The Togetherness of Homeschooling

By Jennifer Dees

 

When I first began homeschooling as a mom with two small boys, ages 3 and 5, my reasons were pretty simple.  At that time, my passion for homeschooling was mostly a passion to be with my own children day in and day out.  I wanted my children (and any future children we had) to have great sibling relationships, and I was convinced that this could happen with lots of togetherness.  I wanted to have the luxury of time built into our relationships. I liked the idea of being able to see them interact throughout the day, and I want to be there to teach through the moments of conflict and play.  I also saw homeschooling as a way to keep our Christian worldview before their eyes, with ongoing conversations throughout the day. These were my husband’s and my primary reasons for starting this homeschooling journey, and these are still central to our answer when asked, why do you homeschool?

 

But it turns out that our reason for homeschooling has been an ever-evolving organism.

 

Since those early days, we’ve fallen in love with a great many books and hymns and poems as a family.  These are now a part of my “here’s why I homeschool” list. Our early book loves were The Little House on the Prairie series, the stories and poems of A. A. Milne, The Hobbit, White Fang, and The Chronicles of Narnia.  These works are our great friends forever. Then came the Little Britches series, the Yearling, Robinson Crusoe and others. In addition to these books, one of the richest wells we drew from was learning hymns together. These were conversation starters into deep doctrine, and these are family anthems and balms for our hurts.  We feel a deep kinship towards anyone who loves these same hymns.

 

Spending hours reading aloud to my kids has been so formative, especially in those younger years, when they weren’t able to read the kind of books on their own that have the rich vocabulary and complex ideas that I wanted them to be saturated in.  Audio books have been used quite a bit by us too. We do a Charlotte Mason education, so there is a big emphasis on the classics and well-written literature that inspires kids to think. We don’t do tests or grades, and rarely any fill-in-the-blank style workbooks.  Those were not the things that inspired me in school or taught me how to be a thinker. I didn’t want my children to develop a habit of reading just to find the answer to a comprehension question. I wanted them to enjoy our books, and our books became a big part of our family culture, in a way that no test can account for or measure.

 

Even if you aren’t currently homeschooling your children, reading to them aloud is a great way to build togetherness.  When you love the same books, you have endless examples for the kind of character to strive for and the kind of character to avoid.  Reading books together puts parent and child on journey together through a story, and we emerge closer, with a shared store of memories to drawn on for years to come.

 

Many family hobbies and projects are also a part of our “why we homeschool” category.   Playing music together and being able to regularly visit two nursing homes in our area are on this list.  Chores and gardening and seeing my children caring for their siblings as part of our daily rhythm make the list too.  Today, my nine year old will read to her three year old brother, and my teenage sons will do myriad tasks for the younger two throughout the day.  This is the beauty of togetherness.

 

Oftentimes, our days end without much measurable proof of success.  And we rarely get everything done on out list of things to do. We teach “…precept upon precept, line upon line.. here a little, there a little.”  And somehow these small moments add up to an education, by God’s grace.

 

As stewards over our children, we strive to teach them, as it says in Deuteronomy 6:7, ”…when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”  And none of the time we spend presenting Christ to our children is ever wasted. His Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Knowing this should have a significant impact on the value we place on our teaching time with our children.

 

I am thankful for the moms who went before me, who were the voice of not stressing over whether or not my children read early or did other things at the same age as the norm.  I want a peaceful, unhurried home, and homeschooling allows us to foster that.  There were voices in my life that wanted me to stress more, to sign up for more things.  They worried that I wasn’t worried enough. But it turns out that giving my kids a love of books has made them the kind of thinkers that are interested in the world around them.  And now my oldest children are self-learners. When the after-church conversations turn deep, my older children want to be a part of it. Conversations around theological and political topics are part of the atmosphere of our home.   And not being in a rush has been one of the pillars that held up that roof.

 

These days I find myself looking at my two tall teenage sons, sprawled over the furniture, reading their favorite novels or listening to sermons and podcasts.  And I am thankful that their family gets to be a bigger influence over their thinking than the opinions of their same aged peers, for a few more years.

