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.

Family · Parenting

The Dreaded Month of May

Ahh….May.

The month of spring and growth. The month of celebrations and birthdays. The month of warmer, longer days, of beautiful sunsets and green grass. The month of sports, warm days and cool, comfortable evenings. The month I was born.

You may be wondering by this point if you misread the title of this post. I assure you, you did not. And the party crasher of those blissful would-be moments is….my schedule. My busy, lose-your-mind-completely, schedule where I resemble a frazzled mom who lives off two showers a month and whatever crumbs I manage to scrape off the floor of my van on my way to the next practice, recital or…who knows where I’m headed next but I count on my kids to wildly shout from the backseat if I turn in the wrong direction.

Gone are the early motherhood days where I sat on the couch beside my husband, wondering who we should call to get together with and show off our new baby to. Gone are the days when I made healthy freezer meals a month in advance so I could put supper in the slow cooker when I got up and stroll about the day in my pjs, book in hand. (This is where you roll your eyes at me, because I am now making up memories that don’t exist in my adult life…freezer meals?? Ha! I’m lucky if I get supper on the table each day!)

I kid you not, I just left mid-post to clean up the barf of not just one but two boys who are feeling sick. I’ll spare you the scene I just witnessed as I don’t want to loose all of my followers in one post, but let’s just say that my husband told me that if I wasn’t around to clean up that mess, he would’ve lit a match and walked away. True story.

Deep breaths. Deep Breaths.

Where was I going with this post again? Oh yeah. May is terrible. And hectic. But every year I look forward this crazy month until I’m in it…then I hold my breath until is over. Today is the last day and I can now triumphantly say, “Yes! I made it! It’s the last day of May!”

Hold that thought, clean up duty calls again…

Is it June yet?!?

Faith · Family · Parenting

Don’t Forget the Good

This is a repost, but today I thought it was an important reminder for me to stop and see the good in others.

I mentioned a few posts back that I’ve been sifting through old journal entries. A lot of the entries focus on my frustrations, my failures, my kids failures.

But then there was this one, a complete gem, that made me vow to start keeping track of the good as well. This entry was so touching that it had me sniffing back tears and smiling all at once:

Date: Aug 16, 2012

Yesterday my children put me to shame. I heard of an orphanage being built in Ethiopia that would house abandoned babies. It is already being built in faith that the needed funds will come in. But until the house is completed they are by law unable to take in any of the babies that are left in the wilderness to die. The government has strict rules on this so they need the money desperately – lives are at stake. Innocent lives. I had already had it in my mind to give $500, which is already $200 more than we usually give every month. As I wrote out a check, my eldest son, Isaiah, asked me what it was for. I told him the story of these babies and he ran to his room to get his piggy bank. He pulls out EVERY bill, toonie and loonie, only keeping a few cents for himself. It came to $75 – his entire life savings. Then, my next child (Bella) saw this and pulled out her piggy bank and the next child (Jonas), giving over half of their own money. Together, out of their own will, they gave all the money they have been saving from their birthdays, Christmas’ and other earnings. It came to $105. And here I am sitting on a big savings account. God, bless the tender, giving hearts of my children! It will take them years to save this money again! Isaiah is only 6, Bella 4, and Jonas 3…and already they are being generous for you. I wrote out a new check to cover their balance and have it in my mind to secretly put their money into the bank for them. Thank you for kids, who continue to teach me lessons that completely amaze me.

 

Often I just see the things that need to be changed in my kids lives, and quite honestly, the lists of behaviours and irresponsibilities they have completely overwhelm me.

What can I say? They’re kids…and there’s five of them.

BUT then, I read this and step back to actually see my children. And the truth overwhelms me: In many ways they are FAR more sweet, pure, forgiving, compassionate and gentle than I am.

And I am instructing them??

I shared this journal entry with them one morning asking for forgiveness. For too often focusing on the bad. For too often overlooking the good.

They are GOOD kids.

They are obedient, sweet, unselfish, and I often feel the opposite about them because I get stuck on teaching what needs improvement, forgetting that the most important thing in a teacher is the ability to see the good in their students and call it out.

In doing this, we don’t try to make our children become something they aren’t, rather they begin to see who they are and flourish into a mature version of that. When I am told I am good at something, it pushes me to try even harder, to learn even more. But when I am told I’m terrible, or a failure, it makes me want to give up and not try at all. Teaching my children, has taught me this in a very sobering way.

