COVID-19 · Faith · Family · Homeschooling

Boredom and Projects to Stay Sane

It’s month two of “the end of the world” and I’ve been feeling all the ups and downs and everything in between.

Somedays I love the new snail pace of our world, the next days I hate it and feel like I’m stuck 20,000 leagues under the sea (or worse… reading about it!) Sorry to any fans of the classic. Sorry… that you have such terrible tastes in literature!! Haha.

Ahem.

So, I don’t mind being alone so much, what I hate is being alone with five kids and forgotten… which is precisely how many mothers have been feeling!

Yet, how dare I complain? There are so many elderly and sick people right now who haven’t had close human interaction for this whole time! I can hardly stand to think about it! However, my kids have been unusually out of sorts and at each others throats constantly. So after a week of yelling and threats and more grey hairs popping out than I care to mention, I decided enough was enough. After all, there’s only so much “VonTrapp” family in me! Sometimes I just need some peace and QUIET!!

I AM the mother over here, am I not? And five precious (out of sorts, whiny, grumpy, complaining) children are my responsibility, right? So therefore, how can I keep getting upset at them when it is really up to me to give them SOMETHING ELSE to do?!?

Enter my cries to God at 6am.

The prayer I kept repeating? “God, give me the gift of creativity!! Please!!” And so after a week of praying for ideas and scrounging the internet, the result was projects, idea boards and kids enjoying each other again. Whew!

So – anyone tempted to say I’m “super mom”- just, no. I’m not. I pray. I try. I copy others. And by some miracle, it sometimes works out!

First project: THE TABLE

I really do kick myself for not taking proper before pictures, but I am always so eager to start that I couldn’t possible bother to take five seconds to do so. But here was a picture of how our kitchen table looked a week ago:

And after taking turns sanding it (at first by hand, but then my incredibly generous neighbours saw how ridiculous we looked and borrowed me their power sander) and adding a few coats of varnish:

I was so pumped on how it turned out! It feels so much better wiping a table that actually looks clean when you’re done!

Second project: THE IDEA BOARD

Ok, so not every single thing we do has to be together. And after project number one, I desperately needed some “ME” time!! So this board was created at 6am after waking up in utter agony that I was just not creative enough to give the kids ideas on what to do. So I looked through idea books, googled “how to entertain kids” and desperately tried to remember things I loved to fill my hours up with as a kid! The result was an entire idea board for my kids when they come to me and say: “Mom. I’m bored.”

Voila! Now I just turn to them and ask: “Have you done everything on the board yet?”

Project 3: THE FIRE PIT

We’ve been burning stuff “country style” for four years. What I mean is this… instead of bringing furniture and boxes to the dump, we burn them. Shredder? What for? We burn paper. We burn old cat houses. We burn excess branches and leaves and grass… we burn it! The result was an old concrete slab with a pile full of ashes and soot so high that one could not see there was actually a pit underneath. (Again… no proper before picture. Sorry!)

People. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The sludge!!

It wasn’t ash anymore. Just hard, rock like substance, filled with nails, bits of metal, burnt pop cans and broken glass! I even found bones in it, presumably buried there by my dog… hopefully… either that or I really don’t want to know!

We sorted out the garbage, emptied the sludge and picked out the rocks. Then we swept it off and washed the rocks down, setting them out nicely in a circle. Finally we built a little fire and had a weiner roast.

Now, I know it’s not magazine worthy or Pinterest worthy or even internet worthy, but I just loved the country, rustic, relaxed feel of our new fire place. It was just so rewarding to set up!

Project 4: BLESS OTHERS

Two women in my cell group just had babies. Since I am 6 years past the itty-bitty clothes and nappies, I just had to go out and buy something for them! Baby shopping is my FAVOURITE!!

But wait! I thought. What about the “new” little older brother and sister? They are often missed in the excitement for baby. And how about the Mama’s?? So what started out as a simple baby gift, ended up being a family care package:

  1. An outfit and toy for the new one.
  2. A care package for mom: A chiller cup, facial mask and body scrub.
  3. A small, wrapped present for the older sibling.
  4. A gift card for the dad.

Other things we’ve been up to:

A pick up and walk down our road.

Outdoor water games and sandbox play.

My plants are almost ready to go in the garden.

A school community parade.

Oh, and my husband’s new purchase:

So that’s it folks! My world just keeps shrinking these days, but it doesn’t stop us from living. I’d love to hear from you in the comments! What have you been up to? Any projects or fun ideas keeping you afloat?

Education · Family · Homeschooling · public school

Homeschooling vs. Public School – from a Mom who Loves Both.

Autumn has come and gone and we’re already two full weeks into March! I have now had my all five of my children in school for a little more than six months. After 13 years of having non-stop chaos in my home, I used to wonder how these days would feel… No kids at home for half of the day. Only one around for the other half (he’s in kindergarten).

I had dreams of what this would look like.

Heavenly dreams of slow mornings, hot coffee, settling down with a good book in hand and a bowl of chocolate covered almonds in the other… Or maybe I would go on a run each morning.

Or strike off a few more books on my never-ending “to read” list.

I definitely thought I’d finish editing my book by now. And that it would be published already…

I had grand plans of organizing every single room in the house; touching up the worst of the nicked-up walls with a fresh coat of paint. Plus it was going to look clean all the time as there are no kiddos around to mess it up…am I right??