 

I haven’t done everything right, and not everyday is peaceful and unhurried.  But I am always thankful for the togetherness the Lord have given us through homeschooling.  I am thankful that everyday I get to ask myself, what matters the most for this school day? How does our Christian worldview bear on this topic we are studying?  What does the Bible have to say about the way we work on our math, and the importance we give to it? As homeschoolers, we are in an ongoing conversation about educational philosophy, always asking: What matters most for today?

 

Whatever kind of schooling you choose for your family, and whatever books you use, know that we plant and we water, but God is giving the increase, and in His timing.  God can use you with all your imperfections in the lives of your children. And He uses us as we continue to ask the mundane question, What will we learn today?

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What I’ve Learned About Adult Friendships

By Jen Dees

 

Adult friendships are hard.  I was asked years ago to write about the topic of friendship by a Christian woman who I knew struggled with wanting closer and deeper friendships.  At the time, I couldn’t think of what to write on the subject. I had some really wonderful friendships, yet I didn’t know what made some acquaintances develop into friends, and others not.  I hoped that one day I would be able to formulate some thoughts on the topic. And while I couldn’t think of what that would look like, I knew, even then, that I would begin with that one sentence.  That was the one fact I was certain of: adult friendships are hard.

Looking back, I realize that I had an expectation that after age 25, I would be so mature, and the Christian women around me would also have reached the same level, that friendships would not be plagued with envy, comparison, or unfounded judgments.  Those were experiences of youth that ceased with the closing of the 26th birthday. So I was shocked to see these sins in my own heart, and shocked to see them in others, directed towards myself. I was surprised to see Christian women upset by not being invited to some particular event, and complaining to other women about it; women insisting on having their own way, and being upset at the results.

I don’t want to paint an overly negative picture.  I have met the most giving and wonderful Christian women in my adult years, and I have learned about true Christian hospitality and friendship through them.  I have met some Christian women who will go deep in discussions of theology and life in a way that feeds my soul. And I have seen Christian friendship covering petty sins in love, reaching out in times of loss and meeting needs in the most sacrificial ways.  The shock I experienced was due largely to my own naive expectation that friendship as an adult in Christ would always be easy.

Through the awkward bumps in my own relationships, I have learned many lessons about friendship.  One of the most important concepts I have learned came pretty late in life. I realize that I would enjoy all my friendships more if I were endeavoring to be the friend I want others to be, and not looking out so much and waiting for others to be a great friend to me.  This probably sounds so simple, that it sounds like it’s just the golden rule applied to friendship. But when it comes to friendship, I think we can find ourselves in a trap of being thoughtful and intentional with a given friend for a few weeks, and then quickly looking for this treatment back, being hurt when  these efforts aren’t completely reciprocated. Even worse, at times we are waiting for others to put out the effort first. The problem is, we can easily become an expert on what kind of friend others should be.

You wish others would check on you in your low seasons?  Be a friend who calls and texts and checks on others. Call and pray with someone who is hurting.  Check in regularly with the same person and see how their week is going. You desire to be invited to gatherings?  Invite women to things. I had heard many Christian woman complain about not being invited to gatherings. And I usually will ask, have you invited ladies to coffee or on a hike, or have you hosted a small gathering at your home?  The answer is almost always no. There seems to be a strong correlation between not reaching out to others, and chronic disappointment in the depth of your own friendships. Be the friend to others that you would like to have.

We easily become experts on how others should be serving us- all while giving ourselves grace.  We have 20-15 vision that only sees out. We become experts at how others should love. The people I know who have been the least giving of their time and their hearts have often been the most critical about how others serve them.   Women who never invite other women to lunch seem to often to be carrying the most hurt from a lack of invitations. Be the friend you wish others would be.

This is by no means a recipe that guarantees every Christian woman will have wonderful friendships. There are many ingredients to a beneficial friendship.  And I think reciprocation is an important part of a close friendship that lasts. We also know that God sovereignly puts easy and challenging people in our lives at various seasons.  But we can reach out and be the one to invite and check up on and extend. Because time invested into others is never wasted.


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It can’t ALL be important….

