Last year was a difficult school year. I hadn’t kept up with my three school-aged kids, and I couldn’t fathom how I would be able to get my act together to teach all four, with Deacon starting Kindergarten. I tapped out: I didn’t feel I was up to the task of homeschooling everyone.
So we enrolled Markus and Wyatt (grades 5 and 4) in an online school that would allow them some of the freedom and flexibility of home education, while taking the work of teaching off of me. It all sounded great, and I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders as I surveyed the year ahead. The school has a lot of positive reviews, and we thought it would be a good step in providing our kids with a bit more structure.
But it was honestly a terrible fit for our family.
There were too many limitations, too many activities to log hours for, the school software was painfully outdated, we encountered out of date curriculum, and I was spending so much time answering questions about assignments. They had teachers to ask, but it was easier to ask a parent who’s across the room than wait hours for a reply from a teacher.
I thought I could just grin and bear it. This was what I had signed up for, right? I should stick with it and see it through for the year. What kind of message would I be sending my kids if we quit so soon? But this wasn’t what I had signed up for. I had signed up for a progressive online school that would be flexible and interactive, teaching my kids at their own pace and engaging their strengths. One was doing okay, the other was wilting, and I was busy nailing down an education plan to submit to our homeschool liaison before the registration deadline so we could still get a little funding to help with books for the year.
I’m sure by the school’s standards we have given up prematurely, and that 2 weeks is not enough time to make a fair judgment about whether or not this is going to work. I know the system the school has created works for a lot of families, but our family is not one of them.
Four months ago I was weary and burdened by homeschooling. I felt inadequate, unequipped, unqualified, and over my head. I was sure my kids needed something that I wasn’t able to give them, so I waved a white flag in surrender.
Today I feel more convinced than ever that the best education my kids can get is the one we give them at home. I can give my kids a rich learning environment, and and they can thrive here. What was a burden a few months ago is now a flight of freedom. I’ve been amazed already at what they are capable of when they’re given a little direction and a lot of room to discover. They’re excited about the upcoming school year, and I can’t wait to see all the good things in store.
What kind of message am I sending my kids by quitting? I hope they’re hearing loud and clear that if something isn’t working, you should find a solution that does.
We moved here to plant a church.
In doing so, we left behind people in Saskatoon that we love. Of course, anyone who knows Saskatchewan geography knows that Warman is not a huge trek from Saskatoon. It’s not like we moved clear across the country. What’s the big deal about moving 20 minutes away?
The big deal is we moved our life. We didn’t just move houses. We didn’t just move from one Sunday service to another. We moved our time commitment and our heart commitment from one church body to another. We left our family in Saskatoon because Jesus called us to be part of a new church family. We moved here because Jesus is amazing and there are so many lost people who don’t know it. We moved here because He has told the people that call him Lord to go into all the world and make disciples. Warman is part of “all the world”. The lost aren’t characterized by poverty; wealth is a wasteland of its own.
When I reconnect with friends from our sending church, a quick and inevitable question I’m asked is, “So how’s it going in Warman?”
I want to say it’s great. I feel like that’s what people want to hear. A success story. A triumph. Truthfully there are triumphs, and I don’t want to diminish that at all. We have so much to be thankful for as Jesus is clearly at work.
Honestly though, when that question comes flying my way, all I can say is, “It’s hard.”
I’ve read enough about church planting to know this wouldn’t be easy. I thought it would be a little easier for me because I was prepared for it to be hard; however, nothing about this has been easy. This year has been riddled with discouragement. We have gained momentum, and then we have swung backward. We have experienced growth, and we have shrunk. We have seen integral people who committed to planting this church with us leave. Our marriage has been under attack, and so have many others within the church. There are times we leak the vision and forget why we’re here. When we lift our heads and survey the task before us, Clay has asked me a few times, “Do you still feel called to this with me?”
The answer is always yes. It’s not easy, but it’s the path Jesus has purposed for us.
So when you think of us, please pray. Pray that we would love Jesus more. Pray that we would trust the Holy Spirit to be at work in this city. Pray that our marriage would be strong. Pray that we would get to know more people in our community. Pray that we would be good neighbours. Pray that the people of our church would love Jesus enough to not keep Him to themselves. Pray that we as a church would live as family of servant missionaries. Pray that the lost would be found.
