My husband and I raised and homeschooled three sons and a daughter in a four-bedroom 1400 square foot old ranch style house. Every member of my family are musicians and artists. We had a drum set, piano, guitars, flutes, easels, sketch pads, paints, and many more art supplies, in addition to everything else a homeschool family needs.
Four small bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a tiny kitchen, and a great room, as well as closets were all we had to work with. There was no garage or basement for storing lawn equipment, sports gear, tools, holiday decorations, out of season clothing, or whatever else people store in these places. There was no office, playroom, or homeschool room to separate students. We needed creative solutions.
Though we were blessed with plenty of storage spaces, there were no walk-in closets. The house was built in the early sixties with tiny closets and bathrooms. We did have boxes and totes. Each closet had two selves over the clothes rack, which we filled with totes. We lined the hallways with bookshelves and installed at least one in each bedroom. Bed frames were not just to keep the box springs off the floor. They made room for more storage. These were all good things.
Put Everything Somewhere
I learned a new cooking term recently, “mise en place.”
It’s pronounced meese on plos. It’s French and it translates as everything in its place.
Apparently in the restaurant world it refers to having all your ingredients and tools prepared and at the ready when you begin a dish.
It’s imperative in a busy restaurant kitchen to do this so things keep moving and guests get their orders promptly. It’s also very helpful in a home kitchen as well. It keeps us from starting a dish and finding out halfway through that we’re missing a critical ingredient.
Or that we loaned out that special tool we love to use in this dish.
Or that it takes much longer to prep a certain ingredient than you have time in the cooking process.
Any of these can ruin your dish.
Isn’t the same true about homeschooling?
I have a confession to make.
I love file folders.
They make a perfect place for all of my piles of paper mess. Oh, I know you have these piles, too. All of us homeschool moms look around our house and they are everywhere. There are piles of papers on the dining room table, piles of papers on your desk, piles of papers on that side table. It's not your fault. It's just something that happens to us poor homeschool moms.
That's where file folders come in.
File folders are neat and tidy. Plus they come in handy-dandy colors.
You can use one color for each child and mark "To Grade" on the front. In goes writing papers, books reviews, and math problems.
You can save papers in file folders Use the same color for the child you used before. Only this time, write on the cover "Writing Papers Grade 4" or whatever grade your son or daughter is in.
I also use these folders for little games I download online. Or worksheets. I'm able to browse through my file cabinet to find "rhyming worksheets, animals-babies worksheets, telling time worksheets, and multiplication worksheets.
Other homeschooling files in my file cabinet:
But, file folders also work well for managing my household and my life.
I have four lovely daughters. They are all grown now and love the Lord with all their hearts. That's not because I was a perfect mother because I made tons of mistakes. God was very gracious to cover my inadequacy with His grace.
However, I do want to share some of the things I purposed in my heart to do in raising my God's Girls. I think it will minister to you if you find yourself raising daughters.
Did you ever stop to think about why God created women?
Well, I do. I notice that men and women are different. Not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually, and socially.
Women reflect God's image in a unique way.
In some ways, all people reflect the image of God, but in a unique way, women were created to reflect God as Creator and Sustainer of Life. Just think about it. Our bodies are created to nourish a separate life right inside our bodies! When we give birth, we are able to sustain little babies with breast-milk right from our bodies! It's amazing! I mean, can a man have life grow right inside him or feed a baby from his body? What a privilege it is to be women!
However, I believe that the physical just represents who we are in the other areas. Emotionally and practically, we bring forth life wherever we go. We nurture our own children and everyone else around us! We add beauty and fragrance to the lives of those who know us!
The essence of femininity is to bring forth life and nurture the life of everyone around us.
The Gift of a Daughter
A daughter is a heritage, a reward.
What a blessing to have a baby girl!
I was so upset when China only allowed her citizens to have one child. If they got pregnant again, they had to kill the unborn baby. Another thing that broke my heart was that most Chinese couples only wanted sons. Do they not understand biology? I wondered.
Years later I read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. That book helped me to understand Chinese culture. You see, if a family got a girl, she grew up and left her household to go be part of her husband's and his father's household. So, the Chinese parents felt like they were just raising a daughter for a few years for another family.