I think God has a sense of humour, because I see myself as their teacher, but quite often they are mine. 

About Me · Family

My Computer Hates Me

It sits there, white screen of death, mocking me. Daring me to try fixing it again. Well not me, but my husband, who loves me ever so much as to put up with such requests.

It knows me well.

Coming from a Mennonite background, I just can’t bear the thought of throwing out anything that may just have a tiny bit of life still left in it. If I can sell it, yes, then I have no issue parting with my junk, because who doesn’t like to trade junk for cash?!? Or give it to someone in need, even better! Self help…sure!

But this hellish computer isn’t sellable. Or gift-able. It is garbage. A $2000 piece of iMac garbage.

It still looks brand new but the face itself hides the disaster within. I know full well that it fries it’s own hard drives within 6 months of replacing them.

The computer was a lemon when we got it. A toss away from a friend who wisely went on to a new and better relationship.

But being who I am. Could. Not. Chuck. Mr. FryMac.

My husband is a near genius when it comes to fixing technology. So with a hairdryer and some other tools he took the cursed thing apart and melted parts together, moved pieces around (I’m sure this description is precisely accurate by the way). And VOILA! I had me a brand new looking iMac.

A new hard drive was ordered and the thing worked beautifully for 2 full years. And then one day.

GONE!

All my writing, my saved files and documents!!! (thank goodness photos are in the “cloud”)

Most people would shrug and say at least I got two more years out of it… Not me!

I insisted that he fix it again (at which point he looked at me like I was from another plant and told me that it would just do this again)… to which I, knowing nothing about computers but fully believing in miracles, replied that surely Mr. FryMac would last three years this time.

So my ever patient husband shook his head and fixed it one more time telling me that he wouldn’t do it again. Oh and he recovered all my files. Because he’s amazing.

Now, four months later (practically to the day) everything’s gone.

He told me so….four short months later I’m in the same situation again and one would think I’d learnt my lesson already, but alas, the thought comes to me…maybe just one more time??

It’s either Mr. FryMac or back to good old Windows 7 **Shudder**

Well…which would you choose?

I’m leaning towards taking my chances with the FryMac.

Family · Parenting

Keep them Close

I really need to let out some frustration here…but first, look at my family! Most of it anyways (Isaiah was on the other couch with me.) Aww!! Aren’t they sweet? Aren’t they precious?

My blog is usually not a place for me to vent. I’ve tried to keep my blog a neutral place. Uplifting. Encouraging. Hopeful. Hopefully I’ll be able to come to that in the end.

Right now, I’m in transition.

Man, I hate transition.

Can’t anything ever be predictable? Can’t anything ever stay the same?

We’re taking a year off from homeschooling and sending our kids to public school next year. And the school system has really good things going for it. Really it does! But boy, does it ever have its flaws.

I have a love-hate relationship with public school.

As I social kid, I LOVED school. As someone who loves opportunities and creativity, I love public school. In fact, let’s be honest here, I would’ve been horrified if my mom would’ve suggested homeschooling me!

But, in hindsight, public school hardened me to my morals, made me value peers over family, taught me that immorality was funny, showed me that disrespect was popular, that stuff was more important than people, that God was irrelevant and quite honestly, it brought me to my teenage rebellion.

A hard heart doesn’t happen overnight. My soft, sensitive character was horrified at many of the things I heard and experienced my first tender years in school. I remember lying awake and feeling guilty just for the things I overheard. Oh, to have that sweet innocence, that childlike concern for all that is evil.

But over the years I choked back my feelings. To speak out was to be mocked. To tell an adult was to be a tattletale. To cry was to be a wimp.

Children shouldn’t have to harden their hearts to survive in this world. They shouldn’t have to accept evil as normal to adapt to their environment. But I did. In fact, if more adults had the softness of children, this world would be a better place!

Now here’s my rant. I have accepted and overlooked many many ignorant and insensitive comments about homeschooling over the years, but if I point out anything negative about the public school I am seen as judgemental, self-righteous and narrow minded for believing that home is actually the best environment for children to learn in. People today act as if children randomly turn out good or bad. Like it all depends on each character and us parents have little to no say in the outcome.

As if raising good kids is like buying a lottery ticket.

Like rolling a die.

Of course deep down they know better. We all know better.

Good kids are the result of good parenting.

