Monday, June 13, 2022

Lessons from the Campsite


 I can’t believe it took me so long to take the leap of faith and load up the family for a trek to the mountains to go CAMPING!

I know many of you are already “campers” and loving it, but to those of you that have been hesitating - I’m encouraging you to just do it!

The homeschooling lessons are abundant (and some of them worthy of the transcript 😂).  Here’s a few we picked up on this inaugural tent trip:

1.  We really need peace and quiet!  Yes, we did take 6 kids with us, ages 13-21, and yes, they are loud.  But one thing we all agreed on… the quietness from the daily bustle of electronics and media was soul-refreshing and much needed.  When is the last time you intentionally unplugged?  You don’t have to sleep in a tent to do it (although it helps). 

Homeschool Tip: Set a goal to make space for some quietness.

2.  We don’t need all the gear!  We were blessed to have the basics - tents, sleeping bags (lots and lots of sleeping bags), camp stove, and cooler.  After we got unpacked, I began to notice the other campsites around us with all the “cool” camping gear like outdoor “privacy tents”, flashy hammocks, and outdoor showers with hot water, etc., etc., etc.  The lesson here is - you don’t need everything to have a successful camping (or homeschooling) experience!  In fact, the basics served us quite well and even comfortably. 

Homeschool Tip: Stop looking at your neighbor’s campsite…or homeschool and enjoy your own.

3. What you forget doesn’t matter, it’s what you remember!  After fretting about all the details and packing everything I could imagine we would need… we inevitably forgot things.  There were “gaps” in our camping supplies.  They slept in 30 to 40 degree temperatures with nothing but sleeping bags between them and the cold, hard ground (we didn’t bring air mattresses).  They created entertainment for themselves (we didn’t have electricity) they walked, and ran, and swam and really engaged in the world around them.  They even survived several days without a shower!  My point is that your homeschool may have some “gaps” but, that doesn’t mean it’s not a success. What we forgot did NOT remotely diminish our experience and the memories we made. 

Homeschool Tip: Focus on what you have, not what you don’t.

After our memorable week camping, everyone agrees it was the best experience ever, and we are all looking forward to our next adventure!

Blessings,

Renita



Friday, May 27, 2022

Lessons from the Succulents



Recently, we discovered a hidden treasure in our own hometown. A succulent nursery filled with row after row of beautiful and unique succulents.

We were enthralled by each new tray of these intricate and varied plants, gleefully exclaiming over the colors and shapes, and delighting with each new plant we added them to our purchase wagon (yes…we needed a wagon!)

It got me thinking, “Do we marvel at the variety and uniqueness of each of these succulents, yet don’t recognize the variety and uniqueness of each of our children?” Stay with me here…it applies to your homeschool journey.

We start this homeschooling path with bright eyes and eager hearts, determined to grow our children in a well-tended greenhouse with a unique, customized education that will give them a “love of learning” for their lifetime. But all too often, we fall prey to the elements; the pressures, the comparisons, the lies, the fears and instead we can create a learning environment that looks far too similar to those in the local “garden center”.

Succulents are well designed to withstand the elements. They need very little to survive and even thrive; they are very hardy little plants. If you overwater succulents, they will die. If you underwater other types of plants, their leaves yellow, wilt and fall off. Different plants require different care. Our children’s education is much the same. They do not all require the same schedule, the same classes, the same path to graduation, or the same skills beyond. Who determines if how to diagram a sentence or how to hammer a nail is more important? How about learning Latin or mastering video editing? Should they study the principles of physics or the practices of entrepreneurship? Who determines if a 4-day school week or a 5-day schedule is better? YOU do. You are the keeper of this garden!


Each of my children has unique and different educational needs, so a one-size-fits-all education would never serve them. Some of them thrive with a schedule and a carefully organized plan – both for the day ahead and for their future. They complete every assignment diligently and tackle academic classes and college degrees with focus and determination.

