Compassion · Humanity

In Matters of Sameness

If Satan has toeholds that allow him to claw and climb from the underworld to this one, they lie in our failure to see ourselves in others.”

– Lisa Wingate

The beginning of prejudice, hatred and grudges are nothing more than the notion that we are somehow different from one another – and, presumptively, somehow better.

We are no different than the person we cast a evil eye on, of that I am becoming certain. It grieves me that there is more disunity and discord in our “tolerant” world than ever before. And I would dare say, that if our “tolerance” is causing this this present condition, we’d do well to think long and hard if we are actually tolerant at all.

Is tolerance just tolerating the people who look and think and act like we are accustomed to? To contend only with the people who adhere to the beliefs and values that our current society deems acceptable? Tolerance, as defined in the dictionary is “a willingness to endure or tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.” So, in fact, tolerating people of other beliefs or backgrounds when you never disagreed with them in the first place isn’t tolerance at all.

We are similar, you and I.

Though I am a stubborn Canadian woman, who does, in fact, apologize over everything because it is our perception of polite. I’m a homeschooling mother of five kids with fair skin and curly thick hair that isn’t blonde nor brown, but a dull shade in between; a middle class woman, who believes the Christian faith with all my heart. You might be halfway across the world, single, atheist, with smooth dark hair and think such apologies are ridiculous, and abhor the thought of children being taught primarily in their own home.

Our similarities still run deep, I believe this to the core of my being, for I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t long to be accepted, to be loved.

We all are very much the same. We all yearn to have purpose; to make a difference in the world. We all worship, one thing or another. We all get passionate over the causes that move us.

We all make mistakes. We all have fears, regrets and embarrassing moments. We all dream about the future and complain about the weather.

And all of us simply wish to be heard and understood.

What if, we committed to doing this for others? Hearing them? Seeing them? Accepting them for who they are, even if they have no desire at all to change; even going as far as forgiving them for their differences that may offend us?

What if, we saw ourselves in the face of our enemies?

We might just learn to forgive. We might love a little deeper.

We might even change the world.

Autumn · Faith

Good News

Good news… An oxymoron you say?

COVID-19. First wave. Second wave. Masks. No masks. Crazy cons/republicans. Ridiculous libs/democrats. November Election… Social distancing, physical distancing. Donald Trump catches the virus he downplayed for months while the reporter sharks circle gleefully and mock. Conspiracy? Karma?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Here’s some news: I. Am. So. Done.

…With the depressing world news that is.

But MY life is definitely full of good news. Which I will share, because we all need something good to read once in a while.

First of all, it’s AUTUMN! The most gorgeous, perfect season that ever existed!!

It’s warm.

It’s cool.

The air smells of sweet, dry leaves. The hot tub is used every evening. There have been many firesides with friends at my side and a cup of hot coffee in hand. I do not know how long this season will last, but I do not ask.

It is enough that I have today.

My son’s birthday is today. My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. And I LOVE birthdays. We are definitely making them extra special this year.

Dallas is now 9 years old!
Tomorrow she’s 13… we now have TWO teens in the house.

Also our basement was just finished last week and I am positively THRILLED with everything from finally having a pantry, to the cozy rug and beautiful natural woodwork.

Also, in Canada we celebrate thanksgiving next weekend. I LOVE thanksgiving. It happens to be my favourite holiday. Not because of the food (though I love the food) or the gatherings (though I love those too, mainly because of the food 😆)… I simply love it because it is the one holiday we still celebrate just to be grateful for nothing in particular.

Or for everything that we usually take for granted. Like our families. Or our country. Like our homes and the food we have to eat. Or the friends we have. Or our beautiful planet and the God who created it all for us to experience and enjoy.

Gratefulness. Contentment. Thanksgiving.

These are the things that have saved me from spiraling into a very deep pit when times have been hard.

And times have been hard…

But I’ve been through worse. And sometimes we just have to remember what we still have and enjoy it before we become so overcome by the bad that we lose the ability to see the good at all.

