Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homeschool Mom or Life in the Trenches

I was recently asked to tell my story of how I became a homeschool mom to a group of women at our church. My first reaction was, "No problem!" but the more I think, pray, ponder, the more difficult it becomes. You see, prior to homeschooling, I held some pretty strong opinions about the venture and really, none of them were positive. At best, they were neutral or ambivalent. NEVER did I think I would be where I am right now.

Because of my pride and ignorance, God had to do some radical things in my life to change my thinking of what was most important. I needed to be forced to re-evaluate my life goals and where I was going.

I have always been headstrong, hard-working (employed since age 12), and very self-reliant. I didn't listen to wisdom, nor did I seek it. I did what I wanted, when I wanted. Luckily, I married and amazingly loving and patient man, probably too much so, that followed me down a lot of paths. I was always the visionary, he was the detail man. The first several years of our marriage, I knew nothing about Godly submission to either God or my husband. I treated God the same way I treated Michael. I lead, you clean up the mess. Fortunately, I can be taught. I learned through hardships that are another testimony, that I need to abide in HIM, all the time. Not just when trouble comes. I became intentional about my relationship with the Lord. I began reading my Bible regularly and praying. Through those times, I began to see how far off from what God had planned for me I was. I started doing a Bible study on Proverbs 31 and I was VERY convicted. At first I was angry, but I slowly began to see that this was about trust and obedience.

I felt foolish doing things to bless my husband and joked about it. "I ironed your shirts, Honey. With starch!" It was good for a few laughs, but really, me being the wife and mom, rather than career woman, blessed my family. I could see it.

Shortly after this began, tragedies began occurring that turned my life upside down. In June of 2001, our oldest daughter had to return to foster care due to extensive problems she had that were more than we could help her with. In September 2001, 9/11 happened. If the two things had happened separately, I think I could have coped, but I felt like I could trust no one, and evil was everywhere. I only trusted myself. In the fall of 2002, I got forced out of a job that I loved. I started a new one in Red Wing that terrified me. In the winter of 2002, we bought my grandma's farm and planned to sell our house and build a new one. We found out our house was unsellable due to zoning. We had two properties and could do nothing with either one. I found out I was pregnant, of course.

I was planning to start Grad school for advanced practice nursing.

That spring, my dad died unexpectedly. It was horrible. I was so broken and helpless.

In August of that same year, Michael's dad died also unexpectedly.

We were building a house and had no idea what we were doing.

That year was surreal. I felt like I was just being swept along, or carried. It was so sad, yet God was so near to me. I really became so close to Him and my faith grew so much. I understood what it meant that He will not forsake us or leave us. I began to seek Him for wisdom. I began to search the Word. I realized how important family was and how short life is. I looked at my growing family and didn't want to miss opportunities. I began to see my career as so inferior to what I had at home. I began thanking God for my family.

Still, I never thought about homeschooling!

That Christmas John was born. Another testimony of how good God is.

The spring of 2004 we moved into our new home.

Matthew and Hannah had been going to our local Lutheran school, but because one was going all day and the other was half days every other day, some days I was driving back and forth into town three times a day with a little baby. That winter of 2004, was very cold and I remember getting weary of bundling up that little baby over and over. We had been through so much and I was very worn out.

Our plan was to put the kids in public school after Christmas...but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn't do it. I just thought it would be unkind to switch schools midyear, so I began thinking about just homeschooling to finish out the year and start public school in the fall. Looking back, this is the only way God could have gotten me to homeschool. My own convenience!

Matthew was in second grade and Hannah was in preschool. I had no idea what I was doing and I was filled with pride. My focus was completely on academics and I am embarrassed at what I put my kids through those first few months. It really was still all about me and their brilliant minds would make me look like such a super mom! Ha!!

I was completely unprepared for what God had in store for us. The first thing I noticed was the condition of my own heart. I was tested and shown to have a heart filled with pride, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, selfishness, you name the bad fruit, it was there I am sure. The funny thing is, I really thought I was SOOO GOOD!! I saw that I had been an excellent Pharisee and that I was raising my kids to be just like me. I needed to repent. There were times those first years that I would have to lock myself in my bathroom for time out to pray. Never in my life was I so dependent on the Lord than when I started homeschooling! He was my source, He was my wisdom, He alone could change what was in my heart. Things would come up, and I had to repent, ask for forgiveness from God and my family.

