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A Letter to Homeschooling Parents

Dear Homeschooling Parents,

Congratulations! You have embarked on one of the most fulfilling and most frustrating journeys you will ever take. As a homeschool graduate, I feel compelled to encourage you in your decision. This road will be far from easy, but incredibly worth it. As I went through my homeschooling adventure, I learned several truths. These “top 10” are what I want to encourage you with today.

  1. You will have at least one day (more like 20) where you want to find the nearest school bus and put your child on it.

Let’s face it; there will come a day when you have argued about reading a book or completing a math lesson for the last time. When that day comes, that yellow school bus will come down your street and an idea will start to form in the back of your mind. Maybe, just this once, you could flag down the school bus and put your child on it. That way you could let a teacher, other than you, deal with your child’s attitude. My mom threatened this once. I don’t remember what we were arguing about now, but I remember informing my mom that it was Friday and she couldn’t stick me on a school bus the next morning. She told me she would find some bus and put me on it. Looking back, it’s humorous now. In the moment, not so much. This too shall pass. Don’t give up. Believe me, your child will be glad you stuck it out.

  1. Homeschoolers are not normal.

This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve been around some “normal” children and I wouldn’t want to be normal. If normal means being disrespectful, having innocence ripped away at a young age, or adjusting my morals to fit the prevailing trends, then I’d rather be different. This doesn’t mean that your children will not be successful. This doesn’t mean that your children will be socially awkward. It just means that you’ve chosen a different form of schooling so that you can have a greater impact on your children’s lives. God doesn’t call us to live normal lives. He calls us to love people who hate us, pray for those who mistreat us, and die to ourselves so that He can live through us. That sounds anything but normal to me.

  1. Not all homeschoolers are geniuses.

Maybe it took your child 487 easy lessons to learn how to read. Maybe your child still can’t multiply the twelve times tables. It’s okay. People learn at different rates. They will learn how to read eventually. And, is it really the end of the world if they don’t know the twelve times tables? They can multiply it out long hand or just use a calculator. Don’t pressure yourself by thinking your child has to be the next Albert Einstein. God only created one Einstein and he wasn’t your child. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

  1. Structure is important. But so is flexibility.

One of my favorite parts about being homeschooled was going on vacation when all my friends were just starting back to school. Early September vacations were the best. Less people traveled because school was back in session. We were the lucky ones. And when my birthday rolled around? Well, that was a day off of school. Baking Christmas cookies at Grandma’s? Day off with all my cousins. Sometimes we even took the whole month of December off because it was too hectic. Or, we did just a few subjects a day so we wouldn’t have to do math for what seemed like forever. Spontaneous field trip? Let’s go. Even with all of this flexibility we still usually finished the school year by Memorial Day. While a chaotic schedule and constant interruptions certainly shouldn’t be everyday life, being homeschooled did afford our family flexibility. Structure was still there. We weren’t getting out of doing math or science indefinitely, but we had freedom to take a break when we needed to. If we had a doctor’s appointment one day and didn’t get to math, we just doubled up the next day or added a day onto the end. Keep some structure, but don’t be afraid to be flexible.

  1. Homeschooling is not like a hat. There is no one size fits all.

Yes, you read that right. Homeschooling looks different for each family. In fact, it looks different for each child. If something doesn’t work, you shouldn’t be afraid to throw it out and try something new. My mom went through a couple of different math curriculums for me before finding one that fit what I needed. And then my sister used a completely different one. We learn different and that’s okay. Find what works best for each of your kids and stick with it. What worked for me, might not work for you. What works for you, might not work for the family down the street. It’s okay. God created each of us unique. Do what works. I was always able to just sit down and memorize material. My sister needed to be up and moving around to memorize something. I can’t tell you how many times she jumped rope or marched around the rug to learn a Bible verse. We’re different. Your kids are different. Embrace it. Don’t try to make them all the same. You’ll just make yourself and them miserable.