I paid for a homeschool planning bundle this summer, which allows me access to a collection of printable planning pages. My August evenings usually found me reading the user guide, printing charts and schedules, and scratching out ideas with my favourite pencil.
I wanted to follow the planning guide to the letter, and quickly realized this just wasn’t possible. As great as this planning system is, it’s set up to work for someone else – the woman who made it. I pitched some of the charts. I modified others. By mid August I had a pretty well crafted plan for the year, complete with a daily schedule.
“I am so going to kick school butt this year.”
Famous last summer words. Every year.
I’m thankful to have pushed through school last week, in spite of my raging sickness. I knew I’d need a small win – a “we made it through a whole week” win – because already in week 2, I’ve hit a wall.
It’s my inevitable I Must Be An Insane Person wall, otherwise known as the Homeschooling Is For Lunatics wall.
My well crafted schedule says I should be able to get the Kindergarten and Grade 2 stuff done with the littlest 2 in the morning, and get lunch on the table around noon. The big kids are enrolled in online school, and should be able to work independently throughout the morning and finish up in the afternoon if necessary. Today 4 kids were working on 4 separate things, and each of them was calling me for help at the same time, and it was past noon, and I had no idea what was for lunch.
One kid needed me to check their math, another needed me to look at their writing. One was having trouble with their online classroom, and another was freaking out about explorers and colonization. I tapped out for a moment to break the news to Clay that we would be eating hot dogs for lunch.
Is it June yet?
We’ll find a rhythm. Sometimes I’ll bounce around like a ping-pong ball and serve tube steak for lunch. It’s okay. Not every day is filled with wins, but there are wins in every day. Today’s include my boys actually enjoying listening to The Penderwicks during morning time – even though it’s filled with female characters, and no one crying – not even me!
My usual tendency would be to rip up my schedule because it’s not working, and drift aimlessly for the next few months. Not this year. We’re going to keep moving in the planned direction. The schedule is a rough idea for how life works without all my variables – the people I’m actually here teaching! So when things don’t go according to plan, it’s okay.
I may not be kicking school butt, but school isn’t kicking my butt either. I’ve got this.
Home based education allows for a lot of freedom. It’s one of the primary reasons we were drawn to it. We’re the ones who decide what our kids will learn, and when they’ll learn it. We determine when the intentional education for the day starts. When we need or want days off, we answer to ourselves. Our kids’ most triumphantly exercised home-educational freedom is using the bathroom when they want, for as long as they want. (Honestly, one of them might not survive in public school simply because of the amount of their time spent in the bathroom…it’s a happy place, apparently.)
Being able to set our own schedule has always meant we start the year late. Because we can. I’d make a point of being a fun mom on the day all the other kids were going back-to-school. A day at the beach? Yes. Ice cream? Of course. Posting photos of these festivities online as a declaration our freedom? Naturally. How else would everyone else be able to appreciate the fact that I slept in and savoured my coffee while they were back to the grind of packing lunches? I aim to serve.
There are very few rules in home education. You really can do it any way you want. The door is wide open for anyone: from the family who essentially does school at home just like it would be in a conventional classroom, to the unschoolers who trust their kids will learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. School bells and timetables vs. kids who can’t read until they’re teenagers. For the record, both of these extremes make me uncomfortable. Does anyone else feel itchy?
Admittedly, I am a rebel at my core. I question the status quo. I have done plenty of things in my life as reaction against what is expected of me. This is in part why my hair was purple when I was a teen, and why I married a dashingly handsome, mysterious, bearded man at 20. After all, who says hair should be neutral, and that 20 is too young to be making major life choices? I sure showed them. Sometimes, like with my hair, my rebellion is just an exercise of my autonomy, and sometimes it’s a fight against pervasive cultural norms: 20 year olds might be stupid, but they can be married and committed to being stupid together!
Homeschooling means we can start breakfast when everyone else is already starting school for the day. It means we can call baking cake a math lesson, and take a trip to the CSA farm and call it science (I’d classify that Mental Health as well). The teenage girl in me who skipped every scheduled first period class of grade 12 is triumphant to have discovered that the people who determine school timetables may have scarred my childhood, but they don’t get to mess with my kids!