Others are a bit more free-spirited and often prefer days spent exploring and experiencing the elements, rather than constant carefully crafted schedules. They look at life from different angles and see opportunities others may miss. They need time to use their hands and minds to create new things and purse innovative ideas. They seek out challenges with courage and excitement.

Each of these tender plants need my careful attention to continue to grow. This is how the gardener’s job works; you must customize the care to fit the needs of the plant. So why would we insist that our unique and varied children follow the same specific pattern for growth and learning?


These beautiful children are planted in your garden by the God who intentionally created them. He’s given you the honor of tending them as they grow. I encourage you to really study them, see their variety and uniqueness, and customize your “gardening” techniques for them to best help them thrive in the unique ways God has for them.


Blessings,

Renita










Friday, May 20, 2022

Close the Escape Hatch!



Let’s talk about high school for a minute (or two). Is homeschooling high school really worth it? Will I really be able to teach them all they need to know? I can answer this question - Absolutely YES!


 


When we began the homeschool journey 20 years ago, I never imagined that we would graduate them. I figured we’d take it “a year at a time” and wait and see how this homeschool experiment would play out. Several years in (with my first in about 6th or 7th grade) I listened to a favorite homeschool speaker talk about homeschool parents needing to “close the escape hatch” and commit to the long term. It really impacted me, and from that point I changed my perspective of homeschooling from “one year at a time” to “Graduation Day”.


I am so thankful I did! We have now graduated 4 of the 8, and I wouldn’t change a thing. All four have gone on to the college of their choosing, with plenty of scholarship money in hand. But, that is not why I want to encourage you to keep homeschooling through high school. I don’t want you to miss the opportunity these years hold!


The high school years are some of the best years of homeschooling. You have put in all the hard, seemingly endless days of teaching them to read, mastering the multiplication tables, and navigating the confusing maze of English grammar - WHY would you throw in the towel when school is finally getting to the good stuff?


High school is your last chance with them. These 4 short years are the prime time for you to press in, and really help them know and understand the Bible, to study Apologetics together (the reasons to believe the Christian faith), practice Communication skills (like writing and speaking) and open their eyes to the wonder of Creation through Science all around them! I know it’s tempting to fall prey to the fear of them missing out, your own insecurities, or the anxiety of comparison during these teen years. But I want to encourage you to “close the escape hatch” and really go for it!


Not only do you get to teach them the good stuff, but you get to enjoy these delightful creations that God blessed you with! In what seems to go by in a blink, they will be off on their own. Sure… high schoolers can be messy, loud, and careless at times. But, they are absolutely wonderful world changers with endless energy, creativity and new ideas. They are the leaders of your future as well. They are the businesspeople, doctors and nurses, craftspeople, and law makers for the next generation - and you have been given a gift of being the most powerful impact on them now!


I think of Esther from the Bible. Her upbringing by her uncle Mordecai was the foundation that she stood on when she approached the King and saved her people. I imagine that all those late-night conversations over pita bread and olives, chariot driving practice (or maybe donkey driving), and the endless reassurances that she really was created exactly the way the Lord designed her to be, became the internal narrative that gave her the courage to stand up for her people.


Too often I hear of homeschool parents who started the journey but gave up during high school. I want to encourage you to realize it’s truly the high school years that have the greatest impact on your homeschool journey. You were put on this path by the Lord, “for such a time as this”. Resist the peer pressure, ignore the lies, and press on to complete the race set before you!



Blessings,

Renita

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Go Curriculum Commando!



It’s that time of year… the time when it’s way more enjoyable to look at all those sparkly, shiny NEW curriculum catalogs than to slog on through this year’s lesson plans to the blessed last-day-of-school finish line! 




Hello, my name is Renita, and I am a curriculum addict. I’ve been powerless over my addiction since the beginning of my homeschool journey. My poor children were subjected to continual curriculum testings and changes. I loved trying out all those educational promises so much that I wrote homeschool curriculum reviews for 12 years just to have an ongoing “fix” of new curriculum!


