Parenting

Modelling a Life of Selflessness

It wasn’t very long ago when it seemed like everyone was looking out for me. Everywhere I turned, help was available. My parents worked hard to provide for me. I had teachers who cared for my future and took time to ask about my day. I had multiple midwives checking in on my health. I had mentors and church leaders who cared for my emotional and spiritual well being. They would often take the time to stop and ask how I was doing. I had support groups that I didn’t have to lead. I went to prayer meetings that I wasn’t in charge of planning. I didn’t have to host a single event.

I wonder when everything changed?

When did I stop being cared for and start pouring into everyone else?

Have I really acted that independent? Or did I just push the help away?

Will I ever be in a season of being cared for again? And if that season comes knocking, will I welcome it – or resent it?

It’s nice being cared for. But how often we take it for granted!

Yesterday I went to one of the first events since 2020 that I didn’t host or plan.

It was delightful.

I attended the event without needing to clean my house. The picnic shelter was already reserved and set up. I didn’t have to do a thing! The table cloths were neatly put on, the balloons and decorations were up, the coolers of drinks were set out. The food was delivered.

I felt like it was my birthday – it was really my Dad’s.

This morning I woke up and started doing my morning routine when my husband’s smiling face peeked through the door and in his hand was a cup of coffee, just for me, with the words “Thanks Mom” written on the side.

Once again, I felt blessed and cared for.

I began reflecting how, just 16 years ago, this wouldn’t have even felt special to me. People threw parties all the time that I didn’t plan or host. I’d just show up, eat, and leave without giving it a single thought. Breakfast, lunch, and supper were on the table without me ever asking. My clothes were cleaned, my rugs were vacuumed. The money that I needed for events was just handed over. My towels were washed and folded each day. I just had to live according to my own schedule and do whatever I wanted to do each day.

How good and easy I had it – and I didn’t even know!

As a Mom of teens I sometimes worry… Maybe I’ve spoiled them. Maybe I haven’t given them enough responsibility or enough chores. Maybe I do too much for them. Maybe I haven’t taught them to see and care for those around them.

Yet as I was reflecting on this today, it slowly dawned on me: because of the years of benevolence and kindness they’ve been shown, when the time comes for them to serve they will be ready.

It’s been modelled for them. As it was modelled for me.

I saw my parents stop for the poor and offer them food.

They invited strangers into our home and treated them like family.

I saw their kindness and benevolence to those around them: at our church, in our neighbourhood, in their years of volunteering at camp and my school.

I witnessed them caring for us as children and then caring for their own parents as they grew older.

Just as now, my own children have seen me do.

They’ve been cared for all their life – yet it is a season. A short, fleeting season. Someday soon it will also be their turn to take care of everyone around them. They will host. They will plan. They will stop and show kindness to the poor. They will volunteer. They will cook and decorate and clean up the mess.

And then they will understand and appreciate what was done for them.

I know this, because now I am grateful. My parents modelled a life of selflessness to me and in turn, I have been able to do the same for my children.

Thanks Mom and Dad, for all the years you cared for me and for others.

I understand now.

About Me · Faith · Family

An Up and Down Sort of Week

After months and months of the cold Manitoba winter and the heaviness of Covid restrictions, I have to say, I see a light at the end of the tunnel and feel fresh hope that hasn’t been there for a very long time.

I mean, it’s almost spring.

This week, the sun has been out, the birds are chirping and I’ve gotten to reconnect with many people who are very dear to my heart. As the current rules are still quite strict, it has been tricky navigating it all, but I think I have found a semblance of balance and sanity.

A couple days ago our provincial government proposed a few changes to the current restrictions. They say this is the biggest jump in freedoms since our circuit breaker lockdown started back in November. Here’s the list of those that would affect me (there’s a huge list of other proposals that make little to no difference in my current stage of life):

  • Only two designated households allowed to meet, both have to choose each other exclusively.
  • Only groups of ten (plus those living at the household) allowed outside on private residence.
  • Churches open at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
  • Businesses, retail, restaurants open at 50% capacity.
  • Sports, swimming pools, libraries, recreation, day camps, gyms, etc. allowed to open in varying capacity.
  • Masks mandatory in all public buildings.

