You are doing it. You are waking up each day putting one foot in front of the other and making it happen. Good on you!
Now, let’s talk about your heart for a minute. While we are all waking up in the morning and laying down at night, how is the condition of our heart throughout the day? It’s one thing to tackle a day and a totally other thing to embrace it. Tackling requires determination and force, embracing requires acceptance and surrender.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who are tackling this season: powering through with gripes and grumbles, holding on by a thread, falling back on old vices. I’ve talked to very few who are embracing it, gracefully surrendering, and saying no matter what God is good so my day will be too. I fall somewhere in the middle (though I’d love to say I am perfectly surrendering).
Friends, it is only in surrender that we find peace. But what are we surrendering to? A pandemic? New schedules? Lost jobs? No in person schooling? Yes, and no. Yes, because this is what God has for us in this season or He wouldn’t allow it. I know your heart wants to push back on that. I didn’t say God caused it. I said He allowed it. The Bible is full of bad situations God allowed but used for good. No, because we are not surrendering to a temporary situation but rather to a God that we trust. We are abandoning ourselves entirely to a God that knows better than we do. Surrender requires humility and recognition of our mortality.
Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins— even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. Job 11:13-15
I wonder if some of us have “secret sins”? I wonder if our secret sin is the condition of our heart. We keep the smile, do the right things in public, post all the pretty pictures and Bible verses on social media, but behind closed doors we are cursing the situation we are in. Worse, we are cursing our brothers and sisters made in the image of God because of how they are handling things. We have created a false confidence because we are afraid, pride.
Job 11:15 promises that when you surrender your heart to God “you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless”. This is not a prideful false confidence that tackles each day with the appearance of fearlessness. It is the fruit of surrender, it is peace. It is what makes people ask, “how are you so calm and happy right now with all we are facing?” It looks a lot like hope. It looks a lot like light in a dark world, and isn’t that what we are called to be?
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:22-23
Find me on social or send me an email.
Entering into a new school year with COVID in the mix doesn’t have to be daunting. Will it look different? Yes. Do we have to allow it to unnerve us? No. I know there are new routines and trials ahead whether you already homeschooled or are now schooling at home while you try to hold down a job or you are a stay at home mom that just doesn’t feel equipped to also be a teacher. I want to give you a bit of encouragement and some resources today that are helping to prepare me as I enter into this school year.
1. I HAVE BEEN READING GOOD BOOKS. I homeschool for those of you that don’t know. Each summer I gather a reading list that will help me give my children a healthy, enjoyable childhood and a good education. These two components really go hand in hand. I chose books that will give me a good lens on the year ahead. Here are the books I’ve read this summer. It’s not too late for you to start them now for some inspiration as you start the school year. (The first two are on audible and all 3 are available in many online retailers.)
There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda McGurk (Ya'll know I am passionate about getting my kids outdoors and since I have Sweedish roots this book had me at hello.)
A lively, insightful memoir about a mother who sets out to discover if the nature-centric parenting philosophy of her native Scandinavia holds the key to healthier, happier lives for her American children. Struggling to fit in and to decide what was best for her children, McGurk turned to her own childhood for answers. Could the Scandinavian philosophy of “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” be the key to better lives for her American children? And how would her children’s relationships with nature change by introducing them to Scandinavian concepts like friluftsliv (“open-air living”) and hygge (the coziness and the simple pleasures of home)? McGurk embarked on a six-month-long journey to Sweden to find out. There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is a fascinating personal narrative that highlights the importance of spending time outdoors, and illustrates how the Scandinavian culture could hold the key to raising healthier, resilient, and confident children in America.
In Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of Education (This is the philospohy behind how I homeschool. This book covers the 10 principles in a simple but comprehensive way.)
Charlotte Mason looked at the world and saw that it was governed by universal laws, such as the law of gravity. Then she wondered. What if there were similar laws that governed the way people learn? If we knew what those laws were, we’d be able to pursue education along the most promising lines .
She devoted her life to finding the key principles of education and then developing methods to make the most of them. The result is a comprehensive picture of living and learning that breathes life into education at every level—from babyhood to the adult years. It’s not a rote system, but a flexible set of ideas that keep education in focus.
These principles are for everyone concerned with teaching and learning. They are no more difficult to implement than the principle of gravity which allows you to walk, run, and even--when you know what you are doing--to soar.
Know and Tell by Karen Glass (This method raised my daughter’s Lexile score over 200 points in 6 months. This book is helping me take it to the next level.)
The art of telling, has been used as a pedagogical tool since ancient times. Over one hundred years ago, Charlotte Mason methodized narration and implemented it in scores of schools in Great Britain. Over the past few decades, educators in the US, mostly in home schools, have followed her guidelines with outstanding results.
This book discusses the theory behind the use of narration and then walks through the process from beginning to end, to show how simply "telling" is the foundation for higher-level thinking and writing.
2. I HAVE SET UP MY HOME THE BEST I CAN FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR. I have been decluttering (or trying the best I can in our two bedroom townhome) so that we can focus on work in open cozy minimalist places in our home. The kids each have a small bookshelf holding their books for the year. They have beanbag chairs and a hammock under the loft bed for reading nooks. I have shelves in the closet holding games and kits that complement their curriculum. The garage is deemed the “art studio”. We have painted a large blackboard on the wall where I will do some instruction and we can do learning there when inside the home gets stale. They have a table in the art studio and a closet and drawers full of art supplies they have free rein to use at will. There is a small basket of books by the fireplace and a record player in the living room, next to it is a bin of the kids favorite records and some new ones I want them to give a try. Our home is set up to create many opportunities for me to redirect the kids to keep busy when I need to work.
