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Faith

Fall into Him This Season

 

As a former elementary school teacher, and now a homeschooling mom of two boys, I have always loved the idea of fall – cooler weather, pumpkin spice everything, a landscape dotted in lovely yellows, oranges, and reds………

 

But then, the reality of the season hits, and it’s a looooooong stretch of 5 day weeks – without any holiday breaks between Labor Day and Veteran’s Day. Now, I have heard rumors about some schools getting Columbus Day off – or even a short fall break – but in all the schools that I’ve worked, it’s just one long push from the beginning of September until mid November.

 

On top of this is the fact that (here in the states), fall is the beginning of the new school year. And while there’s always an excitement and energy for the beginning of the year, it also means that much of your time is spent not only on teaching your material, but also “training” your kiddos for the year.

 

So when there’s not a single break in sight, your to-do list seems to be growing by the minute, and your kiddos just can’t seem to remember what you told them two minutes ago, it can leave you feeling like you are constantly “living tired.” Have you been there?

 

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hit these seasons, I have a tendency to want to just dig my heels in, push through it, and assume that I will get to rest when the season has passed. After all, if I don’t do it, it’s just not going to get done – and that’s just not acceptable, right? (sarcasm intended).

 

However, I have learned there are two major problems with this approach.

 

#1 – When I “dig in,” I begin to focus on all of the things I need to do – the tasks, the calls, the chores, the errands, the paperwork, etc. I become so fixated on what I’ve got on my plate, I can become oblivious to anything else. And sadly, my gaze shifts from my Heavenly Father downward to the things of this world.

 

#2 – Even when this season passes, there are going to be new things that fill up your schedule. Just stop for a moment to think. Once we hit Veteran’s Day – yes, you get a day – but Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And then, the whirlwind of the holiday season is upon us. Most likely, even your Christmas break will be filled with a flurry of activities, commitments, and travel.

 

So, if digging in and pushing though is not a legitimate option, what can we do? Let’s consider an alternative. Rather than dig in and try to do it all in our own strength, let’s stop, and SOAK IN His presence.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

 

I have been weary. I have been burdened. I have yearned for rest. And His solution is simple: “Come to me, learn from me.”

 

So, may I encourage you to set aside the laundry, the papers, the cleaning, the lesson planning, and all of the other things you have on your plate, and simply rest in His Presence. Read His Word. Talk to the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

 

It doesn’t have to be long, but this time will fill you with a peace, a strength, a renewed purpose, and dare I say, even a joy to carry with you into this season. He knows all that is on your plate, He knows your heart, and He longs to meet with you.

 

Believe me, sister, the time spent with your Creator is not lost time, rather it is a precious time that we cannot afford to lose.

Faith

We’ve Decided to Start Homeschooling…..but What Do We Do Now?

If you’ve just decided to start homeschooling, congratulations! Making that decision and truly committing to it is the first step in your homeschooling journey. But now, you might be thinking, well, “I’ve made the decision, but I have absolutely no idea what to do next!”

Last month I shared a bit of our “journey to homeschool story,” and probably like you, this whole concept was completely foreign to me. I had been raised going to public schools and had spent the majority of my adult life (up to that point) teaching in a classroom. However, we truly felt this was something we had been called to do, so we just went for it. There were certainly some challenges and hiccups, but we just took everything one step at a time, and God was (and continues to be) so faithful on this journey.

Thankfully, we’ve learned quite a bit along a way, and I’m eager to share these tips with you so that the start of your homeschool journey will be as smooth as possible!

  1. Spend some time researching your legal requirements

As I shared last month, we have had the privilege of homeschooling through a school, so almost all of the legal components are taken care of for us. So, I recommend looking there first. Is there a public, private, or charter school in your area that offers a homeschool option?  If so, what does it offer? Does it align with your goals and purpose in homeschooling? What kind of support do they provide?

If homeschooling through a school is not an option – or it’s not a great fit for your family – don’t fret. There’s plenty of support available. I suggest visiting the Home School Legal Defense Association website. It offers a plethora of information regarding the legal requirements for home school in your state. While some states require a minimal amount of documentation, others are stricter. It’s important to know your legal requirement before you get started.

  1. Establish a Budget

Now, this was one area I had to learn from my mistakes! I didn’t establish a budget early on and ended up spending much more than I had planned on supplemental curriculum (the majority of our curriculum came from our school), materials, school supplies, “cool” educational gadgets, books, and more (some of which we hardly used!) You don’t want to repeat my mistake. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that homeschooling is an investment – and that includes the financial component. So, work with your spouse to set aside money for a budget that will allow you to purchase the supplies you need. Notice I said need – not want. Because if you’re anything like me, when you start browsing all those teacher supply and curriculum sites, your cart fills up fast! Having a budget really helps to keep your spending in check!