  1. Learning isn’t just for school time.

I’m pretty sure you already know this, but I want to remind you. Life is learning. Learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom or around the dining room table. Learning happens when life happens. When you’re making dinner to take to someone who’s been in the hospital, you’re teaching your children hospitality. When your children volunteer, they’re learning generosity. When your kids help you measure ingredients for dinner, they’re learning math and how to cook. When they are writing thank you notes from a birthday that is penmanship, writing, and gratitude. Learning doesn’t happen for only a set period of time. Look for opportunities to learn when you aren’t doing “school”.

  1. Be a tortoise, not a hare.

When you start homeschooling the temptation can be to load up on a bunch of extra activities because you seem to have all this extra time. Don’t give in. Take it from someone who during seventh grade was busy and out of the house almost every night of the week. Slow down. Don’t load up on everything. Choose carefully. Limit what you do. Spend time as a family. Don’t race through life; slow down and enjoy it.

  1. Be a tortoise, but not a dead one.

Slow life down, but don’t stop it. You will get tired of seeing your children’s faces eventually. And, believe it or not, they will get tired of seeing your face too. Choose intentionally to participate in an activity. Join a co-op. Take some sort of lessons. Get involved in a sport. Volunteer somewhere. Don’t do it all, but don’t do nothing either.

  1. Push the passions.

Find out what your children love to do and let them pursue it. If they love sign language, find someone to teach them, take a community class, or buy some DVDs. If they love playing an instrument, get them in lessons. If they love to read, choose a curriculum that will allow them to indulge and plan frequent library trips. If they love children, let them baby-sit or help in the church nursery. Let your children be who God created them to be. It’s okay if they don’t have a natural bent towards math. Do they still have to know it? Yep. Do they still have to work hard at it? No doubt. However, if they aren’t planning a career with a math focus, stick with Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2. If they need four years of math, throw in business math or consumer math. Don’t make them take Calculus or Trigonometry if they will never need it again and hate it. Don’t make both you and them miserable. Push what they enjoy. Relax a little about the rest.

  1. You are not torturing your child.

This one is partly just because lists should have ten items on them. But it’s also so true. Contrary to what your children may tell you, you are not ruining their lives. Eventually, they will come around. It might come in high school. It might come in college. It might come when they have kids of their own. Eventually they will know that you were right. And they may even thank you for homeschooling them.

 

Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. But when you get discouraged (because you will), remember why you are doing this. Start a list of the reasons now, before you’re ready to throw in the towel. Then, when you feel like giving up, you have a tangible reminder of why you are homeschooling. Talk with other homeschooling moms and dads. They’ve been in your shoes. Talk to some homeschool graduates. They will give you hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Most importantly, turn to God. Read His word. Remember that God made you your children’s parents. Before time began He knew you would be the perfect parents for your children. No one else can do what you can do in their lives. Turn to God and point your children to Him. They will thank you.

Sincerely,

A homeschool graduate

Rewriting My Food Story

Headaches after eating were a fairly common occurrence for me a few years ago.  I didn’t really think much of it. I didn’t connect it to food. I’d pop some ibuprofen and move on with my day. My mom was the one who thought maybe I was reacting to something in the food I was eating.

She began doing some research, and, over the course of several months of reading, thought I may be allergic or have a sensitivity to MSG (Monosoduim Glutamate). There’s no way to diagnose this, but an elimination diet can provide some insight. My mom read as much as she could on the topic and we began the elimination diet.

The tricky thing with MSG is that is can go by so many different names: yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed anything, and more. Soy sauce can cause a reaction because of the way it’s processed.

The elimination diet was hard.

I really like food. I really like celebrating every little thing with food and people. And I really like a lot of foods that have MSG in them.  All of the sudden my favorite salad dressings, soups, dips, and so much more had to be cut out of my diet.

The good and bad news?

It worked.  The longer I was off the MSG, the less headaches I got after eating. Of course, I now had to find replacements for some of my favorite foods and eating out became extremely difficult.

Once the MSG was out of my system, we also realized I was feeling relief from other symptoms I hadn’t previously identified: becoming extremely tired after eating and an elevated heart rate.

I didn’t always get it right.  I cheated at times.  Some of those foods were just too hard to resist.

Until that day in December.

