Category Archives: burn out

Home School Gone Main Stream

Home School being main stream seems counter intuitive and even counter cultural but it is true.  There are more homeschoolers across the nation than private schoolers!  There are so many choices in curriculum, co ops, programs, on line classes, dual enrollment, etc that beginning this journey has become mind boggling.  I am so thankful that it was laid upon my heart to create Faithful Scholars into a realized vision of educating, empowering, and encouraging home schoolers through workshops, newsletters, Face Book Live events, one on one support, and more rather than requiring that you fit into my perceived box of what schooling at home is and is not or simply beginning your legal paper trail.  That being said, I am not knocking those groups as they are the perfect fit for many who find comfort in being told what and how to navigate through the freedom of homeschool or must run their school on a very tight budget.  However, I am thankful that Faithful Scholars grooves to the beat of a different drummer that enables us (my amazing, supportive Better Half and children, incredible office staff, and a top notch IT Team) to serve you beyond the norm.

Becoming main stream has given pause for reflection and I realize that we are so richly woven with threads of integrated primary roles – spouse, parent, and teacher that onlookers are drawn to discover what it is that gives us our joy, edge, vitality.  Call it what you will, but it is appealing and noticed from a distance.  In our undertaking to educate at home, we have have laid ourselves down to be devastated by His grace and will, and found that in doing so, we unexpectedly discover that we are covered by that very same grace.  Becoming aware of this option of being rescued from another person’s schedules, expectations, deliberations, and demands we find that those seemingly secure interactions pale in comparison to our integrated life of family, learning, and play.

Each day is alive with the possibilities, the expectations, of revelation, new, challenges and joys.  Our beings respond with praise and rejoicing in our everyday comings and goings whether we know this or not.  Taking this organic movement into the main lanes of educational options.  Our lives are compelling and mysterious.  People see us coming from a long way off and wonder.  Stopping in their tracks to observe our exchanges with our spouse, children and others, contemplating what has caused us to laugh with pure delight!  Ultimately deciding that they too want the brilliant, kind, curious outlook that they witness….and they come to ask hoping discover a deep well of love, patience, expectation and are drawn one step closer.  You may be tired, lacking your normal patience, yearning for a few more minutes of sleep, feeling burdened by lessons left incomplete, but before all of this, and in spite of all of this, you embody the peace, contentment, and joy that others seek!

The Praise Habit

This is the time of year where I (try to) back down on office work and bettering and bettering and order those ‘real’ items in my life that are neglected during the wonderfully busy Helping Times that bookend my year with Faithful Scholars–  helping families get started, advising on curriculum options according to the unique goals of each family, paperwork for intake, building individual transcripts, creating diploma’s, and all that brings me joy in serving and helping our incredible members each year.  All that to say, I can’t believe that I am getting on here to blog on the sunny and beautiful November morning rather than feeling content with our every other Friday afternoon Face Book Live sessions!  –but am thrilled to find myself here with you all!

What has brought me here is one of my favorite books titles The Praise Habit by the quirky, out of the box theologian by the name of David Crowder.  No wonder he draws me deeply into wonder.  Refreshing!!  This morning I was in the midst of contemplating whether I allow myself to be “engulfed and covered by God’s embrace” by seeking ways of placing myself in the path of “this embrace.”  Of course I don’t—I was built to serve.  At any rate, that has been my motto, and if you are a homeschooling parent, I am pretty sure this is in your top three thoughts.  In fact, how would I even put myself in the path of God’s embrace without feeling like a whiny baby?  I’m not sure, but I am going to contemplate this and see what comes.  Would you join me?  Does it not sound amazing to be engulfed, embraced, and covered by His love?!

“The spiritual life is first of all a life.  It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.”  – Thomas Merton

 

Advanced Learners

This year we are doing first grade, but the public school would have him starting Kindergarten.  He is just too advanced to hold back.

Don’t hold him back academically, but I would encourage you to keep him in the proper grade for his ‘future self’.  Don’t dumb down his work.  Many K’s are doing 1st-grade work, but come 3rd or 4th (or sometimes 9th) it becomes too difficult and they totally lose their self-worth as being ‘so smart’.

