Sheltering With Purpose

I hear it all the time when I talk about growing up in the country: “Your parents must’ve sheltered you!” It’s as common as “The S Word” when someone hears that I homeschool my kids. The truth is, I might have been “sheltered,” but I don’t think my parents did it by accident. I think it was purposeful. I think they had a determination to teach me things, prepare me for things, keep me safe. That’s different than sheltering.

At risk of sounding like a crazy chicken lady, I will stop beating around the bush. We protect our chickens from predators by keeping them in a pen. We build them a coop with a door, maybe a heater. We feed and water them. Would they be happier as free range all the time? Yes. They would be happier, maybe fatter, and might lay more eggs — but they would have a shorter life. Because we live in the country, many predators have access to our chickens. We have lost so many due to opossums, raccoons, owls, and illness. We wanted so much for them to be free, to run in the whole yard, but now we have to start over with a new flock, and we need to build the fences higher.

It is easy for us to teach our boys these types of lessons because we have animals as examples. These animals they see every day serve a purpose as well. “No, I’m sorry. We can’t let the dog run around when we go to Nanna’s. He can get run over. He can freeze to death (mini pinscher). He’s an inside dog for a reason.” We aren’t sheltering the dog, but we care for him. The kids understand this. People don’t.

People don’t understand why I won’t put my son in public school. Aren’t I doing them a disservice by not letting them learn how the other kids are learning? Aren’t I spoiling them with my love, my attention? What’s so wrong with public school anyway?

My decision to homeschool has little to do with public school. It has to do with protecting them, raising them, and teaching them. It’s not a slight against public school any more than my staying home with them is a slight against working moms.

My purpose as a parent and teacher is to prepare my boys before all else — prepare them for the world, the workforce, spiritual warfare, matters of life and death, politics, love, anger, and more. I cannot do this while sheltering them.

What’s your purpose? Ponder your purpose while you’re planning the coming year of school, the upcoming curriculum, family devotionals, and activities. If all I’m doing is sheltering these kids, and not purposefully teaching them, I’ve failed.

8 Ways to show your homeschooler love. Valentine's Day and Beyond

8 Ways to Show Your Homeschooler Love – Valentine’s Day and Beyond!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to focus on LOVE (I want you all to know that I’m writing this article just as much for myself as for you).  Genuine, caring, heart-felt love for our children can be a game-changer in their lives..and in ours as well.

In God’s word He is always calling us to “love one another”…this includes loving our children!

Most homeschooling parents I know deeply care about their kids and want the best for them. However it’s easy to get caught up in the routine and hustle of the everyday, that we sometimes miss displaying that affection to our children.

Here are 8 easy tips you can try today to communicate to your children that they are safe, adored and all is well:

1. Give eye contact with a smile. Connections most definitely come through eye contact and what follows. It sends the message of acceptance and love, or disapproval and rejection. Think about the random smiles you receive from those you love. They definitely create that warm and safe feeling inside. The same will happen for your child(ren). Make a point to look your child(ren) in the eyes and smile.

2. Speak kind words. As parents you most definitely know the difference between your child saying “Yes, Mama” with a loving tone, or “Yes, Mama” with a grunt and eye roll. Speak love into your children’s lives. Be mindful of the way you speak your words and the tone you choose to use.  Even a simple “Good Morning Lexi, How are you today? Did you sleep well?” in the right tone can create the atmosphere of kindness and love you are looking for in your home.

3. Be interested and ask questions. Think about a time when someone has met you several times, yet the questions they ask certainly confirm “You don’t know me”. Get to know your children. Ask them questions about their hobbies, favorite foods, books…them! If you need to, keep a journal with answers they have given you so you can reflect on them later. Throughout the year, ask them questions about the topics earlier discussed (How is your dog’s foot after he stepped on that spur? Did you and your brother ever make up that funny skit you talked about?) Showing a genuine interest in their lives will go extremely far in showing that you truly care.

4. Be present. I feel that as homeschooling parents it can be one of the most difficult challenges to be present with each child (especially if we have multiple children). We are amazing at multi-tasking and are usually thinking of 100 other things while we are teaching each child during the day(Uh oh, Johnny’s out of his seat again…Did I print off Bible for today?… Do we have swim lessons today?…Did I start the crockpot this morning?) It is so important that our children see and know we are present with them.  This means focusing in and staying in the moment when possible.  Everyone knows what it is like to be with someone that seems to want to be somewhere else.  Give your children the gift of being in the moment. Be Present.

5. Have a special routine. Connections are really amplified through three main areas: eye contact, physical touch and fun. Of course we can bestow huge hugs and kisses on our children each morning, and there are other ways to connect through physical touch. There’s nothing like a good ole high-five or the sweet old-fashioned “secret handshakes” of our childhood (we seriously rocked the “Say Say My Playmate” chant in 3rd Grade). Why not come up with a fun “Good Morning Handshake” when your child begins class time or right before you leave. You could really jazz this up with serious knee clapping, finger snapping, spinning around and the whole shebang. Even older children would love to participate in coming up with their own celebration “handshake”.

