To Homeschool or not to Homeschool, that is the question!

Trying to decide if homeschooling is the right answer for our family. Weighing the pros and cons is hard when we don't know all of the potential results of either choice. Heaven Not Harvard

To homeschool or not to homeschool, that is the question! Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of playground bullies, or to take up workbooks against the common core and by opposing – teach common sense. Oh to wonder no more, and by making a decision, to say we end the heartache of forever scarring our children by choosing incorrectly. . .

Okay, that Hamlet allusion was probably only amusing me. My students either loved or dreaded Shakespeare units. I always started with a Monty Python-esque British accent and Hamlet’s soliloquy, attempting to inspire them to love the bard.

I was a dedicated public school teacher for 17 years. I hope my students look back and feel I was part of a good argument for sending your children to public school.

But myself, I’m not so convinced. We live in an area that has an emerging school system. Things are improving, but not quickly. We’ve really been torn about whether we should homeschool.Trying to decide if homeschooling is the right answer for our family. Weighing the pros and cons is hard when we don't know all of the potential results of either choice. Heaven Not Harvard

Part of me feels like I’m cheating her from the childhood experience of “the first day of school”, making friends, and meeting other adults who might love and nurture her in a different way than I do.

Local pre-registration for next year is already finished. We chose not to enroll her at this time, but I still struggle with the questions of whether homeschooling is the right choice for us, for her.

I feel like I’m sitting on the fence, making my Pro/Con list without really being able to see all the items on either side of the list.

Trying to decide if you want to homeschool? Here's our pro/con list that made our decision… Click To Tweet

Pro Homeschooling

  1. She has recently been labeled as possibly having ADHD. Homeschooling would allow me to build in wiggle time between lessons.
  2. I can also teach her to deal with her attention issues in a way a classroom teacher wouldn’t be able to in a classroom with 30 other unique children.
  3. She can learn at her own pace, allowing for remediation or enrichment activities and additional subjects, like Spanish and art that our area school may not have.
  4. We can schedule piano lessons or doctor appointments during the day, leaving more time for family in the evenings and weekends.
  5. We can create our own calendar and schedule, which allows us to take breaks when her brothers visit, when her dad has a random day off from the army, or when we want to travel to visit family or friends.
  6. We can reduce or eliminate bullying.
  7. We can control her introduction to the adult subjects of the world. I don’t want to shelter her so much as mindfully guide her using our faith to give her the tools to navigate the world.
  8. I get to watch the world unfold for her. Watching her learning to read for herself has been absolutely magical. Everyday she makes a new discovery, like learning she has a super power.
Here is my pro/con list from our decision about homeschool. To homeschool or not to homeschool? Click To Tweet

Con List

  1. She is the center of my attention all day, every day. She doesn’t learn to take turns or be patient with others.
  2. She misses out on the good memories of making friends, giggling on the playground.
  3. As her only teacher, she may not learn to respect or deal with other authority.
  4. As her mom, our relationship is different, she pushes back at structure and discipline with me in a way she wouldn’t at school.
  5. I have to sit with her during every lesson right now. It is time-consuming and challenging.
  6. Can she learn to be independent if she spends all day with the safety net of Mom and home? Will she be too attached to me?
  7. I can’t seek paid employment while homeschooling, which is difficult for our budget.
  8. Will my attempts to create curriculum be successful and meaningful?
  9. Will playdates and co-op be enough to socialize her? Will she learn social skills as a primarily only child being homeschooled?
  10. Will I have the patience and temperament to make homeschooling a fun adventure instead of daily drudgery?

Stepping into this new realm as a homeschooling parent is less terrifying as a teacher, because in some ways I’ve been teaching her since she was born, but it puts so much responsibility on my shoulders for her social and academic success.

Are you a public/private school parent or are you a homeschooling parent? Are you a product of homeschool? Please share your thoughts and ideas for me.

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30 Days Without Complaint 48 hours

As I prepare to undertake this transformative challenge again this year. I am revisiting what I learned only 48 hours into 30 days without complaint last year. As the last day before I start this year, I’ve already seen how destructive a little complaining can be.

