Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A review of 2014

We are home and quiet today after a busy few weeks. We celebrated Christmas early at home, then spent a few days with my family, and then we traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for a quick and fun trip with Jim's family. I love this time of year and all that goes with it. I love the activity and gathering and noise, I love packing and planning and to be on the road. And I love to come home. It was especially nice this year to come home to our own cozy house.

My mind is spinning with ideas and plans for the new year. I love all of the seasons, but I have learned to especially love this slow, grey month that opens like a fresh notebook. It is time to hibernate. It is time to make art.

A few things I learned and some highlights of 2014: 

1. Looking back on this year and the past years, I think I am finding a little clarity of what is my ministry for now, in this season, small as these things are . ..

-the ministry of countenance
-a disciplined and sanctified imagination
-to live a welcoming life

2. Words I lived by in 2014
I kept these particular phrases taped to the refrigerator, and thought on them daily:

"The key to Classical Education {parenting, life} is modeling."

"We are what we think."

"Favorable conditions never come." -C.S.Lewis

3. I learned that I am a Nine on the Enneagram.

4. Conflict makes things better
As a Peacemaker Nine (above), I hate conflict. I am learning, slowly, how to have healthy conflict and that conflict can be positive, peacemaking, and can build relationships.

5. Best Books of 2015
It seems every year I read a couple of books which qualify as The Best Book I've Ever Read. This year:

Best Fiction: Middlemarch- reminded me Why I Read Fiction

Best Non-Fiction: The Call by Os Guiness, another I will refer back to again and again 
"Follow the call of Christ despite the chaos and uncertainty of modern life, and you have the storyline of your life."
Best Parenting Book: Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes... In You and Your Kids, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. The heart of obedience and of becoming the person God made you to be, is for honor. Honoring God and others became the theme of our home this year, and will continue to be.

6. We enjoyed good visits with dear friends, these were the highlight of 2014. I am hoping 2015 will hold more of the same

7. Jim and I got iphones, we took a million field trips, had playdates, Jim began a new job working for Cleveland RTA, I continued writing for The Budget. I attended the Midwest homeschool convention (loved it). We began our third year of homeschool and second year of Classical Conversations. The kids played and grew and became fresh, new little people, right before our eyes. 

Three well visits- just because I love the photo 

(all of their intensity came from him)
8. My entire family went to Disney World.

Jim and my mom are missing from this photo- a fun time with all 14 of us.
I love my family!
9. I learned to teach (and live) from a state of rest. (Best podcast of 2014- I can't find the podcast, but this video by Andrew Kern is the same topic.)

10. We went camping and I decided I want to live in an RV. We came home and bought a little house.

11. I decluttered our entire house. Every last bit- from the furniture down to Polly Pocket's itty-bitty pink shoes, everything found a home or was purged. I probably wouldn't have done this if I hadn't needed to, but it feels good. I will write a post about this soon.

12. Best Christmas Gift (Ever): my sister-in-law built me the only thing I wanted for Christmas- a Little Free Library! She is amazing! I love it! 

Linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky with What I learned in 2014!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

more ideas than time

I give a lot of thought to finding meaning in life, understanding my purpose, what I could be doing better. On any given day I am thinking about ten possible major life plans. I love my life and the choices we have made, but I am always dreaming about other possibilities.

One day after asking the Lord- again- what is my calling and why do I still not know this? I felt Him say- why not be thankful for how I made you? Why not be glad for all of your ideas and excited by the possibilities? Why would your calling be confined to only one path?

This has given me so much freedom and joy to embrace possibilities. And the contentment again to be where I am, doing what I do . .. to live in the season as it passes.

I'm learning that Calling isn't 100% clear for most of us. And that it changes, sometimes one calling will end and another begin. That a calling may have very little to do with career and everything to do with following Christ in the fullness of life.

I loved the entire process of moving to a new house. All of it- sorting, purging, organizing a garage sale and selling things on Craigslist . .. the packing and planning and juggling the kids . .. working at the new house, stripping wallpaper and painting . .. and then the unpacking, the challenge of making a smaller space work, organizing it all . .  It was very invigorating. I felt like my gifts were put to use, and that I was good at it and could thrive in the chaos.

And maybe these are the gifts which will never fit into a specific career, but are important and useful.

