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.
For the past few years we have been members of the Western Development Museum (WDM for short). We purchase a yearly pass for our family and this allows us to visit the museum anytime throughout the year, including the time before Christmas when they host the Festival of Trees, and Pion-Era, their annual summer festival. For the first time since we’ve had our membership we were not busy on Pion-Era weekend so we finally went to check it out, and I am so glad we did. It was so much fun!
The kids all had special bingo cards that if they filled with stamps throughout the grounds, they would be entered to win a prize package. This was a sneaky way for event organizers to get feedback from the survey they printed on the back of the card, and it was also and excellent way of motivating the kids to check out all that there was to see and do.
This is a saw that cuts large blocks of wood into thin shingles.
Here we saw a rock crusher in action. Rocks were loaded into the bottom, crushed, carried up the conveyor belt and dropped into the wagon. I always find these old belt-driven machines fascinating – the ingenuity of machinery during this period of history is so interesting to see in action.
This goat at the petting zoo was eager for attention. Don’t you love his horns?
The kids tried their hands at washing clothes with a washboard. The big boys assured me that they’re thankful we have automatic washers and dryers today, which makes their task of doing laundry much easier than it would have been 100 years ago!
Markus is a rockstar at milking the fake cow!
This little train was one of the highlights of the kids’ day!
Bailey’s favourite part was the pony rides: she went three times! Amazingly to me, she is quite comfortable around horses. I was horse crazy until adolescence made me boy crazy, so it’s very sweet to see Bailey enjoying horses too.
A beautiful team pulling the wagon rides.
Me and my sweetie! While the kids were enjoying their train ride I pulled my phone out and said it was selfie time. Clay asked, “Since when do we selfie?” Since now! I know I am absent in so many photos and I want to be more willing to get my face in front of the camera. I want to be able to look back and see that we were enjoying this day right along with the kids.
Bailey and I took in a fashion show on the Boomtown stage. It was so interesting to see the evolution of fashion over the past 70 years. My favourite outfit was a dress from the 1940’s, it was so feminine and sophisticated. Unfortunately it is not pictured here, and I know this photo is not great but it’s the best I could do with an iPhone in the spot I was sitting in. It was also neat to see some of Clay’s aunt’s fashions from the 70’s and 80’s in the collection: she is a curator at the museum and some of her old clothes made it onto the runway!
We finished the afternoon outside for an old fashioned threshing demonstration. They showcased the different methods of harvesting as technology progressed from using man power to horsepower, then steam and gas machinery.
Here they are pitching the sheaves of grain into the wagon.
It is difficult to see what’s going on here, but the steam tractor is attached with a belt to the threshing machine, and the grain is being loaded in one end, and at the other the grain is pouring into a wagon and the chaff blows away.
I was so pumped to see this because I have amazing memories from grade 3 when my favourite teacher took our class on a field trip to her friend’s farm to witness this process. We rode on the wagon and were up close to the action as the old tractor rumbled, and men with a commitment to heritage and passing on this piece of history involved us in what life was like for farmers in the early 1900’s. This is when history comes alive to a child, and it certainly made an impact on me! I hope some of that wonder of discovering days gone by happened for my kids today too.
The afternoon closed with the Parade of Power – tractors, cars, motorized wagons, and men and women proud to show off their restorations of the past.
There is so much I didn’t include in photos, like delicious homemade bread slathered in butter and strawberry jam for only 25 cents a slice, Saskatoon berry ice cream sundaes, cranking homemade ice cream, rope making, three legged and potato sack races, and so much more. I don’t know how I’ve lived here my whole life and only experienced this today! If you have the chance to go, do it!
My mom asked Markus today if he misses getting into his school books, and he replied with a simple and sure, “No.”
We have schooled through the summer before, and at that time it worked well for us. In this season of life, a good break from school books is in order and we are definitely enjoying it! My kids aren’t the only ones who are relishing a break from school: lazy days of unashamedly late breakfasts, bike rides, dirty feet, berry picking, and popsicles have been enjoyed by all of us.
With that said, I do feel like I need to start thinking about what we’re going to do when fall comes and we have to get back to business. The options are endless when it comes to school curricula. It can be so overwhelming to find the right choices for your family, and I have learned through experience that at some point you just have to pick something and go with it: there is usually not a right or wrong answer. No program or method is perfect, you’ve just got to start trying stuff and see what works. Easier said than done when you’re footing the bill for experimental education!
As I look ahead to what I’ll try this fall, I thought I would take inventory of what we already use that’s working well, and take some time to think about what I still need. If you find this helpful, you’re welcome; if you don’t find this helpful, that’s okay, I wrote it more for myself anyway!
