Looking Forward to Change — A Message to Those Heading to Academy or College

It’s that time again! Summer break has already started or is just around the corner, and for some of you going back to school in the fall will mean transitioning out of homeschooling and off into to academy or college. My topic today is geared toward you specifically, although your parents are welcome to read along.

1. Even though you don’t know me, I’m proud of you and your hard work, and your dedication to your studies, family, and friends. Nothing worth having comes easily, and you’ve proved yourself through hours of study, outreach events, and kindnesses to those around you. Heading off to a new school and environment requires continued courage, determination, and the perseverance not to give up when deadlines loom; and, class requirements take more out of you than you ever thought possible. Keep up the good work!

2. All that character you and your parents have focused on building? It’s going to be proven in a big way once you’re out on your own. Decisions to continue to take your education seriously, or to avoid spending time with those friends who have suddenly begun making poor choices regarding drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc., are going to make a huge impact in your future. In the moment it can be hard to see how certain things will affect you positively or negatively five, 10, or 15 years down the line, but take it from someone who has lived a little longer than you: poor decisions can haunt you for years afterward. By that same token, wise ones can benefit you, and be a source of reassurance and strength in the years to come.


3. Know that you’re not alone. You have these intense feelings, emotions, and thoughts (about the big project that is due tomorrow, or significant others, for instance) that you’re absolutely certain no one has felt before. Ever. Especially not your parents? Think again. There are a lot of similarities between you and your parents. You do share 50% of your DNA with each of them after all. They might understand more than you’d think. They also raised you since you were born, and understand you better than anyone alive on this earth (It took me years into adulthood, and having several children of my own to realize the truth of this!) Your parents have wisdom and insight into many situations that you are facing. They’ve probably spent countless days and sleepless nights praying over you that you were unaware of — and you know how important sleep is now, right? They love you, and want your best.

4. Know that you’re not alone (part 2). As much as a parent loves their child, nothing can compare to the love that God has for us. He knows you on a molecular level! He knows your family history farther back than even your grandparents can remember. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows and understands the very essence of who you are, and He wants to fight for you. Your heart is precious to Him. So, why not spend time talking to him about the next big test, a failed relationship, or future job plans? (You wouldn’t be the first person to change their major in the middle of the year).

5. And finally, work hard on your studies, but don’t forget to make time for fun events with friends who will uplift and encourage you. The friendships and memories you make here will most likely last for years to come. Sometimes former homeschoolers can seem like the “odd man out” to uninformed persons. Use the social opportunities to reach out to others and show them you’re anything but “awkward” and “unsocialized.” 😉

I pray the coming year brings growth and wisdom, and helps you discover more about who you were created to be. While this journey into independence may be a little scary at first, I have confidence that you will soon adjust, and even thrive! And, if you do make mistakes or fall flat on your face, know that God is always there to help lift you up. So are your parents, teachers, and school counselors. They love you and are in your corner.

Here’s to new adventures in the coming year!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

See also Psalm 27:1, Psalm 56:3-4, Proverbs 3:5-6, and 2 Timothy 1:7.

When Animals Die

Our dear Izzy is gone. That big, awkward, loving St. Bernard is no more. How devastated we all have been. And, though she was new to us, she was not new to this pre-existing community. She has been a part of this family for many years. She was rescued and had been much-loved every since. We came into her life in her latter years, and only had the privilege of knowing her a short while. But, that time was precious and anticipated every day.

Often we would open our front door, only to discover Izzy sprawled across the porch making it impossible to get out. We would gently coax her to scooch over some so we could exit the house. She would always [slowly] comply. Every day we looked for this scrumptious beast and felt welcomed when she would verbally announce our arrival as she saw our van pulling up the driveway.

When we got the news that her owners had to put her down due to a fall that had gotten worse, it was a deep blow. We somehow became very attached to an animal that we barely knew. I think that is so easy to do with animals. There is a natural attraction to God’s domestic creation. Perhaps because they love us so. For the most part, they are easy to care for, they do not ask for much, and they think we are the best thing since sliced bread.

But, what happens to these dear creatures when the Earth is made new, when Jesus takes His redeemed to their eternal home? Will they be resurrected, or will they be destroyed with the wicked? These are questions that parents will be asked by young children who must know what will become of their beloved pets.

I do not have a for-sure answer of exactly how God will restore, in particular, His four-legged creation, but the Bible gives some hints of His heart toward animals.

“Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD,” Psalm 36:6 ESV.

“And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left — and also many animals?” Jonah 4:11 NIV.

And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth,” Genesis 9:9-10.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” Luke 12:6.

These are only a few texts that gives us a glimpse of how our Father feels about animals. I cannot image that when we get to Heaven we will be nothing less than satisfied with God’s perfect way in the dealing with the animals that we held dear here on Earth. We can tell our children that God will do what’s best, and we will be glad.

entrepreneur partnership

Homeschool…to Entrepreneur Partnership

Many homeschoolers choose business over college. Homeschooled all his life, Stephen was not sure he wanted to attend college. He visited several colleges, spoke with recruiters and current students, took the ACT test in preparation, but was still not certain that life was for him.