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I was listening through many of our episodes and noticed how many times the word “important” was used when referring to different things. It’s “important” to expose your children to different food cultures, nature journals, keeping a garden, having children cook meals, art, nature groups, having dinner at the same time each evening… you get the picture?

I started to grow a concern that we could possibly, and unintentionally,  be discouraging other moms! Do you guys ever walk away feeling you don’t have the time, ability, resources or budget to make all these “important” things happen? Do you start to feel like you’re unable to offer things to your children that are being held high by these crazy podcast ladies? I’ll be honest, I have felt something similar to that, sitting right there at the table with my friends. So, I get it.

Here is the thing though. We are six ladies with six different perspectives. We have six different families. We have six different budgets, available time, upbringings and marriage dynamics. All these things, and others,  form the ebb and flow of our homes. All these things form what we sift through and bring to the top and title “important”. That will look different for every family. There are things I will probably never call important in my family, that is important to another. There are some things that won’t be important to my home life because it’s simply not possible. There are things that won’t ever be labeled important in my life, because I don’t want them to be or don’t see the value in them as another person does.  THAT’S OKAY!

Please keep two things in mind:

  1. We are offering our different perspectives and why we have placed value on certain things in our home and family. It’s not law. It’s not what we think everyone has to do. It’s not the standard.  It’s our personal values we have knit together in our own families for different reasons. Please don’t be discouraged by it. Take it or leave it. Be inspired or laugh at it. Start doing it or put it in the “nope, not for me” file of your mind. We might try to nudge you to see why we have placed value on it, but it’s not authority.
  2. On the other hand, if it’s the word of God. If it’s truth, council or ideas deduced from the bible…feel the weight of it. We hope that if God says it’s important, you will label it the same in your heart and home. We all need to feel the conviction or grace that comes from the biblical perspective. Starting with the six of us gathered around that table.

We don’t take this platform lightly and have felt the weight of it on many levels. We want to be faithful and encouraging. We need you guys to be great discerners. We need you guys to give us the benefit of the doubt or ask us if you have a concern.  We only have so much time to cover things in our 30+ minute episodes. To give all the clarities, contexts and qualifications is a luxury we don’t have and that can feel unsettling at times. Hence, why I’m writing this blog post.

Please, don’t add unnecessary weight to your already full load of parenting. Make sure you’re discerning between preferences of us moms and instruction from scripture.

We are FOR YOU! We pray for you guys! We want to bring good things to your day! Thanks for letting me get this off my heart. Hope it helps. It did for me.

Work in Progress,

Kristin Rogers

 

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Overscheduled Life – Needing to practice what I preach.

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I wanted to sit down and quickly write this while I am in the thick of it. The thick of an over scheduled month. You know, the VERY THING we just released a podcast about NOT doing? This is something I am very purposeful of, so how I ended up here is slightly embarrassing and a bit frustrating. I know better. Why is it so important not to over schedule your life? Let me tell you some things I’m being sharply reminded of in this season:

  • It is much easier to view my children as interruptions of my To-Do list rather than view them as a gift and enjoyment.
  • My fuse is shorter. As I feel the weight of deadlines and time constraint for commitments constantly… my shoulders are tense and find myself quickly irritated.
  • I’m not as silly. Humor and laughter are medicine and I’m doing it less.
  • After my girls go to bed it is WORK WORK WORK instead of my slow-paced, date night feeling I like to have with my hubby.
  • I was tempted to say “no” to going and see a good friend get baptized or not make some phone calls to people I knew needed a friend. The very fact that I almost didn’t do those things so I can finish more work is devastating to my heart.
  • It made dealing with unexpected behavior issues or trial at any level feel enormous to take on.
  • We are eating out more, less homemade eating times together.
  • I have zero room for reading on the basis of enjoyment or learning about something that’s prodding my heart.
  • I’m weary.

There are seasons of life where this will fall upon you with no invitation or control. It can’t be avoided. Circumstances, emergencies or trial can make their way into your life in a heavy way and needs to be walked through with as much grace and patience as possible until it lifts.