  1. Evaluate Your Child’s Interests and Learning Style – and Think About Your Own Teaching Style as Well

Before you decide on a curriculum, you will want to consider your child’s learning style and interests. Does he like a hands-on approach to learning? Does she respond best to visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning experiences? Can he focus on an activity for an extended amount of time, or does he need to incorporate lots of movement and activity into the learning process? Does she process information inwardly, or does she need to talk it through?

It’s also important to consider your teaching style. Even if you haven’t been formally trained as a teacher, consider what you want your day and your instruction to look like. Do you want a more structured, scheduled routine or do you prefer it to be more relaxed? Do you want to guide instruction or do you envision it being student led?

It’s important to consider both of these factors because if either party is completely miserable, it’s just not going to last long. Prior to homeschooling, I didn’t even realize there were different homeschool methods (traditional, classical, Montessori, unit-based, Charlotte Mason, project-based, unschooling, and eclectic to name a few). So, you may want to spend some time looking at the different methods and evaluating what might be a good fit for your family.

  1. Find a Community

After asking a number of homeschool families the top things they can’t image homeschool without, one of the top responses is almost always “other homeschooling families.” Friend, this is a huge task that you are starting – and it’s not an easy one at that – so you need people who understand what you’re facing, can offer encouragement or advice, or simply be someone you (and your kids) can share life with. So, try to establish connections with other homeschool families. Look into joining – or starting your own- co-op (look for more info on that next month). But get out there and find your community!

  1. Choose Your Curriculum

Once you’ve got some ideas about your child’s learning style, your teaching style, and the budget that you have to work with, it’s time to start investigating some different curriculum options. If you’re going through a school, start there and see what’s available. However, don’t feel like to have to do exactly what that school’s doing. There’s also an abundance of other resources available. A few places to start browsing could be: Sonlight, A Beka, Heart of Dakota, Time for Learning, Oak Meadow, My Father’s World, the Teachers Pay Teachers website…… the list truly goes on and on. Again, you want to choose materials that will be a great fit for your family, so don’t rush this decision. There’s also a reason I mentioned finding your community before settling on a curriculum – they are an incredible resource! Ask them to share what’s worked for them. What are the pros and cons of different programs that they’ve used? It’s likely that a large portion of your budget will be allotted to curriculum, so take your time with this one. Ask for samples, borrow guides from other families, and don’t be afraid to ask the publishing company questions.  You also don’t need to go out there and purchase huge amounts of expensive curriculum, especially when you are just starting and really figuring out what works for your family. Yes, you’ll need to purchase some, but there’s also lots of free materials available, so explore lots of options before making any final decisions.

  1. Map Out a Weekly Plan

Once you’ve selected your curriculum and have nailed down your weekly commitments (co-ops, classes, piano lessons, etc), I suggest mapping out a general idea for your week. Now, the beauty of homeschool is that there is flexibility; however, having a general idea of what your week and each day looks like will help ensure that you are meeting your legal requirements while also meeting the individual needs of your child. It’s also a time to determine when and how often you plan on teaching each subject. Do you plan on starting each day with Bible? Is it important to you to incorporate technology into your plans? Be sure to go back to your child’s learning style as you’re drafting this. If you know your kiddo needs plenty of breaks, build them in. Is your child an early riser? Maybe you want to start school earlier in the day and leave more free time in the afternoon. There’s not a right way to do this. And most likely, you will modify it as you get into the school year, but having a general idea, gives you an excellent starting point, especially if this is your first time. I also highly recommend building some “independent time” into your week. This could be quiet reading time, independent work time, or even independent play time for the younger ones. But this gives you a much needed opportunity to get some of your prepping and planning work done (or even a well deserved nap!)

  1. Get Started – and Give Yourself Grace

Like we tell our kids, “Just go out there and try it. You’ll never know, unless you try,” – the same goes for us. Eventually, you just have to start – even if you’re still filled with an infinite number of questions. Just start. Yes, you’ll need to make adjustments, tweak some things, maybe even try a completely new curriculum, but you won’t know what works best for your family until you try. So give yourself plenty of grace! One method of homeschooling not working for your family? Try a different approach! Kids feeling burnt out every week? Adjust your schedule or try an alternate curriculum. Remember, there’s not just one way to do this. Find the best fit for your family, and enjoy this precious time with your kiddos!