I was made to be a mother, it is my deepest calling. Writing and making art, homeschooling my kids, creating a home- what a gift it is to be able to do these things. I still wish some days for the kind of energy and reward and purpose that a career outside the home would give, but I love what I am doing now. And I love the possibilities.
Can you state your identity in a single sentence? No more should you necessarily be able to state your calling in a single sentence. At best you can only specify part of it. And even that clarity may have to be qualified. In many cases a clear sense of calling comes only through a time of searching, including trial and error . . . What may be clear to us in our twenties may be far more mysterious in our fifties because God's complete designs for us are never fully understood, let alone fulfilled, in this life. . . . zigzagging, paintstaking, upside-down, and lifelong process. And that's why it's ultimately so fruitful and rewarding. . . unsure of ourselves, we are sure of God. -Os Guiness, The Call
The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life is the best nonfiction book I read this year. Worth reading again every year.

Whoever I am, thou knowest, 
O God, I am thine

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

one habit

I am not good at sticking with routines and I fail at most habits. But there is a habit I couldn't live without.

I spent some time this morning skimming my journal from the year and thinking about what I have learned, how the Lord has led and mostly about His goodness and faithfulness . . .answered prayer, grace, forgiveness, His daily presence and peace.

It is enlightening to look back and remember prayers I had prayed, and to realize how God answered. 

I can see the ways in which I am a broken record (oh let me count the ways!) . . . and how good and gracious God is with my weaknesses when I bring them to Him . . . again and again and again.

The places I feared, uncertain whether we were making the right decisions, begging God for direction . . . Jim started a new job this year, we made the decision to stick with homeschool longterm, we bought a house . . . it is a great comfort to remember that I had laid these all at God's feet; to remember that the prayers I prayed then continue now, under His care.

The very earliest spiritual discipline I learned was to have a morning quiet time. Pray, read my Bible and a book or devotional, journal or write-out scripture.

Yes, it is a cliche, and yes, we can turn it into legalism. For a short time I gave it up altogether; I can pray all day long, I reasoned.

When I was younger I think I idolized my morning quiet time like a good luck charm; if I missed I was sure to have a bad day. Or like a genie in a bottle, a way for all my wishes to come true.

For a year or so I decided mornings weren't the best time because it was my only time to write. But most days I didn't find time later to quiet myself and pray and read my Bible. I found myself spiritually dry.

I returned to mornings. It is when my mind is clear and my spirit is fresh, when I am least likely to be interrupted. Sometimes it is an hour, sometimes it is ten minutes. There are days I miss. But it is my favorite habit, the best way to begin the day.

I have always kept a journal. There are so many reasons why I need to journal. I begin each year with a fresh one- my favorite is moleskin- large, soft cover, plain pages.

I write out scripture. I don't usually try to memorize, but something about the act of writing out God's Word sinks the words deeper into my spirit.

I copy quotations from books I am reading. I've tried keeping a separate notebook for this, but what I read ties so directly to what I am learning about the Lord that I hate to separate them.

I write out my prayers. This is my favorite thing to go back and read later- when I am feeling anxious, or doubtful, I can read and remember, Oh yes, I have committed this to Him. What am I worried about?

I record the days. Not always, not even every week. But as often as I can I will record what is happening in our family, what I love or hate about right now. Similar to The Examen, this is also a good way to reflect on God's presence in the events of daily life.

Looking back over the year I am so thankful for what the Lord has done. I think I will blog about some of the successes and failures of 2014, what I learned, and God's faithfulness and care through the year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

to know

As I've read my Bible lately the thing that keeps standing out is how often we are directed toward knowing, or knowledge.

I seem to focus more on feeling and behavior- the fruit of the spirit, right living- but I don't quite appreciated the emphasis the Bible places on correct knowledge and understanding. Reading again it seems that knowledge comes first- how we live and feel would flow out of what we know and understand.

I was working on an art project for our co-op, and I had to draw a still life, something I haven't done in a while. Realism is not my strength- my drawings are usually somehow distorted and I must continually re-see what I am trying to draw.

The problem is that the mind is not good at knowing. We think we know- and that is what throws off our perspective. Often drawing lessons will recommend turning an object upside down to draw it- when our own logic is suspended we can actually see what is there.

Maybe this is an exercise in faith. What we think we see is not always what is there. Our circumstances are only a shadow- so concentrate on what we know to be true about God. It is a constant, deliberate effort to study and remember truth.

There is a circumstance currently which I need to turn upside down in my mind- in order to see what is actually there

(and it all is love).
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down . . . 
-from Lorica of St. Patrick

. . . to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph.3:19

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Small as these things are,

The little one is sick and I've spent the past thirty-six hours with her clinging to me. She's a cuddler always, and when she's sick she only wants to be curled against me. Last night was fitful, and the night before.