Even now I’m chuckling to myself because what was I even THINKING?!? Did I actually believe that the moment my kids got on that bus, time would just magically multiply for me? My ideas that moms with kids in public school must have nothing to do… yeah, those are quickly getting squashed.

If anything, this year has been a good reminder about the reasons I decided to homeschool in the first place.

So now that I’ve had a fair chunk of time with my kids in each, I want to give an honest look at homeschooling and public school. Hopefully, with taking a deeper look, the large wall that seems to hang between homeschoolers and those who go to public school will come down.

And we’ll realize how similar we really are. Our differences aren’t so bad either. My hope is that we begin to see that the “other side” isn’t crazy.

Or lazy.

Or bad for your kids.

One isn’t necessarily easier than the other. And honestly, both can be impossibly difficult but amazingly rewarding if done well.

Oh, and I almost forgotaren’t most Canadian’s going to be homeschoolers now for the next three weeks or more?

I had to chuckle to myself about this, because now all the people who have told me they could never homeschool… will actually get the opportunity to test that theory out. I’m willing to pay money, that at the end of the next three weeks, the children in their care will have learnt more under their intentional direction than in a public school setting. 

A Typical Homeschool Day… was not at all what my dream homeschool days looked like.

I had visions creating a curriculum a where science, social studies, ELA projects all worked hand in hand together. I also thought it would look more like the public school setting that I was raised in. And to some point I was able to achieve a bit of this. Don’t see what I mean?

To homeschool, erase much of what you know of public school. Set time schedules, hand raising for help, line ups, waiting for the kids that are ruining it for the rest of the class and subjects that follow a little bit of everything. Only to repeat and go more in depth year after year.

Homeschooling is actually much more freeing then this. And I found that it took considerably less time. Teaching my kids took a third of the time then a school day actually takes. This means I was able to pack more information into my kids before lunch then public school is able to do all day. This isn’t bragging about my teaching abilities, this is just honestly how much faster teaching goes with students who get real discipline when they misbehave and who would rather spend the afternoon playing outside with siblings, then sitting at the table alone working on unfinished assignments.

The most difficult thing was that I actually had to work out character clashes between me and the kids. This not only helped shape them and gave them opportunity to find their place in our family, it sharpened me as well! Impatience and outbursts of anger had to be worked on. It could no longer stay tucked safely away.

What I mean is this… when you only have to “behave” for a couple hours each evening it’s easy to never deal with character issues at all, rather go from “break” to “break”, merely surviving in between. But when you’re always with five children who are testing your patience ALL day long, you actually have to come up with a solution in order to function well.

Pros of homeschooling:

-Students learn at their own pace

-Less distractions

-More one on one teaching

-Flexible Hours

-Flexible curriculum

-Less wasted time

-Closer family connections

-Better values being taught

-Limited exposure to negative influences

-More affordable (You bet, more affordable! At least, it is for having five kids! Even when I spend $500 a year on curriculum, it saves me unnecessary school supplies, indoor/outdoor shoes, School fees, instruments, field trips, mandatory gift exchanges, teacher gifts, lunches, book fairs, etc). Public school is expensive!

Cons of homeschooling:

-Negative sigma- feeling isolated or discouraged from other friends and/or family members

-Lack of support

-Extra sensitive kids with uncontrolled outbursts (Which can also be a positive thing, when children are taught to properly express their emotions.)

-Some children struggle to respect other authority

-Narrow perspective

-Lack of Independence or ability to solve relational problems on their own.

-Difficulty with clashing personalities

-Very little down time or quiet moments

-Bored children

**Notice what ISN’T on this list? Socialization. Quite simply, this is a NON issue. In fact, in this day and age I would argue that most homeschoolers are more socialized than public schoolers. They are able to talk with a variety of ages… (adults, peers AND younger children) most of them aren’t glued to their personal devices, unlike most public school children. Especially those with siblings and support groups, in my opinion are FAR ahead socially. The real argument is do they “fit in”? And my response to that would be… do you want them to? Do you want them to gossip? Show disrespect to teachers? Mock those who are weaker than them? Look up inappropriate YouTube videos?

No, in this sense, my kids do not fit in. And I’m 100% happy with that.

A Typical Public School Day:

So let me just clarify a few things:

– There are no leisurely mornings… I run around like a crazy woman making sure everyone has clean clothes, lunches packed, homework done, books to return for library, gym clothes for class, flute or trumpet for band, clean shoes, washed faces, clipped finger nails, breakfast eaten, and on and on and ON!! My neighbours can probably hear me yelling through the walls, “HURRY UP! YOU’RE GOING TO MISS THE BUS!!”

– There is no extra time….After the kids are gone it looks like all my possessions were thrown into a topless blender and vomited all over the house.

– My days are more chaotic than ever.

So yes, you probably understand the chaos in the mornings and the homework/ extra curricular schedules in the evenings. But what do Mom’s really do between those 7 hours from 9-4pm. That’s a lot of time!!!

First I clean up. Dishes, lunch meats still sitting on the table, breakfast items, socks thrown around on the ground in a panic. Forgotten papers for me to sign.

An hour or two later, the house is finally tidy (not clean, tidy, there’s a HUGE difference).

Then the phone begins to ring…

“Mrs. Bergen, I have your son here in the office with chest pains..”

“Mrs. Bergen, your boy really injured his foot today at recesss…”

“Mom I forgot my…” click.

It is now 10:30 and I have approximately 1 hour left before my youngest son comes home on the kindergarten bus. And yes it’s only one kid, but can we just acknowledge that one child is often harder than having five??? I am his only entertainer ALL afternoon!!