So, no one is more surprised than me at the fact that this year we started school earlier than the public school system: 3 days earlier. We hit the books, I got horrifyingly sick with a throat infection, and we just kept pushing through. For days I could hardly swallow, and moved through the house at the speed of a sloth, but we didn’t take a day off.
Who am I? What has happened to me? I have no idea, but it feels good to have week one under our belts.
Hi, it’s me again.
I haven’t forgotten this little online corner of mine. It haunts me in my quiet moments. I wonder if I should write; I feel I should but don’t. Then I consider taking it all down, because who am I kidding? I’m not a Blogger. But I can’t, because I’m a blogger.
I suppose I see uppercase Bloggers as professionals. They shine brightly with well crafted blog posts that have enough paragraph breaks, bold headings, 3-5 steps to achieving perfection in their area of expertise, and perfectly Photoshopped images strewn throughout their posts. There was a time in my life that I would have held a grudge toward Bloggers. “They’re better at something than me; therefore, I’m worthless.” I’ve matured enough to now be okay with who I’m not. I’m not a Blogger. I don’t think I want to be. I break too many rules to fit into that category anyway.
But I have things that swirl around in my head. Writing alone is helpful, but the work of writing for others brings more clarity than a personal journal. Even if I’m the only one reading when it’s all said and done, I find more clarity when when I hit publish. So I’ll be here breaking rules with my sporadic posts, talking about any number of things. I’ll keep on blogging, and I’m honoured if you pop in to read from time to time.
Like many people, my thoughts in January turn to building new habits and getting things done. My life seems to cycle through periods of growth and effectiveness, and stagnant laziness. I hustle really hard until I don’t. And then I don’t hustle, really hard.
Right now this looks like a wall of Post-It Notes on my bedroom wall. It’s the outline for a book whose rough draft has been on my computer for 5 months without a single edit. I pounded that first draft out hard and fast last summer, and when the time came to refine my content I came to a screeching halt.
This also looks like lazy homeschooling. We schooled so hard in September. I was totally winning! But our days are unstructured to a fault and now we cover only the bare basics. My goal to get through our history and science curricula this school year is in danger of needing to be modified to a two year plan.
My effective/lazy cycle circles around again.
It was very timely that a sermon about good works and getting things done was preached to our church a few weeks ago. It gave me so much to think about in regards to why I want to accomplish the things on my to-do list, and not just focusing on being productive. In his book Do More Better, Tim Challies says, Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your existing purpose. It became very clear to me that I have been looking at productivity all wrong. I’ve made it the goal, rather than the means by which I accomplish my true goals. I am created in Christ Jesus for good works, so that I would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10) My purpose is to be a faithful follower of Jesus, which involves doing good. My purpose is not to check things off my to-do list. It’s possible to be very productive at things that don’t matter.
My seasons that seem to lack productivity actually suffer from a lack of vision. I lose sight of the point. I think I’m hustling for hustle’s sake rather than for the sake of Jesus and what He is calling me to.
As I organize my time in my new bullet journal*, I’m not expecting it to make me productive, and I’m not aiming for productivity as the end goal of every day. My goal is faithfulness to Jesus, wisely using the time He gives me to do the things in front of me. Sometimes that means I see tangible results: a clean house, drawers full of clean laundry, children up to date on their school work, and budget in check. But sometimes it means there are no tangible results: navigating the waters of raising a houseful of sinful children and pointing their hearts to Jesus, or pushing the Gospel deep into my heart as I wrestle with my own sin. Those days don’t produce measurable results, but the goal is always the same: that I would be a faithful follower of Jesus, and do what He puts before me, whether it looks good on a checklist or not. That’s the point.
*About my bullet journal: I mention it only because I came across this way of creating a custom organizer and it seems like a brilliant method. There are already way too many people sharing online what their journals look like – I’m not going to add to it. The website I linked above is more than sufficient information if you want to implement this way of personal organization. Don’t worry about what it looks like, just let it propel you to do what you need to do.