The good:

The blessings:

The downright amazing, silly, joyful stuff:

Remember to feed your mind some good news once in a while.

Because life’s too short to get stuck in the bad.

COVID-19 · self-control

My Silent Protest

Ok, so I’ve been silent. Blame it on what you may: busyness, weariness, speechlessness. Any of the above would be true.

But my silence has been more than that. It’s been reflective. It’s been intentional. At times, I’ve been tempted to start a post based solely on my opinions, my frustrations, and viewpoint on current world events… but as I type, I wonder, “What can I say, that hasn’t already been said?”

What can I write that not a million other souls have expressed in various ways on social media, news commentaries, or other outlets? And all speaking with such certainty, such passion.

They KNOW things. And they share these things eagerly. Because they know that everyone on the opposing side is wrong, and they alone have the right point of view.

The only thing I know without a doubt, is that I don’t have a hot clue what is true or not anymore. Everyone has an argument and a professional who backs up their points. And who has the wisdom to say which of them is right?

Opinions aside, I feel quite tiny as I watch the world: Grasping desperately for some sort control, instead of facing the facts… there is nothing about our current world that is IN our control.

Is staying home, locked away and fearful, really “having control”?

Is “staying safe” actually within my ability to control? Can I ever guarantee my own safety or the safety of those around me?

Is a mask a fool proof way of keeping the virus out? Just ask the many healthcare workers who’ve worn mask day after day, only to test positive.

There are no absolute safe guards. Eventually one has to come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 and the passionate responses of everyone around them to the pandemic are completely and utterly out of our control.

The governments rules and regulations are out of our control.

Is the virus serious? To some, it is.

Has it been overblown? To some, it has.

Are we doing the right things? Are we making mistakes?

Not even “the professionals” seem to know.

Still with all that we don’t know, people are shouting things with more conviction and force than ever before.

And I’ve been silent.

Quietly protesting an overly vocal world. My silence is my protest. It says: I’m tired of being one of the screaming voices who wants to be heard, I want to be one who listens.

Ha! Actually listening… There’s an old fashioned concept! Listening to both sides; stopping and considering before forming a response.

Not responding when I disagree.

My focus these COVID days?

Treating others as human beings. Learning that I don’t have all the answers. Realizing that most of life is out of my control.

And then coming to terms with it.

Today my son, my precious son, made me so angry I could barely breathe.

He flooded our new, almost finished, basement that we’ve been working on for the past few months. Plugging the upstairs drain and forgetting to turn off the tap, the water ran… down the particle board vanity, onto the floor, into the floor vent.

Drip, drip, drip. Into the ceiling tiles, the light fixture. Pouring down the wall onto the laminate floor. Swelling everything that was not made to soak in water.

A simple action out of my control.

Had I taught him better? Of course.

Had I been working 12 hour days to finish the basement before October? Absolutely.

But, the mistake that was made was completely out of my control.

And it’s funny what humans do when they suddenly find themselves out of control: They turn to anger.

Anger, as we all know, is actually the polar opposite of having control. It makes us out of control. Anger is a false sense of control.

Of course, I exploded. Of course, I lashed out in anger. But in the end, it did nothing for my situation. My basement was still damaged. The only control I could have in the matter was to fix the damage that had been made: Both the external damage of my sons mistake, and the internal damage of my angry words.

The only control I really have, is self-control. But do I have it?

Control, then, is not my angry or fearful responses, but my rational ones.

In order to find peace with this crazy world, I have to choose to accept that things I can not change, change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. (Paraphrased from Reinhold Niebuhr).

Silence is control.

Listening is control.

Humility is control.

Asking for forgiveness is control.

And so my silent protest is a plea: “Humanity: Let’s take back control… of ourselves.”

COVID-19 · Education · Homeschooling

Are you Homeschooling?

I’m hearing this particular question often these days. Whether from friends, family or mere acquaintances (who used to ask the question with a hint of judgement in their voice), now suddenly are interested, and inquiring as they make decisions for their own family.

