gag ball fun
gaga ball

He was sweaty and healthy and playing intensely at gaga ball with a large group of Orthodox peers wearing stealthy crosses.

The eye contact was brief.  Then, he darted away into the game.

Outside the camp, big kids were hugging and crying and vowing to keep in touch.

My older boy saw me second.  He had just emerged from the infirmary.

“I thought I had to check you out of the sick bay,” I said smiling him a greeting and hugging him hello.

“They told me I could come out and say good-bye,” he said disappearing into a crowd of tall youth.

While the younger set competed at the gaga ball court, camp counselors were taking pictures with their campers.  Eventually, I had to extract my youngest from the game and find our fellow travelers.

This was the last morning of camp.  It had all come to a crashing end.

Saying goodbye is tough.

What is it about endings that challenges the human psyche?  We don’t want to say goodbye.  We don’t want the good times to end.  

Summer is this way too.  Who wants the glorious unstructured days of summer to end? 

I struggle with endings as my kids age up.  Will this be the last summer they want to do camp?  Will this be our last family trip? 

As I ponder these questions, I see my mother leaning outside the doorway of my childhood home, tears in her eyes as we hug, my car packed full of luggage and kids pulling out of the driveway.   These are not new emotions.  goodbyes have been tough since the beginning of time.  

In the book of John, we see that “Jesus wept.”  Jesus wept because he loved Lazarus and knew that Martha and Mary were grieving for their brother.  Even though He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead within a few minutes, He was still overcome with sadness to see his friends so distressed. Martha and Mary didn’t want to say goodbye.

As camp ends, summer ends, childhood ends, God knows our struggles and that gives me comfort. What He knows is that beautiful things and experiences are on the other side of the goodbyes.  We just trust and go forward.

saying goodbye

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Homeschooling Tips and Tidbits: Day 19

Home Education Advice You Didn’t Know You Needed

Day 19: Staying Positive When You’re in the Trenches

Every home school mom has had that moment when she asked…

“What was I thinking? This is madness! There’s a big yellow bus, and it will literally stop at my driveway and shuttle my kids away for the next seven hours and do it five days a week.”

But, no. You’re in deep. You’ve got four kids that are depending upon you for an education. Yet… the oldest has been in the bathroom for 20 minutes reading magazines and # 2 continues to look out the window rather than finish his last three math problems and # 3 is crying hysterically in a corner.

Omg! What is a home school mom to do?

Stay positive! As the British say: Keep Calm and Carry On!

When chaos or bad days happen, it is easy to get discouraged. As home school parents, we falsely derive much of our self- worth on the outcome of a single day. What’s important to remember is that educating your child is like roasting a big piece of meat in the oven. A good roast takes hours to cook down into tender goodness. Similarly, children take many hours, days, months and years to educate. When we are in the trenches, doing the difficult work, we have to keep this long view in mind.

Keeping a positive attitude through this lengthy process can be challenging. One practice I have recently started is keeping a thankfulness journal. Although I sometimes write it down, usually, I just force myself to stop and think about what I am thankful for in the moment. Pondering even a few simple things for which I am grateful helps realign my heart and mind toward my mission as a home schooling parent.

Recently we had a difficult day at the house. At some point I realized, “Hey! my child is having a puberty induced meltdown.” That epiphany enabled me to detach, have compassion on my son and see the bigger picture. After a short break I noted three things:

  • I’m really thankful to have this time with my child even though he’s going through a rough time
  • I’m grateful my child has a good relationship with his older sister
  • I’m glad to be able to help my child wrestle with these difficult feelings

Jotting these things into a journal, or affirming them softly in prayer keeps my perspective on point. I know these difficulties will smooth out and keeping a positive attitude through the bumps and struggles helps me stay the course. It reminds me that the roast simmering in the oven is worth waiting on.