On that day we went out to eat with family at a national burger restaurant. I threw caution to the wind and ate exactly what I wanted.  All the seasonings, all the ranch dressing, all the things I knew had MSG in them.  I went back to my parent’s house to help make some Christmas sugar cookies, but all I could do was lay on the couch.  I had no energy and a splitting headache.  I realized then that if I wanted to be a full participant in life, I had to stick to the diet.  I couldn’t cheat anymore.

My food story was being rewritten.

Since that day, I’ve learned a few things.  Things that have helped me on this new-to-me food journey.

I can still enjoy food and the company of friends and family.

Just because there are certain foods I can’t eat, doesn’t mean I can’t sit down to a meal with friends and family.  It does mean I have to be more creative sometimes. It also means that I may have to say no to some of my favorite foods if they weren’t prepared in a way I can have them.

I may have to bring a more filling dish to a potluck. Or bring along my own salad dressing. It may mean having friends over to the house more often and going out to eat less often.

I’m eating healthier.

I’m eating foods with less chemicals. Foods that are more natural. Food that isn’t as processed. Food that is more God made than man made.

There are replacements for most of my favorite foods.

While I may not eat them as often, there are replacements for many of the foods I had to cut out.  Now I view them as a treat rather than everyday food or I make many of them from scratch.

I enjoy being in the kitchen.

I can combat MSG most effectively when I’m cooking for myself. I’ve found products that I can use and I make things from scratch.  I buy cook books by the dozen. Experiment and adjust recipes.

I can’t always control food choices.

Since my sensitivity isn’t life threatening, I don’t always make a big deal about it. If I go to a wedding, I eat what’s there. If there’s nothing else at a family get together, I make the best choices I can. Sometimes life happens and I don’t have as much control over my food choices as I’d like.

I’ve learned so much more as my food story has been rewritten.  That’s what I hope to share with you through the food portion of this blog. Products I’ve found. Recipes I’ve tried. Resources I’ve used. And how I’m still learning to navigate how I eat.

 

Purposefully Created

I am less than a month out from being 29 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Well.  I do, but I don’t.

I want to be the wife and mom that God has created me to be. (The wife part has started, the mom part is a ways out).

I want to love learning and I want to share that love with others in the form of teaching.

I want to love Jesus more and more each day, and each day become more and more like him.

I want to be a good friend to the people God has placed in my life.

I want to write.

I want to share through writing and speaking what God is doing in my life, what he is teaching me, and how I’m finding my way through all of that.

But professionally? Educationally? I’ve been feeling a little adrift lately.

I’ve worked at the same company for almost four and a half years. During that time I’ve held a few different positions, but all of them leave me feeling like, “This is nice, but it wasn’t what I was created to do.”

I have a B.A. in Sign Language Studies with a concentration in Interpreting.  I worked in the field for about a year and realized while I loved the language, I hated interpreting.  It was not for me.

So I went back to school.  And I have an M.A. in Written Communication with an emphasis in Teaching Writing. But something wasn’t quite clicking there either.

And I’m considering going back to school, but I don’t want to spend that much money when I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I feel like I’m in this season where God keeps saying, “Be patient. It’s not quite time yet.”

Can I be honest?  I kinda hate it.

I don’t want to be patient; I want to feel like I’m doing what I was created to do.

But then God reminds me.  He reminds me that his ways are not my ways, but his stories are the best stories.

He reminds me of the perfect timing he used to bring my husband into my life and how I wouldn’t change a thing from all the previous hurts and the long wait because He writes beautiful stories.

He reminds me that he always uses an experience. Those educational opportunities, the jobs I’ve liked and not liked, the waiting, all have a purpose.  I may not understand the purpose for years to come, but God doesn’t waste experiences and hurts and trials. He uses and redeems it all.

He reminds me that he’s preparing me in ways that I may not fully understand and that all I have to do right now is keep taking the next step. Even when I’d rather be sprinting towards that feeling of doing what I was created to do, I just need to take a step.

Guys.  I want God to write this story.  It’s going to turn out way better if he does.  But it’s HARD. And I definitely have my days of wanting to just throw in the towel and give up on the place God has me right now. But his stories are the BEST stories.

So I’m going to keep taking those next steps: writing on this blog, being in a community of writers to continue developing that part of who I am, continue praying, take opportunities to develop new skills that God is prompting me to develop, and be obedient… even when it’s hard.

