Shaping your Child’s Story

dsc_7775-edit

Each child has been created and formed with the fingerprints of God. As parents, our job is to look at our children through the lens of grace, paying special attention to the unique Imago Dei stamped onto their hearts. Stories shape us from the very beginning; we were all born with the Redemption Story imprinted into our souls. The stories we read in our homes spark unseen flames within the minds of our children. Reading hero stories leads them into creative worlds where their imaginations sprout wings and soar above the heights.

One of my homeschooling goals is to launch my boys into unseen realms of imagination and creativity — be it crafting Lego worlds, making endless art projects with copious amounts of glitter glue, or writing their own stories. I welcome boredom and use it as a catalyst in our home to bring my sons to adventure into the wilderness of learning.

Early on, I realized Asher, my oldest son, simply bubbles over with stories. He spends endless time in the backyard wondering and musing and imagining. So, I bought him a journal. He takes that journal into nature and writes whatever is on his heart. My youngest son, Keane, comes alive with artistic creativity; Monet’s art held his five-year-old attention in ways that blew my mind. So, I bought him an arsenal of art supplies. He’ll grab his art boxes, spread them out on the floor, and create for hours at a time.

When Asher began crafting elaborate imaginative stories, I told him to write them in his journal. The “problem” was that his imagination and vocabulary exceeded his young writing ability. The solution? I set him up with a microphone and an iPad in a quiet room, and had him dictate his story as a video. Clipping that microphone to his little shirt made him feel so important! He recorded six chapters with eagerness and excitement, and then proudly brought me the iPad. I took his recording, typed it up, printed it out, and helped him create his first book. If that’s all we did, that would have been enough! He proudly showed off his book to all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

But, I decided to go further. I reached out to one of my cousins who is a professional artist; I commissioned artwork for the characters in Asher’s story. Then, I took that artwork and used the magical powers of Amazon to publish my eight year old’s story as a Kindle version and a paperback version. I wanted to launch his efforts and story-filled imagination into the world so he could tangibly see that the stories God has placed on his heart are important. He has a message worth sharing — we all do!

What have you seen in your own children that is begging to be launched into the world? Their passions should guide education far beyond workbooks or curriculum. God has created them to share his story of redemption in ways that only they can, with their God-given talents and abilities! May our eyes be opened to the Imago Dei artfully crafted into each one of our precious children.

 

A Qualified Homeschool Teacher?

I am a certified educator who taught high school English in Texas and in England for a total of six years. My teaching experience includes gifted and talented education, pre-Advanced Placement, Advanced Placement, accelerated courses, and university-prep courses. After leaving public school classrooms, I went on to teach in a private pre-kindergarten program for a short stint. The last few years found me involved in adult education where I co-led Shakespeare classes for military veterans. I’m also in my eighteenth year of service in the Air Force National Guard, where I’ve received top-notch leadership training. Since 2011, I’ve authored, co-authored, and contributed writing to four published books. I’ve been interviewed by local media, a prominent podcaster, and—quite miraculously—found myself as an official staff member at a nationally-recognized theatre. Oh, and I’ve homeschooled my two sons since the very beginning.

All of that sounds really good on paper, doesn’t it? But I want to let you in on a little secret: None of that qualifies me to be a homeschooling educator.

What does qualify someone to be a homeschool teacher? A love for one’s own children. If you love your babies—even those giant, overgrown babies—from the depths of your being, you are qualified to teach your children! I can confidently assure you that my university degree, state certification, and leadership training do not make me a good homeschooling mom. In fact, my experience in formal classrooms was more of a hindrance than a help. A love for my children and a passion to learn alongside them is the only qualification I need.

Sweet Mama, if you are feeling less than confident, anxious, fearful, or inadequate, please hear me: No one is more qualified to come alongside your children and walk this educational journey than you are.

You were created in the image and likeness of God!

His works are wonderful, and you know that full well!

You have the mind of Christ!

Go back and read those statements again. Put them in first-person and say them out loud. Repeat until you believe it! You stand on HIS truth, goodness, and beauty. God is in the business of redemption; if you feel your own education was inadequate, He will redeem your education as you teach your child!

Walking in faith is hard. Saying yes to the unknown is hard. What you’re doing—whether it’s for a season or for the duration—might seem impossible. But I’m here to tell you it’s not! When you give God your yes and invite His holy interruption, He will show up. He will equip you to do the hard things. He will give you the strength for each day, the wisdom to lead, and the passion to persevere. There is plenty of oil for your lamp, and He’s waiting to give it to you!

Courage, dear heart! Where you’ve been called, you will be equipped. Remember He is for you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. Please know I’m cheering you on every step of the way. You’ve got this! May you rest in the arms of the One who painted the stars in the canvas of heaven.

Take Heart!

Flipping through the news and scrolling through social media are enough to leave us frazzled and reaching for the smelling salts! We’re inundated with doom, gloom, and political mudslinging, which has a tendency to leave us in a state of fear and uncertainty.

