How We Homeschool: Bible

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“What Bible curriculum do you use for grade x?”

It’s a question I get from time to time, and it never ceases to make me squirm a little.

Why, you may ask? Well, because the idea of “Bible curriculum,” and especially for a particular “grade level,” is foreign to me.

Now of course I’m aware of the fact that “Bible curriculum” and “Bible classes” exist in Christian school settings, but I’ve always wrinkled up my nose a bit thinking about the Bible being made to fit the mold of an academic subject, added on to a school day like just another textbook or workbook to get through. What affect does that have on the way kids approach the Scriptures? And do they give grades for those classes? What does that teach?

Our approach to the Bible looks a lot less like school and a lot more like discipleship. Reading the Bible together has been a part of our family culture since before our children were born. We haven’t ever felt a need to make sure we added Bible to the kids’ schooling because they’ve been getting Bible with their breakfast since they were tiny.

In fact, while every part of school is informed by the Scriptures, we like to keep the Bible itself separate from “school” in a sense so that they don’t get the impression that a day off of school is a day off from devotion to the Lord.

But what does that look like? And how can you get started with this holistic family discipleship model of Bible learning if it’s foreign to you?

Well, let’s start with why.

Our Why: Created Reality and Biblical Goals

Our children are precious creations of our Heavenly Father–and they are precious gifts entrusted to us as parents. We desire to give them access to the Truth that God has revealed in His Word so that they can grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, that they would begin to know and love their Creator.

Ultimately, we desire that our children would trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from their sins and that they would love and serve Him all their days–for their good and God’s glory, both in this life and in the life to come. We don’t ultimately control this outcome. But we can be faithful to train our children in the way they should go.

Our Why Dictates Our How: Holistic Family Discipleship

Given the nature of our children, the nature of our relationship to them as their parents, and the nature of our goal (that they would have a relationship with God), it follows then that we ought to teach them in a way that is first and foremost relational. And decidedly not academic.

This means that interaction with the Scriptures comes woven into the fabric of our every day lives. There are no worksheets nor tests, no grades nor grade levels.

This doesn’t mean we don’t use printed materials to aid our children’s learning (I will link to some below), but we need to remember that the greatest resources we have to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord are His Word, His Holy Spirit, and our own lives lived alongside and before our children.

God’s Word: We must be in the bible ourselves and we must offer the Scriptures to our children.

The Holy Spirit: We must be seeking God to be at work both in us and in our children–apart from Christ we can do nothing. We may have had a direct role in bringing about our children’s physical life, but the spiritual life is of the Spirit–we cannot manufacture it in our kids. Prayer is indispensable.

Our Own Lives: We must model for our children what it means to believe the Word of God, to study it, to meditate on it, to practically submit our lives to it, and to receive both correction from it when we fail and comfort from it when we repent.

What does this actually look like?

Family Bible Time (what some call Family Worship)

Our current family Bible reading pattern, which we’ve had going for several years, is Proverbs at breakfast and Gospels at supper.

Now, this doesn’t mean each one happens every day. The reason we read the Bible over breakfast and dinner is because we often don’t read the Bible over breakfast and dinner. This is a scattering of seeds, not mechanical planting. We aim for faithfulness and perseverance rather than anything that resembles perfect consistency. But in keeping up the habit, we pretty reliably hit at least one of these each day, sometimes both. And before it was Proverbs and Gospels, we read slowly through the entire Bible at meal times–it may have taken a decade, but we kept going. The reason we’re in Proverbs and the Gospels right now is because the primary needs of our children are to receive instruction and correction according to God’s wisdom and to receive Jesus the Messiah as their Savior.

While we eat breakfast, my husband will read a few verses from the chapter of Proverbs that matches the calendar date (since there are conveniently 31 chapters in Proverbs), either selecting these verses ahead of time or asking for the kids to randomly select a number. He reads a verse and asks what it means. The kids give it their best shot and then we all discuss the meaning. He asks if they can think of any examples (a child may not use his brother as a negative example–this is a necessary rule, folks!). It has been fun over the years to hear the examples the kids come up with–sometimes from a fable, from literature, from a Bible story, from a movie. They are learning about wisdom and foolishness and learning how to identify each.

After Proverbs, we recite the Shema and the Lord’s Prayer. We switched up this recitation time over the holidays last year in order to recite and memorize Mary’s Magnificat. Now that we have the placeholder for recitation, we may use the time for other passages when they seem fitting.

Our evening Family Bible Time involves my husband reading from a passage of Scripture (currently Luke) at mealtime and then asking a few questions:

What did we learn? This is a good time for kids to either pick one thing that stuck out to them or simply narrate what they heard.

What can we worship God for? Sometimes, when we’ve been in the prophets, the answer is usually “That God was so patient and gave so many warnings.” Now that we’re in the first few chapters of Luke, the answer is usually “For sending Jesus to save us.” Sometimes the answer is different, but it’s no problem to worship God for the same things over and over again–in fact, it’s right to do so. Once answered, we pray and praise God based on what we saw in the passage–even if it’s simply for preserving the genealogy of Christ (which is pretty amazing when you think about it). Sometimes there may not be an obvious answer. When we were in the middle of Job as a family, it was admittedly hard to find any answer from the text–so we felt Job’s desolation a bit but worshipped God anyway.

What can we do with what we have learned? This is where we pay attention to the right response(s) to what we have read. Sometimes it is simply to worship as we did in the second question. Sometimes there is a command that we ought to obey. Sometimes there is something for which we ought to be thankful, something that ought to amaze us, something that ought to cause us to care for others, an example to follow or an example not to follow.

Now, these questions aren’t magical. They’re just the tools we have used for discussing the Bible as a family and for attempting to respond to it properly. Sometimes the kids are fully engaged and wow us with their insight. But sometimes the kids aren’t super excited to answer. Sometimes we get blank stares. But we don’t read the Bible and ask the questions in order to get perfect responses from our kids. We do it so that they are regularly interacting with the Scriptures and learning by modeling how to respond to them. It’s not perfect, but it is worthwhile. We are planting seeds.

Other Applications and Resources

The seeds we plant in Family Bible Time are watered by a lot of other practices and experiences.

We pray together as a family before meals and before bed. We try to remember to include intercession: to pray for neighbors, friends, family members, etc–sometimes on a weekly rotation so we don’t forget (but let’s be honest, we sometimes forget and go for long stretches with just basic bedtime prayers).

We have also made sure to include Bible time for our children to enjoy independently, even from a very early age by listening: Dove Tales (with cassettes–yes, we inherited these from my in-laws), Jesus Story Book Bible (with CDs), and a dramatized audio Bible from Faith Comes by Hearing. Now that our boys are 11 and 9, they are expected to read a chapter of the Bible first thing in the morning before coming downstairs for breakfast. This doesn’t mean it always happens, but that’s the goal and the general habit.

We’ve also enjoyed watching videos by The Bible Project–edifying for parent and child alike.

This emphasis on the Word of God being integrated into all of life means that it also influences our school day–just not in the graded-Bible-curriculum sort of way.

