Read and Grow.

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It’s happening again. And I’m so utterly excited and thankful. Life has presented me with a challenge, and God has birthed in my heart a craving to grow.

The desire and motivation are a gift. I didn’t design it nor can I contain it.

This happened once before, a little over 7 years ago. I wrote about my desire to change, to fix a character flaw. It was truly the beginning of my blogging journey as well. I had no idea that writing my way through that year would serve to fundamentally define me as a writer.

Isn’t that just the way God works? Those mysterious ways that come upon us, altering us in areas beyond imagination.

Last year, I tried to manufacture my growth by setting up a reading challenge full of deep and delightful titles. But even while creating the list, I could feel my own distance – reluctance that I ignored because I wanted to teach myself a lesson in discipline. I was tricked by my own success with growing productively into believing that I could force growth in any area. I didn’t honor my limits, I wasn’t being gracious with my weakness, I over estimated my strengths.

I was sick of being held back. I thought pushing through, trying harder, and thinking big would free me from my own struggle with my brain.  

Dealing with my ADD brain can be tricky. Sometimes I do need to “sit myself down” and “obey the list.” I’m learning that I can only make progress through this type of firmness in the area of productivity not the area of contemplation. I need to budget my energy to fuel these two parts of my mind (there’s a post brewing on this topic…). I’m realizing again that God gave me this brain with all of it’s limits and talents for His purposes to be used in His timing. 

So, I’m excited for this year and the growth I can see up ahead, but I’m not ashamed of last year’s “failure” because I recognized an important, personal limitation and learned to respect it. More on this later.

For now, I can see that the challenge in my life is CHANGE. There is change all around me. My kids are all coming out of a coasting season. Their interests, competencies, and complexities are on the rise. Taking just this area of change into view, I see that I will have to change in order to rise to the occasion of being the kind of mother I want to be for my loves.

Questions: How can I rise to the occasion on my own? What strength or talent do I possess that will allow for personal growth? Can I contain or conjure up a motive that will sustain growth over a long period of time?

Answers: I can’t. Nothing. No.

What gives? Why am I excited if I can’t do this on my own? Exactly because the desire, strength, motive aren’t coming from my decision, I can trust that I won’t have to worry about controlling or maintaining them.

It’s like the “Field of Dreams.” I feel like the Lord is showing me how much great change is ahead of me, and all I have to do is pick up the book and read. He will grow me from the inside.

And He already has. Since the beginning of 2017, I’ve been reading. I’ll do my best to share the most of what I gain from the titles this year. And I’ll keep the list here as a reference.

Books read in 2017 (I’ll link the ones I review):

  • BFG by Roald Dahl*
  • Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally by Chris Davis
  • Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
  • Currently reading: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Are you interested in following me in this process of change through reading? I’m ready to really GROW. Let me know in the comments what books you’re reading and what you recommend! Who doesn’t want to GROW their TBR list even more? ;)

Here’s my Amazon list for easy reference. If you make a purchase, Amazon thanks me at no cost to you.

* Audio book

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What if her interests aren’t “good” enough? (How I’m raising an independent woman.)

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My daughter and I were watching TV together over the Christmas holiday. A commercial came that was glorifying new cars.

(Side note: I’ve trained my kids to analyze and pick apart commercials. Their critiques of products sold on TV are hilarious.)

JoeAnna (9 years old) looks at me and asks, “What’s the big deal about buying a new car? Why do people get so excited about it?”

“Well, it’s kind of the same feeling as getting your driver’s license when you turn 16. Learning to drive is exciting, and some cars are more fun to drive than others.” I reply.

“Is it illegal not to have a driver’s license?” She asks.

“If you’re driving and you don’t have a license, then yes. You’ll get in big trouble.”

“But what if you don’t drive, do you have to have a license?”

“Well, no. You do not have to get a driver’s license.”

“Oh good. I think I’ll just roller blade where I want to go. I could get a job as a waitress and live here when I’m an adult. I think I just want an easy life.”

“That sounds good to me!” I say while trying not to laugh.

***

My dear Joe is a hard nut to crack. She lives in her own mind so much that it’s often difficult to get her full attention. Example: “Joe, please brush your hair.” I find her brushing her teeth. Only the word “brush” penetrated her brain.