A friend asked last night how school is going at our house, to which I replied, “Good, actually,” and Clay chimed in, “This is the most organized she’s ever been.”
I was tempted to take that as a backhanded compliment, but really, it’s true.
In previous years, I have been really disorganized. I fake my way through the school year, and my kids are brilliant so they make up for my lack of planning and organization. Every year I think to myself, “We’re going to homeschool so hard this year!” Then we (I) get worn out after a couple weeks and limp along until I have to stress about what I’ll do for year end reporting.
I stumbled across this post about using spiral notebooks to stay organized and on track with school. It is almost embarrassing that something so simple can be so earth shattering, but really, this method is amazing. Essentially, each child has a notebook that I write their assignments in and they check it off when they’re done. I prepare them each night so they’re ready to go in the morning. I stay on top of what they’re working on, see where they need help and where they’re flourishing, and have a concrete record of what we actually did so that year end reporting will hopefully be a breeze.
My strategy this year is to start small, and we’ll add more as we go. We’re learning so much together and getting a lot done. My challenge at this very moment is remembering to be thankful for the gift of being able to do this.
Home education takes a lot more time these days than it did when we started 5 years ago. My kids are bigger, and I’m teaching more of them. While I used to be able to say that we get everything done in an hour before lunch, it’s now taking multiple hours, and I’m teaching multiple subjects and grade levels at the same time.
This isn’t easy, but it is worth it. When I see my oldest son reading my youngest a story, it’s worth it. When history comes alive to them and I get to share in it, it’s worth it. When we share the joy of reading good books, it’s worth it. When the older kids help the younger ones with reading and spelling, it’s worth it. When we study science together and unfold the glory of God in his creation, it’s worth it.
And when I enforce a mandatory quiet time so that I can just have a moment of peace, I can reflect on what a blessing these kids are and what a blessing it is that I get to be their teacher. It’s difficult, but so worth it.
I’m not a typical pastor’s wife.
Most pastors’ wives express this sentiment in no uncertain terms. We generally mean that we are not saintly ladies who always have a pious word of encouragement to offer, we do not jump at the chance to spearhead the children’s ministry, we aren’t willing or able to lead the congregation in song as we play the piano for an impromptu hymn-sing, our houses are a mess, we aren’t gracefully pulling casseroles out the oven for dinner guests every night, and our kids can’t recite entire books of the Bible from memory. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that when women say they’re not a typical pastor’s wife, they really mean they’re not stereotypical. It seems to me that any pastor’s wife who does not fit the stereotype is in fact, quite typical.
If I might make broad generalizations based on my own experiences, I would say that pastors’ wives typically don’t have a signature casserole, we feel unprepared for the role we find ourselves in, we worry about the expectations of others, we’re in need of encouragement and often forget to give it away, we don’t know what we’re gifted at, we have children who are as disobedient as anyone else’s, and through it all we love the church deeply.
Yesterday we stood before our home church for the last time as we were sent out as part of a church planting team to our new city. As Clay spoke a word of thanks and asked for prayer for this new chapter in our lives, I was a weepy mess. I looked up at that church – the beautiful gathering of Jesus loving people that have been integral parts of our lives for the past six years – and I could do nothing but cry. I love the church: I love the people, I love their passion for Jesus Christ. I love the stories of redemption and restoration that I have had the incredible blessing to see unfold before my eyes as we have journeyed through life and learned together what it means that it’s all about Jesus and that his gospel changes everything. I love my church and it is painful to leave it behind, but I also have a new church family to call my home. I know that Jesus has incredible things in store for us as we buckle up and hang on while the Holy Spirit continues his miraculous work of saving souls as we bring the gospel forward into more enemy territory.
In that tear-filled moment at the front of a jam packed movie theatre filled with Jesus worshippers, I was a mess, but because of Jesus I am a beautiful mess who loves the church and am thrilled to be by my husband’s side on this adventure I would never have scripted for myself.
I may not be stereotypical, but I think as far as pastors’ wives go, I’m pretty typical.