Anyways usually, it’s halfway through the morning before I can even start my “to do” list.

Where is this “Glorious Freedom” I was told about? I have come to realize, it is there. I really just have to stop and notice it.

It’s in the peaceful silence as I work and clean.

It’s in the mornings I decide to push off the cleaning and go for a run.

It’s in the cup of coffee I drank that stayed hot.

It’s in the muffin I did not have to share.

There is a difference to being alone, and it is most refreshing!

I established early on that if I was staying at home while my kids were in school I would not waste my time. The temptation for moms to “Netflix binge” is all too real. To safeguard myself, I established firm rules for the days I do find myself with extra time:

1) I do not watch Netflix while my kids are at school and my husband is at work. I do not turn on the T.V. Period. I do not spend time on social media while they are at school. (WordPress is the only social media that I’m currently on). Wasting time on my phone or other devices would be incredibly unfair to my family.

2) Only one social outing a week while the family is at school/work. Again, how is it fair if my children are working all day and my husband is providing all day for our family and I am lounging around?

3) I get all the housework/cooking done while the family is away so that we can make the most of our family time together in the evenings. Yes I make most of our meals and lunch snacks from scratch. It’s healthier and it saves us A TON of money. The secret to living off of one income: Budget well and eat at home. Seriously.

4) The only shopping I do during the day is for necessities. Therefore, I do not waste time browsing stores for my enjoyment.

You may wonder, why all the rules? Quite simply, because our society sees stay at home moms as lazy, particularly once kids are in school. I know this can be true. But I also know, that if done well, stay at home moms are vital to the family unit and to society.

Who else has the time to volunteer in the school system and help struggling children learn to read?

Who else has the time to visit the sick, give meals to the weary or babysit for those who desperately need?

How about public schooling on the students side of things?

The first thing my kids noticed about public school was the noise. It was so loud and distracting! The kids were constantly interrupting the teacher and showing disrespect. My kids honestly felt terrible for the teacher and found it hard to work.

They did enjoy having weekly activities that we did not get to do at home (for instance: music class, phys ed, science labs, after school sports, track and field, etc.) I just simply could not fit all these things in for them, but the school system can!

They also enjoyed making new friendships, hearing new perspectives on life, having recess and lunch with kids their own age, being able to have friends their ages to relate to their struggles on a new level! This was all very wonderful to see!

I also appreciated that there were areas I never taught because I didn’t know how like French and art. Our kids have grown to love these subjects, and I’m so glad that they’ve had the opportunity to study them!

Pros of public school:

Consistent routine and schedule

-Close friendships

-Unique opportunities

-A larger worldview/different perspective

-Space away from parents (Yes I listed this as a good thing! There are some homeschooled children who are smothered by their parents in an unhealthy way.) They do need space to make their own choices and freedom to grow!

-The variety of subjects/courses

-Independence

Cons of public school:

-Homework

-Less Free time

-Overly busy schedule

-Negative influences

-Costs and pressure to do more outings

-Distractions and noise

-Disrespect to teachers

-Lack of individuality in teaching that is often needed for students, especially ones with minor learning disabilities (Although to be fair I think the school system has improved tons in the last few years in this area).

-Lack of supervision

So there you have it! I know I’ve missed some of the pros and cons and there’s so much more I could write. But this is a starting point to better understanding both sides. I’ve learned to appreciate both public/private school and homeschool and I’m so thankful that I live in a country that allows me to choose!

About Me · Family

Parties, Carrots and a Cute Little Pirate

I’ve been finding it hard to find time for WordPress these days. I do apologize for missing many of your wonderful posts. Hopefully when life slows down a bit, I can scroll back and read them.

“What’s so busy?” you may ask yourself.

First of all, our family celebrates two birthdays one day apart at the beginning of the month.

Our second youngest is now eight and requested a hot wheels themed cake. (I love making special cakes for my kids, another hobby of mine). I also planned a party for him with eight very rambunctious kids in the house.

Our only daughter turned 12 and went with an Aladdin themed cake to go with her movie night. She had five (much calmer) girls over, but it was a sleepover so it still took up half a weekend.

To top it off my eldest son had a tournament that same day. So we’ve been in recovery for the past week.

Also, I’ve been dealing with carrots.

A lot. Of. Carrots.

I’m trying to sneak them into pasta sauce, soups, casseroles, carrot cakes… our kids get them for snack.

And to be honest, I’m not even a fan of them. But they’re healthy and free… so… there’s that.

This is half of them:

I am currently shredding and freezing them. Hopefully I’m done by next spring. If there’s ever a world shortage of carrots, I will be a very wealthy person.

We are also running around in circles for Isaiah’s volleyball practises and games.

This lovely schedule will go right into November. But we love our kids and so we love investing in their interests.

I leave you with a picture of my cute little Pirate. Although he doesn’t look very frightening, don’t let that charming smile deceive you… those plastic knives really hurt when dropped from a balcony onto an unsuspecting mother.

Happy October Everyone!!

Faith · Family · Parenting

Remember the Little Guy

Growing up in a conservative background, one of the most remarkable trademarks of the adults around me was how selfless they were.

Traditionally, where I grew up, even clapping for others was seen as prideful and vain. Bragging about or praising anyone but God was unthinkable.

These people lived out what they sang: “I will not boast in anything, no strength, no power and wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection!”

