in school. The decision wasn’t hard because I think school is evil. It was hard because I thought I was a failure. I thought I was supposed to homeschool, so I was letting my family down because I couldn’t get myself together. I truly believe I was called to homeschool, so this wasn’t making sense to me.

I also had to get a job to pay for school, so that was a shock to my world as well. But it has been a good shock. I have met new people, gotten out of the house, done hard things and gotten a new perspective. And the money I make as a ICU RN is a nice addition to our household budget. The children have enjoyed school and I have also enjoyed delegating the educational responsibility for a while and simply wearing the hat of “mom.” I got a haircut and some new clothes because I actually felt like dressing up again. Hope has dawned on the inside, shining warm rays of joy in my heart. Thanks to God, counseling and medication I have finally returned to my “normal” and it is terrific.

This wasn’t a result of homeschooling per se, but of my response to it. I became obsessed with perfection, doing just the right thing to make sure my children “turned out right” and it was suffocating all of us. I was trying to be God, trying to ensure that if enough things were done right then they would be okay.

Looking back now, in a balanced state of mind, I would take my old self up in my arms and just hold her for a long time. I would give her a long rest and a cup of tea and nurture her. I would make sure her expectations were not too high and that she remembered to laugh and to shake off that nagging self-criticism. I would see that she had a real hobby and real life friends and time to breathe without guilt.

Will I homeschool again? I don’t know. I really hope so. Right now I am saying that I am on sabbatical for a year. I am praying about what God has for our family after that. But I am still sharing my thoughts here, encouraging home educators, offering my ideas on BPA and life and whatever else comes along. I hope you’ll continue on this life’s journey with me. I always enjoy another friend on this journey through life.

The weight of the world on tiny shoulders

As I watch my children growing up in this chaotic world, I am a little stunned about something. It seems that the adults have put all the “hope” for the future on the shoulders of people who don’t even shave yet. When I surf the kiddie cable channels I am amazed at the steady stream of so-called news and environmental propaganda aimed at children. The message is “you can save the world.” Um, isn’t that a lot of pressure to put on a child who probably doesn’t have all their permanent teeth yet?

Why not let children be children? With the availability of media today it is easy for a child to learn about with local murder statistics on a TV at a local restaurant, terrorism plots during talk radio news breaks or read about child molestation cases in the newspaper stand. I think where our children are concerned the children’s song is a great rule of thumb: “Oh be careful little eyes what you see…”

I do not encourage my children to “save the planet” or expose them to unfettered input of the latest worldwide catastrophes or other disasters. (Of course age does make a difference.) I do not keep my children from all news but I do filter what they know because it is my responsibility to keep them safe, and to me that includes emotional safety. I cannot in good conscience fill their heads with the myriad of troubles in today’s world. They do not have the perspective or the frame of reference to process the information they receive. They are egocentric by nature, so it is easy to make everything their fault or to distort their relationship to it.

Children shouldn’t have to look out for their parents; parents look out for the children. The Message 2 Cor. 12:14

As I Christian parent it is up to me to keep drawing my children to God, to nurture that special relationship. If I allow them to repeatedly dwell on the problems in the world their eyes are not on the solution, but the problem. They are not looking to God. They are only filled with anxiety and dismal foreboding.

13 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. 14 The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. 15 Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” 16 Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.               The Message Mark 10:13-16

We talk about our responsibility to the planet as God’s stewards and to our fellow man. We are filled with compassion kept in perspective by scripture and prayer. We, as parents, must be careful to keep our children from taking on too much pressure and responsibility before they are adults. Childhood is a time for wonder, for exploration and for learning, not for saving the world. There’s plenty of time for that when they are grown.

18 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.        The Message Deut. 11:18, 19

Gentle BPA

With all the trappings of Biblical Principle Approach–word studies, 4-Ring, notebooks, the Red Books, Rudiments, etc., you can easily get overwhelmed and frustrated. Your idea of home education is not caught up in books and all that research, but in being with your children, learning alongside them. There is a way to do both.