Oh no! 30 Days Without Complaint 48 hour in I've already learned how hard this will be.First, since I’ve started this challenge, I’ve found God has blessed me with ample opportunities to practice already. Not complaining may be a bit like praying for patience. Once I ask, I get lots & lots of chances to practice.

Planning to quit complaining is like praying for patience - lots of chances to practice. Click To Tweet

I am outgoing and friendly if you meet me because I genuinely care about people, but my heart is fed by lots of quiet time, so a busy day can be very stressful for me. You might think I would have planned this better, but nope, Day 1, I had an extremely busy schedule.

Simply getting out the door for Bible study without any complaining (at least on my part) was going to be my first real challenge.

30 Days Without Complaint – Learning to be the light of the world!

The next part of our day (2014) was pretty amazing. We met up with Mike Viti, from Mike’s Hiking for Heroes, who is (was) walking across America, over 7,100 kilometers, one kilometer is designated by name for every service member who was killed in action during the Global War On Terror.

When Legacies Alive - Mike Viti 30 Days Without Complaint 48 hours I asked him why he walks, he said, that his goal was to be not just one voice, but one person doing something to raise awareness of the sacrifice of our nation’s heroes and their families.

Having followed his journey since April, I was so excited, nothing was going to dissuade me. Yet, having had hip replacement in January with a string of complications and injuries, this was going to be my longest walk in a year. We walked on a busy highway with three children in strollers.  My body got a really good workout while we talked and hiked almost 4k (one for each of my husband’s Iraq tours) with this very dedicated American.

By the end of a very full day, my body had been pushed pretty hard considering my recent occupation of perpetual patient. I smiled and took an Aleve, joyfully using my microwave-able heating pad, and didn’t utter a single complaint. My husband could see I was sore, but instead of grumbling, complaining about the aches, I smiled. I could almost see him relax, ease into the story of his day, not having apprehension about my needs.

Which brings me to my next observation. This challenge seemed pretty straight forward when I devised it, but the intricacies are continuing to blossom in my heart.

#30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge is one of the most transformative I've undertaken. Join me! Click To Tweet

The first part of what I have learned is that carefully crafting my words from, “I’m hungry” to “I would like to eat now,” seems like just a lesson in semantics, but choosing positive words is part of being the light in a dark world.#30 Days Without Complain 48 hours -Light of the World

Philippians 2:14-15 ESV “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,”

Carefully crafting every sentence isn’t superficial. If word choice changes the way people perceive a product, don’t the words I use change the way people perceive me, my attitude, or even the way I perceive my world?

I have already seen how much my words affect not only my heart, but the hearts of those around me. The past few days have felt lighter, more joyful. I feel like my attempts to guard my mouth from complaining are also guarding the hearts of those who would hear those complaints. My husband and daughter are already responding to the light in me.

I can already feel myself slowing down and giving more thought to the words tumbling out of my mouth. Spending more time thinking about my words changes my heart for others, slowing down to listen and love. God is already blessing me in this challenge after only 48 hours.

If you’ve taken the #30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge, I hope you’re seeing the fruits of change in your life as well.

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Mr. Bill photo credit: william couch via photopin cc

Tights are not pants

Yesterday, God gave me a real opportunity to meet my daughter where she was. I was heading to a preparatory meeting for a local speaking engagement. I needed her to put her shoes on. After ten minutes, I called for her to come get into the car. She comes out of her bedroom in her t-shirt, sandals, and tights – no pants. Of course I giggled at her silliness, but suggested that she needs actual pants before we leave the house. After attempting to reason with her, I tried to take the easy way out and tell her that they had a hole instead of arguing the “tights are not pants” point.

tights-are-not-pants-pleaHa, ha. The joke was on me. She went into her room for another ten minutes, changing into ANOTHER pair of tights that didn’t have holes. And oh, the meltdown when I said she couldn’t wear that out in public. She even tried to pull her shirt down over her bum. “What if I do this?” she asked. Um, no, tights are not pants. She began to have a full tantrum. Through the tears and cries, I thought I heard something along the lines of “wahhh, I want to feel pretty!’

