It’s My Birthday…

From childhood, birthdays have been so special to me. I guess that’s a result of having great parents who always made a point to make the day an extra special one for me.

I’m not one of those super mature Mom’s who quietly lets their day slip by unnoticed. Nor do I hate the extra attention and no, I’m not embarrassed about my age because getting older to me is (and I hope will always be) a blessing! So we celebrate!!

In fact, being a homeschooler I have quite literally declared my birthday to be a holiday from school!

“Hey Kids, guess what?? There’s no school today and you know why that is? Many many years ago a VERY special and most important person was born…do you know who that is??”

And while my younger children hop up and down shouting out the answer as if they’ve won the lottery, my older three smirk at each other and roll their eyes… “Mom, it’s not a Holiday…”

“WHY OF COURSE IT IS!!” I reply. “Why else would school be cancelled today?!?”

“Because you don’t want to teach and you would rather have the day off?”

Errr, ummm….they know me too well.

But do I let their lack of enthusiasm spoil MY day? No! I most CERTAINLY do not! I grab a slice of my all time favourite, grocery store strawberry shortcake, for breakfast, I turn up the “Greatest Showman Soundtrack” and dance with the littles like I’m 14 again.

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Or, at least that’s what a will be doing. I’m still in bed at the moment. And I’ll probably be back in bed after pulling a muscle from dancing. I’m not 14 anymore ya know.

How about you? Do you hate/love your birthdays?

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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?

A Parents Call to Pray

I’ve been all over God’s word today… Deuteronomy, Psalms, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Proverbs… and you know what I see throughout it all? The same loving, gracious God, gently calling and beckoning his people to walk in his ways and teach his ways to the next generation.

And the realization hit me: I can teach my children, but it is God alone who can save their hearts.

God alone can grow the seeds that I’ve so earnestly planted. God alone can hold their hearts and win their love and devotion. This is why my prayers are so important. For what my teaching is powerless to do, my prayers CAN do! I don’t want God to just have their outward obedience! I want him to have their hearts to the very core!

Dear parent, do you feel helpless for where your family is at? Pray!

Do you feel like all your efforts in teaching your children were in vain? Pray!

Have your children rejected your teachings? Pray!

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat, for He grants sleep to those he love. Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in ones youth.”

Psalm 127:1-4

Surely the Lord answers our prayers in accordance with his will. And we know from scripture it is his will that NONE should perish, but that all will come to repentance.

Beautiful March

I don’t know what it is about turning the calendar page and seeing that uplifting word “March” that lightens my heart so. Maybe it’s the promising thought that the worst of the winter winds, storms and temperature drops are over. As I’ve shared in the past, winter in Manitoba, Canada is no picnic. With windchill, temperatures where I live can drop as low as -50 degrees Celsius (That’s -58 Fahrenheit for my American readers)…This last February we spent almost a week in such weather and I don’t need fancy wording to describe what it feels like: It sucks. 

Kids get out of sorts, vehicles break, snowblowers break. My doors freeze shut and I literally have to blow dry the handles to thaw them. It’s just too cold. And I know I’m not the only one around here who asks the question, “Why do people LIVE here?!?”

But then, March! A glimmer of hope, the end is near! Spring is near. With it, longer and brighter days, sunshine, fresh cool air that doesn’t hurt to breathe, mounds of snow that day by day look just a little bit smaller. And yes, spring comes with its own troubles here… BUT after the dirty roads begin to dry, after the flooding ditches and after the loads upon loads of laundry from kids playing on the soggy, soaked grass and mud, after all this comes a beautiful and dreamy summer. Summer in Canada is wonderful! And every time it comes I thank God over and over for this country I call home. The skies are open and blue, the fields around my home stretch out for miles. It’s so warm and sunny that winter is but a distant memory. I forget the harsh reality that winter lasts half of the year; starting gently in November and December, freezing harshly in January and February, and slowly thawing from March until April.

I wonder, would I fully be able to appreciate summer if I never experienced the harsh, cold realities of winter? Would I love every minute of the sunshine if I hadn’t experienced the long days without it? Would all the warmth be taken for granted if I had never been without it?

