What if the problem is you?

(From my blog today - I don't expect it to be popular but from where I am sitting, I needed to say it.)

Everyday about 100 times a day, one of our sisters in the homeschool trenches posts on some homeschool group I belong to (and there are a few) - essentially the same post about a bad day, a bad string of days or a pattern- with a kid or kids they are homeschooling. Kids THEY describe as lazy, sloppy, disobedient, kids who rush their work, take all day, don't try hard, cry, pout, get sent to their room, and generally make life miserable. The poster is always frustrated, disappointed, tired, even angry. They ask for advice.

And everyday on every post on these groups there are some 100 replies offered to the 100 different posts about essentially the same issue. They cover a range advice from "crack down and make them do it over" to "check their diet and use essential oils" to "look for learning issues" to the one people seem to almost ignore and reject flatly - "try unschooling". Everyone of these is good advice for the right kid. I wish I could just copy it and post it, like a checklist. Maybe I'll add that to the book!

I realize what I have to offer on this issue will probably go over like a lead balloon, because it isn't a catchy poster, a quick fix or magic bean, but what the heck.

When I see these messages, I rarely respond anymore. (Here is a little truth, the long term successful veterans RARELY respond because they know folks in the first few years often have to learn the hard way) But my first internal question is always the same: The problem is ALWAYS the child? Really? Is that statistically possible?

They are lazy, sloppy, disobedient kids who just want to get done, do not want to learn, have no pride in their work, rush to finish, and so forth, right? (not a ringing endorsement for homeschooling) AND it's their fault?

I always think to myself... I don't know maybe your kid is sloppy, lazy, disobedient, and doesn't care about learning and doing a good job? But that seems like a parenting issue to me.

My second internal question is: If what you have done to this point has created a lazy, sloppy, disobedient child who doesn't want to learn and doesn't trust you to lead them in learning, then why aren't YOU at least part of the problem?

Which brings me to the meat of this particular blog post.

Relationships. It takes two to Tango. Right? You are in a relationship with your child, and as homeschoolers, it's now a 24/7 complex one. So when it's not working, why assume it's all the child's fault? Why doesn't the possibility exist that YOU are doing it wrong for this child? Is it just possible, just by the narrowest of possibilities that you have listened to the wrong people about how to do this?

Is it possible you thought the de-school thing was going to magically happen but you had no clue what it actually meant?

Could it be you put buying curriculum and creating a cool classroom (the fun stuff) before understanding how your specific child learns and exploring all the methods of learning like the Mason, Montessori, Well Trained Mind methods to name only a few?

Could it be, that your relationship with your child, children, and/or spouse needs to be put on project status and repaired before adding full time education to the fire and then having unrealistic expectations of your children to perform in an environment not properly created for their success?

Could it possibly be that listening to hundreds and hundreds of opinions online all day is only drowning you and that you are really just looking for the answers and responses to reinforce what you already think?

Look, I am a realist. I say do what works. If you and your kids are taking all day to do school, if it's not peaceful, enjoyable, interactive and if your kids don't trust you - I would say that's not working. So maybe at least consider changing courses? Hearing ideas that challenge your thinking?

I won't tell you exactly what WILL work for your kids. I can give you suggestions but if you are bent on doing it a certain way, have at it. As my Gram says, no skin off my nose. And it's really not. I have just one left to homeschool, and life is pretty good here. Not perfect, not without difficult days, but on a scale of 1-10, it's a 10.

My relaxed approach, a Charlotte Mason-ey, child led approach which from time to time borders on unschooling (gasp!) has made my 17 year journey, the single best part of my life. I have loved every minute of it, and while it's been work, once I shifted my thinking, learned about learning, assessed my kids and changed gears 3 yrs. into it, (now 14 yrs. ago) it was smooth sailing.

My two adult children were homeschooled and graduated, they are educated, college grads, successful and above all they love and know God, have a close personal relationship with their siblings and my husband and I. Maybe it won't work the way I do it. I have no need to force my life on anyone. I am offering you nothing more than a glimpse into my life and ideas.

But when I see so many of my sisters fighting and losing the same battles, I feel duty bound as someone who has done this many years and knows literally thousands of homeschoolers in the 5 states we resided to tell you this. When it feels in your gut that it's not working or doesn't feel right - 1) examine the relationships 2)examine the teaching method 3)examine your child's learning style. Be open to accept that you might be wrong.

peace out sisters!

