Worked Up

I love reading letters to younger selves. If I were to write a letter to my younger self I would choose this month to do it. It would short and to the point:

Dear Kara,

Don’t get so worked up. You are loved by the Creator of the universe.

Let that be enough.

Love,

Your 44 year old self

 

 

Back in my twenties, before we had children, my main goal was to make sure people liked me. I didn’t know that back then so it wasn’t like I woke up in the morning saying, “How can I make sure everyone I encounter likes me?”

But it was it pretty close to that.

 

My in laws were… demanding. They had a lot of traditions already in place. The expectation that we would participate in every. single. event. was something Lee and I never discussed before we were married. I think because of my people pleasing ways and Lee’s bend in the same direction we just assumed we could make it work.

We never asked each other what we thought was important about the holidays.

Even when we added children the assumption that we would be at every gathering, on time no less, didn’t change. There were gifts to be bought and food to be made. Meanwhile we were struggling to make ends meet in just our ordinary lives. The added stress to our minimal extra cash was a lot. Nobody forced us to participate. We were invited, not threatened. Still, the unspoken, yet obvious, theme of ‘If you come you are part of the family. If you do not…”

Inevitably, what ended up happening was this: I got very worked up.

Very.

I didn’t share with Lee, except through explosive and tearful outbursts, that the lead-up to the holidays weren’t fun. The time we spent with family was fine, minus the fact that I was exhausted from stress and too much preparation. 

One year something terrible/wonderful happened. Our oldest girls were around 8 and 6 and they got strep throat the day before Thanksgiving. When the nurse came back in with the positive test results the relief that flooded my heart was extremely telling.

The kids were bitterly disappointed but Lee and I were thrilled.

For years we’d been cramming three Thanksgiving meals in. We’d never had the big meal in our own home.

We called Cracker Barrell and ordered four meals. I made pumpkin pies. We lit candles at our own table. We sat around and watched movies. The antibiotics kicked in by Thanksgiving evening and the kids started to feel better.

It’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories, because it finally felt like ours and not theirs.

 

I want to be careful to say that I do not blame anyone but Lee and I for our feelings. Again, no one was forcing us. The issue was that both of us were first-born hard-core people pleasers, plain and simple. We could have talked this through before we were married, or at least before we had kids. We were not the victims of family functions.

There’s just so much you don’t know at the beginning of a new thing.

We don’t regret any of those years that we ran around like mad trying to get everywhere on time. I don’t regret our kids being overly tired at the end of all. I don’t even regret the money we spent. I do regret the zen desk garden we purchased for Lee’s dad.

The thing is this: Lee’s dad was killed in a car wreck almost ten years ago and he is estranged family is estranged now. We haven’t seen any of them in years.

We didn’t see any of that coming. Those years that I was crying and sick to my stomach because of all my uncomfortable feelings were the only ones our family would have with Lee’s family.

That definitely gives me perspective.

Now, I’m not saying that you should run yourself into the ground during the holidays because someone could die. Death is a reality in this world for all of us. I think it’s silly to let that truth guide decisions that we make.

I am saying that boundaries are essential and healthy. We had choices that we didn’t know about.

We could have:

  • participated but come at a time that was convenient for us
  • participated but not in the gift exchange
  • shown up after a meal
  • skipped some gatherings
  • said, ‘We’ll let you know what our plans are.”
  • Invited them to ours house, even though it was small
  • divided up the gift buying/wrapping/baking between the two of us

 

We didn’t have the tools to do that at the time, though. I don’t hold that against our younger selves. However, we have learned from our mistakes and simply refuse to get worked up over the holidays.  Because when you’re worked up and upset you miss the gift that is Advent.

You miss the chance to do things slowly.

You miss the message that Christ came to bring us home.

Frantic is not part of the nativity story. Feeling like a failure is not in the Great Rescue Plan. Silent night, holy night doesn’t have the same ring when you’ve ground your teeth every night for a month.