In her mind, she is constantly creating big plans for expanding upon her latest obsessions: Legos creations, Daily Prophet articles, MLP collections, etc. She dreams big, plays big, and feels big. As she navigates late childhood, I’m watching her try to categorize everything. Black or white. Good or bad. Easy or hard. As she processes this information, she’s making her own connections that aren’t always reliable. Like, everything hard is bad (or should at least be avoided).

And I can’t blame her. Who doesn’t want to avoid pain at all costs?

While I recognize the importance of teaching her to stretch and reach for personal goals, I believe it’s more important at this stage in her development (forming categories of safe and unsafe things) for her to know that I’m always, unconditionally safe. I want nothing more than for her to grow into a woman who confidently believes that her mother supports and loves her no matter what.

But she won’t grow in believing that I am truly safe if I don’t value her current plans for her life. If I hear her statement that she wants to live with me forever, and I refuse to affirm that, then I am not listening to the cry of her heart.

She can’t grasp the reality that as she evolves into an adult and ages into her unique self her interests will change. Right now, she believes that because her feelings are big, her feelings won’t change.

If I correct her feelings and try to tell her that she will change her mind (because I’m sure she will change her mind), then I am pushing her to spread her wings too quickly. I do not want her to be scared by thinking that I want her to be independent of me too soon. If she doesn’t feel ready to be independent of me, then any thought of a future where she isn’t in the comfort of a safe place will be avoided.

The truth is she will become independent of me – that’s the whole goal of parenting a child into adulthood. Healthy independence is gained through embracing personal responsibility and identity, and it should not be confused with individuality.

So, I am fighting to keep her heart safe while fueling her individuality, honoring her feelings, expanding her personal responsibility, and praising her attempts at doing what she views as “hard.”  

To put these goals into action, I’m designing a life project for her that I believe can do 2 things:

  1. Reassure her that the life she wants (an easy one) is fine by me. I want her to be affirmed that I love her just because she is and not because she does. I know that her heart craves security, so I vow to be her safe place by offering her loving words and deeds.
  2. Curate opportunities outside of our home for her to see and experience what her future could hold. I want to give her a taste of a loftier future. By seeking out other caring adults who have similar interests to hers, I believe she will see that trying and reaching are worth it.

I’ll write more on what this “Life Project” will entail as we get further into it, and I hope that if you have a child who feels stuck or avoids work that you will not approach them with a “get going” attitude.

Maybe they don’t need to be motivated.

Maybe they need to just be accepted.

Maybe my Joe just needs to hear:

I am for you, and I will be with you. If being a waitress is truly what fuels you and causes you to come alive, then I will be your biggest cheerleader (and biggest tipper too).

 

*** I’m sharing this story with Joe’s permission.

 

Coming down from my (blogging) high horse.

I started this blog in 2015 with the intention of making it a professional bloga space for intentional encouragement and help for anyone wanting to learn on their own. The target audience being homeschool families like mine.

In addition to providing professional content, I wanted to build a business that would provide my family with additional income by tapping into the online wealth of affiliate sales, pay-per-click ads, sponsorship, etc. All of this can be done without compromising content, and I saw it as a win-win. (This is not a slam on professional bloggers who do earn their income from their blogs.)

Somewhere between starting the blog, researching brand-building and income sources, and writing inspired content I created a standard for this blog that is higher than I can realistically reach. After spending hours studying what it takes to build a professional blog, I became unsatisfied with just sharing what I had to say.

I rose the bar. I required pictures with text, back links to every possible post I’ve ever written, and a closure complete with disclosures, subscription invitation, and general marketing ads.

For a while, this wasn’t difficult. I had the passion, the time, and the ideas to fuel this standard. I established a routine that worked well for me, my family, and the blog to coexist in harmony.

And then I had a baby.

You’re smiling. Babies always make people smile either because they are just adorable or because you know what I’m about to say. Babies are known for requiring more time than any one person can give.

I was prepared for this, and I didn’t want having a baby to define me. I love all my children enormously AND (not but) I need to maintain my own identity as woman, wife, writer, teacher, creative being, etc.

So, as I was coming to a new normal after Naomi was born, I started writing again. I started an accountability program with those who chose that option in their subscription to this blog (I still know you’re out there and patiently waiting!).

And one Saturday I spent every single spare moment writing one blog post. It took me the whole day. My husband entertained all the kids while I worked. At the end of the day, I was finished but not satisfied.

I was failing the standard that I created. So, I did what every person does who fears failure: I hid.

I didn’t want to quit what I started, but I knew I couldn’t perform at the level that I wanted. So, I avoided everything related to my blog. For over a month, I didn’t even visit the blog myself!