Those years of homeschooling, with the inflow of every type of curriculum imaginable, have given me some specialized training, insight and discernment. I have learned, with first-hand experience, what works and what doesn’t… for MY kiddos! That’s the catch, you will only need to know what works for the beautiful souls that the Lord has placed in your squadron for YOU to educate. You won’t need to know the BEST curriculum; you’ll only need the BEST curriculum for YOUR family.


It’s time for you to become a “Curriculum Commando”! Everyone tells you “Enjoy these years, they go by so fast…” I know it’s hard to believe when it feels like you’ve been teaching the same math lessons, spelling lists, and grammar rules for what seems like a decade. BUT it is true - you only have a short time with them to teach and train them in all they need to know. And, that’s why you need to have determination to accomplish your goals, courage to go your own way, an unselfish attitude, and a cheery smile in the face of adversity.


A Curriculum Commando needs to determination to accomplish the main objective. This is where many of us may falter. Do we know WHAT our children need to know in order to succeed in the mission the Lord has for them? We search frantically for the “perfect curriculum” that will meet all their needs and make sure there are no gaps. But truth is - there isn’t ONE WAY. There is only God’s plan for your child. You need to seek out the battle plan from your commander - FIRST. Then, keep your main objective in the forefront as you create your daily lesson plans.


Curriculum Commandos need courage. Just because your homeschool friends are all following a certain path, does NOT mean that path is right for you. Just because Susie is learning Latin and Jimmy can do trigonometry in 3rd grade, doesn’t mean that YOUR children need to do those subjects. Have the courage to say NO - even to the good things to make room for the great things God has in store for them. Have courage to refuse to fear “gaps” in their education. By the way, we all have gaps in our educations - shhh… don’t tell anyone, I have a college degree and I have NEVER taken a Physics class! (Funny... I help write science curriculum with my husband) Have the courage to customize, or even walk away from anything that doesn’t help accomplish your mission.


Are you willing to take the unselfish route? A Commando has to put aside their own desires and focus on the target. This is getting personal, but oftentimes I chose a certain curriculum or class to help make ME feel better about homeschooling. Can I be honest for a moment, the curriculum you choose is NOT about you. Have you considered your student’s learning style over your teaching style? Are you selfishly wanting them to succeed so that you feel like you have succeeded? Examine your motivations. The homeschooling path was all new to me, I went to public school, homeschooling wasn’t even legal in most states. SO, I really wanted to prove I could do this! But that’s not what the target is… the target is to help them become who God designed them to be. That means I need to have an unselfish approach that focuses on THEM and not ME!


Finally, Curriculum Commandos know that they are in charge, and they set the tone for their squadron. A cheerful attitude goes a long way to making this operation a memorable one! Can you smile and laugh at the future? Look for ways to bring joy into subjects and make learning together a delight! As I reflect over the past 20 years of homeschooling, it’s the joy and laughter that I remember most. The times we veered off the lesson plan and read all afternoon on the trampoline or spent time watching the eggs hatch in bird nest under our deck or made crazy projects (I bet there is still paper cache on our ceiling…) or had kitchen adventures trying to make authentic pilgrim meals complete with sour tasting “swill”. All those things brought joy, adventure and smiles into our learning. Make sure to laugh - it makes the journey sweeter!


So, as you search through all those shiny curriculum catalogs this spring, I encourage you to remember you are a “Curriculum Commando” and have a God-given mission to accomplish. You can do it!



Blessings,

Renita

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Supersize or Downsize!



In today’s economic uncertainty, we are always looking for ways to save money. This isn’t another post about how to wash and re-use your plastic bags, or creative ways to stretch the food budget, although, those are great ideas.I’m talking about making INTENTIONAL choices to “downsize” your lifestyle and create some margin for better choices. 


Don and I recently made a HUGE family decision that involved downsizing our living space. In today’s world…this is a bit counter-cultural! We sold the 3,600 sq. ft. home and moved the 8 of us (7 of us plus a good friend that lives with us) into a cozy 1,600 sq. ft home. A pretty BIG downsize in personal space!


