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    EXPLORATION

    Back In The States

    RE-ENTRY SUCKS

    While I was prepared for the initial culture shocks of travel, the jet lag, and the brokenness we were to encounter…I was not prepared for what I would personally absorb, good and bad, and how it would impact me.  This week has been hard, despite how amazing the trip was.

    I’m still trying to piece things together while my brain feels like it is in a million different places, or pieces even.  The events that occurred between Sam and the kids here in the states, and myself while being thousands of miles apart were inexplicable, other than the work our of our Mighty Father.  Our family was purged, and a newer, deeper unity was birthed.

    So re-entry, has been no joke.  The enemy is working hard to keep us from living in the fullness of freedom we’ve been fighting for as a family, from keeping me able to remember, process, and document what happened; what I’ve felt called to do.  Pray for my clarity, my obedience to the call of rest, and for a continued vulnerable heart.

    WHAT HAPPENED EXACTLY

    While I will again make it very clear that the trip was amazing, there’s a multitude of things that I am still processing and feeling.  It’s always good to get outside of your environment and see God from another perspective, and in itself was beyond beautiful.

    Our week started heavy, very, very, heavy.  Day one one was spent at The Apartheid Museum.   Digging deeper into this systemic racism, was overwhelming and still is.  So close and so fresh to our very own timelines, and still very much impacting SA’s modern day while honestly mirroring so much of what we are experiencing in our own nation.  Numerous conversations and takeaways to be shared later.

    The next day we continued our journey into SA’s history with a visit to Constitution Hill.  I will not lie, I broke and have never wrestled with emotions like this before.  It was incredibly intense, and not just for me – Sam felt it too, but that’s also a story for later.  If you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with Apartheid or still aren’t quite sure what it is, take a minute.  Constitution Hill, now a more hope filled place of reconciliation for SA’s future, is an incredibly dark reminder of their past.  While I’ve never been boots on the ground at an actual concentration camp from the Holocaust, this unfortunately was one in the same.  Apartheid and its consequence of law, was in fact an attempted genocide on the South African people.  Unlike the Holocaust, there were not multiple concentration camps, there was only Constitution Hill.

    After Constitution Hill, we spent the afternoon back at Grace Bible Church filling bags with donations from Crossroads’ Thanksgiving food drive – which was just a really sweet moment to see something you’ve given to, come full circle – to hand out later in the week in the local community.  It was a much needed break from all the heavy, to laugh and serve.

    Day three, we spent serving and cleaning at a local school that Grace Bible is working to build a community relationship with.  After the work was done, the students sang, danced, and performed for us and it was beautiful.  At the close, all the parents of the students and members of the surrounding community gathered to receive the bags of food we’d packaged the day before.  Giving is always so much more for me when I can see the face.  We will absolutely be donating again this year to the South Africa food drive at Thanksgiving.  (Sign up here to stay informed if you’d like to donate too).  Afterwards, we went back to Grace Bible and were picked up by a host family from their congregation to spend the night in their homes.

    The rest of the week was just as fulfilling, heartbreaking, and emotional, however those first two days were the hardest.  I will share more, but for now, know that this is what I’m wrestling with.  These first three days quite honestly left me speechless…more to come when I have words again.

     

     

    DEVOTIONAL, FAMILYHOOD

    When The World is Melting

    This morning started out on the right foot.  I slept in a bit, woke up to T making breakfast for he and his sister, and all seemed right in the world.  We got ready for the day, loaded up to head to my meeting and since we didn’t really sit and have a family quiet time, we spent the first few minutes of our car ride praying over our day.  I was determined to not get wound up in the rushing rhythms that can often overtake our day to day, and trust that I could move to and from wherever we needed to go and whatever we needed to be doing.

    After some milk for the littles, and a cup of coffee for mama, my meeting went wonderfully.  One of those meetings where you realize your ideas aren’t as crazy as they seem, and people really do want to see you bring them to life.  Great meetings, right?  Well, sitting on Cloud 9 was only temporary because as soon as the meeting was over, P had made up her mind that a DIY Glitter Princess Headband kit was coming home with us.  While gifts are definitely a love language both of my children speak fluently, we sincerely try not to over do it.  (Plus, we’re working extra hard right now to knock out our remaining debt and save for our ten year anniversary trip.  So extra niceties are just not in the cards for anyone).