"As the world counts things, there is not much in my care . . . I keep paring things back, zeroing in on my purpose. The time is too short for ugliness and foolishness. . .."
steward at study in brown.

I keep Tonia's beautiful post taped inside a cupboard door so I can go back and read it regularly. Especially days like this, which feel small and ordinary.

"Small as these things are, I guard them fiercely . . ."

I remember that this is my cup, my canvas, my work-

"When I go, I pray I have left a profligate, worn-out world the testimony of astonishing Goodness and Beauty . . ."

Go read my favorite post of 2014 . . .

In all of the noise of this internet world, I am most thankful for a few of these quiet, purposeful voices whispering of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

that night we shopped and she shone

I'd wanted to go alone, but I took her along Christmas shopping last night. I am a poor decision maker and wanted to be alone so I could think. But I hadn't spent time with her alone in a while, and she loves to go, and so I let her come along, warning her as we went; Sam, I need to be able to think ok? You can't chatter the whole time.

So she came along and chattered the whole time.

And we shopped. This girl of mine, she shone. I got to see all of her best qualities last night. I already know her best qualities, but still, I marvel at her.

We left after dinner, around 6. I had a fairly lengthy list, some general ideas but nothing specific to give each person. For three hours we circled the store- discussing, debating, comparing. We dropped things in the cart and then took them back out again. We discussed budget and prices. We talked about each person very specifically. She reminded me of things I hadn't thought of, and discouraged me from the gifts that weren't exactly right. She never grew tired, never asked for anything for herself. She never complained once.

At nine we left the store but we weren't quite finished and so we went to Target. Again we shopped and compared and carefully selected until finally we had finished; each gift thoughtfully chosen. I feel like it was my best year of gifts, and all because of this child of mine.

Sami is a doer. She loves to have a goal and accomplish it. And she is really logical and careful and precise, like her dad. And she is sharp, her understanding of people and values and the world is beyond her years.

Forgive me for bragging on my kid. Sometimes I get to see all over again how awesome they are.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I don't feel like decorating for Christmas this year. Christmas, yes. I'm just not up for dragging out one more box and unpacking it knowing I will have to pack it all up again. 

We are in a state of unfinished. Everywhere I look there is something needing done- hang curtains. clean out the gutters. put the garage in order. paint. remove. fix. change. It won't all get done anytime soon. We moved at a time that coincided with an intense time of work for Jim, and the holidays and a trip to visit family over Christmas, and there is just so much to do.

I like things to be meaningful and thoughtful and intentional, and this year feels like Christmas happening to us in a blur.

But this morning we will do lessons. And then I will head to the basement and drag out the Christmas decorations. And the kids will dive into them with abandon, and Christmas will be upturned all over the house, and all that is unfinished will be strung over with childish anticipation and joy. When I am tired of preparing, I will prepare anyway. And I will choose to see the metaphor rather than the mess. Because I do love a good metaphor.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

May the God of hope fill you

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
Romans 15:13

What a foolish thing, to overflow with hope. Pollyanna, or worse- blind, ignorant, privileged.

Sometimes my image of God is contorted. Sometimes He is a hand-wringing, eye-rolling Boss, sarcastic and nervous and ready to shut the whole place down.

When I begin thinking about God that way I know I have wandered far from Him.

I return to Lazarus.
Jesus wept, even as he was about the raise Lazarus from the dead.

I remember a God who feels and weeps, who took up our infirmities and bore our diseases, who touches us and is touched by us.

God who calls forth the starry host,
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26
The same Spirit which calls out Abba, Father
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out“Abba, Father.”
Maybe our minds are too small to comprehend both the power and tender mercy of God at the same time. But maybe this is what hope is- both to weep, and to wait in expectation.

Only in Christ can we live in this fallen world overflowing with hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"living has yet to be generally recognized as one of the arts" -Karl de Schweinitz

We bought a little house. I hesitate to call it little because of course little is so relative. Let's just say I got rid of a lot of stuff to move in here. It's just right. It's a near replica of the Little Dream House we looked at last spring, just down the street but yet to be updated. We are working on that. 

I worried some about the size. I really love having friends in and playdates and our rental was a big house and made that so easy. We won't stop, we will just have to be a little more creative. 

Also, we homeschool. We are at home A Lot.

Right now the thing I'm enjoying most about the house is it's smallness. I like our together. I like that all of our spaces are fully used, right down to the basement laundry which is also now our craft room. I like the challenge of making this work. 