We cannot be Christians who are long on fear and short on faith. We cannot spend more time researching media and repeating others. We must rest in the arms of our Savior by searching Scripture and pursuing prayer. Sweet friends, this is the time to stand on our authority in Christ and become intense prayer warriors. To stand on the promise of his already-won victory! The enemy longs for us to fill our hearts and minds with today’s hopelessness. To ruminate over injustices and unfairness to the point of anger and rage. To hail our chosen political candidates as the answer and solution to society’s ills. Take heart, my friends, Jesus has overcome all of this! We can look to Scripture for guidance on how to behave in the midst of the world’s chaos. 

God made us very aware of what to expect throughout the ages. He also gave us instructions on what to do during His appointed times. Take a few moments to ponder these passages…

Daniel 7-12

Daniel fasted, confessed, prayed, and stood firm in his faith in the midst of all that God revealed to him. We have agency to do likewise! Ask God to guide you in beginning a fast. It’s OK to start small–even baby steps bring forward movement.

Proverbs 3

Trust God by asking for His wisdom. Don’t lose sight of common sense. Ask the Father for discernment. Do good to your neighbors–online and in real life! Don’t pick fights–online and in real life! It’s easy to let our emotions guide our actions (I am absolutely guilty of this), but we must be led by His wisdom and grace. Chase after righteousness instead of being right.  

Matthew 24

Jesus tells us exactly what Christians should expect in the last days, and he doesn’t sugarcoat it! He also tells us that His word will never disappear. Take heed of his timeless, prophetic words and cling to His promise!

Luke 21

Again, we are reminded of God’s instruction during these times. Verse 34 tells us to keep watch! Look away from the screens and worldly voices; keep your eyes (physical and spiritual) fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith. Verse 36 says to keep alert and pray! Know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Fill your heart and head with the knowledge of God, rather than headlines, statistics, and worst-case-scenarios.

Ask for God’s discernment and wisdom in the midst of the melee. Rather than sounding the fear alarm and parroting doom and gloom, tune into what the Holy Spirit is doing. This has been a game-changer in my life! Luke 21 ends by saying the crowds gathered early to hear Jesus. This reminds us to rightly order our days; be nourished by Scripture and time in prayer before consuming media. Starting your day with an in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit–and his gift of discernment–will navigate you to faith instead of fear. 

Mothering with Grace

dsc_8269-edit_original

The myriad of threads woven into the fabric of your day make up your family’s tapestry of faith. What we see mid-process looks like loose threads and knots, but God is taking those gloriously quotidian efforts and crafting a masterpiece. Remain faithful in your weaving, dear mama. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). Here are some of the daily rhythms that have enriched our family’s faith journey…

Biblical Affirmations

When you begin the day by speaking biblical words of affirmation over your children, it not only reminds them of who they are in Christ, it reminds YOU of who they are in Christ! Our affirmation statements are based in scripture; this idea came from a Wild + Free podcast I heard many years ago. Every morning at 9:00am, we sit together, hold hands, and I look them in the eyes as I say:

  1. You are a mighty man of God.
  2. You are a leader of leaders and a follower of Jesus Christ.
  3. You are a blessing wherever you go; you are never a burden.
  4. You walk in favor with God and man.
  5. You are bold and you speak the truth.
  6. You are creative, artistic, athletic, and intelligent.
  7. You will marry only whom God has intended for you.
  8. You will lend to many nations and you will never borrow.
  9. The Fruit of the Spirit lives inside you.
  10. You are a Ludwig young man, and you are destined for righteousness!

After affirmations, I chose a couple of scriptures to pray over them. When we routinely begin our days in this manner, we all tend to treat one another with more kindness, love, grace, understanding, and respect. When we become swept up in life’s craziness and move away from this anchor, attitudes deteriorate and there’s more fussing all around.

Take Authority

When those inevitable sibling squabbles arise, I’m quick to take authority and lead my boys in the act of repentance. “Son, the Bible tells us our words have the power to give life or death. Did you speak life or death over your brother just now?” Starting there keeps me focused on the actual issue at hand: We are all sinful people living together in one house; the enemy would love nothing more than to bring division, and then keep that division going with an upset, angry response from one or both parents.

Recognize the enemy’s plans, and thwart them through the power of the Holy Spirit. After they speak words of apology and forgiveness, I hold their hands together in mine and pray: “God, thank you for giving these brothers to each other for life. Your word says it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell together in unity, and I pray you break the spirit of frustration between them, and bind them with your unity.”

Does it magically make them both happy? Do glittery butterflies and rays of light shoot out from our hands clasped in prayer? No and no. But it absolutely takes the sting out of the situation. Inviting Jesus right into the middle of a disagreement always makes a difference. This is discipleship-based discipline over punitive punishment.

In our family vocabulary, we call this “planting a Kingdom flag.” I wrote a parable story for my boys to explain spiritual warfare in a way they could understand. We all know that the battles we fight are not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Simply yelling at my kids for their behavior and sending them to their room doesn’t get at the root of the issue. In so doing, I’ve aimed my worldly arrows at flesh and blood. I need to exchange my “weapons” for God’s and redirect my aim!