“Yes, some of my kids.” Is the usual reply before I get barraged by a host of questions about curriculum, how I made my decision and where to even start with planning a school year.

I relax. Take a deep breath. And then reply that after 7 years of homeschooling, I have realized that I am not ever prepared to homeschool.

Yes, I’ve chosen my curriculum.

Yes, I’ve made a schedule.

Yes, I even have a special room.

But with kids, things rarely go as we imagine them to.

I have five kids and each one is unique. The have all been a blessing to teach, but every single one of them have had their struggles, in different areas. I can pick the perfect curriculum for one child, while the next child absolutely hates it. Then I switch things up for the next year and the other child loves the rigid teaching style, while the other four struggle to thrive. And then I face the problem with missing important things because I’m switching curriculum year to year. It’s never simple, but we’ve always made it work.

For those new to homeschooling, here’s a little secret: You simply will not achieve the perfect school year… BUT, you can definitely achieve a productive and rewarding one.

This year is different for everyone.

There are so many uncertainties each person has to face. Many, who would’ve never previously considered homeschooling before, are now delving into it.

I’ve also had some thinking to do.

I’ve homeschooled each of my kids through their elementary years. I always planned to send them back in middle school. The purpose of this was to make the transition to public school easier and for the opportunity for friendships to be formed before they entered a high school where one rarely has two classes with the same people.

Still, this didn’t stop me from reconsidering for this year.

I have never wanted to teach high school, and truthfully, I looked into it this year for my oldest son, but felt a tad overwhelmed. The stakes are higher with the older grades and questions that are pretty irrelevant for the younger years, are sobering now. What if I miss something and he falls behind? What if I miss the courses he needs for getting into college? What if the university/college he applies for doesn’t recognize a homeschool graduation diploma? And finally… these are his final years to form healthy friendships as an adolescent, how can I keep him home? So finally, I made the decision… he will be entering grade nine this fall in a local private school.

I was less sure about my middle schoolers, especially my son who struggles with asthma and can barely stand a mask on his face for five minutes before he starts flailing his hands, begging me to take it off. I offered both my daughter in grade seven, and my son in grade six that they could homeschool this year. I even ordered curriculum for them, but they both would really like to try out public school with their friends this fall. So, I agreed to let them try it out. If huge issues arise, we will simply take them back home.

As for my youngest two, they will be at home with me. They are in grades 1 and 3 and are the best of friends. Both enjoy being taught at home. They love the extra time they have in the afternoons to play and enjoy the slower pace of homeschool life.

I sit here and write, knowing full well I should be working and lesson planning because… well… school’s now just two weeks away, it’s canning season, and we are in the middle of basement renovations.

Each room is stacked with boxes and tables and furniture that should really be downstairs. I know some people fly through life with stuff thrown everywhere and don’t seem to mind. But as for me, when things aren’t in their rightful place, it leaves me feeling scatter-brained and frustrated.

Not a great way to start off the school year.

However, I know from experience that I can have the most organized classroom, but if my heart is not ready to teach, it will be a difficult year.

I have to be ready for a messy house some days, while I ignore the clutter and teach when I want to clean.

I have to be ready to adjust my plans when things aren’t working out.

I have to be ready to put away my phone during the teaching hours so that my children have their mother’s undivided attention.

I have to let some things be less than perfect.

I have to be ready for bad attitudes, sick days, children who are out of sorts ,and fighting siblings… I have to be ready for a lot of patience and selflessness.

I have to be ready to put of finishing my book for just one more year.

This year, my room doesn’t look ready… but my heart definitely is.

How about you? Are you sending your kids to school? Homeschooling for the first time? Are you ready? Let me know in the comments!

