Category Archives: homeschool character building

Coping with Overwhelm (Part 2)

homeschooling overwhelmToday, let’s look at some common areas where we can get overwhelmed and how to alleviate them.

Measuring ourselves by other people’s standards

Maybe you find yourself thinking, “I just can’t get it together like other homeschool moms do!”

If you’ve gotten your image of what the perfect homeschool family looks and acts like from some homeschool magazine or hotshot Internet site, get rid of that notion. It’s not reality. The families on those mags and websites got themselves gussied up for the occasion. It’s called a photo shoot. If you could be the proverbial fly on the wall the rest of the time at their house, you’d see they have issues, just like the rest of us.

People sometimes talk like they have it all together, tempting the rest of us to beat up on ourselves because we fail at being just like them. We want to do it all, because they seem to be doing it all — with a smile on their faces!

The truth is, God doesn’t expect you to live somebody else’s lifestyle or hold yourself to their standards. He just wants you to follow His plan and seek His wisdom for your unique family.

Frustrating curricula

There is no perfect curriculum. No matter how glowing the reports, if the system everybody else told you to use just isn’t working, it’s OK to change to something different. Some of these are short-lived trends anyway.

Some families thrive using a very relaxed approach: exploring their interests at their own speed, using “living books” (non-textbooks), seizing learning experiences as they arise. Others do much better with highly structured materials — perhaps a full curriculum package that covers all the bases. Some even do well with a correspondence course, complete with deadlines. It all depends on you and your children.

If your homeschool materials are causing you or your children to stress out, it’s probably time for a change. One of the wisest pieces of advice I received in our early years of homeschooling came from Mary Pride, in her first edition of The Big Book of Home Learning. She said to expect to spend some money on resources which turn out to be duds. She felt it was just part of the process, and nothing to feel guilty about.

Housekeeping — too clean or too messy

Either extreme can cause stress. I said in Part 1 of this series that it’s likely you will need to lower your standards a bit in this area, but letting it all go to the dogs isn’t healthy either!

Use part of your homeschooling day or week to teach the children to do housework, and then put it into regular practice. You can count this as Life Skills, and attribute school hours to it. In addition to learning how to keep a tidy home, cooking and sewing can be part of this “class.” Older children should be helping care for the younger children’s needs, as well as bearing some of the overall workload.

Child care, home economics, and shop classes are making a comeback in public schools. Why shouldn’t you include them too? You will just accomplish them more informally than an institutional school. If you need ideas, check out my article, What About Life Skills?  for a list of basic life skills our children should be proficient in before they graduate.

Make summer activities work for you

If your state homeschooling laws require a minimum number of hours, get a head start on your next school year by counting summer hours spent doing educational activities. Include summertime trips, sports, reading, clubs, etc. and note the hours spent on them. This is a practically painless way to accumulate lots of learning and lots of hours credited toward classes.

Those historical spots you visit? Vacations to other parts of the state or country? Those are social studies field trips.

Sports? — physical education.

Reading? — part of your language curriculum. Keep a list of the books read.

Arts and crafts with the parks department? — Yep! That’s part of your art course for the year.

Now, what do you do to decrease your overwhelm? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Previous: Coping with Overwhelm (Part 1)

 

Character Building for Families

 

inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Coping with Overwhelm (Part 1)

Perhaps you and your children started homeschooling with high expectations of it being an exciting new adventure. You were all going to have lots of FUN together. Much like an avid gardener poring over seed catalogs in anticipation of spring planting, you eagerly researched the multitudes of homeschool curricula available, finally settling on the perfect one for your family. But that was months ago, and now reality has set in. You and the kids are not having nearly as much fun as you thought this was supposed to be, and the workload is overwhelming.

Yes, homeschooling is a lot of work, but there are ways we can make it better for ourselves — and keep the fun in it. Part of it is about changing how we think, part is spiritual, and part is just plain making some practical adjustments.

Cutting back on nonessentials

First of all, if you are going to have the staying power you will need, life will not be able to go on quite the same as it did before homeschooling. Some things will most likely have to slide a bit. Let the nonessentials take a back seat during this season of your life.