The kids and I got away for a camping adventure in the rocky mountains with my family last week. Whether we were just sitting around the campfire, skipping rocks on the river, naively wandering the forest trails while bears were likely not far off, playing card games, hiking mountain paths to find waterfalls, savouring an ice cream cone, or cooking up another epic potluck supper, there was always something to do. Our campground had no showers, so a trip to Banff Upper Hot Spring was in order midway through the trip so we could all have a good soak, and I savoured that shower like none other!
The main reason that Clay didn’t join us on this trip is because of his allergies: he is essentially allergic to camping. Trees are not his friend, since something is usually budding, pollenating, and generally allergen-ating. Add campfire smoke to his asthmatic lungs and the result is one unhappy camper who has a hard time breathing! He thrives in concrete jungles, not woodlands. Ours has not been a camping family because Clay is not a camping guy. When we are away from home, our accommodations are air conditioned hotels that give him an allergy free escape from the world outside. I love nice hotels, and after nearly 11 years of marriage, thought that I didn’t really like camping. Until this trip.
Despite the emotional rollercoaster of being without my best friend, I had a really great time. I’m okay with dirty feet, primitive toilets, lack of showers, and going to bed bathed in campfire smoke. I’m a fan of lazy days in the campground, wandering down to the river’s edge to watch the kids skip rocks and breathe in the view. I thought hotel life in a tourist town was more my style, but the times I was wandering the touristy streets of Banff and Canmore were so draining on me.
I realized that I actually like camping, and I came home feeling quite apologetic about that.
I showed Clay all the pictures I took on our trip, worried he wouldn’t think much of them. You know how it is when you’ve gone somewhere wonderful and you worry people won’t understand how great it was when you try to show them? Yeah, that.
But he did appreciate the window into our week away, and at the end of it all he told me he was glad that we had so much fun.
I nearly missed it: he was happy that we had a great time.
I had been fearful that my enjoyment of something that he doesn’t enjoy was a problem. Though he does not share the same enjoyment, he doesn’t discourage us from having fun doing something he wasn’t able to share in. We are different, and that’s not only okay, but good. I’m slowly learning that our differences aren’t problems to be managed, but are opportunities to grow in understanding of one another, giving each other the freedom to fly in the unique abilities and passions that God has given us.
What are some differences you have encountered in your marriage, and how do you graciously deal with those differences?
I love growing vegetables.
My mom occasionally kept a garden when I was a kid, mostly growing potatoes, onions, peas, and carrots. These were staples in our straightforward meat and potatoes way of cooking. We usually harvested enough potatoes to last us through the winter. The peas rarely made it to the house because they are Dad’s summer candy. My garden this year is planted in their backyard and I have serious doubts that I’ll see many of my peas with my dad keeping an eye on things!
I used to think it was silly to tell people that no garden is too small, that even a pot of herbs on your windowsill is better than not growing anything. I didn’t know what the point was in that – maybe because I have not once grown herbs successfully. But now I understand the thought behind it. The payoff in growing food is not necessarily a financial one, but there are so many other benefits to be found.
I grow vegetables because I love the taste of carrots straight out of the ground, cleaned only by rubbing the dirt off with the carrot tops.
I grow them because I love eating fresh peas that I’ve just shelled into my dirty hands.
I grow tomatoes because I love to hate canning salsa in the fall.
I grow vegetables because of the delighted surprise of my kids when they learn the secret to secret chocolate cake is beets, and it actually tastes good!
I grow them because of the adventure of waiting for a variety of vegetable you can’t buy in a grocery store to be ready for picking. It is so fun to experiment with different foods!
I grow vegetables because it just tastes better when you grow it yourself; however, there are exceptions to this if you are as inexperienced a gardener as I am. Organic gardening sounds idyllic until your radishes are crawling with worms. I just buy them from the store now!
I grow them to remind myself that food production, however mechanized it has become, is something that involves people who work hard. There are many hands that contribute to my ability to buy what I want when I want it from the grocery store.
I grow vegetables because it reminds me of the goodness of God. He made a home for our first parents in a garden, and provided them with every plant good for food. When I plant, water, and harvest I am reminded that every good and perfect gift comes from my Father in heaven. He has given us what we need for health and flourishing, and allows me to participate in the process of life and growth. When I involve myself in the process of tending a garden, however small it is, I feel closer to Jesus and am more thankful for all he has done for me.