Label him the proper grade per age (we do this for kids who are behind grade level as well).

Teach at the level he is (above, at, behind grade level).

Tell him what a hard worker he is (but not that he is ‘so smart’)

Understand that he is and will continue to ‘play’ school until age 7, 8, or 9.  Be a fun playmate!

When it becomes real and no longer play is when you want to make sure there are no emotional wobbles due to labels or how proud you are reflecting your advanced student.

Never keep him at full speed/challenged/at potential, but rather move forward as he sets the tone with precept upon precept and concept upon concept.  Imagine if your husband said, “You are such a great wife that I expect you to work at your very best Top Notch day in and day out.”  Exhausting.  Overwhelming.  Draining.

Usually, a child will continue to be ahead in some subjects and fall behind in others as the years go along.  This is perfectly fine.  Completing all subjects of a specific grade level does not give validation or credence to work accomplished.  A year of math is a year of math even if only a portion of the textbook was covered.  You will complete the rest of it next year (or over the summer if you school year ‘round- such a lovely and relaxing approach to schooling!)

We have always made age 6 our K year.  My husband teaches in a college prep high school with tons of really bright kids who have been pushed ahead.  They are able to compete in the classroom, but not on the playing field or leadership as their bodies and emotions are still at the proper age.  And, it’s nice to graduate a man who is a bit more mature in age and wisdom than his peers…and we have loved having the extra year with them.

Impact of our Differently Gifted Children

A Note to Parents of Special-Needs Children by Maura Roan McKeegan

Earlier this month, in a story called “What I Saw on Respect Life Sunday,” I wrote about witnessing the love between parents and their special-needs children at Mass. This past weekend, by God’s grace, I had the privilege once again to see this kind of love in action when I sat at Mass in the pew behind my friend Marybeth and her daughter, Emily, who is autistic.

I have written before about Marybeth and Emily, and about the experience of being at Mass with them. The love between this mother and daughter has taken my breath away for years, ever since Emily was a little girl. Now an older teen, Emily still brightens every room with her childlike spirit, and renders me awestruck with her heartfelt devotion to the Mass.

When this Mass began, Marybeth and Emily opened the missalette, and together they followed along with the readings and prayers, Marybeth pointing to their place on the page, for the rest of the Mass. They found all the songs in the hymnal (hearing Emily belt out the name “Jesus” made me feel like I had a front-row seat to a worship session in heaven). When she recognized familiar Scripture verses and liturgical prayers, Emily recited them ardently along with the lector, deacon, or priest.

Over the years I’ve known her, Emily’s enthusiasm for every word and prayer of the Mass has never waned. Neither has the outward expression of the love between Marybeth and Emily waned; the way Marybeth puts her arm around Emily, and Emily leans into her mother’s shoulder—the back-and-forth of holding hands, rubbing backs, and touching heads—is a dance whose choreography hints of the divine.

Though I’ve seen this before, it always feels new, and so for the second time this month, the love between a parent and a special-needs child at Mass brought me to tears.

Afterwards, I was thinking about Marybeth and Emily; about the families I described in my previous article; about the other parents I know who have special-needs children; and about the grace that overflows in their presence. And I wondered—do these people know how much their witness means?

In case they don’t, I want to write this for them.

To the dear parents of special-needs children: We see you. (I am going to use the word “we,” because I know there are more people than just myself who feel the same way.)

We see the way you care for your child, the look of love in your tired eyes, and the gentle touch of your weary hand. We may not see you during the hours and hours you spend tending to your child’s needs in your home, when no one is watching. We don’t see you get up in the middle of the night, or do the same difficult things day after day after day. We can only imagine how much strength you need.

But we do see you when you bring your child out in public. Sometimes it is an enormous task for you to bring your sweet child somewhere, whether it’s because of how much effort it takes just to get from one place to another or because of how worried you are that your child will make noise in a quiet place. (We understand why it might make you self-conscious, but the noise your child makes doesn’t bother us a bit —in fact, to us, it sounds like heaven’s song.)