Interesting to think about, that hard seasons of life make the good ones so much better. If I light a tea light in a sunny room, it goes unnoticed. But light that same candle in a room that is pitch black and the candle shines brightly. It reminds me that even bad things can serve a purpose in this world and that thought fills me with so much hope. Sickness makes health so much sweeter. Pain makes comfort all the greater. Going without, does bring about thankfulness for the things we have and it’s no secret that a thankful heart is a happy heart.

So, I guess (though I hate to admit it), even winter in Canada has it’s purposes.

 

 

 

Don’t Blame a Selfish Generation on the School System (or the Government)

Sometimes a post or a comment can trigger a string of thoughts. Often I just ponder them throughout the day, but, once in a while – if I have the time to sit down and write – a new blog post is written. A few months ago, I noticed a paragraph that got posted a few times on my feed by different people and so even though I often skip long status updates, I ended up reading this one through many times. And each time I read it I thought, hmmm…it’s very interesting how whoever wrote this felt the need to both write off an entire generation of people and blame the government for making them that way.

Here’s the post:

R.I.P. Canada You are too soft. You raised the cost of living so high that both parents are always at work, rather than spending time with their children. You took authority out of schools. Parents were told ‘No you can’t discipline your kids’. Well, Canada You shall reap what you sow, and we have lost a percentage of next generation adults as the soft approach turned them into rude, selfish, disrespectful humans who have no respect for people, property or authority…

(Ok I deleted a big section of this long-winded rant, but I left the conclusion for you 😜)….

Things need to change! Copy & paste if you have the guts too!!!”

Now, I would agree with some of the thoughts behind the post, but today I’m not writing about politics or my concerns about our current government’s shortcomings. Today I want to address a FAR more important issue that’s damaging households and families in every background and social status across our Country.

Let me start off by saying this:

Fellow parents, it is not the governments fault or the school system’s fault if our children turn out to be selfish, disrespectful and rude. It’s OURS. If all our children are really turning out that bad, we just have to look in the mirror to see who’s really at fault.

I hear again and again that “both parents HAVE to work in order to survive these days” and I have to tell you, in the most respectful way possible, that this simply isn’t true!

I got pregnant as a teenager. I got married at 18. My husband was making only $24,000 a year when our first son was born. And you know what? We have been living off of one income for the past 12.5 years.

Was it easy? No. No it wasn’t.

What teenager wants to go from living in a wealthy home in a nice neighbourhood, to living in a mouse infested trailer in the trailer court? What woman (or man) wants to be stuck at home all day with a baby because there’s no money for a second vehicle? What teenage new mother wants to stop wearing makeup and buying new clothes because she can only afford the used ones? Or go without internet, satellite, or a smartphone (gasp!) and settle instead for a landline.

Not very many – I assure you. Not very many are willing. But don’t tell me it’s not possible! I’ve lived it.

But here’s the thing: my baby boy couldn’t care less whether he was laying on designer sheets, in a fancy house, with a well decorated nursery – or a plain white sheet, in a used crib, in a trailer.

All that mattered to him was that he was being loved and tenderly cared for.

Now don’t get me wrong….I’m NOT saying you need to homeschool or stay at home and live on one income to raise good children. But you do need time. And it’s not the governments fault that we haven’t made time for our kids.

It’s our own busy lives that do that.

If us parents would be really honest with ourselves, all that stuff we buy for “them” is really not for them at all!

It’s for us.

The fancy themed bedrooms with matching decor, the name brand outfits bought for that perfect photo shoot, the outrageous Pinterest birthday parties, with the perfectly decorated cakes (as I gulp…guilty over here 🙋🏼‍♀️) …all these things never were really for them in the first place. They were for us. To boost our egos. To make up for what we fear we lack. Social Media and Pinterest have only fueled this struggle for parents because deep down we want our kids to have the best childhood! We really do!

Yet, I look at so many children and do you know what I see? Emptiness. Sadness. Disconnectedness. The result of parents not giving them what they deeply wanted and needed all along.

Parents: All your children want is YOU! From day one. This is why the new fancy toy set you just bought for them remains in the corner a few days (or hours) later while they whine and cry at your feet…they didn’t really want it in the first place. They just want YOU!!