His ACT scores were extremely high, opening up scholarship opportunities that would help pay for a four-year degree at some of the best schools. Still, he hesitated.

Jeremy and Stephen had been friends for many years; their families enjoyed social time together often. Jeremy, also homeschooled, had good scores on his tests. He had always just assumed that college was the next step, although he had no idea what he wanted as a career.

entrepreneur partnershipThe boys often helped others in their church and neighborhood with needed chores. They did lawn work, cleaning out garages, took care of pets while owners were away. They learned as they went; their customers were willing to teach them skills while getting help. Often they received pay, but other times they just did it to help out a friend. These odd jobs were just a part of their everyday lives; they enjoyed working, being busy, and helping others.

entrepreneur partnerIt was a cool September morning when their futures changed. They were helping Roy, an elderly friend of theirs from church. Roy lived alone now and often needed help with cleaning and yard work. They even kept his dog bathed and brushed.

While taking a break from trimming trees, the boys and Roy chatted. Roy remarked that he sure would miss them, their talks and their help, when they went off to college. They assured him that they would help whenever they were home. Then he asked the question: Had they decided what they wanted to do with their lives?

The boys were silent for a few minutes. Stephen remembers stirring his cider with the cinnamon stick, feeling awkward and not knowing what to say. He really had no idea. Jeremy broke the silence by stating that he guessed he would take his first two years in general studies to try to find what he wanted to do.

Roy explained to the boys that he had his master’s degree and was never against college, but for him, it wasn’t very useful. He had had the same problem; he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but his parents were able to send him to college, so he went. He majored in biology, planning to enter the research field. But, that just didn’t turn out to be what he truly wanted to do. Retired now, the majority of his life he had owned a small restaurant with his wife. While he didn’t regret his college days, he also didn’t find them largely beneficial.

Stephen remembers the question Roy asked them implicitly: “Have you boys thought about expanding your help business, rather than going to college?”

That one question led to many hours of discussions over the next few days. The boys had certainly been making a fair amount of money, even considering that they were only working a few hours each week. They relished the feeling of helping others, especially those that needed their assistance, like Roy.

entrepreneur partnershipBoth boys were hesitant to speak about the possibility with their parents. They knew that their entire families were assuming they were college bound. The reaction of their parents was a pleasant surprise. Not only did they express their support, but they also offered to help them set up a structured business plan. Stephen and Jeremy were business owners before they completed high school.

It helped that they had the support of family and friends. Having a small base of customers helped, too. Building their business slowly while completing high school gave them a chance to build a solid structure and create a good plan.

While they offer basic help for all, they have since specialized in helping the elderly with whatever they need, including transport to shopping and appointments. Remarking that Roy inspired them, they feel that helping the senior citizens in their community is especially important to them, and they also donate time to helping those not able to pay whenever possible.

Now a legal partnership, Stephen and Jeremy have begun to hire others to help them as the business has grown beyond what they can manage full time. Other homeschool teens are now helping them part time, as they grow out their business.

Much happier to be building a business now, rather than spending time in a classroom, both boys remark that the best part of the business is that they are still helping others with necessary tasks and are able to make a difference in others’ lives.

 

Homeschool Fruits: Joy

Tell me this. Does homeschooling bring you joy? Should it? After all, educating our children is pretty serious business.

This is one of my favorite Bible texts: “You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever,” Psalm 16:11 GNT.

What this tells me is that God’s presence fills me with joy. It doesn’t say my path will be easy, that I’ll never have any stress, that I won’t agonize a little more than I should over which math program to use — but it does tell me that the overall tenor of His presence in my life and my activities should be joy.

January is an excellent time to think about this because we’re starting a fresh, new year. It’s not a new school year, but there is still something very encouraging about knowing a new calendar year has been birthed — a year where you can fix things that didn’t work so well in 2016, and look for ways to claim God’s promise of joy.

If you haven’t done it yet, reevaluate your fall semester of 2016. What worked really well? Were there subjects in which your child flourished? Did anything not flow as smoothly as you had wished? Was there a subject that caused you both lots of stress? Or, are either of you just plain bored with something?

The new year is such a good tweaking time. Spelling, Bible, math, and history were awesome at our house last semester. Full speed ahead! Science had lost its verve, though, so we’re starting 2017 with a new plan. We totally tossed cells, and have embraced physics. (It’s okay. You can do that as a homeschooler, you know. LOL.) Grammar was going okay, but my son really is tired of it. I, as an editor, feel a strangling sensation to throw it out, even though I know it’s not a typical stand alone subject after elementary school. So, compromise: We’re both good with two days of grammar and two days of cursive writing practice. This kind of reevaluation is so important to keep joy alive in your homeschooling. Both parent and child should feel like they are doing something fulfilling.