Update: After I wrote this today, I had the opportunity to meet a German woman who told me that she and her husband moved here because they wanted to home school their kids and it is against the law in Germany. I met her at our hybrid school teacher training. Naturally, she was the German teacher. Before the meeting wrapped up, all the instructors prayed over our students and families for the new year. This precious German woman a simple prayer: God, thank you for the freedom to home school my kids. What we take for granted in this country is such a hardship for others! I couldn’t resist sharing this story as we all seek ways to be thankful in the midst of our home schooling journeys. May each of us have a blessed and fruitful school year!

Homeschooling Tips and Tidbits: Day 5

Home Education Advice You Didn’t Know You Needed!

Day 5: Don’t Make Irrevocable Decisions About Your Home school Before June 1

Every year the same old thing happens. The co-op or hybrid school we’ve been attending or exploring announces in February that they are taking registration for the next academic year. As it usually goes, the earlier we register our kid(s) the lower the fees. In some circumstances, once we’ve signed the dotted line, we are responsible to pay for the entire year at a program whether our kids attend or not. Then there’s the soft pressure to ” make sure our child gets the best teachers, courses, equipment, time slots, etc.,” if we sign up early.

Now, I’m all about signing up kids for fun programs and academic endeavors, but a few years ago I quit caving into pressure to shell out registration fees 6 – 8 months out. I’ve been burned too many times!

Invariably, around March, the academic doldrums set in. I get tired and
cranky with the monotony. We get spring fever and decide we want more freedom, or a different curriculum or better social situations next year. Usually, this eases out by May as the year winds down and I get clarity. Yet, what if I started making decisions and plopping down hundreds of dollars on a program that would happen eight months hence when I’m entering the doldrums phase of our school year?  This is when disaster has happened.

Here’s what I do now. I wait for the school year to end, then I breathe
deeply and enjoy a few unstructured days. After a week or two, when my mind is refreshed and I’ve had time to pray and ponder the next school year, then I make decisions.  If I must pay an extra $50 or $100, I figure I’ve saved that money in lost fees, lost interest and aggravation.

Naturally, there are times when you know! You’ve researched, toured, planned and you are certain about a decision, so you commit in March. This is a good feeling and one I’ve had on a few rare occasions.  However, I find that when I wait and live with a decision internally before laying down cash and signing papers, then I fare better.  Children, circumstances
and family dynamics can change drastically in a few short months.  It works better for our family to have the flexibility to move with these changes rather than be locked into a school or program that may not be a good fit.

Bottom line:  Hybrid schools, co-ops, classes and programs are great resources for home school families.  But, don’t feel pressured to make early decisions.  Sign up when you feel comfortable with the decision and its impact on your family. 


Homeschooling Tips and Tidbits: Day 4

Home Education Advice You Didn’t Know You Needed

Day 4: Will My Kids Become Social Freaks?

Possibly! But, only if you are one yourself! Actually, what I’ve observed is that we are all freaks!

What do I mean by this? I mean that we are all a little quirky. My guys might be super nerdy about fishing and Battle Bots. Sometimes they wear their pants too high (gasp!) I get too excited about singing loud music in the car and my hubby about cleaning his hunting gear. We all have our thing! God gave us each a passion.

We are all different and homeschooling often provides a nonconforming environment where kids can just be themselves and not what everyone else wants them to be. When you school at home, you can let your freak flag fly with fervor!

Here are some examples:

  • we unabashedly wear our pajamas most days until noon
  • we geek out on books first thing in the morning, after prayers
  • sometimes we read for two hours
  • we bring our Zentangle books to the coffee shop and draw
  • we listen to jazz while we study and work
  • during the school day, we go out and visit the chickens when we get bored
  • we wear crosses, sometimes two at once

And, this brings me to socialization. defines socialization as…

  1. the activity of mixing socially with others, and
  2. the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.

Many folks think that home schooled kids, because they are not with their age mates all day, lack valuable social skills. Home school pundits assume that children must be around children all day in order to learn to behave acceptably in society.