Luckily, we weren’t really expected at any specific time, so I was able to take a breath and really respond to her.

“Why do you want to wear the tights?”

“They are fancy. I like to be fancy.”

Oh, sweet girl! My heart melted when I saw her disappointment. In that moment, God gave me a soft heart for her instead of one rushed and determined with my own agenda.

“You are right. You haven’t gotten fancy for a while. Would you like to get fancy for church on Sunday?”

“Yes! with my tights?” Her face lit up when I said, of course. Then she immediately got up, put back on her pants and shoes so we could leave. It was kind of amazing.

When I met her where she was, validated her feelings, she was able to respect me and hear me. When she was so bogged down in being upset that she couldn’t hear me, I wasn’t going to be able to make progress with her.

It is a ridiculously simple trick that solves so many parenting battles. Meet her where she is and give her choices. She doesn’t understand why showing her hiney isn’t appropriate. She didn’t understand why I was hurrying out the door. She did know how she felt.

A few months ago, I would have wanted to handle the situation appropriately, but probably would have gotten frustrated. I would have set consequences and gotten her dressed, but would have missed the chance to love her. I loved her by not making it a battle with her. I loved her by taking the time to listen to her. I didn’t let her misbehave, but I gave her control in an appropriate way.

Ephesians 4:2 ESV “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,”

My patience with her four-year-old quirks and my willingness to see from her perspective were real gifts from God. Not only did she feel good about the exchange, but instead of starting the tightsnotpantsouting frustrated, I felt loved and respected right back. And we didn’t end up on the people of Walmart website, which is always a plus in rural Alabama.

Maybe someone needs to forward this information to this poor woman, in the spirit of love, of course.

The “No Thank You” Day

I think my mother-in-law uses this term, a “No Thank You” day, to refer to one of those days that for whatever reason, someone just isn’t happy. Someone else might describe it as waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but you get the idea. Today was that kind of day around my house.

I woke up before my preschooler. I got out of bed, was brushing my teeth in a pretty good mood. Then she woke up. And that was pretty much the end of that. After a “good morning, Mommy” full of the promise of sunshine, she pretty much rained on my parade the rest of the day.

She didn’t want to eat her yogurt. It was apparently gross, and by gross I mean absolutely nothing wrong with it, but she wasn’t allowed to watch Sesame Street until it was gone, so it became a battle.

Then she wanted a drink, but not any of the actual choices we had available, including water. Then she couldn’t remember how to make her bed. I know she is only four, but every day for the past couple of weeks, I walk her through how to do it, tell her just to do her best, and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Today she refused to make the bed, like sat down in a huff and full on pitched a fit, a screaming crying jag because she didn’t know how to make her bed. I sat with her, talked her, and walked her through it again, but literally every second was a total battle. I was so tempted to do it for her.

But I knew if I let it go this one day for the sake of ease, she’d be ten before she ever made her bed again. Absolute consistency is key for my child. One moment of weakness and she’s on that like the lion on the weak gazelle, so I pressed onward, determined to hug her, smile and move past this momentary blip in our day. Ha ha, we call this irony ’round here, folks, because that was nothing compared to the rest of the day.

Then I asked her to get dressed. She is four. She’s been dressing herself for over a year (mostly). She still doesn’t do buttons, but she can put on her pants, shirts, and shoes (even if they’re on the wrong feet). She sat, in her panties, not the clean ones, screaming that she didn’t know how to put on her shirt.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

I stood staring at her in complete shock and frustration several times today. And I had to choose to handle her in the Godly way I am modeling. She deserved my anger, but not my sin. Her meltdowns were not my fault. She was making her own poor choices. My reactions to her were my responsibility. I had done all I knew how to do.

I fed her, got her something to drink, gave her a hug, checked her forehead. When there was nothing obviously wrong that I could correct, I had to let her suffer the consequences of her choices. She got harsh words and time outs, toys put up, and spent a lot of time being talked to today.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

I was waging war against Satan today, in my home, in my child, and in my heart. I had to choose to take control of my anger (even though justified) because in my anger I didn’t want to sin. A few times, I needed to apologize and ask her forgiveness for getting too loud, but I was able to mostly just let the day go. It wasn’t going well, but if all I could do was fix my reaction to it, then that is what I was going to do. I had the armor of God to take every thought captive.