Maybe neither you or your family will be able to handle as many outside activities or hobbies as previously. Sports activities and classes for dance, art, or music are great, and can be included as part of your homeschooling experience, but if you are losing your peace or grinding yourself into the ground to make them happen, it’s time to assess which are most important and curtail the rest.

Pre-homeschooling, my house was tidy most of the time. I made all our bread and fixed time-consuming meals. I did a lot of scratch food preparation. But once we started schooling at home, the house wasn’t quite as neat, the meals became simpler, and the bread making died — because if they hadn’t, I probably would have had a major meltdown. Preserving your sanity and staying peaceful are important!

Make two lists of ways you currently spend your time. Label them “Essential” and “Nonessential.” Be ready to cut out what isn’t as important, as you need to. You don’t have to let go of everything all at once, as long as you and your family are peaceful. Modify your lists regularly, because both priorities and preferences change over time.

In my opinion, maintaining a daily prayer life belongs on the essential list. It’s easy to let prayer slide when life gets busy, but if we make our time with the Lord top priority, He has a way of making all the rest of our day go much smoother. In God’s economy, if we make time with Him our top priority, the other stuff tends to get done. I don’t know how He does that for us, but it really works.

Time devoted exclusively to your spouse also belongs on that essential list. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a weekly date night. That works for some, but for others it adds to the stress, especially if finding a baby sitter is part of the equation. It doesn’t have to be a marathon event. If a daily fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time chatting with each other right there in the living room works, then do that. Make it a joy, not another reason to feel overwhelmed.

I never have a moment to myself!

Yes, it’s true. Me-time does suffer. You probably won’t be able to socialize, whether on the computer, phone, or in person, as much as you once did.

Keep in mind, though, that a half hour with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading will do more to help you regain your peace than that same half hour airing your frustrations to your friends. The Holy Spirit refreshes us with His presence. He renews our strength as we wait upon Him, according to Isaiah 40:31. If God says it, we ought to take His advice.

If possible, do occasionally schedule alone time for yourself or coffee with a friend, if you really need those to recharge your battery. Well-rested moms do a better job of parenting and schooling than worn-out, frazzled moms. If you have children who are old enough to watch the younger ones, set aside a day of relaxed activities they can do while you are absent. Some homeschool support groups provide ways for moms to take a break, too, whether by sharing child care responsibilities or scheduling co-op classes, activities, and events. Some of those will require that you take your turn at volunteering, so other moms can have a break; some require a fee to pay the people who are teaching the classes or supervising the activities.

Next time, we’ll talk about a few more ways we can avoid or cut down on overwhelm.

Next: Coping with Overwhelm (Part 2)

 

Character Building for Families
 

inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Protecting Our Children from Supernatural Evil (Part 1)

Christian parentingAt my Out of the Fire blog, the most-visited post of all time is one about getting free of nightmares which involve feeling suffocated, choked, a horror of great darkness, etc. Typically, the dreamer struggles to call out the name of Jesus and has a hard time doing so — but when he succeeds, the nightmare immediately ends.

Many, many believers are experiencing these terrifying dreams, which are actually demonic in nature. Why is this so common? Why are multitudes of Christians afflicted with this? The answer in most cases is that they have had some involvement with the occult – often going back to their childhood.

You may say, “That could never happen in our home. We don’t dabble with the occult at our house.” Good for you! However, it is all around us, showing up sometimes in subtle ways, which aren’t always easily recognized.

It is our responsibility to protect our children from demonic influences, so that they don’t suffer from them through nightmares or in some other way. We must be vigilant to keep them safe while they are very young and to instruct them so that, as they get older, they know how to protect themselves.

Let’s start with an elementary list of some of the things we must, as believers, totally avoid:

  1. Ouija boards
  2. ESP (extra sensory perception) games and exercises
  3. Fortune telling
  4. Seances / mediums / attempting to contact the dead / “channeling”
  5. Astrology (horoscopes) — I might add that quite a few of the personality quizzes and games people indulge in on FaceBook are actually covers for astrology.
  6. Experiments with levitation, astral projection, telepathy, releasing “energy” toward others
  7. Spells and incantations
  8. Feng Shui, Reiki, Taoism, other Eastern religions

Those are fairly obvious no-no practices for most of us, aren’t they?

