COVID-19 · Faith · Family · Homeschooling

Boredom and Projects to Stay Sane

It’s month two of “the end of the world” and I’ve been feeling all the ups and downs and everything in between.

Somedays I love the new snail pace of our world, the next days I hate it and feel like I’m stuck 20,000 leagues under the sea (or worse… reading about it!) Sorry to any fans of the classic. Sorry… that you have such terrible tastes in literature!! Haha.

Ahem.

So, I don’t mind being alone so much, what I hate is being alone with five kids and forgotten… which is precisely how many mothers have been feeling!

Yet, how dare I complain? There are so many elderly and sick people right now who haven’t had close human interaction for this whole time! I can hardly stand to think about it! However, my kids have been unusually out of sorts and at each others throats constantly. So after a week of yelling and threats and more grey hairs popping out than I care to mention, I decided enough was enough. After all, there’s only so much “VonTrapp” family in me! Sometimes I just need some peace and QUIET!!

I AM the mother over here, am I not? And five precious (out of sorts, whiny, grumpy, complaining) children are my responsibility, right? So therefore, how can I keep getting upset at them when it is really up to me to give them SOMETHING ELSE to do?!?

Enter my cries to God at 6am.

The prayer I kept repeating? “God, give me the gift of creativity!! Please!!” And so after a week of praying for ideas and scrounging the internet, the result was projects, idea boards and kids enjoying each other again. Whew!

So – anyone tempted to say I’m “super mom”- just, no. I’m not. I pray. I try. I copy others. And by some miracle, it sometimes works out!

First project: THE TABLE

I really do kick myself for not taking proper before pictures, but I am always so eager to start that I couldn’t possible bother to take five seconds to do so. But here was a picture of how our kitchen table looked a week ago:

And after taking turns sanding it (at first by hand, but then my incredibly generous neighbours saw how ridiculous we looked and borrowed me their power sander) and adding a few coats of varnish:

I was so pumped on how it turned out! It feels so much better wiping a table that actually looks clean when you’re done!

Second project: THE IDEA BOARD

Ok, so not every single thing we do has to be together. And after project number one, I desperately needed some “ME” time!! So this board was created at 6am after waking up in utter agony that I was just not creative enough to give the kids ideas on what to do. So I looked through idea books, googled “how to entertain kids” and desperately tried to remember things I loved to fill my hours up with as a kid! The result was an entire idea board for my kids when they come to me and say: “Mom. I’m bored.”

Voila! Now I just turn to them and ask: “Have you done everything on the board yet?”

Project 3: THE FIRE PIT

We’ve been burning stuff “country style” for four years. What I mean is this… instead of bringing furniture and boxes to the dump, we burn them. Shredder? What for? We burn paper. We burn old cat houses. We burn excess branches and leaves and grass… we burn it! The result was an old concrete slab with a pile full of ashes and soot so high that one could not see there was actually a pit underneath. (Again… no proper before picture. Sorry!)

People. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The sludge!!

It wasn’t ash anymore. Just hard, rock like substance, filled with nails, bits of metal, burnt pop cans and broken glass! I even found bones in it, presumably buried there by my dog… hopefully… either that or I really don’t want to know!

We sorted out the garbage, emptied the sludge and picked out the rocks. Then we swept it off and washed the rocks down, setting them out nicely in a circle. Finally we built a little fire and had a weiner roast.

Now, I know it’s not magazine worthy or Pinterest worthy or even internet worthy, but I just loved the country, rustic, relaxed feel of our new fire place. It was just so rewarding to set up!

Project 4: BLESS OTHERS

Two women in my cell group just had babies. Since I am 6 years past the itty-bitty clothes and nappies, I just had to go out and buy something for them! Baby shopping is my FAVOURITE!!

But wait! I thought. What about the “new” little older brother and sister? They are often missed in the excitement for baby. And how about the Mama’s?? So what started out as a simple baby gift, ended up being a family care package:

  1. An outfit and toy for the new one.
  2. A care package for mom: A chiller cup, facial mask and body scrub.
  3. A small, wrapped present for the older sibling.
  4. A gift card for the dad.

Other things we’ve been up to:

A pick up and walk down our road.

Outdoor water games and sandbox play.

