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Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 1: Why We Homeschool

Welcome to Part 1 of the Homeschool Basics Series! In this first post I will discuss why we chose to homeschool our children. I hope you will join in the discussion!

According to an article published at CNSnews.com on May 19, 2015, the number of homeschooled children in the United States had risen nearly 62% between 2003-2012. No doubt about it, that is a HUGE increase in parents choosing to educate their children at home! As the popularity of homeschooling rises, so do the varied reasons that parents cite for choosing home education over public or private school settings. Kyle Greenwalt discusses this change in his 2016 article for TheConversation.com, saying that although the initial catalyst homeschool movement of the 1980s was primarily religion-based, research on the recent trends shows that is no longer the case. The current homeschooling community is actually about as diverse as the nation’s population itself.

Since every family has its own unique reasons for homeschooling, we really can’t make assumptions or generalizations about the reasons that friends and acquaintances are keeping their children home. What led your family to make this decision may be entirely different than the catalyst for mine. So why do WE homeschool?

I think that the above quote from The Liberal Arts Tradition sums up our reason for home educating better than anything I could say.

Education is more than the transference of knowledge; it is the transmission of values, culture, and the proper ordering of loves.

As a parent, I feel that it is my responsibility to be the primary influence over my children’s education, and not just in the academic arena. Academics were certainly a big reason we chose to homeschool, especially since my husband works in higher ed himself! But an even stronger driving force in our decision to homeschool was the desire to foster a different culture in our home than what is prevalent in America today. We truly are interested in passing on our values and loves to our children, and the best way for us to do that at this time is to keep them home for their schooling. Even though the idea of being solely responsible for educating my children was very intimidating at first (and still is when I think about later years), I came to recognize that this was actually God’s calling for me as a mother, to disciple my children.

There are certainly a lot of perks to homeschooling. I don’t have to rush my children out the door every morning and then bring them home late in the afternoon to do homework all evening. I can create an individualized education plan for each of my children based on their own needs and interests. I can more adequately and easily provide for our family’s dietary needs and restrictions without the hassle of sending special food and notes to school each day. My kids have time and space to be kids and pursue their individual interests. We can choose curricula that supports our beliefs and ideals as a family. I can easily adjust our schedule to work around vacations, appointments, illness or whatever else comes up. But all these advantages are not the main reason we chose homeschooling.

Perhaps the best way to sum up our main motivation for home education is the command God gave to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

For me, homeschool is about discipling my children. It is about having the time together to really know my kids and how they tick so that I can better prepare the soil of their hearts to receive the seed of the Gospel. It is about passing on our family values and traditions that make up our unique family culture. And on hard days when it seems like we just need to get through the next handwriting worksheet or math lesson without a meltdown, I need to remind myself of these things. It is not just about the “three R’s”. It is about the Relationships.

How about you? Have you considered educating your children at home? If you do homeschool, what was the driving force behind your decision? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Read Part 2 of this series, How We Homeschool, here. Read More

When you feel like a failure

It has been “one of those days.” I think everybody knows that being a parent is not all sunshine and roses. We all have difficult days when it seems that our best efforts to discipline in love, to stay calm when our kids are tantruming on the floor, simply are not enough. We snap back and punish harshly. We throw a big fat tantrum ourselves. Our children fail on a daily basis, and so do we. And often we get to the end of the day and wonder, does that mean that we are failures, too?

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way, but I doubt it. Because I am responsible for setting the tone in my home, I blame myself for a lot of the kids’ mistakes. After all, they do learn from what they see me doing. If I don’t always respond to them in love, I cannot really expect them to do so very much of the time, can I?

Yet, I also know that Satan loves to heap guilt and shame on my hurting mama heart, causing me to feel defeated and discouraged. His accusing words that I am a failure, that I will never change, that I am ruining my kids, all pile up with so much weight that I can easily feel as if I might as well throw in the towel and give up before I’ve even begun. My tendency to perfectionism does not help. If I cannot do something without messing up, I am prone not to even attempt it at all. What is the point if I know I am just going to fail?

But in motherhood there is no giving up, no choice but to attempt to do better tomorrow than I did today. So what is a beat-down and discouraged mom to do? That is the question I am asking myself tonight. And here are some of the answers that the Holy Spirit is bringing to my weary heart and mind.

1. PRAY

Seems obvious enough, at least if you are a person of faith, right? But other than a quick, “God, help!” right before freaking out over a child disobeying for the 500th time that day, do we really take the time to stop and pray over the matter? I, for one, know that I have not spent enough time truly praying for wisdom and discernment as to how to deal with specific behaviors; nor have I prayed enough over my children, that they would have tender hearts open to my guidance and teaching and to the Holy Spirit’s own work in their lives. Busted! Yeah, I definitely need to pray more.