Math: From the beginning of our homeschooling adventure we have used Math-U-See. I really appreciate the hands-on approach, and the focus on mastery. It can get a little tedious at times when they are drilling facts, but I know my kids are gaining a solid foundation of how math works, and the sequential building of concepts has been very effective so far. The manipulative blocks help them to see how and why things work the way they do. Love it, sticking with it!
We’ve also been using Khan Academy recently. The kids love the challenges and earning points for new avatars. I can’t see how that’s motivating, but whatever works!
Reading: I started teaching my kids to read with this book. I had heard good things about it, and maybe it is effective, but I also found it incredibly boring. I was hesitant to let a computer program teach them to read, but we gave Reading Eggs a try and everyone was hooked. Markus and Wyatt both learned to read by playing Reading Eggs, and Bailey is well on her way. The tedious lessons of the book we were using have been replaced with games – they think they’re just playing, but they’re learning so much in the process!
The big boys are both reading chapter books. It is a constant challenge for me to find books that are not empty fluff, that are captivating, meaningful, encourage positive values, build their character, and encourage them to dream. I am amassing a collection of what I think are great books, but it’s tough to sell my guys on novels when there are graphic novels to be read: which I’m not against, but there’s much to be found outside the pages of Captain Underpants and Jedi Academy. I did start reading The Chronicles of Narnia to them at bedtime, and they were so intrigued that Markus has been reading ahead without me, so that’s a step in the right direction!
Reading is the main thing I want to do better next year. I know there are countless benefits to reading aloud, yet it is something I have such a hard time making time for. I’m going to find a way to read to all of them more often.
Writing: My big guys are getting to the point that they should be developing better writing skills. Their minds are brimming with stories, but they are not very good at getting those down on paper in a way that flows and makes sense. I really want to work on developing stories and characters. We also need to work on spelling and punctuation, and if I follow through with my goal to be reading more, these details should fall into place more quickly.
Science: This is by far my weakest area. Science was never my thing. Experiments make me uneasy because there’s too much to prepare and too much potential mess. We had a science kit subscription come to our house monthly, and we’ve only done a handful of them so we have a pile more waiting for us, if I would get my act together and do them with the kids! They are eager to explore and discover, it’s me that’s the weak link in the chain in this department and I really need to be more willing to try things with them.
History/Social Studies: We’ve done Canadian geography studies, which could use a refresher but I think I want to grow their knowledge of world history more this year. I’ve heard good things about The Story of the World, and The Mystery of History. I need to research them both and then just make a decision and use one!
For all these essential subject areas that we have to cover, I also supplement with these Complete Canadian Curriculum workbooks. It’s good to see what we should be aiming to learn in any given year, and these help fill in the gaps sometimes.
Another area we’re working on is typing and coding. Markus is interested in the possibility of making games so he can make money, and his computer programming daddy has told him he needs to get really good at typing before he’s ready to create his own games. Typing.com seems to be good so far, so I’m going to have him stick with that for now. Code.org is a fun way to learn programming – we’ve tried it but need to stick with it.
We’re going to work on learning French using Duolingo. Our kids are dreaming that one day we will take a family trip to Paris if they learn the language well enough. If Markus writes games and sells them, perhaps we will!
Another thing I want to improve on is encouraging their artistic side. This is in the same vein as science: I don’t like mess. I am a tense ball of anxiety in the presence of children wielding scissors or paintbrushes. That’s my problem, not theirs, and I’d like to challenge my control-freak tendency and allow them to do more art and crafts. Another challenge is what to do with the things they create…
Finally, music. We’ll be back to Music for Young Children in the fall. This program is fantastic! I took piano lessons for nine years and I still learn things when I go to class with them! I gained so much from my years taking piano lessons, and I am so glad we are making music education a priority for our kids. It’s about way more than music as they grow in confidence, dedication, patience, and so much more.
There we have it: a long, potentially boring post about what school is going to look like here in a few months! I found this incredibly helpful, since I often feel like I’m not doing much. This shows me what’s working, what needs work, and that we are doing a lot more than I thought we were!
The kids and I went on an adventure yesterday, which means this post is full of pictures!
We are a part of a CSA (community supported agriculture), and in a nutshell this means we pay a farmer directly for a portion of garden produce. Everyone who buys into the CSA takes turns making the weekly 2 hour drive to collect the produce and bring it back for the rest of the group. So yesterday it was our turn to go see where our food comes from!
I had envisioned a large garden, but I was not prepared for what we discovered when we arrived. There were three gigantic garden plots, all kept pristinely tidy. There was not a weed in sight! Since there was a dog to greet us, Bailey was afraid to get out of the van. I did manage to get her out, but she jumped into my arms any time the dog came near.