Seeing as one of our only ways to legally see people right now is outdoors, we’ve been having a LOT of outdoor hot tub nights and winter firesides, which I have to say is an entirely new concept to me. I live in Canada; firesides are for summer. However, as long as the wind isn’t strong and the temperatures are close to zero Celsius, I actually have to admit that it has all been quite lovely. This is being said by someone who despises winter. I wish I could live some place warm, by the ocean, but my family is here… So I put up with winter.

I like winter firesides.

Something about the crisp air, the smell of wood and smoke, the heat radiating off of all the faces I love. Pair it with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, it may just become a new hobby of mine. If sitting by a fire can count as a hobby. Maybe it’s because I just miss people so much that I’m willing to put up with the cold. Whatever the case, I have now gotten to visit with my sister’s family, our wonderful neighbors, three seperate groups of friends and our parents.

Suddenly life doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.

On Monday the younger two boys and I were alone for the day and we got to go on a walk. It was so warm, sunny, and peaceful. I even brought my sunglasses. Afterward we came home and enjoyed tea together. Then the boys played outside in their snow castle.

On Tuesday, my youngest boy Emerson turned seven!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I remember there was one point that I felt like I was going to be pregnant or carrying around a carseat for the rest of my life. Now my baby hardly needs my help anymore! We were going to go celebrate by eating at a restaurant with the family for the first time since September… but unfortunately we were not allowed to sit together, as a family of seven, even though we live in the same house hold. Gah!! Moments like that make me wonder if the government is purposely trying to crush our businesses. I don’t seriously believing that of course, but please, tell me why a large family sitting together at a restaurant will increase the chances of Covid spread, more than a lot of smaller families sitting in the same restaurant?? There is no reasoning behind rules such as these. And whether people realize it or not, a lot of these rules discriminate against larger families. It is technically against regulations for our family to be invited anywhere (even an outdoor fireside), however, a family of five can be invited places. So I’ve been battling through some angry feelings toward the government, who seem to think life should totally stop forever. Over the past year, it was – in fact – their job to hire more workers, build more hospitals and equip our already overtasked healthcare system to handle an increase of patients. But, as always, they prefer to blame this virus on the average citizen that for months were doing their absolute best to follow all the rules, while trying to live life.

Manitoba, Canada has now been in CODE RED lockdown for 16 WEEKS now. We were told around thanksgiving that if we were “good” for another 3 to 4 weeks we could celebrate Christmas! Ha! We’ll be lucky if we’re legally allowed to all see our parents by Easter, which we also missed last year (at which point we were told “there’s always next Easter”). It’s blatant lies like this that make me wonder why anyone is fully trusting the government at this point.

Ahem…

Back to the birthday. We ending up making pizza at home, ate at home, watched a movie at home… well, you get the idea. I’m making it sound bad. We actually had a lot of fun together and ended off the evening with cake, a “hide-and-go-seek” in the dark game, followed by worship with the family. My boy was a trooper, he just smiled and said: “Well at least my birthday wasn’t cancelled!” But this mother’s heart hurt, even though I put on a brave face and smile for him.

Wednesday and Thursday were busy with homeschooling, more walks, a discouraging meeting that I would rather not get into, and a fireside (which got moved into our garage because of the cold and wind.)

Friday I hit a low.

A I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-bedroom-all-day kind of low.

It started as it usually does these days: with the announcement that our government is only making small changes and these will be in effect for 6 more weeks.

Six weeks. This means that code red will continue until April, even though my area now has ZERO cases. IT literally can’t get any better here. I cried. It’s just not fair. It’s not right. I feel completely helpless and hopeless that things will ever change. It’s like my free country has become a communist one. I haven’t seen my whole family together since October. The next time we will possibly be allowed to meet is in April… if they decide to lift restrictions… or, at this rate, more likely it will be June or July, outdoors.

It’s just not right.

Yet kids are allowed to go to day camp… some sports are allowed to resume. Work and school is allowed. But no still no church and still no family, the two most important things to me.

As the day went on, I spent the day asking God: “Why?”

Finally, in the afternoon, I felt his gentle spirit impress upon my heart that these trials are actually his mercy. I am not ready for any kind of persecution, especially not the kind that the Bible warns us will happen in the end days. Lots of things have been exposed in my life through this past year. I have a lot of anger, resentment, impatience and sometimes downright hate in my heart. He doesn’t want to leave me in that state! These things need to be exposed through hardship so that I can move forward and actually grow in kindness, gentleness, love, joy, patience and endurance.