My plants are almost ready to go in the garden.

A school community parade.

Oh, and my husband’s new purchase:

So that’s it folks! My world just keeps shrinking these days, but it doesn’t stop us from living. I’d love to hear from you in the comments! What have you been up to? Any projects or fun ideas keeping you afloat?

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!

 

Authenticity · Self Worth

An Invisible Child

I grew up feeling invisible; always longing to be noticed. The truth was, I was good at almost everything I did. But I was never the best. Being good was just “normal.” Boring even. Being the best, that was valuable.

“Well who cares?” You may say, “There’s only one winner after all.” True enough.

For some, who are noticed all too often, it’s even seen as a curse. Or an annoyance. I remember a boy in my class who won literally every track and field event. The other kids watched in envy as he carried around the stack of red, first place ribbons. And he couldn’t have cared less about them. I remember him ripping those precious ribbons into tiny pieces of thread, as I watched with pain in my heart, wishing he would’ve dropped one accidentally so that I could have just one.

Just once.

And then there were those dreaded award ceremonies. There was never such a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach as at award ceremonies.

Breath in. Breath out. Hold that breath. Maybe this year…

“This award is for the child who has the highest mark in mathematics.”

Oh! I’m good at that. Maybe this time… Oh. Her again. 

“For the best female athlete…” Nope.

“For the most outgoing person…” Nope.

“For the most outstanding musician…” Nope.

“For the model student…” AAANND Nope. 

And we watch as Mr and Miss Popular/Smarty Pants go up again and again for three, four, five awards. Yet year after year the message comes ringing out loud and clear:

I am invisible.

Worthless.

My best is not enough.

I am not enough.

The hurt only compacted when the popularity lists came out in the yearbook: Best Eyes. Nope. Best Hair. Nope. Best Voice. Nope. Best Butt. Nope. Best Personality. Nope. 

Best Dressed. Oh, good heavens. Double Nope. With a capital N. Bolded and Underlined please.

Those lists, were actually a joke, as the same girl every guy had a crush on would be written down in every single category. As if she was the perfect woman.

Oh, there was that one year I won “Best Nose”. It was the big class joke because my nose was crooked. Everyone thought that one was hilarious.

Except me. 

But I laughed anyway to hide the pain inside.

The reality is, most of us grow up and we have already told ourselves a long time ago: “I will never be anything important. That girl will do great things. Not me.” And we carry this burden on our shoulders for most of our lives, believing we are nobody’s. That we are the sum of our talents which is obviously nothing at all.

But then I became a mother and my perception changed forever.

Because people, I thought my children were the best, because they are the best. But no one else saw it! Except for one child. One child wins the awards. One child seems to have all the talents. One child seems “most likely to succeed”. How interesting then, that this child’s value to me is the same as the four others. When I think about each single child I feel such love and pride for them that I think I may burst. Not because of what they can or can’t do, but because they are unique. They are one of a kind. Were one of them to die, they could never be replaced. There would be no one who could fill their exact shoes. Not because they win all the awards, but because they are who they are.

That is value.

Oh, if each of us would only see ourselves through the eyes of a Mother. There is so much value in each person. Incredible value. For being the one and only you, who no one else can be!

You are irreplaceable. 

I am irreplaceable. It took a long time to heal enough to say those words aloud. But, I finally believe them and I will continue to believe them, regardless of what awards I do or do not win. We are more than our abilities. We are more than our skin. We are more than our best features.

And thank heavens, I’m more than my “Best Nose”.

 

Autumn · Family · Parenting

And Just Like That – It’s Fall!

Ahhh, September. Beautiful September!

It happens to be my favourite month of the year because…

A) It still has days that feel like summer.

B) Because autumn is beyond gorgeous. 🍂 😍Seriously Canada is beautiful in the fall! It even smells good. Okay aside from the farmers around me dumping manure on their fields…

C) Running gets better in fall. No more heatwaves that cause me to sweat before I’ve left the driveway… The scenery is 👌🏻.

D) Because I’m a nerd 🤓 and I love all things back to school! Yes, even when I homeschooled I looked forward to school. In every single grade of my childhood public and private school years, I looked forward to school AND now that my children are all leaving me (for the first time EVER!) to go to public school, I’M STILL EXCITED!!!