In my kids, I saw things relating to character that we needed to work on. I thought I was such an amazing parent, but began to see there was a lot of responsibility that I had not take seriously and that I had to answer to God one day for how these kids were raised. I could no longer blame teachers or schools, I had to look no further than myself. Ouch.

At the end of the first school year, we looked back. The kids loved it. I reflected on what those first 5 months at home did for our family. Matthew and Hannah became friends. They played together, talked to eachother. They became nurturing to their baby brother. Matthew gained respect for me, instead of just being angry with me. I remembered that feeling of falling in love with my babies, memorizing them, and getting to know them. I saw how we ended up homeschooling as a gift from God. I felt that I had taken my children back and was able to fall in love with them all over again.

I can say that it has been a great reward to teach each of them to read. To discover them writing their first words. Understanding those early math concepts. However, I had no idea how much more rewarding it would be to disciple them. To get an opportuntity to live Dueteronomy 6:6-7 which says,

These words which I command you today shall be on your heart. you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."

was an amazing privelege. Especially today.

I thought homeschooling was about taking over the academics and raising little brainiacs who wear weird clothes and don't quite fit in. Kids who know where every country is, its capital, language and chief export.

I now see it as a tremendous opportuntity God has given us to raise a generation who will be faithful to Him. To raise a generation who will not compromise the Word of God. To raise a generation who are unafraid of man, but seek the Lord for His will in their lives. Do I think that homeschooling is a guarantee. No! It is, however, a great advantage. I spent much of my own life worrying about what others think of me, rather than what God thinks of me. I find that my kids really don't seem to care what others think. What a gift of freedom that alone is!! I wonder why we want to be normal anyway, look around! Obviously normal isn't working!! Maybe it's time we tried weird!

The fruit over the past 7 years of homeschooling is far more than I ever imagined. God took my very small, weak steps of obedience to do amazing things in and through our family. Four of our five children have comitted their lives to Jesus. My husband also accepted Christ after 15 yrs of marriage. We experienced a true revival in our home at that time. The Holy Spirit was moving so quickly in our home, I was exhausted. I remember thanking God for all the miraculous things he was doing, especially in our marriage, but I really needed one quiet day to do my laundry. Which He generously gave, before moving in power again. I was reunited with my lifelong friend and cousin, Penny after really no contact for about 20 yrs. We were uprooted and transplanted in this church...I could go on.

Homeschooling I can see was just one part of what God had planned for our family. It became a training ground for His purpose. I can tell you that apart from Him, I could not do it all. But His words are true. He is not a man that He should lie. He is faithful and if He is asking you do do something, no matter what it is, His grace truly is is sufficient and His strength really is made perfect in our weakness.

Thank you, Lord!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's an Eyeore Day

Maybe it's cabin fever already. Maybe it's the subzero temps. Maybe it's CO leaking from the wood heat. Maybe it's Christmas blues. Maybe it's the mess. I don't know, but I'd really like to make some tea and lock myself in the bedroom where it's quiet, more clean than any other room in the house (though not clean itself).
Unfortunately, it's a day of schoolwork, getting dinner ready, swimming lessons, piano lessons, and try to get my laundry put away before it's time to wash again. Some days, I feel like I'm just treading water. Today is definitely one of those days. Accomplishing very little, just trying to not drown.
Don't worry, I'm not depressed. Just having a melancholy day...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rainy Day Thoughts

I have just about wasted this entire day doing not much of anything. It's one of those days when I just bumble from one random activity to another with no goals, direction, or to-do list. It is sort of relaxing, but there is always this nagging in my mind that I should really be doing something more measureable. Just to warn you, this posting is going to go just like my day...meandering...

I got up at 7:30 with high hopes for the day. Shower, makeup, hair, ready for anything. Breakfast, coffee, baby (changing, feeding, playing...) After that, I forget what I did for the next two and a half hours, but I'm sure there was some coffee, snacks, and conversations. Thankfully, no time wasting Saturday morning fights. Dum-de-dum... Oh, yeah! I forgot to pick up my bread in Red Wing! Woo-hoo! An activity! So I took Josh with me to town, we picked up bread and got gas and donuts then came home. Next, a trip to Cannon Falls with Michael and baby to get some feed for our chickens. After that, we went for a little drive on some country roads, talked and listened to my new favorite CD (Laura Hackett). We got back home around 12:30 and had lunch.