  • Ease into the whole BPA mindset. It takes time and effort to reformulate your ideas of American Christian education, to get a handle on the terminology and to reflect on what you are learning. Give yourself time. How much time? As much as it takes.
  • Take one subject and deal with that. Don’t take the whole homeschooling elephant in one bite. You’ll just pull something and you’ll still be hungry.
  • Don’t make everything formal. You can ease into word studies and literature studies without making a big announcement. It’s okay to just fold these things into your homeschooling day. Pull out the Bible and the 1828 dictionary and just ask a few questions. The children will do the work for you.
  • Lower your expectations. That seems counter-intuitive to BPA philosophy, at least at first blush. But we are home educators, not classroom Master Teachers. We [probably] teach multiple grades with many subjects and to expect to become a Master Teacher in every subject is asking for a breakdown. Just keep ahead of your students. Learn alongside them. Discover things together as you dig into the Word. It’s amazing how lowered expectations can set you free and actually produce better results in the long run.
  • Think of teaching deep, not broad. The principles expand through the grades, so you get deeper and deeper, as Ms. Dang says, going 20 years deep. It’s not a smattering of learning but more like digging a well. A well your children can draw from as they learn to teach themselves.
  • Take one principle per subject per day. No need to overwhelm baby birds with too much food. It will just fall to the ground. One idea to reflect on and discuss will lead to exciting results.

What challenges do you encounter with the Biblical Principle Approach? If you are new to this methodology, what questions do you have?

with joy

…if only I may finish my course with joy…

Acts 20:24 AMP (emphasis mine)

This is part of my life scripture. It is one that is dear to me and only recently I have seen it anew. There are three things in this lovely passage that I want to emphasize.

Finish

I am to finish, whatever that means for me. For some home educators it’s graduation. For others it’s somewhere along the way. No one can tell you where that is but God. You just want to make sure you are on His schedule, His timing. God’s into completing things. He’s not one to leave unfinished projects and neither should we, especially in the home education realm.

(my) Course

I have a specific path. Part of it is a mother, part a wife, part a sister, a daughter, a friend. My course happens to include home education. It’s in my DNA. He hard wired me for this and equipped me for it. He knew my faults and trusted I could do this anyway. With His guidance and tender mercies I can, but not in my own strength.

And I have to stick to my course, not another’s. It’s so easy to compare, to feel inadequate and to judge. We must take care to keep to the path God has planned for us. Our goal is not to finish someone else’s course, but our own.

Joy

This is the hard part (at least for me). We may not finish our course at all, but if we do, it’s too often through gritted teeth with a bad attitude. His yoke is easy; His burden is light. It’s not enough to just get through it. Lots of people can do that. It’s the fruit of joy that sets us apart, making our lives tantalizing to those around us. Even in the rough spots on our course we have fixed our eyes on the prize. No, not graduation or smart children or even strong Christians. Our prize is that heavenly reward, that “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” It’s the fellowship with Him as we move from day to day that renews us and brings us the joy we need to keep going.

There truly can be joy in the journey. We can be content in the now and see God working all through our busy days. We can finish our course with joy, which is all I aim to do.

What is your life scripture?

The weight of legacy

As home educators we feel a special kind of pressure that I don’t think parents of schooled children do. We are in a unique place because we are so personally invested in our children’s futures. We want to make sure that our children carry on after we are gone in an even more successful way. Their success or failure in life rests on our shoulders—or does it?

If you believe that your success is based on the success of your children, beware. That’s a lot of pressure for you both and it will lead to burnout, or at least frustration. It’s akin to stage moms and sports moms. They are nothing if their children aren’t successful. I found myself falling into this dangerous pattern. I put so much pressure on myself to make sure my children would be successful that I found myself totally empty and discouraged. I had bumped God right out off the throne and put myself there instead. Bad idea. I do not make a good God. I had to realize and give God His rightful place again.

As a Christian, I believe the success of my children ultimately rests with God. I can facilitate but He alone can bring the fruit.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. 1 Cor. 3:6 The Message

God makes things grow. In BPA we are all about planting seeds but we need to make sure that we stick to our job description. If we remember our place then we can shake off that weight of legacy and embrace the here and now, trusting God with the future.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.           Heb 12:1,2 KJV

He makes all things beautiful in His time

The author of Ecclesiastes makes this statement in chapter 3. There are seasons of life. Some overlap and some are consecutive. Some are short and some long. Some are busy and others not so much.

When my pastor was preaching on this passage a few weeks ago something resonated with me. God’s time is beautiful. His seasons for us are beautiful. If your life is messy and frustrating, maybe it’s time to check and see where God is in the middle of what you are doing.

When your actions are lined up with God’s will, it will be beautiful. He has a prefect plan and He’s working it perfectly. When we get on board with that, the results are lovely. They are something others can see and enjoy. And maybe even want to have in their own lives.

I would also go so far as to say that He can make things beautiful that we have royally messed up. He can give beauty for ashes. Our little heap of ashes can become something to treasure. I don’t at all mean that struggles mean that you are doing something wrong. Life is hard. And messy sometimes too. It’s just that God has this amazing way to making it lovely. And sometimes things can seem messy at the time because all we can see are the details. When you step back and look you can see that God was working all things together for your good.