After a while, I had to really confront myself with the decision of what to do next. Do I let it go? Do I pull myself back up, press on, and pretend nothing happened? Or do I lay all my cards on the table and start over?

Well, maybe not start over, but undergo a make-under.

So, I’m going to keep writing. I’ll get back to my roots of sharing what I’m learning, how I’m changing, and why that matters to me. I hope to always spread encouragement and to research and analyze things to make your life easier. I will continue to suggest resources that are relevant and timely, but I’m not going to try to earn an income with every single post. (Can I get an amen?)

I still respect professional bloggers; I think you’re amazing! But I can’t continue to pretend that I’m up there on a high horse too. (No offense, I don’t think other bloggers are arrogant – just above my realistic reach.)

So, high fives all around. This blog is undergoing a make-under. I hope you’ll stick with me.

Here are a few ideas I have brewing for new posts:

  • Organization is like dirty laundry.
  • I’m breaking up with balance.
  • Am I okay with my child’s goals in life? (Why do I feel like she has to do more, be more?)
  • Let’s revisit the beauty of kitchen timers.

Here are a few changes I want to make:

  • Less pictures in each post to relieve the pressure on my writing so that I can actually write more!
  • More pictures on Instagram where the moments really make a difference anyway. Check out my Instagram profile here.
  • No sales. I don’t want to ask you to buy anything or hide a product within a post. 
  • Actual reviews of products when appropriate. I’m keeping the freedom to use affiliate links but removing the pitch that this is for you. If I write about a product, then it will be to detail how it has worked/not worked for me. 

Sound good? Ah. Being down to earth feels much better. 

Keep on learning, growing, changing, and being true to your stage of life!

Year Round School Schedule (A Step By Step Guide)

hsp-year-roundRaise your hand if you’ve been the mom who took a break from routine only to have to enter the war zone of re-establishing expectations with your kids.

You want to enjoy a summer break just like your public schooled friends, but by mid-June there are already signs that this whole “break” idea is ruining everything. The house is a mess, no one wants to do chores, screens are the norm, and there’s nothing predictable about the days or weeks.

My kids like the idea of “no school” but in reality they are healthier and happier if we remove the idea of “school days” and “non-school days.” We are always learning, and I’ve seen the proof that they are happier when we maintain a rhythm for our days and weeks regardless of the time of year.

Enter the concept: year round schooling.

This year, we have been following the year round school schedule by adopting the 6 term structure.

And I’ve received many questions about how we do this.

So, here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by looking up the number of school days required for one year in your state.
  2. Divide that number by 5. (There are five school days in each week.) The answer equals the number of weeks you will need to schedule as “school days.”
  3. Minus the number of school weeks from the total number of weeks in a year. (Ex. 52 weeks in a year – 36 school weeks = 16 break weeks)
  4. Decide on the on/off rhythm that will work best for you. (6 weeks on, 1 week off; 12 weeks on, 2 weeks off, etc.)
  5. Look at a year at a glance calendar, and begin to mark off break weeks for holidays first. I chose to start at Christmas for scheduling our year and marked off 2 weeks there then counted backwards.
  6. Pick one whole month (or more depending on how you schedule) as your break month. We scheduled this for June last year because that’s when I gave birth to baby #4.
  7. Keep a record. It doesn’t matter what educational philosophy you adhere to, I believe you should write down what you’re learning individually and as a family. This helps to ease anxiety and prove the quality of the lifestyle of learning in the home.

To double check that you’ve scheduled the right amount of break days, do the math: 365 days in a year minus the number of days required equals the number of days you have for “break” days. Note: this number will include all weekends and holidays.

We treat “school days” as days when we formally record lessons and learning, and “break days” as special family days. I plan extra fun activities that we aren’t already doing on a week to week basis. We like to schedule movie days, game days, trips to the beach, bowling, and lots of other extra curricular activities during these weeks.

Want to see what I mean? Here’s a look inside my planner:

You can also read Mystie Winkler’s “A Year-Round Homeschool Schedule” for more help and explanation on how to do this.

The deeper I dive into this homeschool world, the more I move away from the traditional model of education, and the happier I become.

I hope this post helped clarify the concept of year round school scheduling. If it did, I would love to hear from you in the comments! If it didn’t, please leave your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to help!

Want to read more? Check out the Homeschool Planning Tips Series:

Enjoy your learning journey!