I loved that line… I still do! What I’m writing about today is in no way putting down these beautiful truths because I do believe we live a time where people are way too self focused (…just see my previous post haha)!

We live in a world that praises many things.

It glorifies power, money, sex, careers, possessions, fame, yet places very little value on family, time, connecting, caring for the needy or serving without pay.

Why, even those in the church are beginning to buy into the idolization of wealth and power.

And I think the reason is quite simple:

We’ve forgotten what’s important, because while the world boasts loudly about what it sees as valuable, those who value true worth remain painfully silent about what really matters.

And we’re beginning to buy in to what the world is saying.

When I write about motherhood and how vital it is, about how valuable family is, and how important stay-at-home-mothers are in our society, I’m not just trying to toot my own horn and to gain recognition for what I’m doing.

My purpose isn’t to get praise for myself.

It’s alright when people misunderstand me, because if I was the only one affected by misconceptions about moms who don’t work outside the home, I would just keep my mouth closed. But the truth is, our lack of understanding and value of families… of stay at home mothers in particular, is changing a whole generation.

Every single comment about what I am doing with all my free time makes me understand more and more why women are ashamed to stay at home. It feels awkward to try and justify the value of cleaning, cooking, organizing, grocery shopping, driving around… it would be so much easier to just say, “Oh I work AND I am a mom of five.”

It just sounds better!

No one would flat out say stay-at-home moms are lazy. But… what are they doing at home? We wonder.

Sometimes even ask.

Have you ever asked that about someone who is at work?

Have you ever asked someone in an office, “Just what are you doing with all your time at work?” Have you ever asked someone at a workplace, “Sooo, what do you do with no children around?!?”

Did you know that right now there are women working their tail off, with no children at home, and, there are also women at work scrolling through their Facebook feed?

Did you know that laziness is a heart issue, not an occupation issue?

This goes both ways people!

Of course there are stay at home mothers who don’t spend their time wisely! Just like there are students who skip class or don’t do their work, just like there are employees who take advantage of their employers by taking a ten minutes smoke break every hour. There are also leaders who live in luxury, taking advantage of taxpayers hard earned money to go on elaborate vacations or hire not one but two expensive full time nannies… ahem. Not naming any names here.

Yes there are people who take advantage of others. Some of them are on welfare, some of them are in the workplace, some of them are stay at home moms.

Working hard has very little to do with capacity or position… it has everything to do with the heart.

I know people who physically could not be a firefighter or a labourer. Yet they work incredibly hard in an office. Just like there are people who are physically strong but who would not have a hot clue how to navigate what many people do in an office.

Personally, I could never do what my husband does. As a part owner of an Internet company he’s smart, incredibly efficient and able figure out problems that I would stare dumbly at. He’s able to deal with hundreds of emails in a day. He’s able to maintain a cool when there’s power outages and frustrated customers who are depending on him.

However, he admits that the coordination of finances, schedules, meals, gardening, cleaning, and taxing people around is something he could never do.

Working hard, with or without pay, deserves recognition. Period. It’s about time we stop valuing people for their net worth.

Let’s boast in the janitor who shows up every single day and works with all his might for the whole shift. We need him! Let’s recognize the children who take their schoolwork seriously and do their best in each class. Let’s praise the stay at home parents, who do all the unseen things to keep the families lives running smoothly. Let’s give honor to the cooks, the artists, the singers and writers who bring enjoyment to life. Let’s bless the truckers who keep the shelves stocked so we can eat and the volunteers at the soup kitchen, who care for the needy.

For when we recognize the forgotten ones in society, it’s then we remember that the little things often hold the greatest worth. And some of those we hold in high regard, when stripped of the fame and power, may seem very small indeed.

It’s time we remember what and who matters the most. Then, let’s boast in it.

Autumn · Family · Food · Parenting

My First Week of “Freedom” – It was all a Hoax

Back to school! All the Mom’s cheer…

Really?

Don’t believe it for one second, I tell you!

That cup of coffee never got finished…just saying.

First week back, well, you heard about our first day, but let’s just say the next two didn’t go any better! On the third day of school I received a call that Dallas (in grade 2) had really hurt his foot during recess. Being laid back (and also, having dealt with many twisted ankles, sore legs and bruised bones), I sort of shrugged it off until the next day. Dallas still couldn’t put weight on it the second day, so away we went to ER and, long story short, he is in a cast for two weeks.

How we are going to keep him from wrecking the other leg…I do not know, because literally this is what it looks like a week later:

Yeah… he somehow decided to go on the zip line and jumped off into my garden. Barefoot!!!

Boys, I tell you! It’s like they have a built in self-destruct button!

The second week I have had some busy moments and some calm ones, but I’m in the process of harvesting the last of my vegetables for the season and canning takes SO much time! But I got to canning some pasta sauce, which is my least favourite thing to can, so now it’s just salsa!

I also did a lot of baking because, oh my word, are school lunches ever expensive!!

And last but not least I am making cakes for others again!! This is something I have a love/hate relationship with. I love it because it is like doing arts and crafts…but I hate it because I literally make about $4 an hour for my time. Here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on but I think I’ll do a separate post about it later:

And burger week! I can’t forget burger week!!We have such a thing in our small city as burger week and participating restaurants each make their own specialty, limited-time, burger to be voted on …so of course Ryan and I had to go to try at least one:

It was amazing!! And I still feel full. Yes, I did finish the whole thing. 😋

So there you have it! My first four-day-week of having half-days with no kids around in over 13 years!! It’s amazing how much I can pack into a day with them gone. However, when they come home the life returns to our house and once again it’s chaotic and loud….and I realize that I truly have missed them.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from them. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them…”

Psalm 127:3-5

Family · Parenting

I was Almost Supermom…

The key word being almost.