I believe this story was divinely inspired after three days of fasting and prayer, in which I experienced palpable spiritual warfare. As a writer, I normally follow a creative process when I set out to write something. Not this time! This story was nothing like anything I’d ever written. The best I can explain it was God instantly downloaded it into my brain, and I could barely keep up with getting it on paper. With it came a direct instruction: “Tell your children.” I did, and they gained an immediate understanding of what happens in the spiritual realm when we pray and take back ground from the enemy. They understood that the enemy was defeated long ago, and we–as Christians–have authority to enforce God’s victory. I share this story with you in case you’d like to use it in your own home. Genuinely, I can’t take writer’s credit since God gave it to me.

THE KINGDOM KEEPERS

The story itself may seem unfinished, but I believe that was done on purpose. There was simply no more “divine inspiration” past that point, and I didn’t feel at liberty to add more or attempt to finish it on my own efforts. However, I strongly felt God tell me to take my boys on a prayer walk to finish the story. After reading the last line, I charged my boys with this statement: “Let’s go plant flags for the King, my princes!”

We then set out on a prayer walk where semi-violent protests had taken place the night before. (No protests were taking place at the time we went out, all was physically safe.) I held their hands as we walked to the police station–now covered with graffiti and strewn with trash–and we prayed for God’s unity and healing to be released in our sate and nation. We prayed for God’s angel armies to be released in battling the spiritual forces of violence and division. We planted Kingdom flags together! They tangibly understood their part in spiritual warfare. I’d say that was infinitely more powerful than any story ending I could’ve crafted!

Teach your children about spiritual warfare as soon as they come to Christ. Don’t give them a watered down cartoon version of “Sunday School Jesus.” My friend Jillian often reminds me that there is no Junior Holy Spirit, and she is absolutely right! Have your children pray big prayers with you, and rejoice over every single answered prayer. Invite them into your walk with Christ, and tell them what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.

When we take nature walks or spend time in our garden, we collectively marvel over God’s creation and openly thank him for the lovely flowers. For the bees, squirrels, and doves that so often visit our windowsill. Everything is an opportunity for praise and worship.

Personal Faith Stories

Both of my sons made the decision to follow Christ at an early age, and I wanted to mark these special occasions with something they could physically hold on to. We worked together to write faith stories (testimonies) by using their actual quotes and photos shortly after each of their baptisms. This allows them to take ownership of their personal decision to follow Jesus. They are so proud of their books and read them often. Here’ a video preview of their faith stories…

The Baptism Book

Missionary Stories

I want my children to understand that following Jesus means living a life of sacrifice. American cultural Christianity often tilts toward a hyper-grace-prosperity-gospel. Yes, God provides for us and abundantly gives us His grace–and for that I am eternally grateful–but I don’t want my sons to fall into the broken mindset that God only shows his love by padding our bank accounts or that grace exempts us from obedience to the Father. Missionary biographies are frequently part of our family read-alouds, and we openly talk about the difficulties our real-life missionary friends face around the world. We turn those struggles into prayer petitions!

Someone recently told my boys that China was a bad communist country who hates America, which planted a lie in their hearts that China, and all its people, are bad. I stepped in and told them that Jesus died for the people of China. I told them that he wrote eternity on their hearts. I told them of the underground churches and persecution, and how it’s our job to pray for them. We then prayed for God’s angel armies to be released to fight against the spiritual forces of darkness and oppression. After praying for China, my oldest son’s eyes grew wide as he said, “We just planted a Kingdom flag!”

The next morning, I pulled Hudson Taylor’s biography off the shelf so that my boys will have an encounter with someone who dedicated his life to bringing God’s truth to China. Someone who loved them with every ounce of his being and saw them through the eyes of Jesus. Speak God’s truth over negative mindsets and don’t allow any seed of hatred to germinate in your home.

Discipline vs. Punishment

This next bit may seem controversial, so I offer this up simply as something I do in my own home, based on searching the scriptures and prayerful revelations. Here it is: I don’t yell and I don’t spank. Have I ever yelled or spanked in the history of my parenting journey? Yes. But now, I rely on my Savior not to do those things. In the past when I have spanked and yelled, I repented to my children and to God, asking their forgiveness.

From my personal experience, spanking is a lazy shortcut, and yelling only goes to show that I am severely lacking in the Fruits of the Spirit. How did I come to this less-than-conventional Christian parenting decision? Scripture. I researched the actual Hebrew words used in the “pro-spanking” verses and learned that the Hebrew word used specifically refers to an almost-grown male, NOT young children. The actual Hebrew words that translate to “young child” are not used in the book of Proverbs. The word that is used in the “pro-spanking” verses is naar, which Jewish rabbinical tradition considers to be males between the ages of 16 and 24. So, the practice of spanking young children is found nowhere in the original translation.

I grew up in a very pro-spanking household, and what did I truly learn from it? How to conceal things from my parents, and how to be a very good liar to avoid another spanking. I lied to my parents, to myself, and to God. Avoid getting caught to avoid the punishment! It took lots of prayer, searching the scriptures, and wise mentors of the faith to bring me to this question: “Am I willing to trust God to help me discipline my children rather than trust a ‘proven’ and obviously more practical method?” (Clay Clarkson posed this question in Heartfelt Discipline.)