Faith

Summer Shenanigans

So it’s been a while since I’ve written an actual update on my day to day life. We have absolutely no schedule. School’s over!! Summer plans have been mostly cancelled. But we’re still keeping busy, albeit at a slower kind of pace…

Our favourite spot in summer. The weather has been SO HOT this year and I’m loving every second of it!
First broken bone for Emerson. Heartbreaking as it was to see his pain, there were a few warm memories from this day. He wanted me to be the one to hold him and take him to emergency. There he asked plagued me with his questions: “Have you ever broken a bone?” Yes, many.
“Did you cry?” Not for two of them but I did when I broke my nose the first time.
“Does it ever heal?” Aww, of course it will!
By the time he got the cast put on, (he got to choose the color) his smile was back and he was talking everyone’s ears off.
Finding the end of the rainbow on my run. My daughter wanted to go run to it. I
said it wasn’t possible to ever reach the end.
She doesn’t believe me, of course, and secretly I wanted to humor her and run through the fields together. But they were so wet right with all the rain we had, and the soil gets so sticky that in no time we would’ve been stuck in the middle of it wearing two foot high mud-stilts.
…which I’ve experienced before and didn’t particularly enjoy the situation enough to repeat.
A weekend away, just us two ❤️
“Away” meaning, still in Manitoba. But a scenery change. Exploring the Canadian Shield and loving the peace of it all.
Fancy homemade dinners on a picnic table for two.
Open prairie skylines. At sunset. Which makes me fall in love with the “boring” open view that surrounds me daily.
I’ve also been reading a bit more.
My favorite cozy corner to read 💗
Or this corner… also, “Kisses from Katie” is such an inspiring story of God’s heart for ALL people!! I’d definitely recommend to put it on your summer reading list.
Oh, kids, Finding joy… even with a broken arm.
Us trying a new fruit… Tastes like a “yucky grape” they said! LOL! I thought it was good, but definitely a unique flavour.
Also they may have been overripe.
First church service in over 16 weeks!! Felt so good to be back. Emerson put on his “social distancing” shirt. Haha.
Also… take note: His cast is off!!! Fast healing process with those young bones 😜

And that’s what we’ve been up to! Life. Sometimes joyful, other days just surviving. I get it, these are all happy pictures, they don’t show the pain or stress behind some of the harder moments. But they do give you a glimpse of one simple truth:

God is good through it all.

Even when we feel lonely. Even when we have way too many screams in one day. Even when the bones break and sun burns our pale skin. Even when the world seems to be in bitter turmoil and all reason is drowned out.

God is good.

He is faithful today and will be faithful tomorrow. And that is the hope we hold onto.

Faith

A Hard Life Sucks… But it Makes You Real

I’ve shared many of my past struggles on this blog before:

My rebellion in my teens: drinking, parties, being abused by men twice my age and my teenage pregnancy. The responses of those around me, some of which were hurtful and some unbelievably supportive. Finally, getting touched by God’s love in an unforgettable way, turning my life around – leaving the parties, drunkenness and empty friendships behind.

My son being born and becoming deathly ill. Him being hospitalized the first year of his life; the financial struggles, the highs and lows of this season and the support and miracles we experienced.

My struggles with having five kids so close together, the havoc it reaped on my body and emotional state… the depression, and anxiety that followed.

The church we helped start and suddenly got removed from, though we did our best and fought for reconciliation. All our closest friends, who were dear to us like family, that betrayed us and shunned us as if we had died. The panic attacks that followed this.

The loneliness I’ve felt for much of my adult life.

And some things I have not shared… not because I’m ashamed to, but because there are some things that aren’t just my story to tell and so it’s not my place to publicly write about or share them.

BUT though I have suffered many, many times and sometimes even begged God to take my life, one thing is abundantly clear to me: There was a reason for everything.

God allowed these things to happen to me so that he could answer my prayers from all those years ago, when I first began walking with him. Do you know my biggest prayer as a pregnant teen was?

“God, make me like Jesus.”

And as I was praying one day, 15 years ago, he gave me a picture of his hand coming down from heaven. His finger touched my forehead and he marked me – with a cross. He drew a cross, in the middle of my forehead!