2. Find my identity in Christ.

Satan’s lies are just that: LIES! In order to combat the negative, defeating thoughts he has planted in my mind and heart, I must fill myself up with TRUTH from Scripture about who I am in Christ. Jesus says I am victorious. He says I am an overcomer. He says I am more than a conqueror. He tells me I am His. He will be faithful to complete the good work He has started in me. When I was in counselling for post-partum depression after my firstborn, my counsellor gave me a list of Scripture references for just this purpose. It had all the statements made in the Bible about the believer’s identity in Christ. I guess it is time for me to dig that out and start doing some intentional Bible memory in this area.

3. Seek godly counsel.

I have a stack of parenting books on the end table beside me. They all deal with topics related to grace-filled discipline and reaching the heart of my children instead of just correcting the outer behavior. I need these words of wisdom from parents who have walked this road before me. I only wish I would have started reading them long ago before some very bad habits got so ingrained in my parenting. But it is not too late to start the change.

I also am thinking about asking some older homeschooling moms for resources and book ideas for some specific attitude and behavior problems we have been having with my oldest. I think we need to really focus in on some character traits that are weak (in both me and him!), even if that means taking a break from our regularly scheduled school books to do so. And since many moms have been through these stages before me, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I just need to seek out that good advice and take it!

4. Breathe. Relax. Slow down.

The good news is that my children are young yet. They are still moldable and not set in their ways. A lot of the problems we are having are just ages and stages issues. We will get through this. And tomorrow is a clean slate. Sure, we have been through some rough patches lately, but that does not mean we have to let that define our family culture. We are in the midst of a move, a financially tight period, and a lot of change and upheaval is yet to come. It is ok if some things slide for a little while, if the school work gets a little behind or if we eat a little less healthy for a short time or if the kids have a bit more screen time than normal because I need to pack and clean. We can relax and breathe and have a little fun instead of always trying to push through and be perfect in the midst of the stressful time. Just take it one day at a time, I tell myself. Breathe. Smile. Look around and count your blessings. Tomorrow is a new day.

I am not a failure. And neither are you, weary mom. Maybe you had a bad day. It’s ok. Give yourself grace. His mercies are new. Go get some sleep. Pray for yourself and your kids. Find your value in Jesus love. Listen to the voices of truth, not lies. And breathe. We can do this! I’m praying for you. Will you pray for me, too? ❤️

The Reading Report, Vol. 1

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through my links, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps support my blogging efforts, so thanks in advance!

Welcome to the first installment of “The Reading Report”! My hope for this series to keep not only a record of the books I am currently reading and have finished, but also to keep an ongoing conversation with you about your reading life! In Volume 1, I will only be sharing a list of what I have read over the past year, just to give us a jumping off point. It is pretty long, but I wanted to get these recorded someplace besides my old planner. So, let’s get started, shall we?

Books Finished. . .

I started keeping a running tally of books I finished in September 2016, so I am going to start my “Reading Year” there. At first I included on this list chapter books I had read aloud to my 6 year old son, but I have not been doing that lately since they are all on his school reading list. So I will not include them in this post, either. Goodness knows my list is long enough already!

September 2016:

October 2016:

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

For some reason I have no record of books I finished this month. I think I had started my slower reading at that point, and it was getting a little more difficult to get through as much. We also started our first year with AmblesideOnline, so I had a little more on my plate school-wise.

February 2017

  • Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers (read along with the CiRCE Close Reads podcast discussion)
  • The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (I listened to this on audio via Librivox and then read each act afterword. This was another book discussion in which I participated on the AO Forum.)

March 2017

April 2017

And that is where my list of books finished ends. In May we had a lot going on in our family. Plus, the weather was pretty much perfect for spending time playing with the kids outside, so there was less time for just sitting around reading. I also started adding some more longer term reading to my plate. But completing 25 books in about 9 months isn’t too shabby for a slow reader! I have not set specific goals for how many books I would like to read in a year, although I know a lot of people do. I am more interested in quality over quantity, at least at this point. How about you? Do you set goals for your reading? Do you track what you have read/are reading in some way? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Be sure to come back for Volume 2 of The Reading Report in which I will be talking about my actual current booklist! Until, then, go get lost in a story!

My Reading Life

I have always been a reader, not a voracious reader, mind you, but someone who always enjoyed getting lost in a good story. As a child, my mother took me to the library on a weekly basis, and I was fond of these trips and getting new books to read. As school got more intense and life busier, I gradually read for pleasure less and less. As an adult, especially, my reading life took a major hit from work and life demands, as well as the fact that we moved to Illinois. We found that because we lived outside of town we would have to pay for library cards, and that simply was not in our budget at the time. For several years I really rarely read anything more than blog posts and online articles. Sad, but true! We did have access to Kindle books, but for a long time I really did not even know what to read, so even that resource was of no use to me.