We read church history: Little Lights Biographies (for very young children, from a Christian seller), Christian Biographies for Young Readers (from a Christian seller), and Trial and Triumph (from a Christian seller).

We read aloud some theological books for children: A Faith to Grow On, Sammy and His Shepherd, The Attributes of God for Kids (from a Christian seller), and The Ology (from a Christian seller). As the kids grow older, their school reading list will include many Christian books that encourage them to walk with God and know Him more deeply.

We have listened and sung along with scriptures put to music: Hide ’em in Your Heart and Seeds Family Worship.

We have enjoyed singing many hymns in our Morning Time (currently singing along with this channel), and we have also enjoyed music by Sovereign Grace Kids (from a Christian seller). Even as adults, when we listen to music with lyrics, we generally choose music that is spiritually edifying. Our kids take this in as well.

The Scriptures inform the other books we choose–and how we read them–whether literature, tales, history, poetry, nature, etc.

The Scriptures make it into our kids’ copy work and dictation, too (that’s language arts).

Keeping It Real

We don’t do all of these things all the time. The most regular parts of our every day life are family Bible time, listening to hymns and other spiritual songs, family prayer, and good discussions on all kinds of things as we go about our days together. And these discussions aren’t just aimed at our kids. My husband and I discuss books, current events, and so many things with each other, seeking to apply God’s Word and His wisdom to everything we encounter. Our kids are audience to these adult conversations, too.

The aim is holistic, not check-list driven. And it is gloriously free from pressure to “get through it” on any kind of annual school schedule (thank God!).

The point of this post isn’t to say we’ve got it down, nor to set any kind of expectation for anyone else. The point is to demonstrate the many ways in which we can spiritually nurture and disciple our children–without boxed curriculum. And to remind all of us (myself included) that we may sow seeds, but the Lord causes the growth. Our dependence upon Him is central to our efforts at training up our children in the ways of the Lord.

All of the things we do have begun as small habits. A little here, a little there. If you are just starting to bring Scripture into your home and homeschool, don’t be discouraged or overwhelmed. Pick one thing. One habit that you and your children can enjoy. Plant a seed. And then another. Water where you can. The Lord causes the growth.

I hope this post has helped to somewhat answer the “What do you use for Bible curriculum?” question. It’s not a short answer, but I hope it may encourage some to think outside that proverbial box … of curriculum. 😉

How do you nurture your children in God’s Word? What resources have you found helpful?

Other posts in this series (so far):

Why We Homeschool: Our Top Seven Reasons

How We Homeschool: Hello, Charlotte. Hello, Classical.

Five Intentions for Christmas Break

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Today marks the first day of Christmas Break for my family. My husband is off for the next two weeks (which has never happened before!), and the kids and I are off from school. Over breakfast we discussed what we want to do with our holiday time off—but the notes we took down didn’t turn out like your typical Christmas Break Bucket List…

My husband and I are both project-oriented people. We’ve been building mental to-do lists for the coming “break” for a couple of months. So our family’s little exercise could have easily turned into another one of mama and papa’s project lists—without much room for margin.

That’s why my husband had us start our breakfast planning session with more general intentions: How do we want the next two weeks to feel? Not just, what do we want to do, but how do we go about it? What atmosphere are we trying to achieve?

This turned out to be a great place to start, guiding our hearts before drawing up schedules.

christmas break bucket list five intentions

Here are our intentions for Christmas break in five words: Celebratory, Connected, Contemplative, Peaceful, Prepared.

Celebratory  You would think that celebration ought to go without saying (and maybe that’s why it was the first word to come to mind!), but it’s easy to forget that a lot of our chores during this season have celebration as their goal. We want all our doing to be consistent with festivity, with celebration, with joy!

Connected  The people God has put in our path are important. Family and friends near and far, neighbors, our local church—we want to strengthen these connections, sharing with them the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Contemplative  Amid the hustle and bustle, we want to take time to listen, read, learn, and consider. To think deeply, to pay attention. To share what we’re learning and thinking in a leisurely manner with one another.

Peaceful  It’s good to be reminded that our break is not just an opportunity to get more work done! Even while we still want to tackle a few projects (especially between Christmas and New Year’s), we know we need to slow down. To rest. To be still. And to come at all our work and activities from a place of rest rather than rush.

Prepared  We want to both enjoy the fruit of our labor (by being prepared for things in a timely manner) and enjoy the preparing process itself. We can enjoy the process if we remember that our preparations—of food, cards, gifts, etc—enable us to better celebrate and connect with others. And taking the time to calm our hearts, by contemplating the meaning of Christmas, we can more meaningfully engage in the work—even when it seems tedious or overwhelming. Making room for rest is as much a part of our preparation as all of the physical logistics.

It’s been fun to rethink our to-do list in light of these intentions! Making Christmas cookies and taking them to friends becomes an opportunity to connect, to share in celebration, to provide scripture on a card for contemplation! Our meeting over breakfast this morning was an important part of preparation for the coming weeks, so that we could set our hearts and then plan our days accordingly. Our Advent devotional listening to Handel’s Messiah invites us to contemplate the life of Christ as we sip eggnog together on the couch (connection). The kids are preparing Christmas songs on the piano, and we’ve been memorizing Mary’s Magnificat, providing contemplative and celebratory riches to share with friends and family—some in person, and some virtually. Even activities like hiking and cleaning and reading and playing board games and finishing up a few random projects take on fresh new color when we consider how they work toward the intentions we have stated.

As we’ve thought over our list today, we’ve also realized that each of these intentions are a part of our devotion to Jesus during this season. We are celebrating the birth of Christ, seeking to stay connected to Him in prayer and in the Word, contemplating what it means for God to become man, thankful for the peace that comes because our sins are forgiven in Jesus. And we are preparing our hearts to welcome the new born King—as a reenactment of history but also as a foretaste of things to come. The King will come again, and we must be prepared to receive Him.

May every heart prepare Him room…

Merry Christmas!

What are your intentions for your holiday season? What kind of atmosphere are you aiming to cultivate?

Cyber Monday Homeschool and Homemaking Deals [expired]

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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

This is not at all an exhaustive list, but I wanted to pass on a few deals for things that I myself use and deeply appreciate!

Prodigies Music has steep discounts on memberships during their Cyber Monday Sale [sale is now over]. As a reader of Kept and Keeping, you can get an additional 5% off with coupon code KEPT.
Our family has enjoyed the Lifetime Membership for four years now! We started learning on desk bells and are now dabbling in recorder, ukulele, and piano! The Prodigies team keeps adding more colorful sheet music and more fun instructional videos. My family’s music education library keeps growing and growing!

Playing a Right Start Math Game
Exploring Geometric Solids

Right Start Math is having a sale on gently used curriculum, manipulatives and instructional/tutoring kits [sale now over]. We’ve used Right Start in our homeschool for over six years, and it is giving my kids a fantastic, hands-on foundation for understanding and enjoying math. If you’re not sure if this program is for you, they have tutoring kits that you can use to supplement your child’s math education or use to get a feel for how Right Start teaches math–it is different, but I have found it is worth it!