That is my back to school line up of kids…such a good looking bunch! The photo was taken after school, because, well, I literally flopped the first morning of our family public/private school experience.

We were up at 6am. Every last one of us. Breakfast was eaten. We even did family devos. The kids made their own lunches. I looked like Super Mom!

Can I stop right there?

No.

Because that, my friends, is where life came in. My daughter was full of nerves and was stressing about what to wear and such. She wanted her hair curled so I offered to do it for her. Her hair is thick, and I’m no hairdresser (there’s a reason the good Lord gave me four boys and only one daughter). So, granted, it took a bit longer than I expected. But we had time…I thought. When who should pull up but the bus driver a good 5-10 minutes early. My daughter was horrified (the boys were ready faster than her) and she ran out with one shoe on halfway.

Ok. Whew… three down. Two to go.

My older son, now being in a private school, comes out in sweatpants that could fit my youngest. I stare at him, aghast. Where did I go wrong?!?

“Your not wearing that.” I say shuddering. It’s a command, not a statement.

“It’s all I have.” He shrugs.

I look through his selection. Sure enough, he must’ve grown half a foot over summer. All of them are ankle pants. Every single one of them. It’s too cold for shorts. How did I not notice this before today?!?

So I grab the keys. I’m about to go on a spontaneous shopping spree, 25 minutes before school starts. Glancing in the rear view mirror, I stare back at the morning glory that appears before my eyes. Hair sticks out in all the wrong places, circles under my eyes reveal the true story behind getting five kids ready for the day.

Shouldn’t have looked.

Oh well. It’s my kids that matter, right?!? I mean, if they look good, I look good – I reason to myself. So away we go. We arrive at Superstore.

15 minutes. I have 15 minutes to find pants and get my son to school.

I’m not fussy. We’ll make it. I know we will.

Except for one problem. Superstore, the clerk informs me after a frantic 5 minute search, does not sell clothes for teenage boys. Yup. You heard me. There are about 5 million pairs of pants for women and girls. But not one single pair that fits my boy. Nor do they sell belts (I asked).

Now frantic, because my son is wearing sweatpants that I wouldn’t want to be buried in, I grumble out a thank you to the clerk and rush out of the store. I am now in overwhelm. Nothing else is open in my small town that calls itself a city. Wally’s world it is.

I run in as if I’m participating in an Amazing Race Episode, grab the first pair of $8 pants I see and race back to the car (stopping to pay of course, because if I’m going to steal, it definitely won’t be an ugly pair of Walmart pants).

I force my horrified son to change as we drive. We pull up to the school. Five minutes late. My mind flashes back to the Gilmore Girls episode where Lorelai brings Rory late to her first day of fancy private school dressed in a slutty cowboy outfit. I have become Lorelai Gilmore. I am literally the world’s worst mom.

Sighing I lead my son to his new classroom. Empty. I exhale hard. Ok fine then. Desperately, I search for any sign of life. The children are in the chapel. Poor Isaiah gets escorted to the front of the room to his classmates in front of the whole school.

And as I watch this scene play out before my eyes in deep shame, my gaze falls down to my boys new pants, which are sitting right above his ankles…

Man, and I thought homeschooling was hard.

Autumn · Family · Parenting

And Just Like That – It’s Fall!

Ahhh, September. Beautiful September!

It happens to be my favourite month of the year because…

A) It still has days that feel like summer.

B) Because autumn is beyond gorgeous. 🍂 😍Seriously Canada is beautiful in the fall! It even smells good. Okay aside from the farmers around me dumping manure on their fields…

C) Running gets better in fall. No more heatwaves that cause me to sweat before I’ve left the driveway… The scenery is 👌🏻.

D) Because I’m a nerd 🤓 and I love all things back to school! Yes, even when I homeschooled I looked forward to school. In every single grade of my childhood public and private school years, I looked forward to school AND now that my children are all leaving me (for the first time EVER!) to go to public school, I’M STILL EXCITED!!!

School is just such a privilege. Reading, writing, routine, friendships, classrooms, new books, and supplies! Gah! I could just go on and on about my love for it.

Someday I will go back to school… someday…

But for now, I will jealously watch my five kiddos taking it all in.

My daughter is nervous to go to school, and understandably so, because she is about to enter grade 6 and hasn’t been to public school since kindergarten. Bella has a quick wit though and is super outgoing, so I’m totally confident that these feelings will pass!

My four boys are all excited, like – they can’t wait – excited. I credit that to our homeschool years and us discovering that learning can be fun together. My kids also all love reading, because, well… let’s just say I make sure they read the right books that are well written.

We will pass on the “LEGO- Ninjago” and “Zac Powers” mind fluff thank you very much.

Seriously parents. If you want your kids to learn to love reading, give them something good to read!!

A few of our favorites for earlier chapter book readers:

“Frindle” by Andrew Clement

The “I Survived Series” were interesting for young boys because they were packed full of action. Ok, I personally found them a bit boring, but I loved my boys reading them because they were all based on different historical events! My boys now know more about the San Francisco Earthquakes of 1906 or the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 than I do, thanks to these books! (Written by Lauren Tarshis)

“Owls in the Family” by Farley Mowat

“Holes” by Louis Sachar

“A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“Number the Stars” and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

“Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Ronald Dahl

“The War That Saved my Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

And one of my kid’s favourite mystery series, “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stuart.