Worked up is more like the work of the enemy. 

I believe that’s what that nasty devil loves: strife at the holidays. People worked up and arguing does not leave much room for thinking on the beauty of Christ coming into the darkness to bring us light. 

So, brave ones, let’s not get worked up. Let’s not get churned up. Let’s not Pinterest ourselves into forgetting about the gift of these holy days.

Let’s not give gatherings and events more power than Jesus has in our lives.

Instead let’s do simple and slow. Let’s look at the calendar and choose what we love, what we need. Leave the shoulds and the have-to’s off.

 

Be brave, misfits, and set up some picket fences on your calendars.

 

 

As always, please  share if you liked what you read here.

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IMRL (in my real life)

It’s funny how when you start out parenting you think you have a plan. You plan to grow them up, to do all the right things, and to live happily ever after.

Pee on the toilet seat is not part of your plan.

Children who refuse to eat vegetable is not part of your plan.

Mountains of never-ending laundry are absolutely not part of the plan.

I sometimes feel that life and my plan should have a conversation with each other, a shared google calendar, perhaps.

All the stuff that gets in the way of my plan is the problem, not my plan. Right? Right?

Say I’m right.

That’s real life, though, right?

Pendulous

Right now in my real life I feel like a pendulum. I swing from ‘everything is awesome’ to ‘what the freak is happening?’ constantly.

I’ve got to tell you, Lee’s job search is getting to me. I’m weary from the wanting and praying and hoping. Yet, I feel so grateful that we’re okay, that our kids are okay. It’s not where we thought we’d be at our age (hello, the plan I was talking about!) but we’re happy, healthy, and relatively stable in mind.

I feel for people job hunting. It’s demoralizing and tiring.

On to happier things in my real life.

Garden

We’ve started our garden. This year we’re trying it in the front yard. I hope it looks beautiful in July. The boys love planting things…hopefully they’ll also love eating the things that we grow. We planted arugula and lettuce. It’s a little late for those but I’m a Brave Misfit! No rules shall be followed in my garden. Green beans and peas went in as well. Sweet peppers are in, and in a couple of weeks we’ll put in tomatoes. I’m stoked.

This is not our garden. It’s not even our yard, but Liam wanted me to put this one in.

I’m getting the Brave Newsletter ready to go out and I’ll share some sites I love for gardening tips – so if you haven’t signed up go do it! You won’t be disappointed.

And if you are, please don’t tell me.

Screens

They are taking up my life. I’m going to be transparent here: I really struggle with screen time, I think for a couple of reasons:

1)They leave me alone when they’re on screens. Just being honest.

2) I love screens. I love the interwebs. I love Google and Instagram and Facebook (most days). I want to love Twitter but fail to understand it a little. I write a lot and I write on a screen.  And Netflix. I heart Netflix. I love a great series.

Liam interrupting me whilst binge watching. Er, I mean applying hyper focus.

There’s my struggle. I don’t allow myself to find a series very often because bingewatching is a real problem in my life. Hyper focus is my super power but can be detrimental when applied to movies and shows. Lee, my darling husband, told me yesterday that he wasn’t ready for me to find another series because he needs me to run things.

It’s like I’m the show runner! I AM THE SHOW RUNNER!!!!! Revelation. I’ve had a revelation, an epiphany whilst typing! (Can you tell I binge on BBC shows, which is why I feel I can say whilst?)

I really think we’d all be healthier and happier without screens in our lives, but here they are. So I’m applying some scheduling and trying not to freak out over it all. Liam told me the other day that he knows I often forget they’re only allowed screen time after 3:30, which is why he asks regularly. Smart kid, silly mama. So, I’m also reading some helps for parents with ADHD. 

Summer School

We typically do year-round school, so this isn’t a huge deal. However, this summer we’re going to keep going with Tapestry of Grace because we are behind where we’d like to be. Illness, schedules, math and science took over for a while. I love this curriculum so much, though, and I don’t want to short-change the children.