Oh, I just wish I wasn’t so slow to learn! I wish I was more patient through it all!

Hurry up and teach me Lord!

So I press on: grateful for the hope of spring, prayerful about the current state of this world and certain of God’s goodness.

COVID-19 · Faith · Family

The Day of Small Things

A Sudden Change

         “‘Mommy! Mommy!’ Her chubby two-year-old hand stretched out towards the familiar church building as we passed it by. ‘Church?’ she asked hopefully.

         ‘Not today honey, maybe next time,’ I soothed from the front seat.

         It had been weeks since she’d been to her favorite weekly outing and she was beginning to cry every time we passed the place that she had come to know and love. It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to see, but I reminded myself that it was only temporary. 

         ‘Soon we will go back,’ I kept telling her. Yet as the weeks turned into months, we kept passing the vacant building which was once bustling with activity and she began asking less and less.

          ‘No church,’ was always the reply. 

         And then one day she stopped asking. As hard as the tears were to hear, the most heartbreaking thing of all was that she had forgotten. My daughter no longer remembers church.”

A young mother I know shared this situation with me a few months ago and it has run through my mind many times. After almost a year now of closures, how is the next generation going to view faith and community? How are they going to view God? Are they going to realize the importance of gathering, of spurring one another on?

A Different Sort of Church

            As we adjust to life in all the ups and downs of 2020, one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to face is no longer being able to gather in the ways that we used to.

             Maybe the scene above feels all too familiar for you. Or maybe, for your family, it was a welcome change to be able to watch kids church, sporting your comfiest pjs at the breakfast table, avoiding the usual chaos and rush of Sunday mornings. Whatever the case, we all have to admit that online church is just not the same

            We all miss something about meeting together… whether it is seeing your child make it through kid’s church without your number being called for the very first time, seeing the parking lot packed from end to end with each weekly activity, visiting with friends in the café, listening to an uninterrupted sermon, or missing LIVE worship (let’s face it, worship on a screen is just not the same). As the heartbroken mother above shared about her little girl’s fading desire for church, she brought up some very real and valid concerns many of us parents are facing: Is my child growing up without experiencing the church? Who will teach them about Jesus? Am I enough for them in this season?

            Where do I even start? 

            The church’s strength has always been in working together, becoming the “village” our children need to develop a love and understanding of God and others. But what about when we are apart? Can we still be the body of Christ and raise the next generation to become passionate followers of Jesus? 

We Are the Church

As a mother of five myself, I have to say that this year has been one of the most difficult and stretching years of my entire life. Not only have I had to deal with my own confusing emotions, I have to help my kids navigate these same thoughts and feelings as well. As a routine person, not being about to make concrete plans for the next week, never mind the year – has made me feel like I will lose my mind. Add distance learning to the mix (HELLLOO CHAOS!!) and my capacity for anything else is at zero…

And I’m doing this mostly alone. 

We all are.

Never before have we felt so isolated and far apart when we need each other more than ever before. We hear words like: “we’re all in this together” but it’s really difficult to feel “together” at all. But… we are still the church. We are meant to shine now, more than ever before. We believe this. How do we live it out?

Don’t Despise the Small Things

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 (NLT) 

            When the Israelites began rebuilding the temple after the exile, it was a pitiful sight at first. Those who remembered the former glory and beauty of their place of worship must’ve felt complete despair at the sight. The task before them was enormous. Their workers were so few.

 Which makes it so incredible when God encouraged them with these words: “Do not despise the day of small things.”

I would dare to say that God is speaking a similar word to parents today. He sees the tears, the struggle and the stress. He sees the overwhelm and the loneliness. He sees the despair of having nothing on the calendar to look forward to. And he’s calling us to remember the small things. God’s not expecting us to rise up in impossible and grand ways. He’s looking for the little things and rejoicing at each act of worship, no matter how small.

Maybe its picking up your little one and telling them once again about the powerful wonders that God performed for his people in slavery. Or about the many miracles Jesus did on earth.

Maybe it’s turning on worship music and dancing around the kitchen, just to lighten the mood.