Lunch reminded me that I discovered earlier in the morning that everything in our fridge was warm, so lunch was leftovers that needed to be eaten before they go bad. Tell me why the fridge always breaks the day AFTER one gets groceries??? I just got groceries yesterday!! Michael and Matthew kindly moved milk and meat to the garage fridge so they wouldn't spoil. Everything else is on the warm side of cool in the kitchen. We left messages for the repair man, but I suppose he gets weekends off, too. Funny thing...I was just telling a friend how we really didn't need that second fridge in the garage anymore and how I thought is was a waste of electricity. Huh.

After lunch, dishes to be washed by hand (Did I mention that our dishwasher is broken, too?) then the choice of finishing laundry, or ANYTHING else. I chose the anything else option and got out my guitar after one year of neglect. I remembered a couple chords and struggled through "Twinkle, Twinkle" and a couple other kids songs. Michael got out his banjo and we sang "Down by the Bay" for boys who laughed and then we quit.

After the music, we all went off to our separate activities and I again faced the choice of laundry or Anything Else. Anything Else won again and I got out all my farm reference books and started researching sheep. Why? Cuz I think my life is too dull and I need to add a few more projects to our plate and that they've always interested me. I like that the eat grass and weeds. I have this image of our mess of a pasture being clean, trim and green with these happy, white, little fluffs calmly grazing and a warm, sunny day. The nagging in my mind counters with an image of storm clouds, cold wind, rain and lots of mud. While my sheep look more like giant lint balls dragging sticks and weeds that are knotted to their unkempt (and badly in need of shearing) wool by burdock. That's if they stay in the pasture.

I haven't even gotten to the sheep chapter in my book because it starts with chickens, and I do love my chickens, so in case there are chicken facts I don't know, I'd better read. the next chapter is ducks and geese. Well. I just happened to bring home two ducks from work yesterday from a co-worker so I need more duck facts in my head. Better read it. the chapter after that is goats. I hate goats. They are the most evil barnyard animal ever. I was brutally betrayed by a goat once as a small child and I don't know that I will ever trust or forgive the rest of the goat population. I was at a friends house and I was petting, scratching and talking to her pet goat which, I might add, boasted a nice pair of horns. When I turned to go into her house, it nailed me on the backside. I was shocked, hurt, and betrayed. I felt no guilt whatsoever in skipping the goat chapter. We will NEVER own a goat.

Just as I found my place on Chapter 5 Sheep, Noah woke up hungry. I was feeling a little sleepy, so I took him into my big fluffy bed, and we fell asleep...

It's now 5 o'clock and time to start supper. I have succeeding in wasting a Saturday skipping my laundry and doing Anything Else all day. Yawn... was good.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Getting It Right...Sometimes