3. I HAVE STARTED SECRETLY PREPPING MY KIDS. Speaking of redirecting I have secretly been prepping my kids for the school year ahead. The lazy summer days are getting tucked away and replaced by a bit of structure, this takes a shift. For the last two weeks I have been making it a point to give my children tasks they have to do on their own…quietly. Build a bridge with Legos. Write a list of items you want for the school year and send me Office Depot links. Go find an art project to do in the garage on your own. Wash your bike. Bake something for dessert. Read a book. Color me a picture. These “do alone” activities are helping to train their brains to work quietly and independently on projects.
Secret prep # 2: I am starting school a week earlier than we must. I school partnered with a public charter. This means we are technically part of the public-school system, but I am still the teacher. We meet with an educational facilitator once a month for support and to make sure we are meeting standards and they provide funds for educational materials and classes that meet physical fitness needs and things I can’t teach like music and foreign languages. They won’t buy the faith-based materials I use but I don’t mind paying out of pocket for those. I thought you may be interested to know a bit about Charters, but my point was this. School for Charters start a week after public school. We really have another week of summer if we want to but I had it in my mind that we were starting on the public school schedule and so I am going to stick with that and ease into our school year. I am going to give us two weeks to finish one week of curriculum. This will allow us to enjoy digging into all the new books and tackle new schedules and disciplines in a gentler way.
What are you doing to prepare yourself for the school year? I’d love to hear your tips too!
At the beginning of last school year, we were starting from a low point…and a high point. The low point was that my daughter had lost her love of learning. Five years in the public-school system had left her felling dumb, hating reading, and deciding that school was boring, therefore learning was not fun. Please don’t hear that I am picking on the public-school system. As a public resource it follows the utilitarianism principle, it provides the greatest good to the greatest amount of people…leaving some behind. Sadly, my daughter was one of the left behind. She had fallen behind grade standard in reading ability and it effected all the other areas of her schooling. Teachers told me she was an anomaly, the tutor wasn’t making progress, and my daughter spent many days crying and telling me she was just dumb. I wasn’t kidding about the low point.
So, at the end of her 4th grade year I decided to homeschool. I heard it all. “Why would you do that?” “But you don’t have teaching credentials.” “How will she socialize?” Sometimes I offered up an answer and other times I resigned to let others think what they wanted. I knew this was the right thing for my child. And this is where the high point began. I now had the power to change the course of my daughter’s education while she was still young.
I planned and researched and met with an educational facilitator at my charter school to line up curriculum and plan the school year for my daughter entering 5th and my son entering kindergarten. I bought the books and ordered supplies. I did all those things you might imagine but there was one thing I did that set the course for the whole year. I set an intention.
My intention would be my guide through the school year. It would remind me of our greatest educational purpose that year and help us grow in the area most needed. It would keep me in my lane as I saw other moms doing it differently than me. It would remind me not to veer from course and add more stuff we didn’t need. It would guide me in how I taught my children. My intention would be very important.
My intention for last year was easy to pick. While some may have chosen to try to increase scores or meet new academic standards I simply chose, “help my children fall in love with learning”. I knew if I could do this all the other important factors would follow better reading and math skills and better grades. If I could entice my children to want to learn then academic improvements would surely follow. And they did. In just six months my daughter went from reading below her grade level to reading at a sixth to seventh-grade level based on state standard testing. She actually told me she liked reading! Not only that, but I was watching her become more inquisitive and take risks with learning new things.
Implementing my intention looked different everyday but it started with “unschooling”. We did not sit at a desk all day. We often learned outdoors. We focused on things that piqued her interest and researched and wrote about that. We implemented the discipline of narration for every passage she read. This caused some resistance at first, but this is what brought results in reading and writing comprehension as the year progressed. While we had daily tasks, I focused on the big picture to make learning interesting and fun. I didn’t over test or teach memorization of facts but let learning unfold naturally for her. I allowed her curiosity to lead us, and it did. Learning became fun.
As we enter year two, we have a new intention. This year it is “experience learning, encourage inquiries”. My core focus is the same: deepen a love of learning to make a lifelong learner. We will experience learning by being more hands on in all we do, and I will encourage the children to ask questions of everything. Just as a three-year-old asks why 50 times a day, I want my six and eleven-year-old children to do the same and then find the answers. This will develop a habit and lifestyle of learning that will carry them through their whole lives.
We all have a different situation. Some may homeschool like me and others will have children distance learning. Some will work as they manage their children’s education as I do, some won’t. Your intention should suit your family and your situation. Your intention should empower you and your family to have a great year no matter what you are facing. It can be measured simply by how your family feels at the end of the year.
When my daughter started telling people she liked school and when she started selecting books from the library for pleasure reading, when she asked me to learn new things and didn’t whine when I said to was time to do her studies I knew our intention was a success. She had now fallen back in love with learning. Does that mean she loves learning everything? Of course not, but her attitude about learning had changed. The improved scores were just a bonus. The intention had worked.
What is your intention this year? What will create balance in your house and a healthy learning environment and healthy attitude about learning for your child? For some it may be quality time with no screens every day. For others it will be regular outdoors breaks to improve your children’s moods and break up long days staring at a screen. It may be more personal such as taking on more responsibility in your child’s educational process. Or perhaps it’s backing off the pressure to perform and helping your child fall in love with the learning process as it was for me. Whatever it is, I encourage you to set an intention and return to it all school year. Then check back in with me next June and let me know how it went.
In struggle and triumph, your friend and co-laborer in the journey,
You can find me on my blog from time to time and pretty much daily on Instagram where I openly share my life of urban homesteading, homeschooling, and teaching God’s word.
I'm just a girl, standing before my God, knowing that He loves me and wanting others to know that love too.