I could just go on and on here because there are so many books that they love! I hope you’ll pardon the rabbit trail, because I love sharing favourite book titles since I personally like it when others do! I’m always on the hunt for well written book (especially for my kids!) I should also add that once you find a good author, you often hit a jackpot of wealth and find good books for another few weeks!

Anyways, carrying on…

This month brings so much change for our family, but I can’t help but feel it is a very, very good thing. Change causes us to self reflect. It makes us take an honest look at everything we are currently doing and what choices have brought us to the place we are. Change causes us to think back on the good and bad changes we’ve made in the past.

This is so healthy to do yearly! When life gets rushed and all that you become focused on is staying afloat, it is very hard to stop and make the changes necessary to thrive.

BUT when the season shifts and things naturally change, I have learnt to take full advantage of it! Carefully combing through my schedule, I ask myself what is beneficial to us, that we need to keep in doing, what is harmful to us that we need to stop and what might need to be added.

There’s no one set formula of “the right way”, there’s no proven schedule to follow that will create the best adults. Rather, I believe life is about the small decisions, the little tweaks we make, which bring about the greatest impact in the end.

What about you? Do you love fall? Do you have a season that you stop to reassess? Any good book suggestions? 😁 (I’m going to follow up in a couple days and do a post about current Adult Fiction/Books that I’m enjoying so stay tuned!)

Family

That Poor Survey Woman…

A couple weeks ago Statistics Canada called me on my camping vacation to participate in “month two” of my four month survey – mandatory by law – of course, or no one would sit through a second (or honestly even the first).

The survey topic? Work and Employment.

Which quite honestly hit a few nerves on the first week for this mother of five. Even on a good day, asking a mother who has worked from before the sun rises most mornings for absolutely nothing in return other than the well being of her family, “if she has done anything in the past week that qualifies as work” and then EXPECTING her to say “no” is not only insensitive, it’s foolish.

Being asked that after a week of sleepless nights and VERY difficult behavioural issues with a couple of children and what can you expect, but a very, very emotional and upset response?

The questionnaire, which is repeatedly done for four months, asks questions such as:

Have you done anything qualifying as work the past week?

Are you currently looking for work?

Why are you not looking for work?

With the childcare available in Canada, what is keeping you from wanting to work?

All of the questions above, taking into consideration, is a slap in the face to a stay at home mom.

And suddenly I snapped.

“Pardon me,” I cut in sharply, “But I would like to let you know that this whole survey is really offensive to me! I mean, I know you personally didn’t make this survey,” I told the poor lady on the phone, “But what right do you have to ask a hardworking mother of five, why I’m not sticking my kids in daycare to make money?!? What right does someone have to assume that is a sensitive or appropriate question?!? And that mothering doesn’t “qualify for work”, but working in a daycare does? What right does my government have to make me feel useless for choosing my own children over a job that makes money?”

And yes, I did pity the poor woman as she stumbled and stammered out a compassionate response about this survey “not trying to put down hard working mothers” but desperate to get my point across I continued:

“Seriously,” I said, “I would like you to make a note of this on my survey. That this survey is inappropriate for countless reasons. Because quite honestly, I believe the purpose in asking these questions four months in a row is to put on some pressure on those who are “unemployed.”

The survey woman paused and said, I kid you not, “Well, I’m sure as soon as your kids are in school you’ll be able to finally get a job. No one is saying you are lazy.”

At this point, I began to cry, because I was heartbroken that our culture has drifted so far in just a few short years.  My grandmother would’ve never been expected to “return to work” once her children were in school. Because the things that she did in that day and age were valued.

Growing a garden and canning has value.

Making homemade, healthy meals, has value.

Volunteering has value.

Disciplining children and helping with homework has value.

So does cleaning, organizing, and mending clothes.

Someone has to drive those kids to sports, music lessons and social events.

Babysitting for others. Blessing neighbours with baked goods. Taking meals to younger mothers who’ve just had a baby or families who’ve lost loved ones.

These things have value!

And if I do something that “qualifies as work” in Canada…all those things I just mentioned, will be pushed off onto someone else or not done at all. And we wonder why everyone is depressed and anxious! Why neighbours don’t talk anymore? Why people suffer their hardships alone?

It’s because somewhere along the way, someone decided that mothering and running a household doesn’t have value!

Dear Canada,

I wonder if we decided to value mothers, how much less we’d spend on the foster care system, on juvenile detention centres, on prisons, on mental healthcare. I wonder if families would stay together, if divorce rates would drop,  if children were given a safe place to grow up?

I wonder if we defined importance, not by monetary value, but by character and ethics, what types of people would be honoured most highly? I wonder if we’d see through the cracked foundations we are so quickly and carelessly pouring for the next generation – if we’d really stop and consider what the effects are of our face-paced, workaholic world… I wonder if we would change.

Would we value mothers, if we slowed down enough to see them?

Why not do a compulsory survey about the despairing effects of distracted parenting? Of workaholism?

I believe the results would be staggering.

Maybe, just maybe, getting more civilians into the workforce to pay taxes isn’t the answer to our countries reckless debt and spending issues. Maybe, it all comes down to those cracked foundations we’re building on. Maybe it’s not about the money. Maybe it’s about the people.