One would think that having 5 kids would be really difficult to manage. Crazy, in fact. It is true that some days are like that. Especially, it seems, that when one thing goes wrong it can set off a chain of events that derails my whole day. Take my recent habit of sleeping in, for example. I have been hooked on watching "All Creatures Great and Small" on Netflix and though I enjoy it like a warm blanket and hot cuppa tea, it's getting me off track. An episode of "All Creatures" is a FULL hour long. Sooo...I've been up 'til midnight many nights, then Michael falls asleep before me, then I lay in bed listening to him BREATHE!! Of all the insensitive things to do!! BREATHE!!! Continuously, no less!
Anyway, I got a little sidetracked, there, sorry. So I get up at 8:00 am, and at least two of my kids are up, sloshing breakfasts around the kitchen and surfaces. Outfit ideas strewn all over their bedroom floors. The final choices are usually sweatshirts on 80 degree days, no underwear (because mommy needs to open that drawer or the dresser will tip over on them), and toothpaste squirted out on the bathroom counter. John and Josh are now experimenting with flossing, so there are usually flossers all over the counter, as well.
The amazing thing is that baby Noah has not really added to the chaos of my house. It was like this before he was born. My problem is time management, or the lack therof. Since sweet, little baby Noah was born, I have totally thrown my routines out the window. I have got to get that back. I know you'll probably laugh at this, but I've been just a tad on the lazy side. At least with getting done what is REALLY important. Oh, I've been very busy working, totally wearing myself out, in fact, but the things that really matter have been on the back burner. So this is, in part, my confession.
When you read my facebook posts about all the heroic things I have done in a day, do NOT be impressed. Ask me, "Did you spend time with the Lord today?" "Did you sit down and PLAY with your kids?" Did you take the phone off the hook, or happily take every call and blabber on for an hour about nothing while your kids destroy your house to get attention?" "Did you smile ONCE at them and mean it?"
Wow. Being a mom is awesomely difficult, fun, rewarding, tiring, stretching (mind and body), and character building :-)
The longer I am a wife and mother, the more I realize how serious this job is and how incapable I seem to be at it. The good thing is, sometimes I get it right and God is gracious enough to take that bit that I get right and bless it with fruit. I can go on and on about all the things I have done wrong. Short-tempered, selfish, and self-absorbed as I can be, I do sometimes hit upon something GOOD with my family.
This week, I started playing this game with John, Josh and baby Noah. I hold Noah in front of my face, facing out, and have him "talk" to his brothers. John and Josh LOVE this! They talk to him just like he was really talking to them and it's really cool what they say. I can say things like, "I'm so glad you're my big brother! Will teach me how to do a summer-sault when I'm big like you?" They have been much more nurturing to baby, and treat him more like a real person instead of a toy.
With Hannah, when I am work, we email eachother and our relationship is definitely improving. She was so disappointed, I think in me, for not having a sister. I think since last fall she's been in kind of a funk about it. The letter writing, instant messaging stuff has been helping. Also, I have been turning her loose in the kitchen more. It was difficult at first, the kitchen being clearly MY TURF. When I backed off, and just let her at it, she churned out some amazing, beautiful rhubarb pies. she also cleaned up the mess which is a big plus. I'm thinking I may not have to bake another pie for years! Woo-hoo!
With Matthew, it's arguing about everything that I say. I get sucked into silly debates over and over and over. Here's my new line when an arguement starts. "I know how you feel. If I were you, I'd argue with me, too." Then walk away. Kinda deflates the balloon. It worked today, I'll let you know how long it lasts.
Another thing I think I might try just for fun is to get a goldfish bowl and have written on strips of paper general answers to the "why" questions.
1. We can't afford it right now.
2. We don't approve of this.
3. We don't have time for this.
4. We don't believe in this.
5. Because I said so.
6. You're not old enough.
Then whenever an arguement starts, I walk over to the fish bowl and pull out my response. Don't tell him, I want it to be a surprise!

I know these are little things, but thats what parenting and life is. A whole bunch of little things that add up in either the positive or negative side. Which one will weigh more in the end? We shall see...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I was able to see my ENT doc this morning. My ear is ok, just need a long course of heavy duty antibiotics and hopefully all will be well again. I was having a lot of worries about painful surgeries again, etc, etc. Thankfully, that will not be the case! Michael took the day off so I could go to my appt. without kids, so we are having a very nice day. Too bad it's raining!

Monday, March 15, 2010


So, ever since Noah was born, I have has a hard time kicking this ear infection. I have a LOOOONG history of ear problems and ear surgeries on my left ear that seemed to be under control. I have had really no problems for the past 7 or eight years. The scary thing is, that it has been operated on so many times that there is very little left of my middle ear and not much between it and my brain. For me to have a MRSA infection in that ear is one of my biggest fears. I have exposed nerve, any many points of entry for bacteria to cause major problems.
I am very glad I was a bit testy when I went into urgent care and asked for it to be cultured, but I do also feel that ignorance was bliss.
I am also grateful that I was able to track down the ENT surgeon who I saw in the past and he will be seeing me first thing tomorrow morning in Faribault. Yay! It pays to have connections. I actually worked with him at the Cannon Falls Hospital in surgery as well as him being my doctor. We have kids the same age and still send Christmas cards, so thankfully I was able to bypass the usual routines.
Please pray for me! Not only am I worried, but this hurts!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Let's Do Away With Illusions, Eh?

One thing I am slowly realizing is that people are rarely what they seem on the outside. Now, I'm not saying that everyone leads a double life, but that we always see people through our preconceived, sometimes stereotypical images. It takes time with someone for the illusions to go away. When making friends with someone, we go through a period when the illusions begin to be replaced by the truth of who they really are. This is when we make decisions about whether the relationship is worth the investment or not. Will we be more than Facebook Friends? Will I let you see my disgusting toilets or will I feel like I have to clean them before you come over (furthering the illusion, I might add).

I love my friends that I don't feel like I need to clean up before they come over. they can see my kids with dirty faces and silly outfits. They can have a cup of coffee with me on the cluttered couches while we share some tears over something happening in one of our lives, good or bad. I can tell them my failures and fears. I can be real.