This downsizing has UPSIZED our budget’s ability to make choices that benefit us with our most valuable resource… our TIME TOGETHER!


Along the journey, plenty of other unexpected benefits have surfaced as well. The sweet sounds of everyone laughing together in the kitchen while making dinner and the cozy evenings spent together in the same room in front of the fireplace playing games. (There is a reassurance and comfort when my people are close by.) The closer living quarters have also become an invitation for everyone to venture more into the great outdoors (for peace and quiet!). And, we have become intentional about what is allowed to occupy our precious space - both physically, spiritually, and emotionally.


I know, not everyone can make such a drastic “downsizing” decision. But, I think we can all take small steps in the right direction. The downsizing concept has really gotten me thinking of what else could benefit from taking an intentional step back, or a step down.


For instance - “Do we really want/need all the entertainment streaming options that have snuck into our family budget?” 

Maybe this could apply to our homeschooling choices too - “Do we really want an overstuffed curriculum package or a time-consuming co-op that dictates how we spend our days?

What about the family schedule? “Do we want a SUPERSIZED schedule with different activities and outings every evening?” 


Can I encourage you to look into ONE area you could intentionally downsize and give yourself a bit more margin? I’m confident that the Lord has something even better to replace it with.



If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” James 1:5




Blessings,

Renita

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Glad I Did!


I’m glad I did! I’m glad I chose to listen to the promises of the Lord and to choose to have my children. In this age, it’s a rare voice that tells you to “go ahead, have more kids”. The culture is loudly telling you, “Don’t, You Can’t, You Shouldn’t!


We were walking along a path this week, with my 4 of my 8 children walking ahead.  I paused a moment and realized that if I had made a different choice… none of these children would be here! 


Can I gently remind you what the Lord says… “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3 That’s right, they are a GIFT and a REWARD. That’s vastly different from the message around us that tells us they are a BURDEN and RESPONSIBILITY.


I didn’t start out a “Mom of Many” (I have 8 children; Don has 8 children - Yes - that’s 16!) I started out as a college-educated, independent-thinking woman with a future career all planned out…MY way. Thank God, he caught my attention and gave me with the “desires of my heart” before I even knew what they were, by blessing me with my children.






God wants to BLESS you with children, they are one of his best gifts. Have you ever told the Lord: 

"Don’t bless me with too much health - how would I handle it all?” 
or 
"
Nope God, that’s plenty of money, I’ve got my hands full!” 

NO way! We ask the Lord to abundantly bless us in so many areas, except by giving us children. 


Trust me, I wrestled with God in this area. I had to be completely transformed by HIM in my thinking. He used some Godly voices to teach me the truth and I’m praying HE does same for some of you. If you need encouragement – please feel free to contact me!


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2






Monday, March 7, 2022

Get to Work!

I had my children memorize this poem when they were younger… Now, they are learning to live this poem!  



 

Having your children help you work is a lifetime benefit to them, and to you.  When they were younger, we lived in suburbia, and I had to manufacture “work” for them.  Daily chores, caring for the pets, raking leaves and a small backyard garden were about as strenuous as the work got.  Even those little glimpses of the value of “work” have paid off.  Now, we live on a tree-filled property and the “work” has expanded to include some real bone-tiring tasks.  Having a team is a HUGE blessing, not to mention, all those family memory-making moments we get to experience together, and the satisfaction of seeing a job well done! 





I truly believe God designed us to work, after all, he put Adam and Eve in a garden and gave it to them to tend and provided animals for them to care for.  It’s only after the Fall that work is cursed with “thorns”. 


I believe our children learn valuable life lessons when they get the opportunity to work alongside us.  All that working together also sweetens the playtimes we share together as well.  It’s worth the investment, the lessons learned will stick with them for a lifetime!



It's time to get to work!


Renita