School is just such a privilege. Reading, writing, routine, friendships, classrooms, new books, and supplies! Gah! I could just go on and on about my love for it.

Someday I will go back to school… someday…

But for now, I will jealously watch my five kiddos taking it all in.

My daughter is nervous to go to school, and understandably so, because she is about to enter grade 6 and hasn’t been to public school since kindergarten. Bella has a quick wit though and is super outgoing, so I’m totally confident that these feelings will pass!

My four boys are all excited, like – they can’t wait – excited. I credit that to our homeschool years and us discovering that learning can be fun together. My kids also all love reading, because, well… let’s just say I make sure they read the right books that are well written.

We will pass on the “LEGO- Ninjago” and “Zac Powers” mind fluff thank you very much.

Seriously parents. If you want your kids to learn to love reading, give them something good to read!!

A few of our favorites for earlier chapter book readers:

“Frindle” by Andrew Clement

The “I Survived Series” were interesting for young boys because they were packed full of action. Ok, I personally found them a bit boring, but I loved my boys reading them because they were all based on different historical events! My boys now know more about the San Francisco Earthquakes of 1906 or the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 than I do, thanks to these books! (Written by Lauren Tarshis)

“Owls in the Family” by Farley Mowat

“Holes” by Louis Sachar

“A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“Number the Stars” and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

“Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Ronald Dahl

“The War That Saved my Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

And one of my kid’s favourite mystery series, “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stuart.

I could just go on and on here because there are so many books that they love! I hope you’ll pardon the rabbit trail, because I love sharing favourite book titles since I personally like it when others do! I’m always on the hunt for well written book (especially for my kids!) I should also add that once you find a good author, you often hit a jackpot of wealth and find good books for another few weeks!

Anyways, carrying on…

This month brings so much change for our family, but I can’t help but feel it is a very, very good thing. Change causes us to self reflect. It makes us take an honest look at everything we are currently doing and what choices have brought us to the place we are. Change causes us to think back on the good and bad changes we’ve made in the past.

This is so healthy to do yearly! When life gets rushed and all that you become focused on is staying afloat, it is very hard to stop and make the changes necessary to thrive.

BUT when the season shifts and things naturally change, I have learnt to take full advantage of it! Carefully combing through my schedule, I ask myself what is beneficial to us, that we need to keep in doing, what is harmful to us that we need to stop and what might need to be added.

There’s no one set formula of “the right way”, there’s no proven schedule to follow that will create the best adults. Rather, I believe life is about the small decisions, the little tweaks we make, which bring about the greatest impact in the end.

What about you? Do you love fall? Do you have a season that you stop to reassess? Any good book suggestions? 😁 (I’m going to follow up in a couple days and do a post about current Adult Fiction/Books that I’m enjoying so stay tuned!)

Homeschooling · Parenting · Poetry

Last Day for Homeschool

Seven long years gone by,

But all too soon it was done.

Like a lifetime it passed,

Then just like that it was gone.

From cute little voices and singsongy rhymes,

To difficult writing ups and chemistry times.

There was no climax,

No warning,

No bell.

No clock chimes to warn the end of the spell.

It just came and went,

The same as the others.

This very last day.

No extra sentiment or tears.

Just rushing through work,

Learning through play.

The same as the others,

But altogether different,

This very last day.

Still, the mind reflects,

A tad of happiness, a tinge of regret.

A bittersweet memory, a promise not kept.

From now on moments together will be few,

My role half way done,

My job nowhere through.

Long days of sighing past,

Only to sigh looking back.

Wanting what is behind.

And knowing I don’t want it all.

That last day passed us by,

I’m glad it’s done,

yet,

I wish there were more.

About Me · Family · Homeschooling · Parenting

A Homeschool Pause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncategorized

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

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

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

And to be honest…it stung.

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

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

Not for my real life.

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

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

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

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

Character.

Work Ethic.

Responsiblity.

Commitment.

Compassion for the less fortunate.

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

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

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

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

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

Why do we do this?

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

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

But…what if they’re like me?

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

What good does all of your rushing around do then?

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

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

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

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

Of course not!

But it sure allows me more time to do so!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parenting well takes time…lots of it!

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

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

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