    Normally, when we tell P ‘no’ she complies with the saddest smile, we talk about it, and move on with our day.  Today, was not one of those days.  After asking repeatedly to put said glitter nightmare, I mean wonder, back on the shelf.  She slowly morphed into a lump on a log, it was not as humorous as it sounds I assure you.  With one finger on the box, she sat there, 99% compliant with what I was asking her to do.  It was that stubborn 1% that just didn’t want to let go.

    Things quickly escalated from there, (naturally, toddler storytime was going on just around the corner so mom guilt was in full effect) and I was helpless.

    As I stood there, on the verge of tears wanting to be the mama she needed, so many thoughts raced through my mind:

    How do I calm her down while still addressing healthy emotional coping?

    Does this situation require discipline?  What is the appropriate action?

    What is the root of her reaction?  Is she acting out or struggling to communicate?

    How do I respond?

    Why does this feel like too much?

    I just want to scream.

    Do I just walk away?

    Oh my gosh, I can’t handle this.

    And I couldn’t.  By the grace of God, she let go of the box and T returned it to the shelf.  She held my hand, screaming, and walked out of the store with me.  We got to the care, and she started kicking, screaming, and crying even harder than before.  I broke down in tears, but still trying to convince myself that I am right where I should be, in the space I should be in, and trying to love my daughter with grace and not my own broken human-ness.  I managed to get her into her carseat, in the rain, and then surrendered myself to my own tears even more as I climbed into the driver’s seat.  I sat there, overwhelmed.  If you have never experienced high anxiety or PTSD triggers, I don’t know how to explain the feeling.  For me, breathing feels like a boulder is crushing your chest, all sounds are like nails are on a chalkboard, and if everything doesn’t stop all at once, I might actually implode.  In those moments, I am literally worthless, but never am I unworthy.

    As I shared earlier today right after this fun little scenario unfolded, perspective is key.  I had to keep reminding myself who I am, who she is, and what my purpose as her mother is:  to shepherd her heart into a responsible, loving, and diligent individual.  My inability to deal with her meltdowns, does not make me a bad mom.  In fact, recognizing that I know my limits and being able to cry, and still offer a firm kindness in the midst of chaos was a win.  However, there was a much bigger picture at play.  Do you know what made her stop crying?  I called her father.

    As I sat there listening to Sam on speakerphone, P immediately stopped screaming.  She knew she was heard, she knew she was loved, and she knew she was acting out.  Her father’s voice is what guided her through it, helped her see it, and brought her peace.

    When she handed me back the phone, Sam asked me if I was alright – I knew I would be, but emotionally in those situations, everything in me wants to curl up into a ball and go to sleep.  I know that’s not always a healthy response, but sometimes rest is the key.  In this situation though, it was remembering who I was and what I was made to do.

    I was reminded that even in the midst of a storm, I have the power to overcome, and it is okay if I can’t do it alone, because I wasn’t meant to.  I spent most of the afternoon thinking about that stubborn 1% that didn’t want to let go, and realized how quickly things escalated when P wasn’t fully ready to let it go.  Man, that’s wasn’t just her struggle.  It is mine.  How often am I stubbornly holding onto that last 1% because I want it, or have convinced myself that I need it so badly, I’m not willing to let go and trust the wisdom that’s right in front of me?  How often do I let things escalate so quickly that I can’t handle myself and it takes the gentle voice of my Father to remind me who I am?  That 1% can kick our butts, and make things a bit horrible for those around us.  But when we let go, and trust that there is something better coming, that there is wisdom outside of our own ways of living and thinking, there is an inexplicable peace and calm.