Mostly, this move makes me fall in love all over again with home. Having a home, making a home, being at home. After all of our stuff was sorted, sold or donated, packed and unpacked, I think about how what I love most has nothing to do with a place you move into or out of. All of the things which I spent weeks organizing, packing, moving, thinking about- an entire truck full of things- do not compare to the sound of a flame under the tea kettle. A bath running. The smell of garlic and onions cooking. A hug around the neck as we sit reading. 

I am so thankful for home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

know your why

"When you come to a place where you have to go right or left," says Sister Ruth, "go straight ahead."
-from Dakota, A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

It was our summer of rest. All summer, we didn't hurry. Truly, I can't think of one time.

A few years ago Sam was asked to describe each member in her family; Mom, she said, was "always in a hurry." Slowly, maybe, I am learning.

I've spent so much time addicted to hurry, creating hurry. I didn't know I needed rest, I didn't set out to create rest this summer, with some expectation of what rest should be. Rest simply came upon us, like a new season, and we lived in the season and let it be what it was.

Rest is uneasy, at first. We want to feel useful. I wonder if women struggle with this the most, there are so many ways to think about Mary and Martha and the inimitable Proverbs 31 woman.  What is it about obsessive busyness which makes us feel validated and worthy- of what?

Know your Why

This was the thought that started the summer, and I've followed it til the end so that here at the end of August I think I know some of my whys.

For example,

I am choosing to homeschool my kids because I believe I can give them a good education, and because I want to be the one to read the good books to my kids, this is why.

I choose not to work for now because I've decided my role is peacemaker, that every family needs one or at least this family does, and it is what I am called to for now, to create peace for the five of us and wherever else that peace can extend.

I am writing a novel because I believe there is a story to tell.

The one why I keep searching for and can't seem to find is why blog, what am I trying to say here, is it really necessary? And I have to tell you that I am dwindling on this one, that while I enjoy blogging I am often conflicted between wanting to write on the blog versus all of the other three: peacemaking. homeschooling. a novel.

I'm not sure where to go, I keep coming to the edge of shutting down and then backing away. I have been here for six years.

Instagram feels a little like blogging, but it's faster and maybe I need to just be there.

Maybe I will stick around this place, once I find my why.

Good things came out of rest this summer, good, productive things and nourishing, lovely things, and mostly just a sense of knowing where I am, who I am.

We began the summer learning about bees. Busy as a bee, we say, and yet isn't the work of a bee simply this: to be wholly attentive; to dive headlong into beauty and drink its sweetness and come up coated in it, unaware of the life-dust trailing from their feet.

There is some clue here of a good way to live.

Monday, August 4, 2014

so friends, every day do something that won't compute

So, friends, every day do something that won't compute...Give your approval to all you cannot understand...Ask the questions that have no answers. Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years...Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts....Practice resurrection.” 

― Wendell BerryThe Country of Marriage

peace of wild things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. -Wendell Berry

of my heart

"Some people I've forgotten but some are just stuck in me." 
-Annie, age six, referring to her friends, the friends of her heart. 

I think we take people and relationships much too lightly in this world, especially in the church. And at the same time we make far too much of love, turning it into something fragile and impossible.

As believers in Christ we are to love one another deeply; to fall in love over and over, in a thousand different ways. It requires soft skin and to be easily bruised and far too vulnerable. And yet love would pour out of us and fill up the gaps like light and grow in the cracks.

That's the theory. But it hurts and I fail all the time.

Throughout history churches attempt discipleship in all manner of ways, but none so effective, in my experience, as the people who came as a letter from Christ, and became written on my heart.

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Cor.3:2-3

When you remember me, it means you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.Frederick Buechner

Related: The people who have influenced me

Recollections of Joy: the beautiful people I carry in my heart #26/36 

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Like anyone, most battles I fight are in my own mind. I am instructed to think on things above . .. whatever is  true, good, lovely . . . 

What, then, do I think about?

This is why I am glad for artists who pull back the curtain.

I am glad for stories which make me long for another world, and for poetry which helps me to "imagine what I know."

Art helps me see what is unseen, to believe in the true and lovely and good and see a vision of it. Imagination helps me to escape myself.

"An unimaginative person can never be reverent or kind" (John Ruskin)

"Thus the person who sneers at beauty 'can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.' Prayer can only be motivated by a love that reveals the beauty we long for, denial of which cuts off at its roots the ability to pray." (*) 

*Beauty for Truth's Sake, Stratford Caldecott

Friday, July 25, 2014

a summer daybook

We've reached a lull in our summer, two weeks of nothing on the calendar and I am relishing the breezes and the sunshine and no agenda. Thankful for the ways I sense God moving in my spirit and in our family, for time to reflect and the changes in routine which keep my perspective fresh, for the conversations and relationships that bring new things to the surface. Thankful God is always the same and always doing a new thing, Lord give me eyes to perceive it.