We see you, and we are so grateful. If you didn’t bring your child, we wouldn’t have the chance to witness your kind of love. A love that gives when more giving doesn’t seem possible. A love that emanates when your child smiles, talks, laughs, makes noise, and even when he gets upset, needy, and agitated. A love that reminds us that Christ loves us when we smile, talk, laugh, make too much noise, and even when we get upset, needy, and agitated.

If you didn’t bring your child out among us, we wouldn’t get to see this living picture of the love of God.

And yes, we know you aren’t perfect, and there are times when you don’t love perfectly. (We’re in the same boat.) That inspires us, too, because you keep going even when it’s hard, even when you don’t feel like you’re doing a good job, even when you don’t know if what you’re doing is really helping. Discouragement is part of love, too, when we’re human and want to love better and can’t seem to get it right no matter how hard we try. Don’t think for a minute that your feelings of failure from time to time make you less of a parent. They make you more of a parent. They prove how hard you’re trying to do a good job. If you weren’t trying, you wouldn’t feel like you’ve failed.

You’ve succeeded in what matters most: you have been faithful to the call to love and take care of your child, God’s child. And all of us who see that are blessed.

We also know that you’re not doing this for recognition, and that an onlooker’s expression of gratitude doesn’t hold a candle to the blessings you receive simply from being the parent of your extraordinary child. But everyone can use encouragement sometimes, and we want you to know that the work of your life does not go unnoticed.

May God grant you renewed strength as you drink from the stream of the Living Water. We also pray that, when you need help, you will feel comfortable enough to reach out to us, and that we will be able to support you as the Body of Christ.

Your child is beautiful; the way you care for your child is beautiful; and it is an honor and a privilege for us to bear witness to that love. In your example, the words of Jesus resound: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).”

Growing Alongside our Young Adults

Dear Friends,

As I wrote to a friend this morning, the email touched on so many tender spots that many of us face but few of us share.   If you are not yet at this point in growing up, please do not be disheartened.  The journey has been full of warm fuzzies, incredible highs, inexplicable joys, and many moments where I just knew that we had the world by the tail and were doing it all well.

Life is life, and just like when you share something difficult with a friend (or a stranger) to discover that they are or have dealt with the same issue- this is one of those areas.   I take heart that struggle simply means that God is not done with me yet!!

Life does just keep winding around and about.  We thought it was difficult with all of those little ones running about leaving us sleep deprived and on the go.

It just continues but the stressors and problems come from deeper places within requiring more of us which can only be found by digging deep within our own souls.  It is tough!!!!  And I am a step behind where you are, so it is obviously simply going to keep on and on.   My anchor that brings balance is vulnerability given over to Christ.  That willingness for pie in the face wed to trust that God will turn it all for His good if I but stay the course seeing only one footstep ahead.

You are such a steady daughter for your dad, mother for you children, and I am certainly hoping that transfers to your husband as well.  Can’t imagine it does not, but sometimes that is too tender a place to keep open when being ripped open from all other angles.  By ripped open, I do not mean in a negative manner although it certainly is not pleasant.  I mean like an infection needing to be opened in order to heal.  We were so careful to raise our children differently, spiritually, tenderly.  Yet, somehow, those seedlings of self will, our over powering wills, our lack of wills, –all of that- dropped in there and come forth at some time.  Walking alongside these growing adults is one of the toughest things I have yet to do.  Trying to give them knowledge and wisdom for them to take or leave knowing that it would/could make all the difference between a wise or a foolish decision.  And yet, in the end it comes down to what it always comes down to.  Faith.  Faith that being open and vulnerable is the only way to ever experience the opposite feelings of fullness and joy.  Faith that we are His daughters and sons and His love and plans far surpass our own.  Faith that Jesus never showed up against a lily-white back drop.  Faith that I have/am giving my all and will be gifted the strength (stubbornness) to continue one moment at a time regardless of full hearts, broken hearts, aching hearts, jubilant hearts.

Have courage!