There are times it can clearly be avoided. If we make a priority of keeping a peaceful pace in our life, saying no when needed, we will reap the fruit of that and avoid much of what I mentioned above. It is worth every effort to be purposeful about escaping the trap of an over scheduled life.  I miss that peace and pace. I’m not out of it yet, I will pay the cost for weeks to come. But, whoa, lesson learned AGAIN. I will tread more cautiously as I commit my time moving forward.

I’m thankful I was reminded of why I choose a peaceful schedule and all the fruit it bears in my life. I’ll seek it diligently…it’s worth is more valuable than gold in my heart and home.

Humbled….. Kristin

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Are homeschooled children living life in a bubble?

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No more than you and I are.   In fact, their experience of life is more like the real world that you and I  experience as adults, compared to the world that children their own age in a traditional school setting experience.   Homeschooled children are not in a classroom  for thirty hours a week.   But this is not a limitation:  It is a kind of freedom.

Yet many people have this image of homeschooling families, which assumes that because we choose to do school at home, that means we are always at home, and that we don’t interact much with society.   Well, as far as the homeschooling families that I know are concerned, nothing could be farther from the truth.  While the majority of the children in my city are in a classroom, my family can be found at the library, at our favorite coffee shop and bakery, museums, farmer’s markets, countless errands, nature trails, the list could truly go on and on.  So if you are concerned that homeschooling means living life in a bubble, let me assure you, it need not.

But you still may wonder, with all this home educating, time with siblings, and playing out in nature, where do our kids get exposed to the difficulties  of life, if they aren’t in public school?  Where do they see sin and conflict and have to work through problems, in order to practice for adulthood?  I think there are so many answers to this!   The public school experience has not always been a given in all of human history.  Yet sin has always been present; and so there are always plenty of opportunities to see the harsher realities of life.  My kids meet people with a wide variety of  beliefs in our neighborhood, we see people in ill health at the nursing home we volunteer at, we see real problems in our extended family, conflict occurs at home and at church, and we read the news.  We talk about politics and current events.  These are the rich experiences and places my children are exposed to.   Because my kids have siblings, we can hardly go through  a single day without having conversations about how Jesus would have us respond to the provocations that happen at home with those we love.  I wish conflict was confined to the public school alone!  My kids are far from being isolated from the problems of life.  But the truly wonderful thing is that they are not just seeing problems, and left to themselves to figure out the right response.  Because we are generally together when these hard truths present themselves, we are able to talk through the way Christ would have us respond.  How many times did we ourselves, as children, get exposed to something in school that was too upsetting and confusing  for us to properly handle, yet when we got home and our parents asked how our day was, we simply said, “fine,”?  Being exposed to sin is not enough.  Because being exposed to sin is not the same things as being equipped to understand the world and learning, one experience at a time, to respond in a godly way.

If homeschooled children are exposed to people, which they are, than there  are plenty of opportunities for them to live as a light to the world.  Think of the generation to whom those words in Matthew 5:14-16 were written!  There was not  a public school system at that time available for everyone as we know it today:  And yet  this concept was able to be carried out.   1st century Christians were a light to the world at the market, in their extended families, in their communities.  This is the same way that a homeschooled child who believes the gospel can be like a lamp on a stand.

In my house, I believe that I am raising a future author.  He will have a lifetime of opportunities to shine as a light, Lord willing.  I don’t expect my kids to be a huge influence on the world at age 6 and 7 (although I do think they are a testimony to God’s goodness, and at times, to the wisdom found in the Scriptures).  But I hope to train them, by God’s grace, to be an influence when they are mature.

Luke 6:40 says,  “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”  I think this points out that our children, as students, are the ones being molded. We can’t place them in a classroom with a teacher and 20 to 30 other students, and expect that their influence will be the one that prevails.  We need to be careful where we place them as students.   Because they will be like their teacher.

– Jen Dees

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School Year Prep

In this episode of At Home, Brianne Buskey leads the discussion on School Year Prep. Some of us struggled just a bit with this topic, because we’re still in the midst of summer. But our Brianne is a planner at heart. So it doesn’t take her long to dive right in and give us an episode chock full of practical tips and advice for planning the new school year.
We cover everything from choosing curriculum, our planning methods, budgeting for home schooling, how we arrange our school books and supplies, and even have a discussion about being part of a charter. By the end of the episode (almost) everyone was so excited about getting ready for the new school year, that the words “pumpkin spice latte” were uttered. Some of us though, still just want to go to the beach.
Whether you find yourself dreaming of fall drinks or sunny beaches, this episode is sure to inspire you to make some plans for the new school year. Thanks Bre for such a helpful episode!  And don’t forget to check the blog for pictures of school spaces from the At Home ladies.