Check out “I Love You Rituals” by Becky Bailey for more great connection ideas.

6. Find out your child’s “Love Language”. The five love languages of children are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service; as laid out in Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. Check out the book “The Five Love Languages of Kids” by Gary Chapman for an in-depth look at each love language.  You can even group your children into each category for a quick and easy love check list.  Once you have a list you can check it daily.  Then go through your list and speak words of affirmation to those that need it, spend one-on-one extra time etc. with each child according to their specific need. Intentionality doesn’t equal fake, it means that you are wanting to meet those needs and show love to your kids.

7. Seek the Lord Daily. We absolutely need God’s love in our hearts, to be able to truly love others. Fill yourself up with God’s word every day and seek out specific counsels on love. Post them on sticky notes by your mirror to remind yourself of His perfect example of love.  Some of my favorite verses about how to love like Jesus did are: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Luke 12:31 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

8. Love them. Ha! This one is a little bit of a tricky play on words. On a serious note though, sometimes it’s hard to love and care about some children that at times can be…well…a little difficult to love and care about. Can you find one thing today that you like or appreciate about each child? I would suggest making a list to help bring some of those positive things to the front of your mind.  Even if you are struggling with what to write for a particular child, keep in mind that in reality you don’t need a reason.  Each child deserves to be loved, regardless of whether they act like it or not, simply because they are a child of the King!

Looking back I can distinctly remember special moments with my parents when they were kind and showed me genuine love. That love and kindness made more of an impact on me then all of the Math, Language, Science etc. ever could.

P.S. Don’t be surprised if your children start doing some of these same things with each other. When a culture of love and acceptance in cultivated, there’s no telling where it’s impact will end.

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?

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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

Showing His Character: My Personal Journey

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As I sit here tonight, I am amazed and taken aback at the place that God has led me to. Three weeks ago I was signing up to do something I have never thought I would do, and that was to blog to you.

Two weeks ago, my daughter decided to submerge our laptop (our only computer) in the pool. I figured that was the end of the blogging idea. I prayed that God would grant me mercy in having the computer work again, but to be honest it was mostly because I was scared to tell my husband — who, by the way, took the news extremely well. And, being on a trip when I dropped the bombshell, he still had a huge smile and hug for me when I came in the door. Well, God chose to grant my request.

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So here I sit. The only conclusion I can draw from God’s leading is that God is going to give me something to say that will encourage, grow, and maybe even challenge you over these next few months. As I sit here thinking about what to write, I have to admit I am a little overwhelmed, stressed, nervous, and, to be honest, exhausted. It has not been the easiest day with my two kiddos (ages five and two), and I am baffled at what I am writing about this year: character development and child rearing. I feel this is the last subject I should be writing on, and I am certainly the most unqualified writer for this topic. I cling to the promise that God qualifies the called; He doesn’t call the qualified.

I guess the best thing to do is simply share my testimony. We are told we can never go wrong with telling our personal experience with our Creator. So, here it goes…

I was raised in a conservative Adventist home. Growing up, I thought our home was the best ever and never dreamed that we had any issues. Of course as I grew and saw some of the issues our family had, I didn’t want to repeat them. My parents were the best parents they could possibly be and I love them very much, but like all parents they fell short.

Some of this left me with several things I struggle with: I constantly doubt myself, I am really hard on myself and my kids, I struggle with how to learn to submit to my husband and still maintain respect and control of my kids, I tend to react instead of thinking things through and it takes me a long time to recover from arguments, I am not consistent at all in my parenting, I don’t adjust to change, keeping a schedule is a real challenge, and most of all I have a trust issue. I trust friends and acquaintances, but I struggle to trust the people closest to me. All summed up, I struggle to understand what love is, let alone live in a way that reflects that love to my children. To be honest, in this sinful world I think we all struggle with what love is and what it looks like.

As I was pouring my heart out to the Lord one morning. (It was one of those early mornings after an extremely hard day interacting with my loved ones. I am sure you have had those too. I had woken up at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep because of the despair that I was feeling about the struggles with my children. The Devil was throwing up how they would lose their salvation because my son does this and that and my daughter does this and that…) So for once I did what we all should do, I went to our life source first I opened up my bible. I remember being upset because I could not parent the way my heart wants to parent. I totally related to Paul when he says in Romans 7:15 “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; But what I hate, that do I.” My heart wants to parent like Christ, My heart wants to be loving, and patient and kind, and all of the “Love traits” talked about in 1 Corinthians 13.