And, what about the unschoolers? Yes, unschoolers, you’re completely aware that shades of this apply to you too. We started out as unschoolers and loved it, and I can assure you I’ve never seen an unschooling mom or dad who is not involved in their kids’ education. The approach is just different. So, maybe 2017 is the time to add a zoo membership, or to encourage your child to research backyard chickens with you. Is your kid one of those (like mine) that wants more parental guidance? Time to adjust. Or, maybe you’ve been peeking over their shoulders too much, and you need to let them explore music or gardening on their own. Aim for educational joy.

What about your home life? When you are a homeschooler, home life is an even more consuming part of your daily existence than with typical families. What does yours look like? Here are a few watchwords: order, schedules, flexibility, cleaning, noise, time alone, time with kids, time with spouse, errands, rest. This is a good time to think about your needs and those of your spouse and children.

Home should be a haven, not a nest of stress. I’m a pretty “wing it” type of person. My child, on the other hand, really appreciates knowing the day’s agenda. I have minimal domestic desires, but my husband thrives on a relatively orderly house. In both areas, I’ve found ways to extend out of my comfort zone in order to help my family be more happy. Conversely, one of my greatest desires is quiet. Husband and child can make a lot of noise when they’re together, but they make an effort to give me periods of respite — silence, peace, ahhhhh.

I believe joy at home often relies heavily on one quality: being considerate. Being considerate to my family means taxing myself somewhat to help achieve their happiness. Being considerate to myself means asking children and spouse to bend some for me. Peter tells husbands to “be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers,” I Peter 3:7, NIV. No doubt this counsel extends to wives and children as well.

January is a great time to decide where your homeschooling and your home life excels and where they could use a little improvement, and to work with your family to seize the fruit of joy.

“You will expand the nation and increase its happiness [joy]. It will be happy in your presence like those who celebrate the harvest…” Isaiah 9:3 GWT.

Planting Seeds of Joy

It’s that time of year again. For many of you the presents have been opened, Christmas dinner preparations are old news, family have returned to their homes, New Year’s resolutions have been made (or at least considered, right?), and life is starting to get back to the “pre-holiday” routine. This can be a relief for some, a letdown for others. So, what now? We often idealize the holidays as the stuff dreams are made of, and we regularly go to great lengths to make sure our family members and friends feel that extra bit of love. How can we continue to encourage our families to live the joy, thanksgiving, and dream-like utopia that we aimed for only days ago, throughout the rest of this year?

seedlings

Today, I have a few suggestions for helping to maintain the “Christmas spirit,” and plant those seeds of joy for the other 11 months of the year. Because, really, whether you celebrate Christmas officially or not, it’s the spirit of giving, goodwill, and hope that makes this world a better place, and I strongly believe those are concepts that come directly from the heart of God.

1. Continue the tradition of saying what you are thankful for at mealtimes, family worships, or bedtimes. Thanks begets more thanks. Let your family know what blessings you have experienced during the day, even if it’s as simple as finding a toy that has been misplaced, or making it to a doctor’s appointment on time (in my home, these are actually huge). “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth,” Isaiah 12:4-5.

2. Look for ways to reach out to others. It may take extra effort, but making someone smile always brings one to my face. Drawing pictures, writing encouraging notes, delivering homemade goodies — it may sound clichéd, but it works! “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed,” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

3. Spend time connecting with your spouse. One of my favorite memories with Josh is sitting on the couch sipping hot chocolate, and looking at the lights on our tree, while he read stories from a book we both enjoyed. It was spontaneous and simple. A date doesn’t have to mean going somewhere expensive. Talk about what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

4. Take time to make your children feel extra special, whether it’s a “date” night once a month, or a surprise “break” day to go do something fun. Tell them what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The world will not end if the toys are not picked up, or laundry isn’t folded and put away. I say this to myself as much as to you. Order and cleanliness are near the top of my list, because I generally feel more relaxed looking at a clean house, but there are times when it’s ok to let that stuff go. In general, your family is not going to remember you for your spotless livingroom, perfect kitchen, or whether your children’s rooms look like something out of Good Homes Magazine. They’re going to remember you for your warmth, interest, and caring; it’s the memories of being together that will leave warm fuzzies in their hearts.

6. Last, and most important on this list, take time out to restore your soul. We as parents don’t always do a good job of taking care of ourselves. With 948 other things calling our names (along with the children and spouse of course), the struggle to take care of our hearts is real. I, for one, need a lot more time to recharge than my husband does. It is crucial that recharging time happens because without it, the energy to do the other five things on this list won’t be there. When the primary caretaker (whether husband or wife) is running on empty, the whole family suffers.

My prayer, as usual, is that you will continue to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18), that you will lack no good thing (Psalms 34:9), and that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Many blessings and blossoms of joy for the new year ahead!

~Kirsten