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“Rules” for Creating a Beautiful Book Club

In the Creating Book Clubs episode, we mentioned the email Jennifer Naraki sent out inviting us to take part in her dreamy book club.
Some of us (Brianne Busky) found the long list of “rules” to be just right, and loved the idea of being part of such an organized book club.
Others of us (Greta Eskridge) wondered why a book club had to be so “rulesy” and wasn’t sure if  this book club was right for her. But she joined anyway because she just had a feeling that this book club was too good a thing to pass up.
Turns out both Brianne and Greta, and especially Jennifer Naraki, were right.
This book club was a very good thing, and a few rules make a book club run much more smoothly.

So in case you missed these details amidst all the laughter of the Book Club episode, here are some of our rules for creating a beautiful book club.

1. Read a limited amount of books a year.  Both our kids book club and our moms book club read only 4 books a year. That means we meet once every season, and it is a good way to keep the reading, or the meetings, from becoming overwhelming for any of us.
2. Plan the book club meetings as a team.  The principle of “many hands make light work” really applies here.  For our kid book clubs, one family chooses the book and leads the party. However, they do not have to do all the work for the party alone. The mom leading the party emails the group with her ideas for food and activities. She asks the other families to sign up for food and any other things she needs help with. This allows for a grand party to be had, but without one family shouldering all the responsibility themselves.
For the mom book club, we work in teams of 3. That means each member of the book club plans and hosts only one book club a year. Each team picks a book and plans a party for the rest of the group. By working on a team, and only hosting once a year, none of us get burned out by a book club that is too much work.
3.  Share the costs.  Book club parties do cost money and there are two different approaches to sharing those costs among our groups. For the kids book clubs, the parties are all potluck style, including food, plates, cups, silverware, drinks etc. That way the cost is split among all of us.
For the moms book clubs, we each contribute $15-$20 per meeting. That means for the cost of going out with friends, we are all sitting down to a beautiful meal, and usually some other kind of entertainment, (horse back riding, boat rides, calligraphy lessons and more) Again, since we meet only 4 times a year, the cost isn’t prohibitive for us.
4.  Make sure to discuss the book!  Part of the greatest joy of a book club is the discussion. In the kid book clubs, the family leading the book club creates a list of discussion questions and the mom usually leads that discussion with all the kids during the party. Its wonderful to see the way the kids are so engaged in the book and are excited to talk about it with their friends. Often the discussion lasts a long time because the kids have so much to share.
For our moms book club, the team leading the party also leads the discussion. Sometimes it is very informal and loose. Other times there are specific questions and ideas brought up. Either way is fine. What matters is that we get to discuss the book, because we really enjoy that!

And in case you were wondering, here is a list of the books our mamas book club has read together:
1. The Yearling
2. Wuthering Heights
3. A Room With A View
4. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
5. The Woman In White
6. Hidden Flower
7. Sense and Sensibility
8. Brave New World
9. Ramona
10. The Count of Monte Christo
11. The Keeper of the Bees
12. Go Set a Watchman
13. The Bell Jar
14. Cannery Row
15. Rebecca

And here is a list of some of the book club reads for our kids book club:
1. A Little Princess
2. Anne of Green Gables
3. My Side of the Mountain
4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
5. Caddie Woodlawn
6. Alice in Wonderland
7. Swiss Family Robinson
8. Black Beauty
9. Brighty of the Grand Canyon
10. Man of the Family
11. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
12. Peter Pan
It is our sincere hope that you will be inspired to create a book club for your kids, or one for you and some of your mama friends.
Or perhaps you’ll get extra ambitious and crete two book clubs! And I can tell you honestly that book clubs, the act of discussion a book together with friends is one of the great joys in my life.
Cheers!
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