Outside my window . .. a fresh summer morning

Giving Thanks . .. the energy of my kids and their imaginations, everything summer.

Thinking About . . .  How to be most intentional with my life . .. my day . .. this hour.

Noticing that I thrive most when I can find myself within a story, but that I tend to droop or flail when I lose the storyline.

How to fall more in love with God and my neighbor and what does that mean practically?

A way to create a better art space for the kids.

I am thinking a lot about the unaccompanied child refugees from Central America, and how to help. I can't imagine the horror, as a parent, to sending your child on such a journey as their only hope. A book I read recently described such a scene between a mother and her son during the Holocaust, and I am haunted by it. So far I have found no opportunities in Ohio for fostering children who've crossed the border. If anyone reading this knows of anything, please let me know.

In the School Room . . . We are only reading aloud the month of July. Our dining room will be our school room again and I am trying to figure out how to organize our school things so that it isn't always torn apart. Searching craigslist for a bookshelf or cabinet. Wondering how to hang a white board so that it isn't too tacky. (If it were up to me the dining room would only be a classroom. If it were up to Jim our school work would be done on slates and that's all. ;-)  )

From the Kitchen. . . a triple batch of zucchini bread in the freezer. (This recipe)

I am Creating . . . working on the novel. Finding my way again.

I am Working On . .. choosing the best thing over many good things. Being more playful and less purposeful. Finding one-on-one time with each kid.

I am Reading . ..
A study of the book of James with our small group
Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming
Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education by Stratford Caldecott
Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type- and Become a Better Parent by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

Recently Read: 
Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge Five stars 
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick Loved reading this. A quirky, fun, snappy read with gentle, flawed, lovely characters.
Watch With Me, Wendell Berry  Classic Berry comfort food.
In Falling Snow, Mary-Rose MacColl

Praying . ..
Iraqi Christians and Shiites
Israel and Palestine
Central America and the children
Our friends the Johnsons

Listening . .. 
A Life In Grace podcasts- I loved all of these.

Clicking . ..
A Difficult Generosity- The Rabbit Room
The visions set forth in the books (and paintings and songs) we turn to for hope are offerings of love, given in the recognition that we truly are members of one another. We all bear the same hunger for eternity. We all walk forward in the dark of doubt, reaching for something we can’t quite name. We yearn to discover who we are meant to become, what it is we hunger to find in those midnight hours when our hearts will not be sated. But the artists and storytellers and makers of song offer the inner vision they have known as a sign of hope to the hungering world. They invite us into the sacred, inmost rooms of their minds and let us stand at the windows of their own imaginations where we glimpse, ah, wonders we might never have dreamed alone.
Around the House . .. open windows, ceiling fans running, endless toys, paper scraps, markers, grassy floors, sandy rugs, trying to look the other way . ..

One of My Favorite Things . .. Quiet mornings. The kids sleep past seven most mornings and I can get in nearly three hours of quiet. My mothering graces are multiplied for every hour of quiet I've had before the kids are awake.

Plans for Next Week . . . our last free week of the summer. My plans are to try very very hard to be lazy and slow and indulgent and to read a lot of books and eat a lot of watermelon.

Monday, June 30, 2014

the gift of work

A farmer depends on himself, and the land and the weather. If you're a farmer, you raise what you eat, you raise what you wear, and you keep warm with wood out of your own timber. You work hard, but you work as you please, and no man can tell you to go or come. You'll be free and independent, son, on a farm.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

My grandma used to say that a lot of people were unhappy because they hadn't learned to enjoy their work.

This, from a farmer's wife who was still gardening and preserving and baking and sewing and hosting-- and smiling-- the summer she died, two years ago. (We just finished our last jar of her green beans the other night. And just like that, an era is past).

I think of her often, especially as I work.

Sometimes- well, all the time- I am nostalgic for the simple life she lived, when creating a home and raising children and working with your hands was everything and enough.

It was the most creative kind of work-  to make the most of what you had. To create beauty out of the limitations life gave you. There was a freedom and satisfaction to their way of life; however poor they were also rich.

They raised children on a dairy farm and they worked hard. From the time my dad was very young he woke before sunrise to help milk cows, and came home from school to milk. He used to love telling stories from his childhood, and it would seem that there couldn't possibly be a happier childhood.