I am so grateful it's not like that in our culture. Daughters are so good at valuing family ties into their old age. There is an old saying I learned as a girl: 'A son is a son til he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life.' Now, I'm not saying all sons abandon the family, but I am surrounded by daughters who are so kind and loyal to their parents and siblings. They inspire me!
All that to say this: When you give birth to or adopt a daughter, you are beginning a lifetime relationship. There is a lifetime of love ahead for you!
The most important thing I can do to get my school year off to a good start is to dedicate the coming school year to the Lord.
Seek His Kingdom First
Jesus promised that if I seek first His Kingdom, then everything I truly need will be added to me. No good thing will the Lord withhold from me!
We like to gather as a family and pray for the year ahead. That includes everyone. Dad, Mom, teens, and littles all pray.
This is not a Hallmark moment; it is a battle in the heavenly realms.
Philippians 4 reminds us that instead of worrying, we can present all our requests to God. He will not only answer, but guard our minds and hearts with His peace.
You see, Ephesians 6 reveals to us that prayer is a weapon of warfare for the Christian.
God answers prayer!
Dedicate the coming school year to the Lord, but don’t stop there. Include Jesus in every school day. Bring every problem to Him throughout the year, from difficulty memorizing multiplication tables to constant bickering between siblings.
Surrender to Succeed
I'm all for pedicures and bubble baths.
However, if you feel overwhelmed, drained, and at the end of your rope, a bubble bath and pedicure just won't cut it.
You need something more.
You need life imparted to you from the One who was there at Creation, gladly embraced the horrible crucifixion, and conquered death by rising from the dead. This is the same Lord who has pursued you and if you have surrendered to Him, has filled you with His Spirit.
Jesus loves us and offers life. So simple, yet so profound.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, you need life and joy from Jesus. And the Good News is that He longs to love you. He promises that if you are weary and burdened, you can surrender your burdens to Him and He will exchange them for His burdens. I
Isn't that exciting??????
Refreshment comes when we fix our eyes on Jesus and surrender to Him, allowing Him to fill us to overflowing with His grace. What I am going to share with you are some ways to position yourself to receive His grace and fix your eyes on Him.
As Moms, we, like all Christians around the world, are called to make disciples.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 [Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28: 18-20 NASB).
Jesus didn’t tell His followers to make converts, but to make disciples that would walk with Him and walk in His ways.
We are to GO. That is active, purposeful.
We are to BAPTIZE. We lead people to Christ and facilitate a born-again experience with God.
We TEACH. We don’t teach just a few things, we teach EVERYTHING Jesus has taught us.
The most important disciples we will ever make are our children.
So how do we impact their young lives for the glory of God?
Living the Christian life boils down to loving Jesus and letting Him love and serve others through us.
This is how Jesus made disciples.
First, Jesus loved His Father and loved the people around Him.
Second, Jesus loved His Father, loved the people around Him, and His disciples were with Him.
Third, the disciples loved the Lord, loved the people around them, and Jesus was with them.
Fourth, Jesus sent the disciples on trial runs to love the Lord and love the people around them.
Love Jesus Wholeheartedly
Flashback to the early 1990s! I was a young mom, interested in homeschooling, who noticed all of these amazing well-behaved children who respect their parents. I wanted children like that!
As time went on, our family thrived with homeschooling. However, my children squabbled with one another. They were not perfect. Sigh.
Comparing Ourselves to Other Families
Over the years, I met so many moms who did so many cool things. I discovered homeschooling children who could compose symphonies, translate Dickens into Latin, and win prizes at debates. My children didn’t want to stand in front of a crowd.
My kids are amazing, smart, funny, … and flawed. Face it. We are just an ordinary family who loves Jesus. And that’s okay. We don’t have to be The Incredibles with Super Powers.
To enjoy and appreciate my children for who they are, I had to ditch comparing them with other children. You see I don’t know what goes on behind the front door of the child who can recite Bible verses in Hebrew or the six-year old who can read Jane Austen, so I will never have the full picture.
I do know this. No family is perfect. Jesus was perfect, but even His family wasn’t.
When I stopped looking at other families and started zeroing in on my own children, I could appreciate their gifts and live with their flaws.