You bet, I was excited. Yet, I had no idea what that picture meant! I just knew that God had done something very significant. But, I had no clue what.

I do now.

The cross means pain. It’s the symbol of the finished work of Jesus.

“It is finished.”

I was just beginning my life… and he already saw my end. And what he was saying to me was: “You’re gonna get the answer to your prayer. But it’s going to come through a lot of trials and pain.

Every trial left a scar. Some physical, but I found the invisible ones were the most painful. Deep bleeding where nobody else could see. But every scar has a lesson. And every lesson has made me just a little more like Jesus.

So what did my teenage rebellion and the grace that I was shown teach me? Do you remember the story in the Bible of a sinful woman? Where is she wet Jesus’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair? “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

It taught me to LOVE MUCH. For I experienced the UNBELIEVABLE love and grace of the Jesus – while I was at my worst!

My love for God became real.

What did I learn through watching my son suffer? That God is good, even in the worst situation imaginable. I learnt to trust him, even when I could not understand. I learnt to worship him through the pain and that pain actually brings about the deepest form of connection to God in worship. I learnt that he cared about the smallest requests I had. He heard my every prayer. And I learnt that he still does miracles.

What did I learn through motherhood? Oh, more lessons than I can name here! Humility. Gentleness. That I actually don’t have all of life’s answers. That peaceful love shapes a child’s heart better than requiring “good behaviour”. That I actually need a whole lot of grace myself, probably even more than I give out each day. That children will never do what you expect them to. And that they give the sweetest kisses and the deepest love. That I need to be more like them.

Through depression I learnt empathy. The power of listening. That silence can be the most loving thing to do.

Through rejection I learnt mercy and wisdom. I understood betrayal, and felt like Jesus knew this pain too. I learnt how to forgive… and how to let people go.

You know what I’ve learnt through the “good times” in my life. Where I have no problems and everything seems easy?

NOTHING.

Ok… Other than the fact that money doesn’t bring happiness and there’s only so many good shows on Netflix before it gets old!

So you see, the pain has a point.

I can see why James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Yeah. Those hardships all sucked. I certainly didn’t find them pure joy as I lived them. But it made me exactly who I was praying to be.

I still have a long way to go. Just saying that makes me cringe… I have a lot of trials ahead of me. But I’m convinced that I’ll get through them and come out on the other side with a scar.

Just like Jesus.

Authenticity · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

About Me · COVID-19

Boring Updates and Much Ado about Nothing

When COVID-19 first began impacting my world, my screen time went up by hours. It wasn’t that I was immediately self-isolating and needed the connection. In fact, at first I was so shocked that I was definitely NOT social distancing. It was simply because I needed to know what was happening.

What was happening?!? I still don’t think I really know.

On March 12, my life was pretty normal. I went out for a rare evening coffee with a friend. I decided to pick up a few groceries as well, just because I had started to hear stories of things getting crazy around the world.

Imagine my surprise when the pasta aisle was empty, as was the toilet paper aisle and flour, sugar, etc. Shaking my head at “those crazies” I grabbed enough for my week and went home.

The next day, on March 13, our school division announced that schools would be closed the following three weeks.

I was completely shocked. I felt many things that day. Distrust in my governments “overreaction”. Confusion, as I’m not on most social media and I don’t watch the news. Mostly, I felt numb and indifferent. Numb, because the ramifications of what the shut down of civilization would mean hadn’t fully hit me yet. Indifferent, because I am a mother. A stay at home mother. Social distancing has been my life for the past decade.

Yet, sometime in the following weeks as more places closed, as lockdowns grew tighter, as people started loosing their jobs, the tears came. They fell and they fell.

And now they are no more.

I haven’t cried for a week. Mostly, I have been angry. A deep, unsettling anger, at no one and nothing in particular. Just angry at being stuck. I’m a “do-er”. Now I’m encouraged to not go and do, but to stay put. It sucks me dry.