Grace & Truth Books

Check out Cyber Monday discounts at Grace and Truth Books–a great source for Christian books. We have especially enjoyed the Little Lights Biographies (for early elementary school) and the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series (for upper elementary) in our homeschool. They also carry Teaching from Rest–a great encouragement for Mom!

Mystie Winckler over at Simply Convivial is offering her Homemaking 101 Course for only $17 (regularly $36) [sale over]. All of Mystie’s courses are such a blessing. This Homemaking 101 course is practical and purposeful but definitely NOT perfectionistic! You’ll find real Christian encouragement for managing and enjoying your home, not someone else’s.

Thanksgiving: A Holiday Made for Unsettling Times

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We’re all familiar with the modern traditions surrounding Thanksgiving in America: parade, family, turkey, football, pumpkin pie, and …shopping like maniacs the following day.

We may even take a few moments to give thanks or remember that iconic feast shared by the Pilgrims and American Indians nearly 400 years ago.

But for most of us, our understanding of the holiday doesn’t go much deeper than that.

And now it’s 2020.

We’re living in a pandemic, watching tensions mount between different groups of Americans, and trying to see straight in the aftermath of a vicious and confusing presidential election.

For some of us, this Thanksgiving may look like holidays-as-usual. We’ll gather with all the family, thankful for our health and thankful that our state hasn’t locked us down again.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

For others, we may begrudge the restrictions in place that cramp our traditions–or maybe we’ll voluntarily cancel trips and gatherings.

For still others, there’ll be at least one empty chair at the table. A chair that was warm just last week.

We Americans have some common experiences this year in that we’re seeing history unfold before our eyes more than we usually care to.

In light of this, I’d like to share a peek into the past that I have found encouraging. Thanksgiving is indeed a holiday made for unsettling times. There are three key moments in Thanksgiving history that can help us to understand both the holiday and our place in the story today: the colonial period, the founding of our nation, and the Civil War.

Thanksgiving in the Colonial Period

The colonial period of American history involves a complex interplay of different people groups and different motivations. The Native Americans consisted of various different tribes and customs while the Europeans likewise were represented by explorers and settlers from Spain, France, England, and Holland.

There could be peace or war in any and all directions.

There could be prosperity or famine and plague.

There could be–and there was–kidnapping of Native American youth to be sold as slaves in Europe.

Against this tumultuous backdrop, the coming of the English Pilgrims and their warm and life-saving reception by Squanto and the Wampanoag Indians radiates hope for peace and provision in the midst of very uncertain times.

It’s also an incredible picture of forgiveness: Squanto was one of those youths stolen from his home and sold as a slave in Europe. He escaped to England and eventually made it home to find that his people had been wiped out by plague. What had been done to him was terribly wrong and deplorable. But in the process, he acquired the English language and faith in Christ.

What was the Pilgrim’s response to this incredible provision of practical help and a mediator with the native people? They set aside time to celebrate a harvest feast, giving thanks to God for His protection and provision–even after nearly half of their company had died in the previous year. Their neighbors, the Indians whom God had used to preserve them, joined them in the feast.

Giving Thanks for a New Nation

Let’s fast-forward 160 years to the first proclamation of a national “day of public thanksgiving and prayer” in 1789. The fledgling United States of America had won their independence from Britain just a few years earlier in 1783, the Constitution had just been peacefully ratified in 1787, and President George Washington, with a nudge from both houses of Congress, saw fit to give thanks.

Washington’s three-paragraph proclamation begins by recognizing “the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” He continues to summarize reasons for a day of thanksgiving and prayer before dedicating the remaining two paragraphs to 1) a call to thanksgiving and 2) a call to prayer. I highly recommend you take the time to read Washington’s address in its entirety here.

As you read, you’ll find an aim at uniting as a people around both thanksgiving and prayer. You might be surprised to find no reference to the pilgrims. And you might also be surprised to find that the call to prayer includes a call to plead for forgiveness:

…that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions…

There’s a lot more food for thought here than “pilgrims” and “family” and “football.”

Before we jump ahead in time, I think it’s important to recognize that the Pilgrims and George Washington alike were not perfect people, nor were they living in perfect times. The early days of our American republic set the stage for the drama that we’re about to discuss–by raising the standard of liberty while simultaneously failing to fully apply its ideals. While their blind spots are tragic (just as our own are today), they gave us the language with which we have continued to pursue liberty and justice for all throughout the following two centuries. To mock at their ideals and their giving of thanks is to cut ourselves off from the very things we ought to bring forward.

With that in mind, let’s look at the third moment of Thanksgiving history for our consideration today: the Civil War.

Thanks and Praise in the Midst of War

While Washington made the first presidential proclamation of thanksgiving, and while pockets of Americans (particularly in New England) celebrated a thanksgiving feast from year to year, President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863 was the first in what would become a continuous string of thanksgiving proclamations by US presidents up until our times.

Sarah Josepha Hale, best known for writing “Mary had a Little Lamb,” had been writing to presidents for decades, pleading with them to create a national thanksgiving holiday; and for decades she was ignored. When she sent a letter to President Lincoln, however, she found a listening ear.

Within a week Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Thanksgiving–nine months after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and one month before delivering his Gettysburg Address–and smack in the middle of a war that would become a five-year scar on the face of American history.

Lincoln’s proclamation (actually written by his Secretary of State, William Seward), contains only one substantial paragraph, weaving back and forth between poetic consideration of blessings from “the ever watchful providence of Almighty God” and the context of “a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity.”

Of the blessings listed he declares: “They are all the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Like Washington’s proclamation 74 years earlier, Lincoln’s call to thanksgiving and prayer is not without reference to sin. In fact, after inviting all Americans to unite for this purpose on the last Thursday of November, he continues:

 …I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity [sic] and Union.

The Civil War saw more American casualties than all other wars combined up until the Vietnam War about a century later. The need to remember “widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers” was palpable.

And while there is always more than one motivation at play on either side of such a conflict, it is undeniable that the continued enslavement of Africans and black Americans played a central role. It’s not at all a stretch to read this cause into “our national perverseness and disobedience,” and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address makes this soberingly clear.

It would be nice to be able to tie this up with a pretty bow. To demonstrate that changed laws and a presidential proclamation of thanks, prayer, repentance, and a call to unity could indeed make all things right.

But Lincoln was shot. And his expressed desire for repentance and healing left unrealized.

And there’s no reason to believe that had Lincoln lived to serve his second term repentance and healing would have come any more easily. These kinds of changes start in hearts not heads of state.

Bringing it Home

So here we are now. Twenty-twenty has been quite a year. But we aren’t alone in facing “unprecedented times.” These are the things history is made of.

I believe we can better find our place in that story if we remember where we’ve come from, if we remember that what is true and good is worth pursuing in any age, and if we repudiate the cynicism and resentment that work against these ends.

In a holiday season thrown off balance and stripped of some of its usual charm, may we look back to find our bearings and the traditions that are most important.