Twelve years have gone by. My husband went back to school for a college degree and got a job in a field he loves. Four more kids have been added to our home. My oldest boy is in grade 7 and has been in the public school system now for the past couple years. My husband is making a lot more and we are living in my dream home in the country. But we still are making “sacrifices” so that I can stay home. And somehow, looking at the relationship that we have with our kids, I no longer see them as sacrifices. I willingly give up a finished basement, a shiny new vehicle, or a perfectly manicured yard to finish raising my children well – to have them feel safe and loved and connected. To have time to teach them to work hard, to volunteer, to cook and clean.

And I don’t worry about the negative affect of the school systems policies, because I’ve done the hard work at home. No matter what happened at school, I know my boy can come home and talk about it with me, feeling safe and loved. It wasn’t up to the school to raise him.  It wasn’t up to his coaches to teach him respect, or up to his Sunday school teachers to teach him about God and morals. It was my job! And unfortunately not all parents understand this!

Parenting is a hard, draining, often uncertain and lifelong commitment. It’s a parents job to teach respect and morals. And in Canada we still have so many opportunities and freedoms to do so! You know the best way to change your country? It’s not simply changing the government. It’s raising the next generation to be confident, caring, compassionate, hardworking individuals who believe that their most important job in life isn’t the one that pays them to be there, but rather their responsibility to the lives around them.

You want to change Canada? Then do!

But don’t try to change it by copying and pasting some whiny rant against the government. Change it, one person at a time, by taking responsibility for what’s happening in your own home.

Snapshots and Memories

As I raise this family of mine, I often hope that the good things will stick. Many times us mothers live in constant worry – as if our children will only remember every single bad thing we ever did and forget all the good times that happened in between.

There was a time when my oldest was small, where every time I would mess up, yell, or react in a wrong way, I would comfort myself with the thought: “Well he’s only two, he won’t remember that.”

Then, “Hey he’s only three, I don’t remember anything from when I was three…maybe he’ll forget it.”

Then four, “He might actually remember this.”

Then Five: “By this age he’ll totally remember…”

And then Six: “He’ll never forget that!”

Somewhere along the way I had become haunted by the thought that every single flaw, every failure would be carefully recorded, stored in their memories and brought out on the inevitable day when they most certainly will all go to years of therapy to undo all my mistakes.

But realistically, our memories don’t work that way.

My own childhood is a mixed-up snapshot, a mostly happy blur of highlights: playing dolls with my sisters, an old horse named Gus who I led around the pasture for many hours, dump runs with my dad, working outside with the whole family and then going afterwards to my grandparents house to swim and eat freezer-burnt Revels (which, by the way, I LOVED because of all the ice on the outside and the middle was yellowish and chrystalized just as I liked it!!), singing with my mom while she rocked me in our old brown rocking chair, random cartoon characters, knitted kittens and KFC at my other Grandma’s house, hockey cards with hard chewing gum in the packs, stories of my Father’s fascinating childhood in Mexico, new batches of kittens every spring, special family vacations, family gatherings with cousins to play with, morning devotions, camping disasters and traumatic news events such as Princess Diana’s death and 9/11.

Were my parents perfect? No.

But do I have a file of horror stories that I need deep healing from? Absolutely not!

In fact, almost every single one of my memories of them are happy ones!!!

Still there’s days where I wonder: Will my kids remember any of the good?

Looking back on pictures of my firstborn has many times filled me with deep regret. Regret because I wanted so badly to be that perfect parent that I wanted HIM to be perfect, so I barely gave him a childhood. Still I was trying my very best then, just as I am now.

“Let’s play a game!” I suddenly said to my children one lazy afternoon as I was thinking such thoughts as these.

I called it “Snapshots and Memories”

“Let’s take turns telling stories of our early memories (good or bad) and see what all comes to mind!”

What’s the worst that can happen?? (Part of me expected the worst.)

I started off the game with a memory from when I was five. My family was moving to a new community and I was so excited, yet sad, simply because I was really worried about missing the opportunity to sleep with our big class bear in kindergarten! Each child got a turn to take the bear home and sleep with it for a night…(ok that’s kind of gross now to think about!!) But my teacher was so kind that I got “randomly picked” the night before my last day at that school. I was thrilled! Now I could move on 😉

Next Bella shared a memory of going to a conference when she was six and being so embarrassed when a boy her age kept following her around telling her he was “in love” with her. She shuddered at the memory! (Oh the problems of being popular everywhere you go lol).

