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'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.
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.
We want to grow in our adventure with Jesus and move forward in our faith.
So how do we do that?
Here is something easy to remember that will help you move forward and not backward: Gaze & Graze, but don’t Glaze.
I talk to so many people who want to grow closer to Jesus. They feel like Jesus is so distant and they wonder how they can draw close.
I promise you that walking with Jesus isn’t complicated. After all, Jesus just walked up to people and said, “Follow Me!”
And they did!
So, if you are one of those people who want to move closer to Jesus and know Him, I encourage you to Gaze & Graze, but don’t Glaze.
This is what helps me to stay focused on Jesus and move forward in my walk with Christ.
What do I mean?
Let me explain.
Anna tucked a stray hair behind her ear while she balanced her baby on her hip. She stepped on some Legos as she made her way to the changing table. As she passed through the family room, she saw every toy they owned strewn across the floor. She sighed loudly. This was not what she signed up for.
Had she signed up? She sighed again. She had always dreamed of being a mom, having a happy home filled with delightful children in adorable outfits. She had never imagined the chaos, the screaming, the sleepless nights, the exhaustion.
As she dumped the diaper in the trash can and lifted the baby back on her hip, her son and daughter came running up to her.
"Look what I made you, Mommy!" Brandon jumped up and down, flinging a piece of computer paper at her.
"I made one, too!" Rachel grabbed her leg and planted a sticky kiss on her knee.
Minutes later, she was cuddled on the couch with her little lambs. They were explaining the beautiful pictures they had drawn for her.
It was a moment of stillness in the midst of a chaotic day. Anna felt her body relax. She held her children closer.
I love to walk alongside the ocean squishing sand in my toes and watching the waves move in and roll back. The white foam dances around my feet, but soon it slips away. I love the sound of the waves as they roll in. It's so peaceful and soothing--the rhythm of the ocean.
When we listen to music, we enjoy the rhythm and patterns without realizing it. We are pulled into the magic of a melody that takes us to a new place, only to come back and do it all again.
I love God's pattern of spring to summer to autumn to winter and back to spring again.
There is something soothing about rhythms and patterns. Devotions times in the morning, walks before dinner, folding the laundry on Tuesday afternoons. They bring order to a chaotic world.
As the unexpected and surprising continually interrupts our dreams and plans, rhythms and patterns bring us a sense of well-being and security. They remind us of the faithfulness of God.
We can create rhythms and patterns in our own lives.
Tommy, an only child, smiled politely at the mention of his 51 blue and 3 red ribbons from the State Fair. He confidently spoke a phrase in Latin (one of the seven languages he spoke fluently) which I did not understand. A homeschooling mother interrupted him and "yes," he replied, "I would be glad to tutor your sons in physics and calculus. Oh! No charge! I just want to serve your family."
A lump rose in my throat. If only I had just one child to focus on, to plan studies for, to buy curriculum for. Were my girls missing out because I keep having babies (preceded by difficult pregnancies)? Was it selfish for me to want a big family?
It’s true. There are things my children will miss out on due to our family size, annual income and my limited abilities. But I believe in God's sovereignty. "From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27). He chose to put my children in our home for a reason and Mike and I are the parents they need to become what God has called them to be.
Large families are a blessing! Children are a gift and a reward. In a large family, members can learn to serve, love, protect and sacrifice for one another. Every person in our family has different strengths and weaknesses that bless or build character in all the other members. Large families are fun! There is lots of laughter in our home. And there is always someone to play with. We are so thankful for our children, God's blessing!
Sometimes when my daughters are helping one another in the kitchen, I travel back in time. I remember being a little girl after a holiday meal in the kitchen with my aunts, Mom, and grandmother. Soon, there are tears rolling down my cheeks dripping on my smiling lips.
I remember those kitchen moments.
We all worked together putting away food, washing dishes, drying dishes, putting dishes away. All the while, there was chattering and laughter. Family funnies were told year after year. There were so many "Remember when..." and "Didn't you ...?" dialogues. There was silliness and seriousness rolled into one roar of female voices sharing their thoughts and feelings.
What made those times so special?
“Freedom!” William Wallace yells as endures torture in his quest to bring liberty to Scotland. I watch that scene from Braveheart and ask myself, “What is freedom worth?”
Why is freedom worth giving your life for?
And, of course: What is freedom anyway?
What does it mean to be free?
We often think of freedom as the absence of something: no slavery, no debt, no obligations, no responsibilities.
Instead, let's look at Freedom from another angle: "Freedom to..."
When the Founding Fathers spoke of inalienable rights, they were speaking of rights that God has given to men: the freedom to have our own opinions and talk about them, the freedom to worship, the freedom to protect ourselves, the freedom to pursue happiness.
If government refuses to acknowledge those rights, they will be sinning against the Lord. The Founding Fathers set up a government to protect the rights of human beings to make their own choices and face their own consequences.
As believers in Jesus, we have even greater freedoms.
The skies in my home state are gorgeous. Bright blue with cotton puffs leisurely moving across the sky. Sometimes, the sky even stays blue when it rains. If the sky does get dark to storm, it clears up when the rain ends and returns to brilliant blue.
I've always loved sunny skies, but when I gave my life to Jesus, I became fascinated with them. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't stop gazing upward, almost seeking a message of some sort.
One day I came across this verse while reading my Bible outside in the back yard: "Your loving kindness extends to the Heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies" (Psalm 36:5).
There was a message in the beautiful blue skies.