And waiting on that next degree until the reason I want it is more than getting to wear a poofy hat at graduation.

 

These Things

God provides for our needs.

Take a moment and let that soak in.  Let yourself feel the weight of each word.

God. The creator of the universe. The Almighty. The One who was and is and is to come. Eternal. The King of kings and Lord of lords. Emmanuel.

Provides. Gives. Supplies. Equips.

For. In order to obtain. To gain. To acquire.

Our. Not just mine. Not just yours.  But ours. All of us.  Collectively.

Needs. Not our wants. Not the newest toy around. Not what we think we need, but our actual physical, human needs. Food, water, clothing, shelter.

This thought has been rolling around my head for weeks now.  It started when I agreed to give a devotional at my church in conjunction with the offering and it hasn’t quite ended yet.

But it started with the thought of a boy. A boy in a story I’ve heard a thousand times while growing up in the church.  A boy I hadn’t given a ton of thought to before.

The boy I’m thinking of? It’s the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus and, in turn, was part of feeding over five thousand people.

John 6:1-13

After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). And a huge crowd was following Him because they saw the signs that He was performing by healing the sick. So Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with His disciples.

Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. Therefore, when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward Him, He asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so these people can eat?” He asked this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do.

Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.”

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?”

10 Then Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”

There was plenty of grass in that place, so they sat down. The men numbered about 5,000. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks He distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.

12 When they were full, He told His disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they collected them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten.

I’m pretty sure he’s the coolest kid ever and I want to be like him when I grow up.  This boy offered what most people would consider a need: his food. What thoughts must have been going through his head?

Did he wonder if his mom was going to be mad that he gave up his lunch she so lovingly packed? Did he think about all the times his mom told him he was eating her out of house and home? Were there any doubts lingering in the back of his mind? Maybe this isn’t such a good idea… Or, because he was a growing boy, did he shrug his shoulders thinking that those five loaves and two fish weren’t going to fill him up anyway?

The truth is, we don’t know.  We don’t know what thoughts went through his head.  But we know the outcome of his actions.  We know that over five thousand people, including him, ate until they were full.  It wasn’t that each person just got a little to eat. Each person, including that growing boy, ate until they were full. And there were leftovers.

In my experience, it’s pretty rare that growing boys leave enough food for leftovers so maybe that was a smaller miracle inside of the larger feeding the five thousand miracle.

But as I read this story over and over, and thought about this boy, and thought about how Jesus performed this miracle, I just had one thought: Jesus met the need for food in the boy who gave up his lunch.

And that thought made me squirm a little.

How often do I give up what I think I need or even what I know I need if Jesus asks for it? Do I trust him to still provide in those moments? Do I practice what I say I believe?

Too often that answer is no.

But while I was working through all of this and preparing to speak at church, God brought another passage to mind.

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It’s verses 31 through 33 that really jumped out at me.

Don’t worry about what you will eat.  Don’t worry about having enough to drink. Stop being concerned about being clothed. These are the things that people who don’t believe in Jesus worry about.  But your heavenly Father, the one who created heaven and earth, who knew you before time began, who chose to adopt you into his family, he knows that you need food and water and clothing. And when you seek him and his ways and are obedient to what he has called you to do, he will provide “these things.”

“These things…”

In this case you have to look back a few verses to figure out what “these” refers to.

The things that God knows we need, that he will provide when we seek him and his ways? Food, drink, clothing.

Now is he going to provide dinner at a five star restaurant? Maybe, but probably not.

Is he going to clothe you in the latest fashion trends, hot off the runway? My guess is no, but we serve an extravagant God so I won’t rule it out.

But here’s the thing.  When we follow God and offer him what we think we need to use for his kingdom and his purposes, he provides for our needs. When we trust him, he comes through.  Usually in ways we can’t even begin to think of or imagine because we serve a God who’s ways are beyond our comprehension and imagination.

This is an area I need to work on: trusting him with even the things I think I need.

But can I tell you, as scary as it can be to give up what I think I need, it’s also crazy exciting to think how God will use it.  Who knows, maybe he’ll feed over five thousand people (including me) with a couple fish and a few loaves of bread.