Ever have days when...

Ever have days when...

You wake up and your stomach just feels bad?

You feel cranky for no particular reason?

You had a bad dream and it seems to put your whole morning off?

You have a headache?

You wish you could just call out, and go back to bed?

The people you love the most only see your mistakes?

You just don't feel hungry?

You worry you aren't smart enough?

The people you love are fighting and disrespecting each other?

It's all just too much?

You wish you had your own place?

You feel so unappreciated, no one sees how hard you try?

Yes? You feel all these things from time to time.

So do your children.

Moms, read that list for me one more time. Children are little people and they have all the same challenges you face. You deserve some slack right? As do they.

Theme Days at Home

Themed Days are SO much fun at home.
~Chocolate Milk Day
(pre-made gallon chocolate milk is not a regular purchase for us, so when I buy it and let them drink their fill it's an occasion!)
~Crazy Hats and Socks
~Suessical Day
~Capes & heroes (we own many capes)
~Speak in British Accent all Day (this should be everyday)
~Rhymalicious (speak in rhyme)
~Sing Song (sing questions)
~ Shark Bait (pillows, cushions on the floor and if you touch the floor you are Shark Bait)
~Talent Show! (a talent show is performed after dinner)
~Thankful Thursdays (practicing super thankfulness for everything)
~Dainty Manners (having all the meals be on pretty dishes, with special glasses and our best manners
~Disney Day (music from your favorites)
~PJ's only (if that's not your hs uniform!)
~Tickle Breaks (mom randomly stops and administers a Tickle Break)
~Random Acts of Kindness (we have gone to Aldi's and helped unload groceries and walked carts back for folks with Mgr Permission, we have handed out water bottles on the bike trail on super hot days, we love to leave candy canes with notes on car doors at Christmas, we make cookies and take them to the police, fire and ER fairly regularly, and we make a point to visit with the elderly in our neighborhood as a few examples)
~$10 Day how can we serve others best with just $10 today? (Making meal for a family in crisis? Getting the best bang for our bucks and delivering food to the food pantry? Getting coloring books, crayons and lollipops and spending an afternoon at the nursing home?
~Mixed up Mondays - pasta for breakfast, breakfast for dinner, dinner for lunch
~Special days to kick off events, like scouts, soccer, a favorite movie premiering on dvd, etc
Moreover, I believe life is to be lived out loud and to it's fullest. These are just a few ways we've enjoyed our "at home" life over the years.
What kind of fun themed days do you do?

Homeschooling and Husbands

Once Upon a Time about 11 years ago...
My children were 13, 8, and 3. I had been homeschooling 6 years at that point, and I operated a licensed home childcare on the USAF base where we lived in Wichita Falls, Texas with a 1 year old all day and 3 (4 total) before and after school kids.
My husband had breakfast, lunch and dinner with us each day, since we lived on base. He was home one day for lunch and I was just doing my thing.
There was a moment he stopped me in the kitchen, he held my face in his hands and he said, "You are the most amazing woman in the whole world."
He is the perfect picture of support to me in everything I do. He is my biggest fan, my everything. He kissed me and went on to tell me how in the one hour he'd been there with us he had heard me answer a hundred questions, respond a thousand times to the name, "Mom", juggle homeschooling the two older ones, loving on our toddler and the one I watched and adored. I had made his lunch, and was tidying up the kitchen. He said that day, and many, many days since, that there is no way in the world he could do what I do. (I don't argue that point 
I share that story because it is life giving water to me. My husband's support is Christ's hands and feet to me. He ministers Christ's love to me and it is only through Him, that I can do even small things.
As I read messages here, and see how many of our sisters have husbands that are less than supportive, or even hostile toward homeschooling, my heart truly aches. I could never have done this without him. He prays for me without ceasing, all day. He encourages me and nourishes my soul, he calls and texts. He engages when he gets home and has grown in this more every year. He fills my empty tank so I can run the race. It's my personal belief that homeschooling, must be a decision made jointly and enthusiastically by a couple.
Homeschooling thrown into a marriage in distress can often pose a seismic shift in the marriage. 
My point is only that adding homeschool to a troubled marriage is not always wise. Going it alone, when you are married, can have serious consequences.
Homeschooling is a way of life for a family. It is not a method of educating. Homeschooling so intimately impacts the husband, he cannot be overlooked. His feelings matter. His wants and needs matter. They should matter most to his Bride.
Women who homeschool have infinitely more draws on the energy, their time and their emotions. It is a constant balance to be a good wife first, before being a homeschooling mom. If you are at odds, your tank will be perpetually empty.
As women, we are passionate, particularly about our kids, our faith, and what we feel called to do. But IF we believe in biblical marriage, traditional roles, and headship, then we cannot wash over any reservations our husbands offer. We cannot push past them, over them or around them. I know it is hard. I have many dear friends who live life this way, and it is a constant struggle. 15 years in and they are in separate beds. Living very separate lives. I caution new homeschoolers, do not allow your entire identity to become "homeschool mom".
My only offering, before homeschooling, make sure your marriage is properly ordered, well balanced, operating in unity and embarking on the journey together. Homeschooling, as fiercely passionate about it as I am, can never, ever come before our marriages. Not ever.