If you’re remotely interested in exploring this aspect of biblical parenting, I highly recommend these books:

Clay Clarkson’s Heartfelt Discipline 

Clay and Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Parent

Tim Kimmel’s Grace Based Parenting

L.R. Knost’s Jesus, the Gentle Parent

Their collective wisdom, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was instrumental in bringing me to a place of repentance and understanding. I choose to parent by faith and discipleship instead of fear and punishment. This road is not easy. It’s a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute choice–one that cannot be made apart from Christ’s strength. Shockingly, it actually works!

Parents are the first impression children have of God. For the life of me, I couldn’t find any examples of Jesus smacking his disciples when they went against his instruction. If I’m going to call myself a Christian, I’m supposed to be like Christ. Ten years ago, I was absolutely 100% pro-spanking. That change only came about through the power of God.

Understanding my children’s intricate personalities has also been instrumental in my parenting journey. We shouldn’t ever punish personality, but many do. We all encounter people who grate on our nerves without actually doing anything wrong…you may experience this in your own home. Paul and Barbara Tieger’s Nurture by Nature helped me pinpoint my boys’ and my husband’s personality types, which opened my eyes to how God made them. This knowledge has solved many problems before they’ve ever started.

Motherhood is an adventurous journey with many uphill battles. I fail often, but I cling to His grace. Sweet mama-friend, stand firm in the faith as you stand in the gap for your family! May the God of Peace bless you with wisdom and discernment as you shepherd your precious flock.

 

A Different Kind of Homeschool

The upcoming 2020-2021 school year marks our fifth year of homeschooling, and it’s been a phenomenal ride! My own history as a high school English teacher in the public school system is partly why I chose to homeschool my children from the very beginning. I have a deep respect for teachers, administrators, librarians, coaches, and anyone who dedicates their time and energy to educating children–it is a noble profession!

Only one of these adults does not have a teaching degree…and I married him!

After my father’s time in the Air Force, he became a public school teacher; he was even one of my high school teachers! My mother went from working in the cafeteria, to the library, to being a teacher’s aide, and then finally on to becoming a phenomenal kindergarten teacher until she retired last year. My brother taught middle school math and is now the district technology director. My sister-in-law is also a certified teacher, and any student who ever enters her classroom will be blessed because of her! Please understand I am not against public school, private school, charter schools, or hybrid schools. It’s just not what I wanted for my children. Five years into this amazing journey, I’ve never once regretted our family’s fearless foray into home education.

Conquering the world in matching sweaters!

Our first three years we were involved in a Classical Conversations co-op, and had a wonderful experience! I met lovely families and have formed a close circle of friends who I greatly admire. As we entered our fourth year of homeschool, I just didn’t have peace about rejoining our local CC community. I had a sneaking suspicion the Air Force would keep me busier than usual with my new promotion and new position. After prayer and discussion with my husband, we made the tough decision to take a break for the boys’ second grade and kindergarten years. God’s grace is so overwhelming! He knew long before I did that I’d be away for almost a month of training for First Sergeant Academy. He definitely knew long before I did that the coronavirus would remove me from my homeschooling mama role.

New rank. New position. New level of crazy!

Instead of rushing out the door each Monday for co-op, we had an extra day every week to spend together. Extra time. Extra cuddles. Extra memories. As I type this many miles away from my family, in the midst of my coronavirus response deployment, I am incredibly grateful for each “extra” we had. While this school year did NOT go according to plan, it far exceeded my original hopes and expectations. (We plan to rejoin our CC community this fall.) We spent two weeks in Abu Dhabi before COVID19 shut down the world, and those experiences will stay with us the rest of our lives! All through the fall and early winter seasons, the boys went to theatre class, karate lessons, and countless field trips. When life altered course mid-winter, we had to get creative. Daddy became the primary caretaker and homeschooler…and he’s nailing it! The routine, schedule, and lessons look different, but the boys are still learning so much. We may not have cracked a math textbook, but Asher has opened his own business (which involved quite a bit of practical math) and Keane continues to be obsessed with skip-counting, flashcards, and math games. In stepping back from formal lessons, we’ve let their passions bloom and imaginations blossom. The results have been astounding! Now that I’ve seen firsthand what a blessing this interrupted schedule has been, I’ve decided to intentionally interrupt our homeschool flow for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Abu Dhabi was the best field trip in the history of field trips!

I asked the boys what they wanted to learn. What they wanted to accomplish. What their personal goals were. And that’s how I’m planning their “curriculum” for first and third grade! Asher is passionate about becoming a survivalist and wants to continue growing his Wild Treasure Salves business. He’s learning to identify plants and herbs, their medicinal properties, and how to make home remedies with all natural ingredients. His third grade year will center around survival school, an epic survival campout, and continuing to forage for beneficial plants and herbs.