Now, I know it’s also true that good parents can have a child that rebels…just as bad parents can birth a child with good morals! There are pastors who have done everything right whose child suddenly turns wrong crowds and drugs, just as there are druggies who have done everything wrong, whose child decides to end the cycle and make something of themselves!

BUT mostly, good parents raise good children. If that didn’t have at least a hint of truth, then none of us would bother trying to do our best.

And the crazy thing, the thing that really blows my mind is that when I talk like this people get shifty eyed and act uncomfortable. Maybe this kind of talk will offend someone. Maybe someone will feel judged. Maybe they’ll feel guilty.

Who are we scared of offending? The millions of parents out there who are doing it wrong?

Let me put it down plainly:

Kids shoved into daycares all day from day one, and dragged from sitter to sitter every evening and weekend, then thrown into the school system to be taught and mentored by random adults will feel disconnected from their parents and find belonging elsewhere.

Is that what we want?

It’s what we’re breeding.

I see kids who only care about what their immature peers think, because all the adults in their life who should be caring for them are too busy to give a rip.

I see children put in front of endless screens because actually training them to get along, sit quietly in a restaurant and use table manners takes too much effort. It’s just too hard. Isn’t it?

Telling a kid to go play is much easier than inviting them to take part in our world, much easier than teaching them how to work, how to cook, how to be creative.

These days, getting a sitter so we can go to bible study or prayer meeting is the new norm, why bother go to church if it’s too distracting right?!? What if…what if, it’s not just about my relationship with God?

What if it’s about theirs as well? What if them witnessing us model a good bible study, good devos, and hearing our prayers has more value than just me and a bunch of other adults going deeper on our own, free from distraction?

But if my kids are respectful and well behaved, that’s just chance, isn’t it? If they listen to their parents over their friends, if they love God, do personal devos and know how to pray in groups, that must just be something special they magically inherited, right?

People, it’s not just chance!

You want good kids? Then keep them close! Love them! Spend time with them. Teach them about what matters. Show them that they are the most important thing you can invest your life into!

The best piece of advice I ever got as a young mom was to learn to live off one income. “Whatever you do,” I was told, “sacrifice what you have to to stay at home with your children. It will be worth it.”

I wholeheartedly agree. It was worth it.

And I understand this isn’t possible for absolutely everyone. If you must work, then do, but for goodness sakes, keep your evenings open at least!

However, for the majority of us, we can make it work, we just don’t want to. We’ve believed the lie that raising a family has no value. That a stay at home mom is an unsuccessful one.

That a career brings value.

That a salary defines me.

That my family needs me to bring in more money.

They don’t need the money, they need me.

I don’t know what hardships public school will bring to my kids. But I do know that I have every intention of pouring in just as much time and care into their hearts as I ever did.

Social Media, you will not hold my kids hearts.

Drugs and Alcohol, you will not take hold of them.

Popularity and Vanity, you will not control their actions.

I can’t keep them home for forever, that would be terrible for them! I am willing to let them go, yes. It is good to allow them freedom to roam!

But every time they come home that’s what it will be: HOME. Where love and laughter and warmth awaits. Where we do things together – as loud, as crazy and as messy as it may be! Where they have freedom to cry and make mistakes. Freedom to be weird. Freedom to tease. Freedom to grow and learn at their own pace. And my arms will not push them away just for another break. I will not tell them to go away so I can enjoy a bit of silence.

I’ll get more than enough of that in the nursing home someday!

As long as they’re willing, I’m keeping them close.

Faith · Family · Parenting

A Wise Woman and A Foolish One

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down…” Proverbs 14:1

I watched as a three year old boy carefully laid each cardboard brick down onto the floor. He held each piece as steady as his pudgy little hands could, and carefully he built up his wall. The bricks were becoming more unstable as the wall grew, but he continued to build the wall higher and higher until it reached way up above his head and he had to stand on tip toes to touch the very top. His eyes sparkled in pride at his creation as another child clumsily teetered towards the wall to admire the masterpiece. The other child reached her arm out and with one light little touch that wall that had been so carefully laid, piece by piece, all came crashing down.

I watched as the little builder’s face turned from a lighthearted smile to uncontrolled rage and he wound up his tiny body to go for the tackle. Quickly, I stepped in between the pair. Keeping my voice calm and gentle, I held the little angry hulk in my arms until finally, the rage dissolved into what it really was: sadness and disappointment. As I comforted the little boy, he asked something absolutely profound: “Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?”