    As I was driving home from soccer practice, I decided to listen to the next chapter of Romans since that’s what I’ve been reading through this month, and this is what I heard:

    Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life.  Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God!  Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end’ attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.  Focusing on self is the opposite of focusing on God.  Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God.  That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.  And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.”  Romans 8:5-8 MSG

    I’m not sure He could have made it any more clear.  I have to be willing to let go of the 1%.  I don’t want to do it on my own because I want FREEDOM.  An open and spacious life can’t happen if I’m clinging to that last 1% and trusting in my own results.  If I want to live a life that is pleasing to Him, then I have to let go of what He is asking me to surrender.  Bottom line.

    So remember how I said perspective is key?  I didn’t just see my daughter losing her mind because she wanted a toy.   I saw a little girl, not trusting in wisdom because she was trusting in self, and friends, that’s just not the way we were designed.  So here’s to those meltdowns bringing us one step closer to a open, spacious, free life where letting go of the last 1% is done willingly with joy.

     

     

     

     

     

    HOMESCHOOL

    Peek Inside Our Homeschool: Balance, Budget, Books & More

    A Bit of Our Backstory…

    Homeschool.  Some love it, some hate, and for some the very word triggers an epidemic meltdown (yes, I used to be part of this camp).  Honestly, it’s one of those things that I used to swear, I WOULD NEVER DO.  Absolutely, never.  I was not built to be a stay at home mom, (again – actually thought I’d never end up married, let alone with children) – but I digress and that is another post.  I’m not the Suzy Homemaker type, truly.  Nonetheless, I am their mama, and that alone qualifies me uniquely to encourage their growth in their academic journey.  I know what makes them tick, how to encourage them, love them, gently correct them (or not so gently sometimes), and walk them through problem solving better than any stranger they will meet.  This is not a diss to teachers, I actually have a huge heart for them and wish our school systems would honor them and value them so much more than they do.  When we began our journey I found myself adjusting to life as a mother of two, considering filing bankruptcy–guys, we were broke, and trying to figure out what we were doing with our lives.  When I left the fashion industry, I quite literally had a nervous breakdown, re-triggering my PTSD, and was in the worst mental health of my life.  So of course, this seemed like the perfect time to homeschool.  We pulled T out of his private Christian school, and set course for homeschooling.  What we didn’t realize at the time, was just how much sense this decision actually made for our lives.  This was one of many decisions that we made that year that forever changed the trajectory of our lives.  Mainly being:  what does our ideal life look like and what do we need to do to get there?  Homeschooling would radically change our finances, and more importantly allow us the freedom to travel and grow as a family the way we truly desired.

    Where We Are Now…

    So, as we move into our fourth year of homeschooling, I thought it time to share what works for us, some realistic reminders, and a handy dandy list of resources that help keep me sane.

    This year T will be entering third grade, and P will begin Pre-K3.  This being my first year actually “schooling” two, well..that too is probably an entirely different post, I had to remind myself of one of the most important reasons I started:

    I know them best and there is no rush.

    Our goal is and will always be to create an environment that encourages curiosity, research, individual opinion, and confidence.  We want the kids to come to their own conclusions and be versed in how to arrive there.  To feel comfortable expressing themselves, and how or why the arrived at their conclusions.  For us, this includes our faith, but not just recitation of scripture, moreso the opportunity to see, feel, and hear what living out our beliefs looks like.  Ultimately, to provide them the resources to develop a Biblical worldview.

     

    Weekly Rhythm…

    A simple breakdown of what our week looks like:

    • Monday and Tuesday  – We focus on History, Art, Music, Latin, and Science.  (See below for for our curriculum choices).   I’ve found several curriculums that gave high level outlines with an amount of time to spend on each category…that didn’t work for us.  That’s the freedom of homeschooling though, right?  Sometimes concepts didn’t require the 30 minutes suggested, so remember – those time limits are just that, SUGGESTIONS.  On the other hand, the outlines of what exactly to cover were perfect.
      • History We split this over both days working through one chapter at a time from our textbook.  Our history curriculum also covers geography.  What I love about it, is that you can make it as robust or minimal as you like, and with it being a four volume set, it repeats every four years, so you are building on the knowledge of the prior session.  Our curriculum also includes reading lists and suggested reference books for more in depth and sometimes more illustrated articles on whichever topic of study we are focusing on.   One chapter a week will have you going just slightly passed a 36 week school year.  Or if you opt to to you own history study, one major timeline event a week works well.
      • Science  Honestly, we haven’t found our groove with this topic.  Our first year we did more nature study alongside kids level encyclopedia research.  For second grade we had an actual curriculum with weekly breakdowns, experiments and suggested reading, and we were just not fans.  It felt bulky and a bit chaotic.  For third grade, we are going with a new curriculum that provides base reading material for each topic along with experiments and suggested reading materials.  It looks neat and tidy the way we like it, while not overwhelming with tests, quizzes and intense memorization.  Usually Mondays are spent introducing the topic, the new vocabulary, and any key figures.  While Tuesdays are spent more hands on with the topic whether it is diagramming, outdoor exploration, or experiments.  Tuesday is also time for reading the suggested material.  (Clearly, there is a high emphasis on reading in our school environment).  We try to complete one lesson/topic per week.
      • Latin  For Latin, we review previous lessons on Mondays, and introduce new words/phrases on Tuesdays with a new lesson.
      • Art  Art happens either Monday or Tuesday, but hardly ever both.  We start with art history, and move into a related project.  We utilize one lesson from our book per week or pick one artist to study.
      • Music –  Music is the same as art, except there usually isn’t a hands on activity to produce.  We study one composer per week and listen to some of his famous works.  Usually trying to group composers by era.
      • Library  If time allows, we visit the library on Mondays.  Or, if you have little ones in tow, make library time line up with toddler story time.  (You can thank me later).  If Mondays don’t work, we usually go for Wednesdays.  Since I place most of the books I want T to read on hold at the beginning of the year, I usually have them on hand when he gets to each corresponding topic.  So library days for us focus on 1.  understanding how to use the library, 2.  ‘entertainment’ or supplemental reading material and 3.  the opportunity to bring home more books on whatever topic has really piqued his interest in our studies.
    • Wednesday –   Field trip outing, library, play date, etc.  After two days of schooling, we’ve found that a day off in the middle works well for us.  Sometimes we use these days for some ‘light reading’ assignments, but never anything super structured.  Most local museums and parks offer homeschool activity days, we’ve found that that usually happen on Wednesdays and trying to do any school work while managing an outing is just too much for us.
    • Thursday, and Friday – 
      • Reading – Structured reading time, usually at least half an hour.  Pending age and book we’ve done both read aloud and independent reading.  As T has progressed in his reading skills, he now spends at least half an hour reading by himself one of the topically corresponding books from our studies.  I still read aloud when it is a classic literature novel that is well beyond his reading ability, but on par for his listening skills.
      • Writing – Actual sentence and paragraph composition, as well as language/grammar rules.  The early years are composed much more of copywork, this will be our first year focusing more on sentence structure.  Usually takes about 30-45 minutes, and we try to cover 2-3 lessons per week.
      • Handwriting – We wanted to encourage legible penmanship and cursive penmanship.  We started in kindergarten and will be continuing with cursive this year.  Our lessons consume about 15-20 minutes of our school day.  A few pages from our textbook each day usually has us finishing before Christmas break.
      • Math –  Pending the topic, this subject can take us anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  Amount of lessons is dependent on your book choice, for us we try to accomplish 4-6 lessons each week.

     