But there are more subtle forms of occult influence. Some of these should still be obvious, but apparently they are not, since so many Christians participate in them:

Harry Potter, Twilight (vampires), zombies, Merlin — You may think these materials are just harmless entertainment. I have heard Christians hotly defend them. Unfortunately, they are an open door to the influence of evil spirits in our lives, whether we want to admit it or not.

Halloween celebrations — Again, hotly defended by many believers. Ask any Christian who formerly was a satanist what they think about this! We are being very foolish in trying to whitewash, or even Christianize, this holiday.

Pokémon — Short for “pocket monster,” the origin of the characters is Japanese folklore, including demons. Here is an article from Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry which outlines some of what goes on with Pokémon and Pokémon Go. Decide for yourself, after reading. (It’s not one of those hyper-ventilating articles, by the way.)

Dora the Explorer — Now you may really think I am nuts! I’m sorry, but those cute little shows contain magic. It looks innocent, but it is not. With any children’s TV shows, I believe we should pay attention to what is taking place in them before we plunk our children down in front of them. The Holy Spirit will help us discern, if we just ask.

Personally, I would avoid any children’s shows which incorporate mystical powers, magic wands, saying magical phrases, exploring pagan temples, or spooky things. They encourage a taste for these things in our children. In my opinion, it is better to stand conservatively when it comes to questionable entertainment.

Yoga — Whether you utilize the breathing techniques or only the exercise positions, yoga opens doors to demonic influences. You cannot use the breathing exercises and try to listen for the Holy Spirit through them. They open the way for evil spirits to speak into your mind. Each of the exercise stances are dedicated to a Hindu god (demon). It is not possible to Christianize yoga, no matter how we try. Former Hindus who now follow Jesus understand what is involved in yoga, and have nothing to do with it. Maybe we should listen to them.

Masonic things — including the King’s Daughters and the Shriners. These are not social clubs. Freemasonry is completely immersed in the worship of demonic entities, incantations, and placing curses upon oneself and family (even to future generations).

Hypnotism (and any other type of mind control)

Fortune cookies — They are what they are called, folks. Eat the cookie, leave the little paper inside unread.

Energy healing and acupuncture

Mind reading, mental telepathy

Aliens — Many of you are probably Star Trek and Star Wars fans. This is a bit of a gray area. I think some of the things in sci-fi should be avoided as viewing entertainment — like mind reading and mental telepathy, or the concept of equal light and dark sides of “the Force.” That harks back to the Eastern religion concept of yin and yang, while the Bible teaches us that the devil is NOT equal in power to the Lord — not even close, in fact. Besides, God is not an impersonal force we tap into. He is a Trinity of three Persons, with emotions, desires, and love for us.

Entertaining ourselves with stories of aliens is borderline, in my opinion, depending on what goes on. However, do keep in mind that some unfortunate people have had genuine encounters with “aliens,” which are really demonic entities out to deceive people with tales of superior powers and intelligence and wanting to bring peace to Planet Earth. Often these encounters involve gross sexual perversion and mind control.

So, be careful what you allow in sci-fi entertainment into your home, so that you do not inadvertently open a door to the occult.

Some role-playing games Dungeons and Dragons should be obvious, but others (like Pokémon Go) may be less obvious.

Lists are a good place to start in the quest to protect our children from evil, but they are only a beginning. Occult deceptions can be quite subtle, so we also need to teach our children how to discern by the Holy Spirit. Next time, we’ll talk about that.

Next: Part 2 (Teaching spiritual discernment)

 

Character Building for Families

New Homeschool Group for Moms

Do you sometimes feel like homeschooling is way more of an adventure than you bargained for? Are there days when you feel overwhelmed with navigating all the parenting issues — or you just don’t know what to do to get Johnny to behave? Maybe you’re concerned about whether you are doing a good job, and whether your children will turn out all right.

Announcing a new homeschool group on FaceBook:

Older Homeschool Moms Helping Younger Homeschool Moms

Our goal is to connect younger homeschool mothers with older women who have been there before you — so that you can receive encouragement, ask advice, receive prayer, and just be assured that you can do homeschooling well.

We’d love to have you take a look, and join if you’d like!