In the face of a pandemic and its associated isolation, may we remember “widows, orphans, mourners [and] sufferers.”

In a social climate rife with vitriol, may we “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”

In the fierce clamor for control of the political sphere, may we seek the “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience” that comes from the work of God in the hearts of individuals who look to Providence more than presidents.

What human beings on this continent have needed in 1621 and 1789 and 1863 is the same as what we need today: hearts humble before God and man, hearts that are quick to repent of sin–in all its forms–and do what is necessary to truly love our neighbor. Our Thanksgiving holiday, both in history and today, is an invitation to practice that humility and cultivate that love.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sources to explore:

https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving

https://www.mountvernon.org/education/primary-sources-2/article/thanksgiving-proclamation-of-1789/

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lincoln-proclaims-official-thanksgiving-holiday

https://www.history.com/news/abraham-lincoln-and-the-mother-of-thanksgiving

http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-casualties

Further reading on this blog:

The Poverty of Pragmatic Gratitude and the Riches of True Thanksgiving

Remember and Rejoice: Thanksgiving Meditations from the Book of Deuteronomy

[Real] Life After Instagram

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Amazon links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

On August 22, 2020 I finally did it. I deleted my account. I had only been on Instagram for two or three years, but it was long enough to feel pretty at home there–and long enough to have spent considerable time wondering whether it was worth keeping up.

Here are my reasons for quitting–as well as my reflections after a full two months without the ‘gram.

Why I Quit Instagram

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with social media ever since my then-friend-now-husband convinced me to join Facebook back in 2006.

That love-hate relationship (with Facebook, not my husband) extended to Instagram a few years ago when I decided that it looked like a less-cluttered and possibly more fun platform–and that it might help drive traffic to my blog.

It was fun. And I enjoyed the people I met there. But over time I found the positives didn’t outweigh the negatives. Here’s what finally led me to walk away.

REASON #1: The InstaNature of the Beast (and the Guilt Cycle)

There’s something written into the name “Instagram” (and thus into the platform itself) that creates a sense of urgency where it doesn’t really belong.

Cute moment with the kids during school… Ooo…I should share this!

Hike in the mountains… Ooo…I should snap a photo!

The sense of urgency interrupts real life, but then real life interrupts my attempts to craft a cute caption. When the post is finally made, guilt swoops in, nagging at me for the time spent when I really should have been all-there with my kids or thoroughly enjoying God’s creation or maybe even writing an actual article.

But then the guilt that comes from real life’s call for my attention gets pushed around by the guilt that the platform itself creates. When “instant” is in the name (and the algorithm), it’s hard not to feel like you are somehow failing if you don’t update frequently.

The only way to break this crazy Guilt Cycle is to recognize that I don’t owe Instagram my content, nor do I really owe anyone (and especially not strangers) a near-daily peak into the life of my family. That’s really absurd when you think about it.

REASON #2: The Time-Sink

Even at times when I wasn’t posting very often (which, let’s face it, I was never a super-frequent poster to begin with), there was still the draw of the feed: cute pictures of parenting or homeschool moments, inspirational quotes, updates from some of my favorite people (because I followed real friends on IG, too), and give-aways for things I actually wanted (and which I won on more than one occasion).

These things are lovely, but while they might seem like benign encouragements in my day, they more often than not were the bait to keep me scrolling when I really needed encouragement to get up, do my duty, and love my people.

This past summer I installed the Freedom app, which I have found very helpful.

Putting your social media use on a time budget may just reveal that you don’t have time for it at all.

When I put reasonable restrictions on social media, it became abundantly clear that there simply wasn’t time for creating those cute posts that seemed so necessary. Even when I tried a post-scheduling app, I simply I couldn’t keep up.

All I was left with was that oh-so-addictive scrolling. And it began to feel more and more empty, more and more like stealing time away from what really mattered, even as I had given myself less opportunity for it. My moments of Freedom opened my eyes to the fact that my life off-screen was very, very full. You might say that Instagram wasn’t helping my real-life bottom line, which leads me to the next point…

REASON #3: Low Return on Investment

My real-life bottom line wasn’t the only one that failed to see great returns. While I did manage to stir up a little more interest in my blog, it wasn’t worth the time nor content invested. I enjoyed being able to share things on Instagram, and I’m happy that people could enjoy what I shared there, but it was a drain on my actual writing goals–goals that are more important than traffic, likes, or “social media presence.”

All that said, my initial goal of driving traffic to my blog didn’t actualize in any significant way (it just meant more sharing work surrounding each new blog post). And in the past year, I’ve discovered that a timeless and well-written post that people are searching for is my single best draw for new traffic. I’ve always preferred the “just write and let them come” thing, and now I’m beginning to see how that can work–without Instagram.

REASON #4: A Healthy Dose of Positive Peer Pressure

The three reasons listed above were not the only ones nagging at me. My love-hate relationship with Instagram included a few more considerations and questions that I hadn’t fully enumerated before. Enter Mystie Winckler, whose blog I’ve been following for a number of years and whose voice and thought process I highly respect. I was actually trying to convince myself that I could take this “Instagram thing” up a notch–make it work, post more content–when Mystie announced she would be deleting her account and gave her reasons in this article. Having some of those nagging concerns listed out in front of me helped me see that I really didn’t want to work things out with Instagram!

I posted my “resignation,” if you will, a few days later.

why I quit instagram

The Results: Goodbye, Instagram; Hello, Freedom

So, how’s life on the other side? Well, it’s life. Real life. And a whole lot of it.

Getting off of Instagram (and making good use of that Freedom app) has made me so much more aware of how buried I am in projects around the house. 😂 And doesn’t that make sense? Don’t we often look to social media as an escape from what we have to do? From the overwhelm that hits when we consider just how much there is to do–and the guilt that has piled up from the last several instances of escapism?

With social media and even email under tight regulations thanks to the Freedom app, I can begin to see the mess much more clearly. And yes, on one level that is frustrating. But it’s also liberating. I’m making huge gains in home and life management: chipping away at goals surrounding our school booklist, finances, painting/remodeling projects, fitness, being “all there” during school time with my kids, more readily reaching for a book, more readily allowing prayer to fill the natural pauses in my day. And doing so without any impulse to capture it for the world to see, which I find allows me to enjoy these things–and not just the images of them–far more.

I’m also free to enjoy our homeschool without images of someone else’s pretty school room making me sigh over the scratched up kitchen table and 34-year-old linoleum floors that greet us every morning.

You think these things–all the perfect images–don’t get to you. But they do… Until you decide to ignore them.

And that is when you begin to really appreciate the beauty of the people God has given you and the places and things–even the worn-out, unphotogenic things–He’s graciously provided.

I’m still planning on replacing that floor, though.

As for the blog, well, while I have never gotten high amounts of traffic, I’m getting better traffic than ever, even when I haven’t posted for a whole month. That increase in traffic is coming from search engines, not social media–even though when I initially publish a post my greatest source of traffic comes from sharing it on Facebook. Turns out my real-life friends are far more likely to read what I write than strangers on Instagram. I think that’s the best I could hope for–knowing that what I write blesses the people I know is way better than increasing numbers among people I don’t know.