My oldest daughter was a reader and a nurturer. I gave her plenty of books and opportunities to love on her younger siblings and other little ones in church. She quietly served in the nursery and babysat.
Julianna was a strong leader so I provided opportunities for her to manage projects like getting us out the door for a field trip when she was younger and planning the details of our vacation when she got older.
I looked for their strengths and capitalized on them.
Cultivating their strengths became a major focal point for me after I read a business article that said that successful peoples put 70% of their time cultivating their strengths, 25% learning new things, and only 5% of their time overcoming weakness. Wow! I had been really focusing on overcoming all their weaknesses so they could be like the other homeschooled kids I saw around me or maybe like that ideal kids I saw in my mind.
Now, homeschoolers put a lot more time in learning that 25% so I didn’t use this as a formula, but it certainly got me thinking about cultivating strengths which built their confidence, rather than making them feel over and over like they didn’t measure up.
Our hero and heroine receive a treasure map. With great bravery, they set out to cross raging rivers, climb high mountains, slay fierce dragons, and keep their fellow adventurers committed to their noble task. Forsaking comfort, sleep, and disposable income, they live the adventure to seek the treasure of a lifetime.
Who are these heroes? Why you and your spouse, of course.
While you are battling a fire-breathing dragon after a sleepless night awake with a sick child, you can wonder if the treasure is worth it.
Our own adventure began in the late 1980s when home education was still thought of as quirky. We were unlikely treasure hunters with Mike in seminary, barely two nickels to rub together, living in student housing.
With our eyes on the prize, we plunged in. The creator of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write was a professor at Mike’s graduate school so I went to her workshop and purchased the kit. Copying, coloring, and laminating the letter pages, I made a border in our small dining area so that Katie Beth could see them while she ate her breakfast each morning, waiting for her to show interest in those letters.
Meanwhile, we read beautifully illustrated, well-written picture books by the ton, played at the playground, planted a garden, went strawberry picking, made jam, and explored the nearby woods all with baby Julianna in tow. We loved to sing in the car, talk to cows through the window, and make silly animal sounds while we did their peculiar walks.
“Maybe I should read, Mommy,” Katie-Beth urged as I struggled to keep my eyes awake. I was pregnant again and oh so very sleepy. Could I teach Katie-Beth to read and potty train Julianna with a brand new baby?
We faced other challenges like blending the letter sounds while we were learning to read. It just didn’t come quickly for any of my children. Patience was the answer to that dilemma.
We faced the raging river of teaching something I didn’t understand myself. After praying for an idea, I went to the children’s section of the library and checked out books on the topic. After some quick reading, I understood enough to confidently teach a third grader. That came up over and over, until I learned to relax and learn with my children. After all, learning is a grand adventure!
Love is all you need. Love is in the air. Love makes the world go 'round. Love hurts. Love is all I need. Until the twelfth of never, I'll still be loving you.
We hear songs about love our entire life. They shape how we define love. From the songs I've heard in my lifetime, I would have to say, "Love is intoxicating like a drug and when it fades away, life is no longer worth living."
I have also watched a million romantic comedies. From these, I must conclude, "When you really love someone, you fight a lot and misunderstand one another until that magical kiss. Then you live happily ever after.
Oh, I'm so glad that movies and songs are not the only thing that defined my definition of love.
I was blessed to be loved by two wonderful parents, to see a beautiful love between my grandmother and grandfather, and to experience God's love at church, and later personally when I became born again at age 16.
As I grew in the Lord, my definition of love began to change. I no longer believe the definitions I learned from pop songs and chick flicks.
As I studied the Bible, I discovered three Greek words (Eros, Philia, Agape) that are all translated love in the New Testament, yet their meanings are completely different. Let's explore the three loves talked about in the Word of God.
Some children love a tidy room and others...well...hmm. Let's teach children & teens to organize and clean their world in a fun way. Scheduling can be enjoyable, too.
When we organize, clean, or work on schedules, I try to stay lighthearted and make it fun. I always have a treat afterward like watching a movie or going to the park.
You see, these things are not my favorite things so how on earth would I expect it to be my children's favorite things, but they are part of life so I want to do them with a cheerful heart. My children will see things the way I do, so in training children, my attitude is the most important thing.
