Last Day for Homeschool

Seven long years gone by,

But all too soon it was done.

Like a lifetime it passed,

Then just like that it was gone.

From cute little voices and singsongy rhymes,

To difficult writing ups and chemistry times.

There was no climax,

No warning,

No bell.

No clock chimes to warn the end of the spell.

It just came and went,

The same as the others.

This very last day.

No extra sentiment or tears.

Just rushing through work,

Learning through play.

The same as the others,

But altogether different,

This very last day.

Still, the mind reflects,

A tad of happiness, a tinge of regret.

A bittersweet memory, a promise not kept.

From now on moments together will be few,

My role half way done,

My job nowhere through.

Long days of sighing past,

Only to sigh looking back.

Wanting what is behind.

And knowing I don’t want it all.

That last day passed us by,

I’m glad it’s done,

yet,

I wish there were more.

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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.

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?

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.

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?

Public School Didn’t Prepare Me for Life… My Parents Did

“How in the world do you expect your children to function out in the world once they leave the bubble you’ve created for them?”

This is honestly a statement that was said to me a few years back.

And to be honest…it stung.

One of the most common questions I hear as a homeschooler is how am I preparing my children for the “real” world. From topics of socialization to missed opportunities, there are literally hundreds of different opinions on whether homeschooling has benefit, or if it actually hinders children from real life.

Let me tell you something that may shock you:  The public school system did not prepare me for real life.

Not for my real life.

There I said it….it is out. I can breathe.

This is not to say that the public school system didn’t help me out, or that homeschooling would’ve helped me more. I’m just simply stating that the things I learned in school didn’t prepare me for being a stay at home mom of five kids.  Being involved in extra curricular activities didn’t prep me for my day to day tasks either.

Yet, I see parents everywhere trying to rush from dance, to piano lessons, to the tutors house, to hockey practice, to swimming lessons, and to everything and anything else in between. To prepare their children for everything that they might ever want to be.

But there’s some things very few parents pay any attention to at all.

Character.

Work Ethic.

Responsiblity.

Commitment.

Compassion for the less fortunate.

Because while sports may keep you fit, and school may prepare you for your career, it doesn’t account for the most important values in life: God, family, and our responsibility to others.

There’s a push out there to drive children to dream big. From as young as three we ask them such huge, life driving questions: What do you want to be when you grow up?

As if they were capable of making that decision…still it’s cute to hear their answers!

But…can I just say that it’s a shame that we focus so much on career when a far more important question would be to ask, “what kind of person would you like to be?” And if they want to get married, “what kind of person do they want to spend their entire life with?”

Happiness doesn’t come from money or careers, we all know this, yet we raise our children to believe that those are the most important life goals. My question is why?

Why do we do this?

You know what brings misery? Marrying a miserable person. Going through life without a thought for anyone else. Riches without friends to share them with. Working endless hours just to watch the numbers in your bank account go up.

And yet we push and push our children to a single goal: Dream big and follow your dreams!

But…what if they’re like me?

What if they are like the millions of women around the world like me? What if they just want to stay home and raise a family?

What good does all of your rushing around do then?

And maybe it comes down to an even bigger question: What if they are content with raising a family, being a stay at home parent? Will they have let you down?

It’s not a waste, dear friends, to just raise a family. It’s a gift. A tremendous gift to the world; to raise up people who know they are loved.

There’s SO more to being a parent than just driving from place to place, and putting food on the table.

Now, do I have to homeschool to raise my kids well?

Of course not!

But it sure allows me more time to do so!

Let me ask you, if your children are at school eight hours a day, then at extra curricular activities for 2-3 more hours each evening…When do you have the time to teach them how to work? When do they do chores?

When do they learn about the importance of volunteering, or how to care for the less fortunate, or think about the needs of others?

When do you have the time to do devotions with them, memorize scripture with them, pray with them?

When do they have time to ask you questions about life, about morals, about sex?

When do they have time to just “be still”?

Are we so afraid of silence? Are we that afraid of stopping our lives and just letting kids play creative, made-up games?

Parenting well takes time…lots of it!

So going back to the first question that was asked: “How will my children function in the world?”

I except that they will be godly, hardworking, respectful, responsible and unselfish individuals, which quite notably, is rare in the world today.

But will they “fit in” with the rest of the world? Looking at millennials today… Nah, that’s not too high on my priority list.

 

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.