Servant Parenting

We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. — Romans 15:1

Being a parent can feel overwhelming, especially for those who have several small children to attend to. Sometimes it gets discouraging, as we deal with one need after another without much of a break to regain our personal tranquility.

I remember the discouragement I felt several months after having our second child. Recovering from a C-section this time around had not been nearly as easy as it had been with the first child, almost twelve years before. Furthermore, the doctors told me I had gone into this pregnancy not yet fully recovered from the chemo and radiation I had completed just five months previously. To top it off, our beloved miracle baby, my promise of a restored life from our Father in heaven, suffered stomach issues and cried incessantly.

In the midst of all my fatigue, I indulged in a small pity party, with me the only guest. Why could I not have a little peace and quiet? Why all the jumping up every few minutes to meet another demand? Why couldn’t I have a tiny bit more time for uninterrupted thoughts without another colic bout intruding? (You may snort your disdain, because I had only one small one to deal with, but the struggle was still real!)

The Lord quickly recalled to my mind an article I had once read in a homeschool magazine. The author had told of her own time of feeling overwhelmed by small children, and how the Holy Spirit had quickened to her heart Romans 15:1: “We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves.” God had applied the verse to her parenting, encouraging her to serve her children, to bear with their neediness for so much help, and to set her wants for time to herself aside.

The Lord used that verse to bring me out of my own case of the blues, and to give me a new joy in serving both my children. I mulled it over often in the ensuing days: I can bear the frailties of my little girl. Jesus calls me to not please myself, but to do this for Him, and to do it with joy. From that point on, I really did find new joy and strength in serving her.

I remembered another story I had heard, of a mom who pictured herself as serving the Christ Child every time she dressed or fed her small children. It helped her to overcome impatience and to lavish love upon them. I took that story to heart and started applying it, too.

Our self-serving society constantly barrages us with the message that we’re supposed to indulge ourselves. We are told that the good life is all about us having our needs met, our desires gratified. In particular, women have been brainwashed into thinking that children are a hindrance to our fulfillment, so the sooner we get them out of our hair, the sooner we can accomplish “important” things. Meanwhile, we miss realizing that the little people we have been given to serve on a moment-by-moment basis are the genuinely important things.

Those of us who follow Jesus must continually push back against these selfish ideals. Intellectually, we know from the Bible that we are called to serve one another, to put others ahead of ourselves. That knowledge doesn’t make it easy, however. Perhaps one of the best, and yet often hardest, training grounds for learning to be a servant is within our own families. Jesus calls us to die to self. Paul even said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). It’s not a popular or frequently heard message in the Church today, but it is as valid as it ever was.

Jesus uses serving our family to build our character. For those of you who find caring for your children a great joy without much of a struggle, what a blessing! It is a special grace, which may be due to your God-given temperament or His unique plans for you. The Lord will find other means to build your character. But for those of us who are more challenged in this area, He uses it to mold us into the likeness of Himself.

… In lowliness of mind, let each of us esteem others as better than ourselves. Do not look every one on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 2:3-5

Do it for Him, bear it for Him. He will receive your servant parenting as if you had ministered directly to Him. It is a fragrant offering.

 

Character Building for Families

 

 

Create an Atmosphere of Peace in Your Home (Part 3)

swan-pixabay-public-domainI mentioned in Part 1 of this series that the place to start in developing a peaceful atmosphere in our homes is by making prayer the first priority. In Part 2, I gave some practical tips for enhancing that peace. Let’s look at a few more ways to increase the level of peace in our homes.

Create an atmosphere of peace by playing worship music in the background. Keep the volume low enough so it is not distracting. Choose music which is somewhat serene. You don’t want Johnny and Susie’s adrenaline to kick into overdrive.

Love first, lessons second. Some days, hugs and snuggles are more needed than at other times. Take the time to dish them out. Accomplishing tasks may be temporarily delayed, but in the long run, they will get done more easily, if heart-needs have been met.

Be quick to ask forgiveness when you have not been Christ-like toward your children. You will be an example of humility to them which will last a lifetime. Also take the time to make sure they resolve conflict among themselves. Insist that they ask for and give forgiveness to each other. It takes time, as often they will resist doing this, but it is one of the most important lessons they will ever learn.