Foraging chickweed for his homemade herbal salves

Keane is passionate about learning to cook and create art. His first grade year will be focused on recipes, cooking, baking, and opening his own pop-up restaurant–decorated with his own artistic creations. He will create and hand-write the menus, grocery shop (and pay for) the ingredients, learn to cook a full meal, and make proper change for his customers.Needless to say, I couldn’t have come up with those phenomenal ideas on my own. When you step back and allow your children to take charge of their own education, you may be surprised at the results. I’m still reeling!

Dinner tastes better when you make it yourself!

In honor of their passion projects, school supplies will look a little different his year…

Non-traditional school supplies! Parental supervision required.

The boys will be documenting their progress via notebooking (handwriting) and narration (composition and presentation) on their YouTube channel. Morning Time and Poetry Tea Time have always been our most beloved aspects of homeschool, so those definitely aren’t going anywhere. Math will be practical and hands-on, Life of Fred read-alouds, Bedtime Math with Daddy, and boardgames as a family. Yes, I have a real math curriculum. Sure, it’s fine. However, we’re not married to it. Math learned and applied in real-life sticks in ways that math lessons from textbooks and workbooks never will. I also plan to loosen up on my views of screentime. I plan on exploring Khan Academy with the boys one or two days a week, and allowing them twenty minutes of Reading Eggs and Math Seeds while I work individually with the other brother. So when Keane and I have one-on-one reading time, Asher will set a twenty minute timer for the educational app. Then, they’ll switch! 

That one time the Air Force changed our plans…again.

After reading The Five Hour School Week by Kaleena Amuchastegui, I realized how many educational hacks I’ve been ignoring. By optimizing our academic endeavors prior to lunch, the boys will end up with about four hours each day to pursue their passion projects. In The Brave Learner, Julie Bogart put something into words that I didn’t fully realize I had already been doing: Classical Education in the fall, Unit Studies in the winter, Unschooling in the spring, and ramped-up read-alouds in the summer. Come June, we dive head-first into our local library’s summer reading program. Even Mommy participates! (And yes, audiobooks totally count.)

Camel riding in the UAE

Upon finishing Ainsley Arment’s The Call of the Wild + Free, I fully embrace the fact that I can’t (and won’t!) ascribe to one single educational philosophy. My sons are so uniquely multifaceted that it would be a disservice to choose a one-size-fits-all path for them. My job as their mother is not to chisel them into the perfect sculptures of my imagining, but to give them all of the tools and knowledge so they can craft a masterpiece of their own lives! Through God’s grace and His gift of wisdom, I have no doubt this journey will continue to be beautiful!

2019: A Year in Review

We’ve been greatly blessed as a family this past year–every day has been an adventure! Homeschooling is an absolute gift; we’re able to explore the boys’ individual passions, travel whenever and wherever, and read endless books as a family.

The boys continue to progress in karate, began theatre classes this fall, and enjoy spending time at the go-kart track for Asher’s races. Mark’s flexible work schedule allows him to spend plenty of family time with us throughout the year, and the boys love having Daddy around as much as possible! Nana and Papa treated the entire Ludwig crew to a Disney Cruise and Disney World this summer. We made memories that will last a lifetime!

Mark had the wonderful idea to escape the Texas summer heat in the mountains of New Mexico–so we packed up for an impromptu vacation and headed west! Our days were spent hiking and exploring God’s gorgeous creation…it was a beautiful trip that restored my soul. Daddy also reads to them every night at bedtime, which is just one of the many reasons I love him so much!

Asher (age 7.5) has discovered a passion for Shakespeare, loves to write, and creates endless stories. Keane (age 5.5) is a budding artist and mathematician; crafting, Lego-creations, and board games are his current favorites. We spent many hours at the Kimbell Art Museum, enjoying the masterpieces of Monet and Renoir. Asher attended the world premier of the Shakespearean adaptation SHE WOLF a total of three times…more if I would’ve let him.

We balance our days between memorizing scripture, poetry, Shakespeare, history facts, math facts, and spending copious amounts of time at LegoLand, the zoo, Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, and three different museums.

The Three Rs, history, geography, and science are taught using games, life-giving stories, and hands-on projects. (I did, however, stop short of mummifying a chicken.) For the second year in a row, we’ve continued as volunteer docents at Nash Farm, a historical farm in Grapevine; seeing the boys come alive at the farm has been such a joy! We also enjoy meeting up with our weekly Wild + Free nature group. My military schedule forced us to take a break from Classical Conversations this year, but we’ll be back next year!

I just began my eighteenth year in the USAF, Air National Guard, and switched over from Health Services Management to become a First Sergeant. A rank change came along with the position change; the whole family came out to the base for my long-awaited promotion to Master Sergeant. I leave for a month of training this winter.

Somehow I thrice managed to get published in 2019–my head is still spinning! This spring, two of my sonnets were published in In Love…& War: The Anthology of Poet Warriors. In the autumn, I published Disguise Fair Nature: A Military Memoir in Sonnets. All proceeds went to support my favorite veteran non-profit, DeCruit! I’ve had the great pleasure of serving as a co-instructor for this phenomenal course for the past year, and hope to be involved for many years to come. Being a change-agent for military veterans is one of my greatest passions. My sonnets were presented at Amphibian Stage Productions by fellow female veterans–two of the most phenomenal women I’ve had the privilege to meet!