Then, 2 years ago a couple of things changed. First, I had our second child and found myself with a lot of time on my hands, sitting nursing a baby with nothing else to do. Second, I had found out about the Charlotte Maon philosophy of homschooling and her emphasis on living books. Pretty soon, I found the free curriculum at AmblesideOnline.org and started pouring over the booklists there. And oh, the free Kindle links were a feast for my poor, reading-starved mind to behold! Suddenly, I had a sizeable laundry list of time-tested literature that I had never read, all right there on my phone. I started reading as many as I could, and that went pretty quickly at first because I started with the first grade level books and just read through them one at a time. 

At the same time, however, I also started listening to several podcasts and reading more blogs about classical education. One of those podcasts was the Close Reads podcast from the CiRCE Institute. It was fun to listen to the hosts discuss books, but even more fun if I was reading along. So I added whatever they were discussing to my growing reading list! Then I joined the AmblesideOnline forums and discovered their book discussions. More books to read and talk about! Somewhere around this same time period I also found out about all the free classics on audio at Librivox.org! Can you see how this is going? I went from hardly reading anything at all, to reading ALL THE THINGS in a matter of two short years. Lately it has been feeling like I might have too many books going at once and that I should probably try to just get through a few to get them off my list. But when you only have a few minutes here and there between taking a toddler to the potty and reminding a 6-year-old to take his shoes to the mud room (for the 5th time in the last 10 minutes!) and trying to make sure the rice for dinner isn’t boiling over on the stove. . . Well, it is hard to get through a chapter of something, let along a whole book! Besides, I know that dear old Charlotte Mason advocated slow reading, and it seems that I am going very slowly indeed with so many books on my plate at once! 

But I am not complaining. I am loving my reading life right now, even though I would like to organize it a bit better, perhaps. I have almost wondered if I shouldn’t assign certain books to certain days just to keep them all going at a steady pace. How about you? What is your reading life like? Do you like to finish one book at a time, or do you keep a few (or several) going st once? Do you have a good system for keeping multiple books up at the same time? If so, do share! I’m all ears! 

You Have to Start Somewhere

Writer's block. 

Usually when I think about having writer's block I associate it with the feeling that you have no idea what to write. But I guess that is not really quite accurate. Maybe more often it is the case that you have so many ideas that you don't know where to start. At least that is how I feel right now. I have so many subjects I could write about that choosing one for the very first post on a brand new blog is difficult, to say the least! But I really do have to start somewhere, so I suppose the most logical thing to do would be to write a bit of an intro to me and my blog here.

I actually already have a little bio of me and my family on my About page, so if you want to read that, click on over there. I feel like being a bit more informal in this post, though. This is not my first blog, but it is the first I have started with a real purpose and direction in mind. I have previously blogged mostly about my hobbies, especially knitting and crochet, and for several years I owned an Etsy shop where I sold handmade goods and patterns I designed. Once I started homeschooling my son, the same year I also gave birth to our daughter, I found I simply did not have the drive nor the time to continue that business. I still do some crafting for my own pleasure, but not anywhere near to what I did when I was filling orders on a regular basis. Since most of my blogging was centered around those pursuits, when I closed my shop, I pretty much quit writing, too. And I never really missed it until recently.

When I discovered the classical Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, I simultaneously regained a lost love of reading. I also started finding a wealth of helpful information online via homeschooling and classical education blogs. After a while, I started to wish I had a format where I could share what I was learning and reading and thinking, not just about home education, but about life in general. I do post quite a bit on Instagram, but that format has its limitations. I realized that maybe it was time to return to the blogosphere as an author, not just as a reader. I hesitated for a long time because I wasn't sure I had much wisdom or anything new to say that hasn't already been said a hundred times. But even in the mundane, average, realness of my life, there are things that are unique to me and my family. I have had a unique set of experiences that have shaped me to be who I am today, and perhaps sharing some of those things here will help or encourage someone else along the way. 

So that is a little different take on why I am writing here in the first place. Just for fun, here are 7 random bits of trivia about me:

  • I have a major sweet tooth. Don't hand me a bag of jelly beans unless you don't ever want to see it again!
  • My parents will either tell you they made up my name by mixing up the letters in "Kelli," or based it on a TV character's name, depending on who or when you ask!
  • I have been on 4 continents and in 7 countries, but never Canada.
  • I could eat pizza, Mexican food, and Thai food on an endless rotation and be perfectly happy.
  • I cut my own hair. Yes, I really do. It is naturally curly and hides mistakes really well! 
  • I cannot read distopian fiction. I get extremely depressed if I do. The Lord of the Flies horrified me (as it was supposed to, I am sure!), and I put down 1984 without ever finishing it. 
  • One of my childhood hobbies was recording myself reading books on a cassette tape recorder. I still kind of think it would be fun to be an audio book narrator!

So, that's it! There. . . I started! I am so glad you are along for the ride!