My brain however just wasn’t wrapping around it. I was finding myself parenting the way that my parents parented. “It’s my way or the highway” type attitude. Although they meant well and I usually did what they asked, I remembered muttering under my breath and not happily obeying the whole time. (I want heart obedience from my children not “because I say so” obedience.)

When I was in my early twenties is the first time I really felt like I had seen a small glimps of my family’s flaws. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I went with my friend who had just gotten her license. We were driving her big family van (One of those 9 passenger rigs) and were going to the store for something. When we had finished shopping she accidently backed into another vehicle. We couldn’t tell if we had done any damage as the car already had a fair bit of damage in that area. We waited for a few minutes but no one came out so I wrote a note with our phone number to call and get things worked out later if we had done damage, as we had a timeframe and couldn’t wait around. We stuck the note under the windshield wiper and left.

When we got to our second store, we happened to bump into her parents. I was totally embarrassed to be there as her parents were, as you can imagine, a little bit upset. However, it wasn’t a scene like at home. She actually reasoned with her parents and talked things through, she told them how she was feeling and they said how they were feeling. They all worked it out in about ten minutes and I remember thinking, “Man, if I ever talked to my parents that way, I would be in big trouble.” Not that my parents would go off on me, but I just never felt like I could be open and express my feelings like she was able to do. Yet that experience stuck with me. Although I didn’t realize the full implications of “our faults” at the time I remembered that I wanted to have that kind of relationship with my children someday. A relationship that they could tell me anything and we could talk about everything.

As I contemplated this in my mind that morning the Lord spoke to me. He revealed a glimps of His love in my life and how He handles me. He showed me that He allows me to make choices and guides me instead of punishes me, He patiently works through circumstances to grow my character and He works at the speed I respond to. I understand the frustration some of the Bible writers had, it’s just hard to put some things into words. But I will try to sum it up.

God loves each one of us so much that He gives us free will. We have a choice. He lets us learn through our natural consequences. He lets us know ahead of time what the consequences are going to be. There is no condemnation, irritation or frustration from Him toward us. Instead He has sympathy, tenderness, understanding and patience toward us. He is eager for us to understand and reason with us. He wants us to tell Him how we are feeling, our little struggles and our successes.

I sat there trying to sort all of this out as I told Him, “I can’t do this Lord. If I did that my children would be even more unruly and very frustrating and I already have friends and family who struggle to be around me because of my children’s demanding, high energy behavior. I ate raw when I was pregnant with Elijah, I spent tons of time reading and praying and living a balanced life. My husband and I were in the newlywed stage so we had an awesome relationship. Why am I struggling with hyperactivity and defiance? Why Lord? How am I supposed to be like you? What you have showed me is something I can’t even comprehend myself, how am I supposed to live it? How am I supposed to teach it to my children?”

We are a representation to our children of Christ, They get their idea of what God is like from us and how we parent them. This is a hard thought to think on, but one that I think is important for us to assess. We can’t be like Christ in our selves, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murderers, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23) The devil will throw this up in our face and make us feel hopeless, but don’t be discouraged be encouraged, “And He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9) It is only when we feel like this that we truly surrender to Christ and when we can’t do anything to fix the problem ourselves, then we allow Him to work and to do through us what we ourselves cannot do. I am so grateful for the way God created kids. With their quick to forgive, constant love and confidence and their desire to be close to us. Sometimes the greatest struggles I have with them are really the biggest blessing. I just have to realize that at the time.

So, as we meet each month to follow the growth, learn new tricks and evaluate where we are at, I pray that God will lead us in how to be more like Him and to see the true character of Love, as our minds will forever be struggling to contemplate what Love truly looks like.

Momma Cat

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We had a couple of stray female cats that showed up last fall, and one ended up pregnant. This cat really liked being outside and wandering around. When she had her babies (seven of them!), she quit going outside and stayed in a box with them. She hardly left the room she was in. She took good care of her babies, giving them baths, feeding them, and making sure they were safe.

While we could take lessons about God from this, I was impressed how like this we should be as mothers. She was willing to give up her freedom and rights to take care of her babies. We need to be willing to change our ways or plans and what we do to fit the needs of our children. Too often, we get tired of changing diapers, picking up toys, washing dishes and clothes, but these only last a little while. Our first work is to raise our children; everything else should come after that.

My favorite quote on motherhood from Ellen White, from Ministry of Healing, in the chapter on “The Mother,” pgs. 377 and 378, says, “There is a God above, and the light and glory from His throne rests upon the faithful mother as she tries to educate her children to resist the influence of evil. No other work can equal hers in importance. She has not, like the artist, to paint a form of beauty upon canvas, nor, like the sculptor, to chisel it from marble. She has not, like the author, to embody a noble thought in words of power, nor like the musician, to express a beautiful sentiment in melody. It is hers, with the help of God, to develop in a human soul the likeness of the divine.”  (My emphasis)