I only wish I could say that I’m writing and publishing more frequently, but I think that will come in time. For now I’m taking care of business around the house and for my family (which will continue to be my top priority by a long shot, even as I hope to up my writing output).

The Verdict

While I understand that some people favor Instagram over other platforms and can use it to reach their goals, I have found that I absolutely do not miss or need Instagram in my life.

It’s also true, however, that a distracted mind will find distraction without Instagram’s help. And that’s why I can’t say that all of my results come from simply dropping the ‘gram–deleting my account along with the Freedom app’s ability to schedule blocks on any other online distractions or apps has been a knock-out punch. I highly recommend you look into Freedom or another such tool. I’ve found it an invaluable piece of the puzzle.

Whatever you choose to do to manage the social media and internet beast, let me leave you with this encouragement:

Rightly ordered living is, well, rightly ordered living. And no amount of pretty pictures or affirmation in the form of likes on Instagram can make up for the lack of it.

Recommended reading:

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

Competing Spectacles

40 Things I Love More than the Internet

How We Homeschool: Hello, Charlotte. Hello, Classical.

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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

In my last post, I shared Why We Homeschool, and part of our WHY included the freedom to choose HOW.

I explained a bit of our story–how my husband was homeschooled and how I went to public school. And I shared our mission statement:

Since before they were born, my husband Nathaniel and I have purposed to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and to educate them at home by means of whole/living books, meaningful work and life experiences, and disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility—for school and for life and ultimately for eternity.

In this post, I’ll give a little more of our story and begin to flesh out just how we have come to do what we do–and how we think about it, summarizing Charlotte Mason and classical philosophies as best I can.

A Little More of Our Story…

That mission statement above was written recently, but it pretty well describes what our aims have been from the beginning, owing much to what Nathaniel’s family passed down and to his experience with the literature-based Robinson Curriculum.

Our initial trajectory found further inspiration nearly six years ago when an older mom-friend at the local homeschool co-op first introduced me to the ideas of Charlotte Mason and Christian classical education (yes, both at the same time–it’s taken me years to sort them out! Ha!).

We were already legally homeschooling our five-year-old at this point–attempting to use my mother-in-law’s KONOS unit studies curriculum. Think: a text-only Pinterest board in a three-inch binder (though I’m sure it’s more up-to-date these days). I had already found that, rogue that I am, I took the subject matter we were supposed to cover in KONOS, ignored the binder and its overwhelming amount of options completely, and simply went to the library to check out as many quality books as I could find for us to read aloud on a given subject.

I’m not a crafty mom, nor do I like Pinterest.

While carting books home from the library for our immediate needs, I began to explore Charlotte Mason via Ambleside Online and some of my friend’s Well Trained Mind materials (which are Classical, too).

Somewhere in that first year I also acquired Educating the WholeHearted Child, an excellent resource on Christian homeschooling, by Clay and Sally Clarkson–and I found Charlotte Mason quotes littered throughout.

Hmmm…Interesting. The wheels were spinning.

Half way into our second year, now invested in a couple of those Well Trained Mind materials and a practice called Morning Time (recommended by my friend and expanded upon by Pam Barnhill), I found myself tuning in to a new podcast called Scholé Sisters, “a casual conversation…” for “the classical homeschooling mama who seeks to learn and grow while she’s helping her children learn and grow.”

Inspired by the podcast to “find your sisters,” I invited the friend who had started this mess 😉 as well as a few others to form our own book club and read Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake–arguably the Charlotte Mason gateway drug.

At this point my research perhaps turned into somewhat of an addiction.

I began to see that Charlotte Mason’s ideas about books, habit training, and real-life learning lined up with so much of what we were already doing–and they challenged me to grow further out of my push-through-to-the-next-thing mindset that I’d acquired in my own school years.

I also began to explore classical education a bit, but never really hopped on the Trivium-as-stages Train. I was delighted to find in further listening and research that the “stages” application of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric was a gross oversimplification–classical education, as I had hoped, has far more to offer.

Since that first year where I didn’t-really-follow-KONOS, we haven’t used any sort of all-in-one curriculum (though I have borrowed a lot from Ambleside Online and we do use curriculum for math).  We appreciate the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason and Christian classical education, and we choose materials eclectically guided by a lot of the principles from these philosophies.

So, what exactly are they?

Hello, Charlotte

Charlotte Mason, a British educator who lived at the turn of the 20th century, describes education as “an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” Atmosphere refers to the naturally occurring environment of the child—the home in which they live, the people they live with, the world outside their front door. This also includes the attitudes that they pick up from, say, their parents.

Discipline refers to the formation of habits, whether personal cleanliness, academic, or other habits of character. Again, who we are as parents teaches a lot!

Life might be a bit confusing. By life Mason means “living ideas,” or knowledge that is vital. This kind of knowledge is found by being in living touch with the world around us and especially by being presented with a rich curriculum that puts us in touch with the knowledge made available in books—and particularly books of literary quality rather than dry textbooks which can often strip knowledge of its delight. When Charlotte Mason mamas speak of living books, they’re in this realm of “education is a life.”

Our mission statement corresponds with this framework for education:
“…meaningful work and life experiences…” — a big part of atmosphere.
“…disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility…” — discipline.
“…whole/living books…” — and there’s the life.

Now, that’s Charlotte Mason on a very general level. She also has a list of 20 principles and six volumes in which she develops her philosophy and method. Some of the key elements include training the habit of attention, growing in self-education, narrating back what one has heard or read after just one reading, spending time outside in nature, studying a wide range of beautiful things, and resisting the urge to over-teach so that the child does the work of thinking for him/herself. But that’s just scratching the surface.

When I list Charlotte Mason as part of how we homeschool, I mean that we are happily influenced by her ideas, but I do not mean that I follow her method anything near completely. Her principles resonate with me and challenge me to be a better mom, but I implement them very much in our own way. And that’s perhaps why I sometimes feel that we fit more easily within Classical education (a philosophical umbrella with arguably various methods up for grabs) than we do in a strictly Charlotte Mason approach (a philosophy with a prescribed method to go with it). But they really do meld together well in our home!

Hello, Classical

Christian classical education aims at wisdom and virtue and at cultivating an appreciation for what is true, good, and beautiful. It emphasizes an ancient and long-standing educational tradition that has been abandoned in the past 150 years or more, but it’s making a strong comeback today. Training in The Seven Liberal Arts of Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric (the arts of language); Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music (the mathematical arts) is a key part of the curriculum. But this isn’t the sum total of learning, either. Other elements in this tradition include training in piety, gymnastic, music (in more than a mathematical sense), common and fine arts, sciences and history and philosophy–with Christian theology as both the guide and the goal.