    • Exercise and Extracurriculars – And let me preface this by saying, we try to get outside as MUCH as possible.  Sometimes this just means nature exploration, and sometimes this is simply enjoying nature.  Part of the reason we purchased the house that we’re in now is for our majority wooded lot that the kids can safely roam free in.  We even have an outdoor classroom amidst the trees and sometimes that means all we do is nature journal.  Just, full disclosure.  🙂
      • Family Gym Membership –  We love our gym.  Childcare drop off is a whopping 3 hours, so it is a nice little reprieve in the afternoons when mama needs a break.  There’s also outdoor play areas, indoor track, basketball courts, and tennis.
      • Dance –  P will be taking dance for a full season this year, and we’ve scheduled that into Friday mornings.  For us, that makes it easy for me to give T undivided attention during any trouble areas for the week.
      • Soccer –  Since T plays for an elite soccer team, he has conditioning and practice three times a week, usually with at least one game on the weekend.  Between this and gym time, and walking and playing with our dog, we feel like we are an active enough family that the littles get in lots of physical exercise.
      • Archery –  While we no longer take an official class, this sport has been great for building focus and perseverance.  T still practices regularly and goes to the range to shoot and test.  He’s actually a junior olympic archer and we have no idea how or where he gets this skillset from haha, but happy to support him.
      • Drums –  We’ve asked each of the kids to participate in at least one musical instrument, their choice.  T was pursuing violin until last year when we could tell he really lost interest.  He’d been asking to take drum lessons for the last two years, so this year we found a program that we’re going to try out and looking forward to it.
      • Community Service –    One of the biggest reasons we love homeschooling is the flexibility it gives us to serve our community.  From trash pick up days, to spending time with elders, to simply showing our neighbors love by baking or cooking something for them.  We love that we get to be involved in ways that aren’t always easy to participate in because of school hours.

    Our Curriculum Choices…

    Keep in mind we’ve only schooled Kindergarten thru Second Grade.  For Third Grade, we will be continuing with the same curriculum choices, with respect to third grade level.  Rainbow Resource is our go to for ordering yearly school curriculum.  They have the lowest prices and largest selection.  However, Amazon is always a great go to with fairly comparable prices (some affiliate links are provided below), and in some instances excellent used options as well.

    • Preschool  – Since T actually was enrolled in a formal school setting for Pre-K 3 and 4, our first year schooling was Kindergarten.  Since beginning our journey we also have P, we’ve opted to keep it incredibly light, and playful for the preschool years.  We mainly do a lot of play time building, art, and read alouds(see below for a great list of reading resources).  Sometimes letter work and number recognition.  We did however find The Peaceful Preschool and absolutely love it.  It covers all the activities that we try to include in a week’s “work” and you can use it for multiple years.  We introduced a few pieces of it last year and will be implementing more portions this year with P.  She’s 3 going on 4 in January, and we will use it again next year in its entirety, with her starting Kindergarten work
    • Reading The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading – We loved this book.  We started it T’s Kindergarten year and carried it through to first grade.  Loved that it was phonics based, uses singing and rhymes to help remember letter sounds, and taught consonant and syllable blends.  T was reading at a fourth grade level by the end of the book.
    • Handwriting – We use the Zaner Bloser books that coincide with grade level.  Pretty straightforward and easy to use.
    • Math – We started with Math U See, very hands on and easy to implement Montessori style learning.  However, after the second book T wasn’t engaging very well.  I let him look over several different math curriculum options for second grade and we landed with Singapore.  We will be using their Primary Mathematics series again this year for 3rd grade.  For a comprehensive year, you will need workbooks 3A and 3B alongside their corresponding textbooks 3A and 3B.
    • Grammar + Language – First Language Lessons, this book followed up nicely to our reading lessons, and literally tells you what to say and ask with your child.  We will be using the corresponding third grade level this year and absolutely love how it ties grammar into real life.
    • Spelling – Spelling Workout by Modern Curriculum Press.  For third grade we will be working through volumes D and E.  These books reinforce grammar rules, and are great for independent work.  They also work on encouraging proper writing composition.
    • Writing – Writing With Ease is again very straightforward, and if you buy the workbooks, provides a parent script.  We opted to use the initial The Complete Writer:  Writing with Ease as it allows you to choose your own copy work and covers the first four years of writing technique.  We will also be adding in Writing Strands to reinforce our writing development.
    • Latin –  Song School Latin   has been a hit and this was our first year using the program.  We opted to include the DVD lessons because that also gave me time to step away, and both of the kiddos were engaged with the content.  T absolutely learns through song memorization and this approach has helped him grasp and remember his Latin vocabulary.  We keep the CD in the car for review when running errands.
    • Art – Artistic Pursuits is an absolute favorite.  Not only does it introduce a variety of art styles and techniques, it also includes art history and art study.  By far the most inclusive and well rounded art program on the market.  If you’re looking for more technique than history or study, Drawing With Children works wonders.  We have both and I have no complaints about either.  For additional reading we try to buy or borrow from the library a corresponding Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artist book on the correlating artist.
    • Music – The Story of the Orchestra is  perfect one year study on instruments, orchestra composition, composers, and composer eras and includes CD.  We just covered a few pages every week and listened to additional music that related.  For bonus here, we also incorporated the correlating Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composer books.
    • History – Story of the World (besides art, this is our favorite subject and curriculum).  Paired with each volume’s corresponding Activity Book.  For third grade we will be starting Vol 3, Early Modern Times.  You can preview the Activity Guide here.  (We started Vol 1 at first grade).  The Activity Book includes suggested correlated reading materials, games, activities, and geography study/mapwork to go along with each event.  I love how well laid out everything is.
    • Science – This year we are trying Answers in Genesis’s series.  The lessons seem well laid out, and easy to follow.