Sincerely,

A Mother who does Valuable Work at Home

Family · Summer

Summer Adventures in a Family of Seven

Sometimes I really get a kick out of people’s reaction to how many kids we have. When I tell people that we have five kids, first I’m asked if I’m Catholic, which I am not.

The next question on the list is if I homeschool, which I do. And the look of sheer amazement that follows is amusing to me… as if I should be runner up for the next “Duggar Family TV series” or as if they expect us to break out into a Von Trapp family singsong.

Which I am thrilled about. (The Von Trapp family part). And believe me, we do break out into many songs but more often than not it is the latest trending YouTube kids music artist singing, “It’s a cat flushing the toilet” or “Hamster on a piano”…Not quite standing ovation worthy, although now that I’m picturing it, I can see us doing a twisted remake of the songs and filming our cat on the piano, or flushing a hamster down the toilet (Gasp! Did I actually dare type that?? Yes, yes I did. Hamsters are just the WORST and should not be considered pets. Shudder.)

Moving on.

We are not that picture perfect family. My boys will often leave the house with stained T-shirts and ripped jeans, if I can get them into their jeans that is… More often than not it’s sweatpants again (I hate that this has become a “trendy” teen thing! REALLY?!? SWEATPANTS of all things?!?)

My kids can also be crazy and loud but they are also sometimes really well behaved. They say inappropriate things at the dinner table, but they also can be remarkably mature. They fight like cats and dogs, yet, unlike a lot of siblings these days, really do enjoy being together.

This summer is a unique one for me. Until now every autumn that follows has really been no different from the summer. My kids stay home for schooling and other than my mornings being much busier while teaching, my life doesn’t really change in the fall. However, this year my children will all be in public school come fall. And knowing this, has changed summer for me.

My mind is on the fact that summers will be the only full days that I have with all my children from now on. And I only have five more summers until Isaiah, my oldest, hits 18. That brings me to a place where I want to make the most of these days: Slowing down, being with them, doing the things we love. With this being our goal for the summer, we bought a larger above ground pool. Here I’ve found we have been able to spend many hours being together and enjoying our time together. Everyone likes swimming! Suddenly our five-year-old and 13-year-old have something in common! Put a trampoline next to it (safety first over here 😁) and it becomes a hit for teenagers to hang out.

Next we planned a couple of camping trips. We just finished the first one and now I’m dreading the second! Really. It wasn’t a great experience. That’s an understatement. It was quite literally the worst camping weekend of my life. And I’ve had a lot of bad camping experiences!!

The Storm of the century came through and we ended up spending WAAAY to much time in a little camper, which was cute for sleeping space, but for hanging out was just a little much for me…

Soooo ten hours of Bingo and watching spongebob square pants later:

Not to mention we lost our seven-year-old on the beach for nearly 10 minutes in one of the most terrifying moments of my life. Suddenly I had looked up to count my kids for the fiftieth time and noticed he was missing from where I had seen him last. Scanning the beach, I didn’t see his bright yellow shirt that we dressed him in and so I ran to the bathrooms by the beach thinking that for sure he had gone there and forgotten to tell me. I checked every stall, calling his name, before I started to panic. One lady noticed me and also started calling his name. My husband ran back to the campsite to check there and I began asking people on the beach if they had seen my boy.

No one had seen him.

At this point I was nearly hysterical. His bike was still at the beach as were his sandals so I figured he wouldn’t have gone anywhere else and I already had a group of people on the beach looking for him/calling his name. He was nowhere to be found. I finally began searching the water where I had last seen him, before my friend found him in the washrooms way back at our campsite 😱

He had simply forgotten that there were bathrooms closer to the beach and figured that he wouldn’t make it to the bathroom if he stopped to tell us where he was going. Why he left his shoes and bike behind is still a mystery to me, as it would’ve taken him for longer to run barefoot all the way…

So in all, I have decided that I’m possibly never going camping again unless all my kids have built in tracking devices that beep when they get too far away from me.

Speaking of which we also have swimming lessons coming up in a couple weeks… Drowning is one of those things that absolutely terrifies me, and I think it is so important that kids learn to swim well!

Another thing I’ve also decided to venture in this summer is to try new things when it comes to baking. There are certain things that I avoid making because the’ve never turned out for me. Pastries are one of those things…mainly pies. In the past when I’ve tried making pies it’s always been a disaster. The crust is crumbly and ugly and the pie ends up being too runny. Finally this week I perfected the pie (Made with hand picked berries from when we went camping).

The Perfected Pie:

(Don’t worry, I will be baking the other two as well, but they look so much prettier before coming out of the oven.) They were SO good! I will definitely be making more!

I also want to be more hospitable and so I’m trying to have one family down each week for a meal. This is one thing our generation is losing, the art of hosting and I feel like it’s such an important thing to keep doing! What better way to get to know people (and for them to get to know me) than to I have them in your home where they can see the real you? We like to meet places these days, to keep the mess out of our homes and make things “easier” but I really do feel like we are missing out on so much by doing things this way!

Finally I’ve been trying to keep up with my running a couple times a week and also my Spanish. There’s a little three-year-old girl at church that I talk to in Spanish occasionally. Last week I tried to comment on something and she giggled and said, “Dora??” I had to laugh so hard because I totally picked up that phrase from the show and she caught me 😂😂

Yes I speak Dora Spanish.

I’ve also been really enjoying the view from my front veranda. The farmer across the field decided to plant canola this year and every morning I get to look out on a beautiful sea of yellow. The view is just breathtaking! There’s nowhere else I would rather be than here right now.