We are almost finished reading Farmer Boy. I am fascinated by the work- the endless, creative, physical work. I envy the satisfaction that must have come from the hard work of farming- preserving food to last the winter, churning the very finest butter, growing the very best pumpkin.

I understand now that work, physical work, is it's own kind of therapy. It seems important to give my children the gift of hard work.

My kids do chores, they all know how to clean a bathroom, but we don't work hard-in-the-fields-all-day hard.

So much of work now is solitary or sterile, requiring sitting, lacking touch and growth, rhythm and season.

This podcast: On Igniting a Love of Learning in Your Students at CiRCE Institute mentions that many kids play video games because it is their only form of accomplishment.

This struck me. What do we give our kids to accomplish?

How can I give my kids the opportunity to work hard work, and the satisfaction that comes with it?

One of the opportunities of homeschooling is for kids to find their own little cottage industries, to begin early earning money and responsibility.

My kids are still young, but I want them each to find something they will accomplish next year, in addition to school work. Ideally something which requires working with their hands. (Last year we renovated a dollhouse. It was a small project, but enough to get us through the winter, and I think provided some element of satisfaction and accomplishment).

This is what I am thinking about today, as I work. (We are busy preparing for grandparents to visit. I may have done one or all of these in the past week: meticulous cleaning tips for the OCD person. Ha.) 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How we are finding rest this summer (our non-schedule schedule)

Rest is the theme that found me this summer, I wasn't expecting it. But for me, rest is not about letting the kids fend for themselves and the house fall apart. That would stress me out. 

I am by no means an expert at scheduling. I shun schedules. However one daughter needs predictability and, alas, I am learning to appreciate routine too (becoming set in my ways. ahem).

So I share this only because it has been working well for us, and I enjoy learning how other moms plan their days. Like I said, not an expert.

I decided there were five main things I hoped to accomplish with the kids this summer. (I often look back to Ann Voskamp's Seven Daily Rungs- which is so lovely and inspiring. Maybe one day we will work our way to that). For now, these are the five blocks of time I aim for:

1. To work
2. To read
3. To learn
4. To play
5. To rest.

The first three happen in the morning: 

The kids have their daily habits: teeth brushing, make their bed, etc. Then they are to ask me for a chore. I prefer that they ask me rather than keep a weekly chore schedule because each week is different (let's not go crazy with the schedules mmkay?).

At some point in the morning we read aloud. Maybe at breakfast, maybe on the couch after chores. We might listen to an audio book in the car if we are running errands. 

I'd like a bit of learning to happen in the second part of the morning. Two days a week our learning time is swim lessons. The other days we may spend anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours at the table writing, practicing math facts, or doing copywork (we are focusing on science using the Magic School Bus books). It depends on what the kids, and I, are up for that day.

(To keep a record of our learning, at the beginning of the summer we went shopping for new pens and notebooks. Each child has a notebook, and all learning over the summer is kept in one notebook. At the back we record all scripture memory, books read, and skip counting learned.)

Afternoon is for play and rest: 

We choose one fun activity to do each day after lunch, which may be going to the pool or a playdate or may be as simple as setting out the paints or sprinkler. Then, by three o'clock, we are ready for quiet. (Me too). (I've found waiting until 3:00 is the best time when my 8,6, and 4 year old really are ready for quiet).

It is summer, days will change, but within an ordinary week our days are pretty predictable too:

One day is a cleaning and laundry day. The kids expect extra chores on this day, and our fun activity will most likely be something simple at home.

Two days a week are outside days. We have swimming lessons in the morning, and might go back to the pool or to a park in the afternoon.

One day is for friends or going places.

One day is Mom's Choice. I usually pick garage sales. Last week I chose to not leave the house all day. It was grand.

I am surprised by how content the kids have been (so far). They seem to be enjoying a good balance of work and play, and they like knowing what to expect. From out of this rhythm, we are enjoying a summer that feels pretty darn close to restful. 

p.s. The non-chart chore chart: I wanted the kids to be able to earn a little money, and to keep track of what we learn, without a complicated chart or systems which I would fail to keep. At the beginning of the week they each get a notecard. When they do extra chores (the "paid chores") they need to remember to put a sticker on their card. They almost always remember, and at the end of the week each sticker is worth a certain amount of allowance. Personal responsibility = no bookkeeper (me)

Monday, June 23, 2014

from rest

There is a new and unexpected theme of my summer: Peace. Rest. Sabbath.

I did not see this one coming.