Spencer is begging me to short-change him, however.

Laurel is excited, though, because we’ll be studying early America, which means HAMILTON. I’m pretty excited, too. I’d be more excited if we won a free trip to Williamsburg, though. Or tickets to Hamilton. Or both.

I’ll probably settle for Fort Boonesborough, though, and be quite content.

Storage Unit
We went to the storage unit to look for sheet music. Laurel stayed home and did math. Look how big Spencer is getting!

It’s been two years.

Really almost two and a half.

I never thought our stuff would be in storage for that long.

The math works out like this: plan + life = new plan. 

I’m thinking, though, that most of this can go in a garage sale. Some of it can go here, too, but Spencer wants to save up for a red footed tortoise so a yard sale seems like the thing to do. I’ve got a ton of homeschool stuff that we no longer need, too. Maybe I’ll have an auction.

I wish I was an auction caller. I think that be so fun.

Here habadnye nadbandye Teaching Textbooks Algebra One heremabnda noeobdanae day dye going for $60 habandyend adyabodydady $80 over. I think I’ve got the hang of it.


So, that’s it. That’s the gist of my real life. Pee on the toilet set, battling binge-watching, planning summer things, lamenting loss, and moving on to summer plans.

Here’s hoping that in next month’s newsletter I can tell you that no urine drops have plagued my behind.

 

This photo does not represent guilty parties. At least not all of them.

I’d love to hear what’s going on in your real life, too. Share in the comments or shoot me an email, or visit on Facebook or Instagram.

Be brave, misfits. Carry on!

 

Education is Not an Emergency

I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with a fellow homeschooler where the conversation doesn’t fall into our curriculum choices, where we’re at, and what we’re working on. It’s to be expected. I mean, we’re somewhat isolated, no one taught us how to homeschool, unless you count the school system you were educated in.

The best thing that ever happened in my homeschool life was meet homeschoolers who would tell me the truth. They didn’t give me the jive that you learn to give strangers in public. They were honest with me about how much time they spent doing seat work, what they struggled with, what they did well.

These other mothers choosing to be transparent with me made a huge difference in how I homeschooled. They all echoed the same thing: “It will come when it comes.”

Meaning, sure you can push your kids to read, write, memorize, etc., but they’re not going to grasp the information until they’re developmentally ready.

It took me a while but I finally figured out that education is not an emergency.

At the beginning of our homeschool journey 14 or 15 years ago I had the kind of confidence anyone who has done a lot of reading on a subject has. I was armed with books that told me what my child needed to know when and was prepared to stuff my little kindergartner full to the brim. By second grade she and I both felt confused about the whole ‘school’ thing.

For me, her education was not going the way the books said it was. For her, her education was not going the way her brain said it should go.

I suspected dyslexia was part of the problem, but my intuition also told me that there was something else at play. My little one had things to explore, things to do, and I was holding her back with seat work and hand writing. I was impeding her development.

So I let her go. She and her little sister spent most of their waking hours outside, creating an imaginary world, learning about how nature worked on their own, and climbing trees. I started reading Charlotte Mason and John Holt, but also just watching them. I answered questions as they came up. We learned to identify birds and trees together. We attempted to garden.

In fact we attempted a lot.

I have a headful of unfinished projects, and a handful of favorites that stuck.

I found that I was learning right along with them, and by the time our number 3 child was school age playing was a huge part of our homeschool lifestyle.

I wish I could say that it was easy, or idyllic.

It wasn’t.

I still struggled with shoulds and have-tos in my own life and I pushed that onto my kids.

Some of my favorite memories of learning at home with my children revolves around read alouds, impromptu puppet shows, tea parties, and breakdancing. Those times were punctuated, though, with moments where I forced things on them because I thought I should, or felt we had to have a certain subject mastered. There were tears, from me and them, and more than a little reluctance about school.