Maybe it’s taking an afternoon with your kids to make cookies and cards, then going on a drive together to drop them off for someone who is struggling with sickness or loneliness.

Or maybe it’s simply the broken moments. The moments where you fall on your knees, exhausted and at your wits end, begging for God to help you through another day.

Don’t despise these moments, however small. Let the Father, who sees the small things, speak to you. The small beginnings are important, they are valuable and he rejoices over each effort to come to him.

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.”

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 · Homeschooling

Helpful Tips to Homeschool Your Public School Child

The situation we are in right now is completely shocking to me. Never in a million years would I have believed you if you had told me that all of Manitobans would be homeschooling their kids in 2020.

Never.

From people who have been adamantly against the idea, to people who have hesitatingly accepted it in my life, I have been getting emails, calls, and texts asking me the question everyone is asking:

HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU HOMESCHOOL?!?

How am I going to stay sane?

How am I going to keep track of all the stacks of schoolwork we are receiving?

WILL I SURVIVE?!?

So, this is my blog response to anyone who finds themselves feeling quite overwhelmed, panicking, devastated, and afraid: You are not alone. Everyone is in this situation together. Take a deep breath, you will get through this!

Here are the tips I’ve been giving for keys to being successful in your child’s education.

1) Homeschool is not like public schooling. I think the public school system is about to find that out. Feeling overwhelmed by five different subjects for five different kids, and the expectations that are being put on to parents right about now?? I sure am! And I’ve done this before!!

Again, take a deep breath, you do NOT have to do it their way. This is new territory! Teachers are feeling pressured to give loads of work assignments to their students to help them complete their public school curriculum guide. And they are giving instructions the only way they know how! So let’s have a lot of grace for them. Ok that being said, the amount of things I’m expected to do (listening to morning announcements, band practise charts, thirty minute recorded gym times??) Yeah… not happening. Sure, I’ll go on a walk or a bike ride with my kids once it warms up, but homeschooling moms have long realized that we can’t be everything to our kids. We tell them to play outside. Or help with chores! Gym time done.

I set up a room in the basement full of instruments to play with when their bored. Practice done.

Don’t you see? Boredom begets creativity and fitness. Not schedule.

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2) Stick to a schedule, but feel free to stop when it’s not working. Yes, the most successful homeschoolers must schedule in time for schoolwork. Preferably when the kids have the most energy, and when everyone’s feeling motivated. For us, this is mornings. I also prefer teaching in the mornings because then they have something to look forward to when they’re done their work (free time in the afternoon) or they have a consequence if they don’t work… an afternoon of more work 🙂

Most of the time, I start our day with prayer and devotions and reading a good chapter book to them. This draws them in and connects us in a fun way. Afterwards, we try to do subject by subject together. Some kids work ahead, that’s ok too! They can finish early as a reward for their hard work! I try to have a snack time or a 10 minute play break in the morning… again, something to look forward to or a consequence to lose. So make a schedule, try to stick to it, scrap it when needed. And don’t be afraid to try something new if it’s not working out anymore! Homeschooling works best when it’s not the same old thing everyday. Kids like a change once in a while!

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3) Remember the Important things! In the younger years (grades 1-4) this is math, reading (you to them and them to you) and lots and lots of writing! Seriously, don’t sweat the other stuff… it will mostly be forgotten. (Sorry teachers!) Feel free to put some of the work aside. Just get them writing, as the goal isn’t to have them remember how many buses long a blue whale is, the goal is for them to learn measurement and writing! Keep this in mind. You don’t have to do it all!

In the middle school years or older, science, history and geography do become more important, but by this time your child should be quite independent. If they need help you can’t give, I have one secret for you… YOUTUBE. It will quite literally teach your kid how to build a rocket. Or how to do open heart surgery… and hopefully the assignments they’re getting won’t be that complex!

4) Make a homeschooling room or corner! Seriously, nothing is more frustrating than having homework, laptops and kids learning in every single room in the house. Find a common area to work. Store all the work, binders, textbook and supplies in the same place: A bin, a bookshelf, a desk or a drawer. It doesn’t matter what you use, the key is to be able to have one place to store everything. This will keep you organized.