Then Jonas shared a memory of a spicy chip he ate and that I gave him a cold glass of milk afterwards…. (skipping that part about his dad encouraging it and filming as he changed from smug faced to “oh boy, this is HOT!🥵”)

Ok phew! So far so good!

Dallas shared next about going through my spices in the cupboard when I came up asking what he was doing and he kept saying “I’m trying to sell it” when he really meant “smell it”.

Emerson told a random story about monsters chasing him and me spraying them with a fire gun…which I quite enjoyed because I was the hero of that one and it most likely was 100% true…

AND…then the game took a very sharp downhill turn of made up senarios that I’m quite certain never actually took place, ALTHOUGH….the story of our family rocket blasting down Mt. Everest with two day old baby Emerson strapped to it really would be quite the adventure to tell the grandchildren about one day!

Maybe I’ll have to keep that one in the memory book…

As for their “ruined” childhoods, I am now certain that it’s not the actual failures I need to worry about, but the made up ones.

 

Spilled Milk

The picture above was taken early this week.

Gallon smashing – my eleven year old calls it, apparently, is a lot funnier on YouTube than in reality.

I had just come home from a shopping trip/errand run…my three younger boys, who had come along with me, complained the entire drive.  My 10-year-old daughter had stayed at home, tired, after a night of throwing up. I had a migraine which had come on after yet another sleepless night. I drove into our garage, turned off the vehicle and turned back to my wild, crazy crew.

“Boys,” I said in a gentle but firm voice, “I want you to help me carry in the groceries before running off to play.”

And the miracle was, they did it! Without complaining, the older two boys exited the van, opened up the trunk and each grabbed an armful to haul in. I proceeded to get my youngest out of the van and clean up some garbage when I heard it: A thump, some yelling from one boy to another, and a heartbroken wail coming from the younger of the two helpers.

Before I even opened the door to our house I knew what had happened. Something had accidentally been dropped, probably from carelessness, and a big mess would await me inside.

I took a deep breath and went in to assess the damage.

A few years ago, I would’ve seen the full gallon of liquid, splattered everywhere, leaking underneath my permanent island and FREAKED OUT, probably sending every child to their room, guilty or not. I would’ve screamed, I would’ve yelled, I would’ve LOST IT.

Simply put, I would’ve looked only at the spilled milk.

But as I walked into my house, I barely saw the milk. Instead, I saw two big blue eyes brimming with tears. I saw my six year old brace himself for the reaction he expected. I saw his fear. And mercy gripped my heart. I couldn’t bring myself to get angry at him.

He had tried to carry two gallons at once, they had been too heavy for him to lift on the counter and one had slipped. I found myself kneeling before my son, comforting him and thanking him for doing his best to help.

I’m aware that I write a lot about how I’ve changed in a good way these past few years.  And I can point to many different things that may have been a factor, but the truth is, I simply began seeing the fruit of my authoritative-based parenting…and it wasn’t pretty.

First of all, of course, I noticed it in my children. My children seemed to no longer be able to speak a kind word to each other. They would yell at one another for making simple, honest mistakes.  They would harshly accuse each other of terrible things, without waiting to hear the full story. And I, in return, would try to discipline these behaviours out of them. However hard I tried, my discipline didn’t seem to be helping, in fact it seemed to be making things much, much worse.

In reality they were simply copying me, my pride, my overreaction to their mistakes.

I wasn’t a terrible parent, I was giving it my all and doing as best I could with the resources I had at the time.

If I could just be more consistent, I thought. Maybe if I was just a little more firm, maybe if I would be involved even more, maybe then these things would change.

Yet, the more involved I tried to be, the more frustrated I became until I came to the end of my rope in parenting and had to take a big step back to find out where I had possibly gone wrong.

And finally, after many months of reflection, reading, parenting courses and support groups, I came to an eye opening conclusion: My core beliefs in parenting were wrong.

They were wrong! They were causing my harsh responses. They were causing the lack of connection I felt with my children. They were causing the extreme ups and downs of each emotional outburst.

I believed that the stricter I was, the better behaved my children would be. I now realize that control CANNOT shape a heart the right way…only peaceful love does. 

There is much more to say about this, but I think I will leave it at that. I have much more to ponder today.