There is a learning curve here, especially since the words I just used to tell you what’s included in a classical education all have older definitions and understandings that are either completely abandoned or else eclipsed by the way we understand them today. There are helpful resources out there, though. Podcasts like the Scholé Sisters, Ask Andrew, and Cafe Schole have been helpful. As for reading, these articles at the Circe Institute can get you started, and the booklet Introduction to Classical Education is a helpful overview. But once you’re ready to dive into a thorough treatment of Christian classical education, be sure to grab The Liberal Arts Tradition (revised edition) by Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain. This book ties all the pieces together with lots of historical references so that you come away with a better and deeper understanding of the whole paradigm and where it all comes from. There’s also a short glossary of key words and concepts at the back of the book that’s a very handy reference!

Charlotte Mason and classical both aim at a holistic education that respects the nature of the child as made in God’s image. As such, children ought to be nurtured and educated in body, mind, and soul–and primarily by those that love them most. Today’s secular school system doesn’t acknowledge the soul of the child, so it falls short even when it aims at a holistic education.

Some of what we do will sound flowery, but that’s because our focus isn’t just on academic skills—it’s on all of life enjoyed and lived to the glory of God—and this includes a lot of things that are both enriching in an enjoyable way and pay dividends academically, too. What we do is academically rigorous, but in a very different way.

We’ve found that both Charlotte Mason and Christian classical education each resonate with our priorities and direction, while also giving a greater depth and breadth to our efforts than we knew was possible.

Do you have to follow either of these philosophies or methods to homeschool you kids well and raise them in the ways of the Lord? No. The best way to do that is to be humbly and constantly immersing yourself and your children in God’s word, believing it and living by it together in your everyday, everywhere life. But both classical and Charlotte Mason philosophies can be extremely helpful to that end–not only for the way they give you many positive things to implement in your teaching, but also for the way they challenge you to peel back the layers of negative influence from our modern, materialistic education system.

Stay tuned for more in this series as I begin to post specifically about how we handle various subjects in our homeschool (without actually concerning ourselves much with “teaching all the subjects”).

In case you missed it, here’s the first post in the series: Why We Homeschool.

Next up: How We homeschool: Bible

Why We Homeschool: Our Story and Top Seven Reasons

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Since before they were born, my husband Nathaniel and I have purposed to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and to educate them at home by means of whole/living books, meaningful work and life experiences, and disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility—for school and for life and ultimately for eternity.

It’s a lovely mission statement, but how did we come to it? And how do our ideals work themselves out in daily life and lessons? In this first post in a series on Why and How We Homeschool, I’ll explain a bit of our personal story and then list some of the most important factors that have both informed our decision on the front end and benefited our family all along the way.

Why We Homeschool

When Nathaniel and I met in college, I was already pretty interested in homeschooling and he was dead set on it. He was homeschooled by godly parents from birth all the way through high school. His parents passed on their biblical convictions, and Nathaniel experienced first hand the freedom and advantages afforded by home education. He valued what he was given so much that it was an important part of the equation when we decided to get married.

I was public schooled in Texas and had a good experience, including good friends, honors classes, and competitive athletics. While school provided many opportunities, I recognize that what allowed me to take advantage of those opportunities was my parents’ dedication to teach and train me outside of school hours–they made the difference in my case, not the system itself.

When I was in high school I attended a church where half of the youth group was homeschooled. I appreciated how the homeschoolers I met were really down to earth and comfortable being themselves, and I admired how they could get their school work done in half the day and have time for family-life and even their own pursuits (like starting a business!)–all while I was sometimes at school for ten or more hours, plus homework. Homeschooling seemed so incredibly efficient! By the time I met Nathaniel at college I was pretty sold on homeschooling my own kids one day.
A lot of our approach and conviction has been informed by how Nathaniel’s parents sought to train and educate him and his siblings, but that’s also melded with my experience growing up and a lot of reading and thinking and discussion on education along the way. We both bring things to the table.

Our approach to education is fairly different from the traditional school model, but it’s also fairly simple. We, the parents, love to learn, and we love to live an enriched holistic life to the glory of God. We wish to pass this love of life and learning on to our children. Our educational approach has a heavy emphasis on Christian discipleship and on reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as engagement with the outdoors. We minimize the use of textbooks, except where necessary to learn a specific discipline, and we lean heavily on literature. We also have rich discussions as a family on all-the-subjects-in-the-world.

I mention this little preview on how we homeschool simply because having the freedom to do things in this way is in itself a reason for homeschooling. Stay tuned for when I go into greater detail on how we homeschool in future articles.

And now the WHY. Here are our top reasons for homeschooling:

  1. Of primary importance: We believe that we have a responsibility before God to raise our children in His ways (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Ephesians 6:1-4). We believe that we can best achieve this by being directly involved in their education, and we believe that our home has the potential to be the most natural and loving environment in which true learning can take place. Furthermore, we’re able to explore the interplay of our faith in Jesus with everything we study, rather than simply adding “Bible” on the side of academic studies as though it is separate from all other knowledge and experience.
  2. Homeschooling is efficient. I admired this as a teenager. Academic work for elementary students can be done by noon pretty easily. Older students can work more independently and complete their studies with time to spare for other pursuits if they are diligent. While homeschool studies might be punctuated by playing outside, moving the laundry, or making lunch, they don’t lose time to things like forming lines, pep rallies, bus rides, etc.
  3. Homeschooling allows life skills to be a natural part of the school day. As I noted in the point above, a homeschool day unavoidably involves life skills. Even if kids don’t do all the chores, they’re at least home to see them being done by someone in the family, so they’re aware of what it takes to run a household. And when Mom is Teacher on top of Home Manager, she tends to make sure the kids get in on the chores! There’s some consternation lately about kids being required to learn higher math in school but not being taught how to file their taxes, buy insurance, or balance a checkbook. Home is a natural environment for learning all of these things and more–not by replacing part of the math program, but by having your child sit down with you as you do them.
  4. Homeschooling allows primary relationships to stay primary. Parents and siblings and even grandparents can be more involved in the child’s life simply because they are not sequestered away into an age-segregated environment for eight hours a day. Assuming the child has a loving family environment, this extra family time is a huge boon to their security, mental and emotional health, and ability to form stable and positive relationships later in life. Of course, on the flip side, if the home environment is caustic, this would be a reason NOT to homeschool. God bless the teachers that comfort children who receive no real comfort at home.
  5. Homeschooling provides socialization beyond the child’s peer group. “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” Putting a bunch of kids together who are at relatively the same level of foolishness because of their age and inexperience tends to work against the goal of raising children to be wise. In contrast, by homeschooling, our kids are far less dependent upon their peers, and they have to learn to interact with their siblings, with their parents, with their neighbors, and with other families whose children range in age from babies to adults. While parents who send their kids to traditional schools may also seek out relationships for their kids beyond their peers, the proportion of time spent with a peer group verses time spent with a variety of ages is quite different. Homeschoolers may be less comfortable in the peer group, but they tend to be more comfortable interacting with individuals of all ages in broader society. This different direction in socialization can lessen the negative effects of peer pressure while also putting the child in touch with people and situations from which they can learn wisdom.
  6. Homeschooling gives us freedom to travel off season. This may not be a high point for everyone, but my husband sure likes adventures. We make our own schedule and take vacation time when my husband’s work schedule allows, or based on the best time of year. School can come along with us (usually in the form of audiobooks listened to on the road), the trip itself might be a broader part of their education (like supersized field trips), and/or we can leave it all behind to be picked back up when we get home (this works just fine, too).
  7. Homeschooling allows us to pass on a love for learning and love for GOOD books. We love good books and have read aloud to our kids since they were wee babes. Many parents do this, whatever their school decisions. But because we homeschool, and because we homeschool with a literary focus, our kids’ time isn’t taken up with reading textbooks about history or science or literature–they get direct access to great literary books (on all subjects) as part of school time–everyday. And they choose to read outside of school time, too. Reading is enjoyable for life, and it’s also a marker for “student success.” We emphasize the learning and enjoyment–the “success” is a nice byproduct.