5) See the blessings. I admit, I had more than one day that my husband came home to find me discouraged and crying. It’s difficult teaching and getting all the kids to get along, while trying to keep up with housework, meal prep, laundry and work! At times it feels impossible. But it does get better with time. And there are SO many benefits to homeschooling! Remember that many people actually choose to do this!

The blessings I’ve experienced with homeschooling:

  • Feeling closer to my kids and understanding them/the way they learn.
  • Less negative influences.
  • More opportunities to teach important life skills… like sorting laundry, doing a cooking class, teaching them how to budget by letting them watch you add up the bills!
  • Closer sibling connections.
  • Learning to listen and parent instead of pushing them away and surviving until they go to school. These children are in your care for a reason, because YOU care about them more than anyone else!!
  • Children learning to understand you are human too! This is a really good thing! They need to know you have emotions, you get overwhelmed and sad too. This doesn’t cause them to feel unsafe, just the opposite! They can finally relate to you!
  • Calmer, less rushed mornings.
  • More free time/less driving around and chaotic schedule. Ok some of us thrive on busyness… but most of us actually should have slowed down LONG ago. Make the most of this time! Don’t squander it on devices. Spend time together. Let the kids become bored enough to get creative. Once they get over being told what to do every hour of every day, they will come up with fascinating games and ideas!!
  • More creativity.
  • Housework helpers… because kids as young as three CAN sort their own laundry and clean their room. Now YOU have more free time 🙂

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There you have it! The best of my advice. Now… just to store up your favourite secret stash of chocolate or snacks! Trust me, you’ll need it!

 

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.

Authenticity · Faith

Breaking Point

Sit down. Breathe.

The first morning to rest in weeks. Well, maybe just a bit of rest, there’s a lot of catch up to do.

Oh, what to do? What to do with this extra hour of time. An hour of quiet. An hour of alone time.

Should I read?

Sleep?

Go for a quick run on the treadmill? It’s been over a week since I last could run. Since I last had the time. The strength.

Weddings and long flus do that you know. My house was a place of bustling activities for the past week. So many people. Wonderful people. But a house full of 14 wonderful people, still holds the chaotic mess of the McCallister family from Home Alone.

Yup that was our place. Add a wedding and the flu to whatever you’re imagining. Harry and Marv didn’t even dare stop by. Our house was too much for even them. 

Oh and I almost forgot…there was a wedding cake order that I had to make in the mix. A large one:

Where was I going with this?

Right. Alone time. Rest.

That was supposed to be this morning.

Then the phone rings. My son, who was already sick last week with the flu, just threw up at school.

Morning of rest… OVER.

This is an honest look at Motherhood. An exhaustion that goes beyond exhaustion.

Reality: I don’t get a break. I am Mom.

Also Reality: This is why I need Jesus everyday.

Every. Single. Day.

This past week was impossible for me. If anything, it showed me how human I truly am.

I can’t do it all.

I really can’t! I need help. When I’m up at night holding buckets in front of kids, when I’m up early in the morning doing laundry, when I’m up late after everyone else is gone to bed, baking and decorating wedding cakes & cleaning up the mess that’s left behind, I am not enough.

In fact my character shows it. I become snappy. I become focussed on things rather than people. I grow bitter and bossy. For crying out loud, I quit a card game with my family because I was losing. Immature much??

My normal capacity to handle stress was gone.

Put me in any one of these situations: Host. Wedding. Cake Decorator. Sick family… and I can do it.

I can handle anything. (Or so I think)

But put me in all of the situations at once and I break.

Everyone has a breaking point. This was mine.

I am human.

I am weak.

The inside yuck comes out, and surprise, surprise, I’m just as short tempered, grumpy, and controlling as anybody else.

It gives me a lot of grace, to think this way. Because what is this trial compared to so many others have gone through and are going through right now?

Oh, that I would have eyes to see this! We are all just humans, struggling along in our weakness. We actually cannot do anything.

BUT…

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

All things.

Not some things. All things.

As I sit now, resting, with my hand in his. I believe it. Because he never said that I have to do everything perfectly. I just need to hold his hand in mine and stay soft through it all.

When I fall, all he asks is me to reach out again and get back up.

That I can do.

If this is what keeps me humble, if this is what keeps my heart soft towards others, then Jesus, I thank you for it. Bring me to my breaking point over and over so that I learn to truly rely on you. Then I will truly do all things in your strength and not my own.