Recognize the difference between major and minor incidents. Sin should always be dealt with, but many times we parents tend to freak out about little non-sin things which really don’t matter all that much. They are simply irritations to us, caused by our children’s immaturity. As the saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Rejuvenate peace by taking a ten-minute break when things get crazy. You might encourage them to take a timeout to read, play, or run around in the back yard. You will appreciate the break yourself.

When the children’s emotions are tail-spinning, pray with them. When our children were sad, discouraged, or upset, we asked the Holy Spirit together to take back control of their emotions. We taught them to pray for themselves this way, too. It really does change how they feel. Within minutes, we had a turnaround in their outlook. (This works for grownups too!)

Remember that you — not the children — are in control of whether peace reigns or not. Children have a way of quite naturally influencing the emotional atmosphere of the home. If we let this happen, it just frazzles and overwhelms us. We need to make sure we are the ones who set the tone for peace, and then pull the rest of the family back into line, if things start to get out of whack.

Finally, continually cover your family in prayer. As you do, and implement these other tips as well, you will find your home improving in its peacefulness.

Previous: Part 2 

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World

 

 

Character Building for Families

Create an Atmosphere of Peace in Your Home (Part 2)

In our last post, we talked about laying the foundation for peace in our homes through prayer. Without a good foundation, a building will quickly crumble, and it’s the same in our homes. Begin with prayer.

Let’s look at some other elements which will help us in cultivating a peaceful home atmosphere.

Develop a healthy balance between structure and flexibility. Structure helps to provide security and peace. By structure, I mean things like

  • Having an overall plan or set of goals
  • Putting into place a schedule which sees to it that the plan is accomplished
  • A consistent routine, with known expectations
  • House rules of behavior, clearly understood and expected of everyone

When we have these things in place, our children tend to feel more peaceful. Surprises are nice for special occasions, but for day-by-day life, most of us do better when we have a good idea of what is supposed to happen next. God is a God of order, and He has built the need for order into us, because we are made in His image.

But, we should temper our structure with flexibility. Decide ahead of time that if something unusual comes up, which makes sticking with your schedule for the day difficult or impossible, it’s OK. Don’t let it rattle you or your kids. Plan on a few disruptions (even big ones) here and there, and don’t let structure be a god. A schedule should be something you rule, not something that rules you.

Ask God at the beginning of your day to be Lord of your time. If something comes up which might cause a delay in tasks being accomplished, ask Him to help you make up for lost time and catch up on any important work. He created time, and He knows how to help us master it.

Seize teachable moments as they happen. It is more important to stop and talk about questions your children have about the Lord, His ways, and how life is supposed to work, than it is to stay strictly on schedule. Those God-moments where the spiritual light bulb goes on inside of them are of eternal value.

Flowing back and forth between an established routine and dropping that routine for better things is part of living life according to the Spirit. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17), and liberty mixed with orderliness makes life more enjoyable for the whole family — and more peaceful.

Discern between what is essential and what is not. When we first began homeschooling, I thought we had to do everything in the lesson books, or else my children would end up with gaping holes in their education. The truth is, in most of those workbooks, there is a lot of nonessential busywork. Your children don’t have to do all the crosswords and word searches or color all the pictures, especially if such activities are boring to them. These are not so much educational exercises as they are ways to fill out the workbook or keep the children busy so they don’t bother anybody for a while.

I also discovered that there is a lot of unnecessary review work. The program we started out with involved ten workbooks for each subject, and we struggled to get all ten done in a school year. But after the first year, I realized that the last workbook in the series was just review of the other nine … and then in the following school year, the same review was repeated again. So, we learned to skip those final workbooks. Curriculum companies are masters at providing repeat materials. It’s good to review to an extent, but too much is overkill, and it can stress your family out. So increase your peace by cutting out nonessential busywork.

Tidiness enhances peace. Because God has built a desire for order into us, a wreck of a home tends to contribute to chaotic emotions on our insides. It is OK to take some time as part of the school day to clean house and pick up clutter. Call it a “Life Skills” class. You will feel happier, and so will your children.

Next time, we’ll finish up with a few more ideas for how to bring about a greater level of peace to our homes.

Previous: Part 1
Next: Part 3

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World

 

 

Character Building for Families