My third book will be available mid-January, and is a compilation from twenty female veteran authors. Behind the Rank, Volume 3 will be available on Amazon (as well as direct purchase from myself) the second week of January!

How we Homeschool

We’re currently in our fourth year of homeschooling and are loving every minute! As a somewhat seasoned homeschooler, I’m often asked the same questions by inquisitive mothers and potential homeschooling families. While I’m always happy to answer questions and explain my methods, I realize such a conversation can feel like sipping from a fire-hose! The following information is my attempt to distill an overwhelming amount of information into manageable, actionable steps to help new homeschoolers feel confident in this exciting journey!

What do you do? How did you know what to choose?

Classical. Charlotte Mason. Boxed curriculum. Co-ops. University model. Unschooling. Unit studies. (And on and on and on…)

If that list makes your head spin, take a deep breath and realize you don’t have to pick a path or subscribe to one single method from the get-go. This isn’t a head-first swan dive off a cliff, it’s a gentle wading into the ebb and flow of a lifestyle full of freedom!

Until you create your homeschooling vision, set individual goals for your children, and fully understand their personality types, ignore those catchphrases and philosophies!

How do I create a homeschooling vision?

I credit Pam Barnhill for walking me through this ultra-important step. Her podcasts, YouTube channel, and Plan Your Year book set me on a successful planning path. She gave me a list of important questions to consider; from those points to ponder I came up with the following…

BIG PICTURE VISION:

When my children are adults, I want them to look back on their homeschooling experience with joy. I want them to see it as a memorable adventure full of opportunities to learn real world skills that prepared them for life — not just college — and taught them how to be lifelong learners. As adults, I want Asher and Keane to be absolutely in love with God and have a passion for His work. I want them to value healthy foods, consistent exercise, time in nature, and to enjoy reading as a hobby. I want them to be creative thinkers with empowered imaginations! When they think of me as their homeschooling mom, I want them to know I loved them unconditionally, that I was always available and willing to listen. I want them to see me as an encourager who was full of grace, and whose passion for Christ was evident every day. I want them to feel they had more opportunities to experience the real world. I want them to be proud of their adventurous experiences and the educational journey they got to take alongside their parents.

That 30,000 foot vision helped me fine-tune our daily vision, which also led to creating individual goals for each of my children. Skipping these steps would be akin to a train setting off on a cross-country journey without any tracks. You’ll get nowhere fast!

DAILY VISION:

In our homeschool we strive to engage in hands-on learning by playing games, having adventures, and spending time in nature every week. We will foster creativity and a love for reading through daily read-alouds, poetry tea times, and imaginative play. We will cultivate a life-giving home with peaceful Morning Time, where we focus on truth, goodness, and beauty through prayer, biblical affirmations, scripture, song, and purposeful memorization. We refuse to be tied to worksheets, workbooks, and following the crowd. We refuse to let a lesson bring us to tears or steal our joy.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS:

Reading: We will complete two Joyfully Read lessons per week, two Brave Writer lessons per week, and read four books to Leppy the Leopard Gecko each week.

Writing: We will practice Handwriting without Tears three times each week, Draw Write Now once a week, and write one greeting card each week.

Math: We will practice flash cards at least twice each week, do Right Start Math lessons twice each week, and play two math games each week.

Content Subjects: We will do weekly science lessons using The Good and the Beautiful’s Botany study; weekly history lessons with The Story of the World and The Peaceful Press; weekly art lessons with Masterpiece Society, trips to the Kimbell Art Museum, and composer study with Meet the Great Composers. Weekly geography lessons will be map drawing, and reading Hungry Planet and Material World. Latin and Spanish will be weekly DVDs, while Gaelic will be simple conversational bits and phrases.

Our goals and methods won’t look like anyone else’s, because they’re personalized to my family’s interests and personality types!

KNOW THYSELF:

Before you sink a ton of money into curriculums or co-ops, do the work of discovering your own and your children’s personality types. This is one of those life-hacks that has served me well in all aspects of parenting and homeschooling. Nurture by Nature by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger is an excellent reference that will help you type your children.

For example, I know I’m an INFJ. As a homeschooling mom, it’s wonderful to know my strengths and weaknesses. I strive to provide a safe, loving, understanding environment, rich with ideas & connections. My strengths allow me to identify with my children, and my struggles include ignoring my own needs. My homeschooling style is deeply conversational, and I seek out moments of beauty. I become discouraged by conflict and rules-based plans with no room for innovation or flexibility. I can be a stubborn perfectionist as well as a wise, caring friend…finding balance is a daily endeavor!

My oldest son, Asher, is an ESTJ, while my youngest is an ISFP. This gives me incredible knowledge and foresight in making a myriad of educational decisions for our family.

As an ESTJ, Asher is attracted to useful, concrete information and traditions. He is repelled by a lack of rules, order, and can’t stand laziness. He is motivated to create rules and take the lead. He becomes stressed by lack of plans or purpose, and by people who violate his internal rules and ideals. He sees logic and the value of hard work. He struggles with being bossy and giving up when frustrated. His stress symptoms include feeling isolated and misunderstood, which can lead to emotional upset. Ultimately, he is a natural leader who can follow trustworthy authority.