Some friends thought that tears were a normal part of learning. I wasn’t convinced.

Of course, sometimes you have to do things that you do not want to do. That’s part of life. Kids are natural learners, though. They are instinctually curious about the world around them, how things work, and want to get to the bottom of the great ‘Why?’ They also want to please their parents. Those are their two main drives. So why make them compete with each other?

On a side note, I was also coming to the realization that my kids had a learning issue that was keeping them  from moving forward the way the books said that they should. I had thought that perhaps my teaching was wrong, that I just needed to do it harder.

I learned the hard way that gentler was the way to go.

All of my kids have dyslexia, just like their Dad, and some struggle with dysgraphia and dyscalculia, too. Sometimes sounding words, decoding, came easily, and other times it was like they had never encountered the word before. Copying was possible but tedious. Painfully tedious. Memorization was impossible. My husband’s sad story of being the only child in his 3rd grade class to miss the ice cream party for not memorizing the multiplication tables breaks my heart.

I refused to be the one breaking my children’s hearts.

A friend said to me, “If they haven’t memorized the multiplication tables by fourth grade, they’re not going to. Just let them use the multiplication chart.”

In other words, give them the tools to succeed.

Over the last 14 years my whole educational philosophy has shifted. I rarely think of ‘school’ as sitting down at a table and doing worksheets. I’m not afraid to change things midstream or research other ways of doing something. This year chemistry has thrown my daughter for loop, something that I cannot really offer a lot of help on. I can encourage her, though, and enjoy listening to her excitedly tell me about a different way she learned of doing things.

What I’ve learned is vast. I’ve learned that when my kids make huge leaps in learning, like reading or math concepts, they need time to process and reflect. Mastering a concept does not mean it’s time to push them forward. They need to play with the newly acquired information, to feel it out and experiment. They need to learn what they like about it, what they don’t like about it, and where they can apply the information.

It felt scary to let them take the lead on some subjects, especially the ones that are the hardest for them. There are times that I have to force intention into our days. We are all happier with rhythm. That said, kids have an amazing ability to learn if we let them. I need to provide the materials but let them chart the course.

I’m loving history but Spencer, who is 13, was not loving it. After a couple of weeks of frustration I asked him what DOES interest him about history. He immediately answered that he wanted to learn more about inventors and scientists during the colonial period.

Of course that’s what Spencer wants to learn about. He doesn’t care about wars and battles and Kings and Queens. But he’ll learn that stuff as he learns about what he’s interested in because that’s how information is acquired.

All I had to do was ask. He already knew what he wanted to learn about. He didn’t need me to tell him what, he needed me to show him how.

Take some stress out of your life and remove the 911 from your homeschool. I know it’s countercultural, I know it feels like people are breathing down your neck waiting to see what your kid knows. It doesn’t matter what others think of you and your life.

Education is not an emergency.

Write it down, heck tattoo it somewhere if you need to. Know that they will get what they get when they get it.

Be brave, misfits.

Go learn some stuff together.

 

Advice to New Homeschoolers…and Old

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So, you’ve made the decision to homeschool this year.

Maybe you’ve only got a kindergartner, maybe you’ve decided to pull out your middle-school kid, maybe you decided at the end of the school year last year that you wanted to homeschool and now that THE TIME HAS COME you’re wondering if you lost your mind.

Take a deep breath, everything is going to be fine.

When I first started homeschooling 14 years ago (WHAT?!)  I was like a deer in headlights. I so badly didn’t want to mess things up, and I only knew one other person who was homeschooling. Here’s a few things I wish someone had told me.

1. Advice is just opinion…

There is so much out there on the internet, in the library, and among friends on the subject of homeschooling.  Don’t even get me started on what family can have to say on the subject. 😀

Really, though, it’s important to remember that no matter where you’re getting advice, from the beautifully bound book that cost a lot of money to the woman you run into at the library, it is simply someone else’s opinion on the matter of homeschooling. You’ve already got your own opinion on the issue or you wouldn’t be homeschooling.