The older of the children we babysat is very much like my child, so much so that they are either best friends or tattling and bossing each other around. The one time they did play nicely for an extended period of time, turns out they were dumping sand from the sandbox around the yard and throwing it at the dogs. And as I snagged my child, running with her alligator scooper full of sand toward our yellow lab, who was pretty sure this was the most amazing game ever, I noticed she had sand all over her face.

“What did you do?”

“I ate some, Mommy,” she beamed proudly.

“Why?”I asked incredulously.

“To try it.”

“And was it tasty?”

“Nope.”

I’m in hysterics now thinking about this. We watch a lot of cooking shows, and we encourage her to always try new things, so I guess I shouldn’t assume that she knows sand is gross, but we had another talk about how food is the only thing that goes into her mouth. Which we had again after she put Epsom salt crystals from a science experiment into her mouth. I think they are edible, but they are a laxative, so not recommended snacking.

I was trying to balance our checking account, watch a climbing one year old, supervise two energetic four-year-olds, and was dealing with all the intensity of their tattling, squabbling, or colluding against me, with the stress of a broken computer, shattered iPhone screen, a credit card bill that is higher than I’d hoped. I wanted to text my husband and complain. I wanted to be angry all over someone, darn it. I chose not to. I have no idea what kind of day he’d had, what mood he was in, and had a choice to suck it up and deal or make his whole drive home full of stress about what he was going to find when he got home, make him angry before he even walked in the door. That wasn’t the tone I wanted to set for our evening.

I was nearly in tears by the time her father got home. I spent some quiet time, just in thought and prayer to handle this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. All I could think was that I was just giving a friend advice about this kind of day last night. I need to practice what I preach. My daughter’s struggles were frustrating, and continued through dinner and bath time, but were not about me. My job was to maintain consistent rules and consequences and not bash my head against a wall.

Romans 5:3-5More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Ask most moms about praying for patience and they will look at you horrified – NEVER, I mean, never pray for patience. God doesn’t give you patience. He gives you the opportunity to practice it. Praying to be a good parent is kind of the same thing. Better be prepared to learn quickly.

My daughter is only 4. This day will be far from the last tough day or far from the worst day we will ever face. Today was part of giving us endurance, producing character, and giving us hope in that He will always provide the strength to avoid temptation and to persevere through the most difficult challenges using His divine armor, not our own strength.

At the end of this “No Thank You” day, she refused to pick up her toys in her bathtub because she was too tired. I said that was unfortunate, and she could just throw them in the trash so she would never have to pick them up again. When she saw I was holding a trash can next to the tub, she picked them up. Then she started dancing in the tub, and I reminded her that we don’t play in the tub because she could slip and fall. Then it was another round of I forgot how to brush my teeth, then her Fancy Nancy nightgown and stories. She picked a story about two best friends who don’t get along all the time because they have to share and are both bossy – PERFECT, used it as a teachable moment. Then we said her prayers and asked forgiveness for being naughty and thank you for friends coming to play, and for healing for a sick friend, and for the cat to close her eyes because we are praying, Amen.

A kiss, a hug, a goodnight, don’t let the bedbugs bite and today was over. I didn’t get it all right, but with God’s strength, nudges, and love, I got it a whole lot more right than I ever could have imagined a few years ago. Phew, gonna pray for coffee tomorrow, with a chance of grace – that couldn’t backfire, could it?

Seriously Harvard?

Seriously Harvard? was my first reaction to a friend's post about her super smart 6 yo. I had to get a grip. Was I really parenting for Harvard or Heaven?

A mom friend posted on Facebook. “My 6 yo daughter is so smart! Harvard should get ready.”

She was being quippy,

But my mommy radar sounded an alarm, seeking some measuring stick by which to gauge if my daughter might also be in this very elite kindergarten predestined for Harvard group.