The question took me aback. I had no answer for the boy.

Why are things that way?

A man works years to build up a company, pouring in his time, sweat, his money and his sanity, only to find out that by the time he’s reached his peak, something newer and trendier has taken his product’s place and he files for bankruptcy.

A family spends years and years working on the farm only to have a disease tear through the entire herd, or prices take a dive, and all is lost.

A teenager spends almost all of his high school years making wise choices and getting good grades, but decides to go to that one party where he is offered a drug which leads to forty years of helpless addiction.

A couple invests twenty-five years into marriage, and one partners falls into infidelity breaking down all those years of trust.

A politician could be honest a hundred times and lie only once, but the trust for him would be forever lost.

Life’s just so fragile isn’t it?

I think of how many bricks I’ve carefully laid; sleepless nights, patient mothering, waking up to feed, to change, to rock, to sing, to love.

The many days of wiping noses and mouths and dirty hands, the endless meals, the mountains of laundry, the “to do” lists that could stretch across the country.

I think of the long days of homeschooling; of planning lessons, carefully teaching, leading hundreds of family devotions. Of the discipling and the comforting, the encouraging words at just the right moment.

Or even the self sacrifice of giving up that new area rug I was looking at so that my daughter can go to horse lessons or the new shoes I wanted so that my sons can play soccer. Not to mention the driving around to these events when all I really want is to just spend one measely hour soaking in the tub.

Yet, I often think of the proverb above and wonder how many times I’ve so carelessly torn down everything in one heated moment, that I’ve spent the past 13 years trying to build. How easy it is to utter hurtful and careless words:

What’s the matter with you guys? You don’t know how to do anything. You just sit around and play all day while I work!

I wish that you would just leave me alone already so I could have a moment of peace!

Why did you do that?!? You have no clue how much you embarrassed me tonight! That was really stupid!

Can you go away? I’m busy here!

It’s hard to write down these things.

It’s really hard.

Knowing that I’ve said them. Knowing that they can’t be taken back. Knowing how much they hurt to hear.

Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?

“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 

Thinking about these things can bring about a sense of hopelessness. If words can’t be taken back, then what’s the point? How can one change the past? Ahh.. but that’s not the point, is it?

The past cannot be changed, my friend, but the future can be! It is never too late!

If every action is like laying another brick, we must also remember to fill in the cracks with grace, for grace is the mortar that holds it all together. None of us are perfect, not one, but how I hate when people say this and then go on as if everything they’ve done is OK!

It’s not OK to hurt people.

It’s not OK to treat people with disrespect and contempt.

But the truth is that you and I will never be perfect. In fact, striving to be perfect brings about ugly fruit of its own. Perfectionism will never bring about a strong house simply because it’s foundation is built on one’s own works rather than the works of Jesus.

 Perfectionism is Satan’s counterfeit to the work of God on the cross.

Repentance and trusting in Jesus’s work on the cross is the only way to build up a house that will last.

The Cross alone is our real righteousness. It brings about a change in us that we cannot explain or take credit for. Perfectionism breeds judgementalism and self righteousness. The Cross brings true humility and wisdom.

I’ve been having a hard time writing recently. There’s something going on in my heart that is different from anything I’ve felt in the past. I’ve been recognizing a lot of lies I’ve believed about what it looks like to live righteously and be bold, brave, zealous and honest. I’d compare it to learning how to stay in the middle of a narrow bridge with deep crashing waves on either side.

On one side of the bridge is perfectionism – that need to do everything perfect in order to follow God wholeheartedly. This kind of living is in the flesh, as it sees perfection as something that is humanly attainable. One who gets too close to the edge will find themselves drowning in pride, unhappiness, judgmentalism, condemnation, bitterness and many other things that go hand and hand.

However, equally dangerous is the other side of the bridge which is complacency. That attitude that says I’ll never be perfect so why try. Or that God’s grace is enough for all my sins so it doesn’t matter what I do. One who falls into this side will be overtaken be selfishness, debauchery, gossip, greed, and wickedness.

Sadly too many Christain find themselves in one of the two camps. Either nothing is ok or everything is. I myself have been on both sides, and by God’s grace, he’s yanked me back to the middle through hardships and warnings.