If you begin a trip by air and mis-chart your course by even the smallest, tiniest, percentage you will not land where you need to be for the next leg of your journey.

Cube Bot by William

I haven't shared any of his amazing work lately so thought I'd show you this one! 
This kid is so talented :)

It's time for the annual Halloween Debate!

I bumped old Halloween posts from years past to save myself having to say, "If you are dressing up, and having a party on or around Halloween then you are celebrating Halloween, regardless of whether you call it that or not."

What I want to talk about is people who hand out tracts, or put signs or their doors about Jesus.

First, let me get this out of the way, if you hand out a Jesus Loves You tract, or a prayer, or something and ALSO give candy - you are the bomb! Excellent.

But if you spend your night disappointing your neighbors and making them feel like they aren't Christian enough, they are the wrong brand of Christian, or telling them they are participating in some demonic festival (which only shows your ignorance) then you are giving the rest of us a really bad name.

First if you hand out those things, be sure you go around and pick them up from your neighbors yards the next morning.

Second, if you do this, you are SO participating in Halloween. It's why there are tricks and treats. You are just handing out tricks. Like, HA! thought you were getting candy but no, I'm going to beat you over the head with my Bible instead. That is a trick friend ;)

Last, if you do this, allow me tell you how offensive it is to those of us enjoying a state and locally recognized holiday sanctioned by our towns. You are no different than that crazy street preacher we met at the Alamo one year beating his brand of Jesus over other people's heads. Here is what I know when I encounter him, and when I walk up to your house on a wonderful evening with my little kid dressed like Buzz Lightyear. My little Buzz Lightyear probably knows Jesus better than you, I know he knows his Bible more than you, he absolutely knows his Christian history more than you, and he knows how to win hearts and minds to Jesus better than you probably ever will.

If you don't like it, if you think it's demonic, and evil then just turn off your porch light. Don't go celebrate the same thing somewhere else, call it Fall Party, and think yourself a better Christian than the heathens walking in your neighborhood. That is hypocritical. Don't hand out your ABC's to salvation and all. Just leave us alone, we'll pray for you, and you can pray for us. Deal?

Here and gone before you know it

I truly love October - Start to finish. Who doesn't? My mom. She starts complaining the moment it drops below 80 degrees and she won't hush till April. She complains when it's hot too, but she really complains when it's cold.

I love every moment of October. I love when the leaves begin to change, fall and crackle under my feet on the bike trail. I love mid-October when every patch of trees on the interstate is a work of art - magnificent colors blended into a symphony for the eyes to behold. It makes every little errand a delight.

I love bonfires, hayrides, the smell of burning leaves, and opening the windows to air out the whole house for the chill of winter sets in. I love pulling out the sweaters and putting up the shorts.

Pumpkin everything from coffees to milkshakes - breads, and scones.


I love Halloween. I love costumes and make believe. I love making or helping make all the costumes for the family. We've been the Incredibles, we've been Toy Story, we've been the Munsters - we love it. I can't imagine how sad it would be for my children to miss out on the same memories of dressing and going house to house, "twick or tweat?"when they were little. They love it still. The older ones hand out candy - Corey scares the kids old enough to handle it by laying in the shrubs as a werewolf. Taylor loves seeing all their little costumes and telling them are SO cute!

It's the one time a year we get to meet our neighbors at the sidewalk, chatting while the kids run to the door. You see how the kids have grown and it's just plain fun.