But enough about feelings, I am writing today to share that my life right now is about as interesting as watching seeds grow, which is precisely what I’m doing these days.

I planted seeds and they are taking longer than usual to grow, but every day or so, another one pops up reminding me that life can’t be rushed. And patience produces fruit. Or in this case, vegetables.

I also bake daily. Yesterday it was banana bread and an Easter dessert. The banana bread actually was a part of a funnier story. Want to hear it?

Well sure! I’ll tell you, since it’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to me all month.

I ordered groceries online and was given FOUR CONTAINERS OF SOURCREAM.

Large containers.

What I had really ordered was yogurt. To eat with granola. For breakfast. And obviously this was the best replacement?!? LOL!! Anyway, there was no way I was going to wait in line just to complain but goodness did I have a laugh. And then promptly changed my entire weeks meal plan to revolve around sour cream.

When life gives you sour cream… Make Nachos and banana bread!

Really people, those are the most exciting moments of my life this past month.

Like everyone else, I am on screens far too much, homeschooling, staying home, shopping only when absolutely necessary, surviving boredom and stir-crazy kids, who fight and bicker, and then whine and complain. In cycles.

I make meals from scratch and then clean them up.

I read lots, but I’m not really in the mood for writing these days. Life isn’t inspiring enough to write fiction. Once the world stops being fiction, I’ll write again.

Me and the kids finished four 500 piece puzzles, all of which were missing a single piece.

One. Single. Piece. (I may have found the reason for my anger!)

I also run, though the weather is cold again, and who really wants to run on a treadmill indoors after getting a taste of the fresh outdoor air these past weeks?

So as you sit around doing nothing on this fine Easter Day, take comfort, we are all doing nothing. And I’ll read about your nothing while you read about mine. Together we’ll get through this.

One sour cream container at a time.

Education · Family · Homeschooling · public school

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

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

I had dreams of what this would look like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or lazy.

Or bad for your kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros of homeschooling:

-Students learn at their own pace

-Less distractions

-More one on one teaching

-Flexible Hours

-Flexible curriculum

-Less wasted time

-Closer family connections

-Better values being taught

-Limited exposure to negative influences

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

Cons of homeschooling:

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

-Lack of support

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

-Some children struggle to respect other authority

-Narrow perspective

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

-Difficulty with clashing personalities

-Very little down time or quiet moments

-Bored children

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

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

A Typical Public School Day:

So let me just clarify a few things:

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

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

– My days are more chaotic than ever.

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

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

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

Then the phone begins to ring…

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

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

“Mom I forgot my…” click.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about public schooling on the students side of things?

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

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

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

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

Pros of public school:

Consistent routine and schedule

-Close friendships

-Unique opportunities

-A larger worldview/different perspective

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

-The variety of subjects/courses

-Independence

Cons of public school:

-Homework

-Less Free time

-Overly busy schedule

-Negative influences

-Costs and pressure to do more outings

-Distractions and noise

-Disrespect to teachers

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

-Lack of supervision

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

Faith · Purpose · Wisdom

A Forgotten Grave

I sit at my desk, once again, tapping the keys on my laptop. Trying to form another post. I must’ve started fifty in the past months. Fifty posts unseen to the world. 

There is a largely unseen aspect to my life right now, and for the first time, I’m okay with it. I mean truly okay.

I wake up. Journal. Read. Pray.

Connect with my family. Send them to school.

Clean. Bake. Cook. Shop. Volunteer.

Kids come home. I make supper. Connect with my family some more. And then go to bed so I can repeat it all over again in the morning.

And I feel full.

I think it’s because I’ve finally come to the point where I’m no longer trying to move to the next stage and the next. I’ve become content with the journey itself.

We do that a lot in life, don’t we?

Wake up Monday and just try to make it till the weekend.

 

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Start a job and go through the motions… just surviving until the next holiday.

Start parenthood, just waiting until the baby is sleeping through the night… then till they’re potty trained… then just till they’re in school…. finally until they’re out of the house.