Keane’s ISFP tendencies lead him to be attracted to beauty, nature, and hands-on tinkering. He is repelled by standardization and conflict. He’s motivated to design beautiful creations and environments. He becomes stressed by loud environments and not being able to finish projects. He notices and responds to beautiful things, kindness, and generosity. He struggles with people-pleasing and being assertive. Some of his symptoms of stress include becoming withdrawn and focusing too much on structure and order. Overall, he is more spiritually aware than most, with a need for personal connection and personal space.

The time invested in creating our vision, goals, and delving into everyone’s personality types has allowed me to craft a deeply meaningful homeschool experience for our entire family. Oftentimes we look for quick-fixes or the “right answer” before understanding the nuts and bolts of those entrusted to our care.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of homeschooling your children, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day! Purposeful planning and vision casting have given me such a peace for this educational journey. May you, too, discover this peace as you define your own vision and goals!

Disney Adventures

I shamelessly admit that I am not a Disney person. My boys have only seen a small handful of Disney movies, and didn’t know (or care) who Mickey Mouse was until Nana began buying them several matching Mickey shirts for the upcoming family vacation. We’re not a big TV-watching family, we don’t have Disney soundtracks memorized, and they don’t know the difference between Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

I bought a cheap four-pack of mouse ears on Amazon before we ever left. Good thing, because Disney sold them for $20+ each!

That being said, we had a fantastic time on our Disney Cruise and our stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Nana and Papa took the whole family (a dozen total of us) on an eight day extravaganza! It was an amazingly generous gift and we are now blessed with lifelong memories. While I definitely don’t consider myself a Disney convert, I do see the draw for those who drink the cool-aid. They make your family feel like their top priority, take extra care in preparing allergy-friendly meals, and cast members go out of their way to take care of any issues.

I set up an eye-liner pirate tattoo parlor before dinner. Keane was inspired to order “One bottle of rum, please!” from the waiter.

The boys visited the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to be transformed into royal knights (their cousins had appointments to be transformed into princesses), and one of the cast members told Asher there was a dragon who lurked between decks seven and eight, but only came out at 3:00am. Asher is an extremely logical child who doesn’t believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, or any other made-up childhood entity…but he believed this very convincing lady. I still can’t figure out why he latched on to her story the way he did, but he went to bed convinced that he would wake up three minutes before 3:00am to grab his sword and shield to hunt down this cruise ship dragon.

Asher and Keane took their royal knight duties very seriously!

As Mark was putting the boys to bed, I snuck off to guest services to explain the issue. Strangest conversation I’ve ever had, to say the least! I figured if Disney caused the problem, Disney could solve the problem. I explained the elaborately detailed story related to Asher by the boutique cast member, and how devastated he was going to be when he realized he had been lied to (he’s an ESTJ, so dishonesty or being tricked is particularly upsetting). The very helpful crew member, Bianca, said she’d never before encountered this issue and offered to make a call to the stateroom, explaining to Asher that the dragon had been called away on a mission. When she called, he had already fallen asleep…but she didn’t stop there. She wrote a note in an official Disney Dream stationary card from the dragon’s perspective. It was Mushu from Milan. (Granted, he’s never seen Milan, but this lady gave it her all!) “Mushu” apologized to Asher for having to fly to China to help Milan with a special mission, but told him that he’d always be with him as a spirit guide. Did this all end in tears for my tenderhearted son? Yes. However, Bianca went out of her way to help; she truly went above and beyond. Asher found her note slipped under our stateroom door at 5:00am, when he woke up on his own to go find the dragon. My sweet boy shot up out of bed saying, “Dragon!” while grabbing up his sword and shield. He was met at the door with the card from Mushu; it softened the blow but still stung. Fortunately, he walked off the ship with many more happy memories than sad ones, so this wasn’t wholly devastating.

Extra happy because they didn’t get stung by jellyfish…Daddy wasn’t so lucky!

Aside from that disappointing escapade, the only negatives to speak of are the over abundance of commercialism and non-stop movies. Although, you kind of know what you’re walking into since it’s Disney, so that’s really no surprise. On the cruise ship, there’s a poolside Jumbotron that constantly plays Disney movies. It’s hard to avoid that one, but easy enough to ignore while swimming. Two pools and an epic water roller coaster proved much more exciting to my boys than the ginormous cartoons.

Their one and only obligatory character photo.

On the ship, they play the newest Disney movies that are currently playing in theaters worldwide. We could have seen Aladdin, Toy Story 4, and Avengers: End Game, but we did not. The idea of sitting in front of a movie screen for hours on end is not my idea of fun — especially during vacation. To give Daddy an after-pool-break, I did take the boys to see DisneyNature’s Penguins, which was adorably educational and entertaining. Every cable TV channel owned by Disney is accessible on your stateroom’s television, but that’s easily avoided by not turning on the TV.