Even now I am wondering if we will sustain this. The first two weeks of our summer have been consistently this.

It has been happening several times a day- an invitation to rest. I can't explain it. I just come upon it, out of the blue. The kids will be playing happily. Work is done. And there is a pause, like a quiet voice inviting me to rest a bit. 

The kids feel it too I think, just a good, steady, quiet, pace. 

I thought and prayed a lot about our summer. I wanted it to be intentional but not over-planned or controlled. I thought of this summer as an opportunity to teach the children Sabbath. How to rest. The enjoyment of good, lovely, meaningful things. To be content with a quiet life.

What I didn't expect was that I would learn these myself.

Truly, sometimes our Good Shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures.

Maybe it is a shift in my state of mind or the ages of the kids or the circumstances we happen to find ourselves. Maybe I am learning how to rest in the goodness of God.

p.s. It all started with this podcast with Andrew Kern by Sarah Mackenzie on Teaching from Rest-- so good! 

(I just purchased Sarah's Teaching from Rest series- will be sure to write a review)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Some favorite podcasts

School's out and we fled to the country for a few days. My parents live in the most beautiful little valley on earth, where every single night the sunset is glorious. Does the sunset change in different places? I don't know. But you really need to come and see for yourself. Just show up and sit on their porch around nine this week. They won't mind.

I got to sneak away for a night with Jim to Pittsburgh. He went to a conference, I sat by a window and read Mary Oliver for an afternoon. It was glorious.  

With all of the time in the car lately I've listened to several good podcasts.  I'm really just beginning to listen to podcasts since I got an iphone a few months ago. Now that I've found a few I really like, I love having them in queue to listen to in the car or while folding laundry.

Here are a couple favorites:

Probably my all-time favorite podcast: Andrew Kern on Teaching from Rest
Inspiring beyond homeschool, one of the greatest sermons I've heard as well; what does it mean to be made in the image of God, correctly ordering our soul, filling our minds with good and beautiful things- and how this flows into teaching/living from a state of rest. Beautiful.

I love the Circe Institute: cultivating wisdom and virtue. Useful for homeschool, but inspiring in all pursuit of wisdom and virtue. A lot of great resources on the site, the free audio library is rich.

The Life{in}Grace Podcast by Edie Wadsworth- really great stuff here. I especially like A life in beauty and A life in faith.

The Read Aloud Revival by Sarah Mackenzie-  good practical inspiration for homeschool and reading together

NPR books podcast

The New Yorker fiction podcast

Sunday, June 8, 2014

there is only this

(Two roads diverged in a wood and I . . .
curled into the fetal position and cried)

I stayed home from church this morning because I need to make a decision, and as with all decisions I think and over-think and decide and undecide and talk and overtalk and study my enneagram and think about my tendency to dissociate then go clean the house and bake something and rearrange the furniture and finally just sit down and read a book and hope the decision will go away.


(Sometimes you J-types out there really make me crazy because I have no idea how you can arrive at conclusions so quickly.)

But every decision, conflict, anxiety brings me back to this:

Everything, everything depends on abiding in Christ.

I can't follow enough rules, or please enough people, or know my personality well enough or make all the right decisions. There is only to abide in Christ.

Walking anywhere with the children, this is what I know will happen:

Sam knows the traffic rules and thinks she knows where to go, and so she tries to lead the way, always ahead.

Annie is wandering behind, at her own pace, nearly unaware of the rest of us.

But Josie has this little quirk which I love and that is to be always holding a hand. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, I know her little hand will be reaching for mine. She teaches me what it means to abide in Christ.

I could teach Josie all of the rules of traffic and street-crossing and stranger danger, and teach her all of the appropriate responses and directions I know to give; but I'd much prefer that she hold my hand.

Legalism assumes she knows the way and follows the rules, not Christ.
Liberty follows, but according to her own pleasure.

Abiding in Christ is to walk holding onto him.
It is to say in all things, Jesus, Come in
It is to say, in all things, I can do nothing apart from Christ
It is to say, in all things, I know nothing apart from Christ

Before abiding is repentance

Repentance and Abiding in Christ is the only answer to any decision.

Friday, June 6, 2014

What am I working on?

Last week Corinne invited me to participate in a blog tour on creating and writing, which is a lot of fun. Thanks, Corinne, for the chance to write on a topic I love, and something other than homeschool!

1. What am I working on?
I am writing a novel. It is definitely a long (long)-term project, and that is okay. 

I also write a weekly column for The Budget.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Without giving anything away, I would say that my novel is on a theme of Restraint. What would happen if a modern woman chose to step out of her anxieties and create her own life, if that life required restrained liberties and affections.