In case you didn’t notice, our reasons for homeschooling aren’t really fear-motivated. We aren’t so much opting-out of public school. We’re opting-in to something we think is beautiful. Homeschooling isn’t just how we do school. It’s a lifestyle. Because education is way bigger than our modern concept of “school.”

That said, there are many things we’re happy to avoid (see this article on concerning trends in children’s literature, for one thing). But those things aren’t the focus. We’re not running from Bad Things so much as we’re running toward The Good. Because The Good is well worth it.

why we homeschool reasons for homeschooling
Homeschool families come at it from many different angles and experiences. How about you? Why do you choose to homeschool? Or why might you be considering it?

Other posts in this series:

How We homeschool: Hello, Charlotte. Hello, Classical.

How We Homeschool: Bible

What You Need To Start Homeschooling in Arkansas 2020

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Getting started homeschooling in Arkansas is pretty easy. My family is about to start our seventh year officially homeschooling in the sate of Arkansas. Here are the Legal Requirements and some Considerations to get your started.

requirements start homeschooling arkansas 2020

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

How to Legally Homeschool in Arkansas

Arkansas law requires homeschoolers to fill out a Notice of Intent to Homeschool form. This form asks for basic information and requires you to sign a waiver stating that you take responsibility for the education of your child(ren). You don’t have to list your curriculum, hours, or days of instruction. It’s very simply and to the point. 

You can fill out the Notice of Intent on paper and turn it in to your local school district’s office, or, more conveniently, you can fill the form out online and submit it electronically. Once your Notice of Intent has been reviewed, you’ll receive a notification by email and you can then save and print a copy of the state-approved form for your records. If you do opt to take it in to your local school district’s office, they’ll stamp the form, and you ought to ask for a photocopy so that you can keep it for your records.

When to Submit the Notice of Intent

If you know you will be homeschooling the next school year, you can submit the Notice of Intent for the coming school year between June 15 and August 15.

Here’s what the Arkansas Department of Education says about submitting the Notice of Intent after August 15: “NOI forms submitted after this date for a student currently enrolled in public school will be subject to a 14-calendar day waiting period before releasing the student to be home-schooled. The superintendent or local school district board has the authority to waive this waiting period upon request.

For more information on the Notice of Intent and to access a copy of the form online, go to this page on the Arkansas Department of Education’s webiste.

For more information on getting started homeschooling, including the Notice of Intent and guidance on high school requirements, I highly recommend you check out Education Alliance–they are a homeschooler’s best friend in the state of Arkansas!

That’s really it for the basic requirements! Fill out a form! Easy!

But there are a few more things that would be helpful to consider to make sure that the Notice of Intent is actually the right form for you:

Public School Online

If you are enrolled in Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA), or one of the other K-12 online public schools, you are NOT considered a homeschooler, and the state does not require you to fill out a Notice of Intent because you are technically still enrolled in public school.

UPDATED TO ADD: If you are leaving a local public school to enroll in a virtual K-12 program, you will have to submit an application to the virtual school and may also be required to give written notice to your child’s previous school. Check with your current school and the virtual school for requirements. 

If you wish to switch to homeschooling from online public school, you will need to submit a Notice of Intent.

Kindergarten Waiver

If your child is five years old on or before August 1, and you desire to keep them home for another year rather than send them to public school, you may fill out a Kindergarten Waiver rather than a Notice of Intent.

Our family did this with one of our children because his birthday fell at the end of the summer, and if we were to put him in school, we would have wanted him to start as an older child rather than as the youngest in his class. This can be a way to take a deep breath and try out homeschooling without pressure if you are still on the fence about what to do with your rising kindergartener.

Things that are NOT Required in Arkansas

Some states require homeschoolers to give quarterly reports, take standardized tests, keep track of the days and hours of instruction, or present a portfolio of their child’s work at the end of the year. Arkansas requires NONE of these things. And this makes homeschooling in Arkansas very easy from a legal standpoint.

However, many homeschool families find it helpful to review their own homeschools on a periodic basis in a way that suits their needs. They may elect to take standardized tests when appropriate and even administer them at home or with a local homeschool group. And many parents keep detailed or representative records of their children’s work and progress. The freedom afforded home educators in the state of Arkansas allows these practices to be tailored to the needs of the parent-teacher and their child.

Record Keeping

If you have concerns about what records to keep, know that unless you are building a child’s high school transcript, the most important thing to demonstrate with the work samples and records you keep is how the child is progressing. For a young child, this doesn’t need to include grades. Work samples from the beginning, middle, and end of the year in the most pertinent skill areas are a great way to show progress if you are ever called upon to do so. And it’s valuable for you and your child to see how far you’ve come!

Recommended Resources for Homeschooling in Arkansas

Education Alliance Not only will you find guidance for getting started, you’ll also find information on local co-ops and support groups, an opportunity to purchase Teacher and Student ID cards, a service for high school transcripts and diplomas, updates on state laws and how they impact homeschoolers, and more! If you have questions about sports or special needs or other specific considerations, Education Alliance can help get you the answers you need.

Home School Legal Defense Association This is another great and long-standing organization at the national level, offering support, educational resources, and legal representation if needed. They also have a charitable arm that seeks to help families through times of need by offering grants for homeschooling.

Also, never underestimate the power of having a library card!  🙂

 

Got more questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments! I wish you the best!

 

 

 

 

Homemaking in 2020 [and 2021!]: Sticking to Calling in a Year of Crisis

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“How’s 2020 been treating you?” It’s a fairly normal question in a normal year. But this year it gets thrown around accompanied by a sinking feeling or an incredulous laugh or the quoting of a meme or two.

Some of us have faced down the loss of a loved one. Some, the loss of a job. Some have found themselves with lots of free time on their hands. Some have found themselves with a call to long hours and high stakes. And some (especially those of us whose work is at home already) have found themselves worried about all these things while simultaneously experiencing “life as usual”—only a little too usual since outside-of-the-home, in-person social interaction has been sadly lacking.

As a homeschooling homemaker married to a man who works from home most days anyway, I have found myself in that “life as usual” category, wondering at times if it’s even right for me to go about my normal routine around here while there is so much wrong in the world out there.