The entertainment we did “indulge” in were the Broadway-style shows. We saw two of them: Believe and Beauty and the Beast. They were phenomenal; the extremely talented cast had the boys mesmerized and on the edges of their seats both nights!

Disney’s private island had gorgeous beaches!

Based on their phenomenal customer service, pristine beaches at Castaway Cay, and special attention to all of my food allergies, we would consider booking another Disney vacation within the next five years…but we’d never consider joining their vacation club and spending every vacation with Disney.

Getting extra mileage out of those pirate shirts in Nassau

Self Care through Mother Culture

Many a homeschooling mother has heard the term mother culture, but not all of us have a good grasp on how to implement it in our own lives. As I enter my fourth year of homeschooling, I’ve realized the importance of setting aside some sacred time and space to nurture my heart, mind, body, and soul. This goes beyond personal prayer and devotionals. While those two things are integral to my walk with God, mother culture is a type of self care that fills me up so I can continue giving to my children. It also anchors my soul in a way that lets me be me. At some point, my little birds will leave the nest. When that day comes, I want to know that I haven’t completely abandoned my own growth. Mothering is never finished, but it will change as my boys become men. In the midst of those changes, I cannot forsake kindling the fires of my mind, heart, body, and soul.

My latest Mother Culture Day was admiring Monet’s paintings at the Kimbell.

At any given moment, I have two or three books on Audible that I listen to while doing dishes, laundry, or driving around alone. My book table is spilling over with Sally Clarkson’s words of wisdom and several prayer books. Every other Tuesday night I meet up with a handful of homeschooling mamas for a Charlotte Mason book club. We also get together once a month for kid-free fellowship.

On Sunday nights the boys attend Awanas…and I cozy up with books at a nearby Starbucks. Approximately every six weeks, my husband will take the kids for a fun Daddy Day so I can have an introverted date day. Six hours all to myself. This is time I set aside to feed my soul — not to do laundry or dishes! I’ve been known to watch plays, wander through museums, listen to audiobooks while getting a pedicures, or meet up with my mom for a fun girls’ day. In the beginning, I felt guilty for this time away, but it makes me a better mother. This sought-after mother culture recharges my batteries and settles my soul for the work at hand: motherhood.

To commemorate my precious self-care time, I like shed my mom-uniform and dress up a wee bit.

If this concept seems entirely foreign to you, please don’t give up before giving it a shot! Ask your husband to take the kids to Chick-fil-A for two hours so you can read a book with a cup of tea in your favorite chair. Better yet, have him pop some popcorn for a movie night; this will buy you at least ninety minutes at a local coffee shop! If nature speaks to your heart and soul, sneak in a quick hike or nature walk around your neighborhood. Start small — steal away for a few precious moments to feed your inner self, and add more time each week. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Truth, Goodness, & Beauty-Sleep

On those days when all of your best efforts just aren’t enough to get the train up the hill, it’s probably best to pump the breaks and take a rest. Morning Time kicked off with a pirate treasure hunt, then moved onto MadLibs and play-dough and Legos — oh my! Scripture and Shakespeare were full of truth and goodness; Nature Study was full of beauty…and…then…things began to derail when it came time for nature journaling.

Asher had told himself before the pencil ever hit the paper that he couldn’t do it. While he never said it aloud, it was written all over him (that limp-noodle body language speaks volumes). With supernatural love speaking louder than my internal impatience, I urged him to try his best. Encouraging words just weren’t quite enough to pull him from the doldrums. Nevertheless, we persevered. Not because he wanted to, but because I sat with him and wouldn’t allow him to quit. I cheered him on and complimented his finger spacing between words. His perfectionist personality type can be a huge stumbling block when it comes to subjects like handwriting and drawing; frustration ensues when he can’t make the paper look like what he sees in his mind.

In these frequent situations, my attitude can go one of two ways:

1. I can allow that frustration to sweep us both out to sea and chide him for what some might see as a lack of effort.

2. I can look at the little boy God has entrusted to me, see both his strengths and weaknesses, and love him through it all.

A few hours after nature journaling time, he walked into the living room where I was folding laundry. Shoulders slumped and face fallen, he said, “Mom, I just have this big ball of feelings that I don’t know what to do with. I feel sad, like crying, and I don’t know why.” I gathered him up in my arms and told him that I sometimes feel that way, too. I thanked him for telling me his feelings, and snuggled him close. “Mom, do you think we could cuddle up and take a nap?” So we did, because hours earlier I had chosen option number two. How would our day have gone had I allowed frustration to reign? What would he have done with his big ball of feelings then? Over our three years of homeschooling, I’ve come to understand that it’s rarely just about the handwriting. The seeming problem at hand is usually a telltale sign of the condition of my son’s heart.

I’m so thankful that I stepped back and followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting. It was an incredibly humbling experience to realize that I held my son’s heart in my hands when I made the choice to extend kindness in the face of frustration. Keane was more than happy to join us on the couch, and we all crashed for a good two hours. Asher enjoyed his first nap so much that he took another one thirty minutes after waking up from the first. That, my friends, is God’s grace in action.