     

    Now in case you are wondering how and why we narrowed down what to choose and how to teach it, I highly recommend this book:  The Well Trained Mind.  Even if Classical education isn’t your style (which it isn’t 100% ours).  I’ve found that this book provides outlines with context for every grade level and every subject.  A few other recommended readings:  For the Children’s Sake (Charlotte Mason based), The Read Aloud Handbook, and Teaching from Rest.  Also, if you haven’t, it’s not school specific, but a great read for growing your children and getting to know them, The Five Love Languages of Children.  There are also numerous “school in a box” programs that you can order.  Sonlight  and Abeka  are two very comprehensive kits I know are available (both faith based).  There’s also Ambleside Online which follows Charlotte Mason’s school of thought and is mostly free, and broken down by year/grade.

     

    Our Home Reference Library…

    Note, you do not NEED all of these, we just like options when it comes to reference books so I’ve included our favorites (and most of them you can purchase used on amazon for pennies to the dollar):

    Science

    History

    General Reference

     

    Play School and Hands On Goodies

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    Our Budget…

    We budget roughly $250 annually for all of our books, supplies, and supplements with an additional $75/month towards supply replenishment, literature options, field trip outings, and extra activities.  I believe it can be done for less or more, pending what your budget requirements are.  Even without the monthly replenishment, we could easily get by on just our initial $250 investment.  Another budget item to consider is conferences.  Nearly every learning style has an annual conference, Wild and Free, Charlotte Mason, Great Homeschool Conventions, etc.  If you opt to attend one of these, make sure you budget it into your total costs.  A “luxury” expense for us also a weekend of solitude for mama before school starts.  This can be as simple as camping for a few nights, or in my case, I opt for a weekend in a hotel.  I bring all of our books for the upcoming year and peruse them so I know what we will be covering, take time to get an rough idea of what we need to accomplish each week (ie.  3 math lessons, 2 language lessons, etc), place holds on library books we will need for the first few months.

    Whew!  So that was a lot, I’m happy to break down more specifically what each school year looked like.  Keep in mind, Monday & Tuesday work has always been ‘bonus’ work for us.  It’s great if we get through it, it’s ok if we don’t.  Especially at these early elementary ages.  Wednesday thru Friday work is simple, straightforward and truly all you need for a filling school year.  We’ve done the very minimal, and we’ve beefed things up when the interest was there.  Ultimately, you know your babes best, and will be able to adjust accordingly.  Also – that’s simply the beauty of homeschooling.  I’m no expert, and we always choose to take it one year at a time, re-evaluating as we go.  Lastly, THANK YOU.  Thank you for reading, and asking and always encouraging.  We love hearing from you, and I can’t believe its taken me this long to spell out what we do!

    Questions?  Comments?  I’d love to hear about your journey and am happy to answer any questions about ours.  Leave your’s in the comments below or email me at dailymenagere (at) gmail (dot) com.  Happy schooling