There’s a kind of anxiety that comes from knowing about tragedy and feeling like you can do nothing about it.

So what’s a homemaker to do?

We may be tempted to think that our ordinary work at home matters less because there is so much apparent work to be done in the world beyond our door. But our role as a homemaker is no less important in times of crisis. In fact, unless we are obviously given a public-facing assignment, I contend that our work at home matters even more.

Just because the needs out there become more apparent doesn’t mean that the needs right here have gone away. We all feel the upheaval and uncertainty of our times. And while children may appear to be carefree most of the time, they feel it, too—especially as it effects their parents.

Before I spend too many words on the subject, take a look at this cover art for Blink, an album about motherhood by the Christian musician known as Plumb (Tiffany Arbuckle-Lee).

motherhood storm homemaking crisis 2020 blink plumb

I love the imagery and what it speaks about the role of mothers. Amid the storm, there’s a shelter, there’s light, there’s a smile, there’s wonder, and there’s both space and provision for beautiful things to grow.

Whatever age our children, or whether we have children at home at all, I think this image can be inspiring in our homemaking as well.

We do well to fight the darkness by turning on the light. Not by brooding. Not by worrying. Not by endlessly researching the latest hot-button issue on the internet.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to [her] life span?” our Lord asks. We might also ask if our worry adds to anyone else’s life either.

This isn’t to dismiss or ignore the real challenges facing our world today, nor is it a call to ignore the needs in our communities that we are capable of meeting, but it is to say there is an appropriate way to deal with all these things–and especially the ones that are beyond our reach.

“Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you.”

The home that our loved ones experience is made up of both our internal attitudes and our practical service. We would do well to look after both—and to see that they often rise and fall together.

Ladies, if we aren’t taking things before the Lord then we’re choosing to bear them ourselves, choosing to be weighed down with cares that He doesn’t intend for us to carry, cares that keep us from joyful service in our homes. And how will we teach children to cast their cares on Jesus if we don’t practice it ourselves? Will we even see that they have cares that need our guidance and prayers?

And this is where I admit that I know these things because I fall prey to them myself. Even personality types that are supposedly led on by facts and logic and reasoning rather than emotions can find themselves in the endless scroll, the incessant trying-to-fix-it—both of which amount to a worrisome attempt to control circumstances that are beyond our control while ignoring our God-given responsibilities and the people we’re most explicitly called to love.

So if we repent of our worry, if we leave it behind and resolve to trust the Lord, what then are the needs in our home?

And here’s where our attitudes and service really rise and fall together. When we’re worried about so many things, we can’t see what’s right in front of us. So the first step in moving forward is to begin to really see our homes and really see the people in them.

That Proverbs 31 woman “looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

The answer is simple, even if not easy: What we really need is to pay attention and do what we know we ought to do with diligence.

There are a few practical ways this has worked itself out in our family. It’s still a battle to choose joy and to actively resist the temptation to despair, to refuse to bring anxiety about the world into our home environment rather than casting that anxiety on Jesus. But here’s where we have chosen to draw some lines and plant some seeds in our family.

Of course there are the usual chores: keeping the home running and clean, keeping a watch on the budget and food, keeping up with other home projects.

We’ve also committed to sticking to our schedule more than we have in the past. The routine is good for all of us.

We’ve kept up our family bible time. We all need God’s word, all the time.

We’ve focused on our garden. We’ve made space, planted things, and watched them grow. Vegetables, yes. But also flowers. Lots of flowers. Those proverbial roses don’t have to stay proverbial. It’s good to literally stop to smell them, too.

Making space for fun and creativity and good conversation.

Getting outside to enjoy God’s creation and take in visible, tangible signs of beauty and hope. Creation is full of parables.

I took a two-week break from social media to clear my head and my focus. I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I think my family did, too).

We’ve painted as a family. Gone on walks. Read aloud. Caught caterpillars and watched them turn to beautiful butterflies.

We’ve tried to make special days and holidays all-the-more special, not allowing quarantine to keep us from celebrating as a family, from marking times and seasons with thankfulness to God.

Not all of these things are always easy, but they have been good. And this isn’t some checklist or quarantine bucket list. It’s just an encouragement that the ordinary things you do for your home and with your people matter.

And they matter even more in times that are anything but ordinary.

homemaking 2020 crisis ordinary

Fight the good fight to do this work rather than neglect it. And most of all, seek the Lord and see your people. Ask God to help you look into the faces of your family members with love and joy and interest. And ask Him to give you wisdom to know what each one needs.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

When the darkness out there seems to close in all around us, when our hearts are troubled, when we’re cut off from regular fellowship, the tone we choose to set for our homes matters immensely.

I’ll sign off with a few words I shared in an email exchange with another mommy-friend:

Yes, the world is a pretty crazy place. … I’ve wanted to do more to help people during this time, but something to remember is that providing a fun, godly, and secure home for children is foundational to civilization. Your and my role in that cannot be overstated. Sometimes I feel like I’m not really doing anything if I’m not somehow being active or being heard ‘out there.’ But what I’m really called to is to be gladly at work and speaking truth and kindness right here. At home. Making a home. A haven in all the crazy. That is kingdom-building and soul-liberating work.

Soli Deo gloria.

Now to get to that pile of laundry…

April Foolishness ~ New Living Books Consortium Video Chat!

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Join us as we indulge in a little foolishness!

living books april fools homeschool literature

What kind of foolishness do we find in living books? And what role does it play in our favorite stories? In this chat we take a tour of literary folly: starting with the childish charm of Frog and Toad; to the growth away from foolishness in coming-of-age novels like Anne and Little Britches (and the lack of such growth in Tom Sawyer); and finally to the full-grown foolishness that wields its destructive power in Austen and Shakespeare.

Growth from foolishness to maturity often comes by way of trial–in literature and in our own lives. As we consider the characters in the stories we read, we find insight and inspiration for navigating the crises we face with wisdom and courage.

When it comes to fleeing danger, where’s the line between wisdom and selfishness? In facing danger head-on, what’s the difference between courage and foolhardy recklessness? We hope you’ll join us and find encouragement–both for your family’s literary adventures and for the real challenges you face in these trying times.

For Easy Navigation: 

00:00 – 00:54    Introduction
00:54 – 03:48    Charming, Childish Foolishness
03:48 – 04:52    Foolishness Grows Up a Bit
04:52 – 14:53    Foolishness to Maturity in Coming-of-Age Novels
14:53 – 27:46    Manifestations of Folly in Austen and Shakespeare
27:46 – 37:20    Facing our Current Crisis with Wisdom and Courage
37:20 –  End     Wrap Up

Books Mentioned

The Bible, especially the book of Proverbs 🙂

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little Britches by Ralph Moody (audiobook linked below)

Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Jane Austen:

Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility

Emma

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

King Lear by William Shakespeare

 

Check out our past episodes:
Chat #1  Introducing the Living Books Consortium
Chat #2  Living Books Meet Real Life–Letting the Magic Happen
Chat #3  Living Books in the Large Family–with Amy Roberts