So that’s where I’m at! Enjoying life, taking it slow and one day at a time. And trying to keep five kiddos alive…

Let me know what your summer plans are!

Family · Homeschooling · Parenting · Porn · Purity

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures and Other Stuff Parents Don’t Want to Talk About

Sometimes what we have to talk about, isn’t what we want to talk about.

I’m currently homeschooling my four youngest children and life is busy, frustrating, amazing and often chaotic.

Being their only teacher, I am constantly aware of the huge responsibility on my shoulders to teach them enough. I not only need to teach them academics, but social responsibility, manners, character and faith! That’s a heavy load! And it often overwhelms me!

What was once a challenge having one or two children to teach, has overtime become an impossible responsibility with five kids. But being convinced that this is the best way, I trudge wearily on, albeit, blindly at times.

This is part of my reason for taking a break from homeschooling next year. To re-establish my passion for doing my best to raise up these precious kids. They are the next generation; the future. However my decision to take a break from homeschooling wasn’t made lightly. My oldest son has been in public school for three years now and I’ve seen the tremendous pressures and temptations that come from public school life.

I realize now, that I have to prepare all my children for the first time they will view porn.

What?!? You may choke out. You’re preparing them to view it?

Yes. Unless your head is completely buried in the sand, you have to be willing to admit that it’s no longer a matter of if they will see it, but when.

“When” came sooner than I had hoped for my oldest child. But thankfully, before he formed a habit out of sneaking off and viewing the filth, God spoke to me gently and told me it was time to order this book:

To be clear, I do not believe in having a one time “birds and the bees” talk with children. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Conversations need to be had regularly, in an age appropriate way with children from young on, for them to become comfortable enough to talk openly about these things. When I gave this to my older boy, it was followed by prayer and intentional conversation, making it a great tool for us. Again, these books are not meant to replace actual heart-to-heart discussions!! They are simply an easier starting point (especially for someone like me who came from a very conservative background where these things were not talked about.)

My son read this book and said that it was so eye opening to him, and gave him such good, practical ways to reject porn, that he is convinced it saved him from an addiction to pornography.

This is HUGE, parents!

I had no idea that he had seen anything of the sort, in fact, when I first handed him this book he denied knowing what porn was because he had been so ashamed of what he had seen. Later though, he was able to open up and share his heart, as the book is so gentle and allows children to see that they don’t need to be ashamed of telling an adult, in fact, that is one of the steps encouraged!

Such a contrast to today’s parenting: “I’d rather not know…” or the famous “my kid’s a good kid, they would never do that!”

They’re almost all good kids!!! Are you seriously suggesting that only “bad” people view porn? Only terrible criminals?!? Then you are about to get your world view turned upside down…here’s some startling statistics for you:

Net Nanny reports that only 3% of teenage boys and 17% of girls have never seen online pornography.

According to Google Analytics, pornography searches increase by 4,700% when kids are out of school for the summer.

In 2015, Childline conducted a survey of 700 pre-teens/teens. They found that one in five reported seeing pornographic images that upset them. Furthermore, 12% of those surveyed admitted to taking part in a sexually explicit video.

Peter Liver, director of Childline, states, “We know from the young people who contact ChildLine that viewing porn is a part of everyday life, and our poll shows that one in five 12 to 13-year-olds thinks that watching porn is normal behavior.”

As a parent, these facts not only shock me, they upset me.

Yet all around me I see children as young as 6 who have full access to their own personal iPad and YouTube channels without any parental monitoring. This isn’t just foolish parenting, it’s dangerous and in my opinion, neglectful.

Where are the parents who still care about their children’s innocence? Why are we turning a blind eye to these harmful behaviours and addictions?

In a way, I understand actually. It’s difficult to start up the conversations. I really don’t enjoy the pressure or the start of them as I feel uncomfortable too. It’s much easier to just ignore the silent killer that’s lurking behind every screen. We know it’s there. It’s just easier to not think about it.

It’s easier to do nothing at all.

But the truth is, I’m usually much more uncomfortable than my children are to talk about these things. And in fact as I begin these conversations, I’m always amazed at how well received they are. At how open and honest my kids are. And for that matter, I have never once come out of a sex-conversation with them thinking “Well that was awkward! I’m glad that’s over.”

Not once. In fact, I’m already seeing the fruit from being open. It is so important!

Not long ago, I opened the Bible at the breakfast table to the stares and yawns of all my five children. It was clear, no one really wanted me to read. They were sleepy, they were bored and they just wanted to leave the table… everything in me at that moment wanted to shut the Bible, and just stop! Forget the devotions and get on with my long “to do” list for the day.

But instead, I took a deep breath and I read a verse, just one verse, and explained what it meant. I tried to get the kids involved in the conversation, but again I was met with blank stares. It took 5 minutes and it was over.

Useless! I thought. Why do I even bother?

Later that evening, my son came into my room. He looked at me with tears in his eyes confessing that he had google searched something inappropriate and was about to click on the link, when the verse that I had shared that morning popped into his head:if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

He told me that he was sorry and that he wouldn’t do it again. He asked me to forgive him. I was SO unbelievably proud and not at all upset. I hugged him and thanked him for telling me.

He had been listening. It wasn’t useless! What 10-year-old boy tells his mom such things? Only a child who is secure in their parents love, who has understood the consequences of hidden sin and been taught the dangers of pornography.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t matter. Teach them while you have the chance. It does matter! And these children of mine are living-proof.