I began to type a long comment, but paused. She was being funny. Her daughter is super intelligent. I didn’t need to compare mine or have my parenting validated. I ‘Liked‘ and moved on with my day.

I needed to get a grip. AGAIN. Why was I so concerned with external success for my daughter? What am I raising her for? Seriously Harvard? was my first reaction to a friend's post about her super smart 6 yo. I had to get a grip. Was I really parenting for Harvard or Heaven?

Seriously Harvard?

Man, that sneaky pride and mother’s love (fear/worry) is a daily battle. I was reminded of a children’s bible video I had stopped to watch with my precious girl, the story of Samuel.

But really, it’s the story of Hannah who desperately wanted to be a mother. She prayed and wept, promising if God were to give her a child, she would dedicate his life to God.

Even in the children’s version, the story resonated with me. I remembered hearing it before in my own Sunday school days, but it never touched my heart the way it did on this particular day, which is the anniversary of the most important phone call I ever got.

But my story started way back in 2004, when for medical reasons, I had to undergo a hysterectomy. It was a heartbreaking decision, but the right one for my health.

A few years later, and I’m newly married, settled in Texas and ready to be a mom, but the finances to pursue adoption weren’t available. Prayers started then for God to make a way if adoption was His plan for us,  so we weren’t going into debt or jumping through hoops for our own desires over His.

When waiting on answers to prayer, it is always better to wait on God than force our own way. Click To Tweet

Two more years passed, and we had saved the money, thanks to frugal living and God’s provisions. But we couldn’t find an agency. It just seemed like it wasn’t going to happen.

I remember laying on our bed, sobbing, asking God if I wasn’t fit to be a mother or if it just wasn’t His plan for me, but to let me know so I could quit waiting, quit aching for a baby.

That was the moment I really surrendered my desire for a child to God and prayed for Him to make a way or give me strength to walk away.

Then a talk with a social worker led us to the right agency that we just clicked with. It took months of paperwork, fingerprints, background checks, home study visits, then more paperwork, but we were finally approved by as a waiting family March 1, 2010.

The sweetest moments in my life are when I surrendered my desires in exchange for God's gifts. Click To Tweet

Then it really was about waiting. A birth mother selects a couple to raise her child. You could wait a day or forever. After a few days of nervous excitement that we were finally approved, the newness wore off. The real waiting began.

Everyday could be the day, or we could be waiting years. With a traditional pregnancy, you have some sense of when it will be over (even if it starts to feel like the never-ending hallway nightmare around month 7), but emotionally, I just had no way to prepare my heart for this.

A friendly colleague asked me fairly regularly if we had heard anything in the first two weeks. I finally told her, when we got the call, no one would have to wonder. I’d be shouting from the rafters. But while I tried to be patient, I was watching one of my closest friends get closer and closer to her due date, being surrounded by all things baby.

Again, I finally brought it to God’s feet.

Lord, let me be patient and wait for your timing. Let me enjoy the time we have left as a couple.

Let me accept if the answer is no.

The last one, really giving it up to God felt like pouring my heart out onto the floor, but I remember the morning I prayed it and truly meant it. I let go. God, I’ll wait until your time is right, if ever. Until then, I will enjoy spending time with my husband and being a couple.

That was 7:30 a.m. My cell phone rang at 9.

“We have a match for you. We have a baby for you.”I could scarcely breathe.

The next two days was a blur of squeals and phone calls and officially accepting the placement for a baby girl due in June. That moment is one of the deepest moments in my life of feeling God’s presence and love, less than two hours after I surrendered my heart’s desires.

Hannah’s story in Samuel resonates with me because when I chose to put God’s will over what I wanted, deciding to be the mother God wanted for a baby, then God gave me this most precious gift, when I was ready to raise her for Him and not myself.

I was reminded again this week that I can worry if she attends Harvard, or just make sure I’m teaching her to love God. The rest really will go according to plan, His plan for her life, of which I am a handpicked part. He didn’t just pick her for me, he picked us for her, and why parenting for Heaven, not Harvard, is so much more important.