Are you starting to homeschool this year? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your questions  – and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

Ashley

 

Faith, Homeschool, Parenting, Teaching

I Never Thought I Would Homeschool…..and Look at Me Now!

 

Let me begin by saying I never thought I would homeschool. Never. I was brought up going to public schools. My husband went to public school. We both taught at public and private schools before having kids, and my husband currently teaches at a public school. And yet, here I am, about to begin our third year of homeschooling my two boys – and for the first time, both of them will officially be enrolled in school (T-K and 1st grade)!

So, how in the world did we arrive in the homeschooling world? Well, let me begin by saying, it was NOT because we thought the public school system was doing a poor job. It was NOT because I questioned the public school system.

So, I suppose to truly understand our reasoning, you have to understand a bit of our story.

My husband and I were both working at a private Christian school when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. And this was a BIG DEAL. You see, we had tried to get pregnant for over three years, had doctors tell us it just wouldn’t happen, and then we found ourselves staring at a positive pregnancy test – tears of joy streaming down our faces.

When our miracle baby was born, I took the 6 weeks maternity leave that was allotted, but soon after, had to return to the classroom. Financially, we just couldn’t swing living on the single income. Thankfully, the campus also had an infant through preschool center, so we actually had our little guy on campus with us. But every time I saw him, my heart just broke.

I absolutely hated having to get him up early every morning. I grimaced at the fact that for at least 8 hours of the day I was not with him. And because I wanted to devote as much time as humanly possible to him when I wasn’t in the classroom, I ended up feeling like I was failing at both jobs. Have you been there?

A Leap of Faith 

So, with a lot of prayer and a leap of faith, we decided that I would leave my full-time job in the classroom and become a stay at home mom. The Lord graciously provided a job for my husband in the public school system, which meant things would be tight financially, but we could make it.

Fast forward 4 years…… I was loving being a stay at home mom to our now two boys, and the daunting decision of schooling began to get very real.

And then, I learned about what I will call “the one-third factor.”

I was chatting with a friend, whose oldest son had recently turned 6, and she made the comment, “Well, one-third of the time that I will have him at home is over.” I think my mouth dropped to the floor. Yes, I knew basic math – that 6 was indeed one-third of 18, but reality hit. 6 years old seems so young, but when you view it as one-third of their time under your roof, it’s a game-changer!

These years had already flown by so incredibly fast, the thought of them being nearly one-third over made me really start to think. Yes, I knew I could still pour into their lives beyond the age of 18, but I knew I would not have nearly the influence I once had.

So, we started to think and pray, ask questions of homeschool families, and pray some more, talk to parents who had put their kids in public school, and prayed some more. And we kept coming back to two things: time and influence.

Over and over, the themes of time and influence kept coming back in our conversations. And they ultimately became the two primary reasons we decided to start homeschooling.

Time and Influence

This was a huge factor for me. These first few years with my kids had absolutely flown by – I really couldn’t believe we were even discussing school – and from what we had heard from other parents, it only sped up from there. So, being able to spend all day, every day with my kids, rather than sending them off to school for 8 hours a day, seemed incredible. And I knew that with time came influence.

Now, looking back over the past two years, this has truly been a gift. I know that I cannot and will not ever get these years back, and the sheer quantity of time spent in the every day activities (yes, even the mundane ones) with my boys is irreplaceable. Not only have I developed such a close relationship with my boys (I mean, when I leave for Bible study for an hour and a half, you would think I had been gone a month), but the bond between my boys has absolutely flourished. And I know it is because they pretty much get to spend all day, every day together.

Then, because of the amount of time I get to spend with my kids, I have a tremendous opportunity to be a powerful influence in their lives. And this, again, is not something you can just re-create. For us, we want to build a strong Biblical foundation in their lives. We want to develop Godly character, and being home with them each day gives me so many opportunities to do this. Whether it is discussing forgiveness when a toy is broken, modeling being a servant to our neighbors or choosing to show love and kindness when it’s not the easiest thing to do, being around them all the time affords me countless opportunities to pour into their lives in ways far beyond just academics.

When asked why we chose to homeschool, our short answer is, “We know that at some point, they will go to public school – maybe next year, maybe in three years, or perhaps further down the road. But when they do, we want to have equipped them enough – spiritually, academically, emotionally, and physically – that they are able to be more of an influence on others than being influenced by them.”

And the way that we are truly able to accomplish this (or at least work toward that goal), is having that extended amount of time with them and using that time to invest in their lives and character.

Are you on the fence about homeschooling? I’d love to talk to you more about it! Leave a message in the comments below!

Faith, Homeschool, Parenting