My experience is different. What I have observed is that kids who are around parents who teach them how to interact with others do so appropriately. Kids who attend public, private and home school, and have parents that make social interaction a priority, are usually socially appropriate. Home educated kids are not with their age mates 7 hours a day so they are often comfortable around adults and younger children because that’s who they see.

Here are some suggestions for integrating social interaction into your home school week:

  • Join a home school community. If you live in a smaller town, it can be challenging to find a group, but there are plenty of groups and coops around, even in rural areas. Plenty of families drive an hour + weekly or monthly to participate in social events and field trips held through their home school groups and communities.
  • Participate in a hybrid school or coop that meets once or twice a week.
  • Have your students take Skype or other live feed classes where students have interactions with the teacher and other students.
  • When your kids are in teen years, get them paging down at the state capitol. This is an excellent activity for practicing and fine tuning formal and informal conversation skills.
  • Attend field trips with home school groups, families and / or friends.
  • Meet Dad for lunch.
  • Join a team sport
  • Join a club like Boy Scouts or American Heritage Girls.
  • Attend your church’s youth programs.
  • Serve in the community together. Find organizations that allow you to serve as a family and go there. Or, create your own service project: I’ve sent my kids out in the neighborhood with fliers announcing a coat drive. Then, a few days later, they return to pick up coats from donors.

The list above could go on and on.

Here are the takeaways: If you are a well-adjusted adult and you include your kids in a variety of activities, both peer oriented and adult oriented, your kids will most likely be socially adept. Remember, everyone is quirky. Embrace your God-given passions and skills and celebrate them. Perhaps others will catch the excitement, or at least they will appreciate the freedom you have to be yourself!

Homeschooling Tips and Tidbits: Day 3

Home Education Advice You Didn’t Know You Needed

Day 3: Your’e Going to Irritate People

You’ve dealt with all the reasons, made a pros and cons list, and now you and hubby have decided to take the plunge. You’re going to keep junior at home to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. So, you begin collecting materials, school room furniture, and curriculum. Perhaps you’ve even put it out there on social media: “We’re homeschooling!”

But wait! Aunt Darla calls to ask you out for a cup of coffee.

“Honey, I’ve got something I’d like to talk to you about,” she says.

Over a latte she tells you she’s heard through the grapevine that you are considering homeschooling your kids.

“I just think you guys are making a big mistake. Your mother and uncles went to the local schools here and they are doing just fine. I just hate to see you go in this direction. Your kids are really going to miss out.” Aunt Darla is not okay that you are going outside the box and she’s vocal about her opinion.

This is just one scenario that can play out with family members.

Another scenario is when your friends suddenly ignore you and stop asking you and your kids to participate in social activities. There are many other situations where friends, family and acquaintances will reject openly what you are doing.

You need to be ready for this and here’s why: Some people are just going to be irritated that you are doing education differently. You are deviating from the norm and some folks are bothered by this. They literally do not understand why anybody in their right mind would go through the hassle to school their own kids when there’s a perfectly fine school up the street and they can put their kids on a bus to attend it five days a week! Thank you very much.

On the flip side, there will be plenty of friends and family who, while they don’t understand, will embrace what you are doing all the same. But there are always the naysayers, reactionists, group thinkers, and haters. There are people who don’t think outside the box and don’t want you to either. Sometimes these folks are openly opposed and sometimes they are passively opposed. And, what I’ve realized is that you homeschooling your child is a threat that they don’t know how to deal with.

Here are my tips. Find people who support you and what you are doing and spend time with them either in person or in conversation. When you sense that people are irritated or threatened by your homeschooling, smile, be kind and say, “This is what the Lord has us doing right now.”

Don’t let naysayers throw you off. You are strong and you have reasons for what you are doing.

When education comes up in polite conversation, “Where is Johnny in school?” respond directly and simply, “Johnny is learning at home this year.” Don’t feel like you have to offer an explanation. Just state it humbly and move on. I do this to let the naysayers off the hook. Don’t give them an opportunity to get irritated.

Finally, consider that vocal opponents might be struggling with their own educational decisions and histories, good and bad.