The kids had fun testing their knowledge of plants, trying to identify the many things they saw growing. I’m impressed: they’re pretty good! We were stumped by the row Wyatt is pointing at here. They looked like onions, but not. It turns out they were onions from last year that were being kept for seeds.
We visited all the animals: chickens, pigs, a calf, and horses (which I didn’t get a photo of).
Markus was eager to help feed the chickens.
It was lovely just to let them roam. There was so much to discover, so much air to breath, and sky to behold.
There are a few houses on the property, and families and individuals all pitch in with all the work it takes to make life in this tiny village work. In the house we were sorting vegetables in, this is the view of the kitchen.
The light streaming in the window onto the weathered chair at the table, the Saskatoon berries in the process of being canned on the wood burning stove, and just the simplicity of life slowed down and savoured in each season was so inspiring. I could have stayed so much longer, soaking everything in and learning from people who are so resourceful. It is a different life than the one I live, that’s for sure!
The kids were sad to say goodbye to their new friends.
On the way home we stopped at a lighthouse at a nearby lake and snapped a few more photos before making the trek home. Wyatt made an exciting discovery when he reached the top of the hill!
Just in case you don’t believe that I was there, Bailey snapped this photo with me at the top of the hill.
Thanks for stopping by to share in our adventure!
I grew up with my mom at home. In a culture that was going through a massive shift in values, while I was being told I could be anyone I wanted, and do anything I wanted, I didn’t have a career ambition. I knew I wanted to be a mom when I grew up – a mom like mine. A mom who stays home.
As the youngest of five children, I watched my sisters forge a path for their own families. They were smart, educated, and when they started having babies they put their paying jobs aside for the work of caring for their children. I knew it was against the grain of what culture was doing, but as I watched women I respected take a stand for what they believed was the best choice for their families, it gave me courage to do the same.
We don’t live on one income because we’re wealthy. Clay’s income is not so large that it equals two salaries. One income for 6 people means there’s less money to go around than if we had two incomes. I keep up with the budget: I’ve done the math. That means there’s a lot of stuff we can’t afford. It means Christmas is lean on gifts and large on traditions. It means family vacations look like camping with Grandma and Grandpa, and visiting grandparents who don’t live nearby. It means both our cars are at least 10 years old. It means our kids are riding 25 year old bikes. It means we frequent thrift shops and sale racks, and we welcome bags of hand-me-downs for our growing kids. It means by the time we’ve paid our monthly bills, there’s next to nothing left.
We all have priorities about where our money goes. We give to our church until it hurts, because the church is deeply important to us. We are laying down our lives for Jesus, and our money goes along with that. We spend money on eating healthy food because we believe it’s important to take care of our bodies. We spend money on our home and utilities because we clearly need a roof over our heads. We spend money on music lessons for our kids because we feel it’s important to invest in that part of their education. And we spend as little as possible on our vehicles because all we need is something that reliably gets us where we need to go.
Living on one income is a choice I’ve made with my husband, and I live it gladly. We give up money for the sake of more time, and that’s a sacrifice I make willingly. I’m not being held back from achieving my best. There are days when I feel like I would gladly trade this work for a paying job and a break from the endless work that comes with raising and educating four children. I’m often overwhelmed and feel unequipped for the task before me. But when I take a step back, I realize that being at home with my kids, and sacrificing luxuries to do so, is exactly where God wants me. Where he has placed me is not an oversight, it’s his plan. Through the daily trials and joys of mothering I am being refined by the Holy Spirit. Through the daily surrendering of my self to God’s will, He is making me into the woman I was meant to be.
I have struggled to find a good balance with social media in my life ever since I created my Facebook account 9 years ago. It is a constant drain on my productivity, creativity, and relationships.
If I’m online too much I do too little of everything else, and the bottom drops out on my motivation. I begin and end with good intentions, and my to-do list grows to soaring heights along with my guilt. My kids often don’t get the best of me because I’m zoned out on my phone – so there’s that.
So when I began my daily writing challenge a month ago, I decided I would not allow myself to go on Facebook each day until I had written for a minimum of 15 minutes. There were a few days that didn’t happen until late evening, so I waited to scroll through my newsfeed until the day was almost gone. Surprise, surprise: I really wasn’t missing much. This past weekend was exceptionally busy, and I actually didn’t write for three days. As a result, I have not been on Facebook since Friday. Clay told me I haven’t missed much. I’m not surprised.
This isn’t some ground breaking epiphany about how you become alive when you shut your computer, put down your phone, and decide to be present in your real life. This is nothing earth shattering, it’s just a predictable realization. I waste time on things that don’t matter, and I’m learning to do that less.
Have I had a weekend of intense productivity with my writing? No, but I was busy doing things that matter, and there’s something to be said for that too.