Advice is not the gospel – you can take or leave it, and if you leave it you can always come back to it.

I’ve said it before and I’m certain to say it again: every homeschool is unique. What works for one may not work for another and that’s okay.

2. Your homeschool won’t look like the picture in your head..

I had Little House on the Prairie as the picture in my head, the t.v. series not the books. I imagined my students (a.k.a. my children) sitting at their individual desks just learning their little hearts out.

It didn’t look like that. I think they only kept snacks and toys in the desks that I scoured the city for.

Turns out, my kids liked to sit with me on the couch while I read aloud. They liked working puzzles and playing games at the kitchen table. They loved being able to explore in the back yard, going to the library, and visiting with friends at the playground.

Staying home, sitting at a desk, and being quiet; turns out those are NOT ways my kids (or any kid) learns.

So, take that picture in your head and tear it up. Have a white canvas,  or better yet a dry erase board,  in your imagination because there will be a lot of changes made in the course of your homeschool year. Or in the course of your homeschool day.

It’s just not going to look the way you thought it would. Also, this might be a good time to memorize Proverbs 16:9 if this is making you breathe funny.

3. Focus on what you get done in a day, not what you don’t…

Confession: I think I may have been more excited about getting a teacher’s planner than I was about starting to homeschool. I filled that sucker up, man! I spent a lot of time planning out kindergarten and preschool with colors for each child. I would admire all the stuff that we were going to get done in a week and then be utterly defeated when only half the list was accomplished. Suddenly my planner didn’t look like awesomeness but more like a mean lady wagging her finger at me saying, “You’ll miss recess for this!” in a mean lady voice.

Ugh.

A number of years ago my friend, Karen, shared with me her secret. She had a notebook for each of her children where she wrote their weekly assignments down. The kids chose when to get their work done, it just had to be done by Monday of the following week. Simple. So I said goodbye to expensive planners and hello to $1 notebooks.

Sometimes, though, even that is too hard for me. During moving transitions or times of sickness, or just utter overwhelmingness, sometimes things slip. It happens. Homeschoolers don’t have substitute teachers. Life continues on.

Recently,  I read somewhere on the great Interwebs that you could just write down what you get done in day, that way you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished. I use a hodgepodge of curriculum, including  Tapestry of Grace, and all of it has it planned out, so I just log our work, or the kids log their work, and it’s no big deal. I find that writing down what we’ve gotten done helps me see that we’re not ‘behind’.

In homeschool, there’s no such thing as behind.

Write that down on 15 sticky notes and put them all over the house. Write it on your hand, or your forehead. Write it on the kids bathroom mirror. I’m serious. It’s that important. 

4. Plan on learning more than ever…

No one ever need worry that they aren’t capable of teaching their own child. No matter what your education level, income, or residence everyone is suited to educate their offspring. Thanks to the public library, internet, and homeschooling communities no subject is off limits to the homeschooler.

By far, my favorite aspect of home education is the joy of learning right alongside my kids.

We *typically have history/literature discussions every week, and there have been times that I realized my kids were staring at me as though I were a hydra because I was having an  ‘Aha!’ moment out loud. It is so stinking exciting to share a light bulb moment with your kids. I think it’s also important for them to see that you don’t have to learn EVERYTHING before you graduate high school. So have those aha moments in big and bad ways!

 


There’s a ton more I could add to my list but I think these four are the essentials.

Homeschooling is an awesome opportunity to develop a unique family culture. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

It’s only school.

Hehe.

 

Be brave, misfits! Go learn some stuff!

 

 

P.S.

I am passionate about education, especially home education. If you’re just starting out and you have questions, please feel free to ask me.  Or if you’ve been at it for a while and need refreshing reach out here…people will pitch in.