But here’s what I’m learning: I can’t be perfect, but I can apologize. And I can change. Everyday I have a choice; am I going to build up or tear down? That is my honor and duty as a mother and wife. And what a high calling it is having such power and responsibility in my home!

May I learn to never despise that calling.

And a word specifically for women:

I felt God’s encouraging heart towards wives and mothers while reading Proverbs 14:1. What an incredible opportunity that we so often grudgingly bear. We have the power to build our home in such a way that it stands strong or falls to the ground! God has given this power into the hands of women. You have the power within you to build up your family strong for life or tear them down, this is a difficult but hugely rewarding mission! Do not take it lightly, dear friend.

About Me · Family · Homeschooling · Parenting

A Homeschool Pause

Today I want to share something that is going to be incredibly life changing for me this coming year. As many of you know, I am currently homeschooling four of my five children – and now, after my sixth year of homeschooling, I am going to take year seven to pause and reflect.

Thats right! My five precious children will be strapping on their backpacks, and lining up like little ducklings to face “real school” 😜 this fall! (For those of you who don’t get my reference to “real school” I mean public school, although you fellow homeschoolers will know exactly what I’m mean!!) Watch out everyone…the Bergen’s are coming!!

I have known our plans for a couple months now but just recently have begun to share the news and I must say, it’s very interesting to see all the different reactions that have come from this decision…

I’ve had it all from, “Are you sure you want to send your kids to Public School?!?” (Spoken like I’m sending them away to some evil war camp) to “Wow! Good for you! Won’t that be nice to have an empty house and all that free time?” to “Oh finally you’ve come to your senses! Are you going to be normal get a real job now?”

Ok. I’m exaggerating just a wee bit. None of those things were actually said to me, but I’ve had many conversations that give me each of the vibes above and I’m quite sure that none of them are what I’m actually feeling.

So let me answer these questions for those of you who are too polite to ask them in the first place:

1) Yes, I am quite sure that for this year, our five children are going to attend school together. One of the reasons I am sure of this is that for the past few years I have felt very split up as a family, having one child in public school and the rest at home. I have comforted myself by the fact that we would be split up anyway if they were all in school (as in my youngest was still to young for kindergarten so he’d be at home with me.) This year is the first and only year that my children will ever be able to attend the same public school altogether. This brings me so much joy and excitement – the thought that my five kids can experience school life together; bus rides, assemblies, family days, etc. I also am confident that even though yes, there will be some negative influences in their lives, the school is a very good one with wonderful teachers. I also am prepared to clear our evening schedules as much as possible so that I have time to spend with our children each evening.

2) No I don’t expect a break. I don’t even expect an easier year. I don’t expect calm days of doing whatever I want. I just don’t! Helping five kids adjust to public school after homeschooling will take a lot of correspondence with the teachers, a lot of patient evenings helping with homework, a lot of volunteer hours so that my children can see that I still value their education and work environment, a lot of healthy lunch planning, ALOT of papers brought home (found in crumpled balls at the bottom of their school bags – along with…”Eewww!!! What’s that?!?”), and to top it off a lot of driving around and planning for the future!

3) And lastly, no, I’m not going to finally be normal. I will continue to be my weird self, no “real” job in my near future, AND my hopes are to continue homeschooling at least two of my boys the following fall.

So, you may be wondering…why the change? Will one year off be worth all the paperwork, adjustments, etc. of public school? Why not just keep the two boys at home and start a new normal?

To answer that I would refer back to the first answer I gave: But they’ll all be together!

And I also will add that these last couple years my homeschooling hasn’t been at its finest. I’ve still been committed to giving my kids an excellent education, but I’ve really resorted to doing the bare minimum and even that lacks creativity. Quite simply, I’ve lost my former spark and zeal for homeschooling.

So instead of viewing this year as a rest, I’m focusing on using my year “off” to reassess some of the reasons I began homeschooling in the first place. Creative teaching and planning takes time, lots of time and to continue for a couple more years I’m simply setting aside this year as a gage of where we are at. I’ll be answering a lot of questions. Is my heart still in it? Do the benefits of it outweigh the inconvenience? What is our long-term goal, and how is homeschooling accomplishing it? How has homeschooling been beneficial to my older kids? Have they been able to adjust to life among their peers? And so on. You get the picture.

So that’s my big news for today! How about you?

Do you homeschool? A former homeschooler? Have you ever had to make a similar adjustment? If so, how did it turn out for you?