I've been having a hard time lately finding my place in this busyness. I'm absolutely loving having 5 kids and my life right now, but it's getting harder and harder to appear that I've go it all together. Some things that I used to have pretty good control over, I don't anymore. Like little things with my kids. Their rooms are no longer my responsibility to clean. I didn't think that they used to be, but when they reached a certain level of disaster, I would breakdown and spend a day deep cleaning. Can't do it. Every one of them looks like a fire hazard and that's just the way it's gonna be, so if you have a problem with messy, get over it.

My cooking has totally lost it's creativity. I simply don't care. Meat, veggies and some form of carb like rice or potatoes. Actually, it's just rice or potatoes. If you're sick of those, too bad. I used to care what my kids said about my cooking, but I found that it didn't matter how much time or effort I spent on a meal, it was lost on them. In fact, it seemed that the more time I spent, the less they liked it. So now I open the freezer, grab a meat, cook some rice, nuke a veg and there we go. My husband will eat anything and love it. My job is only to please him, not the kids. If he likes it and it's nutritious, I've done my job. Next...

My laundry is never done. and I mean NEVER. If I do bust my butt to get it done in one day, which requires that I set a timer for when the washer is done and don't leave the house for the day, there is AT LEAST a full basket of dirty clothes by bedtime. This used to actually make me mad, pointless, I know, but it would kinda grate on me.

My house probably smells bad. That's what Febreeze is for. I have a dog that has recently decided she can poop in the basement and we don't always discover it right away, cuz, well, it's the basement and I'm busy. (Any dog experts out there, I would welcome your advice. She's 2 for crying out loud.) I also have bedwetters and I'm sorry, the sheets don't always get washed everyday. We do use pads on the bed, but there is an element of error. Also, refer to the paragraph on laundry.

My fridge rarely gets cleaned. If you're hungry please help yourself, do the smell test. You'll probably be fine. One of my nesting activities before the baby was born was to have Michael completely disassemble the inside of the fridge while I cleaned it to the molecular level, so it should be good for several years. Nesting does serve a very practical purpose. If you are pregnant, don't fight it, embrace it.
Should I talk about dusting? Something I actually used to do every Friday before I had kids. Now I honestly don't remember ever dusting in this house except my bedroom ( I do still have some standards). I am sure Michael has done the dusting, but I have no idea what or how often. Not real high on my list right now.

Here's the problem...I want a clean house. I love a clean house. I can THINK in a clean house. I have slowly, and not just with this baby, had to lower my standards, or just let things go. I am deciding to make the most of my life right now, where I'm at. God has BLESSED me with 5 kids. I love them! I am realizing how fast they grow up and it scares me. I have been soing things that normally I would be "too busy" for. I went sledding twice with the kids and they loved it. I have sat down and played a quick game with John. Josh, John, Hannah and I colored and I lived. I actually told Matthew today that I would like to try playing Call of Duty today. He has been talking about it a lot and giving me lots of advice, so I'm pretty sure I'm locked in now. Next thing you know I'll be all geared up and air softing in the woods.

In order to do what we have been called to do, the illusions gotta go. I don't have time for them and they are lies, anyway. We homeschool and that's a priority. Iam beginning to realize how much it has helped develop the character of our children. My kids are NOT perfect. If you know us, you know that. However, my kids do love the Lord. If you asked me what was the most important thing I want to teach my kids I would say that it was that they would love the Lord, know Him, know His word, and never walk away. Education is very important, we don't neglect that, but education is not as important as salvation. I need to frequently remind myself of that.

Today in church, during worship, I had an image of myself kneeling on the floor in the middle of a big mess in my house. In that image, my eyes were closed, hands open, surrender. I was surrendering my life and will to God. It's far from perfect, but it's my life. I have failed my husband and kids over and over, but I get a new opportunity every day to give it back to God and try again. I was reminded of my purpose and given fresh vision and direction. I was also encouraged. This is my family. Not someone elses. I need to please only two people, Jesus and my husband. If they are happy, then it's a good day.
So, when you come over. Be warned. My kids don't have polished manners and social graces. My fault, but we're working on it. My house may have hidden surprises. Know that if I had more time, I would take care of them. We love to visit. We love coffee, tea, conversation, and home grown music. So, to quote my mother, "Shovel off a chair and sit down! Do you want a cup of coffee?"