Also: how well my children clean their room or stay on schedule or organize their things has NOTHING to do with their value. I never want to belittle my children over these things, but I want to lead them from success to success to success.
In my family, there are messies. I won't name them in case you know them or meet them in person. Messies need more training, but they can learn to keep things mostly tidy. Free spirits can learn to stay on a loose schedule. Everyone can learn to clean.
Here are some blog posts and a podcast on organizing:
Smart Storage to Eliminate Clutter
Organizing Your Homeschool
It's a brand-new school year. You want everything to go perfectly.
Oh, and did I mention you have a brand-new baby. A precious bundle of joy that lights up your life. And keeps you awake all night. You are sore and your body is still recovering.
Is that you?
This school year can still be the best ever!
For the beginning of the school year, I recommend delaying the start or modifying it.
School can start a month late and go a month longer, or you can skip most breaks and still have it end on time.
If you have high school and middle school children, have them do the work they can do independently. Have them check in with you two or three times a day and just give you a quick summary of what they've completed.
For younger children, if you must school, focus only on reading and math. Have them read aloud to you and read on their own. If they can do math independently, let them do math and have an older sibling check it. Or dad can check it each night when he gets home.
Then, it's time for movies. So many educational movies and documentaries out there that would be fun to cuddle up and watch. We love the Drive Thru History videos, as well as Dave Barton's government sets. There are so many educational cartoons like Liberty Kids or Peanuts This is America. You can watch a few sessions each day for the first month.
My memories of teaching children to read always include me nursing a baby as I went over letter sounds or blending with them. I worried that I was somehow robbing my children.
Here's what the Lord showed me.
Jenny Rose stopped strumming his guitar and stepped forward to the microphone where she read a Scripture passage and gave a short word of encouragement.
"Some of us have had a rough week, we have been battered by the enemy, tossed around by his lies..." She ended by sharing her own personal experience of how Jesus had encouraged her. She started a worship song and everyone sang along.
I felt tears fill my eyes. My dream as I rocked and nursed my five babies was that they would each grow up to love Jesus and serve Him with a glad heart. Here was my Rosie, loving Jesus.
It is God's grace and mercy alone that all five of my adult children love Jesus. I'm so grateful, especially because I am a flawed Mommy. I wish I was perfect, but alas, no. I do love the Lord and have a living faith inside my heart that has grown stronger and stronger over the years.
It is not an example of perfection I have imparted to my children, it is a living faith in a jar of clay.
Can you relate? Do you love Jesus, but feel that you are so far from being a perfect example of what a "good" Christian should look like?
It's so fun to set a pretty table for a special family celebration or when guests come over.
Some moms set a pretty table every night. I'm more of a "special occasion or guest kind of gal."
Let's talk about the basics of setting a pretty table.
A pretty table starts with a tablecloth or place mats with place settings laid out attractively. A centerpiece adds the perfect festive touch.
Before you set the table, stop and think about the general feel you want to create. Is this casual or fancy? Are you serving a special food? Spaghetti can lend itself to an Italian them with lots of red and green. Are you celebrating a holiday, birthday or special occasion. The birthday girl's favorite colors and flowers or the birthday boy's favorite sports team can lend it self to to choosing style and colors.
Tablecloths & Place Settings
Have you ever bought a new pair of shoes because you are having a bad day?
Is this the best way to comfort our hearts?
Sometimes we spend money to reward ourselves for a job well done, but more often we spend money frivolously when we are struggling emotionally or just worn out from the cares of life.
Unfortunately, when we spend money we haven't budgeted for, it has to come from somewhere. It may postpone something we are saving for like a new house or family vacation. Or it may add to our growing debt. Then we deepen the frustration or sadness we are struggling with.
Hey, I get it. There's something that feels good about whipping out that credit card to purchase things you don't really need. But, like all quick fixes, the momentary delight soon vanishes.
I think we live in a battle zone. We face real pain, real discouragement. But those things are not our enemy--that's just the result of living in a fallen world.
The real enemies we face our satan and his demons who lie to our hearts and through the world we live in. We are bombarded with lies that buying something will help us feel happy. We spend our money on what is not bread--it will not feed our souls.
God has a different plan.