Going Slow is Sometimes Like Medicine

Ponder the last time you spent a day or an hour or a moment purposely going slow. A mom wrote the above title to me the other day after she had watched a box turtle meander along and fireflies dance. These are reasons to homeschool, right?

How is it that we get caught up in completing one more task, creating one more organized space, engineering one more functioning schedule, and then decide that now that we have a well oiled machine, er schedule, er family/school unit, we should add MORE!! We could achieve more if we put our children on a yellow bus, yet we chose a path less traveled. One with lots of lovely bends in the road bringing who knows what or who around the curve. Do we make and take the time to embrace those lovely surprises or do we groan as they come along knowing that they either must be ignored, avoided, or allowed to topple our proverbial apple cart?

A homeschool life is such a wonderful journey. Not always amazing in ways that warm the cockles of our hearts, but amazing the ways that life is amazing–BECAUSE of its continuous ups and downs. You may be one that makes every attempt to straighten out the road so as to avoid unexpected surprises or you may be one that zooms down the road so focused and fast that the unexpected surprises simply blur into the past. Or are you one to round the corner, see a slow turtle, and allow it to stop you in your tracks for many moments of goodness, beauty, and truth?

After all, you were probably NOT drawn to homeschool for the exacting nature and pace requiring drill sergeant-like attention to detail, pace, and accomplishment. Quite the opposite. We innately recognize that we are fully equipped to lead, guide, and teach our children towards Truth. In that we study Beauty. Through this we find Goodness.

How was your year? Can you remember the times that you watched the turtles plod and the fireflies dance? If you are like me, you know that you did take a few of those moments, but can’t recall doing it as much as you would like. For my part, my morning cuppa will be spent on my backyard deck or wandering about my yard or peeking at my sleeping children. Dishes can wait, the house will always need a tidy up, and business hours need not be done away with simply because a laptop can travel far too easily.

Grass is Greener

The grass is always greener when seen from a distance.  My fellow homeschoolers all have it together while I still flop and flounder.  Or am I just looking at things from the wrong angle?  My side view shows beautiful lush green.  Step into the middle of that ‘grass’ and suddenly, as you look directly down and about, you see the bare patches and realize that much of the green is made up of weeds.    Perspective is a grand thing, but can only be attained if we get outside of our own safe world of opinions and judgements.

Once we realize this phenomenon, do we give others grace?  Or do we continue to berate ourselves as not having it all together because of X, Y, Z which ‘they’ obviously have and you do not have?  Let’s lay down our defenses and focus on the work at hand.  Then, when you look up, you will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with a friend helping to decide how best to improve or utilize your bare spots and weeds.

Curriculum is a Tool, Not a Goal

As we excitedly plan out our learning and lessons for next year it strikes me how the butterfly-joy welling up from within is based on the journey rather than thoughts of the completion of another year.  It feels like running into a dear friend who has been out of town for a while.

In the beginning, I thought it was about getting through a long list of requirements year by year.  The concept of being able to fall into a lesson of intrigue and remain there for as long as we wished is foreign- feeling somehow that it must be wrong, illegal, something.

After years of following my heart instinct, experiences have confirmed, in multiple ways due to various and sundry children’s testing, attending school, going to college, etc. that this method works.  But, it still feels confusing to educate in such a non-traditional manner.

We use books- many books but rarely follow one all the way through as we don’t believe that gives a worldview from which to platform discussions.  We learn how to learn traditionally because that is the world we live in.  However, day to day lessons are fluid, aimed at my children’s future selves, built toward their interests and gifts.  Rarely are two days alike.

There is rhythm to each day, there is sequence to our lessons, there is beauty as well as tears, and there is trepidation that I’m missing something, I’m doing it wrong, I’m fooling myself.  God is giggling right now as He whispers in my hear, “Katie, my beloved, that is faith.  Trust.”