We haven't decorated the house much in recent years because Steve has usually been gone most the month. Not next year :) We love picking pumpkins, carving, decorating, baking, making the costumes, last minute adjustments, the kids chomping at the bit to take off and waiting for the first kid to come so we know we can start. We love the excitement when they get really good treats. We commiserate with them when they get those nasty black and orange candies, or smarties and jaw breakers which no one ever eats.

We come home share stories, settle in for some comfort food, The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Hot Cider and Hot Chocolate. The kids get bath towels and they each spread their take out on the floor. We inspect and then the swapping begins - oh and the pity candy the kids give me and dad.

We have done entire unit studies on the subject of Halloween. Historical perspectives, religious perspectives, and on and on. This is a piece of the American experience. I don't care if some people go to far on the left and I don't care for lame Halloween "alternatives" on the right. I am determined to claim this piece of the childhood for them.  I will not relent. We enjoy Halloween, we eat candy, we dress up. Nor will I relent on Santa Claus, birthday parties in the backyard with momma-made cakes, every family needs a pet, kids do chores, father knows best, and a girl can wear pearls every day.

I am soaking up the last few glorious days of this month. Oh October, I will miss you. Until next year...

Halloweener or Halloweenie?

If something is an alternative, wouldn't it be different than the original choice?

Walk or ride. Sit or stand. Beef or chicken.

I revisit the Halloween alternative idea because it occurred to me - what most people call a Halloween alternative isn't an alternative at all.

It's a Halloween Party.

Call it a fall festival, call it a family fun night, call it whatever you want. It is what is and it's not, what it is not. I can understand completely abstaining from an evening of costumes and candy if you have a religious opposition. But if it's all the same stuff, on the same night, why isn't it a Halloween Party? If you have costumes, candy, a party and it's on or around the 31st of October... it's a Halloween Party. I can't figure out what about calling it an alternative to a Halloween Party is comforting? A Halloween Party is an alternative to trick or treating. (I'm thinking assistant regional manager, assistant TO the regional manager here - makes Dwight feel better)

To insist on calling it something else seems not much different to me than folks on the other end of the spectrum calling a Christmas Tree a "Holiday" Tree to be more politically correct.

Oh well, this minor revelation brings to an exciting conclusion my annual discussion over this issue - even if after all these years the discussion is reduced to the voices in my own head. Pretty much there are Halloweeners and Halloweenies - everybody knows who they are and it's all okay by me. It's a peculiarity I do not get. Don't need to get it. I'm just sayin'. If you "do" Halloween, no excuses ya just do it. You are a Halloweener if you do Halloween exactly the same but instead of your house , your friends, your family's, you do it at your church on Halloween Night you are a Halloweenie.

whew! You cannot know how glad I am to have this settled.

As I wink and nod to the holiday tree crowd so to I can wink to next year to the Halloweenies - "we are dressing up and eating candy and decorating pumpkins and lots of things are decorated in orange, and we are having a party on Halloween Night but not calling it a Halloween Party" people.

pat-pat, sure it's not a Halloween Party.

OH, and for the record we got a trick and a treat this year - some little Halloweenie STOLE William's bike.

See now those kids should've spent more time in church!

Now, let's talk turkey... or do you have an alternative like just a turkey breast?

:) All in good fun,

Trick or Treat?

So we "do" Halloween. We thoroughly enjoy it. For your frightful enjoyment...

Me, as Heath Ledger's Joker (Dark Knight Returns - Good movie!).

Steve, my favorite minion.

Taylor as a ghost, or just making fun of "emo" teens.

Corey, as skeleton (in boots!)

and last but not least, the only kid in the family by virute of his age, William as Ben Grimm, THE THING! (from Fantastic Four - comics, movies - watch 'em).

Say what you will but this family makes Halloween a theatrical event. A traveling event we take to the streets to collect candy, but still. We love getting into character. Playing off one another, scarying kids out looking for a little fright night, and then easing the fears of tinkerbells and princesses as we take off the masks and show them we are just being silly. The house was decked with fog machine, strob lights, sounds, and screams and the candy passed out by ol'e bonesy.

We wanted to stop at any house with an Obama sign and simply take ALL their candy. Tell them we saw some kids who needed it more and we were just gonna redistribute the wealth. Not to worry, it's better when we spread it around, right?

William was mistakenly called the Hulk one too many times.

Great times, I can't wait to write about All Saint's Day. Actually the sun comes up sooooon. It's 3:30 - too many meds now.

Yep, time to stop...