3. Why do I create/write what I do?
I'm not sure. I don't remember when this story began or what compels me to write it, except that each chapter seems to lead to another chapter. 

4. How does my writing/creating process work?
Ideas happen when I'm not looking for them. I will observe a person on the street and without realizing it I've woven a story about her life, I am at the stoplight and suddenly feeling such the weight I have imagined her day or her life to be; I want to tell those stories. Some ideas come to me from people I have known or books I am reading, my own experiences. Ideas never come while sitting at the computer. 

So I guess the process is, first some spark or glimmer which happens- I am incapable of producing- that speaks or moves me in some way, and I let that simmer in the back of my mind or maybe a few sentences or description in a notebook. Later at the computer it usually flows pretty easily, without a lot of thought. But it's just a sketch, moving quickly, it would be really embarrassing if anyone tried to read it because I don't try to polish or over-think at all at this point. By the time I go back for the first revision I have more clarity of where I am trying to go and a lot will change. I will revise it a third and fourth (and fifth) time before I present it to my writing group for critique, and even then it is still in the beginning stages.

For the past month or so I have been practicing "productive procrastination". It has a lot to do with our sitter being gone for the summer, and my brain filled with homeschool, but also my story line is just stuck at the moment. It doesn't worry me because I know the next view is out there, I am just in the weeds right now. This explains the boost in activity on this blog recently.

(real life beautiful)

I find there is liberty is trusting the creative process. It's a lot like faith; for me, it is faith- believing that there is enough light for the step you are standing on, and the next thing will be revealed at the right time. This frees me from the anxiety of never having enough time to write, being constantly frustrated by interruptions, etc. I don't want to live like that. I want to enjoy the writing process and my children and this season of life, and fortunately I'm not in a position where I need to produce produce produce. I've finally found a much more comfortable pace which includes enjoying my children and homeschool, and trusting that there is enough time to write the book, too. If it takes a lifetime to write only one book, but I have lived my "few live seasons purely, in the present*"? Well, that is all I want.

Be sure to check-out Corinne's lovely blog, and her instagram is great too. 

I tag Charette at Divergent Pathways, because she has been back at the blog a bit recently, and I would love to hear about what she is creating.

*Annie Dillard

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why we choose to begin homeschool after public school kindergarten

"I decided to do it a little different," she said.

We are in the homestretch of kindergarten and nobody could be happier about that than me. (In the past week we were tardy three times. Can school just be done now please?) (Before this we weren't tardy the whole year.) (Pretty much)

Even though we homeschool, sending Annie to public school kindergarten was the right decision for her, and it was the right one for Sam two years ago. 

On this Art of Simple podcast, Susan Wise Bauer described homeschooling as simply taking charge of your child's education. You evaluate all of your options year to year, and decide each year how each child will best thrive.  This makes a lot of sense. Many things change from year to year; giving yourself the liberty to re-evaluate every year is liberating, and protects from eventual burn-out.

Annie's year of kindergarten could not have been better. It was good for several reasons:

1. Because of the cost in our area, we didn't send her to preschool. Kindergarten gave her the experience of a classroom and being with other kids, for free.

2. With each of our kids, about the age of six, I felt very much that they were ready for a break from me. In need of one, even. Both Annie and Sam have autumn birthdays, so they were almost six and just very ready by the summer of kindergarten to escape the nest, in a small way. Kindergarten gave them some space for independence.

3. It was a good introduction to education. It would have been difficult for me to suddenly require sitting and doing lessons, but because it was a new context they adapted very quickly to school. This made my job much easier starting homeschool, because the foundation for what school is and expectations for learning were established- by someone other than me.

4. The structure of the school environment was great for the kids, and me. I admit this is the area I struggle with most. I dislike routine, I much prefer change. School provided the structure that I fail to give. Annie is my most creative child, but is most in need of routine. This could have a lot to do with being six, but is something I will need to be especially conscious of next year, and discipline myself to stick to a pretty steady homeschool day. (More on this later).

5. Becoming a part of the community. This is to me the greatest drawback of homeschool, and if we ever decide to return to public school it will be for this reason. It was good for Annie to make new friends, and I especially love the diversity of our local public school.

In short, Annie thrived in kindergarten. Maybe I'm not a homeschool purist, because in fact I feel torn between two good options next year. I am glad to have Annie home again and to begin homeschool with her, but a little sad, too, to be stepping out of our little elementary school and the families and great teachers we know there.