And then we still wait! Until retirement. And even then. Fill the schedule so full of social outings and volunteering that we just long until we can go south for the winter.

Is this really what life is about? Waiting for the next good moment?

Now just a caveat: I’ve seen many take this idea to unhealthy places, where people start feeling guilty for even enjoying anything in life. Breaks are fine. Holiday’s are good. Rest is good.

Let’s not get weird.

Yet what I’m saying is this: What if, we actually saw the journey as the purpose; the moment we live in, as the joy of life? And the breaks as just that: A short pause; a rest before the next stanza in the symphony.

Not the only thing to look forward to.

And most certainly not the meaning of it all! For what would a symphony be with no sound?

I’ve decided to homeschool my younger two boys again next year. To finish what I’ve started. Why? Because I’m happy with the results of the older three kids, with the time I’ve put into their lives, with the good relationship we have and I want to provide my younger two children with the same opportunities.

I think, our culture at large has no idea how much time it takes to raise children. To create loving and close bonds with the next generation. That’s why I often chuckle at younger moms or others who are just waiting until the next stage.

Guess what? A teenager needs the same amount of time as a toddler.

HA! I bet you didn’t know THAT! (As most people reading this gasp and shake their heads. Now they know I’m off my rocker!)

How can I make this bold claim? A teenager can do almost everything for themselves!! Yet… Most teens feel so unconnected to their families that they are known to cause trouble, run off, steal, do drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviour. It’s why people dread those teenage years.

My older two are just entering these years now. And I am LOVING it. I love my teens. They are SO much fun! They understand so much. They have a spark that I’ve lost. They are losing that lame elementary school humour and becoming hilarious to be around (sorry to my younger kiddos, it’s just true!!). We spend most evenings together. Chatting. Eating supper. Cleaning up together. Laughing. Playing games.

And my question is this? Where are the other parents of this generation?

At work. Rushing to unimportant outings. And hiding behind screens.

I get asked a lot about my relationship with my children. Why they like church? Why they like our family cell group? How I get them to share their struggles openly with me? How do I manage to have our teens enjoy family times together?

The answer is quite simple, but it isn’t easy: It is quite literally laying down my life daily for my family.

I have no career.

I do not travel.

I have no outside hobbies: my hobbies happen at home. I run at home. I read at home. I bake at home. I write at home.

I have no fame.

I have no degree.

I am nothing, No one to the world.

HA! Feminists HATE this kind of talk. Why am I not doing something for me??

Oh, but I am.

I have no importance to the world, yet I am filled with a profound sense of purpose: I am raising the next generation.

Do you understand the importance of that statement??

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION!

Unseen. Unheard. Probably will never be known or famous. One day, a century or two from now, my graveside will be long forgotten.

But there will be five kids who will live on… and build five more legacies, and their legacies will multiply and their children will have children. And on and on. And perhaps the most profound thing will be this: they will have a legacy of love.

They belonged and they were loved. So they too will love and invite others to belong.

If I could have one wish, it’s that every single person, every single parent, every single mother could see this.

Our purpose isn’t to provide a fancy house, car and clothes for our children. It’s not to give them that dream vacation. It’s not to give them every opportunity with career or extra curricular event. These are usually just our dreams for them anyway.

Our purpose is to be there and listen. To love and connect.

To build a strong legacy, which may never be recorded in the Guinness World Records or history books, but will be written on the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

Our purpose is to let this love overflow to the world. Because the more I love and take time for my family, the more I find myself caring about those around me. Instead of judging, wondering, do they have a place of belonging? Do they have someone to care?Often, the answer is no. So we invite them in: Come, join our family.

No, maybe I won’t end up in the Hall of Fame, and there’s a good chance that my grave will one day be forgotten, like the millions of heroes and saints that have gone before me. People pass away. Memories are forgotten.

But you know what doesn’t pass away? The fruit that comes from a labour of love.