Harmony- She is Illusive

Finding harmony based upon routine is one of a homeschoolers core daily struggles.  Even for those of us who are determined to maintain a fluid day, there must be some order.  When do the children wake, what lessons are the big slimy toads and need swallowing first, who needs what nutrition at what time in order to balance out minds and moods, do I answer the phone or pretend not to listen to the voice leaving a message, do I check emails or call it multi tasking as I take a potty break, and on and on.  So, fluid is wonderful, we strive for it, but what gives us the most harmony is doing as we ought to do based upon what routines we have put into place.  To let these go for a day, much less a week, means having to push start a solidly build iron caboose all over again.  Obviously we don’t relish that idea, so why not put it off for one more day, and one more day, and disharmony arrives without us even noticing.

Keeping motivated for our own chores, expectations, meaningful work etc. is only the beginning.  On top of this we must guide and encouargae our children in this same area- this same area that we so often stutter-start, falter, and fail in.  It is a constant seeking.  One that is most often just illusive enough to erringly convince us that it is unattainable.  —And then we grasp it; hold it for a few precious moments; become exhausted in the maintenance it requires; lighten our grasp– and out ‘she’ goes to be sought once again.  It is in the journey that we grow, not in the reaching of the destination.  That is the wonderful thing.  Enjoy the journey.

 

Considering Homeschooling- education vs. being educated

Homeschool is about creating a culture of education, daily devotion to curiosity, and practice of diligence toward discipline.  It is more about character and less about the completion of, or in some situations, the ‘experience’ of, material.  Homeschoolers use books to grow our children in the areas of faith and diligence.  An incredible academic education is almost a lovely side effect of teaching at home.

Consider the fact that one must be educated in order to truly understand, practice, and defend their faith.  To be diligent and kind one must understand the parameters and purposes of such acts; why they ought to be grown from within; why they desperately need to be practiced each day.  These acts are caught rather than taught.  Following goals of completing a book simply for the sake of checking off a subject in order to progress to the next book will be hard pressed to lead a child to faith and character.  Reverse that order and it is such a lovely and common sense approach for a person to use books, any books, to grow our children in stature AND education.

“The goal of education should not be the completion of a book, but, rather, the lighting of a fire.”  Some famous sage made this statement ages ago.  Wish I could remember their name for you, but I think those brain cells shrunk with baby #4 or was it #5?

When we school at home we have the time to model for our children.  We have daily pressure to walk what we talk rather than the need to preach into the void of time between school, practice, homework, and sleep.  We unlimited opportunities to socialize and learn alongside other children/parents with the same end goals rather than a wave in a carpool line and a hope that your child is no longer hanging out with (insert nemesis name here).  There is no need to undo 8+ hours of gunk build up in order to get back to an open and teachable attitude.  Instead, we must work on ourselves in order to know when to lead, guide, encourage, respect/love, chastise, or challenge.

Homeschooling mamas have such a desire to get to Heaven that we daily open ourselves up to sanctification through educating our children.    When we school at home, we have the time to educate our child in a lasting manner that considers and encompasses their whole life rather than simply preparing them for college.  Education should be a lifelong quest.  Modern education stops between the ages of 18 and 24 with nary a book to be opened again.  Once they head out your door, the time for imparting faith, character, and kindness is over.  However, if they have been encouraged to find joy in learning, satisfaction in doing hard things, respect/love in following their curiosity, they are well prepared to learn anything they would like in college and beyond.

God can redeem all things,  Please do not read into this that I am discounting His power.  I rely on His power as mine falls so far short- and I seek this homeschool quest daily with a couple of decades of experience.

I can think of nothing more worthy of my weekdays than practicing and speaking consistent love into the hearts and minds of my girl-women, and practicing and speaking consistent respect into the hearts and mind of my boy-men– using books as one of my main mediums.  Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- people who are curious- people who learn- people who master- people who share with others.

Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- curious people, learners, masters, givers, etc.  As if there could be nothing better:  We share this gifted journey with a community of like- minded people who we can truly get to know during hours of socialization while we guide our children toward the common goal of educating the whole child.   Those who understand the difference between an education as something to worship vs. being educated in order to live fully as God intends for each and every one of us.

My prayer for this blippy blog is that you might haver a better understanding of the difference between an education as your end goal vs. education as a lifelong pursuit to live fully in communion with others- as God intends for each and every one of us- loving our neighbors as ourselves.